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Blog | May 2016

May 31, 2016: World Health Organization Blames Lack of Mosquito Control for Zika Crisis

Maggie Fox reports that “The Zika epidemic and the birth defects it’s causing are both the fault of governments that abandoned programs to control mosquitoes and to provide even the most basic family planning assistance to young women, the head of the World Health Organization said last Monday.

“’Let me give you a stern warning. What we are seeing now looks more and more like a dramatic resurgence of the threat from emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases. The world is not prepared to cope,’ WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan told a meeting of the World Health Assembly.

“Brazilian experts have been pointing out that the country once successfully eliminated the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that carry the Zika, dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever viruses. Then the government simply stopped paying for eradication and prevention, and the mosquitoes came back.

“’Above all, the spread of Zika, the resurgence of dengue, and the emerging threat from chikungunya are the price being paid for a massive policy failure that dropped the ball on mosquito control in the 1970s,’ Chan said.

“Chan’s warning echoes what the Obama administration and U.S. health officials have been saying. They charge that public health is not just being underfunded, but cut back at a time when it should be built up to help protect people against new threats like Zika.

The CDC says “More Zika cases are almost certain to come as summer heats up and mosquito season gets under way. The administration is in a desperate fight with Republicans in Congress over funding for Zika preparations.

“’It is not a question of whether babies will be born in the United States with Zika-related microcephaly — it is a question of when and how many,” Ron Klain, the former U.S. Ebola czar, wrote in a commentary in the Washington Post.”

Source: NBC News

May 30, 2016: Aedes Aegypti – Guilty

“The usual suspect has been caught, not red-handed but red-bellied. Since the beginning of the Zika virus outbreak in Brazil, health authorities and researchers have strongly suspected that the mosquito Aedes aegypti, known for spreading several deadly viruses, was also guilty of spreading Zika from one person to another. But direct evidence had been hard to find. Now, researchers in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, report that they have found the Zika virus in wild-caught A. aegypti. The researchers did not find the virus in other mosquito species they captured in neighborhoods where Zika was spreading, which strengthens the case that A. aegypti is the main vector driving the outbreak.” reports Gretchen Vogel.

“Despite the hundreds of thousands of human cases, it’s not easy to find infected mosquitoes, explains Oliver Brady, an entomologist at the University of Oxford. ‘Finding the virus in a mosquito is extremely difficult,’ he says. ‘They infect people and die before anyone shows up at the hospital’ with disease symptoms.

“The new findings do not rule out other mosquito species as possible vectors, but they do provide some reassurance that Zika is likely following the familiar patters seen in dengue and chikungunya outbreaks, says Philip McCall, an entomologist at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine in the United Kingdom. That suggests that large outbreaks are less likely outside the range of A. aegypti. If the virus were easily spread by Culex species or A. albopictus, the regions threatened by serious outbreaks would be much larger.”

Source: Science Magazine

May 29, 2016: 86 New York City Residents Have the Zika Virus

According to Susan Edelman, “The Zika virus has struck 86 New York City residents — including 14 pregnant women, according to the latest city Health Department tally.

“All the patients recovered, officials said, but it’s unknown whether the babies will suffer severe birth defects such as underdeveloped brains.

“’We closely monitor pregnant women through the duration of their pregnancy’” said spokeswoman Carolina Rodriquez. She would not say if any women had given birth.

“So far, every NYC victim contracted the mosquito-borne virus after visiting other Zika-plagued countries, mostly in Central and South America.

“The 86 NYC cases are among 152 reported statewide to date. The total includes 50 males and 102 females, 23 of them pregnant.

“The Zika virus is a disease of significant public health concern, with the greatest concern being the risk to the exposed fetus,” a state Health Department spokesperson said Friday.

“The state has been notified of four births by women who tested positive for Zika, but none resulted in microcephaly, the brain defect, said spokesman Jeffrey Hammond.”

Source: New York Post

May 28, 2016: 279 Pregnant Women in The U.S. Have The Zika Virus

Nora Kelly reports that “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that 279 pregnant women in the United States and its territories have the Zika virus, which is linked to birth defects and other health conditions. The CDC will now report all cases of pregnant women testing positive for the virus, regardless of whether they show symptoms. The news comes amid a funding debate between Congress and the Obama administration, which has asked for nearly $2 billion to combat the virus.

“Previously, the CDC only reported the number of pregnant women who tested positive for Zika and either showed symptoms or had Zika-related complications, a news release explains. Now, the agency is reporting all pregnant women who have ‘any laboratory evidence’ of possible infection, no matter what. The CDC made the change after seeing reports of asymptomatic pregnant women who delivered children with birth defects. Researchers still haven’t nailed down women’s ‘absolute risk’ of having microcephalic babies, a CDC official recently told PBS NewsHour.”

Source: The Atlantic

May 27, 2016: Pacific Disaster Center now tracks Zika globally

Mapping software company Esri is behind a new initiative to map regional vulnerabilities to Zika virus outbreaks.

According to Karen Richardson at Esri, “By sharing mapped intelligence with health services and aid responders, Pacific Disaster Center is able to provide essential information that defines the characteristics of the virus and its carrier’s breeding grounds.
‘Esri provides the backbone for visualizing an event and understanding the locality and context for any disaster, including the Zika virus,’ said Ray Shirkhodai, PDC executive director.

“The center provides situational awareness information for all manner of disasters. Esri, the world leader in geographic information system (GIS) software, creates technology that generates smart maps derived from a wide variety of data resources and then publishes them across information networks. PDC uses these capabilities to add different data layers—hospital density, rain, vector programs, and so forth—to maps. Maps make it easier and faster for disaster managers to understand the scope of a region’s vulnerability to disease. The center serves its map products around the world to organizations that depend on it for intelligence about specific regions.

“’Esri GIS technology specifically allows us to characterize the Zika virus outbreak and contextualize it for decision makers,’ explained Dr. Joseph Green, PDC’s health risk specialist. ‘Our maps describe the distribution of suspected cases at national levels throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.’

“PDC gathers Zika virus information from weekly epidemiology updates and bulletins obtained from health organizations worldwide. In return, the center publishes regular updates, including online maps that track the increase and decrease of reported and suspected cases over time.

“The solution to containing the Zika virus is to dispose of mosquitos, which carry the disease. Mapping regional vulnerabilities to virus outbreaks highlights the value of mosquito management programs. Learn more about using GIS for vector-borne disease surveillance and control at

Source: Esri

May 26, 2016: IBM’s World Community Grid Joins Fight to Find the Zika Cure

This from Dan Mangan at CNBC: “You can help find a drug that could knock out the Zika virus, while you’re playing Candy Crush on your smartphone.

“An international research effort to identify potential drug compounds to combat the Zika virus is being launched on a tech platform that turns a network of volunteers’ personal computers, as well as Android mobile phones and tablets, into a virtual supercomputer that can speedily process millions of calculations.

“The #OpenZika project, which will run virtual experiments on potential compounds that could form drugs to address Zika, is just the latest health-related research project by IBM’s World Community Grid.

“That platform, after a dozen years of operation, has almost 750,000 people and 470 institutions across 80 countries who allow researchers to tap their 3.5 million computers and mobile devices for latent processing power. The World Community Grid has been used to research diseases including malaria, Ebola, tuberculosis and childhood neuroblastoma, along with others.

“Volunteers download a World Community Grid app to their computer or devices, which allows researchers to run calculations on the devices, without their owners’ users noticing a difference in performance. Data generated from the #OpenZika project will be available to researchers, on an open-source basis, around the world.

“’When people hear about a crisis like this, they want to do something about it,’ said Stanley Litow IBM’s vice president of Corporate Citizenship and Corporate Affairs, and president of IBM’s Foundation.

“’Here’s an opportunity for them to really do something about it, and also to be connected’ to other people who are helping fight Zika, Litow said of the grid, a philanthropic initiative by IBM that more than a year ago added Android mobile devices to its network.”

Source: CNBC

May 25, 2016: Kansas Resident Is State’s First Confirmed Zika Case

The Centers for Disease Control – CDC – have confirmed Kansas’ first case of Zika.

“In a press release issued by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, it was confirmed that the individual is an adult from southwest Kansas and has a travel history to a country with local Zika virus transmission. The individual developed an illness consistent with Zika virus infection and was tested per guidance from CDC and KDHE.

“’Kansas is prepared for the Zika virus, and we are working with health care providers across the state to respond to both suspected and confirmed cases,’ said Susan Mosier, MD, MBA, FACS, KDHE Secretary and State Health Officer. ‘I urge everyone who is considering travel to a country with Zika transmission to be aware of the situation and take precautions to protect themselves and prevent mosquito bites.’”

Source: The Emporia Gazette

May 24, 2016: Finding the Zika Vaccine May Just Be Monkey Business

According to Frankie L. Trull “Scientists discovered the Zika virus in Africa in the 1940s. Until recently, it was not considered a major public health threat. Consequently, little research had been conducted into the virus.

“That’s about to change, largely through research involving animal models—including primates.

“Some of the most promising work is under way at the University of California, Davis and the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Scientists are studying pregnant monkeys to better understand how Zika infects both mother and unborn child.

“The two research teams—who are sharing their data with the public in real time—are comparing samples of the Zika virus from Africa, Asia, and South America. Because each strain has a unique set of mutations, researchers are investigating whether they behave differently in animal models. If so, the strains’ genetic variance may explain the different symptoms that have surfaced in different parts of the world.

“Dr. David O’Connor of the Wisconsin team is currently testing animals infected with the virus to see if they develop immunity against re-infection. Meanwhile, scientists at the University of Texas Medical Branch just announced the discovery of a type of mouse that reacts to Zika just as humans do. That makes it ideal for testing possible treatments.

“These animal models are paving the way toward a vaccine or cure for Zika. As California team researcher Koen Van Rompay put it, ‘When we study how the virus affects monkeys, it’s very predictive of how it affects people and that information enables us to develop vaccines to fight it.’

“In order to understand how a disease progresses, researchers have to use a living system with a genetic makeup similar to that of humans. People share 95 percent of their genes with mice—the most popular model for animal research—and 98 percent with non-human primates, like rhesus macaque monkeys. These models provide crucial information about how humans respond to treatments.

“Computer models or cells grown in a dish, by contrast, cannot provide an accurate picture of the progression of an infection in a whole living system. Examining how a disease behaves in animal models can teach us how it acts in humans.

“Animal models also ensure human safety. Much of the research necessary to understanding Zika can’t be conducted on pregnant women because the process of taking amniotic fluid out of the womb—which determines if the virus is present—can cause miscarriages.

“Animal research is behind virtually every medical treatment in existence. And we have all been the beneficiaries. Research in cows helped create the world’s first vaccine, which in turn eradicated smallpox. Trials with monkeys, dogs, and mice led to the polio vaccine. Drugs used to combat cancer, HIV/AIDS, Alzheimer’s, hepatitis, and malaria would not have been possible without research with non-human primates.

Now, the world needs a Zika vaccine. And while one is likely still some time away, animal research will be key to developing it.”

Source: Newsweek

May 23, 2016: The Early Stage of Discovering the Zika Fighting Vaccine

Michael Mechanic reports his finding with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the scientist leading the vaccine effort.

“Mother Jones: I’ve read that a DNA vaccine for Zika could be ready for testing as early as September.

Anthony Fauci: Correct. But people get confused about this. It a phase I trial, just the first in a multiphase process of developing a vaccine. We took a DNA construct that we used to develop a West Nile vaccine a few years ago and we just substituted the Zika insert for the West Nile insert, so now it’s a Zika vaccine. We’re producing it in a pilot plant and doing all the preclinical studies you have to do before you go into a human, and we’re pretty certain we’ll get started with the trial in September. It usually takes three to four months and would typically involve around 80 volunteers. So let’s say we figure out that the vaccine is safe and that it induces the kind of immune response we would predict would be protective. If everything looks good, we’ll move into a larger (phase IIb) trial to determine if it’s effective.

MJ: And that would involve rolling it out in Zika-affected areas?

AF: Yes. Otherwise you’d never have enough infections to prove it’s effective. When you finish phase II is dependent on factors that are very difficult to predict. The two major factors are, one, how effective the vaccine is—because the more effective it is, the easier it is to prove it’s effective. The other factor is how many infections are going on in whatever country we’re testing it in: Brazil, Colombia, Puerto Rico, Venezuela—it likely will be multiple sites. If there is a lot of infection, we can probably determine within a year, by the beginning of 2018, if it’s effective enough. And then, depending on the urgency, you can get accelerated approval. Or, the FDA and other regulatory agencies may say you have to test it for another year or so.

‘You can’t be strictly extrapolating to humans, but in the studies we’ve done, the DNA vaccine looked very immunogenic in a mouse.’
MJ: If you need a lot of infections to determine whether a vaccine is effective, then how did you test the vaccine for West Nile, which has resulted in relatively few cases?

AF: We never tested its efficacy. We tested the West Nile vaccine the same way we’re going to do the phase I here. The problem is, we could not get any company to partner with us for advanced development because there was not the perception by any company that this was a vaccine that would be widely used. So we never brought it into phase IIb.

MJ: What are the pros and cons of a DNA vaccine versus, say, using an inactivated virus?

AF: It’s about the same. We have four or five candidates lined up. The first is the DNA. The one behind it is a whole inactivated [virus] particle vaccine. That won’t go into phase I until at least the end of 2016. Then we have a live chimeric inactivated vaccine that won’t go into phase I until the middle of 2017. But there’s no substantial difference. The DNA so far looks pretty good with regard to immunogenicity [strength of the immune response it elicits]. From a historical standpoint, whole attenuated [virus] vaccines tend to be more immunogenic. You’ve got to be careful with mice, you can’t be strictly extrapolating to humans, but in the studies we’ve done, just a few weeks ago, the DNA vaccine looked very immunogenic in a mouse, so it may be as immunogenic as the whole killed [virus].

MJ: How does a DNA vaccine work?

AF: You have a circular plasmid of DNA. You splice into it the gene of the Zika outer coating protein. You inject that plasmid into the muscle of an individual. It goes into the host cells and starts to produce the protein, which your antibodies attack. Interestingly—this is good luck—the vaccine doesn’t just produce soluble outer envelope proteins, it produces them in the form of a virus-like particle. So they look like a small virus, which makes them that much more immunogenic.

MJ: Some researchers worry that Zika is stimulating an autoimmune response in some adults that makes the body attack its own nerve cells, and that’s why we’re seeing these Guillain-Barré symptoms. If that’s what’s happening, is there a danger that a Zika vaccine could actually cause Guillain-Barré?

‘You have to be careful: If you have an inadequate antibody response, you can actually enhance the infection.’

AF: In these small safety studies, if there is a complication like that, it’s probably so rare you wouldn’t pick it up. That’s why, when you do a larger study, you have to do double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Because whenever you’re developing a vaccine that could have a deleterious effect, you want to make sure you’re not seeing worse effects in the vaccinated than in the unvaccinated. And when dealing with any vaccine, there’s always the danger—and we’ve seen this with flaviviruses [which include Zika and dengue], so you have to be careful—that if you have an inadequate antibody response, you can actually enhance the infection.

MJ: The Senate is preparing to approve a good sized sum for Zika vaccine development. How will that accelerate your efforts?

AF: It won’t accelerate it. It will allow it to happen. You can’t rush clinical trials. If we didn’t get the money, it would either be dramatically slowed down, or it wouldn’t happen.

MJ: At a recent Zika summit, you said ‘I have this ominous feeling we have yet to see the worst of it.’ What were you thinking about when you said that?

“I was saying, ‘My goodness. Every time you wake up, there’s something else that’s bad about Zika.’”

Source: Mother Jones

May 22, 2016: Tracing Zika Back to The Very Beginning

Adrienne Lafrance reports that “It’s not enough to know where Zika originally came from.

“Today, researchers also want to know how and why the virus mutated as it leapt from Africa to Asia to the Americas.

“Scientists have established that Zika causes grave abnormalities in fetuses, and can cause serious nerve disorders in children and adults, too. But it seems the virus wasn’t always this way. Learning how and when the Zika mutated could be one of the keys to unlocking why it’s so dangerous now, at a time when it appears poised to work its way through the Americas and possibly extend to the Mediterranean.

“Zika was first discovered in Uganda in 1947, but it was five more years before the first human cases of the virus were detected in the region. ‘It is challenging to state definitively who the first patient is whoever contracted the virus or brought it to a new country,’ said Ann Powers, the acting chief of the Arboviral Diseases Branch at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. ‘We may sometimes report the first ‘detected’ case as such, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it is really the first time. What is more important than finding the one specific person is to understand overall movement patterns and assess if there are changes that have occurred—either in the virus, the vectors, or the host behaviors—that may be impacting the epidemiology.’

“Up until the 1980s, human infections occurred across Africa and Asia, but those who contracted Zika typically only suffered mild illness. It wasn’t until 2007 that a large outbreak was recorded, this time in Micronesia. Up to three-quarters of the population of the Island of Yap were infected. ‘Like many arboviral agents, given the appropriate environmental and human conditions, new pathogens can be easily moved around the globe,’ Powers said.

“And that’s what Zika did. The virus began to ripple across the Pacific—and as it traveled, it seemed to change. In an outbreak in French Polynesia, in 2013, researchers linked the neurological disorder Guillain-Barré syndrome to Zika infections, according to a World Health Organization bulletin about the virus’s history. In May 2015, the first reports of locally transmitted infection in Brazil emerged. Because no Zika-endemic nations competed in the World Cup, held in Brazil in 2014, some scientists now believe Zika may have traveled from French Polynesia to Rio de Janeiro during the Va’a World Sprint Championship canoe race in August 2014.

“In October last year, doctors noticed a spike in Brazil of cases of microcephaly, a birth defect that impedes brain development, and wondered if it could be linked to the uptick of Zika. By April, they had their answer: ‘Zika virus is a cause of microcephaly and other severe fetal brain defects,’ the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention wrote last month. Since last spring, the virus has been linked to some 5,000 cases of microcephaly in Brazil alone.

“’Here in Brazil, it is very clear, after the 2015 transmission season, that the epidemic is not over,’ said Christopher Dye, the strategy director in the Office of the Director-General at the World Health Organization. ‘We are near-certain that Zika will reach all areas that are inhabited by the (supposed) principal vector, Aedes aegypti. Probably all countries in the Americas, except Canada. … Maybe to the Mediterranean. It might move further north, through the range of Aedes albopictus, in the United States. Could there be other mosquito vectors?’

“A crucial part of looking to Zika’s uncertain future means understanding its past. And as researchers trace the origin of the virus, they’re left with more questions than answers. For example, scientists still don’t know whether Zika is widely endemic in Africa and Asia, where it was found for decades before it traveled to Micronesia and French Polynesia en route to South America. They also don’t know the extent to which it may have caused birth defects and other severe health problems in the 20th century.

“’Did [Zika] cause neurological disorders, but at a low and undiscovered incidence rate? Or did the virus somehow change, genetically or epidemiologically, as it crossed the Pacific?’ Dye asked. ‘Could a new virus—if it is new—reinvade Africa and Asia and cause new and severe epidemics in places where infection was previously benign? All these questions are critical for public health, but we do not yet have answers.’

“One way to find answers has been to analyze different strains of Zika over time. Some scientists have taken to propagating the virus in their own labs as a way of reverse engineering what makes the current strain so dangerous. Another group of scientists who analyzed the genetic evolution of the virus identified more than a dozen mutations between the virus in Brazil compared with earlier strains isolated in Asia. Those mutations could explain why Zika appears to be more virulent now, and the possibility that the virus is more adept at mosquito-to-human transmission compared with earlier strains. ‘Clearly, more studies are urgently needed,’ to understand these mutations and their implications for public health, the researchers wrote.

“Genetically speaking, the Zika virus that’s making people sick in Brazil resembles the Polynesian strain but differs from the African strain, which ‘allowed us to postulate that the virus underwent a mutation that gave it pandemic properties’ somewhere in the Pacific, said Peter Hotez, the dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College. ‘It also allowed us to go back to do studies showing that microcephaly and Guillain Barré Syndrome probably first began with the Asian strain.’

“Looking back at Zika’s trajectory, it seems there are at least two separate lines of mutation: one, from 2007, when the virus hit Micronesia; and the second, from sometime before the French Polynesia outbreak of 2013.

“’The Brazil strain bears some similarities to the French Polynesia strain, in that both result in microcephaly and [Guillain-Barré Syndrome], but it’s possible that the virus underwent still more mutations going from French Polynesia to Brazil,’ Hotez said. ‘The scientific community is still sorting it out.’

“What scientists eventually find will, they hope, help public health officials prepare for what’s to come—whether that means more Zika, or another mosquito-borne virus, or, likely, all of the above. In an essay about how human activity has shaped the transmission of Zika and other tropical diseases, Hotez says the latest outbreak should make people seriously consider humanity’s potentially disastrous influence on the biosphere in the age of globalization. ‘The Anthropocene could become a dominant theme for spreading [neglected tropical diseases] or creating catastrophic human epidemics in the years to come,’ he wrote.”

Source: The Atlantic

May 21, 2016: Washington D.C. Health Officials Handing Out Zika Virus Prevention Kits

Reported by the Associated Press this past weekend, it is interesting to note that although funds have not yet been agreed upon to fight the Zika virus, “Health officials in Washington are providing free kits aimed at preventing the spread of the Zika virus.

“"WRC-TV reports that the officials with the D.C. Department of Health are handing out the kits Saturday in all eight wards.

“The kits include insect repellent, condoms and mosquito dunks. Mosquito dunks can be put in ponds, puddles and other places with standing water to kill mosquito eggs.

“Three cases have been reported in the D.C. area by people who had traveled to Central and South America.”

Source: The Washington Post

May 20, 2016: A New Breed of Mosquitoes May Be Released in Florida

Albany’s Times Union asks “What are you more afraid of, the Zika virus, or genetically engineered bugs being released in the wild?

“The biotech firm Oxitec plans to release non-biting male mosquitoes that have been modified to produce offspring that don’t survive after mating with wild females. Researchers believe that within a few generations, this should sharply reduce the mosquito population.

“Supporters are expressing confidence in the FDA’s (Food and Drug Administration) evaluation, Oxitec’s data and reports about similar international trials. They say the risks of mosquito-borne diseases outweigh fears about releasing a genetically modified species into the wild. And some say they distrust GMO foods but still consider Oxitec’s plan more environmentally friendly than pesticides.

“While supporting the FDA’s preliminary determination that it’s safe to release these GMO bugs, the American Biological Safety Association questions whether Oxitec’s technology is practical. The American Bird Conservancy also is in favor but wants more details about how the trial near Key West would be monitored.

“Critics raise the potential consequences to human health and the environment of releasing GMO mosquitoes without more long-term research, arguing that the risks are too high even amid a global health crisis.”

Source: Times Union

May 18, 2016: Grab A Cup, A Paper Towel and Join the Zika Fight

Matt Beam, Mosquito Squad of the Triad in the Carolinas, was featured this week with our second post about the Invasive Mosquito Project.

“The USDA is calling on people to become citizen scientists to help them track the spread of the Zika virus – and all it takes is a brown paper towel and a dark-colored cup.

“It’s called the Invasive Mosquito Project where people will collect mosquito eggs and send them to the USDA.

“From there, scientists will determine which species in our area are carrying which types of diseases.

“North Carolina has dozens of different mosquito types, including two that have also been known to carry Zika.

“’There’s really no way to know if people could possibly get these diseases because there’s no tracking of it,’ explains Matt Beam who is a biologist and the general manager at Mosquito Squad in the Triad, a company that helps people control mosquitos at their homes and businesses. ‘If you don’t have tracking, you can’t really keep track of where these diseases are and the numbers that they are affecting.’

“Beam says Mosquitoes are attracted to standing water, which is why this experiment should work.

“In fact, he says the government did the same thing in the 1940’s, which led to the eradication of malaria and other mosquito-borne diseases.

“The USDA is hoping to bring this to the classroom too, so that kids can learn about the spread of disease, while helping the government identify hotspots.

“’It’s very safe,” explains Beam. "It’s a great way to get the public involved in something that costs a lot of money for municipalities and the state to do themselves.’

“In recent years, a lot of counties have lost funding for mosquito control — this year, Guilford county says it’s re-allocating money – about 10 thousand dollars to mosquito control, all because of the Zika scare.”

Source: WFMY News 2

Mosquito Squad's Fight the Bite Report

Earlier this year, Mosquito Squad commissioned TNS Global, a leader in market research, to survey American homeowners on their mosquito and tick control practices. With the recent news of Zika and Lyme disease continuing to spread, we were surprised at how little Americans are doing to protect themselves. Here are some of the findings:

Did you modify your plans or time outside last year due to mosquito activity?

  • 23% yes
  • 77% no
    Women were twice as likely to modify plans due to mosquito activity – 31% of women changed plans vs. only 15% of men

Do you plan to modify your time outside this year due to mosquito activity?

  • 26% yes
  • 74% no

How do you protect your family from mosquitoes in your own yard? (pick all that apply)

  • 27% walk my yard regularly to remove items that can harbor mosquitoes
  • 48% remove standing water in the yard
  • 36% turn over any toys or items containing water
  • 27% make sure my gutters are clean44% keep my yard neat and throw away lawn debris
  • 25% ensure all covers and tarps are pulled tightly and don’t pool water
  • 49% use bug spray when outside
  • 12% I don’t take any precautions

How likely are you to use a mosquito control service this year?

  • 7 % Very likely
  • 17% Somewhat likely
  • 74% Not likely

How has news of the Zika virus changed your views on mosquito control in your own yard?

  • 34% I’ll use mosquito repellent
  • 17% I will implement DIY solutions for my yard
  • 6% I will use a professional mosquito control service
  • 16% I will limit my time outside
  • 46% I don’t plan to do anything different

Do you know anyone with a disease transmitted by a tick such as Lyme disease?

  • 16% Yes
  • 84% No

Geographic Distribution – “yes”
31% Northeast
16% South
14% Midwest
10% West

How do you protect your family from tick bites? (pick all that apply) adjusted for parts of the country where ticks are prevalent

  • 41% wear long pants, long sleeve shirts when out in the yard
  • 29% protect my dog with tick treatments
  • 39% avoid wooded areas with high grass and leaf litter
  • 28 % walk in the center of trails when in wooded areas
  • 34% use repellents containing 20% to 30% DEET or products with permethrin
  • 31% I don’t take any special precautions

How do you protect your dog from tick bites? Dog owners only (pick all that apply)

  • 65% brush and check my dog regularly to look for ticks
  • 70% use a topical treatment from the vet or a collar
  • 28% limit the time my dog is outside
  • 24% I don’t take any special precautions

May 17, 2016: High School Students and Science Teachers Take On the Zika Virus Fight

WKRG News 5 shares Zika news that “The mosquitoes that can spread Zika are already buzzing among us. The U.S. government could use some help figuring out exactly where.

“There’s little money in government budgets to track the spread of disease-carrying mosquitoes. That’s why the U.S. Department of Agriculture is working to scale up a nationwide experiment in citizen-science.

“The Invasive Mosquito Project is recruiting high school students and science teachers to collect mosquito eggs in their communities and upload the data to populate an online map. That provides real-time information about hot spots to help researchers and mosquito controllers respond.

“The USDA entomologist coordinating the project also hopes to adapt its lesson plans for middle schools, scout troops, and gardening clubs and make mosquito surveys as common as public bird counts for conservation groups.”

Source: Associated Press

May 16, 2016: Tire Disposal Is Another Way to Stave Off Mosquitoes and The Zika Virus Threat

The Argus Leader, part of the USA Today network, reports that “Sioux Falls and the state environmental office hope a new tire disposal program will reduce the chances of the mosquito-carried Zika virus spreading to South Dakota.

“Gov. Dennis Daugaard announced this week the state Board of Water and Natural Resources has approved $650,000 in grant assistance to help local landfills collect and dispose of discarded tires in the communities they serve. Sioux Falls could get as much as $80,000 of those funds to allow the landfill to waive the fees for residents wanting to get rid of unused tires, as well as pay for disposing of the tires collected.”

While the Zika virus has not yet been found in South Dakota, “minimizing the prevalence of standing water – where mosquitoes breed – will help keep it that way,” Daugaard said.

“Although the Zika mosquito vectors have not been detected in South Dakota, they have been identified in neighboring states to our south and east,” he said in a news release. ‘Therefore, it’s prudent to take steps now to help prevent the spread of this virus in our state by removing tires as prime breeding grounds for mosquitoes.’

“In the coming weeks, the Sioux Falls Sanitary Landfill will begin collecting unused tires from city residents at no charge. From there, the tires will either be recycled by a contracted business, or shredded on site and re-used by the Public Works Department.”

Source: Argus Leader

May 15, 2016: Will Congress Act Quickly Enough to Fight Zika?

According to Rebecca Shabad “Congress is facing growing pressure to pass an emergency package to fund efforts to fight the Zika virus — officials are concerned it could be transmitted for the first time in the U.S. this summer through mosquito bites.

“Three months have passed since the Obama administration first asked lawmakers for money, and while they haven’t acted yet, the Senate is expected to vote next week on a deal struck on Thursday. There’s no guarantee, however, that it will satisfy the administration.

“At this point, no one has contracted Zika in the U.S. through mosquito bites, but at least 472 people have reported returning home with symptoms after traveling and more than 650 people have been infected with the virus in U.S. territories like Puerto Rico, American Samoa and U.S. Virgin Islands.

“It can be as early as early 2018 or it could be a couple of years after that. It’s very difficult to predict," he said Thursday, as he headed to Capitol Hill again to testify before lawmakers about funding.

“The Senate will have its chance to vote on the administration’s full request. As part of an agreement reached Thursday, the Senate will vote Tuesday on three Zika-related amendments that would be attached to a transportation and military construction spending bill next week. The first is the full $1.9 billion, which most Republicans are expected to oppose. The second is a GOP proposal that would provide $1.1 billion in Zika funding, but would be offset with $1.2 billion in spending cuts to an Obamacare prevention fund. The third might have the best chance of passage: a bipartisan $1.1 billion measure with no offsets.

But because that third proposal is $800 million less than what the White House is asking for, it could face some hurdles.”

Source: CBS News

May 14: New Survey Says Americans Don't Follow CDC Advice About Protection from Mosquitoes

Despite recent news that Aedes aegypti, the mosquito that can carry Zika, Chikungunya and other viruses, has spread to 30 states, the majority of Americans have yet to embrace basic recommendations to help reduce the mosquito population at their own homes.

That’s the result of a new survey fielded by TNS Global detailing homeowners’ knowledge of steps to reduce mosquitoes in their yards. According to The Mosquito Squad Fight the Bite Report, nearly three quarters of Americans (74%) do not plan to modify their time outside this year due to mosquito activity, yet less than half (49%) follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendation to use mosquito repellent and just a third (36%) remove standing water, a simple task also recommended by the CDC, to reduce mosquito breeding.

“Unlike Chikungunya and West Nile virus, Zika has been identified as a world health crisis and we must work together on personal, local and global levels to fight mosquitoes,” said Scott Zide, president and
COO of Outdoor Living Brands and co-founder of Mosquito Squad, the largest and most experienced home and commercial mosquito control firm in the country. “Removal of standing water is the most essential tactic in mosquito elimination yet homeowners aren’t actively removing it, which is surprising given that mosquito concerns are so high.”

According to Zide, just as surprising was the finding that 46 percent said they did not plan to do anything different in their yards, despite recent news of the Zika virus. Findings from the survey:

• Only 36 percent of Americans turn over toys or items in their yards that contain water
• Less than half (44%) throw out lawn debris, under which mosquitoes can breed
• Just a quarter of Americans (25%) shake out tarps, including BBQ and fire pit covers, to remove
water that accumulates
• Less than 27 percent make sure their gutters are clean
• More than a quarter (27%) walk their yard regularly to remove items that can harbor mosquitoes

“Although Zika has yet to be transmitted by mosquitoes in the U.S., public health experts do expect that it soon will, and we’re encouraging homeowners to walk their yards to check for ways to eliminate mosquitoes,” Zide said. Mosquito Squad professional tips include:

TIP over anything that holds or collects water. A bottle cap filled with water holds enough water for mosquitoes to breed. Since mosquitoes breed in standing water, the elimination of standing water decreases a mosquito’s breeding ground. Mosquito Squad technicians report that yards with bird baths, play sets with tire swings, tree houses, portable fireplaces and pits and catch basins are the biggest offenders.

TOSS any yard trash including clippings, leaves and twigs. Even the smallest items can provide a haven for mosquitoes to breed and increase the population.

TURN over items that could hold water and trash. Look for children’s portable sandboxes, slides or plastic toys; underneath and around downspouts; in plant saucers, empty pots, light fixtures and dog water bowls. Eliminate these items or keep them turned over until used.

REMOVE TARPS that can catch water. Many homeowners have tarps or covers on items residing in their outdoor spaces. If not stretched taut, they are holding water. Check tarps over firewood piles, portable fire places, recycling cans, boats, sports equipment and grills. Mosquito Squad suggests using bungee cords to secure tarps in the yard.

TAKE CARE of your home. Proper maintenance can be a deciding factor
in property values and mosquito bites. Regularly clean out gutters and make sure downspouts are attached properly. Mosquito Squad recommends re-grading areas where water stands more than a few hours, and to regularly check irrigation systems to ensure that they aren’t leaking and causing a breeding haven. Keep lawn height low and areas weed-free.

TEAM UP. Despite taking all precautions in your own home, talking with neighbors is a key component to mosquito control. Townhomes and homes with little space between lots mean that mosquitoes can breed at a neighbor’s home, and affect your property.

TREAT. Utilize a professional mosquito elimination barrier treatment around the home and yard. Using a barrier treatment at home reduces the need for using DEET-containing bug spray on both humans and pets.

Individuals who want a more comprehensive mosquito control treatment can utilize Mosquito Squad, which uses the latest EPA-registered mosquito control barrier treatments, larvicide and all-natural substances to eliminate mosquitoes from yards and outdoor spaces.

Source: PR Newswire

May 13, 2016: West Nile News Update for Texas

Dr. Seema Yasmin reports that although the “Zika virus has been dominating the headlines… the mosquito-spread infection that Texans should worry about is a more familiar foe — West Nile virus

Dr. James Kennedy, mosquito expert and biology professor at the University of North Texas believes that “One of the most common kinds of mosquitoes flying around North Texas is Culex quinquefasciatus, the bug that spreads West Nile. And the weather so far has been favorable for the mosquito.

“The conditions here are very similar to 2012, when we had a big outbreak of West Nile virus,” said Kennedy. “I don’t want to spread panic, but I suspect we may see more West Nile virus this year than we’ve seen in the past few years.”

Source: The Dallas Morning News

May 12, 2016: Harvard Scientist Shares Concerns About Zika and The 2016 Olympics

Harry Cockburn reports this morning that “The 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro could spark a ‘full-blown public health disaster’, doctors have warned.

“The continued presence of the virus ahead of the summer Olympics has caused athletes and health specialists to question the risks involved in allowing the Games to go ahead with hundreds of thousands of spectators travelling to the city.

“Writing in the Harvard Public Health Review, Dr. Amir Attaran said the Games could speed up the spread of the virus, and suggested the Games could be hosted by another city in Brazil where the illness is less of a threat. He said: ‘While Brazil’s Zika inevitably will spread globally, given enough time – viruses always do – it helps nobody to speed that up.’

“In particular, it cannot possibly help when an estimated 500,000 foreign tourists flock into Rio for the Games, potentially becoming infected, and returning to their homes where both local Aedes mosquitoes and sexual transmission can establish new outbreaks.

Source: The Independent, United Kingdom

May 11, 2016: What Zika Looks Like and Feels Like

Maggie Fox reports that a team of New York doctors who treated a Zika male patient said the symptoms are distinctive — and they want to alert doctors around the country to know what they look like so they know what to look for.

“Itching was not a major feature” for the patient, they wrote in their report, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association’s JAMA Dermatology.

“The patient also noted that his eyes appeared ‘bloodshot.’ As the eruption faded on the upper body, it became more apparent on the lower body,” they wrote.

“The virus appears to cause mild symptoms in most people, and even in those it makes sick, it’s usually over in about a week. There’s no treatment for Zika besides a drug such as Tylenol or acetaminophen to ease the pain. Ibuprofen and aspirin are not recommended because they could raise the risk of bleeding. One man in Puerto Rico died from bleeding after he had Zika.

“In February 2016, a 44-year-old man returned from a 6-day vacation in Puerto Rico. Within three days of his return, the patient experienced headache and lethargy,” Dr. Amit Garg and colleagues at Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine wrote.

“On day three, the patient noted the eruption to be most pronounced on the knees and feet, and he described burning pain of the feet. He developed joint pains involving the wrists, knees, and ankles on day four.”

""A blood test did not detect Zika but a urine test did, Garg’s team said.

The symptoms match reports from areas hard hit by Zika, including Brazil and parts of Puerto Rico. Some patients have fever and some do not. About 90 percent of those who have any symptoms at all report a raised, red rash that is often itchy or uncomfortable.”

Source: NBC News

May 10, 2016: Scientists Have Developed a Test for Zika

The Zika virus is now being actively transmitted in 49 countries around the world and expected to infect 4 million people by the end of this year. To date, doctors have only been able to detect the virus when they can send blood samples to a specialized lab for specialized genetic testing.

But now, researchers from a large collective of universities including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University, and the University of Toronto have developed an easy way to detect Zika in about an hour.

Their research was published yesterday (May 9) in Cell. “In response to an emerging outbreak, we envision a custom-tailored diagnostic system could be ready for use within one week’s time,” James Collins, a biomedical engineer at Broad Institute at MIT and Harvard and lead author of the paper, said in a press release.

Building upon research that had been done in the 2014 Ebola outbreak, the team created a paper-based test that changes color when it detects Zika in a sample of blood, urine, or saliva. The test is able to replicate strains of genetic material found in a sample. If any of the genetic sequences are unique to Zika, the paper test will turn purple positive result.

In theory, this kind of testing is as easy to use as a home pregnancy test and costs less than a dollar per test. Researchers hope that because this test is so inexpensive and easy to use, it will be widely available in areas with fewer resources.

Although there’s no specific treatment for Zika, Keith Pardee, a pharmacist at the University of Toronto and co-author of the paper, said that he hopes the test will help contain the Zika outbreak in countries where it is most prevalent until a vaccine can be developed.

Source: (Quartz)

May 9, 2016: The Mosquito Season Is Here and Funds to Fight Zika Are Not

The White House and Democrats are pressuring congressional Republicans to act on President Obama’s demands for funds to combat Zika, but even the onset of mosquito season that probably will spread the virus has failed to create any sense of urgency.

Republicans from states at the greatest risk, such as Florida, Texas, Louisiana and Georgia, have been slow to endorse President Obama’s ongoing request for $1.9 billion to battle the Zika virus, which causes grave birth defects. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently reports more than 470 cases are in the continental U.S., all so far associated with travel to Zika-affected areas.

The one voice that has been heard supporting the President is Senator Marco Rubio. Thus far, Rubio’s urgency on Zika is not widely shared, though Senator John Cornyn of Texas, drew attention when he told reporters in Houston last month that “the risk of underreacting is really too high to take any chances.”

Unfortunately, to date it appears the White House won’t get anything approaching its $1.9 billion request for emergency money to battle Zika. Senate Republicans privately floated a $1.1 billion Zika-fighting measure, but House Republicans are likely to press for a lesser amount, and require offsetting spending cuts elsewhere in the budget, an idea that the administration has not ruled out.

Source: Associated Press

May 8, 2016: Thinking on How the Zika Virus Causes Microcephaly

The World Health Organization said in late March that there was “strong scientific consensus” that the Zika virus caused microcephaly, in which infants are born with unusually small heads and damaged brains. In April, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention went further, declaring, “It is now clear that the Zika virus causes microcephaly.”

Zika-associated microcephaly is a particularly destructive type, the C.D.C. added: The babies’ heads are much smaller than in other types of microcephaly, and even the simplest actions that most newborns master, like swallowing and bending joints, are impaired.

The C.D.C. reached its conclusion not because of a single large study but because of “mounting evidence from many studies,” which collectively satisfied a set of criteria used to test whether a particular threat to a fetus causes a particular birth defect.

Virtually all public health agencies are now giving medical advice based on the belief that the virus is to blame for microcephaly. Here are the lines of evidence they cite.

  1. Cases of microcephaly have surged in Brazil. As early as last August, hospitals in northeast Brazil realized that something unheard of was happening: Neonatal wards that normally saw one or two microcephalic babies a year were seeing five or more at the same time. Doctors learned from the mothers that many had had symptoms of Zika infection months earlier.
  2. On a smaller scale, it seems to have happened in French Polynesia, too. Microcephaly and other fetal malformations that appeared to be associated with maternal Zika infections have been reported in French Polynesia, Colombia, Cape Verde, Martinique and Panama.
The virus crosses the placenta and can reach the fetus. Zika virus has been found in amniotic fluid surrounding microcephalic babies, and autopsies have found it in the brains of fetuses that died in the womb. The virus was discovered in the brain of a microcephalic baby aborted at 32 weeks, six months after the mother recovered from the disease.
  4. Zika also attacks brain cells. Studies in cell cultures and in mice have shown that the virus is “neurotropic” — that is, it targets nerve cells, including the ones that eventually become the baby’s brain. In a study in Cell Stem Cell, researchers exposed fetal stem cells to the virus and found that it particularly attacked cortical neural progenitor cells, which ultimately form the brain’s cortex, the region responsible for many higher functions.
  5. A small study found a big difference in birth defects. A study of 42 pregnant Brazilian women published March 4 found that 29 percent of those who had been infected with Zika virus experienced “grave outcomes” to their pregnancies, while none of the uninfected women did. Those outcomes included fetal death, tiny heads, shrunken placentas and fetal nerve damage that suggested blindness. The most shocking finding was that two babies that had been developing normally died suddenly when their mothers were infected late in pregnancy.
  6. “Shepard’s criteria” have been satisfied, according to the C.D.C. In explaining its April 13 announcement, the C.D.C. said the Zika virus had met four of the seven scientific criteria – so-called Shepard’s criteria, named for the Seattle pediatrician who invented them – needed to determine whether a maternal infection or poisoning in pregnancy directly causes birth defects.

Source: New York Times

May 7, 2016: Alabama’s Plan for Dealing with Zika

“If a mosquito is carrying a disease, it is more than just a nuisance,” said Andy Mullins, Director of Emergency Preparedness with the Alabama Department of Public Health, who oversees the state’s Zika action plan.

“"We have a plan. We are revising it now. There are several mosquito-borne diseases that have been problematic for years. “The key is to get people to take action themselves,” Mullins said. “We’re not going to eliminate mosquitoes in Alabama. For most people, the illness itself is not serious. A large portion of people who become infected with Zika, the symptoms are very non-specific.”

“While there is nothing unique in terms of where people live, southern states are most susceptible to the (Zika) virus, said Cheryl Clay, Public Health Senior Environmentalist, and Supervisor for the Vector Control Division of the Madison County Health Department.”

“There is the possibility that it could get into the population,” she said. “The fact that we do need to reduce the mosquito population because of the diseases they carry is an important issue.”

Source: USA Today

May 6, 2016: Major League Baseball Moves Games from Puerto Rico

Concerns over the Zika virus have forced this month’s Pirates-Marlins series out of Puerto Rico, with the two games moving to Miami. Major League Baseball and the players’ union announced today that Pittsburgh and Miami would meet May 30 and 31 at Marlins Park. The union had asked Commissioner Rob Manfred to move the games after players expressed fears about getting and possibly transmitting the Zika virus.

Puerto Rico has had 785 confirmed Zika cases, including its first death from the virus.

The C.D.C. had spoken to players and staff members from both teams about the potential risks.

“It was a tough decision for us, it was a tough issue,” Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole said. “In the end, after the thorough presentation by the C.D.C., there was just significant concerns for players and players’ families potentially expecting kids and people who may or may not be pregnant.”

Source: The Associated Press

May 4, 2016: The First Zika U.S. Death is Reported

An elderly gentleman from Puerto Rico died earlier this year from internal bleeding as a result of a rare immune reaction to an earlier Zika infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The condition that killed him, immune thrombocytopenic purpura, is similar to Guillain-Barré in that the Zika contamination triggered his immune system to make antibodies that attacked his own cells. In Guillain-Barré, they attack nerve cells, while in this case, they attacked the platelets, which cause the blood to clot.

Puerto Rico has 683 confirmed Zika infections in its outbreak, which began in December 2015.

Source: The New York Times

May 3, 2016: Second Mosquito Species Discovered Carrying the Zika Virus

The Aedes Aegypti mosquito, the main species that carries Zika, has been joined by another disease-bearing insect, according to Phil Armstrong, head of Mosquito Surveillance for the state of Connecticut.

Aedes Albopictus, also known as the Asian tiger mosquito, was found to carry the Zika virus recently in Mexico. That species is very common in the state of Connecticut.

Source: CBS News

May 2, 2016: Zika Virus Timeline

Now that hardly a day goes by without a mention of the deadly mosquito-borne Zika virus, I thought it would be interesting to research its origin. Here is what I found as of April 26, 2016:

1947: Scientists researching yellow fever in Uganda’s Zika Forest identify the virus in a rhesus monkey

1948: Virus recovered from Aedes africanus mosquito in Zika Forest

1952: First human cases detected in Uganda and Tanzania

1954: Virus found in Nigeria

1960s-80s: Zika detected in mosquitoes and monkeys across equatorial Africa

1969–83: Zika found in equatorial Asia, including India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Pakistan

2007: Zika spreads from Africa and Asia, first large outbreak on Pacific island of Yap

2012: Researchers identify two distinct lineages of the virus, African and Asian

2013–14: Zika outbreaks in French Polynesia, Easter Island, the Cook Islands and New Caledonia. Retrospective analysis shows possible link to birth defects and severe neurological complications in babies in French Polynesia

March 2, 2015: Brazil reports illness characterized by skin rash in northeastern states

July 17: Brazil reports detection of neurological disorders in newborns associated with history of infection

Oct. 5: Cape Verde has cases of illness with skin rash

Oct. 22: Colombia confirms cases of Zika

Oct. 30: Brazil reports increase in microcephaly, abnormally small heads, among newborns

Nov. 11: Brazil declares public health emergency

November 2015-January 2016: Cases reported in Suriname, Panama, El Salvador, Mexico, Guatemala, Paraguay, Venezuela, French Guiana, Martinique, Puerto Rico, Guyana, Ecuador, Barbados, Bolivia, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Curacao, Jamaica

Feb. 1: World Health Organization (WHO) declares public health emergency of international concern

Feb. 2: First case of Zika transmission in United States; local health officials say likely contracted through sex, not mosquito bite

Feb. 5: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says virus being actively transmitted in 30 countries, mostly in the Americas

Feb. 8: U.S. President Barack Obama requests $1.8 billion to fight Zika

Feb. 12: Brazil investigating potential link between Zika infections and 4,314 suspected cases of microcephaly. Of those, 462 confirmed as microcephaly and 41 determined to be linked to virus

Feb. 17: Brazil investigating potential link between Zika and 4,443 suspected cases of microcephaly. Of those, 508 confirmed as microcephaly and most of those cases are linked to the virus. WHO seeks $56 million to fight Zika.

Feb. 18: CDC adds Aruba and Bonaire to countries and territories with active outbreaks, bringing total to 32.

Feb. 23: CDC investigating 14 cases of possible sexual transmission of Zika. CDC also adds Trinidad and Tobago and Marshall Islands to countries and territories with active outbreaks, bringing total to 34.

Feb. 25: Brazil says confirmed microcephaly cases number more than 580 and considers most of them to be related to Zika infections in the mothers. Brazil is investigating an additional 4,100 suspected cases of microcephaly.

Feb. 27: France detects first sexually transmitted case of Zika.

Feb. 29: CDC adds St. Maarten, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines to countries and territories with active outbreaks, bringing total to 36.

March 1: Brazil says confirmed microcephaly cases rose to 641 and considers most of them to be related to Zika infections in the mothers. Brazil is investigating an additional 4,222 suspected cases of microcephaly.

March 8: WHO advises pregnant women to avoid areas with Zika outbreak and said sexual transmission of the virus is “relatively common.”

March 9: CDC adds New Caledonia to countries and territories with active outbreaks, bringing total to 37.

March 15: Cuba reports first case of Zika contracted in the country.

March 16: Cape Verde identifies first case of microcephaly.

March 18: CDC says during Jan. 1, 2015 to Feb. 26, 2016, 116 residents of the United States had evidence of recent Zika virus infection based on laboratory testing.

Brazil says confirmed microcephaly cases rose to 863 and considers most of them to be related to Zika infections in the mothers. Brazil is investigating an additional 4,268 suspected cases of microcephaly.

March 19: CDC adds Cuba to countries and territories with active outbreaks, bringing total to 38.

March 21: South Korea confirms first case of Zika.

March 22: CDC adds Dominica to countries and territories with active outbreaks, bringing total to 39. Bangladesh confirms first case of Zika virus.

Brazil says confirmed microcephaly cases rose to 907 and considers most of them to be related to Zika infections in the mothers. Brazil is investigating an additional 4,293 suspected cases of microcephaly.

March 29: Brazil says confirmed microcephaly cases rose to 944 and considers most of them to be related to Zika infections in the mothers. Brazil said the number of suspected cases of microcephaly dropped slightly to 4,291.

March 31: According to the World Health Organization, there is a strong scientific consensus that Zika can cause the birth defect microcephaly as well as Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare neurological disorder that can result in paralysis, though conclusive proof may take months or years.

April 1: CDC adds Kosrae, Federated States of Micronesia to countries and territories with active outbreaks, bringing total to 40.

April 4: CDC adds Fiji to countries and territories with active outbreaks, bringing total to 41.

April 5: Vietnam reports first Zika infections.

April 6: Brazil says confirmed microcephaly cases rose to 1,046 and considers most of them to be related to Zika infections in the mothers. The number of suspected cases of microcephaly dropped to 4,046.

April 7: St. Lucia confirms first two cases of Zika, contracted locally.

April 12: Brazil says confirmed microcephaly cases rose to 1,113 and considers most of them to be related to Zika infections in the mothers. The number of suspected cases of microcephaly dropped to 3,836. It was the second week in a row that the overall total figure fell.

April 13: The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concluded that infection with the Zika virus in pregnant women is a cause of the birth defect microcephaly and other severe brain abnormalities in babies. The CDC said now that the causal relationship has been established, several important questions must still be answered with studies that could take years.

CDC adds St. Lucia to countries and territories with active outbreaks, bringing total to 42.

April 18: Peru reports first case of sexually transmitted Zika virus.

CDC adds Belize to countries and territories with active outbreaks, bringing total to 43.

April 25: Canada confirms first sexually transmitted Zika case.

April 26: Brazil says the number of confirmed cases of microcephaly climbed to 1,198 from 1,168 in the week through April 23, but suspected ones under investigation continued to decline to 3,710 from 3,741 a week ago.

Brazil registered 91,387 likely cases of the Zika virus from February until April 2, the health ministry said, in its first national report on the epidemic.

Source: World Health Organization, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Reuters

May 1, 2016: The 7 T’s

I’m not sure if it’s ironic or prophetic, but as I went on my walk this afternoon throughout several neighbors, I came across a large swath of landscape pine needles absolutely soaked in rain water. The vast puddles were so deep that goldfish could swim in them.

Obviously the homeowner has not yet become aware that this water-soaked parcel of earth could turn into a mosquito disaster – as it only takes a teaspoon of water to start of the growth of hundreds of disease-bearing mosquitoes.

According to Mosquito Squad®, the original mosquito eliminator who invented the Protective Barrier Treatment back in 2005, here are the seven best natural ways to fight the mosquito bite.

  1. TIP: Tip over items in your yard to reduce standing water. The elimination of standing water decreases a mosquito’s breeding ground. Check your property and tip over drainage catch basins, bird baths, hoses and sprinkling cans, tire swings, water bottles or beverage cans. The smallest amount of water is a great place for a female mosquito to lay her 300 eggs.
  2. TOSS: Toss grass clippings, leaves, firewood and piles of mulch that are yard trash. By keeping a yard clean, you can remove a major breeding area for mosquitoes. Check your yard, underneath decks, in gutters and along rooflines for accumulation of dead leaves, piles of fallen branches, or excess mulch. This is a great place for breeding insects.
  3. TURN: Turn over yard items that could hold water. Look for dog bowls, plant saucers, empty pots, sand boxes, plastic toys, or even garbage bins that are not being used. These items tend to fill with rain water and offer a great spot for breeding. Turn them over when not in use.
  4. REMOVE TARPS: If tarps stretched over firewood piles, boats or sports equipment aren’t taut, they’re holding water. Problem items cited most by Mosquito Squad technicians include tarps over boats, wood piles, grills, portable fire places, and even sports equipment bags. The smallest amount of water (about the size of a bottle cap) is all a mosquito needs to breed.
  5. TAKE CARE: Take care of home maintenance needs that can contribute to standing water. Areas where water pools, such as near faucets or water spouts, leaking irrigation systems, clogged gutters, all of these places offer a breeding haven for mosquitoes.
  6. TEAM UP: Despite taking all precautions in your own home, talking with neighbors is a key component to mosquito control. Townhomes and homes with little space between lots mean that mosquitoes can breed at a neighbor’s home, and affect your property.
  7. TREAT: Mosquito Squad’s treatments eliminate 85-90% of the mosquitoes on your property and reduce the need for using DEET containing bug spray on your body. Take back your backyard and kick those pesky bugs to the curb!

- Larry Spada, Zika News Aggregation Editor

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