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Blog | June 2016

June 30, 2016: Caribbean Wedding Destinations Suffer Because of Zika Virus

News from St. Croix that “Caribbean wedding destinations have taken a hit this year because of the Zika virus, according to the New York Times. The publication, citing multiple wedding planners as sources, cited one instance where JoAnn Gregoli, a wedding planner at Elegant Occasions, watched the guest list for one wedding on the Caribbean island of Anguilla melt from 150 to 100 in a matter of weeks. She said that she helped another couple, marrying in Mexico, improvise when a pregnant member of the party was ordered to stay home by her doctor.

“The U.S. Virgin Islands has served as a popular wedding destination for many looking to tie the knot in the Caribbean, and the Department of Tourism in October moved to enhance the experience by partnering with leading wedding dress manufacturer Mon Cheri Bridals to bring more weddings and honeymoon experiences to the islands.

“’As the official bridal manufacturer for the United States Virgin Islands, bringing exposure to the territory as a choice destination for weddings and honeymoons is of pivotal importance,’ said Stephen Lang, CEO of Mon Cheri Bridals.

“But the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico have been hit with numerous cases of the virus, with 26 confirmed cases here and over 1,200 cases in Puerto Rico. Additionally, the aforementioned U.S. territories are the only two parts of the U.S. to have known local transmission. In the U.S.V.I., a majority of the cases are local transmissions, according to Territorial Epidemiologist Dr. Esther Ellis, speaking with The Consortium by telephone recently.

“According to The Times, Hayley Hines, a 30-year-old Arizona resident, was expecting to be married in Cancún, Mexico, on June 18, with 110 friends and relatives in attendance at a beachside resort. She and her fiancé, Bryan Ahearn, had attended friends’ weddings in that area and wanted the same experience.

“The event was booked and practically paid for. Then a guest who was trying to become pregnant backed out; she was concerned that Mexico had reported some cases of Zika, a virus blamed for birth defects. ‘We’re at the age where people are having their first or second child,’ Ms. Hines said.

“In February, the bride-to-be discovered that she, too, was expecting, and would have to bow out. Becky Gillespie, the travel consultant who had spent months arranging the wedding, remembered thinking, “Oh, this is going to be a lot of work for nothing.” She spent weeks jumping through hoops with American Airlines, United Airlines and Sandos Cancún Luxury Experience Resort until she was able to return every penny of the $15,300 Ms. Hines and her guests had already paid

“The vendors ‘did not like it but they understood the situation,’ said Ms. Gillespie, who operates For Love of Travel, an agency in Nevada City, Calif. She was ‘surprised that they let more than just the bride get their money back.’

Source: The Virgin Islands Consortium

June 29, 2016: 61 Nations Now Affected by The Zika Virus

Andrea Frazier reports “As travel-related cases of the Zika virus manifest in the United States, health officials, politicians, and American citizens are hoping the mosquito species that carries the illness won’t migrate here, and wondering whether Zika will spread to other countries around the globe. The illness began making headlines last year, when images of Brazilian newborns with abnormally small heads who had contracted it in utero began hitting newspapers and newsfeeds worldwide. Since then, officials have warned women in affected countries not to get pregnant, and the World Health Organization has deemed it a public health emergency. From parts of Africa to the state of Alabama, people are on high alert, trying to predict what the affect will be where they live, and determining how to protect themselves.

“Right now, 61 countries are dealing with mosquito-borne Zika transmission, according to the WHO (it can also spread through sexual contact), and that number could be on the rise. According to a report StyleCaster’s Hannah Hickok compiled, Zika could be making its way to:

Indonesia, Malaysia, Cambodia, China, Bangladesh, Philippines, and Malaysia in Asia; Senegal, Gabon, South Africa, Democratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe, and Cameroon in Africa; and France, Italy, and Malta in Europe.

“In addition, the United States is preparing for Zika to possibly hit Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas. There have already been hundreds of reported cases of Zika here, even among pregnant women, but none of these resulted from a mosquito bite a person got while they were in the United States.

“For those who don’t have plans to travel to Brazil or another affected country, it’s a good idea use bug spray this summer to ward off mosquitoes, just in case. The CDC also recommends dressing kids in clothing that covers their arms and legs and using mosquito netting to cover cribs, strollers, and baby carriers to make sure they’re protected, and to eliminate sources of standing water where mosquitoes like to breed. And, of course, avoid traveling to infected countries, which means keeping an eye on the CDC’s travel warnings, because it looks like the list will lengthen in the coming weeks and months.

Source: Romper

June 28, 2016: US Gulf Coast Unprepared for "The Virus from Hell"

This from Robert Ferris at CNBC. “Zika stands to infect 4 million Americans by the end of the year, and the number of children born with conditions related to the disease may one of the biggest impacts on child health care since HIV and AIDS in the 1990s.

“That is the verdict drawn by Peter Hotez, the dean of Baylor College of Medicine’s National School of Tropical Medicine, in a special
bq. communications article published online by JAMA Pediatrics. Hotter called Zika “the virus from hell,” for what it does to the developing brains of unborn babies.

“The birth defect known as microcephaly has been widely publicized since public health officials connected it to the virus earlier this year. However, doctors and scientists are just beginning to grasp the range of effects the disease has on fetuses and developing children, and that microcephaly is just the ‘tip of the iceberg,’ Hotez said.

“Zika causes microcephaly because it attacks the stem cells that become brain cells. In babies affected by the virus, the brain simply does not develop. The developing skull simply ‘implodes’ around the brain, which is only developing minimally.

“’So I think people don’t often appreciate how devastating Zika virus is,’ Hotez said. Because the virus appears to attack the neural stem cells, there is a range of potential effects beyond microcephaly that are possible, and that we simply have not seen yet. Children may even be vulnerable to the effects if they are infected after they are born, since the brain continues to develop in infancy.

“Hotez said he fears the disease is already gaining a foothold in the Gulf Coast region and is calling for more monitoring of vulnerable areas.

“’My concern is that Zika could already be here on the Gulf Coast, it is just that nobody is looking, because none of the country and local health departments have funding to conduct active surveillance,’ Hotez told CNBC in an interview. ‘So I am quite worried that Zika is already here, and that we have no programs in place to actively look for it.’

“There are three things that contribute to a Zika outbreak: the presence of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, crowded human dwellings, and poverty. The Asian tiger mosquito, Aedes albopictus, is also capable of spreading the disease, but is far less efficient than its relative.

“All three conditions are present in many cities across the Gulf Coast of the United States. The combined population of Houston and Galveston, Texas, along with New Orleans and the entire state of Florida total about 60 million people, the article noted. Out of that, about 1 million pregnancies could be at risk for the virus.

“This includes educating the public about getting tests for the disease if symptoms such as fevers arise, as well as more aggressively testing mosquito populations. It is also going to require a cohort of pediatricians and pediatric neurologists to sort out the effects, and new programs will need to be put in place to assist the children who live with the effects of the disease.

“Hotez is also skeptical that a vaccine will come to market any time soon, despite news reports on Monday that one has been approved for human trials.”

Source: CNBC

June 27, 2016: LG Claims to Have a Mosquito-Repelling TV to Help Fight Zika

This surprising news from Ephraim Batambuze on the Zika fight front. “LG Electronics Inc. has begun selling a TV with a feature that they say repels mosquitoes," by using sound waves.

“According to the company, the TV’s ‘Mosquito Away Technology’ uses ultrasonic waves that are inaudible to humans but cause mosquitoes to fly away.

“The TV became available in the country on June 16, 2016.

“The said technology was certified as effective by an independent laboratory near Chennai, India, has been used by LG in air conditioners and washing machines, the company said.

“The TV is targeted at lower-income consumers living in conditions that would make them vulnerable to mosquitoes, and is priced at $394 and $706.

“The TV whose technology also functions when the TV is switched off will also go on sale next month in the Philippines and Sri Lanka.”

Source: PC Tech Magazine

June 26, 2016: Researcher Accidentally Infects Herself with Zika Virus

She pricked herself with a needle while conducting a lab experiment

“A University of Pittsburgh researcher accidentally infected herself with the Zika virus.

“While conducting a lab experiment with the virus last month, the researcher pricked herself with a needle. Nine days later, she started experiencing symptoms, including a fever. She later tested positive for Zika, CNN reports. Since then, her symptoms have resolved, the Allegheny County Health Department said.

“’We want to remind residents that, despite this rare incident, there is still no current risk of contracting Zika from mosquitos in Allegheny County. For those traveling to countries affected by the Zika virus, we urge caution,’ said Dr. Karen Hacker, director of the Allegheny County Health Department, in a statement.

“Dr. Hacker advised pregnant women to avoid traveling to countries affected by the Zika virus, and the health department encouraged local residents to protect themselves by wearing insect repellant containing DEET and “removing standing water”: from property.”

Source: TIME

June 25, 2016: FDA Allows Emergency Use of Hologic’s Aptima Test for The Zika Virus

Brad Perriello reports “Hologic said it won an emergency use exemption from the FDA for its Aptima diagnostic to detect Zika virus.

“The approval covers the detection of the Zika virus in human serum and plasma specimens and makes the test available immediately in the U.S., Puerto Rico and U.S. territories, Marlborough, Mass.-based Hologic said.

“’We want to ensure that during this critical summer season and beyond, those at risk for the Zika virus have an opportunity to be tested with a highly sensitive assay,’ Hologic medical director Dr. Edward Evantash said in prepared remarks. ‘Our new test will help to ensure accurate diagnoses and reduce subsequent spread of the infection.’

“Last week U.S. officials said three babies were born here with defects that were most likely caused when their mothers contracted the mosquito-borne virus during pregnancy.”

Source: Mass Device

June 24, 2016: Zika Vaccine Trial Gets Approved

“Inovio Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and GeneOne Life Science, Inc. announced that they have received approval to initiate a phase I human trial to evaluate Inovio’s Zika DNA vaccine (GLS-5700) to prevent infection from this concerning virus. In preclinical testing this synthetic vaccine induced robust antibody and T cell responses in small and large animal models, demonstrating the product’s potential to prevent infection from this harmful pathogen in humans.

“This phase I, open-label, dose-ranging study with 40 healthy subjects will evaluate the safety, tolerability and immunogenicity of GLS-5700 administered intradermally with CELLECTRA®, Inovio’s proprietary DNA delivery device.

“Dr. J. Joseph Kim, Inovio’s President & CEO, said, ‘We are proud to have attained the approval to initiate the first Zika vaccine study in human volunteers. As of May 2016, 58 countries and territories reported continuing mosquito-borne transmission of the Zika virus; the incidences of viral infection and medical conditions caused by the virus are expanding, not contracting. We plan to dose our first subjects in the next weeks and expect to report phase I interim results later this year.’

“Mr. Young K. Park, GeneOne Life Science’s President & CEO, said, ‘It is an honor for our company to help usher this Zika vaccine through the clinical and regulatory process. We look forward to conducting this trial with the goal of achieving products to combat this dreaded virus.’

“Inovio and GeneOne are developing the Zika vaccine, GLS-5700, with academic collaborators from the US and Canada with whom they have previously collaborated to advance Inovio’s Ebola and MERS vaccines into clinical development.”

Source: StreetInsider.com

June 23, 2016: Campers Should Be Mindful of the Zika Virus Precautions

Jennifer Graham from Salt Lake City, Utah, reports “Children and teens who go to summer camps are particularly vulnerable because they spend so much time outdoors. “If you’ve got a kid in summer camp, they’re wearing shorts or they’re wearing swimsuits when they’re outside," ecologist Todd Livdahl of Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, said.

“So what should campers be packing?

“The CDC’s guidelines for Zika prevention suggest wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants, and treating clothing and gear with permethrin, a type of insecticide that’s generally considered safe (unless you eat it).

“According to the University of Rhode Island’s Tick Encounter Resource Center, you can treat clothes by either spraying them with permethrin, or soaking them. You can also buy clothes that are already treated, which the Environmental Protection Agency deems safe, even for pregnant and nursing women.

“Otherwise, campers should bring insect repellent that contains either DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or para-menthane-diol, all ingredients approved by the EPA.”

Source: Deseret News

June 22, 2016: US Health Officials Worry About the Houston Neighbors

Associated Press writers Nomaan Merchant, Mike Stobbe and Jennifer Kay share this Zika update from Houston, Texas.

“Saron Wyatt pointed to the secluded end of her small street in Houston’s impoverished Fifth Ward, where a mound of old tires keeps popping up.

“Always a trashy nuisance, it’s now a growing danger. Tires collect water and become prime breeding grounds for mosquitoes — especially the ones that spread Zika virus disease and other tropical mosquito-borne illnesses.

“Wyatt, a mother of five, doesn’t know where the tires are coming from. But she’s worried about it, and so are health officials.

Mosquitoes… “can breed in pools of standing water as small as a Styrofoam cup. That means vacant lots or messy yards may need to be cleaned up, whether the owner of the mess wants it cleaned or not.

“Dr. Umair Shah, the head of Houston’s county health department, called getting the cooperation of local residents his department’s biggest issue. ‘It’s really about a neighbor who might have sources of breeding on their property that can impact a neighbor two or three houses down,’ he said.

“Next, health officials or mosquito control workers will visit the properties within that circle and look for standing water where mosquitoes may be breeding, including Styrofoam cups, flower pots, and old tires. They will work with the property owner to remove them, or treat them with chemicals that kill mosquito larvae.

“Since the beginning of the year, Florida residents have sent dozens of emails to Gov. Rick Scott alerting him to overgrown backyards with standing water and expressing concern over Zika, mosquitoes, and the efforts to control mosquitoes.”

Source: ABC News

June 21, 2016: Puerto Rico Braces for Zika Impact

At the U.S.’s doorstep, one quarter of the territory’s population could be infected by year’s end, giving health authorities a rare chance to study the virus

Betsy McKay shares this from San Juan, Puerto Rico. “The Zika virus is creeping north toward the continental U.S., and Alberto de la Vega has started to detect its signs.

“In ultrasounds he gives pregnant women who are infected with the virus in this American territory, he has seen a 22-week-old fetus with serious brain damage and two others with stunted growth. He is bracing for more.

“’If you ask me in a month,” says Dr. de la Vega, an obstetrician-gynecologist and chief of a high-risk-pregnancy unit at the capital’s University Hospital, ‘we may have 10 times the detection rate.’

“Zika has blanketed three-quarters of this lush island over the past six months, say health authorities, who expect it to keep spreading now that it is prime mosquito season. More than 1,350 people have tested positive for Zika since the beginning of the epidemic here, including 168 pregnant women. One patient died. Thousands more are likely infected without symptoms, health authorities say.

Puerto Rico’s battle with Zika is giving local and U.S. health authorities a rare chance to better understand the disease as it makes its relentless march across the Americas.

“The island has advantages over Latin American and Caribbean nations that lack its modern medical system. It has strong public-health surveillance and anticipated Zika’s arrival, unlike Brazil, where the virus spread unnoticed for months.

“’This is the best shot we have at understanding the natural spectrum of the disease,’ says Johnny Rullán, former secretary of health and former state epidemiologist for the territory.

Puerto Rico has been hit harder than any mainland U.S. state is likely to be, U.S. health authorities say. The Aedes aegypti mosquito that spreads Zika teems here, flourishing in the steamy climate and dense neighborhoods. It invades the many homes lacking screens and air conditioning. It incubates in unsealed septic tanks, old tires and other places where stagnant water stands.

Source: The Wall Street Journal

June 20, 2016: Zika Dilemma Creates Dire Need for Blood Donations

Alexia Egeland reports “The rapidly spreading Zika virus outbreak has prompted United Blood Services officials to request all eligible blood donors to get out to donate — and fast.

“Donors who have traveled recently to areas hit by the virus can’t donate, limiting supply. At the same time, officials say patient transfusion rates have surged 13 percent above normal levels.

“United Blood Services reported a 1½-day supply in Arizona on Wednesday, which is only half the amount they typically strive to keep on the shelf.

“"Sue Thew":https://www.linkedin.com/in/sue-thew-bb65106, a spokeswoman for United Blood Services, said that blood can only be kept for so long because it has a short shelf life. So the agency has to rely on regular donations.

“Donated blood must make it through testing and processing before being available for transfusion. That takes 24 to 36 hours.

“We only have a blood supply of one and a half days, and it takes one and a half days to process today’s donations,” Thew said. “We can’t wait until the situation gets worse to alert the public because if we tell people the day we need blood, it won’t be available for use for another day and a half. That’s why it’s so important to get the word out now.”

Source: The Arizona Republic

June 19, 2016: Texas Mosquito Population Grows

J.B. Smith tells us “As cases of the dreaded Zika virus spread through Texas, local experts are predicting a bumper crop this month of the mosquito that carries the virus.

“Recent rains have assured plentiful breeding habitat for the Aedes mosquito in Central Texas, and Baylor University mosquito researcher Richard Duhrkopf said he expects to see significantly more mosquitoes this year than in summer 2015, which also started off soggy, with Aedes as the most plentiful species.

“’We’re nowhere near the peak,’ said the associate biology professor who is regional director of the American Mosquito Control Association. “We’re at the bottom of the curve right now…The rains we have had the last few weeks have really stimulated things.’

“State officials have reported 41 cases of Zika in Texas this year, though none has been the result of mosquito bites received in the U.S. Forty of those, including a pregnant woman, contracted the disease while traveling abroad. The other one, a Dallas County resident, contracted the virus through sex with someone who had contracted it abroad.
No cases have been reported in McLennan or surrounding counties, though Williamson and Ellis counties each had one case.

“But local health officials say they are taking precautions to prevent the transmission of the disease.

“The Waco-McLennan County Health District has distributed fliers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control to agencies that deal with pregnant women, with the advice to be cautious about overseas travel, to drain standing rainwater and to use insect repellent. The materials include packets of insect repellent, health district spokeswoman Kelly Craine said.

“Craine said physicians, clinics and agencies such as CareNet and Planned Parenthood are in communication with the district about Zika risks. Health care workers pay particular attention to cases in which pregnant women have gone to Zika-infected areas, she said.
“The real risk at this point is travel,” she said.

“Dr. Kelley Reynolds, chief medical officer at the Family Health Center, said physicians there are beginning to pass out the information packets to pregnant women and are counseling them on Zika risks. She said immigrant patients who travel are a particular concern.

“We do have a lot of patients who travel back and forth to Mexico,” Reynolds said.

“Duhrkopf said he wouldn’t be surprised to see mosquito-transmitted Zika cases in Texas.

“’I think it’s quite likely,” he said. ‘We’re fairly unlikely to see it in Central Texas, but we may see some along the coast, in Houston, Galveston, Corpus Christi or the Rio Grande Valley… We’ve seen some unbelievable amounts of rainfall in Houston, and all that is going to gravitate toward much larger mosquito populations.’

“Here and in much of Texas, the dominant mosquito is Aedes albopictus, or Asian tiger mosquito, distinguished by its white “stripes.’ It is closely related to Aedes aegypti, which also exists here and has been the vector in tropical Zika outbreaks. Both mosquitoes could carry the virus, Duhrkopf said.

“Unlike the Culex mosquito, which carries West Nile virus and is most active at night during hotter, drier parts of the summer, the Asian tiger mosquito feeds during the day, so insect repellent is always a good idea, Duhrkopf said.”

Source: Waco Tribune-Herald

June 18, 2016: Travel Refunds in Question Over Zika Cancellation

This note of interest from Rob Low in Castle Rock, Colorado.

“When Autumn and Toby Titone found out they were expecting their second child, after already booking a summer vacation to St. Maarten in the Caribbean, they assumed they would get reimbursed by their travel insurance.

“After all the Centers for Disease Control advises pregnant women not travel to areas where the Zika virus is present.

“’We looked at each other and we were like, Oh… it`s OK we`ll be fine because the insurance will cover this, surely the insurance will cover it,’ said Autumn Titone of Castle Rock.

“The couple even had a doctor’s note but that wasn’t good enough for Chicago-based Aon Insurance.

“The company’s policy states it will reimburse airfare for cancellation due to ‘sickness, injury or death’ but not pregnancy.

“’We`ve been prescribed preventative measures to prevent sickness or injury,’ said Toby Titone, before adding, ‘They asked me directly ‘is your wife sick with Zika right now?’ and you know obviously No we`re trying to prevent that and they said ‘well if she does she`ll be covered,’” chuckled Titone in near disbelief.

“A spokeswoman for Aon Insurance confirmed the couple would be eligible for $5,000 in medical expenses if Autumn contracted the baby deforming Zika virus but in a statement said, ‘Cancelling a trip due to fear of something potentially happening, Zika concerns or otherwise, is typically not covered by most travel protection plans.’

“But the couple points out the travel insurance company for their hotel at the Simpson Bay Resort, Allianz Insurance, did reimburse them because of the Zika virus.

“’I can certainly understand this couple`s frustration,’ said Wave Dreher, spokeswoman for AAA Colorado. She said the key is for consumers to read the fine print and many travel insurance policies don’t cover pregnancies for any reason including the Zika virus. ‘They (Aon) certainly have the legal right to make the decision they are making. Is it a decision I`d want to see AAA make? No I`d like us to see our customer happy,’ said Dreher.

American Airlines agreed to refund the couple directly. United Airlines refused but the Titones tell FOX31 Denver that Orbitz has agreed to reimburse them for United’s portion, to ensure the couple gets their full $1,600 back.

Source: KDVR FOX 31

June 17, 2016: Olympian Greg Rutherford has sperm frozen over Zika virus fears

As opinions about hosting the 2016 Olympics in Rio continue to proliferate in the news media, this from the BBC.

British long jumper Greg Rutherford has had his sperm frozen before competing at the Rio Olympics because of fears about the Zika virus, says his partner.

“The Zika news has caused no end of concern,” wrote Susie Verrill.

“’We’ve made the decision to have Greg’s sperm frozen. It’s just another thing we don’t want to chance.’

“The mosquito-borne virus, which is linked to serious birth defects, has been declared a global public health emergency by the World Health Organization (WHO).

“The WHO said it would examine the risks of staging the Olympics in the Brazilian city, having rejected calls from more than 100 leading scientists to move or postpone the Games.

“In an article in Standard Issue magazine, Verrill, who has a son, Milo, with Rutherford, said she will not attend.

“She wrote: ‘We’re not ones to worry unnecessarily, but after more than 100 medical experts stressed the Games should be moved to prevent the disease from spreading, this was a huge factor in us choosing to stay put.’

“’We’d love to have more children and, with research in its infancy, I wouldn’t want to put myself in a situation which could have been prevented.’

Source: BBC

June 16, 2016: Private Sector Steps Up Zika Fight

Doctor Tom Frieden shares this on The White House Blog.

“Imagine this: You’re standing by a lake and you see someone drowning. You have the ability to save that person, but your hands are tied.

“Doctors who have spent the past three decades working in CDC’s birth defects center tell me that they have never seen a situation so urgent. The ability to prevent dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of severe birth defects creates a special responsibility – every child protected is a tragedy prevented.

“The ongoing Zika outbreak poses a serious threat to pregnant women. It’s been more than 50 years since we’ve seen a birth defect linked to a virus – and never before have we seen this result from a mosquito bite.

“Make no mistake: The Zika virus is an emergency that we need to address. It will take all of us — leaders in both the public and private sectors — to ensure we mount a robust and comprehensive response in the United States.

“There are things pregnant women can do to reduce the risk of Zika-related birth defects – including not traveling to areas where Zika is spreading or, for those who live in or must travel to such areas, taking steps to avoid mosquitoes. Men who have traveled to such areas and whose partners are pregnant should use condoms throughout the duration of the pregnancy.

“The CDC Foundation, a nonprofit organization that builds private sector partnerships to help CDC protect more people, has been reaching out to business leaders and philanthropic organizations to help Americans protect themselves from the Zika virus. The response has been enthusiastic and generous.

“For example, businesses have:

Donated bed nets, mosquito control tablets, and contraceptive technologies to support the CDC Foundation’s contraception access effort in Puerto Rico.
• Supported the CDC Foundation’s efforts to send Zika prevention kits to Puerto Rico to support pregnant women.
• Joined the Foundation in supporting a comprehensive health campaign to educate communities in the United States and territories, and empower women on how to prevent Zika transmission.
You can see the full list of support the CDC Foundation is receiving from private sector leaders here.

“They’re doing their part, but the truth is that we just don’t have the resources we need to protect our communities. The Department of Health and Human Services has already repurposed funding as a stopgap measure, and that’s helping with immediate needs to expand lab capacity, develop diagnostic tests, and track infections in the United States and territories.

“But that stopgap funding is just not enough to mount the robust response Americans deserve. The Zika response will take time and resources. The sooner we start on the hard work of better understanding, diagnosing, and preventing Zika, the sooner we will have better ways to protect pregnant women. That is why President Obama requested $1.9 billion in emergency funding from Congress back in February. Congress did the right thing with Ebola, and I am hopeful they will do the right thing with Zika.

“Leaders in the private sector are not standing by. They’re doing what they can to provide a life raft to those who are most at risk. My hope is that Congress will do the same — and soon. When it comes to fighting an epidemic, every day counts.”

Learn more at http://www.whitehouse.gov/zika

Source: The White House

June 15, 2016: Doctor Says Miami is Zika’s Ground Zero

Don’t be scared. Be informed.

That’s the message experts at Baptist Health South Florida wanted their audience to take away after an information session about the Zika virus and pregnancy.

“About 40 men and women attended Zika and Pregnancy: What You Need to Know at the Baptist Health Resource Center to ask questions and listen to presentations from Dr. Michael Jacobs, a reproductive endocrinologist, and Barbara Russell, director of infection control at the hospital,” reports Emily Cochrane.

“Questions focused on vaccine development, when a pregnant or new mother and her child are at risk and prevention tips.

“’We don’t want to scare people,’ said Dr. Jason James, chairman of the hospital’s department of obstetrics and gynecology and the event’s moderator. ‘But our goal here is to educate people so they make appropriate choices.’

“He said Miami is “ground zero” for a possible outbreak because of the tropical weather, the number of Latin American travelers and the Aedes aegypti and aedes albopictus mosquitoes that are present in South Florida.

“’We’re really in a stage of prevention right now,’ he said.

Miami-Dade County has the most Zika cases in the state, with 51 cases as of Wednesday. Broward has the second most number of cases, at 19. Florida had 172 cases as of Wednesday, including 38 cases involving pregnant women regardless of symptoms, according to the Florida Department of Health. All of the cases are travel related.

“Pregnant women are considered to be at greater risk from the virus after recent research reported a link between an outbreak of Zika in Brazil and a concurrent spike in microcephaly, a birth defect in which a child is born with an underdeveloped brain and an abnormally small head. The virus has been sexually transmitted from men to their partners or through bites from Aedes aegypti and aedes albopictus mosquitoes.

“Jacobs recommended that men use latex condoms to prevent transmission and that a couple wait at least eight weeks after the last date of possible exposure to the virus before trying to conceive. If there has been definite exposure, he said women should wait at least eight weeks and men six months before trying to conceive because the virus lasts longer in sperm than in blood.

“’I don’t believe you avoid things just because something might happen,” he said. “I wouldn’t change your lifestyle because of it.’

“Russell warned the audience about avoiding mosquito bites. While there haven’t been any cases transmitted locally, she said it’s still a possibility.

“She recommended wearing long sleeves and pants, getting rid of standing water and avoiding heavily scented perfume or lotion.

Source: Miami Herald

June 14, 2016: Possibility of Zika Transmission by Kissing

Donald G. McNeil, Jr., reports “Scientists raised the possibility that the Zika virus can be transmitted by oral sex — perhaps even by kissing —in a letter to The New England Journal of Medicine describing one such case in France.

“A single incident may seem trivial. But until early this year, there was only one known instance of sexual transmission of the Zika virus — a 2008 case in which a mosquito researcher just back from Africa infected his wife in Colorado.

“Now scientists believe that sexual transmission is an important driver of the Zika epidemic in the Americas. Cases have been reported in 10 countries where no mosquitoes carry the virus, including France, Germany, Italy, Portugal and New Zealand.

“In the French case, a 46-year-old man returned to Paris from Rio de Janeiro on Feb. 10, shortly after experiencing Zika symptoms in Brazil — fever, headache and a rash — that had just ended when he reached France.

“He and a 24-year-old partner had sex seven times between February 11 and February 20, each involving vaginal sex without ejaculation and oral sex with ejaculation.

“The woman fell ill on February 20. Both were tested for Zika infection on February 23. The man had high levels of the virus in his semen and urine, but none in his blood or saliva. The woman had the virus in her urine and saliva, and antibodies to the virus in her blood. But a vaginal swab was negative for the infection.

“The two were using oral sex as a form of birth control, said Dr. Yazdan Yazdanpanah, an infectious disease specialist at the National Institute of Health and Medical Research in Paris and one of the report’s authors.

“’I don’t think this changes anything, but it shows you how elaborate the number of avenues of possible transmission can be,’ said Dr. William Schaffner, head of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical School.”

Source: The New York Times

June 13, 2016: Never Too Soon to See a Doctor About Zika

According to Andrea Frazier, “When should pregnant women go to a doctor for Zika? It’s never too soon.

“Although mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus have not yet entered the United States, they are expected to do so within the next few weeks as weather gets warmer. The virus, while relatively innocuous for most people, has incredibly dangerous effects for babies born to women who contract the disease while pregnant. Repercussions for fetuses and newborns include severe birth defects, most notably microcephaly, which manifests in small heads and brain damage. Just this week, a woman from Honduras gave birth to a baby girl plagued with microcephaly in New Jersey, and The Washington Post reported that the woman had visited her gynecologist as soon as she developed a rash while pregnant. This raises the question of when pregnant women should go to a doctor for Zika — because if the point at which symptoms begin to show is already too late, then what’s a mom-to-be to do?

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting that, as of June 1, there are 618 reported cases of Zika virus in the United States, and all of them are travel-related. (While most people contract Zika through a mosquito bite, sexual transmission is a less-common way to get it.)

“Alarmingly, as of May 26, 341 of the Zika cases in the United States were pregnant women. Health officials are encouraging American women who have visited any of the infected countries — mostly in South America, Central America, and the Caribbean — to wait at least eight weeks before getting pregnant.”

Source: Romper

June 12, 2016: Scientists Find Zika Virus Goes Directly to The Brain

Science Alerts reports that “Scientists have finally figured out what Zika virus does to the human body, and it explains why its effects can be so devastating, but infections can go for months without detection.

“A new study has shown that not only does it go straight for the brain’s progenitor cells, blocking around 20 percent of them from forming new neurons, but it does so without alerting the body’s immune system, so can go on replicating in the brain for weeks.

“The good news is that, by better understanding how Zika is so successful in spreading throughout the human body, scientists from the University of Texas Medical Centre have found a way to combat it.

“A tiny protein called interferon-induced protein 3 (IFITM3), which is naturally produced in the body, has been shown to reduce Zika’s ability to infect brain cells in both humans and mice, and can even prevent the cell die-off associated with the virus.

“’This work represents the first look at how our cells defend themselves against Zika virus’ attack,’ says one of the team, Abraham Brass. ‘Our results show that Zika virus has a weakness that we could potentially exploit to prevent or stop infection.’”

Source: Science Alert

June 11, 2016: Highlights of ABC News Q&A Session With CDC Director

ABC News’ Chief Health and Medical Editor Dr. Richard Besser (left) conducted a live Q&A with Dr. Tom Frieden (right), director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to get the latest guidance and updates on the Zika virus.

Here are the major takeaways:

How dangerous is Zika? Is it deadly? What is the risk of Zika virus to people within the U.S.?

Any infection can be serious, particularly in people with other health issues, but most people who become infected with Zika only mild symptoms or often display no symptoms.

As far as we know, no mosquitoes in the U.S. are carrying the Zika virus — that is, there is no local transmission in the continental U.S. as of today.

Within the U.S., the risk is highest in the territory of Puerto Rico, which has been impacted significantly by other similar viruses previously (dengue, Chikungunya).

Because of these increased risks, all blood donors in Puerto Rico are being screened.

The Zika virus invades and disrupts the development of the fetal brain, but the effects on the brains of infants and young children are unknown.

“The biggest risk is to pregnant women,” Frieden said. “We now know that even women with asymptomatic infection can give birth to infants with microcephaly. The maximum point of vulnerability is probably late in the first trimester and beginning of the second trimester.”

What are the future risks for people who have been infected by Zika?

“From all the available evidence, the body has an excellent immune response to Zika,” Frieden said. “Therefore, once you get it once, you will never get it again.”

However, in males, the virus can persist, particularly in semen, and further studies are needed to determine how long this may persist. That is why it is important for men who have possibly been infected to engage in safe sex practices for six months to prevent transmitting the virus to their partners.

For young people and teenagers who are infected, there should not be a risk of birth defects for future pregnancies.

What are your hopes for Congress’ response to Zika?

Currently, resources have been diverted from other important projects toward Zika virus. Funds have been diverted from:

State and local government emergency response resources.
Efforts to keep Ebola under control in West Africa.
All of the existing staff working on dengue have been moved to Zika efforts.

“In the end, Congress did the right thing on Ebola, and I’m hopeful that they will do the right thing on Zika as well,” Frieden said. “We don’t want to take money from fighting one problem to fight another. … It’s very important that Congress act quickly to give us the resources we need for a quick, sustained, robust response.”

What is on the horizon in terms of combating Zika?

The National Institutes of Health is leading vaccine development, which may begin trials later this year, but it would still be 1 to 2 years before a vaccine is available.

Regardless of vaccine availability, controlling mosquito populations will be key.

“In addition to the message about personal health, this is another example of an emerging disease,” Frieden said. “This is another example of why it’s important to help other countries be prepared, to help them with their early response. It’s always going to be easier to fight them there than to try to fight them when they’ve spread over here.”

Source: ABC News

June 10, 2016: Infectious Disease Quick Test Manufacturer OraSure Technologies Steps It Up for Zika

Kurt Bresswein reports “With summer-like warmth and mosquito season well underway in the Lehigh Valley, U.S. Senator Bob Casey visited Bethlehem on Tuesday to hear about efforts to better diagnose Zika infections.

“OraSure Technologies, which has its headquarters at 220 E. First St. on the city’s South Side, is working to develop a rapid-diagnostic test based on its OraQuick platform. The company offers OraQuick testing for HIV, which causes AIDS; hepatitis C; and Ebola. Its products also include tests for influenza A and B.

“The CDC reports 591 cases of Zika in the United States and 939 in U.S. territories, as of May 25, 2016. The Pennsylvania Department of Health reports 19 cases confirmed by the CDC as of Tuesday afternoon, with 178 blood tests pending. New Jersey reports 16 cases, all travel-related.

“’A rapid diagnostic would allow doctors to quickly determine if a patient has been exposed to infection with the Zika virus, enabling appropriate follow-up care for the patient and minimizing the burden on public health laboratories,’ according to a news release from the office. ‘Accurate diagnostic tools are also necessary for vaccine and drug development.’”

Source: LehighValleyLive.com

June 9, 2016: Tips in Interpreting Zika Test Results

Kelly Young from NEJM Journal Watch reports that “The CDC offers new guidance for clinicians trying to interpret antibody test results for possible Zika infection.

“When a patient with suspected Zika has a negative result on real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction testing, antibody testing for both Zika and dengue should be performed (a negative RT-PCR can’t rule out Zika). The new guidance, published in MMWR, includes a helpful table laying out various test result scenarios and how to interpret them.

“In general, clinicians should try to reduce the risk for hemorrhagic complications in patients with suspected dengue. Pregnant women with serologic or molecular evidence of a recent Zika infection should be evaluated and managed for adverse pregnancy outcomes, including early pregnancy loss and microcephaly. In instances where the antibody tests cannot conclusively identify which flavivirus most recently infected a patient, clinicians can use epidemiologic links to a lab-confirmed case of dengue or Zika to help identify the most likely virus affecting their patient. Clinical features and circulating viruses in the area may also be considered.”

The CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report featuring Interim Guidance for Interpretation of Zika Virus Antibody Test Results can be found here.

Source: Jwatch.org

June 8, 2016: Two Month Zika Battle for Francisco Rodriguez

Katie Strang shares the Zika story of the Tigers closer. “As someone who has experienced Zika firsthand, Detroit Tigers pitcher Francisco Rodriguez would give this advice to any athletes traveling to the 2016 Rio Olympics: Do your homework.

“Rodriguez, a 34-year-old native of Caracas, Venezuela, contracted the virus this past offseason and learned just how serious the illness can be. He was laid up for two weeks with severe body aches, joint pain, headaches and a myriad of other symptoms. Considering the effects of the illness are even more devastating for women, especially pregnant women, he advised any athletes contemplating participating in the Olympics to educate themselves and their family members.

“For Rodriguez, who spends his offseason back home in Venezuela, what began as something similar to a cold quickly devolved into something much worse. Once the symptoms persisted, he knew he wasn’t dealing with any garden-variety ailment.

“’It wasn’t a cold, trust me,’ he said. ‘It wasn’t a cold. A cold, you have a sneeze, have a headache, take a couple Tylenol and you’re done. You don’t have a cold for two weeks, you don’t have a body ache for two weeks, you don’t have headaches, throwing up, weaknesses for two weeks.’

“Rodriguez, who recently became only the sixth pitcher in MLB history to record 400 saves, had bloodwork performed to see whether he had Zika or chikungunya, a different mosquito-borne illness, which Tigers prospect Bruce Rondon contracted this offseason. The test determined it was Zika, and from there it was a slow recovery. Although Rodriguez was infected with the virus for only two weeks, the effects were far-reaching.

“Rodriguez said it took two months before he ultimately felt like himself again, adding that the recovery even affected him once he got into spring training with his new club, although he was never considered contagious.

“And Rodriguez said he realizes he was probably one of the lucky ones, especially considering the dire state of the economy and healthcare in Venezuela, where even the most wealthy residents have a difficult time getting access to medicine or experience extreme price-gouging.

“Having seen the sort of pain and havoc the virus has wreaked in his own country, Rodriguez said he can understand the level of concern heading into the Olympics, with so many athletes, fans and spectators expected to descend upon Rio. Latin and South American countries have been dealing with the crisis for six months, but tourists and athletes coming from other parts of the world might be putting themselves at risk when there are no reported incidents back home.”

Source: ESPN

June 7, 2016: Guillain-Barré Syndrome Effects Some People Sickened by The Zika Virus

Tony Leys reports that “Polly Carver-Kimm has painful insight into her message these days as spokeswoman for the Iowa Department of Public Health.

“Carver-Kimm is helping warn people about the Zika virus, which mosquitoes are spreading through the Caribbean, South America and could become a threat in the Southern United States. The possible complications include Guillain-Barré syndrome, which attacks nerve cells, causing muscle weakness, tingling and even paralysis.

“Carver-Kimm hasn’t contracted the Zika virus, but she has struggled with an illness related to Guillain-Barré syndrome since 2012, when it knocked her flat. She has suffered intense pain. She has fallen down stairs. She has been put on a ventilator to help her breathe. She has twice had to relearn how to use her legs, and she still has some paralysis in her face.

“’I actually consider myself very lucky that I’m working and I’m walking,’ she said.

“She continues to feel tingling in her limbs. She needs a nap to make it through some workdays. But she’s still out there, helping Iowans understand how to keep themselves well.

“No one knows for sure what sparks Guillain-Barré, though it often strikes after people are sickened by influenza or other illnesses. Scientists have recently noted an increase in cases among people sickened by the Zika virus, though they’re trying to confirm the link.”

Source: The Des Moines Register

June 6, 2016: London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine Warns UK Tourists

RT UK reports “An expert has warned that as summer heat builds visitors to Florida’s Disney World are increasing their risk of contracting the Zika virus.

“Professor Jimmy Whitworth of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine warned tourists to ‘think twice’ before traveling to southern US states.

“With 121 confirmed cases of the virus, Florida is second only to New York with 127, according to the CDC. Speaking to the Daily Mail Professor Whitworth said at the moment visitors to the state were not at risk but as summer months approach ‘the situation might change.’

Source: RT UK

June 5, 2016: Colorado Neurologist Conducts Research On Mice Using the Zika Virus

“Dr. Ken Tyler, a neurologist with the University of Colorado Hospital and department chair of Neurology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine is part of a team doing research on mice using the Zika virus.” reports 9 NEWS in Colorado.

“’Zika can affect the nervous system of newborn mice and interestingly as mice get older they seem to get less susceptible to infection both in our hands in others,’ Tyler said. ‘So there does seem to be this window of vulnerability, especially strong during pregnancy.’

“That’s the major concern supporting more funding research. Doctors and scientists need to learn more about how the Zika virus is transmitted from a pregnant mother to the placenta and into a fetus. Newborns with infected mothers are often born with microcephaly, a condition in which they’re born with abnormally small heads and therefore small brains.”

Source: KUSA

June 4, 2016: Two Travel-Related Zika Cases in Northwest Virginia

“The Virginia Department of Health reported 18 travel-related cases of the Zika virus in Virginia residents to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as of last Thursday.

“Two of those cases are in the northwest region; nine are in the northern region, one in the eastern region, four in the central region and two in the southwest region.

“Dr. Wade Kartchner, health director for the Rappahannock-Rapidan Health Department located in Warrenton, said Culpeper is part of the VDH’s northwest region, which also includes Madison, Orange, Fauquier and Rappahannock counties.

“For more information about the Zika virus, Dr. Kartchner and Daniel Ferrell, VDH’s Rappahannock-Rapidan district epidemiologist, will give a presentation during the Culpeper County Board of Supervisors on June 7 at 10 a.m. and to the Madison County Board of Supervisors on June 14 at 4 p.m.”

Source: Culpepper Star Exponent

June 3, 2016: Rio Olympics Will Not Be Postponed Because of the Mosquito-Transmitted Zika Virus

Doug Stanglin from USA Today reports that “The World Health Organization, which in February declared the spread of Zika in the Americas a global emergency, said Saturday there is “no public health justification” for postponing the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

“The statement by the Geneva-based United Nations health agency comes one day after a group of doctors, scientists and bioethicists wrote a letter to the organization calling for the August 5-21 Games to be postponed or moved because of concerns of the spread of Zika.

“The organization recommended visitors to the Games use insect repellents and wear clothing that covers as much of the body as possible. It also recommended travelers practice safer sex, including the use of condoms, or abstain from sex during their stay in Brazil and for at least four weeks after their return because the virus can be transmitted through semen.”

Source: WKYC

June 2, 2016: Genetically Modified Male Mosquitoes May Reduce Mosquito Population by Up to 90%

Although many Key West, Florida, residents are up in arms about it, proposed testing trials of releasing GMO mosquitoes to help combat Zika is recommended by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Gillian Mohney reports that “The head of a British biotech company that has developed a genetically modified mosquito in an effort to lower the population of the insects that spread the Zika virus called for federal regulators to expedite a decision about on conducting a test of these mosquitoes in Florida.

“Hadyn Parry, the CEO of Oxitec, spoke at a congressional hearing about his company’s mosquitoes, which are genetically modified in an effort to reduce the population of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, the species primarily responsible for the spread of the Zika virus.

“The GMO mosquitoes are all male and hence do not bite. When released into the wild, they mate with females and produce nonviable offspring, thereby reducing the mosquito population without the need for pesticides. They have already been used in Brazil and the Cayman Islands to fight the spread of the Zika virus.

“’I think we should encourage them to find the processes to make this happen,’ Parry said, noting that an emergency route for approval may be appropriate in this case. He pointed out that the GMO mosquitoes can reach mosquitoes in areas where traditional spraying can’t, such as in indoor areas.

“’We can target the mosquito as an integrated approach. We have now the technology to control the mosquito in an urban environment and focus as a priority,’ he said.

“The congressional Committee on Science, Space and Technology held the hearing on the Zika virus and the research being done to understand and fight the virus. Currently, at least 500 people have been diagnosed with the Zika virus in the U.S., though virtually all contracted the disease while outside the country. In limited cases, the disease was spread through sexual contact, according to health officials.”

Source: ABC News

June 1, 2016: Consumer Reports Lists Mosquito Repellents That Best Protect Against Zika

With Jacksonville, Florida, in the potential Zika danger zone, Kumasi Aaron from News 4 JAX reports “There are two new cases of Zika in Florida, including one in St. Johns County… and Consumer Reports released its list of which insect repellents work best when it comes to keeping mosquitoes away.

“Consumer Reports found that repellents with DEET in them work best and last longer, and natural repellents don’t last as long.

“Consumer Reports looked at 16 repellents with a range of active ingredients, including conventional chemicals like DEET, synthetic plantlike compounds like those found in nature and plant oils like citronella and rosemary.

“The conventional chemicals kept mosquitoes that can spread Zika away for at least seven hours and oil base repellents kept them away for an hour or less, according to Consumer Reports.

“Consumer Reports’ top three picks each has a different chemical: DEET, picaridin or a eucalyptus derivative.”

The most effective were Sawyer Premium Insect Repellent with 20% Picaridin and Natrapel 8-Hour Insect Repellent.

“Here’s are some tips Consumer Reports provided from the EPA on how to use insect repellent:

• Apply repellents only to exposed skin or clothing — never put it on under clothing. Use just enough to cover and only for as long as needed; heavy doses don’t work better.
• Don’t apply mosquito repellents over cuts, wounds or irritated skin or immediately after shaving.
• When applying repellent to the face, spray it on hands, then rub it on the face. Avoiding eyes and mouth, and use sparingly around ears.
• Don’t let young children apply. Instead, an adult should put it on their own hands, then rub it on. Limit use on children’s hands, because they often put their hands in their eyes and mouths.
• Don’t use near food, and wash hands after application and before eating or drinking.
• At the end of the day, wash treated skin with soap and water, and wash treated clothing in a separate wash before wearing again.”

Source: News4JAX

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