This from Madrid: “A woman infected with the Zika virus gave birth on Monday to a baby with microcephaly in Barcelona, in what is probably the first case of its kind in Europe, according to the hospital where the infant was born.
“The woman is believed to have caught the Zika virus while traveling in Latin America, the region where Zika has spread most widely. She was not identified, and her exact itinerary was not disclosed.
“The microcephaly, a brain-damaging disorder, was diagnosed after the baby was born with a head circumference that is smaller than the norm, Dr. Félix Castillo, the neonatal chief at the Vall d’Hebron hospital in Barcelona, said at a news conference on Monday.
“The doctor did not specify how much the circumference was below normal measurements, but for microcephaly to be diagnosed, a baby’s head needs to be significantly smaller than normal.
“The baby’s gender was not given, for privacy reasons. It was born by cesarean section after 40 weeks of pregnancy.
“Dr. Castillo said that the baby ‘did not require any resuscitation’ and that the child’s vital signs were “normal and stable,” although the newborn will be put under close monitoring to identify other possible defects. The mother was in good health, and both parents were ‘very happy,’ according to the hospital’s head of obstetrics, Dr. Elena Carreras.
“Dr. Castillo said that the life expectancy of the baby born in Barcelona on Monday is that of ‘any child with a brain condition.’
“There have been 190 cases of Zika infections reported in Spain, of which 26 are linked to women who were pregnant at the time of the diagnosis, according to the country’s health ministry.”
Source: New York Times
“Residents of the Eastern Shore of Virginia should take common-sense precautions to protect themselves from mosquitoes as health officials keep an eye on the Zika virus, the director of the Eastern Shore Health District told Accomack County officials Wednesday.
“’Should this come to our community, this will be hard,’ said Dr. David Matson.
“He advised residents who are thinking of traveling to parts of the world where the virus is prevalent to gather facts before undertaking a trip.
“The virus’ effects on developing fetuses are especially devastating.
“’If you are thinking about starting a pregnancy, it’s time to ask the question about Zika,’ Matson said.
“As of Wednesday, 43 cases of infection have been documented in Virginia since the end of April. All were in people who have traveled. Three of the 43 cases are in the Eastern region of the state.
“All but one reported case of the virus in the United States so far have been in travelers, but the virus can be sexually transmitted. There was a human to human transmitted case reported in Georgia.
“Matson gave the Board of Supervisor members a brief overview of the virus’ history, including how it is transmitted.”
“’We don’t have the virus here right now. Our goal is to get through this year without the virus anywhere in North America,’ Matson said.”
Source: 13 News Now
Source: The New York Times
This important update from Debra Goldschmidt. “Health officials in Florida are now investigating four possible non-travel-related cases of Zika virus, the state Department of Health said Wednesday.
“Two of the four cases are in Miami-Dade County while the other two are in Broward County. None of the four individuals has traveled to Zika-affected areas. Sexual transmission has not been ruled out.
“’We are looking into other modes of transmission. We’re conducting this investigation as we would other mosquito-borne viruses, such as dengue (fever),’ Mara Gambineri, communications director for the Florida Department of Health, wrote in an email to CNN.
“Officials are going door-to-door asking residents to provide urine samples and other information in an effort to determine how many people may be infected with the virus. It is possible that someone could unknowingly be infected since 80% of those infected have no symptoms.
“If any of these four cases is determined to be an infection transmitted by local mosquitoes, it would signify the first local mosquito transmission of Zika in the continental United States.”
“Federal health officials have said local transmission should be expected, although they don’t anticipate that it will be widespread.
“’Evidence is mounting to suggest local transmission via mosquitos is going on in South Florida,’ Tom Skinner, senior press officer at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, wrote in an email. ‘These cases fit similar transmission patterns (of) mosquito borne diseases like chikungunya that we’ve seen in South Florida in years past.’
“As of July 20, the CDC reported 1,404 cases of the virus in the continental United States and Hawaii. None of those cases is a result of local mosquito transmission. Fifteen of those individuals were infected by sexual transmission, and there is one case of a laboratory-acquired infection.”
“A Utah man who became the first person in the continental U.S. to die after being infected with the Zika virus passed it to a caregiver, creating a medical mystery about how it spread between them, health officials said Monday.
“The two people did not have sexual contact and the type of mosquito that mainly spreads the virus is not found in the high-altitude area where they live, the Salt Lake County Health Department said.
“The caregiver is a ‘family contact’ and has fully recovered, but officials did not give further details, including how the virus was transmitted.
“’Our knowledge of this virus continues to evolve and our investigation is expected to help us better understand how this individual became infected,’ said Dr. Angela Dunn, deputy state epidemiologist at the Utah Department of Health. ‘Based on what we know so far about this case, there is no evidence that there is any risk of Zika virus transmission among the general public in Utah.’
Source: CBS News
July 26, 2016: Peru Declares Zika Emergency in 11 States
“Peru’s government has declared a health emergency in 11 states in the north and eastern jungle regions due to an expanding outbreak of the Zika virus. The government’s declaration of 90-day emergency facilitates the allocation of almost $6 million to combat the spread of the virus. The health ministry said there are currently 102 confirmed cases of Zika in the country, 34 of which are pregnant women.”
Source: ADDA 24/7
“Puerto Rico government officials last Friday reported the biggest weekly rise in Zika cases that the U.S. territory has ever seen.
“Health Secretary Ana Rius said 1,336 new cases were reported in the past week, for a total of 4,437 cases since the mosquito-borne virus was first detected in December.
“She said 76 of Puerto Rico’s 78 municipalities now have Zika cases. A total of 553 pregnant women have Zika, which can cause severe birth defects.
“Fifty-five people have been hospitalized for Zika-related illnesses, including 19 diagnosed with a temporary paralysis known as Guillain-Barre syndrome that has been linked to the virus. One person has died.
“The spike comes a week after U.S. health officials urged Puerto Rico’s government to consider aerial spraying to fight the virus.”
“The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned that up to 20 percent of Puerto Rico’s nearly 3.5 million people could be infected with Zika in an outbreak expected to peak by this summer.”
Source: NBC News
“In another startling Zika development, the first case of female-to-male sexual transmission of the Zika virus has occurred in New York City, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Friday. Up until now, it was thought that the only likely route of sexual transmission was male-to-female or male-to-male.
“The surprising development prompted the CDC to immediately change its guidance for pregnant women in relation to the virus. Even though no cases of woman-to-woman Zika transmission have yet been reported, the CDC now urges female sexual partners of pregnant women to use barrier methods every time they have sex if they live in or have recently returned from an area with active Zika transmission.
“The CDC added that they will soon update their guidance ‘for sexually active people in which the couple is not pregnant or concerned about pregnancy and for people who want to reduce personal risk of Zika infection through sex.’”
“Publishing online July 14 in the journal Science, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health researchers say that despite the discovery of Zika in Uganda in 1947 and the identification of the first confirmed human infection in Nigeria six years later, few cases were reported in humans until 2007. Even then, no one understood the grave risk the disease posed to pregnancies until the recent outbreak in Brazil, which began less than two years ago.
“’The rise of Zika after its long persistence as a disease of apparently little importance highlights how little we truly understand about the global spread of mosquito-borne viruses and other lesser known diseases,’ says Justin Lessler, an associate professor of epidemiology at the Bloomberg School who led the study along with Lelia Chaisson, a student in the department. ‘Over the past decades, dengue, chikungunya, West Nile virus and now Zika have emerged or re-emerged across the globe. Yet why these viruses have expanded their range and others have failed to invade areas potentially ripe for their spread remains a mystery.’
“In their review article, Lessler and his colleagues looked at previously published research on Zika in an attempt to assess the global threat the virus poses. Many of the questions raised thus far by the recent outbreak, which has hit hard in Brazil, Colombia, Puerto Rico and other parts of the Americas, still need to be answered.
“There are two main theories as to why Zika is currently posing such a threat: that the virus has mutated to become more infectious or pathogenic, or that it previously struck such small populations that it was hard to discern its health effects.”
“When an outbreak in French Polynesia from October 2013 to April 2014 infected an estimated 66 percent of the population, the number of cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome jumped dramatically (from three to 42), but the small number of people made it difficult to be sure of the cause and effect. Only later did it become apparent that there may also have been an increase in cases of microcephaly – a condition where a baby’s head and brain can be dangerously small – over the same period. Most people who are infected either show no symptoms or minor ones like rashes.
“But these links became clear once Zika moved to Brazil, with its population of 200 million. It spread rapidly because this was a population that had never before been exposed to this virus, and there was no immunity.
“’Despite knowing about this disease for nearly 70 years, we were completely surprised and rushing to discover the very basic things about it when it invaded the Americas,’ Lessler says. ‘We have been completely unable to stop its spread. That is a problem for how we approach public health. We will always be in this situation when something new comes about or something little-known reemerges unless we do a better job planning for threats more generally instead of always fighting the last battle.’”
Source: John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is collecting semen from hundreds of men in the United States in order to figure out how long the dreaded Zika virus lasts in the bodily fluid.
“The virus can be transmitted sexually, and it’s been known to linger in semen long after a man’s fever, rash and itchy eyes have gone away.
“If a man has the virus in his semen and has sex with a woman who is pregnant or becomes pregnant, the baby could be born with devastating neurological birth defects.
“After about two months of recruiting, some 40 men who’ve had Zika have volunteered to donate their semen. The CDC hopes to bring in about 210 more.
“The men are asked to make about a dozen donations in their homes every other week for six months after their illness, and each time are given a $50 multi-use gift card.
“A courier picks up the donations, which are then delivered to the CDC’s labs in Fort Collins, Colorado.
“’I’m happy to say patients really have been quite receptive about volunteering their specimens,’ said Dr. Paul Mead, the senior epidemiologist at the CDC who is running the study. ‘They seem to understand the importance of the study.’
“There have been 14 cases of sexual transmission of the virus, according to the CDC, although some experts think the actual number is higher.
“The CDC currently recommends that men who’ve had Zika use a condom or abstain from sex for six months after their illness.
“That advice is based on studying the semen of just three men who had Zika, which is why the CDC is doing the larger study.”
“’As for of its commitment to ensuring the safest blood supply possible, the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center (STBTC) has begun testing blood donations for the Zika virus. STBTC is one of only a handful of blood centers in the nation currently testing for Zika.
“’We believe this is the best way to safeguard the people of South Texas who need blood transfusions,’ said Elizabeth Waltman, chief operating officer of STBTC. ‘Taking a precautionary approach will optimize patient safety and help maintain blood availability for everyone.’
“Testing for the Zika virus is being done by QualTex Laboratories, which like STBTC is a subsidiary of San Antonio-based nonprofit BioBridge Global, with testing labs here and in Norcross, Georgia. Zika testing is being done in the QualTex labs in Georgia, because of space and capacity requirements for the testing equipment.
“The Zika virus test is a new technology developed by the biotech Roche. It has been approved for clinical trial by the Food and Drug Administration under an investigational new drug (IND) protocol, which means donors must give written consent for their blood to be tested, and results will be used in research.
“’We’re urging anyone who donates to sign the consent form,’ Waltman said. ‘The testing does not change anything about the donation process, except for this one extra signature. And it will go a long way toward keeping everyone in South Texas safer.’”
Source: South Texas Blood & Tissue Center
“The U.S. Congress is out for a seven-week recess without addressing the Zika virus outbreak, gun violence, and other pressing issues, amid persistent election-year bickering.
“President Barack Obama’s request for $1.9 billion in funds to combat the Zika virus and the birth defects it can cause has been stalled in Congress since February.
“When Republicans took over control of Congress, they vowed to get things done, but have had difficulty doing so during this election year, failing to pass a budget or even consider Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to fill a Supreme Court vacancy.
“Republicans in the House and Senate have signed off on a $1.1 billion Zika funding bill, but Democrats are balking over what they see as ‘poison pills’ attached to the money that would deny funds to women’s healthcare provider Planned Parenthood and ease some environmental provisions.”
An interesting Zika update from Mosquito Squad by Dr. Nicola M. Parry, BVSC, MRCVS, MSC, DIPACVP.
A molecule in green tea, known as epigallocatechin (EGCG), blocks the entry of a Brazilian strain of Zika virus into host cells, and may hold potential benefit for prevention of Zika virus infections, a new study has found.
“Bruno M. Carneiro, São Paolo State University, Brazil, and colleagues published the results of their study in the journal Virology.
“The mechanism by which this inhibition occurs is probably related to the direct interaction of the drug with lipid envelope, leading to a subsequent destruction of the virus particle,” the authors write.
“Of increasing concern, the Zika virus disease outbreak in Brazil has been linked to birth defects, in particular microcephaly. However, no vaccine or approved drug is available for the treatment or prevention of Zika virus infection. With this in mind, Carneiro and colleagues conducted a study to examine the effect of EGCG on entry of Zika virus into cells.
“EGCG is a polyphenol that is found in large quantities in green tea, and has been shown to have activity against many viruses, including HIV, by preventing viral entry into host cells. The researchers used a Brazilian strain of Zika virus to infect cells in a cell culture system in the laboratory. They mixed the virus with different concentrations of EGCG and added the different mixtures to the cells.
“They found that higher concentrations of EGCG (100 μM or greater), in particular, prevented entry of more than 90% of the Zika virus into the cells.
“According to the authors, this is the first study to show the potential benefit of EGCG in protecting against Zika virus infection. They also note that EGCG has been shown to be safe when given to healthy individuals, and that studies in rats have also suggested that EGCG may even be safe for administration to pregnant women.
“Nevertheless, the authors conclude that further studies to assess the bioavailability and safety of EGCG, especially in pregnant women, should be performed before its clinical use can be considered.
An Austrian biotech company working with the Institut Pasteur says it plans to start clinical trials with an experimental Zika vaccine in the next 12 months, marking a further acceleration of research in the field.
“Themis Bioscience has signed a license deal with the French research institute giving it extensive rights to the Zika vaccine candidate, which is based on established measles vaccine technology.
“More than a dozen small biotech firms and other organizations are working on vaccines against mosquito-borne Zika, which has been linked to birth defects and neurological disorders, although most work is at a very early stage.
“Erich Tauber, chief executive of Themis, believes his company’s project will benefit from the proven track record behind the technology used to immunize against measles.
“French drug maker Sanofi, the only big drug maker working on a Zika shot, last week struck a deal with the U.S. Army to speed up the development of another vaccine, which should be ready for testing on humans in October.
“Global health officials are racing to better understand the Zika virus, which has caused a major outbreak that began in Brazil last year and has spread to many countries in the Americas.
“The World Health Organization has said there is strong scientific consensus that Zika is a cause of the birth defect microcephaly, or small heads in babies, as well as Guillain-Barre syndrome, a neurological disorder.”
Alexandra Sifferlin reports that “Many states with a higher risk for Zika also have more abortion restrictions
“Nearly 540 pregnant women in the United States and territories have Zika, which is proven to cause the devastating birth defect microcephaly and is suspected to cause other neurological defects, too. Health authorities strongly recommend that women of childbearing age take precaution against pregnancy or delay attempts at conception if they suspect they have contracted—or are at risk of contracting—Zika. For women in the U.S., where abortion is a legal medical procedure, those who contract Zika while pregnant will have to make the highly personal choice of whether or not to terminate their pregnancy.
“’We don’t know how to prevent the Zika virus, but we do know how to prevent pregnancy,’ says Dr. Chris Zahn, Vice President of Practice Activities for the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. ‘The Zika crisis makes it impossible to ignore the need for full access to safe, affordable and effective reproductive health care options for women—no matter where they live.’
“Many of the states where Zika is most likely to hit—areas that are home to the aedis aegypti mosquito that transmits the virus—are places with major restrictions on abortion access.
“Meanwhile, in Zika hit countries, more women are seeking abortion, a recent report shows. As TIME reported: ‘Abortion is illegal in many of the Latin American countries where Zika is spreading. But in the new report published in the New England Journal of Medicine …. researchers looked at the number of women from 19 Latin American countries who contacted the nonprofit Women on Web (WoW) to request abortion medications—from January 2010 until March 2016. During that time, the researchers found that the orders spiked between 36% to 108%, depending on the country.’
“Meanwhile, funding to fight Zika’s spread stateside has been mired in politics, with Congress repeatedly failing to pass the $1.9 billion in emergency funding that the White House requested in February. Most recently, Senate failed to pass a bill largely due to arguments over funding to Planned Parenthood. It’s possible legislators will recess before the money is approved, and not return until September.”
Here’s the latest on Zika-impacted pregnancies from Gillian Mohney, Dan Childs and Serena Marshall at ABC News.
Evidence of the Zika virus has been found in at least 320 pregnant women in the U.S. according to a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden called the virus a “silent epidemic” as it continues to spread across the Americas. While the virus can cause mild symptoms such as fever, rash and pink eye, it has been found to cause devastating birth defects including microcephaly. One reason the virus is so difficult to track is because four out of five people infected do not show symptoms. In Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories, Frieden said ‘dozens and perhaps 50 pregnant women are becoming infected with the Zika virus’ every day.
“’The vast majority of these pregnancies have not yet come to term,’ Frieden told reporters today. ‘Those that have come to term are those with infections occurring later on in pregnancy, when we believe the risk [of birth defects including microcephaly] is lower.’
“In the U.S. seven infants have been born with birth defects after their mothers became infected with Zika while pregnant, according to Frieden. Five additional pregnancies showed fetuses with birth defects. Microcephaly is characterized by an abnormally small head can lead to developmental delays among other symptoms.
“’It’s a tragedy for each family affected,’ Frieden said. ‘Hundreds and hundreds of American women [are] dealing with this.’
“Virtually all cases of Zika diagnosed in the U.S. were contracted while abroad, although a small number of cases were spread through sexual contact with an infected person. An estimated 1,133 cases of Zika virus have been diagnosed in the U.S. since the outbreak began, according to the CDC. There have been no cases of infections spreading through mosquitoes in the U.S.
“The new tally of those infected comes as Congress is at a standstill over funding Zika. Officials said President Obama spoke with Democratic and Republican leaders today, urging a solution before Congress recesses for the summer.
“Sen. Chuck Schumer said on a call with reporters that the Zika funding bill the House passed was filled with poison pills.
“’We supported a compromise bill that wasn’t everything we needed but was a lot better than nothing,’ Schumer said of the $1.1 billion Zika bill passed in the Senate. ‘This is not a time to play political games.’
“Sen. Bill Nelson and Rep. Kathy Castor explained that in Florida there were 11 new cases of Zika announced just yesterday, which is a record for the number of cases reported in one state in one day.”
Source: ABC News
With a little over one month left before the Games begin, here are the athletes who have already opted out.
Tejay van Garderen
“In June, American cyclist Tejay van Garderen became the first U.S. athlete to withdraw his name from Olympic consideration due to concerns about the virus and the potential effects it could have on his pregnant wife.
“Although the risks associated with the Zika virus can be minimal and precautions can be taken, my wife Jessica is pregnant, and I don’t want to risk bringing anything back that could potentially have an effect,” he said at the time.
Eight of the World’s Top Golfers
“Seven major golf champions have withdrawn from participating in Rio due to concerns about Zika and other conflicts. Although golf is making a return to the Games for the first time since 1904, many of its stars – including Jason Day, Adam Scott, Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel, Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell, Dustin Johnson and Vijay Singh – will not be participating.
“’While it has always been a major goal to compete in the Olympics on behalf of my country, playing golf cannot take precedent over the safety of our family,’ Jason Day wrote on Twitter. “I will not place them at risk.”
“Jordan Spieth, the number 2 golfer in the world, remains undecided, according to the Telegraph.
Stephen Curry and LeBron James
“Fresh off of a devastating game 7 loss in the NBA Championships, NBA star Stephen Curry also decided to opt out of consideration for the games. Curry cited the need to recover from injuries as his reason for withdrawing, and said Zika ‘didn’t have a bearing’ on his decision – but ‘I followed the reports and kind of got educated on that.’
“Meanwhile, NBA Finals MVP LeBron James, 31, also opted out of the Games, explaining that ‘I could use the rest.’ James has already participated in three Olympic Games, earning two gold medals and one bronze.
Source: People Magazine and USA Today
Researchers will monitor potential infections among group of U.S. athletes traveling to Brazil.
“Researchers supported by the National Institutes of Health will monitor potential Zika virus exposure among a subset of athletes, coaches and other U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) staff attending the 2016 Summer Olympics and Paralympics in Brazil. The study, funded by NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) and led by Carrie L. Byington, M.D., from the University of Utah, Salt Lake City, aims to improve understanding of how the virus persists in the body and to identify potential factors that influence the course of infection.
“’Zika virus infection poses many unknown risks, especially to those of reproductive age,’ said Catherine Y. Spong, M.D., acting director of NICHD. ‘Monitoring the health and reproductive outcomes of members of the U.S. Olympic team offers a unique opportunity to answer important questions and help address an ongoing public health emergency.’
“USOC established an Infectious Disease Advisory Group (IDAG), chaired by Dr. Byington, to help prepare the U.S. Olympic team for travel to Brazil, which is the epicenter of the Zika virus outbreak in the Americas. Dr. Byington proposed the project, which aims to enroll at least 1,000 men and women, in response to an NIH announcement designed to expedite review and funding for Zika-related research projects.
“’We partnered with the USOC to improve knowledge of the dynamics of Zika infection, so that we can better protect the health of athletes and staff who will participate in the 2016 Games,’ said Dr. Byington. ‘This ongoing relationship also opens avenues for long-term research that promises to benefit not only the Americas, but also other regions facing the emergence of the virus.’
“The current study seeks to determine the incidence of Zika virus infection, identify potential risk factors for infection, detect where the virus persists in the body (blood, semen, vaginal secretions or saliva), evaluate how long the virus remains in these fluids, and study the reproductive outcomes of Zika-infected participants for up to one year.
“To prepare, USOC and the University of Utah conducted a pilot study in March and April 2016. The study was fully enrolled in two days and included 150 participants. Notably, one-third of the pilot group indicated that they or their partner planned to become pregnant within 12 months of the Olympic Games.
“Participants in the current study will complete health surveys and provide samples of bodily fluids for the detection of Zika and similar flaviviruses, such as dengue. Zika virus infection typically does not cause symptoms in adults, so routine sampling will detect asymptomatic infections and help shed light on symptomatic versus asymptomatic infections. Zika virus testing kits and training on how to use the tests will be provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Before traveling to Brazil, all USOC staff, including athletes and coaches, will be briefed on a number of items, including the Zika outbreak. IDAG will provide educational materials to athletes and staff and answer questions. During this time, the NIH-funded researchers will present the study and enroll as well as consent USOC staff who are interested in participating. Approximately 3,000 USOC staff members are expected to travel to Brazil. In addition, spouses or sexual partners who are traveling to Brazil may be eligible to participate.”
Source: National Institutes of Health
This update from Salt Lake City, Utah. “A person infected with Zika has died in Utah, and while the exact cause is unclear, authorities said it marks the first death related to the virus in the continental U.S.
“The unidentified Salt Lake County resident contracted the virus while traveling abroad to an area with a Zika outbreak, health officials said.
“The patient who died in late June was elderly and also suffered from another health condition, according to the Salt Lake County Health Department.
“The person had Zika symptoms — including rash, fever and conjunctivitis — but it’s unclear if or how the virus contributed to the death, said Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spokesman Benjamin Haynes.
“Officials discovered the case while reviewing death certificates, and lab tests confirmed their suspicions, said Gary Edwards, executive director of the Salt Lake County Health Department.
“Utah authorities refused to release additional information about the patient or where he or she traveled, citing health privacy laws.”
Source: Associated Press
“Some new studies indicate the disease may spread more frequently than thought through sex, The New York Times reports.
“’Two reports now suggest that women in Latin America are much more likely to be infected than men, although both are presumed to be equally exposed to mosquitoes,’ the Times writes. ‘The gender difference appears at the age at which sexual activity begins, and then fades among elderly men and women.’
“The implication of the reports is both that sex may have already led directly to more transmissions than previously believed, and that women are more vulnerable than men.
“So far, all cases of sexual transmission have occurred when the male is symptomatic. It is not yet known if women or asymptomatic men can transmit the virus through sexual activity. The virus has been found to linger for months in men’s semen.
“Overall, nearly 800 cases of Zika have been reported in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. All were people who had traveled to outbreak areas, or who had sex with someone who had traveled to affected areas.
‘The virus has been found to cause microcephaly, a birth defect in which babies are born with abnormally small heads, and has been linked to a rare paralyzing condition called Guillain-Barré syndrome.”
Source: CBS News
Richard Sisk is reporting that “Mosquitoes are being trapped and frozen at Fort Benning and other posts as part of the military’s effort to combat the Zika virus that has infected at least 11 service members among more than 1,000 Americans.
“Army Pvt. 1st Class Mary Pendris at Benning in Georgia near the Alabama line is among those troops on mosquito trapping duty to detect the presence of the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes whose bites can spread the virus which can cause birth defects, including microcephaly, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
“Once the mosquitoes are trapped at Benning, they are frozen and shipped to the Environmental Health Department of Preventative Medicine on the Georgia post, and then sent to the Army’s Public Health Command-Atlantic at Fort Meade in Maryland for testing.
“’We haven’t found any, at least not yet,” of the Aedes aeqypti mosquitoes at Benning, although they are known to be present in the southeast, said Maj. Scott Robinson, chief of preventive medicine at Benning’s Martin Army Community Hospital.
“Dr. Robinson said that Benning and other Army posts have also been screening troops who have recently returned from South America and the Caribbean, where the Zika virus has hit hardest.
“He said that no cases of Zika have turned up yet among Benning troops but two cases of related infections also spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito – dengue fever and Chikungunya virus – have been found.
Jess Denham shares that “Colombia’s first Lollapalooza festival has been cancelled after Rihanna reportedly dropped out over Zika virus fears.
“An unannounced singer was scheduled to perform at the South American event alongside Lana Del Rey, Disclosure and Wiz Khalifa, but pulled out at the last minute leaving organizers no time to find a replacement.
“The festival shared the disappointing news last Sunday but did not mention which act was behind the decision. Local Colombian sources, notably RCN Radio and La Tercera, are reporting Rihanna’s name but she is yet to comment on the speculation. The Independent is awaiting a response from her representatives.
“Lollapalooza Colombia issued the following statement (written in Spanish) to ticket-holders: ‘Following the cancellation of the headliner hours before the announcement of the line-up, leading to major difficulties in finding a suitable replacement, festival organizers have been forced to cancel the first Lollapalooza Colombia.
“’The organizers wish to express their deep appreciation to all the fans who supported the festival since day one, as well as the sponsors and media partners. We hope to return in the future to realize this first edition of Lollapalooza in the country.’
“Lollapalooza began as a touring event in 1991 before settling in Chicago in 2005 and expanding outside of the US in 2010. Festivals are now held in Chile, Argentina, Germany and Brazil. Ticket-holders for the Colombia festival, scheduled for 17-18 September in Bogota, will be offered refunds.”
Arielle Dollinger reports from North Hempstead, New York, that “As mosquito season heats up, bringing with it the threat of the West Nile and Zika viruses, one Long Island town is taking an unorthodox approach: bats.
“The town, North Hempstead, has approved the construction of boxes that function as bat houses in several parks to attract more bats to the area.
“’Bats can eat up to 1,000 mosquitoes per hour,’ Judi Bosworth, the town supervisor, said. ‘That’s extraordinary. A pesticide couldn’t do that.’
“The town started encouraging the building and hanging of bat houses in its parks in 2007 to curb the use of pesticides, and it has added a few more each year since.
“’We have an increased sense of urgency in terms of wanting to make sure that we’re controlling the mosquito population to the very best of our ability,’ Ms. Bosworth said, alluding to the viruses. ‘Just having bat houses isn’t going to be the answer, but at least it’s looking toward a solution that is environmentally friendly.’
Source: The New York Times
Emily S. Rueb reports “With the spread of the Zika virus, the threat posed by the tiny mosquito has been magnified into shark-size proportions.
“But among the more than 3,000 species of the insect worldwide, only two in the Americas are known carriers of the virus: the yellow fever mosquito (Aedes aegypti) and the Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus).
“The potential range of the two species in the United States helps explain where Zika could be a threat. The yellow fever mosquito, for instance, prefers the hot and humid climate in Florida and the southeastern part of the country. But it has colonized states as far west as California and Hawaii, and has the potential to live as far north as Connecticut in warmer weather, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Asian tiger mosquito, meanwhile, also favors tropical and subtropical locales but can withstand cooler temperatures, so it can range farther. In summertime, the insect can sometimes even be found in northern states like Maine and Minnesota.
“But Zika is not the only disease that mosquitoes can carry. Other threats include West Nile virus, dengue fever and various types of encephalitis.
“In all, there are about 174 species of mosquitoes in the United States, according to Joseph M. Conlon, a retired Navy entomologist who is a technical adviser to the nonprofit American Mosquito Control Association. Texas has the most species, with about 85, and West Virginia has the least, with roughly 24. New York City alone has more than 50 species.
Here are six of the most common disease-spreading offenders endemic to the United States.
Aedes aegypti Credit Vichai Malikul/Department of Entomology/Smithsonian Institution
Aedes Aegypti: Yellow Fever Mosquito
An intensely black mosquito, distinguishable by its pointed abdomen and two white stripes in the shape of a lyre on its back (the dorsal thorax), and white bands on its legs.
They primarily bite humans, rather than other animals, and they like to feed indoors. The combination makes them particularly dangerous when it comes to spreading disease.
They are also fidgety. They will eat several partial meals on multiple victims, called sip-feeding. It is one way they pass pathogens.
Females draw blood to nourish their eggs. They prefer to lay them in clean water, including birdbaths, clogged gutters, pet bowls, bottle caps and even shower drains. The eggs stick to the sides of containers and can survive drying out.
Most cases of Zika, which can cause debilitating birth defects including microcephaly, have been transmitted through this aggressive insect. It can also carry the viruses that cause dengue fever, chikungunya and yellow fever.
The species rarely flies more than a block in its lifetime. It is mostly found in the South and the Southwest. But it has been found in New Jersey, southern Connecticut and New York City, though not necessarily in large populations.
Experts theorize that the areas at greatest risk for a Zika outbreak are poor urban areas along the Gulf Coast. But the C.D.C. is focusing its mosquito control efforts more broadly in areas of California, Texas, Florida, Hawaii, Arizona and Louisiana, which have high population densities and a high number of travelers coming in from areas with Zika, two factors that increase the likelihood of local transmission.
While no one has yet contracted the Zika virus from a mosquito in the continental United States, experts expect it to happen this summer.
Aedes albopictus Credit Vichai Malikul/Department of Entomology/Smithsonian Institution
Aedes Albopictus: Asian Tiger Mosquito
The insect is usually larger and more intensely black than Aedes aegypti, but with the same pointed abdomen. It has striking white stripes, including one white stripe down the middle of its back.
The mosquitoes have a nasty habit of feeding on the lower extremities, so they can be difficult to spot. And their bites are barely perceptible.
Culex pipiens Credit S.Shibata and A. Shimazoe/Department of Entomology/Smithsonian Institution. Modified with permission.
bq. Culex Pipiens: Northern House Mosquito
A nondescript brownish insect, with a rounded abdomen.
This is usually the one you will hear buzzing in your ear at night. It will overwinter in your attic if it can.
This species feeds on humans, other mammals and many types of birds, which are the main carriers of West Nile virus. The mosquitoes typically lay their eggs in dirty water, ditches and shallow ruts.
Dozens of species have been known to carry West Nile, but the Culex pipiens is the primary culprit.
Most healthy people do not even know they have been infected. But West Nile can cause flulike symptoms and, in rare cases, permanent neurological damage or death. The virus first arrived in New York City in 1999 and spread slowly west. Three years later, the United States experienced one of the largest outbreaks of a mosquito-borne virus ever recorded. The virus is now endemic in the lower 48 states and has killed more than 1,700 people. The greatest numbers of incidents per capita are in North and South Dakota and Colorado, Mr. Conlon said.
The species is found in urban areas across the country.
Culex tarsalis Credit Department of Entomology/Smithsonian Institution
Distinguishable by its rounded abdomen and light-colored band around its proboscis.
They breed in “enormous numbers,” Mr. Conlon said, typically in agricultural runoff and in ditches.
In Western states, this species is the primary carrier in rural areas for West Nile virus. The mosquitoes have also been associated with Western equine encephalitis, St. Louis encephalitis and California encephalitis.
The species is abundant in California, Utah and the western half of North America.
Anopheles quadrimaculatus Credit Department of Entomology/Smithsonian Institution
Anopheles Quadrimaculatus: Common Malaria Mosquito
The dark brown insects are recognizable by long palpi, or tasting organs, which are almost the same length as its proboscis, or mouthparts. It rests on surfaces diagonally, with its head down and abdomen jutting into the air.
Females feed on humans and other mammals, usually in the evening. They prefer to lay eggs in freshwater ponds, streams and lakes.
Only the Anopheles genus carries malaria. In Africa, Anopheles gambiae is the primary offender. In the Eastern United States, it is the Anopheles quadrimaculatus.
Although malaria was eradicated decades ago in the United States, about 1,500 cases are still reported a year, primarily on the East Coast, from travelers who were infected outside the country. Last year, 438,000 people died worldwide from malaria, mostly in Africa and Southeast Asia, according to the World Health Organization.
The common malaria mosquito is found in large numbers in the southeastern states, but it inhabits a wide swath of the east, from Mexico to southern Canada.
Anopheles freeborni Credit University of California Press
These straw-color insects are noted for the way their abdomens lift into the air when they sit. Their wings are dotted with dark spots. The female’s clear belly will turn red and swell when full of blood.
Females usually come out at dusk, and fly farther than other species. They will travel from rural areas into homes or barnyards to feed. They prefer to lay eggs in leafy, sunlit pools and drains, rice fields and ponds.
They were once the primary carriers of malaria in agricultural areas on the West Coast, especially California. While malaria is gone, health officials worry that local mosquitoes could pick it up again from an infected human and set off an outbreak.
Source: The New York Times
The vaccines still need to go through human clinical trials
“Scientists have found two potential vaccine candidates that may help combat the Zika virus. A single shot of each vaccine was shown to completely protect mice against two strains of the mosquito-borne disease, according to a new paper published in the journal Nature. These shots still need to be tested on humans, but the researchers are hopeful that either could eventually prove to be a safe and effective Zika vaccine.
“’These two vaccine candidates both provided complete protection against Zika virus challenge in mice,’ said study author Dan Barouch, a virologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center at Harvard Medical School. ‘To the best of our knowledge, this is the first report of Zika virus vaccine protection in an animal model. The protection was striking.’
“The two vaccines protect the body in different ways. One involves injecting specialized DNA sequences into the body, while the other works by injecting an inactive form of the Zika virus. However, both triggered the same response in mice: they caused the rodents to produce antibodies that target specific proteins in the virus. This gave the mice complete protection when exposed to a Brazilian strain and a Puerto Rican strain of Zika. The mechanism is similar to how some working vaccines combat other types of flavivirus — the family of mosquito-borne viruses that includes Zika.
“The news is promising as researchers have been scrambling to find a way to combat the ongoing outbreak of Zika in Central and South America. The problem has grown so bad that the World Health Organization declared a public health emergency in the region on February 1st. Brazil, which has been hit hardest by the epidemic, reported more than 90,000 likely Zika cases between February and April of this year, according to Reuters. The country is thought to have had more than 1.5 million cases since the onset of the outbreak in April 2015, according to WHO.
“Meanwhile, the epidemic has also coincided with a spike in microcephaly cases — a condition in which babies are born with abnormally small heads. Growing research has shown that expectant mothers who are infected with the Zika virus early on in pregnancy are at high risk of giving birth to babies with these brain defects. And in April, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) concluded that Zika does indeed cause microcephaly. For most adults, Zika only causes a fever and other minor symptoms; however, the CDC is also investigating a link between the virus and Guillain-Barré syndrome, a neurological auto-immune disease that can cause paralysis and death in people of all ages.
“The vaccine candidates described in today’s study are not the only Zika vaccines being developed. This month, the US Food and Drug Administration gave the go ahead for an experimental Zika vaccine, manufactured by Inovio Pharmaceuticals, to be tested on humans. The company claimed the vaccine, called GLS-5700, produced ‘robust antibody and T cell responses’ in animals, though Inovio did not specify if the vaccine provided complete Zika protection like these vaccines did.
“Scientists will need to see how the vaccines work on larger animals, before moving on to human clinical trials. But given how effective the shots were in mice, Barouch is optimistic. ‘Clinical trials should proceed as quickly as possible,’ he said.”
Lauren Valenti from Marie Claire shares this advice for women and their daily beauty regimen.
“As someone who will be traveling to an Alert Level 2 zone next month, the fear of Zika is very real. I want to take every precaution —and that means seriously reassessing my beauty routine. Slathering on bug spray and saying goodbye to my precious fragrances?! Turns out it’s not that simple. Here’s what you need to know if you’re somewhere that the virus poses a serious threat:
“1. Bug spray is a must, but they’re not all created equal. ‘Using an insect repellent is one of the best ways you can protect yourself from Zika and other diseases transmitted by mosquitoes’ explains Harry Savage, chief of ecology and entomology activity at the CDC’s Division of Vector-Borne Diseases, via Consumer Reports who tested a variety of products to see what works best. Two of the most effective repellants were Sawyer Picaridin as it contains 20 percent picaridin, as well as Off! Deepwoods VIII, which contains 25 percent DEET. But bad news for organic enthusiasts, CR advises against natural plant oils as many failed the test immediately or only lasted for an hour.
“2. You need to reapply every couple of hours. If you’re in an area at risk for Zika, you should be diligent about reapplying. Even the best-of-the-best repellents (the ones with the higher percentages of the active ingredients) only kept mosquitos from biting for 8 hours, so don’t become blasé after the first application. According to the CDC, regardless of what product you use or how long it’s been, if mosquitoes are coming too close for comfort, you should reapply ASAP.
“3. Never apply repellent under clothes or sunscreen. The key is applying it to exposed areas. Applying more does not make it more protective. And when you do apply it in tandem with sunscreen, make sure that the bug spray is applied after the SPF. And whatever you do, don’t use a hybrid of the two. This is not a solution because 1) Chances are the formula won’t be as robust in either capacity and 2) Sun protection needs to be applied more often, says the CDC.
“4. Don’t retire your go-to fragrance just yet. It might be protecting you! According to the Journal of Insect Science, the Victoria’s Secret Bombshell perfume was actually found to repel insects for at least an hour. “Our results challenge the notion that floral, perfume-scented sprays, in general, attract mosquitoes,” the study states. “Floral fragrances may provide a masking odor resulting in low mosquito attraction rates, but over a shorter duration of time.”
“This said, certain scents given off by fragrances or deodorants can attract mosquitos, so make sure you’re diligent about applying/reapplying repellent and paying close attention. If a product seems to be a mosquito magnet, stop wearing it. It’s not worth the risk.
“5. You should be showering regularly. Forever and always, but especially if you’re in a Zika zone, as the more body odor you’re emitting, the easier it as for mosquitos to find you. Similarly, perspiration is a magnet for them because they can sense moisture and heat. So do your best to stay cool.
Source: Marie Claire
Alison Leigh Cowan from The New York Times reports “Fear, if not the reality of the Zika virus and the mosquitoes that carry it, has not only cast its shadow on the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in August, but is upending the carefully laid plans of couples who have long wanted a wedding in an exotic tropical locale.
“Now, no party in paradise can proceed without the host taking precautions against the disease-carrying pests. Conscientious brides-to-be are scrambling to have rooms sprayed with insect repellent before guests arrive, pack extra bug spray in all formulations for guests who may not bring any, circulate newsletters with the latest advisories from government agencies and, if they really wish to set a good example, wear long sleeves and pants.
“And that assumes that the guests, many in their childbearing years, are going to these events at all. Many of the most popular wedding destinations in Central and South America, Mexico and the Caribbean are also where the Zika virus has been most active.
“Contracts with wedding vendors tend to be ironclad, requiring deposits and payment deadlines. When booking a wedding at a resort, many require guarantees of a certain number of room bookings on top of the ceremony and reception costs.
“Some couples have sought travel and wedding insurance, to guard against the unforeseen. But it is unclear how many of these contracts anticipated or will cover the various ways the Zika virus is now impacting couples and their weddings.
“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.”
“The virus is of greatest concern to anyone who may be pregnant or may plan to have children after exposure. If saying your vows in a Zika-affected country means “you’re going to lose your sister because she’s pregnant and can’t go, that’s a problem,” said Annie Lee, a wedding planner. Some couples are keeping the CDC’s phone number, 800-232-4636, next to those of their wedding planner and caterer.
“The virus can be transmitted via sexual intercourse as well as by insect bites. Doctors have advised pregnant patients and couples planning to conceive to avoid affected areas or take other precautions to ward off bites.”
Source: The New York Times
“Researchers are testing a smart mosquito trap they hope will help better track the spread of the Zika virus.
“The device is designed to trap specific types of mosquitoes, and collects data on the time and weather at the moment they’re captured.
“It’s part of Microsoft’s ‘Project Premonition’, which aims to detect infectious diseases earlier, before they reach densely populated urban regions, to better prevent outbreaks
“’The idea of Premonition is to use a mosquito as a device that can go out and sample blood and then from that mosquito, we can try to understand what pathogens it might have encountered,’ said Ethan Jackson, who leads the project.
“’So the technologies we needed to build go all the way to how do you catch a mosquito to how do you get it back to a lab, to how do you analyze it.’
“The device uses an algorithm to identify which kinds of mosquitoes to trap based on the way they flap their wings. Microsoft also plans to use drones to place the traps in remote areas, which would save both time and money.
“’Project Premonition started from the observation that emerging infectious diseases are very difficult to predict, dangerous to societies and expensive. So the vision is can we make them more predictable? If we get it right, I hope the answer to that is yes,” said Jackson.
“’I hope that we can predict emerging infectious diseases before they surprise us, as we saw in the past with something like Ebola, as we see now with something like Zika.’
“The current Zika virus outbreak in Brazil has been linked to severe birth defects in hundreds of babies and has spread across the Americas to more than 50 countries.
“The virus is expected to reach the US mainland and parts of Europe in the coming weeks as the weather warms.”
Antibodies vs dengue neutralize Zika virus, but also enhance Zika infection in lab
This Zika Virus update from Emory Health Sciences.
“Scientists at Emory Vaccine Center, in collaboration with investigators from Thailand, have found that people infected with dengue virus develop antibodies that cross-react with Zika virus.
“Some of these antibodies have the potential to neutralize Zika virus — possibly providing immune protection. At the same time, in laboratory experiments, antibodies against dengue could enhance Zika virus infection of human cells.
“Zika virus is similar genetically to dengue virus and part of the same flavivirus family. They are both transmitted by Aedes mosquitos. Dengue is endemic in several countries currently experiencing Zika outbreak, leading to proposals that pre-existing dengue immunity is influencing the severity of the Zika epidemic.
“’There are really two sides of the coin here: both cross-neutralization and antibody-dependent enhancement,’ says Jens Wrammert, PhD, assistant professor of pediatrics (infectious diseases) at Emory University School of Medicine and Emory Vaccine Center. ‘We find antibody-mediated enhancement of infection with cells in the laboratory, but we have yet to clarify what effects these antibodies have on the outcome of infection in humans.’
“’Zika immune responses and disease severity may be different in dengue-endemic areas, or among dengue-experienced vs dengue-naïve groups. These factors must be taken into account when doing Zika vaccine or other clinical studies.’
There are four strains of dengue virus, and infection with one strain does not lead to long-lasting immunity against the other three. In fact, secondary infection with a different strain can increase the risk of developing a more severe illness, called dengue hemorrhagic fever.
“This is thought to happen through “antibody-dependent enhancement”: pre-existing antibodies to the first strain, unable to stop the secondary infection, instead bind to immune cells and help the new strain infect them.
“Emory scientists found that a similar phenomenon occurs with Zika. Antibodies obtained from nine dengue-infected patients at Siriraj Hospital in Bangkok — both during acute infection and after recovery — could help Zika virus (a strain isolated in 2015 from Puerto Rico) infect immune cells in cell culture.
“’It will be important to know whether anti-dengue antibodies facilitate Zika virus penetrating the placental barrier and allowing access to the developing fetus,’ says co-author Mehul Suthar, PhD, assistant professor of pediatrics (infectious disease) at Emory University School of Medicine and Emory Vaccine Center.
“All the serum samples tested were able to cross-react with Zika, both by binding and by neutralization. Nearly half the dengue-reactive monoclonal antibodies isolated bound to samples of Zika proteins. A bright spot for the future is that the team has identified potent Zika neutralizing antibodies.
“’Determining what part of the virus the various neutralizing antibodies target could help with design of vaccines or antibody-based therapies,’ Wrammert says.
Source: Science Daily
Globo.com reports that “Brazil has recorded 138,108 probable cases of Zika virus in 2016 – the incidence rate in the country is 67.6 cases per 100 thousand inhabitants. Of these, 49,821 were confirmed, according to data released by the Ministry of Health on June 17, 2016. The figures were recorded until May 7, 2016, the 18th epidemiological week.
“In the last published report, with data as of the 30th of April, the number of probable cases reported was 127,822, an increase of 10,286 notifications of Zika virus. The number of confirmations was 43,227 – resulting in an increase of 6,594 cases.
“The Midwest region has the highest incidence of the virus, with 140.9 cases/100,000 inhabitants. The states with the highest rates are Mato Grosso, with 558.1 cases/100,000 inhabitants, Bahia, with 265.9 cases/100,000 inhabitants and Rio de Janeiro, with 230.8 cases/100,000 inhabitants.”
Source: Ministry of Heath
After a vacation in Jamaica, I took home more than a tan.
Here is the Zika story of Chrissy Rutherdford, Senior Editor at Harper’s Bazaar.
“’I’m sorry, but I just laughed out loud.’
“That was the first response I received after telling my friends I thought I might have Zika virus. I was on the train to a wedding in Westchester, New York—taking a selfie of my impeccable makeup—when I first noticed my skin looked unusually bumpy. Maybe it was just the terrible Metro North lighting? Nope. After checking from several angles, I came to terms with the fact that I was breaking out in a really scary rash.
“I called my mom in a panic. (She’s a nurse so she’s always been my first call for any fluctuations in my health.) She suggested I get off the train and go back home, but I was half way to Rye and I couldn’t just ditch my friend’s wedding. I tried my best to pull myself together, but I was getting increasingly scared. This was day three of inexplicable symptoms since returning home to New York from a vacation in Jamaica, and it felt like my body was slowly falling apart.
“I started to Google my symptoms on the train and the word Zika stared back at me, along with all my alignments: joint pain, muscle pain, and a rash. Obviously I was convinced I had it—despite not having every symptom listed. (After reading more, I learned not everyone has symptoms when they’re infected with Zika. The Center of Disease Control [CDC] states roughly 1 in 5 people will experience symptoms.)
“It all started with some pain in my toes, which I thought was just a result of my feet swelling from the extreme Caribbean heat. Shortly after, I began experiencing a terrible pain in my left thigh—a pain I had never felt before; similar to a charley horse that wouldn’t go away, which was also causing pain in my lower back. At the time, my mom thought I might be dehydrated and urged me to drink electrolyte-filled water and eat bananas. I had also noticed a lump growing behind my ear. How could so many things be simultaneously wrong with me?
“By the time I reached the wedding venue I had calmed down a bit. Simply knowing that there was a logical (or real) reason for my illness soothed me. I popped some Advil which helped to tame my rash for the next few hours, but as soon as cake was served I knew I had to get home.
“Exhausted, I endured the 40-minute train ride as my face started to itch, and then my neck and shoulders. I wanted nothing more than to be in my bed. When I woke the next morning, the rash had spread over my entire body, all the way down to my feet. My eyes were swollen and I knew I had to get myself to a doctor.
“’It all started with some pain in my toes—which I thought was just a result of my feet swelling from the extreme Caribbean heat.’
“After living in the city for five years, I’m still yet to find a general practitioner so I dragged my lethargic body to a CityMD clinic a few blocks from my East Village apartment. ‘What’s wrong with you today?’ the doctor’s nurse asked me. ‘I’m pretty sure I have Zika virus,’ I responded in the tone of someone who has an intimate relationship with WebMD.s After the doctor inspected the rash on my body, he told me it was very possible I had Zika or possibly Chikungunya, another mosquito-borne virus. Since Zika and Chikungunya are both indeed viruses, prescription medication can’t speed up recovery. All I could do was rest, take Tylenol® and an anti-histamine for the rash. I also had to come back the next day to have blood drawn for the CDC.
“That night was the toughest. My fever came on in the middle of the night: one more symptom on the checklist. I spent most of the night shivering under my down comforter and when I had to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, it took me 20 minutes to psych myself to get out of bed. My body felt lifeless. Every bone hurt. On my way back from the bathroom, I remember a rush coming over me—I was about to pass out. I called my mom crying and in a sweat: ’I’m scared,’ I told her, feeling helpless. I took some Tylenol and went back to sleep, knowing that my mom would come to my rescue in the morning and take me back to the doctor for my blood work.
“I woke up in the morning in a pool of sweat—my fever broke. My mom arrived early to make me a little breakfast before I went back to the doctor, even though I had zero appetite. I had a new doctor this time around, whom thought it was ‘unlikely’ that I had Zika even though I now had pink eye—the final symptom on the checklist. He assured me I could have any virus, but after they tested me for the flu and strep throat with negative results, he changed his tune. They made me give a urine sample and took two vials of blood to send to the CDC. They also tested me to make sure I wasn’t pregnant.
“’When will I find out?’ I asked the doctor, but he didn’t have many answers. ‘If you were planning pregnancy you may want to wait a little while,’ were the doctor’s last words after writing my a prescription for Hydroxyzine to help with the itching, which was getting worse.
“’When I had to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, it took me 20 minutes to psych myself to get out of bed. My body felt lifeless. Every bone hurt.’
“I went back home and got back into bed, where I stayed for the next six days sleeping as much as I could. My rash healed day by day, but the itching got worse and worse. I would have itching fits that would leave me in tears—not even my prescription could quell my despair. My fingers hurt when I tried to text or type. And my eyes were so sore I could barely look around my apartment.
“I didn’t tell many people because I didn’t want anyone to think I was fishing for sympathy, nor was my virus confirmed—but it was interesting how little people knew about the virus. Most people’s immediate question was, ‘are you going to be okay?’ As if I had just told them I was diagnosed with a potentially fatal disease. “That will clear up with a round of antibiotics, right?” asked one of my co-workers. Nope, it’s not bacterial. There’s nothing that can be prescribed for the virus. I also had countless friends who tried to persuade me that doctors are often wrong, and suggest other illnesses I could potentially have. But at that point it didn’t really make a difference to me if it was Zika or something else—the virus had already taken control over my body. Even two weeks after the first sign of my symptoms, I learned that a married couple was too afraid to attend a function I was invited to, even though the virus isn’t contagious and only spreads by insect bites or by having unprotected sex.
“’I would have itching fits that would leave me in tears. My fingers hurt when I tried to text or type. And my eyes were so sore I could barely look around my apartment.’
“When I was on vacation, I knew that there were some confirmed cases of Zika in Jamaica, but I wasn’t really concerned about making sure I had bug spray on at all times. Like my aforementioned peers, I didn’t know much about the virus until I started looking it up that day on the train. Luckily, there isn’t a huge effect for me as I am not pregnant or planning pregnancy any time soon—and even then, the reproductive impact of the virus aren’t as scary as the media has made it seem. A major misconception is that you have to wait two years to get pregnant. But women only have to wait eight weeks after the first signs of Zika. And the virus does not affect future pregnancies. Men, who can be carriers of the virus and transmit it sexually, have to wait six months. (The two-year rule is simply a precaution for those who live in countries where Zika is prevalent.) Still, there is a lot doctors don’t know about the virus—especially long term effects and the virus’ link to neurological disorders like Guillain-Barré Syndrome. I could also infect a mosquito if one bit me, so it was important to continue wearing bug spray, even at home.
“A week after my blood work was submitted, I finally had confirmation from the clinic of what I already knew to be true—I had Zika. My blood test was negative, but my urine test came back positive—another person to add to the virus’ statistic. It’s now been 19 days since I first started having symptoms, and while my rash and pink eye have receded, I’m still suffering from lethargy. If this experience taught me anything, it’s the importance of being informed—and the importance of bug spray.
Source: Harper’s Bazaar