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Blog | August 2016

August 31, 2016: Do Vacant Properties Explain Miami's Zika Outbreak?

Tangential to Mosquito Squad’s mantra of reducing water collection sources to reduce the mosquito population is this interesting view from Jonathan May, Harvard

“For months, experts predicted that local Zika transmission would hit the U.S. When mosquitos began transmitting the virus from infected to uninfected people, the threat of a major epidemic would rise significantly.

“Then it happened. The first cases were detected in Miami, with a large cluster found in a one-square-mile patch on the north side of the city, in a hip, artsy neighborhood called Wynwood.

“As expected, Zika appeared in a major city along the Gulf Coast, where the Aedes aegypti mosquito thrives. But why Wynwood?

“The neighborhood, long known as ‘Little San Juan’ for its large Puerto Rican community, has been quickly gentrifying over the last ten years (according to Wikipedia). Now it’s also known for its street art, including the Wynwood Walls, which has driven a hipster feel and growing fashion scene.

“But, as the New York Times reported, while bustling and visually appealing, Wynwood includes a ‘still-tattered section of run-down buildings where residents struggle in poverty.’ The Times noted that the mix of housing, businesses and warehouses made fighting mosquitos particularly tough.

“I ran my own analysis on data collected by the U.S. Postal Service to assess a possible link with vacant housing. Vacant and foreclosed homes have been identified as major potential breeding sites for mosquitos: as Sonia Shah wrote recently for the Washington Post, swimming pools in foreclosed homes were implicated in Florida’s 2009 dengue outbreak and Bakersfield, California’s 2007 West Nile virus outbreak.

“I found a strong link. Out of Miami-Dade County’s 517 census tracts (geographical groupings of roughly 1,200-8,000 people) the three highest rates of residential vacancy are tracts 28, 31 and 22.02. One of these tracts represents Wynwood’s southern half; the others lie directly adjacent to Wynwood’s north and south limits.

“In each of these areas, around 10% of homes (as represented by a USPS mailing address) had been vacant for at least 90 days, as of June 30. That’s far higher than the county average of 2.1% and median of 1.4%. These census tracts aren’t the biggest in Miami-Dade County, nor have they got the most vacancies, but they’ve got the steepest concentration of vacant homes:

“Each area has also got a business vacancy rate over 10%, placing them in the top quintile of Miami-Dade census tracts. On a quick look at Google Street View, you can hardly miss all the available commercial spaces, like this one:

“When nobody’s using a property, it’s a lot less likely to stay clean. That could mean more debris and standing water, where Ae. aegypti mosquitos like to breed. As health officials scramble to prepare cities all along the Gulf Coast, residential vacancy rates could prove a useful statistic for predicting neighborhood-level risk.”

Since the mosquitos don’t fly far—WHO says they travel about 400 meters in their lifetimes—and take 90% of their meals from human hosts, they also need environments with plenty of access to human residents and/or passersby. Wynwood’s active street life might have added fuel to the mix, especially since Ae. aegypti likes to bite during daylight hours.

Source: Harvard University

August 30, 2016: Johns Hopkins Opens World's First Zika Virus Center

Researchers and healthcare providers from Johns Hopkins will work with medical experts from Brazil to treat patients and conduct research to better understand the disease. Meanwhile, the virus has spread to Palm Beach.

“Johns Hopkins Medicine has launched the Johns Hopkins Wilmer Zika Center, where medical professionals focus on caring for patients with the Zika virus. The center is touted as the first multidisciplinary Zika center in the world.

“The center’s staff, providers and members are from Johns Hopkins Medicine, the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and medical experts from Brazil. These experts focus on infectious diseases, maternal-fetal medicine, ophthalmology, epidemiology, pediatrics, physiotherapy, psychiatry and social work.

“’Patients will no longer be required to travel to multiple centers for care relating to Zika virus,’ said William May, MD, associate professor of ophthalmology, Johns Hopkins Wilmer Eye Institute, in a statement. ‘Physicians and staff members in various departments at Johns Hopkins will be available to provide comprehensive care to patients within one institution.’

“While the virus is most commonly known to cause microcephaly, a birth defect affecting the brain, the virus also causes eye abnormalities, like cataracts, in over half of the babies infected with Zika. The Wilmer Eye Institute led the Zika center’s development, which will be able address these concerns.

“Both adults and pediatric patients from around the world can be referred to the center by outside physicians or through Johns Hopkins. Patients may also call the center to make an appointment. The Zika center will also conduct research to further understand the virus.

“’Our No. 1 priority will be focused on our patients, but our hope is that our care will also lead to many new developments in the effort to fight this potentially devastating disease,’ said May.

“The center’s opening comes on the heels of Florida Governor Rick Scott’s announcement on Wednesday of a new case of locally-contracted Zika in Palm Beach. To date, the virus had been contained to a small Wynwood neighborhood and neighboring Miami Beach.

“To date, there are 43 non-travel related cases in these areas and 523 travel-related cases throughout the state.

Further, the Governor expressed frustration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for failing to provide enough support to the state. Last week Scott requested 5,000 antibody tests, but Florida has only received 1,200. He also requested more lab support and personnel to expedite testing and an additional 10,000 Zika prevention kits, but the requests haven’t been answered.

“’This is unacceptable,’ said Scott in a statement. ’It’s disappointing that these requests have not been fulfilled. Florida now has 43 cases of locally acquired Zika and the Obama Administration must quickly fulfill our entire request so that we can continue to provide the resources our state needs to combat this virus.’

“I’ve also repeatedly called on the Obama Administration to provide a detailed plan on how Florida should work with FEMA on how federal resources will be allocated to combat this virus,” he added. “I expect the Obama Administration to be a good partner and work quickly to fulfill these requests.”

Source: Healthcare IT News

August 29, 2016: OraSure Gets U.S. Contract to Hurry Development of Zika Test

Funding will speed development of oral test kits for the virus

OraSure Technologies Inc. said Tuesday that it had been awarded a U.S. government contract to speed the development of its oral test kits for the Zika virus.

“The Bethlehem, Pa., maker of oral tests for HIV and Ebola said the six-year contract was for upward of $16.6 million with a biomedical research agency attached to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“The initial commitment is for $7 million with options of up to $9.6 million to finance evaluation of further product enhancements, and clinical and regulatory services, OraSure said.

“’We believe the availability of an accurate rapid Zika antibody test will be a valuable tool to address current and potential future outbreaks,’ said Douglas A. Michels, OraSure’s chief executive. ‘[The funding] will enable us to complete clinical and other activities required to obtain regulatory approvals for this product.’

“OraSure said it would provide an update on guidance and timing during its November earnings call. Shares of the company rose 9.3% in after-hours trading.

“The company’s test kits for HIV and Ebola use mouth swabs to collect saliva. Orasure claimed its tests for Zika will be of greater use than the examination of tissue or blood samples because the virus can be detected earlier with its technique.

“The Zika virus, identified in Uganda in 1947, has spread in Latin America since its 2014 arrival in Brazil before making its way north. The virus has been spreading in Florida.

“According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of Aug. 11 there were 529 cases of pregnant women possibly infected with the Zika virus, which can infect a fetus, possibly causing birth defects including microcephaly, an abnormally small head associated with improper brain development.:

Source: The Wall Street Journal

August 28, 2016: Brain Scan of Brazilian Baby Shows Array of Zika Effects

The Zika virus not only causes smaller heads and brains — the signature microcephaly — but disrupts development, scans show

“The image tells a heartbreaking story: Zika’s calamitous attack on the brains of babies — as seen from the inside.

“A study of brain scans and ultrasound pictures of 45 Brazilian babies whose mothers were infected with Zika in pregnancy shows that the virus can inflict serious damage to many different parts of the fetal brain beyond microcephaly, the condition of unusually small heads that has become the sinister signature of Zika.

“The image, published Tuesday in the journal Radiology, also suggest a grim possibility: Because some of the damage was seen in brain areas that continue to develop after birth, it may be that babies born without obvious impairment will experience problems as they grow.

“’It really brings to the forefront the importance of truly understanding the impact of Zika virus and the fact that we need to follow children who not only are exposed to Zika in pregnancy, but even those who don’t appear to have any complications at birth,’ said Dr. Catherine Y. Spong, acting director of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, who was not involved in the study.

“Most of the babies in the study were born with microcephaly, although three were not. Each also suffered other impairments, almost all of which emerge earlier than microcephaly because a smaller head is really a consequence of a brain that has failed to develop fully or has been damaged along the way, experts said.

“’The brain that should be there is not there, said Dr. Deborah Levine, an author of the study and a professor of radiology at Harvard Medical School. ‘The abnormalities that we see in the brain suggest a very early disruption of the brain development process.’

“The scans show the range of Zika’s brain targets, some of which experts knew about, including the corpus callosum, which facilitates communication between the two hemispheres; the cerebellum, which plays a significant role in movement, balance and speech; and the basal ganglia, which are involved in thinking and emotion.

“’I think we were all aware that Zika causes brain abnormalities, but it’s been more generic,’ said Dr. Rita Driggers, an associate professor of gynecology and obstetrics at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, who was not involved in the study. ‘Now we know more specifically what we’re looking for in terms of brain abnormalities before the microcephaly occurs.’”

Source: The New York Times

August 27, 2016: South Florida Doctors Treat Baby Girl Born with Zika Virus

A baby girl who tested positive for the Zika virus is being treated by doctors in South Florida.

“The baby’s mother contracted the Zika virus while traveling while pregnant off the coast of Venezuela.

“The baby has not been diagnosed with microcephaly, but doctors said the child is suffering from other Zika-related side effects.

“Photos taken inside the baby girl’s eyes at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine help give doctors a clearer vision of how to treat the baby.

“The baby’s mother contracted the virus at the end of her first trimester, while on a family Christmas vacation on the island of Margarita off the coast of Venezuela. The island is about 290 miles east of Caracas.

“’They thought it was the sun,’ the mother said in Spanish about the rashes she started getting followed by red eyes and stomach issues.

“She said she felt terrible to hear the news and then her ‘world collapsed.’

“The mom, who is from Venezuela, but now lives in Doral, said she saw three doctors and then waited for the results.

“She said the past months have been filled with anxiety, not knowing the fate of her baby, Micaela, who is now nearly two months old.

“So far, Micaela does have some calcifications in her brain left behind by the virus.

“’It just tells us that there was a bacteria or a virus in the brain and that virus has left us with some calcifications,’ Dr. Audina Berrocal said. ‘Babies with early intervention and the right support, sometimes they compensate for those changes that we find early.’

“Berrocal recently spent time in Brazil working with 25 other babies who have severe microcephaly.

“The scars in those babies’ retinas are larger and closer to the center than Micaela’s, evidence of what is likely long-term damage.

“’Finding changes in the eyes indicates that we must have something in the brain of that child,’ Berrocal said.

“Still, Berrocal said Micaela will likely have ‘almost normal visual development.’

“The mom is thankful that her daughter’s condition is not worse, and gave her the middle name Milagros (Miracle), because she believes her daughter is a miracle child.

“’Don’t go to places where there is Zika,’ the mom warned other mothers, saying sometimes she hasn’t been able to sleep, worrying about her young daughter’s future.

Source: WPLG News Miami

August 26, 2016: West Side of New York Gets Zika Smart and Ready

“The city has unveiled a snazzy new website that goes through the prevention measures that officials are taking to prevent an outbreak of Zika. It’s got some important neighborhood-level information.

“The kinds of mosquitoes that can spread Zika are called Aedes aegypti. Those are not known to live in New York. But a cousin, called Aedes albopictus, does live in the city and could potentially become a transmitter of Zika, so health officials have been tracking their whereabouts. The city has put out traps to catch mosquitoes and examine whether they’re part of the potentially problematic species.

“A map that goes along with the city’s presentation shows how many mosquitoes were captured in local traps per week this year. On the UWS, one cluster of traps shows 2 mosquitoes were caught per week, and the other shows 0.3 were caught. That’s far below other areas of the city, such as the Lower East Side, where an average of 16 were caught. None of the mosquitoes caught in the city so far have tested positive for Zika. Another local trap showed that an average of 5 Culex pipiens and/or Culex restuans mosquitoes were caught per week — those can carry West Nile Virus.

“The site also shows where the city has sprayed to kill mosquitoes, and where they have issued notices of violation for leaving standing water. None of those have been issued on the UWS. To report standing water, which can be a breeding ground for mosquitoes, fill out the form here.

“See the whole site here. And be aware that you can also get Zika from sex.”

Source: West Side Rag

August 25, 2016: Zika Virus in School: Miami Officials Make Tough Decisions

“With school starting across Miami – where there are growing concerns about the Zika virus.

“Health officials are monitoring two so-called Zika zones.

“In Miami Beach, at least five people have apparently beeninfected by local mosquitoes.

“The original Zika zone is just across Biscayne Bay. So far, at least 36 people in the area have been infected. The virus can cause severe birth defects.

“The Florida Department of Health handed out free bug repellent at Miami Beach Senior High. Students from here and one other school in the newest Zika zone were encouraged to spray themselves before class.

“Melanie Fishman, principal at South Pointe Elementary in Miami, said they don’t want students to spray themselves at school because “some kids might have asthma.”

“The Miami-Dade school district handed out protective clothing – long sleeves and pants for students that needed it.

“The proactive efforts taken by the school district have impressed Carol Karp, whose son Adam is entering high school.

“’I commend their efforts, fantastic,’ Karp said. ‘It’s what we should do to protect children and community.’

“Nearly 3,300 will now be attending school in the 1.5-mile area where local Zika transmission has been confirmed on Miami Beach.

“Ashley Beauegard, a yoga teacher who is 6 months pregnant, canceled her baby shower in Miami Beach, and worries, her home, 15 minutes north of the Zika zone, may also be a vulnerable area.

“’I mean I just feel like it spread from Wynwood to Miami Beach, cases that we know of,’ Beauegard said. ‘So how many cases that we don’t know of could’ve spread further already?’

“Starting last Monday, 7,600 kids in Miami-Dade County will be attending school inside of one of the Zika zones – there are now two in the county. The superintendent of schools originally considered relocating the students, but decided not to.”

Source: CBS News

August 24, 2016: Gulf States Next at Risk for Zika Outbreak, NIH Official Says

“Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), warned that Gulf Coast states are the most susceptible to a new Zika outbreak.

“’Well, the ones that are most at risk, George, are those along the Gulf Coast. I would not be surprised if we see cases in Texas, in Louisiana, particularly now where you have a situation with flooding in Louisiana,’ Fauci told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on ‘This Week.’

“’When you have a sub-tropical, or semi-tropical region with the right mosquitoes, and individuals who have travel-related cases that are in the environment, it would not be surprising that we will see additional cases, not only in Florida, but perhaps in other of the Gulf Coast states,’ he said.

’On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a travel warning after five Zika infections were confirmed in Miami-Dade County.

“The CDC recommended that those living or traveling to the area increase their efforts to prevent mosquito bites and advised pregnant women and their partners to postpone ‘nonessential travel to all parts of Miami-Dade County.’

“The head of the NIAID said Americans should take the threat of Zika seriously, although he does not believe there will be a widespread outbreak across the continental United States.

“’I do not think, although we need to be prepared for it, that we’re going to see a diffuse, broad outbreak in the United States because of a number of issues, particularly the conditions in our country … would not really make that a very likely happening,’ Fauci said.

“He added that he anticipates Zika to stick around for ‘a year or two.’

“’Hopefully, we get to a point to where we could suppress it so that we won’t have any risk of it,’ he noted.

“Fauci overseas research to prevent, diagnose and treat established infectious diseases, as well as emerging diseases like Ebola and Zika.”

Source: ABC News

August 23, 2016: Zika Might Affect Adult Brains, Too, Study Finds

“The Zika virus, previously thought only to be a big threat to developing babies, might also affect adult brains, researchers reported Thursday.

“Tests in mice suggest the virus can get to and damage immature brain cells in adults — something that indicates Zika infection may not be as harmless for grown-ups as doctors have believed.

“It will take much more study to know if human beings infected by Zika are at risk, but the report, published in the journal Cell Stem Cell, adds another disturbing twist to the Zika saga.

“Zika is known to home straight in on developing nerve cells, especially brain cells, when it infects a fetus. The result is devastating birth defects — a small head, known as microcephaly, profound brain destruction, and sometimes less obvious brain damage.

“Babies often miscarry and if they survive, they have permanent brain damage. There’s no cure.

“Other viruses are known to prefer brain cells and nerve cells — herpes viruses are a well known example — but Zika is surprising scientists more the more they study it. “There’s a lot we don’t know about Zika,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Thomas Frieden said Thursday.

“Hongda Li of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and The Rockefeller University in New York and colleagues used an experimental strain of mice for their tests.

“They knew Zika preferred immature brain cells called stem cells and they were working on recent discoveries that adult brains also carry these immature brain cells.

“’Two areas in the adult mouse brain contain neural stem cells: the subventricular zone of the anterior forebrain and the subgranular zone of the hippocampus,’ they wrote in their report.

“And sure enough, Zika got into those brain regions when the mice were infected and appeared to kill some of the stem cells in there.

“’Our data therefore suggest that adult as well as fetal neural stem cells are vulnerable to Zika virus neuropathology,” they wrote. "Thus, although Zika virus is considered a transient infection in adult humans without marked long-term effects, there may in fact be consequences of exposure in the adult brain.’

“It’s not clear what that might mean to people affected by Zika. Researchers are only beginning to study it and its long-term effects.

“Adult brains are less vulnerable to damage than those of developing babies, but brain damage can cause epilepsy, personality changes, depression and dementia.

“Zika’s not necessarily believed harmless to adults. The evidence suggests that 75 to 80 percent of those infected never know it, suffering mild symptoms at most. The worst affected usually have had muscle aches, headaches, a rash and red eyes.

“It can also cause Guillain-Barre syndrome – a paralyzing disorder that a few people suffer after a variety of infections. Puerto Rico reported Thursday that 30 people had suffered Guillain-Barre in the Zika epidemic there so far.

“Li’s team said their findings may help explain cases of Guillain-Barre.

“‘Infection of neural progenitor cells in stem cell niches may relate to the emergent cases of Zika-linked Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS),’ they wrote.”

Source: NBC News

August 22, 2016: Mosquito Squad, America’s #1 Mosquito Eliminator, Honored by Inc. Magazine

For the sixth consecutive year, Mosquito Squad, the mosquito and tick eliminator, as been named one of America’s Fast Growing Companies by Inc. Magazine.

With a mission to rid the United States of disease-bearing mosquitoes that can transmit the Zika virus, Mosquito Squad continues its rapid growth with more 200 franchise locations nationwide, allowing Americans to enjoy their backyards, outdoor living areas, green spaces and outdoor entertaining.

Source: Inc. Magazine

August 21, 2016: 33 Local Transmission Cases of Zika in Florida

Florida Department of Health Investigators said Wednesday that there are three new non-travel-related cases of the Zika virus in their state, bringing the total number of non-travel-related cases to 33.

“One of the new cases is within the Wynwood area of Miami-Dade County, where officials have said they believe all local transmission is occurring. The other two are outside that area.

“Health officials are investigating seven of the non-travel-related cases because they are not within the area of local transmission and do not appear to be linked to that area.

“Florida health officials note that ‘one case does not mean active transmission is taking place.’

“In an unprecedented move, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned pregnant women to steer clear of the Wynwood neighborhood this month, and a mosquito-control team began spraying a 10-square-mile area north of downtown Miami to combat the virus.

“Last week, CDC spokeswoman Erin Sykes said, ‘If we see new Zika clusters that are linked to this cluster outside of the one-mile radius [of Wynwood] or people who became ill with links to this specific one-mile radius area after mid-August, then this would be a cause for additional investigation and action. For now, we expect to find infections that occurred before these mosquito control measures were implemented.’

“On Monday, Texas health officials announced a confirmed case of the Zika virus among an individual who had traveled to the affected area in Miami.”

Source: CNN

August 20, 2016: Almost 500 New Yorkers have tested positive for Zika virus

“Nearly 500 New Yorkers — including 49 pregnant women — have tested positive for the Zika ­virus, a more than tenfold increase since April, city officials said ­Tuesday.

“Five of the 483 victims contracted the virus through sex.

“The others are believed to have been infected from mosquito bites while traveling outside the United States — a majority in the Dominican Republic.

“While no transmissions have been reported via local mosquitoes, Mayor de Blasio and other officials urged Congress to pass a stalled health package to provide resources to combat the virus before it becomes a full-bore crisis.

“’We need the federal government to act now and pass the authorization of $1.9 billion in funding,’ de Blasio said at the city’s public health lab in Kips Bay. ‘Without federal dollars, we cannot deepen our work and we won’t have the assurance that other ­jurisdictions are doing all they can do to fight Zika.’

“The majority of the cases have been found in women — 340 compared to 143 men — and one infant was born with a birth defect that results in a smaller head, known as microcephaly.

“’A public health crisis that begins with neglect by the public sector . . . becomes much more difficult to address going forward,” said state Assemblyman Brian ­Kavanagh (D-Manhattan), who joined the mayor in advocating for federal funds.

“’We know that even now, no matter what we do, it’s going to increase and get worse in the United Stated before it gets better.”

Source: New York Post

August 18, 2016: Paraguay Reports First Cases of Zika-Linked Microcephaly

“Health authorities in Paraguay are reporting the country’s first two cases of babies born with the microcephaly birth defect related to the Zika virus.

“The virus is mainly spread by mosquitoes but cases of sexual transmission have also occurred. Some women who contract it during their pregnancies have given birth to babies with microcephaly, which leads to babies with abnormally small heads and improperly developed brains.

“Health Ministry official Agueda Cabello said Wednesday that the two cases of birth defects linked to Zika were confirmed in a laboratory this week. Both babies are in stable condition and are part of a group of 29 babies with microcephaly. The rest are still being tested.”

_Source: “The New York Times”-Story no longer available online.

August 17, 2016: What Do Americans Think About the Zika Virus?

This CBS News Poll on the Zika Virus was just released

Eight in 10 Americans have heard or read at least something about Zika – a virus spread mainly by mosquitoes that has recently reached the U.S. and which can cause birth defects and other illnesses – and most are at least somewhat concerned about a possible outbreak. Sixty-four percent of Americans are at least somewhat concerned that there will be a large outbreak of the Zika virus inside the United States within the next twelve months, including 1 in 4 who are very concerned.

The greatest risk posed by Zika is to unborn babies, who can contract severe fetal brain defects if the pregnant mother is infected with the virus. Concern about an outbreak of Zika in the U.S. is considerably higher among Americans who have a family member who is or is trying to become pregnant: 40 percent of these Americans are very concerned.

Americans show concern that the federal government is not prepared if an outbreak were to occur. Sixty-four percent of Americans do not think the federal government is adequately prepared to deal with a widespread outbreak of Zika inside the U.S. Majorities of Republicans, Democrats, and independents all don’t think the federal government is adequately prepared.

Most Americans think Congress should approve additional funding to help prevent the spread of Zika. Fifty-seven percent think Congress should approve more funding, while just 27 percent think enough is being spent already. Here Americans divide along party lines: majorities of Democrats and independents want Congress to approve more funding, while Republicans are more likely to think enough is being spent already.

Most Americans are not comfortable with the idea of traveling to places already affected by Zika, particularly if it means travel abroad. Three in four Americans would not be comfortable traveling to a foreign country that was affected by Zika, including just over half who would not be comfortable at all. Americans are a little more agreeable to the idea of visiting an area within the U.S. affected by an outbreak of Zika (currently just one neighborhood in Miami, Florida), though 58 percent would still not be comfortable traveling there.

August 17, 2016: Governor Abbott Addresses Zika Virus in Texas

“Governor Greg Abbott wants Texans to know his office is working tirelessly in the ongoing battle to combat against the Zika virus.”

“Abbott’s office released a video highlighting their efforts to ensure that communities across Texas are protected in the event of a local Zika outbreak. Abbott’s office says they’re working to raise awareness in Texas on Zika prevention and want to demonstrate some simple steps the public can take around their homes to keep mosquitoes away.

“’I have directed the Texas Department of State Health Services to work closely with our local partners and the CDC to prevent a Zika outbreak and prepare the strongest possible response plan,’ said Governor Abbott. ‘We have assembled millions in state and federal funds to attack the problem and we are working closely with local partners to monitor travel-related cases here in Texas. By working together we can stop the spread of this virus and keep Texans healthy.’

""Karyn Brown": of Mosquito Squad in Pflugerville said by August, her mosquito spraying business starts to slow down, but because of the growing Zika threat, business is staying steady.

“’I think it’s because of an increased level of anxiety just knowing this disease is out there and it’s as serious as it is,’ said Brown.

“Brown echoed Governor Abbott’s address by stressing the importance of eliminating standing water.

“’You should walk around your yard, look for places that collect water. If there is an area where sprinklers gather water. If your gutters are full. After the last rain, you could have water in there that could breed mosquitoes. Think about your neighbors that have small children that may be pregnant.’”

Source: CBS Austin KEYE TV

August 16: Zika Epidemic Worse Than Reported

“Many people do not realize that they are infected with Zika. Only approximately 20% of people infected with Zika even have symptoms. Those who do have symptoms may mistake Zika infection for a case of the flu or standard “pink eye.” Many may not even go see a doctor. Even when Zika is suspected, a doctor may not check laboratory tests to confirm. Even if the doctor finds a positive test, the doctor has to report the case to local, state, or federal public health officials.

“Therefore, when you hear of reported Zika cases in the news, you may be seeing just the tip of the iceberg. This is an inherent problem with passive disease surveillance. Disease surveillance is following the incidence (the number of new cases over time) and prevalence (the percentage of the population that has the disease at a given time) of a disease. Passive surveillance means that you wait for people to tell you when they find newly identified disease cases.

“By contrast, active disease surveillance involves making efforts to search for cases. Now, there are different degrees of active surveillance. Active Zika surveillance can range from more aggressively telling to doctors to be on the lookout for Zika and then requiring that report all possible cases to searching medical records for cases that may be suspicious for Zika to routinely testing people for Zika even if they don’t have any symptoms. The aggressive active surveillance is, the more accurate the tracking of Zika is, but also the more expensive and time-intensive. For instance, regularly testing all people for Zika every week would give us a much better idea of where Zika is spreading but would probably cost far too much, be very inconvenient, and meet a lot of resistance.

“Disease surveillance can vary based on when and where you look for cases. For instance, looking for cases can be easier in larger cities where there are more people, facilities, testing equipment and laboratories, and communications channels. In more remote or poorer areas (even in large cities), the lack of such resources can lead to less or even no reporting of disease cases. This is why diseases can “hide out” and continue to spread to the point that the diseases are uncontrollable even in less remote and richer areas.

“Without good disease surveillance, it can be difficult to know how best to respond to a disease in the most efficient manner. For instance, Miami, Florida, is now spraying insecticide in attempt to control the mosquito population because now well over a dozen cases of Zika (caught from mosquitoes) have been reported. But where else do we need aggressive spraying. Waiting until you hear about cases in your neighborhood may be too late. For the Zika epidemic, tracking the following in a more active manner would be helpful:

• Zika cases: where, when, and who
• Zika disease outcomes such as birth defects and Gullain Barre Syndrome
• Mosquito population: what types of mosquitoes are where, where are they breeding, and which may be carrying the Zika virus
• Zika prevention and control measures: where and when are mosquito control, Zika testing, and other measures occurring

“The challenge is that surveillance, especially active surveillance, costs money, and to date Zika funding is still under debate in Congress and the Senate. Building and running the infrastructure and information systems that can gather, store, analyze, and communicate the appropriate information is no small task. Despite the stalling in funding decisions, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently awarded over $16 million to 40 different states and territories to build and run surveillance systems that track birth defects from the Zika virus. The awards range from $200,000 to $720,000.”

Source: Forbes

August 14, 2016: Florida’s $82 Billion Tourism Industry Braces for Zika

“After enduring the years of ups and downs that came with being a part of Wynwood’s transformation from a struggling warehouse district into Miami’s hot new neighborhood, the restaurateur Ivette Naranjo thought the worst was behind her.

“Her Cafeina Wynwood Lounge hosted large events for HBO, Absolut and Audi, where up to 600 hipsters could drink and dance to a DJ spinning vinyl in the garden. On weekends, an even mix of locals and tourists sipped cocktails with names like Hot Passion and critiqued the art in the adjacent gallery.

“Then came Zika.

“After Friday’s announcement that mosquitoes carrying the virus had been found in a square mile of Wynwood, this past Saturday was her worst night ever.

“’Usually we have from 250 to 350 people a night in the summer, and we had about 40 people come in,’ Ms. Naranjo said.

“The news grew worse on Monday, when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued the first Zika travel advisory in the United States, cautioning pregnant women to avoid Wynwood.

“Though the warning comes in August, traditionally a slow season for tourism in Miami, it does coincide with the time that many travelers are looking to make their plans for winter vacations. It has left hoteliers and others in the travel industry nervous that the warning will dampen Florida’s $82 billion tourism industry.”

Source: The New York Times

August 13, 2016: Collier County, Florida, Residents Concerned Flooding Could Attract Zika Mosquitoes

This update from Naples, Florida. “Collier County residents are worried standing water in their neighborhood could breed Zika-carrying mosquitoes.

“More than 350 cases have been confirmed in Florida. Most of them were travel-related, but the origin of two cases are undetermined.

“Residents in Naples Park tell us they’re dealing with puddles in front of their homes every day when it rains. Some are concerned this could help spread Zika.

“’It looks pretty wet,’ said Joe Agnoli, Naples Park resident.

“’It would look like people have moats around their houses,’ said Richard Lavariere, Naples Park resident.

“Besides being an inconvenience, Lavariere is concerned the water may attract mosquitoes to the neighborhood.

“’With Zika being such a present concern, this worries me that we have an outbreak — especially with so many people coming back from the Olympics next month in Brazil,’ said Lavariere.

“"Patrick Linn": with the Collier County Mosquito Control said the mosquitoes that can carry the Zika virus breed in small dark containers near people’s homes.

Mosquito Control really wants to hammer home prevention tactics. They said if you have anything in your yard collecting water – birdbaths, tires, even plants – it’s important you constantly wash them out so mosquitoes that can carry Zika don’t breed.

Source: NBC2

August 12, 2016: Zika May Be Linked to the Disability that Donald Trump Mocked

“One of the lowest points of Donald Trump’s campaign for the presidency has involved accusations that he mocked a reporter with a disability. “Now, the poor guy — you’ve got to see this guy,” Trump said while jerking his arms in front of his body at a rally in South Carolina in November.

“While the ensuing firestorm about whether Trump meant to make fun of anyone’s physical appearance and what that says about him as a leader was more about politics than anything related to health, it drew worldwide attention to a rare congenital joint condition known as arthrogryposis. Arthrogryposis typically affects development of the arms and legs and results in the joints being fixed in a bent or straightened position.

“Shortly before Trump made the remarks about the ‘poor guy,’ he had been talking about an article written by New York Times investigative reporter Serge Kovaleski, who has the condition.

“The cause of the condition has long been a mystery. Most people with the condition don’t have any genetic markers for it, but some do. Previous research has suggested it might be neurological, having to do with dysfunction of the spinal cord or brain, or maybe something involving a lack of fetal movement due to insufficient room in the uterus. The condition probably has many different causes.

“A new study published in the BMJ on Tuesday suggests another intriguing possibility — that arthrogryposis may be yet another condition linked to Zika. (The BMJ was formerly known as the British Medical Journal.)”

“The mosquito-borne virus, which is raging in South America and has now reached Florida, causes microcephaly, in which the head is abnormally small, and other brain damage in fetuses. Possibly thousands of babies have been born with microcephaly due to Zika. It has also been linked to at least two neurological issues in adults: Guillain-Barré syndrome, in which the immune system attacks the nerves, and acute disseminated encephalomyelitis, or ADEM, which is similar to multiple sclerosis.

“The BMJ study was based in Recife, the city in Brazil that is at the epicenter of the Zika epidemic, and the study was tiny. It’s important to note that no definitive conclusions can be drawn because of the small sample size and because of the study’s design, which was observational.

“The work involved studying high-definition brain and joint images of seven children who had arthrogryposis and who appeared to have been infected with Zika.

""Researcher Vanessa van der Linden": from the Barão de Lucena Hospital and colleagues found two interesting things. First, none of the children had traditional signs of joint abnormalities. This led them to theorize that the arthrogryposis wasn’t due to abnormalities in the joints but in the nerves that control them.

“But all of them did show signs of something else abnormal: calcium buildup in their brains, a condition that had previously been linked to Zika. The virus may be destroying brain cells during fetal development, and scars where calcium is deposited formed in those areas. The researchers wondered whether the condition might influence the way motor neurons carry signals.

“They concluded that while more studies are needed, there appears to be enough information that ‘congenital Zika syndrome should be added to the differential diagnosis of congenital infections and arthrogryposis.’”

Source: The Washington Post

August 12, 2016: United States Up to 855 Cases of Zika in Pregnant Women

“There was one live-born infant with Zika virus–related birth defects and 77 new cases of Zika among pregnant women reported during the week ending July 21, 2016, in the United States, but no additional Zika-related pregnancy losses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The new cases bring the totals to 13 infants born with birth defects and 855 pregnant women with any laboratory evidence of Zika virus infection. All of the infants with birth defects so far were born in the 50 states and the District of Columbia, which is where six of the seven Zika-related pregnancy losses occurred. There has been only one pregnancy loss in the U.S. territories, but the territories account for almost half (422) of the 855 pregnant women with Zika infection. Of the 77 new infections in pregnant women for the week, 44 occurred in the territories and 33 were in the states, the CDC reported July 28.

“The figures for states, territories, and the District of Columbia reflect reporting to the U.S. Zika Pregnancy Registry; data for Puerto Rico are reported to the U.S. Zika Active Pregnancy Surveillance System.

“Zika-related birth defects recorded by the CDC could include microcephaly, calcium deposits in the brain indicating possible brain damage, excess fluid in the brain cavities and surrounding the brain, absent or poorly formed brain structures, abnormal eye development, or other problems resulting from brain damage that affect nerves, muscles, and bones. The pregnancy losses encompass any miscarriage, stillbirth, and termination with evidence of birth defects.”

Source: PM 360

August 11, 2016: Czech Scientists Make Breakthrough in Developing Zika Drug

“A group of Czech scientists have made a promising discovery in the search for a treatment for Zika. The scientists appear to have discovered the ‘Achilles heel’ of the virus. It could pave the way for developing a drug.

“In a busy lab at the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry (IOCB) in Prague’s Dejvice district, home to many of the city’s best technical universities and research institutions, a rack of condensers whirs away on a shelf. Around them, scientists in white coats peer into microscopes as they create chemical compounds to fight a virus for which there is no vaccine and no specific treatment.

“’There is a family of viruses called the flaviviridae family, and Zika is one of those viruses,’ Dr. Radim Nencka, junior group leader in medicinal chemistry at the IOCB told DW. ‘We’ve been recently focused mostly on this family of viruses; in particular we’ve been working on tick-borne encephalitis and also on the West Nile Virus, which is already connected or very similar to the Zika virus,’ Dr Nencka explained.

“’So we started to work on these two viruses, and we were focused on treatment of these viruses. And once the Zika outbreak occurred, we decided to look at Zika as well,’ he said. ‘So it was a logical step forward for us.’

“Dr. Nencka and his team believe they may have found Zika’s Achilles Heel, a weakness they can exploit to stop it replicating. ‘Every virus needs some specific building blocks for its life cycle, for its replication, which are called nucleocytes (and) nucleotides,’ Dr Nencka explained.

“’We modify these building blocks so they can stop the replication, they can stop the process. And we must be very specific, because also our cells are using nucleocytes and nucleotides for the processes that are necessary for our own cells. So these compounds must specifically inhibit only the enzymes, the tools of the virus,’ he added.

“Dr. Nencka sends his compounds for testing to a scientist called Daniel Ruzek, who heads groups at both the Biological Centre of the Czech Academy of Sciences based in Ceske Budejovice and the Brno-based Institute of Veterinary Medicine. He then puts the compounds to the test on infected organisms. Though Daniel Ruzek, too, stressed this is in its early days.

“’Actually we are just at the beginning. We know which compounds are active against the virus. We have some promising results, and we know where the Achilles’ heel is of the virus that we can target by the compounds. But that’s still not the final drug,’ Daniel Ruzek told DW.

“’Some people have asked me how the compound will be applied: if this will be a pill or in the form of an injection. I can’t answer anything like that because we are still at the beginning,’ he added. ‘We still need to modify the active compounds into so-called pro-drug forms. These pro-drugs should have improved pharmacological properties, should be better targeted to the organs in the body (and) should be slowly eliminated from the organism.’ So there’s still a long way.

Source: Deutsche Welle

August 10, 2016: Zika Holds Wynwood Captive -- 21 Cases in Florida

“Sherrie Varpula-Walter has spent most of the last week holed up in her apartment.

“She is three months into her second pregnancy and doing everything she can to avoid being bitten by a mosquito infected with the Zika virus.

“Her husband, Matt Walter, has taken charge of walking their two dogs. If she must run an errand, she sprays herself with insect repellent and puts on socks, jeans and a long-sleeved shirt — even though it’s 90 degrees outside.

“In Miami, where health authorities have identified at least 21 cases of locally transmitted Zika, these are anxious times for expectant mothers and women hoping to become pregnant. The virus can inflict devastating damage to the brain of an infected woman’s fetus.

“’You are in the worst possible situation now, and there is not much you can do about it,’ said Varpula-Walter, a speech pathologist. ‘It’s just a waiting game.’

“The species that spreads Zika, Aedes aegypti, doesn’t travel more than 150 yards in its lifetime, and outbreaks of other diseases carried by the mosquito have been highly localized in the U.S.

“That may be partly because Aedes aegypti lays its eggs in small pools of water — as little as a teaspoon full — that can be hard to spot in a complex urban environment such as Wynwood.

Source: Los Angeles Times

August 8, 2016: FDA Temporarily Halts Blood Donation in Two Florida Counties Over Zika Fears

“The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is asking blood centers in two Florida counties to immediately stop collections. The counties are investigating possible local transmission of Zika virus.

“In a notice sent to blood centers and posted on the agency’s website Wednesday evening, the FDA said it is requesting all blood centers in Miami-Dade or Broward counties to “cease collecting blood immediately” until those facilities can test individual units of blood donated in those two counties with a special investigational donor screening test for Zika virus or until the establishments implement the use of an approved or investigational pathogen-inactivation technology.

“The action by the FDA comes as health officials in Florida said Thursday they were continuing to investigate two Zika cases that could have been spread by local mosquitoes, in addition to two similar cases they announced last week. Health officials have not confirmed whether any of the infected individuals acquired the virus from local mosquitoes, but it seems increasingly likely.

“’These may be the first cases of local Zika virus transmission by mosquitoes in the continental United States,’ the FDA said in its notice and in a media statement Thursday. It said it was making the request of blood-collection establishments ‘in consideration of the possibility of an emerging local outbreak of Zika virus, and as a prudent measure to help assure the safety of blood and blood products.’”

Source: The Washington Post

August 7, 2016: Pregnant Brazilian Woman Who Faced Deportation Has Been Allowed to Stay in Britain Over Zika Virus Fears

This news from Cristina Criddle in Britain. “An expecting Brazilian woman has been allowed by the Home Office to extend her stay in Britain amid fears she may contract the Zika virus.

“Daisy Santiago, 22, has successfully appealed against a Home Office decision that she must return to her home in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on the grounds that her child could suffer birth defects.

“Ms. Santiago travelled to the UK on a five-month visitor visa to spend more time with her fiancé, Simon Ellis, of Kegworth, Leicestershire. The couple met online three-and-a-half years ago and got engaged in May.

“They had originally planned to move to Brazil but were forced to reconsider when Miss Santiago became pregnant as the dangers of the Zika virus emerged.

“Initially her application for a visa extension was denied but, following an appeal, the couple were this week granted permission to extend their visit until October, a month after the baby is due.

“The Foreign Office recommends pregnant women postpone non-essential travel to areas with active Zika transmission until after pregnancy.”

Source: The Telegraph

August 6, 2016: Antibodies Identified That Thwart Zika Virus Infection

“Scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have identified antibodies capable of protecting against Zika virus infection, and located the precise spot on the Zika virus that the antibodies recognize. The work is a significant step toward developing a vaccine, better diagnostic tests and possibly new antibody-based therapies. Shown is an image of Zika virus captured via cryo-electron microscope.”

From the Washington University School of Medicine. “Scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have identified antibodies capable of protecting against Zika virus infection, a significant step toward developing a vaccine, better diagnostic tests and possibly new antibody-based therapies. The work, in mice, helps clarify recent research that also identified protective Zika antibodies but lacked important details on how the antibodies interact with the virus.

In a study published July 27 in Cell, the researchers identified the precise spot on the virus that the antibodies recognized, information that could be used to develop a vaccine against Zika. The antibodies bound exclusively to Zika and not to related viruses, which means they are specific enough to be used in diagnostic tests.

“Importantly, some of our antibodies are able to neutralize African, Asian and American strains of Zika virus to about the same degree,” said Daved Fremon, PhD, a professor of pathology and immunology and a co-senior author on the paper. A vaccine designed to elicit similar antibodies might be able to protect people from Zika strains worldwide.

Fremont, co-senior author Michael Diamond, MD, PhD, and colleagues identified six antibodies that bound strongly to Zika virus and used a technique called X-ray crystallography to zero in on the binding site. They locked the virus and the antibodies into place together – or crystallized them – and visualized the adjacent structures by bouncing X-rays off them. The two most protective antibodies bound to the same region of the viral envelope protein that covers the surface of the virus.

“We think that this piece of the viral envelope protein alone would be able to elicit a protective immune response to Zika,” Fremont said, referring to the possibility of making a vaccine from an engineered viral protein rather than the whole virus.

Vaccines made from live, weakened viruses are common and effective, but can’t be given to pregnant women. Pregnancy suppresses a woman’s immune system, so a weak virus that safely immunizes most people could make pregnant women ill. In the case of Zika – where viral infection of pregnant women can cause devastating birth defects or miscarriage – a live-virus vaccine would be unusable, but a protein-based vaccine could be a lifesaver.

Source: Washington University School of Medicine

August 4, 2016: Researchers Make New Projections for Spread of the Zika Virus

William G. Gilroy reports that “New research from the University of Notre Dame places a new upper limit on the total number of people who could become infected by the Zika virus in the first wave of the current epidemic.

“The team of researchers, led by Alex Perkins, Eck Family Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences and a member of the Eck Institute for Global Health, projects that as many as 93 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean, including 1.6 million childbearing women, are at risk of infection over the next two to three years of the epidemic. Because these totals reflect the sum of location-specific estimates across the region, the researchers stress that it is important to note that these numbers represent a worst-case scenario.

“’In other words, we think these projections may be pretty good for a location where Zika shows up and starts an epidemic, but at the same time we acknowledge that due simply to random chance and the fact that some places are relatively isolated and sparsely populated, the virus won’t make it to every single corner of the continent,’” Perkins said.

“Perkins also pointed out that it is very important to note that the numbers that the researchers report are infections, which are not the same as clinical cases.

“’Only about 20 percent of people who are infected develop any symptoms whatsoever, and even fewer than that will seek medical care and show up in government statistics,’” he said.

Source: University of Notre Dame

August 3, 2016: Blood Bank of Hawaii to Participate in Zika Virus Screening Trials

“Hawaii’s blood supply is about to undergo additional testing for safety.

“The Blood Bank of Hawaii says it is participating in a new screening procedure for donations to ensure that all blood is free of the Zika virus.”

“Blood bank officials say their concern is high since the same mosquito that transmits dengue fever — as seen in a recent Hawaii Island outbreak — can also transmit Zika.

“’Should Hawaii become a Zika risk area, (without the additional testing) it’s possible that we might have to completely shut down all blood collection, and then Hawaii would be 100-percent dependent on imported blood from the mainland’ explained Dr. Randal Covin, medical director, Blood Bank of Hawaii. ‘Which is why we want to bring testing in, that way we can prevent something like that from happening. So it’s really a measure of protecting the people of Hawaii to make sure we can continue to collect, process and distribute blood.’

Source: KHON 2

August 2, 2016: Antibodies from Dengue Virus Survivors Can Be Used to Prevent Zika Infection

“A joint study conducted by UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and UNC School of Medicine shows that individuals previously infected with dengue virus could have key antibodies that protect against the Zika virus.”

This important update from Chapel Hill, North Carolina. “A new research study from University of North Carolina researchers shows that individuals who have been previously infected with a flavivirus – specifically dengue and Zika viruses – could have antibodies that protect against Zika.

“Those antibodies could be used to develop vaccines to protect against Zika, as well as therapies to treat the virus, according to the study, which was a collaboration between researchers at UNC’s Gillings School of Global Public Health and the UNC School of Medicine.

“The study, ‘"Dengue Virus Envelope Dimer Epitope Monoclonal Antibodies Isolated from Dengue Patients Are Protective against Zika Virus":,’ was published in the July/August issue of mBio, the journal of the American Society for Microbiology.

Source: UNC Health Care and UNC School of Medicine

August 1, 2016: We’re Fighting Zika ‘With One Hand Tied Behind Our Backs’: CDC Director

The lack of emergency funding for Zika is already taking a toll on research and vaccines

“It’s been a little over a week since the Senate failed to pass emergency funding for the Zika epidemic, right in the midst of mosquito season. And while Zika hasn’t started spreading locally stateside, emergency responders who are trying to fight it are already feeling an economic pinch.

“’We have an unprecedented health threat, and we don’t have the robust resources that would enable us to respond most effectively,” says Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in an interview with TIME. “Without additional resources, this is like fighting a fight with one hand tied behind our backs.’

“So far, more than 1,000 people in the continental United States have Zika infections from travel, and more than 700 pregnant women in the U.S. and territories have the disease. Utah is investigating the first possible case of person-to-person transmission in the U.S. and Florida is investigating a possible case of local transmission. Without the additional Zika emergency funding, Frieden says the agency is moving money meant for other emergencies to the response.

“’We may have problems in states around the U.S. because money isn’t available to do things like respond to other outbreaks or address the health needs that arise with flooding or hurricanes,” Frieden says. “We’ve had to reduce funding for a range of emergencies to address the Zika emergency. That’s not a sensible way to do it, but it’s the only option we had.’

“With the funding, Frieden says the CDC planned to launch a more robust effort to understand the full range of Zika’s effects on babies, including infants born with healthy head sizes though their mothers were infected. The CDC also planned to be further along in improving how the virus is diagnosed.

“As TIME has previously reported, scientists say the lack of emergency Zika funding is also hurting their research. ‘Without a clear commitment from the federal government, private sector partners working on diagnostics and vaccines will choose not to proceed,’ said Marissa Padilla, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, to TIME. ‘Meanwhile, countless other efforts to combat Zika will be jeopardized. The first human trials in the U.S. of a Zika vaccine have already been delayed.

Source: TIME

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