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Blog | October 2016

October 31, 2016: Florida Surgeon General Demands Zika Plan from Miami-Dade

“One day after the nation’s top-ranking infectious disease expert praised Miami-Dade for its response to a local Zika outbreak, Florida’s Surgeon General dispatched a letter to Mayor Carlos Gimenez demanding a comprehensive breakdown of spending, specific data on mosquito surveillance and a plan for combating the virus’ spread through winter and into next year.

“Noting that Florida has budgeted $12.1 million to help Miami-Dade pay for the costs of responding to Zika — including aerial spraying in Wynwood and Miami Beach and an army of mosquito control workers, mostly contracted, to inspect and fumigate on the ground — State Surgeon General Celeste Philip asked that Miami-Dade deliver the following information by Nov. 4:

▪ A comprehensive breakdown of spending for all ground-based and aerial spraying, including dates and locations sprayed;

▪ Specific data on mosquito trap counts on a weekly or more frequent basis;

▪ Analysis or research on the effectiveness of local mosquito control efforts;

▪ A plan to control mosquitoes for the winter, spring and summer.

“Miami-Dade officials confirmed they had received the letter and would comply with the state’s request, said Mike Hernandez, a spokesman for the mayor, in a written statement.

“’Miami-Dade County Mosquito Control communicates with the Florida Department of Health in Miami-Dade daily,’ Hernandez wrote. ‘Miami-Dade County appreciates its partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Florida Department of Health and will work to compile the information.’

“The demand, which appeared to be unexpected, was the latest salvo in an ongoing war of words between the state and county. The rift first emerged in September as a result of a Miami Herald lawsuit seeking the disclosure of locations where Miami-Dade traps had captured mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus.

“In response to the lawsuit, the county said it was keeping the information secret at the request of the Florida Department of Health. But the health department denied ever instructing local officials to keep the information confidential.

“Philip’s latest letter to Gimenez was dated Wednesday, the same day nine more Zika cases were reported in Miami-Dade. And it was sent one day after the Miami-Dade mayor met with Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Miami.

“Speaking at the CityLab conference hosted by The Atlantic magazine in downtown Miami on Tuesday, Frieden praised the mayors of Miami-Dade and Miami Beach, and local mosquito control efforts.

“’It’s very tough to control Zika,’ Frieden said, in a grim assessment that included a prediction that the virus would become endemic in Florida.

“But, Frieden said, Miami-Dade mosquito control efforts were key to stopping the spread of Zika in a one-square-mile section of Wynwood first identified on July 29. State officials lifted the Zika zone from Wynwood on Sept. 19 after 45 consecutive days of no new cases.

“’In Wynwood they did everything possible,’ Frieden said, calling Miami-Dade mosquito control ‘one of the best in the country and one of the best in the world.’

“While in Miami, Frieden said he met with Gimenez and Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, whom he also praised.

“’They’re very focused on doing the right thing … and trying every approach,’ he said.

“Prior to Frieden’s meeting with the mayors, Florida Gov. Rick Scott issued an open letter to Frieden requesting that the CDC provide guidance to Miami on combating Zika.”

Source: Miami Herald

October 30, 2016: Brazil and Colombia to Scale Up Bacterial Fight Against Zika and Dengue

Health authorities in Colombia and Brazil will launch large-scale mosquito-control campaigns using a using naturally occurring bacteria known as Wolbachia to fight the spread of dengue and Zika viruses among people.

“Small-scale trials of the technique, which involves infecting mosquitoes with Wolbachia to prevent them from spreading the viruses, have shown a significant reduction in their ability to transmit Zika and dengue, prompting donors to back scale-up plans.

“’The use of Wolbachia is a potential ground-breaking sustainable solution to reduce the impact of these outbreaks around the globe and particularly on the world’s poorest people,’ said Britain’s international development secretary Priti Patel as the larger project was announced in London.

“The control campaigns, scheduled to begin early next year in Colombia’s Antioquia and Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro, will be funded with $18 million from the British and United States governments, the Wellcome Trust global health charity and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

“Zika has been linked to the birth defect microcephaly, characterized by an abnormally small head, that has been sweeping through South and Central America and the Caribbean and making its way north to the United States.

“In February, the World Health Organization declared Zika a global health emergency. The connection between Zika and microcephaly came to light last year in Brazil.

“Brazil has now confirmed more than 1,800 cases of babies with microcephaly that it considers are linked to Zika infections in the mothers.

“The Wolbachia bacteria is occurs naturally in many insect species worldwide, and research has shown that it can significantly reduce the capacity of mosquitoes to transmit viruses to humans.

“But it doesn’t occur naturally in Aedes aegypti, the mosquito species largely responsible for transmitting a range of diseases including Zika, dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever.

“Over the past decade, international researchers working with the Australian-led non-profit Eliminate Dengue Program (EDP) have found a way to transfer Wolbachia into Aedes aegypti mosquitoes and get them to pass it on to their offspring.

“When mosquitoes with Wolbachia are released into an area, they breed with local mosquitoes and pass the bacteria on to future generations. Within a few months, the majority of mosquitoes carry Wolbachia and the effect is then self-sustaining.

“Since 2011, field trials using this method have been carried out in five countries and show that when a high proportion of mosquitoes in an area carry Wolbachia, local transmission of viruses is halted.

“Trevor Mundel, head of the Gates Foundation’s global health division, said he hoped the large-scale campaigns had the potential to show Wolbachia as a “revolutionary form of protection against mosquito-borne disease”.

“It’s affordable, sustainable, and appears to provide protection against Zika, dengue, and a host of other viruses,” he said in a statement. “We’re eager to study its impact and how it can help countries.”

Source: FOX

October 29, 2016: Repurposing Drugs to Treat Zika

“Researchers and robots working together have identified 2 drugs that may be useful in treating Zika infections in pregnant women. The work, published in Nature Medicine, was conducted at the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) at the National Institutes of Health in collaboration with Johns Hopkins University (JHU) and Florida State University (FSU).

“The researchers used drug repurposing screening robots to test 6000 compounds, which included medications approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as well as investigational drugs. The screening assay they developed measured the ability of these compounds to suppress activity of caspase 3, a protein involved in infection-induced cell death, in cultured human neural stem cells. Of the thousands of compounds examined, 100 emerged as promising.”

Source: JAMA

October 28, 2016: Pfizer Foundation Grants Department of Health $1,000,000 for Zika Response

Funds used for assisting investigations, education efforts, supplies

“The Florida Department of Health received a $1 million grant from the Pfizer Foundation on Monday to support efforts in responding to the Zika virus.

“All of the funds will be used for Zika activities.

“’Florida is leading the nation in the fight against Zika, and we are grateful for the support the Pfizer Foundation is putting forth to aid us in this effort,’ state Surgeon General and Secretary Dr. Celeste Philip said. ‘It is encouraging that entities like the Pfizer Foundation recognize the need for funding to ensure we are able to continue to protect the pregnant women in our communities.’

“Grant funds will be used for assisting with investigations, education efforts, supplies and response to resident and visitor concerns. The department said it is using part of the funds to purchase additional laboratory equipment and supplies. It will also use the funds to purchase Zika prevention kits to distribute in Miami-Dade County.

“’A challenge like Zika requires every organization to bring forward their resources and expertise to manage health risks that exist for people in affected areas of the country,’ Sally Susman, executive vice president of corporate affairs for Pfizer Inc. said. ‘We welcome the opportunity to partner with the Florida Department of Health and health care professionals in the state to address today’s health needs while work continues to identify longer-term solutions.’"

Source: News 4 JAX

October 27, 2016: Zika Virus Will 'Become Endemic,’ CDC Leader Says

“The nation’s highest ranking infectious disease expert delivered some sobering news on Zika to a Miami audience on Tuesday, telling them that the mosquito-borne virus is more widespread than Florida health officials have reported and that the rapid spread of pathogens such as Zika represents ‘the new normal’ in an age of global travel and trade, booming cities and climate change.

“’Here’s the plain truth: that Zika and other diseases spread by Aedes aegypti [mosquito species] are really not controllable with current technologies. So we will see this become endemic,’ Tom Frieden, a physician and director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told a group of about 100 people gathered at the InterContinental Miami hotel for The Atlantic magazine’s CityLab conference.

“Frieden’s takeaway advice for public officials tasked with protecting the public from disease outbreaks: ‘Invest in public health,’ he said. ‘It pays off.’

“Unprecedented in its ability to spread by sexual contact as well as mosquito bites, and to cause birth defects — most notably microcephaly in children born to mothers infected while pregnant — Zika took health officials by surprise this year, Frieden said, noting that there’s still a lot that scientists do not know about the virus’s effects.

“’Zika has surprised us,’ he said. ‘It’s been difficult to predict. It’s had characteristics that we have not seen with other diseases before. What we anticipate will happen is that this season will calm down within the continental United States. We hope that Miami-Dade will stop having cases, but we can’t promise that. … We will see parts of the hemisphere where it will be endemic. It will come back every year.’

“And though Florida has reported 1,064 Zika cases, including 190 mosquito-borne infections, Frieden said the real number likely is much higher.

“’A rule of thumb,’ he said, ‘is for every case you diagnose you’ve probably got 10 more.’

“On Tuesday, Florida health officials reported two additional mosquito-borne Zika infections in Miami-Dade, including one in Miami Beach and a second that will require an epidemiological investigation to determine the source of exposure.”

Source: Miami Herald

October 26, 2016: CDC's New Miami Zika 'Red Zone' Means Stay Out for Pregnant Women

“Federal health officials have made a new color-coded map for Miami and say pregnant women should stay out of the ‘red zone’ — where Zika virus is actively infecting new people daily.

“And they say pregnant women should consider postposing all travel to Miami-Dade county for the time being, designating the entire county a ‘yellow zone.’

“’Pregnant women should specifically avoid travel to red areas because the intensity of Zika virus transmission confirmed in these areas is a significant risk to pregnant women,’ the CDC said in a statement.

“Last week, Florida health officials declared a new Zika zone — a one square mile area where the Zika virus is actively infecting people — in Miami. It’s the third zone of active transmission, although home-grown cases have been found in several parts of the state.


“Florida remains the only U.S. state with verified local transmission of the virus.

“Florida has 174 locally transmitted cases, including 19 in out-of-state visitors. The state has 1,044 total cases of Zika, most related to travel. And 110 of those infected are pregnant women.

“’Currently, a 4.5-square-mile area of Miami Beach and one-square-mile area in Little River located in Miami-Dade County are red areas. The rest of Miami-Dade County is a yellow area,” the CDC said.

“’Given the limited available information about how long Zika virus can stay in body fluids and the chances of harm to a pregnancy when a woman is infected with Zika virus around the time of conception, some couples in which one or both partners have had a possible Zika virus exposure may choose to wait longer or shorter than the recommended period to conceive, depending on individual circumstances like age, fertility, and the details of possible exposure, and their risk tolerance, the CDC said.

Source: NBC News

October 25, 2016: Zika Virus Detected in Donated Blood

“U.S. Health officials have confirmed a few units of donated blood in Florida have tested positive for the Zika virus.

“The FDA would not say exactly how many units tested positive, or when and specifically where in Florida those donations were collected. We do know that the blood did not make it’s way into the donation supply.

“This however is the first report of the Zika virus being found in blood donations.

“Back in July, FDA officials banned blood donations in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties until testing could begin.

“In the meantime, the government now recommends all pregnant women who recently spent anytime near Miami-Dade County get tested for the virus. That includes women who lived in or visited the area since August 1.

“Health officials are pushing for the testing even if you do not have any symptoms.”

Source: CBS 12

October 23, 2016: Zika Mosquito Eggs Found Near Folkestone in the UK

The eggs of a mosquito capable of transmitting tropical diseases, including the Zika virus, have been found for the first time in the UK.

“People in Stanford near Folkestone have been sent letters telling them Asian tiger mosquito eggs had been discovered nearby.

“Public Health England said no further evidence of the insect had been detected.

“It said there was ‘currently no risk to public health in the UK.’

“Jolyon Medlock, head of medical entomology at Public Health England (PHE), said: ‘We regularly monitor mosquito species and look for any which are new to the UK. Enhanced monitoring of the area was implemented and no further evidence of this mosquito has so far been found. As a precaution we advised the local authority to use insecticide as a means of control.’

PHE confirmed the spraying of insecticide had been fully completed at the site.

“The Zika infection has been linked to thousands of babies being born with underdeveloped brains.

Public Health England said it would continue to monitor the situation closely.

“Two years ago Public Health England set up traps at motorway service stations to monitor this species of mosquito over fears the insects could enter the UK on lorries from Europe. None was found.

Source: BBC News

October 22, 2016: New Pool of Zika-Positive Mosquitoes Trapped in Miami Beach

“Officials say a new pool of mosquitoes taken from Miami Beach has tested positive for Zika.

“A Miami-Dade County Mosquito Control news release says officials learned about the new pool Monday. The insects had been collected from a trap October 5, 2016

“The new pool is in the previously designated Zika transmission zone.

“A large portion of Miami Beach remains an active Zika infection zone. Officials announced last week that several people had been infected with Zika in a 1-square-mile area of Miami just north of the Little Haiti neighborhood.

“Last month, another transmission zone in Miami’s Wynwood district had been cleared.

“As of Tuesday, October 18, Zika infections had been reported in 1,040 people in Florida. Most caught the virus while traveling outside the U.S., but 163 cases aren’t travel related.”

October 22, 2016: Will Winter Kill Zika?

Colder weather kills mosquitoes, but it doesn’t mean the virus is no longer a threat.

“Okay, good news first: Mosquito season in the United States is basically over—even in warmer regions, like Florida and areas along the Gulf Coast. ‘The risk of mosquito transmission of viruses goes way down by the end of October,’ says Peter Hotez, a pediatrician and the dean for the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College.

“By early November, he told me, West Nile Virus and dengue fever pretty much ‘disappear’ for the winter. Does this mean everyone can stop worrying about the Zika virus, too?

“Well, here’s where the bad news comes in.

“Zika isn’t a threat that’s going away anytime soon, despite the fact that in most areas of the U.S., cold weather brings the risk of mosquito-borne illnesses like Zika down to nearly zero. (In the Southernmost regions of Florida and Texas, the risk of such viruses declines in the winter, but doesn’t go away entirely.) The thing is, scientists still don’t understand Zika well enough yet to predict with certainty what’s going to happen in the months to come. It still seems like the outlook for Zika becomes more alarming with each new discovery. As my colleague Julie Beck wrote in September, we’ve learned a lot about the virus this year:

• Zika was determined to definitively cause the birth defect microcephaly and the neurological disorder Guillain-Barré. Scientists learned the mosquito-borne virus can also be spread sexually… by women as well as men, and that it can survive in semen for weeks or possibly months.

• There’s more. Scientists have found evidence that Zika can cause serious damage to adult brains. Zika seems to remain potentially deadly to a fetus even late in a woman’s pregnancy. The virus itself appears to have mutated to become more dangerous to humans. In at least one rare case, researchers found Zika can be transmitted by casual physical touch.

“Plus, one recent study found that Zika-carrying mosquitoes can transmit the virus to their offspring—meaning Zika could last through the winter in a well-protected mosquito egg, even if the original carrier mosquito died. The findings from that research, published in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene in August, also have warm-weather implications. ‘It makes control harder,’ said Robert Tesh, a co-author of the study, in a statement when it was published. ‘Spraying affects adults, but it does not usually kill the immature forms—the eggs and larvae. Spraying will reduce transmission, but it may not eliminate the virus.’

“This kind of transmission—Zika passed from mama mosquito to baby mosquito—appears to be relatively rare. One in 290 mosquito offspring got infected in that study. But even that relatively low rate of transmission can be significant, considering how many mosquito eggs are out there. A female Aedes aegypti mosquito easily lays about 1,000 eggs in her short lifetime, and those eggs are startlingly durable. They’re able to survive anywhere there’s a bit of moisture and enough warmth. (Even when it’s cooler out, eggs laid on dry surfaces can survive for more than a year, and won’t hatch until they get wet.) ‘We don’t know for sure, but I believe that the risk of Zika will resume next summer,’ Hotez told me.”

Source: The Atlantic

October 21, 2016: Zika Infection in Late Pregnancy Can Still Affect Fetal Brain

“The Zika virus may harm an infant’s brain even if the mother is infected just before giving birth, according to a study published online Sept. 6 in Clinical Infectious Diseases.

“The new study included 55 Brazilian women infected by Zika during pregnancy and their infants. Medical imaging revealed that 4 infants whose mothers were infected with Zika between 2 weeks and 1 week before birth had central nervous system lesions characteristic of viral infections.

“‘These infants were born with normal length and weight, and without microcephaly or any other symptoms of the disease. The lesions would have gone unnoticed by health workers if the mothers hadn’t been part of a study group,” lead researcher Mauricio Lacerda Nogueira, MD, PhD, a professor at the Sao Jose do Rio Preto Medical School (FAMERP), in Sao Paulo State, and a member of the state’s Zika Virus Research Network, said in a FAMERP news release. "We mean to keep monitoring the development of these babies for several years in order to detect any problems.’

“Another study by FAMERP researchers and led by Nogueira found that Zika infection can be spread through organ transplants. They identified 2 kidney transplant patients and 2 liver transplant patients who were infected with Zika that was present in their new organs. The study was published online Oct. 11 in the American Journal of Transplantation. All 4 patients had to be hospitalized but survived. ‘These transplant recipients didn’t have the typical symptoms of Zika, such as exanthema, itching, and conjunctivitis,’ Nogueira said.”

Source: Neurology Advisor

October 21, 2016: Bats Proposed as Latest Weapon to Fight Zika Virus in Miami

“One Miami city official has an unusual proposal to combat the spread of the Zika virus. City Commissioner Kristin Rosen Gonzalez has proposed using bats, which eat mosquitoes, including the species known to spread the virus.

“’Some people are laughing and they are not taking it seriously. But bats, depending on the species, eat up to 3,000 mosquitoes in one day, and they avoid humans,’ Gonzalez told ABC News today. She has sponsored a resolution that proposes placing bat houses in the city to curb the mosquito population.

“The first outbreak of locally transmitted Zika virus was reported in Miami in July. In the months since, city officials have continued to battle the ongoing outbreak, which has infected dozens in the Miami-area. Larvacide, insecticide and door-to-door inspections have all been used to try and reduce the population of the Aedes aegypti mosquito that spreads the Zika virus.

“The resolution seeks to authorize the city manager to ‘research a potential pilot program for the placement of bat houses and habitats in the city to control the city’s mosquito population due to the continued presence of mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus. The measure was discussed at the commissioners meeting on October 19, 2016.

“’It was a goodwill gesture to the environmentalists, who were really upset about us spraying all the neurotoxins,’ Gonzalez said of her resolution, but added that she isn’t sure if it will be adopted because “it makes people nervous.”

“The Miami City Commission reviewed the resolution today and passed it to Miami-Dade County, which holds the authority to either adopt or reject the resolution.

“The measure of floated as an alternative to spraying chemicals, Gonzalez said, adding: ‘This was really the one environmental solution.’

“The American Mosquito Control Association notes on its website that bats have historically not been an effective method of curbing mosquito populations, and that mosquitoes comprise less than 1 percent of gut contents of wild-caught bats, saying that bats feed on “whatever food source presents itself.”

“‘There is no question that bats eat mosquitoes, but to utilize them as the sole measure of control would be folly indeed,’ the AMCA states, ‘particularly considering the capacity of both mosquitoes and bats to transmit diseases.’”

Source: ABC News

October 20, 2016: Locally-Acquired Zika Reported In Sonora, Mexico

Last year, the Centers for Disease Control added Mexico to its list of countries that have active Zika virus transmission. Most of the cases were in southern Mexico, but as of last month that changed.

The Arizona Department of Health learned there were a handful of locally-acquired Zika cases in the Mexican state of Sonora, which is on the other side of the Arizona border.

“There were some newspaper articles that came out about September 22 or so and we used that information to notify healthcare providers in the state that they should be aware of this if they’re evaluating patients who have frequent travel across the border to Mexico that maybe they should be suspecting Zika or consider testing,” said Jessica Rigler is with DHS.

Rigler said the outbreak in Sonora is fizzling out. She said there are now 42 confirmed cases of travel-related Zika in Arizona.

Source: KJZZ News

October 19, 2016: 23 Infants in US Born with Zika-Related Birth Defects

“As of October 6, 2016, 23 infants in the U.S. have been born with birth defects related to the Zika virus, and five pregnancies with birth defects have been lost to miscarriage, stillbirth or termination, according to the CDC.

“More babies with Zika-related birth defects, like microcephaly or congenital Zika syndrome, could be on the way in the U.S., because 878 pregnant women have lab evidence of possible Zika virus infection, the CDC reports.

“In total, 3,936 people in the U.S. have a Zika virus infection as of Oct. 12. Of those, 128 were acquired from mosquitoes in Florida, according to the CDC, but the Florida Department of Health reports 155 locally acquired cases in the states as of Thursday.

“In the U.S. territories, 25,955 people have a Zika virus infection.”

Source: Becker’s Hospital Review

October 18, 2016: Florida IDs New Miami Neighborhood as Zika Zone

“Health officials have identified a new Zika zone in Miami – a setback less than a month after declaring the nearby Wynwood neighborhood cleared of the virus following aggressive mosquito spraying.

“Five people have been infected with Zika in a 1-square-mile area of the city just north of the Little Haiti neighborhood and about 3 miles north of Wynwood, according to a statement released Thursday by Gov. Rick Scott’s office.

“It is the third Miami-area neighborhood identified where mosquitoes have transmitted the virus to people, after Wynwood and a touristy section of Miami Beach, which is still considered an active transmission zone. Wynwood was declared free of the virus after 45 days went by without any new infections.

“These are the first such areas of transmission confirmed in the continental U.S., following major outbreaks of the disease across Latin America. Zika symptoms are so mild that most people who get it don’t feel sick, but the disease can cause severe brain-related birth defects if a pregnant woman is infected.

“The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday that pregnant women should avoid travel to the new outbreak area, and they should consider postponing non-essential travel to the rest of Miami Dade, according to CDC spokesman Tom Skinner.

“’We’re not yet at the end of mosquito season, so we might continue to see local transmission going on for a little while yet,’ Skinner said.

“Four cases from the new zone first reported symptoms in September, and the fifth began suffering symptoms earlier this month, Florida Department of Health spokeswoman Mara Gambineri said in an email.

“The patients in the new zone include two women and three men, according to the statement from Scott’s office. Three live in the area while the other two either visited or worked there.

“Zika infections have been reported in over 1,020 people in Florida, the vast majority of them related to travel to affected areas outside the country. Miami-Dade County has the largest share of the state’s burden, with more travel-related Zika infections than any other Florida county.

“Health officials have so far traced 105 cases to three Miami-area infection zones.

“Health officials also were investigating a Zika infection not related to travel that was reported Thursday in a Broward County resident. Officials there said aerial pesticide spraying targeting mosquito larvae would resume early Friday in the Fort Lauderdale area.

Source: CBS News

October 17, 2016: 5 New Florida Cases. Total Now up to 736.

“At least five people have contracted Zika virus from mosquitoes in Miami’s Little River neighborhood, Florida Gov. Rick Scott announced on Thursday, identifying a one-square-mile zone where the disease is spreading — between Northwest 79th and 63rd Streets from Northwest 10th Avenue to North Miami Avenue.

“Scott’s office identified the area after the Florida Department of Health confirmed that two women and three men had contracted Zika there. Three of the people live in the one-square-mile area, and two either work there or recently visited, according to the governor’s announcement.

“The new zone is the second in Miami-Dade where mosquitoes are known to be spreading Zika. The other is a 4.5-square-mile area of Miami Beach covering most of South Beach and Middle Beach, between Eighth and 63rd Streets from the ocean to the bay.

“Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado said Scott called him Thursday afternoon, shortly before announcing the news, to tell Regalado that a new Zika zone had been identified in his city less than a month after state and federal health officials had cleared the Wynwood area of active transmission Sept. 19.

“Regalado said he’s concerned about the people who live in the new Zika zone, which unlike Wynwood is primarily residential. The area includes St. Mary’s Cathedral and Athalie Range Park, and two high schools — Miami Northwestern and Miami Edison — border the zone.

“Miami Commission Chairman Keon Hardemon, whose district includes Wynwood and the new zone in Little River, said he was “disappointed” by the announcement. He said it confirmed his office’s recent warnings to area residents that they should not let down their guard on Zika just because they live outside the ‘box,’ a reference to the one-square-mile zone previously identified in Wynwood.

“Hardemon said both the state and federal government need to pour more money and resources into fighting the spread of the virus in Miami.

“’We were all blindsided by this bit of information,’ he said, ’and that’s why it was always important for us to protect ourselves from the Zika virus the best we can without considering it’s just within one area.’

“For Hardemon, the Zika threat has been personal.

“His wife gave birth to a healthy baby girl Oct. 6, he said. But the couple is still waiting for the state health department to deliver the results of Zika tests they both took shortly after learning July 29 that mosquitoes were spreading the virus in Wynwood near their home.”

Source: Miami Herald

October 16, 2016: Zika Syndrome: Health Problems Mount as Babies Turn 1

“Two weeks shy of his first birthday, doctors began feeding Jose Wesley Campos through a nose tube because swallowing problems had left him dangerously underweight.

“Learning how to feed is the baby’s latest struggle as medical problems mount for him and many other infants born with small heads to mothers infected with the Zika virus in Brazil.

“’It hurts me to see him like this. I didn’t want this for him,’ said Jose’s mother, Solange Ferreira, breaking into tears as she cradled her son.

“A year after a spike in the number of newborns with the defect known as microcephaly, doctors and researchers have seen many of the babies develop swallowing difficulties, epileptic seizures and vision and hearing problems.

“While more study is needed, Zika-caused microcephaly appears to be causing more severe problems in these infants than in patients born with small heads because of the other infections known to cause microcephaly, such as German measles and herpes. The problems are so particular that doctors are now calling the condition congenital Zika syndrome.

“’We are seeing a lot of seizures. And now they are having many problems eating, so a lot of these children start using feeding tubes,’ said Dr. Vanessa Van der Linden, a pediatric neurologist in Recife who was one of the first doctors to suspect that Zika caused microcephaly.

“Zika, mainly transmitted by mosquito, was not known to cause birth defects until a large outbreak swept through northeastern states in Latin America’s largest nation, setting off alarm worldwide. Numerous studies confirmed the link.

“Seven percent of the babies with microcephaly that Van der Linden and her team have treated were also born with arm and leg deformities that had not previously been linked to other causes of microcephaly, she said.

“To complicate matters, there are babies whose heads were normal at birth but stopped growing proportionally months later. Other infants infected with the virus in the womb did not have microcephaly but developed different problems, such as a patient of Van der Linden’s who started having difficulties moving his left hand.

“’We may not even know about the ones with slight problems out there,’ Van der Linden said. ‘We are writing the history of this disease.’

“On a recent day, Jose laid on a blue mat wearing just brown moccasins and a diaper, his bony chest pressed by a respiratory therapist helping him clear congested airways.

“Jose, who has been visited by The Associated Press three times in the last year, is like a newborn. He is slow to follow objects with his crossed eyes. His head is unsteady when he tries to hold it up, and he weighs less than 13 pounds, far below the 22 pounds that is average for a baby his age.

“Breathing problems make his cries sound like gargling, and his legs stiffen when he is picked up. To see, he must wear tiny blue-rimmed glasses, which makes him fussy.

“Arthur Conceicao, who recently turned 1, has seizures every day despite taking medication for epilepsy. He also started taking high-calorie formula through a tube after he appeared to choke during meals.

“’It’s every mom’s dream to see their child open his mouth and eat well,’ said his mother, Rozilene Ferreira, adding that each day seems to bring new problems.

“Studies are underway to determine if the timing of the infection during pregnancy affects the severity of the abnormalities, said Ricardo Ximenes, a researcher at the Fiocruz Institute in Recife.

“Also, three groups of babies whose mothers were infected with Zika are being followed for a study funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health. The groups include infants born with microcephaly, some born with normal-sized heads found to have brain damage or other physical problems and babies who have not had any symptoms or developmental delays.

“At birth, Bernardo Oliveira’s head measured more than 13 inches, well within the average range. His mother, Barbara Ferreira, thought her child was spared from the virus that had infected her during pregnancy and stricken many newborns in maternity wards in her hometown of Caruaru, a small city 80 miles west of Recife.

“But Bernardo cried nonstop. The pediatrician told Ferreira that her baby was likely colicky and would get better by his third month. Instead, the crying got worse, so Ferreira took him to a government-funded event where neurologists were seeing patients with suspected brain damage.

“’At the end of the second month, beginning of the third, his head stopped growing,’ Ferreira said. ‘Bernardo was afflicted by the Zika virus after all. I was in despair.’

“In Brazil, the government has reported 2,001 cases of microcephaly or other brain malformations in the last year. So far, only 343 have been confirmed by tests to have been caused by Zika, but the Health Ministry argues that the rest are most likely caused by the virus.

“Health Minister Ricardo Barros said there was a drop of 85 percent in microcephaly cases in August and September compared to those months last year, when the first births started worrying pediatricians. He credited growing awareness of the virus and government attempts to combat mosquitoes through spraying campaigns.

“Despite all the problems, some infants with the syndrome are showing signs of progress.

“On a recent evening, 11-month-old Joao Miguel Silva Nunes pulled himself up in his playpen and played peek-a-boo with his mother, Rosileide da Silva.

“‘He is my source of pride,’ Silva said. ‘He makes me feel that things are working out.’”

Source: ABC News

October 15, 2016: Zika Virus Cases Soar in Asia, WHO Says

“Zika infections are expected to continue rising in the Asia-Pacific region, where authorities are increasing surveillance, preparing responses to complications and collaborating on information about the disease, the World Health Organization said Monday.

“Complicating the fight against the virus, spread by mosquitoes, is the lack of a ‘foolproof’ approach to mosquito control, as shown by decades of efforts to contain dengue virus, WHO Director General Margaret Chan said in her address to a Western Pacific regional meeting of the world health body.

“She said other questions included why the first signs of the virus’s existence in the Asia-Pacific region came from travelers whose infections were confirmed once they returned home.

“’Is this weak surveillance an indication of population-wide immunity, or proof that the virus has somehow acquired greater epidemic potential?’ she asked.

“Zika symptoms are mild and no deaths have been reported globally, said Dr. Li Ailan, director for health security and emergencies at WHO’s Western Pacific regional office. But she said based on WHO’s risk assessment, Zika viral infection will continue to spread in the region and authorities are preparing for complications.

“The complications include like microcephaly and Guillain-Barre syndrome. Babies born to Zika-infected mothers have been found to have microcephaly, or a birth defect where the head is abnormally small and brains might not have developed properly. Guillain-Barre syndrome is a disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks part of the peripheral nervous system.

“The Western Pacific region is the second most Zika-affected region in the world, Li said. Nineteen of its 27 countries have reported Zika cases since 2007 and 13 of them this year.

“Dr. Shin Young-soo, WHO’s Western Pacific regional head, said they are working very hard to increase surveillance and detection of Zika, and long-term response to the disease are among the topics to be discussed at the five-day conference.”

Source: NBC News

October 14, 2016: Evidence Mounting Zika Virus Causes Paralytic Disease

Aedes aegypti mosquitos, potential carriers of the Zika virus, are photographed in a laboratory at the University of El Salvador, in San Salvador, Feb. 3, 2016. Researchers have found that during the height of the viral epidemic the incidence of the paralytic illness Guillain-Barre was 100 times the number of cases usually seen.

“Researchers have discovered the strongest evidence yet linking the Zika virus to the paralytic illness Guillain-Barre syndrome. During the height of the viral epidemic the incidence of Guillain-Barre was 100 times the number of cases usually seen.

“Guillain-Barre is a normally rare condition that affects the peripheral nervous system, the nerves in arms and legs that are responsible for sensation and movement. The immune system attacks the fatty myelin coating of the nerves that protect and speed signals from the brain to the limbs.

“Zika is in a family of viruses transmitted by mosquitoes called flavivirus, including dengue fever, yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis and chikungunya.

“Normally, there are between one and two cases of Guillian-Barre per hundred thousand adults according to Carlos Pardo, a neurologist and pathologist at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland and lead author of a study published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine.

“But at the height of the Zika epidemic between January and June in Colombia, where the study was conducted, hospitals were seeing 10 to 15 cases per week.

“Pardo and colleagues from six institutions in the U.S., Central and South America established the first biological evidence connecting Zika to Guillain-Barre.

“Investigators recruited 68 patients but because of research limitations were only able to look for evidence of Zika in 42 patients complaining of symptoms of Guillain-Barre syndrome. They underwent a genetics test looking for Zika RNA.

“Seventeen – or 40 percent – of patients showed the virus’ genetic footprint.

“Pardo’s team also conducted blood and urine tests on each patient. Investigators were able to culture the virus in the urine and found immune system-produced antibodies against Zika in the blood samples. The most positive results were in the urine.”

Source: VOA News

October 13, 2016: Alphabet is Working to Squash the Zika Virus, Too

Verily has a few ideas for stopping the disease in its tracks.

“There are a few ways to kill off a pest: eliminate its food supply, or, make sure it can’t effectively procreate. Since the pest in question for this post is mosquitos, the former solution isn’t an option. So, Verily, the life-science division of Alphabet Inc., is addressing the Zika-carrier with a spin on the latter, according to MIT Technology Review.

“As is normal with the company’s far-fetched projects, the anti-mosquito experiments have mostly been done under the veil of secrecy. But because one of the tests involves driving vans into neighborhoods and releasing millions of altered male mosquitoes, Verily is pulling the curtain back a little bit.

“’People in some parts of the U.S. are asking for help,’ Verily’s vice president of engineering Linus Upson told Technology Review. ‘But if we are going to release mosquitoes in the real world, we need to talk to communities. This isn’t like launching a consumer internet service.’

“And he’s right. One method of stopping the diminutive airborne scourge is administering a gene drive, a DNA construct that turns poisonous when passed onto offspring. That’s still in its infancy. Another is infecting the bugs with the bacteria Wolbachia, which, when carried by males, causes females eggs to not be fertilized properly. From the sounds of it, that one is in the embryonic stages as well, but the closest to being tested and accepted by communities. For example, trials from other companies using methods similar to that haven’t caused any public outcry.

“The FDA has already approved using genetically modified mosquitoes to combat Zika, so perhaps Verily’s efforts will see the light of day sooner rather than later.”

Source: Engadget

October 12, 2016: Hurricane Matthew Could Help Zika Fight

“Hurricane Matthew started pounding the eastern coast of Florida as far south as Miami last Thursday afternoon. The storm has been described as historic and extremely dangerous. But there may be one benefit to the storm’s torrential rains: It could put a temporary halt on the mosquitoes that spread the Zika virus.

“To date, there have been 141 locally transmitted cases of Zika reported in Florida since the end of July.

“What does that have to do with a hurricane? Adult mosquitoes get washed away by heavy rain. This includes Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which transmit the Zika virus. In the short term, from the first few days to about a week after the storm, the mosquito cycle is naturally interrupted — and that can have a beneficial effect on Zika transmission. In fact, initially after a big storm, there can be a decrease in all mosquitoes.

“The first mosquitoes to reappear aren’t the types that cause a public health concern.

“’We associate severe rain events like tropical events and hurricanes with increases in nuisance mosquitoes, not with disease-spreading (mosquitoes),’ said Ben Beard, chief of the Bacterial Diseases Branch in the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Vector-Borne Diseases.

“Heavy rains and flooding wash away larvae from Zika-carrying mosquitoes’ breeding sites, such as tires, bottlecaps, bird baths and flower pots, he explained.

“Another benefit: The storm is hitting late in the season. ‘The mosquito population naturally declines starting in September. As the season begins to change, the mosquito threat naturally begins to go down, so in this sense, time is on our side,’ Beard said.

“Looking ahead to the next few weeks, it’s difficult to know the risk. The CDC is continuing to work with the Florida Department of Health to monitor the situation there.

“’We are watching this very closely,’ Beard said. ‘The bottom line is that as cases are identified, mosquito-control measures are enacted. In the meantime, there is lots of mosquito surveillance to identify these populations’ of infected mosquitoes.

Source: CNN

October 11, 2016: Hurricane Matthew Could Make Florida's Zika Problem Worse

Heavy rainfall means more standing water—but tropical storms have other curious links to mosquito-borne illnesses, too.

“As the United States prepares to be walloped by Hurricane Matthew, the now Category 4 storm that’s churning its way toward the southeast of the country, Florida finds itself in a particularly dangerous spot.

“’I cannot emphasize enough that everyone in our state must prepare now for a direct hit,’ Florida’s governor, Rick Scott, told reporters on Wednesday morning. Scott says he expects Matthew to devastate his state no matter where it makes landfall.

“For Floridians, there’s another layer of concern: What will the hurricane mean for the ongoing Zika threat? Florida remains the only state in the U.S. where Zika has been transmitted locally—that is, spread by mosquito populations on the ground rather than imported by people who got sick from the virus elsewhere. Despite assurances from officials that they have the virus under control, new cases continue to pop up.

“Hurricane Matthew could further complicate efforts to stop the spread of the disease, which can cause grave outcomes—especially for developing fetuses whose mothers are infected.

“’So in the first wave of wind, heavy rains, and storm surge—it could even have a beneficial effect in terms of washing away mosquito breeding sites,’ says Peter Hotez, a pediatrician and the dean for the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College, ‘but then as the waters recede, it could leave residual reservoirs of water in human-made containers that could breed Aedes aegypti.’ (The Aedes aegypti mosquito is one of the main carriers of Zika, dengue fever, yellow fever, and other diseases.) But given that it’s relatively late in the season for the spread of such viruses—even in muggy Floirda—’we might not see this effect,’ Hotez told me.

“Still, there are other factors to consider. After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, for instance, researchers with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found a spike in neurologic disease associated with the West Nile Virus, another illness spread by mosquitoes. Despite the population decline in the region in the aftermath of the hurricane, the total number of cases of West Nile neuroinvasive disease jumped by 50 percent.

“One reason for the spike, the researchers wrote in a 2008 paper, was likely increased exposure. ‘Tens of thousands of persons in the hurricane-affected region were living in damaged housing or were waiting outside for days to be evacuated.’

“Even without the chaos of a hurricane, housing is already one of the major factors that contributes to a person’s risk of getting Zika. High rates of the disease have been reported in neighborhoods where houses don’t have screens or air conditioning—making residents more likely to prop open doors to keep cool.

“’That’s why poor neighborhoods are disproportionately affected,’ Hotez said.

“But increased exposure only explains so much. The jump in West Nile disease after Katrina was so substantial, scientists say, that more study about the link between hurricanes and mosquito-borne illnesses is necessary.”

Source: The Atlantic

October 10, 2016: Parenting Tips on Fighting Zika

“It seems like the Zika virus is in the news a lot lately. With at least nine confirmed cases in Florida, Zika can cause birth defects in babies and can also cause a whole host of other uncomfortable symptoms like fevers, rashes, joint pain and red eyes. It can be spread through mosquito bites and can also be sexually transmitted, but the biggest threat is posed to pregnant women and young children.

“So how do you keep a family in Florida, what seems to be the mosquito center of the country, safe from bites? It may seem a little bit scary or confusing when you try to learn how to keep your kids safe from mosquitos– especially when you are trying to look for natural remedies. Fortunately, there are safer alternatives to keeping your kids, and yourself from being bitten by mosquitoes that just staying inside 24 hours a day.

“One of the easiest ways to prevent Zika, or any bite for that matter, is to limit the amount of skin exposed. Since it is transmitted through mosquito bites, it is important to take precautions against mosquitoes. Remember: Since Florida tends to stay warmer in the fall and winter, mosquitoes don’t typically go away once summer ends.

“You can also avoid mosquitoes if you stay away from wearing dark colors as mosquitoes are attracted to darker colored clothing.

“The CDC also recommends:

- Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
- Stay in places with air conditioning or that use window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside.
- Sleep under a mosquito bed net if you are overseas or outside and are not able to protect yourself from mosquito bites.

Natural Bug Repellent

“While the CDC recommends that you use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents, you still will want to make sure that there are no harmful chemicals like DEET. No matter what insect repellent you use, it is important to make sure that you re-apply often and that you remember to still use regular sunscreen.

“Many parents choose to make their own insect repellent, which can be much better when it comes to knowing what you are putting on your child’s skin. While we want to protect them from Zika, we also don’t want to panic and douse their body’s largest organ, the skin, with chemicals that will get into their blood and harm them in the long run.

“There are several oils that can repel bugs, including: Citronella, Clove, Lemongrass, Lemon Eucalyptus, Cedarwood, Rosemary, Tea Tree, Eucalyptus, Cedar, Catnip, Lavender, Peppermint, Basil, Rose Geranium, Cinnamon Oil, Thyme, Lemon, Orange, Pine– however it is important never to apply these oils directly to the skin.

“Each oil repels a different type of bug, so if your children are getting frequent mosquito bites, they should use citronella, lemon eucalyptus, peppermint, lemon, eucalyptus, catnip, basil, clove, thyme, lemongrass, geranium, lavender. If they are getting flea bites around their ankles while playing in the grass, they should use cedarwood, citronella, eucalyptus, tea tree oil, lemongrass, lavender, orange, and pine.

“The blend that I use repels bugs and helps to heal existing bites. All you do is fill the rollerball container or spray bottle 2/3 full with a carrier oil or distilled water. Then add 5-10 drops of eucalyptus, citronella and lavender to repel the bugs. To help cleanse bug bites, add 3-5 drops of tea tree oil. The lavender and tea tree also work together to heal bites and stop itching. I also apply this to my pet’s collars so that bugs will leave them alone as well.If you choose to create your own blend based on the different bugs in your area, be sure to use a carrier oil and a few different oils (for example, if you want to kill mosquitos, use both peppermint, eucalyptus and lavender).

Source: Daytime

October 9, 2016: Zika Vaccine Prevents Neurological Defects in Mouse Study

“Two Zika vaccines effectively passed Zika immunity from a vaccinated mother to newborn mice, thereby successfully protecting them from neurological defects associated with the virus, according to a research paper published in EBioMedicine.

“One of the vaccines was delivered using a microneedle array, which is essentially a small patch affixed to the skin that delivers the vaccine through tiny dissolving crystals. The other vaccine was delivered via traditional needle delivery and used an adenovirus, or common cold, to present Zika to the immune system. Both vaccines were designed to use proteins on the outer shell of the virus to create an antigen and incite a reaction from the body’s immune system.

“For the study, three groups of five female mice were either administered one of the two vaccines or given a saline solution placebo. Two weeks after the initial vaccination, mice were given a booster shot of whatever vaccine they’d received. Blood samples were extracted and tested at two week intervals from the date of initial immunization forward. Mice vaccinated with the traditional needle vaccine displayed immunity after two weeks. Mice treated with the microneedle array experienced immunity after six weeks.

“Five weeks after immunization, the vaccinated female mice mated with unvaccinated males. Additionally, because mice do not experience the birth defect microcephaly, the newborn mice were all exposed to the Zika virus one week after birth. All of the pups from mothers immunized with adenovirus Zika vaccine and 50 percent of the pups from the mothers who were administered the microneedle array vaccine survived infection. Only 12.5 percent of the newborn mice from mothers in the saline solution control group survived. All mice pups in the control group displayed signs of neurological damage. Five of six pups born to females in the microneedle array cohort also experienced neurological damage, though it was less severe than those experienced among the placebo control group.

“While none of the adenovirus vaccine pups experienced neurological defects, that particular vaccine is less likely to be successful in people because the vast majority of humanity has had an adenovirus cold, which would prohibit the vaccine from developing effective Zika antibodies.

“‘We decided to move forward with the microneedle array Zika vaccine and have since developed a promising, second-generation vaccine,’ said the study’s senior author Andrea Gambotto, MD, associate professor of surgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. ‘We are hopeful, now that Congress has approved the $1.1 billion bill to provide funding for Zika prevention and research, that we’ll be able to do larger-scale studies to evaluate and develop this vaccine for possible human clinical trials in the future.’”

October 8, 2016: More Zika Mosquitoes in Miami Beach as State Reports Six New Local Infections

“More Zika-infected mosquitoes have been captured in South Beach, Miami-Dade officials announced Tuesday, as the state health department also reported that the number of local infections occurring outside of the identified transmission 4.5-square-mile zone in Miami Beach had risen again.

“The new batch of mosquitoes carrying Zika was retrieved on Sept. 23 from a trap at 1810 Jefferson Avenue — about two blocks from the Miami Beach Botanical Garden, where county officials found infected mosquitoes on Aug. 23. In total, county officials have found Zika mosquitoes at seven different locations in Miami Beach since late August.

“Mosquitoes retrieved from the Jefferson Avenue site were tested for Zika by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and the finding now must be confirmed by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, county officials said.

“Prior to Sept. 28, Miami-Dade officials refused to identify addresses where they had captured the infected insects, citing a state statute that allows the information to be kept confidential but does not require secrecy. It took a Miami Herald lawsuit for Miami Beach residents to learn they were living beside Zika mosquitoes.

“On Tuesday, county officials said they alerted nearby residents to their findings on Jefferson Avenue. Mosquito control workers also inspected the area for breeding sites, and sprayed insecticide within a 1/8-mile area surrounding the property, according to county officials.

“As officials worked to stamp out Zika mosquitoes in Miami Beach, the Florida Department of Health reported six more local infections in Miami-Dade — two cases in Miami Beach and four cases requiring investigations to determine the area of exposure.

Source: Miami Herald

October 7, 2016: New Health Alert Urging More Zika Testing Along Texas-Mexico Border

“The Texas Department of State Health Services issued an alert to doctors Monday, urging more Zika virus testing along the Texas-Mexico border and Gulf Coast.

“Less than a month ago an NBC 5 Investigation revealed only handfuls of people had been tested in some south Texas counties with the highest risk.

“The alert asks doctors to increase testing for Zika in six border counties, including Hidaglo County, along with Webb, Cameron, Starr, Willacy and Zapata counties. Specifically, the alert recommends doctors test all pregnant women in those counties if they have two or more Zika signs or symptoms, even if they have no history of traveling to other countries where Zika is actively transmitted.

“Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine in Houston, told NBC 5 Investigates Monday the alert is a good start, but more south Texas counties may need to be added.

“’I might consider expanding the area where we are going to do expanded Zika testing to Harris County as well as possibly Bexar County as well,” said Hotez.

“All of those counties in south Texas have historically seen more mosquitoes that can carry the Zika virus, one reason health officials have long feared the Rio Grande Valley could be one of the first places hit by Zika in Texas.

“In September, NBC 5 Investigates traveled to the border region and found few people had been tested for Zika.

“The investigation found just 25 people had been tested in Hidalgo County, which is home to more than 800,000 people. In Webb County just four people had been tested in mid-September.

NBC 5 Investigates shared those numbers with Dr. Hotez last month, who was concerned not enough was being done.

“‘It means there’s no active surveillance. We are not doing any active detection of Zika transmission,” said Hotez.

“He fears a lack of testing in some south Texas counties could cause dangerous delays in detecting the first cases of local transmission of Zika.

“‘A key point here is that we may already have transmission underway in Texas, Louisiana and the Gulf Coast,’ Hotez told NBC 5 Investigates last month.”

Source: NBC News Dallas Forth Worth

October 6, 2016: Zika Virus Birth Defects Don’t Stop at Microcephaly

“As Zika virus infections continue to spread, with cases reported in parts of Florida and southeast Asia, most people are familiar with the virus’s most damaging effects: on the developing fetus during pregnancy. The most common consequence of infection is an underdeveloped brain, or microcephaly.

“Not all babies who are exposed to the virus during pregnancy are affected by Zika; scientists currently believe that only about 10% to 20% of babies are.

“When they are, however, they can show very different symptoms. In a report published in JAMA Neurology, researchers led by Dr. Amicar Tanuri at Universidade Federal de Rio de Janeiro in Brazil—a country with one of the highest numbers of affected babies born in the past year—say that microcephaly is only one of the many effects of the virus on fetal brains. Among the 11 babies studied, in whom Zika virus was confirmed in amniotic fluid and cord blood, three died within 48 hours after birth. Nine showed microcephaly, but two showed normal or even enlarged head circumference. All of the babies did, however, show signs of neurological abnormalities, including calcium lesions in parts of the brain, restricted growth and underdevelopment of the brain stem and cerebellum, which coordinates muscle movements.

“’The general public is used to the term microcephaly for the babies congenitally infected by Zika. However, microcephaly is not the only thing that happens with fetal Zika infection,’ says Tanuri. ‘This virus can disturb the normal development of the human brain by killing primary neural cells as well as delaying or modifying the movement of brain cells during development. If the lesions are very drastic the babies do not survive, and the ones that survive carry severe developmental or cognitive delays or deficits.’

“The data involves just a small number of cases, but it provides a more comprehensive picture of how the virus seems to target developing brain cells. The results highlight the need for women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant to avoid areas with infected mosquitoes and to protect themselves from mosquito bites by covering exposed areas and removing any standing water, where mosquitoes like to breed, from their surroundings. There are no vaccines or treatments for Zika infection yet, but researchers are working on those, as well as studying whether a previous Zika infection can protect women by giving them a chance to produce antibodies against the virus.”

Source: TIME

October 5, 2016: Zika Might Spread in Sweat and Tears, Doctors Warn

“The Zika virus may spread in sweat and tears in some cases, doctors cautioned Thursday.

“The case of a Utah man who infected his adult son before he died leaves no other alternatives, the team at the University of Utah School of Medicine said.

“And — more bad news — the 73-year-old patient who died really was not very sick before he caught Zika, which suggests that the virus can occasionally kill people who are not frail and ill.

“Dr. Sankar Swaminathan and colleagues describe the case in the New England Journal of Medicine.

“The patient, who died in July, was the first in the 50 U.S. states to be killed by Zika. He’d been treated for prostate cancer but wasn’t especially ill from that, the team wrote in their report.

“’Eight days before admission, he had returned from a 3-week trip to the southwest coast of Mexico, where Zika virus transmission had been reported. He was well during his trip but reported being bitten by mosquitoes,’ the team wrote.

“He developed muscle aches, diarrhea and other symptoms. The team thought he had dengue, a virus very closely related to Zika that’s spread by the same mosquitoes.

“He died from respiratory and kidney failure four days after being infected, they said. Later tests showed the older man in fact had Zika, and had an extraordinary amount of the virus in his blood — thousands of times more than usual. He’d had dengue in the past, but not recently.

“Then his 38-year-old son got sick, and developed the rash that’s characteristic of Zika infection.

“’Patient 2 reported having assisted a nurse in repositioning Patient 1 in bed without using gloves. Patient 2 also reported having wiped Patient 1’s eyes during the hospitalization but reported having had no other overt contact with blood or other body fluids, including splashes or mucous membrane exposure,’ the team wrote.

“The younger man had not traveled, and the mosquitoes that spread Zika are not found in Utah. Investigators spent weeks trying to figure out how he got infected.

“’Given the very high level of viremia in Patient 1, infectious levels of virus may have been present in sweat or tears, both of which Patient 2 contacted without gloves,’ Swaminathan’s team concluded.

“That’s known to happen with Ebola, a different type of virus. When patients got extremely high levels of the virus in their blood, even their sweat became infectious to others.

“’Whether contact with highly infectious body fluids from patients with severe Zika virus infection poses an increased risk of transmission is an important question that requires further research.”

Source: NBC News

October 4, 2016: Study Finds Zika Infects Neural Cells Related to skull formation

“The Zika virus causing an epidemic in Brazil and spreading through the Americas can infect and alter cells in the human nervous system that are crucial for formation of bones and cartilage in the skull, a study found on Thursday.

“The research, published in the journal Cell Host & Microbe, may help explain why babies children born with to mother who have had the virus can have smaller-than-average skulls and disproportionate facial features.

“Zika has already been shown to attack foetal brain cells known as neural progenitor cells – a type of stem cell that gives rise to various kinds of brain cells.

The death of these cells is what disrupts brain development and leads to microcephaly, the severe birth defect seen in babies whose mothers were infected with Zika during pregnancy.

“American scientists who conducted this latest study by infecting human cells with Zika in the lab, found the virus can infect another type of cell known as cranial neural crest cells – which give rise to skull bones and cartilage – and cause them to secrete signaling molecules that alter their function.

“In the lab, the increased levels of these molecules were enough to induce premature differentiation, migration, and death of human neural progenitor cells, the researchers said.

“’In addition to direct effects of Zika virus on neural progenitors and their derivatives, this virus could affect brain development indirectly, through a signaling cross-talk between embryonic cell types,’ says Joanna Wysocka, a chemical and systems biologist at the Stanford University School of Medicine who co-led the study.

“She added that neural crest cells may be just one example, and that the same mechanism may also be relevant to other tissues that come in contact with a foetus’ developing brain during head formation and could be infected by Zika.

“The Zika virus has spread to almost 60 countries and territories since the current outbreak was identified last year in Brazil, raising alarm over its ability to cause microcephaly as well as other neurological disorders in infants and adults.

“Brazil has been the country hardest hit so far, with more than 1,800 reported cases of microcephaly.

“Wysoka’s team cautioned that their work did not provide direct proof that Zika virus infects cranial neural crest cells in live animals or humans. Follow-up research would also be needed to look for any evidence that the virus’ effect on these cells would be enough to cause microcephaly, they said.”

Source: FOX News

October 3, 2016: Miami Beach Residents Not Told When Zika-Positive Mosquitoes Found Nearby

This update from Daniel Change in Miami. "Miami Beach residents living and working near four sites where traps captured Zika-positive mosquitoes in August and September said public health officials didn’t tell them until Wednesday — after the Miami Herald sued to get the locations — that the traps were as close as their back yards and school yards, potentially upping their risk.

“’I feel it was a real failure of communication,’ said Galen Treuer, 37, a student at the University of Miami who lives at 1236 Drexel Ave., one of four Miami Beach addresses identified Wednesday by Miami-Dade mosquito control officials. ‘They weren’t giving out information to reduce our exposure.’

“Paola Castro, a 33-year-old who lives in an apartment building at another of the sites — 1619 Meridian Ave., just south of Lincoln Road Mall — said she would have liked to have known, too. ‘That’s information they should say immediately, so people can take precautions, like not dressing in black and wearing repellent,’ she said.

“Nearly all of the locations in Miami Beach where traps captured mosquitoes carrying Zika virus are in residential areas, though some are next to schools and near tourist destinations. The county identified four addresses in South Beach after the Miami Herald filed a lawsuit against Miami-Dade seeking the locations.

“In addition to the Drexel Avenue and Meridian Avenue sites, the county said the Zika-carrying mosquitoes were trapped at 932 Lenox Ave., a yellow, two-story townhouse on a residential block, and 2378 Prairie Ave., a single-family home across the street from Miami Beach Senior High and near Hebrew Academy’s Rabbi Alexander Gross High School, the Miami Beach Golf Club and the Bayshore Municipal Golf Course.

“A fifth site — Miami Beach Botanical Garden at 2000 Convention Center Dr. — was identified on Sept. 1, when Florida’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services first announced that traps had captured mosquitoes carrying Zika. However, the garden had been closed three days prior to the announcement.

“The mosquitoes trapped at the five locations tested positive for Zika in late August and early September. But subsequent samples captured at the same sites have been negative for the virus, Miami-Dade officials said.”

Source: The Miami Herald

October 2, 2016: Congress Clears Stopgap Spending Bill, $1.1 Billion to Fight Zika

“Averting an election-year crisis, Congress late Wednesday sent President Barack Obama a bill to keep the government operating through Dec. 9 and provide $1.1 billion in long-delayed funding to battle the Zika virus.

“The House cleared the measure by a 342-85 vote just hours after a bipartisan Senate tally. The votes came after top congressional leaders broke through a stalemate over aid to help Flint, Michigan, address its water crisis. Democratic advocates for Flint are now satisfied with renewed guarantees that Flint will get funding later this year to help rid its water system of lead.

“The hybrid spending measure was Capitol Hill’s last major to-do item before the election and its completion allows lawmakers to jet home to campaign to save their jobs. Congress won’t return to Washington until the week after Election Day for what promises to be a difficult lame-duck session.

“The bill caps months of wrangling over money to fight the mosquito-borne Zika virus. It also includes $500 million for rebuilding assistance to flood-ravaged Louisiana and other states.

Source: Chicago Tribune

October 1, 2016: Zika Virus Damage Can Mislead Parents, Experts Say

“The 2-month-old baby looks exceptional. She’s crawling forward at an age when most infants cannot even roll over. Another tiny infant sits straight up when her foot is tickled.

“Sometimes the parents are pleased, and see these behaviors as a sign that Zika may not have damaged their babies as badly as they feared.

“But in fact, these reflexes are a sign of the profound mess the virus has made in their developing brains, said Dr. Vanessa Van der Linden, the pediatric neurologist in Recife, Brazil, who sounded the first public alert about Zika.

“’That is not usual. That is not normal,’ Van der Linden told a meeting on Zika virus in babies sponsored by the (NICHD) National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, one of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland.

“The reflexes making these young infants seem so developmentally accelerated come from the brain stem, and they are supposed to stop a few weeks after birth. They’re the same reflexes that cause a newborn to grasp her father’s finger or root for her mother’s breast.

“The pediatricians, neurologists, and child development specialists in the small meeting room gasp and murmur as Van der Linden shows videos of some of the babies she’s treated at her clinic.

“They squall and stiffen their limbs in a way familiar to pediatricians who deliberately startle young infants to check their reflexes.

“But these babies aren’t startled, and they don’t relax as they should after a few seconds. They stay stiff — the medical term is hypertonic. And they cry.

“’They cry a lot,’ Van der Linden told the meeting. ‘Sometimes they cry 24 hours a day.’

“Zika virus continues to spread in many parts of the world, explosively in the warmer parts of Latin America and the Caribbean. It’s caused at least two outbreaks in Florida, which now counts more than 100 homegrown Zika virus infections.

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it’s tracking at least 749 pregnant women with Zika infections in the United States and another 1,348 in territories such as Puerto Rico.

“The CDC says 20 babies have been born in the U.S. with Zika-related birth defects and five were miscarried, stillborn or aborted because of catastrophic defects.

“What’s becoming clear is that Zika’s hallmark birth defect — microcephaly — is only the most obvious symptom. As babies damaged by Zika infection get to four months, six months, a year old, more problems are showing up.

“’I think it is likely that the kinds of findings we are seeing now are the tip of the iceberg,’ said Dr. Sonja Rasmussen of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“To Van der Linden, it looks as if their underdeveloped brains continue to operate reflexively, in the way that keeps newborns alive and suckling. These reflexes are good at first, but babies need to outgrow them and behave consciously if they are to grow up normally.

“Zika babies often don’t, she said.

“Brain scans show seizure-like activity in many of the babies. It’s clearly uncomfortable for them, although giving them pain medication does not seem to help, Van der Linden said.

“’Some patients improve only after we treat them for epilepsy,’ she said.

“Many also have terrible, painful reflux — caused when food and stomach acid bubble up into the esophagus. It’s being caused because the infants are not suckling properly, using the reflex instead of coordinated sucking, she said.

“The result is many cannot eat enough. ‘They often have delayed or impaired gastric emptying,’ Van der Linden said.

“’The patients sometimes are able to eat only 30 ml of milk,’ she said. That’s about a 10th of a cup. ‘They have a very small capacity to eat,’ she said.

“Based on that, many Zika-damaged babies may not live long, said Dr. Steven Miller of the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Canada.

“’I am not sure how many of the severely affected kids are going to get to school age,’ Miller said. ‘It is hard to imagine the brain growing well without adequate nutrition.’

“In addition, some babies born looking normal have regressed, Van der Linden said. ‘At birth, they were normal. Head circumference was normal. But now they have microcephaly,’ she said.

“That fits in with other reports showing Zika virus infections may continue to damage a newborn’s brain after birth.

“Researchers at the meeting expressed concern about symptoms such as autism and schizophrenia as children who seem to have escaped Zika’s worst damage grow older.

“Dr. Camila Ventura of the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Miami said her team’s also found some evidence on ongoing damage in the babies’ eyes.

“’The babies that have congenital Zika syndrome, their vision is severely impaired,’ she said. The eyes look normal, but they don’t function properly, Ventura said.

“’The children need to be monitored for some time. Some of these manifestations are only beginning to show months out,’ said NICHD director Dr. Catherine Spong.

“‘The impact on the family cannot be understated.’”

Source: NBC News

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