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Blog | December 2016

December 20, 2016: With Latest Zika Research, Our Picture of The Virus Gets Cloudier

“Are you starting to think the Zika epidemic is the most confusing outbreak ever?

“Join the club.

“Since Zika surfaced on the global radar about a year ago, scientists have been trying to figure out if what seemed like a pretty paltry virus could cause serious birth defects if it infected a fetus in the womb and, if so, how often?

“There is really no doubt now that the answer to the first question is yes. Over the course of 2016 a lot of science has been published showing that the Zika virus wreaks havoc on a developing brain if it gets into a fetus.

“But the ‘how often?’ question — well, that remains a mystery. And two new reports this week — from top-flight research teams in top-drawer medical journals — not only failed to arrive at a consensus, they may have sown more confusion.

“A word of warning: Scores of studies like these are in the works and will hit the medical literature in coming months. That could mean the picture will become blurrier before it starts to come into focus.

“Still, Maria Van Kerkhove, an epidemiologist with the Pasteur Institute in Paris, is delighted so many studies are underway.

“’But as a scientist and as someone who has to communicate this, it’s a mess. Because all of these [studies] are at different stages, they’ve all been using different methodologies, so that’s confusing,’ Van Kerkhove said.

“Van Kerkhove has studied Zika, but she was not involved in the two articles that came out this week. Let’s head back to them.

“One looked at a group of 125 pregnant Brazilian women from Rio de Janeiro who were known to have been infected with Zika. Scientists found the pregnancies of 46 percent were affected in some way — the pregnancy was lost or the baby had some signs of brain problems. When they looked only at the babies born, 42 percent showed some issues that might have been related to Zika.

“The other study, conducted by scientists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, looked at pregnancy outcomes in 442 women in the US who tested positive for Zika. The research team calculated the rate of bad outcomes — birth defects — at 6 percent.

“There’s a whole lot of daylight between those figures. And yet, interestingly, neither group is challenging the other’s findings.

“And they found some things that are similar. For instance, the rate of cases of microcephaly, in which an infant is born with an abnormally small head, was very similar in the two studies — 3 or 4 percent in total, 10 or 11 percent if infection occurred in the first trimester of pregnancy.

“But what about the differences?

“Before we answer that question, we need to provide some important context.

“A fetus infected today during the first trimester won’t be born for months. And in many cases it may take weeks or months after birth to realize that a baby can’t hear or can’t see or isn’t developing cognitively at the rate other babies are.

“As a result, the scientists who reported the high number of bad outcomes, the 42 percent, cast a very wide net when they were looking for problems Zika may have caused.

“That team, made up of researchers from Brazil and the US, included pregnancy losses (miscarriages and stillbirths), obvious birth defects linked to Zika, and even signs of possible brain changes seen using imaging technologies. The study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

“Some of those anomalies — for instance, cerebral palsy-like limb stiffness — will have an impact on the lives of these babies. But it won’t be known for a while if, or to what degree, some of the more subtle differences this group included will affect a child’s ability to function and develop, said Margaret Honein, the lead author of the second study, the one suggesting the rate of Zika-related birth defects might be lower.

“Honein, who heads the CDC’s birth defects branch, said the Brazilian study’s findings highlight why it will be critical to follow babies infected in the womb over time.

“It’s also crucial to get more data — and data that can be more easily compared.

“Van Kerkhove and other experts worked with the World Health Organization earlier this year to devise standardized protocols for studying Zika in pregnancy. The hope, she said, was that if lots of different research groups used the same template for their studies, the ensuing results would be an apple-to-apple comparison.

“Groups in a number of different countries appear to be using the protocols, she said. But not all are. So results that come out will look at slightly different groups of pregnant women or include more or fewer problems in the list of birth anomalies they count. And that will likely mean Zika risk estimates don’t cluster neatly around a tight range of numbers, at least not for a while.

“To complicate matters even further, there isn’t one accepted definition of microcephaly. That means the same baby could be counted as microcephalic in one country, and not in another.

“’This outbreak has been plagued by problems of definition and it’s hard when we’re using different surveillance definitions to compare data across locations,’ Honein said.

“So, about those two studies …

STAT consulted a number of experts in epidemiology about these studies and there appears to be no single answer that explains the huge gap between the CDC number (6 percent) and the Rio number (42 percent). But here are some things that may be at play.

“The women being studied were different: The Rio study enrolled women who had a rash and fever, then tested them for Zika. That means they didn’t look at women without symptoms. Despite the fact the CDC study didn’t find a difference in the pregnancy outcomes between symptomatic and asymptomatic women, it’s a theory that experts haven’t given up yet and it needs further investigation.

“The CDC study, on the other hand, enrolled women who had been to places where Zika was spreading and who tested positive for the virus. But Zika testing is notoriously difficult. If it’s not done during or very soon after the infection, you cannot be sure a positive test is a true positive. The test may be picking up antibodies to related viruses like dengue.

“That means the CDC study may actually include some women who didn’t really have Zika, which would make the virus’s impact appear to be less than it was. Preben Aavitsland, Norway’s former chief epidemiologist, said that’s a possibility, but it can’t go all the way to explain the big gap between the findings.

“Another way in which the two sets of women may have been different: geography.

“Scientists have been wondering if some unidentified condition or conditions in Brazil — which has had the highest numbers of microcephalic babies due to Zika — is making Zika’s impact there worse.

“An obvious thought is that dengue, a closely related virus, circulates there commonly. Some scientists have wondered if previous bouts of dengue would raise the risk for pregnant women infected with Zika, because it’s known prior infection with one type of dengue (there are four) can make a subsequent infection with another type worse. Still other scientists have theorized that dengue antibodies might actually protect pregnant women from Zika’s worst damage.

“The Rio study compared women who had previously had dengue to women who had not and saw no difference.

“But they did see an unusually high rate of birth defects and pregnancy losses — 11.5 percent — in the women they were following who did not contract Zika, their so-called control group.

“You wouldn’t see that high a rate of abnormal outcomes in pregnancies in the US, which suggests there are differences between the Brazilian women and the US women that haven’t been accounted for, Maia Majumder, a research fellow at HealthMap, noted on Twitter.

“The upshot is that, for now, even the experts cannot quantify for a pregnant woman what the chances are that her fetus will be affected if she contracts Zika. But they do know this: Pregnant women should try as hard as is humanly possible not to get infected with this virus.

“’We’re finding pretty high levels of abnormalities in [pregnant] women who are infected with Zika,’ said Van Kerkhove. ‘The exact numbers are not completely clear at the moment. But the studies are being done and we’re hoping to get a clearer picture in the coming months or years. I hope it’s not years, but certainly months.’

Source: STAT

December 19, 2016: Pregnant Women Should Avoid Zika-Hit TX Town

“Pregnant women should avoid traveling to a south Texas town that sits on the state’s border with Mexico, because five cases of local Zika infection have been reported there, U.S. health officials advised Wednesday.

“The town of Brownsville is still experiencing temperatures that are warm enough for mosquitoes to continue to breed, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Zika is transmitted primarily via the bite of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, although it can also be spread through sexual contact.

“’We’re recommending pregnant women not travel to Brownsville, and if they do travel to that area, to ensure that they avoid mosquito bites and they avoid the risk of sexual transmission,’ the CDC’s Dr. Denise Jamieson said in an agency news release. ‘And that when they return from the area, that they undergo testing for Zika virus infection.’

“None of the Brownsville cases involve pregnant women, officials added.

“While most adults who are infected with the Zika virus experience mild symptoms, infection during pregnancy can have catastrophic consequences for infants. Thousands of babies have been born in Brazil and Colombia with microcephaly, a birth defect that results in an abnormally small head and an underdeveloped brain.

“In the United States, CDC officials have tallied 32 cases of Zika-linked birth defects in babies. Most of those cases resulted from infections picked up in Zika-prone countries in Latin America and the Caribbean

“‘We are working closely with Texas to gather and analyze new information every day. With the new information that there has been local spread of Zika for at least several weeks, we conclude that pregnant women should avoid the Brownsville area — and make every effort to prevent mosquito bites if they live or work there,’ said Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the CDC. ‘Together with Texas officials, we are working to protect pregnant women from the potentially devastating effects of this virus.’”

Florida is the only other U.S. state that has reported local cases of Zika infection. But that state was recently declared Zika-free after 45 days passed without any new infections in the last active zone, located in South Miami Beach."

Source: Web MD

December 18, 2016: Texas Wins $5 Million Federal Grant to Combat Zika Virus

Governor Greg Abbott says Texas has won a $5 million Centers for Disease Control grant to combat the Zika virus

“In a statement Monday, December 12, Abbott said the money was awarded as part of supplemental Zika funding approved by Congress to increase preparedness and response efforts.

“Word of the grant comes three days after state health officials confirmed four more cases of Zika in Texas that were likely transmitted by mosquito bites.

“Florida is the only other state with locally spread Zika.

“Abbott said, ‘This money will be crucial in our efforts to contain and combat further transmission.’

“He said the Texas Health Department has dedicated $18 million to fighting Zika and implementing a state preparedness plan — though counties are being required to cover many Zika-related costs themselves.”

Source: Statesman

December 17, 2016: Officials: South Beach Halts Zika’s Spread, But Risks Remain

“Florida declared its crisis with local transmission of Zika over for the season Friday in a welcome announcement ahead of peak tourism months, but health authorities warned that travelers would continue bringing the disease into the state.

“Starting in late July, state health officials had identified four zones in the Miami area where the virus was spreading through local mosquitoes – the first such transmissions in the continental U.S. – and launched aggressive efforts to control the insects. One by one, the zones were deemed clear of continuing infections, and Gov. Rick Scott announced Friday that the last one – a 1.5-square-mile area in touristy South Beach – also was cleared.

“The beginning of South Florida’s cool winter season also helped suppress the disease-carrying mosquitoes, Florida Health Secretary Dr. Celeste Philip said. Although the mosquito threat has abated, Philip noted that travelers would continue to arrive from elsewhere with the virus and that it could still be spread between people through sexual contact.

“’Hopefully, by next summer, we’ll have a federal government that has a vaccine,’ said Scott, a Republican who has repeatedly criticized federal officials for an impasse over Zika funding.

“Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez said in a statement that he met this week with the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to plan for potential Zika outbreaks next year. Local officials also said residents should continue to do their part to control mosquitoes year-round in South Florida.

“About 250 people have contracted Zika in Florida, and 980 more Zika infections in the state have been linked to travel, according to state health officials. Zika causes mild flu-like symptoms for most people, but it can cause severe brain-related birth defects when pregnant women become infected.

“The CDC lifted a warning for pregnant women to stay out of the South Beach zone altogether, but the agency still urges them to consider postponing nonessential travel to Miami-Dade County. Zika testing is recommended for all pregnant women and their partners if they’ve traveled to Miami-Dade County since Aug. 1.

“There have been 185 pregnant women in Florida who tested positive for the Zika virus, including women infected elsewhere, according to state health officials. Ninety-five of those women have sought treatment through the University of Miami Health System and Jackson Memorial Hospital, according to Dr. Christine Curry, an obstetrician-gynecologist and the co-director of the university’s Zika Response Team.

“For her patients, clearing the South Beach zone “doesn’t mean they get off the hook of wearing repellent and long clothing and being cautious overall,” Curry said.”

Source: South Florida Times

December 16, 2016: Four More Local Zika Cases Confirmed In Texas

Four more cases of locally-transmitted Zika virus have been confirmed in Texas, in the same Brownsville neighborhood where the first cases were pinpointed last month.

“Four more cases of locally-transmitted Zika virus have been confirmed in Texas, in the same Brownsville neighborhood where the first cases were pinpointed last month. Containment efforts are still underway.

“The Cameron County Health Department reports that since the first local case of Zika was pinpointed at the end of November, four more cases of the virus transmitted from mosquito to human have been verified by an Austin state health lab.

“Last week, teams of county health workers went door to door in the southwest Brownsville neighborhood where the health threat made its first local appearance in Texas.

“The first set of tests from urine samples taken from that area yielded these latest positive results, which may not be the last. Cameron County Health Administrator Esmeralda Guajardo says the City of Brownsville is stepping up mosquito control.

“’They already had enhanced their vector control activities,’ Guajardo explained. ‘But they are, of course, going to kick it up a little higher and they’re going to be a little bit more proactive in making sure that people understand and get rid of the places where mosquitoes breed.’

“No mosquitoes that were trapped have tested positive for Zika, but officials admit, finding infected insects is like looking for a needle in a haystack. Ironically, the news of four more Texas cases comes on the same day Florida declared all areas of that state free of active Zika transmission.”

Source: Houston Public Media

December 15, 2016: Zika Linked to Hearing And Vision Complications In Adults

Two studies released today detail Zika-related ear and eye problems while the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) updated their weekly Zika numbers.

“In a new study published in Clinical Infectious Diseases, Brazilian researchers detailed three cases of acute, transient hearing loss in adults who were infected with Zika virus. All patients were admitted to an ear, nose, and throat emergency department in the summer of 2015. One patient had laboratory-confirmed Zika, and the other two were probably infected with the flavivirus.

These are the first cases of acute hearing losses described during the current epidemic that began in Brazil.

The first patient was a 23-year-old man who was admitted to the hospital for hearing loss 2 weeks after suffering a fever, itching, and joint pain. The hearing loss lasted 4 days, and audiometry testing showed mild loss in the right ear. Blood tests confirmed Zika virus antibodies.

A 54-year-old woman also presented with moderate bilateral hearing loss 3 days after experiencing itching, dizziness, myalgia, and headache. Within 1 month her hearing issues were resolved, and lab tests showed she had both Zika and dengue antibodies.

The final patient was 58-year-old woman who had intense hearing loss and tinnitus for 2 days. Two weeks prior to hearing loss, she experienced itching, myalgia, dizziness, and headache. Her hearing returned after 3 weeks, and she had both dengue and Zika antibodies in her serum.

“This report of three cases indicates that transient hearing impairment may be a specific manifestation of acute ZIKAV disease,” the authors concluded." A subsequent case-control study would be necessary to demonstrate this causal relationship and elucidate the mechanisms leading to auditory dysfunction in this setting."

Another study, published today in The Lancet, described a case of bilateral posterior uveitis, or eye tissue inflammation, in a 26-year-old American man who was infected with Zika after traveling to Puerto Rico.

Two weeks after being diagnosed as having Zika virus with moderate symptoms, including red eyes, the man complained of seeing photopsias, or flashes of light. An eye exam showed mild ocular lesions, with symptoms resolving within 3 weeks.

The authors say this is the first description of Zika-related bilaterial posterior uveitis and acquired chorioretinal lesions.

Source: Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy

December 14, 2016: Zika Research at UTEP Recognized By CDC

“While the chillier temperatures in the Borderland mean a decrease in the mosquito population, UTEP’s Mosquito Ecology and Surveillance Laboratory is taking no breaks this winter to study the Zika virus.

“UTEP’s Border Biomedical Research Center, led by Dr. Douglas Watts is getting attention from the Texas Department of State Health Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Control.

“Researchers at the university were busy trapping mosquitos and monitoring the population density of vector species along the U.S./Mexico border during the spring and summer months.

“Dr. Watts has spent the last four decades studying mosquitos. He tells NewsChannel 9, four out of five people never know they have Zika when they get infected.

“As of November 30, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports there are 4,497 confirmed cases of Zika in the United States and 33,258 in U.S. Territories.

“In Texas, state officials say there are 257 cases.

“The leader of the CDC Zika Response Team in Texas reached out to UTEP scientists last week to learn more about their research and surveillance data.

“Dr. Watts says the CDC is interested in the university’s research because it will help to better understand how well prepared the border region is in fighting Zika transmission.

CDC officials reached out to UTEP after the first case of the Zika virus, likely transmitted by a mosquito, was discovered in Brownsville last week.

“The research team went to the Rio Grande Valley over the summer to test its mosquitoes.

“Dr. Watts tells us his group is proud to be contributing to the state’s efforts in finding out where the risk for Zika is.

“’I’m happy to see this kind of project because it gives the mosquito control programs a big advantage that if they know where Aedes aegypti is, they could target their efforts. If they don’t know, they’re shooting in the dark,’ he adds.

“Aedes aegypti is the mosquito that can spread dengue, chikungunya, and Zika.

The UTEP team traps mosquitos twice a week in El Paso at 12 different locations.

“’Being out in the field, trapping every week, identifying the mosquitoes, testing them to see what viruses are there – if you detect a virus and if you have a good mosquito control program – you can actually prevent the spread of the virus,’ said Dr. Watts.

“Researchers will continue their work this winter, despite a decrease in the mosquito population. The team will now analyze the data collected over the summer.”

Source: El Paso Proud KTSM News

Mosquito Squad Dread Skeeter’s Top 10 Holiday Gifts for Christmas 2016

As much as he hates those disgusting, disease-bearing varmints, even Dread Skeeter from Mosquito Squad has a heart, especially during this joyous season.

When interviewed in his Richmond, Virginia, home at Outdoor Living Brands, Dread shared with us some of the fun and practical gifts he like this Christmas.

1. Bug-A-Salt 2.0 Fly Shooter Yellow

This Bug-A-Salt new stronger version pest gun uses ordinary table salt to kill flies and bugs. Each shot uses just one pinch of ordinary table salt to drop a bug whole, leaving no nasty mess to clean up. One load is good for 80 shots, and a salt viewing window shows load level. This unit features a cocking pump slide handle and requires no batteries. Simply release the auto safety and a pop-up sight indicates “ready to fire.” Accuracy range: 3ft. Dimensions: 21in.L x 7in.W x 3in.H. For ages 18+. Buy it here at Cabela’s for $34.99.

2. Anatomy of A Mosquito (Entomology) Round Clock

No need to be an entomologist to enjoy any of these entomological attitude biology gifts featuring detailed “Anatomy Of A Mosquito”, with labels of all key anatomical parts. Make others do a double-take during mosquito season with an informative scientific diagram of everyone’s most unwanted insect! No need to have been bitten by a mosquito to enjoy! Buy it here at Zazzle for $27.85.

3. Backyard Safari Field Scope

Backyard Safari Field Scope by Poof-Slinky, Inc.. Recommended for ages 4 years and up. Considered a best toy for 4 year olds. Rated a top toy for 5 year olds. Zoom in on your favorite bug! Imaginative Play. Outdoor Toys. Science & Nature. Buy it here at Cabela’s for $14.99.

4. New Instant Mesh Screen Door Magic Magnetic Hands-Free Bug Mosquito Fly Out

Easily opens and then closes itself securely using 18 powerful magnets. No need to worry about full hands, children, or pets leaving the door open. Keeps fresh air in whole providing an impenetrable barrier to bugs. Sets up in seconds with no tools required, and fold up for easy storage. The magnetic mesh hands fee door includes two panels 19 – 1/2" wide by 83" tall.
Instantly opens, and securely closes. Includes 18 powerful magnets. Easy walk through. Installs in seconds, no tools required. Aligns magnets, attach adhesive stripes, and affix to door frame. Buy it here at Jet.Com For $12.99.

5. Arteriors Mosquito Small Bench

Reminiscent of the graceful silhouette of a mosquito’s leg, this ottoman works well in a bathroom, around a center table in a gallery hall, in front of a fireplace or just about anywhere. Natural iron legs with natural linen seat. Buy it here at for $660.00. Click here for specifications.

6. Mosquito (Culex pipiens)

Who wouldn’t love to hate this plush toy who is just itching to come over and play. She can be there by dusk. Great gag gift for nature enthusiasts. Good reminder to bring insect repellent. Crafted from all new materials. Stuffed with polyester fiber fill. Surface washable: sponge with water & soap, air dry. Buy it here at for $9.95.

7. Parachute Hammock with Mosquito Net

In vibrant wine and teal this hammock includes a built-in protective mosquito netting with a zipper for quick access. Dian Rahmawati presents this lightweight hammock sewn of the finest quality breathable nylon parachute silk. The hammock features a pouch that can hold a drink or store the hammock all rolled up when not in use. Includes nautical ropes and stainless steel hooks which can be stored in the same pouch. Buy it here at for $99.99.

8. Protect Yourself Mosquito Proof Your Home Greeting Card

Do we really need to say anything else? Buy it here at Zazzle for $3.70.

9. Live Pitcher Plant Terrarium

Live, healthy adult sized Pitcher Plant with a 4.5″ diameter terrarium. Will have at least two pitchers on it, ready to gobble a mosquito! Called S. purpurea, its leaves create a ‘pitcher’ shaped ‘pitfall trap’ with pointy hairs pointing downwards, so unlucky varmints who enter can’t get out. Then they drown in the liquid at the bottom of the pitcher, where they are digested. Pitchers stay under eight inches tall so are excellent for terrariums. Comes with an easy care sheet and set up for beginners. Growing to this size from seed takes two years, so this is a best seller compared to kits that come with seeds. Terrariums come an assortment of bright colors. Buy it here at Nature Gift Store for $14.95.

10. “Life Is Like A Mosquito” Gift Box

Display your favorite images on the lid of this two-inch square fanciful keepsake box. Made of wood and secured with a magnetized lid this box is perfect to store jewelry or other precious knick-knacks. Buy it here at Zazzle for $22.30.

December 13, 2016: Zika, Cupping and Hummus: Your Health Questions in 2016

“To find out what’s ailing Americans—or at least which ailments they’re curious about—look no further than online search traffic. Zika, heartburn drugs and EpiPen prices were among the topics that saw the greatest rises in search interest in the U.S. in 2016, according to data gathered by health publisher WebMD.

“While cold symptoms, the flu, high blood pressure and diabetes are always the most-searched topics among WebMD’s 72 million monthly visitors, who are largely young and female, here are six issues that saw big increases in attention this year compared to 2015:

1. Zika – searches up 433,558%

The sharp increase in Zika searches began when pictures were released of babies in Brazil born with microcephaly, or abnormally small heads, after their mothers were infected with the virus during pregnancy. Interest remained high through the Summer Olympics in Rio and continued as the virus began spreading locally in Miami Beach, Fla.

2. Heartburn drugs and dementia – searches up 56,480%

Search traffic spiked following the release of a study finding that seniors who regularly took certain heartburn drugs—such as Nexium, Prilosec and Prevacid—were 44% more likely to be diagnosed with dementia.

3. Rising cost of EpiPens – searched up 1,677%

Readers searched for information about EpiPens, which are used to treat severe allergic reactions, after drug company Mylan raised the price of the medication by 500% to more than $600.

4. Food recalls – searches up 263%

Search traffic rose after hummus company Sabra voluntarily recalled some of its products for possible listeria contamination. Nature Valley, Nestle and Clif Bar also issued recalls in 2016 and drove search traffic on WebMD.

5. Opioid abuse – searches up 228%

Searches related to opioids rose after news broke that Prince died by opioid overdose.

6. Cupping – searches up 136%

During the Summer Olympics, Gold medalist Michael Phelps brought attention to cupping, an ancient Chinese practice thought to loosen muscles and improve circulation by drawing blood to a certain area. Interest remained high for two months following the Olympics."

Source: TIME

Can all mosquito species transmit the Zika Virus?

Wisconsin State Journal answers questions from its readers.

“Q: Can all mosquito species transmit the Zika virus?
— Mike Corry, 70, Madison

“A: Not all mosquitoes can transmit the Zika virus, and that’s the case with any mosquito-borne pathogen.

“There are about 3,000 species of mosquitoes in the world, and only about 150 are considered vectors of pathogens, capable of spreading viruses.

“In terms of the Zika virus and the outbreak in the Americas, two mosquito species are involved: Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus.

“These mosquitoes feed indoors during the daytime. Their breeding habitats develop around human dwellings and in any small amount of water. They are good at transmitting human pathogens because they have this close proximity to and association with humans.

“The mosquito and virus have a compatible relationship in which the mosquito has an innate ability to ingest the virus, support its development or replication, and then transmit the virus to a new host.

“When a mosquito ingests a virus, the first site of replication is in the mosquito’s midgut, basically its stomach. Lining that gut are a number of receptors, similar to a lock-and-key relationship. The cells in the mosquito’s gut have the lock, and the virus needs a specific key to open that lock and get into the cell.

“The virus has to travel all through the mosquito’s body from the midgut to the circulatory system and other tissues. Each point along the way is an opportunity to stop the virus, but in a compatible system like Zika virus and Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, the virus gets through all the checkpoints.

“Eventually the virus needs to make it to the mosquito’s salivary glands if it wants to spread to another host.

“When a mosquito feeds, it inserts its mouth parts into a human or animal.

“It’s not only ingesting blood, it’s actually spitting back into the human or animal. If that mosquito is infected with a virus, it’s actually spitting out saliva and the virus. That’s how the viral infection spreads.”

December 12, 2016:

“The global blood screening market is expected to reach a value of USD 3.9 billion by 2024, based on a new report by Grand View Research, Inc. The growth of the market is attributed to the increasing screening of donor and continuous technological advancements by the market players. Demand for blood screening tests are increasing continuously due to increasing donation, rising awareness about transfusion-transmitted diseases, and technological developments in the industry.

“Thorough screening is necessary for all donated blood to ensure that recipients receive the safest products. As of 2015, such testing consists of screening for red cell antibodies, and the infectious diseases agents: HIV-1, HIV-2, hepatitis virus, West Nile Virus (WNV), Human T-Lymphotropic Virus (HTLV) T. Cruzi, and T. pallidum (syphilis). Result of all these assays must be negative for blood donation.

“Technological developments in the market increase the sensitivity and efficiency of the tests. For instance, in 2016, the U.S. FDA approved the Procleix Zika virus assay from Hologic, Inc. and Grifols to screen donated blood. Furthermore, the U.S. FDA approved next-generation sequencing (NGS) technology in 2013. The technology is cheaper and faster than previous DNA analysis methods.

Further Key Findings from the Study Suggest

• Nucleic acid amplification test or nucleic acid test (NAT) is expected to be the fastest growing segment during the forecast period. It comprises transcription mediated amplification (TMA) tests and polymerase chain reaction. Increasing demand of NAT over ELISA test due to high sensitivity and specificity for viral nucleic acid is contributing to the fastest growth during the forecast period.

• In 2015, reagent dominated the product segment. Introduction of new assays for the detection of various diseases is expected to enable the segment to gain the maximum share of market in the coming years. For instance, in January 2015 the FDA approved Roche’s blood screening assay COBAS TaqScreen MPX Test for the detection and identification of HCV, HIV, and HBV.

• In 2015, regionally North America dominated with a revenue share of more than 40%. Government initiatives, presence of major players, and more patient affordability are the major factors that contributed toward its dominance.
In August 2016, the FDA recommended the testing of all the donated blood in the U.S. and its territories for Zika virus in order to prevent transmission of this virus through the blood supply.

• Asia Pacific is expected to be the fastest growing region due to increasing investment of industry players, government initiatives, and rising awareness about transmission of diseases during its transfusion.

• The Red Cross in Japan entered into a contract with Grifols for nucleic acid testing (NAT) for a blood donation camp in Japan in 2014. This agreement is anticipated to propel the NAT market during the forecast period. However, low donation as compared to requirement and high cost of kits and instruments are likely to restrain the growth in low-income countries during the forecast period."

Source: Grand Via Research

December 11, 2016: Needle-free Zika vaccine shows promise in clinical trial

“A healthy volunteer receives the NIAID Zika virus investigational DNA vaccine as part of an early-stage trial to test the vaccine’s safety and immunogenicity. This is the first administration of this vaccine in a human.

“The needle-free technology company announced that the NIH would be using its device in August of this year. Recently, Ron Lowy, chairman and CEO at PharmaJet provided an update on the trial, commenting that the company is encouraged by the positive results.

“’As with many development programs the challenge isn’t that our devices haven’t been proven to work, it is a question as to the effectiveness of the vaccine or therapeutic being studied,’ he told us.

“Lowy explained the next steps are to complete the Phase I and Phase II steps of the trials with the NIH. As previously reported, the device works by delivering medications and vaccines intradermally via a narrow, high velocity fluid stream, which Lowy said prevents needle-stick injuries, needle re-use, and cross contamination or spread of diseases.

“The device also delivers the vaccine in about 1/10th of a second. ‘Our needle-free device is fast, safe, and easy to use, and in some cases, has been shown to enhance the effectiveness of certain vaccines,’ added Lowy. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health, launched the clinical trial earlier this year.”

Source: Info-Europa

December 10, 2016: 4 More Babies Born With Zika-Related Birth Defects in New York City

“Four more babies have been born with congenital Zika virus syndrome in New York City since the Health Department announced the first such birth over the summer, officials said Wednesday.

“Their conditions weren’t immediately available.

“Eight other infants have tested positive for the Zika virus, but have not shown evidence of the associated birth defects, which may include smaller-than-normal size heads, brain and eye abnormalities and neurological impairment.

“All of the cases are travel-related, health officials said.

“Since January, more than 200 infants in the city have been born to woman infected with the Zika virus during their pregnancies. The Health Department is monitoring the children through their first year of life to assess the potential effects of their mothers’ infections.

“Children with birth abnormalities who were suspected of having a developmental delay related to their mothers’ infection are eligible for the city’s Early Intervention Program, which helps families identify appropriate therapeutic and education services for their children.

“’Today’s news is a reminder that Zika continues to be a threat to pregnant women and their babies. As we enter the holiday season, we urge all pregnant women in New York City, those who might become pregnant, and their male sexual partners not to visit places where there is active Zika virus transmission,” said New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett.

“As of Dec. 2, 8,000 New Yorkers have been tested for Zika, health officials said. More than 960 of them have tested positive, including 325 pregnant women. All cases were associated with travel, officials said. Six were transmitted sexually. In addition to sexual contact, the virus is spread through specific species of mosquitoes.

“The mosquito species most commonly associated with Zika’s spread is not found in the tri-state, but a similar species that scientists think could transmit the disease inhabits the area.

“New York City health officials have said they’ve been monitoring populations of the insect and applying pesticides to keep mosquito-borne diseases at bay.”

Source: NBC 4 New York

December 9, 2016: Yale Researchers Find Another Complication of Zika, Unusual in Newborns

“A team of researchers in Brazil and Yale School of Public Health have discovered another complication of Zika.

“This one usually not found in newborns.

“A boy at three months old, is the first case reported of another complication due to Zika.

“’This was a case of a newborn, who was born with birth defects of Zika virus but also developed glaucoma,’ says Dr. Albert Ko at Yale School of Public Health.

“He co-authored the study.

“Dr. Ko has worked closely with local scientists for years, in a clinic in Salvador, Brazil, where the impact of Zika was first detected.

“They made the diagnosis earlier this year.

“Glaucoma can lead to blindness but it was easily treated by a simple operation.

“’We’ve identified a whole slew of cases, more than 10 cases in different parts in different cities of Brazil,’ said Dr. Ko.

“The long term research collaboration in Brazil raises another huge concern, the different risk factors and forms of Zika emerging.

“’For example in the southern regions of Brazil or in Colombia, we’re seeing much less lower rates of these severe birth defects but they are seeing other complications that maybe less obvious but equally important,’ he says.

“There is no clear answer.

“’The question at hand and many of us researchers but also clinicians and public health officials are trying to understand is why certain women who are exposed to Zika virus during pregnancy will have babies who have these severe birth defects while other women may have babies who maybe will be unaffected or have milder birth defects,’ he said.

“Dr. Ko is among those who disagree with the decision by the World Health Organization to no longer designate Zika a public health emergency.

“Still too many uncertainties he says and Zika continues to spread, especially in Southeast Asia.

“’We’re not there yet,’ said Dr. Ko, ‘We still don’t have good diagnostics, we still don’t have a good way to treat pregnant women affected by the virus and we don’t have an effective way to prevent the disease.’"

Source: WTHN News 8

December 8, 2016: How The Zika Virus Outbreak Foretold Donald Trump's Win

“Did it come as a surprise when you learned that Donald Trump trumped Hillary Clinton to win the United States presidential election? It didn’t to us—and we have Zika to prove it.

“The World Health Organization recently announced that the spread of Zika virus, along with related clusters of microcephaly and neurological disorders, is no longer a ‘public health emergency of international concern.’ So ends nearly a year of worry since WHO made that global headline-grabbing declaration. Or does it?

“Given that Zika has spread to more than 50 countries, it would appear to come as good news that WHO ‘downgraded’ the status of virus from a public health emergency. It would also appear that the ringing of bells by health professionals, including those who went so far as to suggest postponing or moving the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, was unnecessarily alarmist. Scanning the headlines and what is trending on social media, it would simply appear that all of those worries about people getting infected by virus-carrying mosquitoes weren’t worth all of the fuss.

“If only that were the case.

“In reality, there is a huge misunderstanding about the spread of Zika and the WHO view of it. To see that, though, requires reading beyond the headlines and the crazed hashtags.”

“The WHO announcement does not have much to recommend about the threat of Zika being over and done with. What the announcement says is that the spread of Zika is still a public health problem. But, because the virus is now endemic in several geographical locations and because emergency funding is set to run out after a period of six to 12 months, WHO needs to pivot to allocate funds from other sources to address the long-term impact of the virus across the globe.”

Source: Forbes

December 7, 2016: Zika Scientists: We’re Back to Square One

“A widely accepted theory about the way Zika infects fetal brain cells may have been all wrong, a discouraging discovery that shows the little-understood virus may be even more of a mystery than originally thought, according to local researchers.

“’It basically means we’re back to square one,’ said Michael Wells, researcher and fellow at the Harvard Department of Stem Cell & Regenerative Biology. ‘It would have been great if we did find a way the virus enters the brain. But apparently, it’s not going to be that easy.’

“He added, ‘We had a theory. It didn’t pan out. Now we don’t know.’

The theory was a consensus among scientists that the virus — which has been linked to the devastating birth defect microcephaly, characterized by an abnormally small skull and brain — entered the fetal brain through a specific pathway, called the AXL surface receptor, on the surface of developing cells.

“But when the researchers knocked out that pathway in miniature lab-grown brains, the virus still made its way into the tissue.

“Scientists have focused on developing vaccines for the virus, and this discovery would not impede that progress. But Wells said until a vaccine proves effective, “we need to keep trying to see how this virus is causing this much damage.”

“’I think we’ve been underestimating this virus since day one. We as a society, not just we as scientists,’ Wells said. ‘We’re not close to stopping it.’”

Zika concerns are still prominent In warm-weather destinations

This holiday vacation update is from the NBC affiliate in Lexington, Kentucky, LEX 18.

“As mosquito season comes to an end and the holiday and winter travel season begins, the Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH), urges pregnant women, those who might be pregnant and their sex partners to avoid traveling to areas with ongoing Zika virus transmission.

“’With the Christmas holiday coming, travel to Zika-affected areas is expected to increase,’ said Dr. Hiram Polk, DPH commissioner. ‘We are urging Kentuckians to remain vigilant as the Zika virus continues to circulate in the Caribbean, Mexico, Central America, South America and parts of Miami-Dade County in the state of Florida. If you are unsure about the presence of Zika in the area in which you are traveling, err on the side of caution. Use repellent and wear protective clothing to avoid mosquito bites. Those travelers returning from Zika-affected areas are reminded to practice safe sex to help prevent transmission and to use an EPA-approved insect repellent at all times for outdoor activities.’

“Kentuckians planning international travel are particularly encouraged to consult the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Travelers’ Health Website for country-specific health information for travelers. A weblink about Zika Travel Information can be found here.

“International travelers to at-risk countries who develop fever, rash, joint pain, red inflamed eyes and other acute symptoms within two weeks of return to Kentucky should consult with their medical provider.

“There was no local transmission of Zika virus in Kentucky during the 2016 mosquito season.

“Increasing scientific evidence suggests a link between infection in pregnant women and infants born with birth defects such as microcephaly. Microcephaly is a condition where the head is smaller than normal and is very likely to be associated with significant central nervous system abnormalities and life-long complications.

“The CDC recommends that pregnant women and women trying to become pregnant take the following precautions:

• Pregnant women should not travel to the areas where Zika virus transmission is occurring. Pregnant women who must travel to one of these areas must talk to their doctor or other healthcare professional first and strictly follow steps to avoid mosquito bites during the trip.

• Based on reports of possible Zika transmission through sexual contact, CDC recommends pregnant women avoid sexual contact with men who have recently returned from areas with Zika transmission. CDC recommends men who have traveled to a Zika-affected area and developed symptoms consistent with Zika during travel or two weeks after travel to use condoms for six months after symptoms begin or to abstain from sex for 6 months. CDC recommends men who have traveled to a Zika-affected area and did not develop any symptoms to use condoms for at least 8 weeks after departure from Zika-affected areas or abstain from sex for 8 weeks.

“Currently, there is no vaccine to prevent infection and no specific antiviral treatment for Zika infection. Its most common symptoms are fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes, although many infected individuals have no symptoms at all.”

Source: LEX 18

December 6, 2016: Zika Added to the American Heritage Dictionary

“When Steve Kleinedler first heard the word glamping, he thought the word wouldn’t be in use for long.

“To be honest, you know, when I first saw this word several years ago, I’m like, ‘Oh, that’ll never stick around, that’s one of those cutesy words that comes and goes and fades away,’” said Kleinedler, executive editor of The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language.

“But the word – which is defined as camping in a glamorous fashion – has stuck, and is now among more than 400 words and senses added to the dictionary this year.

“Different dictionaries have different philosophies about how it adds words. In the case of the American Heritage Dictionary, they tend not to add words unless it’s one with staying power.

“’We don’t want to put a word in only for it to, you know, fall out of use within the next year,’ Kleinedler said. ‘Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but that’s just not our policy and the way that we approach this.’

“Glamping has become ‘very prominent,’ showing up in newspapers in different regions of the country, blogs and marketing, Kleinedler said.

“’You’ve got a whole commercial industry devoted (to) people who are making these types of purchases, both from in the travel industry and then in the product industry,’ Kleinedler noted. ’It’s a word whose trajectory keeps going upwards, and isn’t going away.’

“That ultimately led to the dictionary’s editorial staff defining it and adding it.

“A selection of the other words and their definitions that made the this year’s cut announced Wednesday include Zika:

“A flavivirus that is transmitted primarily by aedes mosquitoes and that causes a mild disease with symptoms that include fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis. Infection by the Zika virus in a pregnant woman can cause microcephaly or other brain defects in her infant. The virus can also be transmitted via sexual contact and from mother to child. Also called Zika virus.

For more information about the American Heritage Dictionary and to find words, visit the dictionary’s website."

Source: Wisconsin Public Radio

December 5, 2016: Puerto Rico Reports Nearly 500 New Zika Cases Amid Epidemic

“Puerto Rico’s health secretary says nearly 500 new cases of Zika have been reported in the U.S. territory in the past week.

“Ana Rius said Monday that 34,562 cases of the mosquito-borne virus have now been registered, including nearly 2,700 that involve pregnant women. Nearly 290 people have been hospitalized.

“Authorities earlier this year declared a Zika epidemic on the island, and health officials have warned that a growing number of babies will be born with severe birth defects known as microcephaly, characterized by abnormally small heads in newborns.

“Five people infected with Zika have died in recent months in Puerto Rico, including two who developed complications from a paralysis condition known as Guillain-Barre.”

Source: Daily Mail

December 4, 2016: Zika Surfaces in Texas, Likely To Be First Local Transmission

“Texas health authorities said Monday that a Brownsville woman is infected with Zika, a case that could make the south Texas city the second place in the continental United States where the mosquito-borne virus is spreading locally.

“Laboratory testing confirmed that the 43-year-old patient, who is not pregnant, had been infected. State and local health authorities said she reported no recent travel to any location with ongoing Zika transmission and no other risk factors. The lab tests found genetic material from the virus in the woman’s urine, but a blood test was negative, indicating that a mosquito can no longer spread the virus after biting her.

“There are no other cases of suspected local transmission at this time, but health officials continue to conduct disease surveillance activities as part of the state’s ongoing response.

“’We knew it was only a matter of time before we saw a Zika case spread by a mosquito in Texas,’ said John Hellerstedt, the state health commissioner. ‘We still don’t believe the virus will become widespread in Texas, but there could be more cases, so people need to protect themselves from mosquito bites, especially in parts of the state that stay relatively warm in the fall and winter.’

“The woman’s case is not that surprising given Brownsville’s location in the Rio Grande Valley, directly across the border from Mexico, which has ongoing local transmission of Zika in multiple communities.

“The valley is considered to be at higher risk because of previous outbreaks of dengue, a similar virus spread by the same type of mosquito. Texas authorities have been closely monitoring people for signs of infection as well as checking for populations of the aggressive Aedes aegypti mosquito, which is most commonly found in south Texas and is the primary carrier of Zika.

“Cameron County and state health officials will begin conducting door-to-door Zika screenings Monday evening in a 20-block area in southwestern Brownsville around the area where the woman lives. They will be asking residents to reduce potential mosquito breeding areas on their properties. Authorities also plan to collect voluntary urine samples to determine whether other infections are present.

“For the moment, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is not issuing a specific advisory warning pregnant women against travel to the area. When Florida confirmed the first local spread of the disease in the continental United States this summer, the CDC issued a travel alert for pregnant women to avoid the Miami area.”

Source: The Washington Post

December 3, 2016: How the Art World Is Contending with The Specter of Zika At Art Basel Miami Beach

The virus has darkened the forecast of this week’s fair and parade of parties — even as some opt for blissful ignorance of the threat.

“’It’s beautiful, sunny, perfect Miami weather,’ the dealer Jeffrey Deitch said on the phone from South Florida last week, where he’d arrived early to prepare for the weeklong circus that accompanies Art Basel Miami Beach, which unofficially kicks off today. ‘Everything is completely normal.’

“Deitch, who’s been heading to Miami every year since even before the fair started in 2002, was not just offering blithe small talk. His comments on the weather — and assertions that he hadn’t yet been hit with a blast of bug spray, nor encountered a single mosquito — also served as a reckoning on the current status of Zika in Miami Beach. Since late July, the virus has found a home in the city, marking the first continental United States outbreak of what the World Health Organization deemed an international health emergency earlier this year. And, as it turns out, the problem areas — Miami Beach, Wynwood, Little Haiti — are also ground zero for Art Basel and its ancillary fairs and events, which all told brought 77,000 people to town last December.

“Zika causes birth defects, including microcephaly, a type of brain damage, in newborns whose mothers are infected during pregnancy. The mosquitos that transmit it were reportedly cleared from Wynwood in September, and from a three-mile stretch of Miami Beach just last week. But worries about the virus still run rampant in the art world, particularly among women of childbearing age. Bring up Zika at any of the many parties and galas in the last month, and most gallerists, collectors, and dealers would have revealed they know at least a few people — likely women — who consider the threat reason enough to stay home this year.

“At least, they’ll do so off the record. ‘The art world has taken a rather ‘let’s not talk about it’ approach,’ said Elena Soboleva, a 30-year-old art market observer and special projects manager at Artsy who has opted to go to Miami, her 35th art fair this year. In part, honest, open discussion can be impossible because ‘it also puts a woman’s personal information on view,’ said the dealer Loring Randolph, a 35-year-old partner at Casey Kaplan gallery. ‘If you say you’re not going, it means you might be trying to get pregnant or are thinking about getting pregnant. Those aren’t the kinds of things that you necessarily want to tell your employer. It puts you in a vulnerable position.’

“Of course, the overwhelming concern does not correlate to an overwhelming percentile of women in the art world planning to have children within the next year. The worry stems more from a ‘fear of the unknown,’ as Anne Huntington, a collector in her early thirties who cancelled her trip to Miami just a few weeks ago, explained. This year is the first she won’t be attending the fair in a decade. The threat of Zika is among the reasons why, and it’s the primary deterrent for the art adviser friend she had planned to travel with. Together, they decided that ‘if there was a year not to go, it would be this year.’

“The art world, Soboleva suggested, begs for clarity when it comes to the virus. But it doesn’t appear that information will be coming from the Art Basel fair itself, whose website yields a total of zero results when you search for the Z word. When I reached a spokesperson, they did maintain that none of the fair’s partners or 250-plus galleries have pulled out as a result of the scare. Pre-registration numbers have been in line with those of previous years, and organizers have kept in regular and direct contact with both the CDC and officials of the City of Miami Beach, who say that ‘the rigorous abatement measures they have collectively taken throughout the city since late summer are proving to be effective.’

“On its own website, however, the CDC still recommends that pregnant women consider postponing travel to all parts of Miami-Dade county, and to stay out of some areas of Miami altogether. Those with plans to get pregnant in the near future should also beware — if infected, the virus, which can be sexually transmitted, can linger for two months in women, and six months in men. Cause for concern, then, is very real among the family-inclined.

“However, some would rather not know the details. ‘In terms of the virus — if it’s considered a virus or infection, however they refer to it — I don’t know medically what a threat it is,’ said the blogger Colby Jordan, 23, who just married the collector and dealer Alberto ‘Tico’ Mugrabi in September. They will be in Miami this week. ‘My husband would have had to go anyway, so I figured I’d much rather be with him than be at home in New York.’

“Whether Jordan and her husband, one of the biggest collectors in the world, are thinking about family planning at this stage, she said, was too personal — a common and completely understandable reaction among many of those whom I approached for comment. When the threat was still a mosquito cloud hovering far away in Brazil in 2015, Zika felt like something of a jokey buzzword among removed New Yorkers — an attitude that’s darkened as the virus has spread into the U.S. over the last year. I first received notice of this growing concern in June, a month before Zika landed Stateside, when I asked Serena Williams during an interview whether she was worried about Zika at the Olympics later that summer. She’d been in a light mood, offering up athlete platitudes — her goal was simply to “go out there and have fun,” she said — until mention of the virus saw her suddenly turn serious. ‘Obviously,’ Williams replied, before listing off her detailed plans to protect herself.

“In conversation, Zika has been a prickly topic to introduce. Those willing to speak on the record are hard to come by, which is why I followed up an unrelated interview with the 28-year-old model Coco Rocha when I caught wind of her upcoming Miami vacation with her husband James Conran and their 19-month-old daughter. While they’ve ‘definitely’ been following the story, Conran said, after the recent birth of their daughter, Rocha no longer considers pregnancy one of her top concerns. ‘I feel like there’s so much in the world that you can worry about until it makes you sick,’ she said earnestly. ‘This is one thing, and we’re trying to live life.’

“New motherhood has also been a balm for Randolph, who had a baby nine months ago and will be present in her booth under the Art Basel tents. “I think I’m one of the few people who maybe is of a bit of a different mindset about this than most women my age,’ she said, adding that she’s talked with ’a lot” of women in the art world between the ages of 30 and 40 who are ‘really choosing not to go because of a fear of Zika.’ But Randolph isn’t planning on having another child immediately, and she’s come to regard the relatively small risk of contracting microcephaly as “totally fine” compared to the three to four percent chance of death her newborn faced due to other complications.

“For some, children aren’t even on the radar. ‘No one I know is trying to have kids,’ said the artist Chloe Wise, 25, who’ll be attending for the fifth year in a row. She’s even throwing her birthday party in Miami, and so far hasn’t seen any downtick in expected guests. ’There’s way crazier things in the world than the Zika thing, no offense to Zika,’ she said. She added, with a laugh, ‘The L train [shutdown] seemed like a big deal until Trump got elected. And now we’re all over the L train.’

“Wise’s young peers are not the only ones who seem to be immune to worry. ‘Men should be taking it just as seriously,’ Soboleva insisted, though few could point to any men who’ve decided to skip out on Basel, let alone even openly discuss the virus in the first place. And yet, as of the known cases in late June, men, not women, were responsible for all instances of the virus being sexually transmitted, and are recommended to wait six months — three times longer than women — after experiencing symptoms to have unprotected sex.

“’I feel like it’s as big of a threat for a man as it is for a woman, if you’re in a relationship and want to get pregnant,’ the newlywed Jordan said, explaining why she feels she might as well join her husband in Miami if his work already compels him to be there. And for men who aren’t committed to just one partner, the effects might be even greater, as they can contract the virus and pass it on without ever experiencing symptoms — or, if research rates are as low as they appear, without even realizing that’s within their capability. (As the CDC notes, aside from light fever and a few other irritations, ‘many people infected with Zika virus won’t have symptoms or will only have mild symptoms.’)

“Even if the attendance figures hold, there is anecdotal evidence that this year’s Art Basel Miami won’t be the beaming sun and fun of previous iterations. Whether it’s Zika or the election of Donald Trump, Wise admitted, “people seem to be less enthusiastic about their attendance this year.” Randolph has already observed “a mood change,” she said. "Any time you’ve got a group of people who are resisting — ‘Oh, I can’t believe you’re going with this scare’ — it just puts a pall over everything,” she said.

“’Certainly, these women of my age are a very important demographic to have at the fair, and that’s definitely going to be missed,’ Randolph went on. ‘It’s going to be a noticeable problem.’ Indeed, the Guggenheim postponed its Young Collectors Council lunch in Miami this year because the invite list was heavily skewed towards women of a childbearing age.

“Soboleva has been planning an Artsy event with Gucci, and while she hasn’t seen any drop-off in her RSVPs, she’s heard fretful whispers that collectors are skipping out this year for a few reasons, Zika among them. ‘Gallerists are worried about sales, and especially those doing it for the first or second time, for whom it’s a greater investment on their part,’ she said.

“The economics of fairs, Randolph pointed out, can put pressure on those who would rather stay out of Zika’s way. ‘If you’re working for a gallery, and you work on commission, you’re losing a lot of money if you’re not going to Miami,’ she said.

“Nevertheless, this week there will still be roughly 75,000 estimated visitors at the festivities in Miami Beach. They may have been encouraged by a Miami travel guide the New York Times published just two weeks ago, which relegated Zika to a brief mention consisting of a line or two before diving into backwater apéritifs. Perhaps after the election, the big Z might just be a distant concern B.

“As Chloe Wise put it, ‘Who’s trying to have kids right now, seriously? Those kids are going to have to deal with an apocalypse.’

Source: W Magazine

December 2, 2016: Brazilian Women with Zika-Infected Babies Pray For Cure

Miriam de Frana Araœjo with her son, Lucas Gabriel, during a routine checkup with an ear, nose and throat doctor in Campina Grande. Lucas, like many babies born with microcephaly, has auditory and vision problems.

“Miriam de França Araújo has had the same routine for the past year. On Wednesdays and Fridays, she wakes up before dawn, wraps her 1-year-old child, Lucas, in a thick blanket and gets into a white Volkswagen van that will rumble across dirt roads and a newly paved highway to a hospital nearly three hours away.

“Lucas was born in September 2015 with a small, misshapen head, quickly diagnosed as microcephaly, a birth defect rarely seen by the doctors who delivered him. Within months, doctors across Brazil’s impoverished northeast were growing increasingly alarmed by an unprecedented spike in microcephaly cases, which they eventually linked to the mosquito-borne Zika virus that had recently arrived in the country.

“’Nobody knew what Zika was,’ Araújo told USA TODAY. ‘Nobody even knew the word.’

“Araújo was among the first group of mothers and infants to be enrolled in a new microcephaly unit at a local hospital here, where a team of doctors and therapists treat children born with Zika-related disorders.

“The microcephaly unit has become a place of solidarity, where more than 100 women — many of them poor — lend each other support, share ideas and discuss ways to advocate on behalf of their children.

“’We formed a family, including with the doctors and nurses,’ Araújo explained. ‘We’ve developed an intimacy, learned each other’s stories and found a place to blow off steam.’

“On a recent day while waiting for appointments, the women discussed the difficulties they face. Araújo’s experience is typical: Lucas is the only baby with microcephaly in her small town, and prejudice from neighbors is a frequent topic. ‘Sometimes they don’t have to say anything, the look they give us says everything,’ said Adriana Ferreira Alves, as she bounced her baby, Maria Sophia, on her lap.

“Only one in six families lives in Campina Grande. The rest travel as much as four hours for appointments. Transportation is an ongoing source of anxiety, as van services provided by local municipalities are often late or canceled. ‘It is very humiliating,’ Araújo said.

“Concerns about access to benefits and medical costs are also prevalent. A lawyer has started to meet with the families to ensure they are receiving government services. Still, many of them struggle to pay for basic needs such as diapers and formula, to say nothing of advanced procedures and medicine.

One mother considered selling her cell phone to pay for the tiny prescription glasses that would help her baby see.

“’It never entered my mind that she could be born like this,’ said Ferreira Alves, who contracted Zika during the third month of her pregnancy. Maria Sophia, who was born last January, cannot hold her body upright and closes her eyes in the light.

“’At first, I blamed myself, thought that I hadn’t done things right. I cried a lot and became depressed,’ she said.

“Psychologist Jacqueline Loureiro leads group therapy sessions to help the women cope with wide-ranging emotional issues. ‘Every pregnant woman thinks, ‘I want my child to be born a certain way.’ When you discover a malformation, this idea is broken,’ she explained. ‘They need to experience mourning for this idealized child in order to accept the real child.’

“Adriana Melo, a fetal health specialist who first made the connection between Zika and microcephaly a year ago, is the public face of the program. She has traveled to conferences across Brazil and abroad, presenting the group’s research findings and lobbying for additional funding.

“’This first generation of mothers didn’t know about the mosquito, and they have provided all the answers to the world,’ she told USA TODAY. ‘They offered their amniotic fluid, they offered their babies’ blood, had their babies undergo scans and tests.’

“Melo and other doctors are raising funds to open a clinic where infected children receive treatment and mothers assist in groundbreaking research.

“Joelma dos Santos, 25, gave birth to her third child, Lorena Cecilia, last month, and while the baby’s head circumference is within the normal range, dos Santos had contracted Zika during pregnancy, and worrisome brain scans led doctors to flag her for additional testing after birth.

“She is an example of the new cases that Melo is concerned about: babies who outwardly appear healthy, but who may exhibit delayed developmental problems related to Zika. She hopes that by building a bigger clinic, doctors will be able to monitor children for three years.

“Dos Santos and her husband, José, expressed joy that their child was born without microcephaly. “I was so worried at first,” José said through tears of relief. “To have a daughter with microcephaly is so difficult these days, but thank God the latest ultrasound looked normal.”

“After spending the morning at a party hosted by the hospital to celebrate Lucas’ and other babies’ first birthdays, Araújo gathered him and her 7-year-old daughter, Maisa, for the long trip back to her family’s farm.

“Finally back at home, she organized Lucas’ seven medications and prepared for the next day’s journey back to Campina Grande for a monthly appointment with the ear, nose and throat doctor.

“’What matters most to me is his health. Every time he responds or gives me a smile, it is everything,’ she said.

“While Araújo and her mother prepared dinner, her father, Eluizo, sat on the porch with Lucas in his arms. He recalled a parable from the Bible’s Book of Revelation in which a dragon attacks a woman holding her newborn baby.

“’I thought, my God, that dragon must have been enormous,’ he said. ‘But as things often are in spiritual matters, the dragon that appeared to us is the tiny mosquito, causing so much destruction, attacking the brains of children.’

“He described how the earth saved the woman and her baby from the dragon at the end of the parable, offering a hopeful conclusion.

“’Who knows,’ he added, looking down at Lucas with a smile. ‘We are always searching for new discoveries. The whole world has already declared: we are going to fight this dragon.’"

Source: USA Today

December 1, 2016: Duke Researchers -- How Highly Potent Antibody Neutralizes Zika Infection Discovered

C10 antibody (purple) visualized to be interacting with the Zika virus coat (green). Image/Victor Kostyuchenko, Duke-NUS Medical School

“As Zika spreads throughout the world, the call for rapid development of therapeutics to treat Zika rings loud and clear. Taking a step further in identifying a possible therapeutic candidate, a team of researchers at Duke-NUS Medical School (Duke-NUS), in collaboration with scientists from the University of North Carolina, have discovered the mechanism by which C10, a human antibody previously identified to react with the Dengue virus, prevents Zika infection at a cellular level.

“Previously, C10 was identified as one of the most potent antibodies able to neutralise Zika infection. Now, Associate Prof Lok Shee-Mei and her team at the Emerging Infectious Disease Programme of Duke-NUS have taken it one step further by determining how C10 is able to prevent Zika infection.

“To infect a cell, virus particles usually undergo two main steps, docking and fusion, which are also common targets for disruption when developing viral therapeutics. During docking, the virus particle identifies specific sites on the cell and binds to them. With Zika infection, docking then initiates the cell to take the virus in via an endosome – a separate compartment within the cell body. Proteins within the virus coat undergo structural changes to fuse with the membrane of the endosome, thereby releasing the virus genome into the cell, and completing the fusion step of infection.

“Using a method called cryoelectron microscopy, which allows for the visualisation of extremely small particles and their interactions, the team visualised C10 interacting with the Zika virus under different pHs, so as to mimic the different environments both the antibody and virus will find themselves in throughout infection. They showed that C10 binds to the main protein that makes up the Zika virus coat, regardless of pH, and locks these proteins into place, preventing the structural changes required for the fusion step of infection. Without fusion of the virus to the endosome, viral DNA is prevented from entering the cell, and infection is thwarted.

“’Hopefully, these results will further accelerate the development of C10 as a Zika therapy to combat its effects of microcephaly and Guillain-Barré syndrome. This should emphasise the need for further studies of the effect of C10 on Zika infection in animal models,’ commented Dr Lok.

“’By defining the structural basis for neutralization, these studies provide further support for the idea that this antibody will protect against Zika infection, potentially leading to a new therapy to treat this dreaded disease,’ says Ralph Baric, PhD, professor in the Department of Epidemiology at UNC’s Gillings School of Global Public Health.

“These findings suggest that C10 may be developed as a therapy for Zika infection, and should be further explored. In addition, disrupting fusion with C10 may prove to be more effective in preventing Zika infection compared with therapies that attempt to disrupt docking. This is because the fusion step is critical for Zika infection, while the virus may develop other mechanisms to overcome disruptions to the docking step. With the call for rapid development of Zika therapies, C10 has emerged as a front runner to answer this call.”

Source: Outbreak News Today

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