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Blog | August 2017

August 29, 2017: Hurricane Harvey Could Cause Increase in Zika Infections, Say Experts

Hurricane Harvey could ignite a surge in mosquitos capable of spreading Zika in southeast Texas, public health experts warned even as the storm was lashing the Gulf Coast over the weekend.

In the short term the storm will actually be a boon, flooding out mosquitos. But the standing water Harvey will leave behind will become their perfect breeding ground, including for Aedes aegypti mosquitos blamed for spreading the disease.

Officials are urging those returning to their homes after the storm to dump flower pots, bird baths and other containers with standing water.

“It’s been a significant part of our messaging for Zika all along and definitely will be something we’re talking about following Harvey,” said Chris Van Deusen, spokesman for the Texas Department of State Health Services.

The U.S. has enjoyed a relatively Zika-free year in 2017, with just a single case of the disease being spread locally by mosquito. That case came in Hidalgo County, along the border with Mexico.

Tamaulipas, the Mexican state on the other side of the boundary from Hidalgo Country, is one of three hard-hit states in Mexico where the number of Zika cases has risen this year.

Source: The Washington Times

August 14, 2017: ASU Researcher Says He’s Developed Tobacco-Based Zika Virus Vaccine

A researcher at Arizona State University said Thursday that he has developed a tobacco plant-based vaccine for Zika virus.

Qiang Chen said the creation of the vaccine was a fairly simple process.

“I use a small part of DNA from the Zika protein [then] I put that DNA into tobacco plants,” he said. “That piece of unique DNA will direct the production of the vaccine protein.”

Once enough vaccine material is produced, it is removed from the leaf.

Chen said the tobacco-based vaccine has benefits over traditional vaccines.

“Most vaccines are based on either DNA or killed full viruses,” he said. “[For example], if you use killed virus as a vaccine – if you have an accident, potentially, you can inoculate live virus into people.”

Another issue with full-copy DNA vaccination production for Zika is called the enhancement response. Chen said the virus is very genetically similar to dengue fever.

Because it is so similar, in certain circumstances, a full-virus replica of Zika could not only stimulate an immune response for that virus, but also an immune response for dengue fever.

Chen said he chose to develop the vaccine in tobacco plants because it is simple to direct foreign proteins into them.

“Tobacco plants can grow very fast, very easily,” he said. “[They] produce a lot of leaves for vaccine production. Tobacco plants also produce a lot of seeds, so if you want to scale up production you can quickly get a large number of seeds.”

Chen’s vaccine has been successfully tested in mice and monkeys, meaning his team can apply for human clinical trials through the Food and Drug Administration.

The Centers for Disease Control said Zika – spread by infected mosquitoes – can cause underdevelopment of human infants’ heads, or microcephaly, before they’re born.

Source: KTAR News

August 11, 2017: Florida Reports Dozen More Zika Cases

Florida health officials added another 12 reported cases of the Zika virus during the past week, including the first sexually transmitted case in 2017, according to information posted on the state Department of Health website.

As of Monday morning, August 7, 2017, the state had 128 reported Zika infections this year, up from 116 reported a week earlier. Of the new total, 97 were classified as “travel related” — meaning people brought the mosquito-borne virus into Florida after being infected elsewhere — up from 88 the previous Monday.

During the past week, the Department of Health announced that a person in Pinellas County had been infected with Zika through sexual transmission. The department did not identify the person or list the person’s gender but indicated a sexual partner might have contracted the disease while traveling recently to Cuba.

The department said it does not have evidence that mosquitoes are transmitting the disease in Florida. Other cases reported this year have involved people who were exposed in 2016 and tested in 2017.

Zika is particularly dangerous to pregnant women because it can lead to severe birth defects.

Source: WUSF News

August 3, 2017: First Sexually Transmitted Zika Case of 2017 Confirmed in Pinellas County

Florida has confirmed its first sexually transmitted case of Zika for this year, health officials said.

The Florida Department of Health announced in a statement Tuesday that the case was reported in Pinellas County. A resident’s partner showed symptoms of infection by Zika, a frequently mosquito-borne virus, after a recent trip to Cuba. Both people tested positive for Zika.

“There is no evidence of ongoing transmission of Zika by mosquitoes in any area of Florida,” the department said. “It is important to remember Zika can also be transmitted sexually and to take precautions if you or your partner traveled to an area where Zika is active.”

There have been 118 Zika cases reported in Florida this year, with the majority linked to travel outside the continental United States. The locally acquired infections confirmed this year were all linked to exposure to the virus in 2016, according to the Florida Department of Health.

Zika is most commonly transmitted via infected mosquitoes; documented cases of transmission through sexual contact have been rare. Infection usually results in minor symptoms, including fever, rash, joint pain and pinkeye. However, if a woman is infected by Zika during pregnancy, the virus can cause devastating birth defects, including microcephaly.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that men diagnosed with a Zika infection wait at least six months before having unprotected sex with a female partner so that they do not infect her. Infected men who have a pregnant partner are advised to wear barrier contraception for the duration of the pregnancy.

The Food and Drug Administration does not routinely test donated sperm for Zika, but it forbids anonymous donations within six months of being diagnosed with Zika infection, traveling to an affected area or having sex with someone who may have been infected.

Source: FOX News

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