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At Mosquito Squad, your health concerns
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Welcome to the Zika News Source. As the Zika virus continues its impact on the United States, Mosquito Squad knows how important it is to share timely news and tips on how to avoid mosquitoes and the seriously harmful diseases they can bring. Depend on Zika News Source as a trusted source for current news on the Zika virus.

 

January 23, 2017: Sheridan County Reports First Positive Zika Virus Case

Sheridan county confirmed its first positive case of the Zika virus, contracted through a bq. mosquito bite in a Sheridan man while traveling in the Caribbean

A Sheridan County man tested positive for the Zika virus on Jan. 11 after traveling to the Caribbean earlier this month.

“(The patient) got it on a cruise in the Caribbean and got bitten by mosquitos,” said Dr. John Finley with the South Sheridan Medical Center Urgent Care Clinic. “When they got back they had headache, rash and fever.”

The patient went to one of Finley’s nurse practitioners on Jan. 8, then returned on Jan. 9 to meet with Finley, who took a blood sample for testing with the Wyoming Department of Health.

Surveillance Epidemiologist Katie Bryan with the Wyoming Department of Health confirmed the third case of Zika in a six-month period in Wyoming and the first in Sheridan County. Bryan said the case was an adult male who contracted the virus while traveling. The other two cases occurred in Laramie and Campbell counties in August 2016.

Testing for the Zika virus starts with one blood test. If that test comes back positive, no further testing takes place. With the Sheridan case, the blood test returned positive.

“This patient noticed because of the rash and that’s really why they came in,” Finley said.

Common symptoms of Zika the patient faced included a headache, rash and fever. For most, the virus causes minimal damage and requires little to no treatment.

“Being a virus, there really is no treatment for it. The disease is very minimal as far as when you have it,” Finley said. “Headache, you don’t feel good for a couple days and maybe a rash and then it all goes away. Many, many people who’ve had it didn’t even know it. You don’t feel good one day and the next day you’re fine, you don’t think about it.”

Treatment runs similar to regular treatment for headaches and fevers.

“Usually we just tell patients to make sure they stay hydrated, take some Tylenol for the fever and rest and it’s going to go away,” Finley said.

Zika remains a low-key virus for most but becomes a true scare if women become infected and are pregnant or plan to become pregnant.

“Babies can have several birth defects that are associated primarily with Zika,” Finley said. “These are awful things you don’t want to have.”

Microcephaly is a birth defect where a baby’s head is smaller than expected when compared to babies of the same sex and age, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Babies with microcephaly often have smaller brains that might not have developed properly. Other conditions include Guillain-Barré syndrome, which the immune system attacks the nerve.

“The current recommendations for women: If you’re pregnant or thinking about getting pregnant, stay out of the Zika places,” Finley said.

The Puerto Rico Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have developed a surveillance system called Zika Active Pregnancy Surveillance System used to evaluate the association between Zika virus infection during pregnancy and adverse outcomes during pregnancy, birth and early childhood up to 3 years old, CDC’s website reads.

The United States, specifically Brownsville, Texas and Florida, Mexico and a majority of South America reported active Zika virus transmissions.

Due to cold winter months in Sheridan, it remains highly unlikely others will contract the virus through mosquito-borne Zika virus transmissions.

While the risk associated with traveling to countries affected by Zika virus transmissions remain extremely high for pregnant or potentially pregnant women, men also need to take heed to potential transmissions through bodily fluids.

“The virus builds up in body fluids; tears, saliva, sweat, semen,” Finley said. “The semen is where it seems to like to live for a long time. Men, if they go (to infected areas), they should not, absolutely not, get a woman pregnant for six months.”

Prevention, in this case, includes abstaining from sexual relations or using birth control.

For those with planned visits to affected areas, awareness and prevention need to sit at the top of the packing list.

Finley suggests using insect repellent with DEET, wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants and remaining aware of surroundings day and night.

CDCs website also suggests checking latest travel recommendations for updates on affected areas.

Source: The Sheridan Press

January 21, 2017: First Zika Virus Infection Found in Fresno County

The Fresno County Department of Public Health has confirmed that a female resident has been infected with the Zika virus through sexual transmission in a travel associated case.

The Health Department said The Zika virus spreads to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito, but can also spread through unprotected sex with a person infected with Zika. Most people infected with Zika do not experience symptoms, but should take precautions to avoid sexual transmission, even if they never had symptoms, if they have been at risk for exposure.

Source: ABC 30 Action News

January 18, 2017: Despite Predicted Slow Down During Winter Season, Zika Continues Plaguing Florida

Despite a predicted slow down during the cooler winter season, the Zika virus continues plaguing Florida

The Zika virus is mainly transmitted by the aedes aegypti mosquito. But, Florida Department of Health Secretary Celeste Philip says there are not well-researched protocols for how to get rid of the mosquito.

“It’s different than the nuisance mosquitoes that most of us are familiar with in that instead of dusk and dawn—remember that messaging—they’re day biters,” she said, speaking last week to the Senate Budget committee. “Instead of being out and about in nature, they like to be in urban areas, close to people, inside homes, often times. And, so the way that you address, mitigate, and control the aedes aegypti mosquitoes is very different.”

Philip says one of the focuses in this year’s health budget is more funding for epidemiologists, who deal with controlling different types of diseases.

“As we’ve learned from our Zika response as well as in the past few years, there seems to be a new disease DuJour that the department is responsible for,” she added. “We’ve had Ebola, we’ve had MERS—which is a Middle East respiratory syndrome and have repeatedly had to depend on epidemiologists. And, what we find is we are able to respond very well to whatever that condition is, but some of the daily activities of epidemiologists, then there is a delay in some of that. And, so, we have now gotten to a point where we believe that this is an important investment for the state for us to have a strong epidemiologist workforce.”

So far, the state has confirmed about 1,300 Zika cases. That includes cases considered travel-related, locally acquired via Florida mosquitoes, and involving pregnant women.

And, Philip says health officials are already making plans to monitor those mothers and their kids, since Zika is associated with a severe birth defect.

“So, as we move forward, and we continue to work with healthcare professionals to learn more about Zika to make sure testing is available and that they have the resources that they need, to make sure we’re following up with those infants over the next few years, if not longer—that will be an important partnership as well as following up with the CDC,” she continued.

Meanwhile, the health department isn’t working alone.

Since the first report of local Zika transmissions, state Department of Economic Opportunity Director Cissy Proctor says her jobs agency focused on assisting and educating the business community.

For example, she says DEO officials along with members of the Small Business Development Center, or the SBDC went to the Zika hotspots of Wynwood and Miami Beach.

“So, this was a team on the ground that went around to businesses and knocked on their door and asked, ‘how can we help you? What can we do?’ The things that they needed were technical assistance. ‘What can we do if people are not coming to our restaurants, to our businesses?’ And, working with the SBDC, came up with some creative ideas,” said Proctor. ”For instance, if a company or restaurant didn’t normally cater or didn’t normally deliver, then maybe that is something that they would try to see if they could keep income and money coming in the doors, so they can continue to employ the folks in their restaurants and their business.”

As for the state’s tourism industry, Zika still hasn’t had a big impact. Proctor says that’s according to her partner agency, Visit Florida.

“So, Visit Florida began a tracking survey to determine the impacts of Zika on people’s perceptions,” she added. “So, to date, we have 20 weeks of survey information that has been collected. What we know is that from what we’ve heard from tourism leaders, and anecdotally as well as I’m sure you all have seen on the news that there were cancellations. But, the survey results showed that even with increased news that there were not a significant number of cancellations. So, what we’ve heard is ‘yes, we’ve seen the news. Yes, we are concerned. But, no we are not cancelling our vacation.”

In fact, Proctor points out Florida hit record setting tourism numbers in the third quarter of 2016, despite concerns over Zika.

Source: WFSU

January 14, 2017: Two New Disease-Carrying Mosquitoes Found In Florida

Two new tropical disease-transmitting mosquitoes have been found in the state of Florida for the first time, according to researchers from University of Florida.

Entomologist Nathan Burkett-Cadena did not expect to find the Aedeomyia squamipennis and Culex panocossa species in Homestead as well as in Florida City on a research trip back in October. It is a sign that Florida is now becoming more conducive to tropical mosquitoes, especially as they are found near the mainland.

Both species are believed to transmit viruses to humans and lay their eggs on weeds that float in canals and drainage waters, warned Burkett-Cadena in a Miami Herald report.

Mosquito-Weary South Florida

While native to Central and South America, the mosquitoes likely arrived via plants and spread across South Florida canals and ponds. They are expected to grow in numbers soon.

“This would speak to some broader environmental changes that have caused Florida to be more accessible and hospitable to tropical mosquitoes,” the scientist said, pointing to global warming as the likely culprit and saying nobody had the species’ arrival “on their radar.”

Apart from climate change, increased tourism and global trade have probably made Florida a good destination for the exotic species, Burkett-Cadena added.

It’s a particularly bad time for the discovery in South Florida, as a Zika virus outbreak hit Wynwood and Miami Beach over the summer and extending into fall. The outbreak, with over 1,200 local and travel cases documented statewide, is caused by the Aedes aegypti mosquito.

While dry, cool weather paired with aggressive control measures has helped contain the mosquito spread, the disease is expected to return by springtime.

Severe birth defects in different places have mounted a full-blown Zika crisis. The virus takes the form of microcephaly in babies and kids, a defect characterized by smaller-than-normal heads.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have issued numerous health and travel recommendations for people who are most prone to the virus and its dangers, particularly pregnant women. As of Nov. 18, the World Health Organization has lifted the Zika virus’ global health emergency status.

While no vaccine exists for the virus yet, researchers have identified seven key proteins within it that may have been instrumental in the extent of the outbreak’s damage.

The two new species also carry viruses and can easily conquer densely populated areas.

There are a number of differences between them, though: the Aedeomyia mosquito feeds mainly on birds, which transmit the West Nile, Eastern equine encephalitis, and other viruses, while the Culex panocossa is a confirmed vector for the Venezuelan equine encephalitis, which poses a deadly threat to kids and the elderly.

The latter also likely carries the local Everglades virus, which is typically detected in native Culex species. The virus is so far contained since the mosquitoes do not survive well outside the Everglades, but researchers are worried about the mosquito’s tropical kin starting to spread it.

The virus in its mild form can lead to flu-like symptoms and joint aches but can progress to encephalitis and occasionally trigger comas that have not so far led to mortalities.

With the recent discovery, the number of invasive mosquitoes found in Florida over the past decade has reached nine.

Source: Tech Times

January 13, 2017: Miami Doctors Publish Study of First Locally-Acquired Zika Transmission

Following the recent Zika outbreak in Miami-Dade County, a multidisciplinary team of physicians has published a case study describing in detail the nation’s first locally-transmitted case of Zika

The findings of the case study, titled “Cutaneous Eruption in a U.S. Woman with Locally Acquired Zika Virus Infection,” largely center on the skin rash associated with the then-23-year-old pregnant patient’s diagnosis and provide a glimpse of the skin manifestations of the Zika virus. The report may have implications for future Zika screening, diagnoses and linkage to care throughout the United States and abroad.

“Dermatologists and clinicians had an idea of what the Zika rash looked like, but it wasn’t until the patient presented here that we were able to get an up-close and personal look and photograph the skin,” said Lucy Chen, M.D., a Jackson Health System dermatology resident and lead author of the case study. “Any doctor now has a visual sense of the rash to properly diagnose and refer patients to the appropriate specialists.”

The young woman whose case is detailed in the report was 23-weeks pregnant in July 2016 and had experienced three days of low-grade fever, a widespread rash and sore throat. The rash consisted of small pink bumps on the patient’s chest, back of her arms, legs, palms and soles, said Chen, who saw the patient upon admission. Her symptoms later advanced to muscle and joint pain. The patient tested positive for Zika although neither she nor her partner had traveled outside of the U.S. The case was confirmed by the Miami-Dade County Department of Health as the first non-travel-associated case of Zika in the U.S.

The virus was present in her system for two weeks in urine samples and six weeks in blood samples. Tests, thus far, on the patient’s infant show normal development, head size and intracranial anatomy, with no calcifications. The infant, who was born in October 2016, did not test positive for Zika.

Zika virus, a mosquito-borne virus, is transmitted by the Aedes Aegypti mosquito. As Miami-Dade County has the highest number of locally-transmitted and travel-related Zika cases in the U.S., University of Miami physicians at Jackson Memorial Hospital are uniquely positioned to document cases of Zika in adults and children and contribute to the growing knowledge of the virus, which has heavily impacted countries throughout Latin American, the Caribbean and parts of the U.S.

Christine Curry, M.D., Ph.D., who leads the care of Zika-infected pregnant women at the University of Miami and Jackson Health Systems, said the patient is “an example of how the virus can circulate in the body of a pregnant woman for more than the typical one to two weeks.” While there isn’t enough definitive evidence, Curry, an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the UM Miller School of Medicine, said some tests suggest that the virus may have a tendency to linger longer in pregnant women.

In addition to Chen and Curry, the case study was co-authored by George W. Elgart, M.D., professor and Vice Chair of Education for the Department of Dermatology and Jackson Health System dermatology resident Farheen Hafeez, M.D.

Chen said people who experience a rash often do not seek care from a provider until it has cleared up. However, as Miami-Dade County is ground zero for the U.S. Zika outbreak, physicians and health workers have been on heightened alert for patients presenting with symptoms associated with Zika.

UM and Jackson have taken a multidisciplinary approach to combating Zika transmissions, caring for patients and studying cases.

Chen and a team in the UM Department of Dermatology took a biopsy of the skin and noted seeing neutrophil cells, which Chen said are not commonly present with viral rashes but help fight infections.

“This is an interesting finding but we would need to study additional cases to determine whether these cells help distinguish Zika rashes from other viral rashes,” said Chen.

Source: Science Daily

January 12, 2017: Child Born in Austin Has Zika Virus

Health officials say a child born in Travis County with microcephaly has the Zika virus

Austin health officials say a child born in Travis County with microcephaly has the Zika virus.

Austin Public Health Chief of Staff Bob Corona said the child was born last September in an Austin hospital, and tests confirmed the Zika virus this week.

Corona said the mother was infected in Central America, but it’s unclear if the mother was an Austin-area resident visiting Central America or a Central American visiting Austin.

State health officials say 294 people reported Zika-related illnesses as of Dec. 30, but only two of which were acquired in Texas. Twenty cases involved pregnant women, with two infants infected before birth. The first child born in Texas with Zika-related microcephaly, an abnormally small head, was last year in Harris County. The Zika virus was confirmed July 13.

Source: Time Warner Cable News Austin

January 11, 2017: Zika Update: Where Does the United States Stand?

To cap off a year that saw the Zika virus spread throughout the United States, The Centers For Disease Control made a grand, much-needed gesture. The CDC, using money granted by Congress earlier this year, has pledged close to $200 million to help fight the virus throughout the U.S. and its territories.

The money—which actually totals to $184 million—comes at a time where as many as 75 nations and territories have shown evidence of Zika infections. Approximately one year ago, that number was as small as 23.

As both the number of worldwide infections—and the measures intended to prevent them—continues to spread, the question remains: where do we stand with Zika?

Globally, only one new nation has reported a Zika infection since September, but that doesn’t mean the burden of the disease has lessened in countries that were already struggling. Even though the World Health Organization officially ended the status of the virus— which can cause severe birth defects in the brains of children born to infected mothers—as a global health emergency back in November, many countries are in it for the long haul when it comes to dealing with Zika.

In Brazil, for example, there have been 1,749 cases of babies born with defects in their nervous system, a problem that is estimated to cost the country around >$4 million per child

In the United States, these efforts may be working, as there has only been one new Zika case reported in the past three weeks. Despite this, research is continuing to reveal new ways that the virus can endanger pregnancies, making the task of stopping its spread just as important now as it was five months ago.

The virus first appeared in the U.S. in July, when Zika began to spread through infected mosquitos in Miami. Since then, infections have been reported in all 48 continental U.S. states.

However, almost all of these cases—there are 4,618 in total—have occurred through travel, with only approximately 200 infections in Florida and only a handful of infections in Texas spreading locally. Still, Congress is responding aggressively, as the CDC’s funding was only a small part of a $1.1 billion spending bill signed into law by president Obama back in September. The money is meant to serve a number of purposes, including vaccine research, mosquito control and studies on the virus’ effects on babies.

Source: Paste Magazine

January 10, 2017: Zika Cases Slow, but DSHS Still Urges Caution

There’s good news and bad news on the Zika virus front in Texas.

“The good news is, it’s been cold enough in most of the state that mosquito activity has dropped,” said DSHS Director of Media Relations Chris Van Deusen.

The bad news? “That’s not consistently the case in the Valley so there continues to be a risk of Zika spreading there,” he said.

So far, Texas has reported nearly 300 cases of Zika, with the vast majority related to travel to areas with ongoing Zika transmission. DSHS continues to receive weekly reports of new travel cases and has identified six cases transmitted by mosquitoes in Texas, all in Brownsville. Central and South America, as well as the Caribbean, continue to be Zika hotspots.

“That continues to be a concern for us, especially as people from the US travel there when it’s cold here,” Van Deusen said.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all pregnant women who live in or regularly travel to Brownsville be tested for Zika, once in their first trimester and again in the second. They can do this at their regular pre-natal checkups or through their county health clinics.

Despite the advent of colder weather, DSHS still recommends Texans take precautions against mosquito bites by using an effective mosquito repellant and wearing long pants and long-sleeve shirts. And in addition to dumping any standing water in flower pots and the like, Van Deusen said it’s also a good idea to scrub containers where water collects to eliminate mosquito eggs that can lie dormant through the winter.

While the Zika virus is transmitted primarily through mosquito bites, it may also spread by sexual contact. The four most common symptoms are fever, itchy rash, joint pain and eye redness. While symptoms are usually minor, Zika can also cause severe birth defects, including microcephaly, in some women who become infected during pregnancy.

DSHS recommends pregnant women follow CDC advice to avoid traveling to locations with sustained, local Zika transmission, including all areas of Mexico. Pregnant women should also use condoms or avoid sexual contact with partners who have traveled to those areas.

To learn more and get updates about the Zika virus, visit texaszika.org or follow @TexasDSHS on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Source: The Connection

January 9, 2017: British Actor Tony Gardner Reveals He Caught Zika While Filming Death in Paradise

Tony Gardner felt “pretty rough” after he was bitten by a mosquito carrying the disease in Guadeloupe

British actor Tony Gardner has revealed that he caught the Zika virus while filming the BBC crime series Death in Paradise in the Caribbean.

Known for his roles in Last Tango in Halifax, Fresh Meat and The Thick of It, the 52-year-old was taken ill after being bitten by a mosquito carrying the disease in Guadeloupe.

Speaking on comedian Sean Hughes’ podcast Under the Radar, Gardner said he felt “pretty rough” for a week after being bitten. He added that he and other crew members could make up “quite a lot” of the more than 250 Brits who are known to have caught the virus.

“There are now about 200 Brits who have had Zika,” Gardner said, “But quite a lot of them, possibly, come from the group of people that go out to Guadeloupe for six months a year to film."

“In retrospect I should have been more aggressive with the repellant,” he said.

He added: “About a couple of hours before I flew out I got a rash. And then for a week I wasn’t particularly well with joint pain and swelling… I just felt pretty rough actually for about a week.”

Gardner, who is a father and a qualified doctor, said that the virus was “not a problem for me because I’ve finished my family. It’s quite dangerous for people getting pregnant or men starting families.”

The production company behind Death in Paradise, Red Planet Pictures, said in a statement: “Information was provided on avoiding all mosquito-borne viruses and insect repellent was available on set at all times. Despite these precautions, a small number of the team were unwell after having been bitten.”

An outbreak of Zika in Brazil in 2015 was linked to instances of the birth defect microcephaly and women have been warned not to try and conceive for at least eight weeks after visiting areas affected by the virus.

Source: Radiotimes

January 6, 2017: Zika Case Confirmed in Willacy County

Health officials confirmed a case of Zika virus in Willacy County, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services website.

The case is reported to be travel related. Zika virus cases have now been confirmed in all four counties of the Rio Grande Valley.

Zika is primarily spread through mosquitoes. Symptoms include fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes; however, most people infected don’t show symptoms or have mild symptoms. The virus has been linked to microcephaly, a birth defect where a baby’s head doesn’t fully develop.

Early cases of the virus in the Rio Grande Valley were confirmed in September and classified as travel related. In late November, health officials said a Zika case in Cameron County was transmitted locally by a mosquito. This led to voluntary urine tests of people living in the same area as the 43-year-old woman in the case. More cases of Zika were confirmed through these tests.

As of Tuesday, the state health department listed 16 cases of Zika in Cameron County, five cases in Hidalgo County, one in Starr County and one in Willacy County. Cameron County Health Authority Dr. James Castillo said there may be plenty of others infected, but only 20 percent of people with the virus are symptomatic.

So far, the only Zika cases in the state that were locally transmitted were found in Cameron County.

As of last week, Cameron County health officials haven’t found solid proof that infected mosquitoes are in the area. None of the thousands of mosquitoes trapped throughout Brownsville have tested positive for the virus; however, testing continues.

Dr. Castillo said they are relying on health experts’ educated guess and what is known about Zika to make determinations on each case. He pointed out it’s impossible to catch every single mosquito.

Source: KRGV.com

January 5, 2017: 1 New Case of Local Zika Transmission In Miami Area

Florida health officials say they have one new case of a locally-transmitted Zika infection in Miami-Dade County.

Health officials said in a statement Wednesday that, despite the new case, the state doesn’t have any areas of active Zika transmission.

The statement says the Florida Department of Health is investigating to find out where the person was exposed to the virus.

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.

But earlier this month state health officials declared all the areas were clear of continuing infection.

Researchers say some birth defects caused by Zika infections may not be apparent at birth but develop months later.

Source: NBC 2 Miami

January 4, 2017: El Nino On a Warming Planet May Have Sparked the Zika Epidemic, Scientists Report

In a world characterized by rising temperatures, deforestation and other human influences on the environment, the spread of infectious disease is a hot topic. Many recent studies suggest that environmental changes can affect the transmission of everything from malaria to the Zika virus — and it’s increasingly important to understand these links, scientists say.

This week, a new study has provided new evidence that environmental changes can increase the threat of disease. It concludes that unusually warm temperatures caused by 2015’s severe El Nino event — likely compounded by ongoing climate change — may have aided in the rapid spread of Zika virus in South America that year. And while there are many complex factors at play in the spread of mosquito-borne diseases, the study may help scientists better prepare for the kinds of future effects we might see in our warming world.

“The start of the mission was simple — trying to address where the risk will be, where is it going to move next, where could Zika happen on the planet on a global scale,” said Cyril Caminade, a research fellow at the University of Liverpool and the new study’s lead author. To that end, the authors designed a study that would help them determine how climatic changes have impacted the mosquito-borne transmission of Zika.

There are two main species of mosquito known to carry the Zika virus — Aedes aegypti, or the yellow fever mosquito, which is widespread in the tropics; and Aedes albopictus, or the Asian tiger mosquito, which lives in both tropical and temperate regions of the world. Scientists also believe Zika can be sexually transmitted, but the new study focused only on mosquito transmission.

For the study, the researchers collected published information on the distribution of these two mosquito species and how temperature variations can affect them. Studies suggest, for instance, that up to a certain point, rising temperatures can cause mosquitoes to bite more frequently. The researchers also collected global historical climate data from the past few decades and used all the information to build a model of Zika transmission worldwide.

The model produced an unusually high disease transmission potential in the tropics for the year 2015, including in Colombia and Brazil, the countries hit hardest by Zika. Similar results occurred between 1997 and 1998, one of the only other times on record to experience such a brutal El Nino event.

“[O]ur model indicates that the 2015 El Nino event, superimposed on the long-term global warming trend, has had an important amplification effect,” the researchers note in the paper.

A new report, published Thursday as a special edition of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, provides some of the best evidence yet that climate change already has a hand in our worst weather.

The model also helped the researchers identify the ideal seasonal climate conditions for Zika transmission around the world. In South America, for instance, the model suggests that the potential for transmission should peak in the winter and spring.

In the southeastern U.S., on the other hand, summer is ideal. In fact, the model suggests this region has a high potential for disease transmission during this time, due partly to the high temperatures and partly to the fact that both mosquito species are found there.

That said, reports of Zika have been limited in the U.S. so far — and this speaks to the complexity of vector-borne disease transmission, Caminade said. Climate can certainly play a significant role in setting up the right conditions for an outbreak, but epidemics also depend on many other factors, including population density, access to healthcare and the use of pesticides and other anti-mosquito interventions in any given location. Some of these factors — which were not accounted for in the new study — can probably explain why there hasn’t been much Zika transmission in the U.S. so far.

Caminade also pointed out that after a population has been exposed to a mosquito-borne disease like Zika, a phenomenon called “herd immunity” often occurs — this happens when so many people have already been exposed, and developed an immunity, that there aren’t enough new people left to infect to continue the epidemic. This is the probably part of the reason we didn’t see Zika epidemics in other tropical parts of the world in 2015, despite the new study’s results. And some experts have suggested that herd immunity will likely cause the current situation in South America to burn itself out within a few more years.

But Caminade cautions that there’s still the potential for Zika outbreaks in other parts of the world where the conditions are right, including the United States and even southern Europe. The result would likely be milder than what’s been experienced in South America in the past year, but there’s “still risk,” he said.

According to Caminade, one of the study’s major takeaway points is that extreme climate conditions can lead to all kinds of unusual events — droughts, floods and wildfires are only a few examples — and disease outbreak is just one more potential disaster scientists should be looking out for when these conditions occur.

And such events may only be exacerbated by future climate change. Some studies have suggested that the kinds of “monster” El Nino events seen in 1997 and 2015 may be more likely in a warmer world, Caminade pointed out. But he added that scientists wishing to make more precise predictions about the future spread of disease must take a wide variety of factors into account — climate is just one of them.

“I won’t overplay the role of climate for the future,” he said. “It’s still a disease, and there are still parameters which are going to be very important.”

Source: The Times-Picayune

January 3, 2017: Cameron County Teen Infected in Sixth Zika Virus Case

A sixth case of the Zika virus was confirmed in the Rio Grande Valley on Thursday.

Cameron County health authorities released the information Thursday stating a 14-year-old teenager was infected.

In total, 17 cases have been reported in Cameron County. Eleven of those are travel-related, while the remaining six were locally-acquired.

Cameron County Health Authority Dr. James Castillo said the teenager lives near East Price Road and South Padre Highway. The area is about a mile and a half away from the five locally-acquired Zika cases confirmed in the past weeks.

Dr. Castillo said the teen’s case is not connected to the other group. He said the Cameron County Department of Health and Human Services is testing those closest to the teen to make sure they aren’t infected.

“Our investigation so far – for the 14-year-old – is that no other people in his household have had symptoms. But we’re testing them,” he said.

Dr. Castillo said that unlike the first confirmed locally-acquired Zika cases, they won’t conduct door-to-door testing.

“We’re not going to be testing asymptomatic people outside of the household. So we’re not doing what we had done on the initial responses. Again, all of those tests were negative. We did find additional four cases, but only after they became symptomatic,” he said.

The physician said the city of Brownsville sprayed for mosquitoes on Wednesday and Thursday. He said he expects to see few cases per month. “I think local cases. I think we’re going to continue to have quite a bit of travel,” he said.

Dr. Castillo said people should see their doctor if they develop symptoms including fever, rash and joint pain. He advised Brownsville residents to wear long sleeves and spray themselves with repellent.

“Any place that the conditions are right and the weather is right for these mosquitoes, and you have travelers, you have the recipe for Zika transmission,” he said.

The health officials said this case doesn’t mean Zika is wide spread in Cameron County.

Source: KRGV 5 News

January 2, 2017: Travelers Are Ditching Zika-Filled Caribbean For Hawaii This Winter

Amid fears of contracting the Zika virus, which causes birth defects, travelers are turning an eye to Hawaii for their vacations.

When NY1 traffic reporter Jamie Stelter and her husband, CNN anchor and correspondent Brian Stelter, were planning a December getaway, they nixed their usual locales.

“We like to go to Miami. We’ve been to Puerto Rico. Anything in the Caribbean feels fairly easy to do,” says Jamie Stelter.

But instead of a quick two- or three-hour jaunt to the beach, the Stelters went to Kauai in Hawaii — a 10-hour-plus journey from NYC.

The reason? Stelter would be four months pregnant in December and the mosquito-born Zika virus, she says — which can cause microcephaly and other birth defects — had infiltrated their go-to destinations.

“I [didn’t want to] take the chance, especially after what it took for us to have a healthy pregnancy,” says Stelter, 34, who has been public about her difficulties conceiving and IVF treatments.

In Kauai, “it was all pregnant women,” she says with a laugh. “It was a big trip, but we both knew we wanted somewhere that was warm and beachy and relaxing, and you really can’t go anywhere close.”

It’s not surprising that other New Yorkers also are clamoring to say aloha. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website reports that more than 200 locally acquired Zika transmissions have occurred so far in Florida, and more than 33,000 in Puerto Rico. The number of infections in other Caribbean islands, it notes, vary. Thus far, Hawaii has seen no locally acquired cases.

A Delta rep tells the New York Post that the industry has seen an increase in passenger demand to Hawaii from New York in the last year. And the Four Seasons Maui says the hotel’s New York guests jumped up 3.5 percent since last year.

This Christmas break, Allyson Stumacher broke a 15-year family tradition of hopping aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise leaving from Puerto Rico for a Norwegian Cruise in Hawaii due to Zika fears.

The 33-year-old mother of a 8-month-old and 4½-year-old was concerned what would happen if her youngest got bit, especially after they’d had a previous Zika scare.

“We did that Caribbean cruise [while I was pregnant],” says Stumacher. “When I got back, it was announced that there was Zika in those spots. The CDC flagged me and I had to go for blood tests and everything. I wouldn’t put myself in the same position.”

Hawaii visitors be warned: it’s good practice to check the CDC website for updated warnings before any trip to a tropical area.

For 30-year-old Katie, a West Village resident who asked that her last name not be used, Maui was one of the few warm-weather options being considered when her family planned her stepfather’s 75th birthday celebration this week.

“If not for Zika, we probably wouldn’t be going on such a long flight. It definitely adds an extra expense with 14 people traveling and we have one 3-year-old with us,” says Katie, noting that the five-hour time change can prove difficult for youngsters. “But at least we have an excuse to visit such an exciting and beautiful part of America.”

Source: New York Post

January 1, 2017: Zika Virus: What We've Learned This Past Year

The Zika virus emerged as a global threat to pregnant women and their developing babies in the last year. What have we learned in 2016 and what can we expect from Zika?

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Zika – a little more than a year ago, most people had never heard of it. Then doctors in Brazil started to see lots of babies being born with malformed heads. They had microcephaly, a rare birth defect.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: (Speaking Brazilian Portuguese).

LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO, BYLINE: Normally, in a year, he tells me, you’d have maybe three or four cases. In 24 hours, when we asked around, there had been 11 in the city. And that was a shocking enough number, he says, that we realized something very serious was happening.

SIEGEL: That’s NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navarro reporting last December. The virus became an international health emergency. It spread to our shores. Here’s a father-to-be in Miami in August.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: I want to be out planning to go baby shopping. And I’m waiting to see if my wife, who got sick with a rash after getting bitten by something on Miami Beach, has Zika or not.

SIEGEL: The more scientists learned about Zika, the more disturbing it seemed. NPR health correspondent Rob Stein joins us now to recap and tell us what to expect next year. And, Rob, let’s start by taking a step back. What did scientists know about Zika a year ago?

ROB STEIN, BYLINE: Well, you know, Robert, I’ve been covering health for decades, and I had to google Zika when doctors in Brazil first started to raise alarm bells about it. Researchers really knew very little about the Zika. It was so obscure and was thought to be pretty harmless. It hadn’t really been studied very much at all.

SIEGEL: Well, they’ve learned a lot about it since then. Bring us up to date about what’s now known about the virus.

STEIN: When I went to Brazil last February, the key question was – was Zika causing microcephaly? And now we know for sure, yes, Zika can cause microcephaly. And that makes it the first virus that’s spread by a mosquito that can cause a serious birth defect. And they also know how it does that. And the more scientists learn Zika, really, the more disturbing it becomes. They’re really – it’s becoming clear that microcephaly is probably just the tip of the iceberg.

SIEGEL: There are other problems caused by Zika.

STEIN: Lots of other problems. Babies can be born with deformed limbs. They can have seizures. They can be deaf – blindness. There’s a whole range of problems that Zika can cause.

SIEGEL: Well, those are things that we know or scientists know about Zika now. What are some things that they still don’t know?

STEIN: There are huge open questions. I mean, you know, a big one, obviously, is we’re still trying to develop a vaccine. And there’s some promising work going on there, but we’re not there yet. There’s no treatment for it, really. Another big question, I think, that a lot of women – pregnant women – have is – how risky is it, really? A lot of women catch Zika when they’re pregnant, but their babies turn out fine. And the big question is – how often does it cause microcephaly and other birth defects?

Now there some recent research came out just last week that started to give us a hint of what the risk might be. One study from the United States found the risk to be about 4, 6 percent maybe for microcephaly and birth defects, maybe as high as 11 percent if women are infected in the first trimester. But then there was another study out of Brazil that found that maybe close to half of pregnancies could end up with some sort of problem if women get infected when they’re pregnant. So the bottom line on that is we really don’t know.

And another big question is – is it going to cause problems later in life? We’ve discovered recently that the virus can continue to reproduce in the brains of babies after they’re born. That raises the possibility that could cause damage after they’re born and even in young children if they get infected.

SIEGEL: And looking ahead to next year, Rob, what can we expect to be hearing about Zika?

STEIN: Yeah, so scientists are keeping a close eye now on Latin America to see what’s going to happen. Are we going to see big epidemics, big outbreaks like last year? We might in places where we didn’t see a lot of Zika this past year. Doctors are also worried about Puerto Rico, where we saw a lot of infections this past year. And the women who got infected are starting to give birth now. Will we see a big upsurge in microcephaly? That’s a big concern. And also, you know, the question is on the continental United States – scientists think that we’re probably will continue to see Zika come back year after year. It’ll become kind of a chronic problem – not any big epidemics, but small clusters and outbreaks every year probably going forward for many years.

SIEGEL: OK. NPR health correspondent Rob Stein, thanks.

STEIN: Sure. Nice to be here.

Source: NPR

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

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

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 Outsourcing-Pharma.com 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.’”

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

November 30, 2016: County Continues Vigilance Against Spread of Zika Virus

“As researchers learn more about the devastating health effects of Zika, county crews this past week continued an unprecedented effort to stop the virus from spreading locally.

“For the 10th time this year, San Diego County’s vector-control crews sprayed insecticide in a neighborhood known to have mosquitoes that can carry the virus. The latest spraying took place in the South County neighborhood of Nestor.

“As of Wednesday, 67 people in the county had tested positive for Zika this year after traveling abroad. But only 10 neighborhoods have been sprayed because in many cases, the targeted Aedes mosquitoes weren’t detected near the sickened residents’ homes.

“San Diego County hasn’t fielded any report of a locally acquired Zika case, while there have been 139 nationally this year.

“’It is encouraging,’ said Rebecca Lafreniere, deputy director of the county’s Environmental Health Department. ‘But we really emphasize our public-health message about preventing the breeding [of mosquitoes] in the first place.’

“She said the public can do its part by eliminating any pools of stagnant water — even small amounts.

“Other prevention tips include staying inside and bringing pets indoors, closing windows and doors, turning off fans that bring outdoor air inside and covering ornamental fishponds. The county also advises people to rinse fruits and vegetables from gardens before cooking or eating them, as well as wiping down or covering outdoor items such as toys and barbecue grills.

“San Diego County’s latest Zika-related spraying case arose amid what may be encouraging signs about the epidemic’s containment in the U.S. and internationally.

“A study released by the agency last week urged further caution for new mothers; it cited research showing that severe birth defects caused by Zika may not be apparent at birth but develop months afterward. The CDC now recommends long-term monitoring of babies born to Zika-infected women.

“Aedes mosquitoes didn’t gain public awareness in the U.S. until recent years, but they’ve long been a scourge in several other parts of the world. They can transmit not only Zika, but also yellow fever, dengue fever and chikungunya.

“In San Diego County, Lafreniere said the Aedes aegypti, also known as the yellow fever mosquito, and the Aedes albopictus, or the Asian tiger mosquito, were first reported in 2014 and 2015, respectively. Their appearance was a game-changer for the region’s vector control officials, who deal with most mosquito species by trying to kill larvae or reduce breeding areas.

“In the past, San Diegans who contracted mosquito-borne diseases while abroad weren’t a public-health threat once they returned home because those non-Zika viruses essentially had no way to spread here. Aedes mosquitoes are considered more invasive, and they’re adept at surviving and expanding their populations in urban areas.

“Vector-control crews must go after the adults, specifically the females that bite people and spread the Zika virus, Lafreniere said.

“She also said the county was prepared for responding to Zika because it has a plan for dealing with emerging vector-borne diseases. Likewise, the county has a reserve budget for an emergency public-health threat and follows an existing integrated pest-management approach that addresses public information and education, mosquito surveillance, biological control, physical control and microbial and chemical control.

“Fighting Aedes mosquitoes hasn’t been without its challenges, though. Lafreniere didn’t cite a dollar amount last week, but said the anti-Zika work has created a ripple effect on her department.

“’Because we’ve had these 10 (spraying) responses, it has shifted some of our operational needs,’ she said. For example, she said the county’s standard response time of one day for a vector-control issue has sometimes been stretched to two days because of the anti-Zika efforts.

“Besides working to combat the new invasive mosquitoes, the county is dealing with a longer mosquito season, which traditionally was during the warmer months of April through October.

“’What we’ve been experiencing in the last few years is very mild winters,’ Lafreniere said. “We’ve been seeing more mosquitoes in the winter, which is unusual."

Source: The San Diego Union-Tribune

November 29, 2016: Microcephaly Found in Babies of Zika-Infected Mothers Months After Birth

“It is the news that doctors and families in the heart of Zika territory had feared: Some babies not born with the unusually small heads that are the most severe hallmark of brain damage as a result of the virus have developed the condition, called microcephaly, as they have grown older.

“The findings were reported in a study of 13 babies in Brazil that was published Tuesday in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. At birth, none of the babies had heads small enough to receive a diagnosis of microcephaly, but months later, 11 of them did.

“For most of those babies, brain scans soon after birth showed significant abnormalities, and researchers found that as the babies aged, their brains did not grow or develop enough for their age and body size. The new study echoes another published this fall, in which three babies were found to have microcephaly later in their first year.

“As they closed in on their first birthdays, many of the babies also had some of the other developmental and medical problems caused by Zika infection, a range of disabilities now being called congenital Zika syndrome. The impairments resemble characteristics of cerebral palsy and include epileptic seizures, muscle and joint problems and difficulties swallowing food.

“’There are some areas of great deficiency in the babies,’ said Dr. Cynthia Moore, the director of the division of congenital and developmental disorders for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and an author of the new study. ‘They certainly are going to have a lot of impairment.’

“Dr. Deborah Levine, a professor of radiology at Harvard Medical School who has studied Zika but was not involved in either study, said there would most likely be other waves of children whose brains were affected by the Zika infection, but not severely enough to be noticed in their first year.

“’A lot of the developmental abnormalities we’re not going to see until later,’ she said. ‘There’s going to be another group seen later in childhood, I’m afraid, and another group probably when they reach school age.’

“In the new study, doctors at two clinics in the northeastern Brazilian states of Pernambuco and Ceará described the cases of 13 infants who had tested positive for the Zika virus. In 11 of the babies, brain scans taken days or weeks after birth showed significant neurological damage, including improperly formed brain areas, excess fluid in some places and abnormal calcium deposits, or calcification, which probably resulted from brain cell death. But the size of their heads, though small, was not small enough to be considered microcephaly. So doctors monitored their progress as they grew.

“Dr. Vanessa van der Linden, another author of the study and a neuropediatrician at the Association for Assistance of Disabled Children in Recife, Brazil, where most of the babies in the study are patients, said the type of brain damage in the babies who later developed microcephaly “presented the same pattern, but less severe” than those with it at birth.

“The babies in the study published this fall also appeared to have a pattern of similar, but less severe, brain damage, said Dr. Antonio Augusto Moura da Silva, of the Federal University of Maranhão and an author of that study, which was published in Emerging Infectious Diseases. He and his colleagues studied 48 babies with brain abnormalities in the northeastern state of Maranhão, identified six babies who did not have microcephaly at birth, and found that three of them later developed it.

“’We were worried, but now that we’ve started following those cases, we are very sad,’ Dr. Silva said. ‘The picture is really terrible. At the least, if they have microcephaly, we expect them to have a very poor quality of life.’

“Experts and the authors of the studies said it was unclear why these infants’ brains did not develop enough to match their age and body size. Dr. Ernesto T. A. Marques Jr., an infectious disease specialist at the University of Pittsburgh and the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation in Recife, who was not involved in either study, said it could be that because of the initial fetal brain damage, “the necessary pathways and hormones that organize growth of the neonatal brain are not there anymore and the brain doesn’t grow.”

“It could also be the result of the immune system responding to the original Zika virus infection. Dr. Moore said that another possibility might be that there was still some infection that continued to damage the brain. But she said that seemed less likely, given that follow-up tests for Zika virus conducted on seven of the babies did not find evidence of active infection.

“The oldest babies in these studies are only just over a year old, too young for researchers to identify cognitive problems or delays in skills like speech. But some deficits are clear: Many of the babies had serious physical deficits tied to neurological damage, including overly tense muscles, muscle weakness and the inability to voluntarily move their hands.

“Still, unlike many babies born with microcephaly, most of the 13 in the new study had social interaction skills like smiling and making eye contact. And eight of them had good head control, an important skill for developing the ability to sit or walk.

“While cautioning that the study involved too few cases to make generalizations, Dr. van der Linden said that it appeared that most of these babies had good eye contact because the damage was less severe in brain areas involving vision than it was in areas involving motor skills.

“Dr. Marques said that head control, the ability to lift and support the head without help, in babies with microcephaly was “quite rare.” Having a social smile and eye contact is less rare, he said, depending on the type of visual damage and on whether they receive enough visual stimulation to strengthen their ability to use their eyes.

“’At this age, 80 percent of brain stimulus comes from the eyes,’ he said. ‘If you don’t have that working and you lose this window of opportunity, these babies cannot recover it.’

“One baby, a boy, had no anomalies at birth. His limbs looked normal and his head size was proportional to his body, Dr. Moore said. But brain scans soon after birth showed excess fluid and abnormalities in his cortex and corpus callosum, which separates the two hemispheres. At 11 months old, he had microcephaly, and also epilepsy, difficulty swallowing, involuntary muscle contractions, and muscles that were too stiff and restricted his movement, she said.

“Another baby had a sloping forehead and slight depressions in the front of his head at birth, as well as similar types of brain damage, apparent on scans, Dr. Moore said. By the time he was 1, he had developed microcephaly that was among the most severe of the babies in the study, and had muscular and swallowing problems. But he also had good eye contact, researchers reported.

“In six of the cases, the mothers reported having a symptom of Zika infection, a rash, between the second and fifth months of pregnancy. That supports other evidence suggesting that babies born to mothers who were infected late in the first trimester suffer the most serious effects. But since there are no symptoms in 80 percent of cases of Zika infection, it was unclear when most of the women were infected, and researchers are still unable to say whether the virus is more damaging to babies if their mothers experience symptoms.”

Source: The New York Times

November 28, 2016: Threat Posed by Zika Expected to Continue In Georgia In 2017

“Georgia so far has escaped the type of Zika threat faced by Florida, which has been the epicenter of the virus in the continental United States.

“However, public health officials say Zika will still pose problems in Georgia in coming years. And they note that some pregnant women in Georgia are infected with the virus, meaning they could give birth to babies with health problems.

“Georgia has seen 104 ‘travel-related’ cases of Zika since the first case was reported, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. So far, not one infection has been caused by in-state mosquitoes, the newspaper reported.

“Though mosquito season may be over now, authorities say Zika will be a threat in 2017, and the virus could potentially be spread by local mosquitoes as it has spread in south Florida.

“In some ways 2016 was a dry run for what Georgia could face in 2017 if the virus spreads by local mosquitoes as it has in Miami, the Atlanta newspaper reported. Awareness campaigns launched during the past year in Georgia are lessons that will carry over if that happens, officials said.

“’This particular mosquito season, even though we’ve seen low numbers of mosquitoes that can carry the virus, it doesn’t mean that next season will be the same,’ said Chris Kumnick, interim director of environmental health for the Georgia Department of Public Health. ‘It doesn’t diminish the risk of managing that hazard.’

“The ongoing drought that’s spread across Georgia in the past eight months is one factor that helped the state avoid an outbreak like the one in south Florida, officials said. Another factor was a war for dominance between the two types of mosquitoes that carry the virus.

“By late spring, Georgia’s state health department had relaunched its Tip and Toss campaign, a mosquito control effort aimed at homeowners and businesses. People were told to remove all standing water from their bird baths, truck beds, patio furniture and any other outside containers bigger than a bottle cap. A teaspoon of water is enough for mosquitoes to successfully lay eggs, Georgians were warned.

But by the end of October, Georgia was well below its annual rainfall totals. Atlanta, Athens, Columbus and Macon all had below 33 inches of rain, anywhere from 12 to 16 inches below their respective 30 year averages. That, coupled with a cooler spring statewide and lower humidity levels in early summer, drove mosquito populations down.

Georgia monitors the insects’ population with light traps around the state. Epidemiologists extrapolate the potential number of the insects in the area based on the number of mosquitoes caught in the traps.

In particular, epidemiologists were looking for the Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus breeds, the primary carriers of the disease. For the last five to seven years, the Aedes aegypti population has been dwindling, said Kumnick. That mosquito is responsible for Miami’s Zika outbreak. It is the most efficient in spreading the virus because it only feeds on humans.

In Georgia, the only place the aegypti was found was in Muscogee County; until late September, only 14 of that type had been found. Along the Georgia coast, where some thought a local outbreak might originate, the last time the aegypti was found in traps was 2012 in Chatham County, Kumnick said.

Earlier this month, Georgia requested an additional $800,000 from the $1.1 billion federal Zika bill passed by Congress earlier this fall, said Nancy Nydam, spokeswoman for the state public health department.

That money will go toward preparedness for next year, officials said. Though the mosquitoes may be just about gone this season, their eggs are not. Those eggs over winter, wet or dry, and will be ready to hatch as soon as the weather warms next summer."

Source: The Associated Press

November 27, 2016: People Planning Winter Vacations Still Need to Worry About Zika Virus

According to the World Health Organization, the Zika virus is here to stay. And with people planning their winter vacations, travelers are being advised to pack bug spray and long sleeve clothing.

“Travelers are busy looking for last minute vacation plans.

“Deanna Sutherland Rigby from Vision Travel says warmer destinations are the most popular this time of year.

“’Dominican, Cuba, Mexico and other southern Caribbean Islands.’

“They’re also places with the highest risks of contracting Zika.

“Sutherland Rigby says while it is not top of mind for many vacationers it has been a topic of discussion this season.

“Cases of Zika have now been reported in over 50 countries.

“’You really can’t go anywhere now that there isn’t Zika virus.’

“Dr. Fiona Hunter is studying how the virus spreads to mosquitoes. She recently travelled to Brazil, another hot spot for the virus, and even plans on taking her family to the Dominican Republic this year.

“’This is the new normal- having Zika virus in the south and if you do choose to go somewhere you have to take care of yourself.’

“She advises vacationers to bring bug spray with them because some places don’t sell them.

“According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention mosquitoes that spread Zika don’t live at elevations above 2000 metres.

“Dr. Hunter says there is still a lot not known about Zika, which has been linked to severe birth defects.

“’Anybody out there who is either not pregnant or not planning on getting pregnant – Zika virus is really nothing to worry about.,’ said Dr. Brett Belchetz.

“Men and women are urged to practice safe sex for six months after travelling to Zika infected areas.

Source: CHCH

November 26, 2016: Canceling the Zika Public Health Emergency Was the Wrong Thing to Do

This update from Lawrence O. Goshin, with whom this Editor agrees.

“The World Health Organization did the right thing back in February when it declared the Zika outbreak to be a public health emergency of international concern. It did the wrong thing last week when it ended the emergency.

I say that for several reasons, not least of which is the signal given by the latest declaration: that Zika is no longer a pressing global concern.

A legal technicality. I understand why the WHO Emergency Committee terminated the emergency. It felt obliged to follow the International Health Regulations, a move likely to set a precedent for future outbreaks. Zika is now endemic, and has been for many years. The major spread of the disease in Latin America and the Caribbean was an important reason to declare an emergency. Another was that the clusters of children born with small heads and major cognitive problems (microcephaly) were extraordinary events that required urgent research. The Emergency Committee felt that once those extraordinary events were confirmed as being linked to Zika and that the Olympics, which required emergency recommendations, were over, the requirement for a public health emergency of international concern — an unusual or unexpected event of international concern — was no longer met.

“As a matter of law, the WHO director-general has considerable discretion on how to interpret the international health regulations that define public health emergencies of international concern. Zika offered a perfect opportunity to use that discretion. Moreover, the WHO has never been consistent in its interpretation of these regulations, as I describe later about polio and MERS.

Too early. The southern regions of the globe will soon enter the summer season, which is peak time for mosquito breeding and biting. So far, there are no indicators that Zika won’t re-emerge with a vengeance. And those regions — Latin America, southern Asia, and southern Africa — tend to have poor countries that are least prepared to fight a Zika epidemic.

No vaccine. Despite hard and sustained work by research teams around the world, a vaccine against Zika is not on the horizon. Calling off the emergency without the means to prevent an epidemic doesn’t make sense.

Harmful signal. Despite the potentially devastating effect of a Zika infection — babies born with microcephaly — the world has devoted scant political and economic resources to this disease. Declaring that the emergency is over will be a signal to the world that it is all right to pull resources back from fighting Zika, no matter what the WHO says. Canceling the emergency lets uninformed politicians say, “It’s no longer an emergency. Let’s devote the funds to other priorities.” That’s a likely scenario for the incoming Trump administration, which has shown its antipathy, if not hostility, to global and United Nations institutions.

“Deciding that the outbreak of a disease is or is not a public health emergency of international concern should be squarely based on science. Yet all too often it has a political dimension as well. In May 2014, for example, WHO declared an emergency for polio, even though only a small number of cases had emerged. That emergency is still in effect. The Gates Foundation, Rotary International, and other politically powerful organizations have poured enormous resources into polio eradication. A year earlier, WHO did not call an emergency for Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), even though the virus that causes MERS fulfilled all the requirements for an emergency. Saudi Arabia is the epicenter of MERS and it is widely believed the Saudi government exerted political influence to prevent an emergency declaration.

“Although understandable, it is disconcerting that the WHO terminated the Zika emergency so quickly. Zika, with its effect on mothers and babies, has an enormous political — not to mention economic, social, and moral — dimensions.

“Calling off the Zika emergency means dismantling the Zika Emergency Committee. That in itself is a handicap to the global response because the committee, chaired by David Heymann, has been a strong, intelligent, and powerful voice that kept Zika on the front burner.”

“Ebola taught us that the world is woefully unprepared for epidemics and that, in addition to causing death and suffering, epidemics cause enormous economic and social upheaval.

“Declaring an outbreak to be a public health emergency of international concern sounds the alarm to the world to be watchful and prepared to act with manpower, funding, and political support. Discontinuing the alarm too soon sends the opposite signal, and could be an excuse for political leaders to pull back on national and global preparedness and response. To his credit, Dr. Peter Salama, executive director of the WHO’s health emergencies program said, “Zika is here to stay, and the WHO’s response is here to stay.” That is the right sense of urgency, but sadly the WHO has given a subtle signal that the world can go on with business as usual.”

Source: FOX News

November 23, 2016: Florida Keys Approves Trial of Genetically Modified Mosquitoes to Fight Zika

“In the Florida Keys on Election Day, along with the presidential race, one of the most controversial items on the ballot dealt with Zika. In a nonbinding vote countywide, residents in the Florida Keys approved a measure allowing a British company to begin a trial release of genetically modified mosquitoes. Armed with that approval, local officials voted Saturday to try out what they hope will be a new tool in the fight against Zika.

“For months now, state and local authorities in Florida have struggled to control the spread of Zika. But although there have been more than 200 cases of locally transmitted Zika statewide, none have been reported in the Keys. And that’s one reason why residents like Megan Hall oppose the new technology. At a meeting of the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District board in Marathon on Saturday, Hall made a personal appeal to the board. ‘I am going to ask you, beg you, plead with you,’ she said, ‘not to go forward with this.’

“For five years now, the district has been working with the British company Oxitec to get federal approval for a trial release of the mosquitoes in the Keys. The company releases genetically modified male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes into the wild. When they mate with female Aedes aegypti, their offspring die.

“In trials in Brazil, the Cayman Islands and other countries, Oxitec has shown its GM mosquitoes can reduce the population of Aedes Aegypti by 90 percent or more. But after five years, a small but vocal group of residents is not convinced the mosquitoes are safe. Opponent Dina Schoneck told the board, there are still too many unanswered questions about the new technology. She said, ‘I believe there are a lot of risks that are not being considered.’

“Although it doesn’t have any cases of local Zika transmission yet, Monroe County, which includes the Keys, has had big problems in the past with dengue, another disease carried by the same mosquito. The head of the county’s health department, Bob Eadie, supports the trials. Just because the county hasn’t had any local Zika cases yet doesn’t mean the disease isn’t a threat, he said. Eadie went on, ‘There is a tool available for the people of Monroe County that can help control mosquitoes that carry a very, very, very serious disease.’

“In August, the Food and Drug Administration gave its approval for the trial, saying it found no potential adverse impact on human health or the environment. Because of the vocal opposition, the Mosquito Control District’s Board of Commissioners decided to submit the trial to the voters in the form of two nonbinding resolutions. One was for the residents of Key Haven, the community where the trials were proposed. The other referendum went before voters in the rest of the county.

“Because Key Haven voters rejected it, commissioners say trials won’t be conducted there. But in Saturday’s meeting, the board approved trials elsewhere in the Keys at a location still to be determined. Jill Cranney-Gage is a commissioner who represents Key West. ‘This is a tool mosquito control needs. When you’re sworn into office,’ Cranney-Gage said,‘your main goal is to kill mosquitoes and to protect the residents and the county.’

Officials in the Keys say the announcement by the World Health Organization that Zika is no longer a “public health emergency” is in no way an indication the threat is lessening but that instead, it’s a disease that’s here to stay

“Florida Keys Mosquito Control District staff and Oxitec are now working now to identify a new neighborhood to conduct trials. Derric Nimmo with Oxitec is hopeful that identifying a new location and receiving federal approval will be a matter of a few months, and releases could start next year. Nimmo says he’s encouraged that the GM mosquito technology gained the approval of a large majority — 58 percent of county residents. ‘So there is very strong support for use of this technology in Monroe County,’ he says. ‘And hopefully, they’ll move forward with this trial.’

“After months of struggling with Zika, health officials and mosquito control authorities elsewhere in Florida are eager to begin their own trials of the GM mosquitoes. Oxitec says if things go well in the Keys, it could begin trials next year in Miami.”

Source: NPR

November 22, 2016: Zika Status Sparks Fears of Complacency

“The World Health Organization on Friday declared that Zika no longer constitutes an international emergency, but it stressed a need for a long-term effort to address the virus, which has been linked to birth defects and neurological complications.

“Officials on WHO’s Emergency Committee made clear the Zika still constitutes a global public health threat. They warned the virus, which has been found in 60 countries since the outbreak was identified last year in Brazil, will continue to spread where mosquitoes that carry the virus are present.

“Removing the international emergency designation will put Zika in a class with other diseases, such as dengue, that pose serious risks and require continued research, including efforts to develop effective vaccines.

But some public health experts worried that losing the “international emergency” label could slow research into the virus, which continues to cause infections in the United States and elsewhere.
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WHO in February declared Zika a public health emergency of international concern—a designation under international law that compels countries to report outbreaks. The move was part of an effort to determine if Zika was linked to reports in Brazil of the severe birth defect microcephaly and the neurological disorder Guillain-Barre Syndrome. Traditionally, Zika had only been thought to cause mild symptoms.

“That goal has been met, said Dr David Heymann, chair of the Zika Emergency Committee and a professor of infectious disease at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, in a conference call with reporters following the committee meeting in Geneva.

“Because research has now shown that Zika and microcephaly are linked, “the committee felt that what is best now is a very robust technical response to the virus, and that would require work within WHO,” he said.

“The U.N. health agency maintained recommendations including that people exposed to the Zika virus should take preventive measures for six months to avoid sexual transmission.

“’It remains crucially important that pregnant women avoid traveling to areas with local transmission of Zika, because of the devastating complications that can occur in fetuses that become infected during pregnancy,’ the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said in a statement.

Source: Newsweek

November 21, 2016: Is Zika On the President-elect's Agenda?

“Before coming into office in January, newly elected President Trump has a lot of the country’s issues to think about. Is the Zika virus outbreak one of them?

“The government has failed to do anything to defend the birth-defect causing virus as it spreads throughout the United States. President (soon to be former) Obama has tried implanted 2 billion dollar Zika defense budget, but unfortunately it never got passed.

“Government organizations such as the CDC and NIH have been working diligently to provide any form of assistance to the mosquito born virus. Since the outbreak, millions of dollars have been shuffled and funded, and dozens of clinical trials and studies have been formed to create a vaccine. Still, no solutions have been formed.

So What Is Trump Thinking?

“So far, he has said little on the subject. Previously, Trump has said that at least in the case of the state of Florida where Zika seems to be the most active, he would defer to state government Gov. Rick Scott when it comes to decision making.

“Back in August, Trump was asked about his plan for Zika, he did applaud Florida’s efforts, but did not make any statement regarding what he would contribute from Washington D.C. if elected president.

He said “It’s a problem. It’s a big problem,” Trump said. “But I watch and I see what they’re doing with the spraying and everything else, and I think [Scott is] doing a fantastic job. And he’s letting everyone know exactly what the problem is and how to get rid of it. He’s going to have it under control. He probably already does.”

Can It Get Worse?

“A huge problem that can occur is the WHO may downgrade Zika’s status from ‘public health emergency of international concern,’ if that becomes the case, scientists are worried that they won’t be able to get enough support to stop the virus.

“Just like we have with the government, we will and wait to see the future of the Zika virus in the United States, as we transition into a new presidency.”

Source: Rare Disease Report

November 20, 2016: Zika Can Survive for Hours On Hard, Nonporous Surfaces

“The Zika virus is able to infect people even after sitting out on a counter for several hours, according to new research.

“But the good news is that in that state, it is also easy to kill with common household chemicals.

“The study, published Tuesday, found that the Zika virus — which can produce severe brain defects in fetuses and young children and has been linked to other harmful conditions — can be highly contagious even after hours of living outside a host.

“The research was conducted by scientists from RMC Pharmaceutical Solutions, a consultancy for drug developers, and Microbac Laboratories, a provider of laboratory analytics. The team presented its findings at the annual meeting of the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists in Denver, Colorado.
The study also looked at how effective some common laboratory cleaning chemicals were at killing the virus, including isopropyl alcohol, diluted bleach, quaternary ammonium/alcohol, peracetic acid and pH 4 or pH 10 solutions.

“The most effective solutions in killing the virus on surfaces were isopropyl alcohol and quaternary ammonium/alcohol. The pH 4 or pH 10 solutions were the least effective, while diluted bleach and peracetic acid were found to be effective virus killers, except when the Zika sample was suspended in blood.

“‘Zika can survive on hard, nonporous surfaces for as long as eight hours, possibly longer when the environment contains blood, which is more likely to occur in the real world,’ S. Steve Zhou, one of the study’s authors and director of virology and molecular biology for MicroBioTest Laboratories (a Microbac unit), said. ‘The good news is that we found that disinfectants such as isopropyl alcohol and quaternary ammonium/alcohol are generally effective in killing the virus in this type of environment and can do so in a little as 15 seconds.’”

Zika is usually spread through disease-carrying mosquitoes, as well as from person to person. Getting the disease from the environment is rare, though the research notes there has been at least one case of a person contracting the virus through laboratory exposure.

Source: CNBC

November 19, 2016: Zika Virus Teams Up With Other Viruses to Sicken People

Two studies out Monday show that the Zika virus may not be working alone in causing strange infections in South America. It may be getting help from dengue and chikungunya, too.

“One team found that mosquitoes can be infected with Zika and chikungunya at the same time and could, in theory, infect people with both viruses in a single bite.

“And a second team found a range of unusual symptoms in people in Brazil last year as Zika, chikungunya and dengue all swept through populations, often infecting people at the same time. One of the oddest is known as ‘dancing eyes-dancing feet syndrome.’

“The findings, presented at a meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, add to the growing list of mysterious and previously unsuspected damage that Zika virus causes.

“’Our analysis shows that each of these viruses may have the potential to cause a range of neurological complications, some very severe, and patients should be monitored for symptoms,’ said Dr. Isadora Siqueira of Brazil’s Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, who worked on one study.

“’What’s very difficult to determine is whether having a co-infection with two of these viruses increases the risk of neurological problems. We are still looking closely at the case of the patient who was infected with both chikungunya and dengue.’

“Dengue and Zika are closely related viruses called flaviviruses. Chikungunya is in a different family, called alphaviruses, but all three are spread by Aedes aegypti mosquitoes and they can cause similar symptoms: fever, headache and body aches. Zika causes severe birth defects; dengue can cause a deadly hemorrhagic fever and chikungunya causes racking pain.

“They are not easy to tell apart and only with tests made available in recent months can doctors tell for sure which virus a patient has had.

“All three can also cause rare neurological side-effects and doctors have wondered if people get sicker if they become infected with more than one at the same time, or one after the other.

“The findings from northeastern Brazil suggest they may. They reported on 21 cases of neurological illnesses including Guillain-Barre syndrome, a strange, paralyzing condition that can be caused by a number of infections, including Zika.

“Most of the patients had classic Guillain-Barre, which usually clears up, although it can make patients seriously ill. Others had much more unusual conditions, including two with opsoclonus-myoclonue ataxia syndrome, commonly known as dancing eyes-dancing feet syndrome because of the strange, jerky movements it can cause.

“It usually only affects about 1 in a million people, but both cases turned up in the same hospital during an epidemic affecting 18,000 people.

“One of the two patients tested positive for both Zika and dengue, while the second had both chikungunya and dengue, Siqueira said.

“None of the patients died but it can take weeks or even months to fully recover from these conditions. Zika has killed a handful of patients, as has chikungunya. Dengue comes in four strains and is much deadlier.

“There’s a worry if the viruses work together to worsen illness. Brazilian doctors have been trying to determine if having two infections together or close together makes a pregnant woman more likely to have a baby with birth defects, for instance.”

Source: NBC News

November 18, 2016: Zika Infection in U.S. Is Still Rare So Far, Blood Donations Indicate

And now for some encouraging news from Catherine Saint Louis of The New York Times.

“By the end of this week, all blood banks in the continental United States must begin testing donated blood for contamination with the Zika virus. Many banks are doing so already, and the early results indicate that the country has dodged a bullet — for now.

“Screenings in a dozen states suggest that Zika infection remains exceedingly rare. Among the approximately 800,000 blood donations tested in the past six months or so, about 40 were initially positive for the virus.

“’It is good news that we are avoiding the transmission of Zika,’ said Dr. Susan Rossmann, the chief medical officer at Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center in Houston.

“Still, she noted, it may not be surprising there are so few possibly positive cases, because blood banks have been dissuading people from donating if they recently traveled to an area in which the virus is circulating.

“Blood donation screening for Zika is performed with tests made by Roche Molecular Systems or by a collaboration between two medical companies, Hologic Inc. and Grifols.

“The screening effort is regulated as two gigantic clinical trials in which every blood donor is enrolled as a participant. All the results, therefore, are reported to the companies.

“By Friday, Roche’s machines had screened 475,000 donations in the United States, excluding Puerto Rico. Just 25 have been “initially reactive” for Zika infection, said Tony Hardiman, who leads the company’s blood screening program.

“’Compared to Puerto Rico, it’s tiny,’ he said.

“Roughly 1 percent of the blood donors in Puerto Rico were infected by July, with 1.8 percent of them testing initially positive in the last week of surveillance, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

By mid-October, roughly 348,000 donations had been screened using the test made by Hologic Inc. and Grifols. Fourteen were initially positive for the Zika virus.

“It may be that not all of these samples are truly contaminated. The technology is still in development, and the manufacturers are scrambling to confirm their results with further investigations of the donors.

“Of three donors examined by Hologic and Grifols, all seem to have been infected outside the United States. One donor gave blood at United Blood Services in Reno, Nev., after visiting Nicaragua. Another, a New Yorker, had been to Trinidad. The third lives in Arizona and had visited Mexico.

“All three donors had minute traces of the Zika virus in their blood, detected between 41 and 97 days after travel abroad, Jeffrey Linnen, an associate vice president at Hologic, told attendees at a recent conference for AABB, the standards-setting group for most blood banks nationwide.

“Viral material detected after 40 days is unlikely to be live virus, said Dr. David O. Freedman, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

“’The farther along you are after infection, the more likely you are just detecting residual breakdown products from dead virus pieces that are still circulating,’ he said.

“In August, the Food and Drug Administration required all blood banks to screen each of the millions of blood donations collected annually for Zika. Eleven states in high-risk areas had to put in the new safeguards in a month. The rest must do so by Friday.

“At the time, experts feared that Zika-infected mosquitoes would begin turning up in states along the Gulf Coast, prompting outbreaks like those seen in South America and threatening the nation’s supply of donated blood.

“Universal screening was necessary to avoid transmission of the Zika virus in donated blood, particularly to pregnant women. If exposed to the virus in utero, fetuses can have brain damage, visual and joint problems, and muscle tone so rigid it restricts movement.

“Florida is the only state with documented local transmission of the virus. In July, the F.D.A. temporarily halted collection of blood donations in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties until screening for the Zika virus could be put in place.”

Source: The New York Times

November 17, 2016: DNA-Based Zika Vaccine Showed Protection from Infection, Brain Damage and Death

A new vaccination has generated a robust and protective antigen-specific antibody and T cell immune responses in preclinical animal models, report scientists.

“As the global spread of the Zika virus continues, efforts are underway to halt the disease’s transmission. While no licensed therapies or vaccines to protect against the Zika virus are currently available, new research published in the journal npj Vaccines demonstrates how a synthetic DNA vaccine approach successfully protected against infection, brain damage and death caused by the mosquito-borne Zika virus in vivo.

“In this preclinical study, 100 percent of the animal models were protected from Zika after vaccination followed by a challenge with the Zika virus. In addition, they were protected from degeneration in the cerebral cortex and hippocampal areas of the brain, while the other cohort showed degeneration of the brain after Zika infection.

“’Our results support the critical importance of immune responses for both preventing infection as well as ameliorating disease caused by the Zika virus,’ said lead researcher David B. Weiner, Ph.D., Executive Vice President and Director of the Vaccine Center at The Wistar Institute and the W.W. Smith Charitable Trust Professor in Cancer Research at Wistar. ‘As the threat of Zika continues, these results provide insight into a new aspect of the possibly protective ability of such a vaccine as a preventative approach for Zika infection.’

“This study is the first of its kind to analyze a vaccine in an animal model that is susceptible to the disease, providing information regarding the protective impact of the immune response in susceptible individuals. Prior studies of the Zika virus have tested vaccines in animal models that are naturally resistant to Zika. This study extends these prior research studies in an important manner.

“In this latest study, Weiner and colleagues demonstrated how a synthetic DNA vaccine expressed specific antigens for Zika in vivo. They observed that this novel vaccine generated robust antigen-specific antibody and T cell responses that neutralized the virus in preclinical animal models. Moreover, they found that the vaccine provided protection against the disease and death in animal models while also being neuroprotective, meaning that the disease was unable to spread to the brain. This is especially important given the risk that infants born with the disease have of developing microcephaly, a birth defect resulting in an abnormally small head and that may prevent the brain from developing properly.

“One important aspect of Zika and many other mosquito-borne diseases is that not everyone infected with the virus will actually become ill as a result. With Zika, only about 20 to 25 percent of individuals with the virus are actually impacted by the disease, according to previous studies from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC). However, there is no way to know for certain who will be at risk for illness due to the virus, which is why it was crucial for this study to examine how a vaccine would operate in an infected, symptomatic host.

“This Zika vaccine is being developed in collaboration between Inovio, The Wistar Institute, and GeneOne Life Science Inc. and is currently being tested in two human clinical studies. Before the end of 2016, Inovio expects to report phase I data from the first 40-subject study being conducted in Miami, Philadelphia and Quebec City. In August, the companies also initiated a second study in 160 subjects in Puerto Rico. The CDC estimates that Zika will infect more than 25 percent of the Puerto Rican population by the end of the year, creating the potential for this study’s placebo-controlled design to provide exploratory signals of vaccine efficacy in 2017.

“A total of nearly 4,000 cases of Zika infection have been reported in the United States alone, according to the CDC. While most of these are travel-associated cases, more than 100 cases of Zika infection originating within the United States have been reported. Globally, more than 60 countries have reported mosquito-borne transmission of the disease.”

Source: Science Daily

November 16, 2016: Zika Striking Women at Higher Rates than Men

“Adult women in Puerto Rico were significantly more likely to develop Zika than men, researchers said on Thursday, raising new questions about the potential role of sexual transmission of the virus from males to females.

“The study, published in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s weekly report on death and disease, evaluated more than 29,000 laboratory-confirmed cases of Zika since the outbreak began in Puerto Rico in November 2015.

“The data show that of all Zika cases with laboratory evidence of infection, 62 percent were female. The results pattern similar observations from Brazil and El Salvador, the authors said.

“One obvious explanation might be that pregnant women are more likely than men to seek treatment for Zika because of the potential risk of birth defects.

“To account for that, the researchers excluded all pregnant women who tested positive for the virus. Of the remaining 28,219 non-pregnant women and men testing positive for Zika, 61 percent of these cases occurred in women over the age of 20.

“The Zika findings differ from prior outbreaks in Puerto Rico of arboviruses transmitted by the same mosquitoes as Zika. For example, in the 2010 dengue outbreak and the 2014 chikungunya outbreak, infections were equally distributed among men and women.

“’It is possible that male-to-female sexual transmission is a contributing factor to this skewing of the burden of disease toward women,’ the CDC said in a statement summarizing the findings.

“However, the contribution of sexual transmission to overall Zika rates is just beginning to be explored, the CDC said. It could be that women are more likely than men to seek care if they are sick, or that women are more likely to develop Zika symptoms if they become infected.

“The CDC is conducting blood tests of individuals living near people with confirmed Zika to try to answer some of these questions.

“Zika infections in pregnant women have been shown to cause microcephaly – a severe birth defect in which the head and brain are undersized – as well as other brain abnormalities. The connection between Zika and microcephaly first came to light last year in Brazil, which has since confirmed more than 2,000 cases of microcephaly.”

Source: 97.5 FM Knoxville

November 15, 2016: Zika Vaccine Protects Animals from Infection, Brain Damage and Death

Article published in npj Vaccines demonstrates that DNA vaccine protected 100% of animals from Zika infection after exposure to the virus

“Inovio Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NASDAQ:INO) today announced that Inovio and its collaborators have published results in Nature Partner Journals (npj) Vaccines demonstrating that its Zika DNA vaccine (GLS-5700) protected animals from infection, brain damage and death. In this study 100% of GLS-5700 vaccinated animals were protected from Zika infection after exposure to the virus. In addition, vaccinated mice were protected from degeneration in the cerebral cortex and hippocampal areas of the brain while unvaccinated mice showed significant degeneration of the brain after Zika infection.

“Prior preclinical studies have tested potential Zika vaccine candidates in animal models involving normal mice and non-human primates that are naturally resistant to Zika. While providing useful immunology data, they cannot provide relevant evidence of an effective means of controlling the spread or medical impacts of this disease by vaccination. In addition to reporting immunogenicity in such Zika-resistant species, this paper represents the first published research to also analyze a Zika vaccine using the special transgenic murine strain A129 lacking interferon alpha and beta receptors (IFNAR-/-), making them highly susceptible to Zika infection and disease. Taking this extra step provided data on how vaccine-generated immune responses could protect against a lethal viral challenge and demonstrates the benefit a Zika vaccine might provide in people.

“Dr.” J. Joseph Kim":https://www.linkedin.com/in/joseph-kim-01487817, President and CEO of Inovio, said, “We clearly demonstrated the power and speed of our product development platform when we and our collaborators moved our Zika vaccine from the bench to human clinical studies in less than six months, a vaccine industry record. We’re pleased to now build further evidence of the potential utility of our product.”

“’Our results support the critical importance of immune responses for both preventing infection as well as ameliorating disease caused by the Zika virus,’ said lead researcher David B. Weiner, Ph.D., Executive Vice President and Director of the Vaccine Center at The Wistar Institute and the W.W. Smith Charitable Trust Professor in Cancer Research at Wistar. Dr. Weiner is also a member of Inovio’s board of directors and chairs its scientific advisory board. ‘As the threat of Zika continues, these results further encourage the study of this vaccine as a preventative approach for protecting humans.’

“This study demonstrated that Inovio’s synthetic DNA vaccine expressed antigens specific to Zika and generated robust antigen-specific and neutralizing antibody and T cell responses in mouse and non-human primate models. Moreover, the study also demonstrated that GLS-5700 provided protection against the disease and death in Zika-susceptible A129 transgenic mice while also being neuroprotective, meaning the disease was unable to spread to the brain. This is especially important given the risk that babies born with the disease have of developing microcephaly, a birth defect resulting in an abnormally small head and that may prevent the brain from developing properly.

“This Zika vaccine was developed in a collaboration between Inovio Pharmaceuticals, Inc., The Wistar Institute, and GeneOne Life Science Inc. and is currently in two human clinical studies. Inovio expects to report phase I data before the end of this year from the first 40-subject study being conducted in Miami, Philadelphia and Quebec City. In August, the companies initiated a second study of GLS-5700 in 160 subjects in Puerto Rico. The CDC estimates that Zika will infect more than 25 percent of the Puerto Rican population by the end of the year, providing the potential for this study’s placebo control design to provide exploratory signals of vaccine efficacy in 2017.”

Source: Inovio

November 14, 2016: Fighting Zika with Germ Warfare

“_The enemy of my enemy is my friend_. That ancient wartime dictum has taken on new meaning in the struggle against infectious disease, as researchers pit one microbial enemy of human beings against another.

“Until recently, the strategy has largely trained on using viruses to kill dangerous bacteria. These bacteriophages—or simply, “phages,” as the viruses are known—might be one solution to the increasing problem of antibiotic resistance in a number of worrisome bacterial strains. The phages hijack a specific type of bacteria, injecting their own viral DNA into the microbes. The code instructs a bacterium to make endless copies of the virus until the germ explodes, which spreads the virus to the next target, and so on. (No one said biology wasn’t brutal.)

“The approach, believe it or not, is an old one: In the 1940s, before the widespread use of antibiotics, Eli Lilly sold phages that were targeted against germs ranging from staphylococci to streptococci to E. coli. For those inclined, here’s a fascinating mini-review on phage history.

“(And in a side note that speaks to the wonder and importance of basic science: It was by studying bacteria’s defense against these ravaging phages that scientists discovered the gene-editing technique, CRISPR Cas-9. For a discussion of that, see our Oct. 26 Brainstorm Health Daily.)

“But now, in the fight against Zika, the battle lines are being redrawn—with bacteria going on the attack against the mosquito-carried virus. Scientists are studying how to use a group of bacteria called Wolbachia, which normally prey on insects (and are considered harmless to humans) to infect mosquitoes that carry Zika—homing in on the bugs’ reproductive systems and making them infertile.

“The strategy is not without precedent. A research team in Australia has used Wolbachia to limit the ability of certain mosquitoes to carry dengue fever, which sickens more than 50 million people a year. You can find great articles on the effort here and here. Meanwhile, another laboratory group at the University of Kentucky has licensed its “Wolbachia-based biotechnology”—which targets the reproductive ability of male Asian Tiger mosquitoes—to a company that is awaiting regulatory approval for its product. (The company already has an experimental use permit for a limited trial in California.)

“So who gives the nod to these new anti-infective weapons? Not the FDA, mind you, but rather the EPA: the Environmental Protection Agency. Yes, it’s a brave new healthcare world.”

Source: Fortune

November 13, 2016: The Effects of Zika on Babies' Brains Go Beyond Microcephaly, Report Finds

“A new report highlights the range of damage Zika infection can cause a developing fetus.

“Microcephaly, a neurological condition in which babies are born with abnormally small heads, is perhaps the most well-known disorder associated with the virus. But other abnormalities, including a collapsed skull, eye scarring, severe muscle tension, and brain calcifications, can also ensue when an expectant mother is infected. These are collectively called congenital Zika syndrome.

“The report, published Thursday in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, draws on previously published studies on how Zika affects the brain. A paper published in August also examined, with arresting images, the havoc Zika wreaks on the developing human brain and body. The virus has been shown to shrink brain regions involved in movement control and vision. Some babies die before delivery or soon after birth.”

The “entire abstract”: by Cynthia A. Moore, J. Erin Staples and William B. Dobyns can be found here.

Source: FOX NEWS Health

November 12, 2016: Computer Models Help Forecast Spread of Zika Virus

“With about 60 countries and territories worldwide reporting active Zika virus transmission, predicting the global spread of the mosquito-borne illness has been challenging for public health officials.

“However, researchers are leveraging large-scale computational models that integrate socio-demographic and travel data as well as simulations of infection transmission—requiring the computing power of 30,000 processors simultaneously—to project the path of the disease.

“The Global Epidemic and Mobility (GLEaM) model has been used in the past to simulate the spread of Ebola, H1N1 flu, and other outbreaks on a worldwide scale. However, in forecasting Zika, researchers have relied more on the historical patterns of mosquito-borne diseases such as chikungunya and dengue.

“While the Zika virus can also be transmitted sexually, their computer model does not take that mode of transmission into consideration. They describe the Zika virus epidemic as “characterized by slow growth and high spatial and seasonal heterogeneity, attributable to the dynamics of the mosquito vector and to the characteristics and mobility of the human populations.”

“In fact, mosquitoes bring an added level of difficulty to the equation, given the uncertainty of their travel behaviors, abundance and lifecycle depending on temperature, as well as the relationship between Zika and its host mosquitoes.

“According to Alessandro Vespignani, professor of physics and director of the Network Science Institute at Northeastern University, what makes Zika such a challenge to track and predict is that as many as 80 percent of people infected with the virus are asymptomatic, and it is primarily transmitted by mosquitoes and spread internationally through travel.

“But by combining real-world data on populations, human mobility and climate with elaborate stochastic models of disease transmission, a team of 14 researchers—half drawn from Northeastern—has devised projections for the number of Zika cases in the Americas through January 2017.

“’Whatever the disease surveillance systems tell us, it is just the tip of the iceberg,’ contends Vespignani. ‘What they are able to monitor and detect is much less than what is the reality of the gestation in many places.’

“The good news is that modeling algorithms do not predict very large Zika outbreaks in the continental United States, according to Vespignani. While the state of Florida has had the highest risk for Zika transmission, he notes that researchers ‘project at most a total of a few hundred cases in Florida in the next three months’ and ‘in other places of the continental U.S., there are very minimal probabilities of a few cases.’

“This downward pressure on the spread of Zika is being aided by the end of mosquito season which is reliant on weather conditions. Mosquitoes multiply fastest in tropical and sub-tropical habitats, and dropping temperatures this fall and into winter are unfavorable for mosquitoes to thrive.

“’At this point, Florida and the Gulf Coast are approaching the winter season. And although it’s not as cold as in the northeastern U.S., it’s not as good for mosquitoes,’ says Vespignani. ‘The models indicate that by January and February the number of new Zika cases should be declining drastically.’

“Still, there is continued bad news for the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico, which has been ravaged by the virus, and, if current trends continue, as many as 25 percent of the population of almost 3.5 million will become infected with Zika by the end of the year.

“Like chikungunya and dengue, Vespignani says Zika isn’t a threat that is going away anytime soon, and he predicts that it will come in waves as a seasonal phenomenon. “The main question now is what will happen in Asia and Africa?” he concludes, where more than 2 billion people could be at risk from contracting the virus.

“In addition to Northeastern University, the research team modeling Zika included the University of Florida in Gainesville, Fla., Bruno Kessler Foundation in Trento, Italy, Bocconi University in Milan, Italy, Institute for Scientific Interchange Foundation in Torino, Italy, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle and the University of Washington.”

Source: HealthData Management

November 11, 2016: Human Trials Begin for Army-Developed Zika Vaccine

A Veterans Day shout out to those who serve — above and beyond, from Mosquito Squad

“A clinical trial began here Monday at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, where 75 participating healthy adults were vaccinated with a Zika virus vaccine that the institute’s scientists developed earlier this year, Walter Reed officials announced Tuesday.

“The Phase 1 trial will test the safety and immunogenicity — the ability of the vaccine to trigger an immune response in the body — of the purified, inactivated Zika virus vaccine called ZPIV. The vaccine is being tested at WRAIR’s Clinical Trial Center in Silver Spring, Maryland.

“’The Army has moved efficiently from recognizing Zika virus as a threat, producing ZPIV for use in animals and demonstrating its effectiveness in mice and monkeys, producing ZPIV for human testing, and now initiating clinical trials to establish its safety and build the case for subsequent efficacy trials,’ Army Col. (Dr.) Nelson Michael, director of WRAIR’s Military HIV Research Program, or MHRP, and Zika program co-lead, said in a statement.

“Efficacy refers to the vaccine’s ability to demonstrate a health effect when tested in a clinical trial.

“’All of this,’ he added, ‘was done in 10 months.’

“Dr. Kayvon Modjarrad, Zika program co-lead and associate director for emerging infectious disease threats at WRAIR’s MHRP, said the Army was able to move so quickly in developing, manufacturing and testing a Zika vaccine ‘because of its extensive experience with this vaccine platform and longstanding investments in the understanding and mitigation of flaviviruses like yellow fever, dating back to the founding of WRAIR.’

“For service members, there are concerns about infection during deployment and travel, but also in the continental United States, where most military installations are concentrated in southern states. There, climate conditions and mosquito populations favor Zika transmission, WRAIR officials say.

As of Nov. 2, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 149 cases of Zika infection were confirmed in the military health system, including four pregnant service members and one pregnant family member.

“Zika infection during pregnancy, the CDC says, can cause a birth defect of the brain called microcephaly and other severe fetal brain defects.

“Other problems have been detected among fetuses and infants infected with Zika virus before birth, such as defects of the eye, hearing deficits and impaired growth. And reports have increased about Guillain-Barré syndrome, an uncommon sickness of the nervous system, in areas affected by Zika, CDC says.

“But even Zika infections without symptoms ‘can lead to severe birth defects and neurological complications,’ Zika study principal investigator Army Maj. (Dr.) Leyi Lin said, adding, ‘A safe and effective Zika vaccine that prevents infection in those at risk is a global public-health priority.’

“Flaviviruses like Zika are found mainly in mosquitoes and ticks and cause widespread morbidity and mortality worldwide. Other mosquito-transmitted viruses that are members of the flavivirus genus include yellow fever, or YF, dengue fever, Japanese encephalitis, or JE, and West Nile viruses, according to the CDC web page.

“’We want to assess the safety and immune response of the ZPIV vaccine in JE and yellow fever YF vaccine recipients because these vaccines may alter the response to the ZPIV vaccine,’ Lin said.

“‘Uniquely,’ he added, ‘illness as a result of natural infection from JE, YF or Zika could be more severe when prior flavivirus infection or vaccination exists. Our study assesses co-vaccination to learn how to reduce risk when protecting against circulating flaviviruses.’

“This is important for service members who are vaccinated against other flaviviruses and then stationed in or deployed to areas where Zika is becoming endemic, WRAIR scientists say.

“WRAIR’s inactivated flavivirus vaccine platform was the same technology the institute used to create its Japanese encephalitis vaccine, licensed in 2009.

“An earlier preclinical study found that rhesus monkeys vaccinated with ZPIV developed a strong immune response and were protected against two strains of Zika virus.

“The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, or NIAID, part of the National Institutes of Health, helped identify the viral strain used in the ZPIV vaccine, supported the preclinical safety testing and is sponsoring the conduct of this trial.

WRAIR, NIAID and the Department of Health and Human Services’ Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, or BARDA, have established a joint research collaboration agreement to support the vaccine’s development.

“The Pilot Bioproduction Facility at WRAIR manufactured the ZPIV vaccine being used in Phase 1 clinical studies, and the Army recently signed a cooperative research and development agreement to transfer the ZPIV technology to Sanofi Pasteur to explore larger scale manufacturing and advanced development. BARDA recently awarded a six-year contract to Sanofi Pasteur to further develop this vaccine to licensure, according to the WRAIR release.

“WRAIR’s ZPIV candidate also will soon be part of an NIH trial that began in August. The NIH vaccine contains DNA that instructs volunteers’ cells to make certain Zika proteins that then illicit an immune response. As part of that study, WRAIR’s ZPIV vaccine will be given to volunteers as a booster after they receive the NIH DNA vaccine, WRAIR officials say.

“Three more Phase 1 trials using ZPIV are scheduled to begin this year, the WRAIR release noted:

St. Louis University researchers, through the NIAID-funded Vaccine and Treatment Evaluation Units network, will examine the optimal dose of the vaccine to be used in larger studies.

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School researchers will evaluate the safety and immune response from a compressed vaccine schedule.

• The Ambulatory Center for Medical Research, part of Ponce Health Sciences University in Puerto Rico, will examine the vaccine’s safety and immune response in participants who have already been naturally exposed to Zika or dengue viruses.

“The WRAIR trial that began Monday is sponsored by NIAID and funded by the Army and the Defense Department.”

Source: U.S. Army

November 11, 2016: Is Zika Coming Soon to a Mosquito Near You?

This from Brit McCandless.

“If there’s anyone who knows how to avoid getting the Zika virus, it’s Dr. Jon LaPook. He’s been slathering himself with insect repellents for the past year while reporting on the Zika pandemic and its devastating effects on infants.

“Doused in DEET from head to toe, LaPook reported from Brazil and Puerto Rico, two epicenters of the outbreak. He also conducted interviews about Zika with the director of the CDC, Tom Frieden, and the head of infectious diseases at the NIH, Anthony Fauci. And yet, LaPook still wound up getting a mosquito bite while he was being filmed live during one reporting trip.

“’Eighty percent of people who get infected with Zika have no symptoms, and it’s possible I was one of those people,’ he says now.

“But it’s no longer just people in the Caribbean and South America who have cause to worry about the virus. As LaPook reports this week, there are diagnosed Zika cases in every U.S. state but Alaska, with about 200 cases of local transmission in Florida alone.

“What does that mean for Americans living in the continental US who wonder, when will the Zika virus come to the mosquitos in my backyard?

“As LaPook tells 60 Minutes Overtime, the mosquito that commonly carries the Zika virus is the Aedes aegypti. The CDC map above shows the range of the Aedes aegypti mosquito in the U.S., and LaPook notes that the mosquito doesn’t live above an elevation of 6,500 feet. To become a threat, it’s not enough for the mosquito to exist in any given area—the local mosquitos must be infected with the Zika virus.

“How do local populations of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes in, say, California or Ohio, or New York, become infected with Zika? By biting an infected person, possibly a person who got the virus from traveling to an area where Zika is prevalent.

“’Travelers returning from places where Zika is spreading need to use a mosquito repellent for three weeks so that they don’t inadvertently spread it through a mosquito to their family or neighbors,’ LaPook advises.

“’Zika is a really tough enemy. The fight against it isn’t going to be quick. It isn’t going to be easy.’ Centers for Disease Control Director Tom Frieden
Zika is the first mosquito-borne virus known to cause birth defects. It’s also the first mosquito-borne virus ever known to be sexually transmitted. This factor is significant, especially since Zika can remain in semen for a prolonged period of time — LaPook says there have been some cases where the virus remained for six months.

“That’s where men play a large role in spreading the disease. If a middle-aged man contracts the virus and is asymptomatic, he can still transmit it by infecting a mosquito that bites him, or by infecting a partner through sexual contact. Even if that partner doesn’t intend to become pregnant, he or she could still infect a mosquito, which could then bite others.

“’It’s a ping-ponging game,’ LaPook says. ‘It’s really a double whammy.’

“The impact of the Zika on a developing fetus can be devastating. And LaPook says many health care professionals feel that the general public is not adequately informed or prepared to prevent the spread of the virus throughout the continental United States.

“’There is this disconnect between how serious a potential problem this is and the reaction that’s happened,’ says LaPook.

“LaPook suspects that Americans won’t be terribly concerned about Zika until they begin to see babies in their own communities or families with severe Zika-related birth defects. ‘It’s up to the government, I think, and up to health professionals to say, ‘You know what? This is actually something you should worry about,’ says LaPook.

“Centers for Disease Control Director Tom Frieden is already sounding the alarm. ‘Zika is a really tough enemy,’ he says. ‘The fight against it isn’t going to be quick. It isn’t going to be easy.’”

Source: 60 Minutes Overtime

November 10, 2016: What's Being Done to Fight the Zika Virus?

One of the world’s most frightening viruses has reached the U.S. Dr. Jon LaPook speaks with the country’s top scientists about the fight against Zika

“The presidential election may have pushed the Zika virus off the front page, but Zika is not going away. It’s spreading. Dr. Jon LaPook, on assignment for 60 Minutes, has been tracking the Zika virus and the American government’s efforts to control it.

“The first time most Americans heard about the Zika virus was when it was breaking out in Brazil last winter. Hundreds of babies were born with catastrophic brain damage called microcephaly. The question for Americans has been when, not if, it would break out here. Well, now it has. Already, there are more than 30,000 diagnosed Zika cases, most of those in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico, but also in every state but Alaska. And because it is now known Zika can be transmitted through mosquitoes, blood and sex, that number is expected to rise.

“In September, after eight months of political deadlock, Congress finally approved $1.1 billion to fight the virus. Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of infectious diseases at the National Institutes of Health, says the delay is an example of what worries him most about Zika.”

See the complete televised script here.

November 9, 2016: Zika Funding Available from CDC

“The CDC has announced that it will be providing $25 million in funding to respond to potential Zika virus disease outbreak to 53 state, territorial, and local health departments to support accelerated Zika public health preparedness and operation readiness. The CDC will review the funding request and award funding based on the following considerations:

• Actual ongoing local transmission or high risk of local transmission in the jurisdiction
• Presence of Aedes aegypti or other competent vector in the jurisdiction
• Number of travel-associated cases in the jurisdiction
• Spending rate of currently awarded PHPR Zika funds

Deadline to apply for this funding is November 11, 2016 at 11:59 PM EST.

Source: CDC

November 8, 2016: Miami Beach Asks FDA for Emergency Permission to Release Anti-Zika GMO Mosquitoes

Aerial pesticide spraying has not eradicated the Zika virus in Miami Beach so far, adding fuel to critics who have warned all along that buildings are too tall and ocean breezes too strong for that method to work there.

“So the city is resorting to less conventional methods: Officials have now asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to give emergency permission for Miami Beach to release genetically modified mosquitoes to kill off the Zika-carrying bugs.

“City Manager Jimmy Morales writes in a new letter to the Miami Beach Commission that the city has filed a request with the feds to ‘release … genetically engineered mosquito in Miami Beach.’ So far, though, the FDA isn’t allowing the request.

“On October 19, Robert M. Califf, the FDA’s food and drug commissioner, sent Morales a letter denying the request for an “Emergency Use Authorization” in order to use the bugs, which are engineered by the British biotechnology firm Oxitec.

“While he denied the request, Califf didn’t say that Miami Beach is banned from using the mosquitoes outright. Instead, he said the FDA does not have the authority to issue such an order, and instead encouraged Miami Beach to get its mosquitoes directly from Oxitec.

“’We suggest you contact Oxitec directly should you be interested in pursuing an investigational release of the company’s GE mosquitoes,’ Califf writes.

“It’s not clear whether the city will go straight to Oxitec to try to get the GMO mosquitos; a city spokesperson did not respond New Times questions for this story before press time.

Source: Miami New Times

November 6, 2016: Zika Virus Could Cause Infertility in Men

“The Zika virus could cause infertility in men, a new study suggests.

“Scientists in the US discovered that mice infected with Zika had shrunken testicles, low testosterone levels and low sperm counts.

“Although the findings have not yet been replicated in humans, experts say that the virus may also have worrying conseqences for men who become infected.

“Dr. Michael Diamond, of the University of Washington, who co-authored the study, said: ‘While our study was in mice, and with the caveat that we don’t yet know whether Zika has the same effect in men, it does suggest that men might face low testosterone levels and low sperm counts after Zika infection, affecting their fertility.’

“’We don’t know for certain if the damage is irreversible, but I expect so, because the cells that hold the internal structure in place have been infected and destroyed.’

“The research is the first to link Zika to male infertility. Previously it was though that the virus, which is passed on through mosquito bites, was only dangerous for pregnant women, because it can lead to babies being born with shrunken heads and brain damage, a condition known as microcephaly. In rare cases it can also lead to Guillain-Barre syndrome which can cause paralysis and lead to death.

“According to Public Health England (PHE), some 244 British people have contracted the virus since the current outbreak from travelling abroad, but they did not have records for how many were men.

“The study authors say men may not realise they are infertile until many years after infection.

“’This is the only virus I know of that causes such severe symptoms of infertility,’ said co-author Dr. Kelle Moley, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Washington.

“’You might also ask, ’Wouldn’t a man notice if his testicles shrank?’ Well, probably. But we don’t really know how the severity in men might compare with the severity in mice. I assume that something is happening to the testes of men, but whether it’s as dramatic as in the mice is hard to say.’

“British experts said the findings coincided with reports that men infected with Zika suffered from pelvic pain and blood in their urine. The effects are similar to those seen following human infection with other sexually transmitted infections.”

Source: The Telegraph

November 5, 2016: Colombia Is Hit Hard by Zika, but Not by Microcephaly

“The tropical city of Barranquilla, Colombia, on the Caribbean coast may hold the answer to one of the deeper mysteries of the Zika epidemic: Why has the world’s second-largest outbreak, after Brazil’s, produced so few birth defects?

“In Brazil, more than 2,000 babies have been born with microcephaly, abnormally small heads and brain damage caused by the Zika virus. In Colombia, officials had predicted there might be as many as 700 such babies by the end of this year. There have been merely 47.

“The gap has been seen all over the Americas. According to the World Health Organization, the United States has 28 cases — almost all linked to women infected elsewhere. Guatemala has 15, and Martinique has 12.

“Had the rest of the Americas been as affected as northeastern Brazil, a tidal wave of microcephaly would be washing over the region. Most experts say that will not happen, but they are at a loss as to why.

“There are some obvious differences between Colombia’s epidemic and Brazil’s. The population here is less than a quarter that of Brazil, and almost half of its residents live at higher altitudes, where mosquitoes are rarer.

“And Zika circulated silently for much longer in Brazil. The virus arrived there by early 2014, and not in Colombia until late 2015. Having just fought a severe chikungunya epidemic in 2014, Colombia was more ready than Brazil to send forth the anti-mosquito battalions.

“But all that does not seem sufficient to explain the disparity. Increasingly, there is evidence for two other possibilities.

“Pregnant women here, alerted to the tragedy unfolding in Brazil, may have sought abortions in greater numbers, officials say. Others seem to have heeded the government’s controversial advice to delay pregnancy altogether.

“Dr. Miguel Parra-Saavedra, the director of maternal-fetal medicine at the Cedifetal Clinic in Barranquilla and one of the country’s leading high-risk pregnancy specialists, is among the experts who suspect many pregnant women in Colombia, alarmed by news reports, sought ultrasounds and aborted deformed fetuses.

“Some of his own patients have done so.

Dr. Parra-Saavedra heads a study of Zika-related birth defects in cooperation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In the course of the research thus far, he has diagnosed 13 cases of fetal microcephaly.

“Dr. Miguel Parra-Saavedra said many Colombian women had abortions after getting ultrasounds. Credit Katie Orlinsky for The New York Times
Four of the mothers terminated their pregnancies immediately, he said. Another four, and possibly a fifth, sought abortions but were turned down by their health insurance companies.

“Only four patients, Dr. Parra-Saavedra said, deliberately chose to have their babies.

Among those who tried to have an abortion was Zuleima, a 37-year-old mother of two healthy daughters.

“When she and her husband Jaime, 47, an unemployed mine-machinery operator, learned that their unborn daughter was microcephalic, they requested what is here called ‘pregnancy interruption.’

“Abortion is legal in Colombia to protect a mother’s health, and the health ministry considers a severely deformed baby a threat to maternal mental well-being.”

Source: New York Times

November 4, 2016: Vaccinating Against Dengue May Increase Zika Outbreaks

Vaccinating against dengue fever could increase outbreaks of Zika, suggests new research. The study identifies a potentially serious public health concern. More than a third of the world’s population lives in areas where dengue is endemic and cases of co-infection with Zika have already been reported.

“The research identifies a potentially serious public health concern. More than a third of the world’s population lives in areas where dengue is endemic and cases of co-infection with Zika have already been reported

“Conducted at York University’s Laboratory for Industrial and Applied Mathematics using mathematical modelling, the research was led by Biao Tang, an exchange PhD student from Xi’an Jiaotong University, in collaboration with York Professor Jianhong Wu and Tang’s supervisor, Professor Yanni Xiao at Xi’an Jiaotong University. As dengue and Zika are both part of the Flaviviridae family transmitted through a common mosquito host, the researchers wanted to know how vaccinating for one would affect the incidence of the other.

“’Vaccinating against one virus could not only affect the control of another virus, it could in fact make it easier for the other to spread,’ says Wu. ‘Recent evidence suggests that dengue virus antibodies can enhance the Zika virus infection. For that reason, we developed a new math model to investigate the effect of dengue vaccination on Zika outbreaks.’

“The paper, ‘Implication of vaccination against dengue for Zika outbreak,’ was published in Scientific Reports.

“The team’s model shows that vaccinations for dengue increase the number of people contracting Zika. It also shows that the more people in a particular population that are vaccinated against dengue, the earlier and larger the Zika outbreak. The research also found that the most effective way to minimize the unintended effect of dengue vaccinations on Zika outbreaks is through an integrated strategy that includes mosquito control.

“’We concluded that vaccination against dengue among humans can significantly boost Zika transmission among the population and hence call for further study on integrated control measures on controlling dengue and Zika outbreak,’ says Xiao.

“The researchers note their findings do not discourage the development and promotion of dengue vaccine products, however, more work needs to be done to understand how to optimize dengue vaccination programs and minimize the risk of Zika outbreaks.

“According to the World Health Organization, the global incidence of dengue has grown dramatically in recent decades, with about half of the world’s population now at risk. In some Asian and Latin American countries, severe dengue is a leading cause of serious illness and death among children. Whereas the outbreaks of Zika have occurred in Africa, the Americas, Asia and the Pacific, and has been linked to microcephaly and Guillain-Barré syndrome. Although vaccines for dengue have been developed and are in use, there is no vaccine for Zika.”

Source: Science Daily

November 3, 2016: Zika May Harm Male Reproduction, Mouse Study Suggests

Weeks after infection mice had shrunken testicles and lower levels of sex hormones

The “Zika virus”: attacks cells in mouse testes crucial for sperm and sex hormone generation and hampers reproduction, according to new research that raises the possibility that the virus could affect fertility in men.

There are major caveats to the research which was published Monday in the journal Nature. The study was conducted in mice, and many findings from mouse studies do not hold up in people. The researchers also used a very powerful dose of Zika when infecting the mice.

And even if the same outcomes bear out in people, researchers have no idea what percentage of men who contract Zika would be affected or just how damaging the infection could be. Many men, for example, can see a drop in their sperm count without having a harder time conceiving a child.

But the findings were enough for the paper’s authors to call for further study of the issue in men who have contracted Zika to determine whether the virus affects the male reproductive tract over time.

“This is what we see in mice,” said Dr. Michael Diamond, a viral immunologist at Washington University School of Medicine and senior author of the paper. “How much of this applies to humans? That’s the key question that needs to be addressed in longitudinal studies.”

Nikos Vasilakis, a Zika expert at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston who was not involved with the new work, praised the research and said it warranted additional studies in monkeys and possibly finding a group of infected men to study.

“The key is, would that translate as well in humans?” Vasilakis said about the study’s findings.

Little was known about Zika until doctors in northeastern Brazil witnessed a spike in microcephaly, or underdeveloped brains and heads, in newborns last year. Since then, researchers have discovered that the mosquito-borne virus can cause that and other congenital defects when it infects a pregnant woman and her fetus, as well as apparent neurological conditions in rare cases in adults.

Beyond that, though, Zika has been thought to be harmless in most people. The majority don’t even show symptoms, and those who do experience a few days of rash and fever.

But Zika has some puzzling characteristics that have led scientists to question how else it may affect people. In this case, Diamond and his team decided to look at parts of the male reproductive tract because the virus can also be sexually transmitted—unlike other viruses spread by mosquitoes—and because scientists had seen lasting infections in both human semen and in mouse testes.

The researchers found that Zika targeted two specific cell types in mice: spermatogonia, which make sperm, and Sertoli cells, which are involved in helping sperm develop and sheltering them from the blood and immune system, building what’s called the blood-testis barrier. Overall, compared with uninfected mice, infected mice saw drops in the number of those cells; in the levels of two sex hormones, testosterone and inhibin B; and in the number of sperm.

When the mice mated, the infected males had a harder time getting females pregnant and produced fewer viable fetuses than uninfected males. The virus also seemed to shrink the infected mice’s testes and damage tissue in the epididymis, a small tube that transports sperm.

There is no vaccine or drug for Zika at the moment, but if public health experts find that the virus can undermine sperm production and function in men, it could expand the market for treatments.

If a man contracted Zika and was able to take an antiviral treatment quickly, for example, it could block the infection before it did much damage to the reproductive tract.

“It would mean we were much more aggressive about treatment,” Diamond said.

As of now, it’s not clear if any groups are specifically studying if Zika has an impact on male fertility. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a number of studies underway looking at the virus’s persistence in semen, which could reveal how it affects sperm health, an agency spokesman said.

Source: Scientific American

November 2, 2016: Myanmar Confirms First Case of Zika Virus Infection

“Zika has spread to some 60 countries and territories since the current outbreak was identified last year in Brazil, raising alarm over the rare birth defect microcephaly as well as other neurological disorders it can cause in infants and adults.

“’A foreign woman in Yangon who is pregnant was found to have contracted Zika virus and further examination is being carried out,’ MRTV reported without giving further details.

“Information Ministry spokesman Myint Kyaw told Reuters it was the first Zika case confirmed in Myanmar. Two Myanmar citizens, one living in Singapore and one in Thailand, were identified as infected with the virus in September.

“Brazil has been the country hardest hit so far, with more than 1,900 reported cases of microcephaly, a condition marked by abnormally small heads that can lead to developmental problems.

“Singapore and Thailand – Southeast Asia’s most affected countries – have recorded a total of about 800 cases of Zika, including dozens of pregnant women.

“Dr. Nyan Win Myint, an official of Myanmar’s Ministry of Health, told Reuters earlier this month that screening measures at international airports had been stepped up.

“’We’ve been conducting extensive awareness campaigns and anti-mosquito measures across the country by coordinating and cooperating with other ministries and the media. We’re doing this together with anti-dengue measures,’ he said at the time.

“He said monitoring of birth defects in babies was being carried out at 17 main hospitals throughout the country in cooperation with the World Health Organization. No evidence of the birth of Zika-affected babies had been reported by then.

“There is no treatment or vaccine for Zika infection. Companies and scientists are racing to develop a safe and effective vaccine for Zika, but a preventative shot is not expected to be ready for widespread use for at least two or three years.

Source: FOX News

November 1, 2016: Zika in 30 Seconds: What You Need to Know Today

Have 30 seconds? Here’s what you need to know about the Zika virus.

• The private sector is stepping in to provide funding for anti-Zika efforts, as public money falls short (USA Today)

• Scientists are baffled by how Zika has played out in Latin America, in particular by the pattern of babies born with Zika-related microcephaly (Washington Post)

• Mosquitoes infected with the Wolbachia bacteria will be released in an attempt to combat diseases spread by the insects, including Zika (STAT)

• In times of economic crisis, diseases like Zika thrive (_STAT_"Link text":https://www.statnews.com/2016/10/28/zika-puerto-rico-mosquitoes-economy/)

• A consortium of 25 universities and public health institutions has launched ZikaPLAN to combat the virus. Among its goals is to fill in knowledge gaps and build sustainable response capacity in Latin America for Zika and other emerging diseases (press release)

• Florida has another Zika “hot zone,” but some fear it’s not getting enough attention (AP)

Source: STAT News

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.

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.”

“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: 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 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 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 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 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

September 30, 2016: Travelers Warned About Zika in St. Kitts and Nevis

The deadly Zika virus has been transmitted by mosquito in St. Kitts and Nevis, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Monday.

The development prompted the agency to urge travelers to the two-island nation to prevent themselves from getting mosquito bites. Mosquitoes in the area are spreading the disease to people, the CDC says.

Pregnant women are being advised not to travel to St. Kitts and Nevis because Zika can be spread from mother to fetus.

Three cases of the virus have been confirmed in St. Kitts and Nevis, the St. Kitts Nevis Observer reported, attributing the information to government officials.

Minister of Health Eugene Hamilton is calling on residents to make sure they do not have stagnant water or other potential breeding sites on their properties.

Cameron Wilkinson, medical chief of staff at JNF Hospital, told WINN FM radio that it should not be too much of a surprise that the disease has reached St. Kitts and Nevis because it has been found in neighboring countries.

“What is reassuring is the fact that for the majority of persons with the Zika virus, infections are very mild infections and there is no need for panic,” Wilkinson told the radio station.

Residents are not concerned because the ailment is under control, St. Kitts resident Saju Ng’alla told USA TODAY.

“Yes, so far we have had three cases, however, we are not worried it would be a problem,” said Ng’alla, who lives in Bird Rock on St. Kitts. “The government has taken steps to insure that residents are taking the necessary steps to contain it. People here are truly not worried about it.”

Travelers can prevent mosquito bites by:

• Covering exposed skin with clothing
Eliminating standing water around the home
• Using insect repellent registered with the Environmental Protection Agency
• Wearing clothing and using outdoor gear treated with permethrin
• Staying in places with air conditioning and window and door screens
• Sleeping under a mosquito bed net
• Using condoms

Symptoms of the Zika virus include fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis, according to the CDC. The virus can be fatal.

As of Sept. 21, there have been 3,358 cases in the United States and 19,777 in U.S. territories, the CDC reports. As of Sept. 22, 47 countries in the Americas have reported the disease, according to the Pan American Health Organization.

Source: USA Today

September 29, 2016: Zika on the Rise

“The risk of Zika infection in the country is rising with the strong presence of its transmitter, Aedes mosquito, and its outbreak in Singapore and Malaysia where some eight lakh Bangladeshis work.

“The danger is more than what was conceived since 80 percent of Zika cases are asymptomatic, making it difficult for health officials to initiate checkups at ports, and also because the virus is transmitted through sexual intercourse, epidemiologists said.

“At least 19 were identified as Bangladeshi among the 369 Zika-infected people in the city state of Singapore until September 18. Six other cases have been found in Malaysia, according to media reports.

“Besides, Aedes mosquitoes that transmit dengue virus here are also responsible for the transmission of Zika.

“Some 2,757 Dengue cases were reported in Dhaka until September 22, which is the highest during this time since 2007, according to the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR).

Medical experts earlier said it was mostly the South American countries like Brazil that had cases of Zika, and so Bangladesh had little risk with thin traffic from the region to Bangladesh. Now that the Asian countries having large numbers of Bangladeshi migrants face Zika outbreaks, some of them are much likely to carry the virus home, they said.

“The virus can be transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes after they bite someone carrying it from abroad or someone infected with it from the environment, said Professor Saif Ullah Munshi of the virology department at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU).

“’We have not conducted any survey to check if Zika virus is here in Bangladesh, but it was found in the environment in India. So, it is not unlikely that Zika virus is also here in Bangladesh,’ he told The Daily Star.

“Even if it is not found locally, the risk of its import has increased with the Zika outbreaks in Singapore and Malaysia, he said.

“There is no vaccine or treatment for Zika infection that causes mild fever, rash and red eyes.

“The recent-time Zika outbreak was first detected in Brazil last year and has since spread across America and the Caribbean.

“Pregnant women are considered to be at greatest risk because the virus can cause severe birth defects, including microcephaly marked by small head and underdeveloped brains.

“In Brazil, Zika has been linked to more than 1,800 cases of microcephaly.

“Prof AKM Shamsuzzaman, director (communicable disease control) of the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), said the government had ordered medical teams in all international air, sea and land ports to keep careful watch on incoming travellers from the affected countries.

“Thermal scanners are installed at the ports for health screening, he said.

“Cards are also given to passengers in planes to be filled up so that they can report the countries they are travelling from and if they have any symptom, Dr Shamsuzzaman added.

“Since 80 percent of the infected people are asymptotic, highest efforts should be put into preventing breeding of mosquitoes, said Prof Munshi of the BSMMU.

“Prof Meerjady Sabrina Flora, director at the IEDCR, said the authority had adequate surveillance and screening arrangements. There is nothing to be panicked but public awareness has to be built, she added.

“The health ministry has advised pregnant women not to travel to the Zika-affected countries.

“Measures to destroy mosquitoes are imperative, Sabrina said, adding that all should use mosquito repellents or nets to prevent mosquito biting.

“The World Health Organisation advised men and women returning from the Zika-affected countries to have safer sex or not have sex for six months, regardless of whether they are trying to conceive or showing symptoms.

“It said it had found evidence of Zika transmission from asymptomatic males to their female partners and a symptomatic female to her male partner, as well as evidence that Zika is present in semen for longer than thought.

“The authorities will arrange orientation for gynecologists so they screen pregnant women in case Zika infection is suspected, Dr Sabrina said.”

Source: The Daily Star

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