Life-threatening, insect-borne diseases spike in Venezuela, report says

From NBC News
February 21, 2019

As Venezuela grapples with an escalating humanitarian and political crisis, experts are warning about a surge in potentially deadly diseases transmitted by insects that could jeopardize public health improvements in the country and the Americas.

Venezuela is seeing a resurgence in diseases like malaria, dengue, the Zika virus and Chagas disease, according to a report published Thursday by medical journal The Lancet Infectious Diseases.

The diseases are transmitted by insects such as mosquitoes, ticks and kissing bugs. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Chagas disease, malaria and dengue can lead to death if not treated properly.

Zika virus infectioncould trigger other health complications such as nerve damages and spinal cord inflammations. During pregnancy, it could cause congenital abnormalities in a developing fetus.

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Flies, Ants, Mosquitoes Among Top-Searched Pests in the U.S.

From Pest Control Technology
February 20, 2019

Flies, ants, and mosquitoes caused the most widespread problems among US households according to a recent study by Organic Lesson. The three insects were identified as the top-searched pests across forty-one states, and they also accounted for 34% of total DIY pest control searches in the US.
 
The study analyzed Google’s search interest data of 30 common household pests and rodents including flies, ants, bed bugs, mosquitoes, fleas, mice, and cockroaches. The study specifically focused on pest control searches with a DIY intent, such as “bed bug remedies,” “mosquito traps,” and “how to get rid of fruit flies.”
 
For more details on the methodology and to read the full study, visit: The Most Troublesome Household Pests in Each State (2018)
 

Study: West Nile virus is now a permanent part of Arizona’s ecosystem

From AZ Big Media
February 18, 2019

Every day is a challenge for Bruce Gran, 52, who was diagnosed with West Nile virus seven years ago.

“From Day 1, it’s been a migraine-caliber headache,” the Tucson resident said. “My short term-memory is terrible. I’m not old enough to be having the effects that I have. ”

Gran is one of the hundreds of Arizonans who have been infected by West Nile since the mosquito-borne disease was discovered in the state in 2003.

Sixteen years later, the virus is here to stay, according to a study from Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff and the Translational Genomics Research Institute in Phoenix. And the southern half of Arizona appears to be an ongoing source of West Nile in neighboring states.

There are several types of mosquitoes in Arizona, but the two main ones that carry West Nile – Culex tarsalis and Culex quinquefasciatus – stay year-round due to central Arizona’s mild winters, TGEN associate professor David Engelthaler said.

“We could actually find the remnants of the original strain that affected the U.S. in New York and has marched its way across the U.S.,” he said. “There’s another evolving strain that has been evolving in Texas and is now a permanent resident in Maricopa County as well.”

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Tackling Zika Transmission at the Source With Genetically Engineered Resistant Mosquitoes

From Contagion Live
February 14, 2019

As several Zika virus vaccine candidates undergo clinical trials, a group of investigators is taking an alternate approach to quell transmission by genetically engineering mosquitoes to be resistant to the virus.

In a new study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), a team from the University of California, San Diego, collaborated with investigators in Australia and Taiwan and used genomic technology to generate a mosquito that is resistant to Zika virus.

“Transgenic-based (and specifically synthetic small RNA- based) methods for making disease-refractory mosquitoes can be quite effective,” Anna B. Buchman, PhD, research data analyst at Akbari Lab, Division of Biological Sciences, University of California, San Diego, and lead investigator on the study, told Contagion®.

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Mosquito control could slow the spread of disease in a warming world

From The Verge
February 13, 2019

The recently announced Green New Deal, a resolution to help address the threats of climate change, gives public health advocates a chance to confront an overlooked consequence of climate change: worsening mosquito-borne illnesses.

The resolution, which outlines projects designed to boost renewables, reduce emissions, and climate-proof the country’s infrastructure, was introduced by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA). Its goal is to extinguish potential economic, national, and social infernos that are brought on by climate change. But the plan also recognizes growing threats to public health, such as the diseases becoming far more common in a warming world.

Climate change has already expanded the reach of mosquitoes that carry certain illnesses. More extreme weather events are also part of the package, and more severe storms, stronger hurricane seasons, more floods and droughts also increase the risk of disease after a natural disaster. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), climate change could increase the number of people who are at risk of malaria by over 100 million.

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This UNC research team is trying to patent a potential Zika vaccine

From The Daily Tar Heel
February 11, 2019

A team of UNC researchers filed a patent for a potential Zika virus vaccine in late January. No vaccine or treatment exists yet for the Zika virus, which gained notoriety in recent years, particularly during the 2016 summer Olympic Games.

The patent covers specific proteins on the Zika virus that contribute to initiating the body’s immune response. The Zika virus is made up of 180 proteins that form a ball-like structure. The research team, led by professor Ralph Baric and assisted by postdoctoral scholar Jessica Plante, graduate research assistant Jesica Swanstrom and research technician Matthew Begley, discovered that some of these individual proteins can be manipulated in ways to decrease the virus’s effects on the body.

Although the patent is not a vaccine itself, the framework it provides can be used to help develop future vaccines, according to Begley. 

The best way to think of the new patent is similar to that of a completed Lego set, he said. The Zika virus’s surface is the finished Lego set, which is made up of many blocks. The patent contains instructions for how to build the final “Lego set” and manipulate the ways in which the “blocks” fit together. By changing the ways in which the “blocks” fit together, researchers can hopefully achieve a better immune response to reduce the spread of the Zika virus and lead to a reduction of symptoms, Begley said.

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Groundbreaking study uses small chip to immediately detect Zika, stage of infection

From KSAT
February 10, 2019

SAN ANTONIO – A groundbreaking new study could soon take the guessing out of Zika treatment.

The Texas Biomedical Research Institute in San Antonio is working with a team at the University of California Santa Cruz to help find an immediate way to diagnose Zika and determine the infection’s stage.

The chip is only a few inches long, but local researchers are proving its power by taking bodily fluids infected with Zika and letting the chip detect the virus.

“Very small amounts of fluid, and the device just looks at what’s in the fluid and detects it immediately,” said Texas Biomed professor Dr. Gene Patterson.

It’s that immediacy Patterson said makes the research groundbreaking.

She leads the Texas Biomed portion of the study and said never before has technology been able to detect the Zika virus in real time and pinpoint how far the infection has progressed.

That is crucial information when it comes to treatment.

“Many of our antivirals work only early in infection, and they’re less effective (later), so if you know you’re early in infection, you can certainly be prescribed some antivirals. If it’s later, you might not want to bother or you may have other sources of treatments that you would do later in infection,” Patterson said.

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Scientists’ ‘Craziest Experiment Possible’ Actually Works On Mosquitoes

From NPR
February 7, 2019

Splat! A lucky strike and the telltale red splodge that your nightly tormentor has sucked its last blood vessel.

Staring at the mess on the wall, you might find it hard to believe that so small an insect can carry so much blood. But female mosquitoes have a knack for eating, doubling their body weight with each meal.

“They can barely fly,” laughs Leslie Vosshall, a neurobiologist at Rockefeller University, who’s hoping to control mosquitoes, as well as the diseases they carry, by switching off their enormous appetite.

In a paper published Thursday in the journal Cell, Vosshall and her team demonstrate how human diet drugs satiate mosquitoes’ bloodlust for several days — so they are less likely to feed on humans and spread diseases and will also produce fewer offspring.

“When they’re hungry, these mosquitoes are super motivated. They fly toward the scent of a human the same way that we might approach a chocolate cake,” Vosshall says. “But after they were given the drug, they lost interest.”

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Sky Wars: Santa Clara Co. Vector Control Takes Aim At Mosquitos

From the Campbell Patch
February 7, 2019

SAN JOSE, CA –Heads up Santa Clara County residents. The Vector Control District has started its annual program Thursday to prevent the onslaught of mosquitoes — specifically the winter salt marsh mosquito (Aedes squamiger).

This marsh mosquito lays its eggs in the moist soil in late spring and early summer. The eggs may lay dormant for years, even after flooding such as the those the South Bay has already experienced in 2019.

The specified treatment used to eliminate them has been safely and effectively used by the county every year since 1992.

The district has been closely monitoring the development of mosquito larvae in the areas to be treated. Current conditions create a high probability that a significant number of salt marsh mosquitoes will become adults in mid-February to mid-March, if left untreated. This species is known to bite viciously during the day and easily mobilize. It can fly more than 15 miles from its breeding grounds to feed on humans and other mammals.

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Red-eyed mosquitoes engineered to break the chain of Zika virus transmission

From the New Atlas
February 6, 2019

Scientists in Australia are looking at some pretty creative ways to tackle the Zika virus, which continues to pose a risk to millions across Africa, Asia and parts of the Americas. Following a trial last year where researchers were able to decimate disease-spreading mosquitos in the country’s north, scientists have now demonstrated an engineering technique that renders the biggest transmitter of the virus largely immune to it, raising hopes of a new way to control the spread of Zika and other mosquito-borne diseases.

The trials conducted last year were the result of a collaboration between Australia’s James Cook University, scientists from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and US mosquito-rearing startup Verily. The scientists set out to reduce the population of the Aedes aegypti mosquito in northern Queensland by infecting them with a naturally occurring bacterium, and were able to do so with great success.

The Aedes aegypti mosquito is the not only the biggest transmitter of the Zika virus, it is also the number one disease vector for dengue fever, a carrier of yellow fever and of course the big one, malaria. For this reason, scientists have been attempting to use genetic engineering to limit the damage for some time, though never in this way specifically.

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Blocking Zika: New antiviral may treat and prevent infection, a Stanford study suggests

From Stanford Medicine
February 6, 2019

The Zika virus, which made headlines in 2016 following an outbreak in South America, is transmitted by mosquitos and can cause serious birth defects and neurological problems. Researchers are searching for antiviral treatments or effective vaccines to address this global health threat, but there are currently no approved treatments.

Now, Stanford researchers are taking a different approach — investigating the cellular factors of humans that are essential for Zika to propagate. One of those factors is a type of protein called Hsp70, which helps proteins fold correctly and performs a wide range of housekeeping and quality-control functions in cells.

Based on a series of experiments in mosquito and human cells, the Stanford study found that certain Hsp70 proteins are required in multiple steps of the Zika virus’ lifecycle. By blocking Hsp70 with an Hsp70 inhibitor drug, the researchers were able to prevent virus replication, as recently reported in Cell Reports.

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CDC Confirms 69 Active Travel Alerts During 2019

From Precision Vaccinations
February 4, 2019

February 4th, 2019 – A record number of Americans are forecasted to visit other countries during 2019, says the International Trade Administration (ITA).   

According to an August 2018 ITA report, the U.S. resident outbound market totaled 87.7 million in 2017, which was a 9 percent increase from 2016. 

And with the U.S. economy continuing to display signs of strengths, 2019 may be another record travel year. 

With so many Americans traveling abroad, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has also kept pace by frequently issuing ‘Travel Alerts’. 

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New disease surveillance tool helps detect any human virus

From EurekAlert!
February 4, 2019

During the Zika virus outbreak of 2015-16, public health officials scrambled to contain the epidemic and curb the pathogen’s devastating effects on pregnant women. At the same time, scientists around the globe tried to understand the genetics of this mysterious virus.

The problem was, there just aren’t many Zika virus particles in the blood of a sick patient. Looking for it in clinical samples can be like fishing for a minnow in an ocean.

A new computational method developed by Broad Institute scientists helps overcome this hurdle. Built in the lab of Broad Institute researcher Pardis Sabeti, the “CATCH” method can be used to design molecular “baits” for any virus known to infect humans and all their known strains, including those that are present in low abundance in clinical samples, such as Zika. The approach can help small sequencing centers around the globe conduct disease surveillance more efficiently and cost-effectively, which can provide crucial information for controlling outbreaks.

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WHAT’S UP WITH ZIKA? WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED OVER THE LAST FEW YEARS AND WHERE ARE WE NOW?

From the Stanford Blood Center
January 30, 2019

TRACKING THE EPIDEMIC

In 2016, the world was in the midst of a Zika outbreak, with the largest occurring in 2016 in Brazil and Columbia. The graph below shows the distribution of Zika cases in Central America, the Caribbean, and South America from 2015–2017.

In the continental US, Zika cases also peaked in 2016, with the majority of cases occurring in people who had traveled to high-risk countries (although local mosquito transmission was reported in Florida and Texas). Overall, there have been 5,740 symptomatic Zika cases reported in the continental US from January 2015 to December 2018, of which:

  • 5,454 cases were in travelers returning from affected areas
  • 231 cases were from local mosquito transmission
  • 55 cases through other routes including sexual transmission (52 cases), lab transmission (2 cases), and person-to-person through an unknown route (1 case)

The graph below shows confirmed symptomatic Zika cases in the US (reported to ArboNET) from 2016 to 2018 (data as of 12/4/2018).

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Malarial drug inhibits Zika virus growth, IIT Mandi team finds

From The Hindu
January 30, 2019

Researchers at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Mandi have found a drug hydroxychloroquine or HCQ, that is already being used for treating malaria to be effective in inhibiting Zika virus growth and replication.

Also, the drug was able to significantly reduce viral load in placental cells. Zika virus is known to damage and kill the placental cells (which act as a barrier to protect the developing foetus from disease-causing organisms) leading to foetal infection. The drug might therefore help in preventing vertical transmission of Zika virus from the placenta to the foetus.

Since the HCQ drug is already approved for use in pregnancy, positive results in human trials will mean that it can be given to pregnant women infected with Zika to reduce the chances of vertical transmission. Some foetuses infected with Zika virus are born with a small head (microcephaly).

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San Antonio Researcher Helps Develop Experimental Zika Test

From Texas Public Radio
January 29, 2019

Texas Biomedical Research Institute scientist is helping develop a test for the Zika virus that has been called “a lab on a chip.”

The new technology uses fluid and tools including lasers to look at molecules on a small chip to quickly learn several things, according to Texas Biomed scientist Jean Patterson, who is contributing to the device’s development.

“One: to rule out other viruses they suspect might be involved so then you can sort of pinpoint what the person might have,” Patterson said. “Secondly, it can identify where you are in the infection so you could identify whether antivirals would be recommended and you could also determine if immunotherapy might be an appropriate course of treatment.”

The fluid, called optofluidics, is a process in which a scientist takes bodily fluids that might be infected with various viruses, puts them on a chip, then uses tools like optical waveguides and lasers to evaluate the sample.

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Barbara Edelston Yaroslavsky Dies After Contracting West Nile

From The Malibu Times
January 27, 2019

Barbara Edelston Yaroslavsky, wife of longtime LA County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, died in late December. Yaroslavsky, 71, was herself a longtime community leader, activist and volunteer, according to the LA Times. She died on December 26, 2018.

“Yaroslavsky was recovering from a severe West Nile virus infection when she collapsed during a therapy session,” the Times reported. “She was taken to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead.”

She was remembered in a statement by current Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, which was sent out on Jan. 5 of this year: “It is with a broken heart that I report that the incomparable Barbara Yaroslavsky passed away over the holiday break. My heart and deepest sympathies go out to Zev and the entire family at this incredibly difficult time.

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West Nile virus in an unlikely place: Why my loss is a wake-up call for all Americans

From EDF.org
January 24, 2019

This year will be like no other for me: I’ll be without my dad.

His recent death in Yolo County, California, intersected with my work to manage the impacts of climate change – in a very real and personal way. While West Nile is usually associated with damp summer conditions in the East rather than the arid West, I know now that drought can also lead to more cases.

Rising global temperatures have allowed the West Nile virus to reach virtually every corner of America, including regions where nobody used to worry about the mosquito-borne disease.

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Prior dengue infection may protect against symptomatic Zika disease, study finds

From the Miami Herald
January 22, 2019

As scientists continue to study the relatively novel Zika virus, researchers have found that children with a history of prior dengue infection had a significantly lower risk of being symptomatic when infected by Zika, according to a study in Nicaragua of more than 3,000 children.

Experts had worried that prior dengue infection could worsen Zika disease, but the new findings published Tuesday in the journal PLOS Medicine suggest that prior dengue immunity in children may protect against symptomatic Zika, which can cause fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes.

Zika and dengue are closely related and cause similar symptoms. Both viruses are spread primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes aegypti mosquito, though Zika can also be transmitted by sex and through blood transfusions.

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STUDY: West Nile virus appears to remain in Maricopa County

From KYMA
January 21, 2019

PHOENIX (AP) – A new study suggests that a strain of the West Nile virus is going to remain in Arizona’s most populous county for the foreseeable future.

Arizona researchers say that the same mild winters that bring snowbirds to Maricopa County also let mosquitoes and certain virus-reservoir birds survive winter to spread West Nile anew when the weather warms up.

Phoenix radio station KJZZ reports the study concludes that potentially deadly virus seems to be endemic to the county which includes the Phoenix metro area.

Experts say the West Nile is the foremost source of mosquito-borne disease in the U.S. The virus reportedly first entered the country in 1999 in New York City and was detected in Maricopa County four years later.

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Scans, ultrasound spot Zika brain defects

From Health24
January 21, 2019

Ultrasounds and MRIs during pregnancy and after birth can detect most Zika-related brain abnormalities in infants, researchers report.

Foetal MRIs and ultrasound

If a woman is infected with the Zika virus during pregnancy, her child can be born with microcephaly and other severe brain defects, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.

The new study included 80 women in Columbia and two women in the United States who were exposed to Zika during pregnancy. The two US women were exposed when they travelled to areas with active Zika transmission.

All of the women received foetal MRIs and ultrasound during the second and/or third trimester of pregnancy. After their infants were born, the children received brain MRIs and cranial ultrasounds.

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Bacterial compounds may be as good as DEET at repelling mosquitoes

From Science News
January 16, 2019

Molecules made by bacteria keep mosquitoes at bay. The compounds are a newfound potential stand-in for DEET, a ubiquitous chemical used in most commercially available mosquito repellents in the United States.

In lab tests, the molecules were as effective as DEET in stopping Aedes aegypti mosquitos, which can carry Zika, dengue and yellow fever, from snacking on artificial blood, researchers report January 16 in Science Advances. Tests suggest the compounds also deter two other mosquito species: Anopheles gambiae, a major malaria carrier, and Culex pipiens, which can carry the West Nile virus.

Though DEET is considered safe for human use and effective against mosquitoes, it doesn’t hurt to have more lines of defense against the disease-transmitting insects, says coauthor Susan Paskewitz, an entomologist at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

The molecules in question are metabolic by-products of Xenorhabdus budapestensis, a bacterium that has a symbiotic relationship with a species of soil nematode. When the nematode finds an insect host such as a caterpillar, it burrows in and defecates the bacteria into its host’s bloodstream. The bacteria weaken the host’s immune system and turn its insides to mush — a sort of “bacteria-insect milkshake” — which rapidly kills the host, says Adler Dillman, a nematologist at the University of California, Riverside who wasn’t part of the study.

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Cellular protein a target for Zika control

From Penn State News
January 14, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A cellular protein that interacts with invading viruses appears to help enable the infection process of the Zika virus, according to an international team of researchers who suggest this protein could be a key target in developing new therapies to prevent or treat Zika virus infection.

Scientists first isolated Zika, a member of the Flaviviridae family of viruses — which also includes yellow fever, dengue and West Nile viruses — in 1947 and, until recently, it typically caused only mild symptoms in humans. However, health officials first recorded larger outbreaks of the mosquito-borne virus in 2007, culminating in a large epidemic in the Western Hemisphere in 2015-2016. For the first time, Zika infection also was associated with severe symptoms, including microcephaly in infants infected in the womb, and Guillain-Barre syndrome in adults.

These acute symptoms and the rapid spread of the virus prompted the World Health Organization to declare Zika a public health emergency of international concern and stimulated interest among scientists in the factors governing Zika infection, about which little is known.

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New research could allow fast diagnosis of viruses like Ebola and Zika

From Digital Trends
January 12, 2019

The researchers at CIRAD were searching for a way to diagnose viruses quickly and early in the infection process, so they could avoid the time consuming and potentially dangerous process of transferring contaminated samples to a lab. They struck on using the portable sequencer MinION device, which in the last few years since its development has become a common tool for biological analysis techniques like de novo sequencing, targeted sequencing, metagenomics, and epigenetics. The CIRAD team were able to both test and validate that the device could be used in plant virology, making it an invaluable potential tool for diagnosing viruses in real world outbreaks.

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LB documents zero cases of West Nile Virus for first time since 2011

From the Signal Tribune
January 11, 2019

Even though the annoyance of mosquitoes never seems to go away, residents finally have good news in the war against the buzzing pests.

On Jan. 3, the City of Long Beach issued a press release announcing that the Department of Health and Human Services (Health Department), Vector Control and Public Health Emergency Management (PHEM) recorded zero cases of West Nile Virus in 2018 in Long Beach. This is the first time the city has documented zero cases of the disease since 2011, according to officials.

“It is extremely rare to see zero cases of West Nile Virus in a city,” said Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia in the press release. “This was without a doubt the result of City staff and our community working together to protect and fight against mosquito-borne diseases and infestation.”

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), West Nile Virus (WNV) is the most common “mosquito-borne” disease in the continental United States. The first case in Southern California was recorded in 2003, and the first case of WNV in Long Beach was documented in 2004.

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New antibodies could diagnose and treat Zika virus

From the Medical News Bulletin
January 9, 2019

Researchers from the United States utilized ribosome display technology to generate six antibodies that could diagnose and treat Zika virus.

Zika virus disease, also known as Zika fever or Zika virus infection, is primarily caused by a bite of an infected mosquito from the Aedes genus. The disease can also be transmitted through different forms of transmission such as blood transfusion, sexual contact, and organ transplantation. The infection often causes no or only mild symptoms of fever, rash, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, and headache, similar to a very mild form of dengue fever.

Zika in early pregnancy has found significantly increase the risk of birth defects. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 10 % of babies of women with confirmed infection during pregnancy in US states and about 5% in US territories had Zika-associated birth defects. This can cause serious pregnancy complications such as fetal loss, stillbirth, and preterm birth.

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Do Travelers Still Need to Worry About the Zika Virus in 2019?

From Smarter Travel
January 7, 2019

On a recent trip to Southeast Asia, I saw signs warning about Zika transmission and realized that it had been over a year since I had heard about the virus. And though a lot has changed the Zika outbreak, Zika is still affecting almost 100 countries in some capacity.

After interviewing medical professionals and researching Zika on the CDC’s website, I think this underreporting is the result of zero reported cases of mosquito-bite transmission of Zika in the continental U.S. in 2018. Even Puerto Rico, while it still has the Zika virus, has seen a drop in cases. Because of this decline, Zika has largely gone unreported in 2018 for North Americans.

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A Virus Even More Dangerous Than Zika to Pregnant Woman

From the New York Times
January 7, 2019

The mosquito-borne virus that causes Rift Valley fever may severely injure human fetuses if contracted by mothers during pregnancy, according to new research.

In a study published last month in the journal Science Advances, researchers used infected rats and human fetal tissue to discover how the virus targets the placenta. Results showed that the virus may be even more damaging to fetuses than the Zika virus, which set off a global crisis in 2015 and left thousands of babies in Central America and South America with severe birth defects.

“Zika caught everybody by surprise,” said Amy Hartman, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Pittsburgh, who led the research. “If doctors had known about Zika’s birth effects, they could have done a lot more to protect pregnant women and babies. With Rift Valley fever, we’re trying to get ahead of the curve.”

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Where will the world’s next Zika, West Nile or Dengue virus come from?

From EurekAlert!
January 4, 2019

After collecting data and comparing it with every known mammal and bird species on Earth, scientists from the University of California, Davis, have identified wildlife species that are the most likely to host flaviviruses such as Zika, West Nile, dengue and yellow fever. Flaviviruses are known to cause major epidemics and widespread illness and death throughout the world.

The resulting “hot spot” maps show regions of the world with high diversity of potential wildlife hosts of flaviviruses — viruses mostly spread by mosquitoes and ticks. These include regions where flaviviruses have not been detected but that have wildlife species with the potential to harbor them.

The information provides scientists and health authorities with a road map for disease detection and surveillance efforts.

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Long Beach reported no cases of West Nile virus in 2018, but invasive mosquito species is on the rise

From the Long Beach Post
January 3, 2019

For the first time in nearly a decade, Long Beach reported no cases of West Nile virus in 2018, health officials said Thursday.

The city has documented human cases of the virus almost every year since it was first reported in 2004. In 2017, Long Beach saw 15 human cases, down from 53 in 2016.

The disease is transmitted from a bite from an infected Culex mosquito and can cause fever, body aches, rash, nausea, vomiting and headache. While most people show no symptoms, about one in 150 may develop a more serious disease, such as brain inflammation or paralysis.

City officials attributed the zero cases last year to ramped mosquito control and greater public outreach.

“It is extremely rare to see zero cases of West Nile virus in a city,” Mayor Robert Garcia said in a statement. “This was without a doubt the result of city staff and our community working together to protect and fight against mosquito-borne diseases and infestation.”

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What Pennsylvania & federal records say about Zika in 2018

From Lancaster Online
January 3, 2019

Almost three years since the Zika virus burst onto the international news, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention show zero Pennsylvania cases in 2018.

The CDC listing shows only symptomatic cases confirmed by a laboratory, so that doesn’t mean the virus that spreads by mosquitoes and sex and can cause serious birth defects wasn’t here at all.

Nate Wardle, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department of Health, said in an email that Pennsylvania did have three pregnant women this year who had Zika but did not show symptoms.

“The department tracks these pregnancies through delivery and the child’s infant life to check up on the children and review their health,” he wrote, not offering details on how those mothers and babies are doing.

Last December the Department of Health’s running tally stood at 152 confirmed Zika infections in Pennsylvania, and 80 possible ones, since 2015.

Wardle noted that Pennsylvania has never had a “locally transmitted” Zika case — that is, one spread by a mosquito bite in the state.

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DNA tests of Lassa virus mid-outbreak helped Nigeria target its response

From Science News
January 3, 2019

When an outbreak of a viral hemorrhagic fever hit Nigeria in 2018, scientists were ready: They were already in the country testing new disease-tracking technology, and within weeks managed to steer health workers toward the most appropriate response.

Lassa fever, which is transmitted from rodents to humans, pops up every year in West Africa. But 2018 was the worst season on record for Nigeria. By mid-March, there were 376 confirmed cases — more than three times as many as by that point in 2017 — and another 1,495 suspected. Health officials weren’t sure if the bad year was being caused by the strains that usually circulate, or by a new strain that might be more transmissible between humans and warrant a stronger response.  

New technology for analyzing DNA in the field helped answer that question mid-outbreak, confirming the outbreak was being caused by pretty much the same strains transmitted from rodents to humans in past years. That rapid finding helped Nigeria shape its response, allowing health officials to focus efforts on rodent control and safe food storage, rather than sinking time and money into measures aimed at stopping unlikely human-to-human transmission, researchers report in the Jan. 4 Science.

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Residents encouraged to do their part to prevent mosquito borne illness

From the Pacific Daily News
December 28, 2018

Residents are encouraged to do their part in keeping a mosquito borne illness from spreading.

A small number of cases of dengue fever in Palau is being watched by public health officials on Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

According to a release from the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. in Saipan there have been a confirmed outbreak of dengue fever involving a small number of cases in Palau.

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Barbara Yaroslavsky, longtime community volunteer and activist, dies at 71

From the Pasadena Star News
December 27, 2018

The wife of former Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky had been seriously ill since contracting West Nile virus weeks ago.

LOS ANGELES – Longtime community leader Barbara Yaroslavsky, wife of former Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, died Wednesday at age 71.

Barbara Edelston Yaroslavsky had been seriously ill over the last six weeks with infections after contracting West Nile virus, according to her husband’s former spokesman, Joel Bellman.

She had appeared to be on the road to a slow recovery and was discharged Wednesday from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center to begin a period of recuperation and rehabilitation at another facility, Bellman said. But during a physical therapy session this morning, she suddenly collapsed, he said.

Yaroslavsky was taken by ambulance to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where she died shortly after 10 a.m., according to a statement issued on behalf of her husband and children, David and Mina.

“We are shocked and devastated by this turn of events,” the statement reads. “We have lost an exceptional mother, a loving grandmother and a beloved wife and partner in life. There are no words to describe what we are feeling at this moment, but our loss is profound and the void in our lives is immeasurable.”

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Flowery Deterrents for Dengue, Yellow Fever, and Zika Viruses

From Precision Vaccinations
December 25, 2018

According to new research, some flowery plants in your backyard may attract infectious disease-carrying mosquitoes, while other plants may repel them. 

Although most mosquitoes are just a nuisance, some mosquito types spread viruses that can cause disease. 

The Aedes aegypti mosquitoes often carry infectious diseases, such as Yellow Fever, Dengue and Zika viruses, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).   

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‘We’ve been forgotten’: Brazil’s Zika generation

From Malaymail
December 18, 2018

RIO DE JANEIRO, Dec 18 — When doctors told her that the six-month-old foetus she was carrying had severe brain damage caused by the Zika virus, Thamires Ferreira da Silva tried to commit suicide by jumping in front of a bus in Rio de Janeiro.

“I just wanted to finish it,” said the 29-year-old Brazilian, crying.

But the bus driver braked in time and more than two years later, she is raising her son Miguel with the help of her husband Wallace, their families and medical specialists.

Miguel was the first child in Brazil to be diagnosed with the mosquito-borne illness, which at the time was an unremarked phenomenon but which soon grew to be the focus of a global health alert.

“I feel that we’ve been totally forgotten,” Ferreira da Silva said.

Her son, aged two years and four months, suffers from microcephaly—a condition in which the brain does not develop properly and results in a smaller than normal head.

He also has lissencephaly, where parts of the brain appear smooth, the rare Dandy-Walker syndrome that is characterised by deformation of the part of the brain that controls movement, kidney problems and epilepsy.

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Residents Cautioned About Ticks, Lyme Disease In Santa Cruz Co.

From the Santa Cruz Patch
December 17, 2018

SANTA CRUZ COUNTY, CA — Santa Cruz County Mosquito and Vector Control officials are warning residents to be on the lookout for western black‐legged tick (Ixodes pacificus), which can carry Lyme disease and other tick‐borne illnesses.

“Winter is a time of high adult tick activity in our coastal hills, and residents should be aware when spending time outdoors”, SCCMVC Manager Paul Binding said in a statement.

There have been five cases of Lyme disease reported in Santa Cruz County this year.

The risk of being bitten by ticks may be reduced with the following precautions:

  • Wear long pants and long‐sleeved shirts.
  • Walk in the center of trails and avoid logs, tree trunks, trail margins, brush and tall grass.
  • Shower and thoroughly check your entire body for ticks after time outdoors. Parents should examine their children, especially on the scalp and hairline.
  • Keep your pets on trails as well, and check and remove ticks after time outdoors.
  • Use EPA‐registered repellent for use against ticks; always follow label directions.
  • Products with a concentration of 20% DEET or higher, and/or treating clothes and shoes with permethrin before entering tick habitat are recommended.
  • Launder clothes (and dry on high heat) soon after activity in tick habitat.

Removing a tick within 24 hours after it attaches can prevent transmission of Lyme diseases
and other tick‐borne diseases.

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City Health Dept. Reports 93 Dirty Pasadena Swimming Pools, Possibly Mosquito Breeding Sites, Cleaned or Emptied

From Pasadena Now
December 17, 2018

City authorities and staff from the San Gabriel Valley Mosquito and Vector Control District identified a total of 93 dirty swimming pools in Pasadena that could be breeding places for mosquitoes, including those that carry the West Nile virus and other diseases.

The owners of these swimming pools were notified and advised to clean them and restore them to a functional state, or to empty the water and keep the pools dry.

A report by Michael Johnson, the City’s Director of Public Health, said the dirty or “green” pools – green because of algae – were identified in the spring. The owners were given Swimming Pool Notices, and by August all the pools have been cleaned, Johnson said.

According to the San Gabriel Valley Mosquito and Vector Control District, a dirty and unmaintained swimming pool can produce up to three million mosquitoes in a month, contributing to the spread of mosquito-borne diseases.

The District said only two conditions could guarantee that mosquitoes don’t grow in the swimming pools: they should either be “clean and functional,” with a working filtration system, or “empty and dry.”

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Florida had 93 cases of Zika in this year

From the Tampa Bay Times
December 11, 2018

As the end of the year approaches, Florida has reported 93 cases of the mosquito-borne Zika virus in 2018, according to numbers posted Monday on the state Department of Health website.

The number of cases has slowly increased in recent months, with all but two of the cases classified as “travel” related — generally meaning people were infected elsewhere and brought the disease into the state.

Two cases were classified as having “undetermined” origin, with both of those cases involving people in Miami-Dade County.

The disease, which caused major concerns in 2016, is particularly dangerous to pregnant women because it can cause severe birth defects. Collier County has topped the state this year with 35 cases, followed by Miami-Dade with 27 cases and Orange County with 11 cases, according to the Department of Health website.

Broward and Palm Beach counties each reported six cases, Osceola County reported three cases, and Lee, Hillsborough, Pinellas, Hernando and Walton counties each reported one case.

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Mosquitoes, Ticks, Rats, West Nile Virus, Zika and More: Independent District Has it Covered

From ANewsCafe.com
December 6, 2018

Today we check in with Peter Bonkrude, District Manager of the Shasta Mosquito and Vector Control District, an independent special district that provides public health mosquito and vector control to 1,100 square miles of Shasta County. Peter grew up in Minnesota, Ohio, and Colorado where he graduated from the University of Colorado-Boulder with a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Biology. After moving to California, Peter attained his master’s degree in Entomology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and worked for a variety of research and vector-control agencies, including ISCA tech in Riverside, Calif., and the California Department of Public Health-Vector Borne Disease Section in Redding. In 2009, he accepted a position with the Shasta Mosquito and Vector Control District, where he has served for the last nine years. When not working, Peter enjoys spending time with his wife and two children, playing music, and traveling around the north state and beyond.

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If you plan to travel to Cuba, bring repellent: Deadly dengue virus has returned

From the Miami Herald
December 5, 2018

If you’re planning to spend Christmas in Cuba, take plenty of insect repellent with you and stay away from areas where the mosquito Aedes Aegypti may be found.

A deadly strand of the dengue virus, transmitted primarily by the Aedes Aegypti mosquito, has returned and is worrying authorities, according to Cinco de Septiembre, official newspaper of Cienfuegos in south central Cuba. This type of dengue has not been reported in Cuba since 1977.

“A new epidemic of dengue has broken out, causing alarm and clinical developments, but luckily we have not had to mourn the loss of life up until now,” the newspaper quoted provincial health director Salvador Tamayo Muñiz, speaking to regional leaders.

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New Zika vaccine effective in preclinical trials

From MedicalXpress
December 4, 2018

Researchers at the University of Hawaii medical school have successfully developed a vaccine candidate for the Zika virus, showing that it is effective in protecting both mice and monkeys from the infection.

Demonstrating the effectiveness of their  candidate in monkeys (non-human primates) is an important milestone because it typically predicts the vaccine will work in humans, enabling further clinical development.

A strong global initiative to battle Zika has produced more than 30  since outbreaks in 2015-2016 in Brazil linked the infection in some pregnant women to severe birth defects in their newborns. Zika is spread by the bite of infected mosquitos and through sex.

There is no treatment or cure for Zika virus infection nor is any vaccine currently approved for public use.

The proposed vaccine reported by scientists at the John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM) in the journals Frontiers in Immunology and mSphere, via the open access journal of the American Society for Microbiology, is a recombinant subunit vaccine that uses only a small part (protein) of the Zika virus, produced in insect cells.

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89 Zika Cases in Florida are Travel Related

From Precision Vaccinations
December 2, 2018

December 2nd, 2018 – The State of Florida Health Department reported a year to date total of 91 confirmed Zika virus cases, as of November 24, 2018. 

Unfortunately, this update published on ZikaFree.com says there have been 68 pregnant women diagnosed with the Zika virus during 2018. 

And, 1 infant born with Congenital Zika Syndrome (CZS). 

CZS is unique to fetuses and infants infected with Zika virus before birth, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).   

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Multistate Infestation with the Exotic Disease–Vector Tick Haemaphysalis longicornis — United States, August 2017–September 2018

From the CDC
November 30, 2018

Haemaphysalis longicornis is a tick indigenous to eastern Asia and an important vector of human and animal disease agents, resulting in such outcomes as human hemorrhagic fever and reduction of production in dairy cattle by 25%. H. longicornis was discovered on a sheep in New Jersey in August 2017 (1). This was the first detection in the United States outside of quarantine. In the spring of 2018, the tick was again detected at the index site, and later, in other counties in New Jersey, in seven other states in the eastern United States, and in Arkansas. The hosts included six species of domestic animals, six species of wildlife, and humans. To forestall adverse consequences in humans, pets, livestock, and wildlife, several critical actions are indicated, including expanded surveillance to determine the evolving distribution of H. longicornis, detection of pathogens that H. longicornis currently harbors, determination of the capacity of H. longicornis to serve as a vector for a range of potential pathogens, and evaluation of effective agents and methods for the control of H. longicornis.

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West Nile virus infections could double in the U.S.

From The Houston Chronicle
November 29, 2018

The number of West Nile virus cases in the United States is expected to more than double in the next 30 years. 

That’s one of the dire predictions in the climate report that the Trump administration released on Black Friday. Scientists project that as average temperatures continue to rise, the geographic ranges of disease-carrying insects like mosquitoes and ticks will grow, putting more Americans at risk of getting infected with West Nile virus, Zika virus, Lyme disease, and dengue in the coming decades.

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Combatting the Increasing Threat of Vector-Borne Disease in the United States with a National Vector-Borne Disease Prevention and Control System

From ASTMH
November 29, 2018

Reported cases of vector-borne diseases in the United States have more than tripled since 2004, characterized by steadily increasing incidence of tick-borne diseases and sporadic outbreaks of domestic and invasive mosquito-borne diseases. An effective public health response to these trends relies on public health surveillance and laboratory systems, proven prevention and mitigation measures, scalable capacity to implement these measures, sensitive and specific diagnostics, and effective therapeutics. However, significant obstacles hinder successful implementation of these public health strategies. The recent emergence of , the first invasive tick to emerge in the United States in approximately 80 years, serves as the most recent example of the need for a coordinated public health response. Addressing the dual needs for innovation and discovery and for building state and local capacities may overcome current challenges in vector-borne disease prevention and control, but will require coordination across a national network of collaborators operating under a national strategy. Such an effort should reduce the impact of emerging vectors and could reverse the increasing trend of vector-borne disease incidence and associated morbidity and mortality.

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Six antibodies produced to combat Zika virus

From Science Daily
November 29, 2018

Researchers have generated six Zika virus antibodies that could be used to test for and possibly treat a mosquito-borne disease that has infected more than 1.5 million people worldwide.

The antibodies “may have the dual utility as diagnostics capable of recognizing Zika virus subtypes and may be further developed to treat Zika virus infection,” corresponding author Ravi Durvasula, MD, and colleagues report in a study published in the journal PLOS ONE.

Dr. Durvasula is professor and chair of the department of medicine of Loyola Medicine and Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine. First author is Adinarayana Kunamneni, PhD, a research assistant professor in Loyola’s department of medicine.

Zika is spread mainly by mosquitos. Most infected people experience no symptoms or mild symptoms such as a rash, mild fever and red eyes. But infection during pregnancy can cause miscarriages, stillbirths and severe birth defects such as microcephaly.

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Google’s Parent Has a Plan to Eliminate Mosquitoes Worldwide

From Bloomberg
November 28, 2018

Silicon Valley researchers are attacking flying bloodsuckers in California’s Fresno County. It’s the first salvo in an unlikely war for Google parent Alphabet Inc.: eradicating mosquito-borne diseases around the world.

A white high-top Mercedes van winds its way through the suburban sprawl and strip malls as a swarm of male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes shoot out of a black plastic tube on the passenger-side window. These pests are tiny and, with a wingspan of just a few millimeters, all but invisible.

“You hear that little beating sound?” says Kathleen Parkes, a spokesperson for Verily Life Sciences, a unit of Alphabet. She’s trailing the van in her car, the windows down. “Like a duh-duh-duh? That’s the release of the mosquitoes.”

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Prenatal US detects brain abnormalities in fetuses exposed to Zika virus

From Radiology Business
November 28, 2018

In a cohort of 82 pregnant women with the Zika virus (ZIKV) infection, prenatal ultrasound (US) was able to detect all fetal brain abnormalities but one. Results from the study were published in JAMA Pediatrics.

“Since late 2015, large regions of South and Central America and the Caribbean were affected by the neurologic phenotype of the congenital ZIKV syndrome and the associated brain imaging findings of neuronal migration abnormalities, callosal and cerebellar malformation, and ventriculomegaly,” wrote lead author Sarah B. Mulkey, MD, PhD, of the Children’s National Health System in Washington, D.C, and colleagues. “The international medical community had to quickly develop an understanding of the infection and provide recommendations for evaluation of exposed and infected pregnant women and their infants.”

Mulkey and colleagues noted the progression of fetal brain injury is still not well documented. The researchers performed neuroimaging of fetuses and infants exposed to ZIKV with MRI and US.

The 82 study participants were from Colombia and the United States and enrolled between June 2016 through June 2017. The cohort underwent one or more MRI and US imaging exams during their second and/or third trimesters. The infants underwent brain MRI and cranial US, and blood samples were taken to test for ZIKV.

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Meghan Markle Skips Zambia Tour With Prince Harry Due To This Risk

From the International Business Times
November 26, 2018

Meghan Markle has opted to not join Prince Harry on his trip to Zambia due to a possible health risk.

Nicholas Bieber, a journalist for Daily Star, claimed that the Duchess of Sussex was supposed to fly to Zambia with her husband this week for a two-day, but her pregnancy made it impossible for her to do so.

At present, the country is being plagued with the Zika virus – a virus that is spread by mosquitoes – so she has decided to stay in London. Zika virus carries major risks, especially for pregnant women. Markle is expecting her first child in the spring of 2019.

“As far as those on the ground in Zambia were concerned, both Meghan and Harry were going. But Meghan is exhausted and understandably, expressed serious concerns about traveling to a country with even the smallest Zika threat. In the end, it was agreed Harry would do it alone and Meghan could rest-up and spend some quality time with Doria, who is down in the UK visiting,” a source said.

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