Problems for some babies with Zika continue long after birth
From the PBS News Hour
December 14, 2017
Children born with congenital Zika infection and diagnosed with microcephaly face severe health and developmental challenges as they age, a new study has found, suggesting that complications from the virus affect babies long after birth.
The study, published today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the State Health Secretariat of Paraiba and the Ministry of Health of Brazil, attempted to present a clearer picture of the long-term challenges that will affect children born with smaller-than-expected head sizes, or microcephaly, during the Zika outbreaks in Brazil and elsewhere. Previous publications have described the health effects infants faced during the Zika outbreak, but today’s study was the first attempt to provide a more comprehensive view of the problems they experienced around age 2.
The investigation focused on Brazil, where thousands of children born during 2015 and 2016 were affected by the virus. It studied the health and development of 19 children with microcephaly and evidence of congenital Zika virus through clinical assessments, medical record reviews and caregiver interviews.
Zika cases are down, but researchers prepare for the virus’s return
From Science News
December 13, 2017
One of the top stories of 2016 quietly exited much of the public’s consciousness in 2017. But it’s still a hot topic among scientists and for good reasons. After Zika emerged in the Western Hemisphere, it shook the Americas, as reports of infections and devastating birth defects swept through Brazil and Colombia, eventually reaching the United States. In a welcome turn, the number of Zika cases in the hemisphere this year dropped dramatically in the hardest-hit areas.
But few scientists are naïve enough to think we’ve seen the last of Zika. “The clock is ticking for when we will see another outbreak,” says Andrew Haddow, a medical entomologist at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases in Frederick, Md.
Researchers’ to-do list for tackling this once-unfamiliar virus is daunting. But progress has been made, especially in learning more about Zika’s biology and interactions with its hosts, and in developing a safe and effective vaccine.
Drug blocks Zika, other mosquito-borne viruses in cell cultures
From Stanford Medicine News Center
December 12, 2017
If there was a Mafia crime family of the virus world, it might be flaviviruses.
Dengue, Zika, West Nile and yellow fever virus — to name the more notorious public health gangsters of this clan — are all mosquito-borne flaviviruses, and they’re notoriously hard to take out. Researchers struggle to find drugs to combat just a single flavivirus at a time.
Now, researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine have discovered a way to block a handful of members of the family at once. The approach, rather than killing the viruses directly, is akin to cutting off a crime family’s bank accounts: It revolves around inhibiting access to a complex of proteins in mammalian cells on which the viruses rely when they invade.
“Generally, when you develop a drug against a specific protein in dengue virus, for instance, it won’t work for yellow fever or Zika, and you have to develop new antivirals for each,” said Jan Carette, PhD, assistant professor of microbiology and immunology and senior author of the paper, which was published Dec. 12 in Cell Reports. “Here, by targeting the host rather than a specific virus, we’ve been able to take out multiple viruses at once.”
Texas Zika Researchers Studying Infected Primates To Help Prevent Birth Defects
From Texas Public Radio
December 11, 2017
Scientists at Texas BioMedical Research Institute in San Antonio are using a type of primate to help prevent birth defects caused by the Zika virus.
Texas BioMed is using four marmosets as its animal model for Zika infection. Virologist Dr. Jean Patterson said Zika infection in marmosets is similar to that in humans.
“Like humans, they develop almost immediate Viremia — meaning they have virus in their blood — and, for the males, after the virus declines in blood it then goes into semen, saliva and blood,” she said.
Zika is primarily passed through mosquito bites but can also be transmitted through sexual intercourse in humans, as well as marmosets.
County resident sickened by mosquito transmitted virus
From The Turlock Journal
December 8, 2017
The Stanislaus County Health Services Agency has confirmed that the county has seen its first case of the St. Louis encephalitis virus with the diagnosis of a male county resident in his 70s.
“He had symptoms and was tested in September,” said Stanislaus County Public Health Officer Dr. Julie Vaishampayan. “Confirmatory testing was performed first by the California Department of Public Health, followed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”
The diagnosis marks the second confirmed case of the virus in a person in California for the year.
The East Side and Turlock Mosquito Abatement Districts received confirmation in August that a mosquito sample from Stanislaus County has tested positive for St. Louis Encephalitis virus, which is similar to West Nile Virus and carried by the same type of mosquitoes.
This was the first time the virus had been detected in the area for more than 40 years. As of now, the virus has been found in mosquitoes in 14 California counties.
St. Louis encephalitis virus was recognized in California in 1937 and caused periodic epidemics in humans and horses until 1989, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Still a threat: encephalitis case revealed in Stanislaus County
From the Modesto Bee
December 6, 2017
It turns out that a Stanislaus County man who became sick in September was stricken by St. Louis encephalitis, a virus that has reappeared in the Northern San Joaquin Valley this year.
The county Health Services Agency made the case public Wednesday but did not identify the individual, who is in his 70s.
Like the West Nile virus, the St. Louis disease is transmitted by mosquitoes. Both of the viruses may cause encephalitis, or inflammation of the brain, in people who are infected.
The Stanislaus County man had symptoms on and off for a month and was not hospitalized. He suffered from fatigue, fever and abdominal pain and sought care from his physician, said Anuj Bhatia, a Health Services Agency spokesman.
Samples of his blood were tested. Additional tests to confirm the virus were done by the state Department of Public Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The county health agency had to wait for the verification tests before reporting the case, Bhatia said. The local man was the second person to test positive for St. Louis encephalitis in California this year.
California had three cases of St. Louis encephalitis illness last year. Mosquitoes have tested positive for the virus in counties in the San Joaquin Valley and other places in Southern California in 2017.
In August, St. Louis encephalitis was detected in Stanislaus County for the first time in decades. Mosquito abatement districts stopped seeing the virus after West Nile took hold in California about 15 years ago.
David Heft, general manager of Turlock Mosquito Abatement District, said a small amount of St. Louis encephalitis activity was detected in Culex mosquitoes near Grayson and Newman, where most of the river flooding occurred last winter.
SMC Residents Reminded of Tick-Borne Illness Risk
From The Menlo Park Patch
December 5, 2017
From SMCMVCD: Officials at San Mateo Mosquito and Vector Control District (SMCMVCD) remind residents that winter is the season for the western black-legged tick (Ixodes pacificus), also known as the deer tick. This tick is the primary vector for Lyme disease and other common tick-borne illnesses.
Results from the District’s 2016/2017 tick-borne disease surveillance program indicate that up to 3% of ticks collected in San Mateo County are infected with bacteria capable of causing illness in humans. This is consistent with previous years’ data for San Mateo County. “Although the risk of encountering an infected tick in our area is much lower than on the east coast, it is still very possible to contract Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, or other diseases from ticks in this county,” said San Mateo Mosquito and Vector Control District Laboratory Director Angie Nakano.
The District recommends that residents and visitors continue to take precautions against tick bites when engaging in outdoor activities. Basic precautions against tick-borne illness include:
- Wear light-colored clothing and long sleeves and pants
- Tuck in clothing to keep ticks off your skin
- Use an EPA-registered tick repellent
- Walk in the center of the trail, and avoid contact with brush, tall grass, and leaf litter
- Check carefully for ticks after outdoor activities
- Remove ticks promptly and correctly; never crush, burn, smother, or twist an attached tick
- Consult a health professional if unable to completely remove a tick, or if a rash or fever develops after exposure to a tick
“I would never discourage anyone from enjoying the outdoors,” said the District’s Public Health Education and Outreach Officer, Megan Sebay. “Fortunately a few simple precautions can prevent most tick bites and keep your risk of tick-borne illness low.”
How bug-delivering drones are helping defeat deadly diseases
From NBC News
December 5, 2017
Humans have been trying to conquer malaria, Zika, dengue, and other mosquito-borne diseases for centuries. But with malaria alone still claiming more than 1 million lives every year, it’s clear we have a long fight ahead.
But now there’s a new weapon in the war against mosquitoes, and it’s not a vaccine or a new insecticide — it’s aerial drones.
On the east African island of Zanzibar, drones are being used to map the small, often hidden pools of water where mosquitos breed, so they can be sprayed to kill larvae before they mature.
At Rutgers University in New Jersey, engineers are developing “skeetercopters” that can detect and map mosquito-infested sites from the air — and douse them with insecticide.
Gene-Based Zika Vaccine is Safe and Immunogenic in Healthy Adults
From NIH – National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Diseases
December 4, 2017
Results from two Phase 1 clinical trials show an experimental Zika vaccine developed by government scientists at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, is safe and induces an immune response in healthy adults. The findings will be published on Dec. 4 in The Lancet. NIAID is currently leading an international effort to evaluate the investigational vaccine in a Phase 2/2b safety and efficacy trial.
“Following early reports that Zika infection during pregnancy can lead to birth defects, NIAID scientists rapidly created one of the first investigational Zika vaccines using a DNA-based platform and began initial studies in healthy adults less than one year later,” said NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D. “NIAID has begun Phase 2 testing of this candidate to determine if it can prevent Zika virus infection, and the promising Phase 1 data published today support its continued development.”
Investigators from NIAID’s Vaccine Research Center (VRC) and Laboratory of Viral Diseases, part of the Division of Intramural Research, developed the investigational vaccine, which includes a small, circular piece of DNA called a plasmid. Scientists inserted genes into the plasmid that encode two proteins found on the surface of the Zika virus. After the vaccine is injected into muscle, the body produces proteins that assemble into particles that mimic the Zika virus and trigger the body to mount an immune response.
Where does West Nile virus go in winter?
From Bio Med Central
December 1, 2017
News of West Nile virus (WNV) first hit the popular press in 1999 when cases of infection in humans were identified in Queen’s, New York, USA. It quickly spread across the whole of the US, carried by infected birds, and 3 million people are estimated to have been infected between 1999 and 2010. Since then more outbreaks have occurred in the US, typically in August and September. However, sporadic outbreaks occurred in Europe before this, and still do. Its geographic range is expanding in Europe, causing increasing numbers of epidemics.
WNV was first discovered in the West Nile district of Uganda. It is a flavivirus that is transmitted by mosquitoes in the genus Culex, that have fed on infected birds. While this is the natural transmission cycle, horses and humans can also be infected. Most humans infected with the virus are symptomless, but it can cause a fever, headache and rash (West Nile Fever). However, in less than 1% of cases the virus infects the nervous system causing severe symptoms, that can result in death. Horses are particularly susceptible to infection, and it can be fatal in up to 40% of cases.
To combat the spread of Zika, a nonprofit is using drones and sterile mosquitoes
November 30, 2017
Mosquitoes are, by far, the deadliest animals on Earth. More than 725,000 people die from mosquito-borne illnesses like malaria each year, and millions are affected by mosquito-borne illnesses, according to the World Health Organization.
Now new technology is being used to try to reduce mosquito-borne illnesses. In particular, introducing sterile male mosquitoes to a population can increase competition for female mosquitoes, eventually reducing the population by as much as 90 percent, according to researchers.
But introducing the mosquitoes to areas affected by mosquito-borne diseases can be a challenge.
“Not everybody lives next to a road. Even if roads do exist in some of these areas, they look very different when the rainy seasons hit. … And of course when it rains … you have pools of standing water and even more mosquitoes,” says Patrick Meier, executive director and co-founder of WeRobotics, a nonprofit with offices in the US and Switzerland.
So Meier and his team are testing a unique delivery method, too: drones.
Rapid Zika Test Possible For 2018
November 29th, 2017
Hospitals and health departments could have a new tool in 2018 to detect Zika – a test that is cheap, portable and fast.
The test involves a drop of blood, can get results in 20 minutes and doesn’t require blood be sent out to a lab. It was developed by a team of University of Central Florida researchers led by Qun Treen Huo.
Huo said the test is ideal for rural and low-income areas because it’s cheap and portable.
“We really want to put this test for rural area that don’t have access to expensive lab facility,” Huo says. “It’s a very simple test, does a quick test, our device is portable as well.”
Nano Discovery, a spinoff biotech company out of the University of Central Florida, said the test involves gold nanoparticles that are used to detect the Zika virus in a few drops of blood. The company also manufactures the machines that do the test.
BUTTE COUNTY RESIDENTS CAUTIONED AGAINST TICKS
From Action News Now
November 28, 2017
With the arrival of cool and wet weather, ticks of medical concern are now active again.
Butte County residents need to be alert for ticks that may be carrying Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases.
Butte County Mosquito and Vector Control District’s recent surveillance activities on Chico’s Bidwell Park trails and the Lake Oroville Recreation Area trails have identified increased populations of the western black-legged tick, also referred to as the deer tick.
The District wants to remind residents to take precautions while hiking, camping, biking, and enjoying other outdoor activities.
Ticks are often found in naturally vegetated areas throughout Butte County.
Ticks prefer cool and moist environments like on grasses, shrubs, logs, branches, fallen leaves, and on wooden picnic tables.
Here are some things to remember:
• Avoid areas where ticks live, such as trail margins, brushy and grassy areas, and leaf litter.
• Stay on trails and avoid contact with high grass and brush
• Wear light colors so ticks can be easily seen if they get on you
• Wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts when possible.
• Use insect repellent with at least 20% DEET on exposed skin and clothing. Always read and follow label directions when applying repellents.
• Treat your clothing, socks, and shoes/boots with permethrin. Permethrin kills any ticks that climb on your body.
• Pack a pair of tweezers or a tick removal tool when hiking in tick areas.
• thoroughly check yourself and your children frequently for ticks, especially at the hairline and base of the scalp
• routinely check pets for ticks and remove them promptly; check with your veterinarian for tick control products
Zika Nerve Damage May Stem From Body’s Response to the Virus
From U.S. News
November 27, 2017
Nerve-related complications of Zika infection may be caused by the immune system’s response to the virus, not the virus itself, according to a new study.
Zika is spread primarily via the bite of an infected mosquito, but it may also be transmitted by blood transfusion or sexual contact. Most people who become infected don’t have any symptoms, but some develop serious neurological conditions. And an infection during pregnancy can cause devastating birth defects.
The researchers said their findings, based on experiments with mice, may help lead to new ways to treat people with Zika-related nerve complications, such as Guillain-Barre syndrome.
The syndrome can cause muscle weakness, tingling and even paralysis.
The Yale University research team found that when Zika infection spreads from the blood to the brain in mice, immune cells flood the brain. This limits the infection of brain cells, but it can also trigger paralysis.
Rough lessons can lessen the pull of human scent on a mosquito
From Science News
November 27, 2017
DENVER – After unpleasant lessons in the lab, mosquitoes can learn some restraint in their zest for pursuing the scent of human skin.
The test, a kind of aversion therapy for mosquitoes to see if they can associate smells with bad experiences, was reported at the annual Entomological Society of America meeting.
“Mosquitoes have this very challenging task of finding food that’s hidden under the skin of mobile and defensive hosts,” said Clément Vinauger of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. He’s investigating whether repeated scares such as near misses of a slapping hand might change mosquito reactions to odors.
Female mosquitoes go about their dangerous blood quest by tracking a mix of cues: plumes of carbon dioxide, the sight of looming objects, up-close body heat and body scent (SN: 8/22/15, p. 15). The final targeting can be annoyingly picky. Even within the same target species, such as humans, some individuals turn out to be mosquito magnets, while others aren’t so alluring.
Vinauger and colleagues wafted odors over Aedes aegypti mosquitoes during 10 rounds of 30-second educational shaking in a small cage. Outside the lab, slapping at a mosquito may not seem to discourage the relentless return of the whining, but the test setup found an effect.
Rainfall Can Indicate That Mosquito-Borne Epidemics Will Occur Weeks Later
November 21, 2017
A new study demonstrates that outbreaks of mosquito-borne viruses Zika and Chikungunya generally occur about three weeks after heavy rainfall.
Researchers also found that Chikungunya will predominate over Zika when both circulate at the same time, because Chikungunya has a shorter incubation period — just two days, versus 10 days for Zika. The latter finding explains why a late-2015 Zika epidemic in Rio de Janeiro ended while the number of Chikungunya cases increased in February 2016.
Viruses transmitted by insects can lead to serious health repercussions. Zika is linked to birth defects, and up to 1 percent of Zika infections result in Guillain-Barre syndrome, a form of paralysis. Chikungunya can cause arthritis.
The researchers aimed to identify the environmental drivers of these epidemics to create a framework for predicting where and when future outbreaks could occur.
The researchers screened 10,459 blood and urine samples for Chikungunya, dengue and Zika from residents of 48 municipalities in the state of Rio de Janeiro. They tracked dates of major rainfalls, assessed the geographic distribution of mosquito-borne virus incidence in cities and neighborhoods and the timing of epidemics. They confirmed 1,717 cases of Zika infection, 2,170 cases of Chikungunya and 29 cases of dengue. Zika occurred more commonly in neighborhoods with little access to municipal water infrastructure; the incidence of Chikungunya was weakly correlated with urbanization, such as the density of buildings.
Zika-related nerve damage caused by immune response to the virus
From Yale News
November 20, 2017
The immune system’s response to the Zika virus, rather than the virus itself, may be responsible for nerve-related complications of infection, according to a Yale study. This insight could lead to new ways of treating patients with Zika-related complications, such as Guillain-Barré syndrome, the researchers said.
In mice models lacking a key antiviral response, infection with Zika virus causes paralysis and death. To understand the mechanism, a research team led by immunobiologist Akiko Iwasaki examined the spread of infection in these mice.
The research team found that when the Zika infection spreads from the circulating blood into the brain, immune cells known as CD8 T cells flood the brain. While these T cells sharply limit the infection of nerve cells, they also trigger Zika-related paralysis, the researchers said.
“The immune cells that are generated by infection start attacking our own neurons,” Iwasaki said. “The damage is not occurring through the virus infection, but rather the immune response to the virus.”
Drug Used To Treat Malaria Could Help Fight Zika’s Damaging Effects
From CBS Miami
November 20, 2017
MIAMI (CBSMiami) — A drug used to prevent and treat malaria could also help fight the Zika virus, according to research published Monday.
It’s called chloroquine and it’s been used since the 1950s, researchers said.
The drug is easily available, low in cost and has a history of being safe to use during pregnancy.
Researchers say the drug, when tested on pregnant mice, significantly reduced the amount of the virus in maternal blood and certain cells in the fetus’s brain.
It’s a good sign since the virus is considered a major global health risk, especially for pregnant women.
They’re most at risk since the virus causes serious birth defects like microcephaly – a defect that has no way to reverse or treat.
“Although chloroquine didn’t completely clear Zika from infected mice it did reduce the viral load, suggesting it could limit the neurological damage found in newborns infected by the virus,” said Alexey Terskikh, Ph. D., who co-authored the study which was published in Scientific Reports.
Scientists worry Zika virus will return soon
From The Johns Hopkins News-Letter
November 16, 2017
Recently, the number of people suffering from Zika virus throughout the world has significantly decreased. However, biologists predict that Zika will return with a vengeance, potentially leading to more infections.
Ernesto Marques, associate professor of infectious diseases and microbiology at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, suggested that Zika will reemerge in due time, just like other arboviruses such as yellow fever and dengue.
“You have big booms, then they drop. Then a few years later, they come back again,” he said, according toThe Washington Post.
Scientists first identified the Zika virus in monkeys in 1947. The following year, scientists rediscovered the virus, and named it after the Zika forest in Uganda where it was first discovered in Aedes africanus mosquitoes.
Virologists have subsequently classified Zika as an arbovirus, a type of virus that is transmitted by arthropod vectors such as ticks and mosquitoes. In 2007, the first major Zika outbreak occurred in Yap, a small island in the Pacific Ocean.
The disease can spread in three ways: It can be transmitted through mosquito bites, sex and from a pregnant woman to her fetus.
There’s a New Way to Wipe Out Mosquitoes in the U.S.
From TIME Magazine
November 16, 2017
Many Caribbean Destinations Still At Risk For Zika CDC Says
From News Americas
November 16, 2017
The US Centers For Disease Control, CDC, is warning Americans that “many Caribbean destinations are still at risk for #Zika!”
Pregnant women are being warned to avoid the hurricanes impacted islands of Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, the British Virgin Islands, Cuba, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Martinique, Puerto Rico, Saint Barthelemy, Saint Martin, Sint Maarten, Turks and Caicos and the US Virgin Islands because of mosquito-borne illnesses such as Zika, dengue, and chikungunya.
The warning comes as the CDC also urged Americans to postpone travel to areas severely affected by the hurricanes in the Caribbean region because of serious health and safety risks that may be present while medical care may be limited or unavailable.
The agency said contaminated drinking water and reduced access to safe water, food, and shelter in some areas may create conditions for outbreaks of infectious diseases such as Zika, leptospirosis, dengue, hepatitis a, typhoid, vibriosis, and influenza.
We Just Used Genetic Engineering to Create Completely Yellow, Three-Eyed, Wingless Mosquitoes
November 15, 2017
Gene editing is an incredibly powerful technique, made faster and more capable by CRISPR, which is the world’s most efficient and exact genetic manipulation tool. Now, in an effort to demonstrate how gene editing could be used to eradicate the mosquito species Aedes aegypti —a major carrier of diseases like dengue, chikungunya, yellow fever, and Zika virus— researchers from the University of California, Riverside (UC Riverside) developed mosquitoes whose germlines express the Cas9 enzyme in a more stable way.
The result is a yellow, three-eyed, wingless mosquito, made possible through disruptions in the insect’s cuticle, wing, and eye development. These transgenic mosquitoes are now more susceptible to the use of CRISPR-Cas9 to facilitate edits that could lead to the eventual eradication of the species.
This is just a first step, however, according to lead researcher Omar Akbari, an assistant professor of entomology at UC Riverside, who published the study in the journal of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). Ultimately, the plan is to combine CRISPR-Cas9 with the use of gene drives systems, a technology that increases the chance for a particular gene to express from a parent organism to its offspring.
‘Unusually high’ number of birds test positive for West Nile in SLO County
From The Tribune
November 14, 2017
Five birds have tested positive for West Nile virus in 2017, an “unusually high” number and more than in recent years, the San Luis Obispo County Public Health Department said on Tuesday.
The most recent case was collected on Nov. 9 in San Luis Obispo, the department said in a news release. Additionally, two birds were found in Atascadero, one in Templeton and one in Paso Robles.
San Luis Obispo County saw no confirmed cases of West Nile in birds from 2014 to 2016 and only one case in both 2012 and 2013, according to the Public Health Department.
Dr. Penny Borenstein, the county’s public health officer, said in a news release that though the number is higher than it has been in recent years, it’s “not surprising following this year’s rainy winter.”
Borenstein added that West Nile is transmitted by mosquitoes that breed in standing water, so an increase in rain means an increase in breeding sites.
While most people infected with West Nile do not experience symptoms, about one in five have flu-like symptoms and a small number of those affected develop a serious neurologic illness, the Public Health Department said. The risk is higher for people over 50 and people with medical conditions like diabetes and hypertension.
California sees increase in West Nile virus deaths this year, compared to 2016
From Los Angeles Daily News
November 13, 2017
More people were infected and died of West Nile virus across California this year compared to last year, especially in Los Angeles County. That’s where the number of infections peaked in September, recent data show.
Statewide, there have been 25 deaths so far this year, or six more than all of last year, according to recent data from the California Department of Public Health. In addition, 454 people from across the Golden State were infected this year, a 17 percent increase from 2016.
Though the end of the season is approaching, more reports of infections and deaths are likely, public health officials said.
In Southern California, Los Angeles County seemed to bear the brunt of both infections and deaths. So far, 235 people have been infected by the disease and 17 people have died, including one person in Long Beach. The numbers surpass last year’s 153 cases and 6 deaths, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.
To find an effective Zika vaccine, we must include pregnant women in the trials
The pursuit of a truly effective Zika virus vaccine, however, is handicapped by a long-standing clinical practice: the exclusion of pregnant women from drug development and vaccine trials. The main reason for this is ethical: Why expose a growing fetus, or a mother-to-be, to unknown risks in an experimental setting? Both fetus and mother are classified as “vulnerable” and regarded as members of a protected population. None of the current Phase 1 trials for a Zika vaccine include pregnant women.
As commendable as this practice is, we argue it is more ethical to include pregnant women in certain clinical trials than to exclude them. The tradition of barring mothers-to-be from experimental studies has introduced preventable health risks to pregnant women and, in the case of the Zika virus, their babies.
Some Good News, As A Zika-Exposed Baby Turns One
November 9, 2017
Two years ago, when the Zika virus was first identified as the cause of microcephaly in babies, women were scared. Expectant mothers who got infected had no idea what the chances were of having a healthy baby. Researchers have since learned that while Zika infection is dangerous, about 94 percent of babies born to women infected with Zika appear to be normal at birth.
Yariel is one of them. He’s a curious little one year old — calm and smiley, with a head full of curls. Looking at him, it’s impossible to know that his mother had Zika when she was pregnant.
Yariel is a patient of Dr. Sarah Mulkey, a fetal neo-natal neurologist at Children’s National Health System in Washington D.C., who is studying babies born to women with Zika to try and find out how OK they really are.
Local West Nile Virus Survivor Speaks Out
From CBS Los Angeles
November 7, 2017
New evidence of brain damage from West Nile virus, scientists say
From The Washington Post
November 7, 2017
Experts who work on the mosquito-borne West Nile virus have long known that it can cause serious neurological symptoms, such as memory problems and tremors, when it invades the brain and spinal cord.
Now researchers have found physical evidence of brain damage in patients years after their original infection, the first such documentation using magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI.
Brain scans revealed damage or shrinkage in different parts of the cerebral cortex, the outer part of the brain that handles higher-level abilities such as memory, attention and language.
“Those areas correlated exactly with what we were seeing on the neurological exams,” said Kristy Murray, an associate professor of pediatric tropical medicine at Texas Children’s Hospital and Baylor College of Medicine and lead author of the study. “The thought is that the virus enters the brain and certain parts are more susceptible, and where those susceptibilities are is where we see the shrinkage occurring.”
Results of the study, which has not yet been published, were presented Tuesday at the annual meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. The 10-year study of 262 West Nile patients is one of the largest assessments studying the long-term health problems associated with West Nile infections.
Boatmen bugs raiding Coachella Valley
November 6, 2017
COACHELLA VALLEY, Calif. – Bugs have invaded the Coachella Valley. People have reported seeing thousands of the small insects on car windshields and in their pool.
The owner of Coachella Valley Pest Control tells KESQ/CBS Local 2’s Lauren Coronado they’re Boatman bugs.
Craig Conaway is the owner of Coachella Valley Pest Control. He thinks they’re coming from the Salton Sea, where people have reported clouds of bugs flying overhead. U.S Fish and Wildlife also believe the bugs are from the Salton Sea. Chris Schoneman, a spokesperson with U.S Fish and Wildlife thinks the mass quantities of the boatman bug have to do with less fish consuming the bug. But representatives with the Salton Sea can’t verify that.
“There’s like thousands and hundreds, like a lot. It makes me itchy just by looking at them. That’s not normal,” Narely Botello, of Indio said.
Christy Lane, of Palm Desert, has also been impacted by the infestation.
“It went from hundreds, I think, to thousands. I honestly think there’s thousands in that pool,” Lane said.
Botello and Lane are just two of many people dealing with a bug infestation, here in the Coachella Valley.
Botello has them all over her car, while Lane says they’ve taken over her pool.
Local pool companies say they can’t kill them with the usual pool cleaning chemicals.
“I’m getting calls from people — ‘What can I do? What can I do?’ and we really don’t know. We have kind of picked up on the fact that they’re not in the hot tubs as much as the pools. So we’re thinking there’s a temperature thing there,” Conaway said.
Conaway says the bugs are harmless. A spokesperson with Coachella Valley Mosquito and Vector Control says the Boatman bug is not capable of carrying diseases. But according to Conaway, they’re nearly impossible to kill off.
Ontario Reports EEE and WNV Cases in Horse Population
November 1, 2017
Ontario, Canada, has reported additional cases of Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) and equine West Nile virus (WNV).
Second EEE Case in Ontario
A second case of Eastern equine encephalitis was confirmed by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture Food and Rural Affairs the week of October 23, 2017. The 19-year-old mixed breed mare was 11 months pregnant and unvaccinated for EEE. She was from the District of Muskoka. Neurological signs began as muscle tremors and hind end weakness and progressed rapidly to recumbency. The mare was euthanized.
This is the second confirmed case of EEE in Ontario in 2017.
Three New Equine WNV Cases in Ontario
Since October 19, 2017, three cases of equine West Nile virus have been reported in Frontenac County, Oxford County and the Regional Municipality of Halton according to the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. The horses were a gelding, a filly and a mare with ages ranging from 2 to 11 years. Clinical signs ranged from hind end weakness, muscle fasciculations and hyperesthesia to ataxia. All three are recovering under veterinary supervision. One horse was unvaccinated, one had not been vaccinated for three years, and one 4-year-old had been vaccinated yearly since it was two.
There have been 21 total equine WNV cases reported in Ontario in 2017.
The forgotten mothers and babies of Zika
November 1, 2017
Barely more than children themselves when they give birth, many of the forgotten mothers of Zika-striken babies in the Brazilian state of Alagoas are shiny-new teenagers, just learning to navigate their developing bodies.
Officials Concerned About Mosquitoes Breeding In Fire-Ravaged Backyard Pools
From CBS SF Bay Area
October 31, 2017
SANTA ROSA (CBS SF) — Sonoma County health officials said Tuesday they were concerned by the mosquito breeding threat posed by backyard pools in homes that were destroyed in this month’s devastating wildfire outbreak.
Marin/Sonoma Mosquito & Vector Control District officials said they had begun mosquito surveillance and control work in residential areas affected by the recent fires.
“Currently our main concern is spas and swimming pools that can produce tens of thousands of mosquitoes if left unmaintained,” said Jason Sequeira, Field Supervisor for the Marin/Sonoma Mosquito and Vector Control District, in a news release. “Areas found producing mosquitoes will be treated with environmentally compatible materials, documented, and monitored.”
The fires destroyed approximately 7,400 structures across the wine country with the majority of those buildings being homes.
Virus-Spreading Mosquitos Confirmed Locally
From The Los Feliz Ledger
October 31, 2017
West Nile Virus is on the rise across Los Angeles with 208 reported cases this year according to Los Angeles public health officials. Vector control authorities said chickens and mosquitos in Los Feliz have tested positive for the virus in recent weeks.
With chickens testing positive for the virus, it is likely there have been human cases in the area as well, according to a spokesperson with the Greater Los Angeles Vector Control.
The virus often goes unreported as people who are infected often show no symptoms or mistake it for a bad case of the flu, according to officials.
“The numbers that we see reported are probably just the tip of the iceberg. It’s likely that there are hundreds more cases every year,” said Levy Sun, a spokesperson with Vector Control.
Symptoms often include fever, headache, body aches, joint pain, vomiting, diarrhea, or rash, according to the Centers for Disease Control website.
Only one in five cases will show any symptoms at all, but people who are already sick with a chronic illness such as cancer and those older than 50 may be affected more severely by West Nile symptoms.
“We are currently in an epidemic for West Nile virus,” said Sun. “Contrary to pop culture and perhaps the current news definition of ‘epidemic,’ we’re just saying that this is above average for the year. It’s not something to really panic about, but it’s definitely a cause for concern.”
There have been more than 200 reported cases of humans infected with West Nile Virus in Los Angeles this year, up from 153 in 2016, according to the Los Angeles County Public Health Dept.
Smart mosquito trap could prevent spread of deadly diseases
From Fox News
October 31, 2017
Doctors hope a mosquito trap will prevent the spread of disease. The trap is smart enough to know what type of mosquito it’s trapping, and if by the small chance it catches the wrong one, it will learn from its mistake.
The smart trap senses the wing length and wing beats to detect what type of mosquito has entered the chamber. If it’s the type of mosquito the scientists are looking for – the kind spreading fatal diseases – the chamber will close and trap the mosquito inside.
“If we want the Aedes Aegypti, which is the yellow fever mosquito, or the Asian Tiger Mosquito, that carries Zika virus, we will train this trap to only catch those mosquitos,” said Dr. Mustapha Debboun, director of Harris County Public Health’s mosquito control division.
Harris County includes Houston, Texas, which was devastated by Hurricane Harvey. After the storm, Debboun and his team worked to set traps around the county to determine whether the stagnant water left by the storm became a breeding ground for mosquitos and if the mosquitos were carrying diseases. Harris County is a test site for the high-tech device, becoming the first government agency in the country to try it out.
The trap was developed by Microsoft as part of Project Premonition. It’s designed to help entomologists perform their job faster. In turn, the trap should help create an “early-warning system” for outbreaks that allows doctors to catch diseases while they’re still in the field, instead of catching them when sick patients start filling up hospitals.
Stanford researchers seek citizen scientists to contribute to worldwide mosquito tracking
From Stanford News
October 31, 2017
It’s a sound that can keep even the weariest among us from falling asleep: the high-pitched whine of a mosquito. This irritating buzz already makes us run, slap and slather on repellent. But if Stanford University researchers have their way, it may also prompt us to take out our cellphones and do a little science.
The Prakash Lab at Stanford, led by Manu Prakash, assistant professor of bioengineering, is looking for citizen scientists to contribute to Abuzz, a mosquito monitoring platform the lab developed to produce the most detailed global map of mosquito distribution. All that’s required to participate is a cellphone to record and submit the buzz of a mosquito, which means almost anyone from around the world can take part in this work.
More than mere pests, mosquitoes can carry deadly diseases, including malaria, yellow fever, dengue, West Nile virus, chikungunya and Zika. Diseases spread by mosquitoes result in millions of deaths each year and the burden of their effects is carried most strongly by places with the fewest resources.
“We could enable the world’s largest network of mosquito surveillance – just purely using tools that almost everyone around the world now is carrying in their pocket,” said Prakash, who is senior author of a paper that demonstrates the feasibility of this approach, published in the Oct. 31 issue of eLife. “There are very limited resources available for vector surveillance and control and it’s extremely important to understand how you would deploy these limited resources where the mosquitoes are.”
Zika hasn’t been in the news much, but that doesn’t mean it’s gone
From Science News
October 30, 2017
Less than a year after the World Health Organization declared Zika is no longer a public health emergency, the virus seems to have fallen from public consciousness, at least outside of heavily affected areas. The mosquito-borne virus staged a massive assault on the Western Hemisphere in 2015 and 2016(SN: 12/24/16, p. 19), but this year, Zika appears to be in retreat.
In the hardest-hit countries, data from each country’s department of health shows a striking drop in locally acquired cases, that is, ones caused by bites from local, infected mosquitoes. For instance:
- Brazil had over 216,000 probable cases in 2016; as of early September, the new cases for 2017 were around 15,500.
- Colombia tallied more than 106,000 suspected and confirmed cases from 2015 to the end of 2016. This year, new cases have plummeted, with around 1,700 by mid-October.
- Mexico went from about 8,500 confirmed cases in 2015 and 2016 combined to around 1,800 by early October of this year.
The numbers have also dropped in the United States and its territories. In Puerto Rico, Zika cases hit nearly 35,000 in 2016, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports. But this year, less than 500 cases have been tallied as of mid-October. In the 50 states, the CDC counted about 5,100 cases in 2016. Most were in travelers who had been to places where Zika was active, although 224 were locally acquired in Florida and Texas. So far in 2017, only about 300 cases have been reported as of mid-October, mostly from travelers. Local transmission seems to have come to a standstill, with one suspected case in Texas and one case confirmed in Florida.
That doesn’t mean Zika’s days are numbered. If Zika behaves like other arboviruses, such as chikungunya and dengue, it will probably stick around. Arbovirus diseases tend to be cyclical, says public health researcher Ernesto Marques of the University of Pittsburgh. “You have big booms, then they drop. Then a few years later, they come back again.”
L.A. County far outpaces us in West Nile cases
From VC Star
October 28, 2017
While Ventura County has seen only one human case of West Nile virus this year, neighboring Los Angeles County has seen more than 200 cases, with 17 deaths.
Dr. Robert Levin, Ventura County public health officer, said the one local human case of the mosquito-carried illness occurred in west Ventura County, declining to be more specific. News of the case emerged Tuesday.
Three birds in Ventura County have tested positive for the virus this year, with the Ventura County Environmental Health Division learning results from the latest one on Thursday. The bird was collected from the Simi Valley area during the second week of October.
Mosquitoes caught on three separate occasions this year in Ventura County also have tested positive, officials said.
The virus can affect humans, birds and horses. Most humans who contract the virus are asymptomatic, while some exhibit fever, headaches, nausea and vomiting. One out of every 150 become seriously ill, however, with such maladies as meningitis, vision, loss, coma and paralysis.
Zika virus infects developing brain by first infecting cells meant to defend against it
October 27, 2017
Researchers at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine, with colleagues in Brazil, report that the Zika virus is transmitted from mother to fetus by infected cells that, ironically, will later develop into the brain’s first and primary form of defense against invasive pathogens.
The findings are published in the current online issue of Human Molecular Genetics.
“It’s a Trojan Horse strategy,” said Alysson Muotri, PhD, professor in the UC San Diego School of Medicine departments of Pediatrics and Cellular and Molecular Medicine. “During embryogenesis — the early stages of prenatal development — cells called microglia form in the yolk sac and then disperse throughout the central nervous system (CNS) of the developing child.
“In the brain, these microglia will become resident macrophages whose job is to constantly clear away plaques, damaged cells and infectious agents. Our findings show that the Zika virus can infect these early microglia, sneaking into the brain where they transmit the virus to other brain cells, resulting in the devastating neurological damage we see in some newborns.”
County on the lookout for invasive mosquitoes
From Gilroy Dispatch
October 27, 2017
The Santa Clara County Vector Control District is reaching out to residents of the South Valley regarding a nasty invader that has the potential to pack a powerful punch despite its diminutive size.
The Aedes Aegypti, more commonly known as the yellow-fever mosquito, has been found in Merced. Despite the 50 miles separating that city and South Valley, there’s a distinct possibility that the little invaders may hitch a ride in a car or truck to make it’s way here. It’s feared that owing to the hardy nature of the insect’s eggs which can withstand drought for up to 10 years, that it may already be in South Valley.
“They are a game changer regarding mosquito control,” said Russ Parman, Assistant Manager for the Santa Clara County Vector Control District. “Since they bite during the day, even without spreading disease they are a very severe nuisance. They interfere with life the way regular mosquitos don’t.”
Aside from being a carrier of yellow fever, dengue, chikungunya and Zika, the new mosquito is hard to contain since it can breed in small pools of water the size of a bottle cap. While there have been no reported cases of these diseases being spread through mosquito bites, Santa Clara County has the third highest rate of infection from people who travel and bring back the diseases from where they came.
What you can learn from the people who protect you from disease-carrying pests
From The Orange County Register
October 25, 2017
A fly landing on salad. A roof rat scurrying across the yard. A flea hopping from your pet to your skin.
For a moment, forget West Nile virus mosquitoes. The disease these other bad boys spread also can destroy lives.
Then there’s our newest scary critter — the yellow fever mosquito that recently invaded Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino, Orange and other California counties.
Dig deep into the work of what’s called vector control and you feel lucky to come out alive.
Fortunately, experts strive to keep these sometimes deadly disease carriers under control so that most of us will live.
Yes, most of us.
According to a newly released report from the California Department of Public Health, Orange County has seen 28 West Nile virus deaths since the outbreak started in 2002, including one this year.
Also this year, San Bernardino County has reported two deaths; in Los Angeles County, 10 people have died; and in Riverside County, at least three people have been infected.
But did you know dozens of people in Southern California have been diagnosed with flea-borne typhus? Authorities also report it’s likely that many more people have been infected with typhus but are undiagnosed.
Pay attention now because what I discovered during a long and detailed conversation with Robert Cummings, Orange County Mosquito and Vector Control District director of scientific technical service, is that there is much we can do to make our communities safer.
Sonoma preschoolers learn about yellow jackets
From Sonoma News
October 23, 2017
The Marin-Sonoma Mosquito and Vector Control District protects the health and welfare of the communities it serves from mosquitoes and vector-borne diseases by utilizing cost-effective, environmentally responsible integrated vector management practices.
El Verano Preschool Director Sonya Valiente invited Vector Control to come to her classroom and presentat on yellow jackets.
“He was here for 30 minutes, read a story and talked about wasps,” she said. “The children learned what to do when they see a yellow jacket and how to help them. He left visuals for the children to look at, including a nest, photos and game.”
Valiente said that last year Vector Control came to her classroom to talk about mosquitoes, and that her young students were excited by the real-world learning in both presentations.
Warm Weather Helps Prolong West Nile Virus Risk
October 23, 2017
Summer may be over, but continued warm weather means that mosquitoes are still active. So far this year, 361 cases of the mosquito-borne illness West Nile Virus (WNV) have been reported* in 23 California counties from Imperial to Shasta. Sadly, 18 of these cases resulted in death. The disease is most serious in children, people with weakened immune systems, and the elderly.
Mosquitoes that can transmit WNV breed in aquatic environments like ponds or other sources of stagnant water such as roof gutters, bird baths, and swimming pools.
You can minimize mosquito habitat in your landscape by:
- Cleaning rain gutters and downspouts to remove debris.
- Sealing rain barrels. Keeping all filters and prefilters clean and free of moisture-retaining debris and inspecting regularly for leaks.
- Maintaining quality in swimming pools with chemical treatments. Covering or draining water from plastic pools when not in use.
- Turning over any unused garden pots, children’s toys, and other objects so they don’t hold water.
Second bird tests positive for West Nile Virus in El Dorado County
October 20, 2017
PLACERVILLE, CAlif. October 20, 2017 – El Dorado County health officials received confirmation last week that a bird found in the Garden Valley area of El Dorado County has tested positive for West Nile virus, the second for 2017. The bird, an Acorn Woodpecker, was tested on September 29th. So far this year, West Nile virus activity in dead birds has been reported in 38 California counties with a total of 463 dead birds, including neighboring Sacramento (86 birds) and Placer (3 birds) counties.
Confirmation of the West Nile virus positive bird means the virus is circulating between birds and mosquitoes and there is heightened risk of infection in humans. It’s important to take precautions. Last year, four (4) West Nile virus positive birds were identified in El Dorado County on the western slope and one human case reported. For 2017, no human cases of West Nile virus have been reported for El Dorado County.
West Nile virus can be transmitted to people through the bite of an infected mosquito. Mosquitoes get the virus when they feed on infected birds. The illness is not spread from person-to-person. While most people infected with the virus show no symptoms, some may have high fever, severe headache, tiredness and/or a stiff neck that can last several days to several weeks. The most serious cases of West Nile virus infection can lead to encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain, which can be fatal.
Mosquitoes evolved to fly away with a belly full of your blood—without you ever noticing
From Popular Science
October 19, 2017
Mosquitoes are weird fliers.
Your typical aeronaut—a sparrow or a fruit fly, for instance—takes flight by jumping into the air. Only once aloft do they begin to flap their wings.
Mosquitoes have the perplexing distinction of doing basically do the opposite. They begin their flight pattern by flapping their wings for 30 milliseconds before jumping into the air. And they beat their wings fast, as much as 800 times per second, when most other insects their size would ordinarily only flap their wings around 200 times.
“One of the key questions of aerodynamics and biomechanics is, why do they fly in a way that doesn’t look efficient?” says Florian Muijres a biomechanics researcher at Wageningen University in the Netherlands. Muijres is an author on a recently released study in the Journal of Experimental Biology that looks at why the mosquito might have developed such an unusual manner of flight. It may be a sophisticated way of evading detection.
If A Pile Of Poo Has An Emoji, Shouldn’t A Mosquito Have One Too?
October 18, 2017
There are 2,666 emojis available for tweets and texts.
Everything from a butterfly to a croissant to a unicorn.
But global health advocates think there’s one important emoji that’s missing: the mosquito. It is, after all, the world’s deadliest animal. The diseases it spreads, like malaria and dengue, cause one million deaths a year.
That’s why the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (which is a funder of this blog) and the Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs are lobbying intensely for a mosquito emoji.
Having a mosquito emoji would be a welcome change, say Cornell University doctoral students Talya Shragai and Kara Fikrig, who study mosquitoes. Because really, using a sword next to a butterfly or a bee paired with a caterpillar — some of the emoji workarounds they’ve seen and used in text messages and tweets — just isn’t good enough.
The head of the U.S.’s largest mosquito control program has science on her side
From Popular Science
October 17, 2017
There are more than 3,000 species of mosquitoes in the world, and if Jodi Holeman could, she’d catch one of each. She can identify the bugs down to the genus, and usually the species, by sight. She has only 19 kinds pinned in her collection but carries plastic bags wherever she goes so she can capture more. Though it’s unlikely a new variety will pop up as she jogs through the backwoods of Clovis, California, where she resides, Holeman says, “You don’t know what you’ll find if you don’t bother to look.”
Holeman has more than a personal interest in these pests. She’s the scientific-technical services director at Fresno County’s Consolidated Mosquito Abatement District and leads the field team of Debug Fresno, the largest experimental mosquito sterilization and control program in the United States. Debug Fresno aims to decrease the county’s invasive Aedes aegypti population, whose females bite and can carry the Zika virus and yellow fever. The winged aggressors have not been responsible for any illness in her area so far, but the possibility of active infection is “always in the back of our minds,” she says.
County health officials first detected A. aegypti in 2013, and since then, their numbers have surged. The district found help this year by partnering on Debug Fresno with Verily, a health-focused subsidiary of Alphabet. Verily raises batches of male A. aegypti and infects them with the bacteria Wolbachia pipientis. Females that mate with these males produce eggs that never hatch, thereby reducing the mosquito population, number of bites, and risk of human illness. Holeman’s team at Debug Fresno released more than 1 million Wolbachia-infected males weekly for 20 weeks, automatically dispensing them out the open window of a van that cruised through targeted neighborhoods.
West Nile Virus infected Mosquitoes found in Palm Springs
October 16, 2017
PALM SPRINGS, Calif. – For the second time in Palm Springs this year, a sample of mosquitoes have tested positive for West Nile.
The Coachella Valley Mosquito and Vector Control District positive sample contained 16 mosquitoes from a trap located near Mesquite Avenue and Gene Autry Trail.
The District will post disease notification signs in communities located in the area where the mosquitoes were trapped and will increase mosquito surveillance.
Technicians will also carry out larval and adult control in the surrounding area in an effort to reduce the number of mosquitoes and interrupt further virus transmission.
Residents can reduce mosquitoes by draining standing water, installing or repair screens, and applying insect repellent.
Aedes aegypti mosquito detected in Mecca
October 11, 2017
MECCA, Calif. – Mecca has become the latest city in the valley to be detected with the Aedes aegypti mosquito.
The Coachella Valley Mosquito and Vector Control District detected three adult mosquitoes and 37 mosquito larvae in a Mecca neighborhood that were identified as an invasive mosquito species capable of transmitting serious viruses such as chikungunya, dengue, yellow fever, and Zika.
While these viruses are not currently transmitted locally, the District is taking steps to reduce the spread of this mosquito throughout the Coachella Valley.
Beginning Oct. 16, the District will conduct increased trapping in the area to evaluate the extent of the infestation and technicians will start a door-to-door campaign searching for standing water sources in people’s backyard where this mosquito species commonly lays eggs.
Disease-Transmitting Aedes Mosquito Prompts Santa Clarita Public Information Session
From KHTS AM 1220
October 10, 2017
The disease-transmitting Aedes mosquito has been confirmed in the Santa Clarita area, prompting city officials to host a Public Information Session about the species.
The session will be held at the City Hall Council Chambers on October 23, from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Officials will be discussing combative measures to control the Aedes mosquito species locally. Residents will be offered tips to protect themselves and their families.
Public Information Officers Levy Sun and Wesley Colling from the Greater Los Angeles County Vector Control will be there to discuss protection options for residents and business owners.
“Residents, businesses, property management companies and landscapers are encouraged to attend this meeting,” a city news release stated.
The Greater Los Angeles Vector Control District tells residents that the Aedes mosquito is a public health concern because they can transmit Zika virus, dengue fever, yellow fever and chikungunya.
The Aedes mosquito is known to bite during the day, live in cities and thrive indoors and outdoors, the city news release said.
For additional information regarding the session, please contact Levy Sun at (562) 325-3271. For more information about Aedes mosquitoes, visit the Greater Los Angeles County Vector Control District website here.
WEST NILE VIRUS ACTIVITY CONTINUES IN CONTRA COSTA COUNTY
From Contra Costa MVCD
October 10, 2017