Drones Used to Combat Dengue and Zika in Brazil
From Homeland Security Today
March 20, 2018
Unmanned aerial vehicles are being used to recognize outbreaks of mosquitoes transmitting Dengue and Zika in Brazil, according to Drone Below.
Loglab and Cuiabá Municipal Government have formed a partnership to use drone to map and monitor mosquito larvae in Mato Grosso. Loglab founder, Fernando Pereira, says: “The drone identifies and marks mosquito-focused sites via geographic points, and that data is passed on to ground crews that can increase the effectiveness of their work.”
UAVs will fly over districts considered the worst for mosquito proliferation, and maps will be generated to serve as a guide for the Preventive Action Committee. The use of drones for mapping and monitoring mosquito larvae is part of an Integrated Health System project, which Loglab is developing for the Municipal Health Secretary.
Western Scrub-Jay name change to California Scrub-Jay
From Vectorborne Disease Section – California Department of Public Health
March 19, 2018
Over a year ago, the Western Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica) was given a new common name: California Scrub-Jay. In CalSurv Gateway, the Western Scrub-Jay is now listed as the California Scrub-Jay. All previous records of the Western Scrub-Jay are unaffected and will be found under California Scrub-Jay.
Due to differences in range and coloration, the Audubon Ornithological Society split the Western Scrub-Jay into two species: California Scrub-Jay and Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma woodhouseii) (also added to CalSurv). In general, Woodhouse’s has less intense coloration than the familiar California Scrub-Jay. Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jays are mainly found in Nevada and the “four corners” states. But Woodhouse’s can be found in Mono, Inyo, and eastern San Bernardino counties, and a few agencies in these counties may find Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay.
You can see a comparison of the two species here:
(You may also want to review the Pinyon Jay: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Pinyon_Jay/)
In summary, our popular jay is now the “California Scrub-Jay.” But if you are in Mono, Inyo, or eastern San Bernardino counties, the jays you encounter may be Woodhouse’s Jays. (Or possibly Pinyon Jays). The Cornell Lab of Ornithology website is one of the best resources to help identify birds.
Are we prepared for the looming epidemic threat?
From The Guardian
March 18, 2018
Somewhere out there a dangerous virus is boiling up in the bloodstream of a bird, bat, monkey or pig, preparing to jump to a human being. It’s hard to comprehend the scope of such a threat, for it has the potential to wipe out millions of us, including my family and yours, over a matter of weeks or months. The risk makes the threat posed by Islamic State, a ground war, a massive climate event or even the dropping of a nuclear bomb on a major city pale by comparison.
A new epidemic could turn into a pandemic without warning. It could be born in a factory farm in Minnesota, a poultry farm in China or the bat-inhabited elephant caves of Kenya – anywhere infected animals are in contact with humans. It could be a variation of the 1918 Spanish flu, one of hundreds of other known microbial threats or something entirely new, such as the 2003 Sars virus that spread globally from China. Once transmitted to a human, an airborne virus could pass from that one infected individual to 25,000 others within a week, and to more than 700,000 within the first month. Within three months, it could spread to every major urban centre in the world. And by six months, it could infect more than 300 million people and kill more than 30 million.
CDC: get vaccinated for yellow fever before traveling to Brazil
From The Orlando Sentinel
March 16, 2018
If you’re planning to travel to Brazil, especially to popular tourist destinations like São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, you should get vaccinated for yellow fever before you go, federal health officials warned on Friday.
“Travelers should not go to these hot spots unless they’re vaccinated,” said Dr. Marty Cetron, Director of Division of Global Migration and Quarantine at CDC, on Friday during a press call.
Since January, 10 travelers to Brazil have been diagnosed with yellow fever, four of whom have died. None were vaccinated, according to a report published in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
“This is highly unusual,” said Cetron.
Officials said they couldn’t quantify the risk of an outbreak in the United States, but they said the odds are very slim, even cities in like Orlando, which has a large Brazilian population and its airport is a major hub for flights from Brazil.
Climate Change Promotes the Spread of Mosquito and Tick-Borne Viruses
From R & D Magazine
March 16, 2018
Spurred on by climate change, international travel and international trade, disease-bearing insects are spreading to ever-wider parts of the world.
This means that more humans are exposed to viral infections such as Dengue fever, Chikungunya, Zika, West Nile fever, Yellow fever and Tick-borne encephalitis.
For many of these diseases, there are as yet no specific antiviral agents or vaccines.
Global warming has allowed mosquitoes, ticks and other disease-bearing insects to proliferate, adapt to different seasons, migrate and spread to new niche areas that have become warmer.
These are the findings of a JRC report that aims to raise awareness about the threat posed by the spread of arboviruses (arthropod-borne viruses).
The growing spread of arboviruses
Aedes mosquitoes spread several arboviruses, including Dengue, Chikungunya, Zika, West Nile and Yellow fever viruses.
These mosquitoes thrive in urban settings due to the lack of natural predators and the ready availability of food and habitats in which to procreate.
They have existed in Africa and Asia for many years and are now becoming more and more widespread.
Zika cases likely to continue in US; vaccine foreseeable in near future
March 15, 2018
In the absence of mediation or a vaccine to treat Zika virus infections in endemic areas, the best advice is to prevent infection by avoiding mosquito bites, eliminating areas where mosquitos breed, enhancing mosquito control and using precaution to prevent sexual transmission between humans. Other known routes of infection include blood transfusion or organ transplantation. Most worrisome is transplacental transmission during pregnancy from an infected mother to her unborn infant.
Zika is just the most recent example of the difficulties encountered when trying to control a new infectious disease when it suddenly emerges. We have seen this with other novel infectious diseases such as severe acute respiratory syndrome, Middle East respiratory syndrome, Ebola virus, enterovirus D-68, West Nile virus and the 2009 pandemic influenza.
Birth Defects Affect 7 Percent of Zika-Exposed Babies: Study
From U.S. News
March 14, 2018
A new study of pregnant women in the Caribbean further confirms that Zika virus causes birth defects, particularly if infection occurs early in pregnancy.
About 7 percent of Zika-infected women in French territories of the Caribbean delivered babies that suffered from birth defects of the brain and eyes, researchers report.
These numbers are close to those reflected in the United States’ registry tracking the outcomes of Zika-affected pregnancies, researchers noted.
The virus “should definitely be added to the list of infectious agents that can cause severe birth defects, as are rubella virus, cytomegalovirus and others,” said lead researcher Dr. Bruno Hoen. He’s head of infectious and tropical diseases at Pointe-a-Pitre Hospital in Guadeloupe.
When Rats Were Wiped Out On This Island, So Were The Mosquitoes
From Honolulu Civil Beat
March 14, 2018
Sometimes — too rarely — happy things happen by accident.
On the remote island of Palmyra, directly south of Hawaii, the removal of rats also killed off the population of the Asian tiger mosquito.
Nobody planned that, but it turned out that black rats were the main blood source for these mosquitoes, and without them, the pests could not survive.
The unexpected benefit opens the door to new mechanisms in the Hawaiian Islands for controlling mosquitoes by denying them access to their favorite blood sources.
The Asian tiger mosquito, Aedes albopictus, is a bad bug. It’s a small, black mosquito with white stripes. It bites in the daytime. It’s common in Hawaii, and it spreads dengue fever, as well as chikungunya, Zika and yellow fever.
In the main Hawaiian Islands, we have eight species of mosquitoes, six of which bite humans. Most of those also carry diseases.
What bees are swarming around the pussy willow?
From The Mercury News
March 12, 2018
DEAR JOAN: I grew a pussy willow tree from a stalk I got at Safeway maybe three years ago. It is nearly finished with its catkins for this season, but there have been little swarms of tiny golden bees around them. Would you know what they are?
Jayne, Bay Area
DEAR JAYNE: They probably are native bees, but I can’t tell you exactly what type without seeing the bee. Actually, I probably couldn’t tell you even after seeing the bee — there are more than 1,000 species of native bees, and they come in a variety of sizes, so it would take a bee expert to identify the species.
It’s a little too early for honeybees, but the native bees are out. I’m not surprised the pussy willow has been covered with them. It is a great plant for bees, as it provides nectar at time when not too many other plants are blooming.
My guess is that the bees on your plant are mining or sand bees (Andrena). There are about 100 different species of this bee, and they are responsible for a lot of pollination of crops and plants. This species also provides pollination for both early and late-blooming plants.
There’s no need to worry about them. Most of the aggression we see in honeybees stems from their determination to protect the hive, but native bees don’t live in hives and are much more mellow. Enjoy the show while it lasts.
Experts advise taking preventative measures against Zika as weather warms up
March 11, 2018
With spring break beginning, that means more people will be making their way to the Rio Grande Valley, specifically South Padre Island.
The area’s warm and humid climate make it a good breeding ground for mosquitoes.
According to the Texas Health Department, the Valley is the only part of Texas to have locally acquired Zika cases.
Just last year, there was a total of three locally acquired Zika cases. One of those was in Laguna Heights, just miles away South Padre Island.
“There are diseases that are there and although cities are working hard to protect people with mosquitoes, it’s something that every person should work on their own to protect their families,” said Public Health Regional Medical Director Dr. Emilie Prot.
Guitarist for Kansas City rock band dies after battle with West Nile virus
From The Kansas City Star
March 10, 2018
Van McLain, guitarist for Shooting Star, a Kansas City rock band that rose to prominence in the 1980s, died last week. He was 62.
News of McLain’s passing was posted on the band’s Facebook page. Services were held for McLain in Overland Park on Saturday afternoon.
“It is with a very broken heart that I announce the passing of one of my all-time favorite people Van McLain,” read a message from band spokesman Randy Raley. “I love him like a brother and I will miss him desperately. Van has been sick a long time, and I’m glad he’s finally free.”
McLain, who was born Van Allen McElvain, died of complications from West Nile virus, a mosquito-borne illness that he had battled in recent years. Online fundraisers described McLain’s need for nursing and therapy.
‘There are a lot of unknowns’: British scientists set to work on Zika vaccine
From The Guardian
March, 9, 2018
Scientists in the UK have started work on developing a vaccine to protect women against the Zika virus.
The £4.7m project, involving the universities of Manchester and Liverpool, and Public Health England, aims to have trials on humans up and running within the next three years.
The news comes two and a half years after the Zika virus, which can lead to foetal abnormalities, began to appear in Brazil.
When cases of babies born with abnormally small heads were first reported in late 2015, Brazilians were frightened and bewildered. Few had heard of the rare birth defect microcephaly, or were aware that it restricts growth of the skull and can cause learning, cognitive and motor difficulties. Nor did scientists know why cases were concentrated in Brazil’s impoverished, dry north-east. Two and a half years later, they still don’t.
Mosquitoes Spreading Zika Virus in Parts of U.S.: CDC
From U.S. News
March 8, 2018
THURSDAY, March 8, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Zika infections are on the rise in parts of the United States where mosquitoes spread the virus, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC reported 5,168 cases of Zika-related illness in 2016.
Of those cases in 50 states and Washington, D.C., more than 90 percent were in people who had visited Zika-risk areas outside of the continental U.S., especially the Caribbean. But 224 people were infected with Zika from local mosquitoes in small areas of Florida and Texas in 2016.
The CDC reported no locally transmitted Zika cases in the United States during 2015.
The report by Dr. Victoria Hall, of the CDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Service, and colleagues was published in the March 9 issue of the agency’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
Mosquito season is back, know how to protect yourself against the Zika virus
March 7, 2018
The return of warm weather in Texas means more time outdoors with family and friends.
Warm weather also means the return of mosquitoes, including mosquitoes that could carry the Zika virus.
The Texas Department of State Health Services says whether you’re planning a backyard picnic or spring break vacation, the first step to prevent the spread of Zika is preventing mosquito bites.
According to DSHS, it’s important to wear EPA-approved insect repellent and use screens on doors and windows to protect yourself and your loved ones from the Zika virus.
DSHS says people should take these simple steps to protect themselves from mosquitoes that could be carrying the Zika virus:
- Wear EPA-approved insect repellent.
- Wear light-weight, long-sleeve shirts and pants.
- Use screens on your windows and doors.
- Use mosquito nets to protect babies younger than two months.
- Remove standing water in and around your home.
- Cover trash cans or containers where water can collect.
Where Zika Came From
From The Huffington Post
March 6, 2018
ZIKA FOREST, Uganda ― In a tangle of trees by the shores of East Africa’s mighty Lake Victoria, the soaring metal tower poking out of the forest canopy looks like a giant Olympic diving platform.
“It is where the scientists do the testing,” said Gerald Mukisa, forest guardian at the research site of the nearby Uganda Virus Research Institute, which carries out critical work to identify, trace and understand emerging diseases.
“Monkeys are placed at different heights and blood samples are taken,” Mukisa said, pointing to boards jutting out of the frame. The dozens of mosquito species in the forest here live and bite at different heights, so the boards help monitor their preferences.
Scientists used the 118-foot tower way back in 1947 to first identify a virus that, in 2015, became a global health emergency due to its ability to cause brain-related birth defects. They named the virus Zika, after this 30-acre forest in southern Uganda.
A Triathlete’s Comeback From A Deadly Virus Is a Warning For A Warming Planet
From The Huffington Post
March 3, 2018
SAN MARCOS, Texas ― On a warm morning late last July, Chuck Yarling yanked a baby blue swim cap over his head and put down his cane. His friend Richard Blakely grasped him by the tricep and helped him hobble to the edge of Spring Lake, where he plunged feet-first into chilly water.
The race Yarling was attempting required him to swim 500 meters and then cycle 12 miles, which would have been a cinch five years earlier. Yarling, a thin, sharp-chinned 72-year-old Vietnam veteran with bright hazel eyes, completed 110 triathlons between 1983 and 2012. In his most active year, 2009, he finished 14 triathlons.
Then the largest West Nile virus epidemic in Texas history erupted in 2012, after an abnormally warm and wet winter and spring. Yarling was one of more than 1,800 people in the state infected. The mosquito-borne virus attacked his spinal cord and brain, causing excruciating pain, deafening him in one ear and temporarily paralyzing his legs.
During his long recuperation, Yarling’s once-powerful legs withered to thin sticks. His neurologist doubted he’d ever race again. Even five years later, Yarling still suffered from balance problems that caused him to wobble on his bike.
Probing the zika, dengue and yellow fever culprit: Aedes albopictus in Guangzhou, China
From BioMed Central
March 2, 2018
The infamous 2014 dengue-outbreak in Guangzhou, southern China reported over 45,000 cases. Although rarely as severe, outbreaks in this area are common due to the prevalence of the mosquito-vector Aedes albopictus. Originally considered a rural vector, Ae. albopictus has adapted to different urbanised settings. This species is also the culprit transmitting other viruses such as zika, yellow fever and chikungunya.
In response to a 2016 outbreak of zika in Guangzhou, a huge mosquito-breeding facility was built. There they reared Ae. albopictus mosquitoes infected with Wolbachia bacteria, an infection that causes infertility in the mosquito’s progeny (see previous blog). The facility released over 20 million sterile male mosquitoes weekly in an attempt to control the local mosquito populations. Since there are no available vaccines nor treatment (except for the yellow fever vaccine) for these viruses, currently vector control is the only way to control these diseases. This relies heavily on the use of insecticides, which means the manifestation of Insecticide Resistance (IR) is a significant threat to the efficacy of these control programs.
NYU Dentistry Develops Saliva Test for Zika
From Washington Square News
March 1, 2018
Researchers at NYU Dentistry have developed a new test for Zika through using saliva samples instead of blood samples. The test, completed in collaboration with a molecular testing company named Rheonix, was adapted from previous research done by the same team on a saliva-based HIV test.
The Zika virus can be traced for a much larger window of time in saliva and urine than it can in blood. To detect the virus, the test must be able to locate certain pathogens and antibodies. Zika is largely spread through mosquitoes but can be transmitted from a mother to her fetus and through sexual intercourse. It has also been known to cause birth defects.
Testing for Zika using saliva is much quicker than testing through blood. Blood tests can take hours or days to obtain results while saliva tests can be completed in a matter of minutes.
Will a New Mosquito Emoji Create Some Buzz About Insect-borne Diseases?
From Smithsonian Magazine
February 28, 2018
Mosquitoes are coming. The Unicode Consortium has just announced that alongside your smiling face – or perhaps crying face – emoji you’ll soon be able to add a mosquito.
The mosquito emoji will join the rabble of emoji wildlife including butterflies, bees, whales and rabbits.
We see a strong case that the addition of the much maligned mosquito to your emoji toolbox could help health authorities battle the health risks associated with these bloodsucking pests.
Given it is the most dangerous animal on the planet, the mosquito is more than deserving of an emoji. But will it make a difference to the way the science behind mosquito research is communicated? Could it influence how the community engages with public health messages of local authorities? Will more people wear insect repellent because of the mosquito emoji?
We won’t know for sure until the mosquito is released.
Doctors Think They’ve Nabbed Culprit Behind Mysterious Polio-Like Illness Paralyzing Kids
February 28, 2018
Since 2014, doctors have been stymied by a medical mystery: People, mostly children, were coming down with a previously unknown, polio-like illness that causes paralysis. Now, an international team of doctors published in The Lancet believe they’ve managed to confirm the main culprit.
Ever since the defeat of polio in the U.S. a half-century ago, reported cases of paralysis brought on by infection had been virtually non-existent. Mosquito-borne germs, like West Nile virus, are known to trigger a polio-like paralysis, while others can cause a rare autoimmune complication called Guillain-Barré syndrome, but neither happen with any regular frequency. Starting in 2014, though, doctors started seeing a spate of children suffering an acute and rapid weakening of their muscles and paralysis, primarily affecting the limbs, along with confirmed spinal cord damage. That year, there were 120 confirmed cases of this acute flaccid myelitis, as it’s formally known, found across 34 U.S. states, while 2016 saw 149 cases across 39 states. Several deaths have also been linked to the condition.
The afflicted children had little in common, except that some seemed to have been infected by an airborne virus related to polio known as Enterovirus D68 just before falling ill. EV-D68 infection had long been thought to cause nothing more than the common cold, and there had been only 26 reported cases of it in the U.S. from 1970 to 2005, following its initial discovery in the early 1960s. But both 2014 and 2016 had large outbreaks of EV-D68 that occurred around the same time that clusters of AFM were detected, while 2015 saw almost no cases of either the virus or the condition. And there’s been evidence that cases have stretched as far back as 2012.
Disappearing act: Biologists document the secondary extinction of a disease-carrying mosquito
February 28, 2018
The Asian tiger mosquito—carrier of such diseases as dengue, yellow fever, Rift Valley fever, Chikungunya and Zika—appears to have vanished from Palmyra.
Not native to the small atoll 1,000 miles south of Hawaii, Aedes albopict likely came to Palmyra during World War II, when the United States took it over as a base of operations. The military imported many other species as well, including the common black rat, Rattus rattus, a large tree-dwelling rodent whose blood fed many of the mosquitoes. The rats also ate juvenile coconuts, leaving the shells as potential habitat for mosquito larvae.
In 2011, to help Palmyra recover from the ecological damage wreaked by the non-native rats, land managers implemented an aerial drop of rodenticide that quickly eradicated them. Without rats to feed on, the mosquitoes were left with only humans to bite. But rather than being bitten more, people eventually were not bitten at all. Researchers began to wonder if the Asian tiger mosquito had disappeared along with the rats. Now, in the journal Biology Letters, a team of UC Santa Barbara scientists and colleagues at the United States Geological Survey (USGS) chronicles this unique example of co-extinction.
New saliva-based test can diagnose Zika virus in minutes
From Homeland Preparedness News
February 26, 2018
A new saliva-based diagnostic test for Zika virus is being developed by researchers at New York University College of Dentistry, in collaboration with Rheonix, Inc., and allows test results to be delivered in minutes rather than hours or days.
Current Zika testing is conducted using blood samples, but the virus typically disappears from the blood within a week or two of infection. It’s detectable in saliva, semen, and urine for longer, however.
“The recent Zika virus outbreak confirms that we need an effective surveillance and diagnostic program to reduce the impact of future emerging infectious diseases,” Maite Sabalza, a postdoctoral associate at the Department of Basic Science and Craniofacial Biology at NYU Dentistry and the lead author of the study, said.
SMC Vector Control Board Names New Officers
From Redwood City Patch
February 22, 2018
From San Mateo Co.: During their regularly scheduled meeting in January, the San Mateo County Mosquito and Vector Control District Board of Trustees held elections for the positions of President of the Board, Vice-President of the Board, Board Secretary, and Assistant Board Secretary. The trustees elected to these positions took office on Feb. 14th, and will serve for two years. “Donna Rutherford and Rick Wykoff showed great leadership and I hope we can keep the ship going to the same direction going forward,” said incoming President of the Board Joe Galligan, referring to the two previous board presidents. Galligan previously served as Vice President, and has been a member of the Board of Trustees since being appointed by the City of Burlingame in 2014. Wade Leschyn, appointed by the City of Belmont in 2014, takes Joe Gallingan’s place as Vice President of the Board. “I feel privileged to be chosen to serve the Mosquito and Vector Control District as one of its officers,” Leschyn said. “I know the important work the District does protecting the health of San Mateo County residents.
Zika virus could help combat brain cancer
February 21, 2018
Zika virus, feared for causing microcephaly in babies whose mothers were infected during pregnancy by attacking the cells that will give rise to the fetus’s cerebral cortex, could be an alternative for treatment of glioblastoma, the most common and aggressive kind of malignant brain tumor in adults.
This discovery was made by researchers at the University of Campinas’s School of Pharmaceutical Sciences (FCF-UNICAMP) in São Paulo State, Brazil.
“Zika virus, which has become a threat to health in the Americas, could be genetically modified to destroy glioblastoma cells,” said Rodrigo Ramos Catharino, a professor at FCF-UNICAMP and head of the institution’s Innovare Biomarker Laboratory.
Through the mass spectrometry analysis of Zika virus-infected glioblastoma cells, scientists also identified the presence of digoxin, a molecule which induced the death of tumoral cells of skin and breast cancer in previous experiments.
Threat of Zika looms as mosquitoes prepare to make a comeback
February 20, 2018
Mosquito season has begun here in Texas, usually kicking off around early February, and along with it comes the threat of disease including Zika.
Dr. Slobodan Paessler with UTMB Galveston develops vaccines and has worked with mosquito borne diseases for 17-years.
“We don’t know what to expect for this season but we certainly have to continue monitoring for Zika,” said Paessler.
When the Zika epidemic hit in 2016, that’s where Paessler turned his attention, hoping to ensure a vaccine wouldn’t be rushed.
“The panic screaming for the federal bucks to develop a Zika vaccine is huge and there’s a lot of companies that are going into that direction right now. I think sometimes when we push, we maybe don’t do it as thorough as we should.”
Along with researchers from Germany and Singapore, Paessler decided to study the virus from a different perspective and found evidence that parts of the Zika virus closely resemble parts of the host’s own immune system, which may trigger the host’s body to mount a defense against both the Zika virus as well as its own complement system.
This is important for fetal development as well as for the immune system. This mistaken identity may contribute to the birth defects and adult neurological disorders seen in people who have been infected with Zika.
Assemblymember Bill Quirk Introduces Bill to Help Prevent West Nile and Zika Viruses
Establishing a surveillance system and database will help mosquito-borne diseases from spreading
SACRAMENTO – As most of California experiences a drier and warmer than normal February, mosquito experts throughout the state are ramping up for what will most likely be an early and active mosquito season. In response, Assemblymember Bill Quirk (D – Hayward) has introduced legislation that will officially recognize a preventive surveillance system and database, known as CalSurv, which tracks and predicts where disease-spreading mosquitoes might emerge.
“It is critical that California supports the tools that will help us get ahead of potential threats to the public health, including the West Nile and Zika viruses,” said Assemblymember Quirk. “Real-time surveillance and improved statewide communications can help mosquito control agencies prevent the spread of invasive mosquitoes.”
The CalSurv Program provides centralized storage of data collection and analysis for the presence of mosquitoes and mosquito-borne diseases throughout the state. UC Davis, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and local mosquito control agencies work together to provide real-time reporting and visualization of potentially dangerous mosquitoes and mosquito-borne virus activity.
CalSurv is currently housed at UC Davis. AB 2892 will foster further collaboration with CDPH and their Vector-Borne Disease section.
Since 2011, mosquito control professionals in California have been working to slow the spread of two invasive mosquito species, Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus. These species are significant public health concerns, as they can transmit tropical viruses such as Zika, dengue, and chikungunya.
At the same time, California continues to combat West Nile and Saint Louis encephalitis viruses. The state reported more than 500 people infected with West Nile virus in 2017, more than a 10% jump from 2016. There are no vaccines for West Nile, Saint Louis encephalitis, or Zika viruses, which are costly to treat and can have long-term health and financial consequences.
“While predicting the level of mosquito activity year to year isn’t an exact science, keeping a close watch on contributing factors such as winter rains, warming temperatures, and mosquito populations can help show mosquito and virus activity trends that can potentially save lives. CalSurv is a critical component in our efforts to protect public health.” said David Heft, President of the Mosquito and Vector Control Association of California (MVCAC), which is sponsoring the bill.
“The work and monitoring done through CalSurv have been critical in preventing transmission of viruses carried by mosquitoes. Concurrently, mosquito control agencies have spent considerable resources trying to keep them out of their communities in an effort to prevent local transmission in the future. Ensuring continuous management of CalSurv is an important component to maintaining the health of California and vitality of our agricultural industry,” stated Assemblymember Quirk.
AB 2892 will be eligible to be heard in Committee in March.
For additional information on mosquitoes and mosquito-borne diseases: http://www.cdph.ca.gov/HealthInfo/discond/Pages/MosquitoBorneDiseases.aspx
Travelers should refer to the CDC’s Travel Advisories: https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices
Coverage area by Butte County Mosquito Abatement about to increase
From the Gridley Herald
February 16, 2018
The duties of the Butte County Mosquito Abatement District (BCMAD) area are about to change dramatically following a request by the Butte Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCo) board.
LAFCo has requested that the BCMAD take over abatement services of 15,000 acres primarily planted in rice land in Durham. The Durham Mosquito Abatement District (DMAD) is not able to continue to perform these services due to financial constraints and a lack of necessary equipment. DMAD is on a one year probationary period currently in order to bring the district up to Butte County standards. LAFCo has instructed Durham to create a website in order to post agendas and minutes.
BCMAD has been asked to file an application to annex the additional land into their workload.
As BCMAD Manager Matt Ball explained, Durham is not against losing the 15,000 of acres to service and Butte County is not opposed to taking on the service area. Though Durham will lose approximately $15,000 in revenue, Butte County will be happy to make this extra money.
Can gene drives end mosquito-borne disease?
February 16, 2018
When Omar S. Akbari, PhD, moved his lab of genetically modified mosquitoes from the University of California, Riverside, to the University of California, San Diego, he took only eggs, collecting some from each strain and sealing them in containers for the 90-mile trip south.
“Just the eggs. Not the adults — that’s how they’d escape, if something were to happen,” Akbari, a biologist and assistant professor at UC-San Diego, told Infectious Disease News.
Akbari’s lab contains 260 cages filled with 130 strains of genetically modified mosquitoes plus additional cages for more experiments. The lab is designed to keep mosquitoes inside. Four doors separate the insectary from the outside world. Even if a mosquito were to escape from its cage, an air blower triggered by the innermost door should keep it from getting out of the room. For good measure, there are mosquito traps positioned from the insectary to the hallway outside the main lab.
Antioxidant treatment prevents sexual transmission of Zika in mice
February 15, 2018
The antioxidant drug ebselen can prevent sexual transmission of Zika virus from male to female mice, according to new research published in PLOS Pathogens by Yogy Simanjuntak and colleagues at Academia Sinica, Taipei, Taiwan. The results hint at a potential role for ebselen in preventing Zika spread among humans.
Zika virus usually causes mild symptoms in humans but has been linked with congenital microcephaly and Guillain-Barré syndrome. The virus jumps from person to person primarily via mosquitos carrying the disease, but recent research suggests that sexual transmission is also possible–most often from men to women.
In the absence of approved drugs or vaccines for Zika infection, researchers are exploring opportunities to prevent transmission. To gain new insights, Simanjuntak and colleagues investigated Zika infection and transmission from male to female mice.
The research team first examined the effects of Zika infection on mouse testicular tissue. They found that the virus damaged cells, impaired normal gene expression, damaged sperm, and infected sperm cells themselves. Notably, Zika caused signs of increased testicular inflammation and oxidative stress, a condition characterized by high levels of potentially damaging byproducts of normal cellular processes known as reactive oxygen species.
Fewer Scientists Are Studying Insects. Here’s Why That’s So Dangerous
February 14, 2018
In the summer of 2016, Jerome Goddard, a medical entomologist in Mississippi, received an email from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) with a desperate ask. The agency was conducting an “urgent” search for insect scientists around the U.S. who could take up to a six-month paid leave from work to help the CDC fight the Zika outbreak in the U.S., and possibly respond to areas with local transmission if needed.
“That’s how bad it is—they need to borrow someone,” says Goddard, an extension professor of medical entomology at Mississippi State University. “We can’t find people to investigate an outbreak.”
Medical entomology—the study of insects and arthropods that impact human health—has been a shrinking field for at least two decades, and the lack of bug scientists is now interfering with the nation’s ability to respond to infectious disease outbreaks. The CDC, which has about 12,000 employees, only has 13 medical entomologists on staff.
The dwindling workforce has serious consequences for human health; diseases spread by insects are on the rise in the United States. Chikungunya, a new disease spread by mosquitoes, has emerged in the past five years, and since 1999, seven new tick-borne diseases have been discovered in the United States. Cases of Lyme disease have increased from a reported 17,209 in 2001 to 36,429 in 2016—a 111% rise. (The CDC estimates that the number of people diagnosed with Lyme disease each year in the U.S. is much more—around 300,000.)
Recruitment continues for Zika virus vaccine trial
From Valley Central
February 13, 2018
The search for a vaccination against the Zika virus continues in the Rio Grande Valley.
Doctors at the research institute at Doctor’s Hospital at Renaissance Health System continue to recruit for a clinical trial, which launched in October 2017.
“The ultimate goal of this study is to provide a Zika vaccine that is easy to administer,” said Dr. Robert Noonan, lead investigator of the trial.
As of today, 20 out of the required 50 participants have enrolled. But, Noonan says they have only accepted about half of the people screened.
“In the Valley, there is a high incidence of diabetes,” Noonan said. “Diabetes is one of the diseases which will exclude you from being a participant in the trial.”
The recent flu outbreak could impact recruitment.
Genetic signature of congenital Zika syndrome found in discordant twins
February 12, 2018
Researchers found genetic differences in twins discordant for congenital Zika syndrome that they said may increase susceptibility to complications of Zika virus infection during pregnancy.
Their study, recently published in Nature Communications, also shows that infants with congenital Zika syndrome (CZS) have significantly higher rates of Zika virus (ZIKV) replication and reduced neural progenitor cell (NPC) growth compared with their twins not affected by CZS.
“Overall, our results indicate that CZS is not a stochastic event and depends on NPC intrinsic susceptibility, possibly related to oligogenic and/or epigenetic mechanisms,” Luiz Carlos Caires-Júnior, PhD, of the department of genetics and evolutionary biology at the Human Genome and Stem Cell Research Center, Biosciences Institute, University of São Paulo, Brazil, and colleagues wrote.
According to the researchers, 6% to 12% of pregnant women infected with ZIKV will give birth to infants with CZS, which is characterized by microcephaly and other abnormalities such as visual defects, hearing impairment, skeletal deformities and epilepsy. CZS, they noted, impairs early brain development by affecting NPCs.
Annual mosquito treatment at baylands starts Wednesday
From Palo Alto Online
February 12, 2018
Santa Clara County will begin its annual treatment Wednesday of the Palo Alto Baylands to prevent the spread of the winter salt marsh mosquito, which lays eggs in moist soil, like the kind found at the popular hiking and biking destination.
The Santa Clara County Vector Control District announced that the marshes will be treated with naturally occurring soil bacteria and “a mosquito-specific hormone” that is not harmful to the surrounding environment, wildlife or humans. The soil bacteria produces an insecticidal protein when consumed by the mosquito larvae, effectively killing them. The eggs can lay dormant for many years, even with repetitive flooding, according the district.
For some of the less accessible marsh areas, including the Palo Alto Flood Basin, a helicopter will be used to “cover large areas and minimize impact to the marsh habitat,” the district said. The helicopter crew may fly at low altitudes over the treatment area within the basin.
Warm weather spurs increase in mosquito reports
From KRCR News
February 6, 2018
REDDING, Calif. — The Shasta Mosquito and Vector Control has noticed an increase in calls complaining about mosquitoes for 2018.
District Manager Peter Bonkrude said so far they’ve received around 20 calls, where normally it’s zero for the winter months.
Bonkrude added there is a winter species of mosquitoes out right now but during a typical wet year they don’t get complaints because people are not outside.
That changes during warm and dry evenings like the past week. While a nuisance, Bonkrude said Shasta County has less activity compared to other neighboring counties.
“The anopheles mosquito is typically associated with rice production. So counties that are doing rice production are typically dealing with that mosquito in a more heavy way. We still have anopheles mosquitoes just not in the numbers as they do to the south of us,” said Bonkrude.
The winter species of mosquitoes are not the kind that spread disease but Bonkrude suggested people still take precautions like wearing bug repellent when going outside around dusk or dawn.
He said if the warm and dry weather continues they may start to see the more dangerous species earlier this year. That could make West Nile season start sooner and last longer and allow for an increase number of cases in humans.
Record Heat Brings Mosquitoes Out In Sacramento
From CBS Sacramento
February 6, 2018
SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Warm weather in the Sacramento region has brought the mosquitoes out in force. The Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito and Vector Control says it’s getting more calls earlier this year.
Playtime at the park for many is being interrupted by the persistent pests.
“You can’t really see it, but I can feel it,” said one child playing at Regency Park in Natomas.
“Too much mosquito. It’s bad,” said another woman walking nearby.
“They’re hungry, and they’re biting,” explained Luz Maria Robles with the Sacramento–Yolo Mosquito and Vector Control.
“They think that it’s spring, so they’re coming out in higher numbers,” Robles continued.
Robles says her office is receiving more calls for service earlier this year.
They’re treating the surrounding rice farms, which is where this particular species of mosquito typically lives.
Mosquitoes awaken from winter slumber in Solano County
From the Times-Herald News
February 6, 2018
The rain has stopped and the sun is out and that means the slightly warmer weather has pulled hibernating mosquitoes out from their slumber.
“This is a typical trend that we see every year in February when we get a few days of sunny and warm weather,” said Gary Goodman, manager of the Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito and Vector Control District. “These mosquitoes are ones that had been hibernating during the past few months.”
Not to worry, however, these mosquitoes aren’t the kind that are carrying the West Nile virus, according to Richard Snyder, Solano County Mosquito Abatement District manager.
“Yes, some are coming out now, but temperatures have to be a lot hotter for West Nile,” he said and added that the West Nile season is typically around May.
The mosquitoes out and about right now are more of a nuisance.
The Solano County Mosquito Abatement District is responsible for monitoring all of Solano County’s 904 square miles, which includes 21 different species of mosquitoes.
Tuesday, crews were in Vallejo trapping and spraying in the tidal marsh and Mare Island.
While the official start of spring is still more than a month away, the warming trend this week is causing more of mosquito larvae to mature into biting insects.
Even more mosquitoes are expected when pastures are irrigated.
Since there hasn’t been a lot of rain, there aren’t as many fresh water sources for mosquitoes to breed, however, Snyder said the rainy season isn’t over.
‘I don’t live any more’: Zika takes a heavy toll on families in Brazil
From The Guardian
February 5, 2018
In her home in the hillside favela in Recife, Inabela Tavares straps a support vest around the waist of her daughter, Gaziella, to help her sit up. Splints on the two-year-old’s legs and plastic boots teach her to stand.
Gaziella has epilepsy, myopia and is visually impaired after her mother was infected by the Zika virus in 2015.
“I never thought about being a therapist, but I had to learn,” says Tavares, 33, who is married to Filipe, an auditor a year younger than her, and also has a 12-year-old son, Flavia. “I became empowered by knowledge.”
Tavares was six months pregnant and working in a phone store when her second child was diagnosed withmicrocephaly, a rare birth defect linked to the mosquito-borne virus, which causes babies to be born with abnormally small heads and brain damage.
The virus affected thousands of Brazilian children – most of them in Brazil’s poor, dry north-east. By December, 3,037 “alterations in growth and development” possibly linked to the virus had been confirmed by the Brazilian government. Almost as many are still being investigated.
Miami-Dade Releases Wolbachia Male Mosquitoes to Fight Zika
From Efficient Gov
February 5, 2018
Miami-Dade County officially launched a mosquito reduction test program in a south Miami neighborhood that will release Wolbachia male mosquitoes through the summer.
The Kentucky firm MosquitoMate has begun releasing Wolbachia male mosquitoes, officially launching the Miami-Dade County Mosquito Reduction Test Program in the city of South Miami, as a preemptive fight against Zika virus in 2018. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-approved biotechnology product, sold as the ZAP Mosquito, will be released regularly in the Twin Lakes neighborhood through July.
According to a statement posted on the company’s website, “The Wolbachia male mosquitoes do not bite or blood feed and are incapable of transmitting pathogens that cause human disease. The released male mosquitoes mate with female mosquitoes in the area, and the resulting eggs do not hatch, which can reduce the mosquito population that can transmit mosquito-borne viruses. MosquitoMate male mosquitoes are not genetically modified. Instead, the MosquitoMate method relies on Wolbachia, which is a naturally-occurring bacterium present in up to 60 percent of all the different species of insects around us, including some mosquitoes. It is not infectious and cannot be transmitted to any warm-blooded animals or humans.”
At least 5 stung by swarm of bees in Corona
From the Press-Enterprise
February 1, 2018
At least five people were stung by a swarm of bees in a Corona neighborhood Thursday afternoon, prompting police and fire officials to temporarily close access to the area for public safety.
The bee attack was reported about 3:20 p.m. near Heavenly Way and Taber Street.
Firefighters arrived within a couple of minutes and encountered the victims and others trying to get away from the agitated insects, which continued to sting the pedestrians while crews were trying to assist them, according to reports from the scene.
Police officers cordoned off the area to prevent anyone else from being exposed to the angry swarm.
LA County saw longest recorded season of West Nile virus activity last year
From Whittier Daily News
February 1, 2018
A deadly mosquito-borne virus that typically spreads in the summer and fall months lingered in Los Angeles County until Christmas last year, infecting more than 260 people and killing 27, health officials said this week.
It was the longest recorded season of West Nile virus activity, spanning about 30 weeks in 2017, with the last date of symptom onset occurring Dec. 24, according to Sharon Balter, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health’s Acute Communicable Disease Control Program.
Previously, the longest West Nile season the county had experienced since the virus was first detected in 2003 lasted about 23 weeks, Balter said.
“The season has been getting longer and longer,” she said.
Why? Balter suspects several culprits, including unseasonably warm temperatures in November and December. Other factors could include the particular travel paths of birds and mosquitoes as well as increase in the number of older adults who are more at-risk of illness.
“The ecology of West Nile virus is incredibly complex,” Balter said, adding that human behavior could also be a factor. “One theory is that due to the heat waves later in the year, people were staying out later, staying out more and staying out after dark.”
New Documentary Explores Fight Over Naled Spraying in Miami Beach to Battle Zika
From Miami New Times
February 1, 2018
When Miami Beach residents found out the county was spraying a pesticide banned in the European Union to kill mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus, they were furious. Dozens marched to city hall with signs reading, “What are you really killing?” and “Naled does more harm than good.” Some demonstrators wore gas masks.
Officials with the city, county, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention all insisted the spraying was safe and in residents’ best interest, while some scientists claimed it was ineffective and potentially dangerous. The debate raged on for weeks.
Almost a year and a half removed from the fervor, the documentary Sprayed revisits the controversy to explore what happens when communities are blasted with pesticides.
West Nile Virus May Pose Zika-Like Threat to Fetus
From The Inquirer
January 31, 2018
Zika may not be the only virus that can harm a fetus, a new study in mice suggests.
“We found that West Nile virus and Powassan viruses shared with Zika the ability to infect the placenta and cause fetal death,” said senior researcher Dr. Jonathan Miner, who’s with Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
Both of those viruses are spread by the bites of insects and are in the same family of viruses as Zika, called flaviviruses.
So far, the researchers have only confirmed this in mice, although they have found these viruses have the ability to replicate in human placental tissue.
Does that mean pregnant women should be concerned every time they get a mosquito or tick bite?
Miner said this study definitely shouldn’t be the cause of “mass hysteria.” Research done in animals doesn’t always turn out the same when done in people.
“The work we do is basic science. We try to understand what may be possible. Our work is not done to make a claim about what is occurring in the human population,” he explained.
Lab-Bred, Bacteria-Infected Mosquitoes To Be Used To Help Combat Zika
From CBS Miami
January 30, 2018
MIAMI (CBSMiami/AP) — Thousands of bacteria-infected mosquitoes will be flying near Miami to test a new way to suppress insect populations that carry Zika and other viruses.
According to a statement from the Kentucky-based company MosquitoMate, the first mosquitoes will be released in the city of South Miami.
A statement on the Miami-Dade County website, the program will designate a one-half-square-mile treatment area and a similarly-sized control area within the City of South Miami.
The test is in collaboration with the Miami-Dade County Mosquito Control and Habitat Management Division.
MosquitoMate infects male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes with the naturally occurring Wolbachia bacteria. Any offspring produced when the lab-bred mosquitoes mate with wild female mosquitoes won’t survive to adulthood.
Male mosquitoes don’t bite, and don’t harm the environment.
Takeda’s Zika vaccine gets U.S. FDA’s ‘fast track’ status
January 29, 2018
(Reuters) – Japan’s Takeda Pharmaceutical Co Ltd said on Monday the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had granted ‘fast track’ status to its vaccine for the mosquito-borne Zika virus, which erupted as a major public hazard in Brazil three years ago.
The drug, TAK-426, is currently being tested on 240 patients between the ages of 18 and 49 and is in early stages of development.
The virus might be responsible for an increase in birth defects in the United States and its territories, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a report last week.
The Zika outbreak was declared an international public health emergency by the World Health Organization in 2016 due to linkages found between the virus and severe birth defects.
The FDA’s ‘fast track’ designation aims to facilitate the development and expedite the review process for certain drugs and vaccines for serious conditions with unmet medical need.
A New Way to Thwart Disease-Spreading Mosquitoes
From U.S. News
January 29, 2018
MONDAY, Jan. 29, 2018 (HealthDay News) — It sounds like science fiction, but researchers say they have taken the first step toward creating female mosquitoes that don’t bite and spread disease.
They identified 902 genes related to blood feeding and 478 genes linked to non-blood feeding from the mosquito species Wyeomyia smithii.
Found in swamps and bogs along the east coast of North America, they are commonly called pitcher plant mosquitoes, because they live in the water of pitcher plants until adulthood.
The method used to isolate the genes in this species of mosquitoes will now be used to identify non-biting genes in other species, said the authors of the study.
“The spread of blood-borne diseases by mosquitoes relies on their taking a blood meal; if there is no bite, there is no disease transmission,” said researcher John Colbourne, chairman of environmental genomics at the University of Birmingham in England.
Female mosquitoes are the blood-feeders; males feed on nectar.
“Our research is important as it provides a unique starting point to determine if there are universal nonbiting genes in mosquitoes that could be manipulated as a means to control vector-borne disease,” Colbourne explained in a university news release.
Consolidation coming for Butte County mosquito districts
January 28, 2018
Oroville >> Changes have been set in motion for Butte County’s mosquito districts, but the changes are likely to happen slowly.
At its meeting in December, the Local Agency Formation Commission approved a municipal service review for the three districts that will ultimately see the Oroville Mosquito Abatement District absorbed into the Butte County Mosquito and Vector Control District.
The review also sees the larger district annexing about 15,000 acres of rice lands from the Durham Mosquito Control District, which the Durham district is unable to treat.
Butte County Mosquito and Vector Control District Manager Matt Ball said earlier this month he was currently working with LAFCO General Manager Steve Lucas to prepare the annexation from Durham, as he had no experience in such things.
“They don’t come up that often,” Ball said. “I’ve never done something like this.”
The Durham district is not opposing the annexation because it currently is not treating the area. Battling mosquitos in rice lands requires aircraft that Durham does not have. The larger district has several crop-duster-like planes.
The Durham district was also given some improvements to make in the year ahead and will stop fogging the north end of the Butte Creek Country Club, which is in the Butte district.
More birth defects in Texas, other states where Zika spread
From San Antonio Express-News
January 27, 2018
Birth defects strongly linked to Zika during pregnancy have increased in southern Texas and other parts of the United States where mosquitoes infected women in 2016, according to a new report.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported a 21 percent increase in abnormally small heads (microcephaly) and other neurological defects during the second half of 2016 in those areas where women contracted the virus — Texas’ Cameron County, South Florida and Puerto Rico.
“This report highlights the critical importance of documenting birth defects possibly related to Zika and our need to maintain vigilance,” Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, director of the CDC, said in a statement. “Babies with Zika-related birth defects need all the help they can get.”
But CDC researchers said they do not know if the increase is due to the local spread of Zika or other factors because there isn’t laboratory evidence of infection in most mothers who delivered babies with defects associated with the virus — either because they were never tested, weren’t tested at the right time or weren’t exposed to the virus.
Repurposed Drug Found to be Effective against Zika Virus
From UC San Diego Health
January 25, 2018
In both cell cultures and mouse models, a drug used to treat Hepatitis C effectively protected and rescued neural cells infected by the Zika virus — and blocked transmission of the virus to mouse fetuses.
Writing in the current online issue of the journal Scientific Reports , researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine, with colleagues in Brazil and elsewhere, say their findings support further investigation of using the repurposed drug as a potential treatment for Zika-infected adults, including pregnant women.
“There has been a lot of work done in the past year or so to address the Zika health threat. Much of it has focused on developing a vaccine, with promising early results,” said senior author Alysson Muotri, PhD, professor in the UC San Diego School of Medicine departments of Pediatrics and Cellular and Molecular Medicine, director of the UC San Diego Stem Cell Program and a member of the Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine.
“But there is also a great need to develop clinical strategies to treat Zika-infected individuals, including pregnant women for whom prevention of infection is no longer an option. They represent the greatest health crisis because a Zika infection during the first trimester confers the greatest risk of congenital microcephaly.”
Can Virus Hunters Stop The Next Pandemic Before it Happens?
January 25, 2018
Last summer, Dr. Kevin Olival joined a group of Indonesian hunters as they ventured deep into the mangrove forests of South Sulawesi island. The hunters were looking for roosting bats, mainly fruit bats and flying foxes—for them, a lucrative prize that can be shipped to villages in the north as part of the bushmeat trade. For Olival, the bats were a prize of a different sort.
Olival is a virus hunter. For more than 15 years, the ecologist and evolutionary biologist has scoured the globe for samples from animals that harbor some of the scariest undiscovered viruses as part of the global nonprofit EcoHealth Alliance. His goal: to find the next undiscovered virus in animals that harbors the ability to jump to humans and cause the next killer pandemic.
He and his team are in Indonesia for two weeks, swabbing feces, urine and saliva and taking blood samples from bats; freezing them in liquid nitrogen; and shipping them to an Indonesian laboratory for testing. EcoHealth Alliance is partnering with a larger collaboration known as USAID PREDICT, a $200 million global project aimed at detecting, preventing, and controlling infectious emerging diseases before they become full-blown pandemics.
Researchers identify three new mosquito vectors of Zika in Mexico
January 25, 2018
Researchers identified three new mosquito carriers of Zika virus in Mexico and say all three are potential vectors of the disease.
Writing in Scientific Reports, the researchers reported isolating Zika virus from the salivary glands of wild-caught female Culex coronator, C.tarsalis and Aedes vexans mosquitoes, as well as other previously reported vectors, including A. aegypti, the primary driver of the recent Zika virus epidemic in the Americas. They also isolated Zika from different body parts of wild-caught female C. quinquefasciatus mosquitoes and whole males from the A.aegypti and C. quinquefasciatus species.
“Our findings strongly suggest that all the species reported herein are potential vectors for [Zika virus],” they wrote.
According to the report, past research has indicated that Zika arrived in Mexico from Brazil in the second half 2014 or early 2015. The mosquitoes that tested positive in the new study were collected in a neighborhood in Guadalajara, in the western Mexican state of Jalisco.