Mosquito & Vector News

Mild Zika infection in fetuses may cause brain abnormalities in young despite no symptoms

From EurekAlert!
November 15, 2019

Using a relevant animal model (pigs), University of Saskatchewan researchers have shown that mild Zika virus infection in fetuses can cause abnormal brain development in apparently healthy young animals.

The study, published Nov. 14 in PLOS Pathogens, provides new insights into the potential outcomes of Zika virus infection and could point to new prevention and treatment strategies to alleviate the long-term effects of Zika virus infection.

Spread by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito, Zika infection of pregnant mothers can lead to death and decreased brain size (microcephaly) in fetuses, leading to life-long developmental and cognitive impairment.

However, there is growing concern that sub-clinical infections (showing no symptoms) in pregnant mothers can result in brain disorders and delayed neurodevelopmental abnormalities in offspring after birth.

Using the pig as a model, new research at USask’s Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization-International Vaccine Centre (VIDO-InterVac) has provided direct evidence to support this concern.

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Officials confirm three new human cases of West Nile Virus in Kern County

From 23 ABC
November 15, 2019

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — There are three new human cases of West Nile Virus in Kern County, according to the California Department of Public Health.

The website that records West Nile Virus cases said that the county’s total of human cases is at 23, making it the third county with the highest number of Human cases in the state. Fresno is leading with 49 human cases.

According to the Center for Disease Control, the virus is the leading cause of mosquito-borne disease in the country. It is most commonly spread to people by the bite of an infected mosquito.

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WHO scales up response to worldwide surge in dengue

From the World Health Organization
November 14, 2019

Over the past several months, Pakistan hospitals have faced an influx of thousands of patients admitted with headache, muscle pain and high fever, all classic symptoms of dengue, a mosquito-borne virus that has struck large numbers of people across the country. Pakistan health officials say they are battling one of the worst dengue outbreaks the country has experienced. One city hospital in Rawalpindi admitted more than 2000 dengue patients in a single weekend in October, straining emergency services, converting ordinary wards into dengue wards, and forcing staff to work overtime. 

As of early November, more than 45 000 people in Pakistan have been infected with the dengue virus in 2019. 

Pakistan is not the only country confronting a surge in dengue cases this year. Bangladesh also has been in the grip of its worst dengue outbreak since the country first recorded an epidemic in 2000, with more than 92 000 cases reported. Health officials in the region blame the prolonged monsoon rains, which promote ideal breeding grounds for Aedes mosquitoes that carry the dengue virus and thrive in warm, humid conditions, laying their eggs in used tires, flowerpots, tree holes and any water-filled container. 

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Mosquito sterilization offers new opportunity to control chikungunya, dengue, and Zika

From the World Health Organization
November 14, 2019

A technique that sterilizes male mosquitoes using radiation will soon be tested as part of global health efforts to control diseases such as chikungunya, dengue, and Zika.

The Sterile Insect Technique (SIT) is a form of insect birth control.  The process involves rearing large quantities of sterilized male mosquitoes in dedicated facilities, and then releasing them to mate with females in the wild. As they do not produce any offspring, the insect population declines over time.

The Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (TDR) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), in partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and WHO have developed a guidance document for countries that have expressed interest in testing the Sterile Insect Technique (SIT) for Aedes mosquitoes.

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Molecular Scissors Could Help Keep Some Viral Illnesses At Bay

November 13, 2019

It’s not easy to treat viral infections. Just ask anyone with a bad cold or a case of the flu.

But scientists in Massachusetts think they may have a new way to stop viruses from making people sick by using what amounts to a pair of molecular scissors, known as CRISPR.

It’s a gene editing tool based on a molecule that occurs naturally in microorganisms.

CRISPR comes in many “flavors” that perform a variety of functions inside cells. The Cas9 flavor has been widely used as a tool for editing DNA inside cells. It’s already shown promise for medical therapies such as treating sickle cell disease.

What’s different is that the antiviral approach researchers at the Broad Institute in Cambridge are using involves a form of CRISPR called Cas13 that targets specific regions of RNA, not DNA.

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Insulin can increase mosquitoes’ immunity to West Nile virus

From Science Daily
November 13, 2019

In a study published today in the journal Cell Reports, researchers demonstrated that mammalian insulin activated an antiviral immunity pathway in mosquitoes, increasing the insects’ ability to suppress the viruses.

Mosquito bites are the most common way humans are infected with flaviviruses, a virus family that includes West Nile, dengue and Zika. In humans, both West Nile and dengue can result in severe illness, even death. Zika has been linked to birth defects when pregnant women are infected.

“It’s really important that we have some sort of protection against these diseases because currently, we don’t have any treatments. If we’re able to stop the infection at the level of the mosquito, then humans wouldn’t get the virus,” said Laura Ahlers, the study’s lead author and a recent Ph.D. graduate from WSU. Ahlers is now a post-doctoral fellow with the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland.

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Dead hawk tests positive for West Nile virus in Ramona

From FOX 5 San Diego
November 13, 2019

SAN DIEGO — San Diego County environmental health officials announced Wednesday that a dead Cooper’s hawk recently found in Ramona tested positive for West Nile virus.

The hawk is the second bird found this year that tested positive for West Nile virus, according to officials with the county’s Vector Control Program. A dead Cooper’s hawk found in Lakeside in March was also carrying the virus.

Two county residents have tested positive for the virus this year, but both were found to have contracted it in different counties. Nevertheless, Vector Control officials warned residents to protect themselves against mosquitoes, which carry the virus, due to warm, summer-like temperatures maintaining this deep into the year.

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How the Zika virus can spread

From Science Daily
November 11, 2019

In most cases, mosquitoes of the genus Aedes transmit the Zika virus to humans. Primary vectors are the yellow fever mosquito (Aedes aegypti) and the Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus). Both mosquito species are widespread in South America. Whereas the yellow fever mosquito (Aedes albopictus) is nearly absent in Europe, the Asian tiger mosquito is widespread in the Mediterranean region.

“With our new modelling approaches we can illustrate the risk areas for Zika infections in Latin America,” says Sven Klimpel Professor for Parasitology and Infection Biology at Goethe University in Frankfurt and the Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre. “The models additionally allow us to illustrate Zika risk areas for Europe. For example, our models indicate the two autochthonous cases in southern France in Département Var (see illustration).” At the end of October, French authorities announced the first Zika case in Europe; about a week later, a second case was made public.

According to the researcher’s calculations, the Zika infection risk in South America is highest along the Brazilian East Coast and in Central America. The risk is moderate in the Amazon region and lowest in the southern areas of the continent. The following countries are especially affected according to the model: Brazil, Columbia, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Venezuela. In Europe, a risk of infection exists mainly in the Mediterranean region, but also in the inland regions of France and in the Rhine areas of Baden-Württemberg.

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Climate change may allow mosquitoes, rodents to proliferate

From The MetroWest Daily News
November 11, 2019

BOSTON — With the leaves falling, the first frost behind us, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicting a mild, but wet winter for the Northeast, citizens across Massachusetts are likely looking forward to pumpkin spice lattes, cozy sweaters, and a break from mosquito bites and ticks.

But, the question of how pest populations will respond to climate change in Massachusetts, and around the world, lingers.

Pests have been a longstanding issue for the commonwealth. This summer and fall, mosquitoes were particularly troublesome, with 12 human cases of the mosquito-transmitted eastern equine encephalitis virus.

While it is impossible to determine exactly why Massachusetts experienced such a large EEE outbreak this year, climate-related factors, including substantial rainfall and warmer temperatures last fall and winter, may have played a role, according to Todd Duval, an entomologist with the Bristol County Mosquito Control Project.

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Dengue and zika virus

From Yahoo News
November 7, 2019

Videographic on dengue fever and Zika. A record-breaking 44,000 people have been infected with mosquito-borne dengue in Pakistan this year, a senior health official said Wednesday, as increased outbreaks linked to rising temperatures and erratic rainfall ravage other parts of Asia.

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Take mosquito-borne diseases seriously, health inspector urges

From the Jamaica Observer
November 7, 2019

THE Clarendon Health Services is urging residents to take mosquitoes and mosquito-borne diseases seriously, as the team boosts its vector management programme.

Chief public health inspector from the Clarendon Health Services, Linnees Green-Baker, said despite the efforts made by the team in the parish, there is need for residents to be more serious in safeguarding their health.

“It is now more important than ever for residents to safeguard their health and take more seriously mosquitoes and mosquito-borne diseases. We have been educating residents, inspecting homes and collaborating with government agencies to boost our vector management programme. We have also been fogging communities, but it is critical that residents take the Ministry of Health’s efforts more seriously and work with us in protecting their health and that of their family and friends,” the chief public health inspector said.

Green-Baker added that the vector control team has also intensified inspection of premises and sensitising householders on proper water-storage practices and eliminating mosquito-breeding sites. She added that the team also treats breeding sites and serves notices on individuals who are not complying with the vector control team.

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Critical protein that could unlock West Nile/Zika virus treatments identified

From EurekAlert!
November 5, 2019

ATLANTA–A protein that is critical in controlling replication of West Nile and Zika viruses — and could be important for developing therapies to prevent and treat those viruses — has been identified by a Georgia State University biologist and his research group.

The researchers found Z-DNA binding protein 1 (ZBP1) is a sensor that plays a significant role in triggering a robust immune response when it detects a viral infection within cells. The Georgia State study, published in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology, found ZBP1 is essential for restricting both West Nile and Zika virus replication, and that it prevents West Nile-associated encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) in mice. The absence of ZBP1 in mice leads to 100 percent mortality when infected with even a non-disease-producing strain of West Nile Virus, the study found.

“It’s significant because you take a virus that has never been shown to kill anything and if you block this protein the virus will just kill everything,” said Mukesh Kumar, assistant professor of biology and senior author of the study. “We discovered that when cells are infected with viruses such as Zika and West Nile, they respond by triggering necroptosis, a form of programmed cell death, via ZBP1 signaling. This inhibits viral replication and spread, allowing the immune system to clear the virus.”

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Are California’s Zika Cases Coming From Mexico?

From Zika News
November 3, 2019

November 3rd, 2019 – According to the State of California and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), additional Zika virus cases were confirmed during the month of October.

This is unfortunate news since there is not a medication available to treat a Zika infection.

As of November 1, 2019, California reported (30) travel-related Zika cases during 2019. The California Department of Public Health confirmed that (2) additional international travelers brought the Zika virus with them in October. 

The leading areas in California reporting Zika cases are Los Angeles (13), San Diego (5), San Franciso (3), and Santa Clara (3).

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St. Louis Encephalitis found in more mosquitoes

From Champion Newspapers
November 2, 2019

The West Valley Mosquito and Vector Control District detected the presence of St. Louis Encephalitis (SLE) virus in two mosquito samplings collected Oct. 21 to 25 in Chino Hills at Butterfield Ranch Road and Ridgegate Drive, and in Chino at Comet Avenue and Chino-Corona Road.

SLE-positive samples were found in the same Chino location in September.

Previously, SLE had not been detected in the area since the formation of the district in 1983, according to district manager Michelle Brown.

The mosquitoes carrying SLE are not the black and white Aedes mosquitoes that have been aggressively biting residents during the day and night, but the native “Culex” mosquitoes, Dr. Brown said.

SLE is a mosquito-transmitted virus in the “flavivirus family,” which is the same as the West Nile Virus, Dr. Brown said.

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Four new cases of West Nile hit Kern County

November 1, 2019

There are four new cases of the West Nile virus in Kern County, according to the California Department of Public Health. 

The county now has a total of 19 cases. The last time there were new cases was nearly a month ago. California now has a total of 178 cases, according to CDPH data. 

Residents are urged to use mosquito repellent if going outdoors, especially at night, as well as wear long-sleeved shirts and pants.

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Legislation Introduced by Senators Collins, Smith to Combat Lyme and Other Tick-Borne Diseases Clears Senate Hurdle

October 31, 2019

Washington, D.C.—This morning, the Senate Health Committee voted to advance legislation introduced by U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Tina Smith (D-MN) to improve research, prevention, diagnostics, and treatment for tick-borne diseases. Their bill now heads to the floor for consideration by the full Senate.

The Kay Hagan Tick Act unites the effort to confront the alarming public health threat posed by Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases, which have risen exponentially from approximately 30,000 cases in 2003 to an estimated 450,000 last year. Senator Collins renamed the bill in honor of former Senator Kay Hagan, who passed away on October 28th, 2019, due to complications from the tick-borne disease known as the Powassan virus.

In Maine alone, there were approximately 1,400 new cases of Lyme disease in 2018, sharply increased from the 752 cases in 2010. Far too many Americans with Lyme disease experience a complex diagnostic odyssey that takes months or even years, while suffering severe and debilitating symptoms. In addition to the physical and emotional toll that Lyme disease takes, it is also expensive. Medical costs of Lyme disease are estimated at $1.3 billion per year. When accounting for indirect medical costs, including loss of work, the annual costs balloon to $75 billion per year.

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France Confirms 3rd Local Zika Case

From Zika News
October 31, 2019

October 31st, 2019 – French authorities reported a third autochthonous case of the Zika virus in Hyères city, Var department, France.

This Zika case resides in the close vicinity of the first 2 cases and had no travel history to Zika-endemic countries, reported the European Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (ECDC) on October 31, 2019.

All 3 cases had an onset of Zika virus symptoms in early/mid-August 2019, and all have recovered.

This new case reinforces the hypothesis of the autochthonous vector-borne transmission of Zika in the Hyères city vicinity during August 2019. As the cases had an onset of symptoms only a few days apart, it is likely that they belong to the same transmission cycle. 

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HIV drug stops Zika infection, strategy could halt infections caused by related viruses

From Science Daily
October 30, 2019

Like an adjustable wrench that becomes the “go-to” tool because it is effective and can be used for a variety of purposes, an existing drug that can be adapted to halt the replication of different viruses would greatly expedite the treatment of different infectious diseases. Such a strategy would prevent thousands of deaths each year from diseases like dengue and Ebola, but whether it can be done has been unclear. Now, in new work, researchers at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University (LKSOM) show that repurposing an existing drug to treat viral diseases is in fact possible — potentially bypassing the decades needed to develop such a broad-spectrum drug from scratch.

In a new study published in the journal Molecular Therapy, the Temple researchers report that a drug used in the treatment of HIV also suppresses Zika virus infection. In cell and animal models, they show that the drug, called rilpivirine, stops Zika virus by targeting enzymes that both HIV and Zika virus depend on for their replication. These enzymes occur in other viruses closely related to Zika, including the viruses that cause dengue, yellow fever, West Nile fever, and hepatitis C.

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Zika Infection Reduced Infant Receptive-Language Skills

From Zika News
October 29th, 2019

A new study by researchers from Harvard University and the University of Puerto Rico suggests a prenatal Zika virus infection is linked to lower receptive language scores during the 1st year of life.

This is an important study since the Zika virus has gained recognition over the past few years as an important new ‘etiology of congenital infection.’

And, there is no known cure for a Zika infection and there is not a preventive vaccine currently available. 

This study, published in the JAMA Network Open on October 25, 2019, found even among infants without microcephaly or congenital Zika syndrome, a prenatal maternal Zika infection was associated with lower receptive language scores.

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Want mosquitoes to buzz off? Remember to ‘tip and toss,’ officials say

From the Los Angeles Times
October 23, 2019

Suffering from red welts that seem worse than usual?

If so, it’s possible that an Aedes mosquito — pronounced “aid-dees,” like the decade — just got a sip of your blood.

The invasive pest, which arrived in Orange County within the past four years or so, is a nastier version of the mosquitoes that have long called the county home. And it is continuing to spread.

Aedes mosquitoes are distinctive by the white markings on their bodies and legs. And unlike most other mosquitoes, they are active and bite during the day. They also can spread infections such as Zika virus, dengue fever and yellow fever, according to the Orange County Mosquito and Vector Control District.

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2nd Locally-Acquired Zika Case Confirmed in Southern France

From Zika News
October 22, 2019

October 22nd, 2019 – A 2nd French resident has been diagnosed with the Zika virus in Var, a department in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region of southeastern France.

This infected person lives in Hyères, in the same neighborhood as the 1st indigenous case of Zika, reported by the Paca Regional Health Agency (ARS) on October 9th.

These 2 people contracted the disease following a tiger mosquito bite, and have been treated and released from care.

The Regional Health Agency, Public Health France and the Interdepartmental Agreement on Mosquito Control (EID) the Mediterranean, continue their entomological and epidemiological investigations to prevent the spread of the Zika disease.

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A Small Molecule May Block Zika Virus Infections

From Zika News
October 20, 2019

A recent study found a new small molecule has the ability to block Zika virus infection in human cells (in vitro) and in mice (in vivo).

This molecule, 6-deoxyglucose-diphyllin (DGP), is a broad-spectrum antiviral that potentially blocks infection by Zika viruses.

And, DGP may also inhibit human infections by other flaviviruses. 

This study published in EbioMedicine in September 2019, reported the DGP molecule targets the cellular endosomal acidification, preventing the entry of the virus into the cell, consequentially inhibiting infection.

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Dept. of Environmental Health Warns About Aggressive, Invasive Mosquito

From NBC San Diego
October 18, 2019

The San Diego County Department of Environmental Health (DEH) warned residents about a new invasive mosquito that is aggressively biting legs and ankles during the day.

The Aedes mosquitoes have been detected in the county of San Diego.

There are three types, such as Aedes Taegypti, known as the yellow fever mosquito, Aedes notoscriptus, known as the Australian backyard mosquito, and Aedes albopictus, also known as the Asian tiger mosquito.

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Coachella mosquitoes test positive for St. Louis Encephalitis

October 17, 2019

COACHELLA, Calif.- – Mosquito samples in Coachella and North Shore tested positive for sickness-inducing Saint Louis Encephalitis virus for the first time this year, the Coachella Valley Mosquito and Vector Control District reported today.
The test, conducted on Wednesday, showed that mosquito season may last longer this year than usual, said Tammy Gordon, public information officer for the district.
Most people infected with Saint Louis Encephalitis virus (SLEV) show no signs of apparent illness, but symptoms for those who become ill include fever, headache, nausea, vomiting and tiredness, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
No human cases of SLEV have been reported in the county in 2019.

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Health officials: Risk of mosquito-borne illness rises with recent rains

From the Palm Beach Post
October 16, 2019

Health officials in Palm Beach County are urging residents to take precautions against mosquito-borne diseases, with recent rainfall and standing water creating a “breeding ground” for the biting, flying insects.

Those diseases include dengue fever, of which there already have been two locally transmitted cases in South Florida, as well as the Chikungunya, West Nile and Zika viruses.

The county is asking residents to “drain and cover,” meaning residents should empty or disperse standing water around their homes, including in garbage cans, gutters, buckets and pool covers, and wear protective clothing when out after dark to guard against mosquito bites.

Recent rainfall, including standing water left from the outer bands of Hurricane Dorian on Labor Day weekend, have created conditions across the county that can help mosquitoes multiply, Dr. Alina Alonso, director of the Florida Department of Health in Palm Beach County, said in a prepared statement.

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Mosquitoes Carrying Dangerous Viral Disease Found In Orange County

From CBS Los Angeles
October 16, 2019

WESTMINSTER (CBSLA) — For the first time in 30 years, Orange County Vector Control said mosquitoes carrying Saint Louis Encephalitis have been found in Anaheim and Westminster.

“That’s pretty unfortunate,” Jessie Toler, a Westminster resident, said. “It’s scary. We’ve been getting bit the whole summer. Something needs to happen.”

While there have been no confirmed human cases at this time in Orange County, officials said they were concerned because the viral disease could cause long-term disability, brain swelling or even death.

Vector control has asked that residents eliminate potential breeding sources from in and around their homes, including draining potted plants with saucers and bird baths every week, getting rid of standing water and wearing insect repellent.

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St. Louis encephalitis resurfaces in Orange County

From the Los Angeles Times
October 15, 2019

Mosquitoes collected in Anaheim and Westminster have tested positive for St. Louis encephalitis — the first occurrence in those cities in three decades, Orange County officials announced Tuesday.

The mosquitoes were collected late last week along Old Bolsa Chica Road in Westminster and near Dale and Orange avenues in Anaheim, according to Heather Hyland of the Orange County Mosquito and Vector Control District.

The last time any St. Louis encephalitis-positive mosquitoes were found in those areas was 1987, according to the district. Mosquitoes testing positive for the virus
were found in 2017 near the vector control offices in Garden Grove, the agency said.

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Mosquitoes Carrying Encephalitis Found In Orange County

From Lake Forest Patch
October 15, 2019

ANAHEIM, CA —Mosquito samples in Orange County cities of Westminster and Anaheim tested positive for Saint Louis Encephalitis, the OC Vector Control District confirmed, Tuesday.

“(We) have not seen SLE positive mosquito samples in this area since 1987,” a spokeswoman for OC Vector Control District said. As such, they will continue to seek out additional breeding areas to eradicate the insects.

In rare cases, long-term disability or death can result. There are no vaccines to prevent nor medications to treat SLE. There are no confirmed cases of human infection at this time in Orange County. Severe neuroinvasive disease (often involving encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain) occurs more commonly in older adults.

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Living with Infectious Mosquitoes

From Scientific American
October 14, 2019

Vector-borne diseases, those carried by organisms that can transmit them between humans or from animals to humans, account for more than 17 percent of all infectious diseases. The most commonly known vector, the mosquito, carries some of the deadliest diseases of this kind, including dengue fever, Zika virus, malaria, chikungunya virus, West Nile virus and yellow fever. More than half of the world’s population in more than 128 countries—from Vietnam to Sudan, the Caribbean and the U.S.—are at risk for contracting a vector-borne illness.

Dengue fever alone accounts for 96 million cases a year. In fact, Thailand reported a staggering 20,000 cases of dengue fever in just the first five months of 2019. More than half of those infected were children. Thailand’s public health ministry has explained that the rainy season, along with a new school semester, makes children the most vulnerable and has urged parents and teachers to take preventive measures against mosquitoes.

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Residents Urged To Take Precautions After West Nile Virus Found In Mission Viejo

From the Mission Viejo Patch
October 12, 2019

From the City of Mission Viejo: The Orange County Mosquito and Vector Control District has confirmed the first mosquito sample infected with West Nile virus (WNV) in the City of Mission Viejo.

The mosquitoes were collected in a mosquito trap located near San Rafael and Napoli Way on Oct. 10. An inspector will monitor the area for any additional findings.

Mosquitoes get infected when feeding on birds with the virus, and the insects pass on the virus to humans. Symptoms of the virus include fever and head and body aches. In rare cases, it can be fatal with young children, the elderly or people with a weakened immune system most vulnerable.

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Infectious mosquitoes found in Antelope. Here’s how to prevent them from spreading

From the Sacramento Bee
October 11, 2019

A new discovery of an especially infectious type of mosquito in the Antelope area has officials advising residents to take steps to help stop them from spreading.

Officials with the Sacramento-Yolo mosquito and vector control district said they recently detected yellow fever mosquitoes, an aggressive species of day biters known as Aedes aegypti, in Antelope. The species has been linked to diseases such as the Zika virus, chikungunya and dengue fever.

Previous reporting by The Sacramento Bee documented detections of that species in August and September in Citrus Heights. The species is not native to California but the mosquitoes have permanently settled throughout the state.

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France reports 1st local Zika virus case of 2019

From Outbreak News Today
October 11, 2019

French health officials reported (computer translated) the first autochthonous Zika case of the year. The case was confirmed in Hyères city, Var department in southeastern France. The patient had no recent history of travel outside the country.

The Regional Health Agency, Public Health France and the Mediterranean Interdepartmental Agreement for Mosquito Control (EID) continue their investigations (entomological and epidemiological) to determine the origin of the case and prevent the spread of the disease.

Mosquito control efforts are being undertaken in the neighborhood of the patient’s residence. The anti-vector campaign was conducted in the rue de l’Orangerie, the surroundings of Sainte-Marguerite Hospital and rue des Citronniers.

This includes the spraying of insecticide on public roads – took place in this residential area where the person lives between 4 and 8 hours.

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New program will focus research on combating Zika virus

From UW Medicine
October 10, 2019

A new program delving into how viruses and bacteria attack the fetus, and how the body fights back, has been created at UW Medicine. The research program was made possible after two UW Medicine researchers received almost $19 million in National Institutes of Health grants over the past several months.

The funding has launched a Program on Maternal-Fetal Health within the Center for Innate Immunity and Disease, said Kristina Adams Waldorf, professor of obstetrics and gynecology and one of the two researchers receiving the grants. The other key program leader will be Michael Gale, Jr., director of the center and professor of immunology.  Both are on the faculty of the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle.

“We’ll be looking at the early immune response (to the virus) and how that plays a role in protecting or injuring the fetus and causing pregnancy complications,” said Adams Waldorf, who is an obstetrician and a scientist. The creation of the program will formally bring together teams that have worked for the past three years on understanding how Zika virus regulates the immune response in pregnancy. The team also will test a new therapeutic to try to prevent Zika infections in pregnant mothers who have been exposed to the virus.

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Zika: Researchers Are Learning More About The Long-Term Consequences For Children

From NPR
October 9, 2019

In 2015, Zika virus swept through Brazil and the Americas. It was the first time a mosquito-borne virus was known to cause severe birth defects, and the World Health Organization declared it a “public health emergency that warranted a global response.”

“This was a truly unprecedented phenomenon,” says Dr. Albert Ko, an epidemiologist at Yale who has worked in Brazil for over two decades. “There was a new, emerging pathogen in the world.” The pandemic’s emergency status was lifted in November 2016. But it left more than 3,700 children born with birth defects — the most severe of which is microcephaly, where babies are born with small heads and brain damage — in its aftermath.

In the three years since it ended, the pandemic has become an object of obsession for scientists, who have published more than 6,000 research papers about it. What did they conclude? To find out, Ko and two colleagues reviewed a selection of those publications. They found that researchers have been able to follow long-term health consequences in children infected with the virus before birth. But progress on beating the pandemic turned out to be an impediment to further research into vaccines and diagnostics that could help prevent other epidemics in the future.

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Three UC San Diego researchers receive top honors with NIH Director’s Awards

October 9, 2019

Three University of California San Diego researchers recently received prestigious awards through the National Institutes of Health (NIH) High-Risk, High-Reward Research Program, including the Pioneer Award, the program’s top honor.

These awards, supported by the NIH Common Fund, were created to support unconventional approaches to major challenges in biomedical and behavioral research. The awards are given to exceptionally creative scientists proposing high-risk, high-impact research at all career stages.

Rob Knight, Ph.D., was awarded the Pioneer Award to support his research into developing new approaches to support healthy microbiomes. Knight is a professor of pediatrics in the UC San Diego School of Medicine, a professor of bioengineering and computer science and engineering in the Jacobs School of Engineering and the director of the UC San Diego Center for Microbiome Innovation. 

The Pioneer Award was established in 2004 to encourage researchers at all career levels “to pursue new research directions and develop groundbreaking, high-impact approaches” to broaden their field and explore new research opportunities. Knight is one of 11 visionary researchers to receive this award in 2019.  

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West Nile Virus claims life in LA County

From the Compton Herald
October 6, 2019

LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has confirmed the first death due to West Nile virus for the 2019 season in Los Angeles County. The patient, a resident of the South Bay area, was hospitalized and died from WNV-associated neuro-invasive disease.

“West Nile virus continues to be a serious health threat to residents in Los Angeles County,” said Muntu Davis, M.D., Los Angeles County Health Officer. “We encourage residents to check for items that can hold water and breed mosquitoes, both inside and outside their homes, and to cover, clean or clear out those items.

“Residents should protect themselves from diseases spread by mosquitoes by using EPA-registered mosquito repellent products, especially during the peak mosquito season which lasts from June to November in Los Angeles County,” Davis said.

Humans get WNV through the bite of an infected mosquito. Most mosquitoes do not carry the virus; therefore, most people bitten by a mosquito are not exposed to WNV.  Those who do get WNV may experience mild symptoms including fever, muscle aches, and tiredness. In some cases, especially in persons over 50 years of age and those with chronic medical conditions such as cancer and diabetes, severe WNV infection can occur and affect the brain and spinal cord causing meningitis, encephalitis, and paralysis. There is no specific treatment for WNV disease and no vaccine to prevent infection.

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Number of human cases of West Nile Virus in Kern County now at 15

From Bakersfield Now
October 5, 2019

Three new human cases of West Nile Virus have been reported in Kern County, bringing the total count to 15.

This is according to the California Department of Public Health, which monitors and counts cases of the virus around the state.

Kern County has the second highest number of human cases of West Nile Virus in the state.

Fresno County has by far the most at 45. Tulare County has 13.

Nineteen of California’s 58 counties have confirmed human cases of the virus.

According to the California Department of Public Health, West Nile virus is “a mosquito-borne disease that was originally found in Africa.”

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At least 11 people have died from a rare mosquito-borne illness

October 2, 2019

LANSING, Mich. – A fourth person in Michigan has died of the rare Eastern Equine Encephalitis mosquito virus, raising the death toll to eleven nationwide.

Calhoun County officials received confirmation Wednesday that a Battle Creek resident died from EEE complications. With such a high concentration in Michigan, officials scheduled aerial pesticide treatments for Wednesday night for parts of the state. Residents were able to opt out of the pesticide spray.

This year has seen an unusual uptick in the number of reported cases and deaths. Typically, there are only five to 10 human cases reported in the US each year, with about 30% of all cases resulting in death, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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First 2019 West Nile Virus Death Reported in LA County

October 2, 2019

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has confirmed the first death in the county due to West Nile virus for the 2019 season.

The patient, a resident of the South Bay area, was hospitalized and died from WNV-associated neuro-invasive disease.

“West Nile virus continues to be a serious health threat to residents in Los Angeles County. We encourage residents to check for items that can hold water and breed mosquitoes, both inside and outside their homes, and to cover, clean or clear out those items. Residents should protect themselves from diseases spread by mosquitoes by using EPA-registered mosquito repellent products, especially during the peak mosquito season which lasts from June to November in Los Angeles County,” said Muntu Davis, MD, MPH, Los Angeles County Health Officer.

Humans get WNV through the bite of an infected mosquito. Most mosquitoes do not carry the virus; therefore, most people bitten by a mosquito are not exposed to WNV. Those who do get WNV may experience mild symptoms including fever, muscle aches, and tiredness. In some cases, especially in persons over 50 years of age and those with chronic medical conditions such as cancer and diabetes, severe WNV infection can occur and affect the brain and spinal cord causing meningitis, encephalitis, and paralysis. There is no specific treatment for WNV disease and no vaccine to prevent infection.

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Health officials confirm first West Nile virus death in L.A. County this year

From the Los Angeles Times
October 2, 2019

A South Bay resident has died from a neuroinvasive illness caused by West Nile virus, marking the first confirmed death this year from the mosquito-borne disease in Los Angeles County.

Public health officials confirmed Wednesday that the patient was hospitalized and died from a West Nile virus-associated illness that affects the central nervous system but did not provide details about the person’s age or when they got sick.

“West Nile virus continues to be a serious health threat to residents in Los Angeles County,” Dr. Muntu Davis, the Los Angeles County health officer, said in a statement. “We encourage residents to check for items that can hold water and breed mosquitoes, both inside and outside their homes, and to cover, clean or clear out those items. Residents should protect themselves from disease spread by mosquitoes by using EPA-registered mosquito repellent products, especially during the peak mosquito season, which lasts from June to November in Los Angeles County.”

This year, California has seen at least 112 confirmed human cases of West Nile, including three other deaths in Amador, Fresno and Imperial counties. There have been nine documented cases in L.A. County, excluding Long Beach and Pasadena, where cases are identified by local health departments.

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Chicken Found With West Nile Virus In Ventura County

October 1, 2019

A chicken in Fillmore has tested positive for West Nile virus. Ventura County health officials are warning residents to take precautions including removal of standing water and wearing insect repellent when outside. Last month a horse in Simi Valley tested positive for the virus. There have been 112 human cases of West Nile across California this year, but none so far in Ventura County.

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Mosquitoes, dead birds from both counties have tested positive for the virus

From The California Aggie
September 29, 2019

Public health officials overseeing Yolo and Sacramento County have confirmed the presence of mosquitoes infected with the West Nile virus in both counties. Officials are advising residents to take steps to prevent infection during mosquito season, which began in early August and is set to end in mid-to-late October. 

Two dead birds and 102 mosquitos have tested positive for the virus in Yolo County, according to the most recent data from the Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito and Vector Control District. In Sacramento County, 71 mosquito samples and 38 dead birds tested positive for West Nile virus.

While there are no cases of humans being infected with the virus in either Sacramento or Yolo County, there are 89 confirmed human infection cases in California, with two related deaths, according to the state government’s West Nile website

According to Luz Marie Robles, the public information officer at the Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito and Vector Control District, there are more positive samples of the virus this year compared to last year in Yolo County. These numbers don’t necessarily indicate a spike in West Nile virus activity in the area. Compared to state and regional averages, this season has been “slow” for West Nile Virus, Robles said. 

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California‘s Zika Cases Came Home With Travelers

From Zika News
September 29, 2019

September 28th, 2019 – The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) recently reported 25 travel-associated Zika virus infections in California residents during 2019.

Within California, the CDPH has confirmed on September 6, 2019, persons exposed through travel to an affected Zika virus area or contact with a traveler includes these cities:

  • Berkeley = 8
  • Long Beach = 12
  • Pasadena = 2

This new CDPH information is actually good news when compared with 2018 when 68 travel-associated Zika cases were confirmed in California.

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UK Travelers Avoided the Zika Virus

From Zika News
September 25, 2019

September 25th, 2019 – A new study found the number and risk of Congenital Zika virus infections for international travelers returning to England and Wales from Zika-affected countries were very small.

Published on September 4, 2019, this study reported 16 women were diagnosed with the Zika virus (ZIKV) during pregnancy in the UK during 2016. 

Among the offspring of these women, there was laboratory evidence of Zika infection in only 1 child.

This is very good news since in 2015 and 2016, around 980,000 million UK women of childbearing age traveled to countries affected by the ZIKV outbreaks.  

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At Least 8 People Have Died in the U.S. From a Rare Mosquito-Borne Illness

From KTLA 5
September 24, 2019

A third person has died of Eastern equine encephalitis in Massachusetts, raising the reported death toll from the rare mosquito-borne illness to eight nationwide.

The victim is among the 10 confirmed human cases of the illness previously reported in Massachusetts, the state’s Department of Public Health said Monday.

Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) is a rare but potentially fatal illness caused by mosquito bites. Typically, five to 10 human cases are reported every year, with about 30% of all cases resulting in death, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We continue to emphasize the need for people to protect themselves from mosquito bites,” Massachusetts Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel said in a news release last week. “It is absolutely essential that people take steps to avoid being bitten by a mosquito.”

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From OC Weekly
September 23, 2019

The Orange County Mosquito and Vector Control District (OCMVCD) is still seeing “high levels” of West Nile Virus activity in North Orange County, the agency said Monday.

“OCMVCD routine tests of mosquito samples indicated additional WNV positive mosquito samples found in a 4 square mile area that includes portions of the cities of Anaheim (1 Sq. Mile), Buena Park (0.3 Sq. Miles), Cypress (0.77 Sq. Miles), and Stanton (1.88 Sq. Miles),” states a Sept. 23 OCMVCD news release. “The increase of WNV positive mosquito samples indicates an increased risk for residents to become infected with WNV through a mosquito bite.”

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Invasive mosquitoes plunge deeper into Southern California

From the Desert Sun
September 23, 2019

Two invasive species of mosquitoes that can carry Zika, dengue, yellow fever and other dangerous viruses are spreading in California — and have been found as far north as Sacramento and Placer counties.

There are now 16 counties where Aedes aegypti, commonly known as the yellow fever mosquito, has been detected, according to the state Department of Public Health. Five of those counties have also detected Aedes albopictus, the Asian tiger mosquito.

These mosquitoes, distinguished from other species because they primarily sip human blood during the day instead of at night, can spread the Zika virus, which infected more than 1 million people during an epidemic that began in 2015 in Brazil. The virus also can spread during sex.

More than 3,000 babies were born with microcephaly in Brazil during the epidemic. Microcephaly is a condition in which a baby’s head is much smaller than expected, and can occur because the baby’s brain has not developed properly.


Yale Center Beijing hosts talk about threat of emerging infectious diseases

From Yale News
September 23, 2019

The ways our changing physical and social environment have shaped the emergence of infectious diseases around the world was the focus of a talk by Yale epidemiologist Dr. Albert Icksang Ko on Sept. 5 at Yale Center Beijing.

Ko, who is chair of the Department of Epidemiology of Microbial Diseases at the Yale School of Public Health and professor of medicine (infectious diseases) at the Yale School of Medicine, also told an audience of Yale alumni and friends about how researchers at Yale are applying innovation and novel analytical approaches to develop solutions for these new global health threats.

Ko began his talk by looking back at the history and development of the field of public health. He pointed to the increase in life expectancy and the decrease in childhood mortality as clear signs of the global progress made over the last few decades in combating infectious diseases. Much of this progress can be credited to simple solutions like vaccines and oral rehydration therapy, he said.

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Mosquitoes which may carry Zika virus found in Nebraska

September 23, 2019

Specialists with the Center for Disease Control are in the town of York. They’re studying a rare type of mosquito that can carry the Zika virus and are finding out why they are in Nebraska.

The species- Aedes Aegypti was found in York during a routine trapping.

Officials want to know how it got there before the public catches any exotic diseases.

In late August, members of the health department were doing their routine mosquito trappings for the year when they got a call back from the labs saying they found a species of mosquito that wasn’t supposed to be in Nebraska.

“These mosquitoes, these Aedes Aegypti, we’re just trying to verify if they’re here. We do not expect that they are carrying diseases, so right now we are just trying to find out if they’ve moved into our area from other parts of the southern united states or from another area in the world,” Executive Director of the Four Corners Health Department, Laura McDougall said. 

The people are worried: is this a mosquito that can carry Zika virus?

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Utah on Alert After Aedes aegypti Mosquito Carrying Zika Virus Found

From News 18
September 17, 2019

Libby Nance, Mosquito Abatement District Manager of Moab in Utah, is warning residents to drain or dump standing water on their property due to the presence of a new invasive mosquito known as Aedes aegypti, or the “yellow fever mosquito,” which can carry the Zika virus and yellow and dengue fever.

Zika virus is mosquito-borne, primarily transmitted by the bite of an infected mosquito from the Aedes genus, mainly Aedes aegypti, in tropical and subtropical regions. Aedes mosquitoes usually bite during the day, peaking during early morning and late afternoon/evening.

This is the same mosquito that transmits dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever. Zika virus is also transmitted from mother to fetus during pregnancy, through sexual contact, transfusion of blood and blood products, and organ transplantation.

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