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Friday, April 29

The big news right now

          • The Senate left for recess without wrapping up a Zika funding deal (the Atlantic)
          • Quest Diagnostics says it has received emergency authorization from the FDA to sell its Zika virus test (Reuters)
          • Zika transmission is ongoing in 55 countries and territories (WHO)

Monkey business

A small sample of monkeys in Brazil have tested positive for Zika. (the Scientist)

Number of the day: 570

Puerto Rico has been the hardest-hit US territory. 570 people there have been diagnosed with Zika, including 48 pregnant women. (USA Today)


Today’s must-reads

          • Why Republicans are opposing President Obama’s request for Zika funding (Washington Post)
          • Brain damage in Zika babies is far worse than doctors expected (Wall Street Journal)
          • In Houston, pregnant women and their doctors weigh risks of Zika (NPR)

Thursday, April 28

The big news right now

          • Zika was in Haiti in 2014, long before it was known to be spreading in Brazil, a new study finds (NBC News)
          • South Korea has confirmed its second case of Zika contracted abroad (Korea Herald)

Today in odd headlines: Bees v. Zika

After a bee club in Cherokee County, Ga., expressed concern, local schools suspended spraying of pesticides to control Zika. The pesticide company says they’re already using “bee-friendly” chemicals. Now the two groups have agreed to have a sit-down to work out their differences. (Cherokee Tribune & Ledger-News)


On people’s lips

“The mosquitoes are coming. The mosquitoes are already here. You can’t build a fence to keep them out.” — Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski, who is urging Republican senators to approve money to combat Zika (Huffington Post)

Today’s must-reads

          • Obama wants $1.9b to fight Zika: Where does it stand? (AP)
          • From Ebola to Zika: What we’re learning about global health crises (Minnesota Public Radio)

Wednesday, April 27

The big news right now

          • HHS is giving $5 million to 20 Puerto Rico health centers to fight the spread of Zika (HHS)
          • The Senate is close to an agreement to provide at least $1.1 billion in emergency Zika funding (New York Times)
          • The number of Zika-linked microcephaly cases in Brazil remains stable at 4,908, health officials say (Reuters)

Number of the day: 891

That’s the total number of Zika cases reported in the continental US and territories as of April 20, including 81 pregnant women (Bloomberg)

Uniform utility

South Korea unveiled its Olympic team uniforms today. The clothing, which will be coated with mosquito-repellent chemicals, will be worn by athletes during ceremonies, training, and at the athletes’ village, though not during competition. (AP)

South Korea Olympic uniforms
The 2016 South Korean Olympic team uniforms. Lee Jin-man/AP

On people’s lips

“We are absolutely certain that Zika is on the decrease in Colombia.” — Fernando Ruiz, Colombia’s vice minister of health (New York Times)

Today’s must-reads

          • Daschle and Klain: We’re not ready for next Zika virus (USA Today)
          • Genetically modified mosquitoes: What could possibly go wrong? (The Atlantic)

Tuesday, April 26

The big news right now

          • Canada reported its first case of sexually transmitted Zika (The Globe and Mail)
          • HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell is visiting Puerto Rico today and tomorrow to monitor its prevention and awareness campaign (Morning Consult)
          • WHO warned of the potential of a “marked increase” in the number of Zika infections in the coming months (AFP)
          • Many southern states at risk of Zika are underprepared for a public health emergency, according to a new study (National Health Security Preparedness Index)

On people’s lips

“I’ve been bitten by a lot of mosquitoes in my life. But I haven’t won a lot of gold medals. So the decision has already been made.” — Wrestler Jordan Burroughs on not letting Zika stop him from going to the Summer Olympics (TIME)

State surveillance

Florida has the most Zika cases of any US state. To show where the virus is cropping up across the state, the Miami Herald has launched a daily, interactive tracker. (Miami Herald)

Number of the day: 40%

A survey of 1,000 people across the US found that 40 percent of them reported delaying pregnancy for fear of Zika (RMANJ)

Today’s must-read

          • US fight against Zika mosquito depends on local effort (USA Today)

Monday, April 25

The big news right now

          • More than 600 disease experts from 43 countries are meeting in Paris today to compare notes on Zika (AFP)
          • Nearly 72,000 cases of Zika have been reported in Colombia since October, including 13,000 pregnant women, health officials say (AFP)
          • Maryland Governor Larry Hogan has dubbed this week “Zika Awareness Week” in the state (Carroll County Times)

Tough choices

A number of states and cities are cutting their public health budgets as a result of Congress’s refusal to approve Zika emergency funding. Some agencies lost up to 9 percent of the emergency preparedness grant money they expected to receive in July. (Washington Post)

Number of the day: 22,000

More than 22,000 people have signed a petition started by Hillary Clinton urging Congress to approve emergency Zika funding. (

Today’s must-read

          • How globalization exacerbated the wildly different problems of Zika, ISIS, and Donald Trump (The Atlantic)

Saturday-Sunday, April 23-24

The big news right now

          • US health agencies released new guidelines to protect workers from occupational exposure to Zika (Reuters)
          • Puerto Rico has had over 620 confirmed cases of Zika; 73 were pregnant women (Puerto Rico Department of Health)
          • Brazil’s health-regulatory agency wants more evidence before allowing the sale of genetically modified mosquitoes (Nature)

Travel refund

Many airlines and cruise lines are allowing pregnant women to cancel travel or change their plans due to Zika. But take note: At least one of them, American Airlines, is requiring travelers to submit a doctor’s note. (WKBW)

On people’s lips

“When we’re needed, we’re Jonas Salks; when we ask to be paid, we’re Martin Shkrelis.”— Sander A. Flaum, principal of Flaum Navigators, a marketing agency (Medical Marketing & Media)

Image of the day

A mini-brain infected with Zika virus. The virus is shown in green, vulnerable neural progenitor cells are shown in red, and neurons are shown in blue. (Johns Hopkins)


Today’s must-read

          • Why Puerto Rico presents real challenges in fighting Zika (TIME)

Friday, April 22

The big news right now

          • Top senators from both parties said Thursday that they are getting close to a deal to provide some emergency funding to fight Zika, though the House is still raising questions about the need for additional money (STAT)
          • Most Americans — 62 percent — say combating outbreaks of diseases like Zika and Ebola is a top health priority for US global health efforts (Kaiser Family Foundation)

Hype watch

While appearing on MSNBC on Thursday, Aretha Franklin speculated that Prince’s death may have been linked to Zika. “They’re saying flu-like symptoms. I’m wondering if it had anything to do with this Zika virus,” said Franklin. Prince’s cause of death has not been released, but there’s no evidence he recently traveled to Zika-endemic regions, and Zika is almost never deadly. (NY Daily News)

Number of the day: 70

The number of lobbying groups — including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the March of Dimes, and the National Pest Management Association — that reported work on Zika in the first quarter of this year. (Roll Call)

Behind the scenes of developing a Zika drug

Gilead, which has a huge library of antiviral drugs, plans to begin testing its Ebola treatment against Zika.

Today’s must-read

          • Why America’s top health official is worried about Zika (TIME)

Thursday, April 21

The big news right now

          • Senate Republicans are preparing to partially fund President Obama’s request for money to fight Zika, drafting a $1 billion emergency plan (Bloomberg)
          • Florida’s plan to release genetically modified mosquitoes is now headed to a (nonbinding) public vote among Florida Keys residents (AP)
          • An upcoming series of Major League Baseball games in San Juan, Puerto Rico, has players from the Pittsburgh Pirates and Miami Marlins worried about Zika (Yahoo)

A microcephaly contributor?

A woman’s blood levels during pregnancy could contribute to her baby’s likelihood of microcephaly if she’s infected with Zika, say two Danish researchers in a letter to the Lancet. High blood sugar during pregnancy has been associated with some birth defects, including microcephaly, and can also make women more prone to infectious diseases. The researchers say future experiments should investigate whether that applies to Zika. (Lancet)

On people’s lips

“Zika doesn’t know a Democrat from a Republican.” — The Washington Post editorial board, urging Congress and the White House to work together to approve emergency Zika funds (Washington Post)

Today’s must-reads

          • Mosquito forecast: Wet spring could fuel bug boom and Zika cases (USA Today)
          • How open science can help solve Zika and prepare us for the next pandemic (Washington Post)
          • On the frontline of Brazil’s war with Zika, a mother’s first question: “How big is the head?” (Los Angeles Times)

Wednesday, April 20

The big news right now

          • President Obama signed the bill passed by Congress last week offering incentives to drug companies working on Zika vaccines (CBS News)
          • Chilean authorities have found the Aedes aegypti mosquito on its mainland for the first time in decades (Reuters)
          • Peru’s airports are handing out condoms to visitors arriving from Zika-affected countries as part of a government campaign to limit sexual transmission of the virus. Over the weekend Peru reported its first case of Zika by sex (France24)

Hype watch

An advertising agency in Rio de Janeiro has crafted mosquito-killing billboards that emit carbon dioxide and lactic acid to attract bugs, then trap them inside the display, where they eventually die.

The devices can kill 100 mosquitoes a day — but at a cost of $2,800 a pop (not to mention ongoing supply of CO2 and electricity), they seem more like a clever marketing campaign than an eradication help. (STAT)

How contagious is Zika?

Here’s how contagious Zika is compared to other diseases like Ebola or measles (Vox)

Today’s must-reads

          • Is crowdfunding an OK way to raise money for Zika research? (NPR)
          • Will Zika fears cause a population gap? (Los Angeles Times)

Tuesday, April 19

The big news right now

          • Getting Zika now will not raise a woman’s risk of delivering a child with birth defects in the long run, health experts say (STAT)
          • The Obama administration has significantly increased its request for emergency funding to develop a Zika vaccine (STAT)
          • Hillary Clinton is sending two aides to Puerto Rico for a Zika fact-finding trip (Reuters)
          • New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a three-year, $21 million plan to fight Zika (Gothamist)

Countries at risk

Researchers have created a detailed global map of countries most at risk of Zika virus transmission. The map took into account both environmental and socioeconomic variables of the current outbreak to predict other areas to which it may spread.

All told, more than 2.7 billion people live in areas at risk of Zika spread. In the US, Texas and Florida are at high risk. (eLife)

Messina et al

Bill Gates on Zika

The Gates Foundation has long focused on mosquito control but Zika has made the issue more pressing, Bill Gates said in Washington, D.C., on Monday, STAT’s Dylan Scott reports.

Gates said he met with FDA and NIH officials to discuss speeding up approval for Zika responses, including genetic tools to kill or change mosquitos. Zika, along with chikungunya, “made the benefit of attacking Aedes aegypti way bigger than it ever would have been before,” Gates said. “It’s kind of fortuitous in a way.”

Today’s must-reads

          • Zika is a warning to the US public health system to stop rushing from fire to fire (Quartz)
          • Still many questions about Zika’s threat to pregnant women (AP)
          • What it means when an outbreak’s worst effects occur in the long-term (The Atlantic)

Monday, April 18

The big news right now

          • Peru reported its first case of sexually transmitted Zika (Reuters)
          • Local outbreaks of Zika in the US are “likely,” with perhaps dozens or scores of people affected (Reuters)

Abortion in Colombia

Abortion has been legal in Colombia since an outright ban on it was lifted in 2006. But though the laws are on the books, many women in the country don’t know they can get a legal abortion, or are too ashamed to do so, and so seek out clandestine procedures. (Foreign Policy)

In the limelight

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, made the news show rounds over the weekend, appearing on “Fox News Sunday,” CNBC, and CBS’s “Face the Nation” to both reassure viewers that the disease wasn’t yet spreading in the continental US and to urge Congress to approve emergency funding before the situation worsens.

Today’s must-listen

          • A visit to Campina Grande in Brazil, Zika’s “ground zero” (CBC Radio)

Saturday-Sunday, April 16-17

The big news right now

          • From January to March, Zika tests were given to over 4,500 U.S. travelers returning from Zika-affected areas. More than 3,300 of them were pregnant women. Fewer than 200 tested positive (CDC)
          • Experts are questioning the idea that mosquitoes are the primary cause of Zika transmission (TIME)

Game on

US soccer player Hope Solo has confirmed she will attend the Rio Olympics. But she called out the IOC for not moving the soccer games. (Sports Illustrated)

On people’s lips

“As a neurologist, I have never seen anything like what we are seeing.” — Dr. James Sejvar, a neuroepidemiologist at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, confirming a strong link between Zika and Guillain-Barré syndrome. He said a dozen countries experiencing Zika outbreaks are also seeing a spike in Guillain-Barré cases. (CBC News)

Today’s must-reads

          • Zika mutates extremely quickly, which makes it especially scary (TIME)
          • How contagious is Zika? (NPR)

Friday, April 15

The big news right now

          • The first case of male-to-male sexual transmission of Zika has been reported (STAT)
          • Colombia reports its first two cases of Zika-linked microcephaly (Washington Post)
          • The Pan American Health Organization launched a new database that gathers all scientific studies on Zika worldwide (PAHO)

Divisive advice

Health officials in the US disagree on what will become an increasingly important question as mosquito season ramps up: Should women at risk of Zika delay pregnancy? Never before have federal officials advised all women in a part of the country to avoid getting pregnant. (New York Times)

On people’s lips

“The Zika epidemic is highlighting a long-time problem in medical research — the exclusion of the interests of pregnant women from the research agenda.” — Ruth Faden, director of the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics (Johns Hopkins)

Today’s must-reads

          • In babies with microcephaly, unique damage wreaked by Zika (Frontline)
          • Zika babies reveal our society’s deep, dangerous prejudice against disabilities (Quartz)

Thursday, April 14

The big news right now

          • There is no longer any doubt that Zika causes severe birth defects, the CDC says (STAT)
          • Zika may pose a threat to women and their fetuses even in the later stages of pregnancy (USA Today)
          • The US Agency for International Development wants inventors’ ideas for Zika prevention, testing, and treatment innovations — with a cash pot of $30 million on offer (USAID)
          • Top House Republicans say it’s likely they’ll approve President Obama’s emergency funding request, but maybe not until the fall (AP)

Maybe next time

Former world number one golfer Vijay Singh of Fiji is skipping the Summer Olympics due to concerns over Zika. “I would like to play the Olympics,” Singh told the Golf Channel, “but the Zika virus, you know and all that crap.” (Golf Digest)

On people’s lips

“The passage of that bill … is positive, but a rather meager accomplishment. … In some ways it’s akin to passing out umbrellas in the advance of a potential hurricane.” — White House spokesman Josh Earnest on the bill passed by Congress offering financial incentives to companies working on Zika drugs (CNS News)

Today’s must-read

          • Everything we know about the Zika virus (Wired)


Wednesday, April 13

The big news right now

          • Congress approved a bill to offer financial incentives to companies developing treatments for Zika (Reuters)
          • CDC labs are dealing with a backlog of hundreds of Zika blood tests, resulting in delayed test results to patients (Seattle Times)

Coming up

Reuters is holding a Twitter chat on Zika today from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. EST. Special guests include the CDC’s Dr. Tom Frieden and public health experts from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Use #ReutersZika to follow along. (Reuters)

On people’s lips

“I had this feeling of being in a horror movie and having no cure for it.” — Celina Maria Turchi Martelli, an infectious disease specialist studying babies born with microcephaly in Brazil (Guardian)

Number of the day: 346

That’s the number of confirmed Zika cases in the continental US. (Washington Post)

Today’s must-reads

          • The Zika virus lesson? A new approach is needed to combat pandemics (Huffington Post)
          • Which bug sprays are safe for pregnant women? (Atlantic)


Tuesday, April 12

The big news right now

          • The half-billion dollars that the White House is redirecting to fight Zika won’t be enough, public health officials say (STAT)
          • The first Zika vaccine is on target to enter clinical trials in September, an improvement on the December estimate officials gave a couple weeks ago (Reuters)
          • The Pentagon is battling mosquitoes at 190 military bases across the US, Puerto Rico, and Guam (Military Times)

The more you know

This is how the Aedes aegypti mosquito transmits Zika:

On people’s lips

“Everything we look at with this virus seems to be a bit scarier than we thought.” — Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the CDC (STAT)

Number of the day: 30

The number of states that Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are found in, according to updated data on their range (ABC News)

Today’s must-read


Monday, April 11

The big news right now

          • Zika may cause a broader range of brain disorders than previously believed (Guardian)
          • A group of Florida residents has started a petition against the proposed release of genetically modified Oxitec mosquitoes in the Florida Keys (Washington Times)

Lingo to know

Acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM): An autoimmune syndrome characterized by inflammation of the brain and spinal cord, which now seems to be a possible outcome of Zika (Reuters)

On people’s lips

“The problem is created by us. … People need to help us help themselves.” — Mustapha Debboun, director of mosquito control for Harris County in Texas (STAT)

Today’s must-reads

          • Brazilian doctor crafts system hailed as “way forward” for combating Zika (NPR)
          • Mosquitoes are spreading Zika. Your neighbors aren’t helping (STAT)


Saturday-Sunday, April 9-10

The big news right now

          • Florida senator Marco Rubio is breaking with Republican ranks to support the White House’s Zika funding request. His state, Florida, is expected to be among the hardest hit from the virus (The Hill)
          • Puerto Rico now reports 60 cases of pregnant women infected with Zika, up from 40 just over a week ago (AP)
          • Colombian researchers reported the circumstances behind four Zika-related deaths in the country, though fatalities are still very rare (Lancet Infectious Diseases)

On people’s lips

“This could be a catastrophe to rival Hurricane Katrina or other recent miseries that disproportionately affect the poor.” — Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine (New York Times)


A Wisconsin news site reported that the state’s governor had created nine new positions within the health department to combat Zika virus — a little overkill for a state that has no cases yet reported. But then the ABC news affiliate issued a correction: they meant the bacterial outbreak Elizabethkingia, not Zika. (WQOW)


Friday, April 8

The big news right now

          • Zika transmission is ongoing in 57 countries and territories (WHO)
          • Not on that list, though maybe it should be, is Belize. US officials say a woman recently in the country contracted Zika there; Belize’s health ministry disputes that (AFP)
          • St. Lucia has confirmed its first two cases of locally transmitted Zika (Reuters)

Number of the day: 25%

A quarter of Americans believe female US athletes should withdraw from the Summer Olympics in Rio, while 22 percent think male US athletes should withdraw, a new AP poll finds. (AP)

Political pressure

White House staff are taking to Twitter to keep up pressure on Congress to approve the president’s Zika funding request, after the news earlier this week that as a stopgap measure officials would take money from the Ebola appropriations to pay for Zika in the short term.

Today’s must-reads

          • Preparing for the next Zika (Nature)
          • How Canadian scientists plan to fight Zika with old tires and milk (Motherboard)


Thursday, April 7

The big news right now

          • The Obama administration will redirect $510 million in Ebola funding to bolster Zika research and preparation (STAT)
          • CT scans of 23 Brazilian infants with microcephaly suggest Zika disrupts brain development (Reuters)
          • Some of the Brazilian children with Zika-related brain damage are developing an extreme form of epilepsy (NPR)

Lessons from history

At one point rubella, like Zika, was thought to be a mild sickness. But then scientists began to notice high rates of birth defects linked with the virus. In the wake of the rubella outbreak of 1964, some 20,000 infants died from complications of rubella. Now scientists are looking at that disease as a potential model for how Zika damages fetuses and how its spread can be stopped. (The Atlantic)

Mosquito watch

In Houston, Texas, mosquito surveillance is serious business. During the peak season, they will test up to 30,000 mosquitoes each week for dengue, West Nile, and, soon to be added to the list, Zika. Go behind the scenes of the battle against mosquitoes here.

Today’s must-reads

          • The science on Zika is changing rapidly. Here’s what we’ve learned to date (Vox)
          • How to fight Zika when your country is in trouble: improvise (NPR)

Wednesday, April 6

The big news right now

          • The White House plans to spend unused Ebola funds to fight Zika, easing a standoff with Congress over the Obama administration’s request for emergency funds (STAT)
          • Zika’s damage may extend beyond microcephaly and Guillain-Barré syndrome to other brain and spinal cord conditions — including encephalitis, meningitis, and myelitis (Reuters)

Genome guide

A visualization of the genome of Aedes aegypti that ran on the front page of the New York Times last week is packed with nifty science. Here’s how to read the hieroglyphics.

On people’s lips

“If you want to work on pathogens, come to Uganda — you will catch everything.”— Dr. Louis Mukwaya, researcher at the Uganda Virus Research Institute, near the forest where Zika was first discovered (New York Times)

Today’s must-reads

          • Is Zika a permanent threat or a fleeting scare? (STAT)
          • When during pregnancy Zika is most dangerous (The Atlantic)

Tuesday, April 5

The big news right now

          • Vietnam has reported its first two cases of Zika, and officials believe they were contracted locally. That’s of concern since Aedes aegypti are common in Vietnam (Reuters)
          • Colombia and Venezuela so far have shown no signs of a Zika-linked microcephaly spike. The countries are considered the proving grounds for Zika (PRI)
          • The Hawaii-based Pacific Disaster Center is using data such as rainfall and transportation networks to map where Zika could spread in Latin America (AP)

Hype watch

“Zika turns fetal brains to liquid” blared the headlines of some recent stories. Nope. What the researchers actually said, reports PolitiFact, was they found signs of dead brain cells and fluid where they shouldn’t be. (PolitiFact)

Travel warning

Fiji is the latest destination to be added to the CDC’s travel caution for pregnant women (STAT)


Today’s must-reads

          • Hacking the Zika problem (Undark)
          • DEET is safe for pregnant women to use to avoid Zika despite few studies (New York Times)


Monday, April 4

The big news right now

          • Florida continues to have the highest statewide Zika rate, now with 79 cases (Miami Herald)
          • With four months to go until the Summer Olympics in Brazil, just half of the tickets have been sold (AFP)

Vaccine challenge

As scientists work to develop a Zika vaccine, they’re keeping a close eye on Guillain-Barré syndrome. Their concern: whether a weakened or dead form of virus within a vaccine might prompt the rare condition, which can lead to paralysis. (Scientific American)

Antiviral animations

Screen Shot for Zika in 30
Screenshot of “Children Against Zika” video

Brazil’s Ministry of Health has commissioned musicians to write children’s songs to teach kids about mosquito-borne diseases. But these aren’t the Muppets. The first video, released this week, shows the virus as skulls entering the bloodstream. (Creativity)


Saturday-Sunday, April 2-3

The big news right now

          • US health officials at a “Zika action plan” summit Friday stressed the need to prepare for Zika now to avoid a crisis later (STAT)
          • Liberia may not send athletes to the Summer Olympics in Brazil, partially because of Zika (Reuters)

On people’s lips

“If I was making the decision: Don’t go. Skip the Olympics.” — Texas Congressman Michael Burgess says athletes should skip the Olympics over Zika concerns (The Dallas Morning News)

Number of the day: 32

Number of microcephaly cases confirmed in Colombia. These are the first confirmed cases outside Brazil, the epicenter of the Zika outbreak currently underway in South America. (Breitbart)

Today’s must-reads

          • In war on Zika mosquitoes, Puerto Rico starting at ‘square one’ (Reuters)
          • CDC team scoured hard-hit northern Brazil for clues to Zika virus (NPR)
          • Miami faces Zika with resolve but limited resources (New York Times)
          • Florida reports three new Zika infections; CDC chief calls for more funding (Miami Herald)

Friday, April 1

The big news right now

          • Health officials are meeting in Atlanta today to craft “Zika action plans” for cities and states across the US (STAT)
          • There’s now scientific consensus that Zika is linked to microcephaly and Guillain-Barre Syndrome, WHO officials say (Reuters)
          • Colombia has reported 32 cases of Zika-linked microcephaly (USA Today)
          • In some countries, including Colombia, El Salvador, and Honduras, infections have dramatically dropped off and researchers cautiously believe the epidemic may have peaked there (Washington Post)

Hype watch

PETA is taking to billboards in Florida to warn residents that monkey breeding facilities in the state could spread Zika. The organization says that monkeys in outdoor cages may get the virus from mosquito bites and subsequently transmit it to other mosquitoes. By that definition, the state’s 20 million residents are also Zika risks.

Virus visualized

For the first time scientists have determined the exact structure of Zika. The finding could help lead to a vaccine or cure for the virus. (Science)

A representation of the surface of the Zika virus is shown. A team led by Purdue University researchers is the first to determine the structure of the Zika virus, which reveals insights critical to the development of effective antiviral treatments and vaccines. (Purdue University image/courtesy of Kuhn and Rossmann research groups)
Purdue University/Kuhn and Rossmann research groups

Number of the day: 225

Of 313 articles on Zika identified by a recent PubMed search, a whopping 225 were published in 2016. (New England Journal of Medicine)

Today’s must-reads

          • Love in the time of Zika: A young American couple’s story about life and babies in Brazil (Washington Post)
          • The blind pursuit of mosquito control (Undark)

Thursday, March 31

The big news right now

          • Early ultrasounds may not pick up signs of microcephaly in pregnant women infected with Zika (STAT)
          • The FDA endorsed the first test to screen blood donations for Zika (STAT)
          • More US cities could be at risk of Zika outbreaks than previously believed, according to a new analysis of the mosquitoes’ ranges (STAT)
New CDC Mosquito MAP
Alex Hogan/STAT, CDC

Dear Google

The creator of the Fight Zika app has publicly called on Google to help. He wants the company to let app users opt in to share their location history with the app, so that the places where lots of infections are occurring can be targeted with prevention efforts. (New Scientist)

Soothing touch

A parents group in Brazil is teaching mothers a form of massage that they say helps calm the agitation of babies born with microcephaly.

Today’s must-read

          • For pregnant Central American migrants, Zika doesn’t rank high on list of concerns (LA Times)


Wednesday, March 30

The big news right now

          • Brazil’s count of confirmed and suspected cases of Zika-linked microcephaly rose to 5,235, from 5,200 a week prior (Reuters)
          • Scientists are mapping the genome of the Aedes aegypti mosquito in an effort to stop Zika (New York Times)


The Zika response represents Brazil’s biggest military mobilization ever, with 220,000 personnel deployed to battle the virus. (The Guardian)

The great mosquito debate

Should mosquitoes be killed off entirely? In one ring, Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who says, “Getting rid of them would be a blessing.” In the other, Princeton professor Andrew Dobson, who says, “It would be foolish to get rid of all mosquitoes.” Whose side will you take?

Number of the day: 31%

About 1 in 3 Americans think — incorrectly — that you can catch Zika from a sneeze, a new national poll finds. (STAT)

Today’s must-reads

          • Zika may lead to last-minute Olympic travel decisions, experts say (NBC New York)
          • Zika is headed for states with harsh abortion restrictions. What happens when it gets there? (Think Progress)


Tuesday, March 29

The big news right now

          • Scientists have genetically modified mice to have Zika, which will speed the testing of vaccines and medicines (STAT)
          • Puerto Rico now has 350 cases of Zika; 40 of the cases are pregnant women (AP)
          • Arizona reported its first case of Zika (AP)

Vaccine on the horizon

The NIH could start to test a Zika vaccine in healthy volunteers in the US as early as December, says Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease. (Nature)

Taking it public

An international team of researchers hoping to develop a quick Zika blood test that can be used outside the lab have turned to crowd-funding to raise the needed $6,000.

Today’s must-read

          • Brazil should address Zika virus as an STD outbreak, researchers say (The Guardian)


Monday, March 28

The big news right now

          • Chile reported its first case of sexually transmitted Zika (Reuters)
          • Nearly all shipments of abortion drugs sent to expectant mothers in Brazil have been seized by that country’s authorities, the advocacy group Women on Web says (LA Times)

Today in odd headlines: Zika the donkey

Among the contenders for Colombia’s “donkey of the year” are donkeys named El Conquistador (the Conqueror), El Pescador (the Fisherman), and El Zika. (The Rakyat Post)

On people’s lips

“Knowing what I know about Zika … I feel obligated to discuss travel history and to think about upcoming travel. And to ask whether these trips are really necessary.” — Dr. Kristina Adams Waldorf, University of Washington professor and obstetrician (Seattle Times)

Number of the day: 18

That’s the number of US states trying to block fetal tissue research. Some scientists say such bans will thwart their Zika research. (Politico)

Saturday-Sunday, March 26-27

The big news right now

          • The CDC is urging couples who have been infected with the Zika virus to delay attempting to have a child. Men should wait at least six months, and women at least eight weeks (STAT)
          • A Florida senator is calling on lawmakers to approve incentives and funding to speed the development of a Zika vaccine (Sun-Sentinel)

Explore Zika’s path over time

Zika has hopscotched across the world for years. Click here to track how it has moved around the globe. (STAT)

Globe Data Vis ScreenCap
Natalia Bronshtein/STAT

On people’s lips

“People think, ‘Oh, I don’t have a pregnant person in the family.’ But as soon as you do have a pregnant person in the family it’s an immense worry.” — Elder Santin, a chemist at a Brazilian paper company, who says he is concerned about a pregnant relative. (NPR)

Number of the day: 138,000

Estimated number of young women in Puerto Rico — expected to be hit hard by Zika — who do not want to get pregnant but are not using effective birth control. (Associated Press)

Today’s must-reads



Friday, March 25

The big news right now

          • Zika may have landed in Brazil in 2013, more than two years before it was detected (AP)
          • Brazil’s health ministry is developing an app that will offer those attending the Rio Olympics info about Zika and even a virtual diagnosis (AFP)


The police department in Salley, S.C., population 398, appears to be trying out a creative dragnet to catch drug users: Warn them their supplies are tainted with Zika. Whether anyone actually falls for it will be a different matter.

Screen Shot 2016-03-25 at 9.28.07 AM
Screen capture

Adiós Zika

The Pan American Health Organization and Plaza Sésamo, the Latin American version of Sesame Street, have teamed up to make Spanish- and Portuguese-language videos about how to avoid mosquito bites. And they are adorable. (STAT)


@PRcontraelZIKA: Puerto Rico’s health department has set up a special Twitter handle to send out updates on Zika

Today’s must-reads

          • 5 things the world has learned about Zika so far (STAT)
          • World Cup fans are not responsible for the Zika explosion in Brazil (Scientific American)


Thursday, March 24

The big news right now

          • The Caribbean island of Martinique has reported a suspected case of microcephaly related to Zika. That would make it the fifth location with suspected cases, alongside Brazil, Panama, Colombia, and Cape Verde (H5N1 blog)
          • New CDC guidelines will help doctors recognize and treat Zika in children (American Academy of Pediatrics)
          • Brazil’s National Development Bank pledged $136.6 million toward battling mosquito-borne illnesses (Reuters)

Number of the day: 54

The percentage of Midwesterners who have purchased insect repellent to reduce the risk of contracting Zika, according to RetailMeNot. (NBC News)

Spring break for Congress

Lawmakers left town Wednesday for their spring recess without voting on an emergency funding request for Zika. Meanwhile, federal health officials say they’re so strapped for Zika resources that they have shifted money away from other critical public health programs to buy some time. (STAT)

Today’s must-read

          • By the numbers: Zika virus in the US (LA Times)

Wednesday, March 23

The big news right now

          • The WHO expects more than 2,500 cases of Zika-linked microcephaly in Brazil (Washington Post)
          • But right now, suspected cases still vastly outnumber confirmed ones. Brazil’s number of confirmed and suspected cases of Zika-associated microcephaly rose to 5,200 on Tuesday (Reuters)

Pregnant? Skip these places

This week the CDC added Dominica and Cuba to its Zika travel alert destinations. (STAT)

ZIKA MAP -- March 22

On people’s lips

“There is plenty of money in the pipeline right now, money that is not going to Ebola.” — House Speaker Paul Ryan, saying funds from Ebola should be used to combat Zika (AP)

Number of the day: $3 million

That’s the amount WHO officials say they’ve received to fight Zika. WHO asked for $25 million. (USA Today)

Today’s must-read

          • CDC urges doctors to prevent Zika spread during labor, delivery (Reuters)


Tuesday, March 22

The big news right now

          • An American and a Haitian have developed Guillain-Barré syndrome linked to Zika (WHO)
          • South Korea and Bangladesh each reported their first case of Zika (BBC News, Reuters)
          • Florida has reported 71 cases of Zika, the most of any US state (Palm Beach Post)


Zika’s first observed case? A research monkey called Rhesus 766 (Science News)

On people’s lips

“I think one of the missing narratives that we’ve not heard about Zika is that this is a disease of poverty.” — Peter Hotez, dean for the National School of Tropical Medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine (NPR)

Number of the day: 72,500

For every person a shark kills, mosquitoes kill 72,500. They are the world’s deadliest animals. (NIH)


Today’s must-reads

          • In Uganda’s Zika Forest, global health scare seems a world away (Reuters)
          • Zika and birth defects: what we know and what we don’t (Nature)

Monday, March 21

The big news right now

          • The CDC added Cuba to its Zika travel alert destinations, just before President Obama arrived there Sunday for a historic visit (USA Today)
          • A quarter of Puerto Rico’s 3.5 million residents will get Zika in the next year, the CDC estimates (New York Times)

On people’s lips

“Ladies, this year’s fragrance is DEET.” — Ismarie Morales, a nutritionist at a Women, Infants, and Children clinic in Carolina, Puerto Rico (New York Times)

Presidential protection

The Obama administration is taking Zika seriously, if this is any indication: Journalists accompanying the president on his trip to Cuba were given mosquito repellant wipes and info about the virus.

On people’s lips

“Even if something is wrong with our baby, we will take care of him forever.” — Colombian Ana Guardo Acevedo, 17, who is expecting her first child soon. More than 8,000 pregnant women in Colombia are infected with Zika. (Washington Post)

Number of the day: 54

That’s the number of countries and territories where Zika transmission is ongoing, according to the latest data. (WHO)

Today’s must-read

Thursday, March 17

The big news right now

          • Zika-hit Cape Verde identified its first case of microcephaly, in what would be a first for Africa (Reuters)
          • The small island country of Dominica reported its first locally acquired case of Zika (CIDRAP)
          • The Ohio Department of Health is now testing blood samples of people who show symptoms of Zika (Plain Dealer)

Hype watch

One company is marketing maternity wear laced with citronella to protect pregnant women from mosquito bites. But Consumer Reports has found that citronella and other plant oils fail to deter Aedes mosquitoes. (Consumer Reports)

Is Zika coming to your city?

These US cities are most at risk for Zika this summer, as mosquito season ramps up. (STAT)


Today’s must-reads


Wednesday, March 16

The big news right now

          • Cuba has reported its first case of locally acquired Zika (Reuters)
          • The European Commission will devote 10 million Euros ($11 million) to Zika research (European Commission)

On people’s lips

“Zika is not simply a reproductive rights issue, it is also a disability issue.” — Celeste Orr, PhD student at the University of Ottawa (Impact Ethics)

Number of the day: 1%

That was the risk of delivering a baby with microcephaly in French Polynesia during its Zika outbreak, if the mother was infected with the virus in the first trimester — a lower incidence than previously thought. (STAT)

Today’s must-read


Tuesday, March 15

The big news right now

          • The FDA is warning labs in Texas, Colorado, and Minnesota not to use their newly developed Zika tests without its approval (Houston Chronicle)
          • Florida has reported 60 cases of Zika, more than any other US state (Miami Herald)
          • Nearly 100 CDC scientists are on the ground studying Puerto Rico as a real-world Zika laboratory (STAT)

On people’s lips

“Zika is definitely very scary right now. … But in other terms, it doesn’t kill as many people as even malaria or dengue, so I think in numbers it’s definitely not ‘winning.’” — Christian Lindmeier, a WHO spokesman (PRI)


Zika, in the Luganda language, means “overgrown.” (Xconomy)

Number of the the day: 35

35 out of 50 US states have reported cases of Zika, according to state health departments.

On people’s lips

“The more we learn, the worse things seem to get.” — Anthony Fauci, director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (STAT)

Today’s must-read

          • How best to test for Zika virus? (NPR)


Thursday, March 10

The big news right now

          • Zika-carrying mosquitoes are developing resistance to a top insecticide in multiple regions (STAT)
          • Zika appears to have caused brain inflammation in an elderly man who recently returned from a cruise (STAT)
          • To reduce false positives, Brazil has tightened its guidelines for diagnosing microcephaly (New York Times)
          • The Flu Near You project, which tracks flu symptoms, has now begun asking users about Zika symptoms in an attempt to detect Zika’s expected spread in the continental US (Boston Globe)

Digital disease prevention

The WHO is taking Zika information digital. A newly launched app geared toward health care workers has sections for the latest news, symptoms, suspected complications, prevention, and more.

Number of the day: 37

That’s the number of places with locally transmitted Zika, according to the CDC.

Today’s must-reads


Wednesday, March 9

The big news right now

          • Zika was found in the spinal fluid of a 15-year-old girl suffering from partial paralysis, adding to evidence that the virus attacks the nervous system (RT)
          • WHO issues new, firmer travel guidance for pregnant women (STAT)
          • Sexual transmission of the virus is more common than previously thought, WHO says (BBC)

When travel insurance won’t help

Some travelers are finding their travel insurance policy doesn’t cover trips canceled due to Zika. In fact, most travel insurance hasn’t covered disease outbreaks, from SARS to Ebola. (New York Times)

Lingo to know

Zika virus congenital syndrome: A new condition some doctors are proposing to reflect the range of neurological effects Zika can have on fetuses. (New Scientist)

Today’s must-reads

          • Meet the doctor tasked with allaying Team USA’s Zika fears (STAT)
          • Scientists report in real time on challenging Zika research (NPR)


Tuesday, March 8

The big news right now

          • Puerto Rico is importing blood from the continental US to stop the virus from spreading through blood transfusions (STAT)
          • Congressional Republicans are insisting the White House use the roughly $2.7 billion in unspent Ebola money first before they will consider President Obama’s emergency funding request (STAT)

On people’s lips

“It’s a tragedy — a generation of children who will turn into adults but disabled adults.” — Dr. Regina Coeli, a pediatrician in Recife, Brazil (BBC)

Number of the day: 5 years

Scott Halstead, one of the world’s foremost authorities on mosquito-spread viruses, estimates that Zika will subside in five years (Science)

Today’s must-reads

          • States worry they don’t have money to fight Zika (Washington Post)
          • Zika epidemic restrictions promote “violence against women,” warns report (The Guardian)


Monday, March 7

The big news right now

          • The WHO is convening a meeting of key stakeholders today through Wednesday in Geneva to discuss how to accelerate Zika clinical research
          • An experimental Zika treatment by BioCryst Pharmaceuticals showed promising efficacy in a study on mice (Reuters)

On people’s lips

“We don’t have anything we can use today to screen the blood supply for Zika.” — Brian Custer, associate director of Blood Systems Research Institute, one of the US’s largest blood-testing organizations (San Jose Mercury News)

Number of the day: 15

That’s the number of companies working on Zika vaccines, most of which are in the early stages of development (Wall Street Journal)

The latest thinking on how Zika spreads

Reported forms of transmission of Zika virus. Rodriguez-Morales et al.

Today’s must-read

          • Odds are you won’t get Zika. But it’s only human to worry that you might. (Washington Post)

Saturday-Sunday, March 5-6

The big news right now

          • Evidence is growing of a biological link between Zika and microcephaly (Reuters)
          • Alarming new data shows high risk of birth defects in Zika-affected pregnancies (STAT)
          • The US Olympic Committee created a three-doctor advisory panel to help protect athletes against Zika (AP)

An unwelcome souvenir

An American woman who spent most of January in the Philippines has tested positive for Zika. If it’s confirmed that she was infected in the Philippines, it would be only the second ever case of Zika in the country; the first happened back in 2012 (AP)

On people’s lips

“We’re not worried about it. I think if you go into any Olympics, there’s always something that comes up.” — Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps on planning to bring his fiancée and their unborn child, who is due in May, to the Rio Games (Los Angeles Times)

Number of the day: 52

That’s the total number of countries and territories that have reported local transmission of Zika (WHO)

Weekend must-read

Friday, March 4

The big news right now

          • The White House is convening a summit on April 1 to craft a Zika response plan, before mosquito season ramps up in the US (Reuters)
          • Colombia has confirmed the first cases of Zika-linked brain defects in newborns. New research helps project when the country might see such cases start to spike (Nature News, STAT)
          • The mosquito Culex quinquefasciatus, common across tropical regions, might also be able to carry Zika, according to lab experiments (The Guardian)

Raising a child with microcephaly

Christine Grounds and Jonathan Mir’s 9-year-old son, Nicholas, has microcephaly. Grounds says if she had known that nine years ago when Nicholas was born, she would have terminated the pregnancy. Grounds and Mir share their story — and Nicholas’s story, too — in this powerful video from STAT contributor Emily Hager.

Hype watch

Cancer immunotherapy drugs could work against Zika, biotech mogul Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong claimed at a genetics conference in San Diego yesterday. But the idea is at this point just theoretical and Soon-Shiong declined to put a timeline on a therapy. (Fast Company)

Number of the day: 3,000%

Google has seen a 3,000 percent increase in search interest around Zika since October. Watch the spike in this tweet.

Today’s must-read

          • In Puerto Rico, no one fears mosquitoes. With Zika, that’s a problem (STAT)


Thursday, March 3

The big news right now

          • Google engineers are pitching in to combat Zika, teaming with UNICEF to map the virus’s spread and providing Zika health information in 16 languages (STAT)
          • There are now more than 4,800 suspected and confirmed cases of microcephaly linked to Zika in Brazil (TIME)
          • Canada is advising women to wait two months before getting pregnant after visiting Zika-affected areas (Toronto Star)
          • New Zealand is investigating a possible case of sexual transmission of Zika (Reuters)

Mosquito control on Marlon Brando’s island

On Tetiaroa, in the South Pacific, more than 1 million sterile male mosquitoes have been released since September, triggering a hundredfold drop in the mosquito population. That could be a model for how to control the bugs elsewhere. (STAT)

Why do they need the money?

Two top public health officials explained on Wednesday why they need the $1.9 billion in emergency Zika funds that President Obama wants: to figure out how to protect pregnant women better, according to CDC’s Dr. Tom Frieden — and to keep drug companies from deciding the feds are “unreliable partners” in Zika research, according to NIH’s Anthony Fauci. Watch video of the House subcommittee hearing here.

Today’s must-reads

          • How fetal tissue research could help science understand Zika (STAT)
          • GOP congressmen question the need for $2 billion to fight Zika virus (NPR)


Wednesday, March 2

The big news right now

          • The FDA issued new recommendations to reduce the risk of Zika transmission through blood and tissues (Reuters)
          • Cuba reported its first travel-acquired case of Zika today. The case is of concern since the Aedes aegypti mosquito lives there (Reuters)

One way to stay at the Ritz

Hotels in the Caribbean, even places without Zika, are seeing a rise in cancellations due to fears of the virus. Many are responding by offering deals during peak season — including several Ritz Carltons. (New York Times)

Today in odd headlines: Fake flowers, please

Puerto Rico’s cemeteries are requiring that all flowers left on graves be artificial, since vases and pots can collect standing water. (PAHO)

On people’s lips

“Ebola is the gorilla in the room. … It’s driving everything.” — Lawrence Gostin, professor of global health law at Georgetown University (Nature News)

Today’s must-watch

          • In a clinic coping with Zika, pregnant women await the moment of truth (STAT)


Tuesday, March 1

The big news right now

          • A new study presents strong evidence of a link between Zika and temporary paralysis (STAT)
          • Mexico confirms 11 pregnant women have Zika (Reuters)

Number of the day: 20 percent

CDC experts estimate that about 1 in 5 Puerto Ricans — or about 700,000 people — could be infected with Zika by the end of the year. (Washington Post)

Travel warning

Two new destinations — Sint Maarten and St. Vincent and the Grenadines — have been added to the CDC’s travel caution for pregnant women. (STAT)

ZIKA MAP -- FEB 29, 2016

Today’s must-reads

          • How a small team of doctors convinced the world to stop ignoring Zika (Newsweek)
          • Photos: Disease detectives seek Zika answers in Brazil (Frontline)


Monday, Feb. 29

The big news right now

          • A pregnant woman in Honduras, already showing signs of Zika, has been diagnosed with Guillain-Barré syndrome (AP)
          • Some organic farmers in Hawaii are refusing to allow insecticides to be applied for fear of losing their organic certification (Yahoo News)

Just add water

Two Canadian brothers have developed an inexpensive and biodegradable mosquito trap they say could help stop Zika’s spread. The government of Queensland, Australia, has ordered 4,000. (CBC News)

Today in odd headlines: Zika fights crime

A British tabloid reports that a notorious drug lord in Rio de Janeiro was caught thanks to the Zika virus, which made him leave his house to seek medical treatment. (Daily Star)

Today’s must-reads

          • Zika outbreak concerns some Olympic athletes planning families (AP)
          • Climate information may be key weapon in fight against Zika spread (Thomson Reuters Foundation)


Saturday-Sunday, Feb. 27-28

The big news right now

          • Nine pregnant women in the US were infected with Zika (STAT)
          • CDC tells pregnant women: Don’t go to the Summer Olympics in Brazil (STAT)
          • France has confirmed the first European case of sexual transmission of Zika (RT)
          • A woman in Argentina has contracted Zika without having left the country, suggesting the virus was sexually transmitted (Reuters)

That’s going to cost extra

The Rio Olympics is going to charge teams for mosquito screens to prevent Zika virus. Nets will, however, be installed in communal areas. (The Guardian)

Number of the day: 147

That’s the number of Zika cases in the US, the CDC says. 107 are from travelers returning from Zika-infected areas; the rest are in US territories (CNN)

Today’s top pics


Friday, Feb. 26

The big news right now

          • A stillbirth in Brazil shows Zika may do more damage to fetuses than previously thought (STAT)
          • Flight attendants are upset about the health effects of dousing airplanes in insecticide (The Hill)

It’s complicated — sort of

During a panel discussion on precision medicine, President Obama was quoted as saying Zika was “not a real complicated virus.” The Hill reporter Sarah Ferris called him out on his description on Twitter.

On people’s lips

“It’s a global scandal. Brazil has created a worldwide panic.” — Alexandre Dias Porto Chiavegatto Filho, epidemiology professor at the University of São Paulo, who says Brazil has prematurely declared a link between Zika and microcephaly (AP)

Number of the day: 150,000

In the Brazilian state of Pernambuco, reported mosquito-borne illnesses rose from 20,000 in 2014 to 150,000 in 2015. (Frontline)

Today’s must-reads

          • If this mosquito starts spreading Zika, US cases could appear far and wide (STAT)
          • Why scientists hope to inject some people with Zika virus (NPR)


Thursday, Feb. 25

The big news right now

          • Women in Zika-affected countries can safely breastfeed, the WHO said today in new guidance, which accords with prior CDC advice (AP)
          • Colombian officials say an aborted fetus may have had microcephaly, which would be the first case of a condition strangely absent so far in that country (Reuters)

Country on edge

Australia hasn’t yet had any locally transmitted cases of Zika, but they’re on edge, since travelers have returned with the disease and the Aedes aegypti mosquito lives in some parts of the country. In response the state of Queensland is ramping up testing for Zika. (Reuters, Sky News)

On people’s lips

Professional golfer Kyle Thompson withdrew from a Brazil tournament at the end of March, saying on Twitter that his wife’s pregnancy made Zika a concern.

Today’s must-watch

          • BBC reporters tagged along with CDC and Brazilian officials who are investigating whether microcephaly is caused by Zika (BBC)


Wednesday, Feb. 24

The big news right now

          • Sexual transmission of Zika is suspected in 14 more US cases, several of which are pregnant women (STAT)
          • Brazil’s microcephaly case count has been revised upward, and its health service is struggling to cope (Reuters, Reuters)
          • The CDC’s travel caution for pregnant women has been extended to the Marshall Islands and Trinidad and Tobago (STAT)

Number of the day: 35 percent

That’s the proportion of Americans who believe Zika is caused by genetically modified mosquitoes, a theory which has been soundly debunked by scientists (Washington Post)

On people’s lips

“She has to be a leader. … Epidemics are health events, but they’re also political events.” — Lawrence Gostin, global health law expert, on director-general of the WHO Dr. Margaret Chan (STAT)

Data dump

The CDC has begun posting freely available Zika data to Github, and epidemiologists are thrilled.

Today’s must-reads

          • Zika won’t keep me from the Olympics (STAT)
          • Researchers release real-time data on Zika infection study in monkeys (Nature News)

Tuesday, Feb. 23

The big news right now

          • President Obama late yesterday formally asked Congress for $1.9 billion in emergency funds to combat Zika (STAT)
          • After a powerful cyclone hit Fiji over the weekend, health workers are concerned standing rainwater will provide significant new breeding grounds for mosquitoes
          • A Brazilian non-profit plans to use radiation to sterilize male mosquitoes, releasing up to 12 million of them a week in eastern Brazil (Reuters)

On people’s lips

“The world, including all these scientists, are coming together a lot faster this time around.” — Bill Gates, comparing the response to Zika to that of Ebola (Reuters)

Number of the day: $9.7 billion

That’s Brazil’s budget for the Rio Olympics, about 16 times larger than the country’s budget to combat Zika. (PRI)

Today’s must-reads

          • In Catholic Colombia, Zika fears bring abortion debate to forefront (STAT)
          • Are Brazilian authorities downplaying the virus? (The Independent)


Monday, Feb. 22

The big news right now

          • Sixteen epidemiologists from the CDC are in Brazil to kick off a case-control study of mothers who gave birth to babies with microcephaly. The researchers, and Brazilian counterparts, head into the field tomorrow (NPR)
          • Cuban President Raul Castro says he is assigning 9,000 soldiers to keep the Zika virus out of the country (ABC)

Gimme shelter

Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood tweeted on Sunday that his wife, who is pregnant with twins, wouldn’t be attending the group’s show in Rio because of worries over Zika.

On people’s lips

“A papal decree that artificial contraception is permissible in the case of the Zika epidemic would be utterly meaningless in material terms for women in Latin America.” — Emer O’Toole, professor at Concordia University (The Guardian)

Today’s must-read

          • Raised on science and family legend, this scientist saw the Zika crisis coming (STAT)


Saturday-Sunday, Feb. 20-21

The big news right now

          • On Monday US and Brazilian researchers will kick off one of the biggest government-led studies into the connection between Zika and microcephaly (Reuters)
          • Brazilian officials visited nearly 190,000 schools on Friday to enlist students in the fight against Zika (ABC)
          • Airline bookings to Zika-affected regions are 3.4 percent lower than a year ago at this time (Reuters)

Countries of concern

“We are concerned about many countries,” Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told AFP recently. Here are some centers of concern in the outbreak:

Puerto Rico: The territory’s debt crisis has led to rising unemployment and a struggling health care system, plus a Medicaid cap that might hamper its ability to respond to an outbreak (Wall Street Journal)

Haiti: Haiti’s deep poverty and lack of health care funding contribute to “extreme concern” expressed by one CDC official (Yahoo)

Venezuela: The government has been evasive about the extent of Zika infection in the country, and the health system faces shortages of medicine and equipment (Washington Post)


Friday, Feb. 19

The big news right now

          • The World Bank says it will provide $150 million to help countries in Latin America and the Caribbean fight the spread of Zika (Washington Post)
          • The WHO, concurring with Red Cross guidance, suggests blood donors should wait 28 days to donate after returning from a Zika-affected country (WHO)
          • Obama administration officials are hoping to temporarily give Puerto Rico more Medicaid funding due to fears that Zika might overwhelm the territory’s health system (Wall Street Journal)

A “lesser evil”

Pope Francis made headlines when he suggested on Thursday that contraception could be used in areas hit by Zika. A little context: Francis isn’t the first pope to open the door to birth control. Pope Benedict XVI told a journalist for a 2010 book that condom use by male prostitutes to stop HIV transmission might be OK. (STAT)

On people’s lips

“The rush to advocate for abortion as a response to the Zika virus is grounded in ignorance and expedience.” — Charles C. Camosy, associate professor of theological and social ethics at Fordham University (LA Times)

Pregnant? Think twice before going to Aruba

The CDC added Aruba and Bonaire to its list of Zika-affected areas pregnant women should avoid. (STAT)


Today’s must-reads

          • Experts question assumption that Zika sickens just 1 out of 5 (Reuters)
          • Read all STAT Zika coverage here.

Thursday, Feb. 18

The big news right now

          • Colombian researchers have detected Zika in the blood of five patients with Guillain-Barré syndrome (Sky News)
          • The Vatican says abortion is “an illegitimate response to this crisis” (The Guardian)
          • Study suggests Zika can cross the placenta, adding to evidence of microcephaly link (Reuters)
          • The WHO today aligned itself with CDC guidance on sexual transmission of Zika, urging people to use condoms after returning from countries with the virus (WHO)

The show must go on

NBC, which will air the Summer Olympics in Rio, doesn’t appear to be too worried about Zika. NBC Olympics president Gary Zenkel remains optimistic the virus won’t interrupt the Games, and so far none of the thousands of employees who will be deployed to cover the Games have opted out. (The Hollywood Reporter)

On people’s lips

“We’re doubting that figure. … Between when we released the estimate and now we haven’t found a single case of microcephaly.” — Colombian health minister Alejandro Gaviria, on that country’s prior projections of more than 500 cases of microcephaly (Fox News)

How Zika spreads, in GIFs

Today’s must-reads

          • Inside the mosquito factory that could stop dengue and Zika (MIT Technology Review)
          • Dispatch from Tahiti: Scientists on remote island unravel Zika’s mysteries (STAT)


Wednesday, Feb. 17

The big news right now

          • Drug developer Inovio says its Zika vaccine has shown an immune response in mice (Reuters)
          • The FDA is calling for travelers to Zika-affected countries to delay giving blood (STAT)

Number of the day: $56 million

That’s how much the World Health Organization says it will take to fight the spread of Zika through June (Reuters)

Blame game

Monsanto CTO Robb Fraley took to Medium yesterday to refute claims that a Monsanto-linked larvicide was to blame for Brazil’s rising rates of microcephaly. But his main point of contention? Not that the science is shoddy (which it is) but that the chemical in question, called pyriproxyfen, is actually made by a different company.

Today’s must-reads

          • Conspiracy theories about Zika spread along with the virus (New York Times)
          • Zika isn’t the only mosquito-borne virus we should be worried about (STAT)


Tuesday, Feb. 16

The big news right now

          • An advisory group of the World Health Organization has called for further field trials of the Oxitec genetically modified mosquitoes (WHO)
          • American Samoa has more than 200 suspected cases of Zika virus, local officials say (NPR)
          • Mosquito repellant sales soar on Zika worries (CBS)

Number of the day: 41

Cases of microcephaly known to be linked to Zika in Brazil (Wall Street Journal)

On people’s lips

“I’m not scared. I’m not worried about this. If it happens, it’s bad luck.” — Rafael Nadal, who will be in Brazil for the Rio Open (BBC News)

Today’s must-reads

          • A disease detective hunts pathogens with a photographic memory — and a genius mind (STAT)
          • Zika Virus in Colombia Presents Complicated Choice About Abortion (New York Times)


Monday, Feb. 15

The big news right now

          • Russia today reported its first imported case of Zika (Reuters)
          • Officials in Brazil have dismissed claims that an insecticide could be causing microcephaly (The Telegraph)

Walking the talk

President Obama has told people not to worry about Zika, and he’s setting an example — a White House spokesman said Obama would not change his travel plans, which include Cuba and Peru later this year, because of the disease. (New York Times)

Know thy enemy

Today’s must-read

          • Can scientists outsmart the mosquitoes carrying Zika virus? (STAT)


Sunday, Feb. 14

The big news right now

          • The Zika virus may hide in organs protected from the immune system (Reuters)
          • Hawaii’s governor signed an emergency proclamation on Friday as “a preventative measure” to guard against Zika and other mosquito-borne illnesses (CNN)

On people’s lips

“Contraceptives are not a solution. There is not a single change in the church’s position.” — Bishop Leonardo Ulrich Steiner, the secretary general of the National Council of Bishops of Brazil, on Zika not changing the Catholic Church’s opposition to birth control (New York Times)

Today’s must-reads

          • Zika forest: birthplace of virus that has spread fear across the world (The Guardian)
          • Jamaica releases reggae music video to fight Zika (STAT)


Saturday, Feb. 13

The big news right now

          • More than 5,000 pregnant women in Colombia are infected with the Zika virus, the country’s national health institute said on Saturday. In total, the country has 31,555 cases, second only to Brazil in the severity of its outbreak. (The Guardian)
          • Brazil has deployed more than 200,000 soldiers to warn people about the risks of Zika. (BBC News)

What people are retweeting

“Entire world literature on Zika. 50 years of neglect.” Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the CDC, said in a tweet showing Zika research literature. The whole amount could fit in a shoe box.

Today’s must-reads

          • Zika virus test is ‘weeks, not years’ away, WHO says (New York Times)
          • Watch: Zika virus sparks concern on the streets of Brazil (STAT)


Friday, Feb. 12

The big news right now

          • The World Health Organization today updated its travel guidance for pregnant women, in light of growing evidence of the virus’s neurological damage to fetuses (STAT)
          • Zika may persist in semen for months after infection, scientists have discovered (STAT)
          • Brazil has reported three deaths from the virus; Venezuela reported another three (Washington Post, CBS)

Number of the day: $1.9 million

Amount that Brazil pledged in a new partnership with the University of Texas to create a Zika vaccine in the next five years. (AP)

On people’s lips

“Everything that can be done is being done.” — Dr. Richard Budgett, International Olympic Committee medical director, seeking to allay Zika fears (AP)

Today’s must-reads

          • Zika virus has phones ringing at pest control, travel firms (Washington Post)
          • 6 ways scientists are battling Zika-carrying mosquitoes (STAT)



Thursday, Feb. 11

The big news right now

          • Miscarriages have been reported in 2 American women with Zika virus (STAT)
          • Four cases of Zika have been confirmed in the UK since January (The Guardian)

Climate culpability

WHO scientists say Zika’s spread may have been amplified by climate change, as warmer and wetter conditions allow mosquitoes to thrive. (The Guardian)

Number of the day: $484.72

The cost of a vial of Zika virus from a laboratory supplier, though the samples are on backorder in some places. (Reuters)

On people’s lips

“Do I look worried? Ask me next week, after Carnival is over.” — Mariana Souza, a Carnival attendee in Salvador (New York Times)

Today’s must-reads

          • Dutch organization will mail abortion pills to Zika-affected countries (New York Times)
          • Can we outrun Zika? Walk this street in Colombia and you’ll see how tough it is (STAT)


Wednesday, Feb. 10

The big news right now

          • Babies with Zika-linked birth defects may have serious eye problems in addition to brain damage (NBC News)
          • China has confirmed its first case of imported Zika virus (Reuters)

So what’s next?

As Guillain-Barre syndrome becomes an increasing concern, CDC scientists are heading to Puerto Rico this week to begin monitoring for the disorder “ahead of the curve.” (Reuters)

On people’s lips

“If I had to make the choice today, I wouldn’t go [to the Olympics].” — Hope Solo, US women’s soccer goalkeeper (Sports Illustrated)

Today’s must-reads

          • Zika mosquitoes not guaranteed to lie low for Rio Olympics (Reuters)
          • 3 reasons not to panic over the Zika virus (STAT)


Tuesday, Feb. 9

The big news right now

          • The CDC’s emergency operations center moved to a “Level 1” status — its highest — because of the Zika outbreak (CDC)
          • Kenya is threatening to sit out the Olympics unless the epidemic is contained (Reuters)

The other Zika problem

Health officials are investigating whether Zika is responsible for an increase in Guillain-Barré syndrome, a rare condition that can lead to temporary paralysis and sometimes death. In Colombia, three people with Zika-associated GBS have died. (STAT)

Number of the day: 49 percent

Venezuelans who say they don’t believe government officials can handle the Zika crisis (The Guardian)

On people’s lips

“It seems like microcephaly may just be the tip of the iceberg.” — Albert Ko, epidemiologist and infectious disease expert (Washington Post)

Today’s must-reads

          • Zika prompts urgent debate about abortion in Latin America (Washington Post)
          • Q&A: A jump-start on Zika vaccine, but will still take ‘some years’ (STAT)


Monday, Feb. 8

The big news right now

          • The White House today announced it will be asking Congress for more than $1.8 billion in emergency funding to fight Zika (STAT)
          • US athletes worried about Zika should consider skipping the Olympics, officials say (Reuters)

On people’s lips

“Four weeks ago we were trying to justify why we are doing this. Now they’re saying ‘Get the lead out.’” Anthony James, molecular biologist at the University of California, Irvine, who is creating gene drive mosquitoes (MIT Technology Review)

So what’s next?

Pope Francis is visiting Mexico later this week, one of many countries where Zika is spreading. Public health officials are worried his visit will speed up the virus’s spread. (STAT)

Number of the day: 70 ounces

The maximum amount of aerosol bug spray allowed in checked luggage, equivalent to more than 11 cans of Off (CBS Local)

Today’s must-reads

          • How Texas is readying itself to battle Zika (Wired)
          • It’s ‘senseless and irresponsible’ to not postpone the 2016 Rio Olympics (STAT)


Saturday-Sunday, Feb. 6-7

The big news right now

          • More than 3,100 pregnant women in Colombia are infected with Zika, President Juan Manuel Santos said on Saturday. However the country has not yet reported any cases of microcephaly. (Reuters)
          • The Zika-microcephaly link is now “quite strong” according to a top CDC official. (STAT)

Weekend must-reads

          • Zika shadows a maternity ward in Colombia, as pregnant women wait and wonder (STAT)
          • How a Medical Mystery in Brazil Led Doctors to Zika (New York Times)


Friday, Feb. 5

The big news right now

          • CDC outlines guidance to reduce sexual transmission of Zika (STAT)
          • A Brazilian lab detected active Zika virus in urine and saliva samples (CNN)
          • Brazil’s Carnival starts today. Revelers don’t seem to be worried about Zika, but epidemiologists have called the festival an “explosive cocktail.” (AP)
          • After criticism, Brazil is now transferring Zika samples to US (AP)
          • Zika has spread to Europe. Spain confirmed a pregnant woman has been diagnosed with Zika. (The Guardian)

Donors denied

Coming back from a country with a Zika outbreak? The WHO advises waiting 21 days before giving blood. The US Red Cross is asking Americans to avoid donating for a month. (Yahoo News, STAT)

So what’s next?

In a first, the WHO is calling on researchers to share their data in real time. The goal is to get a Zika vaccine sooner than later. How receptive they’ll be is anyone’s guess.

On people’s lips

“We have estimated that in Colombia for this year we will have approximately 600 births with microcephaly.” — Armando de la Hoz, health secretary for the Colombian state of Atlantico (BBC News)

Today’s must-reads

          • Mosquitoes and travel patterns will determine spread of Zika virus (The Conversation)
          • How Zika became a women’s problem (Fusion)


Thursday, Feb. 4

The big news right now

          • United, Delta, Lufthansa, and Air France are all allowing female crew to opt out of flights to affected countries. (Reuters)
          • Florida’s governor declared a state of emergency Wednesday in four counties with nine total confirmed cases of Zika. (AP)

What she didn’t say

Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff, in a pre-recorded TV broadcast, said Zika virus has gone from a “distant nightmare” to a “real threat” against the Brazilian people. One topic we wanted to hear her address: if the outbreak will impact the 2016 Rio Olympics.

So what’s next?

We’ll be hearing a lot about the race to develop a vaccine. A word of advice: Take a lot of what you read with a big grain of salt, writes STAT’s Helen Branswell.

Also, expect the CDC to issue new recommendations soon geared toward preventing sexual transmission of the virus. The UK’s guidance: Men should use condoms for 28 days after returning from Zika-affected areas.

Number of the day: $63.9 billion

That’s how much countries where cases of Zika have been confirmed, or where it is expected to spread, could lose in international tourism, according to data from the World Bank. (Forbes)

Now on the list: Jamaica and Tonga

There are now more than two dozen Zika-affected countries on the CDC’s travel advisory for pregnant women.

Today’s must-reads

          • Biologists: Let’s sic ‘gene drive’ on Zika-carrying mosquitoes (STAT)
          • The Zika conspiracies have begun (Aetiology)