H

ave 30 seconds? Here’s what you need to know about the Zika virus.

Friday, June 30

A programming note

This will be the final weekly edition of Zika in 30 Seconds. Thank you for reading as, over the last 17 months, we’ve tracked the developing science, the progress toward a vaccine, and the many questions still unanswered about Zika virus.

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Still, our coverage of Zika will continue. Going forward we’ll use this space to alert you to important news about Zika as it arises — so stay tuned.

And for more regular updates about Zika, follow STAT’s senior writer for global health Helen Branswell on Twitter.

On people’s lips

“The fight against Zika virus is not a 100-m race, but rather a marathon in which science and public health need to work hand in hand for the benefit of our peoples.” — Carissa F. Etienne, director of Pan American Health Organization

What lies ahead

The dramatic global rise of Zika in 2016 was followed by an equally dramatic decline by the end of that year — the reasons for which epidemiologists are still sorting out. But, global health expert Dr. Peter Hotez writes, “While countries such as Brazil no longer seem to be sustaining new transmission, there are new foci popping up in additional Latin American countries, including Ecuador and Peru on the Pacific Coast of South America, as well as in Argentina and Bolivia.”

In the U.S., he says, Florida seems less at risk this year than it was last year, when the state saw more than 200 cases of local Zika transmission.

But, Hotez writes, spread of the virus in Mexico may mean that local cases in Texas crop up later this year.

The bottom line, he says? We’re in a “new normal” for Zika and other similar viruses, both in the U.S. and globally.


 

Friday, June 23

What’s new this week

  • The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said it would fund a study in Guatemala to determine whether Zika virus is capable of attacking the still-developing brains of newborns. (STAT)
  • Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which can carry Zika virus, dengue, chikungunya, and yellow fever, are more common across the United States than previously believed, federal experts reported. (NBC News)
  • The claim that six pregnant women in Harris County, in Texas, had contracted Zika, was retracted. (Houston Chronicle)

When seeking a diagnosis

  • Testing for Zika virus RNA in placental tissue can confirm Zika infection when the mother’s blood tests are inconclusive, according to a new study. The authors emphasize that clinicians should continue to consider testing for Zika RNA when a definitive diagnosis has not been reached. (Medscape)

Today’s must-read

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Friday, June 16

What’s new this week

  • A group of Florida lawmakers is urging the U.S. Army to hold a hearing on its plan to give Sanofi an exclusive license to develop a Zika virus vaccine, a move that has raised concerns the product may be priced too high for many Americans, even though it was developed with taxpayer funds. (STAT)
  • Six pregnant women in Harris County, in Texas, have tested positive for Zika, the first cases of the mosquito-borne disease to be reported in the area in 2017. (Houston Chronicle)

Learning the hard way

  • When Zika struck last year, officials in Miami-Dade County immediately began fogging with permethrin, the active ingredient in home bug-killers such as Raid. Permethrin was sprayed at least seven times, but by the end of August, the county realized the poison had little effect and stopped using it. Officials didn’t get around to testing which pesticides kill Aedes aegypti until October — midway through Zika season. (Miami New Times)

Today’s must-read

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Friday, June 9

What’s new this week

  • A new CDC report quantifies Zika’s toll on pregnancies in U.S. territories. Five percent of Zika-affected pregnancies resulted in birth defects, researchers found, and the risk was highest in the first trimester, declining each trimester after (New York Times)
  • Health concerns about the pesticide naled — used in Florida and elsewhere to battle Zika — were again raised by a new study. Higher concentrations of naled in the cord blood of Chinese infants was correlated with impaired motor skills at age 9 months (Miami Herald)

Inside STAT: Fading from view

The public’s sense of alarm over the Zika outbreak has subsided — posing a challenge to health officials who want to keep it on the radar of the people who need to pay attention. Puerto Rico declared its outbreak over this week; Brazil said its emergency was over in May. In the United States, summer approaches with little discussion of the virus outside public health circles. But the risk to pregnant women traveling abroad is still real, and not going to change anytime soon. Read more.

Today’s must-read

  • A Washington state mother on the challenges of raising a daughter with microcephaly (Newsworks)

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Friday, June 2

What’s new this week

  • The WHO last Friday announced India’s first three cases of the Zika virus, including two pregnant women — but since then questions have been brewing. More on that below. (WHO)
  • A new Discovery Channel documentary about mosquito-borne diseases, slated to air July 6, will feature Jeremy Renner as narrator (The Hollywood Reporter)
  • Zika testing in May rose to levels not seen since last August, according to EHR vendor athenahealth (Healthcare IT News)

India’s Zika silence

In the wake of India’s disclosure last month to the WHO that it had detected three cases of Zika, a number of questions have been raised about why the cases weren’t announced months ago. The Washington Post reports that health ministers said they knew about the country’s first case of Zika back in November of 2016, but they didn’t alert the public because they didn’t want “people to start panicking.” Meanwhile, The Wire points out, the country’s disease surveillance index still says zero cases of Zika have been found in the country, and the WHO has moved India up from the safest category 4 to category 2 in its ranking of Zika risk.

How microcephaly happens

A new paper sheds further light on why the Zika virus takes its most dramatic toll on the developing brain: Because a protein found in those cells helps the virus reproduce. The protein, called Musashi-1, is found in high levels in precursors to neurons — but if Zika virus is present it acts like a sponge, depriving the neurons of the protein. In fact, one family with a congenital mutation in the Musashi-1 gene has two children with microcephaly, the researchers point out, adding further evidence that this protein is key to normal brain development. That discovery may hopefully help scientists devise a way to stop the damage from occurring.

Today’s must-read

  • US taxpayers are funding a Zika vaccine. Let’s make sure US patients can afford it (STAT)

Friday, May 26

What’s new this week

  • Sequencing the genome of Zika virus has indicated that in almost every affected country, Zika was circulating for months — or even years — before the first cases were reported (The Atlantic)
  • Though good news for the broader population, a drop in Zika cases in Latin America has made it hard for research studies on the virus to recruit enough participants to have meaningful results (Nature)
  • By removing protections for preexisting conditions, the GOP health bill may make insurance prohibitively expensive both for pregnant women who have had Zika and for infants born with microcephaly (Mother Jones)

Response, in retrospect

The GAO this week released a report on the US government’s response to the Zika epidemic, concluding that the CDC and many states were underprepared to battle the outbreak. The report finds that the federal government could do better specifically on distributing and regulating diagnostic tests and on communicating geographic risk of the virus. The steps that the report concludes that the HHS should take are:

  • Establish a transparent process to provide CDC diagnostic tests, upon request, to manufacturers that are in the final stages of diagnostic test authorization.
  • Include information on CDC-developed tests distributed to or shared with public health laboratories on CDC’s website, including laboratory developed tests.
  • Provide details such as collection records, dates, and data limitations on posted and disseminated mosquito distribution maps to better inform mosquito control experts and the general public.
  • Consolidate information from individual diagnostic test labels and make this information available in a form that enables users to more readily compare information across tests.
  • Require manufacturers to list the identity of comparator assays on their diagnostic test labels.

A startling case study

A recently published case study describes an American adolescent who contracted Zika on a trip to the Caribbean. Symptoms of sore throat, headache, rash, and joint pain resolved soon after the individual returned to the US, but a range of worrying psychiatric symptoms — including “excessive energy, decreased sleep, rapid and tangential speech, grandiose thinking, impulsivity, and decreased inhibition” — stuck around for weeks afterward and even necessitated a period of hospitalization. Fifteen weeks after symptom onset, doctors reported, the patient’s symptoms were better but not gone. All told, they write, the case “raise[s] the possibility that Zika virus infection may trigger neuropsychiatric and cognitive symptoms.”

Today’s must-read

  • ‘I taught them to love Valentina as I do’: Mother’s faith guides struggle to care for daughter with microcephaly (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

Friday, May 19

What’s new this week

  • Cuba had one of the most successful Zika-reduction campaigns in Latin America last year — but even so, the virus is taking a toll there. Health officials said this week that 1,847 residents have so far contracted the virus, the first such information out of the country in months. It’s unclear how many of those cases were locally transmitted (Reuters)
  • Sanofi Pasteur has rejected a request from the US Army to set an affordable US price for a Zika vaccine that the company is developing with American taxpayer funds, prompting an angry response from Senator Bernie Sanders (STAT)

Fighting cancer with Zika?

Studying Zika’s tragic effects on fetuses has revealed two key qualities of the virus: It can cross the blood-brain barrier, and it specifically targets the developing brain. Now scientists are wondering whether those qualities might make the virus a cancer-killer. A newly funded research project in the UK will examine, in cells and in mice, whether Zika virus can selectively attack and kill brain cancer cells.

A key challenge of delivering drugs to the brain is the blood-brain barrier, which prohibits many molecules from passing into the brain — but Zika appears to be able to pass. What’s more, glioblastoma cells — a highly lethal form of brain cancer — resemble fetal brain cells in a number of ways. Combining those two lines of reasoning, scientists are now embarking on a project to see how Zika interacts with the cancer.


Friday, May 12

What’s new this week

  • Brazil today declared an end to national emergency status for Zika virus. The number of cases in the country dropped 95 percent in the first four months of the year compared to the same period a year ago, officials said (BBC)
  • In an effort to kill mosquito larvae near homes, residents of one Florida county can get free “mosquito fish” at their local library (ABC)
  • The costs, just in the near term, of Zika in Latin America and the Caribbean could be $18 billion, according to a new study. That amount covers just 2015-2017 and it is the upper bound of a wide range of possibilities, depending on rates of transmission (press release)

Testing advice changes for pregnant women

The CDC is now suggesting that women thinking of getting pregnant, and who may be exposed to the Zika virus, should consider having their blood tested for Zika antibodies before they get pregnant. That’s because IgM, a type of antibody triggered by Zika infection, can stick around in the blood for months, and doctors can’t always tell if the infection happened before pregnancy — which poses no risk to the fetus — or during pregnancy, when it’s a high risk. To distinguish those two scenarios, women at risk of exposure should ideally be tested before pregnancy and again each trimester.


Friday, May 5

What’s new this week

  • The Prevention and Public Health Fund, which would be eliminated under the health bill that passed the House this week, provides a significant chunk of the CDC’s budget — including funding efforts to fight Zika (STAT, NASHP)
  • Miami-Dade County has spent about $25 million on battling Zika so far, officials say (Miami Herald)

Rift between Puerto Rico and CDC

Of all the states and territories, US health officials last year were especially worried about Zika’s potential impacts in Puerto Rico — which was part of their motivation to create the Zika Active Pregnancy Surveillance System to track pregnant women and identify infants and fetuses with Zika-related birth defects. The CDC awarded Puerto Rico’s Department of Health $9.5 million for the project. But since then the agencies have had a protracted feud, a document obtained by STAT shows, with the CDC claiming that health officials disregarded the established case definition for identifying affected infants — creating the illusion of far fewer affected infants than there may in fact be.

Today’s must-read


Friday, April 28

What’s new this week

  • No mosquitoes tested in Florida so far this year have been positive for Zika, officials report (AP)
  • A US Senate panel this week approved $100 million in mosquito control funding. The measure now goes to the full Senate (Miami Herald)
  • The US Army is proceeding with plans to grant Sanofi Pasteur an exclusive license to develop a Zika vaccine, despite some groups’ concerns that the product may be priced too high for many Americans (STAT Plus)

Number of the day: 15 percent

The upper estimate of how much live births in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, fell during the second half of 2016. Scientists don’t yet know why, but suspect that a combination of family planning and Zika-caused miscarriages are to blame. (New Scientist)

One year later

Since the beginning of the Zika epidemic in 2015, doctors have realized that Zika congenital syndrome can manifest itself in profound ways — brain tissue missing — or subtler deficits, such as hearing loss and vision problems. STAT recently revisited two affected babies — Duda, age 18 months, and Sophia, 1 year — whose divergent stories show the varied effects of the virus, and its profound impacts upon families. Follow their stories in a new multimedia project.

Today’s must-read

  • As Zika season nears, states brace for an end to CDC funding (PBS Frontline)

Friday, April 21

What’s new this week

  • Thousands of bacteria-infected mosquitoes were released this week near Key West, Fla., testing a new way to kill mosquitoes that carry Zika (AP)
  • Because seizures are difficult to diagnose in infants, doctors warn that Zika-caused epilepsy may be more common than currently thought (JAMA)
  • As a pair of Brazilian twin sisters born with Zika-induced microcephaly reach their first birthday, their family is still struggling to get them the care they need (Daily Mail)

The case of the missing cases

As Zika surged across the continent last year, US health authorities warned that Puerto Rico was facing a perfect storm. And more than 3,300 pregnant women there are known to have contracted the virus. But the number of babies born in Puerto Rico with microcephaly and other birth defects caused by Zika is unexpectedly low — just 16 cases — which is leading experts to question whether the island territory is downplaying its Zika spread, possibly to protect its tourism industry.

Today’s must-read


Friday, April 14

What’s new this week

  • A Zika vaccine containing live virus was the first of its kind to begin human testing this week in Vienna, Austria (Reuters)
  • HHS has given Siemens $8.9 million to further develop its Zika test. Instead of looking for viral RNA, the test looks for antibodies against the virus, which can persist much longer in a person’s blood. Similar tests currently used, however, can be hard to interpret and often need to be confirmed by a CDC laboratory (press release)
  • A new type of CRISPR system can detect tiny amounts of Zika and other viruses, presenting a promising avenue for future diagnostic tests (STAT)
  • Texas is urging pregnant women in six counties at risk of Zika to be tested for the virus (NBC)

ICYMI

If you missed seeing photojournalist Katie Falkenberg’s series from Brazil, now’s a good opportunity, as she was one of the finalists for the Pulitzer feature photography category. Falkenberg traveled to various villages last year to document the strain of Zika on impoverished rural families raising babies with microcephaly.

Today’s must-reads

  • Gaps in care for babies with Zika highlight a deeper problem in medicine (STAT)
  • Women, Zika and, rape victims will pay for Trump’s “abortion” cuts (NJ.com)

Friday, April 7

What’s new this week

  • A letter sent by a bipartisan group of 47 lawmakers urged President Trump to promptly distribute Zika funding that Congress allocated last year (letter)
  • As Miami undergoes a spurt of new construction, city officials are redoubling efforts to keep construction sites from serving as mosquito breeding grounds (Miami Herald)
  • Zika’s social and economic toll in Latin America and the Caribbean could reach $18 billion by the end of this year, according to a new report from the UN (press release)
  • About 1 in 10 pregnant Americans infected with Zika last year had a baby or fetus with serious birth defects, a new analysis from the CDC found (Washington Post)

Number of the day: 42

That’s the number of new employees — including a medical entomologist — being added to the Miami-Dade County department of public works in preparation for the upcoming mosquito season. (The Hill)

On people’s lips

Former Ebola czar Ron Klain on Twitter urged Congress to put funding into the public health emergency fund ahead of the approaching mosquito season in the US.


Friday, March 31

What’s new this week

  • A new poll finds that fewer than 1 in 10 Americans think it’s likely that they or someone in their family will get Zika virus — including in the South, where most Zika cases have occurred (Gallup)
  • The Zika vaccine in development by the NIH has progressed into Phase 2 testing — the first such vaccine to do so. The trial began Wednesday at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, one of 11 sites involved in the study (STAT)
  • The idea that prior infection with dengue could make people’s Zika infection worse got a boost this week from its first test in mice. Researchers found that mice with West Nile or dengue antibodies were much more likely to die from subsequent Zika infection (Science News)

Brazil’s Zika mystery

After so many Brazilian babies were born with microcephaly in 2015, the country braced itself for a similar tsunami in 2016. But it didn’t materialize — and researchers have been trying to figure out why. A new paper offers a theory: The authors suggest the region’s first wave of Zika may have been its only wave of Zika to date. Illnesses in 2016, by that reckoning, were caused by a different virus producing lookalike symptoms to Zika — likely the chikungunya virus — but not causing microcephaly. In some ways, that’s good news; it might suggest Zika outbreaks are swift. But it doesn’t mean the virus is done. More likely, said senior author Christopher Dye, is that Zika will return after births create pools of people who have no immunity to the virus, hitting perhaps when people aren’t expecting it.

Today’s must-read

  • Living with Zika in Puerto Rico means watching, waiting, and fearing judgment (NPR)

Friday, March 24

What’s new this week

  • The CDC this week reported an additional 7 US babies born with Zika-related birth defects, bringing the total to 54 (CDC)
  • Harris County, Tex., home to Houston, is considering releasing sterile genetically-modified mosquitoes to reduce the insects’ numbers. A similar proposal in the Florida Keys is on hold while residents debate it (CBS)
  • An improved genetic technique has pieced together the genome sequence of the mosquito that transmits Zika, Aedes aegypti, 10 years after publication of its draft sequence (Nature)

Budget concerns

President Trump’s budget released last week contained a provision that would eliminate one-eighth of the CDC’s budget. But in addition to that, there’s a more specific provision that would threaten Zika funding directly, points out Ed Yong at the Atlantic: A halving of the budget for the Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity (ELC) program. That program helps state public health laboratories train their staff and buy equipment; these labs are in many cases the ones running blood tests for Zika. When, for instance, Congress failed for months to fund a Zika response last year, Minnesota’s public health laboratory used ELC funds to begin its public testing. With half as much funding, researchers say, being prepared for the next public health threat will be much harder.

Today’s must-read

  • In pausing human research on Zika, medical ethicists acknowledge a dark past (WBUR)

Friday, March 17

What’s new this week

  • Risk of local Zika infection in Florida in 2016 was more extensive than we’d thought. CDC officials said this week that local infections probably started on June 15, as opposed to July 29, and that they occurred in not just Miami-Dade County but also Broward and Palm Beach Counties, home to the major tourist destinations of Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach (Reuters)

Intimate portraits of Zika families

A deeply reported feature in the New York Times takes a look at some of Brazil’s Zika babies, now a year old but many of them with developmental levels of just a few months. “The children are still small enough to be held, fed and carried,” Pam Belluck writes. “But ultimately, many may be unable to walk, attend regular schools, or live on their own as adults.” That paints a dire future for families who are already barely keeping afloat. Read the full story here, and read a reporter’s notebook from the scene here.

Twitter

Friday, March 10

What’s new this week

  • The future of the Prevention and Public Health Fund, which provided some states with funding to fight Zika last year, is in doubt. The GOP health care plan now in the House would abolish the fund, which was implemented under Obamacare (Sacramento Bee)
  • The CDC added four countries to its Zika travel warning: Angola, Guinea-Bissau, Maldives, and Solomon Islands (CDC)
  • Zika may cause heart problems, according to a small study of nine Venezuelans who developed heart symptoms such as palpitations, shortness of breath, and fatigue after typical Zika symptoms began (AP)

Prevention is the best medicine

Miami this week detailed its preparation for spring and the arrival of mosquito season — which, it says, never really flagged. That includes spreading pesticide and larvicide, doing on-the-ground inspections, and keeping up with their “mosquito surveillance network” of more than 130 bug traps across the county. So far this year no US residents have contracted Zika from a local mosquito.

Today’s must-read

  • On the heels of Zika in Brazil comes its deadlier relative, experts warn (Ars Technica)

Friday, March 3

What’s new this week

  • The Zika epidemic increased the number of US infants born with microcephaly and other birth defects by 20 times over its normal rate, new data show (CDC)
  • Zika may be spread by as many as 35 species of mosquitoes, including seven found in the United States (Miami Herald)

D.C. lab latest

More details have emerged about how a public health laboratory in Washington, D.C., bungled hundreds of Zika tests. The Washington Post reports:

There were two types of solution the District could have purchased to conduct a phase of the test. One bottle came marked with a “D,” for diluted, and the other with a “U”, for undiluted. D.C. lab workers had purchased the diluted version, Tran said, and then mistakenly watered it down as if it was the more concentrated one, weakening the ability to detect for Zika.

That mistake, missed for more than six months, is a worrisome failing — enough so that officials from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have now audited the lab, the Post reports, to determine how the mistakes were made and whether they’ve been fully rectified.

Today’s must-read

  • A new genetic tool maps how deadly viruses spread around the world in real time (Quartz)

Friday, Feb. 24

What’s new this week

  • The Washington, D.C., lab that botched hundreds of Zika tests is halfway through re-testing the affected people. So far, eight tests have come back positive (Fox 5)
  • Moderna got promising results on its Zika vaccine in mice, but a messy legal dispute could imperil the company’s ability to actually commercialize the drug (STAT Plus)
  • In mice, Zika infection leads to dramatic shrinkage of the testicles, which could affect fertility (Cosmos)

Number of the day: 283

The number of pregnant women in the US who’ve tested positive for Zika since Nov. 30, 2016. Despite the fact that it’s wintertime, women continue to catch the virus through sexual transmission and international trips. (CDC)

Today’s must-read

  • To test Zika vaccines, scientists need a new outbreak (NPR)

Friday, Feb. 17

What’s new this week

  • Good news: In almost all cases, men infected with Zika will not have the virus in their semen after three months (STAT)
  • The House Oversight Committee is probing CDC’s contract to create a cartoon about Zika (Washington Post)
  • Microsoft’s robotic mosquito traps can distinguish between various species, trapping some and not others. But before they can be actually deployed they will need to be more affordable (GeekWire)

Screening scandals

Politics isn’t the only realm that’s seen some shocking headlines this week — Zika has as well.

In one case, a pregnant Las Vegas-area woman has tested positive for Zika, the county’s first non-travel related case. Health officials say she caught the virus via sex; her partner previously tested positive. But, according to local television station KLAS, he was never informed of his test results, in what’s being blamed on a “computer glitch.” It’s not yet clear whether the woman’s fetus has been infected with the virus.

And on the other side of the country, scientists at Washington, D.C.’s public health lab botched Zika tests for more than 400 people from July to December 2016. The “mathematical error” meant that people were getting negative test results when they could have actually been infected. So far officials have identified two pregnant women who were incorrectly told they did not have the virus when in fact they did, reports the Washington Post.


Friday, Feb. 10

What’s new this week

  • Mexico has confirmed its first case of Zika-related microcephaly. The infant was premature and died shortly after birth (AP)
  • The Brazilian doctor who first discovered Zika’s link to microcephaly warns that the country is lowering its guard on birth defects (Reuters)
  • Though it’s winter, Zika is still circulating just south of the US border (Sacramento Bee)
  • USAID has donated 1.5 million condoms to Jamaica’s National Family Planning Board (Jamaica Observer)

Number of the day: Nearly 4,000

The number of new cases of Zika in the US and its territories from November to January. (Bloomberg)

Today’s must-reads

  • The panic is over at Zika’s epicenter. But for many, the struggle has just begun (Washington Post)
  • Photos: Twin Zika babies (Reuters)

Friday, Feb. 3

What’s new this week

  • Colombia’s lower-than-expected number of cases of microcephaly could be because more minor manifestations of congenital Zika syndrome aren’t being counted, new research says (Wired)
  • One dose of a candidate Zika vaccine conferred 100 percent protection in a new animal study, which means it could soon be headed for clinical trials (Voice of America)

Number of the day: $54.6 million

That’s Florida governor Rick Scott’s requested budget increase for the state health department, largely for the purpose of better fighting infectious diseases like Zika (Miami Herald)

On people’s lips

“The anticipation was that we would see a second wave, certainly in Brazil, and we haven’t seen it.” — Ian Clarke, WHO incident manager for Zika, on early positive signs from mosquito season in Latin America and Brazil (Reuters)

Today’s must-read

  • How one city in Puerto Rico is fighting Zika — without using chemicals (Miami Herald)

Friday, Jan. 27

What’s new this week

  • The CDC is negotiating a $800,000 deal with the Jim Henson Company to produce a cartoon warning kids about Zika (TMZ)
  • Texas has confirmed its first case of a pregnant woman acquiring Zika locally (KCEN)
  • A group of Tennessee high school students are working to develop an amphibious drone to detect the presence of Zika in stagnant bodies of water (Daily Herald)

What Trump’s abortion policy will mean for Zika

The reinstation of the “Mexico City Policy” by President Trump this week could have ripple effects in the fight against Zika virus. That policy prevents foreign nonprofit groups that receive federal funds from administering abortions or providing abortion counseling or referrals. That could mean a hit to the budget of some nonprofits dealing with Zika, if they continue counseling patients about abortions. What’s more, research has shown that the policy in the past has hampered distribution of contraceptives in affected countries. Family planning and contraception are a key strategy in reducing pregnancies affected by Zika, according to the CDC.


Friday, Jan. 20

What’s new this week

  • Jamaica has reported its first ‘probable’ case of Zika-induced micocephaly (Jamaica Observer)
  • Public health experts asked to reflect on the Zika outbreak saw some successes — an incident-free Rio Olympics, swift early vaccine development, and CDC travel advisories — but many failures, including Congress’s inability to pass a Zika bill, and the tens of millions of women living in epidemic areas who were left unprotected (New York Times)

On people’s lips

“Throughout this horrible time, I couldn’t stop wondering: What were the chances of a false positive? One in 100? One in 1,000? Turns out, they were much higher than that.” — Lindsay C. Malloy on her odyssey of Zika testing during pregnancy (CNN)


Friday, Jan. 13

What’s new this week

  • The Army’s decision to transfer the license for its Zika vaccine in development to Sanofi raised the hackles of a nonprofit, which expressed worry about the drug’s eventual pricing and profits Sanofi would make built on publicly funded research (FiercePharma)
    • A bit extra: The Washington Post has a handy roundup of all the vaccines currently in development
  • Angola this week reported its first two cases of the Zika virus, just three months after its yellow fever epidemic was brought under control (Reuters)

Case report: First infection

The New England Journal of Medicine is out this week with a case report from doctors who treated the first locally-acquired case of Zika in the US. The biggest new detail: This case occurred in a pregnant woman. The 23-year-old woman went to doctors in Florida with a mysterious rash; urine and blood tests diagnosed her with Zika. She has since given birth and her child appears to be healthy. (Fox News)

Today’s must-reads

  • Three volunteers on the front lines of Zika vaccine testing (Washington Post)
  • After 3 miscarriages, I found out I was pregnant again. Then I was diagnosed with Zika (Cosmopolitan)

Friday, Jan. 6

What’s new this week

  • The WHO’s official review study backs up their earlier conclusion: Zika infection can cause congenital brain defects and trigger Guillain-Barré syndrome (The Scientist)
  • Health workers have a thinning arsenal of insecticides capable of killing mosquitoes that carry Zika, in part because of high costs to develop and test the chemicals (Wall Street Journal)

New year, old questions

In a blog post, Dr. Luisa Barzon lays out what 2016 held, and what 2017 may hold, for Zika. Among the still-unanswered questions, she says:

  • how the virus infects and interacts with mosquito and human cells;
  • which are the key genetic and molecular determinants of pathogenesis;
  • how long the virus persists in human blood and tissues and its transmissibility;
  • and how the innate and adaptive immune responses can counteract the virus and protect from reinfection.

Friday, Dec. 30

What’s new this week

  • The CDC is warning women about warm weather/beach vacations: Zika isn’t over yet. (STAT)
  • Pregnant woman in Puerto Rico wait to see if Zika will affect their babies (WSJ, NPR)
  • In rushing to get a Zika vaccine to the Western Hemisphere, have we overlooked a Zika epidemic in Africa and the need for the vaccine there? (NYT)
  • It’s all in the method: Colombia’s numbers on Zika-linked brain defects seem lower than Brazil’s because of how they are reported (WSJ)

On people’s lips

“Unfortunately, this is most likely going to happen to a bunch of families. People start families, get pregnant, things happen and trips are booked. Be very aware of what your rights are.” — Colin Laycock, an Ottawa man who ran into trouble with Air Canada after booking a vacation to Turks and Caicos, and then trying to cancel the trip because of his wife’s pregnancy. (CBC)

Number of the week: 18,000

The drop in the number of live births in Colombia during a nine-month stretch of 2016 (compared to 2015), possibly because of Zika. (STAT)


Friday, Dec. 23

What’s new this week

  • One of the main blood tests for Zika can fall prey to false positives, the FDA warned today, making it important that such positive tests get re-tested (FDA)
  • More than half of Brazilian women of childbearing age have avoided or tried to avoid pregnancy because of Zika, a new survey reports (STAT)
  • Texas has reported its sixth case of locally transmitted Zika virus, also in Brownsville (press release)
  • Florida reported another new local case of transmission Wednesday, bringing the state total to 253 (press release)
  • The CDC awarded another round of cash, $184 million, to states and territories to fight Zika (Washington Post)

Today’s must-read

  • The story of Puerto Rico’s first baby with Zika-caused microcephaly (AP)

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Friday, Dec. 16

What’s new this week

  • Brownsville, Texas, has become the first US city outside of Florida to get a CDC Zika travel caution, after local infections were seen there earlier this month (CDC)
  • After WHO declared the Zika virus no longer an “emergency,” tropical hotels saw an immediate and strong resurgence of bookings (New York Times)

Mixed messages

How often Zika virus infection causes birth defects is an open question — and two new reports this week not only failed to arrive at a consensus, they may have sown more confusion. One, in pregnant Brazilian women with Zika, found a 42 percent likelihood of birth defects; the other, in pregnant American women with Zika, found that birth defects affected just 6 percent. STAT consulted a number of experts and there appears to be no single answer that explains the huge gap — but differences in geography, disease status, and how birth defects are defined could be contributing to the disconnect. More studies, in the works now, should shed further light on the true risk. (STAT)

On people’s lips

“2016 started with Zika and then turned bad.” — Comedian Trevor Noah, in his year-end late-night show (Huffington Post)

Today’s must-read

  • Experimental DNA vaccines could shield against infectious-disease outbreaks including Zika (Wall Street Journal)

Friday, Dec. 9

What’s new this week

  • Florida’s last remaining zone of active transmission was declared lifted today, though CDC travel cautions remain in place for the Miami area (Miami Herald)
  • Official reports appear to dramatically underestimate cases of microcephaly in Colombia, a new study suggests (STAT)
  • Glaucoma, usually seen in older adults, has been found to be an effect of Zika infection in some infants (WNPR)

Number of the day: 433,558%

That’s the rise in search traffic for “Zika” on WebMD this year. (TIME)

Vaccine vagaries

Three experimental Zika vaccines are being tested in people; another four or five should start human trials between now and next fall. But the question looming over the research is how much demand there will be for a Zika vaccine by the time any of them make it through three rounds of human testing and approval from the FDA. Drug makers are having to consider a range of possibilities — a Zika vaccine being added to a schedule of vaccines given in childhood, simply being marketed to travelers, or perhaps just being stockpiled to protect against a future epidemic — all of which portend different profits. (STAT)

Today’s must-read

  • Life after Zika: A young family struggles to care for their daughter (New York Magazine)

Friday, Dec. 2

What’s new this week

  • Texas joins Florida as the second state to see a locally transmitted case of Zika, with its first case being a woman in South Texas who is not pregnant. (STAT)
  • The United Kingdom sees its first case of sexually transmitted Zika in a woman whose partner had traveled to an affected area. (Telegraph)
  • Add glaucoma to the list. Yale researchers say that Zika can cause the eye disease in infants who were exposed to the virus in utero (Science Daily)
  • Zika was thought to get into early neural cells through a specific receptor. Harvard scientists say that may not be the only way. (Medical Express)

Number of the week: 34,000

The number of Zika cases in Puerto Rico, which is seeing a slowdown in new infections, but bracing for the full effect of those infections for years to come (NPR)

On people’s lips

“All radiologists have to know about these typical symptoms because sometimes you don’t see the symptoms of Zika virus in the pregnant mother.”

— Dr. Bianca Guedes Ribeiro, Clínica de Diagnóstico por Imagem in Rio de Janeiro, stressing the role of radiologists in diagnosing Zika in fetal brains when other symptoms aren’t obvious in pregnant women. (Medscape)


Friday, Nov. 18

Zika was one of the hot topics at the annual meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine & Hygiene, held this week in Atlanta. The conference overview is here. News from the conference is included below.

The big news this week

  • Status matters: If the WHO downgrades Zika from “public health emergency” this week, worries abound that research funding will suffer (STAT)
  • The way Zika presents in South America could be because of co-infection with dengue and chikungunya (NBC)
  • Zika is tough, but weak: It can live for hours on certain hard surfaces, but it’s easily killed with disinfectants (Science Daily)
  • Genetics? Vaccine history? Scientists are puzzled by the relationship between severity of Zika-related birth defects and geography (SciAm)

Quote of the Day

“I go knock on one door. It closes. I go to another. It also closes. It’s so hard. We feel so desperate, lost. And it hurts.”

— Fabiane Lopes, a woman in Brazil whose 11-month old baby, Valentina, was born with Zika-related microcephaly, on what she says are broken promises of financial and medical support from the Brazilian government. (NPR)

Numbers of the day: 800,000 and 40

In the wake of mandatory Zika testing for donated blood, the number of donated blood samples tested nationwide for Zika, and the number that came up positive, indicating that Zika infection is still pretty rare in the US. (NYT)

Zika in 30 will be taking next Friday off in observance of Thanksgiving in the US. Have a great week, and we’ll see you in December!


Friday, Nov. 11

The big news this week

  • Zika infections in Puerto Rico are skewed toward women, a new report from CDC says, which may be due to its sexual transmission (NBC News)
  • Locally transmitted Zika infections continue in Florida. The count is now up to 222 (News4Jax)
  • The island nation of Palau has reported what appears to be its first local case of Zika (USA Today)
  • Federal scientists have begun human testing of a second possible Zika vaccine, after launching the first trial in August (NPR)

On people’s lips

“We really came out stronger than ever.” — Albert Garcia, vice chairman of the Wynwood Business Improvement District in Miami, on how business has rebounded post-Zika (The Real Deal)

Legislative limbo

At the ballot box on Tuesday, residents of the Florida Keys expressed mixed feelings about field trials of a genetically modified mosquito made by Oxitec — the county voted yes, but the town of Key Haven, which had been the planned release site, said no thanks. Though the referendum was nonbinding, most members of the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District said they would honor it. Now, Wired reports, the board will try to work with the FDA to find a different release site. “We’ll be looking at where mosquitoes are, and come up with some other sites of where to release them based on where people voted yes,” said chairman Phil Goodman.


Friday, Nov. 4

The big news this week

  • New research finds that Zika damages mouse testes. Does it do the same in humans? (STAT)
  • A big fight is brewing in the Dallas-Fort Worth area over releasing public health data that includes ZIP codes of people infected with Zika (NBCDFW)
  • It will soon be summer in Brazil, but officials there say another wave of Zika infections is not expected (Reuters)
  • Zika has hit Colombia hard, but so far there have been relatively few cases of microcephaly (New York Times)
  • Zika may become endemic, public health officials say. But people don’t buy it, and offer all kinds of ideas to fight it (USA Today)

On people’s lips

“People would like a solution and they would like a non-toxic solution,” Miami Beach Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez, on releasing GMO mosquitoes in parts of Miami Beach to combat Zika (Miami Herald)

In case you missed it

  • Puerto Rico reported its first baby born with Zika-related microcephaly, while a baby born in Vietnam is also suspected of having Zika-related microcephaly, which would make it the country’s first such case (New York Times and Reuters)
  • Millions of genetically altered mosquitoes could be released in Brazil to combat diseases, such as Zika, that are spread by non-altered insects (AFP)
  • On social media, there’s more true information than false, but the bad info gets more shares and comments (Fox News)

Friday, Oct. 28

The big news this week

  • The private sector is stepping in to provide funding for anti-Zika efforts, as public money falls short (USA Today)
  • Scientists are baffled by how Zika has played out in Latin America, in particular by the pattern of babies born with Zika-related microcephaly (Washington Post)
  • Mosquitoes infected with the Wolbachia bacteria will be released in an attempt to combat diseases spread by the insects, including Zika (STAT)
  • In times of economic crisis, diseases like Zika thrive (STAT)
  • A consortium of 25 universities and public health institutions has launched ZikaPLAN to combat the virus. Among its goals is to fill in knowledge gaps and build sustainable response capacity in Latin America for Zika and other emerging diseases (press release)
  • Florida has another Zika “hot zone,” but some fear it’s not getting enough attention (AP)

Taking drastic steps against Zika

Zika remains a threat in Miami and pregnant women there are resorting to drastic, sometimes head-turning strategies to avoid infection. (Miami Herald)

On people’s lips

“Zika and other diseases spread by (the Aedes aegypti mosquito) are really not controllable with current technologies. We will see this become endemic in the hemisphere.” — CDC Director Thomas Frieden on the possibility that Zika is here to stay in the US. (USA Today)

In case you missed it

  • The CDC is making $70 million in supplemental funding available to states, cities, and territories battling Zika, while the European Union is investing €45 million ($49 million) to combat the virus (CDC and European Union)
  • Florida’s Surgeon General is demanding a Zika plan from Miami-Dade County (Miami Herald)
  • Heat Biologics has created a subsidiary called Zolovax to develop vaccines and is working with the University of Miami to develop a Zika vaccine. Meanwhile, Sanofi struck a Zika vaccine deal with Brazil’s Fiocruz health center (WRAL and Reuters)
  • Myanmar confirmed its first case of Zika (Reuters)

Friday, Oct. 21

The big news this week

  • The CDC will receive $394 million from the recently approved $1.1 billion in federal funding for Zika. The NIH is getting $152 million, and the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund gets $387 million (Reuters)
  • US health officials are advising all pregnant women who recently visited Miami-Dade County be tested for Zika (AP)
  • Zika tainted blood continues to be a problem in Florida (CBS Local)
  • Babies in Venezuela born with Zika-related microcephaly face dire challenges amid government silence (Reuters)

On people’s lips

“Impressive numbers indeed, but to utilize them as the sole measure of control would be folly indeed, particularly considering the capacity of both mosquitoes and bats to transmit diseases.” — American Mosquito Control Association on potentially using bats to control Zika-carrying mosquitoes, as a Miami Beach commissioner proposes. (Washington Post)

Image of the week

Zika Peta print ad

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is wading into the Zika fight, saying that monkey research facilities in Florida could be hotbeds for the virus. Laboratory and public health officials are fighting back, saying that the fears are unfounded. (WGCU)

In case you missed it

  • Mothers in Brazil are struggling to care for their children born with Zika-related disorders (AP)
  • While many unknowns about Zika in Southeast Asia remain, some indications suggest that the virus may not have the same devastating effects that it had in the Americas (Washington Post)
  • Two new studies are bolstering the idea that the Zika virus can remain in a woman’s vagina for weeks (Fox News and the Lancet)
  • A new pool of mosquitoes in Miami Beach have tested positive for Zika (CBS)

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Friday, Oct. 14

The big news this week

  • Zika hits another Miami neighborhood called Little River with five cases diagnosed (STAT)
  • A lack of resources among laboratories has made it difficult for some mothers-to-be to find out if they may be carrying the Zika virus (Kaiser Health News)
  • Who won’t be getting any dedicated funding from the recently approved $1.1 billion package to fight Zika? The FDA (Bloomberg)
  • Federal officials from several departments discuss what it takes to make a safe Zika vaccine (NEJM)

On people’s lips

“As the season begins to change, the mosquito threat naturally begins to go down, so in this sense, time is on our side” — Ben Beard, chief of the Bacterial Diseases Branch in the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Vector-Borne Diseases, on whether there will be a resurgence of Zika-carrying mosquitoes because of standing water after Hurricane Matthew (CNN)

In case you missed it

  • The WHO expects the number of Zika cases in the Asia-Pacific region to continue rising (AP)
  • Health issues for babies born with Zika-related microcephaly a year ago are mounting (AP)
  • The number of Zika cases in Florida has topped 1,000 (Patch)
  • What’s after Zika? Four insect-based diseases that may be on the horizon (Scientific American)

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Today’s must-read

  • Why the low Zika numbers in Haiti might be wrong (NPR)

Wednesday, Sept. 7

The big news right now

  • People who have traveled to Zika outbreak areas should wait six months, rather than the previous guidance of eight weeks, before conceiving, the WHO now says (STAT)
  • Zika genes have been detected in mice tears, raising the possibility of another route of transmission for the virus (Washington Post)
  • Miami officials are expanding their aerial insecticide spraying to include Miami Beach after mosquito counts rebounded over Labor Day weekend (Miami Herald)
  • Biotech Moderna Therapeutics plans to develop a Zika vaccine (Boston Business Journal)

Mixed mosquito findings

Brazilian researchers at Fiocruz institute have found that the common Culex mosquito is not transmitting Zika in Rio de Janeiro. That’s good news, since those mosquitoes outnumber Aedes aegypti 20 times over. But it also leaves scientists scratching their heads, since their previous work indicated Culex mosquitoes in Recife could harbor the virus. One possibility, that might also help explain why Recife was so much harder hit: Culex mosquitoes in Recife may be genetically different from those in Rio, the institute said. (Washington Post)

Congress returns to work

Congress came back from summer recess yesterday and, as expected, a Senate vote last night failed to advance $1.1 billion in funding for a Zika response. A poll commissioned by the March of Dimes finds that 75 percent of Americans support increasing funding to fight Zika. But apathy about the severity of Zika continues to pervade Congress, even as nearly 3,000 cases of Zika have been diagnosed in the continental US.

Today’s must-read

  • Zika concerns could test Singapore’s efforts to boost birth rate (Reuters)

Tuesday, Sept. 6

The big news right now

  • Singapore’s case count has risen to 275 (Channel News Asia)
  • Neighboring Malaysia has reported its first locally acquired case and the man very soon after died, reportedly from heart disease complications (Channel News Asia)
  • Meanwhile the Philippines confirmed its first case of the Zika virus in the current outbreak, which was “highly likely” to have been contracted locally (Reuters)
  • After mosquitoes in Miami Beach tested positive for Zika, the city is starting larvicide spraying from trucks (CBS)

Abortion in Malaysia

Malaysia’s regional legal experts, called muftis, are being looked to for guidance on abortion as the virus enters the country. Though one regional mufti has said that abortion may be legal in the case of Zika birth defects, others have yet to weigh in. The overall national law currently only allows abortion if the mother’s life is at risk. The country’s health minister has urged the National Fatwa Council to discuss the matter and issue nationwide guidance. (The Star)

Today’s must-read


Saturday-Sunday, Sept. 3-4

The big news right now

  • Hurricane Hermine hit Florida, raising additional worries that the Zika virus could spread as pools of water left behind provide fertile breeding grounds for mosquitoes (Reuters)
  • Florida announced six new cases of local infection in Miami Beach (Miami Herald)
  • 2.6 billion people in Africa and the Asia-Pacific region could be vulnerable to the Zika virus (Lancet)
  • Singapore’s wet climate and dense population means it could spend the next few years controlling the virus without eradicating it (Reuters)

‘The cockroach of mosquitoes’

Its resilience has earned Aedes aegypti, the mosquito species at the center of the Zika crisis, a reputation as “the cockroach of mosquitoes.” In addition to being able to breed in just a bottle cap’s worth of water, their eggs can survive for a year in unfavorable conditions. The females also lay their eggs in batches in multiple spots in order to ensure the survival of their spawn. (Consumer Reports)

Today’s must-reads

  • Scientists are working on different strategies to destroy mosquitoes, but eradication of the bugs may not be a smart move (Wall Street Journal)
  • Zika remains a global health emergency as the virus continues to spread, and gaps in knowledge about the virus persist (Washington Post)
  • Zika is widespread in Africa, and while we haven’t heard much about it, the virus may be as deadly there as it has been in South America (Slate)

Friday, Sept. 2

The big news right now

  • Mosquitoes infected with Zika have been found for the first time in the continental US, in Miami Beach (STAT)
  • Malaysia reported its first case of Zika, a woman who traveled to Singapore (AP)
  • Takeda has joined the race to develop a Zika vaccine (STAT)
  • Hurricane Hermine could could hamper Florida’s efforts against Zika (Reuters)
  • Researchers sequenced a strain of the Zika virus, which will be used as a reference strain by the WHO in order to diagnose the virus more easily (Genome Announcements)

On people’s lips

“Cuba’s response has been strong and effective … It has to do with the capacity to organize the population. Applying it to other countries, other contexts, would be extremely difficult.” Dr. Cristian Morales, World Health Organization representative in Cuba (Washington Post)

A pocket-sized warning device

In the wake of Hurricane Hermine, the New York Times has a good reminder about how to set up emergency alerts on your phone, including ones for severe weather, Zika virus, and natural disasters — a solid way to welcome in National Preparedness Month.

Today in odd headlines: Rubber boom

Malaysian companies making rubber gloves and condoms predict that the first reported Zika case in the country will drive some accelerated demand for their products — which they say they’re ready to meet. (Free Malaysia Today)


Thursday, Sept. 1

The big news right now

  • With Zika now firmly in Singapore, which has confirmed 115 cases, health officials are worried about potential spread to the rest of Asia and Africa (STAT)
  • An increase in cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome in Latin America may mean the Zika virus is spreading (STAT)
  • A third case of nontravel-related Zia infection was reported in Palm Beach County (Palm Beach Post)
  • Millions of honeybees have been killed in South Carolina after officials failed to notify beekeepers about insecticide spraying (AP)
  • The Miami travel advisory may be lifted by mid-September, local businesses have been told, if no new Zika cases are found (NPR)

Number of the day: 92 percent

The share of Americans who have heard or read about the Zika virus. (Kaiser Family Foundation)

Today’s must-reads

      • Medical specialists needed to care for Zika babies are in short supply (USA Today)
      • Doctors fear Zika is a sleeping giant in Haiti (NPR)

Wednesday, Aug. 31

The big news right now

      • We’re nearly out of money to fight Zika, CDC says (NYT)
      • As many as 6 percent of children born with Zika-related microcephaly could have hearing loss (STAT)
      • Florida is investigating three more cases of locally transmitted Zika, including two that may have occurred outside of the foci of the virus’s outbreak in Miami-Dade County (Reuters)

Singapore update

As the number of confirmed Zika cases in Singapore rose to 82, the CDC issued an interim travel guidance for the country, which reported its first case of the virus only over the weekend. Additionally, the United Kingdom, Australia, Taiwan, and South Korea have issued travel advisories for Singapore.

HHS Secretary: Yes, put on the bug repellant, anyway

During a Twitter town hall on Tuesday, HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell responded to various questions posed by participants about Zika, including one about the need to use insect repellant even in areas where no local transmission of Zika has been reported. Her response: Yes. Noting she has a 6- and and 8-year-old, Burwell said “We actually do wear it, even though there’s not local transmission here in the District of Columbia.”

Today’s must-reads

      • The countries where Zika is most prevalent and where the virus so far has been barely seen (CNN)
      • Theranos halts its Zika test amid after FDA found safety problems in testing (WSJ)
      • The CDC issued an interim travel guidance for the British Virgin Islands (CDC)

Tuesday, Aug. 30

The big news right now

      • Three existing drugs — for cancer, hepatitis C, and parasitic infections — appear promising against the Zika virus (Washington Post)
      • Female mosquitoes infected with Zika can pass it down to their offspring, which means the virus may be able to persist through the  winter (STAT)
      • Right on the heels of dosing its first US volunteers with an experimental Zika vaccine, Inovio Pharmaceuticals has launched a second clinical trial of the drug, this time in Puerto Rico (press release)
      • Singapore confirmed 15 additional cases of local Zika, bringing the total number to 56 (CBC News)

Zika chat

Got questions about Zika? HHS is at the ready to answer them. The agency is holding a Twitter town hall today starting at 10 a.m. for experts to answer people’s questions about the virus. Questions can be submitted on Twitter using #AtoZika. (HHS)

Quiz time

Today’s must-reads

      • Floridians are not happy with how state officials have handled the Zika outbreak, and roughly half expressed concern about getting infected with the virus (Orlando Sentinel)
      • Echoes of New York City’s polio epidemic a century ago can be seen in the current Zika outbreak and the response to it (New York Times)
      • A primer on Zika and pregnancy (Wall Street Journal)

Monday, Aug. 29

The big news right now

      • Singapore has confirmed 41 cases of locally transmitted Zika virus (Reuters)
      • Roche’s quick Zika test has become the 10th FDA emergency-authorized Zika diagnostic (Reuters, FDA)

Virus mum

Walt Disney World, Sea World, and Universal Orlando are all offering free bug spray to guests, and have put up signs telling visitors to be aware of mosquito bite risk. But the signs and flyers all avoid referencing Zika by name. (Gizmodo)

Today’s must-reads

      • Inaction on Zika is a public health crisis (Salon)
      • The Zika undercount and the virus’s growing threat to public health (Wall Street Journal)

Saturday-Sunday, Aug. 27-28

The big news right now

      • The FDA recommends all donated blood in the US be screened for the Zika virus (STAT)
      • Health officials reported the first case in the US of an asymptomatic man transmitting Zika to a sexual partner (CBS News)
      • A poll finds that most Floridians favor using genetically modified mosquitoes to fight Zika (STAT)
      • The Dominican Republic reported its first three cases of babies born with Zika-related microcephaly (AP)
      • Nicaragua confirmed its first case of a baby born with microcephaly stemming from Zika infection (Reuters)
      • Singapore hit by first case of locally transmitted Zika (The Straits Times)

On people’s lips

“It’s an extraordinary misuse of very limited resources. … With Zika in Washington and Oregon, we know there is no possibility of local transmission. Those mosquitoes don’t live here.” — Dr. James AuBuchon, president and chief executive of Bloodworks Northwest, on the FDA’s recommendation that all US blood centers screen donated blood for the Zika virus. (Seattle Times)

Today’s must-reads

      • With Florida’s hurricane season still in its infancy, controlling the Zika outbreak could prove even more vexing (USA Today)
      • As worries about Zika rose during the summer, a woman, pregnant with her third child, wrote President Obama about her concerns with the Zika virus. And he responded. (White House)
      • A guide to help pregnant women reduce their Zika risk (New York Times)

Friday, Aug. 26

The big news right now

      • Hong Kong has reported its first case of travel-acquired Zika (South China Morning Post)
      • Women in Puerto Rico now can get “a full range of contraceptive options” for free from their doctor (CDC Foundation)
      • A new study indicates Zika can continue to reproduce in the vaginas of mice days after they were infected, suggesting the virus may replicate more easily in the female reproductive tract than at other infection sites (Cell)
      • Labs in the US are expanding their testing capacities as the number of Zika cases increases (Wall Street Journal)

Number of the day: 584

The number of pregnant women in the US diagnosed with the Zika virus as of Aug. 18. There were 16 liveborn infants with Zika-related birth defects, and five pregnancy losses with birth defects as of the same date. (CDC)

On people’s lips

“More than one-third of Florida does not have an OB-GYN. … It also is among the worst states in the country for women’s health and women’s well-being. And it has staggering infection rates for sexually transmitted diseases. And now we have Zika.” — Lillian Tamayo, CEO of Planned Parenthood of South, East, and North Florida (NPR)

Blood surveillance

You can see for yourself where blood banks report a positive Zika infection in donated blood, courtesy of a new mapping project by nonprofit AABB. But presently most blood banks aren’t testing for Zika, and are instead relying on screening questions to keep the disease out of the blood supply. (AABB)


Thursday, Aug. 25

The big news right now

      • The Zika virus may linger in an infant’s blood even after birth, raising questions about how long it could continue damaging a baby’s brain (STAT)
      • Florida health officials reported Palm Beach County’s second case of locally transmitted Zika (Miami Herald)
      • China has added the US to a list of Zika-infected countries, which has American exporters worried that they might have to fumigate all containers destined for Chinese ports (Wall Street Journal)
      • Johns Hopkins opened what it says is the world’s “first known multidisciplinary Zika virus center” that will treat patients infected with the virus (Johns Hopkins)

Number of the day: 200

The number of calls that Pinellas County Mosquito Control received on Tuesday after Florida officials confirmed the first case of non-travel-related Zika in the county. Normally, the county receives between 300 and 400 calls about mosquitoes a month. (ABC News)

Today’s must-read

      • For mom of baby born with Zika complications, waiting and uncertainty (Miami Herald)

Wednesday, Aug. 24

The big news right now

      • Florida has confirmed the first case of locally transmitted Zika in Pinellas County, on the other side of the state from Miami (WPTV)
      • The CDC has added the Bahamas to its Zika travel advisory (CDC)
      • Fearful of the effects of Zika on their fetuses, pregnant women are fleeing Miami (STAT)
      • Medical diagnostics company OraSure has received up to $16.6 million in federal funding to develop a rapid oral test for Zika (The Morning Call)
      • Hillary Clinton has proposed a new federal fund to combat Zika (AP)

Number of the day: 395

The projected number of cases of locally transmitted Zika that Florida will have in total, according to new projections, the most of any state. The state currently has 42 such cases. (Miami Herald)

Zika’s toll

A new study of brain scans of 45 Brazilian babies suggests a worrying possibility, according to the New York Times: “Because some of the damage was seen in brain areas that continue to develop after birth, it may be that babies born without obvious impairment will experience problems as they grow.” (New York Times)


Thursday, Aug. 18

The big news right now

      • A Taiwanese woman contracted Zika in Miami (Taiwan CDC)
      • Two Florida billboards showing an unrolled condom to urge protection against Zika have been removed because the tourism board worried they were inaccurate (WSVN)
      • Guatemala has confirmed its first case of Zika-linked microcephaly (Reuters)

Lingo to know

Hofbauer cells: A type of immune cell, found in the placenta, which has been recently discovered to play an important role in Zika transmission to a fetus. The cells appear to physically harbor the virus, according to a new study. (The Atlantic)

On people’s lips

“My gynecologist told me being pregnant with twins, there are more dangers than Zika.” — Puerto Rico resident Tahiri Velez Rosario (USA Today)

Today’s must-read


Wednesday, Aug. 17

The big news right now

      • Poland has confirmed its first two cases of Zika infection (Radio Poland)
      • New York City officials said that 49 pregnant women have tested positive for Zika since April, and one baby was born with microcephaly (WABC)

Zika refugee

Pregnant Miami resident Christina Frigo is a refugee from her city because of Zika. Now living in the suburbs of Chicago, Frigo says some of her pregnant friends are scared and feeling trapped in Miami, but that she’s met problems elsewhere too — for instance, doctors who have cancelled her appointments after learning she was previously living in a Zika-affected area. (The New Tropic)

Today’s must-reads

      • If you drink beer, sweat a lot, or have type O blood, mosquitoes may find you especially desirable (CBS)
      • Mosquito guns and heavy fines: how Cuba kept Zika at bay for so long (Nature News)

Tuesday, Aug. 16

The big news right now

      • The first case of travel-related Zika within the US has been reported — in a Texas resident who contracted the virus in Miami (USA Today)
      • Two more cases of locally acquired Zika have been reported in Miami-Dade County, bringing the state’s total to 30 (CBS)
      • Pregnant women on Medicaid in Texas can drop by any pharmacy to get two free cans of mosquito repellant per month (CBS)
      • Canada is developing a national surveillance program to track pregnant women who test positive for Zika (Ottawa Citizen)

Spray update

After 10 days of insecticide spraying in Miami, officials report mixed results. The Wynwood area, which received two types of spraying — one to kill larvae and another to kill adults — has seen a drop in the population of Aedes aegypti. But the surrounding area, which just received chemicals to kill adults, has actually seen a rise in mosquito numbers. (Miami Herald)

Number of the day: $4 million

That’s the lifetime cost of raising a child with congenital Zika infection. (Wired)

Today’s must-reads

      • Could a special government reserve fund help in dealing with emergencies such as the Zika crisis in the future? (STAT)
      • Close to the outbreak, a quiet Brazilian village is spared from Zika (Washington Post)

Monday, Aug. 15

The big news right now

      • The flooding that struck Louisiana over the weekend may increase Zika risk in its wake (USA Today)
      • Pesticide spraying in Miami has been met with some protests (Local 10)
      • Singer Demi Lovato posted a Snapchat video of her mom joking about Zika, which drew immediate criticism (Huffington Post)

Zika scare

The first Olympic athlete to possibly have been infected by Zika is Indian wrestler Babita Kumari. Kumari came down with a fever and body aches; Zika was suspected but never confirmed. She’s back to good health, according to media reports. (First Post)

Today in odd headlines: Bite me

At the Russian Mosquito Festival in Berezniki, there’s an award for getting the most mosquito bites — which this year went to a 9-year-old girl with 43 bites from berry-picking in the forest with her mother. Mosquitoes there, luckily, don’t appear to carry the Zika virus. (AP)

Today’s must-reads

      • The race for a Zika vaccine (New Yorker)
      • Brazil defeated the mosquito that spreads Zika once before — few expect it to do so again (LA Times)

Saturday-Sunday, Aug. 13-14

The big news right now

      • HHS declared a public health emergency in Puerto Rico as the island reported 10,690 cases of Zika, including 1,035 involving pregnant women (STAT)
      • Three new cases of local mosquito-acquired Zika have been reported in Florida, bringing the total number to 28 (NBC News)
      • A southeastern Michigan county has its first confirmed Zika case (Associated Press)

Trump on Zika funding

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump said Congress should approve funding to fight the Zika virus. In comments to the Miami Herald covering a variety of topics, Trump said he would “let some of the funds that they’re asking for come in. … They’re fighting for it, and hopefully that’s going to be approved very soon.” He also praised Florida Governor Rick Scott’s handling of the current outbreak in Miami: “And I think it’ll be fine.”

Number of the day: 25 percent

The percentage of Puerto Rico residents who could be infected with the Zika virus by the end of the year. (STAT)

Today’s must-read

      • In New York City’s fight against Zika, the focus is shifting away from mosquitoes to sex (New York Times)

Friday, Aug. 12

The big news right now

      • The Zika virus may remain in men’s semen twice as long as previously reported — up to six months and maybe longer (STAT)
      • With funds running out, the Obama administration has been forced to shift money around to fight Zika (STAT)
      • The CDC added Cayman Islands to its Zika travel risk list (CDC)
      • Three new cases of local mosquito-acquired Zika in Miami have been identified, bringing the statewide total to 25 (Sun Sentinel)
      • Canada has reported its first case of Zika-linked microcephaly (Ottawa Citizen)

Brazil’s Zika babies grow up

The immense cost of raising Brazil’s babies with congenital Zika syndrome is straining poor families and the government that supports them. The epidemic is overwhelming hospitals and clinics, which struggle to find enough doctors, therapists — and even basic supplies, such as infant feeding tubes — to meet the need.

STAT’s Melissa Bailey went to Recife, the epicenter of the crisis, to meet the family of one of the country’s first diagnosed infants with the syndrome, baby Duda, who is now 8 months old. Read the full story here.

For this senator, it’s personal

US Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) has called for Congress to end its vacation early to pass Zika funding. And he has a personal investment in this case: His daughter, who lives in Miami, is five months pregnant with her first child and his first grandchild, he said at a recent press conference. “It seems to me that we are not doing enough to protect women like my daughter, before they get pregnant, during, and after.” (YouTube)

Today’s must-read

      • Beyond Zika: How Congress is flirting with medical disaster (The New Republic)

Thursday, Aug. 11

The big news right now

      • The Bahamas reported its first confirmed case of Zika (AP)
      • An additional case of local mosquito-acquired Zika infection has been reported in Miami-Dade County, bringing the total number in Florida to 22 (Miami Herald)
      • Surgeon General Vivek Murthy is in Puerto Rico today talking with doctors and residents about Zika (Twitter)

A drought, water politics, and Brazil’s Zika crisis

A prolonged drought and long-standing issues with its water infrastructure underlie Recife, Brazil’s Zika problem and why the area became a hotbed for the virus. In some neighborhoods, for example, the state utility agency runs water only a few times a week, and residents are left to store water in whatever containers they have, providing breeding grounds for mosquitoes. (Frontline)

Range at risk

Scientists have created a new model of where local Zika transmission might occur, taking into account both climate and socioeconomic factors. Blue areas are those considered most at risk in both dimensions.

Today’s must-read

      • I got Zika. The US health care system had no idea what to do with me (Vox)

Wednesday, Aug. 10

The big news right now

      • Texas reported its first Zika-related death, of a baby born with microcephaly and other birth defects (STAT)
      • Florida has reported four additional cases of Zika likely acquired through local mosquito bites, bringing the total to 21 (Governor’s office)
      • In her visit to a Miami health clinic, Hillary Clinton called on Congress to reconvene to pass Zika funding (STAT)
      • USAID has awarded $15 million in grants to 21 pilot projects to combat Zika (USAID)
      • Businesses in the epicenter of Miami’s Zika outbreak are suffering and asking for help, including the creation of an emergency fund (Miami Herald)

Candidate divide

Today’s must-read


Tuesday, Aug. 9

The big news right now

      • Cayman Islands, in the Caribbean, has reported its first locally transmitted Zika infection (Reuters)
      • In addition to neurological effects, Zika can cause joint problems in babies when infected in utero, a new study finds (USA Today)
      • Florida officials are investigating Palm Beach County’s first reported case of non-travel-related Zika, bringing the statewide total to 17 people (Palm Beach Post)

What’s ahead

Hillary Clinton will take a detour from talking about job creation in Florida to discuss Zika today. Later today she will tour the Borinquen Medical Center, which is near the Wynwood neighborhood in Miami where most of the local transmission of the virus has occurred to date. She’s expected to call on Congress to reconvene to approve Zika response funding. (Washington Times)

Number of the day: 65%

The share of Americans who say they are “not too” or “not at all” worried about being infected with Zika or an immediate family member becoming infected, according to a new poll. (Washington Post/ABC News)

Today’s must-read

      • While small biotechs and government researchers are racing to develop a Zika vaccine, the world’s top-tier drug companies are largely watching from the sidelines (STAT)

Monday, Aug. 8

The big news right now

      • Aerial mosquito spraying began this weekend in Miami, focusing on the Wynwood neighborhood (NBC)
      • “Zika” appears to be the crowd’s favored taunt of American athletes in Rio (USA Today)
      • Puerto Rico’s doctors are offering free birth control to all women on the island (NPR)
      • Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio, who has been in favor of Zika legislation, said on Saturday that pregnant women infected with the virus shouldn’t be able to have abortions (Politico)

Viral shrine

Today’s must-read

      • She went to Miami to report about the Zika virus, but she may have ended up contracting it as well (Reveal)

Saturday-Sunday, Aug. 6-7

The big news right now

      • Florida took a step closer to releasing genetically modified mosquitoes as a way to combat Zika (STAT)
      • The FTC has sent 10 warning letters to marketers for making questionable claims about purported anti-Zika products (FTC)
      • Florida identified a new non-travel-related case of Zika infection in the epicenter of the current outbreak (Florida Health Department)

On people’s lips

“We’ve gone from getting zero Zika specimens to getting hundreds a day.” — Dr. Jennifer Rakeman, New York City’s chief Zika hunter. (Wall Street Journal)

Today’s must-reads

      • Now that local transmission of the Zika virus has hit the US, Congress needs to stop playing politics and provide funding (STAT)
      • Why developing a Zika vaccine will probably be a slow slog (Quartz)
      • In Recife, Brazil, medical professionals and women’s health advocates rally around children born with Zika-related microcephaly, and their mothers (Huffington Post)
      • Puerto Rico is getting hammered by Zika, but its residents don’t seem too concerned (CNN)

Friday, Aug. 5

The big news right now

      • A STAT-Harvard poll found most Americans favor allowing late-term abortions in cases where a pregnant mother is infected with Zika (STAT)
      • President Obama urges Congress to pass Zika funding (STAT)
      • Three separate Zika vaccines have shown efficacy in monkeys (NBC)
      • With the Olympics here, there are plenty of bikinis but nary a mosquito in Rio (STAT)

I dare you to wear this

Japanese firm Bibilab has designed a Zika suit that is essentially a head-to-toe net to keep wearers from getting bitten by mosquitoes. The outfit makes the wearer look as if he or she is surrounded by a force field. Bibilab says that while it offers protection, it will not offer 100 percent protection. (Daily Mail)

On people’s lips

“We have bigger mosquitoes to squash than Zika — like ISIS, the national debt, Iraq, and Afghanistan. We have a wall to build to keep the illegals out. We have so many other issues that are more important than this.” — Juan Fiol, vice chairman for Miami-Dade County for Donald Trump’s campaign. (Daily Kos)

Today’s must-reads

      • Pregnant women in the epicenter of Florida’s Zika outbreak are unable to avoid the area, putting them on edge (AP)
      • The virus has caused those wanting to get pregnant to delay or otherwise change their plans (CNN)

Thursday, Aug. 4

The big news right now

      • The New York attorney general is cracking down on seven marketers for alleged deceptive marketing of Zika-related insect repellants (STAT)
      • The CDC issued travel notices for Antigua and Barbuda, and Turks and Caicos Islands (CDC)
      • Despite stringent mosquito controls, Cuba has seen its first two cases of locally contracted Zika (Reuters)
      • 33 US military personnel are believed to have contracted Zika, including one pregnant woman (Reuters)
      • Asked how he would combat Zika virus, Donald Trump said Florida governor Rick Scott is doing a “fantastic job” and “seems to have it under control” (CNN)

The latest from Florida

      • Pregnant women will get free testing for Zika at county health departments (Governor’s office)
      • FDA approval for the release of genetically modified mosquitoes in the Florida Keys is expected “any minute now,” Oxitec says (Reuters)
      • CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden says the travel advisory for Florida could last up to a year (Washington Post)

Cher on Zika

Not for the first time, Cher weighed in on Zika with emojis and caps lock. This time, she went political. (Twitter)

Today’s must-reads

      • Researchers are trying to decipher why Brazil is so susceptible to birth defects resulting from Zika (CNN)
      • Some airlines have changed their refund policies following a Zika-related travel advisory from the CDC (The Hill)
      • As many as about 40,000 people in the US could have the Zika infection from having traveled abroad (New Scientist)

Wednesday, Aug. 3

The big news right now

      • The NIH has dosed its first human volunteer with an experimental Zika vaccine, just a week after Inovio met the same milestone (MIT Technology Review)
      • Relatively few women and girls in states that could see Zika outbreaks use effective birth control methods (STAT)
      • The CDC is devoting $16 million to a surveillance system to track microcephaly cases across much of the US (CDC)
      • New York plans to drop larvicide into water pooled along New York City’s subway tracks as a preventive strategy against Zika (New York Post)

The latest from Florida

Florida health officials are investigating an additional case of non-travel-related Zika infection in Miami-Dade County, which may suggest the outbreak is spreading beyond the Wynwood area.

Miami plans to begin aerial mosquito spraying in Wynwood, but that was delayed due to inclement weather today.

But the city is testing whether mosquitoes there have become resistant to common insecticides.

And outdoor activities in the Wynwood neighborhood, including the unfortunately named class “The Naked Bite,” are being moved or cancelled entirely.

Meanwhile in Rio

Zika got the cover treatment by the New Yorker this week. (Twitter)

Today’s must-reads

      • A Zika vaccine may be farther away than we want to believe (Wall Street Journal)
      • Chelsea Clinton’s pregnancy and concern about Zika helped shaped Hillary Clinton’s policies on the virus (Politico)

Tuesday, Aug. 2

The big news right now

  • The CDC is advising pregnant women to avoid Miami-Dade County in Florida, where local mosquitoes are believed to be transmitting the Zika virus (STAT)
  • US Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut wants congressional Republicans to call for an emergency session to provide more funding for the Zika virus (CBS Connecticut)
  • Theranos has submitted its Zika blood test, running on its newly unveiled testing platform, for FDA evaluation (STAT)
  • The Hong Kong government is offering its residents attending the Rio Olympics Zika testing upon their return as part of a clinical study (RTHK)

Utah update

After a mysterious case of Zika was found in Utah that may have been transmitted from a father to a son, health officials went door to door to solicit blood tests from nearly 100 neighbors, according to the Deseret News. All results have been negative so far, though, and CDC staffers that were deployed to help have now left Utah. Officials say their findings should be announced by early September.

Today’s must-reads

  • Three reasons Puerto Rico is getting hammered by Zika (Time)
  • What cities can learn from Key West’s Zika controversy (CityLab)

Monday, Aug. 1

The big news right now

  • The UK government advises pregnant women to delay travel to Florida (Guardian)
  • Two golfers who skipped the Olympics because of Zika now face the virus in their home state of Florida (Telegraph)
  • Reggae star Beenie Man says he was denied a visa to Canada, where he was due to perform, because of Zika infection (Rolling Stone)

On people’s lips

“I saw 30 pregnant women today, so I had 30 conversations about Zika.” — Dr. Christine Curry, obstetrician-gynecologist in Miami, in the wake of the first locally transmitted cases of Zika there (STAT)

Playing it safe

ESPN business reporter Darren Rovell tweeted this photo over the weekend of one athlete’s mosquito protection.

Today’s must-read


 

For more Zika in 30 Seconds archives click here.

 

— Curated by Lisa Raffensperger and Elana Zak

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