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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Zika Update - Now the Really, Really Bad News


At A Glance - Zika in the U.S. (as of April 27, 2016)US States
  • Travel-associated Zika virus disease cases reported: 426
  • Locally acquired vector-borne cases reported: 0
  • Total: 426
  • Pregnant: 36
  • Sexually transmitted: 8
  • Guillain-BarrĂ© syndrome: 1
US Territories
  • Travel-associated cases reported: 3
  • Locally acquired cases reported: 596
  • Total: 599
  • Pregnant: 56
  • Guillain-BarrĂ© syndrome: 5

Travel associated cases in U.S. (MAP)

Returning to my coverage

It is thought that a rapidly spreading Asian tiger mosquito, A. albopictus is also capable of carrying Zika which opens up vast new territories for potential spread of the virus.

This is not just another “bird flu panic” situation, it is much more like the actual Ebola threat except that it was relatively easy to stop Ebola – people with the disease quickly developed a fever and also quickly died which was terrible for them but great for those trying to prevent it spreading to the rest of the world.

According to Science Magazine, the tiger mosquito was first seen in Georgia in 1983 but by 2008 it was already becoming common in 32 states.

And in yet another case of unintended consequences, the recycling movement has been responsible for the mosquito’s rapid spread via used automobile tires which are practically designed to be breeding vessels for mosquitoes – if you’ve ever had one around the house you know they trap stagnant water.

Japan and Germany in particular have strict rules about reusing tire carcasses for recapping or storage/disposal so millions of used tires are annually shipped from Asia and Europe to the U. S.

You might think that colder climates would slow the spread of this tropical insect but not so. It turns out that the tiger, almost exclusively of tropical insects, is well adapted to overwintering because the eggs can hibernate in cold weather.

The tiger is very aggressive, so much so that in southern Italy it is actually reducing tourism which has, so to speak, come back to bite the Italians who failed to aggressively move to eradicate the tiger back in 1990 when it was discovered in a kindergarten in Genoa.

Zika Facts

But the big news today is about Zika so let’s take a closer look at that virus.

Zika can only be confirmed through PCR Polymerase Chain Reaction DNA analysis and, since most people don’t even know they have been infected, most people will never be tested.

Zika And Pregnant Women

Even worse, the test only works if conducted within a few days of the infection. There is no use testing a pregnant woman who was bitten by a mosquito three weeks or months ago, the test simply won’t show anything (except possibly a “false” positive which can happen with any test and is meaningless.)

That makes it extremely difficult to determine if the surge in reported cases of birth defects in northern Brazil are actually due to Zika.

No Treatment For Zika

There is no treatment for Zika, as is true for most virus infections; fortunately even people who have a severe infection with strong symptoms are hardly more inconvenienced than they would be with the common cold – that means that, other than the most vulnerable (elderly or otherwise weakened) individuals, few will require more than over-the-counter palliative treatments and if those are not available they will simply have a few uncomfortable days.

WHO Zika Warning

The World Health Organization which has called for an emergency meeting to discuss response to Zika reports, “People with Zika virus disease usually have a mild fever, skin rash and conjunctivitis. These symptoms normally last for 2-7 days.”

According to the WHO, the best (read ONLY) method of prevention is to avoid mosquito bites. Another birth defect has been linked to the virus, Guillain-Barre. Any time something is termed a “syndrome” you know that little is known about it. [WHO] [CDC]

- See my original article

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