14 Cases to 4 Million: 10 Things You Should Know About Zika Virus
The World Health Organization declared the Zika virus an international public health emergency Monday as the disease continues "spreading explosively" and could infect as many as 4 million people in the Americas.
WHO declares the Zika virus spread a public health emergency https://t.co/ra7QwudjWj https://t.co/kZVzorGeoU— The Verge (@The Verge)1454356861.0
The health organization has only declared a public health emergency three times before for polio, swine flu and Ebola. Few people had ever heard of Zika before last month, and according to NPR's Here & Now, "The mosquito-borne virus was known to cause mild symptoms like rashes and fevers, but in most infected people—four out of five—Zika didn’t produce any symptoms at all."
But last month, Brazilian health officials reported more than 4,000 cases in the past year of infants born with microcephaly, a severe birth defect causing small heads and under-developed brains, and they believed the defects were linked to Zika.
NPR says the virus has spread to at least 24 countries with at least 30 cases in the U.S., all of them from people who contracted the disease after traveling to high risk areas.
Officials in countries, such as Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, Jamaica and El Salvador, are advising women to avoid pregnancy until the outbreak has passed. The Brazilian government even enlisted 220,000 members of the military to go door-to-door to help eradicate mosquitos.
Climate change is helping the spread of diseases like the Zika virus https://t.co/f8oCo6B9Kn #ActOnClimate https://t.co/2fEQQybeiL— Climate Reality (@Climate Reality)1454346552.0
For thousands of years, humans have taken every precaution to avoid mosquitoes and the diseases they carry, from Malaria to Zika. But while techniques for fighting the insects have improved dramatically over time, scientists say long-term climate change could soon make protecting humans from mosquitoes much more difficult.
The link between climate change and mosquito-borne illness centers around how rising temperatures may expand the area in which mosquitoes can thrive. Most such illnesses can only be transmitted at temperatures between approximately 16°C (61°F) and 38°C (100°F), according to a World Health Organization report. Perhaps more significantly, the time it takes for mosquitoes to develop decreases significantly the closer temperatures are to around 30°C (86°F). The average global temperature is expected to rise by at least 2°C (3.6°F) by 2100 even if countries take dramatic action to limit their greenhouse gas emissions. In some areas, that shift will be much more dramatic.
Shifts in precipitation levels caused by climate change could also have an effect on where mosquitoes can successfully reproduce. Mosquitoes breed in still water habitats and remain for a week after heavy rainfall.
Still, researchers cautioned that it's hard to predict how global warming will impact mosquito populations in any given area. But most experts agree that, as with most impacts of climate change, the poor are the most vulnerable.
Zika virus: 'I don't know when my daughter will walk or speak' – one mother's story – video https://t.co/ovrlmz4QWe https://t.co/zij6W5AZId— The Guardian (@The Guardian)1454154162.0
The disease's rapid spread has caused alarm among the general public. To learn more about the virus, Here & Now's Jeremy Hobson spoke with Scott Weaver, director of the Institute for Human Infections and Immunity at the University of Texas Medical Branch.
Here are 10 facts about Zika virus from Weaver:
1. The Zika virus was discovered in Uganda, Africa in 1947, but it is believed that the virus existed much earlier than that.
2. It was discovered when looking for yellow fever in monkeys and was found in mosquitoes in 1948.
3. Mosquitoes become infected by feeding on animals infected with the virus.
4. After mosquitoes contract the virus, there is an incubation period in which the virus spreads through the mosquito, into salivary glands.
5. It is unsure as of yet if the Zika virus can be spread from a mosquito to its progeny.
6. Between the discovery and 2007, only 14 human infections of Zika virus were documented.
7. Studies conducted on populations in Africa and Asia found high levels of immunity towards the Zika virus, suggesting previous undocumented transmission.
8. It’s expected to take a few years to develop a vaccine or therapeutics for Zika.
9. The current strategy to manage Zika is to reduce the mosquito population, including clearing stagnant water where the mosquitoes breed.
10. The mosquito that carries Zika virus, aedes aegypti, prefers to be indoors and bite humans throughout the day.
Listen to Scott Weaver speak to Jeremy Hobson on NPR's Here & Now:
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It's going to be back-to-school time soon, but will children go into the classrooms?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) thinks so, but only as long as safety measures are in place.
Keeping Schools Safe<p>What will safer schools look like?</p><p>In a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2766822" target="_blank">JAMA article</a> published last month, <a href="https://www.jhsph.edu/faculty/directory/profile/1781/joshua-m-sharfstein" target="_blank">Dr. Joshua Sharfstein</a>, a pediatrician and professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, outlined suggestions — many of which are similar to AAP's.</p><p>Remote learning protocols must stay in place, especially as some schools stagger home and in-building learning. If another shutdown needs to occur, children will rely on distance learning completely, so it must be easy to switch to, he said.</p><p>He suggested giving parents a daily checklist to document their child's health. Kids should be screened quickly on arrival and be given hygiene supplies. Maintenance staff should use appropriate PPE and have regular cleaning schedules. A notification system should be in place if a case is identified, Sharfstein recommended.</p><p><a href="https://www.albany.edu/rockefeller/faculty/erika-martin" target="_blank">Erika Martin</a>, PhD, an associate professor of public administration and policy at University at Albany, said nutrition assistance and health services should be included. She called for tutoring programs with virtual options as well as technology access.</p>
Supporting Staff<p>Teachers and staff will be affected by safeguarding measures, noted <a href="https://directory.sph.umn.edu/bio/sph-a-z/rachel-widome" target="_blank">Rachel Widome</a>, PhD, an associate professor of epidemiology and community health at University of Minnesota.</p><p>"In order for all of the in-school precautions to work well, we'll be asking a lot of teachers and staff," Widome told Healthline. In addition to their usual workload, they'll now be asked to monitor mask-wearing, ensure children are keeping distance, and be aware of any symptoms.</p><p>Along with Sharfstein, Widome called for an increase in financial support. More employees will likely be required so teachers and staff members can keep up with the added demands.</p>
Should Kids Go Back?<p>While these guidelines may help get some schools to reopen, many people don't think children should go back to school over fears they could contract the disease and spread it to other vulnerable family members like grandparents, infant siblings, or their parents.</p><p>In a <a href="https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2020/07/08/peds.2020-004879" target="_blank">Pediatrics</a> commentary, <a href="https://www.md.com/doctor/william-raszka-md" target="_blank">Dr. William V. Raszka, Jr.</a>, an infectious disease specialist at The University of Vermont Medical Center, argued that schools should open because school-aged children are far less important drivers of COVID-19 than adults.</p><p>But he says the risk and benefit is not equal among all students ages 5 to 18.</p><p>"Elementary schools are arguably higher priority for face-to-face schooling, since younger children are at lower risk for infection and transmission, and since parental supervision of younger children's distance learning may be particularly challenging," added Sorensen, who penned a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/channels/health-forum/fullarticle/2767411" target="_blank">June article in JAMA</a> with reopening tips. "That means middle and high schools are more likely to emphasize distance learning."</p><p>Specific student populations, such as special education students and students with disabilities, would also benefit greatly from more time spent in face-to-face environments, Sorensen said.</p>
What Parents Can Do<p>Parents should ask for and receive frequent updates from schools about plans for the fall. They should also be informed about plans if and when COVID infections are identified, Sharfstein said.</p><p>"I'd like to see parents investing now, during the summer, in doing things that can slow and stop the spread of the virus in their communities," Widome said.</p><p>"Now is a good time for kids to practice wearing masks and get used to them as they may be wearing them for longer stretches if school starts up in person," Widome suggested.</p><p>She recommends parents try different mask designs and materials to see what children are more comfortable wearing.</p><p>"If you are using cloth face coverings, it's good to have extras on hand," Widome added.</p><p>Parents should model healthy behavior at home and while out in public — another thing that could affect how well children adapt to reopening practices, Sorensen said.</p><p>"Children may want to know more about face coverings," added <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/leescott/" target="_blank">Lee Scott</a>, chairwoman of the Educational Advisory Board at <a href="https://www.goddardschool.com/" target="_blank">The Goddard School</a>. "Dramatic play, such as creating or wearing a face covering, may help some children adjust to this concept." Schools can also show children photos of what faculty members look like in their masks so the students are familiar with that appearance.</p><p>Johns Hopkins University recently released its eSchool+ Initiative, a slew of resources surrounding education during the pandemic. These include a <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-checklist/" target="_blank">checklist for administrators</a>, report on <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/ethics-of-reopening/" target="_blank">ethical considerations</a>, and a tracker of <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-policy-tracker/" target="_blank">state and local reopening plans</a>.</p>
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<div id="fea63" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9a6f211c2bc5aedd34837944cb8eeedf"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1281000111481294849" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Water in Illinois is overwhelmingly public. Why is Tammy Duckworth sponsoring a bill that aims to change that? https://t.co/1V36Kkd99s</div> — The American Prospect (@The American Prospect)<a href="https://twitter.com/TheProspect/statuses/1281000111481294849">1594249201.0</a></blockquote></div>
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