Concerned About the Zika Virus? Here's What You Need to Know
What are your chances of getting bit by a mosquito infected with the Zika virus?
All U.S. public officials can say at this point is, they’re not zero.
Mosquitos of the Aedes species that are the prime suspects for spreading the disease thrive in tropical and subtropical climates around the world, but they can also survive in some temperate zones, according to the latest estimates and maps from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The CDC’s maps show that Aedes mosquitos have been found over the years in about 30 states, ranging as far north as Maine and Minnesota.
That doesn’t mean that any mosquitos now in the U.S. are actually carrying Zika. For an outbreak to occur, the CDC says, an Aedes mosquito must bite someone infected with Zika during the first week of that person’s illness, when the virus is in the bloodstream. Then mosquito must survive long enough for the virus to multiply in its body and it must then bite a second person. And so on.
Everyone, especially pregnant women, needs to take extra precautions to avoid mosquito bites. If you travel to warm countries this summer, your odds of coming into contact with a Zika-infected mosquito will be greater.
As of April 14, the World Health Organization (WHO) had documented Zika transmission in 64 countries and territories. Last February, the WHO formally declared the Zika threat a “public health emergency of international concern,” only the fourth time an infectious disease has triggered that worldwide alarm. (The three earlier outbreaks were H1N1 influenza in 2009 and polio and Ebola in 2014).
Cities Most at Risk for #Zika With Warmer-Than-Average #Summer Forecasted https://t.co/lbxzCex0eR @ClimateReality https://t.co/YeVct45uFU— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1458223072.0
The bottom line: No repellent is 100 percent effective, but three offer users the best chance of avoiding mosquito bites:
- DEET (20-30 percent concentration)
- Picaridin (20 percent concentration)
- IR 3535 (20 percent concentration)
These repellents offer strong protection from the Aedes mosquito for at least four hours in laboratory conditions. People should reapply them after swimming and sweating.
As has been widely reported, Zika is now a full-fledged crisis in Brazil, where, according to the WHO’s April 14 report, public health officials have logged 1,113 cases of infants born with microcephaly and other birth defects possibly associated with Zika.
In the 50 states, according to the CDC, as of April 13, 358 people, including 31 pregnant women, are reported to have contracted Zika, all while traveling. None have been traced to a mosquito bite close to home.
The story is different in the territory of Puerto Rico, where 471 cases of Zika are being attributed to “local transmission,” meaning, mostly mosquito bites and four to travel.
Obama administration officials, anticipating that the situation in the U.S. could worsen as the weather warms across in the country, took to the White House podium April 11 to urge Congress to pass $1.9 billion in emergency funding for mosquito control and vaccine development.
The most striking aspect of the outbreak is its mysteries, even to scientists who have spent their lives studying epidemics.
“Everything we look at with this virus seems to be a bit scarier than we initially thought,” Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the CDC, told reporters.
“This is a very unusual virus that we can't even pretend to know everything about it that we need to know,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said.
Preliminary studies indicate that the virus “has a very strong propensity to destroy tissue,” Fauci added. “Which could explain why, besides interfering with the development of a fetus, it might directly attack brain tissue, even when the fetus is later on in the period of gestation.”
Though Zika itself was discovered in 1947 in Uganda and the first human cases were recorded in 1952, the outbreak that began last year in Brazil is the first to demonstrate the virus’s power to inflict mass casualties, particularly on the young.
“Only when it hit a vulnerable, big population with a lot of mosquitoes, with people who have never been exposed to this before, did we then start seeing the unfolding of this scenario that every week, every month, tends to surprise us more,” Fauci said.
Schuchat and Fauci said scientists have now determined that the Zika disease can be transmitted sexually as well as via mosquitos. And evidence is accumulating that adults infected with Zika can develop Guillain-Barré syndrome, characterized by weakness and paralysis and other chronic neurological disorders.
On April 10, Brazilian scientists linked Zika to a second congenital brain disorder, called Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis, whose symptoms resemble those of multiple sclerosis. Scientists have yet to prove conclusively that Zika causes this and other brain damage, but the circumstantial evidence for this, too, is mounting.
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By 2030, almost a third of all the energy consumed in the European Union must come from renewable sources, according to binding targets agreed in 2018. Sweden is helping lead the way.
Sweden is a world leader in renewable energy consumption. Swedish Institute/World Bank
Naturally Warm<p>54% of Sweden's power comes from renewables, and is helped by its geography. With plenty of moving water and 63% forest cover, it's no surprise the <a href="https://sweden.se/nature/energy-use-in-sweden/#" target="_blank">two largest renewable power sources</a> are hydropower and biomass. And that biomass is helping support a local energy boom.</p><p>Heating is a key use of energy in a cold country like Sweden. In recent decades, as fuel oil taxes have increased, the country's power companies have turned to renewables, like biomass, to fuel local 'district heating' plants.</p><p>In Sweden these trace their <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank">origins back to 1948</a>, when a power station's excess heat was first used to heat nearby buildings: steam is <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/engineering/district-heating-system" target="_blank">forced along a network of pipes</a> to wherever it's needed. Today, there are around 500 district heating systems across the country, from major cities to small villages, providing heat to homes and businesses.</p><p>District heating used to be fueled mainly from the <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140" target="_blank">by-products of power plants</a>, waste-to-energy plants and industrial processes. These days, however, Sweden is bringing more renewable sources into the mix. And as a result of competition, this localized form of power is now the country's<a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> home-heating market leader.</a></p>
Sweden is using smart grids to turn buildings into energy producers. Huang et al/Elsevier
Energy ‘Prosumers’<p>But Sweden doesn't stop at village-level heating solutions. Its new breed of energy-generation takes hyper-local to the next level.</p><p>One example is in the city of Ludivika where 1970s flats <a href="https://www.buildup.eu/sites/default/files/content/transforming-a-residential-building-cluster-into-electricity-prosumers-in-sweden.pdf" target="_blank">have recently been retrofitted with the latest smart energy technology</a>.</p><p>48 family apartments spread across 3 buildings have been given photovoltaic solar panels, thermal energy storage and heat pump systems. A micro energy grid connects it all, and helps charge electric cars overnight.</p><p>The result is a cluster of 'prosumer' buildings, producing rather than consuming enough power for 77% of residents' needs. With <a href="http://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:1232060/FULLTEXT01.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">high levels of smart meter usage</a>, it's a model that looks set to spread across Sweden.</p>
<div id="d7bf9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8757b138d5570bec9d6aad18074a429a"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1273556364263071744" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Read more about Western Harbour and book a visit: https://t.co/ujSmVs9rNK 🏡🌳🌊 https://t.co/C5PuPziqIM</div> — Smart City Sweden (@Smart City Sweden)<a href="https://twitter.com/SmartCitySweden/statuses/1273556364263071744">1592474473.0</a></blockquote></div>
Scaling Up<p>A recent development by E.ON in Hyllie, a district on the outskirts of Malmö, southern Sweden, <a href="https://www.eonenergy.com/blog/2019/February/sweden-smart-city" target="_blank">has scaled up the smart grid principle</a>. Energy generation comes from local wind, solar, biomass and waste sources.</p><p>Smart grids then balance the power, react to the weather, deploying extra power when it's colder or putting excess into battery storage when it's warm. The system is not only more efficient, but bills have fallen.</p><p>Smart energy developments like those in Hyllie, Ludivika, and renewable-driven district heating, offer a radical alternative to the centralized energy systems many countries rely on today.</p><p>The EU's leaders have a challenge: how to generate 32% of energy from renewables by 2030. Sweden offers a vision of how technology and local solutions can turn a goal into a reality.</p>
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