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Zika Virus Threatens Disney World

Zika Virus Threatens  Disney World
June 02
15:34 2016
Zika experts have warned European travelers to “think twice” before visiting Disney World, which is located in one of the 30 US states said to be at risk for Zika transmission this summer.

This travel warning, which is specifically directed at pregnant women and couples planning to conceive, comes from Professor Jimmy Whitworth of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Louisiana and Texas are also on his list of destinations to avoid.

Professor Whitworth explained that those planning to visit the southern US in upcoming weeks shouldn’t be worried, but that vacationers should think twice if they plan to travel 2-3 months from now.

“If you are not pregnant, or not thinking of getting pregnant, then I don’t think it is something to worry about,” he added.

Brazil-Zika-Call-T_2897441aZika is known to cause the fatal birth defect microcephaly, which I outlined in a previous article about the virus. For everyone else, the symptoms are comparable to a common cold.

Numerous Zika cases have been diagnosed in the US, but as of now there is no evidence that mosquitoes on the mainland have been infected with the virus. These individuals likely contracted the virus in other countries or from a person who had visited countries such as Brazil, the Dominican Republic, or Puerto Rico.

The Zika virus is expected to hit the southern US this summer as temperatures rise.

The Aedes Aegypti mosquito is the main carrier of the Zika virus, and has carried the killer through South and Central America, into the Caribbean, and up into Mexico and Cuba.

Over 100 scientists have suggested moving or postponing this summer’s Olympic Games, which is currently scheduled to take place in Brazil – the location of the initial outbreak.

The chart below shows Aedes mosquito distribution (as estimated by the WHO).

Aedes Mow

Meanwhile, there is promise for a Zika vaccine within the next 3-5 years.

“The research and development community has responded vigorously to the need for medical countermeasures for Zika as well as the need for innovative vector control measures and the pipeline of candidate products has expanded rapidly,” explains Dr. Marie-Paule Kieny, WHO Assistant Director-General of the health systems and innovation branch.

“There are over 60 groups currently involved in Zika R&D and about half of those are working on diagnostics,” she continues. Key knowledge gaps include “the need to better understand the mosquito dynamic and the role of various species…we don’t know which ones can transmit or not – apart from the major one identified (Aedes).”

Dr. Kieny also stressed the need to understand whether or not prior exposure to related viruses (including dengue) could impact the immune response to a Zika vaccine.

Professor Jorge Kalil is the director of Instituto Butantan, a lead biomedical research center in Sao Paulo, Brazil. He explains that most vaccines take between 12 and 15 years to develop, but with today’s technology there is potential to have a Zika vaccine finished and available within the next 3-5 years.

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April Kuhlman

April Kuhlman

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