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Archive for the ‘Disease outbreak’ Category

By Clarissa Schaffino

Microcephaly is a rare condition where infants are born with unusually small heads and consequently have problems with brain development. This condition has not been widely studied but can have severe ramifications later on in life. Microcephaly is believed to be caused by a number of things but today there is a concern regarding the Zika Virus. This virus is transmitted by a vector mosquito and produces minor symptoms for its host. This virus is believed to have come from Africa in the early 1940’s (Tavernise, 2016). Today, it is affecting many pregnant women in Brazil and other regions of the Americas. Those who have had this virus are now seeing microcephaly in their newborn babies. This is a rising concern due to the large number of incidence. Zika virus has not been proven to cause the condition of microcephaly but there appears to be a strong link among the two and major health players are stepping in.

Little is known about the exact transmission of Zika virus. It was previously thought that this virus was only caused by mosquito bite; however, new cases in different regions suggest that there are other transmission pathways. According to an article in the New York Times, new cases of Zika Virus in the United States suggest that “Zika virus” is “possibly being transmitted by sex” (Tarvernise, 2016). A report from Live Science, confirms this theory by stating that there are cases that “[provide] even more evidence that the virus can be transmitted through sex” (Rettner, 2016). A report on a man who contracted this virus states that “follow-up tests for the virus” were “conducted” and “it could still be found in the semen 62 days after the man’s illness”. This news is alarming because women now have to protect themselves for a period that is longer than 30 days and they may not have access to the proper protection methods such as “condoms or contraception” (Tavernise, 2016). Also, the “testing of semen may be difficult” (Rettner, 2016). This could cause problems because we are not entirely sure how long the virus remains present in fluids; therefore, we do not know when or how long women should refrain from pregnancy.

Another major concern is strict abortion laws in Brazil and in other countries (Romero, 2016). Women who are getting pregnant with Zika virus and do not wish to bring the baby to full term are not being permitted to get abortions. I believe that this will have a big impact on this specific generation of children being born. Women should have the choice in bringing a child into the world. A child with severe developmental problems may not live a life as beneficial as a child without these problems. This condition will also impact the healthcare system due to cost of care for an infant with severe developmental problems.

Treatment methods for this virus are still being researched. A vaccination may prove to be the best preventative option for women who are pregnant. However, there is some stigma against vaccinations and pregnancy. Women may not feel comfortable getting a vaccine during their pregnancy because of fear of hurting the fetus. Eradication may be more difficult than we imagined. Education on safe sex will also be a major tool in fighting the spread of this virus. We have to develop more treatment methods and have more education on safe sex practices. Currently, STI’s are still spread in large numbers.

Ultimately, this problem is going to take time to fix. This virus has the potential to cause major dents in the public health field. There are many different moving parts in regards to this virus and its consequences. Zika Virus is spreading fast through South America, Central America, and now to the United States. If not stopped now, we will be seeing the effects of this virus for years to come. I would recommend this topic to women who are considering pregnancy. This is a major concern because as of now there are little ways to combat the virus. Learning about this topic has opened my eyes to the many different avenues that a virus can impact. Zika Virus is not just a virus that affects a host but it is also a virus that has effects on an infant, on the healthcare system, political system, and global and local public health systems.

 

Below is a video from the New York Times that discusses the Zika Virus:

Video

http://www.nytimes.com/video/world/americas/100000004185544/understanding-zika-virus.html?action=click&contentCollection=world&module=embedded&region=caption&pgtype=article

 

 

Rettner, R. (2016, February 12). Zika Virus in Semen Provides More Evidence of Sexual Spread.           Retrieved February 25, 2016, from http://www.livescience.com/53704-zika-virus-semen-       sexual-transmission.html

 

Romero, S. (2016, February 3). Surge of Zika Virus Has Brazilians Re-examining Strict                          Abortion Laws. The New York Times. Retrieved February 25, 2016, from                                         http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/04/world/americas/zika-virus-brazil-abortion-                      laws.html

 

Tavernise, S. (2016, February 23). C.D.C. Investigating 14 New Reports of Zika Transmission Through Sex. The New York Times. Retrieved February 25, 2016, from             http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/24/health/zika-virus-sexual-                                                    transmission.html?ref=health

 

 

 

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By Vassilis Ragoussis

I’m sure most of you have read or at least heard about the Zika virus outbreak that has occurred. There has been an explosion of information on social media and news websites that has been alarming, and what I can say, somewhat terrifying.

This panic was certainly an exacerbation due to the reactive nature we have towards diseases.  We scramble beneath the terror of colossal headlines.

“Zika Virus ‘Spreading Explosively’ in Americas, W.H.O. Says”

“Zika virus: Up to 4 million cases predicted”

Let’s look closer at the statistics. In Brazil, there has been an increase from 150 normal cases of microcephaly, to 4,000 cases. Out of the 3 million baby births the risk comes out to a miniscule 0.0013%. Additionally, Nature found that only 270 of the Brazil cases have actually been confirmed as microcephaly, with 462 cases being false diagnoses.

Microencephaly

 

In 2014, the Ebola outbreak in West Africa had the whole world waiting for their impending doom. Government leaders, the public and news media alike demanded clarifications and denounced that not enough was being done. The same is now occurring with Zika.

How did this panic happen?

Do we not learn from previous outbreaks? Having a comprehensive plan to fight against microbial diseases by being proactive and focusing on prevention will certainly give better outcomes in the future.

Mosquito

 

Aedes aegypti is the mosquito to blame. It is currently thriving in large numbers close to human residences. With the increase in human waste and plastic containers there are ample places for rainfall to collect and create breeding areas for Aedes to lay its eggs and multiply.

Mosquitos are vectors of the disease. Controlling the vector will control the disease. In America its close cousin, Aedes albopictus, the Asian tiger mosquito spans over 30 states. For now, this species is not a major player in the transmission of Zika to humans, but what if it did? Then we could face the risk of a serious outbreak.

For me, the logical solution would be managing the vector. Reducing its habitat, removing human waste and places it could live would automatically reduce its ability to breed. Chemically or biologically we can take measures to reduce and control the mosquito population and hence the burden of disease that it can inflict.

Fortunately, the symptoms of Zika are absent to mild for the vast majority. However, there can be some devastating implications if infected. The incidence of microcephaly has increased; this is where babies experience small head growth and resultant brain damage. Zika can also lead to Guillain-Barré syndrome, an autoimmune disorder that can cause paralysis. Nevertheless, we need more data and ultimately more time to research and confirm this causation.

The Zika virus should not have been the complication to remind us how destructive mosquitos can be. The Dengue virus along with Malaria, although not directly prevalent and disastrous in America, have caused worldwide epidemics and caused millions of deaths.

We should have prepared, or even anticipated that something like this would happen.

PPE

Efforts of controlling vector transmission will significantly reduce, but not eliminate the risk of Zika. Wearing protective clothing, net beds, using EPA-registered insect repellents are measures we can take to protect ourselves from mosquitos. The next step would be to develop a vaccine. For this, we need time, and of course, more research.

Going back to the original question posed.

How did this panic happen?

New risks freak us out more than the ones we’re familiar with. As a culture we are more troubled about dangers to babies than adults. With Zika we are clouded by a sense of inadequacy. The general uncertainty we have about the nature of Zika coupled with no present vaccine, leaves us feeling powerless. As creatures, we readily adopt a fatalistic notion and place too much emphasis on the worst-case possibilities of any threat. Although in some cases this is reasonable, we also are equally cautious of excessive fear.

We should have anticipated the large increase in mosquitos that would create a major health crisis. We need to foresee that pandemics will occur, we can certainly prepare in advance to minimize the severity and the spread. Acting now and focusing on prevention needs to be our game plan.

As humans, we must be both rational and intelligent, reacting to crises with the right amount of emotion and investigation will help us remain safe in the future.

 

References:

Tavernise, Sabrina. “Zika Virus ‘Spreading Explosively’ in Americas, W.H.O. Says.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 2016. Web. 26 Feb. 2016.

 

“5 Things You Really Need to Know About Zika.” Public Health Matters Blog. Web. 26 Feb. 2016.

 

Nature.com. Nature Publishing Group. Web. 26 Feb. 2016.

 

“Zika Virus.” World Health Organization. Web. 26 Feb. 2016.

 

“Zika Virus: Three Britons Infected, Say Health Officials – BBC News.” BBC News. Web. 26 Feb. 2016.

 

 

 

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-By Sarah Esselborn

The consequences of the devastating earthquake in Haiti on January 12, 2010 are still felt today. Specifically, the cholera outbreak brought by U.N. Peacekeepers from Nepal in October of 2010 has had serious effects on the people in Haiti (NBC News 2014). As of March of 2013, more than 650,000 cases had been identified and 7,441 deaths (Grandesso 2014). By contrast, in the United States, the average number of cholera cases per year is 6 (and these are non-fatal). I have spent time in Haiti, my last visit returning the day before this devastating earthquake. These Haitian people getting cholera and dying are people I deeply care for. I want to bring hope to this seemingly devastating situation. (more…)

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– By Rohit Maruthi

You feel very sick and go to your doctor where you learn that you have a bacterial infection that can typically be treated with antibiotics. Great, problem solved, right? Maybe not… In recent years, there has been a rise in the strains of antibiotic resistant bacteria (ARB) such as methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), rendering even the most powerful of our antibiotics ineffective.1 What are the reasons behind this calamity?

The major contributor to ARB has been the excessive use of antibiotics in various aspects of society. For example, “We stuff them into ourselves and our animals; we spray them on crops, [and] dump them in rivers.”1 This is a serious issue due to the high reproduction rate of most bacteria (i.e. some strains reproduce asexually within twenty minutes). Therefore, by natural selection, various strains of bacteria will obtain this resistance, rendering antibiotics – our defense against diseases – futile. The overuse of antibiotics has resulted in some frightening statistics: 70% of bacteria in the world is resistant to at least one antibiotic.1 Furthermore, reports from the Center for Disease Control indicate that at least 2 million Americans become sick and 23,000 die each year as a result of ARB.2

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– By Mirtula Papa

I recently stumbled upon an interesting article on CNN Health titled “CDC: 5 Ways Diseases in Other Countries Can Kill you” by Dr. Tom Frieden (the director of the Center for Disease Control). This article stated that the United States, along with over twenty-five other countries, have launched the “Global Health Security Agenda”, a global effort to purge all populations of infectious diseases. This really sparked my interest, as it is a step in the right direction towards the eradication of infectious diseases worldwide. It is very important that we do not ignore this matter as it can affect us right here at home. (more…)

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By Kelly Powers

In our developing world, the burden of disease is shifting. The majority of people are not dying from communicable diseases, but from non-communicable disease such as heart disease. However, Michaeleen Doucleff’s article for NPR highlighted a recent study by the think tank CFR that shows measles has reappeared in Europe and whooping cough is now problematic in the United States. At the same time, immunization rates for children has drastically decreased in Europe and the U.K since the new millennium due to the publication of a study done by Dr. Andrew Wakefield, which incorrectly posited a causal relationship between autism and the vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella. This study was published in the prestigious journal, The Lancet. (more…)

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-By Ashwin Anand

It may or may not be news to you that there is a new strain of the influenza virus emerging in China, H7N9. The first death from this strain of virus was recorded on Feb 27th, 2013 in the Shanghai area. Yet, it has more recently spread to the surrounding provinces of Shanghai and infected large numbers of people. The most interesting part of the new strain is that H7N9 had never before been recorded in human beings previously. Influenza, in its common strains, is not of large concern to most people, as it is a seasonal disease with relatively mild complications. However, novel strains of the flu, namely H1N1 (swine flu) and H5N1 (bird flu), are the ones more likely to rise to levels of global pandemic and lead to high numbers of both cases and deaths. It should be noted that as feared as it was during its time, H5N1 never fully became a global pandemic. (more…)

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