Zika

Nancy Klingener / WLRN

  While Florida is focusing on the prospect of the Zika virus getting a foothold in the state, the focus in the Florida Keys is on Aedes aegypti, the mosquitoes that carry the disease.

That's because the British company Oxitec has proposed its first U.S. trial of a genetically modified version of the mosquito in a Keys neighborhood. The Cayman Islands, site of the first-ever field trial six years ago, recently agreed to go forward with releasing the Oxitec mosquitoes.

Nancy Klingener / WLRN

While the FDA has released a preliminary finding of no significant impact from a proposed test of genetically modified mosquitoes in the Florida Keys, many in the neighborhood where the test would take place are opposed to the plan.

Oxitec, the company that makes the genetically modified version of aedes aegypti, is holding two public meetings in Key West this week to answer questions from the public, especially those in Key Haven. That neighborhood, a peninsula about five miles from Key West, is the proposed testing site.

Oxitec

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has extended the public comment period to May 13 on a proposed field trial in the Florida Keys. The trial involves the release of a thousand genetically modified mosquitoes.

It would be the first such trial in the U.S. by Oxitec, a British company that genetically alters the males in the Aedes aegypti species. The modification causes the offspring of these males to die quickly.

Fernando Vergara / AP via Miami Herald

In the last month, two powerful and influential entities have weighed in on how to deal with growing concerns over the zika virus in Latin America.  While health officials investigate whether the virus is linked to a devastating birth defect, the United Nations has been urging Latin American countries to loosen their abortion laws.

Meanwhile, Pope Francis turned heads last week when he suggested that the Vatican's stance on artificial birth control would be softened somewhat in light of the crisis.

FIU Panel Offers Reassurance On Zika

Feb 3, 2016
Cynthia Goldsmith / Centers for Disease Control via Wikimedia Commons

 

 

There's no need to panic about zika, experts told concerned South Florida residents at a panel discussion at Florida International University on Wednesday.

 

Although nine cases of the virus had been confirmed in Florida as of Wednesday morning, all of those cases were contracted outside the United States, said Matthew DeGennaro, an FIU mosquito researcher.

Six new cases of travel-related Zika were confirmed this week in Florida.

That’s according to the Florida Department of Health, which reported the cases to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.  That brings the number of Florida cases to nine total, none of them in pregnant women. All are believed to be contracted by someone traveling outside of Florida.

Tim Padgett / WLRN.org

Mario Stevenson is a respected virus expert. He heads the infectious diseases division at the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine. He’s done pioneering research on HIV.

But until last year he’d barely registered Zika.

“Four months ago,” Stevenson told me, “I thought Zika was an Italian football player.”

He’s since learned Zika is a mosquito-borne virus – one that’s marauding so badly throughout Latin America and the Caribbean that the World Health Organization this week declared it a global health emergency.

jentavery / Flickr

The first cases of zika have been confirmed in Florida, and experts say more small-scale outbreaks are likely here.

 

At least three cases of the virus have been confirmed in Florida, including two in Miami-Dade County, according to multiple news reports. Matthew DeGennaro, a mosquito researcher at Florida International University, says he expects to see more cases, although the outbreaks will not be nearly as large as the ones ravaging the Americas.

 

Fernando Vergara / AP via Miami Herald

COMMENTARY

In response to Latin America’s sudden outbreak of Zika – the insect-borne virus tied to a serious fetal brain defect – some of the region’s countries are telling women to shun pregnancy for months if not years.

We can debate whether that strategy is appropriate. Rights groups, for example, have a point when they say it puts an unfair if not unrealistic onus on women when the focus should be eradicating mosquitoes.

What do you want to know about the Zika virus?

We asked our audience, and on Jan. 26 we posed their questions to NPR global health correspondent Jason Beaubien and South America correspondent Lourdes Garcia-Navarro in a live video Q&A, moderated by Goats and Soda editor Malaka Gharib. Garcia-Navarro participated from Rio de Janeiro.

Health Officials: 3 In Florida Have Zika Virus

Jan 20, 2016

The Florida Department of Health has confirmed three cases of Zika virus in Florida, including two in Miami-Dade County.

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