Saturday, November 18, 2017
Health

U.S. officials say the more we learn about Zika virus, the scarier it is (w/video)

RECOMMENDED READING


WASHINGTON — The more researchers learn about the Zika virus, the scarier it appears, federal health officials said Monday as they urged more money for mosquito control and to develop vaccines and treatments.

Scientists increasingly believe the Zika virus sweeping through Latin America and the Caribbean causes devastating defects in fetal brains if women become infected during pregnancy.

"Everything we look at with this virus seems to be a bit scarier than we initially thought," Dr. Anne Schuchat of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said at a White House briefing.

And while experts don't expect widespread outbreaks in the continental U.S., "we absolutely need to be ready," she said.

President Barack Obama has sought about $1.9 billion in emergency money to help fight the Zika epidemic internationally and to prepare in case the virus spreads here, but the request has stalled in the GOP-controlled Congress. Last week, the administration said it would use $589 million in funds left over from the Ebola outbreak for some of that work.

But that "is not enough for us to get the job done," said Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health, whose agency hopes to have a possible vaccine ready for first-stage safety testing in early fall. "It's just a temporary stopgap."

VIDEO: CDC says Zika scarier than we thought

Zika was long considered a nuisance virus, causing only mild symptoms, if any, in most people. But starting with reports from Brazil, over the last year infections in pregnant women have been strongly linked to babies born with unusually small heads, a birth defect called microcephaly that can signal underlying brain damage.

"I'm not an alarmist," Fauci said, but he and Schuchat cited growing reason for concern about Zika:

• Researchers also have linked Zika to stillbirths, miscarriages, eye problems and other complications, with complications not only in the first trimester but throughout pregnancy.

• Brazilian researchers reported Sunday that Zika preferentially targets developing brain cells. They used stem cells to study embryonic brain development in lab dish, and reported in the journal Science that virus taken from a Brazilian patient destroyed the growing neural cells in a few days.

• There's also evidence that some adults occasionally may suffer serious effects from Zika. Researchers already were studying whether Guillain-Barre syndrome, a nerve condition that can cause paralysis, is linked to Zika. And Sunday, another Brazilian research team reported two Zika patients who suffered yet another problem, a brain inflammation that damages the coating of nerve cells in a way similar to multiple sclerosis.

The CDC has warned women who are pregnant or attempting to conceive to avoid travel to Zika-affected areas. Because Zika sometimes spreads through sexual intercourse, the CDC also says men who've traveled to Zika-affected areas either should use condoms with their pregnant partners or avoid sex until the baby's born.

More than 300 travel-associated cases of Zika have been reported in the U.S. so far, and the CDC also wants travelers to take extra steps to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes when they come home — so local insects won't pick up the virus and spread it. While CDC does expect some clusters of homegrown Zika to occur, it is working with state and local governments to boost mosquito control.

In addition to research into a possible vaccine, Fauci said the NIH is screening medications in the quest for a treatment. A few — 15 of 62 screened so far — show some degree of possible activity against Zika in laboratory tests although "that doesn't mean they're going to turn out to be good drugs," he cautioned.

Comments
New shingles vaccine touted as a breakthrough for older adults

New shingles vaccine touted as a breakthrough for older adults

Medical researchers and government health policymakers, a cautious lot, normally take pains to keep expectations modest when they’re discussing some new finding or treatment.They warn about studies’ limitations. They point out what isn’t known. They ...
Published: 11/17/17
In Tampa Bay and elsewhere, early numbers show record sign-ups for Obamacare

In Tampa Bay and elsewhere, early numbers show record sign-ups for Obamacare

Despite the budget cuts, the attempts to repeal and replace, and reports of sharp rises in premiums, Floridians and other Americans are signing up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act at record rates this year.Enrollment has surged 47 p...
Published: 11/16/17
Updated: 11/17/17
Study: Mental quickness exercises can lower risk of dementia

Study: Mental quickness exercises can lower risk of dementia

Where did I leave my keys?As we age, it can take longer to answer a question like that.Humans begin to lose cognitive ability at age 25. Dementia, or the decline of memory most commonly seen in aging adults, takes hold early on and is gradual, but ac...
Published: 11/16/17
Blood pressure of 130 is the new ‘high,’ according to update of guidelines

Blood pressure of 130 is the new ‘high,’ according to update of guidelines

The nation’s heart experts tightened the guidelines for high blood pressure Monday, a change that will sharply increase the number of U.S. adults considered hypertensive in the hope that they, and their doctors, will address the deadly condition earl...
Published: 11/13/17
Are Honey Nut Cheerios healthy? A look inside the box

Are Honey Nut Cheerios healthy? A look inside the box

I had a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios recently. It had been awhile. Regular Cheerios are more my thing. But sometimes I finish my box faster than my kids do and find myself straying to their side of the cupboard.Honey Nut is America’s best-selling break...
Published: 11/11/17
Owner of Bayfront Health St. Petersburg faces federal inquiry over funds for low-income patients

Owner of Bayfront Health St. Petersburg faces federal inquiry over funds for low-income patients

The corporate owner of Bayfront Health St. Petersburg could be facing a serious federal investigation related to its commitment to take care of St. Petersburg’s poorest residents.In its most recent filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commiss...
Published: 11/09/17
Updated: 11/14/17
Learn to practice gratitude year-round, not just on Thanksgiving

Learn to practice gratitude year-round, not just on Thanksgiving

Is it part of your Thanksgiving tradition to go around the dinner table and have everyone share one thing they are thankful for? The exercise reminds us that the day is about more than just turkey and pie. And, for those who take it seriously, it for...
Published: 11/07/17
Updated: 11/10/17
When the goal is getting to the ER fast and cheap, some choose Uber over 911

When the goal is getting to the ER fast and cheap, some choose Uber over 911

Matt Lavin had just arrived in Charlottesville, Va., for a business trip when he started feeling sick. By the time he got to his hotel around 11 p.m., he felt excruciating pain. "I didn’t know what was happening, but I knew something wasnR...
Published: 11/06/17

Stunning study: Heart stents fail to ease chest pain

A procedure used to relieve chest pain in hundreds of thousands of heart patients each year is useless for many of them, researchers reported Wednesday.Their study focused on the insertion of stents, tiny wire cages, to open blocked arteries. The dev...
Updated one month ago
Vigil calls attention to overdose victims, and brings hope

Vigil calls attention to overdose victims, and brings hope

NEW PORT RICHEY — The room was filling up fast. For Monica Rousseau, the sight of so many people searching for a seat at the annual Narcotics Overdose Prevention and Education candlelight vigil was both heartbreaking and uplifting. "I can’t even gues...
Updated one month ago