The CDC has posted the transcript of last night’s hastily called CDC press conference (at 7pm EST) on yesterday’s release of new, interim travel advice for pregnant women seeking to travel to countries where the Zika virus is transmitting.
On 21 December 2015, WHO received notification of the first 2 laboratory-confirmed cases of Zika virus infection in two overseas departments of France: Remire-Montjoly, French Guiana and Schœlcher, Martinique. Since then, 2 additional cases have been reported in Saint Laurent du Maroni, French Guiana and in Fort de France, Martinique.The cases were confirmed by polymerase chain reaction (viral genome detection) at the Pasteur Institute in Cayenne, French Guiana and at the university hospital laboratory in Martinique.Samples from 4 additional suspected cases in Martinique (1 in Lamentin and 3 in Le Robert) were sent to the National Reference Centre for arboviruses in Marseille for further analysis.
The current theory is that maternal infection during the 1st and 2nd trimester with the recently arrived mosquito-borne Zika virus is behind this sudden surge in birth defects, but hard evidence is still lacking and a conclusive link may take months to establish.
The Puerto Rico Department of Health reported today the first locally acquired case of Zika virus infection in Puerto Rico. Zika was confirmed in a resident of Puerto Rico with no known travel history. CDC is working closely with the Puerto Rico Department of Health to investigate how the patient may have contracted the virus. Health officials in Puerto Rico are monitoring for other cases of Zika virus infection. CDC has issued a travel notice advising people traveling to Puerto Rico to take usual precautions to protect themselves from mosquito bites to reduce their risk of infection with Zika virus and other mosquito-borne viruses, such as dengue and chikungunya. These steps include wearing insect repellent, using air conditioning or window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside, wearing long pants and long-sleeved shirts when possible, and emptying standing water inside and outside the home.
Like with Dengue and Chikununguya which arrived before it, Zika is finding the climate and abundance of Aedes mosquitoes highly conducive to spreading, along with a large, virologically naive population. As a result, Brazil alone is estimating more than a half million infections over the past eight months (see Brazil Estimates 500K+ Zika Infections). Up until a few months ago Zika was considered a relatively minor threat, particularly when compared to the far more painful and debilitating Chikungunya and the four (occasionally) deadly strains of Dengue. Zika infections were generally regarded as relatively mild, and self limiting. That perception began to change, ever so slightly, after an outbreak in French Polynesia in 2013-2014, which saw a concurrent spike in Guillain–Barré syndrome (GBS) (see Zika, Dengue & Unusual Rates Of Guillain Barre Syndrome In French Polynesia).
WHO does not recommend any travel or trade restriction to Honduras based on the current information available.
Zika becomes part of your local area when someone who has caught it in another area, comes to your area and is then bitten by a local mosquito and it then passes the newly acquired infection on to the next person it bites and on and on it goes. In short, it is people traveling to and from infected areas who bring it to you.
The potential for birth defects is the chief problem!
WHO adviceGiven the increased transmission of Zika virus in the Region of the Americas, PAHO/WHO recommends that its Member States establish and maintain the capacity to detect and confirm cases of Zika virus infection, prepare their health services for a potential additional burden at all levels of health care, and implement an effective public communications strategy to reduce the mosquitoes that transmit this disease, particularly in areas where this vector is present. The complete set of recommendations is available in the latest Epidemiological Update (see related links)
In most years, the number of cases of this rare defect reported across Brazil runs in the low triple digits. Over the past two weeks we’ve seen that number jump from 399, to 739, to now 1248 suspected cases. This jump coincides with the arrival of the Zika Virus last spring (see ECDC: Complications Potentially Linked To The Zika Virus Outbreaks In Brazil & French Polynesia), and there is growing concern that the rapidly spreading Zika virus is to blame. Microcephaly is a rare neurological condition where the child’s head is smaller in circumference than normal, and is often associated with developmental disorders. It can be caused by congenital disorders, maternal illness, or environmental exposures.