disease

You wouldn't think of calling a mosquito "man's best friend." But that's the nickname that biologist Denise Valle uses for Aedes aegypti, the species that's been spreading the Zika virus in Brazil and many other countries in Latin America.

I think "man's best enemy" might be better.

The thing is, this mosquito likes to live near humans.

For Carnival in Brazil, lots of women don giant feather headdresses and skimpy bikinis.

But for a pre-Carnival event, Elaine Cuoto is dressed as a mosquito — complete with a long proboscis and gossamer wings.

She is part of a group of health workers dancing by a metro station in a working-class neighborhood of Rio's north zone. A few others are wearing mosquito costumes as well. And they're singing a catchy tune:

"If Zika attacks, use this number to report it, 7-4-6. Pay attention!"

"If you are a woman who is pregnant living in the U.S., there's one really important thing you need to know: You shouldn't go to a place that has Zika spreading."

A human study of Zika virus vaccine could begin as early as this year, U.S. health officials told reporters Thursday.

But the officials cautioned that it could be years before the vaccine is available for wide use.

The news came as the Zika virus continues to spread through the Americas. Still, a large outbreak is seen as unlikely in the U.S.

In her first major address on the Zika outbreak, the head of the World Health Organization, Dr. Margaret Chan, said the mosquito-borne virus has gone from being "a mild threat to one of alarming proportions." Chan spoke Thursday in Geneva.

The outbreak of Zika virus in Brazil and other countries has raised concern that the pathogen could start spreading widely in the United States, as well. But federal health officials and other infectious disease specialists say so far that seems unlikely.

The World Health Organization says it expects the Zika virus to spread to every country in the Western Hemisphere except Canada.

It says the virus has already "spread to 21 countries and territories of the Americas."

"Canada is off the list simply because it's too cold for the type of mosquito that transmits the Zika virus," NPR's Jason Beaubien reports to our Newscast unit.

Kathy Parrish as a child with her father, George Dean, at the YWCA pool in Seattle. The pool would be heated to a higher degree for polio patients at certain times.
Courtesy of Kathy Parrish

Ross Reynolds speaks with polio survivor and post-polio syndrome sufferer Kathy Parrish about her experience as a child with polio and the lasting impacts of the disease. Parrish was diagnosed with the disease in 1950, five years before the Jonas Salk vaccination was declared safe.

Virginia Mason hospital in Seattle.
Flickr Photo/Rob Ketcherside (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Ross Reynolds speaks with Seattle Times health reporter JoNel Aleccia about how Virginia Mason Medical Center discovered a rare, drug-resistant bacteria that was spreading from patient to patient, and why they didn't inform the infected.

KUOW Photo/Patricia Murphy

About 3.2 million people in the U.S. have hepatitis C, a highly contagious virus that can lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer.

Dr. Jody Rich, a professor of medicine and epidemiology at The Warren Alpert Medical School at Brown University in Rhode Island, said prisons carry a heavy load of the disease, but they also have built in health care.

Walter Bianco has had hepatitis C for decades. He's known about it for 20 years. And now he's reaching the end of the road.

"The liver is at the stage next to becoming cirrhotic," the 65-year-old Arizona man says.

Flickr Photo/Eddie McHugh (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Ross Reynolds talks to Dr. Tom Chiller, a fungal expert at the CDC, about the discovery of Coccidioides in eastern Washington. The fungus causes Valley Fever, and so far three cases have been confirmed. Chiller is assisting the state of Washington in its investigation of Valley Fever.

A disease-causing fungus thought to be confined to the deserts of the U.S. Southwest has been discovered in soil samples from eastern Washington.

This week in Seattle, Bill and Melinda Gates are attending a meeting of the minds.

Five hundred of the world's top innovators in global health have gathered for the Global Health Product Development Forum, an annual event in which scientists, engineers, policymakers and activists work to develop new tools for fighting diseases.

If you went to see the Kings of Leon concert on March 28 in Seattle, let's hope you came home with nothing but great memories.

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