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Zika

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There's now evidence that the Zika virus was spreading through South America long before health officials detected it last year. The finding suggests Zika could be hiding out in other corners of the world. NPR's Michaeleen Doucleff reports.

How Best To Test For Zika Virus?

Mar 10, 2016

Let's say you're a pregnant woman who recently traveled to Latin America or the Caribbean. You got a little sick shortly after the trip, with some combination of mild fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis. The big question now is: Did you have Zika virus? And, if so, is your fetus still healthy?

"Probably every day, patients come in questioning whether or not they would qualify for testing," says Dr. Christine Curry, an obstetrician-gynecologist at the University of Miami, and Jackson Memorial Hospital.

Anyone can follow the pregnancy of a monkey infected with Zika virus in real time, thanks to an experiment in data sharing that's unusual for biology.

Republican representatives continue to question the need for about $2 billion in emergency funding requested by the Obama administration to respond to the Zika virus.

Congressmen including Dr. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, asked in a hearing of an Energy and Commerce subcommittee Wednesday whether funds earmarked for combating the Ebola virus couldn't be transferred to the fight against Zika virus.

Every morning since I arrived in Brazil to cover the Zika outbreak, the first thing I do is douse myself with insect repellent before venturing outside.

I know the chances I'll catch Zika are pretty low, and the disease tends to be relatively mild for most healthy adult males. But with all the alarm about the virus, it's hard not to start to get a little paranoid about catching Zika from a mosquito.

One of the best ways to understand Zika virus might be to deliberately inject it into volunteers.

That idea may sound a little crazy, but it's not unprecedented. And some researchers are hoping the approach could help speed up the search for an effective Zika vaccine.

Right now, a bunch of labs are pursuing different ways of making a vaccine against Zika, mostly because of the concern that the virus might be linked to the birth defect called microcephaly.

It's the first thing in the morning at a crowded public health clinic in Joao Pessoa, Brazil, when a team of disease detectives from the United States and Brazil arrive.

They are searching for new mothers in the hope of solving one of the world's most urgent public health mysteries: Is the Zika virus really causing microcephaly, a birth defect that leaves babies with shrunken heads and badly damaged brains?

These mosquitoes could be a weapon against Zika

Feb 22, 2016

There’s a room at the University of São Paulo with between 10,000 and 15,000 mosquitoes in it. If you’re very quiet, you can hear them buzzing.

This is where mosquito researcher Margareth Capurro is trying to figure out the best strategy to reduce the type of mosquito, Aedes aegypyti, that carries Zika and other dangerous viruses. The bugs live in plastic containers and screen cages behind a double-doored vestibule, doors built to trap them if they escape from their containers.

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Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters

The Zika virus isn't the only thing that seems to be spreading quickly in Brazil. Rumors about the surge in microcephaly cases are, too.

Zika is a window into a much bigger story in Brazil

Feb 15, 2016
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Anne Bailey

As the country where doctors first noticed a suspected link between the Zika virus and serious birth defects, Brazil is the epicenter of the Zika-related global health emergency.

But Zika is only part of a much bigger story in Brazil. It's a story about mosquitoes, public health, water and women, which is why PRI'sThe World has sent its Across Womens' Lives team to Brazil for the next two weeks. They’re there to report on how Zika fits into the story of Brazilian women’s struggles to improve their lives in a time of rapid and often disturbing environmental change.

Don't get pregnant.

That's the advice given to women by the governments of Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and El Salvador in light of a possible link between the Zika virus, which is spreading in those countries, and a birth defect called microcephaly, which results in an abnormally small head and possible brain damage. Brazil has reported thousands of cases of microcephaly since the outbreak began there last spring; researchers are trying to determine whether the virus is the cause.

When Carolyn Coyne's lab at the University of Pittsburgh recently tried to order a sample of Zika virus from a major laboratory supplier, they were told it was out of stock.

"They are actually back-ordered until July for the virus," Coyne says. "At least that's what we were told." She ended up obtaining Zika from another source, and it arrived at her lab Tuesday.

U.S. health experts cautioned Friday that the apparent discovery of the Zika virus in saliva and urine from people in Brazil does not necessarily mean the virus can be spread by more casual contact with infected people, such as through kissing.

"I think we need to be careful that don't we jump to any conclusions about transmissibility," Anthony Fauci, who leads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said during an interview on NPR's Morning Edition.

Florida is one of several U.S. states now reporting a few isolated cases of people infected with the Zika virus. In response, Florida's Gov. Rick Scott has declared a public health emergency in five counties in hopes of getting ahead of the virus's spread.

So far, just 12 cases of the mosquito-borne illness have been reported to health authorities in Florida, all of them among travelers who contracted the disease outside the U.S. But Scott figures it's only a matter of time before the virus starts showing up among mosquitoes in some regions of the state, too.

"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."

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