In mid-November, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that the Zika virus will no longer be treated as an international medical emergency. This statement was not a downgrade in the importance of Zika, but served as an acknowledgement that a long-term program is needed and that the search for a vaccine continues. In fact, they stressed that the mosquito-borne virus may rear its head again down the line.
Here in Canada, the risk of the Zika virus spreading locally continues to be negligible. To date, there have been:
two locally acquired cases of the virus through sexual transmission,
On the research side of things, both the search for a vaccine and study of the virus is ongoing. Recently, CDC researchers have found evidence that the Zika virus can make thousands of copies of itself in fetuses’ brains and in the placentas of pregnant women, which may help explain how the virus causes devastating birth defects and pregnancy losses. This is the first time that we’ve seen the Zika virus’s RNA (genetic material) replicating in brain tissues of infants with microcephaly.
As the Zika virus is no longer considered an international medical emergency, updates will be given on an as-needed basis through our social media channels. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter to stay up-to-date and, as always, we’re happy to address any questions you may have!
It has been a whirlwind of news when it comes to the Zika virus over this last month and we’ve compiled the top and most relevant points for you here.
To date, there are 2 locally acquired Zika cases through sexual transmission, 2 maternal-to-fetal transmission cases, and 250 travel-related cases in Canada (+45 since last report). The virus is currently not actively transmitting in Canada and is not expected to, due to the unlikeliness of Aedes mosquitoes surviving in Canada.
A Zika outbreak occurred in Singapore in late August and has since surged to over 300 confirmed cases. The CDC has issued a travel advisory to practice enhanced precautions when travelling to this country.
A new study from Rockefeller University found that the Zika virus can also affect adult brain cells in mice, suggesting the potential for Zika to hold long-term neurological implications for adult humans.
New research data has shown that traces of Zika virus can be retained up to a week longer in urine than in blood. As a result, the CDC has recommended that doctors conduct urine tests when checking patients who show Zika infection symptoms.
The biggest Zika news of the month is no doubt the landing of local transmission in the continental US. What does that mean for Canada? As we do every month, we’ve compiled a list of pertinent updates for you below.
Updated as of August 15, 2016
To date, Canada has seen two locally acquired cases of Zika infection through sexual transmission, two maternal-to-fetal cases of transmission, and 205 travel-related cases (+62 since last month). However, there are no documented cases of Zika infections in Canada from local mosquitoes.
The United States has reported its first cases of locally transmitted Zika virus in the continental US. This currently only affects a limited area in South Florida.
The Public Health Agency of Canada has increased travel levels of risk related to Zika Virus from Level 1 to Level 2. As of August 12, 2016, travelers should exercise a high degree of caution when travelling to the Caribbean, Central America and Mexico, South America, Southeast Asia, Ocean Pacific Islands, and limited areas in North America and West Africa. For more details about travel risks and travel health notices, visit the Public Health Agency of Canada.
So far, there are no local mosquitoes transmitting the Zika Virus in the continental US or Canada, but there is mounting international concern over the virus as the Rio Olympics draw closer. We’ve compiled the latest updates into bite-sized chunks for you here:
Updated as of June 15, 2016
To date, there is one locally-acquired case of the Zika Virus through sexual transmission and 114 travel-related cases in Canada (+47 since last month). However, there are no documented cases of locally-transmitted Zika infections in Canada or the continental US.
On June 07, 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued new guidelines on preventing sexual transmission of the Zika Virus. They suggest that women in Zika-infested areas should delay pregnancy, citing mounting evidence that sexual transmission of the virus is more common than previously assumed.
The WHO rejected a call to move the Rio Olympics, despite health experts urging the UN agency to take action over concerns that the Games will speed up the spread of the virus.
U.S. health officials and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) plan to send a rapid-response team to any community on the mainland and in Hawaii if the mosquito-borne Zika Virus begins to be transmitted locally. Six states – Florida, Alabama, Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas – are being watched closely.
While there are still no transmission of the Zika virus from local mosquitoes, researchers have continued working towards understanding the virus. Breakthroughs have occurred in both finding out how the Zika virus can cause microcephaly, as well as developing a low-cost and rapid system for detecting the virus. See below for details of the latest updates:
To date, there is one locally acquired Zika virus case through sexual transmission and sixty-seven travel-related cases in Canada (+21 from last month). There are no documented cases of Zika infections in Canada or the continental U.S. from local mosquitoes.
Scientists from Harvard University’s Wyss Institute have developed a new system to detect the Zika virus in humans: a low-cost, rapid, paper-disc diagnostic tool that screens blood, urine, or saliva samples for specific strains of the virus. A change in colour to purple means that the virus is present, while yellow shows that the sample is free from infection.
Researchers at the University of California San Diego have found that the Zika virus could cause microcephaly by activating TLR3, a molecule that is normally used to defend against invading viruses. In turn, the hyper-activated TLR3 molecules turn off genes that stem cells need to specialize into brain cells and turn on genes that trigger cell suicide. Inhibiting this mechanism has been shown to reduce brain cell damage, which hints at a new possible therapeutic approach to mitigating the effects of prenatal Zika virus infection.
The CDC has confirmed that the Zika virus is a cause of microcephaly. However, there is still no proof of a direct link between the virus and Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS). We have summarized the most pertinent updates for you below:
Updated as of April 21, 2016
The CDC has confirmed the Zika virus as a cause of microcephaly. In CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden’s words, “There is still a lot that we don’t know [about Zika], but there is no longer any doubt that Zika causes microcephaly.”
There are no changes in the CDC guidelines regarding the Zika virus, but pregnant women are discouraged from travelling to any area where the Zika virus is widespread.
The WHO confirmed that sexual contact can spread the Zika virus for at least three weeks after the initial infection. However, the exact period for protected sex remains undefined.
The Zika virus’s association with Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) and other severe nervous system disorders has expanded the risk group. While the WHO has reported increased cases of GBS from Brazil, further research is needed to confirm a direct link.
Since the last update, local mosquito transmission has been reported in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and American Samoa.
To date, there are zero locally acquired and forty-six travel-related Zika virus cases in Canada (+24 since last month). This includes two pregnant women in BC who recently went to a trip in South America and they are currently being closely monitored.
There continues to be a very low probability of Zika virus transmission in Canada, as well as some possible headway being made with finding a vaccine. See below for the latest updates that we have gathered for you.
Updated as of March 24, 2016
There continues to be a very low probability of Zika virus transmission in Canada, as the Public Health Agency of Canada reiterates that the mosquitoes responsible for transmitting the virus are not found in Canada due to our climate.
To date, there are zero locally acquired and thirty-two travel-related Zika virus cases in Canada (+7 since last week)
Ugandan virologists believe Africans have resistance to the Zika virus, as there is no record of Zika health problems when it first emerged in Africa 70 years ago. However, no tests have been done to verify this.
An analysis by Harvard Medical School researchers on surveys in Nigeria, Senegal, and other countries have found individuals with Zika antibodies in their blood samples. Further studies may expedite current vaccination research.
This is the last of our weekly updates, but we’ll have another update for you in a month! For the basics of the Zika virus, including what it is and how it spreads, see our initial Zika blog post. As always, let us know in the comments section if you have any questions or feedback.
The Zika virus is continuing to spread, carried primarily through the Aedes mosquito. While there is still no definitive link between the virus and microcephaly or Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS), efforts are being made to control the mosquito population. Here are the latest updates we have gathered for you.
Updated as of March 17, 2016
The Public Health Agency of Canada expects that the number of Zika virus-infected people will increase, as approximately three million Canadians are expected to travel to Zika-affected countries in 2016.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has granted preliminary approval to release genetically modified Aedes mosquitoes in Florida after determining that there would be no significant impact to human, animal, or plant life from the experiment. Oxitec, the British biotech firm that produced these mosquitoes, has genetically modified them so that the males produce offspring that cannot redproduce.
Currently, there are zero locally acquired and twenty-five travel-related cases of the Zika virus in Canada (+5 since last week)
Iridia Medical continues to follow the latest updates on the Zika virus. Here is the second of the four weekly updates that we’ll be providing you.
Updated as of March 10, 2016
So far, the Zika virus has triggered outbreaks in 41 countries. However, cases linking the Zika virus to babies with birth defects have only been seen in Brazil and French Polynesia.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has said that the traditional insecticide spraying has had no significant impact in slowing the mosquitoes responsible for spreading the virus. They have now declared the spread of Zika in the Americas to be a global emergency.
Brazilian authorities have noted that other mosquito species beyond the Aedes mosquito may carry the Zika virus. Scientists have also observed that other mosquito species can carry the virus, though it is unclear whether these mosquitoes can actually infect people.
Currently, there are zero locally-acquired and twenty travel-related Zika virus cases in Canada (+4 since last week).
Last week, Iridia separated fact from fiction about the Zika virus through a blog post that answered some frequently asked questions. We addressed topics ranging from what the virus is and how it spreads, to methods of managing the risk.
Over the next four weeks, we will be releasing weekly updates to keep you informed about the virus. Here is this week’s update.
Updated as of March 04, 2016
A group of doctors from Argentina claims that Pyripoxyfen, a pesticide used to eliminate mosquito larvae, could be the cause of the microcephaly outbreak in Brazil. However, Brazil’s federal government and the World Health Organization reject the claim and say the likely culprit is the Zika virus.
Puerto Rico has declared a public health emergency and is working to protect residents from the Zika virus. This U.S. territory has had nearly 120 cases of Zika Virus infection, including five pregnant women. The Obama administration has asked Congress for more than $200 million to help Puerto Rico as the Zika virus makes its way northwards from South America.
Currently, there are zero locally-acquired and sixteen travel-related Zika virus cases in Canada.