Zika simmers on the back burner as the world faces a series of virus threats

A frightening outbreak of mosquito-borne disease in 2015 and 2016 left many children around the world with devastating brain damage. The New York Times reports how families and researchers are struggling to find a cure as attention dries up in the wake of the covid-19 pandemic.

The New York Times: The Forgotten Virus: Families and Zika Researchers Struggle for Support

A procession of mothers pushed children in bulky wheelchairs down a long hallway at a health center in this northeastern Brazilian city, past patients who glanced at children, turned away eyes, then looked back, quickly and worriedly. … Most Brazilians know as soon as they see them: they are Zika babies, whose mothers were infected with the virus while pregnant during a virulent outbreak of the disease transmitted by mosquitoes in 2015 and 2016. The main sign at birth was microcephaly, unusually small heads that hinted at the devastating brain damage caused by the virus while still in utero. (Nolen, 8/16)

Science: Zika and dengue viruses make victims smellier to mosquitoes

The viruses that cause Zika and dengue cannot pass themselves from person to person – they have to hitchhike inside a mosquito. A new study suggests how they greet these rides: They make their victims more attractive to bloodsucking insects. It’s “a big breakthrough,” says Columbia University mosquito neuroscientist Laura Duvall, who was unrelated to the research. The work shows that “infection with these mosquito-borne viruses can alter the sense of smell in some people…to make them more susceptible to being bitten.” (Leslie, 6/30)

ScienceDaily: New smartphone can detect Zika virus in blood samples

In a new study, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have combined efforts to develop an instrument that can be clipped onto a smartphone to quickly test for the Zika virus in a single droplet of blood. (07/29)

Simple Flying: Aircraft Insecticide: Why Some Airplane Cabins Are Sprayed Before Departure

Have you ever wondered why cabin crew sometimes walk down the aisle of the plane, spraying a mysterious liquid into the air before departure? The reason for this is that some countries require airplane cabins to be sprayed with pesticides to kill insects and stop the spread of diseases such as malaria, yellow fever and Zika. This can happen before takeoff or while the plane is in flight. Another method is to spray the aircraft and wipe surfaces while no passengers are in the aircraft. This method is the most effective and has been found to kill insects for up to eight weeks. (Finlay, 8/14)

La Jolla Institute of Immunology: The life of a scientist studying Zika and dengue fever

As a member of the Shresta Lab, Julia Timis works to guide vaccine design by shedding light on the human immune response to flaviviruses, the viral family that includes dengue virus, Zika virus, yellow fever virus and Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV). (McCurry-Schmidt, 8/28)

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