Zika virus: Your questions answered

zika childBy Gretchen Vogel, Jon Cohen, Martin Enserin

Where did the Zika virus come from?

First isolated in 1947 and first described in a paper in 1952, Zika has long been known to occur in Africa and Southeast Asia—but until a decade ago, fewer than 15 cases had been described in the scientific literature. In 2007, the virus caused a big outbreak on Yap, an island group in the Western Pacific that is part of the Federated States of Micronesia; since then, it went on a major tour of other Pacific Islands before it landed in Brazil, from where it started spreading rapidly to other parts of South America, Central America, Mexico, and the Caribbean.

Why has it exploded so suddenly?

There may have been big outbreaks in Africa and Asia in the past that went undetected; scientists weren’t paying much attention. But the current massive epidemic was an event waiting to happen. Latin America has huge numbers of A. aegypti, also known as the yellow fever mosquito, an important vector for Zika. (The Asian tiger mosquito, A. albopictus, which is on the rise around the world, is believed to be a vector as well.) In addition, nobody in the Americas had immunity to the virus. Travel makes it worse. Aedes mosquitoes don’t fly more than a few hundred meters during their lives; Zika travels from city to city and country to country when infected people get on cars, buses, trains, and planes.

These combined factors meant that the virus had the ability to spread far and fast once it had arrived.

Will Zika spread to the United States and Europe?

Both the United States and Europe have already seen “imported cases”—people who arrived from a Zika-affected country carrying the virus. This was widely expected given the size of the epidemic in Latin America. The key question is whether there will be local outbreaks—that is, mosquitoes spreading the virus from person to person. There’s definitely a chance; A. albopictus occurs in several countries in southern Europe (and it may move north), while the southern and eastern United States have populations of both A. aegypti and A. albopictus.

If so, scientists expect outbreaks to be much smaller than elsewhere, based on past experience with mosquito-borne diseases. Recent dengue outbreaks in Florida, Texas, and Hawaii haven’t sickened more than a few hundred people, for instance; an outbreak of a mosquito-borne disease called chikungunya in northern Italy in 2007—which started when a man infected with the virus arrived from India—ended after 197 cases. One reason that outbreaks in these countries tend to be smaller may be that people spend less time outside and live in houses that are more difficult for mosquitoes to enter; mosquito population sizes may play a role as well.

Do we know for sure that Zika is causing a rise in birth defects?

No. There is strong circumstantial evidence that areas in Brazil hit hard by Zika have experienced a sharp increase in the number of babies born with microcephaly, a condition in which the head is much smaller than normal because the brain fails to develop properly. But it will take at least several months before the results from the first case-control studies of pregnant women infected with Zika are available. Doctors in Brazil first noticed an increase in cases of microcephaly during ultrasounds of pregnant women in June and July, a few months after the sudden rise in Zika infections. Fetal medicine expert Manoel Sarno, who works at the Federal University of Bahia, says the pattern of brain damage he is seeing now looks distinct from microcephaly caused by other infections, such as cytomegalovirus (CMV) or rubella. He and his colleagues started a study in August that is following women infected with Zika during their pregnancy; the results could come out late summer. Similar studies are underway elsewhere in Brazil and in Colombia.

Are there other urgent questions that scientists are asking?

Plenty. Scientists have difficulty determining who has been infected and who hasn’t because diagnostic tests have limitations. The most accurate tests—which detect viral RNA in a patient’s blood—only work within a week of the first symptoms appearing. After that time, researchers can test for antibodies in the blood. But current tests for Zika antibodies cross-react with antibodies to dengue, which is so widespread in Brazil—and much of the rest of Latin America—that almost all adults have antibodies to it. That makes it difficult to tell whether the mother of a baby born with microcephaly was infected with Zika earlier in her pregnancy.

Researchers would also like to know how often Zika is transmitted through sexual contact. One U.S. scientist who caught the virus in Africa passed it to his wife after he got home in 2008, and a second case of suspected sexual transmission happened in French Polynesia in 2013. But researchers have no idea what the risk is. (“If I was a man and I got Zika symptoms, I’d wait a couple of months before having unprotected sex,” virologist Scott Weaver of the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston recently told The New York Times.)

What drugs are available against Zika?

None. Until last year, Zika was so rare and believed to be so mild, that nobody bothered to look for candidate drugs. Even now that the virus is surging, it’s not obvious that there’s a big market for an antiviral drug, because the vast majority of those infected have very few symptoms or none at all. And it’s not clear that a drug could prevent birth defects when women contract Zika during pregnancy; by the time they become infected and develop symptoms, it may be too late to prevent such damage. A vaccine against Zika may offer more hope of preventing microcephaly.

And when can we expect a vaccine?

That will take years. Several groups have begun to make candidate Zika vaccines, a process that will take at least several months. Most of these vaccine approaches are piggybacking on existing vaccines. For example, many vaccines are made by stitching proteins from a pathogen’s surface into a harmless virus or vector; that is now being tried with Zika using those same vectors. Once a candidate vaccine is made, it will have to be tested in animals before humans.Human trials begin with small safety studies, then move on to larger studies that test whether the candidate product works. All of that usually takes 10 to 15 months. Given the urgency, the timeline could be compressed, but even so, Anthony Fauci, the director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told STAT that it may be at least 5 to 7 years before a Zika vaccine is commercially available.

Then what can we do to stop the spread of the virus?

Stop mosquitoes from biting people. Countries and communities can try to reduce mosquito populations by removing the small water reservoirs—such as flower pots, empty bottles, and discarded tires—in which Aedes mosquitoes like to breed. People can also reduce their personal exposure—especially important for women who are or might become pregnant—by putting screens on windows, covering their skin, and using insect repellant. However, history has shown that the impact of mosquito control on epidemics is modest at best, and they’re difficult to sustain.

There must be better ways to control mosquitoes?

Not yet but they’re in the works. A British biotech called Oxitec—which was recently purchased by Intrexon, a U.S. synthetic biology company—has developed A. aegyptimosquitoes containing a gene construct that will kill their offspring before they reach adulthood. When massive numbers of male individuals of this strain are released in the wild, they will mate with local females, producing offspring that are not viable, which has been shown to make a dent in the population.

In another line of research, scientists are infecting A. aegypti with a bacterium named Wolbachia, which reduces mosquitoes’ ability to transmit diseases. The researchers developing these approaches were mostly thinking about dengue, but Zika’s surge is giving their attempts a new sense of urgency. But again, it will take several years before these strategies are ready for prime time.

Failure Is A Lesson That Encourages And Improves The Quality Of Life

 

Life is precious than silver and gold

Having faith in God builds one strong to avoid depression, loneliness and the tendencies of suicidal

I have heard many times that ‘Failure is not an option.’ Does it mean that we have to be perfect and successful in whatever we want to achieve in life? How can that be possible? Because since we are human beings and imperfect, we shall continue to experience many setbacks, including failure and disappointment in daily in our lives.

In relationships, careers and businesses, we are all bound to suffer certain problems. The question is, how do we handle or take it personally when we encounter such painful defeats and failures? I have seen it sports, tournaments and in certain fields of activities, participants emotionally and psychologically break down in distress, because they failed to achieve what they aimed at.

Life isn’t an easy journey if you want to achieve something genuinely. Many like to avoid life pitfalls or turmoil, by choosing a wrong path or shortcut. You can see them driving expensive cars and dwelling in beautiful mansions, but you don’t know what they do for the living.

When you see them like that, many wish they are one of them, but be careful to wish you are someone until you read the front page of newspapers that the person you wished to be, has been arrested at one of the international airports, in possession of heroin or cocaine. Would you like your life to end up in this way, because you wanted to avoid life’s failures and disappointments?

The world is full of great people; sometimes your eyes will be filled with tears, when you read their autobiographies to know what they went through before achieving success. In life, failure or disappointment teaches one to be perfect. It worth therefore to see failure as one of the life’s tools which educate and shapes life in a positive way.

My passion to be a writer was easier in Africa than Europe, yet when I was in Africa, I thought Europe will be the right place for me to achieve my aims and objectives. Once in Antwerp, Belgium, I tried to raise a fund to enhance the publication of one of my books. It turns out to be one of the biggest failures in my life.

I couldn’t raise a cent, but this embarrassment wasn’t only what happened. I became a laughing puppet at the school where I’m working. It became a talk of the town with gossips and laughter. Instead of being sad or depressed, I embraced and accepted it as one of the life’s challenges to continue writing without looking back.

People do things you may find it hard to believe. I don’t even think children will do what they did. The failure of the fundraising also taught me to be careful those I contact to demand bread. If one fails to accept failures and disappointments as instruments destined to educate and propel your career to the highest peak, you may end up at the psychiatry with depression or mental problems.

Green Planet: A Poem By Lori Triggs

World 1

At one time our planet was colorful as lush with plants even flowers 

And towering trees beautiful I can see,

The planet was filled with animals even birds more species that was plentiful

While the mammals and fish filled the oceans even waters majestic,

The oceans with lakes even rivers as the waters where aqua or

Torques blue lovely green was a fantasy.

 

Now our planet is filled with tons trash on the streets even

At the garbage dumps filled to the top to no end,

The planet not colorful or lush with plants even flowers

And towering trees it becoming a waste land of dirt and mud,

Even homes plus businesses filled with humans to see

The animals even birds is getting scarce means no food or wildlife,

While the mammals and fish are finding up dead in the waters

Or land means no food or sea life.

The oceans with lakes even rivers as the waters are brown,

Or nasty green will be unsafe to drink this is not a fantasy.

 

We should help the planet even ourselves by recycling

bottles, paper, cardboard, cans even glass in recycling centers,

Make green homes by using reused materials granite, tiles, wood,

Bottles, paper, cardboard, cans even glass solar tubes, & solar energy

Plus solar water, everything energy officiant,

The cars we use should be hydrogen, solar, electric or hybrid

So go green not brown if we keep what we are doing we are all dead!

Copyrighted July 17 2008

The Reason I Forget My Birthday Every Year

birthday 3

Many people worldwide, happy or satisfied about whatever they have achieved in life, wished to be thankful by celebrating birthdays. Many spend thousands of dollars, including celebrities, to celebrate birthdays in grand style, giving expensive gifts, including cars to their loved ones.

I may be lost in this world, even though I’m part of this generation, because every year, I forget my birthday. Either my son or wife comes to ask me “Do you know that today is your birthday?” Before checking the calendar to remember that I was born 19th of January. This may sound stupid, but it’s true, because I don’t value birthday.

As a father, the rapid decaying of the society, terrorism, immorality, the decline of Christian activities, the influence of negative activities and the encouraging of all bad things by head of churches and world leaders are my concern, the reason every year, I forget my birthday. I may die today and be gone tomorrow, but what about the life of our children?

Many African children born or raised in Europe are bold to tell parents that there is no God, when in Africa; your child can’t tell you such nonsense. Who are they following and what is influencing them? When I make up in the morning, after asking for God’s protection, I ask God to protect my three sons and lead them to marry women when they grow, because I don’t want to die of shock.

As a writer, my passion lies in writing and reading. Sometimes I forget that the whole day I haven’t eaten. Like every writer my ambition is to create something different in the world of literature, thus; what’s the significance of birthday celebration when I can’t even remember the day I was born?

I don’t think I will ever celebrate my birthday, because it a normal day for me, above all I think children deserve birthday not adults. During birthday parties across the world, plenty of food are thrown into the trash, yet the poor are starving, while thousands go to bed without food.

Not at all, birthday celebration is not part of, but I will be very glad, when my social media friends remind me when it’s my birthday. That’s genuine love, because I love them too.

Finders Keepers:Simple Book About Complicated Ideas

STEPHEN

Book review by Bethanne Patrick, a freelance writer.

As his dedicated readers know, multiple versions of Stephen King, Author, exist. There is the King of classic horror, like Cujo, Children of the Corn, and Christine. There is the King of feminist uprising, from Carrie toDolores Claiborne to Bag of Bones. There is the King of strong series work, like The Dark Tower and The Green Mile.

I could go on, but the King we meet in the new Finders Keepers (the second of what seems to be a trilogy starting with last year’s Mr. Mercedes) is yet another man: The King of chilling writer tales like Misery, a man who’s long explored the relationship between writing and madness, reading and obsession, artist and audience. In fact, one the things King chews over in this new book is the question of how many versions of an author do exist, and how those versions affect different people.

Finders Keepers picks up years after Mr. Mercedes left off: Famous novelist John Rothstein died back in the first book, and now we’re following zealous Rothstein fan Morris Bellamy, and a boy named Pete Saubers. (You may find plenty of spoilers in other reviews, but not here. It isn’t necessary to know all of the details in order to understand this new book, although they’re given early on in Finders Keepers. If you want to be surprised, pick upMr. Mercedes first.)

Due to an unexpected find, Saubers has become quite an expert on the late, reclusive Rothstein, whose creation and legacy must have been delicious fun for King to develop; he’s a mid-20th-century literary lion in the vein of J.D. Salinger and John Updike. Rothstein’s oeuvre even has Updike-esque titles: The Runner, The Runner Sees Action, and The Runner Slows Down.

When villainy threatens the Saubers family, they fortunately hit the radar of an eccentric trio (also from the first book): Ex-cop Bill Hodges, tech expert Jerome Robinson, and researcher Holly Gibney. At first, following three storylines—Bellamy’s, Pete’s, and the trio’s—feels a little elementary, the reading equivalent of training wheels, even though the writing is as sound as ever.

Then you remember that almost everyone needs training wheels before they take off on just two. King picks up the pace almost instantaneously, and vroooooooom, there goes the action! Vroom, too, goes the consideration of what is means to be a close reader. What matters more—knowing every detail, or understanding the big picture? Can you ever hold a writer responsible for his work, or does a reader’s interpretation change things?

Most important, perhaps, is the question of how we read other people. Most of the characters in this novel have their vision clouded one way or another, a mistake that can be costly. Stephen King sometimes writes complicated books about simple things (cars, baseball); here he writes a simple book about complicated ideas. And if, at first, you think Finders Keepers is meat-and-potatoes King, just wait: The dessert is really satisfying.

The Author

STEPHEN 2

Stephen King is the author of more than fifty books, all of them worldwide bestsellers. His recent work includes Doctor Sleep and Under the Dome, now a major TV miniseries on CBS. His novel 11/22/63 was named a top ten book of 2011 by The New York Times Book Review and won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Mystery/Thriller as well as the Best Hardcover Book Award from the International Thriller Writers Association. He is the recipient of the 2003 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. He lives in Bangor, Maine, with his wife, novelist Tabitha King.

http://www.amazon.com/Stephen-King/e/B000AQ0842/