Aug. 10, 2016

While the Zika virus may have only a mild impact on most of those infected, the effect on pregnant mothers and newborns is well-documented. Tragic news out of Harris County Public Health confirmed the first Zika-associated death of a newborn in Texas yesterday. The HCPH received a positive Zika test result on the infant, a girl born with birth defects that included microcephaly, a Harris County Public Health release reported. The mother, while pregnant, had traveled to Latin America where she is suspected of having been infected.

Before that death was reported, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission announced in a news release that Texas Medicaid would cover the cost of mosquito repellent for women between the ages of 10 and 45 or are pregnant.

Another four cases of Zika have been identified in Florida, bringing the count of locally transmitted cases to 21. Gov. Rick Scott’s office issued a release last night stating that all four cases occurred in the same less-than-one-square-mile area of Wynwood where the other cases were found. Scott urged more funding from the federal government. “This is not only an issue affecting us here in Florida — this is a national issue. Florida is just at the head of it with the first cases of local transmission of Zika,” the governor said in the release.

The federal gridlock over Zika funding has compelled the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to allocate money from other programs to address the outbreak. The Department of Health & Human Services has repurposed $374 million for domestic Zika response activities and has awarded $4.1 milliont o Hologic Inc. to develop a blood-screening test that will help to detect Zika in patients. 


Aug. 9, 2016

Another nontravel-related Zika virus case is being investigated in Palm Beach County, which would bring the total number of locally acquired cases in Florida to 17, reports.  The report notes that Gov. Rick Scott said the infected person recently traveled to Miami-Dade County, where the majority of local Zika cases have occurred. Scott said that state officials believe local transmission is still confined to a one-square-mile area in Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now have a Zika text messaging service that provides guidelines dependent on the area to which you are traveling. I signed up and texted that I was traveling to Brazil. Needless to say, the CDC messaged back to notify me of the current Zika outbreak and provided a link to its updated travel recommendations and clinician guidelines for that area. To sign up, text PLAN to 855-255-5606.

Aug. 8, 2016

  • In Florida, where there have been at least 15 reported cases of local transmission in Miami, Zika has changed the way OB-GYNs talk with their patients. A National Public Radio blog reports that the Zika virus is now an everyday topic discussed during prenatal care visits.
  • There have been many mosquito-focused tactics discussed in fighting the spread of Zika, but one researcher at Vanderbilt University is working to alter the tastebuds of mosquitoes so that once the culprit lands on a person, the taste receptors in their legs aren’t attracted to the skin.
  • If you watched the women’s U.S. Olympic soccer matches this weekend, you would have heard the team’s goalkeeper, Hope Solo, get an earful of “Zika!” chants every time she touched the ball. The chants were also directed at a few U.S. tennis players Sunday morning, according to USA Today. Hope_Solo_tweet_ZikaThe sour spectators may have been motivated by the fact that a number of American athletes dropped out of the Olympics because of Zika fears. And this photo Solo posted on Twitter probably didn’t help.
  • On Aug. 9 at 2 p.m. ET, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will host a webinar on its latest clinical guidance for U.S. health care providers caring for pregnant women with possible Zika virus. Go here to participate. 

Aug. 5, 2016

I’ve been following the Zika virus since January, when the World Health Organization said it was spreading "explosively." A lot has happened since then, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirming Zika’s link to the heartbreaking congenital birth defect microcephaly, the first cases of active Zika virus transmission in Miami, and the likely unwarranted hysteria over Zika and the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

We will be posting daily updates to this page on all things Zika, including updates from the CDC, guidelines for health care providers, tactics being used to control mosquito populations and longer interviews with Zika virus experts, such as this interview with a CDC official on what health care providers are doing to fight the virus.

The top concern right now is Zika's sometimes devastating outcomes on babies born to mothers infected with the virus. In the U.S., there have been 15 live-born infants with birth defects and a total of 479 pregnant women with lab evidence of Zika virus infection, according to the U.S. Zika Pregnancy Registry run by the CDC.

Resources to combat the virus have been slim since Congress left for recess without approving the $1.9 billion in aid funding requested by President Barack Obama. The CDC has awarded more than $16 million to 40 states and territories in an effort to better collect data on the adverse outcomes of Zika as a stopgap until Congress provides funds.

Below are a few recent Zika virus updates:

The CDC advised pregnant women not to travel to the identified areas where active Zika virus transmission has taken place in the Wynwood neighborhood of Miami. In an interview with the Mayo Clinic News Network, Pritish Tosh, M.D., Mayo Clinic infectious diseases specialist, said the travel advisory is “a testament to the strength of the epidemiology that has been going on and how well the CDC and other health authorities have been working at this.”

The National Institutes of Health announced the launch of its first clinical trial of a Zika vaccine. At least 80 volunteers, ages 18 to 35, are participating in three testing sites in the U.S. “A safe and effective vaccine to prevent Zika virus infection and the devastating birth defects it causes is a public health imperative,” National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci, M.D., said in a news release.

Despite all the athletes who have dropped out of the Olympics and calls by some groups to move the games from Rio, reports that there are surprisingly few mosquitoes because, right now, it’s winter in Brazil.

For more on the Zika virus, visit or