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New CRISPR Tool Can Detect Tiny Amounts of Viruses

The Cas13a enzyme causes collateral RNA damage that is the heart of a new diagnostic system, SHERLOCK, that can detect minute quantities of virus and much more.  Broad Institute

CLICK HERE - Nucleic acid detection with CRISPR-Cas13a/C2c2

sciencemag.org - by Jon Cohen - April 13, 2017

 . . . That’s the realm of SHERLOCK, a new diagnostic system that can detect attomolar levels of viruses in a sample and also distinguish Zika from its close relative, dengue. This exquisitely sensitive and specific tool promises to help detect diseases that other diagnostics miss, and it’s simple and cheap to use. Sexier still, it exploits a variation of CRISPR, the genome-editing method that has become the rage in biology.

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Nigeria: Meningitis - the Killer Disease Ravaging Nigerians

allafrica.com - April 6, 2017

 . . . Nigerians should take precautions against meningitis . . .

 . . . The disease has also spread to 16 states, the Federal Capital Territory and 90 local government areas in the country. States affected so far are Zamfara, Katsina, Sokoto, Kebbi, Niger, Nassarawa, Jigawa, Gombe, Taraba , Yobe, Kano, Osun, Cross Rivers, Lagos, Plateau and FCT . . .

 . . . although this was not the first time or the worst epidemic ever faced by Nigeria, this round of the epidemic has come with a difference, as all previous epidemics were caused by Neisseria Meningitides type 'A' but this year's own was recording Neisseria Meningitides type C in epidemic proportion for the first time.

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CLICK HERE - WHO - Disease Outbreak News - Meningococcal Disease – Nigeria - March 24, 2017

CLICK HERE - Death toll in Nigeria meningitis outbreak up to 489

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Why Chinese Scientists Are More Worried Than Ever About Bird Flu

A shop owner holds a live chicken for sale in a Hong Kong market. Isaac Lawrence /AFP/Getty Images

Image: A shop owner holds a live chicken for sale in a Hong Kong market. Isaac Lawrence /AFP/Getty Images

npr.org - April 11th 2017 - Rob Schmitz

At a research lab on top of a forested hill overlooking Hong Kong, scientists are growing viruses. They first drill tiny holes into an egg before inoculating it with avian influenza to observe how the virus behaves.

This lab at Hong Kong University is at the world's forefront of our understanding of H7N9, a deadly strain of the bird flu that has killed more people this season — 162 from September up to March 1 — than in any single season since when it was first discovered in humans four years ago. 

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International Research Effort Reveals Major Insights Into Spread of West African Ebola Epidemic

news-medical.net - April 12, 2017

CLICK HERE - RESEARCH - Nature - Virus genomes reveal factors that spread and sustained the Ebola epidemic

An international effort to analyze the entire database of Ebola virus genomes from the 2013-2016 West African epidemic reveals insights into factors that sped or slowed the rampage and calls for using real-time sequencing and data-sharing to contain future viral disease outbreaks.

Published today in the journal Nature, the analysis found that the epidemic unfolded in small, overlapping outbreaks with surprisingly few infected travelers sparking new outbreaks elsewhere, each case representing a missed opportunity to break the transmission chain and end the epidemic sooner.

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A Socio-economic Impact Assessment of the Zika Virus in Latin America and the Caribbean: With a Focus on Brazil, Colombia and Suriname

undp.org - April 3, 2017

In early 2016, Zika was declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern due to its association with a surge of birth defects. Zika has since spread throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, with local transmission also reported in parts of the USA, Asia and Africa. The nature of the neurological complications Zika can cause in humans, and the emergence of a condition in infants known as ‘congenital Zika syndrome’, have posed and continue to pose a significant challenge to health specialists, international organizations and governments alike.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in partnership with the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), produced this assessment of the socio-economic impacts of Zika on countries, families and communities, and to examine institutional responses.

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Texas Health Officials Urge Zika Testing for Pregnant Women, Others in Rio Grande Valley

                                                    

CLICK HERE - Texas Department of Health Services - HEALTH ALERT - Zika Testing Urged in Pregnant Women and Symptomatic Individuals in the Lower Rio Grande Valley - April 7, 2017

keyetv.com - CBS - by Bettie Cross - April 7, 2017

A health alert on Friday for pregnant women in Texas. Zika testing is now recommended as part of routine care for pregnant women in the Rio Grande Valley. Six counties are impacted: Cameron, Hidalgo, Starr, Webb, Willacy and Zapata.

Mosquito season typically starts in May. But experts say our warm winter could push that up and mosquito season could be here in a week.

"We're starting to see some increase," said Dr. John Hellerstedt.

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County Health Director: Count on More Zika-Related Birth Defects

submitted by Albert Gomez

The Zika-carrying Aedes aegypti mosquito is photographed through a microscope. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana, File)

CLICK HERE - REPORT - CDC - Vital Signs: Update on Zika Virus–Associated Birth Defects and Evaluation of All U.S. Infants with Congenital Zika Virus Exposure — U.S. Zika Pregnancy Registry, 2016

mypalmbeachpost.com - by John Pacenti - April 8, 2017

Sick of hearing about Zika already? Get used to it as more birth defects related to the virus are expected in 2017 in Florida and throughout the U.S.

This summer, there will be a full-court press by health officials against Zika.

“It’s not something to be taken lightly,” said Dr. Alina Alonso, head of the Palm Beach County Health Department, in an interview with The Palm Beach Post.

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Zika Could End Up Costing Latin America and the Caribbean Up To $18 Billion, UN Reports Finds

                           

CLICK HERE - REPORT - A Socio-economic Impact Assessment of the Zika Virus in Latin America and the Caribbean: with a focus on Brazil, Colombia and Suriname

un.org

6 April 2017 – In addition to the impact on public health, the tangible impact of the Zika outbreak, such as on gross domestic product (GDP), could cost the Latin American and the Caribbean region as much as $18 billion between 2015 and 2017, a new United Nations report has revealed.

The report Socio-economic impact assessment of Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean, prepared by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) in partnership with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), has a particular focus on Brazil, Colombia and Suriname – countries that first reported the outbreak in October-November 2015.

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One in 10 Pregnant Women With Zika in U.S. Have Babies With Birth Defects

submitted by Albert Gomez

CLICK HERE - CDC - MMWR - Vital Signs: Update on Zika Virus–Associated Birth Defects and Evaluation of All U.S. Infants with Congenital Zika Virus Exposure — U.S. Zika Pregnancy Registry, 2016

nytimes.com - by Pam Belluck - April 4, 2017

One in 10 pregnant women in the continental United States with a confirmed Zika infection had a baby with brain damage or other serious birth defects, according to the most comprehensive report to date on American pregnancies during the Zika crisis.

The report, published Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, also provided more evidence that the risk of birth defects was greater when women were infected in the first trimester of pregnancy. Fifteen percent of women with confirmed Zika infection in the first trimester had babies with birth defects, the report found.

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Cholera Spreads in Famine-threatened Somalia

           

Internally displaced Somali women gather to collect water from a plastic pan after fleeing from drought stricken regions near a makeshift camp in Baidoa, west of Somalia's capital Mogadishu, March 26, 2017.

voanews.com - March 31, 2017

BURAO, SOMALIA — Deadly cholera is spreading through drought-ravaged Somalia as clean water sources dry up, a top aid official said, deepening a humanitarian crisis in a country that is on the verge of famine.

The Horn of Africa nation has recorded more than 18,000 cases of cholera so far this year, up from around 15,000 in all of 2016 and 5,000 in a normal year, Johan Heffinck, the Somalia head of EU Humanitarian Aid, said in an email on Thursday.

The current strain of the disease is unusually deadly, killing around 1 in 45 patients.

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