Tag Archives: zika

Zika found in South Beach, where spraying is not possible

South Beach has been identified as a second site of Zika transmission by mosquitoes on the U.S. mainland.

Containing it there will be difficult, because high-rise buildings and strong winds make it impractical to spray the neighborhood from the air, officials said.

Five cases of Zika have been connected to mosquitoes in Miami Beach, bringing the state’s caseload to 36 infections not related to travel outside the U.S., Florida’s governor and health department announced Friday.

The discovery prompted the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to announce that it was expanding its travel warning for pregnant women to include an area in Miami Beach known for nightclubs, pedestrian thoroughfares and beaches.

Zika infection can cause severe brain-related birth defects, including a dangerously small head, if women are infected during pregnancy.

The virus’s apparent spread from a Miami neighborhood popular for day trips to the South Beach streets where many tourists sleep has rattled the tourism industry, even in the slower summer season.

Gov. Rick Scott has directed Florida’s health department to offer mosquito spraying and related services at no cost to Miami-Dade County’s hotels, restaurants and tourist attractions. More than 15.5 million people made overnight visits to Miami and nearby beaches in 2015, with an impact of $24.4 billion, according to figures from the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The CDC previously warned pregnant women to avoid the Wynwood arts district in Miami. In an Aug. 19 statement, the agency said pregnant women may also want to consider postponing nonessential travel throughout Miami-Dade County if they’re concerned about potential exposure to the mosquito-borne virus.

“We’re in the midst of mosquito season and expect more Zika infections in the days and months to come,” said CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden. “It is difficult to predict how long active transmission will continue.”

Aerial spraying and door-to-door operations on the ground have cut mosquito populations in Wynwood by up to 90 percent, but Zika may be continuing as mosquitoes breed, Frieden told reporters Friday.

“The mosquitoes are persistent and we won’t know for a couple of weeks whether these aggressive measures have worked,” Frieden said.

Aerial spraying isn’t practical over South Beach because of the height of its buildings and strong winds over the narrow island city, Frieden said. Officials will be limited to spraying for mosquitoes at ground level in the highly populated area.

“Miami Beach does have a series of characteristics that make it particularly challenging,” Frieden said.

Two of the people infected in Miami Beach are Miami-Dade County residents, and three are tourists, including one man and two women, Scott said. The tourists are residents of New York, Texas and Taiwan.

The new area of infection in South Beach is roughly 1.5 square miles between 8th and 28th streets, according to Florida’s Department of Health.

Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine said during a news conference Friday afternoon that the Zika reports certainly aren’t ideal for tourism, but he expects the long-term impact to be relatively minor. He said city workers are trying to get rid of standing water and foliage that might attract the virus-spreading insects, while the county begins a fumigation program to kill the bugs.

“Between our efforts and the county’s spraying efforts, the last thing I’d ever want to be on Miami Beach is a mosquito,” Levine said.

Three vacuum trucks purchased to help Miami Beach fight rising sea levels have been used since the beginning of the year to drain water in low-lying areas where mosquitoes could breed, said Roy Coley, the city’s infrastructure director.

The city also has been sending workers to fill potholes collecting water in alleys and fix leaky beach showers, in addition to applying pesticides to the area’s many construction sites and flood-prone residential streets, Coley said.

“Our call volume has increased significantly,” Coley said.

Officials at Art Basel Miami Beach and other upcoming events cautiously expressed confidence in the region’s mosquito control efforts. Organizers of the Americas Food and Beverage Show will add mosquito repellent to goody bags at the late September event at the Miami Beach Convention Center.

“We’re taking extra precautions,” said Yendi Alvarez, the show’s media coordinator. “This wasn’t even a thought last year. We put this in place once the news started getting crazy.”

Possible infections outside Wynwood and Miami Beach also are being investigated. The virus only causes mild, flu-like symptoms in most people, making it difficult to confirm local transmissions, the CDC said.

“For this reason, it is possible that other neighborhoods in Miami-Dade County have active Zika transmission that is not yet apparent,” the CDC’s statement said.

The U.S. Senate’s top Democrat issued a call for Congress to return from its weekslong summer break to deal with the virus, an unlikely scenario in light of the dysfunction that prevented lawmakers from agreeing on money to fight the mosquito-borne disease. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nevada, said that the American people cannot afford to wait any longer for action.

President Barack Obama requested $1.9 billion in emergency funds in February to develop a vaccine and control the mosquitoes that carry the virus. But lawmakers left Washington in mid-July for a seven-week recess without approving any of the money. Abortion politics played a central role in the impasse.

Republicans angered Democrats by adding a provision to a $1.1 billion take-it-or-leave-it measure that would have blocked Planned Parenthood clinics in Puerto Rico from receiving money.

Associated Press writers Tamara Lush in Tampa, Florida, and Scott Mayerowitz in New York contributed to this report.

 

Researchers identify a key weapon of Zika virus

Scientists at the University of Southern California discovered a key weapon used by the Zika virus to ravage the brains of infected fetuses: proteins.

In an article published in the journal Cell Stem Cell, researchers identified two proteins in Zika potentially responsible for causing microcephaly.

Microcephaly is a birth defect in which a child’s head is smaller than the average size. A variety of factors can trigger the condition, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including malnutrition, environmental agents and other viruses. Although it is associated with brain damage, some children born with the disease never develop cognitive issues.

The proteins — called NS4A and NS4B — affect the brain by targeting a critical signaling pathway that controls cell growth and breaks down damaged cells and their elements. Initially, Zika slows cell development and reduces the variety of cells in the brain. Over time, this “rigged” system enables the virus to thrive and spread while healthy cells die.

The finding is the first step toward developing future drugs that could prevent Zika’s damaging effects, said Jae Jung, the study’s co-author and director of the USC Institute of Emerging Pathogens and Immune Diseases. ”Those two viral proteins are ultimately the target for therapy development,” he said.

Working with discarded tissue, the researchers infected fetal neural stem cells — a building block of the nervous system — with three different strains of the Zika virus. Stem cells infected with the ZIKV strain, which is responsible for causing the current outbreak, died at rates more than four times higher than an uninfected brain.

The specific proteins in question kill neural cells by hijacking a signaling mechanism called AKT-Mtor pathway. The pathway handles the process of breaking down damaged cells, also known as autophagy. As Zika spreads in the developing fetus, the virus actually uses the disposal process to continue proliferating. Cells began dying as early as two weeks after infection occurred.

The Zika virus rose to prominence in 2015 after cases of an unknown disease were reported in Brazil. Since then, the outbreak has affected more than 40 countries, including the United States.

The virus is spread by certain mosquitoes and can cause flu-like symptoms such as fever, muscle aches and joint pain in adults. Pregnant women are considered especially vulnerable because of the risk of microcephaly.

Dr. Kjersti Aagaard, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist at Texas Children’s Hospital Pavilion for Women and the Baylor College of Medicine, said microcephaly triggered by Zika is an urgent concern because of its association with brain malformation. With the virus, Aagaard said, a smaller head likely encases a smaller brain ravaged by disease.

“Microcephaly is the endpoint of the damage,” she said.

Aagaard also noted that the virus can affect pregnant women in other serious ways, too. The illness can lead to miscarriage, stillbirths and low amniotic fluid. In some cases, the illness causes both mother and child to develop ulcers in the eye.

But, some pregnant women who become infected never pass the virus to the fetus at all, Aagaard stressed. Early screening is key in identifying if and when a fetus is affected by the infected mother.

“An infected mom does not equal an infected fetus,” she said. “And an infected fetus does not equal an affected fetus.”

Findings from the latest study have already prompted further research to develop various Zika drugs and vaccines. Scientists are already working on a live, attenuated vaccine that will use a strain of the virus without the microcephaly-causing proteins, Jung said.

But questions remain, such as how these proteins interrupt the cell’s ability to regulate brain development. And while the scientists made this discovery in six months, Jung anticipates the next phase may take several years.

“We know where we are going but we need to find the detailed map,” he said.

Funding is also an issue. Congress left for recess in July without allocating monies for the Zika effort, which means labs that depend on government grants will be strapped for cash in the coming months.

But Dr. Gary Clark, chief of pediatric neurology and developmental neuroscience at Texas Children’s Hospital, said research should not be the medical community’s main priority. Instead, authorities should refocus on educating pregnant women and travelers entering the country from affected areas to prevent the virus’ spread and protect future children from a lifetime of disability.

“I think that bottom line is that this virus causes brain damage,” he said.  “And this is permanent.”

Published by agreement with Kaiser Health News, a national health policy news service that is part of the nonpartisan Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

Republicans hold Zika funding hostage in Planned Parenthood fight

As the Zika virus escalates into a public health crisis, members of Congress remain entrenched politically, with Republicans and Democrats pointing fingers over the failure to act as the number of mosquito-transmitted cases in the U.S. grows.

Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell warned lawmakers this week that her budget for fighting Zika is running out quickly.

Without more money fast, she said, the “nation’s ability to effectively respond to Zika will be impaired.”

Yet lawmakers left Washington in mid-July for a seven-week recess without approving any of the $1.9 billion President Barack Obama requested in February to develop a vaccine and control the mosquitoes that carry the virus.

Abortion politics played a key role in the gridlock over the anti-Zika bill.

Republicans angered Democrats by adding a provision to a $1.1 billion take-it-or-leave-it measure that would have blocked Planned Parenthood clinics in Puerto Rico from receiving money.

U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, the Democratic candidate for vice president, has called for Congress to reconvene to immediately address the threat posed by Zika.

But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has signaled he is in no rush to return.

In an op-ed published recently in the Lexington Herald-Leader, the Kentucky Republican criticized Democrats for balking at passing the bill.

He said they’ll get another chance after Labor Day when Congress is back in session.

Here are key points to know about the anti-Zika legislation.

 

ZIKA MONEY BEING SPENT ‘AGGRESSIVELY, PRUDENTLY’

Burwell’s Aug. 3 letter seeks to counter Republicans who’ve criticized the Obama administration for not using several hundred million dollars already in the federal budget for Zika prevention.

The money was initially allotted for fighting Ebola but was redirected to address Zika.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said there’s no excuse for not spending money that Congress already has provided.

“Why are they holding that money back?” he asked.

Burwell said her agency is committed to using “scarce federal dollars aggressively and prudently.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control received the bulk of the $374 million “repurposed” for Zika domestic response efforts, she said, and it will exhaust the remainder of the money by Sept. 30.

Money for vaccine development will run out even sooner, she said.

The second phase of clinical trials would be delayed as a result, and Americans would have to wait longer for a vaccine, according to Burwell.

“Now that the United States is in the height of mosquito season and with the progress in developing a Zika vaccine, the need for additional resources is critical,” Burwell wrote.

 

DON’T EXPECT CONGRESS TO INTERUPT ITS RECESS

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat, said Congress doesn’t have to interrupt its lengthy summer break to pass the bill.

But Republicans immediately dismissed his proposal.

Nelson’s state has become the epicenter for Zika in the U.S. Fifteen people are reported to be infected with the virus in Miami’s Wynwood arts district.

These are believed to be the first mosquito-transmitted cases in the mainland United States, a situation that Nelson said heightens the urgency to respond.

In an Aug. 2 letter to McConnell, Nelson said an anti-Zika bill could be passed in the Senate through a parliamentary procedure known as a pro forma session that requires the presence of only a few senators.

But even Nelson isn’t optimistic that will happen. And he took a jab at McConnell, predicting the Senate would move hurriedly if a transmitted Zika case is reported in Kentucky, McConnell’s home state.

Don Stewart, McConnell’s spokesman, said Nelson’s proposal isn’t at all plausible unless Democrats are willing to end their filibuster of the anti-Zika bill that the House already has passed.

Otherwise, the Senate would be only approving an earlier version of the legislation that Obama could not sign into law, Stewart said.

 

ZIKA IS RISKY FOR BUSINESS TOO

Zika is a looming economic development problem too, according to Rubio.

Many Florida businesses depend heavily on tourism and the state’s economy could be hurt if potential visitors decide to stay away, he said.

“I can foresee now when people that are planning to come to Florida, to go fishing perhaps, will decide to cancel their trip because they’re worried about mosquitoes and they’re worried about Zika,” Rubio said.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said that it’s up to Congress to pass the legislation so that more can be done.

“They left on a seven-week recess a day early, at the height of mosquito season and basically told the American people, ‘good luck,”” Earnest said.

Researchers fear that mosquitoes in the U.S. have begun spreading the Zika virus

Florida health officials are investigating four mysterious cases of Zika infection that do not appear to be related to travel.

The four cases were detected in the Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

Investigating whether Zika is being carried by mosquitoes locally, scientists plan to survey houses and people within a 150-yard radius of the cases, which is the flying radius of the insect.

U.S. experts also were baffled last week by a Zika case in Utah in which a care-giver caught Zika after tending to a dying elderly man with the virus.

The cases have raised the possibility that mosquitoes in the U.S. have begun to spread the virus.

Congress left for a seven-week vacation without giving the Obama administration any of the $1.9 billion it’s seeking to battle the Zika virus. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will begin making awards totaling nearly $60 million to states, cities, and territories to support efforts to protect Americans from Zika virus disease and adverse health outcomes that can result from Zika infection, including the serious birth defect microcephaly, according to a statement issued by the agency,

“Local, state and territorial health departments are on the front lines in the fight against Zika,” said CDC director Tom Frieden in a prepared statement.“These CDC funds will strengthen state and territorial capacity to respond to Zika virus, an increasingly concerning public health threat for pregnant women and babies. We hope Congress will provide the additional resources we need to fully support the Zika response.”

Due to congressional inaction, the CDC has to borrow the money to combat Zika from funds intended for flu, hurricane relief and other emergencies. The CDC has warned that it may have to delay testing for a vaccine if Congress continues to deny adequate funding to fight the disease.

The CDC has awarded $812,000 to Wisconsin to fight the Zika virus. Wisconsin Republicans, led by Gov. Scott Walker, apparently will allow the state to take the money, even though they’ve steadfastly refused to accept federal funds to expand Medicaid for poor families in the state. They oppose federal programs on philosophical grounds, saying such efforts represent “big government.”

Democrats have said that Walker’s refusal of federal Medicaid expansion has forced state taxpayers more to cover fewer people in the BadgerCare Plus health plan. If Walker had accepted the money, 87,000 more adults a month would have been served under the state’s health plan.

Walker’s rejection of Medicaid expansion, combined with his massive tax breaks to the very wealthy, has contributed to a $2.2 billion budget deficit.

According to estimates by the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau, the state could have saved more than $500 million over three and a half years by accepting federal Medicaid expansion. Wisconsin will lose about $1.8 billion in 2022 for rejecting the federal funds.

Meanwhile, Wisconsin taxpayers are still pouring money into the federal program, but it’s going to other states.

How Zika can spread

  • Bites from mosquitoes that carry the virus
  • Maternal transmission from mother to baby in the womb
  • Unprotected vaginal, oral or anal sexual intercourse – although rare, the virus can persist in semen
  • Zika virus has been found in other bodily fluids, including saliva and urine, but it is unknown whether it can spread through these routes
  • Blood transfusion — very likely but not confirmed

First case recorded of woman infecting partner with Zika through sex

A New York City woman infected her male partner with Zika virus through sex, the first time female-to-male transmission of the germ has been documented.

Zika is usually spread by mosquitoes, and health officials have known for some time that men can spread it through sex. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported the case last week and updated its advice for pregnant women.

The CDC now advises them to use protection if their sex partner has traveled to a Zika-infected region, whether the partner is a man or a woman.

The Zika virus causes only a mild illness, at worst, in most people. But infection during pregnancy can lead to severe brain-related birth defects for the fetus. The New York woman was not pregnant.

While this is the first documented case of a woman spreading Zika through sex, health experts say it is not surprising because most diseases that can be spread through sex can be spread by both men and women. It has likely been happening throughout the recent Zika outbreaks in Brazil, Latin America and elsewhere, though experts say it is probably not very common.

Last month, on the day the New York woman returned from a trip to a Zika-infected country, she had vaginal sex with her partner, without a condom, health officials were told.

She went to her doctor three days after her return, after developing common Zika symptoms such as fever, fatigue, rash and back pain. Tests showed Zika infection.

Seven days after they’d had sex, her male partner developed similar symptoms. Two days later, he went to the same doctor. The doctor tested him even though he hadn’t traveled from a Zika outbreak area and no cases of female-to-male transmission had been reported. He tested positive for Zika.

They both are in their 20s, but no other details about them were released, including where the woman traveled. Both have recovered, a CDC official said.

The woman began menstruating the day after they had sex. Health officials say she may have spread the virus through vaginal fluid or menstrual blood.

The primary concern about Zika infection is the virus’s threat to pregnancies, and health officials have issued cautions to pregnant women who have a male sex partner who may have been infected.

The CDC has now altered its advice slightly, to account for lesbian couples that include a pregnant woman. The CDC is now recommending that “barrier methods” be used by all pregnant women who have a sex partner who lives in or travels to a Zika outbreak area.

No woman-to-woman sexual transmission had been reported to date.

Eleven countries, including the United States, have reported cases of apparent sexual transmission of Zika virus from one person to another, according to the World Health Organization.

At least 14 were people who are believed to have caught it from sex with travelers, among the more than 1,300 people in the 50 states and the District of Columbia who have been diagnosed with Zika. The rest caught the virus while traveling to Latin America, the Caribbean or other outbreak areas.

Health officials say all or most of those travelers likely were infected through mosquito bites in the countries they were visiting. There have been no reports of mosquitoes spreading Zika in the continental United States so far.

Other research has hinted at the possibility of females spreading the virus through sex. In a study published last month, a team led by researchers at the University of Wisconsin detected Zika virus in the vaginal fluid of rhesus macaque monkeys. It was found for up to seven days after the monkeys were infected.

And there was one report of Zika detected in the vaginal fluid of a woman in the Caribbean island nation of Guadeloupe, a CDC official said.

Some experts said the case isn’t surprising. Sexually transmitted diseases that spread from men to women also spread from women to men, said Dr. John M. Douglas, Jr., a former CDC expert on sexually transmitted diseases who now oversees a local health department in Colorado.

Male-to-female transmission is considered far more likely than the other way around, experts said. One reason is that Zika virus has been found to linger in semen for more than two months, but is thought to stay in vaginal fluid no more than two weeks, said Dr. John T. Brooks, a CDC expert on sexually-transmitted diseases who is part of the agency’s Zika response team.

The case likely does not complicate efforts to fight the virus or show an important additional pathway for transmission, Brooks said, because female-to-male transmission is relatively difficult.

In the New York case, for example, several factors lined up to allow the disease to spread. The couple had sex just before the woman developed symptoms, a time when the amount of virus in her body may have been particularly high. They had sex just before her period started, so there may have been a small amount of early bleeding. And the man was uncircumcised, and uncircumcised men are considered at higher risk of catching sexually transmitted diseases.

 

Bugged Out: ’Tis the season that can drive you buggy

A big pink strawberry moon rose high, a rare full moon on the solstice.

Tam Burnett went to the water’s edge to welcome summer. She stood with binoculars in one hand and she swatted at mosquitoes with the other.

Then she swore.

Bugs bug Burnett, even though she’s used to them. She’s an avid recreational fisher who routinely encounters thick masses of mosquitoes, gnats and no-see-ums.

“They are pesky but they also can carry disease. Dude, you have to take precautions,” said Burnett, who wears a homemade repellent of cinnamon and thyme oil.

Burnett, who lives in Tampa, Florida, is hearing a lot of buzz these days about mosquitoes and Zika virus disease.

That buzz carries.

Monica Giménez is hearing the buzz in Racine.

“So, OK. I know the mosquitoes here are not supposed to carry Zika,” she recently told WiG. “But I think there’s a lot still to learn. Mostly I’m concerned because I go to Puerto Rico every September to see family.”

Global health emergency

Reports of outbreaks of Zika virus disease began making headlines in 2015 and, by February of this year, the World Health Organization had declared a public health emergency.

The Zika virus has affected at least 60 countries on four continents and is an epidemic in Latin America and the Caribbean. In Puerto Rico, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported more than 1,700 cases of infection.

Zika virus is spread to people primarily through the bite of infected Aedes species mosquitoes. But sexual transmission — Zika can live in semen for an extended period — also has been documented.

The most common symptoms are flu-like: fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis or red eyes. However, only about 20 percent of people infected with Zika show symptoms. In previous outbreaks, the illness has typically been mild, with symptoms lasting several days to a week after being bitten by an infected mosquito, according to the CDC.

However, evidence now links Zika virus in pregnant women to a serious birth defect of the brain called microcephaly and to Guillain-Barre syndrome, an uncommon condition of the nervous system that damages nerve cells and causes muscle weakness — and sometimes paralysis. In Puerto Rico alone, almost 200 pregnant women have been exposed to Zika so far.

In April, the CDC brought together more than 300 local, state and federal officials to discuss preparations for the likelihood of mosquito-born transmission of the virus in some parts of the continental United States. To date, the U.S. government is tracking active Zika transmission in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and America Samoa. There have been no reports of mosquitoes spreading the virus on the mainland.

“Everyone has a role to play,” CDC director Tom Frieden said in a statement released just before the meeting.

“The mosquitoes that carry Zika virus are already active in U.S. territories, hundreds of travelers with Zika have already returned to the continental U.S., and we could well see clusters of Zika virus in the continental U.S. in the coming months. Urgent action is needed, especially to minimize the risk of exposure during pregnancy.”

Public health officials returned from the CDC’s Atlanta headquarters to their cities and states to organize local and regional responses.

Southern states are on high alert, especially Texas and Florida. In the Florida Keys, there’s been discussion of releasing genetically modified mosquitoes to reduce populations of disease-carrying mosquitoes.

In the northern states, including Wisconsin, officials emphasize safe-sex precautions and the travel warnings, especially for women traveling to locations where there have been active transmissions.

Meanwhile, a recent study found two anti-Zika vaccines to be completely effective in mice. Human safety trials could start in months.

Wisconsin threats

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services has confirmed several Zika virus infections among Wisconsin travelers.

But officials emphasize the Aedes species that can transmit Zika has not been found in the state.

“In over 10 years of monitoring, we have not found the species of mosquitoes identified as Zika carriers in our community,” John Hausbeck, environmental health supervisor for Public Health Madison and Dane County, said after reporting in late May the first Zika virus infection in the county. The woman acquired the infection while traveling in Colombia.

“We will continue to monitor this upcoming season for these specific mosquitoes, in addition to other species that transmit disease,” Hausbeck said.

In Wisconsin, those who venture outdoors have greater reason to be concerned with the West Nile virus and northern house mosquitoes, as well as Lyme disease and deer ticks, which can be found throughout the state.

West Nile is an arbovirus transmitted by the bites of mosquitoes that become infected by feeding on infected birds.

An estimated 80 percent of people infected with West Nile don’t experience symptoms. Those who do may suffer a mild illness — fever, headache, muscle pains, skin rash, swollen lymph nodes. Less than 1 percent becomes seriously ill.

The first human case in Wisconsin was reported in 2002. In 2015, Health Services reported seven human cases of West Nile virus.

Dane County on June 20 reported the discovery of a bird that tested positive for the virus, the first finding after May 1, when surveillance for the season began.

“West Nile virus seems to be here to stay, so the best way to avoid the disease is to prevent mosquito bites and eliminate breeding grounds for mosquitoes,” said Janel Heinrich, director of Public Health Madison and Dane County.

The county health department — and many others in the state — also issued warnings about peak tick season.

“Because these ticks carry Lyme disease and other pathogens, people should take care to do tick checks whenever they have been out in woods, even in their own backyards,” advised Susan Paskewitz, a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor of entomology.

The UW-Madison’s Insect Diagnostic Lab in the entomology department is one of the best resources in Wisconsin on insect research and trends.

In its Top Insect Trends of 2015 review, the lab reported on the emerging health threat posed by deer ticks.

“Deer tick populations have exploded in the past few decades” and “one of the more alarming trends is urban encroachment,” the lab reported.

About 40 percent of adult ticks in Wisconsin carry the microorganism responsible for Lyme disease. So, “this is an issue that will continue to exist in the state for years to come,” according to the lab.

Lyme disease can produce a range of symptoms, including rash, fever, headache, fatigue, stiffness and joint pain. If left untreated, complications may include meningitis, facial palsy, heart abnormalities and arthritis.

The state reported more than 3,200 human cases of Lyme disease in 2015, and that number is believed to be just 10 percent of the total cases.

Deer ticks also can spread other diseases — including anaplasmosis and ehrlichiosis — with similar symptoms to those of Lyme disease, so-named because it was first recognized in Lyme, Connecticut.

On June 23, in its weekly overview of conditions at state parks, trails and forests, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources reported, “Mosquitoes and deer flies are out but some areas are reporting that so far — knock on wood — they have not been as bad as some recent years.”

That’s good news to outdoors enthusiast Andrew Colman of Milwaukee, who said he was finalizing plans for his family to go fishing on the Fourth of July.

“We protect ourselves, of course,” Colman said. “But less bugs is better.”

Giménez also has plans to get outdoors for the Fourth, with perhaps a biking trip in Kettle Moraine State Forest.

“Well, summer is the best time in Wisconsin,” she said.

Burnett, meanwhile, will be on the water somewhere, bathed in her thyme-and-cinnamon repellent.

Did you know?

The tropical mosquitoes that spread Zika virus bite mostly during the daytime. The same mosquitoes also spread dengue and chikungunya viruses.

Home remedies,  pollinator protections

A pesticide is a substance used to control unwanted plants, rodents and insect pests. Pesticides include herbicides, rodenticides, fungicides and insecticides. WiG has published many reports about the environmental harm caused by chemical pesticides, especially insecticides.

There are many steps to deal with pest control without using pesticides:

• Avoid pest problems by burying infested plant residues, removing pest habitat and planting pest-resistant plants.

• Clear out any containers that collect water, as even a bottle cap of water can provide breeding ground for insects.

• Plant native flowering plant species to support pollinators. Also, chose plant species naturally resistant to insect pests, including lavender and catnip.

• Apply plant-based organic pesticides.

• Employ netting, screens or traps.

Sources: Task Force of the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign, Natural Resources Defense Council

Essential oils for outdoors

WiG invited readers to share their favorite natural insect repellents. Recommendations include: a mixture of lemon eucalyptus oil and sunflower oil or witch hazel; crushed lavender flowers mixed with sunflower oil; cinnamon oil and water; and thyme oil and water.

On the Web 

Recommended surfing:

Bugs of the Week, a blog by Kate “The Bug Lady” Redmond, www4.uwm.edu/fieldstation/.

• Reports from the Insect Diagnostic Lab at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, labs.russell.wisc.edu/insectlab/.

The Outdoor Report, an overview of conditions in state parks, trails and forests from the Department of Natural Resources, dnr.wi.gov/news/or/.

images - news - lavender

Congress’ grade so far? Incomplete at best

Congress is racing toward its summer break, but like a procrastinating college kid it has tons of work to catch up on to avoid a report card laden with grades of incomplete or even worse.

An abbreviated work period this month produced mixed results at best — Congress exited Washington without acting on funding the battle against the Zika virus, for starters — and a full plate awaits when lawmakers return next month from a weeklong Memorial Day recess for a six-week sprint to political convention season and the traditional August vacation.

Some signs are promising; others, not so much.

ZIKA

President Barack Obama’s $1.9 billion request to battle the Zika virus has been sitting before Congress for more than three months, but in only the past few weeks have GOP leaders shown any sense of urgency about passing legislation in response. Zika can cause grave birth defects and be spread by certain mosquitoes.

The House and Senate have passed competing measures, with the Senate approving a $1.1 billion bipartisan bill that closely tracks Obama’s request, at least if one counts the more than $500 million Obama has diverted from unspent Ebola funding toward the total. The House measure would provide $622 million and cuts further into Ebola accounts to help pay for it.

A logical outcome would be to pass a measure relatively close to the Senate’s level on funding and include offsetting spending cuts as demanded by the House. But politics have infused the Zika measure, which isn’t helping.

Negotiators have four weeks to reach agreement when they return if they are to meet a July deadline.

PUERTO RICO

Legislation to ease Puerto Rico’s debt crisis has cleared one hurdle with easy approval in a House committee. The legislation now heads to the House floor, where Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., will try to unite his fractious caucus behind the bill. The bill to create a financial control board and restructure some of the U.S. territory’s $70 billion debt has support from House Republican and Democratic leaders, as well as the Obama administration. Some bondholders are lobbying against it, though, saying it gives the board too much power to decide what payments will be a priority.

Senate prospects are unclear. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has suggested the Senate may take up the House bill once it passes that chamber. But some Senate Democrats have complained that the board would take away too much authority from the Puerto Rican government under the House legislation.

When Congress returns in June, lawmakers will have just four weeks to act before Puerto Rico faces its largest debt payment of $2 billion on July 1.

BUDGET-SPENDING

Republicans have given up on trying to pass a broad, if nonbinding, budget plan, instead focusing on passing spending bills for the annual operations of the government. That’s not going so well either, at least in the House.

There, the issue of gay rights has blown up the appropriations process, scuttling a normally routine energy and water projects on Thursday. Whether it can be revived is unclear, but signs point to the typical omnibus spending package wrapping together most of the spending bills during December’s lame-duck session.

In the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has made it a priority to try to revive the appropriations process in that chamber. With Democratic help it’s going reasonably well, and three of the 12 bills have already passed. But even with senators on their best behavior, the process can be halting.

DEFENSE

Democrats blocked the Senate from taking up the annual defense policy legislation before the recess, saying they needed more time to study the more than 1,600-page bill. The postponement incensed Senate Republicans. They say Minority Leader Harry Reid — who faced comparable stalling tactics from McConnell for years when Democrats controlled the chamber — was more interested in depriving Republicans of an election-year accomplishment before Memorial Day.

The defense policy bill authorizes military spending for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. The legislative package also prohibits the administration from transferring detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the United States, requires women to register for a potential military draft, and proposes numerous changes to the military health system to improve the quality of care.

The companion House measure effectively adds $18 billion to core Pentagon programs through a proposed shift of war funding to other Pentagon accounts. The Senate measure doesn’t, and the difference is likely to delay a final resolution.

OPIOIDS

House-Senate bargainers hope to send Obama compromise legislation by July establishing grants and taking other steps to reinforce government efforts against drug abuse.

CHEMICAL REGULATION

Also left undone is a bipartisan measure that is the first major update of the nation’s chief chemical safety law in 40 years. It would for the first time regulate tens of thousands of toxic chemicals in everyday products from household cleaners to clothing and furniture.

Supporters say the bill would clear up a hodgepodge of state rules and ensure that chemicals and products used by Americans every day are safer.

The House overwhelmingly approved the bill on Tuesday, but the measure ran into a snag in the Senate when Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., objected to its passage and said he’d not had time to read it.

SUPREME COURT

With Republican leaders continuing to resist Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to fill the Supreme Court vacancy, no Senate action on filling that slot is expected until after the November elections — at the earliest.

Wisconsin health officials report 1st confirmed Zika infection

Wisconsin Department of Health Services officials announced a resident has a confirmed case of Zika virus infection.

The individual who tested positive is a woman who recently traveled to Honduras, where Zika-infected mosquitoes are present.

There have been no locally-acquired cases of Zika virus infection in Wisconsin or in the continental United States, according to the DHS.

“Wisconsin is one of the last states to have a confirmed case of Zika virus infection detected in a resident, but we have been actively preparing for the likelihood that this day would come,” State Health Officer Karen McKeown said in a news release. “Together with partners we have been working to prepare our Zika virus response plans. This includes testing more than 300 people who have traveled to countries with known Zika virus transmission, and monitoring for the presence of mosquitoes that may carry Zika virus. We will remain vigilant in our response to ensure the safety and health of all Wisconsinites, particularly pregnant women and unborn babies, who are most at risk.”

DHS, according to the news release, has been working on this issue with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, local health departments, health care professionals, the Wisconsin State Lab of Hygiene and the University of Wisconsin-Madison Entomology Department.

Because Zika virus poses the greatest risk to pregnant women and their unborn babies, DHS has targeted outreach to health care providers caring for pregnant women, because an infected mother may pass the Zika virus to a baby during pregnancy.

Zika virus may cause microcephaly in the infant, which is a medical condition in which the size of the head is smaller than normal because the brain has not developed properly.

About 80 percent of people who are infected with Zika virus do not have any symptoms.

Illness may develop in 20 percent of infected people within 3 to 7 days after a bite from an infected mosquito.

Symptoms are generally mild and can last for several days to a week. Common symptoms of Zika virus infection include fever, rash, joint pain, conjunctivitis (red eyes), muscle pain or headache.

There is no medication to treat Zika virus disease and no vaccine is currently available.

Zika is typically transmitted to people by a bite from an infected mosquito, however, it can also be spread from mother to unborn child, through sexual contact and through blood transfusions.

According to DHS, surveillance has not identified mosquitoes that carry the Zika virus in Wisconsin.

The best way to prevent Zika virus infection is to avoid travel to areas where active transmission is present. Zika is only one of several diseases that can be spread by mosquitoes. To protect yourself from mosquito bites, consider the following:

  • Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, socks, and shoes.
  • Use EPA-registered insect repellants and apply according to the label instructions.
  • Stay and sleep in places with air conditioning and screened-in windows.
  • Avoid being outside during times of high mosquito activity, specifically around dawn and dusk.
  • Prevent standing water in your yard by disposing discarded tires, cans, plastic containers; draining standing water from pool or hot tub covers; turning over plastic wading pools and wheel barrows when not in use; keeping drains, ditches and culverts clean of trash and weeds so water will drain properly; and cleaning gutters to ensure they drain properly.

On the Web

For more information, go to the DHS Zika virus webpage.