US CDC calls for enhanced surveillance of Zika-related epilepsy

Henrietta Brewer
April 19, 2017

The fight to contain the Zika outbreak of 2016 focused on one type of mosquito, the urban-dwelling Aedes aegypti.

Zika is an infection which is transmitted to people through the bite of an infected mosquito.

Aedes aegypti (also known as the yellow fever mosquito) and Aedes albopictus (the Asian tiger mosquito) both abound in Florida, throughout most of the Southeast and in all the states along the southern border of the U.S., according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"It's an important report because it's a more complete cohort now, so we're getting a little more information", said Dr. Roberta DeBiasi, chief of pediatric infectious diseases for the Children's National Health System in Washington (via The New York Times), who was not involved in the study.

Epilepsy is associated with considerable morbidity and costs, and early recognition and treatment of epilepsy may mitigate some adverse outcomes associated with developmental delay, according to the commentary coauthored by researchers from the CDC and the University of Colorado. There is no vaccine for Zika, leaving public health officials to urge Floridians to use mosquito spray, wear long clothes and remove standing water from outdoor containers. "Also, this study found Zika virus RNA in male mosquitoes, which we can infer also means the Zika virus RNA came from the mother". Without live Zika virus in the offspring, the presence of Zika RNA suggests that either "the female parent was not itself infected with live Zika virus or it was not able to transfer live Zika virus to her eggs", Smartt commented.

However, the findings still pose a Zika virus concern and call for further research into the other potential vectors species.

"This mosquito is found worldwide, has a wide range of hosts and has adapted to colder climates".

The new findings also underline the need for insect scientists and medical researchers to be extremely cautious. "The role of this mosquito in Zika virus transmission needs to be assessed", she added. Many infants in Brazil, over the past year, have reportedly been affected with microcephaly, a condition where an infant is born with an underdeveloped brain, in association with the Zika virus.

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