Saturday, January 16, 2016

Viral Brains

Had a cold (or possibly a "mild" case of flu - I had the shot) the week of Christmas. The cough is still dragging on, but worse, I'm in a bit of mental fog that makes it hard to initiate thought. I'm trying to jar myself out of it. I wonder, seriously, if there's something about this lingering viral illness that's making me mentally foggy right now. It's not a new thing to have this after a cold and I have always gotten over it in the past (I guess) but what is new is reading some things about how viruses previously thought to be more or less harmless turn out to be able to cause encephalitis as an unwanted aftereffect. Chikungunya, for instance. I don't have encephalitis but I do wonder if there is an actual effect on the brain here.

Have y'all been keeping up with the Zika virus? It's a mosquito-borne virus that's been around for a while, but the strain now present in Brazil may be causing microcephaly in fetuses when the mother is infected. Here's the New York Times. Pop over and look at that article. Y'all, West Nile is one thing, but look at this:
The C.D.C. advisory came after several days of consultation with outside experts. Some virologists have been urging the health authorities to issue such a warning as the threat from Zika has grown. Officials in Brazil said Tuesday that they were investigating more than 3,500 cases of microcephaly in newborns. Until last year, the country normally had about 150 cases each year. ... Earlier this month, a leading Brazilian health official suggested that women in the hard-hit northeastern region postpone having babies.
Holy cow.

Update 1/17/16

Zika Warning Spotlights Latin America’s Fight Against Mosquito-Borne Diseases
Dr. Isaac I. Bogoch, a tropical infectious disease specialist at the University of Toronto who is part of a team modeling the potential for Zika to spread, warned that the Olympics could serve as a catalyst for the virus, which some researchers believe may have arrived in Brazil during another sports mega-event, the 2014 World Cup.

“There will be people traveling to Brazil from all over the world,” Dr. Bogoch said in an email.

“The concern is that infected individuals will travel back to their home country and introduce the virus to new regions.”

Dr. Bogoch and other researchers determined that Zika had the potential to rapidly spread to other parts of the world, according to findings published last week in the British medical journal The Lancet.

Their model for Zika’s possible spread, using worldwide temperature profiles and air travel routes, also determined that more than 60 percent of the population in the United States lives in areas conducive to seasonal Zika transmission. And about 23 million people in the United States live in places with climates like Florida and parts of Texas where Zika can be transmitted by mosquitoes year-round, the researchers said.