Health

Why a Shot of Zika Could Help People

Scientists have much to learn about this tricky, dangerous virus

Winter months in the U.S. rarely have us thinking about mosquitoes. But no vaccine, treatment, or cure exists yet for the devastating Zika virus, and mosquito season is coming up fast.

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Scientists are racing to develop something to prevent infection. Thousands of children worldwide, including at least 34 in the continental U.S., have been born with microcephaly, a rare nervous system disorder characterized by a smaller than normal head as well as other severe birth defects. Some of these children do not survive.

Infectious disease expert Richard Wallace of eastern Texas said the chances of a pregnant, Zika-infected woman having a healthy baby are now about 50-50. That is far greater than what scientists initially thought, he recently told KLTV, the ABC affiliate in Tyler, Texas.

[lz_bulleted_list title=”Zika in the U.S.” source=”http://www.cdc.gov”]U.S. States and D.C.: 4,809|U.S. Territories: 34,973|As of December 28, 2016[/lz_bulleted_list]

Even so, the Food and Drug Administration is advising all pregnant women to avoid making any decisions after a positive Zika test until the results are confirmed — which could take a week to a month. This comes after a high rate of false positives on Zika tests were discovered.

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“Laboratory Corporation of America (LabCorp) has reported some false positive results from the ZIKV Detect test,” the FDA stated in a release to health care providers on Dec. 23. “While the FDA has not yet determined if the reported false positives are related to the ZIKV Detect test or the commercial testing facility, it is important to remember that IgM tests remain useful in ruling out Zika exposure but require confirmatory testing.”

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Travel warnings continue to be issued for all areas of active Zika transmission while scientists, including those with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAD), work on a vaccine.

One NIAD study to watch is VRC 319 — its “human challenge study” that launched last summer. Researchers had hoped to get enough healthy, non-pregnant volunteers to be “deliberately injected with the Zika virus, mimicking natural infection while scientists track how their bodies respond to the virus and to the vaccine.” The study is ongoing, but not recruiting participants, according to clinicaltrials.gov.

Related: Expectant Moms Need to Know This About Zika

The study is being conducted at three sites: the NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, the University of Maryland’s Center for Vaccine Development in Baltimore, and Emory University in Atlanta.

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