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A New Mosquito Emoji May Help Raise Mosquito-Borne Disease Awareness
If there is one modern fad that past generations would never have seen coming, then it would have to be the current obsession with emojis. Text messaging, whether it is on your phone, facebook, email or any other type of messaging service, often consists of sentences followed by emojis. It seems like emojis are everywhere these days. The modern obsession with emojis has even led to a major motion picture featuring walking-talking emojis. As it happens, the recent emoji movie did not make much money, so maybe there is a limit to acceptable emoji exposure after all. However, people’s enthusiasm for emojis can be used to benefit mankind. For example, sometime during the summer of 2018, the Unicode Consortium will release a mosquito emoji in order to raise mosquito-borne disease awareness.
The mosquito is not the first animal to be made into an emoji. For example, butterflies and bees are two other insects that have earned their own emoji. Whales and rabbits have also been made into emojis. Surprisingly, well educated scientific researchers believe that the existence of a mosquito emoji could help to spread awareness concerning the dangers posed by mosquitoes. The Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have both promoted the idea of a mosquito emoji as a method of spreading awareness about mosquito-borne diseases, especially the Zika virus.
Hopefully, having a mosquito emoji option in our toolbox will ultimately save lives that would otherwise be lost due to mosquito-borne diseases. This may seem like a ridiculous idea, but using a mosquito emoji may allow public health professionals to better communicate the modern threat of mosquito-borne diseases to the public. Although the risk of contracting a mosquito-borne disease has been a hot topic in the media for the past few years, some medical professionals have claimed that many Zika-infected patients are surprisingly ignorant of how to protect themselves from mosquito bites. Seeing as how social media has already proven to be an effective platform for communicating certain public health campaigns to the public, it seems unwise to dismiss the claim that a mosquito emoji could save lives in the long run. Only time will tell how well the mosquito emoji works to spread mosquito-borne disease awareness to the public.
Do you think that the mosquito emoji will lead to lower Zika infection rates?
The Zika Virus Is Not The Only Insect-Borne Disease To Damage Developing Fetuses
By now we all know that the Zika virus has devastating effects on developing fetuses. Unfortunately, researchers are learning that other mosquito-borne diseases also cause severe birth defects. In total, four viruses in the same family as Zika can affect developing fetuses. Two of these viruses have been found to cause fetal defects as well as death in mice. One of these four dangerous mosquito-borne diseases is the West Nile virus. The prevalence of these diseases varies by country, but researchers noted that the country of Israel was particularly affected by the worst of the West Nile Virus.
American media outlets typically refer to Brazil as being the hardest hit by the Zika virus. This is reasonable given the high rate of Zika-related birth defects that have been documented in Brazil during the past few years. However, current research is showing that mosquito-borne viruses could also damage developing fetuses in the middle-east. Although we do not hear much about the West Nile virus in other countries, this virus is actually endemic in Israel. Poor living conditions in certain regions of Israel attract West Nile-carrying mosquitoes. The regions of Israel that see the highest rates of West Nile infection are poor regions with open sewers. These open sewers attract a dizzying amount of mosquitoes. Officials with the Israeli Health Ministry have claimed that eighty eight people per year become infected with the West Nile virus. The risk of mosquito-borne disease facing Israel is remarkably high, and the future of mosquito-control in the country is questionable. Researchers also learned that four different flaviviruses can likely lead to birth defects. These Zika-related flavivirus include the West Nile Virus, Powassan, chikungunya and Mayaro. So far these diseases have been shown to damage developing fetuses in female mice. Although mice are not humans, the researchers stressed that the four viruses are capable of replicating in human and maternal fetal tissues.
Do you think that a spike in mosquito-borne diseases will occur in certain areas of the world this coming summer?
New Research Shows That West Nile-Induced Memory Deficits Can Be Treated
Right now in the United States there are ten thousand people living with memory deficits as a result of past West Nile infections. Deficits in memory are not the only cognitive deficits that many past victims still experience. Medical experts have long wondered why cognitive functioning remained hindered in past victims of West Nile. As far as experts understood, the victims should have eventually retained normal cognitive functioning after the victims were deemed free of the disease. However, much to everyone’s surprise, this has not been the case. Fortunately, new research in mice is revealing that persistent cognitive issues caused by West Nile infection could result from continued brain inflammation. This is exciting news for doctors and victims as this inflammation can be reduced with modern medical treatments.
Research with West Nile-infected mice has shown that a common drug used to treat arthritis can reduce brain inflammation caused by the disease. This inflammation does not disappear in victims of the West Nile virus. Brain inflammation caused by West Nile can last a lifetime, and may never improve without medical intervention. The lasting cognitive deficits associated with West Nile infection have long puzzled doctors. Now it is clear that persistent inflammation that first occurred with the disease’s onset is responsible for these lasting symptoms. This prolonged inflammation prevents natural repair processes, which in turn, prevent the growth of cells in parts of the brain that have been damaged by the disease and are essential for cognitive function, mostly memory.
These persistent memory problems have made it difficult for past West Nile sufferers to live normal day-to-day lives. Driving a car, cooking, and holding down a job have all been challenging for these victims. According to a professor of medicine at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Robyn Klein, if inflamed areas of the brain are targeted by a basic arthritis drug, memory problems can be treated in past victims, and future victims can be spared these cognitive symptoms. However, brain damage caused by the West Nile virus only gets worse over time, so long time sufferers may not benefit from the new treatment as much as patients who have recently contracted the virus.
Do you personally fear the possibility of contracting the West Nile virus? Do you use products to minimize mosquito bites?
Zika Prevention Education Has Not Been A Success In Some Regions In America
During the years of 2015 and 2016 Zika was in the news constantly due to numerous outbreaks in the Americas and elsewhere. Given the vast amount of news coverage concerning the Zika virus, you would assume that anybody living in the United States, South America and other nearby islands would be all too familiar with the Zika virus and the negative impacts that face victims who have contracted the disease. This seems like a fair assumption when it comes to women who were pregnant during this two year span given the terrible effects that the Zika virus has on developing fetuses. However, you may be surprised, as public health professionals are learning that in some regions of the US, plenty of individuals, and even pregnant woman are unaware of the negative effects that Zika causes in humans. According to public health officials working in Brownsville, Texas three fourths of all pregnant women who show up to Zika clinics have never even heard of the Zika virus, and obviously they do not know of any Zika prevention measures.
Since the Zika outbreaks occurred a few years ago, American public health officials have required all doctors and hospital personnel to test pregnant woman for Zika every trimester. According to a nurse practitioner working for the Cameron County Health Department, most patients who come into the Mary P. Lucio Health Center, are very poor and often uninsured. Therefore, these particular pregnant women are usually concerned with matters of day to day living. It has also been noted that woman are often more willing to use mosquito repellent than men are willing to use condoms in order to prevent the spread of Zika. Health professionals working at the clinic find this ignorance of the Zika virus troubling. Also, the unwillingness to exercise proper Zika prevention methods is quite problematic in a region like Brownsville where climatic conditions are ideal for mosquitoes. This lack of knowledge concerning Zika and Zika prevention has some public health officials concerned about another Zika outbreak occurring in the southern region of Texas.
Do you believe that another outbreak of Zika could occur solely as a result of ignorance concerning safety measures that can prevent Zika infection?
Many Olympic Athletes Contracted Diseases In Brazil, But Not Zika
Last year the Zika virus was infecting people in many regions of the world, mostly in Brazil. As you can remember, the 2016 olympic games were held in Rio, Brazil. This raised a dilemma for many olympic athletes who wanted to compete in the games, but did not want to risk Zika infection. Public health officials were warning against traveling to Brazil. Earlier in the 2016 year the World Health Organization had declared a global public health emergency. Despite the heightened risk of Zika infection in Brazil, the olympic games commenced as scheduled with the athletes in attendance. Luckily, the risk of contracting the Zika virus turned out to be lower than experts had estimated. Amazingly, not a single olympian became infected with the Zika virus. However, several olympians still contracted mosquito-borne diseases, such as West Nile, Dengue and Chikungunya.
Dr. Krow Ampofo tested olympic athletes for the Zika virus. He was pleased to find that none of the athletes had contracted Zika, but he was surprised to learn that several had contracted other disease that are spread by the same mosquito that spreads Zika. The WHO also tested olympic athletes and found no cases of Zika infection. However, Dr. Krow Ampofo possessed the largest body of medical test results. He planned on presenting his results at an infectious disease conference in San Diego.
Somewhere in the neighborhood of two thousand athletes, coaches and support staff traveled to Brazil last year to take part in the olympic games. Of those two thousand people, four hundred and fifty seven individuals submitted blood tests. These volunteers also filled out surveys that had asked athletes about the different locations in the country that they had visited. Although none of the volunteers had become infected with Zika, seven percent of the volunteers had contracted other mosquito-borne diseases. Twenty seven people contracted the West Nile virus, three people contracted Chikungunya, and two people contracted Dengue. The public health emergency that had been declared in Brazil ended in May of 2017.
Do you think that it was irresponsible of the olympic athletes to disregard the WHO’s recommendations by traveling to Brazil?
One Genetic Alteration Made Zika Go From Harmless To Devastating
The Zika virus was first discovered in a Ugandan monkey during the year of 1947. A few years later, experts determined that the Zika virus would only cause mild symptoms in people who contracted the virus. Since the Zika virus was not a serious public health concern during the mid twentieth century, experts promptly forgot about the disease. However, the Zika virus of 1947 is very different from the Zika virus of 2017. At some point the virus underwent a mutation. This mutation is the reason why infected pregnant mothers give birth to children with microcephaly.
Chinese researchers believe that they have pinpointed a certain time when the Zika virus underwent a genetic change that made it much more dangerous. According to the researchers, the Zika virus mutated during May of 2013. This was right before citizens of French Polynesia struggled through high Zika infection rates, which lasted two solid years. In addition to French Polynesia, three other Pacific Islands suffered through a two year bout of high infection rates. By March of 2015, the Zika virus had arrived in Brazil. I don’t need to tell you that the Zika virus became a significant problem in the country of Brazil. So far, nearly three thousand Brazilian mothers have given birth to children afflicted with microcephaly.
According to disease-control experts, the Zika virus mutated while jumping from region to region during the summer of 2016. Sometimes mutations can bring about differences that make once feared viruses become harmless to humans. Unfortunately, some of the time these genetically altered viruses make infections even more serious. Most of the time, however, genetic changes to a virus do not change anything for those suffering from a virus. The lead Chinese researcher noted that Zika’s genetic change was small, but the symptoms of the virus became much worse for some sufferers, mainly pregnant women. After the virus mutated, it started to go after brain tissue more aggressively. The Chinese researchers are currently researching the neurological complications that some Zika victims experience.
Have you ever considered the possibility that maybe you had the West Nile virus, or Zika, but given your age, you did not realize you had become infected?
Many people have never been so eager for the winter to finally arrive, as several states have reported multiple deaths as a result of the West Nile virus. Of course, not everyone dies as a result of the virus. Some people are simply forced to endure the symptoms. Elizabeth “Liz” Dunavant of Little Rock, Arkansas is one such person. Unlike many victims of West Nile who contract the disease during the late summer, Liz contracted West Nile during May of 2014. Liz even remembers sustaining the mosquito bites to her foot. She claims to have felt the stings of three different mosquito bites. Shortly after she sustained the bites, Liz began experiencing the usual symptoms associated with the West Nile virus. Liz was bit by the mosquitoes on a Sunday, but by Thursday morning she woke up a “different person.” Now, more than three years later, Liz is still living with symptoms that she can barely tolerate.
Unfortunately, no vaccine for the West Nile virus exists at this time. According to a renowned West Nile researcher, Dr. A. Arturo Leis, a vaccine for the West Nile virus will probably not exist until the disease becomes “an uncontrollable epidemic.” The first symptoms that Liz experienced involved weakness, a burning pain on her spine, and pain while blowing her nose. The next day, Friday, Liz had developed acute encephalitis and meningitis. This diagnosis was made in less than a week after she had been bitten by the mosquitoes that transmitted the virus. For the next two months Liz suffered with flu like symptoms and a constant headache. Now, Liz no longer medically has the virus, but she still has to tolerate lingering symptoms. As far as these lingering symptoms go, no doctor can help her. Liz simply has to live with these symptoms for, what might be, the rest of her life. The West Nile virus has cost Liz her job and social life, and she cannot stress enough how important it is to exercise the proper safety precautions while outdoors for the remainder of the summer.
Do you live in a state with any reported cases of West Nile? Has anybody died in your state as a result of contracting the disease? Do you use mosquito repellent before setting foot outdoors?
Should Everyone Have Access To A National Mosquito-Tracking Database?
For decades now there has been several different organizations that have gathered mosquito-related data. Researchers working for these organizations have set mosquito traps in order to determine which types of mosquitoes inhabit particular regions. Tracking mosquito activity is important when it comes to public health. The problem is that a variety of both private and public organizations already exist that carry out mosquito-tracking efforts, but not all of this data is accessible in once place. It is hard to believe that there is not one single mosquito-tracking database that compiles data on mosquito populations from different sources. It goes without saying that a national mosquito-tracking organization should exist, but should every citizen have access to such data?
At the moment, there is nothing like a national mosquito-tracking database that is accessible to members of the public; instead some information is currently only accessible to employees of various mosquito-control organizations. However, even in these cases, not all available mosquito-related data is available in one database. According to two prominent researchers working for the University of Notre Dame, public health experts could more effectively prevent mosquito-related diseases by forming one single database where all mosquito-related data is available. For example, should more pesticides be used in certain regions? Are members of the public removing enough groundwater from their properties? Could an unheard of mosquito-born virus develop and infect humans? If researchers had all the mosquito-related data that exists, then questions like the two above could be answered more conclusively.
Mosquito-borne diseases could be tracked and predicted with greater accuracy, and with more time to prevent outbreaks of mosquito-borne disease if a national database existed. Also, with a national database, experts could better regulate domestic and international travel guidelines. Mosquito-related data is professionally gathered at a cost, and every tax paying citizen of the US is entitled to a national mosquito-tracking database for their own protection.
Do you believe that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention should be tasked with compiling all available data concerning mosquito activity within the US?
Are Tiger Mosquitoes A Problem In The United States?
By now, there is no doubt that you have heard of the Aedes Aegypti mosquito. This is the common mosquito that is mostly responsible for the spread of the Zika virus in various regions of the world. However, there are other types of mosquitoes that can spread the Zika virus, and one of these mosquitoes is known as the Aedes albopictus, or the tiger mosquito. So far, the tiger mosquito does not seem to be a significant Zika threat within the United States. The tiger mosquito does not dwell in many US states. This is because the tiger mosquito is not native to the US. The tiger mosquito arrived within the continental US during the 1980s, but since then, this mosquito has spread to many humid southern and southeastern states.
This mosquito is native to New Guinea and the islands within the Indian Ocean. This mosquito was brought to America within a shipment of tires that were imported from Japan, and the mosquito was first discovered in America when scientists spotted many of them dwelling within Houston, Texas.
The tiger mosquito, although small, is easy to differentiate from the more common aedes aegypti mosquito. This is due to the tiger mosquitoes black and white checkered legs. This mosquito also has a white stripe that runs down the middle of its thorax. Not only that, but the tiger mosquito even possess a pattern of white dots on its abdomen. The tiger mosquito resembles many other small flying insects, especially other mosquitoes. However, the tiger mosquito can easily be picked from a line-up due to the perspicuous white stripe located on its thorax. The tiger mosquito can spread the west Nile virus in addition to the Zika virus, and the CDC keeps this mosquito closely monitored due to its disease spreading potential.
Have you ever spotted a tiger mosquito? If you have, then where were you located at the time?