May 24, 2017

Zika virus likely arrived in U.S. months before it was detected

In three new papers, scientists outline how the Zika virus emerged in Brazil, central America, and the U.S. months before it was detected. By studying DNA changes in the virus as it spread from one place to the next, the researchers were able to trace its path through the Americas.

The takeaway: "The Zika virus could have affected human populations beyond the areas currently described. In the U.S., we need to do a better job anticipating the arrival of these emerging viruses and doing active surveillance by going into community health center, clinics and emergency rooms and identifying people with fever and rash to see if they have zika," says Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.

Key findings:

  1. The virus arrived in Florida likely via the Caribbean in the spring of 2016, several months before it was detected. It was introduced at least 4 separate times.
  2. Sequencing 110 genomes from people infected with the virus and Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that transmit it, researchers traced Zika's rapid expansion in Brazil and spread to Puerto Rico, Honduras, Colombia and the U.S. They also found mutations they could influence diagnostic testing but report that so far the virus' evolution hasn't affected existing tests.
  3. They confirmed the virus hub in the Americas is in northeast Brazil, where it emerged as early as the end of 2013, a year before the country's first reported case.
  4. Using a portable genome sequencing lab, researchers were able to generate sequences in the field in Brazil within 48 hours, demonstrating how technologies can be used for real-time analysis of outbreaks.
  5. Zika's jump out of Brazil matched A. aegypti's spread due to changes in the season. "The number of human cases correlates with the number of mosquitoes. Actually getting rid of the mosquitoes is an effective way of preventing cases from occurring" says Kristian Andersen, author of one of the studies.

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Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 5 p.m. ET: 716,101 — Total deaths: 33,854 — Total recoveries: 148,900.
  2. U.S.: Leads the world in cases. Total confirmed cases as of 5 p.m. ET: 136,880 — Total deaths: 2,409 — Total recoveries: 2,612.
  3. Federal government latest: The first federal prisoner to die from coronavirus was reported from a correctional facility in Louisiana on Sunday.
  4. Public health updates: Fauci says 100,000 to 200,000 Americans could die from virus.
  5. State updates: Louisiana governor says state is on track to exceed ventilator capacity by end of this week — Cuomo says Trump's mandatory quarantine comments "panicked" some people into fleeing New York
  6. World updates: Italy on Sunday reports 756 new deaths, bringing its total 10,779. Spain reports almost 840 dead, another new daily record that bring its total to over 6,500.
  7. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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Trump touts press briefing "ratings" as U.S. coronavirus case surge

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President Trump sent about a half-dozen tweets on Sunday touting the high television ratings that his coronavirus press briefings have received, selectively citing a New York Times article that compared them to "The Bachelor" and "Monday Night Football."

Why it matters: The president has been holding daily press briefings in the weeks since the coronavirus pandemic was declared, but news outlets have struggled with how to cover them live — as Trump has repeatedly been found to spread misinformation and contradict public health officials.

World coronavirus updates: Total cases surge to over 700,000

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens and confirmed plus presumptive cases from the CDC

There are now than more than 700,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus around the world, according to data from Johns Hopkins. The virus has now killed more than 32,000 people — with Italy alone reporting over 10,000 deaths.

The big picture: Governments around the world have stepped up public health and economic measures to stop the spread of the virus and soften the financial impact. In the U.S., now the site of the largest outbreak in the world, President Trump said Saturday he would issue a "strong" travel advisory for New York, New Jersey and parts of Connecticut.

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