Following the growing menace of the Zika virus, medical experts have doubled efforts to tame the spread of the virus. Penultimate week, the Zika announced its presence in Spain and the following week two cases were reported in Florida, a development that forced the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Veterinary Medicine, to concede to the use of genetically modified mosquitoes.
Accordingly, the federal authorities gave final approval on Friday to a plan to release genetically modified mosquitoes in Florida, but none of the insects will be immediately dispatched in the state’s fight against the spread of Zika.
After considering thousands of public comments, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Veterinary Medicine concluded the proposal from biotech firm Oxitec to release its mosquitoes in an island neighborhood just north of Key West would not significantly affect the environment, according a statement from the agency.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Environmental Protection Agency also contributed to the FDA’s review. Local officials will hold a nonbinding vote on the proposal for Florida Keys residents in November.
The FDA approval came hours before Florida’s Department of Health confirmed a new Zika infection within a 1-square-mile zone encompassing Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood. That brings the state’s tally of non-travel-related Zika cases to 16, in addition to 351 travel-related infections.
In the Keys, Oxitec would release nonbiting male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes modified with synthetic DNA to produce offspring that die outside a lab.
The Florida Keys Mosquito Control District approached Oxitec after a dengue outbreak in Key West ended in 2010. The district wants new ways to eradicate Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which it considers a significant and expensive threat in the tourism-dependent island chain.
Brazil and the Cayman Islands are releasing Oxitec’s insects as part of other mosquito control operations. The company, a subsidiary of Maryland-based Intrexon, also has tested the mosquitoes in Panama.
In separate projects overseen by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Oxitec has tested genetically modified pink bollworms and diamondback moths to fight agricultural pests in the U.S.
Anti-GMO activists have criticized Oxitec for allowing the release of some modified female mosquitoes, which do bite humans. The company has said only a very small number of females are released, and no humans have reported any health problems from their bites.
Oxitec CEO Hadyn Perry said the FDA’s approval of the field trial should lead to discussions about fast-tracking releases elsewhere during a public health crisis.
“The pathways that enable emergency use should be looked at because the crisis is here and now, and it would be an awful shame if we looked back in two or three years and say, ‘Why didn’t we do this?’” Parry remarked in a conference call with reporters.
Oxitec promotes its technology as a chemical-free way to control mosquitoes and reduce the risks of Zika, dengue fever or chikungunya. In Miami this week, the head of the CDC credited aerial pesticide spraying with killing a significant number of mosquitoes in an arts district where Zika was apparently transmitted by insects on the U.S. mainland for the first time.
Zika is mainly spread by mosquitoes, as well as sex. Except for the 16 confirmed cases in the Miami area, the other 1,825 infections reported in the U.S. have been linked to travel to countries in Latin America or the Caribbean with Zika outbreaks.
At the same the FDA also reminded people of the signs that one may have caught the virus. Here are the signs:
According to the Mayo Clinic, a fever is considered any body temperature about 100.4 degrees F (38 degrees C). It is a common symptom of most infections so it is the trickiest to distinguish as Zika specifically. If you have a fever and one of the other symptoms, you should still head to the doctor for a test, especially if you’ve spent time in Central or South America.
The maculopapular rash associated with Zika is bumpy and flat starting on your face then spreading all over and, according to Med Mum, it can either look like small spots (similar to the measles) or small and red bumps (like Scarlet Fever).
A group of doctors from Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine in New York described Zika’s more distinctive symptoms in a report published in the Journal of American Medical Association’s Dermatology. “Itching was not a major feature [of the rash],” the report stated. “As the eruption faded on the upper body, it became more apparent on the lower body.” At that point the patient described feeling “burning pain” in his wrists, knees, and ankles.
Conjunctivitis, commonly known as “pink eye,” is inflammation that causes the eyes to become red and watery. Your eyes may itch or burn and you may experience a thick yellow and crusty discharge over your eyelashes when you wake up.
Headache & Fatigue
The male patient examined in the report above had just returned from a six-day vacation in Puerto Rico. “Within three days of his return,” Dr. Amit Garg and his team wrote, “the patient experienced headache and lethargy.”
The World Health Organization notes that the joint and muscle pain caused by the disease most often occurs in the small joints of hands and feet. Pain may also be accompanied by swelling. If you exhibit any of these symptoms, head to your doctor’s office. They will be able to give you a blood- and urine-test to determine if you are indeed infected with Zika.
Of course, the best way to fight Zika is to prevent mosquito bites. Be sure to stay clear of affected areas as much as possible (especially if you are pregnant). Wear long sleeves and pants to reduce the amount of skin access for mosquitos and spray on some powerful bug repellant. By taking these precautions, you will hopefully be able to stay clear of Zika infection throughout this summer.