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Hopkins researchers find further link between Zika, neurological problems in adults

Rearchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine working with scientists in Colombia have discovered what they believe is the strongest evidence yet that the Zika virus causes neurological problems in adults. Much of the research on the mosquito-borne Zika has focused on pregnant women, because the virus can cause microcephaly in fetuses, causing babies to be born with brain damage and abnormally small heads. The new research shows that the health effects might be more widespread. Hopkins researcher Dr. Carlos A. Pardo said the research, published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, bolsters concerns that Zika can lead to the neurological disorder Guillain-Barre in adults. Until now, the virus was thought to be linked to the disorder only in rare cases.

The CDC reports that there have been 3,625 cases of Zika in the mainland United States, and another 22,000 in U.S. territories such as hard-hit Puerto Rico. There have been 808 confirmed cases in pregnant women in the continental United States. Twenty-one babies have been born with birth defects and five pregnancies have been lost.  In Maryland, there have been 101 cases, including 43 in Baltimore and the five surrounding counties and 51 in the Maryland suburbs of Washington.

Read further at Baltimore Sun

As Zika cases increase, spraying comes to Montgomery County

As of Wednesday, the Centers of Disease Control said Maryland had 85 laboratory-confirmed Zika virus disease cases. Virginia had 75 and Washington, D.C. had 11.  The spraying is part of the Maryland Department of Agriculture’s Mosquito Control Program, to avert a possible public health threat and to prevent serious birth defects associated with mosquito-borne viruses, including Zika and West Nile.

Montgomery County does not typically spray for mosquitoes, said Anderson, although specific communities and homeowner associations sometimes choose to spray on their own.  Health and agriculture officials typically don’t disclose why unscheduled spraying occurs in a specific location, citing patient confidentiality.

However, under the state’s mosquito program, the spraying is activated by one of three triggers:

·         The identification of the Aedes Aegypti — or Egypt mosquito — the primary carrier of the Zika virus.

·         An overabundance of the Asian Tiger mosquito, which is thought to possibly be a carrier of the Zika virus.

·         A travel-associated human case of Zika, in which the individual has an active infection.

According to sources, the spraying generally is focused on a 300-yard radius around where the infected person lives, or where the infected mosquito pool was discovered.

Source: WTOP

Baltimore task force aims to warn drug users away from fentanyl on the streets

When drug users buy heroin on the streets of Baltimore these days they don't know if it also contains fentanyl, a synthetic painkiller so powerful that small amounts can kill. The city plans to tell them when and where the heroin is likely to be adulterated.  By using "real time" overdose data from emergency responders and others, city health officials plan to identify geographic fentanyl hotspots and head there with warnings. They will inform drug treatment and homeless services providers, area residents and others who can share the information with anyone who use drugs, or knows people who do.

"It's so dangerous that getting ahead of this as much as we can is crucial," said Sean Naron, a spokesman for the Baltimore City Health Department, which spearheaded formation of the task force among several city agencies. "Users are very scared of fentanyl, but they don't always know it's there."

The number of fentanyl related fatal overdoses has skyrocketed in Baltimore City in recent years, increasing ten-fold from 2013 to 2015. Last year, there were 260 heroin related overdose deaths in the city and 160 fentanyl related deaths in Baltimore, according to state data.  Officials from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration have said they believe the fentanyl is made in labs overseas and clandestinely mixed into heroin here because it's a cheaper drug. Sometimes a dose can be entirely fentanyl. When users sniff or inject the drugs their systems can be overwhelmed by the drug.

The task force is the latest move by the city and state health departments to stem overdose deaths. City and state health officials have sought to increase access to treatment and have also trained an army of private citizens to use the opioid overdose antidote, naloxone, which is now available without a prescription.  City officials also have urged opioid drug users to avoid getting high alone so someone is able to revive them, using naloxone, if they overdose.

"Overdoses continue to kill more people in our city than homicide, and quality, on-demand treatment remains out of reach for the vast majority of those suffering from addiction," Dr. Leana Wen, Baltimore's health commissioner, said in a statement. "We would never tolerate this for any other disease, so we must strengthen our efforts to ensure that no more lives are lost to this devastating disease that affects individuals, families and communities."

Source: Baltimore Sun

40 Virginia Cases of Hepatitis A Now Linked to Smoothies

Virginia health officials say there are now 40 confirmed cases of Hepatitis A that are connected to frozen strawberries used at Tropical Smoothie Cafe locations across the state, up from 28 cases less than a week ago.  The Virginia Department of Health said in a news release Monday that about 55 percent of the infected residents have been hospitalized.  There are more than 500 of the smoothie franchises across the country, and Virginia is not the only state affected.  All the potentially contaminated Egyptian-sourced berries were pulled from the 96 Tropical Smoothie Cafe locations in Virginia no later than Aug. 8 or Aug. 9.  Officials say more cases could emerge, since some symptoms take as many as 50 days to emerge. The Hepatitis A virus affects the liver.

Source: WJZ

West Nile Virus Found in Mosquito Pools in Montgomery, Prince George's Counties

Maryland state and Montgomery County agencies expanded their spraying for mosquitoes over health concerns about West Nile and Zika viruses.  Crews performed truck-based spraying Monday in the Wheaton area of Kensington, the Olde Town area of Gaithersburg and the Sandy Spring area, all in Montgomery County, around 7:30 p.m.

As a follow up, state and local inspectors will go door-to-door in the area to inspect properties for mosquito breeding sites and will conduct backyard spraying, as needed, to further reduce adult mosquito populations.

Maryland health officials reported the first confirmed case of West Nile virus this year in the state. The health department said an adult who lives in western Maryland has survived the infection.  The department said the virus has been detected in mosquito pools collected in Montgomery and Prince George's counties. A pool is a group of mosquitoes collected at one of several trap sites around the state.  The department also said Eastern equine encephalitis, a related mosquito-borne disease, also has been detected on the Eastern Shore.

Source: NBC 4