In recent years, a disease most commonly associated with history textbooks has been making the news in various regions throughout the world. The bubonic plague, or ‘Black Death’ as it may have been called in your history class, has killed individuals in North America and throughout the world at an increased rate from previous years.
Brazil is taking a radical step forward in eliminating its dengue fever problem: releasing thousands of mosquitos. But, before you think that the country has lost its mind, know that these aren’t regular mosquitos. The British biotech firm Oxitec has genetically modified the bugs to prevent them from spreading the disease.
Oxitec’s plan is simple. The genetically modified strain is male only, and these mosquitoes will seek out a female mate. Their offspring inherit the genes that ensure they cannot spread dengue fever. These offspring die before reaching maturity. Perhaps even more interesting is that the strain contains a gene that leaves a florescent marker on the mosquito, so researchers can easily track the spread of the strain.
The hope is that enough mosquitos will find mates and be able to create enough dengue fever free offspring to reduce the number of cases throughout the country. As of now, Brazil is the international leader in dengue fever cases.
Trials have shown that the release of the dengue-free males into areas have greatly reduced the population of mosquitos and, in some cases, have even eliminated mosquitoes from the area.
Brazil is the first nation to allow the release of these genetically modified mosquitoes, but successful trials have been carried out in varying locations throughout the world. Brazilian officials are hoping to lower the number of dengue fever cases before the Olympics are held there in 2016. India is also currently working with Oxitec to produce a similar program.
No studies show what the long-term effects of these types of programs could be on ecosystems, but it is certain that they will help curtail dengue fever in the short term. There is also the exciting possibility of using this methodology to reduce the spread of malaria.
Dengue fever is a disease transmitted to humans by infected mosquitoes. It can be fatal if untreated, and it affects as many as 400 million people annually, according to CDC estimates.
For more information on dengue fever and what you can do to prevent it in your travels, contact a Passport Health Travel Specialist via our website or by calling 1-888-499-PASS (7277).
Time and time again, when the world has faced its most dangerous epidemics, its hero has come in the form of a needle and a vial.
From polio to measles to smallpox, countless scientists and researchers have found the solution. The CDC estimates that, among children born in the last 20 years, vaccines will prevent more than 21 million hospitalizations and 732,000 deaths.
Developing, testing and rolling out a new vaccination is no easy task. This lengthy and complex process is often frustrating in the midst of an epidemic. Pressure mounts when a vaccine is needed right at the moment, rather than sometime in the future.
The smallpox vaccine is credited to English doctor Edward Jenner.
His reputation is well-earned, as he studied the disease and ways to prevent it for decades.
Jenner first used his vaccine by exposing an eight-year-old boy to a cowpox-infected needle. Although the boy suffered some symptoms from the cowpox, he was immune to smallpox.
But, a man tried this method years earlier despite spending his life trying to eradicate something far different: witches.
Cotton Mather was a popular minister and scholar in late 17th century Boston. The son of Increase Mather, another prominent minister, the duo were well-known advocates for the Salem witch trials.
A new study found that military personnel who were taught to give themselves nasal spray flu vaccinations had the same level of immunity as those who were given the vaccine by health professionals.
This is a huge step forward for MedImmune’s nasal spray vaccine, FluMist, which is the preferred method of vaccination for most healthy kids aged two to eight years. However, don’t expect to be giving it to your own child anytime soon. The nasal spray may be (relatively) easy to administer, but there are still some risk factors involved.
“It’s a very interesting concept and I can definitely see some benefits” says Dr. Jonathan Temte who heads a panel that advises the CDC on vaccine policy. “Before anyone could endorse this in children, one would have to have an appropriately designed study that shows equal efficacy, equal safety, and then the acceptability.”
In this case, safety is key. Self-vaccination with FluMist isn’t as easy as it sounds, and vaccinating children is more of a science than simply spraying something up their noses. While everyone over six months old should get a flu shot, according to the CDC, special vaccination guidelines apply to children when they receive their first vaccination, and medical history should always be reviewed before a vaccine is administered.
The nasal vaccine is also a little trickier to apply than a nasal spray you might be accustomed to using for allergies, for example. Health workers that administer the vaccine need to be sure that it has fully entered the nose and that children, and parents too, don’t squirt it out of their nose.
Whether self-vaccination will become something more common in the future is unknown due to regulatory guidelines and a lack of testing, and, as Dr. Temte put it, we are still a long way from anything definitive. However, the topic is certainly an interesting one.
So, we want to hear from you! Would you vaccinate yourself, or would you prefer the help of a professional? Feel free to leave a comment below and let us know what you would choose to do!