Zika Hits the U.S. - Who's Going to Stop It?

As a Floridian and frequent visitor to my hometown of Miami, I am sincerely worried about the latest news.

The Zika virus has turned up in a Miami neighborhood.

As of last count, 15 cases have been discovered in that area.

The Centers for Disease Control has even issued a travel warning to pregnant women and their partners to avoid the neighborhood.

That’s a first of its kind…

Zika is named for the Ugandan forest where it was first discovered. In the past, it might have stayed there indefinitely.

However, in an age where millions of people are traveling over the world, the potential for small, isolated, infectious diseases to break out is much greater. The disease spread to equatorial Asia, and has since hopscotched its way across the world’s tropics.

Although the Zika virus has been found in various non-tropical locations, it’s often been a traveler from an area where the mosquitoes of the genus Aedes are common. But other cases that are popping up are less clear.

Illinois, for example, just reported some 46 cases.

It’s possible that some of these are cases of sexual transmission — yes, Zika can be transmitted in this way. The mosquitoes responsible for Zika aren’t supposed to live this far north.

However, even if we find out it’s mosquitoes in Illinois, the coming of winter should at least temporarily put this vector out of action.

Sweltering subtropical Miami, on the other hand, is a different story.

It has a nearly ideal climate for the disease to spread. It’s a big, international city with close ties to the tropical Americas and places where the rate of infection has become particularly high.

Who cares, right? Zika infection doesn’t sound serious at first blush… mostly flulike symptoms and rash. Infected people get better in a few days.

However, Zika has been tied to a rare birth defect called microcephaly. It results in a small, underdeveloped head and brain.

The CDC concludes that “enough evidence has accumulated to conclude that Zika virus infection during pregnancy is a cause of microcephaly and other severe fetal brain defects.”

Other risks are underreported. One small study has linked Zika to an autoimmune neurologic condition called acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM).

The CDC has also warned about Zika potentially causing Guillain-Barré syndrome in some people. With Guillain-Barré, the immune system attacks the nervous system. Severe cases can cause paralysis.

With the Olympic Games underway, there is an understandable concern that international visitors could get infected and bring Zika home… to be stung by a mosquito that then goes on to infect someone else….

So  who is going to stop Zika?

I suspect there’s one biotech out there that is set to profit. For readers of Technology Profits Confidential, we hold this company in our portfolio. It recently announced dosing of the first patient in a clinical trial of an experimental Zika vaccine.

If the disease continues to grow, vaccine companies will be in an excellent position to help solve the problem, validate vaccine technology… and profit.

To a bright future,

Ray Blanco
for The Daily Reckoning

 

The Daily Reckoning