The new Zika vaccine could be a big win for pregnant women (and everyone else too).

The Zika virus is kind of scary.

The disease hides in mosquitoes and can be spread by a bite. And for most people, Zika's symptoms are pretty mild — a little joint pain and maybe a fever.

But for some folks, the symptoms might be more severe. Some victims may develop the potentially fatal Guillain-Barré syndrome. And most perniciously, if a pregnant woman is infected, the virus can cause a serious birth defect known as microcephaly in her unborn child.


A Brazilian doctor holds a baby born with microcephaly. Photo from Mario Tama/Getty Images.

Althought the disease has been around since the 1940s, it's been gaining attention lately after being newly introduced in South America.

The World Health Organization declared a public health emergency in February 2016 because of Zika's quick spread.


A Honduran health worker fumigates a classroom against mosquitoes. Photo from Orlando Sierra/AFP/Getty Images.

And the pope even suggested contraceptives could be used to slow its spread — a big gesture from the leader of the Catholic Church.

But we just had a major breakthrough in fighting off this disease: a vaccine.

Photo from Luis Robayo/AFP/Getty Images.

On June 20, 2016, Inovio Pharmaceuticals and GeneOne Life Science announced that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have given them permission to test an experimental vaccine on human subjects.

This would be the first Zika virus vaccine.

This is just the first step in fighting Zika, but it's an exciting one.

The companies will start the process by giving the vaccine to a small group of 40 people to see if the drug is safe and tolerable for patients to take. This test will also be their first chance to see how effective it is for humans. (Previous animal studies showed promise, but that doesn't always translate to humans.)

Granted, there's still a ways to go. Depending on the test results, it could be a few years before we see widespread use of a vaccine like this.

And if this vaccine works, it could help a lot of people.

A Honduran woman waits at a health clinic. Photo from Orlando Sierra/AFP/Getty Images.

As of June 2016, Zika is live and spreading in more than 60 countries, and the World Health Organization estimates that Zika could infect as many as 4 million people in North and South America by the end of 2016.

It's not being transmitted in the continental United States (although there have been about 750 travel-related infections reported), but it has been found in Puerto Rico.

On Feb. 22, 2016, President Obama requested $1.9 billion in emergency spending to help combat the virus. And Rep. Vern Buchanan, a Republican from Florida, recently announced his support of the request.

"People's lives are at stake," said Buchanan, "the time for inaction is over."

The Zika virus is kind of scary. But thanks to research like this, we may be able to beat it in the next few years.

That will be an incredible win.

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Increasingly customers are looking for more conscious shopping options. According to a Nielsen survey in 2018, nearly half (48%) of U.S. consumers say they would definitely or probably change their consumption habits to reduce their impact on the environment.

But while many consumers are interested in spending their money on products that are more sustainable, few actually follow through. An article in the 2019 issue of Harvard Business Review revealed that 65% of consumers said they want to buy purpose-driven brands that advocate sustainability, but only about 26% actually do so. It's unclear where this intention gap comes from, but thankfully it's getting more convenient to shop sustainably from many of the retailers you already support.

Amazon recently introduced Climate Pledge Friendly, "a new program to help make it easy for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products." When you're browsing Amazon, a Climate Pledge Friendly label will appear on more than 45,000 products to signify they have one or more different sustainability certifications which "help preserve the natural world, reducing the carbon footprint of shipments to customers," according to the online retailer.

Amazon

In order to distinguish more sustainable products, the program partnered with a wide range of external certifications, including governmental agencies, non-profits, and independent laboratories, all of which have a focus on preserving the natural world.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Welcometoterranova and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Welcometoterranova-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.