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.

Photo courtesy of Claudia Romo Edelman
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When the novel coronavirus hit the United States, life as we knew it quickly changed. As many people holed up in their homes, some essential workers had to make the impossible choice of going to work or quitting their jobs— a choice they continue to make each day.

Because over 80 percent of working Hispanic adults provide essential services for the U.S. economy, the Hispanic community is disproportionately affected. Hispanic families are also much more likely to live in multigenerational households, carrying the extra risk of infecting the most vulnerable. In fact, Hispanics are 20 times more likely than other patients to test positive for COVID-19.

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Photo credit: Hispanic Star

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Photo courtesy of Claudia Romo Edelman
True

When the novel coronavirus hit the United States, life as we knew it quickly changed. As many people holed up in their homes, some essential workers had to make the impossible choice of going to work or quitting their jobs— a choice they continue to make each day.

Because over 80 percent of working Hispanic adults provide essential services for the U.S. economy, the Hispanic community is disproportionately affected. Hispanic families are also much more likely to live in multigenerational households, carrying the extra risk of infecting the most vulnerable. In fact, Hispanics are 20 times more likely than other patients to test positive for COVID-19.

Claudia Romo Edelman saw a community in desperate need of guidance and support. And she created Hispanic Star, a non-profit designed to help Hispanic people in the U.S. pull together as a proud, unified group and overcome barriers — the most pressing of which is the effects of the pandemic.

Because the Hispanic community is so diverse, unification is, and was, an enormous challenge.

Photo credit: Hispanic Star

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