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Zika an unlikely health problem in WNY, says researcher

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Half a year ago, Zika was a virus discussed by public health personnel and medical researchers. Now, it is a serious health issue in Puerto Rico and South Florida, where it has apparently being spread by a mosquito which carries some other dangerous bugs. 

Dr. Thomas Russo is a researcher and practicing doctor working with infectious diseases at the University at Buffalo Medical School. He says Zika is unlikely to be a health problem in this area because the mosquitoes involved do not venture this far north, although a different mosquito does venture toward Western New York.

He says doctors are testing three potential vaccines in animals and looking toward testing on humans, although federal dollars for researching Zika are drying up and that could block testing the vaccines. Russo says it is becoming much clearer who is at risk from the virus and its effects.
"We have a clear understanding of those individuals that are at greatest risk. Those would be women that are pregnant or planning to get pregnant, because Zika virus could cause the fetal abnormalities," says Russo. "This would also include, and I think we have developed an increased understanding of this, male sexual partners."

Russo says women who are pregnant in at-risk areas are being told to be tested and there are some tests. Women of childbearing age also are being told to not get pregnant if they are in an area like South Florida, where the virus is spreading rapidly.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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