Second Zika Zone in Florida Prompts CDC Travel Warning

Pregnant women should avoid traveling to a section of Miami Beach in Miami, Florida, that’s been identified as the second area in the state where mosquitos are spreading the Zika virus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced today.

In addition, pregnant women and their sexual partners who worry about exposure to the Zika virus, which can cause microcephaly and other birth defects, may consider postponing nonessential travel to all parts of Miami-Dade County, the agency said in a news release.

 The virus is not necessarily spreading throughout the entire county, said CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, in a news conference today, but there have been instances of mosquitos infecting individuals here and there outside the new Miami Beach zone as well as a 1-square-mile section of the Wynwood neighborhood just north of downtown Miami. In those two areas, the Florida Department of Health (DOH) has uncovered clusters of cases representing ongoing transmission. Outside of those areas, isolated cases involving local transmission have not triggered chain reactions, or at least not yet, said Dr Frieden.

“We will always err on the side of providing more information to the public so people can make more informed decisions…to protect themselves,” said Dr Frieden, explaining the decision to offer advice to pregnant women about visiting Miami-Dade County.

The CDC issued a travel advisory, still in effect, on August 1 for the Wynwood Zika zone after the Florida DOH said that infected mosquitos were biting people there. However, this advisory did not extend in any way to the rest of the county.

Florida is the only state so far to report local transmission of the Zika virus.

In a news conference today, Florida Governor Rick Scott said the second Zika zone covers less than 1.5 square miles in Miami’s South Beach neighborhood. It extends from 8th Street to 28th Street and from the beach to the Intracoastal Waterway. Five cases of Zika infection are linked to this area so far.

As of today, the Florida DOH counted 36 individuals in the state who’ve become infected through local transmission and 488 individuals whose infections stemmed from traveling outside the country to an area of mosquito-borne transmission or from having sex with such a traveler. Of all the individuals with Zika, 68 are pregnant women.

Long-sleeve Shirts on Miami Beach?

The CDC’s Dr Frieden acknowledged today that quelling the Zika outbreak in Miami Beach presents special challenges.

For one thing, the state of Florida can’t spray Miami Beach mosquitos with insecticide from the air as it’s done in the Wynwood zone. Aerial spraying requires planes to fly just 100 feet off the ground, and the high-rises on Miami Beach preclude that, Dr Frieden said. The only alternative is a ground game, such as backpack spraying.

Also, the standard advice to wear long pants and long-sleeve shirts to avoid mosquito bites doesn’t make sense for people who come to the beach in their bathing suits to enjoy the sand, surf, and sun. “Exposed skin makes it difficult,” he said, but added that beachgoers can still protect themselves by spraying on the insect repellent DEET.

Finally, the South Beach neighborhood teems with tourists, creating “a high turnover” of people who can be newly exposed to the virus. Of the five individuals who contracted the infection there, three were travelers — one from New York, one from Texas, and one from Taiwan.

Updated Guidance for Caring for Infants of Possibly Infected Mothers

In another response to the outbreaks in the United States, the CDC today issued updated guidance on how to care for infants whose mothers may have been infected with Zika during their pregnancy.

For example, the CDC previously had advised performing a cranial ultrasound on such an infant unless prenatal ultrasound results from the third trimester failed to find any brain abnormalities. Now the agency is recommending cranial ultrasounds regardless of normal prenatal findings. Also, clinicians should no longer test blood specimens from a newborn’s umbilical cord for evidence of infection because, if contaminated by maternal blood, they may yield false positives. False negatives are possible, too.

FDA: Stop Blood Donations, Boost Zika Testing in Florida

The recent Zika cases in Florida has prompted the FDA to recommend that facilities in Miami-Dade County that collect blood stop doing so until further testing can take place.
Researchers are currently assessing the effectiveness of two new educational tools that may help healthcare providers discuss the risks of opioid use with emergency department patients.

A recent study revealed that patients with hepatitis C who also receive ongoing treatment for opioid addiction had high rates of sustained virologic response on elbasvir-grazoprevir.
Researchers reported that seven factors are key to predicting older adults’ pneumonia risk.
The FDA has issued a warning that fluoroquinolone antibiotics may come with serious risks and should be used with caution.

FDA Approves Genetically Modified Mosquitoes to Combat Zika in Florida 

Amid news of a Zika outbreak in the Miami area, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Veterinary Medicine (FDA-CVM) has cleared the experimental release of genetically modified (GMO) mosquitoes in the Florida Keys to help combat the virus.

The agency also concluded that the proposed field trial “will not have significant impacts on the environment”—on the food chain, for instance—after considering thousands of public comments.

Oxitec is calling for a release of thousands of its GMO mosquitoes in the Florida Keys to combat the Zika virus.Oxitec Twitter

The purpose of the investigational trial is to determine the efficacy of Oxitec’s GMO mosquitoes for the control of the local population of Aedes aegypti in Key Haven, a small community about a mile east of Key West. County residents will vote this November on whether or not to allow the field tests to proceed.

The mosquitoes in question were created by Oxitec, a UK-based biotech firm that specializes in insect control. Pending approval, Oxitec will release its “self-limiting OX513A Aedes aegypti,” a male GMO mosquito that does not bite or spread disease, to mate with wild female Aedes aegypti, the primary vector that carries the Zika virus. The lab insects carry a gene that’s fatal to offspring, meaning the local population will dwindle over time at the release site.

“We’ve been developing this approach for many years, and from these results we are convinced that our solution is both highly effective and has sound environmental credentials,” Oxitec’s CEO Hadyn Parry said. “We’re delighted with the announcement today [on Aug. 5] that the FDA, after their extensive review of our dossier and thousands of public comments for a trial in the Florida Keys, have published their final view that this will not have a significant impact on the environment. We are now looking forward to working with the community in the Florida Keys moving forward.”

Parry estimated to the Guardian that 20 to 100 mosquitoes per person will be released on the island.

Prior efficacy trials in Brazil, Panama and the Cayman Islands reduced the Aedes aegyptipopulation by more than 90 percent—”an exceptional level of control compared to conventional methods, such as insecticides,” Oxitec said.

As The Verge noted, Oxitec’s rate is much more successful compared to efforts by the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District. The program, which utilizes conventional control methods such as pesticides sprayed from trucks and planes and mosquito traps, reduced mosquito populations by 30 to 60 percent.

Oxitec’s trial in Florida will run for between six and 22 months.

“Oxitec is responsible for ensuring all other local, state, and federal requirements are met before conducting the proposed field trial, and, together with its local partner, the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District, to determine whether and when to begin the proposed field trial in Key Haven, Florida,” the FDA said.

The FDA also said that its decision to approve Oxitec’s Florida field trials does not mean the GMO mosquitoes are approved for commercial use.

The Zika virus has spread with alarming speed throughout South and Central America. The island of Puerto Rico has more than 8,000 confirmed cases of Zika with officials estimating that cases will skyrocket. The state of Florida now has 422 cases—more than any other state in the nation, asPOLITICO pointed out.

The mosquito-borne Zika virus has been linked to microcephaly, a rare neurological condition which leads to abnormal brain development in babies. The World Health Organization has declared the situation an international public health emergency.

Scientists have suspected that climate change is exacerbating the problem of longer mosquito-active seasons. As the Natural Resources Defense Council wrote:

A new analysis by Climate Central highlights that the number of days hot and humid enough for mosquitoes to be active and biting has increased in many big U.S. cities—and climate change will further increase those numbers, in most locations. In their analysis, the ten cities with the biggest increase in the length of the mosquito season over the last 30 years were: Baltimore, Maryland; Durham, North Carolina; Minneapolis; Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; Raleigh, North Carolina; Portland, Maine; St. Louis; Pittsburgh; Worcester, Massachusetts ; and Albany, New York. These cities cover a huge swath of the eastern U.S. Nationwide, 76 percent of major cities have seen their mosquito season get longer over that time.

This adds a whole other dimension to the public health challenges of Zika: climate change could make more areas of the U.S. more susceptible to this and other mosquito-borne pathogens in the future. Increased heat, disrupted precipitation patterns and higher humidity can allow mosquitoes to thrive in new places, as the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) reported in our Fever Pitch report about dengue fever, another infectious viral disease that can be carried by the same two Aedes mosquito species. Warmer temperatures enable mosquitoes to develop more quickly and to incubate viruses that can infect people faster. Thus, climate change can hasten the spread of many infectious diseases, including Zika.

Besides Zika, the Aedes aegypti transmits other viruses such as dengue, yellow fever and chikungunya.

Critics are voicing concerns over the Florida GMO mosquito project. A release from Common Dreams highlighted Oxitec’s connection to its parent company, Intrexon, which produces non-browning Arctic apples and fast-growing AquaBounty salmon—two highly controversial GMO food products.

Some public health advocates have also pointed out that the long-term environmental effects of GMO mosquitoes are unknown.

“Releasing GMO mosquitoes into the environment without long term environmental impact studies is irresponsible and frightening,” Zen Honeycutt, director of the anti-GMO group Moms Across America, said in reaction to the FDA’s decision. “What about the creatures who eat the mosquitoes and all the life forms up the food chain? The impact could be irreversible … Allowing uncontrollable genetically altered life forms into the wild is not justified.”

A petition, signed by nearly 170,000 people, has called on government officials to reject Oxitec’s trial involving “mutant mosquitoes,” the petition states.

Feds approve releasing many millions of GMO mosquitos in Florida, but voters decide on Nov. ballot what flies.

Feds approve releasing these GMO mosquitos to combat the Zika virus conveniently after working on this in some scary biotech lab for years

Editor’s note:  Only voters in the Florida KEYS get to vote on their Nov ballot! I beg you to urge friends family and even foe there to vote no!!

“The GMO  mosquito  is created by injecting synthetic DNA into thousands of mosquito eggs until finally one of the eggs accepts the DNA into its genome, creating two genes. One is a lethal gene, synthesized from E. coli and the herpes simplex virus.It’s lethal because it creates a protein called tTAV which interferes with a cell’s activity, killing the infected mosquito before it can reach adulthood.

That’s right. they’re injected with a LETHAL GENE synthesized with E. coli and herpes by a biotech company working on this for years who certainly has your health in their best interest (DRIPPING with sarcasm)  Get ready Florida. 

As if

As the Zika virus continues its massive epidemic spread in Florida (that’s sarcasm), the feds approve their master plan (really, that’s what they call it)  to release many MILLIONS  of mutant mosquitoes there in hopes of suppressing the disease-carrying insect’s population. In fact, The Washington Post did an article stating how you should considering yourself lucky to be bit by a GMO Mosquito. It’s that’s crazy.

I did the article about how the feds (yes the feds, it was on CNN with video links here) were going door to door here in Florida collective urine and blood samples in a highly populated area of Miami to see if they had Zika. THEN they decided to start aerial spraying all across Miami and surrounding cities just like they did in NYC and other cities, all under the guise of that killer Zika virus. It might even get as bad as Ebola did hear in the the US!
The Food and Drug Administration (aka the Food and THUG administration) has issued its final environmental assessment of the plan, saying that releasing these dangerous creatures starting in  Key Haven, a suburb of Key West, “will not have significant impacts on the environment.” (it will have an impact but the sold out, paid off, bought off EPA doesn’t really give a sh*t about that impact. People and our fragile ecosystem will suffer.

Some scientists and MDs say the impact will be “completely devastating”.

Now it’s up to the people who live there to vote in November to stop this trial of releasing GMO mosquitos on us all. That’s right! You vote on it in November. So please, for the love of God and your families- don’t let this sci fi experiment of a night mare happen to us or our children!

The project was proposed by the British biotech company (who some nick name “Satan)  Oxitec and has been under review since 2011, well before Zika virus exploded throughout South America, up through Mexico and Puerto Rico and into Florida. But the decision came just days after the first local transmissions by mosquitoes were confirmed in the U.S., in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. Oh and did we mention that Puerto Rico refused that nasty aerial spraying and said it’s a neurotoxin with devastating consequences and refused to let that be sprayed.

Meanwhile Floridians here in our sunshine state don’t seem to put up a fight as the planes rain the poison down upon us starting at dawn last week. They said if you’re sensitive or have allergies don’t go outside. I had my own family members and friends who were sprayed in South Florida in tears and some leaving the state to go stay with relatives up North.

“We read the newspapers, we see the disease coming, and I think that’s added a little bit of urgency and prioritization to that work,” Hadyn Parry, CEO of Oxitec (the biotech company some nick name “Satan”  told the Tampa Bay Times.

Funny how they admit this was all in the works before the NON epidemic of Zika ever started. But now that they have their excuse? They’re spraying us from the skies, releasing million up millions of GMO mosquitos upon us and unlike Puerto Rico who fought that sh*t, it’s business as usual here in the land of the tv Kardashian people who NEED TO to take a stand already and wake the hell up!

Parry’s Biotech company (nick named Satan) has been genetically modifying millions of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes in a lab with a synthetic protein that kills their offspring before they can emerge from larvae as adults and transmit the Zika virus or other diseases such as Dengue.

If wild female mosquitoes mate with sterile males, the population dies off rapidly.

Oxitec has already released millions of them in Brazil (which scientists say could be the reason for the birth defects- NOT the Zika virus!)  Panama and the Cayman Islands. The results have been significant: They have reduced some local mosquito populations by more than 90 percent… Birth defects are skyrocketing and people sicker than ever, but dammit they killed those skeeters.

“I know a lot of people are scared of them because they’re genetically modified,” Sadie Ryan, a medical geographer at the University of Florida who is not affiliated with Oxitec, (editor’s note “wink wink”  said in an interview with PBS NewsHour Weekend. “I think it’s a good idea.”

Do you Sadie? Thanks so much for that profound quote of yours! (NOT)

Ryan said that an island is ideal for a trial because Aedes aegypti mosquitoes do not travel very far during their lifetimes.

Sadly Key West isn’t really an island as you can throw a freaking stone to the land right next to it which is ultimately connected to a big ass state called Florida and connected to a big ass country called the US connected to North America. (oh not to mention Cuba down the road- but sure none of those pesky mosquitos will get on a boat or plane or car)

“You have to drown out the local population wherever you are, that’s why islands are a great place to do it,” she said.

Really? I’ve lived here more years than I can count and none of us call Key West an “island” due to it’s extremely close proximity to the rest of Florida which I could literally throw a rock to or swim (and I have)

A May 2015 report said that people who live in the Key West are divided. While some see the potential benefits of eradicating the mosquito that poses a threat to them, others worry about the unknown. One local resident said she’s scared and moving north. She’s 95 and seen what the government has done to destroy her beautiful state she was born and raised and had intended to die in, but now she’ll be going to live with relatives in the cold Midwest for rest of her days, despite her undying love for Florida. Poor thing.

Even if Floridians do vote to allow Oxitec to release the genetically modified mosquitoes there, (DON”T VOTE FOR IT!!!) Ryan said it would be more difficult to try it in a bigger metropolitan area like Miami because there are no clear boundaries. (no Shit Sherlock)

Zika is also a sexually transmitted disease, and people from all over the world travel through Miami, so it may be difficult to contain the species or the virus, she said.

“It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try,” she said.

It doesn’t seem to matter that we have a handful of cases (literally) in the state. Last we heard none are hospitalized and all are fine and no birth defects reported. But all bets are off with the massive aerial spraying and GMO sci fi skeeter being unleashed by the millions to wreack havoc on this once beautiful land that man in the name of skewed sold old “science” which used to be pure) will use upon us by biotech corporations and sold out politicians who care about one… thing… only… The bottom dollar. Not your health, not the health of the animals, land our kids, but money.

Vote against GMO Mosquitos on the November ballot. It might be more important than which one of them they pick to run the country.

Watch the video. URL:

 Florida Begins Aerial Spraying Campaign of insecticides to control Zika over the cities.

Today at dawn, just as I suspected and predicted, authorities began reigning down insecticides on the city of Miami and surrounding metropolitan areas. The plan to spray was recommend by the CDC and will cover a 10-mile area, part of which includes a one-mile-square area north of downtown Miami- health officials feel this is the hub of Zika transmission in the state. Pregnant women are urged to avoid travel to this area.

As you can imagine, people have written to us because they are scared for their children, pets, and even themselves. But Miami-Dade health officials have said that residents don’t need to take any special precautions, unless they have allergies or sensitivities. Those people should remain indoors.

What officials are calling a “Zika outbreak” first happened last year and has been linked to more than 1,700 cases of microcephaly. However, Zika has been around for decades, and in multiple countries, without ever causing a cause of microcephaly, and yet the virus is all anyone in the health community wants to focus on. Interesting.

From the article:

“In a conference call on Tuesday, CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden expressed concern that vector control efforts so far have not been as effective as hoped. A CDC expert is currently conducting tests in Miami to see if mosquitoes in the area have developed insecticide resistance.

Florida had been using two products in the pyrethroid class of insecticides. In its aerial campaign, the state will use a chemical called Naled that has been approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, according to Joseph Conlon, a spokesman for the American Mosquito Control Association.”

Interestingly, the CDC wanted to spray in Puerto Rico as well but their altruistic “recommendation” was met with protests from concerned residents who are worried about the potential impact on health, bees, agriculture, and their environment. An important question here is, why isn’t the CDC worried?

Does this sound like the Ebola scare to anyone else?

After all, there’s an awful lot of hullabaloo over Zika, which has never been the culprit before, even though we don’t have concrete proof that it’s to blame. There’s even a prominent conservative Science journal asking if Zika is really causing the birth defects.

Watch the video. URL:

Millions of GM mosquitoes could be released in Florida to combat Zika virus

A mosquito
Genetically modified mosquitoes could be released into Florida to combat Zika 

Millions of genetically modified mosquitoes could be released into the state of Florida to combat Zika virus after 15 people caught the disease from local insects.

Congress could decide within weeks to grant an emergency licence to British biotech company Oxitec, which has engineered a line of insects whose offspring are unable to grow to adulthood, and so cannot reproduce.

The company has already build a lab in the Florida Keys and is just waiting for the green light from the government and health officials.

A baby born with microcephaly 
Babies whose mothers contracted Zika while pregnant have been born with small heads 

Trials in the Cayman Islands and Brazil have already shown the technique can wipe out up to 96 per cent of dangerous aedes aegypti mosquito and Oxitec believe that the technique could eventually eliminate diseases like Zika, Dengue and Yellow Fever.

Oxitec Chief Executive Hadyn Parry who attended a recent Congress hearing and called for emergency use, said they were expecting a decision soon.

“The Zika threat is here and now and there is now local transmission in Florida so that is why I urged Congress to seriously consider emergency use,” he said.

Team GB athletes on Zika concerns ahead of Rio 2016Play!01:36

 The Zika outbreak was first detected last year in Brazil, where it has been linked to more than 1,700 cases of microcephaly, a birth defect marked by small head size that can lead to severe developmental problems in babies.

The virus has spread rapidly through the Americas and Caribbean and its arrival in the United States had been widely anticipated.

Earlier this week the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an unprecedented travel warning of advising pregnant women and their partners not to travel to a small community just north of downtown Miami, where Zika is circulating.

On Wednesday, health officials began an aerial insecticide spraying campaign covering 10-miles around the virus hub but it is only likely to kill around one third of the mosquitoes.

Health workers in Brazil get ready to spray insecticide to combat the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that transmits the Zika virus
Health workers in Brazil get ready to spray insecticide to combat the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that transmits the Zika virus

The GM mosquitoes are genetically engineered to have a ‘kill switch’ gene which is passed to offspring and prevents them reaching maturity. A second genetic alteration causes the pupae to glow in the dark so that scientists can keep track.

They were initially released into the town of Piracicaba, near Sao Paolo which has a population of around 5,500 people.

Secretary of Health in Piracicaba, Dr Pedro Mello, said the trial had been a success and they were planning to expand the release into the main city where the population is around 60,000.

 Speaking at a briefing in London on Wednesday he said: “ There was a neighbourhood where the problems was particularly bad. They started using the Oxitec methodology in the neighbourhood and the results were very significant.

“In the neighbourhood there was a significant decrease in the number of cases of fever. The method is proven to be a lot more efficient than the method previously used.”

A baby with birth defects
Pregnant women have been advised to stay away from an area North of Miami in Florida

Dr Andrew McKemey, Head of Field Operations at Oxitec who led the trials in Piracicaba said: “This technique has consistently been able to suppress wild populations.

“Conventional methods you would struggle to get 30 per cent reduction so achieving 80-90 per cent is a step change in efficacy. This technology is incredible safe and it’s incredibly environment friendly.

“In Piracicaba we’ve achieved substantial levels of control. This is the largest programme we’ve done to date. We saw this year that for the whole city the cases were reduced from this area 90 per cent.

“We could start immediately in terms of Florida Keys, we’ve already build a lab there with a Florida Keys Mosquito Control Project so we can move on quickly.”

The company is currently producing 60 million mosquitoes a week in its factories but said it could easily be scaled up to provide insects across the world.

On Wednesday it emerged that three US serviceman had contracted Zika while overseas.

Florida regulators approve hike in some cancer-causing toxic substances in state water

A hydraulic fracturing site in South Montrose, Pa. Also known as fracking, it stimulates gas production by injecting wells with high volumes of chemical-laced water to free up pockets of natural gas below. A Florida panel voted Tuesday to relax standards on dozens of chemicals in the state's water, including benzene, a toxic byproduct of fracking. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

A hydraulic fracturing site in South Montrose, Pa. Also known as fracking, it stimulates gas production by injecting wells with high volumes of chemical-laced water to free up pockets of natural gas below. A Florida panel voted Tuesday to relax standards on dozens of chemicals in the state’s water, including benzene, a toxic byproduct of fracking.

TALLAHASSEE — Florida regulators voted to approve new water quality standards Tuesday that will increase the amount of cancer-causing toxic substances allowed in state rivers and streams under a plan that officials say will protect more Floridians than current standards.

The Environmental Regulation Commission voted 3-2 to approve a proposal drafted by state regulators that would impose new standards on 39 chemicals not currently regulated by the state and revise the regulations on 43 other toxics, most of which are carcinogens.

“We have not updated these parameters since 1992. It is more good than harm,” said Cari Roth, a Tallahassee lawyer who represents developers on the commission and serves as its chair. “The practical effect is, it is not going to increase the amount of toxins going into our waters.”

But the proposal, based on a one-of-a-kind scientific method developed by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and nicknamed “Monte Carlo,” is being vigorously criticized by environmental groups. They warn the new standard will allow polluters to dump dangerous amounts of chemicals in high concentrations into Florida waters before they trigger the limits of the new rule, and allow Florida to adhere to standards that are weaker than federal guidelines.

“Monte Carlo gambling with our children’s safety is unacceptable,” said Marty Baum of Indian Riverkeeper, an environmental group based in Indian River County.

Under the proposal, the acceptable levels of toxics will be increased for more than two dozen known carcinogens and decreased for 13 currently regulated chemicals. DEP, however, touted the part of the plan that will impose new rules on 39 other chemicals that are not currently regulated, including two carcinogens.

“The department has left no stone unturned to develop science-based and legally defensible criteria,” said Tom Frick, director of the DEP division of environmental management and restoration, at the daylong meeting.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency must now approve the rules, which are required under the federal Clean Water Act, before they take effect. After the narrow vote, several members of Florida’s congressional delegation sent a letter to the head of the EPA, voicing their concerns and asking for a public comment period for them to carefully evaluate each proposed human health criteria “to ensure the utmost protection for our population, environment, and economy.”

Linda Young, executive director of Clean Water Network, which led the opposition to the rule, said her group will urge EPA to reject the rule but, if it is approved, “then absolutely we will file suit,” she said.

DEP aggressively defended its proposal, saying it has been developing the criteria for more than a decade and was forced to develop a consistent model that could be defended in court. Drew Bartlett, assistant secretary at DEP, said one of the most frequent questions is why the state can’t retain the current levels relating to carcinogens while adopting new levels for all the other compounds.

“What would be wrong with keeping the current levels?” he said. “We’re charged with implementing state law and federal law, and those two laws don’t make room for not basing the criteria on a scientific process because they have to be based on logic and facts.”

Agency officials also defended the use of the Monte Carlo scientific method — also known as “probabilistic analysis” — saying it is more responsive to Florida variables by shielding people who consume large amounts of fish from the buildup of dangerous toxics.

The approach creates thousands of variables to calculate the health effects of being exposed to a lifetime of toxic chemicals by taking into consideration average body weight, drinking water consumption rate, fish and shellfish consumption rate, and the fat content of fish — important because fat absorbs most of the toxics in seafood.

During the hearing, more than three dozen people representing the Miccosukee Tribe, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, Broward County, Martin County, Physicians for Social Responsibility and others raised concerns. Many of them argued that 80 percent to 90 percent less protective for most chemicals than the federal EPA recommendations.

“We want this to happen but we’d like this to happen in a way that is actually going to protect human health in Florida,” said Linda Young, executive director of the Florida Clean Water Network.

Commissioner Adam Gelber of Miami, a senior scientist who represents science and technical interests on the commission, opposed the rule. He commended the department but said he was not confident that the information was based on Florida data.

“I fear there is a fatal flaw,” Gelber said. He questioned the decision by DEP to increase the allowed levels of benzene, a known carcinogen.

DEP initially proposed raising the standard from 1.18 parts per billion in Florida’s drinking water sources to 3 parts per billion but, after public outcry, the agency revised its criteria and reduced the level to 2 parts per billion. The federal standard is 1.14 parts per billion.

“If we went back and adjusted the models, how would the other criteria drop?” he asked. “… It would appear to me there are some tweaks in the system that could be made across the board.”

Environmentalists say they are suspicious that DEP has increased the levels of benzene, which is found in the wastewater of oil and gas hydraulic fracturing operations, in an effort to pave the way for fracking in Florida.

DEP officials, however, said that the science of benzene has changed in recent years resulting in the higher limits.

Also voting against the proposal was Commissioner Joe Joyce of Gainesville, who represents agricultural interests on the commission. He also raised questions about the unexplained rise in benzene levels and asked Bartlett if there was “any correlation between this rule and benzene and fracking?”

“We don’t see a connection between this rule and fracking,” Bartlett responded. The the audience jeered.

Commissioner Craig Varn, a lawyer from Tallahassee who was the DEP general counsel a year ago, supported the rule, saying the decision came down to whether was going to accept the new modeling method or not.

“I’m erring on the side of human health,” he said. “Is it perfect? No.”

In an interview with the Times/Herald, Varn said he could not recall being involved in the development of the rule while he was general counsel.

Broward County’s top environmental scientist was among those who urged the commission to reject the new rule, warning that it will lead to dangerous concentrations of chemicals that may not be detected by testing.

DEP’s documents acknowledge that permits can be allowed to require companies to meet the water quality standard in a water body after the discharge has passed through what is known as “mixing zones,” thereby allowing for dilution and diffusion of the pollution beyond the point of discharge before it’s tested, said Jennifer Jurado, director of Broward County environmental planning and community resilience division.

By contrast, she said, Broward County water quality criteria imposes a stricter standard, imposing water quality testing at the end of the pipe where the chemicals are discharged into a water body.

“So there is a lot of flexibility, depending on how they choose to apply the standard, that creates an exposure,” she said.

The commission was scolded for not having its full complement of members while agreeing to reschedule the vote on the controversial rules from September to July.

As the commission was about to take a vote, John Moran, who identified himself as a graduate student from Stanford University, walked to the dais and sat in an open chair.

“The governor has spat on our decision process by keeping these seats vacant for over a year,” he said. DEP security escorted him out, and the commission voted.

What is flakka? Florida’s dangerous new drug trend

Police in south Florida have seen a growing number of cases of bizarre and uncontrollable behavior linked to a street drug called flakka, one of the newer chemicals in the booming category of synthetic or designer drugs.

In Fort Lauderdale last month, a man tried to break down the front door of a local precinct and told police officers he was high on flakka. A few weeks later, another man who said he had just smoked flakka impaled himself while trying to scale a fence around the police station. In Lake Worth, a city in Palm Beach County, a man armed with a gun — and naked — stood on a rooftop and announced, “I feel delusional, and I’m hallucinating!” He told authorities he had vaped flakka with an e-cigarette.

Flakka and bath salts are both drugs classified as cathinones.

Flakka is a designer drug that can be snorted, smoked, injected or swallowed. It may also be combined with other, softer drugs such as marijuana.

Flakka is most typically made from the chemical alpha-PVP, which is a synthetic version of the amphetamine-like stimulant cathinone. Cathinones are chemicals derived from the khat plant grown in the Middle East and Somalia, where the leaves are frequently chewed for a euphoric buzz.

It’s the same class of chemical that’s used to make so-called bath salts, a drug that was found to be behind a number of alarming incidents, including the case of a man in Miami who allegedly chewed another man’s face while high on bath salts in 2012.

The immediate and long-term effects of cathinones can rival some of the strongest crystal meth and cocaine.

Jim Hall, an epidemiologist at the Center for Applied Research on Substance Use and Health Disparities at Nova Southeastern University in Broward County, Florida, told CBS News that cathinones are the next, even more potent class of drugs to take over where MDMA leaves off. MDMA, known widely as Molly, has been the cause of a number of fatalities and the recent round of overdoses thathospitalized a dozen people at Wesleyan University.

Hall says the drug is designed to cause the brain to flood with dopamine, a hormone that helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers, and then block the transmitters, producing an intense feeling of euphoria. “Normally when dopamine would be released, even naturally or even with other drugs, it then gets reuptaked — it goes back to its original transmitting neuron,” said Hall. “But in this case, its reuptake is blocked so it remains there.”

Taking additional flakka while already high — a practice known as “snacking” — or combining cathinones with other drugs often leads to serious health complications including rapid heart rate, agitation, extreme aggression and psychosis.

“We’re starting to see a rash of cases of a syndrome referred to as excited delirium,” said Hall. “This is where the body goes into hyperthermia, generally a temperature of 105 degrees. The individual becomes psychotic, they often rip off their clothes and run out into the street violently and have an adrenaline-like strength and police are called and it takes four or five officers to restrain them. Then once they are restrained, if they don’t receive immediate medical attention they can die.”

Cathinone use can also cause rhabdomyolysis, which is a melting of the muscle tissue and the release of muscle fibers into the blood stream. This can lead to kidney failure and result in a user needing permanent dialysis.

The drug’s name appears to have several meanings, says Hall. The word flaca means skinny in Spanish. “When we first heard the word we thought it was referring to the fact that it’s a strong stimulant, almost all stimulants have an appetite depressant quality to them, an almost anorexic quality.”

But Hall said flakka is also a Hispanic colloquial word that means a “beautiful, elegant woman who charms all she meets.” The drug name also may be associated with a famous hip-hop artist Waka Flocka Flame.

In recent years there’s been a rise in the number of national crime lab reports for cathinones, along with a decline in cases involving MDMA, which is the active chemical in both Molly and Ecstasy.


Hall says designer drugs like flakka are not always pure, which means that frequently the customer and dealer don’t actually know what’s in the product. Hall says that in 2013 there were a total of 126 reported deaths tied to synthetic cathinone in Florida.

“One of the kind of 21st century trends in drug supply is creating new brand names like flakka and building its popularity and then selling anything,” said Hall, who authored a report on the designer drug market in Florida. “Elsewhere in the country [flakka is] actually quite a popular drug. It’s often sold under the street name gravel because of its crystal, small, lumped-up appearance that looks like grainy pebbles or gravel in an aquarium.”

Hall added that there have been recent reports of a designer drug marketed as flakka in Ohio and Houston as well as Florida.

Flakka is one of a number of cathinone-based drugs that are produced in China and sold online to small-time drug gangs in the U.S. And the business is lucrative. Hall says that with small investment of only a few thousand dollars, a dealer can walk away with as much as $75,000.

“The main issue with this whole category is that the user just doesn’t know what they’re taking or the strength of what they’re taking, and literally they are the guinea pigs,” he said. “We’re referring to these as the guinea pig drugs. Often the dealer might not even know what they’re selling.”

‘Flesh-Eating Bacteria’ FAQ.

Summer is prime season for a bacteria called Vibrio vulnificus — also known as “flesh-eating” bacteria — to thrive, especially in warm Gulf Coast waters. Swimmers and those who eat seafood should be careful to avoid infection from this potentially fatal bacteria.

Earlier this summer, Florida health officials issued a reminder that the bacteria thrives not just in Florida but in other coastal states surrounded by warm saltwater.

While infection with the bacteria is a rare cause of disease, taking simple precautions can minimize the risk and decrease the chances of the bacteria becoming ”flesh-eating.” That’s especially true when the bacteria is thriving — from May through October .

WebMD turned to public health experts to shed more light on these bacteria and to get advice on how to stay healthy.

Where is Vibrio vulnificus found?

The bacteria thrive in warm saltwater. Most cases of infection happen in the Gulf Coast region, including Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas, the CDC says.

“The bacteria thrive in warm water, so concentrations of the bacteria are higher during the summer months,” says Carina Blackmore, PhD, Florida’s acting state epidemiologist.

How do you get it?

Eating uncooked seafood can bring on the infection. Also, if a skin injury is exposed to the bacteria, the wound can become infected.

The bacteria can also infect the blood, especially if someone has chronic liverdisease or other medical problems that compromise their immune system. This type of infection can become severe and even fatal. Bloodstream infections with V. vulnificus are lethal in half of those affected, the CDC says.

There is no evidence the bacteria is transmitted from person to person, the CDC says.

How common is it?

In the U.S., about 95 cases occur each year, according to the CDC, although only half of those are confirmed by culturing the blood, the stool, or a wound. Of those, about 85 patients need to be in the hospital; about 35 die.

In Florida, 11 cases have been reported in 2014, says Sheri Hutchinson, a spokeswoman with the Florida Department of Health, with two deaths as of July 25. In 2013, 41 cases were reported, with 11 deaths.

Who is most at risk, and how can people minimize the risk?

Those who eat raw seafood and those who have open wounds and go into warm saltwater risk infection are at risk.

“People with underlying health problems and people who are immune-compromised, especially those with chronic liver disease, are at higher risk,” Blackmore says.

Don’t go into the water if you have broken skin or open wounds.

Don’t eat raw shellfish, especially oysters. Refrigerate leftover fish promptly.

What are typical symptoms?

Someone who eats seafood infected with the bacteria may have vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.

An infected wound can become ulcerated — redden, ooze pus, streak with red lines, or grow in size — and the skin can break down.

Someone with a compromised immune system may experience fever, chills, verylow blood pressure associated with shock, and blistering skin lesions.

Seek medical help right away if you notice these symptoms, Blackmore says.

It’s been called a ”flesh-eating” bacteria — is that true?

“In vulnerable patients with wound infections, the bacteria can create severe tissue damage and skin breakdown — necrotizing fasciitis — at the wound site,” Blackmore says. While this is often referred to as ”flesh-eating bacteria,” Blackmore says, medical experts consider it a misnomer. ”The bacteria don’t actually consume the flesh. The bacteria have toxins that are destroying the cells in the tissue. The cells end up dying from the toxin exposure.”

How is it diagnosed, and what is the treatment?

Besides observing symptoms, doctors can test the blood, the wound, or the stool to confirm the diagnosis.

Patients receive antibiotics. The length of treatment and the dose vary by the type of antibiotic used. Some regimens are up to 14 days.

The infected wound is treated, and surgeons may be needed to clean the wound and remove dead tissue. Nurses may apply special bandages to care for the wound.

“Healthy people typically fully recover from an infection,” Blackmore says. “Persons with milder infections can recover within a few days. People with underlying illnesses who have more severe forms of the disease have a more extended recovery period.”

Scientists Detail Critical Role of Gene in Many Lung Cancer Cases.

Scientists from the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have shown that a well-known cancer-causing gene implicated in a number of malignancies plays a far more critical role in non-small cell lung cancer, the most common form of the disease, than previously thought.

These findings establish the gene as a critical regulator of lung cancer tumor growth. This new information could turn out to be vital for the design of potentially new therapeutic strategies for a group of patients who represent almost half of non-small cell lung cancer cases.

In the study, published online ahead of print by the journal Cancer Research, the scientists found that presence of known oncogene Notch 1 is required for survival of cancer cells. In both cell and animal model studies, disabling Notch 1 leads to a rise in cancer cell death.

“While Notch signaling has emerged as an important target in many types of cancer, current methodologies that target that pathway affect all members of the Notch family, and this has been associated with toxicity,” said Joseph Kissil, a TSRI associate professor who led the study. “We were able to identify Notch 1 as the critical oncogene to target, at least in a common form of lung cancer.”

The new findings show that Notch1 is required for initial tumor growth, as it represses p53, a well-known tumor suppressor protein that has been called the genome’s guardian because of its role in preventing mutations. The p53 protein can repair damaged cells or force them to die through apoptosisprogrammed cell death.

Using animal models, the study shows that inhibition of Notch1 signaling results in a dramatic decrease in initial tumor growth. Moreover, disruption of Notch 1 induces apoptosis by increasing p53 stability — substantially increasing its biological half-life, for example.

These findings provide important clinical insights into the correlation between Notch1 activity and the poor prognosis of non-small cell lung cancer patients who carry the non-mutated form of the p53 gene. “If you look at lung cancer patient populations, Notch signaling alone isn’t a prognostic indicator, but if you look at p53-positive patients it is,” Kissil said.