News Scan for Nov 02, 2016

Zika's Facebook profile
Zika study protocols
Tdap safe in pregnancy

Review finds high impact for inaccurate Zika posts on Facebook

A review of Facebook posts on Zika virus found that misleading posts were more popular than ones containing accurate information, according to a recent study by a team from Tulane University.

The researchers looked at a week's worth of Zika-related posts starting on Jun 21, and had two independent physicians review the top 200 posts to see if the content was relevant or misleading. The group published its findings yesterday in the American Journal of Infection Control.

Analysis found that 81% of the posts and videos had useful or credible information, and those typically came from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or news agencies. About 12% of the posts were misleading, typically touching on two themes: that Zika was a way to depopulate third-world countries or that Zika was a hoax to cover up cancer-causing chemicals made by major corporations.

To measure the influence of the posts, researchers assessed the most popular posts among the two groups. Unfounded rumor mongering and conspiracy theory posts were more popular than the ones that had accurate information, which the researchers said is harmful, because it can work against efforts to battle the outbreak, such as using pesticides for stopping the spread of the mosquito-borne Zika virus.

Based on the results, the researcher proposed better curation of public health–related social media posts during health crises and pandemics, though they said strict criteria or censorship would probably intensify conspiracy theories. They said Facebook could perhaps use its existing objectional reporting feature to create an alert noting that questionable posts contain unverified health information.
Nov 1 Am J Infect Control abstract


Experts recommend steps for standardizing Zika research protocols

Experts today published seven recommendations for Zika research protocols to help standardize study models, public health questions, and key research needs for Zika virus. Included in the protocols, published in The Lancet Global Health, are guidelines for researching the link between Zika and birth defects, the incidence of Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS), and the risk of sexual transmission of the virus.

The recommendations were crafted by the Working Group for ZIKV Harmonized Research, which includes members from the World Health Organization, Institute Pasteur, and CONSISE (the Consortium for the Standardization of Influenza Seroepidemiology). The group used existing Zika and dengue virus protocols to streamline keys aspects of Zika study design. 

The group recommends case-control studies to address the risk for GBS and microcephaly and other birth defects. Cohort studies of pregnant women and newborns were recommended for understanding the clinical presentation of infection in pregnancy, risk of microcephaly, and long-term health consequences for babies born to mothers infected with Zika virus during pregnancy. Study of bodily fluids should be used to assess sexual transmission risk, the experts say, while virus seropositivity and clinical characteristics should be used to determine the prevalence of Zika infection, natural immunity, and natural history of the virus in a population.

The members of the working group concluded that the protocols will "offer the possibility of individual participant data analysis of Zika virus cohort studies and will ensure results of the studies can be compared across regions and countries."
Nov 2 Lancet Glob Health letter


Study: Tdap vaccine not tied to birth defects

The tetanus, diphtheria, and acellular pertussis (Tdap) vaccine is not linked to microcephaly or other birth defects, according to a large study published yesterday in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

The CDC-sponsored study involved 324,463 births at seven Vaccine Safety Datalink sites across the country from Jan 1, 2007, through Sep 30, 2013. The researchers looked at mothers' vaccination during the first trimester, at 27 to 36 weeks' gestation (the period recommended for vaccination in the United States), and at any gestational week.

The investigators found no elevated incidence of microcephaly (small head and brain size) or any other structural defect associated with vaccine receipt for any of the subgroups studied. They say the findings support recommendations for routine Tdap use during pregnancy and expand on what is already known about the vaccine's safety profile.
Nov 1 JAMA letter

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