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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Truth

Don't test on animals. That's something we can all agree on, right? No one likes to think of defenseless cats, dogs, hamsters, and birds being exposed to a bunch of things that could make them sick (and the animals aren't happy about it, either). It's no wonder so many people and organizations have fought to stop it. But did you ever think that maybe brands are testing products on us too, they're just not telling us they're doing it?

I know, I know, it sounds like a conspiracy theory, but that's exactly what e-cigarette brands like JUUL (which corners the e-cigarette market) are doing in this country right now, and young people are on the frontlines of the fallout. Most people assume that the government would have looked at devices that allow people to inhale unknown chemicals into their lungs BEFORE they hit the market. You would think that someone in the government would have determined that they are safe. But nope, that hasn't happened. And vape companies are fighting to delay the government's ability to evaluate these products.

So no one really knows the long-term health effects of e-cigarette use, not even JUUL's CEO, nor are they informing the public about the potential risks. On top of that, according to the FDA, there's been a 78% increase in e-cigarette usage among high school and middle school-aged children in just the last two years, prompting the U.S. Surgeon General to officially recognize the trend as an epidemic and urge action against it.

These facts have elicited others to take action, as well.

Truth Initiative, the nonprofit best known for dropping the real facts about smoking and vaping since 2000 through its truth campaign. We don't do PSAs. We also need to update so to explain truth – the nonprofit behind the truth youth smoking prevention campaign – you could also say this in a funny way – best known for sharing the facts about smoking and vaping or pull from some old campaigns. Just layer in a description of truth and who the campaign is., is now on a mission to confront e-cigarette brands like JUUL about the lack of care they've taken to inform consumers of the potential adverse side effects of their products. And they're doing it with the help of animal protesters who are tired of seeing humans treated like test subjects.

The March Against JUUL | Tested On Humans | truth www.youtube.com

"No one knows the long-term effects of JUULing so any human who uses one is being used as a lab rat," says, appropriately, Mario the Sewer Rat.

"I will never stop fighting JUUL. Or the mailman," notes Doug the Pug, the Instagram-famous dog star.

Truth, the national counter-marketing campaign for youth smoking prevention, hopes this fuzzy, squeaky, snorty animal movement arms humans with the facts about vaping and inspires them to demand transparency from JUUL and other e-cigarette companies. You can get your own fur babies involved too by sharing photos of them wearing protest gear with the hashtag #DontTestOnHumans. Here's some adorable inspo for you:

The dangerous stuff is already out there, but with knowledge on their side, young people will hopefully make the right choices and fight companies making the wrong ones. If you need more convincing, here are the serious facts.

Over the last decade, 127 e-cigarette-related seizures were reported, which prompted the FDA to launch an official investigation in April 2019. Since then, over 215 cases of a new, severe lung illness have sprung up all over the country, with six deaths to date. While scientists aren't yet sure of the root cause, the majority of victims were young adults who regularly vaped and used e-cigarettes. As such, the CDC has launched an official investigation into the potential link.

Sixteen-year-old Luka Kinard, a former frequent e-cigarette-user, is one of the many teens who experienced severe side effects. "Vaping was my biggest addiction," he told NowThis. "It lasted for about 15 months of my high school career." In 2018, Kinard was hospitalized after having a seizure. He also had severe nausea, chest pains, and difficulty breathing.

After the harrowing experience, he quit vaping, and began speaking out about his experience to help inform others and hopefully inspire them to quit and/or take action. "It shouldn't take having a seizure as a result of nicotine addiction like I had for teens to realize that these companies are taking advantage of what we don't know," Kinard said.

Teens are 16 times more likely to use e-cigarettes than adults, and four times more likely to take up traditional smoking as a result, according to truth, and yet the e-cigarette market remains virtually unregulated and untested. In fact, companies like JUUL continue to block and prevent FDA regulations, investing more than $1 million in lawyers and lobbying efforts in the last quarter alone.

Photo by Lindsay Fox/Pixabay

Consumers have a right to know what they're putting in their bodies. If everyone (and their pets) speaks up, the e-cigarette industry will have to make a change. Young people are already taking action across the country. They're hosting rallies nationwide and on October 9 as part of a National Day of Action, young people are urging their friends and classmates to "Ditch JUUL." Will you join them?

For help with quitting e-cigarettes, visit thetruth.com/quit or text DITCHJUUL to 88709 for free, anonymous resources.

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