Tag Archives | Pandemics

Don’t Panic Yet, But Ebola Could Go Airborne

Picture: Dr. Lyle Conrad/CDC (PD)

Via ScienceNews:

The Ebola virus can spread through the air from pigs to macaques, a new study suggests.

Transmission of the virus — which causes an often fatal hemorrhagic fever in people and primates — was thought to require direct contact with body fluids from an infected animal or person. But in the new study, published online November 15 in Scientific Reports, piglets infected with Ebola passed the virus to macaques housed in the same room even though the animals never touched.

“The evidence that the virus got from a pig to a monkey through a respiratory route is good,” says Glenn Marsh, a molecular virologist at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization’s Animal Health Laboratory in Geelong, Australia. Marsh was not involved in the new study but has investigated Ebola and other viruses in pigs.

Although pigs transmitted Ebola in the laboratory, there is still no evidence that anyone has been sickened from contact with infected pigs in Africa, where the virus occurs naturally, or that the virus passes through the air under normal conditions, says study coauthor Gary Kobinger, an infectious disease researcher at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada.

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Possible Cover-Up of Dangerous West Nile Virus Mutation?

Picture: CDC (PD)

Most people who contract the mosquito-borne pathogen West Nile virus are asymptomatic, and even those who do get sick usually experience flu-like symptoms that resolve on their own. In a small percentage of those infected, the symptoms can be much worse: swelling of the brain and permanent neurological damage among them. Now, the Washington Post reports there are signs that the virus could be getting worse and evidence of a possible cover-up in the form of a “recalled” email:

Last month, Leis asked a Food and Drug Administration scientist who studies the genetics of the virus whether a new, more virulent strain was circulating.

“You are absolutely right . . . that new genetic variants of WNV might have appeared this year,” the scientist replied in an Oct. 23 e-mail obtained by The Washington Post. The scientist continued that “it is not easy to correlate” the new mutations with any specific type of brain damage.

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FDA Expands Warning Regarding Medicines Contaminated With Deadly Fungus

“Dangerous impurities” is frequently given as one of the reasons to avoid street drugs, but dangerous impurities in the products of Big Pharma seem to be killing more people. CNN reports:

More patients will soon be told that they received potentially contaminated drugs from the New England Compounding Center, whose products are associated with 308 illnesses and 23 deaths.

On Monday, the Food and Drug Administration posted on its website a list of more than 1,200 hospitals and clinics that had purchased steroids and other drugs from the compounding center that, if contaminated, would be especially dangerous for patients. [Drugs of concern] include triamcinolone acetonide, an injectable steroid used to treat pain; injectable drugs used for eye surgery; and cardioplegic solutions, which are used during open heart surgeries.

Tennessee has been the hardest-hit state in the meningitis outbreak, with 70 cases as of Tuesday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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UK Man Diagnosed with “Congo Fever” Dies

Picture: CDC (PD)

A 38-year old British man who was diagnosed with Crimean-Congo Viral Hemorrhagic Fever, commonly referred to as Congo Fever, has died after being transported to the Gartnavel General Hospital in Glasgow. He was admitted to the hospital’s Brownlee unit, which specializes in infectious diseases,

National Health Services has identified four passengers who were possibly seated near the man during the flight. Of the four people contacted, two will be monitored on a daily basis and the other two are considered not to be in need of further observation. Any airline, airport or NHS staff who came in contact with the man will also be monitored.

CCVHF is zoonotic, meaning it is a disease most commonly found in animals but capable of being transmitted to humans. Since CCVHF is not airborne, infection can only be caused by direct contact with infected blood or body fluid, making human-to-human infection extremely rare.There is no safe vaccine for the virus, and mortality rate among those infected ranges from 10 to 40%.… Read the rest

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Oops! Swine Flu Vaccine Linked to Child Narcolepsy…Maybe

Picture: HHS (PD)

Via RawStory:

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control reported last week that there was an increase in narcolepsy among children who received the swine flu vaccine Pandemrix during the 2009-2010 outbreak. The report corroborates similar findings from the Swedish Medical Products Agency nd The Finnish National Institute for Health and Welfare. Pandemrix was the only vaccine offered in European countries. It is a product of British pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline:

In Finland, 79 children aged four to 19 developed narcolepsy after receiving the Pandemrix vaccine in 2009 and 2010, while in Sweden the number was close to 200, according to figures in the two countries.

Both countries recommended their populations, of around five and 10 million respectively, to take part in mass vaccinations during the swine flu scare. Pandemrix was the only vaccine used in both countries.

Meanwhile, a recent study in the medical journal The Lancet said that between five and 17 people in Finland aged 0-17 are estimated to have died as a direct result of the 2009-10 swine flu pandemic, while the same number for Sweden was nine to 31.

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Ebola Outbreak in Uganda

Photo Credit: Thomas W. Geisbert, Boston University School of Medicine

Via the BBC:

Public health officials in Uganda are battling an outbreak of the deadly Ebola Virus. There have been 14 confirmed deaths at the time of this writing:

Officials say most are linked to one family, who may have contracted the virus while attending a funeral.

Another suspected infection, at Kampala’s Mulago hospital, is also being investigated by doctors, says the BBC’s Catherine Byaruhanga in the capital.

Ebola is one of the world’s most virulent diseases. A form of hemorrhagic fever,  Ebola can incubate for up to three weeks before symptoms emerge, which begin with fever, rashes and head and body aches followed by bloody vomit and almost always death.  There’s no cure, and 90 percent of those infected die within two weeks of the onset of symptoms.

While an international outbreak is always a possibility in the age of global travel, most Ebola outbreaks end very quickly.… Read the rest

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Swine & Dandy: What if we did as much to prevent rape as we do to prevent H1N1?

Science and Politics by Meg Stone:

I spent most of this past spring and summer rolling my eyes every time I heard a news story about the swine flu. Almost every day local reporters got hysterical about 5 or 10 or 20 confirmed cases. Entire schools closed in response to a handful of kids with fevers, and as if there were no war in Afghanistan, no economic crisis, and no other epidemics claiming ten times as many lives, newscasters talked about H1N1 (the proper name for swine flu) for hours.

I have a degree in public health and my work focuses on preventing rape and other acts of violence and supporting survivors in healing from abuse. When I see all the attention swine flu is getting, I’m jealous. Other than intermittent news stories about sex offenders on the loose or why women who accuse professional athletes of rape are lying, sexual violence rarely gets any widespread coverage.

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Tamiflu In Rivers Could Breed Drug-Resistant Super-Flu Strain

Wired writes about a frightening discovery made by Japanese scientists: rivers around the world are being contaminated with Tamiflu, the premier flu-fighting medicine, as users excrete it in their urine.

What’s the big deal? Birds, who are carriers of influenza, are being exposed to the waterborne Tamiflu residues and might develop and spread drug-resistant trains of seasonal and avian flu.

If scientists’ measurements are right, concentrations of Tamiflu in natural bodies of water are now “high enough to lead to antiviral resistance in waterfowl.” And, Tamiflu contamination will only rise in the coming winter months, as seasonal and swine flu hit the population.

Will Tamiflu sow the seeds of the next great pandemic?… Read the rest

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