Tuesday, December 18, 2007


Hi everyone!

I don't know that anyone is checking this (seeing as how we're on vacation and all) but, like Thomas, I was really excited about something virus related and NO ONE was here to share my excitement. There's a commercial about a new cold medication and it starts with "Do you know what the #1 cause is of the common cold?" And I got so excited I practically jumped out of my seat and yelled "RHINOVIRUSES!!" and my parents looked at me like I was crazy. Anyways, the commercial has a great picture of a rhino and talks about how "the rhinovirus" is just ready and waiting to trample you down. The commercial then says the only way to deal with the common cold is to treat your symptoms... until now. I don't buy in to it, but I'm sure tons of people will. Just one of many examples of how this class will allow us to be informed consumers! Enjoy your breaks, stay healthy and see you in January!


Saturday, December 15, 2007

Oh sh*t

Happy holidays, folks!

Bird flu hits Pakistan... that can't be good.


Nerdy as this is to do over the break, I just had to share the story (as no one here at home was as excited as I was)...


Thursday, December 13, 2007

Dengue/DHF Update

The Special Capital District of Jakarta occupied the 1st level of dengue fever [outbreak classification] for the length of 2007.

More than 30 percent of the cases of dengue fever came from Jakarta, the Head of Health Service Special Capital District, Dr. Wibowo Sukijat, MPH, said on Thursday (Dec 6, 2007). This number is an increase compared to the previous year [2006] when there were 24,932 cases with 39 deaths.

There were several factors in Jakarta that account for why this area had the highest numbers of dengue fever cases, including bad environment, the mobility of many inhabitants, the inhabitants's substantial population, as well as increased temperatures, so virus [transmission] has been increasingly raging.

The [dengue virus mosquito vector] control campaign has not yet given optimal results.



The Black Death in China

So apparently the plague is back. And its in the Gansu Province in northwest China. This is the second person this year who has died from it. Here's more info on it...http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2007-12/10/content_7226599.htm.


Viral mixing pot in the EAST

So this may not be on any news wire, and it's still being disavowed by some, but my dorm EAST house is currently in the throes of a stomach virus epidemic! We have at least 6 confirmed cases of vomiting and diarrhea, beginning somewhere within the last 48 hours. My thoughts were about Norwalk virus, especially since the bug seems to be spreading so fast. Fears are growing in light of the fact that two of the victims were only guests and may have brought the virus back to Suites. Any other potential things to add to the differential, guys? Astrovirus? Reovirus? You future EIS officers are all welcome to help me with the investigation!


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

More on Ebola

The outbreak of Ebola in western Uganda continues. Yesterday, another man died, making the total fatality rate 30 people out of the known 116 who have been infected. The epicenter of the outbreak is a district called Bundibubyo, which has a population of more than 250,000 people. Tests have confirmed that the strain of Ebola in circulation is serotypically distinct from previously identified serotypes such as Ebola Zaire, Cote d’Ivoire, Reston, etc.

To find out more:


- Claire

Elementary, my dear Watson...evidently not elementary enough

It turns out that James Watson's genes indicate significant inheritance from African ancestors.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

More Dr. Finkelstein...

So, remember my recent post on Dr. Finkelstein?? Well...as of Wednesday December 5th six of 119 of Dr. F's patients tested postitive for Hepatitis B infection and 6 were positive for Hepatitis C infection. Claudia Hutton, a state department representative, was quoted saying that with respect to the hepatitis cases, that although the department "cared intimately" about each patient's disease diagnosis, "what would be the purpose to figure out a second or third transmission except to sue Dr. Finkelstein? That's not the health department's job. That's why people hire attorneys," she said.



Uh Oh...more bird flu...

So, another case has popped up in China, shocking I know...but this time it is in the Jiangsu Province. The infected individual is actually the father who of the 24-year old man who died from H5N1 infection just a few weeks ago. Interesting: the son died on Sunday December 2, and the father came down with symptoms Monday December 3. Luckily he has been under close surveilance due to the fact that he was a close contact of the recently infected deceased and is currently in the hospital undergoing treatment.
Out of the 27 confirmed cases of bird flu in China, 17 have been fatal. Uh oh.



An Important Public Service Announcement

What viral family does this fall into?


- Elizabeth

Adenovirus making the rounds

Hey guys, I thought you might be interested in this fairly well publicized story about adenovirus. Apparently it's a more virulent strain (Adenovirus 14) than seen before. Normally the virus causes cold-like symptoms, ie: congestion, runny nose, sneezing, those sorts of upper respiratory things. However the recent strain has been causing shortness of breath, coughing, and a high fever. "Dozens" are being sent to the ICU, and at least 10 have died from the disease. Scary stuff, especially since it's right near by in Oregon. They suggest that the virus is genetically different enough from a 1955 strain to cause new, worse symptoms. Cases are being reported among young, healthy people, but the virus is also attacking, not surprisingly, military personnel. Maybe they will rethink they're decision to discontinue the adenovirus vaccination.



Monday, December 10, 2007

China's food "safety"

Great article on China's "wet markets"

"You can eat anything with four legs except the dinner table" -- Local expression


There's no way this is actually called lumpy skin disease

An outbreak of lumpy skin disease (which affects bovine species) was first reported in July of 2007, however the outbreak has been ongoing since that time. Seven different outbreaks have been identified within a 10-km zone around the northern part of the Palestinian Gaza Strip. Vaccination with live attenuated sheep pox vaccine is thought to help control outbreaks, which is SO COOL! Read more about this weird disease at:



World AIDS Day Webcast

Again, World AIDS Day was a couple of weeks ago. So I'm a little behind in my reading and posting...

But Dr. Anthony Fauci is a pretty cool guy. He is the head of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases at the NIH and also an early AIDS research pioneer. I went to school with his daughters and he always came to our cross-country meets, too.

The link below will lead to you a transcript of the World AIDs Day Webcast, which you can also view on video. Basically, the panelists Dr. Parham (Health Resources and Services Administration), Dr. Kevin Fenton (CDC), Ms. Beverly Watts Davis (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration), and Dr. Fauci (NIAID/NIH) discuss the state of the domestic HIV/AIDS epidemic, prevention programs, testing programs, care, treatment and research.



NIH and their public service campaign for Hispanic Youth on the link between non-injection drugs and HIV

This is a few weeks late, but as part of honoring World AIDS day, the NIH launched a new national public service campaign to educate Hispanic teen on the link between non-injection drug use and HIV transmission. Namely, the campaign addresses the effect drug use and alcohol consumpion have on people's decision making abilities, which potentially lead them to engage in risky sexual behavior that can lead to HIV.

Hispanic youths represent 16% of the US teenage population, but are expected to grow by 25% in the next decade. The CDC reports that Hispanic/Latinos account for 18% of new HIV/AIDS diagnoses.

Read more about the campaign at http://www.nih.gov/news/pr/nov2007/nida-26.htm


New software to aid in early detection of infecton disease outbreaks

The NIH announced that a newly released software program will help analyze data at the site of infectious disease outbreak. This tool, called TranStat, will speed the detection of new cases and help imlement effective interventions. Its developers, a team of epidemiologist and computer scientists from the Models of Infectious Disease Agent Study (MIDAS), created the software in order to make the models developed by researchers available to the public health community.

You can download the program for free at http://www.midasmodels.org, where you can enter and store infectious disease data (like age, sex of infected individuals and onset of symptoms, close contacts, etc). The program uses this info to statistically determine the probability that people contracte the disease from each other, the average number of people an individual could infect, and the rate that the infection occurs.

Pretty neat.



Sunday, December 9, 2007


Hey guys, here's an interesting article I found on the genetic change of the Chikungunya Virus.

Scientists from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston
(UTMB) have reported their discovery of the reason behind a
mysterious epidemic on the island of La Reunion in the Indian Ocean.
An outbreak in 2005 and 2006 resulted in the 1st deaths from a virus
called chikungunya, a mosquito borne virus that mutated and became lethal.

In all, 266 000 people were infected, and at least 260 deaths
resulted. Researchers proved the epidemic was caused by a single
mutation and the virus was carried by a mosquito not previously known
to be a carrier. The species, _Aedes albopictus_, also called the
Asian tiger mosquito, has been established in the U.S. for around 20
years and has recently started spreading to Europe.

The researchers say the mutation gives the new strain of virus an
evolutionary edge over its predecessor and was predominantly
transmitted versus the original strain. The new strain evolved when a
single amino acid chain changed, leading to the ability for the virus
to infect the new mosquito. One of the authors created the same
change in a strain collected in Africa in 1983, which then also
showed a greater ability to infect _Aedes albopictus_.
In its non-lethal form, chikungunya causes extreme arthritis-like
pain, sometimes lasting for months or years. Many tourists became
infected at La Reunion and carried that [La Reunion] strain home with
them. Although no epidemics broke out in Europe [with the La Reunion
strain], the possibility was there. Another strain of the virus
causing an ongoing epidemic in India has spread to humans in Italy
through the Asian tiger mosquito.



Hemodialysis unit and Hepatitis C

Three children have contracted hepatitis C virus infection in a public hospital in Barcelona. All three children were receiving treatment in the hemodialysis unit. Sadly, a failure in the hygiene protocol resulted in contact with contaminated material, although the exact cause leading to the chain of infection has not been determined. Officials believe it is unlikely parents will file a complaint against the hospital for alleged malpractice because the possibility of infection is acknowledged when parents sign the informed consent. This is an incredibly interesting case about infections acquired during hospital stays. Read more here:



Saturday, December 8, 2007

H5N1 and Dog bites?

There has been a confirmed case of H5N1 in Jiangsu Province in China. The weird thing is that he may have gotten it from a dogbite...?

Read Here:
The Jiangsu Provincial Health Bureau announced on the night of Sun 2
Dec 2007 that the Ministry of Health had confirmed a human case of
highly pathogenic avian influenza in Jiangsu, and that [the patient]
had died in hospital that day due to multiple organ failure.

In an exclusive interview with Health Times, Professor Yin Kaisheng,
attending physician for the fatal Nanjing avian influenza case,
Ministry of Health national public health emergency response
specialist, and official in charge of the Jiangsu Province Health
Bureau's Human Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza Prevention Medical
Treatment Team, stated that, for the moment, it is not possible for a
SARS-like super-spreader to emerge, transmitting avian influenza from
one person to the masses. Residents don't need to panic.

Yin Kaisheng revealed that during this patient's hospitalization
there was no way to confirm [he had] avian influenza. It was the
Jiangsu Center for Disease Control's laboratory that detected that
the infection was H5N1 type avian influenza virus. Moreover, the
patient always maintained that he had no way [to contract] this
infection, and had no history of contact with poultry. It is only
known that 20 days before becoming ill [he] had been bitten by a dog,
and 20 days later [he] developed fever after drinking a little alcohol.


However it is possible that dogs in their role as scavengers could
mechanically transmit bird flu virus by biting. The 20-day lapse
between bite and onset of illness in this case makes this route of
transmission of disease unlikely, and there would still have to
reservoir of infected wild birds or domestic poultry in the area.

Interesting! Those dogs in China ARE pretty nasty (you'll have to see them to believe them)


More on Herpesvirus Infections in Elephants

Hi everyone! In case you were interested in what Dr. Bob was saying about herpesvirus infections in Asian elephants, there have been recent elephant deaths across the US due to this lethal viral infection. Elephants in Missouri, Washington State and Texas have exhibited the characteristic signs of the infection, which include lesions in the mouth and tongue discoloration. The lethality of the infection in Asia elephants is remarkable -- from the onset of signs, elephants are usually dead within 5 days.

Check this out for the details:


- Claire

Friday, December 7, 2007


Dr. Harvey Finkelstein an able Long Island anesthesiologist, or an incompetent idiot? Well, I'll leave the judging up to you, but here's the scoop:

6 hepatitis B cases and 6 hepatitis C cases have showed up among Dr. Finkelstein's patients, each of which has been linked back to Dr. Finkelstein's faulty needle technique. Previously Dr. F had been found to have infected at least one other patient by plunging needles into medicinal containers more than once...thereby contaminating the medicine.

Case and point: watch out for the parenteral spread of such infections, even in places where you least expect it.



Prions Perhaps?!

Workers in a pig slaughterhouse are coming down with illnesses characterized by tingeling, numbness, and other neurological symptoms.
They work at the "heads table" where, eww, compressed air was shoot into the skulls to eject brain matter. Aerosolized pig brains anyone?


-Rebecca Hebner

african swine fever

If you're heading to Russia this winter break, beware of African Swine Fever, or more specifically, beware of those wild boars. They seem to be overstepping their boundaries and spreading the disease. Authorities are keeping an eye on the pig farms.


-Becky G-K

Another challenge for HIV treatment

Researchers in Australia have discovered that 12% of HIV-positive individuals receiving treatment are infected with a strain resistant to antiretroviral medication. This N348I mutation confers resistance to AZT and nevirapine. Typically physicians perform genotypic assays to look for mutations of a patient's particular strain of HIV and then, from these results, prescribes a cocktail that is least likely to become resistant to the medication. Previously these genotypic assays have focused on the N-terminal region of the reverse transcriptase, since that is where a majority of the drug-resistance mutations have occurred. However, this group of researchers decided to investigate the C terminus of the enzyme and found the N348I mutation. As a result of these findings, health care practitioners will likely add this mutation to their assay test. Moreover, since this mutation was found in 12% of HIV-positive individuals receiving treatment versus only 1% of HIV-positive people not on these medications, further investigation of the N348I mutation carries important implications for future antiretroviral drug development.


MC Masters

Flu Shots At the Airport?

Instead of reading a magazine or standing in line for Starbucks before a flight, why not get vaccinated? Airports in Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, and Newark, N.J., are offering flu shots at clinical kiosks near the gates. Airports have offered flu immunizations at clinics outside the security checkpoint for years, but few people took advantage of this service because of fear of missing their flight. These kiosks are now located gate-side and are more convenient for passengers on connecting flights. It takes less than 5 minutes to be vaccinated and between $15 and $35, depending on the clinic.

Business travelers and health officials alike welcome the convenient way to get flu shots because people often forgo getting the vaccination due to time constraints and busy schedules.

Last year, Chicago's O'Hare International Airport offered 5,000 flu shots to passengers and employees from kiosks next to gates.

Read more about these innovative clinics at:

Get your flu shots!


Thursday, December 6, 2007

Trying to halt the Ebola Virus

In the aftermath of the recent outbreak of Ebola in Uganda, Kenya has set up screening centres on its borders with Uganda. This is to halt the spread of Ebola
from one nation to another.

Around 91 people have been infected with this strain. In the aftermath of 2 health workers dieing today, Ugandan officials were candid on the challange facinf the country. "We are facing a crisis, health workers are scared and the morale is low, there is a very big shortage of nurses."

Uganda's health ministry has also deployed medics to the north-west to control outbreaks of cholera, meningitis and bubonic plague.




Why does it fly in winter?

Researchers in New York have investigated the reason why winter is flu season--apparently, the virus survives better in cold, dry air.


Donors commit 400m dollars to fight bird flu

International donors have committed more money to the impending avian influenza pandemic, operating on the belief that "The cost of the pandemic would be far greater than the cost of mitigation." The World Bank estimates that an avian flu pandemic could cost $2 trillion in total. Wow.


- Elizabeth

Big money to fight potential big threat

posted by Marisa Dowling

H5N1 bird flu has killed 200+ people since 2003. In 2007 there were 48 deaths due to the virus, down from 71 deaths in 2006.

Donors from across the wold have committed $400 million to fight against the chance of bird flu. The donations were made at the end of a international conference in New Delhi discussing the disease.

However the World Bank says that $1.2 billion will be needed over the next 2-3 years to help fight the virus in affected countries. Costs include developing a low-cost vaccine and compensating bird farmers who are forced to kill their flocks.

The cost of pandemic though is predicted to be as high as 2 trillion dollars. Experts urge prevention and preparation to avert these costs.

The World Bank has said that such a pandemic could cost up to two trillion dollars.

Full Article

Another case of H5N1 in China

Hey friends,

The Ministry of Health in China has reported a new case of human infection with the H5N1 avian influenza virus. The case was confirmed by the national laboratory on 2 December.

The 24-year old male from Jiangsu Province, developed symptoms on 24 November, was hospitalized on 27 November and died on 2 December. There is no initial indication to suggest he had contact with sick birds prior to becoming unwell. Close contacts have been placed under medical observation and all remain well.

Of the 26 cases confirmed to date in China, 17 have been fatal.


Another HIV Vaccine Clinical Trial in China

Clinical trials of a second HIV/AIDS vaccine is being carried out in China. This trial is unique becuase one group of participants are recieving a vaccine where small pox is being used as a carrier of the HIV vaccine. The HIV genome wrapped in a smallpox virion, which should assist in the creation of antibodies.
Also interesting, this vaccine has a "replicative vector, which means it is designed to kill HIV by replicating itself".

-Rebecca Hebner

Who knew?

I personally have only ever heard about H5N1 avian influenza. Now, because all of the H and N subtypes are found in birds, I assumed that other strains besides H5N1 must be important for one reason or another, but this is the first time I've ever seen an article on it. That being the case I thought it would be beneficial for me to enlighten everyone else on the topic...

The article dates back to the beginning of November, however, PubMED is reporting on it now because there were errors in the original article. The actually story is as follows: H7N3 highly pathogenic notifiable avian influenza (HPNAI) was found in the Province of Saskatchewan. The virus is one of many subtypes of Influenza A, and interestingly did not have a close phylogenetic relationship to the HPNAI H7N3 subtype found in British Columbia in 2004. In order to control the outbreak, 3 and 10 km surveillance zones were extablished and all flocks in this area were tested. A control areas was established beyond this zone and all flocks in this control area were tested as well.

In addition, public health measures were enacted to prevent direct infection of exposed individuals. Secondary preventive measures were also put in place including the use of Tamiflu.

This article is super interesting and extremely relevant to all of the concepts we discussed in class last week. I highly recommend that you read it! Here's the link:



Our Nation's Capital...

...Has the highest rate of HIV infection of any U.S. city.
The 2007 District of Columbia HIV/AIDS Epidemiology Annual Report says that 12,400 - or 1 in 50 - are currently living with our least favorite retrovirus.
Some alarming stats:
  • black residents account for 57 percent of the city’s population of 500,000 but represent 86% of HIV/AIDS cases
  • Cases in Washington, DC account for 6% of all mother-to-child H.I.V. infections in the nation in the last five years; vertical transmission can be easily prevented
  • The disease spread through heterosexual contact in more than 37% of the cases detected from 2001 to last year, in comparison with the 25% of cases attributable to men having sex with men.
  • Starting in 2004, the number of new H.I.V. cases among men and women ages 40 to 49 outpaced every other age group in the city
  • City health officials said unprotected sex was the most common way H.I.V. is spread, followed by intravenous drug use.
    • but...Washington is the only city in the country that is barred by federal law from using local tax money to finance needle exchange programs - hmmm

Quick Ebola Update

As of Monday, Ebola has killed 19 Ugandans in the current outbreak. The WHO has confirmed that the Uganda strain of the virus belongs to a different subtype than the four already known.


Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Lassa...What a Bummer

Endemic to Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia, the Lassa virus continues to wreak havoc in Nigeria. It has been estimated that Lassa Virus has been claiming an average of 5,000 lives per year since the first outbreak of Lassa Fever in Nigeria in the 1980s. Unfortunately, the government does not appear to be doing their best in terms of containing the disease and cutting down on the number of bleeding victims. To check out more of this depressing story:



Speaking of Orthomyxo...

Weird, but practical:

Major airport cities are going to offer flu shots past the security check points.


Why the flu likes winter

Why does influenza spread primarily in the winter months?

***drumroll please***

It's because the virus is more stable and stays in the air longer when air is cold and dry.

"Influenza virus is more likely to be transmitted during winter on the way to the subway than in a warm room," said Peter Palese, a flu researcher who is professor and chairman of the microbiology department at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York and the lead author of the flu study

Intresting point...Flu season in northern latitudes is from November to March, the coldest months. In southern latitudes, it is from May until September. In the tropics, there is not much flu at all and no real flu season.

Read more here...http://www.iht.com/articles/2007/12/05/healthscience/05flu.php


Antibiotics for sinusitis?

Although sinusitis is typically treated with antibiotics, a new study by a British research team foundthat these drugs are not as effective as we'd like to believe.  The
effect of prescribing these drugs is not just neutral, but may lead toantibiotic resistance.
The team recommends morepalliative treatment such as ibuprofen.  Speculated reasons for
the findings include that antibiotics are not able to reach the sinuses easilyand that the
infections may be more due to viruses than we acknowledge.  Although this isn't about
viruses necessarily, I thought it was pertinent given cold season!


Dave (I give up...this isn't formatting correctly.  sorry it got cut off)

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Ebola Outbreak in Uganda Continues

Another man died yesterday in Bundibugyo Hospital in Uganda, the 17th mortality due to Ebola in the regional epidemic since August. Many more medical workers are suspected to have been infected as well, particularly those working in a make-shift isolation ward at the hospital. The resources for proper isolation measures are not currently available, leaving the understaffed medical team at ongoing risk. In epidemics of extremely transmissible pathogens like Ebola or SARS CoV, hospitals and other medical centers often facilitate transmission, and become amplifiers of the epidemic. Proper behavioral preventions, like barrier nursing and proper isolation, may be the only way to effectively stop this outbreak.

- Claire


When Vaccines Go Bad

Each year thousands of children go through the traumatic experience of getting their vaccinations -- flu, tetanus, MMR(V), polio, and cervical cancer (HPV) -- to find out that the vaccine was spoiled (usually by poor refrigeration) and that they need to be revaccinated. Not only is it an economic loss on the order of 20 million each year, but kids run the risk of catching one of these viruses because the vaccines are not strong enough. And God forbid one of these ineffective vaccines revert to the virulent form and cause infection (has never happened before but is entirely feasible). Hospitals, clinics and doctors' offices really need to address this issue by monitoring refrigerator temperatures on a more regular basis.


-Tad Henry

2008 Recommended Adult Immunization Schedule

Check it out in JAMA.

Poor Boar

There was an outbreak of African swine fever in Russia reported today... I find it interesting that a virus with Africa in its name has made its way to Russia, but in any case, the outbreak was discovered when, while monitoring in the district of Chechnya near the Georgia border, someone came across a pack of dead boars. Samples were taken from the dead animals and revealed African swine fever virus. So far, no other dead animals have been found, and hopefully the outbreak was limited to the one pack of boars.

African swine fever virus is in the Asfarviridae family. I wanted to post this article because I think it's interesting to learn about viruses outside of those the in the 24 families that infect humans. The virus is highly contagious and only causes disease in domestic and feral pigs. It is spread by direct contact with infected pigs or by feeding on infected meat. Humans are not affected. Read more about the outbreak here:


Flu Season!

It's flu season and we, like a lot of other people, struggle to stay healthy. If not for ourselves, then for our family and the homeless people who count on us at the shelter. Over the years we have picked up a few simple things that help ensure that we stay germ free:

1. Don't open doors with your mouth. Normally when your hands are full the easiest way to open a door is to grip the handle with your mouth, but it's a good idea to start getting in the habit of avoiding this with viruses being so widespread.

2. Know where your blood comes from. Sure, we all need more blood, and with gas prices shooting through the roof we may not be able to be as choosey as we would like to be with regards to where it comes from. But think how much more money it will cost you when you have to spend a couple work days home sick. An extra buck or two for that blood doesn't seem so bad now does it?

3. Eat two different kinds of food a day. We all know the old adage starve a cold, overfeed a flu. We've found from personal experience though, that it is less about quantity and more about variety. This might seem to go against common sense, but give it a try. Instead of eating 5 bowls of Beef and Barely Soup tomorrow, try making the last bowl Clam Chowder. Your body will thank you, even though the clams won't!

4. Replace handshakes with saluting. The reason America wins wars is because our soldiers stay so healthy. Take this trick from the pros and switch to saluting. This is also a great way to help you figure out which people consider you to be a higher rank then them.

5. Don't go inside. Most winter time illness are caused by the increased amount of time people spend indoors. Buildings are the prime location for bacteria to start breeding. Its this reason that native Americans didn't get sick until Europeans came and started building houses. Hence the term "Cabin Fever."

These may take a little getting use to, but the results are a 100% guaranteed. If you do become ill following these steps, it is safe to assume that you are doing something wrong. Reread the list and try again.


Remote British Island Viral Outbreak

A map showing Tristan da Cunha
Britons living in what is described as the remotest community in the world are seeking help after the outbreak of an acute virus.

Many of the 271 British citizens living on the volcanic island of Tristan da Cunha, in the south Atlantic, have developed severe breathing problems.

They need to ensure that their current medical supplies do not run out.

An international operation to provide help is being led by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

BBC world affairs correspondent Mike Wooldridge said the islanders were being affected by what appears to be an outbreak of viral-inducted asthma, which causes severe breathing problems.

Tristan da Cunha's one resident doctor, a South African, has issued an appeal for medical supplies.

The South African Marine Rescue Co-ordination Centre was alerted first and informed British coastguards.

The volcanic island has no airstrip, making getting medicines there difficult.

However, merchant ships in the area are unlikely to have the necessary drugs on board and a coastguard spokesman said there were no British military vessels nearby at present.

Viruses have swept through the island before but Michael Swales, chairman of the Tristan da Cunha association, said he could not recall medicines becoming exhausted on previous occasions.

He said there was particular concern about the health of the elderly and the very young.


Resident Rosemary Glass told BBC Radio Cornwall that the island's tiny four-bed hospital was full to overflowing last week, but some patients had since gone home leaving three people in hospital.

"It makes people chesty and it's hard for them to breathe," Mrs Glass said of the illness mainly affecting the elderly and children.

Tristan da Cunha is situated 2,800 km west of Cape Town, South Africa, and is part of a small group of islands.

It was at one time on the main trading route between Europe and the Indian Ocean, but the small community living there is now extremely isolated.

The community of 275 people describe themselves as living in the world's most isolated settlement.

The island is famous for a mass evacuation to Southampton in the 1960s after a volcano erupted.

The main island is about 38 sq miles (98 sq km) and the currency is the British pound.

-Ahhh! Sounds like maybe a type of coronavrus? - Raquel

How Effective is Circumcision?

An interesting new study performed among bisexual men from New York, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia indicated that circumcision had almost no effect upon the transmission of HIV. Although previous studies performed in Africa and other parts of the world have indicated a very strong protective effect, this study questions these results. So what could be causing these results? One theory the article presents is that the prevalence of HIV in these communities is so high that it offsets any protection conferred by circumcision. That doesn't seem to make sense to me, since the prevalence rates in Africa would be much higher than in the American communities. So I guess we'll have to wait for further research to find out why this study contradicts the others.

Jon Dyal


Monday, December 3, 2007

Treatment for the Common Cold? Try Honey.

The extra credit asked about garlic, vitamin C, and Echinacea, but what about honey? A recent study finds that individuals suffering from coughing faired better with honey than a placebo or an over-the-counter cough suppressant ingredient.

It probably tasted better, too.



2007 UNAIDS/WHO AIDS epidemic update revises previous overestimates

The number of people in India living with HIV/AIDS was reduced in this update from 5.7 million to 2.5 million, mostly because of problems with the measuring metric. Previously, the Indian government extrapolated the burden of HIV/AIDS based on hospital data, but the revised, and more accurate, method involves scientifically designed public surveys. The former method was shown to overestimate the number of those with HIV/AIDS to be 2-5 times higher than they really are.

Link to the article


Sunday, December 2, 2007

H5N1 in Egland! Egad!

Zoikes! H5N1 was confirmed on a free-range poultry farm in Suffolk, Englad on November 12, 2007. The farm grows 5000 turkeys in 5 groups of 1000, 1118 ducks, and 410 geese. While H5N1 was not detected in the geese, 2% of ducks were infected, as well as a more than 50% infection prevalence in two of the geese groups. It is believed that the infection started in one of the turkey groups and that the birds were infected from a single source. However, results from epidemiological studies indicates that the virus was not introduced from imported poultry, although the current isolate is genetically closest to the virus islated from wild birds in the Czech Republic in mid-2007. H5N1 has not been detected in wild bird populations, but infection from migratory species from central Europe cannot be excluded.

Read on at http://www.defra.gov.uk/animalh/diseases/notifiable/disease/ai/pdf/ai-prelim-epireport071129.pdf

and read about the Warsaw outbreak at http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/L0136861.htm


First Case of Bird Flu in China Since May

The first case of avian influenza since May was recently reported in China, when tests confirmed that a patient in the eastern Jiangsu province was infected with H5N1 influenza. The 24-year-old man was diagnosed with pneumonia, and presented with fever, chills, and other symptoms of respiratory disease. He died today, 5 days after being admitted into the hospital. The man had had no direct contact with poultry, which has led public health officials to account for the possibility of human-to-human transmission. 69 contacts of the man have been traced and are currently under observation. None of them have shown any signs of bird flu.

- Claire


Ebola on the run!

The Ebola outbreak in Uganda that first reared its nasty head in Sept. has killed 18 people, has infected 61, and is spreading toward the Congo border. Specifically, it's spread into the Bundibugyo district, which is a poor region.... which sucks.

Interestingly, the strain causing the outbreak is unknown, and has different clinical presentation that typical Ebola; instead of causing massive hemorrhaging and causing people to die from shock, this strain is causing people to have high fevers and not bleed as much.

Check out the story here:

Oops, the Italian measles story was me.

And here's my reference for the Japanese encephalitis story:


And you said Italy was your special place?

46 cases of measles (let's review: Paramyxoviridae, (-)ssRNA, helical, enveloped, monopartite, etc) have been linked to single outbreak in the Piemonte region on northern Italy, from September 19-November 19, 2007! The index case is reported to be an UNVACCINATED(!) 17-year old girl who had visited Cambridge (UK), London, and Norwich on a school trip (Sept 2-15, 2007) along with 54 other students....oh dear...

She developed a fever and a rash, 2 and 4 days after her return to Italy, while two other unvaccinated (again !) students on the trip also developed rashes on Sept 20 and Oct 1. Although the two siblings (who were not on the trip) of the Oct 1 rash case were vaccinated against measles on Oct 3, both developed fevers 7 days after vaccination, and rashes on Oct 11 and 12, 10 days after the onset of their sister's rash.

33 additional mealses cases were identified among adolescents and young adults living or attending schools in same city where the index case resides, while 8 cases were reported in nearby towns. Epidemiologhical studies conducted showed that the link was defined as contact with a measles case 7-18 days before the onset of rash. 96% of the cases were 12-21 years old, while 93% of the cases were unvaccinated against measles.

Given that there have been several reported cases of meales in the UK, it is likely that the index case was imported from the UK. Piemonte region health officials also reprt that the measles vaccination rates for the 1989-1992 birth cohort are low (70-85%), while a greater percentage of younger cohorts (90-92%) have been vaccinated.

Read more at http://www.eurosurveillance.org/ew/2007/071129.asp#1

My Mumps, My Mumps, My Lovely Little Mumps...Check It Out...

Reported as of yesterday, Saturday 12/01/07, there has been an outbreak of nearly 100 cases of mumps in Alberta, Canada. Within the Chinook Health Region, a majority of the 38 confirmed and 21 suspected cases of mumps have been linked to the local colleges: namely University of Lethbridge and Lethbridge College. Within the Calgary area, approximately 57 mumps cases have been confirmed this year so far (January 2007 to October 2007), 43 of which were confirmed in the month of October. Even more intriguing is that six of these recent cases have been members of the University of Calgary's hockey team, thus explaining the public health officials' disease-prevention advice to local hockey-players to avoid sharing mouthgards and water-bottles.

Recall that mumps can cause fever, headache, and swollen glands around the jaw, but can sometimes (unfortunately) lead to more serious complications such as sterility, meningitis, and deafness. Thus, public health officials are working hard to put a stop to the spread of this viral infection.

Hypotheses to why such an outbreak occurred? Well, seing as how many of the cases are happening to college-aged students (age range typically 17-26) and how people in this age range received only one dose of mumps vaccine when they were children, it is thought that the immunity provided by the vaccine may have worn off. Thus, to help control the outbreak and prevent similar future outbreaks, the Canadian province is offering free mumps immunizations in two phases: first are the post-secondary students, and then everyone in the high risk 17-26 age group.

Becca Briggs

want more juicy details?

Jamaican Weed Helps HIV

Award winning scientsts extracted a substance called biosynthesise diapbenzyltrisulphide (DTP) from guinea hen weed found in Jamaica. It has been found to boost the body's production of dendritic cells and T cells, which can help the immune system in patients with HIV. It has been used in rural areas, and they are now attempting to make pharmaceutical drugs out of it.



Japanese Encephalitis

So far this year, 2450 cases of acute encephalitis syndrome have been reported in the Uttar Pradesh in India, and about 500 people have died from Japanense encephalitis. Japanese encephalitis is a flavivirus that is typically transmitted via a mosquito vector, often Culex tritaeniorhynchus. Domestic pigs and wild birds serve as reservoirs. Japanese encephalitis is the leading cause of viral encephalitis in Asia.


Saturday, December 1, 2007

Hanta's here!

Just in time for our problem set this week, New Mexico's health department announced the third case of Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome. With the colder winter weather, the officials warn that mice will be entering homes, increasing the number of human-rodent interactions and, consequently, chances of hanta infection. The Department of Health recommends that the public take precautionary measures to protect their homes from murine visitors and familiarize themselves with the symptoms of Hantavirus. Who says that taking humans and viruses doesn't teach everyday life skills?


MC Masters