Friday, May 30, 2008

[Insert Alarmist Heading Here]

Strains of North American H7 bird flu have recently acquired the ability to infect human cells. This could mean bad news; we'll have to see...


Thursday, May 29, 2008

Hepatitis E Outbreak in Uganda

Hey guys, here's an update near to my heart (HepE was my model),

I've been reading about a recent outbreak of Hepatitis E virus in Kitgum, Uganda that is striking more and more victims. Initial reports quoted 314 cases and 11 deaths from the disease, but that number has recently been updated to 1797 cases and 35 deaths. The virus affects pregnant women much more than others, particularly women in their third trimester of pregnancy. Reports suggest that the virus has come across with refugees from Southern Sudan. The fecal-oral spread of the disease could easily be exacerbated by the crowding associated with refugee movement to the area. Here's the full link:

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Avian Flu Confirmation - Bangladesh

The first case of Avian flu in humans in Bangladesh was confirmed Friday by the WHO. The flu was present in a 15-month old infant male who survived but the outbreak has now made Bangladesh the 15th country to have had human incidence of the virus.

Click here to read the primary report


Hand, Foot and Mouth Outbreak Continues - Mongolia

Infant and child outbreak of hand, foot and mouth disease in Mongolia continues. Health Ministry of Mongolia now says that 1000 cases have been confirmed. All kindergartens, elementary schools, and 4th and 5th grades have been closed in hopes of controlling the outbreak. Since the disease thrives in warmer temperatures, it is thought that the peak of the epidemic is still to come.

Click here to read the primary source


Chikungunya Outbreak - India

Survey conducted on Wednesday found that 400 people are infected with Chikungunya in the regions of Sullia, Puttur, Belthangady, and Bantwal taluks. 2100 of these cases have been confirmed. Authorities hope that early monsoons will stop the outbreak by washing away mosquito larvae and are currently encouraging people in the area to dump standing water.

Click here to read the primary source!


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

USDA bans "downer" cows

I'm not sure if Bob covered this in the TSE/prions lecture, but some meat industries use "downer" cows, or cows that have unknown disabilities that prevent them from moving as effectively as other cows. There are obvious and terrifying implications of this- a faulty gate is one of the first signs of "Mad Cow" or BSE infection, which we know can cause "human" BSE, or vCJD. This is a really scary loophole that the industry has been using for decades.
Well, the USDA just changed that! As an effort to boost public confidence in US meats, the USDA has closed this loophole and banned the use of these "downer" cows in meat processing. Since the discovery of "Mad Cow," the USDA banned the use of downers, but allowed for the use of cattle that became disabled after their preslaughter inspection. Again, as we all know, the "incubation period" of BSE and all the prion diseases is 5-10 years, so even a cow that is just showing signs of this has likely been infected for a long time- a useless and very harmful loophole. Regardless, the use of downers came to the spotlight in January when the Humane Society released undercover tapes of a slaughterhouse in Chino, CA using all sorts of mechanisms to move disabled cows. This resulted in a public outcry and the largest US meat recall in history: over 143 million pounds of beef.
Full story at


Tuesday, May 20, 2008


a breakthrough strand of chickenpox not covered by the vaccine has broken out in 90 children along the central coast. the school districts are offering booster shots to kids, but it's not clear what good these will be if they aren't immunogenic for this strain. also, getting people to congregate together to receive the vaccine is probably one of the worst ideas given the fact that chickenpox is one of the most infectious viruses. a far better model would be to distribute the vaccine (if you even decide that would be wise at all) from door-to-door so that people aren't exposed to each other.


correy dekker's vaccine email:

Chicken Pox Outbreak Hits Central Coast Schools

More Than 90 Students Infected

The Chicken pox is hitting the Central Coast in a big way this month. Two local counties have been dealing with an outbreak of the virus. More than 90 children have been infected by the virus in four elementary schools. One school had to cancel class for a day in hopes that a day apart would help kids avoid the itchy illness.

Sixty-two cases have been reported in Santa Cruz County, with another 31 cases reported in San Benitor County. All 31 of the San Benito cases came from one school. Only 11 of those cases have been confirmed by county health officials. Southside school shut its doors Friday and gave students a long weekend, hoping that the time apart would allow the virus to run its course. Southside principal Eric Johnson said the virus has hit all grades equally, kindergarten through eighth grade.

"At this point, we're watching when they come in," Johnson said. "We're asking parents to keep them home if they show symptoms and go see their doctor."

The school has posted warnings outside to warn visitors of the potential health hazard and school officials have sent information packets home instructing parents on the symptoms of chicken pox and what to do if they think their child is infected. School officials also reminded families that the school will be offering booster vaccine shots on Wednesday.

As of July 2001, state law requires that all kindergarten and pre-school students have a dose of the Varicella vaccine before they can attend school. Health officials said that even though a child has received the vaccine, they can still become infected with a "breakthrough" chicken pox virus, which is milder but still contagious. The virus can be spread by nose and mouth through physical contact or through the air.

The Vaccine Page (

Monday, May 19, 2008

This was my new and hot last class...

Adults over the age of 60 are now being recommended to get the Merck and Co. Zostavax vaccine against shingles. The vaccine was approved by the FDA in 2006 and insurance companies are suspected to start covering the cost of the vaccine. According to the article, there are about a million cases of shingles in the US each year, half of which occur in people 60 and over and the vaccine has been shown to reduce the occurrence of the disease by about 50%. However the vaccine right now still costs about $150, so that is a current limitation given its recommendation for everyone over 60 in the US.

the article:

Yeah vaccines!


Thursday, May 15, 2008

Smallpox drug? Tests are lookin' good

A new antiviral drug is being developed which could protect against smallpox and other related viruses. Bonus is that it has already performed well in the first test of its safety and activity in humans. It's called ST-246, and was recently tested in 38 volunteers. At the moment, the only "treatment" for smallpox is vaccination within 4 days of exposure. As we learned, cidofovir has also been used. So in case smallpox is leaked again, we might have something to rely on.
Check it out!
Full story at


Seoul just killed all poultry in the city

To prevent the spread of H5N1, of course. SCARY!


EV71 Spreading across Asia

Hey all,

I reported on the outbreak of EV71 that started running rampant in China a few weeks ago. At the time, it didn't show any signs of slowing down, and cases were just beginning to be reported outside of the initial province in which the virus had killed 26 children and infected nearly 10,000.

Unfortunately, the disease has not slowed down. The enterovirus has migrated out of China, with thousands of cases being reported in Singapore and Mongolia. Just recently the first fatality from EV71 was reported in the capital of Beijing. Although admittedly the fatality rate is still very low, (36/ 20,000+) I'm just in awe of how fast this thing is traveling. There have been reports of it infecting adults as well as children, making this an even greater threat. I can't imagine what would happen were this to be sustained until the summer olympics. Let's hope China can get a handle on it long before then. Here's the most recent update.


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

okay, this isn't news

so this isn't news, but i thought it was so cool, i just couldn't pass up putting it on the blog. it's basically a flash animation of one of the sixteen possible models of HIV replication. this one is better than the classical model because it avoids the 2nd jump, which is really thermodynamically unfavorable, but it still fails to explain the virion's diploidy:

the flash video is at the bottom of the screen (i could get it to play on safari, but not fire fox)


Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Next SARS?

So mystery disease on a Canadian train kills a 60-year-old woman via ARDS within minutes of coughing. Train was quarantined when 6 other passangers suddenly fell ill with a flu-like illness. Is it a new virus or just anthrax? Turns out, authorities claimed the incidents were unrelated.... Quite a riveting recap on promed.

Click here for more info


Thursday, May 8, 2008

Who should MDs let die in a pandemic?

What a headline, right? This is an article written by the Associated Press, for better or worse. I'm focusing on the ethics of pandemic situations as my project currently, although I haven't really focused so much on this portion of the ethical issue. More to come in my presentations.
My opinion on this article is mixed. On one hand, it's good to see that physician leaders are beginning to get some press on this incredibly hard triage decision that would be faced in a pandemic. The public needs to understand how hard this decision is, and perhaps be involved in the decision process, as they have been involved in making decisions about quarantine policies. However, lots more work needs to be done in this area of concern, and this article is somewhat lacking when it comes to the hard-core ethical arguments.
Would love to hear what you all think of this issue!

Crimean-Congo Hemorrhagic Fever in Turkey

In the past week, 5 people in the Samsun province of Turkey have died on what has been confirmed to be Crimean-Congo Hemorrhagic Fever. Four more patients are currently hospitalized with characteristic symptoms of CCHF. Half a dozen more children from the central Anatolian region are also under surveillance. The Turkish health ministry is attempting to increase public awareness about the dangers of tick bites, which are the vector of CCHF, and are encouraging people who have been bitten to seek medical care quickly, particularly if they experience fever, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea after being bitten.

For more info, check out:

- Claire

Links for Presentations

Just in case you wanted to reference these sites for yourselves:

The WHO flu report document:

The man I thought was Bob:

Gardasil for Men Studies:

In tomorrow's May edition of Science, researchers from Harvard Medical school and University of Wisconsin-Madison are reporting a new discovery regarding the molecular underpinnings of CMV host infections.

The scientists found that CMV mimics a human host cell protein to help hijack the cell's machinery. The viral protein UL57 mimics a human protein and functions as a regulator of a tumor suppressor gene. The viral protein modifies the tumor suppressor gene Rb to accelerate cell growth which is preferable for the virus's proliferation.

Check out the original article here.

yours in calici,


Wednesday, May 7, 2008

someone was sick!

okay, so i don't really have that much to write this week, but someone in our class was really, really sick this week with what probably was norwalk (was it coming out both ends, unnamed person?). virology research, indeed. what a good student! probably was norwalk if it was accompanied by diarrhea. could be a shitload of things if not (pun not initially intended). just in case you've forgotten the wonders of caliciviruses, i've linked to the ictv site on them. hope you all are less miserable than this person was. they looked pretty healthy today, though, so that's good.


Sunday, May 4, 2008

Deadly Hand Foot and Mouth Disease in China

So if anybody's been getting Pro-Med reports lately I'm sure they've been hearing lots about the outbreak of Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease that's hitting China REALLY badly right now. The disease is caused by enterovirus 71, and like it's near cousin polio can have paralytic symptoms apart from the namesake rash. Although the mortality rate is not strikingly high, 23 children have already died from the disease, testimony to the enormous numbers of children that are being infected. In the hardest hit city of Fuyang, 3736 children have come down with the disease, and it shows no signs of slowing down. 415 reported cases arose in the last 24 hours alone. And that's only the cases that are getting reported. Worse, reports indicate that the virus may be spreading to other provinces, as a case was discovered in Guangdong Province yesterday. Serious stuff, it's growing like a wildfire.


Thursday, May 1, 2008

Differering responses to HIV treatment

A recent study has come out showing that there are differing responses to HIV treatment, depending on race and sex. As one might guess, those that are often already in more stressful, lower socioeconomic environments on average, do not fair as well (Whitehall study, anyone?):;_ylt=AgTfdZX54OWKH_YHJT.nIzTVJRIF

Also, measles have hit 70 cases in the US today:;_ylt=AnqX9Vch.4c7fyBmGdCVRDnVJRIF


Measles stalks in Arizona

Hey guys,

In Pima, Arizona there is currently an outbreak of measles confirmed in 16 people, and potentially affecting many more. It's the largest outbreak seen in the US this year. This is an update that reinforces a lot of the concepts we're talking about. The trend we're seeing of measles outbreaks across the US is the end result of many factors promoting re-emergence. For instance, there's waning immunity from the early vaccines or incomplete dosing of vaccines that theoretically gave lifelong immunity. The article suggests that many people who believe they are immune may in fact be at risk, particularly if they were vaccinated in the 1960's. Secondly, in this case we see the ease of foreign travel leading to the introduction of new diseases (or those that had not been seen in a long time). The "patient zero" for this outbreak was a Swiss woman on vacation, who then came into contact with others at the hospital when she subsequently developed pneumonia. Now there are 4th and 5th generation cases. Lastly, it brings to mind a lot of discussions we've had about "eradication" and what it would really take. If the US, a country with enormous resources and a very strong public health system, can't shake this disease completely, how are countries like Sierra Leone going to accomplish this? Anyway, here's the Pro-Med link for the article.,F2400_P1001_PUB_MAIL_ID:1010,72385