The new flu

After stumping her doctors, a sick Taiwanese woman turned out to be infected with a strain of bird flu never before seen in humans. She survived, and nobody else appears to be infected, but you might want to get used to thinking about H6N1.

Tidbits for hypochondriacs

If you would like to avoid catching somebody's cold, you should attempt to remain at least six feet away from them. That is the distance respiratory droplets can travel through air.

Corporate executives indicted for willfully endangering public health

Officials from the Peanut Corporation of America are being indicted for their roles in a 2009 salmonella outbreak that killed at least nine people. It's rare for this kind of prosecution to actually happen, writes Maryn McKenna at her Superbug blog. But, in this case, there's mounds of evidence that executives circumvented safety testing, ignored positive salmonella results, and pressured their employees to send out product even though it might be tainted. Here's the money quote, from PCA's former president, revealed in an email recovered by the prosecution: "Shit, just ship it."

Vaccine-resistant whooping cough found in Philadelphia

When we talk about the resurgence of childhood illnesses, we tend to focus on vaccine-resistant people as the primary cause. And it's true that a large population of un-vaccinated kids can give a disease like whooping cough a foothold in a community, and allow it to spread to kids who haven't been vaccinated yet or who can't be vaccinated for various medical reasons. But there's another facet to this story, as well. Some of the strains of bacteria that cause whooping cough are also resistant to the vaccine. Those strains have been found in Japan, France, and Finland. Last week, The New England Journal of Medicine reported on 12 cases of vaccine-resistant whooping cough in Philadelphia.

Another danger for astronauts: Super bacteria

Bacteria living zero-gravity environments become more virulent. People living in zero-gravity environments have less-than-fully-functional immune systems. The result is a danger for space travelers that few of us on Earth ever think about — even though a lot of early astronauts, right up through the Apollo program, suffered severe infections in flight, or shortly after landing. Ed Yong's article for Wired UK from 2011 is a reminder that there's a lot of details that need to be worked out before humanity can become a space-faring species. We've got more worry about up there than just radiation.

Meet Vomiting Larry

Vomiting Larry is a humanoid robot designed to projectile vomit all over a lab at the Health and Safety Laboratory in Derbyshire, England. He's helping scientists learn about how diseases spread. Warning: If you read this Reuters story by Kate Kelland you will be forced to acknowledge the existence of "aerosolized vomit". (Via Microbe World)