Vaccinations against Ebola begin in Congolese town of Bikoro

Last week, officials in charge of stemming the latest outbreak of Ebola virus in the Democratic Republic of Congo began the process of inoculating healthcare workers and other individuals who may have come in direct contact with infect individuals, in the Congolese city of Mbandaka. According to The Globe & Mail, inoculations are now also being doled out in Bikoro, a town in the northwest of Congo, where 5 of the 12 confirmed cases of Ebola are believed to have originated.

It’s believed that there are at least 56 cases of the Ebola: 35 cases have been confirmed, leaving 13 probable cases and 13 suspected cases for doctors to deal with and patients to fret over.

From The Globe & Mail:

Amid worries of the spread of Ebola, several schools in the Iboko health zone, about 180 kilometres (112 miles) southeast of Mbandaka, have been closed, according to reports by U.N.-backed Radio Okapi.

Many residents in one of the Iboko localities told Radio Okapi that they prefer to stay at home to avoid infection, following the death of a woman who had Ebola in the nearby Bobala area.

One resident said that what they first thought were rumours were becoming reality with the death and that they were very scared to interact. Four confirmed Ebola deaths have taken place in the Iboko health zone, according to Congo’s health ministry.

Given that the hemorrhagic fever-causing virus has up to a 90% chance of killing those that it infects, to say that such precautions and the fear that those living in areas where the virus has cropped up during this most recent outbreak are reasonable would be an understatement. Read the rest

Two late-stage Ebola patients break quarantine, the number they may have infected is unknown

Last week, the Democratic Republic of Congo’s latest Ebola outbreak was confirmed to have spread to Mbandaka, a transportation hub, home to over one million people. As of the time that this post was written, 31 cases of the disease have been confirmed in the west African nation. Of those confirmed to have been afflicted, nine have died.

Oh, and three individuals confirmed to have contracted the disease, two of which who were showing significant symptoms, managed to escape quarantine and mingle with an unknown number of people.

From the Washington Post:

In a briefing in Geneva, Jean-Clement Cabrol, a doctor who had just returned from Congo, said "the patients were in the active phase of the disease, vomiting" when their families removed them from the hospital, put them on motorcycles, and took them to a religious gathering of 50 people. Ebola is contagious through bodily fluids, and both patients, who were at an acute phase of the illness, died within hours.

Those two were among the three Ebola patients who left a hospital isolation ward and reentered the general population, according to the Doctors Without Borders mission in the Congolese city of Mbandaka.

That two of the patients, at the height of their power to infect others, opted to leave the quarantine that they’d been put under reads like something monstrous. But it couldn’t be more human. In their final hours, the pair, knowing that death couldn’t have been closer, turned to the comfort of their families and their faith, hoping that it would be a balm against the unspeakable misery that they must have been in. Read the rest

Ebola outbreak in Congo has spread to city of one million people

The latest Ebola outbreak in Congo has moved from the rural area in which is was first discovered to Mbandaka: a city home to approximately one million people. That the disease has spread to an area with such a dense population is extremely troubling all on its own. Add to this the fact that Mbandaka is a major transportation hub with an airport, river traffic and direct transport options to Kinshasa, Congo's capital city, and you've got a scenario with the potential to keep World Health Organization personnel awake at night.

From the BBC

Forty-two people have now been infected and 23 people are known to have died.

Confirmed, probable and suspected cases of Ebola have been recorded in three health zones of Congo's Equateur province, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said.

The WHO's Peter Salama said health workers had identified 430 people who may have had contact with the disease and were working to trace more than 4,000 contacts of Ebola patients, who had spread across northwest Congo.

As part of efforts to stem the spread of the often deadly disease, drug manufacturer, Merick, shipped 4,000 doses of an unlicensed Ebola vaccine to Congo that was proven to have been effective in a previous outbreak of the disease in West Africa. There's just one problem: the vaccine needs to be stored between -60 and -80 Celsius. In a first world country, that mightn't be an issue--we've the facilities and infrastructure to make chilling the vaccine to those temperatures a piece of cake. Read the rest

Can you spot the ticks in this poppy seed muffin?

The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention tweeted this image with the question: "Can you spot all 5 ticks in this photo?" Of course ticks generally don't hang out in pastries. The point was just to show how difficult it can be to spot ticks. But apparently the thought (and image) of a tick-infested muffin grossed out many Twitter users. The CDC apologized with, of course, a pun about ticking people off.

Anyway, here is the CDC's guide to "Avoiding Ticks."

Read the rest

Supermarket chickens have a "superbug" problem

If you enjoyed British supermarkets' bleach-dipped rotten turkeys, perhaps you like to try their antibiotic-resistant superbug-infested chickens.

The FSA has also noted that the proportion of campylobacter-infected chickens which showed resistance to key antibiotics, in this case ciprofloxacin, “has increased significantly” compared with a previous survey of chickens sold at retail 10 years ago. More than 4,000 samples were tested, then samples of smaller numbers exhibiting campylobacter infections retested to detect whether they carried bacteria resistant to the key antibiotics. Ciprofloxacin resistance was identified in more than half of the samples of one form of campylobacter tested, 237 out of 437 tests on Campylobacter jejuni, and in nearly half (52 out of 108) of another strain, Campylobacter coli.

The results were taken by experts to show that the use of antibiotics to treat farm animals is giving rise to the spread of resistant bacteria, which can have major effects on human health because one of the main methods of transmission to many strains of resistant bacteria is through contact with livestock in the food chain. While proper hygiene practices and thorough cooking can kill the bugs, any lapses can result in serious infection.

The paper: "A Microbiological survey of campylobacter contamination in fresh whole UK produced chilled chickens at retail sale".

Post-Trump/Brexit omni-deregulation shall be a splendid affair.

Photo: Bertie Charman Read the rest

Drones to airdrop hundreds of thousands of mosquitos to fight disease

One approach to fight mosquito-borne diseases is to introduce huge numbers of sterilized male mosquitos to beat out the wild males in competition for female mosquitos. The challenge is that it's expensive to airdrop the mosquitos from airplanes and often difficult to traverse developing nations by ground. Now, WeRobotics has prototyped a drone that carries hundreds of thousands of mosquitos and releases them at just the right moment. The first experiments in South or Central America will take place in the next few months. From IEEE Spectrum:

The goal is to pack as many mosquitoes as possible into the drone. However, clumping is a problem because the insects form “a big collection of legs and wings,” he says. The trick, according to Klaptocz, is to keep them inside a precooled container: “Between 4 °C and 8 °C, they’ll fall asleep, and you can pack them up fairly densely.”

It’s also important to control the release of the mosquitoes, rather than dumping them out all at once. “We tried different systems to get the mosquitoes out of the holding canister, including vibrations and a treadmill,” he says. “Right now, we’re using a rotating element with holes through which individual mosquitoes can fall.” Once the mosquitoes fall out of the canister, they spend a few seconds in a secondary chamber warming up to the outside air temperature before exiting the drone, to make sure they’re awake and ready to fly.

Read the rest

All about the Black Death flea that killed 100 million people

Oriental Rat Flea

(Xenopsylla cheopis)

SIZE: Up to 1/6 in (4 mm)

FAMILY: Pulicidae

HABITAT: Near rats, their primary food source

DISTRIBUTION: Worldwide, particularly tropical and subtropical climates, but some temperate zones as well

MEET THE RELATIVES: The cat flea, Ctenocephalides felis, is a relative, as is the dog flea C. can is—but in the United States, it is primarily the cat flea that preys on both cats and dogs. They are known to transmit tapeworms.

Excerpted from Wicked Bugs (Young Readers Edition): The Meanest, Deadliest, Grossest Bugs on Earth by Amy Stewart, illustrated by Briony Morrow-Cribbs. © 2017 by Amy Stewart. Reprinted by permission of Algonquin Young Readers. All rights reserved. Available from Amazon.

On an autumn day in 1907, two brothers in San Francisco found a dead rat in the cellar. Inspired by their father, an undertaker, they decided to find a coffin for the rat to give it a proper funeral.

When they ran home for dinner that night, the boys brought along a souvenir of their adventures—bloodthirsty fleas, starved for a meal after their rat host had died. Along with the fleas came a deadly disease—the plague.

The rat flea would prefer to leave humans, cats, dogs, and chickens alone, but when rat populations experience a massive die off—as they do during epidemics of the plague—the fleas turn to other warm-blooded creatures for their food. This is exactly what happened to those two unfortunate boys. Within a month, the plague had killed their parents but spared the boys, leaving them orphans. Read the rest

Remember ebola? Media-inflamed health scares, quantified

Just how overblown was the media panic over ebola? This interactive chart compares media coverage of a dozen health scares, from mad cow disease to zika. Read the rest

Star-shaped polymer kills superbug strains without antibiotics

Shu Lam, a 25-year-old PhD student at the University of Melbourne's School of Engineering, has developed a polymer that rips apart the cell walls of superbug strain bacteria.

From Science Alert:

The polymers - which they call SNAPPs, or structurally nanoengineered antimicrobial peptide polymers - work by directly attacking, penetrating, and then destabilising the cell membrane of bacteria.

Unlike antibiotics, which 'poison' bacteria, and can also affect healthy cells in the area, the SNAPPs that Lam has designed are so large that they don't seem to affect healthy cells at all.

"With this polymerised peptide we are talking the difference in scale between a mouse and an elephant," Lam's supervisor, Greg Qiao, told Marcus Strom from the Sydney Morning Herald. "The large peptide molecules can't enter the [healthy] cells."

Read the rest

Siberian heat wave unleashes deadly 'zombie anthrax' outbreak

At least 90 people have been hospitalized from an anthrax outbreak in Russia, including 50 children. Eight are confirmed as infected with anthrax. Doctors believe at least 6 patients have the more virulent intestinal form of the disease, which killed one boy, age 12. Authorities say it's the first fatal anthrax outbreak in Russia in more than 75 years. Read the rest

Zika hits the US military: 33 service members now have virus, says Pentagon

Pentagon officials told reporters today that at least 33 active-duty American service members, one of whom is a pregnant woman, have Zika. Read the rest

Gonorrhea may soon be unbeatable

Approximately 350,000 people in the US are diagnosed with gonorrhea each year. According to the CDC, it may soon be untreatable. Currently, the sexually-transmitted disease, not-so-fondly known as The Clap or The Drip, is treated with two antibiotics, azithromycin and ceftriaxone. Data is currently showing a rise in gonorrhea samples that are resistant to those drugs.

Companies are developing new antibiotics but could be "years away," says CDC medical epidemiologist Robert D. Kirkcaldy.

"We think … it’s a matter of when and not if with resistance,” he says. “This bug is so smart and can mutate so rapidly.”

(Scientific American) Read the rest

First case of female-to-male sexually-transmitted Zika reported, in NYC

The Centers for Disease Control and Infection reported the first confirmed case of Zika transmitted from a woman to a man during sex. Previously, they thought that the disease was only likely to be sexually-transmitted from a male to female or male to male. The CDC will soon update their advisory "for sexually active people in which the couple is not pregnant or concerned about pregnancy and for people who want to reduce personal risk of Zika infection through sex." From CNN:

A non-pregnant woman in her 20s had unprotected vaginal sex with a male partner on the day she returned from travel to a country where Zika is circulating. The next day, she came down with Zika-like symptoms, including fever, rash, fatigue and muscle pain, along with numbness and tingling in her fingers and toes. On day three, she visited her primary care doctor, who took blood and urine samples, and sent them off to the NYC health department. Both tested positive for the virus.

On day seven after intercourse, her male partner, also in his 20s, began to show the same typical signs of Zika, such as fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes, despite the fact that he had not traveled outside the United States for more than a year...

While this is the first documented case of female to male sexual transmission, it's not the first clue that the Zika virus might be hiding in the female genital tract. A case report published this week in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal tells the story of a 27-year old Guadeloupean woman who came down with Zika in May.

Read the rest

San Diego woman contracts Zika through sex, first such case in region

A woman in San Diego, CA is reported to have contracted the Zika virus through sexual transmission. Read the rest

This graph shows causes of death by age

People between the ages of 15-30 are more likely to die from external causes than any other reason. The 60s, 70s, and 80s are cancer years. If you've made it that far, your failing heart is most likely to kill you. Nathan Yau created this stacked area graph that "shows how cause of death varies across sex and race, based on mortality data from 2005 through 2014. Select a group to see the changes. Select causes to see them individually." Read the rest

This video will show you how to live so long, you'll be the oldest person alive on the planet.

It's complicated.

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