New tick menace has the potential to spread terrifying viruses

Thanks to climate change, folks living in regions that were once tick-free zones have had to begin getting used to the blood-thirsty little bastards. Just as these unfortunate souls were getting used to this new reality, it seems that the bugs, which up until now have been happy working solo, are ganging up for all new levels of blood-draining terror.

According to Ars Technica, a species of tick that’s been a massive pain in the ass in Asia has made its way to North America. Currently doing its thing on the United States' eastern seaboard, the Asian Longhorned Tick travels in swarms and has the potential to spread all sorts of ugly diseases to livestock, pets and humans alike.

From Ars Technica:

Key to the tick’s explosive spread and bloody blitzes is that its invasive populations tend to reproduce asexually, that is, without mating. Females drop up to 2,000 eggs over the course of two or three weeks, quickly giving rise to a ravenous army of clones. In one US population studied so far, experts encountered a massive swarm of the ticks in a single paddock, totaling well into the thousands. They speculated that the population might have a ratio of about one male to 400 females.

Most troubling is the fact that the Asian Longhorned Tick is known to carry a recently discovered virus that causes SFTS: severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome. Those that contract SFTS can expect a wide range of terrifying symptoms including “fever, vomiting, hemorrhaging, and organ failure.” With a mortality rate of up to 30%, it’s definitely nothing to scoff at. 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

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

Zika-infected mosquitos are now in the U.S.

It looks like Zika-infected mosquitos have finally made their way to the U.S. Four people who live in the Miami-Dade and Broward counties of Florida came down with the Zika virus in early July, and they all contracted it locally, most likely from mosquito bites.

"These are the first cases of locally transmitted Zika virus in the continental United States," CDC Director Tom Frieden said in a news briefing Friday. "As we have anticipated, Zika is now here."

Although the Zika virus isn't usually dangerous for most people, it can be devastating for the fetus of a pregnant women. But for now the CDC says that because of aggressive measures to control these mosquitos, they don't expect a widespread transmission of the virus. Still, pregnant women in Florida should take precautions.

"We know this virus is most detrimental to expecting mothers," he [Florida Gov. Rick Scott] said. "If you are pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant and live in the impacted area, I urge you to contact your OB/GYN for guidance and to receive a Zika prevention kit. I also ask every Floridian to take proper precautions by eliminating any standing water and wearing insect repellent."

The CDC will be reevaluating the situation daily.

Read the full story at The Washington Post. 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

Ebola-free Liberia mysteriously gets 3rd new victim today

After almost two months of an Ebola-free Liberia, the deadly disease has reared its head again. And officials fear there may be a new way of contracting it. Three cases have popped up in the last twelve days, in the village of Nedowein, 30 miles from Liberia's capital, and no one knows how the victims were infected. The first victim was a 17-year-old boy who died on Sunday. The other two victims from the same village, ages 24 and 27, are in stable condition. None of the three had visited countries still infected with Ebola, which adds mystery to this new round of Ebola.

"An Ebola case being reported in the middle part of Liberia is confusing," said Adolphus Gbinee, Memaigar's uncle. "We do not have cases at our borders, not even in Monrovia. How could Ebola jump over those places and come here in Nedowein?"

One theory is that it was transmitted by an animal. The three infected people had all eaten a dead dog that had been dug up before they came down with the virus. Another theory is that the disease hadn't actually been completely eradicated from Liberia. And a third theory is that perhaps the disease was spread through semen, which can carry the virus for 90 days. Researchers are looking at these and other possible ways the disease could have made a comeback.

Officials are keeping tabs on 175 people who had contact with the victims. Over 11,200 people have died from the West African outbreak since 2013. Read the rest

More on MERS

MERS is the SARS-related virus that's killing people in the Middle East — and the government of Saudi Arabia, where most of the outbreak is happening, has been reticent about releasing information on infections and deaths. Now, the government of Jordan has admitted that the earliest recorded outbreak, which happened back in April of 2012, actually infected at least 10 people, rather than the previously reported two. It sounds like this revelation was the result of an internal re-evaluation of previous records, rather than the suppression of something the government had long known. But it gives you a good idea of how bad the epidemiological information on MERS is right now, and how little we know about it. Read the rest

New virus targets online banking systems in Mideast

Russian security firm Kaspersky Lab claims to have uncovered a new "cyber-espionage toolkit" designed by the same people behind the state-sponsored Flame malware that infiltrated machines in Iran. The researchers claim this new malware has been found infecting systems in other countries in the Middle East, and targets online financial systems. More at Wired Threat Level and Reuters. They're calling this one "Gauss." Read the rest

New Skype malware threat reported: Poison Ivy

Dancho Danchev reports an incident in which a friend pinged him at an odd hour on Skype "with a message pointing to what appeared to be a photo site with the message 'hahahahaha foto' and a link to hxxp://random_subdomain.photalbum.org." Yup, malware. The Poison Ivy trojan is spreading across Skype. [webroot via Joseph Menn] Read the rest