Tag Archives: disease

Polio returns to Nigeria

Two years after the last previous case and only one year from declaring Nigeria polio-free, two children have been diagnosed with the crippling virus.

They are going to immediately begin immunizing 5 million children in the affected region.

Coincidentally, that area has been the epicenter of an insurgency waged by Boko Haram, an Islamist militant group that has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced more than 2 million since their fight began in 2009. During Boko Haram’s time in Borno, the group has been responsible for destroying hundreds of health centers, and has caused so much damage in some areas that it has become hard for vaccinators to do their jobs effectively.

One can’t help wondering if these new cases occurred because of this Islamic insurgency.

Posted on the road from Tucson to the Grand Canyon.

The arrival of two new childhood diseases to America

Link here.

In the span of four months, at least 94 children in 33 U.S. states have developed a devastating form of paralysis with symptoms similar to polio. Some require a ventilator to breathe. And some of the greatest government health minds in the country say they have no idea what’s causing it. At the same time, during the past four months, at least 12 children have died after falling ill with a respiratory virus called Enterovirus D-68 (EV-D68). Again, federal health officials are at a loss to explain the origin of the epidemic.

It appears that the first, now dubbed acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), might be linked to the second.

In a November 7 alert to practitioners, the CDC noted, “the unusual clustering of acute limb weakness occurred against a background of a nationwide outbreak of severe respiratory illness among children due to enterovirus-D68 (EV-D68). Several of the patients in California and nearly half of the 11 cases identified in Colorado had tested positive for EV-D68 from nasopharyngeal (NP) swabs at the time of admission for their neurologic illness. This raised a possible association between these neurologic illnesses and the ongoing outbreak of respiratory disease due to EV-D68.”

Whether both are linked to the flood of illegal immigrant children allowed to enter the U.S. this past summer remains unclear.

Ebola’s rate of growth

The journal Science provides a detailed analysis of the infection rate of ebola, as well a reasonable estimate of the present and future number of cases.

The article makes two key points. First, the trends “…clearly show that the number of cases has roughly doubled every 3 to 4 weeks and that this trend is continuing. If underreporting gets worse, however, it may be even more difficult to discern such trends.”

Second, there is some good news in the worst effected countries.

The number of new cases in some areas at the epicenter of the outbreak– Kenema and Kailahun districts in Sierra Leone and Liberia’s Lofa county–has been dropping, and that’s not a result of underreporting, says Dye. “It has happened for a sufficiently large number of weeks now that we are confident that it’s a real reduction in incidence on the ground, probably related to control measures,” he says. “Our colleagues working on the ground believe it is too.”

One important factor has been the increase in safe burials, Dye says. (The bodies of Ebola victims are very infections.) People in the affected areas have resisted abandoning traditional burial practices that carry a high risk of infection, but in these three areas, local leaders, supported by WHO and others, have come to advocate a change. If that happens elsewhere, says Dye, “we expect to be able to cut out a substantial amount of infection in the community.”

A blue flask of viruses

The story of the discovery of Ebola.

The next day—September 29—the package arrived: a cheap plastic thermos flask, shiny and blue. I settled down with Guido Van Der Groen—a shy, funny, fellow Belgian aged about thirty, a few years older than I—and René Delgadillo, a Bolivian postdoc student, to open it up on the lab bench. Nowadays it makes me wince just to think of it. Sure, we were wearing latex gloves—our boss insisted on gloves in the lab but we used no other precautions, no suits or masks of any kind.

We didn’t even imagine the risk we were taking. Indeed, shipping those blood samples in a simple thermos, without any kind of precautions, was an incredibly perilous act. Maybe the world was a simpler, more innocent place in those days, or maybe it was just a lot more reckless.

Unscrewing the thermos, we found a soup of half-melted ice: it was clear that subzero temperatures had not been constantly maintained. And the thermos itself had taken a few knocks, too. One of the test tubes was intact, but there were pieces of a broken tube—its lethal content now mixed up with the ice water—as well as a handwritten note, whose ink had partially bled away into the icy wet.

Read it all. The excerpt is from a book length memoir that looks to me to be a very worthwhile read.

Russian authorities struggle to contain the spread of African swine fever, a deadly virus that attacks pigs.

Russian authorities struggle to contain the spread of African swine fever, a deadly virus that attacks pigs.

Russian authorities have incinerated tens of thousands of pigs and closed roads in the past few weeks, in an attempt to contain an emerging outbreak of African swine fever, a viral disease so lethal to the animals that it has been likened to Ebola. The spread of the disease comes with a heavy economic toll — last year, the Russian Federation lost 300,000 of the country’s 19 million pigs to swine fever, at an estimated cost of about 7.6 billion roubles (US$240 million).

U.N. Forces from Nepal introduced cholera to Haiti

We’re here to help you! U.N. rescue forces from Nepal were the ones who introduced cholera to Haiti after the 2010 earthquake.

Soon after the start of the outbreak, which has sickened close to 300,000 people and killed nearly 5000, Haitians fingered the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), which has a camp populated by Nepalese soldiers in Mirebalais in the Centre Department, very close to where the first cholera cases occurred. The camp was also blamed in a leaked epidemiological report by a French cholera expert, Renaud Piarroux of the University of the Mediterranean in Marseille, written at the request of the Haitian government. Several genetic studies showed that the Haitian cholera strain strongly resembled others found recently in South Asia—although none pinpointed Nepal specifically.

Yet some cholera scientists—including Rita Colwell, seen by many as a giant in the field—contended that the bacteria had more likely been present in local waters, and that the outbreak had been triggered by a combination of environmental factors.

Rita Colwell is hardly what I’d call a “giant in the field,” at least nowadays. Though her biography lists a lot of research work, the last decade she has spent most of her time playing politics as a political appointee, going from one government agency to another.