Saturday, October 30, 2004

C. difficile

Medbroadcast reports on a Clostridium difficile epidemic in Quebec that has killed 109 to 217 people. CBC reports that the C. difficile superbug is likely to spread beyond Quebec.

Clostridium difficile is a bacterial infection common in hospitals; what makes the Canadian epidemic unique is its virulence, the lack of private rooms for isolating patients, and the speculation that hospital workers are helping to spread the spores by not washing their hands. Here's another FAQ on Clostridium difficile.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Lymphogranuloma venereum

The CDC is concerned about Lymphogranuloma venereum (LGV), a rare STD currently spreading among homosexual men in Northern Europe, especially the Netherlands. CNN has the Reuters story.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Bird Flu Could Kill One Billion People

Russian Expert Says Flu Epidemic May Kill Over One Billion This Year [MosNews]
The world is on the brink of a major flu epidemic — one that could claim more than a billion lives, the head of the Russian Virology Institute, Academician Dmitry Lvov said at a press conference organized by the RIA-Novosti news agency on Thursday.
“Up to one billion people could die around the whole world in six months,” Lvov said. The expert did not give a timeframe for the epidemic, but said that it is highly probable that it will start this year. “We are half a step away from a worldwide pandemic catastrophe,” the academic said.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Eagles with Bird Flu

From the don't-kiss-the-chickens department: a Thai man came forward after public appeals in Belgium. He had attempted to smuggle infected eagles into the country in his luggage. Belgian officials have killed hundreds of unfortunate birds who were in the airport at the same time, and passengers on the flights are being warned about bird flu.

This just in from ProMed-mail: The Belgian veterinarian who euthanized the two eagles has been hospitalized with bird flu. So much for the Thai Public Health Ministry's assurances that only domesticated birds had been known to transmit bird flu to humans.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Simian Foamy Virus

Canadian health authorities seem unduly concerned about simian foamy virus, a blood-borne retrovirus that has no known effects in any species.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Plague Squirrels

Via ProMED-mail: If you happen to be in Colorado Springs, don't play with the squirrels. They've tested positive for plague.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Tigers Catch Bird Flu

Medbroadcast reported yesterday that 23 captive tigers had died of bird flu in Thailand after being fed infected raw chicken. Fludemic notes that 7 more tigers have died and 40 more are being culled. If you check the Reuters article he linked, it sounds like the tigers are suffering 100% mortality. The BBC report is similar:
The tigers earmarked for culling are understood to be displaying early symptoms of infection and are estimated to have just a few days to live. "They all died after three days of showing symptoms," said Thawat Suntrajarn, a disease control expert from the Thai ministry of health, referring to the 30 tigers that have already died.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Banana Bunchy Top

Via ProMED-mail: Banana Bunchy Top Virus (BBTV) strikes Pakistan. Read all about it in the Daily Times. I don't normally report on plant diseases, but I couldn't pass up the name. Here's more info on Banana Bunchy Top from Hawaii.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Malaria Vaccine

MedicineNet reports on a new malaria vaccine:
"This is the first convincing evidence that a malaria vaccine can be produced that can impact disease in children living in Africa," said study co-researcher Dr. Filip Dubovsky, of the Malaria Vaccine Initiative, which helped fund the study.

Vaccine is a rather strong term to be using here. It's not clear to me that the vaccine is any more effective that a good DDT program.
Observing the children for six months after vaccination, Dubovsky reported that "the vaccine reduced the risk of developing the disease by 29.9 percent," while cutting the incidence of severe, life-threatening malaria episodes by 58 percent.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Anthrax in the News

USA Today reports on anthrax contamination within the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID). The Fort Detrick biolab did so much testing during the anthrax scare that spores escaped the Level 3 labs to contaminate someone's desk. Thanks to Adam from Fludemic for the link.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

If Found, Please Return to Biohazard Facility

From ProMED-mail:
On 6 Oct 2004 at the railway station of Sants de Barcelona, a blue paper bag was stolen from the owner of a clinical laboratory. It contained 5 glass tubes, 15cm long x 2cm wide, with black stoppers, containing cultures of Mycobacterium tuberculosis. They were wrapped in absorbent paper inside an opaque white plastic container with a black double cap. This was wrapped in brown parcel paper, with a letter describing the contents, which are highly contagious.

The finder is asked to contact urgently the Cuerpo Nacional de Policia, tel. 091, the local police, tel. 092, and the Servicio de Emergencias de la Generalitat, tel. 112.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

The Spanish Flu Gene

Those Spanish Flu revivalists have sent some results to Nature. They've been killing mice with their Frankenstein Flu. This New York Times article goes into more detail about the deadly hemagglutinin (HA) gene the researchers now suspect caused the extraordinary virulence of the 1918-1919 epidemic.

Even more disturbing than the resurrection itself, the researchers have decided that the virus behind the worst epidemic of all time (20-50 million people dead in the space of a year) no longer requires a Biosafety Level 4 containment; they'll just make do with the Level 3 facilities at the University of Washington.

PlagueBlog recommends against travel to Washington State this winter.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Resurrecting the Spanish Flu

The Simon criticizes efforts to resurrect the Spanish Flu from cadavers at the University of Washington. Thanks to Fludemic for the link.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Tularemia in Hamsters

Medbroadcast reports a Canadian health warning in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and northwestern Ontario about tularemia (type B) in pet hamsters. Both exposed hamsters and their owners are susceptible to the rare disease, which can be fatal.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

In the Northeast

On August 28, 2004, a man aged 38 years residing in New Jersey died from Lassa fever after returning from travel to West Africa.
See the full report from the CDC's MMWR Weekly.

Also a Dartmouth College employee contracted Hantavirus, presumably at a cabin owned by the college. See the full report from ProMed.