Thursday, December 30, 2004

Acute Eosinophilic Pneumonia

From HealthDay News via MedicineNet: Government Studies Rare Pneumonia Outbreak Among Iraq Troops.
[...] acute eosinophilic pneumonia (AEP), is so rare that the entire medical literature contains only about 150 published accounts of it, according to lead study author Dr. Andrew F. Shorr, chief of the pulmonary clinic at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. And none of that literature has accounts of the disease striking in clusters, as it apparently did in Iraq.
There seems to be no explanation for the unusual cluster, which included two deaths, except for one salient fact -- all of the patients were smokers, and nearly all of them were new to the habit.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Flu Quiz

The Delaware Coast Press posts a flu quiz from Delaware state health officials.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Tsunami News

Via ProMED-mail: Reuters reports on the potential for post-tsunami epidemics. The biggest concern is the spread of waterborne diseases.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Flu Pandemic Warning of the Week

This week's dire forecasts of flu pandemic decimation come from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. No new mortality rate was mentioned in the MedBroadcast article, though the WHO's previous estimate of up to 7 million dead was repeated.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Quahog Parasite Unknown

Via ProMED-mail: Cape Cod is suffering an outbreak of QPX disease (quahog parasite unknown). The quahog, Mercenaria mercenaria, is a clam native and beloved to Southeastern New England. Although harmless to quahog consumers, QPX has no known cure and threatens to devastate grants around the Cape.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Polio Outbreak in the Sudan

Via ProMED-mail, as usual: a massive polio outbreak in Sudan has WHO officials concerned that poliomyelitis may spread from there into the Middle East.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Nobody Expects the Bubonic Plague

Via ProMED-mail: A Pueblo, Colorado man dies of plague.
Local health department Director Chris Nevin-Woods [...] said the man had an open wound on one of his hands and probably was exposed while skinning an infected rabbit that he had shot.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Michigan Mystery Bug

Via ProMED-mail: a flu-like illness has broken out in a nursing home in Troy, Michigan. WXYZ News reports:
The outbreak occurred in the Alzheimer's unit, which has been quarantined. There are 39 people who live there, and 16 have fallen ill with the same flu like symptoms.
Paramedics were on the scene, suited up in biohazard in uniforms. Sick patients have been evacuated from the building to three area hospitals.
The outbreak started Wednesday night. 4 people became ill with flu like symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. All of these people were taken to the hospital, where one man went into cardiac arrest and died.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

New Improved Scrapie

Via ProMED-mail: a new strain of scrapie has been detected in Great Britain, with some cases occurring among the most scrapie-resistant sheep. This bodes ill for the National Scrapie Plan to breed TSE-resistant sheep.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Fatal Familial Insomnia

A Wired article (Sleep Disorders Traced to Genes) reminded me of Fatal Familial Insomnia (FFI) and introduced me to a sleep disorder, Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome:
Patients typically are unable to fall asleep before 2 a.m. and have extreme difficulty waking early (e.g., by 7 a.m.). People with DSPS are sometimes called "night owls" or are described as "not being morning people." If they are able to sleep a full 7 to 8 hours (e.g., until 10 a.m.), they feel rested and function normally.

I'm typically unable to get to bed before 2 a.m., but I don't think that qualifies without the accompanying insomnia.

So back to FFI. It's exciting because it's a prion disease like the transmissible spongiform encephalopathies, but it mainly affects the thalamus, leading to insomnia-related death before the rest of the brain is seriously involved. Here's an overview of FFI by Ann M. Akroush.

I also found a couple of interesting journal articles available on-line: Fatal familial insomnia- clinical, neuropathological, and genetic description of a Spanish family -- Tabernero et al. 68 (6)- 774 -- Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry (full text), and an abstract of Fatal insomnia in a case of familial Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease with the codon 200(Lys) mutation -- Chapman et al. 46 (3)- 758 -- Neurology.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Bird Flu Transmission in Russia

ProMED-mail is skeptical about reports of two cases of human-to-human transmission of bird flu in St. Petersburg.

Everyone's a skeptic until the first 20 million die.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

vCJD News

Via ProMED-mail: concerns are rising about the transmission of mad cow disease (variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease a.k.a. vCJD) through blood transfusions and also about wider genetic susceptibility to the disease than previously expected. Experiments with transgenic mice also point towards universal human susceptibility to some form of vCJD.

For a chattier introduction to genetic vCJD susceptibility and transmission through the blood supply, see this August BBC report.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Bird Flu in France?

I've been hoping for more news on the bird flu case in France (via ProMED-mail, with a reminder from Fludemic), but Google is giving me no new news.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Nontuberculous Mycobacteria

Some San Jose residents have gotten more than they bargained for from their pedicurists. The Bay City News reports on at least 40 cases of serious skin infections, probably caused by nontuberculous mycobacteria growing in whirlpool foot baths. Whirlpools are bad news in general, bacteriologically speaking; once you add in the natural nastiness of feet, trouble is bound to follow.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Bogus Botox Botulism

Via ProMED-mail: four Florida residents have been hospitalized with suspected botulism. Health officials suspect that one of the victims administered a Botox knock-off to himself and the others as an anti-wrinkle treatment. See the full story from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

Botulism is normally caused by toxins produced by the bacteria Clostridium botulinum.

Thursday, December 02, 2004


ProMED-mail reports on three cases of trichinosis in Russia, caused by consumption of infected pork.

Trichinosis (a.k.a. trichinellosis) is a parasitic disease caused by the trichina worm, Trichinella spiralis. There's a whole Trichinella page devoted to T. spiralis. The CDC factsheet on trichinosis is scary:
When a human or animal eats meat that contains infective Trichinella cysts, the acid in the stomach dissolves the hard covering of the cyst and releases the worms. The worms pass into the small intestine and, in 1-2 days, become mature. After mating, adult females lay eggs. Eggs develop into immature worms, travel through the arteries, and are transported to muscles. Within the muscles, the worms curl into a ball and encyst (become enclosed in a capsule).

Apparently, you can "[f]reeze pork less than 6 inches thick for 20 days at 5° F to kill any worms," but this approach doesn't work for game. Microwaves are not enough to kill the parasite.