Sunday, February 27, 2005

A Growing Family

The New York Times reports on the discovery of two new retroviral members of the H.T.L.V. family, kissing cousins to HIV.
The viruses, found in rural Cameroon among people who hunt monkeys and other primates, were probably transmitted from the animals through blood from bites and scratches received in hunting, butchering and keeping the primates as pets, the scientists said at the 12th Annual Retrovirus Conference, which ended here on Friday.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Polio in Ethiopia

The ongoing African polio epidemic has reached Ethiopia, with one confirmed case and another suspected, Reuters reports.. It all started in Nigeria:
Africa's polio epidemic erupted after a 10-month halt in immunization in Kano where Muslim elders said the vaccines were part of a Western plot to spread HIV and infertility, according to WHO officials. Nigeria, Africa's most populous country, recorded 763 cases in 2004, accounting for 2/3 of the toll. It resumed immunization in July 2004.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Cryogenic Bacteria

The Environment News Service reports on frozen microbes: they weren't infectious, but bacteria unearthed from the Alaskan tundra five years ago came to life in the lab after 32,000 years at -4° Celsius. It's taken the past five years to prove that it's a new species.

Commenters at Slashdot note that bacteria have been revived after 25 million years.

Rabies Roundup

Just a few interesting rabies stories from ProMED-mail: two patients died of rabies transmitted by organ transplants in Germany, a hunter died of rabies in Siberia, and a woman was bitten by a rabid coyote right here in Massachusetts.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Bird Flu Warnings

The front-page story in the Boston Metro today was this AP report on the "very high threat" of a bird flu epidemic.
Julie L. Gerberding, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said scientists expect a flu virus that has swept through chickens and other poultry in Asia to genetically change into a flu that can be transmitted from person to person.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Pneumonic Plague

Thanks to another unnamed source for the pneumonic plague link. I also heard about it at the plague panel at Boskone this weekend, but I haven't had a chance to blog it until now. The outbreak among diamond miners in the Congo has been going on since December, but the WHO has only recently gotten involved. According to the BBC article, there are at least 60 dead and 350 infected.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Don't Eat the Apes

Via ProMED-mail, of course: Study links Ebola outbreaks to animal carcasses.
Specifically, the researchers found that Ebola infections in wild animals such as gorillas, chimpanzees, and occasionally duikers (a diminutive antelope species), move across the human-wildlife divide through hunters taking either sick animals or carcasses for meat. Hunters can then spread the disease to families and hospital workers, creating the conditions for an epidemic in the process.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Mad Goat

I've gotten behind on reporting, but I did get a friendly tip on the mad goat [ProMED] last week.
Britain said on Tuesday [8 Feb 2005] that a goat confirmed as having the brain-wasting disease scrapie in 1990 may have had mad cow disease. [...]
In January 2005 mad cow disease, formally known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), was found in a goat in France, the 1st time the brain-wasting affliction that ravaged European cattle herds and killed at least 100 people had been diagnosed in another animal.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Stuffed Plague

What's the perfect gift for the plague-blogger who has everything? Giant Microbes! Thanks to my personal Epidemic Santa for the Black Death and company.