Thursday, April 28, 2005

Exploding Frogs in Germany

Via ProMED-mail: the BBC reports on mysterious exploding German frogs:
Thousands of the amphibians have died in recent days in a pond in Hamburg's Altona district, with their bodies swelling to bursting point.
The toads' entrails are propelled for up to a metre (3.2ft), in scenes that have been likened to science fiction.
Scientists are baffled. Possible explanations include a unknown virus or a fungus in the pond.

Polio in Yemen

The New York Times reports on a polio outbreak in Yemen, possibly related to the current outbreak in Saudi Arabia.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

CCHF in Islamabad

The Daily Times reports on a 12-year-old with Crimean-Congo Haemorrhagic Fever (CCHF) in Islamabad.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Marburg Update

Agence France-Presse reports the latest Marburg numbers: 235 dead out of 257 known cases.
An additional 513 people are under surveillance, it added.
WHO experts said last week that there was no end in sight for the epidemic, the worst outbreak ever of the virus first detected in 1967 when German laboratory workers in Marburg were infected by monkeys from Uganda.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

From the Yes This IS Your Grandfather's Influenza department...

CNN reports on the unwise distribution of 1957's Asian flu (A, H2N2) to 4,000 laboratories worldwide for testing.
The samples, part of a package of pathogens sent to laboratories to test their ability to identify them, were last seen in nature in the United States in 1968, Gerberding said. Anyone born since then would presumably have no immunity to the virus, she said.
Gerberding said authorities were still trying to determine how many laboratories got the samples of the virus, called Influenza A H2N2.
Thanks to an unnamed source, who also mentioned The Unsung Vaccinologist:
Joining Merck in 1957, he mobilized the production of 20 million doses of flu vaccine, protecting the country from one of the last great flu pandemics.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Marburg Tops 200

ISN Security Watch reports 203 Marburg deaths in Angola as of yesterday, and also describes some of the negative reactions of the populace to foreigners in space suits who are only trying to help.
Health workers also said local residents lacked sufficient information about the disease and that hospitals were failing to observe basic rules of hygiene that could help stem the epidemic.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Asthma and Genetic Damage

Via GNXP: a study suggests that smoking can permanently damage the DNA of your offspring and future generations. See Maternal and Grandmaternal Smoking Patterns Are Associated With Early Childhood Asthma* by Yu-Fen Li, PhD, MPH; Bryan Langholz, PhD; Muhammad T. Salam, MBBS, MS; and Frank D. Gilliland, MD, PhD.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

From the don't-eat-the-downers files

Via ProMED-mail: several NY sources report on at least 5 deer infected with Chronic Wasting Disease, a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy. One of the deer was served at a Verona Fire Department annual dinner (apparently while the brain was languishing at a lab someplace). This means that the state department of health has a few CWD exposures to track, to see whether CWD really poses no threat to humans.

Friday, April 08, 2005

The Gene for FASPS

National Geographic News reports that scientists have found the mutation that causes familial advanced sleep phase syndrome (FASPS).
The researchers are not yet certain how the gene mutation works to shift people's sleep time. But laboratory experiments suggest mutation slows the activity of a protein called casein kinase I delta (CKIdelta). "The next step is to figure out why," Fu said.

More Marburg

The WHO reports a new death toll of 173 out of 200 Marburg cases in Angola.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Disease Roundup

Several new and/or interesting outbreaks via ProMED-mail:
  • Agence France-Presse reports that the Marburg death toll in Angola has hit 155, not counting the suspected Marburg death of a South African who left Luanda about a week ago. The virus continues to rage uncontrolled.
  • Reuters reports on two more suspected cases of bird flu (not counting the woman who drank duck blood from earlier this week) as well as a doctor who died of apparent SARS, all in Vietnam.
  • Folha de S.Paulo reports [in Portuguese] on a Brazilian outbreak of the parasite Diphyllobothrium latum in patients who ate raw, smoked, or undercooked fish. Patients consumed their sushi and sashimi at several establishments across Sao Paulo.
  • UPI reports on a French woman who may have had variant CJD 20 years before the mad cow epidemic began.
  • The AP reports that North Korean birds are sick with a different strain of bird flu (H7) than the highly fatal one which has spread to humans in other parts of Southeast Asia (H5).
  • Agence France-Presse reports on the continuing spread of the rare Chlamydia infection lymphogranuloma venereum (LGV) among homosexual European males.
  • NYNewsday reports on a rash of E. coli infections acquired from petting-zoo animals. PlagueBlog recommends avoiding contact with animals before their internal temperature has reached 160°F. Use a meat thermometer if necessary.
And don't travel to Angola.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Marburg Marches On

The current Marburg death toll is 146. Rumor has it that the disease was spread to so many victims under 5 by hypodermic needles reused for vaccinations. It's not the kind of news the WHO will be spreading far and wide, if it turns out to be true.

Marburg in Italy?

Although the two suspected Marburg cases in Portugal have been ruled out, AFP reports on nine patients quarantined in Italy and two suspected cases in the Congo.

Friday, April 01, 2005


Slashdot reports on the spread of a PC-to-human virus, Malwarlaria.B.:
First discovered in the Far East in early 2004 Malwarlaria.A spread in cats and other whiskered creatures as they walked across the keyboards of infected PCs. Infected animals showed flu-like symptoms, slight hair-loss and the appearance of some darkened patches of skin, giving rise to Malwarlaria's other name, the 'Gorbachev virus.'
The mutated version, Malwarlaria.B, causes a similar reaction in humans.