Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Typhoid Traveller

Pretty much everyone, including The New York Times, reports on the travelling tuberculosis patient who may have infected two intercontinental flights full of people before being picked up sneaking home from Montreal and quarantined by the CDC--reportedly the first person to be subject to a federal isolation order since a smallpox patient was quarantined in 1963.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has an interview with the Typhoid Traveller in which he tells his side of the story of his ill-fated honeymoon:

Katkowsky and CDC officials say they only knew that the man's TB was resistant to many drugs before he left, but that the tests showing he had the most serious form of TB — XDR TB — only came back after he was in Europe. The test results came back on May 21, Fulton County officials said.
The man says he and his bride were in Rome on their honeymoon when they got a message to call the CDC. The CDC official said that they needed to cancel their trip and return home and that the CDC would call the next day with travel information.
The patient says he and his wife canceled plans to move on to Florence the next day as they awaited the CDC's instructions.
The next day, instead of giving the couple travel arrangements, the man said a CDC staff member told him he'd need to turn himself into Italian health authorities the next morning and agree to go into isolation and treatment in that country for an indefinite period of time.
"I thought to myself: 'You're nuts.' I wasn't going to do that. They told me I had been put on the no-fly list and my passport was flagged," the man said.
The man said the CDC told him he could not fly aboard a commercial airliner with his disease. "We asked about the CDC jet and they said no, there wasn't funding in the budget to use the jet," he said.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Don't Eat the Squirrels

Via ProMED-mail: Channel 4 in Denver reports that a hooded capuchin monkey in the Denver Zoo died of plague.

The zoo learned late Friday from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment that the hooded capuchin monkey had the plague.
The monkey seemed lethargic last Tuesday and was found dead Wednesday morning by a zookeeper, zoo officials said.
It's unclear if the monkey contracted the disease from infected fleas, or if the monkey ingested the remains of an infected squirrel. The zoo suspects it's from ingestion.
None of the other monkeys in the troop have displayed signs of illness, but antibiotics have been administered as a precaution.

PlagueBlog recommends against eating squirrels, especially if they appear ill or dead before their time.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Another Stay for Smallpox

Via ProMED-mail: Reuters AlertNet reports on another stay of execution for US and Russian smallpox stocks until sometime after 2011.

The 60th annual World Health Assembly, the top decision-taking body of the United Nations agency, reaffirmed a previous commitment to getting rid of the remaining stockpiles but agreed to postpone any decision on when this should happen until its 2011 meeting.
In 2010, the WHO secretariat will carry out a review of all research undertaken and still planned in order that the "64th World Health Assembly may reach global consensus on the timing of the destruction of existing variola virus stocks."
A previous 2002 deadline for destroying smallpox had been waived by the WHO until new vaccines or treatments for smallpox were found, after the United States said it would keep stocks on hand to combat any re-emergence of the disease.

I, for one, am glad I was vaccinated against this sadly continuing threat.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Adopt-A-Rabid-Bat Month

Via ProMED-mail: the Casper Star-Tribune reports on a case of rabies exposure at Trinity Lutheran School in Riverton, Wyoming:

A staff member on May 9 discovered the bat in the school basement, where it was captured and stored in a cage in Steve Coniglio's seventh- and eighth-grade classroom.
It was also displayed in other classrooms, and students fed it crickets through the cage. No one is believed to have touched the bat directly, head teacher Susan Tucker said.
School officials notified a local veterinarian after the bat died suddenly on May 11. The state Department of Health was called in once the animal tested positive for the rabies virus.
Coniglio and a teacher's aide who washed the cage without protective gloves after the bat died are receiving the rabies vaccine as a precaution.

PlagueBlog recommends getting your pets from an animal shelter, pet store, or reputable breeder.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Herpes vs. Plague

Via Gene Expression: in a letter to Nature, researchers claim that latent herpes infections prompt increased immune response to bacterial infections, including Yersinia pestis.

Mice latently infected with either murine gammaherpesvirus 68 or murine cytomegalovirus, which are genetically highly similar to the human pathogens Epstein–Barr virus and human cytomegalovirus, respectively, are resistant to infection with the bacterial pathogens Listeria monocytogenes and Yersinia pestis. Latency-induced protection is not antigen specific but involves prolonged production of the antiviral cytokine interferon-gamma and systemic activation of macrophages.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Ocular Syphilis

Via ProMED-mail: The West Australian reports on a resurgence of ocular inflammation caused by untreated syphilis infections:

Homosexual men are most commonly affected, with infectious disease experts predicting the epidemic will spread through gay communities nationwide with time.
Dr Amaratunge says eye-related syphilis is relatively uncommon, with 15 cases expected in Victoria this year, but numbers are rising fast.
Fewer than 10 per cent of people who catch the disease develop symptoms in their eyes, causing redness, pain, light sensitivity and loss of vision.
But in those who do, 25 per cent will have no other symptoms of the syphilis and therefore often have no idea they have the debilitating condition.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Mmm-mmm Melamine, Part II

Via ProMED-mail: the Washington Post reports on more Chinese melamine in the food chain:

At least 2.5 million broiler chickens from an Indiana producer were fed pet food scraps contaminated with the chemical melamine and subsequently sold for human consumption, federal health officials reported yesterday.
Hundreds of other producers may have similarly sold an unknown amount of contaminated poultry in recent months, they added, painting a picture of much broader consumption of contaminated feed and food than had previously been acknowledged in the widening pet food scandal.
Meanwhile, the FDA expanded the number of plant-based protein products from China on its "do not import" list, pending the completion of further tests on various kinds of glutens, protein concentrates and other products.
At the center of the problem are pet foods spiked with melamine, a mildly toxic chemical that can make food appear to have more protein than it does. Most of the food went to pets, but scraps were sold in February to the Indiana poultry producer, officials said. The contaminated material may have made up about 5 percent of the chickens' total food supply.
That small fraction, and the fact that people, unlike pets, do not eat the same thing day after day, suggests that consumers who ate contaminated pork or chicken would probably have ingested extremely small doses of melamine, well below the threshold for causing health effects, officials said. Experts conceded, however, that they know little about how the toxin interacts with other compounds in food.

Mmm-mmm Melamine

Via ProMED-mail: The New York Times reports that feed in China is routinely adulterated with the poisonous coal derivative melamine:

For years, producers of animal feed all over China have secretly supplemented their feed with the substance, called melamine, a cheap additive that looks like protein in tests, even though it does not provide any nutritional benefits, according to melamine scrap traders and agricultural workers here.
“Many companies buy melamine scrap to make animal feed, such as fish feed,” said Ji Denghui, general manager of the Fujian Sanming Dinghui Chemical Company, which sells melamine. “I don’t know if there’s a regulation on it. Probably not. No law or regulation says ‘don’t do it,’ so everyone’s doing it. The laws in China are like that, aren’t they? If there’s no accident, there won’t be any regulation.”
Melamine is at the center of a recall of 60 million packages of pet food, after the chemical was found in wheat gluten linked this month to the deaths of at least 16 pets in the United States.

PlagueBlog recommends avoiding any human food, animal feed, or edible components thereof originating in China. And the inedible components, too.