Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Smoking Bat

Via ProMED-mail: SciDev.Net reports on a study tracing the 2007 Ebola outbreak in the Congo to the consumption of fruit bats.

For the new study, researchers led by Eric Leroy from the International Centre for Medical Research in Franceville, Gabon, interviewed locals about the background of the Ebola cases. They were told that the annual migration of the fruit bat Hypsignathus monstrosus was particularly large in 2007.
Bats are an important source of protein in the area as wild animals are in short supply. They are often shot and then sold covered in blood.
The researchers believe the source of the 2007 outbreak was a man who bought bats at market. He survived, experiencing only a low fever, but his four-year-old daughter died after developing a sudden fever accompanied by vomiting. A family friend who prepared the girl's body for burial was subsequently infected and went on to infect 11 members of her family, all of whom died.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Swine Flu VII: Already a Pandemic

Via ProMED-mail: reports that novel influenza A (H1N1) has already met the WHO's vacillating standards for a flu pandemic, and has also been vastly underreported.

One in 20 cases is being officially reported in the U.S., meaning more than 100,000 people have probably been infected nationwide with the new H1N1 flu strain, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In the U.K., the virus may be 300 times more widespread than health authorities have said, the Independent on Sunday reported yesterday.

Most disturbing are the prospects for ongoing summer transmission:

“While we are seeing activities decline in some areas, we should expect to see more cases, more hospitalizations and perhaps more deaths over the weeks ahead and possibly into the summer,” Anne Schuchat, CDC’s interim deputy director for science and public health program, told reporters on a May 22 conference call.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Popcorn Lung Update

"Diacetyl, the chemical that makes food taste like artificial butter flavor" [The Pump Handle] is back in the news, with a not-so-open-to-the-public OSHA meeting of the SBREFA panel. The future of diacetyl use in the food industry remains unclear.

Wikipedia has more on Bronchiolitis obliterans or popcorn lung. The tale of the single civilian victim appeared previously on PlagueBlog. (PlagueBlog recommends against eating your weight in artificially-flavored popcorn in any given year.)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Vaccinia: An Adverse Event

Via ProMED-mail: the CDC reports* on an adverse event following military smallpox vaccination. The patient survived, though the linked report may cause the reader to doubt that he would, or would want to.

Progressive vaccinia (PV), previously known as vaccinia necrosum, vaccinia gangrenosum, or disseminated vaccinia, is a rare, often fatal adverse event after vaccination with smallpox vaccine, which is made from live vaccinia virus (1). During recent vaccination programs potential cases of PV were investigated, but none met standard case definitions (2). PV has not been confirmed to have occurred in the United States since 1987 (3). On March 2, 2009, a U.S. Navy Hospital contacted the Poxvirus Program at CDC to report a possible case of PV in a male military smallpox vaccinee. The service member had been newly diagnosed with acute mylegenous leukemia M0 (AML M0). During evaluation for a chemotherapy-induced neutropenic fever, he was found to have an expanding and nonhealing painless vaccination site 6.5 weeks after receipt of smallpox vaccine. Clinical and laboratory investigation confirmed that the vaccinee met the Brighton Collaboration and CDC adverse event surveillance guideline case definition for PV (4,5). This report summarizes the patient's protracted clinical course and the military and civilian interagency governmental, academic, and industry public health contributions to his complex medical management. The quantities of investigational and licensed therapeutics and diagnostics used were greater than anticipated based on existing smallpox preparedness plans. To support future public health needs adequately, the estimated national supply of therapeutics and diagnostic resources required to care for smallpox vaccine adverse events should be reevaluated.

* Keep in mind that this is PlagueBlog. When I say adverse, I mean adverse. Click at your own risk.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Rabies Pandemic Brewing in Arizona

Via ProMED-mail: National Geographic reports on a more virulent strain of rabies brewing in Arizona.

Evolving faster than any other new rabies virus on record, a northern-Arizona rabies strain has mutated to become contagious among skunks and now foxes, experts believe.
The strain looks to be spreading fast, commanding attention from disease researchers across the United States.
It's not so unusual for rabid animals to attack people on hiking trails and in driveways, or even in a bar—as happened March 27, when an addled bobcat chased pool players around the billiards table at the Chaparral in Cottonwood.
Nor is it odd that rabid skunks and foxes are testing positive for a contagious rabies strain commonly associated with big brown bats.
What is unusual is that the strain appears to have mutated so that foxes and skunks are now able to pass the virus on to their kin—not just through biting and scratching but through simple socializing, as humans might spread a flu.
Usually the secondary species—in this case, a skunk or fox bitten by a bat—is a dead-end host. The infected animal may become disoriented and even die but is usually unable to spread the virus, except through violent attacks.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Swine Flu VI: A Vaccine

Via ProMED-mail: as this flu season draws to a messy end, Scientific American blogs about the prospects for a swine flu (Influenza A H1N1 etc.) vaccine for next season. Reuters reports that the WHO is optimistic about such a shift, although it is unclear what impact swine flu will have on regular seasonal flu vaccine production.

Marie-Paule Kieny, WHO director of the initiative for vaccine research, said the agency is discussing with drug companies whether and when to stop making seasonal flu vaccine production and shift to making one for the new H1N1 strain.

See my twitter updates for the latest swine flu news.