Archive for the 'Epidemiology' category

TEDTalks: Why We Have Virus Outbreaks and How We Can Prevent Them

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I am very lucky to be attending a New York Academy of Science (NYAS) conference about H1N1 Influenza today, so I thought I'd share this TEDTalk video about viral outbreaks, a talk presented by virus hunter Nathan Wolfe. His goal? Outwitting the next pandemic by staying two steps ahead: discovering new, deadly viruses where they first emerge -- passing from animals to humans among poor subsistence hunters in Africa -- and stopping them before they claim millions of lives. [13:05]

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TEDTalks: What can we learn from the 1918 flu?

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Recorded in 2007, as the world worried about a possible avian flu epidemic, Laurie Garrett, author of "The Coming Plague," gave this powerful talk to a small TED University audience. Her insights from past pandemics are suddenly more relevant than ever. [21:05]

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Introduced Parasite Suspected of Killing Wild Bumblebees in Canada

Jul 27 2008 Published by under Epidemiology, Insects, Journal Club, Microbiology

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Common Eastern Bumblebee, Bombus impatiens.
This species is often relied upon to pollinate commercial food crops,
such as tomatoes, that are often grown in agricultural greenhouses.
Image: Wikipedia Commons [larger view].

A mysterious decline in North American bumblebee populations is apparently the result of "spillover" of pathogen-infected commercial bumblebees, Bombus species, from agricultural greenhouses where tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers are commonly grown in huge quantities. Unlike the introduced European honeybee, Apis mellifera, which suffers from "colony collapse disorder" caused by a deadly virus that was accidentally introduced from Australia, bumblebees are endemic to the Americas, so the sharp decline in their populations not only endangers our food supply, but also affects the total biodiversity of flowering native plants and ultimately endangers all the insects and animals that depend upon them.

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This Just In: Hamster Kills Three Humans!

Apr 13 2008 Published by under Epidemiology, Microbiology, Virology

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Portrait of a murderer:
A Siberian dwarf hamster, Phodopus sungorus.
Orphaned image.

I just learned that a lawsuit was recently filed in Massachusetts Superior Court on behalf of a man who died one month after receiving a transplanted liver that was later determined to be infected with lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV). Apparently, the organ donor purchased a pet hamster from a PetSmart in Warwick, Rhode Island, and this hamster was later shown to be infected with this deadly virus.

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Northeastern Bats Mysteriously Dying in the Thousands

Jan 31 2008 Published by under Epidemiology, Mammals, Zoology

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Hibernating bats suffering from the mysterious "White Nose Syndrome" (arrows).
Image: Alan Hicks, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation [larger view]

If you live in New York or Vermont, then you might have heard about the mystery disease that is killing tens of thousands of bats hibernating in caves and mines throughout these two states. The disease has been given the descriptive appellation, "white nose syndrome" because its most obvious symptom (besides death), is the peculiar ring of white fungus that forms on the bats' muzzles.

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Fruit Bats Found to be Infected with Deadly Marburg Virus

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Portrait of an Egyptian Rousette or Egyptian fruit bat, Rousettus aegyptiacus.
Image: Wikipedia

Like something out of a sci-fi novel, a man from Uganda died a horrible, bloody death from Marburg hemorrhagic fever this past July. As a result, scientists from the USA and the African nation of Gabon raced to the area to search for the source of this disease, and they may have finally discovered it. The team tested more than 1,000 bats that were captured in caves in Gabon and DR Congo, and discovered that some individuals of one species were infected with Marburg virus. The suspect bat, pictured above, is the Egyptian Rousette or Egyptian fruit bat, Rousettus aegyptiacus.

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Protecting a Continent's Wildlife from Disease

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A PhD student from James Cook University in Australia hopes her research will help protect Australian wildlife from an exotic wasting disease that could devastate kangaroos and other endemic marsupials.

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Rethinking the Five-Second Rule

May 09 2007 Published by under Biology, Education, Epidemiology, Microbiology

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Have you ever heard of the five-second rule, where you can pick up food that has fallen on the floor within five seconds and eat it without risk of illness? Do you follow it? In 2003, a then-high school science intern at the University of Illinois, Jillian Clarke, conducted a survey and found that slightly more than half of adult men and 70 percent of adult women knew about the five-second rule and many said they followed it. Clarke then conducted an experiment to find out if various food became contaminated with bacteria after just five seconds on the floor.

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Pox: Genius, Madness, and the Mysteries of Syphilis

Normally I do not review books that have been out for longer than a year or so, but while I was in the hospital, I decided to celebrate Columbus Day by reading a book that was sent to me by my blog pal, Tara. This book, Pox: Genius, Madness, and the Mysteries of Syphilis by Deborah Hayden (New York: Basic Books, 2004, 2005), turned out to be an interesting biography of a bacterial infection that has baffled doctors for hundreds of years.

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Ebola Virus Kills more than just People

Dec 08 2006 Published by under Biology, Epidemiology, Virology

Ebola Virus, one of the most deadly of all viral diseases, has killed more than 5,000 gorillas in the Republic of Congo and Gabon, located in central Africa. In addition to commercial hunting of gorillas, this outbreak of ebola could be sufficient to push gorillas into extinction.

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