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Posts tagged "disease"


How Do You Catch Ebola: By Air, Sweat Or Water?

There’s no question Ebola is one of the most terrifying diseases out there. It causes a painful death, typically kills more than 50 percent of those infected and essentially has no cure.

But if you compare how contagious the Ebola virus is to, say SARS or the measles, Ebola just doesn’t stack up. In fact, the virus is harder to catch than the common cold.

That’s because there has been no evidence that Ebola spreads between people through the air. Health experts repeatedly emphasize that human-to-human transmission requires direct contact with infected bodily fluids, including blood, vomit and feces.

And to infect, those fluids have to reach a break in the skin or the mucous membranes found around your eyes, mouth and nose.

But that hasn’t stopped two-thirds of Americans from thinking that the virus spreads “easily,” a poll from Harvard School of Public Health found in August. Almost 40 percent of the 1,025 people surveyed said they worry about an Ebola epidemic in the U.S. More than a quarter were concerned about catching the virus themselves.

Many questions still linger. Is Ebola really not airborne? Can it spread through contaminated water? What about through a drop of blood left behind on a table?

So we took those questions to two virologists: Alan Schmaljohn at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, and Jean-Paul Gonzalez at Metabiota, a company that tracks global infectious diseases.

Continue reading.

Photo: A burial team in Barkedu, Liberia, buries their protective clothing alongside the body of an Ebola victim. It’s possible to catch the virus from clothing soiled by infected blood or other bodily fluids. (Tommy Trenchard for NPR)

Good reporting by NPR, clearing up how Ebola is transmitted (answer: with great difficulty).


What do Jesuit priests, gin and tonics, and ancient Chinese scrolls have in common? They all show up in our animated history of malaria.

Story by NPR’s Adam Cole.

Enviro-headline of the year?


South Sudan: Preparing for the Rainy Season

At the Yida refugee camp in South Sudan, where the population has increased five-fold in the past year, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is treating growing numbers of patients and preparing for the additional hardships that will come with the approaching rainy season.

More ticks.


All but 23 of 10,000 bats in Durham bat mine have died

Bucks County’s largest bat population has met a grim fate. Scientists have confirmed that nearly all of the 10,000 bats that have hibernated in an abandoned iron ore mine in Upper Bucks for generations have died. When Pennsylvania Game Commission Biologist Greg Turner recently visited the Durham mine for the first time in two years, he found total devastation.

The Durham bat mine was once the second largest known bat habitat in Pennsylvania, but this winter only 23 were found alive. Of those, half had clear signs of infection.

Bucks County’s bats were wiped out by a disease that has been killing bat colonies across the Northeast at an alarming rate in the past four years. White nose syndrome causes a white fungus to form around the nose of infected bats. They lose the body fat needed to survive hibernation and ultimately the mammals starve to death during the winter months.

During his visit to Durham’s mine on Feb. 21, Turner found three different species of cave bats. Eighteen of the 23 bats were little brown bats. Of those, half of them were crowding at the entrance to the cave or had fungus on their muzzles; both are tell-tale signs of the fatal infection….

In Pennsylvania, 98 percent of cave-hibernating bats have died, said Turner.


Terrible. White nose syndrome has wiped out populations across the northeast, too. Since bats regulate populations, expect an explosion of bugs in the coming years. And with rising temperatures from climate change, more bugs will be moving north, and their natural seasonal cycles will last longer.


The Ash Dieback Problem

Our resident tree expert Markus Eichhorn on the latest tree crisis - Ash Dieback or Chalara Dieback. See more tree videos at

Forestry Commission info at:

Test Tube by video journalist Brady Haran for the University of Nottingham.
More at

by Test Tube.

If I understand the narrator, 75% of mature Ash trees have died in western Europe since the late 1990s. He shows how to identify Ash Dieback fungus. Ash trees are the 3rd most abundant tree in the UK after oaks and birch. The main issue is the die out will change the structure of forests. I disagree with his final analysis, which is to just shrug it off.

(via scientiflix)

These diseases are caused by viruses, bacteria and parasites, and affect more than one billion people, mainly in the tropics, where the most vulnerable developing world populations are concentrated.

But the map of tropical diseases like malaria, Chagas’ disease, sleeping sickness, leishmaniasis, schistosomiasis and dengue fever, is starting to change.

Tropical diseases transmitted by vectors like mosquitoes, flies, ticks or snails are directly affected by conditions in the ecosystems they inhabit, such as changes in humidity, water levels, temperature or rainfall, experts explain.

“Global warming is ‘tropicalising’ subtropical regions; rising temperatures could bring an explosion of parasite and insect vectors that are expanding into North America, the Southern Cone of South America, Australia and New Zealand,” Costa Nery said.

One sign of this, said the president of the SBMT, is the spread of leishmaniasis in Europe by travelling persons and dogs. He explained that the disease, which is endemic in southern Europe, could continue to spread northward if temperatures keep rising.

At the same time, climate variation in the tropics and its effects on the frequency of flooding and drought “could also modify the dynamic of the transmission of diseases,” with the emergence of vectors that alter the population’s immunity and resistance.

Via IPS covering the 18th International Congress on Tropical Medicine and Malaria, held Sept. 23-27 in Rio de Janeiro.

"The number of West Nile cases in people has risen dramatically in the last few weeks and indicates that we are in one of the biggest West Nile virus outbreaks we have ever seen in this country," says Lyle Petersen, director of the CDC’s Division of Vector-borne Infectious Diseases.

"The number of West Nile virus cases in the U.S. jumped dramatically in one week, increasing to 1,118, with 41 deaths, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said today.

The report marks a substantial increase from last week’s tally of 693 cases and 26 deaths.

Approximately 75% of the cases have been in five states: Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana, South Dakota and Oklahoma, the CDC says.

Texas has been hardest hit, accounting for almost half of all cases.”

Via USA Today. Prevention and CDC Fact Sheet.


Study: global bullfrog trade spreads devastating amphibian fungus. More on amphibian decline @dotearth. News release here: 

Read More

Tuberculosis outbreak has claimed 13 lives and sickened nearly 100 people. Local news outlets in Florida are mentioning the closure, but are giving weak coverage.



Florida, the Conservative Utopia: A Low-Service State With High Disease Rates

In late June, Florida’s governor and GOP Legislature shut down the state’s only hospital to treat tuberculosis. At the same time, the state was experiencing the largest outbreak of TB - “consumption” - in America in 20 years. The CDC warned Scott’s health office an epidemic was in the offing. But he never even told the lawmakers who voted to close the hospital, much less Florida’s millions of citizens who are at risk of their lungs melting.

As our Florida correspondent reports, it’s par for the course in the Sunshine State, where even septic-tank inspections are derided as socialism, and conservative lawmakers have cut social services to the bone—and Rick Scott has cut even further, using his line-item veto to slash mercilessly at Legislature-approved spending he deems unimportant.

Scott, for his part, has yet to comment on the TB outbreak in Jacksonville, Miami, and who knows where else. He’s at an air show in London.

Read the whole story and pass it on.

(via nickturse)

Brutal piece on ‘nodding disease,’ a rare disease with no known cause or cure.


Nodding disease is a mentally and physically disabling disease that affects children between 1 and 10 years. It is currently restricted to small regions in South Sudan, Tanzania and northern Uganda. The disease is incurable at the moment and its cause is not known.

A Ugandan journalist, Florence Naluyimba, has taken the first initiative to investigate and bring the issue to light.