So what is wrong with listening to the drumbeat, to the endless calls to protect ourselves against the coming plague – against Ebola from Africa and bird flu from Asia? Is it possible that a huge pandemic could erupt from some as-yet unknown pathogen? Is apocalypse lurking out there, among rats or monkeys, or bats or flying squirrels or birds? The Black Death shows that you can never say never: there might be an animal pathogen out there that, under the right circumstances, can evolve and maintain both virulence and transmissibility among humans as well as animals.
Vax: Gamifying Epidemic Prevention
"Players are tasked to prepare for an outbreak by vaccinating a network that resembles human social networks. After distributing vaccines, an infectious outbreak begins to spread and the player is tasked to quell the epidemic by quarantining individuals at risk of becoming infected." [more inside]
There's been an ebola outbreak
in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. With 122 cases so far, this is the worst outbreak since 2007's 264-case outbreak. The worst outbreak was 2000-2001's 425 cases. What makes this one different is the way it has spread so widely. [more inside]
The Saudi Arabian government has been tight-lipped about the spread of Middle East respiratory syndrome
(MERS), a disease first discovered in 2012 that has "killed more than half of those who contracted it"
, "responding slowly to requests for information and preventing outside researchers from publishing their findings about the syndrome. [more inside]
Since mid-2011, a substantial rise in pertussis [Whooping Cough] cases has been reported in the state of Washington. In response to this increase, the Washington State Secretary of Health declared a pertussis epidemic on April 3, 2012. By June 16, the reported number of cases in Washington in 2012 had reached 2,520 (37.5 cases per 100,000 residents), a 1,300% increase compared with the same period in 2011 and the highest number of cases reported in any year since 1942 [Make sure you don't miss Figure 1]. Commentators are already drawing corellations
with the fact that Washington State leads the nation in vaccine non-compliance
, Washington State's recent cutbacks in public health funding
, and increases in the number of uninsured (PDF)
. [more inside]
In the mood for a good epidemic? Try the English Sweating Sickness
. To get a full picture of the horror and uproar a fast spreading disease with frighteningly sudden onset caused in Tudor England, here is an amazingly complete account by a contemporary physician
. The exact etiology of the disease is still a mystery
- perhaps a viral pulmonary disease
(PDF in link).
Upon the Nazi invasion of Poland, pediatrician Eugeniusz Łazowski and his friend Stanisław Matulewicz fabricated a fake typhus epidemic
to save Polish Jews from the Nazis
. Knowing that typhus-infected Jews would be summarily executed, non-Jews were injected with the harmless Proteus OX19
, which would generate false positives for typhus. [more inside]
Doctor Larry Brilliant (mentioned before)
spoke at TED this year, calling himself the "luckiest man in the world." He played witness to the last case of Smallpox, and played a significant role in making it the last case. Inspiring/terrifying video here,
long, with some graphic
images of smallpox.
Back in 1974, Brilliant's technique for early detection in India was to take graphic photos door to door, asking if anyone inside looks like this
. Now, as head of Google's philanthropic efforts, he's advocating systems for "early detection, early response." Unsurprisingly, Google, etc, are an important piece of that system: can we detect what's happening before it can spread?
One of the first responses to Brilliant is up already, a means for doctors to immediately text epidemiological information straight into a global spatial database.
It's a rough and promising start, and its fascinating that it's coming from the bottom up, instead of NGOs like the Red Cross.
Is H5N1 flu transitioning
to a human-to-human illness? Recent reports of familial clusters
suggest that it may be, though there are certainly other possible explanations, such as families living in environments contaminated by virus-laden bird feces. On the other hand, it would seem that epidemiologists are growing increasingly interested in the possibility that these clusters are indicative of human-to-human transmissions. Further, the virus may be inching towards being asymptomatic, which isn't as good as it sounds: if people can carry the virus and transmit it to others without showing symptoms, it will be very difficult to impossible to tell who is a vector and highly difficult to control any emerging epidemic.
China isn't known for being open
about most things, including the spread of deadly diseases. (Many will remember China's original attempt to cover up SARS
. As the International Society for Infectious Diseases
reports, a prominent WHO
virologist has made a claim that China has now experienced at least 300 human avian flu deaths and is actively attempting to cover this information up. "We are systematically deceived," he is reported to have said. "At least 5 medical co-workers who should be reporting on the
situation in the provinces were arrested, and [other] publication-willing
researchers were threatened with punishments."
The Church Awakens
"The AIDS pandemic is the greatest humanitarian crisis," Casey said. "It just begs a reaction from the church."
The church is now in full reaction mode. More than 2,000 Christian medical professionals, church leaders, and students gathered for the ninth annual Global Missions Health Conference, November 11-13, at Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky. They spoke not only of statistics that confirmed the extent of the pandemic (43 million people living with HIV/AIDS; 8,000 deaths each day; 14 million orphans), but of working together.
Half of young Americans to get STDs
- so say several collected studies by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and others. Can the Bush administration's plan to double abstinence-only spending
solve this problem? Or can the argument be made that keeping condoms out of the classrooms causes more STDs than prevents?
SARS much more deadly than first estimated.
Analysis of the latest statistics on the global SARS epidemic reveals that at least 10 per cent
of people who contract the new virus will die of the disease. The low death rates of about four per cent cited until now by the World Health Organizatio n and others are the result of a statistical difficulty, well known to epidemiologists, that hampers the early analysis of new disease outbreaks. [...] A better current estimate of the deadliness of SARS may be the number of deaths as a proportion of resolved cases. Those numbers for Hong Kong, Canada and Singapore are 15.8, 18.3 and 13.7 per cent
With an increase in the number of cases of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome
at the Toronto Hospital for Sick Children, Canada now poses more of a direct threat to the American way of life than all of the weapons in Iraq combined. As the relationship between these two North American real estate holders continues to deteriorate, are we Canadians to expect border closings and escalated hostility due to this?
CDC posts medical alert for atypical pneumonia.
There is travel alert for those traveling from Asian countries around and in China. It seems that this type of pnenumonia has been found in North America. Symptoms include fever and hard-of-breathing. More articles about the disease here.
3.1 million in 2002 comes out to some 8,500 a day, 354 an hour, and almost 6 a minute. Each minute. Each hour. Each day. Deaths. Of AIDS.
"China's catastrophic mismanagement of its AIDS crisis has come to this:
Xie Yan is trying to give away her son. Ms. Xie's husband died last year of AIDS, and she has the virus as well. They are the victims of government-backed blood-selling schemes that have left about one million people infected here in Henan Province in central China. Multiply Ms. Xie's heartache a millionfold, and you understand the cost of the Chinese government's cover-up of its AIDS crisis. If China continues to be more concerned with hiding the tragedy than confronting it, then today's Chinese leaders could kill millions of people over the next two decades. We in the West must exert strong pressure on China to act quickly to address the AIDS challenge."
Is this the big one?
With some 18,000 sick and over 700 people having died of the flu in a country the size of France over the past couple of months, I find it odd that the media seems obsesessed with the US / Iraq thing and missing children.
The 1918 flu epidemic killed some 675,00 Americans alone, with a global tally in excess of 20 MILLION killed.
Some of the photos taken back then are pretty grim
. It seems the power of influenza is that it (ahhem) mutates
and thats why it could once again be a big killer. Cynical as it might sound, as a race maybe we need
something like this to teach us that we've got a lot more in common with each other than skin colour and religion might otherwise lead us to believe. ObDisclaimer: I'm unemployed right now, have maybe six months of canned goods in the flat; if this hits London, I ain't opening my door to nobody
No More Malaria?
The first step has been taken to making mosquitoes incapable of passing on malaria. But, should we?
seems to be on the rise. Working in a hospital lab I've seen an increase in tests for HPV
It's enough to make one wonder if sex is worth the risk.
with comprehensive links, thanks to Sister Mary Elizabeth of the Sisters of St. Elizabeth of Hungary and AEGIS
(AIDS Education Global Information System), "...a service the Centers for Disease Control calls 'the best of its kind'..." (See How Aegis Began) People making a difference.
"A mysterious epidemic, hitherto unknown, which had struck terror into all hearts by the rapidity of its spread, the ravages it made, and the apparent helplessness of the physicians to cure it." — on syphillis, in the 16th centruy.
Highlights from the CBC's 1996 Ideas shows on AIDS in historical perspective, available in real audio for downloading or streaming. I remember stopping the car and listening to the whole thing four years ago: "The programs underline how a whole series of biological, psychological and social factors shape the public's perception of disease, and society's response to it. The strengths and limits of past approaches to detecting sexually transmitted diseases are explored, in order to shed light on approaches that could be used to control AIDS today."
AIDS Project Los Angeles
can help you observe World AIDS Day and
get a start on those pesky holiday cards. For $5 each, APLA will personalize and send your choice of holiday cards to friends, family or clients! Cards are also available in sets of ten for $25 to be mailed by you.
Four out of 10 people mistakenly believe
it is possible to get HIV by sharing a drinking glass or being coughed or sneezed on by an infected person. The survey, released Thursday, was conducted by the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "It's scary that so many people are still so ignorant of what
causes HIV-AIDS," said Marty Algaze, a spokesman for
the Gay Men's Health Crisis. "Almost 20 years into this
epidemic, it's disturbing that people think you could still
get it from casual contact."