Health & Wellness


Ebola questions and answers: transmission, infection and false negative test results

ebola virus
© unknown
There is a lot of confusing - and often contradictory - information about the Ebola virus circulating.

Hopefully this Q&A will clear things up.

Q: What IS the Ebola virus?

A: Ebola is an infection with a virus of the family Filoviridae, genus Ebolavirus. So far, only two members of this family of viruses have been identified - Marburgvirus and Ebolavirus.

Five subspecies of Ebolavirus have been identified, four of which can cause disease in humans:
  • Ebola virus (Zaire ebolavirus)
  • Sudan virus (Sudan ebolavirus)
  • Taï Forest virus (Taï Forest ebolavirus, formerly Côte d'Ivoire ebolavirus)
  • Bundibugyo virus (Bundibugyo ebolavirus)
  • Reston virus (Reston ebolavirus): This is the one that has not caused disease in humans (but it can be fatal in non-human primates). This is the strain that killed dozens of lab monkeys at a research facility in Reston, VA, in 1989. Four workers at that facility tested positive for Ebola. In 1996, nine lab workers were exposed to this strain after handling infected animals. None of those infected developed symptoms or became ill, but they did develop antibodies to the strain. It is possible that the Reston strain can be transmitted via small-particle aerosols (airborne), but that hasn't been confirmed.

Ebola-like virus 'Marburg' breaks out (again) in Uganda - 1 dead, 80 quarantined

© Wikimedia commons
Marburg virus
The deadly Marburg hemorrhagic fever has broken out in Uganda after samples taken to the Uganda Virus Institute tested positive, a top government official said Sunday.

Elioda Tumwesigye, minister of state for health told reporters that one person has so far died and 80 others are being monitored in central Uganda and the western district of Kasese.

"The Ministry of Health would like to inform the country of an outbreak Marburg which has so far killed one person. Another person who has developed signs is being monitored," he said.

He said the index case died on Sept. 28 after developing signs of Marburg which was later confirmed by laboratory tests. The minister said the deceased's brother has also developed signs and is currently under isolation.

He added that all the people that had contact with them are being monitored.

The Marburg virus was last reported in Uganda in 2012.

According to the World Health Organization, Marburg is a severe and highly fatal disease caused by a virus from the same family as the one that causes Ebola hemorrhagic fever.

According to the global health body, the illness caused by Marburg virus begins abruptly, with severe headache and malaise.

Comment: See also:
  • Virus Outbreak Contained in Uganda


Report: Dengue spreading at alarming rate in China

patients waiting
Many residents wait outside the consulting room of Zhongshan No.1 Hospital on October 2, 2014, to see whether they are infected with the fatal disease.
Dengue fever is spreading alarmingly in China with over 1,000 cases surfacing every day in Guangdong province where authorities have launched a massive campaign to deal with the mosquito-borne disease.

The number might keep rising during the week-long National Day holiday starting Wednesday as people travel around in a large number, regional health and family planning commission warned today.

In the worst-hit Guangdong province on South China Sea coast, the dengue fever is at its peak with more than 1,000 new cases reporting every day since Monday, bringing the total to almost 18,000, state run Xinhua news agency reported.

The outbreak has now spread to neighbouring Guangxi province where more than 203 cases have been reported as of Thursday.The city's disease control centre has set up over 450 monitoring stations.

Besides, a warm and wet weather which is ideal for mosquito breeding is expected to continue, keeping the situation "severe", the Xinhua report said.

China launched a campaign against the dengue outbreak at the end of last month as the country suffers its worst attack in 20 years with four deaths reported.

The National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC) has attributed the outbreak to high temperatures and wet weather in Guangdong, where the mosquito population is five times the normal level.

Comment: The disease has so far been detected in 19 out of 21 prefecture-level cities in Guangdong, five times as many as last year. The epidemic seems to be moving northward within China. Yunnan and Fujian, Jiangsu and Zhejiang have also reported cases.


Surprise! U.S. Department of Agriculture continues secret process of appointing Corporate factory farm executives to Organic Standards Board

Passed in 1990, the Farm Bill's intent was to set regulations for the agricultural sector, implementing provisions for food, nutrition, forestry, natural resource conservation, environmental protection and rural development, among other facets.

Also referred to as FACT-90 (Food, Agriculture, Conservation, and Trade Act of 1990), the law was designed to make agricultural policy more green, including keeping mandatory records on pesticide use and maintaining national standards for products labeled "organic," according to the University of California.

Under the Farm Bill, the Organic Foods Production Act was established to uniform national organic food standards through the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National Organic Program (NOP).

Hunger threat shadows Ebola in West Africa

Victims of the food crisis.
The threat of hunger is tracking Ebola across affected West African nations as the disease kills farmers and their families, drives workers from the fields and creates food shortages. In the worst-hit states of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, Ebola is ravaging their food-producing 'breadbasket' regions, preventing planting and harvesting, and disrupting supply routes and markets.

"Hunger will kill us where Ebola failed," said Pa Sorie, a 61-year-old rice and cassava farmer in Port Loko in northern Sierra Leone. A father of six with four grandchildren, he says he has already lost three close relatives to Ebola.

The UN's World Food Programme and Food and Agriculture Organisation say border and market closures, quarantines and movement restrictions, and widespread fear of Ebola have led to food scarcity, panic buying and price increases, especially in Sierra Leone and Liberia.

Since it was first reported in the forest region of Guinea in March, the hemorrhagic fever has killed 3,338 people. It crossed into Liberia and Sierra Leone and has triggered smaller outbreaks and cases in Nigeria, Senegal and even the United States, prompting the World Health Organization to declare an international public health emergency on Aug. 8.
As governments from the United States to China and Cuba send troops and medics to the affected corner of Africa in an attempt to contain the epidemic, relief agencies are scrambling to ward off the humanitarian crisis threatening hundreds of thousands along with the health disaster.

"The country will starve," warned Mary Hawa John-Sao, vice president of Sierra Leone's National Farmers' Federation and an award-winning grower. Her own fields were lying unattended and spoiling in quarantined Kailahun district, which along with neighbouring Kenema in the east and Port Loko and Bombali in the north are the country's traditional food-growing areas.

John-Sao, 55, said 75 percent of those killed by Ebola in Kailahun and Kenema were farmers and hunger was "imminent."

Comment: Double Whammy, indeed! Logic says to quarantine an infected area to stop the spread of a deadly disease. But the devastating effects to farming caused by the disease require that some border issues be altered to allow for food dispensation. Restrictions and displacement have already affected prices because food producers are leaving their land to seek potentially safer areas. Introduce a military presence (US 4000 troops) to contain a starving populace, healthy or otherwise...recipe for a double disaster despite aid relief.

Let's see. Why else would countries, such as the U.S. send troops to "patrol" Ebola? Gold mines. Ebola is short-sheeting the mine labor. Last month, a group of 11 mining companies asked for international help against Ebola, citing travel bans as a cause for mining operations to close. And, according to sources, miners are the most vulnerable to the outbreak since many of the mines are in Ebola territory and miners work in closed quarters. In addition to gold mining, there are iron ore and aluminum producers and oil drillers (ExxonMobil for example) who will be forced to cease operations due to labor loss. Lower production means higher prices for these products. However, mining companies that cannot produce go bankrupt and will be forced to do what? Sell to those who have the resources to vulture off of disaster. Which particular vultures come to mind?

And, while we are at it...with a decimated farming industry, why not total GMO control when the epidemic subsides...just speculating here.


U.S. doctor says Ebola will eventually consume every third-world country on Earth

Mobley, a doctor in Missouri, is convinced that Ebola will soon be infecting people all over the globe. "For months, doctors in my community - since we had a meeting six weeks ago - have been convinced that the United States will be importing clusters regularly. Right now, on the continent of West Africa, there are a million people in isolation, in quarantine, because of Ebola, and ten thousand passengers leave West Africa every single day. It's just a matter of time before this disease is carried to every corner of the world." He insists the CDC is underplaying the threat posed by the disease and is intentionally misleading the public. "They said the chance of importing a cluster - just two weeks ago - was extremely small, yet we knew that it was a sure thing. And the very same day that the President echoed [Director Tom] Frieden's sentiment at the CDC that it's very small, that very same day, they made the misdiagnoses in Dallas and sent this infectious guy home to infect these other people." "That disease is going to consume every third world country on the planet, and then we will be importing these clusters on a regular basis. I have no question that we will be able to stomp out this cluster in Dallas, but what happens when it happens on a weekly basis? Already the Dallas Health Department is overwhelmed; they're flying people to Atlanta. I don't care how advanced any industrialized nation is, there is a threshold where we will outstretch the resources and it becomes uncontrolled." - CBS Philly
Life Preserver

The fallacy of feeding the world

© luke chan
Poor wages, trade policies that dump foreign agricultural products into the market undercutting farm prices, and government policy that pushes small farmers off their land—these are the causes of hunger.
Yesterday I heard someone talking about how the US has a responsibility to "feed the world". I have a real problem with this, who gave us this mandate?

The thought of the US "feeding the world" is ridiculous in so many ways, but more so, it is condescending to say the least, to the rest of the world. Who made us keepers of the world? Who decided we knew how to feed them and who decided the people of world were incapable of feeding themselves?

In the first place they may not want to eat what we want to feed them, which would be mostly Genetically Modified (GM) corn and soy and fat beef with hormone residues. Sorry, I don't want to eat that either.

The GMO labeling conundrum

It would seem that large agricultural corporations touting genetically modified organisms (GMOs) they claim possess enhanced benefits for farmers and consumers would be proud to differentiate their products on the shelves from organic and traditionally produced food. However that is not the case. Not only is big-ag attempting to hide the true nature of their products, but the many big-business food processors that incorporate GMO ingredients into their final products are likewise attempting to mislead consumers.

The obvious fear is that consumers will avoid GMO products in favor of those not labeled as modified. While other arguments have been made in attempts to justify not properly labeling food as genetically modified or not, the underlying theme appears to be the belief of big-ag that consumers' ignorance over the alleged safety of GMO products threatens their business and with it, innovations they claim are a benefit not only to their bottom lines, but to all of humanity.

Comment: Additional information on the GMO labeling conundrum:


Artificial sweeteners: Latest scientific evidence should be a death blow

Messing with the microbes in your digestive process is not the way to go.

Evidence continues to accumulate that sugar is a sweet road to obesity, diabetes, Alzheimer's, and other maladies. As the dangers of sugar have unfolded there has been an increase in the production and consumption of sugar substitutes, five of which are currently FDA-approved. A recent study published in Nature adds to a growing set of concerns about these artificial sweeteners by presenting evidence that they, like sugar, can cause diabetes as well. The Israel-based research team presented evidence that artificial sweeteners cause this outcome by disrupting the balance of microbes that live in the body's gut.

This isn't the first study implicating sugar substitutes with metabolic issues. Research at Purdue University found that saccharin consumption can lead to weight gain in mice by interfering with their ability to control their appetites. Multiple studies have shown that some artificial sweeteners can mess with the body's endocrine system, and lead to insulin resistance. Many links between the consumption of artificial sweeteners and type 2 diabetes have been uncovered as well, and studies have also shown that consumption of artificial sweeteners can change the way the body deals with food that contains actual calories.

Comment: Learn more about the relationship between diet, gut microbes and health:


Ditch big pharma's antibiotics

© Piotr Marcinski/Shutterstock
Since the 1940s, antibiotics have become the standard treatment for bacterial infections. Most believe that pharmaceutical antibiotics are a miracle "silver bullet" for infectious diseases and that antibiotics alone were responsible for curtailing the major life-threatening, infectious diseases plaguing humanity.

According to Thomas McKeown, MD, author of The Role of Medicine, "Deaths from common infections were declining long before effective medical intervention was possible." [1] View graphs here.

Comment: Read additional articles about the overuse of Antibiotics: