Australian government prepares to punish parents who don't vaccinate children

© Natural Society
The Australian government is set to pass a law that would withhold child care and other benefits from parents who opt out of vaccinating their children.

Under the "No Jab, No Pay Bill" introduced to Parliament, the "conscientious objector" category would be removed, making parents ineligible for full government benefits for not immunizing their children. Youngsters would only be exempt due to medical reasons.

If the law is passed, families could lose up to 15,000 Australian dollars ($11,000) per child per year in tax and child care benefits starting January 1, 2016, if their children are not inoculated. [1]

There has been a rise in unvaccinated children under age 7 in Australia, due to parental concern over the potential side effects of vaccines, and worse. Over the past decade, the number of children under 7 who aren't vaccinated has increased from 24,000 to 39,000. There are reasons for it, too. Encephalopathy, febrile seizures, anaphylaxis and hardening of the brain are two devastating conditions associated with measles immunization. And there are many reported adverse vaccine effects reported (and many more unreported) to the CDC and FDA - known as VAERS.

No matter; Australian legislators are adamant that moms and dads "jab" their kids, despite their well-founded fears.
"The choice made by some families not to vaccinate their children is not supported by public policy or medical research, nor should such action be supported by taxpayers in the form of family payments," Social Services Minister Scott Morrison told Parliament.

Arrow Up

A step closer to the end? Syria war prompts pull from doomsday seed vault

© Associated Press Photo/John McConnico
Snow blows off the Svalbard Global Seed Vault before being inaugurated at sunrise.
A seed storage vault built into the side of an Arctic mountain to protect global food supplies in case of global cataclysm is being tapped by researchers in the Middle East who say the Syrian war has devastated their crops.

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault, built in 2008 by the Norwegian government as the world's largest secure seed storage, is intended to protect thousands of varieties of essential food crops against things like nuclear disaster, disease and climate change.

Now, the devastation brought on by the war in Syria, which has raged on for four years and claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, has prompted researchers to request some of the samples they gave to the vault, as their collection of crops in Aleppo was destroyed in the fighting.

Among the samples requested by the International Center for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas (ICARDA) crops resistant to drought that could help scientists develop and secure food supplies in the face of climate change in dry areas worldwide.

Protecting the world's biodiversity in this manner is precisely the purpose of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault," said Brian Lainoff, spokesman for the Crop Trust, which runs the underground store, located on a Norwegian island 1,300 km (800 miles) from the North Pole.


Sierra Leone health authorities quarantine 700 after new Ebola death

Health authorities in Sierra Leone said Tuesday they had quarantined almost 700 people as they battled to contain a new outbreak of Ebola which killed a 16-year-old girl.

The teenager died Sunday in a rural suburb of the city of Makeni, in a northern province that had not recorded a single case of the deadly virus in nearly six months.

"Over 680 people in the village of Robureh are now under a 21-day quarantine," Amadu Thullah, a spokesman for the local Ebola response centre told AFP.

The centre said those locked down included her parents, close relatives and classmates.

"They are classified as high risk although they have not exhibited any signs and symptoms of the disease," added health ministry spokesman Seray Turay.

"The surveillance team of the Ebola response centre have intensified their investigations and is working to nip the issue in the bud."

The girl's death came two weeks after a 67-year-old food trader was killed by the tropical fever in the neighbouring district of Kambia, but the two outbreaks are not linked.

The National Ebola Response Centre (NERC) said 1,524 people were in quarantine across the two districts.


First ever bubonic plague case documented in Michigan

First ever bubonic plague case confirmed in Michigan
Under a low magnification of 96X, this hematoxylin-eosin stained (H&E) photomicrograph reveals some of the histopathologic changes seen in a lymph node tissue sample in a case of fatal human plague. Note the medullary necrosis accompanied by fluid due to the presence of Yersinia pestis bacteria.
A Michigan resident has contracted the rare, life-threatening bubonic plague — the first documented case in Michigan's public health history, state officials confirmed.

The Marquette County adult is recovering after apparently contracting the flea-borne illness during a trip to Colorado. Officials are reassuring the public there is no cause for alarm, despite the disease's connection to the microorganism that caused the Black Death plague in Europe in the 1300s, killing millions and reshaping history.

"It's same organism but, in this case, the infection resides in a lymph node," said Dr. Terry Frankovich, medical director for the Marquette County Health Department.

The bubonic plague, in fact, is notably marked by one or more swollen, tender and painful lymph nodes, usually in the groin, armpit or neck.

With the bubonic plague, people are most often infected by bites from infected fleas or when they have direct contact with the tissues or body fluids from an infected animal. The highest risk is in settings that offer food and shelter for rodents — campsites and cabins, for example, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.

The Michigander's case did not develop into the more contagious pneumonic form of the plague. Pneumonic plague may be passed between humans, infecting the lungs and causing a rapidly developing pneumonia that can lead to respiratory failure and shock, according to the CDC.

A third form, septicemic, occurs when the plague organism multiplies in the blood, and it can lead to shock, organ failure and — as in the case of a Colorado teen earlier this year — death.

Comment: New Light on the Black Death: The Viral and Cosmic Connection


Health officials puzzled by surge in rare bacterial disease known as rabbit fever

U.S. health officials said on Thursday they were puzzled by a surge in the number of people who have contracted a rare bacterial disease usually found in rabbits that has already killed a Wyoming man and sickened dozens of people in Colorado, South Dakota and Nebraska this year.

The unusually high number of cases of tularemia, sometimes called rabbit fever, have been concentrated in northeastern Wyoming and in neighboring parts of South Dakota and Nebraska and farther south in the Colorado Front Range, where there have been reported die-offs of animals like rabbits and voles that can carry the infectious disease, Wyoming health officials said.

While tularemia, whose symptoms can include fever, sore throat and muscle aches, is often present in the environment, it rarely sickens more than a few people a year in Wyoming, a handful in Colorado and just a few in South Dakota, health officials said.

Arrow Down

Scientists to reanimate 30,000-year-old 'giant virus' found in Siberia

© Getty Images
Cells of the Mollivirus sibericum. The virus has been buried deep in the Siberian permafrost for over 30,000 years, is thought to be the newest representative of what are loosely known as "giant viruses".
Scientists said they will reanimate a 30,000-year-old giant virus unearthed in the frozen wastelands of Siberia, and warned climate change may awaken dangerous microscopic pathogens.

Reporting this week in the flagship journal of the US National Academy of Sciences, French researchers announced the discovery of Mollivirus sibericum, the fourth type of prehistoric virus found since 2003 - and the second by this team.

Before waking it up, researchers will have to verify that the bug cannot cause animal or human disease.

To qualify as a "giant", a virus has to be longer than half a micron, a thousandth of a millimetre (0.00002 of an inch).

Mollivirus sibericum - "soft virus from Siberia" - comes in at 0.6 microns, and was found in the permafrost of northeastern Russia.

Climate change is warming the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions at more than twice the global average, which means that permafrost is not so permanent any more.

"A few viral particles that are still infectious may be enough, in the presence of a vulnerable host, to revive potentially pathogenic viruses," one of the lead researchers, Jean-Michel Claverie, told AFP.


First death from West Nile Virus reported in North Carolina

© CDC/James Gathnay/Reuters
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services has reported the first death from West Nile Virus in the Tarheel State in 2015. The state did not have any previous cases this year.

So far in 2015, 415 cases of West Nile have been reported to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 45 states and the District of Columbia. There were 10 deaths from the mosquito-borne disease in the country as of September 1.

North Carolina has not released any information about the victim, including age, gender and location of the person who died.

"This is a tragic reminder that these infections, though relatively rare, can be fatal, "Dr. Carl Williams, State Public Health veterinarian, said in a statement. "We see most cases of mosquito-borne illness in the months from August through October, but you can still enjoy your time outdoors by following some basic control measures."

About 1 in 5 people infected with West Nile Virus will develop a fever with other symptoms. Less than 1 percent of infected people develop a serious, sometimes fatal, neurologic illness, the CDC said.

Comment: See also:


Where the Black Death is most common in the U.S.

One dot placed in the county of exposure for each plague case.
A second case of suspected plague has been reported in Yosemite, California, barely more than a week after a child contracted the disease after visiting the park.

Also known as the Black Death, this is the same bacterium (Yersinia pestis) that wiped out millions of people in the 14th century. While the disease is rare in the U.S., it's not defunct. On average, we'll see seven cases per year:
The reason for the 1983 spike you see in the chart above could have been a result of cool moist weather in the western US, which may have allowed fleas to survive for longer and extended the length of the plague season in some areas.

You can get infected from a flea bite or contact with infected tissues or fluids from handling an animal — such as a squirrel, chipmunk, or other rodent — that is sick with or died from the disease. You can also get it from inhaling droplets in the breath of infected cats or humans.

Most of the cases tend to crop up in the rural West, especially in southern Colorado, northern New Mexico, northern Arizona, California, southern Oregon, and western Nevada — places that rodents that carry the disease call home.

Comment: Rodents probably had very little to do with the spread of the Black Death. There is a growing body of evidence that the plague has a cosmic connection:

An infection causes flu-like symptoms such as high fever, chills, nausea, weakness and swollen lymph nodes in the neck, armpit, or groin.

Comment: See also:


Yosemite campground shutting after dead squirrels found to be infected with plague

A bubonic plague smear, prepared from a lymph removed from an adenopathic lymph node, or bubo, of a plague patient, demonstrates the presence of the Yersinia pestis bacteria that causes the plague.
A second Yosemite National Park campground will be shut down for five days after a pair of dead squirrels were found to be infected with the plague, park and California public health officials said on Friday.

The closure of Tuolumne Meadows Campground comes a week after a child who camped elsewhere in Yosemite, one of America's top tourist destinations, was hospitalized with the disease.

The case marked the first time a human was known to be infected with the centuries-old scourge, which is carried by rodents and the fleas that live on them, in California since 2006.


Cases of Legionnaires' disease rises to record 108 in Bronx, New York

© AFP/Spencer Platt
The Opera House Hotel is viewed on August 6, 2015, in an area of the Bronx which is the center of the outbreak Legionnaires disease in New York.
The number of people diagnosed with Legionnaires disease has risen to 108 as America's largest city suffers from a record outbreak of the form of pneumonia, authorities said Saturday.

No new deaths have been reported on top of the 10 announced earlier in the week and officials say the outbreak is now on the decline.

To date, 94 people have been admitted to the hospital with the infection since the outbreak began on July 10 in the south Bronx, the poorest section of New York state.

The disease is spread by a bacteria, which has recently been discovered in the cooling towers of five buildings in the South Bronx area.

Officials believe the cause of the outbreak came from one of the sites, which has since been cleaned and disinfected.

All those who died were older patients and had pre-existing medical conditions. Legionnaires' disease is not contagious and can be treated with antibiotics.

"This is literally unchartered territory," New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said Saturday.

"We've never seen an outbreak of Legionnaires like this in the city," he told reporters.

Comment: See also: