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Mon, 19 Feb 2018
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Plagues


Question

Mystery stomach bug hits Swiss watch capital

 Le Locle
© Swiss Tourism
The Unesco World Heritage Site of Le Locle is Switzerland's third smallest city.
Residents of the Swiss city of Le Locle, world famous for its watch production, have been laid low by a nasty infection with authorities warning people not to drink the water.

"It's pretty intense," Bernard Vaucher, spokesperson for the city of just over 10,000 people told Le Temps newspaper on Saturday.

"People here aren't talking about much else," he said of the infection which has symptoms ranging from stomach cramps to diarrhoea and vomiting.

"A large proportion of people are affected," he added.

The causes of the infection are unknown but authorities are warning people to steer clear of tap water.

Samples of the town's water supply have been taken but results were not yet in on early Saturday afternoon.

The neighbouring town of La Chaux-de-Fonds is in no danger, experts say, as is it fed by a different water source.

Le Locle is one of the centres of Swiss watchmaking and is home to brands including Tissot and Zodiac. Together with its twin town of La Chaux-de-Fonds, Le Locle has been recognized as a Unesco World Heritage site

"The site presents outstanding examples of mono-industrial manufacturing-towns which are well preserved and still active," according to Unesco.

In the nineteenth century, the area was also a hotbed of anarchism with the Jura Federation key in the ideology's development.

Black Cat 2

Canoodling with wild animals and other cute critters could spread disease

Image
© Vanderlei Almeida/AFP
Leprosy is on the loose in Florida, thanks to the armored armadillo. Nine people have come down with the disease after coming into contact with the animal. Now wildlife experts are sending out warnings about the risks of cuddling with cute animals.

So far this year, nine people contracted Hansen's disease, the official name for leprosy, in Florida. It is caused by the Mycobacterium leprae bacteria, which can be found on nine-banded armadillos, Florida Department of Health deputy press secretary Brad Dalton told WTLV. The state normally sees two to 10 cases each year.

All of the affected patients said they came into contact with armadillos, but genetics plays a big role in who contracts leprosy after touching the animals, according to Dr. Richard Truman, acting chief of the laboratory research branch of the National Hansen's Disease Program in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

"Between Texas and Louisiana and the southern United States, many millions of people have direct or indirect exposure to armadillos every day," he told NPR, noting that 95 percent of humans are completely immune to the illness.

Armadillos aren't the only animal to watch out for, though.

"All wild animals can harbor infectious agents that are harmful to people," Truman says. "If we leave animals alone and exercise caution, they don't pose a risk to us."

Comment: See also:

SOTT Exclusive: Natural Pet Health: Top 10 issues facing pet owners when it comes to your pets' well-being


Bug

Plague of Astrakhan: Locust swarm blots out the sun in Russian region (VIDEO)

locust swarm
© Reuters / Victor Ruiz
Near-Biblical scenes are emerging from the Astrakhan region in southern Russia, which has been invaded by giant swarms of locusts. Local authorities have scrambled vehicles and aircraft to combat the infestation.

The voracious insects are migrating dozens of kilometers every day, consuming crops as they go. Parts of the region have been put on high emergency alert.


Locust swarms appear in the area nearly every year, finding fertile breeding grounds on abandoned farmlands. This year, dry weather has created a superabundance of the creatures. The swarms include locusts of different ages, some only able to crawl and hop, others already on the wing.

Local authorities are using airborne crop-sprayers to spread insecticide over the affected areas. Flying sometimes as low as five or seven meters, the Antonov An-2 plane has managed to treat some 5,000 hectares with chemicals - out of a total of 29,000 hectares affected.

Health

Colorado teenager killed by Bubonic plague

Bubonic Plague has killed a teenager in Larimer County in Colorado, the local health department confirmed.
Image

Taylor Gaes
Taylor Gaes died on June 8 after coming into contact with fleas on a dead rodent or other animal. According to the health department, Gaes was the first person to carry the virus in the county since 1999.

Health officials are advising anyone who visited the Gaes' house before the cause of death was confirmed to seek medical attention, because there is a small chance they could have been bitten by infected fleas.

Bubonic plague symptoms typically occur within two to six days after being exposed to an infected rodent or animal.

Typical symptoms include swollen lymph nodes, sudden onset of fever or chills, severe headache, extreme exhaustion, and a general feeling of illness.

Cats that are infected usually show swelling and sores around the mouth, head, and neck, and appear to be ill. The disease can also be spread by inhaling bacteria.

Officials advise residents to avoid contact with all sick and dead rodents and rabbits. Residents should look for the presence of blow flies or dead animal smell as evidence of animal die-offs.These die-offs can be reported to Larimer County Health Department. Prairie dog colonies that suddenly are not active also may indicate plague activity in the area.

Comment: Despite popular belief, the bubonic plague that killed so many was most likely not spread by fleas. See:


Comet

Cyclical return of 'Black Death': Scientist considers 430 BC Athens Plague to be 'first Ebola epidemic'

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There is a widely held belief that the first outbreak dates back to 1976, in the Democratic Republic of Congo with the virus reemerging in West Africa in 2014. However, Powel Kazanjian, a professor of history and infectious diseases from the University of Michigan, suggests that the origin of the Ebola virus lies in Ancient Greece. His paper was published June 1 in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases. Kazanjian believes he has traced the virus back to infected mice and rats some 20 million years ago. The virus may have become available for humans from the animal reservoir long before scientists found it in 1976.

The devastating Plague of Athens in 430 BC, which has been a bone of contention between historians and physicians, may have actually been caused by the Ebola virus, claims the professor. The illness was also known as Thucydides syndrome, after the name of the famous historian who survived such an infection. His description of the symptoms allows scientists to speculate about the roots of today's outbreaks. The first manifestation of the illness often led to death after a fever, headache, fatigue and stomach-ache. The professor added that some people experienced such a severe dehydration that they plunged themselves into wells trying to quench their unceasing thirst. No medication could help those who contracted the virus.

It's also known that the disease came from Egypt, more specifically from Ethiopia, the name ancient Greeks used to refer to the modern sub-Saharan region, where the Ebola epidemic of 2014 originated.

Comment: Clearly a particularly virulent virus - and very probably never quite the same one as before - periodically wipes out (or seriously decimates) the human population.

See also:

It finally reaches mainstream: Researchers argue 'Black Death' was due to Ebola, not Bubonic plague

New Light on the Black Death: The Cosmic Connection

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


Health

Vibrio flesh-eating bacterium detected in Florida seawater

vibrio infection

Mississippi fisherman loses arm to Vibrio flesh-eating bacteria in the Gulf of Mexico
A potentially deadly flesh-eating bacteria has been detected in some Florida seawaters.

Seven people have become infected with the Vibrio vulnificus bacterium and two have died from exposure so far this year in Florida, CBS News reports.​

"People can get infected with Vibrio vulnificus when they eat raw shellfish," Florida Health Department spokeswoman Mara Burger said. "Since it is naturally found in warm marine waters, people with open wounds can be exposed to Vibrio vulnificus through direct contact with seawater."

Symptoms from ingesting food contaminated with the bacterium include vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. When exposure to Vibrio vulnificus occurs through an open wound, it can cause flesh-eating like symptoms that include skin breakdown and ulcers.

According to the Florida state health department, there have been 32 cases of Vibrio vulnificus bacterium in the past 12 months.

Comment: Since the Deepwater Horizon disaster, the incidence of this deadly bacterium has increased along the Gulf of Mexico coast.


Magnify

Ebola virus found in the eye of American doctor declared free of virus

Image
© New York Times
Ian Crozier
American doctor Ian Crozier was treated for Ebola in Atlanta last year and declared free of the virus in his blood. But he had no way of knowing it still lurked in his eye.

At the time, his eyes were the least of his worries.

"There were lots of things sort of higher on the food chain," he told CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360." "I was struggling to learn to walk again."

But not long after, mild burning and light sensitivity afflicted his eyes.

Less than two months later, he was back at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta; testing showed the virus was still living in his eye.

Perplexed

His case has left doctors stunned and highlighted the need for eye checkups for Ebola survivors.

Crozier, 44, was hospitalized at Emory University Hospital for more than a month in September after contracting the disease in Sierra Leone, where he worked at a hospital.

At the time, the hospital said he was the sickest of all the four Ebola patients treated there.

Crozier was discharged in October, and about two months later, he developed eye problems and returned to Emory. Doctors stuck a needle in his eye and removed some fluid, which tested positive for the virus.

Comment: "It wouldn't be surprising, in a very severe infection that is spread all over the body, to have some long-term damage to sensitive tissues like nerves," In addition, after a patient is cured, the virus may also persist in some parts of the body, including the eyes, and cause inflammation and vision problems, Goodman said.

After the 1995 Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, about 15 percent of survivors developed eye problems, such as eye pain and vision loss. In the most recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa, there have also been reports of survivors with vision problems, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). These eye problems typically respond well to treatment, but if left untreated, they can lead to blindness, Goodman said.

Long term effects of Ebola?


Health

2 deaths, 25 infected with MERS respiratory virus in South Korea; almost 700 in isolation

Image
© Reuters/Jim Young
Two people have reportedly died from Middle East Respiratory Syndrome in South Korea, becoming the first lethal cases in the current outbreak. At least 682 people, who had come into contact with those infected with MERS virus, were previously isolated.

A 58-year-old woman, who passed away on Monday, became South Korea's first fatality related to the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome after testing positive for the virus, the Health Ministry said.

The female, whose identity has been withheld, was listed as a suspected case after coming into contact with the country's first MERS patient, a 71-year-old male, who also died.

The health authorities announced six more cases of the virus on Tuesday, bringing the number of afflicted people to 25.

The new cases included South Korea's first tertiary infections, as two of the patients had contracted the virus from a secondarily-infected patient, the ministry added.

At least 682 people, who had contact with these patients, both family members and medical staff who treated them, are in isolation in their homes or in quarantine facilities to prevent the spread of the disease, Health Ministry official Kwon Jun-wook told reporters.

South Korean President Park Geun-Hye has slammed health officials for their "insufficient" response to the virus outbreak.

"The initial response to MERS... was insufficient," Park said, calling to increase government efforts to prevent any further spread of the virus.

Comment: See also: SOTT EXCLUSIVE: Beware of hype - Second case of MERS virus confirmed in the U.S.


Alarm Clock

Veteran research scientist warns 'Ebola will return'

Ebola
© Agence France-Presse/Matthieu Alexandre
Director of the National Institute of Biomedical Research (INRB), Jean-Jacques Muyembe, from Democratic Republic of Congo speaks to the press on May 28, 2015 in Paris
Congolese expert Jean-Jacques Muyembe may be little known to the public, but he has been one of the world's top Ebola investigators since the first epidemic erupted in central Africa in 1976.

Now, amid a decline in a west African outbreak that has taken more than 11,000 lives, Muyembe warns that Ebola will strike again in the future and that the deadly virus poses "a threat to the whole world".

Muyembe studied medicine in Kinshasa and at the University of Leuven in Belgium. He returned home to the Democratic Republic of Congo -- then known as Zaire -- in 1976, when the northern village of Yambuku was struck by a mysterious disease.

"They said many people were dying, and the health ministry asked me to go investigate," Muyembe told AFP.

He initially thought it could be a case of typhoid fever but he decided to continue investigating until he got to the bottom of it.

"I drew blood, and had no protective gloves or clothing," Muyembe said.

Accompanied by a Belgian nun suffering from fever, he returned from Yambuku to Kinshasa.

It was her blood samples, shipped in a makeshift cooler to the Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp, that enabled scientist Peter Piot to identify the worm-looking virus for the first time.

Comment: Some other information to consider: Ebola has been off the mainstream news radar for months. Why bring back this story now?


Ambulance

Multiple drug-resistant typhoid spreading across Africa and Asia

typhoid Jakarta
© AFP
A medical technician takes a blood sample from a patient to check for dengue and typhoid at a government health center in Jakarta
A deadly typhoid 'superbug' is spreading across Africa and Asia, creating a "previously under-appreciated and ongoing epidemic," a groundbreaking international study warns. H58, driven by a single family of the bacteria, is resistant to most antibiotics.

Researchers from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, who have been studying the far-reaching infection, say typhoid affects around 30 million people each year. According to researchers, H58 has emerged and spread throughout Asia and Africa over the last 30 years.

Evidence of a recent unreported wave of H58 transmission in many countries in Africa has also been found.

The scientists say the study results add to the message that "bacteria do not obey international borders."

What sounds even worse is that H58 is currently "displacing other typhoid strains that have been established over decades and centuries throughout the typhoid endemic world, completely transforming the genetic architecture of the disease," the researchers, whose work has been published in the journal Nature Genetic, have pointed out in a statement. The large-scale research involved some 74 scientists in almost two dozen countries.