Fruit Bats Spread Rare Brain Damaging Virus

Seventeen people have died in the Indian state Kerala from the Nipah virus (NiV), a disease that causes acute respiratory syndrome and fatal encephalitis (swelling of the brain). There is no vaccine for Nipah virus.

It is spread primarily by fruit bats, and is transmitted to humans “through secretions from the bat to the fruit it feeds on or touches.” According to the CDC, transmission to humans can also occur “after direct contact with infected bats, infected pigs, or from other NiV infected people.” Person to person transmission is commonly seen among family and caregivers of someone infected. Papers report that a nurse who was treating victims recently died of the disease herself.

Fruits and vegetables imported from the state of Kerala have been banned and the UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention has also issued a travel warning. State Health Minister KK Shailaja says that although it seems the first wave of the outbreak may be over, people should prepare for a second wave:

“The presence of Nipah virus can be confirmed only when the affected people show symptoms. So it is very essential for the affected people to be alert till their incubation period is over…The government has made elaborate arrangements to check the spread of the disease and the people who closely engaged with the Nipah infected people should avoid public gatherings and meeting till the end of the incubation period.”

The CDC Reminds You Not to Swim with Diarrhea

Just in time for summer, the CDC reminds you not to swim with diarrhea:

“During 2000–2014, public health officials from 46 states and Puerto Rico reported 493 outbreaks associated with treated recreational water. These outbreaks resulted in at least 27,219 cases and eight deaths.”

Over half the outbreaks occurred during June, July, and August, and hotel pools were the leading culprit location. The majority of outbreaks (89%) were caused by Cryptosporidiuma parasite that causes diarrhea, thus passing the gift along to all the friends you went swimming with. Other infectious outbreaks were caused by the bacteria Pseudomonas and Legionella. Of these three, Cryptosporidium is the most chlorine resistant and the hardest to kill.

The CDC recommends that you 1) don’t swim with diarrhea or an upset stomach, 2) check the inspection score of the pool you are about to submerse your body into, and 3) don’t swallow the water. I don’t know many people who actively try and swallow pool water, but it’s worth noting that it’s very easy to swallow even small amounts of water accidentally when swimming. Cheers to summer!

Wrap It Up

The California Department of Public Health recently reported that STDs have reached a new all time high in California. Here are the very unsexy numbers: “More than 300,000 cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and early syphilis were reported: a 45 percent increase compared to five years ago.” According to the LA Times, “the trend is mirrored nationwide, where STDs have been rising for five years.”

Most concerning, reports the CDPH, is that in 2017 “there were 30 stillbirths due to congenital syphilis in California. This is the highest number reported since 1995.”  In addition, the CDC notes that “an infected baby may be born without signs or symptoms of disease. However, if not treated immediately, the baby may develop serious problems within a few weeks. Untreated babies can have health problems such as cataracts, deafness, or seizures, and can die.”

CDPH Director and State Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Smith is quoted as saying:

“STDs are preventable by consistently using condoms, and many STDs can be cured with antibiotics. Regular testing and treatment are very important for people who are sexually active, even for people who have no symptoms. Most people infected with an STD do not know it.

According to the statement from CDPH:

Chlamydia and gonorrhea rates are highest among people under age 30. If left untreated, chlamydia and gonorrhea can cause pelvic inflammatory disease and lead to infertility, ectopic pregnancy, and chronic pelvic pain. Syphilis can cause permanent loss of vision, hearing and other neurologic problems.

If you are looking for a free testing site, the CDC has you covered: Get Tested.

Mosquitoes and Ticks and Fleas, Oh My!

“Disease cases from mosquito, tick, and flea bites tripled in the US from 2004 to 2016,” according to the CDC, with over 640,000 cases reported. They are blunt in their assessment that the U.S. is currently ill prepared to deal with vector borne diseases. State and local health departments, which the CDC notes are critical in controlling these diseases, are chronically underfunded.

Dr. Lyle R. Petersen, the agency’s director of vector-borne diseases, says that “the numbers on some of these diseases have gone to astronomical levels,” and that “the real case numbers were undoubtedly far larger.” He explains there are several factors at play:

“Ticks thriving in regions previously too cold for them, and hot spells triggering outbreaks of mosquito-borne diseases. Other factors include expanded human travel, suburban reforestation and a dearth of new vaccines to stop outbreaks…A recent survey of mosquito control agencies found that 84 percent needed help with such basics as surveillance and testing for resistance to pesticides”

A handful of super fun tick-borne diseases: Lyme disease, Anaplasmosis, Babesiosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Powassan virus, and Tularemia.

For the mosquito lovers, there’s Chikungunya, Dengue, Eastern equine encephalitis, West Nile virus, Yellow fever, Zika, and malaria.

As you should know from reading this blog, the best known disease caused by fleas: the Plague.

Toxic Caterpillars Invade London

Health warnings have been issued in London following an outbreak of toxic caterpillars. Hairs on the Oak processionary moth caterpillars, or OPM caterpillars, can cause fevers as well as eye and throat irritation. They can be deadly for those with asthma. According to the Telegraph:

Serious allergic reactions can be caused by protein in the creatures’ hair follicles, which remain active on the ground for up to five years after being shed…Each OPM caterpillar has about 62,000 hairs which can be ejected…The hairs also remain in the oak tree nests, which start out white but become gradually discoloured and harder to see.

The species is believed to have to have arrived in Britain accidentally in 2005 via Dutch trees imported for a landscaping project at a housing development in Kew, South West London.

Health officials warn that people should not “touch or approach nests or caterpillars” or let children or animals near them.