Ebola is Back

Actually it never left. Ebola is endemic in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The government has declared an outbreak after 17 people in the town of Bikoro are suspected of dying of the gruesome disease. The WHO statement says:

All cases were reported from iIkoko Iponge health facility located about 30 kilometres from Bikoro. Health facilities in Bikoro have very limited functionality, and rely on international organizations to provide supplies that frequently stock out…We know that addressing this outbreak will require a comprehensive and coordinated response. WHO will work closely with health authorities and partners to support the national response.

According to BBC News, “this is the ninth time an Ebola outbreak has been recorded in the DR Congo. The virus was first discovered there in 1976 (when the country was known as Zaire) and is named after the Ebola river.”

Ebola is thought to be transmitted to humans via contact with infected animals such as the fruit bat, or eating infected bushmeat. However, it is worth noting that scientists aren’t exactly sure how Ebola is spread, at least initially, so let that thought fester. Once a person is infected, the virus can be spread through blood or body fluids or objects contaminated with body fluids.

The biggest outbreak of Ebola occurred in West Africa from roughly 2014 to 2016 and killed over 11,000 people. According to the CDC, “Many of these survivors suffer from persistent medical conditions after recovery from Ebola, including joint pain, eye problems, headaches, and other chronic health issues.”


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.

Dangerous Lettuce

Throw out all your romaine lettuce. Those people who hate salads have been on to something. To be safe, you should probably just throw out all your lettuce if you don’t know what kind it is, according to the CDC. To date there have been 53 cases of E. coli infections across 16 states linked to romaine lettuce. Thirty one people have been hospitalized “including five people who have developed a type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome.” The CDC has narrowed the location of the bad lettuce but warns that “unless you can confirm it is not from the Yuma, Arizona, growing region,” it’s not safe to eat.

Symptoms of E. coli may include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea, and vomiting and usually appear 1-10 days after exposure. People with weakened immune symptoms, young children, older adults, and pregnant women are most at risk for serious complications.

Bathroom Hand Dryers Spew Bacteria Everywhere

In a report that shocks only scientists, (we all knew these things were probably spraying fecal matter everywhere, right?) a study published in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology found that hot hair hand dryers actively spread bacteria all over your hands. The study also showed thatspores could be dispersed throughout buildings.

The Washington Post notes that the authors of the study, “who found that the nozzle of the dryers had minimal bacterial levels, said that more evidence was needed to determine if the dryers were bacteria harbors themselves or just blew large amounts of contaminated air.”

The study recommends using HEPA filter dryers instead, which can reduce bacteria exposure by four times, which I guess is better than nothing. It’s worth noting that many people don’t properly wash their hands, and some people even seem to think rinsing them with water does something besides get them wet. Imagine all that leftover bacteria blowing in the hot wind of the hair dryer. Cool, right?