- Cantaloupes and the Listeria Outbreak: According to the CDC the current Listeria outbreak has resulted in 23 deaths so far. IT is the deadliest known outbreak of foodborne illness in the USA in more than 25 years. A total of 116 people have been sickened and more outbreaks are expected. Symptoms may take up to 2 months to develop. In the “Cantaloupe Center of the World,” hundreds of workers have been laid off. Now even safe cantaloupes aren’t selling. In California, where the season is nearly over, many growers are thinking about abandoning their fields.
- Swine Flu in Nicaragua: Thirty-two people have been infected with the H1N1 virus, all of them either in stable condition or discharged. The media is assuring people there is no need for alarm. Not yet, anyway.
- The Seals Aren’t Safe: A mysterious outbreak among seals in Arctic Alaska. Hundreds of seals have been seen with mangy hair and skin lesions, and half of them have been found dead. Reports of nearly 150 other seals with the illness have come in from surrounding villages.
- Feral Cats and Rabies: In Bay County, Florida, 5 animals have been diagnosed with rabies this year. A feral cat in the area was observed acting strangely and officials have since set up a trapping program. More than 30 cats have been trapped and euthanized because of their proximity to the rabid cat. People are being advised to not approach animals acting strangely. More about rabies, if you’re curious.
Sobering news indeed.
The Boston Globe reports that “of the 86 children who have died since the new swine flu arose last spring, 43 deaths have been reported in September and early October alone, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported. That’s a startling number because in some past winters, the CDC has counted 40 or 50 child deaths for the entire flu season — and no one knows how long this swine flu outbreak will last.”
Ok, ok, I am trying to be a little less of an alarmist lately, and there have been a lot of positive developments. For example, it is being reported that there will be enough of the H1N1 vaccine for everyone and that it will be available earlier than expected. However, and this is the thing that keeps bugging me: The chief infectious disease pathologist at the CDC, Dr. Sherif Zaki, said the new virus had burrowed into the lungs of the 90 or so people he examined after they died, and they had huge amounts of the virus in their blood.
This in turn caused what is known as acute respiratory distress syndrome — an often fatal development that leaves patients gasping for breath.
“This is almost exactly what we see with avian flu,” Zaki said. “This looks like avian flu on steroids.”
Zaki said 90 percent of the fatalities he looked at had some condition that would predispose them to serious disease. They had a median age of 38 and one victim was a two-month-old infant who died within a day of getting sick.Nearly half — 46 percent — were obese, many had fatty liver disease, 27 percent had heart disease and 22 percent had asthma, he said.
So, in the vein on not being an alarmist, this guy only examined 90 people. And this still has not surpassed the 30,000 + deaths in the U.S. from seasonal flu. And no one really knows what will ultimately happen with the life of this H1N1 virus.
Or, in the words of Arrested Development, “No touching!” This works perfectly for me, as I have an extremely large area of personal space I expect others to stay out of.
An advisory panel is recommending a major step up in protection for health workers dealing with patients suspected or confirmed to have H1N1 influenza.
The Institute of Medicine said Thursday, in recommendations requested by the CDC, said loose paper masks are inadequate because the workers could still breathe in the virus.
Instead, health workers should switch to N95 respirators that form an airtight seal around the nose and mouth.
If properly fitted and worn correctly, N95 respirators filter out at least 95 percent of particles as small as 0.3 micrometers, which is smaller than influenza viruses, the report notes.
However, it is important to remember that “there is a lot we still don’t know about these viruses, and it would be a mistake for anyone to rely on respirators alone as some sort of magic shield.”