"HARARE, Jan 30 (Reuters) - Nine people have caught cholera in two poor townships in Zimbabwe's capital most likely from drinking contaminated water in shallow wells due to a breakdown in municipal services.
More people have been forced to seek water from more dangerous sources as the southern African nation suffers from rocketing inflation, rising unemployment and poverty levels and shortages of foreign currency, fuel and food.
In urban areas, where the crisis has been hardest felt, residents have gone for months without water, endured power cuts for weeks and contended with burst sewers, crumbling roads and municipal authorities failing to collect refuse.
The official Herald newspaper reported on Tuesday that nine people from Tafara and Mabvuku townships were admitted to hospital after drinking contaminated water. The two townships have faced intermittent water shortages for years."
You got your sewage in my groundwater! You got your groundwater in my sewage!
Africa, a land of many contrasts. So many illnesses to choose from! Ebola, Malaria, Dengue Fever, Sleeping Sickness, and, apparently, Cholera too!
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Saturday, January 27, 2007
Guess I was wrong about thinking Japan had H5N1 contained. Here's the story from the BBC:
"Officials in Japan have confirmed that a recent outbreak of bird flu at a poultry farm was the deadly H5N1 strain of the virus.
The outbreak, at a farm in Hyuga, is the second to strike Japan's main chicken-producing region of Miyazaki.
Samples taken from 3,000 dead chickens from the farm revealed that all had been infected with the H5N1 virus.
Officials said they had begun slaughtering the farm's remaining 49,000 birds on Friday. A further 50,000 chickens from a farm neighbouring the one that suffered the outbreak will also be killed as a precautionary measure, an official said.
The earlier H5N1 outbreak occured in mid-January at a farm in the same region."
I wonder if anyone has been doing a running count on the total number of poultry culled worldwide. It's truly a chicken holocaust.
Posted by Frobisher Smith at 1/27/2007
Friday, January 26, 2007
"The EU Commission has said the highly pathogenic H5N1 strain of bird flu has been found in dead geese in Hungary. It is the first outbreak of bird flu in the EU this year.
Tests were carried out after an abnormally high mortality rate was reported in a flock of over three-thousand geese. All of the remaining flock were killed.
A protection zone of three kilometers and a surveillance zone of 10 kilometers was in place. The European Commission said there was no immediate threat to Hungarian poultry or exports."
It's also hit Azerbaijan, so it's only a matter of time until it's back in Turkey again. Huge, rural, unprepared Turkey.
Posted by Frobisher Smith at 1/26/2007
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
Got this from the Airborne Infection Prevention blog:
"An update of avian influenza from around the globe:
* Indonesia reported its 62nd avian flu fatality last week. Only 18 Indonesians who have contracted the disease survived.
* Of the 19 confirmed cases of avian flu in Egypt, 11 have been fatal. An Egyptian woman who had exposure to sick and dead poultry became the 19th fatality last week.
* Vietnam has suffered the greatest number of H5N1 infections. To date 93 people in that country contracted avian flu, resulting in 42 deaths
* Other countries with reported avian deaths include China, Cambodia Thailand, Turkey and Iraq."
And because I so love statistics, here's a rundown of the mortality rates:
Vietnam: 45% mortality rate
Egypt: 57% mortality rate
Indonesia: 77% moratlity rate
China: 63% mortality rate
And from the WHO, as of January 12th the Total world mortality rate is 60%.
Taking an average of the top four countries afflicted (seen above), we get a mortality rate of 60.5%. Not far off from the real world rate, eh?
The sad conclusion of all this is: people are, in general, ten percent more likely to die from Bird Flu than to survive. As far as I know, the situation in Jakarta is still very dicey (even with the new backyard bird ban) and there's been quite a few chances for the virus to mutate to better inhabit human hosts.
That's not a lottery the human race wants to win.
Posted by Frobisher Smith at 1/23/2007
Monday, January 22, 2007
The MRSA of the military hospital, MDR-AB, is finally getting some media attention. Here's Wired News's article:
"A homemade bomb exploded under a Humvee in Anbar province, Iraq, on August 21, 2004. The blast flipped the vehicle into the air, killing two US marines and wounding another - a soft-spoken 20-year-old named Jonathan Gadsden who was near the end of his second tour of duty. In previous wars, he would have died within hours. His skull and ribs were fractured, his neck was broken, his back was badly burned, and his stomach had been perforated by shrapnel and debris.
Gadsden got out of the war zone alive because of the Department of Defense's network of frontline trauma care and rapid air transport known as the evacuation chain. Minutes after the attack, a helicopter touched down in the desert. Combat medics stanched the marine's bleeding, inflated his collapsed lung, and eased his pain. He was airlifted to the 31st Combat Support Hospital in Baghdad, located in an old health care facility called the Ibn Sina, which had formerly catered to the Baathist elite. Army surgeons there repaired Gadsden's cranium, removed his injured spleen, and pumped him full of broad-spectrum antibiotics to ward off infection.
Three days later, he was flown to the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, the largest American military hospital in Europe. He was treated for his burns, and his spine was stabilized for the 18-hour flight to the US. Just a week after nearly dying in the desert, Gadsden was recuperating at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, with his mother, Zeada, at his bedside.
The surgeons, nurses, medics, and pilots of the evacuation chain have saved thousands of lives. Soldiers wounded in Vietnam were six weeks of transit time away from US hospitals, and one out of every four of them died. By contrast, a soldier's odds of surviving battle injuries in Iraq are nine out of 10. Unfortunately, this remarkable advance in battlefield logistics has also resulted in an increase in the number of traumatically injured patients who are particularly susceptible to infections during their recovery. In Gadsden's case, from the moment he was carried into the Ibn Sina, the injured marine was in the crosshairs of an enemy he didn't even know was there.
At first, he did quite well. By early September, Gadsden was weaned off his ventilator and breathing on his own. For weeks he gradually improved. His buddies took him to a Washington Redskins game in his wheelchair, and the next day he navigated 50 feet with a walker. Soon Gadsden was transferred to a veterans' hospital in Florida called the James A. Haley Medical Center, where he offered to serve as the eyes of a fellow marine blinded in an ambush. The doctors told Zeada that her son might be able to go home by the end of October.
But he still had mysterious symptoms that he couldn't shake, like headaches, rashes, and intermittent fevers. His doctors gave him CT scans, laxatives, methadone, beta-blockers, Xanax, more surgery, and more antibiotics. An accurate evaluation of his case was difficult, however, because portions of his medical records never arrived from Bethesda. If they had, they would have shown a positive test for a kind of bacteria called Acinetobacter baumannii.
In the taxonomy of bad bugs, acinetobacter is classified as an opportunistic pathogen. Healthy people can carry the bacteria on their skin with no ill effects - a process known as colonization. But in newborns, the elderly, burn victims, patients with depressed immune systems, and those on ventilators, acinetobacter infections can kill. The removal of Gadsden's spleen and the traumatic nature of his wounds made him a prime target.
On October 17, the marine was given a day pass to accompany his mother to Wal-Mart, where he bought her a purse. Hours after returning to the hospital, his condition deteriorated abruptly. His heart rate and blood pressure were elevated, and his white blood cell count was spiking. Nurses noted in his chart that he had become "disoriented to place, time, and people - thinking he is at home - sitting up thinks he's lying down." He struggled through occupational therapy the following morning, shivering and complaining of the cold.
Gadsden had a seizure and a heart attack the next day. The neurology team discovered that his cerebrum and cerebellum had swelled up overnight; he was clinically brain-dead. His family and minister were called to the hospital, and on October 22 he was taken off life support.
The Marine Corps public affairs office sent out the customary press release attributing Gadsden's death to "injuries as a result of enemy action." But then a few weeks later, Zeada's dentist told her a Florida newspaper was reporting that her son had died of bacterial meningitis. Aided by US representative Bill Young, Zeada - who works as a cardiac-care technician in South Carolina - demanded an investigation.
She discovered that an autopsy was performed shortly after her son's death. The coroner recorded the "manner of death" as "homicide (explosion during war operation)" but determined the actual cause of death to be a bacterial infection. The organism that killed Gadsden, called Nocardia, had clogged the blood vessels leading to his brain. But the acinetobacter had been steadily draining his vital resources when he could least afford it. For weeks, it had been flourishing in his body, undetected by the doctors at Haley, resisting a constant assault by the most potent antibiotics in the medical arsenal.
"No one said that my son had anything like that," Zeada says. "I never had to wear gloves or a mask, and none of the nurses did either. No one had any information."
Since OPERATION Iraqi Freedom began in 2003, more than 700 US soldiers have been infected or colonized with Acinetobacter baumannii. A significant number of additional cases have been found in the Canadian and British armed forces, and among wounded Iraqi civilians. The Armed Forces Institute of Pathology has recorded seven deaths caused by the bacteria in US hospitals along the evacuation chain. Four were unlucky civilians who picked up the bug at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC, while undergoing treatment for other life-threatening conditions. Another was a 63-year-old woman, also chronically ill, who shared a ward at Landstuhl with infected coalition troops.
Behind the scenes, the spread of a pathogen that targets wounded GIs has triggered broad reforms in both combat medical care and the Pentagon's networks for tracking bacterial threats within the ranks. Interviews with current and former military physicians, recent articles in medical journals, and internal reports reveal that the Department of Defense has been waging a secret war within the larger mission in Iraq and Afghanistan - a war against antibiotic-resistant pathogens.
Acinetobacter is only one of many bacterial nemeses prowling around in ICUs and neonatal units in hospitals all over the world. A particularly fierce organism known as MRSA - methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus - infects healthy people, spreads easily, and accounts for many of the 90,000 fatal infections picked up in US hospitals each year. Another drug-resistant germ on the rise in health care facilities, Clostridium difficile, moves in for the kill when long courses of antibiotics have wiped out normal intestinal flora.
Forerunners of the bug causing the military infections have been making deadly incursions into civilian hospitals for more than a decade. In the early 1990s, 1,400 people were infected or colonized at a single facility in Spain. A few years later, particularly virulent strains of the bacteria spread through three Israeli hospitals, killing half of the infected patients. Death by acinetobacter can take many forms: catastrophic fevers, pneumonia, meningitis, infections of the spine, and sepsis of the blood. Patients who survive face longer hospital stays, more surgery, and severe complications.
Nevertheless, the bug makes an unlikely candidate for the next mass plague. It preys exclusively on the weakest of the weak and the sickest of the sick, slipping into the body through open wounds, catheters, and breathing tubes. Colonization poses no threat to people who aren't already ill, but colonized health care workers and hospital visitors can carry the bacteria into neighboring wards and other medical facilities. Epidemiologist Roberta Carey at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls acinetobacter the Rodney Dangerfield of microorganisms: "It doesn't get a lot of respect because it's not out there bumping off normal, healthy people." But lately the bacteria has been getting its due, because it is rapidly evolving resistance to all of the antibiotics that used to keep it in check."
There's a lot more in the story, so check it out, I don't really want to post the full thing here as it is rather long. Army screw-ups and poor medical communication and care lead to the death of a many young veterans who would have otherwise lived a long and healthy life.
The US Army is purposely keeping this story buried, as it does reflect rather poorly on them. Fortunately people are beginning to hear about it. It was brand new info to me about three months ago, but the situation has been going on since 2003.
Posted by Frobisher Smith at 1/22/2007
Friday, January 19, 2007
Shouldn't BARDA be the one handing out the cash for this??? Whats the point of making an agency specifically designed to do that and then not use it? Anyway, here's All Headline News:
"Washington, D.C. (AHN) - U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt on Thursday announced that the organization awarded contracts worth $132.5 million to three vaccine makers to develop an advanced H5N1 influenza vaccine. The advanced vaccine would work by using an ingredient called an adjuvant that serves as an immune-system booster to enhance the body's response to the vaccine's active ingredient.
"In the event of an influenza pandemic, a vaccine that uses adjuvant could provide a way to extend a limited vaccine supply to more people," Secretary Leavitt said in a statement.
HHS has awarded five-year contracts to GlaxoSmithKline for $63.3 million and to Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics, Inc., for $54.8 million to develop the adjuvant. In addition, HHS awarded IOMAI Corporation $14.4 million for 15 months to complete its Phase 1 clinical trials of the vaccine they are developing, according to the statement.
Phase 1 clinical trials are the beginning of tests on humans to see if the vaccine works and what its side effects are.
Vaccines are the most effective way to protect against flu. The H5N1 avian influenza that is currently common in birds is occasionally transmitted to humans, according to the PandemicFlu.gov website."
I believe BioCryst is getting BARDA help for its vaccine, as well as Vaxogen or whatever they're called. Looks like the HHS proper is only interested in giving money to the big guys.
Posted by Frobisher Smith at 1/19/2007
Is it the Fujian-type? Hahaha, of course not! That sub-strain doesn't officially exist in the eyes of the Chinese government, it couldn't possibly be that! Anyway, here's the report from the Japanese Times:
"The avian influenza that broke out last week at a poultry farm in Miyazaki Prefecture involved a highly virulent virus, the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry said Thursday.
A health official collects a blood sample Wednesday from a chicken at a farm in Miyazaki Prefecture to check for avian flu.
The ministry determined the degree of virulence through a laboratory examination of virus samples taken from chickens that died of bird flu on the Miyazaki farm.
The National Institute of Animal Health, which identified the virus as the highly pathogenic H5N1 strain on Tuesday, drew the conclusion after eight chickens inoculated with the sampled virus were dead by Thursday, the ministry said.
Based in Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture, the institute will continue genetic analysis for the consideration of the ministry's panel of experts.
The H5N1 strain, a subtype of the influenza A virus circulating basically in birds, has spread mainly in Asia and has killed more than 160 people in 10 countries since 2003, according to the World Health Organization.
Its latest outbreak in poultry in Japan -- the fifth bird-flu case here since 2004 -- occurred at Taniguchi Furanjo Kurosaka Farm in Kiyotake, Miyazaki Prefecture, causing the death of 3,500 birds in one of the farm's three poultry houses, mostly last week."
I'm interested in what the full genetic analysis says about this recent outbreak. It was really quick and nasty, but the Japanese seem to have stopped it before it spread further.
Posted by Frobisher Smith at 1/19/2007
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
From Radio Australia:
"An Indonesian hospital has been overwhelmed with patients suffering bird flu symptoms.
The spate of possible cases comes as Indonesia is preparing to ban backyard poultry farming after four people died from flu last week, taking the number of people killed in the country to 61 - the highest in the world.
A recent spurt of human infections, which re-emerged in Asia in late 2003, has alarmed health officials.
Doctors in Jakarta are treating nine people with bird flu symptoms, including a five-year-old girl.
Adding to regional worries, Thailand has been forced to cull 1,900 ducks.
In Vietnam, where bird flu has killed 42 of the 93 people infected since 2003, the virus appeared to be spreading fast among fowl in the country's southern Mekong Delta.
In a bid to stem the spread of the virus, Indonesia plans to prohibit people from keeping backyard fowl in three high-risk provinces.
Our Jakarta correspondent, Geoff Thompson, reports that one of the major challenges confronting the fight against the spread of H5N1 is the fact that chickens are kept in backyards.
The prevalence of home-based poultry farms and their contribution to local economies meant Indonesia's government has resisted advice to ban the practice.
But after four new bird flu deaths last week, Indonesia's Coordinating Minister for Welfare, Aburizal Bakrie, said that the situation would improve if humans and birds were separated."
This is turning into a pretty big spark. Let's hope there's no fire.
Posted by Frobisher Smith at 1/16/2007
It's either a cover-up of some horrible disease or a big prank. I'm waiting for the WHO on this one, but China is denying it. Here's All Headline News with the story:
"Beijing, China (AHN) - The municipal health bureau of Beijing, China on Sunday denied reports there is an outbreak of disease caused by pork dishes in the Chinese capital.
Zhao Chunhi, deputy hear of the bureau dismissed the report circulating through text messages which says Chinese pork has been contaminated with a virus that can cause a serious disease.
Zhao said, "It's simply not true," China's official Xinhua news reported.
Over the weekend, there were text messages that were circulating in Beijing, warning people not to eat pork in the city. The message reads, "Don't eat pork! Pork in Beijing has been contaminated by a virus that can cause pyogenic encephalitis."
But Zhao said there is no truth in the text messages as he dismissed another rumor that officials of major hospitals in Beijing had conducted an emergency meeting to address the situation.
He said, "Pork sold in Beijing has to meet strict standards. It is perfectly fit for consumption."
Now here comes the fun part, the home game! If this is real, what virus could it be?
The first and most obvious candidate would be the Nipah Virus, which caused a pretty nasty outbreak of encephalitis in Malaysian pig farms in 1999. This virus is very rapid in it's progression, and is associated with pigs. Second runner up would probably be the Japanese Encephalitis Virus which, while usually transmitted by a mosquito, can be carried by pigs as reservoirs.
The problem is, the term "pyogenic" usually refers to bacterial disease. Bacteria tend to be the pathogens that create a lot of puss and abscesses. And yet the messages state that the pork has been infected with a virus. This, as the robots' say, "does not compute."
So either the messages meant to say "hemorrhagic" - which is what viruses tend to like to cause, or they meant to say "bacteria." Of course, there's always option three - the originator of the messages does not know very much about pathology, and thus it is likely a hoax.
My opinion: wait for the WHO or Snopes to issue a report on this, but it's likely complete bullshit.
Posted by Frobisher Smith at 1/16/2007
Sunday, January 14, 2007
Okay, I'll be honest, I'm not quite sure what a "cluster" is, I think it just means a bunch of related cases. However, this new development is very distressing, I think we just might be at the tipping point here folks; a dozen or so more H5N1 infections and we could be looking at a pandemic. Here's the report from Bloomberg:
"Jan. 14 (Bloomberg) -- Bird flu infected an 18-year-old man in Indonesia whose mother died of the disease three days ago, creating a new cluster of infections that doctors are monitoring for signs the virus is becoming more adept at infecting humans.
The teenager from Tangerang, in Banten province, tested positive for the H5N1 strain of avian influenza, said Mukhtar Ikhsan, a doctor at Jakarta's Persahabatan hospital, which is treating the man and seven other suspected cases, including the man's 42-year-old father.
"Results may be announced within a few days by the Health Ministry,'' Ikhsan said over the telephone today. Tests are pending on six others being treated in the hospital for suspected avian flu. Another four suspected cases are being treated in a hospital in Bandung city, in West Java province.
Avian flu has killed four people in Indonesia since Jan. 10 after a hiatus of almost two months. World health officials say H5N1 may touch off a lethal pandemic capable of killing millions if it mutates to become as infectious to humans as seasonal flu.
The H5N1 strain is known to have infected 265 people in 10 countries since 2003, killing 159 of them, the World Health Organization said on Jan. 12. Indonesia has recorded at least 59 fatalities, it said."
Assuming all the suspected cases turn out positive, that's 12 fresh H5N1 cases whithin a week. Cluster be damned, I'm calling it an outbreak. Personally, it's unlikely that all these cases are the result of direct contact with diseased birds, there has to have been some human to human transmission. 3 idiots touching dead birds in a week I can believe, but 12?!? Something else has to be going on here.
I would also hate to see Persahabatan Hospital become a breeding ground for the bird flu, I guess we just have to assume that by "isolation" they really mean it.
I mean, why shouldn't we give Indonesia the benefit of the doubt? Just because they barely responded to the threat and only did it after it was two years too late, and cover-up as much as they can with their Avian Flu Propoganda Division - that doesn't mean they would have any reason to lie about the conditions of their hospitals - the hospitals where more people have died of bird flu in than any other nation in the world...
I'm sure everything is under control and these cases pose no threat of further contagion.
Posted by Frobisher Smith at 1/14/2007
Saturday, January 13, 2007
In the wake of the 14-year-old dying just a few days ago, two new H5N1 deaths have occurred in Indonesia. They must have been amongst the "six suspected of being infected," since last I heard it was just the boy and the 37 year old woman who had been confirmed as having the virus (Both have subsequently died). Here's the BBC with more about it:
"Two women in Indonesia have died after contracting bird flu, health officials have confirmed, raising the country's total number of human deaths to 61.
A 27-year-old woman from the capital, Jakarta, died in hospital on Friday evening, officials said. Another woman, aged 22, died west of Jakarta in the early hours of Saturday.
Indonesia has the world's highest human death toll from the H5N1 virus, and registered more bird flu deaths in 2006 than any other nation.
The AFP news agency reported that another patient was in hospital showing symptoms of bird flu infection.
That patient has been placed in an isolation ward after killing a sick chicken and apparently contracting the disease, the report said.
The latest deaths are the third and fourth fatalities of 2007 in Indonesia. A 14-year-old boy died earlier this week from bird flu symptoms, and a 37-year-old woman was also killed."
Looks like Jakarta is quickly becoming the most obvious candidate for "ground zero" if/when this flu goes pandemic.
In other news, there hasn't been a word in the press about what happened to the birds in Austin, Texas, and some weird Australian bird deaths have had H5N1 ruled out. Surely the Texas Tech (or was it Texas A&M?) tests have been done by now, where's the report? What did the birds die of?
Also, there is some concern that H5N1 has found its way back into Japan.
Posted by Frobisher Smith at 1/13/2007
Friday, January 12, 2007
And apparently it happened last month... I think I need better RSS feeds or something, but its a done deal. Here's The Scientist with the scoop:
"Last month, U.S. President George Bush signed into law the US Biodefense Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), designed to speed up the development of biodefense countermeasures by funding products in the so-called advanced development stage, between the end of initial testing and commercial manufacture. However, many details about how the new entity will operate -- and its potential effect on existing drug research and development -- have not yet been entirely settled.
BARDA, a program of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), is intended to reinvigorate Project Bioshield, the HHS agency created in July 2004 to stockpile anti-bioterror drugs and vaccines. Project Bioshield has been criticized by large pharmaceutical companies who claim its provisions make biodefense manufacturing too risky and not profitable enough, while smaller companies interested in bioterror research say they have lacked the financial backing to develop these products.
One example of a company that might have been helped by BARDA is VaxGen, the small California biotech whose $877.5 million contract to create a new anthrax vaccine was cancelled by HHS in December because its vaccine broke down too quickly to survive long storage. VaxGen, a small biotech with limited funds, could not afford to try a different formulation; under BARDA, VaxGen might have been eligible for periodic payments to find a solution.
It is not yet clear how BARDA will distribute its anticipated funding ($1.07 billion through fiscal year 2008). Although Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), the legislation's Senate sponsor, has said that BARDA will act as an "aggressive venture capitalist," HHS spokesman Bill Hall told The Scientist the BARDA legislation doesn't give his agency the authority "to start infusing cash into organizations in a fashion akin to venture capitalists,'" who typically invest money in return for partial ownership in companies.
Sen. Burr has also suggested that BARDA could fund universities and research institutions to do advanced development -- in effect, to become drug manufacturers themselves. Although this novel opportunity could point to more profits for universities, it might also spell trouble, according to some experts. Anthony Sinskey, co-director of the Program on the Pharmaceutical Industry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management, said, "University people can't do [manufacturing] well. They think they can but they can't." Mani Subramanian, who is overseeing the construction of a small biologics manufacturing plant at the University of Iowa, agreed. "The university is not a good place to develop large-scale process and manufacturing."
The BARDA legislation was designed so there would be little overlap with the National Institutes of Health -- NIH will handle basic research, and BARDA will develop and manufacture the drugs. "So I really look at it very much so as a complimentary thing, not that they're going to be encroaching on our turf at all," said Tony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)."
Incredible! No DHS pie-fingering, and a total blow both Big Pharma and the FDA! I think it's quite obvious to anyone who has paid attention to the vaccine situation in this country that pharmaceutical companies don't want to produce them (they're not big money makers) and the FDA takes far too long to approve them.
I foresee the future of BARDA being very bright, and hopefully they may also take on the job of producing the treatments for rare diseases that Big Pharma also hates to make. I think giving Universities the go ahead to produce the drugs they develop is also a brilliant move.
This bill is in the true spirit of the Free Market, and I am surprised the President signed it, seeing as Big Pharma is one of his main special interest contributors. Then again, he is practically roiling in duck sauce.
Fuck you Pfizer and Merck, BARDA is coming!!!!!!
Posted by Frobisher Smith at 1/12/2007
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
From The Suburban:
"The Jewish General Hospital is the latest institution to contend with a tenacious stomach flu outbreak that has found its way into several acute and long-term healthcare facilities on the island.
A rash of new cases at the hospital over the weekend is seriously hampering patient admission because otherwise empty beds in isolated affected wards can not be used. On Saturday, 41 beds were unavailable.
“We’ve been able to manage the number of cases very, very well until this weekend, when we began having new cases appear on other wards,” said Dr. Joseph Portnoy, an infectious diseases specialist and director of professional services at the Jewish General.
“The impact of the beds being closed is that the patients from emergency can’t be admitted, and so it backs up emergency. Because of this back-up, we decided that we were going to limit the elective surgery that will require hospitalization in order to free these beds for our patients in the emergency room.”
As of Tuesday morning, 18 patients at the hospital had come down with viral gastroenteritis, whose hallmark symptoms are nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Visitors are being asked to avoid coming to the hospital.
“It’s an epidemic that’s taking place in our community and we’re seeing the spill of it. We’re also concerned that our staff will get sick, because if our staff gets sick who’s going to take care of all the patients,” said Portnoy. According Suzanne Gold, as of Monday night, eight staff were affected.
Dr. Terry Tannenbaum, interim director of the health protection unit for the Montreal Public Health Department, says there are 11 acute care institutions and 16 long-term care facilities grappling with ongoing outbreaks. An outbreak cannot be declared finished unless 96 hours have passed after the end of symptoms in the last case.
“The problem is that if there is still disease going on in the community, there could still be either new patients coming in or healthcare workers who are getting sick despite the fact there are control measures that are in place in the hospital,” she said,
Tannenbaum was reluctant to call the current rash of illness “an epidemic” because it suggests a situation that it out of control."
The norovirus is really digging itself in, especially in the clinics. I fear it may turn into a hospital-bread super-bug. A MRSA-strength stomach flu doesn't sound very nice to have around.
As for you Dr. Tannenbaum (interim director), it doesn't sound like you have this under control in the least bit. Call an outbreak an outbreak and call an epidemic and epidemic. For gods sake, stop playing semantic politics with a critical public health situation!
Posted by Frobisher Smith at 1/10/2007
Looks like the 14-year-old in the aforementioned "Two New Indonesian Cases" story has died. He was being treated in Jakarta and I assume was getting standard care and anti-virals. But, as I've said at least three times before, Tamiflu doesn't work on the strain in Indonesia. Here's the story from the Malaysian Star:
"JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP): A 14-year-old Indonesian boy died from bird flu Wednesday, just days after being hospitalized, a health official said, the first H5N1 fatality in the country in six weeks.
Deputy Director Tjandra Yoga Aditama of the Persahabtan Hospital said the boy died four days after being admitted for treatment with flu-like symptoms.
The deadly H5N1 bird flu strain has now killed 58 people in Indonesia - more than a third of the world's total since the disease began ravaging Asian poultry stocks in 2003.
The last recorded bird flu casualty in Indonesian was a 35-year-old woman who died at a hospital in the capital, Jakarta, on Nov. 28.
International experts have accused Indonesia's government of not doing enough to tackle the virus, which they fear may mutate into a form that could spread easily between humans and potentially kill millions around the world."
Depressing news all around. H5N1 is also ravaging the bird population of Vietnam, thankfully they haven't had any recent human cases.
This is not the case for China, who recently reported a new human infection. At least Egypt hasn't popped up in this week's H5N1 news cycle. I wonder if there's any correlation between bird flu infections and the amount of government control of media; Egypt, of course, being one of the more liberal nations currently tackling endemic high-path H5N1.
Still no word on what killed those birds in Austin.
Posted by Frobisher Smith at 1/10/2007
Tuesday, January 09, 2007
"Jan 8, 2007 (CIDRAP News) – Two Indonesians have been hospitalized in less than a week with H5N1 avian influenza infections, the country’s first in more than a month, according to news services.
Indonesia’s health ministry told Bloomberg News yesterday that a 14-year-old boy who tested positive for the H5N1 virus was being treated at Persahabatan Hospital in Jakarta after showing flu-like symptoms on Jan 1.
Muhammad Nadirin, an official at the health ministry’s avian flu information center, told Bloomberg the ministry received a report that the boy had had contact with a dead duck. The ministry launched in investigation in the boy’s west Jakarta neighborhood, Nadirin said.
A 37-year-old woman is also being treated at Persahabatan Hospital and is from the same area—Tangerang on Jakarta's western outskirts—as the 14-year-old boy, the Associated Press (AP) reported today. I Nyoman Kandun, the health ministry’s director of communicable disease control, told the AP that the woman was in critical condition and the health ministry is still trying to identify the source of her infection.
If the two cases are confirmed by the World Health Organization (WHO), they will be the 75th and 76th human infections recorded in Indonesia. The latest previous case was that of a 35-year-old woman who died Nov 28.
The Jakarta Post reported today that the H5N1 virus is suspected in 6 other patients who are awaiting test results."
I guess Indonesia has never heard of the film Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things.
Cause you know what?
CHILDREN SHOULDN'T PLAY WITH DEAD THINGS!!
And neither should 30-something women, for that matter - although I doubt that's how she got it, probably another case of a sick chicken on the homestead that infected her whilst being relieved of its head.
Posted by Frobisher Smith at 1/09/2007
From the NY Times:
"It was the odor associated with natural gas — the telltale, unpleasant sulfur scent that typically signals a gas leak. But this time, it was lingering in many areas of Manhattan and northeastern New Jersey, coursing through buildings and leading to fears that it could ignite or that a dangerous chemical had been deliberately released.
Emergency medical technicians outside Madison Square Garden Monday as the city and parts of New Jersey investigated a widespread gas odor.
Schools and office buildings were evacuated. A subway station was shut, and commuter trains were rerouted. Government security officials were put on alert. Fire trucks raced through the streets, while Coast Guard vessels patrolled New York Harbor, communicating with tugboats and container ships. Twelve people with complaints of minor illnesses or injuries were taken to hospitals.
The source of the odor? As of last night, city officials still did not know. But it lingered for an hour after first being reported around 9 a.m., leaving New York with another mystery on its hands and more than a few conspiracy theories to sort through.
With anxieties about gas leaks rattling the nerves of the city, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg held a press conference to assure residents that the city’s air-quality detectors had found no cause for alarm. He hypothesized that the odor could have been caused by the release of mercaptan, a compound that smells like rotting eggs and is added to natural gas so people can detect and report leaks.
Throughout the day, possible culprits — among them a minor gas leak in Greenwich Village and natural-gas pipelines in northeastern New Jersey — were considered and ruled out.
The olfactory mystery in the New York region was matched by strange activity elsewhere. In Austin, Tex., police cordoned off 10 blocks of the downtown business district early yesterday after more than 60 birds were found dead overnight along Congress Avenue, which leads to the State Capitol. Air testing there failed to find a cause, but preliminary results determined that people were not at risk.
In New York, the piercing odor was the talk of Manhattan, and it called to mind another mystery: the maple syrup odor that people reported smelling on separate days in late 2005 and whose source has never been established. In yesterday’s case, several people said they were overcome by the odor."
Mystery odors! No gas leak could be found! It's almost as if someone was testing the capability to commit a city-wide release of a gaseous chemical or something.
But who would do such a thing? Certainly not the United States government, with its pristine track record concerning its release of biological and chemical agents on its unsuspecting public...
What this story really reeks of is DOD special ops. Seems like they've developed a massive and discrete chemical gas delivery system.
The question is, do the bird deaths in Texas figure in, or is that a coincidence?
Posted by Frobisher Smith at 1/09/2007
Monday, January 08, 2007
From The Guardian:
"AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - Police shut down 10 blocks of businesses in the heart of downtown Monday morning after dozens of birds were found dead in the streets, but officials said preliminary tests showed no air quality problems and the area reopened around 1 p.m.
As many as 60 dead pigeons, sparrows and grackles were found overnight along Congress Avenue, a main route through downtown. No human injuries or illnesses were reported.
"We do not feel there is a threat to the public health," said Adolfo Valadez, the medical director for Austin and Travis County Health and Human Services.
He said preliminary air-quality tests showed no dangerous chemicals, though the dead birds would be sent for further testing to rule out viruses or poison.
Experts at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society said the most likely cause was a deliberate poisoning of the troublesome grackles, which is more common than people think. It's also legal, with local permits, said Greg Butcher, director of bird conservation at the Audubon in Washington.
Austin officials were smart to take it so seriously, though, Butcher said, because birds' "requirements for life are pretty similar to our requirements for life" so they can serve as an early warning for risks to human health.
On Congress Avenue, just beyond the state Capitol steps, emergency workers donned yellow hazardous-material suits Monday morning, and dozens of fire trucks and ambulances were parked nearby."
Poisoning grackles for fun and profit! Yes, I'm sure... that's why a licensed pest control company let the city know that they were going to be culling grackles before the spring population boom, and that's why the birds showed obvious signs of being poisoned... Oh, wait, none of that is true!
Of course none of the AP sources are dropping the big one as a possible cause for these RATHER UNUSUAL DEATHS: highly-pathogenic avian influenza.
We wouldn't want to cause a panic, now would we!
I think its pretty fitting that the grackle would be the bringer of doom to the USA. Here's a picture of one, they're all over the Southwest:
The stars shine bright, dead birds cause fright...
Deep in the heart of Texas!! (clap clap clap)
Posted by Frobisher Smith at 1/08/2007
"A dead wild bird recently found in Hong Kong has tested positive for the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu. The dead "scaly-breasted munia" was discovered in the busy shopping area of Causeway Bay on New Year's Eve.
Hong Kong's Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department said the bird was the only one of six dead birds found that tested positives for the deadly virus.
Local authorities stepped up inspections, and workers have cleaned the area where the infected bird was found. Officials have reminded people to observe good personal hygiene and to avoid contact with wild birds and live poultry."
Happy New Years!
Posted by Frobisher Smith at 1/08/2007