Archive for CDC

Mickey the Measles

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on January 29, 2015 by rgwallace

mickeymeasles I only hope that we never lose sight of one thing — that it all started with a mouse. –Walt Disney (1954)

An outbreak of highly infectious measles starting at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, has spread to eight U.S. states and Mexico. Arizona, one state hit, is presently monitoring 1000 people linked to Disneyland visitors and subsequent exposures.

With good reason, much attention has been placed on the role the anti-vax movement has played in both the initial outbreak and its subsequent spread. In 2014, before the outbreak, U.S. measles clocked in at three times the cases (644) than any of the ten years previous.

The outbreak may represent a second scandal.

Five years ago Disney objected to suggestions the theme park and resort, drawing 15 million visitors a year from around the world, was a potential amplifier for infectious diseases. Continue reading

West West Africa

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, HIV, Influenza, Revolution with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 26, 2014 by rgwallace

liberia-ebolaAt some points the fighters jumped off and pushed the skiffs over a sandbar into a cut of water…Just like in the wadi, there was concerns about the Americans. They sought to keep themselves out of sight under the branches. Uncle Sam knew nothing, Uncle Sam saw everything.        –J. M. Ledgard (2011)

TV comedian Stephen Colbert savagely satired media hysteria over West Africa’s Ebola outbreak,

Folks, I’m so glad you’re joining us tonight. If you are joining us, we tape the show at 7 o’clock, so by the time you’re seeing this you’re probably dead. Because this week the Ebola outbreak that’s been ravaging West Africa finally spread to West West Africa–America.

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Protecting H3N2v’s Privacy

Posted in Evolution, Influenza with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 10, 2013 by rgwallace

US H3N2v.1This past week the Guardian published a series of stunning articles on the extent of surveillance the National Security Agency has been conducting on U.S. citizens and millions of others worldwide.

Proponents of such programs, including President Obama, have contended secretly collecting our internet and phone metadata–when, where and with whom we connect–is about our protection.

I must say that as an evolutionary epidemiologist I find it a fascinating defense, if only because there have been several efforts aimed at producing geographies of deadly influenzas for which it has been nearly impossible to get governments across the globe, including the U.S., to provide the locales and dates of livestock outbreaks.

It’s as if the privacy rights of these viruses–and really the farms over which they spread–are better protected than those of the populations epidemiologists are ostensibly trying to protect.

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Two Thumbs Off

Posted in Ecological resilience, Influenza, Sustainable farming with tags , , , , , on January 17, 2013 by farmingpathogens

Contagion (2011) PG-13. 106 minutes. Finally watched Steven Soderbergh’s flick and was pleasantly surprised, minor errors bedamned. There was, of course, the teaser that packed theaters: Gwyneth Paltrow suffering an excruciatingly painful death in the first twenty minutes. Who wouldn’t pay to see that? But despite its CDC imprimatur the movie also captures many of the key individual and population dynamics should–or when?–a deadly pandemic emerges. Bioterrorist bullshit takes a hit: “Somebody doesn’t have to weaponize bird flu,” Morpheus says, “The birds are doing that.” Yes, doctor, and while we’re at it, I’ll take the red pill, thank you. The Minnesota Department of Health is depicted stocked with bureaucratic simpletons. Nothing personal, don’t ya know, embodying structural contradictions the movie captures well. And Jude Law makes a terrific villain: a perfidious blogger with my bad stubble and crooked yellow teeth. Frankly I’m amazed the agroeconomic denouement of the final minute, largely absent from CDC’s research program, and tellingly missed by just about every movie review in the biomedical journals, made the cut. Two cyanotic thumbs up. And–!–there they go.

A Dangerous Method

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, Influenza with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 28, 2011 by rgwallace

There were cameras literally everywhere, in London. So far, he’s managed not to think about them. He remembered Bigend saying they were a symptom of autoimmune disease, the state’s protective mechanisms ‘roiding up into something actively destructive, chronic; watchful eyes, eroding the healthy function of that which they ostensibly protected. –William Gibson (2010)

This summer Ron Fouchier’s lab in the Netherlands conducted an experiment as frightening for its simplicity as for its results. The team produced a human-transmissible version of  highly pathogenic influenza A (H5N1) or bird flu.

Rather than by reverse genetics, wherein a complex round robin of mutations are introduced in an effort to produce a human-specific bird flu, an approach which failed most recently at CDC, the Fouchier group let the virus converge on a solution all on its own. HPAI H5N1 was intranasally inoculated into a group of lab ferrets (whose immune response mimics humans’). Only ten infection generations later the virus went “airborne”—transmitted by respiration—while remaining as deadly as its field cousins (with a 75% case fatality rate). A repeat of the experiment reproduced the result.

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The Scientific American

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, Influenza with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 18, 2011 by rgwallace

Science is the business right now. If the science works, the business works, and vice versa. –Craig Venter

Bird flu marinates a chicken in its own juices, a satay best avoided whatever the menu special. In such short an order better for the bistro than the barn infected birds rapidly bleed from the inside out.

What to do about this bit of bad news?

Broilers and layers are as much commodities as they are birds. As much engineering problems as living organisms. So ask research and development for a solution comes the answer.

It was, after all, by virtue of its open morphogenesis and behavioral flexibility that the chicken was first domesticated multiple times from red and grey jungle fowl distributed across South and Southeast Asia, artificially selected for the backyard, then scaled up in size and population to its factory model.

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Imperial Storm Scientists

Posted in Ecological resilience, Influenza with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 21, 2010 by rgwallace

The Red Army Faction was a communist guerilla group operating 1970-1998 in, of all places, West Germany. The RAF engaged in a variety of operations in the 1970s, including assassinations and bombings, primarily around the German government’s material support of the U.S. war in Vietnam.

As depicted in the Baader-Meinhof Complex and this BBC documentary, the RAF and the West German government entered a spiral of mutual self-deception. Each told itself the lies necessary to defeat the other. However inaccurately depicted in the films, truths, spoken and lived, were sacrificed for the victory neither side could achieve:

The scope of the RAF’s bombing campaign outpaced its initial public support and sharpened the fascistic reaction the group claimed its enemy. Supporters think the latter repression emblematic of RAF’s success but they’d be hard pressed to claim even a moral victory as the German people acclimated to, and even openly supported, a burgeoning police state. Post-Nazi Germany meanwhile suffered a funktionshäftling‘s shame killing dissidents, however violent, in the name of colonial liquidations ruthlessly conducted abroad.

If only American fallacies were so rottenly principled.

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