More XDR-TB news–other travel, patient information

Just popping in quickly after I saw Klearchos’ comment on the updated tuberculosis post. He notes on his website that the CDC has released additional travel information about the XDR-TB infected patient, including shorter flights made within Europe in addition to the intercontinental flights. However, Klearchos notes:

…there is a big “hole” in the information provided by the CDC since, nobody has answered yet the question about how he moved from Santorini to Mykonos. CDC doesn’t say anything about that in its report!!

There is no direct flight between the two Greek islands so he must have taken a boat… By boat, the trip from Santorini to Mykonos is at least 3 hours and can be even more depending on the type of the boat. So his move from Santorini to Mykonos has to be considered a threat to public health, without mentioning that nobody knows his whereabouts on the two islands…. It has to be reminded that this period the boats from Santorini to Mykonos are crowded with tourists, many of them Americans…

I’ve never had the chance to go to Greece, but that’s Klearchos’ home, so I’d assume he knows what he’s talking about. I’d also assume (or hope, anyway) that this is an active area of investigation; trying to figure out where the patient went, how long he stayed, whom he may have exposed, etc.

What a mess.

Edited to add: apparently, the patient’s name has been released by law enforcement. He’s Andrew Speaker, a UGA-educated personal injury lawyer, of all things. (Poor Tiffany, a UGA law school grad herself). And to make things worse, his new father-in-law carries out research on tuberculosis at the CDC. So he certainly can’t say he didn’t know about TB, nor can he claim he wasn’t aware of the *personal injury* he may be exposing others to. Incredible.

A few must-read posts

Today is the kids’ last day of school, and just happens to be an early dismissal as well, so I’ll be busy with them and not tied to the computer this morning/afternoon. However, there are tons of good things to read elsewhere.

First, Orac has a long-awaited update on the Tripoli Six: the group of nurses and doctors accused of killing children in Libya by deliberately infecting them with HIV. The science exonerated them, but that didn’t change the court outcome, and I’ve not seen updates until now.

Next, Revere writes about the H7N2 influenza outbreak in Wales, reminding us (as as I’ve mentioned before as well) that we need to keep an eye on all emerging influenza viruses, not just H5N1.

I mentioned I briefly ran into Chris Mooney at the American Institute of Biological Sciences meeting I attended a few weeks ago. Chris was there with Matt Nisbet to give their “Framing Science” talk, which unfortunately, I had to miss to attend another lecture. But now you can catch it via YouTube and see what the fuss has been about. (Note: if you only read their Science article, the talk goes into a lot of what you probably wanted to get from that, such as more concrete examples and ideas for change).

Janet of Germ Tales has a new two-part series on suburban wildlife: their encroachment, staying power, and ways we’ve come to live with them or try and keep their population in check (including a nice overview of wildlife contraception). Check out Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

Jennifer of Cocktail Party Physics has an excellent post up on John Snow, cholera, and other related issues.

And finally, MSNBC has an article on one of the areas I touched on yesterday in this follow-up TB post: border crossing and security, or more accurately, lack thereof when it came to the XDR-TB patient, and what implications that has for our response plans and terrorism in general.

Waxing indignant: pointless?

In the comments to the XDR-TB update post, Scott suggested that bloggers were putting too much emphasis on whether the TB patient was stupid/arrogant/self-centered/whatever, and later that “waxing indignant is pointless.” I started this as a response to those comments, but thought instead it might be an interesting conversation–is it pointless? Certainly indignation about this guy’s behavior won’t change what’s happened. Indignation about creationists’ abuse of science won’t make them stop. Does it have a point? My thoughts on it below the fold.
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XDR-TB travels around the globe, update: broader implications of one man’s jaunt

I blogged earlier about the Georgia man who globe-trotted while infected with XDR-TB. I wrote that post late Tuesday evening, and since then, a number of other details about his case have come to light–and they’re not encouraging. In fact, this serves as a nice example of a convergence of a number of areas I’ve written about before–obviously, the evolution of antibiotic resistance and the terrible position it leaves us in, the politics and policies of quarantine/isolation (and how they’d be enforced), and the global spread of infectious disease, so I figured this would warrant another post on the topic.

First, the “compelling personal reason” he had for traveling that was mentioned in early articles was this: that he he was getting married in Greece and then honeymooning in various stops around Europe. Now, I’m probably just unsentimental and maybe a bit too practical at times, but it seems to be a really poor idea to potentially expose not only your future wife (who apparently was tested in January and negative for TB) but also your relatives and other loved ones to a highly deadly bacterium on what’s supposed to be one of the happiest days of your life. I mean, sure, you want people to remember your wedding, but not because they contracted tuberculosis there.

That’s only the beginning of the dumbassery, unfortunately–it gets worse. More after the jump.
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Reporting on the Creation Museum…it all makes sense now

As a native Ohioan and longtime creationist watcher, of course I’m morbidly fascinated with (and dismayed by) the opening of the new Creation Museum just outside of Cincinnati. I’m not going to give a full response to its ridiculous “science;” others have done that across the blogosphere (collected by PZ here). However, you may have seen the New York Time’s particularly bad piece on the museum opening (if you haven’t, you can find it here), where the writer–instead of commenting on the atrocious science–lauds the museum’s “daring” more than once, for example. Well, John Hawks has dug up a reason why, perhaps, the reporter was so uncritical:
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Microbes on a plane

I blogged back in March about World TB day, the theme of which was “TB anywhere is TB everywhere.” We know that someone can simply hop on a plane halfway across the world, and be practically anywhere else on the globe in the span of about a day–and their bacteria and viruses are just along for the ride. This is particularly disconcerting when it comes to respiratory diseases, where fellow airline passengers may be coughing and sneezing all over you, or touching shared objects without washing their hands. This is also a scenario that’s known to have spread SARS, and may spread a future pandemic influenza strain.

What’s equally worrisome is that this method of travel also has the ability to spread highly antibiotic-resistant bacteria, such as extremely drug-resistant Mycobacterium tuberculosis (XDR-TB) all around the globe. And it’s more than just a hypothetical. A new story reveals that a passenger did, indeed, board a plane here in Atlanta, flew to Paris, ended up in Prague, and then flew back to Montreal and drove back into the U.S.–and he was infected with XDR-TB.

More after the jump…
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Up is down, black is white…

A few readers have asked in comments or emailed me regarding the tenure denial of Iowa State astronomer (and Discovery Institute fellow) Guillermo Gonzalez. I noted that I’ve not written about it because I’ve just not been around much lately due to travel, and because others are covering it quite well themselves (including lots of coverage over at The Panda’s Thumb.) There are so many angles to the story–the reasons for tenure denial, the “academic freedom” issue (and is it really “academic freedom” to espouse anti-scientific beliefs in a scientific department?), the tenure process itself, Gonzalez’s martyrdom and use by the DI (in spite of the probable irreparable damage it may cause his career), many others. Of course, to those of us in the reality-based community, we see this as yet another strike against Intelligent Design, but others (via Uncommon Descent) still manage to see this as a victory:
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“Intelligent design” the world actually needs

Scanning today’s New York Times, I ran across this article on designing for the world’s poor, which isn’t really an issue I’d spent much time considering previously. From the article:

“A billion customers in the world,” Dr. Paul Polak told a crowd of inventors recently, “are waiting for a $2 pair of eyeglasses, a $10 solar lantern and a $100 house.”

The world’s cleverest designers, said Dr. Polak, a former psychiatrist who now runs an organization helping poor farmers become entrepreneurs, cater to the globe’s richest 10 percent, creating items like wine labels, couture and Maseratis.

“We need a revolution to reverse that silly ratio,” he said.

Their creations, on display in the museum garden until Sept. 23, have a sort of forehead-thumping “Why didn’t someone think of that before?” quality.

More details after the jump…

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Waiting for antivirals

A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, I reviewed the HIV/AIDS chapter in Tom Bethell’s book, “The Politically Incorrect Guide to Science.” I discussed his characterization of AIDS in Africa:

As the chapter title suggests, Bethell claims that AIDS in Africa is a made-up epidemic; AIDS is really due to simple malnutrition and dirty water supplies, rather than a virus. Government officials, scientists, and journalists are either too brainwashed or too scared to speak against the “AIDS orthodoxy.” The evil liberals aren’t concerned about AIDS because the real concern of the left, according to Bethell, is overpopulation in Africa (and hence the emphasis on condom use to prevent AIDS). Public health officials aren’t actually concerned about disease in Africa–just overpopulation.

Others suggest AIDS is due directly to use of antiretroviral drugs–that it’s the treatment, not the virus, that causes the immunodeficiency that characterizes AIDS. However, a new story, people in Africa are dying because they’re not getting drugs, not because of excess use of them. I know–not exactly a headline, right? What makes this different, however, is just why HIV+ patients aren’t getting the drugs, according to a Medecins Sans Frontieres report (downloadable here). More after the jump.
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