The threat of emerging poxviruses: replacements for smallpox?

1980 marked a milestone in infectious disease epidemiology: the World Health Organization declared the smallpox virus eradicated in the wild. However, while smallpox currently exists only in frozen stocks, poxviruses as a class certainly haven’t disappeared. A related virus, monkeypox, regularly causes illness in Africa, and even spread half a world away in the American midwest.

Additionally, Africa isn’t the only area with endemic poxvirus infections. Brazil has been dealing with their own poxvirus outbreak, and poxviruses have popped up in Europe as well. More on both of those after the jump…
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Objection to vaccination: they cause immunology

In this NY Times article on parents who are opting out of vaccinations, one mom notes her objections:

“I refuse to sacrifice my children for the greater good,” said Sybil Carlson, whose 6-year-old son goes to school with several of the children hit by the measles outbreak [in San Diego]. The boy is immunized against some diseases but not measles, Ms. Carlson said, while his 3-year-old brother has had just one shot, protecting him against meningitis.

“When I began to read about vaccines and how they work,” she said, “I saw medical studies, not given to use by the mainstream media, connecting them with neurological disorders, asthma and immunology.” (emphasis mine)

She saw medical studies, “not given to use by the mainstream media” (huh?) connecting vaccines with “immunology”?! Do you think she even understands what she said? Did the reporter (who seems to write more about politics than science)?

There are some people out there who do an excellent job of educating themselves on some rather complex scientific issues. However, there are also people who can string a lot of fancy, medical-sounding words together and impress their friends, but who really lack anything but very basic superficial understanding of the science. Being frightened of vaccines because they “connect to immunology” is like the Penn and Teller getting people worked up over “dihydroxygen monoxide”–it sounds scary to those who don’t understand what it means. How many more of these web-educated anti-vaxers are spreading the word about the dangerous immunology that a vaccinating parent might expose their child to?

What’s Google got to do with emerging diseases?

As I mentioned Friday, the good folks from Google were part of the crowd at this year’s ICEID. This included a talk by Larry Brilliant, described on his wikipedia page as “…medical doctor, epidemiologist, technologist, author and philanthropist, and the director of Google’s philanthropic arm” His talk discussed not only stopping outbreaks in their tracks–as current outbreak investigations seek to do, and Brilliant himself as worked on, as part of his background in vaccination campaigns for polio and smallpox–but to pay attention to “the left of the epidemic curve” as part of Google’s “Predict and Prevent” initiative. More on what that means after the jump.
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“One medicine, one health”

If one over-arching theme came out of this conference, it was the concept noted in the title: “one medicine, one health.” In one of the early lectures, a speaker polled the audience to find out how many attending were veterinarians, and how many worked in human health. The room was divided pretty evenly, which attests to the importance of animals in the emergence of new diseases in humans. Regular readers, of course, will know that these diseases that cross species boundaries–zoonoses–make a large proportion of the emerging diseases we see (~75% by several estimates). Early Monday morning, Dr. Thomas Monath spoke about the intersection of human and animal health–the “one medicine, one health” concept that
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Atlanta conference posts soon, I promise…

It’s been a busy 3 days here in Atlanta. My talk Tuesday was well-received, I have lots of new ideas for future projects, and I’ll have posts on the conference itself starting, hopefully, this afternoon (last night was family time, so no posting). In the meantime, I’m writing up the manuscript for the study I presented and I thought I’d ask for some input with one small portion.

The study itself is a sampling of swine for bacterial carriage. On the first farm we headed out to (and by “we” I, of course, mean my trusty graduate student), we only had on hand as many swabs as we were going to use–no extras. Swine aren’t always very cooperative, and one swab ended up getting contaminated .

So, how would you write this up? Of course in the end I’ll have to go with something dry, academic and boring, but I’m sure y’all can come up with something much more creative…

Off to Atlanta

Technically, I was supposed to be in Atlanta a good 3 hours ago, but our plane’s broken down here in Moline (where I’ve been for 7 hours and counting now). For the next few days, I’ll be at the International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases (ICEID). Just scanning the schedule, there’s a ton of interesting topics to write about, so I’ll try to carve out a bit of time this week to write a few additions to the emerging diseases series. I’ll also be giving a talk of my own here on Tuesday; any readers attending?

Damn those women, out there ruining science and being lazy and depressed

Via Ed, if you puked on VoxDay’s shoes after his column earlier this week in WorldNetDaily:

But this is not to say there is not a genuine threat to all three aspects of science today. Unsurprisingly, it comes from the same force that is the primary threat to the survival of Western civilization: female equalitarianism. Flush with their success in decimating the collegiate sports programs of America, the equalitarians have now set their sights on applying the infamous Title IX quotas to science education, despite the fact that women already earn 57 percent of bachelor’s degrees, 59 percent of master’s degrees and a majority of doctorates. If successful in this effort, and initial signs indicate that they probably will be, in 30 years, academic science in America will be no more intellectually respectable or relevant than womyn’s studies are today.

or today’s column about women and depression by Dennis Prager:

As a rule, women derive most of their happiness from relationships, not from work. Men need both to be happy far more than women do. Men’s very identity is predicated on their answer to the question, “What do you do?” Whether fair or not – to either sex – virtually no woman’s identity is dependent on what she does for a living. That is why, while both sexes suffer financially from the loss of a job, when men lose their jobs, they often also lose their self-worth as a man. The greater importance of work to men is also manifested in their willingness to work many more hours than women.

you should head to Current Biology and read this article by Nobelist Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard regarding her views and experience as a woman in science. Granted, it’s not an antidote to the stupidity oozing from WND and its columnists, but at least Nüsslein-Volhard has some experience with what she’s writing about–although some of the anecdotes she describes may still be hurl-inducing.

Laurie Garrett talks global health at U of Iowa

After Karl Rove’s appearance here Sunday night, Laurie Garrett’s talk on Monday was downright uneventful–despite a talk which included discussion of AIDS, abortion, and welfare, among other things.

Garrett, for anyone who may be unfamiliar, is currently a senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations. She’s the author of The Coming Plague and Betrayal of Trust: The Collapse of Global Public Health. She’s reported on infectious disease and global health for almost 30 years, writing for a variety of publications in addition to her own books. Her talk last night discussed charity, global health, and what to do to re-vamp how global health funding is used.
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