Raw milk demand increases despite the risk

I don’t understand how some segments of the population believe that “natural” always equates to “better.” I certainly get the appeal of being close to nature; the romanticism of living simply and from the earth. I grew up and live currently in a rural area where people are close to animals and the land. But I also know that some of the most deadly poisons in the world are “natural.” I know that, while most microbes out there are harmless, and many are even helpful, there are many that can make you violently ill as well. After all, tetanus, anthrax, and Ebola are all “natural.” Especially in cases where potentially pathogenic organisms like the latter can be fairly easily avoided, it seems like a no-brainer to do so, even if it removes something from “nature” by a step.

However sensible it may seem to me, though, others are willing to put their health at risk to keep that “close to nature” feel–including buying raw milk, despite the fact that it may be contaminated with a host of pathogens. More after the jump.
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Mumps in the midwest: a 2006 retrospective

It’s hard to believe that it’s been 2 years since Iowa’s 2006 mumps outbreak (more background and details on that here, here, here, and here).

By the time the outbreak ended, 8 states had been heavily affected (and 45 reported at least one case), with a total of 6584 cases of mumps and 85 hospitalizations reported by the end of 2006. All told, this was the largest outbreak of the virus in approximately 20 years, after a 1986-1990 outbreak resulted in a change in the recommended vaccine schedule (adding a booster shot of MMR).

A paper out in today’s New England Journal analyzes the outbreak–what happened and why, and what public health professionals can do to prevent future such outbreaks. More after the jump.
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Landscape ecology and infectious disease: macro meets micro

I spent all day yesterday in Madison, Wisconsin, at a conference on Landscape Ecology and infectious disease. I’ll discuss a few of the talks and issues below, but I wanted to start out with a bit of an introduction and explain just what landscape ecology (LE) is.

The introductory talk, which covered this ground, was presented by Dr. Michael Wimberly of South Dakota State University. He noted that defining LE wasn’t an easy task. At its most basic, of course, it’s a field looking at ecology from a landscape perspective–taking a big picture view, if you will. However, what one means by a “landscape” can vary widely. The landscape could be a few square feet of soil in a rainforest; it could be a village; or even an entire country or beyond. Whichever landscape one is looking at, it all boils down to scale, and LE methods can be used to move from one scale to another (e.g., from a village to a county to a state). These different levels of analysis are important not only for the traditional areas LE is used to study–examining ecological impacts of things like fire or climate change on forest ecology, for example–but are also becoming increasingly accepted in infectious disease modeling. More on that after the jump…
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On E. coli, super soil bacteria, and Hank Williams Jr.

Early this week, grant application; yesterday and today, IRB and IACUC for another project. But once again, fellow Sbers are keeping me busy reading about stories I’d like to be writing on; see yet again Mike on E. coli O157:H7–everything old is new again; Ed on a new study showing yet again how amazing bacteria are; and DrugMonkey discussing heroin addiction as a family legacy, and notes that this sad story again shows that Narcan saves lives.

Elsewhere…

Sent off yet another grant, so I’m still (once again) catching up on everything. Meanwhile, some posts for you to check out:

I thought I was self-sacrificing by submitting myself to Kentucky’s creation museum for your amusement. Guess I could have stayed home and wasted 2 1/2 hours of my life as Drek did, live-blogging an anti-vaccine movie he was challenged to watch.

Or, if you’ve had it with vaccine naysayers (and oh look, CNN gave more space to Jenny McCarthy to gush about how chelation and diet allowed her son to recover from autism), head over to Mike’s place for a refreshing post on how evolutionary biology is used to understand the human microbiome.