Biblical fever = influenza. You’re kidding me, right?

Via Bob O’H and Cath Ennis comes this truly bizarre article from the Virology Journal: “Influenza or not influenza: Analysis of a case of high fever that happened 2000 years ago in Biblical time”.

Now, regular readers will know that I normally love this type of thing; digging back through history to look at Lincoln’s smallpox; Cholera in Victorian London; potential causes of the Plague of Athens, the origin of syphilis, or whether Yersinia pestis really caused the Black Plague. I’ve even written a bit about the history of influenza. So analysis of a 2000-year old potential flu case? Bring it on.

But. For Christ’s sake (really), *bring the evidence with you.* From the article’s abstract:

The Bible describes the case of a woman with high fever cured by our Lord Jesus Christ. Based on the information provided by the gospels of Mark, Matthew and Luke, the diagnosis and the possible etiology of the febrile illness is discussed. Infectious diseases continue to be a threat to humanity, and influenza has been with us since the dawn of human history. If the postulation is indeed correct, the woman with fever in the Bible is among one of the very early description of human influenza disease.

Infectious diseases continue to be a threat to humanity, and influenza has been with us since the dawn of human history. We analysed a case of high fever that happened 2000 years ago in Biblical time and discussed possible etiologies.

(more after the jump…)
Continue reading “Biblical fever = influenza. You’re kidding me, right?”

The consequences of refusal

I’ve written previously about “chicken pox parties”. These types of events are coming back into vogue (they were common in the days before the vaccine, when the only way to provide immunity was to be infected), as parents mistakenly believe that “natural exposures” to these pathogens are somehow superior–and safer–than vaccinations. Though the latest rage are “H1N1 parties”, chicken pox parties are still around, and potentially being held at your local McDonald’s by families connecting on the internet:

I am trying to put together a chicken pox party and am looking for someone to donate their chickenpox to the event.
I was thinking of having it at McDonald or some place with toys to play on.
if you know anyone who would like to contribute or would like more information on a time and place let me know.

This is, again, one of my biggest problems with those who refuse vaccines. They frame the issue as solely “my child, my choice.” Which is fine, until you put that child in with the rest of society via school, or daycare, or even trips to McDonald’s. These interactions include infants who are too young to get vaccinated; people with chronic conditions or who are receiving chemotherapy, and are therefore more susceptible to disease; or those in whom the vaccine just didn’t “take” (my own measles titers were not high enough to be protective, I learned last year when I was preparing to go to Mongolia–despite having 2 doses of the vaccine), and on and on. Yes, you have the right to make decisions for your child–but parents should realize that this particular choice can put a lot of others in danger.

Misc. links

Back to the grind this week unfortunately, but the swine flu/H1N1 story is still developing and still fascinating. The most recent numbers show 286 confirmed US cases in 36 states.

There are many remaining questions on the evolution and epidemiology of this strain–and many pundits sure they know what’s going to happen next. Mike takes one of them downWendy Orent, who I’ve blogged about previously. Orent is claiming (based on a black/white version of the evolution of virulence in pathogens) that the spread of this strain is attenuating the virus, and that future outbreaks will be milder. Mike nicely explains why that may, or may not, happen–and why it’s folly to predict with certainty either scenario at this point.

Unrelated to influenza, an editor at the Guardian is angry at anti-vaxers, after his young daughter (11 months old, too young for the MMR vaccine) has developed measles:

According to the Health ­Protection Agency there were 1,348 cases of ­measles last year, compared with 56 in 1998. In 2006 a 14-year-old boy died of ­measles – the first fatal case for 14 years. The reduction in herd immunity is ­causing unnecessary suffering.

The decision by many of my neighbours not to vaccinate their children is on a par with the drunk who decides to get into his car to drive home. It is a personally reckless action that also endangers the lives of everyone else on the road. Society should view the MMR refuseniks with the same degree of scorn.

Finally, the winners of the 2009 Alliance for Science Essay contest have been announced (H/T Panda’s Thumb and Evil Monkey).

Why are the schools closing and other good H1N1 links…

Over at DailyKos, DemfromCT has an excellent post explaining why it may be beneficial for schools to close temporarily, even if they only have one confirmed case of swine influenza: H1N1: Why Do Schools Close, And When Do They Open?

DarkSyde also has one up on the basic biology and evolution of the flu.

Nick Kristof discusses our lack of attention to public health and what it means in the event of a pandemic in today’s NY Times.

[Updated: and via the comment theads, this post which further discusses what I mentioned here regarding testing–and how the confirmed cases are only the tip of the iceberg (complete with diagram!).

What does the WHO’s pandemic scale mean? And why is anyone worried about this?

I’ve been seeing a lot of comments mocking the current outbreak of H1N1, and a lot of people (and journalists) who don’t understand what “big deal” is about the “snoutbreak” of swine influenza, or don’t get what the raising of the World Health Organization’s pandemic alert phase up to 5 means. I noted here what the alert level meant, but wanted to discuss it a bit more in a full post; after the jump.
Continue reading “What does the WHO’s pandemic scale mean? And why is anyone worried about this?”

Iowa investigating two “probable” swine flu cases

It was only a matter of time:

Iowa Gov. Chet Culver says the state has two probable causes of swine flu.

Speaking Wednesday at a Statehouse news conference, Culver told reporters that officials would know Thursday if the cases are swine flu.

Officials say one case was from a California resident who visited Scott and Clinton counties last week. The other was a woman who returned from Mexico and traveled through Johnson, Des Moines and Muscatine counties.

State Medical Director Patricia Quinlisk says both of the people infected were now recovering.

Should know by tomorrow if they are confirmed or not.

Wired: H1N1 a hybrid of 2 pig isolates

Brandon Keim at WiredScience has a new article on swine flu genomics.

“This is what we call a reassortment between two currently circulating pig flu viruses,” said Andrew Rambaut, a University of Edinburgh viral geneticist. “Why it’s emerged in humans is anyone’s guess. It hasn’t been seen before in pigs as far as I know.”

***

“The new neuraminidase gene that came in from Eurasian swine is one we’ve never before seen circulating in humans,” said Rambaut. “That’s one of the reasons it’s spreading rapidly. Very few people will have any immunity to this particular combination, which is what gives the concern that this will be a pandemic rather than just a normal seasonal flu outbreak. It remains to be seen how much and to what extent there is existing immunity.”

Story still evolving…Keim does mention that “a document released to scientists and obtained by Wired.com affirms their analysis.” Could be out in the literature soon, possibly?

I was hoping to have a post up today with more thoughts on the whole pig issue, but no time to do anything but quick posts. Hopefully tomorrow…

US up to 91 cases, including 1 death [Updated: New England confirmed cases]

The latest numbers of confirmed cases from the CDC were released about an hour ago. 91 cases have been confirmed, with the largest numbers in New York (51), California (14), and Texas (16). One new case has also been confirmed in Nevada, one in Indiana, one in Arizona, and 2 in Michigan; the other Ohio case I know of is still pending, apparently. Ongoing investigations are also taking place in multiple states, so expect the number to keep rising for the time being. [Update: 2 cases just confirmed in Massachussets, and three in Maine.]

The first fatality has also been reported: a 23-month-old child who had recently traveled to Mexico traveled to the United States from Mexico.

I’ve written previously about how difficult research in infectious disease can sometimes be, knowing that many of the isolates you’re working with harmed or even killed someone, and changed someone’s life forever. This child’s influenza virus will now be marked with a lengthy name based on the date and location of isolation, and will be studied and dissected on a molecular level, and referred to in dry publications discussing the case–but that doesn’t mean that those who carry out the research and write up the manuscripts in such clinical language are any less touched and upset when deaths like this occur.