The Resurgence of Syphilis

English: Syphilis. False shame and fear may de...
(Photocredit: Wikipedia)

Syphilis is a bacterial disease caused by the spirochete Treponema palladium. While this may be something that most of us have (thankfully!) never encountered there have been multiple reports of this disease in the news and a recent resurgence in infection rates around the globe.

During the month of July and August there was a moratorium in the California pornography community due to an outbreak of syphilis that began with one infected performer1 who forged his most recent test results after it returned positive. This actor then went back to work after treatment but while he was still highly contagious; subsequently infecting nine individuals2. Since this outbreak was discovered all involved persons have been treated and the further spread of this disease has been prevented. However, this outbreak this raises two significant questions about syphilis and what it means to be infected:

  1. What exactly is syphilis?
  2. Why is the appearance of syphilis so significant that it required the shutdown of an entire industry?

Read on to find these answers and more…

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Why swine and avian flu matters for people

An iteroparous organism is one that can underg...
 I might have the flu!(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As we enter another autumn season the memories of summer begin to fade and our minds turn towards the impending winter as the leaves begin to crisp and fall. This time of year also marks the appearance of flu-shots and news stories about the newest and scariest strains of influenza virus. Recently,  there have been multiple reports in the US  about a new form of swine flu that has been circulating at county fairs as people and pigs enter close proximity (see Related Articles after the jump).

Why is a strain of flu that infects pigs or dangerous or even relevant for people? As it turns out, from the point of view of the influenza virus a pig, bird, or human are not terribly different. Furthermore, pigs are also susceptible to certain strains of bird flu just like humans and can be multiply infected with different strains that could be human, avian, or porcine in origin. What this means is that pigs are an ideal breeding ground for reassortant  viruses and their subsequent antigenic shift, and this is where things get dangerous.

Click through to find out more about these potentially dangerous reassortant flu viruses… Continue reading Why swine and avian flu matters for people

Of Mice and Men: Hantavirus in the news

Deer mouse, Peromyscus maniculatus 8360 lores
Deer mouse, Peromyscus maniculatus. Vector for Sin Nombre virus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So far in the month of September there have been eight confirmed cases of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) and three confirmed deaths due to infections with Sin Nombre virus, a hantavirus contracted at Yosemite national park. Up to 30,000 other people were exposed to this potentially fatal disease, yet before this very few people had heard of Sin Nombre or hantaviruses in general. (Editor’s Note: 230,000 more people who visited Yosemite national park were notified of the virus on September 13th, 2012).

Relatively little is known about this rare disease, but we do know enough about the basic virology and ecology of this virus to take effective steps towards prevention.

Read on to find out more about Sin Nombre virus and what we can do to protect ourselves from infection.

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A primer on West Nile Virus

Culex mosquitos (Culex quinquefasciatus shown)...
Culex mosquitos (Culex quinquefasciatus shown) are biological vectors that transmit West Nile Virus. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Lately there has been a lot of coverage about West Nile virus in the news. In fact, for a variety of different factors this is shaping up to potentially be the worst outbreak since the disease peaked in the US in 2003.

Right now in early September we are in the mid-season of West Nile activity and new cases will continue to be reported in the coming weeks. While this is an important disease to be aware of there are some very basic steps that can be taken to protect you from infection. Widespread panic is completely unnecessary as preventative measures are effective despite the lack of approved treatments for this disease.

Keep reading for an overview of the diseases caused by West Nile virus, where it is, and how to disrupt transmission of the virus to prevent infection.

Continue reading A primer on West Nile Virus