Category Archives: Outbreak

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.

Continue reading Of Mice and Men: Hantavirus in the news

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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

The mystery in Cambodia

English: The rash of hands foot and mouth disease.
English: The rash of hands foot and mouth disease. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Recently, there have been a rash of stories in the news covering a mysterious disease that has appeared in Cambodia, killing over 50 children in the last few months. Currently, there is evidence that this disease is caused by enterovirus 71, a causative agent of hand, foot, mouth disease. What is interesting is that these children are presenting with symptoms more severe than foot-and-mouth that include encephalitis, high fever, difficulty breathing, and eventual destruction of the alveoli of the lungs leading to death. This is an unusual presentation of enterovirus infection, as this usually causes a mild illness that does not result in hospitalization. However, EV71 has been known to cause neurological disease in the past and would explain the symptoms experienced by patients in this outbreak.

So why did this outbreak start? Why would a virus that normally causes a mild disease kill so many children? Continue reading The mystery in Cambodia