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Out Of Control Deadly Viruses Are Wiping Out Spanish Amphibians

Epidemic Alert

Killer viruses have slinked into the pristine “Peaks of Europe” in Spain, and recent outbreaks have caused mass mortalities in half a dozen amphibian species. Their gruesome symptoms include vomiting blood, systemic hemorrhaging, open sores, and the death of limb tissues. Worryingly, the declines show no sign of rebound, and the viruses appear to be on the move. 
 
Before they were devastating populations in a protected national park, two closely related emerging ranaviruses have been infecting amphibians, fish, and reptiles on multiple continents. This study, published in Current Biology this week, is the first to document the deadly infection striking several species all at once—and with such serious impact.
 
Having the capacity to infect multiple species means they could force their hosts to become locally extinct. “Pathogens that can exploit more than one host simultaneously are able to persist even when one host drops to low numbers, and eventually zero, because there is another susceptible host available,” University College London’s Stephen Price explains in a news release.
 
The first mass mortality events in northern Spain’s Picos de Europa were witnessed in 2005. Park biologists and researchers from Madrid’s Museo Nacional de Ciencias have been monitoring their six common amphibians closely ever since. Over the next couple of years, the pathogen was identified as the common midwife toad virus (CMTV), which has previously only been known to affect small numbers of the toad in the U.K.
Introduced viruses are leading to the collapse of amphibian populations in Picos de Europa National Park
The team traced the infection’s impact across 15 locations in the park between 2005 and 2012. They found dead or dying amphibians from all six species, but the hardest hit are the common midwife toad (Alytes obstetricans), common toad (Bufo bufo), and alpine newt (Mesotriton alpestris). Price tells New Scientist: “We saw declines ranging from 60 to almost 100 percent.” Entire communities were killed off.
 
Based on genetic analyses of viruses recovered from infected animals, the team believe the pathogens came from a single CMTV source introduced at multiple sites across the park beginning sometime before 2005. Because the infected ponds are separated by many kilometers of rugged terrain, they suspect humans rather than amphibians spread the virus within the park. “Muddy boots are about my best guess right now,” Price tells Science.
 
Amphibians 200 kilometers away have been dying with similar symptoms caused by the closely related Bosca’s newt virus (BNV). And there’s also a third, more distantly related ranavirus that hasn’t caused mass death thus far. But not only are the viruses spreading and thriving, they’re “repeatedly overcoming the species barrier with catastrophic consequences,” Price says in a university statement. While related viruses are emerging in other European locations, back at the park, the team observed an instance where a snake became sick and died after eating an infected amphibian.
 
Over 40 percent of salamander and frog species are declining. But there is one thing Price is thankful for: The viruses haven’t overlapped anywhere with the killer chytrid fungus yet. The team’s now gathering more samples from around the world to build a viral family tree.

Virus-transmitting ‘yellow fever’ mosquitoes discovered in L.A. County, USA

Yellow fever mosquito
A new aggressive daytime-biting mosquito capable of transmitting debilitating and possibly deadly viruses has been found in the Los Angeles region, officials announced Wednesday.
 
Known as yellow fever mosquitoes, the insects were found Oct. 7 and 8 in Commerce and Pico Rivera, respectively, according to the Greater Los Angeles County Vector Control District.
 
The Aedes aegypti species, which has black and white stripes and grows to about a quarter-inch in size, can transmit dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever — viruses that can cause painful symptoms including headaches and high fever, officials said.
 
“While these debilitating viruses, so far, aren’t locally transmitted in L.A. County, the mosquitoes that can transmit them are now here,” Susanne Kluh, the district’s director of scientific-technical services, said in a statement. “Infected travelers can bring these viruses to Los Angeles County.”
 
The mosquito is the third species of the Aedes genus found in Los Angeles County in the past three years, said district spokesman Levy Sun.
 
In September 2011, officials found Asian tiger mosquitoes, which come from Southeast Asia, in South El Monte and El Monte. The mosquito population has since grown and spread into 10 neighboring communities, officials said.
 
Then this summer, authorities found Australian backyard mosquitoes in Montebello and Monterey Park.
 
The yellow fever mosquito — which was first found in California, including in the Central Valley, in 2013 — is an aggressive daytime biter that thrives in urban environments, preferring small, man-made containers to lay eggs.
 
“We’re aggressively attacking the populations wherever we find them,” said Jason Farned, spokesman for the San Gabriel Valley Vector Control District.
 
Determining how the Aedes species were introduced to California has been difficult, but officials say imported tires and plants are typically to blame. They can also travel via planes, ships and other vehicles.
 
Officials urged residents to report any daytime-biting mosquitoes with black and white stripes.

‘Ebola-like virus’ kills 10 in Sultan Kudarat, Philippines

Epidemic Alert

The Department of Health (DOH) in Sultan Kudarat is monitoring an “Ebola-like virus” that has killed at least 10 people in the province since April.
 
Back in March, more than 100 residents of Barangay Tinalon in Senator Ninoy Aquino town were rushed to the hospital due to stomach pains, vomiting, and diarrhea after eating what doctors believed was tainted horse meat.
 
Several of the victims died.
 
At that time, medical officials were baffled as to what kind of illness struck the victims.
 
Samples of horse meat were sent to a laboratory for testing.
 
The DOH is checking whether the virus came from a bat and was transferred to the horse killed and eaten by residents of Senator Ninoy Aquino town.
 
Based on the laboratory results, the residents were hit by an acute encephalitis syndrome, a biosafety level 4 disease, making it as fatal as Ebola virus.
 
The illness is transmitted through body fluids. It has an incubation period of from 4 to 27 days.
 
“It starts with a simple flu, but you can die in one week’s time. ‘Yung preparation natin dito ay the same sa preparation natin sa Ebola,” Regional Epidemiology and Surveillance Officer Dr. Alah Baby Vingno said.
 
The disease has killed 10 residents since April.
 
The DOH is setting up an information campaign, as well as training its personnel to deal with acute encephalitis syndrome.
 
The agency is also reminding the public to observe proper hygiene to ward off deadly diseases.

Plane makes an emergency landing due to a passenger’s serious medical condition in Australia

Emergency Alert

Quarantine officials examined the plane and the man, aged in his 50s, and was rushed to Royal Prince Alfred Hospital
A JETSTAR flight from Sydney to Darwin was turned back last night after a passenger started vomiting blood during the flight’s ascent.
 
Paramedics in HAZMAT suits met the flight in Sydney around 10.30pm but a Jetstar spokesman said that was standard procedure due to the vomiting.
 
It is understood the man’s illness was related to a pre-existing renal condition.
A Jetstar spokesman said the passenger presented as “gravely unwell” about an hour into the journey and the captain made the decision to turn back based on medical advice.
After arriving back in Sydney the man, aged in his 50s, was taken to Royal Prince Alfred Hospital.
 
There is no suggestion the incident is related to the current Ebola scare that has now seen five US airports introduce extra screening for passengers.
 
Quarantine officials examined the plane and the man, aged in his 50s, was rushed to Royal Prince Alfred Hospital.
 
The 140 Passengers on board were escorted off the plane and put up for the night in hotels.

Rare virus sickens 14 babies in Kansas City area, USA

Virus Alert
Health authorities in the Kansas City area are investigating infections among 14 infants with a virus that can cause meningitis and other inflammation.
 
Kansas Department of Health and Environment spokeswoman Aimee Rosenow says none of the infants has died, but all have been hospitalized, reports CBS affiliate KCTV5 News.
 
The infections are caused by HPeV3, one of a group of viruses called human parechoviruses. Shawnee Mission Medical Center and Children’s Mercy Hospital have both reported cases.
 
The Kansas City Starreports the first cases among local infants were discovered in June.
 
Rosenow says it’s unclear if the infections are connected. Nine of the children are from Kansas and the rest are Missouri residents.
 
Rosenow says the department is working with the Missouri Health Department and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to determine if there have been other infections.
 
Children’s Mercy released a newsletter about the virus back in 2010. It says the infections happen in babies less than 90 days old. Symptoms include fever, irritability and rash. Scientists isolated the first case of the virus 1999, after it sickened a 1-year-old child in Japan who presented with symptoms including fever, diarrhea and transient paralysis.
 
Experts also said it seems to be a summer-time disease, with peak months occurring in July through October.
 

Ebola virus: ‘We should be more worried about viruses in the UK’ says infectious diseases expert

Virus Alert

An infectious diseases expert has revealed that there are diseases in the UK which pose more of a threat to the UK than the Ebola virus.

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa is the world’s biggest and most widespread to date and Dr Chris van Tulleken also told This Morning that a case in London was “not impossible”.

Speaking to hosts Ruth Langsford and Eamonn Holmes, he said: “It’s very interesting that we’re getting excited about it. Ebola has been going for many, many months. If we’re going to get excited about it there are many, many more diseases in our own country, that pose more risk, that’s what we should be worried about… It’s not impossible that we will see cases in London.”

However, when asked about the risks to the population Dr Chris said: “It’s not terribly contagious.

“It is a category grade 4 virus which means it’s both relatively easy to spread and extremely deadly if you get it.”

Dr Chris van Tulleken tells This Morning that diseases in the UK “pose more risk” than deadly Ebola
 

He added: “It’s not a very well understood virus but one of the major mechanisms is bleeding which leads to multi-organ failure.”

“The incubation period is from 2-21 days but it can happen very quickly.”

When asked why the virus is spreading in West Africa, replied: “It is extremely difficult to contain this kind of virus in that part of the world.”

Six New Cases Of Human Infection With H7N9 Virus Are Reported To WHO

HIV Alert

Between March 20 and March 25, 2014, the National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC) of China notified the World Health Organization (WHO) of six additional laboratory-confirmed cases of human infection with avian influenza A(H7N9) virus.
 
Details of the case reported on March 20 are as follows:
A 78-year-old man living in Shaoyang City, Hunan Province became ill on March 12, was admitted to a hospital on March 18 and is currently in severe condition.
Details of the case reported on March 21 are as follows:
A 32-year-old man living in Shenzhen City, Guangdong Province became ill on March 18, was admitted to a hospital on March 21 and is currently in severe condition.
Details of the cases reported on March 24 are as follows:
An 82-year-old man from Chuzhou City, Anhui Province became ill on March 10 and was admitted to hospital the same day. He is currently in critical condition. The patient had a history of exposure to poultry.

A 62-year-old man from Shantou City, Guangdong Province became ill on Marc 14 and was admitted to hospital on March 19. He is currently in critical condition.

Details of the cases reported on March 25 are as follows:
A 49-year-old man from Shenzhen City, Guangdong Province became ill on March 15, was admitted to a hospital on March 23 and is currently in critical condition. The patient had a history of exposure to poultry.

A 58-year-old man from Guangzhou City, Guangdong Province became ill on March 12, was admitted to a hospital on March 19 and is currently in critical condition. The patient had a history of exposure to poultry.

The Chinese government has taken the following surveillance and control measures:  strengthen surveillance and situation analysis; reinforce case management and treatment; and conduct risk communication with the public and release information.

The previous report of avian influenza A(H7N9) virus detection in live poultry exported from mainland China to Hong Kong SAR shows the potential for the virus to spread through movement of live poultry, at this time there is no indication that international spread of avian influenza A(H7N9) has occurred. However as the virus infection does not cause signs of disease in poultry, continued surveillance is needed. Further sporadic human cases of avian influenza A(H7N9) infection are expected in affected and possibly neighboring areas.

Should human cases from affected areas travel internationally, their infection may be detected in another country during or after arrival. If this were to occur, community level spread is unlikely as the virus does not have the ability to transmit easily among humans. Until the virus adapts itself for efficient human-to-human transmission, the risk of ongoing international spread of H7N9 virus by travelers is low.

WHO advises that travelers to countries with known outbreaks of avian influenza should avoid poultry farms, or contact with animals in live bird markets, or entering areas where poultry may be slaughtered, or contact with any surfaces that appear to be contaminated with feces from poultry or other animals. Travelers should also wash their hands often with soap and water. Travelers should follow good food safety and good food hygiene practices.

WHO does not advise special screening at points of entry with regard to this event, nor does it currently recommend any travel or trade restrictions.

As always, a diagnosis of infection with an avian influenza virus should be considered in individuals who develop severe acute respiratory symptoms while travelling or soon after returning from an area where avian influenza is a concern.

WHO encourages countries to continue strengthening influenza surveillance, including surveillance for severe acute respiratory infections (SARI) and to carefully review any unusual patterns, in order to ensure reporting of human infections under the IHR (2005), and continue national health preparedness actions.

30,000-Year-Old Giant Virus ‘Comes Back To Life’
Pithovirus sibericum

An ancient virus has “come back to life” after lying dormant for at least 30,000 years, scientists say.

It was found frozen in a deep layer of the Siberian permafrost, but after it thawed it became infectious once again.

The French scientists say the contagion poses no danger to humans or animals, but other viruses could be unleashed as the ground becomes exposed.

Professor Jean-Michel Claverie, from the National Centre of Scientific Research (CNRS) at the University of Aix-Marseille in France, said: “This is the first time we’ve seen a virus that’s still infectious after this length of time.”
Biggest virus

The ancient pathogen was discovered buried 30m (100ft) down in the frozen ground.

Called Pithovirus sibericum, it belongs to a class of giant viruses that were discovered 10 years ago.

These are all so large that, unlike other viruses, they can be seen under a microscope. And this one, measuring 1.5 micrometres in length, is the biggest that has ever been found.

The last time it infected anything was more than 30,000 years ago, but in the laboratory it has sprung to life once again.

Tests show that it attacks amoebas, which are single-celled organisms, but does not infect humans or other animals.

Co-author Dr Chantal Abergel, also from the CNRS, said: “It comes into the cell, multiplies and finally kills the cell. It is able to kill the amoeba – but it won’t infect a human cell.”

However, the researchers believe that other more deadly pathogens could be locked in Siberia’s permafrost.

“We are addressing this issue by sequencing the DNA that is present in those layers,” said Dr Abergel.

“This would be the best way to work out what is dangerous in there.”

Pithovirus sibericum
‘Recipe for disaster’

The researchers say this region is under threat. Since the 1970s, the permafrost has retreated and reduced in thickness, and climate change projections suggest it will decrease further.

It has also become more accessible, and is being eyed for its natural resources.

Prof Claverie warns that exposing the deep layers could expose new viral threats.

He said: “It is a recipe for disaster. If you start having industrial explorations, people will start to move around the deep permafrost layers. Through mining and drilling, those old layers will be penetrated and this is where the danger is coming from.”

He told BBC News that ancient strains of the smallpox virus, which was declared eradicated 30 years ago, could pose a risk.

“If it is true that these viruses survive in the same way those amoeba viruses survive, then smallpox is not eradicated from the planet – only the surface,” he said.

“By going deeper we may reactivate the possibility that smallpox could become again a disease of humans in modern times.”

However, it is not yet clear whether all viruses could become active again after being frozen for thousands or even millions of years.

“That’s the six million dollar question,” said Professor Jonathan Ball, a virologist from the University of Nottingham, who was commenting on the research.

“Finding a virus still capable of infecting its host after such a long time is still pretty astounding – but just how long other viruses could remain viable in permafrost is anyone’s guess. It will depend a lot on the actual virus. I doubt they are all as robust as this one.”

He added: “We freeze viruses in the laboratory to preserve them for the future. If they have a lipid envelope – like flu or HIV, for example – then they are a bit more fragile, but the viruses with an external protein shell – like foot and mouth and common cold viruses – survive better.

“But it’s the freezing-thawing that poses the problems, because as the ice forms then melts there’s a physical damaging effect. If they do survive this, then they need to find a host to infect and they need to find them pretty fast.”

 

SEVERE WEATHER ALERT FOR IRELAND & UK 

Residents of flood-hit Chertsey in Surrey showing signs of vomiting, diarrhoea & fever advised to seek medical assistance

***BE ALERT***

China Reports New Human H7N9 Case
Bird Flu
A human case of H7N9 was reported in east China’s Zhejiang Province on Sunday, the provincial health and family planning commission said in a statement.
 
The patient is a 34-year-old woman surnamed Cai, who is from the city of Zhuji. She was confirmed to be infected with the bird flu virus on Saturday.
By 1 pm on Sunday, she was still in critical condition at a local hospital, the statement said.
This is the first case to be reported in Zhejiang this year. In November, two cases were reported in the province.
It is the second case to be reported in China this year.