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disease

An outbreak of the plague is growing in Madagascar.

The top three nationally reported STDs are chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis and they are all on the rise in the Northwest and across the nation.

Three people in New Mexico caught the plague, according to health officials there, who reported the two most recent cases this week.

Yes, this is the same illness that killed an estimated 50 million people across three continents in the 1300s, though these days common antibiotics will get rid of it.

With the approval this month of two drugs to treat hepatitis C in children, these often overlooked victims of the opioid epidemic now have a better chance at a cure. Kids may actually have an easier time than adults getting approved for the treatment, according to some health policy specialists.

At a research lab on top of a forested hill overlooking Hong Kong, scientists are growing viruses. They first drill tiny holes into an egg before inoculating it with avian influenza to observe how the virus behaves.

When Kathleen Muldoon had her second child everything was going smoothly. The delivery was short, the baby's APGAR score was good and he was a healthy weight.

"Everyone said he was amazing," says Muldoon.

One of the big questions about extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis is whether this severe form of the disease is on the rise due to a failure of medications or if it's spreading through the air.

A new study of more than 400 patients in South Africa finds, unfortunately, that the answer appears to be the latter. Airborne transmission is the driving force behind a spike in extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB) in South Africa, according to a report just published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

A Superbug That Resisted 26 Antibiotics

Jan 17, 2017

"People keep asking me, how close are we to going off the cliff," says Dr. James Johnson, professor of infectious diseases medicine at the University of Minnesota. The cliffside free fall he is talking about is the day that drug-resistant bacteria will be able to outfox the world's entire arsenal of antibiotics. Common infections would then become untreatable.

It's a cold, damp fall day in London. But in a windowless basement laboratory, it feels like the tropics. It's hot and humid. That's to keep the mosquitoes happy.

"In this cage, we have the adult mosquitoes," says Andrew Hammond, a genetic engineer at Imperial College London, as he picks up a container made out of white mosquito netting.

The lab is buzzing with hundreds of mosquitoes. "Everything in this cubicle is genetically modified," Hammond says, pointing to the container of mosquitoes.

The number of people infected with three major sexually transmitted diseases is at an all-time high, according to a CDC report released Wednesday. And the increase in reported cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis is hitting teenagers and young adults hardest.

Over half of gonorrhea and chlamydia cases are in people under the age of 25, says Dr. Jonathan Mermin, director of the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention for the CDC.

A few months ago, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a startling map that showed the parts of the U.S. that could harbor mosquitoes capable of carrying Zika.

Many readers, including myself, thought, "Zika could come to my town! It could come to Connecticut! To Ohio and Indiana! Or to Northern California! Oh goodness!"

The map made it look like a vast swath of the country was at risk for Zika, including New England and the Upper Midwest.

Well, not quite.

Despite Rise Of Superbugs, Syphilis Still Has A Kryptonite

Jun 10, 2016

Lola Stamm fell in love with the bacterium that causes syphilis when she was in grad school.

Other bacteria are rod-shaped or blobby. Treponema pallidum, the syphilis culprit, is a long, skinny corkscrew — and it slithers.

"Under the dark-field microscope they look like little snakes," says Lola Stamm, a microbiologist at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. "It's really rather creepy, but they're just fascinating organisms."

With his wife expecting a baby in October, American road racer Tejay van Garderen has withdrawn from consideration for the Rio Summer Olympics, citing the Zika virus that's been linked to birth defects.

From a statement released by USA Cycling on van Garderen's behalf today:

Over 150 pregnant women in the United States appear to have been infected with Zika virus. That's in addition to more than 120 women affected by Zika in U.S. territories, mainly Puerto Rico.

Those are the latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, which has been keeping track of all pregnant women in the U.S. and its territories who have lab tests suggestive of Zika virus infections.

While Congress fidgets over whether and how to pay for the fight against the Zika virus, state and local health departments are scrambling and slimming down.

That's because these front-line public health agencies have already seen their budgets chopped because of the debate.

Amir Attaran, a professor in the School of Public Health and the School of Law at the University of Ottawa, isn't afraid to take a bold stand.

He has written a commentary for the Harvard Public Health Review, published this week, with the headline, "Why Public Health Concerns for Global Spread of Zika Virus Means that Rio de Janeiro's 2016 Olympic Games Must Not Proceed."

Though it's the world's top infectious killer, tuberculosis is surprisingly tricky to diagnose. Scientists think that video gamers can help them create a better diagnostic test.

An online puzzle released Monday will see whether the researchers are right. Players of a Web-based game called EteRNA will try to design a sensor molecule that could potentially make diagnosing TB as easy as taking a home pregnancy test. The TB puzzle marks the launch of "EteRNA Medicine."

As summer approaches, anxiety about Zika is growing in Gulf Coast states like Florida and Texas. The virus hasn't spread to mosquitoes in the region, and it may not, but experts are preparing nonetheless.

Zika's arrival in the U.S. this summer seems almost inevitable, health officials keep saying.

The virus has already touched down in northern Mexico and Puerto Rico. And just this week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the number of states with virus-carrying mosquitoes was larger than previously thought.

So the looming question is: Once Zika is here, how big will the outbreak be?

Could swallowing the eggs of a parasitic worm help treat a disease?

It might just work in some cases, according to the work of P'ng Loke and Ken Cadwell, two researchers at New York University who study parasites and the immune system.

White House Says It Will Cut Ebola Funding To Address Zika

Apr 6, 2016

Top officials with the Obama administration said Wednesday that they'll redirect $589 million toward the Zika virus response. Most of that money was to be used to deal with Ebola virus.

Almost two months ago, the Obama administration requested $1.9 billion from Congress to respond to the Zika threat.

"But Congress has yet to act," Shaun Donovan, director of the Office of Management and Budget, said in a news conference. "In the absence of congressional action, we must scale up Zika preparedness and response activities right now."

The emergence of nine cases of a fungal infection known as Valley Fever in southeast Washington over the last five years has state and federal health officials concerned. This week, the state and the CDC are launching a $50,000 study.

The Zika virus was likely spreading in South America — silently — long before health officials detected it, scientists reported Thursday.

The findings, published in the journal Science, suggest an air traveler brought the virus to the Americas sometime between May and December of 2013, or more than a year before Brazil reported the first cases of Zika in early 2015.

There's something different about the way these babies cry.

That's a realization that hit me after spending day after day with babies in Brazil who were born to mothers who were infected with the Zika virus when they were pregnant.

It's not just that they cry more easily, and longer — which they do. There's also something strange — harsher and more pained — about the cries of many of these babies.

Researchers are working furiously to determine if the Zika virus now spreading in Latin America is responsible for a spike in cases in Guillain-Barre syndrome, a condition that can cause temporary paralysis.

Valentina Vitoria was born in December.

She has microcephaly, the birth defect that causes an abnormally small head and can cause brain damage as well.

The baby's mother is 32-year-old Fabiane Lopes. She's caring for her daughter in a tiny, windowless one-room apartment in Rio de Janeiro. A whirring fan is the only relief they have from the heat.

In Brazil, doctors are getting closer to untangling the possible connection of Zika to microcephaly. The country has seen thousands of babies born with this birth defect since the virus arrived last year.

You wouldn't think of calling a mosquito "man's best friend." But that's the nickname that biologist Denise Valle uses for Aedes aegypti, the species that's been spreading the Zika virus in Brazil and many other countries in Latin America.

I think "man's best enemy" might be better.

The thing is, this mosquito likes to live near humans.

For Carnival in Brazil, lots of women don giant feather headdresses and skimpy bikinis.

But for a pre-Carnival event, Elaine Cuoto is dressed as a mosquito — complete with a long proboscis and gossamer wings.

She is part of a group of health workers dancing by a metro station in a working-class neighborhood of Rio's north zone. A few others are wearing mosquito costumes as well. And they're singing a catchy tune:

"If Zika attacks, use this number to report it, 7-4-6. Pay attention!"

"If you are a woman who is pregnant living in the U.S., there's one really important thing you need to know: You shouldn't go to a place that has Zika spreading."

A human study of Zika virus vaccine could begin as early as this year, U.S. health officials told reporters Thursday.

But the officials cautioned that it could be years before the vaccine is available for wide use.

The news came as the Zika virus continues to spread through the Americas. Still, a large outbreak is seen as unlikely in the U.S.

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