The Pandora Report 2.21.14

Editor’s note: Hello all Pandora Report subscribers! This is unfortunately my last week as author of the Pandora Report. It’s been such a pleasure having the opportunity to write the Pandora Report, and I would like to thank all of you for taking the time to subscribe and read it. I leave you all in the trusty hands of the new Pandora Report team – goodbye, thank you, and remember to stay away from the bats.

Highlights include PEDv, 1918 Spanish Flu, MERS-CoV, and Ebola. Happy Friday!

As deadly pig virus spreads, USDA warns of impact on hog supply

Porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDv)has spread to a further two states, with Montana and Idaho reporting cases for the first time. The virus, which has a fatality rate approaching 100% in piglets, has swept across the country, with 3,528 cases in 25 states. Contaminated feed was recently put forth as a potential source of the virus’ spread. Before you start autoclaving your pork products, remember that the virus poses no threat to humans.

Chicago Tribune – “PEDv causes diarrhea, vomiting and severe dehydration in pigs. Research by the U.S. hog industry determined it is spread orally through infected pig manure, and can be carried by trucks, boots, clothes and water. But feed containing porcine by-products, including but not limited to plasma, recently came into focus as a means of transmission. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) found the virus in samples of U.S.-origin plasma from a third-party manufacturer for Grand Valley Fortifiers, a livestock feed company based in the province of Ontario. The company recalled the feed.”

Study revives bird origin for 1918 flu pandemic

According to a new study published in Nature, the 1918 (H1N1) Spanish flu virus originated not from reassortment in pigs, but from domestic water and shore birds. This most recent study contradicts finding in a persuasive 2009 study which found the virus to have circulated in humans and pigs for up to 15 years prior to the pandemic. Historical epidemiology is critical to better understanding, and therefore predicting, emerging  pandemic threats.

Nature – “The virus that caused the 1918 influenza pandemic probably sprang from North American domestic and wild birds, not from the mixing of human and swine viruses. A study published today in Nature1 reconstructs the origins of influenza A virus and traces its evolution and flow through different animal hosts over two centuries. ‘The methods we’ve been using for years and years, and which are crucial to figuring out the origins of gene sequences and the timing of those events, are all flawed’, says lead author Michael Worobey, an ecologist and evolutionary biologist at the University of Arizona in Tucson. Worobey and his colleagues analysed more than 80,000 gene sequences from flu viruses isolated from humans, birds, horses, pigs and bats using a model they developed to map evolutionary relationships between viruses from different host species. The branched tree that resulted showed that the genes of the deadly 1918 pandemic virus are of avian origin.”

Saudi Arabia’s MERS Death Toll Reaches 60

The sixtieth MERS-CoV fatality in Saudi Arabia was a 22-year old male with previously existing conditions. The young man was also battling cancer. There have been 182 cases of the virus globally, of which 165 have been in Saudi Arabia. All but nineteen of the fatalities have been in Saudi Arabia. No word yet on whether he had previous contact with camels.

Gulf Business – “The virus, which first appeared in 2012, has affected around 182 people globally and has resulted in 79 deaths till date, according to World Health Organisation (WHO). MERS, a deadly but less transmissible virus than SARS, has symptoms such as coughing, fever and pneumonia. Although the worldwide number of MERS infections is fairly small, the high death rate among confirmed cases and the spread of the virus beyond the Middle East is keeping scientists and public health officials on alert. Cases have been reported in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Jordan, UAE, Oman and Tunisia as well as in several countries in Europe.”

Man steals phone from Ebola patient, gets infected

As this is my last Pandora Report, it is only appropriate Ebola is mentioned at least once. This story is making the rounds again following it’s use in a promotional AARP blog post (bold move, AARP, bold move). Its moral? Don’t steal things from hospitals. Especially things located in a hospital’s active quarantine zone. Especially things located in a hospital’s active quarantine zone during an Ebola outbreak.

The Daily Monitor (Uganda) – “Security and medical officials in Kibaale District have registered a case in which a man allegedly went in an isolation ward at Kagadi Hospital and stole a cellular phone from one of the Ebola patients…Police detectives began tracking him after he apparently began communicating to his friends using the phone. But as police zeroed in on him, he developed symptoms similar to those of Ebola and sought medication at the hospital…In his confession made to the police, the suspect, now patient, claimed he had visited the isolation ward to give them comfort although he confessed to knowing none in person.”

(image courtesy of NIAID)

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