Pandora Report 3.21.14


Positive Tests for Ricin at Georgetown University

Earlier this week, a white, powdery substance that tested positive for ricin, was found in a dorm room at Georgetown University. The 19 year-old student suspect who lived in the room reported that he made it and the Georgetown Voice spoke with a source who indicated the suspect possibly “intended to use the substance on another student.” Weapons-grade ricin is an extremely lethal toxin that has no available anti-toxin.

The Washington Post– “In an e-mail sent campus-wide, the university said there was no danger to the community. Law enforcement officials said they did not think that the case was connected to terrorism. School officials received no reports of anyone being exposed to the toxin, authorities said. D.C. health officials advised the school that symptoms of ricin exposure typically present themselves within 24 hours. “This window has passed and there are no reports consistent with ricin exposure,” the statement said.”

And now, our regularly scheduled Friday news…

Highlights include Polio-like virus in California, destruction of Syrian chemical weapons, the cost of Anti-Vaxxers, and domestic illness in pigs (or…the end of bacon?!) Happy Friday and have a great weekend!

Doctors continue the hunt for a Polio-like virus in California

Since September 2012, over two-dozen children in California have displayed symptoms of a rare Polio-like illness that has caused sudden paralysis, while doctors and health officials are still hunting for the cause. One possible suspect may be some sort of enterovirus, but more testing is required as the mystery continues.

San Francisco Chronicle—“Viruses can be difficult to detect after patients have been sick for a couple of weeks, and especially if they’ve already undergone treatment that can muddy test results. In the California cases, most children weren’t tested until many weeks or even months after they became sick. Waubant, a UCSF neurologist, said she is hoping to get funding to conduct immunoglobulin testing, which would determine whether the patients with polio-like illness have certain antibodies suggesting that they’d all been infected with the same virus.”

PEDv threatens future of pork industry

Are the days of available bacon coming to an end? A report coming out of the Dakotas paints a scary picture of the effect porcine epidemic diarrhea virus is having on the entire domestic pork industry. PEDv is a relatively new disease afflicting pigs but is has become widespread and with little known about the virus containment has become a top priority of both the pork industry and scientists.

Farm Forum—“‘PEDv has a significant economic impact,” Dr. Oedekoven, South Dakota State veterinarian said. “There is a high death rate in the naïve (newborn) population where 80 to 100 percent death losses are reported. The young piglets have no natural immunity and there is no vaccine. It’s a pretty terrible recipe. Biosecurity and sanitation are the tools being used in the industry to prevent the introduction of the disease into herds.’”

A Medical opinion on the anti-vaccination movement

With celebrities like Jenny McCarthy and Kristin Cavallari appearing in the media on an almost daily basis loudly championing the virtues of being “anti-vaxxer,” a medical doctor weighs in on the cost of that movement.

Forbes—“The result is an erosion in health gains, both individual and collective. And in some parts of the country, we are witnessing a reversal of what many believe is one of the greatest advances in medical science in the last century. And as a society, before we allow misinformation to threaten public health, we must recognize that vaccines today are safe and effective. Anything less is irresponsible. We owe it to our children and our communities to make vaccination universal.”

Will Syria meet the deadline for chemical weapon disarmament?

A deadline of June 30 has been set for Syria to hand over and destroy their chemical weapons arsenal. However, there are concerns that rocket strikes in Syria could delay this process and means the deadline will pass without completion.

Al Bawaba—“The Syrian government has repeatedly blamed security issues for its failure to meet the specified deadlines for removing its chemical weapon stockpile from the country. Damascus said last month that convoys carrying chemical weapons were subject to two attempted attacks while they attempted to transport the materials to Latakia.”

But, the U.S.-Russian brokered deal is not in danger, Russian authorities say.

ITAR/TASS—“‘We are not inclined to dramatize the fact that the milestone for their removal, February 5 this year, was not met, as it was planned by the decision of the Executive Council of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW),” the ministry said. “It can be explained by the objective security situation around chemical weapons storage facilities and on the route of convoys’ movement, as well as by problems related to the logistical support of the operation. However, there is no reason at all to call into question the deadline for the liquidation of the Syrian chemical weapons potential – the first half of the current year.’”

(image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

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