The Ebola outbreak in West Africa is the most explosive in history. One reason the virus spread so fast is that West Africa was blindsided. Ebola had never erupted in people anywhere close to West Africa before.
The type of Ebola causing the outbreak — called Zaire — is the deadliest strain. Until this year, it had been seen only in Central Africa, about 2,500 miles away. That’s about the distance between Boston and San Francisco.
So how did it spread across this giant swath of land without anybody noticing?
To answer that, ecologist Peter Walsh says we need to look at the history of Ebola Zaire.
Back in the summer of 1976, a young Zairian doctor named Ngoy Mushola traveled to a rural village in what is today the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
He heard people were dying of a strange disease, near the shores of the Ebola River. They had fevers, stomachaches and rashes. Some had internal bleeding.
"What’s so nasty about it is that it effectively melts your blood vessels," says Walsh, who’s at the University of Cambridge.
Illustration by Leif Parsons for NPR
By Elizabeth Mendes
Most Americans born into the generations that came after the Baby Boom have gone their entire lives aware that smoking can cause lung cancer. But this fact has not always been well-known – and at one time it wasn’t known at all.
Actually, it wasn’t even until cigarettes were mass produced and popularized by manufacturers in the first part of the 20th century that there was cause for alarm. Prior to the 1900s, lung cancer was a rare disease. Turn-of-the-century changes though, gave way to an era of rapidly increasing lung cancer rates. New technology allowed cigarettes to be produced on a large scale, and advertising glamorized smoking. The military got in on it too – giving cigarettes out for free to soldiers during World Wars I and II.
Cigarette smoking increased rapidly through the 1950s, becoming much more widespread. Per capita cigarette consumption soared from 54 per year in 1900, to 4,345 per year in 1963. And, lung cancer went from rarity to more commonplace – by the early 1950s it became “the most common cancer diagnosed in American men,” writes American Cancer Society Chief Medical Officer Otis Brawley, M.D., in an article published November 2013 in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.
However, though tobacco usage and lung cancer rates increased in tandem, few experts suspected a connection, according to Brawley and his co-authors.
From American Cancer Society
The second U.S. case of a dangerous new virus from the Middle East has been found in Florida, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday.
The patient is a health care worker from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, who developed symptoms May 1 while traveling to Orlando, Fla., to visit family, the CDC said.
MERS is a life-threatening respiratory infection that first emerged on the Arabian Peninsula in 2012. The virus is related to one that causes the common cold and SARS, which sparked a worldwide alarm in 2003.
There have been 538 confirmed MERS cases reported globally, including 148 deaths. Most cases have occurred in Saudi Arabia. But travelers have carried the virus to other parts of the world, including the U.K., France and Malaysia.
State and federal health officials are working to make sure the virus does not spread in Florida, CDC Director Thomas Frieden said in a telephone briefing for reporters. But there’s no reason for widespread alarm.
"Our experience with MERS, so far, suggests the risk to the public is extremely low," Frieden said. The virus doesn’t appear to spread easily from one person to another, he added.
Nevertheless, officials are tracking down hundreds of people who may have had contact with the patient during flights to London, Boston, Atlanta and Orlando.
Photo: A farmworker in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, wears a mask to protect against Middle East respiratory syndrome earlier this month. The MERS virus is common in camels. (Fayez Nureldine/AFP/Getty Images)
2nd U.S. case of MERS in Orlando
With each step, Luis Caraballo moved closer to his goal.
This is from today’s Orlando Sentinel. AIDS Walk is one of Hope and Help of Central Florida (metro Orlando’s largest HIV/AIDS service agency)’s largest annual fundraising events, raising approximately $150,000 for case management and prevention programs for those living with and affected by the disease. I’m proud to be a part of an organization that brings this community together and does great work helping those in need in Central Florida!
Removing all the dangerous bacteria from drinking water would have enormous health benefits for people around the world.
The technologies exist for doing that, but there’s a problem: cost.
Now MIT’s Rohit Karnik thinks he’s on to a much less expensive way to clean up water: Use the xylem of a plant.
Now if you remember your high school biology, you’ll know that xylem is the stuff in plants that transports water in the form of sap from the roots to the leaves.
"And the way the water is moved is by evaporation from the leaves," says Karnik.
It’s somewhat like what happens when you put a straw into a glass of liquid. Evaporation from the leaves has the same effect as sucking on the straw.
Pulling water up to the leaves this way creates a problem for the plant, but also an opportunity for an inventor.
The plant’s problem is something called cavitation, or the growth of air bubbles, which makes it harder for water to reach the leaves. But Karnik says xylem has a way of getting rid of these bubbles.
"The xylem has membranes with pores and other mechanisms by which bubbles are prevented from easily spreading and flowing in the xylem tissue," he says.
And it turns out these same pores that are so good at filtering out air bubbles are just the right size for filtering out nasty bacteria.
To prove it worked, he created a simple setup in his lab. He peeled the bark off a pine branch and took the sapwood underneath containing the xylem into a tube. He then sent a stream of water containing tiny particles through the tube and showed that the wood filter removed them.
"We also flowed in bacteria and showed we could filter out bacteria using the xylem," he says. Karnik estimates the xylem removed 99.9 percent of the bacteria.
The results were published Wednesday in the journal PLOS ONE.
Image: Making a xylem water filter is easy: Just peel back the bark and stick inside a tube. (PLOS ONE)
Interesting, simple way to filter bacteria from water. :-)
This article is a great reminder why I quit smoking over two years ago. If I can do it, anyone can!
Orlando Health Inc. has signed an agreement with Florida Blue to form a health…