The last known Ebola patient in Liberia has been discharged from a treatment center in Monrovia, potentially marking the end of an epidemic that according to the World Health Organization, claimed 4,117 victims in Liberia alone. On April 4 the epidemic will be considered officially over as long as no new cases emerge. The date was selected because it would mark 42 days (double Ebola’s 21 day incubation period) after the last known infection.
Even though the number of known Ebola cases in Liberia has dropped to zero, officials are warning people to remain cautious. Within Liberia, authorities are still monitoring roughly 100 people who may have been exposed to the virus. Furthermore, Sierra Leone and Guinea have seen a recent spike in the number of known cases — increasing in the last week of February from 99 to 132.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) stopped shipments of samples from its “high security” laboratories following accidents with Anthrax and the deadly H5N1 flu virus. The CDC reported that many employees might have been exposed to live Anthrax after workers failed to properly “inactivate the bacteria” before shipment to other labs. Most recently, CDC workers accidentally cross-contaminated the “low-pathogenic” H9N2 virus with the highly deadly H5N1, then shipped the sample to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The CDC said that it would be reviewing the safety procedures involving shipments from its high security laboratories.
Recently, the CDC confirmed that females are capable of transmitting HIV to their female sex partners. Female to female transmission of HIV has been difficult to prove, though there have been reports of its occurrence in the past. Most often, this mode of transmission is difficult to substantiate because researchers are unable to rule out other risk factors, such as intravenous drug use or sexual contact with males. However, a recent case study of two women in a monogamous relationship, who did not have a history of intravenous drug use, allowed the researchers to rule out the more common risk factors. The CDC states that though this mode of transmission is rare, everyone should take appropriate preventative measures to guard against HIV.
In 2006 researchers noted that honeybees, which are crucial to crop production, were dying at astounding rates. The phenomenon came to be known as “colony collapse disorder.” Yet, a new study, released by the academic journal mBio, suggests multiple factors may be to blame for the continuing honeybee epidemic, such as: pesticides; parasites; and, “a host of viruses.”
However, one virus in particular, the tobacco ringspot virus (TRV), “is the first known instance in which a virus jumped from pollen to bees.” TRV is an RNA virus; researchers find RNA viruses particularly disconcerting because they mutate rapidly in order to subvert a host’s immunological defenses. Other well-known RNA viruses include influenza, AIDS and certain hepatitis strains.
GlaxoSmithKline created a vaccine to protect against four strains of the flu virus. Prior to its advent, vaccines protected against only three strains. More comprehensive viral protection is important because providers never know which strain will predominate in a given year. The vaccine is called Fluarix Quadrilivalent (Fluarix). Recently, the FDA approved Fluarix for shipment to health care providers, and the largest order for the vaccine came from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC ordered 4 million doses for initial distribution to local and state health care providers.
Three out of 14 Chinese patients that contracted the new “Bird Flu,” otherwise known as the A/H7N9 virus, did not respond to Tamiflu, which is the only known treatment for the bird flu. In one patient in particular resistance to Tamiflu occurred most likely in response to the treatment itself, which led researchers to state that, “[t]he apparent ease with which antiviral resistance emerges in A/H7N9 is concerning; it needs to be closely monitored and considered in future pandemic response plans.”
Currently the global threat appears low, but the drug-maker Roche is taking the issue of resistance to Tamiflu “very seriously” and is collaborating with health authorities on the issue.