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Current Events

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Notice: Sources often remove their news links after a period of time. Some of them move older stories to a subscription-only section. Even if the story is no longer on line, our summary will still be available on this page.

The Growing Planetary Threat from Biological Weapons and Terrorism

Nov. 30, 2008 - The easiest way to kill half the population of a city of two million would be to place a gram or two of a toxin called botulin in the city's water supply.
In just a few small refrigerators or freezers, one can store sufficient biological weapons to kill the entire population of the world many times over.
Source:The Tribune - India

Wildlife gives early warning of 'deadly dozen' diseases spread by climate change

Oct. 8, 2008 - Veterinary scientists from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)warn that the "deadly dozen" diseases known to affect both humans and wildlife are spreading.
Ebola, cholera, plague and sleeping sickness were among those identified yesterday by as spreading across the planet because of climate change. The scientists said that wildlife could give an early warning of the approach of diseases and save millions of people.
Source: TimesOnline - UK

HIV vaccine research hits impasse

Feb. 15, 2008 - According to a Nobel prize-winning biologist, no real progress has been made in the search for a HIV vaccine fter 20 years of research. Professor David Baltimore, who is president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, said that scientists are losing hope.
Attempts to control the virus through antibodies or by boosting the body's immune system have ended in failure.

This has left the vaccine community depressed because they can see no hopeful way of success, Prof Baltimore said.

Source: BBC

New Strain of MRSA Spreads Among Gay Men

Jan 15, 2008 - MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus causes about 19,000 deaths each year in the U.S. Most of these cases occur in hospitals, but now the disease is spreading among homosexual men, especially in San Francisco, Boston, New York and Los Angeles. In San Francisco, research shows that homosexual men are 13 times more likely to be infected than people in the general population.
Although researchers have stopped short of declaring this form of staph a sexually transmitted disease, the infections are found where skin-to-skin contact occurs during sexual activity.
Source: Fox

Leaders Claim Success on World AIDS Day

Dec. 1, 2007 - As World AIDS day is observed, UNAIDS - the U.N. sponsored fund - says that nearly 1.5 million people are receiving HIV drugs provided by their organization. They also say that there is a drop in the number of people with HIV now.
The agency now says about 32.7 million people were living with the virus in 2006 - nearly 7 million fewer than previously estimated.
Source: Voice of America

World 'losing fight against Aids'

July 23, 2007 - At a conference on AIDS in Australia, U.S. expert Dr Anthony Fauci warned that the world is losing the race to contain AIDS. More people are being treated with anti-retroviral drugs. The numbers are up from 300,000 to 2.2 million in the developing world. But he said:
"For every one person that you put in therapy, six new people get infected. So we're losing that game, the numbers game," he said.
British expert, Dr Brian Gazzard added that the HIV epidemic is virtually uncontrolled in Africa and Asia.
Source: BBC

North Korea trying to weaponize bird flu

May 8, 2006 - The British intelligence agency MI6 revealed that North Korea is trying to genetically modify bird flu and use it as a biological weapon.
In aerosol form it would be undetectable at all border crossings and virologists at Porton Down Britain's research center ... fear that a genetically engineered version of the virus would be far more lethal than any current threat from the virus.
Source: WorldNetDaily

Spreading bird flu raises many questions

Mar. 18, 2006 - When will it arrive in the U.S.? How worried should Americans be?
Source: MSNBC
Avian Flu Special Section - MSNBC

US Scientist: Bird Flu Could Kill 50 Percent of Human Population

Mar. 15, 2006 - To date, humans have only caught the bird flu (the H5N1 virus) from infected birds. Scientists have various opinions of how great the threat could be to the human population, but the one who discovered a link between bird flu and human flu thinks there is 50 percent chance the virus can learn how to spread directly from human-to-human, and the results could be disasterous!
Dr. Robert Webster of St. Jude Children's Hospital, in Memphis, Tennessee told the U.S. television network ABC Tuesday that people must face the possibility that half the population could die from bird flu.
Dr. Webster said he has stored a three-month supply of food and water at his house in case of an outbreak.
Source: Voice of America (Story no longer online)

Bird flu 'could take 142 million lives'

Feb. 16, 2006 - The Australia-based Lowy Institute think tank admits that it is still unknown whether or not a bird flue pandemic might occur, or where it might begin. If it does develop, even a "mild pandemic" (similar to the 1968-69 Hong Kong flu) could kill 1.4 million people. In the worst-case scenario 142 million people could die.
The death toll could reach 28.4 million in China, 24 million in India, 11.4 million in Indonesia, 4.1 million in the Philippines, 2.1 million in Japan, 2.0 million in the United States and 5.6 million in Europe.
So far, 90 humans have died, and the disease is still not being transmitted from human to human. If it mutates so that humans can spread the virus, it will be extremely dangerous.
Source: CNN
Deadly viruses mutating to infect humans at rate never seen before - Times Online - UK

U.S. Health Official Warns of Bird Flu Pandemic

Oct. 11, 2005 - Travelling the Asian countries that are fighting the Avian Flu, Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt said the likelihood of a flu pandemic in the future is "very high." The flu is not yet transferred from human to human, but there is serious concern that the virus could mutate and become capable of spread among humans.
Leavitt said his delegation reviewed Thailand's plan of action against bird flu and that a draft of a comprehensive U.S. plan would be released in a few days.

WHO backs away from 150 million flu deaths

Oct. 1, 2005 - The World Health Organisation (WHO)disagrees with the U.N. forecast of up to 150 million deaths from the Avian Flu, if it crosses over and becomes transferable from human to human. 2 million to 7.4 million deaths would be a more realistic projection.
Seasonal flu normally kills up to 500,000 in any year.
Source:Reuters (Story no longer online)
Senate Passes $4 Billion Measure to Fight Avian Flu - CBN

Officials warn of catastrophic flu pandemic

Sept. 20, 2005 - Health officials from more than 20 countries have met to discuss the threat of a massive global pandemic similar to the great influenza pandemic of 1918-1919, which killed an estimated 40 to 50 million people. In order for this to happen, the avian flu which is killing birds by the millions in Asia, would have to be caught by a human at the same time that the person had a human flu. If the two strains merged in the human cell, and then began to spread, it would could become a grave threat to the world's health.
Source: WorldNetDaily
Sept. 30 update - Bird flu 'could kill 150m people' - BBC

Superbugs found in chicken survey

Aug. 16, 2005 - According to a BBC news program, more than a third of 147 samples of chicken they tested were contaminated with E.coli germs resistant to the important antibiotic Trimethoprim which is used to treat bladder infections.
The survey's results could partly explain a rise in the number of women whose bladder infections did not respond to standard treatments, a medical expert told the programme.

Labs race to destroy deadly virus

Apr. 13, 2005 - Samples of an Asian flu were mistakenly sent to more than 3,700 laboratories in countries all over the world. The labs are urged to destroy the samples immediately because if the materials are mishandled, the World Health Organization said the virus could "easily cause an influenza epidemic." The deadly virus caused the deaths of between one and four million people in 1957. Recent flu shots do not include protection against this strain.

Humanity in 'gravest possible danger' of bird flu pandemic

Feb. 24, 2005 - At an emergency conference of 20 nations, The World Health Organisation (WHO), warned that the Asian avian flu (part of the H1 family of flu viruses) has already spread in three countries, and could become a world-wide epidemic. An H1 flu in 1918 claimed the lives of millions.
Dr Julie Gerberding, the head of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said: "Each time we see a new H1 antigen emerge, we experience a pandemic of influenza."
The countries already affected, are Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand
Source:The Scotsman

Study: Cell phones scramble DNA

Dec. 21, 2004 - A study conducted by 12 research groups in seven European countries determined that radio waves from mobile phones harm body cells and damage DNA in laboratory conditions.
After being exposed to electromagnetic fields that are typical for mobile phones, the cells showed a significant increase in single and double-strand DNA breaks. The damage could not always be repaired by the cell.
Some of the damaged DNA was repaired by the cells, but some were not, and passed on the mutation to the next generation of cells. Such mutations are thought to be the cause of cancer. Researchers suggested the use of fixed line phones when they are available, and the use of a headset connected to a cell phone whenever possible.
Source:C/Net (Story no longer online)

Plan now to combat flu pandemic, urges WHO

Dec. 9, 2004 - The World Health Organization (WHO) is urging the world to prepare for the next pandemic of influenza. They can not predict when this outbreak will occur, but say that the arrival of the avian influenza or "bird flu" virus, which is now widely entrenched in Asia, could lead to it.
Estimates of the number of people expected to die from the next pandemic vary from two million to 50 million with between 20 percent and 50 percent of the world's population ultimately affected, the WHO said.
Source:Yahoo (Story no longer online)

U.N.: World failing in AIDS fight

July 6, 2004 - The AIDS crisis is growing. Over 20 million people have died in a little more than two decades. Today 38 million people are infected with HIV worldwide. Nearly half are women, and half are between the ages of 15 and 24.
Almost 5 million people became infected with HIV last year -- the largest number of new infections since the disease was discovered in 1981,

Study shows mental disorders prevalent in 14 countries

June 1, 2004 - A study, based on face-to-face diagnostic surveys in the homes of 60,463 adults in 14 countries, revealed that a large percentage of people suffer from mental illnesses, including anxiety disorders and depression. The study was was conducted in Belgium, China, Colombia, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Lebanon, Mexico, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Spain, Ukraine and the United States. The United States had the highest percentage of disturbed people, with a rate of 26.4 percent! Ronald Kessler, a Harvard Medical School researcher led the study.
Kessler said it's plausible that the U.S. rate would be higher because of "higher expectations" of success that can lead to frustration when people can't live up to them.
Source:CNN (Story no longer online)

Bacteria Run Wild, Defying Antibiotics

Mar. 2, 2004 - Drug-resistant strains of Staphylococcus aureus, or staph for short, have been a problem in hospitalized patients for years, but there is a growing number of these infections turning up in routine doctor's visits. If not treated properly these diseases are life-threatening.
"Staph infections are such a common problem that the emergence of infections resistant to common antibiotics has important public health implications," said Dr. Daniel B. Jernigan, an epidemiologist at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Source: N.Y. Times

Bird Flu Outbreak Worries Global Experts

Jan. 26, 2004 - Associated Press Medical Editor Daniel Q. Haney says that the latest outbreak of bird flu has only caused six human deaths so far, but the disease could cause a much greater disaster:
...a catastrophe they say is among the worst imaginable, a global outbreak of an entirely new form of human flu.
This same bird flu, (the H5N1 variety) was responsible for the death of at least 18 people in 1997. A pandemic was averted at that time by the rapid slaughter of Hong Kong's entire poultry supply an estimated 1.5 million birds killed in three days. This time the outbreak is much more extensive. It has spread through at least six Asian countries and has caused the death of millions of birds so far.
Source:Yahoo/ AP (Story no longer online)

Making Way for Designer Insects

Jan. 22, 2004 - The good news:
Scientists are at work developing silkworms that produce pharmaceuticals instead of silk, honeybees resilient enough to resist pesticides and even mosquitoes capable of delivering vaccines, instead of disease, with every bite.
Most people are wary of the GM bugs because of the possibility that they could get out of control and upset the balance of nature.
Source:Washington Post

U.S. Ponders Mad Cow Strategy

Dec. 30, 2003 - More than two dozen countries have stopped buying U.S. beef after the first case of Mad Cow disease was discovered in the U.S. The government is weighing its options, considering the public good on one hand and the financially distressed beef industry on the other.
Source:Reuters (Story no longer online)
See:Digital Angel shares jump on mad cow scare

Children of world hit hard by flu

Dec. 5, 2003 - This year's flu virus (the Fujian H3N2 strain) has hit earlier and harder than any flu strain in 30 years. According to Lynnette Brammer, an epidemiologist with the influenza branch of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, it seems to affect children more than older people. Dr. Klaus Stor, head of the World Health Organization's (WHO) influenza program says this may be caused by the fact that children have been less exposed to any influenza virus in recent years, and are therefore more susceptible.
He said flu epidemics usually begin with children and then advance to the adult population two to three weeks after schools begin reporting absences. Historically, 95 percent of the 36,000 Americans who die from the flu each year are 65 and older.
Source:Washington Times (Story no longer online)

World AIDS Deaths, Infections at New Highs

Nov. 26, 2003 - The HIV/AIDS epidemic continues to expand. There are about 40 million people living with the disease now. In 2003 about 5 million were infected, and 3 million died.
"More people have become infected this year than ever before and more people have died from AIDS than ever before," he told Reuters. "It is the first cause of death in Africa and the fourth cause of death worldwide."
Source:My Way

HIV/AIDS Becoming Young Person's Disease

Oct. 9, 2003 - According to the U.N. Population Fund, a young person (between 15 and 24) is infected with HIV virus every 14 seconds. The Earth now has the biggest generation of adolescents in its history 1.2 billion of the world's 6.3 billion people are between the ages of 10 and 19. HIV/AIDS has also caused 13 million children under age 15 to be orphaned.
"We will have a global catastrophe if we ignore young people and ignore their needs," said Thoraya Obaid, the agency's executive director, told a news conference in London.
Source:ABC (Story no longer online)

Mobiles 'make you senile'

Sept. 14, 2003 - Though tests have not shown that cell phones cause cancer or heat the brain, another danger has been discovered that could cause a "whole generation" of today's teenagers to go senile in the prime of their lives.
The study - financed by the Swedish Council for Work Life Research, and published by the US government's National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences - breaks new ground by looking at how low levels of microwaves cause proteins to leak across the blood-brain barrier.
The resulting brain damage could produce senility among young adults.
Source: (Story no longer online)

Three States Battle Monkeypox Outbreak

June 9, 2003 - The CDC reports the first U.S. outbreak of monkeypox, related to the dreaded smallpox virus.
Four Wisconsin residents have confirmed cases of the monkeypox virus and 14 others have suspected cases ... At least 10 more cases are suspected in Indiana, officials confirmed Monday. Illinois has three suspected cases.
Terrorism is not suspected. The disease was apparently spread by prairie dogs, which were probably infected by a giant Gambian rat, indigeneous to Africa, and sold as a pet by a Chicago-area pet distributor.
Source:Fox (Story no longer online)

China steps up Sars curbs

May 6, 2003 - Only four cases of Sars in China's eastern city of Nanjing has led to a quarantine of 10,000 people! So far 214 have died in China from the disease which has infected 4,409 people.
The entire 13 million population of Beijing is under a form of unofficial isolation, with roads out of the city blocked and flights cancelled.

Malaria is killing one African child every 30 seconds

Apr. 25, 2003 - Malaria is killing more children in Africa than ever before, it continues to impoverish much of the continent, and drugs to fight it have all but run out. So concludes the first comprehensive report on malaria in Africa, published today, Africa Malaria Day Some 3000 African children die from malaria each day - equivalent to one every 30 seconds, the report estimates. Poor and pregnant women and their babies are particularly at risk. The report also confirms what many researchers have been warning for decades. Resistance to chloroquine - cheapest and most available anti-malaria drug - is now so widespread that it is practically useless in most parts of Africa.
Source:Nature (Story no longer online)

Making Sense of SARS

Apr. 25, 2003 -
As of April 25th, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports 4649 SARS cases, 2422 of those in China, where the government has now instituted widespread quarantines. Worldwide, 274 deaths are now linked to the disease, 115 in Hong Kong alone.
Serious outbreaks in Toronto have caused the World Health Organization to add that city to their travel advisory bulletin. People in areas where there is no outbreak do not need to be concerned, but where the illness is known to exist, it is best to keep one's distance from the infected person since the virus is spread by coughing and sneezing. At this time it is not nearly as deadly as the flu, which kills 20,000 people per year in the U.S. alone.

China widens Sars quarantine

Apr. 25, 2003 - The Chinese government has instituted emergency measures, sealing off hospitals in Beijing, and putting 4000 people in quarantine in their homes.
Senior health officials from across Asia have been meeting in Malaysia to consider emergency measures aimed at slowing the spread of Sars, which has killed more than 260 people worldwide.
Source:BBC (Story no longer online)

Lost Viruses?

April 18, 2003 - Looters in Baghdad struck Iraq's key disease-control facility, possibly taking dangerous strains of cholera, black fever, HIV, polio and hepatitis.
Source:ABC (Story no longer online)

War and SARS batter tourism

April 18, 2003 - Toronto is trying to cope with a serious tourism drop because of the SARS outbreak there.
Source:The Star

In China's Capital, 'We're Panicking'

April 18, 2003 - Beijing, a city of 13 million people, seems nearly deserted as people react to the threat of the SARS virus. A college student said that collegians largely ignored the threat until they received a pamphlet about the disease. Nancy Xue, an economics major said, "Now we're panicking."
At Bank of China branches, there were no lines. The traffic at Western Station, the city's main rail terminal, has dropped 75 percent, to 80,000 passengers a day.
Source:Washington Post (Story no longer online)

Report: SARS Likely Spread Through Sewage Pipes

April 17, 2003 - The latest news about the spread of SARS is that infected sewage pipes are involved in some cases. Rats and cockroaches may also carry infected debris.

SARS could be Chinese bio-weapon: Russian expert

Apr. 11, 2003 - According to a top Russian medical expert, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) might be a biological weapon developed by China. Professor Sergei Kolesnikov says that SARS is a hybrid of two viruses, which can only be produced in laboratory conditions, and when the first outbreaks occured, in two southern districts of China, authorities kept it a secret.
Source:Times of India

WHO: SARS cases over 2,400

April 5, 2003 - According to the World Health Organization, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), the mystery respiratory illness that originated late last year in China has now infected 2,416 people, resulting in 89 deaths. Cases of SARS have been reported in 18 countries. The disease has affected 115 people in the United States so far.
Source: CNN

SARS likely a mutant strain of human and animal viruses

April 2, 2003 - The dreaded new disease, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) appears to be a mutant strain of coronavirus with bits of human, cow and mouse virus scrambled into its genetic code.
Some researchers believe the virus jumped the species barrier near Foshan, in China's Guandong province, where the first SARS cases were reported.
Source:National Post (Story no longer online)

US warns that bioterror attack is inevitable
Jan. 26, 2003 - Health Secretary Tommy Thompsons says that a biological attacks are inevitable, and that huge budgets need to be allocated by developing nations to prepare the necessary vaccines and other measures that will be required to survive such events.
Since the anthrax panic of 2001, the US has increased measures against bioterrorism. Last year it spent $1.1bn (700m), and is spending $4.5bn this year with a similar amount planned next.
The U.S. is now apparently prepared for a smallpox outbreak. Enough smallpox vaccine has been purchased for the entire population. (Story no longer online)

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