What we're talking about Zika: New Impact from an Old Virus Monday, February 8, 2016

Zika: New Impact from an Old Virus

Zika virus has been linked to thousands of cases of microcephaly (infants born with abnormally small brains and heads) and is spreading throughout the Americas.

As you’ve probably seen, unless you’ve been living in a cave, Zika virus is the infectious disease topic du jour. From an obscure virus to the newest scare, interest in the virus has skyrocketed just in the past few weeks:   I have a few pieces already on Zika, so I won’t repeat myself here.…

Peter Doherty explains the likely outcomes of the Zika virus pandemic. What we are seeing in the Americas is a classic “virgin soil” epidemic. Enormous numbers of people and mosquitoes are being infected, the virus is transmitting at a very high level, and there may be as many as 4×106 cases. Apart from affected neonates,…

On The Pump Handle, Liz Borkowski reports on a "public health nightmare" in Brazil that threatens to become more common worldwide. The culprit is a virus called Zika, known to cause mild infections since 1947 but now "linked to nearly 4,000 cases of microcephaly – infants born with abnormally small brains and heads." On Aetiology, Tara C. Smith writes that the link between Zika and microcephaly is not conclusive, and explains how scientists will search for a relationship. In the meantime, officials in Brazil and other South American countries are telling women to postpone pregnancy. But barring eradication and/or manipulation of mosquito populations, Zika is set to spread, as climate change heats up temperate latitudes. Liz Borkowski writes, "Reducing transmission requires preventing bites from the Aedes aegypti mosquito, the same species that transmits dengue and chikungunya." PZ Myers looks at the bright side: "this one, tragic as its consequences can be, isn’t the big pandemic that will kill us all."

Channel Surfing

Life Science

Researchers are spending a lot of time exploring how the microbes living in our guts impact our health. In a new study published in Cell Reports, researchers wanted to know how the gut microbes of wild brown bears changes between summer and hibernation. They discovered that during the summer, the microbial species present in the gut are…

They’re already in their pajamas. The Monterey Bay Aquarium has a new exhibit of the Striped Pyjama Squid. Guess what they look like?

Peter Doherty explains the likely outcomes of the Zika virus pandemic. What we are seeing in the Americas is a classic “virgin soil” epidemic. Enormous numbers of people and mosquitoes are being infected, the virus is transmitting at a very high level, and there may be as many as 4×106 cases. Apart from affected neonates,…

Physical Science

“Where there is an observatory and a telescope, we expect that any eyes will see new worlds at once.” -Henry David Thoreau With more stories of the Universe having been told this past week at Starts With A Bang, it’s always a thrill to look back, see what we’ve covered and see what thoughts and ideas they’ve…

“Biological diversity is messy. It walks, it crawls, it swims, it swoops, it buzzes. But extinction is silent, and it has no voice other than our own.” -Paul Hawken Looking at the history of life on Earth, the fossil record shows something incontrovertible: in order for new forms of life to rise to dominance, it…

“We find them smaller and fainter, in constantly increasing numbers, and we know that we are reaching into space, farther and farther, until, with the faintest nebulae that can be detected with the greatest telescopes, we arrive at the frontier of the known universe.” -Edwin Hubble If you want to see farther, deeper and at…

Environment

The Economist, about Ted Cruz, in an article about his presidential hopes: Conversely his appeal to moderates is limited. He has had little to say to or about the poor, beyond his perpetual gratitude that, when his father was washing dishes for 50 cents an hour, no one was sent by the government to help…

Pattern Recognition in Physics (or, if you prefer, Pattern Recognition in Physics) appears to have finally shuffled off this mortal coil; h/t DM. As late as January 2016 its arid mummified cadaver was propped up at http://www.pattern-recognition-in-physics.com/. But it would appear that either the vast expense of maintaining a domain, or perhaps the sheer embarrassment…

Except, of course, it is actually the same recycled nutters under yet another name. Thanks to BB for the link, but the original source is the Smoggies. Not to be confused with the Moggies. The new name is “Independent Committee on Geoethics”; not to be confused with the apparently respectable but to me unknowe International…

Humanities

Our most recent helo trip out from McMurdo on our NSF Artists & Writers Project took us to Cape Evans, the site of Robert Scott’s Terra Nova Hut, where they based their 1910-1913 trip to the South Pole. We went with Anthony Powell (the filmmaker from Scott Base who made the movie “Antarctica: A Year…

We spent most of Saturday at a taekwondo tournament– the AAU Adirondack Championship, or some permutation of those words. This was held in the gym over at Hudson Valley Community College, and was fairly big: It was, however, 99% waiting around. They did black-belt sparring in the morning, and said that staging for the colored…

Random artsy shot from our back yard. This is the little bit of roof right over our back door. It’s the only bit of roof left on the house that’s asphalt shingle– the main roof was always slate, and we got the bit of shingle above the garage replaced with fake slate not long after…

Education

Our most recent helo trip out from McMurdo on our NSF Artists & Writers Project took us to Cape Evans, the site of Robert Scott’s Terra Nova Hut, where they based their 1910-1913 trip to the South Pole. We went with Anthony Powell (the filmmaker from Scott Base who made the movie “Antarctica: A Year…

Researchers are spending a lot of time exploring how the microbes living in our guts impact our health. In a new study published in Cell Reports, researchers wanted to know how the gut microbes of wild brown bears changes between summer and hibernation. They discovered that during the summer, the microbial species present in the gut are…

In yesterday’s post about the lack of money in academia, I mentioned in passing that lack of funding is part of the reason for the slow pace of progress on improving faculty diversity. That is, we could make more rapid progress if we suddenly found shitloads of money and could go on a massive hiring…

Politics

For public health workers, it’s no surprise that social, economic and political conditions shape the distribution and burden of disease. They’ve always known that it takes much more than medicine to keep people healthy. Still, when public health scientist Kristina Talbert-Slagle decided to study the impact of social and public health spending on HIV/AIDS, she wasn’t sure what she’d uncover.

In yesterday’s post about the lack of money in academia, I mentioned in passing that lack of funding is part of the reason for the slow pace of progress on improving faculty diversity. That is, we could make more rapid progress if we suddenly found shitloads of money and could go on a massive hiring…

I watched the debate pretty closely, and in my opinion, both candidates did pretty well and it was mostly an even contest. (Note: I am not committed to one or the other candidate, I happen to like them both.) Sanders did very well in getting his message across, but he demonstrated weakness in foreign policy.…

Medicine

Katie May was a model, and by all accounts a very successful model, having appeared in Playboy, Sports Illustrated, and other magazines and websites. Self-proclaimed the “Queen of Snapchat,” she had nearly two million Instagram followers, May was a major social media force, having recently parlayed her modeling and social media career into becoming an…

Researchers are spending a lot of time exploring how the microbes living in our guts impact our health. In a new study published in Cell Reports, researchers wanted to know how the gut microbes of wild brown bears changes between summer and hibernation. They discovered that during the summer, the microbial species present in the gut are…

Listen, nobody thinks the guy who ‘cured Charlie Sheen of HIV’ cured Charlie Sheen of HIV. Even Charlie Sheen. Dr Sam I was with u in Mexico for 1 day. It’s illegal for u to practice in U.S.A. where u treated me for 2 months © https://t.co/lKv6YPYdhm — Charlie Sheen (@charliesheen) February 1, 2016 ……

Brain & Behavior

In the midst of another national debate over gun safety regulations, some argue that higher rates of gun ownership will protect people from dangerous strangers with deadly intentions. Physician and public health researcher Michael Siegel set out to study that argument. He ultimately found no relationship between gun ownership and stranger-related firearm homicides. But he did find that gun ownership levels translated into higher homicide risks for one group in particular — women.

The whisking of a rat’s whisker is a classic example of “active sensing” – in other words, sensing that involves movement. Prof. Ehud Ahissar studies rat whisking in order to understand how mammals perceive through all types of active sensing; without the continuous movement of whiskers, fingertips or eyes, our perception of our surroundings would…

Thirteen-lined ground squirrels (Ictidomys tridecemlineatus) are really cute when they hibernate (above). During torpor bouts, their body temperature decreases to a few degrees Celsius and their metabolism drops by as much as 95% with heart rates ranging from only 3-10 beats per minute. These bouts of torpor are interrupted by periodic arousals every couple of weeks during which their…

Technology

Suddenly my computer tells me that copy.com is shutting down as a cloud storage service. That sucks, since I had a few terabytes of free storage with them. I will now have to seek an alternative. What are your experiences with cloud storage, free or otherwise?

David Macaulay is famous for his “how things work” books. How Machines Work: Zoo Break! is a new book that is really fun. So fun that it took me a long time to get it back from Amanda and Huxley so I could review it. The concept is simple. A story, a simple story, is…

For about a year in graduate school, I was a serious Go player. I read a few books and even played in a tournament. It’s a beautiful game, no question about it, but after wasting so much time just to become a mediocre chess player, I eventually decided not to repeat the process with Go.…

Information Science

Oh, The Onion. You are so wonderful and your take on the world of patents is so spot on that it hurts. What are patents for, anyways? Here’s a bit of an excerpt from their 11 Step Program. Drop by the site to see the rest. Brilliant. Step 1: First, come up with something really…

David Macaulay is famous for his “how things work” books. How Machines Work: Zoo Break! is a new book that is really fun. So fun that it took me a long time to get it back from Amanda and Huxley so I could review it. The concept is simple. A story, a simple story, is…

We have a Steacie Library Hackfest coming up and our there this year is Making a Difference with Data. And what better area to make a difference in than the environment and climate change? I am far from an expert on this topic, so suggestions for additions (and deletions if I’ve added anything inappropriate) are…

Jobs

In yesterday’s post about the lack of money in academia, I mentioned in passing that lack of funding is part of the reason for the slow pace of progress on improving faculty diversity. That is, we could make more rapid progress if we suddenly found shitloads of money and could go on a massive hiring…

Over in Twitter-land, somebody linked to this piece promoting open-access publishing, excerpting this bit: One suggestion: Ban the CV from the grant review process. Rank the projects based on the ideas and ability to carry out the research rather than whether someone has published in Nature, Cell or Science. This could in turn remove the…

This week’s snapshot of just one work-related fatality in the US. This one occurred on Tuesday, February 26 in Seattle, WA.