Monthly Archives November 2020

Video: Gorski Kotar – so beautiful and magical, and ours

first_imgTwo professional photographers from Croatia, Alen Tkalčec and Petar Krešimir Furjan, shot a phenomenal video of Gorski Kotar that shows all the beauty of nature that we have, and yet we do not know how to appreciate. If you didn’t know where the video was shot, you would probably think these amazing shots were taken in Switzerland, Canada, Austria…”They say that a picture speaks more than a thousand words, but in order to evoke the fullness of the beauty of nature, we created a video that tries to convey a part of what we had the opportunity to see live! Special thanks to the company with whom I have the honor to work and spend my free time! Click on the video and enjoy the beauties of Gorski Kotar!”Points out Petar Krešimir Furjan.What to say, a breathtaking video and a floor-length hat for two young artists. Relax and enjoy.By the way, Gorski kotar is located in Croatia, it is also called the Green Heart of Croatia, due to the fact that 63 percent of the area is under forest. Gorski kotar is an integral part of the Primorje-Gorski Kotar County, a forest-hilly area that passes through when traveling between Zagreb and Rijeka. The center of this region is the town of Delnice, and the most famous places are Mrkopalj, Čabar, Fužine, Lokve, Lič, Ravna Gora, Skrad, Vrbovsko and Brod Moravice.Meet Gorski Kotar, you will be surprised what beauty it hides. So beautiful and magical, and ours.More information about the video Locations: Kamačnik Canyon, Fužine, Omladinsko Lake, LokveEquipment: Sony a6300, Phantom 3 Professional, Canon 60DFilmed by: Alen Tkalčec, Petar Krešimir FurjanEdited by: Alen Tkalčec, Petar Krešimir Furjan, Aleksandar PetranAssistant: Arijana Tkalčec// SOCIAL MEDIAPetar Krešimir Furjan:Instagram –…Facebook – [email protected] Tkalčec:Instagram –…Facebook – [email protected]last_img read more

Temper, anxiety, homework trouble are medical issues? Many parents don’t realize it

first_imgPinterest Email Share on Twitter LinkedIn Parents often bring their school-aged children to check-ups or sick visits armed with questions. What should he put on that rash? What about her cough that won’t go away?But when children’s temper tantrums or mood swings are beyond the norm, or they are overwhelmed by homework organization, do parents speak up?Today’s University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health finds that many parents of children age 5-17 wouldn’t discuss behavioral or emotional issues that could be signs of potential health problems with their doctors. While more than 60 percent of parents definitely would talk to the doctor if their child was extremely sad for more than a month, only half would discuss temper tantrums that seemed worse than peers or if their child seemed more worried or anxious than normal. Just 37 percent would tell the doctor if their child had trouble organizing homework.center_img The most common reason for not sharing these details with their children’s doctors? Nearly half of parents believed that these simply were not medical problems. Another 40 percent of parents say they would rather handle it themselves and about 30 percent would rather speak to someone other than a doctor.“Behavioral health and emotional health are closely tied to a child’s physical health, well-being and development, but our findings suggest that we are often missing the boat in catching issues early,” says Sarah J. Clark, M.P.H., associate director of the National Poll on Children’s Health and associate research scientist in the University of Michigan Department of Pediatrics.“Many children experience challenges with behavior, emotions or learning. The key is for parents to recognize their children’s behavior patterns and share that information with the doctor. Unfortunately, our findings suggest that parents don’t understand their role in supporting their children’s behavioral health.”The findings come just as the nation recognizes mental health awareness month in May. Behavioral health problems, sometimes called mental health problems, affect boys and girls of all ages, impacting their learning, social interactions and physical health.While some behavior and emotional issues are mild and short-lived, others are signs of longer-term problems like depression, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder, anxiety, mood and behavior disorders, or substance abuse.“Some behavioral and emotional changes are just part of a child’s natural growth and development and just part of growing up,” Clark says. “However, health care providers rely on parents to describe how children act in their regular, day-to-day lives outside of the doctor’s office in order to identify situations or behaviors that may be signs of larger problems. This conversation between doctors and parents is an essential step that allows providers to assess the severity of the problem, offer parents guidance on strategies to deal with certain behaviors and help families get treatment if needed.” Share on Facebook Sharelast_img read more

Nature vs. nurture: Which one determines who you are?

first_imgLinkedIn A culmination of more than half a century of research collected on 14.5 million pairs of twins has finally concluded that the nature versus nurture debate is a draw. According to the plethora of data, both have nearly identical influences on a person’s behavior, which suggests we need to stop looking at ourselves as a result… Email Share on Facebook Share Share on Twitter Pinterestlast_img

Self-proclaimed experts more vulnerable to the illusion of knowledge

first_imgPinterest Share on Facebook Share New research reveals that the more people think they know about a topic in general, the more likely they are to allege knowledge of completely made-up information and false facts, a phenomenon known as “overclaiming.” The findings are published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.“Our work suggests that the seemingly straightforward task of judging one’s knowledge may not be so simple, particularly for individuals who believe they have a relatively high level of knowledge to begin with,” says psychological scientist Stav Atir of Cornell University, first author on the study.To find out why people make these spurious claims, Atir and colleagues David Dunning of Cornell University and Emily Rosenzweig of Tulane University designed a series of experiments testing people’s self-perceived knowledge, comparing it to their actual expertise. In one set of experiments, the researchers tested whether individuals who perceived themselves to be experts in personal finance would be more likely to claim knowledge of fake financial terms.One hundred participants were asked to rate their general knowledge of personal finance, as well as their knowledge of 15 specific finance terms. Most of the terms on the list were real (for example, Roth IRA, inflation, home equity), but the researchers also included three made-up terms (pre-rated stocks, fixed-rate deduction, annualized credit).As expected, people who saw themselves as financial wizards were most likely to claim expertise of the bogus finance terms.“The more people believed they knew about finances in general, the more likely they were to overclaim knowledge of the fictitious financial terms,” Atir says. “The same pattern emerged for other domains, including biology, literature, philosophy, and geography.”“For instance,” Atir explains, “people’s assessment of how much they know about a particular biological term will depend in part on how much they think they know about biology in general.”In another experiment, the researchers warned one set of 49 participants that some of the terms in a list would be made up. Even after receiving the warning, the self-proclaimed experts were more likely to confidently claim familiarity with fake terms, such as “meta-toxins” and “bio-sexual.”To confirm that people’s self-perceived expertise was driving their overclaiming, the research team manipulated participants’ sense of knowledge mastery through a geography quiz. Participants were randomly assigned to complete either an easy quiz on iconic US cities, a difficult quiz on very obscure places, or no quiz. Those participants who had completed the easy quiz felt like experts, and reported that they were more knowledgeable about geography in general than those individuals in the other two groups.The participants then rated their familiarity with a list of real–and a few completely fake–US cities.In all three conditions people recognized the real locations, such as Philadelphia and the National Mall. Ironically, those people who had taken the easy quiz, and concluded they were more knowledgeable about US geography, were more likely than the other two groups to claim they were knowledgeable about non-existent locations, such as Cashmere, Oregon.The research team warns that a tendency to overclaim, especially in self-perceived experts, may actually discourage individuals from educating themselves in precisely those areas in which they consider themselves knowledgeable–leading to potentially disastrous outcomes.For example, failure to recognize or admit one’s knowledge gaps in the realm of finance or medicine could easily lead to uninformed decisions with devastating consequences for individuals.“Continuing to explore when and why individuals overclaim may prove important in battling that great menace–not ignorance, but the illusion of knowledge,” the research team concludes.center_img LinkedIn Share on Twitter Emaillast_img read more

Targeted online ads can actually change how you view yourself

first_imgThe study appears online in the Journal of Consumer Research.“The power of a behaviorally targeted ad for a green product isn’t just that it persuades you to buy the advertised product. It actually makes you feel more environmentally conscious and can change your behavior,” said Rebecca Walker Reczek, co-author of the study and associate professor of marketing at The Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business.“In a sense, you become more like what the ads say you are.”That’s what the researchers found in one experiment involving 188 college students. The students spent 10 minutes on the Internet, much of it browsing on websites they chose. Afterward, the students were presented an online ad for a fictitious restaurant called Eatery 21, which advertised “Refreshingly Sophisticated American Classics.”All of the students received the same ad. But some were told the ad was targeted to them based on their earlier Internet browsing. Others were told the ad was sent to them because of their demographics, such as gender and age. Others were not given any information about why they received the ad.Participants were then shown a fictitious Groupon coupon for Eatery 21 (offering a discount on food purchased) and asked how likely they would be to purchase it.Study participants who were told that the ad was targeted to them because of their Internet browsing history were more likely than others to say that the ad suggested they had “sophisticated food preferences.” (Remember that the ad said the restaurant offered “sophisticated American classics.”)They were also more likely to say they would purchase the Groupon than those in the other two groups.“When you know that you have been targeted by a specific ad, you realize that the ad carries information about you – and that can change how you view yourself,” said Christopher Summers, lead author of the study and a doctoral student in marketing at Ohio State.“In this case, receiving a behaviorally targeted ad from a restaurant suggesting that you are a ‘sophisticated’ food consumer makes you think, ‘I may be more sophisticated than I thought.’ That in turn makes you more likely to buy a Groupon for the restaurant.”The participants who were targeted because of their demographic characteristics were not more likely to purchase the Groupon compared to participants who did not think the ad was targeted.“Just being aware of being targeted is not enough to change how you act,” said Robert W. Smith, co-author of the study and assistant professor of marketing at Ohio State.“The targeting has to be based on your behavior and not just demographic attributes such as age or gender,” Smith said.When the targeting is based on behavior, consumers believe the advertiser is labeling them as a particular type of consumer: a sophisticated consumer, or a green consumer. Those are the types of labels that can change people’s views about themselves.“The reason this works is because it is changing your self-perceptions first. If an ad makes you feel sophisticated or environmentally conscious, you are more likely to engage in all kinds of behaviors related to that trait – not just buy the advertised product,” Reczek said.For example, in one experiment, participants who received a behaviorally targeted ad for an environmentally friendly product were more likely than others to donate to an environmental cause later because they saw themselves as being more “green” as a result of receiving the ad.One key qualification: The information the behaviorally targeted ad conveys about the consumer must be accurate. In one experiment, targeted ads for outdoor products had no impact on the perceptions and behaviors of consumers who had no interest in outdoor activities.“The ad has to be plausible to the consumer for it have any effect,” Reczek said.While the advertising industry has been reluctant to tout its use of targeted ads because of privacy concerns, this research suggests there may be benefits for companies that indicate to consumers that they are sending ads meant specifically for them.“If you’re a person who goes out hiking occasionally and you see a behaviorally targeted ad for hiking boots that suggests you’re rugged and outdoorsy, our results suggest you will feel more outdoorsy and then be more likely to buy that product,” Reczek said.How do consumers even know that they are receiving behaviorally targeted ads? One way is that online marketers actually tell them. The marketing industry has adopted the “AdChoices” icon (a small blue triangle that usually appears in the corner of advertisements) to indicate that the ad is meant especially for the consumer who receives it. However, surveys suggest few people know what the icon means, at least so far.The study’s findings have broader implications beyond advertising, Smith said.“We like to think we are quite certain of who we are, but this study suggests that’s not quite the case,” he said. “We are actually open to suggestions that can change, for example, how ‘outdoorsy’ or ‘sophisticated’ we feel we are. Our views of ourselves can be nudged one way or the other by something as simple as an online ad.” Pinterest Online advertisements targeted specifically at you because of your behavior can actually change how you feel about yourself, a new study suggests.In a series of experiments, researchers found that young Internet users tended to embrace the identity labels – such as “environmentally conscious” or “sophisticated” — implied by the online ads they received. The key was that they needed to know that the ads were targeted to them because of their browsing history.For example, in one experiment, people felt more environmentally conscious after they received a behaviorally targeted ad for a “green” product. Email Share on Facebookcenter_img Share on Twitter Share LinkedInlast_img read more

Mapping neurons to improve the treatment of Parkinson’s

first_imgShare on Facebook Share LinkedIn Pinterest Emailcenter_img Previously, researchers had not been able to untangle the neural circuitry originating in the PPN to understand how both addictions and Parkinson’s motor impairments are modulated within the same population of cells. Furthermore, this uncertainty created a barrier to treating those motor symptoms. After all, deep brain stimulation–in which a device is inserted into the brain to deliver electrical pulses to a targeted region–can be used to correct walking and balance difficulties in these patients, but without knowing exactly which part of the PPN to target, the procedure can lead to mixed results.“The circuits responsible for controlling our behaviors are not nicely lined up, where this side does locomotion and this side does reward,” Gradinaru says, and this disordered arrangement arises from the way neurons are structured. Much as a tree extends into the ground with long roots, neurons are made up of a cell body and a long string-like axon that can diverge and project elsewhere into different areas of the brain. Because of this shape, the researchers realized they could follow the neuron’s “roots” to an area of the brain less crowded than the PPN. This would allow them to more easily look at the two very different behaviors and how they are implemented.Cheng Xiao, a senior research scientist at Caltech and first author on the study, began by mapping the projections of the cholinergic neurons in the PPN of a rat using a technique developed by the Gradinaru lab called Passive CLARITY Technique, or PACT. In this technique, a solution of chemicals is applied to the brain; the chemicals dissolve the lipids in the tissue and render that region of the brain optically transparent–see-through, in other words–and able to take up fluorescent markers that can label different types of neurons. The researchers could then follow the path of the PPN neurons of interest, marked by a fluorescent protein, by simply looking through the rest of the brain.Using this method, Gradinaru and Xiao were able to trace the axons of the PPN neurons as they extended into two regions of the midbrain: the ventral substantia nigra, a landmark area for Parkinson’s disease that had been previously associated with locomotion; and the ventral tegmental area, a region of the brain that had been previously associated with reward.Next, the researchers used an electrical recording technique to keep track of the signals sent by PPN neurons–confirming that these neurons do, in fact, communicate with their associated downstream structures in the midbrain. Then, the scientists went on to determine how this specific population of neurons affects behavior. To do this, they used a technique that Gradinaru helped develop called optogenetics, which allows researchers to manipulate neural activities–in this case, by either exciting or inhibiting the PPN neural projections in the midbrain–using different colors of light.Using the optogenetic approach in rats, the researchers found that exciting the neuronal projections in the ventral substantia nigra would stimulate the animal to walk around its environment; by contrast, they could stop the animal’s movement by inhibiting these same projections. Furthermore, they found that they could stimulate reward-seeking behavior by exciting the neuronal projections in the ventral tegmental area, but could cause aversive behavior by inhibiting these projections.“Our results show that the cholinergic neurons from the PPN indeed have a role in controlling both behaviors,” Gradinaru says. “Although the neurons are very densely packed and intermingled, these pathways are, to some extent, dedicated to very specialized behaviors.” Determining which pathways are associated with which behaviors might also improve future treatments, she adds.“In the past it’s been difficult to target treatment to the PPN because the specific neurons associated with different behaviors are intermingled at the source–the PPN. Our results show that you could target the axonal projections in the substantia nigra for movement disorders and projections in the ventral tegmental area for reward disorders, as addiction is,” Gradinaru says. In addition, she notes, these projections in the midbrain are much easier to access surgically than their source in the PPN.Although this new information could inform clinical treatments for Parkinson’s disease, the PPN is only one region of the brain and there are many more important examples of connectivity that need to be explored, Gradinaru says. “These results highlight the need for brain-wide functional and anatomical maps of these long-range neuronal projections; we’ve shown that tissue clearing and optogenetics are enabling technologies in the creation of these maps.” Because billions of neurons are packed into our brain, the neuronal circuits that are responsible for controlling our behaviors are by necessity highly intermingled. This tangled web makes it complicated for scientists to determine exactly which circuits do what. Now, using two laboratory techniques pioneered in part at Caltech, Caltech researchers have mapped out the pathways of a set of neurons responsible for the kinds of motor impairments–such as difficulty walking–found in patients with Parkinson’s disease.The work–from the laboratory of Viviana Gradinaru (BS ’05), assistant professor of biology and biological engineering–was published on April 20 in the journal Neuron.In patients with Parkinson’s disease, gait disorders and difficulty with balance are often caused by the degeneration of a specific type of neuron–called cholinergic neurons–in a region of the brainstem called the pedunculopontine nucleus (PPN). Damage to this same population of neurons in the PPN is also linked to reward-based behaviors and disorders, such as addiction. Share on Twitterlast_img read more

Can evolution explain why people use psychedelic drugs?

first_imgPinterest Share on Twitter LinkedIn Why does religion make people more cooperative? On the one hand, the belief that a morally concerned, invisible agent is always watching you makes you less likely to break rules for personal gain. This effect is quite powerful. Research shows that even something as trivial as a picture of a pair of eyes on an honesty box is enough to make people pay three times as much for their drinks.On the other hand, religion connects people with a reality larger than themselves. This might be the social group that they belong to, it might be life after death, or it might even be the cosmos as a whole. The connection is important because it makes people more willing to cooperate when the results of doing so are not immediately beneficial. If I believe myself to be at one with my tribe, my church or the universe itself, it’s easier to accept others getting the benefits of my hard work.It is probably this second aspect to religious cooperation than explains the appeal of psychedelic drugs. By simulating the effects of religious transcendence, they mimic states of mind that played an evolutionarily valuable role in making human cooperation possible – and with it, greater numbers of surviving descendants. This does not mean that humans evolved to take psychedelic drugs. But it does mean that psychedelic drug use can be explained in evolutionary terms as a “hack” that enables transcendent states to be reached quickly.Legal systems can’t change human natureIf this story is true, what are its implications? One is that psychedelic drug use is no different, in principle, to practices like chanting, fasting, praying and meditating that religions typically use to bring about altered states of consciousness. Purists may object to drug taking because it lacks the spiritual discipline involved in such procedures. This is true, but one could just as easily argue that buying a car lacks the practical discipline of building an internal combustion engine from scratch. And in any event, there are many religions that use psychoactive substances in their ceremonies.A second implication is that psychedelic drugs may play a positive role in improving mental outlook. Already, there are promising results concerning the effects of psychedelics on the depressed and the terminally ill. Though this is no guarantee that such results will hold good for everyone, it gives grounds for thinking that there is a portion of the population for whom psychedelic drugs can produce valuable effects.Banning psychedelic drugs is likely to be counterproductive. Just as banning sexual activity does not stop sexual desire, outlawing psychedelic drugs does nothing to change the innate need for transcendent experiences. A sensible legal approach would create a framework that allows people to use psychedelic drugs while minimising the harms. The fact is, no legal system yet has succeeded in changing human nature, and there is no reason to think that that prohibiting psychedelic drugs will be any different.By James Carney, Senior Research Associate (Psychology), Lancaster UniversityThis article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article. It’s easy to explain the appeal of drugs like heroin and cocaine, which directly stimulate the brain’s reward centres. What’s less easy to explain is the appeal of psychedelic drugs such as LSD and psilocybin that produce altered states of consciousness. After all, there’s no obvious reason why unusual patterns of thought and perception – typically, the symptoms of poisoning or illness – should be attractive. And yet, people not only pay money for these experiences, they even run the risk of being imprisoned or worse for doing so. Why is this?One answer is that these drugs provide short cuts to religious and transcendental experiences that played an important role in human evolution. The logic behind this idea becomes clearer when we look at how human culture was shaped by religious ideas.For some time, anthropologists have argued that religious people are more cooperative than nonreligious ones. For small groups, the effect of religion is negligible or even negative. However, as group size increases, it seems that religion plays an increasingly important role in creating bonds between strangers. In fact, some scholarship suggests that the emergence of the first city states in the Middle East nearly 12,000 years ago was made possible by belief in “Big Gods”, who supposedly oversaw all human action and guided human affairs.center_img Share on Facebook Email Sharelast_img read more

News Scan for Mar 07, 2016

first_imgAP says consulting firm likely mishandled Ebola responseAn Associated Press (AP) investigation into Metabiota Inc.’s role in Sierra Leone’s response to Ebola found that the San Francisco-based epidemic consultant was likely responsible for errors that led to poor understanding of the situation, the AP said today.Metabiota worked with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the government of Sierra Leone in 2014 to carry out diagnostic tests in a laboratory shared with Tulane University and conduct epidemic tracking and case management.By July 2014, several WHO experts, along with US and Canadian response teams, had expressed concern with misdiagnoses, specimen mismanagement, and potential for cross-contamination at the shared lab. A representative from the Public Health Agency of Canada found discrepancies in half of the eight Ebola tests analyzed and evidence that five people had been incorrectly diagnosed with Ebola, the AP said.Evaluation by US health officials found that diagnostic tests were wrong as often as 30% of the time, though the analysis found that Metabiota’s tests were often more accurate than Tulane’s. Poor safety practices were noted at the lab itself, including used needles left in the open, the lack of an ultraviolet light for decontamination, and insufficient space for safely processing blood samples.In other misstpes in Sierra Leone, the AP said, Metabiota staff members entered the homes of suspected Ebola patients without protective gear, obstructed attempts to improve disease surveillance, misinterpreted epidemic data, and told a government Ebola task force that the epidemic had stabilized 3 days after the WHO declared it a global emergency.Metabiota founder and Chief Executive Officer Nathan Wolfe, PhD, said there was no evidence that Metabiota mishandled the situation and that some problems were planted by the company’s rivals, the AP said.Many experts interviewed by the AP acknowledged that some errors are likely in fast-paced epidemic responses but said that Metabiota’s actions made aspects of the situation worse. Sylvia Blyden, special executive assistant to the president of Sierra Leone when the epidemic began, said, “They messed up the entire region.”Mar 7 AP story PAHO reports more than 8,000 new chikungunya casesIn its Mar 4 update, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has added 3,291 new chikungunya cases to 2016’s totals and has modified its 2015 report to include an additional 5,387 infections in Brazil.The 2016 outbreak total is now 21,763 confirmed and suspected cases, and the 2015 number has risen to 731,920 confirmed and suspected cases. The outbreak total since 2012 has now reached 1,901,309 cases.Most of the 2016 increase can be attributed to Honduras’s 1,923 new cases; the country has 5,271 total for the year thus far. (Honduras had not given a chikungunya reports since 5 weeks ago.) Colombia reported 698 new cases for a 2016 total of 7,253, and Venezuela had 300 new cases, reaching 1,653 cases for the year. Mexico, the only country in North America reporting any cases of chikungunya this year, noted 60 new cases last week, bringing its 2016 total to 140.The newest update of PAHO’s 2015 report was in Brazil, which now has 23,630 suspected and confirmed cases on record for that year. Both the Mar 4 and Feb 26 update indicated that Brazil had been up-to-date for 2015; PAHO does not cite the cause of the increase.No chikungunya-related deaths have yet been reported for 2016. The outbreak began in December 2013 on St. Martin in the Caribbean with the first recorded cases of the disease in the Americas.March 4 PAHO update  Latest PAHO 2015 cumulative case numberslast_img read more

Zika strain in Singapore confounds experts

first_imgVirus mutations, rapid construction, guest workers, and dengue.These are a few of the theories experts are using to explain why Singapore, a city-state known for its excellent vector control programs, has seen a flurry of Zika infections in the last few weeks. Today Singapore’s Ministry of Health reports there are now 356 locally acquired cases.”Zika has been around since the 1960s. The laboratories in Ministry of Health and Ministry of Environment have been doing surveillance on this illness for several years, and we have not isolated Zika in patients or in mosquitoes [until now],” said Hoe Nam Leong, MBBS, an infectious disease specialist at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital in Singapore. “We think this is real.”In May, Singapore reported its first travel-related case of Zika in a man who had recently been in Brazil. But the current outbreak suggests that local transmission is occurring at a rapid clip.”We suspect a significant mutation occurred that conferred [the virus] an advantage in spreading from person to mosquito to person. Previously, reports of Zika are far and few in between,” said Leong.A different strain, same possible outcomesLeong said it was “clearly not” better surveillance, prompted by the current Zika crisis in the Americas, that has led to the surge in cases in Singapore. Moreover, the strain circulating in Singapore, though closely related, is not the same French Polynesian strain behind the Zika cases in Brazil, the United States, and the rest of the Americas.Instead, Leong explained that the strain in Singapore is related to a strain that caused a Zika outbreak on Yap Island in 2007. That strain has been circulating in Thailand since 2012.”The Southeast Asian strain and the Americas strain differ in some genetic changes, but these have not resulted in significant protein changes,” said Leong. “Overall, we believe the risk of microcephaly would be similar.”Clues to explain the current outbreakPaul Anantharajah Tambyah, MD, the secretary-general of the Asia Pacific Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infection, said he would not be surprised to learn that the current virulent Zika strain was imported from Thailand. He said Singapore’s massive construction boom and influx of guest workers from across Asia made the city-state prime territory for Zika.”My theory on what has happened is that there may be some degree of herd immunity to Zika in Southeast Asia, hence the rarity of infections in adults to date in the region,” said Tambyah. “Most of the early Thai infections were reported in travelers, but subsequent surveillance studies yielded a number of cases in locals.”Tambyah said that, like dengue, which has also increased in Singapore in recent years and is also caused by a mosquito-borne flavivirus, Zika was held back by herd immunity until it came to a crowded, urban landscape, such as Singapore.Infectious disease and mosquito control expert Duane Gubler, ScD, MS, agrees with Tambyah. “My guess is that the virus has been circulating silently all these years, and the same demographic and societal pressure that have driven up chikungunya and dengue infections, included unprecedented urbanization, have increased transmission.”Gubler, now retired, served as director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Vector-Borne Infectious Diseases for 15 years.Tambyah said he wonders if Zika, in addition to being affected by rapid urbanization, is following the chikungunya 226 mutation, which allowed that flavivirus to be transmitted by different mosquito species.”What is most intriguing is the question as to whether some mutation has occurred in the Zika virus to make it more transmissible by the Aedes albopictus mosquito—this would be analogous to what happened with chikungunya,” said Tambyah.At this point, Gubler warns that most ideas used to explain Singapore’s outbreak are just guesses. “We need to know more about the strain, more about everything before we have answers,” he said.See also:Sep 15 Singapore Ministry of Health updateSep 8 Singapore Ministry of Health’s explanation of Zika strain lineagelast_img read more

Flu Scan for Mar 15, 2017

first_imgChina, Russia report more high-path H5 outbreaksChina today reported another highly pathogenic H5N6 avian influenza outbreak in poultry, this time in backyard ducks in Hubei province, officials said in a report to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). The outbreak began on Mar 3, and, of 767 susceptible birds, the virus sickened 134 and killed 86. Authorities culled the surviving ducks.China has reported several H5N6 outbreaks in poultry since 2014, as well as 17 illnesses in humans, 6 of them fatal.In other avian flu developments, Russia reported two more H5N8 outbreaks in backyard poultry in two cities in Moscow oblast in the western part of the country, according to a report today to the OIE. The events began on Mar 4 and Mar 10, killing 18 of 28 susceptible birds. Authorities destroyed the remaining ones and have ordered controls on poultry movement and have increased screening.Last week Russia reported six other H5N8 outbreak in backyard and farm poultry, all of them in Moscow oblast.Mar 15 OIE report on H5N6 in China Mar 15 OIE report on H5N8 in Russia Legislators warn of cuts to pandemic flu readiness in letter to HHS’s PriceTwo US senators and three members of Congress penned a letter this week to Tom Price, the secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), voicing their concern over President Trump’s proposed cuts to government agencies whose work enables pandemic preparedness.The legislators, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), said that recent reports of human cases of avian influenza in China have raised the threat of a global pandemic, and that since taking office, President Trump has issued at least seven threats of budget cuts to HHS and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the main agencies that would handle a flu pandemic.The president has said he would propose a $54 billion budget cut on non-defense discretionary spending, which could include CDC and HHS. Moreover, in repealing the Affordable Care Act, the president proposes to cut the Prevention and Public Health Fund (PPHF) which makes up more than 12 % of the CDC’s total budget.In addition to budget cuts, the president has left several key public health administration roles empty, including a CDC director.The letter concludes with several questions to Secretary Price about the president’s understanding of public health preparedness, beliefs concerning vaccines, and executive orders. The legislators request a written response to their questions by Mar 27.Mar 13 letterlast_img read more

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