Brazil declares official end to Zika virus epidemic

May 12, 2017 by  
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It’s time to pack your bags! For the past 18 months, travelers have been wary of visiting Brazil due to the mosquito-borne Zika virus – and for good reason. One of the defects, microcephaly, results in babies being born with abnormally small heads. Because cases have dramatically dropped in recent months, however, officials have finally declared an end to the threat. Between January and April, 2017, the number of Zika cases dropped by 95 percent, compared to the same period a year ago. Additionally, zero people have died this year, compared to eight people between January and April, 2016. This development is what prompted officials to declare an end to the public health emergency. The Guardian reports that during the 2016 Olympics , the threat of the Zika virus was at its peak. Athletes and spectators were concerned they would contract the virus, and one female athlete – a Spanish windsurfer – says she contracted Zika while training in Brazil ahead of the Games. In response to the outbreak, Brazil launched a campaign targeted at eradicating mosquitos in the country. Those efforts have resulted in a dramatic decline of Zika cases. Though the World Health Organization (WHO) lifted its own international emergency in November 2016, Brazil has only now declared an end to the virus – which is transported by mosquitos and sexual contact. Related: Zika virus can remain in sperm for twice as long as previously thought The WHO warns that the virus is “here to stay.” Though a decline in cases is a good sign, the battle will be an ongoing one. Said Adeilson Cavalcante, secretary for health surveillance at Brazil’s health ministry, “The end of the emergency doesn’t mean the end of surveillance or assistance” to those who are affected. She added, “The health ministry and other organisations involved in this area will maintain a policy of fighting Zika, dengue and chikungunya.” Via The Guardian Images via Business Insider , Alabama Today

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Deadly new bird flu strain could lead to devastating pandemic

April 21, 2017 by  
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You probably haven’t thought about the bird flu in a couple of years, unless you’re a virologist, but a new strain that resurfaced in China has the potential to be pandemic. The H7N9 virus only caused mild illness in poultry until recently, but a genetic change means the new strain is deadly for birds . Now, H7N9 has led to more human deaths this season than any other season since it was detected in people four years ago. Between September and March 1, 162 people perished from H7N9. Human cases have increased since December, with reports from eight different provinces in China. Hong Kong University research lab director Guan Yi told NPR, “We’re trying our best, but we still can’t control this virus. It’s too late for us to eradicate it.” Related: U.S. avian flu outbreak drives up the price of eggs as supplies are threatened The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) called for increased surveillance. FAO animal health officer Sophie Von Dobschuetz said China has started intensified observation while the FAO Beijing office has been providing recommendations for the country’s ministry of agriculture . As with past avian flu strains, patients said they were exposed to infected birds or went to live bird markets. Guan is concerned with how rapidly the H7N9 strain is evolving. He said ten years ago chickens were barely affected by the strain, but his lab’s research revealed the new strain can kill every chicken in his lab in 24 hours. There isn’t evidence the new strain will be deadlier in people, but when people do catch the virus from birds over one third of them perish. Guan said China’s government is already investigating vaccinating chickens. “Today, science is more advanced, we have vaccines and it’s easy to diagnose. On the other hand, it now takes hours to spread new viruses all over the world,” Guan told NPR. “I think this virus poses the greatest threat to humanity than any other in the past 100 years.” Via SciDev.net and NPR Images via CDC Global on Flickr and M M on Flickr

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44-year-old British man could be first to receive HIV cure

October 3, 2016 by  
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A 44-year-old British man may be the first person to receive a cure for HIV through a therapy developed by researchers from five universities. Scientists from the University of Cambridge , the University of Oxford , King’s College London , University College London , and Imperial College London designed the two-stage therapy. Now they say the virus can no longer be detected in the man’s blood. The first stage of the therapy is a vaccine that assists the body in identifying cells infected with HIV. The second stage involves a novel drug, Vorinostat, which works by activating dormant T-cells. This is a crucial step; many past therapies didn’t target dormant T-cells, so a person’s body would keep producing the virus and couldn’t be fully cured of HIV. Once the dormant cells are activated, the immune system can find them. 50 people are part of the trial. Related: Did these scientists just cure HIV/AIDS? The man is a ” social care worker ” who said , “I took part in the trial to help others as well as myself. It would be a massive achievement if, after all these years, something is found to cure people of this disease . The fact that I was a part of that would be incredible.” Imperial College London consultant physician Sarah Fidler warned there is a long way to go – they plan to continue medical tests for five more years – but depending on trial results, aim to keep exploring the treatment that could be revolutionary. It is not yet known how the other 49 people responded to the therapy, or if the virus will return in the British man, but researchers appear hopeful. National Institute for Health Research Office for Clinical Research Infrastructure managing director Mark Samuels said , “This is one of the first serious attempts at a full cure for HIV. We are exploring the real possibility of curing HIV. This is a huge challenge and it’s still early days but the progress has been remarkable.” Via The Telegraph Images via CDC/Amanda Mills and Wikimedia Commons

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New rainwater-filled public pool just one feature planned for Cologne’s historic harbor

October 3, 2016 by  
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Danish architects COBE have designed the transformation planned for Cologne , a 2000-year-old city in Western Germany – from an old industrial harbor into an eco-friendly neighborhood organized around a huge waterfall and a large public pool . The architects won the recent competition organized by Cologne-based urban development company, Moderne Stadt . COBE collaborated with German engineers Transsolar and German firm  Ramboll Studio Dreiseitl  on the design of the project, resulting in a development that features an innovative water strategy and rainwater harvesting system. Rainwater is collected to sustain the pool and waterfall, the centerpieces of the masterplan connected by an innovative transportation network. The architects had to address the strong tides from the Rhine River and incorporate them into the design. They envisioned different zones, some of which are intended to flood while others remain dry. Related: COBE Architects to transform Copenhagen’s Paper Island into a bustling cultural hub “COBE is very smartly questioning which of the existing buildings to keep and how to translate the old structures into a new harbor district. Out of all the insights gained in the public process, COBE has developed highly specific answers for the harbor development,” said Franz-Josef Ho?ing, director of urban development in the municipality of Cologne and chairman of the competition jury. + COBE Architects Images by Beauty and the Bit

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New rainwater-filled public pool just one feature planned for Cologne’s historic harbor

FDA approves genetically modified mosquitos to fight Zika

August 8, 2016 by  
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With confirmation that Zika-carrying mosquitos have finally spread to the US, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a controversial new experiment to confront the attendant risk. Genetically engineered mosquitoes will be released in Key West , Florida in an attempt to control the spread of the virus. The engineered male mosquitoes contain a gene that causes any offspring to die before the bugs can transmit the disease to humans. The altered Aedes aegypti mosquitoes were created by Oxitec Ltd ., which has already carried out trials in Brazil, the Cayman Islands , and Panama. By any measure, the tests were a runaway success: local mosquito populations were reportedly reduced by 90 percent. While the FDA gave preliminary approval to the test earlier this year, the decision has now been made formal with the agency’s release of an environmental assessment showing the mosquitos would “not have significant impacts on the environment.” However, Oxitec still needs the approval of Key West residents in order to go ahead – polling will take place later this fall. Related: Experimental Zika vaccine to be tested on humans for the first time While this is an effective method of controlling mosquitoes and the numerous diseases they carry without resorting to harsh chemical pesticides, the plan comes with controversy . Some opponents to the plan cite concerns about safety, the impact on tourism, and the potential impact the declining mosquito population could have on the nearby ecosystem. At least one entomologist has argued that the ecological concerns are overblown , since only one particular species of mosquito is targeted by the efforts. However, these concerns are exactly why it’s so important to start with small-scale tests rather than simply releasing the modified mosquitos throughout the country. This approval comes after Center for Disease Control officials confirmed that the Zika virus has finally reached the continental US . Though there have been cases reported throughout the US this year, this is the first time public health officials have seen cases that were acquired by patients in the US. Previous cases were generally acquired when the victims had traveled to countries with a known Zika outbreak, although there have been some cases that were believed to be sexually transmitted . Via The Verge Photos via Yael and DodgertonSkillhause

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FDA approves genetically modified mosquitos to fight Zika

Zika may have claimed its first victim in the continental US

July 13, 2016 by  
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Last Friday, health officials announced that the first death related to Zika has occurred in the continental US. An elderly patient in Utah had tested positive for Zika virus after traveling to an affected region, but because of the person’s underlying health conditions, it’s not known if the virus was the sole cause of death, or if it merely contributed. Doctors were unable to confirm the presence of the virus until after the patient had already died. At this time, the Salt Lake County Department of Health is not revealing any further information about the patient, so their identity, and even the location where they contracted Zika, are both currently unknown. While this case is alarming, it shouldn’t be a reason to panic. There are been 1,132 cases of Zika in the US diagnosed so far , but all of the affected patients are believed to have contracted the virus while traveling. So far, there have been no cases of the disease transmitted within US borders . Related: Experimental Zika vaccine to be tested on humans for the first time This death follows that of a Puerto Rican man back in February. Unlike the continental US, there is evidence that the infection has been transmitted by local mosquitos within the territory. The CDC is advising that pregnant women avoid traveling to Puerto Rico, and that all travelers take measures to avoid exposure to mosquitos while there. Via CNN Images via  Shutterstock  and Pixabay

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6 cycling accessories every bike commuter needs

July 13, 2016 by  
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Bike commuters enjoy plenty of advantages with their chosen mode of transportation: less impact on the environment, great cardiovascular health, and being able to zip through traffic. But cyclists also run into a variety of dilemmas on the road. Luckily, a variety of companies are creating products and technologies that make bike commutes more comfortable and hassle-free. We’ve lined up six cool cycling accessories that are especially useful for commuters – check them out. 1. Fontus self-filling water bottle Running out of water on a hot and humid ride can be a nightmare for cyclists, but Fontus has taken care of that problem. The solution is a self-filling water bottle . Water droplets are harvested straight out of the air with the system’s two-chambered cooler, which turns condensation into drinkable hydration. The Ryde model can be affixed to bicycles, collecting as much as a half liter of H2O during an hour-long commute. 2. EVELO electric-converting Omni Wheel Unlike cars, you don’t have to trade in your traditional bike for an electric one. EVELO ’s Omni Wheel transforms your ride into an e-bike in just 30 minutes. The wheel contains the battery, electronics, and motor needed to power your cycle electrically and fits to replace most standard cycles’ front wheels. An adjustable pedal assist feature helps to customize your commute and links your travel data to a wireless display. The system is priced at about half the going rate for an entirely new electric bike, and you get to convert your cycle back to its human-powered glory whenever you want. 3. Buca Boot weatherproof bicycle trunk Any rider who has ever wished for spacious and secure storage during their commute would love a Buca Boot . Modeled after car trunks, the versatile storage system attaches to your bicycle and can only be locked or detached with a key. It features expandable side pannier bags and a wooden lid that can open on its hinges to accommodate larger items, like bags of groceries. The weatherproof design is perfect for all climates and riders can choose between three different colors to fit their style. 4. Self-inflating PumpTire tube Say goodbye to the days of over-inflating your bike tires before you hit the road. PumpTire ’s puncture-resistant bike tube uses the rhythmic compression of riding to fill your cycle’s tire during your commute. Once the preset tire pressure level is reached, the mechanism shuts off, completely behind the scenes, so you can enjoy your journey without the worry of going flat. Kits fit any standard, third-party 700c and 26-inch bicycle tires . 5. Bike Lift&Carry shoulder strap Carrying a bike up and down stairs is the bane of cyclists  everywhere, but this shoulder strap helps you transport your ride with ease, all while leaving one hand free to navigate doors or elevators. The Bike Lift&Carry system affixes below the seat, out of sight, until you need it. The strap extends to the handlebars, where a carabine keeps it securely in place for transport. A press of a button rolls the strap back into place until you need it again. The revolutionary product also comes in a variety of colors to match your ride. 6. DIY bamboo Mandy Fenders In less than 30 minutes, Bamboobee ’s innovative Mandy Fender can be installed without mechanical expertise. A special memory film in the design allows users to contour the fender to their desired shape and attach it to the frame. Riders can also switch out the interchangeable fender for each bike they own. The veneers’ bamboo material is not only environmentally sustainable, lightweight, and weather-resistant, but also an attractive addition to any bike. Images via Fontus , EVELO , Buca Boot , PumpTire , Bike Lift&Carry , Bamboobee

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Did these scientists just cure HIV/AIDS?

March 22, 2016 by  
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Researchers at Philadelphia’s Temple University have made a thrilling breakthrough on the path to cure HIV/AIDS . In a recent experiment, they managed to remove HIV-1 DNA out of the human genome . And when they reintroduced HIV to the edited genomes, the cells were no longer infected with the virus . Read the rest of Did these scientists just cure HIV/AIDS?

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A deadly virus is wiping out bee populations and it’s all our fault

February 8, 2016 by  
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Even though we rely extensively on bees for agriculture and other environmental services, we have helped to spread a deadly virus that kills them in droves. A recent study exposed how transporting bees has allowed Deformed Wing Virus to proliferate. Read the rest of A deadly virus is wiping out bee populations and it’s all our fault

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A deadly virus is wiping out bee populations and it’s all our fault

3 Florida residents infected with the Zika virus after Latin America travel

January 22, 2016 by  
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The Zika virus , which has been spreading throughout Latin America in recent weeks and causing birth defects via infection of expecting mothers, has just arrived in the US. Three Florida residents who had recently visited Latin American countries have contracted the virus , though there are no accounts of the virus being spread within the country. While Zika cannot be transmitted from human to human, the biggest concern about infection is for pregnant mothers and the unborn. Read the rest of 3 Florida residents infected with the Zika virus after Latin America travel

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