Archive for the ‘Illness’ Category

Bedbugs With Drug-Resistant MRSA ‘Superbug’ Germ Found

ATLANTA — Hate insects? Afraid of germs? Researchers are reporting an alarming combination: bedbugs carrying a staph “superbug.” Canadian scientists detected drug-resistant staph bacteria in bedbugs from three hospital patients from a downtrodden Vancouver neighborhood.

Bedbugs Superbugs

Bedbugs have not been known to spread disease, and there’s no clear evidence that the five bedbugs found on the patients or their belongings had spread the MRSA germ they were carrying or a second less dangerous drug-resistant bacteria.

However, bedbugs can cause itching that can lead to excessive scratching. That can cause breaks in the skin that make people more susceptible to these germs, noted Dr. Marc Romney, one of the study’s authors.

The study is small and very preliminary. “But it’s an intriguing finding” that needs to be further researched, said Romney, medical microbiologist at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver.

The hospital is the closest one to the poor Downtown Eastside neighborhood near the city’s waterfront. Romney said he and his colleagues did the research after seeing a simultaneous boom in bedbugs and MRSA cases from the neighborhood.

Five bedbugs were crushed and analyzed. MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, was found on three bugs. MRSA is resistant to several types of common antibiotics and can become deadly if it gets through the skin and into the bloodstream.

Two bugs had VRE, or vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus faecium, a less dangerous form of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Both germs are often seen in hospitals, and experts have been far more worried about nurses and other health care workers spreading the bacteria than insects.

It’s not clear if the bacteria originated with the bedbugs or if the bugs picked it up from already infected people, Romney added.

The study was released Wednesday by Emerging Infectious Diseases, a publication of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.



Remodeling in the East Bay

From dirt to doorknobs

It’s a rare attic or crawlspace where we see no evidence of these nasty critters. It seems like they climb, swim, dig, or chew their way into our houses no matter what we do. One homeowner complained of rats that ate the fruit out of their dining table centerpiece!

Rat raceway between insulation and subfloorRat raceway between insulation and subfloor

It’s bad enough that they get into our attics and crawlspaces, worse yet is what they leave behind. Proteins in their urine are potent allergens and become airborne when dry. Their urine and feces can contain hantavirus, a group of deadly virus that can be aerosolized and transmitted through air movement (more on hantavirus).

In the average house ducts leak at least 30%, and the building “shell” leaks at least 100% more than what’s required for adequate ventilation (data). If the leaky ducts run through the attic or crawlspace, they can directly vacuum up rat leavings and deliver it into each room of the house. If they don’t vacuum it up directly, they can depressurize the house, causing the house itself to suck it in through all the little holes and cracks between the attic or crawlspace and the house.

Rat urine on a water pipeRat urine on a water pipe

 In a typical building performance project that involves rodent infestation, we remove all contaminated materials and neutralize soiled surfaces. Then we reduce duct leakage and eliminate air infiltration between the attic or crawlspace and the living space. Even if the rats eventually get back in, the bad stuff stays in the attic or crawlspace, not in the bedrooms.

This unsealed, leaky duct plenum makes a handy toilet. Unfortunately, it is also pulling pollutants into the indoor air.This unsealed, leaky duct plenum makes a handy toilet. Unfortunately, it is also pulling pollutants into the indoor air.

Lakeland woman critical after more than 1,000 wasp stings

Lakeland — Emily ‘Juanita’ Foshee, 81, is in critical condition after being stung more than 1,000 times by wasps in the backyard of her Lakeland home.

Her husband of 55 years, Clyde Foshee spends his days back and forth between his jewelry store and Lakeland Regional, where Juanita is in ICU.

“There wasn’t a place on her body except her feet that wasn’t covered, by insect bites. I mean not a place on her body, all in her mouth,” he said. “I know she was screaming when she was coming out of there.”

Foshee said his wife is in and out of consciousness and effects from the stings have affected her heart, lungs and kidneys.

“All this poison has damaged her heart, in fact she had a heart attack, the second night she was in there,” he said, “it’s affected her lungs, she’s got fluid in the lungs, the liver is damaged, her kidneys is not working hardly at all.”

Foshee said the yellow jackets came from an underground nest and attacked Juanita while she was in the backyard. He said he’s since tried to get rid of the nest.

“I had one that bite me when I went over there, and that night I couldn’t even sleep,” he said. “Can you imagine getting bit as many times?”

Foshee said he’s taking it one day at a time.

A Few Reasons to Show Some Love for Bugs


by Chloe Skye

Do a typical search on “insects” on an environmental website and you’ll mostly get results about green options to keep the buggers away.

 But there are reasons why we should have a little more compassion for our tiny fellow earth-dwellers (even if you are a New Yorker fighting the bed bug plague!).

Researchers from the University of Florida recently found that termites may be used for biofuel. Photo: Flickr/fortes Believe it or not, there are many ways in which insects can be beneficial to humans, even beyond biological pest control and honeybee pollination.

 Medical advances

 According to Science Daily, an ingredient, chlorotoxin, in the “deathstalker” scorpion’s venom can slow the spread of brain cancer. In tests on lab mice, University of Washington (UW) researchers demonstrated that nanoparticles of iron oxide in combination with the venom could cut the spread of cancerous cells by 98 percent, compared to 45 percent for the scorpion venom alone.

 Another article reports that chlorotoxin could help gene therapy become an effective treatment for glioma, the most common and serious form of brain cancer. A study by the same UW researchers demonstrated that the substance allows therapeutic genes, which treat disease, to reach more brain cancer cells than current approaches.

 Biofuel creation

 University of Florida researchers have identified two enzymes termites use to break down wood for food, which may lead to an easier, faster and cheaper way to convert plant material to ethanol.

 The enzymes could be used towards creating cellulosic ethanol, which is typically composed of wood chips, switchgrass or corncobs, and may have up to 85 percent lower carbon dioxide emissions than gasoline.

 Composting companions

 If you’ve always wanted to try composting but don’t have the space for a large-scale operation, vermiculture might be for you. Worm compost is simple: it’s made in a container filled with moistened bedding and redworms.

 All you have to do is add food waste and the worms, which are surface feeders, will convert it into compost. Vermicomposting can be done year-round and indoors, including in homes, offices and schools. The process is non-intensive, odorless and a great soil conditioner for houseplants and gardens both!

 Painkiller alternative

 Back to the scorpion venom! Researchers at Tel Aviv University are investigating ways to develop a novel painkiller from peptide toxins in Israeli yellow scorpion venom that would be highly effective (and less addictive than morphine) without side effects.

 The research is based on knowledge that the natural venom compounds interact with sodium channels in nervous and muscular systems, some of which communicate pain.

 If you find the idea of these painkillers hard to stomach, don’t worry. The painkillers would use chemically engineered derivatives that mimic the scorpion toxins, not the real thing.

 In the past, scientists have also created pesticides from scorpion venom that harm insects like locusts without affecting beneficial ones like honeybees.

 Biological antifreeze

 University of Alaska scientists have identified an antifreeze molecule, called xylomannan and composed of a sugar and fatty acid, in a freeze-tolerant Alaska beetle. The beetle is able to survive temperatures below minus 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

 These molecules may help freeze-tolerant organisms survive by preventing ice crystals from forming or penetrating lethally into cells.

 Plastic Breakdown

 Good news for the great outdoors! Mealworm beetles have been found to possess bacteria in their digestive tracts that can help decompose often-discarded expanded polystyrene.

 Now if we could only find a great use for all of those cockroaches and bed bugs!


The End—————————————————————————-

Fears of a Decline in Bee Pollination Confirmed

 Widespread reports of a decline in the population of bees and other flower-visiting animals have aroused fear and speculation that pollination is also likely on the decline. A recent University of Toronto study provides the first long-term evidence of a downward trend in pollination, while also pointing to climate change as a possible contributor.

A recent study provides the first long-term evidence of a downward trend in pollination. (Credit: iStockphoto)
at our research site, but we suspect that a climate-driven mismatch between the times when flowers open and when bees emerge from hibernation is a more important factor,” says James Thomson, a scientist with U of T’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

Thomson’s 17-year examination of the wild lily in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado is one of the longest-term studies of pollination ever done. It reveals a progressive decline in pollination over the years, with particularly noteworthy pollination deficits early in the season. The study will be published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences on September 6.

Three times each year, Thomson compared the fruiting rate of unmanipulated flowers to that of flowers that are supplementally pollinated by hand. “Early in the year, when bumble bee queens are still hibernating, the fruiting rates are especially low,” he says. “This is sobering because it suggests that pollination is vulnerable even in a relatively pristine environment that is free of pesticides and human disturbance but still subject to climate change.”

Thomson began his long-term studies in the late 1980s after purchasing a remote plot of land and building a log cabin in the middle of a meadow full of glacier lilies. His work has been supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

FL ag commissioner urges protection against mosquito-borne diseases

TALLAHASSEE – Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Charles H. Bronson says two cases of West Nile Virus have now been detected in horses in the state and the number of Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) cases continues to rise. Bronson is reminding horse owners to get the animals vaccinated. He is also urging the public to follow Florida Department of Health guidelines to help prevent mosquito borne illnesses in people. DOH is reporting that two people in Florida have died after contracting EEE this summer. Mosquitoes carry the viruses and can transmit it to horses and humans, however, horses do not transmit the viruses to people.

The West Nile cases affected horses in Jefferson and Osceola counties. There are also now 60 reported cases of EEE in horses in several dozen counties in Florida this year, including southern counties such as Miami-Dade, Okeechobee and Collier where EEE cases are much less frequent.

EEE and West Nile are viral diseases that affect the central nervous system and are transmitted to horses by infected mosquitoes. Signs of the viruses include fever, listlessness, stumbling, circling, coma and usually death. EEE is fatal in horses in 90 percent of the cases. West Nile virus has a mortality rate in horses of about 30 percent. Studies show that in horses that do recover, anywhere from 20-40 percent show residual effects even after six months.

Bronson says there are vaccinations for both diseases but horse owners need to be diligent in not only getting their animals vaccinated, but also ensuring the vaccinations are kept up to date each year and booster shots are given.

“In the vast majority of cases we have seen this year, the horses either had no vaccinations at all or they were not current,” Bronson said. “We are seeing increases in mosquito populations and since mosquitoes are the carriers of both these diseases, it’s likely the situation is going to get worse before it gets better. I can’t stress enough the need for people to get these readily available vaccinations for their horses.”

While the incidence of EEE and West Nile is down in horses from what the state experienced earlier this decade, the cases continue to rise in 2010.

Call Us for  Mosquito Protection – 727-388-6759


Dengue Fever? What About It, Key West Says


A woman planning a Florida vacation in Key West called the health department there last week to ask if it were true that the city was being evacuated because of an epidemic of dengue fever.


Joe Raedle/Getty Images

A mosquito larva up close.

“No!” Chris Tittel, a spokesman for the Monroe County Health Department, says he told her. “No, no, no, no, no.”

 Dengue (pronounced DENG-gay) is a viral illness, spread by mosquitoes, that can cause fever, headaches, body aches and a rash. Symptoms range from mild to severe, although some people have no symptoms.

Without a doubt, there is dengue in Key West, though at 27 known cases last year and 18 so far this year, it is hardly what most people would call an epidemic. But those cases are the first outbreak in Florida since 1934, and some medical experts fear that the disease, once rampant on the Eastern Seaboard, could take hold again.

Parts of the Caribbean and Central America are having epidemics now, but none of those infected in Key West had traveled outside the country. That means they caught the virus locally.

 News of the disease has apparently unsettled a few potential visitors. But tourism officials and business owners in Key West are even more unsettled, by the way the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has publicized the cases.

 On July 13, the centers issued a press release stating that an estimated 5 percent of Key West’s population showed evidence of recent exposure to the dengue virus. The estimate was based on tests of 240 residents, of whom 13 were positive. The 5 percent figure was reported by many newspapers, including The New York Times.

 That news was the last thing the city needed, with the economy already making the usual summer slump in tourism even worse. The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has also scared some visitors away, even though the oil has been nowhere near Key West.

 “I don’t know if the C.D.C. understands what it potentially has done here,” said Andy Newman, the director of media relations for the Florida Keys and the Key West tourism council. He said he knew of a “smattering” of canceled trips, but suspected more.

 Robert Eadie, administrator of the health department, called the disease centers’ report “very alarmist.”

 Local officials were irked that the centers had used just 240 people to estimate an exposure rate for the whole city, which has a population of about 25,000.

 But scientists involved in the research are sticking to their story. Dr. Harold Margolis, chief of the disease centers’ dengue branch in Puerto Rico, said it was statistically valid to extrapolate from the 240 people tested.

 “Somehow the virus is getting there,” Dr. Margolis said.

 An infected visitor may have passed the virus to local mosquitoes, or a mosquito carrying dengue may have arrived on an airplane or cruise ship. Key West has plenty of Aedes aegypti, a type of mosquito that can carry dengue.

 People are worried about being stigmatized, especially those with businesses. A restaurant owner who was infected a year ago agreed to be interviewed only if his name was not published, because he thought fear of the disease might keep customers away, even though the virus is not spread by food or personal contact. He said he had had a mild flulike illness for about five days.

 He had no idea it was dengue until health workers asked him to be tested. Then they urged him to avoid being exposed again, because there are four different strains, and people who have had one strain and later contract another can develop a dangerous form of the disease that can cause hemorrhaging and even death.

 Dr. Peter J. Hotez, a tropical medicine expert at George Washington University, said he thought the potential was “pretty high” for dengue to spread up the Gulf Coast, where another species of Aedes mosquito that can carry the virus is common. If the disease does get there, it will strike poor people hardest, he predicted, because many of them lack screens and air-conditioning. There is no vaccine.

 “I believe the threat is very real,” he said. “And we understand that the C.D.C. is about to close its dengue branch. Can you imagine anything so stupid? This is the worst time possible.”

 The disease centers confirmed that the 2011 budget does eliminate financing for the “vector-borne” disease branch, which tracks dengue, West Nile virus, plague, encephalitis and other illnesses carried by insects.

 Dr. Ali S. Khan, deputy director of the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, said that the disease centers had to make budget cuts, and that the vector-borne disease branch was one. But he said other money could be used to pay for some of the work it used to do.

 More than a dozen medical organizations have signed a letter to Congress, asking that the money be reinstated.

Meanwhile, as they are trying to ease public fears, officials in Key West are scrambling to stop the outbreak. The best way to fight the disease is to fight the mosquitoes, by wearing bug repellent, spraying pesticides and dumping anything that holds water. The amount it takes to fill a bottle cap is enough for Aedes aegypti to breed.

 Mosquito control inspectors have been dispatched to neighborhoods with suspected cases. Sometimes they have to deal with vacant houses because Key West, like many cities, is dotted with foreclosures. The inspectors have also told landscapers to stock ponds with minnows, which feed on mosquito larvae. The city even launched Mosquito TV, a weekly show, to mobilize residents against the pest.

 At the Key West Cemetery, where the gravestone of B. P. Roberts (who died in 1979) reads, “I told you I was sick,” dozens of “ovitraps” — black plastic cups laced with poison to kill female mosquitoes and their eggs — mingled among concrete urns and vases of water rife with squiggling larvae. Plans for next year include providing sterile male mosquitoes to prevent their mates from reproducing.

 Key West residents have been taking it all in stride. At a parade last October, a group calling itself Dengue Night Fever included a John Travolta look-alike and followers sporting giant mosquito wings.

 Tourists interviewed this week at the nightly sunset celebration on Mallory Square seemed oblivious. Linwood Dean, 31, and his family had been visiting from Pennsylvania for three days. Mr. Linwood had a fresh mosquito bite on his forearm.

 “We haven’t heard anything about it,” he said. “We are having a wonderful time.”

 Denise Grady reported from New York and Catharine Skipp from Key West, Fla.


Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Lawrence Smart, from Miami-Dade Mosquito Control in Florida, looked for the larvae of mosquitoes, which carry dengue, in tires where water had collected.