ZIKA Virus


Zika is a virus that is spread mostly by mosquitoes. A pregnant mother can pass it to her baby during pregnancy or around the time of birth. It can spread through sexual contact. There have also been reports that the virus has spread through blood transfusions. There have been outbreaks of Zika virus in the United States, Africa, Southeast Asia, the Pacific Islands, parts of the Caribbean, and Central and South America.

Most people who get the virus do not get sick. One in five people do get symptoms, which can include a fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (pinkeye). Symptoms are usually mild, and start 2 to 7 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito.

A blood test can tell whether you have the infection. There are no vaccines or medicines to treat it. Drinking lots of fluids, resting, and taking acetaminophen might help.

Zika can cause microcephaly (a serious birth defect of the brain) and other problems in babies whose mothers were infected while pregnant. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that pregnant women do not travel to areas where there is a Zika virus outbreak. If you do decide to travel, first talk to your doctor. You should also be careful to prevent mosquito bites:

  • Use insect repellent
  • Wear clothes that cover your arms, legs, and feet
  • Stay in places that have air conditioning or that use window and door screens

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Infection with Zika in early weeks of pregnancy poses high risk to baby

More than one in 10 babies whose mothers were infected with the Zika virus in the first three months of pregnancy will go on to have birth defects, researchers have found.

The latest study is a reminder of the toll of the virus, which swept through the Americas and parts of the Caribbean in 2015 and 2016.

It should also act as a warning to women planning to travel to Zika affected countries.

The virus, which is spread to humans by infected mosquitoes, causes a mild fever and rash but is particularly harmful for pregnant women as it has been linked to birth defects.

During the height of the epidemic in 2016 more than 3,000 babies, the majority in Brazil, were born with neurological defects such as microcephaly, where the head circumference is smaller than average, damage to the eyes and restricted movements.

This latest study of more than 500 babies and foetuses in Guadeloupe, French Guiana and Martinique, where there was an outbreak in early 2016, found that the risk to the unborn child is greatest if the mother catches Zika during the first three months of pregnancy: 12.7 per cent of babies were born with birth defects.

As the pregnancy progresses the risk of complications goes down, the researchers found, with 3.6 per cent of those whose mothers caught the virus in the second three months being born with defects.

However, the rate increased in the last three months of pregnancy with 5.3 per cent born with defects. The overall rate was 7 per cent, the researchers said.

The findings are similar to those reported by US researchers last year, who found that around 6 per cent of babies born to mothers infected with the virus had birth defects, rising to 11 per cent among those infected during the first trimester.

However, a smaller study of babies born in Brazil found a much higher rate of defects: 42 per cent. Scientists are still unsure as to why the rate of defects was so much higher in Brazil.

Arnaud Fontanet, co-author of the study and director of the Centre for Global Health Research and Education at the Institut Pasteur in Paris, said even though the rates of complication are low compared to other viral infections in pregnant women, such as rubella, they are worrying because of the large numbers of people infected.

“We are no longer in the epidemic phase of Zika but we know that when an epidemic goes through a region about half of the population becomes infected,” he said.

Zika virus | Quick facts

  • The Zika virus was first identified in Uganda in 1947
  • It is transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito
  • The link between the virus and birth defects was only identified when there was an outbreak of the disease in South America in 2015 and 2016
  • More than 3,000 babies have been born with birth defects linked to the virus
  • Scientists have yet to work out exactly why the virus causes birth defects

Some 80 per cent of people infected with Zika do not show any symptoms and the researchers said it was important that countries which had experienced Zika outbreaks monitor rates of birth defects in the whole population, not just in those whose mothers were infected with the virus.

The researchers said that the effects of exposure to Zika during pregnancy on children as they get older are unknown. It is too early to say whether healthy babies will develop problems later, said Professor Fontanet, whose next study will be to follow children born to Zika-infected mothers and compare them with those whose mothers did not become infected during pregnancy.

“It is important that we continue to follow up the babies because even if they looked healthy at birth they may develop some difficulties in learning how to walk, talk or to read. We need to have a full account of the consequences of Zika infection during pregnancy,” he said.

Bed bugs love your stinky laundry. Here’s how to keep them away

By David Shultz

On the surface, bed bugs seem ill-equipped for world domination: They can’t fly, jump, or swim; they can survive only on blood; and the world’s foremost apex predators—humans—want them all dead. Yet the parasitic arthropods have recently undergone what scientists are calling a “rapid global expansion,” taking over new territories and growing in number and range. And according to a new study, their globetrotting is made possible in part by an unusual form of transportation: our stinky laundry.

“It’s a good study,” says Richard Cooper, an entomologist at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, who was not involved with the work. He says it makes sense that the bugs are attracted to human odors, even on clothing.

Though they aren’t known to transmit disease, bed bugs (Cimex lectularius) can leave behind itchy bites and cause allergic reactions. In the middle of the 20th century, the pests had been largely eradicated from large parts of the developed world, but bans on effective pesticides in the 1990s, along with cheap air travel, have allowed the bugs to come creeping back.

Unlike ticks or lice, the apple seed–sized bed bugs aren’t travelers: They don’t stay on their hosts for long, and they rarely leave the beds and couches where they feast. So how were they getting onto planes?

“To me, hitchhiking seemed like the best explanation,” says William Hentley, an entomologist at the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom. “That then led me to this question of whether they’re attracted to our clothes and the smell of humans.”

To figure out whether the bugs were indeed stowing away in our laundry and luggage, Hentley and his colleagues tested whether the insects were attracted to soiled clothing. They set a cage full of bed bugs in the middle of a room and placed two cotton bags at equal distances—one filled with clean clothes and the other filled with dirty socks and T-shirts collected from volunteers. The researchers released the bed bugs from the cage and let them wander freely for 96 hours.

At the end of the experiment, about twice as many bugs were attracted to the dirty clothes as to clean ones, the team reports today in Scientific Reports. That jives with prior experiments that have shown that bed bugs can smell more than 100 compounds produced by human skin—many of which could easily linger on clothes for multiple days, the researchers say.

They also tested whether increases in carbon dioxide—long thought to signal a nearby meal—made the bugs more or less likely to go for the smelly clothes. When added to room, the gas seemed to trigger foraging behavior, but the bugs weren’t any more likely to go for the dirty clothes than they were initially. That suggests that carbon dioxide prompts the bugs to forage, but it doesn’t help them home in on the smelly laundry, the team concludes.

So what can you do to keep the six-legged parasites out of your suitcase when you travel? Hentley is careful to point out that he hasn’t studied these techniques scientifically, but he recommends simply putting your bags up on the metal luggage racks in a hotel room, because the bugs can’t climb up smooth surfaces. If no such rack is to be found, keeping your soiled garments in an airtight bag should help mask the smell. But bear in mind that if you’ve previously put dirty clothes in your luggage, you might need to wrap up your whole suitcase, he says.

Cooper agrees that plastic bags might work, but he doesn’t use them himself. “The biggest thing is not keeping your luggage on the bed,” he says. Another option: putting your bags into a portable heating chamber whenever you get home and washing and drying your clothes on high heat. “Heat is the Achilles heel of the bed bug,” Cooper says.

Ryerson University confirms bed bugs were found in a classroom

The Canadian Press

TORONTO – Bedbugs have been found in a classroom at Toronto’s Ryerson University, the school said Wednesday, noting that it was working to exterminate the insects.

A spokeswoman for the downtown university said staff used a canine unit to search two classrooms in its Victoria Building on Tuesday, and found bedbugs in one of the rooms.

“Bedbugs were found in a single desk in VIC 205,” Johanna VanderMaas said in a statement. “VIC 205 was treated with steam immediately.”

VanderMaas said a canine unit will be brought back into the room on Thursday to ensure it is clear of the bedbugs.

“Only once the room is deemed to be clear will students and faculty will be allowed back in,” she said.

The school’s efforts came after a student newspaper, The Eyeopener, published a report of insects found inside tables in a classroom. The paper said it took photos of the bugs and sent them to five exterminators, who all said they were bedbugs.

Jacob Dube, a student who worked on the piece, said Tuesday that Ryerson students reported seeing insects they believed to be bedbugs in a classroom in the school’s Victoria Building as far back as December.

Several students who spotted the insects, including Eyeopener reporter Stefanie Phillips, later said they found what appeared to be bug bites on their skin.

Dube said the university had been receptive to the student newspaper’s reporting, with officials asking the students to show them exactly where the bugs were spotted in order to independently verify their information.

On Tuesday, Ryerson said it was looking into the matter and noted that students had been helpful in bringing their concerns forward.

The university’s campus is located in the downtown core, close to the city’s bustling Yonge and Dundas square.

Birth defect rate pegged at 7 percent for babies born to Zika-infected women

By: Gene Emery

(Reuters Health) – A pregnant woman who becomes ill from the Zika virus faces a 7 percent chance that her child will be born with birth defects, and that risk jumps to nearly 13 percent if she becomes ill during the first trimester, a new study conducted in French territories in the Americas has concluded.

The finding “emphasizes the serious global health threat to pregnant women and their infants posed by congenital (Zika virus) infection,” said Dr. Margaret Honein of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, writing in an editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine, where the study appears.

The estimates do not include less-obvious developmental problems that may surface later in life.

In addition, because the study only included women who fell ill, they don’t include the risk for women who may have been infected but didn’t experience symptoms, which happens in about 80 percent of cases.

“Other studies showed earlier that the risk of births defects did not depend on the presence or the severity of (Zika)-related symptoms,” chief author Dr. Bruno Hoen of the University Medical Center of Guadeloupe told Reuters Health by email.

“This was really well done and it really does nail down the rate that we’re seeing in this population,” said Dr. Carl Fichtenbaum, a professor in the division of infectious diseases at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine in Ohio, who was not involved in the research.

“The (birth defect) rate might differ in other populations, depending on whether it’s your first Zika infection or your second,” he told Reuters Health by phone. “In populations where it’s just been introduced it might be more severe for the fetus, but I think time will tell.”

The 527 surviving babies in the new study will be followed for at least two years.

“Only the longer-term follow-up of the children born to the women in the current study will help identify the full spectrum of (Zika)-related complications,” the Hoen team said.

The virus was linked to birth defects, particularly having an abnormally small head – a condition known as microcephaly – during a 2016-2017 outbreak. Zika vaccines are still being tested.

Estimates of the rate of congenital neurologic defects in infected newborns have ranged from 6 percent to 42 percent. The Hoen team included women who were pregnant from March through November of 2016 when it was confirmed that they had been infected with Zika.

Their study of 555 fetuses and infants found evidence of microcephaly in 5.8 percent. The rate of severe microcephaly was 1.6 percent.

The earlier the infection occurred in pregnancy, the greater the risk.

Neurologic or eye problems were seen in 12.7 percent of the babies whose mothers were infected during the first trimester. The rates were 3.6 percent when mothers were infection during the second trimester and 5.3 percent during the third.

This is “some of the most compelling data to date that the risk of brain abnormalities, microcephaly, and eye anomalies extends to infections in every trimester of pregnancy,” said Honein in her editorial.

The French territories were French Guiana, Guadeloupe and Martinique.

A Zika registry in the United States has seen birth defects in 10 percent of women known to have been infected with the virus. When the infection occurred during the first trimester, the rate has been 15 percent.

But those studies “do not provide information on the estimated 80 percent of pregnant women with (Zika) infections who have no reported symptoms,” Honein writes. “Population level increases in (Zika)-associated birth defects are unlikely to be recognized without ongoing timely and comprehensive surveillance of birth defects that captures all affected fetuses and infants regardless of whether maternal (Zika) exposure or infection was identified.”

Zika “should definitely be added to the list of infectious agents that can cause severe birth defects, as are rubella virus, cytomegalovirus, and others,” Hoen said in his email.

The study also emphasizes the urgent need to protect women who might become pregnant when they are traveling or living in areas with Zika-infected mosquitoes, to test women at risk for Zika when they become pregnant, and to develop an effective vaccine, he said.

Bed Bugs Are Biting And Spreading Resistant Super Bacteria MRSA

By Sy Kraft

There has been a major increase in bed bug incidence in North America and Europe in recent years and aside from being an extreme nuisance and the destroyer of property and sanity of many lives, now bed bugs carrying two types of drug-resistant bacteria have been found by Canadian researchers.

The bed bugs were found to be carrying methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus faecium (VRE).

MRSA is a Staph infection that resists many antibiotics which makes it a very difficult disease to deal with. Some common antibiotics that MRSA resists but are used in treating other ailments include oxacillin, peicillin, methicillin, and amoxicillin).

VRE are bacterial strains of the genus Enterococcus that are resistant to the antibiotic vancomycin. To become VRE, vancomycin-sensitive enterococci typically obtain new DNA in the form of plasmids or transposons which encode genes that confer vancomycin resistance. This acquired vancomycin resistance is distinguished from the lower-level, natural vancomycin resistance of certain enterococcal species including E. gallinarum and E. casseliflavus.

Bed bugs are small, oval, non-flying insects that belong to the insect family Cimicidae, which includes three species that bite people. Adult bed bugs reach 5-7 mm in length, while nymphs (juveniles) are as small as 1.5 mm.

The study’s researchers stated:

“Further studies are needed to characterize the association between S. aureus and bedbugs. Bed bug carriage of MRSA, and the portal of entry provided through feeding, suggests a plausible potential mechanism for passive transmission of bacteria during a blood meal. Because of the insect’s ability to compromise the skin integrity of its host, and the propensity for S. aureus to invade damaged skin, bed bugs may serve to amplify MRSA infections in impoverished urban communities.”

The phenotype of the MRSA found in the bed bugs is identical to that found in tests of many Eastside patients with MRSA infections according to the report.

These findings suggest that bed bugs may act as a “hidden environmental reservoir” that promotes the spread of MRSA in overcrowded and impoverished communities.

According to a report from August 2010 by NPR:

“At first, they appeared in places that you might expect: dense city centers such as New York, where officials may seek a bed bug czar, and San Francisco, which is trying landlord-education programs to keep the pests away. But now, there are reports of bedbug infestations in homes and hotels from Ohio to Texas.”

The common bed bug (Cimex lectularius) is the species best adapted to human environments. It is found in temperate climates throughout the world. Other species include Cimex hemipterus, found in tropical regions, which also infests poultry and bats, and Leptocimex boueti, found in the tropics of West Africa and South America, which infests bats and humans. Cimex pilosellus and Cimex pipistrella primarily infest bats, while Haematosiphon inodora, a species of North America, primarily infests poultry.

Bed bugs are developing resistance to various pesticides including DDT and organophosphates.

Some populations have developed a resistance to pyrethroid insecticides. Although now often ineffective, the resistance to pyrethroid allows for new chemicals that work in different ways to be investigated, so chemical management can continue to be one part in the resolving of bed bug infestations. There is growing interest in both synthetic pyrethroid and the pyrrole insecticide, chlorfenapyr. Insect growth regulators, such as hydroprene (Gentrol), are also sometimes used.

Written by Sy Kraft

‘Blood-filled bugs’: Bride’s horror hotel stay night before wedding


She said the “wedding from hell” began when her four-year-old flower girl was tucked into bed, only to find “20 blood-filled bugs surrounding her head”.

“It looked like a spider’s nest had hatched on her pillow,” Ms Chan said.

“All three rooms were checked, and all three were positive for bugs coming up out of the mattress behind the pillows.”

With reception closed for the night, the bride said she called an after-hours number only to be repeatedly hung up on.

Telephone recordings obtained by 9NEWS revealed the hotel manager was aware of the issue, but still refused to help.

“The lady who answered was no help at all, she told us the manager was not coming back and we would have to wait for reception to open in the morning,” Ms Chan said.

“No amount of pleading for a new room … made any difference.”

Multiple bugs were found crawling on the hotel bed. (Supplied)Multiple bugs were found crawling on the hotel bed. (Supplied)The bridal party were forced to camp out on tiled floors and leather couches as a result of the infested room. (Supplied)The bridal party were forced to camp out on tiled floors and leather couches as a result of the infested room. (Supplied)

After being told the only person who could help was a few hours’ drive away, Ms Chan said the bridal party had no choice but to camp out on the tiled floors and leather couches, shocked to learn there were no spare sheets, towels or even pillows available.

“There was no choice but to use the cleanest top sheets from the beds that bugs weren’t visible on,” she said.

“Some were brave enough to use couch cushions as pillows while one bridesmaid used a pile of her spare clothes as a pillow.”

Ms Chan said things went from “bad to worse” in the morning when the sleep-deprived bridal party confronted “extremely rude” hotel staff who were “hesitant to help us or even believe us”.

She said staff eventually changed their tune and agreed to issue a refund, moving the bridal party to a much smaller apartment, but still demanded payment for the extra beds needed to accommodate all of the guests.

Ms Chan said she and her sleep-deprived bridal party confronted the hotel staff, only to have them be rude and "hesitant to help". (Supplied)Ms Chan said she and her sleep-deprived bridal party confronted the hotel staff, only to have them be rude and “hesitant to help”. (Supplied)The bridesmaids were all smiles at the ceremony despite their horror hotel stay. (Supplied)The bridesmaids were all smiles at the ceremony despite their horror hotel stay. (Supplied)

Ms Chan also said the hotel demanded a cleaning fee for the bug-infested room, but then bowed to pressure to waive it.

“The reaction of the Meriton … was appalling to say the least,” Ms Chan said.

“Regardless of who the guests are – a bride on the eve of her wedding or a few people taking a spontaneous trip to the Gold Coast – no effort was made by (the hotel) to help their guests, all help had to be demanded.”

“All in our party were weary, astounded, and outraged.”

The bride and groom made it to the ceremony despite the chaos, but Ms Chan said her mother didn't get to walk her down the aisle as planned. (Supplied)The bride and groom made it to the ceremony despite the chaos, but Ms Chan said her mother didn’t get to walk her down the aisle as planned. (Supplied)

Ms Chan eventually made it to her beachside ceremony, but because of the chaos and delays, she said her mother didn’t get to walk her down the aisle as planned.

In a statement to 9NEWS, Meriton Holiday Apartments said: “The guests were given the option of a full refund so they could relocate to another hotel or another apartment at a VIP rate of $280.”

“They chose to stay at the Meriton (for another night).

“The rate is usually $300 to $350 for four guests, however six guests stayed at no additional charge for the two extra guests.”

Beware ‘Disease X’: the mystery killer keeping scientists awake at night



Over two days in early February, the World Health Organisation (WHO) convened an expert committee at its Geneva headquarters to consider the unthinkable.

The goal was to identify pathogens with the potential to spread and kill millions but for which there are currently no, or insufficient, countermeasures available. As the meeting opened, the city’s eponymous lake reflected a crisp blue winter sky. Only as the meeting progressed did an icy rain set in.

It was the third time the committee, consisting of leading virologists, bacteriologists and infectious disease experts, had met to consider diseases with epidemic or pandemic potential. But when the 2018 list was released two weeks ago it included an entry not seen in previous years.

In addition to eight frightening but familiar diseases including EbolaZika, and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), the list included a ninth global threat: Disease X.

What is Disease X?

Disease X is not a newly identified pathogen but what military planners call a “known unknown”. It’s a disease sparked by a biological mutation, or perhaps an accident or terror attack, that catches the world by surprise and spreads fast.

By including it on the list, the WHO is acknowledging that infectious diseases and the epidemics they spawn are inherently unpredictable. Like the Spanish flu which killed 50m to 100m people between 1918 and 1920, Disease X is the catastrophe nobody saw coming until it was too late.

“Disease X represents the knowledge that a serious international epidemic could be caused by a pathogen currently unknown,” says the WHO.

It has been included on the list not to terrify us, but to ensure that the global health community builds the resilience and capacity needed to tackle all threats – not just the predictable ones.

Where might it come from?

One source of Disease X could be the deliberate utilisation of infectious disease as a weapon.

While bio-weapons have been used since the middle ages (the Tartars catapulted the cadavers of plague victims into the besieged seaport of Caffa in 1346, for example), new scientific developments including gene editing and an exponential increase in computing power make it easier than ever to develop lethal biological agents.

The US and USSR explored bio-weapon development during the Cold War and both continue to hold live cultures of deadly pathogens, including the smallpox virus, in secretive and (hopefully) secure labs. More recently, the Iraqi military toyed with botulinum toxins under Saddam Hussein, Al Qaeda operatives experimented with anthrax and, in 2014, a laptop captured from Islamic State (IS) was found to contain instructions on how to weaponise the plague virus.

North Korea and Syria are also thought to have bio warfare capability. Syria, which has been using chemical weapons against civilian populations in the current conflict, suffered a rare smallpox outbreak in 1972 and is believed to have held wild smallpox strains within its military-industrial complex ever since. Equally alarming, anthrax antibodies were detected in the blood of a North Korean military defector last year, raising fears that Pyongyang has a store of weaponised anthrax.

On the bright side, the number of incidents involving bioweapons to date has been very low, with hoaxes far outnumbering genuine attacks. Non-state actors, including IS, appear to lack the capacity to develop a bio-weapon with large scale reach.

But this could change. It has long been feared, for instance, that military grade pathogens could leak from Soviet labs onto the black market and into the hands of terrorists.

Only last year Canadian researchers published a peer-reviewed paper detailing how they had synthetically engineered horsepox (a close relative of the smallpox virus) from scratch using equipment now which falls within the reach of many terror groups.

The paper’s publication has been widely condemned as a security breach. The details provided could “substantively assist those with lesser degrees of experience to synthesize smallpox”, said one critic.

“The synthesis of horsepox virus takes the world one step closer to the reemergence of smallpox as a threat to global health security”, said another.

What about animals?

Bio-weapons are one risk, animals another.

The most probable source of Disease X is zoonotic diseases, or Zoonoses. These are diseases present in wild and domesticated animals that can be transmitted to humans.

Some 70% of newly discovered diseases in the last century have been zoonotic. The hemorrhagic bug Ebola is a prime example. The 2013-2016 West African pandemic is believed to have started when a one-year-old boy was bitten by an Ebola-infected bat in Guinea. The disease spread to his mother, sister and grandmother and then on to kill more than 11,000 people in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

HIV is also a zoonosis. The human HIV epidemic most likely began when someone killed and ate a wild chimpanzee. It has since infected some 70m people and killed 35m.

Domestic livestock are the most likely incubator for Disease X. Large groups of farm animals (chickens, pigs and even camels) kept in close quarters create ideal breeding conditions for zoonotic disease. The viruses, constantly mutating, move rapidly from wild animals to farm animals and then on to humans. They can be spread by ticks but the fastest moving are airborne.

Disease X could be a mutation of an existing animal disease like avian influenza or African swine fever or it could be a brand-new pathogen that moves from animals to humans. As we farm, mine and colonize ever more remote locations of the planet, the more likely we are to come into contact with as yet unknown animal bugs. Cutting down the African bush for farmland or mining the Brazilian rainforest presents a constant risk of exposure to new zoonotic diseases.

Hiding in plain sight

Although the WHO focuses on unknown pathogens in its description of Disease X, another major pandemic risk comes from the potential evolution of existing diseases.

HIV, Tuberculosis, and influenza have already demonstrated their capacity for devastating epidemic spread. Global health infrastructure currently keeps them under control through a combination of surveillance, effective treatments – and good luck.

Influenza is one of the biggest threats. This was proven in 2009 when H1N1 (swine flu) went rapidly pandemic. 213 countries and territories reported cases of the virus and an estimated 285,000 people died in its wake.

That is a massive number, but it represents a case fatality rate of just .02%. Approximately one out of 5 people on the planet were infected, but very few died. In other words, H1N1 was highly infectious, but it was not highly virulent.

On the other hand, H151 avian influenza has a mortality rate in humans of about 60%. At present, H151 does not spread human-to-human. However, it could easily evolve and a virus with the infectiousness of H1N1 and the mortality rate of H151 would be devastating.

Tuberculosis (TB) is another continually evolving disease. The most basic forms of TB infection are cured with simple antibiotic treatment, but the bacteria which cause Tuberculosis are rapidly developing resistance to antibiotics. In 2016, an estimated 490,000 people worldwide developed multidrug resistant TB and it has been reported in 117 countries worldwide.

HIV is a third existing pandemic that could slip out of control. Antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) allow people with the condition to live normal healthy lives. However, HIV is also becoming resistant to treatment. Among countries that report relevant data to the WHO, 10-15% of people are diagnosed with HIV which is resistant to the standard antiviral treatments.

These numbers could get worse. “HIV is the fastest mutating organism on the planet”, said Dr. Edsel Salvana, an infectious disease specialist at the University of the Philippines. “We are seeing new strains of HIV that are highly aggressive and develop drug resistance faster. We need to stay on top of this with careful surveillance, and we need to develop new and more durable drugs.”

At a glance | Notable plagues from history

  • Plague of Athens (430 BC): One of the first recorded, the Plague of Athens killed a quarter of the city’s population. The disease that caused it is still unknown.
  • Black Death (1347 to 1353): The Black Death, caused by bubonic plague, killed some 50m people in Europe in less than a decade.
  • First Cholera Pandemic (1817 to 1824): The death toll from the first cholera pandemic is unknown but from its origins in India, cholera spread worldwide, killing tens of millions. There is currently a serious outbreak in Yemen.
  • Spanish Flu (1918 to 1919): Caused by the H1N1 virus, Spanish flu spread worldwide infecting a third of the global population. It killed between 50m and 100m people.
  • Ebola (2013 to 2016): The virus primarily affected West Africa and killed over 11,000 people. It was started after a bat bit a one-year-old boy in Guinea.

Doing battle with Disease X

How do you prepare for a threat you cannot predict?

The WHO has chosen a tried and tested approach to preparing for Disease X. Its doctrine flies under the age old banner of “preparedness”.

By improving disease surveillance and strengthening the capacity of local health systems across the globe, it aims to spot an outbreak early, contain it and kill it off before it spreads.

Few experts, if any, disagree with the approach – it’s really the only one we have – but many wonder if adequate health care facilities exist on the ground internationally to make it work.

Dr Nahid Bhadelia, Medical Director of Special Pathogens at Boston University Medical Center, compared the system of preventing the spread of new diseases to a city building a series of dams or seawalls to protect itself from floods. In the case of diseases, the presence of a strong local health system provides the vital early warning and treatment needed to contain the outbreak.

“Not helping strengthen international capacity to combat infectious diseases is like refusing to build barriers against the tide in some parts of our ‘global city’ and expecting to be protected when the flood comes.”

Supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Find out more

The Financial Impact of Bedbugs in the Hospitality Industry


By: Raymond Web

All hotel owners know that even a simple rumor can have a devastating effect on their business if it attracts the right kind of media attention, a simple accusation can instantly damage your hotel’s hard-earned reputation.

Legal experts have noticed a rising trend in bed bug litigation whereby guests sue hotels for millions of dollars, the financial impact of a bed bug lawsuit can be detrimental to your business. This does not only give your hotel a bad reputation but also makes you lose out on a lot of income. A recent example of failure to find bed bugs occurred in 2006 whereby a couple from Chicago sued a Catskills resort for about 20 million, stating that they were mentally and physically scarred after suffering from more than 500 bug bites.

Here are 8 ways how bed bugs can affect your business:

  • Lowers the Value of Accommodation

Studies indicate that a single report of bed bugs can lead to the value of your hotel room dropping significantly in both the cases of business and leisure travelers. The other detrimental effects of a bed bug infestation are that your hotel’s reputation gets tarnished, especially if the news of the infestation gets social media attention, higher operational expenses are required to treat the infestation which lowers your hotel’s operating efficiency.

A recently conducted report on the economic impact of bed bugs on the hotel industry discovered that bed bug reports or the presence of bed bugs can reduce the value of your hotel room by $21 for leisure travelers and $38 for business travelers as the presence of bed bugs is usually at the top of people’s concerns when choosing a hotel and also the main reason that drives them away.

  • Cost of Remediation and Litigation

Bed bug infestations should not be taken lightly as they tend to garner a lot of negative publicity which can tarnish your reputation and increase the losses of your business.

The total cost of bed bug infestations involves the replacement of soft products, treatment and business losses experienced. The report states that almost half of all hotels have had to undergo litigation due to bed bug infestations which can cost about $17,177 per incident and can go as high as $23,560 in terms of the remediation and litigation costs.

  • Brand Degradation and Negative Online Image

News of a bed bug infestation can tarnish your hard-earned reputation as well as creating a negative online image of your hotel and its services. Travelers tend to share their staying experiences online on various travel sites which can further damage the reputation of your establishment. This is bound to hurt your business as the majority of travelers consider online reviews before visiting certain places.

  • Lower Stakeholder Value

This can become pretty prominent if a bed bug infestation makes headlines or gets social media traction which can lead to lower stakeholder value as your business takes a hit which lowers the amount of people that visit it which in turn leads to lower hotel operating efficiency.

  • Increased Operational Expenses

Bed bug infestation can increase your establishment’s operational expenses due to negative publicity as well as the extra operational expenses that are required to treat the infestation and increase your establishment’s operating efficiency. A scenario of this can occur whereby you may find yourself with a lawsuit on your hands.

  • Cost of Replacement of Your Inventory

Bed bugs can cause some serious damage to your mattresses, sheets, towels and furniture. It is usually advised that you should replace your furniture and soft goods if a bed bug infestation gets out of control on your premises which can be pretty costly.

  • Lowers Your Customer Trust and Causes Loss of Income

Your guests will find it hard to trust your services and facilities again as they would have seen the online reports and testimonials and won’t want to take anymore chances with their health. This negative publicity can hurt your business and its income in the long-term so it is best to take the necessary preventative treatment in time.

  • Increases Medical Costs due to Allergic Reactions

Bed bugs are not usually considered dangerous but the effect of their bites can vary from small bite marks to itchy red welts to severe allergic reactions that need medical attention. Excessive scratching of the bite marks can lead to further inflammation.

The best way to avoid this is by hiring a trained and qualified workforce to regularly inspect your rooms along with timely pest control inspections. If you have a slight doubt about the presence of bed bugs in your hotel then investing in bed bug protection is the minimal cost that you should pay in comparison to what you would have to shell out if you have a full-fledged bed bug infestation. Don’t delay take bed bug precautions today!

Bedbugs found in Ryerson University classroom

By: Chris Herhalt, CP24.com

Ryerson University officials say they have relocated students from a classroom after several students spotted insects believed to be bedbugs roaming its desks.

Stefanie Phillips said she was taking notes at a lecture in classroom 205 in the Victoria building, located on the east side of Victoria Street, north of Dundas Street, on Feb. 22 when she felt something strange on her hand.

“I felt an itch on my hand, so I looked down and saw this tiny reddish brown beetle-type of bug. I flicked it off and looked around for more.”

She immediately got up, moved to the other side of the class and notified the school’s facilities department when her lecture was done.

Over the next four days, she said the bites led to swelling that spread across half of her hand.

“It was extremely irritating, definitely more irritating than any other bites I’ve had before,” Phillips said.

While the swelling eventually went away, Phillips said she was concerned about the bugs moving out of the classroom.

“I was concerned that I was going to bring these bugs back to my apartment. It was going to cause me a lot of stress at that point in the semester.”

She said that she is scheduled to return to the same classroom this Thursday, but school spokesperson Johanna VanderMaas said all classes have been relocated from that classroom and “the university is currently assessing the room in question.”

She said a dog trained to sniff out bed bugs will brought to the classroom to examine the desks. After that, the classroom will be sealed off and steamed to kill the bugs.

The trained dog will then be brought in for a second time to ensure there are no more insects alive in the room.

On Tuesday, CP24 reached out to Mike Cardaci of Just Bugs, a Toronto-based pest control operator, with images of the bugs found in classroom 205.

He called them “well-fed bedbugs,” and said the insects in the images were “easily identifiable.”

Brent Smyth was in the same classroom last December when he was bit by a bug.

“I killed one that bit me. Then I put it in a plastic bag gave it to my professor, who told me he was going to turn it over to the facilities department.”

He said students who attended class in that room would openly joke about finding the bugs on a regular basis.

Smyth said students would not sit in the back six rows of desks in the classroom, which holds approximately 60 students, to avoid getting bitten or unwittingly carrying them back to their homes.

Later, Smyth said his professor told him the problem had been taken care of, and he also heard that the school conducted a “spot-check” of the classroom on Mar. 9 and couldn’t find anything.

“We found them in two minutes of searching last night.”

Justin Chandler and Jacob Dubé, news editors with the student newspaper The Eyeopener, told CP24 that they collected a number of the tiny bugs from classroom 205 on Monday night.

“After we found these, we sent images of (the bugs) to exterminators and they all sent us back messages almost immediately saying yes, these are indeed bedbugs you have here,” Dubé told CP24. “We managed to get five separate exterminating firms to confirm with us that these were bedbugs.”

Ryerson University public affairs manager Johanna VanderMaas said the school is “in the process of confirming” whether the insects found in Victoria building are bedbugs.

Toronto Public Health spokesperson Tracy Leach said the city received an anonymous complaint about bedbugs in a Ryerson University classroom.

“We conducted a follow-up on March 12th with the Facility Manager of the property to ensure their awareness and response to the matter,” Leach said in an email.

She said the city investigates complaints about bedbugs in rental residential units to see if they represent a public health hazard.

“While Toronto Public Health does not typically investigate complaints related to private residences and buildings, we may provide general advice and guidance on pest control if requested or investigate further if a health hazard is identified.”

Bedbugs feed on the blood of most mammals in order to survive. They are often found in the cracks of matresses but can also make their way into items of furniture that humans regular sit or lean on, such as a chair, couch or a desk.

They are usually no larger than 4.5 millimetres across when fully fed and can become as thin as a piece of paper.


Information and Perspectives on Bed Bug Prevention, Protection and Safety

Bed Bug Blog Report

Information and Perspectives on Bed Bug Prevention, Protection and Safety

Bed Bug Blog

Information and Perspectives on Bed Bug Prevention, Protection and Safety

Information and Perspectives on Bed Bug Prevention, Protection and Safety