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Bacteria that causes rare tropical disease found in US soil

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(Last Updated On: July 29, 2022)

A germ that causes a rare and sometimes deadly disease — long thought to be confined to tropical climates — has been found in soil and water in the continental United States, U.S. health officials said Wednesday.

The bacteria was found on the property of a Mississippi man who had come down with the disease, melioidosis. Officials don’t know how long it had been there, but they say it likely is occurring in other areas along the Gulf Coast, AP reported.

U.S. physicians should consider melioidosis even in patients who haven’t traveled to other countries, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a health alert.

“Once it’s in the soil, it can be a health threat for people in the area,” said the CDC’s Julia Petras, who oversaw the investigation.

The illness can start with a wide range of symptoms like fever, joint pain and headaches. It’s treatable with the right antibiotics if it’s caught early, but it can lead to pneumonia, blood infections and even death if not properly treated.

About 12 cases are reported annually in the U.S. The vast majority have been in people who traveled to places where the bacteria is endemic, including certain regions of Australia, Thailand, and Central and South America.

People can get the illness through direct contact with contaminated soil and water, especially if they have a cut on their hand or foot. It is also possible to inhale the bacteria.

The bacteria may not bother healthy people. But it can be dangerous to those with diabetes, chronic kidney or lung disease and weakened immune systems, AP reported.

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US and Britain roll out campaigns after poliovirus detected in water samples

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(Last Updated On: August 14, 2022)

The detection of poliovirus in wastewater samples from New York and London has sparked fears of a possible public health crisis but health experts in the United States believe that the virus is unlikely to secure widespread transmission in the country, especially in highly vaccinated areas.

Medical Daily reported that the US declared the eradication of poliovirus in September 1994, and not many people are aware of the disease it causes and its symptoms at present. There is also limited awareness on how it spreads.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), poliovirus spreads through person-to-person contact and other ways, such as the oral-fecal route and droplets.

Poliovirus is so contagious it can contaminate food and water in unsanitary conditions. Transmission is inevitable when a person makes contact with the feces from an infected person while infection via droplets from a sneeze or cough is less common, Medical Daily reported.

The CDC noted that an infected person could spread the virus almost immediately before and up to two weeks after the symptoms of the disease appear. Once the virus enters the mouth, it can stay in the intestines for many weeks. Asymptomatic people can still pass the virus to other people and make them sick, the report read.

Last month, the US reported its first case of polio in almost a decade.

Meanwhile, Britain rolled out urgent polio vaccinations this week for all London-based children below 10 after the discovery of polio traces in sewage samples across several London boroughs. The move was made after the detection of polio in wastewater samples from New York, London and even Israel sparked fears of a wider outbreak.

Among the symptoms of polio, paralysis is the one most commonly associated with the disease since it can lead to permanent disability or even death. Scientific data showed between 2 and 10 out of 200 infected people develop paralysis and die because the virus can significantly impact the muscles used for breathing.

Since there is no cure or specific treatment for paralytic polio, patients rely on long-term physical or occupational therapy to help them with arm or leg weakness.

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Pakistani doctors treat 3,764 Afghan patients at free eye clinic in Kabul

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(Last Updated On: August 12, 2022)

A team of Pakistani ophthalmologists examined a total of 3,764 Afghan patients at a four-day free eye clinic at Noor Hospital in Kabul this past week.

The free clinic was organized by an 11-member team of Pakistani doctors in collaboration with the Pak-Afghan Cooperation Forum, Al Khidmat Foundation, and Afghan Ministry of Public Health.

The Pakistani doctors performed a total of 516 surgeries. These included 482 cataract surgeries, 22 oculoplastic surgeries and 12 vitreoretinal surgeries.

Dr. Zahir Gul Zadran, head of Noor Hospital, thanked the organizers for their support and said: “These doctors have also brought medical equipment to this hospital for the treatment of patients, the value of which is about Rs 2.4 million lakhs ($10 million).

Zadran said this was the second time that these doctors visited Noor Hospital to treat Afghan patients.

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New Langya virus infects 35 people in China

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(Last Updated On: August 10, 2022)

A new virus, which can be transmitted to humans from animals, has infected 35 people in Shandong and Henan provinces, according to a study by scientists from China, Singapore and Australia published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

So far, there has been no evidence of human-to-human transmission.

The Henipavirus (also called Langya henipavirus or LayV) was first detected in late 2018 but was only formally identified by scientists last week, the Guardian reported.

It was discovered  thanks to an early detection system for feverish people with a recent history of exposure to animals, Bloomberg reported.

The virus was found after throat swabs were taken from the patients who were mostly farmers.

The virus is entirely novel, meaning it has not infected humans before.

But two viruses from the same family had been identified previously – the Hendra virus and Nipah virus. Both can cause severe and sometimes fatal illnesses. There are no vaccines or treatments, The Sun reported.

So far, the cases have not been fatal or very serious, so there is no need for panic, said Professor Wang Linfa from the Emerging Infectious Diseases Programme at Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore who was involved in the study.

He added that it is still a cause for alarm as many viruses that exist in nature have unpredictable results when they infect humans.

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