Ron Seybold's Viral Times

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Archive for the ‘Virus behavior’ Category

Panic and Fear Drive Ebola Virus Responses

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The world’s most deadly virus is infecting our populace with two dangerous diseases: fear and misunderstanding. First comes the misunderstanding. Ebola is not contagious until a person shows symptoms. One of those symptoms is fever, but fever can precede a more commonplace flu.

gowning healtcareBut people on aircraft who show signs of flu will now be asked to de-board, in some places. Not official policy, just someone being careful. Too much care. Everyone on a flight where an Ebola patient flew — one who had symptoms, but wasn’t detected — will be tested for the virus.

In Texas schools, children who show up with flu have trigged a closing of their schools in the days that follow.

Misunderstanding comes first, and fear follows. Finally, civil rights are removed.

The Ebola virus can only be contracted by contact with bodily fluids. Healthcare workers have elaborate protocols to follow. The CDC is making those protocols more severe. Hospitals don’t have the funding or staff to follow the protocols that are in place. More elaborate protocols will be harder to follow.

Hazmat suits are sold out in major cities in the US. The only people who need a hazmat suit are those in contact with Ebola victims who are fighting the virus. Healthcare workers. But the suits are being purchased by plenty of people who don’t work in healthcare.

Sold out hazmat suits: More evidence of fear, driven by misunderstanding. This is the kind of emotion that drove the Patriot Act, which founded the TSA, which now demands we remove our shoes. Unless the passenger is under 12. Honestly, wouldn’t a dedicated terrorist use a child anyway?

So in response to Ebola fears, airline traffic will decline over the next several months. Smaller airlines, or those in bad financial condition, will struggle when they miss ticket revenues in this busiest of travel seasons. Fear is the most common symptom of a viral infection. It spreads to everyone who does not understand how a virus works, or how to protect ourselves.

Getting a flu shot is more effective than buying a hazmat suit or skipping school or a flight. Last year 52,000 people died in the US due to flu. Ebola has killed one person in the US.

Written by Ron Seybold

October 20, 2014 at 12:47 pm

Climate changes will increase evolution of new flu strains

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A report from Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment says changing climate will affect the likelihood of contracting a new deadly strain of the flu. Never mind the heat — it’s the infection that will get you.

Migratory birds play a central role by giving a virus an additional opportunity to evolve

It’s the shifts between El Nino and La Nina weather that will wreak havoc with the bird migration patterns. Birds, migratory birds in particular, play a central role, by either passing a flu strain directly to humans (as in the case of H1N1) or indirectly via an intermediate host, giving the virus an additional opportunity to evolve.

The El Niño-La Niña oscillations cause significant changes in regional rainfall rates and wind patterns, which in turn affect the migration pattern of birds. And these shifts lead to different groups of of bird species coming into contact with each other in a given region, allowing for new strains of influenza to develop that eventually jump to humans.

In Viral Times, birds are an active transmission agent in the spread of the New Flu and other viruses. The dominant breeds of birds, especially starlings and crows, are among the deadliest of these agents.

The El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) refers to the state of the tropical Pacific Ocean as it sloshes back and forth, like water in a huge bathtub, west and east between Asia and the Americas. This movement affects temperatures and weather patterns worldwide.

One means to combat the infection might be to reduce use of fossil fuels. But after generations of burning coal and oil, it might be too late to reverse the Nino-Nina bathtub slosh effects. It’s back to our firewall of protection against viruses: natural immunity.

Written by Ron Seybold

May 2, 2012 at 4:44 pm

A Kindness Virus, and H5N1’s Flaws

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Viruses exhibit legendary behavior, especially in the power of their ability to spread. It’s one reason why something that spreads without any barriers is said to have “gone viral.” Now there’s a website that’s devoted to the concept of kindness spreading like a virus.

Good Virus has a 2-minute movie that leads you into a site that’s devoted to the mission of revealing kindness as an essential human element. We’re all infected with it.

The purpose of Good Virus is: 1) to illustrate that—contrary to what you may see, hear and read in the news—kindness is all around us (THE GOOD) and 2), to inspire people to spread that kindness (THE VIRUS). Good Virus is all about the small things, tiny acts of kindness that don’t cost a lot of money or oblige praise. The essential premise of this project is that many small acts of kindness may make more of a difference than a few big ones.

In Viral Times, one unstoppable defense against disease is love. Love breeds faith, and any faith in immunity raises the level of natural immune system defenses. A wide range of other healing arts are needed to survive a pandemic. But inducing kindness is simpler than raising the level of T-cells. Plus, the former can lead to the latter: meditation for example, shown to be an element in the increase of immunity.

If there’s a learning curve to spread the virus of kindness, nature compensates with a few barriers for disease viruses. There are natural flaws that a biological virus can exhibit in spreading. Scientists report that H1N1 doesn’t spread as effectively as a flu virus. From the journal Science we learn that aerosol transmission hasn’t been a feature of “bird flu,” the root of H5N1. Good thing.

A distinctive feature of avian influenza viruses in general, and H5N1 viruses in particular, is that they are incapable of being transmitted among humans by aerosol. Because pandemic influenza strains originated in avian influenza viruses, it can be argued that past pandemic influenza viruses were once avian influenza viruses that “learned” how to jump to and transmit by aerosol in humans.

The New Flu in Viral Times is a precursor to other disease. Nothing is more effective than the flu in propagating itself. Good Virus’s film states that scientists believe kindness spreads like a flu virus, however. So go spread a virus.

Written by Ron Seybold

March 5, 2012 at 3:22 pm

Humans wait at the end of the virus growth chain

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Flu has been with humans for thousands of years, but the rise of arboviruses sparks an era of desperate disease, a battle we are losing. These arboviruses—named after the arthropod mosquitoes, fleas and ticks bearing them—have skipped the virus trademark of preserving a human host. The arboviruses prefer reservoir hosts, birds which don’t catch the virus and only carry it. They enter the bird, whose blood kicks up the virulence a notch. The bird then offers up a more deadly virus to the bug’s next vector, the mosquito. Once a human is infected, the virulence is turned up beyond our natural immunity. This is one spark that heats up the world of 2018, when the trouble begins in Viral Times.

Written by Ron Seybold

December 27, 2011 at 2:12 pm

Posted in Virus behavior

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A drug can kill viruses, in 10 years

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Todd Rider

26, and with 4 MIT degrees

Todd Rider, a scientist at defense-funded Lincoln Laboratories, has moved on from detecting viruses to destroying them. It will be 10 years, by some estimates, before a human version is ready to sell. But a viral pandemic might accelerate that process. Right now he’s testing it on mice. From BusinessWeek:

He describes in the recent journal article a new drug, still under development, which he has successfully used to destroy 15 viral strains, including dengue fever, a stomach virus, and a polio virus. To create it, Rider combined two proteins commonly found in the human body. One binds to viral double-stranded ribonucleic acid, a type of molecule found in all viruses. The other induces apoptosis, which is essentially programmed cell suicide. The drug acts like a homing missile that seeks out and kills cells infected by a virus. It appears to have few negative consequences and works against all diseases, even as they mutate. “Most viruses kill the host cells anyway. They are like aliens in a movie,” says Rider.

Written by Ron Seybold

November 9, 2011 at 3:28 pm

Posted in Vaccines, Virus behavior

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H1N1 drives deep into the lungs to kill

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Even while a vaccine for H1N1 becomes far more available, doctors are discovering the virus creates infections far deeper in the lungs than seasonal flus.

The pattern of infection among the tiny percentage of people who have died from the virus mirrors the infection methods in the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918, according to a report on CNN. The story also describes how someone dies from H1N1 infection. Their lungs cease to function well enough to give the victim sufficient air.

“Generally, flu stays in the upper airways,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “What this shows is clearly this virus has capability of infecting and causing inflammation and destruction of cells from the trachea, all the way down into smaller cells of the lungs. “The cells of the lung get directly attacked by the virus,” said Fauci.”

Nine out of every 10 people who have died from H1N1 have “underlying conditions” that are pushed into critical status by losing respiratory function. Like a profiler on a CSI episode, the medical community is trying to match conditions to deaths. 72 percent of those who have died had obesity in their profile.

Vanderbilt University researcher Dr. William Schaffner, professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the university’s School of Medicine, was surprised by the H1N1 fatality-obesity connection.

“That was a striking finding,” said Schaffner. “It contributes in a very material way to what we know about risks for a severe outcome with H1N1 infection. We are keeping an eye on obesity as a risk factor for H1N1 death.”

Written by Ron Seybold

December 9, 2009 at 11:56 am

Posted in Virus behavior

Viruses shape shift, says National Institute of Health

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There’s nothing like discovering that a sub-microscopic organism is smarter than pharmaceutical science. TV news reported this week that the H1N1 virus is probably already evading the Swine Flu Vaccine (SFV) which the government has rushed to anxious, uninfected people in the US.

The SFV never had a chance of stopping the flu. Scientists are talking about antigenic drift, now that people are interested in how viruses evolve. The drift takes place as a virus moves through hosts (that’s you and me), changing its proteins to evade antibodies that could kill it. At least that’s what scientists think happens. They’re not sure.

“No one is sure exactly how the antigenic drift of flu viruses happens in people,” says Dr. Jonathan Yewdell. He wrote a paper with two other experts that was published in Science, but at the moment the only hard evidence comes from testing mice with a virus from 1934. The National Institute of Health reports on the leading theory at its Web site.

According to the prevailing theory, drift occurs as the virus is passed from person to person and is exposed to differing antibody attacks at each stop. With varying success, antibodies recognize one or more of the four antigenic regions in hemagglutinin, the major outer coat protein of the flu virus. Antibodies in person A, for example, may mount an attack in which antibodies focus on a single antigenic region. Mutant viruses that arise in person A can escape antibodies by replacing one critical amino acid in this antigen region. These mutant viruses survive, multiply and are passed to person B, where the process is repeated.

These escape artists have been drifting for thousands of years. Pharmaceutical research creates a flu vaccine every year before the drift occurs. If enough people catch and then transmit a flu, the virus is well on its way to changing its shape — so only your natural immunity can hope to neutralize an organism that makes you ill once you breathe it in.

Written by Ron Seybold

October 30, 2009 at 6:08 pm

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