Date: Sat, 1 Jan 2000 08:50:55 -0500 (EST)
From: ProMED-mail <>
Source: M2 Communications

Frozen bodies on Spitsbergen, Norway found to contain 1920s virus British scientists have managed to isolate the virus behind the 1918 influenza. The virus was isolated from the bodies of victims that had been buried in the eternal frost on Spitsbergen, Norway. Traces of the virus was also found in the brains of the dead, which may eventually give a link between the influenza and "sleepy sickness", encephalitis lethargica, a disease that put the sufferers into long-lasting comas in the 1920s, researchers hope.
The victims were coal miners and researchers had been hoping that the frozen state of the bodies would have also preserved the virus.
[Apparently the report refers to PCR detection of RNA fragments from partly frozen human remains, rather than viral isolations. It will be interesting to read the published reports, which were presented recently at a European conference. The "sleepy sickness" referred to is encephalitis lethargica (von Economo disease), a pandemic encephalitis of unknown etiology that occurred at around the same time as the 1918-1919 influenza pandemic. Some scientists have linked the encephalitis epidemic, which produced a large age cohort of post-encephalitic parkinsonism, to influenza, largely based on temporal and anecdotal data. For example, it was argued by Ravenholt and Foege (Lancet 1982;2:860-864) that encephalitis lethargica DID NOT occur in the blockaded parts of Samoa which were untouched by pandemic influenza in 1918-1919, but DID occur in the islands that were not blockaded and therefore experienced epidemic influenza. However, the association has recently been called into question by Taubenberger and colleagues (American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, annual meeting, December 1999), who found no evidence of influenza gene fragments in autopsy specimens from acute and post-onset tissue samples from patients with encephalitis lethargica. This and much else about the 1918 H1N1 strain remains in question, including the basis of its pathogenecity and its association with high mortality in healthy young adults. It is likely that in the next few years much of the story will be gradually pieced together.
In order to get PCR positives from old and possibly degraded tissues the labs may sequence short genome segments. By sequencing multiple different short sequences they can try to reconstruct what the whole genome, or just the HA (hemagglutinin) gene, looks like.
The reason all of this is important is that it holds the secret to whatever it was about the 1918 virus that made it so deadly. So far no one has reported anything that would suggest a virulence mutation, but it is hoped that the key to what happened in 1918 lies somewhere in the sequence of the HA, and/or in any of the other 7 influenza virus genome segments.

David Morens, M.D., Influenza Rapporteur
National Institutes of Health, USA

A ProMED-mail post
[We regret that this posting was delayed by an exchange of messages relating to the location of the new data on the EARSS website. That location is indicated below. - Mod.ES]
Date: Mon, 6 Dec 1999 14:49:42 +0100
I would like to inform you on the progress made by the European
Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance System (EARSS). The Report on Feasibility Phase EARSS? was just released providing the first results. The report [may be downloaded] from the web site: [The new data may be found in Chapter 3 of the "Report on the Feasibility Phase of EARSS".]
About EARSS: Antimicrobial resistance is an emerging problem. To obtain more comparable and reliable resistance data, the European Commission has funded EARSS. This system, in which all EU Member States participate, is coordinated by the RIVM (National Institute of Public Health and the Environment, the Netherlands). EARSS is an international network of national surveillance systems, which aims to aggregate comparable and reliable antimicrobial resistance data for public health action. Taking into account laboratory methods as well as epidemiological principles, EARSS provides incidence figures and trends in antimicrobial resistance, describes regional differences and gives electronic feedback, providing basic data to stimulate specific studies to assess risk factors. For the feasibility study of 18 months (April , 1998-September, 1999), microbiologists and epidemiologists decided to collect resistance data on Streptococcus pneumoniae_ and _Staphylococcus aureus_; more pathogens will be added later.
So far Over 400 labs participate in EARSS and send data via national coordinators to the central EARSS database at RIVM. In the Report on Feasibility Phase EARSS, preliminary results of the survey on susceptibility testing methods and the first susceptibility test results are described. The catchment populati on of the laboratories that participate in EARSS is about 60 000 000, which is almost one third of the total number of inhabitants in the countries concerned. The labs serve 450 hospitals, mainly general hospitals (76%) but also academic tertiary hospitals (20%) and nursing homes (4%). Data on about 14 000 isolates of _S. aureus_ from blood and on about 6000 invasive isolates of _S. pneumoniae_ are expected yearly. At the end of the feasibility phase, labs from 12 countries (Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg , Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden, United Kingdom) are sending data. In the table below the period (3rd Quarter) in which the test results for _S. aureus_ were collected as well as the number of labs that sent data and the total number of isolates is given. The proportion of MRSA was calculated for the different countries. All _S. aureus_ isolates that were resistant or intermediate resistant to methicillin or oxacillin were considered as MRSA.
In the report the findings of the feasibility phase are discussed. Main conclusions are that EARSS is needed and feasible, and that it is essential that it is a continuous system with on-going funding. Expanding the number of pathogens under surveillance is desirable as soon as the data processing has become easier. EARSS is already acting as a catalyst for national surveillance systems, for example in Ireland. See also article in Eurosurveillance Weekly, issue 45, 4 November: Development of a strategy to combat antimicrobial resistance in Ireland The report is being distributed to all participating laboratories and [may also be downloaded] from the EARSS website.
For more information see the EARSS website, contact the project coordinator, or a national coordinator in your country by means of the e-mail addresses you find on the web site.
S. Bronzwaer, MD (project coordinator)
National Institute of Public Health and the Environment
Department of Infectious Diseases Epidemiology
P.O. Box 1
3720 BA Bilthoven, the Netherlands
All participating countries have national coordinators that enrol
laboratories and coordinate data collection.
Austria H. Mittermayer / W. Koller
Belgium H. Goossens / F. Loock
Denmark T. Soerensen / D. Monnet
Finland P. Huovinen / O. Lyytik=E4inen
France P. Courvalin / H. Aubry-Damon
Germany W. Witte / F. Tieman
Greece N. Legakis / A. Vatopoulos
Iceland K. Kristinsson / H. Briem
Ireland L. Fenelon / D. O` Flanagan
Italy G. Cornaglia / M. Moro
Luxembourg R. Hemmer
Netherlands H. de Neeling / W. Goettsch
Norway E. Hoiby / P. Aavitsland
Portugal M. Cania / M. Paixao
Spain F. Baquero / J. Campos
Sweden O. Cars / B. Olsson-Liljequist
United Kingdom A. Johnson / M. Wale
Collaborators: WHO R.Williams
ESCMID I. Phillips / M. Struelens
- --
Irene Veldhuijzen
EARSS project epidemiologist
Department of Infectious Diseases Epidemiology
National Institute of Public health and the Environment
P.O. Box 1, 3720 BA Bilthoven, The Netherlands

Date: Fri, 7 Jan 2000 13:12:16 -0500 (EST)
From: ProMED-mail <>
Source: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Two bald eagles have died recently on Lake Ouachita, one from
the mysterious disease that has killed 60 eagles in Arkansas since 1994, officials said Wednesday.
Both adult males were found near the shore -- one 7 Dec 1999
near Buckville on the north side and the other 29 Dec 1999 near
Crystal Springs on the south. They were found "pretty much straight  across" from each other on the 48 300-acre lake, Joe Mosby, a spokesman for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, said.
Dr. Kimberli Miller of the National Wildlife Health Center at  Madison, Wis., said the eagle found 7 Dec 1999 died of avian vacuolar myelinopathy (AVM). The disease was formerly known as  coot and eagle brain lesion syndrome, which caused the earlier  eagle deaths in Arkansas.
The second carcass is being tested. While the bird had no visible
wounds, Mosby said, "It'll be a few days before we get the lab results from Wisconsin. Thus far the only known eagle deaths this  winter have occurred at Lake Ouachita, but they have found some coots at DeGray Lake with AVM."
Coots are a small duck-like member of the rail family and a favorite food of wintering bald eagles in Arkansas. The birds generally migrate to Arkansas from Canada and the upper Midwest during the fall and return north in the spring.
The first eagle to die in Arkansas of the mysterious disease, which affects the bird's brain and neurological system, was found Thanksgiving Day of 1994 at DeGray Lake about 25 miles from Lake Ouachita. Dozens more died that winter on DeGray Lake in what became the largest bald eagle die-off in U.S. history.
One eagle was found dead at Lake Ouachita in the winter of 1995-96, but avian vacuolar myelinopathy could not be confirmed as the cause. In a second outbreak during the winter of 1996-97, eagles were found dead at DeGray, Ouachita and nearby Lake Hamilton. A few died in 1997-98.
Intensive investigations and research began after the 1994-95
deaths, but scientists have failed to determine how the birds
contract the disease. Mosby said a number of eagles and coots
and one mallard have been found dead from the disease in
Georgia, North & South Carolina.
Scientists again are gathering information and observing bird
activity at DeGray Lake, where hundreds of coots and several
eagles have been trapped, banded and released during the past
two winters.
[The disease affects the brain and spinal cord by damaging the
myelin sheath insulating the nerve fibers. It is diagnosed by
microscopic examination of very fresh brain and spinal cord tissue.
Dr. Nancy Thomas, the USGS (United State Geological Survey)
pathologist, first described the lesion. In affected birds the disease appears as open spaces in the white matter of the brain.
When the coating surrounding the myelin is damaged,
communication in the nervous system is impaired, causing a bird to become uncoordinated or paralyzed. Lesions have been
confirmed in a North Carolina mallard and ring-necked duck, and a Strom Thurmond Lake bald eagle.
Afflicted birds typically fly erratically or are unable to fly; they may crash land, swim tipped to one side with one or both legs or wings extended, or be in the water on their backs with their feet in the air.
On land birds appear intoxicated -- they stagger and have difficulty walking and may fall over and be unable to right themselves. Affected birds, however, are usually alert and may still bite when handled.
Avian Vacuolar Myelinopathy (AVM) interagency website:
AVM, formerly known as Coot and Eagle Brain Lesion Syndrome
(CEBLS), is an avian disease believed to be caused by a
neurotoxin of unknown origin. It causes lesions (open spaces) in
the white matter of the brain and in the spinal cord of affected birds.
Dead AVM birds appear to be in good body condition and have no visible external or internal changes with the exception of
microscopic neural lesions. Microscopy is used to confirm the
disease in new species and at new locations. A naturally occurring or man-made toxin is the most probable cause of the lesions. Tests for a wide range of known toxins such as pesticides and heavy metals have resulted in no significant findings.
Chemicals known to create a similar lesion include triethyl tin,
bromethylene and extracts from toxic plants that grow in Africa and Australia, but tests for these compounds have been negative. There has also been no evidence of infectious disease caused by viruses, bacteria or prions (mad cow-type disease).
Despite extensive testing the cause of the disease and the route of exposure is still unknown. USGS pathologists have tested the
tissues of dead birds for bacteria, viruses, and parasites and none have been found. In humans and other mammals, similar lesions have been associated with genetic disorders, certain types of chemicals or toxic plants. Tests for these chemicals in the affected birds have been negative or inconclusive. - Mod.TG]

Date: Tue, 11 Jan 2000 08:41:56 -0500 (EST)
From: ProMED-mail <>
Source: New York Times

Donna Jenks first noticed dead fish under her dock on Lake Pocotopaug. Other residents of East Hampton, Connecticut, saw live fish jostling up a tributary to escape the lake.
As thousands of dead fish washed up on the lake's rocky shore last week, and calls poured in to the state Department of Environmental Protection, (DEP) state officials gathered lakeside over the weekend to try to unravel the mystery.
The fish kill has affected every type and size of fish in the 510-acre natural lake, the state's largest. White perch, the most-abundant species, was the most affected species, officials said.
Initial tests failed to produce answers. "This is unprecedented in the state of Connecticut," said David Leff, deputy commissioner for the agency [DEP]. "So far, the only thing the fish have in common is mucus and irritation of the gills, which will send the fish biologists looking for various causes."
A winter fish kill is even more confounding. "This time of year, the water is cool, and there is plenty of oxygen in it," Mr. Leff said, "and you wouldn't expect to see a fish die-off."
William A. O'Neill, the former governor, who has lived by the lake for years, described a watery graveyard. "There are many dead fish, thousands. Others are lying in the water very sluggishly and don't even swim away if you throw a pebble.There are no septic systems anywhere near the lake, no industry creating pollution nearby, and that is part of the mystery," he said. The lake has long attracted fishermen and is widely viewed as clean.
Officials are running a battery of tests, screening for pollutants, and natural killers like algae, bacteria and parasites. They are also checking the water's temperature, oxygen and pH levels, and have called in federal researchers at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Marine Fisheries Service. The typical causes of fish kill do not appear to be responsible, state officials said.
An infectious disease, for example, usually will affect only one or two species, or cause some deaths among other animals. "The seagulls have been devouring a lot of the dead fish, which has been helping with cleanup," Mr. Leff said, "and there has been no adverse effect on them."

Date: Tue, 11 Jan 2000 08:41:57 -0500 (EST)
From: ProMED-mail <>

Source: Ha'aretz Daily Newspaper - English Internet Edition, Israel
From lab tests conducted by the Health Ministry following the infant's death, it has been discovered that it is an intestinal virus, but the exact type is not yet known.
Ministry looks for clues to lethal virus in Jerusalem water supply
By Haim Shadmi, Ha'aretz Correspondent
The Health Ministry is examining the possibility that the intestinal virus that caused the death of a 5-month old baby in Jerusalem last week may be in the drinking water used in northern Jerusalem. Yesterday, a Health Ministry mobile laboratory unit for the study of contaminants from Tel Hashomer Sheba hospital took water samples for examination.
Last weekend another baby died, this time in the settlement of Nokdim, south of Jerusalem. The Health Ministry is investigating whether this case is in any way related to the previous one. The baby in Nokdim died of respiratory distress. He was admitted to Bikur Holim hospital in Jerusalem, and then discharged, following which he died at home.
The death of a yet another infant, an 8-month old who died two and a half weeks ago and who attended the same day-care center in Neveh Yaakov as one of the other babies that died, is also being examined. In all, 5 babies have died in the Jerusalem area in the last month.
Professional Health Ministry sources said yesterday that it was possible that the source of the virus is in the Jerusalem water supply, and that as of now this is the only possibility being considered. At a ministry meeting, it was also reported that the number of infants currently suffering from vomiting, diarrhea and fever -- the same symptoms that struck the babies that died -- is 5-6 times higher than normal. Five other children have been admitted to hospitals in Jerusalem suffering from vomiting, diarrhea and rapid heartbeats. Two other infants admitted to Hadassah Hospital on Friday were diagnosed as having an infection of the heart muscle, the same complication that caused the death of the infant who died from the virus.
The Health Ministry sources admitted that the ministry is having difficulty identifying the virus. From lab tests conducted by the Health Ministry following the infant's death, it has been discovered that it is an intestinal virus, but the exact type is not yet known. The possibility that the 2 infants from the Neveh Yaakov daycare center were infected at their HMO healthy baby clinic has been ruled out at this point. The lab tests conducted at Tel Hashomer showed that other infants in the daycare center also carry the virus.
Epidemiologists point out that this winter is particularly bad in terms of the incidence and severity of illnesses in general. They added that it is not yet known if the infant deaths in Jerusalem have a common cause or whether they were caused by unrelated factors.
The combination of intestinal virus & heart muscle infection recalls the enterovirus 71 (EV71) & Coxsackie infections that killed infants in Malaysia & Taiwan.
Those were in connection with summer epidemics of hand-foot-&-mouth disease in children, but no such epidemic is noted in this report, & it is winter in Israel. - Mod.JW

Date: Tue, 11 Jan 2000 20:02:03 -0500 (EST)
From: ProMED-mail <>
Source: Reuters

The World Health Organisation (WHO) in Geneva says: "This is a smart virus. The virus is always ahead of us and whatever we do it will always be around,'' said Dr Daniel Lavanchy, WHO's coordinator of epidemic disease response.
The crisis has been caused by a virulent strain of the bug known as Australian flu or Sydney H3N2. WHO experts correctly predicted the Sydney strain was the one to fear this year. But Lavanchy complained: "Immunisation campaigns have not achieved their targets in many, many countries. The target groups are not well covered with a few exceptions like France. Europe and North America are in the grip of an epidemic.''
Mortality rates cannot be accurately calculated for up to two years after an epidemic. But officials stress the latest wave of flu is still a far cry from the 1918, 1957 and 1968 pandemics that killed millions around the globe.
UNITED STATES: THE Centre for Disease Control and Prevention said flu usually kills about 20 000 people a year in the United States. Although it may seem that nearly every American has come down with a case of the flu, medical experts stress that a serious epidemic is not underway there.
But, ironically, two newly approved flu drugs could be helping to spread influenza by inadvertently discouraging people from getting the flu vaccine.
Tamiflu is a pill made by Swiss drug company Roche Holdings AG (ROCZg.S), while Relenza, made by Glaxo Wellcome Plc (GLXO.L), is inhaled. Both reduce flu symptoms by one day on average.
CHINA: the world's most populous nations, is reaping rich rewards from an ambitious vaccination programme. A Ministry of Public Health spokeswoman said the campaign had produced "good results.'' Many people, especially the old, lined up at Beijing hospitals for the flu shot.
ITALY: Two million Italians are reportedly suffering from flu with 250 000 new cases each week. This is the third consecutive week in which the number of flu sufferers in Italian hospitals has increased.
SWITZERLAND: Georg Amstutz, a spokesman at the Swiss federal department of health, said the number of influenza cases in the Alpine state could be classified as an epidemic and was approaching record numbers.
NORWAY: Oslo's main Ullevaal hospital is hiring extra nurses from nearby Denmark and delaying non-emergency treatment because beds are filled with influenza sufferers.
FRANCE: Antoine Flahault, research doctor at France's National Institute of Health and Medical Research, INSERM, said: "At this stage the epidemic most resembles 1989 that involved 5 million people in 13 weeks."
CZECH REPUBLIC: Many hospitals have banned visitors in an attempt to halt the spread of the virus.
SWEDEN: Professor Annika Linde from the Infectious Diseases Protection Institute said the situation was very serious with hospitals overcrowded with flu patients and battling staff shortages.
UNITED KINGDOM: Health Secretary Alan Milburn told parliament "There can hardly be a family in the land that has not been affected by the flu.'' One in 500 people are gripped by the virus and worse is to come.


LONG BEACH, California, January 11, 2000 (ENS)

Earth scientists fromaround the country are presenting climate change research this week at the80th Annual Meeting of the American Meteorological Society. Conference attendees are taking a close look at how new technologies and innovative models can provide a clearer picture of the effects of global warming in the new millennium.
For full text and graphics visit:

By Cat Lazaroff
WASHINGTON, DC, January 12, 2000 (ENS)

On March 1, the United States will turn over management of eight nuclear weapons laboratories to a brand new federal agency. The new National Nuclear Security Administration, created in response to heightened concerns over the security of the nation's nuclear weapons program, will occupy a prickly middle ground between national security and post Cold War transparency.
For full text and graphics visit:


According to The Terrorism Research Center, DoD announced plans to form 17 more Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Teams, bringing the total nationwide to 27. The new teams will be based in Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Virginia. They will come on line in 2001, between March and July. The first 10 designated teams are completing training and are scheduled to come on line in April 2000 in Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, California, Massachusetts, Missouri, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas and Washington. The teams consist of 22 full-time members of the Army or Air National Guard.  The units have two major pieces of equipment: a mobile analytical lab and a mobile communications facility. The first allows the teams to identify chemical and biological agents in the field. The second allows the team to coordinate communications among the first responders and all other areas.

January 13, 2000
Corporate Watch's Parent Organization, TRAC, Releases a New Report on "Climate Justice"
The report, "Greenhouse Gangsters vs. Climate Justice," reveals that:
Just five giant oil companies account for 10% of all carbon emissions contributing to global warming.
These same companies-Shell, Exxon-Mobil, BP-Amoco-Arco, Chevron and Texaco-- are also top polluters in local communities throughout the US and around the world.
The report also documents how "the most powerful industry in the world" violates human rights from Burma to Ecuador to Nigeria.
The authors put forward a vision of "climate justice," in which poor communities do not bear the brunt of curbing global warming.

WASHINGTON, DC, January 14, 2000 (ENS)

The warming of the Earth's surface is "undoubtedly real," according to the findings of researchers studying the issue under the auspices of the National Academies of Sciences. Surface temperatures in the past two decades have risen at a rate substantially greater than average for the past 100 years, says a new report by the National Research Council of the National Academies.

For full text and graphics visit:

WASHINGTON, DC, January 18, 2000 (ENS)

Pay attention: the Earth is in trouble. In the United States and elsewhere, the wonders of the Information Age fill our senses with amazing new inventions and innovations. But hidden in the background noise, a growing list of environmental catastrophes is approaching - and the pace is picking up.

For full text and graphics visit:

Date: Tue, 18 Jan 2000 21:32:18 -0500 (EST)
From: ProMED-mail <>

Signs of an outbreak of citrus canker, a plant disease that threatens Florida's multibillion-dollar fruit industry, have reached 10 commercial groves in Miami-Dade County.
"It might have the possibility of wiping out the whole lime industry down here," said Alcedes Acosta, owner of Acosta Farms in the southern part of the county. Two of his groves are affected, and the trees may have to be bulldozed and burned.
Eating infected fruit does not make people sick, but the bacteria make citrus unsightly and unmarketable. There is also risk that other countries would stop importing Florida fruits for fear their crops would catch the disease.
More than 110 Florida Department of Agriculture inspectors were sent to examine lime trees in the area for signs of the disease.
"We're hoping we caught it early enough to get it in check," said Ken Bailey, director of the state Citrus Canker Eradication Project. "This is one of the most serious problems that any citrus industry can face."
The area has more than 3,000 acres of lime trees, the only citrus grown commercially in the area.
Since there is no cure for citrus canker, the main containment method is removal of infected trees and nearby trees, and a quarantine to limit and control distribution of fruit from infected areas.
Land where groves have been removed must lie bare for a minimum of two years. Once groves are replanted, it takes at least four years before new trees will produce fruit.
Last February, the bacteria was reported about 50 miles from the nearest commercial grove. Authorities said then the highly contagious bacteria was detected in the Miami area in 1995.

Date: Tue, 18 Jan 2000 22:16:42 -0500 (EST)
From: ProMED-mail <>

Talking to colleagues, we seem to have had an enormous surge in meningococcal disease in UK. We've certainly seen a few, but other colleagues seem to have seen really large numbers. Presumably the outbreak of flu-like illness (some of which may even be true influenza) plays a part in this. Possibly the social mixing over the holiday period also contributed - we seem to have seen temporal clustering of cases in the first week of January.

- --
Peter English
Consultant in Communicable Disease Control
Surrey, UK

By Cat Lazaroff
WASHINGTON, DC, January 19, 2000 (ENS)

Glaciers are melting. Where once snow fell, now only rain pounds down. Storm systems driven by tropical heatwaves are getting stronger, and more deadly. Increasing amounts of greenhouse gases are being pumped into the atmosphere, and as a result,
temperatures around the globe are rising.

For full text and graphics visit:

WASHINGTON, DC, January 19, 2000 (ENS)

The White House said Tuesday it will challenge the European Union over its new requirement outlawing hush kits on older aircraft. Hush kits are engine mufflers used to reduce noise and  air pollution from outdated engines.

For full text and graphics visit:

By Cat Lazaroff
WASHINGTON, DC, January 19, 2000 (ENS)

Glaciers are melting. Where once snow fell, now only rain pounds down. Storm systems driven by tropical heatwaves are getting stronger, and more deadly. Increasing amounts of greenhouse gases are being pumped into the atmosphere, and as a result,temperatures around the globe are rising.

For full text and graphics visit:

WASHINGTON, DC, January 19, 2000 (ENS)

To address climate change and promote the transfer of finance and climate friendly technology to developing countries, the World Bank has launched the Prototype Carbon Fund (PCF), the world's first international market based emissions trading mechanism.

For full text and graphics visit:

WASHINGTON, DC, January 20, 2000 (ENS)

Today President Bill Clinton, in a display of his strongly favorable attitude towards biotechnology, proclaimed January National Biotechnology Month.

For full text and graphics visit:

Date: Thu, 20 Jan 2000 20:30:02 -0500 (EST)
From: ProMED-mail <>

[We had requested from Antti Vaheri an up-date on Puumala virus infections in Finland. This hantavirus is the etiologic agent of nephropathia epidemica, a milder form of hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome than that cuased by Hantaan virus. Antti and Olli Vapalahti were kind enough to send the following update. - Mod.CHC]
The year 1999 yielded a record number of hantavirus (Puumala virus; PUUV) infections in Finland, with altogether 2270 serologically verified cases, more than double the annual average (957). With a population of 5.2 million in Finland, the average incidence for the whole country is 19/100 000, while in 1999 this was 44/100 000. The mortality is less than 0.1%. The high incidence of 1999 is due to the countrywide abundance of the carrier rodent, _Clethrionomys glareolus_ (bank vole), which has in northernmost Europe a (three to) four-year cyclicity with often two consecutive peak years. However, usually different regions of Finland are in different phases of this periodicity, one year epidemic occurring e.g. in the eastern part and another year in the western part of the country. Exceptionally, in 1999 the bank vole populations were high all over the country; however, with a population crash ahead in the east and another, even higher peak forecasted for the west. The highest incidence, over 200, was recorded in the Ita-Savo province of Eastern Finland. The bank vole populations are highest in the autumn and early winter and lowest in the spring, and the number of PUUV infections reflect this fluctuation.
Olli Vapalahti and Antti Vaheri
Department of Virology
Haartman Institute
University of Helsinki
- --
Antti Vaheri, MD, PhD
Professor and Chairman
Haartman Institute
POB 21, FIN-00014 University of Helsinki, Finland

ATHENS, Georgia, January 21, 2000 (ENS)

Newly discovered infectious diseases in wildlife may pose an increasing and significant threat to human health and to global biodiversity, a new international study reveals. The report urges wildlife and medical experts to look for evidence of crossover diseases that can jump from species to species - even to humans.

For full text and graphics visit:

Date: Fri, 21 Jan 2000 22:16:47 -0500 (EST)
From: ProMED-mail <>

In a paper published in today's issue of the journal Science (21st Jan 2000: P. Daszak, A.A. Cunningham & A.D. Hyatt Vol 287, 443-449) we describe a group of "emerging" infectious diseases of wildlife and discuss the threats these pose to the conservation of biodiversity and to human health.
In our review, we applied the criteria originally used to define EID
predominantly affecting humans, to focus on wildlife diseases that are newly recognized, newly appeared in the population or rapidly increasing in incidence or geographic range.
The underlying causal factors of the emergence of these wildlife EID show distinct parallels with those underlying emergence of EID in humans. We identify three principal causes of emergence: 1) "spill-over" of pathogens from domestic animals to wildlife; 2) translocation of host and/or pathogens for conservation, agriculture & hunting (termed "pathogen pollution"); 3) emergence without overt human involvement (e.g. climate oscillations).
Two consequences of wildlife disease emergence are highlighted. First, wildlife EID have been implicated in mass mortality events, population declines, local (population) extinctions and global (species) extinctions - therefore they represent a significant threat to conservation of global biodiversity. Second, many wildlife species are reservoir hosts of pathogens that threaten domestic animal and human health. Potential measures to counter these threats are discussed, from basic research into the ecology and biology of wildlife EID, assessment of their role in
biodiversity loss and their potential cost to human health, and
implementation of practical measures such as legislating to control "pathogen pollution".
- --
Peter Daszak
Institute of Ecology,
University of Georgia,
Athens, GA 30602, USA
Andrew A. Cunningham,
Zoological Society of London, UK
Alex D. Hyatt,
CSIRO, Geelong, Australia

BRUSSELS, Belgium, January 24, 2000 (ENS)

The ozone layer over northern Europe and the Arctic has been getting thinner, allowing ultraviolet radiation to reach the Earth in the same way as the better known ozone hole over the South Pole.

For full text and graphics visit:

Date: Tue, 25 Jan 2000 22:45:15 -0500 (EST)
From: ProMED-mail <>
Source: The Times

Crohn's disease is almost certainly caused by bacteria found in milk - even if pasteurised - and drinking water supplies, according to research by a world expert on the chronic illness. John Hermon-Taylor of St George's Medical School in Tooting, South London, says that up to 55 per cent of dairy herds in Western Europe and America are infected with the bacteria,which can survive the pasteurisation process. Water supplies become infected as the droppings from herds seep into the soil, down into natural aquifers.
The organism is called MAP (_Mycobacterium avium_ subspecies
_paratuberculosis_), which is difficult to detect and destroy. The normal pasteurisation process involves heating milk to 72C for 15 seconds, but to be sure of killing MAP it would need to be heated to that level for twice as long.
Crohn's disease is not fatal but causes chronic diarrhoea, persistent abdominal pain, weight loss, tiredness and mental problems. Because it is not notifiable, the number of people affected can only be estimated but it is thought that up to 80 000 suffer from it in Britain, with between 4000 and 8000 new cases every year. The cost to the nation of sufferers' medical care is estimated to be BPS 240 million a year.
Professor Hermon-Taylor, who has researched the illness for 20 years, said: "If there were no MAP I believe there would be almost no Crohn's disease. It is certainly responsible for between 60 per cent and 90 per cent of all cases and I would think that it is more likely to be 90 per cent."
His study, funded by Action Research, the medical charity, shows that MAP can live undetected in cattle for years. Infected cows secrete the bacteria into their milk and on to their pastures. Tests have proved that MAP causes chronic infection of the intestines of many animals, including four types of primates. American studies have isolated MAP from the breast milk of women with Crohn's disease but not in women who do not have the illness.
"The problems caused by MAP in the milk supply constitute a public health disaster of tragic proportions, for which a range of remedial measures are urgently needed and for which the Government must take responsibility," Professor Hermon-Taylor said.
He wants to see the Government reverse its decision to allow the sale of unpasteurised milk and to increase the stringency of the pasteurising process. Dairy herds ought to be tested for the infection and the illness ought to notifiable, he said.
Professor Hermon-Taylor said that anybody worried about catching the disease from milk could be certain of killing any MAP by heating it to 80C and then allowing it to cool before drinking it.
There is no evidence that the measles virus is implicated in Crohn's disease, according to a study published today in the specialist journal Gut. The researchers, from the Akita University School of Medicine in Japan, looked for any potential link between the disease and the triple vaccination against measles, mumps and rubella (MMR).
They say that the theory of a link, which was suggested in a research paper by the Royal Free Medical School published two years ago in The Lancet, was based on the hypothesis that the measles antibody was uniquely present in Crohn's disease. "Our results directly contradict this theory.
Children who are allergic to eggs are at no greater risk of a severe allergic reaction to the MMR vaccine, which is cultured in chick embryo cells. The researchers, from the Sheffield Institute for Vaccine Studies, report in today's Archives of Disease in Childhood that a trial of 410 children with egg allergy showed that only four had a mild reaction after being vaccinated. Their study suggests that the real culprit in allergic reactions to MMR could be gelatin. Overall, they say that any severe adverse effect is almost certain to occur within half an hour of the vaccination and that clinics should be aware of this and have antidotes on hand in case a child does have a dangerous reaction.

ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico, January 26, 2000 (ENS)

Peace in the Middle East may well be founded on successful agreements governing the use of the region's scarce water resources. At Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico, Israeli and Palestinian environmental researchers are working together to solve the region's water and land use problems.

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LONDON, UK, January 27, 2000 (ENS)

A bug present in retail pasteurised milk in the UK causes Crohn's disease, a leading medical researcher at St George's Medical School, London has found. The micro-organism is believed to exist in up to 54 percent of the dairy herds in Western Europe and North America.

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Date: Thu, 27 Jan 2000 20:01:41 -0500 (EST)
From: ProMED-mail <>

[A female patient] is feeling better, thank you, considering her brush with bubonic plague. And she's learned a lesson: Don't touch wobbly mice. "Those little drunken, wobbly mice would get into the house and you could get right up to them and pick them up by their tails and drop them in the toilet," she said Tuesday. "And they would die real fast. We found six of them over the past six months," [she] said from her St. Joseph Hospital bed.
[The woman], 43, who lives just north of Albuquerque, was confirmed late Monday as suffering from the disease -- the first human plague case of the year in New Mexico.
"She's in fine condition," said Dr. David Keller, chief of the infectious disease epidemiology program at the state Department of Health. Keller said the department is trying to determine how [she] got the plague. The patient found the last wobbly mouse around Christmas. "I actually saw it and it ran behind a cabinet. Then one of the dogs was scratching at something, and the mouse had died at the foot of the pedestal table," she said. [The woman] used a paper towel to pick up the mouse and tossed it in the garbage, then washed her hands with antibacterial soap. She became ill Friday. "I noticed that I had a swollen lymph node, then it quickly went downhill from there.
The chills. Lower back pain like you can get with the flu," she said. On Saturday, she went to see a doctor, who immediately ordered her hospitalized.
Plague is typically thought to be a summertime disease, but can strike year-round. The last human plague death in the state was in 1994 an 8-year-old northern New Mexico boy. Bubonic plague is a bacterial disease, generally transmitted to humans from the bites of fleas infected by dead or dying rodents. Most people lapse into illness within seven days after exposure. Symptoms include chills and fever; painful, swollen lymph nodes in the groin, armpit or neck; and sometimes headache, vomiting and diarrhea.
The state Department of Health recommends that pets and people keep away from sick or dead rodents, keep children from playing near rodent nests or burrows and clean areas near houses where rodents could live. [The woman] said construction is still being done on her house, so it's easy for mice and other critters to get in. But she won't ever again try to get rid of rodents on her own. "The state is coming out," she said. "I think they're going to exterminate around the house."
[The report indicates that the family had been finding dead and "wobbly" mice with poor swimming ability over a six months period, that is from the normal summer season. And that the house was being remodelled in some major but drawn out manner, indicates that there was probably more than adequate rodent harborage under and around the house. One's only question is then why did it take until Christmas for the _Yersinia_ to spread from the rodents to the human occupants. Possibly, because of colder weather bringing even more mice to join the pre-existing and infected domestic population. - MHJ]

By Cat Lazaroff
WASHINGTON, DC, January 28, 2000 (ENS)

After taking an end run around the opposition, a telecommunications giant erected a 130 foot tall cellular telephone antenna in Rock Creek National Park in Washington, D.C. last Saturday. The tower stands as an example of how powerful lobbyists and lawmakers can push through projects that pose definite hazards to wildlife and wilderness - even on lands owned by the American public.

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By Andrew Darby
CANBERRA, Australia, January 28, 2000

Despite calling on the rest of the world to stop using halon gas, Australia is selling 250 tons of what it describes as the most aggressive ozone depleting chemical to the U.S. Defense Department.

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AIDS Cure Invented By Oklahoma General Practitioner
By Forres McGraw

Seven year old Precious Thomas, by most standards, is like any other bright, happy seven year old. Precious' most incredible attribute is that she used to have AIDS. No, that is not a typo. During March, 1998, Precious was included in studies and clinical trials at the National Institutes for Health, one of the leading research centers for AIDS. On March 23, 1998 in a viral-load test administered by NIH, Precious' viral-load was 186,119. It went to ZERO. What NIH did not know at the time was Precious had stopped taking the drugs it prescribed her under its protocol. What has the NIH discovered since, that it hasn't disclosed?
Precious' mother, Rocky Thomas will admit, though her daughter is an exceptional child, she has not performed any miracles. The "miraculous cure" comes from the brilliance and perseverance of Dr. Gary R. Davis, M.D. of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Dr. Davis developed his treatment three years ago. Two years ago, Dr. Davis applied for FDA approval to administer a clinical trial using his treatment. The application for clinical trial was approved initially, only to be revoked hours prior to its beginning.
While comforting her daughter, who was in the hospital and not being helped by the protocol being administered by NIH, Rocky recalled a news story she had seen about Dr. Davis, a General Practitioner who has created a goat serum based treatment he is forbidden by law to administer. Like any mother, Rocky vowed to do anything to ease her child,s suffering. Rocky took Precious to Tulsa to see Dr. Davis. However, the FDA had not and has not to date approved Dr. Davis' treatment. As much as he would have loved to help her, he was barred from doing so. Though he could not treat her, he spent much of his afternoon with Rocky and Precious. Sharing his knowledge of the disease and answering questions regarding his treatment proposed to the FDA in his application for approval of clinical trial. In the end there was still nothing he could do for Precious.
Fortunately for Precious, the mother was willing to do anything for her child, and did just that. Rocky now admits, she stole a vial of Dr. Davis' serum that day from his office, and administered it to Precious. In five doses, consisting of less than 2cc's each, over a forty-four day period beginning March 26, 1998, Rocky administered the stolen serum to her daughter recalling all she could about her conversation with Dr. Davis.
Precious is still being monitored by her doctors at NIH, Dr. Predita Taylor and Dr. Anthony Falchia. In fact NIH has run viral load tests on her twelve times since March 23, 1998. The last six tests have shown undetectable levels of the virus in Precious. Surprisingly, or not, depending upon your view, these doctors, charged with the care of many AIDS infected patients and knowing now that Precious has been cured, have yet to call Dr. Davis to find out more about his treatment.
The reality is the National Institute of Health felt vilified by the usurpation of their protocol by Mrs. Thomas. Prior to learning the girl was treated with Dr. Davis' serum, Dr. Perdita Taylor had just taken credit for the cure of Precious Thomas. When told the truth she shriveled into a "no comment" posture.
The FDA, instead of offering to help expedite Dr. Davis, application, has continually stalled the process. As many questions as this may raise, one demands our immediate attention. Why is the brilliant work of an African American General Practitioner being suppressed? This may be the answer to saving millions of lives! Is it simply because Dr. Davis does not belong to the Official Aid Research Community? That seems to be what is happening here.
There are many other terminally ill patients choosing to live who are barred by the FDA from availing themselves of the opportunity to be cured, if indeed this serum proves to be a universal cure.
Every taxpayer should be demand some answers from his or her congressional representative, senator, and the FDA.
©1998 Forres McGraw/Greenwich Village Gazette