Tag Archives: Ebola

Maybe not all genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are bad


la-sci-sn--measles-virus-cancer-20140516

Though in planned future posts, you will read my thoughts (and criticisms, rants and bitches) about GMOs in our food supply, there are some other areas where I am fascinated with what they are doing with genetic modification. Though there is not enough known to completely understand any adverse effects that may result from this application of gene modifying, I am still amazed at what they are working on – MEDICINE for healing terminal illnesses.

Research has shown that certain, often deadly, diseases we have fought hard to eradicate in the past can be genetically modified and then used to attack other specific diseases.

“The Big C” – you know, cancer

There are over 300 known types of cancer, but advances in modern medicine may very well result in cures for cancer someday. It was realized decades ago that treating prostitutes for exposure to rabies by giving them the rabies vaccine appeared to cure their cervical cancer. The virus attacks cancer cells without affecting any of the healthy surrounding cells.

The Smallpox vaccine, genetically modifying the virus to seek out cancer cells by looking for specific proteins, has shown to infect tumors and destroy them.

The Mayo Clinic has been working with the Measles virus, modifying it with a new gene to treat multiple myeloma (bone marrow) cancer, infusing it into the patient’s bloodstream.

Adenovirus, responsible for the common cold, has been used by doctors at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center to treat glioblastoma, by injecting it directly into the patient’s brain tumor.

The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia has had great success treating pediatric leukemia by genetically modifying the HIV virus (the cause of AIDS) and using it in T-cell therapy. The T-cells are genetically programmed to identify whether cells are healthy and normal or are leukemia cells, killing the leukemia cells. Due to the modification in the HIV DNA, though the T-cell therapy is infused into the patient’s bloodstream, the therapy does not result in HIV.

“This is one of those things that’s a true paradigm shift, in this case, for cancer,” said Dr. Carl June, from the University of Pennsylvania Abramson Cancer Center.  And I agree, it truly is.

Here’s the link to HBO’s Vice episode Killing Cancer, in the event you haven’t seen it and would like to know more. It was fascinating!!

Ebola – the continuing crisis

Watching Bob Simon’s last report the other day, I learned more about ZMapp, the drug used to treat a handful of Ebola cases last year. ZMapp was developed at Canada’s National Microbiology Lab in Manitoba. ZMapp is made from a specific variety of tobacco plant grown in western Kentucky, genetically modified to produce three different antibodies – antibodies required to destroy the Ebola virus in infected patients.

Unfortunately, it takes time for the plants to grow, and to produce the drug. [Mapp Biopharmaceutical originated the idea for ZMapp, starting with grant funding, until finally getting government funding to continue their work.] Though only nine doses of the drug were available originally, clinical trials are now underway in West Africa. Dr. Kent Brantly was the first human to use ZMapp, allowing him to recover from Ebola.

I hope Zmapp is the miracle key to treat Ebola they have been looking for. There are vaccines in work, as well, with research in this area continuing.

From what I heard, all the patients who recovered using these new treatments, regarding the various types of cancer and Ebola, initially became extremely ill after they were treated for as much as a week or so afterwards before showing signs of improvement.

I love the medical field, and sometimes think I missed my calling, probably should’ve been a doctor or a researcher 🙂

Do you find it fascinating that viruses are being used to treat cancer? Do you think there’s a difference between GMOs used for medicine and those used for food?

Just something I was thinking about . . .

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Now the Panic Sets In


I am watching the Congressional Hearings on Ebola now. The CDC is looking really bad and in my opinion is not currently up for the task of protecting this country. Dr. Frieden, head of the CDC, was asked if he knew of any hospitals in Ohio that have practiced procedures for handling an Ebola patient. (Ohio is where Vinson flew to.) Dr. Frieden did not know if this has been done. If I was him, that would’ve been one of the first things I did after learning about Ms. Vinson’s travel.

Someone mentioned that Pham’s dog is being quarantined, and that old CDC reports noted that transmission to/from dogs is unknown, but suspect. This congressman then asked if we shouldn’t be imposing travel restrictions on animals – yet still no mention of actually imposing travel restrictions on people. And when I say restrictions – I don’t just mean preventing airplane travel.

School districts in Texas and Ohio have now closed some schools due to the risk of exposure.  I heard that Frontier Airlines has grounded their exposed employees – finally someone with a brain. Hopefully they are going to decontaminate the plane – though that is just one of the places Vinson exposed to the virus.

A nurse at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas stated that she had questioned the protective apparel at the time. She also said if she got sick, she would NOT go to the hospital she works for. Apparently, quite a few people are refraining from visiting that hospital – thank goodness.

And one last thing that keeps going through my mind – what exactly is meant by “monitoring” of the exposed people. (They may have asked that during the hearing, but if so I missed it.) And why are so many being allowed to “self-monitor?”

Just something I was thinking about . . .

She Flew With a Fever


I swear this was not what I had in mind for my next post. I have some other things I am working on, but I just can’t believe healthcare worker Amber Vinson got on a plane knowing she had a fever and knowing she had been exposed to Thomas Duncan, and Nina Pham, the other nurse who has been diagnosed with Ebola. She of all people KNEW BETTER! Vinson has now been diagnosed with Ebola, and flown to Atlanta for treatment.

When asked how this could happen, that one of these exposed healthcare workers could get on a plane and travel during the incubation period when they were supposed to be being monitored for symptoms – the answer the official gave was the one we keep hearing over and over – Well, somebody dropped the ball there.

I heard another official say that the risk of the infection spreading was “very very low,” but we all know that’s bullshit. Why don’t they just tell the truth – though the risk appears to be low, this is a dangerous disease, and everyone must be vigilant, period. AND they haven’t been!! Those that could be exposed need to be trained thoroughly and provided the appropriate protective equipment. AND they haven’t been!! It’s been reported that the nurses who treated Duncan also treated other patients. Those in charge really are not taking this issue seriously. How could they be, with this type of decision-making and resulting behavior?

And I’m sorry, regardless whether anyone kept Vinson from flying or not – SHE should’ve known better, she did know better, she just didn’t care. Shit, I take more precautions to keep from exposing people when I have a cold. I have to admit, I was fucking blown away when I heard she got on a plane knowing she had a fever and her exposure history. I could go on about that, but serves no purpose.

[I have to add a post-script here: A few hours after the initial report that Vinson traveled by plane, it was discovered that she DID contact the CDC and inform them that she had a fever. The CDC, in their infinite wisdom, told her to go ahead and fly, as her fever was still under the threshold they had set. The CDC , in my opinion, have just lost an immense amount of credibility by not erring on the side of caution. I pray that mistake doesn’t come back to haunt them, as well as the rest of us.]

I said in my last blog – I hope everyone that has come in contact with these patients is being quarantined and monitored. I can’t help but worry that someone has been missed, unnoticed, or unidentified. Well, we now have proof that exposed people are out there in the general population coming in contact with others who have no idea.

There are 70+ other healthcare workers who came in contact with Duncan, not counting how many others who have come into contact with Pham and Vinson. So far, none of the original 70+ people are being quarantined, knowingly allowing them to possibly expose others.

AND while all of this is going on, and we have turned our attention to our own inattention to precaution against Ebola and are now scrambling to stop the possible impending crisis, I can’t help but wonder what else might be going on elsewhere – while we aren’t paying attention?

Just something I was thinking about . . .

Catching up with NASA & Ebola


There are a lot of things going on in the world these days. I need to catch up on a couple of things that are on my list of interests I like to keep an eye on. After editing, it dawned on me the title of this post might be a bit misleading – I apologize for that – but the NASA piece was short, and I liked the image. So, I’ll start with the cool stuff, and finish with the scary shit.orion-boarding-pass

NASA’s Human Exploration Space Program: NASA awarded Boeing and SpaceX the contracts to provide crew transportation – beginning with trips to the International Space Station targeted for 2017. I pretty much anticipated that they would get these contracts, as their designs were probably the furthest along. It helps that these companies are full of ex-NASA engineers, flight controllers, program managers, and even a few astronauts, as well as contractors in various positions,  that left NASA to build something in the way a new generation might. I sure hope we can eliminate our dependence on Russia by 2017. Not sure what else is going to shake out for the future . . . only time will tell at this point. But NASA’s Orion crew module – with Mars and other destinations in mind – is scheduled for its first exploration flight test this December. I’ve got my boarding pass 🙂 (Which is ironic, since I don’t fly!)

Ebola:  With the disease continuing to spread and the number of fatalities rising (close to 4500 so far), new cases have have been reported in Spain, and a few cities here. I’m afraid other places will also experience people contracting this virus. The U.S. has experienced its first case of the virus being spread from one person to another. Nina Pham, a nurse who had contact with Thomas Duncan the patient who died in Dallas earlier this month, has been diagnosed. I hope everyone that has come in contact with these patients is being quarantined and monitored. I can’t help but worry that someone has been missed, unnoticed, or unidentified.

Nurses in various cities have held rallies to voice their concern for the lack of preparedness for this infectious disease, though their employers (the hospitals) are saying they are fully prepared to handle these types of diseases. CNN reported nurses from the Texas hospital involved have anonymously complained to their union stating, “guidelines were constantly changing” and “there were no protocols” – the situation described of the handling of Duncan is exactly as I feared.

I read an article a few days back stating several issues that could increase the odds for a pandemic. I can’t remember all the points cited, and I didn’t get to read it all either, but the two that stuck out were if an infected person traveled to India or China, and the possibility for mutation and increased virility. (I have been trying to find that article so I could finish reading it, but haven’t yet.)

Stanford University Dr. David Sanders, who has studied the virus since 2003, commented on a news interview that Ebola can enter the lungs, via the airway side. With continued spreading of the virus, mutations could occur increasing virility, which could result in it becoming airborne.  He added that suppressing the outbreak in Africa is key to preventing it from continuing to spread globally. Well, we already know they have not been exactly successful in this endeavor.

Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, the CDC and a host of others are trying to figure out how Mr. Duncan’s nurse became infected. They believe it has to do with the removal of protective wear. Last I heard, they have honed in on the possibility that the nurses necks were exposed in some way. Pham is improving, since having a blood transfusion from one of the recent Ebola survivors.

As a side note, I heard the patient in Spain had a dog that was euthanized. Pham’s dog is in quarantine. I wonder if anything might be learned from this.

Some people feel that travel should be suspended from the affected countries where the outbreak began and is concentrated. Though I can certainly agree with that sentiment, I get the impression, in today’s global village mentality, this is not going to happen. After hearing what Dr. Sanders and others have said, I think those in charge need to re-examine how to proceed further for the best interests of the global community.

When I took a training class on Pandemic Preparedness a few years ago (they were mostly targeting influenza) it was noted that a pandemic would cause major impacts on society due to widespread restrictions on travel, as well as other closings and cancellations affecting schools, large gatherings, and businesses. It was stressed a pandemic could have the “potential for severe impact on domestic and world economy.” Hmm . . . (yes, I have to admit, it was not a subtle hmm!)

What do you think about suspending travel? Do you think they are handling this crisis properly, or in a lackadaisical manner? Do you believe a robust Pandemic Plan is in place nationally in your country or globally?

Just some things I was thinking about . . .

It’s here . . .


Ebola could be just a plane ride away . . . From: http://heavy.com/news/2014/07/ebola-virus-outbreak-2014-spreading/
Ebola is just a plane ride away . . .

Ebola has been diagnosed in the United States, brought in from Liberia by a man visiting family in Dallas, Texas. He had been here about a week before becoming ill enough to go to the emergency room. He told ER medical staff at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital he was visiting from Liberia, noting the Ebola outbreak there, and true to my biggest fear they dropped the ball – into the fire, per say – and released him after failing to recognize his symptoms. He returned to the ER two days later, by ambulance, and was admitted immediately.

He has since been diagnosed and CDC representatives are going door-to-door in the neighborhood surveying neighbors. The ambulance he rode in is no longer in use until it has been decontaminated. The hospital is taking the necessary precautions now. But originally, protocols were not followed, and this is disconcerting to me, especially in a place like Dallas that has a huge international traveling population.

The man’s family has five school-aged children he has been in contact with, who then went to school. I pray none of those children get sick. That could be absolutely catastrophic. Kids touch and share all kinds of things and are not great at washing their hands. We all know this. Kids get diarrhea, vomit, and have traces of saliva, urine, and feces on their hands. And they are almost always sweaty, especially if they are outdoors. I’m not panicking about this, nor do I think anyone else should, but this is some frightening shit. THAT is why the medical protocols were put in place and that is why I am so upset that the hospital missed this on first visit.

Besides being spread by all bodily fluids, Ebola can also survive outside the body for one to two days. Simply touching an infected person can be fatal. The virus is continuing to spread in West Africa at an alarming rate, making this the deadliest outbreak in history. Many frightened and confused infected people in those countries are hiding from health workers – hiding in their homes infecting their families and others in their villages out of fear and ignorance. Ignorance is often deadly.

Ebola under the microscope.  From: http://ebolaviros.com/images/0.jpg
Ebola under the microscope

I heard on the news last night that so far there have been almost 6600 confirmed cases of Ebola and almost 3100 deaths. I also heard The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation granted the World Health Organization $4 million for help in the Ebola fight, as well as so many others working to help by contributing time, money, knowledge and expertise – especially those on the front lines trying to stop the monster from spreading any further.

Getting back to the U.S. case, CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden seems quite confident that there is no danger of this disease spreading out of control. I’m glad he is so sure, because I’m afraid that I’m not. I read somewhere when asked if this newly diagnosed Ebola patient would be sent to one of the four isolation units in the country, Frieden had said this was not needed because “virtually any hospital can provide the proper care and infection control” – seriously … hospitals have high infection rates resulting in “superbugs” over the last decade or so.

I would think the special isolation units have highly-trained staff to provide care – staff who have practiced exposure to these types of infectious diseases. I certainly hope Dallas doesn’t drop the ball again.

After this initial blunder, I hope all medical professionals are following the CDC protocols put into place regarding this disease. They are truly our first line of defense in this battle and they have to be ever vigilant.

Just something I was thinking about . . .

Sometimes the Monsters are Real – Ebola


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I have said before that I think the world is a scary place. There’s a lot of bad shit going on right now. The largest EBOLA outbreak in history, happening in West Africa, has caused me some alarm.

Now I first learned about Ebola back in 1994 when I read “The Hot Zone,” written by Richard Preston. This is an incredibly compelling, horrifying read. I started the book one evening after putting my daughter to bed, and stayed up until about 4:00 a.m. to finish it because I literally could not put it down – I found it to be absolutely riveting. This would be some of the best horror/science fiction ever written, except for the fact that it is real. If you haven’t read it, you might want to just to be enlightened (or scared shitless!).

With global travel what it is, and the ways AIDS spread, I have always worried about Ebola and Marburg viruses. Except for a case back in 1989, involving monkeys, I don’t believe Ebola has ever been reported in the U.S. – though I could be wrong about that.

Several U.S. national labs have samples of the Ebola virus and are working to create a vaccination. Yesterday they flew one of two American health care workers who have gotten the virus to Atlanta, Georgia. That hasn’t gone over to well with many Americans. I have pretty mixed feelings about it myself, because quite frankly, IT FREAKS ME OUT!! This is a nasty, and I mean nasty disease and a horrifying way to die. Not trying to be a fear-monger like the mainstream media usually is, all the time freaking people out to go and do – translate BUY – something, but this is some frightening shit.

I do believe they would get better treatment here in the states and I know the hospital in Atlanta has planned and trained for this exact mission, or one similar. (Isn’t that the saying – plan, train, fly?) And I am sure this exposure will provide many opportunities for many things – good and bad. Yeah, I’m a realist. They can study, dissect/DNA map/etc., and try to find a vaccination, maybe even discover something to help cure those who have it. They can also use this experience to intermingle this new strain with the samples they have, I’m assuming. They could do a lot of things with that – lots of research. I’m not a healthcare professional, but I do find all things medical fascinating.

I think the virus has up to a 21-day incubation period. I worry someone is going to expose others, maybe not even anyone working at the Emory University Hospital, but a healthcare worker from that part of the world traveling to other parts. Those in charge seem to think they can contain the virus and prevent the risk of the virus spreading. I hope they are right, because it only takes one unidentified infected person to spread this virus globally, and under the right conditions this is a ticking time bomb – especially in highly and densely populated areas.

I don’t know – there are a lot of worrisome things going on right now. I wonder, has it always been this bad and scary out there and I just wasn’t paying attention, OR is it really worse . . . or both I would imagine . . .

Anyway, what do you think about this Ebola crisis? Have you read the book I mentioned? Does a disease that can, for lack of a better term, liquefy organs and cause one to bleed out from various orifices in their body cause you any alarm? Damn, am I overreacting?

Just something I was thinking about . . .