Monday, April 28, 2014

Dolphins Protect Long-Distance Swimmer From Great White Shark

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 Swimmer Adam Walker was simply trying to help the dolphins. The mammals returned the favor in a fashion he may never be able to be repay.
Walker found himself swimming New Zealand's Cook Strait as a part of the Oceans Seven mission. The British open-water swimmer hopes to be the second person ever to complete this group of seven long-distance swims in sites around the world. He is also looking to raise funds for Stop Whaling, a nonprofit group focused on whale and dolphin conservation.
His swim in New Zealand spanned 16 miles, and he didn't expect to encounter any sharks. But, alas, Walker looked down in the middle of the swim and saw a great white below him.
Walker was worried, to say the least. And then a pod of dolphins swam up and surrounded him. The group of about 10 stayed with him for an hour until the shark left.
"I'd like to think they were protecting me and guiding me home!" he posted on Facebook. "This swim will stay with me forever."
A video of his swim with the dolphins was uploaded on Wednesday to YouTube. Many viewers are commenting on dolphins' history with protecting humans, while some are simply in awe of the scene. Even Walker commented that he felt "blown away" by the whole ordeal. The two-minute clip has more than 300,000 hits.
Walker eventually completed the task in 8 hours and 36 minutes. It is his sixth of seven long-distance swims before the mission is finished. It Walker's last swim will take place in August in the Irish Sea.

The African Ebola outbreak that shows no sign of slowing

Last week, officials in Guinea expressed optimism. The outbreak of Ebola that had spread into Liberia and beyond appeared to be waning. The number of deaths, which had then numbered 106, had slowed. Travel restrictions had been bolstered. The outbreak, which had sent waves of panic across West Africa, finally seemed under control.
“The number of new cases have fallen rapidly,” Rafi Diallo, a spokesman for Guinea’s health ministry, told Reuters. On the day of the interview, April 15, there were 159 confirmed or suspected cases of the disease. “Once we no longer have any new cases … we can say that this is totally under control.”
It’s eight days later. And the number of those killed by the Ebola killed in Guinea is now 136. Nearly 210 cases have been confirmed. In all, across Liberia and Guinea, 142 people have been killed — and 242 infected — in an outbreak that began months ago in the forested villages of southeast Guinea and shot to the capital city.
It has dominated headlines in Africa since. The World Health Organization, which says it may spread for months, cautions that more deaths could be on the way. “As the incubation period for [Ebola] can be up to three weeks, it is likely that the Guinean health authorities will report new cases in the coming weeks and additional suspected cases may also be identified in neighboring countries,” the WHO reported on Tuesday.
The disease, for which there is no cure, is terrifying in part because of the gruesome way it kills. It predominantly spreads through blood, secretions and other bodily fluids. At first, the WHO says, symptoms include intense weakness and fever, but then the sickness deepens with bouts of diarrhea, vomiting, and internal and external bleeding.
There are several theories explaining the outbreak, Africa’s worst in seven years and the first to kill in the continent’s west. One was published last week in the New England Journal that established “the emergence of a new EBOV strain in Guinea,” which had “evolved in parallel” to other disease veins.
It said the sickness first appeared in December — substantially earlier than other estimates. “The [virus] introduction seems to have happened in early December 2013 or even before,” the researchers said. “It is suspected that the virus was transmitted for months before the outbreak became apparent because of clusters of cases in the [Guinea] hospitals of Guéckédou and Macenta. This length of exposure appears to have allowed many transmission chains and thus increased the number of cases of Ebola virus disease.”
The scientists said data suggests “a single introduction of the virus into the human population. … Further investigation is ongoing to identify the presumed animal source of the outbreak.” The animal that’s most likely behind the outbreak is the fruit bat, which pervades large swaths of west Africa. Officials suspect someone handled the meat of a contaminated bat, fell ill, and then spread the infection.
The fatality rate, the study concluded, was 86 percent “among the early confirmed and 71 percent among the clinically suspected cases,” a rate consistent with previous Ebola outbreaks. ”The emergence of the virus in Guinea highlights the risk of [Ebola] outbreaks in the whole West African sub-region.”

Ancient flying reptile from China fills evolutionary gap

Illustration of fragmentary remains of Kryptodrakon progenitor found in China

The fragmentary remains of the Kryptodrakon progenitor found in the famed "dinosaur death pits" area of the Shishugou Formation in northwest China are seen in an undated illustration courtesy of Brian Andres. Scientists on Thursday said they have found a fossil from 163 million years ago that represents the oldest known example of a lineage of advanced flying reptiles that later would culminate in the largest flying creatures in Earth's history. (REUTERS/Illustration by Brian Andres/Outline by Peter Wellnhofer)
By Will Dunham
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - It was the start of something big - really big.
Scientists on Thursday said they have found a fossil from 163 million years ago that represents the oldest known example of a lineage of advanced flying reptiles that later would culminate in the largest flying creatures in Earth's history.
The newly identified Jurassic period creature, a species named Kryptodrakon progenitor that was unearthed in the Gobi desert in northwestern China, was modest in size, with a wingspan of perhaps 4-1/2 feet (1.3 meters).
But later members of its branch of the flying reptiles known as pterosaurs were truly colossal, including Quetzalcoatlus, whose wingspan of about 35 feet was roughly the same as that of an F-16 fighter.
Roughly 220 million years ago, pterosaurs became the first flying vertebrates to appear on Earth, with birds - first appearing about 150 million years ago - and bats - appearing about 50 million years ago - coming much later.
Pterosaurs arose during the Triassic period not long after their cousins, the dinosaurs, also made their debut. Their wings were supported by an incredibly elongated fourth digit of the hand - the "pinky finger."
The pterosaurs remained largely unchanged for tens of millions of years - with characteristics like long tails and relatively small heads - and none became very big. But later during the Jurassic period, some developed anatomical changes that heralded the arrival of a new branch called pterodactyloids that eventually replaced the more primitive forms of pterosaurs.
Many of these pterodactyloids had massive, elongated heads topped with huge crests, lost their teeth and grew to huge sizes. Perhaps the defining characteristic of the group is an elongation in the bone at the base of the fourth finger called the fourth metacarpal, and Kryptodrakon is the oldest known pterosaur to have this advance, the researchers said.
"In primitive pterosaurs, it is one of the shortest and least variable bones in the wing, but in pterodactyloids it is quite elongated," said Brian Andres, a paleontologist at the University of South Florida, and one of the researchers.
Kryptodrakon lived right before its fellow pterodactyloids began to take over the ancient skies. "We can look at his anatomy and see what were the last changes in his body that may be responsible for the success of the group," Andres added.
Another important element of the discovery is the environment that Kryptodrakon called home.
It lived in a river-dominated ecosystem far from the ocean in a region teeming with life, including a fearsome dinosaur predator called Sinraptor and a gigantic plant-eating dinosaur named Mamenchisaurus that boasted one of the longest necks of any creature ever to walk the planet.
George Washington University paleontologist James Clark said the fact that Kryptodrakon lived in such an ecosystem along with other evidence indicates that the advanced pterosaurs - many of which later ruled the skies over seashore ecosystems and fed on fish in the oceans - actually first evolved far inland in a terrestrial environment.
The origin of the pterodactyloids had been a little bit of a quandary, with their fossil record not extending back in time as much as some scientists had expected. Kryptodrakon is about five million years older than any other known member of the advanced pterosaur lineage, the researchers said.
"This is filling in that time gap," Clark said.
Its genus name, Kryptodrakon, means "hidden dragon" in honor of the 2000 film "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," that had parts filmed near where it was unearthed. Its species name, progenitor, means ancestral.
The research was published in the journal Current Biology.
(Reporting by Will Dunham, editing by G Crosse)

SARS-Like MERS Virus Spreads to New Countries

Cases of the MERS Coronavirus have significantly increased in the last few months, and in recent weeks there have been reports of the virus in new countries including Egypt, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Indonesia, leaving officials struggling to figure out why infections have increased.
See How The MERS Coronavirus Affects the Body
The MERS Coronavirus, which stands for Middle Eastern Respiratory Coronavirus, was first identified in late 2012 and causes acute respiratory illness, shortness of breath and in severe cases kidney failure. The virus is related to the SARS virus and the common cold.
There have been 350 cases and more than 100 deaths reported worldwide from the virus, although the World Health Organization (WHO) has laboratory-confirmed only 254 cases with 93 deaths. Most of the reported infections have come from Middle East countries including Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates.
While public health experts have been tracking the disease for nearly two years, in recent weeks health officials are reporting a sharp rise in cases. The WHO reported at least 78 confirmed cases since the beginning of the year, and that diagnosed cases sharply increased in mid-March.
This week the WHO released a report, which said that among newly diagnosed cases up to 75 percent could be human-to-human transmission, since a large number of health workers were infected with the disease. However there is evidence that the reason for the increase could be related to increased testing for the virus and a seasonal increase in the disease rather than virus mutation.
Dr. Ian Lipkin, an epidemiologist and professor of Epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, has been investigating the virus and said 75 percent of camels in Saudi Arabia have had the disease. Lipkin points out that as camels are born in the spring the virus can spread from the young animals to people who interact with them.
"The younger animals have the virus and become infected and become little virus factories," said Lipkin, who explained that camels are extremely common in Saudi Arabia and surrounding countries.
"It's almost like dogs in the U.S. Except they eat the camels ... there's so much opportunity," for the virus to spread, he said.
Lipkin also pointed out that when patients are treated with invasive pulmonary measures, the virus "deep in the lungs" can come to the surface and infect health care workers treating these patients. Lipkin said to combat the spread, more oversight will be needed to both regulate people's interactions with camels and to protect healthcare workers from infection.
Currently there is no vaccine for the MERS Coronavirus. There have been no reported cases in the U.S. and the CDC has not issued any travel advisories related to the disease.
Follow the Latest News on the MERS Coronavirus Outbreak

Egypt discovers first case of potentially deadly MERS virus

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt has discovered its first case of the potentially deadly Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in an Egyptian citizen who had recently returned from Saudi Arabia, Egypt's Ministry of Health said on Saturday.
The virus, which can cause coughing, fever and pneumonia, has spread from the Gulf to Europe and has already caused over 90 deaths.
The patient, 27, is being treated for pneumonia at a Cairo hospital and is in a stable condition, the ministry said in a statement.
The man, who is from the Nile Delta, was living in the Saudi capital Riyadh, the ministry said.
Saudi Arabia, which has been hardest-hit by the MERS virus, announced on Friday it had discovered 14 more cases in the kingdom, bringing the total number to 313.
Although the number of MERS infections worldwide is fairly small, the more than 40 percent death rate among confirmed cases and the spread of the virus beyond the Middle East is keeping scientists and public health officials on alert.
A spokesman for the World Health Organization in Geneva said on Friday it was "concerned" about the rising MERS numbers in Saudi Arabia urging for a speedy scientific breakthrough about the virus and its route of infection.
Saudi authorities have invited five leading international vaccine makers to collaborate with them in developing a MERS vaccine, but virology experts argue that this makes little sense in public health terms.
(Reporting by Yasmine Saleh and Mahmoud Mourad, Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

Thursday, April 24, 2014

AP WAS THERE: Probable cause of AIDS found

Associated Press

FILE - This combination made from file photos provided by the National Institute of Health, Pasteur Institute shows, at top, a form of human T-cell leukemia virus, or HTLV, discovered by U.S. Dr. Robert Gallo and his team at the National Cancer Institute, a division of the National Institute of Health in Bethesda, Md. The image at bottom shows a lymphadenopathy-associated virus, or LAV, discovered by French Dr. Luc Montagnier of the Pasteur Institute. Both Gallo and Montagnier are credited with isolating the HIV virus that causes AIDS, or the human immunodeficiency virus. The discovery was announced 30 years ago, on April 23, 1984, at a news conference in Washington. (AP Photo/National Institute of Health, Pasteur Institute, File)
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FILE - This combination made from file photos provided by the National Institute of Health, Pasteur Institute …
WASHINGTON (AP) — EDITOR'S NOTE: In 1981, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported the first cases of a rare pneumonia that had sickened five Los Angeles gay men. The AIDS epidemic had begun.
Over the next three years, the CDC formally named the condition and announced that sexual contact and infected blood were the major ways the disease spread.
On April 23, 1984, the Department of Health and Human Services held a press conference to announce that the probable cause of the disease had been found — a virus that was eventually called the human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV. At the meeting, government scientists said the discovery could spur work on a preventive vaccine, which could be ready for testing within two or three years.
There is still no cure or vaccine. But drugs emerged in the mid-1990s that have turned HIV from a death sentence into a manageable chronic disease for people who stick with them.
An estimated 36 million people have died of AIDS since 1981, according to the World Health Organization.
Thirty years after its publication, the AP is making its original report on the announcement available.
Government scientists have found the virus that probably causes AIDS, a discovery that has led to a blood test for the deadly disease and the possibility of developing a preventive vaccine within two or three years, federal health officials announced Monday.
"The probable cause of AIDS has been found," Health and Human Services Secretary Margaret M. Heckler told a news conference.
Isolating the virus and developing a process to mass-produce it led to a test that should detect AIDS — acquired immune deficiency syndrome — in victims even before symptoms arise and tell if donated blood supplies are contaminated with the virus.
By identifying those carrying the virus and its presence in blood, "we should be able to assure that blood for transfusion is free from AIDS," Mrs. Heckler said.
"With the blood test, we can now identify AIDS victims with essentially 100 percent certainty," Mrs. Heckler said.
Dr. Edward N. Brandt, assistant HHS secretary for health, said the test should be widely available within six months to screen donated blood, suspected to be a source of the agent that causes the disease that destroys the body's immune system.
Brandt said that having quantities of the elusive virus should spur work on a preventive vaccine, which could be ready for testing within two or three years.
"What we have at the moment is not of particularly great benefit to those with the disease right now," Brandt said. However, he continued, the blood test should help researchers define the early courses of the incurable disease and possibly find a way to intervene at an earlier stage.
Scientists at the National Institutes of Health, and particularly Dr. Robert Gallo of the National Cancer Institute, were given most of the credit for isolating the virus and devising the system to routinely detect and grow it, a major step for future research.
The officials said they are so sure about the strength of the U.S. findings, which closely parallel work by French scientists reported last week, that they can declare an AIDS breakthrough after years of research.
"The NCI work provides the proof we need that the cause of AIDS has been found," Mrs. Heckler said.
Four papers describing the work of Gallo and his many colleagues will be published this week in the journal Science.
According to Gallo and the papers, the causative virus appears to be a member of a family of viruses called human T-cell leukemia virus (HTLV) previously suspected of having a role in AIDS.
The researchers said the new virus, called HTLV-3, shares so many characteristics with other HTLV viruses that it has to belong to this family despite some structural differences.
Scientists said they suspect HTLV-3 is very closely related, if not identical, to the recently publicized AIDS candidate virus called lymphadenopathy associated virus (LAV), which was discovered last year by French researchers at the Pasteur Institute in Paris.
Gallo told the news briefing that his group has worked closely with the French researchers and, despite some recent "miscommunications and misunderstandings," still is collaborating with them. And, he said, the Americans are not trying to steal credit for finding the virus.
To his knowledge, Gallo said, the French virus has yet to be truly isolated and grown in quantity to determine its structure. If it proves the same as HTLV-3, Gallo said, he will make sure the world knows of the French contribution.
"If the viruses prove to be the same, I will say so in collaboration with the French," Gallo said.
Both viruses attack and grow in the same white blood cells that are defective or missing in AIDS patients.
About 90 percent of blood serum samples from American AIDS patients show evidence of previous infection by HTLV-3, said Gallo. However, similar samples sent to Paris also showed about the same percentage of infection by LAV, according to French researchers.
Although it is unclear if HTLV-3 and LAV are the same viruses, it appears that scientists have identified, isolated, grown and taken electron microscope pictures of a virus or viruses that may cause AIDS.
Other experts say more work is needed to positively prove that HTLV-3 causes AIDS since victims of the disease become infected with many viruses because of their decimated immune systems.
AIDS results in the collapse of the immune system, which defends the body against disease. Victims become susceptible to rare cancers, pneumonia and other infections that lead to disability and death.
The federal Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta say that more than 4,000 AIDS cases have been reported in the United States since 1981 and that more than 1,700 patients have died of the incurable disease.
The majority of victims have been promiscuous male homosexuals, but other high-risk groups are intravenous drug abusers, Haitian immigrants and hemophiliacs who are treated with blood products. Scientists think AIDS is transmitted through contact with bodily fluids such as blood or semen.
The NIH studies said HTLV-3 viruses themselves, and not just indirect evidence of their presence, were isolated from 48 individuals. No virus was isolated from 115 normal people who were not members of groups at increased risk of AIDS.
Those in whom the virus was found included 26 of 72 patients with AIDS; 18 of 21 patients with a pre-AIDS syndrome manifested by depressed immune systems, and three of four clinically normal mothers of children infected with AIDS who may have acquired the infection before birth or through nursing.
The reports said the virus also was found in one of 22 samples from clinically normal, non-promiscuous homosexual males believed to be at only moderate risk of AIDS. However, six months after the tests, the man with the virus developed AIDS.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Study: Antibiotic-Resistant MRSA ‘Superbug’ Found In US Homes

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Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a bacteria that is resistant to many of the strongest antibiotics, and although recent prevalence has been limited to hospitals and nursing homes, a new study of 161 New York City residents who contracted the MRSA infections finds that the these people’s homes were “major reservoirs” for the bacteria strains. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a bacteria that is resistant to many of the strongest antibiotics, and although recent prevalence has been limited to hospitals and nursing homes, a new study of 161 New York City residents who contracted the MRSA infections finds that the these people’s homes were “major reservoirs” for the bacteria strains. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
Atlanta (CBS ATLANTA) – An anti-biotic resistant “superbug” that has long affected hospitals and other health care locations around the world has now found a new “reservoir” location: inside U.S. homes.
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a bacteria that is resistant to many of the strongest antibiotics, and although recent prevalence has been limited to hospitals and nursing homes, a new study of 161 New York City residents who contracted the MRSA infections finds that the these people’s homes were “major reservoirs” for the bacteria strains, HealthDay reports.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that in communities outside of health care settings, most MRSA strains are skin infections that are spread by physical contact, such as the sharing of towels or razors. Athletes, military barracks, prisons and other close-quarter living areas are at an increased risk of contracting and spreading the bug.
In medical facilities, MRSA causes life-threatening bloodstream infections, pneumonia and surgical infections.
But the new study shows that the MRSA has spread into average U.S. homes.
“What our findings show is it’s also endemic in households,” lead researcher Dr. Anne-Catrin Uhlemann, of Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, tells HealthDay, from the study published in the Proceedings for the National Academy of Sciences.
According to a report released by the CDC last September, more than 2 million Americans get drug-resistant infections each year. And about 23,000 die from these diseases that are increasingly resistant to the strongest antibiotics that doctors use to fight the infections.
Uhlemann and fellow researchers took samples from those affected by MRSA strains along with samples of a comparison group of people how had not fallen ill. The researchers then took samples from these patients’ household surfaces and other social contacts to see if the bacteria had spread.
Ultimately, the research showed that many homes outside of just those affected by MRSA were “major reservoirs” for the MRSA strain, USA300, which HealthDay notes is the primary cause of MRSA infections in communities throughout the country.
Bedding, clothes and other everyday surfaces used by someone affected by MRSA are suggested to be cleaned by bleach and hot water, although Uhlemann says the role of surfaces in transmitting the disease is not “well delineated.”
“We can’t just treat the person with the infection,” Uhlemann told HealthDay. “We have to attempt to remove the (MRSA) colonization from the home,” and another MRSA expert not involved in the study added that the new study “confirms what we’ve suspected all along.”
Correct bandaging, protection of wounds, and hand-washing were suggested by experts as the best ways to protect family members and others who one may come in physical contact with regularly, thereby spreading the bacteria to others.
The CDC has estimated that nearly one-in-three people carry staph bacteria in their nose, and typically feel no symptoms of sickness. About 2 percent of people carry MRSA.
The World Health Organization has previously stated that the overuse of antibiotics has become so common that even normal infections may become deadly in the future, due to the evolution of these bacteria strains.
“It is not too late,” CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden said to during a press conference. “If we’re not careful, the medicine chest will be empty when we go there to look for a lifesaving antibiotic for someone with a deadly infection. If we act now, we can preserve these medications while we continue to work on lifesaving medications.”
Dr. Henry Chambers, chair of the antimicrobial resistance committee for the Infectious Diseases Society of America, told HealthDay he agreed, and that “about half of antibiotics prescribed aren’t needed.” 
A report earlier this month found that the drug-resistant bacteria caused a fatal blood infection in a Brazilian patient, according to Live Science. His body had developed a resistance to the powerful antibiotic vancomycin – used widely to treat the infection – during the course of his stay at the hospital.
– Benjamin Fearnow

Ryan Lewis's Mom Opens Up on Living Decades With HIV, Wants to Help Others

Musician Ryan Lewis is spearheading a fundraising effort to build medical centers around the world to provide comprehensive health care and specialized HIV/AIDS treatment for the needy, and it's all because of one case that hits very close to home.

Lewis, who is one half of the hit rap duo, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, says his mother, Julie Lewis, has been HIV positive since she gave birth to her first child 30 years ago.
After giving birth to her daughter, Teresa, in 1984, Julie Lewis needed a blood transfusion.
"In that moment without anyone knowing it, (she) had HIV positive blood put into her body," Ryan Lewis said. "At age 25, one year younger than I am right now, her life would change forever."
She had two other children - Laura and Ryan - before being diagnosed as HIV positive in the summer of 1990.
"I was 32 years old, and I had three young children, ages 6, 4, and 2. I'd never thought about dying," an emotional Julie Lewis said, speaking in a YouTube video about the initiative.
Scientists Find Aggressive New HIV Strain
Each of her younger children had a 25 percent chance of being born with HIV, but they were both born free of the virus.
Julie Lewis herself was given only a few years to live.
"But you know what's amazing? My mom never died. She lived," her son said.
Julie Lewis founded the 30/30 Project to allow people all over the world access to the same high-quality healthcare that she received. The project is raising funds on the website IndieGoGo. As of Tuesday night, the campaign had collected $19,238 of a stated goal of $100,000.
UK Doctor: 'I'd Rather Have HIV Than Diabetes'
"Life-threatening diseases like HIV/AIDS can be managed," Julie Lewis said. "What people need is access … I was infected with HIV 30 years ago. And I never thought I'd be sitting here, 30 years later, talking to you."
The announcement is timed to coincide with the 30 th anniversary of the scientific discovery that AIDS is caused by HIV.
Macklemore voiced his support for the project.
"Healthcare is a human right. That is what we believe. We want to see this idea put into action," he said.
An estimated 34 million people globally have been diagnosed with HIV, according to the World Health Organization. Since the epidemic began in the early 1980s, the infection has claimed more than 33 million lives, according to CDC estimates.
More than 1.1 million people in the U.S. are living with the infection but nearly one in six is unaware they are infected.
When AIDS was a relatively new disease, patients could expect to develop full blown AIDS within 10 years and live only a year or two longer.
Now, with better HIV treatments, patients who start them before their immune system declines significantly have a much longer life expectancy.
ABC News' Liz Neporent contributed to this report.

This 805-Pound Shark Went From the Top of the Food Chain to Being Served at a Florida Barbecue
Mon, 21 Apr 2014 13:16:26 PDT

It’s not every day that you see an 11-foot-long, 805-pound shark at a gas station. But last week after Pensacola Beach, Fla., resident Cat West stopped for a fill-up and saw a ginormous fish hanging out of the back of a pickup truck, he snapped a photo that lit up social media. Now two Florida cousins are being lauded for possibly setting a world record for largest shortfin mako catch ever.
Earnie and Joey Polk, two fishermen who hold records from the International Land-Based Shark Fishing Association, say they intended to keep the catch a secret—they don't want their angling spots swarmed by record-seeking competition. But this particular shortfin mako was simply too large to stay hidden in the bed of their pickup.
“That’s probably the best fish we ever caught,” Earnie Polk told the Pensacola News Journal. “You’ll spend many, many hours to catch a fish of that caliber or a fish of that size.” Torpedo-like shortfin makos are known for being the fastest shark in the sea. They've been clocked at speeds of up to 60 miles per hour. They can also leap 20 feet in the air. 
The duo say they normally tag and release the majority of sharks they catch (in 2013 they caught 300 sharks and kept 20 of them) as part of the National Marine Fisheries Service’s Cooperative Shark Tagging Program. However, an hour-long fight with a hook wore out this particular shark too much for it to survive. In the above video you can see the big fish frantically flopping around after being caught.
Last year a study of shark, ray, and cartilage-containing fish species by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature found that only one-third of the species can be considered “safe” from extinction. The shortfin mako is one of the fish listed on IUCN’s Red List as “vulnerable” globally.
The shark the Polk cousins caught may have once been at the top of the ocean food chain, but it ended up being fried and served at a community barbecue. Shortfin makos are, along with other shark species, targeted across the world for both their meat and their fins. One hundred million sharks die every year.
Earnie Polk said what they do is “just a good pastime.” He said he and his cousin fish ethically. “We don’t do chumming whatsoever. We fish at night. We don’t fish on crowded beaches. We don’t fish anytime there are swimmers,” he said. “We don’t draw the fish to the beach. We just catch what swims by. The fishermen are there because the fish are there.”

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MERS death toll hits 81 in Saudi

Saudi medical staff and a security guard stand at the closed gate of the emergency department as exit and entry is banned at King Fahd Hospital, on April 9, 2014 in Jeddah
Riyadh (AFP) - The MERS death toll has climbed to 81 in Saudi Arabia, which sacked its health minister as cases of infection by the coronavirus mount in the country.
A 73-year-old Saudi who suffered from chronic illnesses died in Riyadh and a compatriot diagnosed with the virus, aged 54, died in the port city of Jeddah, the health ministry said late Monday.
The ministry said it has registered 261 cases of infection across the kingdom since the discovery of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome in September 2012.
The World Health Organisation said on April 17 that it has been informed of 243 laboratory-confirmed cases of infection with MERS worldwide, including 93 deaths.
Saudi Arabia on Monday dismissed its health minister, Abdullah al-Rabiah, without any explanation.
Rabiah last week visited hospitals in Jeddah to calm a public hit by panic over the spread of the virus among medical staff that triggered the temporary closure of a hospital emergency room.
MERS was initially concentrated in eastern Saudi Arabia but now affects other areas.
The virus is considered a deadlier but less-transmissible cousin of the SARS virus that erupted in Asia in 2003 and infected 8,273 people, nine percent of whom died.
Experts are still struggling to understand MERS, for which there is no known vaccine.
A recent study said the virus has been "extraordinarily common" in camels for at least 20 years, and it may have been passed directly from the animals to humans.

Illness Linked to Oysters Is on the Rise
Tue, 22 Apr 2014 15:39:43 PDT

Grim news for America’s oyster lovers. Vibrio infections, often linked to that beautiful plate of raw Atlantic brininess, were up a stunning 75 percent through 2013, according to the latest Food Safety Progress Report from federal authorities.
Compared to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's 2006 to 2008 report, the vibrio increase was the biggest among the six pathogens tracked by the agency. Despite the sharp increase in vibrio infections, the pathogen only accounted for 55 hospitalizations and two deaths in 2013—like many food-borne illnesses, vibrio typically causes diarrhea, which can be serious in the immune-compromised, the elderly, or children.
Overall, America’s food safety grades show very little progress has been made in the fight to keep our food safe from pathogens.
A tiny bright spot in the report shows a modest 9 percent decline in salmonella infections. But reading the numbers can get tricky; despite declining numbers, salmonella caused 2,003 hospitalizations and 27 deaths last year.
Then there’s E. coli. There was no significant change in the E. coli strains tracked, but the CDC was frank in its warning about the pathogen. 
“We could be losing ground on past progress in E. coli reduction,” according to the report.
Overall in 2013, FoodNet, the collaboration between the CDC, 10 state health departments, the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, and the FDA found that more than 19,000 infections, 4,200 hospitalizations, and 80 deaths stemmed from the pathogens it tracks, and that young children were often the most affected.
Those are just the reported numbers. For each pathogen, the CDC estimates the number of cases that go unreported. For example, for every Yersinia case reported, 123 cases are not diagnosed. For every salmonella case, 29 go undiagnosed. For every vibrio case reported, 142 cases are not reported.
Even the CDC admits that most food-borne illnesses can be prevented. Why?
Urvashi Rangan, Ph.D., director of the Consumer Safety Group at Consumer Reports, says part of the reason is that the U.S. hasn’t made enough progress on standards for meat or on the use of antibiotics that can affect pathogen resistance; she points to last year’s Foster Farm outbreak as an example. The USDA's lack of standards for chicken parts is part of the problem, Rangan said.
“We should have standards in place for all meat at this point, and strengthen them over time to get a meaningful reduction in contamination,” Rangan said. “And we need to deal with the virulence and resistance of pathogens and stop teasing them with antibiotics used in agriculture.”
Dr. Robert Tauxe, deputy director of CDC’s Division of Foodborne, Waterborne and Environmental Diseases, also pointed out another snag in the efforts to curb food-borne illnesses—changes in the diagnostic tests used by laboratories that allow health officials to trace food-borne outbreaks across state lines.
Laboratories are increasingly relying on less expensive, rapid non-culture tests. That means collecting stool samples from sick patients may not be needed. While that can be a benefit to both doctors and patients, for health officials who track disease, the shift in laboratory testing means they’re not always able to get the DNA fingerprint they need to trace an outbreak to its source.
It’s a problem health officials have been aware of for several years.
“This trend will challenge our ability to monitor trends and detect outbreaks," says Tauxe.
Maryn McKenna, author of Superbug, has also written that not having a cultured organism also means losing the ability to detect when the food-borne illness is antibiotic-resistant. She writes:
Antibiotic resistance is an increasingly important issue for food production; the now year-long outbreak in chicken from Foster Farms, which has racked up 524 infections in 25 states, involves a Salmonella that is multi-drug resistant. No longer being able to track resistance could mean completely losing track of foodborne epidemics.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Giant mako shark photographed at Florida gas station could set a world record

Details emerge after image goes viral; 805-pound shark was caught from shore

Joey Polk tries to be inconspicuous while filling up with a giant mako shark in his truck; photo by West Calhoun
Florida anglers who had hoped to avoid publicity after catching a giant mako shark from the beach last week might have succeeded had they not stopped for gas on the way home–with the enormous predator spilling from the bed of their pickup truck.
News spread not long after West Calhoun, a passerby, sent a photo of the shark to the Pensacola News-Journal. The News Journal posted the image on its Facebook page, with no details, and the peculiar image was so widely shared and discussed that the newspaper tracked down one of the anglers and, a day later, reported that the catch could set a world record for shore-based fishing.
Cousins Earnie and Joey Polk hooked the shortfin mako in the dark morning hours, on a Gulf Coast beach near Navarre. The apex predator, reeled in with heavy tackle after an hour-long struggle, weighed 805 pounds and measured 11 feet.
“That’s probably the best fish we ever caught,” Earnie Polk said. “You’ll spend many, many hours to catch a fish of that caliber, or a fish of that size.”
Generic shortfin mako shark image is via Wikipedia
The International Land-Based Shark Fishing Association, which encourages catch and release and accepts tape measurements with estimated weights, recognizes a 674-pound mako caught by Earnie Polk in 2009 as the current record. Earnie and Joey also teamed to make that catch.
For the sake of comparison, the largest mako caught on rod and reel from a boat weighed 1,221 pounds, according to the International Game Fish Association. That catch was in 2001 off Massachusetts.
Presumably, the Polks hoped to keep news of their latest catch quiet because the shark-conservation movement has become so vocal in recent years. Sharks are slow to reproduce and vulnerable to overfishing, and many species are believed to be in steep decline.
The image was shared nearly 3,000 times, and while many of the comments were critical of the Polks, some were in support of the anglers. Fishing for mako sharks off Florida, after all, is not illegal.
The Polks explained that they kept the shark because it had become so weary during the fight, and they did not think it could swim back to sea.
So they trucked the predator home and planned a family feast.
“It’s about $10 per pound at the fish market,” Earnie Polk said. “It sells right along with tuna and swordfish. Between all of us, there won’t be a bit of it wasted.”
More from GrindTV
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Humpback whales go for a surf at Pipeline
Giant mako shark hooked in Florida shallows

Humpback whales go for a surf at Pipeline

Mother and calf catch a set wave at the iconic spot on Oahu's North Shore; rare event is photographed by J.T. Gray

Humpback whales go right on a large set wave at Pipeline; photo by ©J.T. Gray/NorthShoreSurfPhotos
A photographer has captured what might be the only image showing large whales riding a wave at iconic Banzai Pipeline on Oahu’s North Shore.
J.T. Gray of North Shore Surf Photos arrived Saturday to find a late-season swell had shown, minus the hordes of surfers that generally greet each swell.
As a bodyboarder was catching one wave, two humpback whales materialized in a larger second wave and rode the swell just long enough for Gray to capture the moment.
While it’s common for dolphins to ride waves, this is rare behavior for a large whale species.
Photo by ©J.T. Gray/NorthShoreSurfPhotos
“The whales were 75 to 100 yards east of Pipeline and playing for a while, then swam to about 10 yards outside of the lineup,” Gray told GrindTV. “A set came in and the bodyboarder caught the first wave, and the humpbacks caught the second.”
Gray added, “Whales frequent Hawaii in the winter months, but never that close to shore.”
The rare image was posted to Ocean Defender–Hawaii’s Facebook page on Monday, and as of Tuesday morning it had been shared more than 4,000 times. Gray gave permission for its use for this story.
He said the whales were a mother and calf, and it’s possible that the whales were just playing, but it’s also possible that the mother was keeping tabs on her stray calf.
Said Ocean Defender’s Oriana Kalama, “Yes, it’s the first time anyone has seen a humpback surf or get that close to the waves, but they do get really close to shore. Humpbacks sing, breach, and, if you ask me, they dance too. If you ever have the chance to see them underwater, you would see how much they seem to enjoy to move their pectoral fins and, in a way, flirt with each other when in groups.
“So why wouldn’t they surf, too? After all, they are Hawaiians by birth.”
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Sunday, April 20, 2014

West Africa's Ebola outbreak prompts changes in I.Coast cuisine

A woman prepares food on April 8, 2014 at a "maquis," a small restaurant, in Kobakro, outside Abidjan, which has stopped serving bushmeat since West Africa's Ebola outbreak
Bouaké (Ivory Coast) (AFP) - West Africa's first outbreak of Ebola fever is bad news for gourmets in Ivory Coast, but brings respite from the hunter to species sought out for tasty meat but feared to carry the disease.
Late in March, Health Minister Raymonde Goudou Coffie called for her compatriots to stop eating porcupines and agoutis, which look like large river-rats, "until we can be sure there are no risks".
Bushmeat is known to be a vector of Ebola, the alarming haemorrhagic fever that has claimed at least 122 lives in Guinea, according to a UN World Health Organisation toll on April 17. Liberia, meanwhile, reports 13 deaths.
Hunters and restaurant owners in the central Ivorian town of Bouake are upset that clients have begun to steer clear of the strong taste of the agouti, a beast with a long snout and brown fur that can reach half a metre (1.6 feet) in length.
Last week, the minister's recommendation was still going unheeded or ignored by some traders and hunters in Bouake's main bushmeat market. One hunter openly carried a dead rodent.
Emile, a customer in his 40s who seemed slightly tipsy, asked for "Ebola meat", meaning braised agouti. "Ebola can't survive alcohol or hot water," claimed the scarred Rigobeli, who had just eaten a large meal.
But such scenes are swiftly becoming a thing of the past. An official ban on bushmeat -- including antelopes, chimpanzees and porcupines as well as agoutis -- has been enforced and a week later, the Bouake market was empty.
State officials from the water and forestry service and in the health sector are patrolling the whole country in search of offenders. They recently burned 200 kilos (440 pounds) of smoked game found in the capital Yamoussoukro.
The stakes are high. Wild animals are carriers of often deadly haemorrhagic fevers, including Ebola for which there is no medical cure. The fruit bat has been singled out as a likely vector in the west African outbreak.
People subsequently contaminate each other by direct contact with blood, bodily fluids and the tissue of infected patients, including dead ones during their burial.
The current strain of Ebola kills 90 percent of its victims and suspect cases have been reported in Sierra Leone and Mali, while Senegal has closed its border with Guinea.
Fear of the disease runs high in Ivory Coast, another of Guinea's neighbours, though no cases have yet been reported. People have begun to listen to official warnings and instructions.
- Secret signs -
"We like agouti very much, but we would rather save our lives," said Ernest, a man in his 30s. "As an Ivorian, I appreciate this meat. But with the risk of Ebola, I've changed, I don't eat any more," Kassoum agreed.
Not everybody plays by the rules. A restaurant owner, who asked to remain anonymous, said she had established a code with some of her most loyal customers, hardened eaters of bushmeat.
"When they come in, those who can't do without agouti give me a signal in secret and I make sure that other customers believe I am serving them beef," she explained.
Adele Coulibaly, 48, whose restaurant used to specialise in game, has converted to beef and fish, but in the process she has lost customers and income. She is sceptical about the government's recommendations.
"When I was born, my mother was in this line of work and there was never any disease," she said. "Bushmeat has nothing to do with Ebola."
On the other hand, the restrictions imposed by the Ebola outbreak could help wildlife to recover. A ban of game hunting has been in force since 1974, but remained largely ineffective because of the popularity of the meat.
Agoutis, antelopes, chimpanzees, porcupines and other species are all in danger of extinction in Ivory Coast, but today they have at least a few weeks' respite.
Ironically, "Ebola is a good thing for the preservation of wildlife," said Colonel Jerome Ake, the Yamoussoukro regional director for water and forestry.
A break in hunting will also benefit the natural environment, since hunters flush out game by starting large brush fires, which they are not always able to keep under control.
In the past 10 years, such blazes have killed 120 people and destroyed more than 5,000 square kilometres (1,900 square miles) of forest and other land, a region twice the size of Luxembourg. But in these days of Ebola, fewer fires are likely to be started.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

SARS-Like MERS Virus Spreads Among Health Care Workers

Good Morning America
SARS-Like MERS Virus Spreads Among Health Care Workers
SARS-Like MERS Virus Spreads Among Health Care Workers (ABC News)
A sudden uptick in the SARS-like corona virus called MERS-CoV for Middle Eastern Respiratory Coronavirus is partially related to health care workers becoming infected with the disease.
This month the World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed 32 cases of the virus so far, including a cluster of 10 health care workers, all of whom worked with an infected patient who died on April 10. Nearly all the cases were located in the Middle East countries of Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Jordan. One case was found in Malaysia.
Of the 32 cases reported this month, 19 were health care workers, according to the WHO.
For the first time, the disease has been found in Asia, after a Malaysian man was found to have contracted it this month. The 54-year-old man was diagnosed with the disease after traveling to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The man traveled for a pilgrimage and during his vacation spent time at a camel farm, where he had camel milk. He died on April 13 and had undisclosed underlying health conditions.
The virus is a respiratory virus in the same family as the deadly SARS virus and common cold. Symptoms can include fever, shortness of breath, pneumonia, diarrhea and in severe cases kidney failure.
Since the virus was first identified in April 2012, the WHO has found a total of 243 confirmed cases of the deadly virus and 93 people have died from it.
The virus has been shown to spread between people in close contact. Currently officials do not know where the virus originated, but suspect it was likely from an animal.
No MERS-CoV infections have been reported in the United States. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that travelers to the Arabian Peninsula monitor their health during the trip and in the weeks after.
CDC officials recommend that if a recent traveler to the region develops a fever or symptom of respiratory illness, including a cough or shortness of breath, they should see a doctor immediately.