World Bulletin / News Desk
Public health officials have begun examining blood samples and questionnaire results from dozens of Yosemite National Park workers who volunteered for a study designed to shed light on an unprecedented outbreak of deadly hantavirus.
This week's screening, which involved 96 workers, is the latest effort by officials to uncover clues about the rare, mouse-borne lung disease that has infected at least nine park visitors and killed three since June.
"This is a unique opportunity to learn more about potential exposure to hantavirus from the people who lived and worked in close proximity to this cluster of cases," park spokesman John Quinley said Thursday.
One aim is to help researchers design a study of the California park's more than 2,500 workers in a search for clues about how the virus infects people and how to prevent it.
Among the lingering questions over the outbreak is why hantavirus infected park visitors while sparing employees.
All but one of the nine infected visitors stayed in Curry Village in double-walled, insulated tent cabins later found to be infested with deer mice. The tiny, white-bellied mice carry the airborne virus in their droppings, urine and saliva.
The park closed the infested tent cabins at the end of August, after learning of two of the hantavirus deaths.
This week's screening will examine park workers' blood for antibodies signaling exposure to the hantavirus. Employees also answered questions about where they live, their contact with mice, their job duties and their hantavirus training, Quinley said.
"We've had a lot of employees go through hantavirus training," he said. "We're interested in knowing if the training works."
The voluntary study is part of a broader scientific effort that will include the first whole-genome sequencing for the hantavirus strain t h at struck Yosemite over the summer. It marked the biggest cluster of cases since the disease was first identified in the United States in 1993.
At that time, when hantavirus pulmonary syndrome infected healthy young adults in the Four Corners region of Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico, Navajo elders linked the outbreak to an abundance of pine nuts and an explosion of mice coming out for the feast.
Since then, more than 600 Americans have been diagnosed with hantavirus pulmonary syndrome. The incurable disease kills more than a third of those infected.
To date, humans have never been known to transmit the virus. People can inhale the hantavirus when mice droppings mix with dust, especially in confined, poorly ventilated spaces.
MERS has no vaccine or anti-viral treatment, but international and Saudi health authorities say the disease, which originated in camels, does not transmit easily between people and may simply die out
Blamed on the uncontrolled and overuse of farm chemicals, the level of contamination has raised a number of health concerns, with certain villages already showing higher rates of cancer than the national average.
The deputy minister called on South Sudanese farmers in states that have not been hit by famine to cultivate their farmlands to avoid exacerbating the crisis in the country.
Researchers determined that while the Guinean form of the Ebola virus (EBOV) showed a 97 percent similarity to the Zaire strain, the disease was not introduced from Central Africa.
Pakistan's army will join campaign to eradicate polio.
Instead of testing one drug at a time, a novel lung cancer study announced will allow British researchers to test up to 14 drugs from AstraZeneca and Pfizer at the same time within one trial
Australian Immigration Minister Scott Morrison's office said that medical officers at the centre had confirmed three cases of the potentially fatal tropical disease, which is transmitted by mosquitoes
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) last month ordered a halt to its annual hunts in the Southern Ocean, prompting Japan to cancel its 2014-2015 Antarctic hunt, the programme's mainstay, as it pledged to abide by the ruling
Researchers said they have identified a protein on the egg cell's surface that interacts with another protein on the surface of a sperm cell, allowing the two cells to join
The Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever (CCHF) virus was found in the person's blood who died on Sunday in Istanbul.
Authorities said a cancer-inducing chemical had been found in tap water supplied by the firm at 20 times above national safety levels, state media said
Ebola is a contagious disease for which there is no known treatment or cure.
The central government has identified the heavily industrialised Beijing-Hebei-Tianjin region as one of the main fronts in its war against pollution
The findings of the study and the likely changes to the food chain will be of concern to millions in the tropics who depend on coral reefs for food security and livelihoods.
More compact city designs that cut commutes, insulation to save energy, better public transport, cycle lanes and pedestrian areas can all cut emissions, mainly from fossil fuels.
Along with Saudi Arabia, cases of MERS have so far been reported in Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Tunisia, Jordan and Oman.