The odds I would ever make it to Guyana were slim…

Now, they’re non-existent.

Piotr Naskrecki was taking a nighttime walk in a rainforest in Guyana, when he heard rustling as if something were creeping underfoot. When he turned on his flashlight, he expected to see a small mammal, such as a possum or a rat.

“When I turned on the light, I couldn’t quite understand what I was seeing,” said Naskrecki, an entomologist and photographer at Harvard University’s Museum of Comparative Zoology.
A moment later, he realized he was looking not at a brown, furry mammal, but an enormous, puppy-size spider.

Oh, hell no.

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Third Rule of Preventing an Ebola Outbreak: Ignore Jesse Jackson

Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian national being treated for Ebola in Dallas, Texas, is dead, and no one should find that surprising. With a lethality rate somewhere between 50-60%, your chances of surviving EVD aren’t all that great to begin with, never mind the total lack of demonstrably effective treatments for the disease.

Healthcare expert Rev. Jesse Jackson, however, is suspicious.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson, who’s serving as a spokesman for the family, said that was a concern.

“I would tend to think that those who do not have insurance, those who do not have Medicaid, do not have the same priorities as those who do,” the civil rights leader said.

Continue reading

Second Rule of Preventing an Ebola Outbreak: Do not listen to Ted Cruz

It isn’t often Texas governor Rick Perry displays a moment of competency, and this one is definitely worth talking about.

Regarding the man currently being treated for Ebola virus disease (EVD) in Dallas, Perry said:

“There are few places in the world better equipped to meet the challenge that is posed in this case. … The public should have every confidence that the highly trained professionals involved here will succeed in this very important mission.”

I guess the smartguy glasses are working.

I guess the smartguy glasses are working

Much of the public panic over this disease largely stems from an abject failure to understand anything about it. The news isn’t entirely to blame for this; while mainstream outlets are milking this case for all the sensationalism it is worth, most articles have been quite clear in how the virus is transmitted from host to host. The bare fact of the matter, what many Americans just can’t seem to get through their thick skulls, is that Ebola has been enormously successful in West Africa because the region is seriously lacking infrastructure, technology, education and public trust. The governments of Liberia and Sierra Leone are, by all measure, manifestly ill-equipped to combat the Ebola virus. We, however, are not. Continue reading

Why is this Ebola outbreak so bad?

CNN unwittingly hit the nail on the head in this article.

“I think that the government and the ministry of health here in Sierra Leone is not able to deal with this outbreak. We need much more help from international organizations — as WHO, as CDC, as other organizations — to come to support the government,” Wolz said.

“Still we have unsafe burials; people who are doing the burial without disinfection of the body; still we have patients who are hiding themselves; still we have patients or contacts of patients who are running away because they are afraid.”

The duration and impact of the 2014 West African Ebola outbreak — or rather, the attention it has been receiving from our mainstream media outlets — has prompted the less-inquisitive elements of our society to completely ignore what science has taught us about how Ebola is transmitted in favor of their own imaginative speculations. The stupids wonder aloud: “How could the disease have spread so far and infected so many, of whom a fair portion are medical professionals, if it were not airborne?” But in the fashion typical of cranks, the question is posed only as a lead-in to their predetermined conclusion… that scientists are wrong, that Ebola is indeed airborne. Continue reading

Dr. Sanjay Gupta: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Ebola

Ebolavirus is deceptively simple. A mere seven proteins surround and comprise a filamentous capsid, which houses its archaic genetic material: a single strand of non-segmented RNA. Yet, treatment — much less a cure — for the hemorrhagic fever Ebola engenders in humans and primates continues to elude us. Of those unfortunate enough to contract the virus, 50% to 90% will die, and there’s literally nothing we can do to help them.

If the raw numbers don’t frighten you, the symptoms sure as shit will. Ebola — like all Filoviridae — is extremely virulent; a few particles are enough to spark a full-blown infection. Injecting itself into a host cell and hijacking its reproductive proteins and organelles, the virus begins cranking out copies of itself at an exponential rate. When the host cell can no longer contain the replicated virus particles, it bursts. The released particles infect other cells, and the process continues. The mass destruction of tissues causes severe hemorrhaging. In infected persons, the lining of the stomach and intestines are sloughed off, and the victim to begins to vomit and defecate blood boiling hot with Ebola particles. The connective tissues beneath the muscles are eaten away, and without such moorings, the muscle and skin of the face droop cartoonishly from the skull. Weakened veins and capillaries break apart with the slightest pressure, making the administration of intravenous drugs or nourishment, or blood transfusions, a dubious proposition. The surface of the tongue peels off. The whites of the eyes, ravaged by the virus, turn blood red. The body bleeds at such an incredible rate its clotting agents are unable to keep up with demand. Most infected persons die of hypovolemic shock within 10 days of becoming symptomatic. It is a horrible, painful, and humiliating way to go. The only silver lining — and it is admittedly a stretch to call it that — is that the virus attacks the brain and body in equal measure. By the time an infected person crashes and bleeds out, he or she is essentially brain dead. Continue reading

The most dangerous pet in the world…

This is my cat, Pollux:

Pollux

Let not the little pink nose and the googly eyes fool you: he’s a ticking time bomb.

In a three-year retrospective study published in the February issue of The Journal of Hand Surgery, researchers reviewed records of 193 people who came to Mayo Clinic Hospital with cat bites to the hand.

Thirty-six victims were immediately admitted to the hospital, where they stayed an average of three days. Another 154 were treated with oral antibiotics as outpatients, although 21 of them eventually had to be hospitalized. Complications included nerve involvement, abscesses and loss of joint mobility.

While canine bites are more common and more immediately traumatic, as dogs are able to tear flesh, and in some cases break bone, feline bites pose a much greater risk of infection. The cat’s narrow teeth create cavities in skin, muscle and tendon that are not easily cleaned.

The most common cause of infection was Pasteurella multocida, an aggressive bacterium found in the mouths of many animals and up to 90 percent of healthy cats. Amoxicillin is commonly used to treat it.

“Redness, swelling, increasing pain, difficulty in moving the hand and drainage from the wound are all signs that there may be an infection and that treatment should be sought,” said the senior author of the study, Dr. Brian T. Carlsen, a hand surgeon at the Mayo Clinic.

“The tendon sheaths and joints are superficial in the hand, and cat bites penetrate easily, seeding those spaces with the germ, ” he added. “Once it’s in there, it can grow quite rapidly in fluid-filled spaces that don’t have blood circulation, and surgery is often required. That’s an important message: don’t ignore a cat bite.”

Looks like I’ll be sleeping with one eye open tonight…

I thought we were an autonomous collective…

800px-Çatalhöyük_with_surroundings.

Situated above southern Anatolia’s Konya Plain, the ruined proto-city of Çatal Höyük is the best-preserved neolithic site discovered to date. With an estimated population of roughly 3,000, it may have been the largest city in the 60th Century BCE.

By 5700 BCE, the city had been abandoned, but the people who had lived there left plenty of trinkets behind for modern archaeologists. Idols, pottery, grindstones–even the heads of ancient aurochs–have been pulled from the ruins. By studying these heirlooms, archaeologists are able to determine a great deal about this ancient people, from their religion to their diet to their social organization.

Archaeologist Katherine I. Wright of University College London believes Çatal Höyük began as an egalitarian cooperative, wherein specialized groups performed specific tasks (such as farming, pottery, etc.) for the betterment of the community. Prior to its collapse, however, it showed showed signs of increasing social stratification, and perhaps factional violence[1].

Analysis of 2429 ground stone artefacts from 20 buildings and 9 yards reveals private household property and a broad equality of access to cooking features and some ground stone tools, but ground stone toolkits do not indicate self-sufficiency. Lorenz curves for features and ground stone artefacts suggest that storage units, unbroken querns and unfinished quern roughouts were the most unequally distributed food preparation facilities. Elaborate buildings have more diverse artefacts and concentrations of unbroken, large querns and quern roughouts, which may mean unusual status, specialization or hosting of task groups. From food processing tools we detect hints of a form of agricultural intensification (post-harvest) but also constraints on wealth transmission within domestic groups. It is suggested that corporate groups held substantial power and that decorated buildings were “host houses” for cooperative, multi-household activities, comparable to the Near Eastern mudhif. At Çatalhöyük, these were also residences.

However, some artefact types (e.g. maceheads, special trays) suggest rising tensions and factional competition through time.

Wright also suggests the Çatal Höyük culture had not developed the concept of inherited wealth. If they had, social inequality would have been forever solidified, and more distinct in the artifacts they left behind.

[1] Katherine I. (Karen) Wright, Domestication and inequality? Households, corporate groups and food processing tools at Neolithic Çatalhöyük, Journal of Anthropological Archaeology, Volume 33, March 2014, Pages 1-33, ISSN 0278-4165, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jaa.2013.09.007.(http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S027841651300055X)