Perhaps you remember the Walt Disney classic “Old Yeller” in which a frontier family’s dog contracts “the hydrophobie” from fighting a rabid wolf. Who could forget the tear-jerker scene where, after telling his mama “He was my dog… I’ll do it,” young Travis ends Yeller’s suffering.
Although it is a vaccine-preventable disease, rabies still poses a significant public health problem in many countries in Asia and Africa where 95% of human deaths occur even though safe, effective vaccines for both human and veterinary use exist.
Nearly half of those bitten by suspect rabid animals are children under 15 years of age. Although the efficacy and safety of modern cell culture vaccines have been recognized, some countries still produce and use nervous tissue vaccines, which are less effective.
— World Health Organization » Health topics » Rabies
In many parts of the world, vaccination, testing and treatment are prohibitively expensive. In rural communities rabies isn’t reported. It’s deadly, why bother? is the logic. Keep the victim as comfortable as possible while you wait for the inevitable.
The very experimental Milwaukee Protocol is marginally effective. Patients come out of it with severe neurological damage and needing months of rehab.
Currently, if a human is bitten the doctors test the animal that bit them. The test – and this is gruesome – requires that the animal’s head be sent away for testing. The test is to look for lesions on the brain, and if there are no lesions, oh well.
They’ve come up with a new test that can diagnose human rabies from skin cells that I hope will someday replace decapitation as the diagnostic procedure of choice.
The number of human deaths due to rabies is currently underestimated to be 55,000 deaths per year. Biological diagnostic methods for confirmation of rabies remain limited, because testing on postmortem cerebral samples is the reference method, and in many countries, sampling brain tissue is rarely practiced. There is a need for a reliable method based on a simple collection of nonneural specimens.
Dacheux, Laurent et al. A Reliable Diagnosis of Human Rabies Based on Analysis of Skin Biopsy Specimens. Clinical Infectious Diseases 2008; 47:1410–7
I hate Global Warming skeptics.
/PLANTS/ … It is not known how poison ivy might respond to increasing concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO(2)), but previous work done in controlled growth chambers shows that other vines exhibit large growth enhancement from elevated CO(2). Rising CO(2) is potentially responsible for the increased vine abundance that is inhibiting forest regeneration and increasing tree mortality around the world. In this 6-year study at the Duke University Free-Air CO(2) Enrichment experiment, we show that elevated atmospheric CO(2) in an intact forest ecosystem increases photosynthesis, water use efficiency, growth, and population biomass of poison ivy. The CO(2) growth stimulation exceeds that of most other woody species. Furthermore, high-CO(2) plants produce a more allergenic form of urushiol. Our results indicate that Toxicodendron taxa will become more abundant and more “toxic” in the future, potentially affecting global forest dynamics and human health.
[Mohan JE et al; Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 103 (24): 9086-9 (2006)] **PEER REVIEWED** PubMed Abstract
K: It just ocurred to me. A major flaw in the premise of the movie “Signs
“. Why would anyone go to a planet that contained such vast quantities of a substance so extremely toxic to them?
Me: USUALLY they don’t. In those cases the native species all die and there is no movie.
Yeah, it’s not like they could use us as food. No idea.
That, and the humidity in the air would burn whatever they use for lungs.
Of course, running around naked didn’t help. Didn’t they have space suits?
For that matter, why didn’t they have weapons? Never bring your own balls to a baseball bat fight.
And DAMN, did they not have doors where they came from? Locked in the *pantry*?
T: If today’s TV and movies were logical, most of them would last about 2 minutes. I tried watching “Alias
” and the lead character is a CIA agent/grad student. She tells her fiance. He leaves a long phone message on her answering machine musing about this revelation. If it were at all realistic, both of them would be dead, not just the boyfriend – and Darwin would be proved right.
Me: “Alias” had its moments.
M: Cuz it’s in the script?
K: At the end of The ORIGINAL War of the Worlds, the Martians died when they caught a cold. But why didn’t they bring any of their own viruses? They could have eradicated life on Earth by sending blankets infected with Mars-pox.
T: Ah, the good old days…when we didn’t know about small pox. And the only gals you saw in underwear were for Playtex.
K: Remember in old westerns when they would show “Kind Hearted” women taking blankets to the poor cold indians despite the warnings. Then we didn’t understand why the “Barbaric Savages” would reject the gift and take the women prisoner? Now we know and realize we might have done the same.
Me: I don’t recall any movies with “kind-hearted women” being exposed to smallpox-infected blankets.
When Mars-pox kills everyone, there will be no movie. There was a sci-fi story by Racoona Sheldon called “The Screwfly Solution” in which aliens used pheromones to wipe out the human race. It was told from the viewpoint of a woman who escaped the carnage by hiding in the mountains. The story appears in “The Oxford Book of Science Fiction Stories.”
OTOH, in the book Evolution from Space two highly-esteemed astronomers state that since the earth is constantly being bombarded by graphite, it’s practically a given that the building blocks of alien life are constantly raining down on us. Graphite can be the result of exposing organic material to UV radiation in a vacuum.
Viruses that evolved with us usually don’t kill everyone. To be a successful parasite you have to have to have hosts to infest. Hoyle and Wickramasinghe also associated some historical plagues with celestial events such as meteor showers and near-misses by comets.
Viruses can be used to inject genetic material into our cells. I would guess that a number of these plagues from space injected USEFUL materials, hence “Evolution from Space.”
I wonder whether the aliens in Signs were made of something that’s noxious to us. Like urushiol. Now there’s the stuff of nightmares.
K: I saw both versions. Best scene is when the probe is searching the basement where the people are hiding.
Me: …And then the naked alien walks in and looks for them. I’m detecting a pattern here
I upgraded to WordPress 3.5 and some plugins last night. The automatic install went smoothly as always, but dammit! something went wrong.
When the going gets tough, the tough take a nap.
It turned out that the tagaroo plugin wasn’t playing nice with WordPress. I suspect it’s due to the new WP code for Add Media.
If you have this problem here’s what to do:
A conversation with my husband:
DH: How could you not have read “Tale of Two Cities”? It has the most famous opening line ever…
Me: “Call me Ishmael?”
DH: Ok, the second most famous opening line ever.
As it happens, we read the same authors but different books. In grade school I slogged through Dickens’ “Great Expectations” but DH read “Tale Of Two Cities” and so on.
I found lists of the best books ever written, boiled it down to a reasonable number, then downloaded the .epubs from Project Gutenberg. If you like my ebook selection, please donate to Project Gutenberg! These ebooks are all Public Domain in the U.S., that is, legal to download and to share.
Download these three .zip archives and enjoy!
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To the Native Americans, breath and spirit were one and the same. A baby wasn’t instilled with a soul until he took his first breath.
In Latin “spiritus” can mean either breath or soul. Dying, “expiration,” means both that final breath and the departure of the soul.
This was my favorite song as a kid. My friend Max respun it for me.
Asperger’s will be dropped from the next revision of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the book that standardizes diagnostic criteria for mental illness.
Brilliant. By eliminating an autism spectrum, the psychiatrists will be encouraging discrimination against “Aspies” (their word for themselves) who have higher IQs and marginally better social skills, i.e. are more capable of working.
All in all, it’s looking as if the DSM-V is categorizing the mentally ill by the DRUGS used to treat their illness. Dangerous.
It’s not that Aspies are at risk losing services, it’s that in order to get services they are at risk being treated – both in the medical and the social sense – as if they are sicker than you really are.
Simplify, Leslie… I mean the high-functioning autistics will have to prove every day that they are indeed high-functioning. Autism is not one-size-fits-all. I suspect, however, that the Aspergers diagnosis was invented when the shrinks realized that they could throw a net over shy, introverted children who are technically inclined. In the old days we called them “geeks.”
The DSM-V also gets rid of pediatric bipolar disorder, or so I’ve been told. It took YEARS for the shrinks to admit that some children were experiencing psychotic manias from the stimulants given to children with ADHD because they didn’t have ADHD! The seminal book on the topic is The Bipolar Child: The Definitive and Reassuring Guide to Childhood’s Most Misunderstood Disorder, Third Edition
Another thing that is STILL missing is an anosognosia specifier. It is my nightmare to be trying to convince some evil bastard that I am not insane.
Anosognosia means you are unaware that you are exhibiting the symptoms of your illness. Self-awareness, i.e. the ability to be objective about yourself, isn’t a guaranteed just because you’re human, but when a mentally ill person doesn’t have it, they can get in extra trouble.
The DSM-IV has specifiers for “last episode depressive” or “with psychosis” but there isn’t one for “painfully aware that she is batshit insane.”
It’s not enough to stay calm and not talk about space aliens. The powers-that-be ASSUME you’ll be on your best behavior. Once on a psych ward even a sane person would be hard-pressed to get back out. There was an experiment a few years ago in which psych grad students feigned hearing voices to be admitted to a psychiatric hospital. Once in, they behaved normally and tried to be released. In all cases the students had to submit to the will of their captors and admit they were mentally ill before being allowed to leave.
“The uniform failure to recognize sanity cannot be attributed to the quality of the hospitals, for, although there were considerable variations among them, several are considered excellent. Nor can it be alleged that there was simply not enough time to observe the pseudopatients. Length of hospitalization ranged from 7 to 52 days, with an average of 19 days. The pseudopatients were not, in fact, carefully observed, but this failure speaks more to traditions within psychiatric hospitals than to lack of opportunity.”
Anyway, back to autism. Aspergers have poor social skills. However, they are often brilliant in other areas. My fear is that Apergers will get thrown into social skills classes, never taught math and science, and held back by a curriculum intended for severely impaired students. You know, because autistics are usually not very intelligent.
Dr. Temple Grandin has some strong opinions about educating autistic children.
She is autistic herself and has a PhD in Animal Husbandry. She is probably the number one designer of humane slaughterhouses due in part to the fact that she thinks in pictures rather than in words. I draw the line before “because she thinks like an animal.” The powers-that-be love to say that autistics are like animals, a statement that is always used to dehumanize and to justify abuse.
Dr. Grandin’s book Thinking in Pictures, Expanded Edition: My Life with Autism is enlightening. Ms. Grandin is unable to conceptualize an abstraction such as long-term goals, so she concretized with the metaphor of a flight of stairs leading to a door that represented the goal of graduation.
Dr. Grandin has written a number of excellent books on the topic of educating autistics, including one called Developing Talents: Careers for Individuals with Asperger Syndrome and High-Functioning Autism.
All-in-all Dr. Grandin has made some startling statements about how autistic children are being mishandled in our schools. The powers-that-be think they know better than her. After all, autistics think like animals. :-(
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