outbreaks
January 20, 2020

The number of reported cases of a pneumonia virus spreading through China jumped over the weekend, CNN reports, bringing the total to 201. On Friday, there were 62 reported cases of the illness in China. By Monday, another 139 cases had been reported, and three people had died. The virus, which originated in a wildlife market in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, has also spread to other countries, including South Korea, Thailand, and Japan, CNN reports.

Health authorities say the pathogen is a new strain of coronavirus, which CNN explains is "in the same family of the deadly severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS)." Its symptoms include fever and shortness of breath, QZ reports.

The outbreak comes as China prepares to celebrate the Lunar New Year. Last year, CNN estimates 7 million people traveled outside the country for the occasion. South Korea has been screening travelers arriving from Wuhan for fever at Seoul's Incheon International Airport. Some airports in the U.S. are doing the same. However, CNN points out that "a new study by Imperial College London suggests the number of infections in Wuhan is likely to have been grossly underestimated."

"The detection of three cases outside China is worrying," Neil Ferguson, a disease outbreak scientist at Imperial College London, said. "We calculate, based on flight and population data, that there is only a 1 in 574 chance that a person infected in Wuhan would travel overseas before they sought medical care. This implies there might have been over 1,700 cases in Wuhan so far." Jessica Hullinger

May 13, 2015

Bird flu has now been found on a commercial poultry farm in Nebraska, the 16th state to report cases of the virus since December.

There are 1.7 million chickens on the egg-laying farm in Dixon County, and those that have been infected will be euthanized, the Department of Agriculture said Tuesday. Since December, more than 32 million birds have been affected by the virus. Catherine Garcia

October 27, 2014

The gains being made in the fight against malaria in West Africa could be erased due to the Ebola outbreak, a doctor from the Roll Back Malaria Partnership warns.

Three of the countries devastated by Ebola — Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia — saw a combined 7,000 deaths from malaria in 2012, with many of those victims small children. "These countries have previously been really hit by malaria," Dr. Fatoumata Nafo-Traoré told the BBC. "We all agree that no child should die from malaria, because we have the tools to prevent and treat it. But now, understandably, all the health workers' attention is on Ebola."

Nafo-Traoré is worried that hospital wards that once cared for children with malaria are empty not because there aren't any cases, but because all of the medical workers are treating Ebola. Early symptoms of Ebola and malaria are the same, so people who are receiving aid are being treated with anti-malarial drugs, but "at the moment when people have fevers, they are often afraid to go to health-care facilities because they want to avoid being held in the Ebola treatment centers."

Locals are suspicious of of health workers, Nafo-Traoré said, and "there's still a feeling it's them who are bringing the virus to people." Nafo-Traoré says she does feel some relief after seeing checkpoints on her way to Guinea from Sierra Leone where people were washing their hands and having their temperatures taken. "It's important to have a coordinated approach," she said. "A key aim is to decrease cases of malaria-related fever, so the Ebola centers don't get overwhelmed." Catherine Garcia

October 2, 2014

An outbreak of the rare, usually non-lethal enterovirus 68 (EV-D68) has spread to at least 40 states since first appearing at a children's hospital in Kansas City, Missouri, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Wednesday. The CDC has confirmed 472 infections, but the true number is almost certainly in the thousands. Of those cases, four people died, including a 10-year-old girl in Rhode Island who also reportedly had an infection of the bacteria staphylococcus aureus sepsis.

The disease has mostly afflicted children, especially those with asthma and other conditions. EV-D68 starts out like a common cold, with fever and a bad cough, but can then lead to breathing difficulties. Some children are also exhibiting paralysis and muscle weakness, the CDC said. If your child has a bad cold and suddenly has trouble breathing, it's time to go the emergency room. Peter Weber

September 28, 2014

In just one year, a mosquito-borne illness has spread across the Caribbean and Central and South America, infecting more than one million people.

The illness, chikungunya, is usually not fatal, but its symptoms include horrendous joint paint, severe headaches, and fever. Hospitals are overwhelmed, The Associated Press reports, and the economy is being hit hard in several areas; a study by Universidad Eugenio Maria de Hostos in the Dominican Republic found that almost 13 percent of businesses in the country said employees missed work in June because of the virus.

Colombia has 4,800 cases, and the health ministry believes there will be close to 700,000 by early next year. El Salvador has 30,000 suspected cases, health officials say, up from 2,300 at the beginning of August, and in Venezuela, officials have reported 1,700 cases, with that number expected to go up, too. The Dominican Republic has been the hardest hit, with half of all cases in the Americas.

At least 24 countries and territories in the Western Hemisphere have reported cases since the first one was registered in French St. Martin in late 2013, the Pan American Health Organization says. To combat chikungunya, officials are spraying pesticide and asking the public to get rid of standing water, where mosquitos can breed. The virus is spread when mosquitos bite an infected person and then feed on someone else.

So far, 113 deaths are linked to this outbreak, and there is no cure or vaccine; most people are treated with the pain reliever acetaminophen. "The pain is unbelievable," Catalino Castillo, 39, a patient in San Salvador, told AP. "It's been 10 days and it won't let up." Catherine Garcia

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