Everyone has their own collecting quirk. I myself collect animal skulls, inconveniently large earrings and unusual stories of infectious disease cases and outbreaks. To each their own, yes? I’ve decided that, instead of stockpiling these stories away in some recess of my brain, I’ll be sharing them online in a new recurring series on Body Horrors called Microbial Misadventures.
If you ever find yourself working in an infectious disease laboratory, whether it’s of the diagnostic or research variety, the overarching goal is not to put any microbes in your eye, an open wound or your mouth. Easy enough, right? Wear gloves, maybe goggles, work in fume hoods and don’t mouth pipette. When working with pathogenic bacteria and viruses, priority number one is Do Not Self-Inoculate.
My father-in-law David is a dentist and he recently emailed me an astonishing, must-watch video, “The Dentist of Jaipur.” A short documentary by Falk Peplinski that made the rounds of film festivals in 2006 and 2007, the four-minute film shows two men in this famed city in Rajasthan, India practicing dentistry on the streets.
Fat Tuesday is only a few days away and the residents of New Orleans are convulsing with anticipatory excitement and glee at the weekend parades, balls and crawfish boils leading to the grand finale. Mardi Gras is one of the finest celebrations in the world and what makes it particularly unique is the egalitarian nature that lies at its very heart – everyone is welcome to come witness and participate in Carnival. And for those very few who are not, Mardi Gras comes to them.
At this very moment, I’m holding a copy of the “The Best American Science Writing Online 2012″ that includes my article on Alaskan Natives, botulism and fermenting practices on page 173! The article “This Ain’t Yo Momma’s Muktuk: Fermented Seal Flipper, Botulism, Being Cold & Other Joys of Arctic Living” was selected among 721 other submissions and is published alongside 51 other knock-out articles in the sixth annual anthology of the best science writing online. Not bad odds, eh? I’ve been writing this blog for just over a year and a half now and I consider it be a privilege to be included in the ranks of some truly accomplished science journalists and bloggers. A big thank you is owed to the editors of the anthology, Bora Zivkovic and Jennifer Ouellette, for selecting me.
After the virus had snuck into the United States, after it crept through one body to another and to another and to another, after slowly killing thousands with bizarre cancers and pneumonias, and after the pyrotechnical hysteria of the media and a panicked public, only then did HIV/AIDS became a metaphor.
Dogs are dirty, dirty animals. I know because I’ve had several, which currently includes a mud-loving, cockroach-catching, drooly mess of a boxer who enjoys nothing more than sleeping her way over every soft surface in my house. The fact that dogs also transmit diseases, and an incredible variety of them at that, does not help matters! Parasites, viruses, bacterial and fungal infections! To their owners! To me, maybe you, maybe your friends! Your relationship with your pet is, in short, a lot richer than you could ever imagine. In light of this, I have a real doozy of a story about the relationship between pet dogs and a miserable little parasite set in the barren desert of northwest Kenya.
With Hanukkah and Christmas just recently past and Chinese New Year fast approaching, it seems a suitable time to consider the topic of religious celebrations and infectious diseases, no? ‘Tis the spirit and all! I’ll be looking at one of most intriguing religious events in the world, the Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca known as the Hajj, and the special epidemiological event that accompanies it.
Does anyone else have an inordinate fear of canning jams or pickling veggies? Every time I read an article espousing the brine-laden wonders of canning your own home-grown vegetables, I think, “how hard could this really be? I can do this!”. And then I hear the niggling voice in the back of my head that whispers, “but what if you get botulism?” And then I mutter in response, “maybe I’ll just buy my own autoclave.” Or not.