A recently published paper in Scientific Reports has found that climate variability in the form of the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) has had a significant impact on the occurrence of disease outbreaks in Europe over the past fifty years. Researchers in France and the United Kingdom studied 2,058 outbreaks occurring in 36 countries from 114 infectious diseases from 1950 to 2009 and found that climatic variations and seasonal changes in air pressure across the continent attributed to the NAO influenced the outbreak occurrences of eleven diseases. Every conceivable route of transmission – by air, food, water and vector – was influenced by NAO conditions.
Much of the United States is mesmerized by the belligerent squawks from North Korea’s Kim Jong-un and the volatile tension straddling the Korean peninsula, but I’m more concerned about what is happening in China right now and the troubling trickle of news on a new bird flu strain H7N9.
This year, Super Bowl XLVII is held in my hometown of New Orleans sandwiched between two Mardi Gras weekends! Residents of my darling city are calling the resulting three-week party extravaganza “Super Gras” which will certainly have public health implications in the many weeks to come. The city’s residents tend to collectively fall ill with respiratory bugs and sinus infections – otherwise known as the “Mardi Gras bug” – following a traditional two-week celebration so it will be interesting to see how Super Gras will treat us this year. Let’s hope that the “chunder from Down Under” norovirus will not join us in our festivities!
I like wild plot twists in my novels, remixes of my favorite songs and food with unexpected, exotic flavors. Needless to say, I also love hearing of cases where an infectious disease takes an unpredictable turn, appearing where it traditionally does not. And we have quite the curve-ball with Mycobacterium tuberculosis, a microbe with itinerant tendencies that materializes in some surprising anatomical locales.
This is more of a light-hearted post than usual. I have a few favorite songs and, of course, they’re about infectious diseases. I’m a microbiologist, what’re you gonna do? Case closed, moving on. I’ve been on the hunt for songs specifically about microbes and tracked down some real treasures.