Tag: swine flu

Italy's New Swine-Flu Defense: High-Tech Holy Water Dispenser

By Andrew Moseman | November 12, 2009 2:02 pm

Holy Water220 cropWith a global pandemic afoot, the last thing many people want to do is put their hands in water that many other people have already touched, even if it happens to be holy water. But in Italy, where about 30 people have already died from swine flu, many Catholics will soon be able to get untainted holy water as part of church sacrament.

Catholic churches around Italy are scrapping their traditional water fonts in favor of new automatic, motion-activated holy water dispensers invented by Luciano Marabese.

BBC News reports:

The design of the dispenser is similar to a traditional water font, but with an infra-red light that reads the presence of a hand and squirts holy water onto the person’s fingers.

Mr Marabese says he is receiving hundreds of emails from all over the world requesting information about the product.

“Some people had stopped dipping their hand into the holy water font as they were afraid of infections,” he told Reuters.

“Some people even pretended to touch the water but they just touched the marble edge of the font.”

Afghanistan isn’t taking any chances with swine flu, either. In response to concerned zoo visitors, the predominantly Muslim country has been keeping its only pig under quarantine. The pig should be glad: It’s more likely it would catch “swine flu” from humans than the other way around.

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Image: flickr / DominusVobiscum

Will Swine Flu Take Down the Internet?

By Boonsri Dickinson | October 29, 2009 5:48 pm

swine fluSwine flu has returned, just as predicted, and is getting the better of us—46 states have reported cases of the flu already. And even if you want to take precautions by getting vaccinated, there aren’t enough vaccines to go around.

In any case, when you take sick days to recover, the last thing you’d want to do is be at home without access to the Internet. The Washington Post brings up a good point: If the flu truly becomes a pandemic, then the sick will begin accessing their Internet from home en masse. Such an increase in traffic might overwhelm the system and clog networks run by Comcast, AT&T, Cox, and Verizon. The Post reports:

The Department of Homeland Security is in charge of communications networks during times of national emergency. But it doesn’t have a strategy to deal with overloaded Internet networks—an essential resource to keep the economy humming, and residents informed and connected during a pandemic, the GAO said. Furthermore, the DHS hasn’t coordinated with agencies such as the Federal Communications Commission to create guidelines for how telecom, cable and satellite providers can minimize congestion.

There are solutions, but each has its downsides. Adding bandwidth capacity would be a little too late, and cost too much. Slowing connections to some ‘hoods would violate service agreements to those customers. And blocking traffic to Web sites would require government approval.

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Image: flickr/ hitthatswitch

Swine Flu Fashion? Japan Introduces Swine Flu-Proof Suit

By Boonsri Dickinson | October 7, 2009 5:14 pm

fluwebSwine flu season is raging, but there are ways to protect yourself: Get the swine flu vaccine, wash your hands, wear a mask over your nose and mouth…or buy a suit designed to protect against the flu.

After a year of designing and testing, Haruyama Trading Co. is now selling a line of 50,000 “swine-flu-proof suits” at $580 a piece. The suit is coated in titanium dioxide (a chemical used in toothpaste and cosmetics). The idea behind it is simple: When the virus lands on your clothing and is hit by light, the coating will kill any virus particles. (Titanium dioxide behaves like a photocatalyst, which needs light before it can destroy a virus.) The company claims the suit can still flight the flu even after it has gone through the wash.

We’re not sure how the suit is selling so far, but we do know that swine flu is spreading in Japan: 18 people have died so far and 23,275 cases of flu have been reported.

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Image: iStockPhoto

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology Attacks!
MORE ABOUT: clothes, swine flu, vaccine

Swine Flu v. Idiocy: Inmates Drink Anti-Flu Gel to Get Drunk

By Boonsri Dickinson | September 24, 2009 2:36 pm

swine fluHere you’ll find the everything you need to know about swine flu. We recently reported that up to half of Americans could catch the virus, with the illness already spreading rapidly in colleges. Plus the Internet has helped spread panic to critical mass. And we’ve seen governments try (often ineptly) to stop the flu in its tracks.

Now there’s another unexpected side effect of efforts to control swine flu worldwide: A prison in Dorset thought they’d stave off the flu by stocking their bathrooms with antibacterial gel. But the prisoners learned pretty quickly that the gel contained alcohol, and began ingesting it.

One prisoner was discovered to be drunk after he gulped down a decent amount of the gel. The Guardian reports:

The Prison Service confirmed that this case was being investigated but meanwhile antibacterial gel pumps had been removed as a “precautionary measure”.

“The suspicion that was reported to us was that some of the inmates had drunk them. Of course some of the officers expressed concerns over potentially having to deal with prisoners who have had a drink,” [says Andy Fear, a member of the Verne’s Prison Officers Association]

Hospitals have also been battling the misuse of antibacterial gel, and in one case, it might have actually been responsible for someone’s death. Back in August, patients were reportedly making cocktails by mixing gel with orange juice or soda. [ed. note: They couldn’t just round up some morphine? Sure tastes better.]

So as swine season approaches, the real question is, what is worse: Having people get drunk on antibacterial gel, or having them get swine flu? If you asked Dr. Sanjay Gupta , he’d probably say the flu.

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Image: flickr/ Brandon Hambright // The FireStarter Group

Gupta Gets Swine Flu, Blogs About It

By Brett Israel | September 24, 2009 10:34 am

swine-flu-news_webAmerica’s favorite neurosurgeon/T.V. doc has caught the dreaded H1N1 (and so has his camera man). He was on a trip to war-torn Afghanistan when he started feeling sick and developed a painful cough and other symptoms, which he initially blamed on the stress of working in 100-degree heat in a bulletproof vest. However, his symptoms quickly escalated, and he was diagnosed with swine flu.

Dr. Gupta describes his experience on his blog, Paging Dr. Gupta:

I was nauseated and my entire body hurt. I tried to explain away my symptoms with lots of different excuses. You don’t sleep much while covering a war. My bulletproof jacket didn’t fit perfectly and was very heavy. There was a lot of dust and dirt, and maybe I had what the Marines referred to as the Kandahar Krud. It turned out to be none of those things.

You can read about his entire experience on his blog. Here’s wishing the good doctor a speedy recovery (though it sounds like he’s pretty much there already).

Still no word from  the swine flu twitter feed about its latest victim.

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Image: iStockphoto

To Halt Swine Flu, U.S. Government Brings in Big Guns: Muppets

By Allison Bond | September 2, 2009 3:06 pm

ElmoIs it just us, or has the swine flu gotten a lot cuter this week? First there was the stuffed H1N1 virus doll, and now the U.S. government has enlisted in the fight against swine flu none other than Elmo the Muppet.

By teaming up the Sesame Street characters Elmo and Gordon, the government hopes to spread the word about the importance of personal hygiene, such as sneezing into your arm and washing your hands frequently.

CNN reports:

“We are thrilled to partner with Elmo, Gordon, and Sesame Workshop again to emphasize the steps kids and their parents can take to stay happy and healthy this school year,” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement.

“Younger children and their parents are some of the people most at risk from the new H1N1 flu virus and with schools starting back up again and the weather starting to get colder, we need to do everything we can to get these important messages about how to prevent the spread of the flu out there.”

Also, check out the CNN article for an amusing photo of Elmo at a speaking engagement with Sebelius. Whether he’s considered a “government employee” remains unknown.

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Image: flickr / mark sebastian

Fuzzy, Cuddly Swine Flu: The Next Big Holiday Toy?

By Allison Bond | September 1, 2009 12:17 pm

Swine flu stuffed toyWhat’s fuzzy, pink, and just plain cuddly? The Influenza A H1N1 virus, of course… or at least, the stuffed toy crafted in the pathogen’s likeness. You can get your very own swine flu toy made by GIANTmicrobes online or, if you happen to be in the neighborhood, at the CDC headquarters in Atlanta.

The Telegraph reports:

The stuffed toy has been designed to represent a “cuddlier” version of an H1N1 microbe, complete with a pig-like nose and eyes… [doll company GIANTmicrobes] describes its toys as “great learning tools, as well as amusing gifts for anyone with a sense of humour.” Each purchase comes with an information leaflet with details of the relevant infection.

If a stuffed replica of just one pathogen isn’t enough for you, don’t despair: The company makes a variety of other dolls, from the snakelike Ebola virus to the bean-shaped, Black Death-causing Yersinia pestis bacteria.

There’s something strange about asking for smallpox or the swine flu as a gift…but that won’t stop this blogger, whose  birthday is (ahem) coming up next week.

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Image courtesy of GIANTmicrobes

MORE ABOUT: irony, medicine, swine flu, toys

A Bishop Calls for Holy Water Ban to Stop Swine Flu Spread

By Allison Bond | July 15, 2009 2:24 pm

Holy WaterReligion and science may butt heads over issues like stem cell research and genetically engineered crops, but there’s one thing they agree on: how swine flu spreads.

Holy water can pass on more than just a priest’s blessing—it can also transmit the swine flu virus, a British bishop says. That’s because churchgoers dip their fingers into one container of liquid, then touch their nose or eyes, thereby giving the virus a free ticket into their body.

For this reason, the bishop is urging priests in Essex, UK, to remove holy water from their churches to prevent cases of the flu.

According to BBC, the Right Reverend John Gladwin said: “The water in stoups [which hold holy water] can easily become a source of infection and a means of rapidly spreading the virus.” Still, he added: “It is not our intention at this stage to cause panic.”
Read More

MORE ABOUT: britain, religion, swine flu

Want to Up Your Chances of Dying From Swine Flu? Be Obese

By Allison Bond | July 13, 2009 3:47 pm

LargeExperts have long suspected that swine flu is more fatal among obese people, along with children and pregnant women. Now, doctors have linked an increased risk of dying from swine flu to having a body mass index, or BMI, above 40, which indicates morbid obesity. Studies in mice have yielded a similar conclusion. Bloomberg tells us:

It’s the first time that the prominence of obesity has been noticed among severely ill flu sufferers, [director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Anthony] Fauci said in an interview yesterday. “It’s very likely that if we went back retrospectively and looked at people who did poorly during seasonal flu, what would shake out is that obesity would be one of the risks,” he said….

In mouse studies, [swine] flu killed about half of the rodents made obese by a high-fat diet, compared with a mortality rate of about 4 percent in lean animals…. [Scientists are] studying whether obese humans might need stronger doses of vaccine or a different method of delivery.

The correlation between a high BMI and a higher swine flu mortality rate might be due to the way excess weight compresses the lungs. Or it could be complications of obesity, such as insulin resistance and increased inflammation, that makes swine flu more deadly. In any case, it’s just one more reason for us Americans to get up off the couch…while we still can.

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80Beats: Risk Factors for Severe Swine Flu Include Lung Ailments, Pregnancy, and Obesity

Image: flickr / Mandj98

MORE ABOUT: obesity, swine flu

Afghanistan's Lone Pig Quarantined for Swine Flu

By Rachel Cernansky | May 6, 2009 4:28 pm

piggie2.jpgAfghanistan’s entire pig population has been quarantined. All one pig.

Adding to the list of worst responses to swine flu, the lone pig in Afghanistan, who lives at the Kabul Zoo, now has its own room, newly constructed to keep it away from people and other animals. The move was taken despite the fact that there are no pig farms in the country, and no civilian flights between Kabul and Mexico. So the chances of getting swine flu there are as close to zero as possible.

Read More

MORE ABOUT: disease, medicine, swine flu

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