The Ebola virus has now killed more than 1,000 people in West Africa. Although the mortality rate of the most recent outbreak isn’t as high as in previous events, it’s still the case that most people who become infected with Ebola will not survive. (The mortality rate is about 60 percent for the current outbreak, compared with 90 percent in the past, according to the National Institutes of Health.)
But despite this somber prognosis, health experts in the United States aren’t particularly worried about the threat of Ebola in this country or in other developed countries.
“I see Ebola as a significant threat in the specific regions that it has been identified in, certainly central and west Africa,” said Cecilia Rokusek, a public health expert with Nova Southeastern University’s Institute for Disaster and Emergency Preparedness in Florida. “But in my opinion, it’s not an imminent threat for those in the United States.” [7 Devastating Infectious Diseases]
Indeed, other viruses pose a larger threat to U.S. citizens, according to Rokusek.
Although some of these viruses have far lower mortality rates than that of Ebola, they are more prevalent in developed nations, and kill more people annually than Ebola does. Here are five viruses that are just as dangerous (if not more so) than Ebola:
Over the past 100 years, rabies has declined significantly as a public health threat in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Approximately two people now die yearly in the United States from this virus, which is transmitted to people through saliva when they are bitten by infected animals, such as dogs or bats.
People who know they have been bitten by an animal should receive the rabies vaccine, which prevents infection by the virus, according to the CDC. But, especially in the case of bat bites, people may not always realize they have been bitten.
And rabies has one of the highest fatality rates of any virus; only three people in the United States are known to have ever survived the disease without receiving the vaccine after exposure to the virus.
Still, the disease remains a greater threat in other areas of the world than in the United States. Approximately 55,000 people die of rabies every year in Africa and Asia, according to the WHO.
Though the number of annual deaths related to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) has declined in recent years, an estimated 1.6 million people worldwide died of HIV and autoimmune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) related causes in 2012, according to the WHO. The virus attacks a person’s immune cells and weakens the immune system over time, making it very difficult for the infected individual to fight off other diseases.
About 15,500 people with an AIDS diagnosis died in 2010 in the United States, according to the CDC. In total, an estimated 650,000 people have died of AIDS in the United States since the disease was discovered in 1981. An estimated 36 million people have died worldwide from the epidemic.
Today, people with HIV do live longer than they used to, a trend that coincides with the increased availability of antiretroviral therapy, as well as the decline in new infections since the peak of the AIDS epidemic in 1997. However, no cure for HIV exists.
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Aspirin, take two: Research identifies a second effect of the drug against inflammation
Hugely popular non-steroidal anti-inflammation drugs like aspirin, naproxen (marketed as Aleve) and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) all work by inhibiting or killing an enzyme called cyclooxygenase — a key catalyst in production of hormone-like lipid compounds called prostaglandins that are linked to a variety of ailments, from headaches and arthritis to menstrual cramps and wound sepsis.
In a new paper, published this week in the online early edition of PNAS, researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine conclude that aspirin has a second effect: Not only does it kill cyclooxygenase, thus preventing production of the prostaglandins that cause inflammation and pain, it also prompts the enzyme to generate another compound that hastens the end of inflammation, returning the affected cells to homeostatic health.
“Aspirin causes the cyclooxygenase to make a small amount of a related product called 15-HETE,” said senior author Edward A. Dennis, PhD, Distinguished Professor of Pharmacology, Chemistry and Biochemistry. “During infection and inflammation, the 15-HETE can be converted by a second enzyme into lipoxin, which is known to help reverse inflammation and cause its resolution — a good thing.”
Specifically, Dennis and colleagues looked at the function of a type of white blood cells called macrophages, a major player in the body’s immune response to injury and infection. They found that macrophages contain the biochemical tools to not just initiate inflammation, a natural part of the immune response, but also to promote recovery from inflammation by releasing 15-HETE and converting it into lipoxin as the inflammation progresses.
Dennis said the findings may open new possibilities for anti-inflammatory therapies by developing new drugs based on analogues of lipoxin and other related molecules that promote resolution of inflammation. “If we can find ways to promote more resolution of inflammation, we can promote health,” he said.
Scientists Spied On Conversations Of Adultery Site Users To Figure Out Why Women Cheat
The adultery website AshleyMadison.com isn’t good just for two-timing — it can drive scientific research.
To study infidelity, researchers scanned publicly accessible ads from 200 men and 200 women chosen at random from the site, which was started in 2001 and, as a “discreet dating service,” caters primarily to people already involved in a relationship. (The name of the site was taken from two popular names for baby girls back then, supposedly in an effort to attract women.)
“The study of adultery is important in the broad sense, because it helps us understand who we are,” researcher James Hare, a behavioral ecologist at the University of Manitoba in Canada, told LiveScience. “Humans are inclined to put themselves on a pedestal above other living things, though time and time again, data reveal that we are a product of the same selective forces and evolutionary processes that have shaped all life.
“To me, acceptance of this fact diminishes the sense of entitlement humans feel and, in the end, fosters an ethic that is more in accord with the world around us — and ultimately less likely to lead to the demise of our species and those we share the planet with.”
The researchers investigated what the would-be cheaters said they wanted in an adulterous relationship: “anything goes,” “short term,” “undecided,” “long term,” “cyber affair/erotic chat,” or “whatever excites me.” They also noted the ages of the advertisers, the ages of the partners they sought, and the total number of adjectives they used in describing themselves and in what they wanted in a partner — specifically, adjectives involving wealth, physical attributes, educational achievement and athletic prowess. (Naturally, the investigators were not given the names or other personal details of the customers they studied.)
Their findings conformed to common stereotypes of men as promiscuous and women as choosy. The men, who averaged about 42 years old, advertised “anything goes” more than twice as often as women, while the women, who averaged about 39, sought long-term relationships about two-thirds more than men.
In addition, women used more adjectives to describe the wealth and physical attributes they wanted in partners, while men used more adjectives when it came to describing their own wealth, athletic interests and educational achievements.
The findings suggest preferences in partners even among married people are based on female attempts to get at male-controlled resources, the researchers said.
Women who were in relationships used significantly more adjectives describing the physical attributes they sought in partners and significantly fewer ones describing their material qualities than single women did. This suggests women in relationships are driven more by urges for good genes for potential progeny than for material benefits, Hare said. Although the women in this study were near or past the end of child-bearing age, “many of the women would still be capable of reproduction,” he added. Even for those who were not, there is still “the satisfaction derived from mating with a physically fit partner,” Hare said.