I thought it'd be fun to have an ongoing thread to talk about current events in science- things that are interesting but not really big enough to warrant their own threads.
To start off...
There's an outbreak of chikungunya in the Caribbean! This is huge because chikungunya virus (CHIKV) has never been in the Western Hemisphere before. All the right environmental factors were here (people, Aedes mosquitos, climate) but for some reason it never crossed the Atlantic with the slave trade. This made prevailing thought that it required some sort of unknown factor to establish that the west lacks. Well, so much for that.
LinkLast week the World Health Organization reported two cases of chikungunya, a painful, mosquito-borne illness on the French part of St. Martin.
Now the outbreak has grown to 10 cases, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday. And the outbreak is likely to get even bigger or spread to other islands.
The culprit is a nasty virus that causes a high fever, headache and arthritis-like pain in the joints. Symptoms usually clear up within a week or so, and the illness is rarely fatal. But there is no vaccine or treatment for chikungunya.
By contrast, the slave trade brought three of the four infectious Plasmodium spp to the west. The one that didn't make the jump doesn't really have a wide range. If diseases had the opportunity to come west with the slave trade but didn't, it's generally presumed that there's an unappreciated environmental barrier that exists. Yellow Fever is another case. All the right factors exist in East Asia for Yellow Fever virus as far as we appreciate them, but for some reason it's never found it's way there.
Another article from CBS:
LinkThe World Health Organization said on Dec. 6 that officials were alerted to two confirmed cases of chikungunya in people who were infected on the French St. Marten side of the island. The other side of the island, St. Maartens, is owned by the Netherlands.
WHO authorities were alerted to the possibility of the outbreak when they were investigating dengue fever cases on the island. Five patients at this time had joint paints and fever, but they did not have dengue.
Dengue Fever has similar symptoms, but unlike chikungunya, dengue is endemic in the tropical western hemisphere. The WHO watches for it but it's not exactly headlines when someone comes down with it.
Also, poor research from whoever wrote the CBS article:
Not technically incorrect but very misleading. People outside of chikungunya's endemic range get it all the time, but when you hear about someone in the US or Europe getting chikungunya, they got it while traveling to Africa/India/the Seychelles and they brought it back. On the contrary, it seems that CHIKV is now establishing a reservoir in St. Martin.That doesn’t mean it can’t spread to other countries. In the U.S.,105 cases of chikungunya fever were reported from 2004 to 2009, the CDC noted.
The biggest concern in the US is going to be keeping it out of Puerto Rico. The CDC has pretty broad power to regulate travel to the US from other countries, but PR is American soil. Very little power to stop travel between (say) PR and Miami if an outbreak occurs there.
Oh, chikungunya is pronounced exactly how it looks like it should be pronounced. It's fun to say.