Emerging Viruses

What is a little frightening is that apparently new diseases are still erupting into our human environment at regular intervals: new and often extremely virulent viruses, such as those causing Ebola, Marburg and Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fevers, hantavirus pulmonary syndrome and Korean haemorrhagic disease, and of course, HIV1 and 2. Particularly interesting are those viruses that very recently have appeared out of nowhere, such as the "equine morbillivirus" and bat lyssavirus reported recently from Australia, and both apparently having a reservoir in bats

These "emerging" and even "re-emerging" viruses are a great cause for concern internationally, and the subject of a great deal of concentrated research. News on these and other viruses may be found on our site here.  There are also a number of essays on emerging viruses available on this server, via this page: these include a new one on plant viruses as emerging pathogens.

Other sites:

Perhaps the best general-purpose site is the ProMED releases on emerging diseases. These are also collected and (searchably) archived at their Web site. The releases cover all infectious diseases, and of animals as well as of plants.   It was particularly fascinating to follow the slowly developing concern over the ongoing incidences of monkeypox infection in central Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire), and the emergence of an avian influenza as a potential threat to human health in Hong Kong.  More recently, the West Nile Virus scare in the NE USA has been a subject for intense coverage: just when New Yorkers and their neighbours were enjoying their summer, West Nile virus pops out of the avian and mosquito populations again....the public debate on the outbreak can be read at a special Newsday page.  The CNN site carries a special story on dengue fever, incidentally, as well as updates on West Nile in the US Northeast.  Anyone who wants to read WHO releases on outbreaks, incidentally, may read them here - and they don't mention  West Nile!  And just recently, my local supermarket was busy reassuring people that they don't stock British lamb, to calm fears of new variant CJD infection via sheep meat.  Also from the very excellent ProMED we hear that there has also been a scare about a cluster of nvCJD cases in the UK, and whether or not this presages the start of a major outbreak. 

Other major sites for information on hot viruses are the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organisation sites: the information to be gleaned from here is definitely authoritative, if not particularly current, and more than a little dry (as befits official releases). However, both CDC and WHO issue regular updates during especially severe disease outbreaks, which can be the only definitive news to emerge in real time, especially if the outbreak is somewhere particularly rural or Third World. The WHO publishes a Weekly Epidemiological Record, as an Adobe Acrobat (pdf) file; this is also available via email. The CDC publishes an extremely useful journal entitled "Emerging Infectious Diseases", available electronically as HTML or as a pdf file, or in hard copy: this is a valuable source of authoritative data/descriptions on/of viruses - including the only publication I know of to date which comes close to showing an animal reservoir for Ebola Zaire. EID also contains the definitive account of the Kikwit outbreak.

Other sources of "hard" news are few and far between - however, a regular scan of the Web using one of the many search engines can turn up the odd useful snippet; so can a regular scan of the better online newspapers, such as the Electronic Telegraph (UK), the Nando Times (USA), and the Electronic Mail and Guardian (SA).


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Copyright Ed Rybicki, November 1997, August 1998, October 2000.