Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Stink Bug Invasion

Just when we thought that the end of the world was coming thanks to staph infections and bedbugs, now it turns out that stink bugs are in the running for "Pest of the Apocalypse." Well, at least if you happen to be an apple.

While the bugs don't bite or carry diseases, they do emit a foul odor if squashed. There may even be a connection between this feature and their name, but I'm still working this out.

The bugs do like to nosh on peaches, apples, soybeans, corn, and ornamental shrubs and trees. Farmers are not amused.

According to the Washington Post, stink bugs appear to be one of the four insects of the Apocalypse, or a Cuban revolutionary conspiracy, or something:

"This is the vanguard," said Mike Raupp, a University of Maryland entomologist and extension specialist. "I think this is going to be biblical this year," he said. "You're going to hear a collective wail in the Washington area, up through Frederick and Allegany counties, like you've never heard before. The [bug] populations are just through the ceiling."

As with bedbugs, the Post reports (without any actual sources) that distraught homeowners are resorting to "burning them with propane torches."

The bugs seem to have arrived as illegal immigrants from Asia over a decade ago, and have since spread to 29 states.

Authorities recommend that homeowners stop bathing so that they won't notice the smell from the bugs if they accidentally step on any as they flee from their burning homes.

Some media reports have noted that the bugs are a delicacy when eaten in tacos in parts of Mexico. Stink Bug Tacos -- I think I have the name of my next band.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

tweetle beetle bottle puddle paddle battle recall muddle

When you put a beetle in baby bottle, you get a recall by a lab named Abbott:

WASHINGTON -- Drugmaker Abbott Laboratories said Wednesday it is recalling millions of containers of its best-selling Similac infant formula that may be contaminated with insect parts.

The voluntary action affects up to 5 million Similac-brand powder formulas sold in the U.S., Puerto Rico, Guam and some Caribbean countries. The company said the products may contain a small beetle or larvae, which could cause stomach ache and digestion problems.

The recall does not affect any liquid formulas or other Abbott-brand products.

A company spokeswoman said Abbott uncovered the insects last week in one section of a manufacturing plant in Sturgis, Michigan.

Good thing they don't sell noodles.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Superbugs will kill you part three: It came from India

As reported back in 2008 by Worried Dad, the MRSA staph infection has been called a superbug that appears to be resistant to all known antibiotics, except fire.

Then just a few weeks ago, this blog reported on the spread of a new superbug, c. diff, another nasty bug that will be stopped by nothing in its quest to kill you dead.

If anyone is still alive enough to read this, it appears that there is a new contender for "the microorganism that will destroy humanity" comes to us from India -- or does it??

In a challenge to the "there is no bad publicity" maxim, the new superbug has been given the name "New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase," or NDM-1. New Delhians are not amused, and point out that the bug is really a close match to another superbug that's been making the rounds of US hospitals and back alleys for quite some time.

However, a spate of infected patients that appear to have originated in India have been spreading the stuff around the globe. It seems that globe-trotting healthcare bargain hunters have been going to India for cheap operations, getting some NDM-1 as a free souvenir, and then spreading Armageddon to the four corners of the Earth.

Basically, the NDM-1 stuff is resistant to all known antibiotics. People in White Coats blame other people in White Coats for over-prescribing antibiotics when we didn't need them, and now we need them, but they don't work anymore and we're all going to die. Also, you should wash your hands a lot and bathe nightly in Purell.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Aiming laser pointer at your eye can burn your eye out

In an article in the New England Journal of Medicine, a very worried man in a white coat is warning about the latest craze turning the world's children to piles of ashes: super powerful laser pointers.

According to the wire reports:

A 15-year-old boy damaged his eyes while playing with a laser pointer he'd bought over the Internet, say doctors who warn that dangerously high-powered versions are easily available online.

One eye expert called it "a legitimate public health menace."

The boy's case is reported in Thursday's issue of the New England Journal of Medicine by doctors who treated him at the Lucerne Cantonal Hospital in Switzerland.

It follows two reports in June of similar accidents. British doctors said a teenager damaged his eyes with a high-powered laser pointer, and a British physician said his vision was affected for several months after he was zapped by his 7-year-old son.

The lasers used in these incidents were of the European persuasion, and exceed the firepower of those allowed in the United States. However, the high-powered eye blasters can be found on the Internet.

The FDA has warned in the past that it has found laser pointers and toys that exceed the output limit of 5 milliwatts - five-thousandths of a watt. It rarely collects reports of eye-damage incidents like the case in Switzerland, said FDA health promotion officer Dan Hewett, so it's not clear how often they happen.

His agency recommends that consumers make sure laser pointer labels carry a designation of Class IIIa or lower, along with a statement of compliance with Chapter 21 CFR. Hewett suggests consumers should look on the label to make sure the power output is no more than 5 milliwatts, or 5 mW.

But he stressed that even a laser product that meets those conditions can cause eye damage if a person stares into the beam long enough.

"Just because it says 5 mW and Class IIIa, FDA is not saying you can grab this laser and stare at it," he said.

Researchers are still determining what the point of buying a laser is if you can't stare at it.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Reusable shopping bags will kill you

A recent study by some guys in white coats at the University of Arizona warns that those nifty reusable shopping bags (like the 20 or so I have in my trunk) are teaming with bacteria.

The researchers tested 84 bags collected from shoppers in Tucson, Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area and found that just over half were contaminated with potentially harmful bacteria. Twelve percent of the bags contained E. coli, which indicates possible fecal matter and more dangerous pathogens.

According to the study co-author Charles Gerba, using a reusable bag is on a par with having your family play Russian Roulette (how do those Russian casinos keep attracting customers anyway?):

Well, it's sort of a random chance," he said. "Sometimes, there may be enough. Sometimes, there may be not. You're really always gambling with germs."

The biggest problems arise from people stuffing dripping hunks of raw meat into their bags and then leaving them in the trunk for a while.

Unacceptable alternatives include chopping down forests to create paper bags, and despoiling our pristine wetlands with offshore oil drilling to make toxic plastic bags. The study authors (who, incidentally, got $30k from the American Chemistry Council to conduct their research), recommend soaking bags overnight in Purell, or just skipping the bags entirely and stealing the store's shopping carts.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Your kitchen is a lethal weapon

Even if you've thrown out the eggs, it's still not safe to go back into the kitchen.

According to news reports, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health surveyed thousands of home cooks and concluded "Yuck!"

According to the report, discussed in my favorite Center for Disease Control magazine, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, one out of seven home kitchens would not get a passing grade if they were a restaurant. Only 61 percent of homes would get a grade of B or higher.

According to the report:

An estimated 87 million cases of food-borne illness occur in the United States each year, including 371,000 hospitalizations and 5,700 deaths, according to an Associated Press calculation that uses a CDC formula and recent population estimates.

Many outbreaks that receive publicity are centered on people who got sick after eating at a restaurant, catered celebration or large social gathering. In this summer's outbreak linked to salmonella in eggs, several illnesses were first identified in clusters among restaurant patrons.

But experts believe the bulk of food poisonings are unreported illnesses from food prepared at home.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Not drinking alcohol can kill you

Just when you thought it was safe to get on the wagon, new research by people in White Coats suggests that people who abstain completely from alcohol are more likely to die early from heart disease and diabetes than moderate drinkers.

The report, Late-Life Alcohol Consumption and 20-Year Mortality by Charles J. Holahan, Kathleen K. Schutte, Penny L. Brennan, Carole K. Holahan, Bernice S. Moos, and Rudolf H. Moos (with an acknowledgment to the friendly barkeeps at O'Dooley's Pub), published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, shows that moderate drinkers age 55 to 65 had significantly lower mortality rates than tea-totalers, and much lower than car-totalers. The findings held true even when adjusting for socioeconomic factors and other variables.

Apparently, the effect holds true regardless of what your, um, poison (?) is, according to an article in Slate.

I knew all those years of clean living would be the death of me.