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Infectious disease

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Bird flu outbreaks — what are the scientific facts

An emerging bird flu outbreak involves the H5N1 subtype, with the potential of infecting humans. Currently, 48 states reported outbreaks in birds, but only two human cases, one mild, were confirmed. While there’s no immediate concern for a pandemic, health authorities remain vigilant, and vaccines are available. The press may be reacting strongly to the situation.

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COVID vaccines and prion disease — zombie trope debunked

For over two decades, various discredited anti-vaccine claims have reemerged, such as the assertion that COVID vaccines lead to prion diseases. Prion diseases, several of which exist, are always fatal and typically result from misfolded proteins. Despite concerns during the UK mad cow disease outbreak, no evidence links vaccines to an increased incidence of prion diseases. Recently, anti-vaccine proponents have misinterpreted data to suggest a link between mRNA COVID vaccines and prion diseases, yet no biologically plausible mechanism supports this. Vaccination data shows no increase in prion diseases, reinforcing the safety of COVID vaccines.

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Measles outbreaks in the USA are a public health problem

Physicians are concerned about recent measles outbreaks in the USA, citing misinformation as a contributing factor. Lack of public memory of measles’ severity, due to vaccine success, has lowered vigilance. Highly contagious, measles’ complications can be severe including death, with no cure but the highly effective MMR vaccine. Low vaccination rates and anti-vaccine sentiments risk exacerbating these outbreaks, undermining herd immunity and public health.

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Norovirus — highly contagious stomach virus hitting the USA

Norovirus cases are on the rise in the U.S., with 759 outbreaks reported by mid-February 2024. Despite being highly contagious and causing severe gastroenteritis, most people recover without medical intervention. Preventive measures include handwashing and disinfecting with bleach, as there is no cure or vaccine, though one shows promise in clinical trials. Severe cases, particularly in children, may require hospitalization for dehydration.