Friday, May 29, 2009

Dumb Headlines #2: The perilous Lujo Virus

Scientists identify new lethal virus in Africa

ATLANTA -- Scientists have identified a lethal new virus in Africa that causes bleeding like the dreaded Ebola virus. The so-called "Lujo" virus infected five people in Zambia and South Africa last fall. Four of them died, but a fifth survived, perhaps helped by a medicine recommended by the scientists.

Okay, so it's not thaaat bad. Like, it's basically factual but the tone is a bit off-putting. For once I'm glad for Western news media's habit of conflating all of Africa and not going for the more precise headline: Scientists identify new lethal virus in Lusaka. Similarly I find the new name for this virus, the Lujo, or the Lusaka-Johannesburg, virus quite hilarious. I want to say "Hey Johannesburg has nothing to do with this virus except for having good medical facilities for rich people." Either way I'm glad they came up with a name that has a creepy Stephen King quality to it.

I remember it mostly being a non-issue in Lusaka when this happened. A lot of people were really pissed because American super-pastor/success-guru T.D. Jakes cancelled his trip but for most it didn't register at all.

What was weird was that patient zero happened to be a white woman. At least I think she was. Nobody ever explicitly said so. The Lowdown, in it's typical insiderish fashion, published a confusing eulogy to one of their own. Then The Post had an article accusing the deceased of being an equestrian who often rode barefoot. Conclusion: that woman got what she deserved. Typical Post.

It was a far bigger deal in South Africa where the woman was airlifted and subsequently infected healthcare workers there. If I remember correctly, the whole region was put on alert for the mysterious Ebola-like virus from up-north. Or as some media referred to it, the "Zambia fever."

Here's the silver lining to all this:

The research is a startling example of how quickly scientists can now identify new viruses, Fauci said. Using genetic sequencing techniques, the virus was identified in a matter of a few days _ a process that used to take weeks or longer.

Along with Fauci's institute, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and Google also helped fund the research.

Since when does Google fund medical research?

thanks to Texas in Africa for alerting me to this

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