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More than just a good nose

The human mind is profoundly adept in comparative analysis. Each day brings many fundamental decisions: what to eat, how to get it, who to trust, how and where to spend the minutes between waking and sleeping. We rely on comparisons to make those decisions (oatmeal or donuts?), evaluating options based on how they’ll satisfy our…

Inter-Species Travel

Last week’s post Health has no boundaries made passing mention to Covid infections in mink populations. An article in the New York Times Magazine this week provides much more context for those mink farm infections: “Animals That Infect Humans Are Scary. It’s Worse When We Infect Them Back.” (by Sonia Shah, published 19 January 2022)….

Health has no boundaries

When naming viruses that are transmitted from animals to humans, health officials use the name of the transmission species: avian influenza, swine influenza, equine influenza and so on. The World Health Organization says the disease name shouldn’t include the location (e.g., Asian bird flu) but popular usage breaks this rule. People like to blame others…

It’s in the air

What if it were possible to sample the air to identify all of the animals that are in the surrounding area, even the ones we can’t see? A recently published study demonstrated that this is possible. Two groups of scientists, working independently, recently developed a process to capture airborne animal DNA and analyze it. Using…

What a waste

With the Omicron variant rampant, state and national governments are working to make quick, at-home antigen tests more readily available. They hope that identifying infection quickly and broadly will reduce infectious interactions and therefore the spread of the disease. In late November, the state of New Hampshire, in partnership with the federal government, offered 800,000…

The high cost of slow adoption

A scholarly paper published in September 2021 in PLOS ONE titled “Highly Sensitive Scent-Detection of COVID-19 Patients In Vivo by Trained Dogs” (Omar Vesga et al) starts with this sentence: “Timely and accurate diagnostics are essential to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, but no test satisfies both conditions. … The only effective measure to ameliorate the…

Best. Job. Ever.

Walking with our dog Ellie is a lesson in negotiation. On trails, we pass by other dogs who walk heads up, alert to their human companions and other animals around them. Our Ellie walks nose-first, scenting out whatever is on the ground or beneath it. If we moved at her pace, it would be less…

The Tragedy of Delay

Yet another fatal impact of the SARS-CoV-2 virus has been due to cancers going undetected as people dropped their annual health maintenance screenings. Waiting until symptoms manifest has deadly consequences. Despite that, when daily life poses existential threats from a virus that has taken millions of lives, thinking about a trip to a hospital or…