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Archive for May, 2011|Monthly archive page

New York Again Tops Bedbug Charts

In Bed Bugs on May 26, 2011 at 6:37 pm

Bryan Derballa for The Wall Street Journal
Bedbug exterminators at work in New York City last year.

It probably isn’t much of a surprise, but bedbugs are taking a bigger bite out of the Big Apple so far this year, according to one exterminator company.

For the second consecutive year, Terminix ranked the city first in the nation for bedbug infestations, edging out Cincinnati, Detroit, Chicago and Philadelphia.  (In better news for New Yorkers, a rival ranking by competitor Orkin ranked the city only the seventh worst for bedbug cases.)

Terminix’s city rankings are based on the number of customer complaints and infestations discovered by employees of the company’s 350 U.S. branches. The company wouldn’t release specific data on just how many bedbug complaints it gets, but it said the problem is multiplying.

Bob Young, an entomologist and Northeast and Midwest division manager for Terminix, estimated that he has logged two to three times more bedbug calls over last year, following high-profile cases in which bedbug invasions forced several Manhattan businesses to close temporarily.

Is any borough of New York more infested than the others?

“Manhattan,” said Young, who is based in New York. He the added: “Clearly, Brooklyn and Queens. The Bronx. Even in the rural areas. They’re all over the place. These things, they hitchhike.”

Business for bedbug exterminators boomed last year. Bedbugs start at $500 a room, and off-site fumigation of personal belongings can add another $1,000, Young told WSJ columnist Anne Kadet last year. High-end residential jobs involving art and antiques can cost as much as $20,000.

This summer projections for bedbug activity probably won’t help New Yorkers feel more at ease. ”It’s a larger and larger problem each day,” Young said. “College students seem to bring them home with them.”

Young, who has been with Terminix for 15 years, said he started seeing the critters hit New York in the early 2000s. Since then, complaints have risen ten- to fifteenfold, he said, as the public becomes more aware of their presence.

Last year, bedbugs shut down the flagship Niketown store on East 57th Street, the Hollister Epic store in SoHo and a Victoria’s Secret on the Upper East Side, among other locations. And the insects made a debut at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.

This year? “They’re even in police-department squad cars,” Young said.


Bedbug Research Poses New Health Concern

In Bed Bugs on May 20, 2011 at 1:42 pm

Bedbug research poses a new health concern, which may mean a new need for bed bug mattress protection

bed bugs found in Vancouver hospital with MRSA

Bed bugs are spreading across the United States at a rapid pace; infesting homes, office buildings, and evenhospitals! Researchers  in a Vancouver hospital found bed bugs carrying diseases such as MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) and VRE (vancomycin-resistant enterococci) –  according to reports in the June edition of the journal of Emerging Infectious Diseases.

While past research indicates that bed bugs are not known to spread infectious diseases to humans, these findings may shed doubt on that belief. In fact, the phenotype of MRSA found in the bedbugs matched that found in many Eastside patients. Researchers conclude that it is possible that these critters are responsible for transmitting these diseases in overcrowded and impoverished cities. Just one more reason not to let the bed bugs bite! More

141 Repellent covered on Fox 31 in Denver

In DEET, Dengue Fever, Malaria, Uncategorized on May 19, 2011 at 8:10 am

“Tracz hopes that his company’s natural pine-oil derivative will be the first non-toxic alternative to DDT, and he believes it could change the face of disease control in the developing world.

The name of his company, 141 Repellent, is based on a business model that means just that: one for one. For every bottle the company sells, it will donate one malaria treatment for a bed net in the developing world.”,0,4142738.story

Hawaii Receives 12 More Suspected Cases of Dengue

In Dengue Fever on May 7, 2011 at 5:21 pm

Twelve more possible cases of dengue fever have been reported by physicians to the Hawaii Department of Health since two confirmed and two unconfirmed cases were announced last week.

The confirmed cases were from two people who live in the same Pearl City neighborhood, and were the first known Hawaii cases of locally contracted dengue fever since a 2001 outbreak in which 153 people were infected with the mosquito-borne viral illness.

The Health Department is awaiting blood sample test results from the Centers for Disease Control on the two suspected cases from Pearl City, as well as the 12 new cases, a spokeswoman for the department said.

The two Pearl City cases involved adults who contracted it in February.

The Health Department issued an alert to Oahu physicians, advising them to consider the potential for dengue infection in patients with compatible symptoms, to request laboratory testing and to report all suspected cases.

Symptoms usually begin five to six days after a patient is bitten by an infected mosquito, but the onset can range from two to 15 days. Symptoms include a sudden fever, severe headaches, pain behind the eye, joint and muscle pain and rash — typically on hands, arms, legs and feet three to four days after the fever starts.

4 People Treated for Dengue Fever on Oahu

In Dengue Fever on May 7, 2011 at 5:17 pm

Posted: March 25, 2011  

PEARL CITY (HawaiiNewsNow) – State health officials aren’t calling it an outbreak
but with at least four cases of dengue fever in the Pearl City area it’s a warning for all of us to safeguard your home.

These cases are a big concern for the health department and the state is taking precautions.

The four cases have been isolated to one Pearl City neighborhood.  They involve three family members and a neighbor. All four became sick at the end of February and have since recovered. About 70 other people that live around them have been notified and some have taken blood tests to see if they too have the disease.

“The reason we’re concerned typically we get cases any time of year when someone comes back from Polynesia or Central America and they get exposed to dengue and they come home and get sick. in the case we have here these are people that have not traveled so it means someone that did travel brought the disease home and the exposure was here locally by local mosquitoes,” said Gary Gill, Hawaii Health Department Deputy Director.

The state is not expecting a widespread outbreak.  The type of mosquito that carries the disease here in Hawaii only travels about 100 yards and it has to bite an infected person then bite you in order to spread the disease.  Still if you come down with high fever, severe headaches, joint and muscle pain, nausea and rash see a doctor right away. Physicians on Oahu have been advised about the potential for more dengue fever cases.

The state’s vector control branch was hit by budget cuts.  The department went from dozens of workers to just five.  They stopped taking measures to prevent mosquitoes.  The state won’t say for sure if that caused these cases.

“Our ability to respond has been severely curtailed,” said Gill. “Vector control before the cuts used to go out into communities after wet weather where there was standing water and mosquitoes or other vectors and we would treat that in anticipation of it being a problem area. We don’t do that anymore.  We don’t have the staff to go out and treat prospectively anticipating a problem and avoiding a problem.”

The state is not sure how the disease was introduced in Oahu for these cases.

For more information visit

Maui Dengue Fever Risk High

In Dengue Fever on May 7, 2011 at 5:03 pm

May 4th, 2011  

By Wendy Osher

Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa authorized the purchase of nearly $3,000 worth of mosquito repellent as a caution against the spread of dengue fever.

The purchase from Maui Distributors was made last week and will be handed over to the Maui District Health Office for use in East Maui upon arrival.

“We’ve faced dengue once before and managed to keep it under control,” said Mayor Alan Arakawa. “Now we have a chance to stop it before it even starts,” said the Mayor.

“This repellent will be crucial in containing dengue fever,” said Maui District Health Officer, Dr. Lorrin Pang.  “Since the dengue virus must pass through a human being, we can break the cycle by preventing people from getting bitten by infected mosquitoes or keeping mosquitoes from biting infected people.

“The repellent will protect both infected human beings and mosquitoes from each other,” said Pang.

Dr. Lorrin Pang, file photo by Wendy Osher.

The Maui District Health office plans to distribute the repellent to tourists and residents in East Maui – particularly in Upper Nihiku and Hana where the mosquito population is greatest.  Health officials said they needed about $1,000 worth of repellent for a month.  The new supply should be enough to meet the needs of the visiting summer crowds.

The county’s donation comes of the heels of a similar donation made by the Maui Visitor’s Bureau and the Visitor Aloha Society of Hawaii (VASH) last month.  The initial $1,000 supply was passed out at key locations along the Hana Highway.

The VASH program is a visitors’ assistance program that is funded by Hawai’i Tourism Authority and administered through Maui Visitors Bureau.

County officials say they hope other organizations will also donate money for repellent. The Maui Hotel and Lodging Association has already committed at least $500 for future purchases.

*** Supporting information courtesy County of Maui.

Exploring Ways to use Cell Phones to Deliver Critical Health Care

In Uncategorized on May 1, 2011 at 11:45 am
Most of us think of cell phones primarily as a convenient tool to stay in touch with people and store information. But increasingly, scientists are exploring ways to use cell phones to deliver critical health care to people in developing countries.

Grad students detect malaria with cellphones

In Malaria on May 1, 2011 at 11:39 am

“In a post on his website, The Gates Notes, Bill Gates stressed the importance of the future of cell phones for solving health care problems.

“Cell phones are amazing tools,”  he wrote. “For some of us, they’re about staying in touch. For millions of people, it could be about staying alive.”

Gates’ foundation announced last year that it would give $100,000 in grants to eight scientists who are using of cell phones in areas with limited resources to improve health care.”

Regarding the competition, Gates wrote that it’s “one of the most important science competitions in the world.”

By Amy Simpson

Staff Writer

Published: Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Central Florida FutureCourtesy Tristan GibeauThe future of diagnosing malaria may be just a snapshot away.

UCF computer engineering graduate student Tristan Gibeau and the other members of Team Lifelens have been working since November on a technological innovation for Microsoft’s Imagine Cup 2011 competition.

Lifelens formed not only to participate in the technology competition, but also to create a simple, accurate and cost effective way to diagnose malaria. Gibeau joined the team after meeting Wilson To, a University of California-Davis graduate student who created the project idea, through the Microsoft Student Partner Program, where they both work from their respective campuses.

For this year’s Imagine Cup competition, Gibeau and Lifelens developed a mobile smartphone application that uses high magnification and software developed by Gibeau to detect malaria in a blood sample. The phone is equipped with a special lens that is easily placed onto the phone’s image sensor, as well as an app that the team created.

“He came up with this idea, and I ran with it,” Gibeau said regarding To and the project. “And now we have a full working product that can detect both malaria as well as cell locations.”

Using just a drop of blood smeared onto a slide, a photo is taken of the sample and a phone with Lifelens technology can visualize the blood on a cellular level to detect the presence of malarial parasites. It can also test an individual’s blood count to eventually test for anemia.

“It was something that we felt was very important,” said Gibeau. “Right now, current [malaria] testing is not very good. It’s very, very clunky.”

The team, which is spread across the nation, communicates via its computers, using email and desktop sharing. The U.S. finals will be the first time Gibeau will meet face-to-face with any of his team members, aside from To.

“It can be hard,”  Gibeau said. “I feel like we could probably be more productive if we were all together, but then again, we’ve done a pretty good job.”

The team competed in last year’s competition under the name Mobilife. They won the software category of the U.S. competition and moved on with 400 other students to Warsaw, Poland for the finals. There, a team from Thailand swept the competition with their software that translates speech into sign language and text in real time.

Gibeau was brought onto the team for this year’s competition because of his experience with programming and computer vision image processing. In layman’s terms, Gibeau said, it is “pretty much finding things in images.”  For example, finding malaria in a photograph of cells.

The theme of this year’s competition is “Imagine a world where technology helps solve the toughest problems,”  and that’s what the Lifelens team hopes to do.

According to UNICEF, malaria has a 15-20 percent mortality rate, and the majority of those deaths occur in children under five. The disease must be recognized promptly for treatment to be effective. After taking a photo of a blood sample, the Lifelens app takes 1-2 seconds to detect the presence of malaria. Current technology accurately detects malaria 40 percent of the time. Lifelens has 90 percent accuracy. It also costs less.

In a post on his website, The Gates Notes, Bill Gates stressed the importance of the future of cell phones for solving health care problems.

“Cell phones are amazing tools,”  he wrote. “For some of us, they’re about staying in touch. For millions of people, it could be about staying alive.”

Gates’ foundation announced last year that it would give $100,000 in grants to eight scientists who are using of cell phones in areas with limited resources to improve health care.

Regarding the competition, Gates wrote that it’s “one of the most important science competitions in the world.”

Though he is battling lack of sleep, Gibeau considers the experience worthwhile.

“In school I’ve always done all these projects,”  he said. “I personally wanted to do this project because I wanted to apply my knowledge, my experience, what I know in general to be able to help someone other than myself.”

The U.S. Finals are being held in Seattle next week, and the World Finals in May will be in New York City — the first U.S. city to host the World Finals.

The yearlong competition has taken place every year since 2003, starting with just 1,000 participants that first year and growing to more than 325,000 last year.

Sharon Pian Chan of the Seattle Times called it “a World Cup for nerds.”

Aside from the title and monetary award for winners, there are many benefits for competitors, according to Microsoft’s Academic Developer Evangelist, Tara Walker.

“It’s a great way to start their own business,”  said Walker. “That’s another benefit that the students really get. It can further their career and can take them to the next step after they graduate.”

The competition gives participants real world experience and the opportunity to network with like-minded students as well as industry professionals. Their projects can also get visibility, which can lead to support and funding.

” I am not aware of any companies that do this to the magnitude that we do,”  said Walker.

The team hopes to be able to detect sickle cell anemia in time for the World Finals. Gibeau has already written down the procedure to program the application to do so. They would also like to work on preventive technology, to keep deadly diseases at bay by knowing how and where they spread.

“I enjoy this stuff so much,”  Gibeau said. “I’m glad I’m putting my knowledge and resources into good use.”

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