GOOD

Scientists Close in on the Notorious Cruise Ship Virus

The days of norovirus, known for sickening seaborne travelers like those on a recent Princess Cruises vessel, may be numbered.

Over the past few weeks, a Princess Cruises vessel was hit by an outbreak of norovirus, the common stomach bug notorious for wreaking havoc on cruise liners. Over 170 people on board the month-long trip were affected, with most reports coming in the last 15 days. The ship docked on Sunday in Los Angeles, where the vessel received a lengthy decontamination before its next voyage. Though the disease is generally thought of as a mild infection that primarily affects seaborne vacationers, norovirus-prompted food poisoning generates around $2 billion in annual healthcare and lost productivity costs in the United States alone.


Norovirus causes vomiting and diarrhea, and is typically spread through coming into contact with contaminated surfaces or objects, such as doorknobs, handrails and utensils—hence its tendency to thrive on ships, in schools, and in hotels. Most cruise companies put stringent measures into effect to prevent outbreaks, like installing automatic hand sanitizing units in the ship’s common areas. However, the virus is resistant to many common disinfectants.

Transmission electron micrograph of norovirus particles in feces. By Graham Colm via Wikimedia Commons

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, norovirus causes up to 21 million cases of illness per year in the U.S., contributing to between 570 to 800 deaths, mainly young children and older adults. While scientists are working on a vaccine, no current medication exists to treat norovirus—partly because no one has been able to study the illness at close range.

Earlier this year, though, researchers at University of Florida’s College of Medicine moved a step closer toward a solution, successfully growing a human norovirus cell in the lab for the first time. The results of the study, published in a recent issue of Science, show that the virus weakens the immune system by targeting white blood cells in the intestine, not, as previously thought, by attacking the protective cells that line the intestinal wall.

Stephanie Karst, a professor in the University of Florida department of molecular genetics and microbiology, said the biggest hurdle in norovirus research had been scientists’ continued failure to grow the human virus in a laboratory cell culture dish. “That complicates every aspect of research,” Karst said in a news release about the discovery. “We can’t study how it replicates, and we can’t test therapeutics.”

The new discovery could lead to new drugs to combat norovirus, potentially saving a high cost in both lives and resources and maybe a few cruise vacations in the process.

Articles
AFP News Agency / Twitter

A study out of Belgium found that smart people are much less likely to be bigoted. The same study also found that people who are bigoted are more likely to overestimate their own intelligence.

A horrifying story out of Germany is a perfect example of this truth on full display: an anti-Semite was so dumb the was unable to open a door at the temple he tried to attack.

On Wednesday, October 9, congregants gathered at a synagogue in Humboldtstrasse, Germany for a Yom Kippur service, and an anti-Semite armed with explosives and carrying a rifle attempted to barge in through the door.

Keep Reading Show less
Communities
via Andi-Graf / Pixabay

The old saying goes something like, "Possessions don't make you happy." A more dire version is, "What you own, ends up owning you."

Are these old adages true or just the empty words of ancient party-poopers challenging you not to buy an iPhone 11? According to a new study of 968 young adults by the University of Arizona, being materialistic only brings us misery.

The study examined how engaging in pro-environmental behaviors affects the well-being of millenials. The study found two ways in which they modify their behaviors to help the environment: they either reduce what they consume or purchase green items.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture

One of the biggest obstacles to getting assault weapons banned in the United States is the amount of money they generate.

There were around 10 million guns manufactured in the U.S. in 2016 of which around 2 million were semiautomatic, assault-style weapons. According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the firearms industry's trade association, the U.S. industry's total economic impact in 2016 alone was $51 billion.

In 2016, the NRA gave over $50 million to buy support from lawmakers. When one considers the tens of millions of dollars spent on commerce and corruption, it's no wonder gun control advocates have an uphill battle.

That, of course, assumes that money can control just about anyone in the equation. However, there are a few brave souls who actually value human life over profit.

Keep Reading Show less
Health
via Reddit and NASA / Wikimedia Commons

Trees give us a unique glimpse into our past. An examination of tree rings can show us what the climate was like in a given year. Was it a wet winter? Were there hurricanes in the summer? Did a forest fire ravage the area?

An ancient tree in New Zealand is the first to provide evidence of the near reversal of the Earth's magnetic field over 41,000 years ago.

Over the past 83 million years there have been 183 magnetic pole reversals, a process that takes about 7,000 years to complete.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
via Pixabay

The final episode of "The Sopranos" made a lot of people angry because it ends with mob boss Tony Soprano and his family eating at an ice cream parlor while "Don't Stop Believin'" by Journey plays in the background … and then, suddenly, the screen turns black.

Some thought the ending was a dirty trick, while others saw it as a stroke of brilliance. A popular theory is that Tony gets shot, but doesn't know it because, as his brother-in-law Bobby Baccala said, "You probably don't even hear it when it happens, right?"

So the show gives us all an idea of what it's like to die. We're here and then we're not.

Keep Reading Show less
Health