DAILY DOSE: Ebola outbreak in Uganda concerns scientists; Using smell to influence consumers’ purchasing habits.

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CAUSE FOR CONCERN.

As concern about the Covid-19 pandemic recedes from the public consciousness (though not public health officials’, let it be said), a major Ebola outbreak in Africa is causing concern among experts. Per Nature,

In the past month, at least 64 people in Uganda have been — or are suspected of being — infected with a rare species of Ebola virus, for which no vaccines or treatments are available. About 30 people have died. The rapid rise and spread of the lethal virus across five districts in Uganda have alarmed scientists, and raised fears that the outbreak will not be easy to contain.

“It’s definitely concerning,” says Daniel Bausch, director of emerging threats and global health security at FIND, the global alliance for diagnostics in Geneva, Switzerland. “The slope of that curve is pretty sharp.”...

The situation is serious, says Fiona Braka, an emergency-response programme manager at the World Health Organization Regional Office for Africa in Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo. “But Ebola is not new to Uganda,” she says. Five previous Ebola outbreaks have taken place in the country, four of which were caused by the Sudan species. An outbreak in 2000 — the largest in Uganda so far — involved 425 infections and 224 deaths. So the country is familiar with the rapid-response measures needed to contain the virus, Braka says.

If the virus escapes its African borders and makes it to Western countries, expect a full blown, media-driven panic. Let’s hope for the best. https://go.nature.com/3MiyFpq


KEEPING THE MIND HEALTHY.

It’s good to see the U.S. military taking mental health seriously. Per the Associated Press,

In March, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced the creation of an independent committee to review the military’s mental health and suicide prevention programs.

According to Defense Department data, suicides among active-duty service members increased by more than 40% between 2015 and 2020. The numbers jumped by 15% in 2020 alone. In longtime suicide hotspot postings such as Alaska – service members and their families contend with extreme isolation and a harsh climate – the rate has doubled.

A 2021 study by the Cost of War Project concluded that since 9/11, four times as many service members and veterans have died by suicide as have perished in combat. The study detailed stress factors particular to military life: “high exposure to trauma — mental, physical, moral, and sexual — stress and burnout, the influence of the military’s hegemonic masculine culture, continued access to guns, and the difficulty of reintegrating into civilian life.”

The Pentagon did not respond to repeated requests for comment. But Austin has publicly acknowledged that the Pentagon’s current mental health offerings — including a Defense Suicide Prevention Office established in 2011 — have proven insufficient.

Being open to change is always a good thing. Mind you, the armed forces haven’t always been known for their flexibility. https://bit.ly/3egv0fx


THAT PESKY VIRUS.

Beijing is still struggling to bring Sars-CoV-2 to heel. Just when they need it to go away the most – that is ahead of its massive, once-every-five-years party congress meeting – it continues to infect just enough people to impose draconian lockdowns. Per Reuters,

China called for "patience" with its tough COVID policies and warned against any "war-weariness" as local cases soared to their highest since August, days ahead of a pivotal Communist Party congress.

Many countries are learning to co-exist with COVID-19, but China has repeatedly quashed any speculation of a let-up in its policies, which can range from locking down a local community to an entire city, even though fatalities remain low by global standards and symptoms, if any, are mostly mild.

Pressure on officials to stop outbreaks as soon as they spring up has risen in recent weeks as the highly transmissible Omicron sub-variants BF.7 and BA.5.1.7 appeared in mainland China for the first time, ensnaring travellers during a just-ended week-long national holiday.

Across China, 1,939 locally transmitted cases were reported on Oct. 9, the highest since Aug. 20, according to Reuters calculations based on official data published on Monday.

The takeaway quote from this article, however, is this – “They have not been able to leave their home, as a magnetic device on the door installed by the authorities would track its opening and closing.” My goodness. https://reut.rs/3ytr6XA


BRITISH NURSING CRISIS.

Misogyny is alive and well in the institutional nursing world it appears. Per The Guardian,

“A damning inquiry into the Royal College of Nursing, the world’s biggest nurses’ union, has exposed bullying, misogyny and a sexual culture where women are at risk of “alcohol and power-related exploitation”.

A 77-page internal report by Bruce Carr KC, leaked to the Guardian, lays bare how the RCN’s senior leadership has been “riddled with division, dysfunction and distrust” and condemns the male-dominated governing body, known as council, as “not fit for purpose”.

Grave concerns are also raised about the RCN’s annual conference, known as congress, where Carr says an “inappropriate sexual culture” warrants further urgent investigation “to identify the extent to which [it] has actually resulted in exploitation of the vulnerable”.

This is just something you don’t want to hear happens. https://bit.ly/3CoV6Vq


INFLUENCING CONSUMERS THROUGH SMELL.

Marketers have pioneered all sorts of underhanded ways to influence your decision making. They’ve exploited the social sciences to no end. It appears they’re turning their attention to the biological sciences in order to gain an edge as well. Per the CBC Cost of Living podcast,

Ever wander into an Abercrombie and Fitch and think, "Am I catching a whiff of white bergamot?" Of course you don't. You're not a nerd! You're just looking for a pair of cheap jeans before hitting the food court for a fro-yo. But scent marketing is a real thing, and like Proust's madeleines — the scent of those jeans will linger in your memory long after you've bought them. Jennifer Dorozio explains.”

Interesting and infuriating at the same time. https://bit.ly/3EvU6Sm


LIVE FOREVER.

In a scenario straight out of a Netflix sci-fi flick, researchers are exploring ways of allowing people to live thousands of years by digitizing their persons and uploading it as data to thousand-year servers. Per BBC Future,

Research into how we could store digital data inside strands of DNA has exploded over the past decade, in the wake of efforts to sequence the human genome, synthesise DNA and develop gene therapies. Scientists have already encoded films, books and computer operating systems into DNA. Netflix has even used it to store an episode of its 2020 thriller series Biohackers.

The information stored in DNA defines what it is to be human (or any other species for that matter). But many experts argue it offers an incredibly compact, durable and long-lasting form of storage that could replace the many forms of unreliable digital media available, which regularly become defunct and require huge amounts of energy to store. Meanwhile, some researchers are exploring other ways we could store data effectively forever, such as etching information onto incredibly durable glass beads, a modern take on cave drawings.

But how long could this data really last, and can we really rely on it to store the reams of data now being produced by humanity for posterity?

Is this creepy or is it exciting? I can’t decide which one. https://bbc.in/3CoOWVt

Thanks for reading. Let’s be careful out there.


ON SALE! Charles Darwin Signature T-shirt – “I think.” Two words that changed science and the world, scribbled tantalizingly in Darwin’s Transmutation Notebooks.

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