A2: Rubella cases exceed 100 in single week

NHK World, 3/5/2019


Japanese health officials have reported 109 cases of rubella in the week of February 18-24th. This brings the total 2019 rubella cases in the country to 650, four times higher than the same period last year. Officials predict that this year may be comparable to 2013’s record year of over 14,000 cases. The national government has begun offering free vaccinations to males between 39 and 56, an age group that did not receive childhood rubella vaccinations. In addition, some municipalities are offering free vaccines to women who may become pregnant and their families, in order to curb potential (visual, auditory, and cardiovascular) birth defects.


We have just begun learning about viral structure and function in class, and how (for lack of a better term) virulent they can be. Rubella is another example of an airborne pathogen, and it was thankfully eradicated from the US in 2004, according to the CDC.

Critical Analysis:

This, as with other similar stories from NHK World, are meant as informative public broadcasts rather than in-depth scientific literature. It focuses mainly on raising public awareness of, and government response to, the outbreak. It does, however, touch on the complications rubella can present for pregnant women.


How prevalent are airborne viruses, and why is everyone not infected all the time by an airborne pathogen without the biological constraint to maintain life?

Additional Info:


A2: Pigs culled in Shiga after swine fever outbreak

NHK World, 2/07/2019

Summary:  Roughly 700 pigs have been culled at a farm in Omihachiman, Shiga Prefecture (滋賀, middle left on map) after an outbreak of  Pestivirus CSFV, a Group IV virus responsible for classical swine fever. While this pathogen is highly contagious among domestic and wild swine and known to cause symptoms including fever, skin hemorrhaging, convulsions, and death [1], humans are not susceptible. The carriers were among a total of 60 pigs shipped from Aichi Prefecture (愛知, center bottom) to four other prefectures on January 31st. The first case of CSF in Japan in 27 years was discovered September 2018 in Gifu Prefecture (岐阜, center top), spreading from there.


While we have not yet covered viruses or communicability in class, the precautions we take in lab to avoid communication of our unidentified strains is likely an afterthought on commercial farms. It’s no wonder that crafty and deadly pathogens could have such a devastating effect on food supply chains.

Critical Analysis:

This article is written more as an informative story than a piece of scientific literature. However, it does provide reliable information on what  Pestivirus CSFV is and the effects it can have. While it has been reportedly eliminated in many western countries, including America, Canada, and Australia, cases still arise such as East Anglia, United Kingdom in 2000 [1].


What makes pathogens selective in their attacking, and is it truly more advantageous to specialize and “hide under the radar” rather than diversify to obtain the maximum potential number of hosts?

Additional Info:

[1]:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Classical_swine_fever

A2: Microbes in the News- Deep Sea Japan

Extreme Microbes Found in Crystals Buried 200 Feet Beneath the Sea of Japan

source: https://www.livescience.com/64532-microbes-inside-gas-hydrate-crystals

January 17, 2019.


Recently, In the depths of the ocean off the coast of Japan, with extremely cold temperatures and high pressure, microbes were discovered inside of small mineral grains sealed into crystals. These were discovered during an expedition sampling gas hydrates.

Its pretty incredible to find microbes in such extreme conditions such as this. In fact, we touched on the topic in class, they are often known as “Extremeophiles.” These are organisms that are able to live in otherwise uninhabitable environments.

I think its pretty neat that even though the researchers were originally searching for something else, they found this incredible discovery. Being from a pretty cool and efficiently sourced scientific website, I believe this article to be accurate. The microbes were effectively “sealed” into a environment perfect for them, within these crystals. No other organisms were introduced, this makes for a really incredible historical discovery as well, seeing as these organisms have been in a protected environment for hundreds if not thousands of years.

What I wanted to know, was could these organisms tell us a little about the past for sure? Being in an enclosed system, possibly could have halted any sort of evolution.