Stories tagged Diversity of Organisms

Mar
06
2009

White-Tails in the CIty
White-Tails in the CItyCourtesy mickipicki
For wildlife biologists, most concerns about animal populations revolve around unnatural declines. Due to things like human development, habitat loss, climate change, pollutants and diseases that make animals sick, many wildlife populations are disappearing at an alarming rate.

Some species, however, are undergoing steep increases in population, causing headaches for humans. The recent crash of US Airways flight 1549 due to a bird strike is one extreme example.

Not surprisingly, most of the perceived problems resulting from animal population growth are coming from urban and suburban areas. Scientists are looking for ways to control the booming populations of deer, geese, pigeons and other species that have adapted to the changes humans have made to the environment. Since hunting or trapping is offensive to so many people, biologists are looking for new solutions and think that they may have found one in wildlife birth control.

At the National Wildlife Research Center in Fort Collins, Colorado, biologists have developed a one-a-day contraceptive pill for geese and pigeons, and are working on a one-time injectable contraceptive for white-tailed deer. These wildlife birth control methods work on the same principal as human birth control, disrupting the animal's reproductive cycle or preventing fertilization from occurring.

The whole issue of wildlife population control brings up an interesting paradox. People love animals and nature, or at least, they love the idea of animals and nature as portrayed by the folks at Disney. People also love their yards and gardens, their pets and cars and airplanes, all of which provide ample opportunity for conflict with our furry and feathered friends.

It's worth remembering that many of the animals we consider pests today were once hunted to near extinction, and that it was the efforts of conservation biologists, along with hunters and fisherpeople, that helped to bring back many of these iconic species.

So, is birth control for Bambi really the answer? I'm not sure, though I do have lots of questions, including whether this kind of animal birth control will contribute to the already harmful effects that hormones found in human birth control are having on the environment.

Source: Popular Science

Feb
20
2009

I've spent years building this search program: Hopefully I'll have a color version someday.
I've spent years building this search program: Hopefully I'll have a color version someday.Courtesy JGordon
Here at Science Buzz, we deal in facts. Cold, hard, frosty, refreshing facts.

We scoop up questions, opinions, and casual observations in big, greasy shovels, and we boil them over the white hot heat of science, processing and reducing them until we’re left with they crystalline residue of pure fact. (And if that fact gets cut and diluted down to street grade fact once it leaves the website, well, that’s lamentable, but it’s beyond our control.)

Before we send anything out to you, the Buzzketeer, we subject it to rigorous testing. Like, hey, here’s a cool idea for a post. Is it unequivocal, objective fact? No? Then we throw it out.

That’s just the way we operate here. You deserve it.

So, hey, check this out: there might be yetis in Siberia.

Yes sir, the search is on for yetis in Siberia, in a region where yeti sightings have skyrocketed in the last few weeks. While folks in the area claim to have been seeing upright, hairy creatures for years, 10 sightings in the past few weeks have got people concerned. Concerned and excited.

Local officials have launched a yeti-finding expedition, which has so far found approximately zero yetis, but has discovered an intriguing footprint in a nearby cave. (Images of the footprint can be found at the link to Cryptomundo above).

Despite my dedication to cryptozoology and the cryptocouch, I’m not sure that departmental petty cash is going to get me to Siberia to verify anything for y’all. So I must remain here, on the cryptocouch, doing what I can with what I’ve got. And that’s not much.

Still, reports have the creatures at about six-feet-tall, with red and black fur. I ran this description through my visual yeti database (see associated image), and I can conclusively say that we’re dealing with a heretofore-undocumented variety of yeti. This might not seem like a very significant thing, but it’s important in science to understand what you aren’t dealing with. Then you can move on to what you might be dealing with. And that’s where we’re at now.

Feb
16
2009

Evolutionary trees like the one Charles Darwin scribbled to illustrate his epiphany are still used today to help biologists understand and communicate the diversity of life. Like Darwin and his contemporaries, today’s evolutionary biologists are part of an ongoing effort to figure out how Earth's many species are related. As new tools help biologists to analyze evolutionary relationships, the tree of life changes and grows ever more complex.

How will biologists today and in the future to organize all of this information? No one knows for sure - but a number of computer scientists and software designers are taking a crack at it! In collaboration with biologists designers are creating programs that will allow researchers to share and search through enormous amounts of taxonomical information. Some programs, like UC Davis's paloverde, take cues from familiar web tools like WIkipedia and Google Earth, allowing users to search the tree of life from various perspectives and distances.

Beyond making research more accessible to scientists and the public, software tools like this will help scientists around the world work together in new ways - developing new medicines to treat constantly evolving diseases, new products and processes that take into account changing ecosystems, and to understand biodiversity on a local and global scale.

The potential of these tools is as big as the imagination of the designers and engineers behind them - what kind of tool would you create to help organize the tree of life?

Feb
12
2009

These guys have been eating bacteria all day: That's all it takes!
These guys have been eating bacteria all day: That's all it takes!Courtesy Dave Austria
Hey y’all! Get a earful of this: Russian scientists claim to have found bacteria living in the superfrost that may be able to significantly extend our lifespans!

Whoa!

Oh, also, “superfrost” isn’t the word the original article used. In fact, “superfrost” isn’t a real word in the first place. The perpetually frozen sandy soil the bacteria were found in is actually called “permafrost.” I just invented the word “superfrost” because it was kind of cool in this post’s title. I also used the fake word to honor the original article, which contains an amount of information somewhere between zero and almost zero.

Maybe I shouldn’t have gotten my hopes up over a quasi-science article coming from a the Daily Mail, considering that the other stories on the page feature shots of the octuplet mother’s explosive looking belly, and Chris Brown leering over Rhianna’s shoulder… but it seems so cool! Seriously, this is sci-fi stuff!

What I can tell is this: Russian scientists were digging in an area of Siberia known for its abundance of wooly mammoth remains. Among the biological materials they recovered was a species of bacteria that appears to live in the permafrost. Finding it was an accident.

After doing a partial DNA analysis, the scientists determined that they were working with a unique type of bacteria. I don’t know if this means it’s a new species, genus, family, order, class, phylum, or kingdom… whatever. Probably not important, right, Daily Mail?

What’s interesting about the bacterium is that it appears to be very, very old. Three to five million years old, according to the article.

Say what, Daily Mail? Say what?!

I mean… What? Check out the wikipedia page on long-living organisms. With the exception of this weird jelly fish that could potentially live forever (we won’t get into it), 3-5 million years puts everything else on the list to shame. By far.

I’m guessing that the age was estimated based on the age of the associated mammoth remains in the area (they’re about 4.8 million years old), but how they know that the bacteria were alive at the same time as the mammoths isn’t explained.

Some scientists have made claims that certain bacteria might be able to remain in stasis for millions of years before being revived. But those claims are disputed, and, anyway, we’re talking about bacteria trapped in amber or salt deposits, not permafrost (which, despite the “perma,” has probably been considerably more dynamic over the last 5 million years than most amber).

If the bacteria were in stasis, which wasn’t suggested in the helpful article, that wouldn’t explain what the Russian scientists did with the bacteria next: they put it in some mice.

We aren’t talking gene therapy here, either. All the article says is that the mice were “vaccinated with the bacterium extract.”

That makes sense, right? I mean, I know turtles and parrots live a really long time, so if I’m always eating turtle soup and parrot cake, so I’m pretty much guaranteed to live a long time, right? And if I supplement that diet by shooting up some alligator (into my veins with a needle, say), I’ll be alive forever!

I don’t know. Somebody help me out here. Why would vaccinating yourself with a bacterium imbue you with properties of that bacterium? Wouldn’t it just help your immune system figure out how to kill that organism? I was vaccinated with weakened mumps virus, but, as far as I know, I don’t have the ability to make anyone’s face inflate on cue, nor did the process transform me into a protein shell full of bits of DNA.

Nonetheless, after their inoculation with the bacteria, the mice demonstrated “growth of physical, mental, and sexual activity” into their old age. Female mice were even able to give birth at an age equivalent to a human 70-year-old.

That’s freaking amazing, isn’t it? So, hmm… here at the Daily Mail, we seem to have an exclusive story on this awesome biological breakthrough. What should we title this story? What… should… we… call… it? I know! “'Pre-historic Viagra' found in Siberian mammoth DNA could boost your sex life and let you live longer”

Duh. I mean, it says in the article that the bacteria and the mammoths, though they were found in the same area, are not believed to be linked to each other, but nothing else makes sense, so why should the headline? Mammoth DNA! Pre-historic Viagra! Print it!

How frustrating. This seems awesome, but until I can get some better, and possibly less fake, information, I have to file it under “Thhhbbtttbbbtbb.” Fudge.

Jan
30
2009

Into flow charts?: This is a flow chart of a relationship. Start at the bioluminescent spike, and end at the parasitic gonads.
Into flow charts?: This is a flow chart of a relationship. Start at the bioluminescent spike, and end at the parasitic gonads.Courtesy steev-o
It’s Friday (T.G.I.F.), Buzzketeers, and you all know what that means. That’s right, it’s time for the Science Buzz Friday Relationship Extravaganza! (S.B.F.R.E.)

I know how much y’all like relationships, and how much you like talking about them, so it’s only natural that you clicked on the S.B.F.R.E. so quickly. But that’s not all! See, here at the S.B.F.R.E., “relationship” is also a code word for… S-E-X! Oh, naughtiest of naughties! It’s a red-letter day! Relationships and S-E-X-ual science… y’all had better sit down.

Seriously, sit down. Make yourselves comfortable. Now, I want y’all to know that this is a safe space, and we should be free to say whatever we’re feeling. Good, good… I think we’re about ready to start.

So… I understand that you feel like he has some real problems in communicating his feelings?

Why do you think that is?

No, I’m sorry, let’s let him finish—we’ll all have a chance to talk, and it’s his turn right now.

OK. I think I see what you’re saying. How do you want him to communicate? What do you wish he would say to you?

And how does that make you feel? Is that something you can do? OK… Why do you think you’re not being listened to?

I see.

Well, let’s look at it this way: at least y’all aren’t anglerfish. You know anglerfish, right, Buzzketeers? Anglerfish include those awful deep sea fish, with the big eyes, and teeth all over the place, and a glowing spike sticking out of their awful, lumpy heads. You know what I’m talking about. You saw those pictures, and then learned that they were only a few inches long, but were still kind of grossed out. And maybe some holier-than-thou biologist type pointed out to you that they weren’t gross, they were just fish that had made some spectacular adaptations to their environment, and were just living their lives like every other animal.

Well, don’t worry, you were right in the first place: angler fish really are awful and gross.

See, when they first discovered these creepy anglerfish, scientists were only finding female specimens. No males at all. So where’s the relationship relationship?

Well, eventually they did find some males, and some remarkable observations were made. The male anglerfish were pretty normal in their youth, but once they reached sexual maturity, their digestive systems degenerate. So they are unable to feed themselves. Naturally, what a mature male needs to do at that point is find a sugar momma. And fast (because, again, they’re starving to death). When the male tracks down a female anglerfish, he bites her, latching on to her body with his teeth. Enzymes in the male then break down its own mouth, as well as the female’s body, so that the two fish fuse together, to the point where they even share blood vessels. A source of sustenance now secured, the male kind of “lets itself go,” if you will. But instead of gaining weight and watching too much TV, the body of the male anglerfish, still fused with the female, degenerates, eventually becoming just a pair of gonads that hang off the female. When the first female anglerfish were discovered, scientists thought that they had parasites hanging off of them. Nope. Those were the remains of male anglerfish.

When the female is ready to release eggs, the gonads sense the change in hormone levels in the blood that still flows to them, and they release sperm, so that the eggs can be fertilized, and more horrible anglerfish can be created.

I don’t know who has it worse here—the female that has to nourish a pair of parasitic testicles (or multiple pairs), or the male, who has to latch on to a female to survive, and then becomes a pair of parasitic testicles. Either way, though, I think you’ll agree that your own messed up relationship seems pretty ideal right now, doesn’t it?

So remember, until the next Science Buzz Friday Relationship Extravaganza, keep your emotions bottled up, and if you’re ever feeling bummed out about things, just think of the never-lonely anglerfish.

Jan
21
2009

He's not eating it: He just thinks there's a millipede inside.
He's not eating it: He just thinks there's a millipede inside.Courtesy abmiller99
There’s an expression that I like… it describes a certain kind of broad, smug, and possibly insincere smile, but one of the words in it is altogether naughty. I am, if nothing else, sensitive to the delicate sensibilities of Buzz’s readers, and I hold the image of the Science Museum of Minnesota in the highest regard. And even though I do not write as a representative of the museum*, it would be a true blow to my childlike heart to see profanity on one of its webpages. (Especially if I were the one to put that profanity there in the first place.)

And so we will tiptoe around this expression, carefully, carefully… like careful cats.

The expression rhymes with “Spit-sleating gin.” Or “kit-beating kin.” Or maybe “wit meeting sin.”

Oh, what’s a good, inoffensive way to put it? Hmm. It has to do with the sort of expression of happiness you might wear if you had just finished eating a pile of poop, especially if you think someone else wanted some of that poop but didn’t get any before you polished it off, or maybe if you didn’t want anyone to know you had eaten the poop in the first place, and so were perhaps overcompensating in trying to look like your normal, smiley self.

Was that good? I think that was perfect.

Anyway, this expression was originally invented to describe the way dung beetles look pretty much constantly. Dung beetles eat poop all the time—some of them eat only poop—and for some reason they have the idea stuck in their heads that it’s a tremendously valuable commodity (little do they know, eh?), so they always have this big ol’ “look what I got, son” smile on their faces. You have to use a magnifying glass to see it, but the smile is there.

While this expression has since fallen into broader use, it seems that its original application is … decaying, if you will. It seems that not all dung beetles eat dung! Ah! Dogs and cats, living together!

That’s right—in the depths of the Amazon jungle, there’s a recently discovered species of dung beetle that has traded its hilarious culinary habits for something a little more awesome: hunting, maiming, decapitating, and eating big, toxic millipedes.

Researchers baited traps in the jungle with a whole variety of dung beetle foods—dung beetles love dung, so that was there, obviously, but some species will also snack on other items, like rotting fruit, fungus, dead animals, and, occasionally, millipedes. The scientists caught 132 species of dung beetles in the traps, but only one exclusively ate the millipedes. No poop for these beetles, or even dead millipedes—they were hunters.

The researchers closely examined the peculiar beetles, and noticed a couple tiny, yet important differences from similar looking species: the hunting beetles had elongated hind legs (trading their dung-rolling function for something a little more suited to grappling with prey), and modified jaws and teeth, for chewing open millipede exoskeletons.

The scientists think that the no-dung dung beetles have undergone speciation. That is, they have evolved into a new species in adapting to the pressures of their environment. See, it seems that dung really is a little scarce on the floor of the Amazon jungle, and some dung beetles moved on to different food sources (millipedes), to the point where they only ate that new food, and became distinct (albeit in small ways) from their old kin. So, while there is one less creature that can truly wear a zit-heating pin, I guess that the Amazonian dung beetles that still eat dung have a little more to grin about these days. It kind of balances out, doesn’t it?

*No, really, I don’t write as a museum representative. Watch: I kind of enjoyed Waterworld. Does the museum think that? Nope. Nobody thinks that, and my writing it doesn’t change the fact.

Jan
14
2009

Conolophus rosada: Research scientist Gabriele Gentile holding the elusive pink iguana.
Conolophus rosada: Research scientist Gabriele Gentile holding the elusive pink iguana.Courtesy Photograph settings by Gabriele Gentile, photo shot by an assistant
A pink lizard that eluded Charles Darwin when he visited the Galapagos Islands nearly 175 years ago has been recognized as a new species of land iguana. Conolophus rosada is found only in the region of Volcan Wolf volcano on the island of Isabela.

"That Darwin might have missed this form is not surprising, because he stayed in the Galápagos only five weeks, and he did not visit Volcan Wolf [volcano], which to our knowledge is the only place on the archipelago where the pink form occurs," said lead researcher Gabriele Gentile of the University Tor Vergata in Rome, Italy. "What is surprising is that several other scientists visited in the last century Volcan Wolf and missed this form."

Two genera of iguana populate the Galapagos – land iguanas (Conolophus) and marine iguanas (Amblyrhynchus). The two branches split off from a common ancestor about 8-10 million years ago while still on the mainland. The pink iguana, which branched off the Colonophus line, can reach a length of more than 3 feet, and weigh up to 15 pounds. Park rangers first stumbled upon it in 1986 but not until now has it been recognized as a new, separate species.

Darwin spent only five weeks exploring the Galapagos when the HMS Beagle stopped at the archipelago to gather food for the voyage back to England. He investigated the island of Isabela but not around the Volcan Wolf volcano, the only area where rosada has been found. Overall, the naturalist wasn’t too impressed by the land iguanas he encountered on the Galapagos, He described them as “ugly animals, of a yellowish orange beneath, and of a brownish-red color above: from their low facial angle they have a singularly stupid appearance."

Good looks aside, the pink iguana presents other problems for modern scientists. Recent genetic analysis shows the rosada species diverged from other lines of land iguana about 5.7 million years ago. The trouble with that is the island of Isabela is only about one million years old and the oldest extant island in the chain, Espanola, is only 3-4 million years old. That means the split must have taken place somewhere else. But rosada hasn’t been found anywhere else in the Galapagos. How can this be?

One possibility is the split took place on the mainland before iguanas arrived on the islands, possibly floating there on rafts of vegetation. That would have been a long, miserable trip over 600 miles of open water. More likely rosada developed on an earlier island in the chain that no longer exists above sea level. Plate tectonics provide an explanation for this. Ocean crusts spread out from mid-ocean ridges located along the edges of plates moving away from each other. The Galapagos are part of the Nazca plate which is moving east-southeast (at about 7 cm/year) toward the continent of South America. The island chain was created (and is still being created) as the plate moved over a hotspot where a mantle plume is pushing up into the lithosphere and crust. Magma from the plume forms undersea volcanoes that build and sometimes break the ocean’s surface as islands. The Hawaiian Islands were created the same way but on a plate moving in a north-northwest direction.

As it moves toward the South American coastline, the heavier Nazca plate sinks beneath the lighter continental plate in a process called subduction. This means the earliest formed islands in the chain also sink and there is evidence of underwater seamounts between the archipelago and South America. Some of these have been dated to as much as 11 million years old, which means the pink iguanas could have split off from the land iguana line when older, earlier islands were still above sea level.

"This event is one of the oldest events of diversification among species in the Galápagos overall," Gentile said. "The Darwin finches are thought to have differentiated later than the split between the pink and yellow iguana lineages."

Despite rosada's evolutionary ranking, fewer than 100 pink iguanas are known to exist today and the species could be in danger of extinction.

It is, however, fitting that news of the pink iguana comes now. 2009 has been proclaimed the Year of Darwin marking the 200th anniversary of his birth and the 150th anniversary of the publication of his most famous work On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection.

LINKS
Story on LiveScience
Year of Darwin info
Discovery.com story
Geology of the Galapagos Islands

Dec
30
2008

The 15 meter shantungosaurus: but if it were the new 19.3 meter dino... you could probably lie down in it's mouth. Very big.
The 15 meter shantungosaurus: but if it were the new 19.3 meter dino... you could probably lie down in it's mouth. Very big.Courtesy Vasilis
I can’t say whether that confusion is on the part of the Chinese state media, AFP news, or my own brain.

Apparently a massive deposit of dinosaur bones (the world’s largest in terms of area) has been found in China. Excavations at the site have unearthed about 7,600 individual bones from the late Cretaceous. The remains include examples of armored anklyosaurs, our favorite tyrannosaurs, and some spectacular hadrosaurs.

The aforementioned confusion arises with the hadrosaurs, I think. According to the article about the find (and I say “the article” because every science news site is running more or less an identical piece), “included in the find was the world’s largest ‘platypus’—or ‘duck-billed dinosaur’ in Chinese—ever discovered measuring 9 meters high with a wingspan of over 16 meters.”

Say what? I… think… something awesome is hidden in there, but someone here is confused: at least me, and perhaps China and/or AFP.

It turns out that our friend the platypus did indeed live during the cretaceous, alongside the dinosaurs, but I don’t think that’s what they’re referring to. “Wingspan” further complicates things, as neither platypuses nor duck-billed dinosaurs (hadrosaurs) really have the body type associated with a wingspan (you probably wouldn’t give the limb length of a beaver or a cow in terms of “wingspan,” right?)

Also “‘duck-billed dinosaur’ in Chinese”? I’m pretty sure that all of those words are, in fact, English. Yes, yes they are.

I have the feeling that someone involved in this story was really struggling with a second language, and the other person wasn’t helping at all.

Anyway… nobody cares about that, am I right? You clicked on this post because it said “dinosaur,” and I ruined it, didn’t I? Well, I’m sorry, but that was bothering me. I mean, “platypus”? Whatever.

But, yeah, this is pretty cool. China is a freaking dinosaur factory, and I’m into it. And this 9 meter high hadrosaur sounds neat. From what I could find, this guy, the shantungosaurus, is more or less the largest hadrosaur so far, and it measures about 50 feet long and maybe 7 meters tall (sorry to switch from imperial to metric there, but that’s how I roll). The shantungosaurus was also found in Cretaceous strata in China, so it might be reasonable to assume that it was similarly proportioned to this new dinosaur, and if that’s the case, this thing would be… about 19.3 meters long? Does that sound right? That’s about 63 feet long! That’s… huge!

Long-necked sauropods, like diplodocus or apatosaurus, reached lengths like that all the time, but for a two-legged hadrosaur 63 feet is massive. The T. rex, for comparison, maxed out at about 45 feet in length (I know, I know, apples and oranges, but we’re looking for some reference, aren’t we?)

The information on the site seems pretty bare-bones at this point, but it’ll be interesting to see what else comes out of the find.

Dec
23
2008

Prejudice against the rural poor: Well, sure, but a fictional rural poor. This gentleman is an urban musician who shops at trendy surplus stores, and it's too difficult to tell if his parents are closely related.
Prejudice against the rural poor: Well, sure, but a fictional rural poor. This gentleman is an urban musician who shops at trendy surplus stores, and it's too difficult to tell if his parents are closely related.Courtesy Poodleface
Well, Buzzketeers, we’re in the thick of the holiday season now—wading through that sticky caramel center of winter festivities, thigh-deep in a swamp of sweater clad relatives, up to our necks in mixed metaphors…

And, you know what? I hope you dig it. That’s my gift to y’all: the honest wish that you are all enjoying your elbow to elbow time with your closest kin. There’s your non-denominational seasonal gift, everyone, I hope you like it. (Personally I celebrate “Wintermania,” during which my family falls into a Wham!-induced frenzy, and then sacrifices anything to our winter deities. We come out of it with a lot fewer pets and household appliances, but it’s an exciting and high-spirited occasion. But I won’t force my beliefs on you.)

There’s some extra thought behind my gift, though. I mean, I know you’ll like it anyway, but it’s practical too! See, it just might happen that, someday, you’ll be bumping more than elbows with your cousins, and working your way up to that may start with the holiday conviviality. So you’re welcome for my making your life easier.

“What?” you say. “I’m not doing… that… with my cousin!”

Nor should you, sensitive Buzzketeer, nor should you. Necessarily.

But you could. Generally not legally, of course. But it turns out that, genetically, the whole “kissin’ cousins” thing might not be as problematic as you have been lead to believe. So says a new article on population genetics in the journal PLoS Biology.

See, the thing about serious inbreeding with close relatives is that it drains your gene pool—it reduces the variety of genes in your offspring. There are a couple reasons to have a nice assortment of genetic traits in a population. If everyone is the same genetically, then they all have the same genetic vulnerabilities, and something like a specialized disease or an abrupt change in the environment could wipe out the whole group. Also, and here’s the kissin’ cousins problem, a lot of genetic disorders result from having two recessive genes matched up in your DNA. If you just have one recessive gene for a disorder, you won’t develop the disorder, but you could pass that gene on to your kid, and if the kid got another copy of that recessive gene from his or her other parent, the kid would develop the disorder. People get disorders caused by matched recessive genes even when their parents aren’t related at all, but if a recessive gene for a particular disorder runs in a family, the chances that a kid in that family will get the gene from both parents is greatly increased if those parents are related.

That’s the idea, anyway. The folks who published this new article, however, say that, in reality, the chances that the offspring of two cousins will have birth defects (caused by recessive genes pairing up) really isn’t as great as most of us think. Specifically, the odds that two cousins would produce a child with congenital defects are only 1-2% greater than those for the rest of the un-related, child-producing population. Women over 40 have a similar risk of having children with congenital defects, the researchers point out, and there are no laws prohibiting them from having kids, whereas 31 states have laws against cousins being married. Laws like these, they say, aren’t based in solid science and reflect “outmoded prejudices about immigrants and the rural poor.”

So there. Do with your present what you will. Try it on for size, or give it to someone else—you won’t hurt my feelings. Merry Wintermania!

Dec
15
2008

Karl Pha feels like he is in prison—he has been confined to an Eau Clair Hospital. Mr. Pha has active TB and refuses to take his medicine. The medication causes extreme itching. I understand his unhappiness, but he has 5 young children. If he doesn’t care about his own life he should at least worry about his kids. TB is a serious disease. Public health officials are not only concerned about Mr. Pha’s health and his family’s health but also the development of an antibiotic resistant strain.

This case brings up a few questions:

  • Should public health officials have the authority to confine someone with an infectious disease?
  • How would you define a situation that requires confinement?
  • Who pays for this hospitalization or other confinement costs?