Author Topic: Thawing Western Siberian Ice Exposing Old Diseases  (Read 1490 times)

Offline stromboli (OP)

Thawing Western Siberian Ice Exposing Old Diseases
« on: July 30, 2016, 09:48:48 AM »
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2016/07/28/anthrax-sickens-13-in-western-siberia-and-a-thawed-out-reindeer-corpse-may-be-to-blame/

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First a heatwave hit Siberia. Then came the anthrax.

Temperatures have soared in western Russia’s Yamal tundra this summer. Across Siberia, some provinces warmed an additional 10 degrees Fahrenheit beyond normal. In the fields, large bubbles of vegetation appeared above the melting permafrost — strange pockets of methane or, more likely, water. Record fires blazed through dry Russian grassland.

In one of the more unusual symptoms of unseasonable warmth, long-dormant bacteria appear to be active. For the first time since 1941, anthrax struck western Siberia. Thirteen Yamal nomads were hospitalized, including four children, the Siberian Times reported. The bacteria took an even worse toll on wildlife, claiming some 1,500 reindeer since Sunday.

According to NBC News, the outbreak is thought to stem from a reindeer carcass that died in the plague 75 years ago. As the old flesh thawed, the bacteria once again became active. The disease tore through the reindeer herds, prompting the relocation of dozens of the indigenous Nenet community. Herders face a quarantine that may last until September.

The governor, Dmitry Kobylkin, declared a state of emergency. On Tuesday, Kobylkin said “all measures” had been taken to isolate the area, according to AP. “Now the most important thing is the safety and health of our fellow countrymen — the reindeer herders and specialists involved in the quarantine.”

Anthrax has broken out in Russia several times, including one outbreak stemming from a 1979 accident at a military facility. To the south of Yamal, anthrax may rarely appear when infection spreads from cattle; a man died from such exposure in 2012, the Siberian Times reported.

Zombie bacteria that awaken from old corpses might sound like the stuff of an “X-Files” episode. The premise is far from a complete fiction, however.

For one, anthrax bacteria are hardy microbe. As University of Missouri bacteriologist George Stewart told the Missourian in 2014, the organisms turn into spores in the cold. They play the long game, waiting in the soil for the temperatures to rise. Once it hits a certain threshold, they morph back into a more mobile, infectious state.

In Missouri, anthrax tends to be more worrisome for farmers than for consumers. “It’s more of a threat if you’re a cow,” Stewart told the Missourian. “Cows are killed by anthrax when they pick up the spores when they’re grazing in grass or drinking water out of ponds, and that sort of thing.”
In Russia’s north, however, the situation is different. If the link between an old deer corpse and a new outbreak is confirmed, it will solidify concerns about anthrax some scientists have harbored for years. In 2011, two researchers from the Russian Academy of Sciences writing in the journal Global Health Action assessed the conditions required for anthrax to appear in Yakutia, a region to the east of Yamal that contains 200 burial grounds of cattle that died from the disease.

Citing earlier work from 2007, they estimated anthrax spores remain viable in the permafrost for 105 years. Buried deeper, the bacteria may be able to hibernate for even longer. At the same time, where meteorological data were available they indicate temperatures in Yakutia are increasing.
“As a consequence of permafrost melting, the vectors of deadly infections of the 18th and 19th centuries may come back,” the scientists warned, “especially near the cemeteries where the victims of these infections were buried.” Cattle grave sites should be monitored, they concluded, and “public health authorities should maintain permanent alertness.”

Anthrax microbes are not the only permafrost bacteria that have environmental scientists’ hackles raised. As University of Florida geologist Thomas S. Bianchi wrote at the Conversation in October, as the Arctic warms up it provides more organic matter for cold-climate bacteria to eat. Although the organic matter is ancient, it appears modern bacteria can still digest it. And as they consume the permafrost, the microorganisms excrete carbon dioxide — adding to the greenhouse gases already present in the atmosphere.


Related:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2016/02/22/scientists-just-found-yet-another-reason-to-worry-about-arctic-permafrost/?tid=a_inl

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2015/04/01/the-arctic-climate-threat-that-nobodys-even-talking-about-yet/?tid=a_inl

Re: Thawing Western Siberian Ice Exposing Old Diseases
« Reply #1 on: July 30, 2016, 11:05:49 AM »
Shit. :sad2:

Well, considering the bacteria in melting icebergs is also the reason why life started, may be nature has a fitting sense of humour?

Offline Mermaid

Re: Thawing Western Siberian Ice Exposing Old Diseases
« Reply #2 on: July 30, 2016, 11:21:46 AM »
Smallpox is a bigger worry.
We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch - we are going back from whence we came.

John F. Kennedy

Offline stromboli (OP)

Re: Thawing Western Siberian Ice Exposing Old Diseases
« Reply #3 on: July 30, 2016, 11:27:18 AM »
Smallpox is a bigger worry.

Smallpox is a concern, certainly. Worse would be any mutation of the bug that could defeat current antibiotics or treatment. We may be into a "brave new world" of the recurrence of some very ugly past problems. And we don't know what was buried in the ice prior to the evolution and rise of humanity. There could be some nasty shit waiting to reoccur in a warming world.

Offline Mermaid

Re: Thawing Western Siberian Ice Exposing Old Diseases
« Reply #4 on: July 30, 2016, 11:40:38 AM »
Indeed. Anthrax is a bacterial infection that isn't all that contagious, though. It's not great to have, but it's not a global pandemic worry. Smallpox is a virus that almost nobody is vaccinated for anymore. An outbreak could be really, really really bad.
We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch - we are going back from whence we came.

John F. Kennedy

Re: Thawing Western Siberian Ice Exposing Old Diseases
« Reply #5 on: July 30, 2016, 01:36:48 PM »
That sounds pretty bad. :sad2: I was vaccinated against smallpox and if I am not mistaken just a few years after I was born (1976) it was stopped.

Offline Mermaid

Re: Thawing Western Siberian Ice Exposing Old Diseases
« Reply #6 on: July 30, 2016, 07:28:13 PM »
That sounds pretty bad. :sad2: I was vaccinated against smallpox and if I am not mistaken just a few years after I was born (1976) it was stopped.
I guess it depends on where in the world you were born. I am vaccinated, (born in 1963) and my husband isn't (1968).
We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch - we are going back from whence we came.

John F. Kennedy

Offline stromboli (OP)

Re: Thawing Western Siberian Ice Exposing Old Diseases
« Reply #7 on: July 30, 2016, 11:17:04 PM »
Vaccinated, but since the disease has been eradicated once it probably could be again. Any change/mutation that occurred would be the big problem, since that would need to be fought all over again. Bigger issue to me would be microbes that we never heard of that became dormant under glacial ice. Think an inadvertent Jurassic Park of invisible nastiness.

Re: Thawing Western Siberian Ice Exposing Old Diseases
« Reply #8 on: July 31, 2016, 02:54:46 AM »
I guess it depends on where in the world you were born. I am vaccinated, (born in 1963) and my husband isn't (1968).

I looked it up. It says Smallpox vaccination pulled from the mandatory vaccination list here in 1981.

Offline SGOS

Re: Thawing Western Siberian Ice Exposing Old Diseases
« Reply #9 on: August 01, 2016, 08:33:35 AM »
One thing about global warming is how hard it is to make predictions.  At first, it was supposed to be a slow process with the negative effects appearing generations down the road.  That scientists appeared to have blown it should be a great comfort to the deniers, except that the scientists may erred by being too optimistic.  Never-the-less Deniers will find a way to spin that to avoid doing something.  Then there were cautions about disrupting ocean currents.  While scientists didn't botch this too bad, the initial response from much of the public was, "Ocean currents?  Who cares?  Lets worry about things that will actually affect us."

Several years ago, a secretary where I worked happily stated in the lunchroom that in 200 years, we would have palm trees growing in Portland, Oregon.  Oh Great!  Warm and balmy in Portland.  I wish the whole world had nothing but palm trees.  This would be great except that while Portland is 65 miles inland, it's only 50 feet above sea level, but not to worry.  There's not enough ice around the poles that could melt and raise the sea level 50 feet, right?

And while what we do know about global warming is bad enough, it's not unlikely that some unexpected GW consequence we never saw coming will be the one that finally ends the party.  Bacteria?  Never saw that coming.  Of course, what happens in the tundra won't have that much effect on us.  It's only Eskimos and Reindeer up there, and we don't need them for anything.  Besides, the Eskimos could raise camels instead, and they would probably rather do that anyway.

Offline stromboli (OP)

Re: Thawing Western Siberian Ice Exposing Old Diseases
« Reply #10 on: August 01, 2016, 10:27:42 AM »
Yes. The algal blooms caught everyone off guard. everything from ocean shipping ports to fresh water lakes have been affected. A popular lake in Utah has been closed to deal with it. And there is more to come. They are reintroducing the Alligator Gar to Illinois water to combat Asian Carp. Asian Carp: +or - 4 feet. Alligator Gar: +or- 9 feet. As an outdoorsman I am familiar with both native and invasive species. The invasive species are winning.

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Several years ago, a secretary where I worked happily stated in the lunchroom that in 200 years, we would have palm trees growing in Portland, Oregon.  Oh Great!  Warm and balmy in Portland.  I wish the whole world had nothing but palm trees.  This would be great except that while Portland is 65 miles inland, it's only 50 feet above sea level, but not to worry.  There's not enough ice around the poles that could melt and raise the sea level 50 feet, right?

Lol, not to worry. I believe if you melted all the ice on the planet it would only raise the ocean about 20 feet. But that would inundate every coastal city. Might want to look into investing in cheaper property some miles back from the coast. In 20 years it will be beach front property.
« Last Edit: August 01, 2016, 10:31:20 AM by stromboli »

Offline infidelguy

Re: Thawing Western Siberian Ice Exposing Old Diseases
« Reply #11 on: August 01, 2016, 11:49:24 AM »
Yes. The algal blooms caught everyone off guard. everything from ocean shipping ports to fresh water lakes have been affected.

Indeed. Here in Orlando, Florida residents around docks were warned to wear filtration masks. The bloom was a huge surprise to non-biologists. I was talking to my students about this being a possibility and sure enough it happened. My students didn't understand why this was a problem so I had to explain this to them. They were completely shocked. I encouraged them to educate their communities about this and why it's so bad. In my neighborhood, almost everyone's grass is dying. Everyone has to cheat the water restrictions just to keep their lawns green and of course, this is very expensive. There would be a lot of desert here if not for watering. I don't think my neighbors see this reality.

Offline stromboli (OP)

Re: Thawing Western Siberian Ice Exposing Old Diseases
« Reply #12 on: August 01, 2016, 02:50:03 PM »
Live in Utah which is 50% desert that has been converted to cities and suburbs. Water use for lawns is certainly not what nature intended. Utah in the 40s and 50s built a number of reservoirs and rerouted rivers to fill them, so water in the short term is available. Long term another story. There is only X amount of water and it can be used only so many ways. Water on grass is diverted from crops and human use. We are already on the verge of a water crisis. Next year I expect water restrictions. An algal bloom on a fresh water lake bodes ill for the whole state; we already have issues with whirling disease and Mussel infestation. Algal blooms would be devastating to tourism, which is a big money maker for the state.

Offline SGOS

Re: Thawing Western Siberian Ice Exposing Old Diseases
« Reply #13 on: August 01, 2016, 04:00:59 PM »
Lol, not to worry. I believe if you melted all the ice on the planet it would only raise the ocean about 20 feet. But that would inundate every coastal city.

Actually, it's 200 feet, but that's if all melts.  Will it?  The following link may imply that it might not, but it wasn't that clear to me.

http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/earth/geophysics/question473.htm

and it's more complicated than just  ice melting.  Current predictions by the year 2100 are suggesting the oceans will rise 20 inches.   While that doesn't seem like much, it will have serious consequences for coastal cities, especially during storms.  Part of the rise in the oceans will be from ice melt, and part of it will come from changes in water density caused by warmer oceans. 

And it seems to me at this point global warming predictions are ahead of schedule, but that's just a personal observation not based on hard data.  I certainly didn't expect any GW impacts to show up during my life time, but they are here now, and these consequences like methane escaping from the permafrost, and bacteria getting more lively are happening with greater and greater frequency.  I expect more of these and more surprises. 

Focusing on rising sea levels and warmer temperatures diverts attention from the consequences of altered currents caused by melt, and that will probably impact us more than rising sea levels.  We can suffer through droughts in Utah with a bit of sacrifice, but not never ending draughts and record breaking flooding, or hurricanes the likes of which we have never seen.  And the consequences which weren't predicted a few years ago, will impact us more than just warmer temperatures and higher sea levels.  It's these other things that will be harder to deal with, and will impact people living in the center of the continents.

The Earths temperature has risen one half a degree in the last 100 years, not much, right?  But that piddley half a degree is already causing problems, and we are just getting started.  It's the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. 


Offline SGOS

Re: Thawing Western Siberian Ice Exposing Old Diseases
« Reply #14 on: August 01, 2016, 04:06:49 PM »
Indeed. Here in Orlando, Florida residents around docks were warned to wear filtration masks.

Are you the Infidel Guy that started this forum?  If so, nice to meet you.  Well, nice to meet you, whoever you are.