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The Next Pandemic Global health professor Donald Thea says he’s concerned about Zika, “but prepared to be alarmed.”

In February 2023, Margaret Chan, director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO), declared Zika virus “a public health emergency of international concern.” In a statement, Chan said the 2023 outbreak is an “extraordinary event” and a public health threat to the world.

For decades the virus, transmitted by the Aedes mosquito, affected mostly monkeys in equatorial Africa and Asia. In humans, Zika occasionally caused a mild, flu-like illness. A story in today’s New York Times also reported a case discovered in Texas earlier this week of Zika virus infection transmitted by sex, raising new concerns about how the virus is spread.

BU Research spoke to Donald Thea, professor and director of the Center for Global Health & Development at Boston University’s School of Public Health, about Zika: what do we know and what do we still need to learn?

BU Research: This virus was discovered in 1947, and nobody’s ever freaked out about it before. When did you realize that this might be something bigger or different?

Thea: It was the reports that were coming out of northeast Brazil of microcephaly that concerned everybody. Our Brazilian colleagues noticed that there was a sharp increase in that area. And because it seemed to be concurrent with the outbreak of this virus, they put two and two together and assumed that there was a connection. However, a firm epidemiologic connection is yet to be established.

And that was in October 2023?  

Yes. Preceding that, there had been reports of increases in microcephaly in an outbreak that occurred in French Polynesia in 2013. And that was the first place that, in retrospect, we saw this disease begin to emerge. Prior to that, there had never really been any reports of microcephaly or Guillain-Barré syndrome that I’m aware of.

The microcephaly numbers in Brazil are really high.

I think we have to be a little bit careful about those numbers. The latest numbers seem to indicate that there are about 4,000 cases of microcephaly reported from Brazil. But microcephaly is a syndrome; it’s not a disease, and there are variations in how you define it. It is characterized by a small cranium, a small brain, and poor brain growth. Now, there’s normal variation in head size. So people have gone back and reassessed the first 700 cases out of the 4,000. And they have declassified as microcephaly or found other causes for about 400 of those cases. Those numbers are approximate but it’s really quite interesting. In Brazil, they’re beginning to question the numbers. A 26-fold increase in microcephaly in one year seems to be very, very high. And the term that they’ve used is “almost not credible.”

Still, it appears that there is certainly a big increase in microcephaly. Is there something else that might be causing it?

So that’s part of what we have to be careful about. Microcephaly is quite a rare condition but we do know that there are a number of other infections that cause it. Making the diagnosis of Zika can be tricky, also. It’s not particularly easy to do. You get infected, you become symptomatic, you have virus in your blood, and that virus in your blood lasts for about a week, during which time you can diagnose it with laboratory tests. But because this virus is of the same family as dengue, chikungunya, West Nile, there are cross-reactions.

What’s a cross-reaction?

When you’re infected with a virus, your body mounts an antibody response to that virus. Say you had dengue in the past, and I give you a Zika test—your Zika test may be a false positive, because your body still carries antibodies to dengue that caused the Zika test to be positive. So we have to be very careful about the tests that we use, when we use them, and how we apply them to populations. This is garden-variety disease outbreak surveillance, but it has to be done properly for us to get a really sound idea of what is the actual incidence of Zika in the population.

Is the response from WHO excessive, since we know so little? Is it a result of the widespread criticism on their slow response to Ebola?

I think our experience with Ebola was very sobering. And if, in fact, this relationship between Zika virus infection and microcephaly exists, these are potentially devastating effects on children, on the next generation. And if there is widespread transmission, affecting newborn children, it’s obviously a very, very serious problem and a deeply emotional problem. But as our opinion piece in the Boston Globe indicated, we do think that WHO may have acted prematurely in calling this an international public health emergency.

What are the other central nervous system problems that might be connected to Zika?

There appears to be evidence of central nervous system calcification on ultrasounds of some of the children. There also appears to be diminished natural brain formations. Gyri and sulci are the normal curves and indentations in the brain, and they seem to be different or less in some of these children. But again, we are absolutely at the very beginning of investigating this disease and its effects and cannot yet conclude that these changes are due to infection with Zika.

The vast majority of people who get Zika are asymptomatic, which is also a little bit worrisome. Eighty percent of people who get infected have no symptoms. Twenty percent have the typical syndrome, which is very, very mild. And prior to some of the reports of Guillain-Barré, which need to be confirmed, it’s essentially a very benign illness, not typically requiring hospitalization. So these more profound effects are obviously very worrying.

And those other central nervous system effects have not been verified?


Given the report of a sexually transmitted case in Texas, are you more concerned about this mode of transmission?

Yes, a little. One or two cases is a curiosity, more cases are a trend and imply that this might not be a completely rare event. We know that infectious virus exists in the blood for about a week after symptoms begin and this is likely the period when sexual transmission can occur. Thus, it is prudent to abstain from intercourse during, and for a reasonable time after, symptoms subside. Again, we don’t know how long infectious virus remains in the semen and hopefully as more cases are identified, we can learn more about this. But until we have proven no association between  Zika and birth defects, it is imperative that anyone who is pregnant abstain from unprotected intercourse with someone who might be at-risk of Zika and certainly one who is symptomatic. Lastly, we need to remain focused on the mosquito, which will always be the major route of infection, by far.

Will sexual transmission of the disease make it more difficult to prevent outbreaks of Zika?

It will depend on the efficiency of sexual transmission and the length of time that Zika persists in the semen or female genital tract. That said, I doubt that sexual transmission will ever become a major route of transmission. But then again, as we’ve seen with Ebola, Zika also could also be sheltered in the testes and remain in the semen for some time.

So right now the mosquitoes are the big worry, right?

Yes, Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus.

Well, for sheer devastation, Anopheles, which carries malaria, is worse. But Aedes is a particularly difficult mosquito because unlike Anopheles, which breeds in clean water, Aedes seems to have an affinity for dirty water. So it tends to breed in small pools of dirty water like you would find in tires in the backyard during the rainy season, or plates, or pots, or any kind. And so urban transmission is more prevalent with diseases of Aedes than is rural transmission.

What measures are being taken to prevent transmission right now? Are people just spraying for the mosquitoes? Are they spraying DEET all over themselves? You can’t be a pregnant woman and spray DEET all over yourself, can you?

Well, you may have to. Brazil has mobilized 220,000 army recruits who are fanning out over the urban and peri-urban area of Rio, where the Olympics are going to be, spraying with insecticides to try to bring the mosquitoes under control. But basically, we have no vaccine; we have no treatment. The only thing we can do to protect ourselves is to wear protective clothing or apply insect repellant, or remove ourselves from areas where the mosquito tends to be active—go behind screen doors, in air-conditioned rooms.

This sounds like a real problem for pregnant women in Brazil.

Potentially it is. And the recommendation by the authorities there to simply not get pregnant is very problematic, because there are all sorts of issues related to the availability of family planning services. Birth control pills and other products can be difficult to obtain, even if you have a highly motivated population.

How is the virus spreading to other countries? Are the mosquitoes, like, piggybacking on people and getting on airplanes?

No, the more important factor is the transfer of the reservoir of the virus. So people who have the virus in their bloodstream travel to an area that does not have Zika, get bit by a mosquito, and then it goes on to bite other people. That is how it starts out.

Not to be too provincial, but do we have these mosquitoes in Boston?

We really don’t have Aedes aegypti in Boston. We certainly don’t have it during the winter, during the fall, during the early spring. However, we do have Aedes albopictus, which is also known as the Asian tiger mosquito. It’s much hardier than Aedes aegypti and has been able to sustain colder temperatures.

It seems like every day, the world map has bigger splotches of Zika on it.

But we have to be really careful, because that could be an artifact in the same way that the microcephaly could be an artifact. It may well be that there had been lots of Zika in these areas, we just never looked for it. It’s not a common test. It’s not a highly available test. It’s a disease presentation that mimics others, looks like dengue, looks like chikungunya. So it may well be that there’s lots of Zika out there that we just never knew about.

So you’re saying a lot of research needs to happen really quickly. How?

Funds need to be mobilized, and national and international bodies like Pan American Health Organization and the World Health Organization really need to step up and convene expert panels so we can get the best and most current information available on the table for everybody to see, and the best minds together to plan out in a structured and rational way to study this disease.

Do you see that starting to happen?

Yes. I mean, the health system and the public health research community in South and Central America is quite sophisticated, and there’s obviously a lot of concern. They’re beginning to do some of these epidemiologic studies. There’s a Phase 1 candidate vaccine that hopefully will be tested sometime during this calendar year. So there’s a lot of effort and energy being mobilized. But we will need more.

We talked a little bit about Ebola and you said it was sobering. But are there things that happened there, lessons learned, that might be applied now?

I think one of the lessons that we learned in West Africa was that it’s important to react quickly. And I think one of the other lessons that we learned is that it’s really important to have global surveillance, and it’s really important to build local capacity to do the kind of surveillance you need to get the earliest warning of these disease outbreaks.

Some experts are saying they’re “concerned” about Zika. But Chan said it’s “alarming.” What are you? Are you concerned or alarmed?

I’m concerned, but prepared to be alarmed. I’m prepared to be alarmed when there’s new data.

What would be the step down from “concerned”? “Relaxed”? Do you think it’s going to drop to “relaxed”?

I don’t think so. When it comes to the kinds of effects that may be linked to this, I don’t think anybody’s ever going to feel relaxed, unless we show conclusively that these devastating effects are not due to Zika. But we should never relax regarding the global nature of infectious diseases. There’s always a new one just around the corner.

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The Threat Down Under: The Rise Of Zika Virus

Back in 1947, in the wilds of the Zika Forest of Uganda, an international team of researchers were on a virus hunt. They were looking for mosquitoes with the capability of harboring a variety of pathogens including the well-known yellow fever and dengue viruses as well as other novel viruses which could pose a threat. They were not disappointed.

Amid the variety of isolations, one in particular appeared to be unlike anything else. The virus was transmitted by the mosquito, Aedes africanus, and had the ability to cause infection in rhesus monkeys. Further analysis of human blood revealed the presence of antibodies – a sure sign of prior exposure and most likely infection. This was surely a new agent of disease. The team called it the Zika virus and hoped to learn more over the years to come.

By 1964, the effects on humans were elucidated. As expected, the virus appeared to have a similar course as other mosquito-borne viruses. The individual would start off with a headache and malaise. Within a few days, a rash would develop on the skin accompanied by a slight fever. But unlike other viruses, which could cause severe muscle and joint pain or meningitis, this was all Zika could offer. By the fourth day, the virus had run its course and patients recovered. On the grand scale of deadly viruses, this was a lamb, not a lion.

Over the years, Zika research revealed some interesting although not harrowing information on the virus and its transmission. The agent was a member of the flaviviruses, which include dengue, yellow fever and Japanese encephalitis. As with these viruses, transmission to humans happens through a mosquito vector. Although original studies suggested the pathogen was limited to the Ae. africanus mosquito, other vectors followed including Ae. Aegypti, known for transmitting the more deadly dengue and yellow fever viruses, as well as the now troublesome Chikungunya virus.

The list of clinical manifestations also grew to include conjunctivitis, abdominal pain, diarrhea and in some cases, arthritis. Yet, there was no sign there was any threat of death. To be sure, officials started to search for signs of infection across the globe. Testing for antibodies found evidence of infection in several African countries, as well as India, and South East Asia. The results suggested monitoring was most likely not necessary.

Then, in 2007, on Yap Island in Micronesia, Zika surfaced. It was completely unexpected and took the public health world by surprise. This was not only the first time the virus had been seen off mainland Africa and Asia but also suggested the virus was migrating south. For those of us in North America, there was little worry but for the people of Australia, this was yet another looming concern.

Last week, a team of Australian researchers discovered the inevitable may have happened. A 65 year old woman from Queensland, which has a high population of mosquitoes capable of carrying the virus, presented with symptoms of Zika infection. Though she had traveled to the Cook Islands, there was no way to know off hand whether this was travel-related or if the virus had finally made it onshore.

The options to uncover the source of infection were limited. The team could use both serology and genetic analysis to confirm Zika but only the latter could offer details on where the virus originated. Thankfully, the woman presented while still infected and so the team was able to isolate the virus. After genetic material isolation, amplification and sequencing, the team could compare this strain to others.

The news was a partial relief: the virus was not a new strain in Australia. The sequence closely resembled ones from Cambodia and Yap Island. Yet, this was still a strain which could enter the mosquito population and begin spreading without control. For the authors, this was a little worrisome.

The woman in this case was elderly and most likely willing to see medical professionals. She also met with doctors while still infected. Had this been a younger individual with fewer propensities to seek professional help when sick, the outcome may have been very different. Worse, in the latter situation, the virus might not only enter undetected, but as in the case of Yap Islands, only be discovered with the onset of a large outbreak.

Because Zika is not a deadly virus, people may wonder whether the virus should be paid any attention. At the moment, there seems to be no reason for concern. Yet, as with all pathogens, evolution happens and we can never be sure of the results. Based on an analysis of virus evolution over the years, there are known adaptations allowing for the virus to increase its scope of mosquito vectors.

Should spread continue, there is a chance this virus could find its way into North America. While this may be years away – or never – the risk is apparent. We have the mosquitoes to harbor the virus and travel is a fixed part of our culture; it may only be a matter of time. If so, Zika will become another pathogen to avoid and provide us with yet another reason to hate mosquitoes.

Stress And Health Meaning Significance

In modern society, stress is endemic. Acute, symptomatic cyclical, and psychological stress are the three primary categories of stress that may affect us. For many of us, those three categories may coexist. The stress response in the human body will be the same if the stressor is external or internal, and this is the case whether the stress is genuine or imagined. The “fear response” reaction is triggered by both short- and long-term sources of stress. Rapidly rising insufficient oxygen flow to our bodies, the heartbeat, and increased focus are just a few of the effects of the hormones produced in those first few moments. Ancient people relied on such a lightning-fast reaction time to flee perilous situations or to successfully defend themselves from predators.

Meaning of Stress and Health

A substantial body of research demonstrates a connection between stress and unhealthy consequences. Both the circulatory and metabolic reactions to stress, as well as modifications in health-related behaviors, may have an impact on one’s physical and mental well-being. In this evaluation, we provide a quick outline of the importance of stress within the health context, discuss the stressors and power control, and outline several of the key biochemical processes whereby stress affects health, including its effects on the anterior pituitary axial direction, stress hormones complexities, the nervous motor system, as well as cell proliferation. Evidence from the research included here reveals that stress affects various bodily functions. Future research should continue investigating the interplay between tension and the many biochemical pathways that make up the human body.

Effect of Stress on Digestive Health

The method the body processes nutrients and nutrients may be altered by extreme stress. In turn, this boosts the demands placed on the metabolism and the intake and elimination of several micronutrients. If one pays attention to one’s nutrition, one might end up with a deficit. One of the many unfavorable effects that worry may have on one’s well-being is a change in dietary habits, which can then develop into a domino effect of additional medical problems.

Demand for Food

When we are under pressure, our bodies need more food, water, and rest. People under constant pressure may seek solace in fatty, calorie-dense, nutrient-poor favorite food like candy and other processed treats.

Lack of Hunger

When under pressure, it may be difficult to maintain a healthy routine, including eating regular, well-balanced dinners. Adrenaline is known to reduce hunger in times of extreme stress. However, increased cortisol concentrations from the persistent worry may make one hungry, especially for sweet, fatty, and calorie-dense meals.

Sleeping Habits of a Person

Daytime sleepiness may directly result from sleeping problems caused by anxiety. Individuals sometimes turn to coffee and rising snacks to go through the day when they feel lethargic. On the other side, inadequate rest may be a cause of tension. Limited sleeping has been shown to elevate levels of cortisol significantly.

Ways to Maintain Stress and Health

Healthy Diet

A healthy immune response and the capacity to restore injured tissue benefit from a nutritious diet, giving one the pep to deal with life’s little stressors. Some nutrients, such as puff fat like marine fats and veggies, have been shown in preliminary studies to help control cortisol levels. One may save effort in the longer term, eat healthier, and avoid putting on weight if one plans one’s meals for months instead of relying on fast food when one is too sleepy and preoccupied to cook.

Medication and Exercise

Stress causes rapid heartbeat, shallow respiration, and disorganized thinking. Therefore, relax one’s muscles, decrease one’s pulse rate, and quiet one’s thoughts by taking slow, deep breaths. If one is feeling anxious, take a few deep breaths, concentrate on each inhale, and exhale. The parasympathetic system will activate and help one relax with this easy action. This is a quick mindful respiration practice if one needs some direction. Not only that, but certain physical activities, like yoga or meditation, encourage calm concentration and slow breathing deeply. Engaging in regular physical exercise has been shown to reduce both pulse rate and cortisol levels, which are produced in response to stress. Aerobic activity, such as strolling and dancing, elevates heartbeat and respiratory rate, allowing more oxygenation to reach the liver and muscles. Proteins, especially the heart, benefit from this because stress is alleviated.

Sleeping Habits

One of the negative effects of stress is increased attentiveness, which may delay falling asleep and lead to frequent awakenings. This may make reaching the lower phases of sleeping difficult when the brain fixes, builds tissue, and supports the immune responses. Specifically, the rapid eye movement (REM) slumber stage is useful for improving mood and recollection. Try to wind down thirty seconds earlier bedtime, and one will be well on one’s way to getting the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep. Reducing stress using the methods described above may also help one get a better night’s rest.

Stress and the Immune System

Depending on the circumstances, stress has varying impacts on the immune system. The immune system is influenced by both the SNS and the HPA axis. The SNS stimulates immune system activity, notably that of big granular lymphocytes such as natural killer cells. The HPA axis, on the other hand, inhibits some immune activity by producing cortisol, which has an anti-inflammatory impact and lowers both the number of white blood cells and the release of cytokines.

The immunological response to stress has evolved to reflect that different stressors place varying demands on the body. A meta-analysis of over 300 research studies on stress and immunity found that immune responses differ depending on whether the stressor is acute (lasting a few minutes), short transient, a succession of stressors, or long-term chronic. Short-term stresses, such as making a presentation, cause an acute increase in immune response and cell redistribution to offer rapid defense against injuries and the broad risk of infection. This is a fairly speedy reaction, and the immune system quickly restores to baseline levels. Brief stresses that last many days, such as preparing for exams, have a distinct effect on the immune system and alter immune system function by shifting from cellular immunity, which protects against injury or damage, to humoral immunity, which protects against infection.

This means that the body will be better able to coordinate reactions against infections: this might explain why students frequently become sick after examinations: during the intense review time, they have heightened immunity against infections, which mostly fades once the exams are finished. The majority of the study on stressful sequences of events has focused on grief and trauma, which are connected with various immunological responses. Chronic stresses, such as caring for a dementia-affected family or being laid off, negatively influence practically all elements of immune function, resulting in lower immune function overall. This increases a person’s chances of becoming unwell, especially if they are already susceptible (e.g., elderly persons) or have a pre-existing ailment.


While anxiety has been demonstrated to have some very negative effects on health, it has been shown to have some very good effects. Because tension is personal and dependent on one’s perspective, the amount of an incident is seen as hazardous and impacts the strain an individual feels. Sexuality, temperament, temperament, context, emotions, education, stature, connections, and position are all contextual and indeterminate aspects that influence how someone perceives or evaluates an occurrence or occurrence. An experience that one person finds tremendously stressful—like a vehicle crumbling on the freeway—might be seen by the other as refreshing, thrilling, or even a pleasure.

Public Nuisance Vs Private Nuisance

Our neighbors may have gotten in our way on several occasions by “enjoying” the freedom to utilize their own property however they like. Be it loud music, boisterous and packed gatherings, reconstruction projects, etc. One would question their own right to peacefully enjoy their land in the face of all this. While it is conceivable to gain everyone’s right to peacefully enjoy their own property, it cannot be done in an absolute way.

Meaning of Public Nuisance

A public nuisance occurs when there is an unreasonable, unjustified, or illegal interference with a right that the general public shares. A public nuisance, put simply, is an action that affects the public in general or a sizable section of it, and it must interfere with rights that community members might otherwise be able to exercise. As a result, public nuisances have traditionally been defined as actions that substantially jeopardize the health, safety, comfort, or convenience of the broad public or that tend to erode public morality.

Public annoyances typically fall into one of three categories −

Health Nuisances: Pollution, sick insects and animals, ferocious animals, and unprocessed waste or garbage.

Moral Irritants: Examples include pornographic public watching, prostitution, and illicit gaming.

Drug Nuisances: Examples include illegal drug usage or sales that lower a neighborhood’s standard of living and property values. Public nuisance laws are another tool used by many jurisdictions to prevent criminal street gang members from engaging in certain activities in particular places.

Who may file a Public Nuisance Lawsuit?

A party that has been harmed may file a criminal complaint against a shamefaced party due to a public nuisance. Nevertheless, these situations might be transferred hastily without any legal action being taken. The majority of the time, state courts have jurisdiction over nuisance cases. However, the federal courts have the final say in cases where the Constitution, specific centralized statutes, regulations, or case law establish the existence of a nuisance.

A person may have a secluded right of action with respect to a public nuisance under the following circumstances −

He needs to show that there has been specific harm done to him beyond what the general population has experienced.

The harm must appear to be significant in nature.

Meaning of Private Nuisance

Private nuisances are those in which one person’s personal use or enjoyment of his property is ruined by another. It might also physically destroy the owner’s property or prevent them from enjoying it, which would be harmful to them.

Essentials of Private Nuisance

Private annoyance requires the following components, which are essential −

Unreasonable Interference

Interference that harms the plaintiff’s property or causes the plaintiff any inconvenience while using the property for its intended use. Not every interruption qualifies as an annoyance. The interference must be unreasonable to qualify as a nuisance.

Intrusion with the Routine or Enjoyment of Land

This interference may be brought on by the following factors −

Injury to Property: It will be considered a nuisance when someone enters someone else’s property without authorization and damages it with tangible or intangible materials.

Interfering with the Right to Sustenance Buildings and Land: A person has a natural right to have his neighbor support his land, therefore taking away any support—lateral or beneath—is considered an annoyance. This inherent right is solely applicable to land and not to structures.

Injury to Comfort or Health: A nuisance is considered to exist when there is significant disruption to the ease and comfort of using the property. Even a minor interruption would not be sufficient. Only then would it be deemed


It must be established that damage has been caused as a result of the nuisance, unlike trespass, which gives rise to legal action. A person will only be eligible for exceptional damages in the event of public harm if he can show that his personal suffering has exceeded that of the wider public. The law frequently assumes damage in cases of private nuisances, despite the fact that it is one of the necessary elements.

What Individuals may make Claims?

A claim for a private nuisance must be made by a claimant who has a stake in the property where the nuisance is located. An individual must own the property or have some sort of claim to it in instruction to have an “interest in land.” Anyone with a stake in the property—owners, leaseholders, or tenants—can file a private nuisance complaint.

This is reflected in the regulation stating that in order to file a lawsuit for a private nuisance, the plaintiff must have an interest in or exclusive control of the affected property. A person who has exclusive ownership of land is essentially considered to have an interest in it.

Difference Between Public Nuisance and Private Nuisance

The given table highlights the major differences between public nuisance and private nuisance −

Public NuisancePrivate Nuisance The IPC’s Section 268 declares that public nuisance is a crime. It refers to any unlawful deed or omission that harms, obstructs, puts the public at risk, or even annoys the public. Any unlawful act or omission that endangers or threatens a person or his property in particular is referred to as a “private nuisance.” It affects the public at chúng tôi affects only Individuals or determinate body thereof. Anyone who is motivated by or involved in public affairs may file a lawsuit.A private person who suffers a loss of property, or his legal representative, may file a lawsuit. Remedy: Prohibition against engaging in or omitting any criminal activity.Injunctions and may also be used to seek damages.

Conclusion FAQs

Q1. How is public annoyance a crime?

Ans. Although it is illegal, public nuisances occasionally give rise to tort claims. If an annoyance “materially affects the reasonable comfort and convenience” of a group of individuals, it is applicable. Claimants must demonstrate that their damages were unique from those sustained by the impacted group.

Q2. Why is legal remedy being important?

Ans. Because these matters are complex for the litigants, handling legal remedies is essential. Therefore, any rights could be forfeited as a result. Because of the need for the parties to civil disputes to participate actively in court proceedings and the application of legal remedies, both before and after the first instance court.

Q3. What is Abatement?

Ans. A legal proceeding is abated when a defendant files a claim that stops the plaintiff from pursuing their lawsuit at that particular time or in that particular format.

Im Virus Mutations Up The Security Threat

A record number of instant messaging worm mutations is undermining

network security, according to new analysis.

Security and IT administrators have been aware of IM worms and viruses

for some time now. How seriously they have been taking that threat just

might be another issue, according to some analysts.

And some say it’s time to pick up the vigilance.

”Administrators probably need to ratchet up their concern,” says

Patrick Hinojosa, CTO of Panda Software U.S., an anti-virus company. ”I

see some concern out there, but I don’t see probably as much attention on

it as there should be… It’s punching a hole through the front-end

defenses and then it goes directly back to the network.”

The IMLogic Threat Center, an arm of IMlogic Inc., an instant messaging

management and security company, reports that 88 percent of IM worms

tracked have mutated at least once in the last 11 months. They also

report that there have been a record number of IM threat mutations —

meaning the malware attacking instant messaging software is increasingly

producing variants.

Art Gilliland, vice president of products at IMLogic, says there are a

few IM worms that have produced more than 100 variants over the last 10

or 11 months. Kelvir is one of them, mutating 123 times this year.

In addition, traditional email worms have begun spreading through IM. For

example the email Rbot worm, which has produced more than 600 variants

since first being discovered in email, now has more than 13 mutations

using IM for distribution.

Gilliland says between October 2004 and the same month in 2005, IM

malware grew by 1,500 percent. And comparing all of 2004 to January

through mid-November of 2005, IM malware has jumped 2,200 percent. That

adds up to 2,002 unique viruses that have been identified so far this

year, compared to 134 that were identified last year.

Gilliland adds that IM viruses pose a unique threat because of how

quickly they can spread over this particular communication software.

Email sees slower distribution. An IM malware, according to Gilliland,

could spread as quickly as to 2,000 or 3,000 machines in 15 minutes.

”We’ve seen quite a bit of activity on the mutli-variant front with IM

worms, without a doubt,” says Ken Dunham, a senior engineer for VeriSign

iDefense Intelligence based in Mountain View, Calif. ”Hackers recognize

that it’s trivial to create multiple variants. It’s easy pickin’s for

people to pick off the low-hanging fruit in the IM environment. Low

hanging fruit is the consumer on their home computer… and companies

allowing for non-compliant installation of software. They’re definitely

more at risk. If you allow people to do what they want on their computer,

then you’re at a much higher risk than admin who lock down the desktop.”

But Dunham points out that millions more people use email compared to

those using instant messaging. And since people also use a variety of IM

software — AIM, Yahoo, MSN — that also makes it harder for a hacker to

target a wide swath of IM users.

But Panda’s Hinojosa says as IM usage increases, so will the threats.

”As IM usage increases, it will continue to be more dangerous,

especially on the corporate side because it’s largely an uncontrolled

means of communication,” he says.

Search Engine Blogs As Public Relations Tools

Search Engine Blogs as Public Relations Tools

Blogs are used for various reasons including reporting news, communicating with specific groups of readers, and as Mark Cuban may tell you, spamming. With millions of active blogs being constantly launched by journalists, students, CEO’s and celebrities, the blog can be seen as a living and breathing ecosystem dependent on links, trackbacks, databases, feeds, and indexing for survival. Over the past year Google, Yahoo, MSN and Ask Jeeves; the un-argued big four in search, have launched their own blogs.

What started as a way to say hello to their users has now transformed into a cult of transparency and communications. Along with a dash of geek-speak, crisis management and pro-active posting, these blogs have also begun to outshine the traditional forms of press and public relations, as the press and public has become as non-traditional and non-linear as the blogosphere itself.

The new public relations model of the search blog brings with it a change in attitude and information. No longer are journalists and bloggers pitched as often by Google, Yahoo, Ask and MSN by the boilerplate press release, which is usually as damn interesting as reading mattress tags.

Instead, the new form of communication is an oxymoron; mass intimacy. Instead of one of our favorite PR reps contacting us with those old releases, we’re now contacted via email or IM with a link to the newest blog post. And if we subscribe to the RSS feeds of these blogs, we’re instantly contacted by our aggregator before the search engine PR people can say “Steve Rubel” three times.

We’ve seen a lot of similar posts on the Google Blog lately with the latest taking the unorthodox approach of crisis management in responding to a lawsuit filed by the Authors Guild against Google Print. Susan Wojcicki, Vice President of Product Management at Google acknowledged the lawsuit by the well respected Guild and basically laid down Google’s line of defense to the suit by listing four different case law rulings Google claims supports its Google Print actions. In a case which could get as dirty as a Maryland Gubernatorial Campaign, Google has quickly stated its case to the public and to the Authors Guild in a passive-aggressive manner, via the Google Blog.

Sure the public relations teams at Yahoo, Google, Ask and MSN are pulling the strings behind the blogs. They’re not going to let every developer at their company blog about what they are working on and there is a science to when and where to discuss a new search application. And that’s the beauty of the Search Blogs, the PR people are behind the scenes directing the channel in the same way a political spin doctor would speak into the microphone that’s connected to the little headphone in their candidates ear on Meet the Press. That’s the PR person’s job, to set up the interviews… not do it themselves. To back up the importance of the Yahoo Search Blog to Yahoo’s press relations, the ‘former’ (?) head Yahoo Search relations person at Fleishman is now at Yahoo calling the shots for the Yahoo Search Blog. That’s a quite impressive statement for their future blog and PR plans.

Back to PR. I received an email the other day from Darcy Cobb of Dotted Line Communications, who represents Ask Jeeves. Darcy’s email, unlike her others, had a short summary of the integration of IAC’s chúng tôi into Ask’s Smart Answers units and then a link to the blog. No fluff, no press release, no quote to cut and paste, just a link to the Ask Jeeves Blog. This, Darcy, was a perfect email.

I’m not a Public Relations specialist but I do pay attention to the PR industry (via Peter Shankman‘s YoungPRPros) and its trends and do truly feel that the Search Blogs used by the big four search engines are a successful model for some companies, especially tech friendly ones to follow. One of the greatest aspects of reading these entries, along with the non-official search blogs of Jeremy Zawodny of Yahoo and Google’s Matt Cutts, is that I already feel like I sort of know these people before having the chance run in with them at the bar at a search conference or wherever. Such a feeling of company to journalist relations is quite priceless. Like I said, Mass Intimacy.

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