Thursday, September 5, 2019

August 2019 Wrap Up

Sorry for the delay in posting this! And I apologize for the lack of disease post last month. August ended up being very rough for me. My anxiety was through the roof due to moving and leaving my job. And then I had to put my sweet rat, Pye, down. It was the right decision, but it is still hard.

I also ended up helping to rescue 25 (!) baby rats and taking them to the Denver Dumb Friends League. The people there were great. I managed to find homes for 5 of them on my own and then I took three boys home. In normal nerdy fashion, I named them Hades, Zeus, and Poseidon.

I only finished two books in August! I haven't read so few in a very long time. I did get close to finishing two more, but it won't be until September so they won't count. But here are reviews for the two I read:

Title: Strange the Dreamer
Author: Laini Taylor
Narrator: Steve West

Synopsis: Lazlo Strange has always been a dreamer. He has grown up obsessed with a mysterious and mythic city called "Weep." As a grown man, he continues researching all he can, immersing himself in fairy tales. Or so everyone thinks until he ends up in a party of travelers who are going to Weep to help the locals solve a mysterious problem.

Thoughts: I feel like I am late to the Laini Taylor party. This is the first book by her that I have read. I have to say, it is not what I was expecting at all. But despite that (or because of it), I did enjoy it and immediately started the second book because I needed to know how everything ended.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Title: Sorcery of Thorns
Author: Margaret Rogerson

Synopsis: Elisabeth is an orphan adopted at a young age by librarians. She grows up around the tomes in one of the Great Libraries of the realm. In this place, most books are dangerous, steeped in evil sorcery and sorcerers, as she understands, are all evil. Then a powerful grimoire that is chained in her library breaks free as a destructive Malefict. Elisabeth defeats it, but ends up traveling to the capital with sorcerer Nathanial Thorn and his demonic servant. But things aren't quite what they seem, and Elisabeth has to question all that she has been taught and find where her loyalties lie.

Thoughts: This was a recent Owlcrate book and I wanted to read it as soon as I read the synopsis. Elisabeth and Nathanial were quite likeable. And I grew way too attached to Silas for my own good. He was definitely my favorite character. I think if you read the book, you will see why, but I definitely can't say anything without spoiling something!

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Since I only read two, I won't pick a favorite or least favorite. And both were quite good. And both concerned books and magic!

Anyway, September has started and I am mostly settled in New Mexico. I hope that I can get back on course here and that my next wrap up will be on time and that I will get a disease post up. I'm planning to do the next one about anthrax. I hope you are as excited about it as I am!

Thursday, August 1, 2019

July 2019 Wrap Up

July has been a hectic month what with packing and moving and job hunting. I still managed to read a few books though, so lets start there!

Title: My Plain Jane
Authors: Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows

Thoughts: So I did not love this book. I started it at the beginning of April and didn't finish until the beginning of July. I liked the overall idea of the story (and their last book, My Lady Jane, was OK). I definitely considered bailing a couple of times, but I love Jane Eyre and Charlotte Bronte, so I kept going.

It is an alternate story of how the classic Jane Eyre came to be. But in this version, Charlotte Bronte was friends with Jane Eyre. And Jane Eyre can see ghosts. Silly? Yes, but a little fun (even though the humor wasn't really my brand).

Rating: 2-2 1/2 of 5 stars

Title: The Star-Touched Queen
Author: Roshani Chokshi
Narrator: Priya Ayyar

Thoughts: This has been on my TBR pile for what seems like ages and I'm not sure why I took so long to read it! I loved all the mythology and magic. I cared so much about the characters and about Maya's journey to find her place. As daughter of the Raja, she is prominent, but cursed with a terrible horoscope that spells a dark destiny for her. In a strange turn of events, she marries Amar and becomes queen of Akaran, but Akaran is not all it seems. As Maya uncovers more secrets about herself and Amar, her life changes and she risks losing everything that she loves.

I loved it and I love the way that Amar loves Maya. I know it has several different inspirations from Hindu mythology, but the story reminded me of Psyche and Eros. Highly recommend it, and I need to read more of her books!

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Title: Finale
Author: Stephanie Garber
Narrator: Rebecca Soler

Thoughts: I did this one partially listening to the audiobook and partially reading my physical copy, which is a pretty edition I received in an Owlcrate.

Overall I liked it OK, though I did predict some of the plot twists before they happened. And I still have very conflicting feelings about Jacks. I really wanted him to have a redemption arc in this book, but I'm not really sure he got one? I loved and hated him all at once.

While I'm glad that almost everyone got the (mostly) happy endings I hoped for, I think the book felt a little more dragged out than the last one but the ending felt very abrupt. I still enjoyed the series and would recommend them, but I think I liked the first two a little more because they happened during actual Caraval events, which are interesting to me.

Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Title: MCAT Biology Review
Author: Kaplan Test Prep

Thoughts: Not a real reading book, but it took me months to finish this one and I am counting them towards my reading goals! I'm not sure why it took me so long to read this one. Usually biology is my strongest subject, but I seriously need some anatomy and physiology classes before I take the MCAT and then go back through this book again.

                                      Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Title: Shadow of the Fox
Author: Julie Kagawa

Thoughts: Yumeko is half fox, half human and is tasked with saving a magical scroll and taking it to a secret temple far from everything she has ever known. Soon after, she meets up with a specially trained ninja, Kage Tatsumi, who is low-key possessed by a demon who has been sent to find the scroll. She strikes a deal with him to take him with her if he will help protect her from the many demons, witches, and other evil creatures sent after her and the scroll. There are a few problems: Tatsumi doesn't know that she is part fox nor that she has the scroll. Other people join their group, complicating their mission. And Tatsumi may have to kill Yumeko at the end of the journey. And he might kind of like her.

This was an owlcrate book I received many months ago. I had mixed feelings going into it, probably because it has pretty mixed reviews and I didn't know what to expect. At first, I wasn't very into it, but by about half-way through I was pretty invested and read the rest quickly. I enjoyed it quite a bit and definitely need to read the next one! I must know what happens!

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Title: The Royal Art of Poison
Author: Eleanor Herman
Narrator: Susie Berneis

Thoughts: This book is about poisons! But also about history and royalty (and other high-ranking, important people) and how they died. All the people covered were suspected to have died of poison, but were they? This book talks about different poisons, how they work, the symptoms, and even how they were used in cosmetics and medications. But diseases and general filth killed people, too. How did the royals protect themselves against poisons? What cures did they use?

This book was super interesting. I am interested in diseases, which feel similar to poisons to me and I loved the case histories and trying to pick them apart. Very enjoyable if you are interested in history and poison!

Rating: 3.5-4 out of 5 stars

Title: Rabid: A Cultural History of the World's Most Diabolical Virus
Authors: Bill Wasik and Monica Murphy

Thoughts: This book is all about rabies. Plenty of information about the history of the disease and various crazy "cures" through the ages (which don't work as rabies is nearly 100% fatal). The best part for me was a chapter about how rabies may have contributed to the stories of the werewolf and vampire.

I didn't read this book in detail since I was going through it for my rabies disease post, but I did at least skim the whole book, so I am counting it. If you are interested in infectious diseases and would like the history as well as some cultural stories and histories and a few more modern stories, this is a good book for you.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Title: The Bookish Life of Nina Hill
Author: Abbi Waxman
Narrator: Emily Rankin

Thoughts: Nina Hill is just living her (mostly) quiet, book-filled life in LA when she has a dead father and a crazy family thrown into her lap. She learns all about her new-found family and mixed things about the father she never knew. And on top of it, she might want to date this guy she met. And she doesn't handle change and surprises very well.

I liked this book overall. There were a few parts that I just didn't love, but there were some parts that made me laugh out loud. I related to Nina by loving books and also having anxiety. I enjoyed the adventure for sure, though for some reason didn't love the ending? Maybe it felt too forced and rushed for my taste. But I still enjoyed it enough to read it again in the future.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Favorite book read this month: The Star-touched Queen or the Bookish Life of Nina Hill
Least favorite book read this month: My Plain Jane

I have been continuing Insanity, which I think is a very good thing for me. And I have made a few trips down to the new apartment and have been slowly moving my stuff down there. And trying to get rid of things (which I am terrible at doing) because the new place is pretty small and there isn't room! But slow and steady wins the race, right?

My anxiety has been steadily climbing because I am not good at moving or handling change. Plus I ended up trying to help a lady find homes for some baby rats. By the way, if anyone in Colorado or New Mexico would like some cute baby rats, please let me know! I will probably take a few myself. Anyway, working out seems to help and I am trying to do little things each day to help keep it manageable.

I'm not sure if this will help my anxiety or make it worse, but I decided to start a bullet journal/planner. I've always kept a fairly detailed planner, this will just be more involved. At the very least, I hope it will help keep me on track and help me track the things that help my mood and anxiety. If it is successful, I will try to post some of the things I am trying.

And last but not least, I hope you enjoyed my disease post. Rabies was fun to do. And now that it is finished, I am a bit at a loss for what to do next. Smallpox and rabies seemed like easy ones to tackle (I'm not sure why I felt that way, but I did). I would like to do something bacterial next, so maybe I will try for Brucella or anthrax. If it feels like too much, maybe I will switch to another virus like herpes or Varicella zoster (which causes chicken pox). If anyone has questions or requests, please let me know!

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Disease Post: Rabies

Welcome to the Rabies post!


Rabies is caused by a virus from the rhabdovirus family and is bullet-shaped. The virus has an envelope (a double layer of lipids like those that form our cell membranes). Rabies' genetic material is single-stranded RNA.
Transmisson electron microscopy picture of a rhabdovirus. Image from the Wellcome Collection.

Brief review: in humans, our genetic material is double-stranded DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) that is kept in the nucleus of our cells. Kind of like the control center. When we need to make a protein, the DNA strands unwind and we have cellular proteins that make a copy of the DNA which is called RNA. Human RNA (ribonucleic acid) is always single-stranded. This strand of RNA then exits the nucleus and into the cytoplasm of the cell where other proteins translate the RNA instructions into a protein.

Since rabies contains single-stranded RNA, it can enter the cytoplasm of our cells and use our cell's machinery to make more viruses.

Rabies is a disease that is present all around the world (except in Antarctica) and has been around for thousands of years (at least). It is thought to have evolved with dogs and wolves as those are usually the most easily affected and infected animals. Most cases in humans occur in Asia and Africa, but it is regularly seen in Europe, Australia, and the Americas, too. In places where dog vaccination is common (like the US), fewer dogs are problems and bats become more likely to spread the disease. There are also vaccination programs in wild animals like foxes and raccoons via food baits, which is great, but there aren't any programs that can easily vaccinate bats, to my knowledge.

How is it spread?

Rabies is often found in wild animals like raccoons, foxes, coyotes, and bats. Domestic animals, like dogs and cats can become infected. And of course, humans. To my knowledge, rabies only infects mammals.

Rabies is spread through the saliva of an infected mammal and enters the new host through broken skin. Infections are usually caused by a bite, but can be transmitted by a scratch.

The virus enters the wound and moves into the local nerve cells or neurons. Once it is in the neurons, it can hide really well from your immune system (obviously your immune system should not normally attack your nervous system because it is so important for all of your normal functions). From the local nerves it makes its way from nerve to nerve to reach the central nervous system (your spinal cord and brain). After that, the virus travels down to the salivary glands where they can shed into the saliva and try to spread further! (Side note: viruses when they multiply are said to be "shed" or released, usually in very large numbers. This is how they enter the environment and spread to other hosts.)

One lucky thing about this virus is that it moves pretty slowly, depending on how far away it is from the central nervous system when it enters the body. For example, if you are bitten on your calf, you will have a lot more time before the virus reaches your brain than someone who is bitten on the neck. Viral load, or how many viruses enter the wound, also plays a role in how quickly it moves. If only a few viruses enter a wound, it will take longer to get to the brain. It's slow movement is important for treatment, which we will discuss later.


According to the WHO, "incubation period for rabies is typically 2–3 months but may vary from 1 week to 1 year, dependent upon factors such as the location of virus entry and viral load."
Rabid dog. Image from the Wellcome Collection.

Early symptoms are pretty standard: fever, weakness, headache, and body aches. Oftentimes, people will feel tingling, prickling, and/or burning sensations as the virus spreads through the nerve cells. Hydrophobia (fear of water) and sometimes photophobia (fear of light or sensitivity to light) are later symptoms.

There are two forms of the disease: paralytic rabies and furious rabies. Furious rabies is the rabies most of us are familiar with. Furious rabies is a faster moving manifestation of the disease. It is characterized by hyperactivity, excitability, hydrophobia, agitation, confusion, and insomnia.

What is super interesting to me is the hydrophobia. The people who experience this (and not all rabies-infected people/animals do) have pain when they try to swallow. This is a viral strategy (so to speak, they aren't alive) to help spread it. The virus is present in saliva and the virus wants to get out, not be swallowed. Being swallowed defeats the virus' purpose. The virus affects an animal's ability to swallow in order to spread. Much like a cold virus will cause a person to sneeze so that virus can be spread in the air to new hosts.

In paralytic rabies, the disease is slower and not as exciting, so to speak. As the virus spreads, the person becomes paralyzed starting at the site of infection and slowly spreading until the person is completely paralyzed and falls into a coma.

No matter which form you get, the ultimate outcome is almost always death. According to the CDC, "less than 20 cases of human survival from clinical rabies have been documented" and only a few of the survivors had not had any preventative treatment (like the rabies vaccine) or treatment after they were exposed. This shows just how deadly this virus is. It has been noted throughout much of history that if a victim reaches the hydrophobia stage of disease, the outcome will be death.

Prevention and Treatment:

For those of you with dogs, you probably know that rabies vaccines are routine. Generally, they receive the vaccine as puppies and then have a booster every three years, though some areas require a booster every year. Dogs are often vaccinated against rabies, which is good because most cases of human rabies are from domestic dogs. Humans who work closely with animals, like veterinary doctors and staff, or laboratory staff that work with animals may receive the vaccine as prevention. Vaccination against rabies is not standard in humans, though.

If you get bitten or scratched by an animal that can carry rabies, what do you do? Seek care as soon as you can, especially if you do not know the animal or their health state. Cleaning the wound very well can help a person's chances. Normally, people who may have been infected receive the rabies vaccine because the virus moves slowly enough for your body to react to the vaccine and then to react to the actual virus to clear it. Your body just needs a little help from that vaccine. If someone is further along or more at-risk, they may receive rabies immunoglobulin. Immunoglobulin are antibodies specific to a disease, rabies in this case. Antibodies are produced by your immune system to help target and inactivate viruses (or bacteria, and so on). The immunoglobulin is produced in a laboratory and given to people to help their immune system combat the disease until that person's own immune system can catch up and start making its own antibodies.

Miscellaneous Information: 

If you are interested in rabies, I highly recommend the book Rabid: A Cultural History of the World's Most Diabolical Virus by Bill Wasik and Monica Murphy. My favorite parts were about how the rabies virus may have helped inspire the stories of werewolves and vampires. Both horror figures are strongly associated with wolves/dogs. Vampires are also associated with bats. Both involve biting to spread the conditions. Werewolves are often associated with rage and being unpredictable and uncontrollable. And then vampires don't do well (or can't exist at all) in sunlight--photophobia. Many classic vampires also can't cross water--hydrophobia.

The book also goes into the history of the disease, old time treatments (like drinking something containing "the hair of the dog that bit you," which is a common phrase even now) and how it has caused people throughout time to create laws to prevent the spread of rabies.

That is about it for rabies! Please let me know if you have any questions or if I have any information incorrect! Thanks for reading!

And a very special thank you to my friend, Veronica! She edited this post and helped me find things that needed more information or clarification. So thank you for your help!

Virology: Principles and Applications by John Carter and Venetia Saunders
World Health Organization
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Rabid: A Cultural History of the World's Most Diabolical Virus by Bill Wasik and Monica Murphy
Medical Microbiology 6th Edition by Patrick R. Murray, Ken S. Rosenthal, and Michael A. Pfaller
WebMD Pet Vaccines: Schedules for Cats and Dogs