Connect with us


Brain-Eating Amoeba Found in Texas Water Supply



  • ‘Amoeba’ is a funny word, but there’s nothing funny about finding these ones in your tap water

We in the Western world often take running water for granted. But if you look at the big picture, being able to get a drinkable glass of water from a tap in your own home is really a luxury.

In many parts of the world the water just isn’t safe to drink – if you have running water at all. Making a 10-mile roundtrip to a well at least once a day really makes you appreciate clean water.

In some parts of the U.S. people have also gotten an unfortunate taste of not being able to trust tap water. The most famous case is Flint, Michigan, where the water is still iffy at best, and has been since 2014.

Last week, eight cities in Texas also got to enjoy the questionable pleasures of unsafe tap water. This time it wasn’t because of lead or other chemical contaminants, but a charming little fellow who is after another resource we value so much – our brains.

This fellow is known as Naegleria fowleri. On Friday, September 25, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) issued a water advisory to residents served by the Brazosport Water Authority.

The advisory was simple, but terrifying. Don’t use tap water for anything apart from flushing the toilet, or you might end up with someone chewing on your brain tissue.

Zombies? In my tap water? It’s more likely than you think.

“Feeling thirsty? You will eventually. And I’ll be here.”

The Foul Fowleri

Naegleria fowleri is an amoeba, a free-living microscopic single cell organism. According to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it’s also known as the “brain-eating amoeba”.

Those are both long names. Let’s call this thing Naggy for the purposes of this article.

Naggy might sound like something out of a B-class scifi movie, but believe us, it is disturbingly real. And just like it reads right on the label, Naggy wants to eat your brain.

It is usually found in warm freshwater, such as lakes, rivers, and hot springs. There, it will swim around until some poor soul decides to jump into the water.

Naggy usually enters the human body through the nose. Once in, it will start its journey towards the brain.

If reading this has made you wonder whether one or more Naggies might be in your brain, ask yourself this question: have you lapsed into a fatal coma? If not, good news, you don’t have Naggy.

In the brain, Naggy causes a condition known as primary amebic meningoencephalitis, or PAM. PAM has two stages, with the first one beginning one to nine days after catching the amoeba.

In this stage, you can expect massive headaches, nausea, vomiting and fever. Stage two kicks in shortly after with a stiff neck, seizures, hallucinations, altered mental states, and coma.

“PAM is difficult to detect because the disease progresses rapidly so that diagnosis is usually made after death,” the CDC says.

On average, after five days from the initial symptoms, the victim will usually be dead. Out of 145 people infected with Naggy in the U.S. between 1962 and 2018, only four survived.

Tragic, but perhaps it’s a small mercy considering what the amoeba does to you.

A Sad Wake-up Call

There is a small silver lining about all this for the Texans whose water supply caught a case of Naggy. According to the CDC, you can’t become infected by drinking the contaminated water.

Showering, bathing, or any other activity where the water might get into your nose on the other hand are terrible ideas. Sadly, we found that out the hard way when Naggy was first detected in Texas.

Josiah McIntyre, a 6-year-old boy from Lake Jackson, died earlier this month after contracting the amoeba. Official investigations found that he’d likely caught the infection after playing at a local splash pad.

As a result of the investigation, the TCEQ issued the do-not-use water warning. According to the authority, it would need three days to clear the water system of Naggy contamination, wrote CNN.

By now, those three days have passed. According to a TCEQ tweet earlier today, all affected areas have lifted the do-not-use warning, but in Lake Jackson a Boil Water notice is still in effect.

Water is vital to us all, and this sad case demonstrates just how fragile our water systems really are. We’re not saying that you shouldn’t trust your tap water. In most of the U.S., it is perfectly safe.

But what we are saying is that maybe we should be more appreciative of how good we actually have it with clean running water.

Have you ever had to deal with contaminated water? Got any stories to share about water warnings in your city? Share them with us in the comments!

Want to tell your strange story? Tell us about it and it could be featured on Oddee. You can remain fully anonymous.

Source link

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Murder Hornet Invasion to the U.S. is Thwarted… For Now



  • This is like Starship Troopers, except the bugs aren’t quite that big.

The United States is being invaded by a hostile and lethal force. No, it’s not a foreign military power but something much, much worse.

While the invaders don’t employ soldiers or operate under a general, they do have semblance of organization. They work according to a strictly hierarchical caste system, all held together under the iron will of a despotic queen.

We’re talking about Asian Giant Hornets. If you don’t recognize that name, you might have heard of their other alias – the Murder Hornets.

This huge flying menace normally occupies its native areas west across the Pacific. The giant hornets are found in East, South, and Southeast Asia, in addition to temperate parts of the Russian Far East.

But now, they have established the first successful colony in mainland U.S. Or at least, the first that we know of. On October 22, officials from the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) found the first ever giant hornet nest in North America.

After its discovery, WSDA promptly destroyed the nest two days later. And just like that, the invasion is over.

Or is it?

Photos courtesy of Washington State Department of Agriculture.

Insect War Criminals

You might be asking what a murder hornet actually is, though. Just in case your knowledge of giant, deadly insects is lacking, let’s have a little entomology lesson.

The Asian giant hornet – or Vespa mandarinia if you want to get fancy – is the world’s largest species of hornet. It’s roughly two inches in length – about the size of your thumb.

It gets its murderous nickname from two things. First, its venom is incredibly potent.

It’s so strong that should you get stung by multiple insects at once, you can most likely wave goodbye to this mortal coil. In their native Japan, the hornets kill around 30-50 people every year.

The second reason for the title of “murder hornet” is that, well… It’s just what these things are.

The giant hornets are utterly genocidal and will commit atrocities on a mass scale. And their favorite victim is the beloved honeybee.

If a hornet worker finds a honeybee hive, it will spray it with an attractive pheromone. Once the reinforcements arrive from the hornet nest, they enter what the WSDA calls the “slaughter phase”.

The hornets descend upon the honeybee hive and kill everything that moves. Their favorite mode of mass murder is good old-fashioned decapitation.

Once every single adult bee lies dead and mangled, the hornets turn their attention to the bee larvae. They aren’t killed immediately, though. Instead, the hornets fly them off to their own nest to feed to their brood.

The hornets will also attack other insects, but in these cases they usually don’t decimate the entire population. Suppose they just have a bee in their bonnet about honeybees.

“If it becomes established [in the U.S.], this hornet will have negative impacts on the environment, economy, and public health,” WSDA says.

Going to Battle

The first sighting of the hornets in North America came in late 2019, in British Columbia, Canada. A couple months later, in December, they were found in Washington.

As said, in late October, WSDA staff discovered the nightmare scenario of an established nest in Blaine, WA. They were able to locate the nest after attaching radio trackers to three hornets that were caught in traps.

“The nest is inside the cavity of a tree located on private property near an area cleared for a residential home,” the WSDA said. “Dozens of the hornets were seen entering and exiting the tree.”

Due to the nature of the threat, there was no time to waste in dealing with it. Two days later, on October 24, a WSDA crew came in to give the hornets a taste of their hive-wrecking medicine.

Clad in protective suits, the experts vacuumed 85 hornets out of the nest. They also trapped 13 additional living insects with nests.

“When the hornets stopped coming out of the nest, the team pumped carbon dioxide into the tree to kill or anaesthetize any remaining hornets,” the WSDA describes the operation.

“They then sealed the tree with spray foam, wrapped it again with cellophane, and finally placed traps nearby to catch any potential survivors or hornets who may have been away during the operation.”

After some three hours, the staff-in-command declared an operation a success.

The War Rages On

But that wasn’t the end of it. Of course it wasn’t, you know how these things go.

“The eradication went very smoothly, even though our original plan had to be adapted due to the fact that the nest was in a tree, rather than the ground,” says the managing entomologist Sven Spichiger.

“While this is certainly a morale boost, this is only the start of our work to hopefully prevent the Asian giant hornet from gaining a foothold in the Pacific Northwest. We suspect there may be more nests in Whatcom County.”

One of the biggest questions WSDA entomologists had was whether this particular nest had started producing new queens. If it had, that would mean that there is a very real possibility of the hornets having spread even further.

WSDA staff went to remove the whole infested tree on October 28. During the process, they found an unwelcome answer to that question.

In the remains of the nest, they discovered two hornet queens. Both were alive.

“WSDA will continue setting traps through at least November in hopes of catching any more Asian giant hornets still in Whatcom County and potentially locating any other active nests,” the agency says.

We have won the first battle against the hornet menace. But the war is far from over.

Want to tell your strange story? Tell us about it and it could be featured on Oddee. You can remain fully anonymous.

Source link

Continue Reading


Stores Drop Coconut Milk Products After PETA Accusation of Monkey Slave Labor



  • Your coconuts are drenched in the blood of a thousand monkeys! Or so they say.

It seems these days the consumers are growing more health-conscious by the minute. That’s especially true if you look at the amount of plant-based alternatives to animal-sourced products that are flooding the marketplace.

Dairy products are one of the areas where alternative products are increasingly popular. That’s not necessarily because of any animal welfare-related concerns, either. A lot of people (like your humble author) simply can’t drink regular milk without a seriously upset tummy.

From almond to soybeans, milk alternatives are varied and plentiful. Among them is the ever-so-popular coconut milk.

Which brings us to a dose of bad news for those who have adopted coconut milk as their go-to replacement for real dairy. A number of major U.S. grocery store chains are pledging to not stock coconut products from Thai suppliers accused of using slave labor to harvest their coconuts.

But it’s not people the producers are enslaving. Instead, they are using monkeys to pick the nuts from their palm trees.

Such big name grocers as Walgreens, Food Lion, Giant Food, and Stop & Shop have all stopped stocking coconut products from the accused producers. Now, Costco has also joined their ranks, reports USA Today.

Monkey slavery. Just when we thought 2020 couldn’t get any weirder. What’s next, snail labor camps?

Let’s see what this whole hubbub is about, shall we?

Labor Like Pulling Teeth

The monkey slavery accusations are made by none else than by the notorious People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, better known as PETA. According to an investigation by the organization, Thai coconut producers are using questionable monkey labor to harvest the nuts.

PETA claims that upon visiting eight coconut farms – including those owned by Thailand’s largest coconut producer Chaokoh – it found disturbing proof of how the animals are mistreated.

“Terrified young monkeys in Thailand are kept chained, abusively trained, and forced to climb trees to pick coconuts,” the report bluntly states.

“According to an industry insider, most coconut that comes from Thailand was picked by monkeys.”

The organization also claims that the monkeys face harsh punishments if they try to resist the training. Among the punishments is the forceful removal of their canine teeth to make them less likely to harm their handlers.

Additionally, the monkeys allegedly participate in “circus-style shows” in order to raise further profits from tourists.

“An investigator saw monkeys being transported in cramped cages that were barely large enough for them to turn around in and others left in locked cages in the back of a pickup truck, with no shelter from the driving rain,” PETA reports.

Questionable Claims

PETA itself has a somewhat dubious reputation as an animal welfare organization. As such, some may be inclined to take this news with a grain of salt. And by all means, it’s always healthy to be critical about your news sources.

Among the accusations piled against PETA, it allegedly kills a staggering number of animals housed in its animal shelters. PETA associates have also stolen animals straight from people’s yards, only to kill them hours later.

This time around, though, PETA may be on to something. Tourism Thailand, for example, lists the Samui Monkey Center as one of the attractions to see in the country.

“In the center, the monkeys will be trained to collect coconuts. Each training session takes about four months and requires a trainer and a student,” the site says.

The site also says that there are other “monkey shows” to see at the center. Among the listed monkey activities are jumping through hoops, memorizing numbers, playing guitar, and untying knots.

Whether the monkeys are mistreated as part of their training, we don’t know. But at least it seems that the monkey training and labor PETA is talking about actually takes place in Thailand.

Companies Taking Action

Costco, and many of the other chains, take PETA’s claims – if not at face value – then at least seriously enough to take action. In a letter to PETA, Costco vice president and general merchandise manager of corporate food and sundries, Ken Kimble, explained the company’s reasoning for dropping Thai coconut products.

In the letter – dated September 29 – Kimble said Costco has stopped buying products from Chaokoh.

“We will continue to monitor the implementation of the harvest policies and once satisfied will resume purchasing,” Kimble said according to USA Today.

“We have made it clear to the supplier that we do not support the use of monkeys for harvesting and that all harvesting must be done by human labor.”

According to Kimble, Chaokoh has said that it is reviewing harvest policies at its coconut farms.

Kroger, another U.S. grocery chain that operates the Fry’s brand supermarkets, said it’s also reviewing the monkey labor situation.

“We have re-engaged our suppliers, as well as other stakeholders, on this issue to re-confirm they are also protecting animal welfare,” Kroger told USA Today.

On its part, the Chaokoh brand’s owner Theppadungporn Coconut, denies knowingly using monkey labor.

“It is not only our duty, but our integrity to take care of nature, human and wildlife, as a whole,” the company’s managing director Aphisak Theppadungporn told FOX Business.

“We have a clear-cut policy on this issue to ensure that our business will not tolerate any sign of animal and wildlife labor or abuse.”

Are the Thai coconut farms engaging in monkey slavery, or is this a case of PETA hyperbole? We at Oddee fully encourage you to look into the facts and make your own determination. Let us know what you think in the comments!

Want to tell your strange story? Tell us about it and it could be featured on Oddee. You can remain fully anonymous.

Source link

Continue Reading


Engineer Designs Bot to Check if McDonald’s Ice Cream Machines Are Broken



  • It brings a tear to our eyes to see such selfless work for the benefit of the greater good.

Among all the huge names in the American fast food business, one stands above the rest. McDonald’s is such a ubiquitous presence around the world that it needs no further introduction.

The burger chain is so omnipresent that The Economist uses the price of a Big Mac as a way to measure the purchasing power of different global currencies. That’s right, it’s called the Big Mac Index and it’s a real thing.

In addition to the Big Mac, McDonald’s also offer other iconic dishes on its menu. Among those are the Quarter Pounder (with cheese), the Chicken McNugget, and the McRib. Well, that last one is there only whenever it seems to feel like it.

But the McRib is not the only temperamental McDonald’s menu item. There is one that taunts us with a promise of a frozen treat that may or may not ever come… The McFlurry.

Now don’t get us wrong, the soft-serve ice cream is a staple of the McDonald’s menu. The problem here are those ****ing ice cream machines.

The Mickey D’s ice cream machines are notorious for never, ever working. The restaurant itself even recognizes that there’s just something about them that always breaks.

How many late night snack cravings have been ruined by a non-functional McFlurrinator? Oh, wouldn’t it be grand if there was some way to know whether your location has a working machine?

Welp, take your hat off for a 24-year-old German software engineer. He’s devised a way for you to check just that.

McBroken Dreams

The man in question is Rashiq Zahid, resident of the Kreuzberg district in Berlin, the German capital. On October 22, he launched, a website that tracks whether or not a McDonald’s location’s ice cream machine is working.

The spark to launch the site came to Zahid in July. He was craving something cold and sweet so he popped into a Kreuzberg McD’s to order a McSundae.

If the name sounds weird, it’s a European trademark that the company has. Basically, ice cream with a drizzle of one or other kind of sauce.

Zahid tried using one of the automated kiosks to order the ice cream, but received only an error code. He then tried a mobile order. Same thing happened.

His dreams had been McBroken.

“I was like, there must be something that can be done about this,” Zahid told The Verge.

And, just like mom used to say, if you want something done, you have to do it yourself. That’s just what Zahid set out to do.

$18K Worth of Ice Cream

McBroken relies on the McDonald’s mobile order system to check whether the ice cream is available at a given location. The online order system will tell you that the ice cream is “currently unavailable” if the restaurant has no working machine to produce it.

Based on whether the cart addition was successful, the program will then place a marker on a map of McDonald’s locations. A green dot means ice cream is plentiful; a red dot tells you to not even bother trying.

“I reverse engineered McDonald’s internal API and I’m currently placing an order worth $18,752 every minute at every McDonald’s in the U.S. to figure out which locations have a broken ice cream machine,” Zahid tweeted upon launching McBroken.

Of course, the bot that he uses doesn’t actually finish the order. Otherwise, Zahid’s daily maintenance costs for the service would reach a fascinating amount of money.

After launching McBroken, however, Zahid soon found out that the one-minute interval for the check was too much. The McDonald’s app recognized McBroken as a bot and blocked its access.

So, Zahid changed the frequency of the check to 30 minutes. Now, the system works without interruption.

McBroken’s information is reliable, too. To verify the accuracy of his bot, Zahid biked to every McDonald’s location in Berlin to try and order ice cream manually.

Everywhere he checked, the bot’s report was correct. Satisfied with the results, he then expanded the system’s scope to cover the U.S. as well.

‘Such a Great Sport’

Within 20 minutes of its U.S. launch, McBroken crashed. More than 10,000 visitors flocked to the service as soon as it became available.

“I’m running this on a server that costs $5 a month, so it was bound to crash,” he chuckled. He brought the website after some troubleshooting and fine-tuning, and it now works as intended.

“I just made it for fun, but people were like: ‘Wow, this is the best thing I’ve seen this entire week’,” he said.

While McBroken provides a useful service, it operates in a bit of a gray area. Zahid reverse engineered the McDonald’s mobile app, and as such the company could have McBroken shut down if so wished.

At the moment, though, that seems unlikely. We’re saying that because a McDonald’s hot shot has recognized the value of McBroken.

“Only a true McDonald’s fan would go to these lengths to help customers get our delicious ice cream! So, thanks!” tweeted McD’s vice president of U.S. communications David Tovar.

“We know we have some opportunities to consistently satisfy even more customers with sweet treats and we will,” he added.

That’s marketing speech for “we know our machines break every five minutes, so this will actually probably be profitable for us”.

Zahid, on his part, appreciated the official recognition. He tweeted Tovar back, thanking him for being “such a great sport” about McBroken.

So, thinking of going out for some McFlurries? You now know where to check first. And if you want to support McBroken, Zahid has an option for you buy him an ice cream on the website!

Want to tell your strange story? Tell us about it and it could be featured on Oddee. You can remain fully anonymous.

Source link

Continue Reading