Category Archives: Health

Zika update: Findings, continued spread, music


We begin with a moderated caution, via Reuters:

WHO urges precautions in Zika areas but reassures most births normal

  • U.N. health agency issues recommendations for women
  • Most women in Zika areas “will give birth to normal infants”
  • WHO urges safe sex through use of condoms
  • Women should consult doctor if travelling to infected zone
  • Whether and when to become pregnant is “personal decision”

From teleSUR, confirmation:

Experts Confirm Zika Virus Linked to Baby Defects in Brazil

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control confirmed this Wednesday afternoon that the Zika virus is linked to defects in thousands of newborn babies in Brazil, the CDC Director Tom Frieden told members of House of Representatives in Washington.

More from the Los Angeles Times:

Zika virus found in fetal brain

The Zika virus, thought to be responsible for a surge in birth defects in Brazil, has been found inside the abnormally small brain of an aborted fetus at roughly 29 weeks of gestation, a team of researchers reported Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

From the Associated Press, a video report:

CDC: Expect ‘Significant Number’ of Zika Cases

Program notes:

CDC Director Thomas Frieden told a congressional committee Wednesday that the U.S. should expect to see “significant numbers” of infections of the Zika virus in territories including Puerto Rico.

On to Dixie with the Birmingham News:

First Alabama resident confirmed with Zika virus

The state Department of Public Health confirms one Morgan County resident has the first travel-related case of the Zika virus in Alabama.

And then to Portland, with the Oregonian:

Oregon has first travel-related Zika case of 2016

The Oregon Public Health Division said the adult woman had visited “an affected country” and has recovered. This is the first such case this year. Three other people in Oregon also been infected, one in 2014 and two in 2015. Those three people had traveled to Polynesia.

Next to Pennsylvania with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

Two women in Pa. recovering from Zika

Health Dept.: They pose no health threat

On to the First State with the News Journal in Wilmington:

Delaware woman tests positive for Zika virus

State officials announced late Tuesday that a Delaware woman has tested positive for the mosquito-borne Zika virus.

Venezuelan anxiety from the Guardian:

‘Everyone is catching it’: Venezuelans fear the worst as Zika infections rise

The numbers infected with the Zika virus could be as high as 400,000 say experts, and medicine is in short supply as the country’s recession takes a toll

Next, China, via Xinhua:

China detects 1st imported case of Zika virus

The patient, a 34-year-old male from Ganxian county of Jiangxi province, is now recovering with normal body temperature and fading rash. He had traveled to Venezuela and showed symptoms of fever, headache and dizziness on Jan. 28, before returning to his hometown on Feb. 5 via Hong Kong and Shenzhen.

And then to Finland with Yle yhtiönä:

2nd case of Zika virus diagnosed in Finland

The first Zika case was detected last summer in a man who had visited the Maldives

And back to the Golden State with troubling news about a critter called Aedes aegypti from KBAK in Bakersfield:

Mosquito that transmits Zika virus found in Arvin

“We’re finding it in very small numbers in the city of Arvin,” said Gene Abbott, superintendent with Kern Mosquito and Vector Control District.

And to close, a little bit of music from the hot zone via AJ+:

Anti-Zika Anthem For Brazil’s Carnival

Program notes:

As the mosquito-borne Zika epidemic rocks Brazil, marching band Os Nazarentos is rocking Carnival with their anti-mosquito anthem “Shoo Mosquitão.”

Native American drinking stereotype busted


Another myth debunked.

From the University of Arizona Newsroom:

In contrast to enduring stories about extraordinarily high rates of alcohol abuse among Native Americans, University of Arizona researchers have found that Native Americans’ binge and heavy drinking rates actually match those of whites. The groups differed regarding abstinence: Native Americans were more likely to abstain from alcohol use.

The UA study, published online Monday in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, was conducted by James K. Cunningham, lead author, a U.S. Fulbright scholar and social epidemiologist with the UA Department of Family and Community Medicine and the UA Native American Research and Training Center; Teshia A. Solomon (Choctaw), director of the Native American Research and Training Center; and Dr. Myra Muramoto, head of Family and Community Medicine.

The researchers analyzed data from a survey of more than 4,000 Native Americans and 170,000 whites between 2009 and 2013. The survey, called the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, was administered by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The UA study also used another nationally representative survey, the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System administered by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to measure how often Native Americans and whites engaged in excessive drinking in the past month. Again, findings for the two groups were comparable.

BLOG Drinx

About 17 percent of both Native Americans and whites were found to be binge drinkers, and about 8 percent of both groups were heavy drinkers. Binge drinking was defined as five or more drinks on one to four days in the past month. Heavy drinking was five or more drinks on five or more days in the past month. Sixty percent of Native Americans reported no alcohol use in the past month, compared to 43 percent of whites.

“Of course, debunking a stereotype doesn’t mean that alcohol problems don’t exist,” Cunningham said. “All major U.S. racial and ethnic groups face problems due to alcohol abuse, and alcohol use within those groups can vary with geographic location, age and gender.

“But falsely stereotyping a group regarding alcohol can have its own unique consequences. For example, some employers might be reluctant to hire individuals from a group that has been stereotyped regarding alcohol. Patients from such a group, possibly wanting to avoid embarrassment, may be reluctant to discuss alcohol-related problems with their doctors.”

CLICK ON THE IMAGE TO ENLARGE

CLICK ON THE IMAGE TO ENLARGE

Solomon noted that comparable rates of alcohol use do not necessarily result in comparable rates of alcohol-related health problems. “Native Americans as a group have less access to medical care, safe housing and quality food, which can amplify health problems connected to alcohol,” she said.

“Negative stereotyping of groups of people who have less access to health care creates even more health disparities,” Muramoto said. “Based on a false negative stereotype, some health care providers may inaccurately attribute a presenting health problem to alcohol use and fail to appropriately diagnose and treat the problem.”

The researchers feel that their study could impact beliefs about Native Americans’ alcohol use.

“It’s our hope that the media — movies, television, newspapers, radio, Internet — will represent Native American alcohol use more accurately,” Cunningham said. “It’s time to let the myths about elevated drinking fade away.”

A summary of the report, “Alcohol use among Native Americans compared to whites: Examining the veracity of the ‘Native American elevated alcohol consumption’ belief,” can be accessed here. [For the full article, another damn paywall, $35.95, to be exact — esnl]

About damn time: Call for open science on Zika


One of our pet peeves here at esnl has been the almost complete privatization of scientific research, even when the work is done at public universities on the public payroll.

Scientific journals have, with a few notable exceptions, been walled off behind prohibitive paywalls, and we’ve seen costs to read a single article running as high as $100. [With the open access journals, there’s still one problem: Researchers must pay as much as $4,500 or more to make their work openly available].

University and libraries who want to provide access to faculty and students have been extorted for exorbitant sums, the antithesis of what the scientific community, with its emphasis on sharing of information, is supposed to be all about.

But with the Zika pandemic surging, a call has been issued to open up all research on the disease and its effects to free and open access.

It’s a good start, but only that.

From the Wellcome Trust:

Global scientific community commits to sharing data on Zika

10 February 2016

Leading global health bodies including academic journals, NGOs, research funders and institutes, have committed to sharing data and results relevant to the current Zika crisis and future public health emergencies as rapidly and openly as possible.

Organisations including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Médecins Sans Frontières, the US National Institute of Health and the Wellcome Trust, along with leading academic journals including Nature, Science and the New England Journal of Medicine, have signed a joint declaration and hope that other bodies will come on board in the coming weeks.

The statement is intended to ensure that any information that might have value in combatting the Zika outbreak is made available to the international community, free of charge, as soon as is feasibly possible. Journal signatories provide assurance that doing so will not preclude researchers from subsequently publishing papers in their titles.

It follows a consensus statement arising from a WHO consultation in September 2015, in which leading international stakeholders from multiple sectors affirmed that timely and transparent pre-publication sharing of data and results during public health emergencies must become the global norm.

Dr Jeremy Farrar, Director of the Wellcome Trust and a signatory of the statement, said: “Research is an essential part of the response to any global health emergency. This is particularly true for Zika, where so much is still unknown about the virus, how it is spread and the possible link with microcephaly.

“It’s critical that as results become available they are shared rapidly in a way that is equitable, ethical and transparent. This will ensure that the knowledge gained is turned quickly into health interventions that can have an impact on the epidemic.

“It’s extremely heartening to see so many leading international organisations united in this unprecedented commitment to open science, reinforcing the decision by  the WHO to declare Zika a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.”

Statement on Data Sharing in Public Health Emergencies:

The arguments for sharing data, and the consequences of not doing so, have been thrown into stark relief by the Ebola and Zika outbreaks.

In the context of a public health emergency of international concern, there is an imperative on all parties to make any information available that might have value in combatting the crisis.

We are committed to working in partnership to ensure that the global response to public health emergencies is informed by the best available research evidence and data, as such:

  • Journal signatories will make all content concerning the Zika virus free to access. Any data or preprint deposited for unrestricted dissemination ahead of submission of any paper will not pre-empt its publication in these journals.
  • Funder signatories will require researchers undertaking work relevant to public health emergencies to set in place mechanisms to share quality-assured interim and final data as rapidly and widely as possible, including with public health and research communities and the World Health Organisation.

We urge other organisations to make the same commitments.

This commitment is in line with the consensus statement agreed at a WHO expert consultation on data sharing last year whereby researchers are expected to share data at the earliest opportunity, once they are adequately controlled for release and subject to any safeguards required to protect research participants and patients.

Signatories to the Statement

Academy of Medical Sciences, UK
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)
The British Medical Journal (BMJ)
Bulletin of the World Health Organization
Canadian Institutes of Health Research
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Chinese Academy of Sciences
Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention
The Department of Biotechnology, Government of India
The Department for International Development (DFID)
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)
eLife
The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)
F1000
Fondation Mérieux
Fundação Oswaldo Cruz (Fiocruz)
The Institut Pasteur
Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development (AMED)
The JAMA Network
The Lancet
Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF)
National Academy of Medicine
National Institutes of Health, USA
National Science Foundation, USA
The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM)
PLOS
Science Journals
South African Medical Research Council
Springer Nature
UK Medical Research Council
Wellcome Trust
ZonMw – The Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development

Lethal private prisons for male border-crossers


They’re a legacy of Bill Clinton’s presidency, and the corporations running them were major campaign contribution bundlers for Hillary Clinton until their role was exposed by The Intercept in July.

Why Hillary? It’s not just out of loyalty to her spouse. Bernie Sanders, her rival for the Democratic Party presidential nomination, is an outspoken advocate for ending the nation’s mass incarceration program and has sponsored legislation to end corporate prisons in the federal justice system.

Clinton only formally backed off from the private prison lobby in October, when she tweeted “Protecting public safety. . .should never be outsourced or left to unaccountable corporations.”

But notice the weasel word unaccountable in her declaration, potentially leaving the door open for “accountable” corporations, whatever those might be.

Now, why that adjective “lethal” in the headline?

Because the subjective of this two-part interview for Democracy Now!, Seth Freed Wessler, is the author of “This Man Will Almost Certainly Die,” a major investigative report for the Nation on deaths in the corporate prisons used to house men whose only offense has been to cross the U.S. border without permission.

And where are these prisons? From the Nation, a map lays it out:

BLOG Prisons 2

And now for the interviews.

From Democracy Now!:

“This Man Will Almost Certainly Die”: The Secret Deaths of Dozens at Privatized Immigrant-Only Jails

From the transcript:

AMY GOODMAN: Seth, welcome to Democracy Now! Explain the title, “This Man Will Almost Certainly Die.”

SETH FREED WESSLER: That title comes from a quote that was left in one of the medical files I obtained through an open records request. I obtained 9,000 pages of documents. And in those documents, from one of these prisons, there was a medical doctor who left his normal medical notes, but he also left a series of notes railing against the system that he had—he worked in, inside of one of these private federal prisons, private federal prisons used only to hold noncitizens convicted of federal crime—a sort of segregated system of prisons. In these files, he left a series of notes where he was railing against this prison system, basically saying that it wasn’t providing prisoners, or wasn’t allowing him to provide prisoners, the kind of care that as a medical doctor he believed he should be able to provide. These records tell the stories of 103 men who died inside this federal subsystem of prisons.

If you’re convicted of a crime in the United States, a federal crime, and you’re a noncitizen considered a low-security prisoner, you’re likely to be sent to a different prison from all of the rest of—from citizens. And those prisons are nearly the only prisons that the Federal Bureau of Prisons has privatized, has contracted out to private companies—GEO Group, Corrections Corporation of America, Management and Training Corporation.

And what I found is that the federal government is applying a different and less stringent set of rules to these prisons. And that, in the context of medical care, is leading to stripped-down kinds of medical clinics with lower-trained, lesser-paid, less expensive workers. And in dozens of cases, prisoners held inside are facing medical neglect. In 25 cases I looked at, doctors who reviewed the files said these prisoners likely would have lived had they received adequate medical care.

And the second part:

Seth Freed Wessler on Uncovering the Deaths of Dozens at Privatized Immigrant-Only Jails

From the transcript:

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I wanted to ask you about the epic battle you had to get these records. How—what kind of resistance did you come up across? And when you say 103 deaths, what period of time are we talking about here?

SETH FREED WESSLER: So, I had filed an open records request, a Freedom of Information Act request, several years ago. And I thought that I was going to get documents from that request. I talked to people in the BOP’s FOIA office, and it seemed that it was moving. But a year passed and then two, and I realized that I wasn’t going to get any of these documents. I had asked for the medical records of people who had died. It took filing a lawsuit in federal court to compel the federal government to compel the Bureau of Prisons to move. And last year, I started to receive these files—which were later unredacted, in significant part—that told the stories of men who had died. The files also included the internal investigations and death reports for each of these men who died. And in many cases, the prisons themselves, the private contractors themselves, acknowledged in these reports that there had been failings.

In one case, the prison company, Management and Training Corporation, contracted to have a after-action report conducted, in anticipation of litigation. That litigation never happened. In fact, this family didn’t know that their—the mother, who’s in Mexico, didn’t know that her son had died for nearly a year. And when I called her, when I found her and I talked to her, she still didn’t know that her son had been locked up for illegal re-entry. That is, she said to me, “I thought he had done something terrible to land in a federal prison in the United States.” But, in fact, I told her why he was locked up.

This is a man who arrived at the prison very rapidly. It was very clear that he was entering into a state of real distress, hallucinating. He said that voices—he was hearing voices that told him to break a window. And he received no substantive mental healthcare, and then he killed himself in this prison, even after he wrote on an intake form that he had been taking drugs for mental illness, that he had committed—attempted suicide in the past, and a medical—a low-level provider saw that he had tried to cut himself previously.

Map of the day: Most distinctive causes of death


From the Centers for Disease Control, the most distinctive causes of death for each state between 2001 and 2010:

Counts for each cause of death included on the ICD-10 List of 113 Selected Causes of Death along with population sizes were obtained for each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia for 2001 through 2010 from the Underlying Cause of Death file accessible through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) WONDER (Wide-ranging Online Data for Epidemiologic Research) website. We also included subcauses of death contained in this file, such as specific types of cancer, which brought the total number of causes of death to 136. The standardized mortality rate ratio (ie, the ratio of the age-adjusted state-specific death rate for each cause of death relative to the national age-adjusted death rate for each cause of death, equivalent to a location quotient) was then calculated, and the maximum ratio for each state was mapped.

Counts for each cause of death included on the ICD-10 List of 113 Selected Causes of Death along with population sizes were obtained for each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia for 2001 through 2010 from the Underlying Cause of Death file accessible through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) WONDER (Wide-ranging Online Data for Epidemiologic Research) website. We also included subcauses of death contained in this file, such as specific types of cancer, which brought the total number of causes of death to 136. The standardized mortality rate ratio (ie, the ratio of the age-adjusted state-specific death rate for each cause of death relative to the national age-adjusted death rate for each cause of death, equivalent to a location quotient) was then calculated, and the maximum ratio for each state was mapped.

Headline of the day II: Fat chance of that, eh?


A screencap of the London Daily Mail homepage link to this story:

BLOG Zika

Map of the day: Colorado tick fever range, cases


From the Centers for Disease Control, charting a disease that causes campers, backpackers, and day hikers to conduct regular skin searches in search of eight-legged bloodsuckers:

Colorado tick fever (CTF) occurs in people who live in or visit areas where there are infected Dermacentor andersoni ticks. These ticks are found in the western United States or western Canada at elevations of 4,000‒10,000 feet above sea level. In the United States, a total of 83 CTF cases were reported to CDC from 2002 through 2012. CTF is not a nationally notifiable disease; however, several states require that CTF cases be reported to the state health department. As of January 2015, CTF was specifically reportable in six states: Arizona, Colorado, Montana, Oregon, Utah, and Wyoming. All state health departments are encouraged to report CTF cases to CDC on a voluntary basis.

Colorado tick fever (CTF) occurs in people who live in or visit areas where there are infected Dermacentor andersoni ticks. These ticks are found in the western United States or western Canada at elevations of 4,000‒10,000 feet above sea level. In the United States, a total of 83 CTF cases were reported to CDC from 2002 through 2012. CTF is not a nationally notifiable disease; however, several states require that CTF cases be reported to the state health department. As of January 2015, CTF was specifically reportable in six states: Arizona, Colorado, Montana, Oregon, Utah, and Wyoming. All state health departments are encouraged to report CTF cases to CDC on a voluntary basis.