Category Archives: Health

EnviroWatch: Outbreaks, water woes, food, nukes


The Guardian the latest measles hot spot:

Las Vegas confirms three new cases of measles linked to casino restaurant

  • Two staff members and patron of seafood restaurant at MGM Grand affected
  • Cases not linked to Disneyland outbreak that began in December

Three new cases of measles have been confirmed in Las Vegas, in people believed to have been infected by a contagious worker at an upscale MGM Grand Hotel and Casino seafood restaurant, Nevada public health officials said on Friday.

The newly diagnosed patients, two staff members and a patron of Emeril’s New Orleans Fish House at the MGM Grand, bring to nine the total number of measles cases reported in Clark County, the Southern Nevada health district spokeswoman, Jennifer Sizemore, said.

None of those cases are believed to be linked to an outbreak of measles that began at Disneyland in December, she said.

And from the Oakland Tribune, a measles alert about one of esnl’s favorite local eateries:

Person with measles dined at Berkeley restaurant, health officials warn

A person infected with measles dined at La Mediterranee restaurant in Berkeley last week, exposing hundreds of fellow diners to the infectious virus, a city health spokeswoman said Thursday.

The adult, a San Mateo resident, visited the popular Berkeley restaurant Feb. 20, between 6:45 p.m. and 8 p.m. Health officials said the person had not developed the telltale rash and was unaware of the infection. Symptoms can develop between 7 and 21 days after exposure to the virus.

Also on Thursday, BART officials warned that more than 1,000 riders may have been exposed to measles when an infected person rode the train last week, getting on a Richmond-bound train at Millbrae and getting off at Civic Center. The person was also described as a San Mateo resident, although privacy laws make it impossible to know if it is the same one.

From the Associated Press, fingering a Bosnian culprit:

Experts blame anti-vaccine lobby for Bosnia measles outbreak

Medical experts warned Friday the anti-vaccination lobby is growing in Bosnia, using scientifically discredited arguments to stoke parental fears in the worst-affected country in Europe’s measles outbreak.

This trend — combined with a generation that could not be immunized because of lack of vaccines during Bosnia’s 1992-95 war — has led to 5,340 measles cases in Bosnia, according to the World Health Organization.

“I am increasingly hearing from parents about their fears due to the stuff they read on the Internet,” Dr. Gordana Banduka, a pediatrician from Pale, near Sarajevo, told The Associated Press.

Bosnia’s immunization rate has fallen to just 87 percent, chief epidemiologist Jelena Ravlija said, below the 95 percent rate needed to prevent outbreaks.

Some good news about another lethal virus, via Medical News Today:

Researchers identify antibodies to fight Marburg virus

Two new studies have demonstrated how human antibodies can neutralize the Marburg virus, a highly lethal virus related to Ebola.

Antibodies have been found to bind to the surface of the virus, which could lead to future antibody treatments and vaccines to target Marburg and other viruses in the family.

Marburg virus is up to 90% lethal. Just like the Ebola virus, it can cause hemorrhaging and organ failure. An outbreak of the virus in Angola in 2005 was responsible for the deaths of 329 people, and the worry is that an even bigger outbreak could occur in the future.

“The good news is, humans do make antibodies when they are infected that can kill these viruses… which suggests that vaccines should work,” says Dr. James Crowe, lead author of one of the two studies published in Cell.

From the New York Times, and they’re surprised?:

U.S. Push for Abstinence in Africa Is Seen as Failure Against H.I.V.

The $1.3 billion that the United States government has spent since 2005 encouraging Africans to avoid AIDS by practicing abstinence and fidelity did not measurably change sexual behavior and was largely wasted, according to a study presented on the last day of an AIDS conference here.

The study, done by a second-year student at Stanford Medical School for a professor with an expertise in cost-benefit analyses, caused a major stir in the room where it was presented.

The researcher, Nathan Lo, analyzed records showing the age of people having sex for the first time, teenage pregnancy and number of sexual partners in international health surveys that have been paid for by the State Department since the 1970s.

And then there’s another health threat, via the Guardian:

Three cases of leprosy in eastern Florida ‘linked to armadillos’

  • Experts stress public has little cause for alarm
  • ‘There’s more interaction with armadillos than you might think’

Health officials on the east coast of Florida have diagnosed three cases of leprosy in the last five months, linking two of the cases to contact with armadillos. The small armored mammals are known to harbor the disease in the southern US.

The cases were confirmed in Volusia County, Florida, which is home to about 500,000 people and tourist cities such as Daytona Beach. Health officials believe the three cases developed independently.

Though such a cluster of cases of leprosy is uncommon, experts say the general public has little to worry about. About 95% of the population is not susceptible to leprosy, also called Hansen’s disease, which can be cured with antibiotics. Also, only the nine-banded armadillo carries leprosy. The common five-banded armadillo does not.

Another epidemic spreads, via Outbreak News Today:

Diphtheria surge in Sumatra city prompts vaccination drive

Health officials with the West Sumatra Health Agency have reported a surge of the very serious vaccine-preventable disease, diphtheria, in the city of Padang over the past month prompting a mass vaccination campaign.

“During the last four weeks, 28 cases of children with suspected diphtheria have been found, six of which tested positive for the diphtheria bacteria,” West Sumatra Health Agency head Rosnini Savitri said to the Jakarta Post.

In addition, two of the 6 confirmed cases died from the disease.

The health agency is targeting 254,000 children and adolescents aged between 2 months and 15 years for vaccination against diphtheria, the report notes.

Latin Correspondent covers a war declared against Big Food:

To fight diabetes crisis, Mexican civil society takes aim at junk food, Coca-Cola

With one-third of Mexican children likely to develop diabetes during their lifetime, a group of civic associations known as the Alliance for Healthy Food have called for the removal of junk food and related marketing from children’s lives.

The Alliance for Healthy Food’s mass media campaign, entitled “What did your children eat today?” aims to raise awareness of this health crisis, which is being fueled largely by excessive consumption of junk food and sugary drinks.

The campaign is targeted at parents, to encourage them to make better dietary choices for their children, and at lawmakers, to persuade them to pass more stringent legislation against junk food and sugary drink advertising that targets Mexican children.

Al Jazeera America covers an American economic health threat:

Suicides among middle-aged spiked after 2007, tied to economic downturn

  • Study shows that financial and legal troubles were increasingly a factor in US suicides after Great Recession

A sharp increase in suicide rates among middle-aged Americans in the years after 2007 is linked to economic troubles brought about by the financial crisis, according to a study published Friday in The American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

The number of Americans age 40 to 64 who take their own lives has risen by 40 percent since 1999, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And suicide rates for the age group have picked up markedly since the onset of the Great Recession, according to the report.

The increase comes despite the number of suicides leveling off over the same time frame for other age groups.

From JapanToday, Big Pharma behaving badly once again:

Novartis Japan hit with suspension failing to report drug side effects

Japanese health authorities said Friday that they have ordered the local unit of Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis to temporarily suspend its operations for failing to report drug side effects.

The health ministry’s 15-day suspension—reportedly a first for a pharmaceutical firm operating in Japan—means the company will not be able to sell most of its drugs during that period, which is to start from March 5.

Tokyo-based Novartis Pharma KK in December admitted it failed to promptly report more than 3,000 cases of adverse effects from about two dozen company drugs. Drugmakers are required to report serious side effects to the ministry within 15 to 30 days.

After the jump, a drug wars plan would deny a critically needed Third World medicine, another down side to digital media [What’s that? We can’t hear you. . .], California farmers denied water as drought drags on and what ground water there is faces illegal fracking and oil drilling waste contamination, Olympic-sized water woes in Rio, Americans see the climate change as a moral cause, the challenge of separating natural cycles from human causation in climate change, on to Fukushimapocalypse Now!, starting with soaring levels of radiation in the latest leaks, irradiated dirt transfers to commence, high radiation levels find in ocean fish near the site, and Kyoto signs a pact over a reactor restart, plus an avian threat to a Dutch town. . . Continue reading

EbolaWatch: Numbers, drugs, politics, warnings


We begin with the latest epidemiological curve from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, depicting the number of new cases for each week since the outbreak began:

BLOG Ebola curve

And the bottom line, via South Africa’s Independent Online:

WHO: 99 Ebola cases in past week

Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone reported 99 new confirmed Ebola cases in the week to February 22, down from 128 the previous week, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Wednesday.

Sierra Leone accounted for the bulk of the latest infections with 63, signalling a halt to a steep decline recorded from December through January, followed by Guinea with 35 and Liberia just a single case, the UN agency said in its weekly report.

“Cases continue to arise from unknown chains of transmission,” the WHO said. Sixteen of the new cases were identified in Guinea and Sierra Leone after post-mortem testing of people who died in the community “indicating that a significant number of individuals are still either unable or reluctant to seek treatment.”

The Associated Press covers a decision to come:

UN plans decision in August on mass Ebola vaccine program

The World Health Organization says a decision will be made in August whether to recommend a program of mass vaccination against Ebola in affected countries.

The U.N. health agency says an independent expert group will weigh the results of ongoing clinical trials, the state of the epidemic and the logistical challenges of carrying out such a program.

At the moment, two Ebola vaccines are being tested, but it’s unknown how effective they are or what dose might be needed to protect people against the deadly virus.

WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier said Friday a final decision about whether to conduct widespread immunization would be taken by the ministers of the countries involved.

On to Sierra Leone, first with a new hot spot, via the Guardian:

Ebola: Sierra Leone village in lockdown after 31 new cases recorded

  • Flare-up of virus in community just outside town of Makeni with WHO linking cases to one man who escaped quarantine in Freetown

Efforts to beat Ebola in Sierra Leone have been dealt a setback after 31 new cases were recorded in one village.

The community of 500 just outside the town of Makeni has now been put in lockdown by the army amid fears that more could be infected.

The World Health Organisation said cases had been linked to one man who escaped quarantine in Freetown to go to his village for treatment from a traditional faith healer.

The quarantine area is a fishing community, yards from the hotel where many workers from humanitarian agencies have stayed.

From the Sierra Leone Concord Times again, economics:

‘Ebola does not stop our economic activities’

- Bombali Peace Mothers declares

The Peace Mothers in Masabong Section in the Pakimasabong Chiefdom are one of the successful Peace Mother groups in Fambul Tok International’s operational areas in the Bombali District. Before the war, the community continued to be challenged by issues bordering on women’s participation in community development, gender and the rights of children. Women’s effective participation in development was more pervasive in that community where traditional practices in most cases overshadowed their participation.

After the war, it was very difficult for people to work together. There was an atmosphere of fear, grudge, suspicion, lack of cohesion and the initiative to undertake livelihood activities by community members, especially women.

After their healing and reconciliation ceremonies in 2011, the Peace Mothers initiated the idea of micro revolving loans. It all started with community members contributing money as revolve scheme amongst themselves in all 14 villages in the chiefdom.

While the government wants to call a halt to some economic activity, via the Sierra Leone Concord Times:

Port Loko residents defy public emergency orders

Youth leader of Port Loko town, Mohamed Kamara, has told Concord Times that residents of the north-western township were in the habit of going about trading well beyond the stipulated 6:00pm time stipulated by government, in defiance of presidential orders.

“The district is now deemed as the Ebola epicenter with high rate of deaths. We are calling on the authorities concerned to stop street trading at night,” Kamara pleaded.

However, Sergeant Ibrahim M. Sesay of the Port Loko police division said efforts were being made to put a stop to night trading in the township. “The police force is working hard to contain the Ebola viral disease in the entire Port Loko district and we will not condone lawlessness,” he said.

And the Thomson Reuters Foundation covers collateral damage:

Ebola halts HIV progress in Sierra Leone, says UN

The West African Ebola outbreak has halted progress in tackling HIV in Sierra Leone, shutting health clinics and scaring patients from being tested or seeking treatment, the United Nations has said.

In an internal document seen by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) raised concerns that HIV prevalence and drug resistance in the country could increase as a result.

The worst recorded outbreak of Ebola has killed more than 9,500 people, infected over 23,500 others and placed immense pressure on already weak health systems in hardest-hit Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia.

“Hospitals have closed down because they have been overrun by Ebola patients and non-Ebola patients are too afraid to go to them for fear of catching the virus,” said Hakan Bjorkman, who manages UNDP’s AIDS programme.

“HIV prevention activities in schools and awareness raising for the general population has been suspended due to the restriction of movement, the closure of all education institutions and the overall ban on public gathering.”

On to Liberia and a departure, via the New Dawn:

U.S. Joint Forces Command departs Saturday

The Joint Forces Command United Assistance of the U.S. 101st Airborne Division departs Liberia this Saturday, 28 February 2015 for the United State of America after five months of vigorous support to the Government of Liberia’s fight against the deadly Ebola virus.

Speaking Thursday at the Barclay Training Center in Monrovia, during a Color Casing Ceremony, the Commander of the Joint Forces Command United Assistance, Major/General Gary J. Volesky, said, the mission here was to support lead federal agency, the United States Agency for International Development or USAID, by providing unique military capabilities to help contain the virus and reduce the spread of Ebola in Liberia, and to execute the tasks with speed and flexibility that would not only help build confidence among Liberians that the virus could be defeated, but also help garner the support of the international community to also assist in the fight against the disease.

Gen. Volesky said, as the 101st  Airborne Division departs Liberia, the fight to getting to zero will still continue and the JFC has ensured that capabilities brought will be sustained in the future.  “ETU construction, health care workers training, and logistical sustainment operations for Ebola containment have been transitioned to reliable partners that will continue supporting the fight against the EVD”, he said.

From CCTV Africa, a video report on the pullout:

U.S. Military Ends Ebola Mission in Liberia

Program notes:

The Americans have ended their Ebola support mission in Liberia – four months ahead of schedule. The decision to withdraw comes due to the dramatic drop in the number of cases in the past month

The New York Times covers a plea:

Liberia’s President Urges U.S. to Continue Ebola Aid

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia on Friday urged the United States to maintain its assistance to her country as it continues to fight to recover from the Ebola outbreak, which began about one year ago.

In a meeting at the White House with President Obama, Ms. Johnson Sirleaf asked for help with power projects to keep the country’s hospitals and new treatment centers running, for clean water and sanitation facilities to stop the disease from spreading, and for road construction to make it easier for sick people in rural areas to get to hospitals.

“We can neither rest, nor lift our foot off the gas,” Ms. Johnson Sirleaf said on Thursday during an earlier event on Capitol Hill hosted by Senator Chris Coons, Democrat of Delaware. “We are determined to get to zero cases by April 15.”

AllAfrica covers help from Europe:

Liberia: EU Earmarks U.S.$326 Million for Liberia

The European Development Fund has allocated EUR 279 million (about US$326 million) to support Liberia’s development programs.

The funds will be divided and spread over good governance, energy, education and agriculture, according to a release from the European Union (EU) delegation to LiberiaThursday.

The release indicated that a high-level conference on Ebola will take place in Brussels on Tuesday, March 3, noting that the 11th European Development Fund National Indicative Program for Liberia 2014-2020 will be signed between Liberia and the EU during the conference.

From StarAfrica, a drug trial begins:

Liberia: Clinical study of Ebola trial drug begins

A full-scale clinical trial of the experimental Ebola Drug Zmapp commenced at the ELWA-II Ebola Treatment Unit (ETU) in Monrovia Friday, an official of the trial team has disclosed.

Dr Jerry Brown who is Liberia’s Co-principal Coordinator for the trial, said the trial process is a partnership initiative between the government and the U.S National Institute of Health.

Making the disclosure at the Ministry of Information’s daily Ebola press
briefings on Friday, Brown noted that the trial of the drug will target people who are confirmed positive of the disease.

He explained that the trial of the drug is intended to find a perfect cure for Ebola as well as authenticate whether if administered alone, the Zmapp drug can heal an affected patient.

And from FrontPageAfrica, pressing the press:

Liberian Journalists Cautioned On Ebola Trial Vaccine

The Communications Officer of the United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (Liberia), Madam Lisa White has called on Liberian journalists to properly research their information before putting it out for public consumption. She made a specific reference to journalists that are involved in reporting on Ebola victims.

Speaking at the Royal Grand Hotel in Monrovia Wednesday February 25, 2015 where she served as a facilitator at a media training workshop on the Ebola trial vaccine in Liberia, Madam White said verifying information before publication will help the public get accurate information. Journalists mainly attended the workshop from various media institutions in Liberia including the president of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) Abdullah Kamara.

She urged journalists to protect the identity of those who have been infected with the virus and their family members. Madam White frowned on the misapplication of photos being used by print media, citing an example of journalists using a dead body photo on their front pages, “We need to protect the family of the dead or Ebola infected from stigma, if we publish the photos of these individuals, we stigmatize their families for life,” she cautioned journalists.

And to close, a potential case from the New Dawn:

Bomi quarantines Catholic priest

Health authorities in Tubmanburg, Bomi County have quarantined a Catholic cleric, Father Gary Jenkins, to conduct Ebola tests on him, a correspondent for Monrovia-based Radio Veritas in Bomi says.

The clergy has however had his first test result come negative, and a second test was due to confirm his health status before he could possibly be discharged from the Ebola Treatment Unit in Tubmanburg, the correspondent adds.

The Veritas correspondent, who also manages a community radio in the county, reported on Thursday that Father Jenkins’ first Ebola test result came out on Wednesday, February 25, 2015. Father Jenkins is said to be a clergy at St. Dominic Catholic Parish in Tubmanburg, but so far there is no information available to this paper of any Ebola incident there.

And now for something completely different


This time, it’s a story about cancer and ‘shrooms, those wonderful little mushrooms from which we derive psilocybin, a drug that opens the doors of perception with a gentleness and thoroughness radically different from the harsher effects of LSD [at least from our own considerable experience back in the Sixties, and a few times since].

And we’ve had our own battle with a very serious form of cancer [and one not quite so serious as well]. Sadly, we were devoid of access to the mushrooms where we fought out battles prostate and bladder cancers, and this video will make clear why we regret that lack of access.

From the New Yorker:

Magic Mushrooms and the Healing Trip

Program notes:

Eddie Marritz, a cinematographer and photographer in remission from small-cell carcinoma, was a participant in one of N.Y.U.’s Psilocybin Cancer Anxiety research studies. Marritz, and the researchers, take us through the experience.

EnviroWatch: Outbreaks, pollution, water, nukes


We begin with consequences of an Indian outbreak, via the Guardian:

Swine flu fears cause Indian city of Ahmedabad to ban public gatherings

  • City of 3.5m will not allow more than four people to meet in public in an attempt to stop spread of potentially deadly virus

A west Indian city has banned most public gatherings in an attempt to halt the spread of swine flu, which has claimed at least 926 lives nationwide in 11 weeks.

Officials prohibited gatherings of five or more people in Ahmedabad, the capital of Gujarat state with a population of more than 3.5m.

Marriages and funerals are exempt from the ban, but participants will need to wear protective masks, officials said.

From the Guardian, toxic fowl:

Three-quarters of supermarket chickens carry food poisoning bug

  • Nearly one in five samples highly contaminated and none of major supermarkets met targets for reducing campylobacter

Three-quarters of fresh chickens on sale in supermarkets and butchers are contaminated with the potentially lethal food poisoning bug campylobacter, according to the latest results of food safety tests by the Food Standards Agency.

The worst contamination rates were found in Asda, where eight in 10 birds tested positive for the bug and nearly a third of fresh whole chickens were heavily contaminated.

But none of the major supermarkets met targets for reducing campylobacter and Tesco, where 68% of chickens tested positive, was the only retailer with results for heavy contamination below the industry average at 12%.

Another diseased fowl story from Environmental News Service:

Ticks Carrying Lyme Disease Discovered on California Birds

Ticks bearing the bacterium that causes Lyme disease are populating Northern California’s birds that then fly them into suburban areas, finds new research from the University of California, Berkeley.

Lyme disease is spread to humans through the bite of infected ticks. The black-legged deer tick, Ixodes scapularis, transmits the bacterium B. burgdorferi in the eastern and north-central regions of the United States, while the western black-legged tick, Ixodes pacificus, spreads the bacteria in the West.

Ticks usually infest animals such as white-footed mice, voles, other small rodents and deer. The UC Berkeley study reveals birds as an important newly-found reservoir in the western United States for the corkscrew-shaped bacterium.

“The role of birds in the maintenance of Lyme disease bacteria in California is poorly understood,” said the study’s lead author Erica Newman, a UC Berkeley PhD student in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management.

From Newswise, another deadly processed food problem:

Widely Used Food Additive Promotes Colitis, Obesity and Metabolic Syndrome, Research Shows

Emulsifiers, which are added to most processed foods to aid texture and extend shelf life, can alter the gut microbiota composition and localization to induce intestinal inflammation that promotes the development of inflammatory bowel disease and metabolic syndrome, new research shows.

The research, published Feb. 25 in Nature, was led by Georgia State University Institute for Biomedical Sciences’ researchers Drs. Benoit Chassaing and Andrew T. Gewirtz, and included contributions from Emory University, Cornell University and Bar-Ilan University in Israel.

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, afflicts millions of people and is often severe and debilitating. Metabolic syndrome is a group of very common obesity-related disorders that can lead to type-2 diabetes, cardiovascular and/or liver diseases. Incidence of IBD and metabolic syndrome has been markedly increasing since the mid-20th century.

The term “gut microbiota” refers to the diverse population of 100 trillion bacteria that inhabit the intestinal tract. Gut microbiota are disturbed in IBD and metabolic syndrome. Chassaing and Gewirtz’s findings suggest emulsifiers might be partially responsible for this disturbance and the increased incidence of these diseases.

“A key feature of these modern plagues is alteration of the gut microbiota in a manner that promotes inflammation,” says Gewirtz.

“The dramatic increase in these diseases has occurred despite consistent human genetics, suggesting a pivotal role for an environmental factor,” says Chassaing. “Food interacts intimately with the microbiota so we considered what modern additions to the food supply might possibly make gut bacteria more pro-inflammatory.”

From the National Geographic, the problem with plastics. . .all plastics:

Chemical in BPA-Free Products Linked to Irregular Heartbeats

  • New ingredient in plastic bottles, receipts has same effect on lab animals as the old chemical does

Many consumers avoid products that contain bisphenol-A (BPA) because the estrogen-imitating chemical has been linked to an array of health effects in people and animals. But new research published Thursday suggests that an ingredient that has replaced BPA in many items may have a similar effect on the heart.

BPA-free labels have been popping up on many plastic bottles, cash register receipts, food packaging, and other products.

Although the label implies a sense of safety, “our research suggests that BPS and potentially other BPA substitutes aren’t necessarily free of health problems,” said Hong-Sheng Wang, a professor of pharmacology at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.

Exposure to BPS, or bisphenol-S, caused irregular heartbeats in female lab rats, according to the study by Wang and colleagues published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. The findings were “remarkably similar—if not identical to—what we find in BPA,” Wang said.

From Newswise, some of the costs incurred from all those plastics and similar toxins:

Exposure to Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals Costs EU Billions Annually

  • Simulcast press conference highlights economic burden of exposure to EDCs

Human exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) likely contributes to a number of diseases and health conditions in the EU, with costs estimated between €150-260 billion per year (1.2-2.0% of Gross Domestic Product), according to a new series of studies to be published in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

EDCs are chemicals that interfere with hormone action and are commonly found in food and food containers, plastic products, furniture, toys, carpeting, building materials and cosmetics. EDCs include chemicals such as bisphenol A (water bottles, can linings), certain phthalates (various plastic products and cosmetics), and pesticides such as chlorpyrifos (used on a wide variety of food crops). They are often released from the products that contain them and enter the bodies of humans and wildlife through dust or through the food chain.

In these studies, researchers used available epidemiologic and toxicologic evidence to assess the economic burden of potential outcomes to EDC exposure, including: infertility and male reproductive dysfunctions, birth defects, obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and neurobehavioral and learning disorders.

From the New York Times, waist watchers:

Food Waste Is Becoming Serious Economic and Environmental Issue, Report Says

With millions of households across the country struggling to have enough to eat, and millions of tons of food being tossed in the garbage, food waste is increasingly being seen as a serious environmental and economic issue.

A report released Wednesday shows that about 60 million metric tons of food is wasted a year in the United States, with an estimated value of $162 billion. About 32 million metric tons of it end up in municipal landfills, at a cost of about $1.5 billion a year to local governments.

The problem is not limited to the United States.

The report estimates that a third of all the food produced in the world is never consumed, and the total cost of that food waste could be as high as $400 billion a year. Reducing food waste from 20 to 50 percent globally could save $120 billion to $300 billion a year by 2030, the report found.

The Sacramento Bee covers killer air in the heart of the Golden State:

Exposure to small particle pollution linked to heart-disease death

Data from about 8,000 women living in the Sacramento metropolitan area were used in a major study – released Wednesday – that linked death from heart disease to exposure to soot found in car exhaust, cooking smoke and diesel pollution.

The study, one of the most comprehensive to date, used data from the tracking of 100,000 middle-aged women in California between 2000 and 2007.

The study was conducted by the state’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, as well as UC Davis and other institutions. It found an association between areas where there are high levels of fine particle pollution, and shorter life spans and a risk of heart disease death.

From BBC News, a spreading amphibian disaster:

Killer frog disease: Chytrid fungus hits Madagascar

A devastating disease that has wiped out amphibians around the world has been discovered in Madagascar, scientists report.

A survey has found that the chytrid fungus is present in numerous sites, although it is not clear whether it is infecting frogs yet. The island is home to 500 frog species, and researchers fear they could be at significant risk.

The findings are published in the journal Scientific Reports. One of the authors, Goncalo Rosa, from the Zoological Society of London, said he was worried about the impact that the fungus could have.

“It is heartbreaking, especially when you have an idea of what is happening elsewhere in other tropical areas – you see the frogs are gone,” he told BBC News.

After the jump, GMO advocates launch a push in the U.K., toxic algae spread in freshwater lakes, China enacts a temporary [sadly] ivory ban, a new rhino protection patrol begins in South Africa, a fracking ban push abandoned in the Centennial State, dangerous methane craters erupting in the Arctic, then on to Fukushimapocalypse Now!, starting with a cynical leak apology, full approval for a temporary radioactive waste dump, nuclear power protesters hit with massive fines, radioactive disaster evacuation advice revised, and the tragic costs of mining reactor fuel. . . Continue reading

EbolaWatch: Numbers, warnings, cases, money


We begin with the latest numbers, via the World Health Organization [click on the image to enlarge]:

BLOG Ebola

Next, a warning from the U.N. News Center:

Amid uptick in Ebola cases, UN agency cites challenges in reaching affected communities

New cases of Ebola rose again in Guinea and transmission remains widespread in Sierra Leone, the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) reported as it and the UN Ebola response mission both raised concerns about challenges in engaging communities to win the fight against the disease.

Both WHO and UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER) also noted unsafe burials of those who died from the disease posed as a challenge and that “a significant number” of individuals are still either unable or reluctant to seek treatment for Ebola, which has affected over 23,500 people and killed more than 9,500 mainly in the Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

In its latest update issued Wednesday afternoon, WHO reported that new cases in Guinea continued to arise from “unknown chains of transmission” and that transmission remained “widespread in Sierra Leone” but transmission continued at very low levels in Liberia, with 1 new confirmed case reported in the 7 days to 22 February associated with a known chain of transmission.

“Engaging effectively with communities remains a challenge in several geographical areas,” WHO said in its most recent update Nearly one-third of prefectures in Guinea reported at least one security incident in the week to 22 February, often as a result of rumours and misinformation linking response efforts with the spread of EVD [Ebola Virus Disease], according to WHO.

From the Guardian, excoriation:

US quarantine for Ebola health workers ‘morally wrong’

  • Bioethics commission blasts 21-day confinement for medical staff and says government must prepare better for health emergencies

Quarantine restrictions imposed in the US on healthcare workers returning from saving lives in the Ebola epidemic in west Africa were morally wrong and counterproductive, according to Barack Obama’s bioethics commission.

A comprehensive report on the US response to Ebola at home and in Africa found there was no good scientific evidence for the mandatory 21-day quarantine imposed in states including Maine, which tried to confine nurse Kaci Hickox to her home on her return from Sierra Leone. Hickox defied the order and went for a bike ride, later challenging the restrictions in court and winning permission to move freely while regularly monitoring her temperature.

The presidential commission for the study of bioethical issues said the US must be better prepared for a future emergency, arguing that the federal government has a moral and prudential responsibility to get involved in the global response.

From the Guardian again, a notable example:

New York Ebola doctor criticises ‘vilification’ by politicians and media

  • Dr Craig Spencer says his case was ‘caught up in election season’
  • Controversy included quarantine rules imposed by Christie and Cuomo

Craig Spencer, the doctor who was found to have Ebola days after returning to New York City from Guinea, wrote in an essay published on Wednesday that he was mistakenly cast as a “fraud, a hipster, and a hero” by the media as he fought for his life from a hospital bed.

“The truth is I am none of those things,” Spencer wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine. “I’m just someone who answered a call for help and was lucky enough to survive.”

In the essay, Spencer details how his diagnosis and illness affected him physically and psychologically during the 19 days he spent recovering at New York’s Bellevue hospital.

“Though I didn’t know it then – I had no television and was too weak to read the news – during the first few days of my hospitalization, I was being vilified in the media even as my liver was failing and my fiancée was quarantined in our apartment,” he wrote.

GlobalPost covers strategy:

EU, African countries to convene on Ebola recovery

The European Union (EU) has invited African countries for a high level conference in Brussels to review current efforts of fighting Ebola and place a plan to help Liberia and the other African countries to recover from the hit of the disease.

An emailed EU statement reaching Xinhua on Thursday said the presidents and ministers of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Togo as well as representatives of the African Union Commission, the UN, the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) and the European Union will all be attending at the very highest level.

Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson- Sirleaf will co-chair the conference on Ebola and she will be speaking as spokesperson for the Mano River Union (MRU).

During this High Level Conference, the 11th European Development Fund National Indicative Program for Liberia 2014-2020 will be signed between Liberia and the EU.

From the New York Times, some notably good news:

Fatality Rate in West Africa Ebola Clinics Is Dropping

As the Ebola epidemic in West Africa wanes, physicians from Doctors Without Borders are confronting a mystery: More of their patients are surviving. They do not know why.

“The reasons are really unclear,” said Dr. Gilles van Cutsem, who helped run the agency’s response in Liberia and gave a presentation describing its experience at an AIDS conference here.

Doctors Without Borders, better known by its French name, Médecins Sans Frontières — has cared for more Ebola patients in West Africa than any other organization. At its peak, it was running 22 centers; it now runs eight.

Since last March, the average death rate at those remaining centers has dropped to 52 percent, from about 62 percent.

On to Liberia, first with a withdrawal from CBC News:

Ebola outbreak: U.S. military ends mission in Liberia months early

  • More than 4,000 Liberians have been killed by the virus

The U.S. military officially ended a mission to build treatment facilities to combat an Ebola outbreak in Liberia on Thursday, months earlier than expected, in the latest indication that a year-long epidemic in West Africa is waning.

Washington launched the mission five months ago and the force peaked at over 2,800 troops at a time when Liberia was at the epicentre of the worst Ebola epidemic on record.

“While our large scale military mission is ending…the fight to get to zero cases will continue and the (Joint Force Command) has ensured capabilities were brought that will be sustained in the future,” said U.S. Army Maj.- Gen. Gary Volesky.

The Monrovia Inquirer covers some numerical good news:

Only 2 Ebola Confirmed Cases Now…Mont. Goes 7 Days Without New Outbreak

It has been announced in Monrovia that of the nineteen Ebola Treatment Units (ETU) spread through the country, only two confirmed Ebola cases are being treated as of February 14, 2015.

Acting Information Minister, Isaac W. Jackson told the daily Ebola press briefing yesterday that this is an indication that Liberia is making significant progress in the fight against the Ebola demon.

Minister Jackson used the occasion to dispel rumors that there is a new outbreak of Ebola in Margibi County but noted that there were only two cases which have since been dealt with.

Minister Jackson also disclosed that for the past seven days there has been no new case of Ebola in Montserrado while Lofa County which was the epicenter for the outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) has had no new case in more than forty days.

More numbers, first from the New Dawn:

Liberian households return to work

-as Ebola wanes

The World Bank Group says nearly 20 percent of Liberians, who had stopped working since the Ebola crisis, have returned to work in the last month.

The Bank’s report is contained in its most recent round of cell-phone surveys, signaling both important progress and the magnitude of the challenge ahead.

The report, released Tuesday, described this improvement as an encouraging sign of a shift toward economic normalization, mainly driven by a large increase in wage work in urban areas.

According to the World Bank Group, a substantial percentage of those working pre-crisis remain out of work, however; those in self-employment continue to be the hardest hit by the Ebola crisis, pointing to a lack of working capital and a lack of customers as the main barriers to their operation.

More from AllAfrica:

Liberia: World Bank Spots Food Insecurity in Liberia

The World Bank says food insecurity will persists nationwide in Liberia as nearly three-quarters of households are worried over enough harvest to eat.

The World Bank in a release noted that despite improvement in the outlook of Ebola cases in the country, agriculture remains a concern as nearly 65 percent of agricultural households surveyed believe that their harvest would be smaller than the previous year.

However, the 65 percent fear is a decrease from the 80 percent in the previous survey in December 2014.

The survey noted labor shortages and households inability to work in groups.

After the jump, giving the press a vaccination briefing, finds for assessing psychological impacts, on to Guinea and a debunking of deadly Ebola myths, on to Sierra Leone and a call for a corruption purge and a case of missing connections. . .   Continue reading

EbolaWatch: Numbers, cases, fears, & cases


We begin with the latest numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

BLOG Ebola

From the Guardian, an enduring presence:

Ebola endemic risk remains in west Africa, scientists warn

  • Virus remains in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia after more than a year, causing concern among health experts

Scientists are warning of a real risk that the Ebola virus disease could become endemic in west Africa if efforts to end the epidemic slacken as the number of cases falls.

All previous outbreaks of Ebola were stamped out within months and the virus disappeared from the human population each time. Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, however, have been in the grip of the virus for more than a year. While the numbers of cases dropped dramatically in December and early January, they have now plateaued and there are fears that the disease may not be totally eradicated.

“There is that risk,” said Prof Mike Turner, head of infections at the Wellcome Trust. “You can’t quantify how great that risk is but that risk is there. It is not going to be a smooth ride.”

Another alarm from Britain, via the London Telegraph:

British health worker monitored for Ebola after Sierra Leone needle-stick injury

  • Public Health England says worker who may have had contact with deadly virus in Sierra Leone transferred to Royal Free Hospital in London after returning to UK

A British health worker has been brought back to the UK for monitoring after potentially being exposed to Ebola from a needle-stick injury.

Public Health England (PHE) said the worker, who may have had contact with the deadly virus in Sierra Leone, does not currently have any symptoms.

After arriving back in the UK on Wednesday, the worker was transferred to the Royal Free Hospital in London for assessment and they will continue to be monitored for signs of the disease.

From BBC News, on to Sierra Leone and a notable casualty:

Ebola crisis: Sierra Leone’s Augustine Baker dies

A Sierra Leonean who worked with children orphaned by Ebola has died of the disease himself. Augustine Baker had been admitted to an Ebola treatment centre after becoming ill last week.

He had worked for an orphanage run by a UK charity on the outskirts of Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown.

Thirty-three children and seven staff at the St George Foundation orphanage have been in quarantine since Mr Baker was diagnosed with the deadly virus.

From StarAfrica, a change contemplated:

S/Leone govt contemplating re-opening border

The Sierra Leone government is on consultation as to whether to re-open its borders with neighboring Liberia, an official was quoted saying Wednesday.”I’m sure there are consultations, perhaps at State House,” Deputy Minister of Information, Mr Theo Nicol, told the bi-weekly Politico newspaper.

He said whenever a decision was taken, it will be announced.

This followed reports that Liberia which like Sierra Leone was ravaged by the Ebola epidemic last year, re-opened its land borders after over year.

And from AllAfrica, help enlisted:

Sierra Leone: Traditional and Religious Leaders to Champion New Ebola Vaccine Study in Sierra Leone

Tribal Heads, Religious Leaders and Ward Councillors in the Western Area have been briefed about the new Ebola Prevention Vaccine (marklate) to be introduce in Sierra Leone in March this year.

Addressing the stakeholders meeting at the Miatta Conference Hall in Freetown on Thursday February 2015, the Acting Provost, Principal College of Medicines and Allied Health Sciences and Principal Investigator, Dr. Mohamed Samai told his audience that the vaccine is important because it might help protect people from getting Ebola during this outbreak and future ones in helping to save lives.

The goal of the study in Sierra Leone, Dr. Samai said, aims at evaluating how well an Ebola prevention vaccine helps protect people from getting Ebola, and to expand the safety profile of the vaccine from previous smaller studies. This and other Ebola prevention vaccines he said are being studied in other African countries, the USA, Canada and Europe.

On to Liberia and a campaign begun, via the Liberian Observer:

ABIC Launches Ebola Awareness in Bong County

As Ebola continues to decline in Liberia, the Angie Brooks International Center for Women’s Empowerment (ABIC) has launched a two-week anti-Ebola awareness campaign for marketers and residents in Gbarnga, Bong County.

The launching last Sunday brought together market women, town chiefs and community dwellers.

ABIC’s Project Manager, Mrs.  Henrietta Tolbert, said the awareness campaign is focusing on market women in the county’s capital, Gbarnga, and in remote parts of the County. The aim is to educate women about the dangers of the virus and show them the preventive measures that will keep them safe.

From the New Dawn, the latest chapter in a sadly familiar story:

Ganta Ebola Taskforce demands benefits

Members of the Ganta Ebola taskforce in Nimba County are demanding allowance and benefits from Government. The aggrieved taskforce members in Ganta claim the Government has given other Ebola affected counties some money, so they need their share.

Most of the staff members at the Ganta Ebola taskforce are non-medical personnel assigned in the Ebola Treatment Unit or ETU.

The Ganta ETU attracted hundreds of jobseekers, mainly motorcyclists, school teachers and farmers, among others during the peak of the outbreak last year.

During the heat of the Ebola outbreak, Ganta was one of those areas in the county that were highly affected with residents migrating from the commercial city into the bushes.

From the Liberian Observer, Ebolaphobia in Canada:

Ebola Stigma Deprives Liberian Student in Canada

  • Over 500 Petition Canadian Gov’t

There are clear signs that the fight against the Ebola virus disease (EVD) is being won in Liberia. The fight, however, does not end there.  Despite all the gains here on the ground, Liberians in other parts of the world are being stigmatized, hampering even their educational pursuits.

Indeed, the other battle after the initial success of the containment of the deadly virus has to do with discrimination and stigmatization against citizens of the three worst affected countries, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. The world, therefore, needs to gear up to begin this other battle.

Citizens from these three countries, especially those who were resident before the outbreak of the scourge, have been ostracized and discriminated against with travel bans, rejections at universities and intimidation in public places. Several have also been detained at foreign airports and left unfed for days.

From StarAfrica, another needed initiative:

Liberia: Ebola Psychological Support Project launched

The Liberian government and the World Bank Group in partnership with the government of Japan, Wednesday launched a new $3 million project to address the psychological effects caused by the Ebola epidemic and promote psychosocial health among its citizens.

The project, Supporting Psychosocial Health and Resilience in Liberia, is funded by Japan through the Japanese Social Development Fund (JSDF), a trust fund administered by the World Bank.

According to a World Bank statement issued on Wednesday, the Carter Center will implement the three-year project which is expected to benefit approximately 18,000 people in Montserrado which hosts the capital Monrovia and Margibi counties.

World Bank Liberia Country Manager Inguna Dobraja said: “the Psychosocial Health and Resilience project will respond to the most urgent psychosocial and mental health needs of the Ebola crisis, and will contribute to building psychosocial resilience at the individual and community level.”

And from the New Dawn, training:

IPC trains 7,000 health workers

The Infection and Prevention Control (IPC) taskforce at the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare has trained over 7,000 health care workers across the country.

The IPC is a taskforce within the Ministry of Health that is tasked to support government’s initiatives in eradicating the Ebola Virus Disease. According to the IPC, during the peak of the deadly Ebola virus, many health practitioners rushed into ETUs without sufficient knowledge of the virus.

Speaking Tuesday, February 24, 2015 at the daily press briefings hosted by the Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism in Monrovia, the chairperson for the Infection and Prevention Control, Madam Catherine Cooper, said, the IPC is a special taskforce set up by the Government through the Health Ministry last September to respond to various diseases in the country.

Chart of the day II: Hospital acquired infections


Who gets them and where, via Reuters:

BLOG Hospitals