Category Archives: Health

Zika may cause adult memory loss, depression


Zika in the adult brain: Illumination of the fluorescent biomarker in green revealed that Zika can infect the adult mouse brain in a region full of neural progenitor cells, which play an important role in learning and memory.

Zika in the adult brain: Illumination of the fluorescent biomarker in green revealed that Zika can infect the adult mouse brain in a region full of neural progenitor cells, which play an important role in learning and memory. From the study.

Zika, the mosquito-borne virus that spread from West Africa to Latin America and the Western Pacific and resident in Florida, not only causes shrunken skulls and damaged brain in infants born to infected mothers. It may also cause depression and Alzheimer’s-like memory loss in adults.

That’s the disturbing finding of new research on the impact of the virus on the human brain.

From the Rockefeller University:

Concerns over the Zika virus have focused on pregnant women due to mounting evidence that it causes brain abnormalities in developing fetuses. However, new research in mice from scientists at The Rockefeller University and La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology suggests that certain adult brain cells may be vulnerable to infection as well. Among these are populations of cells that serve to replace lost or damaged neurons throughout adulthood, and are also thought to be critical to learning and memory.

“This is the first study looking at the effect of Zika infection on the adult brain,” says Joseph Gleeson, adjunct professor at Rockefeller, head of the Laboratory of Pediatric Brain Disease, and Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. “Based on our findings, getting infected with Zika as an adult may not be as innocuous as people think.”

Although more research is needed to determine if this damage has long-term biological implications or the potential to affect behavior, the findings suggest the possibility that the Zika virus, which has become widespread in Central and South America over the past eight months, may be more harmful than previously believed. The new findings were published in Cell Stem Cell[open access] on August 18.

“Zika can clearly enter the brain of adults and can wreak havoc,” says Sujan Shresta, a professor at the La Jolla Institute of Allergy and Immunology. “But it’s a complex disease—it’s catastrophic for early brain development, yet the majority of adults who are infected with Zika rarely show detectable symptoms. Its effect on the adult brain may be more subtle, and now we know what to look for.”

Neuronal progenitors

Early in gestation, before our brains have developed into a complex organ with specialized zones, they are comprised entirely of neural progenitor cells. With the capability to replenish the brain’s neurons throughout its lifetime, these are the stem cells of the brain. In healthy individuals, neural progenitor cells eventually become fully formed neurons, and it is thought that at some point along this progression they become resistant to Zika, explaining why adults appear less susceptible to the disease.

But current evidence suggests that Zika targets neural progenitor cells, leading to loss of these cells and to reduced brain volume. This closely mirrors what is seen in microcephaly, a developmental condition linked to Zika infection in developing fetuses that results in a smaller-than-normal head and a wide variety of developmental disabilities.

The mature brain retains niches of these neural progenitor cells that appear to be especially impacted by Zika. These niches—in mice they exist primarily in two regions, the subventricular zone of the anterior forebrain and the subgranular zone of the hippocampus—are vital for learning and memory.

There’s more, after the jump. . . Continue reading

CDC warns pregnant women to avoid Miami


And the reason is local mosquitoes are now carrying Zika, a virus capable of causing birth defects, including abnormally small skulls [microcephaly].

From the Centers for Disease Control:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been working with Florida health officials on investigating cases of locally transmitted Zika virus. An additional area of active Zika transmission has been identified in a section of Miami Beach, in addition to the area of active Zika transmission near Wynwood. The Florida Department of Health has also identified at least four other instances of apparently mosquito-borne Zika in Miami-Dade County, and has reported an increase in travel-related cases.

Based on this new information, CDC and Florida health officials are now recommending the following:

  • Pregnant women should avoid travel to the designated area of Miami Beach, in addition to the designated area of Wynwood, both located in Miami-Dade County, because active local transmission of Zika has been confirmed.
  • Pregnant women and their partners living in or who must travel to the designated areas should be aware of active Zika virus transmission and follow steps to prevent mosquito bites.
  • Women and men who live in or who have traveled to the designated area of Miami Beach since July 14, 2016 should be aware of active Zika virus transmission; pregnant women should see their doctor or other healthcare provider about getting tested for Zika; and people who have a pregnant sex partner should consistently and correctly use condoms to prevent infection during sex or avoid having sex for the duration of the pregnancy.
  • Pregnant women and their sexual partners who are concerned about potential Zika virus exposure may also consider postponing nonessential travel to all parts of Miami-Dade County.
  • All pregnant women in the United States should be evaluated for possible Zika virus exposure during each prenatal care visit.  Each evaluation should include an assessment of signs and symptoms of Zika virus disease (acute onset of fever, rash, arthralgia, conjunctivitis); their travel history; as well as their sexual partner’s potential exposure to Zika virus and history of any illness consistent with Zika virus disease to determine whether Zika virus testing is indicated.
  • Women with Zika should wait at least 8 weeks after symptoms start before trying to get pregnant.
  • Men with Zika should wait at least 6 months after symptoms start before couples try to get pregnant.
  • Women and men without confirmed Zika who traveled to this area should wait at least 8 weeks before trying to get pregnant.
  • Women and men who live in or frequently travel to this area and who do not have signs or symptoms of Zika should talk to their healthcare provider to inform their decisions about timing of pregnancy.

Fluoridated water linked to Type II diabetes


Way back in the 1960s, ultra-Right wing groups published screeds attacking integration, looked for commies under every bed, and otherwise fostered a culture of racism, intolerance, and ignorance.

One of their pet hates was water fluoridation, as Congressional Quarterly noted back in 1965:

The extremist groups that are active today are constantly uncovering “plots” aimed at undermining the United States. Water fluoridation, for example, is condemned as a Communist scheme to addle American brains in preparation for a Red takeover. Civil rights activity is likewise asserted to be directed by the Kremlin.

But nowadays even the libertarian magazine Reason gives its blessing to water fluoridation, noting:

On balance the scientific evidence seems to indicate that fluoridation is a safe and effective way to prevent tooth decay. Of course, that doesn’t mean that future studies will not identify problems–research is always subject to revision. However it is highly likely that, after 50 years of use by millions of people, any truly major health problems resulting from fluoridation would already have made themselves evident.

But new evidence revels that, while not a Soviet mind control agent, fluoridated water may be a factor in the growing spread of Type II diabetes, the adult onset version caused, according to conventional wisdom, by obesity and lack of exercise.

From Case Western Reserve University:

Water fluoridation prevents dental cavities, which are a costly public health concern. But despite the benefits supplemental water fluoridation remains a controversial subject. Some indicate it may cause long term health problems, but studies reporting side effects have been minimal or inconclusive. The long-term effects of ingested fluoride remain unclear.

A recent study published in the Journal of Water and Health examined links between water fluoridation and diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is a growing epidemic in the United States. Incidence rates have nearly quadrupled in the past 32 years and show no signs of stopping. According to the study, fluoridation with sodium fluoride could be a contributing factor to diabetes rates in the United States, as the chemical is a known preservative of blood glucose.

The sole author of the paper, Kyle Fluegge, PhD, performed the study as a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. Fluegge now serves as health economist in the Division of Disease Control for the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and co-director of the Institute of Health and Environmental Research in Cleveland, Ohio.

In the study, Fluegge used mathematical models to analyze publicly available data on fluoride water levels and diabetes incidence and prevalence rates across 22 states. He also included adjustments for obesity and physical inactivity collected from national telephone surveys to help rule out confounding factors. Two sets of regression analyses suggested that supplemental water fluoridation was significantly associated with increases in diabetes between 2005 and 2010.

“The models look at the outcomes of [diabetes] incidence and prevalence being predicted by both natural and added fluoride,” said Fluegge.

Fluegge reported that a one milligram increase in average county fluoride levels predicted a 0.17% increase in age-adjusted diabetes prevalence. Digging deeper revealed differences between the types of fluoride additives used by each region. The additives linked to diabetes in the analyses included sodium fluoride and sodium fluorosilicate. Fluorosilicic acid seemed to have an opposing effect and was associated with decreases in diabetes incidence and prevalence. Counties that relied on naturally occurring fluoride in their water and did not supplement with fluoride additives also had lower diabetes rates.

There’s more, after the jump. . . Continue reading

Map of the day: European nuclear disaster risks


From Views of the World, the blog of Benjamin Hennig, Senior Research Fellow in the School of Geography and the Environment at Oxford University:

BLOG Nukes

The explanation, from his blog:

The cartogram shown above displays locations of nuclear power plants in Europe taken from an IAEA database of nuclear reactors published by the Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN) at Columbia University. This database includes facilities which are at varying stages of decommissioning which is a time-intensive and expensive process due to its continuing hazards.

In addition to the locations of the nuclear plants, circles of 20/30 and 80 kilometre distances are drawn around as the immediate risk zones. The underlying basemap uses a gridded cartogram based on equal population projection to put the differing exposures of populations into perspective. Each circle of equal distance is resized relative to the number of people living in the vicinity of each nuclear power plant. The locations of the most severe incidents above INES level 5 that happened in Europe are highlighted in the map, including the Chernobyl disaster which happened 30 years ago. An additional inset map shows the distribution of nuclear sites in the United Kingdom on a conventional map in comparison to a gridded population cartogram in more detail.

Ethnic divides mark parental health anxieties


BLOG Chart

A survey of American parents reveals marked differences the the health anxieties parents harbor for their children, but two digital age worries, sexting and Internet safety, make the top ten lists for black, Hispanic, and Anglo parents alike.

Interestingly, school violence doesn’t make the list for white parents, though it does from Hispanics and African Americans, while worries racial inequalities, high on the list of black parental concerns, the anxiety doesn’t make the lists of the other two groups.

From the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health:

In the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health 2016 survey of child health concerns, a national sample of adults reported numerous mental health issues as “big problems” for US children and teens aged 0-17 years. Overall, 7 of the Top 10 concerns reflect children’s mental health: either specific mental health problems (depression, stress and suicide) or issues that often have an underlying mental health component (bullying, obesity, drug abuse, school violence).

When the 2016 Top 10 results are presented separately by the racial/ethnic groups of the adults responding, bullying is the #1 concern among black and Hispanic adults, and #2 among white adults. However, the poll shows some key differences across racial/ethnic groups:

  • For black adults, racial inequities and school violence are the #2 and #3 health concerns – neither of which appears in the Top 10 list for white adults.
  • Black adults are the only group with gun injuries and hunger ranked in the Top 10.
  • Childhood obesity and drug abuse are in the top three “big problems” for white and Hispanic adults, but lower on the list for black adults.
  • Teen pregnancy appears in the Top 10 among Hispanic adults, but not among black or white adults.
  • While depression ranks #9 or #10 across all racial/ethnic groups, only white adults have suicide in the Top 10.

Differences in Concerns about Racial Inequities, Suicide

Consistently, black and Hispanic adults are more likely than white adults to label health topics as a “big problem.” However, the magnitude of the disparity differs across topics. For example, a large gap exists between black adults (61%) and white adults (17%) citing racial inequities as a “big problem” for US children. A smaller difference is seen for suicide (53% of Hispanic adults vs 36% of white adults).

Implications

This 10th annual Top 10 survey reveals key differences across racial/ethnic groups in the issues viewed as “big problems” for children – reflecting how contemporary topics vary in importance to different communities.

Comparing the Top 10 lists across racial/ethnic groups helps to illustrate this point. For black adults, the emergence of racial inequities, school violence and gun injuries in the Top 10 mirrors national attention regarding the safety of black youth. The presence of teen pregnancy as a Top 10 child health concern among Hispanic adults may reflect cultural attitudes unique to that group. For white adults, the presence of suicide at #8 reflects the importance of this mental health issue, relative to other concerns.

Black and Hispanic adults were more likely than white adults to rate all topics as a “big problem” for US children and teens. But the magnitude of the difference varied, from large differences in black vs white views of racial inequities as child health concerns, to fairly similar ratings of suicide.

This year, several Top 10 concerns directly relate to the mental health of children. Concerns about bullying, stress, suicide and depression reflect increased attention to the complexities that affect many aspects of childhood including school performance, peer and family relationships, and successful transition to adulthood. Mental health issues can also increase children’s risk for obesity, drug abuse, and other health problems. The broad recognition of mental health as a key child health concern supports the importance of ensuring access to mental health services for all US children.

Data Source

This report presents findings from a nationally representative household survey conducted exclusively by GfK Custom Research, LLC (GfK), for C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital via a method used in many published studies.  The survey was administered in May 2016 to a randomly selected, stratified group of adults age 18 and older (n=2,100). Adults were selected from GfK’s web-enabled KnowledgePanel® that closely resembles the U.S. population. The sample was subsequently weighted to reflect population figures from the Census Bureau. The survey completion rate was 63% among panel members contacted to participate. The margin of error is ± 3-12 percentage points.

ChevronTexaco’s deadly Ecuadorian legacy


During our years reporting for the Berkeley Daily Planet, we wrote any number of stories about the Chevron refinery in nearby Richmond on the shores of San Francisco Bay.

As the dominant economic power in a city on of the region’s poorest city, one with a large minority population and in a state of economic implosion, the company was the target of considerable community concerns about fires [they had ‘em] and pollution.

The firm was represented by Willie Brown, the former powerful speaker of the lower house of the legislature of the richest and most populous state in the country, the same Willie Brown casino developers hired to sell the black population of Atlantic City on the ballot measure that legalized casinos there. Willie promised them jobs and good housing; they got neither.

Sophisticated at public relations and press-spinning, Chevron played a dominant role in funding city council elections and turning out supporters, sometimes financed by contributions to churches and other organizations, to ensure their messages got across at city council meetings.

But Richmond’s concerns pale compared to those experienced by thousands of Ecuadorians, the subject of former Bay Area journalist Abby Martin’s latest episode of her series for teleSUR English:

The Empire Files: Chevron vs. the Amazon – Inside the Killzone

Program notes:

A U.S. court just handed another victory to the oil giant Chevron Texaco, in its decades-long battle to avoid paying damages it owes in one of the worst environmental disasters in history. In the Ecuadorean Amazon, the most biodiverse area of the world, the energy titan deliberately poisoned 5 million acres of pristine habitat and subjected tens of thousands of indigenous peoples to destruction of their health and culture. In Part 1 of ‘Chevron vs. the Amazon,’ Abby Martin takes The Empire Files inside Chevron Texaco’s Amazon killzone to see the areas deemed “remediated” by Chevron, and spoke with the people living in the aftermath.

Chart of the day II: Florida’s Zika cases rise again


Zika cases contracted in Florida, concentrated in a trendy square-mile area of Miami, are continuing to rise, and one new case appears to have been contracted outside the area where mosquito abatement efforts have intensified.

From the latest Florida Department of Health Daily Zika Update:

BLOIG Florida Zika