And more. . .
We begin with the Thomson Reuters Foundation and a call worthy of heeding:
Diseases affecting the poorest can be eliminated, scientists say
The World Health Organization (WHO) on Thursday urged developing countries to invest more in tackling so-called neglected tropical diseases such as yaws, saying more investment would alleviate human misery and free people trapped in poverty.
Yaws affects mainly children and causes unsightly skin ulcers and painful bone infections that can make walking difficult. In some rare cases it can eat away people’s noses.
At least 50 million people were affected by the bacterial infection in the 1950s. When the WHO launched mass treatment campaigns with penicillin vaccines, the number of cases plummeted by 95 percent by the end of the 1960s, according to David Mabey, an expert in yaws and professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
“But then it fell off the agenda. And we’re trying to put it back on,” Mabey said in an interview.
A video report from Agence France-Presse:
WHO urges billions to fight neglected tropical diseases
The World Health Organization urges countries to invest billions of dollars to tackle 17 neglected tropical diseases – including dengue fever, leprosy and sleeping sickness – which kill 500,000 people globally each year.
From Medical Daily, a measles update:
California Confirms 119 Cases Of Measles In State
Public health officials said on Wednesday that six more cases of measles had been confirmed in California, bringing to 119 the total number of people infected by a strain of the virus that has also been linked to a large outbreak in the Philippines.
More than 150 people across the United States have been diagnosed with measles, many of them linked to the wave of illness that authorities believe began when an infected person from out of the country visited Disneyland in late December.
California Department of Public Health researchers, in a report to federal officials released on Friday, said that specimens from 30 of the state’s measles patients had been genotyped and that all were of the same strain that has caused an outbreak in the Philippines.
A serious outbreak at a renowned hospital via the Los Angeles Times:
Superbug outbreak at UCLA: FDA warns medical scopes may spread deadly bacteria
The Food and Drug Administration warned hospitals and medical providers Thursday morning that a commonly used medical scope may have facilitated the deadly outbreak of a superbug at UCLA.
The warning posted by the federal agency comes after a Los Angeles Times report that two people who died at UCLA’s Ronald Reagan Medical Center were among seven patients there infected by a drug-resistant superbug. Hundreds of patients at medical centers around the country, including Seattle’s Virginia Mason Medical Center, may have been exposed to the bacteria after physicians used the scopes in their treatment.
The FDA cautioned that the design of the scopes may make them more difficult to effectively clean. And the agency called on medical providers to meticulously wash the devices.
But even washing the scopes may not be adequate, the FDA warned. “Meticulously cleaning duodenoscopes prior to high-level disinfection should reduce the risk of transmitting infection, but may not entirely eliminate it,” the warning noted.
More from BBC News:
Nearly 180 people at a Los Angeles hospital may have been exposed to a deadly strain of bacteria from contaminated medical equipment. Two deaths at UCLA Medical Center have been linked to the case and seven others are being treated.
The patients were exposed to Carbapenem-Resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) during endoscopic procedures between October and January. A similar outbreak was reported last month in Seattle. Eleven patients died.
The infections are difficult to treat because many strains are resistant to antibiotics.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that CRE can lead to death in up to half of seriously infected patients.
An infectious disease abated, via StarAfrica:
Somalia being polio free for six months-UN
Somalia is marking six months since the last polio case was recorded in the country following an outbreak that affected 199 people, mostly children, reports said on Thursday.Polio was detected in Somalia in May 2013, for the first time in six years, after parents of a two-year-old girl in Mogadishu found she was unable to walk.
The virus, which can cause paralysis or even death, spread quickly affecting 194 people in 2013.
However, the number was contained to just five cases in 2014, one of them an adult who died, all in the remote Mudug region of Puntland, north-eastern Somalia. The last case was reported in Hobyo district, Mudug on 11 August 2014.
Since the outbreak began, the authorities, with the support of the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) have targeted more than 2 million children under the age of five for vaccinations as well as children aged from five to 10 and adults in some areas.
A notable vaccine trial in Africa, via Outbreak News Today:
HIV vaccine trial, HVTN 100, launches in South Africa
A clinical trial called HVTN 100 has been launched in South Africa to study an investigational HIV vaccine regimen for safety and the immune responses it generates in study participants. This experimental vaccine regimen is based on the one tested in the U.S. Military HIV Research Program-led
RV144 clinical trial in Thailand—the first study to demonstrate that a vaccine can protect people from HIV infection. The HVTN 100 vaccine regimen was designed to provide greater protection than the RV144 regimen and has been adapted to the HIV subtype that predominates in southern Africa. The results of the HVTN 100 trial, expected in two years, will help determine whether or not this vaccine regimen will be tested for efficacy in a large future study in South Africa.
“A safe and effective HIV vaccine is essential to reach a timely, sustained end to the HIV/AIDS pandemic,” said Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health. “The launch of HVTN 100 marks an important step forward in building upon the promising results of the RV144 trial to produce an HIV vaccine that could have a significant public health impact in southern Africa, where the HIV/AIDS pandemic is most pervasive.”
A Florida GMO fight takes wing, via New York Times:
Battle Rises in Florida Keys Over Fighting Mosquitoes With Mosquitoes
In this bite-size community near Key West, like so many other mosquito-plagued spots up and down the Florida Keys, residents long ago made peace with insecticides dropped into town by planes or rumbling by on trucks. Cans of Off are offered at outdoor parties. Patio screens are greeted with relief.
But Keys residents are far less enamored of another approach to mosquito control — a proposal to release the nation’s first genetically modified mosquitoes, hatched in a lab and pumped with synthetic DNA to try to combat two painful, mosquito-borne viral diseases, dengue and chikungunya.
If the federal Food and Drug Administration gives the go-ahead for the trial, Key Haven, with 444 houses built on a tiny peninsula, would become the focal point of the first American release of several million mosquitoes genetically altered by Oxitec, a British biotechnology company.
For denizens of a chain of islands notorious for their renegade spirit — Key West once jokingly broke away from the United States as the Conch Republic — this possibility is fraught with suspicion and indignation.
More flame retardant toxic concerns, via Newswise:
Flame Retardants Found to Cause Metabolic, Liver Problems
- Findings Suggest Strong Link to Insulin Resistance, Obesity
Chemicals used as synthetic flame retardants that are found in common household items such as couches, carpet padding, and electronics have been found to cause metabolic and liver problems that can lead to insulin resistance, which is a major cause of obesity, according to new research from the University of New Hampshire.
“Being obese or overweight increases one’s risk of many diseases including Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, stroke, gall bladder disease, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea and certain cancers,” said Gale Carey, professor of nutrition and the lead researcher. In 2003, overweight and obesity-related medical expenses were 9.1 percent of total U.S. medical expenses at about $80 billion. New Hampshire’s portion of this expense was $302 million.
Carey and her team of researchers found that laboratory rats exposed to polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs, experienced a disruption in their metabolism that resulted in the development of metabolic obesity and enlarged livers.
“Despite the plethora of resources devoted to understanding the roles of diet and exercise in the obesity epidemic, this epidemic continues to escalate, suggesting that other environmental factors may be involved. At the biochemical level there is a growing body of experimental evidence suggesting certain environmental chemicals, or ‘obesogens’, could disrupt the body’s metabolism and contribute to the obesity epidemic,” she said.
Mashable covers a notable African health win:
How Guinea worm disease went from 3 million cases to 126
In the late 1980s, Guinea worm disease — a nasty, parasitic infection caused from drinking contaminated water — affected more than 3 million people in Africa. Now, only 126 cases remain.
From Newswise, toxic concerns in the laundry room:
Laundry Detergent Pods: What You Need to Know
Laundry detergent pods became available on the US market in 2010 and are easy to use. They are a single detergent packet that can be easily dropped into a load of laundry. These pods contain highly concentrated detergents wrapped in a thin film that easily dissolves in water. They may resemble a small, brightly colored piece of candy which may be easily mistaken by children. These pods can also break when light pressure is applied to them. The appeal and design of laundry detergent pods has already resulted in many reported poisonings among children.
What do laundry detergent pods contain that is so toxic and what are the symptoms of exposure?
The film that surrounds the pod is often made of polyvinyl alcohol. It acts as a poor barrier between the person handling the pod and the detergents inside. The film dissolves easily and is safe for washing clothes. The detergents inside the pod are actually a cocktail of harsh chemicals. Ingredients are frequently disclosed on manufacturer websites.
These chemicals may include surfactants, bleaches, solvents, optical brighteners, enzymes, and preservatives. Relative to conventional laundry detergents, pods contain higher concentrations of surfactants which are often ethoxylated alcohols, of which 1,4-dioxane is a known carcinogenic byproduct. Other common ingredients include but are not limited to propylene glycol, ethanolamine, disodium distyrylbiphenyl disulfonate, and fragrances which are often volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
California takes on Big Soda, via the Guardian:
California takes fight to soft drink industry with plan for warning labels
- State Democrats introduce bill that would require labels with warnings about obesity and tooth decay but admit industry is ‘formidable lobbying force’
Campaigners against sugary drinks have opened a new front in California with a proposal to label the drinks with warnings about obesity, diabetes and tooth decay.
Bill Monning, the state’s senate majority leader, and an influential Democrat, has introduced a bill which would require labels be placed on the front of containers or at the point of purchase.
If passed, it will set a precedent in the US and potentially transform public health policy, according to supporters.
“The root motivation for this is the continued epidemic of preventable diabetes and obesity in young people in California,” Monning told the Guardian. The problem was not just sodas, but sweet teas, sports drinks and energy drinks, he said.
Agence France-Presse covers a toxic holiday traditional fruit:
Toxic ‘Tet’ kumquats highlight Vietnam’s pesticide problem
Come the Lunar New Year, most Vietnamese families buy a kumquat tree — a symbol of prosperity whose candied fruits were once a delicacy but are now left uneaten as food safety scandals batter consumer confidence in Vietnam’s produce.
Agrochemical health fears in the Argentine, via VICE News:
Argentina’s Soybeans Help Feed the World But Might Be Making Locals Sick
Silvina Bettini is a bubbly young woman with purple makeup and matching earrings who lives six blocks from a soybean field in central Argentina. Already the mother of one child, she had hoped for another until a medical survey by a German NGO in April 2013 suggested her blood is contaminated with agrochemical residue from pesticides, including a toxic insecticide that is banned in most countries. Now she’s worried about what could happen to her baby.
Like many residents of Argentina’s farming communities, Bettini is concerned by a growing list of cases of birth defects, cancers, and other health problems that locals and some experts attribute to the ubiquitous use of agrochemicals in Argentina’s agriculture industry, the country’s economic engine. Argentine officials and Monsanto, the American agribusiness giant that manufactures the most common type of the herbicide, deny that the health problems are linked to the chemicals.
The agrochemical issue is most evident in Argentina’s soybean industry. The country is the world’s third-largest producer of soybeans. The crop is a staple ingredient of livestock feed, and therefore plays a part in almost every bite of commercially produced meat in the world. At the same time, most of Argentina’s soybeans — 98 percent — are genetically modified.
Because Argentina is the world’s biggest soybean exporter, selling significantly more soybean to foreign markets than Brazil or the United States, the soy sent from Argentina to the rest of world may pose a threat to global food security if levels of agrochemicals in exported products are not properly monitored, experts told VICE News.
After the jump, how the sun keeps burning even after you’ve escaped its rays, rising seas endanger millions of Bangladeshi islanders, climate change claims lemurian land, climate change suspected in a California sea lion crisis, evacuation by drought feared in Brazil, Chinese profits from Myanmar conflict logging, foreigners grab land in malnourished Mozambique, China takes a first in oceanic plastic dumping, Washington sets up air monitors in overseas missions, renewed hopes for a European tar sands oil ban, petro layoffs and a slowdown in Mexico, on to Fukushimapocalype Now!, with a stark declaration about lost fuel and a fear of regulatory collapse, plus dreamas of Liberian environmental banking. . . Continue reading