Category Archives: Medicine

Map of the day: Pneumonia, a child killer

And most deaths of children under five occur in just ten countries, according to UNICEF [PDF]. Click on the map to enlarge:

World Pneumonia Day 3-up letter copy

New Ebola cases, and an alarming report

We begin in Liberia, where three new cases have been reported in a country declared free of the disease just weeks ago.

From the Associated Press:

Three new Ebola cases have been confirmed in Liberia, a health official said Friday, more than two months after the West African nation was declared Ebola-free for a second time.

It is a setback for Liberia, one of the three countries hit hardest by the worst Ebola outbreak in history. The country has recorded more than 10,600 cases and more than 4,800 deaths, according to the World Health Organization. More than 11,300 deaths have been recorded for the entire outbreak, which was concentrated in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, according to WHO.

Liberia was first declared Ebola-free on May 9, but new cases emerged in June resulting in two deaths. WHO declared the country Ebola-free again on Sept. 3

More from Reuters:

The first of the new patients was a 10-year-old boy who lived with his parents and three siblings in Paynesville, a suburb east of the capital Monrovia, said Minister of Health Minister Bernice Dahn. Two direct family members have also since tested positive, officials said.

All six family members, as well as other high risk contacts, are in care at an Ebola Treatment Unit in Paynesville, she said.

“The hospital is currently decontaminating the unit. All of the healthcare workers who came into contact with the patient have been notified,” she told a news conference.

And now comes a clear warning that West Africa and the world aren’t ready for another major outbreak.

From Nature:

The world is no better prepared for the next global health emergency than it was when the current Ebola epidemic began nearly two years ago, an expert panel warns.

The problems that led to the deaths of more than 11,000 people in history’s worst Ebola outbreak have not been solved, a group of 20 physicians, global health experts, lawyers and development and humanitarian experts convened by Harvard University and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) warn in a paper published on 22 November by The Lancet1. Meanwhile, the outbreak stubbornly hangs on: on 20 November, hopes that it might be declared over by year’s end were dashed by reports of new infections in Liberia, which has twice been declared Ebola-free.

“We’re closer, but we’re not yet ready for another outbreak of this magnitude,” says epidemiologist David Heymann at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, a member of the commission that produced the report.

More on the report from the London school via EurekaAlert:

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (Harvard Chan) and a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. “People at WHO were aware that there was an Ebola outbreak that was getting out of control by spring…and yet, it took until August to declare a public health emergency. The cost of the delay was enormous,” said Jha.

The report’s 10 recommendations provide a roadmap to strengthen the global system for outbreak prevention and response:

  1. Develop a global strategy to invest in, monitor and sustain national core capacities
  2. Strengthen incentives for early reporting of outbreaks and science-based justifications for trade and travel restrictions
  3. Create a unified WHO Center with clear responsibility, adequate capacity, and strong lines of accountability for outbreak response
  4. Broaden responsibility for emergency declarations to a transparent, politically-protected Standing Emergency Committee
  5. Institutionalise accountability through an independent commission for disease outbreak prevention and response
  6. Develop a framework of rules to enable, govern and ensure access to the benefits of research
  7. Establish a global fund to finance, accelerate and prioritise R&D
  8. Sustain high-level political attention through a Global Health Committee of the Security Council
  9. A new deal for a more focused, appropriately-financed WHO
  10. Good governance of WHO through decisive, timebound reform and assertive leadership

The Harvard and London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine teams felt strongly that an independent analysis from academic and civil society voices should inform the public debate, in addition to other planned official reviews of the global response.

According to Liberian Panel member Mosoka Fallah, Ph.D., MPH, of Action Contre La Faim International (ACF). “The human misery and deaths from the Ebola epidemic in West Africa demand a team of independent thinkers to serve as a mirror of reflection on how and why the global response to the greatest Ebola calamity in human history was late, feeble and uncoordinated. The threats of infectious disease anywhere is the threat of infectious disease everywhere,” Fallah said. “The world has become one big village.”

Map of the day II: Global maternal mortality

From Trends in Maternal Mortality: 1990 to 2015 [PDF], a new report, [PDF], from the World Health Organization [and click on the map to enlarge]:

BLOG Maternal mortality

Chart of the day: U.S. teen births plunge

From Child Trends, and we suspect abstinence ain’t the reason for the steady decline:

BLOG Teen births

Map of the day: Antibiotics and the heartland

From the New England Journal of Medicine via the Centers for Disease Control [PDF], a map showing state-by-state relative antibiotic use, with overprescription and failure to take the full course of a prescription being leading culprits in spreading resistant microbes:

BLOG Antibiotic use

Chart of the day: The microbial arms race

From the Centers for Disease Control, a timeline of the dates of the discovery of antibacterial drugs and of disease-causing bacteria able to resist them:

BLOG ANtibiotics

Chris Hedges hosts a new show on Telesur

Telesur English is getting very interesting. In addition to weekly episodes of shows by esnl favorites Abby Martin and Laura Flanders, the Venezuelan broadcaster has added the inimitable Chris Hedges, former Mideast bureau chief for the New York Times.

In this latest episode of Days of Revolt, Hedges discusses the insidious nature of the Trans-Pacific Partnership [TPP] with attorney Kevin Zeese, co-director of and It’s Our Economy, an organization that advocates for democratizing the economy. Zeese is a political activist and former press spokesperson for Ralph Nader, and in an unsuccessful 2006 Senate run, he was the only candidate ever nominated simultaneously by the Green, Libertarian, and Populist parties.

From Telesur English:

The Most Brazen Corporate Power Grab in American History

An excerpt from the transcript, discussing the TPP’s provision for overturning the power of the American judiciary in the interests of the corporation:

HEDGES: And they’re not allowed to make any amendments, no changes, nothing.

ZEESE: No amendments. Up or down vote. That’s it. And in the Senate, there’s no filibuster, so it’s only 50 percent. You can’t force them to 60 votes. It’s only 51 they need. And so it’s a very restricted Congress.

And all these agreements, by the way, as Ralph mentions in that quote, greatly restrict each branch of government, and Congress [crosstalk]

HEDGES: Well, let’s talk a little bit about how they do that, this kind of–part of this kind of creeping coup d’état, corporate coup d’état that’s taking place.

ZEESE: And I just want to say one more thing about this coup d’état. This is just one aspect of it. We’re seeing the corporate power grow in the United States with Citizens United and the buying of elections and all that corruption. But we’re also–out of places like the World Economic Forum, they’ve come out with a working group called the–that’s redesigning, the Global Redesign Initiative that’s redesigning the way governance works to minimize the nationstate and maximize transnational–. They want the UN to become a hybrid government and corporate body. So that’s what the World Economic Forum is working on as this is all going on, too. So this is a big, big fight about where we go. This is the epic struggle of our times, corporate power versus people power.

Now, the way that they–what Ralph was talking about in that quote was one aspect of this, which is the trade tribunal system, which already exists, but this is expanded. For the first time, for example, financial services can use the trade tribunals to overrule legislation to regulate the big banks.

HEDGES: Now, these trade tribunals, they’re three-person tribunals. They’re made up of corporate lawyers. One of the things I think I was speaking with you that you told me is that if you’re a citizen or advocacy group, you’re excluded from even going to these.

ZEESE: Yeah. You know, in our federal court system, which is the third branch of government that–Ralph’s favorite branch, I think. He just opened the museum in his —

HEDGES: Right, a tort museum.

ZEESE: — in his hometown, a tort museum, which is a great museum. People should go to Winsted to see it, by the way.

But, anyway, in our federal court system, an individual can sue a corporation. They can find a lawyer who takes it on retainer, only get paid if they win. You get a jury of your peers to decide it. That’s a real court system. It has lots of weaknesses that need to be improved on. They’ve been cutting back on it is much as they could with so-called tort reform–as Ralph calls tort deform. And so it’s getting weaker. But it’s still an important branch of government.

This overrules that. Our courts cannot review what a trade tribunal does. The trade tribunal judges are three corporate lawyers who can also represent corporations in other cases. So there’s a real conflict of interest here, because if you’re a lawyer who’s filing suits on behalf of corporations at these trade tribunals, you want to broaden the power of the trade tribunal and the corporation. So as a judge, you can decide things that, say, corporations have this power, corporations have that power, no, that the security issue doesn’t matter, the corporation still wins. They can create legal fictions.