Category Archives: Wealth

EnviroWatch: Outbreaks, oil, air, climate, nukes

And more. . .

We begin with the Express Tribune and a Pakistani vaccination crisis:

Sehat ka Ittehad struggles as WHO recommends extension of restrictions

There has been no documented international spread of the poliovirus since March 2014 – with the exception of “one new exportation from Pakistan into Afghanistan documented after 13 November 2014″.

The fourth meeting of the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee announced the spread of polio still constitutes a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern”. The committee has recommended extending the “temporary recommendations” for another three months. Among others, these include declaring a national public health emergency, restricting departure of any residents from the country if they lack an international certification of vaccination and maintaining these measures till the country has stopped exporting polio. The WHO statement is available on their website.

Hours after the WHO pointed to Pakistan as the only country still spreading the preventable, crippling virus. Sehat ka Ittehad’s recent drive came to a close and left at least 33,601 children unvaccinated, but not without efforts to the contrary.

And closer to home for esnl, a deadly hospital-based outbreak spreads, via the Guardian:

Cedars-Sinai hospital in LA investigates outbreak of deadly ‘superbug’

  • Hospital says four patients have been infected with bacteria from a contaminated medical scope, and 67 other people may have been exposed

The Cedars-Sinai hospital in Los Angeles announced a possible “superbug” outbreak linked to gastrointestinal devices, the second hospital in a month to link the potentially deadly germs to devices called duodenoscopes.

The bug, called carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae (CRE), is a bacteria resistant to some of medicine’s strongest antibiotics. The duodenoscope is a difficult-to-clean, complex flexible tube inserted through the throat of patients to check for issues in the upper intestines.

Cedars-Sinai hospital officials linked four transmissions of CRE to duodenoscopes. The hospital sent letters and home-testing kits to 71 more patients who may have been exposed between August 2014 and February 2015, “out of an abundance of caution”.

From the Associated Press, regulatory failure:

Maker of device in ‘superbug’ outbreak lacked FDA clearance

The manufacturer of a medical instrument at the center of a recent “superbug” outbreak in Los Angeles did not receive federal clearance to sell an updated version the device, according to officials from the Food and Drug Administration.

The FDA confirmed that Olympus Corp. did not seek agency clearance for the redesign of its specialized endoscope, which it began selling in 2010. FDA clearance is required for all substantive updates to medical devices sold in the U.S.

Despite the lack of clearance, the FDA said doctors should continue using the device because it’s not clear that a federal review would have prevented the recent infections in patients.

From National Geographic, a story we’ve been covering since our earliest posts:

Chemical Exposure Linked to Billions in Health Care Costs

Researchers conclude they are 99 percent certain that hormone-altering chemicals are linked to attention problems, diabetes, other health problems.

Exposure to hormone-disrupting chemicals is likely leading to an increased risk of serious health problems costing at least $175 billion (U.S.) per year in Europe alone, according to a study published Thursday.

Chemicals that can mimic or block estrogen or other hormones are commonly found in thousands of products around the world, including plastics, pesticides, furniture, and cosmetics.

The new research estimated health care costs in Europe, where policymakers are debating whether to enact the world’s first regulations targeting endocrine disruptors. The European Union’s controversial strategy, if approved, would have a profound effect on industries and consumer products worldwide.

Linda Birnbaum, the leading environmental health official in the U.S. government, called the new findings, which include four published papers, “a wake-up call” for policymakers and health experts.

From Newsweek, one of those chemicals and twisted regulatory semantics:

BPA Is Fine, If You Ignore Most Studies About It

Bisphenol-A (BPA) is either a harmless chemical that’s great for making plastic or one of modern society’s more dangerous problems. Depends whom you ask.

BPA is in many types of plastics and the epoxy resins that line most aluminum cans, as well as thermal papers like receipts. It is an endocrine disruptor that mimics estrogen, a hormone especially important in sexual development, and the fact that it’s all over the place worries many people. Newsweek spoke with about 20 scientists, leaders in the field of BPA research, and the majority say it is likely (though not certain) that the chemical plays a role in a litany of health concerns: obesity, diabetes, problems with fertility and reproductive organs, susceptibility to various cancers and cognitive/behavioral deficits like ADHD.

“There’s too much data consistent across studies…time and time again…to ignore it and suggest BPA has no effect on humans,” says Gail Prins, a physiologist at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

But the plastic industry, researchers it funds and, most important, many regulatory agencies—including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)—say BPA is safe for humans at the levels people are exposed to.

From VICE News, and not so surprising for students of history:

Deforestation May Be Helping to Spread the Plague in Africa

The destruction of forests is known to cause the release of massive amounts of greenhouse gases, destroy critical wildlife habitat, and increase soil erosion, which can lead to deadly floods and landslides.

But converting forests to farmland can also increase the spread of the plague, according to researchers at the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB).

“It pops up every other year or so, and the number of cases per year is quite variable and it’s also poorly reported,” Hillary Young, an ecologist at UCSB, who led the study, told VICE News. “So we don’t have a good sense of the number of cases per year in the region.”

Madagascar’s complex climate woes, via IRIN:

Disaster-prone Madagascar battles flooding and drought

Authorities in Madagascar are struggling to respond to increasingly severe flooding in the central highlands region of the country that includes the capital, Antananarivo, in addition to a prolonged drought in the south.

The latest round of flooding, which started when three rivers that cross Antananarivo – the Sisaony, Ikopa and Imamba – burst their banks during a storm on 24 February, has left 19 people dead and an estimated 36,000 displaced, according to the National Office for the Management of Risks and Catastrophes (BNRGC in French). A further 40,000 people were displaced in 13 other districts.

On Wednesday, BNRGC issued a new alert warning that a low-pressure system just off the island’s west coast was expected to bring more torrential rainfall to the central highlands region. Several neighbourhoods in Antananarivo remain braced for further flooding and landslides over the coming days.

Getting bad air off their chest, via the Los Angeles Times:

Cleaner air is linked to stronger lungs in Southern California children

Cleaner air has for the first time been linked to bigger and stronger lungs among school-age children, according to findings released Wednesday from a two-decade study in Southern California.

The research by USC scientists, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found the region’s steep decline in air pollution since the mid-1990s is strongly associated with “statistically and clinically significant improvements” in children’s lung function and growth.

The analysis, which studied more than 2,000 children in five cities over the years, provides the strongest evidence yet that years of government regulations to reduce air pollution in California and across the nation are paying off with measurable improvements in children’s health.

The accompanying graphic tells the story:

BLOG Lungs

From the Associated Press, and we wonder just how safe those “small” levels are over time?:

FDA study finds little evidence of antibiotics in milk

In an encouraging development for consumers worried about antibiotics in their milk, a new Food and Drug Administration study showed little evidence of drug contamination after surveying almost 2,000 dairy farms.

In response to concerns, the agency in 2012 took samples of raw milk from the farms and tested them for 31 drugs, almost all of them antibiotics. Results released by the agency Thursday show that less than 1 percent of the total samples showed illegal drug residue.

Antibiotics and other drugs can end up in milk when they are used on dairy cows to keep them healthy. Small levels of drugs are allowed in milk, but residues that go beyond certain thresholds are illegal.

Some delightful news for bees, via

Amsterdam bee population is booming

Amsterdam bee population is booming Society March 5, 2015 Honey comb and a bee workingBee populations may be in trouble elsewhere but in Amsterdam there are now 61 different bee species, up from 51 in 2000, according to new research.

The most common bee in the city is the common furrow (Lasioglossum calceatum) while the hairy-footed flower bee, which was very rare in 2000, now lives in abundance in the city’s Vondel park, the research shows.

The research was commissioned by the city council. Bee expert and researcher told the Parool the city council should be extremely pleased the city has such committed people managing its green spaces. ‘The city can thank their expertise for the increase,’ he said.

Ten years ago the city council took a new, environmentally-friendly approach to its green areas and roadside verges. It no longer uses pesticides and wild flowers have been sown in many places. Specific bee friendly projects have also been set up.

After the jump, Brits sign a Mexican dirty energy deal, an oil company settles a cleanup complaint in Peru, Britain’s central bank sounds a fossil fuel alert, Oklahoma scientists play Big Oil’s music, Feds find the Arctic oil they want drilled will most likely lead to a major oil spill, allegations industry corrupted Europe’s clean air laws, separating fossil fueled climate change from oceanic changes, flooding predicted to triple in 15 years, a new African environmental alliance announced, Brazilian peasants seize a paper plant over plans to plan GMO trees, Arctic Sea ice thinning accelerates, on to Fukushimapocalypse Now!, first with more radioactive leaks, local communities protests TEPCO’s concealing of a major leak for ten months, another radioactive fuel removal planned, evacuees plagued with blood clots, the governor calls for extending reconstruction programs, Japanese tourism recovers from Fukushimaphobia, nearby factories suffer from major labor shortages, regulators find major flaws in plans for the restart of another Japanese nuke plant shut down after the earthquake that shattered Fukushima, a lawsuit challenges plans for a new British nuke plant, and, finally, fears over new Nuclear plants in a Pakistani seismic hot spot. . . Continue reading

Chart of the day II: Post-crash global pay disparity

From the Philadelphia-based global management consultancy group HayGroup — an outfit with offices in 49 countries — a look [PDF] at the changes brought to the differentials between the salaries of CEOs and the average corporate worker since the Crash of 2008:

Blog Pay gap

EnivroWatch: Illness, pols, climate, water, nukes

We begin with the latest measles update from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, first with the numbers:

BLOG Measles graf

Then the distribution:

From January 1 to February 27, 2015, 170 people from 17 states and the District of Columbia were reported to have measles [AZ (7), CA (113), CO (1), DC (2), DE (1), GA (1), IL (15), MI (1), MN (1), NE (2), NJ (2), NY (3), NV (8), PA (1), SD (2) TX (1), UT (2), WA (7)]†. Most of these cases [125 cases (74%)] are part of a large, ongoing multi-state outbreak linked to an amusement park in California.

From January 1 to February 27, 2015, 170 people from 17 states and the District of Columbia were reported to have measles [AZ (7), CA (113), CO (1), DC (2), DE (1), GA (1), IL (15), MI (1), MN (1), NE (2), NJ (2), NY (3), NV (8), PA (1), SD (2) TX (1), UT (2), WA (7)]†. Most of these cases [125 cases (74%)] are part of a large, ongoing multi-state outbreak linked to an amusement park in California.

From the United Nations News Center, another global health tragedy:

Over 5 billion people worldwide lacking access to essential medicines, says UN Report

Three quarters of the world population has no access to proper pain relief treatment, according to a report by the United Nations body charged with overseeing Governments’ compliance with international drug control treaties, which was released in London today.

Around 5.5 billion people still have limited or no access to medicines containing narcotic drugs such as codeine or morphine the Vienna-based International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) says in its Annual Report for 2014, which went on to point out that around 92 per cent of all morphine used worldwide is consumed by only 17 per cent of the world population, primarily living in the United States, Canada, Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand.

The report, which calls on Governments to address the discrepancy in order to comply with International Drug Control Conventions, notes that natural disasters and armed conflicts around the world can further limit access to essential medicines and the Board stressed that in cases of emergency medical care, simplified control measures can be applied.

For example in the Philippines following the destruction by Typhoon Haiyan in 2013, the Board pointed out to all countries as well as to providers of humanitarian assistance the simplified procedures for the export, transportation and delivery of medicines containing substances under international control.

In its Report, the INCB notes that drug control measures do not exist in a vacuum and that, in their implementation of the drug control conventions, States must also comply with obligations under other treaties, including international humanitarian law and their international human rights obligations, such as allowing civilians to have access to medical care and essential medicines during armed conflicts.

Additionally, the INCB noted that States were charged with deciding specific sanctions for drug-related offences, but should avoid application of the death penalty for such cases.

Newswise covers a question of costs:

U.S. Spends More on Cancer Care, Saves Fewer Lives than Western Europe

  • Dartmouth study finds costly U.S. cancer care may provide less value than previously thought

Despite sharp increases in spending on cancer treatment, cancer mortality rates in the United States have decreased only modestly since 1970, Samir Soneji, PhD of Dartmouth’s Norris Cotton Cancer Center and The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy & Clinical Practice has found. Refuting previous studies, Soneji published his paper “New Analysis Reexamines the Value of Cancer Care in the United States Compared to Western Europe,” today in the March issue of Health Affairs.

“Our results suggest that cancer care in the U.S. did not always avert deaths compared to Western Europe and, when it did avert deaths, it often did so at substantial cost,” explained Soneji. “The greatest number of deaths averted occurred in cancers for which decreasing mortality rates were more likely to be the result of successful prevention and screening rather than advancements in treatment.”

U.S. cancer mortality rates decreased by 12 percent since 1970, compared to a 62 percent decrease for heart disease. Such findings have raised questions about the additional value of U.S. cancer care derived from the additional spending, in comparison to the situation in other high-income countries. This study compared U.S. and Western European spending between 1982 and 2010 for 12 of the most common cancers.

Compared to Western Europe, the U.S averted 67,000 breast cancer deaths, 265,000 colorectal cancer deaths, and 60,000 prostate cancer deaths between 1982 and 2010. The U.S. experienced 1,120,000 excess lung cancer deaths in this study period compared to Western Europe. The ratio of incremental cost to quality-adjusted-life-years saved equaled $402,000 for breast cancer, $110,000 for colorectal cancer, and $1,979,000 for prostate cancer. These amounts exceed most accepted thresholds for cost-effective medical care. The U.S. lost quality-adjusted-life-years despite additional spending for lung cancer where the cost was negative $19,000 per quality-adjusted-life-year saved.

From the Washington Post, a medical enigma:

Mystery paralysis in children is perplexing parents — and researchers

For most of the children who fell ill last year during an outbreak of enterovirus, the symptoms were relatively mild — fever, runny nose, coughing and sneezing.

But then there was this mystery: More than 100 kids suffered an unexplained, polio-like paralysis that struck quickly but even now continues to stump researchers and upend the lives of the families across the country.

For Priya Duggal and her colleagues at Johns Hopkins University, the biggest puzzle is why those children became paralyzed while their brothers and sisters, who also were exposed to the virus, escaped largely unscathed.

From the Times of India, tallying an outbreak’s toll:

40 more dead as swine flu toll climbs to 1,115

Swine flu claimed the lives of 40 more people in the country as the toll from the disease reached 1,115 while the total number of cases breached the 20,000 mark.

The Health Ministry said that 1,115 persons have succumbed to the H1N1 virus while the number of those affected by it stands at 20,795 on March 1.

With heavy rainfall lashing Delhi and other parts of the north, health officials said it was difficult to ascertain whether the rains will have any effect on the incidence of swine flu.

However, the officials said that, during monsoon, the virus increases and it was possible that whatever decline was being seen over the last few days in the intensity of the disease may not continue. They said that there will be no decrease in the virus due to the rains and added that high temperatures are a deterrent for the virus.

Outbreak News Today covers an online virus of another sort:

Colorado: Craigslist kitten turns out rabid, 20 people get rabies prophylaxis

A 6-month-old kitten obtained on Craigslist has turned out positive for the nearly 100 percent lethal virus, rabies, requiring nearly two dozen people to receive rabies post-exposure prophylaxis.

The family of four from northeast Colorado Springs named the kitten Jello. The owners said the cat was fine for 2 weeks and then the black cat “took a turn for the worse” and got very sick. The family’s two other dogs and a cat had to be put down since they were exposed.

El Paso County Public Health officials say the kitten tested positive for rabies late last week.  The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Laboratory performed the initial test and the CDC is in the process of determining the type of rabies the kitten had.

Another group of Liberian healthcare workers asks for hazard pay, via the Liberian Observer:

Health Workers at TB Annex Demand Hazard Benefits

At least 101 workers at the TB Annex Hospital are demanding payment of hazard benefits owed them by the Ministry of Health for the past six months.

The patients at the hospital, located directly behind the Health Ministry in Oldest Congotown, are infected with tuberculosis which is a very highly contagious disease.

The health workers told this paper that their benefits are due for the period September 2014 to February 2015.

They stated that during the heat of the Ebola virus disease (EVD) crisis, they did not close the hospital but remained there at their own risk, taking care of hundreds of TB patients who came in daily when most other health centers and hospitals were closed.

GMOoooos, via BBC News:

Scientists produce TB-resistant cows

Scientists in China have produced a herd of genetically engineered cows that are better able to ward off bovine TB infection.

The long-term goal of the research is to avoid the need to cull livestock by breeding disease resistant cattle.

Bovine TB is a risk in many areas, including New Zealand, England and Wales, and parts of Africa and Asia. In the UK over 26,000 cattle were slaughtered in 2013 at a cost to taxpayers of £100m.

Politically cowed, via the New York Times:

Indian State Passes Beef Ban Championed by Right-Wing Hindus

The western state of Maharashtra this week became the first Indian state to ban the possession and sale of beef, imposing fines and up to five years in prison for violations.

The ban, which was passed on Monday, came as an amendment to a 1972 law prohibiting the slaughter of cows, which has been expanded to ban the slaughter of bulls, bullocks and calves. The slaughter of water buffaloes will still be allowed under the new law, subject to permission from the authorities. The populous western state includes Mumbai, the Indian financial capital.

The Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Bill, championed by right-wing Hindu organizations, was first passed in 1995 but languished for two decades under a governing coalition between the Indian National Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party. The Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party won a clear majority in state elections last October, after Narendra Modi, the party’s leader, took office as prime minister in May.

Cognitive pollution, via  Medical Daily:

Air Pollution Slows Cognitive Development In Children Due To Brain Inflammation

Schools that are located near busy roads may be more dangerous than remote schools due to the increased levels of air pollution generated by passing cars, a new study finds.

Toxic chemicals found in the air pose a growing concern for scientists studying brain health, especially among adolescents. Experts call them neurotoxicants, and they’ve been linked with a higher risk of suicide, autism, and the myriad direct physical effects of breathing in harmful air, such as asthma and diseases of the lungs.

“From animal studies we know that ultrafine particles cross the blood brain barrier, interact with the microglial cells, which in turn affects neurons,” said Dr. Jordi Sunyer, lead author of the recent study from the University of Barcelona. This can result in chronic low-grade brain inflammation, he added, which delays brain maturation.

And from EcoWatch, Oedipus Bush:

Jeb Bush Trashes Father’s Clean Air Legacy to Woo Far Right-Wing

Jeb Bush trashed the Clean Air Act last week. He was speaking to the far right-wing Club for Growth, notorious for mounting mostly unsuccessful challenges from the right against Republican candidates during congressional primaries.

The Clean Air Act is estimated to achieve almost $2 trillion in yearly benefits to the American people by 2020. These vast benefits are delivered in the form of “significant reductions in air pollution” related premature death and illness, improved economic welfare of Americans, and better environmental conditions.” The estimated annual costs to achieve these benefits will be about $65 billion by 2020.

So this staggering Bush senior achievement is one that Bush junior singles out for condemnation. It’s bewildering. One might even say it takes one’s breath away.

After the jump, endless drought woes for the Golden State, a rich California coastal city looks to desalination, an Environmental Protection Agency disclosure fail rebuked, air pollution kills hundreds of thousands of Europeans a year, China hopes for an air pollution reprieve, mineral water home delivered as Sao Paulo taps run dry, a Mexican mine hit with a river pollution fine, a call for Costa Rican shark protection, prison-farmed fish for sale at Whole Foods, a new threat from the DEA — Utah rabbits dazed on legal weed, a key African food staple lags behind growing populations, and the FBI comes a-knockin’ at the doors of Keystone Pipeline foes, then on to Fukushimapocalypse Now!, first with another year’s radioactive water cleanup delay, an Olympic Fukushima food fare bid, and corporate payouts continue, plus Mount Everest grows a crown of human feces. . . Continue reading

Chart of the day II: Direct U.S. Israeli financial aid

BLOG Israel

From Reuters, based on U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel [PDF], an April, 2014 report from the Congressional research Service, which notes:

From 1966 through 1970, average aid per year increased to about $102 million and military loans increased to about 47% of the total. In 1971, the United States provided Israel with military loans of $545 million, up from $30 million in 1970. Also in 1971, Congress first designated a specific amount of aid for Israel in legislation (an “earmark”). Economic assistance changed from project aid, such as support for agricultural development work, to a Commodity Import Program (CIP) for the purchase of U.S. goods. In effect, the United States stepped in to fill the role that France had relinquished when French President Charles de Gaulle refused to supply Israel with military hardware to protest its preemptive launch of the Six Day War in June 1967. Israel became the largest recipient of U.S. foreign assistance in 1974, and has only been superseded at various times by Iraq and Afghanistan in the past decade because of short-term U.S. aid aimed at building those countries’ indigenous security capabilities. From 1971 to the present, U.S. aid to Israel has averaged over $2.6 billion per year, two-thirds of which has been military assistance.

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.

EnviroWatch: Outbreaks, toxins, climate, nukes

From the UN News Center, a call for vaccination action in Europe:

UN health agency ‘taken aback’ as measles resurfaces in Europe, calls for widespread vaccination

European policymakers, healthcare workers, and parents must step up their efforts to vaccinate children against measles amid an ongoing outbreak across the continent, the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) said today, warning that a recent resurgence in the disease threatened Europe’s goal of eliminating measles by the end of 2015.

According to UN data, over 22,000 cases of the virus have surfaced across Europe during the 2014 to 2015 biennium with the outbreak spreading to seven countries. This comes despite a 50 per cent drop from 2013 to 2014.

“When we consider that over the past two decades we have seen a reduction of 96 per cent in the number of measles cases in the European region, and that we are just a step away from eliminating the disease, we are taken aback by these numbers,” Dr. Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe, affirmed in a press release.

“We must collectively respond, without further delay, to close immunization gaps. It is unacceptable that, after the last 50 years’ efforts to make safe and effective vaccines available, measles continues to cost lives, money and time,” she added.

Vastly unvaccinated in Africa, via the Liberian Observer:

70% Un-vaccinated children at Risk for Measles

An official of the Ministry of Health is encouraging all parents and guardians to take their children for the third phase of the nationwide Measles Immunization Program, to be launched from April 10-16 in all 15 counties.

“The Measles Immunization Program was delayed due to the outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus that led to thousands of deaths. Parents must now be very serious in ensuring that their children take the measles immunization to avoid risks,” Mr. Clarke stressed.

Mr. Adolphus Clarke is the Deputy Program Manager for the Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI). He noted that the exercise is geared towards protecting children against future outbreaks of the disease.

From SciDev.Net, a potentially much-needed new drug undergoes testing:

Tuberculosis drug candidate begins clinical safety trial

The first clinical safety trial on a tuberculosis drug since 2009 is now under way.

The phase I trial of TBA-354 will involve 50 volunteers from the United States, according to the TB Alliance, the not-for-profit product development partnership sponsoring the trial.

In preclinical studies, the compound showed more potent antibacterial and sterilising activity than pretomanid (PA-824), a related substance now in phase II and phase III clinical trials to assess its safety and efficacy, the alliance announced last week.

It said that the six years that passed between TBA-354 and the last drug to undergo Phase 1 trials shows that the pipeline of drugs to combat tuberculosis is disconcertingly empty.

From the University of California, cat-derived ailment complications:

Increased risk from toxoplasmosis

A third of all humans carry the parasite that causes toxoplasmosis — a disease commonly associated with cats, HIV-AIDS patients and pregnant women — with scientists long believing healthy immune systems control the parasite and prevent the disease from emerging. But new research by professor Kirk Jensen of the University of California, Merced, shows the parasite might be more dangerous than previously believed.

In a paper published Feb. 24 in mBio — an open-access journal presented by the American Society for Microbiology — Jensen shows that secondary exposure to most parasite strains found in South America can lead to uncontrolled infection and disease, which in humans can cause severe congenital infection or lesions in the retina and brain.

“There are a few strains of the Toxoplasma parasite present in North America and Europe, but in South America, there are many strains,” said Jensen, a professor in the university’s School of Natural Sciences. “We found these South American strains are really good at evading the immune system.”

After an initial infection, the immune system is typically primed and ready to protect against repeat offenses by the same parasite or disease. This is how vaccines protect humans from infectious diseases like measles. However, Jensen said, “There are known cases where pregnant women who were seropositive — and therefore should have been protected from toxoplasmosis — developed congenital infection following travel to South America.”

From Outbreak News Today, another outbreak:

Uganda: Hundreds sickened by typhoid; adulterated beverages and foods suspected

As of yesterday, more than 500 people were confirmed admitted to designated treatment centres after being diagnosed with typhoid, the Health Ministry reports.

The source of the bacterial outbreak is suspected to be due to adulterated beverages and foods prompting health officials to warn the public of the capital of Kampala.

Preliminary laboratory investigations of sampled beverages and foods obtained from  the Kampala central business district contained the Salmonella bacterium.

Dr Monica Musenero, the assistant commissioner in-charge of epidemiology and epidemic diseases at the Health ministry said, “We took samples of water, juices, and foods from areas where the outbreak hit hard. We suspect the outbreak is caused by something in the category of juice or water that is widely consumed by people,” said Dr Musenero. “The 1st laboratory samples tests and epidemiological links have hinted on water, but it’s still too early to mention which type of water,” she said.

From SciDev.Net, a climate change to spreading diseases:

Warming climate accelerates spread of vector-borne diseases

Health agencies need to take into account disease evolution in warming environments as climate change could alter the development of vector-borne diseases, two studies have found.

The “vector” in a vector-borne disease refers to an infected human or animal that transmits pathogens or parasites and causes disease in human populations.

Climate change can impact “all relevant aspects” of vector-borne diseases, including the locations of host populations and the availability of vectors, says Nina Fefferman, a biologist and part of a team from Rutgers University in the United States behind one of the studies.

The research focused on Aedes japonicus japonicus, a species of disease-carrying mosquito native to Japan and Korea, whose range has expanded since the 1990s to parts of Europe and the Hawaiian archipelago. The study found that populations of the mosquito on the island of Hawaii and in the American state of Virginia were capable of “rapid evolutionary change” and adaptation to their new environment.

As a result, vector-borne disease could become a greater threat to human health as the global climate warms, the study found. Its authors say that climate change studies need to play a greater role in national and global efforts to eradicate these diseases.

From BBC News, a death toll reevaluation:

Tobacco ‘kills two in three smokers’

The death risk from smoking may be much higher than previously thought – tobacco kills up to two in every three smokers not one in every two, data from a large study suggests.

The study tracked more than 200,000 Australian smokers and non-smokers above the age of 45 over six years. Mortality risk went up with cigarette use, BMC Medicine reports.

Smoking 10 cigarettes a day doubled the risk, while 20-a-day smokers were four to five times more likely to die.

From Environmental Health News, polluting the poor:

EPA to investigate North Carolina for civil rights violations

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has accepted a civil rights complaint filed against the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources and will investigate whether lax regulation of industrial pig farms disproportionately impacts communities of color.

Last week the EPA announced it would proceed two days after Environmental Health News reported about the complaint and new research that found high levels of fecal bacteria in water near industrial pig farms in eastern North Carolina. The Charlotte Observer also wrote an editorial about the research and said the state needs to be “more vigilant” about pig waste.

The complaint was filed last September by the North Carolina Environmental Justice Network, the Rural Empowerment Association for Community Help, the Waterkeeper Alliance, and is being led by Earthjustice.

FrontPageAfrica covers medical fraud in Liberia:

High Risk Zone for Fake Drugs: Pharmacy Under Scrutiny

One of Liberia’s leading pharmacies, Abeer Pharmacy has been ranked the top pharmacy that imports and sells fake drugs in the country. Mr. David Sumo, head of the Liberia Medicine and Health Products regulatory authority, explains that the pharmacy usually brings in anti-malaria pills, such as lonart, quinine and pain killers. He added that Abeer Pharmacy has repeatedly failed to abide by the standard of the regulatory agency.

“I know most of you will be surprised to hear this, the pharmacy has failed our test many times, and we’ve put this particular pharmacy in the high-risk zone,” Mr. Sumo said. He advised people dealing in fake drugs to desist and called on everyone, especially those who have mini-drug stores to look at the expiration date properly before purchasing the drugs.

LMHRA was set up in 2001 to register all medicines that are locally-manufactured, imported, distributed, sold and used in Liberia. It also has a mandate to prepare and keep the registry of medicines used in both the private and public sector in Liberia and to remove from the registry and prohibit the manufacturing, importation, distribution sale and use of any medicine which quality, safety or efficacy is brought to question. The body also has the power to set up a quality control laboratory to undertake laboratory analysis of all medicines imported and used in Liberia.

From United Press International, another kind of medical fraud:

Iowa scientist pleads guilty to fraud in AIDS vaccine study

A former Iowa State University scientist on Wednesday pleaded guilty to fraud for faking the results on an AIDS vaccine study funded by the federal government.

Dong-Pyou Han pleaded guilty to two felony counts of making false statements. In exchange for his plea, prosecutors dropped two other counts of the same charge.

Dong-Pyou, 57, admitted he faked data in the study that cost the government between $7 million and $20 million. He said he inserted human antibodies into the blood of rabbits to make it appear as though an experimental vaccine he was studying helped protect the animals against HIV.

After the jump, a Big Agra pesticide lie, Big Agra pesticides pose global surface water dangers, plastics pose a major danger to imperiled coral reefs, clear evidence of manmade carbon atmospheric heat-trapping, a village to be abandoned because of climate change, Occupy targets Rio’s Olympic golf course in an environmental reserve, a massive fish die-off in Rio’s Olympic waters, massive pollution in a Mexican river, how liberal California unions bankroll fracking, on to Fukushimapocalypse Now!, starting with a demand for a probe of a radioactive leak coverup, fishers outraged over the leak coverup, Radioactive water drainage changes contemplated, and, finally, evacuees fail to heed claims the hot zone is safe. . . Continue reading