brad brace

2/20/2017

H7N9

I-RISE

Bird flu is back. Chinese authorities are closing live poultry markets as H7N9 courses through the country, infecting 192 and killing 79 in January alone.

So far, this strain of avian flu appears to have been transmitted only through contact with live poultry, but there’s always a fear it will mutate and start passing between humans. That’s what really scares experts: the possibility of a sudden change that triggers faster spread between humans and leads to a pandemic.

A disease doesn’t count as a pandemic until it spreads worldwide – Ebola killed more than 11,000 people across West Africa before it was brought under control, and that was just an epidemic. The most modern pandemics include the Spanish influenza, circa 1918 (as many as 50 million killed), and HIV/AIDS (35 million dead).

As Chinese officials attempt to stem the latest bird flu outbreak, global public health officials are racing to get ahead of what they call the next “big one”: a disease that will kill tens of millions. It’s all about preparedness, and a large part of that is spotting outbreaks early, so action can be taken to contain any situation before it spirals out of control.

It’s anyone’s guess when and where the next major epidemic – or pandemic – might emerge. It could be a mutated version of avian flu, or perhaps something completely unseen before, like the mysterious illness with Ebola-like symptoms that struck out of the blue in South Sudan last year.

Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever

When a patient in Madrid died last September of a disease called Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever, there was no shortage of headlines about the “new” deadly virus. But the disease has actually been around for years – it got the first part of its name when first reported in Crimea in 1944, and the second thanks to a 1969 spotting in Congo.

The last two words of the disease, abbreviated as CCHF, speak to the symptoms: fever, muscle aches, nausea, diarrhoea, bruising and bleeding (the list goes on), and eventually death in the second week of illness – about 30 percent of patients (sometimes more) succumb to the virus.

CCHF is found pretty much everywhere south of the 50th parallel north: Africa, the Balkans, the Middle East, and Asia. Humans tend to contract the virus through contact with the blood of an infected animal (itself having been bitten by infected ticks) – vets, people working in slaughterhouses, and farmers are typically most at risk.

Once in humans, the virus can be spread through contact with blood, secretions, bodily fluids, and the like. It has been contracted in hospitals thanks to poor sterilisation of equipment and reuse of needles.

The virus bothers researchers and doctors for a number of reasons, one of them cultural: it’s endemic in some Muslim countries where large-scale animal slaughter is part of celebrating (and feasting) for the holiday of Eid al-Adha.

Doctors in Pakistan, for example, have warned of a potential health catastrophe unless slaughtering practices change, as the feasting holiday will be in the summer for the next 10-15 years, coinciding with tick season and CCHF prevalence.

There are similar concerns in Afghanistan, where public health officials have been warning the public about using gloves and other protective clothing when handling animals.

There is no vaccine for Crimean-Congo, and there is no cure, although antiviral drugs have shown some promise. Nipah virus Tackling drought with emergency aid is not the answer

This one’s got a Hollywood hook: The 2011 film Stephen Soderbergh film Contagion is reportedly based on it. Spoiler alert. In the movie, Nipah causes a global pandemic. In reality, we’re far from that.

But the way Nipah got going in real life is paralleled in the film: Thanks to drought, deforestation and wildfire, large fruit bats that carry the virus found their natural habitats in Malaysia destroyed. So they moved to fruit trees that happened to be in fairly close proximity to pig farms.

The pigs ate fruit contaminated by bat urine and saliva, the virus spread quickly among livestock, and again farm workers were the first hit. This first outbreak in Malaysia in the late 1990s saw the country cull more than one million pigs: a major hit to the economy.

In its first appearance, Nipah killed 105 of 256 known infected people.

But humans can also get Nipah by drinking raw palm date sap, a delicacy in Bangladesh. It is believed to be the cause of regular seasonal outbreaks in that country. When the sap is harvested, it has already been infected by bats in the trees.

Nipah scares researchers because it kills quickly – nausea, fever, and vomiting, patients progress to a coma within 24-48 hours, and then die. It has also spread swiftly from rural areas to cities.

Once in humans, the virus is found in saliva, so it can kill caregivers and family members who share utensils and glasses, or hug and kiss their sick family members. Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS)

Bandied about as the next pandemic possibility for a while, MERS was first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012, although looking back researchers believe there were cases the same year in Jordan.

It’s deadly – a reported 36 percent of patients die – and looks to have come to humans via bats, again. There’s a pattern here: Bats carry a long list of killer viruses and likely triggered the Ebola outbreak as well as SARS and others.

MERS causes fever, cough, shortness of breath, and in more than one third of patients, death. A 2015 outbreak in South Korea killed 36, and caused serious panic. Thousands of schools were closed, and many businesses were hit hard as people were wary even of going outside, and many others were quarantined.

While MERS is deadlier than its cousin SARS, it is also less contagious. It is spread through close contact with an infected person, and most transmissions have been in healthcare settings. There’s no real evidence that it’s gone airborne – that’s always a major fear – but the possibility hasn’t been completely ruled out.

For now, there’s no reason to panic about MERS, but it’s always a worry during the annual Hajj pilgrimage to Muslim holy sites in Saudi Arabia, which sees some two million people converge in the country with the most cases.

Like the other diseases mentioned here, there’s no vaccine and there’s no treatment – it’s all about hygiene.

There are plenty of other scary killers out there, and researchers are both tracking the movement of viruses between species and attempting to figure out a key plot point: why exactly a virus goes airborne. One last top tip: keep a particular eye on influenza. It’s not exotic and everyone knows its name, but some form of the flu could easily become the next “big one”. Oh yes, and be careful of bats.

2/3/2017

Largest DP Camps in the World

kakuma

The legacies of today’s conflicts can be seen in the enormous populations of the world’s largest displaced persons’ camps. For most these camps are far from a temporary home. With scarce local resources, the majority of the camps depend on external aid for survival.

10. Tamil Nadu State, India
An estimated 66,700 Sri Lankans currently reside in this refugee camp. Another 34,000 live outside of the camp.

9. Nyarugusu, Tanzania
This camp is home to an estimated 68,197 refugees. Nearly two-thirds are children between the ages 10-24. Almost all of them were born in the camp or became a refugee at a very young age. The majority of the refugees are Burundians and Congolese.

8. Nakivale, Uganda
As one of Africa’s oldest and largest refugee camps, Nakivale currently houses 68,996 people. Many of the residents fled the violent conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is unlikely the refugees will be able to return home in the near future.

7. Yida, South Sudan
This refugee camp is home to 70,736 registered individuals. After a sharp increase in registrations in February, the number of new registrations is slowly decreasing.

6. Mbera, Mauritania
UNHCR is predicting there to be 75,261 residents in this camp by December 2014. The majority of the refugees are from Mali, but many come from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Cote d’Ivoire, as well. It is expected the influx of Malian refugees will slowly stabilize. The situation in Mali still remains delicate and will not allow for large-scale returns.

5. Al Zaatari, Jordan
UNHCR reports there are 101,402 refugees currently in the camp and that number has been decreasing since February 2014. The majority of the refugees are Syrians fleeing the violence in their country. The camp has faced several violent protests since it opened two years ago, mainly due to poor living conditions.

4. Jabalia, Gaza Strip
The largest of the Gaza Strip’s eight refugee camps, Jabalia is home to 110,000 registered refugees who fled from southern Palestine. The camp faces extreme unemployment, as well as a contaminated water supply and electricity cuts.

3. Kakuma, Kenya
This refugee camp has been home to South Sudan refugees since 1992. The ongoing violence in South Sudan has prompted 20,000 people to flee to Kenya as of February 2014. Today, 124,814 refugees from 15 nationalities live in Kakuma. The camp is significantly over capacity and suffers from lack of resources.

2. Dollo Ado, Ethiopia
This camp holds 201,123 registered Somali refugees. The population of this refugee camp has been steadily increasing since March 2013 due to drought and famine in Somalia.

1. Dadaab, Kenya
UNHCR estimates that in December 2014 there will be 496,130 refugees in the camp from Ethiopia, Somalia, South Sudan and various other places. They also estimate there to be 83, 660 people seeking asylum from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia and South Sudan

7/17/2016

Protected: Portland, Oregon, Has A Lead Problem. Children Are Paying The Price.

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3/5/2016

THE AIR WE BREATHE: Dangerous contaminants found hovering over Portland

poison

Studies find much of Portland’s air worse than rest of nation

On a hazy summer day, sometimes you can see toxic substances in Portland’s air. In some neighborhoods throughout the year, you can smell them.

Some Northwest Portland residents report they can even taste the metallic tinge that toxics leave on the palate, and they stay indoors to avoid it, even on hot days.

While toxic air can make your daily life miserable, it also can give you cancer, as eastside residents recently learned after revelations of cadmium and arsenic lurking in their air for who knows how long, much of it apparently from two small glass companies.

Over the past two weeks, many residents have been troubled by a series of maps, generated from DEQ data, showing concentrations of various toxics in the air. However, a map created for the Portland Tribune using EPA data on cancer risks, shows that almost every neighborhood has air contaminated by dangerous levels of carcinogenic heavy metals and chemical compounds.

Though that news is bad enough, it gets worse. On Dec. 17, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released data indicating that Portland’s air-quality problems extend far beyond the neighborhoods near the glass companies.

The National Air Toxics Assessment shows that Portland’s airshed is bursting with a toxic stew consisting of dozens of heavy metals and chemical compounds, including 49 that are carcinogenic. The assessment was based on raw data collected in 2011 that took several years for the EPA to analyze and compile.

“There are hot spots here and there, but, generally, there’s an elevated risk throughout the Portland area,” says Kevin Downing, the Clean Diesel Program coordinator for Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality.

The EPA looked at human health impacts from estimated exposure to outdoor sources ranging from tailpipes to industrial smokestacks. The agency examined the cancer risk from breathing 40 different toxic chemicals found in diesel exhaust — thought it didn’t assess the cancer risk from breathing tiny particles of soot from that exhaust. That’s because the EPA, unlike many other health and environmental agencies around the world, has determined there are no health studies that it considers suitable for estimating diesel’s cancer potency.

As a result, critics say the EPA is dramatically underestimating the deadly potency of the nation’s — and Portland’s — air.

Even so, says one of those critics, Portland Clean Air founder Greg Bourget, the EPA data still makes it clear that Portland’s toxic air is dangerous throughout the city, and is among “the worst in the country.”

Portland is a major manufacturing center and, as a port city, a destination for freight trucks, trains and ships. Its hilly geography acts as a mixing bowl that traps the dangerous compounds emitted by industry and vehicles.

Portland also is relatively compact because of its urban growth boundary, so many people wind up living close to industrial and high-traffic areas, says Corky Collier, executive director of the Columbia Corridor Association. Collier says he’s not surprised by the latest EPA data showing widespread toxins in the air over Portland, and suspects diesel emissions are a major factor.

It’s unclear how the air quality has changed since the EPA’s 2011 air sampling. But since the end of the Great Recession, traffic, manufacturing and business activity have increased.

More cancer risks here

Some cancers are caused by genetic factors, but the World Health Organization estimates that half are caused by environmental factors, like air pollution, and are preventable. The EPA estimates that Portland’s air is capable of causing between 26 and 86 extra cancers per 1 million people. In six census tracts near the city center, this cancer rate is worse than 99 percent of the country.

The EPA encourages people to use the results of its assessment “cautiously,” due to uncertainties in the data, limitations in computer models, and variations in data collection methods from location to location. Nevertheless, the database shows that the air in only 58 of the nation’s 3,200 counties is deemed capable of causing more cancer than in Multnomah County. One of them is King County in Washington. The 24 carcinogens detected in Seattle’s air are capable of causing an estimated 166 extra cancers per 1 million people. The nation’s worst air, according to the database, is found in New Orleans, where 39 airborne carcinogens are capable of causing an estimated 826 extra cancers per million people.

The database shows that while the heaviest concentration of carcinogens in Portland’s air are found in the downtown area, dangerous levels can be detected in every neighborhood throughout the city. Some of the heaviest concentrations occur along freeways, where diesel trucks belch a brew of carcinogens in their exhaust, as well as downwind from industrial polluters.

The DEQ also has prepared maps of air toxics in the area, though it factors in particulate matter from diesel as a carcinogen. Its maps also show widespread toxic air throughout the city.

Cancer is not the only health concern related to foul air. The EPA detected dangerous levels of another 17 toxics in Portland’s air, such as the acrid industrial chemical acrolein, which causes respiratory diseases like asthma. Portland’s air also is a dumping ground for low levels of lead, mercury and manganese, each of which can cause neurological and cognitive disorders in children, even at extremely small concentrations.

Neighbors target ESCO

Breathing the air in parts of Portland can be a little like drinking the water in Flint, Mich.

The EPA calculates that about 1,315 pounds of lead is dumped into Portland’s air yearly. Much of the lead enters the residential neighborhoods of Northwest Portland, including the Pearl District. The ESCO steel foundry at Northwest 25th and Vaughn Street can dump up to 207 pounds of lead into the air every year under its air pollution permit. Certain fuels and railroad locomotives also are sources of lead contamination in Portland, according to the EPA.

The air in parts of Northwest Portland violates a health-safety benchmark for lead, with unknown health impacts on residents, according to the DEQ. Many doctors believe there are no safe levels of these metals.

ESCO says that its lead emissions stem from recycling old scrap metals, which sometimes contain lead. In the near future, its emissions are likely to go down as the company closes two of its three plants, says company spokeswoman Scenna Shipley. Along with lead, mercury and manganese, ESCO releases 37 different types of toxic air pollution, according to the DEQ, including hexavalent chromium, cadmium and formaldehyde.

From 2009 to 2011, the DEQ attempted to reduce the amount of toxic chemicals in the air through its Portland Air Toxic Solutions project, which identified unhealthy levels of 14 toxic compounds in the city’s air. But after a lengthy series of meetings, studies and public hearings, the project failed to find any solutions, disappointing many residents who demanded action.

Residents of Northwest Portland have been fighting a battle against toxic air for at least 20 years. In 2012, a citizen group, Neighbors for Clean Air, led by activist Mary Peveto, reached a Good Neighbor Agreement with ESCO, requiring the company to perform “technological fixes,” Peveto says. However, she notes that the agreement did not specify how much pollution ESCO would be required to cut. Neither the agreement nor the DEQ required ESCO to stop emitting lead.

“They wouldn’t tie themselves to a reduction standard,” she says. “They agreed to take technology implementation actions. Then they agreed that we would be able to verify that each of those actions was implemented fully and was meeting intended goals. They would not agree to a number that said we are going to reduce pollution by x amount.”

All of the actions that ESCO agreed to were added to its air pollution permit, which is enforced by the DEQ.

Scenna says ESCO is still working on technological upgrades to reduce air pollution.

“We’re still actively engaged on that front through the Good Neighbor Agreement,” she says.

Chevron targeted

The Northwest neighborhood achieved a more clear-cut victory over pollution in 2001, when two residents, documentary filmmaker Sharon Genasci and her husband, Don Genasci, sued Chevron for releasing massive amounts of toxic vapors from its gasoline storage facilities near the west end of the St. Johns Bridge.

At the time, the DEQ often issued ozone alerts that warned the entire city about unsafe air caused when toxic vapors reacted with the heat from sunlight. These alerts often occurred on days that Chevron refilled its storage tanks with gasoline pumped from river barges. These gasoline transfers from barges allowed massive amounts of toxic vapors to escape. A settlement of the lawsuit forced Chevron and several other gasoline companies to control this pollution.

In addition, the Genascis won a $75,000 judgment, which they spent on monitoring the neighborhood’s air pollution. This monitoring formed the basis of a concerted campaign for cleaner air that continues to this day.

Sharon Genasci, who investigated the air pollution in an award-winning documentary, “What’s in the Air?” today says the neighborhood’s air seems “just as bad as ever,” despite the ESCO agreement.

Until the toxic air is cleaned up, she adds, Portland’s reputation as a clean, environmentally sustainable city is more myth than reality.

“It’s so ironic, so infuriating,” she says of the recent revelations about carcinogens in Portland’s air attributed to glass companies. “Those are the same emissions we were complaining about 20 years ago, and nobody lifted a finger to help us.”

THE DIRTY 49

In December, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released its National Air Toxics Assessment, documenting measurable amounts of 49 carcinogenic substances in Portland’s air.

The multiyear study analyzed air samples from 2011, so some conditions have changed since then.

Here are the cancer-causing toxics the EPA detected in Portland air:

# 1,1,2-Trichloroethane, used in laboratory research

# 1,2-Dibromo-3-chloropropane, a banned pesticide

# 1,3-Butadiene, found in diesel exhaust

# 1,3-Dichloropropene, a pesticide

# 1,4-Dichlorobenzene, a pesticide

# 1,4-Dioxane, an ether

# 2,4-Dinitrotoluene, found in polyurethane foams

# 2,4-Toluene diisocyanate, found in polyurethane foams

# 2-Nitropropane, used in inks, paints, adhesives

# Acetaldehyde, found in diesel exhaust

# Acrylamide, used to manufacture various polymers

# Acrylonitrile, used to manufacture plastics

# Allyl chloride, an alkylating agent

# Arsenic compounds, found in diesel exhaust, ESCO emissions

# Benzene, found in diesel exhaust, ESCO emissions

# Benzidine, used to produce dyes

# Benzyl chloride, a plasticizer

# Beryllium compounds, found in diesel exhaust

# Bis (2-ethylhexyl)phthalate, found in diesel exhaust

# Bromoform, a solvent

# Cadmium compounds, found in diesel exhaust, ESCO’s emissions

# Carbon tetrachloride, found in diesel exhaust

# Chloroprene, used to produce synthetic rubber

# Chromium vi (hexavalent), found in diesel exhaust, ESCO’s emissions

# Epichlorohydrin, used to produce glycerol

# Ethylbenzene, found in diesel exhaust

# Ethylene dibromide, found in diesel exhaust

# Ethylene dichloride, found in diesel exhaust

# Ethylene oxide, found in diesel exhaust

# Ethylidene dichloride, a solvent

# Formaldehyde, found in diesel exhaust, ESCO’s emissions

# Hexachlorobenzene, found in diesel exhaust

# Hexachlorobutadiene, used as a solvent

# Hydrazine, used in specialty fuels

# Methyl tert-butyl ether, found in diesel exhaust

# Methylene chloride, found in diesel exhaust

# Naphthalene, found in diesel exhaust, ESCO’s emissions

# Nickel compounds, found in diesel exhaust, ESCO’s emissions

# Nitrobenzene, found in diesel exhaust

# O-toluidine, found in diesel exhaust

# PAH/POM, found in diesel exhaust, ESCO’s emissions

# Pentachlorophenol, a fungicide

# PCBs, used in coolant fluids

# Propylene oxide, used in polyurethane plastics

# Tetrachloroethylene, used in dry-cleaning

# Trichloroethylene, a solvent

# Vinyl chloride, used to produce pvc

Malaria: quinine-spiked liqueurs

Filed under: culture,disease/health — admin @ 8:47 am

Shaken with splash of malaria drug, please. The original James Bond martini is made with gin, vodka and Kina Lillet, a French aperitif wine flavored with a smidge of the anti-malaria drug quinine

As you probably know, tonic is simply carbonated water mixed with quinine, a bitter compound that just happens to cure a malaria infection, albeit not so well.

Many modern day liqueurs like Campari and Pimm’s contain quinine. And absinthe — that anise-flavored spirit with a nasty reputation — also has a history with malaria.

Absinthe gets its bitter flavor and alleged psychedelic properties from wormwood, a shrub that’s been around since the dinosaurs. Coincidentally, the most powerful malaria drug we have today also comes from a type of wormwood found in China. More on that later. Dubonnet is a French liqueur made wine, herbs and quinine. Joseph Dubonnet concocted the beverage as way to make troops take their malaria medication.

Dubonnet is a French liqueur made wine, herbs and quinine. Joseph Dubonnet concocted the beverage as way to make troops take their malaria medication.

So how in the heck did all these malaria drugs get mixed in with our mixology?

Let’s start with the classic: quinine. The bitter compound comes from the bark of the cinchona tree (pronounced sin-KO-neh) in the Andes Mountains of South America.

It’s unknown who discovered the fever-curing properties of the cinchona bark, but according to the Kew Royalty Botanical Gardens, Jesuit missionaries figured it out by about 1650, and soon it became the front-line defense for malaria in Europe (which at the time was treated with all kinds of barbaric approaches, like limb amputations and bloodletting).

By the late 1800s, the Dutch were growing the cinchona tree on the island of Java in Indonesia to meet the high-demand for quinine back in Europe, where monks and pharmacists were using the bark to make medicinal tonics. Herb liqueurs all started this way.

Apothecaries would soak the herbs and wood in alcohol to extract out the active ingredients and preserve them. Then you add a little bit of sugar to make it taste better, and you have a liqueur.

Pharmacists and chemists were making concoctions like this for just about every ailment: stomach aches, constipation, kidney stones and even alcohol-induced liver failure.

For malaria, they’d simply add cinchona to the elixirs.

Some of these quinine-spiked liqueurs are still around today, and the malaria drug gives them a characteristic bitter flavor.

There’s Lillet, a French aperitif that goes into James Bond’s famous martini: “Three parts of Gordon’s gin to one part vodka and a half measure of Kina Lillet,” he says in Casino Royale.

There’s the Italian Cocchi Americano, which is an essential component of the Corpse Reviver, one of the first cocktails designed to cure a hangover.

And, then there’s Dubonnet‚ a sweet, quinine-flavored aperitif beloved by both the Queen Mother and Queen Elizabeth II. And, in the movie The Way We Were, Barbara Streisand drank Dubonnet over ice as Katie Morosky.

Often mistaken as an ad for absinthe, the 1906 poster actually promotes Maruin Quina, a French aperitif made with white wine infused with cherries, citrus and quinine.

Dubonnet also shares historical roots with the gin and tonic. They were both concocted as a way to get soldiers to take their malaria medication. Dubonnet helped French troops in North Africa get their quinine while British officers in India cut its bitter taste with gin, carbonated water and twist of lime.

So what about absinthe?

While Europeans and South Americans were messing around with cinchona and quinine, the Chinese had an even more powerful malaria drug. Chinese doctors have been treating malaria with a tea made from sweet wormwood, or qinghao, for thousands of years. They’d soak the shrub in water and then wring it out to extract the active ingredients. In the 1960s, Chairman Mao wanted a magic bullet to stop malaria among soldiers in North Vietnam. So he enlisted top scientists to find a new malaria drug from herbs used in traditional Chinese medicine.

It took 14 years and over 50 scientists, but finally the scientists isolated a potent anti-malarial compound from sweet wormwood. It’s called artemisinin, and we still use it today.

But a note of caution‚ artemisinin isn’t found in the European wormwood used in absinthe, so a drink of that liqueur wouldn’t help with a malaria infection.

8/1/2014

UCSF study questions role of skin pigment in enabling survival at higher latitudes

Filed under: culture,disease/health — admin @ 4:51 am

The popular idea that Northern Europeans developed light skin to absorb more UV light so they could make more vitamin D vital for healthy bones and immune function is questioned by UC San Francisco researchers in a new study published online in the journal Evolutionary Biology. Ramping up the skin’s capacity to capture UV light to make vitamin D is indeed important, according to a team led by Peter Elias, MD, a UCSF professor of dermatology. However, Elias and colleagues concluded in their study that changes in the skin’s function as a barrier to the elements made a greater contribution than alterations in skin pigment in the ability of Northern Europeans to make vitamin D.

Elias’ team concluded that genetic mutations compromising the skin’s ability to serve as a barrier allowed fair-skinned Northern Europeans to populate latitudes where too little ultraviolet B (UVB) light for vitamin D production penetrates the atmosphere.

Among scientists studying human evolution, it has been almost universally assumed that the need to make more vitamin D at Northern latitudes drove genetic mutations that reduce production of the pigment melanin, the main determinant of skin tone, according to Elias.

“At the higher latitudes of Great Britain, Scandinavia and the Baltic States, as well as Northern Germany and France, very little UVB light reaches the Earth, and it’s the key wavelength required by the skin for vitamin D generation,” Elias said.

“While is seems logical that the loss of the pigment melanin would serve as a compensatory mechanism, allowing for more irradiation of the skin surface and therefore more vitamin D production, this hypothesis is flawed for many reasons,” he continued. “For example, recent studies show that dark-skinned humans make vitamin D after sun exposure as efficiently as lightly-pigmented humans, and osteoporosis which can be a sign of vitamin D deficiency is less common, rather than more common, in darkly-pigmented humans.”

Furthermore, evidence for a south to north gradient in the prevalence of melanin mutations is weaker than for this alternative explanation explored by Elias and colleagues.

In earlier research, Elias began studying the role of skin as a barrier to water loss. He recently has focused on a specific skin-barrier protein called filaggrin, which is broken down into a molecule called urocanic acid the most potent absorber of UVB light in the skin, according to Elias. “It’s certainly more important than melanin in lightly-pigmented skin,” he said.

In their new study, the researchers identified a strikingly higher prevalence of inborn mutations in the filaggrin gene among Northern European populations. Up to 10 percent of normal individuals carried mutations in the filaggrin gene in these northern nations, in contrast to much lower mutation rates in southern European, Asian and African populations.

Moreover, higher filaggrin mutation rates, which result in a loss of urocanic acid, correlated with higher vitamin D levels in the blood. Latitude-dependent variations in melanin genes are not similarly associated with vitamin D levels, according to Elias. This evidence suggests that changes in the skin barrier played a role in Northern European’s evolutionary adaptation to Northern latitudes, the study concluded.

Yet, there was an evolutionary tradeoff for these barrier-weakening filaggrin mutations, Elias said. Mutation bearers have a tendency for very dry skin, and are vulnerable to atopic dermatitis, asthma and food allergies. But these diseases have appeared only recently, and did not become a problem until humans began to live in densely populated urban environments, Elias said.

The Elias lab has shown that pigmented skin provides a better skin barrier, which he says was critically important for protection against dehydration and infections among ancestral humans living in sub-Saharan Africa. But the need for pigment to provide this extra protection waned as modern human populations migrated northward over the past 60,000 years or so, Elias said, while the need to absorb UVB light became greater, particularly for those humans who migrated to the far North behind retreating glaciers less than 10,000 years ago.

The data from the new study do not explain why Northern Europeans lost melanin. If the need to make more vitamin D did not drive pigment loss, what did? Elias speculates that, “Once human populations migrated northward, away from the tropical onslaught of UVB, pigment was gradually lost in service of metabolic conservation. The body will not waste precious energy and proteins to make proteins that it no longer needs.”

7/31/2014

Ecojustice research finds that Canada has no standard for more than 100 substances regulated by at least one other comparison country

Filed under: canada,disease/health,resource — admin @ 6:38 am

TORONTO – July 16 – Canada’s drinking water standards continue to lag behind international benchmarks and are at risk of falling even farther behind, according to the findings of a new investigative report, Waterproof: Standards, released by Ecojustice today. “There is no reason Canadians shouldn’t have the safest drinking water the world,” said Ecojustice staff lawyer and report co-author Randy Christensen. “But regulatory efforts required to create, implement and maintain strong, world-class standards are sorely lacking.” Waterproof: Standards examined the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality — which determine the maximum allowable level of contaminants in water considered safe for human use and consumption — and compared them with corresponding frameworks in the United States, European Union, and Australia, as well as standards recommended by the World Health Organization.

The findings are troubling. While Canada has, or is tied for, the strongest standard in 24 instances, it has, or is tied for, the weakest standard for 27 substances. And in 105 other cases, Canada has no standard where at least one other comparison country does.

For instance, the standard for the commonly used pesticide 2,4-D is 1.5-3 times stronger in other countries than it is in Canada. Long-term exposure to this substance, a common herbicide that can be detected in surface water across Canada, has been linked to liver, kidney and nervous system damage. In another troubling case, Canada has no standard for styrene, a possible human carcinogen, even though it is regulated by the United States, Australia and the World Health Organization. Also noteworthy is the fact that Canada has no microbiological water treatment standard– advanced filtration or equivalent technology — that provides protection, in addition to the microbiological water quality standards, from waterborne pathogens, such as E.coli. “Access to clean, safe drinking water is human health and rights issue,” said Ecojustice senior scientist and report co-author Dr. Elaine MacDonald. “Without a concerted effort to improve Canada’s deficient water standards, legislators will continue to put the health of Canadians at risk and perpetuate inequity in water quality across the country, particularly in rural and First Nations communities.”

6/27/2014

Chikungunya

Filed under: caribbean,disease/health,dominica,dominican republic,usa — admin @ 3:55 pm

They suffer searing headaches, a burning fever and so much pain in their joints they can barely walk or use their hands. It’s like having a terrible flu combined with an abrupt case of arthritis.

Hospitals and clinics throughout the Caribbean are seeing thousands of people with the same symptoms, victims of a virus with a long and unfamiliar name that has been spread rapidly by mosquitoes across the islands after the first locally transmitted case was confirmed in December.

“You feel it in your bones, your fingers and your hands. It’s like everything is coming apart,” said 34-year-old Sahira Francisco as she and her daughter waited for treatment at a hospital in San Cristobal, a town in the southern Dominican Republic that has seen a surge of the cases in recent days.

The virus is chikungunya, derived from an African word that loosely translates as “contorted with pain.” People encountering it in the Caribbean for the first time say the description is fitting. While the virus is rarely fatal it is extremely debilitating.

“It is terrible, I have never in my life gotten such an illness,” said Maria Norde, a 66-year-old woman confined to bed at her home on the lush eastern Caribbean island of Dominica. “All my jointsare in pain.”

Outbreaks of the virus have long made people miserable in Africa and Asia. But it is new to the Caribbean, with the first locally transmitted case documented in December in French St. Martin, likely brought in by an infected air traveler. Health officials are now working feverishly to educate the public about the illness, knock down the mosquito population, and deal with an onslaught of cases.

Authorities are attempting to control mosquitoes throughout the Caribbean, from dense urban neighborhoods to beach resorts. There have been no confirmed cases of local transmission of chikungunya on the U.S. mainland, but experts say the high number of travelers to the region means that could change as early as this summer.

So far, there are no signs the virus is keeping visitors away though some Caribbean officials warn it might if it is not controlled. “We need to come together and deal with this disease,” said Dominica Tourism Minister Ian Douglas.

One thing is certain: The virus has found fertile ground in the Caribbean. The Pan American Health Organization reports more than 55,000 suspected and confirmed cases since December throughout the islands. It has also reached French Guiana, the first confirmed transmission on the South American mainland.

The Pan American Health Organization says seven people in the Caribbean with chikungunya have died during the outbreak but they had underlying health issues that likely contributed to their death.

“It’s building up like a snowball because of the constant movement of people,” said Jacqueline Medina, a specialist at the Instituto Technologico university in the Dominican Republic, where some hospitals report more than 100 new cases per day.

Chikungunya was identified in Africa in 1953 and is found throughout the tropics of the Eastern Hemisphere. It is spread by two species of mosquitoes, aedes aegypti and aedes albopictus. It’s also a traveler-borne virus under the right circumstances.

It can spread to a new area if someone has it circulating in their system during a relatively short period of time, roughly 2-3 days before the onset of symptoms to 5 days after, and then arrives to an area with the right kind of mosquitoes.

For years, there have been sporadic cases of travelers diagnosed with chikungunya but without local transmission. In 2007, there was an outbreak in northern Italy, so health authorities figured it was just a matter of time before it spread to the Western Hemisphere, said Dr. Roger Nasci, of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“With the increase in travelers the likelihood that something like this would happen goes up and eventually it did,” said Nasci, chief of a CDC branch that tracks insect-borne diseases. “We ended up with somebody at the right time and the right place infecting mosquitoes.” The two species of mosquitoes that spread chikungunya are found in the southern and eastern United States and the first local transmissions could occur this summer given the large number of U.S. travelers to the Caribbean, Nasci said. Already, the Florida Department of Health has reported at least four imported cases from travelers to Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Dominica.

“What we’re seeing now is an increase in the number of infected travelers coming from the Caribbean, which is expected because there’s a lot of U.S. travel, a lot of vacation travel, a lot of work travel,” he said.

Around the Caribbean, local authorities have been spraying fogs of pesticides and urging people to remove standing pools of water where mosquitoes breed.

An estimated 60-90 percent of those infected show symptoms, compared to around 20 percent for dengue, which is common in the region. There is no vaccine and the only cure is treatment for the pain and fluid loss.

One consolation for those suffering from the illness is that unlike dengue, which has several variants, people only seem to get chikungunya once.

“The evidence suggests that once you get it and recover, once your immune system clears the virus you are immune for life,” Nasci said.

E. coli outbreak linked to sprouts; hummus, dips, walnuts recalled

Filed under: agriculture,consumer,disease/health,usa — admin @ 3:52 pm

This has been a big week for food product recalls and the risk of food borne illness. Hamburger nearly kills Michigan man

Seven confirmed and three likely cases of E. coli infection linked to raw clover sprouts have been reported, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday. Beef recall expands Each year one out of every six Americans is sickened by a food borne illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Here are some of the biggest food borne illness outbreaks since 2001. Click here for tips on how to keep your food safe. Each year one out of every six Americans is sickened by a food borne illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Here are some of the biggest food borne illness outbreaks since 2001. Click here for tips on how to keep your food safe. Cantaloupes tainted with salmonella infected more than 260 people across 24 states in October 2012. Three people in Kentucky died and 94 were hospitalized. Investigators determined Chamberlain Farms Produce Inc. of Owensville, Indiana, was the source of this outbreak. Cantaloupes tainted with salmonella infected more than 260 people across 24 states in October 2012. Three people in Kentucky died and 94 were hospitalized. Investigators determined Chamberlain Farms Produce Inc. of Owensville, Indiana, was the source of this outbreak. Salmonella in a frozen raw yellowfin tuna product, known as Nakaochi Scrape, sickened 425 people and hospitalized 55 in the spring and summer of 2012. The product was used most often to make “spicy tuna” sushi, according to the CDC. Salmonella in a frozen raw yellowfin tuna product, known as Nakaochi Scrape, sickened 425 people and hospitalized 55 in the spring and summer of 2012. The product was used most often to make “spicy tuna” sushi, according to the CDC. In September 2011, listeria in cantaloupes left 30 people dead in what was the deadliest U.S. outbreak of a food borne illness since the CDC started keeping track of listeria cases in 1973, according to the agency. In September 2011, listeria in cantaloupes left 30 people dead in what was the deadliest U.S. outbreak of a food borne illness since the CDC started keeping track of listeria cases in 1973, according to the agency. Between February and August 2011, the Cargill Meat Solutions Corp. recalled more than 36 million pounds of ground turkey after tests revealed a strain of salmonella. The outbreak killed one person and sickened more than 130. Between February and August 2011, the Cargill Meat Solutions Corp. recalled more than 36 million pounds of ground turkey after tests revealed a strain of salmonella. The outbreak killed one person and sickened more than 130. In summer 2010, more than 1,900 people were reportedly sickened by salmonella found in eggs produced by Iowa’s Hillandale Farms, which voluntarily recalled about a half-billion eggs nationwide. In summer 2010, more than 1,900 people were reportedly sickened by salmonella found in eggs produced by Iowa’s Hillandale Farms, which voluntarily recalled about a half-billion eggs nationwide. Authorities shut down a processing plant in Texas in October 2010 after four deaths were tied to listeria-infected celery produced at the site. The Texas Department of State Health Services ordered SanGar Fresh Cut Produce to recall all products shipped from its San Antonio plant. Authorities shut down a processing plant in Texas in October 2010 after four deaths were tied to listeria-infected celery produced at the site. The Texas Department of State Health Services ordered SanGar Fresh Cut Produce to recall all products shipped from its San Antonio plant. Between April and August 2008, 1,442 people in 43 states were infected with salmonella from Mexico-grown jalapeÒo and serrano peppers. At least 300 people were hospitalized, and the infection may have contributed to two deaths, according to the CDC. Walmart stores in four states recalled jars of serrano peppers as a result. Between April and August 2008, 1,442 people in 43 states were infected with salmonella from Mexico-grown jalapeÒo and serrano peppers. At least 300 people were hospitalized, and the infection may have contributed to two deaths, according to the CDC. Walmart stores in four states recalled jars of serrano peppers as a result. Nine people died from salmonella-infected peanut butter between September 2008 and April 2009. The Peanut Corp. of America had sold the tainted peanut butter in bulk to King Nut, which recalled its products. More than 700 people were infected and 166 hospitalized. Nine people died from salmonella-infected peanut butter between September 2008 and April 2009. The Peanut Corp. of America had sold the tainted peanut butter in bulk to King Nut, which recalled its products. More than 700 people were infected and 166 hospitalized. In the summer of 2006, more than 200 people became infected with E. coli from spinach grown on a single California field. Investigators traced the prepackaged spinach back to Natural Selection Foods and baby spinach sold under the Dole brand name. Five deaths were linked to the outbreak. In the summer of 2006, more than 200 people became infected with E. coli from spinach grown on a single California field. Investigators traced the prepackaged spinach back to Natural Selection Foods and baby spinach sold under the Dole brand name. Five deaths were linked to the outbreak. During 2005 and 2006, four large outbreaks of salmonella infections hit 21 states in the United States. Tainted tomatoes being served in restaurants were found to be the cause. Investigators linked the produce to fields in Florida, Ohio and Virginia. During 2005 and 2006, four large outbreaks of salmonella infections hit 21 states in the United States. Tainted tomatoes being served in restaurants were found to be the cause. Investigators linked the produce to fields in Florida, Ohio and Virginia. Pre-sliced Roma tomatoes purchased at deli counters in Sheetz gas stations infected more than 400 people in the summer of 2004. Two other smaller outbreaks in the United States and Canada also occurred that summer and were linked back to a tomato-packing house in Florida. Pre-sliced Roma tomatoes purchased at deli counters in Sheetz gas stations infected more than 400 people in the summer of 2004. Two other smaller outbreaks in the United States and Canada also occurred that summer and were linked back to a tomato-packing house in Florida. Listeria-infected sliced turkey killed eight and infected 46 others in 2002. Three pregnant women had fetal deaths. Two processing plants recalled 30 million pounds of meat following the outbreak. Listeria-infected sliced turkey killed eight and infected 46 others in 2002. Three pregnant women had fetal deaths. Two processing plants recalled 30 million pounds of meat following the outbreak. In 2001, cantaloupe was again the culprit. Salmonella tainted the fruit that killed two, hospitalized nine and infected 50 in an outbreak that started in Mexico. In 2001, cantaloupe was again the culprit. Salmonella tainted the fruit that killed two, hospitalized nine and infected 50 in an outbreak that started in Mexico. Worst food borne illness outbreaks Cantaloupe Tuna Cantaloupe Ground turkey Eggs Celery Peppers Peanut butter Spinach Tomatoes Roma tomatoes Deli meats Cantaloupe

World Cup

In Sao Paulo’s poor north zone, in the neighborhood of Tucuruvi, teams of city workers knock on doors, warning people to take pets and small children out of the area.

Quickly after, men in hazmat suits with metal cylinders strapped to their backs start spraying the street, and some of the interiors of the homes, with powerful pesticides. This is the front line of the war on dengue fever in Brazil’s largest city.

“This year, dengue transmission has been much more significant in Sao Paulo than in other years,” says Nancy Marcal Bastos de Souza, a biologist who works with the city authorities. “We spray neighborhoods where we have a confirmed case of someone contracting dengue so we know there are dengue-carrying mosquitoes there,” she says.

Only two weeks shy of the World Cup soccer tournament in Brazil, which begins June 12, there’s concern that international visitors could get infected and then bring the disease back to their home nations.

Already, it seems like everything that can go wrong is going wrong. There have been protests and strikes, and now government officials, like those in Paraguay, are warning their citizens about the dengue epidemic sweeping Brazil.

Dengue fever has long been a problem in Brazil. The country has more recorded cases than any other in the world‚ some 1 million on average each year.

The infection is carried by female mosquitoes, who bite during the day and who pass on the dengue virus to their female offspring. Symptoms include fever, aching joints and headaches. There is no treatment or vaccine, and a rarer form of the disease ‚ dengue hemorrhagic fever ‚ can be fatal. The disease is caused by four different types of the dengue virus, all of which are active in Brazil. But the one that has everyone most worried is called Type 4, which has only recently arrived in the region. So why does Brazil have such a big problem with dengue?

Biologists say one of the reasons is poor water infrastructure.

“People have to put water in a space close to their homes, and there, the mosquitoes come and breed,” says Celso Granato, head of infectious diseases at the Federal University of Sao Paulo.

Mosquito eggs can survive up to a year as well, so he says the key to combating dengue is persistence. That means using a combination of controls, such as spraying even when there aren’t that many cases, as the infection comes in waves.

But the local governments in Brazil don’t do that, says Granato. “What does the public administrator here think?” he asks. “This year we didn’t have dengue so don’t worry about next year.” Politicians, he adds, are usually short-sighted.

A new project in the Brazilian state of Bahia with genetically modified mosquitoes has shown early promise but is still in the test phase.

So there’s been little to stop the sudden spike in Sao Paulo, Brazil’s biggest city with a population of 20 million. With more than 6,000 cases so far in the city alone ‚ and almost 60,000 in the surrounding state ‚ hospitals are overrun.

Granato says once dengue arrives somewhere, it’s there to stay.

Antonio Rios Sobrinho, a lawyer in his 70s, says he began to feel sick on a Friday. He went home early from work and quickly got worse. He was rushed to the hospital where, after a lengthy period, he was diagnosed with dengue hemorrhagic fever.

Sobrinho says he’s been living in his neighborhood for 60 years and there had never been a single case of dengue. In fact, dengue was generally rare in Sao Paulo. But this year, just on his street, 15 people came down with the infection.

He says he was lucky to survive. This year was bad, but he fears next year will be worse.

US Scientists, Oil Giant Stole Indigenous Blood

Filed under: brazil,corporate-greed,culture,disease/health — admin @ 2:50 pm

For years, scientists working with Maxus Energy took blood samples from hundreds of Amazonian tribal members. U.S. scientists working together with oil company Maxus Energy took around 3,500 blood samples from the indigenous Amazonian tribe known as the Huaorani, Ecuador charged on Monday. The Huaorani are known for a unique genetic makeup that makes them immune to certain diseases.

RenÈ RamÌrez, the head of the Ecuadorian Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Technology, told Ecuador state TV on Monday that samples were taken from around 600 Huaorani, and that multiple pints of blood were taken from many members of the tribe. RamÌrez said that it is not yet known whether the samples have resulted in any commercial gains, but that samples were sold for scientific research.

According to an initial investigation two years ago, “It was demonstrated that the Coriell Institute has in its stores samples (from the Huaorani) and that it sells genetic material from the Huaorani people.” Harvard University was among the purchasers. Specifically, the 2012 report found that since 1994, seven cell cultures and 36 blood samples were distributed to eight different countries. In the same report the Huaorani said that scientists had tricked them into allowing their blood to be taken between 1990 and 1991; however, President Rafael Correa said that there is now evidence that samples were taken as far back as the 1970s “in complicity with the oil company operating in the area.”

The Huaorani allegedly agreed to give the blood samples because scientists lied to them about why the samples were being taken. They were told the samples were being taken for medical tests, but never received results.

According to the website Hispanically Speaking News, in his weekly radio address on Saturday, President Correa said that at least 31 research papers were written between 1989 and 2012 based on the blood samples obtained–all without the consent of the Huaorani or the royalty payments normally required.

The taking of the samples was illegal, as Ecuador’s constitution bans the use of scientific research including genetic material in violation of human rights.

According to AFP, when the allegations first emerged in 2012, the U.S. Embassy said it was not aware of the case, and they did not immediately issue a response after Ecuador brought the charges on Monday.

Fukushima’s Children are Dying

Filed under: disaster,disease/health,japan,nuclear/radiation — admin @ 2:43 pm

More than 48 percent of some 375,000 young people–nearly 200,000 kids–tested by the Fukushima Medical University near the smoldering reactors now suffer from pre-cancerous thyroid abnormalities, primarily nodules and cysts.Some 39 months after the multiple explosions at Fukushima, thyroid cancer rates among nearby children have skyrocketed to more than forty times (40x) normal.

More than 48 percent of some 375,000 young people–nearly 200,000 kids–tested by the Fukushima Medical University near the smoldering reactors now suffer from pre-cancerous thyroid abnormalities, primarily nodules and cysts. The rate is accelerating.

More than 120 childhood cancers have been indicated where just three would be expected, says Joseph Mangano, executive director of the Radiation and Public Health Project.

The nuclear industry and its apologists continue to deny this public health tragedy. Some have actually asserted that “not one person” has been affected by Fukushima’s massive radiation releases, which for some isotopes exceed Hiroshima by a factor of nearly 30.

But the deadly epidemic at Fukima is consistent with impacts suffered among children near the 1979 accident at Three Mile Island and the 1986 explosion at Chernobyl, as well as findings at other commercial reactors.

The likelihood that atomic power could cause such epidemics has been confirmed by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, which says that “an increase in the risk of childhood thyroid cancer” would accompany a reactor disaster.

In evaluating the prospects of new reactor construction in Canada, the Commission says the rate “would rise by 0.3 percent at a distance of 12 kilometers” from the accident. But that assumes the distribution of protective potassium iodide pills and a successful emergency evacuation, neither of which happened at Three Mile Island, Chernobyl or Fukushima.

The numbers have been analyzed by Mangano. He has studied the impacts of reactor-created radiation on human health since the 1980s, beginning his work with the legendary radiologist Dr. Ernest Sternglass and statistician Jay Gould.

Speaking on the Green Power & Wellness Show, Mangano also confirms that the general health among downwind human populations improves when atomic reactors are shut down, and goes into decline when they open or re-open.

Nearby children are not the only casualties at Fukushima. Plant operator Masao Yoshida has died at age 58 of esophogeal cancer. Masao heroically refused to abandon Fukushima at the worst of the crisis, probably saving millions of lives. Workers at the site who are employed by independent contractors–many dominated by organized crime–are often not being monitored for radiation exposure at all. Public anger is rising over government plans to force families–many with small children–back into the heavily contaminated region around the plant.

Following its 1979 accident, Three Mile Island’s owners denied the reactor had melted. But a robotic camera later confirmed otherwise.

The state of Pennsylvania mysteriously killed its tumor registry, then said there was “no evidence” that anyone had been killed.

But a wide range of independent studies confirm heightened infant death rates and excessive cancers among the general population. Excessive death, mutation and disease rates among local animals were confirmed by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture and local journalists.

In the 1980s federal Judge Sylvia Rambo blocked a class action suit by some 2,400 central Pennsylvania downwinders, claiming not enough radiation had escaped to harm anyone. But after 35 years, no one knows how much radiation escaped or where it went. Three Mile Island’s owners have quietly paid millions to downwind victims in exchange for gag orders.

At Chernobyl, a compendium of more than 5,000 studies has yielded an estimated death toll of more than 1,000,000 people.

The radiation effects on youngsters in downwind Belarus and Ukraine have been horrific. According to Mangano, some 80 percent of the “Children of Chernobyl” born downwind since the accident have been harmed by a wide range of impacts ranging from birth defects and thyroid cancer to long-term heart, respiratory and mental illnesses. The findings mean that just one in five young downwinders can be termed healthy.

Physicians for Social Responsibility and the German chapter of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War have warned of parallel problems near Fukushima.

The United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) has recently issued reports downplaying the disaster’s human impacts. UNSCEAR is interlocked with the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency, whose mandate is to promote atomic power. The IAEA has a long-term controlling gag order on UN findings about reactor health impacts. For decades UNSCEAR and the World Health Organization have run protective cover for the nuclear industry’s widespread health impacts. Fukushima has proven no exception.

In response, Physicians for Social Responsibility and the German International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War have issued a ten-point rebuttal, warning the public of the UN’s compromised credibility. The disaster is “ongoing” say the groups, and must be monitored for decades. “Things could have turned for the worse” if winds had been blowing toward Tokyo rather than out to sea (and towards America).

There is on-going risk from irradiated produce, and among site workers whose doses and health impacts are not being monitored. Current dose estimates among workers as well as downwinders are unreliable, and special notice must be taken of radiation’s severe impacts on the human embryo.

UNSCEAR’s studies on background radiation are also “misleading,” say the groups, and there must be further study of genetic radiation effects as well as “non-cancer diseases.” The UN assertion that “no discernible radiation-related health effects are expected among exposed members” is “cynical,” say the groups. They add that things were made worse by the official refusal to distribute potassium iodide, which might have protected the public from thyroid impacts from massive releases of radioactive I-131.

Overall, the horrific news from Fukushima can only get worse. Radiation from three lost cores is still being carried into the Pacific. Management of spent fuel rods in pools suspended in the air and scattered around the site remains fraught with danger.

The pro-nuclear Shinzo Abe regime wants to reopen Japan’s remaining 48 reactors. It has pushed hard for families who fled the disaster to re-occupy irradiated homes and villages.

But Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and the plague of death and disease now surfacing near Fukushima make it all too clear that the human cost of such decisions continues to escalate–with our children suffering first and worst.

Nearly 4,600 now affected by untreatable virus spreading through Caribbean

Filed under: caribbean,disease/health,usa — admin @ 2:35 pm

Many people have heard of malaria and may even know about Dengue fever, two health-ravaging, mosquito-borne diseases. Malaria brings fever, chills and flu-like symptoms, and Dengue fever elicits fever, headache, pain and skin rash.

What few people have heard of is the chikungunya virus, an emerging mosquito-borne virus that was once isolated in Asia, Africa and the Indian subcontinent. Originally discovered in Tanzania in the 1950s, chikungunya stayed in the shadows for decades. By 2007, the disease had spread to northeastern Italy, infecting 10. Most shocking, though, has been its emergence in the past six months. The disease, spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, has made its way to the Americas and is spreading fast. Hundreds of new cases have been rising up throughout the Caribbean islands.

4,600 new cases of chikungunya in the Caribbean

In the last six months, the Pan American Health Organization has documented nearly 4,600 new cases of chikungunya in the Caribbean. Puerto Rico has recently confirmed its first case as has the US Virgin Islands. The mosquito-borne disease is sweeping through the tropics, inflicting its victims with arthritis-like symptoms — chronic joint pain. The disease is like Dengue fever, causing fever, rash and nausea. The symptoms of chikungunya can last for months or years.

Chikungunya is spreading rapidly on the French islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique, accounting for 2,800 of the new cases. At least 20 states or islands have confirmed new cases, with 793 cropping up on the French side of St. Martin and 123 on the Dutch side.

“It has not been here before, so people are susceptible, there is no resistance and we have had a lot of the mosquitoes that transmit it,” said Dr. James Hospedales, executive director of the Caribbean Public Health Agency [emphasis added].

“The players in the tourism industry need to be concerned,” said Dr. Hospedales. “We have been working with the Caribbean Tourism Organization on some of the communications messages because you have to be truthful and honest in informing the population, but on the other hand you can’t cause alarm and panic.”

According to the Caribbean Tourism Organization, more than 25 million tourists visited the disease-stricken region in 2013. The area is one of the largest tourist destinations in the world.

Chikungunya making its way to the US

As tourism treks on in the Caribbean, the CDC is worried that the virus will spread onto cruise ships, moving quickly to larger populations and, ultimately, the United States.

As a matter of fact, the first cases of the disease in the US have been confirmed in Georgia and Florida.

“Both the cases were imported,” said Claudia Blackburn, a health officer in Leon County Florida. Tourists who visited the Caribbean contacted the disease, but Blackburn said, “We don’t anticipate seeing any local spread.”

Since then, the CDC has confirmed at least 60 new cases arising in the US. In the meantime, public health officials advise travelers and tourists to wear protective clothing if possible, use mosquito nets or carry around a reliable bug repellent.

Outbreak of Ebola in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone

Filed under: disease/health,guinea,liberia,Sierra leone — admin @ 2:29 pm

At a Glance:

* Suspected and Confirmed Case Count: 390 * Suspected Case Deaths: 270 * Laboratory Confirmed Cases: 260

Liberia at a Glance

* Suspected and Confirmed Case Count: 51 * Suspected Case Deaths: 34 * Laboratory Confirmed Cases: 34

Sierra Leone at a Glance

* Suspected and Confirmed Case Count: 158 * Suspected Case Deaths: 58 * Laboratory Confirmed Cases: 147

Highlights

* June 20, 2014, the Guinea Ministry of Health announced a total of 390 suspect and confirmed cases of Ebola hemorrhagic fever (EHF), including 270 fatal cases. * Affected districts include Conakry, Guéckédou, Macenta, Kissidougou, Dabola, Djingaraye, Télimélé, Boffa, Dubreka, and Kouroussa (see map). * 260 cases across Guinea have been confirmed by laboratory testing to be positive for Ebola virus infection. * In Guinea’s capital city, Conakry, 65 suspect cases have been reported to meet the clinical definition for EHF, including 33 fatal cases. * June 20, 2014, the Ministry of Health and Sanitation of Sierra Leone reported 147 laboratory confirmed cases of EHF with 34 fatal cases among the confirmed. * A total of 158 clinical EHF cases have been reported from 5 Sierra Leone districts: Kailahun, Kambia, Port Loko, Kenema, and Western. * June 22, 2014, the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare of Liberia reported 51 suspect and confirmed EHF cases (including 34 laboratory confirmations) and 34 reported fatalities and. * Genetic analysis of the virus indicates that it is closely related (97% identical) to variants of Ebola virus (species Zaire ebolavirus) identified earlier in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Gabon (Baize et al. 2014External Web Site Icon). * The Guinean Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Health and Sanitation of Sierra Leone, and the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare of Liberia are working with national and international partners to investigate and respond to the outbreak.

Oubreak Update

As of June 20, 2014, the total number of confirmed and suspect Ebola hemorrhagic fever (EHF) cases as stated by the Ministry of Health (MoH) of Guinea was 390, including 270 fatal cases and 260 laboratory confirmed cases. Active surveillance continues in Conakry, Guéckédou, Macenta, Télimélé, Dubreka, and Boffa districts.

The World Health Organization has stated that as of June 20, 2014, the Ministry of Health and Sanitation of Sierra Leone reported a cumulative total of 158 clinical cases of EHF (including 147 laboratory confirmations, 34 of these being fatal cases). Districts reporting clinical EHF patients include Kailahun, Kenema, Kambia, Port Loko, and Western. Reports and investigations of suspect cases continue across the country. Laboratory testing is being conducted in Kenema city. The Government of Sierra Leone, WHO, and CDC have sent experts to aid in the response and investigation.

As of June 22, 2014, the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare of Liberia had reported 51 overall clinical cases of EHF, including 34 laboratory confirmations, and 34 fatal cases. All cases reported in June have been from Lofa and Montserado districts. Laboratory testing is being conducted in Monrovia.

CDC is in regular communication with its international partners, WHO, and MSF regarding the outbreak. Currently CDC has a 4 person team in Guinea and a staff member in Sierra Leone assisting the respective MOHs and the WHO-led international response to this Ebola outbreak

Based on reports from the Ministry of Heath of Guinea, the Ministry of Health and Sanitation of Sierra Leone, the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare of Liberia, and WHO EPR.

Viral Hemorrhagic Fevers

Filed under: disease/health,guinea — admin @ 2:25 pm

INFECTIOUS AGENT

Viral hemorrhagic fevers (VHFs) are caused by several families of enveloped RNA viruses: filoviruses (Ebola and Marburg viruses), arenaviruses (Lassa fever, Lujo, Guanarito, Machupo, Junin, Sabia, and Chapare viruses), bunyaviruses (Rift Valley fever [RVF], Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever [CCHF], and hantaviruses), and flaviviruses (dengue, yellow fever, Omsk hemorrhagic fever, Kyasanur Forest disease, and Alkhurma viruses).

TRANSMISSION

Some VHFs are spread person to person through direct contact with symptomatic patients, body fluids, or cadavers or through inadequate infection control in a hospital setting (filoviruses, arenaviruses, CCHF virus). Zoonotic spread may occur from contact with the following:

* Livestock via slaughter or consumption of raw meat from infected animals and, potentially, unpasteurized milk (CCHF, RVF, Alkhurma viruses) * Bushmeat, likely via slaughter or consumption of infected animals (Ebola, Marburg viruses) * Rodents via inhalation of or contact with materials contaminated with rodent excreta (arenaviruses, hantaviruses) * Other reservoir species, such as bats (Ebola, Marburg viruses)

Vectorborne transmission also occurs via mosquito (RVF virus) or tick (CCHF, Omsk, Kyasanur Forest disease, Alkhurma viruses) bites or by crushing infected ticks.

EPIDEMIOLOGY

The viruses that cause VHFs are distributed over much of the globe. Each virus is associated with ?1 nonhuman host or vector species, restricting the virus and the initial contamination to the areas inhabited by these species. The diseases caused by these viruses are seen in people living in or having visited these areas. Humans are incidental hosts for these enzootic diseases; however, person-to-person transmission of some viruses can result in large human outbreaks. Specific viruses are addressed below. Ebola and Marburg: Filoviral Diseases

Ebola and Marburg viruses cause hemorrhagic fever in humans and nonhuman primates. Five species of Ebola virus have been identified: Côte d’Ivoire, Sudan, Zaire, Bundibugyo, and Reston. Countries with confirmed human cases of Ebola hemorrhagic fever include Republic of the Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Sudan, and Uganda. Ebola-Reston virus is believed to be endemic in the Philippines and potentially in neighboring countries but has not been shown to cause human disease. Countries with confirmed human cases of Marburg hemorrhagic fever include Angola, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Uganda, and possibly Zimbabwe.

Growing evidence indicates that fruit bats are the natural reservoir for filoviruses. Outbreaks occur when a person becomes infected after exposure to the reservoir species or a secondarily infected nonhuman primate and then transmits the virus to other people in the community. Four cases of Marburg hemorrhagic fever have occurred in travelers visiting caves harboring bats, including Kitum cave in Kenya and a python cave in Maramagambo Forest, Uganda. Miners have also acquired Marburg infection from working in underground mines harboring bats in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda. Lassa Fever and Other Arenaviral Diseases

Arenaviruses are transmitted from rodents to humans, except Tacaribe virus, which was found in bats. Most infections are mild, but some result in hemorrhagic fever with high death rates. Old World (Eastern Hemisphere) and New World (Western Hemisphere) viruses cause the following diseases:

* Old World viruses: Lassa virus (Lassa fever) lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (meningitis, encephalitis, and congenital fetal infection in normal hosts, hemorrhagic fever in organ transplant recipients). Lassa fever occurs in rural West Africa, with hyperendemic areas in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone. Lujo virus has been recently described in Zambia and the Republic of South Africa during a health care–associated outbreak. * New World viruses: Junin (Argentine hemorrhagic fever), Machupo (Bolivian hemorrhagic fever), Guanarito (Venezuelan hemorrhagic fever), Sabia (Brazilian hemorrhagic fever), and the recently discovered Chapare virus (a single case in Bolivia).

Reservoir host species are Old World rats and mice (family Muridae, subfamily Murinae) and New World rats and mice (family Muridae, subfamily Sigmodontinae). These rodent types are found worldwide, including Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas. Virus is transmitted through inhalation of aerosols from rodent urine, ingestion of rodent-contaminated food, or direct contact of broken skin or mucosa with rodent excreta. Risk of Lassa virus infection is associated with peridomestic rodent exposure. Inappropriate food storage increases the risk for exposure. Health care–associated transmission of Lassa, Lujo, and Machupo viruses has occurred through droplet and contact. One anecdotal report of possible airborne transmission exists. Several cases of Lassa fever have been confirmed in international travelers staying in traditional dwellings in the countryside.

Rift Valley Fever and Other Bunyaviral Diseases

RVF causes fever, hemorrhage, encephalitis, and retinitis in humans, but primarily affects livestock. RVF is endemic to sub-Saharan Africa. Sporadic outbreaks have occurred in humans in Egypt, Madagascar, and Mauritania. Large epidemics occurred in Kenya, Somalia, and Tanzania in 1997–1998 and 2006–2007; Saudi Arabia and Yemen in 2000; Madagascar in 2008; and South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, and Mauritania in 2010. RVF virus is transmitted by mosquito, percutaneous inoculation, and slaughter or consumption of infected animals.

CCHF is endemic where ticks of the genus Hyalomma are found in Africa and Eurasia, including South Africa, the Balkans, the Middle East, Russia, and western China, and is highly endemic in Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, and Turkey. CCHF virus is transmitted to humans by infected ticks or direct handling and preparation of fresh carcasses of infected animals, usually domestic livestock. Health care–associated transmission often occurs.

Hantaviruses cause hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) and hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome (HFRS). The viruses that cause HPS are present in the New World; those that cause HFRS occur worldwide. The viruses that cause both HPS and HFRS are transmitted to humans through contact with urine, feces, or saliva of infected rodents. Travelers staying in rodent-infested dwellings are at risk for HPS and HFRS. Human-to-human transmission has been reported only with Andes virus in Chile and Argentina.

Zimbabwe’s Unfolding Humanitarian Disaster – 18,000 People Forcibly Relocated to Ruling Party Farm

More than 18,000 people live in the Chingwizi transit camp in Mwenezi district, about 150 kms from their former homes in Chivi basin as they wait to be allocated one-hectare plots of land by the government.

MASVINGO, Zimbabwe, Jun 25 2014 – As the villagers sit around the flickering fire on a pitch-black night lit only by the blurry moon, they speak, recounting how it all began.

They take turns, sometimes talking over each other to have their own experiences heard. When the old man speaks, everyone listens. “It was my first time riding a helicopter,” John Moyo* remembers.

“The soldiers came, clutching guns, forcing everyone to move. I tried to resist, for my home was not affected but they wouldn’t hear any of it.”

So started the long, painful and disorienting journey for the 70-year-old Moyo and almost 18,000 other people who had lived in the 50-kilometre radius of Chivi basin in Zimbabwe’s Masvingo province. “We don’t want this life of getting fed like birds.” — John Moyo, displaced villager from Chivi basin

When heavy rains pounded the area in early January, the 1.8 billion cubic metre Tokwe-Mukosi dam’s wall breached. Flooding followed, destroying homes and livestock. The government, with the help of non-governmental organisations, embarked on a rescue mission. And even unaffected homes in high-lying areas were evacuated by soldiers.

According to Moyo, whose home was not affected, this was an opportunity for the government, which had been trying to relocate those living near Chivi basin for sometime.

“They always said they wanted to establish an irrigation system and a game park in the area that covered our ancestral homes,” he says.

For Itai Mazanhi, a 33-year-old father of three, the government had the best excuse to remove them from the land that he had known since birth.

“The graves of my forefathers are in that place,” he says. Mazanhi is from Gororo village.

After being temporarily housed in the nearby safe areas of Gunikuni and Ngundu in Masvingo province, the over 18,000 people or 3,000 families were transferred to Nuanetsi Ranch in the Chingwizi area of Mwenezi district, about 150 kms from their former homes.

Chingwizi is an arid terrain near Triangle Estates, an irrigation sugar plantation concern owned by sugar giant Tongaat Hulett. The land here is conspicuous for the mopane and giant baobab trees that are synonymous with hot, dry conditions.

The crop and livestock farmers from Chivi basin have been forced to adjust in a land that lacks the natural fertility of their former land, water and adequate pastures for their livestock.

The dust road to the Chingwizi camp is a laborious 40-minute drive littered with sharp bumps and lurking roadside trenches.

From the top of an anthill, a vantage point at the entrance of this settlement reveals a rolling pattern of tents and zinc makeshift structures that stretch beyond the sight of the naked eye. At night, fires flicker faintly in the distance, and a cacophony of voices mix with the music from solar- and battery-powered radio sets. It’s the image of a war refugee relief camp.

A concern for the displaced families is the fact that they were settled in an area earmarked for a proposed biofuel project. The project is set to be driven by the Zimbabwe Bio-Energy company, a partnership between the Zimbabwe Development Trust and private investors. The state-owned Herald newspaper quoted the project director Charles Madonko saying resettled families could become sugarcane out-growers for the ethanol project.

This plan was subject to scathing attack from rights watchdog Human Rights Watch. In a report released last month, the organisation viewed this as a cheap labour ploy.

“The Zimbabwean army relocated 3,000 families from the flooded Tokwe-Mukorsi dam basin to a camp on a sugar cane farm and ethanol project jointly owned by the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front [ZANU-PF] and Billy Rautenbach, a businessman and party supporter,” read part of the report. Sugar cane fields like this one in Chisumbanje are planned to feed the ethanol project in Mwenezi district. The displaced villagers from Chivi basin fear they will be used as cheap labourers.

Sugar cane fields like this one in Chisumbanje are planned to feed the ethanol project in Mwenezi district. The displaced villagers from Chivi basin fear they will be used as cheap labourers. Credit: Davison Mudzingwa/GIP

The sugarcane plantations will be irrigated by the water from the Tokwe-Mukosi dam. Upon completion, the dam is set to become Zimbabwe’s largest inland dam, with a capacity to irrigate over 25,000 hectares.

Community Tolerance Reconciliation and Development, COTRAD, a non-governmental organisation that operates in the Masvingo province sees the displacement of the 3,000 families as a brutal retrogression. The organisation says ordinary people are at the mercy of private companies and the government.

“The people feel like outcasts, they no longer feel like Zimbabweans,” Zivanai Muzorodzi, COTRAD programme manager, says.

Muzorodzi, whose organisation has been monitoring the land tussle before the floods, says the land surrounding the Tokwe-Mukosi dam basin was bought by individuals, mostly from the ruling ZANU-PF party.

“Villagers won’t own the land or the means of production. Only ZANU-PF bigwigs will benefit,” Muzorodzi says. The scale of the habitats has posed serious challenges for the cash-strapped government of Zimbabwe. Humanitarian organisations such as Oxfam International and Care International have injected basic services such clean water through water bowsers and makeshift toilets.

“It’s not safe at all, it’s a disaster waiting to happen,” a Zimbabwe Ministry of Local Government official stationed at the camp and who preferred anonymity tells GIP. “The latrines you see here are only one metre deep. An outbreak of a contagious disease would spread fast.” Tendai Zingwe fears her child might contract diarrhoea due to poor sanitation conditions in Chingwizi camp.

Tendai Zingwe fears her child might contract diarrhoea due to poor sanitation conditions in Chingwizi camp.

Similar fears stalk Spiwe Chando*, a mother of four. The 23-year-old speaks as she sorts her belongings scattered in small blue tent in which an adult cannot sleep fully stretched out. “I fear for my child because another family lost a child due to diarrhoea last week. This can happen to anyone,” she tells GIP, sweating from the heat inside the tent. “I hope we will move from this place soon and get proper land to restart our lives.”

This issue has posed tensions at this over-populated camp. Meetings, rumour and conjecture circulate each day. Across the camp, frustrations are progressively building up. As a result, a ministerial delegation got a hostile reception during a visit last month. The displaced farmers accuse the government of deception and reneging on its promises of land allocation and compensation. Children stampede for reading material at the Chingwizi transit camp. Most of the kids had their schooling disrupted due to the displacement.

Children stampede for reading material at the Chingwizi transit camp. Most of the kids had their schooling disrupted due to the displacement.

The government has promised to allocate one hectare of land per family, at a location about 17 kms from this transit camp. This falls far short of what these families own in Chivi basin. Some of them, like Mazanhi, owned about 10 hectares. The land was able to produce enough food for their sustenance and a surplus, which was sold to finance their children’s education and healthcare.

Mazanhi is one of the few people who has already received compensation from the government. Of the agreed compensation of 3,000 dollars, he has only received 900 dollars and is not certain if he will ever be paid the remainder of what he was promised. “There is a lot of corruption going on in that office,” he says.

COTRAD says the fact that ordinary villagers are secondary beneficiaries of the land and water that once belonged to them communally is an indication of a resource grabbing trend that further widens the gap of inequality.

“People no longer have land, access to water, healthcare and children are learning under trees.”

For Moyo, daily realities at the transit camp and a hazy future is both a painful reminder of a life gone by and a sign of “the next generation of dispossession.” However, he hopes for a better future.

“We don’t want this life of getting fed like birds,” says Moyo.

*Names altered for security reasons.

5/24/2014

Chikungunya outbreak

Filed under: caribbean,disease/health,dominica,dominican republic,haiti,usa — admin @ 4:14 am

They suffer searing headaches, a burning fever and so much pain in their joints they can barely walk or use their hands. It’s like having a terrible flu combined with an abrupt case of arthritis.

Hospitals and clinics throughout the Caribbean are seeing thousands of people with the same symptoms, victims of a virus with a long and unfamiliar name that has been spread rapidly by mosquitoes across the islands after the first locally transmitted case was confirmed in December.

“You feel it in your bones, your fingers and your hands. It’s like everything is coming apart,” said 34-year-old Sahira Francisco as she and her daughter waited for treatment at a hospital in San Cristobal, a town in the southern Dominican Republic that has seen a surge of the cases in recent days.

The virus is chikungunya, derived from an African word that loosely translates as “contorted with pain.” People encountering it in the Caribbean for the first time say the description is fitting. While the virus is rarely fatal it is extremely debilitating.

“It is terrible, I have never in my life gotten such an illness,” said Maria Norde, a 66-year-old woman confined to bed at her home on the lush eastern Caribbean island of Dominica. “All my jointsare in pain.”

Outbreaks of the virus have long made people miserable in Africa and Asia. But it is new to the Caribbean, with the first locally transmitted case documented in December in French St. Martin, likely brought in by an infected air traveler. Health officials are now working feverishly to educate the public about the illness, knock down the mosquito population, and deal with an onslaught of cases.

Authorities are attempting to control mosquitoes throughout the Caribbean, from dense urban neighborhoods to beach resorts. There have been no confirmed cases of local transmission of chikungunya on the U.S. mainland, but experts say the high number of travelers to the region means that could change as early as this summer.

So far, there are no signs the virus is keeping visitors away though some Caribbean officials warn it might if it is not controlled. “We need to come together and deal with this disease,” said Dominica Tourism Minister Ian Douglas.

One thing is certain: The virus has found fertile ground in the Caribbean. The Pan American Health Organization reports more than 55,000 suspected and confirmed cases since December throughout the islands. It has also reached French Guiana, the first confirmed transmission on the South American mainland.

The Pan American Health Organization says seven people in the Caribbean with chikungunya have died during the outbreak but they had underlying health issues that likely contributed to their death.

“It’s building up like a snowball because of the constant movement of people,” said Jacqueline Medina, a specialist at the Instituto Technologico university in the Dominican Republic, where some hospitals report more than 100 new cases per day.

Chikungunya was identified in Africa in 1953 and is found throughout the tropics of the Eastern Hemisphere. It is spread by two species of mosquitoes, aedes aegypti and aedes albopictus. It’s also a traveler-borne virus under the right circumstances.

It can spread to a new area if someone has it circulating in their system during a relatively short period of time, roughly 2-3 days before the onset of symptoms to 5 days after, and then arrives to an area with the right kind of mosquitoes.

For years, there have been sporadic cases of travelers diagnosed with chikungunya but without local transmission. In 2007, there was an outbreak in northern Italy, so health authorities figured it was just a matter of time before it spread to the Western Hemisphere, said Dr. Roger Nasci, of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“With the increase in travelers the likelihood that something like this would happen goes up and eventually it did,” said Nasci, chief of a CDC branch that tracks insect-borne diseases. “We ended up with somebody at the right time and the right place infecting mosquitoes.” The two species of mosquitoes that spread chikungunya are found in the southern and eastern United States and the first local transmissions could occur this summer given the large number of U.S. travelers to the Caribbean, Nasci said. Already, the Florida Department of Health has reported at least four imported cases from travelers to Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Dominica.

“What we’re seeing now is an increase in the number of infected travelers coming from the Caribbean, which is expected because there’s a lot of U.S. travel, a lot of vacation travel, a lot of work travel,” he said.

Around the Caribbean, local authorities have been spraying fogs of pesticides and urging people to remove standing pools of water where mosquitoes breed.

An estimated 60-90 percent of those infected show symptoms, compared to around 20 percent for dengue, which is common in the region. There is no vaccine and the only cure is treatment for the pain and fluid loss.

One consolation for those suffering from the illness is that unlike dengue, which has several variants, people only seem to get chikungunya once.

“The evidence suggests that once you get it and recover, once your immune system clears the virus you are immune for life,” Nasci said.

4/7/2014

Malaria drugs

Filed under: disease/health,military,rampage,usa — admin @ 6:59 am

Lariam (mefloquine) is one of the most widely used malaria drugs in America. Yet it has been linked to grisly crimes, like Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales’ 2012 murder of 16 Afghan civilians, the murders of four wives of Fort Bragg soldiers in 2002 and other extreme violence.

While the FDA beefed up warnings for Lariam last summer, especially about the drug’s neurotoxic effects, and users are now given a medication guide and wallet card, Lariam and its generic versions are still the third most prescribed malaria medication. Last year there were 119,000 prescriptions between January and June. Though Lariam is banned among Air Force pilots, until 2011, Lariam was on the increase in the Navy and Marine Corps.

The negative neurotoxic side effects of Lariam can last for “weeks, months, and even years,” after someone stops using it, warns the VA. Medical and military authorities say the drug “should not be given to anyone with symptoms of a brain injury, depression or anxiety disorder,” reported Army Times–which is, of course, the demographic that encompasses “many troops who have deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan.” In addition to Lariam’s wide us in the military, the civilian population taking malaria drugs includes Peace Corps and aid workers, business travelers, news media, students, NGO workers, industrial contractors, missionaries and families visiting relatives, often bringing children.

What makes Lariam so deadly? It has the same features that made the street drug PCP/angel dust such an urban legend in the 1970s and 1980s. It can produce extreme panic, paranoia and rage in the user along with out-of-body “disassociative” and dream-like sensations so that a person performing a criminal act often believes someone else is doing it. An example of such disassociative effects was seen in Staff Sgt. Robert Bales’ rampage; according to prosecutors at his trial, Bales slipped away from his remote Afghanistan post, Camp Belambay, in a T-shirt, cape and night-vision goggles and no body armor to attack his first victims. He then returned to the base and “woke a fellow soldier, reported what he’d done, and said he was headed out to kill more.”

In addition to Bales’ 2012 attacks and the 2002 Fort Bragg attacks, Lariam was linked in news reports to extreme side effects in an army staff sergeant in Iraq in 2005 and to the suicide of an Army Reservist in 2008.

Former Army psychiatrist Elspeth Cameron Ritchie, former U.S. Army Major and Preventive Medicine Officer Remington Nevin and Jerald Block with the Portland Veterans Affairs Medical Center agree in a recent paper that Lariam may be behind “seemingly spectacular and impulsive suicides.” It can produce “derealization and depersonalization, compulsions toward dangerous objects, and morbid curiosity about death,” they write, describing frequent hallucinations “involving religious or morbid themes” and “a sense of the presence of a nearby nondescript figure.” The researchers refer to two reports of people jumping out of windows on Lariam under the false belief that their rooms were on fire.

Lariam is one of five malaria drugs listed by the CDC for people who will be exposed to malaria. Other drugs include Malarone, a combination of the drugs atovaquone and Proguanil, Aralen (chloroquine,) primaquine and the antibiotic doxycycline marketed as Vibramycin. None of the drugs are ideal–Malarone can have renal effects and Aralen can have liver, blood and skin effects. Some do not work right away or are ineffective against resistant malaria strains. But the main reason for Lariam’s historic popularity is that it is taken weekly, unlike all the other drugs (except chloroquine) which are taken daily. Some travelers also report that Lariam is cheaper than other malaria drugs and say they only experience symptoms like memory loss and vivid nightmares. Still, since awareness of Lariam’s dangers, many users are now required to read and sign an informed consent form.

Early Example of Public Funding of Pharma Profits

Lariam was an early example of “technology-transfer” between publicly funded and academic research and Big Pharma, driven by the Bayh-Dole Act of 1980. The Bayh-Dole Act dangled the riches of “industry” before medical institutions just as the former were floundering and the latter was booming, observes Marcia Angell, former editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine. Turning universities into think tanks for Big Pharma has been so profitable, Northwestern University made $700 million when it sold Lyrica, discovered by one of its chemists, to Pfizer enabling it to build a new research building.

Lariam was developed by the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR) in the 1960s and ’70s after a drug-resistant strain of malaria did not respond to medications and sickened troops during the Vietnam War. Though Lariam was developed with our tax dollars, all phase I and phase II clinical trial data were given to Hoffman LaRoche and Smith Kline free of charge in what was the first private public partnership between the U.S. Department of Defense and Big Pharma . You’re welcome! It was approved by the FDA in 1989.

Roche, which retained the patent, did well with the government largesse. In 2009, it spent $46.8 billion to buy Genentech (for comparison the entire yearly budget of the National Institutes of Health is $60 billion a year) and its cancer drug, Avastin, makes up to $100,000 per patient per year, despite reports of its limited effectiveness for some cancers for which it is used. Nor was the testing of Lariam kosher. It was first tested on prisoners and soldiers who are not necessarily able or willing to refuse participation in clinical trials and it was also widely given to Guantanamo detainees. Phase III trials, supposed to be conducted on larger patient groups of up to 3,000 people, were not conducted at all, wrote the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine in 2007 and “there was no serious attempt prior to licensing to explore the potential drug-drug interactions.” In fact, all users “have been involved in a natural experiment to determine the true safety margin,” says the journal, because “Consumers have been unwitting recruits to this longitudinal study, rather than informed partners.” No wonder Lariam causes adverse effects in as many as 67 percent of users.

As seen with other drugs that have neuropsychiatric effects, like the antidepressant Cymbalta and seizure drug Neurontin, the military, government and Big Pharma blamed the effects on the patients not the drugs. When the wives of four Fort Bragg soldiers were murdered during the summer of 2002–one was stabbed 50 times and set on fire–military investigators blamed “existing marital problems and the stress of separation while soldiers are away on duty,” instead of Lariam. Right. Three of the four soldiers also took their own lives.

The military, government and Big Pharma similarly blame the current suicide epidemic among military personnel on factors others than the ubiquitous psychiatric drugs in use–even though 30 percent of the victims never deployed and 60 percent never saw combat. A recent five-year study by Pharma-funded academic, government and military researchers about military suicides does not even consider the drugs given to an estimated fourth of soldiers–almost all of which carry warnings about suicide.

It is also worth noting that the alarming side-effects linked to Lariam which patients, doctors and public health officials reported for at least a decade, were not acknowledged until profits ran out and Lariam became a generic, as has happened with other risky drugs. When sentiment turned against Lariam in 2008, its manufacturer, Hoffmann-La Roche ceased marketing it in the US and now the words “Lariam” and “malaria” draw no search results on its US website. Who, us?

One group that has tried to raise awareness of the dangers of Lariam is Mefloquine (Lariam) Action, created in 1996 when founder, Susan Rose, noticed Peace Corps workers given Lariam were falling ill. Rose soon enlarged the scope of Mefloquine (Lariam) Action to include travelers and military personnel.

“This black box [the strongest FDA warning on drug packaging] officially establishes that mefloquine can cause permanent, brain damage and more. It validates what we have been saying since the beginning,” Jeanne Lese, director of Mefloquine (Lariam) Action told me. The problem is far from solved by the black box, says Lese. “The drug continues to be given out at travel clinics all over the U.S. and elsewhere every single day. What’s more, it is often prescribed with no hint to the patient about the black box, and no screening for contraindications such as history of previous depression or other neuropsych problems.” Lariam’s Checkered Past

The case of the four Fort Bragg soldiers charged with killing their wives during the summer of 2002 is not the only time Lariam has been in the news. There was also the case of Staff Sergeant Andrew Pogany who volunteered to serve in Iraq in 2003 and experienced such panic and PTSD symptoms in the war theater, he was sent back to Fort Carson and charged with “cowardly conduct as a result of fear.” Pogany and his attorney were able to prove that his reaction probably stemmed from Lariam and he received an honorable discharge. But Pogany, understandably, became a vehement advocate for the rights of soldiers with PTSD, especially those who have been given psychoactive drugs that make them worse.

The wife of a 17-year marine veteran I interviewed in 2011 reported a similar story. After being deployed twice to Iraq and once to Afghanistan, her husband developed extreme PTSD. “He went from being loving on the phone, to saying he never wanted to see me and our daughter again,” the wife said. “He said not to even bother coming to the airport to meet him, because he would walk right past us.” When the couple did reunite, the husband was frail and thin, and “the whites of his eyes were brown,” says the wife. The formerly competent drill instructor became increasingly and inexplicably unpredictable, suicidal and violent and was incarcerated in the brig at Camp Lejeune for assault in 2011. I asked the wife to ask him during her visits if he had been given Lariam and she said he said yes.

In the nonfiction book, Murder in Baker Company: How Four American Soldiers Killed One of Their Own, Lariam is also raised as a possible factor in the brutal death of Army Specialist Richard Davis. When asked about Lariam in the crime in an interview, the author Cilla McCain said, “Although it was never mentioned in court, I think if this same case were to happen today, it would definitely be considered as a defense. These soldiers were overdosing on Lariam in massive amounts because there wasn’t proper oversight. In reality, proper oversight is impossible in a war zone but steps could have been taken to make sure that overdosing didn’t occur. Even without over-dosage the Lariam issue is a volatile one at best and I’m positive we will be hearing more about the damage it has caused for years to come. Some scientists are linking Lariam directly to the historical rise of suicides in the United States.”

As a dark cloud grows over Lariam, there is both good and bad news. The good news is in 2013, the Surgeon General’s Office of the Army Special Operations Command told commanders and medical workers that soldiers thought to be suffering from PTSD or other psychological problems or even faking mental impairment may actually be Lariam victims. The bad news is a new malaria drug developed at Reed during the same time period as Lariam called tafenoquine is now fast-tracking toward FDA approval. Jeanne Lese and Remington Nevin worry that the new drug has not been adequately tested for the same types of neurotoxic effects seen with Lariam and that it will become Lariam 2.0.

Flash Floods Worst Ever

Head of the National Disaster Management Council says today’s heavy rains and flash floods are the worst he’s ever witnessed for Honiara.

Loti Yates made the statement on national radio today when announcing the NDMO’s evacuation program for people worst hit by today’s heavy torrential rains and its consequential flash floods.

Reports reaching SIBC state communities in White River, Rove, Mataniko, Koa Hill and other areas located near rivers and streams are among the worst hit areas.

Other unconfirmed reports state that the flooding Mataniko River swept away homes, livestock and a number of people – with some of the people being found in seas outside of Point Cruz.

Heavy flooding also swept away the old Mataniko Bridge in Chinatown, and most businesses and offices were forced to close early today.

One shop owner in Chinatown reportedly opened his shop and invited people to take goods for free after the behind of the building was swept away by the flooding Mataniko River.

Director of National Disaster Management Office, Loti Yates told SIBC News this current bad weather is the worst he’s seen since he took up his job as head of the NDMO.

“This event is the worst I’ve ever seen since taking up the job, that there are so much heavy rain around this area that creates this massive flash foods. Not only that, it won’t help when our drainage systems in the city are not working properly, contributing to the floods. Driving around to assess the situation myself today I was sad to notice the fact that there were children and women carrying little kids in the rain trying to evacuate themselves from the flooded areas and in some places it seems people’s belongings have been washed away by the Mataniko floods.”

Meanwhile, the National Disaster Management Office has urged road users to drive back to their homes and garage their vehicles.

NDMO Head Loti Yates told national radio today the road needs to be cleared for police and emergency response workers.

“It would be good if people just head straight to their homes rather than creating extra hurdles for emergency response workers. The police will need space to run their vehicles if we are to engage them to evacuate people from the high risk areas, we will all need space and it won’t help when everyone else wants to witness the events, creating extra traffic on our roads. I think for safety purposes please drive back to your homes, pack your vehicles and remain in the safety of your homes. That will be the biggest message I want to tell people because now the emergency response workers, like police and others working to help those affected will need space on the roads to carry out their duty.”

2/5/2014

H7N9

Filed under: china,disease/health — admin @ 1:13 pm

Avian Influenza A (H7N9) Virus

Human infections with a new avian influenza A (H7N9) virus were first reported in China in March 2013. Most of these infections are believed to result from exposure to infected poultry or contaminated environments, as H7N9 viruses have also been found in poultry in China. While some mild illnesses in human H7N9 cases have been seen, most patients have had severe respiratory illness, with about one-third resulting in death. No evidence of sustained person-to-person spread of H7N9 has been found, though some evidence points to limited person-to-person spread in rare circumstances. No cases of H7N9 outside of China have been reported. The new H7N9 virus has not been detected in people or birds in the United States.

It’s likely that sporadic cases of H7N9 associated with poultry exposure will continue to occur in China. Cases associated with poultry exposure also may be detected in neighboring countries. It’s also possible that H7N9 may be detected in the United States at some point, possibly in a traveler returning from an affected area. Most concerning about this situation is the pandemic potential of this virus. Influenza viruses constantly change and it’s possible that this virus could gain the ability to spread easily and sustainably among people, triggering a global outbreak of disease (pandemic).

On Feb. 3, 2014, the National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC) of China notified the World Health Organization (WHO) of four additional laboratory-confirmed cases of human infection with avian influenza A(H7N9) virus, including one death.

Details of the cases are as follows:

A 27-year-old man from Zhangzhou City, Fujian Province, who became ill on January 21 and admitted to the hospital on January 31. He is currently in critical condition. The patient has a history of exposure to a live poultry market.

A 59-year-old man from Loudi City, Hunan Province, who became ill on January 23 and was admitted to the hospital on January 31. He died on February 3. The patient had a history of exposure to live poultry market.

A 2-year-old female from Zhongshan City, Guangdong Province, who became ill on January 31 and was admitted to the hospital on the same day. She has a mild illness. The patient has a history of exposure to live poultry and a live poultry market.

A 76-year-old woman from Huizhou City, Guangdong Province, who became ill on January 27 and was admitted to the hospital on February 1. She is currently in serious condition. The patient has a history of exposure to live poultry.

So far, there is no evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission.

The Chinese government continues to take the following surveillance and control measures: strengthen surveillance and situation analysis; reinforce case management and treatment; conduct risk communication with the public and release information; strengthen international collaboration and communication; and conduct scientific studies.

While the recent report of avian influenza A(H7N9) virus being detected in live poultry imported from the mainland to Hong Kong SAR, shows the potential for the virus to spread through live poultry, at this time there is no indication that international spread of avian influenza A(H7N9) has occurred through humans or animals.

Further sporadic human cases of A(H7N9) infection are expected in affected and possibly neighbouring areas, especially given expected increases in the trade and transport of poultry associated with the Lunar New Year.

WHO advises that travelers to countries with known outbreaks of avian influenza should avoid poultry farms, or contact with animals in live bird markets, or entering areas where poultry may be slaughtered, or contact with any surfaces that appear to be contaminated with faeces from poultry or other animals. Travellers should also wash their hands often with soap and water. Travellers should follow good food safety and good food hygiene practices.

WHO does not advise special screening at points of entry with regard to this event, nor does it currently recommend any travel or trade restrictions.

As always, a diagnosis of infection with an avian influenza virus should be considered in individuals who develop severe acute respiratory symptoms while travelling or soon after returning from an area where avian influenza is a concern.

WHO encourages countries to continue strengthening influenza surveillance, including surveillance for severe acute respiratory infections (SARI) and to carefully review any unusual patterns, in order to ensure reporting of human infections under the IHR (2005), and continue national health preparedness actions.

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