Some top international doctors and public health experts have issued an urgent prescription for a feverish planet Earth: Get off coal as soon as possible.
Substituting cleaner energy worldwide for coal will reduce air pollution and give Earth a better chance at avoiding dangerous climate change, recommended a global health commission organized by the prestigious British medical journal Lancet. The panel said hundreds of thousands of lives each year are at stake and global warming “threatens to undermine the last half century of gains in development and global health.”
It’s like a cigarette smoker with lung problems: Doctors can treat the disease, but the first thing that has to be done is to get the patient to stop smoking, or in this case get off coal in the next five years, commission officials said in interviews…
Dr. Anthony Costello…called it a “medical emergency” that could eventually dwarf the deadly toll of HIV in the 1980s. He and others said burning coal does more than warm the Earth, but causes even more deaths from other types of air pollution that hurt people’s breathing and hearts…
“Virtually everything that you want to do to tackle climate change has health benefits,” Costello said. “We’re going to cut heart attacks, strokes, diabetes.”…
In a companion posting in Lancet, World Health Organization director general Margaret Chan also compares fighting climate change to fighting smoking and saving lives. Both Chan and the Lancet commission quote WHO studies that say by 2030 climate change would “be likely to cause about 250,000 additional deaths per year” around the world.
Global efforts have halved the number of people dying from malaria – a tremendous achievement, the World Health Organization says…It says between 2001 and 2013, 4.3 million deaths were averted, 3.9 million of which were children under the age of five in sub-Saharan Africa.
Each year, more people are being reached with life-saving malaria interventions, the WHO says.
In 2004, 3% of those at risk had access to mosquito nets, but now 50% do.
There has been a scaling up of diagnostic testing, and more people now are able to receive medicines to treat the parasitic infection, which is spread by the bites of infected mosquitoes.
In 2013, two countries – Azerbaijan and Sri Lanka – reported zero indigenous cases for the first time, and 11 others (Argentina, Armenia, Egypt, Georgia, Iraq, Kyrgyzstan, Morocco, Oman, Paraguay, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan) succeeded in maintaining zero cases.
In Africa, where 90% of all malaria deaths occur, infections have decreased significantly.
Here, the number of people infected has fallen by a quarter – from 173 million in 2000 to 128 million in 2013. This is despite a 43% increase in the African population living in malaria transmission areas.
WHO director general Dr Margaret Chan said: “These tremendous achievements are the result of improved tools, increased political commitment, the burgeoning of regional initiatives, and a major increase in international and domestic financing.”
But she added: “We must not be complacent. Most malaria-endemic countries are still far from achieving universal coverage with life-saving malaria interventions.”
Based on current trends, 64 countries are on track to meet the Millennium Development Goal target of reversing the incidence of malaria by the end of this year.
One portion of my personal efforts to get Americans to think beyond their family, their community, is the larger community that is our world. Just as we are affected by the loss of young people who may have grown up in the poverty and illness afflicting life that we see around us – there is an even larger community outside the comparative wealth of this nation that fights the same negatives to stay alive – times 10 or 100.
As a species we all lose every time we suffer a young death from disease or war. Someone who might have grown up to discover a way to a better, longer life for us all – never had a chance to achieve any contribution to humanity. We’re all moved to a new place of potential achievement by the simple opportunity of life extended to those who would have missed that chance a decade ago, a century ago.
We have to realize the human family really is a global family.
Panic over Ebola has the makers of dietary supplements aggressively targeting Africans, claiming to have a cure for the lethal virus.
Late this week, both the World Health Organization and the United States Food and Drug Administration issued strong warnings about false Ebola cures. The latter threatened American companies with penalties if they continue making such claims…
Earlier this week, a W.H.O. expert panel ruled it ethical to try some experimental drugs to fight this outbreak; some supplement makers have implied that ruling constituted permission for use of their products, though a top W.H.O. official emphasized that it did not.
The hustlers who specialize in the class of medical alternatives guaranteed to be nothing more than a hustle – take this as an invitation to flood the market of fear with so-called wonder cures.
While discussing the shipment to Liberia of an experimental drug the panel did endorse, ZMapp, Nigeria’s health minister, Onyebuchi Chukwu, said an unidentified Nigerian scientist living overseas had arranged for Nigeria to get a different experimental medicine, according to Nigerian news outlets. They identified it as NanoSilver, a supplement offered by the Natural Solutions Foundation, which said that it contains microscopic silver particles, although, as a food supplement, it is not tested by regulatory agencies. Silver kills some microbes on surfaces and in wounds, but it can be toxic and is not F.D.A.-approved for systemic use against viruses…
ZMapp is a set of antibodies made by the Mapp company of San Diego. Only a few doses exist, and the first two were given to American health workers who contracted Ebola in Liberia and are now hospitalized in Atlanta.
NanoSilver is for sale on the foundation’s website alongside hemp oil, ear candles, chocolate and “mental clarity packs.”
Dr. Marie-Paule Kieny, an assistant director general of the W.H.O., said that testing promising treatments “doesn’t mean that any crazy idea that people have — things that have barely been tested in anything — will now be brought to Africa to test on patients. This is absolutely out of the question…”
Since the outbreak started, many rumored cures have swept West Africa. A popular Nigerian rumor is that bathing in or drinking saltwater is protective. Bags of “blessed Ebola cure salt” are for sale.
While bathing in saltwater is harmless, drinking large amounts of it is not. The W.H.O. said two Nigerians have died of it.
Medical hustles abound in every culture in direct proportion to the segment of the public still stuck into religion and superstition. Poverty is another quality creating an open door to snake oil salesmen. If your nation has a significant number of politicians afraid of science and education it’s all the more likely that 14th Century solutions will take hold of the hopes and prayers of ignorant folk.
The placebo effect is next to useless on a virus as deadly as Ebola. So, miracle cures, amazing remissions, aren’t likely. Just more dead – after being drained of every penny they could come up with.
Stray vials of the deadly smallpox virus from the 1950s have been discovered at a federal lab near Washington, U.S. health officials said on Tuesday, the second lapse discovered in a month involving a deadly pathogen at a government facility.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that workers discovered the vials in a cardboard box on July 1 while clearing out an old lab on the National Institutes of Health campus in Bethesda, Maryland.
The six glass vials contained freeze-dried smallpox virus and were sealed with melted glass. The vials appeared intact and there is no evidence that lab workers or the general public are at risk…
The mishandling of smallpox follows the CDC’s recent mishap in which the agency believed it may have transferred live anthrax samples to a CDC lab that was not equipped to handle them, potentially exposing dozens of employees to the pathogen.
The CDC is testing the vials to see if the smallpox is viable and could make someone sick, said Skinner. After those tests, which could take up to two weeks, the samples will be destroyed, CDC spokesman Tom Skinner said…
The CDC said it has notified WHO about the discovery. If the specimens turn out to be viable, the CDC said it will invite the WHO to witness the destruction of the smallpox samples.
Skinner said the CDC is working with the Federal Bureau of Investigation to determine how and when the samples were prepared and how they came to be stored and forgotten in the FDA lab.
Infectious disease expert Dr. Michael Osterholm said the discovery of abandoned vials of smallpox is a reminder to labs globally to take stock of what is in their freezers.
I sense the plot for yet another less-than-stellar movie made for the SyFy Channel.
New research published today in the journal Nature reveals an Achilles’ heel in the defensive barrier which surrounds drug-resistant bacterial cells.
The findings pave the way for a new wave of drugs that kill superbugs by bringing down their defensive walls rather than attacking the bacteria itself. It means that in future, bacteria may not develop drug-resistance at all.
The discovery doesn’t come a moment too soon. The World Health Organization has warned that antibiotic-resistance in bacteria is spreading globally, causing severe consequences. And even common infections which have been treatable for decades can once again kill.
Researchers investigated a class of bacteria called ‘Gram-negative bacteria’ which is particularly resistant to antibiotics because of its cells’ impermeable lipid-based outer membrane…
Until now little has been known about exactly how the defensive barrier is built. The new findings reveal how bacterial cells transport the barrier building blocks (called lipopolysaccharides) to the outer surface.
Group leader Prof Changjiang Dong, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, said: “We have identified the path and gate used by the bacteria to transport the barrier building blocks to the outer surface. Importantly, we have demonstrated that the bacteria would die if the gate is locked…”
Lead author PhD student Haohao Dong said: “The really exciting thing about this research is that new drugs will specifically target the protective barrier around the bacteria, rather than the bacteria itself.
“Because new drugs will not need to enter the bacteria itself, we hope that the bacteria will not be able to develop drug resistance in future.”
Bravo! I look forward to seeing how this new information will be introduced to the mainstream of disease treatments.
Finding a key mechanism in antibiotic resistance, using that information to destroy that defense mechanism, working backwards to restore efficacy and working forwards to include that capability in next-gen medications is a boon.
The spread of polio to countries previously considered free of the crippling disease is a global health emergency, the World Health Organization said, as the virus once driven to the brink of extinction mounts a comeback.
Pakistan, Cameroon and Syria pose the greatest risk of exporting the virus to other countries, and should ensure that residents have been vaccinated before they travel, the Geneva-based WHO said in a statement today after a meeting of its emergency committee. It’s only the second time the United Nations agency has declared a public health emergency of international concern, after the 2009 influenza pandemic.
Polio has resurged as military conflicts from Sudan to Pakistan disrupt vaccination campaigns, giving the virus a toehold. The number of cases reached a record low of 223 globally in 2012 and jumped to 417 last year, according to the WHO. There have been 74 cases this year, including 59 in Pakistan, during what is usually polio’s “low season,” the WHO said.
The disease’s spread, if unchecked, “could result in failure to eradicate globally one of the world’s most serious, vaccine-preventable diseases,” Bruce Aylward, the WHO’s assistant director general for polio, emergencies and country collaboration, told reporters in Geneva today. “The consequences of further international spread are particularly acute today given the large number of polio-free but conflict-torn and fragile states which have severely compromised routine immunization services.”
“Conflict makes it very difficult for the vaccinators to get to the children who need vaccine,” David Heymann, a professor of infectious diseases at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said in an interview before the WHO’s announcement. “It’s been more difficult to finish than had been hoped.”
The polio virus, which is spread through feces, attacks the nervous system and can cause paralysis within hours, and death in as many as 10 percent of its victims. There is no cure. The disease can be prevented by vaccines…
The resurgence of the virus “reminds us that, until it’s eradicated, it’s going to spread internationally and it’s going to find and paralyze susceptible kids,” Aylward said.
Resurgence, as well, of the question: what holds back progress for most of the people living on this planet? Is it stupidity or ignorance? My answer changes from week to week.
It takes a special kind of stupidity after all to make uninformed and ignorant decisions. Whether the ignorance is religion-based, hatred of furriners, paranoid rejection of science and info from educated folks who obviously don’t live in your own neighborhood/state/region/country/continent – doesn’t matter a whole boatload. Killing your kin and letting your children die sounds mostly stupid to me.
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)
The planet may be headed toward a “post-antibiotic era” when common infections once easily controlled by antimicrobial medicines may be lethal, the World Health Organization reported…in its first look at antibiotic resistance that has developed in all parts of the world…
Such alarm in the health-care community and elsewhere about resistance to antibiotics is not new. In September, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned of “potentially catastrophic consequences” of drug-resistant microorganisms, saying they now kill an estimated 23,000 people in this country every year, and other public health groups have been clamoring about them for years.
But the WHO reported that “very high rates of resistance” have been observed around the world to common bacteria that cause urinary tract, wound and bloodstream infections, as well as pneumonia. Multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis is a growing and under-reported concern, and rising resistance to anti-HIV drugs has been detected. At the same time, surveillance of the growing threat by officials across the globe is not coordinated.
In a region-by-region breakdown, WHO reported that in some settings in the Americas, up to 90 percent of Staphylococcus aureus infections are resistant to methicillin, a situation that has come to be abbreviated as MRSA. The bacteria that causes pneumonia is now less susceptible to penicillin throughout the world and exceeds 50 percent of cases in some places. In 36 countries, the last-resort treatment for gonorrhea is proving less effective.
Meanwhile, our trustworthy bureaucrats worldwide still consider their relationship with drugs producers, drugs prescribers, profit centers for the medical-industrial complex to be more important than any potentially critical concern for the health of nations.
Making chickens reach sales weight sooner, beef cattle fatter, are endeavors far outweighing healthy bodies resistant to illness.
We really need to come up with an appropriate term equivalent to “Quisling” to describe politicians and bureaucrats who collaborate with profiteers just as if they were an occupying army.
Adults in the UK [and the US] should aim to cut their sugar intake to 5% of daily calories if they can, according to the World Health Organisation – less than the amount, for an average person, in a single can of Coca-Cola.
In a new draft guideline, the WHO said all people, at every stage of life, should try to reduce the amount of sugar they consume. It reiterated its 2003 guidance that countries should set an upper limit of 10% of daily calories from sugar – but said the ideal level would be 5%.
For an adult of average bodyweight, with an intake of about 2,000 calories a day, 5% would equate to 100 calories – which at four calories in a gram would be 25g of sugar, said Dr Francesco Branca, the WHO’s director of nutrition for health and development. A standard 330ml can of cola contains 35g of sugar.
Even at a 10% limit, said Branca, a can of sugar-sweetened drink “approaches the amount that is acceptable for an adult. For a child, since a child has a lower energy requirement, that could be a lot less. Consumption of a single serving of sugar-sweetened soda might actually exceed the limit of 10% of energy [from sugar] for a child.”
Branca added that soft drink consumption “is one of the elements that has been more constantly associated with increased weight gain, particularly in children. This is an area where more intense action needs to be taken if this guideline is to be implemented…”
The WHO’s nutrition guidance expert advisory group has been mulling over the evidence for nearly two years and commissioned scientific reviews of the evidence on the risks posed to health by “free sugars” – those added to food and drinks rather than the intrinsic sugars in fruit and vegetables.
The evidence is clearest on dental caries, the report says. Studies show an increase in tooth decay in children who get more than 10% of their calories from sugar…The link with obesity and diseases for which it is a risk factor, such as strokes, diabetes, heart disease and some cancers, is less clear cut. However, analyses of all available well-conducted trials suggested that people who cut down on sugar also managed to reduce weight – and those who ate more sugar put on weight.
The new guideline is likely to be strongly opposed by the food and drink industry and their supporters, who argue that no one food or type of food is a problem – all food and drinks are fine in moderation, they say.
Meanwhile, you’ll not be harming yourself by reducing sugar intake. So, why not get off your rusty dusty, sort out your nutrition and diet, squeeze a little more exercise into your daily life – and don’t waste too many tears on the food and drink industry.
The 2009 H1N1 “swine flu” epidemic killed up to 203,000 people across the globe — a death toll 10 times greater than initially estimated by the World Health Organization…
In a study published Tuesday in the journal Plos Medicine, epidemiologists used data on respiratory deaths in 20 nations to calculate a global mortality rate for the pandemic…
“This study confirms that the H1N1 virus killed many more people globally than originally believed,” read a statement from Lone Simonsen, a research professor in the Department of Global Health at George Washington University.
“We also found that the mortality burden of this pandemic fell most heavily on younger people and those living in certain parts of the Americas,” Simonsen said…
The relatively modest number of deaths estimated by the WHO prompted some to question whether the overall response to the 2009 outbreak was excessive. However, Simonsen and her colleagues argued that lab-confirmed influenza deaths would underestimate the broad reach of the illness.
“Many influenza-related deaths result from secondary bacterial infections or from exacerbation of preexisting chronic conditions, and are not recorded as related to influenza infection,” authors wrote…
The sampled nations represented 35% of the world’s population, and researchers then used statistical methods to calculate mortality rates for all nations.
The authors noted that their conclusions were limited by a lack of data from poor nations, and other factors.
“The true total mortality burden is likely to be even higher because deaths that occurred late in the winter of 2009-2010 and in later pandemic waves were missed in this analysis, and only pandemic influenza deaths that were recorded as respiratory deaths were included,” authors wrote.
Researchers said that if deaths due to cardiovascular disease and other causes were included, the death toll might be as high as 400,000.
There’s a shamefully large number of bureaucrats who would like to keep infection and death statistics from pandemics as low as possible. Their reasoning stretches from keeping public health budgets as low as possible to fears of discouraging tourism.
At the other end of the spectrum is the collective folly of libertarians who resent any suggestion of “public” health concerns and their cousins in the God-will-save-my-butt crowd. Same result.
Fifteen million babies are born prematurely each year, and the United States fared badly in the first country-by-country global comparison of premature births…released by the World Health Organization and other agencies.
Although American hospitals excel at saving premature infants, the United States is similar to developing countries in the percentage of mothers who give birth before their children are due, the study’s chief author noted. It does worse than any Western European country and considerably worse than Japan or the Scandinavian countries.
That stems from the unique American combination of many pregnant teenagers and many women older than 35 who are giving birth, sometimes to twins or triplets implanted after in vitro fertilization…often deliberately delivered early by Caesarean section to avoid the unpredictable risks of vaginally delivering multiple full-term babies.
Also, many American women of childbearing age have other risk factors for premature birth, like obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure or smoking habits. And the many women who lack health insurance often do not see doctors early in their pregnancies, when problems like high blood pressure or genital infections can be headed off…
The report, three years in the making, is the first to compare premature birthrates in 184 countries. It was produced jointly by the W.H.O., Save the Children, the March of Dimes and the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health, which has more than 400 member organizations. Other contributors include nearly 40 major American, European and United Nations health and foreign aid agencies and foundations…
In his study of 2,100 Mexican-Americans and immigrants from Mexico, Dr. Radek K. Bukowski, an expert on preterm birth at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, found that the longer a woman lived in this country, the greater her chances of giving birth prematurely. The risk was 4 percent for recent immigrants, 7 percent for those living here less than a decade and 10 percent for citizens.
Even after controlling for risk factors like age, poverty, smoking, obesity and diabetes, “we really don’t have an explanation for what’s behind it,” Dr. Bukowski said. “But whatever it is, it’s not genetic. It’s something they acquire here.”
As the researchers said, it’s time for more study.
I don’t see any problem getting the research done. As usual, if government intervention is needed whether for essential education or repairing a defect in the system – unless we sort out an incompetent Congress and non-leadership from the White House nothing will be accomplished.