Polio emergency declared as war and bandits spread the virus

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.

Connecticut seaside town sends out terror attack alert – Oops!

Candidate for head of Homeland Security

Residents of Old Saybrook received quite a shock after hearing the area was under a terrorist attack over the Connecticut town’s public address system on Sunday afternoon.

The Office of Emergency Management said a dispatcher accidentally made a series of errors, which caused the message to play over speakers placed around town. The message also warned residents to seek shelter…

Reverse 911 calls were made through the Everbridge Emergency Notification System apologizing for the error and saying in part, “There is no emergency, and there is no homeland security crisis in or near the Town of Old Saybrook.”

The Office of Emergency Management said it takes the matter very seriously and an internal investigation has begun into that dispatcher’s actions.

The possibility for disruptive errors like this one don’t exist – of course – where the public and politicians alike have decided not to rule their lives by fear and trepidation.

Teen access to Plan B uneven – either from ideology or ignorance

Since 2009 the Food and Drug Administration has mandated that Plan B and other emergency contraceptives be available without a prescription to women age 17 and up. In reality, a new study suggests, a 17-year-old’s access to these drugs can be uncertain.

In the study, two female research assistants at Boston University called every commercial pharmacy in five major cities and asked whether emergency contraception was available to them that day. If the answer was yes, they followed up with the question “If I’m 17, is that okay?”

At that point, 19% of the pharmacy workers told the young women that contraception would not be available to them. When researchers posing as doctors called the same pharmacies on behalf of a (fictional) 17-year-old patient, however, just 3% of pharmacies said the drugs weren’t available.

Pharmacies, moreover, incorrectly reported the age guidelines for over-the-counter access to 43% of the “girls” and 39% of the “doctors,” according to the study — which appears in the April issue of the journal Pediatrics…

Timely access to these drugs is important, Wilkinson and her colleagues say, since they’re most effective in the 24 hours following unprotected sex or a contraception failure. The odds of getting pregnant rise by about 50% every 12 hours after the event, according to the study…

The faulty information about age recorded in some of the other calls might be due to a combination of “confusion, misinformation, and maybe personal beliefs,” Wilkinson says, although she and her colleagues stress that the study is silent on this matter. A pharmacy’s location and whether or not it was part of a chain did not appear to play a role…

The “misunderstanding among the public, pharmacists, and doctors about this being an abortion pill” is an “ongoing dilemma,” Dr. Jean Amoura says… Ignorance in America is an ongoing dilemma.

“It’s unclear if the pharmacy workers who provided incorrect information to the study callers were simply unfamiliar with the law, but one of the unfortunate results of the age restriction is that it requires drugstores to keep emergency contraception behind pharmacy counters,” Dr. Deborah Nucatola said in a prepared statement. “As the research shows, that restriction creates access barriers for women of all ages and these barriers can in turn result in preventable unintended pregnancies.”

“Preventable unintended pregnancies” still is a panic button for Americans whose education, awareness, concern for themselves and others is trapped in the Dark Ages. It is part of a simple answer to a question of being responsible for your own decisions. As a starter.

Add in additional causes of unintended pregnancies – like rape – and the posturing of religious fundamentalists is criminal.

Chile rescuers save tourists after satellite emergency call

Chilean rescuers have saved two tourists who got into trouble on an Andean mountain and raised the alarm by calling an emergency number in the US.

The two – an Italian and a Czech – used a satellite device to send their location to a rescue centre in Texas.

Local teams then had to contend with heavy snow, rain and high winds to reach the pair, who were sheltering on the slopes of the Quetrupillan volcano.

After the rescue, the tourists said they were lucky to be alive. “It was very serious. At times we thought that we were going to die,” said Czech Phillip Kunk. Italian Analissa Lombardo said it was the most frightening experience of her life.

The two were taken a local hospital to be treated for symptoms of hypothermia…

They entered the national park on Monday, planning to walk along a trail that usually takes five days. But they got into trouble by the early hours of Friday, and raised the alarm with Texas rescuers.

The Americans then alerted the Chilean authorities, and a rescue team was despatched to the area, near the resort town of Pucon.

This is one of those terrific solutions that finally becomes affordable. The usual satellite phone costs way too much for most adventure trekkers; but, a few firms now maintain a communications service for small, portable – affordable – phones that are only good for [a] sending an emergency alert and [b] identifying where you are.

No long conversations with the family dog; but – as in this case – the folks providing the service contact the authorities where you are cramped and send help.

Sit on cellphone + phone calls wife = SWAT raid on school!

A 30-man armed SWAT team stormed a school in Illinois after a staff member accidentally called his wife from his pocket, causing her to believe that he was being held hostage.

Officers in America wearing riot gear and carrying automatic weapons searched Carlton Washburne School, Winnetka, for almost three hours after the woman, who has not been identified, called 911.

Joseph De Lopez, the local police chief, said the woman reported receiving a call from her husband in which she could hear muffled voices and believed he was being held captive by a man with a gun.

Within minutes a security perimeter was established around the school, whose pupils had left for the day, and officers poured into the building. Three TV news helicopters were circling above.

But while they were still searching the school, and the man’s distressed wife remained connected to his mobile phone and to 911, he returned home.

While driving back from work, he had called his wife by sitting on his mobile phone, which was in his back pocket, while he listened to hip-hop and talked to himself.

“His wife was the last number he’d dialled,” Chief De Lopez said.

Mark Friedman, the school district interim co-superintendent, explained that the music’s “gangster-like” lyrics had contributed to the woman’s concerns.

This passes for “good, clean fun” in the United States of America.

Pilot’s spilled coffee sends out hijacking radio message!

“What’s that behind us?”

A United Airlines flight from Chicago to Germany was diverted to Toronto’s Pearson Airport late Monday night after the pilot spilled a coffee, Transport Canada reports.

The coffee interfered with the plane’s navigation and communication system and sent out distress signals including code 7500 — unlawful interference, or a hijacking — and code 7600, which means the plane has lost communications.

“With the help of their company dispatch staff, the flight crew was confirmed the problem to be a NAV(navigation)/communication issue and not a valid code 7500. The flight crew initially diverted to return to Chicago but subsequently declared an emergency … and diverted to Toronto…”

A United spokesman told CNN a review is underway and it was too soon to comment on what happened.

Everyone’s just happy that Homeland Insecurity didn’t order them to be shot down.

FCC finally notices that texting can aid 911 calls

Texting – old school

In a bid to bring the life-saving emergency service 911 into the 21st century, the FCC is looking at letting citizens report crimes through text messages and even stream video from their mobile phones to emergency centers.

Established as a national standard in 1968, 911 handles more than 230 million calls a year — 70 percent of which now come from mobile phones.

The last real overhaul of 911 by the FCC came in 2001, when mobile carriers were required to allow 911 to identify the location of callers either through GPS or cell-tower data…

But the 911 system still can’t handle text messages, multimedia messages or streaming video, all of which could be very helpful to first responders.

A system that could handle those messages would also allow people to report crimes without being overheard, which could be useful in situations ranging from kidnapping to seeing someone being robbed on the street…

It’s not clear yet where the money will come from for the upgrades, whether they will be federal requirements states and cities must carry out or if they will simply be suggestions.

Perish the thought our politicians adopt useful, constructive protocols like this without giving every local hack a chance to get in on an opportunity to be “lobbied” by equipment vendors.

Push comes to shove, the Federalist rationale supports small-time graft as well as it does the Congressional flavors.

Kidnap/Carjack victims call 911 – are put on hold

Four students who were kidnapped in a Sunday night carjacking in Atlanta used a cell phone to call 911 from the trunk of the car where they were being held, only to be put on hold by 911

The captives eventually called the Morehouse College police department, where a dispatcher alerted officers to their whereabouts, the students said at a news conference at Morehouse on Monday morning.

Two suspects, a 17-year-old and a juvenile, were arrested when police arrived at a West End bank where the suspects went to use the victims’ ATM cards…

Worthy said that after being kidnapped, one of the students in the trunk “got on his phone and dialed 911. He was unable to get anyone, he was put on hold at 911, so he switched over and called the Morehouse College police number.”

Morehouse police dispatcher Karen Wells answered the call, and directed officers from Morehouse and other Atlanta University Center campuses to the Wachovia Bank in West End, where police found the victims and arrested two of the suspects…

On the chilling dispatch tape released by Morehouse police Monday morning, the student is heard pleading with Wells, “please hurry, they said they are going to kill us.”

Ain’t cost-savings wonderful?

Some beancounter or other figured they could save bureaucrats a buck or two by removing human beings from the response time equation. And damned near got these kids killed.

President Obama declares a National Emergency over swine flu

There wasn’t any such thing as flu vaccine in 1918

President Barack Obama declared the swine flu outbreak a national emergency, giving his health chief the power to let hospitals move emergency rooms offsite to speed treatment and protect noninfected patients…

Health authorities say more than 1,000 people in the United States, including almost 100 children, have died from the strain of flu known as H1N1, and 46 states have widespread flu activity. So far only 11 million doses have gone out to health departments, doctor’s offices and other providers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials…

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius now has authority to bypass federal rules when opening alternative care sites, such as offsite hospital centers at schools or community centers if hospitals seek permission…

The national emergency declaration was the second of two steps needed to give Sebelius extraordinary powers during a crisis.

On April 26, the administration declared swine flu a public health emergency, allowing the shipment of roughly 12 million doses of flu-fighting medications from a federal stockpile to states in case they eventually needed them. At the time, there were 20 confirmed cases in the U.S. of people recovering easily. There was no vaccine against swine flu, but the CDC had taken the initial step necessary for producing one.

”As a nation, we have prepared at all levels of government, and as individuals and communities, taking unprecedented steps to counter the emerging pandemic,” Obama wrote in Saturday’s declaration.

The most contemptible political contradictions in this process come from conservatives and libertarians who started out fear-mongering over vaccines and have now switched to finger-pointing, trying to blame the government for the inability of producers in the U.S. to come up with an adequate supply to match demand.

You can’t have it both ways, folks.

Science says you’re an idiot for relying on gossip and ignorance to stop people from being vaccinated. And I say you’re just a bunch of creeps for the opportunist whine about circumstances beyond the control of government or, for that matter, the vaccine manufacturers.

RTFA to understand how the regs mostly concern quarantine and treatment centers.

Woman gives birth on sidewalk after being refused ambulance

Carmen Blake and baby Mariah — physiotherapist Helen Ivers who delivered Mariah

Mother-of-three Carmen Blake called her midwife to ask for an ambulance when she went into labour unexpectedly with her fourth child…

She said: “I phoned up the Royal Infirmary, it’s just across the road, and they said to go into a hot bath, and then to make my way over there.

“I went into the bath and realised she was going to come quickly. I didn’t think I’d be able to make it out of the bath, so I phoned the maternity ward back and told them to get an ambulance out.

They said they were not sending an ambulance and told me I had had nine months to sort out a lift…’

Eventually Ms Blake and her friends enlisted the help of a physiotherapist who happened to be passing on her way to work.

She dialled 999 and helped deliver baby Mariah while waiting for emergency services…

Today a spokeswoman for the University Hospitals of Leicester said: ‘We are disappointed that Ms Blake was not happy with the advice and care she received and will of course investigate any complaint.

Was that an actual human being who delivered the statement from the Royal Infirmary?

Sounds like same kind of robot bureaucrat that makes decisions like this.