As the West African Ebola epidemic stretches into its 10th month: researchers have identified the likely cause of the initial outbreak: a young boy playing with bats in a village in Guinea. The NY Times considers how the opportunity to contain the epidemic was missed and the effects of Ebola on West African economies. Vanity Fair takes a look at the failure to contain the disease within Guinea, Frontline goes to "Ground Zero" in Guinea, and searches for a missing Ebola patient. Meanwhile, West Africans welcomed Christmas (previously) and the New Year. Africa Stop Ebola!
Ebola and the Construction of Fear by Karen Sternheimer (Everyday Sociology)
"Sociologist Barry Glassner, author of The Culture of Fear: Why Americans are Afraid of the Wrong Things, explains how misguided panics are not just benign opportunities to prevent something horrible, but can divert attention and public funds away from more likely threats. He notes:[more inside]Panic-driven public spending generates over the long term a pathology akin to one found in drug addicts. The money and attention we fritter away on our compulsions, the less we have available for our real needs, which consequently grow larger (p. xvii).
A man has died in Lagos of Ebola virus. What's worrying is how he got there - by plane, with 100 other people. [more inside]
There's been an ebola outbreak in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. With 122 cases so far, this is the worst outbreak since 2007's 264-case outbreak. The worst outbreak was 2000-2001's 425 cases. What makes this one different is the way it has spread so widely. [more inside]
[Eleven] days ago, The New Yorker’s Daily Comment blog published an essay by Michael Specter titled “What Young Gay Men Don’t Know About Aids,” in which Specter points to the increase of “unprotected anal intercourse among gay men,” claims that “the rates of HIV infection will surely follow,” and then identifies the cause of this shift as the ignorance of my generation, who weren’t around to see the AIDS epidemic for themselves. The piece is a call to arms of sort, stating the need for increased public funding for HIV/AIDS prevention, and concludes by quoting Larry Kramer’s famous 1983 warning, “1,112 and Counting.” It’s a familiar argument—one that, in my lifetime, I have heard repeated ad nauseam and, I fear, largely misses what AIDS means to me and many other young gay men.
The Saudi Arabian government has been tight-lipped about the spread of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), a disease first discovered in 2012 that has "killed more than half of those who contracted it", "responding slowly to requests for information and preventing outside researchers from publishing their findings about the syndrome. [more inside]
People are more likely to kill their fellow citizens as the gap between rich and poor increases. The same is not true of civil war — although you’d think people would be more likely to turn against the state rather than their neighbor as income inequality increased, this isn’t the case.
"If the history of public health has until now been embodied by the map—as in British physician John Snow’s famous map, which allowed him to curb the London cholera outbreak of 1854 and to found, in doing so, the modern field of epidemiology—Snitkin was embarking on a new kind of epidemiology: one founded on the phylogenetic tree." Writing for Wired, Carl Zimmer describes how Evan Snitkin and Julie Segre used genome sequencing to halt a bacterial outbreak at the National Institute of Health's Clinical Center. (via The Feature)
291 diseases and injuries + 67 risk factors + 1,160 non-fatal complications = 650 million estimates of how we age, sicken, and die
As humans live longer, what ails us isn't necessarily what kills us: five data visualizations of how we age, sicken, and die. Causes of death by age, sex, region, and year. Heat map of leading causes and risks by region. Changes in leading causes and risks between 1990 and 2010. Healthy years lost to disability vs. life expectancy in 1990 and 2010. Uncertainties of causes and risks. From the team for the massive Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study 2010. [more inside]
From the mid 40s to the mid 50s Coronet Instructional Films were always ready to provide social guidance for teenagers on subjects as diverse as dating, popularity, preparing for being drafted, and shyness, as well as to children on following the law, the value of quietness in school, and appreciating our parents. They also provided education on topics such as the connection between attitudes and health, what kind of people live in America, how to keep a job, supervising women workers, the nature of capitalism, and the plantation System in Southern life. Inside is an annotated collection of all 86 of the complete Coronet films in the Prelinger Archives as well as a few more. Its not like you had work to do or anything right? [more inside]
Drug-resistant and "extensively" resistant strains make containment and treatment of tuberculosis ever more difficult. Fortunately, researchers based in Switzerland have (re-)discovered a naturally-made antibiotic called pyridomycin, which will kill isoniazid-resistant M. tuberculosis bacteria.
Biocaster is an ontology-based global health monitoring system that monitors and maps disease outbreaks through internet-based news aggregation and social media. [more inside]
Mercenary Epidemiology: Data Reanalysis and Reinterpretation for Sponsors With Financial Interest in the Outcome. (.pdf link) When should scientists be required to release their raw data for (potentially hostile) re-analysis? A letter to the editors of Annals of Epidemiology from David Michaels, Ph.D., MPH, public health blogger, author of the book Doubt Is Their Product, and, as of December 2009, the Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA, unanimously confirmed by the Senate despite the dismay of some. Michaels interviewed at Science Progress about Doubt Is Their Product (podcast, with transcript.)
Does carrying a gun protect you from physical harm? Research by epidemiologists at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine suggests that carrying a gun makes one 4.5 times more likely to be shot in an assault, than someone not possessing a gun. Resisting increases one's odds of suffering harm even greater. [more inside]
Figure 3. Basic model outbreak scenario. Susceptibles are quickly eradicated and zombies take over, infecting everyone.
Google Flu Trends brings us epidemiology through search analytics. The prevalence of certain search terms seems to be a good predictor of CDC flu reports a couple of weeks later. The New York Times has a story on this project.
Blocking the Transmission of Violence. "If gang violence was an infectious disease, how would you stop it? A Chicago epidemiologist thinks he has the answer."
TheDataWeb - a network of online data libraries on topics including census data, economic data, health data, income and unemployment data, population data, labor data, cancer data, crime and transportation data, family dynamics, vital statistics data
Sick City - Maps and Mortality in the Time of Cholera [print version] reviews Stephen Johnson's "The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic"*. Dr John Snow became the acknowledged modern father of epidemiology by identifying water as the transmission vehicle of a cholera outbreak in Victorian England. [more inside]
In this week’s medical research update, being mildly overweight might not be so bad for you. According to one summary, “overweight people have a lower death rate because they are much less likely to die from a grab bag of diseases that includes Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, infections and lung disease. And that lower risk is not counteracted by increased risks of dying from any other disease, including cancer, diabetes or heart disease.” And so what is meant by “overweight” needs to be reconsidered. But last week’s bulletin, discussed here, suggested that longer life spans are associated with lower weights, and the primary recommendation was to “Be as lean as possible without becoming underweight.” Allright: Epidemiological studies are hard to interpret and some people question the science. Newspapers are oriented to breaking news and treat medical reports as such, relying on he said/she said quotes from experts instead of providing integrative analysis. So who exactly is going to put together the pieces? What about NIH, your tax dollar at work? Or some blogs?
The 2005 outbreak of Corrupted Blood in World of Warcraft may provide epidemiologists with a new platform for studying the spread of disease.
By using these games as an untapped experimental framework, we may be able to gain deeper insight into the incredible complexity of infectious disease epidemiology in social groups.It comes as no surprise that the "stupid factor" plays a role in susceptibility to viral marketing, but it may also be a factor in the spread of real life germs.
In the past, various possible treatments and methods have been suspected of helping combat AIDS, which have later been proven correct. Other, less reputable treatments have also been claimed to work, the likes of which descend towards malpractice, pseudoscience and criminal negligence. But in a turnabout, the olive oil element of South Africa's controversial treatment, deemed to be "Africa's Solution", actually helps as well.
INTERVOICE (International Network for Training, Education and Research into Hearing Voices) "offers information, publications, research, and good practice on hearing voices and other key issues." Voice hearing is surprisingly common, even normal. Many people find it a pleasurable and positive experience. Find everything from stencil graffiti to a recent New York Times magazine article on the work of the Hearing Voices Movement. (w i k i s)
In the new book The Family That Couldn't Sleep, journalist D.T. Max investigates Fatal Familial Insomnia - a strange prion disease that has been linked to Variant Creutzfeld-Jakobs Disease (the human form of mad cow disease).
Who goes to POZ Parties? Researchers profile HIV-1 positive men who have sex with men (MSM) at so-called "POZ parties": "Predominantly white and over the age of 30, subjects in the sample include a broad range of years living with HIV infection. Motivations for using a POZ Party venue for sexual partnering include relief from burdens for serostatus disclosure, an interest in not infecting others, and opportunities for unprotected sexual exchange. High rates of unprotected sex with multiple partners are prevalent in the venue. Although the sample evidences high rates of lifetime exposure to illicit drugs, relatively little drug use was reported in these sexual environments."
Is H5N1 flu transitioning to a human-to-human illness? Recent reports of familial clusters suggest that it may be, though there are certainly other possible explanations, such as families living in environments contaminated by virus-laden bird feces. On the other hand, it would seem that epidemiologists are growing increasingly interested in the possibility that these clusters are indicative of human-to-human transmissions. Further, the virus may be inching towards being asymptomatic, which isn't as good as it sounds: if people can carry the virus and transmit it to others without showing symptoms, it will be very difficult to impossible to tell who is a vector and highly difficult to control any emerging epidemic.
Where are the areas in the United States with highest marijuana use? Where are the areas with the lowest? A different kind of red versus blue. But wait, there's more, especially if you would prefer to be binge drinking to wash away those lonesome blues. And a list of information broken down by drug, if your fix is more obscure.
Physicians and scientists around the world even go as far as to state that smoking leads to premature death. Don’t we all know someone who smokes constantly, even heavily, yet is still living — or has lived — to the mature age of eighty, ninety, and older? Furthermore, the MDs and PhDs state that smoking causes cancer and emphysema. If this diagnosis were definitive, wouldn’t these afflictions affect all smokers equally, rather than the small percentage that it actually does affect?
Is circumcision an AIDS weapon? To cut or not to cut? Does circumcision prevent the transmission of HIV? It was deemed "An acceptable strategy for HIV prevention" in Bostwana and a study looking at the magnitude of females who get infected with HIV/AIDS/STDs through circumcision
With a newly indurated PPD in my arm, I went looking for tuberculosis resources. According to the WHO over 2 million people a year die of tuberculosis. About a third of the 40 mil. people infected with HIV worldwide are also infected with TB. Successful treatment takes 6-9 months of powerful antibiotics, but that's assuming the bacteria in your body aren't drug resistant. Epidemics of drug resistant TB are raging in some parts of Central America and in the Russian prison system. Paul Farmer is the man for treating it, and quite a good man in general. On the plus side, possibly having TB puts me in good company: Orwell, Kafka, Chekhov, Chopin, and the 70s favorite mummy, King Tut all had it. Every one of the Brontes did too, and they were all geniuses. Of course they all died of it. On a more sober note, if I do have to get treatment, but I refuse, I might be ordered to take medications by a judge.
Haunted by a truly global epidemic, perhaps it is time to consider the effects of globalization on the spread of diseases like AIDS. In addition to making it easier for disease to achieve global prevalence, global economics reduce funding for public health by placing treatment emphasis on those who can pay for their drugs, and, in the case of AIDS, may also encourage pharmaceutical companies to pursue expensive life-long 'treatments' rather than cures. Furthermore, younger, economically depressed members of the global economy are wholly dependent on the whim of richer nations for their well-being in the face of devastating epidemics. In this case, it seems that the global marketplace has failed to be the holy grail it is so often presented as.
Why a ban on spitting is catching in the throats of Chinese. Apparently, spitting in public is very common in China. "They consider phlegm excrement," explained a coworker of mine who recently visited Shanghai. With SARS spreading in airborne saliva and mucous particles (aka respiratory secretions, China has had to tackle the challenge of outlawing a practice as "common as breathing."
AIDS Dissidents argue AIDS is not really caused by HIV but is a production of medical and pharmaceutical conglomerates. They are willing to argue the point even though some are HIV positive. They use "Seven Deadly Deceptions" such as "The HIV test is unreliable--so don't get tested." to further their cause; and their cause is growing.
The Hunt for the Origin of AIDS "The notion that AIDS arose from a polio vaccine made with contaminated chimpanzee cells is far from the only theory about how the epidemic started, and it is hotly disputed. The quest for the source of the epidemic is intensifying, as researchers scour the jungle for clues and try to "walk back" the disease genetically with the help of the world's most powerful computers."
Utah Leads Nation in Rate of Anti-Depressant Use. It is interesting (to me) in that the people doing the study credit a "Mother of Zion" syndrome of married Mormon women putting on the happy face regardless of how happy they truly are. My state is up at the top also. Could be all the rain I guess. . .*sigh*
AIDS Altered the Fabric of New York in Ways Subtle and Vast. (NYTimes, reg. required) "...New York City after AIDS is somewhat like America after World War II.."
Three people may have contracted foot-and-mouth, though all the tests aren't in. This is the first time this has occured during the current outbreak. I think the most, er, interesting thing is exactly how one of the guys got it.
http://www.guardianunlimited.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,372067,00.html Thousands of South American indians were infected with measles, killing hundreds, in order to for US scientists to study the effects on primitive societies of natural selection.