Posted by: lromney | December 13, 2010

Polio Kills 206 in Africa

The following article was posted by the Washington Times on December 10, 2010:

JOHANNESBURG (AP) – A rare and unusually fatal outbreak of polio in Republic of Congo has caused more than 200 deaths in the Central African nation, a UNICEF spokesman said Friday.

The disease usually strikes children under 5, but most of those affected have been young men between the ages of 15 and 24, saidMartin Dawes, the agency’s West Africa spokesman.

“Polio is an absolutely a red hot traveling virus, which will affect a lot of people if immunization rates are not good,” Dawes said. “The fact we’ve have this virus means there was a hole in the immunization rates in the past.”

Republic of Congo, a tiny nation often overshadowed by its much larger neighbor, Congo, was wracked by successive civil wars in the 1990s.

Up to 10 percent of people paralyzed by polio can die when their breathing muscles stop working. But Dawes said that 42 percent of the cases in Republic of Congo had been fatal.

The vast majority of them have occurred in the oil-rich coastal port city of Pointe Noire.

The World Health OrganizationUNICEF and Rotary International said they began vaccinating some 3 million people in the Republic of CongoCongo and nearby Angola last month. International aids groups have begun emergency immunizations in Pointe Noire and will continue them through the end of the year.

There is no cure for polio, which can only be prevented by immunization. Polio is carried in the feces of the infected and often spread by contaminated water. Polio has virtually disappeared from the West but is entrenched in a handful of countries, namely Afghanistan, India, Nigeria and Pakistan.

Oliver Rosenbauer, the World Health Organization‘s polio spokesman, said aid groups have significantly reduced the disease in Africa since 1996. But until polio is eradicated everywhere, all countries are at risk.

The outbreak in Republic of Congo “very much underlines this risk,” he said.

Posted by: lromney | December 6, 2010

Charity Water

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Posted by: lromney | December 2, 2010

Does the Environment Alter the Effectiveness of a Vaccine?

In the Journal of Leukocyte Biology, scientists from Singapore reported that a bacteria found in soil and water called Mycobaterium chelonae can decrease the effectiveness of the tuberculosis vaccine, particularly in countries outside of the US. Tuberculosis is an airborne infectious disease that usually affects the lungs but can also attack the kidney, spine or brain. According to the CDC, approximately 1/3 of the world’s population is infected with the disease and it is the leading killer of people who are HIV positive. The TB vaccine is administered worldwide, however it’s effectiveness has varied in different parts of the world, thus prompting the said research.

Researchers began testing their hypothesis (that an organism is more susceptible to TB even after being vaccinated when exposed to mycobacterium chelonae in the environment) on mice and discovered that their findings did support it.”Uncovering the reasons why the vaccine is failing will help researchers in designing new, more effective vaccines against TB,” said Geok Teng Seah, Ph.D., a researcher involved in the work from the Department of Microbiology at the National University of Singapore. “This will give us more tools to fight this globally significant infectious disease.” To support the TB cause and the fight to eradicate it completely visit STOP TB Partnership.

Posted by: lromney | December 2, 2010


Today, December 1 is World AIDS Day. Sufferers, family, friends, clinicians, politicians, scientists, people-all recognize the impact that AIDS has had upon the world. It has killed countless people but has brought millions of people together in support of those who have passed on and those who are living with the disease. World AIDS Day also recognizes those who are fighting to find a cure for the disease and there are plenty of ways to get involved and support the AIDS cause.

According to the WHO, more than 33.4 million people suffer from HIV/AIDS, a vast majority of those people living in low and middle-income countries. To date, more than 27 million people have died from AIDS. As the leading infectious killer, AIDS has devastated the lives and families of millions of people. Distribution of the combination anti-retroviral therapy has improved the quality of life of AIDS sufferers, however only 5.2 million out of the 33.4 million have access to it. By raising awareness about AIDS and its global presence, progression in AIDS research and the ability to reach those who suffer from it will become a reality. Support the cause.

Posted by: lromney | December 1, 2010

Health Requirements for Traveling to Saudi Arabia-Hajj

The Ministry of Health of Saudi Arabia announced that people traveling to Saudi Arabia during the Hajj and Umrah seasons must abide by strict health requirements in order to gain access into the country. These requirements include: being yellow fever and meningitis vaccinated, travelers under the age of 15 who travel from countries that have been reinfected with polio must be polio vaccinated, and all travelers will be screened for symptoms of the the mentioned diseases.

The Hajj and Umrah are religious pilgrimages that Muslims must embark upon at least once in their life (if they have the means to do so) to show their devotion, dedication and submission to Allah (god). It is the largest annual pilgrimage in the world. Over two million people travel from all over the world to participate in the religious rite, with the number of pilgrims  increasing every year. Due to the increased number of people traveling to Saudia Arabia, the Ministry of Health requires that health restrictions are put into place to protect the health of the countries citizens as well as the health of the travelers. Infectious diseases spread from host to host in a variety of ways. With the amount of worldwide travelers numbered in the millions, any and all health and safety precautions must be taken.

With this model in mind, to prevent outbreaks from occurring, should all countries, no matter what season, require that all travelers be vaccinated for specific diseases? Would this public health measure be too drastic or would it help improve health and awareness?

Posted by: lromney | December 1, 2010

Senate passes food safety overhaul by wide margin

Yesterday, the U.S. Senate passed a bill giving the FDA more authority over food producers and processors as a way of increasing the safety of the nation’s food supply. The bill was proposed due to the fact that  a string of foodborne illness outbreaks in recent years, tied to products such as spinach, green onions, peanut butter, peppers, tomatoes, and eggs. The Senate bill was supported by consumers, public health groups and food industry groups.

According to the bill, the FDA will be required to inspect food facilities more often as a way of preventing food-borne illnesses from circulating throughout the nation as well as a list of other requirements that they must abide by.

Some food-borne illnesses that have swept through the US due to tainted food include: salmonella, E. Coli, and campylobacter. By increasing food regulation, restrictions and inspection, the number of people who contract and suffer from food-borne illnesses will decrease. This step toward cleaner food as well as it’s storage and distribution is an important step in improving public health and raising awareness about food-borne illnesses.

Posted by: lromney | December 1, 2010

Experimental Vaccine Protects Monkey’s from Ebola

In May of this year, researchers at the National Institute of  Health discovered that the experimental vaccine they developed  to protect monkey’s from the Ebola virus has proven to be effective against the two most deadly strains of the virus. The CDC reports that “ebola hemorrhagic fever (Ebola HF) is a severe, often-fatal disease in humans and nonhuman primates (monkeys, gorillas, and chimpanzees) that has appeared sporadically since its initial recognition in 1976.” The virus has a fatality rate ranging from 50-100 percent of those who contract it.

The ebola virus has the ability to evolve into multiple strains, making vaccine development very difficult. However, because no prior vaccine has proven to be successful against the deadly virus, news of an effective vaccine is ground-breaking. The institute’s director, Anthony S. Fauci, M.D. acknowledged the advancement, praising the work the research team has done, “This finding will guide future vaccine design and may open an avenue for developing a single vaccine that works against both known and emerging Ebola virus species.”

The Ebola virus’ natural reservoir remains unknown, making prevention efforts difficult. However, with the possibility of a vaccine, lives of the people who live in areas that have been devastated by the virus (Democratic Republic of the Congo,  Sudan and the Philippines) could be saved .

Posted by: lromney | November 20, 2010

Politics and Health: The Cholera Outbreak in Haiti

An outbreak of cholera has taken the lives of over 1,180 Haitians and over 18,000 are sick with the infectious disease. The hospitals in Port-au-Prince are overflowing with patients  and dozens of people are dying per day. Officials are looking into the cause of the outbreak, wondering where the bacteria came from. According to the CDC  “cholera was “extremely unlikely to occur” in Haiti (following the enormous quake in January of this year). There were no cholera bacteria there. Most foreigners were relief workers with good sanitation who come from countries where cholera is not an issue.” However, the epidemic was confirmed in October, baffling health care workers and politicians alike.

Ironically and sadly, investigations have led to the UN peacekeeper Nepalese base. Local farmers complained about the stink at the back of the base and the sewage found in the river Boukan Kanni. A few weeks later cholera was confirmed in the Haitian population.  “It [cholera] very much likely did come either with peacekeepers or other relief personnel,” said John Mekalanos, Harvard University microbiology chair. “I don’t see there is any way to avoid the conclusion that an unfortunate and presumably accidental introduction of the organism occurred.”

UN spokesperson, Vincenzo Pugliese said that the waste at these bases was taken care of properly and that no unlawful dumping of human excrement had occurred. However,  on October 27, following the initial outbreak, officials found the septic tank at the back of the base to be overflowing. Further investigation of the issue is underway as well as testing of the river water and those who inhabit the Nepalese base.

If the UN aid workers have indeed imported cholera into Haiti this may have severe implications on the once reputable reputation of the UN. Anti- UN riots and political unrest is being demonstrated by the Haitian population. They  no longer trust the UN workers, who have been there to help keep the peace and help rebuild their ravaged country and government. The WHO says that an in-depth investigation will occur in the future, however, right now the main focus is to get the needed medical supplies and personnel to those Haitians who are suffering from the disease.

Posted by: lromney | November 10, 2010

Poliovirus Importations Make Eradication Effort a Challenge

According to the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, the complete
eradication of the infectious disease polio is becoming more challenging as wild poliovirus (WPV) is being imported into “previously polio-free countries.” Since The Global Polio Eradication Initiative, which began in 1988 and is headed up by the World Health Organization (WHO), Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and UNICEF, the number of polio cases around the globe have decreased by 99%. “By 2006, indigenous transmission of wild poliovirus (WPV) had been interrupted in all but four countries (Afghanistan, India, Nigeria, and Pakistan).” However, WPV cases are beginning to appear in Russia, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan, countries in Africa and some parts of Asia.

Further investigation into the reported cases across Europe, Africa and Asia has revealed that the virus is being imported from countries where the virus has not been eradicated. Supplementary immunization activities (SIAs)  of the oral poliovirus vaccine have begun in the affected countries. 20 years of eradication efforts could be devastated in a matter of years if the virus is allowed to spread, so swift action is being taken to ensure this does not happen. However, it is unnerving to think that the virus can spread so quickly as well as jump borders. Could there be any possibility of the virus being imported into the US? Should parents be required by law  to have their children polio vaccinated or still be given the choice as to whether or not their children receive routine vaccines? Polio is such a debilitating disease and every precaution should be taken to prevent it, even if it is completely eradicated from the US. The virus has shown it can be imported into previously polio-free countries and the US is no exception to any virus.

Oral polio vaccination

Posted by: lromney | September 15, 2010

Andy Irons Dies of Dengue Fever

Andy Irons at the Rip Curl Pro Competition

Andy Irons, a three-time world surf champion from Hawaii, died this past Tuesday, November 2nd from a possible case of dengue fever that he is said to have contracted in either Portugal or Puerto Rico while attending a surf competition. Irons, 32, left his expecting wife Lyndie, his family and friends as well as his fans.

Dengue fever is a virus contracted through the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito and  is endemic in Puerto Rico, Latin America, South East Asia, Samoa and Guam. The symptoms of dengue include: high fever, severe headache, severe pain behind the eyes, joint pain, muscle and bone pain, rash, and mild bleeding (e.g., nose or gums bleed, easy bruising). Dengue hemorrhagic fever is the more severe form of the disease and can be fatal if treatment is not received in a timely manner.

According to Irons’ family, the surfer was suffering from dengue fever and had missed the surf competition he was planning to compete in due to his illness. He was found dead  in his Dallas hotel by hotel workers. Talk of a possible methadone overdose has spread, however the toxicology reports from the autopsy have not been completed.

Although 1/3 of the world’s population live in areas at risk for contracting dengue fever, it is shocking to hear that the famous surfer may have died from it. Because dengue fever is not prevalent in the U.S., news of Irons’ death  may be the first time people have even heard of the infectious disease. The news of his death gives rise to many questions…. Will more people become more educated an aware of dengue and other infectious disease as a result of Irons’ death? Should the surf world as well as world travelers  begin to take extra precautions when traveling to areas where infectious diseases are prevalent? Surfers are known for their “clean beaches and clean oceans’ campaigns, will campaigns about infectious disease awareness be created and supported by Irons’ fellow surfers?  Will Irons’ sad and unexpected death give rise to people becoming more aware of how devastating infectious diseases are and  come to understand that anybody is at risk of contracting one if they are in endemic areas?