Archive for the ‘public health’ Category

Measles is killing more people in the DRC than Ebola—and faster

July 15th, 2019
A man receives a vaccine against Ebola from a nurse outside the Afia Himbi Health Center on July 15, 2019 in Goma.

Enlarge / A man receives a vaccine against Ebola from a nurse outside the Afia Himbi Health Center on July 15, 2019 in Goma. (credit: Getty | PAMELA TULIZO )

As the world anxiously monitors the outbreak of Ebola in Democratic Republic of the Congo, health officials note that a measles outbreak declared last month in the country has killed more people—mostly children—and faster.

Since January 2019, officials have recorded over 100,000 measles cases in the DRC, mostly in children, and nearly 2,000 have died. The figures surpass those of the latest Ebola outbreak in the country, which has tallied not quite 2,500 cases and 1,665 deaths since August 2018. The totals were noted by World Health Organization Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, in a speech today, July 15, at the United Nations Office in Geneva, Switzerland.

"Frankly, I am embarrassed to talk only about Ebola," Dr. Tedros said (he goes by his first name). He gave the speech in response to two new developments in the Ebola outbreak. That is that two Ebola responders were murdered in their home in the DRC city of Beni, and that officials on Sunday had identified the first case of Ebola in Goma, a DRC city of over one million at the border with Rwanda.

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Posted in democratic republic of Congo, ebola, Ebola Outbreak, global health, Infectious disease, measles, measles outbreak, outbreak, public health, science, virus, WHO | Comments (0)

Savage tick-clone armies are sucking cows to death; experts fear for humans

July 11th, 2019
Scary arachnid is fat.

Enlarge / Engorged Haemaphysalis longicornis female tick. (credit: Commonsource)

Ravenous swarms of cloned ticks have killed a fifth cow in North Carolina by exsanguination—that is, by draining it of blood—the state’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services warned this week.

Experts fear that the bloodthirsty throngs, which were first noticed in the United States in 2017, will continue their rampage, siphoning life out of animals and eventually transmitting diseases, potentially deadly ones, to humans.

Just last month, infectious disease researchers in New York reported the first case of the tick species biting a human in the US. The finding was “unsurprising” given the tick’s ferocious nature, according to Dr. Bobbi S. Pritt, director of the Clinical Parasitology Laboratory in Mayo Clinic. And it’s “extremely worrisome for several reasons,” she wrote in a commentary for the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

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Posted in Asian longhorned tick, cattle, cow, Haemaphysalis longicornis, Infectious disease, Invasive species, parasites, public health, science, ticks, vector-borne diseases | Comments (0)

Antivaxxers turn to homeschooling to avoid protecting their kids’ health

July 8th, 2019
Stylized photograph of a boy writing at a desk.

Enlarge / A boy at school. (credit: Getty | Florian Gaertner )

Anti-vaccine advocates in New York are encouraging parents to homeschool their children rather than protect them from serious diseases, according to a recent report in The Wall Street Journal.

The move by New York anti-vaccine groups comes just weeks after state lawmakers eliminated exemptions that allowed parents to opt their children out of standard school vaccination requirements on the basis of religious beliefs. Very few religions actually have objections to vaccinations, and the ones that do tend to have relatively few followers. But many parents who reject vaccines based on falsehoods and misinformation about their safety have claimed religious objections as a way to dodge immunization requirements.

As cases of measles in the United States have exploded in recent years—largely due to a small but loud band of anti-vaccine advocates misinforming parents—states are now cracking down on non-medical exemptions. New York, which has faced a massive and prolonged outbreak since last September, is the fifth state to eliminate religious exemptions. It joins California, Maine, Mississippi, and West Virginia. Overall, lawmakers in 26 states have recently introduced bills aimed at tightening rules on who can receive exemptions, according to The Hill.

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Posted in anti-vaccine, CDC, exemptions, Infectious disease, measles, measles outbreak, new york, outbreak, public health, science, vaccination | Comments (0)

Anti-vax teen that fought ban amid chickenpox outbreak loses in court—again

July 1st, 2019

Judges in Kentucky have handed down another legal defeat to the unvaccinated teenager who sued his local health department for banning him from school and extracurricular activities amid a chickenpox outbreak earlier this year.

The Kentucky Court of Appeals on Friday quietly sided with the health department, saying that it was acting well within its powers to protect public health. The appeals court quoted an earlier ruling by the US Supreme Court saying that “Of paramount necessity, a community has the right to protect itself against an epidemic of disease which threatens the safety of its members.”

The Northern Kentucky Health Department declared the latest court decision a “resounding victory for public health in Kentucky,” in a statement.

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Posted in anti vacine, chickenpox, Infectious disease, public health, science, vaccine | Comments (0)

Hard-to-kill poop parasites that lurk in swimming pools on the rise, CDC warns

July 1st, 2019
What's going on in that swim diaper?

Enlarge / What's going on in that swim diaper? (credit: Getty | BSIP)

Whatever you do this summer, don’t drink the pool water.

Outbreaks of the gastrointestinal parasite cryptosporidium have been spurting upward since 2009, with the number of outbreaks gushing up an average of 13% each year, according to researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The germ spreads via the fecal-oral route and causes explosive, watery diarrhea that can last for up to three weeks. Most victims pick up the infection from recreational waters, such as swimming pools and water parks.

The main trouble is that crypto is extremely tolerant of chlorine and can happily stay afloat in well-treated pools for more than seven days. Thus, sick swimmers are the main source of infection—often young children who have yet to master toilet skills and also have more of a tendency to gulp pool water. An infected person can shed 100 million parasite eggs in one bout of diarrhea. Knocking back just 10 or fewer eggs in contaminated pool water can lead to an infection.

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Posted in CDC, crypto, Infectious disease, parasite, parasitic infection, public health, science | Comments (0)

A deadly, drug-resistant fungus has swept the globe—here’s how it spreads

June 27th, 2019
The director of the German National Reference Centre for Invasive Fungus Infections holding a petri dish of the yeast <em>Candida auris</em> in January 2018.

Enlarge / The director of the German National Reference Centre for Invasive Fungus Infections holding a petri dish of the yeast Candida auris in January 2018. (credit: Getty | Nicolas Armer)

Patients infected with a deadly, drug-resistant fungus are dripping with the dangerous germ, which pours into their surroundings where it lies in wait for weeks to find a new victim. That’s according to fresh data reported from the annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology recently in San Francisco.

The data fills in critical unknowns about how the fungus, Candida auris, actually spreads. The germ is a relatively new threat, considered an emerging pathogen by experts—and it's emerging quickly with an unusual ability to lurk and kill in healthcare settings.

It was first identified in 2009 in Japan. Studies since have tracked the globetrotting fungus backward and forward in time, from South Korea in 1996 to an outbreak in New York health facilities that began in 2013 and lasted until 2017. In all, C. auris has made an appearance in more than 30 countries, usually leaving a body count wherever it goes.

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Posted in candida auris, CDC, drug resistance, fungus, healthcare, Infectious disease, microbiology, multi-drug resistance, mycology, pathogenic fungus, public health, science, superbugs | Comments (0)

North Korea reveals explosive HIV outbreak—after claiming to be disease-free

June 25th, 2019
This undated picture released by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on October 18, 2016, shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (C) inspecting the newly built Ryugyong General Ophthalmic Hospital in Pyongyang.

Enlarge / This undated picture released by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on October 18, 2016, shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (C) inspecting the newly built Ryugyong General Ophthalmic Hospital in Pyongyang. (credit: Getty | KCNA)

North Korea is experiencing an explosive outbreak of HIV amid limited access to diagnostic testing and treatments, according to an exclusive report by Science.

Independent researchers and government health officials tell the outlet that the isolated East Asian country confirmed its first HIV case in 1999 and has quietly watched infections balloon to over 8,300 cases in the last few years. The researchers and North Korean officials have submitted a report on the matter to the new medical preprint server medRxiv, which is scheduled to go live on Tuesday, June 25.

The case estimate stands in stark contrast to a celebration in Pyongyang last year on December 1—annual World AIDS Day—in which government officials declared that North Korea is an “AIDS-free zone” and that there is “not a single AIDS patient” in the country.

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Posted in HIV, HIV/AIDS, Infectious disease, North Korea, outbreak, preprint, public health, sanctions, science | Comments (0)

Ebola spreads in Uganda, but not an international emergency, WHO says [Updated]

June 13th, 2019
A health worker puts on protective gear as he prepares to screen travelers at the Mpondwe Health Screening Facility in the Ugandan border town of Mpondwe as they cross over from the Democratic Republic of Congo, on June 13, 2019.

Enlarge / A health worker puts on protective gear as he prepares to screen travelers at the Mpondwe Health Screening Facility in the Ugandan border town of Mpondwe as they cross over from the Democratic Republic of Congo, on June 13, 2019. (credit: Getty | Isaac Kasamani)

UPDATE 6/14/2019, 1pm ET: The World Health Organization's Emergency Committee met today to discuss the spread of Ebola outbreak and declared (for the third time) that the ongoing outbreak does not constitute a “public health emergency of international concern" or PHEIC. It is an emergency for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the region, but does not meet the criteria for an international public health emergency, the committee concluded. Original story from 6/13/2019 follows.

Local and international health officials are scrambling to smother a flare-up of Ebola in Uganda, which spread this week from a massive, months-long outbreak in the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo. The outbreak has sickened 2,084 and killed 1,405 since last August.

Uganda announced its first case stemming from the outbreak on Tuesday, June 11. The case was in a 5-year-old Congolese boy who traveled across the border with family a few days earlier. The Ugandan Health Ministry reported shortly after that the boy succumbed to his infection the morning of June 12. Two of his family members also tested positive by that time: the boy’s 50-year-old grandmother and his 3-year-old brother.

Today, June 13, the Ministry announced that the grandmother had also passed. In an urgent meeting over the situation, officials from Uganda and the DRC mutually decided to send the remaining family back to the DRC. That includes the 3-year-old boy with a confirmed case, as well as the mother, father, a 6-month-old sibling, and their maid. Health officials noted that the latter four family members are all considered “suspected cases.”

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Posted in ebola, Infectious disease, public health, science, vaccine, WHO | Comments (0)

Measles cases hit 1,001 as anti-vaxxers hold another rally of disinformation

June 6th, 2019
BROOKLYN, NY - JUNE 04: Anti-vaccine activist Del Bigtree speaks with journalists before entering an anti-vaccine symposium on June 4, 2019.

BROOKLYN, NY - JUNE 04: Anti-vaccine activist Del Bigtree speaks with journalists before entering an anti-vaccine symposium on June 4, 2019. (credit: Getty | The Washington Post)

Prominent anti-vaccine advocates and conspiracy theorists held another rally of misinformation in New York Tuesday as the national tally of measles cases ticked passed 1,000.

The rally was held at an event hall in Brooklyn, an area hard hit by a measles outbreak that began last September. There have been 566 confirmed cases in New York City since then, mostly in unvaccinated children in the Orthodox Jewish community.

The rally—the second of its kind in New York in recent weeks—is part of a pattern of anti-vaccine groups targeting vulnerable communities that are grappling with outbreaks. Like the previous rally, Tuesday’s event featured Rabbi Hillel Handler and Del Bigtree, both prominent anti-vaccine provocateurs known for fear mongering and spreading myths about lifesaving immunizations.

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Posted in anti-vaccine, Infectious disease, measles, new york, public health, science, vaccine | Comments (0)

Hawaii warns tourists of parasitic worm that can burrow into human brains

May 30th, 2019
Male Angiostrongylus cantonensis

Enlarge / Male Angiostrongylus cantonensis (credit: Punlop Anusonpornperm)

Hawaii’s health department has released fresh warnings about a parasitic worm that can infest human brains after officials confirmed that three more visitors to the state picked up the infection.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed three new cases in unrelated adults visiting Hawaii Island from the US mainland, the health department announced. The latest known victims—who became infected at different times—bring the state’s 2018 case total to 10 and the 2019 total to five.

While there were 17 confirmed cases in 2017, the state counted only two cases total in the prior decade. The new case counts indicate a sustained boom in the parasite’s population and spread.

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Posted in CDC, Hawaii, infection, parasite, public health, rat lungworm, science, Worms | Comments (0)