In order to prevent the spread of the deadly Ebola virus, which has a fatality rate of up to 90%, the Liberian government has closed most of its borders and imposed a ban on large gatherings. The five month long outbreak is responsible for 672 deaths and the infection of 1,201 people (including two American Health Care Workers). Early symptoms of the virus include fever, headache, and diarrhea and can be spread “through close contact with the blood or other bodily fluids of an infected person.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention alerted the health care community within the U.S. to be on the lookout for patients who have recently traveled to West Africa and who are exhibiting symptoms of the virus.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) stopped shipments of samples from its “high security” laboratories following accidents with Anthrax and the deadly H5N1 flu virus. The CDC reported that many employees might have been exposed to live Anthrax after workers failed to properly “inactivate the bacteria” before shipment to other labs. Most recently, CDC workers accidentally cross-contaminated the “low-pathogenic” H9N2 virus with the highly deadly H5N1, then shipped the sample to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The CDC said that it would be reviewing the safety procedures involving shipments from its high security laboratories.
The Affordable Care Act mandates that childhood immunizations be covered at no “out-of-pocket” cost. However, many people are finding it difficult to receive immunizations because doctors have stopped offering them. This is due to the high cost of vaccines and the poor reimbursement from insurers. For example, Prevnar 13, which prevents pneumococcal bacteria diseases, has increased in price at “an average of 6 percent each year” since 2010. Currently at $136 per dose, many states require children receive up to four separate shots of Prevnar 13. Because of this, more and more doctors feel that they are left with little choice but to stop providing immunizations.
The body-mass-index measure (“BMI”), a calculation based on a person’s height and weight, is commonly used to screen for obesity as an indicator of a person’s body fat. However, a recent study revealed that BMI measures are failing to identify up to 25% of children who have excess body fat. According to the Center for Disease Control, “about 18% of children ages 6 to 9 are classified as obese based on their BMI”. However, some experts think that this number is much higher because children’s height and weight do not increase proportionately with age, making BMI measurements less reliable. Although more accurate methods of measuring body fat do exist, the BMI measurement is likely the most accessible.
Recently, the CDC confirmed that females are capable of transmitting HIV to their female sex partners. Female to female transmission of HIV has been difficult to prove, though there have been reports of its occurrence in the past. Most often, this mode of transmission is difficult to substantiate because researchers are unable to rule out other risk factors, such as intravenous drug use or sexual contact with males. However, a recent case study of two women in a monogamous relationship, who did not have a history of intravenous drug use, allowed the researchers to rule out the more common risk factors. The CDC states that though this mode of transmission is rare, everyone should take appropriate preventative measures to guard against HIV.
The primary mission of the Adolescent Medicine Trials Network for HIV/AIDS Interventions’ (ATN) is to “conduct both independent and collaborative research,” which explores the best methods for prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS for at-risk youth, ages 12 to 24. In addition, the ATN offers a variety of treatment and preventative measures to at-risk adolescents. The National Institute of Health (NIH) conducted a study recently, which monitored the health status of the participants in the ATN. The NIH reported that over 30 percent of the young men who had sex with men were found to have high levels of HIV upon their enrollment in the study.
As a result of its findings the NIH made several recommendations. The NIH states that health care workers that work with adolescents, especially males who have sex with males, should emphasize the importance of HIV/AIDS testing. However, the NIH maintains that women should be aware of the importance of testing and early diagnosis as well. The study suggests the possibility that the men are being tested and diagnosed earlier than women. Access the CDC’s list of at-risk individuals here.
The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) created an interactive world map that shows the resurgence of preventable diseases over the course of 5 years. From 2008 to 2013, the CFR plotted cases of whooping cough, polio, measles, mumps and rubella that occurred globally. The map shows that whooping cough has resurged in the United States, and that measles is on the rise in Europe. A false study from 1998 is presumed responsible for the rise of these preventable diseases in countries that have access to vaccines; the discredited study suggested a causal link between the vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella and autism.
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), an environmental advocacy group, has compiled a report on the safety of antibiotics used by American farmers to treat food animals. The report reflects the finding of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) scientists that 18 out of 30 antibiotics being given to the animals pose a “high risk” to human beings, by exposing them to antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the food supply. In addition, all 30 of the antibiotics studied, when used for non-therapeutic purposes (such as increasing an animal’s size), expose humans to antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and violate the FDA’s own safety guidelines on non-therapeutic use.
The NRDC claims that FDA efforts to “phase out” the administration of non-therapeutic drugs to food animals are not swift enough to protect the public. In December 2013, the FDA stated that it is taking action to promote “the judicious use of important antimicrobials to protect public health, while ensuring sick and at-risk animals receive the therapy they need.”
Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) is a fatal disorder that affects the central nervous system, and occurs in one out of one million people worldwide every year. CJD is commonly known as “mad-cow disease.” (Mad-cow disease is actually a variant form of CJD, associated with eating tainted beef.) In May of 2013, a patient who may have had CJD underwent brain surgery at Catholic Medical Center in Manchester, New Hampshire (NH). This patient is believed to have had the spontaneous form of CJD, which may occur without eating contaminated beef.
The Kenneth Copeland Ministries Eagle Mountain Church, in Newark, Texas has been criticized after twenty-one of its members contracted measles. Health officials found that one unvaccinated congregant communicated the disease to the others after traveling overseas. Upon investigation, health officials found also that many congregants had either not been vaccinated, or had no record of vaccination. Though the church acted quickly to immunize members after the others became ill, former members claim that the church cultivates a culture of fear, in which a person cannot have true faith while seeking medical care because the person has sought help outside of God. However, the Church claims that it has never advised congregants against immunizations or medical care.