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Rio Olympics Near Cancellation

There is a rapidly increasing chance that this years Summer Olympics in Rio will be cancelled.  The banning of the Russian Track and Field Team for doping is a side issue, and were that the only problem the Olympics would go on quite happily. The massive pollution, disease, crime, and bacterial infection issues are quite another story,

Sponsoring the Olympics was supposed to force the city to clean up the polluted waterways. Waterways filled with raw sewage, hospital waste, and trash. That, quite simply hasn’t happened.

‘Super Bacteria’ Found At Brazil Olympic Venues, Beaches

The diseases can cause infections, meningitis and lead to death.

Scientists have found dangerous drug-resistant “super bacteria” off beaches in Rio de Janeiro that will host Olympic swimming events and in a lagoon where rowing and canoe athletes will compete when the Games start on Aug. 5.

The findings from two unpublished academic studies seen by Reuters concern Rio’s most popular spots for tourists and greatly increase the areas known to be infected by the microbes normally found only in hospitals.

They also heighten concerns that Rio’s sewage-infested waterways are unsafe.

A study published in late 2014 had shown the presence of the super bacteria – classified by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as an urgent public health threat – off one of the beaches in Guanabara Bay, where sailing and wind-surfing events will be held during the Games.

The first of the two new studies, reviewed in September by scientists at the Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy in San Diego, showed the presence of the microbes at five of Rio’s showcase beaches, including the ocean-front Copacabana, where open-water and triathlon swimming will take place.

The other four were Ipanema, Leblon, Botafogo and Flamengo.

The super bacteria can cause hard-to-treat urinary, gastrointestinal, pulmonary and bloodstream infections, along with meningitis. The CDC says studies show that these bacteria contribute to death in up to half of patients infected.

The second new study, by the Brazilian federal government’s Oswaldo Cruz Foundation lab, which will be published next month by the American Society for Microbiology, found the genes of super bacteria in the Rodrigo de Freitas lagoon in the heart of Rio and in a river that empties into Guanabara Bay.

Waste from countless hospitals, in addition to hundreds of thousands of households, pours into storm drains, rivers and streams crisscrossing Rio, allowing the super bacteria to spread outside the city’s hospitals in recent years.

Renata Picao, a professor at Rio’s federal university and lead researcher of the first study, said the contamination of Rio’s famous beaches was the result of a lack of basic sanitation in the metropolitan area of 12 million people.

“These bacteria should not be present in these waters. They should not be present in the sea,” said Picao from her lab in northern Rio, itself enveloped by stench from Guanabara Bay.

Cleaning the city’s waterways was meant to be one of the Games’ greatest legacies and a high-profile promise in the official 2009 bid document Rio used to win the right to host South America’s first Olympics.

That goal has instead transformed into an embarrassing failure, with athletes lamenting the stench of sewage and complaining about debris that bangs into and clings to boats in Guanabara Bay, potential hazards for a fair competition.

Cancel the Olympics

The potential threat Zika virus poses is just too great to take the risk.

…If you ask me, I say cancel the Olympics. Here are five reasons why:

1. The numbers don’t lie. The World Health Organization’s Emergency Committee on Zika convened June 14 to consider new data and review previous recommendations, including those regarding the Rio Olympics. By August 5, more than 10,500 athletes, coaches and trainers will have descended on Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In addition, more than 500,000 foreign spectators are expected to fly into the city. In doing so, they will be exposing themselves to the Zika-carrying mosquitos before returning to their home country. If you were a bioterrorist trying to expose as many of the world’s population as possible, I doubt you could come up with a better plan than this.

In a paper to be published shortly, the probable number of Zika cases during the Olympics was calculated using dengue transmission during the 2008 outbreak as a model. It found that, on the low end, there would be 1.8 cases per one million tourists, and on the high end, 3.2 cases per 100,000 tourists.

2. Brazil is not equipped to handle this crisis. The concern is not that tourists will fall ill while they’re at the games – though everyone seems to agree that pregnant women, at least, should stay away. The fear is that travelers will bring the virus home, either in their bodies or in the bodies of mosquito stowaways, and it will spread further. And there can be little doubt that holding the Olympics in Brazil as scheduled will greatly accelerate the spread of Zika.

Brazil is already having historic turbulence in their governance, economy and society. This is one developing country that is ill prepared to solve this problem, let alone do it in less than two months. While some have suggested concerns about Zika spreading are overwrought, let’s consider Brazil’s history with this virus. Nuno Faria of Oxford University suggested that a single individual carried Zika to Brazil in late 2013. By early 2016, as many as 1.5 million Brazilians are estimated to have been infected.

3. The WHO may have a conflict of interest here. Concerns have been raised about the WHO’s impartiality in this dialogue. It has been previously reported that the WHO entered into an official partnership with the International Olympic Committee, in a memorandum of understanding that remains secret to this day. There is no good reason for the WHO not to disclose this memorandum of understanding. It is standard scientific practice for potential conflicts of interest to be revealed – look at any scientific publication.

4. Clearly Brazil has a conflict of interest as well. Brazil has an obvious political and financial interest that the Rio Olympics going ahead as scheduled. It is doubtful that if the games would ever return to Brazil in the future if they don’t go on as scheduled. But changing the venue or postponing the games isn’t practical either. It has taken years for Brazil, like any other host, to gear up for these Olympics. If they don’t start as planned, they won’t proceed at all this year.

5. The stakes are just too high to risk it. There is no longer any doubt that Zika causes infants to be born with abnormally small heads and damaged brains. But there are still many key questions left to be answered. What is the degree of risk Zika infections might pose to pregnant women? That is, after an infection, how often will a fetus develop birth defects? Current studies suggest that somewhere between 1 percent and 29 percent of babies born to infected mothers have microcephaly. That is a pretty wide range. Researchers would also like to know when a developing infant is most vulnerable to the virus, and whether Zika may cause a spectrum of related problems, ranging from stillbirth and miscarriages on the severe end to learning disabilities on the milder end. They just don’t know at this time.

Bottom line – there is much we don’t know about the Zika risk. While expects can legitimately argue about the magnitude of the risk, nobody denies risk exists. David Hackworth once said, “It is human nature to start taking things for granted when danger isn’t banging loudly on the door.” The risk is potentially catastrophic – the Rio Olympics should be cancelled now.

 
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Posted by on June 18, 2016 in News, You Know It's Bad When...

 

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Alzheimer Disease and Black People

Had up close and personal experience with this in my family, with more than one of my maternal side’s siblings coming down with it. With the dozens of doctors and researchers I talked to…None ever mentioned this.

African-Americans Need to Wake Up to the Danger of Alzheimer’s

The justified fear in the African-American community around medical trials is keeping us from beating a disease that affects us more than others.

Today we celebrate the civil rights movement, one of its beloved leaders, and our hard-won gains. Unfortunately, African-Americans are at risk of letting those gains slip through their fingers, along with their most basic civil right: to support their families, and themselves. Worse, they don’t even know about this threat. I’m talking about Alzheimer’s, and the dirty little secret that African-Americans are twice as likely to get it. Its consequences, as I have come to see first-hand, are simply catastrophic.

My beautiful wife, the food and lifestyle maven B. Smith is now well into the dreadful progression of stages from which, so far, no cure or effective treatment exists. I have become her round-the-clock caretaker, the hardest job I’ve ever known. And yet I’m luckier than most in my position: we live in a nice house, and we have money saved.

For the 5.3million Americans coping with it, and the roughly fifteen million more serving as full or part-time caretakers to those loved ones, Alzheimer’s is a curse that costs, on average, $100,000 a year. Make that $1 million over the disease’s average ten-year duration. Most African-American families struggling with Alzheimer’s simply can’t afford that. Having reached the middle class at last—thanks in large part to Dr. King and his movement—many are slipping back into destitution, the gains of a movement snuffed out, like so many candles in the dark, one by one by one.

The Obama administration has, at last, taken steps to address the gross inequity of funding for Alzheimer’s research versus other top killers. The budget for Alzheimer’s research will be boosted 60% in this year’s budget to $936 million. That’s still chump change compared to cancer ($5.1 billion) and HIV/AIDs ($25.3 billion), especially with 13.8 million Americans projected to get Alzheimer’s by 2050, at a cost to us all of $1.1 trillion. Yet, research is up, and promising drugs are out there.

The problem is that African-Americans may not benefit from that research. Why? In a word: Tuskagee. The infamous, decades-long, secret study of black men with syphilis that led to so many unnecessary deaths left subsequent generations deeply—and rightly—suspicious of medical trials. Result: hardly any African-Americans have signed up for new Alzheimer’s drug trials. If the disease affects African-Americans differently, who’s to say the new drugs will be suitable for them?

So on this day of civil rights celebration, I say to my fellow African-Americans: don’t be put off by a medical experiment long impugned and barred by law from reoccurring. Don’t squander the civil right to help cure a disease that disproportionately targets us. Sign up for Alzheimer’s trials, either by contacting the national Alzheimer’s Association or the Brain Health Registry. Join the fight.

 
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Posted by on January 18, 2016 in Black History, BlackLivesMatter

 

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Cholera still Claiming Lives in Haiti

Those of you who have followed my blog for a while know that I worked in Haiti for almost two years after the earthquake in 2010. The first morning of the Cholera outbreak in the country I was on my way with a small group of experts to Arbonite to meet with some NGO officials relative to raising funds to build a trauma care Hospital in Port au Prince to replace the dilapidated hospital which had been destroyed in the earthquake. We were also working on the development of a waste processing facility for Port au Prince – as the city of over 3 million has no sewer plant or processing facility, and the open canals which carried sewage to the ocean seemed prime conspirators in the possible eventual emergence of Typhoid and Cholera.

When our little caravan got to the camp we were met by the National Chief of Police, who ordered us to turn back, explaining there had been a Cholera outbreak. This was shocking because the reason François Duvalier, the former Dictator of Haiti was loved by some of the populace and called ‘Papa Doc’ Duvalier, was his work leading to the elimination of 6 diseases from the country, including Cholera. There hadn’t been a case of Cholera in the country to this point in over 50 years, and the government and population believed it eradicated. He walked two of us around to the side of the camp, where we could see the makeshift hospital set up by DWB. They were carrying bodies out the back in a steady stream. He claimed that nearly 2,000 people had died the previous night. Cholera can kill a healthy person in under 12 hours from being infected if untreated.

Cholera is fairly simple to treat, if you have the right materials. Within 24 hours, the NGOs were attempting to fly in “Cholera Kits” – which consist of bags of saline solution to keep the patient hydrated, and an intravenous antibiotic to kill the disease. The disease kills by dehydration. The procedure has about an 85-90% cure rate – if the patient reaches care in time. It was obvious the folks we were supposed to meet were too busy treating the sick for us to meet, so we took the long drive back to the city, to try and help facilitate the logistics of getting the kits into Haiti.

The locals immediately claimed that the source of the disease as a United Nations Military camp upstream from the refugee camp, followed by a series of denials by the UN. It indeed turned out that the source of the disease was the UN Camp, and latrines dug at the shore of the river which leaked into the river. Further, contrary to UN Policy, the soldiers from Nepal had not undergone medical testing for the possibility of carrying the disease.

Once the disease got a start, it fairly rapidly spread, By the end of 2011, when I left the country the medical people were still trying to figure out how it was spreading to seemingly distant and disconnected communities. The lack of sanitation, and pure water certainly has operated to spread the disease, as it can infect thousands when even a single person with the disease comes into a city.

Fresh water is a major problem. In many of the villages they drink from local streams, already polluted by people upstream

After the earthquake billions of dollars in aid were promised to Haiti. Most of that never materialized. The fault of that lies both in the Donor Organizations and Governments, as well as Haiti’s own politicians and Government.

Haiti’s Unstoppable Outbreak

The nation has been battling a cholera epidemic since 2010—and it’s still killing people. Why has no one been able to stop the spread of the disease?

In early February, when Jenniflore Abelard arrived at her parents’ house high in the hills of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, her father Johnson was home. (Some names have been changed to protect the privacy of patients and family members.) He was lying in the yard, under a tree, vomiting. When Jenniflore spoke to him, his responses, between retches, sounded strange: “nasal, like his voice was coming out of his nose.” He talked “like a zombie.” This is a powerful image to use in Haiti, where voodoo is practiced and where the supernatural doesn’t seem as far-fetched as it might elsewhere. Her father’s eyes were sunk back into his head. She was shocked, but she knew what this was, because she has lived through the past five years in Haiti. She has lived through the time of kolera.On October 18, 2010, Cuban medical brigades working in the areas around the town of Mirebalais (note: Mirebalais is located about 30 miles inland from PaP) in Haiti reported a worrying increase in patients with acute, watery diarrhea and vomiting. There had been 61 cases the previous week, and on October 18 alone there were 28 new admissions and two deaths.

 That was the beginning. Five years on, cholera has killed nearly 9,000 Haitians. More than 730,000 people have been infected. It is the worst outbreak of the disease, globally, in modern history. Hundreds of emergency and development workers have been working alongside the Haitian government for five years, trying to rid the country of cholera, and millions of dollars have been dispensed in the fight to eradicate it. But it’s still here. Why?

In 1884, the scientist Robert Koch sent a dispatch from Calcutta to the German Interior Ministry about the bacterium that he had been studying. It was “a little bent, like a comma,” he wrote. He was sure that this organism was causing the cholera that had been ravaging the world since 1817, when it laid waste to Bengal. Its onslaught there was shocking, even for a region that had had cholera—or something similar—for so long that there was a specific cholera goddess, Ola Beebee (translated as “our Lady of the Flux.”)

Ola Beebee was meant to protect against this mysterious affliction, which terrified people. Who would not be scared by seeing “the lips blue, the face haggard, the eyes hollow, the stomach sunk in, the limbs contracted and crumpled as if by fire?” Although 1817 is the official starting date of the first cholera pandemic, humans and cholera have almost certainly coexisted for far longer: That description of cholera’s distinct symptoms was inscribed on a temple in Gujarat, India, over 2,000 years ago.

The world is currently living through the seventh and longest cholera pandemic, which began in Indonesia in 1961 and, before Haiti, was most famous for an outbreak that devastated South America in 1991, killing 12,000 people in 21 countries.People with access to clean water and sanitation probably think of cholera as being as old-fashioned as smallpox, and long gone. Surely the problem now is Ebola? Away from headlines, though, the gram-negative, rod-shaped bacillusVibrio cholerae has been consistently murderous. It is currently present in 58 countries, infecting 3 to 5 million people a year and killing 100,000 to 120,000. This latest pandemic, wrote Edward T. Ryan of Harvard University, “as opposed to burning out after 5 to 20 years as all previous pandemics have done… seems to be picking up speed.”

 On February 11 this year, Johnson ate soup made from yams and bananas bought at the local market. By late afternoon, he was vomiting. With his soup he had swallowed Vibrio cholerae, which usually reach humans through contaminated food or water. Inside his body, the toxin secreted by the cholera bacteria bound to the cells in the wall of his small intestine, causing channels in the cells to stay open. Johnson’s disrupted cells flooded his gut with chloride ions. Sodium ions and water followed, causing his body to expel fluid and electrolytes and passing on more Vibrio bacteria to infect new hosts. A cholera victim can lose several liters of fluid within hours. Cholera can invade the body of a healthy person at daybreak and kill them by sundown.

Johnson is now safe and healthy in Jenniflore’s house, an hour away from his. He survived because he was taken to a nearby cholera-treatment center (CTC) run by Doctors Without Borders (DBW) and because cholera, despite its power, is easy to treat. Eighty percent of cholera cases are cured by the administration of a simple oral rehydration solution…(…more…)

 
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Posted by on July 12, 2015 in Haiti

 

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Cholera Strain in Haiti Confirmed To Come From SE Asia

This supports the accusations by Haitians that the cholera affecting the country came from United Nations troops stationed there. There is evidence that the UN Troops, or the contractors hired to handle their waste have been dumping it in unsafe locations – in the case of the initial outbreak, adjacent to the Arbonite River. It is also possible that one of the AID workers from that region is the source of the disease – but, in order for it to have infected the general population requires some connection between waste handling and human contact.

The dirty secret is that there is little love lost between Haitians and the United Nations Troops, so it isn’t surprising the UN Troops would be the first to get the blame.

The question now is, how is the disease spreading throughout the country so fast? There isn’t a significant amount of mobility by Haitians who live in the camps. Travel in Haiti is difficult, sometimes taking 4 or more hours to cover just a few miles. Cholera has infected at least 100,000 people in Haiti over the past seven weeks and killed more than 2,100. But that’s only a fraction of what health officials predict in coming months. It has shown up in isolated rural border areas between Haiti and the Dominican Republic suggesting that it has already spread to the Dominican Republic…

Sans some human vector, possibly intentional. possibly malfeasance – it is hard to see how the disease is spreading so rapidly all over the country.

Study Finds Haitian Cholera Strain Resembles One From South Asia, Carries Mutation That Increases Severity
A ten month old girl suffering cholera symptoms rests as she is treated at a clinic.

Was carelessness responsible for killing babies in Haiti?

“Detailed genetic tests confirm that the cholera strain that has killed more than 2,000 people in Haiti came from South Asia and most closely resembles a strain circulating in Bangladesh,” according to a study published Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), Reuters reports (12/9).

According to the research, “the South Asian cholera bacteria strain was probably introduced into Haiti by an infected human, contaminated food or another item brought to the island country after January’s devastating earthquake,” the Canadian Press/CTV News writes.

“Our evidence is extremely strong, based on the full genome sequence of two Haitian isolates as well as isolates from Latin America and South Asia,” said Matthew Waldor, the study’s lead researcher and an infectious disease specialist at Harvard Medical School. “There is almost sequence identity between the Haitian isolate and the isolate we sequenced from South Asia,” he said. “This is distinct from Latin America, and together those data suggest that this strain then didn’t wash up from the shores of Central or South America onto the shores of Haiti through some environmental event, but instead was transported most likely by a human from a South Asian nation to Haiti,” Waldor noted (12/9)…

They also found that this strain of Vibrio cholera produces a toxin that’s genetically identical to the toxin produced by an especially lethal strain of cholera that popped up in India four or five years ago.

That explains why the Haitian bug can kill so fast, says Dr. Matthew Waldor of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, who led the research.

 

 

 
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Posted by on December 10, 2010 in Haiti

 

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Military and Universities Team to Solve Honeybee Mystery

This one wouldn’t get much press in the hyperactive MSM as it’s consequences aren’t easy, and don’t involve political foible. For the past 6-10 years the Honeybee population around the world has been dying off…

Sounds bad… but catastrophic?

Since about 80% of the pollination of crops is done by Honeybees – you betcha. The reduction in numbers of Honeybees means a massive reduction in the production of food per acre…

Meaning if the Honeybees die off… So do we humans in fairly short order.

Another mystery is the disappearance of small snakes, which one of my contributors, Nanakwame brought up a while back. The environmental impact of this isn’t understood yet. In the US, it seems that the common green and garter snakes have all but disappeared in some areas. I live on a lake, and this has resulted in an explosion of the frog population. I also found several dead baby Corn Snakes in the Spring – which is unusual. They are very good at keeping the rodent population down. I have no idea what is killing them – and I severely limit the type and amount of chemicals used on the property to protect the lake.

To those who go “ewwwwe” – it’s a simple fact that if you live on freshwater in the Southern half of the US – you have snakes nearby, whether you see them or not. Most are neither poisonous or harmful, and keep the insect and small rodent populations in check. Green Snakes eat insects, Garters eat frogs, and Corn Snakes eat rats and mice.

Scientists and Soldiers Solve a Bee Mystery

It has been one of the great murder mysteries of the garden: what is killing off the honeybees?

Since 2006, 20 to 40 percent of the bee colonies in the United States alone have suffered “colony collapse.” Suspected culprits ranged from pesticides to genetically modified food.

Now, a unique partnership — of military scientists and entomologists — appears to have achieved a major breakthrough: identifying a new suspect, or two.

A fungus tag-teaming with a virus have apparently interacted to cause the problem, according to a paper by Army scientists in Maryland and bee experts in Montana inthe online science journal PLoS One.

Exactly how that combination kills bees remains uncertain, the scientists said — a subject for the next round of research. But there are solid clues: both the virus and the fungus proliferate in cool, damp weather, and both do their dirty work in the bee gut, suggesting that insect nutrition is somehow compromised.

Liaisons between the military and academia are nothing new, of course. World War II, perhaps the most profound example, ended in an atomic strike on Japan in 1945 largely on the shoulders of scientist-soldiers in the Manhattan Project. And a group of scientists led by Jerry Bromenshenk of the University of Montana in Missoula has researched bee-related applications for the military in the past — developing, for example, a way to use honeybees in detecting land mines.

But researchers on both sides say that colony collapse may be the first time that the defense machinery of the post-Sept. 11 Homeland Security Department and academia have teamed up to address a problem that both sides say they might never have solved on their own.

“Together we could look at things nobody else was looking at,” said Colin Henderson, an associate professor at the University of Montana’s College of Technology and a member of Dr. Bromenshenk’s “Bee Alert” team.

 

 

 
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Posted by on October 7, 2010 in News

 

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