If you knew zombies were going to attack, would you finally get your home prepared for an emergency?
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has taken a Hollywood horror approach to public health preparedness. As USA Today reports:
Coming off the tremendous success of its controversial Zombie Preparedness blog posting in May, the CDC health preparedness and response team has now produced an appropriately gruesome online graphic novel that tells the story of a couple struggling to survive a zombie pandemic.
You can read the gory tale here. Spoiler alert: Vaccines save the day!
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has compiled a list of the top 10 achievements in global health over the past 10 years.
The report notes, however, that “major disparities persist” and much remains to be done even in these areas that have shown most improvement.
Go to the link for more statistics, greater detail and the public health agency’s criteria for selection.
- Reductions in child mortality
- Expanded vaccination, protection against infectious diseases
- Access to safe water and sanitation
- Malaria prevention and control
- HIV/AIDS prevention and control
- Tuberculosis control
- Control of neglected tropical diseases
- Tobacco control
- Improved road safety and awareness
- Improved preparedness for pandemic flu, other global health threats
David Sencer, the longest-serving director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and one of the leaders of the U.S. contribution to the smallpox campaign, died Monday at age 86.
The New York Times quoted Bill Foege, Sencer’s friend and successor as CDC chief, now a senior adviser to the Gates Foundation:
“He said you couldn’t protect U.S. citizens from smallpox without getting rid of it in the world, and that was a new approach,” said Foege, who helped lead the smallpox effort in the field and developed the eradication strategy. “People in the field got all the praise, but he was the unsung hero.”
As a journalist who has covered public health issues for decades, I had many occasions to talk with Dave. He was not always well treated by the media and, in my opinion, was blamed for some public health mishaps he could not have anticipated or controlled. Continue reading
UN Peacekeeper, Haiti
Haiti is in crisis, in the middle of a muddled election for the next president of this devastated nation, and the media are doing their own muddling regarding the source of its ongoing cholera outbreak.
The epidemic has so far killed more than 2,100, sickened maybe 100,000 and is expected to continue spreading for months.
A Nepalese UN peacekeeping team was accused of bringing cholera with them and spreading it due to improper sanitation. This caused attacks on the UN peacekeepers, rioting and some deaths. Testing of the bacteria by the CDC identified it as a South Asian strain and many concluded the UN team were indeed the culprits.
But some top cholera experts, in fact, believe the outbreak is too big and widespread to have come from a single point source. I posted on this alternative view earlier and talked with one of the scientists, Rita Colwell, former head of the National Science Foundation. Colwell says of the idea that UN troops caused this:
“It’s almost certainly incorrect…. The pattern of distribution and rapid spread across a large area indicates it was already present.”
UN Peacekeepers Patrol Port-au-Prince Slum
Despite a growing body of evidence to the contrary, the United Nations is still getting blamed for bringing cholera to Haiti.
Three people have been killed, dozens injured, in rioting sparked by these accusations. And tensions remain high between many Haitians and UN peacekeeping troops, making the job of assisting with this island nation’s many humanitarian needs all the more difficult.
Meanwhile, the disease has now taken grip of Haiti, spreading rapidly and having so far killed perhaps 2,000 people. It is expected to sicken hundreds of thousands more before it burns itself out in perhaps a year or so. Many believe UN troops from Nepal, carrying the infection, brought the bacterial scourge to this already devastated nation.
“It’s tragic because it’s almost certainly incorrect,” said Rita Colwell, a world-renowned cholera expert and former director of the National Science Foundation.
Seasonal flu kills a lot of people and the media (including me) typically report that influenza causes about 30,000 deaths every year.
It appears that this number is almost always wrong. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — in its weekly death-and-destruction summary otherwise known as the MMWR — reports that U.S. mortality from regular flu (not counting swine flu) can range from 3,000 to 50,000 deaths per year.
The annual average is more like 23,000 deaths, public health experts say, but even saying this is pretty misleading given how variable is the seasonal death toll from influenza.
“There is no average flu season,” said Dr. David Shay, lead author of the report for the CDC. Shay and his team took a hard look at the records of flu from 1976 to 2007 and discovered mortality rates ranged all over the map, largely depending upon the severity of the viral strain in circulation that year.
Concern over last year’s H1N1 pandemic, or so-called swine flu, was prompted by the fact that this was a new viral strain that could have posed a much bigger threat due to lack of immunity in the population. It turned out not to be the case, proving mostly that flu is not only wildly varying but also wildly unpredictable.
Dengue is spreading globally
Dengue fever, also known as “breakbone fever,” used to be confined to a small part of the tropics. As a recent outbreak in Florida illustrates, it is no longer so confined.
In fact, dengue is now the most common and the fastest-growing mosquito-borne disease in the world, currently threatening a third of the world’s population.
In the worst cases, the infection can cause a potentially deadly form of the disease known as dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF). Epidemics of both dengue and DHF are now routine in many parts of Latin America only several generations after the mosquito-borne virus was first identified there.
Dengue cases over time
Due to the combination of human travel, cargo transportation and perhaps the changing climate, the mosquito that carries the dengue virus (Aedes aegypti, which also carries yellow fever) has been spreading to nearly all tropical and semi-tropical regions worldwide. This skeeter tends to like to live in urban and semi-urban areas.
Because of the global surge in dengue, the U.S. military and some pharmaceutical companies have stepped up efforts to develop a vaccine that can protect against the infection. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has donated $60 million to these efforts as well.