Category Archives: Ebola

Dec 22 2014
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Creating a Collaborative Effort to Vaccinate a Nation

The Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation highlighted the need to improve vaccination rates among children and adults last week with the release of the 2014 “Outbreaks” report. The report reveals that more than 2 million preschoolers, 35 percent of seniors and a majority of adults do not receive all recommended vaccinations.

When it comes to vaccinating adults, primers for doctors often say the key to success is more education for medical professionals. However, Litjen Tan, MS, PhD, Chief Strategy Officer of the Immunization Action Coalition says it’s not necessarily more education that doctors need. Instead, Tan believes adult vaccination rates can be improved by training the support staff at doctors’ offices to vaccinate, and authorizing them to do so. 

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Nov 17 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: November 17

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Ebola Patient from Sierra Leone Dies of Virus in U.S.
A doctor from Sierra Leone who arrived in the United States on Saturday for treatment for Ebola has died. The doctor was taken to the Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, one of four U.S. hospitals with specialized units prepared to treat patients with the virus. News reports say the physician may have been sicker than other patients treated for Ebola so far in the United States. Read more on Ebola.

Disparities in Treating Black Children for Ear Infections Actually Results in Treatment that Meets Guidelines
Black children are less likely to be diagnosed with ear infections and less likely to receive broad-spectrum antibiotics for ear infections than are white children, according to a new study in the journal Pediatrics. But the discrepancy in prescribing fewer broad-spectrum antibiotics means black children actually are more likely to receive care in line with recommended guidelines for treating ear infections. Read more on prescription drugs.

Secondhand Marijuana Smoke May Damage Blood Vessels as Much as Tobacco Smoke
Breathing secondhand marijuana smoke could damage heart and blood vessels as much as secondhand cigarette smoke, according to preliminary research presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2014 meeting this week in Dallas. In the study, blood vessel function in lab rats dropped 70 percent after 30 minutes of exposure to secondhand marijuana smoke. Even when the marijuana contained no tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)—a compound in marijuana that produces intoxication—blood vessel function was still impaired. Reduced blood vessel function may raise the chances of developing atherosclerosis and could lead to a heart attack. “Most people know secondhand cigarette smoke is bad for you, but many don’t realize that secondhand marijuana smoke may also be harmful,” said Matthew Springer, PhD, senior author of the study and cardiovascular researcher and associate professor of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco’s Cardiology Division. Read more on environment.

Nov 13 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: November 13

More than 5,000 Lives Lost to Ebola So Far
Ebola has now killed at least 5,160 people and infected at least 14,098, mostly in West Africa, since the outbreak started last spring, according to the World Health Organization. New cases have increased sharply in Sierra Leone, while the incidence of new cases is declining in Guinea and Liberia. Read more on Ebola.

Seniors Need Resources Beyond the Internet for Health Information
Seniors are less likely than others to search for health informtion on the Internet, making it necessary for health providers to provide other health information resources, according to a new study in the Journal of General Internal Medicine. The study found that while huge amounts of money and attention have been invested recently in health information technology in the United States—for example, by providing electronic medical records online—it’s unclear whether older patients are willing and able to use those for personal and general health information. The researchers analyzed data from the 2009 and 2010 Health and Retirement Study, a nationally representative survey of more than 20,000 Americans 65 years and older. About 1,400 of the participants were asked how often they used the Internet in general and, in particular, how often they searched for health and medical information. Just over thirty percent used the Internet regularly and only 9.7 percent identified as having low health literacy used the internet at all. Read more on health literacy.

Predicting Which U.S. Soldiers Could Predict Suicide
A study that looked at predicting suicides in U.S. soldiers after hospitalization for a psychiatric disorder suggests that nearly 53 percent of post-hospital suicides occurred following the 5 percent of hospitalizations with the highest predicted suicide risk. The study, in JAMA Psychiatry, finds that the suicide rate in the U.S. Army has increased since 2004 and now exceeds the rate among civilians, and that a predictive model would help prevent some of the military suicides. The strongest predictors for suicide in this group include being male, late-age of enlistment, criminal offenses, weapons possession, prior suicidality, the number of antidepressant prescriptions filled in the previous year and psychiatric disorders diagnosed during the hospitalizations. Read more on mental health.

Nov 10 2014
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Recommended Reading: In Africa, No Clear Answers on Who Lives and Who Dies of Ebola

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A national survey conducted in late October by the Harris Poll found that 49 percent of Americans see Ebola as a "moderate" or "major" public health threat to Americans. That’s down from 55 percent in a Harris poll conducted just a few weeks earlier. Experts at the World Health Organization worry that no new cases in the United States will negatively impact the country’s support for the funds and volunteers needed to help stem the outbreak still raging in several West African countries.

Today, the New York Times published the stories of two young boys in Liberia—one who survived the virus, and one who did not.  Physicians still do not have accurate methods for predicting who will survive—and what treatment it takes to get them there—so for now the course of the disease, despite best available efforts, simply seems random.

Read the New York Times story. 

Nov 6 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: November 6

EBOLA UPDATE: Administration Asks Congress for $6.18 Billion in Emergency Funds
(NewPublicHealth is monitoring the public health crisis in West Africa.)
The Obama administration has asked the U.S. Congress to approve $6.18 billion in new emergency funds to combat the ongoing Ebola outbreak in West Africa. More than 5,000 people have died so far from the outbreak. The new funds would include:

  • $1.83 billion for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to prevent, detect and respond to the Ebola epidemic and other diseases and public health emergencies abroad and in the United States.
  • $1.98 billion for the U.S. Agency for International Development for foreign assistance in the Ebola crisis.
  • $127 million would go to the U.S. Department of State to expand its medical support and evacuation capacity.
  • $112 million for the U.S. Department of Defense including funding to support efforts to develop technologies relevant to the Ebola crisis.
  • $1.54 billion for a contingency fund, divided between the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, USAID and State to ensure resources are available to adapt as the crisis evolves.

Read more on Ebola.

CDC: 8 Million Women Ages 21-65 Haven’t Been Screened for Cervical Cancer
Approximately eight million women ages 21-65 years have not been screened for cervical cancer in the past five years, according to the latest Vital Signs report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). More than half of the women who receive a diagnosis of cervical cancer have never been or are rarely screened. “Every visit to a provider can be an opportunity to prevent cervical cancer by making sure women are referred for screening appropriately,” said CDC Principal Deputy Director Ileana Arias, PhD, in a release. “We must increase our efforts to make sure that all women understand the importance of getting screened for cervical cancer. No woman should die from cervical cancer.” Read more on prevention.

U.S. Premature Birth Rate to 11.4 Percent; March of Dimes Gives the Country a ‘C’
The national preterm birth rate has fallen to the Health People 2020 goal of 11.4 percent seven years early. Despite this, the 7th annual March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Card gave the U.S. health care system a “C” for not reaching the organization’s lower target of 9.6 percent. More than 450,000 U.S. babies were born premature in 2013, which leads to increased risks to their health as well as billions of dollars in health care costs. "Achieving the Healthy People 2020 goal is reason for celebration, but the U.S. still has one of the highest rates of preterm birth of any high resource country and we must change that," said March of Dimes President Jennifer L. Howse, MD, in a release. "We are investing in a network of five prematurity research centers to find solutions to this still too-common, costly, and serious problem." Read more on maternal and infant health.

Nov 3 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: November 3

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EBOLA UPDATE: UN’s Secretary-General Calls Travel Bans ‘Unnecessarily’ Strict
(NewPublicHealth is monitoring the public health crisis in West Africa.)
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon again came out strongly against travels bans related to Ebola, calling them “unnecessarily” strict in a Monday news conference. Some U.S. state officials have imposed quarantines on health workers returning from West Africa, but there is no federal ban; Canada and Australia have barred citizens from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. "The best way to stop this virus is to stop the virus at its source rather than limiting, restricting the movement of people or trade," said Ban, according to Reuters. "Particularly when there are some unnecessarily extra restrictions and discriminations against health workers. They are extraordinary people who are giving of themselves, they are risking their own lives." Read more on Ebola.

HUD Accepting Cities’ Applications for Economic Revitalization Assistance
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is now accepting applications for cities looking to spur economic revitalization through the National Resource Network, which brings together national experts to work with cities to improve economic competiveness while reversing population decline, job loss and high poverty rates. “Knowledge is fuel for progress and innovation,” said HUD Secretary Julián Castro, in a release. “The National Resource Network will be a valuable tool in helping local governments address their challenges and achieve their goals. It will provide on-the-ground technical assistance and human resources that cities can use to build for the future.” Eligibility is based on economic and demographic criteria, with approximately 275 cities eligible to apply. Read more on community development.

Study: High School Football Players Need More Education on Concussion
More needs to be done to educate high school football players on the dangers of concussions, according to a new study in the Journal of Athletic Training. Researchers surveyed 334 varsity players from 11 Florida schools. Based on a written questionnaire, while most know that headache, dizziness and confusion were potential concussion signs, they did not know the link to other signs such as nausea, neck pain and difficulty concentrating. In addition, 25 percent said they had no education about concussions at all. "Our results showed that high school football players did not have appropriate knowledge of concussion. Even with parents or guardians signing a consent form indicating they discussed concussion awareness with their child, nearly half of the athletes suggested they had not," study co-author Brady Tripp, from the University of Florida, said in a National Athletic Trainers' Association news release. Emergency rooms treat more than 300,000 people for brain injuries related to sports each year. Read more on injury prevention.

Oct 31 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: October 31

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EBOLA UPDATE: China to Dispatch PLA Squad to Build an Ebola Treatment Center in Liberia
(NewPublicHealth is monitoring the public health crisis in West Africa.)
In response to the United Nations’ call for a greater global effort to help combat the ongoing Ebola outbreak in West Africa, China has announced it will send an elite unit of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to Liberia. The squad will build and run a 100-bed treatment center, which should be open within a month. China will also send 480 PLA medical staff to treat patients. Read more on Ebola.

HUD: U.S. Homelessness Continues to Decline
U.S. homelessness continues to decline, according to the latest estimates from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). HUD’s 2014 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress found that there were 578,424 persons experiencing homelessness on a single night in 2014, an overall 10 percent reduction and 25 percent drop in the unsheltered population since 2010. “As a nation, we are successfully reducing homelessness in this country, especially for those who have been living on our streets as a way of life,” said HUD Secretary Julián Castro. “There is still a tremendous amount of work ahead of us but it’s clear our strategy is working and we're going to push forward till we end homelessness as we’ve come to know it.” Read more on housing.

Study: Care in the 24 Hours after a Stroke is Critical to Health Outcomes
Care in the immediate 24 hours after a stroke is both complex and critical to patient outcomes, according to a new study in the journal MedLink Neurology. Most strokes are caused by blood clots that block blood flow to the brain, so keeping a patient lying flat or as flat as possible will help increase blood flow. At the same time, sitting upright can improve blood draining and reduce intracranial pressure. "The period immediately following an acute ischemic stroke is a time of significant risk," wrote researchers from the Loyola University Medical Center. "Meticulous attention to the care of the stroke patient during this time can prevent further neurologic injury and minimize common complications, optimizing the chance of functional recovery." Read more on heart and vascular health.

Oct 30 2014
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On Ebola, Can There be Too Much Coverage?

NewPublicHealth began its 2014 Ebola coverage several months ago as the number of cases—and deaths—in West Africa continued climbing and concern about diagnoses in the United States emerged. Our daily news roundups frequently link to critical announcements from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as prevention and treatment research news, and provide perspectives we haven’t seen elsewhere such as this week’s interview on the legalities of quarantines.

We’ve also continued posting stories on other infectious diseases, some of which—although deadly—have taken a back seat to Ebola in the daily U.S. news cycle.

Our colleagues at Global Health NOW, the global health blog of the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University, recently wrote about the potential for Ebola news overload. In the newsletter, editor Brian Simpson shared a note from a reader who noted that “It’s vital to not let Ebola crowd out other equally and more impactful health issues.”

Simpson replied that the writer “raises an important issue. Ebola has not made heart disease, AIDS, traffic injuries, gun violence, maternal mortality, schistosomiasis—or any other threat to human health—go away. However, dipping into any media stream might make you think so.”

Simpson adds that GHN “have run a slew of news...on Ebola since March 20” and adds that the challenge is reporting on the most important news while still maintaining perspective.”

“It’s a difficult balance, and sometimes we’ll screw up,” he said. “But we’ll always strive to keep things in perspective and find the essential news for you.” We feel the same way at NewPublicHealth.

Oct 30 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: October 30

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EBOLA UPDATE: WHO Officials See ‘Glimmers of Hope’ in Liberia as New Case Rate Declines
(NewPublicHealth is monitoring the public health crisis in West Africa.)
There are “glimmers of hope” in Liberia as officials from the World Health Organization (WHO) say the rate of new Ebola cases appears to be declining for the first time since the outbreak began. Still, an official with the global health agency said they are still very much concerned and on guard. “It’s like saying your pet tiger is under control,” said Bruce Aylward, the WHO’s assistant director-general in charge of the operational response, according to The Washington Post. “This is a very, very dangerous disease” and “the danger now is that instead of a steady downward trend we end up with an oscillating trend where the virus goes up and down” because areas become reinfected. Read more on Ebola.

Study: Infant’s Birthweight Tied to Disease Risk Later in Life
An infant’s size at birth may help predict their health later in life, with babies who are heavier have less of a risk for future disease, according to a new study in The FASEB Journal. Researchers based their findings on an analysis of cord blood of newborn babies from mothers with raised glucose levels during late pregnancy and blood taken later. "These findings support the hypothesis that common long-term variation in the activity of genes established in the womb may underpin links between size at birth and risk for adult disease," said Claire R. Quilter, Ph.D., study author from the Mammalian Molecular Genetics Group, Department of Pathology at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom. "If confirmed these could be important markers of optimal fetal growth and may be the first step along a path to very early disease prevention in the womb." Read more on maternal and infant health.

FDA Approves New Meningitis Vaccines
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the first vaccine approved to prevent invasive meningococcal disease in the United States. The drug is to prevent  Neisseria meningitidis serogroup B is approved for individuals ages 10 to 25 years. Approximately 500 total cases of meningococcal disease were reported in the United States in 2012, with 160 having been causes by serogroup B. “Recent outbreaks of serogroup B Meningococcal disease on a few college campuses have heightened concerns for this potentially deadly disease,” said Karen Midthun, MD, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, in a release. “The FDA’s approval of Trumenba provides a safe and effective way to help prevent this disease in the United States.” Read more on vaccines.

Oct 28 2014
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Ebola and U.S. Quarantines: Q&A with James Hodge and Kim Weidenaar of the Network for Public Health Law

On Monday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new guidelines for people who have been exposed to the Ebola virus, either returning home from affected West African countries or looking after patients in the United States.

The guidelines establish four levels of risk -- "high" risk, "some" risk, "low" risk and "no" risk -- and recommend restrictions and health monitoring for each category.

Under the guidelines, people at high risk of Ebola exposure would be confined to their homes in voluntary isolation, while people carrying some risk would have their health and movements monitored by local officials. Those at high risk or with some risk would have daily in-person check-ups from state and local health departments for 21 days.

Immediately after yesterday’s CDC press conference, NewPublicHealth spoke with James Hodge and Kim Weidenaar, attorneys with the Network for Public Health Law, responded to questions from NewPublicHealth about laws and regulations that impact quarantines.

NewPublicHealth: Is there any legal support under United States law for possible quarantines for returning health workers and travelers from West Africa? 

James Hodge and Kim Weidenaar: Yes, provided quarantine is limited in duration, consistent with due process, and based on known or suspected exposures.

Public health authorities must be prepared to demonstrate that 1) the subject of quarantine is actually or reasonably suspected of being exposed to an infectious condition, 2) that the infectious condition (like Ebola) poses a specific threat to the public’s health, 3) that the terms of quarantine are warranted, safe, and habitable, and 4) that procedural due process including fair notice, right to hearing, and right to counsel are provided. 

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