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"Never Use The Pool As A Toilet"

Thursday, June 18, 2009
From the New York Times:

"A swimming pool can offer relief from summer heat, but swimmers should know what they are jumping into. It could be a soup of nasty parasites.

Reports of gastrointestinal illness from use of public pools and water parks have risen sharply in recent years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The leading culprit is a microscopic organism that lives in human feces."

[. . .]

"'People should not swim or allow their children to swim when they have diarrhea, Ms. Hlavsa said. 'The water you swim in is shared with everyone,' she said. “So what one swimmer does has consequences for all the swimmers."

[. . .]

"In addition to not swimming while ill with diarrhea, health experts say people should shower before swimming and never use the pool as a toilet. Parents should wash young children before they enter the pool and take them on frequent bathroom breaks. Children in diapers require vigilant attention."

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Elder Abuse Frighteningly Common, Study Suggests

Thursday, January 22, 2009
From The Daily Mail:

"Half of family members who look after someone with dementia admit they behave abusively towards them, say researchers.

And a third own up to 'significant' levels of abuse, according to the first study of its kind.

Those with Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia are frequently the butt of swearing and shouting, and may even be hit by members of their own family, the study says."

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Al-Qaeda + The Plague = ?

A few days ago, the Sun reported that the plague (though which variant -- bubonic or pneumonic -- was not specified) had broken out among al-Qaeda recruits training in Algeria, killing more than forty people in the organization's remote enclave in the country's Tisi Ouzou province. Although the tabloid's story seems to make light of the situation ("ANTI-TERROR bosses last night hailed their latest ally in the war on terror — the BLACK DEATH"), a related article in the more reputable Telegraph suggests that the cell may have actually been developing biological weapons when the plague broke out. Given the fact that "[i]t was reported last year that up to 100 potential terrorists had attempted to become postgraduate students in Britain in an attempt to use laboratories" to hone their skills, such possibilities are indeed quite frightening.

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Where're Bono and Angelina Jolie When You Really Need Them?

Monday, June 9, 2008
From the New York Times's Jeffrey Gettleman:

"Discrimination against albinos is a serious problem throughout sub-Saharan Africa, but recently in Tanzania it has taken a wicked twist: at least 19 albinos, including children, have been killed and mutilated in the past year, victims of what Tanzanian officials say is a growing criminal trade in albino body parts."

"[T]he killings go on. They have even spread to neighboring Kenya, where an albino woman was hacked to death in late May, with her eyes, tongue and breasts gouged out. Advocates for albinos have also said that witch doctors are selling albino skin in Congo."

"Police officials said the albino killings were worst in rural areas, where people tend to be less educated and more superstitious. They said that some fishermen even wove albino hairs in their nets because they believed they would catch more fish."

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Well, Do Cell Phones Cause Cancer of Not?

Sunday, June 8, 2008
From the New York Times:

"Last week, three prominent neurosurgeons told the CNN interviewer Larry King that they did not hold cellphones next to their ears. 'I think the safe practice,' said Dr. Keith Black, a surgeon at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, 'is to use an earpiece so you keep the microwave antenna away from your brain.'"

"Along with Senator Edward M. Kennedy's recent diagnosis of a glioma, a type of tumor that critics have long associated with cellphone use, the doctors' remarks have helped reignite a long-simmering debate about cellphones and cancer."

Some scary stuff here.

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Tyson Slaughters 15,000 Hens in Wake of Avian Flu Outbreak

Thursday, June 5, 2008
From WESH-Orlando:

"Officials with Tyson Foods said some of their hens tested positive for the disease in Arkansas.

Authorities said the strain of the virus is not harmful to humans, but Tyson decided to slaughter and bury 15,000 hens after they showed signs of exposure."

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Hospitals Learn Not to Reuse "Disinfectant" Wipes Infected With Drug-Resistant Bacteria

Wednesday, June 4, 2008
From Reuters:

"Disinfectant wipes routinely used in hospitals may actually spread drug-resistant bacteria rather than kill the dangerous infections, British researchers said on Tuesday.

While the wipes killed some bacteria, a study of two hospitals showed they did not get them all and could transfer the so-called superbugs to other surfaces, Gareth Williams, a microbiologist at Cardiff University, said."

and

"MRSA infections can range from boils to more severe infections of the bloodstream, lungs and surgical sites. Most cases are associated with hospitals, nursing homes or other health care facilities.

The superbug can cause life-threatening and disfiguring infections and can often only be treated with expensive, intravenous antibiotics."

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Coca-Cola to Remove Potentially-Dangerous Additive From Products by August

Wednesday, May 28, 2008
In an article in The Independent, Martin Hickman reports that Coca-Cola, the world's largest manufacturer of soft drinks has decided to phase out the use of sodium benzoate in its beverages "where technically possible" by August. Although sodium benzoate is a naturally-occurring chemical and is found in some common fruits, the concentration of the substance in products such as Diet Coke tends to be extremely high.

Widely used as a preservative, sodium benzoate has been shown to damage DNA in yeast cells and, according to a study conducted by researchers at England's Southampton University, sodium benzoate (E211) is "one of seven E-numbers found to worsen hyperactivity" in humans. Furthermore, "[i]f combined with vitamin A, sodium benzoate can form a potentially carcinogenic substance, benzene."

It is not known whether sodium benzoate, which is also found in several popular Pepsi products, will affect human DNA.

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"I Choose You!"

Monday, May 5, 2008
From the Associated Press:

"Doctors know some patients needing lifesaving care won't get it in a flu pandemic or other disaster. The gut-wrenching dilemma will be deciding who to let die.

Now, an influential group of physicians has drafted a grimly specific list of recommendations for which patients wouldn't be treated. They include the very elderly, seriously hurt trauma victims, severely burned patients and those with severe dementia."

"To prepare, hospitals should designate a triage team with the Godlike task of deciding who will and who won't get lifesaving care, the task force wrote. Those out of luck are the people at high risk of death and a slim chance of long-term survival. But the recommendations get much more specific, and include:

-People older than 85.
-Those with severe trauma, which could include critical injuries from car crashes and shootings.
-Severely burned patients older than 60.
-Those with severe mental impairment, which could include advanced Alzheimer's disease.
-Those with a severe chronic disease, such as advanced heart failure, lung disease or poorly controlled diabetes."

"If followed to a tee, such rules could exclude care for the poorest, most disadvantaged citizens who suffer disproportionately from chronic disease and disability, he said. While health care rationing will be necessary in a mass disaster, 'there are some real ethical concerns here.'"
[Full story]

Scary. Real damn scary.

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More Disease

Thursday, November 8, 2007
According to Reuters's Will Dunham, "[a] new and virulent strain of adenovirus, which frequently causes the common cold, killed 10 people in parts of the United States earlier this year and put dozens into hospitals, U.S. health officials said on Thursday."

And it gets worse. Quoth the CDC's John Su: "[w]hether you're a healthy young adult, an infant or an elderly person, this virus can cause severe respiratory disease at any age" and "[w]hat makes this particular adenovirus a little different is that it has the capability of making healthy young adults severely ill. And that's unusual for an adenovirus, and that's why it's got our attention."

Yep.

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I'm Not Certain Which is More Frightening

Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Bad Thing #1: On the heels of the recent flurry of stories pertaining to Naegleria fowleri, methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (henceforth MRSA) has been making waves in newspapers across the country. According to a story by The Washington Post's Rob Stein, United States health officials have reported that MRSA "causes more life-threatening infections than public-health authorities had thought and is killing more people in the United States each year than AIDS." In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have stated that "[t]he microbe - a strain of a once innocuous staph bacterium that has become invulnerable to first-line antibiotics, is responsible for more than 94,000 serious infections and nearly 19,000 deaths each year." Stein continues,

"The germ, spread by casual contact, rapidly turns minor abscesses and other skin infections into serious health problems, including painful, disfiguring "necrotizing" abscesses that eat away tissue.

The infections often can be treated by lancing and draining sores and quickly administering other antibiotics, such as Bactrim. But the microbe enters the lungs in some cases, causing unusually serious pneumonia, or spreads into bone, vital organs and the bloodstream, triggering life-threatening complications."

Bad Thing #2: The Associated Press reports that "[t]he nation's first baby boomer, a retired teacher from New Jersey, applied for Social Security benefits Monday, signaling the start of applications from the post-World War II boomer generation."

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Another Reason to Avoid Spring Break

Friday, September 28, 2007
Sensationally billed as a "Brain-Eating Amoeba," Naegleria fowleri has been identified as the cause of Aaron Evans's death. According to a story appearing on KPHO-Phoenix's website, the Lake Havesu native "has become the sixth victim to die nationwide this year of a microscopic organism that attacks the body through the nasal cavity, quickly eating its way to the brain."

According to Barnett Gibbs, a doctor writing for eMedicine.com, "[e]arly diagnosis, treatment, and aggressive supportive care hold the only chance for patient survival" of primary amebic meningoencephalitis, the disease caused by N fowleri. Even so, despite having been discovered nearly fifty years ago in Australia, "[f]ew people have survived PAM, and no standard treatment regimen has been developed" for victims of the disease.

At least Jaws was visible.

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