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Just in Time for Spring: A Lethal New Strain of the Flu!

Friday, April 24, 2009
From Reuters:

"A strain of flu never seen before has killed up to 60 people in Mexico and also appeared in the United States, where eight people were infected but recovered, health officials said on Friday."

"The World Health Organization said tests showed the virus from 12 of the Mexican patients was the same genetically as a new strain of swine flu, designated H1N1, seen in eight people in California and Texas."

"Mexico reported 1,004 suspected cases of the new virus, including four possible cases in Mexicali on the border with California.

Most of the dead were aged between 25 and 45, a health official said. It was a worrying sign as seasonal flu can be more deadly among the very young and the very old but a hallmark of pandemics is that they affect healthy young adults."
[Full Story]

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British Ambulance Crew Decide Against Saving Man

Saturday, January 3, 2009
From The Telegraph:

Ambulance controllers overheard a private conversation between the crew members in which they supposedly made disparaging remarks about the victim's untidy home, allegedly failed to attempt to resuscitate him, and then apparently decided to claim he was already dead when they arrived.
[Full story]

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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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Child Abuse May Alter Genes in Suicide Victims, Study Says

From McGill University's Public and Media Newsroom:

"A team of McGill University scientists has discovered important differences between the brains of suicide victims and so-called normal brains. Although the genetic sequence was identical in the suicide and non-suicide brains, there were differences in their epigenetic marking - a chemical coating influenced by environmental factors."

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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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Faces of Death

Thursday, April 10, 2008
From the Guardian:

"The German photographer Walter Schels thinks it not only odd, but wrong that death is so hidden from view. Aged 72, he's also keenly aware that his own death is getting closer. Which is why, a few years ago, he embarked on a bizarre project. He decided to shoot a series of portraits of people both before and after they had died. The result is a collection of photographs of 24 people - ranging from a baby of 17 months to a man of 83 - that goes on show in London next week. Alongside the portraits are the stories of the individuals concerned, penned by Beate Lakotta, Schels' partner, who spent time with the subjects in their final days and who listened as they told her how it felt to be nearing the end of their lives."

"Some of the subjects, says Schels, were bitter about how lonely the business of dying had made them feel - for some, this was why they agreed to take part in the project. "Some of the dying said, 'It's so good you're doing this - it's really important to show what it's like. No one else is listening to me, no one wants to hear or know what it's really like.'""

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Frontotemporal Dementia Produces Great Art, Pain

Wednesday, April 9, 2008
From BoingBoing.net:

"In 1994, Dr. Adams became fascinated with the music of the composer Maurice Ravel, her husband recalled. At age 53, she painted 'Unravelling Bolero' a work that translated the famous musical score into visual form.

Unbeknown to her, Ravel also suffered from a brain disease whose symptoms were identical to those observed in Dr. Adams, said Dr. Bruce Miller, a neurologist and the director of the Memory and Aging Center at the University of California, San Francisco. Ravel composed 'Bolero' in 1928, when he was 53 and began showing signs of his illness with spelling errors in musical scores and letters..."
[Full Post]

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Alzheimer's Research Still Lagging

Monday, April 7, 2008
From the New York Times:

The new approach to dealing with Alzheimer's Disease:

"If Dad wants to polish off the duck sauce in a Chinese restaurant like it's a bowl of soup, why not? If Grandma wants to help out by washing the dishes but makes a mess of it, leave her to it and just rewash them later when she's not looking. Pull out old family pictures to give the patient something to talk about. Learn the art of fragmented, irrational conversation and follow the patient's lead instead of trying to control the dialogue.

Basically, just tango on. And hope somebody will do the same for you when your time comes. Unless the big breakthrough happens first."
[Full Story]

Harrowing.

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