Cholera outbreak hits Haiti

Cholera is an illness we don’t really hear about often. That is until very recently—with Haiti’s department of public health recorded 4,147 confirmed cases and 292 deaths from cholera since the outbreak was reported last week, officials from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) announced today. The PAHO is watching the spread of the disease closely, for fear that cholera could cross the border into the Dominican Republic.


Doctors receive hundreds of Cholera patients per day at the hospital in L'Estere on October 26, 2010. CNN.


Stand-out writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez has written a novel set in a time where the disease ran rampantly, but do we really know what cholera is and how it affects the human body?

Cholera is a bacterial illness that causes severe diarrhea and dehydration and can be lethal within hours if a person is not treated. Says Dr. William Schaffner, chair of Preventive Medicine at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center:

“This is a bacteria that actually is in the environment. It’s in brackish water in the river. It can be in seacoasts and if the environmental conditions are not right, the cholera bacteria can grow up and then anyone who ingests that water or food that comes from that water or food that is prepared with that water can get ill.”

In an epidemic, cholera can also be spread from the feces of an infected person.  Children and adults alike are vulnerable.  And according to the World Health Organization (WHO), three-quarters of people carrying the bacteria have no symptoms. For those who do get sick, the main symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, muscle cramps, dehydration and shock. To some, the outbreak may not appear to be such a surprise, as some experts predicted that when the earthquake in Haiti hit in January health problems from poor sanitation and crowded conditions would likely continue well into the future.

New Study: Hispanics in U.S. live longer than Whites, Blacks

This new study that shows Hispanics have the highest life expectancy in the U.S. comes as a bit of a surprise — especially when you consider the dangerously delicious cuisine we consume — because on average the Hispanic population has lower socioeconomic status than the non-Hispanic white population, as Elizabeth Arias, the lead researcher of this study says — the “Hispanic paradox” as they’ve fittingly named it.

The study shows that life expectancy for Hispanics is 80.6. Life expectancy is 78.1 for Non-Hispanic whites and 72.9 for non-Hispanic blacks. Overall, the life expectancy at birth for all Americans is 77.7.

A print graphic showing life expectancies in the U.S. for hispanics, blacks and whites. P. Prengaman / AP

The study, which appears in the October issue of Vital and Health Statistics, marks the  first time that this longevity information has included reliable statistics for Hispanics living in the U.S. For this particular study, researchers analyzed 2006 data from death certificates in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and U.S. territories.

Hispanic males’ life expectancy at birth is 77.9, but their life expectancy once they reach the age of 65 is 84. Hispanic women’s life expectancy at birth is 83.1 years, and this number reaches 86.7 if they live to 65, the study shows — very ripe ages, as many would say. But possibly the bigger question here would be:

Why do Hispanics live longer?

Some medical experts claim that this phenomenon is due to the “immigrant factor.” About 39 percent of the 45 million Hispanics are immigrants. Moving from one country to another takes some effort and fitness. So the United States may be attracting relatively healthier people from Mexico, the largest source of Hispanic immigrants, and other countries, according to NPR via AP.

Other factors that account for the paradox? Arias (of the National Center for Health Statistics), speculated that the longer life expectancy might also have to do with cultural factors, including close social and family networks and low rates of smoking.

Will this “achievement” be maintained?

What happens when that immigrant hardiness diminishes? Which possibly can occur after a couple of generations of their living here. Many believe that since the children of immigrants take up smoking, fast-food diets and other habits, they could wreck the health of other ethnic populations.

I suppose only time will tell.

The struggle continues for the rescued Chilean miners


"A relative of Mario Gomez, one of the 33 miners trapped in a deep underground copper and gold mine, holds up a letter written by Gomez outside the mine at Copiapo, 725 km (450 miles) north of Santiago Aug. 23, 2010. The 33 Chilean miners trapped deep underground sent a message to the surface tied to a drill on Sunday, saying they were all alive, in their first contact since a cave-in 17 days ago." Reuters/Ivan Alvarado


Without a doubt, much has been written about the 33 strong, brave miners, their predicament, and of course, their health.

One by one, the miners, who have been trapped in a gold and copper mine, began to be lifted out of the darkness they have called home since the beginning of August, this Tuesday night.

Considering how they’ve spent their time in immense darkness, their ascent to out of the earth can very much pose a risk to miners if they are re-introduced to sunlight abruptly. Or they could encounter dizziness, panic or minor cardiac issues while being inside the rescue capsule as it spins to the surface.

Dr. Antonios Zikos, the medical director of neuro-intensive care at Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh who has treated mining disaster survivors, says that these miners who have been trapped have experienced a variety of unhealthy conditions below ground, such as:

•The additional force of gravity may have affected their circulatory system and immune function.

•Being confined in a small space, without the opportunity to exercise normally, could also cause blood clots and muscle loss.

•Exposure to underground gases, such as carbon monoxide, could also cause cognitive problems, such as memory loss or problems performing basic tasks.

The plan is to rush 33 trapped miners to a hospital in Copiapo, the nearest town, as they ascend from the earth from the capsule. *Read: Chilean hospital prepares for the arrival of 33 trapped miners*

Also noted is the mental health of the miners ,which have been a major concern for Chilean authorities — since once they are extracted, they will have to deal with a certain level of celebrity status.

Dr. Michael Duncan, the deputy chief medical officer at Johnson Space Center, put the grave situation in perspective with this very true statement, “The work is just beginning when the miners get out of the mine.”

Technology May Cause Skin Damage

Sure, they’re called laptops, but you could really pay a price for keeping that warm laptop on your lap for prolonged periods of time. Looks like gaming, studying, and reading online will lead to “toasted skin syndrome”, a Pediatrics case study reports.

The “syndrome” consists of a brownish discoloration of the skin caused by prolonged exposure to heat from the computer.

Researchers from Switzerland, reporting in the Nov. 5 issue of Pediatrics, focus on the case of a 12-year-old boy who developed a sponge-patterned discoloration on his left thigh after playing computer games with his laptop resting on his upper legs a few hours per day for several months.

“He recognized that the laptop got hot on the left side,” the researchers write. “However, regardless of that, he did not change its position.”

Time to rethink laptops on the lap.

The boy had what is known as erythema ab igne – a temporary discoloration of the skin after extended exposure to a heat or infrared source such as a heating pad. This type of skin condition, known as dermatosis, has been found in people who worked in front of open fires or coal stoves, used hot pads and blankets extensively or sat too closely to steam radiators or space heaters.

Prior to this case, nine other patients had been reported with laptop-induced dermatosis since 2004. This most recent case described in Pediatrics is the youngest of the 10 documented cases.

Dr. Andreas W. Arnold, the lead author of the study and a dermatologist says, “If you perform a biopsy, you see the epidermis changes… It has to be in the upper dermis too.  We don’t know the exact mechanism, but it probably has to do with blood vessel or inflammation.”

Arnold also notes that people who get this skin discoloration usually don’t have any symptoms — although a few have reported itchiness or tingles. The discoloration takes months or even years to fade – it largely depends on the individual, he adds.

Considering that a laptop computer could heat up to 111 degrees Fahrenheit (ouch!), it’s time to use one’s intuitiveness, the doctors behind the study say. Meaning that once we begin to feel our laptops get a bit too warm on our skin — just, easy, “Put a pillow beneath the lap, legs or the computer back,” he said.

As younger and younger kids begin to foray into technology, it may also be time for tech companies to take initiative and carry a warning label alerting consumers about possible skin problems the devices can cause. Just a thought…

Uncovered: STD Experiments in Guatemala

It’s no secret that relations between the U.S. and Latin American have been historically problematic. From the UFCO’s exertion of power of almost half of Guatemala’s land to today’s struggle for immigration reform, let’s just say that things haven’t necessarily been peachy. To even further prove testament to this rocky relationship, the United States issued an apology Friday for government-sponsored experiments that deliberately infected hundreds of people in Guatemala with gonorrhea or syphilis in the 1940s.

U.S. Public Health Service researchers and others experimented on institutionalized mental patients, giving them gonorrhea and syphilis without their knowledge. About one-third of the patients who became infected never received adequate treatment, MSNBC reported.

“The sexually transmitted disease inoculation study conducted from 1946-1948 in Guatemala was clearly unethical,” according to a joint statement from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “Although these events occurred more than 64 years ago, we are outraged that such reprehensible research could have occurred under the guise of public health. We deeply regret that it happened, and we apologize to all the individuals who were affected by such abhorrent research practices.”

Records of the experiments, which were hidden, were discovered by a professor at Wellesley College named Reverby. The research involved the antibiotic penicillin but never provided useful information.

So where was the Guatemalan government when this was taking place?

“Deception was also used in Guatemala,” Professor Reverby said. Dr. Thomas Parran, the former surgeon general who oversaw the start of Tuskegee, acknowledged that the Guatemala work could not be done domestically, and details were hidden from Guatemalan officials.

Considering that these experiments were being done around the time the U.S. was prosecuting Nazi doctors for crimes against humanity, the fact that U.S. government was supporting research that placed human subjects at enormous risk further proves what a an “interesting” relationship we’ve had with Latin America.

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