Tag Archives: Health

More on river blindness and related diseases

We were talking about River Blindness.

Trigger Warning: The video below is not for general consumption. Having said that you may want to watch it. The first part depicts the reactions of a handful of celebrities watching a series of shots depicting seven different related tropical diseases, and I must say, having seen all of these diseases in person (and having treated some of them, and had mild versions of a couple myself) that these particular videos show the worst side of it. But still, a very large number of people (according to the source of the video, about a billion) have some form of these diseases, mainly in Africa but also in Central and South America and Asia. The celebrities are: Emily Blunt (“Salmon Fishing in the Yemen,” “Devil Wears Prada”); Eddie Redmayne (“Les Miserables,” “My Week with Marilyn”); Tom Felton (“Harry Potter” series); Yvonne Chaka Chaka (South African pop star); Tom Hollander (“Pirates of the Caribbean,” “Pride and Prejudice”); and Priyanka Chopra (leading Bollywood actress and international recording artist).

The last part of the video is the same celebs giving a pitch for you to pitch in and donate some money and spread some awareness.

The project that produced this video is called End7, a reference to ending all seven diseases. What they say is mostly true: You can treat these diseases very inexpensively. At present, the pharmaceuticals are well known and inexpensive. However, people with advanced stages of some of these parasitic infections can’t be treated easily if at all because the treatment may involve causing effects that result in very severe immune system responses. The idea is to treat children, more or less prophylactically, so they don’t develop the advanced versions.

The disease are:

  • Elephantiasis
  • <li>Roundworm</li>
    <li>River Blindness</li>
    <li>Snail Fever</li></ul>

    A Test For River Blindness

    River blindness, also called Onchocerciasis, is the result of the infection of several different eye tissues by the nematode Onchocerca volvulus. The bacterium Wolbachia pipientis lives symbiotically in the gut of the nematode, and escapes the small roundworm to cause an inflammatory response in human tissues, which results in damage to the tissue. These infections can occur in a number of different human tissues causing a variety of effects, but when the eye tissues are involved, the result can be river blindness. It is endemic and widespread in several areas of Africa, as well as more restricted areas in South America and the Middle East.

    ResearchBlogging.orgTreatment of the disease involves killing the bacterium, which in turn kills the host nematode, using various anti-biotics. However, as we have learned over recent decades, widespread use of antibiotics can be less than ideal because this can cause selection for resistant strains so that treatment can become generally ineffective across an affected population. Ideally, there would be a reliable test for river blindness infection that would allow more targeted use of treatments. Continue reading A Test For River Blindness

    Should they allow pigs at the State Fair, and what if they do?

    The State Fair is about to start up here in Minnesota, and the top epidemiologist at the University of Minnesota has very clearly stated that the swine should be excluded this year in order to avoid swine to human transmission of a flu virus that has been showing up in increasing numbers lately. I’ve blogged about this before, and here is an update with new numbers. Also, I’ll address a few questions I’ve heard asked.

    How many people have been affected with the new Influenza A (H3N2) Variant Viruses (“H3N2v”)?

    The CDC reports that 12 people were known to have been affected in 2011, and 225 in 2012, most of which have been affected in the last several weeks, indicating a sudden outbreak. However, that number is a minimum as more cases are known than reported in that CDC report. We may have one or two cases in Minnesota that have not been included yet.

    Who is getting this flu?

    There are two categories of people that make up most of those affected: 1) People who work with swine and 2) People who came into contact with swine at county or state fairs or similar venues.

    Among those who are getting the flue, more may be children. It is thought that perhaps many adults have a immunity to this variety that children don’t have.

    Does the new swine flu pass from human to human?

    Yes and no. There are a handful of cases of humans having this flu who probably got it from someone who, in turn, got it from a pig. However, there is not a pattern of sustained human-to-human transmission at this time. However, that can change. The new flu variant has a mutation that is believed to be helpful (to the virus) in human-to-human transmission, and the fact that there are a couple of cases of this shows that is is possible. The reasons that the normal flu season occurs in the Northern Hemisphere during winter may relate to factors that enhance human-to-human transmission, and those factors to not pertain at this time since it is still summer. It is possible that this flu would spread more readily among humans as conditions change. Also, flu viruses change over time to become more or less likely to spread. This flu must be watched carefully.

    People are saying that this is a mild flu. Is that true?

    No, that is absolutely not true. The flu appears to be an average flu, like any year’s typical seasonal flu, in how icky it is to get it. Rumors that it is a “mild” flu probably come from the fact that it is not a killer flu, like some are that jump boundaries between species. Which may relate to the next question…

    Where does this flu come from?

    A simple version is that over several years, it started in humans, infected pigs (and went away in humans) and is now re-infecting humans after a period of time of not being able to make that jump. Influenza is like that. This also explains the fact that some adults seem immune to the flu; they had this one (well, one kinda like it anyway) already, or an earlier vaccination is helping.

    Should they allow pigs at the Minnesota State Fair?

    Personally, I think it is overcautious to disallow pigs. But I think we should be overcautious and disallow them. I agree with Michael Osterholm that this is “an unprecedented situation globally.”

    What about taking precautions like washing your hand after petting the pig?

    Well, yes, please do wash your hands after petting the pig, but it won’t help much. The flu is probably airborne. Also, officials say they will keep the sick looking pigs sequestered or send them home or something, but there is evidence that pigs with this flu don’t necessarily look sick. In short, the precautions that are being shuggested by State Fair officials and the State Health Department are not expected to be effective.

    Are you, Greg, going to the State Fair?

    Of course. But I will not be visiting the Big Pig or his little friends. Nor will anyone else in my family. We will not, however, be avoiding swine entirely. If there is Bacon on a Stick, that will be good. Or corn dogs. I believe they include pig.

    Background information:

    Epogen, Procrit and Aranesp: ineffective, too expensive, and dangerous?

    The Washington Post has an article out (an “exclusive”) about three drugs used to treat anemia that their investigative reporting seems to show are less effective and more dangerous than people thought. Here’s the dramatic intro from the WP’s article:

    On the day Jim Lenox got his last injection, the frail 54-year-old cancer patient was waiting to be discharged from the Baltimore Washington Medical Center…. a nurse said he needed another dose of anemia drugs.

    His wife, Sherry, thought that seemed odd, because his blood readings had been close to normal, but Lenox trusted the doctors. After the nurse pumped the drug into his left shoulder, the former repairman for Washington Gas said he felt good enough to play basketball.

    The shots, which his cancer clinic had been billing at $2,500 a pop, were expensive.

    Hours later, Lenox was dead.

    This is a very interesting article, and it will be very interesting to see how this plays out. Big Pharm is the bad guy, The Taxpayers are getting bilked, and innocent bystanders like Mr. Lenox are the victims. This could be a very important piece of journalism which will change the world in a positive direction, or it could be a misunderstanding of the way drugs and the drug industry and related medical practice all work. The implications, accusations even, that are being made are pretty serious. Drug companies engineered the pricing and dosage so that doctors would make money if they prescribed these drugs, and this kept the drugs flowing despite evidence that maybe they should be used less or not at all. Even “beaurocrats” and Congress were in on the conspiracy. Drug makers ….

    …offered discounts to practices that dispensed the drug in big volumes. They overfilled vials, adding as much as 25 percent extra, allowing doctors to further widen profit margins. Most critical, however, was the company’s lobbying pressure, under which Congress and Medicare bureaucrats forged a system in which doctors and hospitals would be reimbursed more for the drug than they were paying for it.

    … and so on and so forth.

    I worry about this kind of finding for two reasons. First, all the usual bad guys are the bad guys and all the usual victims are the victims, so everyone is going to get all breathless and bent out of shape over this, even if there is really no story here. That’s one reason I worry. The other reason is that this could all be real…there could be a problem exposed here that needs to be fixed, but because it looks like the usual bashing of the medical profession, wagons will be drawn into circles and smart looking medical professoinals are going band together to convince, for example, the skeptical community that this is just a bunch of yellow journalism.

    In other words, I suspect we are about to see an all out tribal war. What we really need, of course are facts and reasonable interpretations.

    I’m looking forward to the input of Science Based Medicine bloggers on this.

    The Cure for Everything

    Timothy Caulfield’s book, The Cure For Everything: Untangling Twisted Messages about Health, Fitness, and Happiness, attempts to be a corrective in the area of personal heath (as in diet and exercise) management.

    From the publisher: “In The Cure for Everything, health-policy expert and fitness enthusiast Timothy Caulfield debunks the mythologies of the one-step health crazes, reveals the truths behind misleading data, and discredits the charlatans in a quest to sort out real, reliable health advice. He takes us along as he navigates the maze of facts, findings, and fears associated with emerging health technologies, drugs, and disease-prevention strategies, and he presents an impressively researched, accessible take on the production and spread of information in the health sciences.”

    Skeptical? No problem! Super Skeptic Desiree Schell will be interviewing Caulfield this Sunday on Skeptically Speaking. Also, Scicurious will be talking about Coffee. I won’t want to miss that.

    Details for the show:

    #166 The Cure for Everything

    This week, we’re looking at what the evidence has to say about common claims about diet, exercise, weight loss and other hot health topics. We’re joined by health law professor Timothy Caulfield, to talk about his book The Cure for Everything! Untangling the Twisted Messages About Health, Fitness and Happiness. And on the podcast, researcher and science blogger Scicurious looks at a new study of coffee consumption, and the effect it may – or may not – have on life expectancy.

    We record live with Timothy Caulfield on Sunday, May 27 at 6 pm MT. The podcast will be available to download at 9 pm MT on Friday, June 1.

    Dining In The Dark: Hope for Retinal Disease

    Of the first dozen times or so that I ever saw Joel, my then future brother in law, I think we were in a restaurant a good four or five times. This was probably just a chance event, but there were a number of dinners and one lunch with the family that Joel and Alyssa (Amanda’s sister) attended. And I noticed something. Joel and Alyssa seemed to be very keen on the idea of consulting over what to eat. Many couples do this, including Amanda and me. For example, if there are two items on the menu that I know I’d be happy with, and Amanda is pretty sure about one but not the other yet wants to try it, we’ll get those two, with the idea that we can either share them or switch them later. So for all these visits to the restaurants, I had assumed Joel and Alyssa were making some sort of similar arrangement, and it was kind of cute.

    After several weeks I learned that Alyssa was actually reading the menu to Joel because he was blind. I had no idea.
    Continue reading Dining In The Dark: Hope for Retinal Disease

    Which works better, Acupuncture or Changa?

    Acupuncture is the ancient East Asian practice of poking people with needles in specific places and in specific ways in order to produce any one of a very wide range of results that could generally be classified as medicinal or health related. I don’t know much about it, but Wikipedia tells us:
    Continue reading Which works better, Acupuncture or Changa?

    Why isn’t there a malaria vaccine, and could there be one soon?

    There are several reasons why there is no vaccine for malaria, but the thing you might want to know is that malaria is not a virus, and it is not even a bacterium. It’s a protist. Generally speaking, there are not really vaccines for such organisms. One metastudy that looked specifically at Malaria had this to report:

    Continue reading Why isn’t there a malaria vaccine, and could there be one soon?

    What are the adverse effects of vaccines?

    A study incorporating over 12,000 prior peer reviewed publications, addressing the question of vaccine safety, is due for release by the National Academies of Science. The study attempts to understand adverse effects of vaccines and to assign causality to supposed negative outcomes. The 667 page study covers a large number of vaccines. And yes, it addresses autism.
    Continue reading What are the adverse effects of vaccines?

    Anti-Vax Paranoic Police State Shenanigans: Skeptics visit AutismOne Conference

    You must go read the chilling and amusing account of Jamie Bernstein and Ken Reibel’s visit to the AutismOne Conference in the Chicago area. The story has all the elements. Horror:
    (that’s what they were forced to eat); Police Absurdity (though not brutality); Screeching Breathless Paranoia; Jenny McCarthy; and Chemical Castration.

    The story is told by Jamie across two blogs: Autism One, Part One on Skepchick and How I Got Kicked Out of the AutismOne Con: Part 2 on Friendly Atheist. Ken Reibel gives his version of the events here.

    The vaccination does make the baby cry, so why do it?

    ResearchBlogging.orgIt seems like every time I take Huxley (now 18 months old) to the doctor, the following things happen: 1) Somebody says “Well, he won’t need to get stuck with any needles for a long while now …. his next scheduled immunization is [insert phrase indicating ‘a long time into the future’]”; and 2) Huxley gets stuck with some needles.

    The last time, a few days ago, was especially bad.
    Continue reading The vaccination does make the baby cry, so why do it?