Thanksgiving is mere days away so it makes sense to look at some stories that can provide appropriate dinner discussion during those awkward lulls, right? These stories may provide that, though, I suppose that depends on who you eat your holiday dinner with (my family is very tolerant of my eccentricities.) With that said, this week we will look at plague in Madagascar, polio in Africa, antibiotic resistance in turkeys, and, of course, an Ebola update.
In observance of Thanksgiving there will not be a news wrap up next weekend. From all of us at the Pandora Report, we wish you a safe, warm, and delicious Thanksgiving!
The World Health Organization has reported that an outbreak of plague in Madagascar has killed 40 and infected almost 80 others. The WHO warned that rapid spread of the disease could take place in the capital, Antananarivo. Humans usually develop the bubonic form of plague after being bitten by an infected flea carried by a rodent. This type, if diagnosed early, can be treated with antibiotics. However, 2% of the cases in Madagascar are pneumonic plague, which can be spread much more easily from person-to-person through coughing.
BBC—“Last year health experts warned that the island was facing a plague epidemic unless it slowed the spread of the disease. It said that inmates in Madagascar’s rat-infested jails were particularly at risk.”
Maybe Ebola will be a topic of conversation at your Thanksgiving table. Maybe not. If you want to share some great news out of Africa, share this story. According to the Centers for Disease Control, wild polio virus has nearly been eradicated! The drop in cases in Africa has been attributed to successful vaccination campaigns in Nigeria.
Time—“No case of polio has been recorded on the continent since August, the report finds. There have been 22 cases of polio in Africa overall since the beginning of 2014, six of which were in Nigeria, one of the last three endemic nations alongside Pakistan and Afghanistan. The latest tally marked a drastic reduction from 49 cases in Nigeria the previous year.”
We’ve seen, here at Pandora Report, that growing antibiotic resistance is a problem that spans countries and continents. Just in time for the best holiday, the Health Care without Harm nonprofit has suggested that health care workers (and, well, everyone else, too) can contribute to slowing the growth of antibiotic resistance by buying an antibiotic-free turkey for Thanksgiving. If you haven’t yet bought your turkey, maybe you’ll be motivated by what they say.
Wired—“Antibiotic resistance is a growing problem that more and more patients and providers are facing each day, and antibiotic overuse is a major contributor to this problem. While as many as 50% of antibiotic prescriptions may be overly broad or even unnecessary, animal agriculture uses four times the amount of antibiotics as human medicine, and mostly in healthy animals for growth promotion or disease prevention on crowded farms…
We are advocating for a broader concept of antimicrobial stewardship.”
This Week in Ebola
The doctor who was flown to Nebraska for treatment for Ebola died this week from a very advanced case of the disease. The need for hospitals in the U.S. and Africa that are qualified to deal with Ebola has not waned and there is an urgent need for the reinforcement of public health systems. In the meantime, New York Senator Chuck Schumer has called for New York City to be reimbursed for the costs it incurred to quarantine and treat Dr. Craig Spencer. In airport news, the Department of Homeland Security has said that they are adding additional screening for passengers arriving from Mali as there are signs of wider Ebola exposure in that country and officials in India have quarantined a man who recovered from Ebola after treatment in Liberia in September. And while UN officials have warned that the epidemic is “not even close to over” there is good news coming out of Liberia where CDC officials say that the spread of the disease has definitely slowed. Lastly, the Gates Foundation has pledged $5.7 million to test treatments for Ebola in Guinea and other countries in West Africa and Band Aid has put together a new recording of “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” with proceeds going to the Ebola fight. (There are two other amazing anti-Ebola songs, in this link, too!)
Stories You May Have Missed
- Did you observe World Toilet Day, this week? It was November 19 and according to the UN, there are 2.5 billion people worldwide who don’t have access to safe, clean, and enclosed toilets. The theme of this year’s event was Equality and Dignity.
- For those who want to talk about current events during their festive dinner, a report prepared for the UN Security Council warns that ISIS “possesses sufficient reserves of small arms, ammunition, and vehicles to wage its war for Syria and Iraq for up to two years.”
- As my friends at Bloomberg said, “in the beginning, we had to worry about smallpox. And then anthrax. And then Ebola.” And now they offer the brain-eating worm as another thing to worry about. On Thanksgiving, I’m sure your colleagues, friends, and family will be impressed with your knowledge of Spirometra erinaceieuropaei!
- For those of you living in Prince George’s County, MD, you can remind everyone at your holiday table that a student at Potomac High School was diagnosed with TB.
- Bird flu continues to spread to new locales—H5N1 has caused two deaths in Egypt while a new, as yet unnamed, strain of avian influenza which can be transmitted to humans has been detected in the Netherlands.
- If there are any smartphone obsessed youths at your thanksgiving table, you can tell them that Android phones are helping to combat the spread of Dengue in Pakistan. Sort of makes Candy Crush seem not all that important, right?
- Between work, school, and Pandora Report, I don’t want to shock you when I say that don’t spend all day every day on the internet reading biodefense news. Instead, I’ve set up carefully curated Google alerts for certain key words, including “pandemic.” This is how I learned about a serious event we’ve all suspected for a long time—the pumpkin spice pandemic. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!
Image Credit: Oregon Live