1 – April saw the 10-year anniversary of Dr. Margaret Chan’s appointment to the position of Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) The WHO is releasing a series composed by Dr Chan chronicling her tenure. Every week for 6 weeks a new post will appear. Visit the site here to keep up to date.
Despite the emergence of Zika and Ebola, Dr Chan has chosen so far to highlight the global threats caused by Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs). What do you think?
2 – Save the Date! The American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) is having a great event on May 18th. Starting at 7pm there will be a lecture and panel discussion looking at New Science, New Solutions: Preparing for the Next Pandemic! Register here.
3 – Elephantiasis is a No-Go in Togo. Lymphatic filariasis (LF), a disease in which tremendous swelling occurs in the lymphatic system leading to enlargement of certain body parts, is believed to be well treated and on the decline. Togo enacted a robust effort to combat the disease, based on the WHO recommendations. By preventing transmission and treating LF cases thoroughly medical professionals were able to dramatically reduce the number of new infections. The disease is mosquito-borne, and the swelling is caused by the injection of parasitic worms into the body during a mosquito bite. Those worms cause joint swelling and inflammation.
In a rare month for rare diseases, Elephantiasis made headlines in another country for another reason. May Ugandans were diagnosed with the disease as they presented with many of the same symptoms, and medical workers did not look beyond this initial diagnosis. However, many clues led investigators to realize the misdiagnosis:
- the altitude of the outbreak did not allow for many mosquitos
- the outbreak was geographically contained
- the swelling was bilateral (affecting both legs) whereas LF is typically unilateral
- there was almost no scrotal enlargement, the hallmark of LF
The team realized it was a different disease. Read this NY Times article to find out what! You’ll see the team used the skills we discussed in class: defining a case, counting cases, doing analysis and this led them to the truth.
4 – A disease we covered in class caused by deforestation (like sleeping sickness and malaria in South America, and many other diseases worldwide) and the changing ecosystems in India was part of an outbreak this month. Read about Kyasanur Forest Disease and how Indian health officials are combatting it.
5 – There is confirmation of a multi-national Yellow Fever outbreak in South America in the 2017 calendar year. The WHO has done a complete write-up of the outbreak in Brazil in this tidy 6-page briefing from April 3, and this follow-up from April 10.
6 – Avian Flu Foils Farmers of Foie Gras for Fortnight! But actually, an outbreak of European Avian Flu has lead governments to halt the production of Foie gras. Despite the humor of the problem this outbreak is a reminder of the ever-changing ever-present threat that is the flu. Read about it here.
7 – Finally this month, CNN has let it’s medical writing staff place a predicition. A new flu pandemic is coming. It’s a prediction based on statistics and not really based on policy, but the writer believes it is inevitable and it will be bad. Read his grim predictions here.
As a parting note, if you’re traveling to Atlanta (for business, pleasure, a world-class swim meet or family) check out the CDC Museum. Currently phasing out their photography exhibit the next focus exhibit will be entirely on Ebola from June-December. Give it a look if you travel that way, and maybe enroll in their Disease Detective Summer Camp!