Category Archives: Health

Corpus Christi bishop donates bone marrow to save a mother’s life

Saved
Credit: drpnncpptak/Shutterstock.

.- This week, Bishop Michael Mulvey of Corpus Christi reflected on bone marrow donations and the life of the mother whom he helped save.

Before he became a bishop, Michael Mulvey joined the Be the Match Registry, the world’s largest register for bone marrow transplants (BMT), which is run by the National Marrow Donor Program.

After the organization discovered a match, South Texas Catholic reported, Mulvey, 70, traveled to San Antonio to make a peripheral stem cell donation. He had matched with a mother who had been diagnosed with a type of blood cancer.

Although Mulvey has never met the woman, he said he was humbled by the experience and expressed gratitude to be able to contribute to the well-being of this mother and her family.

“Knowing that because of the life I have been given by God – I was able to give back and make a big difference in this person’s life, in the life of her children and her family is something I have thought of quite often,” he told South Texas Catholic Nov. 5.

Mulvey said he was introduced to Be the Match in 2004, while he was a priest of the Diocese of Austin. There, he had met Leticia Mondragon, a donor development and engagement specialist with GenCure who partners with Be the Match.

“When I was assigned in Austin years ago, one of our very charitable and active parishioners was signing up people for Be the Match,” said Bishop Mulvey, according to South Texas Catholic. “I appreciated her commitment and dedication to this cause, and after hearing more about the registry, I signed up.”

BMT replaces unhealthy bone marrow with healthy marrow from an outside source. The procedure is used to cure cancers in the blood as well as diseases in the bones and immune system. Among other illnesses, BMT has been used for leukemia, aplastic anemia, and sickle cell disease.

According to South Texas Catholic, Mondragon said the process to sign up is more convenient than in the past, noting that people may apply through their smartphone.

Unlike blood donations, a match for BMT does not focus on blood type, but ethnicity. Mondragon expressed hope that the new system will add more “people of all ethnic backgrounds” to the registry.

She stressed the importance of BMT donors, stating that life-threatening disorders are discovered every few minutes, and thanked the bishop for his contribution.

“Every three minutes someone is diagnosed with a life-threatening blood cancer or blood disorder, such as leukemia or lymphoma,” said Mondragon, according to South Texas Catholic.

“We are thankful Bishop Mulvey wanted to share his story because it is so important that we have leaders like him promoting our global life-saving mission,” she further added.

Bishop Mulvey described the experience not only as an opportunity for charity but as a spiritual encounter.

“St. Matthew says what you have received as a gift, give as a gift,” said Bishop Mulvey, South Texas Catholic reported. “We must always remember that everyone’s life is a gift and true gratitude is expressed when you are willing to give back and share what you have.”

 

 

 

 

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/corpus-christi-bishop-donates-bone-marrow-to-saves-a-mothers-life-52562

Ebola outbreak in DRC an international health emergency, WHO declares

474C092B-EDD4-44B3-B5F9-90D97F07EB73A man receives an Ebola vaccine in Goma, DCR on July 15, 2019. Credit: Pamela Tulizo / AFP / Getty Images

.- The nearly year-long Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has reached the level of an international health emergency, the World Health Organization declared yesterday.

The declaration, which critics say is long overdue, could bring greater resources to the region, where violence and skepticism of international medical personnel have hampered treatment and prevention efforts.

Officials made the international health emergency designation – for only the fifth time in history – after a priest died from Ebola in Goma, a city of some 2 million residents, which serves as a major crossroads on the border with Rwanda.

Risk of the virus being transmitted to neighboring countries is “very high,” WHO officials said, although outside of the immediate region, risk remains low.

For months, public health experts have feared that the deadly virus in DRC could spread to surrounding countries. Two Ebola fatalities were confirmed in Uganda last month, after the victims returned from a funeral in DRC. Kenya and Rwanda have also been on high alert for signs that the virus may have entered the country.

The Ebola outbreak began in the DRC in August 2018. Since then, it has infected more than 2,500 people in the country and killed more than 1,600, making it the second largest outbreak in history.

Dr. Joanne Liu, president of Doctors Without Borders, voiced hope that the emergency declaration would prompt a unified international response.

”The reality check is that a year into the epidemic, it’s still not under control, and we are not where we should be,” she said, according to the Associated Press. “We cannot keep doing the same thing and expect different results.”

The Associated Press reported that internal WHO documents showed a reluctance to make the emergency declaration over concerns about whether it might prompt border closures that could negatively affect economic and health care efforts, and deter countries from reporting outbreaks in the future.

The DRC health department displayed skepticism over the emergency declaration, suggesting that it may have been made as a fundraising move, while some residents of eastern Congo voiced fear that neighboring countries would close their borders, which provide trade routes that are vital to DRC’s economy, the Associated Press reported.

The WHO will reassess the situation in three months to determine whether an international health emergency still exists. Such an emergency is defined as “an extraordinary event which is determined to constitute a public health risk to other States through the international spread of disease and to potentially require a coordinated international response.”

Efforts to contain the disease have been hampered by misinformation and distrust on the part of local communities, who in some cases have retaliated against health teams by attacking them. Nearly 200 attacks on medical centers and staff have been reported this year, according to the BBC. This has limited many of the health services that non-governmental organizations are able to provide.

Catholic Relief Services has been supporting local Caritas partners in responding through education campaigns to help residents know how to prevent and respond to the virus.

More than 160,000 people have received the Ebola vaccine, which is 99% effective, according to the BBC, but many more are fearful of it and refuse to receive it. In addition, violence in the eastern part of the DRC has made it difficult to reach some areas of the country, and difficult to monitor the virus as it spreads.

Ebola is a deadly virus that is primarily spread through contact with bodily fluids. Symptoms include fever, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle pains and occasional bleeding. The disease is fatal in up to 90 percent of cases.

Several outbreaks have taken place in Africa in recent decades. An outbreak in 2014-2016 in West Africa killed more than 11,000 people and spread briefly to Spain, the United States and the UK.

During that outbreak, Catholic Relief Services and Caritas worked to treat those who were infected, support Ebola orphans, provide food support and educate people on hygiene practices to help avoid the spread of the virus, such as hand washing and avoiding contact with dead bodies.

Suzanne Van Hulle, a Catholic Relief Services team member who worked on the agency’s response to the West Africa outbreak, stressed the importance of education in fighting Ebola.

“During an Ebola outbreak, information and understanding people’s perception about the virus is just as important as medicine or a vaccine,” she said in a statement last month.

“Local community leaders play a critical role in educating people around Ebola and how to prevent both acquiring the virus and ongoing transmission.”

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/ebola-outbreak-in-drc-an-international-health-emergency-who-declares-26141

 

 

Give children ‘less sugar and more veg in baby food’

BabyGetty Images

The amount of sugar in baby food should be restricted and parents should give their young children more vegetables to stop them developing a sweet tooth, a report from child health experts says.

It warns that even baby food marked “no added sugar” often contains sugars from honey or fruit juice.

Parents should offer bitter flavours too, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health recommends.

This will guard against tooth decay, poor diet and obesity.

The recommendation is one of many included in a report on how to improve the health of children in the UK.

Reducing child obesity is a key priority in all parts of the UK, with England and Scotland committing to halving rates by 2030.

Targeting food high in sugar and fat is an important part of that aim, following the introduction of a tax on sugary drinks in England in 2018.

The report says the government should introduce mandatory limits on the amount of free sugar in baby foods.

Many can contain high levels of sugar added by the manufacturer or present in syrups and fruit juices, it says, despite labels suggesting otherwise.

The report says infants should not be given sugary drinks. Instead, they should have sugar in a natural form, such as whole fresh fruit, milk or unsweetened dairy products.

Prof Mary Fewtrell, nutrition lead for the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said products for weaning babies often contained a high proportion of fruit or sweet-tasting vegetables.

“Pureed or liquid baby foods packaged in pouches also often have a high energy density and a high proportion of sugar,” she said.

“If sucked from the pouch, the baby also misses out on the opportunity to learn about eating from a spoon or feeding himself.

“Baby foods can be labelled ‘no added sugar’ if the sugar comes from fruit – but all sugars have the same effects on the teeth and on metabolism.”

‘Broccoli and spinach’

She said babies had a preference for sweet tastes but parents should not reinforce that.

“Babies are very willing to try different flavours, if they’re given the chance,” Prof Fewtrell said, “and it’s important that they’re introduced to a variety of flavours, including more bitter tasting foods such as broccoli and spinach, from a young age.”

Prof Fewtrell also said parents should be educated on the impact of sugar.

“Excess sugar is one of the leading causes of tooth decay, which is the most common oral disease in children, affecting nearly a quarter (23%) of five-year-olds.”

She added that sugar intake also contributed to children becoming overweight and obese.

The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition recommends sugar provides no more than 5% of daily total energy intake for those aged two and over, and even less for children under two.

But results from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey suggest the average daily intake for the children between one-and-a-half and three years is 11.3% – more than double the recommended amount.

A review of food and drinks aimed at young children, by Public Health England, found that processed dried fruit products contained the highest amount of sugar – but were often marketed as healthy snacks.

The products, which contain fruit juices, purees and concentrates, making them high in free sugars, should not be sold as suitable snacks for children, PHE said.

 

 

 

 

https://www.bbc.com/news/health-48773636

DRC Ebola outbreak still not global emergency, says WHO

EbolaThe current outbreak is the second-deadliest in history [Al-hadji Kudra Maliro/AP]

The World Health Organization (WHO) has said the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) does not qualify as an international threat, even though cases have been confirmed in neighbouring Uganda.

“It was the view of the committee that the outbreak is a health emergency in DRC and the region, but does not meet the criteria for a public health emergency of international concern,” the United Nations health agency’s expert committee said in a statement on Friday after an emergency meeting.

Despite the outcome of the deliberations, “this outbreak is very much an emergency,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a Geneva press conference via telephone from the DRC.

The virus has killed more than 1,400 people since its outbreak – the second-deadliest in history – was declared in August last year after emerging in eastern DRC’s northern Kivu and Ituri provinces.

To be declared a global emergency, an outbreak must constitute a risk to other countries and require a coordinated response. The declaration typically triggers more funding and political attention.

Speaking from the DRC’s capital, Kinshasa, Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO’s regional director for Africa, said there was now a stronger political engagement to make sure the outbreak was contained.

“It will take longer than originally anticipated,” she told Al Jazeera.

“However, we still believe that it can be contained. It will need a multi-facet response not a simple public health response as had initially been thought. But we anticipate that it will eventually be contained.”

Uganda cases

On Thursday, the WHO acknowledged that it had been unable to track the origins of nearly half of new Ebola cases in the DRC, suggesting it did not know where the virus was spreading.

The United Nations health agency said on Thursday that two people had died in Uganda after arriving with the disease from the DRC.

Its expert committee has met twice previously to consider the situation in the DRC. In April, the WHO said the outbreak was of “deep concern” but officials were “moderately optimistic” it could be contained within a “foreseeable time.”

The outbreak, occurring close to the borders of Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan, has been like no other. Community mistrust has been high and attacks by rebel groups have undermined aid efforts.

Experts say people are still dying outside of Ebola treatment centres, exposing their families to the disease, and many do not appear on lists of known contacts being monitored.

“Vaccines alone can’t work if community hides cases due to distrust. Violence persists. We are in this for the long haul,” Lawrence Gostin, professor of global health law at Georgetown University, said, referring to deadly attacks on health facilities in the DRC.

According to the WHO, more than 100 attacks on treatment centres and health workers in the DRC have been recorded since the beginning of this year.

As the far deadlier 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak raged in West Africa, the WHO was heavily criticised for not declaring a global emergency until nearly 1,000 people had died and the virus had spread to at least three countries.

Internal WHO documents later showed that the agency feared the declaration would have economic and social implications for Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. More than 11,300 people died in the three countries.

Before the WHO panel’s move, Axelle Ronsse, emergency coordinator for Doctors Without Borders, known by its French acronym MSF, had expressed uncertainty whether a declaration would help. She said outbreak responders, including the WHO, should reevaluate their strategies to contain the spiralling outbreak.

“It’s quite clear that it’s not under control,” she said. “Now may be the time to reset and see what should be changed at this point.”

 

 

 

 

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/06/dangerous-iran-denies-claims-gulf-tankers-190614151217769.html

Uganda’s bicycle ambulances help the pregnant, sick and injured

Bicycle photo
The ambulances are managed by village health teams chosen from within the community. The teams distribute contact numbers so people in need can request the service. NICHOLAS BAMULANZEKI/AL JAZEERA

by Caleb Okereke

Kibibi, Uganda – In the early months of her pregnancy, Sandra Naigaga had to walk more than four kilometres to get to antenatal care at the health centre in Kibibi, Uganda.

Uganda has high maternal and newborn death rates, with 15 women dying every day from childbirth and pregnancy-related issues. That worried Naigaga in those initial months of pregnancy.

That fear however subsided in late 2018 when the NGO First African Bicycle Information Organization (FABIO) introduced its free bicycle ambulance service to the two major health centres in the region.

Naigaga is one of the hundreds of women, elderly persons, children and the sick in her area who regularly use bicycle ambulances to get prompt medical attention.

In many remote areas, many of the roads are impassable for vehicles, so the bicycles with their specialised trailers to carry patients are the only way for many to get to a health centre.

“As pregnant women, we are always weak,” says Naigaga, “They take us to hospital, we get treatment and they take us back home.”

In Uganda, 77 of the country’s 121 districts lack an ambulance service and fewer than 7% of patients arrive at hospital by ambulance.

That lack of transport prompted FABIO to develop its first bicycle ambulance service in 2006 in Uganda’s then war-torn northern region.

Their goal since has been to create something that is both environmentally friendly and easy to maintain.

“We wanted to create a sustainable way or a cheaper way for people to be able to access health centres,” says executive director, Katesi Najjiba.

The ambulances are built by locals, with locally sourced materials, using as a base the black bicycle whose spare parts are easily found in the villages.

Bryan Nleututu, a field officer at FABIO, says the ambulances are “African solutions to African problems”.

Some terrain can be challenging for the cyclists.

“The hilly areas are most times not easy for me to go pick the patients,” says Mukasa Harid, a bicycle ambulance cyclist. “It’s only possible when one helps me push it and we manage.”

To address that concern, FABIO introduced the e-scooter, a rechargeable electric bike used in place of bicycles in areas where the terrain is hardened like the region around the Kibibi health centre.

 

 

 

 

https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/inpictures/ugandas-bicycle-ambulances-pregnant-sick-injured-190331165202646.html

How dangerous is marijuana for young men’s mental health?

marijuana photoWhen it comes to health, we never know as much as we think we do. Illustration: George Wylesol

By Alex Halperin

Just because today marijuana is widely regarded as safer than alcohol doesn’t mean that’s the final word. A bestselling anti-marijuana book is making waves for suggesting that the drug may be far more dangerous than the industry would have us believe. But how much credence should we give it?

Tell Your Children: The Truth About Marijuana, Mental Illness and Violence, by the former New York Times reporter Alex Berenson, reminds readers that when it comes to health, we never know as much as we think we do.

The most demonstrable health risk associated with marijuana is that for a small portion of users, largely men in their teens and early 20s, the drug may induce psychosis and schizophrenia, sometimes after only short-term use. By highlighting this real, and terrifying, risk of marijuana use, Berenson has done an important public service.

But as others have pointed out, the book overreaches in trying to establish a causal link between cannabis use and violence. And it suffers from Berenson’s refusal to consider marijuana as anything other than a serious threat to a relatively small segment of the population.

Science takes time and is not immune to the dogmas of its era. Today doctors universally recognize the dangers of cigarette smoking, but it took decades – and millions of early, agonizing deaths – before the consensus solidified. The best parts of Tell Your Children document the connection between pot smoking and psychosis, from 19th century Mexico and India to the present day.

The connection hadn’t been a secret. According to a 2013 statement from the American Psychiatric Association, “current evidence supports, at minimum, a strong association of cannabis use with the onset of psychiatric disorders. Adolescents are particularly vulnerable to harm, given the effects of cannabis on neurological development”. But Berenson has amplified it more effectively than anyone else.

It isn’t a fashionable argument right now. The for-profit cannabis industry promotes the drug as a nearly harmless “medicine” and it seems to be working. Last year, Canada became the first large country to legalize recreational cannabis. About 90% of Americans favor access to medical marijuana and roughly two-thirds favor full legalization.

The rapid shift in US public opinion towards legalization has been fueled by disgust with the war on drugs and mass incarceration, as well as the largely unproven hopes that medical marijuana can mitigate complex health crises such as the opioid epidemic.

According to Berenson, “the great majority” of teenagers who smoke weed will not be affected by psychosis. But young people who are at greatest risk deserve the best available information. By describing numerous psychotic breakdowns in excruciating detail, the book’s scare tactics could save a few lives. Berenson is also not the first person to soundly argue that the high-potency pot products available now are likely to make the problem worse.

The second part of Berenson’s argument, however, has attracted more criticism. He attempts to show that because marijuana can cause psychosis and psychosis can cause violence, marijuana causes users to commit senseless, nightmarish acts of violence. (For rebuttals see here, here, here and here. For a discussion of the issues involved see here.)

Tell Your Children opens with an Australian woman who knifed eight children to death, seven of them hers. Later it tells the story of Jared Loughner, a 22-year-old Arizona man who in 2011 shot six people to death and nearly killed then congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords; Loughner also smoked pot. There’s lots more.

Yet legal marijuana markets don’t seem to have witnessed an uptick in ultraviolence. Berenson suggests the crimes are out there but have not been well-publicized, and that the problem is gestating. Maybe, but the argument suffers from a definition of psychosis which seems to encompass everything from low-level paranoia to fits of homicidal rage.

And while Berenson focuses on questionable concerns over violence, he misses a number of less cinematic, but perhaps more dangerous threats. He could have looked, for example, into the little studied question of whether cannabis use by pregnant women can impair fetal brain development.

Every adult in America, meanwhile, knows someone they think smokes too much weed, not because the user mutilated someone, but because it seemed to diminish their emotional or intellectual capacities. By some estimates, 10% of marijuana users develop a dependency on the drug. Under any legalization scenario, it’s this population, the anonymous problem user, who will weigh most heavily on society.

A better anti-weed book would tell their stories. But this would force questions Berenson has no interest in answering. If 20% of marijuana users have a problem, 80% don’t. Berenson doesn’t want to come off as a prig. He gets that people like to get high and tries not to hold it against them. But he’s uninterested in why people get high, much less able to acknowledge the possibility that there’s any good reason for it.

Like a lot of weed opponents, he says only a small fraction of marijuana users use it to treat a clinical medical need. That’s true. Much about weed invites this kind of easy contempt. But the great bulk of users feel it’s beneficial, because it helps them relax, it improves their sex life or makes it more fun to play with their kids. Maybe it helps them drink less alcohol, which they find more destructive.

And at the other end of the spectrum from the problem users is a population who consider weed something like a performance-enhancing drug. They can be found, among other places, throughout the ranks of Hollywood and Silicon Valley. The last century of music, one might argue, was brought to us by weed.

The book would have been better if Berenson had some understanding of, or curiosity about, the drug’s allure and complexity, or even could put its dangers in context.

“By some criteria, I am dependent,” the journalist Andrew Sullivan wrote in 2017. “Weed most definitely isn’t for everyone. But compared with all the other substances available, and most other avenues to chill and friendship, it remains, it seems to me, a no-brainer to legalize it, and for many sane adults, one of God’s great gifts to humankind.”

 

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/jan/28/how-dangerous-is-marijuana-for-young-mens-mental-health

Don’t kiss your hedgehog: US health officials’ warning after salmonella spike

health photoPrickly response: hedgehogs shouldn’t be kissed, says the CDC. Photograph: Thomas Peter/Reuters

By Sam Wolfson

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has taken the unusual measure of advising Americans not to kiss or snuggle their pet hedgehogs.

It comes after a CDC investigation found that 11 people in the United States had contracted a rare strain of salmonella, known as Salmonella typhimurium, since October. It’s emerged that 10 out of the 11 were in close contact with hedgehogs before becoming ill.

The 11 people were in eight different states, including three in Missouri and two in Minnesota. The CDC said it was unclear if the pet hedgehogs came from “a common supplier”.

Officials have warned hedgehog owners not to “kiss or snuggle hedgehogs, because this can spread salmonella germs to your face and mouth and make you sick”. Owners are also advised not to “let hedgehogs roam freely in areas where food is prepared or stored, such as kitchen”.

One person has been hospitalised and no deaths have been reported.

In 2012 there was another major outbreak of Salmonella typhimurium in which most people affected had come into contact with a hedgehog. During that outbreak there were a total of 26 cases and eight people were hospitalised.

Some hedgehogs have become social media stars in the past few years, and their cute photos have racked up thousands of likes. Darcy the hedgehog, named after the former Smashing Pumpkins bassist D’arcy Wretzky, has more than 294,000 followers.

The humanisation of celebrity hedgehogs perhaps explains why people feel more compelled to kiss them, but having one as a pet remains illegal in many US states including Georgia, California and Hawaii, as well as Washington DC and New York City. These bans are mostly in place because of fears around disease.

 

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/jan/28/hedgehog-pets-cdc-health-salmonella