leaves West Africa as Ebola outbreak expands
The US Peace Corps announced on Wednesday that it was removing its 340
volunteers from West Africa due to recent Ebola outbreak, while the federal
government is being urged to fast-track a new a drug that could possibly
stave off a global pandemic.
According to Reuters, 130 volunteers will leave Sierra Leone, while another
108 and 102 will depart Liberia and Guinea, respectively. The Peace Corps
blamed the virusâ€™ continued spread for the decision.
"The Peace Corps announced that it is temporarily removing its volunteers
from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea due to the increasing spread of the
Ebola virus," the organization said in a statement to the news service.
Meanwhile, the US State Department confirmed one American citizen has died
from the virus â€“ which triggers diarrhea and vomiting before causing
internal and external bleeding. Two other aid workers have been infected and
are in serious condition.
As RT reported on Tuesday, Sierra Leoneâ€™s only specialist on Ebola has also
died, not even one week after being diagnosed with the virus. The current
fatality rate stands at 60 percent, which is lower than the 90 percent rate
typically associated with the disease.
As the highly contagious virus continues to raise concern across the world,
activists have started a petition on Change.org pushing the US Food and Drug
Administration to speed up the authorization of new medication that could
potentially stop the virus in its tracks. Thereâ€™s currently no cure for
Ebola, but several drugs and vaccines are currently being tested.
â€śOne of the most promising is TKM-Ebola manufactured by Tekmira
Pharmaceuticals,â€ť the petition states. â€śThis drug has been shown to be
highly effective in killing the virus in primates and Phase 1 clinical
trials to assess its safety in humans were started earlier this year.â€ť
The petition points to the fact that thereâ€™s been one confirmed case of the
disease being transferred via air travel â€“ from Liberia to Nigeria â€“ and
suggests the impending shadow of a pandemic makes fast-tracking the drugâ€™s
â€śIn view of this itâ€™s imperative that the development of these drugs be
fast-tracked by the FDA and the first step should be releasing the hold on
TKM-Ebola. There is a precedent for fast tracking anti-Ebola drugs in
emergency cases as happened last year when a researcher was exposed to the
virus and received an experimental vaccine.â€ť
Visit RT for the report.
say theyâ€™re ready for Ebola cases
In response to the West African outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus, some
Boston hospitals are instructing clinical staff to ask patients as soon as
they arrive about their travel histories, and reminding doctors and nurses
of the symptoms. But hospital officials say they would be ready to quickly
identify the illness and prevent its spread if an infected patient showed
up, using protocols and equipment already in place.
The question of whether a traveler could bring the illness to the United
States took on new urgency after a Liberian infected with Ebola flew to
Nigeria and died there Friday.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in an alert sent to
healthcare facilities Monday, said that Ebola â€śposes little risk to the US
general population at this timeâ€ť but urged health workers to be alert for
signs and symptoms in people who recently traveled to Africa.
Boston physicians interviewed Tuesday said they considered it unlikely that
a person with Ebola would arrive here â€” but still within the realm of
â€śI think we would be naive to think itâ€™s not possible,â€ť said Dr. Nahid
Bhadelia, associate hospital epidemiologist at Boston Medical Center.
â€śItâ€™s such a small world now,â€ť said Dr. Deborah Yokoe, medical director of
infection control and hospital epidemiologist at Brigham and Womenâ€™s
Hospital. â€śWe want to be prepared even though the likelihood is small.â€ť
All hospitals have protocols in place for dealing with dangerous and unusual
infectious diseases. Typically, a patient with suspected Ebola would be put
in an isolation room and staff would wear gowns, gloves, goggles, and masks.
Dr. Shira Doron, associate epidemiologist at Tufts Medical Center, said that
normally a patientâ€™s travel history might not come up until the person has
already interacted with doctors and other staff. â€śGiven the increase in the
number of cases of Ebola and the recent importation to Nigeria, we are
taking it even more seriously right now,â€ť she said. â€śWeâ€™re developing a plan
to more aggressively screen patients who present to our hospital, our
emergency room and our clinics, for travel history.â€ť
Massachusetts General Hospital is directing emergency room doctors to ask
about travel history, a spokesman said; other hospitals said it was already
Ebola is a frightening illness because it dispatches its victims so quickly
and violently. Within two to 21 days of exposure to the virus, an infected
person rapidly comes down with symptoms that include fever, headache,
weakness, vomiting, and diarrhea. Some will bleed inside and outside the
body. Blood pressure plummets, and within a few days the organs fail. There
is no treatment to attack the virus, but hospital care can sometimes keep a
person alive until the infection clears.
Visit the Boston Globe for the article.
bacteria warning in Florida
Sarasota, FL - Two cases this month of a serious marine bacterial infection
â€” one of them fatal â€” prompted local health officials this week to issue a
warning against eating raw oysters and exposing open flesh wounds to coastal
and inland waters.
This urgent advisory applies pointedly to residents and visitors with
chronic diseases that make them more vulnerable to the dangerous infection.
Highest on the list is liver disease â€” including Hepatitis C and cirrhosis â€”
but other conditions are hemochromatosis (iron overload), diabetes, cancer,
stomach disorders or any illness or treatment that weakens the immune
Of the 11 cases reported statewide in 2014, both individuals in Sarasota
County were middle-aged and had medically compromising conditions, according
to the local Florida Department of Health. Both are believed to have
contracted the infection when bacteria entered an open wound. There were 41
Florida cases in 2013.
The Vibrio vulnificus bacteria â€” increasingly but not quite
accurately referred to as â€śflesh-eatingâ€ť â€” occur naturally in coastal
waters, perhaps more abundantly in the summer months. Symptoms include
stomach illness, fever or shock after eating raw seafood, especially
oysters, or a wound infection after exposure to seawater or brackish water.
Michael Drennon, epidemiologist for Sarasota County, said that this year
does not appear to be any worse or better than any other, in terms of
presence of the bacteria. â€śFloridians and visitors without flesh wounds or
underlying medical conditions should not be alarmed, he added.
Jay Grimes, a professor at the University of Southern Mississippi's Gulf
Coast Research Laboratory who has studied Vibrio bacteria since 1980,
agrees. Swallowing water while swimming is not a danger, Drennon and Grimes
said. The gastrointestinal form of the infection can only be contracted by
eating raw or undercooked fish.
V. vulnificus, a relative of the
bacteria that cause cholera, requires salt to survive. Most U.S. cases occur
in the Gulf Coast states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention. Severe infections have a 50 percent chance of becoming fatal.
Although anyone can be exposed to the bacteria through an open wound,
exposure through a puncture wound is more apt to lead to an infection.
Swelling, pain or redness at the site can signal the need for immediate
Drennon said the Southwest Florida healthcare community is aware of the
Vibrio threat and â€świll test appropriatelyâ€ť for it. Antibiotic
treatment, if administered early, greatly increases the chances of survival.
Those who recover from the infection should not expect any long-term
While the department tests Gulf waters in beach areas for enteric bacteria â€”
from human or animal waste â€” there is no testing for V. vulnificus.
Even legally harvested oysters can be contaminated, because the bacterium is
naturally present in marine environments. The appearance, taste, or odor of
oysters are no indication that they are safe to eat, according to the CDC.
More recent media reports about V. vulnificus are referring to them
as â€śflesh-eating bacteria,â€ť a term originally applied to streptococcus and
staph infections â€” often acquired in hospitals â€” also known as Necrotizing
Fasciitis. Vulnificus is the only form of 12 Vibrio bacteria
that can cause flesh-eating, Grimes said. They co-evolved with crabs and
fish, and he has seen cases of fatalities in red snapper grown in fish farms
at his university.
Visit the Sarasota Herald Tribune for the story.
symptoms of pregnancy linked to healthier babies, study finds
A new study found that women with symptoms of nausea and vomiting during
pregnancy had fewer miscarriages and gave birth to bigger, healthier babies
than women without symptoms. Morning sickness also was associated with fewer
birth defects and better long-term development for the child, according to
the study, a meta-analysis published in the August issue of Reproductive
As many as 85% of pregnant women develop morning sickness, with symptoms
ranging from mild to severe, the researchers said. Rapid increases in human
gonadotropin, a hormone released by the placenta, are believed to help
trigger the symptoms. At the same time, relatively high levels of the
hormone, and possibly other hormones not yet identified, may contribute to a
more favorable prenatal environment, the researchers said.
Smaller studies had previously indicated possible benefits to morning
sickness. The latest analysis, which was conducted at the Hospital for Sick
Children in Toronto, pooled data from 10 separate studies that had been
conducted in five countries between 1992 and 2012.
The studies involved an estimated 850,000 pregnant women. They examined
associations between nausea and vomiting and miscarriage rates, prematurity,
birth weight, congenital abnormalities such as cardiac defects and cleft
palate, and long-term child development.
The risk of miscarriage was more than three times as high in women without
symptoms of nausea and vomiting as in those with symptoms. Women 35 years
old or older, who generally have a relatively high risk for miscarriage,
appeared to benefit the most from the "protective effect" associated with
morning-sickness symptoms, the study said.
Nausea and vomiting during pregnancy were associated with a reduced risk for
low birth weight and short body length. Women with morning-sickness symptoms
also had fewer preterm births: 6.4% compared with 9.5% for those without
symptoms, one of the underlying studies found.
Visit the Wall Street Journal for the study.
payers and physicians on value-based arrangements, according to a new study
FTI Consulting, Inc., a global business advisory firm dedicated to helping
organizations protect and enhance their enterprise value, announced the
results of a new study of healthcare payers and providers that suggests a
stumbling-block in the transition to the new and much-heralded value-based
relationships between them.
According to the study, 41 percent of primary care physicians, who are not
currently in a value-based relationship, say their biggest obstacle before
agreeing to enter into one is their distrust of payers. The study also found
that only 16 percent of all physicians surveyed were willing to accept the
financial risk â€“ a key element of many value-based relationships sought by
Since the 2010 Affordable Care Act, healthcare payers and providers, both in
concert and independently, have been preparing for value-based reimbursement
programs in which meeting quality-of-care and cost-reduction targets would
result in benefits for both groups and the nation as a whole. This has
manifested itself in the growth of Accountable Care Organizations, bundled
arrangements and new relationships that have blurred the lines between
insurers and providers.
In bundled payments and other value-based arrangements, many experts believe
it is essential that payers and providers eventually share risks to control
costs and improve quality. However, the study found that the gap between
them continues to widen. Payers believe that a mere five percent of
providers are willing to accept the downside risks necessary for value-based
arrangements to work.
Payers want to see providers invest in Healthcare IT, especially in software
and systems supporting clinical integration and Population Health
Management. Eighty percent of payers say they would be likely to contract
with a clinically-integrated hospital and provider system. However, only 50
percent of healthcare providers report that their organizations have
implemented new technology or software to support PHM and value-based
reimbursement, 32 percent have not, and 18 percent either â€śdonâ€™t knowâ€ť or
Most payers and providers are taking steps to prepare for the value-based
arrangements incentivized by the ACA. Eighty percent of payers in the survey
say these types of contracts are â€śvery importantâ€ť to their strategic
objectives, and 92 percent of providers say they are either â€śsomewhatâ€ť or
â€śvery importantâ€ť to them. However, the traditional fee-for-service contract
still predominates in the healthcare industry.
Fifty-five percent of payers say that many of their commercial contracts
remain fee-for-service, and only 10 percent report that they no longer have
any fee-for-service contracts. At the same time, 15 percent of polled
providers say they are â€śonly interestedâ€ť in the fee-for-service
reimbursement model, which the American Public Health Association has said
directly leads to â€śovertreatment and overbillingâ€ť.
The full survey findings from FTI Consulting will be released in the
September 2014 online edition of the FTI Journal. Visit
AMERICAS returns in 2015 with new partners and their co-located events
MEDICAL WORLD AMERICAS (MWA) is pleased to announce a pair of strategic
co-location partners for the upcoming 2015 conference and expo (April 27 -
29, 2015). Both events will run concurrently with MWA programming at the
George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston and will augment the event with
over 500 new, high-level industry attendees.
The American College of Healthcare Executives Southeast Texas Chapter (ACHE-SETC)
will hold its annual educational meeting at MWA and will integrate into the
overall conference programming by offering valuable CEUâ€™s to attendees.
Vendome Groupâ€™s Healthcare Design Academy also sees the value in
collaborating with MWA and offering business intersections between attendees
through this co-location.
ACHE is a national organization that is the professional society for
healthcare executives dedicated to improving healthcare delivery. It has a
national membership of over 40,000 healthcare professionals (CEOs, COOs,
CFOs, CIO, CNOs, MDs, department directors, student associates, etc.). The
Southeast Texas Chapter (ACHE-SETC) is one of the largest regional chapters
with an average annual membership of 1,300 covering 29 counties in the
southeast Texas region.
According to the officers of the ACHE-SETC and Foundation Board of
Directors, "a partnership with MWA will provide an educational opportunity
that will substantively enhance the image, presence, and value for our
membership in our region. In addition, our Chapter takes great pride in our
responsibility to provide educational sessions, in more venues, with the
broadest possible topical themes as appropriate - designed to reach the
greatest number of people to support and improve their work toward enhancing
their professional growth. It is our desire to move forward in partnership
with MWA and to collaborate with and augment the educational imperative of
For further information visit
dividends pile up for hospitals as patients pay
Even as Obamacare continues to be attacked by foes and challenged in court,
hospital chains and insurers are making more money, more patients using ERs
are paying for their care, and the country as a whole is enjoying slower
growth in its healthcare spending.
HCA Holdings Inc., the largest for-profit hospital chain, raised its
forecast and reported a 6.6 percent drop in uninsured patients at its 165
hospitals, a reduction that grows to 48 percent in four states that expanded
Medicaid, a top initiative of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care
Act. WellPoint Inc., which made the biggest commitment of any publicly
traded insurer to the Obamacare markets, raised its guidance today after
handily beating analyst estimates for the quarter on rising membership
linked to the overhaul.
Taxpayers too may be benefiting from the law approved in 2010. Medicare
spending rose by just $1 per beneficiary in 2013, the fourth year in a row
that saw a slowdown, the government reported.
LifePoint Hospitals Inc., another for-profit chain, also raises its forecast
while the largest insurer, UnitedHealth Group Inc. said earlier this month
it added 635,000 people to its Medicaid plans and was expanding into two
dozen Obamacare exchanges in 2015, from five this year.
Costs are a top concern, as insurers and state regulators decide premiums
for 2015. If rates rise too much in the future, people who donâ€™t receive
U.S. subsidies to help with the bill may drop coverage, undercutting the
actâ€™s intent to have everyone insured.
The proportion of the U.S. population without insurance has fallen 3.7
percentage points to 13.4 percent since the end of the 2013, according to
Gallup Inc., the lowest rate since the firm began surveys of coverage in
The law contributed as much as $13 million to LifePointâ€™s earnings in the
second quarter, about 40 percent more than the company had expected, he
said. People paying bills themselves, a proxy for the uninsured, represented
just 4.8 percent of admissions, down from 7.1 percent a year earlier. About
40 percent of customers with plans from the lawâ€™s insurance exchanges
UnitedHealth, the largest for-profit insurer, said on July 17 it would offer
plans in as many as two dozen exchanges in 2015, from five this year. The
company also added 635,000 people to its Medicaid plans, growth that Gail
Boudreaux, the CEO of United Healthcare, the companyâ€™s insurance division,
called â€śtremendousâ€ť in a conference call with analysts.
Visit Bloomberg for the story.
revisited: A new autoimmune disease?
In the small town of Libby in northwestern Montana, prospectors in 1916
discovered an unusual mineral known as vermiculite that appeared to be
resistant to fire after initial exposure to high heat. The early owners of
the mine called their product Zonolite, and for the next half century they
dug it out of the Libby mountain and shipped it across the continent for use
as insulation and in various commercial products.
Unfortunately, the mine and its product also contained asbestos, and by the
1980s, hundreds of the miners who worked at Zonolite mountain -- and their
family members -- had sickened and died of asbestos-related diseases at
rates 40 times higher than the U.S. as a whole.
Little was known outside of Libby about the cluster of diseases until 1999,
when Seattle Post-Intelligencer reporter Andrew Schneider published a
series of stories called "Uncivil Action: A Town Left to Die," which began
by saying "First, it killed some miners. Then it killed wives and children,
slipping into their homes on the dusty clothing of hard-working men. Now the
mine is closed, but in Libby, the killing goes on."
The mine closed in 1990, and W.R. Grace Company, the owner, has since faced
hundreds of thousands of lawsuits for asbestos-related illness, most often
cancer and asbestosis. (The company was acquitted in 2009 of knowingly
harming the people of Libby and of covering up its knowledge of the health
hazards from the mine.)
But now, a group of researchers from Idaho State University and the Center
for Environmental Health Sciences at the University of Montana are
suggesting that a further health concern should be added to the list of woes
faced by the Libby residents: autoimmune disease, including an as-yet
undescribed autoimmune condition affecting the lungs.
It's long been known that exposure to another silicate dust, crystalline
silica, is associated with the development of autoimmunity, but this had not
been recognized for asbestos. The term asbestos refers to a group of mineral
fibers that are classified as "serpentine" or "amphibole," and most studies
of occupational exposure have focused on the serpentine fiber chrysotile. In
contrast, the Libby asbestos contained a variety of amphibole fibers,
including winchite, richterite, and tremolite.
It was used as insulation in millions of homes, and among the many other
construction projects that utilized Zonolite for insulation was the World
Trade Center. When the towers fell on 9/11, the airborne debris that covered
lower Manhattan and blew across the region contained an unknown quantity of
fibers that originated on that mountainside in Montana.
And Libby isn't the only source of potential amphibole contamination.
Recently, another group of mineral experts reported high levels in samples
of soil and airborne dust obtained in the vicinity of Las Vegas.
Visit MedPage Today for the story.