"About Town" Interview Part 1 - WATCH
Introduction to the Westport Weston Health District
Town" Interview Part 2 - WATCH
All about H1N1!
"About Town" Interview Part 3 - WATCH
WWHD Environmental Health Services
to our section on swine flu here
D I S E A S E
S : in some cases, cause and
Health District here.
CT TO THE FORE IN GENETIC TESTING?
Meningitis outbreak at Princeton
November 17, 2013
Princeton University is trying to contain an outbreak of bacterial
meningitis that has sickened several students, school and health
officials said Saturday.
The New Jersey Department of Health said it has confirmed seven cases
of meningococcal disease at Princeton, with all but one of the cases
involving students. The meningitis has been identified as “Type
B,” which is not covered by the standard vaccine commonly administered
to students in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention is making an experimental vaccine available to
Princeton, and university officials said they are in the process of
deciding whether to administer it to students.
“This is a question we have been considering very carefully. We will be
discussing it with our trustees this weekend, and when we have
something to announce we will make an announcement,” university
spokesman Martin Mbugua told AFP on Saturday.
Princeton has an enrollment of some 8,000 students. Meningitis
can progress rapidly within hours of the onset of symptoms, and if
untreated can lead to shock or death.
Large Dairy Supplier Warns of Botulism
By GERRY MULLANY, NYTIMES
August 3, 2013
HONG KONG — One of the world’s leading suppliers of dairy products said
Saturday that a type of bacteria that could cause botulism had been
found in tests of ingredients the company sells for use in infant
formula and sports drinks, leading New Zealand officials to urge a
Fonterra is based in New Zealand and is the world’s fourth-largest
dairy company. It sells its milk products to other companies that make
infant formula and said those companies would be responsible for any
recalls. New Zealand’s Ministry of Primary Indistries said that in
addition to New Zealand, six countries were affected: Australia, China,
Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Thailand and Vietnam.
Botulism is a rare but serious illness caused by Clostridium botulinum
bacteria. Even tiny amounts of this toxin can lead to severe poisoning
“We are acting quickly,” the company’s chief executive, Theo Spierings,
said in a statement. “Our focus is to get information out about
potentially affected product as fast as possible so that it can be
taken off supermarket shelves and, where it has already been purchased,
can be returned.”
Infant formula from New Zealand is in huge demand in China, largely
because of concerns about the quality of domestic formula there,
particularly since milk formula tainted with melamine led to the deaths
of several babies and sickened thousands more in 2008. Fonterra owned
part of one of the companies involved in that scandal, but that
company, Sanlu, was since shut down.
After Fonterra raised alarms about the bacteria found in its milk
products, the Chinese General Administration of Quality Supervision,
Inspection and Quarantine, which polices food safety, ordered importers
in China to recall any products that may carry the bacteria, the
administration said on its Web site. China is a major buyer of New
Zealand food produce, especially infant formula and other dairy
products. The Administration said it “promptly contacted the New
Zealand Embassy to China and demanded that New Zealand take immediate
measures to prevent problem products harming the health of Chinese
Earlier this year, Fonterra began preparing to sell its own infant
formula in China, including building an ultrahigh-temperature milk
manufacturing plant there, aiming to sell a quarter-billion gallons of
milk in the country by 2018, company officials told Chinese state media
At a news conference Saturday, Fonterra officials said Mr. Spierings,
the chief executive, had been dispatched to China to deal with the
Fonterra officials said the problem involved three batches of a whey
protein concentrate produced at a single New Zealand manufacturing site
in May 2012.
Officials first noticed a quality-control problem in March. The company
then conducted more intensive tests, and on Wednesday workers found
signs of the presence of Clostridium botulinum in a sample.
Investigators have tied the problem to unsterilized pipes at a factory,
and officials said those pipes have since been cleaned.
While Fonterra did not name the companies that it had alerted to the
problem, New Zealand’s Ministry for Primary Industries identified one
product sold within the country: Nutricia Karicare follow-on formula
products for children ages 6 months and older.
The ministry “has been advised that in the case of the Nutricia
Karicare, five batches of follow-on formula were manufactured using the
contaminated whey protein,” said Scott Gallacher, the ministry’s acting
director, adding that parents using the produce should instead “use
infant formula for children aged 0-6 months, ready-made formulas or
Chris Buckley contributed reporting.
UNH prof closes in on Lyme
New Haven Register
By Susan Misur, Register Staff, firstname.lastname@example.org / Twitter:
Thursday, October 25, 2012
WEST HAVEN — A University of New Haven professor is on her way to
determining why Lyme disease may be resistant to treatment, citing her
diagnosis with the ailment eight years ago as motivation.
Research by Eva Sapi, an associate professor of biology and
environmental science at the school, was published Wednesday and says
bacteria causing Lyme disease can form a protective layer called
biofilm over itself. That special coating may prevent antibiotics from
“Why is this important? For other bacteria, biofilms are shown to be
very resistant to antibiotics, temperature, anything you can throw at
it, it’s protected from it. The bacteria protects itself from a harsh
environment,” said Sapi, who is originally from Hungary and also
studied at Yale.
Online publication PLOS-ONE, a peer-reviewed, international science
journal that stands for the Public Library of Science ONE, printed the
study, of which Sapi is the principal author.
Sapi learned she had Lyme disease, a tick-borne illness, about eight
years ago after she began feeling ill and had started a job at UNH.
Doctors performed tests for several months before they determined Lyme
disease caused her symptoms.
“I became very ill to point that I couldn’t even walk … I was in the
dark, and I didn’t know what to do, and in the meantime, I didn’t feel
good,” Sapi said. “The whole experience really prompted me to look into
Lyme disease, which was first found in Connecticut in 1975, costs the
country around $1 billion annually, when considering how many doctors
and tests it can take to be diagnosed, legal fees connected to
incorrect diagnoses, and more, according to Sapi.
She wanted to find out why treatments often aren’t effective and what
other diseases or parasites people and animals could contract from
ticks. Over the years, while working with a team of UNH graduate
students and Michael Rossi, co-chair of the UNH Department of Biology,
Sapi found that Borrelia
burgdorferi, the causative agent of Lyme disease, is more resistant
to treatment when it’s in certain forms and covered in a protective
biofilm. Once treatment ends, the bacteria remains and can become more
The next step is proving biofilm is in ticks and tissues of infected
humans or animals and if it helps protect the bacteria against
treatment, such as antibiotics, Sapi said.
Rossi said he got involved about three years ago because he specialized
in a testing technique Sapi wanted to use in her work and will continue
assisting in the research.
“It is a hypothesis that’s worth pursuing, and she’s doing an excellent
job,” Rossi said.
Sapi secured grants from multiple organizations that address Lyme
disease, including Stamford’s Lyme Research Alliance. According to
Executive Director Peter Wild, the Lyme Research Alliance will provide
more funding for Sapi’s studies.
“We wanted to know more about the organisms that outlast the antibiotic
onslaught, and Eva was proposing to do that, and I’m delighted to say
she’s found at least one mechanism by which Borrelia survives … and
that is biofilm,” Wild said. “Once you understand what the mechanism
is, then you’re looking for ways to disrupt that mechanism. ...
Researchers can then develop some targets for therapies.”
Call Susan Misur at 203-789-5742.
In Portland, fluoride debate is
By STEVEN DUBOIS | Associated Press
11 Sept. 2012
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — It's a dental story told so often it borders on
When someone moves to Portland from another state — and that's most
people you meet in this city of transplants — their new dentist takes
one look at their excellent teeth and concludes they must have been
raised elsewhere, a place that puts fluoride in its drinking water.
The tale is also told from the perspective of native Portlanders.
"I have had several dentists comment on my and my children's teeth,
saying: 'Oh, I can see you grew up in Portland,'" Mary Lou Hennrich
said. And that's no compliment, she added.
Portland is the largest city in the U.S. that has yet to approve
fluoridation to combat tooth decay, a distinction that could change at
Wednesday's city council meeting. Mayor Sam Adams and two city
commissioners have announced their support, ensuring a majority on the
Fluoridation has been an emotional topic in communities across the
country for more than 50 years, and continues to be in cities ranging
from conservative Wichita, Kan., to a place whose unofficial motto is
"Keep Portland Weird."
Portland is considered one of the nation's most liberal, and the issue
presents a clash between two progressive positions: the desire to
improve the dental health of low-income children and the impulse to
avoid putting anything unnecessary in the air, food or water.
"The fact that Portland stands out as the largest U.S. city without
fluoridation is not the kind of weird we should be," the mayor said.
"This is causing pain to kids."
Many in Portland and the state have long opposed public fluoridation,
saying it's unsafe and violates an individual's right to consent to
medication. While 73 percent of the U.S. population drinks water
treated with fluoride, the rate is less than 25 percent in
Oregon. Portland voters twice rejected fluoride before approving
it in 1978. They overturned their decision before it was ever added to
The issue re-emerged last month, when a coalition of health and other
organizations that had been lobbying the council for more than a year
gained the public support of Commissioner Randy Leonard.
Opponents criticized the council for rushing into action without a
public vote, and plan to collect signatures to force a referendum on it
in May 2014. More than 225 people signed up to testify at a public
hearing last week that ran 6 ½ hours. Sixty-one percent opposed
"Barnyard animals are force medicated, not human beings," said Mike
Smith, a member of the Occupy Portland movement.
Portland's drinking water already contains naturally occurring
fluoride, though not at levels considered to be effective at fighting
cavities. A 2007 report from the state Department of Human
Services said 35 percent of Oregon first-through-third graders had
untreated dental decay, a higher percentage than in neighboring states
with more fluoridation, such as Washington (19 percent) and Idaho (27
percent). Dentists describe a health care crisis, with their offices
and clinics inundated with cavity-ravaged youngsters.
"A lot of these kids will have such severe problems that they need to
be hospitalized in order to have their dental care done," said Lisa
Bozzetti, dental director at the Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Clinic.
Fluoride opponents, however, say the dental benefits of the mineral are
small (better diets would have greater impact) and don't outweigh the
The Internet is rife with warnings about fluoridation, and residents
with thyroid issues, kidney disease and multiple chemical sensitivity
worry it will make their lives worse. Others say it reduces IQ and can
cause autism, memory loss, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and
other problems. Rick North, the former executive vice president
of the American Cancer Society in Oregon, said he figured fluoride was
OK until he started researching the issue several years ago and spotted
many red flags. Supporters, he said, believe it is a "silver bullet" to
fight cavities and won't hurt anyone else.
"But you can't put a drug into the water supply and expect that it's
not going to have side effects," he said.
Commissioner Nick Fish, who co-sponsored the plan, said more than 200
million Americans drink water with added fluoride, and it doesn't
appear to have caused great harm. Most mainstream health organizations,
such as the American Medical Association and American Dental
Association, endorse it as safe.
"Over the last 50 years, as we have fluoridated more water, the overall
IQ of Americans has gone up," he said. "I don't suggest a
cause-and-effect, but I also think it shows the reverse isn't true."
The ordinance to be voted on Wednesday calls for the water to be
fluoridated by March 2014 at a projected upfront cost of $5
million. Mayor Adams, who is not seeking re-election, said
he planned to take time before the vote to research how people with the
health conditions described at the public hearing live in cities that
fluoridate. But he has yet to hear anything persuasive enough to change
his opinion that it is a safe and effective way to help children born
into families that can't afford dentists or don't stress dental health.
"Science is about the preponderance of evidence," he said. "There are
very few proofs in this world."
FROM WIKIPEDIA (r)
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are described in the last book of
the New Testament of the Bible, called the Book of Revelations. Opening
the seven seals, summoned forth are four beings that ride out on white,
red, black, and pale horses. The four riders in the Durer above right
symbolize Pertilence, War, Famine and Death, respectively.
Amid Japan crisis, hunt for
By LAURAN NEERGAARD, AP Medical Writer
Tue Mar 29, 3:09 am ET
WASHINGTON – Japan's nuclear emergency highlights a big medical gap:
Few treatments exist to help people exposed to large amounts of
But some possibilities are in the pipeline — development of drugs to
treat radiation poisoning, and the first rapid tests to tell who in a
panicked crowd would really need them.
The U.S. calls these potential products "countermeasures," and they're
part of the nation's preparations against a terrorist attack, such as a
dirty bomb. But if they work, they could be useful in any kind of
"Thinking of terrorist events is what drives us. Mother Nature can be
much of a terror, too," says Dr. Robin Robinson, who heads the federal
Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, or BARDA, that
funds late-stage research of products the government deems most likely
to pan out.
BARDA has invested $164 million for research into anti-radiation
treatment candidates since 2008, and $44 million for radiation testing
— in hopes of adding such products to the nation's emergency medical
stockpile soon. That's in addition to research dollars from the
National Institutes of Health and the Defense Department.
Japan's crisis — where last week two nuclear plant workers were
hospitalized for radiation burns — is sure to renew attention to a
field that's long been overshadowed by the hunt for protections against
bioterrorism, not radiological emergencies. Among the radiation
projects considered farthest along in development:
_Rapid tests that could spot dangerous radiation doses with mere
finger-pricks of blood. Already, a prototype machine sits at New York's
Columbia University that could check thousands of people.
_Some drugs now used to help cancer patients boost their
infection-fighting blood cells, sold under such names as Neupogen. They
may do the same thing for radiation victims.
_An injection that saved monkeys from highly lethal beams. It seems to
protect the body's two most radiation-sensitive spots, the bone marrow
and lining of the gut.
Today, there are only a few proven therapies for radiation injuries.
Good supportive care — lots of fluids, infusions of blood-clotting
platelets, and infection-fighting antibiotics — is key for acute
radiation syndrome, an overall poisoning that can begin causing
symptoms days to weeks after a super-high exposure. To guard against
longer-term harm, doses of potassium iodide can protect against future
thyroid cancer by shielding the thyroid from one type of fallout,
radioactive iodine. A few other treatments can help the body eliminate
radioactive cesium and a few other isotopes.
Part of the challenge is radiation's variety of injuries — burns, bone
marrow and gastrointestinal damage, lung scarring, the later-in-life
cancer risk. Yet outside of an immediate blast zone where open wounds
and burns make injury clear, there's no fast way to tell who got a huge
Those Geiger counter-style monitors used on power-plant workers in
Japan? They detect contamination on clothing or skin that might not
enter the body, not what the body has absorbed, says medical physicist
David Brenner, director of Columbia's Center for Radiological Research.
Moreover, previous emergencies have shown that sheer stress can cause
nausea and diarrhea that mimic some early symptoms of radiation
sickness in people who weren't exposed, he adds.
"Before you can start to treat people, you need to know what radiation
doses they got," Brenner says. "If you take a guess and get it wrong,
you might do more harm than good."
So his team developed a way to detect early, DNA-based signs of
radiation damage that estimated dose — using a drop of blood like
diabetics use to test their blood sugar.
Brenner's team built a robotic machine named RABiT -- for "rapid
automated biodosimetry tool" — that can analyze those bloodspots
quickly. The eventual goal is to be able to test 30,000 blood samples
in a day. Brenner is working with Northrop Grumman to make the
machinery smaller, even portable.
Brenner says federal approval is still a few years away but that the
prototype could be used in an emergency if health officials shipped
blood samples to his lab.
What about treatments?
Cells in the bone marrow and GI tract are extremely vulnerable to
radiation. They overreact to what should be reparable damage and commit
cellular suicide, says Dr. Andrei Gudkov of the Roswell Park Cancer
Gudkov's team created a drug based on a protein from normal gut
bacteria, named flagellin, that blocks some of the cellular destruction
and also stimulates recovery of remaining cells. It dramatically
improved the survival of monkeys treated up to 48 hours after they were
zapped. And safety testing in 150 healthy people so far suggests the
main side effect is a flulike reaction, Gudkov says. Cleveland BioLabs
Inc. is doing further work needed for Food and Drug Administration
BARDA's Robinson says that closest to the emergency stockpile may be
those cancer drugs that spur growth of infection-fighting blood cells.
Later this year, his agency will begin a push for research to prove
they could work similarly in a radiation emergency.
"There isn't going to be a simple solution to any of this," cautions
Dr. Nelson Chao of Duke University's countermeasures program, who also
co-chairs the Radiation Injury Treatment Network. "There will be a lot
of little steps to address the plethora of toxicities that come from
Radiation From Stricken
Plant Reaches Mass., Other States
No Iodine-131 Detected In Connecticut
The Hartford Courant
By DAVID OWENS, email@example.com
8:07 PM EDT, March 28, 2011
Radiation believed to be from the Fukushima nuclear power plant,
crippled March 11 when an earthquake and tsunami struck northern Japan,
has reached the United States and been detected near Boston, but so far
no increased levels of radiation have been detected in Connecticut.
Iodine-131, a byproduct of nuclear energy production, was detected in a
sample collected March 22 from a rainwater monitoring station in
Boston, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said Monday that rainwater was being tested in
Connecticut and that radiation levels remained in the range of what is
"Our routine testing shows no concern for public health," Malloy said
in a statement released by his office. "Even in other states where
trace amounts of radiation have been detected, it's not at levels high
enough to impact health and welfare. We will continue to be aware and
alert while monitoring the situation."
The radioactive material that fell in Massachusetts and that was
detected elsewhere in the country was carried by clouds, and that is
going to continue until the crisis in Japan is resolved.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said that the levels being
detected in the U.S. "are to be expected in the coming days and are
still far below levels of public health concern."
The EPA has taken steps to increase nationwide monitoring of
precipitation, drinking water, air and milk.
After the increased level of I-131 was detected in Boston last week,
Massachusetts officials checked the Quabbin and Wachusett reservoirs
and no I-131 was detected. Officials said they'd expect to find much
lower concentrations, if any, in drinking water sources because
rainwater would be greatly diluted.
At least 15 states have reported detecting radioactive isotopes in air
or water or both, but no states have recommended that residents begin
taking potassium iodide, a salt that protects the thyroid from
The EPA is using its nationwide monitoring system called RadNet to
monitor radiation from the Japanese plant. It was a RadNet monitor in
Boston that detected the I-131.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has said that it does not expect
harmful levels of radiation to reach the U.S.
Radiation at the Fukushima plant poses a threat to workers, but
Japanese officials and international experts have said that radiation
levels away from the plant are not dangerous to people.
Officials: Big spike at Japan nuke plant an error
By YURI KAGEYAMA and MARI YAMAGUCHI, Associated Press
27 March 2011
TOKYO – Emergency workers struggling to pump contaminated water from
Japan's stricken nuclear complex fled from one of the troubled reactors
Sunday after reporting a huge increase in radioactivity — a spike that
officials later apologetically said was inaccurate.
The apology came after employees fled the complex's Unit 2 reactor when
a reading showed radiation levels had reached 10 million times higher
than normal in the reactor's cooling system. Officials said they were
so high that the worker taking the measurements had withdrawn before
taking a second reading.
On Sunday night, though, plant operators said that while the water was
contaminated with radiation, the extremely high reading was a mistake.
"The number is not credible," said Tokyo Electric Power Co. spokesman
Takashi Kurita. "We are very sorry."
He said officials were taking another sample to get accurate levels,
but did not know when the results would be announced.
The situation came as officials acknowledged there was radioactive
water in all four of the Fukushima Dai-ichi complex's most troubled
reactors, and as airborne radiation in Unit 2 measured 1,000
millisieverts per hour — four times the limit deemed safe by the
government, Kurita said.
Officials say they still don't know where the radioactive water is
coming from, though government spokesman Yukio Edano has said some is
"almost certainly" seeping from a cracked reactor core in one of the
While the discovery of the high radiation levels — and the evacuation
of workers from one reactor unit — again delayed efforts to bring the
deeply troubled complex under control, Edano insisted the situation had
"We have somewhat prevented the situation from turning worse," he told
reporters Sunday evening. "But the prospects are not improving in a
straight line and we've expected twists and turns. The contaminated
water is one of them and we'll continue to repair the damage."
The discovery over the last three days of radioactive water has been a
major setback in the mission to get the plant's crucial cooling systems
operating more than two weeks after a massive earthquake and tsunami.
The magnitude-9 quake off Japan's northeast coast on March 11 triggered
a tsunami that barreled onshore and disabled the Fukushima plant,
complicating an immense humanitarian disaster.
The death toll from the twin disasters stood at 10,668 Sunday, with
more than 16,574 people missing, police said. Hundreds of thousands of
people are homeless.
Workers have been scrambling to remove the radioactive water from the
four units and find a safe place to store it, TEPCO officials said.
On Sunday night, Minoru Ogoda of Japan's nuclear safety agency said
each unit could have hundreds of tons of radioactive water.
The protracted nuclear crisis has spurred concerns about the safety of
food and water in Japan, which is a prime source of seafood for some
countries. Radiation has been found in food, seawater and even tap
water supplies in Tokyo.
Just outside the coastal Fukushima nuclear plant, radioactivity in
seawater tested about 1,250 times higher than normal last week — but
that number had climbed to 1,850 times normal by the weekend.
Hidehiko Nishiyama, a nuclear safety official, said the increase was a
concern, but also said the area is not a source of seafood and that the
contamination posed no immediate threat to human health.
Experts with the International Atomic Energy Agency said the ocean
would quickly dilute the worst contamination.
Up to 600 people are working inside the plant in shifts. Nuclear safety
officials say workers' time inside the crippled units is closely
monitored to minimize their exposure to radioactivity, but two workers
were hospitalized Thursday when they suffered burns after stepping into
contaminated water. They are to be released from the hospital Monday.
Edano has urged TEPCO to be more transparent about the potential
dangers after the safety agency revealed the plant operator was aware
of high radiation levels in the air in Unit 3 several days before the
two workers suffered burns there.
A top TEPCO official acknowledged Sunday it could take a long time to
completely clean up the complex.
"We cannot say at this time how many months or years it will take,"
TEPCO Vice President Sakae Muto said, insisting the main goal now is to
cool the reactors.
A poll, meanwhile, showed that support for Japan's prime minister has
risen as the administration tackles the disasters.
The public opinion poll conducted over the weekend by Kyodo News agency
found that approval of Prime Minister Naoto Kan and his Cabinet rose to
28.3 percent after sinking below 20 percent in February, before the
earthquake and tsunami.
Last month's low approval led to speculation that Kan's days were
numbered. While the latest figure is still low, it suggests he is
making some gains with voters.
About 58 percent of respondents in the nationwide telephone survey of
1,011 people said they approved of the government's handling of the
March 11 earthquake and tsunami, but a similar number criticized its
handling of the nuclear crisis.
workers in hospital after radiation exposure
24 March 2011 Last updated at 05:20 ET
Two workers at Japan's damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant
have been taken to hospital after being exposed to high levels of
radiation. The pair had been attempting to restore the cooling
system in reactor 3, which was damaged by the quake on 11 March.
Several workers have now been hurt on the site, an indication of the
scale of the task facing them.
Radiation levels in Tokyo's water supply have now fallen, but remain
high in other areas of northern Japan. The official death toll
from the magnitude 9.0 quake and subsequent tsunami has now risen to
9,523. Another 16,094 people are listed as missing. Japan's
nuclear safety agency said three workers had been injured when their
feet came into contact with radiation-contaminated water while laying
cables in the turbine area of reactor 3.
They were exposed to radiation levels of 170-180 millisieverts, he
said, which is lower than the maximum level permitted for workers on
the site of 250 millisieverts. Two of the workers were taken to
"Although they wore protective clothing, the contaminated water seeped
in and their legs were exposed to radiation," said a spokesman.
"Direct exposure to radiation usually leads to inflammation and so
that's why they were sent to the hospital to be treated."
Most people are exposed to 2 millisieverts over the average year, while
100 millisieverts is considered the lowest level at which any increase
in cancer is clearly evident. The condition of the injured
workers was not immediately known. Japan's chief cabinet
secretary Yukio Edano said the situation was "very
The power plant's cooling systems failed after the quake and tsunami,
leading to the reactors overheating. Power has now been restored
to the site, but work to restart the coolers in reactor 3 was briefly
suspended on Wednesday after a plume of black smoke was seen coming
from it. Tokyo Electric Power Co, which operates the plant, later
allowed workers to re-enter after establishing there was no fire and
that radiation level in the area had not risen.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said there had been some
"positive developments" at the site but that the situation was still
"of serious concern".
The plant is 250km (155 miles) north-east of the capital, Tokyo. The
government has declared a 20km exclusion zone and evacuated tens of
thousands of people. Those living up to 30km away have been told to
stay indoors to minimise exposure. People in Fukushima prefecture
have been told not to eat 11 types of green leafy vegetables grown
locally because of contamination worries. Local producers have been
ordered not to send the goods to market.
Tokyo residents were warned on Wednesday not to give tap water to
babies less than a year old because levels of radioactive iodine -
which can cause thyroid cancer - are twice the recommended safe level
in some areas of the city. Officials stressed that children would
have to drink a lot of it before it harmed them and urged people not to
panic-buy. But supermarket shelves were reported to have been cleared
of bottled water by Thursday morning.
"Customers ask us for water. But there's nothing we can do," Masayoshi
Kasahara, a supermarket worker in Tokyo told Reuters.
"We are asking for more deliveries but we don't know when the next
shipment will come."
Radiation readings on Thursday showed levels in water in Tokyo had
fallen back below the danger level, but the municipal authorities are
distributing thousands of bottles of water to households with infants.
The authorities in the nearby city of Kawaguchi, Saitama prefecture,
also reported radiation levels above safety norms in its water supply
on Thursday. Concern is also growing among Japan's neighbours.
Australia has become the latest country to ban food imports from the
affected region. Police believe the final death toll from Japan's
twin disaster may be more than 18,000.
Most of the deaths - 5,700 - have been reported in the prefecture of
Miyagi. Three thousand bodies have been found in Iwate prefecture, and
776 in Fukushima.
At least 18,000 houses were destroyed and 130,000 damaged, and more
than 200,000 people are living in emergency shelters. The
Japanese government has said it will cost as much as 25 trillion yen
($309bn; £189bn) to rebuild the country after the disaster.
A field can be more than one thing; "turf" can have more than
one meaning, too! Link to history of artificial fields
project in Weston here.
Study Says Sports Fields Made Of Ground-Up Rubber Pose No Hazard
By JULIE STAGIS, firstname.lastname@example.org
9:28 PM EDT, July 30, 2010
HARTFORD — Outdoorsports fields made with ground-up rubber pose no
special environmental hazards to athletes, a study released Friday
So-called crumb rubber infill, mostly composed of recycled tires, has
been the subject of hot debate in recent years. Several studies in
Europe and a few in North America have shown that rubber "crumbs" used
in some artificial turf release toxins that might cause health problems
and be poisonous to plants.
But the findings of the new study, funded with $245,000 available to
the Department of Environmental Protection for special projects to
settle cases where environmental regulations have been violated, say
the levels of chemical emissions are not harmful.
The UConn Health Center, Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station,
the Department of Public Health and the DEP studied the health and
environmental impacts of crumb rubber.
In July 2009, researchers from the UConn Health Center studied the
chemical emissions at four outdoor turf fields and one indoor turf
field. The outdoor conditions were warm, sunny and low-wind, according
to the health department report.
At each field, three soccer players wore personal monitoring devices,
according to a press release from the DEP. The recorded results from
the monitoring devices were evaluated with stationary samples from the
artificial turf to distinguish chemical exposures.
Using that data, the health department concluded that the chemical
exposures were not elevated compared with what people are exposed to in
typical outdoor air, the release states. Emissions for indoor fields
were higher, however, and the health department said that while the
levels did not pose a health risk, indoor fields should be ventilated.
They also suggested that developers consider alternatives to crumb
rubber when planning indoor fields in the future.
Environment and Human Health Inc., a North Haven-based nonprofit
organization whose board comprises 10 doctors and public officials,
paid for the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering — a
private, nonprofit, public service institution — to conduct a study on
crumb rubber in 2007. The study tested outgassing and leaching from
synthetic turf rubber crumbs and positively identified four chemicals
that can cause skin and eye irritation, cancer and can corrode and
destroy mucous membranes.
Environment and Human Health also pushed for the state to appropriate
$250,000 for the DEP to study turf toxicity.
"We cannot comment on the validity of the study until we see the data,"
Nancy Alderman, president of Environment and Human Health, said in an
e-mail. "Nothing in this press release changes EHHI's concern for
children playing on ground-up rubber tires."
Concerns about zinc levels in water runoff from artificial turf fields
have also been raised in recent years. The DEP assessed eight samples
of storm water runoff. Three had elevated zinc levels, according to the
The DEP said the zinc levels do not pose a risk for drinking water but
may be harmful to aquatic organisms in surface waters. It suggested
that owners of artificial turf fields treat storm water to reduce zinc
concentrations and eliminate harm to aquatic organisms.
Other metals and rubber-related compounds were not evaluated, the study
Officials from parks and recreation departments and school districts
that have touted the benefits of artificial turf fields say the turf
doesn't require pesticides, needs less maintenance, causes fewer
injuries, doesn't fall victim to bad weather, and makes it possible for
multiple sports to be played on the field during the same season
without wearing it out.
High lead concentrations in AstroTurf, which uses a different synthetic
surface than newer artificial turf fields, caused an uproar in 2008
when several AstroTurf fields were closed. The new study did not find
high lead concentrations in crumb rubber, the health department report
advisory posted at
Ridgefield artificial turf fields; other towns differ in approach
By Robert Miller, STAFF WRITER
Updated: 06/08/2009 11:28:05 PM EDT
RIDGEFIELD -- The two artificial turf fields in town now come with
The town's Health Department has posted signs at fields at Ridgefield
High School and the Scotts Ridge Middle School warning students and
parents to follow some simple rules after playing on artificial
turf. These include washing hands thoroughly and watching the
temperature on hot days, when the artificial turf, filled in with black
rubber crumbs, can absorb and release heat, jacking up the temperature
on playing fields.
Ridgefield is the second town in the state, with Westport, to post such
signs. Ed Briggs, Ridgefield's health director, said Monday his
department posted the warnings after consultation with the Board of
For opponents of artificial turf, the signs are important reminders
that the fields may have health hazards. They claim the filler
used to cushion the fields, crumb rubber made from chewed-up tires, can
release toxic chemicals. One mode of release, they say, is gas that
escapes when the sun heats the rubber. Another is the dust created when
players grind the rubber to dust.
"We need more public conversation about this," Elizabeth Butler, one of
the activists who have opposed construction of a new artificial turf
field in Ridgefield, said Monday. "This is a public safety issue."
The opposition argument carried the day in February 2008, when the town
decisively rejected plans to build an artificial turf field at the
Onalfo Sport Complex. In Danbury, artificial fields are at
Danbury High School and Broadview Middle School, and the city is
installing another at Rogers Park. Mayor Mark Boughton said
Monday that city officials, having reviewed studies on artificial turf,
concluded the fields are safe for children to use, so he does not think
the city will post signs like those in Ridgefield. But Danbury may give
some of the same recommendations to groups seeking the city's
permission to use its fields.
New Fairfield First Selectman John Hodge said the two artificial turf
fields at New Fairfield High School are in constant use, and the town
hasn't received any complaints about them. The town has not
considered posting safety warnings at the fields, in part because it
has already instructed coaches and parents about cleaning and dressing
any scrape or cut kids incur on the fields to prevent infection.
He also said that in summer, when the fields can heat up, teams make
sure they have plenty of water and sports drinks on hand.
Newtown has two artificial fields at Treadwell Park. The town's Parks
and Recreation director, Amy Mangold, said she and others have studied
all the available information on the safety of artificial turf and
concluded there are no health concerns that warrant action, including
The debate is moving to the national stage. One official with the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency in January urged the EPA back away from
endorsing artificial turf fields until the agency gathers more
information. The state Department of Environmental Protection is
beginning a $245,000 study of artificial turf.
The controversy over the artificial playing field at Brookfield High
School has had more to do with its faulty installation and repair than
First Selectman Robert Silvaggi said Monday no residents have raised
health issues and the town does not plan to post signs. "We've read the
reports raising concerns. We've also read the reports saying the fields
Ridgefield's First Selectman Rudy Marconi said one reason that results
of different tests of artificial fields is that the rubber used in them
isn't uniform. Some crumb rubber may have higher levels of toxins, some
lower levels, because different tires have different levels of the
turf ban passes
By Brian Lockhart, Staff Writer
Posted: 03/18/2009 08:57:01 PM EDT
Updated: 03/19/2009 07:19:26 AM EDT
HARTFORD -- Rep. Kim Fawcett, D-Fairfield, rushed around the capitol
Wednesday urging colleagues on the environment committee to support her
bill placing a temporary moratorium on construction of state-funded
artificial turf athletic fields.
The committee passed the legislation, in a 21-to-11 vote.
Fawcett afterward acknowledged the proposal, which now heads to the
public health committee, is a mostly symbolic statement of lawmakers'
concerns the crumbled tires that cushion the fields are harmful to
human health and the environment.
The moratorium, which would last until Feb. 1, 2010, when the state
concludes a study of the fields, is limited to state-funded projects.
It grandfathers two fields being built for the state university system.
A controversial provision requiring warning signs be erected at
artificial turf fields was stripped from the bill.
But Fawcett hopes the legislation, if passed by the full General
Assembly and signed into law by the governor, will be a warning to
municipalities considering installing the fields.
Other lower Fairfield County lawmakers on the environmental committee
were torn over Fawcett's proposal.
Rep. Fred Camillo, R-Greenwich, said he has reviewed existing
information on the fields and nothing has convinced him they pose a
"I usually vote on the safe side of things, but I don't see any
evidence this causes illness," Camillo said, adding that proponents'
willingness to allow the existing state projects to move ahead
undercuts their campaign to halt installations.
"That defeats the whole argument they're dangerous," Camillo said. "If
they were convinced it was definitely bad they wouldn't want it in any
firm says artificial
turf no health threat
Posted on Jan 28, 6:58 AM EST
CHESHIRE, Conn. (AP) -- A Connecticut firm has concluded
that artificial turf made from crushed rubber does not pose any health
risks, but an environmental group is questioning the methodology and
the firm's objectivity.
Concerns have been raised across the country about the safety of
artificial turf made from crushed tires because of the industrial
chemicals it contains.
Cheshire-based Milone & MacBroom Inc., an engineering,
environmental and landscape architecture firm, studied synthetic turf
so it could inform clients about any safety issues, said Vincent
McDermott, a senior vice president at the firm.
Milone & MacBroom's clients have included Yale University and other
schools that have installed artificial turf fields, as well as schools
that have opted for natural grass fields. The firm release the study's
findings last month, and it found no health risks.
"At this point, based on the data we have before us, we are not going
to say to stop using this product because of health problems,"
McDermott said. "What we published is really totally unbiased, in my
Nancy Alderman of North Haven-based Environment and Human Health Inc.,
is questioning Milone & MacBroom's conclusions and the firm's
objectivity. The nonprofit group, which includes doctors, has concerns
about artificial turf's effect on children's health and says more
studies are needed.
"I think it's important to know that they are installers of those
fields," she told the New Haven Register.
Milone & MacBroom's study focuses on whether synthetic fields
become excessively hot in the summer, whether they affect air quality
and whether the materials leach from the turf and affect water quality.
The firm found that artificial grass blades reached 156 degrees on a
hot summer day, but the air 2 feet above the field was only 1 to 3
degrees above the air temperature. The firm noted that artificial
fields aren't usually played on in the middle of summer.
The firm also tested levels of toxic chemicals benzothiazole and
4-tert-octylphenol and found "no detectable concentrations of either
compound." It also found only "a very low concentration" of volatile
nitrosamines in one location.
Alderman said Milone & MacBroom should have tested several other
compounds, and the firm's air samplers took in only 75 liters per hour
while people breathe in 1,000 liters per hour.
"The samplers were simply too small," she said.
The firm also found that crushed rubber has the potential to leach
metals, but at concentrations under limits established by state
"From a liability point of view, if I found there was a water problem
I'd want to know about it because I'm not about to recommend something
I know is bad," McDermott said.
The state Department of Environmental Protection is planning its own
study of synthetic turf fields, and state lawmakers are debating a
proposal to ban any new artificial fields until that study is done.
Turf Health Study Ready To
By Megan Bard
Published on 1/5/2009
It's been a concern for towns across the country: exactly what
potential harm can come from installing and playing on artificial turf
made from old tires?
This month, state environmental and health officials will begin a
year-long study of the fields, made from crumb rubber fibers, in an
effort to definitively answer whether it's safe for athletes and the
On Friday, state Department of Environmental Protection officials
announced that they will use $245,000 from a $750,000 settlement
reached in May with the developers of the Montville Commons project in
Montville to pay for the study.
“This study is being conducted to respond in a credible manner to
concerns that many people have raised about the potential impact of the
presence of crumb rubber on playing fields,” DEP Commissioner Gina
McCarthy said in a prepared statement.
Throughout the state, fields that include the recycled tire material
has been installed in more than 80 municipalities. Locally, such fields
are used at Connecticut College, the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and
Montville High School.
As town budgets get tighter, the artificial turf fields are attractive
because they reduce maintenance costs and demand for water and
pesticides used to care for natural grass.
The crumb rubber is often used as an infill, which provides a layer of
padding that holds the artificial grass blades in place, helping to
reduce athletic injuries and improving drainage of the fields.
Because the rubber is primarily composed of recycled tires, which are
made of manmade and natural rubber, various chemicals and volatile
organic compounds are found in the material, which can also include
heavy metals such as zinc and copper, according to the DEP.
Montville Superintendent of Schools David Erwin has said that before
the field was installed at Montville High School, state health
officials and the installer assured him that the rubber crumbles did
not pose a health risk.
However, in 2007, the Connecticut Agriculture Experiment Station
completed a study determining that the recycled tire crumbs used to
soften the synthetic turf fields can emit four volatile organic
compounds which can release gases into the air when heated by the sun,
according to state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal. He said the
gases could cause short- or long-term health problems.
The study was not conclusive and warranted further review, according to
The study set to begin this month will also evaluate older turf fields
in which lead paint has been used to keep the green color of the field
from fading. Roughly a dozen towns in the state have these fields and
are considering replacing them with the more modern, rubber crumble
slams commission, says turf study ‘flawed’
New Haven REGISTER
By Abram Katz, Register Science Editor
U.S. Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro , D-Conn., has fired off a salvo of letters
to the U.S. Consumer Protection Agency and the Environmental
Proctection Agency for performing a perfunctory study of artificial
turf, including crumb rubber that contains traces of potential
The Consumer Product Safety Commission recently announced that the
fields are safe, after testing small samples of four artificial fields
Late last week DeLauro sent a lengthy criticism of the study to the
acting chairwoman of the CPSC, Nancy A. Nord, contending that the
analysis was circumspect, inadequate and failed to look for the most
“It is my understanding that the methodology used by the CPSC study may
have been flawed,” DeLauro wrote.
“As such, the report’s conclusion may have been premature, providing
less than adequate rationale to conclude that children are safe ...
Clearly, additional study is needed before synthetic turf fields can
definitively be declared safe,” DeLauro wrote.
Specifically, all four of the fields tested appear to have been made by
a single manufacturer, DeLauro wrote.
“It seems questionable for the CPSC to characterize to the American
people that all synthetic turf fields in the country are safe,” she
Many of the 3,500 artificial turf fields nationally consist of a
synthetic fiber underpinning that contains grass-like tufts.
To make the surface feel more like natural ground, tons of crumbled
tires are placed between the tufts. The small granules of used tires
find their way into players’ clothes, and onto their hands, and inside
mouths, noses and ears.
The fields also become extremely hot under a summer sun, and the high
temperature makes playing difficult, and increases out-gassing from the
Nancy Alderman, president of Environment and Human Health Inc. said,
“With the Consumer Product Safety Commission having just tested only
four synthetic turf fields — and then only for lead — and then
declaring all fields in the United States safe to play on — I would say
the CPSC needs reforming.”
Late last month the CPSC issued a report, saying, “CPSC staff
evaluation showed that newer fields had no lead or generally had the
lowest lead levels. Although small amounts of lead were detected on the
surface of some older fields, none of these tested fields released
amounts of lead that would be harmful to children.”
Preliminary tests by the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station
found traces of benzothiazole, (an skin and eye irritant); butylated
hydroxyanisole (a carcinogen); phthalates, (endocrine analogs that may
cause reproductive problems) and other irritating compounds.
“I urge the CPSC to continue to look into all the potential health
effects of synthetic turf fields,” DeLauro concluded.
DeLauro also renewed a request to the EPA to complete an in depth study
of crumb rubber and its possible toxicity.
DeLauro and state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal issued a joint
statement in April calling on the EPA to initiate an independent study.
In June, EPA administrator Stephen L. Johnson wrote to DeLauro,
assuring her that the CPSC study would be sufficient.
DeLauro reiterated her request for an EPA study, citing the apparently
flawed findings of the CPSC review.
made to renew turf debate
By Brian Lockhart, Staff
Article Launched: 08/04/2008
01:00:00 AM EDT
A lawmaker plans to ask the General
Assembly to halt the installation of artificial turf for one year in
Connecticut, even as Norwalk High School athletes begin practicing on
their new field this month.
State Rep. Kimberly Fawcett, a
Democrat whose district includes Fairfield and Westport, wants a
moratorium on new fields until the state Department of Environmental
Protection concludes an analysis. Nationwide there are concerns that
the ground-up tires used to make the fields release harmful substances.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety
Commission last week released a study that concluded that children who
play on the fields are not at higher risk for ingesting lead. Older
fields posed a greater risk of lead ingestion but did not exceed the
threshold, the study found.
But concerns remain that the fields
expose children to other heavy metals and to chemicals that can cause
"The state has been messing around
with this for a very long time," said Stacy Prince, a Westport parent.
"And this is at least a one-year study. At the same time, kids are
playing on these fields - little kids. It's frightening."
But not all parents agree.
In Norwalk, the Common Council
backed the installation of artificial turf at the high school with
support from parents. Officials are considering installing a second
field for Norwalk High School.
Sharon Cadden, a Norwalk High
parent, said city officials did their research.
"The field was really worn out. We
were experiencing injuries,"
Cadden said. "There were so many reasons to move forward, and we
couldn't find anything concrete to tell us to hold off."
If the DEP study finds cause for
concern, the city will respond, Cadden said.
"If they say don't be on it when the
temperature of the field exceeds high degrees, then we don't go near
it. If the study finds if you breathe in the fumes from the rubber for
40 hours a week it's dangerous, then we don't let the kids on it for 40
hours," Cadden said. "But had anybody seen anything that indicated it
was a danger to the students - and we're the parents - we certainly
would have said no . . . let's check more. . . . I don't think
Connecticut has any great resources that we're going to get a different
Fawcett, who plans to ask for the
moratorium when the General Assembly convenes in January, prefers
"We shouldn't be putting more of
these fields in until we know what they're doing to our environment,
our children and our water supply," Fawcett said.
The DEP, state Department of Public
Health and attorney general said there is not enough evidence to
support a moratorium.
"We have looked at a wealth of data
(and) studies that have been done on this topic and did not find there
was evidence of significant health risks," health department spokesman
William Garrish said. "That said, there were some data gaps, so it's
certainly a good idea to study the issue further. But there's no
indication to (call for) a moratorium."
Attorney General Richard Blumenthal,
who helped secure the $200,000 for the DEP study and whose children
play on artificial turf in Greenwich, agreed.
"The state should not be issuing
calls for a moratorium when it has reached no conclusion," Blumenthal
DEP spokesman Dennis Schain said the
agency will hire a company to test fields in Connecticut, though there
is no timeline yet.
"We don't want to rush into anything
and get something that isn't credible," Schain said.
State Rep. Richard Roy, D-Milford,
co-chairman of the legislature's Environmental Committee with state
Sen. Edward Meyer, D-Guilford, said a moratorium may not be the way to
"I think there's a feeling that the
issue of toxicity is controversial enough that it would be viewed as
pretty drastic for the state to pre-empt the towns with a moratorium,"
Meyer said. "I think a moratorium by the state would not be
It would be tough to order a
moratorium on projects that are under way, Roy said.
Both sides have strong arguments,
"Local governments have to make
their own assessments based on the information available to them, which
is more or less what's available to us," he said.
Report goes over like a lead balloon in Westport...
Feds say it's OK for children to play on artificial turf fields
By Wynne Parry, Staff Writer
Article Launched: 07/31/2008 02:42:30 AM EDT
STAMFORD - Playing on artificial turf doesn't put children at risk of
ingesting dangerous amounts of lead, according to a study released
yesterday by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Elevated lead levels found in two fields in New Jersey prompted
Stamford officials to test the 11-year-old field at Boyle Stadium
behind Stamford High School and shut it down when results came back
high. The field has been reopened to all but young
children. The pigment of the synthetic fibers in the turf
contains lead, particularly in older fields.
Many have opposed proposals for new turf fields in lower Fairfield
County, and the study hasn't changed their minds.
Many say lead is not among their concerns because the way the fields
are manufactured has changed. They think the real problem lies with the
fine tire crumbs used to cushion the fields. The study looked at
about 40 fields around the country to see if a child ingested more than
15 micrograms of lead, the threshold, while playing, said Julie
Vallese, a commission spokeswoman. The older fields posed a
greater risk of lead ingestion, but did not exceed the threshold.
Lead was not used in some of
the newer fields evaluated, Vallese said. The fibers in the
fields planned for Westhill High School, Lione and West Beach parks
will be polyethlene, not nylon like those found to contain lead in New
Jersey, according to DeRosa Tennis Contractors Inc., the contractor on
"We're very pleased they're not finding lead, but the ground-up rubber
tires that we're most concerned about never had lead," said Nancy
Alderman, president of Environment and Human Health Inc., a New Haven
nonprofit group that called for a moratorium on installations of
artificial turf fields in Connecticut. "You wouldn't tell children to
start smoking just because cigarettes don't have lead."
A study by the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station in New Haven
found the tire crumbs released at least four compounds under slightly
elevated temperatures that can irritate eyes, skin and mucous
membranes. The tire crumbs were found to leach heavy metals, including
zinc, into water. Shippan resident Mary Uva became concerned
about the fields after she found tire crumbs in her daughter's shoes,
clothes and hair after a soccer game.
"The kids are very exposed. They are breathing in the dust," Uva said.
"It is a different issue than the lead in the fibers."
Stacy Prince, a Westport parent who has spoken out about the
installation of turf fields, said she is more worried about
lesser-known harmful substances in the tires.
"They're taking a waste product that is banned in many areas and
mulching it up," Prince said. "There's a lot right now that would
suggest it's dangerous. No one wants to look at it because it's new."
over home turf
By Lisa Chamoff, Staff Writer
Article Launched: 06/09/2008 01:00:00 AM EDT
In Fairfield County, some parents have contested plans to install
artificial turf athletic fields because of worries about the safety of
the ground-up tires used as cushioning.
But last month, the Norwalk Common Council approved a $500,000 project
to replace Norwalk High School's 8-year-old field with little
objection. Parents and school officials in Norwalk said research does
not indicate the fields pose a serious health risk, and some say the
poor condition of the field, made with the first generation of
artificial turf, might be more of a danger.
Marge Costa said her daughter, Sara, a sophomore, tore her anterior
cruciate ligament while playing lacrosse in April. It was a pristine
spring day, but when Sara planted her foot on the field to change
direction during a game, she heard a pop. In 2006, Sara broke her
at the beginning of soccer season. Costa said she can't prove that
field conditions caused her daughter's injuries, but it gives her more
reason to support replacing it with the controversial turf. Some
research indicates the rubber fragments can release carcinogens and
"I'm not concerned about that at all," Costa said. "I'm very happy for
the athletes' sake that this field has been approved."
Norwalk High Athletic Director Wayne Mones said the existing artificial
field compacted. Soccer balls travel too fast and often go out of
"You're almost on a rubber surface with no grass," Mones said. "It's
Norwalk High parent Sharon Cadden said she has gone through research,
most of it provided by FieldTurf Tarkett, the company that will install
the new field.
"We've looked for any research that says this stuff is bad, but we
haven't found that it is," Cadden said. "It's probably more dangerous
to drink out of heated plastic water bottles than play on these
In Stamford, residents who live near West Beach called for a moratorium
on installing two artificial turf soccer fields, and two lawsuits have
been filed to stop construction. New fields are proposed for
High School and Lione Park, but those have caused little
In Westport, parents last year demanded that the health district end or
limit play on artificial turf.
A study by the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station in New Haven
released a year ago found that under laboratory conditions, the tire
crumbs released at least four compounds under slightly elevated
temperatures that can irritate eyes, skin and mucous membranes,
including one recognized carcinogen. The small pieces were found to
leach heavy metals into water. FieldTurf Tarkett published a
that says those tests were not done in conditions under which the turf
At the recommendation of Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, the state
Department of Environmental Protection will study artificial turf
fields. The study will be funded with $200,000 from a $750,000
settlement of environmental violations by the developer of a Montville
Norwalk resident Diane Lauricella, an environmental consultant, did not
speak up when the Common Council discussed the turf because she did not
look at the data. But she was concerned that much of the information
given to council members was from the manufacturer.
"In the past, we've found that manufacturers try to put on the best
face of whatever it is they're selling," Lauricella said. There
shouldn't be a rush to install the new field, and the Health Department
and the council's Public Health and Welfare Committee were not given
the opportunity to look into it, Lauricella said.
"This issue is so controversial that our attorney general thought it
was important to get some clear answers," she said.
Nancy Alderman, president of Environment and Human Health Inc., a New
Haven group that called for a moratorium on installations of artificial
turf fields, said that besides the worries about the tire crumbs, Latex
in the tires can cause allergies. In summer, the fields can heat up to
"We are getting parents that are concerned everywhere," Alderman said.
Stacy Prince, a Westport parent, said the health effects on young
children will not be felt for decades. She said she understands that
parents want to make sure their children are not at risk of injury on
old fields, but they should not assume the material is safe.
"I don't fault the parents," she said. "I just think people are very
naively trusting of the corporate world and the government's ability to
Another link on this
officials to consider testing artificial turf
Posted on May 17, 4:48 PM EDT
WEST HAVEN, Conn. (AP) -- Health officials in West Haven are concerned
about possible health risks at a stadium that uses artificial turf
following the recent closings of athletic fields in New Jersey.
Eric Triffin, West Haven's health director, asked high school officials
about the surface of its 19-year-old Ken Strong Stadium. He was told
the stadium's field is made from the same nylon-based material that was
found to contain lead in the New Jersey fields.
Triffin said school and city officials are considering testing the turf.
Two fields in New Jersey were closed last month after state health
officials detected what they said were unexpectedly high levels of lead
in the synthetic turf. The discovery raised fears that athletes could
swallow or inhale fibers or dust from the playing surface.
Pigment containing lead chromate is used in some surfaces to make the
turf green and hold its color in sunlight. But it is not clear how
widely the compound is used.
West Haven's field is one of four in Connecticut with old artificial
turf found to contain high levels of lead. But new artificial turf has
been installed in about 80 municipalities in the state and more is on
The new turf is made of a type of rubber created by shredding recycled
tires. However, some environmental advocates say the so-called crumb
rubber could be hazardous to public health and the environment.
"My guess is when they pull that older field out, they're going to put
in the crumb rubber. It means they're trading lead for all the
components of crumb rubber," said Nancy Alderman, president of
Environment for Human Health Inc. of North Haven.
That puts West Haven officials in a bind.
"Do you spend a lot of money replacing the field, when the surface
you're replacing it with has dubious prospects?" Triffin asked. "It's
just not simple."
Stamford officials last week closed a stadium after tests showed high
levels of lead in samples taken from the old turf. City officials said
the field will remain closed until a federal agency can study it
Artificial soccer, baseball and football fields are popular because
they are durable and eliminate the need for watering, pesticides and
mowing. Costs start at about $300,000 and go up depending on the type
of turf, the size of the field and other factors.
Testing A Waste Of Time, Money
By Mike DiMauro, Day Assistant Sports
Published on 9/6/2007
YOU ARE ABOUT TO HEAR from four local college athletes, two of
whom major in environmental studies, who spend five afternoons a week
playing sports on artificial turf.
You are about to read from a two-year study from a French environmental
You are about to hear from a state epidemiologist, who studies the
transmission and control of epidemic diseases.
After you process what they say, we'll discuss whether state attorney
general Richard Blumenthal's pledge of $200,000 for additional testing
to turf fields is warranted — or just grandstanding for the cameras,
all while shielded by the words, “in the name of public safety.”
A primer: Tests conducted at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment
Station showed that compounds are being released into the air from the
rubber pellets from ground-up tires that form the fill material of
artificial turf, the same kind found on fields at Montville High
School, Connecticut College, Coast Guard Academy and scores of other
towns through the state and country.
The nonprofit group Environment and Human Health Inc. (EHHI) conducted
the study, calling for a moratorium for any towns to install any new
turf fields and for individuals to have limited exposure to such fields
pending more research.
There is evidence that field turf is safe.
And still, Mr. Blumenthal pledged $200,000 for more testing.
So now you can decide:
I asked two Coast Guard football players and two Connecticut College
field hockey players whether they, or anyone they've ever known, have
suffered from “eye, nose and throat irritation, headaches, nausea,
dizziness, liver, kidney and central nervous system damage.” The study
reported that those are possible effects of the volatile compounds from
the pellets released into the air.
Football player Lance Lynch: “I've never heard of that and I've never
heard of anyone affected by it.”
Football player John McDonald: “The only thing I notice about the turf
is that it's usually hotter. But as far as (the possible effects), I've
never heard of anyone affected by it.”
Field hockey player Linnea Camerota, an environmental studies major:
“Aside from turf burns, I've never experienced anything like that.
Absolutely not. I've never heard of rubber pellets being an
Field hockey player Jill Mauer, an environmental studies major: “The
turf we have has been a major step up. When we had a grass field, we
had animal feces, seagull feces ... it was an absolute mess and always
flooded. Teams actually came here and turned away. From an athletic
standpoint, the turf is more healthy and I feel more safe.”
Mauer and Camerota estimated that they spend five to six days a week on
the turf at Conn and at least three to fours hours a week when field
hockey is not in season. They believe that a school as environmentally
conscious as Conn would never put its athletes at risk.
“I'm proud to say our school would take a stance,” Mauer said. “If
something ever stepped on this campus that wasn't right
environmentally, there would be red flags all over the place. This is a
liberal, liberal campus that definitely puts the environment first.”
Meanwhile, school officials in Enfield read the EHHI report and
initially balked at installing synthetic turf fields at its two high
schools. Assistant director of public works Colleen Brand e-mailed
Brian Toal, an epidemiologist with the state's Department of Public
Health (DPH), for an opinion. Toal's response, dated Aug. 15:
“We have reviewed a great deal of the literature on potential human
health risk from rubber used in synthetic turf fields. We have not seen
any information that would lead us to recommend against installing such
fields based on potential chemical exposures or health risk from those
using the fields.
“At this time we do not plan on issuing a recommendation against
installation of synthetic turf fields. We feel that the information
backing up the statements made about compounds being released by turf
fields does not warrant immediate concern.”
Finally, a two-year study by ALIAPUR, a French company responsible for
used tires (certainly with an interest here) and the French Agency for
Environment and Energy Management found “no cause for concern to human
health.” The study focused on the quality of water that was transferred
to the environment after passing through the rubber pellets and gas
emissions from the fields.
There is no denying that erring on the side of safety isn't merely
prudent, but the responsibility of lawmakers and elected officials. But
to err on the side of safety presupposes that there must be a safety
issue in the balance. Based on the evidence — a two-year study, the
state Department of Health's opinion and the good health of athletes
who participate on synthetic turf — there is no safety issue here.
Any city or town that thinks “further testing” is needed just isn't
Such a city or town would have that in common with Mr. Blumenthal,
whose heedless waste of $200,000 is a gross swing and a miss.
An explanation for how depression
might be cured - go play in the dirt!!!
Class President's New Life Shakes A School, Community
The Hartford Courant
By DENISE BUFFA, email@example.com
1:57 PM EDT, June 20, 2012
Molly Gambardella, the 18-year-old daughter of a lawyer and teacher,
was a straight-A student, senior class president, a member of the
National Honor Society, a musician in the high school orchestra, and an
assistant soccer coach to younger students.
She looked like a picture of perfection. Except her achievements masked
an inner turmoil that lead to serious health issues and, ultimately, a
decision that has shaken her family, school and community. Just
three months short of graduation, the teen, suffering from the eating
disorder bulimia, left North Haven High School and her parents' home.
Now, she sleeps on a mattress on the floor of a house she shares with
others in New Haven. She works on her laptop computer on the stoop,
where she completed work for literature and history classes that were
pass or fail. She's a political protester and member of a community
alliance -- an offshoot of the anti-establishment Occupy New Haven. She
jams on her trombone in the living room of the house she shares with
others, beckoning other neighborhood musicians to join her. And she
dives in Dumpsters with friends for food.
It's a decision she says she doesn't regret.
"I'm extremely happy now," she said. Molly Gambardella says her new way
of living is the best things that's happened to her in years, even
suggesting it has saved her life. Her father, William Gambardella, a
former state lawmaker and town treasurer, seems to agree.
"It doesn't matter what she's doing. As long as she's happy and Molly
again," he said.
Gambardella hasn't been to school in three months, but she'll still be
allowed to graduate with her classmates on Thursday. She acknowledges
that some have questioned why the teen should be allowed to get her
diploma. The school has decided she can't give the class president's
speech, a decision that triggered an emotional response in her
community of protesters and debate in her hometown.
Although Schools Superintendent Robert Cronin and Principal Russell
Dallai didn't return requests for comment, the Gambardella family --
including grandmother Alicia Clapp, a member of the North Haven Board
of Education -- says the high school senior has completed all her
coursework. Clapp, a teacher for 35 years who's been serving on
the North Haven Board of Education for 18 years, said accommodations
are traditionally made for students with illnesses, including cancer
and Lyme. Molly Gambardella says that she's been suffering from bulimia
for six years.
"I would get home and I would pretty much take out all my stress and
frustration by eating and then throwing up -- and then I'd go for a
six-mile run," she said.
Her older brother had picked up on what was happening -- and convinced
Gambardella to tell their parents, which she did. Gambardella says she
went inpatient at Hartford Hospital and then into a six-week intensive
outpatient program in the fall. She was seeing a psychologist,
psychiatrist and nutritionist. She returned to school, but left
in March -- keeping her secret.
"I always felt that people wouldn't get that in North Haven," said
Gambardella, who pierced her own nose with a safety pin when she was in
eighth grade, right around the time the bulimia started. She stopped
wearing a nose ring under parental pressure, but resumed donning one
this school year.
She seems concerned that others might think she's trashing North Haven
High. She insists she's not. The environment there just wasn't for her.
"I did have friends in high school and I had teachers that I just
looked up to," Gambardella said. "But I was also just psychologically
in a bad place, mentally and physically."
"Every time I went back there, the bulimia would kick back up," added
the teen, who sports wavy, shoulder-length brunette hair that her
friend cut dreadlocks out of recently.
Although she bailed out of North Haven High, Molly Gambardella -- who
wants to be a fine artist -- was attending the Educational Center for
the Arts, a magnet school in New Haven, half the day. As she studied
drawing, printing and painting, she met a friend who took her to the
New Haven Green to check out the protesters of Occupy New Haven. She
felt at home. She felt accepted.
"Immediately, I just fell in love because everyone was so friendly,"
she said. "They didn't care who you were or what you were all about. It
was awesome," she said.
She said her conservative classmates turned their backs on her while
the liberal kids applauded but failed to join her. No matter. Her
disease released her from its grip.
"Instead of binging and purging, I would just hang out with them," she
said. "I didn't feel self-conscious at all. It was just a freeing
experience...They were just fighting for something big, just a big
When she discovered some were trying to take control of the movement,
Gambardella and others broke off and founded the Appleseed Affinity
Group, a community-oriented activist group. Now they live in a house in
Fair Haven. Instead of paying rent with cash, they pay with labor,
helping to rehab another house down the street. She's not seeing
a therapist. She's not taking medication. She's not in a 12-step
"This is my outlet," she said.
Her father recalls how he had seen his daughter go from a
happy-go-lucky kid to a belligerent and nasty teen – but then settle
into herself again.
"Her whole attitude from six months ago to now has changed 180
degrees," he said.
The teen, who hasn't ruled out college, graduated from ECA on Monday --
a happy occasion for all. Her grandmother said Molly Gambardella was
quite creative there, making a gown out of neckties and a chandelier
out of three rings, a small light, and some tea bags to represent the
The grandmother said she was "hurt down to the pit of my stomach" when
she learned her granddaughter was suffering from bulimia. But she knew
the teen was suffering far more. Gambardella's grandmother and
father say they are very proud of the teen. They say Molly Gambardella
is keeping in step with the political nature of the family. They both
note that the teen's great-grandmother was the first woman to vote in
"She's got that as DNA," the grandmother said.
Molly Gambardella plans on attending North Haven's graduation on
Thursday, but she's still nervous about it. She feels her peers and
some teachers are angry with her for not going to school. She says some
North Haven students have been commenting on Facebook.
"They want to trip me during graduation," she said.
She feels some students are angry their senior class president cut out
of school. But Gambardella insists she didn't do so until fulfilling
her fundraising obligations by, for example, raising funds through a
book of advertisements for local businesses.
"Once I fulfilled that, I felt I needed to get out before my head would
Gambardella's grandmother, school board member Alicia Clapp, insists
she never even made a phone call to help her granddaughter in school
because it would have been inappropriate. She said Molly Gambardella's
parents dealt with the situation. While administrators, in
various media rpeorts, have maintained she missed a deadline to submit
her speech as class president for review, Gambardella suggests they
fear she'll espouse her political views.
She said she's been given the opportunity to deliver the speech at an
Occupy Wall Street's convention in Philadelphia on the Fourth of July
-- and that it will later be posted on the Occupy Wall Street web
Gambardella says while her mom, dad and grandmother attend her
graduation ceremony on the Mike Vanacore Football Field, her new New
Haven family plans to watch from nearby.
"They've all come to my art shows at ECA," she said happily. "We go
bike riding, Dumpster diving."
If looking into someone's headaches,
for example, you had better do a double scan!
Hospitals Performed Needless Double CT Scans, Records Show
By WALT BOGDANICH and JO CRAVEN McGINTY
June 17, 2011
Long after questions were first raised about the overuse of powerful CT
scans, hundreds of hospitals across the country needlessly exposed
patients to radiation by scanning their chests twice on the same day,
according to federal records and interviews with researchers.
Performing two scans in succession is rarely necessary, radiologists
say, yet some hospitals were doing that more than 80 percent of the
time for their Medicare chest patients, according to Medicare
outpatient claims from 2008, the most recent year available. The rate
is typically less than 1 percent, or in some cases zero, at major
university teaching hospitals.
Next month, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services is expected
to release figures for 2009, but according to people who have seen the
numbers, the practice of double scanning chest patients has continued.
“When I saw the 2009 numbers, they were the same essentially, and I was
disquieted by that,” said Dr. Michael J. Pentecost, a radiologist and
Medicare consultant who also reviews claims for commercial clients.
The overuse of scans has been the subject of growing concern in recent
years, but a review of the federal data, focusing on a common procedure
performed millions of times a year, offers a rare and detailed snapshot
of the problem state by state, hospital by hospital.
In 2008, about 75,000 patients received double scans, one using iodine
contrast to check blood flow, and one that did not. “If you do both,
you bill for both,” Dr. Pentecost said.
Radiologists say one scan or the other is needed depending on the
patient’s condition, but rarely both. Double scanning is also common
among privately insured patients who tend to be younger.
Double scans expose patients to extra radiation while heaping millions
of dollars in extra costs on an already overburdened Medicare program.
A single CT scan of the chest is equal to about 350 standard chest
X-rays, so two scans are twice that amount.
“The primary concern relates to radiation exposure,” said Dr. James A.
Brink, chief of diagnostic radiology at Yale-New Haven Hospital, where
double scans accounted for only a fraction of 1 percent of cases. He
added: “It is incumbent upon all of us to limit it to the amount needed
to make a diagnosis.”
Officials at hospitals with high scan rates said radiologists ordered
the extra chest scan figuring that more information is better. In rare
instances, the two scans might help a doctor distinguish between
tangled blood vessels and a tumor, Dr. Pentecost said.
The Medicare agency distributed the data to hospitals last year to show
how they performed relative to each other and to encourage more
efficient, safer practices. The review of that data found more than 200
hospitals that administered double scans on more than 30 percent of
their Medicare outpatients — a percentage that the federal agency and
radiology experts considers far too high. The national average is 5.4
The figures show wide variation among states as well, from 1 percent in
Massachusetts to 13 percent in Oklahoma. Overall, Medicare paid
hospitals roughly $25 million for double scans in 2008.
Double scanning is more likely to occur at smaller, community hospitals
such as Memorial Medical Center of West Michigan in Ludington. It gave
two scans to 89 percent of its Medicare chest patients..
“We aren’t radiologists, but as we understand the practice, it was
strictly a matter of physicians, independent practitioners who were
doing their best to get to the bottom of what was ailing their
patients,” said Bill Kerans, a spokesman for that hospital.
Since 2008, Memorial Medical Center lowered its rate to 42.4 percent in
2010 and to 3 percent in the first part of 2011. “We have made some
dramatic changes in protocols and practices,” Mr. Kerans said.
A few large hospitals have had problems as well. St. John Health System
in Tulsa double-scanned 80 percent — or 800 of its Medicare outpatients
in 2008. “We recognized in late 2008 and early 2009 those numbers were
higher than we needed to be,” said Charles Anderson, the hospital’s
president and chief executive.
By changing protocols, the percentage of double scans is now “hovering
around 5 percent,” Mr. Anderson said. “What that means for us is when a
physician orders a scan from a radiology department, the radiologist
begins to engage in a conversation with those physicians, talking about
what might be a more reasonable and acceptable approach.”
Medicare paid St. John roughly a quarter of a million dollars for the
double scans in 2008, but Mr. Anderson said money was not a factor in
why they were done. “We are an organization that last year did $75
million in costs of uncompensated care, so we are hardly in it for the
money,” he said.
UNC Healthcare in Chapel Hill, N.C., performed nearly 2,000 scans in
2008 and none were doubles. “I would be very surprised as to why that
would occur,” said Dr. Paul L. Molina, the hospital’s executive vice
chairman of radiology. “Someone’s got to educate me as to why they see
the need to do both.”
Carroll Rogé, a spokesman for ETMC hospitals in Texas, three of
which had dual scan rates over 60 percent, said independent doctors at
those hospitals “hold varying opinions” on the value of the federal
“Combining these tests expedites the diagnosis and the care to the
patient,” said Dr. Harold Smitson, who helps to oversee radiology at
ETMC hospitals in Athens and Fairfield. “These are small and rural
hospitals, without a complete range of medical services, which are
mandated to evaluate patients quickly and efficiently to determine the
need for transfer to a higher level of care.”
The Medicare agency believes hospitals can and should do more to change
physician behavior. “Hospitals will say, ‘Wait, we don’t order tests,
why are you measuring us?’ ” said Dr. Michael Rapp, who directs the
Quality Measurement and Health Assessment Group for the federal agency.
But, he added, “Hospitals certainly have the ability to put in policies
and to monitor what’s happening.”
Added revenue may not be the reason dual scans are ordered.
“It is because no one has looked at it before,” said Dr. Rebecca
Smith-Bindman, professor of radiology, epidemiology and biostatistics
at University of California, San Francisco. “This is a brand new
quality measure. There are very few of them out there.”
The federal agency plans to use other, similar measurements to rein in
what it considers to be unjustified — and potentially dangerous —
“Modifying physician behavior is a hard thing to do,” said Dr.
Pentecost, the claims consultant. “And we are doing it. This is a very
Brain tumor often a mysterious,
By JILL BODACH, Hour Staff Writer
August 9, 2008
Larry Johnson said he didn't know much about brain tumors until his
brother was diagnosed with the affliction three years ago. Frank
Johnson Jr. was 53 years old when he was diagnosed with a malignant
brain tumor and 56 when he died just a few days ago. He was buried
"Usually you don't recognize signs or symptoms of something like this
when a person is constantly working like my brother was," Johnson said.
"It wasn't until recently that he seemed sick at all."
Within the past year, Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and journalist
Robert Novak were both diagnosed with brain tumors. It isn't until a
well-known figure or a loved one is diagnosed that most people think
about brain tumors, said Dr. Kesav Nair, an oncologist with the
Whittingham Cancer Center.
"A tragic event such as this, striking a prominent figure, has national
interest piqued in an ailment we normally do not think about," Nair
Of the approximately 41,000 brain tumors diagnosed in the United States
each year, about 21,000 are benign; the rest are malignant, according
to Nair. He added that brain tumors are the most common malignancy in
childhood, and the vast majority of malignant brain tumors occur after
age 45 and peak after 65. There are three types of tumors that
present themselves most frequently: meningiomas (tumors in the lining
of the brain that are often located on the surface of the brain);
glioblastomas multiforme (tumors of the supporting cells of the brain);
and malignancies that develop elsewhere -- such as the breast or lung
-- which then travel to the brain.
Even benign tumors can be dangerous, said Dr. Eric Mazur, chairman of
the department of medicine for Norwalk Hospital.
"Benign tumors can be dangerous because the head has a fixed volume, so
you can only put so much in there," Mazur said. "If a tumor is growing
in the brain and it cannot be reached, it can put pressure on the brain
and cause damage, even if it's not cancerous."
Signs and symptoms of brain tumors vary. Kennedy's tumor was diagnosed
after he suffered a seizure. For Novak, the diagnosis followed a car
accident where he struck a bicyclist because he said he could not see
the bicyclist. With Johnson, he had visual impairment and difficulty
"It started with visual problems, and then one day, maybe about a year
and a half ago, he called me because he was feeling numbness in his
legs and told me he was having trouble walking, so I called 911,"
All of these are symptoms of brain tumors.
"The most common symptoms are headaches and seizures, occurring in more
than 50 percent of patients," Nair said. "Other symptoms include visual
disturbances, language and expressive difficulty, loss of memory,
one-sided weakness and personality changes reflecting specific areas of
the brain being affected."
Other brain tumors may not present themselves with any signs or
symptoms at all.
"Some can grow and be quite large and be asymtotic," Mazur said.
"Compared to other types of cancers, these are pretty uncommon tumors."
The treatment for benign, low-grade and high-grade tumors is primary
surgical resection. Frank Johnson's tumor was removed surgically and
doctors thought they had removed it entirely. It was later discovered
that there was another tumor growing in his lung. Some tumors are
not able to be surgically removed.
"The brain is so densely packed with important things that if the tumor
is in the wrong area, it can be inaccessible to surgical resection,"
Mazur said. "I can't think of another part of the body that is as
difficult to get to as the brain."
Another option is chemotherapy or radiation, but these treatments don't
always work for brain cancer.
"Chemotherapy doesn't get into the brain tissue as well as it does
elsewhere because there is something called the blood brain barrier,
which is a protective mechanism that prevents certain fluids from
entering the brain," Mazur said.
On a more positive note, the brain does tolerate radiation better than
other areas of the body, Mazur said. There are few known causes
for brain tumors, although rare genetic disorders may predispose people
to the development of brain tumors.
"Usually if people have one of these disorders, they know it and they
know that it might cause a brain tumor," Mazur said.
There are other supposed causes, including geographic location.
"The overall incidence of the disease is rising throughout the
industrialized countries, which raises the question of environmental
factors, but in the vast majority, the cause is unknown," Nair said.
Recently there has been discussion about the link between cell phones
and brain tumors, but there isn't much actual data to support this
"I haven't read all the data, but the information is particularly
persuasive as far as I'm concerned," Mazur said. "To put it in
perspective, brain tumors are a pretty low likelihood in anyone's life."
BRAIN CANCER SURVIVORSHIP
e-mail, we received this release on July 5, 2007:
YOUNG CANCER SURVIVOR MATTHEW ZACHARY APPOINTED TO GOOGLE HEALTH
Zachary to Advocate on Behalf of 1 Million Young Adults Affected By
BROOKLYN, NY – July 5, 2007 – Matthew Zachary, Founder and Executive
Director of The I'm Too Young For This! Cancer Foundation For Young
Adults (iy) has been appointed as a member of the newly formed
Google Health Advisory Council. Zachary will share iy's experience
in engaging its youth culture and young adult constituents through the
organization's advocacy innovations, social networks and comprehensive
website portal, www.ImTooYoungForThis.org.
The Google Health Advisory Council was created to help Google better
understand the problems consumers and health providers face in the
healthcare system today. Council members will offer Google feedback on
ideas for new products and services to empower consumers with their
health care decisions. Zachary joins other experts from provider
organizations, consumer and disease-based groups, physician-based
organizations, research institutions, and health care policy
"We are at a tipping point for social change in cancer advocacy and
this is a profound opportunity to represent the voices of more than 1
million young adult survivors as Google defines its vision for a global
consumer healthcare revolution," said Zachary.
iy has earned accolades from the oncology community for establishing
a global presence and filling gaps to rectify public health inequities
faced by the young adult population, aged 15-39, now estimated at over
1 million survivors by the National Cancer Institute. The iy
initiative, launched in January 2007, has quickly developed an
affiliate network of 200 cancer centers, mobilized thousands of
survivors into an international social network, organized the first
arts coalition of young musician/survivors and produced a pioneering
live, weekly, interactive social radio broadcastâ€“The Stupid
Cancer Show. iy is widely regarded as the next big thing in advocacy
for a grossly underserved, but motivated, population.
"What Matthew and his foundation have achieved in such a short time,
clearly indicates the demand to fill an expansive gap in our healthcare
continuum," says Dr. Kevin Oeffinger, Director, Living Beyond Cancer: A
Program for Adult Survivors of Pediatric Cancer at Memorial Sloan
Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. "In concert with their
relationship with Google, I am optimistic that the opportunity to fill
those gaps is now more tangible than ever."
The I'm Too Young For This! Cancer Foundation For Young Adults is a
global support community for young adults affected by cancer. Our
mission is to improve quality of life by providing 'one-stop' access to
hard to find resources, peer support and social networks. We use music
and the arts to make it hip to be a survivor and talk about stupid
cancer by advocating on behalf of more than 200 young adult support
resources and more than one million survivors aged 15-39 who are
currently living with, through and beyond cancer worldwide. For
additional information, please visit www.ImTooYoungForThis.org.
In concert at Norfield Church Parish Hall,
Matthew Zachary, award-winning pianist and composer, introduced Weston
to his organization...
Official website, http://imtooyoungforthis.org.
Want to hear from Matthew as a motivational speaker and
'cancertainer'. Here are those links:
A Cure-All for Jet Lag?
Try Caffeine and Naps
By JOHN SCHWARTZ
Published: April 30, 2008
GOOD news! Last June, researchers in Argentina identified a promising
potential treatment for jet lag: sildenafil. You might know the drug by
its more common brand name, Viagra.
The study, published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of
Sciences, showed that our circadian rhythms, the body’s inner clock,
could be shifted with the little blue pill. Sounds as if we will have
that jet lag problem solved in no time, right? Or, at least, travelers
will have a new excuse to ask their doctors for Viagra.
The press had a grand time with this, of course, but the news is not as
clear as the reports might make it seem. The single study only showed
effectiveness of sildenafil in hamsters. Will the results be borne out
in further studies? Will the drug have the same sleep-shifting effect
on humans? Nobody knows. And besides, isn’t that particular drug more
closely linked to vacations than to negotiations?
That’s why Mark R. Rosekind, a sleep expert and a founder of Alertness
Solutions, a consulting firm in Cupertino, Calif., that helps
businesses deal with issues like shift-work alertness and jet lag, said
that he is cautious whenever he hears of a purported miracle cure —
from over-the-counter homeopathy to hot-off-the-presses research. “I’m
open to everything, but I’m a scientist,” he said. “Show me the data.”
He wants to see solid scientific evidence to support any product’s
promise of being good for what ails travelers...
In fact, experts said, for most trips it might be best to make the most
of the alertness you can muster when you need it. That comes down to
“naps and caffeine,” Dr. Rosekind said. Studies of pilots showed that a
26-minute nap in flight — while a co-pilot took the controls, of course
— increased performance by 34 percent and overall alertness by 54
Using simple caffeine to raise alertness in conjunction with naps
during a trip is a winning strategy, Dr. Rosekind said. Caffeine takes
15 to 30 minutes to work, and an effective nap should be less than 45
minutes, to avoid going into the kind of deep sleep that leaves people
groggy. So drinking a cup of coffee just before a nap, he said, can
ensure that you will awaken with a little extra zip. The caffeine and
nap working together “can actually show a performance boost greater
than either one alone,” he said. “It’s not rocket science.”
GO TO COOL NEW WEBSITE HERE
April Weston FORUM article
below gives a different perspective on the same thing...
pill parties growing in town
By Meredith Blake, Staff Writer
Article Launched: 05/25/2008 02:30:14 AM EDT
Placed next to the chips and salsa is a bowl filled with prescription
pills. This is how casually some teens view using pain killers or
mood-altering drugs at parties. And although "pharming" or
"bowling" parties are not new, they have
become a growing problem in town and throughout Fairfield County,
according to Stephanie Paulmeno, community health planner for the town
"This is a significant public health issue," she said.
The department has been aware of prescription pill misuse for more than
two years, working closely with agencies monitoring the problem, but
not until recently had the concerns been confirmed by police
departments, Paulmeno said. Richard Stook, a town neighborhood
resource officer, said it is
difficult for police to uncover the drugs, since pills like OxyContin
and Ritalin are easily concealed or disposed of
by the time officers
arrive at parties. But Greenwich teens themselves have reported their
use, he said.
"We're not seeing it ourselves, but when we interview the kids, they
are telling us there is a high volume of prescription drug use," Stook
In a recent survey conducted by the National Institute of Drug Abuse,
one out five teens said he or she had used prescription drugs
recreationally. The highest rate of use is among 18 to 25 year
olds, with the numbers
increasing significantly each year among 12 to 17 year olds, according
to the survey.
"This is an emerging problem," said Wayne Dailey, spokesperson,
Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.
One of the major problems is that many teens believe prescription drugs
are a safer alternative to illegal drugs, since they have been
distributed by a doctor or taken by parent.
"The myth is that it is OK, it's not the same level of danger of other
drugs, but that is not the case," said Ingrid Gillespie, director Lower
Fairfield County Regional Action Council Stimulants, such as Dexedrine,
if taken in high doses can cause paranoia, high body temperatures or an
irregular heartbeat. Opioids, like Vicodin, if taken over a long period
of time, can lead to physical dependence and addiction, according to
the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Many prescription drugs labels state the dangers of taking more than
one medication at a time, or using with alcohol, but most teens ignore
this, Paulmeno said.
"Who knows what they are mixing at these parties. The interactions of
these drugs can be catastrophic," Paulmeno said.
Teens readily have access to these drugs, either from their parents or
friends' medicine cabinets. Many people keep old prescriptions, but
this can have dire consequences.
"Parents should keep their prescriptions locked up and dispose of the
bottles after use," and Paulmeno.
But teens are becoming more savvy and finding new ways to access these
medications, whether its online purchasing, or recycling old
prescription bottles, and refilling them, according to Kyle Silver,
executive director of the Arch Street teen center. Silver hears
teens frequently talking about using prescription drugs
and said they know where to get them, how to transport them and how to
"If parents were more aware than it wouldn't be as easy for students to
get," he said.
The difficulty town agencies face is determining how widespread the
problem is. There has been no town-wide survey conducted and a
state-wide survey is outdated by two years, according to Dailey.
In 2005, prescription drug misuse was rated the sixth most common drug
problem in Connecticut, after use of cocaine, heroin, marijuana,
tobacco and alcohol, according to a survey conducted by the State
Epidemiological Workgroup. But there is evidence that it is
growing and surpassing cocaine and
heroin, because it is so easily accessible, but there is no direct
statistical information to substantiate this, Dailey said.
Officials work closely with drug and alcohol treatment providers,
emergency room doctors, parents and even schools who tell them that
this is becoming a more serious problem, said Dailey.
Despite the lack of specific data, statistics show that individuals in
a higher- socioeconomic status are the ones most often abusing
prescription pills, making Greenwich a community at risk, according to
The Health Department and other agencies are looking to survey teens on
this issue and find out who and why they are engaging in this behavior.
If officials can learn more than perhaps more can be done to prevent
the rise of teens hospitalized for this emerging problem, Paulmeno said.
"If we have more information, than more can be done to address it," she
Weston teens tell
parents what's on their minds
by Patricia Gay
Apr 30, 2008
Weston teens want parents to listen more and offer support without
being intrusive. So said a panel of Weston High School students
at a parent-teen discussion forum on Wednesday, April 23 at the
Norfield Church Parish Hall. The forum was held in an effort to
help bridge the gap between parents and children to create a safer,
more open environment; and to educate parents on what it is like to
grow up in this day and age.
The panel was comprised of members of the Youth Leadership Council of
the Alcohol and Drug Awareness Program (ADAP) of Weston, and included
Danny Goldberg, Dylann Katz, Jordan Masarek, Danielle Tolkin, Ryan
Seymour, Khadija Lalani, Meg Sanborn and Ross Karlan.
ADAP has approximately 80 student members in the Weston schools.
John McGeehan, who oversees the youth leadership council, served as
moderator of the forum. He thanked Mike Foster, the president of
the Booster Club, for the club’s support in sponsoring the forum.
The panel answered a series of questions posed by Mr. McGeehan and
parents in the audience on the topics of transition from middle school
to high school, social pressures and expectations, the parent-child
relationship, and drug and alcohol use.
The first topic was about social and academic changes students
face in the transition from middle school to high school.
Danny said being in a new school was a bit awkward at first. But he
said it gave him a greater sense of maturity. He also noticed
things are more competitive in high school and there are greater
challenges than there were at the middle school.
Jordan said being with older kids opened her up to new things. She
encourages new students to take part in a high school sport because
being part of a team is like being part of a family.
Danielle said in high school, kids have an opportunity to become
themselves and meet new people. “There is more diversity in high
school,” she said. Academically, there is a more intense workload
and competition in high school, said Ross. He said kids are often
comparing their grades and grade point averages. “But, there also is an
opportunity to choose your own classes,” he said.
Khadija said there is more pressure on students to do well, and sports
are more competitive, too. “There are also social pressures and a lot
of influence from upper classmen,” she said. She also noticed more
drinking in high school than middle school.
The panel discussed the pressures they face in high school and
how they deal with them.
Dylann said she felt pressured in choosing who to hang out with. “You
find the kids you have things in common with. High school is not all
about the work. You need time to have some fun too,” she said.
Meg said teens learn pretty quickly in high school that teachers won’t
hold their hands during the academic process. “They won’t remind you to
turn in your work,” she said.
Ross said parents can help by promoting independence. “Allow your kids
to explore who they are. Pushing kids just adds to pressure,” he
said. Jordan said one of the things she likes is that her friends
feel comfortable talking to her parents.
Ryan suggested that one way parents can keep tabs on their kids is not
to approach them. “Let the kids approach you to discuss things,” he
suggested. From the audience, Dawn Egan asked what would be a
reasonable curfew for freshmen.
Danielle suggested 11 p.m. “Parents should also use discretion and let
kids stay out later if the occasion warrants it,” she said.
Another parent asked what students think about the possibility of
changing the start time of school a half hour or 45 minutes later to
allow them more time to sleep. Ryan thought the extra sleep time
in the morning would be good because he sometimes has trouble going to
sleep at 11:30 and then getting up early.
Khadija, wasn’t so keen on it if meant after school activities such as
sports would run later. Danny said kids should adjust their
schedule to get more sleep.
The next issue was how parents could become more approachable
and relate better with teens.
Ross said his parents support what he does and aren’t judgmental. “If I
fail a test, they say try to do better next time.”
Ryan said his parents allow him to have free time on the weekend.
Time management is an issue for Jordan, so she said she is a big
supporter of “Mental Health” days. She said her parents also encourage
her to take power naps when her workload becomes overwhelming.
Danielle said teens put a lot of pressure on themselves. “Treat kids as
individuals. Just listen to them without making judgments. Ears are the
most important thing you can give to your child,” she said.
Jordan said one way to get kids to talk is be their friend. “Remember,
you were once a teenager also,” she said.
Danny said some parents fail to realize there is a lot of pressure on
students and they make kids ashamed of themselves. “It is better to
support them than criticize them,” he said.
“Don’t compare older and younger siblings. Let each child be
different,” said Dylann.
The panel said parent gossip — when parents tell others about things
the teens tell their parents in confidence — can be damaging to the
Drugs and alcohol
The discussion then turned to the topic of drugs and alcohol.
Ryan said there is a lot of peer pressure during freshman and sophomore
years on kids to drink or use drugs. He said he sees younger kids
drinking in order to impress older kids. The panel said children
are affected by their parents’ behavior with drugs and alcohol.
Danny said when kids are growing up, what their parents do sets their
“Adults have a great influence on kids,” said Ross. “If adults are
drinking heavily, it sets an example.”
Dylann said parents need to look at where they keep alcohol in the
house. “How available is it? Do they lock it away?” she asked.
Members of the panel also said they have been to or heard about
unsupervised and supervised parties in Weston where alcohol was served,
and it was not that uncommon.
A parent asked what illegal substances kids were experimenting with in
The panel collectively responded that marijuana use was big, along with
alcohol, and prescription medication such as Ritalin and Adderall,
which are prescribed for Attention Deficit Disorder. Teens also
take energy drinks along with Ritalin and Adderall for extra
At the end of the discussion, parents thanked the teens for being
candid and helpful.
article by Patty Gay!
Students give the
straight dope about drug use in Weston
by PATRICIA GAY
Jan 17, 2007
Nikki Phillips was a beautiful star athlete, bright and personable, who
seemed to have everything going for her. Yet in a moment, she was gone.
A popular member of the Weston High School class of 2006, Nikki, 18,
died accidentally from an apparent drug overdose in November while in
her dorm room at Florida Atlantic University. The news came as a huge
shock to Nikki’s family, friends, and classmates.
A memorial service was held at the Unitarian Church for Nikki on
Saturday, Jan. 6. While the service provided some closure, there are
still many grieving Nikki’s loss.
Among those trying to get a handle on things are Weston High School
students who belong to a group called ADAP (Alcohol and Drug Awareness
After Nikki’s death, the group, which has about 50 members, met to
discuss their feelings. “We wondered if there was something we could or
should have done,” a friend of Nikki’s said.
The Forum recently spoke with several ADAP students about drug use
among Weston teens. For purposes of this story, the students will be
referred to as Adam, Beth and Carol (not their real names).
Carol is quick to point out that ADAP is not a drug or alcohol
abstinence group. “As the name implies, ADAP is an awareness program;
it helps raise awareness about the effects of alcohol and drugs on
teens,” she said.
Drug of choice
Although an exact number is unquantifiable, Adam, Beth and Carol said a
lot of Weston teens regularly use drugs and drink alcohol. According to
Adam, hard drugs such as cocaine and heroin are used by only a small
percentage of the population. More common is marijuana and alcohol use.
But all three agreed there is one drug that is even more popular with
Weston teens these days.
“Adderall is the drug of choice in Weston,” Beth said.
Yes, Adderall — an amphetamine-based stimulant prescribed by doctors to
treat attention deficit disorder.
It comes in pill form, and, when taken responsibly by patients who need
it, Adderall helps improve attention span and decrease impulsivity.
“It’s the ideal Weston drug. It keeps you up so you can study. It curbs
your appetite. And it’s legal,” said Carol.
But Adderall has also been called “Ivy League crack.”
Teens abuse Adderall by taking more than the recommended dosage and
mixing it with alcohol, or crushing and snorting it like cocaine. It
helps them stay awake through crunch times as they prepare for
placement tests like the SATs and school exams. They can easily obtain
Adderall through a prescription, or buy it illegally for $5 a pill.
Because it is a prescription drug, Adderall abuse often flies right
under the radar of parents.
“There are so many kids in Weston who go to psychiatrists, it’s really
easy to get a prescription for Adderall,” Beth said.
But while Adderall may have some benefits initially to the teens, its
abuse has nasty side effects and a profound downside. “It really messes
up my friends,” Beth said. “They become like machines. They don’t talk
and they stop eating.”
Adderall is also the drug of choice of girls with eating disorders who
often take it in order to stop eating and lose weight. “Adderall is
Weston’s crystal meth,” said John McGeehan, facilitator of the ADAP
So why are Weston teens taking drugs in the first place? In an affluent
town that boasts home sales that average more than a million dollars,
and a school system where a large number of seniors get early college
admission decisions, what is the appeal of drugs?
While there is no definitive answer, the students had several
“Parents have no idea what their kids are doing,” Adam said. “Adults
are often so caught up into their own little worlds that teens are
unsupervised and feel neglected. Some kids don’t have a good
relationship with their parents, and parents turn a blind eye to what
the kids do,” he said.
When a teen is caught using drugs, Adam said, the typical reaction in
Weston is to send the kid to a drug rehabilitation program, often out
of state. “A lot more kids go to rehab in this town than anyone knows,”
Another reason for drug and alcohol use, according to Carol, is
boredom. “There’s not much to do in Weston, and alcohol is a social
lubricant,” she said.
And there’s a feeling of invincibility that most teens have. Carol has
noticed that “designated drivers” are not common these days. “Most kids
just take a chance and drive drunk,” she said.
Drugs also help teens deal with the stress of feeling as if they must
achieve top test scores. The college admission process puts a lot of
pressure on the students to perform.
“Almost all kids in Weston have private tutors,” Beth said. “That’s why
we do so well on the tests. It’s not what we are taught in schools,
it’s how the tutors teach us to take tests like the SATs.”
“The downside to tutoring,” said Adam, “is that you forget what they
taught you, you don’t retain it.”
All three said they had horror stories about how the pressure to
perform and get top grades badly affected someone they knew. “This is
why some kids take Adderall, this is why some girls get eating
disorders. The pressure is horrible,” Beth said.
Teens also learn by example. In some Weston households, there is heavy
marijuana use by parents, Carol said. “They not only use it, the
parents grow it, too,” she said.
There is help available in Weston for teens trying to cope with drugs.
Currently, 50 students, half boys and half girls, in grades nine
through 12 participate in ADAP.
The group is facilitated by John McGeehan, a clinical social worker and
substance abuse specialist. He meets with the students monthly on such
topics as tobacco, prescription medicines, legal and illegal narcotics,
eating disorders, substance abuse, drug dependency, and how to help
Each year, the group holds the Mountain Laurel Dance, a sober dance
with a Breathalyzer test administered at entry. ADAP also sponsors Red
Ribbon Week, a national alcohol prevention program, in which students
get shopping discounts at Weston stores with red ADAP cards.
Last year, ADAP and Weston High School hosted Grim Reaper Day to
promote alcohol awareness. Students took on the roles of real teen
victims of alcohol-related deaths.
Beth said ADAP has helped her become much more educated about the
pitfalls of drugs. “I have information I can pass on to someone that
may prevent them from making a bad choice,” she said.
Mr. McGeehan is hoping to set up an ADAP parents group in the spring to
address parental concerns. He is also opening a private practice in
Weston in mid-February that will specialize in adolescents and
individual and family counseling.
In the schools
Lynne Pierson, superintendent of Weston schools, acknowledged there are
drug issues at Weston High School. “If we have one student abusing
substances, it is one student too many from my perspective,” she said.
She is very thankful for organizations like ADAP. “I think we as adults
are responsible for our students and have a responsibility to think
more seriously about whether we are doing enough to address this issue.
It is time for us to reflect and give thought to the efforts we have
made and perhaps redouble our efforts and think of additional
strategies to keep kids safe,” she said.
She credited the Weston Police Department and the town’s social
services staff for assisting with teen drug issues. “It’s a collective
effort. We have some good interventions and programs,” Dr. Pierson said.
Weston Detective Carl Filsinger said there have not been many drug
arrests in Weston over the last four years.
“From 2002 to present, there have been a total of 28 narcotics
complaints. Of those, 18 resulted in arrests, and of those, 11 were for
kids under the age of 18,” he said.
In 2004, three juveniles were arrested at the high school for marijuana
Detective Filsinger was also aware of a recent arrest in Westport,
where two 18-year-olds and one 16-year-old, all from Weston, were
arrested for possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia.
When it comes to teen drug use, he believes Weston has problems like
every other town and the schools are doing a good job handling drug
“The health teachers and counselors have a great deal of knowledge, and
the high school principal, Rose Marie Cipriano, has taken a very
proactive approach by encouraging things like Grim Reaper Day,”
Detective Filsinger said.
Detective Filsinger was involved with ADAP for more than 20 years,
before recently joining the Commission on Children and Youth. His
commitment to teens and drug awareness stems back to an incident that
happened in 1981.
“A 16-year-old boy had too much to drink and died in his sleep. That
memory sticks with me,” he said.
Ending neurofibromatosis through research - help to solve this
puzzle. A disease beginning at birth for those afflicted...help
find a cure!
Norwalk Hospital Announces...
May 15, 2010 is the date of the Whittingham Cancer Center's
Annual Benefit Walk/Run. We hope to have many of you participating
and/or donating to the event as sponsors.
We are excited that there is a
unified effort on behalf of Weston to raise money to support the
wondrous things that Norwalk Hospital does for our community in
treating and preventing cancer. To register to walk or to sponsor someone
go to: http://www.norwalkhospitalfoundation.org/NetCommunity/Page.aspx?pid=360
Click on the left of the page, "Donate to a Team" or "Sponsor a
Walker". When prompted
to join a team or to donate, choose "Team Weston Kiwanis."
The walk is easy, in a beautiful spot and the atmosphere is fun. You
will feel good participating!!
4th place finisher of the Iditarod 2006, DeeDee Jonrowe,
a breast cancer survivor; she started the '03 race three weeks
after finishing chemotherapy! Finished #4 in Iditarod 2006!
DONATIONS ALWAYS WELCOME, ANY TIME. WITH LOVE, AT NORWALK HOSPITAL
and gets closer all the time - please click on the picure-link above
read of events nearby Weston (Sunday, October 16, 2005 in
Westport, the 2012 event above, right). Also, Avon contributed
to research (10 cents) in 2005 every time you clicked HERE.
LINK TO WWHD WEST NILE INFO
...Aided by global warming and globalization, Castiglione di
the dubious distinction of playing host to the first outbreak in modern
Europe of a disease that had previously been seen only in the tropics.
As Earth Warms Up, Tropical
Moves to Italy
By ELISABETH ROSENTHAL
Published: December 23, 2007
CASTIGLIONE DI CERVIA, Italy — Panic was spreading this August through
this tidy village of 2,000 as one person after another fell ill with
weeks of high fever, exhaustion and excruciating bone pain, just as
most of Italy was enjoying Ferragosto, its most important summer
“At one point, I simply couldn’t stand up to get out of the car,” said
Antonio Ciano, 62, an elegant retiree in a pashmina scarf and trendy
blue glasses. “I fell. I thought, O.K., my time is up. I’m going to
die. It was really that dramatic.”
By midmonth, more than 100 people had come down with the same malady.
Although the worst symptoms dissipated after a couple of weeks, no
doctor could figure out what was wrong.
People blamed pollution in the river. They denounced the government.
But most of all they blamed recent immigrants from tropical Africa for
bringing the pestilence to their sleepy settlement of pastel stucco
“Why immigrants?” asked Rina Ventura, who owns a shop selling shoes and
purses. “I kept thinking of these terrible diseases that you see on TV,
like malaria. We were terrified. There was no name and no treatment.”
Oddly, the villagers were both right and wrong. After a month of
investigation, Italian public health officials discovered that the
people of Castiglione di Cervia were, in fact, suffering from a
tropical disease, chikungunya, a relative of dengue fever normally
found in the Indian Ocean region. But the immigrants spreading the
disease were not humans but insects: tiger mosquitoes, who can thrive
in a warming Europe.
Aided by global warming and globalization, Castiglione di Cervia has
the dubious distinction of playing host to the first outbreak in modern
Europe of a disease that had previously been seen only in the tropics.
“By the time we got back the name and surname of the virus, our
outbreak was over,” said Dr. Rafaella Angelini, director of the
regional public health department in Ravenna. “When they told us it was
chikungunya, it was not a problem for Ravenna any more. But I thought:
this is a big problem for Europe.”
The epidemic proved that tropical viruses are now able to spread in new
areas, far north of their previous range. The tiger mosquito, which
first arrived in Ravenna three years ago, is thriving across southern
Europe and even in France and Switzerland.
And if chikungunya can spread to Castiglione — “a place not special in
any way,” Dr. Angelini said — there is no reason why it cannot go to
other Italian villages. There is no reason why dengue, an even more
debilitating tropical disease, cannot as well.
“This is the first case of an epidemic of a tropical disease in a
developed, European country,” said Dr. Roberto Bertollini, director of
the World Health Organization’s Health and Environment program.
“Climate change creates conditions that make it easier for this
mosquito to survive and it opens the door to diseases that didn’t exist
here previously. This is a real issue. Now, today. It is not something
a crazy environmentalist is warning about.”
Was he shocked to discover chikungunya in Italy, his native land? “We
knew this would happen sooner or later,” he said. “We just didn’t know
where or when.”
It certainly caught this town off guard on Aug. 9, when public health
officials in Ravenna received an angry call from Stefano Merlo, who
owns the gas station.
“Within 100 meters of my home, there were more than 30 people with
fevers over 40 degrees,” or 104 Fahrenheit, said Mr. Merlo, 47. “I
wanted to know what was going on. I knew it couldn’t be normal.”
August is not the season for high fevers, Dr. Angelini agreed, and
within days of interviewing patients she was intrigued.
“The stories were so similar and so dramatic,” she said. “But we had no
clue it was something tropical.”
Hard-working shopkeepers could not get out of bed because their hips
hurt so much. Able-bodied men could not lift spoons to their mouths.
(Months later, many still have debilitating joint pain.)
From the start, doctors suspected that the disease was spread by
insects, rather than people. While almost all homes had one person who
was ill, family members seemed not to catch the disease from one
They initially focused on sand flies, since the disease clustered on
streets by the river.
Canceling their traditional mid-August vacations (in Italy, a true sign
of panic), health officials sent off blood samples, called national
infectious-disease experts, searched the Internet and set out traps to
see what insects were in the neighborhood. The first surprise was that
the insect traps contained not sand flies but tiger mosquitoes, and
huge numbers of them.
The scientific survey confirmed what residents of Castiglione had come
to accept as a horrible nuisance, though not a deadly threat.
“In the last three or four years, you couldn’t live on these streets
because the mosquitoes were so bad,” said Rino Ricchi, a road worker
who fell ill, standing at the entrance to his neatly tended garden,
where mosquito traps have now replaced decorative fountains. “We used
to delight in having a garden or a porch to eat dinner. You couldn’t
this year, you’d get eaten alive.”
Said Dr. Angelini: “They were treating the mosquitoes like an
annoyance. They knew that mosquitoes could spread tropical diseases but
they had peace of mind because they knew this didn’t happen in Italy.”
Ravenna immediately set about killing the bugs in the hopes of
containing the epidemic. Workers sprayed insecticides and went into
each family’s garden, emptying flower pots, fountains and the rainwater
collection barrels to remove the mosquitoes’ breeding ground.
By early September, there were no new cases in Castiglione di Cervia.
But there were a number of mini-epidemics in the region — in Ravenna,
Cesena and Rimini — set off by tiger mosquitoes there. Each was
controlled in the same way.
By that point, the doctors had cataloged the patients’ symptoms and
tried to match them to mosquito-borne diseases.
“We realized,” Dr. Angelini said, “we were seeing a photocopy of an
outbreak on Réunion,” a French island in the Indian Ocean where
more than 10,000 people have contracted chikungunya in the last two
years. Blood tests confirmed the diagnosis. By summer’s end, home-grown
chikungunya had been diagnosed in nearly 300 Italians.
Chikungunya is spread when tiger mosquitoes drink blood from an
infected person and, if conditions are right, pass the virus on when
they bite again. Tiger mosquitoes first came to southern Italy with
shipments of tires from Albania about a decade ago but their habitat
has expanded steadily northward as temperatures have risen.
But the doctors were baffled by how chikungunya made its way into
mosquitoes in northern Italy since no one in Castiglione di Cervia had
been abroad. In the past two years France, especially Paris, has had a
number of imported cases of chikungunya, in travelers returning from
Réunion. But the disease has never spread in France, because the
mosquito cannot thrive there yet.
Eventually investigators discovered a link: one of the first men to
fall ill in Castiglione di Cervia had been visited by a feverish
relative in early July. That relative, an Italian, had previously
traveled to Kerala, India. Chikungunya traveled to Italy in his blood,
but climatic conditions are now such that it can spread and find a home
Now it is winter in Castiglione di Cervia, near freezing as the sun
went down on a recent evening and Christmas lights glowed across the
piazza. There are no mosquitoes now.
But dozens of residents still suffer from arthritis, a known
complication of chikungunya.
Mr. Ricchi, the road worker, says he still has trouble clenching his
fists, and his left ankle has horrible pains. Three people in the town
died after getting the virus, Mr. Merlo said, although all of those
victims had other illnesses as well.
From the start, townspeople noticed that the very elderly never got the
disease. Now it makes sense: “If all you do is walk the 50 yards from
your home to the church, there’s not much chance to get bitten,” said
Mr. Ciano, the retiree.
But the biggest mystery is whether chikungunya will emerge here next
summer. In the tropics, it is a year-round disease, since the
mosquitoes breed continually. But the virus can winter over in mosquito
eggs, too, and no one knows if there are reservoirs of sleeping eggs in
some pool of water in Italy.
With climate change at hand, Dr. Bertollini said, chikungunya will
surely be back somewhere in Europe again.
The new strain of Cryptoccus gatti - PLOS Pathogens (l);
deadly fungus tornado aftermath.
Deadly Fungus Strikes Joplin
Thu Jun 9, 2011 2:16 pm ET
The Greene County (Mo.) Health Department has issued a memo to health
care workers who are treating injured victims of May's deadly Joplin
tornado, warning them that a powerful fungus has infected patients'
The Springfield News-Leader reports as many as nine cases have been
reported in tornado victims across the area in various hospitals. Once
the aggressive fungus -- called zygomycosis -- enters the body, it
causes the death of infected cells. Three or four patients, who
otherwise would have survived their wounds, have died from it.
If the fungus stays in a limb, like an arm or leg, some treatments have
necessitated amputation to save the patient. Others with wounds near
the head weren't so lucky -- as soon as brain tissue started dying, it
was too late to save the patient.
The National Institutes of Health says this rapid form of infection
most often occurs in patients with suppressed immune systems. One study
in 2009 noted a diabetes patient who died of the fungal infection at
age 48. Despite being treated early, the man's health rapidly declined
as the fungus spread through his lungs.
Infections spread through the blood and affects blood circulation. It
is unknown how many people may be suffering from infections, but the
problem doesn't stop with those injured by the tornado.
KYTV in Springfield reports those helping with cleanup efforts may
become scratched by nails or splinters and any fungus residue on those
objects may infect someone.
Anyone with diabetes should be extremely careful. The National
Institutes of Health lists severe symptoms of the infection: fever,
headache, sinus pain, and swelling. Complications that can arise from
these fungal infections include nerve damage, blindness, blood clots to
the brain and lungs, or even death in extreme cases.
Cases of the deadly fungal infection have shown up in massive disasters
before such as the 2004 tsunami off the coast of Indonesia. Health
officials in Greene County stated in their memo that this particular
infection is "invasive" and that aggressive treatment may be needed
"within 24 hours" of reoccurring symptoms.
Any patients suspected of having this infection have been told to seek
the guidance of a trauma surgeon or the infectious disease doctor on
new fungus strain rolling
across Northwestern U.S.
By Ethan Sacks, DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Originally Published:Friday, April 23rd 2010, 1:39 PM
Updated: Friday, April 23rd 2010, 2:09 PM
A mysterious new strain of airborne fungus that has mystified
scientists is rolling through the Northwestern U.S. and Canada, leaving
at least six people dead in its wake.
A study found that the new strain of Cryptoccus gatti, previously
native to tropical and subtropical regions like Australia and South
America, is spreading through Washington and Oregon and heading towards
Northern California, National Geographic reported.
"The alarming thing is that it's occurring in this region, it's
affecting healthy people, and geographically it's been expanding,"
study co-author Edmond Byrnes, a graduate student at Duke University,
told the magazine.
Experts are baffled as to how the fungus reached North American and
how it could survive in a colder climate.
Even more worrisome for health experts are reports that the victims had
relatively healthy immune systems, according to National Geographic.
Twenty one known cases have been recorded in humans, and six have been
A 1999 outbreak of a similar strain of the fungus in British Columbia,
Canada, had a much lower mortality rate, killing 19 out of 218
There is currently no vaccine for the fungus strain, which causes an
infection which may not display symptoms -- including a bad cough and
shortness of breath - until months after exposure.
"The enhanced virulence of isolates from the outbreak region, when
compared with those from other regions, suggests that the genotypes
circulating in the Pacific North West are inherently increased in their
predilection to cause disease in mammalian hosts," the study authors
wrote in the April 22 issue of the scientific journal, PLOS Pathogens.
CHINA REGIONS MAP HERE.
Click here for news of further
spread in China (14 April)...
5 April 2013 Last updated at 07:05 ET
Shanghai closes poultry markets
Chinese officials in the city of Shanghai have ordered the
temporary closure of its poultry markets due to the H7N9 bird flu
outbreak. A spokesman for the city authorities said the decision
was taken on grounds of public safety. The city has already begun
a mass slaughter of poultry after the virus was discovered in pigeons
at a market.
Six people have died in this latest outbreak. The H7N9 virus is a form
of avian flu not seen before in humans.
China has officially confirmed 14 cases and six deaths due to H7N9
infection as of Friday, the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a
statement. The cases are reportedly from eastern China, including
in Shanghai and Zhejiang province.
WHO says there is currently no evidence of human-to-human transmission.
"We have 14 cases in a large geographical area, we have no sign of any
epidemiological linkage between the confirmed cases and we have no sign
of sustained human-to-human transmission," WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl
said in Geneva.
The latest fatality was a farmer, 64, who died in Zhejiang province,
state-run media say. Four of the bird flu fatalities and six of
the 14 cases have been recorded in Shanghai. The city is also
monitoring another person who was in close contact with one of those
who died after showing flu-like symptoms. Shanghai health
official, Wu Fan, was quoted by Agence-France Presse news agency as
saying that the person tested negative for H7N9.
"There is no possibility of spreading the infection overseas," Wu Fan
also told a press conference.
Officials ordered the slaughter of at least 20,000 birds starting late
on Thursday after the virus was detected in pigeons sold in Huhuai
market. The market was sealed and police stood watch as workers
disinfected the areas, reports say.
Xu Wei, a spokesman for the Shanghai government, said trading of live
poultry will be suspended on Saturday
Grows in China as Flu’s Death Toll Rises to 6
By ANDREW JACOBS, NYTIMES
April 5, 2013
BEIJING — With confirmation that a sixth person has died from a
mysterious avian-borne virus, Chinese officials escalated their
response on Friday, advising people to avoid live poultry, dispatching
virologists to chicken farms across the country and slaughtering more
than 20,000 birds at a wholesale market in Shanghai where the virus,
known as H7N9, was detected in a pigeon.
News of the outbreak dominated China’s main Internet portals. There
were photographs of workers in white coveralls carrying out the culling
in Shanghai and recommendations that people take banlangen, an herbal
cold remedy that is a mainstay of Chinese households. Anxious residents
have been crowding emergency rooms at the first sign of respiratory
problems. And at a KFC restaurant in Beijing, employees stood idle as
mounds of fried chicken went largely unsold. “They say it’s O.K. to eat
cooked chicken, but I’d rather not take the chance,” Zhang Minyu, 41, a
housewife, said as she coaxed her young son to instead order a
soft-serve ice cream.
Roughly 10 years after Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS,
began here and spread across the globe, infecting more than 8,000
people and killing nearly 800, the deadly influenza outbreak is testing
a government known for its lack of transparency and reluctance to
divulge damaging news. The timing has not helped: The Chinese public
have already been outraged by record-level air pollution this year, and
frustrated by the government’s apparent inability to determine the
source or cause of deaths of more than 16,000 pigs found floating last
month in the river that supplies drinking water for Shanghai.
Although some critics have questioned why it took so long for officials
to publicly announce the outbreak of the H7N9 virus, public health
experts have so far commended the government for responsiveness and
transparency in the five days since officials identified the first
victims. “It was the Ministry of Health and Family Planning that first
came to us and volunteered the information,” said Gregory Hartl, a
spokesman for the World Health Organization in Geneva. “Their response
has been excellent.”
Health officials around the world are nervously monitoring the
outbreak, which has killed nearly half of the 14 people in whom the
virus has been diagnosed. What they fear most is that the disease will
mutate so that it can spread from human to human, but there has yet to
be a confirmed case of transmission between humans. However, the state
media on Friday reported that Shanghai officials had placed in
quarantine a person with flulike symptoms who had contact with a victim
Experts say the virus appears to respond to existing influenza
medications like Tamiflu and Relenza. In the United States, federal
health officials on Thursday said they had begun working on a vaccine
At the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s first
news conference about the H7N9 outbreak, its director, Dr. Thomas
Frieden said that there was close cooperation between his organization
and its Chinese counterpart that had helped enable China to post the
sequence of the new virus on a public database. He said Americans
planning to go to China should still go, but follow longstanding
recommendations to avoid birds and other animals.
John Oxford, a professor of virology at Queen Mary, University of
London, warned of a potential pandemic should H7N9 undergo a mutation
that allows human-to-human transmission. “On my earthquake scale, I’m
quite concerned because influenzas have a greater history of emerging
and spreading,” he said.
His worries were heightened, he said, by the relatively high fatality
rate and the virus’s apparent spread through poultry without any
evident signs of illness. “If a flock of chickens or ducks get H5N1, it
will kill them and set off alarm bells, but this virus seems to be a
bit more tricky,” he said, referring to another avian virus that since
2003 has decimated poultry stocks in Southeast Asia and killed more
than 300 people.
Even the government acknowledges that SARS was a public health debacle.
Chinese authorities tried to conceal the outbreak, hiding sick patients
from the World Health Organization, whose members were barred for five
weeks from visiting Guangdong Province, the epicenter of the outbreak.
The secrecy, experts agree, allowed the virus to spread within China
and across the globe.
Writing on his microblog account, Yu Shenghai, a researcher at the
China Economic Research Center, warned the authorities against hiding
information about the current outbreak. “I hope the government won’t be
self-deceiving and mislead ordinary people,” he wrote. “We learned a
lesson from SARS with a cost of blood. A nation is hopeless if it
doesn’t recall its past, and a government is incompetent if it doesn’t
reflect on its history.”
Shi Da contributed research from
Beijing and Donald G. McNeil Jr. contributed reporting from New York.
I-BBC W.H.O. SWINE FLU WORLD REACH
MAP, 27 APRIL '09; NYTIMES UPDATING OF MAP - LINK
October 2009 news from
News from CT;
CHINA: In 2013 in China, H7N9,
chicken to human;
Mexico: 103 dead - 20
confirmed to have died
from swine flu, 18 confirmed ill with swine flu
United States: 20 confirmed cases of swine flu
Canada: 6 confirmed cases
Spain: 1 confirmed case
UK, Spain, Israel, Brazil, Australia and New Zealand: suspected
cases being tested
now widespread in Conn.; 2 deaths reported
Updated 5:49 am, Thursday, January 9, 2014
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut
health officials say the flu is now widespread across the state with
more than 680 confirmed cases and two deaths this season.
Officials say Fairfield County has
the most confirmed cases with 239. New Haven is second with 163, while
Litchfield has the fewest cases with 16. More than 140 people have been
Department of Public Health reports that two people over 45 years old
have died from the flu this season. No other information on the deaths
Health officials say last year's flu
season was one of the most severe ever recorded with 57 deaths, more
than 2,200 hospitalizations and 11,500 confirmed cases.
The latest report by the federal
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the flu is now
widespread in 25 states.
What We Learned From H1N1’s
By RICHARD P. WENZEL
April 13, 2010
ONE year ago today, a government worker in Oaxaca, Mexico, became the
first person to die of swine flu. At the bedsides of other men and
women struggling to stay alive in Mexican critical care units, we
clinicians noticed early on that this novel H1N1 flu virus diverged
from influenza’s usual pattern of activity in striking ways. It began
in the Northern Hemisphere, not in Asia, and in mid-spring, not late
fall or winter. It also had a worrying predilection for children and
young adults, not the elderly and newborns.
In the months after those first deaths, the virus ignited a global
pandemic. While the epidemic never became as deadly as we initially
feared, it was not as mild as some experts now believe. What’s more, it
exposed some serious shortcomings in the world’s public health response.
Those who now describe the pandemic as mild base their conclusion
primarily on what, at first, seems like a mortality rate in the United
States similar to those seen after seasonal influenza. But my
colleagues in developing countries would strongly object.
Though we lack reliable death rates from country to country, certainly
no one who helped care for the large number of critically ill patients
in Mexico could conclude that the flu in the United States was as
severe as in developing countries that lacked our resources.
Here, the vaccine arrived later than estimated, and only about 80
million Americans received it — not nearly enough, but a far higher
proportion of the population than in many developing countries. In
fact, only 26 of 94 poor countries in need of the protective H1N1
vaccine have even received it so far.
We also cannot count as mild any virus that was so devastating for
young adults, along with pregnant women, obese patients and minorities.
Worse yet, this virus made itself particularly hard for clinicians to
identify. Whereas doctors associate fever and cough with outbreaks of
influenza, one-third of patients admitted to hospitals and up to half
of infected outpatients in this pandemic had no fever, yet they were
And because it is likely that only patients with fever were tested for
the presence of the virus, we greatly underestimated the number of
people infected. A telling report from Britain showed that when
children were tested in cross sectional surveys after the first wave of
infection, one in three had antibodies to the virus, meaning that they
had been infected — this was 10 times more people than estimated from
H1N1 posed huge infection-control problems, especially in hospitals.
This was because it was found not only on hard surfaces in the
environment, which is common to all influenza strains, but in the stool
of patients, a feature of avian influenza.
Public health groups emphasized the necessity of frequent hand-washing,
which surely helped reduce transmission. But those groups also
disagreed on other preventatives: for instance, the World Health
Organization and Society for Health Care Epidemiologists of America
recommended the relatively inexpensive surgical mask, whereas the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention argued for the N-95
In our own country, the virus struck at a time when Americans seemed
particularly skeptical about our government and large institutions. The
C.D.C. faced an uphill battle to characterize the trajectory of the
pandemic, to define its impact, to offer suggestions and to convince a
wary public to get vaccinated.
At times, health officials erred in their recommendations. C.D.C.
authorities often said that ill children and adults could go back to
school or work 24 hours after their fever disappeared — even though
young children are contagious for up to three weeks and adults for 5 to
It is not an easy task, but our public health authorities need to
become clearer about the lexicon of uncertainty — what they know and
don’t know about a pandemic. They also need to be transparent about how
they devise their recommendations, which often have to balance between
infection control and the daily activities of offices and schools. And
we need to identify which social distancing techniques truly help
control pandemics — for example, does the closing of schools and malls
minimize the spread of viruses from infected children to adults?
One year after its appearance, we continue to have many unanswered
questions about the virus. Will the novel H1N1 agent become a
persistent seasonal virus? Can we produce vaccine more quickly by
moving to a cell-based rather than egg-based method? Can we possibly
identify the Holy Grail of influenza vaccination, finding a virus
target common to all influenza A strains so that we can administer a
single vaccination at 10-year intervals?
Even as we work to solve these enigmas, we can try to prepare better
for future pandemics. First, we need to approach disease control not as
individual nations, but as a global community. In this, Mexico has
already set an excellent example. Only 10 days passed between Mexican
health authorities’ recognition of a possible new epidemic and their
announcement of it, a sharp contrast to the many months in 2003 between
the outbreak of SARS in China and its public declaration.
Mexico’s transparency was a policy decision made with full recognition
of the unfavorable economic consequences from H1N1, now estimated to
have cost almost 1 percent of the gross domestic product. Thanks to
that decision, we had an edge in fighting this virus. We should find
ways to financially reward early reporting of novel infectious agents,
while doing a better job of sharing resources and agreeing on common
Second, we should rely not just on governments for reporting but on the
cooperative efforts of international health organizations as well.
These groups should set up better sentinel reporting systems in places
where new swine or avian variants are most likely to occur — wherever
people and pigs or birds live closely together — so that they can
identify new virus progeny quickly.
Eventually, we’ll also need to encourage farmers in developing
countries to follow agricultural and safety practices that make it less
likely that viruses will jump species.
One predicts influenza at his own peril, but it is likely that H1N1
will continue to cause sporadic cases. In some highly susceptible,
unvaccinated populations it may even produce local outbreaks.
But the struggle between people and pathogens is a part of life itself.
We cannot continue to be surprised every time a new virus emerges.
Instead, we must use the lessons we’ve learned during the year since
H1N1 arrived to develop more effective public health responses.
CDC says 57 million had H1N1
published 04:11 p.m., February 12, 2010, updated 07:56 p.m., February
The federal government said Friday an estimated 57 million people in
the U.S. contracted the H1N1 virus -- more than previously thought
because early tracking methods accounted for only one in 79 infected.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the new number is
based on statistical models and replaces the earlier method of counting
only laboratory-confirmed cases because so many people with the flu do
not seek medical care.
"And only a small number of those who do seek care are tested," the
The method was abandon several months after the outbreak began in
The most recent report -- from April 2009 to mid January -- also
estimated 257,000 hospitalizations and 11,690 deaths related to H1N1.
The 57 million cases is roughly 4 percent more than reported in
The spread of the virus slowed through summer 2009, then re-emerged in
the fall and peaked in October. The subsequent decline follows the
arrival of vaccines that were administered at first to only such
at-risk patients as babies, pregnant women and people with illnesses.
The report released Friday also states as many as 84 million could have
been infected and 17,160 could have died form the virus.
H1N1 flu vaccine available today
By Pat McCormack
Posted: 11/04/2009 01:01:59 AM EST
Vaccinations against H1N1 flu will be offered today at the
Westport/Weston Health Department on Bayberry Lane between 3 and 6
p.m., Mark Cooper, head of the Westport/Weston Health District told the
Westport News during an interview Monday.
Monica Wheeler, community health director of the health district, said
the vaccinations will be in the form of the nasal spray and via needle
As many as 300 doses are expected to be on hand.
Vaccinations are expected to be administered on a first-come,
first-served basis, according to Wheeler. She advises potential
subjects to come early. That is because vaccine supplies are supposed
to top off around 300 doses.
Cooper, meanwhile, reminded residents that persons seeking vaccinations
must fit one of the following groups to be eligible to receive
vaccinations against H1N1 flu virus.
"¢ Pregnant women may get
the injection only.
"¢ All children ages 6 months to 18 years with high-risk medical
conditions may receive the injection only.
"¢ Children 2 years to 4 years with no high-risk medical
conditions may receive vaccinations via either the nasal spray or
"¢ 5 years to 18 years with no high risk medical conditions may
receive the nasal spray only.
"¢ 2 years to 18 years with high risk medical conditions such as
asthma or diabetes may receive the injection vaccine only.
Anyone not listed above and living with or caring for an infant under 6
months may be vaccinated according to the following guidelines:
"¢ If you have underlying medical conditions, you may receive the
"¢ If you are age 50 or over, you may receive the injection only.
"¢ If you have no high-risk medical conditions and are under 50,
you may receive the nasal spray or injections.
Health Director Mark Cooper said in a release: "The Westport/Weston
Health District is operating under State of Connecticut Department of
Public Health Directives and had no discretion regarding priority
groups in setting up the free H1N1 flu vaccination clinic Thursday. If
you are not in one of the above groups, you may continue to check our
Web site www.wwhd.org/H1N1.htm for further developments."
As more vaccine becomes available, the health district expects to
expand eligibility, Cooper noted during the interview. He added,
"Eventually, everyone who wants it will be offered vaccine."
Wheeler told the Westport News since darkness will be prevalent toward
the end of the free vaccination clinic today, volunteers will be
on-hand to see that those vaccinated will be escorted safely into and
out of the clinic.
The helpers will be from the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT)
and Medical Reserve Volunteer Corps that includes doctors and nurses,
as well as trained civilians.
Both Wheeler and Cooper anticipate there is a possibility that many
more people will show up than the health district has doses of vaccine
for, and both said that the health district will do the best it can and
advised folks to be patient.
Cooper recommended patience instead of panic. "Eventually there will be
enough vaccine for all who desire to be vaccinated -- if not Thursday,
later," he said.
To Close For Two Days Due To Swine Flu
By ARIELLE LEVIN BECKER and ALAINE GRIFFIN
October 24, 2009
Guilford High School has become Connecticut's first public school
casualty of the swine flu season this fall, with plans to close Monday
The move is a precaution after more than 40 percent of the school's
students were absent Friday.
"We cannot confirm how many of our students out ill have contracted the
H1N1 flu," school officials said in a press release Friday. "However,
local health officials believe that, due to the rapid spread of
symptoms and the known presence of influenza A (H1N1), the majority of
these students likely have the virus."
Unlike in the spring, when state officials urged schools to consider
closing if they had a probable case of swine flu, state and federal
guidelines now encourage school districts to stay open when possible.
But state Department of Education spokesman Tom Murphy said closing may
make sense when a significant number of students have fallen ill or
there are not enough teachers to carry on work in the classrooms.
In Guilford, 42 percent of the more than 1,100 students in the school
were absent Friday, according to the district's press release.
Connecticut has not had the widespread flu activity most other states
have seen this fall, but that could change. One indicator, the
percentage of emergency room visits attributed to flu-like illnesses,
has been increasing statewide since Oct. 4.
"We're starting to see increased activity, which is not unexpected,"
said William Gerrish, a spokesman for the state Department of Public
Murphy said Guilford's is the only school district so far to give the
state formal word of extensive H1N1 exposure, Murphy said.
Guilford's six other schools will be open next week, but
extracurricular activities outside the normal school day are canceled
at all schools.
"By closing the high school on Monday and Tuesday and canceling all
activities before and after school, we can provide an uninterrupted
four-day recovery period and significantly deter the transmission of
the virus to additional students and staff," the district's statement
Flu On Campuses
Flu cases have been showing up on some college and university
campuses in the state this fall as well. Most schools are following
state and federal guidelines and treating students with flu-like
symptoms as if they have swine flu, rather than testing to confirm.
Many are advising students who live within driving distance to go home
As of Friday, 51 students at Trinity College in Hartford were
exhibiting flu-like symptoms. Eighteen were isolated in their residence
halls and 33 were at home or elsewhere off campus, spokeswoman Michele
Jacklin said. So far this school year, 52 Trinity students have had
flu-like illnesses and recovered.
Wesleyan University in Middletown had 28 students with flu-like
symptoms Thursday. Eight went home and 20 were isolated in their rooms.
An average of six students a day have had flu-like illnesses this
month, according to the university. Two students developed pneumonia,
but there were no other complications or hospitalizations.
The University of Hartford had about a dozen cases confirmed as swine
flu since Oct. 12, spokesman David Isgur said. The school's health
department has contracted with an outside lab that has been testing and
confirming H1N1. None of the students has required more than the
typical treatment for flu, Isgur said.
The number of cases represents a small fraction of the campus of more
than 4,800 students, but Isgur said the presence of swine flu has been
raising students' awareness about the importance of precautions against
"It's reminding everybody to stay pretty vigilant because we're just
getting to the beginning of real flu season," Isgur said.
Other schools have also seen little flu activity.
At St. Joseph College in West Hartford, about 10 students have gone
home since the beginning of the year because of flu-like illnesses,
spokeswoman Cynthia Mariani said.
Western Connecticut State University in Danbury had 10 to 15 cases that
may have been swine flu, spokesman Paul Steinmetz said.
Eastern Connecticut State University in Willimantic had seven cases of
flu-like illness in the past 3½ weeks, spokesman Edward Osborn
and six students at Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven
went home as a precaution after reporting flu-like symptoms.
"Our policy has been the best treatment is for you to go home and be
treated by your own family physician," spokes- man Patrick Dilger said.
UConn's student health services director, Michael Kurland, could not be
reached Friday for current flu statistics at the university.
For students who don't live close enough to go home, schools are making
various plans. Wesleyan designated unoccupied housing as "flu
relocation housing," where up to 40 students with flu could go to stay
isolated. Trinity established a buddy system and made food available to
students who are isolated in their dorms. The University of Hartford's
dining services developed a "takeout" system to allow students to bring
the meal card of a sick student to the cafeteria and carry out food. In
New Haven, Yale University students with sick roommates have been moved
to other rooms on campus.
At Yale, the flu cases came early in the school year, peaking at the
end of last month, said Dr. Paul Genecin, director of university health
services. At the time, Yale's health services was seeing 20 to 30
students a day with flu-like symptoms. All were mild or moderate, and
none required hospitalization.
"That's really quieted down considerably," Genecin said.
More recently, Yale health services, which includes faculty, staff and
their families, has been seeing more cases among children. Genecin said
children may be the next surge group for the flu.
"We're fortunate up to this point that we're mostly seeing mild
illness," Genecin said. "But I think that it's important not to be
complacent about this epidemic and to say, 'Well it's all much ado
about nothing,' because the spectrum of influenza is broad and there
are people who are suffering from a severe illness which can lead to
respiratory failure and death in rare cases. So I think it's very
important for public health people to be very aware of that and not to
minimize the potential impact of this flu."
Copyright © 2009, The Hartford Courant
WESTPORT-WESTON HEALTH DISTRICT - click here.
Where to Get a Flu Shot Is Big
By SUSAN SAULNY
October 12, 2009
CHICAGO — In Alabama, Minnesota and Ohio, health care and emergency
medical service workers have been given priority for swine flu
immunization. Here in Illinois, and in parts of California and Indiana,
young children and their families are first in line.
And across the country, state and local health hot lines are jammed and
message boards are lighting up with one question: When can I get my
As a small fraction — some 2.4 million doses — of the nasal spray
version of the new swine flu vaccine began arriving last week at local
health departments, plans for limited distribution were being
formulated on the fly or dusted off from earlier in the decade, when
fears of an avian flu pandemic sparked a rush of emergency preparedness.
“We are getting our fair share, but I think everybody feels they’re not
getting it fast enough,” Lynn Corliss, a public health nurse in
Siskiyou County, Calif., said of the vaccine.
In Monroe County, Ind., health officials said their biggest problem was
not having enough staff to administer the vaccine. At schools, they are
sending notices home with children to ask for parent volunteers.
“It’s going as well as could be expected,” said Penny Caudill, the
administrator of the Monroe County Health Department. “It’s a huge
undertaking. It’s so new, and everything you do is a bit of trial and
In large part, chaos seems to have been averted, at least initially.
Many people seem to be more eager to receive the injectable form of the
vaccine, which is not yet available. And the nasal spray, called
FluMist, has some limits on who may use it. It is not recommended for
infants, the elderly or pregnant women.
Still, health officials were struggling to communicate that information
to the public and make the general population aware that the first
doses were not being widely distributed. So for most people, there was
nothing to do but wait.
“The public has legitimate questions,” said Jim McVay, director of
public health promotion and chronic disease at the Alabama Department
of Public Health. “They call us. They call the doctor. They say, ‘I saw
it on the news. It’s available. Why don’t you have it?’ We’re trying to
explain that yes, we will have ample supply, and yes, we’d like to have
it now. But there is a problem of having to ship out the largest
outreach of immunization in our nation’s history in the shortest time
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has embarked on an
extensive immunization drive, and, by later in the flu season, there
will be enough vaccine for the general population. But, to date, the 50
states have received only part of the available stock based on their
populations. At the moment, demand is far outstripping supply — and
State health departments were, for the most part, distributing FluMist
to counties in proportions based on their population sizes. Counties
were turning the vaccine over to population centers, schools and
hospitals as requests came in, and according to recommendations from
In Iowa, the state and county health departments are using plans
developed in 2003 after the emergence of the bird flu in Asia.
“This is something we’ve been thinking about for years, since the H5N1
avian flu: what would it really take if we had to move at the level of
hundreds of thousand of doses as opposed to tens of thousands?” said
Rick Kozin, program manager at the Polk County Health Department. “The
plan is a product of a lot of partnership building that’s taken place
over the last several years.”
The thinking was much the same in Ohio.
“We were fully aware that there were three pandemics in the 20th
century,” said Kristopher Weiss, a spokesman for the Ohio Department of
Health, which is relying on guidelines developed around avian flu
fears. Of the need to put an emergency plan in place, he said,
officials knew it was “only a matter of time.”
Ohio received 61,500 doses of the vaccine on Thursday, and more than
100 local health departments began receiving allotments on Friday.
Health care workers took priority.
Gov. Ted Strickland, a Democrat, signed an executive order last week to
allow 17,000 emergency medical technicians to provide the vaccine if
needed. The State Health Department posts updates about the vaccine on
its Web site and has set up a toll-free number for Ohioans with
questions about the H1N1 virus.
“I think it’s going relatively well,” Mr. Strickland said.
In Arkansas, officials have been aided by a coincidence: last year the
legislature granted $2.9 million for vaccinating students against the
seasonal flu. Ed Barham, a spokesman for the Arkansas Department of
Health, said that plan created an infrastructure on which the
department could piggyback and distribute swine flu vaccines at the
Vaccinations are scheduled to start on Wednesday in Little Rock. In the
meantime, Arkansas health officials will give the vaccine to the
neediest cases: health workers, children and those with other health
“It’s very much shooting at a moving target,” Mr. Barham said.
In southwest Utah, the area’s Public Health Department divided its
allotment of the swine flu vaccine among the five county hospitals,
based on the size of the medical center and its community.
Even though the department had distribution plans in place, it has had
to be nimble.
“Probably about three weeks ago we heard that our first batches would
be nasal spray, and we were expecting injections,” said David Heaton,
public information officer for the Southwest Utah Public Health
Department. “We were going to target pregnant women.”
“We realized this would be more of a matching game than simply getting
people in,” Mr. Heaton said.
When enough doses do become available for the general public, officials
have plans in place to open drive-through vaccination clinics they call
The clinics were first planned in preparation for the avian flu.
“The swine flu caught us off guard last April, but we’ve drilled them
and done them so now we can do that successfully with the H1N1 vaccine
as it comes in,” he said of the clinics. “We’re geared up and ready to
other nations stop counting
pandemic flu cases
By MIKE STOBBE, AP Medical Writer
Fri Oct 9, 4:48 pm ET
ATLANTA – U.S. health officials have lost track of how many illnesses
and deaths have been caused by the first global flu epidemic in 40
And they did it on purpose.
Government doctors stopped counting swine flu cases in July, when they
estimated more than 1 million were infected in this country. The number
of deaths has been sitting at more than 600 since early September.
Health officials had previously counted lab-confirmed cases, though the
tally was skewed because many people who got sick never were tested.
Other nations have stopped relying on lab-confirmed cases, too, and
health officials say the current monitoring system is adequate. But not
having specific, accurate counts of swine flu means the government
doesn't have a clear picture of how hard the infection is hitting some
groups of people, said Andrew Pekosz, a flu expert at Johns Hopkins
The novel H1N1 flu seems to be more dangerous for children, young
adults, pregnant women and even the obese, according to studies based
on small numbers of patients. And federal health officials are keeping
track of children's deaths. But exactly how much more at risk kids and
other groups are is hard to gauge if the overall numbers are fuzzy.
"This wasn't as critical early on, when case numbers were low," said
Pekosz. But now, it's hard to say exactly how swine flu's dangers vary
from group to group, he said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is relying on a
patchwork system of gathering death and hospitalization numbers. Some
states are reporting lab-confirmed cases. Others report illnesses that
could be the new swine flu, seasonal flu or some other respiratory
Some say that's a more sensible approach than only counting
lab-confirmed cases. Many people who got sick never get tested, so the
tally of swine flu cases was off almost from the very beginning, they
"It was a vast underestimate," said Dr. Zack Moore, a respiratory
disease expert for the North Carolina Department of Health and Human
What's more, as the initial panic of the new virus ebbed, fewer people
were fully tested, so the results weren't as accurate or comprehensive.
"The kinds of numbers you were getting later in the summer were
different from the numbers early on," said Dr. Daniel Jernigan, deputy
director of the CDC's influenza division.
That's why the CDC shifted to counting the new flu like it counts
seasonal flu cases, agency officials said. "We're concerned folks are
focused on the numbers and missing that influenza is monitored by
looking at trends," Jernigan said.
It's likely that millions of Americans have been sickened by swine flu
by now, CDC officials say. New York City alone estimates it had roughly
1 million cases since swine flu first hit last spring.
While everyone would like an exact measure of how every disease is
affecting society, that simply doesn't exist. "We don't even have a
good measure of how many heart attacks there are every day," which
would seem like a relatively easy thing to track, noted Marc Lipsitch,
a Harvard University professor of epidemiology.
More comprehensive tracking is not possible with current resources and
medical record-keeping, some public health advocates say.
"The fact that it is a challenge to come up with these data proves that
we have underdeveloped surveillance systems in this country," said Jeff
Levi, executive director of Trust for America's Health, a
Washington-based public health research organization.
Most disease investigation and case-counting is done by state and local
health departments. But quality varies state to state, and in many
places it may be getting worse: State budget shortfalls and other
problems led to the elimination of 7,000 health department jobs last
year and 8,000 more jobs in the first six months of this year.
"You take for granted this work goes on. But it is difficult to take
for granted any longer, with these cuts going on," said Robert
Pestronk, executive director of the National Association of County and
City Health Officials.
However, Pestronk and others think the government's current system of
flu tracking is adequate and getting better.
The CDC has nine ways of monitoring influenza. Some focus on people who
die from flu-like illness — one tracking deaths of children, another
counting pneumonia and flu deaths of all ages in 122 cities.
Other systems gather flu-testing information from labs across the
country. And some rely on reports of flu-like illness from hospital
emergency departments and from estimates from state and territorial
Those systems combine to give a good general picture of whether more or
fewer people are going to the doctor with flu, and how often lab
samples are showing swine flu as compared to other respiratory bugs,
health officials say.
There are problems that make even that data incomplete or inaccurate.
Rapid flu tests — which are used in counting hospitalizations — are
often wrong when they indicate a patient doesn't have swine flu, CDC
studies have shown. In some cases, flu or swine flu was only confirmed
at autopsy. But most deaths are not autopsied.
These problems are not unique to the United States. The World Health
Organization also stopped counting cases in July, after deciding that
tracking individual swine flu cases was too overwhelming for countries
where the virus was spreading widely. The WHO has continued to update
swine flu reports, but with the disclaimer that since countries are no
longer required to test and report cases, WHO's numbers underestimate.
Britain also releases weekly swine flu updates, but the numbers are
estimates based on how many people go to their doctors with flu-like
illness, as well as calls logged to the national flu service.
Despite resource limitations and data imperfections, experts say the
U.S. system is good enough to alert the experts when major changes
occur in the pandemic.
"There will always be an error factor, misdiagnosis,
misclassifications," said Pestronk, formerly the head of a county
health department in Michigan. "We'll never be at 100 percent of people
getting tested. The question is what's good enough for purposes of
planning and acting on the burden of disease."
Avian flu has an antidote - NYTIMES suggests it might be used in
the event of a "Swine Flu" ourbreak.
Editorial: Preparing for
September 1, 2009
There was a lot of confusion last week about swine flu. A presidential
advisory group issued a “plausible scenario” in which a swine flu
epidemic could cause up to 90,000 deaths, three times the mortality in
a typical flu season. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
countered that the toll would most likely not approach that number.
Our own take is this: A swine flu epidemic this fall and winter is
likely to infect more people than a normal flu, but the virus will not
be abnormally lethal. If it spreads rapidly after schools open, we will
have to face it without vaccine, which will not arrive in substantial
quantities until the swine flu epidemic has peaked.
The report that sparked concern was issued by the President’s Council
of Advisors on Science and Technology. The council stressed that it was
not predicting what would happen but was simply offering a scenario to
help the government develop responses to a potential epidemic.
The report posited an epidemic that could produce symptoms in 60
million to 120 million people and cause as many as 90 million to seek
medical attention; up to 1.8 million could be hospitalized, 300,000
could flood into crowded I.C.U.’s, and 30,000 to 90,000 people could
Even some members of the advisory panel think their estimates may be a
bit high. In any case, this is a virus that is no more lethal, and
possibly less lethal, than normal flu strains.
In the initial outbreaks last spring, an estimated 800,000 New Yorkers,
10 percent of the city’s population, developed symptoms attributed to
the swine flu virus. Only 54 died — an encouragingly low death rate.
Most infected people got better without medical treatment.
Another encouraging sign is that the virus has not become more virulent
as it wends its way around the world. Finally, the United States is
better prepared than ever before. The Bush administration and Congress
invested heavily in planning and in stockpiling medicines and medical
supplies to fight a feared avian flu pandemic that never materialized,
and the Obama administration has continued the effort. The same
medicines should work against the swine flu virus.
The rub is that a vaccine to prevent swine flu is still being tested
and will not be ready until mid-October, too late to help most people
if the virus spreads rapidly in September after schools and colleges
open almost everywhere. The standard advice will be to cover our
coughs, wash our hands, and stay home if sick. There will be medicines
to treat the very sick.
The swine flu virus seems to infect mostly people under age 65, in
contrast with seasonal flus that primarily harm the elderly. Health
officials are assuming that they have to prepare for both kinds of flu
to be circulating and will be offering vaccines to protect against
both. Whatever damage swine flu causes may well be piled on top of the
normal flu sickness and deaths.
WWHD announces joint local task force to plan
(Aug. 24, 2009) Mark A.R. Cooper, Director of Health for the
Westport Weston Health District has announced that school, government
and public health officials are collaborating through a joint local
task force to plan for and take action related to H1N1 influenza
outbreaks during the coming flu season. “We are working together to do
all that is possible to prepare for the uncertain flu season ahead of
us and to make sure our citizens understand how best to minimize the
spread of influenza in our schools and communities”.
Cooper praised school nursing, local school and government
officials for their participation and efforts to safeguard students and
Cooper said that the three main goals of the Task Force are
- balance the risk of flu within our schools and community
with the disruption that school dismissals will cause in education and
the wider community;
- facilitate collaboration at the local level; and,
- enhance communication related to H1N1 influenza among
local, state and national health and education officials and to prevent
the spread of flu and other communicable diseases within our schools
The towns of Westport, Weston and Wilton have reviewed and
are prepared to implement their Public Health Preparedness and Response
Plan should the severity of the H1N1 flu increase in the coming weeks
Noting the concern about the availability of a vaccine that
is currently under production and testing by federal authorities,
Cooper indicated the federal Center for Disease Control and Prevention
(CDC) continues to anticipate that an H1N1 vaccine should be licensed
and ready for distribution by mid-fall 2009. The vaccine will be
available at a number of sites including local physician offices,
health clinics and the our
2009 flu clinics. Once available, those administering the vaccine
will be held accountable to follow CDC established priorities and
protocols. The CDC has stated the priorities and protocols will be
enforced by federal, state and local authorities.
Additional information is available at the following websites.
Novel H1N1 Vaccination
Recommendations (July 30, 2009)
With the new H1N1 virus continuing to cause illness, hospitalizations
and deaths in the US during the normally flu-free summer months and
some uncertainty about what the upcoming flu season might bring, CDC's
Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices has taken an important
step in preparations for a voluntary novel H1N1 vaccination effort to
counter a possibly severe upcoming flu season. On July 29, ACIP met to
consider who should receive novel H1N1 vaccine when it becomes
Novel H1N1 Vaccine
Every flu season has the potential to cause a lot of illness, doctor’s
visits, hospitalizations and deaths. CDC is concerned that the
H1N1 flu virus could result in a particularly severe flu season this
year. Vaccines are the best tool we have to prevent
hopes that people will start to go out and get vaccinated against
seasonal influenza as soon as vaccines become available at their
doctor’s offices and in their communities (this may be as early as
August for some). The seasonal flu vaccine is unlikely to provide
protection against novel H1N1 influenza. However a novel H1N1
is currently in production and may be ready for the public in the fall.
The novel H1N1 vaccine is not intended to replace the seasonal flu
vaccine – it is intended to be used along-side seasonal flu vaccine.
CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), a panel made
up of medical and public health experts, met July 29, 2009, to make
recommendations on who should receive the new H1N1 vaccine when it
becomes available. While some issues are still unknown, such as
severe the virus will be during the fall and winter months, the ACIP
considered several factors, including current disease patterns,
populations most at-risk for severe illness based on current trends in
illness, hospitalizations and deaths, how much vaccine is expected to
be available, and the timing of vaccine availability.
The groups recommended to receive the novel H1N1 influenza vaccine
* Pregnant women because they are at higher risk of
and can potentially provide protection to infants who cannot be
* Household contacts and caregivers for children
younger than 6
months of age because younger infants are at higher risk of
influenza-related complications and cannot be vaccinated. Vaccination
of those in close contact with infants less than 6 months old might
help protect infants by “cocooning” them from the virus;
* Healthcare and emergency medical services
infections among healthcare workers have been reported and this can be
a potential source of infection for vulnerable patients. Also,
increased absenteeism in this population could reduce healthcare system
* All people from 6 months through 24 years of age
o Children from
6 months through 18 years of age because we
have seen many cases of novel H1N1 influenza in children and they are
in close contact with each other in school and day care settings, which
increases the likelihood of disease spread, and
o Young adults
19 through 24 years of age because we have
seen many cases of novel H1N1 influenza in these healthy young adults
and they often live, work, and study in close proximity, and they are a
frequently mobile population; and,
* Persons aged 25 through 64 years who have health
associated with higher risk of medical complications from influenza.
We do not expect that there will be a shortage of novel H1N1 vaccine,
but flu vaccine availability and demand can be unpredictable and there
is some possibility that initially, the vaccine will be available in
limited quantities. So, the ACIP also made recommendations
which people within the groups listed above should be prioritized if
the vaccine is initially available in extremely limited quantities. For
more information see the CDC press release CDC Advisors Make
Recommendations for Use of Vaccine Against Novel H1N1.
Once the demand for vaccine for the prioritized groups has been met at
the local level, programs and providers should also begin vaccinating
everyone from the ages of 25 through 64 years. Current studies indicate
that the risk for infection among persons age 65 or older is less than
the risk for younger age groups. However, once vaccine demand among
younger age groups has been met, programs and providers should offer
vaccination to people 65 or older.
States: US Swine Flu Cases Jump
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Filed at 2:03 p.m. ET
April 28, 2009
ATLANTA (AP) -- The number of confirmed swine flu cases in the United
States has jumped to 64, federal officials said Tuesday, and states
reported at least four more.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the new count
includes ''a number of hospitalizations.'' CDC officials had previously
said just one person had been hospitalized.
The CDC said there were 17 new cases in New York City, four more in
Texas and three additional cases in California. That brings the total
numbers of cases confirmed by federal officials to 45 in New York City,
10 in California, six in Texas, two in Kansas and one in Ohio.
State health officials in California have confirmed three other cases,
and Indiana authorities have confirmed one.
The increase is not surprising. For days, CDC officials have said they
expected to see more confirmed cases -- and more severe illnesses.
Health officials across the country have stepped up efforts to look for
cases, especially among people with flu-like illness who had traveled
CDC officials also warned that updates in the number of confirmed cases
would at time be disjointed, as different states announce new
information before the CDC's national count is updated.
Mexico's epidemiology boss faults WHO
By ANDREW O. SELSKY, Associated Press Writer
Posted on May 1, 9:39 AM EDT
MEXICO CITY (AP) -- A top Mexican medical officer accused the World
Health Organization of being slow to respond to the country's warning
about a health crisis that turned into a global swine flu scare. The
WHO disputed the claim.
Dr. Miguel Angel Lezana, Mexico's chief epidemiologist, told The
Associated Press late Thursday his center alerted the Pan American
Health Organization, a regional arm of WHO, on April 16 about an
unusually late rash of flu and pneumonia cases in Mexico. But he
no action was taken until eight days later, when the WHO announced it
was worried the outbreak could become a pandemic.
"It seems it should have been more immediate," Lezana, director of the
National Epidemiology Center, told AP in a telephone interview. He
called for an investigation into WHO's handling of the crisis.
WHO officials said Friday the agency learned April 9 of cases of
"suspicious influenza" from Mexico and responded quickly on April 24
when U.S. and Canadian laboratories identified the virus as a new
strain of flu.
"We moved into operation within a matter of hours," WHO spokesman
Thomas Abraham told reporters.
Mexican health authorities came under criticism, particularly from
frustrated citizens, for a slow and bumbling early response to the
outbreak. Hong Kong's leader said Friday the territory has a
case of swine flu, Asia's first. In the United States, the confirmed
case count stood at 132, and state laboratories believe the numbers are
even higher. Hundreds of U.S. schools were closed Thursday. In
the outbreak's epicenter, new cases and the death rate were leveling
off, the country's top medical officer said. Health authorities said
they have confirmed 300 swine flu cases and 12 deaths due to the virus.
"The fact that we have a stabilization in the daily numbers, even a
drop, makes us optimistic," Mexican Health Secretary Jose Angel Cordova
said. "Because what we'd expect is geometric or exponential growth. And
that hasn't been the situation."
The only confirmed swine flu death outside Mexico was a Mexican toddler
who died in a Texas hospital Monday. The United States is buying
million courses of anti-flu drugs to replenish its stockpile and
sending 400,000 courses to Mexico. U.S. health officials say a swine
flu vaccine could not be ready until fall at the earliest. Mexico
down all but essential government services and private businesses
Friday, the start of a five-day shutdown that includes a holiday
weekend. Schools are also closed through Tuesday.
Mexico City's notoriously clogged avenues were clear, crime was down
and the smog dropped to levels normally seen only on holidays. Mexico
is using the shutdown to determine whether to extend or ease emergency
measures. Lezana, the chief epidemiologist, said his department
alarmed by flu and pneumonia cases in Mexico earlier in April and
notified the local office of PAHO by e-mail, following international
He said the illnesses raised a red flag because the flu was occurring
at least a month after flu season normally ends in Mexico. Four
later, PAHO still had not responded, so the National Epidemiology
Center asked PAHO whether it needed more, Lezana said. He said PAHO
responded the alert was being handled. Lezana said that as far as
knew, the PAHO regional office in Washington and WHO took no action
until April 24, when WHO announced an epidemic was under way.
Lezana had learned just the day before, from a testing of a sample that
Mexico sent to a lab in Canada, that people were coming down with a
new, mutated and lethal swine flu virus. By then, more than 1,000
people had been sickened in Mexico.
Daniel Epstein, a PAHO spokesman in Washington, told The Washington
Post the agency received a message from Mexican authorities April 16
about an unusual outbreak. He described a system that sends messages to
WHO headquarters in Geneva automatically. WHO officials in Geneva
confirmed Friday that the organization had received reports from Mexico
of cases of suspicious influenza and that the organization reacted
quickly when the new flu virus was identified on April 24.
WHO chief Dr. Margaret Chan was aboard a flight to the United States at
the time but was briefed immediately when she landed, Abraham said. She
canceled her appointments, met with U.S. and Mexican authorities and
flew back to Geneva on April 25. That evening, WHO told the world it
faced a possible flu pandemic.
"I think that is a pretty rapid response," Abraham said.
WHO flu chief Dr. Keiji Fukuda, speaking before the Mexican
epidemiologist issued his criticism, told reporters late Thursday there
is always some delay when unusual illnesses are detected, particularly
during flu season.
"Most diseases do not come out with people walking around with 'new
disease' written on their forehead and 'we need to call an
international response,'" he said. "And in this case the countries
which were affected earlier, they really were communicating in a very
While Mexico waited for WHO to help, Lezana said, Mexican authorities
tried to identify the outbreak and stop it. Mexican medical teams
interviewed 472 people who may have come into contact with the first
known swine flu fatality, a 39-year-old woman. But only 18 of the
all hospital workers, were tested for swine flu. And in other parts of
Mexico, health workers only this week started visiting the families of
victims to find out whether they contracted it as well.
The Red Cross said it was readying an army of 60 million volunteers who
could be deployed around the world to help slow the virus' spread.
Besides the U.S. and Mexico, nine nations have confirmed cases, most in
WHO again raises
swine flu alert
By Denise Grady
Published on 4/30/2009
The global spread of swine flu, a pandemic, is highly likely, the World
Health Organization said on Wednesday as it raised its alert level to
Phase 5, the next-to-highest level in the worldwide warning system.
Phase 5 has never been declared before. Phase 6 means a pandemic is
under way. WHO said its decision was based on the continuing spread of
swine flu in the United States and Mexico, particularly the increasing
numbers of unexplained cases among people not exposed to travelers or
to institutions like schools or hospitals where many people have close
contact with one another and high rates of transmission might be
”All countries should immediately activate their pandemic preparedness
plans,” Dr. Margaret Chan, director-general of the organization, said
at a news conference in Geneva. “Countries should remain on high alert
for unusual outbreaks of influenza-like illness and severe pneumonia.”
The first death from swine flu in the United States - of a 22-month-old
child from Mexico who was being treated in Houston - was reported on
Wednesday, along with more infections and hospitalizations. The U.S.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 91 confirmed cases
from 10 states, up from 64 cases in five states on Tuesday.
Chan emphasized the need for calm, but at times spoke as if a pandemic
had already begun, saying, for instance, “WHO will be tracking the
pandemic.” She also emphasized that flu epidemics tended to take much
higher death tolls in poor countries than in rich ones, and said her
organization and others would need to make special efforts to help
She called for global solidarity, saying, “After all, it really is all
of humanity that is under threat during a pandemic.”
President Barack Obama, terming the outbreak “cause for deep concern
but not panic,” took the unusual step of using a prime time televised
news conference, convened to mark his 100th day in office, to deliver a
public health message to the American people.
”Wash your hands when you shake hands, cover your mouth when you
cough,” he said from the East Room of the White House. “It sounds
trivial, but it makes a huge difference. If you are sick, stay home. If
your child is sick, take him out of school.”
With public health officials recommending that schools close if there
are more confirmed or suspected cases, Obama urged parents and
businesses to “think about contingency plans” in the case of such
closings. He said he was calling on Congress to authorize an immediate
$1.5 billion to “support our ability to monitor and track this virus”
and to build the supply of antiviral drugs.
Government preparedness plans may include steps like ensuring that
laboratories can test for the disease and that health systems can
identify and treat cases, track an outbreak and prevent the virus from
spreading in hospitals and clinics. Governments should also decide on
measures like closing schools and discouraging or banning public
gatherings. Mexico, for instance, has prohibited people from eating in
restaurants and is allowing restaurants to provide only take-out food.
”The more recent illnesses and the reported death suggest that a
pattern of more severe illness associated with this virus may be
emerging in the U.S.,” the CDC said on its Web site. More
hospitalizations and deaths are expected, the site said, because the
virus is new and most people have no immunity to it.
The outbreak has caused such concern because officials have never seen
this particular strain of the flu passing among humans before, said Dr.
Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and
Infectious Diseases. “There is no background immunity in the
population, and it is spreading from human to human - all of which has
the potential for a pandemic,” Fauci said.
Dr. Richard Besser, acting director of the CDC, said officials have no
way of predicting whether the outbreak will become more serious.
”You don't know if this is a virus that will fizzle in a couple of
weeks or one that will become more or less virulent or severe in the
diseases it causes,” Besser said. He added that officials must follow
government plans for a pandemic because of that unpredictability.
The CDC's count of 91 confirmed cases in the United States did not
include later reports by Maine and Nevada of confirmed cases there,
which were announced after the CDC tally had been posted. In addition,
there were suspected cases in Louisiana and Delaware. Kits being
provided to the states and other countries will allow them to test for
the virus on their own and obtain results within a few hours.
New York City added five new confirmed cases, bringing its total to 49.
All have links to Mexico or St. Francis Preparatory School in Queens,
where the virus first surfaced in New York, health officials said. The
city identified five more probable cases.
The total in Canada rose from 16 to 19. In Mexico, more than 150 people
are suspected to have died from the illness, and almost 2,500 are
thought to have been infected.
Kathleen Sebelius focused on the outbreak on Wednesday during her first
news conference as the secretary of Health and Human Services. “We're
determined to fight this outbreak and do everything we can to protect
the health of every American,” she said.
Sebelius noted that the CDC had recommended that schools close only if
a student is found to be infected with the swine flu virus. More
aggressive steps are under discussion, she said, but officials realize
that school closings can cause problems for families.
”What happens to parents? Where do children go?” she asked.
Besser, who joined the news conference via a video feed, said the most
recent cases included patients of a broad range of ages, with
two-thirds of all cases occurring in people under the age of 18.
”There have been five hospitalizations so far, including the child who
died. But we have a number of suspect cases that have been hospitalized
and we expect that number to go up,” Besser said. “It's a serious
outbreak, and we're taking aggressive measures.”
Besser said that a quarter of the nation's stockpile of 50 million
treatments of antiviral medicines would be distributed to states by
The United States has no plans to close international borders because,
Besser said, such closings are not effective in slowing pandemics. When
Hong Kong was hit with severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS,
“increased border screening on entry and exit was not an effective way
of identifying cases or preventing transmission,” Besser said.
Nonetheless, Customs and Border Protection agents have stepped up
efforts to spot sick travelers and are passing out travel health
”Individuals who are identified as sick are referred to public health
professionals for evaluation,” Besser said.
Some elected officials have begun to question the decision to leave the
borders open. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano was grilled
on Wednesday by senators who asked whether her agency was acting
aggressively enough to stop the virus from spreading from Mexico into
the United States. The senators, including John McCain, R-Ariz., and
Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., asked several times why the Obama
administration had decided against closing the border and banning
travel to Mexico.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, took issue with Napolitano's decision to
use only “passive inspection techniques” to monitor people entering the
United States. She urged that customs officials inspect more thoroughly
and that the agency consider using heat sensors that allow agents to
detect fevers among travelers entering the country.
Presumably, these birds are giving samples to be tested for
reports new bird flu case in Hunan province
27 April 2013
BEIJING (Reuters) - China on Saturday reported its first
case of H7N9 bird flu in the southern province of Hunan, the latest
sign the virus that has killed 23 people in the country is continuing
The official Xinhua news agency said the patient was a 64-year-old
woman from Shaoyang city who developed a fever on April 14, four days
after having contact with poultry. Her condition had improved with
treatment, it added.
The flu was first detected in March. This week, the World Health
Organization called the virus "one of the most lethal", and said it is
more easily transmitted than an earlier strain that has killed hundreds
around the world since 2003.
None of the 41 people who had come into contact with the
newly-confirmed Hunan patient, identified only by the surname Guan, had
shown symptoms, Xinhua said.
A 54-year-old man who fell ill in Jiangxi province was also being
treated in Hunan, where he was diagnosed with H7N9, Xinhua said.
The Hunan cases come a day after the eastern province of Fujian
reported its first case and during the same week that a man in Taiwan
become the first case of the flu outside mainland China. He caught the
flu while travelling in China.
Chinese scientists confirmed on Thursday that chickens had transmitted
the flu to humans.
(Reporting by John Ruwitch; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)
Something lurking beneath the ripples on
this man-made lake on the Colorado River.
6 die from brain-eating amoeba in lakes
By CHRIS KAHN, Associated Press Writer
Sat Sep 29, 12:59 AM ET
PHOENIX - It sounds like science fiction but it's true:
A killer amoeba living in lakes enters the body through the nose and
attacks the brain where it feeds until you die. Even though
encounters with the microscopic bug are extraordinarily rare, it's
killed six boys and young men this year. The spike in cases has health
officials concerned, and they are predicting more cases in the future.
"This is definitely something we need to track," said Michael Beach, a
specialist in recreational waterborne illnesses for the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention.
"This is a heat-loving amoeba. As water temperatures go up, it does
better," Beach said. "In future decades, as temperatures rise, we'd
expect to see more cases."
According to the CDC, the amoeba called Naegleria fowleri
(nuh-GLEER-ee-uh FOWL'-erh-eye) killed 23 people in the United States,
from 1995 to 2004. This year health officials noticed a spike with six
cases — three in Florida, two in Texas and one in Arizona. The CDC
knows of only several hundred cases worldwide since its discovery in
Australia in the 1960s.
In Arizona, David Evans said nobody knew his son, Aaron, was infected
with the amoeba until after the 14-year-old died on Sept. 17. At first,
the teen seemed to be suffering from nothing more than a headache.
"We didn't know," Evans said. "And here I am: I come home and I'm
After doing more tests, doctors said Aaron probably picked up the
amoeba a week before while swimming in the balmy shallows of Lake
Havasu, a popular man-made lake on the Colorado River between Arizona
and California. Though infections tend to be found in southern
states, Naegleria lives almost everywhere in lakes, hot springs, even
dirty swimming pools, grazing off algae and bacteria in the sediment.
Beach said people become infected when they wade through shallow water
and stir up the bottom. If someone allows water to shoot up the nose —
say, by doing a somersault in chest-deep water — the amoeba can latch
onto the olfactory nerve. The amoeba destroys tissue as it makes
its way up into the brain, where it continues the damage, "basically
feeding on the brain cells," Beach said.
People who are infected tend to complain of a stiff neck, headaches and
fevers. In the later stages, they'll show signs of brain damage such as
hallucinations and behavioral changes, he said. Once infected,
most people have little chance of survival. Some drugs have stopped the
amoeba in lab experiments, but people who have been attacked rarely
survive, Beach said.
"Usually, from initial exposure it's fatal within two weeks," he said.
Researchers still have much to learn about Naegleria. They don't know
why, for example, children are more likely to be infected, and boys are
more often victims than girls.
"Boys tend to have more boisterous activities (in water), but we're not
clear," Beach said.
In central Florida, authorities started an amoeba phone hot line
advising people to avoid warm, standing water and areas with algae
blooms. Texas health officials also have issued warnings. People
"seem to think that everything can be made safe, including any river,
any creek, but that's just not the case," said Doug McBride, a
spokesman for the Texas Department of State Health Services.
Officials in the town of Lake Havasu City are discussing whether to
take action. "Some folks think we should be putting up signs. Some
people think we should close the lake," city spokesman Charlie Cassens
Beach cautioned that people shouldn't panic about the dangers of the
brain-eating bug. Cases are still extremely rare considering the number
of people swimming in lakes. The easiest way to prevent infection,
Beach said, is to use nose clips when swimming or diving in fresh
"You'd have to have water going way up in your nose to begin with" to
be infected, he said.
David Evans has tried to learn as much as possible about the amoeba
over the past month. But it still doesn't make much sense to him. His
family had gone to Lake Havasu countless times. Have people always been
in danger? Did city officials know about the amoeba? Can they do
anything to kill them off?
Evans lives within eyesight of the lake. Temperatures hover in the
triple digits all summer, and like almost everyone else in this desert
region, the Evanses look to the lake to cool off.
It was on David Evans' birthday Sept. 8 that he brought Aaron, his
other two children, and his parents to Lake Havasu. They ate sandwiches
and spent a few hours splashing around.
"For a week, everything was fine," Evans said.
Then Aaron got the headache that wouldn't go away. At the hospital,
doctors first suspected meningitis. Aaron was rushed to another
hospital in Las Vegas.
"He asked me at one time, 'Can I die from this?'" David Evans said. "We
said, 'No, no.'"
On Sept. 17, Aaron stopped breathing as his father held him in his
"He was brain dead," Evans said. Only later did doctors and the CDC
determine that the boy had been infected with Naegleria.
"My kids won't ever swim on Lake Havasu again," he said.
mourns principal as state investigates 2nd Legionnaire's case
LINDA CONNER LAMBECK firstname.lastname@example.org
10/04/2006 09:26:27 AM EDT
BRIDGEPORT — Garfield School Principal Howard Reed lost his battle with
Legionnaires' disease late Monday as state health officials announced a
second case of the disease had been reported in West Haven, where Reed
State officials would not identify the second person but said that
individual is hospitalized.
Gov. M. Jodi Rell on Tuesday asked Public Health Commissioner J. Robert
Galvin to seek assistance from the federal Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention to investigate. Galvin will comply, said state
health department spokesman William Gerrish, but there are no plans to
test Garfield School for the bacteria.
Legionnaires' disease is a bacterial respiratory illness spread through
the air from a soil or water source. It has been reported 30 times in
Connecticut, resulting in six deaths. The diagnosis of two West
Haven residents within a week is regarded as unusual, state officials
said. Rell said her request for CDC support is not an indication
of a suspected outbreak, but rather a prudent step because two cases
have been identified in one town.
The disease is not spread from person to person and is uncommon in
children. Most susceptible are older adults with underlying health
conditions. Reed, 56, was a cancer survivor who also had diabetes.
The flag at Garfield School was lowered to half-staff Tuesday upon the
news that Reed had died. Reed's son, Matthew, who was with his
father when he died late Monday, went to the school early Tuesday to
break the news to staff, who, in turn, told their students.
"I felt this overwhelming responsibility for my dad to go to each
classroom. I always heard he was in every classroom two to three times
a day," he said. "I kind of wanted to take that walk that he would. It
was important that I could do that for my dad."
In one classroom, he went in to comfort crying sixth-graders and ended
up being the one comforted.
"Everyone picked up their heads. I sat down and talked with the kids.
It was a very, very important moment. It's something my father would
have wanted me to do," he said.
Luis Canales, head of the Parent-Teacher Association at Garfield, said
Reed was an awesome man.
"Nothing short of inspiring. He was very calm. He dealt with situations
on an individual basis. He had a very easy touch," he said.
Canales added that he was comfortable sending his son to the Garfield
School because the state approved it.
"If the state says it's OK, then you have to take their word for it,"
Services for Reed are planned Saturday at noon at St. Peter's Church in
Milford. Matthew Reed is trying to hire a school bus to transport
students who want to attend the service. Matthew Reed said his
father came home sick on Sept. 22. Two days later, he was having
problems breathing. The next morning, his wife convinced her husband to
go to the hospital. Several hours later, he was on full life support,
his son said. That evening, they got the diagnosis of
Matthew Reed, 33, who lives in Indiana, expressed frustration with the
apparent lack of response to his father's case by local and state
health officials and by the school system. Reed said that when
Supt. of Schools John Ramos and Robert Henry, the superintendent's
chief of staff, called him while his father was ill, the gist of the
message was, "Please do not speak to the press."
Henry said his message was misinterpreted. "It was the simple
indication that given the family situation, they should concentrate on
their family," he said.
Matthew Reed talked briefly with Mayor John M. Fabrizi on Tuesday and
requested a face-to-face meeting. Fabrizi went to the schools at
lunchtime to talk to teachers and parents. He said Reed made a
significant impact on everyone in the school.
"It's a huge loss for the school, district and city. He was a
sensational guy," Fabrizi said.
Through a spokesman, Ramos said the school district was deeply saddened
by the loss of Reed.
"He was a professional who loved his job and the Garfield community. He
was trained as an attorney and brought a lot of wisdom, a sense of
humor and dedication to the mission of our school district," he said.
Henry said while there are no plans to test the school, the district
will put Garfield on the top of the list of schools where a new
air-quality testing program will begin. The program trains
teachers, parents and staff on how to improve air quality in the
schools by identifying, among other things, faulty ventilation
systems. The 95-year-old building does not have central air
conditioning, but an air-conditioning unit cools its office suite.
Officials insist it is not the type of air conditioner that would breed
the Legionnaires' bacteria.
Matthew Reed can't understand the resistance to testing.
"I'm frustrated because I know that the only concern my father would
have is the kids, and staff," he said. "And, yes, Legionnaires' is rare
and for most people not deadly, but I have begged the health department
to test [my parents'] home, church and the school."
Page last updated at 12:58 GMT,
Thursday, 25 March 2010
China faces 'diabetes
epidemic', research suggests
A change in lifestyle following rapid
economic growth is partly to blame
China faces a diabetes epidemic, with almost
one in 10 adults having the disease while most cases remain
undiagnosed, researchers have said.
Tests showed diabetes was more endemic than previously
thought, according to the New England Journal of Medicine.
The figures suggest China has some 90 million diabetics, far
more than India.
Rapid economic growth has affected public health, through
urbanisation, changed diets and more sedentary lifestyles, researchers
Rigorous new tests suggested that more than 92 million
Chinese adults had diabetes and that nearly 150 million more were
showing early symptoms, researchers said.
This represents a major public health problem for the
authorities in Beijing as diabetes is a major factor in illnesses such
as heart disease, stroke and kidney disease, correspondents say.
"In the last 10 years, with the country's economy expanding
quickly and people's standard of living improving, people's lifestyles
have changed," said Yang Wenying, one of the report's 20 authors, who
is head of endocrinology at Beijing's China-Japan Friendship Hospital.
"China's economic development has gone from a situation of
not being able to eat enough, of poverty, to having enough food and
warm clothes, and doing much less exercise," she told the AFP news
The US has a similar percentage of sufferers, but China with
its massive population now has more diabetics than anywhere else in the
world, says the BBC's Michael Bristow in Beijing.
The Chinese study was based on a representative sample of
more than 46,000 adults aged 20 years or older from 14 provinces and
Last year, US research suggested that diabetes was becoming a
global problem, with more than 60% of all cases likely to occur in Asia.
Cholera cases climb to 111 in Venezuela
Fri Jan 28, 2011 4:55 pm ET
CARACAS, Venezuela – The number of cholera cases has jumped to 111 in
Venezuela as more people tested positive after attending a wedding with
contaminated food in the Dominican Republic, the country's health
minister said Friday.
The patients were all receiving treatment, and 27 were hospitalized,
Health Minister Eugenia Sader told the Caracas-based television network
The number of cases rose swiftly on Friday. Venezuelan authorities had
said a day earlier that 37 people had the virus in the country and that
12 others were hospitalized in the Dominican Republic.
Dominican officials said wedding guests became infected when they ate
tainted lobster at a wedding Jan. 22. Health Minister Bautista Rojas
said lobsters for the lavish celebration were bought in Pedernales, a
town bordering Haiti, where more than 3,000 people have died from a
cholera epidemic. Many of the 452 guests were Venezuelans, and
health officials hope to provide treatment to all of them to keep the
illness from spreading, Sader said. She has said several who returned
to Madrid, Mexico and Boston also have cholera.
The Massachusetts health department said Friday that six state
residents tested positive after attending the wedding, but all were
released from local hospitals and officials were not concerned the
disease could spread.
Jose Rodriguez, a vice minister in the Dominican Health Department,
said the wedding menu consisted of 25 dishes, so not everyone ate the
lobster. Clemente Terrero, an infectious disease specialist and
member of the Dominican Medical Association, questioned the reliability
of government statistics on cholera.
"It is not possible that so many people became infected with cholera at
one party, and that only 300 cases have been reported in the Dominican
Republic in three months," he said.
Cholera fears have led to mass deportations of Haitian migrants since
the beginning of the year. One death has been reported in the Dominican
Republic. Cholera, which causes severe diarrhea that can lead to
dehydration and death, is spread through fecal-contaminated water and
food. It had been rare in the Americas recently, until the outbreak in
A large outbreak centered in Peru in 1991 spread to other countries and
a total of 396,536 cases were reported throughout the Americas that
year, according to the Pan American Health Organization. However a
massive public health program subsequently helped all but eliminate the
disease in the region, with just 13 known cases in 2006.
Before this month, Venezuela had not reported any cholera cases since
9 November 2010 Last updated at 13:38 ET
Haiti: Cholera confirmed in
The health ministry in Port-au-Prince has confirmed that the country's
cholera epidemic has reached the Haitian capital.
Doctors are treating 73 people for cholera, amid fears the disease
could spread across the quake-hit city. Dozens of suspected cases
also being investigated, which has feared an outbreak since
The country's health ministry says 583 people have died in Haiti's
epidemic, and more than 9,000 are being treated. Several cases
fact confirmed in Port-au-Prince in the first few weeks of Haiti's
All of those affected had recently arrived in the city from the
Artibonite region, where the disease was first detected. Many of
current patients as well as people with suspected cholera had also come
to Port-au-Prince from elsewhere in Haiti, including the Artibonite
Valley, a health ministry official told the AP news agency.
But the ministry confirmed that at least one patient, a 3-year-old boy,
had caught the disease although he had not recently travelled or been
in contact with anybody from the Artibonite region.
Health minister Ariel Henry said that a sizeable outbreak in
Port-au-Prince now appeared likely.
"It's coming," Mr Henry told the AFP news agency.
He also said that at least one person in Port-au-Prince had died of the
disease. On Tuesday the ministry said across Haiti the death toll
the epidemic had risen to 583, from 544 on Monday. The number of
people receiving treatment had risen from 8000 to more than 9000 within
24 hours, the ministry said. The water-borne disease has already
spread to half of Haiti's 10 regions.
Authorities feared the outbreak could worsen after Hurricane Tomas
brought heavy rains last week, which triggered mudslides and
The storm left 20 people dead, with 36 injured and 11 missing,
officials said. Aid agencies say the main concern is that the
could result in the spreading of cholera, with people lacking access to
basic sanitation and forced to drink contaminated water.
The hurricane passed without destroying the tented camps in and around
Port-au-Prince, which house about 1.3 million survivors of January's
earthquake. Aid workers say those living in the tent cities have
better access to toilets and clean drinking water than the residents of
some of the capital's long-standing slums, says the BBC's Laura
Trevelyan in Port-au-Prince. But if more cases are confirmed, the
epidemic could threaten an estimated 2.5 to 3 million people in
Cholera itself causes diarrhoea and vomiting, leading to severe
dehydration. It can kill quickly but is treated easily through
rehydration and antibiotics.
25 October 2010 Last
updated at 12:05 ET
Haiti cholera outbreak causes
clear, experts say
Cholerae, bacterium that causes Cholera in humans Until
the current outbreak, cholera had not been documented in Haiti since
By Sigrun Rottmann BBC News
The cholera outbreak in central Haiti that so far has killed more than
250 people and infected more than 3,000 is the worst health challenge
the country faces since the earthquake in January. There had been
no documented outbreak of the disease in Haiti since 1960. The US
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said after the
earthquake that while cholera testing should be carried out, the
disease was "extremely unlikely to occur".
So why has the epidemic struck now? It is not clear if the cause
of the outbreak will ever be identified, but health experts agree that
for cholera to occur, bad sanitation and hygiene have to coincide with
people carrying the Vibrio Cholerae bacterium. Sanitary
conditions were poor in many parts of Haiti even before the earthquake,
and Dr Brigitte Vasset from the international humanitarian organisation
Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) in Paris is reluctant to link the
outbreak directly with the quake.
"Central Haiti - where most people have been infected - was not the
region most affected by the earthquake," she says.
While many displaced people might have sought refuge in the Artibonite
region after the disaster, cholera bacteria could have been present in
the Artibonite river or a stagnant water source even before the
earthquake, Dr Vasset says.
She also points out that while no cases of cholera have been reported
from rural areas, this does not mean that it has been completely absent.
"In many African countries there are sporadic cases during the year,
then the weather changes or other conditions change, and all of a
sudden there is an outbreak," Dr Vasset says, adding that the disease
is difficult to predict.
"I have worked in refugee camps where we expected a cholera outbreak -
and it never came," she says.
Sarah Morgan, Senior Health Programme Adviser at aid agency World
Vision, agrees that it is possible low-level cholera was present in
Haiti all along.
"Surveillance data on cholera in Haiti are not available," she says.
However, watery diarrhoea has been common in the country, causing 5% to
16% of the deaths among Haitian children, according to CDC data.
With diarrhoea so prevalent and no stringent monitoring by health
authorities and 80% of those with symptoms showing only moderate signs
of infection, sporadic cases of cholera might not have registered.
"While there might have been no significant outbreak of cholera, it is
possible that there was a background level of the disease," Ms Morgan
That cholera has now been picked up so quickly after the outbreak in
the Artibonite region is a great success for Haiti's health authorities
and international organisations working the country, she adds.
On the rise
Cholera is widespread and on the rise, with three to five million cases
worldwide, the World Health Organization says.
More than 100,000 people die from the disease every year, with the
majority of cases in Sub-Saharan Africa. Epidemics of Vibrio Cholerae
are caused by one of two strains: 01, which has been identified as the
cause of the current epidemic in Haiti, and the South-East Asian strain
It is difficult to get a complete picture of the global spread of the
disease, because some countries are reluctant to report cholera for
fear of travel sanctions, says Adam Kamradt-Scott from the London
School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
Mr Kamradt-Scott points out that around 75% of people infected with
Vibrio Cholerae do not develop symptoms. But they excrete the bacterium
with their faeces for up to 14 days - a potential source of infection
for others. With more people and aid coming to Haiti since the
earthquake in January, there is a possibility that the bacterium was
brought to the country from the outside, Mr Kamradt-Scott says.
"The bacteria can be resident in water for a quite a while," Mr
Kamradt-Scott explains and points to a cholera outbreak in Peru in 1991.
There was speculation that that epidemic, which quickly spread across
Latin America, came from bilge water and algae dumped by an Asian cargo
ship, contaminating local shellfish. In Haiti, the disease has
more likely been spread because people used the Artibonite river for
washing and drinking.
"As soon as people have been infected and excrete the bacteria, the
epidemic spreads very quickly," Mr Kamradt-Scott says.
"It is then important to break the cycle of the disease," he adds.
Because Vibrio Cholerae produces toxins that lead to watery diarrhoea,
patients need to be rehydrated with liquids containing sugar and salt
or with intravenous fluids. Those infected need to receive
treatment immediately, Mr Kamradt-Scott says. If not treated, the
death-rate of cholera can rise up to 50%. But the potentially
deadly cholera cycle can only be broken when people also stay away from
the contaminated water source until the bacteria have cleared, he adds.
Cholera Case Is Confirmed in
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Filed at 8:04 a.m. ET
August 14, 2010
ISLAMABAD (AP) -- A case of the deadly waterborne disease cholera has
been confirmed in Pakistan's flood-ravaged northwest, and aid workers
expect there to be more, the U.N. said Saturday. The discovery came as
new flood surges hit the south and the prime minister said the deluge
has made 20 million people homeless.
The flooding disaster has battered Pakistan's economy and undermined
its political stability at a time when the United States needs its
steadfast cooperation against Islamist extremism. The U.N. has appealed
for an initial $460 million to provide relief to Pakistan but has said
the country will need billions to rebuild once the flood recedes.
Because of the crisis, Pakistan canceled celebrations Saturday marking
its creation and independence from Britain in 1947. President Asif Ali
Zardari met with flood victims in the northwest, and U.N.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was expected to visit country soon,
possibly over the weekend.
The floods have killed about 1,500 people, and aid workers have warned
that diseases could raise that toll.
One case of cholera was confirmed in Mingora, the main town in the
northwest's Swat Valley, U.N. spokesman Maurizio Giuliano said
Saturday. Other cases were suspected, and aid workers are now
responding to all those exhibiting acute watery diarrhea as if it is
cholera, Giuliano said.
Cholera can lead to severe dehydration and death without prompt
treatment, and containing cholera outbreaks is considered a high
priority following floods.
The Pakistani crisis began in late July, when unusually heavy monsoon
rains tore through the country from its mountainous northwest. Hundreds
of thousands of homes have been destroyed. Agriculture has been
severely hit, with an estimated 1.7 million acres (nearly 700,000
hectares) of farmland wiped out.
U.N. officials, citing government figures, have said around 14 million
Pakistanis were directly or indirectly affected.
But in a televised address to the nation Saturday, Prime Minister
Yousuf Raza Gilani said 20 million were now homeless. He did not
elaborate, and it was unclear how many of those people were briefly
forced to leave their homes and how many had lost their houses
Later Saturday, Gilani agreed to a proposal from opposition leader
Nawaz Sharif that an independent body be appointed to raise relief
funds and oversee their spending in a transparent manner to boost
Pakistan's credibility in the eyes of the international community.
The two made the announcement amid signs that the global response to
the flooding has been less generous than to previous calamities. Some
aid experts have said perceived corruption in the government could be
holding back some donors.
Fresh flood waves swelled the River Indus on Saturday, threatening
nearby cities, towns and villages in southern Sindh province, said
Mohammed Ajmal Shad, a senior meteorologist. The Indus was already more
than 15 miles (25 kilometers) wide at some points -- 25 times wider
than during normal monsoon seasons.
Authorities were trying to evacuate or warn people in Jacobabad,
Hyderabad, Thatta, Ghotki, Larkana and other areas. Already, many flood
victims are living in muddy camps or overcrowded government buildings,
while thousands more are sleeping in the open next to their cows, goats
and whatever possessions they managed to drag with them.
''My house was swept away in the floodwater. I have no shelter, no
clothes and nothing to eat. I am living in misery,'' said Allah Wasai
of Muzzafargarh, a flood-hit region in Punjab province. ''I lost
everything. I'm now at God's mercy.''
The damage to the Pakistani government's credibility, which was already
shaky, may be hard to repair, especially after fury caused by Zardari's
decision to visit Europe as the crisis was unfolding. Zardari has tried
to make up for that public relations gaffe by meeting with flood
victims in hard-hit areas since returning.
''We are with you. Pakistan is with you, and the people of Pakistan are
with you,'' he told survivors at a relief camp in the northwest's
Nowshehra city Saturday. He promised the government would rebuild
The United States has donated the most to the relief effort, at least
$70 million, and has sent military helicopters to rescue stranded
people and drop off food and water. Washington hopes the assistance
will help improve its image in the country -- however marginally -- as
it seeks its support in the battle against the Taliban in neighboring
''So far, if anyone has practically given us maximum help, it is
America,'' Gilani said Saturday when a Pakistani reporter suggested the
U.S. has done little since the crisis started.
As President Barack Obama congratulated Pakistan on its Independence
Day, which also marked the Muslim-majority nation's separation from
India, he insisted the U.S. would not abandon the country in its time
''We will remain committed to helping Pakistan and will work side by
side with you and the international community toward a recovery that
brings back the dynamic vitality of your nation,'' Obama said in a
How news spreads...first the Internet, then AP.
Japan confirms its first
case of new superbug gene
Tue Sep 7, 4:36 am ET
TOKYO – Japan has confirmed the nation's first case of a new gene in
bacteria that allows the microorganisms to become drug-resistant
superbugs, detected in a man who had medical treatment in India, a
health ministry official said Tuesday. The gene, known as NDM-1,
found in a Japanese man in his 50s, health ministry official Kensuke
Researchers say the gene — which appears to be circulating widely in
India — alters bacteria, making them resistant to nearly all known
antibiotics. The man was hospitalized in April 2009 after
from India where he had medical treatment. Nakajima declined to say
what kind of treatment the man had received in India, citing the man's
The man had a high fever while staying at a hospital in Tochigi, north
of Tokyo. He was discharged in October last year.
The hospital — Dokkyo Medical University Hospital — kept a preserved
sample of the suspected superbug from the man. The hospital examined
the sample after the British medical journal Lancet reported about the
NDM-1 in August. The Tochigi hospital notified the health
about the detection of the NDM-1 gene. It told the ministry that no
in-hospital infections were found.
Following the discovery of Japan's first superbug case, the health
ministry launched a nationwide survey on the NDM-1 gene, asking local
health authorities to check on hospitals.
Though already widespread in India, the new superbug gene has been
detected in Australia, Canada, the United States, the Netherlands,
Sweden and the U.K.
Researchers say since many Americans and Europeans travel to India and
Pakistan for elective procedures like cosmetic surgery, it was likely
the superbug gene would spread worldwide.
Data from individual countries such as the UK suggests
that dementia is already one of the costliest illnesses.
21 September 2010 Last updated at 06:19 ET
Dementia cost 'to top 1% of GDP'
By Michelle Roberts Health reporter, BBC News
The costs associated with dementia will amount to more than 1% of the
world's gross domestic product this year at $604bn (£388bn), a
report says. The World Alzheimer Report says this is more than
the revenue of retail giant Wal-Mart or oil firm Exxon Mobil. The
authors say dementia poses the most significant health and social
crisis of the century as its global financial burden continues to
They want the World Health Organization to make dementia a world
priority. Campaigners say more investment in dementia care and
research into new treatments is needed. Spending more money now would
save nations more money in the future by decreasing the disease burden,
A large part of the problem is people living longer - as life
expectancy goes up around the world there will be more people who will
The number of people with dementia is expected to double by 2030, and
more than triple by 2050.
But experts say the costs of caring for people with dementia are likely
to rise even faster than the prevalence, especially in the developing
world, as more formal social care systems emerge and rising incomes
lead to higher opportunity costs. Data from individual countries
such as the UK suggests that dementia is already one of the costliest
The report brings together the best available data and the most recent
insights regarding the worldwide economic cost of dementia. It
calls on the World Health Organization to declare dementia as a world
WHAT IS DEMENTIA?
* Dementia is an umbrella term which describes a
serious deterioration in mental functions, such as memory, language,
orientation and judgement.
* There are many types, but Alzheimer's disease,
which accounts for two thirds of cases, is the most well-known.
Professor Martin Prince, of the UK's Institute of Psychiatry and who
co-authored the report, urged nations to develop better plans for
caring for the millions who have the disease.
"Governments must show greater leadership, working with all
stakeholders, to drive solutions to the long term care issue."
Marc Wortmann, head of Alzheimer's Disease International, an umbrella
group of organisations, said: "The scale of this crisis cries out for
"History shows that major diseases can be made manageable - and even
preventable - with sufficient global awareness and the political will
to make substantial investments in research and care options."
Dementia experts say governments must lead the way in ensuring national
dementia strategies are fully implemented and dementia research is
given enough funding to find new tests, treatments and possibly a cure.
Outbreak in Tibet recently (l); China host, and the marmot
or vole, perhaps the culprit!
Plague Rare in U.S., Surfacing
By Steven Reinberg, HealthDay Reporter
14 June 2012
WEDNESDAY, June 13 (HealthDay News) -- Although the plague is typically
considered a remnant of the Middle Ages, when unsanitary conditions and
rodent infestations prevailed amid the squalor of poverty, this rare
but deadly disease appears to be spreading through wealthier
communities in New Mexico, researchers report. Why the plague is
popping up in affluent neighborhoods isn't completely clear, the
"Where human plague cases occur is linked to where people live and how
people interact with their environment," noted lead researcher Anna
Schotthoefer, from the Marshfield Clinic Research Foundation in
Wisconsin. "These factors may change over time, necessitating periodic
reassessments of the factors that put people at risk."
This latest study confirms previous reports that living within or close
to the natural environments that support plague is a risk factor for
human plague, Schotthoefer said. Plague is caused by a
fast-moving bacteria, known as Yersinia pestis, that is spread through
flea bites (bubonic plague) or through the air (pneumonic
plague). The new report comes on the heels of the hospitalization
on June 8 of an Oregon man in his 50s with what experts suspect is
plague. According to The Oregonian, the man got sick a few days after
being bitten as he tried to get a mouse away from a stray cat. The cat
died days later, the paper said, and the man remains in critical
For the new study, published in the July issue of Emerging Infectious
Diseases, the researchers used U.S. Census Bureau data to pinpoint the
location and socioeconomic status of plague patients.
About 11 cases of plague a year have occurred in the United States
since 1976, with most cases found in New Mexico. Plague has also been
reported in a handful of other states.
Although many cases were in areas where the habitat supports rodents
and fleas, the researchers also found cases occurring in more
upper-class neighborhoods. In the 1980s, most cases occurred where
housing conditions were poor, but more recently cases have been
reported in affluent areas of Santa Fe and Albuquerque, the
"The shift from poorer to more affluent regions of New Mexico was a
surprise, and suggests that homeowners in these newly developed areas
should be educated about the risks of plague," Schotthoefer said.
Schotthoefer noted that these more affluent areas where plague occurred
were regions where new housing developments had been built in habitats
that support the wild reservoirs of plague, which include ground
squirrels and woodrats.
Bubonic plague starts with painful swellings (buboes) of the lymph
nodes, which appear in the armpits, legs, neck or groin. Buboes are at
first a red color, then they turn a dark purple color, or black.
Pneumonic plague starts by infecting the lungs. Other symptoms include
a very high fever, delirium, vomiting, muscle pains, bleeding in the
lungs and disorientation.
In the 14th century, a plague called the Black Death killed an
estimated 30 percent to 60 percent of the European population. Victims
died quickly, within days after being infected.
Infectious disease expert Dr. Marc Siegel, an associate professor of
medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City, said he
doesn't expect to see that kind of outbreak ever again.
"This is not a disease of the past, but you are never going to see a
massive outbreak of plague in this country," he said.
"We don't have the public health problems we used to have and people
would be quickly confined if there were ever a large number of cases,"
Yet, it is not surprising to see plague in these more affluent areas,
"We know that plague only exists where you have wild animals, and once
a reservoir of plague is already present it is likely to persist,"
Siegel explained. "It isn't only about squalor; it's about where the
However, if the disease is caught early it is treatable with
antibiotics, Siegel added.
Plagues Came From China,
By NICHOLAS WADE
October 31, 2010
The great waves of plague that twice devastated Europe and changed the
course of history had their origins in China, a team of medical
geneticists reported Sunday, as did a third plague outbreak that struck
less harmfully in the 19th century.
And in separate research, a team of biologists reported conclusively
this month that the causative agent of the most deadly plague, the
Black Death, was the bacterium known as Yersinia pestis. This agent had
always been the favored cause, but a vigorous minority of biologists
and historians have argued the Black Death differed from modern cases
of plague studied in India, and therefore must have had a different
The Black Death began in Europe in 1347 and carried off an estimated 30
percent or more of the population of Europe. For centuries the epidemic
continued to strike every 10 years or so, its last major outbreak being
the Great Plague of London from 1665 to 1666. The disease is spread by
rats and transmitted to people by fleas or, in some cases, directly by
One team of biologists, led by Barbara Bramanti of the Institut Pasteur
in Paris and Stephanie Haensch of Johannes Gutenberg University in
Germany, analyzed ancient DNA and proteins from plague pits, the mass
burial grounds across Europe in which the dead were interred. Writing
in the journal PLoS Pathogens this month, they say their findings put
beyond doubt that the Black Death was brought about by Yersinia pestis.
Dr. Bramanti’s team was able to distinguish two strains of the Black
Death plague bacterium, which differ both from each other and from the
three principal strains in the world today. They infer that medieval
Europe must have been invaded by two different sources of Yersinia
pestis. One strain reached the port of Marseilles on France’s southern
coast in 1347, spread rapidly across France and by 1349 had reached
Hereford, a busy English market town and pilgrimage center near the
The strain of bacterium analyzed from the bones and teeth of a Hereford
plague pit dug in 1349 is identical to that from a plague pit of 1348
in southern France, suggesting a direct route of travel. But a plague
pit in the Dutch town of Bergen op Zoom has bacteria of a different
strain, which the researchers infer arrived from Norway.
The Black Death is the middle of three great waves of plague that have
hit in historical times. The first appeared in the 6th century during
the reign of the Byzantine emperor Justinian, reaching his capital,
Constantinople, on grain ships from Egypt. The Justinian plague, as
historians call it, is thought to have killed perhaps half the
population of Europe and to have eased the Arab takeover of Byzantine
provinces in the Near East and Africa.
The third great wave of plague began in China’s Yunnan province in
1894, emerged in Hong Kong and then spread via shipping routes
throughout the world. It reached the United States through a plague
ship from Hong Kong that docked at Hawaii, where plague broke out in
December 1899, and then San Francisco, whose plague epidemic began in
The three plague waves have now been tied together in common family
tree by a team of medical geneticists led by Mark Achtman of University
College Cork in Ireland. By looking at genetic variations in living
strains of Yersinia pestis, Dr. Achtman’s team has reconstructed a
family tree of the bacterium. By counting the number of genetic
changes, which clock up at a generally steady rate, they have dated the
branch points of the tree, which enables the major branches to be
correlated with historical events.
In the issue of Nature Genetics published online Sunday, they conclude
that all three of the great waves of plague originated from China,
where the root of their tree is situated. Plague would have reached
Europe across the Silk Road, they say. An epidemic of plague that
reached East Africa was probably spread by the voyages of the Chinese
admiral Zheng He who led a fleet of 300 ships to Africa in 1409.
“What’s exciting is that we are able to reconstruct the historical
routes of bacterial disease over centuries,” Dr. Achtman said.
Lester K. Little, an expert on the Justinian plague at Smith College,
said in an interview from Bergamo, Italy, that the epidemic was first
reported by the Byzantine historian Procopius in 541 A.D. from the
ancient port of Pelusium, near Suez in Egypt. Historians had assumed it
arrived there from the Red Sea or Africa, but the Chinese origin now
suggested by the geneticists is possible, Dr. Little said.
The geneticists’ work is “immensely impressive,” Dr. Little said, and
adds a third leg to the studies of plague by historians and by
The likely origin of the plague in China has nothing to do with its
people or crowded cities, Dr. Achtman said. The bacterium has no
interest in people, whom it slaughters by accident. Its natural hosts
are various species of rodent such as marmots and voles, which are
found throughout China.
infected with deadly pneumonic
plague in Tibet
Sun Sep 26, 2:59 am ET
BEIJING – Chinese authorities say five people have been sickened with
pneumonic plague in Tibet and that the deadly disease has killed one of
The Tibetan regional health department says the cases were reported in
Laduo, a village in Lang county in the remote region.
The department said in a statement Sunday that the first case was found
Sept. 23 and that the patient died of a severe lung infection. The
remaining four people have been quarantined.
The disease can kill in as few as 24 hours if left untreated.
Last year, an outbreak of the disease in a farming town in Qinghai
province killed three people and sickened nine, prompting authorities
to seal off the community of 10,000 people for more than a week.
Germany Concludes E. Coli Tainted Bean Sprouts
By ALAN COWELL
June 10, 2011
BERLIN — After days of confusion, German authorities finally concluded
on Friday that an E. coli infection, which has claimed at least 29
lives, unsettled the nation and thrown European agriculture into
disarray, had been caused by contaminated bean sprouts and not, as
first was feared, by other produce.
But, at a news conference here, Reinhard Burger, the head of the Robert
Koch Institute — the country’s disease control agency — said the
outbreak was “not yet over” because “there will be new cases coming up.”
Doubts about the cause of the illness have blossomed with the
authorities first saying the infection came from imported Spanish
cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuce. After initially warning consumers not
to eat those products, the authorities said last weekend that
contaminated bean sprouts were the source.
But tests carried out on bean sprout samples produced only negative
results. At the news conference on Friday, Mr. Burger said
investigations centering on interviews with patients and even the chefs
at restaurants where they had eaten showed that people who had consumed
bean sprouts were nine times more likely to become infected than those
who had not.
No harmful bacteria had been found in any samples, he said. But from
the pattern of the outbreak, he added, “It was possible to narrow down
epidemiologically the cause of the outbreak of the illness to the
consumption of sprouts.”
On Friday, Andreas Hensel, the head of Germany’s Risk Assessment
Agency, said at the same news conference that authorities were no
longer urging consumers to avoid cucumbers, lettuce and tomatoes.
Sprouts should still be avoided, he said.
State authorities in Lower Saxony said they had sealed off the likely
source of the suspect sprouts — a farm growing organic crops in
Bienenbüttel, southeast of Hamburg — and ordered its operators to
suspend sales of any other products. Gert Lindemann, the state
agriculture minister, said the owners of the farm had already pledged
not to sell any produce after their facility came under suspicion last
The outbreak has been particularly virulent because, the German
authorities say, it has led to a potentially lethal complication that
causes kidney failure and neurological damage. Almost 3,000 people have
become sickened with E. coli and more than 700 of them suffered
complications. In addition to 29 fatal cases in Germany, a death was
reported in Sweden.
The announcement followed remarks late Thursday by the federal health
minister, Daniel Bahr, who said there was “cause for justifiable
optimism” that the outbreak was close to ending.
The outbreak spread alarm across Europe, with Spanish farmers demanding
compensation after demand for their crops plummeted and farmers in
Germany and other European countries saying the market for cucumbers,
lettuce and tomatoes was so low that they were forced to dump tons of
In response to the spread of E. coli, Russia banned all imports of
vegetables from Europe, causing an outcry among European farmers that
one of its biggest markets had been closed down.
RUSSIA, SAUDI ARABIA
In some places, all vegetables suspect, even cukes.
Dutch find different E.
coli, pull beet sprouts
By ARTHUR MAX, Associated Press
9 June 2011
AMSTERDAM – Dutch authorities recalled red beet sprouts from three
countries Thursday after samples were found to be contaminated with a
strain of E. coli bacteria that was apparently less dangerous than the
one causing Europe's deadly E. coli crisis.
The Dutch Food Safety Authority said laboratories were still trying to
identify the Dutch strain, but there have been no immediate reports of
serious illness from it.
But the agency said it was definitely not the same E. coli strain that
has killed 27 people, sickened 2,900 others and left hundreds with
serious complications, most of them in Germany. The cause of that
outbreak, which began May 2, has so far eluded German authorities.
Only one grower, a company called Hamu, was found with contaminated
beets, and other produce grown on its farms were cleared of suspicion,
said Esther Filon, a spokeswoman for the Dutch regulation agency.
"It's not the same as in Germany. You can become ill, but as far as we
know at this moment, it is not lethal," she told the Associated Press.
She said the authorities were trying to trace all shipments from the
The agency said Hamu, based in the town of Kerkdriel 44 miles (70
kilometers) southeast of Amsterdam, had exported beet sprouts to
Belgium as well as selling them on the Dutch and German markets.
There are hundreds of E. coli bacteria strains in nature, but only a
few are deadly to humans and the bacteria is more commonly known as a
source of food poisoning or severe stomach problems.
People naturally carry several harmless E. coli strains in their
intestines and the bacteria is also widely found in cows, sheep and
other mammals. Strains which are harmless to animals can sometimes be
lethal for humans. Experts worry about E. coli's constant evolution,
which may result in dangerous mutations for humans.
The European Union informed the Netherlands late Wednesday that
contaminated beet sprouts had been found in Germany, and tests in the
Netherlands confirmed it.
In Berlin, the Robert Koch Institute said one more person died and 160
more were sickened in the E. coli outbreak but the rate of new
illnesses was declining. It said 2,808 people have been sickened in
Germany, 722 of whom are suffering from a serious complication that can
cause kidney failure.
The World Health Organization says 97 others have fallen sick in 12
other European countries, as well as three in the United States.
The Koch institute says new cases being reported have been dropping for
several days but cautioned that could be due to the fact that consumers
are following the advice of health officials and staying away from
cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce and vegetable sprouts — all of which are
being investigated as possible carriers of the E. coli.
European Union farmers say that since the warning went out, they have
been losing up to euro417 million ($611 million) a week as ripe produce
rots in fields and warehouses.
On Wednesday, the EU said it would offer farmers compensation of up to
euro210 million ($306 million) for the E. coli losses, though a final
decision will not be made until next week.
Russia and Saudi Arabia have issued a blanket ban on vegetable imports
from the European Union.
Spanish farmers have been among the hardest hit, after authorities in
Hamburg issued an early warning that Spanish cucumbers could be the
source of the E. coli. Further tests showed that while the Spanish
vegetables did carry E. coli, it was not the strain behind the outbreak.
In Berlin on Thursday, Spain's Secretary of State for European Affairs,
Diego Lopez Garrido said the compensation being offered so far by the
EU is not enough.
He also said both Spain and Germany believe the Russian ban on EU
vegetables is "inappropriate." Russia is a huge market for EU produce.
Our experience: In the late
1970's science could only tell you if you had this neurological
disease, but not that you did not.
Ann Romney’s Winding Trail
By Katrina Trinko, National Review
June 19, 2012 4:00 A.M.
Ann Romney waited for the doctor to move her big toe.
The doctor pushed her toe up and down. But she never felt a thing.
“It was at that point that I just almost burst into tears,” Romney
recalls in an interview. “And I realized, ‘I’m failing this test.’”
On the campaign trail, Ann Romney appears healthy, confidently
strolling across stages to deliver the good-humored introductions of
her husband that have charmed audiences in state after state. Sitting
down for a talk with Mrs. Romney in the nation’s capital, it’s the same
scenario: There is no visible sign of her multiple sclerosis, the
disease that turned her life upside down 14 years ago. Dressed in jeans
and a gray sweater layered over a white top, the 63-year-old Romney
looks smart, her outfit pulled together with a white watch and a
pendant necklace. As she tells her story, describing the ups and downs
of living with MS, her expressions flicker between reflective,
incredulous, and wry.
By being careful, including stringently minding her diet and making
time for rest, Romney has managed to keep the symptoms under control to
the point where she can participate fully in the campaign. But there
was a time when she had good reason to fear she would never lead a
normal life again — she imagined a future life spent in a wheelchair.
In 1998, Romney had a series of tests — including the one in which the
doctor checked whether she could feel movement in her toe — and an MRI.
The results led to a diagnosis of MS, an autoimmune disease that
affects about 400,000 Americans, causes nerve damage, and can lead to
vision problems, numbness, slurred speech, and constant fatigue, among
other effects. There is no cure, although medical treatment can help
Normally, explains Timothy Coetzee, a doctor and the chief research
officer of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, a person’s immune
system works to fight off viruses and bacteria. In the case of MS, the
immune system acts very differently. “For reasons that we still don’t
know, the immune system decides the brain is now the enemy and starts
attacking specific parts of the brain and destroying a person’s nervous
system,” Dr. Coetzee says.
Well before she was formally diagnosed, Romney had been feeling the
effects of MS. A year or two before her diagnosis, for a spell of about
four months, her right leg felt numb. But the busy mother of five sons
brushed off the condition, reasoning that the numbness was probably
related to a back problem.
That numbness eventually disappeared; but, by the fall of 1998, Romney
was coping with an array of medical problems, including dizziness,
weakness, tripping, and extreme fatigue. Walking through the lobby of
Massachusetts General Hospital, where she served as a member on a
cancer board, Romney thought, “I really need to go see somebody.” Her
symptoms were such a strange hodgepodge, though, that she didn’t know
what kind of doctor she should consult.
Romney finally called her brother Jim Davies, a doctor in San Diego.
After she described her symptoms, Davies paused for a moment — and then
told her she needed to see a neurologist. The neurologist referred her
to an MS specialist.
When the specialist delivered the diagnosis, Romney had little
opportunity to process how her life had changed. Her condition was
rapidly deteriorating. For years, she and several friends had worked
out with a personal trainer. One day, when it was time for a workout,
the once-athletic Romney couldn’t find the strength to climb out of bed.
The personal trainer entered the bedroom where Romney was resting. “I
remember her coming and literally climbing in my bed, and just moving
my limbs, and I was just sitting there, just crying,” Romney says. She
recalls thinking, “I can’t believe this — a month ago, I was working
out, and I was fit.” Almost overnight, her physical strength had
Romney was horrified by how fast the disease was moving and her
inability to halt it. “Where is this going to end, and how is this
going to end?” she wondered. She viewed MS as a “monster” — it
refused to “spit me out,” she says.
A solution seemed elusive. The first treatment for MS wasn’t identified
until 1993. Her doctor had no recommendations for treatment. (There
have been significant improvements in treatment since Romney was
diagnosed in 1998.) A frustrated Romney took matters into her own hands
and consulted another doctor, Howard Weiner, a neurologist in Boston.
Her medical challenges were growing more serious. The numbness had
spread from the tip of her toes to the middle of her upper body. She
had no way of knowing when — or if — the process would halt.
When she had her appointment with Dr. Weiner, Romney cut to the chase,
asking him, “When is this going to stop?” Unlike her other doctor, Dr.
Weiner wanted to fight against the disease. “He took me by my hand,”
Romney recalls. “He took me right to the infusion center, which is the
chemotherapy-infusion center, sat me down, and said, ‘Start now —
massive IV steroids and chemotherapy.’”
It was a way to potentially treat MS, but it wasn’t without pitfalls.
“‘The theory has always been to not do this,’” Romney remembers Dr.
Weiner explaining. Nonetheless, he argued strongly that she ought to do
it: “He said we’ve discovered that the sooner you attack it, the harder
you attack it, the better off people are,” Romney says. She took his
advice and started the once-a-month treatment.
Treatment succeeded in reversing some of the numbness, but there was no
instant miracle, and Romney’s personal life continued to unravel. Mitt
Romney took over the laundry and cooking. (Asked what kind of cook he
was, sons Tagg and Josh Romney say that Mitt Romney’s go-to meals are
spaghetti, and pancakes with bacon.) “He made me feel really good about
the things that I couldn’t do anymore,” Romney says of her husband. “I
wasn’t able to go to the grocery store. I couldn’t cook dinners. I
couldn’t do anything. And he just rolled right with it and just started
He also provided crucial emotional support. “His reaction was that we
can deal with anything,” Romney remembers. “Together. We’re together.
We’re okay, we can fight this, we can deal with anything.”
Mitt Romney learned more than how to manage a household during those
difficult days that his wife was battling MS. “My dad likes to fix
things,” observes Tagg Romney, the Romneys’ eldest son. But Ann
Romney’s MS, Tagg continues, was a situation where there was “nothing
he could fix.”
Of the five Romney sons, only the youngest, Craig, was still living at
home. A senior in high school at the time, he faced questions from
classmates who wanted to know how he felt about his mother dying.
“Craig would come home so upset, and he’s like, ‘You didn’t tell me you
were going to die,’” Romney remembers. “And I’m like, ‘No, that’s
because I’m not.’ People had such misperceptions about it.”
In 1999, Romney faced another huge challenge: moving across the country
to Utah, where she had no friends or community. Mitt Romney had been
tapped to lead the Olympics, and the couple had initially hoped that
Mitt would be able to fly back home to Massachusetts occasionally.
Shortly after he started the job, however, it became clear that it
would not be practical for him to be absent from Utah very often. They
changed their plans. Matt Romney, the couple’s second son, would move
into the family home in Massachusetts so that Craig Romney could finish
his senior year in the state. And Ann Romney would move to Utah.
“I left everything that I knew,” she says. But in her heart she was
convinced it was the right decision to make — although she finds it
hard in retrospect to imagine what she was thinking. “I was completely
overwhelmed with grief and depression and everything when I left,”
Romney remembers. She had lived in Massachusetts virtually her entire
In Utah, Romney worked to develop a routine. Josh Romney, the third of
the Romney sons, was living in Salt Lake City at the time, and mother
and son met regularly for lunch, often at a bagel shop near Josh. “We
spent a lot of time just trying to talk things through,” he recalls.
Mitt Romney juggled the household chores and running the Olympics. On
his drive home, he would sometimes stop at Albertson’s, a grocery store
in Park City, to pick up dinner. One favorite meal was rotisserie
chicken, accompanied by side dishes of broccoli and pita bread.
Through all this, Ann Romney wondered how long her ability to walk,
even with difficulty, would last. She recalls thinking, “I’m pretty
sure I’m going to end up in a wheelchair, pretty sure I’m going to be
really bad.” She resolved to take action and made a decision: “I want
to do things that I love so much in life before I can’t do them
So Romney bought a horse, Buddy. Romney is quick to tell me that Buddy
wasn’t an “expensive” horse. “Having him,” she says, “was like the
coolest thing in the world.” Buddy was a trail and first-level dressage
horse, and he was Romney’s companion in those days. “I was pretty
lonely,” she admits.
Buddy’s stable was a 35-minute drive from the Romneys’ Utah home. Once
at the stable, Romney would spend hours and hours with Buddy, grooming
him and cleaning out his stall. Still very weak, she could barely ride
the horse: “I could only ride, like really ride, for like five minutes”
before getting too worn out.
But Romney’s affection for Buddy transformed her outlook on life and
gave her a reason to push herself to climb out of bed each morning. “I
noticed that I had this euphoria afterwards — it kind of got me out of
that fatigue place for a little bit, just for a little time,” she says
of her riding. Slowly, she began to feel slightly stronger.
Time passed. And then Mitt Romney nominated his wife — without telling
her — to carry the Olympic torch, citing her as his personal hero. It
would be an arduous task for her: Those who carry the Olympic torch run
for a quarter-mile before relaying the torch to the next person. For
weeks beforehand, Romney practiced, building up her strength.
“She was able to jog the whole thing,” remembers Josh Romney, who was
there with her, running alongside his mom.
“I literally ran,” Romney says, describing how she carried the torch,
with friends and some of her sons present. “My kids were all
surrounding me,” she says. “And they were all crying because they knew
what a miracle it was that I came [to Utah] barely able to walk and now
[here] I was, three years later, torch in hand, the Olympics were a
success, I was back on track, I was regaining my strength, and off I
ran with this torch into the city.”
Those who had watched her grapple with the disease were amazed to see
how much she had regained her strength. “We recognized she would be
better, that she could live a healthy and normal life,” Josh Romney
For a decade now, Romney’s MS has been in remission. That doesn’t mean,
however, that her symptoms have vanished entirely. On occasion, she
must contend with dizziness and memory loss. Still, Romney is
optimistic about the future. “If you’ve got ten years of remission, you
can pretty much look forward to ten more years,” she says, adding that
she has not suffered any more nerve damage in recent years.
She can never forget to be careful, though. She’s very much aware of
the dangers of overextending herself during this time. “I know I’m
walking a tightrope,” she says. “I know that I can fall off very easily
Looking back, Romney views the Utah sojourn with gratitude. It was one
of “the greatest blessings in our life,” she says. Moving to Utah “was
the best decision I ever made . . . because during those three years, I
completely regained my strength, went into remission with MS, [and] had
this enormous love of horses renew my soul.”
The Utah move also gave Romney an understanding of what it’s like to
plunge into a new experience without knowing what the outcome will be.
Sometimes, Romney reflects, “you just have to have the courage to step
in a scary doorway [and] you don’t know where it’s going to lead you.”
That’s what she’s doing now, campaigning across the country with and
for her husband. For Ann Romney, the unknown beyond the White House
doorway is probably the second-most daunting prospect she has faced.