Tag Archives: cholera

Doctor2008’s Top Healthcare Stories of 2010

As we herald the new decade, and leave 2010 behind, the year seemed devoid of blockbuster healthcare issues, but I subsequently changed my mind upon deeper review. Here’s my updated  list:

1. The Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill – the sheer magnitude of this man-made disaster on the environment is mind-boggling. 5 million barrels of crude oil were spilled from April to July, causing permanent ecological damage to 1000 miles of coastline, adverse effects on the fishing and tourism industry, poisoning of the global food chain, not to mention the 11 lives lost during the explosion.

A brown pelican grounded by oil slick at a Florida beach (AP)

2. Haiti Double Whammy – the January earthquake resulted in a quarter million deaths with over 300,000 injured. Barely had the people recovered from the economic and health effects, when the spectre of cholera, never before seen in Haiti, appeared in October, causing over 3,300 deaths, as at end-December.

Cholera, largely due to over-crowding and poor sanitation, is causing 50 deaths a day in Haiti

3. AIDS breakthrough – among the doom and gloom, AIDS treatment research made tremendous breakthrough in 2010. Among the good news:

  • Men taking Gilead’s pill Truvada daily as a preventive measure reduced their risk of catching HIV by 44%.
  • U.S. government scientists also discovered two potent human antibodies that can stop more than 90% of known global HIV strains from infecting human cells, thus giving hope for a vaccine to prevent AIDS.

AIDS Vaccine - nearing Reality in 2011

4. The Battle of the Bulge – I had written in an earlier posting that practically all slimming pills have been banned due to safety reasons (see Where Have All The Slimming Pills Gone? Taking that obesity is a major healthcare issue worldwide, the pharma industry is racing to produce a safe diet pill which will produce a block-buster which will bring in untold profits. While the FDA rejected Arena’s lorcaserin and Vivus’s Qnexa, Orexigen Therapeutics’s  Contrave had received a thumbs up.

Contrave - recently obtained FDA approval as a diet pill

5. CPR Change – for as long as many care to remember, CPR meant a combination of chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth breathing, the latter a common reason why bystanders were somewhat reluctant to get involved, In 2010, new guidelines were introduced where the so-called  kiss of  life was abolished. Read my post here.

6. Misleading Marketing by Cord Blood Banks – ABC News found the costs of private banking outweigh the potential benefits to many families.

In their marketing material, many private banking firms tout an impressive list of 70 to 80 diseases that purportedly are treated by stem cell transplants. But research has yet to prove that stem cells from cord blood work for all of the listed conditions. Private cord blood banks store blood on the possibility that in the future, there will be diseases that will affect the baby for which stem cells found in the cord blood can be used then to cure the disease.

A baby's cord blood is stored in banks, to be used in the future to cure diseases which may affict the child -myth or reality?



Of Defiant Dictators, Denial & Diarrhoea..


Mugabe - still a force at 84

You might argue that Robert Mugabe has used verbal diarrhoea to barricade his political position as the long-standing self-proclaimed President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, but his sequencial statements that there is no cholera outbreak  (Nov 2008) followed by his statement that it is now controlled (11 Dec 2008 here) and lately his accusation that Western powers were using cholera as a biological weapon to launch  “a calculated, racist, terrorist attack on Zimbabwe”, smacks of a strong sense of denial.


Vibrio cholerae - death within days

Denial…that 60,000 are suffering from cholera and 600 have died, with many more to come. Why cholera? In essence, the organism that causes cholera, Vibrio cholerae, is just one of the many micro-organisms which cause food-poisoning. However, the effects on an individual are devastating because this bacteria produces a deadly poison, an enterotoxin, that within 1 day of swallowing contaminated water, will cause extensive damage of the lining of the intestines which in turn leads to large volumes of watery diarrhoea leading to extreme dehydration and death.

Beyond all that, cholera existing in any country reflects on the low socio-economic status of that country; where insufficient healthcare resources are present, where there is a breakdown of adequate sewage and water facilities and where there is political instability.

Essentially a disease spread by the fecal-oral route, this is a polite way of saying that infection-laden stool from one person finds its way into the mouth of another person. This can occur indirectly when there is contamination of drinking water by sewage, as in Zimbabwe. While awaiting medications, people there would do well to boil drinking water and practise handwashing, both being cost-effective and efficient ways of preventing spread of disease.

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