Thursday, August 18, 2011

2010 Dengue Fever Epidemic - Lessons from Working with the CDC

Written by Tyler Sharp, reblogged from CDC (link below)
Paradise Has Its Risks
Given the choice I prefer my bones to remain unbroken. For that reason I began to worry when I found out that the disease I would be studying for the next two years in Puerto Rico was also referred to as “breakbone fever.”
In April of 2010, I accepted an assignment to study dengue fever as an Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer at the CDC Dengue Branch in San Juan, Puerto Rico.  While I was thrilled to be moving to “The Island of Enchantment,” reality began to sink in when I realized that I was running head first into an ongoing epidemic of a painful and deadly disease.

Earlier that year, CDC had issued an update on the status of dengue in the Caribbean, warning of impending epidemics.  From my time in graduate school I knew that the four viruses that cause dengue are transmitted by mosquitoes, but I didn’t know much about the illness itself. When I started reading up on dengueExternal Web Site Icon., I found out that the name “breakbone fever” comes from the intense bone and joint pain that accompanies the disease. Patients with severe forms of dengue can experience hemorrhage, shock, and even death.  I also discovered that the World Health OrganizationExternal Web Site Icon. estimates that there are about 100 million cases of dengue each year, including 500,000 hospitalizations and more than 25,000 deaths.  This was serious business!  What had I gotten myself into?!

Keep Reading:

Charity: Water --- Water Changes Everything

MSNBC Nightly News ran an awesome story last night about a girl named Rachel and her dream to give clean water to those in need.  She died tragically last month and it appears her cause has gone viral.  She gave up birthday presents for her 9th birthday in lieu of donations, with a goal of $300.  She's creeping in on $1.2 million at this point!

Check out the video story from MSNBC:

Interestingly, the organization she was raising money for (charity: water) is a pretty cool NGO itself.  The financial model they have set up has separate donations for operations (private donors dedicated to supporting the infrastructure and meeting needs as they come up) and water projects (where 100% of the money from public donors is directed!). They have also made a commitment to being visibly and publicly accountable to their donors by posting photos of projects and placing them on maps using Google Earth.

Interesting model with HUGE public health implications!

We know that in many societies the duty of fetching water falls to the women and children.  Often, they walk for miles or for hours to collect water for the day -- water that frequently isn't even clean.  Imagine spending your day's work to bring home water that will likely make your family sick!  And in many cases, these outings are the most dangerous tasks for women as they are outside of the confines of their villages and are frequently assaulted or raped while searching for water.  On multiple fronts, water is the first step to improved health in these communities -- (1) by reducing the spread of water borne illness (when combined with sanitation programs -- i.e. changing community habits of open defecation -- providing a clean water source has an even larger impact (2) by keeping women and children out of some of the most dangerous places they must travel to, opportunities for physical and sexual abuse are diminished (3) the opportunity cost of gathering water is astounding -- once folks have a local source for water, they are able to pursue other pursuits with economic impact.

Check out their video: "Water Changes Everything"

And it you'd like, you can find more information by perusing charity: water's website (

Monday, August 8, 2011

Interesting Global Health Opportunities

Please see the announcement below from an organization (Child Family Health International) that offers opportunities for medical students to be involved with many global health initiatives.  There is a deadline for upcoming applications this Wednesday, August 10th.


CFHI Live Webinar- Socially Responsible Global Health Education Programs
Child Family Health International (CFHI) offers socially responsible Global Health Education Programs for health sciences students of all levels. Through CFHI participants go on 4-12 week placements in underserved communities. Participants rotate through local clinics and hospitals, attend medical lectures, and become immersed in the healthcare system of the community. CFHI is an NGO in Special Consultative Status with the ECOSOC of the United Nations.

CFHI Staff will be conducting a live CFHI Program Information Webinar on Wednesday August 10th at 5pm Pacific/ 8pm Eastern time.  All interested in learning more about participating in a CFHI Global Health Program are invited to call in and follow along online as staff and alumni talk and take questions about:
·         CFHI's 20+ programs in 5 countries
·         2012 Dates and Deadlines
·         How CFHI Supports Local Communities Abroad
·         Our newest Intensive Beginner Spanish Program
·         Effective CFHI Fundraising Tools
·         Upcoming CFHI Scholarship Opportunities
To participate, click here to register and to receive an email follow up with information on how to join the conversation.  Also view the online announcement.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

From AMA Morning Rounds: Violence against women may damage long-term mental health

Violence against women may damage long-term mental health.

The Los Angeles Times (8/2, Kaplan) "Booster Shots" blog reported that according to a study published in the Aug. 3 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, "women who experience gender-based violence are more than twice as likely as their peers to have some kind of mental disorder." Researchers arrived at this conclusion after examining the results of "a nationwide survey of 4,451 Australian women conducted in 2007. Among them, 27% said they had been the victim of at least one instance of gender-based violence."
        "Fifty-seven percent of the women with a history of abuse also had a history of depression, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress, substance abuse, or anxiety (including panic disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder), versus 28% of the women who had not experienced gender-based violence," CNN / (8/3, MacMillan) reports. And, among women who "had been exposed to at least three different types of violence, the rate of mental disorders or substance abuse rose to 89%."
        HealthDay (8/2, Gordon) reported, "Suicide rates were significantly higher for women who'd experienced gender-based violence." For example, the "average rate of attempted suicide was 1.6 percent for all women in the study, but it was 6.6 percent for women who'd experienced one form of violence, and 34.7 percent for women exposed to three or more types of violence." In addition, "rates of physical and mental disabilities were...much higher for women who had experienced gender-based violence."