Sunday, July 29, 2018

Atlantic Health Issue examines "When the Next Plague Hits"

The July/August issue of The Atlantic is “The Health Report”, has two long articles of particular importance.

Ed Yong’s “When the Next Plague Hits”, pp. 58-72, really is like a short book.  The article particularly notes that Trump, with his diffidence to science, is much less likely to take maintaining public health defenses seriously in the homeland than was Obama.

The article spends some space on the latest Ebola outbreak in the Congos, and notes that today there is a modern road to Uganda along which it can spread.  In 1995, when there was a previous outbreak, a drive would have taken much longer. Therefore Ebola or a similar filiovirus disease like Marburg, might spread much more quickly than even in 2014, when parts of West Africa had a notorious outbreak. The article gives some details as to how care for Ebola patients is provided at a medical center at the University of Nebraska, and the burdens on medical personnel are quite extraordinary.

CDC recommends the new Ebola virus vaccine for people going to areas of the Congo now, but not elsewhere.  This could lead to greater risks for people who work or intern today some of the other countries, like Liberia or Sierra Leone or West Africa, than might have been expected.  A new epidemic might spread even more quickly now throughout the continent than it did even a few years ago, ironically because Africa is modernizing econonically so quickly.  
The article also covers the science of influenza, including the 1918 pandemic and the reoccurrence of H1N1 in 2009.  We don’t seem very far along with bird flu strains like H5N1 and H7N9. There is a lot of attention to using cellular nanotechnology (an interest of Jack Andraka, also here March 18, 2015) to engineer an immune response to a more stable part of most influenza viruses so that a universal influenza vaccine could be engineered without the time delay of egg manufacture.

There is also some discussion of contact tracing and conventional infection control, as with SARS (2003). Nigeria, normally not known for an efficient government, was successful in stamping out Ebola in 2014.

On p. 74, Olga Khazan provides a long article, “Being Black in America Can Be Hazardous to Your Health”.
The article focuses on the Sandtown section of Baltimore, site of the riots in April 2015 after the police shooting of Freddie Gray.  The article suggests a life expectancy less by as much as twenty years because of the cumulative effects of compromised opportunity and toxic environment and dangers in the ghetto.

Wikipedia attribution link for p.d. diagram by Chloe Cryhanand 

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