Archive for the ‘Infectious disease’ Category

By: Sophie Mazur

Likely, you have all heard of malaria and its association to high mortality rates. However, most people have not heard of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) although it is the second most prevalent cause of death during infancy (RSViNetwork, n.d.). Unlike malaria, there is no effective treatment for RSV. Similar to many global health problems, the likelihood of serious disease and death due to this virus is compounded due to poverty, lack of access to proper treatment and care, and lack of awareness. As this virus continues to infect children globally at an alarming rate, we must direct attention towards educating families and health practitioners to identify the infection. As well as, prioritize efforts to cerate an effective and affordable vaccine and treatment.


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By Antonella Marcon

On Valentine’s Day 2018, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte stuck an unwrapped piece of candy in his mouth during his speech. He was addressing overseas foreign workers from Kuwait who were able to return home to the Philippines, a luxury only afforded to them after Duterte called for a halt on OFWs to Kuwait after a string of abuse cases and murders. However, sticking unwrapped candy in his mouth was not a blunder. He was trying to illustrate what it was like to use a condom.

At 1:41 in this video, Duterte says that women should opt for other methods of birth control so as not to limit their sexual abilities. While these actions are unsurprising from the candid Philippine president, they are unsettling when understanding the context of his mocking of condom use.


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By: Timothy Jennings

Japan’s healthcare system is often touted as one of the best in the world. They have one of the highest life expectancies, one of the lowest maternal mortality rates, and the second lowest infant mortality rate. Japan accomplishes this with relatively low healthcare expenditure per capita and a national insurer, known as the Statutory Health Insurance System, which provides universal primary coverage. It is thus exciting to hear about new treatments coming out of this world class system. In a recently published Forbes article, it was announced that Xofluza, a new influenza treatment, was approved in Japan. The groundbreaking factor about this drug is that it has been shown to kill the flu virus in 24 hours in clinical trials in both Japanese and American patients. This was compared to three days for the standard treatment of Tamiflu. The pharmaceutical company responsible, Shionogi, claims that this will reduce transmission of influenza and limit morbidity and mortality from the illness. Because of this, Xofluza has been given fast-tracked approval in Japan and should be released later this year. In the United States and other countries, additional approval is required with estimates of a 2019 release.


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By: Mikas Hansen

The East African region has experienced a period of immense growth and development in the last ten years. Unfortunately, not all communities have benefitted to the same degree. A recent trip back to Nairobi, Kenya blew me away as the bustling, pot-holed, and integrated city I had once grown up in had developed into a paved, efficient, and organized metropolitan hub. I was excited for the nation and the progress it had made towards solving many of its historic political, medical, and economic issues. I was blinded by all of the positive influences that globalization had on the nation. However, a friend recently shared a YouTube documentary named “Zombies of Nairobi” which investigated the domestic drug scene and the reasons for its abuse. This documentary brought a point of realization to my initial outlook on the modernization of Kenya and inspired me to dig deeper and explore the underbelly of a city I once called home.

Though Kenya has managed to double its GDP in the past ten years, the main issue comes with economic inequality and the distribution of wealth across the population. The top 0.1% of the wealthiest individuals own more wealth than the next 99.9%. Furthermore, a massive influx of refugees from the Horn of Africa has even further increased the number of individuals living under the poverty line. As of 2016, 46% of the population lives under the poverty line, only 20% have access to medical coverage, and there is a 67% enrollment in primary education with illiteracy still rising. (“Kenya at a Glance”, 2016) The combination of these factors has led to a number of public health issues to arise, one of which being the abuse of vapor solvents.


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BY: Victoria Gao 

Once every four years, countries around the world get ready for the Winter Olympics, a multi-sport event where athletes compete against each other to show the world who is best. Amidst the rivalry between nations, they all share one common opponent, the dreaded common cold.

This year’s flu season has been extraordinarily bad. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), out of 100,000 hospitalizations in the US, 22.7 were for the flu only in the first week of January. On the other hand, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), there were 1,250 confirmed flu cases in South Korea between December 4 and January 28. The number of flu cases exceed the CDC’s threshold and is considered an epidemic almost every year. So, what makes the flu this bad? The flu virus is an airborne virus and with so many athletes coming together in one area to celebrate the sports, it will be extremely difficult to stop the virus from spreading. There would be more people and therefore more chances for the flu to transmit from person to person. PyeongChang would become a paradise for the virus.


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By Savannah Keller

When we think about modern pharmaceutical products, we look across the Charles River to the biotech companies that are developing cutting-edge drugs to combat rare clinical diseases. When we think about the burden of bacterial disease, we feel safe that simple antibiotics will keep us protected from such infections. Thus, our fears are averted towards the more complex viruses such as HIV and Malaria; a reasonable mindset due to the higher global death toll attributed to these viruses. But what will happen to us all when the basic antibiotics we so heavily take for granted stop working? (more…)

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By Clarissa Schaffino

Microcephaly is a rare condition where infants are born with unusually small heads and consequently have problems with brain development. This condition has not been widely studied but can have severe ramifications later on in life. Microcephaly is believed to be caused by a number of things but today there is a concern regarding the Zika Virus. This virus is transmitted by a vector mosquito and produces minor symptoms for its host. This virus is believed to have come from Africa in the early 1940’s (Tavernise, 2016). Today, it is affecting many pregnant women in Brazil and other regions of the Americas. Those who have had this virus are now seeing microcephaly in their newborn babies. This is a rising concern due to the large number of incidence. Zika virus has not been proven to cause the condition of microcephaly but there appears to be a strong link among the two and major health players are stepping in.

Little is known about the exact transmission of Zika virus. It was previously thought that this virus was only caused by mosquito bite; however, new cases in different regions suggest that there are other transmission pathways. According to an article in the New York Times, new cases of Zika Virus in the United States suggest that “Zika virus” is “possibly being transmitted by sex” (Tarvernise, 2016). A report from Live Science, confirms this theory by stating that there are cases that “[provide] even more evidence that the virus can be transmitted through sex” (Rettner, 2016). A report on a man who contracted this virus states that “follow-up tests for the virus” were “conducted” and “it could still be found in the semen 62 days after the man’s illness”. This news is alarming because women now have to protect themselves for a period that is longer than 30 days and they may not have access to the proper protection methods such as “condoms or contraception” (Tavernise, 2016). Also, the “testing of semen may be difficult” (Rettner, 2016). This could cause problems because we are not entirely sure how long the virus remains present in fluids; therefore, we do not know when or how long women should refrain from pregnancy.

Another major concern is strict abortion laws in Brazil and in other countries (Romero, 2016). Women who are getting pregnant with Zika virus and do not wish to bring the baby to full term are not being permitted to get abortions. I believe that this will have a big impact on this specific generation of children being born. Women should have the choice in bringing a child into the world. A child with severe developmental problems may not live a life as beneficial as a child without these problems. This condition will also impact the healthcare system due to cost of care for an infant with severe developmental problems.

Treatment methods for this virus are still being researched. A vaccination may prove to be the best preventative option for women who are pregnant. However, there is some stigma against vaccinations and pregnancy. Women may not feel comfortable getting a vaccine during their pregnancy because of fear of hurting the fetus. Eradication may be more difficult than we imagined. Education on safe sex will also be a major tool in fighting the spread of this virus. We have to develop more treatment methods and have more education on safe sex practices. Currently, STI’s are still spread in large numbers.

Ultimately, this problem is going to take time to fix. This virus has the potential to cause major dents in the public health field. There are many different moving parts in regards to this virus and its consequences. Zika Virus is spreading fast through South America, Central America, and now to the United States. If not stopped now, we will be seeing the effects of this virus for years to come. I would recommend this topic to women who are considering pregnancy. This is a major concern because as of now there are little ways to combat the virus. Learning about this topic has opened my eyes to the many different avenues that a virus can impact. Zika Virus is not just a virus that affects a host but it is also a virus that has effects on an infant, on the healthcare system, political system, and global and local public health systems.


Below is a video from the New York Times that discusses the Zika Virus:





Rettner, R. (2016, February 12). Zika Virus in Semen Provides More Evidence of Sexual Spread.           Retrieved February 25, 2016, from http://www.livescience.com/53704-zika-virus-semen-       sexual-transmission.html


Romero, S. (2016, February 3). Surge of Zika Virus Has Brazilians Re-examining Strict                          Abortion Laws. The New York Times. Retrieved February 25, 2016, from                                         http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/04/world/americas/zika-virus-brazil-abortion-                      laws.html


Tavernise, S. (2016, February 23). C.D.C. Investigating 14 New Reports of Zika Transmission Through Sex. The New York Times. Retrieved February 25, 2016, from             http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/24/health/zika-virus-sexual-                                                    transmission.html?ref=health




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