News / Health

Disasters, Discoveries Dominate Health News in 2010

People suffering cholera symptoms rest on stretchers as they crowd the entrance of a public hospital in Limbe village near Cap-Haïtien, Haiti, 22 Nov 2010
People suffering cholera symptoms rest on stretchers as they crowd the entrance of a public hospital in Limbe village near Cap-Haïtien, Haiti, 22 Nov 2010

Multimedia

A wide range of health stories dominated the news in the year 2010.  From a cholera outbreak in Haiti,  to a new, faster tuberculosis test,  to a United Nations report showing progress against AIDS - good and bad health news dominated the media. Our reporter looks back at the health stories of 2010 and also takes a look at what the year ahead might hold.

Since last January's earthquake in Haiti, a cholera epidemic - resulting from contaminated drinking water - has claimed thousands of lives.  Haiti had problems with clean water and sanitation even before the earthquake.  Aid workers and health professionals worry the cholera infection might take years to defeat.

Dr. Jon Andrus is with the Pan American Health Organization. "The bacteria has a foothold in the river system and in other sources of water and it will remain, and it will be a challenge to control future spread," he said.

 

Waterborne illnesses also followed a natural disaster in Pakistan.  Massive flooding in August and September brought the danger of infection on an unprecedented scale - with the nation ill-prepared to handle the feared epidemic on its own.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (file photo)
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (file photo)

Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases [NIAID] outlined some of the possible dangers.

"You could get hepatitis, you could get e-coli, you could get salmonella, and you can get dysentery. So the possibilities of diarrheal-borne diseases are enormous when you have such a catastrophe of this magnitude," he said.

Battle continues

In a less spectacular manner, research continued in the battle against other serious, stubborn health problems.

A new study showed that cancer kills more than seven and a half million people a year worldwide - almost two-thirds of those in low-income and middle-income countries.  The study said cancer kills more people in developing countries than AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined - but pointed out the world spends only five percent of its cancer resources in the developing countries.  

Felicia Knaul, of the Harvard Medical School was one of the authors. "And we are seeing more and more how this is attacking young women. It's the number two cause of death in Mexico for women 30 to 44. All over the developing world, except the poorest-poorest, it's the number one cancer-related death among young women," said Knaul.

Scientists are working on vaccines to fight different forms of cancer.  Researchers at Duke University say they have a new vaccine that can curb the growth of on aggressive form of brain cancer. One of the researchers is Dr. John Sampson.

"The most amazing thing that we have seen with this drug is we have a number of patients now who are surviving five years or more without any evidence of tumor recurrence," he said.

There is still no cure for yet another epidemic with soaring costs for patient care. Alzheimer's affects more than 35 million people throughout the world, and is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.  In a recent study, experts suggest early diagnosis of Alzheimer's is important for procedures and treatments to be effective.

"Governments worldwide need to be aware of the costs they're already incurring and how these are going to increase over time. They need to take action to make dementia a national priority in the same way they have done for chronic diseases like heart disease and cancer and stroke where proportionately the investment is much greater," said Professor Martin Prince of Kings College, London.

'Superbug'

Experts also continue to worry about the a so-called "superbug" with a mutated gene that has the ability to resist all known antibiotics. It has been detected in Australia, Canada, the U.S., the Netherlands and Sweden.

Professor Tim Walsh, of Cardiff University, says a coordinated effort is needed against it.

"What we need to do is to get authorities involved to set up a publicly funded antibiotics resistance global surveillance system, that's point number one," he said. "And secondly, we need to apply pressure on governments and also pharmaceutical industries to address this pressing need of having new antibiotics for NDM positive bacteria."

HIV positive child is given some jam prior to her ARV, near Durban, South Africa, 30 Nov 2010
HIV positive child is given some jam prior to her ARV, near Durban, South Africa, 30 Nov 2010

Good news

2010 did also bring some good health news. A United Nations report showed some hope for the global AIDs epidemic - pointing out that fewer people are getting infected with HIV and more are getting access to treatment.

Scientists also announced a groundbreaking study in which an anti-retroviral drug was shown to be effective in preventing HIV in gay men. Another study placed women in South Africa on a regimen using a topical vaginal gel permeated with an anti-HIV drug called Tenofovir. Dr. Fauci says this trial showed some positive results.

"The result was 39 percent efficacy, not overwhelming but still significant, and we hope to improve on that, particularly with better adherence to the regimen," he said.

Another groundbreaking innovation is a new test which can detect tuberculosis in less than two hours.  Studies show the test is 98 percent accurate.

Experts say it will play an important role in diagnosing TB in both developed and developing nations. Dr. David Persing is with the California-based company (Cepheid) that makes the equipment.

"A key part of the technology is that it doesn't require a skilled operator to perform the test," he said.

New vaccines

New vaccines are also providing hope to contain both infectious and chronic diseases. A new polio vaccine holds promise in the fight against polio.  Clinical trials in two countries have confirmed the effectiveness of the new vaccine.  And the World Health Organization says complete eradication of polio could be in sight.

"The traditional polio vaccine is sometimes called the trivalent vaccine. It has three types type 1 - type 2 type 3.  This one, the new one, has only two types with higher concentration of virus," said Dr. Peter Hotez, president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute.

And finally, those who are making New Year's resolutions for a healthy lifestyle this year should consider several new health tips.

Experts are now recommending higher doses of Vitamin D - to maintain strong bones,  to protect against cancer and, heart disease, and to guard newborns against respiratory infections.

And a new study just out shows that one low dose of aspirin a day - about 80 milligrams - can significantly reduce the risk of death from some common forms of cancer.

You May Like

Video VOA EXCLUSIVE: Iraq President Vows to Fight IS 'Until They Are Killed or We Die'

In wide-ranging interview with VOA Kurdish service reporter, Fuad Masum describes conflict as new type of fight that will take time to win More

Russian Anti-Corruption Campaigner Slams Putin’s Crackdown on Dissent

In interview with VOA Alexei Navalny says he believes new law against 'undesirable NGOs' part of move to keep Russian president in power More

Video On The Scene: In Ethiopia, 'Are You a Journalist?' Is a Loaded Question

VOA's Anita Powell describes the difficulties faced by reporters in fully conveying the story in a country where people are reticent to share their true opinions More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs