NPR’s food blog “The Salt” reports on the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves’ efforts to “bring in celebrities, chefs and politicians to help create awareness for the need for cleaner fuels and better cookstoves,” the smoke and gases from which contribute to nearly two million deaths a year — more than malaria — according to a study released by the WHO last week. “The technology is easy, but getting the stoves and cleaner fuels to impoverished millions is not,” the blog writes.
Pneumonia & Flu
Pollution from indoor cooking stoves, typically open fires that that burn solid fuels such as wood, charcoal or dung, kills two million globally each year, scientists at NIH said in a study published in the journal Science on Thursday, Agence France-Presse reports. Smoke emitted from the stoves, used by three billion people worldwide, “causes pneumonia and chronic lung disease that particularly affects women and children who tend to spend more time in the home while men are outside working,” AFP writes, adding that “little public awareness surrounds what the World Health Organization describes as the globe’s top environmental killer” (Sheridan, 10/13).
The Geneva-based GAVI Alliance, a fund backed by governments, the World Bank, the WHO and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said in an e-mailed statement on Tuesday that it will purchase more than $1 billion in vaccines against rotavirus, pneumococcal and other diseases through deals made with GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer Inc. and Merck & Co. to immunize children in 37 of the poorest nations, Bloomberg reports. “Wealthy nations donated $4.3 billion to purchase the vaccines as part of a plan to immunize 250 million children by 2015,” the news service notes (Bennett, 9/27).
“Authorities in eastern India will start culling chickens and destroying eggs to contain a new outbreak of H5 bird flu, the government said in a statement on Tuesday, as a mutant strain of the virus is spreading elsewhere in Asia,” Reuters reports (Williams, 9/20). “A mutant strain of avian influenza — for which there is no vaccine — appeared recently in China and Vietnam. But Indian authorities did not specify which strain of the H5N1 virus had been detected in the West Bengal region, which has been a hot spot for avian flu in the past,” the Los Angeles Times’ “Booster Shots” blog reports. The blog provides a link to track the movement of bird flu on the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization’s avian influenza pages and a link for additional information on the virus from the CDC (9/20).
Two opinion pieces published on Monday examine the real-life health risks of an outbreak portrayed in “Contagion,” a movie that opened this weekend in which a mysterious airborne virus kills thousands of people.
After the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) “last week voiced concern about the appearance in Vietnam and China of” a mutant strain of the H5N1 avian flu virus, the WHO and FAO on Monday “said in a joint statement issued in response to questions from Agence France-Presse” that “[t]here is no evidence to suggest yet that this new virus strain will have any increased risk to human health,” the news agency reports. “‘Nevertheless, poultry producers and the general public should always take simple precautions to reduce exposure to the virus from infected poultry,’ it said,” the news agency writes, noting the “H5N1 virus typically spreads from birds to humans via direct contact” (9/5).
Genetic Factor Found In Link Between H1N1 Flu Vaccine And Children's Narcolepsy, Finland Institute Says
“Finland’s national health institute said on Thursday its latest research on previously found links between children’s narcolepsy and GlaxoSmithKline’s [GSK] Pandemrix vaccine against [H1N1] swine flu also involved a genetic risk factor,” Reuters reports. In Finland, where 98 narcolepsy cases have been reported following the flu vaccinations, researchers found vaccinated children ages four to 19 “had a 12.7 times higher risk of experiencing narcolepsy than those who were not,” the news agency notes (9/1).
“The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on Monday warned about a new mutant strain of the deadly bird flu H5N1 virus in China and Vietnam, saying there could be a ‘major resurgence’ of the disease,” Agence France-Presse reports. In a statement, FAO “said it was concerned about ‘the appearance in China and Vietnam of a variant virus able to sidestep the defenses provided by existing vaccines,’ adding that the new strain was known as H5N1 – 188.8.131.52,” the news agency notes. The organization said the virus, which can be spread by wild bird migration, “poses a direct threat to Cambodia, Thailand and Malaysia as well as endangering the Korean peninsula and Japan” (8/29).
ABC News on Thursday posted six videos in its “World In 3” health series. The three-minute videos examine malaria in Uganda, neglected tropical diseases in Niger, pneumonia in the Philippines, sleeping sickness in the Democratic Republic of Congo, tuberculosis in South Africa, and parasitic worms in Brazil (8/25).
The “reports during the past two weeks of two recent infections and another death” from H5N1 (avian) influenza “raised little concern except among public health officials,” Robert Gatter, co-director of the Center for Health Law Studies and professor of law at Saint Louis University, writes in an Atlanta Journal-Constitution opinion piece, adding that “[t]he fact that bird flu in developing nations receives little public attention reveals that the world has become complacent about this threat.”