CDC Activates Emergency Measures to Combat E-Cigarette Use

Federal health officials have activated emergency measures to tackle the recent spate of lung illnesses blamed on electronic cigarettes.”CDC has made it a priority to find out what is causing this outbreak of e-cigarette or vaping-related injuries and deaths,” the organization’s head, Dr. Robert Redfield, said Monday.Redfield said activating the CDC’s Emergency Operations Center lets experts give additional support to the agency’s staff “working to protect our nation from this serious health threat.”As of Monday, the CDC was investigating 380 confirmed or suspected cases of vaping-related lung illness, including six deaths.Health experts have been unable to pinpoint an exact cause, including a specific brand or ingredient in e-cigarettes, but are urging all e-cigarette users to stop.The devices have been marketed as a safer alternative to tobacco cigarettes. Federal regulators have warned the largest e-cigarette maker, JUUL, against making such claims, saying they have not been proved.Also Monday, California Gov. Gavin Newson announced a $20 million statewide campaign to stop young people from taking up the e-cigarette habit.New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said his state’s health commissioner plans to ban fruit and candy flavored e-cigarettes, which appeal to youths. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot also announced similar plans.

No New Measles Cases Reported in Fading US Outbreak

The nation’s worst measles epidemic in 27 years could be in its final stages as a week went by with no new reported cases.“To get to zero is tremendously encouraging,” said Jason Schwartz, a Yale University expert on vaccination policy.The current epidemic emerged about a year ago and took off earlier this year, with most of the cases reported in Orthodox Jewish communities in and around New York City. It started with travelers who had become infected overseas but spread quickly among unvaccinated people.In the spring, 70 or more new cases were being reported every week. Not long ago, the nation that saw that many measles cases in a whole year.So far this year, 1,241 cases have been confirmed — a number that didn’t rise last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Monday. The last time the CDC reported no new measles cases was 11 months ago.New York officials responded to the explosion of measles cases with a wave of measures, including education campaigns to counter misinformation about vaccine safety and fines for people who didn’t get vaccinated.The epidemic has threatened the Unites States’ nearly 2-decade-old status as a nation that has eliminated measles. The status could come to an end if the disease spreads among Americans for a year or more. Other countries, including Greece and the United Kingdom, recently lost their elimination status amid a global surge in the disease.Measles outbreaks are typically declared over when 42 days pass without a new infection. If no new cases crop up, the national outbreak would likely end on or about Sept. 30 — just before officials might have to decide on the U.S. elimination status.The loss of elimination status in the U.S. could take the steam out of measles vaccination campaigns in other countries, said Dr. William Schaffner, a Vanderbilt University vaccine expert.Health ministers around the world might say, “Why should we strive for elimination? We’ll just do the best we can to control measles, but we won’t go the extra several miles to get to zero,” Schaffner said.

US Health Secretary Applauds Uganda’s Ebola Control Efforts

U.S. Secretary for Health and Human Services Alex Azar has applauded Uganda’s efforts to control the spread of Ebola in east and central Africa; however, while the U.S. remains the primary funder of Uganda’s health care sector, the secretary did not shy away from asking the East African country to find funds to independently sustain its health care budget.Since June, Uganda has identified and isolated four Ebola victims who entered the country from the Democratic Republic of Congo.The monitoring has prevented the Ebola epidemic which has killed nearly 2,000 people in eastern Congo from crossing the border.Relatives of the 5-year-old boy who became Ebola’s first cross-border victim, and others, listen as village leaders and health workers educate them about Ebola, in Kirembo, Uganda, June 15, 2019.Secretary Azar is leading a U.S. delegation to Rwanda, the DRC and now Uganda regarding Ebola.“There’s immense work that has had to be done in bolstering preparedness and response capacities. Screening those crossing the borders and responding to the discovery of cases. Uganda, particularly the Ministry of Health and Minister Aceng have risen to the occasion providing a model for the region,” said Azar.The U.S. is a major financier of Uganda’s health sector, helping to combat AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, Ebola and improve maternal and child health care.In fiscal year 2018, the U.S. provided more than $511 million in health care funding.Secretary Azar encouraged Uganda to be more self-sustaining.“And we have seen tremendous achievement in Uganda in terms of the building up of the public health system and health care infrastructure as a result of that partnership,” Azar said. “Now of course, overtime that needs to be more self-sustained. And that does require that Uganda invest its own resources also in the health care system.”Ambassador Deborah Malac expressed confidence Uganda is capable of meeting its own health care needs.”But one cannot expect that the U.S. government will be the donor of choice in this area, you know, in an open-ended future,” said Malac. “So, it really is about building its capacity and ultimately putting ourselves out of the assistance business.”On Sunday, there were reports from Tanzania that a doctor who was studying in Uganda had died of a viral infection akin to Ebola. The Tanzanian ministry quickly came out and denied the allegations, calling them rumors.Yonas Tegegn Woldemariam, the World Health Organization representative in Uganda, expressed concern about the situation.“This mysterious disease has to be investigated and samples have to be tested. We couldn’t rule out any of the viral hemorrhagic fevers and the investigations will continue,” Yonas said. “And we look forward of the Tanzanian government collaborating as per the International health regulations to address this issue.”Countries near Congo continue to be on high alert for any new cases of Ebola, with strict adherence to control guidelines set by the WHO.

Unveiling the Future of Transportation Meets Unwelcoming Committee in Frankfurt

Carmakers unveiled self-driving vehicles and assurances of an eco-friendly future in transportation. Thousands of climate activists blocking the streets in Frankfurt are not buying it. VOA’s Arash Arabasadi looks at the future through a lens of the present.

Recycled Refrigerators, Imported Carbon Fiber Used in ‘Made-In-Senegal’ Drones

A Senegalese drone enthusiast has been working with drones both in the photography and health sectors for years. But recently, Mamadou Wade Diop decided to work with local blacksmiths to build a drone made entirely in Senegal. Esha Sarai has more from the Senegalese city of Mbour.

New York Moves to Enact Statewide Flavored E-cig Ban

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is pushing to enact a statewide ban on the sale of flavored e-cigarettes amid growing health concerns connected to vaping, especially among young people.The Democrat announced Sunday that the state health commissioner would be making a recommendation this week to the state Public Health and Health Planning Council. The council can issue emergency regulations that would go into effect as soon as they are voted on and start being enforced in as soon as two weeks, following a short grace period for retailers, officials said.In announcing the action, Cuomo sharply criticized the flavors that are for sale, like bubble gum and cotton candy.“These are obviously targeted to young people and highly effective at targeting young people,” he said.The biggest player in the industry, Juul Labs Inc., said it was reviewing the announcement, but agreed with the need for action.The ban would not impact tobacco- and menthol-flavored e-cigarettes, but Cuomo said the Department of Health would continue evaluating and that could change.Cuomo signed legislation earlier this year raising the statewide smoking age to 21, and earlier this month signed a mandate that requires state anti-tobacco campaigns to also include vaping.Vaping is also under a federal spotlight , as health authorities look into hundreds of breathing illnesses reported in people who have used e-cigarettes and other vaping devices.In his first public comments on vaping, President Donald Trump proposed a similar federal ban last week.The FDA has been able to ban vaping flavors since 2016, but hasn’t taken the step, with officials looking into whether flavors could help cigarette smokers to quit.The global market is estimated to have a value of as much as $11 billion. The industry has spent a lot of money in states around the country to lobby against state-level flavored e-cigarette bans, in states including Hawaii, California, Maine and Connecticut.US Officials Repeat Warning on Iraq Disarmament UltimatumU.S. Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Colin Powell, speaking prior to the summit in the Azores, said time is running out for Iraq to disarm or face possible military action. Their comments underscored the call by President George W. Bush and the leaders of Britain and Spain for the international community to support an ultimatum for the immediate disarmament of Iraq. Speaking on the NBC television program Meet the Press, Vice-President Cheney signaled that the U.S. administration is running out of patience. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer earlier this month ordered that state’s health department to come out with emergency rules to prohibit flavored e-cigarette sales.Juul reiterated Sunday the agreeable stance it had taken following Trump’s proposal.In an emailed statement, spokesman Austin Finan said, “We strongly agree with the need for aggressive category-wide action on flavored products,” and “will fully comply with local laws and the final FDA policy when effective.”

WHO: Millions of Patients Die Every Year Seeking Health Care 

The World Health Organization is calling for urgent action to end bad health care practices responsible for killing millions of patients around the world every year.  WHO issued a report in advance of the first World Patient Safety Day on September 17.People who fall ill go to their doctor or sign themselves into a hospital in the expectation of receiving treatment that will cure them. Unfortunately, in many cases the treatment they receive will kill themThe World Health Organization reports one in 10 patients is harmed in high-income countries. It says 134 million patients in low-and-middle-income countries are harmed because of unsafe care leading to 2.6 million deaths annually. WHO notes most of these deaths are avoidable.Neelam Dhingra-Kuram is WHO coordinator of Patient Safety and Risk Management. She said harm occurs mainly because of wrong diagnosis, wrong prescriptions, the improper use of medication, incorrect surgical procedures and health care associated infections.”But the major reason for this harm is that in the health care facilities, in the system there is lack of patient safety culture. And, that means that the leadership is not strong enough…So, lack of open communication, lack of systems to learn from mistakes and errors. So, already suppose errors are happening and harm is taking place. If you do not learn from it, it is really a lost opportunity,” she said.Dhingra-Kuram said systems must be created where health care workers are encouraged to report mistakes and are not fearful of being blamed for reporting errors.Besides the avoidable and tragic loss of life, WHO reports patient harm leads to economic losses of trillions of dollars globally each year. It says medication errors alone cost an estimated $42 billion annually.On the other hand, WHO says a study in the United States finds safety improvement in patient care has resulted in estimated savings of $28 billion in Medicare hospitals between 2010 and 2015. 

Congo: Confirmed Ebola Deaths Near 2,000, Cases Over 3,000

Congo’s National Ebola Response Committee says confirmed Ebola deaths in the east of the sprawling African nation are nearing 2,000 and confirmed cases of the virus have exceeded 3,000.The committee released the latest numbers Friday after a discussion in Goma by the Catholic Church and the Anglican Church about efforts to help stem the spread of Ebola in communities. A mistrust of health workers and widespread security issues still threaten the fight against the second deadliest outbreak of Ebola in history in a region where armed groups have fought for decades over the mineral-rich land.The committee reported 3,002 confirmed Ebola cases with 1,974 deaths.
The World Health Organization said Friday they recorded the lowest weekly incidence of Ebola since March 2019 with 40 new cases, but said it was unclear if this positive trend would continue. 

Changes in Vapers’ Lungs Similar to Changes in Smokers’ Lungs

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now reports 380 confirmed and probable cases of lung disease associated with e-cigarette use, or vaping. The agency Friday also confirmed six deaths because of e-cigarettes.Until recently, most teens weren’t concerned about vaping. In fact, one brand of e-cigarettes, Juul, advertised that vaping was safer than regular cigarettes, but vaping is what sent Adam Hergenreder to the hospital.“I’m 18 years old and my lungs are like a 70-year-old’s,” he said.Vaping products for sale are seen at a shop in New York, Sept. 10, 2019.Many teens have no idea what chemicals they are inhaling, according to Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency room physician.“Every time they vape, and bring this aerosol into their lungs, it’s not water vapor,” he said, “it has chemicals, including aldehydes and special alcohols that are produced as a result of heating these solvents that are in the vaping liquids.”In looking at 150 different e-liquids, scientists found about 200 different chemicals. The effect on the body is unknown. The chemicals are approved by a government agency, but they are approved for consumption, not for inhaling.A study at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine found that vaping causes changes in the lungs similar to the changes found in smokers with emphysema.Professor Robert Tarran led the study. Tarran said he found proteins called proteases in the lungs of some vapers. “The best way to describing them are they are molecular scissors, so proteasers are proteins that cut up other proteins,” Tarran said by Skype.Having some proteases in the lungs is normal. But Tarran says proteases increase with lung damage.“What we found is that these protease levels were up to the same amount in vapers’ lungs as in smokers’ lungs.”Tarran said nicotine in the vape liquid is connected to high protease levels in the lungs.Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, left, and acting FDA Commissioner Ned Sharpless speak with reporters after a meeting about vaping with President Donald Trump at the White House, Sept. 11, 2019, in Washington.It’s too soon for studies to determine the long-term effects of vaping, or whether teens, whose lungs are still growing, are more vulnerable to bad outcomes than adults who vape.In the meantime, the CDC says “people should consider not using e-cigarette products” while it investigates the soaring number of illnesses and the deaths.Other medical groups are using stronger language. The American Medical Association is urging the public to avoid the use of e-cigarette products.And the National Association of County and City Health Officials is calling for swift action to eliminate youth vaping.

Changes in Vapers’ Lungs Resemble Changes in Smokers’ Lungs

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now reports 380 confirmed and probable cases of lung disease associated with e-cigarette use, or vaping. The agency has also confirmed six deaths because of e-cigarettes. These latest figures were released Friday. Although vaping was once advertised as a better alternative to cigarettes, VOA’s Carol Pearson reports studies have increasingly been showing that e-cigarettes can be deadly.