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"The fight to eliminate polio is now imperiled...by 'insecurity, targeted attacks on health workers and/or a ban by local authorities on polio immunization,' and violence in the Middle East. In a March 2014 report, the [World Health Organization]...warned that the virus, which existed in only three countries at the dawn of 2012, is now returning to places from which it had been eradicated, and 'risk of further international spread remains high, particularly in central Africa (especially from Cameroon), the Middle East, and the Horn of Africa.' The collective forces of global health are watching their efforts backtrack, thanks to warfare and to the growing belief within Islamist circles that the polio-eradication effort is a secret CIA plot, designed to harm or contaminate Muslim children. Amid assassinations and bombings of vaccination sites, chiefly in Pakistan and Nigeria, the death toll for healthcare workers now exceeds the number of children dying of polio...What was once a triumphant example of humanity and solidarity has transformed into something deeply dangerous...The distinct escalation in assaults and killings of polio vaccinators can be traced directly to the May 2011 U.S. Special Forces assault on the Abbottabad compound inhabited by Osama bin Laden, his family, and al Qaeda elite."

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Related Graphic:
Case Breakdown by Country

(Foreign Policy, April 4, 2014)

See Also:
Polio Spreads From Syria to Iraq, Causing Worries
(The New York Times, April 7, 2014)

See more on Infectious Disease, Vaccines & Vectors

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U.S. Health Care

Medicare Reimbursement Data Offers Trove of Consumer Info

(The Philadelphia Inquirer, April 10, 2014)
"The Obama administration posted the numbers of outpatient procedures performed by more than 880,000 health-care providers, along with the amount of money they were reimbursed under the Medicare Part B program -- $77 billion in all...Medicare expects consumer groups to create user-friendly tools for the public [to use in navigating the data]...A key way the data are useful to patients is by listing the numbers of procedures done by each provider...The data also will be used by analysts who study cost. High-volume physicians might be very good at their trade, for example, but some of those procedures could be medically unnecessary."
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Study Finds Sicklier Enrollees in Earliest Stage of Health Law

(The New York Times, April 9, 2014)
"[A] new study...provides a much-anticipated look at the population that signed up for coverage under the new health care law. The health of those who enrolled in new coverage is being closely watched because many observers have questioned whether the new marketplaces would attract a large share of sick people, which could lead to higher premiums and ultimately doom the new law...Over all, early users of marketplace plans appeared to be filling prescriptions for drugs at rates similar to people with coverage through their employers."
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(The Washington Post, April 4, 2014)
"More than 3 million Americans have enrolled in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program [CHIP] since October...[this] data [from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), provides]...the first enrollment snapshot of the government-run programs for low-income people since the health insurance marketplaces opened. As of Feb. 28, Medicaid and CHIP enrollment has grown to 61 million in 46 states that reported the data...White House officials pointed to the data as growing evidence that more people are gaining coverage as a result of the Affordable Care Act."
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See also:
Doctor Appointment Availability Varies by Insurance Type

(Reuters, April 7, 2014)

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Substance Abuse & Rx Drug Policy

Maine Medicaid Rules Reduce Narcotic Prescriptions

(Associated Press, April 10, 2014)
"In the national fight against narcotics, Maine is leading in efforts to stem the flow of powerful opioid painkillers with unique Medicaid guidelines that have brought sharp reductions in the use of the drugs at the heart of alarming abuse and deaths. Officials of MaineCare, the state's version of Medicaid covering the poor and disabled, credit the new rules for a 17 percent drop last year in how many patients take opioid painkillers...in 2013, compared to 2012. Through fewer prescriptions and smaller doses, the number of pills dispensed was cut 27 percent, or 6 million pills for 15,000 fewer patients."

Heroin Surging North out of Mexico Spreads in U.S.

(The Washington Post, April 6, 2014)
"Mexican heroin is flooding north as U.S. authorities trying to contain an epidemic of prescription painkiller abuse have tightened controls on synthetic opiates...As the pills become more costly and difficult to obtain, Mexican trafficking organizations have found new markets for heroin in places...where, until recently, needle use for narcotics was rare or unknown...Although prescription painkillers remain more widely abused and account for far more fatal overdoses, heroin has been 'moving all over the country and popping up in areas you didn’t see before,' said Carl Pike, a senior official in the Special Operations Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration."
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Infectious Disease, Vaccines & Vectors

Egypt: New Treatments May Defuse Viral Time Bomb

(Inter Press Service, April 9, 2014)
"Egypt [has]...the highest prevalence of hepatitis C [virus (HCV)] in the world, with 10 to 14 percent of its 85 million people infected, and about two million in dire need of treatment. HCV-related liver failure is one of the country’s leading causes of death, taking over 40,000 lives a year. But Egyptians infected with HCV now have fresh hope in novel treatments. The Egyptian government recently struck a deal with [a]...pharmaceutical firm...Since 2006, the Egyptian government has treated more than 250,000 HCV patients at specialised units affiliated to the National Committee for the Control of Viral Hepatitis, a government body formed to tackle the disease."

U.S.: Anti-Vaccine Movement Is Giving Diseases a 2nd Life

(USA Today, April 8, 2014)
"Recent measles outbreaks in New York, California and Texas are examples of what could happen on a larger scale if vaccination rates dropped...Officials declared measles...eradicated in the United States in 2000...Vaccination rates against most diseases are about 90%...in some states the anti-vaccine movement, aided by religious and philosophical state exemptions, is growing...[picking] up steam in the past decade with support from celebrities...Many continue to believe the debunked idea that vaccines cause autism, while others don't trust the federal government or the pharmaceutical companies responsible for these vaccines."

Small Bite, Big Danger: Vector-Borne Disease

(Deutsche Welle, April 7, 2014)
"One little bite from a tiger mosquito or a tick can have fatal consequences...so-called vector-borne disease...infect more than a billion people. Although vector-borne diseases are found mainly in the tropics and subtropics, they are being observed more often in temperate climates...More than a million people die every year from diseases such as malaria, dengue fever, Chagas disease or Japanese encephalitis...the WHO [World Health Organization] is calling for better protection against vector-borne disease...The WHO's message on World Health Day is clear: Vector-borne diseases are preventable."

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Consumer & Food Safety

India's Drug Inspectors Hard-Pressed to Scrutinize Factories

(Reuters, April 6, 2014)
"1,500 drug inspectors [are] responsible for more than 10,000 factories in India, where one in every 22 locally made samples was of sub-standard quality...Indian companies produce more than 20 percent of the world's generic drugs...[though its] drug industry...has already been hit by a rash of sanctions by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)...[approximately] 40 percent of generic and over-the-counter medicines sold in the United States come from India, where they are made in over 500 plants that are subject to inspection by the FDA...The remaining 10,000 plants fall under the watch of India's inspectors."

U.S.: Growing Thirst for Raw Milk
(The Washington Post, April 4, 2014)
"[D]espite warnings from health officials about the rising toll of illnesses...the popularity of raw milk has grown...outbreaks...have nearly doubled over the past five years...In states where raw milk remains banned, black and 'gray' markets have emerged for enthusiasts seeking 'moonshine milk' in the belief that bacteria-killing heat from pasteurization also kills powerful enzymes and eliminates other properties...During this legislative session, 40 bills have been introduced in 23 state capitals, all seeking to legalize unpasteurized milk within state borders."
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Pollution & Chemical Exposure

Mercury Still Poisoning Latin America

(Inter Press Service, April 7, 2014)
"Latin America is not taking the new global agreement to limit mercury emissions seriously...The global treaty on mercury was adopted in October 2013. It includes a ban on new mercury mines, the phase-out of existing mines, control measures for air emissions, and the international regulation of the informal sector for artisanal and small-scale gold mining. But of the 97 countries around the world that have signed the Minamata Convention on Mercury -- including 18 from Latin America and the Caribbean -- only one, the United States, has ratified it, and 49 more must do so in order for it to go into effect."

See also:
Myanmar: Dangerous Levels of Mercury Left for Waste by Gold Miners

(Myanmar Times, April 10, 2014)

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Mental Health & Well-Being

Judge Finds Treatment of California's Mentally Ill Inmates 'Horrific'

(The Sacramento Bee, April 10, 2014)
"[A] federal judge has found that the use of force against mentally ill inmates in California prisons is unconstitutionally harsh...U.S. District Judge Lawrence K. Karlton...ordered state officials to continue revising the use-of-force procedures deployed against the state’s 33,000 mentally ill prisoners and to limit the use of solitary confinement as a means of disciplining such inmates. The...order cites the 'overall significant progress' that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has made in modifying its use-of-force policies...mentally ill inmates [constitute]...more than 28 percent of the roughly 120,000 prisoners in state facilities."
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U.S.: Military's Mental-Health System Faces Shortage of Providers, Lack of Good Diagnostic Tools

(The Washington Post, April 5, 2014)
"Military leaders have tried to understand and deal with mounting troop suicides, worrying psychological disorders among returning soldiers, and high-profile violent incidents on military installations...But...problems persist. A nationwide shortage of mental-health providers has made it difficult for the military to hire enough psychiatrists and counselors. The technology and science for reliably identifying people at risk of doing harm to themselves or others are lacking."
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Research Round-Up

Scientists Say UK Wasted £560m on Flu Drugs That Are Not Proven
Sarah Boseley
(The Guardian, London, April 10, 2014)
"The government has wasted half a billion pounds stockpiling two anti-flu drugs that have not been proved to stop the spread of infection or to prevent people becoming seriously ill...a group of independent scientists who investigate the effectiveness of medicines...also found worrying side-effects in people taking it to prevent flu, which had not been fully disclosed...The findings come at the end of a...battle with the drug companies to see the actual data produced during all the trials, rather than the often ghostwritten and always company-funded scientific papers selectively published in medical journals. In a watershed development, they have put all the company data online."

Related opinion:
Drug Trials: Test Match


(The Guardian, London, April 10, 2014)

Homeopathy Dismissed by National Health and Medical Research Council Review

(The Sydney Morning Herald, April 9, 2014)
"There is no reliable evidence that homeopathy can treat health conditions, a major review of the practice by the National Health and Medical Research Council has concluded. Australian experts in evidence-based medicine were asked by the NHMRC to review published systematic reviews of homeopathy and government reports on homeopathy which covered more than 60 conditions...The draft is now open for public consultation until May 26."

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Africa

Rwanda: Unfinished Business
(The Washington Post, April 7, 2014)
"In the years since the genocide, this tiny East African nation has rebounded: Its economy is surging, poverty has declined, life expectancy has soared and it has been commended for its ongoing effort to achieve social reconciliation. But it has failed to bring to justice all those who led the massacres."
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See also:
Post-Conflict Societies -- To Hell and Back
(The Economist, London, April 5, 2014)

Europe

UK Law Passes Sales of HIV Home Tests Before They Exist

(BBC News, April 5, 2014)
"Kits allowing people to test themselves for HIV at home can be bought over the counter in the UK for the first time -- but no kits exist yet in Britain. The change in the law means it is now legal for people to test and diagnose themselves at home. Previously, people could carry out tests they ordered online at home and send away their results, but were diagnosed over the phone. It is hoped the move will help the UK's 25,000 undiagnosed HIV-positive people."

U.K.: Patient Care Under Threat as Overworked Doctors Miss Vital Signs, Expert Warns

(The Guardian, London, April 4, 2014)
"[O]verworked frontline doctors are...missing vital signs of illness...Hospital doctors are...trying to look after up to 70 elderly patients at a time, far more than the maximum of 20 regarded as necessary to ensure they receive proper attention, the president of the Royal College of Physicians, Sir Richard Thompson, told [an interview]...Doctors specialising in acute medicine are so stretched they are not able to spend the ideal minimum of 15 minutes investigating each patient's symptoms because they have too many patients to get round in a typical seven-hour shift."

North America

Canada: Luring Medical Tourists for Cash Is a Trip Down the Slippery Slope

(The Globe and Mail, Toronto, April 10, 2014)
"Proposals by public hospitals to sell care to medical tourists to expand their revenue base are understandable given tough economic times. But experience from other countries suggests that...revenue flow-back to the public system do not always eventuate...If medical tourism is the solution, we’d best ask first, what’s the problem? Many Canadians might suggest wait times...We know from initiatives [here and] in other countries...that we can fix wait times for all Canadians within the public system...Why, when we have proven solutions that could be used to reduce wait times, are the people who run our system not focused on implementing solutions?"
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See also:
Lawmakers Seek to Draw Medical Tourists to Florida
(The Miami Herald, April 6, 2014)

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