WBEZ | public health http://www.wbez.org/tags/public-health Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en More babies are dying because of congenital syphilis http://www.wbez.org/news/more-babies-are-dying-because-congenital-syphilis-113771 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/syphilis_wide-b388ef1516c9a9a65bcb6b0e42e8d00b490d7319-s800-c85.jpg" alt="" /><p><div id="res455770081"><div data-crop-type="" style="text-align: center;"><img alt="The bacterium that causes syphilis is spread through sexual contact. It's easily cured with antibiotics, but can be hard to diagnose." src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2015/11/12/syphilis_wide-b388ef1516c9a9a65bcb6b0e42e8d00b490d7319-s800-c85.jpg" style="height: 349px; width: 620px;" title="The bacterium that causes syphilis is spread through sexual contact. It's easily cured with antibiotics, but can be hard to diagnose. (CDC/Phanie/Science Source)" /></div><div><div><p>The number of babies born with syphilis has shot up, and it&#39;s taking a toll.</p></div></div></div><p>Of the 458 babies born last year with syphilis, 33 of were stillborn or died shortly after birth. From 2012 to 2014, there&#39;s been a 38 percent increase in cases of congenital syphilis. The spike reverses a previously falling trend in the rates of babies with syphilis from 2008 to 2012, according to a&nbsp;<a href="http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6444a3.htm?s_cid=mm6444a3_w">report</a>&nbsp;released Thursday in&nbsp;Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.</p><p>As rates of new syphilis infections rise and fall, rates of fetal and&nbsp;<a href="http://www.cdc.gov/std/syphilis/stdfact-syphilis-detailed.htm">congenital syphilis&nbsp;</a>tend to follow suite, says Virginia Bowen, an epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and lead author on the study. If a pregnant woman carries the bacteria, syphilis can infect the unborn fetus. When that happens, a lot of things can go awry. &quot;Up to 40 percent of babies will die in utero or shortly after delivery,&quot; Bowen says. &quot;Or they might have a severe illness like blindness or deafness or other types of damage.&quot;</p><p>It&#39;s hard to know the reason behind the recent surge in syphilis cases, Bowen says. &quot;The only thing I can say is syphilis is going up right now across the board,&quot; she says. &quot;From &#39;13 to &#39;14, we are seeing syphilis going up everywhere, including among the women, and we don&#39;t have the answers as to why.&quot;</p><p>The rising rates in congenital syphilis might betray a larger problem among health care for women and pregnant women, Bowen says. &quot;There are a lot of barriers to getting into the door at the prenatal care provider. That could be related to insurance status, stigma or discrimination.&quot; If women aren&#39;t getting adequate prenatal care, then they can&#39;t be screened for syphilis.</p><p>Access to care can be particularly hard for certain populations, says&nbsp;<a href="https://www.bcm.edu/people/view/3b0b0dd8-3ad5-11e5-8d53-005056b104be">Dr. Martha Rac</a>, a maternal-fetal medicine physician at Ben Taub Hospital and Baylor College of Medicine in Houston who was not involved with the study. &quot;African-American women are more disproportionately affected by syphilis than any other race,&quot; she says. And 57 percent of children with congenital syphilis were born to African-American women.</p><p>Lack of prenatal care is probably the greatest contributor to the upturn in congenital syphilis, Rac says. &quot;It seems to be the common theme that women having congenitally infected babies overwhelmingly have, if any, late, poor prenatal care. That is a big area which can be targeted from a public health standpoint.&quot;</p><p>Some states have been harder hit than others. California went from 35 cases in 2012 to 99 in 2014, while Texas continued to see a slight decline in the overall number of babies born with syphilis. &quot;In April, I designated Fresno County as an area of high syphilis, so providers are required to screen for syphilis three times during pregnancy,&quot; says Dr. Ken Bird, health officer for the Fresno County Department of Public Health.</p><p>There are states that have free health coverage for pregnant women. &quot;In California, every pregnant female has coverage for prenatal care [through the Medi-Cal program]. Many don&#39;t realize that, and they&#39;re not sure how to access that care,&quot; Bird says. Other states may cover prenatal visits through state Children&#39;s Health Insurance Programs.</p><p>Syphilis is a difficult disease to diagnose, Bowen says. Many people become asymptomatic after the first lesions or rashes appear, but can still pass the infection on to their unborn children. But as long as the infection is caught early enough, a simple course of antibiotics is enough to ensure a healthy baby. &quot;Of the 458 cases we had last year, every single one of them is considered preventable,&quot; she says.</p><p>&mdash;<a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/11/12/455768422/more-babies-are-dying-because-of-congenital-syphilis?ft=nprml&amp;f=455768422"><em> via NPR</em></a></p></p> Fri, 13 Nov 2015 11:15:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/more-babies-are-dying-because-congenital-syphilis-113771 Legionnaires' outbreak contained at Calif. prison; new cases in Illinois http://www.wbez.org/news/legionnaires-outbreak-contained-calif-prison-new-cases-illinois-112829 <p><p>The number of confirmed cases of Legionnaires&#39; disease at California&#39;s San Quentin prison is holding steady at six, one of three outbreaks of Legionnaires&#39; around the country that have sickened dozens and killed 20.</p><p>Another 95 San Quentin inmates are under observation because of respiratory illness,<a href="http://cdcrtoday.blogspot.jp/2015/09/san-quentin-state-prison-legionnaires_2.html"> state officials said</a>, but they have not been diagnosed with Legionnaires&#39; disease. The inmates are being treated at San Quentin&#39;s medical unit.</p><p>&quot;We&#39;ve got transmission control,&quot; Dr. Steven Tharratt, director of health care operations for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, said on&nbsp;<a href="http://www.kqed.org/a/forum/R201509010900">KQED&nbsp;Forum</a>Tuesday.</p><p>Administrators at the Marin County prison are restoring some services that had been suspended, including preparation of hot meals. Inmates had been receiving boxed meals for the past several days. Last Friday, officials confirmed the first case of Legionnaires&#39; disease at the prison. The number of cases had grown to six by Sunday.</p><p>In New York City, health officials announced Wednesday that they had detected Legionnaires&#39; bacteria in the water in one building in the Melroses Houses complex in the South Bronx, where four people have fallen ill. Other buildings there are being tested. Since July there have been&nbsp;<a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/html/diseases/cdlegi.shtml">124 cases of Legionnaires&#39; disease</a>&nbsp;at various locations the South Bronx; 12 people have died.</p><p>And in Quincy, Ill., the death toll from a Legionnaires&#39; outbreak has risen to eight, health state officials&nbsp;<a href="http://dph.illinois.gov/news/legionnaires%E2%80%99-disease-cases-quincy">reported&nbsp;</a>Wednesday. Forty-one people have been diagnosed. Earlier cases were associated with a state veterans home there, but four new cases, including one death, are not, authorities said.</p><p>Here&#39;s what you need to know about the disease:</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/AP_368131846448.jpg" style="margin-left: 10px; margin-right: 10px; height: 236px; width: 360px; float: right;" title="A large grouping of Legionella pneumophila bacteria (Legionnaires' disease). Legionnaires' disease has been reported in a handful of states in the summer of 2015, leading to multiple deaths and more than 100 illnesses. The unrelated cases are part of a typical pattern seen with a disease that tends to appear in warm weather and is mostly dangerous for people who are already sick or weakened. (Janice Haney Carr/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention via AP)" /></p><p><strong>What Is Legionnaires&#39; Disease?</strong></p><p>Legionnaires&#39; disease is a type of pneumonia caused by the Legionella bacteria. It is not spread person-to-person. Instead, it is present in water, especially warm water, and is carried by steam and mist. San Quentin officials had shut down many plumbing systems, and suspended cooking &mdash; because steam from cooking could carry the bacteria and infect people.</p><p>According to the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/swimming/rwi/illnesses/legionella.html">Centers for Disease Control</a>, the bacteria are &quot;one of the most frequent causes of waterborne disease among humans in the United States.&quot;</p><p><strong>Who Is At Risk?</strong></p><p>The CDC says that 8,000 to 18,000 people are hospitalized in the U.S. every year with Legionnaires&#39; disease. (By comparison, far more people are sickened every year by the more-common&nbsp;<a href="http://www.cdc.gov/pneumococcal/about/facts.html">pneumococcal pneumonia;</a>&nbsp;it affects 900,000 people.)</p><p>Those most at risk of becoming seriously ill are:</p><ul><li>People over age 50</li><li>Smokers</li><li>Those with chronic lung disease</li><li>People with weakened immune systems</li></ul><p><strong>How Is It Treated?</strong></p><p>While Legionnaires&#39; can be fatal, it is generally successfully treated with commonly available antibiotics.</p><p><strong>Can It Be Prevented?</strong></p><p>Since the Legionella bacteria are waterborne, everything from water storage towers to plumbing to&nbsp;<a href="http://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/pdf/swimming/resources/legionella-factsheet.pdf">hot tubs</a>&nbsp;needs to be properly disinfected. Samples have been collected at San Quentin, officials say, but the source of the contamination has not yet been identified. Lab tests on those samples take about two weeks to process. In the meantime, officials are hopeful that cutting off water supplies at San Quentin stopped the outbreak.</p><p>&quot;We believe the transmission of the organism was stopped last week,&quot; Tharratt said.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/AP_760804016.jpg" style="height: 345px; width: 360px; margin-left: 10px; margin-right: 10px; float: right;" title="Dr. Stephen Thacker, right, of the U.S. Center for Disease Control, interviews Thomas Payne in Chambersburg, Pa. Hospital, Aug. 4, 1976. Payne was one of the Legionnaires who became ill after attending a state convention in Philadelphia. He is slowly recovering, although over 20 other Legionnaires have died from the mysterious disease. (AP Photo)" /><strong>Why Is It Called Legionnaires&#39;?</strong></p><p>In 1976, 2,000 members of the American Legion were gathered for a big conference in Philadelphia. Many became sick with a mysterious respiratory illness. The outbreak launched a massive public health investigation, which<a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC358030/">&nbsp;resulted in identification&nbsp;</a>of a new family of bacteria.</p><p>(On a historical note, in the early 1980s, those fighting for a similar public health response to another mysterious disease &mdash; one that was striking gay men &mdash; were sorely disappointed. As early as 1982,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.sfgate.com/health/article/Randy-Shilts-warned-early-about-baffling-2795293.php">there were already significantly more deaths</a>&nbsp;from what came to be called AIDS than had died in the 1976 Legionnaires&#39; outbreak.)</p><p><strong>Where Else Have Legionnaires&#39; Outbreaks Happened Recently?</strong></p><p>As noted, Legionnaires&#39; disease is a fairly common illness. The Associated Press noted these outbreaks around the country this summer, in addition to the Illinois and New York outbreaks:</p><ul><li>Two isolated illnesses occurred &mdash; one at Illinois&#39; Stateville prison last month, the other in July at West Chester University in Pennsylvania.</li><li>High levels of Legionella bacteria were found last week in the water system at a substance abuse treatment unit in Arizona at the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care System, leading authorities to relocate 20 patients. The bacteria were discovered during routine testing and no illnesses have been reported, spokeswoman Jean Schaefer said.</li><li>A building at a GlaxoSmithKline drug manufacturing plant in Zebulon, N.C., was closed temporarily in August after Legionella bacteria were found in the external cooling towers there; no one was sickened.</li></ul><p>&mdash; <a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/09/03/437212873/legionnaires-calif-prison-outbreak-contained-new-cases-in-illinois"><em>via NPR&#39;s Shots</em></a></p></p> Thu, 03 Sep 2015 15:29:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/legionnaires-outbreak-contained-calif-prison-new-cases-illinois-112829 Illinois Supreme Court hears $10B Phillip Morris appeal http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-supreme-court-hears-10b-phillip-morris-appeal-112054 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/6447341369_db970e431f_z.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The fate of a $10.1 billion class-action judgment against the nation&#39;s largest cigarette maker is in the hands of justices at the Illinois Supreme Court, who heard oral arguments Tuesday in Phillip Morris USA&#39;s appeal to have the on-again, off-again verdict struck down.</p><p>The more than decade-old lawsuit &mdash; one of the nation&#39;s first to accuse a tobacco company of consumer fraud &mdash; claimed that Phillip Morris deceptively marketed &quot;light&quot; and &quot;low-tar&quot; cigarettes as a healthier alternative.</p><p>The initial Madison County trial ended in 2003 with the multibillion dollar verdict against Phillip Morris, a subsidiary of Virginia-based Altria Group Inc. The state&#39;s high court threw it out in 2005 only to have Illinois&#39; 5th District Appellate Court reinstate the verdict last year.</p><p>An attorney representing the hundreds of thousands of Illinois smokers asked the panel Tuesday to reject Phillip Morris&#39; appeal and let the judgment stand. David Frederick said the cigarette giant had carried out a &quot;massive fraud&quot; that &quot;light&quot; cigarettes &quot;were safer or healthier.&quot;</p><p>But former Illinois Gov. Jim Thompson, one of two lawyers representing Phillip Morris during the 50-minute hearing, argued that the Illinois Supreme Court got it right ten years ago when it decided to jettison the trial court&#39;s verdict.</p><p>&quot;And that judgment is correct today,&quot; he said.</p><p>The core dispute has been whether the Federal Trade Commission allowed cigarette makers to label cigarettes &quot;light&quot; and &quot;low-tar,&quot; effectively shielding Phillip Morris from such suits. Phillip Morris says the FTC did give it permission to label cigarettes that way. But plaintiffs argued FTC didn&#39;t give its OK and it alleges that an agency decision in recent years confirmed that interpretation.</p><p>Thompson, though, said plaintiffs shouldn&#39;t be allowed to offer up new evidence of federal regulators&#39; intent so many years later.</p><p>&quot;Surely this is not a game of musical chairs depending on who sits in the chair of the FTC at any time,&quot; he said at the hearing.</p><p>The lawsuit sought compensation, not for damage to a smoker&#39;s health, but for the money they paid for what they thought were safer cigarettes based on the Phillip Morris advertising.</p><p>The hearing was held in Springfield and also broadcast live online. A ruling is likely to take at least several weeks.</p><p>Lloyd Karmeier was among the justices on Tuesday&#39;s panel. The plaintiffs had asked him to recuse himself because they say there could be a perception of bias in favor of Phillip Morris, based on reports the company gave money to groups backing his election to the bench.</p><p>In a 16-page explanation last year for why he wouldn&#39;t take himself off the case, Karmeier said the plaintiffs&#39; attorneys had offered no evidence to support a view he couldn&#39;t be even-handed.</p><p>&quot;Rumor, speculation, belief, conclusion, suspicion, opinion or similar non-factual matter are not sufficient,&quot; he wrote.</p></p> Tue, 19 May 2015 16:57:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-supreme-court-hears-10b-phillip-morris-appeal-112054 Six months after Fisk and Crawford, Chicago area coal still struggling http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-04/six-months-after-fisk-and-crawford-chicago-area-coal-still-struggling <p><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/akagoldfish/2926002818/" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/coal-train.jpg" style="height: 414px; width: 620px;" title="A coal train outside Chicago in 2008. (Flickr/Courtesy the pieces are here) " /></a></div><p>The last barge carrying coal to Pilsen&rsquo;s Fisk Power Plant lumbered up the Chicago canal in late August, dumping a final 1,500 tons of coal to burn in a community whose members were more than happy to see their industrial neighbor go.</p><p>Before they shut down, the Fisk and Crawford coal plants were among the state&rsquo;s largest emitters of toxic chemicals. In 2010, the latest year of data available in the EPA&rsquo;s <a href="http://iaspub.epa.gov/triexplorer/tri_release.chemical" target="_blank">Toxics Release Inventory</a>, the power plants were among the leading sources of barium compounds,&nbsp;hydrochloric acid,&nbsp;hydrogen fluoride,&nbsp;mercury compounds and&nbsp;sulfuric acid. A 2002 Harvard School of Public Health study linked the plants to 41 premature deaths and 2,800 asthma attacks annually.</p><p>It has been a little more than six months since the plants closed, and <a href="http://wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-03/fisk-and-crawford-pass-air-and-radiation-tests-lead-persists-nearby" target="_blank">recent tests by the EPA</a> showed <a href="http://www.epa.gov/airquality/particlepollution/" target="_blank">particulate matter</a> concentrations and radiation levels typical for Chicago in the area around Fisk. The readings came from four stationary sensors and a mobile unit mounted to a baby carriage to make sure no odd winds swept pollution between the reach of the monitors.</p><p>&ldquo;Overall it&rsquo;s not unreasonable to expect some air quality improvement since the plants closed,&rdquo; said the state EPA&rsquo;s Andrew Mason.</p><p>There is considerable lag time in analyzing air quality data, and on a regional basis it is difficult to single out individual sources, Mason said, so a definitive breakdown of just what impact the plant closures had on Chicago&rsquo;s air quality doesn&rsquo;t exist.</p><p>But anecdotal evidence abounds. Sulfur oxides can smell like rotting eggs &mdash; an aroma residents are happy to report no longer lingers over their neighborhood. Those compounds, along with nitrogen oxides, also contribute to smog and haze.</p><p>The recent tests seemed to confirm the shuttered coal plants were no longer an air quality concern for neighborhood, but coal is not the only source of particulate matter pollution.</p><p>A <a href="http://www.sciencecodex.com/road_traffic_pollution_as_serious_as_passive_smoke_in_the_development_of_childhood_asthma-109075" target="_blank">new study in the European Respiratory Journal</a> found 14 percent of chronic asthma in kids is caused by car exhaust &mdash; in the same range as the 4 to 18 percent bracket of childhood asthma cases resulting from exposure to second-hand smoke, per World Health Organization estimates. It was the first time they estimated the percentage of cases that might not have occurred if Europeans had not been exposed to road traffic pollution.</p><p>Around the region, coal plants are struggling to compete with low natural gas prices and <a href="http://www.epa.gov/pm/actions.html" target="_blank">tightening EPA restrictions</a>. Dominion Energy, which recently <a href="http://wbez.org/news/dominion-wants-sell-3-power-stations-including-one-outside-chicago-102227" target="_blank">sold off some Chicago area holdings</a>, just settled <a href="http://www.fierceenergy.com/story/dominion-will-pay-mightily-emissions/2013-04-09" target="_blank">to the tune of more than $13 million</a> to resolve Clean Air Act violations. The settlement required Dominion to spend $9.75 million of that on environmental projects, including land acquisition and restoration near the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.</p><p>But <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-09-28/news/ct-met-will-coal-plants-20120928_1_midwest-generation-plants-fisk-and-crawford-coal-plants" target="_blank">two coal plants in Will County </a>are not among the more than 100 coal plants shuttered nationwide in recent years. A Romeoville plant emitted more than six million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2012, according to the <a href="http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/usinventoryreport.html" target="_blank">EPA&rsquo;s greenhouse gas inventory</a>, making it the biggest carbon polluter in the Chicago area. Midwest Generation, which owns three operational coal-fired power plants in the area, last week <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-04-04/news/ct-met-coal-plant-delays-20130405_1_coal-plants-sulfur-dioxide-midwest-generation" target="_blank">won a two-year reprieve</a>&nbsp;from new sulfur dioxide emissions standards in light of its December bankruptcy filing.</p><p>While coal&rsquo;s share of the U.S. electricity mix <a href="http://www.eia.gov/forecasts/steo/report/coal.cfm" target="_blank">has fallen</a> markedly in recent years, it remains a major source of electricity. Coal-fired power plants collectively produce more pollution than any other source in the country.</p><p>Chicago&#39;s recent decision to aggregate electricity purchases gave coal the boot from the city&#39;s fuel mix, in a nod not only to the decades of environmental concerns that sped the closures of Fisk and Crawford, but to the flagging economic profile of the fuel source whose command of the country&#39;s electricity portfolio is beginning to wane.</p></p> Wed, 10 Apr 2013 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-04/six-months-after-fisk-and-crawford-chicago-area-coal-still-struggling In 1918, killer flu hits Chicago http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-10/1918-killer-flu-hits-chicago-102957 <p><p>A killer was stalking Chicago in the fall of 1918, a killer called the Spanish flu. The city had never seen anything like it. On this October 17th&nbsp;&mdash; on this one day alone &mdash; 381 Chicagoans died.</p><p>Nine decades later, scientists still argue over the origins of the disease. We do know that the worldwide 1918 flu was the deadliest pandemic since the Black Death. Over 40 million people died &mdash; four times the number killed in World War I. In the United States, flu fatalities were 600,000.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/10-18--US%20Dept%20of%20Public%20Health.jpg" title="Makeshift hospital ward during the 1918 epidemic (Office of the U.S. Public Health Service)" /></div><p>Unlike the usual pattern, most of the victims were not the very young or the very old. Healthy people in the prime of life were dying, and dying quickly &mdash; often within hours of showing symptoms. In Chicago, health commissioner John Dill Robertson decided on drastic actions.</p><p>The disease spread through close human contact. Therefore, all large gatherings were banned&nbsp;&mdash;&nbsp;athletic contests, labor and political meetings, banquets and so on. Schools shut down, and children playing in the parks were told to go home. Theaters and cabarets closed. Weddings were postponed, and even funerals were suspended.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/10-17--Flu poster.jpg" style="width: 221px; height: 335px; float: right;" title="Chicago Public Health Poster (author's collection)" /></div></div><p>Because they were considered essential for morale, churches remained open. However, Robertson requested that pastors shorten their services. Even so, attendance at religious events was down about one-third.</p><p>Most people had to continue working, so officials asked businesses to stagger their hours. Robertson suggested that commuters walk whenever possible, to avoid overcrowding on public transportation. Laws were passed to ban public spitting and to outlaw smoking on &quot;L&quot; trains. Citizens were asked to wear gauze face masks when they appeared in public.</p><p>By October 21, Chicago had received 100,000 doses of flu vaccine, and inoculations began. Whether this helped is debatable. But over the next weeks, flu deaths rapidly dropped. The war ended on November 11, and the Spanish flu was forgotten in the excitement.</p><p>About 8,500 Chicagoans had died. Former mayor John Hopkins and pioneer educator Ella Flagg Young were the most prominent victims. And there were all the others, known only to their family and friends.</p><p>Those left behind dealt with their grief. One of these was a 29-year-old Bucktown bricklayer named Florian Przedziankowski. In October 1918 he lost both his wife and his mother to the deadly flu.</p><p>But Florian moved on, as he had to. In 1920 he remarried, and a year later, he had a daughter. And that daughter became my mother.</p></p> Wed, 17 Oct 2012 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-10/1918-killer-flu-hits-chicago-102957 Mexican poet leads march against drug war http://www.wbez.org/news/mexican-poet-leads-march-against-drug-war-102148 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/JavierSiciliaCROP.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Led by a renowned Mexican poet, a four-mile march through Chicago&rsquo;s West Side on Monday evening called for an end to the U.S. war on drugs. Javier Sicilia, whose 24-year-old son was killed last year by Mexican drug traffickers in Cuernavaca, blames the drug war for tens of thousands of violent deaths in that country.</p><p>Sicilia says the war has been devastating north of the border too. To make that point, he is leading a month-long bus caravan through the United States. His group joined hundreds of Chicago activists on the march, which began in the city&rsquo;s Little Village neighborhood and ended in West Garfield Park.</p><p>&ldquo;These are African-Americans and Latinos who have been criminalized,&rdquo; he told WBEZ in Spanish, motioning to bystanders watching the march. &ldquo;They are more vulnerable because there is a drug war.&rdquo;</p><p>Sicilia said the war on drugs, which dates back to President Richard Nixon&rsquo;s administration, has fueled mass incarceration and street violence in the United States.</p><p>He compared that bloodshed to Chicago gangster violence during Prohibition almost a century ago. But the drug war has deeper effects, Sicilia said, &ldquo;because the scale is international and the weaponry is more powerful.&rdquo;</p><p>Sicilia said authorities should treat drug use as an issue of public health, not criminality.</p><p>The caravan is scheduled to wrap up in Washington next week.</p></p> Tue, 04 Sep 2012 00:01:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/mexican-poet-leads-march-against-drug-war-102148 Weather brings bats out early, raising rabies risk http://www.wbez.org/science/health/weather-brings-bats-out-early-raising-rabies-risk-97910 <p><p>Illinois health officials say the remarkably warm weather means bats are active earlier this year. That increases the risk of exposure to rabies.</p><p>The Illinois Department of Public Health announced Tuesday that two people are getting treatment after a bat tested positive for rabies.</p><p>State public health veterinarian Connie Austin says people shouldn't approach bats. Instead, call your local animal control agency.</p><p>If you find a bat indoors, try to contain it in one room and call local animal control officials.</p><p>Rabies is a viral disease that affects the nervous system. Humans can get rabies from the bite of an infected animal, and it can be fatal if left untreated.</p><p>Last year, 49 bats and one cow tested positive for rabies in Illinois.</p></p> Wed, 04 Apr 2012 10:46:38 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/science/health/weather-brings-bats-out-early-raising-rabies-risk-97910 Campaign aimed at bacteria in health facilities http://www.wbez.org/story/campaign-aimed-bacteria-health-facilities-97086 <p><p>Illinois health officials have kicked off a campaign to fight the spread of the deadly bacteria C-diff in hospitals and other health facilities.</p><p>C-diff is the short name for Clostridium difficile. Some infected patients suffer mild diarrhea, but others can develop more severe condition and die. Government estimates suggest C-diff is responsible for up to 15,000 deaths annually.</p><p>The Illinois Department of Public Health has launched an educational campaign for hospital workers and health care personnel on preventing the spread of C-diff.</p><p>So far, 137 facilities statewide have signed up.</p><p>C-diff is commonly spread from person to person via contaminated surfaces or the unwashed hands of health care workers, patients and visitors.</p><p>The project is called the Illinois Campaign to Eliminate Clostridium difficile, or ICE C-diff.</p></p> Thu, 08 Mar 2012 15:10:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/campaign-aimed-bacteria-health-facilities-97086 Common air pollutant linked to mental decline http://www.wbez.org/story/common-air-pollutant-linked-mental-decline-96364 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//story/photo/2012-February/2012-02-13/smokestacks.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2012-February/2012-02-14/smokestack_flickr_nathanmac87.jpg" style="width: 630px; height: 473px;" title="According to new research, particulate pollution is associated with accelerated cognitive decline in older women. (Flickr/nathanmac87)"></p><p>A common type of air pollution might speed up the mental decline that comes with aging, according to <a href="http://archinte.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/short/172/3/219">new research</a> led by a Chicago scientist.</p><p>Particulate pollution, made of tiny particles and droplets from smokestacks and tailpipes, has been known to contribute to lung disease and other health problems. Now a study has linked higher exposure to it with cognitive deterioration.</p><p><a href="http://www.rushu.rush.edu/servlet/Satellite?ProfileType=Short&amp;c=RushUnivFaculty&amp;cid=1231770859925&amp;pagename=Rush%2FRushUnivFaculty%2FFaculty_Staff_Profile_Detail_Page">Jennifer Weuve</a>, an epidemiologist and assistant professor at Rush University’s Rush Institute for Healthy Aging, said each additional increment of exposure, defined as 10 micrograms of particulate matter per cubic meter of air, seems to age a person’s brain an extra two years. But she pointed out that, unlike other risk factors, air pollution is something public policy can tackle directly.</p><p>“These people, whose exposures that we reduce will experience a slower rate of cognitive decline, which means fewer people will reach the threshold of dementia during their lives,” Weuve said.</p><p>It’s not clear just how particulate pollution might speed up cognitive decline. It may have to do with increased rates of cardiovascular disease. But there also may be a direct mechanism: Some tiny particles can pass from the bloodstream into the brain.</p><p>Wueve’s study is large, based on a sample of 19,409 nurses. But some uncertainties remain. It’s difficult to tease out the effects of particulate pollution from other air pollutants that might come along with it. The pollution measures came from air quality monitoring in the area where each participant lived. The results are published in Archives of Internal Medicine.</p><p><em>This article has been chnaged to clarify the exposure increment linked to two years of aging.&nbsp; </em></p></p> Mon, 13 Feb 2012 22:55:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/common-air-pollutant-linked-mental-decline-96364 In Syrian crackdown, doctors who treat protesters become targets themselves http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2012-02-02/syrian-crackdown-doctors-who-treat-protesters-become-targets-themselves- <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//segment/photo/2012-February/2012-02-02/syria1.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>In Syria, a surprising constituency has gotten caught up in the conflict between the government and dissidents: ordinary doctors. As President Assad’s regime becomes more militarized and protesters take up arms, doctors are resorting to underground clinics to treat those hurt in the violence.</p><p>But the struggle to provide care is wrought with complications. With independent medical organizations like Doctors Without Borders barred from the country, individual doctors must deal with scores of patients on their own. Many underground clinics have only basic medical supplies. And because blood supplies are monitored by the government, many of those injured in the protests are bleeding to death without access to basic transfusions.</p><p>In the process of treating others, Syria's doctors have become government targets themselves. Many have been detained, harassed, deported and – according to some reports – killed. <em>Worldview</em> talks with Dr. Zahrer Sahloul, president of the <a href="http://www.sams-usa.net" target="_blank">Syrian American Medical Society</a>. He’s trying to mobilize Syrian American doctors to help medical professionals in their home country.</p></p> Thu, 02 Feb 2012 17:17:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2012-02-02/syrian-crackdown-doctors-who-treat-protesters-become-targets-themselves-