Review Category : Health

AIDS Conference to Continue Out of Respect for Researchers Lost on MH 17

BananaStock/Thinkstock(MELBOURNE, Australia) — The day after Malaysia Flight MH 17 was shot down in Ukraine, members of the tight knit HIV/AIDS community are mourning the loss of roughly 100 HIV/AIDS researchers, who were killed en route to the International Aids Society conference in Melbourne, Australia.

Despite the immense toll, IAS conference officials said in a statement the conference would continue, “in recognition of our colleagues’ dedication to the fight against HIV/AIDS.”

Although the IAS did not confirm the number of attendees on the plane, President Obama told reporters Friday that nearly 100 AIDS/HIV researchers and scientists were on board MH 17 when it was shot down.

While the conference will continue, attendees will have “opportunities to reflect and remember those we have lost,” officials said.

Nobel laureate Dr. Francoise Barre-Sinoussi, co-discoverer of the AIDS virus and president of the International AIDS Society, told reporters the conference would continue out of respect for those who were killed.

“We know that it’s really what they would like us to do,” Barre-Sinoussi told reporters.

Among the passengers aboard MH 17 was Dr. Joep Lange, a former president of the IAS from the Netherlands, who has been a leading expert in the field of HIV/AIDS since the 1980s.

Chris Beyrer, IAS president-elect, told reporters Thursday if Lange perished on the flight “then the HIV/AIDS movement has truly lost a giant.”

“In this incredible sad and sensitive time, the IAS stands with its international family and sends condolences to the loved ones of those who have been lost in this tragedy,” Beyrer told reporters in Melbourne, Australia.

Lange’s partner, HIV/AIDS researcher Jacqueline van Tongeren, was also on board the downed plane.

Lange’s longtime friend and colleague, Dr. Michael Merson, said the Dutch scientist was one of the first to use antiretroviral drugs to treat HIV/AIDS and became an expert in the treatment.

“He really was very special and if you were to come up with the leaders in AIDS [since] the pandemic began in 1981,” said Merson, who is the director of the Duke Global Health Institute. “You’d put him among the top five leaders.”

Merson said in the 22 years he knew Lange, the scientist had started numerous initiatives to combat the HIV/AIDS in Europe and Africa. After drugs to control HIV started to gain traction in the mid 1990s, Lange focused his efforts on global health initiatives to get the medication to anyone who needed it.

“His second home was Africa, he worked in east Africa and Asia and Latin America,” said Merson. “He would stay it like it is. He was an outstanding scientists and fierce advocate.”

Merson said he has no doubt that Lange’s work will continue.

“There’s no questions there will be loss and there will be some things that slow down,” said Merson. “But he has great colleagues and dedicated scientists and researchers that are in his institute in Amsterdam. He knows that they want him to continue.”

World Health Organization spokesperson Glenn Thomas was also en route to the conference on MH 17.

“His twin sister says he died doing what he loved,” WHO said in a statement. “Glenn will be remembered for his ready laugh and his passion for public health.”

Not all of the researchers on board have been named, but the tight-knit HIV/AIDS research community around the world is mourning the loss. The Thomas Street Health Center in Houston, Texas, observed a moment of silence for the fallen researchers. And Peter Staley, a long time AIDS/HIV activist, wrote on twitter that the missile had “ripped a hole through the heart of the international AIDS community.”

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What Is Chikungunya?

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Now that the first locally-acquired cases of Chikungunya have been reported in Florida, you’re probably wondering what it is and why you should care.

Here’s a break down of the mosquito-borne virus:

Why You Might Not Have Heard of It

The chikungunya virus is new to the Americas, though it’s long been found in Asia, Africa and Europe. It was discovered in the Caribbean islands late last year, and has since made its way to the continental United States by way of mosquito-bitten travelers returning from vacation.

Before July 15, there were 357 reported cases of chikungunya in the United States, including 121 in Puerto Rico, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Though the Puerto Ricans contracted chikungunya locally, every other case was acquired outside the U.S.

The Florida Department of Health reported Wednesday that 81 residents had contracted chikungunya while traveling to the Caribbean. And Thursday, two people who hadn’t traveled were diagnosed with the illness. This means that local mosquitos are spreading the virus.

Chikungunya is not spread person-to-person, but rather person-to-mosquito-to-person.

Why You Want to Avoid It

Ashley Manning, one of a dozen people in Georgia who contracted the virus while traveling, called the symptoms “fiercely unpleasant.” She said her fever reached 103 degrees and her joint pain was excruciating.

“I just thought I wasn’t going to be able to walk, like I was going to constantly have these pains,” Manning told ABC News affiliate WFTV in Atlanta. “My joints were hurting really bad and I was like getting really out of breath and like having a fever.”

Chikungunya’s most common symptoms are fever and joint pain, according to the CDC. But it can also cause headaches, muscle pain and a rash. It isn’t fatal, but it can resemble dengue fever, another mosquito-borne virus.

It takes up to a week for symptoms to appear after a person has been bitten, according to the CDC. Most people feel better in about a week, but some experience joint pain for several months.

How You Can Protect Yourself

In Florida, residents have been advised to drain standing water. The mosquitos that carry chikungunya lay eggs in small water containers and bite during the daytime. To keep mosquitos outdoors, the state health department recommends repairing broken screens on windows and doors.

Residents also have been advised to wear long sleeves and pants outdoors and wear insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon, eucalyptus and IR3535, according to the Florida Department of health.

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It Takes More than Practice to Make Perfect

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Practice improves performance, but it may not be enough to get you to the point of perfection.

That’s the conclusion of a joint study by researchers from Rice University, Princeton University and Michigan State University, who looked into why repeated practice by those in sports, the arts, education and other professions catapults only a limited number to the very top of their fields of endeavor.

On the upside, Fred Oswald, chair of psychology at Rice, says those who engage in structured activities created specifically to improve performance — that is, deliberate practice — tended “to perform at a higher level than people who practice less.”

Still, the meta-analysis of 88 previous studies that Oswald and his colleagues examined also determined that one’s basic abilities are just as important as deliberate practice.

The researchers did not discount the importance of practice because it does make nearly everyone better. Yet, being gifted as well is the variable that separates the exceptionally good from the merely very good.

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Thirdhand Smoke Is the New Secondhand Smoke

iStock/Thinkstock(YORK, England) — Yes, there is such a thing as thirdhand tobacco smoke, and yes, it’s considered as dangerous as inhaling smoke, either firsthand or secondhand.

That’s according to various researchers, including Jacqueline Hamilton at the University of York, who maintains the danger of carcinogens from cigarettes doesn’t disappear when the last puff is drawn.

Hamilton maintains, “Non-smokers, especially children, are also at risk through contact with surfaces and dust contaminated with residual smoke gases and particles.”

Hamilton and her team collected dust samples of thirdhand smoke and discovered that the cancer risk exceeded the EPA recommended limit in 75 percent of smokers’ homes and in two-thirds of non-smokers’ home.

How did carcinogenic materials wind up in the homes of non-smokers?

Alastair Lewis of the National Center for Atmospheric Science explains it comes from shared contact with smokers, “for example between clothes and surfaces and also enter homes via airborne transport of cigarette smoke.”

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Thirdhand Smoke Is the New Secondhand Smoke

iStock/Thinkstock(YORK, England) — Yes, there is such a thing as thirdhand tobacco smoke, and yes, it’s considered as dangerous as inhaling smoke, either firsthand or secondhand.

That’s according to various researchers, including Jacqueline Hamilton at the University of York, who maintains the danger of carcinogens from cigarettes doesn’t disappear when the last puff is drawn.

Hamilton maintains, “Non-smokers, especially children, are also at risk through contact with surfaces and dust contaminated with residual smoke gases and particles.”

Hamilton and her team collected dust samples of thirdhand smoke and discovered that the cancer risk exceeded the EPA recommended limit in 75 percent of smokers’ homes and in two-thirds of non-smokers’ home.

How did carcinogenic materials wind up in the homes of non-smokers?

Alastair Lewis of the National Center for Atmospheric Science explains it comes from shared contact with smokers, “for example between clothes and surfaces and also enter homes via airborne transport of cigarette smoke.”

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Unsubstantiated Fears Thwart Organ Donations

iStock/Thinkstock(LONDON, Ontario) — There are a number of reasons why people don’t want to register to become organ donors, including a concern that their doctors will be less committed to treating a life-threatening condition.

The ill-conceived logic is that physicians are somehow more interested in helping a patient in need of an organ transplant rather than the donor.

However, Alvin Ho-ting Li from Western University in London, Ontario, contends this fear is unjustified because in reality, doctors are more likely than the general public to be registered for organ and tissue donations, at least in Canada.

Li and his team found this out by going through multiple databases. As a result, he says, “showing that many physicians are registered for organ donation themselves could help dispel” the notion that doctors won’t do their all to save a registered donor who might be in grave condition.

In the U.S., there are 100 million people registered as organ, eye, and tissue donors in state donor registries, with 79 transplants performed daily. However, 18 people also die each day waiting for a transplant.

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Unsubstantiated Fears Thwart Organ Donations

iStock/Thinkstock(LONDON, Ontario) — There are a number of reasons why people don’t want to register to become organ donors, including a concern that their doctors will be less committed to treating a life-threatening condition.

The ill-conceived logic is that physicians are somehow more interested in helping a patient in need of an organ transplant rather than the donor.

However, Alvin Ho-ting Li from Western University in London, Ontario, contends this fear is unjustified because in reality, doctors are more likely than the general public to be registered for organ and tissue donations, at least in Canada.

Li and his team found this out by going through multiple databases. As a result, he says, “showing that many physicians are registered for organ donation themselves could help dispel” the notion that doctors won’t do their all to save a registered donor who might be in grave condition.

In the U.S., there are 100 million people registered as organ, eye, and tissue donors in state donor registries, with 79 transplants performed daily. However, 18 people also die each day waiting for a transplant.

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Mother and Baby Beat Odds to Survive Cancer, Heart Defect

iStock/Thinkstock(HOUSTON) — Riki Graves seemed to have everything when she woke up on her 38th birthday in September 2013. She was eight weeks pregnant with her second child, in the best shape of her life and happier than ever. But later than day, she learned that a lump in her breast was cancerous.

Worse news would come at her 20-week ultrasound, when she found out that her baby girl would be born with life-threatening heart defects — if she survived the pregnancy.

“It was really scary,” said Graves, 38. She called her husband sobbing. “I could barely drive myself home.”

Graves remembered the anxious hospital visits that followed and how she knew the tests weren’t going well even before the doctors told her so. The heartbeats she heard on the machine didn’t sound right, she said. They sounded “squishy.”

“She was safe as long as she was inside me because my heart could pump for her, but her heart was getting worse and worse,” Graves said. “They weren’t sure if she was going to survive the pregnancy.”

The family moved from Corpus Christi, Texas, to Houston in March to be close to two hospitals: Texas Children’s Hospital, where doctors monitored the fetus’s heart condition and planned to operate as soon as the little girl was born, and MD Anderson Cancer Center, where Graves had already undergone a lumpectomy and planned to have radiation therapy after the birth.

Baby Juliana Graves was delivered by C-section April 9, one month early.

“When they delivered her, she grabbed the doctor’s coat,” Graves said. “That’s how I knew she was going to be a fighter.”

Doctors whisked Juliana away to evaluate her and soon realized that her heart was inoperable, according to Dr. William Dreyer, who directs the cardiac transplant program at Texas Children’s Hospital. It was too malformed and weak to withstand the complicated surgery.

“That was basically him telling you your baby’s not going to survive in a nice way,” Graves said of the news. “We were devastated…We just kind of broke down.”

Juliana’s name was added to the heart transplant waiting list on April 21, but Dreyer said the medical team was frank about the unlikelihood of finding a heart in time to save her.

Statistically, about 15 to 20 percent of all patients die before they get organs, he said. And even if Juliana got a new heart, there was a 25 to 30 percent chance she wouldn’t make it out of the hospital.

Juliana was very sick and heavily sedated as she waited, Graves said. Because her heart couldn’t pump oxygen-rich blood to the rest of her body, her other organs began to fail, too. Her skin turned gray and her tiny feet were cold to the touch, Graves recalled.

“There were days when I just sat down and cried by her bedside,” she said. “We didn’t think we were going to get a heart. I would just tell her to fight for us and be strong. We were doing everything we can and that we loved her.”

Graves said her doctors reassured her that they would help her get pregnant again after her cancer treatments.

“I don’t want another baby,” she told them. “I just want this baby.”

Then at 4:30 a.m. April 26, Graves’s husband’s phone rang.

Juliana was getting a heart.

“I was so floored,” Graves said. “I was laughing and crying at the same time.”

They were at the hospital by 5 a.m. to start filling out paperwork, nipping into the intensive care unit to tell Juliana the good news — even if she couldn’t hear or understand it.

The transplant started at 5:30 that evening and took two medical teams.

Juliana’s new heart officially started beating at 1:18 a.m., Graves said.

It took months for Juliana’s body to recover from the damage of those first few weeks, which initially left her on a breathing tube. Meanwhile, Graves went back and forth across the street for radiation therapy.

But both mother and daughter persevered. Graves finished radiation, and Juliana’s health slowly returned.

“Any time you have a patient as sick as she was that has a good outcome, everyone is extremely pleased and happy for the family,” Dreyer said. “This is why we do what we do.”

Juliana finally left the hospital June 16. The family moved to Houston permanently to be closer to the hospital.

“The first time I held her was on Mother’s Day,” Graves said. “Now, she wants to be held all the time.

“We felt really fortunate that we were able to be at the best facility, with the best doctors,” she said. “Even when she was at her sickest, we were like nope. She’s a fighter.”

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Mother and Baby Beat Odds to Survive Cancer, Heart Defect

iStock/Thinkstock(HOUSTON) — Riki Graves seemed to have everything when she woke up on her 38th birthday in September 2013. She was eight weeks pregnant with her second child, in the best shape of her life and happier than ever. But later than day, she learned that a lump in her breast was cancerous.

Worse news would come at her 20-week ultrasound, when she found out that her baby girl would be born with life-threatening heart defects — if she survived the pregnancy.

“It was really scary,” said Graves, 38. She called her husband sobbing. “I could barely drive myself home.”

Graves remembered the anxious hospital visits that followed and how she knew the tests weren’t going well even before the doctors told her so. The heartbeats she heard on the machine didn’t sound right, she said. They sounded “squishy.”

“She was safe as long as she was inside me because my heart could pump for her, but her heart was getting worse and worse,” Graves said. “They weren’t sure if she was going to survive the pregnancy.”

The family moved from Corpus Christi, Texas, to Houston in March to be close to two hospitals: Texas Children’s Hospital, where doctors monitored the fetus’s heart condition and planned to operate as soon as the little girl was born, and MD Anderson Cancer Center, where Graves had already undergone a lumpectomy and planned to have radiation therapy after the birth.

Baby Juliana Graves was delivered by C-section April 9, one month early.

“When they delivered her, she grabbed the doctor’s coat,” Graves said. “That’s how I knew she was going to be a fighter.”

Doctors whisked Juliana away to evaluate her and soon realized that her heart was inoperable, according to Dr. William Dreyer, who directs the cardiac transplant program at Texas Children’s Hospital. It was too malformed and weak to withstand the complicated surgery.

“That was basically him telling you your baby’s not going to survive in a nice way,” Graves said of the news. “We were devastated…We just kind of broke down.”

Juliana’s name was added to the heart transplant waiting list on April 21, but Dreyer said the medical team was frank about the unlikelihood of finding a heart in time to save her.

Statistically, about 15 to 20 percent of all patients die before they get organs, he said. And even if Juliana got a new heart, there was a 25 to 30 percent chance she wouldn’t make it out of the hospital.

Juliana was very sick and heavily sedated as she waited, Graves said. Because her heart couldn’t pump oxygen-rich blood to the rest of her body, her other organs began to fail, too. Her skin turned gray and her tiny feet were cold to the touch, Graves recalled.

“There were days when I just sat down and cried by her bedside,” she said. “We didn’t think we were going to get a heart. I would just tell her to fight for us and be strong. We were doing everything we can and that we loved her.”

Graves said her doctors reassured her that they would help her get pregnant again after her cancer treatments.

“I don’t want another baby,” she told them. “I just want this baby.”

Then at 4:30 a.m. April 26, Graves’s husband’s phone rang.

Juliana was getting a heart.

“I was so floored,” Graves said. “I was laughing and crying at the same time.”

They were at the hospital by 5 a.m. to start filling out paperwork, nipping into the intensive care unit to tell Juliana the good news — even if she couldn’t hear or understand it.

The transplant started at 5:30 that evening and took two medical teams.

Juliana’s new heart officially started beating at 1:18 a.m., Graves said.

It took months for Juliana’s body to recover from the damage of those first few weeks, which initially left her on a breathing tube. Meanwhile, Graves went back and forth across the street for radiation therapy.

But both mother and daughter persevered. Graves finished radiation, and Juliana’s health slowly returned.

“Any time you have a patient as sick as she was that has a good outcome, everyone is extremely pleased and happy for the family,” Dreyer said. “This is why we do what we do.”

Juliana finally left the hospital June 16. The family moved to Houston permanently to be closer to the hospital.

“The first time I held her was on Mother’s Day,” Graves said. “Now, she wants to be held all the time.

“We felt really fortunate that we were able to be at the best facility, with the best doctors,” she said. “Even when she was at her sickest, we were like nope. She’s a fighter.”

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It Takes More than Practice to Make Perfect

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Practice improves performance, but it may not be enough to get you to the point of perfection.

That’s the conclusion of a joint study by researchers from Rice University, Princeton University and Michigan State University, who looked into why repeated practice by those in sports, the arts, education and other professions catapults only a limited number to the very top of their fields of endeavor.

On the upside, Fred Oswald, chair of psychology at Rice, says those who engage in structured activities created specifically to improve performance — that is, deliberate practice — tended “to perform at a higher level than people who practice less.”

Still, the meta-analysis of 88 previous studies that Oswald and his colleagues examined also determined that one’s basic abilities are just as important as deliberate practice.

The researchers did not discount the importance of practice because it does make nearly everyone better. Yet, being gifted as well is the variable that separates the exceptionally good from the merely very good.

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