A new study has found that the structural adjustments that the International Monetary Fund requires of countries to which it loans money increase tuberculosis incidence, prevalence, and mortality. The authors studied tuberculosis epidemiology in countries of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union that received IMF loans following 1989. This result suggests that there are real health trade-offs associated with the fiscal austerity that follows an IMF loan. This research is very welcome because it adds a reasoned empirical perspective to the often shrill debates over the relative merits of IMF policies. Harvard epidemiologist and political scientist Megan Murray and Gary King have written a companion Perspectives piece in the same issue of PLoS Medicine. There is also a nice news story on it in The New Scientist.
Devra Davis, of the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Environmental Oncology, has an interesting piece posted on YouTube on the possible health risks of cell phone use. A health scare about cell phone use seems to appear every couple of years but changes no one's actual behavior as far as I can tell. What is interesting about this short video is how sensibly it incorporates a discussion of risk into the question of the safety of cell phones. Should we stop using cell phones altogether? No. Should we think about the potential consequences of long-term microwave exposure to developing brains. You bet.
Food for thought, particularly on the subject of the appropriateness of cell phone use by children and adolescents.
The first produce to positively match the Salmonella serotype Saintpaul was announced today. A jalapeño chile, grown in México and processed at an unnamed plant in McAllen, Texas, tested positive for the strain of Salmonella that has sickened at least 1237 people since April. This is the first time that the bug has actually shown up on a sample of fresh produce. Perhaps it wasn't tomatoes after all, but it is a nice demonstration of confounding in epidemiological inference (tomatoes and jalapeños are commonly served together in the form of salsa, making it difficult to determine which is the actual vehicle for infection if both are implicated). Now the question is where along the production chain the contamination took place and how we can make sure that we bring an end to this outbreak. All of the news stories and government reports on this topic can be found on the ProMedMail website.
An outbreak of Salmonella serotype Saintpaul has sickened 943 people since April. Nearly 14% of these cases required hospitalization. It has been hypothesized that tomatoes have been the vehicle for this food-borne infection. Here in Palo Alto, certain types of tomatoes (e.g., Roma and beefsteak) were taken off store shelves for a while. The latest report from CDC suggests that tomatoes may not, in fact, be the culprit. CDC epidemiologists are expanding their investigations to include food items that are "commonly consumed with tomatoes."
Epidemiological evidence indicates that while people of just about any age can contract the infection (age range of cases is <1-99 years), the most likely age group to contract the infection are 20-29 year-olds. The least likely age classes are 10-19 year-olds and people over 80. What food do young adults commonly eat with raw tomatoes that is less commonly eaten by the young or very old? I'd say salad greens but if that were the case, I'd expect a sex bias in infections. 50% of the infections are women and my informed guess (based on my experience with largely middle-class college students) is that 20-29 year-old women eat more salad than 20-29 year-old men.
So what is it if it's not tomatoes? Something having to do with consumption of alcohol? Some salsa ingredient like jalapeños or scallions? (note: another thing consumed in bars)