Infectious disease humor. It gets me every time!
Power of the test, p-values, publication bias and statistical evidence
"Only results below 0.05 are significant."
"You do realize that the p-value level of 0.05 is arbitrary, right?"
"It is always 0.05."
Although officials initially speculated that the deaths were caused by an unknown hemorrhagic fever, six of the eight original fatalities tested positive for chikungunya when samples were analyzed in nongovernmental labs, says Julio Castro, the health minister of the municipality of Sucre and a professor in the Institute of Tropical Medicine at the Central University of Venezuela (UCV). “We don’t think these deaths are due to an unknown or rare disease,” he told ScienceInsider, adding that “I have no doubt” that chikungunya is responsible.
After arriving in the Caribbean late last year, chikungunya has been sweeping the Americas. As of 19 September, the Pan-American Health Organization reported 729,178 suspected and 9537 confirmed cases in the region. There is no vaccine or cure for the disease, which is similar to dengue fever and causes joint pain. It is fatal in about one in 1000 cases.
Maracay’s cluster of nine fatalities, reported between 30 August and 15 September, has raised questions about exactly how many people are infected. The deadly cases are “the tip of the iceberg,” Castro believes. In a press conference on Monday, Castro and two other health professionals—Gustavo Villasmil, health minister of the state of Miranda, and Manuel Olivares, a doctor at UCV’s hospital—estimated that between 65,000 and 117,000 people in Venezuela are infected with chikungunya. They reached that figure by using World Health Organization standards for calculating the spread of epidemics. But it is dramatically higher than the official tallies released by Venezuela’s federal health ministry, which recognizes just 398 cases of chikungunya and three deaths.
Many infectious diseases, including malaria and dengue, are on the rise in Venezuela, where the public health system has been crippled by a lack of funds and medicine (including antifever drugs that can help treat the symptoms of chikungunya). Sarmiento’s comments about the deaths in Maracay appear to have been the straw that broke the camel’s back when it came to criticism of the government’s public health record, Villasmil says. Now facing prosecution, Sarmiento fled to an undisclosed location in Central America. Villasmil and Castro remain in Venezuela but have left their homes after participating in the press conference, as a precaution against retaliation.
The Battle Against Tobacco Rages On
In 1964, the first Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health made it clear — smoking causes cancer. This news hit the country like a bombshell. At the time, more than 40 percent of American adults smoked, and smoking was widely accepted and considered normal behavior.
Today, 50 years later, we’ve cut the US smoking rate by more than half. Increasingly, effective tobacco control efforts have prevented at least eight million Americans from dying prematurely.
It’s a great public health success, one of the biggest of the 20th century.
But the battle against tobacco is far from over. At least 5.6 million kids alive today will die prematurely from smoking if current rates continue. This map shows how many will die in each state.
Just because this seems to be the number one question I get in my ask box so…Here you go.
This week has been tough. Maybe the toughest in the long, drawn-out battle against Ebola in West Africa.
Cases are rising at an exponential rate. Families don’t have any place to take sick loved ones. And researchers now say the epidemic could last for a 1 1/2 years.
But then at 4:30 p.m. on Friday, a little nugget of joy and hope came through my email: a 55-second video of Mamadee dancing (and dancing quite well).
The 11-year-old boy had to stay in isolation for more than two weeks. And he lost his sister to Ebola during that time.
But he never stopped dancing.
Video Credit: Doctors Without Borders/MSF-USA/YouTube
Patients “driven to frenzy by the disease, especially at night … went here and there, colliding with one another and suddenly falling to the ground dead.”
No, it’s not a scene from the modern-day Ebola outbreak. It’s a description from Venice of a hospital ward during the plague that first struck the city in the mid-1300s.
The city fathers didn’t understand what they were up against. And that’s precisely why Venice’s response to the plague crisis serves as a model for modern cities and nations facing unpredictable threats. That’s the perspective of several experts on risk management who write on Venice’s response in the latest issue of the journalEnvironment Systems and Decisions
Venice, as an international trade center, was especially vulnerable to the Black Death. And it was especially innovative in devising responses to the disease.
Venice established what’s often considered to be the first quarantine hospital, or lazaretto, in 1432. (The word quarantine derives from the Italian for “forty,” as in forty days of isolation.) The lazaretto sat on an island in the Venetian Lagoon and was “so big that from afar it resembles a castle,” according to an observer. It could seem, as another writer put it, like “hell itself,” with “groans and sighs … without ceasing,” not to mention “foul odors [and] clouds of smoke from the burning of corpses.”
Photo: Venetians celebrate during the Festa del Redentore in Venice. The festival began in 1576 when the Republic’s Senate voted to build a church on the Giudecca Island to Christ the Redeemer to thank God for the city’s deliverance from the Plague. (Marco Di Lauro/Getty Images)