Author Archives: Bara Vaida

Bara Vaida

About Bara Vaida

Bara Vaida (@barav) is AHCJ's core topic leader on infectious diseases. An independent journalist, she has written extensively about health policy and infectious diseases. Her work has appeared in outlets that include the National Journal, Agence France-Presse, Bloomberg News, McClatchy News Service, MSNBC, NPR, Politico and The Washington Post.

Reported incidents of rare polio-like illness in children are increasing

Infographic: Centers for Disease Control and PreventionClick through for the complete graphic.

In the coming weeks, it is likely that there will be more reported cases of a rare and mysterious condition called acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), which is causing paralysis in children.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced this week that it would begin posting on its website new counts of suspected and confirmed AFM cases on Monday afternoons. So far in 2018, the U.S. public health agency said there have been 127 suspected and 62 confirmed AFM cases in 22 states. About 90 percent of the cases have been in children age 18 and younger. In 2014, the agency saw an uptick in AFM cases; so far there have been 386 cases since that year.

Symptoms include sudden weakness or a loss of muscle tone in legs and arms.

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How ‘outbreak culture’ can hinder infection control

Photo: UN Development Programme via Flickr

As health officials in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo race to stop the spread of Ebola, one of many factors that could hinder their efforts is a so-called “outbreak culture” — a situation described in a new book co-authored by health journalist Lara Salahi.

Salahi and co-author Pardis Sabeti define outbreak culture as a collective mindset that develops among responders and communities in the initial response to disease outbreaks which can inhibit initial action and worsen the severity of an epidemic. Continue reading

Last year’s flu season death toll and 2018-19 flu coverage

Photo: Leonie via Flickr

In last year’s flu season, 80,000 people died, including 180 children, and 900,000 people were hospitalized, making it the worst flu season in 40 years – underscoring the importance of seasonal flu coverage for every public health reporter.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Robert Redfield unveiled the figures first during an interview with the Associated Press on Sept. 26. CDC officials confirmed the figures at a news briefing at the National Press Club in Washington D.C. on Sept. 27. Continue reading

Connecting the dots between social determinants and infectious diseases

Neil Moralee via Flickr

Socioeconomic factors such as poverty and living conditions play a role in shaping infection risk and disease outcomes.

Many times people in poverty live in crowded conditions, have limited access to quality health care, must work when they are sick, eat less nutritiously, get less sleep, face more stress and are more likely than others to abuse drugs and alcohol. All of these factors hinder immunity and increase susceptibility to infection and death. Continue reading

Bringing pandemic preparedness alive without sparking fear

Photo: Defence Images via Flickr

When the Atlantic’s Ed Yong began thinking about a story on health security, he realized he needed a basic definition for a core point of the story — what is emergency health preparedness?

“Something dawned on me,” Yong said. “I didn’t really understand what exactly preparedness meant. I had been writing the word for a long time and doing stories on it, but it felt a bit abstract and nebulous.” Continue reading

Get ready for the flu season with some new angles for coverage

Photo: NHS Employers via Flickr

As summer ebbs, influenza season is around the corner. Public health officials are beginning their annual campaign to urge people to get a flu shot long before cases begin to peak in January or February.

So what’s new for journalists to write about this year? Take a look at what happened last flu season and at some new data showing that flu vaccination may also reduce the chances of heart attacks and stroke, especially in those 65 or older. Continue reading