Tag Archives: tuberculosis

Increasing infectious disease outbreaks highlight need for public health reporting

Deadly infectious disease outbreaks are occurring more often around the world.

Influenza virus circulated in the southern hemisphere and then spread to the U.S., killing about 80,000 people during this past flu season – the most in decades. Monkeypox, a rare disease outside of Africa, was found in three people in the United Kingdom for the first time. Ebola has broken out once again in Africa.

HuffPost’s Lauren Weber says this trend is the reason why infectious diseases is a mainstay of her beat as a public health reporter and why she has been able to cover the Ebola outbreak from Washington, D.C. Continue reading

U.S. global health policy focus of guide

In recognition of the major role global health issues now play in even the most local stories, the Kaiser Family Foundation has released a 41-page “Reporter’s Guide to U.S. Global Health Policy” (PDF).kff

The guide devotes sections to diseases/issues (HIV/AIDS, Malaria, Tuberculosis, Neglected Tropical Diseases, Maternal and Child Health, Water-Related Diseases, Food Insecurity), U.S. funding of global health efforts (Obama’s Global Health Initiative), relevant policy issues and policymaking. It also catalogues and explains related multinational and NGO efforts and lists news-making events.

AHCJ has resources for World Tuberculosis Day

In honor of World Tuberculosis Day, an awareness day organized by the Stop TB Partnership, here’s a roundup of the latest in TB as well as some handy background information.

AHCJ New York City Metro chapter’s discussion on TB as a global health problem: Discussion covered all strains of tuberculosis and considered the root socioeconomic causes of the disease. The article is accompanied by audio from expert presentations given at the meeting, as well as copies of the presentations themselves.  Article by Sibyl Shalo, presenters included Chrispin Kambili, M.D., (assistant commissioner and director, Bureau of Tuberculosis Control, New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene), Donald J. McNeil Jr. (science and health reporter for The New York Times), Lee Reichman, M.D., M.P.H., (executive director, New Jersey Medical School Global Tuberculosis Institute), Mel Spigelman, M.D., (president and CEO, Tuberculosis Alliance) and Janice Hopkins Tanne (journalist and co-author with Reichman of “Timebomb: The Global Epidemic of Multi-Drug Resistant Tuberculosis”).

Decrease in Reported Tuberculosis Cases
From the CDC’s weekly Morbidity and Mortality Report

Read it because: It’s a comprehensive summary of the present state of TB in America, packed with stats and even a little analysis.

Key paragraph:

For 2009, a total of 11,540 tuberculosis cases were reported in the United States. The TB rate was 3.8 cases per 100,000 population, a decrease of 11.4% from the rate of 4.2 per 100,000 reported for 2008. The 2009 rate showed the greatest single-year decrease ever recorded and was the lowest recorded rate since national TB surveillance began in 1953.

Drug-resistant tuberculosis now at record levels
From the World Health Organization
Read it because: It’s 71 pages (the important stuff begins on page 13) of statistics, research and anecdotes covering drug-resistant strains of tuberculosis worldwide.

Key paragraph:

… it is estimated that 440 000 people had MDR-TB worldwide in 2008 and that a third of them died. In sheer numbers, Asia bears the brunt of the epidemic. Almost 50% of MDR-TB cases worldwide are estimated to occur in China and India. In Africa, estimates show 69 000 cases emerged, the vast majority of which went undiagnosed.

And, some quick fact sheets:

World Health Organization TB resources
NIH: Definitions of different TB strains
NIH: Roundup of current TB research efforts
CDC tuberculosis resources

AP looks at drug resistance worldwide

The Associated Press has neatly wrapped up its wide-ranging look at drug resistance and the threat it poses to global health into a flash-based multimedia presentation. The presentation consists of stories, infographics, videos and a photo/audio slideshow.

The two videos explain drug-resistant strains of various infectious diseases. The first looks at the wide availability of powerful antibiotics without guidance or prescription, addresses the problem as it has emerged both in the United States and in locales like Mexico and the Philippines. The second, which is about the use of antibiotics in large-scale livestock operations, relies on just one source, Dr. Craig Rowles of Elite Pork Partnership.

The AP uses infographics to establish the spread and scope of the problem, relying heavily on various world maps. I particularly like the timeline that accompanies the malaria graphic (click “statistics” in the upper right, then “malaria”); it shows the span of time from when each malaria-fighting drug was introduced to the date at which a resistant strain emerged.

Finally, they drive the problem home with three strong anecdotes, including a Southeast Asian boy with drug-resistant malaria, a man fighting the drug-resistant tuberculosis that killed his HIV-positive partner, and a woman who lost an infant daughter to MRSA.

Stories in the series:

The package is accompanied by this video.

Journal spotlights science journalism

The latest issue of Nature explores the present and future of the relationship between media and science. Coverage includes balanced and constructive critiques of social media and journalists who aren’t themselves scientists as well as some obligatory questioning of the future of journalism as an industry.

In one article, Geoff Brumfiel details the rising role of Twitter-style social media in chronicling and commenting upon scientific conferences, saying that while providing for open and easy exchange of information, it also blurs the line between scientist and journalist. Additionally, the instantaneous and far-reaching broadcast of ideas makes competitive researchers even warier of revealing groundbreaking findings at conferences, on the grounds that they may then be snatched by any rival with Web access.

In another piece, journalist Toby Murcott questions the efficacy of press release-based science journalism and calls for reporters learn the expertise necessary to understand the fields on which they are reporting, and for journals to publish review comments that will provide more context for each article.

In a more focused editorial, Nature calls attention to tuberculosis and suggests that TB sufferers and researchers need to follow the example of AIDS and “capture the world’s imagination and support” by reaching out and finding “highly effective champions.” Globally, 9 million people develop active cases of TB each year.

Other pieces that may be of interest to health journalists: