Obama asks congress for $$$ to fight Zika

President Barack Obama will ask the U.S. Congress for more than $1.8 billion in emergency funds to fight Zika at home and abroad and pursue a vaccine, the White House said on Monday, but he added there is no reason to panic over the mosquito-borne virus.

Zika, spreading rapidly in South and Central America and the Caribbean, has been linked to severe birth defects in Brazil, and public health officials’ concern is focused on pregnant women and women who may become pregnant.

Obama’s request to Congress includes $200 million for research, development and commercialization of new vaccines and diagnostic tests for the virus.

Read more from Reuters here.

The CDC guidelines on drinking and pregancy… and subsequent unwarranted media outrage!

This is a few days late, but to bring everyone up to date, the CDC has released new guidelines on the topic of drinking and women. The main take away points: don’t drink while pregnant and don’t drink if you are not using some form of birth control and have the chance to become pregnant. None of this should come as a surprise to anyone. It has long been known that Fetal Alchohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs) come about from consuming alcohol during pregnancy. While many doctors say it’s OK to have a drink every once in a while, the CDC stresses that no alcohol is the best way to be absolutely certain to avoid FASDs. From the CDC:

Alcohol use during pregnancy can cause fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs), which are physical, behavioral, and intellectual disabilities that last a lifetime. More than 3 million US women are at risk of exposing their developing baby to alcohol because they are drinking, having sex, and not using birth control to prevent pregnancy. About half of all US pregnancies are unplanned and, even if planned, most women do not know they are pregnant until they are 4-6 weeks into the pregnancy. This means a woman might be drinking and exposing her developing baby to alcohol without knowing it. Alcohol screening and counseling helps people who are drinking too much to drink less. It is recommended that women who are pregnant or might be pregnant not drink alcohol at all. FASDs do not occur if a developing baby is not exposed to alcohol before birth.

When I first saw this, my reaction was basically “duh”.  Apparently, others reacted differently. There has been lots of media outlash and uproar over the CDC recommendations. Some claim that this is an unrealistic warning-from Jezebel:

The CDC isn’t alone in this recommendation: the Mayo Clinic, for one, also recommends that any sexually active woman not on birth control refrain from drinking. But “the risk is real, why take the chance” has such a historical stranglehold even on women who are already pregnant, whose risk level is not real but immediate; to extend this idea to women whomight become pregnant just because they are alive and unmedicated—or to phrase the recommendation with a basic disregard for the facts of how women live—suggests the same old idea that all women are either future, current, past or broken incubators, and that is their body’s primary use.

forget that the real problem is abortion access and the fact that birth control occasionally fails. Women, your body is a ticking time bomb in which the bomb is a fetus, so get on birth control or stop drinking—that’s the way it’s going to be!

An article in The Washington Post claims that this message is incredibly condescending towards women, stating that the guidelines suggest drinking without being on birth control can lead to pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. NPR summarizes some other reactions:

The way this advice was communicated has struck many women as severe and condescending. “CDC to younger women: Better take your birth control before you drink that glass of wine,” read one headline.

The Internet let forth a tsunami of derision. One columnist for The Washington Post quipped, “That’s the last time I drink merlot alone in my apartment. I don’t want herpes.”

Indeed, the CDC did also point out that drinking can make a woman more vulnerable to injuries or violence and sexually transmitted diseases. But many commenters pointed out that there was no report warning men that drinking can lead to violent behavior and STDs.

“The way [the CDC] stated this is very extreme,” says Emily Oster, an economist at Brown University who wrote a book on the sometimes anxiety-producing advice that women are given during pregnancy.

Oster says the CDC has an important message to convey. Some women undoubtedly are unaware of the risks of alcohol during the early weeks of pregnancy when they may not even know they’re pregnant.

But given the tone and the judgment woven into the messaging, Oster says, it touched a nerve.

Let me say that I am SHOCKED by the amount of outrage over this article. These guidelines are legit- don’t drink while pregnant; don’t drink if you have the chance to become pregnant. No one can deny that this is sound advice. Access to birth control, abortion, etc. is all a different issue- which should definitely be discussed (and improved upon), however, unrelated to these guidelines. Furthermore, I believe the swarm of posts have all taken these guidelines grossly out of context. Thank god for The Huffington Post:

“We definitely didn’t make any recommendations for women who are pre-pregnant,” said Lela McKnight-Eily, an epidemiologist and clinical psychologist on the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Prevention Team at the CDC. 

“It’s more a matter of women knowing and being informed that if they are drinking alcohol, sexually active and not using birth control, that they could be exposing a baby to a teratogen, and that could cause fetal alcohol spectrum disorders,” McKnight-Eily said.

The warning was really directed at the three out of four women who reported wanting to get pregnant “immediately,” but who said they continued drinking as they tried to conceive. 

It was intended to inform women about the risks of alcohol and pregnancy (both expected and unexpected) — not to control the behavior of women who aren’t trying to have a baby. 

“Women should have conversations with their health professionals about drinking alcohol and their health, in general, “McKnight-Eily added. “Particularly if they are planning to get pregnant or trying to get pregnant, this should be part of the conversation that they’re having.” 

As a woman, I take no offense from the CDC guidelines, and I don’t think others should either. Some say it’s “unrealistic” to expect women to completely stop drinking if they are trying to become pregnant (it can take a while sometimes)… fine. As mentioned, this is a conversation that women need to have with their health professionals, and THAT is what the CDC recommends. The CDC isn’t telling women what to do with their bodies, it’s encouraging them to know the facts and discuss with their doctors. That’s ALL.

As for me, WHY would you take the chance? I like drinking just as much as the next person, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to stop drinking for a little while leading up to pregnancy. And I think it’s crazy that others are outraged by this. Ladies, we have REAL issues in this country that need to be dealt with (access to birth control, abortion, wage gap, ‘leakly pipeline’ when it comes to leadership positions, etc etc), let’s try to focus on those issues instead.


Today is World AIDS day

Today is World AIDS Day. From the CDC, today is an opportunity for people to work actively and collaboratively with partners around the world to raise awareness about HIV and help us move closer to the goal of an AIDS-free generation. This year’s theme, “The Time to Act Is Now,” calls us to act with urgency to implement the latest high-impact, evidence-based HIV prevention strategies. While a lot of progress has been made to understand HIV and AIDS (several previous posts), there’s still work to be done.

An estimated 36.9 million people are living with HIV/AIDS worldwide. As a science-based public health and disease prevention agency, CDC provides support that helps more than 60 countries strengthen their national HIV/AIDS programs and build sustainable public health systems. CDC conducts these activities through the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) , the largest commitment by any nation to combat a single disease.

Recent scientific breakthroughs now point the way to achieving an AIDS-free generation, a goal championed by President Obama in his 2013 State of the Union address. CDC, through PEPFAR, is working to achieve that inspiring goal through proven science, smart investments, and shared responsibility with partner countries.

Global efforts have resulted in approximately 13.5 million persons in low-income and middle-income countries receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART) for HIV infection in 2014, an increase from 2013. Globally, more than 15 million people are on ART.

New HIV infections have fallen 35 percent since 2000, with 66 percent of the 2 million new HIV infections occurring in sub-Saharan African countries, where women account for more than half the total number of those living with HIV.

New pediatric HIV infections have dropped by 58 percent worldwide since 2000.

Continue reading

Unnecessary #Ebola fear fueled by media and politicians – calls for CDC Tom Frieden to resign #headslap

Despite that fact that Ebola is essentially a non-risk for Americans, Ebola is everywhere in the American news. In fact, a poll showed that 40% of Americans think they are at risk for getting Ebola. Not a day goes by without a news article or interview featuring CDC Director Tom Frieden or NIH NIAID Director Tony Fauci. Both of these men have communicated the facts about the Ebola outbreak, both in West Africa and in the United States, to the American people. AMAZINGLY, this is not actually either of their jobs’. This is the job of the US Surgeon General – which we currently don’t have due to Congress and the NRA. Over the last week, with flaws in the response to the Ebola patients in Dallas, Republicans and others in the media have criticized the CDC and Tom Frieden. They have even called for him to resign! First, Democrats blamed Republicans for the Ebola response due to funding cuts to the CDC, NIH, and hospitals. Now we have Republicans blaming the ebola response on poor leadership of Democratic appointees. The politicization of Ebola in America is ridiculous. The only impact Ebola will likely have in America is a lot of unnecessary fear created by the media and politicians – for their own gain.

Meanwhile, America and its politicians are still doing too little to fight the REAL Ebola outbreak in West Africa, where it is actually a problem impacting thousands of people. Not fighting the outbreak in West Africa is what is putting Americans at risk. With that, and to try to get more interaction at CauseScience, I present a poll on whether you think Tom Frieden should resign from the CDC>? I’m pretty sure you can guess where I stand…

CDC announces record-high life expectancy of 78.8 years for USA in Data Brief

The CDC has issued a data brief on mortality in USA, with the most recent data from 2012. The report has tons of information, including the main finding that the average life expectancy in the US is now a record high of 78.8 years!

This report presents 2012 U.S. final mortality data on deaths and death rates by demographic and medical characteristics. These data provide information on mortality patterns among residents of the United States by such variables as sex, race and ethnicity, and cause of death. Information on mortality patterns is key to understanding changes in the health and well-being of the U.S. population (1). Life expectancy estimates, age-adjusted death rates by race and ethnicity and sex, 10 leading causes of death, and 10 leading causes of infant death were analyzed by comparing 2012 final data with 2011 final data.

Other key findings included:

  • The age-adjusted death rate for the United States decreased 1.1% from 2011 to 2012 to a record low of 732.8 per 100,000 standard population.
  • The 10 leading causes of death in 2012 remained the same as in 2011. Age-adjusted death rates decreased significantly from 2011 to 2012 for 8 of the 10 leading causes and increased significantly for one leading cause (suicide).
  • The infant mortality rate decreased 1.5% from 2011 to 2012 to a historic low of 597.8 infant deaths per 100,000 live births. The 10 leading causes of infant death in 2012 remained the same as in 2011.

First diagnosed case of Ebola in the USA

From CNN:

A person traveling from Liberia to the United States has been diagnosed with Ebola, Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told reporters Tuesday. The person, whose identity was not released, left Liberia on September 19 and arrived in the United States on September 20, he said. At that time, the person did not have symptoms. “But four or five days later” that person began to show symptoms, Frieden said. The person was hospitalized and isolated Sunday at a hospital in Texas, he said.

CDC report: ~half of HIV+ gay men are not getting proper treatment


Just a few days ahead of the National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, the CDC has issued a report detailing the lack of effective HIV treatment/care among gay men. The report was published in the CDC’s Morbity and Mortality Weekly ReportThe major finding of the report is that about half of gay men living with HIV are not getting adequate treatment. WebMd has a great summary article of the report here.

The research shows that while 77.5 percent did initially get HIV medical care within three months of their diagnosis, only about 51 percent continued getting care on an ongoing basis.

Worse, the report shows that the percent of men getting treatment and achieving healthy ‘viral supression’ is even lower. This is extremely concerning, given that the treatment for HIV is very effective and is one of the great biomedical breakthroughs of this century. Also, it appears that there is an age and race bias, with younger men and Black/African American men having lower levels of care compared with older men and those of all other race/ethnicities. The authors discuss potential reasons for these issues, and conclude that contributing factors likely include lack of health insurance, stigma, and discrimination. This report highlights the need for outreach to increase awareness of testing, treatment, and the prevalence of HIV/AIDS.

All of these numbers fall short of targets from the CDC’s National HIV/AIDS Strategy, which aims to have 80 percent of infected gay and bisexual men retained in ongoing medical care by 2015.

According to the CDC, gay or bisexual males make up 2 percent of the U.S. population but comprise 52 percent of Americans infected with HIV. Many are unaware they are infected.