TIME polio

The Battle to Eradicate Polio in Pakistan

A Pakistani health worker vaccinates a child in Islamabad
A Pakistani health worker vaccinates a child in Islamabad Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Political unrest in Pakistan has been a gift to the poliovirus, with 99 cases reported there so far this year. But Rotary International, which has already vaccinated 2 billion children in 122 countries, is hitting back hard

Epidemiology can be all about geography—and that’s especially true when it comes to polio. If you live in the U.S., where polio was eradicated in 1979, the specter of the disease has faded almost entirely, though pockets of infections can occur among the unvaccinated. In Pakistan, however, things are moving in precisely the opposite direction, and have been for a while now.

One of only three countries in the world where polio remains endemic (the other two are Nigeria and Afghanistan), Pakistan had been close to joining the world’s polio-free nations, with only 58 infections in 2012. But thanks to bans on vaccinating—and deadly attacks on polio fieldworkers—by the Pakistani Taliban, the caseload rose to 93 in 2013. In 2014, the total reached 99 by July 18—a figure all the more alarming compared to this point last year, when there had been just 21 cases.

“It’s a scary number,” says Aziz Memon, Pakistani chairman of Rotary International’s polio eradication campaign. “Children in North Waziristan have been trapped for three and a half years without a drop of polio vaccine, and that’s what’s causing this.”

The folks at Rotary know what they’re talking about. Since launching their polio eradication effort in 1985, they have been responsible for the vaccination of 2 billion children in 122 countries. Along with the World Health Organization, UNICEF, The Gates Foundation and others, they have helped slash the global infection rate from 350,000 cases per year in 1988 to 416 in 2013.

That’s indisputably good news, but polio is an exceedingly sneaky virus, with 200 symptom-free carriers for every one case of the disease. That fact, combined with the anti-vaccine forces in Pakistan, not to mention the porous borders cause by war and unrest in the overall region, has caused the disease to leak out from the three endemic countries, with stray cases turning up in Equatorial Guinea, Iraq, Cameroon, Syria, Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya. In a handful of other countries, the virus has been detected in sewage, but it has not led to any cases of the disease—yet.

It’s Pakistan though that’s considered ground zero, and Rotary has announced that it’s now deploying some very simple weapons in what has always been a village-to-village, door-to-door battle. To improve surveillance and tracking—a maddeningly difficult job in a country in which so many people live off the communications grid—Rotary has distributed hundreds of cell phones to midwives who circulate through communities, canvassing residents to find out who has received the vaccine and who has been overlooked. Information on the unvaccinated kids—the “missing children” in the fieldworkers argot—is entered into the phones and uploaded to a central spreadsheet, allowing later vaccinators to target their efforts more precisely.

“The midwives also track pregnant mothers,” says Memon. “And when their children are born they can continue to maintain complete health records, not just for polio but for other vaccines and basic health care as well.”

Rotary has also worked with The Coca-Cola Company to build what’s known as a reverse osmosis water plant—essentially a sophisticated filtration facility—in the town of Malin, within the city of Karachi. Polio is a disease spread almost entirely by human waste, and once it leeches into the water system it can spread nearly anywhere. The Malir plant, which was constructed near a school to give polio-age kids the first access to the newly filtered water, is a relatively modest one, with just 20,000 gal. (76,000 liters) of clean water on hand at any one moment, and cost only $40,000 to build. But as a pilot project it represents a very good start. “We can’t build a massive plant like the government can,” says Memon. “This is a small plant for a small community.”

One thing, paradoxically, that’s working in the vaccinators’ favor is the increased number of displaced people in Pakistan. A recent push by the Pakistani military to flush the Taliban from its safe havens has broken the vaccination blockade, and already 350,000 children have received at least one dose of the polio vaccine. But 1.5 million refugees are scattered around the country. Rotary has dispatched field workers to refugee camps and transit points to identify the children and few adults who need the polio vaccine and administer it on the spot.

“The government did not have any idea about what the numbers of displaced people would be,” says Memon. In the refugee camps, he adds, there are at least 40,000 pregnant women, whose babies will have to be vaccinated shortly after birth.

The diabolical thing about polio—and indeed any disease science hopes to eradicate—is that even one case is too many. As long as any wild poliovirus is out there, everyone needs to be protected. It is only when the last scrap of virus has been found and snuffed, that the protective push can stop. That has happened once before in medical history—with smallpox. In the case of polio, it’s tantalizingly close to happening again.

TIME Aging

3 Simple Lifestyle Habits That May Slow Aging

There's more evidence for eating well, sleeping, and exercising

Stress makes our bodies age faster, but thankfully we can combat that with healthy eating and exercise, a new study says.

When cells age, telomeres—tips at the end of chromosomes—shorten. Telomeres help regulate the aging of cells, and their length has been used to determine the body’s current state of health. Things like stress and lifestyle behaviors can influence their length, as compelling earlier research has shown. In the new study, University of California, San Francisco, researchers looked at 239 post-menopausal women for a year and found that for every major life stressor they experienced during the year, there was a significant shortening in their telomere length.

That’s not great news, but the researchers also discovered that the women who ate a healthy diet, exercised and slept well had less shortening of their telomeres. It could be that the women’s healthy habits actually protect them from cellular aging, even in the face of life’s stresses.

The study, which is published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, is observational, which means the researchers cannot say with certainty that it was these healthy lifestyles alone that offered them protective benefits. But at the very least, it shows once again that doing our best to eat well, sleep, and exercise can give us an edge.

TIME Research

The Link Between 9/11 and Cancer Still Isn’t Entirely Clear

National 9/11 Memorial Museum
People visit the National 9/11 Memorial Museum in New York City on May 25, 2014. Cem Ozdel—Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

A number of complicating factors and delayed data make conclusions difficult to draw

The New York Post reported Sunday that the number of cancer cases among 9/11 first respondents had more than doubled in the past year, from 1,140 to over 2,500. However, to scientists who specialize in analyzing such data, the number of cases cannot ever tell the full story.

Dr. Roberto Lucchini is an epidemiologist and director of the World Trade Center Health Program Data Center at Mount Sinai Hospital, which treats and researches the police officers, construction workers, sanitation workers and iron workers who were among the first respondents on 9/11. To Lucchini, the number of observed cancer cases among these patients cannot be significant until compared to the number of expected cancer cases.

“I don’t think there’s a double of cases one year to the other,” Lucchini told TIME. “When you compare one year to the other, you have to be careful and try to understand what you are comparing. If you don’t compare correctly, you can come up with information that is not exactly true.”

“I don’t think they compared like-with-like which is what you normally do in epidemiology,” adds Dr. Billy Holden, a deputy director of the data center. “I don’t know how they came to the conclusion that there was a doubling.”

Mount Sinai has a record of 1,646 confirmed cancers from 2002 to present-day among the over 30,000 first respondents that they oversee. The hospital’s cases are reviewed and certified by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Meanwhile, the public registry—which also collects data on these cases—has confirmed 1,172 cancers among Mount Sinai patients, but the registry’s number only represents data through the year 2010, which may account for the difference.

“That’s the latest that we have in reliable data that we can use,” Holden says. “The delay is coming from the registries themselves. It takes them a long time to get the data.”

According to a press release from Mount Sinai, “analysis of available data through 2010 shows that there is an approximately 20% increase in cancer incidence in 9/11 rescue and recovery workers compared to the general population, with a particular increase in thyroid cancer, prostate cancer, myeloma, and leukemia.”

This elevated incidence rate could result from the high exposure to carcinogens that many first respondents endured. However, even this number is subject to question due to a number of complicating factors, including over-diagnosis of certain cancers—such as thyroid and prostate—and questionably reliable data for the general population.

“Over-diagnosis means you’re just screening for cancers, and you pick up cancers that in the normal course of things would never cause symptoms and would never cause death,” Holden says. “The screening for thyroid and prostate cancer is picking up these really non-malignant cancers that don’t do anything.”

Another complicating factor is the continued aging of the first respondents. Epidemiologists would expect the number of observed cancer cases among this population to increase over the coming years regardless because everyone’s risk of cancer rises with time. “Numbers are interesting, but they’re not revealing because we have to look at the rates,” Holden says. “Looking at numbers themselves doesn’t mean anything. You have to put them in a certain context.”

The search for a similar context alone can result in frustration for researchers. As so many residents of New York need not be reminded, 9/11 is an event that stands alone in our history.

“There’s nothing like this in the whole history of the world,” Lucchini says. “We can think about Chernobyl or Fukushima, but this is a totally different situation here… So for us to compare this to other studies and other experiences is quite difficult.”

Lucchini adds, “We are doing as much as we can.”

When it comes to the men and women who first responded on that fateful day, the question remains of how much can ever be enough.

TIME Pregnancy

The Connection Between Parks and Healthier Pregnancy

Trees can do a lot of good for your health, from lowering stress to encouraging you to spend more time outdoors exercising. But can it help expectant moms have healthier babies?

What mother-to-be doesn’t do her best to nurture her still-developing baby so he or she can be ready for the world after nine months? Eating right, exercising, and avoiding extreme amounts of stress are just some of the ways that expectant mothers can cocoon their babies in the healthiest environment possible. And now scientists say there’s another thing pregnant women can do to help their babies to emerge from the womb at a healthy weight.

Living near green spaces – parks, gardens, and even cemeteries – is associated with fewer low birth weight babies, according to a study published in the journal Occupational & Environmental Medicine. An international group of researchers analyzed data from nearly 40,000 singleton births in Tel Aviv, Israel from 2002 to 2006 and matched the mother’s address at the time of delivery with satellite images of the landscape to assess their relative “green-ness.” Women who lived in areas with more access to parks or gardens or green spaces were less likely to have children with low birth weight, a risk factor that can contribute to respiratory conditions, intestinal disorders and bleeding in the brain as well as more long term health issues such as diabetes, heart disease, bone disorders and possibly autism.

Because greener regions tend to be associated with higher socioeconomic status and more maternal education, both factors that also affect the rate of low birth weight, the researchers also adjusted for the effect of socioeconomic status, and still found an effect of the greener environments. But they did find a stronger association between less green space and more low-birth-weight babies among those in lower socioeconomic groups, which could reflect the influence of other factors, such as less healthy behaviors in those populations and greater exposure to air pollution, stress and other environmental factors that can influence pregnancy outcomes.

So living near parks alone can’t prevent low-birth-weight babies, but the findings suggest that it couldn’t hurt. And the authors note that other studies hints at why – being near parks may encourage physical activity and promote more social interactions that can provide support to relieve stress and depression. Green spaces also tend to have lower levels of pollution and other potentially harmful environmental compounds that have been linked to poor fetal development.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

Here’s What Happened When I Tried a Children’s Weight Loss App

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Michael Hevesy—Getty Images

A new Silicon Valley startup is giving kids a way to manage their eating habits on that smartphone they're glued to all the time anyway

I’m seeing red everywhere—not because I have an anger management problem but because I’ve been using Kurbo, a new app designed to help kids lose weight. And as with many things aimed at children (See: remote control cars, trampolines, songs from Frozen), adults may find themselves loving the app, too.

Kurbo is built on a “traffic light” program that has roots in research conducted decades ago, and which the founders licensed from Stanford University. Here’s how it works: Foods packed with calories, whether an ice cream sundae or bagel, are classified as red-light. Foods that you should approach with caution, like pasta and whole wheat bread, are yellow. And the go-crazy-have-all-you-want things, like broccoli or mushrooms, are green.

Kids are instructed to log everything they eat in terms of portions—and a portion, a welcome video explains, is generally the size of their fist (or open palm if the food is flat like a pizza). Users are given an automatically generated budget of reds they can have each day, and that budget can quickly become a backdrop in your mind that affects decisions you weren’t thinking much about before.

Once I found out that each slice of sourdough bread was a red and whole wheat was yellow, I started choosing wheat for my sandwiches—because the difference, one I knew about but brushed off before, was hardly worth two of my precious reds. I didn’t pick at a bowl of olives at a restaurant this past weekend, something I usually wouldn’t have even registered, because I wanted to spend that red on a beer. I can no longer justify the guacamole by telling myself that avocados are full of “good fat,” because good or bad, those babies are red. Nuts? Red. Cheese? Red. Light cheese? Beautiful yellow. (Nota bene: Eating more than two servings of any yellow in a single sitting also starts counting as a red.) There is no calorie counting or quibbling.

The downside of being so simple is that the app is inevitably reductive. If you just have a few bacon bits on a salad, you might not have a whole portion, and there’s no way to log that—and almost any nutritionist worth their salt would agree that some of the “red” foods, like the aforementioned avocados I’m suddenly abstaining from, are healthy in moderation. Also, many foods are nowhere to be found in the app’s limited (though expanding) catalog. Expecting kids to break down a dish of beef and broccoli from the local Chinese joint into individual components—when it’s unclear what those components actually are beyond beef and broccoli—is unrealistic. And while foods like nuts and even cheese are high when it comes to energy density, they have good qualities, too.

That said, the simplicity had its benefits. I found, for instance, that because I wanted to be confident in my color-logging, I’d opt for foods like a salad for which I chose the ingredients instead of one that was prepackaged. “It’s a very important behavioral principle: If you can’t count it, you can’t keep track of it, and if you can’t keep track of it, you can’t change it,” says Tom Robinson, professor of pediatrics at Stanford and director of the university’s Center for Healthy Weight. People are generally lousy at counting calories, he says, and the calorie count on a menu might be far from what actually shows up on your plate. “If you’re trying to get from 40 to 35 red lights a week,” he says, “you’re going to be focusing more on the overall choices you’re making.”

Kurbo co-founder Joanna Strober conceived of the app when she was trying to help her son to lose weight. As they visited doctors, she found they had no tools that would fit naturally into his daily life. “Okay, your child is overweight. But what do you do next?” she says. One thing she did was discover Stanford’s program for treating childhood obesity, which has a solid track record but is only available to a couple hundred families per year for a hefty sum ($3,500 for six months of weekly visits). She also found that apps marketed to the 18-and-older crowd had proved effective. So Strober tried to take every element from Stanford that she could and pack it into the Kurbo app for kids, with the help of $5.8 million in venture capital funding, making a similar system more available to the masses.

For $10 per month, a whole family gets access to the app, which comes with virtual coaching, automated notifications that nudge users to log more regularly or congratulate them for staying within their budget of reds. For $75 per month, one person in the family also gets a weekly call from a nutritional coach, some of whom have come from the Stanford program. And if that price point still sounds high, don’t despair: The company is currently in talks with insurance companies about getting coverage for usage of the app. (For the whole family to get access, users need to sign up through Kurbo’s website; an Apple app is available now, an Android app is expected in September.)

Through the Stanford program, more than 80% of kids reduce the percentage that they’re overweight, and more than 75% of overweight parents lose weight, too. In Kurbo’s beta program, which included kids ages 8 to 18, more than 85% of participants reduced their body mass index over 10 weeks.

One of the beta users was Tiana Lepera, a 14-year-old from Ogdensburg, NJ. She’s lost 10 lbs. since she starting seeing the world in red, yellow and green. “Even when we go to restaurants, we know that certain foods would be red lights, yellow lights and green lights,” she says. “If I don’t eat the bread that will be one less red light. You always think about it. It changes the way you’re thinking about food.” Her mom has meanwhile lost 29 lbs. and gone off blood pressure medication she’s had to take for the past 14 years. “Everything,” Keshia says, “corresponds to how many red lights you eat.”

TIME Nigeria

Nigeria Quarantines Hospital as Ebola Spreads to Most Populous City

Liberian health workers in protective gear on the way to bury a woman who died of the Ebola virus from the isolation unit in Foya, Lofa County, Liberia on July 2, 2014.
Liberian health workers in protective gear on the way to bury a woman who died of the Ebola virus from the isolation unit in Foya, Lofa County, Liberia on July 2, 2014. Ahmed Jallanzo—EPA

The death marks the first recorded case of the highly infectious disease in Africa's most populous country

Nigeria has evacuated and quarantined a hospital in the city of Lagos after a patient died from Ebola, the first reported case to reach one of Africa’s most densely-populated countries.

Reuters reports that the patient, Patrick Sawyer, a consultant for Liberia’s finance ministry, collapsed shortly after his flight landed at Lagos airport on July 20. He died while in treatment at First Consultants Hospital. Health officials said that doctors and nurses that came into contact with Sawyer have been isolated and closely monitored.

“The private hospital was demobilized (evacuated) and the primary source of infection eliminated,” said Lagos state health commissioner Jide Idris, Reuters reports.

The number of Ebola cases continues to climb in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, where the virus has infected 1,201 people and claimed 672 lives since it was first reported in West Africa in February, according to the World Health Organization. But the emergence of the disease in Lagos, a city of 21 million people, has officials fearing a greater challenge to containment.

Nigerian officials said that they were monitoring 59 people who came into contact with Sawyer, including doctors, nurses and people at the airport. However, the airline on which he arrived in Lagos had not yet released the names of passengers.

Meanwhile, Obama administration officials said that U.S. President Obama was being updated regularly about the outbreak. Calling it a “very worrying epidemic,” National Security Advisor Susan Rice said the U.S. would continue to assist local and international efforts to combat the spread of the virus.

“We are very much present and active in trying to help the countries of the region and the international authorities like the World Health Organization address and contain this threat.”

 

TIME United Arab Emirates

Dubai’s Kids Now Worth Their Weight (Loss) in Gold

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Stack of Gold Bars Getty Images

"Your Child in Gold" program will award two grams of gold for every kilogram (2.2 pounds) a child manages to shed over two months

Dubai has devised a rather unorthodox plan to incentivize its citizens to lose weight: Shed pounds, and we’ll give you some gold. And if you’re a child — we’ll give you double.

Participants will be awarded one gram of gold, worth just under $42, for every kilogram (2.2 pounds) in weight lost. But if a family has a child over 2 but under 14 years of age, then they will receive 2g for every kilo lost. Only two children can participate per family, and the minimum weight loss is 2kg to be eligible.

Last year the program focused principally on Dubai’s adult population, and it paid out $762,340 in gold, Quartz reports.

The Dubai Municipality launched the “Your Child in Gold” initiative during Ramadan. The website for the competition gives weight loss advice: “Ramadan is the most appropriate season to launch such initiatives as it reminds us about many health benefits of reducing weight and encourages us to take strong steps to change our bad lifestyles.”

Last week, the Kahleej Times reported 341 children had officially weighed in to participate in the 2-month program.

Quartz cited a 2012 BMC Public Health Journal study which found that the UAE is the sixth most obese nation in the world.

TIME Infectious Disease

New Fears About Ebola Spread After Plane Scare

Sierra Leone West Africa Ebola
In this photo taken on Sunday, July 27, 2014, medical personnel inside a clinic take care of Ebola patients on the outskirts of Kenema, Sierra Leone Youssouf Bah—AP

It's an unprecedented public-health scenario: since 1976, when the virus was first discovered, Ebola outbreaks were limited to remote corners of Congo and Uganda

(DAKAR, Senegal) — No one knows for sure just how many people Patrick Sawyer came into contact with the day he boarded a flight in Liberia, had a stopover in Ghana, changed planes in Togo, and then arrived in Nigeria, where authorities say he died days later from Ebola, one of the deadliest diseases known to man.

Now health workers are scrambling to trace those who may have been exposed to Sawyer across West Africa, including flight attendants and fellow passengers.

Health experts say it is unlikely he could have infected others with the virus that can cause victims to bleed from the eyes, mouth and ears. Still, unsettling questions remain: How could a man whose sister recently died from Ebola manage to board a plane leaving the country? And worse: Could Ebola become the latest disease to be spread by international air travel?

Sawyer’s death on Friday has led to tighter screening of airline passengers in West Africa, where an unprecedented outbreak that emerged in March has killed more than 670 people in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. But some health authorities expressed little confidence in such precautions.

“The best thing would be if people did not travel when they were sick, but the problem is people won’t say when they’re sick. They will lie in order to travel, so it is doubtful travel recommendations would have a big impact,” said Dr. David Heymann, professor of infectious diseases at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

“The important thing is for countries to be prepared when they get patients infected with Ebola, that they are isolated, family members are told what to do and health workers take the right steps.”

The World Health Organization is awaiting laboratory confirmation after Nigerian health authorities said Sawyer tested positive for Ebola, WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl said. The WHO has not recommended any travel restrictions since the outbreak came to light.

“We would have to consider any travel recommendations very carefully, but the best way to stop this outbreak is to put the necessary measures in place at the source of infection,” Hartl said. Closing borders “might help, but it won’t be exhaustive or foolproof.”

The risk of travelers contracting Ebola is considered low because it requires direct contact with bodily fluids or secretions such as urine, blood, sweat or saliva, experts say. Ebola can’t be spread like flu through casual contact or breathing in the same air.

Patients are contagious only once the disease has progressed to the point they show symptoms, according to the WHO. And the most vulnerable are health care workers and relatives who come in much closer contact with the sick.

Still, witnesses say Sawyer, a 40-year-old Liberian Finance Ministry employee en route to a conference in Nigeria, was vomiting and had diarrhea aboard at least one of his flights with some 50 other passengers aboard. Ebola can be contracted from traces of feces or vomit, experts say.

Sawyer was immediately quarantined upon arrival in Lagos — a city of 21 million people — and Nigerian authorities say his fellow travelers were advised of Ebola’s symptoms and then were allowed to leave. The incubation period can be as long as 21 days, meaning anyone infected may not fall ill for several weeks.

Health officials rely on “contact tracing” — locating anyone who may have been exposed, and then anyone who may have come into contact with that person. That may prove impossible, given that other passengers journeyed on to dozens of other cities.

Patrick Sawyer had planned to visit his family in Minnesota next month to attend two of his three daughters’ birthdays, his wife, Decontee Sawyer, told KSTP-TV in Minnesota.

“It’s a global problem because Patrick could have easily come home with Ebola, easy,” she said. The Associated Press left phone and email messages for her Monday.

International travel has made the spread of disease via airplanes almost routine. Outbreaks of measles, polio and cholera have been traced back to countries thousands of miles away. Even Ebola previously traveled the globe this way: During an outbreak in Ivory Coast in the 1990s, the virus infected a veterinarian who traveled to Switzerland, where the disease was snuffed out upon arrival and she ultimately survived, experts say.

Two American aid workers in Liberia have tested positive for the virus and are being treated there. U.S. health officials said Monday that the risk of the deadly germ spreading to the United States is remote.

The mere prospect of Ebola in Africa’s most populous nation has Nigerians on edge.

In Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, Alex Akinwale, a 35-year-old entrepreneur, said he is particularly concerned about taking the bus, which is the only affordable way to travel.

“It’s actually making me very nervous. If I had my own car, I would be safer,” he said. “The doctors are on strike, and that means they are not prepared for it. For now I’m trying to be very careful.”

It’s an unprecedented public health scenario: Since 1976, when the virus was first discovered, Ebola outbreaks were limited to remote corners of Congo and Uganda, far from urban centers, and stayed within the borders of a single country. This time, cases first emerged in Guinea, and before long hundreds of others were stricken in Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Those are some of the poorest countries in the world, with few doctors and nurses to treat sick patients let alone determine who is well enough to travel. In Sawyer’s case, it appears nothing was done to question him until he fell sick on his second flight with Asky Airlines. An airline spokesman would not comment on what precautions were being taken in the aftermath of Sawyer’s journey.

Liberian Assistant Health Minister Tolbert Nyenswah told The Associated Press last week that there had been no screening at Liberia’s Monrovia airport. That changed quickly over the weekend, when President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said a new policy on inspecting and testing all outgoing and incoming passengers will be strictly observed. She also announced that some borders were being closed and communities with large numbers of Ebola cases would be quarantined.

International travelers departing from the capitals of Sierra Leone and Guinea are also being checked for signs of fever, airport officials said. Buckets of chlorine are also on hand at Sierra Leone’s airport in Freetown for disinfection, authorities said.

Still, detecting Ebola in departing passengers might be tricky, since its initial symptoms are similar to many other diseases, including malaria and typhoid fever.

“It will be very difficult now to contain this outbreak because it’s spread,” Heymann said. “The chance to stop it quickly was months ago before it crossed borders … but this can still be stopped if there is good hospital infection control, contact tracing and collaboration between countries.”

Nigerian authorities so far have identified 59 people who came into contact with Sawyer and have tested 20, said Lagos State Health Commissioner Jide Idris. Among them were officials from ECOWAS, a West African governing body, airline employees, health workers and the Nigerian ambassador to Liberia, he said. He said there have been no new cases of the disease.

___

Associated Press Medical Writer Maria Cheng reported from London. Jonathan Paye-Layleh in Monrovia, Liberia; Clarence Roy-Macaulay in Freetown, Sierra Leone; Erick Kaglan in Lome, Togo; and Heather Murdock in Abuja, Nigeria, also contributed to this report.

TIME Cancer

House Passes Bill to Update Sunscreen Review Process

The first of its kind in more than a decade

The U.S. House of Representatives on Monday passed a bill that will streamline the process for reviewing and approving ingredients in sunscreen products.

The Sunscreen Innovation Act (H.R. 4250) was created in cooperation with the Food and Drug Administration and is the first major update to the review process since the 1990s.

The act won’t change the level of scientific review required for FDA approval, only some of the procedural steps that can draw out the review process.

If it becomes a law, the Sunscreen Innovation Act would only apply to sunscreen products that have been marketed outside the U.S. for at least five years. Most of the ingredients pending approvals could have their reviews completed within the following year, according to the American Cancer Society, whose advocacy wing the Cancer Action Network supports the bill.

“Educating people about good sun safety behaviors is only half of the story,” ACS CAN President Chris Hansen said in a statement. “American consumers should have access to the broadest choice of sunscreens — including those in use for years in other countries — once they are shown to be safe and effective.”

TIME Exercise/Fitness

Running Reduces Risk of Death Even If You’re Super Slow

"Hazard ratios (HRs) of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality by running characteristic (weekly running time, distance, frequency, total amount, and speed). Participants were classified into 6 groups: nonrunners (reference group) and 5 quintiles of each running characteristic. All HRs were adjusted for baseline age (years), sex, examination year, smoking status (never, former, or current), alcohol consumption (heavy drinker or not), other physical activities except running (0, 1 to 499, or $500 MET-minutes/week), and parental history of cardiovascular disease (yes or no). All p values for HRs across running char- acteristics were <0.05 for all-cause and cardiovascular mortality except for running frequency of $6 times/week (p 1⁄4 0.11) and speed of <6.0 miles/h (p 1⁄4 0.10) for cardiovascular mortality."

Whether you are the tortoise or the hare, running can help reduce the risk of heart disease

Whether you log a marathon or a single city block, running—even slowly—may greatly reduce the risk of a cardiovascular-related death when compared to people who do not run, says a new study published Monday in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

The U.S. government and the World Health Organization currently suggest either 150 minutes of moderate-intensity (brisk walking, gardening or physical chores around the house) or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise (running, cycling, swimming or competitive sports) per week. Yet very little research exists looking at the benefits of vigorous exercise below 75 minutes.

Researchers examined data from the Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study to see if there was a connection between running and longevity. The research followed more than 55,000 adults between the ages of 18 and 100 over a period of 15 years, recording their daily activity, including running. They found that the benefits of running were the same regardless of sex, age, weight, health conditions and substance-use history, with all runners showing a 30% lower risk of death from all causes, and a 45% lower risk of death from a heart attack or stroke. Out of the original sample of people, 1,217 died of cardiovascular disease—and only 24% of them reported running as part of their exercise routine.

Ascent—Getty Images

Dr. DC Lee, lead author of the study and assistant professor of kinesiology at Iowa State University, found that runners who ran less than an hour per week had the same longevity benefits as runner who clock more than 3 hours a week. However, those who ran more consistently over a period of six years benefited most.

 

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