TIME Infectious Disease

It’s Now Illegal to Hide Ebola Patients in Sierra Leone

SLEONE-HEALTH-EBOLA-WEST-AFRICA
Sierra Leone government burial team members wearing protective clothing with the coffin of Dr Modupeh Cole, Sierra Leone's second senior physician to die of Ebola, at the MSF facility in Kailahun, on Aug. 14, 2014. Carl De Souza—AFP/Getty Images

Perpetrators can get up to two-year prison sentences

In a move meant to help the country more effectively combat a deadly Ebola outbreak, Sierra Leone approved a measure Friday that would impose jail time on anyone caught hiding someone infected with the virus.

The law, an amendment to the country’s 1960 Public Health Act, imposes prison sentences of up to two years for violators, the Associated Press reports.

Sierra Leone has recorded at least 910 cases and 392 deaths as part of the current outbreak, according to the World Health Organization. Many cases, however, go unrecorded when families hide patients out of fear of high fatality rates and the stigma that comes with a positive diagnosis.

[AP]

TIME Diet/Nutrition

The Soy Milk Ingredient That’s Getting the Axe

Cold glass of Milk
Silk soy milk is going carrageenan-free www.davebradleyphoto.com—Dave Bradley Photography

Organic food lovers tend to give multisyllabic ingredients the side-eye, so the natural stabilizer carrageenan—count ’em: four—raises flags as red as the seaweed from which it’s extracted.

The marine-sourced additive is used in many packaged foods like sauces, ice cream, and processed meats to help them thicken, gel, and stabilize. Natural and organic companies often favor it as a vegan alternative to gelatin, but consumers are wary because some animal studies suggest it causes gastrointestinal inflammation and ulcers.

Last year, Stonyfield Organic vowed to remove carrageenan from its products, and Friday, WhiteWave Foods followed suit, announcing that it’s nixing carrageenan from its brands which include Silk and Horizon Organic. The phaseout will begin with Silk soy milk and coconut milk and Horizon’s line of organic flavored milks.

“Many of our conversations have focused on the use of carrageenan,” reads a post published today on WhiteWave’s blog by Sara Loveday, spokeswoman for the company. “Even though it is safe, our consumers have told us they want products without it.”

WhiteWave will retire carrageenan over the next two years. “We get a lot of questions,” Loveday tells TIME. “It’s definitely been a consistent area of concern for a few years.”

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) declared carrageenan safe many years ago, and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Health Organization (WHO) echoed those safety claims last month in a joint statement on food additives. But the seaweed extract has drawn the attention of many consumers, notably by Vani Hari, who blogs under the name Food Babe and recently successfully petitioned Subway to remove the common compound azodicarbonamide from its bread. “I’m so thrilled that WhiteWave made this announcement,” Hari writes, “because this will likely lead to other companies following suit.”

Though science hasn’t proven carrageenan to be unsafe in humans, major natural food brands are making those four little syllables easier to avoid than ever.

TIME Mental Health/Psychology

5 Weird Ways Stress Can Actually Be Good for You

stress
Getty Images

We hear over and over again that stress is unhealthy. And all that talk makes us, well, stressed. But getting worked up isn’t always a bad thing, says Richard Shelton, MD, vice chair for research in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Alabama Birmingham; after all, the body’s fight-or-flight response is meant to be protective, not harmful.

It’s only when stress becomes chronic, or when we feel we’re no longer in control of a situation, that it negatively affects our health and wellbeing.

Here, then, are five reasons you should rest easier when it comes to everyday stress—and how a little short-term anxiety can actually benefit your brain and body.

It helps boost brainpower

Low-level stressors stimulate the production of brain chemicals called neurotrophins, and strengthen the connections between neurons in the brain. In fact, this may be the primary mechanism by which exercise (a physical stressor) helps boost productivity and concentration, Dr. Shelton says. Short-term psychological stressors, he adds, can have a similar effect, as well. Plus, animal studies have suggested that the body’s response to stress can temporarily boost memory and learning scores.

Health.com: Best and Worst Ways to Cope With Stress

It can increase immunity—in the short term

“When the body responds to stress, it prepares itself for the possibility of injury or infection,” says Dr. Shelton. “One way it does this is by producing extra interleukins—chemicals that help regulate the immune system—providing at least a temporary defensive boost.” Research in animals support this idea, as well: A 2012 Stanford study found that subjecting lab rats to mild stress produced a “massive mobilization” of several types of immune cells in their bloodstreams.

It can make you more resilient

Learning to deal with stressful situations can make future ones easier to manage, according to a large body of research on the science of resilience. It’s the idea behind Navy SEAL training, Dr. Shelton says—although you can certainly benefit from less extreme experiences, as well. “Repeated exposure to stressful events gives [SEALs] the chance to develop both a physical and psychological sense of control, so when they’re in actually combat they don’t just shut down,” he says.

Health.com: 25 Surprising Ways Stress Affects Your Health

This idea may even hold true at a cellular level: A 2013 University of California San Francisco study found that while chronic stress promotes oxidative damage to our DNA and RNA, moderate levels of perceived daily stress actually seem to protect against it and enhance “psychobiological resilience.”

It motivates you to succeed

Good stress, also known in the scientific community as eustress, may be just the thing you need to get job done at work. “Think about a deadline: It’s staring you in the face, and it’s going to stimulate your behavior to really manage the situation effectively, rapidly, and more productively,” says Dr. Shelton. The key, he says, is viewing stressful situations as a challenge that you can meet, rather than an overwhelming, unpassable roadblock.

Eustress can also help you enter a state of “flow,” a heightened sense of awareness and complete absorption into an activity, according to research from psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Flow can be achieved in the workplace, in sports, or in a creative endeavor (such as playing a musical instrument), and Csikszentmihalyi argues that it’s driven largely by pressure to succeed.

Health.com: 13 Ways to Beat Stress in 15 Minutes or Less

It can enhance child development

Moms-to-be often worry that their own anxiety will negatively affect their unborn babies—and it can, when it’s unrelenting. But a 2006 Johns Hopkins study found that most children of women who reported mild to moderate stress levels during pregnancy actually showed greater motor and developmental skills by age 2 than those of unstressed mothers. The one exception: the children of women who viewed their pregnancy as more negative than positive had slightly lower attention capacity.

Health.com: 12 Signs You May Have an Anxiety Disorder

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

TIME health

Living With ALS: ‘I Can’t Believe I’m Still Alive’

Patrick O'Brien

The past few weeks I've watched from my bed as the disease that is slowly killing me has turned into an overnight trend

I wake up almost every morning having dreamt of food. I watch Goodfellas just for the food scenes. My kingdom for a Big Mac. Taco Bell commercials are thought-provoking to me. But the fact of the matter is, I can’t eat. Or run or walk or even move my legs or arms. I’m lying flat in a bed and typing this with my pupils, which, along with my brain, are among the last functioning parts of my body.

I was diagnosed with ALS at 30. I’ve been filming every angle of this disease for the last 10 years. In October, I’ll turn 40. Damn, where does the time go? I started shooting a film as a “f-ck you” to ALS. My cinematographer, Ian Dudley, has this old Russian 35mm camera with these amazing lenses. It was important to me that we get it down on film because ALS is a very physical disease. If it was going to steal my being, I would replace it with celluloid.

When I stop to think of the hell I’ve been through, I can’t believe I’m still alive. When I think of all the people out there with no support, my heart floods. Often I break down crying. I’m lucky because I get to live in one of the best ALS communities in the country, the Leonard Florence Center for Living in Massachusetts, the nation’s first ALS residence. Besides the daily love and help of the staff here, two things keep me going: my son, who is 6 and lives far away from me in Florida, and finishing my documentary.

There’s a bright side to ALS. I know that sounds twisted, but in a lot of ways ALS saved my life. Having a fatal disease turns the odometer of the soul back to zero. It reverses any evils done or done to you. It’s the perfect disease. Everyone should experience what it is like to have ALS for a day. And maybe they are with this #ALSicebucketchallenge that has swept the nation. I call them “awareness baptisms.” It’s freaky when the disease that is slowly killing you becomes an overnight trend. By freaky I mean cool. It’s a way for people to connect with something bigger than themselves, to wash themselves in the fear that they might be next.

I live in a bubble. When it comes to ALS, I make it a point to not remember the gory statistics. ALS has not had any significant drug approval in the 70 some years since Lou Gehrig gave his “Luckiest Man On the Face of the Earth” speech. So I lay here, hoping to see my upcoming 40th birthday, praying to the black dot on my ceiling, unable to even masturbate, dreaming of the outside world.

To have ALS these past weeks has been to be a sort of “disease celebrity.” Even if you’ve been doomed with the fatal diagnosis, the #ALSicebucketchallenge got you tons of Facebook tags and notifications. For a minute, everything is awesome here in ALS land.

Yet why do I still feel such an impending sense of dread? (Medical marijuana usually relieves my anxiety, but I haven’t had any in months because you can’t roll a joint with your eyelids.) I think I’m feeling dread because this ice bucket thing is so successful, and I’m scared that it will end. It has to. The collective American attention span dictates it must. This desperately needed attention will fade. Then where will we be?

Thanks to Michele Dupree, Doug Pray and Karen Ingram for their input.

Patrick O’Brien is a filmmaker who was diagnosed with ALS at 30 years old and decided to embark on sharing his life story in his feature-length documentary to be released later this year.

TIME Aging

Women Give Way More Elder Care to Aging Parents Than Men

It’s nearly half a century since men were shocked—shocked!—to learn that women weren’t entirely satisfied with being second-class citizens. Much has changed since that time, in politics, business, sports and other realms, but not necessarily so much at home, where women still do most of the housework and most of the childcare.

And now it turns out that spend far more time caring for their aging parents as well. That’s the dismal conclusion of a research study presented this week at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association, in San Francisco. If you look at husbands and wives alone, says study author Angelina Grigoryeva, a doctoral student at Princeton University, things look equal. “Each spouse,” she says, “tends to take care of his or her own parents.”

But elder care is more complicated than that, since siblings are also part of the equation. And when you factor them in, the picture becomes very different: her analysis, based on her analysis of the data rich University of Michigan Health and Retirement Study, shows that daughters give an average of 12.3 hours of elder care per month, while sons provide just 5.6. “The results,” she says, “suggest that daughters try to provide as much care as they can, while sons only step in when there’s nobody else to do it.”

It’s not necessarily that men are selfish jerks. “The difference between elder care and housework,” says Grigoryeva, “is that the former is very hands-on, and often requires intimacy, so mothers might tend to prefer to be helped by their daughters rather than their sons.” Since women outlive men, on average, and there are more female than male elders, that could contribute to the skewed statistics.

Grigoryeva also notes another difference between elder care and other forms of domestic chores: “For housework and childcare,” she says, “the gender gap is still there, but it has narrowed over time.” That’s not what she finds with elder care. “This suggests that there may be some cultural inertia involved. People talk a lot the gap in reference to housework and child care, but not so much about caring for the aging.”

For the moment, at least, thanks to her new study, we are.

 

 

TIME neuroscience

Pomegranate Compound Could Delay Alzheimer’s, Study Says

Eat more fruit for better brain health, science suggests

There’s a chemical compound in pomegranate fruits called punicalagin, which researchers at University of Huddersfield, an institution known for food science, believe could help slow the progression of diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s by treating inflammation in the brain.

For two years, Dr. Olumayokun Olajide has lead of team of researchers in studying the effects of the compound on rats, and in new research, published in the journal Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, the researchers showed that the compound was able to inhibit some inflammation in the brain. Now, the researchers are looking at how much pomegranate is needed to get adequate amounts of punicalagin. In 100% pomegrante juice products, the researchers estimate there’s about 3.4% punicalagin, and most of it is found in the skin.

The researchers are also teaming with organic chemists to see if it’s possible to create drugs for inflammation that use punicalagin.

The findings show that punicalagin doesn’t stop or prevent neurodegenerative diseases from happening, but by interfering with inflammation, they could slow the progression. A lot of current research is looking at whether it’s possible to diagnose and treat Alzheimer’s symptoms in people before they start to show symptoms of the disease, at which point, some researchers worry, it might be too late.

It’s not the first time that researchers have looked at the benefit of pomegranate, which in other studies has shown to help break down the plaques in the brain that lead to the disease. All of the research is still early, and the majority is conducted in rats or mice and not humans, but it never hurts to add a little more fruit to your diet.

TIME Research

Ice Bucket Challenge ALS Donations Break $50 Million Mark

The organization raised $64 million in all of 2013

+ READ ARTICLE

The Ice Bucket Challenge is the gift that keeps on giving for the ALS Association. The organization raised more than $10 million on Thursday alone, it said, bringing its total haul since July 29 to $53 million. For comparison’s sake, the group raised $2.2 million during the same period last year.

The contributions, which have come from more than 1 million new donors as well as some old donors, are an enormous boon for the ALS Association, whose national office raised only $19 million in all of 2012.

Since the Ice Bucket Challenge went viral in early August, social media outlets have been crowded with videos of people dumping ice on their heads after delivering a short message explaining their support for research and treatment of Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Public figures who have taken the challenge include politicians like George W. Bush and movie stars like Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck.

The ALS Association is not the only organization to benefit from the viral trend. Opposition to embryonic stem cell research from some Catholics has led to an influx in donations to other charities that support ALS research without using embryonic stem cells. Project ALS, a smaller charity dedicated to ALS research, raised huge sums after Ricky Gervais and Ben Stiller took the Ice Bucket Challenge in its support.

TIME ebola

Nigeria Confirms 2 New Ebola Cases

Nigeria Ebola
Nigerian health officials wait to screen passengers at the arrival hall of Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos, Nigeria on Aug. 4, 2014. Sunday Alamba/AP

The two are the first infected people who didn’t have contact with the ill traveler

Nigeria’s health ministry confirmed Friday two new cases of Ebola in the country, the first people to come down with the disease who didn’t have direct contact with an infected traveler who brought the virus into the country from nearby Liberia.

Nigerian Health Minister Onyebuchi Chukwu said both newly infected people are the spouses of two caregivers who contracted the virus and later died after giving treatment to Patrick Sawyer, the Liberian-American man who flew into the country infected with the virus last month.

Sawyer passed Ebola on to 11 other individuals before he died. The two new infections plus Sawyer bring the total number of Ebola patients in Nigeria during this outbreak to 14, five of whom have died while another five have recovered.

[AP]

TIME Infectious Disease

Nigeria Confirms 2 New Ebola Cases

ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) — Nigerian Health Minister Onyebuchi Chukwu says the country has confirmed two new Ebola cases, the first two to have spread beyond those who had direct contact with the ill traveler from Liberia who brought the disease to Nigeria.

Chukwu said Friday in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, that the two new cases are spouses of patients who had direct contact with Liberian-American Patrick Sawyer, who flew into the country last month with the virus and infected 11 others before he died. The two are spouses of caregivers who treated Sawyer, both of whom later died.

These two new cases bring the total number of confirmed infections in Nigeria, including the traveler, to 14. Chukwu says five patients have died, five have recovered and four are being treated in Lagos.

TIME Infectious Disease

Liberia’s West Point Slum Reels From the Nightmare of Ebola

Residents of the West Point slum receive food aid during the second day of the government's Ebola quarantine on their neighborhood on August 21, 2014 in Monrovia, Liberia. John Moore—Getty

Food prices skyrocket overnight after the Monrovia slum is quarantined

A few weeks ago, West Point was merely the worst slum in war-racked Liberia. Today, it is both that and the most notorious urban center of the world’s worst Ebola outbreak.

It is also quarantined from the rest of the Liberian capital Monrovia, and its dank alleyways subject to a nightly curfew. Barricades and barbed wire have gone up, and troops posted. Ships started patrolling the waterfront on Wednesday to further restrict the movement of the 70,000 or so residents. Food prices have skyrocketed. On Thursday, hundreds of people lined up for government handouts of rice and water.

“At the moment West Point is stuck at a standstill and is in an anarchy situation,” Moses Browne of aid group Plan International told the Associated Press.

Over 1,400 people have died in the five-month Ebola outbreak, and Liberia is the country that has been worst hit. Almost a thousand people have been confirmed infected, and more than half of them have already died. Rural Lofa County is worst hit part of the country, but when it was found that Ebola had made its way into West Point, authorities became alarmed.

“There’s a higher risk of contagion for any infectious disease in an environment that is so crowded and that lacks running water and proper sanitation,” Kamalini Lokuge, a research fellow at Australian National University’s College of Medicine, Biology and Environment tells TIME.

With only four toilets, that environment would be West Point.

Adds Lokuge: “Ebola is nowhere as contagious as the flu, but you need to spread knowledge about how it is transmitted in order to control it.”

Over the past week, this has proven to be one of the gravest problems in West Point. On Saturday, a health center was looted and Ebola patients sent running, after a rumor spread that infected people were being brought in from other parts of the country. Others refused to believe the disease existed. “There is no Ebola,” some protesters attacking the clinic shouted.

“There is a high level of disbelief in the government in West Point,” Sanj Srikanthan, the International Rescue Committee’s emergency response director in Liberia, tells TIME. “The government has made a concerted effort to reach out to community leaders, youth groups and churches with the message that the only way to contain the disease is to understand it. But some people still believe Ebola is a conspiracy, and those people we need to reach.”

But even in West Point itself, conveying the gravity of the disease is a challenge. “There’s a degree of anger, people are feeling they are being neglected for others,” Srikanthan says. “This makes it harder to convince people of the seriousness of Ebola.”

Clashes erupted between West Point residents and police when the barricades were first raised and the 9 pm to 6 am curfew imposed, and the area is still tense.

On Thursday, senior United Nations officials arrived in Africa to oversee the Ebola response, including Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s pointman David Nabarro. Srikanthan, like other aid workers, believe the presence of dignitaries is of utmost importance .

“This is a forgotten corner of the world facing an unprecedented situation,” he said. “This is still a containable outbreak, but local resources are simply overwhelmed. It would be great to see some recognizable faces taking control over certain aspects of the response.”

He also believes that the situation is not entirely hopeless.

“The situation may be catastrophic, but it is one that can be turned around,” he says. “I think the risks have been overhyped, and that even humanitarians are, to an extent, affected by the fears reported by media. Being in Monrovia, you’re not necessarily going to get Ebola, it’s not airborne.”

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