TIME ebola

Why West Africa Might Soon Have 100,000 More Measles Cases

Now more than ever: Measles vaccinations have dramatically cut disease rates in Africa
Spencer Platt; Getty Images Now more than ever: Measles vaccinations have dramatically cut disease rates in Africa

One lethal epidemic could give rise to another

Correction appended, March 12

There’s not a war college in the world that couldn’t learn a thing or two from the way viruses operate. They’re stealthy, they’re territorial, they seek and destroy and know just where to hit. And, just when you think you’ve got them beat, they forge an alliance with another of your enemies. That, according to a new paper published Thursday in Science, is what’s poised to happen with Ebola and measles—and it’s the babies and children of Africa who will overwhelmingly pay the price.

The Ebola epidemic is by no means over, but it is being contained and controlled. With nearly 24,000 cases and more than 9,800 fatalities so far—mostly in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia—the epidemic is still claiming new victims, though more slowly. The crisis, however, has disrupted health-care delivery across the entire affected region, preventing children from receiving badly needed measles vaccines. That, the new study reports, could result in an additional 100,000 measles cases over the next 18 months, leading to an additional 2,000 to 16,000 deaths. Rates of vaccination against other diseases—particularly polio and tuberculosis—have fallen too. But measles’ ease of transmission makes it especially worrisome.

“When there’s a disruption of medical services, measles is always one of the first ones in the door,” says Justin Lessler, of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, a co-author of the paper. “The Ebola epidemic significantly increases the likelihood of a major measles outbreak occurring.”

Lessler and his co-authors arrived at their numbers painstakingly. First, they used health data to map and estimate the share of vaccinated and unvaccinated children in 5 km by 5 km (3.1 mi. by 3.1 mi.) squares across the three affected countries. They then estimated a 75% reduction in vaccination rates during the epidemic and projected forward by 6, 12 and 18 months. They factored in the transmissability of the virus within each region and estimated the likely number of deaths using what’s known as a Case Fatality Ratio—a mathematical tool that, as its name suggests, estimates lethality for any particular disease under any particular set of circumstances.

The final numbers—especially the potential 16,000 deaths—rightly alarmed the researchers, though lessler does admit that they are by no means a certainty. “The 75% decrease in vaccinations is a little too pessimistic,” he concedes. But the critical word in that admission is “little,” and the investigators did consider 25%, 50% and 100% rates too, before settling on 75% as at least the most plausible. No matter what, the odds are still high of a five figure death rate and a five to six figure additional case rate—and the Ebola epidemic, which led to the problem in the first place, has not even fully abated.

Lessler and his colleagues are not waiting until it does to sound the alarm, urging global health groups to mobilize a vaccination campaign now so it can be ready to launch in the affected areas the moment the Ebola all-clear sounds. The new push would first target children who were born during the Ebola epidemic since they would have likely received almost no medical attention at all up until that point, and then expand to all children in the most measles-susceptible age group—about 6 months to 5 years.

“The best time to start the campaign would be as soon as it’s logistically feasible,” says Lessler. “For every month no campaign begins, the risk of an outbreak occurring and the impact of such an outbreak worsens.”

The happy news, Lessler believes, is that done right, the campaign could not only prevent the measles epidemic from beginning, but could actually put West Africa in a better position than it was before Ebola, with vaccine coverage for measles and other diseases exceeding the pre-outbreak rates. “Previous campaigns have reached coverage in excess of 90%,” he says.

Victory in the battle against Ebola—to say nothing of the battle against measles—is by no means yet assured. But, again as the war colleges would teach, with the right cooperation and the right deployment, the good guys can win.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. He is Justin Lessler.

TIME Cancer

66% of People Diagnosed with Cancer Survive At Least 5 Years

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Two out of three people with invasive cancer survive five years or more

Two out of three Americans with invasive cancer—the kind that has spread to nearby healthy tissue—are living five years or more after diagnosis, according to a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Data has shown that early detection and innovation in cancer treatment have increased the number of cancer survivors over the last several years, and the new report, published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, shows that even patients with invasive cancer have encouraging survival rates.

To reach these numbers, CDC researchers looked at the number of cancer cases reported to U.S. cancer registries in 2011, the year of the most recently available data. That year saw 1,532,066 invasive cancer cases, or 451 cases per 100,000 people.

The CDC reports that the most common cancer sites were prostate, breast, lung, and colon and rectum. The five-year survival rates for those cancers came out to 97% for prostate cancer, 88% for breast cancer, 63% for colorectal cancer and 18% for lung cancer. While the rates were relatively even among men and women, racial disparities existed; 65% of white people had a five-year relative survival rate, and 60% of black people had the same.

In the report, the researchers say they hope public health experts use the data to determine what groups of people have higher rates of cancer and lower rates of survival. These groups may benefit most from cancer control efforts. “Using these data to effectively develop comprehensive cancer control programs, including supporting the needs of cancer survivors, can help reduce cancer incidence and improve survival,” the authors write.

TIME memory

Scientists May Be Able to Turn Your Bad Memories Into Good Ones

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So far it only works for mice

Scientists have found a way to create happy memories in the brains of sleeping mice, raising hopes of similar treatment for people suffering from stress disorders.

Neuroscientists from the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) and ESPCI ParisTech recently conducted an experiment where they placed electrodes in the brains of sleeping mice who had navigated a maze earlier in the day. As the mice consolidated the maze information into memory, the scientists activated the reward center of their brains to create a positive association with certain areas on the map. The next morning, the mice ran straight for those places.

“The learning we induced during sleep was just to change the emotional value of the different locations of the environments,” Dr. Karim Benchenane, a neuroscientist at CNRS and one of the study’s authors, told The Huffington Post. “Indeed, during waking hours, all the locations were neutral. What we made them learn during sleep is that a particular location is now associated to a reward.”

This breakthrough could potentially do much more for humans than tricking us to expect food when we walk into our living room. If scientists can associate different emotions with memories, that could help treat people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. But it may be a while before the treatment can safely be used on humans.

TIME neuroscience

Teen Pot Smokers Have More Memory Damage, Study Says

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Chronic pot smoking may alter the shape of a region in the brain involved in memories

Smoking marijuana as a teenager can harm long-term memory, a new study suggests.

In the new research, published in the journal Hippocampus, researchers at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine looked at 97 people and found that those who smoked marijuana every day for about three years performed worse on long-term memory assessments. A region of their brain associated with long-term memory—the hippocampus—also looked abnormal in an MRI.

“We focused on the brains of young adults who were teenagers when they began abusing cannabis,” says study author Matthew J. Smith, an assistant professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “We were interested in evaluating whether former cannabis abusers were characterized by differences in brain anatomy and memory performance after a period of abstinence.”

The researchers found that young adults in their 20s who were heavy marijuana smokers in their teenage years scored 18% worse on long-term memory tests that assessed their ability to code, file and recall memories, compared to young adults who had never smoked marijuana. The longer the person’s history of marijuana use, the more the shape of their hippocampus looked altered.

“The generalization we can make is that the greater the differences in the hippocampus shape associated with cannabis, the poorer the participants performed on the memory assessment,” says Smith.

The researchers also looked specifically at marijuana smokers with schizophrenia and found that they scored about 26% worse than the people with the disorder who did not smoke marijuana when they were younger.

According to Smith, components in marijuana can interfere with receptors in the brain that can impair brain chemistry and possibly impact the brain structure. This change, he says, could be what’s causing memory issues.

The study is still preliminary, since its sample size is small and the researchers only looked at one point in time. The hippocampus could also have changed before a young person started heavily using marijuana, the study authors acknowledge, which could make them more susceptible to the memory-related effects. Still, Smith says, the study suggests that smoking as a teen may not be benign for the developing brain.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

Should I Drink Red Wine?

5/5 say yes.

Cheers to your health! All five of our experts give red wine a purple-stained smile.

At 125 calories for a five-ounce pour, it’s a lighter choice than beer and mixed drinks, says Julia Zumpano, a dietitian at Cleveland Clinic’s Heart & Vascular Institute. And yes, it’s got more antioxidants, too—including resveratrol, that famous compound billed as the miracle in chocolate and vino.

But recent research has given resveratrol the side eye as the reason for wine’s healthy glow. The aptly-named inCHIANTI study, a 16-year-long look at the blood, urine and dietary questionnaires of hundreds of people living in the Italian wine-making region of Chianti, recently found that resveratrol wasn’t associated with disease or lifespan, to the shock and dismay of wine lovers everywhere. But that doesn’t mean red wine does nothing for you—just that resveratrol might not be compound that deserves all the credit. “Many studies have shown that moderate alcohol consumption, especially wine, is associated with lower cardiovascular disease and mortality compared with both no alcohol consumption or consumption above moderate,” says Luigi Ferrucci, founder of the inCHIANTI study and now scientific director of the National Institute on Aging. “The mechanism of this association is not clear, and does not appear to be related to resveratrol.”

And even if it does have a positive effect, some experts say there’s likely not enough in a glass to make a difference. “Despite the common belief, resveratrol content in wine is very low, highly variable and thus unpredictable,” says Juan Carlos Espín, a research professor in the department of food science and technology at the Spanish National Research Council who studies the compound. Red wine’s wide spectrum of polyphenols is the more important part, and you’ll probably have to commit to the habit (moderately!) to get lasting health benefits, he says.

What we do know, says David Katz, MD, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center, is that drinking habitually but moderately prevails in the Mediterranean diet. “So whatever the mechanisms, moderate alcohol intake—perhaps red wine especially—is associated with health and long life,” Katz says.

Light drinking in general—up to a drink a day for women, and two for men—is known to be good for you, says James O’Keefe, MD, chief of preventive cardiology at Mid America Heart Institute in Kansas City. It’s associated with lower risk for coronary artery disease, diabetes, congestive heart failure and stroke. And all of our experts agreed that red wine takes the ribbon. “Red wine is clearly the drink of choice if you are doing light to moderate drinking for your health, and daily consumption just before or with the evening meal may be the most protective pattern,” O’Keefe says.

In fact, O’Keefe says his grandma Dorothy used to enjoy a happy hour drink every night, and she lived to be 103. “She used to joke, ‘The key to a long healthy life is to not drink too much…but then again, don’t drink too little either.’”

Illustration by Lon Tweeten for TIME

Read next: Should I Eat Pizza?

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TIME Diet/Nutrition

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TIME Diet/Nutrition

11 Superfoods That Work Better Together

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These health-boosting food pairings make nutritious foods even better for you

Peanut butter and jelly. Soup and salad. Spaghetti and meatballs. There are a few classic pairings that will never go out of style. But some food duos do more than just excite your taste buds—they could even boost your health. It’s a concept called “food synergy.” While eating a variety of nutrient-rich foods is key for helping your body stay healthy, the idea is that some foods can interact in ways to provide even more value. So stick to eating your favorite superfoods, but know that serving these 11 combos could pack a more powerful punch of nutrition.

Black beans + red bell pepper

Black beans are a good source of iron. Thing is, the iron in plant foods, known as non-heme iron, isn’t as readily absorbed as the iron you’ll find in meat. “Just 2% to 20% of the iron in plant foods makes its way from your digestive tract into your blood, compared to 15% to 35% from heme animal-based iron,” says Cynthia Sass, RD, MPH, Health‘s contributing nutrition editor and author of Slim Down Now: Shed Pounds and Inches with Real Food, Real Fast ($27; amazon.com). That’s where vitamin C-rich foods, like red bell pepper, come in. They can increase the absorption of non-heme iron by six times, Sass says. Her go-to dish: black bean tacos topped with sautéed red bell peppers.

Whole grains + onions + garlic

Like beans, the iron and zinc you find in whole grains have low bioavailability, meaning they get metabolized faster than your body can absorb them. “Whole grains contain natural substances that may bind with minerals, which make them less absorbable,” Sass says. But research shows that sulfur-rich foods, such as garlic and onion, could make whole grains even more nutritious. A 2010 study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that the addition of garlic and onion to cooked or raw food grains enhanced the accessibility of iron and zinc in both cases. Pair the two by baking onions or garlic right into bread, Sass says, or try adding a generous serving of onions to your sandwich.

Read more: 12 Foods With More Vitamin C Than an Orange

Tomatoes + olive oil

You already know that olive oil is a heart-healthy fat shown to boost “good” HDL cholesterol and lower “bad” LDL cholesterol that can clog your arteries. When paired with tomatoes, though, it has even more superpowers. A 2000 study in Free Radical Biology and Medicine had people consume tomato products with extra-virgin olive oil or sunflower oil. Researchers found that olive oil raised the antioxidant activity of the lycopene in tomatoes, while no effect was seen with the sunflower oil. “There are numerous delicious combinations, including bruschetta, roasted red pepper pesto, or simply sautéing tomatoes in olive oil with garlic and herbs to toss with lean protein and a small portion of whole grain pasta,” Sass says.

Salmon + collard greens

To get the most out of your calcium intake, consuming enough vitamin D is key. “Vitamin D helps absorb calcium from the GI tract into the blood and helps maintain a normal calcium level in the blood,” Sass says. The National Institutes of Health recommends adult women get 600 IU of vitamin D daily. Bare skin exposed to sunlight triggers vitamin D production in your body, but you can also get it by eating certain foods, including salmon. Sass suggests grilling the fish over a bed of sautéed collard greens, which just happen to be rich in bone-boosting calcium.

Broccoli + tomatoes

When combined, these two appear to have some impressive cancer-fighting powers. In a 2007 study for Cancer Research, over five months rats were fed varying diets of either broccoli, tomatoes, or both foods. Researchers then tested how effective the different diet combinations were in slowing down the growth of prostate tumor implants. They found that diets containing 10% tomato and 10% broccoli caused a 52% decrease in tumor weights, whereas the diet with just tomatoes saw a 34% decrease and the diet with just broccoli had a 42% decrease. “You could toss steamed broccoli with sundried tomato pesto,” Sass suggests. “Or sauté the florets and tomatoes in olive oil with seasoning.”

Read more: Best Superfoods for Weight Loss

Green tea + black pepper

Forget adding honey to green tea. Research shows you may be better off sprinkling in some black pepper. Green tea already has a special antioxidant called EGCG, which is thought to boost metabolism and protect against cancer. But the key chemical in black pepper, known as piperine, could make EGCG work even more efficiently. In a 2004 study for the Journal of Nutrition, researchers injected mice with either a combination of EGCG and piperine or EGCG alone. They found that piperine increased the absorption of EGCG, so it wasn’t broken down as quickly in the blood stream. Don’t want your tea to have a spicy kick? Use the pair to soak meat or seafood. “Brewed tea with garlic, ginger, and black pepper makes a perfect marinade,” Sass says.

Turmeric + black pepper

The piperine in black pepper works with more than one food. You may have heard turmeric called the healing spice. That’s because it packs a powerful antioxidant, curcumin, which has anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and antibacterial agents, says Melissa Rifkin, RD, a bariatric dietitian at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City. Thing is, curcumin gets metabolized quickly before it can be fully absorbed. “If you pair the turmeric with the piperine, it improves the bioavailability of curcumin by 1000 times,” Rifkin says. Her ideal food pairing: Prepare a chicken dish that’s made with turmeric and add a little black pepper.

Brussels sprouts + olive oil

These mini-cabbages pack several key nutrients, including vitamin K. “It regulates blood clotting in our bodies and it also may be helpful for bone health,” says Keri Gans, RD, author of The Small Change Diet: 10 Steps to a Thinner and Healthier You($8; amazon.com). Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin, meaning it’s best absorbed in a meal that contains fat. That’s where the olive oil comes in. It mostly contains monounsaturated fats, which are thought to help lower your risk of heart disease. Prep these two by lightly sautéing the veggies in olive oil, Gans says. You’ll boost your intake of vitamin K and keep your heart happy too.

Read more: Superfoods That Fight Colds

Kale + almonds

Another veggie chockfull of vitamin K is kale, but the superfood is also a good source of vitamin E, an antioxidant that boosts our immune systems and protects against cancer and heart disease. “Some research suggests it could also be good for healthy skin,” Gans says. But like vitamin K, vitamin E is fat-soluble, so you’ll need a nutritious source of fat to increase its absorption. Almonds make a good partner for the veggie as the nut is full of monounsaturated fat. And pairing the two couldn’t be easier. Gans suggests topping a kale salad with slivered almonds. Bonus: “Almonds have both vitamin E and are a healthy fat, so it’s a win-win,” Gans says.

Dark chocolate + apples

This pairing won’t just satisfy your sweet tooth. Together, dark chocolate and apples have the potential to improve cardiovascular health, Rifkin says. In their skins, apples—red delicious especially—contain the flavonoid quercetin, which acts like an anti-inflammatory. On the other hand, the cocoa in dark chocolate is rich in catechins, an antioxidant that helps prevent the hardening of arteries, Rifkin says. “When paired, they have been shown to help break up blood clots,” Rifkin says. Even more reason to start dipping your apple slices in a little chocolate goodness. Just remember: the dark kind has six times more catechins than milk chocolate, Rifkin says.

Garlic + salmon

Garlic is one way to make your fish more flavorful. Together, the two foods may also work to decrease your risk of heart disease. A 1997 study in the American Journal of Nutrition tested the effects of the pair on men with high cholesterol. In the groups who consumed 900 milligrams of garlic and 12 grams of fish oil, total cholesterol levels and LDL levels decreased by 12.2% and 9.5% respectively. That’s great news since too much cholesterol can clog up your blood vessels and impair blood flow. It’s possible combining both garlic and salmon in a meal may offer similar benefits. Next time, try cooking up your fish with a little garlic, Rifkin suggests.

Read more: 5 Natural Appetite Suppressants That Really Work

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

Read next: 4 Superfoods You Might Be Overeating

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TIME neuroscience

A Drug Has Been Found That Reverses a Precursor to Alzheimer’s

Researchers now want to proceed to substantial clinical trials

Researchers at John Hopkins University have found that low doses of a drug more commonly used to treat epilepsy can reverse a condition that increases the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

According to statements issued Wednesday, the epilepsy drug, called antiepileptic levetiracetam, calms hyperactivity in the brain — a well-documented symptom of people with amnestic mild cognitive impairment, which is a condition that heightens the possibility of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

The team, lead by neuroscientist Michela Gallagher, now wants to pursue substantial clinical trials.

“What we want to discover now, is whether treatment over a longer time will prevent further cognitive decline and delay or stop progression to Alzheimer’s dementia,” Gallagher said.

The researchers studied 84 people with an average age of 70. Participants received various doses of the drug, as well as a placebo, and the scientists used imaging technology to map brain activity.

TIME Infectious Disease

India’s Swine Flu Virus Is Becoming More Severe and Infectious, Study Says

The deadly virus has already infected more than 25,000 people across the South Asian nation

The swine flu outbreak in India that has already killed more than 1,400 people since December may be even more dangerous than previously thought, with a new study suggesting that the current strain of the disease’s parent H1N1 virus has mutated to become more virulent.

The study, conducted by two researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and reported in Science Daily, contradicts claims by Indian health authorities that the virus has not mutated since 2009 — when it claimed over 18,000 lives worldwide over the subsequent three years.

Researchers Ram Sasisekharan and Kannan Tharakaraman compared the two influenza strains currently affecting the Indian population with the 2009 strain of H1N1 using their respective genetic sequences. They found mutations in the Indian strains in a protein called hemagglutinin, which binds with receptors on the human body’s respiratory cells. One of the mutations is linked to increased severity of the disease, while another enhances its infectiousness.

“The point we’re trying to make is that there is a real need for aggressive surveillance to ensure that the anxiety and hysteria are brought down and people are able to focus on what they really need to worry about,” said Sasisekharan.

Swine flu has been on the rise in India since December, having already infected more than 25,000 people.

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