TIME Mental Health/Psychology

This Is the Equation for Happiness

Researchers accurately predict people's happiness

Researchers at University College London were able to create an equation that could accurately predict the happiness of over 18,000 people, according to a new study.

First, the researchers had 26 participants complete decisionmaking tasks in which their choices either led to monetary gains or losses. The researchers used fMRI imaging to measure their brain activity, and asked them repeatedly, “How happy are you now?” Based on the data the researchers gathered from the first experiment, they created a model that linked self-reported happiness to recent rewards and expectations.

Here’s what the equation looks like:

Robb Rutledge, UCL

Then, in their study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers tested their model by having 18,420 people play a smartphone game called The Great Brain Experiment for points. They found that their equation was also accurate at predicting the gamers’ happiness.

The researchers were not surprised by how much rewards influenced happiness, but they were surprised by how much expectations could. The researchers say their findings do support the theory that if you have low expectations, you can never be disappointed, but they also found that the positive expectations you have for something—like going to your favorite restaurant with a friend—is a large part of what develops your happiness.

The fact that the researchers could accurately predict happiness was notable, but the implications are even better. Having a predictable standard for how people respond to moment-to-moment gains and losses could actually make mood disorders easier to understand by learning how someone with a mood disorder differs in their reactions to events.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

The Vessyl Cup Can Tell Exactly How Many Calories Are In Your Drink

The latest product out of Silicon Valley is mind-blowing, but do we really need it?

The Vessyl is the world’s first smart cup, a product that can tell you exactly what you’re drinking and what its nutrient content is in “real time” via an LED screen on its side. With the help of an iPhone app, the Vessyl also aggregates data about your beverage-ingesting habits and can tell you how much you need to drink to be hydrated—or how many calories you’re drinking, or if you need more protein.

To the some 10,000 early adopters who have pre-ordered Vessyls since they went on sale in June, that might sound like the coolest new technology ever, a next step in an era when constant feedback is closing in on oxygen among things people simply can’t live without.

To others, including Stephen Colbert—or at least the newsman he plays on TV—this may sound like the most unnecessary $199 object money can buy, right after gadgets that tell us when we’re walking or drunk or tired, things that humans managed on their own for many centuries before this one.

Speaking about the Vessyl, the first product from company Mark One, CEO Justin Lee describes what most people would just call a cup as “a form factor that can live really well on tabletop,” one that can “activate the information that people desire.” But he is earnest when he says that the digital container his team spent seven years designing, spurred by grants from the Canadian government, will aid people in making healthier decisions—by helping them think more about the some 500 liquid calories they consume on average each day.

“When people track what they consume, the likelihood of achieving health goals is much higher,” he says.The problem right now though is that the current method of tracking things, whether that’s writing something down or typing it into an app, whatever that may be, it’s still too much friction.” And while many drinks come with handy nutritional information right there on the side of the can, plenty don’t, whether it’s a Coke at a movie theater or a coffee at the office or gin and tonic you make at home.

There are other signs around the company’s San Francisco headquarters signaling that this venture could be something serious. Upstairs is a computer with a picture of Michael Jordan on the desktop, the new workstation of top Nike designer Jason Mayden, who is now taking charge of the company’s brand. “We help people unlock what they eat,” Mayden says, “and help them make meaningful decisions from there.” The company has lured a veteran Apple engineer onto their team, as well as Mark Berman, a lifestyle medicine specialist who worked on childhood obesity at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Watching the Vessyl prototype work is something like the feeling of a magician guessing your card—multiplied by Arthur C. Clarke. Sensors built into the svelte container analyze potables at a molecular level. If the Vessyl programmers have added a particular drink to their database and given it a name, the cup will send a signal via Bluetooth to the app, which will display the results at a hyper-specific level; the cup knows not just that you’re about to drink wine but that it’s Barefoot Pinot Grigio. If the drink isn’t in the database, the app will label it as a “Mix,” but can still give you a precise analysis of the calories, sugar, caffeine, protein, sodium and vitamins that are in whatever liquid the Vessyl currently holds.

The Vessyl might also be able to tell users if anything they’re drinking contains contaminants, or even simple things like whether milk has gone bad, though Lee says they’re focused on supplying nutrient content for now. That’s because the obesity “pandemic,” as Berman calls it, is a main driver of their current work. “The classic thinking has been, Well, if you just tell people what to eat and educate them, that’s the end of the story,” he says. “What we’ve found from trying to do that for decades is that while that’s really important, it’s not enough … Showing people how it adds up, we think, will be very powerful and will drive behavior change.”

Here’s everything else you ever wanted to know about this new contraption:

Who came up with this idea?

Justin Lee, a 29-year-old Canadian, thought of the idea while studying biomedical computing at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. He co-founded the company Mark One, which now employees about 15 people, in Canada and San Francisco. Vessyl is the company’s first product.

Why did it take seven years to design it?

Lee says the company went through dozens to a hundred iterations, depending how you count them, changing the size, shape and aesthetics in pursuit of a product that would feel natural in both home and office environments. Of course, there was also the challenge of fitting the processor, battery and sensors into the thin wall of the cup. And Berman says people need to like the way it looks. “We can’t give people tools that are ugly and expect them to use them,” he says.

Where did the name come from?

Lee says this name speaks to the fundamental function of all our glasses, tumblers, mugs and water bottles—all containers this is meant to replace.

How does it work?

Lee says they developed their sensor by adapting technology that’s been used in the food industry for some time—something like what a peanut butter-maker might employ to make sure all their product is consistent and high quality, for instance. The sensor is essentially the entire interior of the cup. All you have to do is pour a drink in and the Vessyl automatically analyzes its nutritional content, displaying calories on the container itself and more detailed information through the app.

Why would people need this?

The makers of Vessyl are positioning their product as a health monitoring tool, something that can help you lose weight or make sure you’re getting enough protein when you’re trying to bulk up. A pregnant woman might use it to monitor her caffeine levels. And early-adopter types might just think it’s nifty.

But can’t you just look at those nutritional labels on the sides of things like cans of soda?

Here is Lee’s take on that question: “Nutritional labels are important and they can provide really good information regarding that thing you’re consuming right then and there. What they don’t do so well is remember the things you’ve already consumed.” Vessyl keeps daily totals of your liquid calorie intake, which reset every 24 hours, and suggests amounts you should drink to stay hydrated, factoring in the type of liquid you’ve been sipping. If you drank a lot of alcohol on Monday, for instance, the Vessyl would recommend higher levels of water on Tuesday, Berman says.

Do they expect people to put everything they drink into this, like asking bartenders to pour cocktails into it?

Lee says that they know people are less likely to use a Vessyl in a bar and that they designed something meant to work at home and at the office—where people spend most of their time. If you don’t have your Vessyl, you can still manually enter beverages into the app, which will add an estimated amount of nutrients to your daily total. “We’re realistic about the initial uses,” Lee says.

How many drinks has Vessyl programmed into the system?

Lee won’t give an exact amount but says they’ve worked through popular brands and are now looking for “outliers.” When TIME spoke to him in late July, the company had just added beet juice and a lemon ginger probiotic beverage. And they’re working on wine. Would Vessyl spend $1,000 on a certain bottle just to put it in the system? “Probably,” Lee says.

So what happens if a drink isn’t in the system?

Lee is unclear about what the Vessyl would do if you poured, say, motor oil into it. But for most potables, the container can analyze the nutrients (giving a total for calories, protein, etc.) even if the program doesn’t know the specific name of the beverage.

How much does it cost?

During pre-ordering season, Vessyls are going for $99. They’ll cost $199 once they actually start shipping in early 2015. Since going on sale in June, the company has had more than 10,000 pre-orders from 75 countries. The top cities for orders, respectively, are New York, San Francisco and London.

How much venture capital money has the company raised?

Right now, they’re not saying. Lee will only say they’ve raised a seed round with multiple investors.

Is this a first generation of the product?

Lee says probably. As more drinks are added to their system, the company can send out updates to products already out there—like Apple sends out software updates for iPhones. Future generations might identify contaminants, mixes of various liquids (like orange juice and mango juice) or be dishwasher safe (this version must be hand-washed). “We’re going to continue making it smarter and smarter,” Lee says.

How is it powered?

The cup comes with what they call a “saucer,” or charging station. A one-hour charge will on average last for five to seven days, assuming a person is drinking five to seven different liquids out of it each day.

Is Mark One working on other products?

Lee hints that the company may soon be trying to do the same thing for solid food. “The focus of the company is automatic nutrient tracking, tracking all the things we can consume so people can make healthier choices. Vessyl is our first product. But we do consume things outside of beverages,” he says. “There’s definitely more to come.”

Do you purely get information or does the cup make judgment calls, like ‘You should stop drinking so much coffee’?

This is a smart cup, not a bossy cup, Lee says. Users will be able to choose the amount of notifications they receive. The Vessyl is meant to provide insights, not “tsk, tsk” owners.

If it’s true that people need a gadget like this to make healthier decisions, is it sad that we’ve come to that point?

Berman says that experts have tried and tried to educate people out of unhealthy consumption and have come to the conclusion that education is just not enough. His take is that the information a product like Vessyl makes accessible is really fighting back against the barrage of companies who market food not for health benefits, but for profits.

What does the existence of the Vessyl say about where we are now?

“We want to be delighted in our everyday lives when it comes to everything that we use or touch,” Lee says. “What we’re seeing is evolution in objects.”

TIME infectious diseases

Ebola Diagnosis ‘Unlikely’ in New York Patient

New York Health Department officials said the patient had none of the known risk factors for Ebola

Updated 7:30 p.m. ET

A man who arrived at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City on Monday with a high fever and stomach problems is unlikely to be suffering from the Ebola virus, the New York Health Department said.

The patient had been visiting a West African country where Ebola cases have been reported, but department officials said the patient had none of the known risk factors for Ebola.

“After consultation with CDC and Mount Sinai, the Health Department has concluded that the patient is unlikely to have Ebola. Specimens are being tested for common causes of illness and to definitively exclude Ebola,” it said in a statement.

At a press conference Monday, hospital representatives said they believed the patient was suffering from a more common condition than Ebola and hoped to have a specific diagnosis within the next 48 hours.

Africa is in the midst of the worst Ebola outbreak in history, with over 1,600 reported cases and over 887 deaths in Nigeria, Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.

Dr. David Reich, president and chief operating officer at Mount Sinai, told TIME that because of the recent Ebola news last week, over this past weekend, the hospital had reviewed and prepared for what it would do if it received a patient with Ebola, including immediate isolation and strict infection-control procedures. “We are very pleased our staff reacted immediately based on their initial screening,” says Reich.

The hospital reported that the patient was being kept in isolation to prevent the spread of the deadly virus, and being tested to confirm whether his symptoms are from Ebola.

“All necessary steps are being taken to ensure the safety of all patients, visitors and staff,” Mount Sinai said in a statement.

When it comes to infectious diseases, Reich says the hospital is well equipped, and experienced. “In terms of contagious disease, the measles is in many ways much more contagious than this,” he says.

Outside the hospital, doctors feel similarly confident in Mount Sinai’s abilities. “If that’s the true diagnosis, I hope the patient does well because it’s a devastating disease,” said Dr. Gustavo Fernandez-Ranvier, a metabolic surgeon at Mount Sinai. “But I’m not worried. People weren’t talking about it at all. There’s risk every day, and this is a great hospital.”

The patient was put in isolation within seven minutes of entering the hospital. Staff members asked all incoming patients about their symptoms and travel histories as a part of the hospital’s plan for a possible Ebola patient.

“Any advanced hospital in the U.S., any hospital with an intensive-care unit has the capacity to isolate patients,” CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden told reporters late last week.

Because Ebola is not airborne and instead spreads through direct contact with bodily fluids like blood and saliva, the CDC has long assured Americans that even if there were to be a patient with Ebola in the U.S. (besides the two Americans with Ebola evacuated from West Africa), the risk for the disease spreading is minimal.

“We are confident that we will not have significant spread of Ebola, even if we were to have a patient with Ebola here,” Frieden said. “We work actively to educate American health care workers on how to isolate patients and how to protect themselves against infection.”

Unlike many health care workers in Western Africa, health care workers in U.S. hospitals have the resources to keep themselves adequately protected while treating patients.

TIME Aging

Eating Fish Makes Your Brain Healthier, Study Says

A customer eats bonito and horse mackerel sashimi (raw fish) at a high-end sushi restaurant in Tokyo on July 16, 2013.
A customer eats bonito and horse mackerel sashimi (raw fish) at a high-end sushi restaurant in Tokyo on July 16, 2013. Yoshikazu Tsuno—AFP/Getty Images

A helping of fish every week goes a long way

Eating fish is linked to more gray matter in the part of the brain that controls memory, according to a new study.

As the number of people suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s continues to grow, identifying lifestyle modifications that benefit the brain is a popular area of research. In the study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, researchers looked at 260 people who reported their diets and underwent MRI scans, and discovered that those who ate baked or broiled fish weekly had more gray matter in their brains, which could mean better memory (sorry, fried fish sticks don’t count).

Interestingly, the researchers actually did not find an association between how the brains looked and the levels of omega-3 fatty acids in the participants’ blood. Prior studies have found that omega-3 fatty acids, commonly found in foods like fish and nuts prevent brain decline, but more recent research is questioning their effect, since omega-3 supplements do not always have an effect on memory loss. The researchers concluded there are likely other perks from eating fish besides their omega-3s.

The findings, like many others before this study, show that lifestyle behaviors really do matter when it comes to memory and overall health.

TIME Environment

Toledo’s Contaminated Water: Here’s What Went Wrong

The contamination came from algae toxins—and it's not likely to be an isolated incident

On Monday, the Toledo, Ohio, Mayor D. Michael Collins lifted the municipal ban on drinking water. The ban had left thousands of Toledo and Michigan residents without drinking water, which was contaminated by a toxin produced by an algae bloom in Lake Erie. If consumed, the toxin could cause symptoms like diarrhea and vomiting. Residents were told not to drink the water, use it to brush their teeth, or—most confounding of all—boil it.

We talked to two experts at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as well as Craig Cox, the senior vice president of agriculture and natural resources at the Environmental Working Group (EWG) to explain everything you should know about the contamination.

What is an algae bloom, and why is it toxic?

An algae bloom is a heavy concentration of cyanobacteria, commonly known as blue-green algae. It looks like a huge mat, turns the bay around Toledo bright green, and produces a neurotoxin called microcystin, which makes people sick.

How does an algae bloom form?

There are a few reasons algae blooms form, but it’s primarily caused by runoff from farm fertilizers. In Toledo’s case, the phosphorus and nitrogen from these fertilizers runs into the Maumee River, which drains right into the Maumee Bay of Lake Erie, where Toledo is located. This spurs the growth of the blooms. The summer heat has likely also played a role in this particular algae bloom’s growth.

Is this a growing problem in water?

Yes. The EPA says there is not a federal standard for blue-green algae in water, but experts say it is in the process of considering one. Farm runoff is not very regulated, so the expectation, according to Cox, is that this kind of water contamination could happen again and again. About 2o or so years ago the U.S. took action to prevent the amount of runoff draining into the lake, and things were looking up. But now, environmentalists are worried we’ve backtracked.

How did the algae get into the drinking water?

The water intake for Toledo’s water supply is located right in the middle of the Maumee Bay where the algae bloom moved to. The water intake brought in both the blue-green algae and the toxins it produces.

Aren’t there purification systems that prevent that?

Yes, but they don’t necessarily address the blue-green algae toxins. The algae bloom moved very close to the water intake system, and the water treatment system experienced much higher levels than they had previously. It put a lot of pressure on the system. The conventional treatment plan the city of Toledo has is a multi-step procedure that removes dangerous pathogens and decontaminates the water in a variety of ways. To directly address the blue-algae toxins, it is using activated carbon to absorb and remove the toxins.

How did the contamination go away in just a couple days?

The EPA worked with Toledo over the weekend to sample the water at both the supply system and the drinking water system, and a couple of things happened. First, the algae bloom moved away from the water intake system, which could have been due to the wind. The second is that Toledo enhanced its treatment system with the aforementioned carbon to specifically address the blue-algae and its toxins.

I thought boiling water decontaminates it. Why couldn’t the residents boil their water?

Boiling water kills things like bacterial organisms, but it does not get rid of blue-algae toxins. Instead, boiling water decreases the volume of the water, and therefore increases the concentration of the toxins, making it worse.

What can be done?

Creating buffers, like plants and trees that stand between farms and the water, may help catch fertilizer chemicals before they get into water ways, spurring algae growth. Farmers could also, theoretically, use less fertilizer, though there are no regulations in place as of now.

TIME health

Contagion Screenwriter: Ebola Isn’t the Pandemic. Fear Is

LIBERIA-US-HEALTH-DISEASE-EPIDEMIC-EBOLA
A 10-year-old boy walks with a doctor from Christian charity Samaritan's Purse after being taken out of quarantine and receiving treatment following his mother's death caused by the Ebola virus at the ELWA Hospital in the Liberian capital, Monrovia, on July 24, 2014 Zoom Dosso—AFP/Getty Images

What we should really be afraid of: our inability to assess risk

There is an animal somewhere in Africa — most likely a bat — that has worked out an arrangement with a microscopic agent. The deal is this: the agent won’t kill the bat if the bat will transport it to other warm-blooded animals and give it a chance do its gruesome work. All the bat had to do to enter this arrangement was build up a resistance to the agent over generations and become a good hiding place — and then continue about its business of being a bat.

Long before they provided cover for vampires, bats were reservoirs for viruses.

We identified such an agent in 1976 and named it Ebola for a nearby river. Unfortunately, we didn’t find it in a bat but as a virus in the blood of a dead man.

A virus that kills quickly does not take full advantage of the social behavior of humans and tends to burn itself out. That behavior includes the profound compassion of health care workers who are always among the secondary infections; funereal practices that bring the healthy in contact with the infected dead; and illiteracy, which keeps the local population from understanding what is afoot. The very lethality of Ebola — killing up to 90% of its victims — becomes a self-limiting proposition. It will never become a pandemic, according to public-health experts, unless we help it along.

And how would we do that?

Public health is a kind of math class we seem to fail year after year. Its most basic equation addresses the following question: for every infected person today, how many more infected people can we anticipate? The numerical answer to this question is called the R-nought of the disease. Smallpox has an R-nought of between 3 and 7, depending on population density. The Spanish flu of 1918 had an R-nought between 3 and 4 and killed an estimated 100 million people. Ebola has an R-nought of 1.5.

The people who are infected with Ebola develop a screenwriter’s list of symptoms: bleeding from the mouth, nail beds and eyes as their capillaries disintegrate inside them. Their brains, awash in the blood of hemorrhagic fever, become deranged. There is no vaccine and there is no cure approved for use.

It is a terrifying prospect.

And there is no more effective contagion than fear. Rest assured, it has an R-nought far greater than Ebola. To contract it you do not need to have contact with bodily fluids, only limited exposure to sensationalizing media or a water-cooler conversation embellished with misinformation. And fear has a tendency to shut down the parts of our brain we need most in these moments and leave us at the mercy of our most primitive urges.

There is an equation used in the security world that would help inoculate us against the paralysis and bad judgment symptomatic of fear. It goes like this: risk = threat x vulnerability x consequences. In the case of Ebola, the threat is isolated to West Africa. If you have not traveled to any of the countries involved, your level of threat is zero. Even if you have visited these countries, you would still need direct contact with a sick person or animal — or the American doctor or missionary being treated in isolation at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta. But they are isolated and being treated by people who understand the equation above. Furthermore, your vulnerability is next to nil given our relatively robust public-health system that protects us from such an outbreak and, given the advanced medicine that exists in the U.S., even the consequences of such an infection are much lower.

Contrast this with places like Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. The threat is clear and present, and there couldn’t be a more vulnerable population. These are countries struggling to emerge from years of civil war and violence, poor places with little to spend on public health. Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Laurie Garrett has pointed out that Liberia spends $18 per capita on public health, Sierra Leone spends $13 per capita and Guinea a mere $7 per capita on the health of their people. (By contrast Hawaii spends $155 per capita on public health.) In addition, their cultural practices and distrust of outside aid make the consequences that much more dire. The death toll from the current Ebola outbreak tops 800. Yet 1.5 million people will die of malaria this year without the proportional coverage to the threat it poses, many of them dying in the same cash-strapped hospitals treating the current victims of Ebola.

So what should we be afraid of?

On the heels of 9/11, five deadly cases of anthrax shut down the government. And yet when 200,000 died from last year’s influenza, less than 37% of the population opted for a flu shot. It is our inability to assess risk that should scare us into action. The threat of influenza is high: we are all vulnerable regardless of geography, and the consequences can be extreme. The notion that vaccines can cause autism has long been discredited, but many of us still suffer from this fear that prevents us from protecting ourselves, our children and our neighbors.

The monster we can see — the nuclear bomb, the fanatic with the suicide vest, the swirl of hurricane in the satellite photo — leads us to build shelters, change security policy or head for high ground. But the monster in the microscope seems to sneak up on us every time. There is, without a doubt, another bat in another tree harboring another agent. But maybe this bat is in Southeast Asia or South America or in another war-torn country that can’t provide medical care for its people. And there are migratory birds crisscrossing our borders and differing standards of health care that are consorting with livestock and bringing with them novel viruses that will play genetic roulette with our collective futures. These are the real risks. This is the math exam the future holds for us.

The author would like to thank Dr. Larry Brilliant, president of the Skoll Global Threats Fund, and Dr. Alex Garza, former assistant secretary and chief medical officer of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, for their guidance on this piece.

Burns is a screenwriter, director, producer and playwright. He wrote the screenplay for Contagion, directed by Steven Soderbergh, and produced the Academy Award–winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth.

TIME Cancer

The Kind of Cancer the Surgeon General Wants You To Care About

TIME speaks to the U.S. Surgeon General about his recent call to action over skin cancer

The vast majority of skin cancers can be prevented, and yet the numbers in the U.S. keep growing, especially among young people. Recently, Acting Surgeon General Dr. Boris D. Lushniak, himself a dermatologist, released a call to action on skin cancer. TIME Spoke to Dr. Lushniak about what it’s going to take for skin cancer rates to drop in the U.S.

TIME: Why do we need to be proactive about skin cancer now more than ever?

Dr. Lushniak: First of all, we see a lot of cancers decreasing in terms of their rates, but skin cancer is one of those that stands out. In the last 35 years we’ve seen a tripling of the number of cases of melanomas in this country, and it’s the most severe of the skin cancers. And yet, there’s this 200% increase. It really causes alarm, and it’s my view as the acting Surgeon General that it’s a public health crisis we need to react to. On top of that, we have 5.1 million people every year who are being treated for skin cancers in this country. There’s 63,000 cases of melanoma this year, of those, 9,000 people will die of melanoma. That’s one person every hour. The resulting economic impact is $8.1 billion. We know that most skin cancers are preventable, and that’s the reason for this call for action.

TIME: Why is skin cancer on the rise?

Dr. Lushniak: If 90% of all skin cancers are caused by ultraviolet radiation, I have to look at that exposure. That comes in two forms. One is exposure to sunlight and the other is artificial sources, which includes tanning booths. I enjoy the outdoors and spending time in nature. So I need people to do that for the good of their physical and mental health. But at the same time, I need to emphasize the fact that sunlight is a source of that ultraviolet radiation and there are ways people can protect themselves from that sunlight. At the same time, there’s a needless exposure that goes on, and that’s in the tanning booths. It’s a needless, non-necessary exposure, and part of our call to action is to bring in the spotlight the fact that tanning booths are a source of this known carcinogen.

TIME: Is there any cooperation from the indoor tanning industry?

Dr. Lushniak: It’s unclear. At this point we certainly want to have discussions to see what we can do for the betterment of public health. These machines are out there … and I am not sure what we can do at this point. In certain states, there are regulations to not allow people under the age of 18 to have that exposure. At the same time, I have to reach out to industry and make sure they are warning individuals over 18 about this exposure. So, it really is matter of: Do people know what they are being exposed to, and do they understand the health ramifications of that exposure?

TIME: Besides the medical community, what other stakeholders do you want action from?

Dr. Lushniak: When we put out a call to action, we really reach out to all the sectors of our society. We have a public health issues, and we want people to contribute their part to making things better. Examples include employers who have outdoor workers. What can they do to decrease the amount of UV exposure to their workers? It’s about the induction of shady areas, educating their workers and making sure they use protection. It’s hats, sunscreens. We also look at other groups like recreational facilities. I would love to see a continued expansion of shady areas at pools, I would love to see more shady areas at amusement parks as you’re standing in line for roller coasters. At schools, perhaps recess can be during a time of less ultraviolet radiation exposure. Policymakers at the state level can look at its role in regulating the tanning industry.

TIME: Are you a supporter of the Sunscreen Innovation Act? Do you think the FDA’s sunscreen ingredient approval process needs to be revamped?

Dr. Lushniak: Right now sunscreens are available and they have the necessary ingredients, and they have gone through a regulatory process that has proven they are safe for us and that they work. We are not in the midst of a shortage in this country. The ingredients are there and they work. But I am a 21st century guy and I would like to see new ingredients out there and I would love to see improvements of those ingredients.

TIME: How does the U.S. compare to other countries when it comes to skin cancer protection?

Dr. Lushniak: One country that really stands out is Australia. It really had an incredible increase in skin cancers. It was an outdoor-oriented community and because of its placement in terms of being in an area with ozone issues, there was a lot of ultraviolet exposure. They really got aggressive over a decade ago with pushing the idea of protection and getting in shade. We’ve seen incredible results in terms of decreases in skin cancers. They’re an example of where the numbers have propelled them to improve the situation. That’s where I’d love to be as a nation.

TIME: Any obstacles in our way of achieving that?

Dr. Lushniak: When I was a kid, I ran around on beaches and mom and dad did not put sunscreen on me, and I got burned. We are in a society now where people are cognizant of not burning. It’s not perfect, but people are sunbathing without burning. Where we have an issue is that we still live in a society where we thinking tanning is OK. And that it’s a sign of health and leisure. It’s a concept of social norms. We need to look at tanned skinned as damaged skin.

TIME: People are often more concerned about cancers like breast cancer. How does skin cancer stack up?

Dr. Lushniak: We are getting a lot more young people getting diagnosed with melanoma. So the concept of its impact is quite devastating. These are people at the primes of their lives getting diagnosed with this disease. This is a preventable cancer.

TIME: What should people look for in a good sunscreen?

Dr. Lushniak: We recommend broad spectrum, water resistant, that’s over the SPF 15. And this needs to re-applied on a regular basis, every one to two hours and perhaps even more often if you’re sweating or going into the water.

 

TIME Infectious Disease

Ebola Claims 887 Lives in Africa

CDC Ebola
The Ebola virus in an undated photo provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention CDC/AP

As total deaths from Ebola pass 800, Nigeria reports a doctor who treated their first victim now has the disease

Updated 1:34 p.m. ET

Nigeria reported its second victim of the deadly Ebola outbreak Monday, as the World Health Organization said the death toll from the virus in Africa increased to 887.

A doctor who treated a Liberian-American man who died of the Ebola virus in Nigeria was confirmed Monday to be infected with the disease, making it the second case in the most populous African country.

Nigeria’s Health Minister Onyebuchi Chukwu says there are test samples pending for another three people with symptoms of the disease who were part of the first man’s treatment, the Associated Press reports, and officials are trying to identify and isolate other people who may be at risk.

Emergence of the disease in Nigeria is cause for concern as the virus continues to spread. Health workers are at a particular risk for contracting the disease if they are not adequately protected, and it can take up to 21 days before symptoms of the infection begin to appear. There have been a total of 1,603 cases since the outbreak started in Guinea, the WHO said.

One American with the disease has been evacuated to the U.S. for treatment, and another infected American is due to arrive home Tuesday. For the basics on Ebola, check out the infographic below.

[AP]

Sources: WHO, CDC, Mayo Clinic
TIME Environment

Toledo Lifts Drinking Water Ban

Mayor D. Michael Collins says it's now safe to drink the water

Toledo, Ohio Mayor D. Michael Collins lifted a temporary ban on drinking water Monday, saying the city’s water supply is now safe to drink.

The ban, which began on Saturday, left thousands of residents of Toledo and surrounding areas without drinking water. Water tests showed a toxin, likely from an algae bloom, was contaminating a regional water supply from Lake Erie. Earlier on Monday, the Mayor had said the ban would remain in place. But he later raised a glass of the newly safe water in a toast to his city to prove that it was suitable to drink.

“Here’s to you, Toledo,” he said. “You did a great job.”

Bottled water was trucked in to the area while the ban was in effect, and the Ohio National Guard was purifying water for the residents, the Associated Press reports.

Officials had warned that drinking the contaminated water could cause symptoms like diarrhea and vomiting. Locals were told not to ingest it, use it to brush their teeth, or boil it. Ohio Gov. John Kasich had declared a state of emergency in response to the problem.

 

TIME Infectious Disease

We’re Getting Closer to Vaccines and Drugs for Ebola

Researchers have developed vaccines and treatments that show promise in fighting Ebola in animals, so is the outbreak a good opportunity to test them in people?

On Monday, National Institutes of Health immunologist Dr. Anthony Fauci told CBS This Morning that his research team is working on a vaccine to prevent Ebola, which is completely effective in monkeys, and will be tested in humans in September. And he’s not the only one developing a treatment for the deadly disease. The question is: Should experimental treatments be rushed into practice, given the breadth of this outbreak?

For the nearly 1,400 people who have been infected with Ebola, there isn’t much they can rely on to help them battle the vicious virus. Because the virus hones in on the liver and disrupts the formation of liver cells, which affect blood clotting, people eventually die from shock, when their blood pressure drops too low due to the build up of microscopic clots in the vessels. The only thing that can improve survival is intervening early with proper hydration and nutrition to keep the circulation strong.

But there are several promising interventions in the pipeline, all of which have been very effective in fending off the virus in monkeys, who experience the same symptoms and disease course as humans. Most of these vaccines and drugs, however, have not passed even the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) more lenient standards for therapies against exotic viruses like Ebola.

Should drugs get rushed to market?

Normally, companies must prove that a therapy or drug is safe and effective in people through rigorous clinical trials, but no trial would allow participants to ethically get infected with Ebola, given that it’s mortality rate ranges from 50% to 90%. So the FDA recently approved a different pathway for such products in which companies can first prove that the disease progresses similarly in an animal model as it does in people, and that the product is safe when tested in healthy people.

MORE: Picturing Ebola: Photographers Chase an Invisible Killer

Only one of the Ebola vaccines, which uses the cold virus as a vector to introduce the Ebola antigens, has reached the second stage, and public health officials are likely reluctant to introduce them widely in west Africa given their untested status and the fear and suspicion of western medicine that already makes the outbreak so difficult to contain.

“To bring a strictly experimental approach to this population – most people think that’s not a good idea, and not doable,” says Dr. Heinz Feldmann, chief of the laboratory of virology at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

In order to even consider using such unapproved drugs in the crisis, they have to be requested. So far, neither the governments of the west African countries affected, WHO, nor humanitarian groups like Doctors Without Borders have done so. If they did, then regulatory officials in the U.S. would discuss whether they could be provided on a “compassionate use” basis.

Testing the vaccine on a human

That happened in 2009, when a German researcher received the shot after accidentally pricking herself while working with Ebola in the lab. The immunization she got was developed in 2005 by Feldmann and his colleagues, including Thomas Geisbert, professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. The vaccine both protects against Ebola infection and treats those who are recently infected with the virus.

While it’s not clear whether the lab workers was actually infected – she got the shot 40 hours after the accident – she did not develop symptoms and did not show evidence of the virus in her blood.

“There’s just no financial incentive”

Feldmann says there are other strategies that look equally promising — but taking the next step of testing the products in people is proving more difficult, says Geisbert. “Globally, [Ebola] is not a huge problem in terms of infectious diseases in general. It’s devastating and sad for the people involved but it’s a small market for big pharmaceutical companies. There’s just not a financial incentive to develop a drug or vaccine.”

Unfortunately, it often takes outbreaks like the current one in west Africa, which is the largest in Ebola history (see Infographic: Ebola By the Numbers), to ignite interest in developing treatments. That, Feldmann notes, and the fear that a virus like Ebola could be used as a form of bioterrorism. “The fact is that biothreat countermeasure activities are what pushed multiple governments to do this work,” he says. Some of that investment may pay off in public health benefits, however, since a bioterror event is essentially an intentional and concentrated outbreak. Geisbert recently received a $26 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to study the three strategies, including in combination, to take the interventions to the next step.

And while an outbreak might seem like an ideal opportunity to test new treatments, it may actually be of little use, and may even do more harm than good. “My concern is that if you give the treatment to people in late stage disease, and if the person dies, then everybody is going to blame whatever was given,” says Geisbert. “If the person survives, you may never know if the product worked because it was somebody who was going to survive anyway, without the drug.”

Feldmann agrees. “People like me and others who have worked for years in vaccines and countermeasures are frustrated. But on the other hand, we don’t want to make a step that isn’t well thought through, and ruin the whole approach in the future.”

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