TIME ebola

Ebola: World Bank Chief Calls for Health Workers in West Africa

World Bank President Dr. Jim Kim speaks to reporters in Washington about Ebola on Oct. 24 Michael Bonfigli—The Christian Science Monitor

Says thousands needed to stop the spread of Ebola

The global health community needs “thousands” more health-care workers in West Africa to tame the Ebola virus epidemic that has so far killed nearly 5,000 people, the president of the World Bank told reporters Friday.

Dr. Jim Yong Kim, chief of the international financial institution, said a lack of trained medical personnel in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone is one of the main challenges hampering the international effort to control an outbreak that has ravaged three West African countries and risks spreading to its neighbors.

Kim said the global community has stepped up its response to Ebola, but conceded that the World Bank, like other international organizations, was late to recognize the severity of the epidemic. The spread of the virus in the three stricken nations at the heart of the epidemic has left healthcare workers in triage mode. As a result, they are often unable to use “the ideal techniques” for combating an epidemic, such as contact tracing—the process of identifying and isolating the contacts of infected patients.

“We are now on a war footing,” Kim said, “but it took us a long time to get there.”

Kim said that international organizations have ratcheted up levels of support to West Africa after a sluggish start, but said more must be done. “We’ve got to get beyond these sort of nihilists notions that nothing can be done,” he said. The World Bank has pumped $400 million into West Africa to fight Ebola.

Kim praised Dr. Craig Spencer, the physician who was diagnosed with Ebola Thursday night in New York City. Spencer contracted the virus while treating Ebola patients in Guinea as a volunteer for the international organization Doctors Without Borders, or Medicins Sans Frontieres.

“Dr. Spencer is a hero,” Kim said, urging more doctors to follow his lead and fight the epidemic at its source. He added that both the patient and city officials executed a textbook response to Spencer’s symptoms.

Kim said he hoped that the cases in Dallas and New York would help open the eyes of the world to a disease gutting large swaths of West Africa and prompt the global community to spring into action more quickly in the future. “I think this is a wakeup call,” he said, pausing slightly. “I hope this is a wakeup call.”

TIME Healthcare

Need Your Flu Shot? Just Call an Uber

Uber Taxi App In Madrid
In this photo illustration the new smart phone taxi app 'Uber' shows how to select a pick up location next to a taxi lane on October 14, 2014 in Madrid, Spain. Pablo Blazquez Dominguez—Getty Images

The one-day program is available in three U.S. cities

Uber on Thursday launched a one-day pilot program to deliver free flu shots and flu prevention packs in three major U.S. cities.

The UberHEALTH service will be available only Thursday in Boston, New York and Washington, D.C., between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. ET, according to Uber’s blog. The service can be requested while ordering a ride on the Uber app, after which a registered nurse will administer flu shots and distribute materials for up to 10 people at no additional cost.

The free flu shot service, which is a partner project with Vaccine Finder, is only the latest of Uber’s limited time specials. Uber has previously rolled out delivery services for air conditioners and diapers, and even its own Optimus Prime.

 

TIME Healthcare

The CDC’s New Tests Can More Quickly Check for Enterovirus

CDC Chief Dr. Thomas Frieden Updates Media On Dallas Ebola Response
Exterior of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) headquarters Jessica McGowan—Getty Images

Tests that took weeks will now take only days

The testing process for a common enterovirus known to cause reparatory illness is getting streamlined.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has developed a faster test for EV-D68, a strain of enterovirus that has sent hundreds of children to the hospital, particularly affecting those with asthma.

“CDC has received substantially more specimens for enterovirus lab testing than usual this year, due to the large outbreak of EV-D68 and related hospitalizations,” said Anne Schuchat, MD, assistant surgeon general and director of CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, in a statement Tuesday. “When rare or uncommon viruses suddenly begin causing severe illness, CDC works quickly to develop diagnostic tests to enhance our response and investigations. This new lab test will reduce what would normally take several weeks to get results to a few days.”

The faster enterovirus testing will help the CDC track the recent outbreak of EV-D68, which began over the summer and appears to be continuing through the fall as children across the country return to school.

 

TIME medicine

FDA Approves Combined Hepatitis Drug

Harvoni
Harvoni, the first single medication to treat hepatitis C, was recently approved by the FDA. Gilead Sciences

Harvoni is the third hepatitis C drug approved in the past year

The Food and Drug Administration approved the first single medication to treat hepatitis C on Friday, green-lighting one pill in the place of multiple treatments. The new drug, Harvoni, is the third hepatitis C drug approved in the past year.

“With the development and approval of new treatments for hepatitis C virus, we are changing the treatment paradigm for Americans living with the disease,” said FDA official Edward Cox.

Harvoni, developed by Gilead Sciences, will be the first hepatitis drug to require a pill only once daily. A full 12-week treatment will cost $94,500, less than existing treatments, Reuters reports.

TIME Walmart

Why Walmart Workers Losing Healthcare Might Not Be Bad

Getty Images

Ironies abound

Talk about irony. In the same week that Walmart announced employees who work less than 30 hours will be losing their health care coverage, the company also announced that it’d be getting deeper into the business of selling insurance, making it easier for customers to price shop for insurance in stores. In some ways, this mirrors Walmart’s overall business model—keep prices down for consumers, but keep wages and benefits for employees low too.

Ironically, under the rules of Obamacare, it’s possible that those part time employees will get a better deal on health care exchanges, thanks to subsidies that help lower income workers buy insurance. It’s all part of the new landscape created by the Affordable Care Act. As Obamacare turns one year old, Joe Nocera and I discussed how it’s changed healthcare, business, and the economy, on WNYC’s Money Talking.

TIME Companies

Wal-Mart Cuts Healthcare Benefits, Citing Rising Costs

The massive retailer will no longer provide health benefits to employees who work fewer than 30 hours a week

Wal-Mart Stores WMT -0.03% is cutting health care benefits for many of its part-time workers, and making other employees pay a bigger share of their premiums.

The world’s largest retailer — citing rising health care costs as well as practices at rivals Target TGT -0.88% and Home Depot HD -0.26% — said it would no longer provide health benefits to employees who work fewer than 30 hours a week, a move that will affect some 2% of its U.S. workforce, or 26,000 people. Two years ago, the retailer stopped providing health benefits to newly-hired part-time workers, according to the Wall Street Journal. Employees who are covered will have to pay more for the benefit: its most popular and lowest cost associate-only plan will increase by $3.50 to $21.90 per pay period, a 19% jump.

“Like every company, Walmart continues to face rising health care costs. This year, the expenses were significant and led us to make some tough decisions as we begin our annual enrollment,” Sally Welborn, senior vice president of global benefits, wrote in a blog post.

In August, Walmart’s U.S. CEO Greg Foran warned investors that “pressure from health care” costs, as more employees enrolled in its health care plans than expected, would increase by $500 million this fiscal year.

“We don’t make these decisions lightly, and the fact remains that our plans exceed those of our peers in the retail industry,” Welcorn continued in her post. She said Wal-Mart covers more than 60% of U.S. associates’ total health care costs and more than 75% of their premium costs. That was better than the retail industry average of 54% of total health care costs and 68% of employee premiums, she said, citing data compiled by human resources consultancy Aon Hewitt.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

TIME Healthcare

Woman Delivers Baby After Womb Transplant

It's the first successful birth after such an operation

A 36-year-old woman who received a womb transplant has given birth to a healthy baby, a Swedish doctor announced according to a report in the Associated Press. The birth marks the world’s first successful birth following such an operation.

“The baby is fantastic,” said Mats Brannstrom, the doctor who delivered the baby. “But it is even better to see the joy in the parents and how happy he made them.”

Brannstorm, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Gothenburg and Stockholm IVF, has been working on womb transplants for the past two years. He transplanted wombs in nine women, but two needed to have the organs removed following complications. At least two other women with pregnancies have passed the 25 week mark, he said.

[AP]

 

TIME Research

Why Pregnant Women Who Smoke Might Have Kids With Worse Sperm

Pregnant smoking
Getty Images

One more bullet point on a long list of reasons to quit smoking

Add diminished fertility to the long list of reasons why women should avoid smoking while pregnant or breast feeding. The mice sons—called pups—of mothers exposed to the smoke equivalent of a pack of cigarettes a day during that time wind up with sperm that struggle in the reproduction process, according to a new study in mice published in the journal Human Reproduction.

“Our results show that male pups of ‘smoking’ mothers have fewer sperm, which swim poorly, are abnormally shaped and fail to bind to eggs during in vitro fertilisation studies,” said study leader Eileen McLaughlin, a chemical biology professor at the University of Newcastle in Australia, in a press release. “Consequently, when these pups reach adulthood they are sub fertile or infertile.”

Unlike previous research, the new study looked at pregnancy in mice to try to determine not just the consequences of smoking during pregnancy but also the mechanism behind it. Cigarette toxins affect the stem cells in the testes, McLaughlin says, which results in permanently lowered sperm production—and these results likely apply to humans, she adds. “We also know that oxidative stress induced by these toxins causes damage to the nuclei and mitochondria (the cell’s ‘power’ supply) of cells in the testes and this results in sperm with abnormal heads and tails, that are unable to swim properly or successfully bind and fuse with eggs.”

The knowledge that smoking has devastating long-term implications for the health of children is nothing new. Previous studies have suggested that smoking stems fetus growth, leads to premature delivery and causes birth defects. Nonetheless, 20% of women in the United States continue to smoke during pregnancy. The number is higher in Australia, where the study was conducted.

“We would ask that smoking cessation programmes continue to emphasise that women should avoid smoking in pregnancy and while breast feeding as the male germ line is very susceptible to damage during early development and the resulting sub fertility will not be apparent for several decades,” said McLaughlin.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: September 23

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. As coalition bombs fall on Islamic State targets, the future of the Kurds hangs in the balance.

By Dexter Filkins in the New Yorker

2. To solve massive international health crises and prevent future ones, the world needs a Global Health Workforce Reserve corps.

By Michele Barry and Lawrence Gostin in the Los Angeles Times

3. In Ukraine, a bad peace is better than a long war with Russia.

By Anatole Kaletsky in Reuters

4. The spiraling costs of end-of-life care signal that significant change — in policy and mindset — is needed.

By Jenny Gold in Kaiser Health News

5. Communities need information to survive and thrive. The public library is primed to meet that need.

By Amy Garmer in the Knight Blog

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

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