TIME nhl

NHL Teams Are Postponing Hospital Visits Amid a Mumps Outbreak

An overall view of the interior of the arena at the NHL season opener at Staples Center on October 8, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.
An overall view of the interior of the arena at the NHL season opener at Staples Center on October 8, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. Stephen Dunn—Getty Images

'Tis the season for NHL players to get the mumps

NHL teams are postponing their annual holiday visits to hospitals, amid a mumps outbreak within the league.

Four teams have amended their plans as of Tuesday evening, out of concern that an undiagnosed player could bring the disease into a hospital, USA Today reports. At least 15 NHL players have so far come down with mumps, including players for the Anaheim Ducks, Minnesota Wild, New Jersey Devils, New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins.

Though some teams said they would have to cancel their plans, others said they still expected to make their traditional hospital rounds, but after the holidays. The Calgary Flames, which has not had a mumps case, said all its players were vaccinated two weeks ago and they expected to make their visits sometime after the New Year.

[USA Today]

TIME ebola

Here’s How Much the Next Ebola Will Cost Us

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Todd Pearson—Getty Images

Why saving the environment can help prevent it

The global community cannot withstand another Ebola outbreak: The World Bank estimates the two-year financial burden price tag of the current epidemic at $32.6 billion. Unfortunately, the virus has revealed gaping holes in our preparedness for major infectious disease epidemics. Because of these, plus the urbanization of rural communities and globalization of travel and trade, more of these epidemics are expected.

In a new report from the EcoHealth Alliance published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), experts estimate that the world will see about five new emerging infectious diseases each year and that we need new prevention strategies to cut economic losses.

Using economic modeling, the researchers analyzed two strategies. We’re familiar with the first, a business-as-usual approach that relies on global surveillance systems to track and identify new diseases emerging in people. The second strategy is what the researchers call “mitigation,” where global players go after what’s actually causing the emergence of unknown diseases.

MORE: TIME’s Person of the Year: Ebola Fighters

That’s considered the more economically prudent of the two options (though it’s not what we’re doing.) Even a mild disease outbreak can have big financial consequences. The report shows that the cost of an influenza pandemic ranges from $374 billion for a mild one to $7.3 trillion for one that’s severe. That figure also accounts for a 12.6% loss in gross domestic product and millions of lives lost. It’s a worst-case scenario, but not unimaginable, considering that the Ebola outbreak has already infected well over 18,000 people, and it’s not even an airborne virus.

Currently, our global health response is reactive. Once cases of an infectious disease are confirmed in a lab, various organizations from the U.S. Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) send in specialists to start containing the disease. As the new report notes, this is too slow and often comes too late.

Pandemics are typically caused by diseases that emerge from animals and somehow make their way—via a bite or human consumption—into the human population. Therefore, the report authors argue that a viable economic option for containment is a strategy that addresses environmental changes like deforestation that contribute to the spread of infected animals, like bushmeat, bats or insects, into the human population. Some of the same commitments and strategies applied to fighting climate change could be applied to a joint infectious disease strategy.

MORE: 1 Million People Have A Disease You’ve Never Heard Of

The report highlights the USAID’s Emerging Pandemic Threats program PREDICT-2 project, which has poured resources into understanding what drives disease emergence and what human behaviors cause it to spread widely. The project also supports the “One Health” approach, which means working closely with physicians, ecologists and veterinarians to track and understand disease.

The researchers say widespread adoption of strategies like these should happen within 27 years to reduce the annual rise of emerging infectious disease events by 50%. The price tag? A one-time cost of approximately $343.7 billion. “Mitigation is a more cost-effective policy than business-as-usual adaptation programs, saving between $344.0.7 billion and $360.3 billion over the next 100 year if implemented today,” the authors write.

The cost versus benefit breakdown favors a plan such as this, but ultimately, the question will be who gets stuck with the tab. The authors of the report suggest taxes or partnering with industry, possibly the private sector, to fund systems like clinics and food supply chains. Those will reduce bushmeat consumption, make diagnostics faster, and hopefully help prevent some of the problems we’re currently facing with Ebola.

TIME ebola

Here Is the Lie of the Year from PolitiFact

Vaccine Research At Bavarian Nordic A/S Pharmaceuticals
An employee uses a microscope during research in a laboratory used to detect contamination in employees' clothing at the Bavarian Nordic A/S biotechnology company, where the research into infectious diseases, including the ebola vaccine, takes place in Kvistgaard, Denmark, on Friday, Oct. 31, 2014. Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Guess what spawned a "dangerous and incorrect narrative" in 2014?

PolitiFact has named the panicked response to Ebola as the 2014 Lie of the Year.

The website, which fact-checks the statements of public figures, noted 16 erroneous claims made for Ebola last year, which together produced “a dangerous and incorrect narrative.”

Those included Fox News analyst George Will’s false assertion that Ebola could spread through a sneeze or cough, Senator Rand Paul’s description of the disease as “incredibly contagious,” “very transmissible” and “easy to catch” and Congressman Phil Gingrey’s warning that migrants could carry Ebola across the U.S.’s southern border.

“When combined,” PolitiFact writes, “the claims edged the nation toward panic. Governors fought Washington over the federal response. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stumbled to explain details about transmission of the virus and its own prevention measures. American universities turned away people from Africa, whether they were near the outbreak or not.”

[PolitiFact]

TIME Infectious Disease

NHL Mumps Outbreak Grows With Sidney Crosby Diagnosis

At least 13 NHL players and two referees were infected in the outbreak

Sidney Crosby became the latest National Hockey League player to receive a positive diagnosis for mumps in an unusual outbreak of the disease which is typically prevented by vaccination.

The Pittsburgh Penguins announced Crosby’s diagnosis Sunday and on Monday said that the two-time NHL MVP was no longer infectious.

“He probably could have been here today, but we took an extra day to be cautious,” said team manager Jim Rutherford. “As far as I know, he will return tomorrow or the next day.”

The mumps outbreak, which has infected at least 13 NHL players and two referees, is odd given that most U.S. residents receive a vaccine for the disease, which causes headache, fever and swelling of the salivary glands. Crosby reportedly received a vaccination for the disease as recently as this February, according to the Penguins.

Still, doctors say that the effectiveness of the vaccine can wear off over time, and hockey players may be particularly susceptible to the disease given the exchange of saliva during heavy hits.

TIME Infectious Disease

1 Million People Have a Disease You’ve Never Heard Of

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Photo Researchers—Getty Images/Photo Researchers RM

Chikungunya virus has infected over one million people this year, but Big Pharma still isn't stepping up

It’s a tale scientists are tired of telling: a disease that’s been carefully watched and studied for years is suddenly infecting an unprecedented number of people while promising drugs and vaccines sit on shelved, unfunded.

This time it’s not Ebola but a mosquito-borne disease called chikungunya, which causes debilitating joint pain and has infected more than 1 million people just this year. Originating in Africa, the virus has rapidly spread into the Caribbean and Central and South Americas, with a smattering of cases in the United States. Chikungunya is nothing like Ebola, but scientists who study it find themselves in a predicament similar to Ebola researchers: Despite decades of study, there’s still no way to treat or prevent it, due in part to a lack of interest from drug companies.

“[Chikungunya] is another example of an emerging infectious disease that we clearly have a light at the end of the tunnel for in a vaccine, and it’s pharmaceutical interest that really seems to be the road block,” says Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who is trying to get support for a chikungunya vaccine his team developed. “It’s the big dilemma. The frustration. Back when Ebola was not on the front pages, we didn’t have very many enthusiastic pharmaceutical companies.”

MORE: TIME Person of the Year: The Ebola Fighters

In late 2013, chikungunya hit the west for the first time, in St. Martin. Now, in Puerto Rico alone, there were 10,201 reported cases from May to August 2014. In prior years, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) would only see an average of about 28 cases of chikungunya in the United States brought by travelers who had visited affected countries, primarily in Asia. But so far in 2014, there’s been over 1,900 recorded cases stateside.

Often, chikungunya is compared to dengue fever, but while chikungunya is not often fatal, up to 80% of people infected will show symptoms, which can be excruciating, says Dr. Pilar Ramon-Pardo, a PAHO/World Health Organization adviser in clinical management. “People cannot move because it’s so painful. There are tears in their eyes,” she says. “Sometimes there’s not an appreciation for chikungunya because it has a low fatality rate, but it’s a real public health problem. The economic impact from disability is high.”

Chikungunya was first identified in 1952 in Tanzania, and the more recent outbreaks started emerging in 2003 in East Africa, then spread into Southeast Asia, the Pacific Islands, and eventually to India, where millions of people were infected in 2006. In 2007, it touched down in Italy, at which point the CDC with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) doubled down to ensure countries were equipped to keep an eye on—and diagnose—the disease.

“We are very concerned about chikungunya moving into the Western Hemisphere,” says Dr. Roger Nasci of the CDC. “We have the two different species of mosquitoes in the U.S. capable of spreading the virus.” Massive outbreaks in the United States are unlikely; the temperate U.S. climate isn’t especially mosquito friendly, and widespread use of window screens and bug spray limit most Americans’ risk. Still, the disease takes a toll, and other countries are at risk of even more massive outbreaks.

Researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recently published results from a successful vaccine trial for chikungunya showing it’s safe but in order to take that vaccine to the masses, it needs to undergo an efficacy trial—and then it needs a distributor. Without a pharmaceutical partner, Fauci says a timeline for a chikungunya vaccine is “impossible to predict,” though the NIH is currently meeting with two undisclosed companies for possible partnerships.

A frequent source of funding for neglected infectious diseases, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, does not have any active grants or investment in chikungunya. Meanwhile, for Fauci, getting backing for chikunhunya is a “here we go again” task of trying to churn up interest in a disease that doesn’t make headlines. “It’s a theme that continues to recur among my colleagues and I,” says Fauci.

Read next: The Unexpected Animal Group Dying from Climate Change

TIME Health Care

California Battles Worst Whooping Cough Epidemic in 70 years

Officials blame poor vaccine introduced in the 1990s for rise in cases

SAN DIEGO — California officials are battling the worst whooping cough epidemic to hit the state in seven decades as a recent rebound in cases raises questions about the effectiveness of the pertussis vaccine.

Doctors emphasize that the inoculation has led to fewer deaths than in the past and in instances where people do get sick, their illnesses aren’t as severe. But California officials say the limited protection of the vaccine introduced in the 1990s has led to the rise in cases. Research has shown it doesn’t last as long as the one it replaced, and a new study suggests the vaccine may not prevent the spread of the disease.

Whooping cough peaks every three to five years, and California’s last epidemic was in 2010. But despite an aggressive public health campaign in response, the current outbreak is worse.

A total of 9,935 cases were reported to the California Department of Public Health from Jan. 1 to Nov. 26 — the highest number in 70 years. The cases included one infant who died. Elementary, middle and high school outbreaks have occurred across the state.

The bacterial infection causes uncontrollable, violent coughing, which often makes it hard to breathe. People often take deep breaths which result in a “whooping” sound.

San Diego County is among the hardest hit areas with 1,819 cases reported so far this year.

“We’d have to go way back to the 1940s to find more cases,” said Dr. Eric McDonald, medical director of the epidemiology and immunization branch for public health services in San Diego County.

That’s when whooping cough was common, causing hundreds of thousands of illnesses annually and thousands of deaths. But after a vaccine was introduced in the 1940s, cases dropped to fewer than 5,000 a year.

That vaccine was replaced in the 1990s because of side effects, which included pain and swelling from the shot and fever. The newer vaccine is part of routine childhood vaccinations as well as adult booster shots.

Last year was the nation’s worst year for whooping cough in six decades— U.S. health officials received reports of more than 48,000 cases, including 18 deaths. This year the number of reported cases nationwide dropped to about 20,000.

After the 2010 epidemic, California launched a campaign about the importance of rapid diagnosis and treatment, especially in young infants. The state also started providing free vaccines for children, pregnant and postpartum women.

Dr. Gil Chavez, epidemiologist with the California Department of Public Health, said while more people, especially pregnant women, need to get vaccinated, he does not believe low inoculation rates are the primary cause of the current epidemic: Of this year’s pediatric cases that had information on the child’s vaccination history, only 10 percent of those infected in 2014 had not been vaccinated against pertussis.

Chavez says the new vaccine’s limitations and better tests have led to the increase in cases.

Cases are likely to continue going up as doctors do a better job at detecting the illness, officials say.

More than two years ago, Kathryn Riffenburg, who lives outside Boston, said doctors told her that her newborn son, Brady, likely had a cold. A week and a half later, she took him to the emergency room as he struggled to breathe.

By the time, he was diagnosed with pertussis it was too late to save the 2-month-old boy.

“It made us angry, because we felt more should have been done,” said Riffenburg, who know advocates for pregnant women and anyone else in contact with infants to get vaccinated.

TIME Infectious Disease

Superbugs Could Kill 10 Million By 2050, Report Warns

Could be deadlier than cancer

Rising rates of drug-resistant infections could lead to the death of some 10 million people and cost some $100 trillion in 2050.

That’s the startling conclusion of a review commissioned by British Prime Minister David Cameron which has warned that if antimicrobial resistance is not curbed, it could undermine modern medicine and cut up to 3.5% from the global economy.

The threat could also disproportionately affect the developing world, according to the report authored by economist Jim O’Neill, leading to more than 4 million deaths in Africa and 4.7 million deaths in Asia. By comparison, cancer killed 8.2 million people worldwide in 2014.

The report, which will be followed up by a full package of public health recommendations by 2016, called for “coherent international action that spans drug regulation and antimicrobial drugs use across humans, animals and the environment.”

Specifically, the report said that antibacterial research, the use of alternatives like vaccines and international measures to reduce the spread of bacteria could help reduce the threat from drug-resistant infections.

“It would be unforgiveable if the great progress made in combatting infectious diseases could be threatened by the lack of new drugs that are within reach, or for lack of common sense investment in infrastructure that keeps us safe from avoidable infections,” says the report.

Read the entire report here.

TIME Infectious Disease

Whooping Cough Outbreak Strikes Undervaccinated Michigan County

Grand Traverse County has the state’s highest rates of parents choosing not have their children vaccinated

A major outbreak of whooping cough has struck a Michigan area where many people opted out of vaccinations against the disease.

At a single school in Grand Traverse County, which has the state’s highest rates of parents choosing not have their children vaccinated, there have been 151 confirmed and probable cases of whooping cough, reports local news outlet MLive.com.

“Nobody likes to be the person who says, ‘I told you so,’ but what’s unfolding now is exactly the scenario feared by those worried about the region’s low immunization numbers,” Bradley Goodwin, the president of the Grand Traverse County Medical Society, said.

Cases of whooping cough have been reported at more than 14 school buildings in the area, which has also reported several cases of the highly contagious measles.

Read more at MLive.com

TIME Diet/Nutrition

Why Raw Milk Outbreaks Are On the Rise

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Getty Images

This is one health trend you don't want to try

Raw milk skips the commercial chain of pasteurization and homogenization, and many proponents drink to the promise of a purer, less processed food. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has long warned that the consumption of raw milk, which poses serious risks to Americans’ health, is nothing more than a misguided health trend. Now, a new report from the agency shows that the yearly number of outbreaks from raw milk is increasing.

Nearly 1,000 people were sickened from raw milk outbreaks from 2007-2012, the report says, and 73 went to the hospital. The new study shows there were an average of 13 outbreaks per year from disease-causing bacteria that can be present in unpasteurized milk between the years 2007-2012, with 81 total outbreaks in 26 states.

That rate has quadrupled since 1993-2006, the data set used when CDC last studied the subject. That time period saw only three outbreaks per year.

Some advocates have argued raw milk is a solution for people who are lactose intolerant, but the CDC and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says this is untrue.

“I think there are a lot of people [who are part of] this back-to-nature movement, wanting to support local farms and eat organically. I think the raw milk movement has emerged as part of that,” says CDC epidemiologist Hannah Gould. But because it’s not pasteurized, raw milk can be dangerous. Bacteria like salmonella, E. coli and Campylobacter can all be found in raw milk, and you’d have to heat it to 161 °F for about 20 seconds to kill it off, says the CDC. One of the CDC’s awareness campaign shows a raw milk horror story from a mother who fed it to her son, than saw him go into kidney failure and be placed on a ventilator.

In 1987, the FDA banned interstate sale or distribution of unpasteurized milk, but states set their own laws when it comes to what can be sold in-state. Currently, 30 states allow the legal sale of raw milk, and since 2004, eight new states have allowed the sale. The new data shows more than 80% of the outbreaks tallied in the new report occurred in states where selling raw milk is allowed.

“As states continue to legalize raw milk, I would expect it’s likely we will see more outbreaks and illnesses associated with it,” says Gould. “When we see something happening like this huge increase in the number of outbreaks caused by raw milk, we try to put out the message that this going on, and provide that information to state legislators trying to make decisions about raw milk as well as alert consumers to the risks.”

Read next: Now Coming to Your Morning Cereal Bowl: Quinoa

TIME Music

Ebola Survivor Calls Band Aid 30 Song ‘Cringeworthy’

Conference On Defeating Ebola In Sierra Leone
British Ebola survivor William Pooley listens as he attends the "Defeating Ebola: Sierra Leone" conference at Lancaster House in London on Oct. 2, 2014. Leon Neal—WPA Pool/Getty Images

British nurse William Pooley has criticized Bob Geldof's charity single

William Pooley, the British nurse who contracted Ebola after working in West Africa, isn’t thrilled with the Band Aid 30 charity song raising money to fight the infectious disease. In an interview with the Radio Times Magazine, Pooley, who has recovered and travelled back to Sierra Leone to work with patients again, said: “On the way into work I heard the first half of it. It’s definitely being talked about here among my colleagues.”

Yet the talk hasn’t all been pleasant. Pooley continued: “Stuff about ‘Do they know it’s Christmas’ – it’s just like, actually people live normal lives here and do normal things. It’s Africa, not another planet. That sort of cultural ignorance is a bit cringeworthy. There’s a lyric about ‘death in every tear.’ It’s just a bit much.”

The single — which is a reworking of the original 1984 Band Aid song “Do They Know It’s Christmas” — features One Direction, Sam Smith, Ellie Goulding, Bono and others, singing lines such as “No peace and joy this Christmas in West Africa” and “a kiss of love can kill you.” Funds from sales of the song, available on iTunes, will go toward the effort to stop the spread of Ebola in West Africa.

But there has been backlash to the song’s lyrics, with commentators and celebrities criticizing the song for being patronizing and reinforcing stereotypes about Africa. Lily Allen called the song “smug,” and even Emili Sande, who sang on the track, has indicated she wasn’t happy with the lyrics.

For his part, Geldof has said he’s fine with the criticism. “It’s a pop song, it’s not a doctoral thesis,” he told the BBC on Monday. “What it mainly does is it gets the conversation out into the cafes and the kitchens and the pubs, and once that happens you have great politics happening and we can steer that in a political direction.”

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