Category: Health

Medical marijuana cuts costs of Medicare’s prescription drug benefit program

marijuana bud
Medical marijuana is legal in 25 states, and is reducing costs for Medicare’s prescription drug benefit program, according to a new study.

Patients using cannabis as alternative to prescription drugs

Staff Report

A new study by health experts at the University of Georgia suggests that people are using marijuana as an alternative to prescription medications for ailments that range from pain to sleep disorders.

That trend translates to about $165.2 million in savings for Medicare’s prescription drug benefit program in 2013, the researchers reported in the journal  Health Affairs.The results suggest that if all states had implemented medical marijuana the overall savings to Medicare would have been around $468 million.

The can give policymakers and others another tool to evaluate the pros and cons of medical marijuana legalization, said study co-author W. David Bradford, who is the Busbee Chair in Public Policy in the UGA School of Public and International Affairs. Continue reading “Medical marijuana cuts costs of Medicare’s prescription drug benefit program”

Global warming drives up European dengue risk

Mosquito-borne disease could be widespread by end of century

Global warming will drive the spread of dengue into higher latitudes in coming decades.
Global warming will drive the spread of dengue into higher latitudes in coming decades.

Staff Report

Rapidly warming global temperatures could spur epidemics of mosquito-transmitted dengue across wide parts of Europe by the end of the century, according to researchers with Umeå University in Sweden.

Along with the fact that disease-bearing mosquitoes will expand their range in a warming world, the scientists also found that, in general, climate change increase virus reproduction and transmission, and the rate in which the female mosquitos bite. As a result, a warmer overall climate extends the seasonal window of opportunity for mosquitos to transmit dengue fever.

“In the midst of warming temperatures on the European continent and a number of complex factors such as increased travel and trade, Europe now finds itself at an elevated risk of mosquito-borne epidemics such as dengue fever,” said Jing Liu-Helmersson, researcher at Umeå University’s Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine and main author of the article. Continue reading “Global warming drives up European dengue risk”

Will the Zika virus spread into the United States?

South Texas, Florida seen as vulnerable

asdf
Climate and demographic factors could make parts of the southern U.S. vulnerable to the spread of the Zika virus.

Staff Report

Combing climate data with travel patterns, researchers with the Center for Disease Control and the National Center for Atmospheric Research say Zika virus outbreaks could occur as soon as this summer in parts of south Texas and Florida.

The study shows that the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which is spreading the virus in much of Latin America and the Caribbean, probably will become more abundant across much of the southern and eastern United States as the weather warms.

Summer weather conditions are favorable for the disease-carrying mosquito as far north as New York City and across the southern tier of the country as far west as Phoenix and Los Angeles, the models show. Continue reading “Will the Zika virus spread into the United States?”

El Niño may help spread dangerous diseases across oceans

Dangerous bacteria may ‘piggyback’ from Asia to Latin America

April 2
A new study tracks potential public health impacts of El Niño.

Staff Report

Along with causing weather-related disasters like flooding or drought, El Niño may be a factor in spreading waterborne diseases like cholera thousands of miles across oceans, according to a new study published in the journal Nature Microbiology.

The findings by U.S. and UK researchers suggest that the arrival of new diseases in Latin America is linked with the spread of warmer El Niño waters. Examples include a 1990 cholera outbreak in Peru that killed 13,000 people, and two instances (1997 and 2010) when  new variants the bacterium Vibrio parahaemolyticus led to widespread human illness through contaminated shellfish. The study explored how those outbreaks concurred in both time and space with significant El Niño events. Continue reading “El Niño may help spread dangerous diseases across oceans”

EU air quality regulations save thousands of lives each year

Cutting pollution improves public health

s
s

Staff Report

People everywhere like to complain about excessive government regulation, and the European Union is no exception. But it’s clear, from a new University of Leeds study, that air quality rules in the EU have saved thousands of lives in recent decades.

The research, published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, shows that EU policies have led to a 35 percent reduction of fine particles in the atmosphere over the period 1970 to 2010, which has improved public health across Europe, preventing about 80,000 premature deaths each year. Continue reading “EU air quality regulations save thousands of lives each year”

Algal toxins found in many streams in the Southeast

;kjkl
How safe is your local stream? @bberwyn photo.

Scientists gain better understanding of health risks associated with microsystins

Staff Report

Taking a swim in a cool, clear stream on a hot summer day always seems like a good idea, but if you’re in the southeastern U.S., you may want to stop and think. According to a new U.S. Geological Survey study, close to 40 percent of the streams in the region may be contaminated by algal toxins known as microsystins.

Public health practitioners and medical researchers have observed a range of symptoms in humans after exposure to microcystins.  Symptoms can include nausea, dermatitis and, in severe cases, liver failure.  Toxicity issues have been reported for humans, companion animals, livestock and wildlife. Continue reading “Algal toxins found in many streams in the Southeast”

Environment: EPA faces ozone lawsuit

Toxic haze kills millions worldwide

s
Toxic air pollution kills millions of people each year. Photo courtesy National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Staff Report

There’s little question that air pollution is one of the biggest killers on the planet. Some recent estimates place the number of global deaths attributed to airborne toxins anywhere between 3.3 to 7 million per year, and that number is expected to go up by 15 to 20 percent in the next few decades.

And while countries with developing economies like China and India have the biggest problems, the U.S. is not immune from poisonous pollutants, especially invisible ozone. In some parts of the country, ozone pollution is getting worse, not better. The EPA has tried to tackle ozone pollution by setting new standards, but faced resistance from industrial polluters.

As a result, watchdog groups say the agency has fallen short, and the Center for Biological Diversity says it will sue the EPA because 17 states and the District of Columbia have failed to reduce ozone pollution, which poses serious threats to public health, wildlife and ecosystems. Essentially, environmental activists say the EPA has failed to meet standards set under the Clean Air Act. Continue reading “Environment: EPA faces ozone lawsuit”