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Health Updates 13 October 2011

  • Scientists solve the puzzle of Black Death‘s DNA: “After the Black Death reached London in 1348, about 2,400 people were buried in East Smithfield, near the Tower of London, in a cemetery that had been prepared for the plague’s arrival.  From the teeth of four of those victims, researchers have now reconstructed the full DNA of a microbe that within five years felled one-third to one-half of the population of Western Europe.  The bacterium that causes plague, Yersinia pestis, is still highly virulent today but has different symptoms, leading some historians to doubt that it was the agent of the Black Death.  These doubts were laid to rest last yer by detection of the bacterium’s DNA in plague victims from mass graves all across Europe….the researchers hope to recreate the microbe itself so as to understand what made the Black Death outbreak so deadly.  So far, the evidence points more toward the conditions of the time than to properties of the bacterium itself.” (Nicholas Wade, NY Times)
  • Advocates was equity for lesbian women with breast cancer: “Provider insensitivity and ignorance follows the unwelcome that begins in the waiting room with the magazines and medical forms that do not match our lives.  Until health care facilities and providers become knowledgeable, respectful and safe for lesbians, even free screening services will continue to be underutilized.  Unfortunately, this can also result in cancers being detected at later stages when the prognosis is worse.” (South Florida Gay News)
  • Teen sex down, condom use up: “The percentage of teens 15 to 19 years old reporting that they have had sexual intercourse has continued a long-term decline and now stands at just over 40%, according to CDC survey data from 2006 to 2010….At the same time, among those who reported having sex, the proportion who used condoms during their first sexual encounter has risen to 80% among males and 60% among females, the CDC reported.” (John Gever, MedPage Today)
  • US labs not equipped to handle radiation disasters: “The US state-based public health community is not ready to address a large-scale radiological event such as the one at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, according to recent survey results.  The ‘serious gaps in US radiological preparedness’ include a shortage of appropriate personnel and a lack of federal certification to conduct sample testing”, and insufficient ability to screen individuals for exposure to radiation. (Shalmali Pal, MedPage Today)
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