What Is FluTracking?
FluTracking is an online health surveillance system to detect epidemics of influenza. We are looking for people who live in Australia and have easy access to email on a weekly basis. It doesn’t matter if you are vaccinated or unvaccinated.
It takes only 10 - 15 seconds each week. We ask if you have had fever or cough in the last week. This will help us find ways to detect both seasonal influenza and hopefully pandemic influenza and other diseases so we can better protect the community from epidemics.
Someday Soon You May Swallow A Computer With Your Pill
What if you could swallow a computer the size of a poppy seed, and it could report back exactly if and when you took a medicine while recording how your body responded to the drug?
It sounds crazy, but the tiny computers exist. It sounds dangerous, but they were approved by the Food and Drug Administration. And the company that makes them, Proteus, has tens of millions of dollars and relationships with some of the biggest drug companies in the world, including Novartis.
David O’Reilly, the chief product officer at Proteus, says he believes that someday soon every single pill a doctor prescribes will come with an electronic component embedded right in it that tracks the pill’s absorption in your body.
How Does It Work?
Working together with a small flexible patch you wear, like a Band-Aid, and a smartphone, Proteus wants to ring in a new era of what it calls “digital medicine” in which your body’s vital signs and the medications entering your bloodstream can be tracked by computers. Software will search your body’s data for patterns in real time and report that information to your doctors.
Let me step back for a minute to explain how it all works. The big challenges to making a computer you can ingest are size, safety, power and communication.
It must be tiny, as you’re limited both by the size of the throat and the need to keep the amount of foreign material going into one’s stomach to a minimum. The Proteus computer isn’t much bigger than a grain of sand, and it attaches right to the pill.
It also can’t be made of anything weird or harmful. So, Proteus’ ingestible sensor is made only out of metals that people normally eat as part of their daily diets: silicon, copper, magnesium.
(From Shots—Health News from NPR)
Next generation condoms at UOW
University of Wollongong
A team of researchers from the University of Wollongong (UOW) has received Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation funding to help develop a Next Generation Condom that significantly preserves or enhances pleasure, in order to improve uptake and regular use.
(From U. of Wollongong, Australia)
March 14, 2014
This is an app and medical sensor that turns a non-specialist, community-level health worker’s smartphone, tablet computer or laptop into an affordable and simple but sophisticated medical-grade diagnostic tool that is typically only available, in the developing world, in some hospitals.
The app works with plug-in hardware for hospital-standard measurements of blood oxygen and can forewarn of life-threatening pre-eclampsia with 80% accuracy, offering the developing world a tool to help prevent countless thousands of maternal and child deaths.
The Canadian federal government, through Toronto-based Grand Challenges Canada, together with private investors, are announcing $2 million funding for confirmation studies this year involving 80,000 women in Asia (India, Pakistan) and Africa (Namibia, Mozambique).
The federal government investment is the first under a new $10 million strategic partnership with Grand Challenges Canada to help fast-track several of the most promising global health innovations in its pipeline.
Developed by scientists Mark Ansermino, Guy Dumont and Peter von Dadelszen of the University of British Columbia, the device measures blood oxygen levels through a light sensor attached to a person’s fingertip. This technique is known as pulse oximetry.
Avoiding deaths in developing countries
The Phone Oximeter can accurately predict roughly 80% of cases of pregnant women at risk of life-threatening complications due to high blood pressure. The condition, pre-eclampsia, is one of three leading causes of maternal mortality.
Each year, about 76,000 of an estimated 10 million pregnant women worldwide who develop pre-eclampsia die from it and related complications. The number of fetus and infant deaths due to these disorders is estimated at more than 500,000.
“That equates to over 1,600 deaths of pregnant young women and babies every day and more than 99% of these deaths occur in developing countries, an issue of social justice,” said von Dadelszen.
The Phone Oximeter can also reveal dangerously low oxygen levels in patients with pneumonia, which kills more than 1 million children annually.
The $40 target price will make it 80% less costly than any other device capable today of meeting high-level medical standards. It is expected to be available in Spring 2014 (more info).
Tests to fine-tune the device will involve monitoring blood-oxygen levels of athletes in training, allowing developers to fast-track its preliminary use. Longer term medical trials of the mobile application and its pre-eclampsia predictive capability will involve 80,000 women in four countries: India, Pakistan, Mozambique and Nigeria.
What’s the Lucky Iron Fish Project?
The Lucky Iron Fish™ is a social entrepreneurship organization implementing a simple health innovation to alleviate iron deficiency and iron deficiency anemia in Cambodia, especially in women and children. Its vision is to become a global leader in promoting use of this health innovation to improve the lives of two billion people who suffer from iron deficiency. Iron deficiency reduces capacity to work, impairs cognitive development in children, and results in anemia and weakness. Using the Lucky Iron Fish™ every day preparing food or sterilizing water, halves the incidence of clinical anemia and increases circulating and stored iron. The fish can be made from scrap metal by local metal workers, so could stimulate small businesses across Cambodia to produce and distribute the fish. In addition, there is an opportunity to develop businesses that will ensure quality control of the product.
The Lucky Iron Fish™ is strategically partnered with multiple NGO’s in Cambodia for distribution of the fish. The potential market for the fish is worldwide as iron deficiency occurs in the developing and developed world and there is an opportunity to create business opportunities in the developed world to sponsor support of the product in the developing world.
The little “Lucky Iron Fish,” now in growing use by cooks in Cambodia, has proven effective in reducing rampant iron deficiency among women–the cause of premature labour, hemorrhaging during childbirth and poor brain development among babies. Initial local reluctance to usinga loose piece of iron in cooking pots was overcome by a clever design tapping into Cambodian folklore about a fish species that brings good fortune. In partnership with small businesses across Cambodia, plans for this year and next call forproduction and distribution of 60,000 lucky iron fish, made from recycled material at a cost of about $5 each, which provide health benefits for roughly three years.
(From Grand Challenges Canada)
Using Online Reviews by Restaurant Patrons to Identify Unreported Cases of Foodborne Illness — New York City, 2012–2013
While investigating an outbreak of gastrointestinal disease associated with a restaurant, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) noted that patrons had reported illnesses on the business review website Yelp (http://www.yelp.com) that had not been reported to DOHMH. To explore the potential of using Yelp to identify unreported outbreaks, DOHMH worked with Columbia University and Yelp on a pilot project to prospectively identify restaurant reviews on Yelp that referred to foodborne illness. During July 1, 2012–March 31, 2013, approximately 294,000 Yelp restaurant reviews were analyzed by a software program developed for the project. The program identified 893 reviews that required further evaluation by a foodborne disease epidemiologist. Of the 893 reviews, 499 (56%) described an event consistent with foodborne illness (e.g., patrons reported diarrhea or vomiting after their meal), and 468 of those described an illness within 4 weeks of the review or did not provide a period. Only 3% of the illnesses referred to in the 468 reviews had also been reported directly to DOHMH via telephone and online systems during the same period. Closer examination determined that 129 of the 468 reviews required further investigation, resulting in telephone interviews with 27 reviewers. From those 27 interviews, three previously unreported restaurant-related outbreaks linked to 16 illnesses met DOHMH outbreak investigation criteria; environmental investigation of the three restaurants identified multiple food-handling violations. The results suggest that online restaurant reviews might help to identify unreported outbreaks of foodborne illness and restaurants with deficiencies in food handling. However, investigating reports of illness in this manner might require considerable time and resources.
By Betsy Teutsch (The Atlantic)
My husband and I have five bathrooms in our house, 2.5 per occupant. Inhabitants of the world’s sprawling shantytowns and slums typically share latrines with several hundred people—and often have to pay for the privilege. In many places, the absence of affordable, safe sanitation results in residents of informal settlements constantly suffering from waterborne illnesses; these diseases frequently kill young children.
David Kuria, a former Kenyan career NGO professional, saw opportunity in this sanitation crisis. He spent a few years developing and launching Iko-Toilet centers which offer clean, safe, attractive, reasonably-priced eco-san (short for ecological sanitation) toilets and anchor a host of neighborhood services.
Industrialized world plumbing flushes waste away, though arguably there is no “away.” A great deal of clean water, chemicals, and fossil-fuel energy are consumed to accomplish this method, developed in the 19th century. Eco-san approaches waste as an asset, seeking to kill its inherent pathogens while reclaiming its nutrients and energy.
The underground technology featured in each Iko-Toilet complex is a biodigester, a sealed chamber where waste decomposes anaerobically, without oxygen. The process produces methane gas—which can be sold as fuel or used for heating water for co-located hot showers—and organic fertilizer.
(From The Atlantic)