How Dead is the Gulf of Mexico?

July 22nd, 2010 | No Comments | Source: Uncategorized

In the 3 months since the Deepwater Horizon blew up and oil began spilling into the Gulf of Mexico, scientists have been trying to understand the magnitude of the gusher’s ecological impact.

Grim ReaperSo far, there is no consensus on the matter. Some believe the gulf has largely avoided an ecological disaster. Others say that the spill has pushed already damaged ecosystems to the brink.

Take those ghastly pictures of oiled birds, for example. Officials say they’ve found only 1,200 of them, a fraction of the 35,000 that were discovered after the Exxon Valdez disaster. Of course, officials only count the birds they find. Some scientists believe the number is much higher.

“It’s an instinctive response: They’re hiding from predators while they recover,” Kerry St. Pé, told the Washington Post. Pe, who oversees a marsh protection program, added “They plan to recover, and they don’t. They just die.”

What about coastal marshes, whose oil-stained shores make regular appearances on the evening news? “The marsh grasses, the canes, the mangrove are dying,” Robert Barham, secretary of the state’s Department of Wildlife and Fisheries told the Post. “There’s visible evidence that the ecosystem is changed.”

But the National Audubon Society’s Paul Kemp disagreed. According to him, the impact of the spill was small by comparison to the marsh’s existing problems.

“We have a patient that’s dying of cancer, and now they have a sunburn, too,” Kemp said. “What will kill coastal Louisiana is not this oil spill.” (It’s) what was killing it before this oil spill,” he explained, citing erosion and river-control projects.

There is also disagreement about the presence of “plumes” of dissolved or submerged oil offshore. Some scientists claim to have found underwater oil many miles from the gusher.  But an official at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said his agency found significant submerged oil only within 6 miles of the well.

“Right now,” John Valentine, a gulf researcher told the Post, “we should be more impressed by what we don’t know than what we do know.”



What if they gave an HIV Vaccine and Nobody Came?

January 7th, 2010 | No Comments | Source: Uncategorized

As scientists race to create an AIDS/HIV vaccine, few have asked whether people can be persuaded to take the jab in the event it someday becomes available.

betterthannothingTo assess HIV vaccine acceptability among high-risk adults, Peter Newman and colleagues from the University of Toronto interviewed 1,164 adults that have visited sexually transmitted disease clinics, needle/syringe exchange programs, and community health/HIV prevention programs in Los Angeles.

During the interviews, participants were asked to rate the acceptability of eight hypothetical vaccines, which varied in their effectiveness, cost and side effect profile, and to discuss how each one would impact their use of condoms after receiving the vaccine.

The scientists found that many high-risk individuals would not accept the vaccine, no matter what its characteristics were. Vaccine effectiveness turned out to be the attribute most likely to drive vaccine acceptance, followed by side effects and out-of-pocket cost.

The scientists also found that nearly 10% of the at-risk adults in the study might be more prone to engage in unprotected sex after they were vaccinated. This is critical since initial HIV vaccines are probably going to be only partially effective in preventing HIV infection.
“Merely having a vaccine available doesn’t mean it gets to the people who need it—a fact that is evidenced by the issues we’re seeing now around H1N1 vaccines,” Newman told BurrillReport. “If we want HIV vaccines to be acceptable and accessible to people, we need to consider all of these factors before we have a safe and relatively effective vaccine on the market.”

Newman added that educational programs built to support any future HIV/AIDs vaccine would have to explain in lay terms how it worked and what scientists mean when talking about the efficacy of a vaccine.



One In A Million

August 30th, 2008 | No Comments | Source: Uncategorized

Blogpulse has identified 78 million blogs out there. It estimates that 100,000 new blogs will be started today. There are thousands of excellent blogs covering health care. So why bother?



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