This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

You can download an iPhone app for the 13th edition from the App Store (search for Weeks Population).

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Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Measles, Dengue, and Cholera--Still out to get us!

The news from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly the Belgian Congo and then Zaire) is that there is an outbreak of measles in an area that is remote and thus hard for vaccinators to reach. The NYTimes reports that:
More than 23,000 people, mostly children, have been infected with measles in the Katanga region of the Democratic Republic of Congo. More than 400 have died, according to United Nations agencies and Doctors Without Borders.
The news from India, via BBC News, is that there is a huge new outbreak of dengue fever. While this is common at the end of the monsoon season, this year is worse than most:
The Indian capital, Delhi, is in the grip of the worst outbreak of dengue fever in five years, officials say. 
More than 1,800 cases have been recorded in recent weeks, compared to 1,695 cases for all of 2010. Five deaths have been reported so far.
The mosquito that carries the dengue virus breeds in containers with clear, stagnant water.

The government in Delhi has ordered 1,000 extra bed in hospitals to treat dengue patients after the suicide of a couple whose seven-year-old son died from the tropical illness after being allegedly refused treatment at a number of city hospitals.
That part of the story is almost too awful to contemplate. Meanwhile, in the western hemisphere, it is also hard to contemplate how deeply affected Haiti has been by the cholera epidemic that followed on the heels of the major earthquake there almost five years ago. As I noted at the time, cholera was introduced into the country by UN peacekeepers from Nepal, and a paper recently published in the Annals of the Association of American Geographers suggests that the country doesn't expect to rid itself of the disease until 2022 (no, that's not a typo). The authors--Matthew Smallman-Raynor, Andrew Cliff and Anna Barford, note that in the first four years after the disease first appeared in the country more than 700,000 people have been infected, of whom nearly 400,000 were hospitalized and nearly 9,000 died. 
As measured by morbidity, the Haitian epidemic is the largest reported outbreak of the disease since the nineteenth century, and it has occurred in a country with no previous recorded history of disease.
These stories are just reminders that you have to always be careful out there...something is always right around the corner waiting to get you if you aren't paying attention. That's not paranoia--that's just the real world.

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