Read the Outbreak!2020 Student Blogs. We are so proud of their contributions! *These posts express the opinion and research of the writer and should not be construed as medical advice or the position of the Public Health Museum.
Cystic fibrosis, or CF, is a chronic genetic disorder that affects how the body creates its secretions. For example, while mucus is supposed to be thin and slippery, those afflicted with CF will have mucus that is thick and viscous. CF mucus can clog airways and reduce the flow of airflow in the lungs, which is why CF is commonly associated with severe lung damage. However, CF also affects other secretions in the body as well, such as sweat and digestive juices. As a result, this disorder is detrimental to numerous organs in the human body, which include the pancreas, skin, liver and intestine.
The primary cause of cystic fibrosis is a mutation in the CFTR gene, or the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator. This gene controls how the different fluids in the body are produced and controls the flow of salt as well. With this mutation, the gene no longer functions properly and thus causes cystic fibrosis. Cystic fibrosis works in an autosomal recessive pattern, so two copies of this mutated gene must be inherited for one to be affected. If one inherits one copy, they will become a carrier of the disorder. A carrier of cystic fibrosis is one who suffers no symptoms but may pass the disorder onto their offspring. Interestingly, those with cystic fibrosis have varying severity of the disorder. Some may have a severe form of the condition while others may have milder versions. This could be due to other genetic factors from mutations other than the ones in the CFTR gene.
Malaria, a disease caused by the bite of a parasite-infected mosquito, affects more than 5 million people worldwide and is responsible for 1-2 million deaths/year. The infected bite causes plasmodium parasites to develop within the host and toxic material to collect in the infected red blood cell. The material ends up in the bloodstream, which produces symptoms of the disease. Common symptoms of malaria include fever, chills, sweats, headaches, nausea, and vomiting. These are experienced during a classic malaria attack, in which the infected person will go through a “cold stage, hot stage, and sweating stage”(CDC). However, depending on the severity of the case, some people with malaria may experience little to mild symptoms as well. Left untreated, malaria can be fatal to humans. But, that can usually be prevented with drugs and medication treatment early on. Local (US) malaria outbreaks have been small, but there is a risk of the disease to re-emerge from the Southern region of the US. This presents a problem; there is no vaccine for malaria, as it is very difficult to create. Additionally, malaria can be spread through airplane travel transporting mosquitoes, through pregnancy, and blood transfusion (albeit somewhat rarely).
Many people do not think twice about where their food comes from. Living in Massachusetts, that is a luxury we have. You can go to your local restaurant and order your favorite streak entrée. This is where the first mistake is made. Most likely, you glossed over the consumer advisory in fine print at the bottom of the menu — warning you about the risk of contracting a food borne illness due to contaminated or raw meat — or skipped it entirely. Several steps are taken to transport food from the farm to the table, including the raw meat during slaughter, growing and processing fruits and vegetables, and refrigerated foods being transported in warm weather. During any of these stages, contamination can occur. It may not seem serious because food poisoning awareness is widespread, but like any other virus there are always different strains and variations.
Did you know that 30-40% of carbon emissions end up in the oceans? This statistic scares me, and here’s why: When carbon dioxide is introduced to water, carbonic acid is formed and then converted into carbonate and two hydrogen ions. Free floating hydrogen ions increase the pH of the substance, so excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere directly correlates to increased acidity of oceans. In 1751, a pre-industrial age, ocean pH was 8.25. By 1996, post-industrialization, global ocean pH decreased to 8.14. At first sight, a 0.11 decrease may not seem significant, but this represents a 30% increase in hydrogen ion concentration. If we continue this path, pH levels could be as low as 7.80 by 2100.
For many women who live in India, having access to quality healthcare is a luxury. Due to gender-based discrimination, socioeconomic status, location, and limited education, these women face unnecessary and preventable struggles. A lack of conversation and education on women’s healthcare has created the belief that a woman’s well-being is insignificant and not prioritized. Although some advancements have been made, only about 18% of females use sanitary napkins (Smile Foundation) either because they are not accessible or the absence of knowing its use. There have been very minimal efforts put forward by the government to increase this percentage. For centuries past, there has been a general bias towards the welfare of men rather than women. A study conducted by institutions in India along with Harvard University found that out of the 2,377,028 outpatients who visited the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) medical facility in 2016, only 37% of women got access to health care, whereas 67% of men (DW). The reason for this drastic difference in numbers is a result of various factors, one being gender-based discrimination. This limited care towards a woman’s health often means that if the family lives far from where the woman needs to go to get care, they will not pay for her transportation.
With COVID-19 running its course around the globe, one’s main priority would be to take several precautions in order to ensure a safer environment for themselves, their loved ones, and others around them. One of those safety measures is wearing a mask, how difficult can it be! Yes, it is understandable that with the summer weather, wearing a mask can be a huge annoyance. However, wearing a mask when you are in a public place can prevent spreading the virus.
Racism is a public health crisis in the United States as it is damaging to minority community’s collective health and well-being. Racism is considered a public health issue because systematic discrimination against minority communities creates cycles of poverty which leads to violence, inadequate schools, obesity, environmental effects, etc.
We have all heard the phrase “you are what you eat,” but we never realize how true it is. The connection between your diet and mental health is part of a field of study called nutritional psychiatry. First, it is important to understand the microbiome in our bodies. It’s a community of various bacteria that are beneficial to humans in many ways, including keeping a balance between the good and bad bacteria in our gut. Your diet has an effect on the regulation, or dysregulation, of your microbiome. A healthy diet leads to a proper balance between good and bad bacteria which prevents disease and mental illness, while a diet that contains high amounts of processed foods causes inflammation and disorders. This is also due to the fact that most of the serotonin, the mood controlling neurotransmitter, is located in the gut. A healthy gut environment sends a positive message to our brains. Prebiotic and probiotic foods play a key role in maintaining microbiome balance.