14 – 20 March 2019

Julian Eaton speaks to The Economist (£/register) about what disasters can reveal about mental health care. Julian said: “We used to assume that people need professional counselling but it turned out this was not so. Most people got better with simple, appropriate help that anyone could provide. Known as ‘psychological first aid’ it is something that can be taught in a matter of hours.”

The article also talks about Dixon Chibanda’s Friendship Bench.

Heidi Larson is featured in The Guardian, for an article exploring how the anti-vaccine movement is increasingly targeting cities, therefore creating disease ‘hotspots’. Heidi said: “Cities often have more transient populations – with people coming and going and sometimes bringing infectious diseases with them, which can spread among unvaccinated people. Unvaccinated travellers can also contract infectious diseases from local populations and carry them to other places.”

Heidi also speaks to the BMJ about overcoming vaccine hesitancy.

Peter Piot delivered a lecture at the University of Hyderabad (India) on ‘100 years after the Spanish Flu: Are we ready for the next epidemic? During the lecture, Peter spoke about the need to develop robust public health systems with efficient diagnostic capabilities, for better control of epidemics. Peter also said that early detection of epidemics will be possible with better surveillance and use of artificial intelligence. The lecture was reported in The New Indian Express and The Hindu Business Line.

Sian Clarke is interviewed by BBC World Service History Hour (9m 40s in), talking about China’s ground-breaking work tackling malaria. Sian said:Artemisinin really was a world-changing discovery. At the time of the discovery we were seeing a doubling in deaths and in some cases an elevenfold increase in malaria deaths in West Africa.”

Chris Drakeley provides expert comment on a new study, which finds that mass administration of an anti-worm drug can lead to a reduction in cases of malaria, particularly in children. Chris said: “This research demonstrates a novel methodology for the control and elimination of malaria by giving drugs to humans to target feeding mosquitoes. Practically there would be a number of logistical hurdles to investigate before this approach could be implemented.”

The expert comment was covered by The Telegraph, The Independent and Thomson Reuters Foundation.

John Kelly speaks to The Telegraph about Chagas disease, after new research found that patients could be cured with a two-week course of drugs instead of the current 60-day regimen. John said: “One of the biggest drawbacks of the current treatment regime is the toxicity associated with benznidazole. It is a long treatment period and it has been a real downer getting patients to comply. This new research shows that it should be feasible to reduce the treatment.”

Beate Kampmann’s recent research mapping the developmental pathway of a newborn’s life is covered by The Guardian. Beate said: “The first few days of life is a time of rapid biological change, as babies adapt to living outside their mother’s womb, in a world exposed to bacteria and viruses. Yet surprisingly little is known about these changes at a molecular level.”

Val Curtis is quoted in National Geographic about how humans are programmed to avoid things that can cause illness, as they explore how rats are now an inescapable part of city living. Val said: “Rats are considered disgusting in nearly every human culture—and it’s probably not just the tail. We are preprogrammed to learn to avoid things that make us sick in the same way we are programmed to find saber-tooth tigers scary.”

Martin McKee speaks to The Sun for a piece about the increasing use of e-cigarettes. Martin said: “While the number of adolescents currently using e-cigarettes is still considerably lower in the UK than in the USA, it must surely be concerning that the rates are increasing so rapidly.”

Rachel Lowe and Hannah Kuper are quoted in a Lancet feature (registration needed) that explores living with the consequences of Zika. Rachel said: “It’s a huge pressure on the individual, when it’s really a public problem  of improving infrastructure, especially in low-income neighbourhoods that lack services.”

On social media

This week’s social media highlight is from the LSHTM twitter account, which posted a tweet on 15 March to celebrate John Snow’s birthday.

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