Unsanitary conditions

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Viral Hepatitis

Hepatitis A: Thriving in Unsanitary Conditions

Hepatitis A is transmitted by human consumption of fecal-contaminated drinking water or food. Like cholera, the risk of contracting hepatitis A depends on the hygiene and sanitary conditions in a given area. Developing countries are at high risk, although 180,000 people in the United States are infected each year by hepatitis A. About 100 people in the United States die from hepatitis A-related complications each year.

A high concentration of the virus is found in fecal matter, and the virus can survive on the hands or other surfaces for up to four hours at room temperature. Eating utensils are a frequent source of infection, as are contaminated shellfish. Hepatitis A can also be spread through intravenous drug use and sexual contact.

Antigen Alert

When traveling to an area known to have hepatitis, always emphasize personal hygiene. And don’t forget the basics of food preparation and consumption: boil it, broil it, peel it, or forget it!

Symptoms and Treatment

A common characteristic of hepatitis is that the infected person may not have any symptoms. When symptoms do occur, usually within the first four weeks of infection, they may be flu-like, with fatigue, body ache, nausea, vomiting, pain, and tenderness in the liver area, dark urine, or light colored stools and fever.

Other indications are jaundice in adults, where the skin and eye color take on a yellow hue, and liver test results that indicate a higher level of activity of key enzymes than normal. There is no specific treatment for hepatitis A. Supportive care is recommended and is guided by symptoms, which often last from about four weeks to a few months. Symptoms may return in 20 percent of people who get the disease and continue on and off for up to 15 months. However, the infection will resolve by itself, with no serious after-effects. Once recovered, an individual is then immune to reinfection. Only about one percent of all hepatitis A infections cause a severe enough infection that damages the liver to an extent that a transplant is required.

Testing for Hepatitis A

There are currently two blood tests available to detect hepatitis A. Antibodies may be detected for up to six months following the onset of symptoms, but they tend to disappear after time.

Getting Vaccinated

Potent Fact

Hepatitis A is the most common vaccine-preventable disease in international travelers. It is 1,000 times more common than cholera and 100 times more common than typhoid among international travelers.

There are two approved vaccines available in the United States for protection against hepatitis A. They provide long-term protection and are licensed for use in children two years of age and older. Two doses are needed, 6 to 12 months apart, to ensure long-term protection. International travelers should get the first dose at least four weeks prior to their departure.

Immunoglobulin (plasma containing different classes of antibodies made from people who are immune to the disease) is recommended for short-term protection, but it must be given within two weeks of exposure for maximum protection. People born and raised in developing countries where hepatitis A is endemic have usually been infected in childhood with a mild case, and are generally immune to the disease.

Hepatitis E: The Hepatitis A Copycat

Potent Fact

Having access to clean drinking water, washing hands before eating, and proper disposal of sewage are still the best ways to decrease the incidence of this disease.

Hepatitis E disease has symptoms much like hepatitis A. It is an acute, short-duration disease spread widely in many tropical and underdeveloped countries, usually through contaminated drinking water. Hepatitis E affects young adults rather than children, and causes a high death rate, particularly in pregnant women. Major waterborne epidemics have occurred in Asia and North and East Africa, but there have been no known outbreaks in the United States besides some sporadic cases in Los Angeles in 1987.

Like hepatitis A, good sanitation and personal hygiene are the best preventive measures. The incubation period for hepatitis E varies from two to nine weeks, with the disease itself usually lasting about two weeks. Although infections are generally mild for young adults, the fatality rate in pregnant women approaches 20 percent. Protection from the disease in endemic areas lies mainly in prevention, as a vaccine for hepatitis E is in the experimental stage. Hepatitis E can be diagnosed based on symptoms and the elevated presence of liver enzymes.

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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Dangerous Diseases and Epidemics © 2002 by David Perlin, Ph.D., and Ann Cohen. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.


Secondhand Smoke

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The Truth About Secondhand Smoke

An estimated 35,052 nonsmokers die from coronary heart disease (CHD) each year as a result of exposure to environmental tobacco smoke.

Secondhand smoke is the combination of "mainstream smoke" (the smoke exhaled by a smoker) and side-stream smoke (from the burning end of the cigarette). Secondhand smoke is also referred to as environmental tobacco smoke, passive smoke and involuntary tobacco smoke. It is a complex mixture of over 4,000 chemicals that are produced by the burning materials of a cigarette. Exposure to secondhand is associated with health risks in both children and adults, including:

  • Exposure before and after birth puts children at a greater risk of abnormal blood pressure, cleft pallets and lips, childhood leukemia, attention deficit disorder and childhood wheezing.
  • Secondhand smoke is a known cause of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), acute lower respiratory tract infections, asthma induction and exacerbation, chronic respiratory symptoms and middle ear infections in children.
  • A recent study published in Circulation found that children 12–19 years of age exposed to secondhand smoke are nearly five times more likely to have metabolic syndrome than those who aren’t exposed to secondhand smoke. (Active smokers are about six times more likely to have metabolic syndrome.)
  • In adults, exposure increases the risk of lung cancer, nasal sinus cancer, heart disease mortality, acute and chronic coronary heart disease morbidity and eye and nasal irritation.
  • A 1997 analysis found that lifelong nonsmokers living with smokers had, on average, a 24 percent higher chance of contracting lung cancer than those living with nonsmokers, and that those exposed to the heaviest smokers for the longest time had the highest risks.
  • Each year, 150,000 to 300,000 children younger than 18 months of age have respiratory tract infections because of exposure to secondhand smoke.

This content is reviewed regularly. Last updated 01/14/08.

Children accused of witchcraft

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Twitter: @danbharris

KINSHASA, CONGO, May 21, 2009

In a dirt-floored, back-alley church, 8-year-old Bobby and his 6-year-old brother Henock were made to kneel before a pastor wearing a white, flowing robe adorned with pictures of Jesus.

Throughout the Congo children are being accused of practicing witchcraft.

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Looming over the boys, Pastor Moise Tshombe went into a trance, during which he claimed the Holy Spirit took over and the voice of God spoke through him. "I see that witchcraft is in these two," Tshombe said. "The threats inside of them are very strong."

These young brothers were the latest victims in an epidemic of accusations of child witchcraft here in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is raging in the name of Jesus. It continues seemingly unabated despite flags raised by organizations such as the United Nations, Save the Children and Human Rights Watch.

Click Here to Learn How to Help Children in the Congo.

Bobby and Henock were brought to this pastor by their stepmother, who said she believes her stepsons are witches and claimed the boys were stealing their stepsister’s blood and using it to fly at night. Pointing to Henock, whose left arm is covered in bandages, she said that, in the "spirit world," he is an elderly man who injured himself while trying to kill his father. The boys’ father was not present; he was out of town on work and apparently unaware of the ceremony.

In a small, squeaky voice, Bobby said that family members had told him he and his brother were infected with witchcraft after eating bread and green beans their older brother gave them.

Tshombe’s denunciation appeared to have traumatized the boys, who were barely responsive.


Their fear was not unwarranted; the fate of children accused of witchcraft in the Congo is often nothing short of horrific, critics say.

ABC News’ "Nightline" gained exclusive access to four churches, where we saw scores of children — including toddlers — who were denounced as witches. The accusers were powerful and often politically connected pastors, who some say get paid to perform so-called "deliverance ceremonies," or exorcisms, which can be unimaginably brutal.

Arnold Mushiete, a social worker for "Our House," a small, Catholic organization funded entirely by donations, which helps children accused of witchcraft, was our guide into this frightening world. He said a new breed of Christian pastors are manipulating the faith.

"Our work is to repair what they have destroyed," he said, "and to give another image of Jesus, not one who tortures children."

Once a child is accused of witchcraft, the next step is often exorcism — a casting out of demons. The ritual can be tantamount to torture. We watched as Tshombe poured hot candle wax on the stomach of a clearly emaciated, 11-year-old girl named Noella.

Kneeling in front of a wooden cross, the pastor and his aides held the girl down as the pastor pretended to pull demonic flesh out of her. Noella was screaming in pain.

It appeared to be a cheap, cruel magic trick, but the crowd, including the girl’s mother, appeared to believe.

"It had to happen this way because the child is accused of witchcraft," she told ABC News.



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An 18-year-old was killed and another man wounded Sunday when a group of friends who had just left a house party was ambushed by a trigger-happy gunman, police said.

Frank Jones was one of seven pals who ducked into Crown Pizza at the corner of Rockaway Parkway and Flatlands Ave. in Brooklyn moments before the 4 a.m. shooting, according to a clerk at the all-night eatery.

"They quietly looked at the menu, then they stepped out of the store," said Kareen Fata, who was behind the counter at the Canarsie pizzeria.

"And then I heard five or six shots," said Fata.

The group of friends had left a house party before stopping at the pizzeria, and investigators believe the gunman was lying in wait on the street, a police source said.

The killer sprayed bullets into the crowd of friends before running away.

Jones, 18, was hit in the back, and a 21-year-old man was shot in the right leg, police said.

Both were rushed to Brookdale University Hospital, where Jones died 30 minutes later. The other partygoers were not injured.

Investigators were not immediately certain what instigated the shooting but suspect that it stemmed from a fight at the party, the police source said.

Detectives were checking several stores at the busy commercial intersection for possible surveillance footage.


greenwich village

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by Lakisha Bostick; Eyewitness News

GREENWICH VILLAGE (WABC) — A 50-year-old man was brutally attacked and left critically injured by a group of men who jumped and beat him in Greenwich Village.

Police say the victim, from upstate New York, was at the intersection of Seventh Avenue South and Christopher Street at around 2 a.m. Thursday.

The suspects apparently jumped the victim after getting onto a verbal dispute in front of Riviera Cafe.

Eyewitness News is told the victim sustained life-threatening injuries to the back of his head. He was rushed to St. Vincent’s


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A troubled teenage father struggling to turn his back on the Bloods street gang was gunned down as he walked away from an argument on a Harlem street yesterday — a horrific execution-style killing caught in chilling detail on video obtained exclusively by The Post.

Police said 17-year-old Cory Squire, the father of a 3-year-old boy, died instantly after being shot once in the head from behind on West 141st Street around 4:30 a.m.

The video, recorded by a surveillance camera in the building at 101 W. 141st Street, shows Squire walking along, wearing a hooded sweatshirt when another man calls out to him.

The two talk for about a minute, then separate.

But as Squire continues on his way the other man silently runs up behind him, methodically clutching a gun in his right hand, and puts a bullet in the teen’s head.

The young father falls to the ground and rolls over motionless as the cowardly attacker flees.

A short time later, another unidentified man walks past the body, looks down, then callously continues on his way.

Squire’s shocked girlfriend, Atiya Hallman, 18, said the slain teen had fought to escape the street gang after becoming a dad.

"Once he had a child, he wanted to get out of the game and quit the gang," Hallman said, as she cradled the couple’s son, Camren.

"He joined the Job Corps and was training to be an electrician, but he always knew the only way he could get out of that gang was the way he got out."

An official motive remained unclear, but police could not rule out retribution for trying to sever his gang ties.

Squire’s mother, Melinda Chirinos, said he had been honored by Police Commissioner Ray Kelly in 2005 when he was named Commanding Officer for the Day for the 32nd Precinct, but fell in with the Bloods recently and began stealing from her.

"I basically told him he could live here if he chose not to see those friends and follow the rules of the house," she said. "He chose his friends over his family."

The hard-luck teen crashed with his girlfriend during the day but wandered the streets after dark because her strict mother didn’t allow overnight visits.

"I saw his death coming," said his sister, Allayah, 14. "He kept telling me, ‘I got to get off the streets.’ He didn’t think he’d make it to 18. He was right."

The video does not provide a clear picture of the killer, but police were hoping that friends and associates of Squire might recognize the shooter.

One eyewitness, a 66-year-old woman whom The Post is not identifying, said she saw the victim and killer argue.

"The teenager walked away, and the guy pulled out a gun, ran up to him and shot him in the back of the head," she said. "I ran into my apartment and called 911. It was terrible seeing a young man get killed like that."

Additional reporting by Jamie Schram and Larry Celona