Chinese Scientists Find CO2 Better for Fracking than Water

Chinese scientists have discovered that carbon dioxide is more efficient to use in fracking than water.

Fracking is the controversial process in which water or other fluids are injected into underground rocks at high pressure to release oil and natural gas deposits. 

U.S. environmentalists have denounced the process because of the huge amounts of water needed, the contamination of underground water supplies, and small earthquakes it triggers.

In a new report in the journal Joule, scientists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and China University of Petroleum discovered that using CO2 instead of water resulted in as much as 20 times more oil.

​”These real-world results revealed that as compared to water fracturing, CO2 fracturing is an important and greener alternative,” especially in arid areas where the water has to be trucked in, the report says.

Carbon dioxide is the main greenhouse gas blamed for global warming. 

The scientists say the CO2 used in fracking would stay underground and not be released into the atmosphere.

The scientists say further research is needed as well as the winning over of cooperation from the industry.

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CDC: US Reports Most Measles Cases in 25 Years

Government health officials say there have been 971 cases of measles in the United States so far this year, the most cases since 1994, when there were 963 cases for the entire year.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday if current outbreaks in and around New York City continue into the fall, the United States could lose its status as a country that has eliminated measles.

“That loss would be a huge blow for the nation and erase the hard work done by all levels of public health,” a CDC statement said.

Measles was declared eliminated in the U.S. in 2000, and the CDC says one of the primary reasons is the availability and widespread use of a safe and effective vaccine.

Fighting anti-vaccine propaganda

The CDC, World Health Organization, and other experts are fighting propaganda from parents and anti-vaccine activists who refuse to inoculate their children, insisting the vaccine is dangerous.

“Again, I want to reassure parents that vaccines are safe, they do not cause autism. The greater danger is the disease that vaccination prevents,” CDC Director Robert Redfield said. “Measles is preventable and the way to end this outbreak is to ensure that all children and adults who can get vaccinated do get vaccinated.”

Before vaccine, 4 million cases

Before 1963, when the measles vaccine was considered perfected, the CDC says as many as 4 million Americans got the disease every year and up to 500 victims died.

The measles virus is highly contagious and is spread primarily by coughing and sneezing.

Along with the refusal of some people to vaccinate their children, the CDC says the current nationwide outbreak is linked to travelers who are suspected of bringing back the virus from countries with their own large outbreaks, including Israel, the Philippines and Ukraine.

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WHO: More Than 40% of Smokers Worldwide Die from Lung Diseases

The World Health Organization warns that more than 40 percent of smokers globally die from lung diseases, such as cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and tuberculosis. The warning comes ahead of World No Tobacco Day this Friday, with the theme being, “Don’t let tobacco take your breath away.”

The World Health Organization says that every year, tobacco use kills at least eight million people. The U.N. agency reports 3.3 million users will die from lung-related diseases. This number includes people exposed to second-hand smoke, among them more than 60,000 children under age five who die of lower respiratory infections due to passive smoking.

Vinayak Prasad, the acting director of the WHO’s Department for the Prevention of Noncommunicable Diseases, says the global economic cost of using tobacco is $1.4 trillion. This is due to health expenditures, loss of productivity from illness and other expenses resulting from smoking-related diseases. He says both lives and money could be saved if people stopped smoking.

“What we see also is that if people who are smoking, almost 20 percent of the world is smoking, if they quit, some of the benefits actually come very quickly, especially the lung diseases. Within two weeks, the lung functions actually start to become normal,” he said.

The World Health Organization reports that globally, the prevalence of smoking has gone down from 27 percent in 2000 to 20 percent in 2016. But the WHO, notes that the number of tobacco users worldwide has remained stable at 1.1 billion because of population growth.

Kerstin Schotte, WHO technical officer in the same department as Prasad, notes a steeper decline in the prevalence of smoking in wealthier countries, compared to poorer ones.

“And, some low-and-middle income countries even have increasing smoking prevalence rates. This is where the tobacco industry is going at the moment,” she said. “They know a little bit that it is a lost cause in Europe and North America, so they are going into the low-and-middle-income countries, targeting especially women and children there.”

The World Health Organization recommends a number of effective, low-cost measures countries can adopt to reduce tobacco consumption.

These include the creation of smoke-free environments, imposing a ban on all forms of tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship. WHO also suggests putting a high tax on the sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products to make them unaffordable for many, especially young people.

 

 

 

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DRC’s Ebola Battle Fraught With Security Risks

The World Health Organization says success in ending the Ebola epidemic in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo hinges upon improving security in North Kivu and Ituri provinces. The region has been engulfed in conflict for many years, and many locals do not trust outsiders, even the ones trying to stop the spread of the deadly virus.

The U.N. health agency reports security incidents in eastern DRC have increased dramatically in the past few months. So far this year, it reports 174 attacks by armed groups in North Kivu on health care facilities, workers and patients. These include five deaths and 51 injuries.

In mid-April, Cameroonian Dr. Richard Mouzoko was shot and killed while working in a hospital in Butembo, North Kivu. This incident was seen as a big setback to the Ebola operation.

This past Saturday, villagers killed a health worker in the health sector of Mabalako.

WHO Regional Director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, says health workers are being intimidated and threatened by armed men and live in fear, not knowing when the next violent attack may occur.

She says this insecurity is leading to a lack of access and driving the increase in cases.

“When the response cannot reach people,” she said, “they do not get the chance to be vaccinated or to receive life-saving treatment if they do fall ill.

“The technical means to stop this Ebola outbreak are available,” she added. “But without access or a secure operating environment, they cannot be deployed optimally and effectively enough. …This is why the response is one of the most complex health emergencies the world has faced.”

The latest WHO figures show 1,920 Ebola cases in the region, including 1,281 deaths. A new structure for coordinating and strengthening the Ebola response was presented at the World Health Assembly this week.

WHO Executive Director of Health Emergencies Michael Ryan says key partners will have to scale up their operations and take charge of crucial aspects of the new strategy.

“We believe the work on security, the work on non-humanitarian interventions and the work on sustainable financing are the things that need to happen to provide the environment in which public health operations can continue to progress and be successful,” he said.

However, he warns if there are further large-scale security incidents than all bets are off. He says the likely impact of this ongoing instability will have on the Ebola emergency operation is unpredictable, but worrisome.

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Amid Health Care Shortage, Immigrants Are Rural America’s Saving Grace

Roberta Boltz keeps her doors unlocked at night. The former coal mine worker says it is just one perk of living in the small Pennsylvania town of Hegins.

But last Christmas morning, she had her first epileptic seizure, and her only worry about rural life took center stage: access to health care. There is no hospital in her community of 812 residents, and she says she does not trust the one closest to her.

“I’ve heard people say they wouldn’t send their dog to that hospital,” Boltz said. “They’re so understaffed.”

Seated upright in a platinum nightgown, with gauze covering her thin forehead, Boltz recently made the one-hour commute to Danville, Pennsylvania’s, eight-story, 559-bed Geisinger Medical Center to receive care, as she has done during several critical life moments. Geisinger treated her son’s Crohn’s disease when he was a child, and more recently, after her husband suffered a heart attack. 

Located beside a 300-acre forest, Danville is not much more urban than Hegins. With a population of 4,631, it could not by itself support a hospital this size that serves all of central Pennsylvania and has grappled with its own issue of filling medical staff positions.

Geisinger has tried to solve its own staffing problem by hiring immigrants from Jamaica, India, the Philippines, South Korea, Kenya, Cameroon, Nigeria, Ghana and others — many of whom have come to live in a borough (town) that is 94% white. 

In interviews with VOA, Geisinger staff referred to the nursing shortage crisis as one of its biggest supply-and-demand challenges. Despite being the region’s “employer of choice,” they say local talent recruitment alone has fallen short of their needs.

Big shortage

The entire United States faces a massive shortage of health care professionals over the next decade, including up to 120,000 physicians by 2030. One-third of currently active doctors in the country will reach retirement age during that span.

Unless the health care workforce gap is addressed, rural areas are likely to bear the brunt of its effects, says Andrew Lim, director of quantitative research at New American Economy, a bipartisan research organization.

“If you look at urban areas, there are over 200 doctors per 100,000 people. But if you look at rural counties, the number of doctors to go around is much less — something like 82 for every 100,000,” Lim told VOA.

The population of Danville more than doubles when Geisinger — with its 6,200 employees — is fully staffed. Among the workers: 415 internationally trained physicians and 57 foreign-born registered nurses.

“Not only is Geisinger trying to recruit (international nurses), many other health systems are,” Julene Campion, vice president of human resources at Geisinger, told VOA. “We could probably use another 100 easily (across the Geisinger network), but there aren’t enough available.”

“We’ve outgrown our ability to supply,” added Crystal Muthler, Geisinger’s vice president of nursing — a 30-year veteran. 

The community’s needs, combined with an aging workforce, she says, are ultimately what led Geisinger to reevaluate its staffing model and implement an international nurse initiative in 2018.

“We have to look at how we attract people to the area,” Muthler said. 

According to U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics, health care is projected to be the largest-growing sector of new job creation over the next decade, accounting for more than 1.3 million new jobs, roughly one-third of them for registered nurses.

But for those looking to find opportunity in the United States, while helping fill a critical shortage, obstacles remain.

Doctors have been impacted by the Trump administration’s travel ban, while some health aides and nursing assistants could be barred from getting a green card.

It is unclear whether Trump’s new immigration plan, announced on May 16, will help health care staffing. The merit-based system would favor immigrants who fall into broad “high-skill” categories, including “professional and specialized vocations,” at the cost of family-based and humanitarian immigrant visas.

‘Kindness is my language’

Even now, foreign-born health care professionals represent more than their share of the overall U.S. population; 14.7% of nurses and 22.7% of health aides are immigrants, according to NAE, compared to 13.7% of the population as a whole.

Thirty-five-year-old Hemoy Drummond, a recent Geisinger hire from Jamaica, has an EB-3 employment-based immigrant visa. She has 13 years of experience as a registered nurse.

“I was very nervous. It was a new setting, new expectations,” Drummond said. “But when I got here, I realized that people are kind. … I said, ‘That’s my language.'”

Danville, with its lush hillsides and nearby cornfields, reminds her of the sugar cane fields her father harvested in her native Clarkstown, Jamaica. Her community is safe. The mother of two can walk home alone after a late shift.

The nursing work is easier in Danville than in a short-staffed Montego Bay hospital.

“It’s easier to care for four to six (patients at Geisinger) than 18 (in Jamaica),” Drummond said. “I love to talk with (patients) that extra minute.”

Willing to stay

In town, locals generally welcome — or at least tolerate — their new international neighbors. 

“They’re magnificent!” remarked one woman on Danville’s Mill Street. “We’d be stupid not to let them into our country.”

Two hours southeast of Danville, along the Susquehanna River in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, views are more mixed. A foreign-born doctor described Chambersburg as “where blue meets red.” 

Yet Chambersburg Hospital, too, has been trying to solve its health care staffing problems with immigrants.

In Chambersburg, population 20,878, VOA spoke with 10 foreign-born doctors from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Poland and Hungary. Nine of them expressed a willingness to remain in rural Pennsylvania long term, including Indian physicians affected by a per-country green card backlog that has placed their families’ future in limbo. 

​U.S.-born physicians do not want to go to Chambersburg, much less stay, explained Dr. Golam Mostofa, chairman of the department of hospital medicine at Chambersburg Hospital.

“Fifty percent of our hospital medicine physicians are foreign graduates,” Mostofa said. “If we interview 10 American graduates, maybe one shows up.”

Dr. Muhammad Khokhar, a gastroenterologist from Lahore, Pakistan, has been in Chambersburg for 16 years. He remains committed to the town, even after his sixth grade daughter’s classmates at a Montessori school accused her of making bombs.

“(When) you have invested so much in the community, and you have built up relationships with your partners and the practice, it’s difficult,” Khokhar said. 

“I’m here,” he added. “This is my retirement place.”

 

 

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Sneezing a Lot? Handheld Allergen Detector Can Help

Whether you live in a city of somewhere more rural, there are always things in the air, invisible to the naked eye that could make you sneeze or cause major illness. Detecting these microscopic materials such as pollen, mold and pollutants could be time consuming and costly. A lab at the University of California, Los Angeles is trying to solve that problem by developing a handheld allergen detector for consumers. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee has the details.

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