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Ghanaian Oncologists Want More Focus on Colon Cancer

By the time a patient comes to Dr. Clement Edusa with colon cancer, it is often too late.The medical director of the Sweden Ghana Medical Center will see cancer that has been misdiagnosed and spread, as the patient has sought out other treatments, including some from ill-equipped small clinics or herbalists.Edusa said while Ghana does not see many cases of colon cancer, as lifestyles change, he expects to see an increase, and there need to be systems in place to provide detection and affordable treatment.“Definitely, there is going to be an increase,” Edusa said. “But don’t forget that apart from that, you need to have a structure in place to do the screening. So, if you don’t have a national program which sort of pulls in the people to do the screening, you won’t get it early. So, you will have an increase in numbers and people coming late, and of course, more fatalities.”FILE – Chadwick Boseman poses in the press room at the American Music Awards on Nov. 24, 2019, at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles.While fans have been mourning the loss of American actor Chadwick Boseman, who died of colon cancer a month ago, a beloved actor and preacher in Ghana also met this fate this year.Bernard Nyarko’s son Gideon said his dad’s illness was gradual. By the time he got his colon cancer diagnosis, doctors could do little, as it had spread.“He went to the hospital, but they were not able to diagnose the main source of his illness,” Nyarko said. “They were linking it to other sorts of illnesses. It was later that we discovered it was colon cancer. That was 2019.”When Gideon saw images of Boseman’s weight loss, he saw the similarities of how his own father looked toward the end.Gideon Kankam Nyarko with his late father, Ghanaian actor Bernard Nyarko who died this year of colon cancer. (Courtesy of Gideon Kankam Nyarko)He hopes both his father’s case and that of Boseman will create awareness of the need for early detection and better training in health services.Some organizations in Ghana have taken up this mantle.Cancer Support Network Ghana tries to get cancer survivors to speak out to encourage others to go for screenings, to ultimately lower fatality rates in Ghana, said oncology nurse Eric Brobbey.“People think that when you have this cancer you’re going to die, but there are people who have lived for many years, Brobbey said. “So, when they come out to share their stories, it encourages others to also seek treatment.”Ibrahim Rauf of the Zurak Cancer Foundation works to increase cancer awareness in low-income communities, in Accra, Ghana, Sept. 26, 2020. (Stacey Knott/VOA)Ibrahim Rauf from the Zurak Cancer Foundation focuses on low-income communities, advocating prevention, education and the promotion of healthy lifestyles.“The lifestyles that expose people to cancers kind of run through, regardless of which cancer you are referring to,” Rauf said. “So, we might not be heavily focused on colon cancer now, but then we believe the awareness we are creating is giving people the opportunities to adopt lifestyles that save them from it.”The ultimate hope is that more people will be aware of the signs and risks of cancers, including colon cancer, and that eventually all screenings, diagnoses and treatments will be funded by the government. 

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Scientists Claim Discovery of Multiple Liquid Water Lakes on Mars 

A team of scientists studying data from a satellite orbiting Mars say they have discovered evidence of several lakes of what they believe is salty, liquid water beneath the surface of the planet’s south pole.The discovery, detailed in a study published Monday in the journal Nature Astronomy, expands upon a tentative finding in 2018, which was made using data from the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Mars Express satellite.A radar instrument known as the Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding (MARSIS) produced evidence of what astronomers believed was a large saltwater lake under the ice at Mars’s south pole, a finding that was met with excitement and some skepticism at the time.Since then, the same group of scientists examined 10 years’ worth of radar images sent from the spacecraft and found not only more evidence confirming the original salt lake, but enough for at least three more lying underneath the Martian surface.Confirming the existence of liquid water on Mars is significant, in that it could provide a possible habitat for life.The new evidence came after researchers examined over 100 radar images taken by the satellite from 2010 through 2019. The scientists saw what seemed to be several subglacial liquid bodies ranging in size from just over 19 kilometers across to as small as just under 5 kilometers.The average temperature on Mars is around minus 26 degrees Celsius, far too cold for water to remain liquid at the surface. But the researchers believe the lakes maintain their liquid state due to their high concentrations of salt. Some scientists believe Mars was once a wet, warm world and may even have hosted life forms at some point in its early history. But over time, the planet’s atmosphere was stripped away because it lacks a magnetic field like Earth’s, making it seemingly inhospitable.This latest discovery suggests that some pockets of the Martian terrain may be habitable and could contain some form of microbial life that escaped from the planet’s freezing surface to the waters beneath. 

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British Company Testing Jet Suits For Use During Emergencies

A British jet suit company has teamed with a paramedic service to test the flying suits’ capabilities for emergency use in Britain’s mountainous northern lake district.Gravity Industries released video Tuesday of a recent test of its jet suit in simulated rescue situations in northwest Britain’s vast Lake District National Park in Cumbria.The jet suit company teamed up with local paramedic team Great North Air Ambulance Service (GNAAS), which says reaching walkers in distress is one of their biggest challenges.In one test simulation, a paramedic in a jet suit – which, in this case, was test pilot and Gravity Industries founder Richard Browning – was sent up a mountain in a scenario in which a 10-year-old girl had fallen from cliffs and sustained a serious leg injury.Sorry, but your browser cannot support embedded video of this type, you can
download this video to view it offline.Download File360p | 14 MB480p | 20 MB540p | 29 MB720p | 72 MB1080p | 123 MBOriginal | 127 MB Embed” />Copy Download AudioThe paramedic, following coordinates given for the location of the casualty, follows a hiking trial up the steep, rocky terrain, traveling at about 51 kilometers per hour (kph) and reaches the scene in 90 seconds, traveling a distance that might have taken a rescuer as long as 25-30 minutes on foot.GNAAS director Andy Mawson, who reached out to Gravity Industries about using their jet suit for emergency services, says its lifesaving potential “is just huge.”The suit has an altitude limit of 3,658 meters, easily surpassing the height of the Lake District’s – and Britain’s – highest peak of 978 meters.Browning launched Gravity Industries in March 2017 and has since flown more than 100 flight events across 30 countries. 

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UN Chief Laments ‘Agonizing Milestone’ of 1 Million COVID-19 Deaths

The number of people killed by COVID-19 has surpassed 1 million, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, which put the total number of infections worldwide at more than 33 million.    Lamenting what he called “an agonizing milestone,” United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on the world to overcome the challenge presented by the pandemic and to learn from past mistakes made at the outset. “Responsible leadership matters,” Gutteres said. “Science matters. Cooperation matters — and misinformation kills.” COVID-19 is the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, which is believed to have originated in Wuhan, China, late last year. As the pandemic reached the grim milestone, a World Health Organization (WHO) official said the actual toll is probably higher.     FILE – Coffins with the bodies of victims of coronavirus are stored waiting for burial or cremation at the Collserola morgue in Barcelona, Spain, Apr. 2, 2020.”If anything, the numbers currently reported probably represent an underestimate of those individuals who have either contracted COVID-19 or died as a cause of it,” Mike Ryan, the WHO’s top emergencies expert, said at a briefing in Geneva.  The one million fatalities are among the more than 33.2 million people around the world who have been sickened by the disease, and there are growing signs that many nations are about to experience a second wave of the outbreak, especially the United States, which leads the world with over 7.1 million total cases, including over 205,000 deaths. FILE – A caution tape is put up around the playground at Public School 33 following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, Sept. 27, 2020.Officials in New York City, the initial epicenter of the pandemic in the United States in March and April, are reporting a surge of new COVID-19 cases across the city after several months of decreasing numbers.  Officials are especially concerned with eight neighborhoods in the Brooklyn and Queens boroughs, some of them home to large Orthodox Jewish communities.  The increase comes as the city prepares to reopen its public schools to in-person instruction this week.  New York state Governor Andrew Cuomo also expressed concern Monday about a surge of new cases in two counties, Rockland and Orange, located north of New York City.  FILE – Dough Hassebroek walks his son Felix to Ardor School in Brooklyn, New York, Sept. 21, 2020.A new study released Monday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed the rate of infections in children ages 12 to 17 is about twice that in children between the ages of five to 11.  But the CDC study pointed out that the statistics were collected during a period when most students were not attending in-person classes, suggesting that the low number of confirmed cases in children result from a lack of testing.   The CDC also said young children often have mild symptoms, and may even be asymptomatic, which could also account for their low numbers of confirmed cases. “The American people should anticipate that cases will rise in the days ahead,” U.S. Vice President Mike Pence warned on Monday.   More testing  U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday promised to make 150 million rapid COVID-19 tests available.  He said the “massive and groundbreaking expansion” of testing would help protect the elderly in nursing homes, allow schools to reopen more safely, and help get the economy back on track.     President Donald Trump leaves after an event about coronavirus testing strategy, in the Rose Garden of the White House, Sept. 28, 2020, in Washington.Trump had previously said he wanted to slow down testing because discovering more cases could make it appear the disease is spreading faster.    WHO announced that 120 million rapid diagnostic tests for the coronavirus will be made available to low- and middle-income countries.     WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said manufacturers Abbott and SD Biosensor are working in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to “make 120 million of these new, highly portable and easy-to-use rapid COVID-19 diagnostic tests available over a period of six months.”          

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Trump Announces Plan to Distribute 150 Million Rapid Coronavirus Tests

U.S. President Donald Trump announced plans to distribute 150 million rapid coronavirus tests and urged governors to use them to reopen schools, amid reporting that a member of his coronavirus task force is concerned the president is receiving incorrect information about the pandemic.In a speech at the White House Rose Garden, Trump called the plan a “massive and groundbreaking expansion” of testing capability, “more than double the number of tests already performed.“Fifty million tests will go to protect the most vulnerable communities, which we’ve always promised to do, including 18 million for nursing homes, 15 million for assisted living facilities,10 million for home health and hospice care, hospice care agencies and nearly 1 million for historically black colleges and universities, and also tribal nation colleges,” Trump said.The administration is encouraging schools to use the rapid Abbott Laboratories tests, which deliver results in 15 minutes, to help restart and maintain in-person teaching so that parents can return to work.   “One hundred million rapid, point-of-care tests will be given to states and territories to support efforts to reopen their economies in schools immediately and fast as they can,” Trump said.   Last week Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden criticized Trump for not having a national standard to safely reopen schools and said that he had released a plan to do so in July.   Biden stressed that reopening schools should only be done with adequate protections including masks and sanitizing and based on health considerations such as the reinfection rate. “If it’s down below one then it’s rational that you can, with those protections, go ahead and open a school but watch it very closely. But it requires testing and tracing to make sure you’re still on course there,” Biden said. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert Redfield speaks during a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing “Review of Coronavirus Response Efforts” on Capitol Hill, Washington, Sept. 16, 2020.‘Everything he says is false’  Trump’s announcement came amid reporting that the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Robert Redfield, suggested in a conversation with a colleague Friday that Dr. Scott Atlas, the newest member of the president’s coronavirus task force, is arming Trump with misleading data about the virus, including on the efficacy of masks and the potential benefits of herd immunity.   “Everything he says is false,” Redfield said during a phone call made in public on a commercial airline and overheard by NBC News.   The CDC did not dispute that Redfield was speaking about Atlas in the overheard conversation. “NBC News is reporting one side of a private phone conversation by CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield that was overheard on a plane from Atlanta Hartsfield airport. Dr. Redfield was having a private discussion regarding a number of points he has made publicly about COVID-19,” said a CDC spokesman in an email to NBC.   Atlas is a neuroradiologist with no background in infectious diseases or public health who was brought on to the White House task force in August. Before he joined the task force, Atlas was a frequent guest on Fox News, where he pushed to reopen the country and espoused views that more closely align with the president’s opinions on the pandemic. Trump invited Atlas to speak during the coronavirus testing announcement. Redfield was not present at Monday’s event, neither were two other members of the coronavirus task force, Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx. 

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Pelosi Says Democrats Unveil New COVID-19 Aid Bill 

U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Monday that Democratic lawmakers unveiled a new, $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief bill, which she said was a compromise measure that reduces the costs of the economic aid. In a letter to Democratic lawmakers released by Pelosi’s office, she said the legislation “includes new funding needed to avert catastrophe for schools, small businesses, restaurants, performance spaces, airline workers and others.” “Democrats are making good on our promise to compromise with this updated bill,” she said. “We have been able to make critical additions and reduce the cost of the bill by shortening the time covered for now.” Pelosi in recent days has said she thinks a deal can be reached with the White House on a new coronavirus relief package and that talks were continuing. But she also said that she would offer legislation if the impasse continued with the Trump administration over the size and shape of another relief package. She did not say when there would be a vote on the latest Democratic proposal. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, left, walk to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office on Capitol Hill in Washington, Aug. 5, 2020.Formal talks among Pelosi, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows aimed at hammering out a relief package broke down on Aug. 7 with the two sides far apart. Pelosi and Mnuchin spoke by phone on Sunday and again on Monday. They plan to speak again on Tuesday morning, her spokesman said. Pelosi and Schumer initially sought a $3.4 trillion relief package, then said they were willing to scale that back by at least a trillion dollars. But it was not clear whether the White House would consider the $2.2 trillion sum proposed in the new legislation. Meadows has said that Trump would be willing to sign a $1.3 trillion relief package. Pelosi also faces pressure from moderate House Democrats who say they want to see bipartisan aid proposals that have a chance of becoming law. The new proposal included $436 billion for state and local governments, as well as money for education, testing, airline industry workers and for a small business loan program known as the Paycheck Protection Program, a statement from House Democrats said. It would also provide a new round of direct payments to Americans of $1,200 per taxpayer and restore federal unemployment benefits of $600 a week through January. 

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Hot Baths Can Ward Off Cardiovascular Diseases, Study Shows

New research suggests that taking hot baths, soaking in hot tubs or using saunas can prevent cardiovascular diseases such as heart disease, high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes. The research was presented last week at the Annual Meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD), held virtually this year. Hisayuki Katsuyama, co-author of the new study, is a physician at Kohnodai Hospital in Ichikawa, Japan. He says that while drug treatments have helped people with Type 2 diabetes live better, longer lives, daily habits such as diet and exercise are still important for these patients.  Katsuyama says he and his colleagues looked at previous research suggesting heat therapy, such as baths, hot tubs or saunas, can lower risks of fatal heart disease and stroke, along with having a lower body fat percentage, and thought it could be promising as a Type 2 diabetes treatment. To test the theory, the researchers recruited 1,297 patients with Type 2 diabetes who regularly visited an outpatient hospital unit in Ichikawa between October 2018 and March 2019. They documented their bathing habits and noted water temperature, frequency and duration of each session, as well as a variety of medical notes.  Across the board, people who bathed more often had lower body mass indexes (BMI), diastolic blood pressure and glycated hemoglobin, a key risk factor for Type 2 diabetes. In their presentation, the researchers say their findings suggest daily heat exposure by hot tub bathing can “contribute to improvements of glycemia, hypertension and obesity, and thus, can be a therapeutic option for patients with Type 2 diabetes.” In an interview, Katsuyama says he suspects patients may benefit from heat therapy in a way similar to the benefit they get from exercise. He says both seem to improve insulin sensitivity and enhance energy expenditure.  Other research suggests bathing increases blood circulation, body temperature and the production of nitric oxide in the body, which appears to confer the positive benefits. Katsuyama says more research is needed before more conclusions can be made. The study has not yet been published or peer reviewed.
 

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Experts Warn of China’s Emergency Use of COVID-19 Vaccine

China in recent months has been injecting hundreds of thousands of people with three preliminary coronavirus vaccianes that are being tested for safety and efficacy.While the world awaits a proven drug to fight the pandemic, at least three vaccine candidates have been given to front-line medical professionals, staff of state-owned companies, and government officials since July under an emergency use program approved by Beijing.China National Biotec Group (CNBG), a subsidiary of state-owned Sinopharm, has administered two experimental vaccine candidates to around 350,000 people outside its clinical trials, CNBG chairman Yang Xiaoming said recently. The company also donated 200,000 doses of one of the candidate vaccines that is still undergoing clinical trials in Wuhan, where the pandemic was first reported.Another drugmaker, Sinovac Biotech, has injected 90% of its employees and their family members, or about 3,000 people, Yin Weidong, the company’s CEO, said this month.”At present, tens of thousands of people in Beijing should have been vaccinated with Sinovac’s vaccine,” Yin told Chinese state media.Separately, Beijing also gave approval in June for members of the armed forces to receive an experimental vaccine developed by CanSino Biologics, a biopharmaceutical company that is backed by the military.A man works in the packaging facility of Chinese vaccine maker Sinovac Biotech, developing an experimental coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine, in Beijing, China, Sept. 24, 2020.Phase 3 trial importantForeign experts have criticized using the experimental vaccines before clinical trials have been completed.”It is reckless and dangerous to distribute a minimally tested vaccine about which nothing has been published,” said Dr. Arthur Caplan, head of the division of medical ethics at New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine.”Puts too many people at risk without opportunity to study safety and efficacy in a large group,” Caplan told VOA in an email.Vaccines usually require years of research and testing before being made available to the public. In Phase 3 trials, vaccines are generally given to thousands of people and tested for safety and efficacy.”Before the completion of Phase 3 trials, we cannot have full confidence in the safety and effectiveness of a vaccine,” Lawrence Gostin, professor of Global Health Law at Georgetown University, told VOA.Under China’s law, vaccines developed for major public health emergencies can be deployed for urgent use if the National Medical Products Administration considers that the benefits of the treatment outweigh the risks.Experts say speeding up the process introduces more risk, which could undermine the vaccination effort in the long run.“This practice can backfire if the rushed process causes a widespread distrust of the vaccine when fewer people are willing to take the vaccine. Or it can cause severe damages when vaccine complications were warned, due to the rushed trials, “Dr. Jennifer Huang Bouey, an epidemiologist and China expert at the RAND Corporation, told VOA.Most candidates failCurrently, there are 42 vaccine candidates that are being tested on humans, 11 of them developed by Chinese companies.Nurse Isabelli Guasso administers China’s Sinovac potential vaccine for the COVID-19 to volunteer Dr. Luciano Marini, at the Sao Lucas Hospital of the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio Grande do Sul in Porto Alegre, Brazil Aug. 8, 2020.According to the American Council on Science and Health, a research and education organization, vaccines for infectious diseases in clinical trials only have a 33.4% success rate, meaning that most of the vaccines that entered the stage of clinical trials will fail.China claims that so far, there have been no obvious adverse reactions among the people who were inoculated.”Tens of thousands of people vaccinated have traveled to countries and regions with high risks of COVID-19. No one has been infected so far, and this proved the effectiveness of the vaccines,” said Zhou Song, chief legal adviser of CNBG.A box for a COVID-19 vaccine is displayed at an exhibit by Chinese pharmaceutical firm Sinopharm at the China International Fair for Trade in Services (CIFTIS) in Beijing, China, Sept. 5, 2020.There are 11 candidates in Phase 3 trials, four of them are developed by Chinese companies. While Phase 3 is the final stage, it does not necessarily mean that successful results are imminent.A U.S. Food and Drug Administration study in 2017 found that vaccine candidates that had encouraging Phase 2 results could still fail. Of the 22 vaccines in Phase 3 trials that scientists studied, 14 of them did not confirm the effectiveness of the product that was indicated in Phase 2 trials. One vaccine in the study had a safety problem identified in Phase 3.”If the vaccine is ultimately proven to be poorly protective against the virus — which it may — they will have exposed many people to unnecessary risks and perhaps given people false confidence that they are protected, which undermines public health,” Dr. Charles Holmes, director of the Georgetown University Center for Innovation in Global Health, told VOA.Beijing’s global reachIt is possible that within weeks the world will see its first proven coronavirus vaccine, as some of the Phase 3 trials are expected to complete as early as November.China now has more candidates in the final stage of trial than any other nation and has been using the prospect of a vaccine’s discovery to shore up its global standing.Chinese vaccine developers are currently working with more than 40 countries and carrying out clinical trials in at least 10.The United Arab Emirates has recently approved a Chinese vaccine candidate for emergency use, making China the first nation to receive approval to deploy a COVID-19 candidate in a foreign country.Through various platforms like the Belt and Road Initiative, and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Beijing has promised to prioritize doses for dozens of countries. Officials are also claiming the countries’ vaccine makers are ramping up production.“Next year, our annual capacity will reach more than 1 billion doses,” said Zheng Zhongwei, director of the National Health Commission’s Science and Technology Development Center, at a news conference last Friday.A visitor wearing a face mask looks at a model of a coronavirus and boxes for COVID-19 vaccines at a display by Chinese pharmaceutical firm Sinopharm at the China International Fair for Trade in Services (CIFTIS) in Beijing, Sept. 5, 2020.Despite Beijing’s asserted ability to develop and deliver vaccines, experts warned that China is not necessarily ahead in the global vaccine race.”Before a Phase 3 trial is completed and a manufacturing capacity is used, any country that has a promising vaccine candidate can be equally successful,” said Bouey.Gostin, who is also the director of the World Health Organization Collaborating Center on National and Global Health Law, said China and its partner countries are exposing people to significant risk by deploying the vaccine before it has completed a large-scale placebo-controlled trial.”China is trying to exploit other countries, gaining political or commercial advantage in return for the vaccine,” Gostin said.In Indonesia, China’s Sinovac Biotech promised it would help Indonesia’s state-owned drugmaker Bio Farma produce at least 40 million doses of its potential vaccine before March 2021.Muhammad Zulfikar Rakhmat, an academic at Universitas Islam Indonesia who researches China’s foreign policy in Indonesia, told VOA in an email that right now, there is little public attention on the risks of taking the experimental vaccine.”Most concerns are about whether the vaccine would work or not and if Indonesians have only become subjects of trial,” Rakhmat said.  

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