Health Buzz: Cholera Outbreak Strikes Haiti; More Than 250 Dead

Why diabetes may triple by 2050; Healthy People 2010: Americans falling short of federal benchmarks.

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Hundreds Dead in Haiti as Cholera Spreads

A cholera outbreak in Haiti has killed more than 250 people so far and will likely continue spreading, United Nations officials say. More than 3,000 cases have been reported since the outbreak began about a week ago in the island's central rural regions. Cholera, a water-borne illness, causes dehydration and diarrhea that can kill within hours. If detected early, the bacterial infection is highly treatable with an oral rehydration solution (a mixture of water, sugar, and salt) and antibiotics when necessary. The U.N., Haiti's government, and other aid partners have teamed up to contain the epidemic, setting up cholera treatment centers and distributing soap bars, water purification tablets and oral rehydration sachets. "We must gear up for a serious epidemic, even though we hope it won't happen," Nigel Fisher, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Haiti, told Reuters. To keep from contracting and spreading the bacteria, Haitians are warned to wash their hands with soap, avoid eating raw vegetables, boil all food and drinking water, and to stop bathing in and drinking from rivers.

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  • Why Diabetes May Triple by 2050

    The diabetes rate in the U.S. is poised to explode. As many as 1 in 3 adults will develop the chronic, life-threatening disease by 2050, a stark increase from the 1 in 10 presently affected, according to estimates released today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If current trends continue, the number of new cases could jump from 8 per every 1,000 people in 2008 to 15 per every 1,000 within the next 40 years.

    "It's alarming," says Ann Albright, director of the CDC's Division of Diabetes Translation. "People have to remember that once you have diabetes, you can't give it back."

    The rising incidence of type 2 diabetes—much more prevalent than type 1—is fueling the trend, researchers say. Type 2 occurs when the body does not respond to or produce enough insulin, and though genetics play a role, excess weight and inactivity both increase the risk, U.S. News reports. Complications include heart attacks, strokes, blindness, kidney failure, and nerve damage.

    Here are three other factors that researchers believe will propel the numbers:

    1. The "age wave." The number of adults ages 65 and older is expected to climb from 38.7 million in 2008 to 88.5 million by 2050, and older adults are more likely to develop diabetes than are younger adults. The body's ability to use and produce insulin gradually declines around age 45, Albright says. But type 2 diabetes is also on the rise in younger people, particularly among adolescents, a group rarely affected in the past. Lifestyle factors, like obesity and a lack of exercise, are likely to blame. [Read more: Why Diabetes May Triple by 2050.]

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    • Healthy People 2010: Americans Falling Short of Federal Benchmarks

      Americans may say they want long and healthy lives, but in terms of their actions, the record is mixed. In the late 1990s, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services gathered experts from across the country to document Americans' health and habits and determine what improvements they hoped to see over the next decade. The initiative, known as Healthy People 2010 (for when the targets would ideally be reached), continues similar programs from 10 and 20 years earlier.

      The initiative set out to track progress nationally and by geography, ethnicity, and age, writes U.S. News correspondent Meryl Davids Landau. Although final results are not yet in (data of this scope typically lag by several years), the trends are clear—and the news is both very good and awful. As of mid-2009, there was success in reaching 117 of the 635 targets, or over 18 percent, including important markers like age-adjusted death rates for heart disease. But for many other indicators, especially lifestyle-related issues, the numbers are moving in the wrong direction.