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Top 5 Global Health Headlines: Nuclear Health Concerns, Transplant Patient Given HIV

Checking radiation levels in Koriyama city in Fukushima prefecture. Photo by Ken Shimizu/AFP/Getty Images

Nuclear Health Fears in Japan

Japan raised the nuclear alert level at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant to five out of a seven level international scale used to rate nuclear accidents Friday, renewing fears of possible health impacts for the surrounding population. The Chernobyl disaster in 1986 was considered a seven-point situation; Three Mile Island in 1979 was also rated five.

Officials insist that while workers at the plant may be in danger, radiation levels are safe outside of the 12-mile radius of the plant. The United States has maintained a 50-mile precaution zone for evacuation of Americans, but even as far away as the west coast of the United States, anxiety is growing about the disaster as the plume from the damaged reactors makes its way east.

N.Y. Transplant Patient Contracts HIV

A patient in New York City receiving a kidney transplant from a live donor was infected with HIV in 2009, health officials said Thursday.

It is the first confirmed HIV transmission through a transplant in the U.S. since the 1980s. The involved hospital tested the donor 79 days before transplant and the results were negative, but did not re-test him before the surgery.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending testing living donors no more than seven days before transplants in the wake of the investigation.

Drug Resistant TB Threat

Rising cases of tuberculosis that are resistant to available treatment drugs are causing concern among experts at the World Health Organization and the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control. Children are considered especially vulnerable and there are new calls for quicker diagnosis and treatment of the disease.

“Increasing rates of drug-resistant TB in eastern Europe, Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa now threaten to undermine the gains made by worldwide tuberculosis control programs,” said researchers in a study on the issue published this week in The Lancet.

Stem Cells Could Help Heart

A preliminary human clinical trial of stem cell therapy on patients with heart trouble was successful, reported University of Miami cardiologists Thursday.

In the study, cells were taken from each patient’s bone marrow and injected into heart scar tissue caused by previous attacks. Among other benefits, the procedure reduced the size of hearts swollen by previous heart attacks by up to 25 percent. Current therapies, including pacemakers, often only reduce the size by five percent.

Global Fund Names External Review Heads

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria tapped
Michael Leavitt, Secretary of Health and Human Services from 2005 to 2009, and former president of Botswana Festus Mogae, to co-chair an external review of its financial systems this week.

The organization’s safeguards against fraud have come under new scrutiny following recent media reports on misuse of some Global Fund grant resources by recipient countries. Though the organization had disclosed the problems last year and addressed the issues with recipient countries, one of the largest donors, Germany, froze its contribution pending further review.

The new panel is part of the Global Fund’s new strategy to strengthen financial controls.

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