Hello and welcome to another program designed to help you learn and improve your American English. I’m Jim Tedder in Washington. Today we are concerned with your health. We have information about a disease that seems to have spread from Africa and Asia into the Western Hemisphere. If you have mosquitoes near your home, you will need to listen carefully.
Then imagine you are sitting outside near the end of another day. Every now and then you see something fly above your house very quickly, and make sharp turns. No, it is not a bird. It is a bat, and it, too, may be a serious disease carrier.
What are these illnesses? And how can you protect yourself from them? We’ll have the answers, next on As It Is.
A painful disease found mainly in Africa and Asia has been discovered in the Western Hemisphere. The World Health Organization reported last December that two cases of chikungunya were found in the French part of the Caribbean island of Saint Martin. Since then, the disease has been reported on other islands in the Caribbean.
Chikungunya results from a virus. It is passed to humans from the bite of an insect -- the mosquito. The disease can cause a higher than normal body temperature and pain in the head. It also causes pain in the joints, which can last for weeks. Chikunguya rarely kills people, but there is no treatment or vaccine for the disease.
The WHO says chikungunya infected many people in the African nation of Gabon, India and islands in the Indian Ocean about 10 years ago. It spread within Europe for the first time in 2007.
Peter Hotez is the head of the National School of Tropical Medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine in Texas. He says he soon expects to see reports of chikungunya in the southern United States.
“The mosquitoes are here. That’s an important factor. Second, there may be some component of global warming.”
He says insects carrying the disease are found in places where poverty and development are increasing, such as in the southern United States.
Straw-colored fruit bats are found across much of Africa. The bats carry two deadly viruses that could spread to people. While scientists have long known this, they did not know until recently how many of the animals were carriers.
A new study has found that one third of the fruit bats are infected with a virus similar to the one responsible for the viral disease rabies. And 42 percent carry henipaviruses, which can cause a deadly disease.
The new study was a project of researchers with the University of Cambridge and the Zoological Society of London. The researchers studied blood and tissue from more than 2,000 bats from 12 African countries. They found the animals were genetically similar -- meaning they travel and live together across the continent. James Wood of the University of Cambridge says this genetic similarity helps speed the spread of the viruses.
Fruit bats live in groups of more than 100,000. These groups often live near cities. In some areas, people hunt the animals for their meat. Eating bat meat can spread the viruses to humans. Henipaviruses can also be spread through contact with waste products from bats.
Neither disease has been reported in humans in Africa. But experts are warning that could change. Alison Peel helped to prepare a report on the study. She warns that trying to remove bats from cities could increase the risk of infection. In her words, “the most appropriate response is ongoing studies and public awareness to avoid handling bats, and to wash the wound thoroughly if you are bitten by a bat.”
The report appeared in the journal Nature Communications.
In December, China reported the death of a woman who it said was the first human to become infected with a new kind of avian influenza virus. Researchers are working to learn more about the H10N8 strain of the virus that killed her. The World Health Organization says the speed at which China reported the case shows the country is getting better at identifying deadly viruses. The 73-year old woman died late last year, just six days after visiting a poultry market in Jiangxi Province.
Bernhard Schwartlander is the WHO’s representative in China. He says the quick identification of the bird flu that killed the woman shows the increased strength of China’s surveillance system.
“The fact that Chinese authorities detected this case in a 73-year-old woman that had other medical conditions actually shows that the active surveillance system, the active alert system, is actually working quite well.”
The woman often visited markets were live chickens and other poultry were sold.
She was taken to a hospital on November 30 and died December 6th. She had suffered from high blood pressure and heart disease, which may have kept her body from being able to fight the infection. Dr. Schwartlander says officials need to watch other people closely to see if the disease has spread.
“Of course, we are always concerned when we see that the virus has actually jumped from one species to another. And you have to be very careful watching this because every time this happens it has, of course in theory, the potential for a wider spread.”
Last year, about 100 people were infected with the H7N9 strain of bird flu. Chinese officials reacted quickly with increased testing and reporting of similar cases.
The H10N8 virus had earlier been found in Guangdong Province and lived in poultry for many years. Dr. Schwartlander says the first human death from the virus is a worrisome development.
“This is the first case that we detected the virus in a human being.”
In 2002 and 2003, some countries criticized China for being slow to release news about Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, also known as SARS. The disease killed more than 700 people. As health officials followed the disease, the government told reporters in China not to report on SARS. Government officials also did not tell WHO researchers much about the spread of the disease.
Since then, China’s health systems have improved. But some experts say China must work harder to study laboratory-confirmed infections.
Chinese officials are also closely watching for cases of the H5N1 bird flu virus, which has killed more than 380 people since 2003. Scientists fear the virus could change and then spread quickly from one person to another.
When it comes to your health, it is always better to know than not to know. There are more Learning English programs coming your way next, and world news at the beginning of the hour on VOA. I’m Jim Tedder in Washington.
一种在亚洲和非洲发现的严重疾病现在也出现在了西半球。世界卫生组织（WHO）去年 12 月报告了在加勒比海法
WHO 称，基孔肯雅热在大约 10 年前感染了非洲加蓬以及印度和印度洋岛屿的很多人，最早在 2007 年传到欧洲。
Peter Hotez 是德克萨斯州贝勒大学的热带医学国家学院的院长。他说，他预计美国南部很快就会发现基孔肯雅热。
一项新研究发现，1/3 果蝠感染了类似病毒性狂犬病的病毒， 42%携带会导致致而死性疾病的立百病毒。
这项新研究是剑桥大学和伦敦动物学会研究人员的项目。研究人员研究了 12 个非洲国家超过 2000 只蝙蝠的血液和组织。他们发现，这些动物的基因很类似——这意味着他们在整个大洲迁徙混居。剑桥大学的 James Wood 说，这种基因相似性加速了这些病毒的传播。
果蝠的群居数量往往超过 10 万只。这些蝠群通常栖息在城市附近。在一些地区，人们会捕捉蝙蝠为食。吃蝙蝠肉会将病毒传给人类。立百病毒也会通过与蝙蝠排泄物接触而传播。
12 月，中国报道了首例感染一种新型禽流感的女子死亡。研究人员正在研究这种引发死亡的 H10N8 病毒。世界卫生组织称，中国报道该病例的速度反映出该国家鉴定致死性病毒的水平在提高。这位 73 岁的女性死去去年年末，是从江西省一个家禽市场回去的 6 天后。
Bernhard Schwartlander 是世界卫生组织驻中国代表。他说，快速确定导致该女子死亡的禽流感显示了中国健康监护系统的加强。
中国官方能够在一位有其他健康状况的 73 岁女性身子鉴定该病例，说明了有效监护系统和预警系统确实运转得很不错。这名女子经常光顾出售活鸡和其他禽类的市场。
她在 11 月 30 日被送往医院， 月 6 日死12亡。她患有高血压和心脏病，这会使她的机体无法抵御感染。Schwartlander 医生说，相关人员还需要观察与她亲近的人，看看该疾病是否扩散。
去年，约 100 人感染 H7N9 型禽流感。中国官方通过对类似病例越来越多的测试和报道，做出了迅速反应。
H10N8 病毒之前在广东省被发现，并在禽类身上存在多年。Schwartlander 医生说，该病毒首例患者的死亡很令人担心。“这是我们检测到的首例感染该病毒的人类。”
在 2002 年和 2003 年，一些国家批评中国对新型的严重急性呼吸系统综合症（SARS）反应迟缓。该疾病造成 700 多人死亡。卫生官员跟进了该疾病，但政府告知中国记者不要报道 SARS。政府官员也没有向 WHO 研究人员提供太多关于该疾病传播的信息。
中国官员还密切关注了 H5N1 型禽流感的病例，它从 2003 年以来造成超过 380 人死亡。科学家担心该病毒会变异，然后快速在人群中传播。