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Shrinking Forests, Emerging Diseases

Dona Dora’s man is away from home a lot more these days. It didn’t used to be like that.

He leaves early, sometimes on foot, but increasingly on his bicycle, and heads into the forests surrounding Belém, the capital of Brazil’s Para province. He keeps his eyes open especially for five medicinal plants that are always in demand — sucuúba (Himatanthus sucuuba), copaíba (Copaifera spp.), andiroba (Carapa guianensis), barbatimão (Stryphnodendron spp.) and pãu d’arco (Tabebuia avellanedae).

Fifteen years earlier, he would have found all five within hours and been back for lunch, but times have changed. These days, medicinal forest plants in high demand are becoming harder to find as forests that have stood strong for millennia are cleared to make way for grazing pastures for millions of cattle owned by meat companies, or to grow soybeans to feed cattle and poultry.

Now, Dona Dora’s man can spend a whole day and not find more than a few plants. It might be late at night before he gets back home.

Rogan Brown: The Science of Paper

Rogan Brown is an Anglo-Irish artist notable for his intricate paper sculptures that beautifully intertwine art and science. Drawing inspiration from the microscopic to the monumental—microbiology, botanical forms, geological structures, and marine ecosystems—Brown meticulously handcrafts and laser-cuts complex three-dimensional artworks. His pieces surpass mere representation, merging scientific accuracy with surreal artistic flair.

Shiuly Khatun: Dengue Warrior

Shiuly Khatun is a Field Supervisor at the Dhalpur Aalo Clinic in Dhaka, Bangladesh, where she manages and coordinates the clinic’s operations. Her daily responsibilities are vast and critical, ranging from mapping areas and dividing work for community volunteers to conducting health sessions and overseeing satellite clinic activities.

Dengue fever, once confined to the tropics, now threatens the U.S.

Climate change is expanding the habitat of the mosquitoes that carry the disease, allowing them to spread further north.

Meg Norris was traveling in Argentina in April when the first signs of dengue fever hit her. The weather in Salta, just south of the Bolivian border, was warm, but Norris, a 33-year-old from Boulder, Colorado, zipped a fleece sweatshirt around her body to stop herself from shivering.

“I thought it was sun poisoning,” she said.

Dengue Explained in Five Minutes

Check out this video by Free Med Education to learn about dengue fever, its cause, and its symptoms.

The Rise of Dengue: A Global Perspective

Around the world, dengue is considered the most common viral disease transmitted by mosquitoes that affects people. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the disease is now endemic in more than 100 countries. In the first three months of 2024, over five million dengue cases and over 2000 dengue-related deaths were reported globally. The figures so far project that 2024 could be even worse than 2023, with the regions most seriously affected being the Americas, South-East Asia, and Western Pacific.

In the Americas, there were 6,186,805 suspected cases of dengue reported in the first 15 weeks of 2024. To put this into perspective, according to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), this figure represents an increase of 254% compared to the same period in 2023. Of these cases 5,928 were confirmed and classified as severe dengue.

Mary Beth Heffernan: From the Studio to the Hospital Ward

Mary Beth Heffernan, a Los Angeles based artist, brings together corporeality and imagery through various media. Her work examines deep questions about how bodies and their experiences are represented in digital and physical forms.

One of Heffernan’s most notable projects, the PPE Portrait Project, began in 2014 to humanize the protective gear of Ebola workers in Liberia. By placing portraits on protective equipment, the project helped mitigate fear and foster connections between healthcare workers and patients. The initiative gained international attention and was adapted for COVID-19 response, impacting healthcare settings worldwide, including major institutions like Stanford Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital.

Dr. Samuel Katz: The Man Who Helped Conquer Measles

Dr. Samuel Katz made monumental contributions to pediatric health and vaccinations before his passing on October 31, 2022, at the age of 95. His career was proof that one dedicated individual can have a profound impact on global public health.

Born on May 29, 1927, in Manchester, NH, Samuel Katz initially studied journalism at Dartmouth College, but quickly switched to medicine after a stint in the Navy during World War II. Moving on to his medical studies at Harvard Medical School, he was drawn into the world of virology under the tutelage of John Enders, a Nobel Laureate. This collaboration marked the beginning of Katz’s lifelong battle against infectious diseases, which included the development of the measles vaccine.

Understanding Measles

Check out this video by CBC on one of the world’s most contagious but preventable diseases. Learn how measles attacks the body and what makes it so contagious.

Europe and the U.S. Battle Measles – Again

Initially, doctors in the Tuzla Canton of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina thought the rash on young Imran’s* stomach could be scarlet fever. Or maybe it was Kawasaki disease. As reported by Eurosurveillance, that was in early December 2023. By Christmas, four of Imran’s preschool classmates had been admitted to the hospital with measles. By mid-January 2024, another epidemiologically linked case – again originally misdiagnosed as the much less contagious scarlet fever – presented in a neighboring canton. Two more quickly followed. Between the last week of December and the middle of February, the Balkan nation had reported 141 new measles cases.

Barts Health Trust’s Dr. David Harrington said the misdiagnoses should not be unexpected.

“Many front-line clinicians won’t have seen measles for several years,” he told Medscape UK. “So good education and training and collaboration between public health and infection specialists with those in primary and emergency care is key.”