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Software Uses Twitter To Track Dengue Outbreaks In Brazil

submitted by Mary Suzanne Kivlighan

Kaiser Family Foundation - July 19, 2011

The New Scientist reports on a software program that is being used "to identify a high correlation between the time and place where people tweet they have dengue and the official statistics for where the disease appears each season."

Researchers at two Brazilian National Institutes of Science and Technology worked together to create the software, which filters tweets containing the word "dengue" and user location details. "Dengue outbreaks occur every year in Brazil, but exactly where varies every season. It can take weeks for medical notifications to be centrally analyzed, creating a headache for health authorities planning where to concentrate resources," the publication notes. Using Twitter could speed up response time, according to Wagner Meira, a computer scientist at the Federal University of Minus Gerais who led the study (Corbyn, 7/18).

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Upper Midwest Braces for Dangerous and Long Heat Wave

Reuters - July 15, 2011

(Reuters) - A heat wave hovering in the central and southern states is expanding north to states not accustomed to intense and prolonged heat.

"This is going to be especially bad in the upper Midwest," said Chris Vaccaro, a spokesman for the National Weather Service.

Temperatures will be in the 90's and possibly hit 100 degrees in some places. When humidity is factored in, the heat index could reach 115 degrees.

These soaring mercury levels are unusual for states like North and South Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin, Vaccaro said, which makes this heat wave particularly dangerous in those places. In Minneapolis alone highs could reach 15 degrees above normal.

The heat was apparently to blame for the death of a 72-year-old man in South Memphis, Tennessee.

The man died Wednesday, according to the Shelby County Health Department.

The air conditioning in his home was malfunctioning and blowing hot air. And while a fan was in use, the windows were closed, the agency reported.

Traces of Radiation Found in 2 Whales Off Japan

submitted by Luis Kun

by Mari Yamaguchi, Associated Press - June 15, 2011

In this Monday, June 13, 2011 photo released by Tokyo Electric Power Co., a machine collects radioactive substances in the air for sampling at the Unit 3 of the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in Okuma, Fukushima prefecture, northeastern Japan. (AP Photo/Tokyo Electric Power Co.) EDITORIAL USE ONLY

TOKYO (AP) — Japanese whalers caught two animals along the northern coast that had traces of radiation, presumably from leaks at a damaged nuclear power plant, officials said Wednesday.

Two of 17 minke whales caught off the Pacific coast of Hokkaido showed traces of radioactive cesium, both about one-twentieth of the legal limit, fisheries officials said.

They are the first whales thought to have been affected by radiation leaked from the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant since it was hit by a March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

"The levels are far below the limit, and the meat from the catch is safe for consumption," Fisheries Agency official Kosei Takekoshi said.

The Greek Mental-Health Crisis: As Economy Implodes, Depression and Suicide Rates Soar

Time.com - June 27, 2011

by Alain Salles / Le Monde / Worldcrunch

While the rest of Europe may be tormented by the thought of having to cough up ever more money to bail out Athens, the once carefree Greeks are getting more depressed by the day. Psychiatrists say that the economic crisis has triggered a 25% to 30% increase in the number of patients seeking their help.

"There is an increase in the number of patients suffering from minor psychiatric conditions: anxiety, panic attacks and depression," says Dimitris Ploumidis, head of a mental-health center in eastern Athens. "In September 2010, people had to wait two weeks for a consultation, now it's more like two and a half months."

Before the crisis started, Greece was proud to be at the bottom of the list in Europe for the number of suicides, with a rate of 2.8 per 100,000 inhabitants. But that might be changing. Experts believe that in 2009 the rate of Greek suicides increased by 18% increase compared with 2007, with that figure expected to have climbed even higher in 2010.

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EPA Fracking Study To Focus On 5 States, But Not Wyoming

The Huffington Post - June 26, 2011

by ProPublica's Abrahm Lustgarten

The Environmental Protection Agency will focus its national study of hydraulic fracturing on seven areas in five states, but will exclude the two Wyoming gas fields where agency researchers have already collected some of the most in-depth data on drilling's environmental impacts.

The study – which was announced last March, without specifics on research sites – will investigate alleged water contamination from drilling in five areas in Texas, Colorado, North Dakota and Pennsylvania. It also will encompass cradle-to-grave research projects in Pennsylvania and Louisiana, where the agency will track drilling's effects on water quality from before the drill bit hits the ground to after hydraulic fracturing has been performed.

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