This is SCIENCE IN THE NEWS in VOA Special
English. I'm Bob Doughty.
I'm Barbara Klein. This week, we will
tell about efforts against the H1N1 virus, often called swine flu. We will give a possible explanation for why
some people may have an increased risk of developing diseases like diabetes and
asthma. And we will tell about a study
that confirms the importance of first impressions.
H1N1 influenza virus continues to spread. Currently, the virus is most active in the
northern half of the world. But experts say
it has become the leading flu virus in all countries.
No one really knows how many people have gotten sick. H1N1 was first reported in Mexico in April. Countries are no longer required to test and
report individual cases. But close to
five hundred million confirmed cases were reported to the World Health
Organization as of November first.
W.H.O. offices for the Americas and the Western Pacific reported two out of
three of those cases. The agency says
more than six thousand people worldwide have died because of H-one N-one.
special adviser Keiji Fukuda reported earlier this month that the virus has acted
in some ways like seasonal flu. Most
people recover without any need for interventions like antiviral drugs.
in other ways, H1N1 is different. It
remained at unusually high levels in several countries during their summer
months. And, unlike seasonal flu,
younger people have suffered many of the serious cases and deaths from the
the United States, cases of suspected influenza are at higher numbers than
usual this early in the flu season. Experts
at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say hospital treatment for
likely H1N1 is most common among children up to four years old.
around the world are concerned about vaccine production. Wealthy countries have promised to donate ten
percent of their H1N1 vaccine to poor countries. But there is a worldwide shortage.
The traditional way to make flu vaccine is to grow the
virus in chicken eggs. Anthony Fauci at
the National Institutes of Health says the shortage is an issue of biology. He says the companies that make vaccines
cannot really do much when they have a virus that does not grow well.
in Saudi Arabia are preparing for the Hajj, which starts this week. The event normally brings about three million
Muslims from one hundred sixty countries to the city of Mecca.
Disease experts are concerned that H1N1 could spread
easily among the Muslim pilgrims. Saudi
officials have a campaign to give vaccines to health workers. They are also urging countries to vaccinate
pilgrims making the trip. And they are
advising against travel by children, pregnant women and other groups at highest
Swedish researchers have found that babies born by Caesarean
section experience changes to the genes in their white blood cells. A published report says the genetic changes
could be linked to stress levels during this method of giving birth.
The report says the changes could explain
why persons born by Caesarean section are more likely to get diseases like diabetes
and asthma later in life. Those diseases
affect the immune system – the body's natural resistance to disease.
at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden tested blood from the umbilical cords of
thirty-seven newborn babies. The
researchers tested the blood again three to five days later. They examined DNA-methylation in the white
blood cells. DNA methylation shows chemical
in a person's deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA.
The study found that sixteen babies born
by C-section had higher DNA-methylation rates immediately
after they were born than the other babies. Three to five days later, the rates were about
the same. The reason for this is
Earlier animal studies showed
that emotional or mental tension around birth affects methylation of the
genes. Experts say babies are unprepared
for birth when a doctor performs a C-section. As a result, those babies can have higher stress levels than those born
without the help of the operation.
other births, emotional or mental tension increases slowly as the woman's labor
progresses. This helps the baby to start
breathing and get settled in the new environment outside the mother.
Professor Mikael Norman of the
Karolinska Institute helped to write the report. He says C-section births have been linked to
an increased risk of allergic reactions, diabetes and leukemia later in life. The study appeared earlier this year in the
publication Acta Paediatrica.
researchers say the discovery could be important to a debate about Cesarean-section
deliveries. Births by C-section are increasing worldwide. It is currently the most common surgical
operation among women of reproductive age.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says caesarean births rose to nearly
thirty-two percent of all births in two thousand seven. This was the eleventh time in eleven years
that rates have increased. But some experts
believe that many of the C-sections are not medically necessary.
Many people have learned as children that first
impressions are important. Parents and
other adults often say that people judge you by the way you look.
and British researchers have confirmed that judgments based only on how someone
looks are important. They found that
appearance tells a lot about your personality -- the traits or qualities that
make you the person that you are.
The researchers included Laura
Naumann of Sonoma State University in California, and Simine Vazire of
Washington University in Saint Louis, Missouri. They were joined by Sam Gosling of the
University of Texas at Austin and Peter J. Rentfrow of Britain's Cambridge
University. The results of their study
will be published next month in the Personality and Social Psychology
will call the subjects in the study, the judges. That is because they judged the personality
of people they had never met. The judges
examined pictures of one hundred twenty-three people. The people in the photographs had been told
how to stand. They looked into the
cameras with a neutral facial expression. The same people also were photographed the way they themselves wanted to
stand. Those who wanted to smile could
the judges attempted to decide what the people were like. The researchers compared the judges' opinions
with the way the people who were photographed rated themselves. Three people who knew those in the
photographs well also provided information about their personality and behavior.
judges looked for ten traits in the people in the pictures. The qualities included extroversion, or
interest in other people and one's environment. Another important trait was self-esteem: Does the person feel good about himself or herself?
judges also looked for signs of likeability, openness and agreeability. Other traits considered in the study were
loneliness, and religious and political beliefs. Other considerations were emotional control
and conscientiousness -- the quality of being guided by a sense of right and
researchers said the judges could identify some personality traits even when
people were pictured in controlled positions. They could recognize traits like extroversion and self-esteem. But it was hard for the judges to decide
about most other traits under the controlled conditions.
When the people smiled
and stood looking natural and energetic, however, judging their personalities
was easy. Then the judges' choices were
correct for nine of the ten personality traits.
Laura Nauman noted that we live in a time of social media, and personal
photographs are everywhere. She says it
is important to understand how appearance communicates personality. If you want people to see you as warm and
friendly, she says, just smile.
SCIENCE IN THE NEWS was written by June Simms, Jerilyn Watson and Caty
Weaver. Our producer was Brianna
Blake. I'm Bob Doughty.
I'm Barbara Klein. Join us again next week
for more news about science in Special English on the Voice of America.