Broadcast: October 7, 2003
I’m Bob Doughty with Sarah Long, and this is SCIENCE IN THE NEWS, from VOA Special English.
This week -- new polio cases in Africa ... a tree deficit in American cities ... and, later, monkeys play fair ... and the idea of "cough C-P-R."
Cases of polio have been reported in three West African countries that had been free of the disease. The World Health Organization says cases have been reported in Ghana, Togo and Burkina Faso.
Polio is also spreading again in Nigeria. Doctors with the W-H-O say the virus has spread to the city of Lagos. Less than a year ago, the director of the national program on immunization said Nigeria was close to stopping the disease.
W-H-O communications officer Melissa Corkum says emergency vaccination campaigns will take place in Togo, Ghana and Burkina Faso. They will also take place in Benin, Cameroon and Chad to block any possible spread. Mizz Corkum says the campaigns will cost ten million dollars.
The polio virus spreads quickly by contact with human waste through unclean conditions. The virus enters through the mouth. Within four days to a month, victims may develop a high body temperature, headaches, vomiting and difficulty moving.
They can lose the ability to move their arms or legs. Breathing may also become difficult. There is no cure.
In Nigeria, most polio cases are in the north. About thirty-five percent of children in the north are vaccinated. Experts say at least eighty percent must get the vaccine to stop the spread of polio.
But the Daily Champion newspaper in Lagos says some people are afraid of the vaccine. It says that is because of statements made by a member of the Supreme Council for Sharia in Nigeria. Doctor Ibrahim Datti Ahmed said the vaccine is not safe.
The World Health Organization is working with traditional rulers and religious leaders in Nigeria to tell people that Doctor Ahmed is wrong.
World health officials want to end polio by two-thousand-five. The number of new cases has dropped by ninety-nine percent. Experts say that is because so many children have received the vaccine.
Last year health workers in one hundred countries gave the polio vaccine to more than five-hundred million children. India is one country that has increased its vaccination rates. India had the highest rate of new polio cases, until the recent reports from Nigeria.
Health officials say it is important to vaccinate people as soon as possible after reports of new cases. The polio vaccine is taken by mouth. It is a few drops of liquid. The vaccine does not have to be given by a health worker. Medical experts say children should receive the vaccine three times before they are one year old.
Since there is no cure, prevention is the only way to stop polio.
Fairness was the subject of a recent study at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. The study showed that humans are not the only primates that dislike unequal treatment.
Sarah Brosnan and Frans de Waal led the study. They worked with brown capuchin monkeys. They taught the monkeys to trade plastic tokens for food. They tested the monkeys two at a time so the animals could see each other.
The monkeys like to eat cucumbers. So it was easy to get them to trade tokens for cucumber pieces. But it was not so easy if one monkey saw the other get a food they like even more -- a grape.
Often the insulted monkey refused to give up its token or rejected the piece of cucumber. Some threw the token or the cucumber out of the cage.
The researchers also gave grapes as rewards for different levels of work. Some monkeys were upset to see others receive a grape after no work at all.
Sarah Brosnan says the study found that the capuchin monkeys compared their rewards with those of their partners. They refused to accept a lower-value reward if their partner received one of higher value. Think of how humans react when they see other someone else get a better deal.
The researchers used only female capuchins. They say males are likely to share food even without a fair deal. The social system of capuchins might play a part. Males are usually either the partner of, or the father of, all the other monkeys around them.
Sarah Brosnan says a sense of fairness is needed to live in large, complex groups. The researchers say the study supports the idea that primates developed this sense early, as cooperation evolved.
The findings appeared last month in the publication Nature. The researchers at Emory University are also doing a similar study with chimpanzees.
An environmental group says American cities lost more than one in five of their trees during the past ten years. The group is called American Forests. It says the services that trees provide to keep air and water clean are worth thousands of millions of dollars.
American Forests released a study at the National Urban Forest Conference last month in San Antonio, Texas. The group used satellite images to study tree cover in four-hundred-forty-eight cities. It compared these with images taken ten years earlier.
The study found that American cities have twenty-one percent fewer trees today. Gary Moll is an official with American Forests. He calls the problem a "tree deficit." Mister Moll blames road projects and expanding areas of development.
With fewer trees, cities have to find other ways to remove storm water. Gary Moll says trees help protect water supplies and prevent flooding. Trees also remove pollution from the air and reduce the need for electric cooling during hot weather.
American Forests says the loss is especially bad in fast-growing cities in the southern states. Gary Moll says Atlanta had the worst tree loss. The group praised San Antonio for taking steps to fight the problem. It also praised Charlotte, North Carolina, and San Diego, California.
The group was started in eighteen-seventy-five to get people to plant and care for trees. It wants to plant one-thousand-seven-hundred-million trees during the next ten years to replace the lost cover.
A researcher in Poland says coughing hard may help people during the most common form of heart attack. Doctor Tadeusz Petelenz is a professor at the Silesian Medical School in Katowice. He studied one-hundred-fifteen patients at risk of a heart attack. They were trained to cough at the first sign of an attack. They learned to start with one cough every one to two seconds, in sets of five coughs.
They used this method in three-hundred-sixty-five cases when they thought they were about to lose consciousness. Doctor Petelenz says the symptoms disappeared in all but seventy-three cases.
Doctor Petelenz discussed his findings about "cough C-P-R" during a recent meeting in Vienna of the European Society of Cardiology. He said the pumping action caused by deep coughing forces blood to the brain when the heart begins to fail. Traditional C-P-R, or cardiopulmonary resuscitation, combines rescue breaths with compressions on the chest.
When the heart fails, victims can lose consciousness very quickly. Brain damage and death can follow within minutes. Doctor Petelenz says coughing may give a person enough time to call for help.
Most attacks are caused by a sudden problem with heart rhythm. Doctor Petelenz says coughing might help in these cases, called arrhythmia. The traditional treatment is electric shock to the heart.
Doctor Petelenz says cough C-P-R should be taught to the public. Some doctors have patients cough to increase blood flow during hospital treatment for heart disease. But others say the idea of cough C-P-R needs more study.
The American Heart Association says it is possible that a person could send enough blood to the brain to stay conscious for a few seconds. But it says this practice is not useful enough to teach with traditional lifesaving methods.
SCIENCE IN THE NEWS was written by Karen Leggett, Lawan Davis, George Grow and Cynthia Kirk, who was also our producer. This is Bob Doughty.
And this is Sarah Long. Join us again next week for more news about science in Special English on the Voice of America.