October 30, 2014

Iowa organizations getting part of Penn State penalty money over Sandusky scandal

Over the past two years Iowa organizations have received more than $417,000 of the penalty money Penn State University paid the NCAA after one of its assistant football coaches was found guilty of child sex abuse.

“Essentially how these funds are being used is to support organizations that are involved in either preventing or treating child sex abuse,” says Steve Scott, executive director of Prevent Child Abuse Iowa. “The other recipients are child protection centers here in Iowa that are all involved in identifying whether or not abuse has occurred.”

Prevent Child Abuse Iowa is using its latest $27,000 from this fund to spread the message that child abuse and neglect leads to long-term physical problems in adulthood.

“Child abuse and neglect and other traumas in childhood have a long-lasting effect in a broad range of areas going all the way from COPD, to heart problems, to diabetes, to risky health behaviors like a greater likelihood of using illegal drugs or having substance abuse issues,” Scott says.

Prevent Child Abuse Iowa will use part of the grant money to launch community projects in Black Hawk, Johnson, Lee and Wapello Counties to raise awareness of child abuse. There will be two more years of grants from Penn State’s penalty payments in the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. Sandusky was convicted of 45 counts of child sex abuse in mid-2012 and sentenced to 60 years in prison.

Senator Grassley says quarantines for Ebola are not a big deal

Senator Chuck Grassley

Senator Chuck Grassley

Saying he’s “scared to death of Ebola,” Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley admits he doesn’t understand all of the fuss over quarantining health care workers who return to the U.S. from Africa. It should be simple, he says: Those who have been exposed should be quarantined until it’s determined they’re not infected and not a risk.

Grassley, an 81-year-old Republican from New Hartford, says maybe it’s just a generational gap. “I remember being quarantined in our farmhouse,” Grassley says. “Somebody would come around and put up a sign saying you’ve got measles, you’ve got whooping cough.”

That’s just how it had to be done decades ago to prevent dangerous diseases from spreading, and in many ways, Grassley says little has changed in how to handle the unknown. “We were quarantined within our home,” Grassley says. “I don’t know what the big deal is about quarantine besides under the 10th Amendment, states have the responsibility for maintaining the public health and safety of its citizens.”

A nurse from Maine returned from Ebola duty in West Africa late last week and was forced into a quarantine in New Jersey. She threatened to sue over her treatment and was released on Monday. There is disagreement over how long Ebola may take to appear in someone who’s infected, be it five days or 21 days.

Grassley says Congress may be called to take action and address the outbreak, which has killed nearly 5,000 people, mostly in Africa. “If there is a reason to look at this whole issue at the federal level, I’m willing to do it because I’m scared to death of Ebola,” Grassley says. “Maybe I don’t mean that in the personal sense that I’m worried right here being in the state of Iowa or even in Washington D.C. to worry about it, but we have to worry about the health of the nation.”

Several members of Congress have called for lawmakers to return to Washington in an emergency session to address various concerns over Ebola, but it hasn’t happened. Congress is scheduled to return from recess on November 12th, more than a week after next Tuesday’s elections.


Grinnell hospital picked to test promising bacteria-killing metal alloy

GrinnellA hospital in east-central Iowa is the only one in the state and among just a few in the nation to test out all sorts of products — from light switch plates to toilet flushers — made from a type of metal that kills bacteria.

Todd Linden, president and CEO of Grinnell Regional Medical Center, says the copper alloys have already been shown in government studies to have remarkable qualities.

“They have a natural property of killing bacteria,” Linden says. “So, if you have a copper-based surface and there’s a live colony of bacteria on that surface, over the course of about 90 minutes, 100% of that bacteria is dead.”

The makers of the copper alloy say its properties will never wash out or wear away and will continue killing infectious bacteria 24-seven, so Linder says it’s a win-win for the hospital environment.

Linden says, “Things like the IV poles and the over-bed tables, the pulls on the cabinets, the toilet flushers and sink handles and grab bars, places where we can use this commercial product called CuVerro (coo-VAIR-oh), which has this amazing ability to continuously be killing bacteria.”

He says an earlier study by the U.S. Department of Defense found the use of the copper-based alloy in touch surfaces brought a 60% reduction in hospital-acquired infections.

“Over the course of the summer, we’ve been installing these various products in half of our medical surgical rooms,” Linden says. “We’ve continued to do random sampling of the control rooms against these rooms that have been copperized.” By year’s end, it’s hoped they’ll be able to present the results of this comprehensive clinical trial.

“We have a long history at our medical center of patient safety and focus on quality,” Linden says. “Obviously, the last thing we want is for somebody to come to our hospital and end up getting an infection or for infection to spread amongst our staff.”

The private, non-profit Grinnell hospital serves more than 40,000 residents in a six-county rural area. It has 49 beds with 50 physicians, 400 employees and more than 300 volunteers.


Governor says state Ebola quarantines not needed, tuition freeze depends on revenue (Audio)

Governor Terry Branstad.

Governor Terry Branstad.

Governor Terry Branstad says he won’t institute a quarantine at Iowa airports for people who may’ve visited countries impacted by the Ebola outbreak. Some governors have done so, but Branstad says anyone who has visited those countries will first come through a larger airport where they would be subject to quarantine.

“I don’t see a need for us to do it. I want to do everything I can to protect the safety and well being of Iowans,” Branstad says. “What they’re talking about is where they come directly from western African nations where they have this epidemic into their airports. And they want to protect their citizens, so that’s a little different situation. There’s a few airports in this country where you have flights from those countries, but Iowa is not one of them.”

Branstad, a Republican, says he supports the decision of his counterparts in other states like New York and New Jersey who have put the restrictions in place. “The federal government has really mishandled this, as they have mishandled a lot of other things, and I understand the great fear that people have about people who have come back and then have Ebola. We don’t this epidemic to come to the United States and governors are doing what they can to protect the safety of their citizens,” Branstad says.

The governor says he’s kept up to day with the state health director about preparations if there were to be a case of Ebola in Iowa.

“He has shared with me all the work that’s been going on with Iowa hospitals and with the EMS workers in Iowa and with local public health people,” according to Branstad says. “And it’s my understanding that we have not had any cases of Ebola here — although there is grave concern — and we want to do everything that we can to make sure it doesn’t get here.”

Branstad credits the health care professionals from the U.S. who have tried to help stem the epidemic. “I also, having been president of a medical school, am very appreciative of the young men and women who are willing to go overseas and provide medical services to people in places like Africa. We did that at Des Moines University,” Branstad says.

On another topic he was asked if he would support the effort to freeze tuition again at the three state-supported universities. Branstad says he can’t commit to the freeze just yet. “I am appreciative of the fact that they are looking at a third year of freezing tuition, recognizing that during the Vilsack administration we saw tuition increase as much as 17 and 18-percent a year. And that created a great burden for students and their families,” Branstad says.

The governor says he likes the idea, but has to see the total budget before saying he can support the freeze. “I believe that the regents are on the right track. We have to wait until we hit the December revenue estimate to decide what we are going to recommend in the budget, but I am very optimistic at what the regents are looking at and I think they are doing a good job,” Branstad says.

Branstad made his comments at his weekly meeting with reporters.

Audio: Governor answers questions from reporters. 12:30.


U-I doctor: only 4 hospitals in U.S. have biocontainment units for Ebola patients

university-of-iowa-hospitalHospital staffs across Iowa are preparing to handle Ebola patients, should the need arise. At the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, infectious diseases professor Dr. Michael Edmond says there are only four biocontainment units in the United States, so other hospitals must be prepared.

“We could handle Ebola patients,” Dr. Edmond says. “We do not have a specific biocontainment unit of the sort that is located at the University of Nebraska, Emory University or the National Institutes of Health.”

The closest biocontainment unit, at the Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, is now caring for its second Ebola patient. That facility has ten beds in its specialized unit and it’s the largest one in the country. “The number of those beds in the United States is very limited and if we exceed the capacity of those, other hospitals may be called on to provide this type of care,” Edmond says.

He says hundreds of University of Iowa staff are being trained to handle patients with the potentially-deadly virus. “It’s affecting the personnel who would see these patients,” Edmond says. “This would be our health care providers in the emergency department where patients are most likely to present first and the unit of the hospital, inside the hospital, where patients who are suspect or are confirmed to have Ebola would be housed once they’re admitted to the hospital.”

Edmond, who serves as the University Hospitals’ chief quality officer, says the Iowa City facility has all of the protective equipment that’s specified now. “The problem is that this is a moving target,” he says. “CDC will be, in short order, revising some of the protocols for personal protective equipment and we will have to redo our training to be in line with those protocols.”

Ebola is blamed in more than 4,000 deaths during the latest outbreak in West Africa. Edmond made his comments on the Iowa Public Radio’s program “River to River.”

U.S. Rep. King says congress should return, address Ebola concerns (AUDIO)

Representative Steve King.

Representative Steve King.

Republican Congressman Steve King says it’s time to reconvene congress in emergency session to address a variety of concerns raised by the Ebola cases that have been diagnosed on U.S. soil.

“America needs to get a grip on this,” King told Radio Iowa. “Congress needs to get a grip on this and work with and give direction to the president of the United States.”

Priority one for King is a ban on flights into the U.S. from the west Africa.

“We have about 150 people a day coming from the Ebola regions, particularly Liberia, and we need to stop all of those flights,” King said. “None of them are worth spreading Ebola around the United States and we’ve seen how easily that can happen.”

AUDIO of King’s comments on Ebola during a Radio Iowa interview, 3:30

If there’s no travel ban, and the Obama Administration resists the idea, King said airline passengers from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea who have a “legal right” to enter the U.S. should be placed under mandatory quarantine once they arrive.

“We know that they can travel and be a carrier,” King said.

A nurse who cared for the Ebola patient who died at a Dallas hospital and who now has tested positive for the deadly virus flew from Cleveland to Dallas after notifying the Centers for Disease Control that she had a low-grade fever just under 100. King said the Transportation Security Administration should develop a “no-fly” list for U.S. airports and put health care workers and others who come into contact with Ebola patients on it.

“The director of the (Centers for Disease Control), Tom Frieden, needs to step down,” King said. “He’s lost the credibility that he had that came with the title of his job, but he’s been wrong almost every time he’s stepped up and made a public statement…It looks like everything that we get from the government on Ebola has to first go through the White House’s political filter before it can be delivered to the American people.”

King is also questioning the U.S. military operation now underway in Africa, where American troops are building hospitals to care for Ebola patients. The president has just signed an executive order to call up national guard and reserve troops for the effort.

“Only volunteers should go to a place like that, not be ordered into the unknown, unseen killer of Ebola,” King said. “And our medical teams, to the extent that they go and they do — God bless them for doing that — but I would say slow down for 21 days in quarantine before you come out into the broader society when you come home.”

King said it’s time for congress “to bring everything out in the open” and have a debate on the House floor about this “life or death disease.”

“This should not be a partisan issue,” King said. “It shouldn’t be politics. We shouldn’t have the sense that this is a political equation for anybody in this, but it looks like they may prepare to tell us the truth after the election.”

The Centers for Disease Control argues a ban on flights into the U.S. from west Africa might encourage residents there to find another way into the U.S., undermining the screening set up at U.S. airports for flights from west Africa and making it more difficult to identify travelers with Ebola symptoms. Obama Administration officials say the monitoring set up at five American airports should screen 94 percent of travelers from west Africa.

Understudy to Norman Borlaug will accept the World Food Prize

Norman Borlaug with Sanjaya Rajaram working in a field in Mexico.

Norman Borlaug with Sanjaya Rajaram working in a field in Mexico.

The 2014 World Food Prize will be awarded tonight to plant scientist Sanjaya Rajaram with a ceremony at the Iowa State Capitol. The 71-year-old Rajaram is a protégé of World Food Prize founder, Norman Borlaug.

“I describe Dr.Borlaug as not only a great scientist and agricultural leader, but also he was an exemplary plant breeder for us because…he was not only the director of the program, he was on the front line doing (work) himself,” Rajaram said. As a post-doctoral student, Rajaram worked with Borlaug in Mexico as he created disease-resistant strains of wheat which improved food security worldwide.

Rajaram remembers Borlaug as a “hard taskmaster” who worked long hours. “One thing I learned from him was that he was a highly determined person. He was not easy to give up. I mean, we would not always succeed and he’d keep insisting,” Rajaram said.

Borlaug, who died in 2010 at the age of 95, called Rajaram “the greatest present-day wheat scientist in the world.” Rajaram succeeded Borlaug as director of the wheat breeding program at CIMMYT. He’s credited with breeding 480 wheat varieties used in more than 50 countries.

Rajaram, who grew up in India, made his comments on the Iowa Public Radio program “River to River.” The World Food Prize Laureate Award Ceremony will be broadcast live on Iowa Public Television at 7 p.m. and will be preceded by a documentary about Borlaug at 6:30 p.m.

Photo courtesy of the World Food Prize.