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Liberian men walk past an Ebola banner at the Monrovia City Hall in Liberia on Thursday. (EPA /LANDOV)

Ebola Moving Faster Than Efforts To Control It, WHO Chief Says

by Krishnadev Calamur
Aug 1, 2014

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Krishnadev Calamur

The head of the World Health Organization told leaders of the African countries affected by the Ebola outbreak that the deadly virus is "moving faster than our efforts to control it."

"If the situation continues to deteriorate, the consequences can be catastrophic in terms of lost lives but also severe socio-economic disruption and a high risk of spread to other countries," Dr. Margaret Chan, WHO's director-general, told the leaders of Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria, who are meeting today in the Guinean capital, Conakry.

The outbreak has killed at least 729 people. The fatality rate is about 60 percent.

The WHO announced a $100 million response plan to combat the spread of the virus. The public was not at high risk for infection, Chan said, but added, "We must not give this virus opportunities to deliver more surprises."

As NPR's Bill Chappell reported Thursday, an isolation unit at Emory University's hospital in Atlanta will be used in the coming days to house and treat a patient infected with Ebola. The hospital didn't name the patient. But that person could be an American infected with the virus.

We'll update this post with information about the patient as it becomes available.

The aid group Samaritan's Purse said today that Dr. Kent Brantly, an American doctor working for the group, and Nancy Writebol, a missionary, who both contracted Ebola, are in serious condition and efforts are underway to evacuate them from Liberia to the U.S.

"The bottom line with Ebola is we know what to do, but it's not easy," Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told NPR's Morning Edition. "It requires meticulous contact tracing, meticulous isolation, and like a forest fire, if you leave one ember burning, it flares up again."

Here's what else you need to today know about the deadly virus:

— The head of Guinea's Ebola task force said efforts by Liberia and Sierra Leone to fight the disease may backfire. Aboubacar Sidiki Diakit says measures, including school closures, "make the problem worse." He added: "When children are not supervised, they can go anywhere."

— The African Union canceled a planned troop rotation in Somalia by forces from Sierra Leone because of fears over the outbreak. The AU troops are there to help fight al-Shabab militants.

— A cyclist from Sierra Leone was cleared to compete after being tested for Ebola at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland.

— The CDC is telling Americans to avoid nonessential travel to Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.

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Two pensioners walking. (istockphoto.com)

Slow Walkers May Be On Their Way To Dementia

Aug 1, 2014

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Wait a minute. Weren't we told by Simon and Garfunkel: "Slow down, you move too fast. You've got to make the morning last?"

And by some other philosopher to "stop and smell the roses?"

Now we learn from new research that walking slow can be a bad thing - or at least reveal that you might be slouching toward Alzheimer's.

Published in the medical journal, Neurology, the study shows that among older people with memory complaints those who walk more slowly are more susceptible to future dementia.

Plodding Points

After examining hundreds of patients, Joe Verghese — a neurologist at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York and senior author of the paper — realized that if an older person ambles along at a poky pace, he probably also has some cognitive abnormalities.

Measuring a patient's gait speed with a stopwatch - along with asking a few questions to get a handle on the person's cognitive abilities — can be a useful low-tech test for motoric cognitive risk syndrome (MCR), Joe says. Certain responses to an MCR test can determine if someone is in the early stages of the dementia process. Early detection and treatment may help slow or prevent dementia's advance.

Joe says that a slow walking speed is considered to be anything slower than a meter a second, or 2.2 miles per hour. The Neurology report is based on a study of thousands of adults around the world.

Not all dawdlers are destined for dementia, Joe points out. Sometimes people's gaits are slowed down by arthritis or inner ear conditions.

Hurry Up

So, we ask Joe, will walking faster help a person ward off dementia? "Epidemiological studies suggest that people who walk regularly have a reduced risk of dementia," he says. "Whether walking faster will reduce risk of dementia needs to be proven — and would be an important next step."

(See what he did there?)

And, he adds, so far there seems to be no correlation between dementia risk and doing other things slowly - such as eating or speaking.

That's beneficial news for aficionados of the Slow Food Movement and for those of us from the American South.

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Pop Culture Happy Hour: Live From San Diego Comic-Con

Aug 1, 2014

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This week's show is a very special event for us: it's our visit to Comic-Con.

Because Maggie Thompson (mother to PCHH regular Stephen Thompson) was a special guest at San Diego Comic-Con this year, she invited us to do a panel discussion with her. So Stephen, Glen Weldon and I — along with a crucial audio assist from our pal Petra Mayer — set up in one of the rooms upstairs in the convention center and taped a show. (We still don't know what caused the constant thumping. This is what happens when we travel without our producer, Jessica.)

We chatted first about the matter of inclusion and exclusion: how the cultural passions of con attendees (and others) both bind them to each other and potentially become ways that they separate themselves from strangers. When you hear Maggie's argument that this all has to do with flowers on the altars of churches, you'll understand why we wanted to get together and have this discussion.

Next up, we allowed Glen to quiz us about comics — specifically about comic-book sidekicks — right in front of this very discerning crowd. Could Stephen or I get a question right? Would Maggie's clearly superior knowledge make any tangible difference? You shall see, you shall see.

As always, we close with what's making us happy this week. Stephen shocks no one with his eagerness to salute a great creative mind, Maggie geeks out over a book she's recently discovered, Glen recommends a show about which he has nothing but nice things to say, and I recommend a book that was tangentially related to my adventures at press tour.

We've also got a quick Q&A with our audience, including a cameo from one of my dearest TV critic pals.

Find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter: me, Stephen, Glen, Maggie, and of course Petra. As always, our producer is Jessica Reedy, and our music director/producer emeritus is Mike Katzif.

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River Crossing

Aug 1, 2014 (Snap Judgment)

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A drawing of two clinking martini glasses. ( NPR)

Elmyr

Aug 1, 2014 (Snap Judgment)

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