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October 10, 2017 (San Diego's East County) -- Our Health and Science Highlights provide cutting edge news that could impact your health and our future.



For excerpts and links to full stories, click “read more” and scroll down.


Even deadlier form of fentanyl reaches San Diego County (San Diego Union-Tribune)

Imagine a substance so potent that a few specks — the size of a few granules of table salt — can kill you. If you didn’t think the stakes could get any deadlier in the emerging fentanyl crisis, it has. And it’s here. Carfentanil is 100 times stronger than the synthetic opioid fentanyl and is typically used to sedate massive animals like elephants. As fentanyl seizures surge at the U.S.-Mexico border and the deaths blamed on fentanyl overdoses reach new highs, authorities in San Diego are alarmed they have begun to see its more potent cousin.

School vaccinations 'cut cervical cancer alerts by 41%' (BBC)

The number of young women in Scotland showing early signs has plummeted since a school vaccination programme began.

Brain's Link to Immune System Might Help Explain Alzheimer's (NPR)

For centuries, scientists thought the human brain had no direct connection to the body's immune system. Now researchers seem to have found one, and say it may offer clues to multiple sclerosis, too.

Why 'Plague Season' is a Big Worry in Madagascar This Year (NPR)

The World Health Organization said Sunday it has released $300,000 in emergency funds to "quickly scale up operational efforts" in Madagascar.  

 Stomach acid blockers promote liver disease, study finds (San Diego Union-Tribune)

Chronic liver disease appears to be promoted by taking stomach acid blockers known as proton pump inhibitors


Google closer to using balloons for telecom in Puerto Rico (Wired)

Last Friday, engineers on Google parent Alphabet’s internet-by-balloon Project Loon tweeted that they hoped to bring emergency connectivity to Puerto Rico after Hurricanes Irma and Maria left more than 90 percent of the island without cellphone coverage.  Just seven days later, the Federal Communications Commission Friday gave the company a green light to fly 30 balloons over Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands for up to six months.

Can Elon Musk fix Puerto Rico’s broken power grid? (CNN Money)

… Musk, the CEO of electric-car maker Tesla (TSLA), suggested his company's solar power unit could be a long-term solution. "The Tesla team has done this for many smaller islands around the world, but there is no scalability limit, so it can be done for Puerto Rico," Musk tweeted… "@elonMusk Let's talk. Do you want to show the world the power and scalability of your #TeslaTechnologies? PR could be that flagship project," Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló tweeted Thursday night.

Consumer alert: Beware of Netflix phishing scam (San Diego Union-Tribune)

Beware of any email that contains the word Netflix in the title. Hackers have launched a new phishing campaign that attempts to get consumers to turn over billing information, including credit card numbers.  The email says, “We are having some trouble with your current billing information…."

Once Its AIM Was True, But Soon AOL's Instant Messenger Will Be No More (NPR)

AOL Instant Messenger, with 100 million users at its peak in 2001, was overtaken by mobile text messaging and social media platforms such as Twitter. It will be shut down in December.

Butterfly swarm shows up on Denver radar system (BBC)

Scientists at the National Weather Service (NWS) first mistook the orange radar blob for birds and had asked the public to help identifying the species. They later established that the 70-mile wide (110km) mass was a kaleidoscope of Painted Lady butterflies.

Light Pollution Can Impact Nocturnal Bird Migration (NPR)

A new study of how birds react to the annual light tribute to September 11th in New York City provides compelling evidence for how artificial light can disorient large numbers of migrating birds.

'Sooty birds' reveal hidden US air pollution (BBC)

This new study takes an unusual approach to working out the scale of soot coming from this part of the US over the last 100 years.  The scientists trawled through natural history collections in museums in the region and measured evidence of black carbon, trapped in the feathers and wings of songbirds as they flew through the smoky air.