(Image from water.org)

Today is World Water Day. This year, more than 840,000 people will die due to lack of access to clean water. That’s unjust, and it’s also unnecessary. There’s been tremendous progress in the past 20 years; as a result, more women are able to work for income, and more children are able to go to school.

But the water crisis continues to be a massive barrier to gender equality, to improving global health, and to reducing poverty. Clean water makes a huge difference to communities, as nerdfighteria has seen from Bangladesh to Haiti to Ethiopia, and so on this World Water Day, I hope you’ll join me in taking a few minutes to read a bit about the water crisis and how governments and NGOs are trying to address it.

Gotta NOT catch ‘em all: why Vaxcards is an immunisation game changer

Dr Dan Epstein, Vaxcards co-creator

As a child, when I got vaccinated, my doctor gave me a stale jellybean from a giant glass jar. The kind of 10-year old jellybean that crumbled and cracked when you chewed it.

I got a painful jab because my Dad said so. I wasn’t sick but somehow it stopped me getting sick. Plus I got a jellybean. So I rolled with it.

Then I grew up, became a doctor, and started interacting with parents and children following the vaccination schedule. But the reward for vaccination had not changed since I was small, and education for children and parents remained in the form of handouts and print offs.

Most people agree that vaccines should be cool, but that’s not going to happen without better education and incentives. That’s why I started Vaxcards with my friend Adam Zemski.

Vaxcards is a game, where infectious diseases are illustrated as characters based on their symptoms and distributed within a collectable trading-style battle card game.

After an immunisation, you get the collectable card as a reward. As your immunity gets stronger, so does your collectable card set.

We believe Vaxcards could be a game-changing tool for delivering education and rewards for vaccination. Here’s why:

They pitch education at children, teachers and gamers

Information disguised in a Pokémon-like character with special attack and defence moves provides a platform for children and adults to learn through play.

Disease symptoms, as defined by the World Health Organization, have been carefully worked into each character’s design and statistics as well as the game’s mechanics. These include epidemiological data on disease incidence, mortality, route(s) of transmission and microbiological classification.

Information on symptoms helps children recognise the illness, data on epidemiology gives perspective on more damaging diseases while highlighting the main route(s) of transmission shows how the spread of an infectious disease can be reduced.

They provide an incentive to vaccinate

Every generation grew up with the need to collect something. Baseball cards, Pokémon cards, Panini football cards, Barbies or Octonauts.

For every child, being vaccinated could be viewed as collecting a set of antibodies against preventable diseases.  Pairing a card game to this experience provides an incentive for children to collect the whole set. With Vaxcards, each inoculation is is represented by a special character card possessing special powers and attack moves.

Comparing collections in the playground creates a demand for stronger or a more complete set of cards. In real-life, we hope that this creates a generation of children, who will understand the gain from the pain whenever they look at a vaccination needle.

Vaxcards personalise diseases

Giving each disease a name, a face, special moves, strengths and weaknesses creates awareness of diseases that we rarely see thanks to vaccination.

This is important for understanding the potential seriousness of preventable diseases, recognising the symptoms and reminding us why we should push for eradication.

The potential to go viral….or bacterial ….

The artwork is amazing, and the characters are engaging. According to serious gamers, it is great fun to play and has robust game mechanics.

For these reasons, Vaxcards should appeal to science-minded game lovers, children, parents, teachers, health care workers or anybody who has been immunised.

Vaxcards has all the elements of a trend that could take off. If it achieves anything like the popularity of other children’s card games such as Pokémon or Digimon, the global health impact of Vaxcards could be immense.

The generational quest for herd immunity

Creating a generation of educated vaccine-getters is the most important consideration, and one of the greatest challenges of programs. Vaxcards has the potential to provide a generation more likely to vaccinate their children and take an extra step towards herd immunity.

The game that is a game-changer

In the context of increasing herd immunity, Vaxcards should be seen as an incredibly informative and engaging tool, imparting vital information about disease symptoms, warning signs of infection and epidemiological data.

More importantly, it helps children participate in the vaccination schedule. This can be very difficult to achieve, given the lack of health literacy in areas with poor immunisation coverage rates.

In the future, we hope to distribute Vaxcards alongside vaccination programs in developing areas.

In order to achieve this, we must secure funding, investment and grants to translate the game and establish a sustainable costing model that provides subsidised or free cards for areas in need of education and rewards for vaccination the most.

After all, educating a generation of vaccine recipients could prevent a range of diseases, saving many lives and dollars in the process.

If you could like to help Vaxcards expand their product’s reach, you can support them via this crowdfunding link.

Anybody interested in contacting the creators on further distribution, drop them a line at email@vaxcards.com, view their crowdfunding at kickstarter here, see their website http://www.vaxcards.com or find them on Twitter @vaxcards


A woman has HIV. She becomes pregnant. What are the chances that she can deliver a baby who is not infected?

In some countries, like Yemen, for example, only 11 percent of pregnant women with HIV receive treatment to prevent their babies from being infected. For women who aren’t part of that fortunate group, the chance of passing HIV to their infant is as high as 45 percent.

But in Cuba, the chances are now practically nil. On June 30, Cuba became the first country to receive what can be seen as a global seal of approval — the World Health Organization validation — for essentially eliminating transmission of AIDS from a mother to her baby. (Cuba has eliminated transmission of syphilis as well.)

That doesn’t mean Cuba is on a pedestal all by itself. By 2014, more than 40 countries were testing and treating more than 95 percent of pregnant women; some places, including Anguilla, Barbados, Canada, Montserrat, Puerto Rico and the United States, have likely hit the mark as well. But Cuba is the first to go through the WHO monitoring program, which requires data on transmission for at least two years and an on-site visit by WHO members examining care in all parts of the country, including remote, impoverished and underserved areas.

Here’s how Cuba did it.

Cuba Is First To Earn WHO Seal For Ending Mother-Baby HIV Transmission

Photos: Courtesy of Pan American Health Organization/WHO


Let’s talk about our stereotypes about Africa and how ridiculous they are. Also college!

Confronted by toughest of challenges, Nigeria reaches polio 'milestone'
In what health officials said was a major victory in the fight to rid the world of polio, the paralysing disease has been declared to be no longer endemic in Nigeria. The announcement by the World Health Organisation (WHO) means there are now only two countries in the world where the disease remains rife – Afghanistan and Pakistan. The disease can be prevented by simple vaccination.

Major global health news from Nigeria, and cause for celebration!

To doctors and nurses who help people make their own medical decisions every day - Thank You

The past two weeks have revealed the culmination of a campaign of deception against Planned Parenthood. Who’s behind the latest attacks?  Anti-abortion extremists, a who have led a decade-long, well-funded campaign of harassment targeting doctors, clinics, patients, and their families.

Abortion has been legal in the United States since 1973, and ever since then, anti-abortion activists have tried to undermine this right using whatever (#SketchySource) tools necessary. It’s important to note, however, that these attacks are about much more than Planned Parenthood: They are designed to end people’s access to safe and legal abortion in the United States — and undermine global progress as well.

We know what a world without access to safe and legal abortion looks like for women.

Thousands of women worldwide lose their lives because of clandestine, unsafe abortions every year. This is what anti-abortion extremists want for the United States. But we won’t let them.

“Deaths due to unsafe abortion remain close to 13% of all maternal deaths.”

To the doctors and nurses who care for patients every day, we say: thank you. We will fight so you can continue to provide quality health care, no matter what.

And you can take action.

If anti-abortion fanatics think they can take away access to reproductive health care, they’ve got another thing coming. If you want to support Planned Parenthood, reproductive health, and the right of people to decide about their own destinies, join the fight! Here’s how:

  • Thank the nurses, doctors and other Planned Parenthood health center staff who are on the front lines of this fight. Sign our thank you card!  

  • Join the conversation on Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr by using #StandWithPP

  • Share the image below:


I talk about the ebola outbreaks and how best to deal with them in my new vlogbrothers video. 

Some resources:

In just two days, Liberia will celebrate what seemed an impossible dream last summer: The end of its Ebola outbreak.Saturday, May 9 will mark the 42nd day of no new Ebola cases in the country. A person with Ebola typically shows symptoms within 21 days of exposure. But the World Health Organization adds an extra 21 days for extra caution before declaring that an outbreak has ended. So on Saturday, WHO officials and President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf will announce that Liberia is Ebola-free.

NPR’s global health correspondent, Jason Beaubien, visited Liberia in August and October when Ebola was raging. He’s back in the country for this milestone day, and he spoke with us about the mood there.

On Saturday, The Ebola Outbreak In Liberia Should Be Officially Over

Photo by Jason Beaubien/NPR

Low risk for H5N8 human infection as more H5N6 and H5N1 reported
Though we do not pay much attention to the threat of an avian influenza (AI) pandemic, we should, given the unique characteristics of AI…
By Melvin Sanicas

Avian influenza A(H5N8) viruses have been rapidly spreading, most likely via wild migratory birds in Asia and Europe in recent months. WHO says risk for human infection is low. Further spread along the migratory route of wild birds is likely, and introduction into other countries is a definite possibility.


In which John discusses who gave norovirus to whom in the great Thanksgiving family nightmare of 2014.