Old paper, modern tools

Old paper, modern tools

FroSci got you down? Bwog does science, too! It’s time for another BunsenBwog, where you can read up on science-related news. Bwogger Joanna Zhang composed this week’s edition, and it’s full of interesting factoids. Don’t worry, there’s no midterm.

Remember back when you were still a little kid, frolicking around the big bad world without having to worry about tests, grades, and life in general? Remember when pop-up books were such a big deal (at least for me)? Surprisingly, the concept of pop-up books is not a creation of the modern world, a medical pop-up book was already created in the 17th century. The book, Catoptrum Microcosmicum, was written by Johann Remmelin and was published in Latin in 1613. In the book, Remmelin used overlapping flaps to show different layers of the human body.

Columbia’s Augustus C. Long Health Sciences Library has now digitized a German translation of this 17th century best-seller (it seems like people back then enjoyed pop-ups too). In order for the book to be safely digitized, it was first treated at the Columbia Libraries’ Conservation Laboration. Stains on the pages were reduced through the use of moisture and a suction device, and individual flaps were carefully organized so as not to tangle with each other. The digital version can now be accessed through CLIO and the Medical Heritage Library. Who thought science could be so fun?

Now back to more recent years, I think we all remember the recent Ebola epidemic. While that is now in the past, the Zika virus has now arrived in South America and the Caribbean. Recently, experts from the CU Medical Center and the Mailman School of Public Health sat down to talk about exactly what it is. According to these experts, Zika is a mosquito-borne virus and was first identified in Africa over 60 years ago in a monkey. It’s associated with mild flu-like symptoms and sometimes none at all.

However, for pregnant women, Zika is linked with microcephaly, in which the baby is born with an abnormally developed head and brain. Currently, treatments for the virus are generally for symptoms, and a majority of adults are able to recover within two weeks. There is no vaccine for the virus although there is proposal of modifying the yellow fever vaccine, so the best way to protect yourself is by wearing insect repellent and decreasing the mosquito population. When asked about the likelihood of a Zika outbreak in the US, the experts claim that it’s highly unlikely that it will gain a foothold due to the country’s current infrastructure that prevents frequent interaction between mosquitoes and people.
Speaking of vaccination, California recently joined Mississippi and West Virginia as states that do not allow nonmedical exemptions for school-required vaccinations. Of course, as we are contentious Americans, these non-exemption laws have led to widespread debate between rights of parents and rights of government to protect public health. Researchers at Mailman School of Public Health has conducted a review of current vaccination policies. Currently, all 50 states allow for medical exemptions, and while most states also allow nonmedical exemptions, it has gradually become harder to obtain these exemptions. Specifically in California, long considered as one of the more lenient states on vaccination, nonmedical exemptions were eliminated in 2015 due to the recent outbreak of measles in Disneyland. At least twelve other states also considered nonmedical exemption bills.

While exemption policies in Mississippi and West Virginia show a noticeable increase in immunization rates, experts believe that there are alternatives to completely eliminating nonmedical exemptions by simply making them harder to be obtained such as requiring parents to take educational counseling courses.
And that’s it for this week! If you’re stressed about school, remember to take some time to reminisce about the good ol’ days. But don’t take too long, we all know those days are long gone.

Book compilation pic via Augustus C. Long Health Sciences Library/Columbia University Medical Center