Archive for February, 2012

Monday Miscellany

It’s been a while. Some recent goodies:

27

02 2012

Phantom data

How did Phantom of the Opera get to 10,000 (!) Broadway performances? Patrick Healy reports (NYT):

From years of detailed audience surveys, the producers and creators of “Phantom” have honed the ways to maximize its appeal, whether emphasizing the show’s love story in advertising or offering sharp discounts so audience members will return. More than 40 percent of “Phantom” patrons have seen it at least once before, and a majority of “Phantom” audiences in 2011 saw no other Broadway show that year. About 68 percent were women, and nearly 60 percent were tourists.

“Based on all our data, we’re able to predict, for virtually each week of the year, what the demand for seats will be, what types of people will be coming and how to price the seats,” said Alan Wasser, the production’s general manager.

11

02 2012

Princeton epidemiology: norovirus edition

Princeton is in the midst of an outbreak of norovirus! What’s norovirus, you ask? Well, it looks like this:

Not helpful? Here’s the CDC fact sheet:

Noroviruses (genus Norovirus, family Caliciviridae) are a group of related, single-stranded RNA, non-enveloped viruses that cause acute gastroenteritis in humans. The most common symptoms of acute gastroenteritis are diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach pain. Norovirus is the official genus name for the group of viruses previously described as “Norwalk-like viruses” (NLV).

Noroviruses spread from person to person, through contaminated food or water, and by touching contaminated surfaces. Norovirus is recognized as the leading cause of foodborne-disease outbreaks in the United States. Outbreaks can happen to people of all ages and in a variety of settings. Read more about it using the following links.

My shorter translation: “Got an epidemic of nasty stomach problems in an institutional setting (like a nursing home or university)? It’s probably norovirus. Wash your hands a lot.”

The all-campus email I received earlier today is included below. Think of this as a real-time, less-sexy version of the CDC’s MMWR. Emphasis added:

To: Princeton University community

Date: Feb. 6, 2012

From: University Health Services and Environmental Health and Safety

Re: Update: Campus Hygiene Advisory

In light of continuing cases of gastroenteritis on campus, University Health Services and the Office of Environmental Health and Safety want to remind faculty, staff and students about increased attentiveness to personal hygienic practices.

A few of the recent cases have tested positive for norovirus, which is a common virus that causes gastroenteritis.  While it is usually not serious and most people recover in a few days, gastroenteritis can cause periods of severe sickness and can be highly contagious. You can prevent the spread of illness by practicing good hygiene, such as frequent hand washing, and limiting contact with others if sick.

Gastroenteritis includes symptoms of diarrhea, vomiting and abdominal cramps. Please take the following steps if you are experiencing symptoms:

–Ill students should refrain from close contact with others and contact University Health Services at 609-258-3129 or visit McCosh Health Center on Washington Road. Ill employees are encouraged to stay home and contact their personal physicians for medical assistance.

–Wash your hands frequently and carefully with soap and warm water, and always after using the bathroom.

–Refrain from close contact with others until symptoms have subsided, or as advised by medical staff.

–Do not handle or prepare food for others while experiencing symptoms and for two-to-three days after symptoms subside.

–Increase your intake of fluids, such as tea, water, sports drinks and soup broth, to prevent dehydration.

–Avoid sharing towels, beverage bottles, food, and eating utensils and containers.

–Clean and disinfect soiled surfaces with bleach-based cleaning products. Students and others on campus who need assistance with cleaning and disinfecting soiled surfaces may call Building Services at 609-258-8000. Building Services also will be increasing disinfection of frequent touch points, such as doorknobs and restroom fixtures.

–Clean all soiled clothes and linen. Soiled linen should be washed and dried in the hottest temperature recommended by the linen manufacturer.

In the past week, University Health Services has seen more than the usual number of students experiencing symptoms of acute gastroenteritis. The New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services tested samples from a few of the cases, which were later found positive for norovirus. Because norovirus has been identified as the chief cause of gastroenteritis currently on campus, further testing is not planned at this time, but the University is urging community members to take steps to prevent the further spread of illness.

Noroviruses are the most common causes of gastroenteritis in the United States, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Anyone can become infected with gastroenteritis and presence of the illness may sometimes increase during winter months. While most people get better in a few days, gastroenteritis can be serious in young children, the elderly and people with other health conditions. Frequent hand washing with soap and warm water is your best defense against most communicable disease.

I bolded a few passages because I think the very last sentence (wash your hands) is actually the most important single part of the message and is much clearer than encouraging someone to increase “attentiveness to personal hygienic practices.” But still a good message overall. At least one friend has come down with this and it sounds unpleasant…

06

02 2012

The ABBAs

Aid blogger Tom Murphy is hosting the (third?) annual Aid Blogger’s Best Awards (ABBAs). My series of posts on “Machine Gun Preacher” Sam Childers is up for the “Best Series” ABBA.

If you missed my writing on Mr Childers the first time around there’s a shorter version at Foreign Policy, a longer version here, and the latest updates on the whole sad story here.

Vote for that and the other awards at Tom’s blog, a View From the Cave.

06

02 2012

Halfway!

I’ve been remiss in blogging lately, but my excuses are excellent for once. Princeton has an odd academic schedule with finals after the winter / Christmas holidays. So after spending a couple weeks in Arkansas visiting family it was back to cold (but not as cold as usual) New Jersey to study for finals, write papers, and take exams, all in the middle of January.

For normal students — i.e., those who are used to finishing final exams before Christmas and actually having a mental break over the holidays — this schedule is unpleasant. But it has one upside: last week was intersession, a one-week break where the fall semester is completely done and the spring semester and its obligations have yet to begin, and Woodrow Wilson students (in the vernacular, “Woos”) traditionally plan group vacations.

One group went to Colombia for the week, another to the Dominican Republic, and various individuals and small groups jaunted off to exotic locales like Paris and Florida. I opted for the low-cost, low-energy Puerto Rico group. Sixteen of us rented a condo and this house (which I highly recommended) in Luquillo Beach and enjoyed this for a week:

Life is hard...

Needless to say the stress of finals was washed away and we Woos are both more tanned and less loathe to start the spring semester. Today was our first day of classes so I’m still figuring out which classes I’ll be taking, but this seems like a good moment to pause and celebrate:

I’m officially halfway through grad school! 1.5 years down, 1.5 to go. So far I’ve done:

  • 4 quarters of coursework at Hopkins (9 months)
  • a summer interning with the NYC Dept of Health (3 months)
  • and the fall semester at Princeton (6 months)

Still to go:

  • this spring semester at Princeton (4 months)
  • June through January: a yet-to-be-determined internship abroad to fulfill internship requirements for Princeton and practicum and remaining degree requirements for Hopkins (8 months)
  • and a final semester at Princeton in the spring of 2013 (4 months)

I’m happy with my course of study so far, and have largely concentrated on the comparative advantage of each school and program: epidemiology, infectious disease, and other public health courses at Hopkins and economics and more general public policy courses at Princeton. For more details on the two programs (for instance, if you’re considering programs like these) click below the fold…

Read the rest of this entry →

06

02 2012