Jason Beaubien

Noncommunicable diseases have become the leading killers around the globe. In 2012, two-thirds of all deaths worldwide were the result of conditions such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes and respiratory infections. The mortality rate from noncommunicable diseases was even higher in low- and middle-income countries.

What is it that's most likely to kill you? The World Health Organization says that in the 21st century, it's your lifestyle.

And it's not just a Western problem.

Throughout the Ebola outbreak the two big questions have always been: How bad is this going to get? And when is it going to end?

Current data show that the numbers of new cases are dropping in all three of the hardest-hit West African countries. A new study predicts Ebola could be eliminated from Liberia by June.

But Ebola specialists are leery of predictions, even from the most reputable of sources.

When Dr. Ian Crozier arrived in West Africa this past summer, he was stepping into the epicenter of the Ebola hot zone. The American doctor was working in the Ebola ward of a large, public hospital in Sierra Leone's dusty city of Kenema.

The trip nearly cost him his life. First came a fever, then a severe headache. "My first thought was, 'Oh, I must have missed a few days of my malaria prophylaxis,' " Crozier recalls.

Between the rugged terrain and the constant terrorist threats, vaccinating Pakistani children against common diseases hasn't been easy. Mountains make it hard — at times even impossible — for vaccinators to reach people in the north. In the south, health workers have to use four-wheelers and camels to travel through Pakistan's harsh deserts.

The prototype has zippers on the rear, which is less likely to come into contact with infectious fluids than the front of the suit.
Courtesy of Clinvue and Roy Heisler

In Southeast Asia, the battle against malaria is growing even more complicated. And it's all because of monkeys, who carry a form of malaria that until a few years ago wasn't a problem for people.

The soccer coach is giving his team a pep talk: "This is not an ordinary game," he declares as he paces in the locker room. "This is life or death. Ebola has defeated thousands in West Africa. Its key strength is passing."

Sometimes you stumble across statistics that just scream at you. I was looking this week through some reports on the Liberian Ministry of Health's website. The screaming statistic was an "8" listed as the number of people "currently in treatment" at the ELWA 3 Ebola treatment unit run by Doctors Without Borders in Monrovia.

It's a bunch of guys sitting around talking.

About the benefits of birth control.

About how a woman should take care of herself when she's pregnant.

About breast-feeding.

You know, the kind of things guys never talk about.

There are 12 of them, sitting in a circle under a tin roof. Some wear long, colorful tunics. Their flip-flops are scattered around the outer edge of the carpet. They're part of the "School for Husbands" program in the village of Chadakori in the West African nation of Niger, the country with the highest birth rate in the world.

Obesity used to be an issue primarily in well-off countries. It was one of those things flippantly dismissed as a "first-world problem." Now people are packing on the pounds all over the planet. In some fast-growing cities in China, for example, half the people are now overweight.

"This is not just one case," says Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "It's a cluster." He's talking about the Ebola situation in Mali, where two people have likely died of the disease in Bamako, the capital, and two others have tested positive.

Hundreds more may have been exposed. Officials from the U.N., the World Health Organization, the government of Mali and the CDC are all calling for swift action to keep Mali from descending into the Ebola chaos that's hit neighboring Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Mali slapped quarantine orders on nearly 90 people on Wednesday and closed a mosque and a health facility in an effort to contain an Ebola outbreak.

The moves come after a nurse at a private clinic in the capital, Bamako, was confirmed as an Ebola victim.

In the current Ebola crisis, much of the focus has been on Liberia and Sierra Leone. But the virus also continues to spread in Guinea, where the first case in the current outbreak was identified in March.

Two new U.S. Ebola treatment facilities are expected to open in Liberia over the next week. One is a 25-bed field hospital near Monrovia's airport, specifically to treat local health care workers who get infected. The other is a 100-bed Ebola treatment unit, or ETU, in the town of Tubmanburg, north of Monrovia.

Louisiana health officials say that anyone who's been in an Ebola-affected country over the last three weeks will be quarantined in their hotel rooms.

The American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene is telling researchers who've recently traveled to Ebola-affected parts of West Africa that they can't come to the society's annual meeting. That wasn't the medical group's idea.

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