We live in an era of 24-hour news in which we’re constantly bombarded by information from websites, social media, and television. Yet despite this deluge, there are still many fascinating news items that you are likely to have missed. Here are nine such events and discoveries from 2017 that you may not have heard about.

1. In 1980, smallpox became the first disease ever completely eradicated (no cases of naturally occurring smallpox have happened since). Now, we’re close to eradicating a second disease from the planet—Guinea worm disease (Dracunculiasis). This painful infection is caused by a parasite acquired in drinking water containing Guinea worm larvae. Although there is no drug to treat Guinea worm disease and no vaccine to prevent infection, the disease can be prevented by avoiding drinking unsafe water. In 1986, there were an estimated 3.5 million cases in 21 countries in Africa and Asia. Today, there are only 26 cases in Chad and Ethiopia.

2. We’re also close to eradicating a third crippling and deadly infectious disease—polio. According to the Centers for Disease Control, paralysis is the most severe symptom associated with polio, because it can lead to permanent disability and death. Between 2 and 10 out of 100 people who have paralysis from poliovirus infection die because the virus affects the muscles that help them breathe. In 2017 the world saw the fewest wild polio cases in history—a total of 17.

3. In 2017, more Americans died because of opioids than breast cancer. About 41,000 Americans die from breast cancer every year, and there has already been an estimated 66,000 opioid-related overdose deaths for the year.

4. For about a thousand years we have assumed the earth had seven continents (Africa, Asia, Antarctica, Australia, Europe, North America, and South America). Geologists, though, group Europe and Asia into its own supercontinent—Eurasia —making for a total of six geologic continents. But some geologists believe we may have discovered there’s a seventh geologic continent called ‘Zealandia.’ This would mean that New Zealand and New Caledonia aren’t merely an island chain on the continent of Australia but part of a separate and distinct continent.

5. Research done on mortar taken from the traditional tomb of Jesus at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem has offered new evidence that confirms the tradition linked to the site. The mortar was dated to as early as AD 345, supporting the traditional dating of the construction of the first Church of the Holy Sepulchre, to mark the tomb of Christ, during the reign of the Roman emperor Constantine.

6. Researchers have classified a brand-new organ inside our bodies. The new organ, known as mesentery, is found in our digestive systems. It was originally thought to be composed of fragmented, separate structures, but recent research has shown it’s actually one continuous organ. According to Science Alerts, the world’s best-known series of medical textbooks, Gray’s Anatomy, has even been updated to include the new definition.

7. The crime rate in New York City, America’s most populous city, has dropped precipitously since the 1990s. All seven major crimes tracked by police, including rape, assault, and robbery, showed declines. In 1990, there were 100,280 robberies; in 2017 there were 13,700. In 1990, there were 125,000 burglaries; in 2017 there were 12,000. In 1990, the city also had 2,605 murders; in 2017 there were only 284 (as of December 24).

8. It is expected that 2017 will be the most expensive year in American history in terms of natural disasters. In 2017 there were 15 weather and climate disaster events with losses exceeding $1 billion each across the United States. These events included one drought event, two flooding events, one freeze event, seven severe storm events, three tropical cyclone events, and one wildfire event. These events also resulted in the deaths of 282 people.

9. State legislatures around the country offered dozens of new pro-life laws. According to WORLD news service, the nearly 50 new bills include bans on dismemberment abortions and any procedure after 20 weeks gestation, fetal burial requirements, and bills that would defund Planned Parenthood. Among the legislation was a bill to ban abortions of babies diagnosed with Down syndrome, which passed the Ohio legislature earlier this month.

Other posts in this series:

Christmas TraditionsSexual Misconduct • Lutheranism • Jewish High Holy Days • Nation of Islam • Slave Trade • Solar Eclipses • Alcohol Abuse in America • History of the Homeschooling Movement • Eugenics • North Korea • Ramadan • Black Hebrew Israelites • Neil Gorsuch and Supreme Court Confirmations • International Women’s Day • Health Effects of Marijuana • J. R. R. Tolkien • Aleppo and the Syrian Crisis • Fidel Castro • C.S. Lewis • ESV Bible • Alzheimer’s Disease •  Mother Teresa • The Opioid Epidemic • The Olympic Games • Physician-Assisted Suicide • Nuclear Weapons • China’s Cultural Revolution • Jehovah’s Witnesses • Harriet Tubman • Autism • Seventh-day Adventism • Justice Antonin Scalia (1936–2016) • Female Genital Mutilation • Orphans • Pastors • Global Persecution of Christians (2015 Edition) • Global Hunger • National Hispanic Heritage Month • Pope Francis • Refugees in America • Confederate Flag Controversy • Elisabeth Elliot • Animal Fighting • Mental Health • Prayer in the Bible • Same-sex Marriage • Genocide • Church Architecture • Auschwitz and Nazi Extermination Camps • Boko Haram • Adoption • Military Chaplains • Atheism • Intimate Partner Violence • Rabbinic Judaism • Hamas • Male Body Image Issues • Mormonism • Islam • Independence Day and the Declaration of Independence • Anglicanism • Transgenderism • Southern Baptist Convention • Surrogacy • John Calvin • The Rwandan Genocide • The Chronicles of Narnia • The Story of Noah • Fred Phelps and Westboro Baptist Church • Pimps and Sex Traffickers • Marriage in America • Black History Month • The Holocaust • Roe v. Wade • Poverty in America • Christmas • The Hobbit • Council of Trent • Halloween and Reformation Day • Casinos and Gambling • Prison Rape • 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing • Chemical Weapons • March on Washington • Duck Dynasty • Child Brides • Human Trafficking • Scopes Monkey Trial • Social Media • Supreme Court’s Same-Sex Marriage Cases • The Bible • Human Cloning • Pornography and the Brain • Planned Parenthood • Boston Marathon Bombing • Female Body Image Issues • Islamic State