Category Archives: Infectious disease
Study: One-quarter of Doctors’ Offices Not Equipped for Patients in Wheelchairs
Despite the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act, about one quarter of doctors’ offices are not equipped to treat patients in wheelchairs, according to a new study in the Annals of Internal Medicine. The biggest obstacle to treatment was being able to transfer patients to exam tables. “This is affecting a large number of patients, certainly the 3 million who use a wheelchair, but many more than that who have difficulty getting up to an exam table,” said lead author Tara Lagu, an academic hospitalist at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, Massachusetts, and an assistant professor at Tufts University School of Medicine. “The point of the study is to help doctors realize what the problems are and to help them become more aware of the Americans with Disabilities Act and to identify what the difficulties patients who use wheelchairs are having in accessing health care.” Read more on access to health care.
FDA: Voluntary Recall of Tainted Medical Med Prep Consulting Inc. Products
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced a voluntary recall of all products produced by Med Prep Consulting Inc. of Tinton Falls, N.J., after fungus was found in several bags of magnesium sulfate intravenous solution in Connecticut. The magnesium sulfate products may also have been shipped to New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware. While no illness has been reported, FDA is working with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to identify the scope of the contamination. “Giving a patient a contaminated injectable drug could result in a life-threatening infection,” said Janet Woodcock, MD, director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “We do not have reports of patient infections. However, due to a lack of sterility assurance at the facility and out of an abundance of caution, this recall is necessary to protect patients.” Read more on infectious disease.
New Insight into Why Black Kids Receive Fewer Antibiotics
Among all demographics, black children are the least likely to receive antibiotics, according to a new study in the journal Pediatrics. Researchers say this racial disparity in terms of treatment is likely because non-black children are actually over-prescribed the drugs. "The fact that black kids are given fewer antibiotics and fewer broad-spectrum antibiotics may come across as a bad thing to the casual reader, but perhaps it's not an issue of under-treating black kids, but over-treating non-black kids," said Allison Bartlett, MD, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at LaRabida Children's Hospital in Chicago. Read more on prescription drugs.
CDC: Distracted Driving a Major Danger in U.S., Younger Populations
About 69 percent of U.S. drivers talk on their phone while behind the wheel and approximately one in three use text messaging or email, according to a new study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The rates were higher than those seen in several European countries. The study also found that younger men and women were, on average, more likely to engage in the risky behavior. No significant difference in behavior between men and women was found. “Everyone, of every age and generation, has the ability to make a decision to drive distraction-free,” said Linda C. Degutis, DrPH, MSN, director of CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. “It’s especially risky for young, inexperienced drivers—who are already extremely vulnerable to crashes—to be distracted when they are behind the wheel. Answering a call or reading a text is never worth a loss of life.” Read more on safety.
High-fat Dairy Foods Increase Breast Cancer Survivors Change of Death
Breast cancer survivors who consume high-fat dairy foods are at higher risk of dying of cancer than those who consumer little or none of the food type, according to a new study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Researchers found that they were at a 49 percent higher risk of death. High-fat dairy foods include ice cream, butter and certain kinds of cheeses. While the risk in absolute terms is a 12 percent risk of dying of breast cancer, researchers said this “modest” increase justifies the relatively easy lifestyle change of cutting out high-fat dairy foods. Read more on cancer.
National Salmonella Outbreak in Kids Linked to Type of Frog
A 2008-2011 outbreak of Salmonella Typhimurium in kids has been linked to African dwarf frogs kept as pets, according to a new study in the journal Pediatrics. There were 376 cases in 44 states and 29 percent of the cases led to hospitalizations, though no one died. Most victims were less than 10 years old. The researchers said too few parents are aware of the salmonella risk from reptiles and amphibians, which require diligent handwashing and careful maintenance of their habitats. Children under age 5 are at especially high risk and should have no contact with African dwarf frogs or their environments. Read more on infectious disease.
U.K. Reports Additional Case of SARS-like Virus
The World Health Organization (WHO) has been informed by health officials in the United Kingdom of an additional case of a patient infected with the novel coronavirus (NCoV), which appears to be similar to the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) virus which struck in several countries a few years ago. The most recent patient is related to the first patient announced several days ago, which may be an indication that the virus may be able to spread from person to person. The most recent patient is in the intensive care unit of a U.K. hospital, and may have an underlying health issues that made him susceptible to the virus. The WHO says “on the basis of current evidence, the risk of sustained person-to-person transmission appears to be very low.” Eleven confirmed cases of human infection with NCoV have been reported to WHO since 2011, with five deaths since April 2012. WHO says that testing for the new coronavirus should be considered in patients with unexplained pneumonia or in patients with unexplained severe, progressive or complicated respiratory illness not responding to treatment, and then reported to national health authorities and WHO. Read more on infectious disease.
IOM Report: Efforts Needed In U.S. and Abroad to Combat Counterfeit and Adulterated Drugs
Combating counterfeit and adulterated drugs will require efforts in the United States as well as an improved international regulatory system, according to a new report released by the Institute of Medicine. The report calls for a tracking system to monitor drugs as they enter the distribution system and efforts by the World Health Organization to set and enforce standards for tracking medications. Read more on prescription drugs.
Petition Calls on FDA to Limit Sugar in Soft Drinks
The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group, together with a group of health experts, has sent a petition to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) calling on the agency to determine safe levels of high-fructose corn syrup and other sugars in sodas and assorted soft drinks. According to the petition, a 20-ounce bottle of soda contains about 16 teaspoons of sugar made from high-fructose corn syrup. The American Heart Association recommends that men not consume more than nine teaspoons of added sugars each day and that women restrict their added sugar intake to no more than six teaspoons. Read more on obesity.
CDC: Adult Vaccine Rates “Unacceptable Low”
A new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that current adult vaccine rates are “unacceptably low” in the United States. The vaccines that need improvement prevent diseases such as pneumonia, tetanus, diphtheria, hepatitis, shingles and whooping cough. Pneumonia alone killed approximately 4,000 people in the country in 2011, with most of those over the age of 50. The CDC recommends adults speak with their health care providers about which vaccines they may need. Read more on vaccines.
Non-drug Treatments Have Little Effect on ADHD
Non-drug interventions do little to address key symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), according to a new study in the American Journal of Psychiatry. The study found no positive effects from treatments such as cognitive training, neurofeedback and behavioral training, and little benefits from with dietary treatments. Study author Emily Simonoff, MD, a professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at King's College London, said it’s important for families to realize that in addition to being ineffective, non-drug interventions can also have adverse effects. "For example, does a highly selective diet limit the way a child can play and socialize, making them feel different from their friends? And for parents, if a child doesn't improve under these therapies, does it affect how the parents feel about themselves?" Approximately 3 to 7 percent of U.S. children have ADHD, according to the American Psychiatric Association. Read more on mental health.
CDC Report to Help Combat Future Foodborne Illnesses, Set Policy
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released its first ever comprehensive report on the food sources of all foodborne illnesses. The paper uses historical data to determine how many illnesses are caused by individual food categories, which will give CDC and other organizations a solid foundation on which to establish new food safety interventions and policies. The report appears in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases. Read more on infectious diseases.
Cancer Death Rates Down, But Could Be Even Better with Improved Access to Care
The U.S. mortality rate for cancer has dropped 20 percent since 1991, equal to about 1.2 million lives, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). Improved treatments have helped cut the death rates for colon, breast and prostate cancers, but the rates could be even lower if more people had access to new and advanced treatments, according to John Seffrin, ACS’ chief executive officer. “Not all demographic groups have benefited equally from these gains, particularly those diagnosed with colorectal or breast cancer, where earlier detection and better treatments are credited for the improving trends," said Seffrin, according to HealthDay. "We can and must close this gap so that people are not punished for having the misfortune of being born poor and disadvantaged." Read more on cancer.
Survey: Shortage of Treatments for Multidrug-resistant TB
Treatments for multidrug-resistant tuberculosis are difficult to come by for approximately 80 percent of the U.S. health departments that treat the disease, according to a National Tuberculosis Controllers Association survey of health departments. The obstacles include nationwide shortages, shipping delays the difficulty in procuring drugs that are still undergoing testing, while potential fixes include looking to foreign manufacturers, improving stockpiles and expediting the approval of new drugs. There were about 10,528 cases of tuberculosis in the United States in 2011, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Read more on infectious disease.
Obese Kids at Greater Risk of Immediate Health Problems
Children who are obese are also at increased risk of asthma, learning disabilities and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, according to a new study in the journal Academic Pediatrics. “Childhood obesity not only has long-term impact in terms of future heart disease, diabetes and other problems that we have been hearing so many things about," said study lead Neal Halfon, MD, director of the Center for Healthier Children, Families and Communities at the University of California, Los Angeles. "It also has an immediate impact on the health, mental health and development of children.” The researcher said further study is needed to determine causation or whether other factors are involved. Approximately 12.5 million children and teens are obese, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Read more on obesity.
FDA Proposes Two New Food Safety Rules
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has proposed two new food safety rules to help prevent food-borne illness. Once made final, the rules will become part of the Food Safety and Modernization Act signed into law two years ago. The new rules are available for public comment for the next four months. The first rule would require companies engaged in selling food to be sold in the United States, whether produced at a foreign- or domestic-based facility, to develop a formal plan for preventing their food products from causing food-borne illness and for correcting any problems that develop. The second rule proposes enforceable safety standards for the production and harvesting of produce on farms. Read more on food safety.
NIH Developing Health Plan for LGBT Communities
The National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) LGBT Research Coordinating Committee is developing a plan to “extend and advance the knowledge base” for promoting health in the LGBT community, according to a recent statement from NIH Director Francis S. Collins, MD. The plan is based on analysis of The Health of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender People: Building a Foundation for Better Understanding, a study commissioned by the NIH and issued in March 2011. Read more on LGBT issues.
Mass. Bill Would Improve Oversight of Compounding Pharmacies
Months after the state of a meningitis outbreak linked to 39 deaths and 656 cases of illness in 19 states, the governor of Massachusetts has introduced legislation that would improve the state’s ability to regulate compounding pharmacies. The source of the outbreak is believed to be tainted steroids produced at the Framingham, Massachusetts-based New England Compounding Center. "The regulations that we have in place and governing authority hasn't kept up with an industry that's changed," said Governor Deval Patrick, according to Reuters. Read more on infectious disease.
The proportion of flu-related doctor visits has reached a nine-year high for this time of year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as reported by USA TODAY. Correct anyone who tells you it’s too late to get a flu shot, though. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention intentionally schedules National Influenza Vaccination Week in December as a reminder to get the shot for the many millions of Americans who still haven’t.
“Flu season typically peaks in February and can last as late as May,” says Dr. Anne Schuchat, Assistant Surgeon General of the U.S. Public Health Service and Director of CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. “We are encouraging people who have not yet been vaccinated to get vaccinated now.”
December holiday gatherings are optimal opportunities to spread the flu, and since it takes up to two weeks for full immunity to take effect, this week is a good time to roll up your sleeve if you’re still shot-less.
Flu shots come in several varieties. Children who never had a flu shot need two doses the first year they get the vaccine. There’s a nasal spray for adults 18-49 and a higher dose version for people 65 and older. Learn more from the CDC about different versions of the flu shot and what might be best for you and your family.
RWJF Pledges $5 Million to Support Hurricane Sandy Recovery Efforts in New Jersey
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, based in Princeton, N.J., will provide $5 million to selected non-profit agencies to help New Jersey residents recover from the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy. That includes two grants, already distributed, of $250,000 each to the American Red Cross of Central New Jersey and the Community Food Bank of New Jersey. The additional funding will be given to help with recovery, rebuilding and social service support, including mental health services for individuals and families in the state. Foundation executives will be meeting with state and local government agencies, relief and social service organizations and civic leaders to determine allocation of the funds. Read more on disasters.
House, Senate Holding Hearings on Meningitis Outbreak
The House Committee on Energy and Commerce is set to hold a hearing titled "The Fungal Meningitis Outbreak: Could It Have Been Prevented?" to investigate the outbreak that has caused 32 deaths and infected 438 other people. It is believed the source of the outbreak is tainted steroids from the New England Compounding Center, in Framingham, Mass. Many members of Congress have suggested the outbreak demonstrates the need for increased regulation of compounding pharmacies. The Senate is also holding hearings, with U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Margaret Hamburg scheduled to testify about the outbreak before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. Read more on infectious disease.
Worldwide Diabetes Cases at Record High
The number of diabetes cases worldwide is at a record high, according to a new report released today on World Diabetes Day. The International Diabetes Federation estimates that approximately 371 million people have diabetes, with as many as 187 million of those still undiagnosed. Diabetes can lead to serious medical problems such as nerve damage, kidney damage and blindness; about 4.8 million people die due to complications from diabetes each year. The most common type of diabetes is Type 2, which can be managed through changes in diet, weight loss, regular exercise and medication. Read more on diabetes. While traditionally found most often in western countries, it is spreading in poorer areas such as sub-Saharan Africa. Read more on diabetes.
West Nile Virus May Be Mutating Into More Aggressive Form
The West Nile virus circulating in 2012 may be causing more severe cases than in years past, as some reported cases include more aggressive attacks on the patients' brains, according to the Washington Post. Some neurologists are speculating that the virus may have mutated into a more virulent form. However, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is reporting no evidence of mutation. One CDC scientist said the appearance of more serious cases may just be a function of there being more West Nile infections overall this year, as 2012 has seen the most cases in the past decade. State and local health departments have reported more than 5,000 cases of West Nile illness and 228 deaths in 48 states, according to the Post. More data is needed to determine whether there is truly a more virulent mutation of the virus. Read more on infectious disease.
Study: Gap Between What Patients Want, What Doctors Think Patients Want
A new study in the BMJ shows a large distance between what patients want and what doctors believe patients want, which can lead to unnecessary and expensive treatments. Specific examples called out by the researchers involved how people with breast cancer rated the importance of keeping their breasts and how people with dementia felt about staying alive with declining mental health. More-informed patients often choose less-invasive and fewer procedures, according to the study. The study’s researchers recommended three steps to ensure doctors were following their patients’ wishes: 1) a mindset of scientific detachment; 2) the use of data to arrive at a provisional diagnosis; and 3) including the patient in all phases of decision making. "It is tantalizing to consider that budget-challenged health systems around the world could simultaneously give patients what they want and cut costs," said researchers in a release. Read more on access to health care.
Exercise Doesn’t Reduce Fat around the Heart Due to Excessive Sitting
Fat buildup around the heart as a result of excessive sitting—at home or in the office—stays even when a person exercises regularly, according to a new study presented at the annual meeting of the American Heart Association in Los Angeles, Calif. While exercise helped reduce fat over all, it did not reduce pericardial fat. “[Pericardial fat] is strongly related to cardiovascular disease,” said Britta Larsen, a postdoctoral researcher in the department of cardiovascular epidemiology at the University of California, San Diego. “It gets in the way of heart function, it clogs up your arteries—you don't want it there." According to Larsen, this emphasizes the importance of being less sedentary overall and of workplaces becoming more standing-friendly. Read more on heart health.
Meningitis Toll at 29 Dead, 368 Infected
A national meningitis outbreak linked to potentially tainted steroids has now caused 29 deaths, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There have been 368 cases in 19 states. New England Compounding Center of Framingham, Massachusetts, which manufactured the drugs, is under multiple investigations. Westborough, Massachusetts-based Ameridose, a sister company to New England Compounding Center, has also announced a voluntary recall of all its products after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration voiced concerns with the sterility of its facility. Ameridose said there have been no reports of any issues with its products. Read more on infectious disease.
Study: Black Women at Greater Risk of Death from Breast Cancer
Black women with breast cancer are at greater risk of death within the first three years of diagnosis than white women, according to preliminary research presented at an American Association for Cancer Research in San Diego, Calif. The study looked at approximately 19,000 women with breast cancer between 2000 and 2007, finding black women were 48 percent more likely to die than white women; Asian women were 40 percent less likely to die than white women. The study linked the higher mortality rate for black women to particular types of tumors. "The results of this study emphasize that clinical management and follow-up for patients with breast cancer, particularly black women, is important in the first few years after diagnosis," said Erica Warner, a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard School of Public Health in Boston. Read more on cancer.
Boys More Likely Than Girls to Abuse OTC Drugs
New research suggests boys are more likely than girls to abuse over-the-counter drugs. Researchers at the University of Cincinnati looked at 2009-2010 survey results for students in grades 7-12 in 133 schools, finding 10 percent of students overall abused drugs such as cough syrup or decongestants, which can lead to accidental poisoning; seizures; and physical and mental addictions, according to HealthDay. "Findings from this study highlight and underscore OTC drugs as an increasing and significant health issue affecting young people," said Rebecca Vidourek, an assistant professor of health promotion, in a release. The preliminary results were presented at the American Public Health Association annual meeting in San Francisco. Read more on prescription drugs.