Category Archives: Infectious diseases
Some people will exercise their right to protect themselves against the flu when they vote today. Throughout the country, “Vote & Vax” clinics have been set up at or near polling places to help improve the chance that people who still haven’t had their 2012/2013 flu shot get that shot in the arm. Vote & Vax, which had start up support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, works with local public health providers including health departments to help set up the flu shot clinics. Project partners include the American Public Health Association, the Association of State and Territorial Health Officers and the National Association of County and City Health Officials.
In the last presidential election almost half of flu shot recipients who were vaccinated through Vote & Vax had not received a flu shot in the previous year or were not planning to get a flu shot that year.
Click here to see if there is a Vote & Vax clinic near, or at, your polling place.
If not, search the American Lung Association's Flu Clinic Locator Site, to find the nearest site.
Crowds of public health officials thronged Mary Selecky, Secretary of the Washington State Department of Health since 1999 and a former ASTHO president, at the ASTHO annual meeting, likely for her wisdom as a long time health director grappling with some of the most critical problems facing public health.
NewPublicHealth caught up with Mary Selecky at the recent ASTHO meeting.
NewPublicHealth: What is the rest of the country learning from the recent pertussis (whooping cough) outbreak in Washington State?
Mary Selecky: We have more than 4,000 cases confirmed. Sixty percent of cases are in school age kids, 20 percent in adults and 20 percent in kids under age five. The most worrisome statistics are the numbers of babies hospitalized. [Editor’s Note: Babies get whooping cough vaccines at ages two, four and six months and don’t have full immunity until after the last vaccine.] Most adults get a mild case—they don’t know they have it, they have a dry hacky cough and they’re spreading pertussis germs. One of our very fundamental pieces of information is to make sure your kids are vaccinated and up to date, and that teens and adults have gotten a booster shot. We know we’re reaching the public because our insurance companies are telling us that double the amount of people have gotten the booster from last year. We know we’re getting some penetration there, but clearly not enough.
It has not really gone away. We’re still seeing about 100 new cases every week. We are slowing down—it’s a little bit less every week. Nevertheless, 100 cases per week is still ten times more than it was a year ago. We reached out to the CDC to have their epidemiology investigators to come in and look at our data and see what is happening. They were able to show us that our 13- and 14-year-olds are getting hit hardest and many were vaccinated, so we are evaluating when the booster shot was given and how soon after they got pertussis and what we can learn.
We’re seeing more whooping cough in the U.S. than we have seen in multiple decades. Our own numbers are more than we’ve seen since 1941. It’s a bug, easily passed person to person. We do have an effective vaccine but what the CDC is able to glean may indicate that we need to give a booster more often.
NPH: While the CDC investigates, what’s your recommendation as a state health director?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reminding schools and parents that while many interacting with a “class pet” at school can present important opportunities to help children learn responsibility and nurturing, having animals in the classroom can pose a risk of illness and injury if not handled properly. The CDC has a list of over thirty diseases animals can spread, and a fact sheet onanimals in school and daycare settings. Little kids are at increased risk because their immune systems are still developing, also because they are more likely than older kids and grownups to put their fingers in their mouths after touching an animal.
In the United States, human illness from animals include salmonella, E. coli and rabies, and germs that spread the infection can be found in droppings, cages or wherever animals walk around.
The CDC advises that everyone wash their hands right after handling animals, their food and their habitats such as cages, water bowls and toys. Soap and water are best, and if hand sanitizer alone is used, wash hands with soap and water as soon as it is available.
The choice of Washington, D.C. as the site of the 2012 International AIDS Conference is an important one – about 3 percent of the adult and teen residents of the city are HIV positive. That exceeds the definition of an AIDS epidemic by UNAIDS – 1 percent of a population.
A new report from the Kaiser Family Foundation says that, “In many ways, the D.C. epidemic is a microcosm for what is happening nationally”: D.C. is a small, densely populated community with overlapping sexual networks that can fuel transmission, and also faces significant health care access challenges, poverty, drug use, high rates of other sexually transmitted infections, stigma and lack of knowledge about HIV status.
Blacks in D.C. have the highest HIV prevalence rates per 100,000 adults and adolescents (4,264.6)—more than twice the rate among Latinos (1,836.4) and three times the rate among whites (1,226.3). One difference is that in D.C., there is a higher prevalence of HIV among Black women (2.6%) compared with white men (2.4%).
Importantly, though, the report finds gains in HIV awareness and testing in the city. Over 100,000 HIV tests were done in DC last year, triple the number in 2007. And, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, D.C. was the first jurisdiction to adopt CDC recommendations for routine HIV testing in health care settings and actively works with providers to expand testing. More than four in 10 D.C. residents, ages 18-64, report being tested for HIV within the past year, the highest share of any state.
>>Bonus Link: The Washington Post has been live blogging the AIDS conference this week and the site also has some notable features including an important story on the stigma of AIDS in the South and obstacles in the U.S. to successful treatment for HIV/AIDS.
The International AIDS Conference is taking place in Washington, D.C., this week, and the Kaiser Family Foundation recently released a quiz to test your knowledge of the disease. Some answers may surprise you, and quiz creators hope that increasing awareness will help reduce the burden of the disease in the United States and around the world. Stats revealed include:
- Nearly 1 in 5 people with HIV don’t know they’re infected.
- Blacks account for the greatest number of new HIV infections in the U.S. (And although Blacks make up 12 percent of the U.S. population, they accounted for 44 percent of new HIV infections in 2009.)
- Since 2006, the CDC has recommended voluntary, routine HIV testing in health care settings for all people ages 13 to 64. In addition, CDC recommends more frequent testing for certain groups at higher risk for HIV infection or transmission.
>>Bonus Link: The AIDS Memorial Quilt will be on display in Washington, D.C., during the conference, but online viewers can see the quilt, and learn its history online.
The XIX International AIDS Conference is taking place in Washington, D.C., this week at a pivotal point in the prevention and treatment of the disease. The World Health Organization on Friday recommended using antiretroviral medicines to try to prevent the infection in people who do not have HIV but are at high risk of transmission. The recommendation is based on recent research that found the drugs effective for many people. And, the International Antiviral Society has recommended treating all patients diagnosed with HIV with antiretroviral drugs, rather than waiting for levels of the virus to reach a certain point. Earlier treatment may help prevent certain diseases associated with HIV, including cancer, heart and kidney disease.
In advance of the meeting, Conference Co-Chair Diane Havlir, MD, chief of the HIV/AIDS division at San Francisco General Hospital and professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, sat down with UCSF science writer Jason Bardi to talk about the pivotal research and global commitments being discussed in meeting sessions and hallway conversations in Washington, D.C., this week. Here are some key excerpts from that conversation, which originally ran on the UCSF News Center website.
Jason Bardi: What can we expect at the AIDS 2012 conference?
Dr. Havlir: Over the last couple of years, we’ve had breakthroughs in AIDS, mostly in the prevention area which include treatment as prevention, adult male circumcision having sustained benefits, pre-exposure prophylaxis, and data showing that early treatment benefits the individual. So, the big theme at AIDS 2012 is about how we begin to end the AIDS epidemic. The conference theme is “Turning the Tide Together,” and there is going to be emphasis on the how: how are we going to start to begin the end the AIDS epidemic? And there’s going to be emphasis on the together: who’s going to finance this, and what partners do we need to bring to the table? The way I like to explain it is that we need to think about the short- and medium-term strategies and the long-term strategies.
Jason Bardi: Your research group at UCSF is presenting quite a lot of research at the conference. Can you talk about some of the highlights?
A review of 27 observational studies published between January 1950 and August 2011 finds that exercise may help improve survival for people with breast and colon cancer. The study was published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
Read more on cancer.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has kicked off a national outreach initiative to educate workers and employers about the dangers of working outdoors in hot weather. The outreach effort builds on last year's campaign to raise awareness about the dangers of too much sun and heat.
Workers at risk include those on farms, construction workers, utility workers, baggage handlers, roofers, landscapers and anyone else who works outside. OSHA has developed heat illness educational materials in English and Spanish; a curriculum for workplace training; a dedicated website; and a free app that lets workers and supervisors monitor the heat index for a worksite. The app displays a risk level for workers based on the heat index, and worker safety information from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration heat alerts.
Read more on worker safety.
Johns Hopkins University has been awarded $15 million over the next five years from the National Institutes of Health to establish a new Center for AIDS Research. A major priority for the new center will be to address Baltimore’s HIV epidemic. A report by the Baltimore City Health Department released last year found that despite national advances in HIV prevention and treatment, Baltimore continues to be among the top 10 urban areas in the country in HIV incidence rates.
At the end of 2009, there were 13,048 people in Baltimore living with HIV/AIDS and HIV infections were being diagnosed at a rate of almost one and a half per day. A 2006 study showed that the lifetime expense of treating each new case of HIV in Baltimore costs about $355,000. That expense, according to the Health Department’s report, “puts a significant strain on evolving health care systems, especially in a city like Baltimore with a high poverty rate.”
Read more on HIV/AIDS.
Investigators from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention boarded a plane to examine—and then release—a woman with a rash who arrived back in the US from Uganda late last week. The immediate concern had been monkey pox, a sometimes fatal infectious disease that is similar to smallpox, but CDC investigators say her symptoms were not consistent with the illness. News sources say her rash was likely the result of bed bug bites
Parents with math skills at the third grade level or below were five times more likely to measure the wrong dose of medication for their child than those with skills at the sixth grade level or higher, according to a study presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting in Boston.
Researchers say dosing liquid medications correctly can be especially confusing because parents have to read and understand dosing for different ages and weights and understand the measurement markings on dosing cups, droppers and syringes.
A new study by researchers at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health found that text message reminders to parents about flu vaccinations may help boost the number of children vaccinated. The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association and followed 9,213 children and adolescents ages six months to 18 years—primarily from minority households. Parents of children assigned to the text-message intervention received up to five weekly texts providing educational information and instructions on where the vaccinations were administered. Everyone in the study received an automated telephone reminder, and access to informational flyers posted at the study sites.
At the end of the study, a higher proportion of children and adolescents in the intervention group (43.6 percent) than in the control group (39.9 percent) had been vaccinated against the flu.
This week is National Infant Immunization Week, an annual observance to promote vaccinations in kids two and younger.
Last September the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that childhood immunization rates for vaccines routinely recommended for children are at near-record or record highs. But CDC experts say that without ongoing efforts to maintain immunization programs in the US – and to strengthen them worldwide -- vaccine-preventable diseases remain a threat to children. In 2010, for example, an outbreak of pertussis (whooping cough) killed ten infants in California.
CDC and the CDC Foundation are recognizing innovative child immunization efforts this year with the CDC Childhood Immunization Champion Awards, a new annual award to recognize individuals who make significant contributions toward improving public health through their work in childhood immunization.
Innovations recognized this year include:
- A contest to help increase the number of people vaccinated against season flu.
- A link between a hospital’s electronic medical records and the state immunization registry which lets pediatrics practices upload vaccine information directly into the registry and gives providers easy access to registry data about their patients.
- Vaccine mobiles, providing free vaccines regardless of insurance coverage, parked at public spaces and linked to a state registry system.
Weigh In: What innovative approaches have increased infant immunization rates in your community?
The Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has confirmed the detection of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in a dairy cow from central California. The USDA says the animal will be destroyed and had not been for slaughtered for human consumption, so at no time presented a risk to the food supply or human health. Additionally, according to USDA, milk does not transmit BSE.
The American Lung Association’s State of the Air 2012 report, released today, finds that in America’s most polluted cities, air quality was at its cleanest since the organization began releasing the report thirteen years ago as efforts continue to make environmental hazards.
However, the report shows that more than 40 percent of people in the U.S. live in areas where air pollution continues to threaten their health--127 million people are living in counties with dangerous levels of either ozone or particle pollution that can cause serious health problems such as wheezing and coughing, asthma attacks, heart attacks, and premature death.
Implantable pacemakers or defibrillators may pose a risk for developing deadly infections, according to a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The study shows that more than 4.2 million people in the US had a permanent pacemaker or defibrillator implanted between 1993 and 2008, and that infections related to heart devices infections increased 210 percent during that time, according to the study.
The study authors say a contributing factor may be that some patients may have other medical conditions and be particularly vulnerable to developing infections.