Nov 9 2012

Public Health News Roundup: November 9

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.

Tags: Access to Health Care, Heart and Vascular Health, Infectious disease, News roundups, Public and Community Health