December 6, 2008

Flu shot could help students' grades

An article in the Star Tribune reports on a study from the University of Minnesota that found that students how get a flu shot miss fewer classes and do better on tests and class work.

Here are some of the key findings:
Vaccinated students are:

46 percent less likely to miss a class.

40 percent less likely to botch an assignment.

47 percent less likely to have a bad test.

47 percent less likely to have to go to the doctor.

Read more about the study in the article.

WHO, CDC report drop in measles deaths worldwide

An article in USA Today reports that deaths from measles have fallen worldwide. Due to an increased push for vaccinations, measles deaths have dropped 74 percent from 2000-2007.

While deaths from measles have fallen worldwide, the United States has seen a resurgence in measles cases. According to the article, there were a total of 135 cases in the United States this year, which is the "highest level in more than a decade." The article reports that nearly half of those cases "involved children whose parents rejected vaccination."

November 22, 2008

More children sleep under malaria nets, but millions still do not

A recent article in the New York Times discusses the results of a study published in The Lancet. The study found that about "19 percent of children who lived in areas where malaria was endemic were sleeping under insecticide-treated mosquito nets." While that may seem low, it is a great increase compared to only 2 percent of children sleeping under mosquito nets in 2000. On the flip side, this still means that there are approximately 90 million children who do not have the protection of a mosquito net.

Hurdles remain to making HIV testing as common as cholesterol tests

An article in the Star Tribune discusses some of the issues around the commonality of HIV testing. According to the article, in 2006 the CDC recommended that everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 routinely be tested for HIV, even if they may not be at risk. The article also reports that about one in five people infected with HIV do not know it. This is why it is so important to push routine testing.

Laws in some states are changing and some healthcare facilities are moving towards including HIV tests with other common blood tests, but there is still a long way to go.

November 17, 2008

Listen for whooping cough this winter

An article in the Star Tribune reports that there has been an increase in the number of cases of pertussis- better known as whooping cough. Whooping cough is a bacterial disease that usually peaks every three to five years, according to the article. It is problematic for teens and adults, but "can be fatal for infants."

There is a vaccine for whooping cough, but the article reports that it wears off, so teens and adults can become infected even if they have had the vaccine.

This page on the CDC Web site offers more information on whooping cough.

November 16, 2008

Cure for AIDS??

An article by the AP in USA Today reports that doctors think they have cured a man with AIDS by doing a "targeted bone marrow transplant." The marrow was taken from a donor who had inherited a a genetic mutation from both parents that prevents HIV from attaching to cells.

A physician quoted from the Mayo clinic was skeptical that the treatment actually eliminated the virus from the man and said that more thourough tests would need to be done to be sure.

This article takes a risk by using the word "cured" in the title. While some people may believe that this man is "cured" it is not definite. That word carries a lot with it. It should be used carefully by the media because of the weight it carries and it should only be used when sufficient evidence is available to support the claim.

November 10, 2008

Massive malaria vaccine trial to begin in Africa

An article in the Washington Post reports that a huge vaccine trial is set to begin in Africa. The trial will include about 16,000 children to test a vaccine for a disease that kills around 1 million people each year.

As the article states, Malaria is caused by parasites and is spread by mosquitos. Preliminary trials show that the vaccine being tested is only 30 percent effective "against mild malaria cases" and 50 percent effective "against severe malaria. The researchers state that even though the numbers seem low, but they are hoping that any percentage of people that can be vaccinated successfully will be an achievement.

November 8, 2008

Media affects public perception of infectious disease

An article in the Washington Post reports on a study from Canada that says that media coverage affects people's perceptions of infectious disease. This idea seems to make intuitive sense. The study reasons that if infectious diseases are heavily covered in the media they will be perceived as more serious, even if they actually are not. In the study, two groups of students rated a set of infectious diseases and they initially rated diseases such as avian flu, SARS and anthrax as more severe. They rated diseases like Tularemia, human babesiosis and yellow fever as less severe. However, when the students were given descriptions of the diseases without the names, the ratings flip flopped. The researchers also suggest that this means that people can overcome effects of the media by being given factual information.

November 1, 2008

Study finds that HIV treatment should start earlier

An article in USA Today reports on the findings of a study that showed that HIV treatment should start earlier in order to improve survival rates.

The study looked at data from 22 other studies conducted between 1996 and 2006. A total of 8,374 patients were looked at and the results showed that those who received treatment later in the course of their HIV infection were 70% more likely to die than those who received treatment sooner.

The article reports that the current guidelines for treatment are to begin when the patients CD4 T-cells fall below 350 per cubic millimeter and that patients in the study "fared better" when treated when their CD$ T-cells were between 350 and 500 cells per cubic millimeter. Whether this guideline is actually followed by all doctors is not reported.

Anything that can be done to improve the quality of life and length of life for people with HIV should be done, but this article does not do a great job of explaining all of the parameters around the research and the benefits and risks of moving treatment earlier. Some treatments can cause people more hardships than not doing them because of cost and side effects from medication. This is definitely an issue that patients and doctors will have to talk about as they form a treatment plan so that the patient is getting the best quality of life that they can.

U breaks flu shot record- kind of

The University of Minnesota broke the Guinness World Record for the most flu immunizations given in one day on Tuesday, Oct. 28. They gave 11,538 flu immunizations at four different locations around campus.

The 11,538 record smashed the previous record of 3,721. The Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. said that they gave 7,401 flu shots in one day the week prior to the event, but they never filed paperwork to have the record verified and recorded.

People were offered flu shots or the flu mist on the day of the event. The articles in both the Star Tribune and the Minnesota Daily reporting on the event do not specify whether the people who received the flu mist are included in the final total. In fact, both articles state that the U broke the record for the most flu SHOTS in one day, but actually they should have said flu IMMUNIZATIONS because the flu mist DID count in the final total. This fact is not seen unless you read some of the comments posted under the MN Daily article online. A comment posted by someone in the MN Daily newsroom confirms that the flu mist was included in the total and that they gave out about 800 of them. So, even if the flu mist had not been counted, the U still would have broken the record. But shouldn’t that have been reported in the article? Is it responsible journalism to call the record a “flu shot? record when it is actually “flu immunizations??

Paperwork and other documentation still need to be verified by Guinness before the record is officially set.

October 26, 2008

U attempts to break flu shot record

On Tuesday, Oct. 28, the U of MN will attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the most flu shots given in one work day. The record to beat is 3,271. The record was set by a hospital in Florida on Nov. 9, 2006.

Flu shots will be offered in four locations on campus from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Northrop Auditorium Plaza – East Bank

Java City, Moos Tower – East Bank

Hubert H. Humphrey Center, Atrium – West Bank

St. Paul Student Center, North Star Ballroom – St. Paul

Get more information about the event on the Boynton Health Service Web site.

UN says 12,225 cholera cases and 201 deaths in West African nation of Guinea Bissau

An article in the Star Tribune reports that over 12,000 people in the West African nation of Guinea Bissau have been infected with cholera and 201 people have died since the outbreak started in mid-May.

The World Health Organization defines cholera as "an acute intestinal infection caused by ingestion of food or water contaminated with the bacterium Vibrio cholerae." It is typically spread through contaminated food and water. Clean water and sanitary conditions are needed to prevent the spread of cholera.

Cholera is still a threat to global public health, but cholera has not bee prevelant in the United States since the late 1800s due to proper sewage and clean water. People traveling outside the U.S. can be at risk for acquiring the disease or even bringing back contaminated food.

October 21, 2008

U prof links HIV treatment with increased chance of death

A recent article in the Minnesota Daily reports that a Universtiy professor was part of a study that shows that people receiving treatment for HIV have a higher risk of dying from non AIDS-related diseases.

The study looked at two different kinds of treatment, continuous treatment and intermittent treatment. With continuous treatment the person receives treatment no matter what their CD4 cell count is, but with intermittent treatment, the person receives treatment when their CD4 cell count is below a certain leve.

The study found that people who received intermittent treatment had the higher risk of dying from non AIDS-related diseases such as liver disease or cardiovascular disease. The study was stopped early due to the findings.

After the study was cancelled, the researchers discovered the reason that people receiving the intermittent treatment had a higher risk of death. When they received the treatment, certain protein levels would elevate. These protein levels are correlated with liver and cardiovascular disease.

The researchers note that more research needs to be done. This study does raise more questions about what the best form of treatment is for people with HIV. Based on this study, continuous treatment may be better, but it can be very expensive and the risk of taking medications everyday could have more harmful effects in the long run.

October 19, 2008

Most health workers don't get a flu shot

A recent article in USA Today reports that about 60 percent of health care workers do not get flu shots. The CDC recommends that all health workers get a flu shot, but experiences such as getting sick after recieving the vaccine are one reason that many health workers decide not to get it. While the article does mention that their are "few well documented cases of flu outbreaks caused by health care workers," this issue does raise some concerns. The close proximity of health care workers and patients can allow for the flu to spread easily.

Some hospitals require vaccines and the CDC recommends health care workers be offered free flu vaccines at work so that it is convenient for them to obtain the vaccine.

October 13, 2008

Computer glitch delays delivery of flu vaccine for Minnesota Vaccines for Children program

Kare 11 reported this weekend that a computer glitch will delay the delivery of flu vaccines to the Minnesota Vaccines for Children program. Minnesota Vaccines for Children is a federally funded program that will cover children whose insurance will not pay for the flu vaccine.

Even though the vaccine will be delayed to the program, it is still early in the flu season, so officials are not overly conserned. The news report also mentions that there are actually more vaccines available nationwide than ever before.

Below are the CDC's recommendations for who should and should not get the flu vaccine.
Who Should Get Vaccinated
In general, anyone who wants to reduce their chances of getting the flu can get vaccinated. However, it is recommended by ACIP that certain people should get vaccinated each year. They are either people who are at high risk of having serious flu complications or people who live with or care for those at high risk for serious complications. During flu seasons when vaccine supplies are limited or delayed, ACIP makes recommendations regarding priority groups for vaccination.

People who should get vaccinated each year are:

Children aged 6 months up to their 19th birthday
Pregnant women
People 50 years of age and older
People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions
People who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
People who live with or care for those at high risk for complications from flu, including:
a. Health care workers
b. Household contacts of persons at high risk for complications from the flu
c. Household contacts and out of home caregivers of children less than 6 months of age (these children are too young to be vaccinated)

Use of the Nasal Spray Flu Vaccine
It should be noted that vaccination with the nasal-spray flu vaccine is always an option for healthy* people 2-49 years of age who are not pregnant.

Who Should Not Be Vaccinated
There are some people who should not be vaccinated without first consulting a physician. These include:

People who have a severe allergy to chicken eggs.
People who have had a severe reaction to an influenza vaccination.
People who developed Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) within 6 weeks of getting an influenza vaccine.
Children less than 6 months of age (influenza vaccine is not approved for this age group), and
People who have a moderate-to-severe illness with a fever (they should wait until they recover to get vaccinated.)