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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.