Articles Posted in Infections

superbugs-300x118Hospitals may be providing us all with too many causes for high anxiety, with reports on increasing findings of “nightmare” bacteria stalking more health care facilities than had been known, more disclosures about how taxpayers may foot an even bigger bill to deal with a beleaguered public hospital in Washington, D.C.,  and a respected reform advocate’s detailing of just how traumatizing many hospital stays may be.

Let’s start with the new research by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a study that tried to determine just how many cases there might already be of patients infected in hospitals, nursing homes, and other medical care facilities with so-called Superbugs, bacteria that resist treatment not only with most standard antibiotics but also drugs that are deemed therapies of last resort. These include three types of bacterial infections deemed especially urgent but difficult to control: Clostridium difficile (C. difficile), aka C-diff; carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CREs, as shown above); and Neisseria gonorrhoeae.

CDC officials weren’t sure how many of the Superbug cases — which leave doctors and hospitals little option but to provide only supportive care — they might detect by scrutinizing records from pathology labs nationwide.

cdc-opoid-overdose-300x136America’s drug overdose crisis keeps  worsening, with federal officials reporting that emergency room treatment of opioid overdoses spiked by 30 percent across the nation in 2017.

Abuse of opioids, including the synthetic painkiller fentanyl and heroin, also is triggering significant outbreaks of diseases, including hepatitis C, which is costly to treat, and deadly major bacterial infections.

And the prescription painkiller crisis — which studies increasingly show was been launched, in part, based on wrong information about drugs’ purported benefits — may be masking the worrisome rise, yet again, of cocaine abuse.

jetsons-300x231Although big, rich hospitals and their sprawling campuses jammed with shiny new buildings may be reaching a point where they’re unsustainable for competitive cost, safety, and efficiency reasons, a rising health care alternative already may be hitting its own major woes that can’t be ignored.

The Wall Street Journal and New York Times have put up pieces with intriguing projections about the future of hospitals, including how economics may force them, as is occurring now, to spin off major functions, including many kinds of surgery, which will be handled, instead, in smaller, free-standing surgical centers.

At the same time, USA Today and the independent and nonpartisan Kaiser Health News Service have presented their investigation into dangers and deaths that patients encounter at the such centers, which already are burgeoning nationwide.

pneumonia-300x233As tens of thousands of Americans flood hospitals for treatment during the current flu epidemic, some also may end up sicker than when admitted, notably due to an infectious disease that’s a persistent and increasing worry for caregiving institutions: pneumonia.

The Wall Street Journal — citing federal statistics that pneumonia is the leading hospital acquired infection (HAI), sickening more than 150,000 patients annually in acute care hospitals — has highlighted new research showing that the disease is more common and problematic than now recognized.

Doctors and hospitals may have thought pneumonia struck mostly among elderly patients and those in intensive care units, particularly those needing ventilators and other machinery to assist their breathing. But the disease, “occurs across all units in all types and sizes of U.S. hospitals, putting every patient—the young included—at higher risk for developing the infection,” the researchers concluded after examining data on more than 1,300 patients at 21 hospitals.

influenza-virus-fulltext-300x203As the flu epidemic rages across the country, it also may be testing the oft-tenuous public respect for preventive medicine, especially as patients get hit with surprise medical bills and experts struggle to explain the complexities and limits of protections afforded by vaccinations.

Are flu shots useful or not?, many Americans may be asking, as this season’s infections hit marks not seen for at least a decade. (Spoiler alert: Yes, get that shot!) Flu kills many more patients than many realize, and this year, the virus is on track to claim as many as 4,000 lives a week.

The toll among children has been scary, with the deaths of 84 youngsters blamed on flu. Three out of four of the youngsters who died from flu had not been immunized, officials say.

cdc-feb10-hospitalflu-300x186The Winter Olympic Games and the Super Bowl can offer fans not just exciting sports spectacles but also important health insights and information— everything from the risks of viruses and the value of hand washing to the dangers of head blows and why Americans may be slowly changing their minds about how they feel about violent recreations.

Let’s start with what can happen when you put more than 2,000 elite athletes from 92 nations in a village setting in Pyeongchang, South Korea. It’s no surprise that  contagious illnesses can break out, and in this case the noxious norovirus. More than 100 cases of the highly infectious viral illness at the Olympic site have been confirmed already, and 1,200 people — many of them security guards for the Games — have been quarantined with disease symptoms. (The South Korean military has sent in forces to assist with security, in place of the quarantined guards).

Norovirus, aka the winter vomiting disease, is a gastrointestinal bug with other symptoms including diarrhea, nausea, and stomach pain, according to the according to the CDC. Its symptoms typically start 12 to 48 hours after patients come in contact with the virus. Symptoms might also include headache and body aches. Fever is uncommon. The sickness is highly contagious, spreading when viral particles get aerosolized over large areas. Hygiene becomes key in outbreaks, as public health experts have emphasized and global cruise lines have discovered.

schuchat-201x300fitzgeraldBrenda Fitzgerald, a rich doctor who not only wouldn’t pull her hand out of her personal cookie jar of investments and instead plunged it even deeper during her conflicted time in public office, finally has quit the top job at the respected federal agency charged with protecting the nation’s health from disease and other dangers.

The appointed chief of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (shown at top, left)  was ethically impaired before and during her half-year term, arguably to the major detriment of her job and the public’s health.

She was forced to resign after media disclosures that not only had she slow-walked her divestment in a multi-million-dollar portfolio, owned with her husband, of Big Pharma and other health care enterprises, but, even after she joined the CDC, she was caught buying and selling Big Tobacco stocks.

belts-300x163Preventive measures, even small ones, can be life changing and lifesaving. They can safeguard drivers and passengers in car wrecks, protect young folks during a bad flu season, and ensure that fewer Americans still take up one of the proven, major health harms — smoking.

Let’s start with a simple, often overlooked vehicular precaution: Buckle up that seat belt, please. As New York Times columnist David Leonhardt noted in a recent Opinion section roundup, the number of Americans killed on the roads who fail to wear vehicle restraints, notably seat belts, has hovered “between 48 percent and 51 percent in each of the past five years.”

Yes, that’s a correct figure: Roughly half of those killed didn’t use one of the most publicized, almost reflexive safety steps around.

cough-194x300The flu season’s roaring across the country. It’s a bad one, with the H3N2 strain afflicting millions with a severe form of illness — which also has been deadly, notably for the old and young.

If you haven’t done so, consider getting a flu shot, asap. The flu shot this year may be less than optimal in the protections it may offer. Still, as Aaron Carroll — a professor of pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine who blogs on health research and policy at The Incidental Economist — argues in a New York Times “Upshot” column, the benefits of inoculation are still clear and pronounced.

As he writes:

water-300x300
The new year is bubbling with numerous reports about  “raw water.” Enthusiasts are flocking to outlets — in Oregon, Maine, San Diego, San Francisco, and the Silicon Valley — for unfiltered, untreated, and unsterilized H2O from springs. They’re paying dearly, for example $36.99 for a 2.5-gallon glass orb of “off the grid” Live Water from a West Coast vendor.

Devotees insist “raw water” tastes better. They contend it’s healthier when free of chemicals, like purifying chlorine and tooth- and bone-protecting fluoride, and replete with “probiotics,” bacteria and microscopic life such as algae that they claim are beneficial.

Such claims fly in the face of at least a century of public health experience and progress, a period in which science-based hygiene has helped to rid the nation of epidemics due to water-borne bacteria, viruses, and parasites. Cholera, typhoid fever, dysentery, and hepatitis A no longer flourish in water supplies, killing thousands annually as these banes once did. It goes without a thought for most Americans that they can turn the spigot at home or the office, drink freely and deeply and not end up getting deathly ill — risks that may be posed by “raw” water.

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