Articles Posted in Infections

samoa1-300x300The distant nation of Samoa may have more to offer the United States than prominent athletes and warm Pacific Islander culture. Its deadly experiences with a raging outbreak of an infectious disease underscore a timely and important message: Vaccinations matter and we should all get them.

A confluence of unfortunate events has led to a measles epidemic in Samoa, news organizations reported, with more than 40 deaths and 3,000 illnesses among the nation’s 200,000 people. Schools and colleges have been shut due to the illness.

International health organizations, including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are flying in medical experts to assist with the dangerous and growing epidemic, which has hit children on the island hard.

clostridioides_difficile_369x285-300x232Federal officials have put out some scary new findings about the state of patients’ health in the 21st century: Superbugs may be more common and potent than previously believed. And we may now have plummeted into what experts are calling the perilous “post-antibiotic age.”

This all amounts to far more than a hypothetical menace. It could affect you if you get, for instance, a urinary tract infection. Or if you undergo a surgery, say, for a joint replacement or a C-section. Depending where and how you live, you may see the significance of this health problem if you contract tuberculosis or some sexually transmitted diseases.

As the news website Vox reported of the startling new information from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “Every 15 minutes, one person in the U.S. dies because of an infection that antibiotics can no longer treat effectively.”

ambcenterleapfrograting-300x109They may be more appealing and convenient because they’re located in the neighborhood with better hours and more parking. They also may be less costly because they lack the high overheard of big hospitals. But those booming same-day surgery centers have patient safety issues of their own.

Their doctors and nurses may not be as well-trained as patients might find at big hospitals or academic medical centers, with 1 in 3 centers not having staff who were all board-certified, according to the Leapfrog Group, a consortium of big companies and other major health care users focused on patient concerns.

Leapfrog has issued — to its considerable credit — its first safety and quality study of the facilities, also finding that, “not all ambulatory surgery centers and hospital outpatient departments provide surgery consent materials before the day of surgery. Just 14% of ambulatory surgery centers provided the information one to three days before the surgery, while just 20.7% of hospital outpatient departments do so,” Modern Healthcare, an industry news source, reported.

sleeperteen-300x180If millions of young folks in the nation’s largest state seem even sunnier than before, that may be because they are getting a wee bit more needed shut eye: California has become the first state in the nation to order public schools to roll back their start times, so middle school classes generally won’t start before 8 in the morning and high school teaching doesn’t start until after 8:30 a.m.

The rule — pushed by experts and resisted by parents juggling already hectic and conflicting family schedules — will be phased in over three years. It also will be accompanied by yet more research on how teens doze and how sleep can best benefit their rapidly growing minds and bodies.

California’s later start to teens’ schools got a boost from groups like the American Academy of Pediatrics, the California Medical Assn., and the California State Parent Teacher Assn. They cited a growing body of research, including by organizations like the RAND Corporation, tying more sleep from later start times to adolescents’ better school performance and health.

fallhospitalIt’s the 21st century, and excellent information is more available than ever due to communication and technology advances. But doctors and hospitals keep harming patients by testing and treating them in ways that are unsupported by rigorous medical evidence, and by carrying out safety recommendations in extreme ways.

Just consider:

azarshot-300x169It’s an imperfect predictor, health officials concede. Still, a nasty season of infections Down Under has increased the urgency of their recommendations to the U.S. public to get the annual flu shot before Halloween and certainly before everyone sits down for Thanksgiving dinner.

Although concern already had been growing about bad months ahead in the United States for flu, an early and “fairly severe” season in Australia has increased officials’ worries, the New York Times reported.

That’s because the Aussies, while not a 100% reliable bellwether, showed the more populous States about flu severity as recently as last season, according to Donald G. McNeil Jr., who has reported on disease outbreaks in more than 60 countries for the New York Times. He wrote this:

totshot-300x200The weather may be sunny and temperate, the seasonal foliage a slowly changing delight to behold. But the savvy are prepping for sterner days ahead. It’s that time of year when doctors and public health officials urge us all to get that annual flu shot.

It’s never easy to forecast the severity with which influenza will sweep the country. But early indications — including a child’s death already attributed to the illness — suggest this may be a bad year for the bug.

Don’t downplay the harms of this all-too-common sickness: The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that there were as many as 43 million flu illnesses in this nation in the 2018-19 season, with more than 20 million cases serious enough to cause patients to seek medical care. The CDC says there were as many as 647,000 hospitalizations and up to 61,200 flu-related deaths. That toll included more than 100 children killed by flu.

candidaauris-300x224The battle to reduce the sky-high cost of hospital care may have created its own unforeseen and harmful consequence: By hastening to get patients out of traditional hospitals and into skilled nursing facilities and long-term care centers, doctors and policy-makers may be contributing to a medical nightmare — serious infections acquired in health care institutions.

The New York Times reported that “public health experts say that nursing facilities, and long-term hospitals, are a dangerously weak link in the health care system, often understaffed and ill-equipped to enforce rigorous infection control, yet continuously cycling infected patients, or those who carry the germ, into hospitals and back again.”

Hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) pose significant risks to already ill and injured patients, as well as adding to the fearsome costs of institutional care, the Leapfrog Group, an independent patient safety and advocacy group has found. As Leapfrog has reported:

A key feature of great civilizations is that they strive to prevent outbreaks of deadly contagious diseases. So it’s more than worrisome that measles is making what the World Health Organization calls a “dramatic resurgence” in Europe.

Measles, an entirely preventable disease, has in a single year doubled the number of its cases in four European nations, including Great Britain, in the first half of 2019: 90,000 cases versus 44,000 in 2018. Measles has come back with such force that the countries no longer may be considered as having eliminated the infection.

This is a continental meance, too, as the New York Times reported:

pretomanid-300x122Rare good news on destructive infections is emerging from Africa: Medical scientists, Good Samaritans, and public health officials are hailing the successes of powerful new therapies in treating a deadly and extremely drug-resistant strain of tuberculosis and Ebola, a killer viral hemorrhagic fever that spreads like wildfire.

Americans may skip over dispatches about these “foreign” news developments. They would be wise not to do so, because they have heightened importance these days, domestically, including in providing key lessons to be learned about how to safeguard the public health.

The TB care that is winning great attention overseas requires patients to take three drugs in a regimen in which they take five pills a day for six months. That already is a boon compared with other, now common therapies in which they might need 40 pills a day for as long as two years, or daily antibiotics shots with bad side effects like deafness, kidney failure, and psychosis.

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