Articles Posted in Infections

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.

uti-240x300For kids, women, and seniors, the three letters U, T, and I long described an uncomfortable, inconvenient, and embarrassing condition. The time, though, may have past for the swift and easy relief that diagnoses of  urinary tract infections once might have brought. Instead, doctors are expressing concern that the bugs that cause all-too-common UTIs are becoming different and antibiotic resistant.

As the New York Times reported, the shifts already are meaning “more hospitalizations, graver illnesses and prolonged discomfort from the excruciating burning sensation that the infection brings.” The newspaper added:

“The New York City Department of Health has become so concerned about drug-resistant UTIs … that it introduced a new mobile phone app this month that gives doctors and nurses access to a list of strains of urinary tract infections and which drugs they are resistant to. The department’s research found that a third of uncomplicated urinary tract infections caused by E. coli — the most common type now — were resistant to Bactrim, one of the most widely used drugs, and at least one fifth of them were resistant to five other common treatments.”

childrensseattle-300x156Parents and the public received grim reminders of the risks of medical care as prominent institutions on opposite coasts battled hospital-related infections among some of the most vulnerable patients around: babies and children.

In the Pacific Northwest, a mold outbreak has taken a terrible toll — with one patient dead, five others infected, 1,000 surgeries postponed and 3,000 people told to watch for infection symptoms — at Seattle Children’s Hospital, which the Washington Post reported, “consistently ranks as one of the best children’s hospitals in the country and this year [was] rated top [for such facilities] in the Northwest.”

In the Northeast, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Children’s Hospital has confirmed 12 cases of a drug-resistant staph infection in its neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), CNN reported, adding that, the six babies, including one who is potentially symptomatic, and six symptomatic employees who have tested positive for Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) are receiving treatment.

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With children  in tow and emotions cranked to the max, parents from coast to coast have protested officials’ efforts to protect the public’s health by requiring children to be immunized against contagious and infectious diseases that can cause great harm. A cornerstone of the vaccination resistance has been its proponents push to portray themselves as a grass-roots movement of independent individuals fighting medical overreach by the state.

But the Washington Post, as part of its coverage of the nation’s most severe outbreak of measles in three decades (more than 1,000 cases with just half the year over), reported that Bernard Selz, a philanthropic Manhattan hedge fund manager, and his wife, Lisa, have given more than $3 million to groups that oppose vaccination. This has allowed individuals associated with the groups to organize vaccination opponents, giving them leaders to coalesce around and an out-sized voice in public controversies over kids and shots.

Selz money has gone to Andrew Wakefield, a British doctor who brought professional disgrace on himself and who had his medical license in his home country stripped over falsehoods he spread through a since-retracted article in a medical journal purporting to link vaccine shots to autism — a claim not only unsupported but debunked repeatedly by rigorous, published, follow-on research.

um-seal-300x300Just as the nation grapples with the worst measles outbreak in a quarter century, the University of Maryland and public health officials are drawing fire for the way they handled the strange confluence of mold infections in dorms and the spread of an contagious virus among students on the College Park campus.

The university and its advisers tried to keep a lid on public information about the dual problems, leading students and parents to assail the school and to blame its sluggish response and silence for the death of an immune-compromised coed.

Her death late last year — following the fall heat-stroke fatality involving Jordan McNair, a 19-year-old football player — has renewed concerns that the university and its staff may lack the expertise, training, and sensitivity to protect vulnerable young people, the Washington Post reported as part of its investigation of the confused health scenario involving Olivia Shea Paregol.

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