Articles Posted in Infections

monkeypoxNIAID-300x259The worldwide struggle to contain a fast-spreading outbreak of monkeypox took on new urgency, with the World Health Organization declaring a global emergency and U.S. experts discussing whether the  viral infection is becoming yet another significant sexually transmitted disease that this country is ill-prepared to quell.

The WHO declaration, by WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, divided experts, some of whom were critical about the already pokey response to monkeypox or by others who said it was misguided.

Dr. Tedros conceded that the committee that advises him on global health emergencies had met twice, declining once to issue its alarm about the current monkeypox spread and then deadlocking on the issue. The WHO director used his authority to issue the emergency declaration, citing data showing that more than 16,500 cases have been reported in 75 countries.

candidanew-300x150With the coronavirus pandemic surging anew due to the highly infectious Omicron BA.5 variant, federal authorities reported recent data that should give Americans plenty of reason to heed public health warnings and avoid hospitalization if they possibly can.

That’s in part because institutions, overwhelmed by the pandemic, have taken giant steps backward in preventing patients in their care from acquiring nasty bacterial and fungal infections in addition to the coronavirus, and from overusing and misusing lifesaving antibiotics, further fueling the rise of virulent super bugs, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. As the New York Times reported:

“The spread of drug-resistant infections surged during the coronavirus pandemic, killing nearly 30,000 people in 2020 and upending much of the recent progress made in containing the spread of so-called superbugs, according to an analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Deaths caused by infections impervious to antibiotics and antifungal medications rose 15% during the first year of the pandemic compared to 2019, federal health officials found. Much of the increase was tied to the chaos wrought by the coronavirus as doctors and nurses struggled to treat waves of grievously sick patients whose illness they did not fully understand before vaccines and treatments were widely available. About 40% of the deaths were among hospitalized patients, with the remainder occurring in nursing homes and other health care settings, the CDC report found. Early on, many frontline hospital workers mistakenly administered antibiotics for viral lung infections that did not respond to such drugs, according to the study. Many of the sickest patients spent weeks or months in intensive care units, increasing the chances for drug-resistant bugs to enter their bodies through intravenous lines, catheters, and ventilator tubes.”

kneeinjectionSince the 1970s, some doctors have treated arthritic knees by injecting them with hyaluronic acid, a substance originally derived from the combs of roosters. Specialists have zealously promoted this therapy, costing patients a few hundred dollars a pop and repeated so widely that Medicare alone pays $300 million annually for it. Doctors argue it reduces pain and increases joint mobility.

It hardly lives up to this billing, though, offering patients scant more relief than a placebo (saline, or salt water), researchers found after scrutinizing a half century’s worth of data from 169 clinical trials involving more than 20,000 patients.

The highly popular viscosupplementation procedure, as reported by Stat, a medical and scientific news site, showed an average effect “about 2 points beyond placebo effect on a pain scale that runs from 1 to 100.” The researchers from Canada, Britain, and China concluded this from their study, as published in BMJ, a respected medical journal of the British Medical Association:

facepox-150x150In the 21st century, in the wealthiest and supposedly most advanced nation on the planet, infectious diseases and vaccines continue to be major part of the news headlines.

Experts and regular folks are paying attention to the persistent coronavirus pandemic, a stubborn and apparently widening outbreak of monkeypox, and a startling spike of meningitis and listeria cases in or tied to Florida.

The coronavirus pandemic

cdcwalensky-150x150Parents with little kids — those ages 6 months to 5 years old — now must decide whether, how, and when to get these babies and tots their coronavirus vaccines, newly approved by federal regulators.

They should talk with their pediatricians and others with medical expertise and experience. The American Academy of Pediatricians, a leading specialists group, says this about the low-, multi-dose regimen of coronavirus vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna for little ones:

“The AAP recommends Covid-19 vaccination for all children and adolescents 6 months of age and older who do not have contraindications using a vaccine authorized for use for their age. The AAP encourages all states to work with pediatrician practices to make accessing Covid vaccine as simple as possible.”

childvax-300x206The coronavirus pandemic stubbornly persists, infecting 110,000 Americans daily — and likely many, many more — and hospitalizing 29,000 a day on average.

Vaccinations, also, have stayed at the forefront of efforts to deal with the disease, with shots on the brink of being regulator-approved and imminently available for the littlest of kids, and against the Omicron strain that has proven to be highly infectious and continues to mutate rapidly into new variants.

But travelers, who already have seen a relaxation of face covering requirements, have gotten news that also could please many: U.S. officials have decided to end a requirement for those coming into the country from overseas to test negative.

Abbottlogo-300x77The giant drug maker Abbott and the federal Food and Drug Administration both should hang their heads in shame as more information becomes public as to how they left millions of vulnerable infants hungry and put kids’ health at risk by wrongs involving the manufacture and distribution of a vital foodstuff — baby formula.

Millions of parents have gone into meltdown because of a nationwide shortage of the needed nutrient. It was sparked by the shutdown of Abbott’s formula-producing plant in Michigan, as well as the company’s product recall after babies got sick and died from  infections involving Cronobacter sakazakii bacteria.

While Abbott has emphasized that experts have not conclusively linked the bacteria to its formula and the firm has played up its cooperation in a product recall, Robert Califf, the FDA’s chief and a doctor, ripped the company. He told a U.S. House subcommittee that agency inspectors found “egregiously unsanitary” conditions at the drug maker’s plant, the New York Times reported, quoting him, thusly:

monkeypoxcdc-300x184The coronavirus pandemic continues to give Americans a  crash course in global infectious diseases, with experts and regular folks warily watching not only the virus’s continuing summer surge but also seeing with concern increasing incidences of rare hepatitis cases in kids and outbreaks of monkeypox in travelers and among partying gay men.

While the other infections have received their share of  news coverage, the pandemic persists as the nation’s leading public health menace, as the New York Times reported in this summary of the latest overall coronavirus situation:

“The United States is averaging about 110,000 new cases each day, a roughly 30% increase over the last two weeks. Since many cases go uncounted in official reports, the true toll is higher than these figures show. Daily case reports are four times as high as they were in early April, but still a fraction of the numbers seen in January, when the initial Omicron surge was at its worst.

hospitalsafetygrafic-300x172Doctors and hospitals must redouble their efforts to protect patients in their care, as the coronavirus pandemic reversed years of safety advances, and these must be restored top to bottom — and more.

This powerful, timely argument has been made in a top medical journal by leading federal regulators at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). As the quartet of medical doctors (Lee A. Fleisher, Michelle Schreiber, Denise Cardo, and Arjun Srinivasan) reported:

“The public health emergency has put enormous stress on the health care system and disrupted many normal activities in hospitals and other facilities. Unfortunately, these stressors have caused safety problems for both patients and staff …The fact that the pandemic degraded patient safety so quickly and severely suggests that our health care system lacks a sufficiently resilient safety culture and infrastructure. We believe the pandemic and the breakdown it has caused present an opportunity and an obligation to reevaluate health care safety with an eye toward building a more resilient health care delivery system, capable not only of achieving safer routine care but also of maintaining high safety levels in times of crisis.”

axiosmay22covidpoll-300x187The coronavirus pandemic is surging anew, with federal health officials warning that just under half of Americans live in parts of the country where transmission rates have increased sharply enough that they should return to wearing face masks in public, indoor settings.

Older Americans, officials say, should get a second booster shot if more than four months have passed since their first booster. This is an upgraded recommendation from before, when officials  described the additional shot as an option for those 50 and only encouraged it for those 65 and older.

As for those ages 5 to 11, federal regulators are recommending boosters for this group of kids if at least five months have passed since their last shot. Officials in January had recommended boosters for those ages 12 and older.

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