Articles Posted in Testing

anxietykid-150x150Americans live such nerve-wracking, glum, stressful lives that not only young people but also adults up to age 65 would benefit from regular screening during their doctor visits for anxiety and depression.

That’s the draft recommendation, newly issued and up for public comment, by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, an independent, blue-ribbon group that provides influential guidance to the federal government on medical tests and treatments.

As the New York Times and other media outlets have reported, the task force recommendations on anxiety and depression screening for most regular folks in this country were in the works before the coronavirus pandemic hit. The advisory has only taken on greater urgency as the pandemic worsened what already were grave concerns about the nation’s mental health.

coronavax-150x150As summer ends, millions of Americans should pop around the corner for a healthy double — that is, a pair of vaccinations, one targeted against the latest, widely circulating coronavirus Omicron variants and the other shot to fight the seasonal flu, federal health officials say.

The newest booster for the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron variants should be available at drug stores, clinics, and doctors’ offices this coming week, regulators at the federal Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Infection have decided.

The coronavirus shots, as occurs with annual flu vaccines, will be based on existing products that have been given to huge populations globally — safely, with great effectiveness, but now without extensive clinical trials that were conducted of previous formulas of the vaccines.

faucipic-150x150This fall our nation will go once more into the breach, with federal officials hoping that another big push for vaccinations against the coronavirus and flu will stave off the deadly surges of contagions that have caused the fundamental health measure of life expectancy to plummet in a historic way.

Still, the announced retirement of Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of the nation’s foremost fighters against infectious illnesses — and the sharply divided reactions to his planned end of year departure from a half century of public service — continue to show how fraught vaccinations and public health have become in the U.S.

Fauci, who joined the National Institutes of Health in 1968 and was appointed the director of its infectious disease branch in 1984, has advised every president since Ronald Reagan — seven in all. He became a political lightning rod twice in instances of illnesses with enormous medical effect, with the outbreak of HIV-AIDS and the coronavirus pandemic.

cdcwalensky-150x150The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one of the world’s premier public health agencies, will try to revamp itself after taking months of a political, scientific, and reputational battering for too often performing in shambolic fashion in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Rochelle Walensky (shown, right) appointed the agency’s chief in December 2020, announced in April of this year that she had asked outside experts to conduct a top-to-bottom review of the CDC and to recommend reforms.

She now has told her 11,000 agency colleagues that the much-needed scrutiny showed that the CDC, with its $12 billion budget, had become too ponderous, bureaucratic, and academic in its work, communicating too slowly, badly, and in confusing ways with its most important constituents: the American people. As the New York Times reported of Walensky’s blunt assessment of the suboptimal response to the pandemic that has killed more than 1 million and infected 93 million-plus of us:

covidnewcdcguideaug22-300x169Federal health officials have eased guidelines for most regular folks on how best to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, even as monkeypox cases and vaccination efforts for that viral illness keep increasing and the detection of once-controlled polio raises concern.

Indicators about the severity of the next influenza season also  worry experts.

With the coronavirus, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has shifted, putting “more of the onus on individuals, rather than on schools, businesses and other institutions to limit viral spread.” the Washington Post reported:

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.”

MLSlogo-150x150In 2015, public attention galvanized around the significant risks of head trauma and the sport of football with the disclosure that Andre Waters, 44, a hard-hitting, onetime Philadelphia Eagles player, had been diagnosed after his suicide with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.

Has soccer — one of the most popular pastimes on the planet and a dominant game of U.S. suburban life — also hit its day of reckoning for head injuries? The issue has been brought to the fore with the revelations that Scott Vermillion, 44, a onetime soccer pro, has been posthumously diagnosed with CTE, the degenerative brain disease “linked to symptoms like memory loss, depression and aggressive or impulsive behavior,” the New York Times reported, adding:

“The diagnosis gave Vermillion the grave distinction of being the first American professional soccer player with a public case of CTE. It was a solemn milestone, too, for MLS, a league that has, even in its young history, seen the consequences of the type of brain injuries more commonly associated with collision sports like football, boxing and hockey. For soccer as a whole, the finding will add another note to a small but growing chorus of concern about the health risks of playing the world’s most popular game. ‘Soccer is clearly a risk for CTE — not as much as football, but clearly a risk,’ said Dr. Ann McKee, the director of the CTE Center at Boston University.”

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.”

gina4-300x169While hope can be a remarkable element in healing the sick and injured, can there be anything crueler than raising false hopes among the vulnerable?

Patients with serious illnesses like cancer — of the pancreas, breast, and rectum — may need to take in with extra care journalistic reports on medical advances that might affect their treatment.

Two N’s will matter a lot to them — nuance and the scientific short-hand in which medical scientists communicate how many subjects participated in their research (the value described as N=).

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.

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