Recently in Medicine and Health Category

Price gouging - medicine

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The price of EpiPens was in the news recently because their price went from $100 to $600 in a few years. Say hello to mebendazole sold under the trade name of Emverm and used to treat pinworms.

From Jacksonville, Florida station WJXT:

Pinworm prescription jumps from $3 to up to $600 a pill
It's something a lot of kids get, but it's also easily cured. One single prescription pill can stop a contagious case of common pinworm, ringworm or even roundworm. It used to cost only a few dollars per pill, but that price has skyrocketed.

Dr. Saman Soleymani treats a lot of kids at Avecina Medical, and therefore, he sees a decent amount with worms -- mostly pinworm, which is the most common type of intestinal worm infection. He says the treatment is easy.

You take one little pill of a prescription drug called mebendazole, which is sold under the name brand Emverm, and the worms are usually gone. So when Soleymani prescribed it recently, he was shocked.

"The pharmacy called me about an hour later saying the treatment is about $1,800 and it's not covered by pretty much any insurance company," said Soleymani.

Soleymani realized that prescription, which used to cost patients about $3 a pill, now costs anywhere from $500 to $600 for that same pill.

A tip of the hat to Joe Mama writing at Eaton Rapids Joe for the link. He also mentions that there is a veterinary version of this medicine which sells for $6.99 for 24 grams - about 65 human-equivalent doses. Not something to do if the 'real stuff' is available but simple and cheap enough to keep on hand for SHTF scenarios.

I take 5,000U every morning - big difference. From New Scientist:

Vitamin D supplements may prevent millions of winter infections
If everyone took vitamin D supplements, more than 3 million fewer people in the UK would have respiratory infections like colds or flu every year. That’s according to a new analysis of data from nearly 11,000 people.

Vitamin D is known to be important for bone and muscle health. Last year, Public Health England stated that people are not generally getting the recommended 10 micrograms of vitamin D a day from sunlight in winter. But whether vitamin D supplements can help has been a hot topic, with some arguing that benefits of taking these are uncertain.

The latest study pulled together data from 25 clinical trials, conducted in 14 countries. It concluded that supplements can help prevent acute respiratory tract infections, particularly among those who are deficient in vitamin D.

The most common respiratory tract infection is the common cold, but others include bronchitis, pneumonia, and infections of the sinuses or ears. At least 70 per cent of the population gets one or more respiratory infection in any given year.

But the study found that vitamin D supplements can cut the proportion of people getting such infections by 12 per cent. “Daily or weekly vitamin D supplements will mean 3.25 million fewer people would get at least one acute respiratory infection a year,” says Adrian Martineau, at Queen Mary, University of London, who led the study.

Interesting - I regularly take D, some baby aspirin and some multivitamins.

A potential for caution - Flu

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Maybe nothing but... From the AAAS magazine Science:

Bird flu strain taking a toll on humans
An avian influenza virus that emerged in 2013 is suddenly spreading widely in China, causing a sharp spike in human infections and deaths. Last month alone it sickened 192 people, killing 79, according to an announcement this week by China's National Health and Family Planning Commission in Beijing.

The surge in human cases is cause for alarm, says Guan Yi, an expert in emerging viral diseases at the University of Hong Kong in China. "We are facing the largest pandemic threat in the last 100 years," he says.

As of 16 January, the cumulative toll from H7N9 was 918 laboratory-confirmed human infections and 359 deaths, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Despite its high mortality rate, H7N9 had gotten less attention of late than two other new strains—H5N8 and H5N6—that have spread swiftly, killing or forcing authorities to cull millions of poultry. But so far, H5N8 has apparently not infected people; H5N6 has caused 14 human infections and six deaths.

We had a pandemic in 1918 that killed about 5% of the population. Something like this is not out of the ordinary and can happen again. Medical technology has gotten better but viruses are notoriously tricky to deal with.

From United Press International:

New gut microbe study may lead to potential autism treatment
Researchers at Arizona State University have found improved autism symptoms in participants who were given medications to treat gut microbes.

The research team of scientists from Arizona State, Northern Arizona University, Ohio State University and the University of Minnesota, studied 18 people ages 7 to 16 with autism spectrum disorders for 10 weeks.

Study participants were given a treatment of antibiotics, a bowel cleanse, and daily fecal microbial transplants over an eight-week period.

The study showed an average of 80 percent improvement in gastrointestinal symptoms common in people with autism and a 20 to 25 percent improvement in certain autism behaviors including social skills and sleep habits.

That is interesting and entirely believable. I have known a couple families with autistic children and they all seemed to have strange diets - mostly vegetarian. That would make a lot of sense regarding internal flora. BTW, I am not saying a vegetarian diet is a bad one, these people had strange ideas about what was good and what was not good to eat.

The Flu season - pretty serious

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Looks like it's not just me and Lulu - from The Bellingham Herald:

Flu death toll in Washington state at 46, none in Whatcom County
The number of deaths caused by the flu in Washington state has climbed to 46 as the flu continued its grip on the state, according to information released Friday.

None of the deaths were in Whatcom County, which also has seen a spike in the number of people sickened by the flu during a season that hit hard and about a month early.

The deaths were for the flu season as of Jan. 7.

Illness kept students out of school and outbreaks occurred at long-term care facilities in Whatcom County.

Flu remained at epidemic levels in the state and was straining hospitals in Western Washington.

“We are seeing a lot of influenza and other respiratory infections in our medical offices, ED (emergency department/room) and hospital, and it is too early to tell if influenza has reached its peak,” said Greg Stern, Whatcom County health officer.

A lot of people out here have come down with it - nasty. Anecdotally, there seems to be zero difference between those vaccinated and not. They have to forecast the particular strain of flu over six months in advance and sometimes they get it right and sometimes they get it wrong and the vaccine is minimally effective.

Not good - Mumps on the upswing

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From The Medical Press:

Mumps spreads on college campuses
Caroline Brown, a sophomore at the University of Missouri, got a fever over Thanksgiving break. Soon it became painful to bite down, and her cheek began to swell. A trip to her physician confirmed it: she had the mumps.

"Mumps kind of sounds like this archaic thing," Brown said. "We get vaccinated for it; it just sounds like something that nobody gets. So I just didn't think that it was possible that I would get it."

But  is back, and is having its worst year in a decade, fueled in part by its spread on college campuses. Since classes began at the University of Missouri in August, school officials have identified 193 mumps cases on campus. Nationwide, more than 4,000 cases have been reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - nearly triple the number in 2015 and the largest increase in 10 years.

Some public health officials are asking questions about the  protocol.

Dr. Susan Even, executive director of the University of Missouri's Student Health Center, said she hasn't seen anything like the current  in her 31 years at the school. She said all of the students her team treated for mumps had two MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella) vaccine doses - a school requirement - but they got sick anyway.

"The fact that we have mumps showing up in highly immunized populations likely reflects something about the effectiveness of the vaccine," Even said.

This is not good - if a guy catches it after they hit puberty, there is a good chance that they can be rendered sterile. There is a major outbreak in Arkansas:

The largest current outbreak is in Arkansas, which reports over 2,000 cases among school-age children and adults throughout the state since August this year.

Time to re-examine the vaccines in use and maybe up the dosage. The anti-vaxxers should get sent in for re-education. They are compromising the populations Herd Immunity.

Fat chance - from the Washington Examiner:

Study: Obamacare increased overhead spending for health insurance
Administrative spending doubled under Obamacare to get people insured, despite provisions in the law aimed at lowering overhead costs, a new analysis says.

Private insurers did reduce their overhead spending per person because of the law, but those savings weren't nearly enough to offset a big increase in federal spending on healthcare.gov and assistance for some states to run their own marketplaces, according to a paper provided to the Washington Examiner by the American Action Forum.

Insurance companies spent $414 to insure one person for one year in 2013, before the Affordable Care Act's main provisions went into effect. Insurers' overhead spending fell the following year, to $265 per person, under a provision in the law capping how much insurers can spend on overhead costs.

But as insurers reduced their overhead spending, the federal government spent $3.63 billion creating and running healthcare.gov and another $6.12 billion on grants to states to help set up their own online marketplaces. When that federal spending is taken into account, overhead spending rose to $893 per insured person.

If they just introduced some competition into the market and allowed for people to shop around, healthcare costs would drop. Initiate Tort Reform for malpractice suits too - malpractice insurance is one of the largest expenses in running a medical practice - as much as $170,000 per year.

Yikes - a Mumps outbreak to our south

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The joys of refusing simple and safe vaccinations. From the Seattle Times:

Mumps outbreak reaches Seattle
The mumps outbreak in King County has moved into Seattle, with public-health officials confirming one adult case in the city.

In all, the total number of cases in the county as of Friday stood at 19 confirmed and 64 probable.

Auburn, where the outbreak started, has 67 of those cases. The remaining cases were spread among Kent, Federal Way, Covington, Pacific, Black Diamond, Bellevue, Algona and Des Moines.

Adult cases are bad because they can cause sterility in men. The ex-Doctor - Andrew Wakefield - who started this whole vaccines are linked to autism bullshit had his license to practice taken away when his paper on the subject was shown to be fraudulent and that he was being paid for his work by some lawyers who wanted to profit off the vaccine companies.

The Herd Immunity only works so far and when you go below the limit (75% to 86% vaccinated for Mumps), the disease is able to propagate freely.

Fun fun fun - norovirus in our county

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Fortunately it seems confined to just Bellingham - keeping fingers crossed. It is a nasty one and highly contagious.

From Bellingham radio station KGMI:

Norovirus suspected in Whatcom County outbreaks
Whatcom County is seeing a possible norovirus outbreak.

It’s apparently hit a local school, a nursing home, and a basketball team in the past few weeks, and the Whatcom County Health Department expects it to spread.

Norovirus symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain, and it usually runs its course in a day or two without causing lasting problems.

But experts say it can be much more dangerous for kids, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems.

They say washing hands with soap and water is one of the best ways to stop the virus from spreading.

You don't die, you just want to.

A little bit of fact checking from Investors Business Daily:

Did ObamaCare Add 20 Million To The Insurance Rolls? Not Even Close
Health Reform: It has become a mantra among Democrats that 20 million people gained coverage thanks to ObamaCare. It's a myth. The real figure is much lower, and almost all the gains came by stuffing more people into the decrepit Medicaid program.

As soon as Donald Trump won the election, left-wing groups were busy predicting that, should he succeed in repealing ObamaCare as promised, anywhere from 20 million to 37 million would lose coverage.

And the truth?

While the White House derived its number using survey data, which it then adjusted, Heritage instead went directly to the sources for enrollment data — Medicaid and private insurers — to see what's really happened.

What they found is that the Obama administration has inflated the ObamaCare coverage number by almost 42%. The actual gain in coverage between 2013 and 2015 was 14 million, Heritage found. That's close to the Census Bureau's estimate that the number of uninsured declined by 12.8 million over these years. And of that, only 2.2 million gained private coverage, Heritage figures. The other 11.8 million went on Medicaid. (Heritage only has hard data through 2015, but enrollment in the exchanges was basically flat in 2016.)

Think about that 2.2 million number for a moment.

ObamaCare has caused massive disruptions of the individual market, forced millions to drop health plans they like, caused huge price spikes and mounting insurance losses, created monopoly markets around the country, and resulted in the virtual takeover of the individual market by HMO plans.

That's to say nothing of the enormous costs of setting up and running the ObamaCare exchanges and the trillion dollars in subsidies to offset the cost of premiums for lower-income families.

All to increase the number of privately insured by a meager 1%.

Time to drain the swamp. Allow competition across state lines, allow doctors and hospitals to publish prices for various procedures so customers can shop around. There is absolutely no reason for healthcare to be so expensive.

From Vox:

The US government is finally telling people that homeopathy is a sham
Homeopathy is one of the most enduring forms of snake oil available to consumers; it has been duping people since 1814. But the United States government only recently decided to clamp down on these bogus treatments, with a new policy from the Federal Trade Commission.

The FTC’s policy statement explains that the agency will now ask that the makers of homeopathic drugs present reliable scientific evidence for their health claims if they want to sell them to consumers on the US market.

Mustering that evidence is likely to be difficult given that homeopathy is a pseudoscience.

The main idea behind homeopathy is that an animal or plant extract that causes symptoms similar to the ones a person is suffering from can cure the symptoms. An example: Because onions make eyes tear and noses run, diluted onion extract is thought to cure cold and hay fever. So homeopathic remedies on the market are just extremely diluted versions of plant or animal extracts believed to bring relief to symptoms.

And the scientific community?

The scientific community is monolithically stacked against homeopathy. There have been many studies, books, and investigations demonstrating that this type of therapy is bogus. There's so much evidence on homeopathy's failure to help people, in fact, that some researchers have argued it’s time to stop investing government research funding on this alternative therapy in favor of putting it into treatments that might actually help people.

The most exhaustive review of the evidence for homeopathy yet came out of the Australian government. Its conclusion: The treatment doesn't work, and people should stop wasting their time, money, and potentially their health on what amounts to junk science.

Homeopathy is big business though so people still promote it. The problem here is that the manufacturer simply does not have to make a claim about their product and they can still sell it. A little re-labeling and it is business as usual.

Barry's legacy does not look that good - from Breitbart:

Despite Obama Promises, Health Care Costs Have Risen the Most in 32 Years
Despite years of Obama’s promises that America’s health care costs would go down if Obamacare was passed into law, new statistics show that care and insurance premiums have risen more this year than in the last 32 years.

A report by Kaiser/HRET Employer Health Benefits released on September 14 found that the average American family’s health care plan costs over $18,000 a year. That is up 3.5 percent over 2015, a hike exceeding the growth in wages.

While it is bad on individuals, in the chronically poor Obama economy, it is worse on employers.

“Employees are paying a whole lot more for health insurance than they did a decade ago. The average family plan cost $11,480 in 2006, of which workers had to pay $2,973,” CNN Money reported.

Deductables and co-pays have gone up a lot too.

Going to a hospital

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I try to avoid that wherever possible - too many communicable diseases floating around. Case in point from The Seattle Times:

Bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease found in water at UW Medical Center
The bacteria that cause Legionnaires’ disease is in some of the water supply at the University of Washington Medical Center, where a second person infected with Legionella bacteria has died, officials said Wednesday.

Signs are posted in the hospital telling patients, families and guests not to use hallway fountains or other sources of hospital drinking water, officials said.

The announcement follows reports of two cases of Legionella in patients treated in the UWMC cardiac-care units: a 30-year-old woman reported on Aug. 26 and a 50-year-old man reported Sept. 6, health officials have said. The man died Sept. 8, King County health officials said.

The bacteria that cause Legionnaires’ disease is in some of the water supply at the University of Washington Medical Center, where a second person infected with Legionella bacteria has died, officials said Wednesday.

Signs are posted in the hospital telling patients, families and guests not to use hallway fountains or other sources of hospital drinking water, officials said.

The UWMC is a huge hospital - keeping on top of sanitation requires diligence. The good news is that this will be one of the cleanest medical facilities for the next couple of years.

From the National Institutes of Health:

The effects of grounding (earthing) on inflammation, the immune response, wound healing, and prevention and treatment of chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases
Abstract
Multi-disciplinary research has revealed that electrically conductive contact of the human body with the surface of the Earth (grounding or earthing) produces intriguing effects on physiology and health. Such effects relate to inflammation, immune responses, wound healing, and prevention and treatment of chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. The purpose of this report is two-fold: to 1) inform researchers about what appears to be a new perspective to the study of inflammation, and 2) alert researchers that the length of time and degree (resistance to ground) of grounding of experimental animals is an important but usually overlooked factor that can influence outcomes of studies of inflammation, wound healing, and tumorigenesis. Specifically, grounding an organism produces measurable differences in the concentrations of white blood cells, cytokines, and other molecules involved in the inflammatory response. We present several hypotheses to explain observed effects, based on current research results and our understanding of the electronic aspects of cell and tissue physiology, cell biology, biophysics, and biochemistry. An experimental injury to muscles, known as delayed onset muscle soreness, has been used to monitor the immune response under grounded versus ungrounded conditions. Grounding reduces pain and alters the numbers of circulating neutrophils and lymphocytes, and also affects various circulating chemical factors related to inflammation.

This is plausible as there is a very large and very strong electrical potential in the atmosphere (more here). Very low current but very high voltage and this could have biological implications. I have an excellent ground in the radio room and although my feet are healing fine, there is still a lot of edema and swelling. I even have some copper sheet to make a nice large low-impedence plate. Give this a try tomorrow.

A bit of good news - Obamacare

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Voicing a little bit of sarcasm here - from Business Insider:

Obamacare has gone from the president's greatest achievement to a 'slow-motion death spiral'
It has not been a good week for the Affordable Care Act (ACA), better known as Obamacare.

A slew of news, from insurers dropping out to possible fraud among healthcare providers, has all accumulated in a deluge of negative headlines for one of President Obama's signature laws.

In fact, it's gotten so bad that it appears that the whole program itself may be in doubt.

While there are issues, and this past week highlighted many of them, it does appear that there is a long road ahead before we have a definitive understanding of Obamacare's survival, and there's a good chance that it makes it.

It was never a good idea - the supposed 14 million uninsured people was a manufactured number. Many of those were young adults who chose to not pay for insurance. The whole legislation was rammed through after hours (have to pass it so you can see what's in it) and it is basic a totalitarian one-size fits all price fixing scam. If they wanted to make health care affordable, allow for meduical savings plan. Roll out Tricare to everyone. Allow for competition in the marketplace.

Zika - close to home

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From the Everett, WA Herald:

Teen is 3rd in Snohomish County to test positive for Zika
A Snohomish County teenager who recently traveled to Nicaragua has tested positive for Zika virus, the Snohomish Health District said Tuesday.

This is the third confirmed case involving somebody who lives here. The other patients also had visited areas known to have mosquitoes infected with Zika virus.

No other details were released about the current case beyond the description that the patient is a “female in her teens” who is not pregnant.

And then a mosquito bites her, then someone else and it starts up here. Snohomish county is just south of Whatcom.

Speaking of nasty bugs - Anthrax

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From the UK Sun:

'DANGEROUS INFECTION' Russian biological warfare troops rushed to Arctic after outbreak of lethal anthrax hospitalises 40
Biological warfare troops have been rushed to the Russian Arctic amid growing concerns over a serious anthrax outbreak.

A total of 40 people – more than half of them children – are now hospitalised amid fears they may have contracted the deadly infection.

This follows the death of 1,200 reindeer suspected of contracting the disease after a contaminated corpse –  buried at least 70 years ago – thawed because of a heatwave in the Yamal peninsula in northern Siberia.

Someone is doing something they should not be doing:

The concern follows an outbreak of the Bubonic Plague in the Altai Mountains in southern Siberia earlier this month.

Especially nasty as if it encounters hard conditions, it will encapsulate itself and go dormant until conditions are favorable again. As you can read in the third paragraph, 70 years is not uncommon.

First became a major outbreak in January of 2016 in Recife, Brazil and infected mothers frequently give birth to children with microcephaly - a pinhead. It was initially thought that a larvicide was responsible but the evidence is now overwhelming that it is the virus itself causing the birth defects.

Meanwhile, it is spreading North and has hit Florida and Puerto Rico. From Bloomberg:

Zika Cases Likely Transmitted Locally in U.S. for the First Time, Officials Say
U.S. health officials said Friday that four cases of Zika virus were transmitted locally by mosquitoes in Miami, the first evidence of the virus spreading that way in the continental U.S.

Previous cases have been caused by travel to affected areas or sexual contact with an infected person, and the report from Florida suggests that outbreaks of the virus could become common in some parts of the country, rather than just being imported from abroad.

And from USA Today:

CDC: Zika could affect 10,000 pregnancies in Puerto Rico by year's end
The Zika virus could affect up to 10,000 pregnant women in Puerto Rico this year, putting hundreds of babies at risk of catastrophic birth defects, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Zika is spreading so quickly on the island that it's likely to infect one in four people by the end of the year, CDC director Thomas Frieden said. The greatest danger from Zika is microcephaly, in which infants are born with abnormally small heads and incomplete brain development, he said.

If there was only a safe, potent insecticide that killed these mosquitoes but did not harm mammal or avian life. DDT? But that is a broad-spectrum killer chemical! Not at all - the banning of DDT was a political maneuver and not a scientific one. Yes, we were marinating in the stuff and there were problems with bird shells but overall, it is one of the safest insecticides known to man. The people advocating its continuous ban are sentencing 2,000,000 people to die each year from Malaria. DDT is the perfect weapon against the mosquitoes carrying Zika. If we instituted a scientific spraying program, we could wipe out Malaria and Zika and all other mosquito-borne illnesses in under five years.

The idea that we are spending trillions of dollars on a vaccine as opposed to spraying is unreal.

For more information on DDT, read here, here, here, and here, here and here. The hype against it is that bad.

From Stat:

Norovirus outbreak reported among GOP convention staffers
A handful of Republican staff members in Cleveland for the GOP convention were reported to be suffering Tuesday from a possible norovirus infection.

And if there are a few people with norovirus, it’s likely there will be more.

As many as 11 members of the California delegation’s advance team are showing symptoms that are consistent with the norovirus, according to Peter Schade, the Erie County health commissioner, who is investigating the outbreak. They are staying at a hotel in Sandusky, Ohio, about an hour from Cleveland.

“We’ve got about 11 who have been sick over the last few days, and we’ve been out there every day and working with them to eliminate the spread [between] the resort and the delegation from California,” Schade said.

Keeping them away from the other constituents is a smart move - the stuff is nasty and highly contagious. I bet the rest of the people on the airplane from CA are suffering right now.

Measles on the rise

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The anti-vax people really need to get their pointy little heads out of the sand and get with the program. What part of zero correlation between inoculation and autism do you fail to comprehend.

Now they are just spreading the love - from The Washington Times:

Arizona is site of largest current US measles outbreak
Health officials in Arizona say the largest current measles outbreak in the United States is in part because some workers at a federal immigration detention center refuse to get vaccinated.

Authorities have confirmed 22 measles cases in Arizona since late May. They all stem from the Eloy Detention Center, an Immigration and Customs
Enforcement facility managed by the private Corrections Corporation of America.

Pinal County health director Thomas Schryer said the outbreak likely began with a migrant but that detainees have since been vaccinated. Convincing employees to get vaccinated or show proof of immunity has proven much tougher, he said.

“And so they’re actually the ones that are passing along the measles among each other and then going out into the community,” Schryer said.

To see why this is a major concern, check out Herd Immunity.

Choosing to opt-out of a vaccination not only hurts your family, it also hurts your neighbors and their families - the spread of disease is a large and networked phenomenon and the entire web can be brought down by just a few self-centered links.

Not just Zika - Rio de Janeiro

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The Olympics are being held in Rio de Janeiro starting in August and there are some very legitimate concerns about the Zika virus. Turns out it is not just Zika.

From Reuters:

Exclusive: Studies find 'super bacteria' in Rio's Olympic venues, top beaches
Scientists have found dangerous drug-resistant "super bacteria" off beaches in Rio de Janeiro that will host Olympic swimming events and in a lagoon where rowing and canoe athletes will compete when the Games start on Aug. 5.

The findings from two unpublished academic studies seen by Reuters concern Rio's most popular spots for tourists and greatly increase the areas known to be infected by the microbes normally found only in hospitals.

They also heighten concerns that Rio's sewage-infested waterways are unsafe.

More at the site - this is worrisome. All those people travelling there and then returning home in airplanes. A real epidemiological nightmare...

Yikes - diphenhydramine

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Bad news - from New York's CBS affiliate:

Research: Long-Term Use Of Benadryl, Many Over-The-Counter Cold Medications Linked To Dementia
New research is warning about a possible link between a very common allergy medicine and dementia.

CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez reported that long-term use of an antihistamine known as diphenhydramine, which is commonly sold as Benadryl and included in many over-the-counter medications for cold and allergies, may increase the risk of dementia and even cause irreparable harm.

Diphenhydramine, which also causes drowsiness, is in popular sleep aids such as Tylenol PM, Advil PM, and ZZZQuil.

Going to be some interesting lawsuits over this one if it pans out...

Just wonderful - Zika in the USA

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From FOX News:

First baby born with Zika-linked microcephaly in New York tri-state area
Doctors at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey confirmed Tuesday the birth of a child suffering from Zika-linked microcephaly, a condition wherein the child's brain and head are partially developed.

The mother, who is 31 but whose name was not disclosed, contracted the Zika virus while in Honduras and was admitted to the emergency room at Hackensack on Friday while vacationing in the United States. Tuesday, doctors delivered her baby girl, who was born also with intestinal and visual issues. Reports indicate she is the first child born with Zika-linked complications in the New York tri-state area.

The child’s mother, who developed a rash for two days in Honduras but had no other symptoms until arriving in the U.S., was under the care of a surgical team led by Dr. Abdulla Al-Khan and Dr. Manny Alvarez, senior managing health editor at FoxNews.com and chief of obstetrics and gynecology at Hackensack. A neonatologist and pediatric infectious disease specialist, as well as nursing personnel, were on hand for the birth.

There are a lot of bugs nosing around our immune systems and it is only a matter of a few things going wrong that will foster another epidemic. Stay healthy and eat right.

In 1974, Doctor Henry Heimlich developed a technique for freeing material from someone's airway. It was sucessful and is now the defacto standard.

From Cincinnati.com:

At 96, Dr. Heimlich finally uses his life-saving technique
When he heard that a resident was choking, Perry Gaines, maître d’ for the Deupree House dining room, ran toward the table.

Gaines has been trained in the Heimlich maneuver and has performed it at least twice in the two years he has worked at the Hyde Park senior living facility.

When Gaines arrived at the table, Dr. Henry Heimlich, a 96-year-old resident of the Deupree House who invented the famous technique for clearing a blocked airway, was standing behind the woman, ready to perform it.

Typically, a staff member would do it. “But,” Gaines said, pausing, “it is Dr. Heimlich.”

Heimlich, who swims and exercises regularly, was able to dislodge a piece of hamburger that had become stuck in 87-year-old Patty Ris’s airway.

Gaines said the entire room, filled with 125 diners, focused on the table, which was near the center of the room. Ris recovered quickly, and everyone returned to their meals.

Monday’s incident at the Deupree House was the first time Heimlich, who has demonstrated the maneuver countless times since inventing it in the 1970s, used it to stop someone from choking, he said.

Very cool!

Crap - literally

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Escherichia coli in the news and not in a good way - from Reuters:

U.S. sees first case of bacteria resistant to all antibiotics
U.S. health officials on Thursday reported the first case in the country of a patient with an infection resistant to all known antibiotics, and expressed grave concern that the superbug could pose serious danger for routine infections if it spreads.

"We risk being in a post-antibiotic world," said Thomas Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, referring to the urinary tract infection of a 49-year-old Pennsylvania woman who had not travelled within the prior five months.

Frieden, speaking at a National Press Club luncheon in Washington, D.C., said the infection was not controlled even by colistin, an antibiotic that is reserved for use against "nightmare bacteria."

Not good news at all - we use antibiotics regularly in our domestic food livestock and over-prescribe them for ourselves. This heightens the chances for the bugs to develop resistance. The same E. coli has been found in China but not here and the patient had not traveled recently.

But this is their culture - we must be sensitive to it and respect it. The cry of the Social Justice Warrior - multi-culti is their gris-gris, their fetish.

I can see the origin of some practices - the Jewish and Muslim injunction against eating tasty pork when there was no refrigeration available makes perfect sense. An infection of Trichinella spiralis does not sound pleasant by any stretch of the imagination especially given the medical state of art at that time.

Likewise toiletry practices - using one hand for one thing and the other for eating, specific water vessels for cleansing, three stones and all that. Now, we have clean bathrooms, toilet paper and these things called sinks with running hot water and soap.

I respect people's religions but the cultural fetishes need to be re-evaluated and reformed. Case in point - from the London Daily Mail:

Curry house chef prepared food after wiping his bottom with his bare hands because he doesn't use toilet paper for 'cultural reasons' 
A takeaway chef wiped his bottom using his hands before preparing food because he does not use toilet paper for 'cultural reasons', a court heard.

Mahbub Chowdhury, 46, from Swindon, was found to have a filthy bottle in the kitchen of Yeahya Flavour of Asia, which inspectors concluded was covered in faecal matter.

When questioned, he said he filled the empty milk bottle with water from the kitchen taps before using it to clean his backside after going to the toilet.

Chowdhury prepared meat and fish curries at the takeaway, which was run out of a rented kitchen at the Nine Elms pub.

The chef, who no longer works at the takeaway, pleaded guilty to ten counts of breaching food hygiene regulations at Swindon Magistrates Court.

He was fined more than £5,000 last year for ten similar offences relating to food hygiene.

A bit more:

She said: 'In the kitchen under the double sinks [they] found an empty plastic milk bottle which was extremely dirty and was covered with brown fingerprints.

'When asked, Mr Chowdhury explained he filled the bottle with water from the kitchen taps and used it to clean his bottom after visiting the toilet.

'He did not use toilet paper for cultural reasons. Inspectors concluded the brown finger prints was faecal matter.'

This is beyond belief. Is this person willfully stupid or do they just have zero respect for our culture and our people.

From The Washington Post:

Researchers: Medical errors now third leading cause of death in United States
Nightmare stories of nurses giving potent drugs meant for one patient to another and surgeons removing the wrong body parts have dominated recent headlines about medical care. Lest you assume those cases are the exceptions, a new study by patient safety researchers provides some context.

Their analysis, published in the BMJ on Tuesday, shows that "medical errors" in hospitals and other health care facilities are incredibly common and may now be the third leading cause of death in the United States -- claiming 251,000 lives every year, more than respiratory disease, accidents, stroke and Alzheimer's.

Martin Makary, a professor of surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine who led the research, said in an interview that the category includes everything from bad doctors to more systemic issues such as communication breakdowns when patients are handed off from one department to another.

"It boils down to people dying from the care that they receive rather than the disease for which they are seeing care," Makary said.

The paper is here: Medical error—the third leading cause of death in the US

Go back to this post from yesterday and you will see the reason in the graph: A sobering graph - Health Care Industry

Never liked them - the Mayo Clinic came out against them in 2012:

The Hygienic Efficacy of Different Hand-Drying Methods: A Review of the Evidence
The transmission of bacteria is more likely to occur from wet skin than from dry skin; therefore, the proper drying of hands after washing should be an integral part of the hand hygiene process in health care. This article systematically reviews the research on the hygienic efficacy of different hand-drying methods.

And the conclusion:

From a hygiene viewpoint, paper towels are superior to electric air dryers. Paper towels should be recommended in locations where hygiene is paramount, such as hospitals and clinics.

And now this - from the UK Telegraph:

Dyson Airblades 'spread germs 1,300 times more than paper towels'
Dyson Airblade hand-driers spread 60 times more germs than standard air dryers, and 1,300 times more than standard paper towels, according to research published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology.

University of Westminster researchers carrying out the research dipped their hands into water containing a harmless virus. They then dried their hands with either a Dyson Airblade, a standard hot-air dryer, or a paper towel.

According to their findings, the Dyson drier's 430mph blasts of air are capable of spreading viruses up to 3 meters across a bathroom. The standard drier spread viruses 75cm, and the hand towels 25cm.

This is exacerbated by people not bothering to do a real handwashing. Great way to get a cold or flu.

From the London Daily Mail:

Former NHS director dies after operation is cancelled four times at her own hospital
A former NHS director died after waiting for nine months for an operation - at her own hospital.

Margaret Hutchon, a former mayor, had been waiting since last June for a follow-up stomach operation at Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford, Essex.

But her appointments to go under the knife were cancelled four times and she barely regained consciousness after finally having surgery.

Her devastated husband, Jim, is now demanding answers from Mid Essex Hospital Services NHS Trust - the organisation where his wife had served as a non-executive member of the board of directors.

He said: 'I don't really know why she died. I did not get a reason from the hospital. We all want to know for closure. She got weaker and weaker as she waited and operations were put off.'

Mr Hutchon, of Great Baddow, Essex, said his wife, 72, had initially undergone major stomach surgery last June but the follow up procedures were repeatedly abandoned.

I do not mean to sound heartless but the quote: "I don't really know why she died" should be obvious - she was 72 years old and beyond her span as being a "useful member of society". You heard about Death Panels - here they are in action.

I am very concerned about this myself as my Dad died at 94 and I am in better health than he ever was. What if I live to 105 and need another hip transplant? Will I be forced to give up my breakdancing career?

Seriously, Obamacare is the British National Health Service on steroids - it needs to be repealed and let the marketplace deal with keeping insurance prices low.

From Jason Weisberger writing at BoingBoing:

Anti-Vaxxers successfully bring back measles and whooping cough
A new report says anti-vaxxers are responsible for the rise in two infectious diseases we'd nearly eliminated from the United States.

Researchers at Emory and Johns Hopkins Universities have determined, through a National Institute of Health review, that the rise in measles is directly attributable to vaccine refusal, and that it is helping whooping cough to spread, too.

Not to forget that Doctor Andrew Wakefield - the physician and clinical researcher who discovered the link between vaccinations and autism is now just Andy. His medical license was striped for fraud.

Way to go stupid Luddites! Is there anyway we could bill these morons for the increased medical bills they directly caused?

Irony - food safety in Norway

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From the ever wonderful Barfblog:

Irony can be ironic: 113 sick after public health conference in Norway
Thanks to a barfblog.com fan in Norway who provided the article and translation:

More than 100 participants at the health- and quality-registration conference were ill after eating from a lunch buffet at Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel Oslo on Thursday 10 March. The Norwegian institute of public health (FHI) was co-hosting the conference together with the Norwegian directorate of health.

One-hundred and thirteen people came down with symptoms like nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhea. The Norwegian food safety authority has collected samples of food from the buffet and patient samples, while FHI sent out a survey to all the participants (399 of 600 have replied to the survey) but they still cannot confirm whether it was a virus or foodborne pathogen.

Egg on faces - wonder how many heads will roll at the hotel. Not a good thing...

Not so much - from Canada's National Post:

‘It’s not free’: Canadian health care insurance almost doubles in cost during last decade as average family pays $12K
Canadians may like to believe they have access to free health care, but a new report squashes those illusions.

An average Canadian family pays $12,000 per year for health care insurance and those costs have nearly doubled in the last decade, according to a Fraser Institute report.

“Contrary to the way we find (health care insurance) is characterized, it isn’t free,” Bacchus Barua, co-author of the study said.

The think-tank found that health care insurance costs for all Canadians increased by 48.5 per cent to an estimated $8,205 from $5,527 in the last decade.

Health care insurance costs are also rising 1.6 times faster than the average Canadian income, the report says, leading Barua to have an issue with the system.

“When health care insurance is growing faster than income, it’s an indication you can’t sustain it,” Barua said.

Follow the money:

Barua said many Canadians may believe health care insurance is free because they never see a bill for medical costs and it doesn’t have a dedicated tax.  It is instead funded by general government revenue that is collected from multiple sources such as Employment Insurance, the Canadian Pension Plan, property taxes, sales taxes, and import duties.

The report also suggests that Canadians living in provinces with health care premiums may be inclined to believe that they cover the full cost.

“However, the reality is that these premiums cover just a fraction of the cost of health care and are paid into general revenues from which health care is funded,” the report says.

Makes a lot of sense - until Medicare kicked in, the only insurance I could find was about $900/month despite my being very healthy and having both parents die at extended ages (Dad - 94, Mom - 87). If they deregulated it and let the competition of the open market kick in, costs to end users would tumble.

From West Virginia's Charleston Gazette-Mail:

Agency investigates lawmaker who distributed raw milk to celebrate bill passage
A West Virginia lawmaker who passed out cups of raw milk to celebrate passage of a raw milk-related bill says the unpasteurized beverage had nothing to do with an intestinal virus that plagued a number of House of Delegates members and staffers last weekend.

Heh...

Free medical care in Portugal

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Let's all move there - from The Portugal News

Doctors charge top nurse for letting euthanasia cat out of basket
The Portuguese medical association is to file charges with the public prosecutor and the health inspectorate against the leader of the nurses association, Ana Rita Cavaco, who said on Saturday that euthanasia was already practiced in Portuguese health service hospitals.

Ms Cavaco said on the radio programme “Em nome da lei”, broadcast by Catholic station Rádio Renascença, that euthanasia “is sometimes practiced in the health service hospitals, with doctors suggesting this solution for some patients”.

A bit more:

Ana Rita Cavaco said on the radio programme that she had seen situations in state hospitals where doctors suggested giving insulin to terminal patients to cause coma and death.

“I have personally witnessed such situations - I don’t need to look for further other examples. I have seen cases where doctors have suggested administering insulin to induce an insulin coma. I am not going to shock anybody as everyone who works in the health service knows these things happen out of sight and sound, so let’s talk about it openly.”

Portugal has free medical care - this new feature coming to Obamacare in 3... 2... 1... The death panels - remember them?

Makes a lot of sense to me - allergies

I had heard this anecdotally for some time - nice to see it codified.

From the New York Times:

More Support for Early Exposure to Peanuts to Prevent Allergies
Evidence is accumulating that food allergies in children might be prevented by feeding peanuts and other allergenic food to infants in their first year of life, researchers reported here Friday.

That finding would challenge the recommendation of the World Health Organization that babies be fed exclusively breast milk for the first six months of life.

“At least as far as peanut is concerned, I would recommend parting from that,” Dr. Gideon Lack, professor of pediatric allergy at King’s College London, said in an interview.

Dr. Lack was the senior author of a study last year that found feeding peanuts to young children starting when they are 4 to 11 months old sharply reduced the risk of their developing peanut allergies.

That upended the conventional wisdom that it is best to avoid introducing peanuts until children are older.

On Friday, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which helped pay for that study, issued proposed new guidelines recommending that children at risk of peanut allergies be fed peanuts starting at 4 to 6 months of age, though they should be tested first to make sure they do not already have an allergy.

Makes a lot of sense - our immune and allergy systems are forming in infancy and if they are presented with something new, they can "wire up" a solution. A child that is older has no defense. Not suggesting that a toddler be handed a PB&J sammich but with some judicious testing (patch test), you can see if feeding some creamed PB baby food is a good thing. Nursing exclusively for too long can isolate the kid from the real world. You need to get some infections to build up your immune system.

I am also worried about the constant use of hand sanitizers - these are fine when on the road or visiting a strange place. I also wipe down surfaces at home and at the store during flu season but constant use is not a good thing.

More at the site - this was a fairly well-done study with what appears to be a decent p-value. Tip of the hat to the excellent BarfBlog for the link.

Homeopathy - turning water into a placebo

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The only thing that it does do - a great writeup from Ars Technica:

Homeopathy successfully turns water into a placebo
After a thorough evaluation of 57 scientific reviews that encompassed 176 studies on 68 illnesses, a panel of health experts has once again concluded that homeopathy is at best a placebo (when it's not being potentially harmful).

Homeopathy, which one of the panel members referred to as a “therapeutic dead-end,” is based on the idea that “like cures like” (a questionable proposition to start with). Thus, its practitioners claim that if you take a substance that causes a sickness or similar symptoms of a sickness, then dilute it—to the point where the result is plain water—you create a cure. There's no mechanism that can possibly explain this, but some tout the idea that water has memory that can retain therapeutic information after dilution has removed every last molecule of the “healing” substance.

The down side:

But there is potential for homeopathy to injure patients, according to the expert panel, the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).

“People who choose homeopathy may put their health at risk if they reject or delay treatments for which there is good evidence for safety and effectiveness,” the NHMRC concluded.

In a blog post, one of the NHMRC members, evidence-based medicine expert Paul Glasziou of Bond University, said he was “shocked” that homeopathic practitioners promote homeopathy treatments for infectious diseases like HIV/AIDS and malaria.

I have met some homeopathic physicians and I always ask them if they feel any remorse for pushing such a worthless system of healing. Do they not feel shame for delaying or preventing the successful medical treatments of their patients. Delaying their treatment until the disease just gets worse.

There are a lot of alternative medical systems out there that just simply work. I have had successful treatment with Chinese medicine - drugs and acupuncture. I am learning about (and growing and making) herbal remedies. The idea of using diluted toxins in water is simply ludicrous...

Now this will be interesting to follow

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No hard data yet but still... From GM Watch:

Argentine and Brazilian doctors name larvicide as potential cause of microcephaly
A report from the Argentine doctors’ organisation, Physicians in the Crop-Sprayed Towns, challenges the theory that the Zika virus epidemic in Brazil is the cause of the increase in the birth defect microcephaly among newborns. 

The increase in this birth defect, in which the baby is born with an abnormally small head and often has brain damage, was quickly linked to the Zika virus by the Brazilian Ministry of Health. However, according to the Physicians in the Crop-Sprayed Towns, the Ministry failed to recognise that in the area where most sick people live, a chemical larvicide that produces malformations in mosquitoes was introduced into the drinking water supply in 2014. This poison, Pyriproxyfen, is used in a State-controlled programme aimed at eradicating disease-carrying mosquitoes.

The Physicians added that the Pyriproxyfen is manufactured by Sumitomo Chemical, a Japanese "strategic partner" of Monsanto. Pyriproxyfen is a growth inhibitor of mosquito larvae, which alters the development process from larva to pupa to adult, thus generating malformations in developing mosquitoes and killing or disabling them. It acts as an insect juvenile hormone or juvenoid, and has the effect of inhibiting the development of adult insect characteristics (for example, wings and mature external genitalia) and reproductive development. It is an endocrine disruptor and is teratogenic (causes birth defects), according to the Physicians.

The Physicians commented: “Malformations detected in thousands of children from pregnant women living in areas where the Brazilian state added Pyriproxyfen to drinking water are not a coincidence, even though the Ministry of Health places a direct blame on the Zika virus for this damage.”

They also noted that Zika has traditionally been held to be a relatively benign disease that has never before been associated with birth defects, even in areas where it infects 75% of the population.

Pretty damning... It will be interesting to see how Monsanto and Sumitomo react to these allegations. We are starting to see cases of Zika in the USA - any cases of microcephaly will toss this theory out on its ear. Successful gestations and births will give it a lot of weight.

Yikes - e-cigs not harmless after all

Nothing absolute yet but the preliminary does not look good. From arsTechnica:

E-cigs shut down hundreds of immune system genes—regular cigs don’t
It’s widely assumed that swapping cigarette puffing for vapor huffing is better for health—after all, electronic cigarettes that heat up and atomize a liquid concoction can skip all the hazards of combustion and smoke. But researchers are still scrambling to understand the health effects of e-cig use (aka vaping) and to track down the variable and undisclosed components of those vaporized mixtures. The most recent data hints at unexpected health effects unique to e-cig use.

After comparing genetic information swabbed from the noses of smokers, vapers, and non-users of both, researchers found that smoking suppresses the activity of 53 genes involved in the immune system. Vaping also suppressed those 53 immune genes—along with 305 others. The results were presented Friday at the annual conference of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington.

Though research on the significance of that gene suppression is still ongoing, the initial results suggest that e-cig users may have compromised immune responses, making them potentially more vulnerable to infections and diseases.

The abstract to the paper can be found here: New and Emerging Tobacco Products: Biomarkers of Exposure and Injury

More research is needed but still - a cautionairy tale...

The Zika outbreak in South America

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This is serious - from FOX News:

Impoverished coastal city in Brazil becomes epicenter for Zika outbreak
Around the fifth month of her pregnancy, Daniele Ferreira dos Santos fell ill with a high fever and angry red splotches on her skin.

She soon recovered.

But weeks later, when she went to the hospital for a prenatal exam, the news was horrific: The baby she was carrying likely had a severe brain injury. When Juan Pedro Campos dos Santos came into the world in December, the circumference of his head was just 26 centimeters, about 20 percent smaller than normal.

Santos was never diagnosed with Zika, but she blames the virus for her son's defect and for the terrible toll it has taken on her life. Living in Recife in the northeastern state of Pernambuco, she is at the epicenter of the Zika outbreak, and Pedro's is among 3,400 suspected cases of microcephaly that may be connected to the virus, though no link has yet been proven.

Originally from Africa, Zika spread to Asia and was first registered in Brazil in the middle of last year, spreading like wildfire through the northeast thanks in part to the region's widespread poverty, equatorial heat and chronic infestations of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which also spreads dengue fever and chikungunya.

Some more:

"It's the proverbial perfect storm," said Dr. Albert Ko, a professor of epidemiology with the Yale School of Public Health, adding the region was likely at least one of the initial points of entry for the disease — which researchers theorize may have been introduced to Brazil by tourists visiting the country during the 2014 World Cup or an international canoeing event the same year.

"It may have been one of many introductions, but this is the one that took off," said Ko. "In Brazil, infestation rates (of the mosquito) are highest in the northeast because of climactic reasons and socio-economic reasons, so it makes sense that ... it really took off there."

The problem - public health and mosquitos:

But it wasn't always this way. Brazil once succeeded in eliminating the Aedes, which is well adapted to humans, lives within people's homes and can breed in just a bottle cap of stagnant water. Massive eradication efforts in the 1940s and 1950s allowed the country to be declared free of the mosquito in 1958, but over the decades the insect returned, slowly encroaching from neighboring countries and finding fertile breeding ground in Brazil's sprawling, unplanned cities, with their limited potable water systems and garbage collection.

Nothing that a liberal application of DDT would not greatly reduce if not eliminate. We had problems with DDT before because it was so safe - we were marinating in it. Judicious use as well as public education would go a long way to eliminate this problem. Will this happen? Will it gain a foothold in the United States?

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