Posts Tagged ‘Canada’

Swine Flu Update: November 4

November 4, 2009

I was able to get my H1N1 flu shot last Saturday! My State Health Department has a hotline for information on the H1N1 vaccine; since I am in a high priority group I called every few days to check on the availability. I think I got to be on a first name basis with most of their phone staff. But last Tuesday, instead of telling me the usual “Check back in a few days,” the operator asked if I would like to make an appointment to receive the vaccine! I took the earliest time available! Check your State Health Department’s website and see if they list an information line for the H1N1 vaccine and start calling!

Here’s a startling and sobering fact that you need to know: So far, 1 out of every 25 pregnant women who has contracted H1N1 has died. Take a breath, back up, and read that statement again. Read it until it has been hammered into your brain. Click the link and read the article that backs up that statement. Now, start making plans to get your H1N1 shot.

In regard the above statistic, exactly how deadly is H1N1? No one is sure. The standard measure of disease lethality is the Case Fatality Report, or CFR. Getting the CFR of H1N1 is simple math: Divide the number of people who died from H1N1 by the total number of people who contracted H1N1.

No matter what, the CFR is going to be wrong. There are going to be cases that go undiagnosed. Some people will wake up feeling miserable, realize they probably have the flu, and lock themselves away until it passes. Doctors make mistakes, and the rapid results test for H1N1 is only about 60% accurate. But the best that we can tell, H1N1 has a CFR of 0.5% for all reported cases. Regular Seasonal Flu CFR is usually about 0.1%. Both numbers are very small, but you can truthfully say that H1N1 is five times deadlier than the Seasonal Flu.

In other news, the United States has emptied its reserves of Children’s Tamiflu. Don’t worry, more is coming, and Adult Tamiflu can be “cut” to the correct dosage for children.  But that is one of those “Don’t try this at home!” activities, you don’t know what you are doing. Ask your local Pharmacist for guidance.

The Ukraine has banned public gatherings in an effort to control the spread of H1N1, since 67 people have died of “the flu”. This flu is not specifically identified but H1N1 is the most virulent illness out there right now. Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko addressed the nation about the flu situation – and placed all the blame for being unprepared squarely on his Prime Minister:

My request of May to the Prime Minister to allocate funds to establish a lab, to “arm” us in the situation, when the world is smitten by the epidemic of this flu, to date has not been answered.

Oh, boy.

There is also a looming crisis in Canada. The Providence of Alberta – in fact, all of Canada – was planning for a ho-hum, wait and see response by the public to the vaccine. Then three children died of H1N1 and there was a huge rush of people ready to be vaccinated. Still, things were under control until the manufacturer informed the Government of Alberta about vaccine shortages the day before the drug was needed. Clinics were suspended and a carefully crafted vaccination plan thrown into confusion. Nobody knows exactly what is going on and the opposition is calling for the Health Minister’s head. It’s becoming a political issue rather than a Public Health issue, and that’s dangerous. Meanwhile, a prominent Swedish politician has died from H1N1. North Korea claims not to have any cases of the Swine Flu. The South Korean government believes them – the average North Korean is undernourished and more susceptible to any kind of illness.  NK is probably taking drastic steps to make sure H1N1 can’t run free in their country.

Again, I have received my H1N1 vaccine, and I recommend you do the same.

No Nukes!

August 31, 2009

Are you scheduled for a medical procedure that involves nuclear isotopes? If so, you had better start making arrangements for it as soon as you can: the nuclear research facility in Canada that produces many of the the needed nuclear isotopes is offline. When it went offline in May the first estimate was that it would be down for three months, but now the experts are saying that it will be shut down until at least 2010. To put it mildly, that’s not good.

Atomic Energy of Canada, Ltd. (AECL) is working to fix the problem, but repairing a nuclear reactor is a delicate task – and some physicians don’t think it will ever be functional again. British hospitals are receiving less than 50% of the isotopes that they need and a 2007 shutdown affected 50,000 patients in the United States.

Radioactive Isotopes can’t be stored and must be produced on an “as needed” basis. Do not be surprised if a needed test is pushed back or an alternative test is scheduled.

Before Taussig: Maude Abbott

April 29, 2009

Maude Abbott was born in 1869 in a small town in  Quebec, Canada. After graduating from McGill University in Montreal, she applied to McGill’s medical school. Like most medical schools of the 1890’s, McGill did not accept female students into its medical school.

Maude applied to Bishop’s College (Now Bishop’s University) and with a little arm twisting, was admitted to the medical program. She graduated in 1894 as the only woman in her class.

She hit the road after graduating in 1897, studying medicine all over Europe. Returning to Montreal, she set up her own practice. It wasn’t long before a colleague offered her a position doing research at the Royal Victoria Hospital. Her research on heart murmurs was accepted by a Montreal medical society, but a male doctor had to present her paper because women were not allowed to join the society.

She applied to McGill for a teaching position in 1899. While not ready to hire a female teacher, McGill wanted her bad enough that they felt they had to offer her something… so she was named assistant curator at the McGill Medical Museum.

A turn of the century medical museum was an important tool. Organs, body systems, and even entire bodies were preserved and kept in the museum. Without many of the visual aids used today, medical students often found themselves at the museum, studying the inner workings of the body. A well stocked medical museum also featured deformed organs – sometimes the stranger the better. Doctors just didn’t get to see such things that often, so if possible, obtaining a deformed organ was very valuable. It would strike most people as more than a little disturbing, but that is the way it was done.

A heart specialist with an entire medical museum at her command, Maude began requesting defective hearts. It wasn’t long before she had plenty – there was no way to correct a heart defect, so no one really had any reason to keep them. Although she had no way to repair a defective heart, Maude studied her samples and tried to figure out exactly what was wrong with them. If she could, she would classify them and group them together by their similarities.

During her first few years at McGill, Maude was in Washington, DC and met Dr. William Osler – another Canadian doctor who was turning Johns Hopkins University into the premier United States medical school. He was also working on a major book about medicine and invited Abbott to write the chapter on Congenital Heart Defects. When it was published in 1907 she was recognized as the leading authority on defective hearts. In 1936, she published her greatest work: The Atlas of Congenital Cardiac Disease. Maude Abbott passed away in September of 1940, four years before Alfred Blalock, Helen Taussig, and Vivien Thomas attempted to correct a Congenital Heart Defect with surgery.

It had to be frustrating – although Maude was learning what was wrong with the hearts and how it affected the body, she could offer no way to correct them. Little did she know (or perhaps she did know) that she was laying the groundwork for people who would come later – people who had actually developed ways to fix broken hearts and would look back to Maude Abbott’s work as their guide.

It’s not broken, so why are we trying to fix it?

March 26, 2009

Before we do anything rash, let’s stop for a moment and think.

That wonderful Canadian Health Care system that the politicians keep telling us we need to emulate isn’t so wonderful… patients admitted through an Emergency Department in a Calgary hospital  have to wait an average of 16.6 hours to be assigned to a bed.

And in another “shining example” of Universal Health Care, a British hospital is so bad that conditions there have been called “Third World”. Receptionists are responsible for medical checks (!) and some patients have been forced to drink the water in their flower vases.

And if  80% of us are happy with our healthcare, why are we trying to redesign the entire system? (Ignore the headline and read the article… CNN focuses on the fact that as a whole we think too much is spent for health care, while ignoring the rest of the survey.) Dr. Wes looks around and sees that things here are really pretty good, despite the Gloom and Doom pouring out of Washington and your TV News. Yes, there are ways to improve our health care system, but aren’t anywhere close to drinking out of the flower vases yet. So let’s just tell the people in Washington to just calm down for a moment.

“Like sands through the hourglass…

December 4, 2008

… so are the days of our lives.”

Ever notice that the sand in the hourglass on the daytime show Days of our Lives never runs out? It just keeps going forever and ever and ever…

To bad it has nothing to do with reality. There was a very alarming report in the Boston Globe that states the bad economy could drain Medicare part A pretty quick. When that money runs out… it’s gonna get nasty. Doctors are already upset; the government is running them out of business. Some doctors are doing their own laundry to save money and others can’t afford to replenish their drug supplies. It’s getting scary out there, folks.

If I were a doctor I’d probably be looking for something else to do. Some of them are, and others are changing their mind about going into medicine in the first place. The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) recently did a study that showed the numbers are dropping as the demand is rising. Massachusetts is already getting slammed. The Canadian system isn’t the answer, either. USA Medicine is ahead in technology, but the men and women of the Maple Leaf have better office systems. An alliance is looking pretty good right about now.

Dr. Wes bemoans the fact that healthcare costs are climbing more than inflation. Health Insurers are willing to forget about pre-existing conditions (Yay!) and insure everyone if the Government does certain things. (Now wait a minute… where’s the money coming from?) And whatever happened to all that savings that was supposed to occur if we switched to generic drugs?

We need to close the bar and then check ourselves into rehab.

Friday Night Links

September 19, 2008

I’m busy today!

I’ve been working on my speech for Baltimore, checking to make sure my good suit still fits (Where did that spot come from?!?! It’s been stored in a garment bag, for crying out loud!) and getting some last minute paperwork done. The paperwork isn’t due until early October, but if I get it done now it won’t be on my mind later.

But I’m not going to leave you hanging! I’ve found some interesting links to pass on to you:

* From March 2007, surgeon Sid Schwab describes how a surgeon clears his mind and prepares for the crucial moment.

* EchoDoc wants to remind us that blood-thinners and antibiotics don’t mix. (Read this one it is important!)

* Researchers in Canada and the United Kingdom report that CHD patients tend to see the doctor more often. (Really?) They also say they have been “hampered by a lack of reliable data.” Hmm… sounds like they need a patient registry!

* Another one from Sid Schwab, this one from August 2006. When the doctor’s phone rings in the middle of the night…

* The Food and Drug Adminstration has banned drugs from two factories in India because of manufacturing problems. A list of the banned drugs is here. The good news is that the drugs currently in the US are safe and our drugmakers can replace what has been banned.

* For those of you who have Congestive Heart Failure and are considering “natural” remedies, EchoDoc has a few words of advice.

* Exercise is good for you, especially if you have a Funky Heart. So tap your toes to Tom Cochrane’s Life is a Highway!