Posts Tagged ‘Centers for Disease Control’

It ain’t over just yet!

March 25, 2010

Guess who’s back in town?

Guess who never really left?

H1N1 is on the upswing again in the state of Georgia, reaching their highest level since September 2009. The good news (if there is any good news to be found in H1N1) is that while hospitalizations are up, there has only been one H1N1 related death in the past week. This follows reports of regional and localized H1N1 activity in eleven States and Puerto Rico.

Where’s ours?!?

March 14, 2010

There is a new publication produced by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) named The Atlas of Heart Disease Hospitalizations among Medicare Benificiaries. It is available from them in printed form (They say it is available but it is not listed – they could be out at the moment); as a downloadable PDF file; or even as a group of interactive maps.

This is really cool stuff, and leads to the question… Where’s ours? Where’s the Congenital Heart Defect (CHD) statistics?

There are some CHD statistics, but the massive amounts of data needed to compile something like The Atlas for CHDs just isn’t available. It’s too spread out – these records live in medical files in places like Johns Hopkins Hospital, The Mayo Clinic, Denver Children’s Hospital… and the list goes on and on. Some of those records even hide in the files of a small community hospital, the only facility  in the hometown of a newborn.

Even though we are working for the Congenital Heart Futures Act and the Registry that the legislation will create, change won’t happen overnight. The actual database has to be created first – a database that can handle approximately 40,000 new entries per year with numerous variables. And once created, such a database will be empty – will designers choose to include records that previously exist? I’d guess yes, but no one will be assigned to cull the records from America’s hospitals and doctors offices. There are just too many. What would probably happen is that the system would “go live” on a certain date and everyone who reports a CHD birth after that date, the information would be entered. At their next appointment with their Cardiologist, CHDers will be asked if they would consent for their records to be entered in the database. Hopefully most of us would say yes.

It would be a few years before there was enough data to study, but once that occurs, I’m hopeful there would be a lot of research done.

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.

Swine Flu Update: October 10

October 9, 2009

The H1N1 Swine Flu Vaccine is starting to be distributed nationwide, and just in time, it seems. Pregnant women have been hit especially hard by this bug and they are one of the priority groups that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends receive the vaccine as soon as possible. Children are also being hit hard – 19 have died this week.

Do you have the Swine Flu? Microsoft and Emory University have teamed up to create an online Flu Quiz – answer a series of questions, and your computer will compare your answers to a list of known symptoms and then inform you of the possibility that you have the flu. I answered the questions last night and the computerized doctor told me I was OK! But if someone in your home does have the Flu, here is the CDC’s informational guide for taking care of them while hopefully avoiding catching it yourself.  (If you live with someone who has the Flu and you are in a high risk group, you need to stay six feet away from the patient. Sounds like a good time to hire a Home Health Nurse.)

There have been questions raised about the safety of the vaccine, and here is the CDC’s web page addressing those issues. Also, there has been no link shown between vaccine and Autism. There was a research report from England published 10 years ago that seemingly linked the Mumps, Measles, and Rubella (MMR) vaccine with increased occurrences of Autism; but further research call those results into question. Most of the authors of that original research have since said that their research didn’t seem to hold up.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but I have taken the vaccinations that have been recommended to me over the years, and there have been no side effects other than occasional soreness at the injection site. And with my heart defect, I feel that I would have been more suceptable to any adverse reaction.

Swine Flu Update: September 24

September 24, 2009

Influenza loves crowds, and H1N1 has (literally) found a captive audience:  Two prisoners in the Federal Penitentiary in Memphis, Tennessee have the Swine Flu. Obviously the prison has been quarantined and the two prisoners segregated from the rest of the population. Prisons are very good at implementing their Lockdown procedures during times of unrest; so hopefully they can overcome this.

There are new cases of H1N1 in Iran, and half of those are from people returning from their pilgrimage to Mecca. The Iranian government recently banned its citizens from going to Mecca this year. The airport in Cairo, Egypt is gearing up to screen their returning citizens in an effort to mitigate H1N1. At least the people who rent private jets are happy!

Health Canada had a whopper of a faux pas this week when they sent relief supplies to reservations in Manitoba: Inside the crate were hand sanitizer, face masks… and body bags! The local authorities are quite upset, as you might imagine. To make it even worse, a manufacturer of body bags told the Ottawa Citizen that sales are up. I can understand making plans for what to do if the worst happens, but do you have to go out and brag about it? Remember the World War II slogan: Loose Lips Sink Ships! or in this case, panic the people.

There is good news – The Centers for Disease Control recently conducted tests in which they injected H1N1 and H5N1 (the Bird Flu) into ferrets. The two diseases did not combine – good news, since H1N1 spreads easier but H5N1 is more lethal. Flu of all types is still unpredictable, but it seems the two can’t be forced upon one another. CDC has revised its guidelines on flu symptoms and when you should seek treatment (as you see more cases, you learn more about how to deal with it) and a nasal spray vaccine will be available the first week of October. It is not recommended for those of us with “heart disease” so I don’t know about CHDers, but I’m betting we’ll have to wait for the shots. But if you are the parent of a medically fragile child and you are healthy, it could be worthwhile to pursue the early inoculation.

As always, it is best to stay calm and watch/read as much news as you can. Find sources outside of your home country, as they often have a different perspective you may not have considered. And I still personally feel that getting the H1N1 shot is very important.

Swine Flu Update: September 8

September 8, 2009

We can be pretty stupid at times.

The Centers for Disease Control H1N1 Flu website states, “Influenza is thought to spread mainly person-to-person through coughing or sneezing of infected people.” Yet where will a good number of Americans be this fall? Here, or someplace similar.

Don’t fool yourself, this isn’t a healthy place to be. Washington State University has 2,000 students down with H1N1. Emory University has 50 students sick; they have re-opened a closed dorm and reassigning sick students there until they feel better. They are getting delivered meals, Tamiflu twice a day, and not allowed to go to class. Washington State has no Quarantine procedure in place… so the Swine Flu may be three seats to your left at the football game next Saturday.

Communicable diseases like the flu love crowds. The United States Department of Defense plans to inoculate the entire military and airlines are hiding the pillows and blankets they usually distribute to customers. The last time I flew, First Class passengers found a shrink wrapped blanket waiting in their seat. Those of us in the back of the cabin had to make do with four inches less legroom and only one package of pretzels.

I’m going to be getting my flu shots this fall, that’s for certain. And I think I’ll watch all of my football on TV!

Swine Flu Update: Thursday, August 20

August 20, 2009

Swine Flu has yet another name.

Swine Flu wasn’t good enough; and apparently H1N1 makes the International Union of English Letters and Numbers nervous. An article in the New England Journal of Medicine recently gave it the name S-OIV, short for Swine Origin Influenza Virus. Gee… you wonder if we waste time trying to figure out what to call this thing, it might sneak up and make a bunch of people sick?

The Centers for Disease Control has issued its recommendations for those who should get the vaccine first, and those of us with a Chronic Illness are on the list. As soon as it becomes available, it would pay to get in line – the priority groups total about half of the US population. Mexico is already predicting a shortage of vaccines, at least at first.

H1N1 continues to spread, almost at will – the Costa Rican President has a case of it, along with three politicians from Ecuador. Fans at a Brazilian soccer match were recently forced to wear facemasks to attend a game, which brings to mind this photograph from our past.

There is some good news – the seasonal flu vaccine is going to be ready early. Since the Swine Flu and the “usual” flu strain that is going around are different, we’re going to have to be inoculated for both the regular flu and H1N1. Oh, boy, something else to look forward to. I’m not a big fan of needles – whenever I have a blood test and the tech asks my name and birthday, I always want to ask “Do you think I’d be letting you poke me if I didn’t have to?!?!” But someone, somewhere probably enjoys it just a little bit too much, so I never ask. They may tell me a few things that I’d rather not know!

Swine Flu Update: July 10, 2009

July 10, 2009

New information about the Swine Flu (H1N1) has raised eyebrows recently. Some hedge funds and airports are preparing for the flu – not as preparation for an anticipated natural disaster, but focusing mainly on how to keep their operations going if some of their staff is out sick. Just innocent planning, updating plans already in place… but the fact that they are doing it now should cause a small alarm bell to go off in your head. Scott McPherson says that the worst is yet to come and he presents some pretty alarming numbers along with his prediction.

An illness with flu-like symptoms popped up at Wimbledon during the recent Championships; all four of those affected were told to stay home. “They haven’t been tested for swine flu and they’re not going to be,” a spokesman said. Not very bright on their part. Or perhaps they didn’t test because the Treasury’s empty.

While the number of H1N1 cases is going up, the severity of H1N1 is still mild… unless you happen to have an “underlying medical condition.” The United States is planning a vaccination campaign for the fall, (in addition to the “regular” flu vaccine) and at the moment, it looks as if the H1N1 vaccine will be delivered in two doses. You could protect yourself with a facemask, but there are doubts that they are that effective. BioMask may be the best mask available, and is now available over the counter… in Hong Kong! If you’re not jetting off to Hong Kong for a while, here’s the CDC’s recommendation.

There is still no predicting exactly what is going to happen here – use the internet and your flu resources to keep tracking this illness. Stay informed. You will have to do this on your own, the national media in the United States is not paying attention.

UPDATE: I’ve found more resources for you in my morning search of my sources. Nine more have died from H1N1 in New York City. That’s correct – nine more people have died from H1N1 in an American city. Unless you live in the Northeast, you probably haven’t heard about it. BUT… Michael Jackson is still dead, and that is what is important!

Here’s a report from Johns Hopkins on what we need to be doing now to combat H1N1. Here’s a page from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) about what to do if you get flu-like symptoms. CHDers and others with chronic illnesses need to review this link; there are special guidelines for those “at high rick for flu complications” and a list of emergency warning signs.  Here’s another CDC page, about their recommendations to state and local officials for vaccination policies. Again, there is a section that applies to the chronically ill.

And for some first person timely advice, here’s a New York Times article about the school nurse in the center of the worst school outbreak so far.

Flu Update: Thursday Evening, May 14

May 14, 2009

We haven’t heard much from the Swine Flu, A(H1N1), lately. It’s still out there, and we’ve got more resources to track it. Here’s the H1N1 Influenza page from the New England Journal of Medicine. It’s a little heavy on the scientific jargon, but it can be valuable when used with our other flu resources.

Science has an online article about the early lessons we’ve learned from the flu (and they have a good timeline of the outbreak HERE). One really good development has been that most people do not need antiviral medications – you can fight it off with rest and lots of fluids. It seems to be more active than seasonal flu, and compares to the H2N2 virus that caused so much trouble in 1957. China reacted quickly to their first flu cases, and perhaps even overreacted. The Christian Science Monitor has a good article exploring the reasons why.

It’s almost too warm in the Northern Hemisphere for the virus to be able to prosper, and flu season will “end” soon. It won’t really end; the flu will become active in the Southern Hemisphere, where the temperatures are dropping and winter is coming. The news media has pretty much decided that we’re all safe now, and have moved on to the next crisis.

But if H1N1 is going to cause any trouble for the United States next fall, it’ll strengthen in the Southern Hemisphere during our warm months. You’ll notice that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) still has its Flu Page active, and the World Health Organization (WHO) is also watching. Live your life and enjoy the summer, but it would be smart to check the CDC and WHO pages occasionally.

Your Money may have the Swine Flu!

May 11, 2009

Well, that is nice to know! Should I hand it a tissue?

A new report in Smart Money contends that a virus can live on most forms of curency for about an hour, perhaps two. But throw in some “nasal secreations” and the unexpected happens: the flu can live for days….. a strain known as H3N2 lasted for up to 17 days! A H1N1 strain (but not the Swine Flu) lasted for ten days!

Oh, boy. Repeat after me: Handle money, wash hands. Handle money, wash hands. When I worked at the museum, we had hand sanitizer and antibacterial wipes in the desk below the cash registers, and if a customer seemed to be ill, we offered them. And we wiped down the desk and the register (and ourselves, if need be). But no one ever considered wiping the money or the cash drawer.

Researchers at Northwestern University and the University of Indiana are tracking the flu and using the data to project future cases. Air traffic and commuter patterns figure into both sets of data, but Northwestern is also including data from a fun little website that you may have visited: Where’s George?

Where’s George? allows you in input the serial number of US paper currency and then “track” that bill as it moves around. (Of course, it all relies on recipients making a log entry on Where’s George?, so your dollar bill may disappear for a while.) To me and you, Where’s George? is an interesting way to spend a few moments. To the researchers, it is a database of face-to-face encounters with over 100 million entries. Their results are online.