August 2, 2016.
Zika is now in the US. Fourteen people in Florida have been infected with the virus by local mosquitoes.
Travel warning. The CDC issued an unprecedented travel warning, advising pregnant women and their partners not to travel to a community near downtown Miami, where Zika is circulating. This is the “first time the CDC warned people not to travel to an American neighborhood” for fear of catching a disease.
In the U.S. There are now more than 1,600 confirmed Zika cases in the continental U.S. Up until last week, all of them had been a result of travel abroad. The virus was contracted either by a mosquito bite elsewhere or by intercourse with someone who had been to a Zika-affected area.
In Puerto Rico. There are about 5,500 confirmed infections on the island, including 672 pregnant women. But experts believe this is an undercount, estimating that thousands of residents, including up to 50 pregnant women, are infected each day.
What is Zika? An infectious disease mainly spread through mosquito bites and can also be sexually transmitted. Symptoms, if any, are mild and can include fever, rash and headache. Infections during pregnancy can cause microcephaly (small head) and other brain malformations in some babies.
Making a comeback.
Now, some good news in the world of children’s health. Time magazine reports that “after years of falling vaccination rates and alarming outbreaks of measles, whooping cough and other vaccine-preventable illnesses, the trend lines at last appear to be changing.” Parents have become more accepting of vaccines for two main reasons: increased fear of infectious diseases in general and concern that their child could contract a vaccine-preventable disease. The evidence wins.
The buckets helped.
I’m certain you recall the ice bucket challenge of 2014. More than 2.4 million tagged videos circulated on Facebook, many of them dominating your feed. Supporters raised over $115 million for the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Association. Those donations helped fund research to help people living with the disease. This week, the association announced the discovery of the NEK1 gene, which is among the most common genes that contribute to the disease and is associated with three percent of ALS cases. It provides scientists with a new potential target for therapy development.
Room service. To your hospital bed.
“At the Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital outside Detroit, patients arrive to uniformed valets and professional greeters. Wi-Fi is free and patient meals are served on demand 24 hours a day. Members of the spa staff give in-room massages and other treatments.” As hospitals compete with one another to provide patient care, marketing and word-of-mouth recommendations are important, especially because there is so little reliable comparative data on hospitals’ medical outcomes. One concern cited in this New York Times article: who is paying for this?
Did you know?
At home pregnancy tests did not become available in the U.S. until 1977. This is years after the technology first became available. Until then, it was thought that women needed a doctor to administer the test and “managers [at the company that made them] seemed terrified by scenarios in which hysterical women killed themselves” upon finding out they have an unwanted pregnancy. It was pioneer Margaret Crane who pushed back, arguing that women can remove the doctor middleman and complete the test themselves. Today, eight out of ten women learn they are pregnant from a drugstore device.
Worth a watch.
The Frontline documentary, Chasing Heroin, is a powerful two-hour investigation that tells the stories of individual addicts and their families and reveals a major public health issue, noting how the opioid pill market is “priming the heroin market.”
In the news. This week, NPR reported that health care claims for people with opioid dependence diagnoses “rose more than 3,000 percent between 2007 and 2014.” That’s a big jump. But on the bright side: at least it’s being recognized more.
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