Friday, August 22, 2014

Health Care and Back to School Safety

Here the school bell ringing? See the big yellow buses and the flashing yellow school zone lights (and the local police with their radar guns)? Stunned that the summer is just about over? Yes, it’s time to go back to school. Much to the regret of millions of children and teens, and to the delight of many more millions of parents, this is the time that kids start the annual ritual of heading back to the classroom. Actually, football players, and marching band, and drill team members have already been after it for at least a month during the hottest days of the year—getting ready for the first pep rally, the first game, and the first concert of the new school year.

As the halls of academia once again fill to the brim with children and adolescents in elementary and secondary schools nationwide, the primary concern that educators and administrators have as top of mind is not really education. Health and safety are paramount as the most important aspects of educating young people. Books, chalk boards, rules and regulations, class schedules, recess and study hall, and subject matter for all classes is all second place when it comes to the most critical aspects of delivering a good education.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has a significant amount of information about school safety tips. For example, traveling back and forth to school has its own set of safety precautions. Just ignoring the school bus etiquette alone can be dangerous. Review the basic rules with your student:

·         Children should always board and exit the bus at locations that provide safe access to the bus or to the school building.
·         Remind your child to wait for the bus to stop before approaching it from the curb. Make sure your child walks where she can see the bus driver (which means the driver will be able to see her, too).
·         Remind your student to look both ways to see that no other traffic is coming before crossing the street, just in case traffic does not stop as required.
·         Your child should not move around on the bus. If your child's school bus has lap/shoulder seat belts, make sure your child uses one at all times when in the bus. (If your child's school bus does not have lap/shoulder belts, encourage the school system to buy or lease buses with lap/shoulder belts).

Another topic is bullying. Bullying or cyber-bullying is when one child picks on another child repeatedly. Bullying can be physical, verbal, or social. It can happen at school, on the playground, on the school bus, in the neighborhood, over the Internet, or through mobile devices like cell phones. This topic and much more can be found at the AAP website: http://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/news-features-and-safety-tips/Pages/Back-to-School-Tips.aspx .

Safety should be a priority for every family as children return to classrooms this fall. It is important for parents to stay up-to-date on the proper safety precautions and share this information with their children to keep them safe throughout the school year, according to The National Safety Council (NSC).

The NSC cautions against overloaded backpacks. These large bags used by children have received a lot of attention from parents, doctors, school administrators and the media in the past several years. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates there are more than 7,300 backpack-related injuries annually treated by hospitals and doctors. Injuries include bruises, sprains and strains to the back and shoulder and fractures.
 
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that a child's backpack should weigh no more than 10 to 20 percent of the child's body weight. This figure may vary, however, depending on the child's body strength and fitness. Here are some warning signs that a backpack is too heavy:

·         Change in posture when wearing the backpack
·         Struggling when putting on or taking off the backpack
·         Pain when wearing the backpack
·         Tingling or numbness
·         Red marks

Whether children walk, ride their bicycle or take the bus to school, it is extremely important that they take proper safety precautions. Not just parents, but all motorists, need to know how to safely share the road with school buses, pedestrians and bicyclists.  The back-to-school season is a great time to learn about Graduated Driver Licensing and what practices will work best for your family. Parents can also find more information to help their teen drivers at driveithome.org.  
 

Also, every year more than 200,000 children visit hospital emergency rooms because of playground injuries, many of which could have been prevented.  Here is the NSC site for more detailed material on back to school safety: http://www.nsc.org/safety_home/SafetyObservances/Pages/BackToSchoolSafety.aspx .

Additionally, are your kids’ immunizations up to date? All schools require that children and teens have current vaccination records that are current and on file. Your little angels won’t be able to attend class past the second day if they are not properly immunized against the standard accepted vaccinations. It's a good idea to take your child for a physical and eye exam before school starts. Most schools require up-to-date immunizations and may need documentation. Failing to keep immunizations current could prevent your child from attending school. Check the immunization requirements in your state.

Bring all health-related forms that the school requires when you take your child to the doctor. If your child will be participating in a sport, his/her doctor may have to sign a release form. Be sure to keep your own copy of any records. Let your child's doctor know if you have any questions or concerns about the scheduled vaccines or any other health-related issues that may be affecting your child. More information is available at this site: http://www.usa.gov/Topics/Back-to-School.shtml .

Some kids feel nervous or a little scared on the first day of school because of all the new things: new teachers, new friends, and maybe even a new school. Luckily, these "new" worries only stick around for a little while. Here are a few final tips for a fantastic school year, according to this website: http://kidshealth.org/kid/feeling/school/back_to_school.html:

·         Get enough sleep.
·         Eat a healthy breakfast.
·         Try your best.
·         Use good work habits, like writing down your assignments and turning in your homework on time.
·         Take your time with school work. If you don't understand something, ask the teacher.
·         Keep a sense of humor. One teacher we know shows his new students a picture of himself graduating high school — a grinning ape in a red graduation cap and gown. This usually makes the kids laugh, and it's a good way to remind them that school is fun!

Vaccinations, eye exams, bike helmets and healthy snacks top the back-to-school health tips in most back to school reviews. In preparing for their child’s return to school, parents should review their child’s health status, just as they check their clothes and school supplies. To succeed in school, children need to be healthy, alert and able to properly see the blackboard and read. For an extremely detailed and comprehensive back to school checklist visit this website: http://www.chla.org/site/apps/nlnet/content2.aspx?c=ipINKTOAJsG&b=6089699&ct=8608851 .

Finally, take some time to breath deeply and relax. You’ve had all summer to get ready. Don’t wait til the night before to make mad dashes to your local Target for those school supplies and snacks, or to the doctor’s office for the vaccinations, or to the mechanic to make sure your teen’s car is good to go. Take time to prepare in advance so you can enjoy your last days of summer with good family fun. Stress is one thing you can live without. Now…. get ready for HOMEWORK!!!!!!!!!!!

Until next time.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Health Care and Pathology

The component of the causal study of disease and a major field in modern medical practice and diagnosis is referred to in the medical community as Pathology. The term pathology itself may be used broadly to refer to the study of disease in general, incorporating a wide range of bioscience research fields and medical practices, or more narrowly to describe work within the contemporary medical field of "general pathology," which includes a number of distinct but inter-related medical specialties which diagnose disease mostly through the analysis of tissue, cell, and body fluid samples, as defined by the Oxford English Dictionary.

According to the American Society of Clinical Pathology, there are several types of medical professionals that study in the field of pathology:

A general pathologist is a physician who examines tissues, checks the accuracy of lab tests, and interprets the results in order to facilitate the patient’s diagnosis and treatment. He or she works closely with the patient’s other doctors and is a vital member of the patient’s primary health care team. Pathologists work in many areas of the medical laboratory and often serve as the Lab Director. Contrary to popular depictions of this career, the task of performing autopsies constitutes just a small part of the typical pathologist’s practice.

A clinical pathologist oversees lab tests conducted on body fluids. For instance, together with clinical lab technologists, pathologists work to ensure that blood and blood products are safe. In microbiology, pathologists identify microorganisms that can cause infections – bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites – so that the most effective treatment can be selected for each particular case.

An anatomic pathologist assists surgeons during operations by providing immediate diagnoses on biopsies (specially treated tissues removed in surgery and rushed to the lab).

A forensic pathologist uses lab science to answer questions about evidence collected for criminal and civil cases. Other pathologists conduct research in pathology, developing new tests and new instruments to better diagnose diseases.

Some pathologists devote their careers to research in pathology, developing new tests and new instruments to better diagnose diseases. Pathologists often teach their specialty to medical students and those preparing for other laboratory professions, including clinical lab technology and cytotechnology, among others.

Pathologists are problem-solvers, fascinated by the process of disease and eager to unlock medical mysteries, such as AIDS and diabetes, using the sophisticated tools and methods of modern laboratory science. With today’s rapid advances in biomedical science, over 2,000 laboratory tests on blood and body fluids are available – many of which require a pathologist’s expert interpretation.

There are approximately 14,000 board certified pathologists in the United States who practice their specialty in community, university, and government hospitals and clinics, in independent laboratories, or in private offices, clinics, and other health care facilities. More info about this profession is available at this site: http://www.ascp.org/About-the-ASCP .

Pathology provides those who practice it several opportunities, according to the Intersociety Council for Pathology Information, (ICPI). Pathologists function in three broad areas; as diagnosticians, as teachers, and as investigators. Fundamental to the discipline of pathology is the need to integrate clinical information with physiological, biochemical and molecular laboratory studies, together with observations of tissue alterations.

Pathologists in hospital and clinical laboratories practice as consultant physicians, developing and applying knowledge of tissue and laboratory analyses to assist in the diagnosis and treatment of individual patients. As teachers, they impart this knowledge of disease to their medical colleagues, to medical students, and to trainees at all levels. As scientists, they use the tools of laboratory science in clinical studies, disease models, and other experimental systems, to advance the understanding and treatment of disease.

Pathology has a special appeal to those who enjoy solving disease-related problems, using technologies based upon fundamental sciences ranging from biophysics to molecular genetics, as well as tools from the more traditional disciplines of anatomy, biochemistry, pharmacology, physiology, and microbiology. More material about this topic is available at this website: http://www.pathologytraining.org/career/index.cfm .

An additional type of pathology deals with speech and language therapy. Speech-language pathologists (sometimes called speech therapists) assess, diagnose, treat, and help to prevent communication and swallowing disorders in patients. Speech, language, and swallowing disorders result from a variety of causes, such as a stroke, brain injury, hearing loss, developmental delay, a cleft palate, cerebral palsy, or emotional problems, according to the US Department of Labor. When diagnosing patients, speech-language pathologists typically do the following:

·         Communicate with patients to evaluate their levels of speech or language difficulty.
·         Determine the extent of communication problems by having a patient complete basic reading and vocalizing tasks or by giving standardized tests.
·         Identify treatment options.
·         Create and carry out an individualized treatment plan.

When treating patients, speech-language pathologists typically do the following:

·         Teach patients how to make sounds and improve their voices.
·         Teach alternative communication methods, such as sign language, to patients with little or no speech capability.
·         Work with patients to improve their ability to read and write correctly.
·         Work with patients to develop and strengthen the muscles used to swallow.
·         Counsel patients and families on how to cope with communication disorders.

Speech-language pathologists work with patients who have problems with speech. Their patients may be unable to speak at all or they may speak with difficulty or have rhythm and fluency problems, such as stuttering. They may work with those who are unable to understand language or with people who have voice disorders, such as inappropriate pitch or a harsh voice.

Speech-language pathologists must also complete administrative tasks, including keeping accurate records. They record their initial patient evaluations and diagnoses, treatment progress, any changes in a patient’s condition or treatment plan, and, eventually, they complete a final evaluation when the patient finishes the therapy. Some speech-language pathologists specialize in working with specific age groups, such as children or the elderly. Others focus on treatment programs for specific communication or swallowing problems, such as those resulting from strokes or cleft palate.

In medical facilities, speech-language pathologists work with physicians and surgeons, social workers, psychologists, and other healthcare workers. In schools, they work with teachers, other school personnel, and parents to develop and carry out individual or group programs, provide counseling, and support classroom activities. More information can also be found at this website: http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/speech-language-pathologists.htm#tab-2 .

Pathology is a highly specialized and unique field of practice in health care. The medical community has been enhanced significantly due to the discoveries in pathology and related practices, whether the scope is in medicine or speech. Learning what causes disease or symptoms in humans is integral in helping to diagnose and treat individuals who become ill. As well, pathology helps in developing ways to improve methods of preventive medicine. 

Until next time.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Health Care and Chikungunya

A new disease has recently cropped up in the US called Chikungunya. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), this virus is transmitted to people by mosquitoes. The most common symptoms of chikungunya virus infection are fever and joint pain. Other symptoms may include headache, muscle pain, joint swelling, or rash. Outbreaks have occurred in countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

In late 2013, chikungunya virus was found for the first time in the Americas on islands in the Caribbean. There is a risk that the virus will be imported to new areas by infected travelers. There is no vaccine to prevent or medicine to treat chikungunya virus infection. More details from the CDC can be found at this site: http://www.cdc.gov/chikungunya/ .

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Chikungunya is a mosquito-borne viral disease first described during an outbreak in southern Tanzania in 1952. It is an RNA virus that belongs to the alphavirus genus of the family Togaviridae. The name ‘chikungunya’ derives from a word in the Kimakonde language, meaning "to become contorted" and describes the stooped appearance of sufferers with joint pain (arthralgia).

Chikungunya is characterized by an abrupt onset of fever frequently accompanied by joint pain. Other common signs and symptoms include muscle pain, headache, nausea, fatigue and rash. The joint pain is often very debilitating, but usually lasts for a few days or may be prolonged to weeks, according to WHO.

Most patients recover fully, but in some cases joint pain may persist for several months, or even years. Occasional cases of eye, neurological and heart complications have been reported, as well as gastrointestinal complaints. Serious complications are not common, but in older people, the disease can contribute to the cause of death. Often symptoms in infected individuals are mild and the infection may go unrecognized, or be misdiagnosed in areas where dengue occurs. More details can be found at this website: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs327/en/ .

According to ESPN, this rather painful disease is not particularly lethal, with a mortality rate of less than 1 percent and acquired immunity to it once infected. The disease does carry with it an increased risk of developing an arthritic condition, though.

The Americas chikungunya epidemic is continuing to spread, rising from seven cases in St. Martin in November to half a million cases throughout the region with most centered in the Caribbean, a major area for Major League Baseball player development. The Dominican Republic has been hit particularly hard, with an epidemic of over 300,000 cases since it appeared on the island in April. At the moment, one out of every 40 people in the country has been infected, and that number is still growing.
 

Things are not so worrying in the United States, where most people suffering from the disease contracted it while on vacation or on missions. At least four cases of localized infections have occurred in Florida, and mosquitoes have tested positive for the disease in Texas, but it is important to note that the range of the mosquito species that can transmit the disease here is limited.  

The primary driver, the yellow fever mosquito (Aedes aegypti), almost exclusively feeds on people at dawn and dusk and is found only in the most southern regions of states bordering the Gulf of Mexico. The secondary driver, the invasive tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus), is found throughout the Southeast, Midwest and up along the Appalachians, dog-legging out to Long Island. This second species is a poor vector for chikungunya, however, even though it feeds throughout the day. This mosquito does not exclusively bite humans, according to ESPN.

Further inhibiting the spread in the United States is that diseases that are so reliant on person-to-person infection through mosquitoes tend to do poorly when a society uses air conditioning. A study on a dengue fever outbreak along the Texas-Mexico border showed that the air-conditioned Texas side had an infection rate one-seventh of that seen in Mexico.

The researchers concluded the primary difference between the two populations was simply the ability to close off a home from the outside world with air conditioning, preventing mosquitoes from spreading the disease as easily. More details can be located at this website: http://espn.go.com/blog/sweetspot/post/_/id/50537/how-chikungunya-may-impact-baseball .

According to CNN, however, usually about 25 to 28 infected travelers bring it to the United States each year. And, a new case recently reported in Florida represents the first time that mosquitoes themselves are thought to have transferred the disease within the continental United States. Those with weak immune systems, such as the elderly, are more likely to suffer from the virus' side effects than those who are healthier. About 60% to 90% of those infected will have symptoms.

The ecological makeup of the United States supports the spread of an illness such as this, especially in the tropical areas of Florida and other Southern states, according to the CDC.
The other concern is the type of mosquito that carries the illness. Unlike most mosquitoes that breed and prosper outside from dusk to dawn, the chikungunya virus is most often spread to people  by mosquitoes which are most active during the day, which makes it difficult to use the same chemical mosquito control measures.

These are the same mosquitoes that transmit the virus that causes dengue fever. The disease is transmitted from mosquito to human, human to mosquito and so forth. A female mosquito of this type lives three to four weeks and can bite someone every three to four days. Health experts recommend people remember the mosquito-control basics:

·         Use bug spray if you are going out, especially in tropical or wooded areas near water.
·         Get rid of standing water in empty plastic pools, flower pots, pet dishes and gutters to eliminate mosquito breeding grounds.
·         Wear long sleeves and pants.


According to the Florida Department of Health, An infected person will typically become ill three to seven days after the mosquito bite, but symptoms can begin anywhere from two to 12 days post-bite. These symptoms can last 3-10 days. Up to 28% of people who are infected will not have any symptoms (asymptomatic), although they can still be infectious to mosquitoes for a short time if bitten. Persons at greatest risk for severe illness include newborn infants, those over 65 years of age, and those who have other health conditions. Treatment is symptomatic or supportive. Symptoms may include the following:

·         Sudden high fever (usually >102ยบ F) which may be continuous or intermittent
·         Severe joint pain that commonly involves the hands and feet
·         Joint swelling
·         Back pain
·         Rash usually 2-5 days after fever starts

Other symptoms may include headache, body ache, nausea, vomiting, and redness around the eyes. In unusual cases, infection can involve the brain, eyes, heart, kidney and other organs.

Fatal infections are rare, however many patients have chronic joint pain, arthritis, loss of energy and depression lasting weeks to years. More details on chikungunya can be found at this website: http://www.floridahealth.gov/diseases-and-conditions/mosquito-borne-diseases/chikungunya.html .

Watching out for areas where mosquitoes breed is critical to avoiding this disease. Following standard procedures in those areas can help prevent acquiring chikungunya. Avoiding travel to certain hot spots is also advised. Since there is no cure, anyone infected should immediately seek medical attention, especially if they have any underlying health or immunity issues. Be careful when you may be exposed to mosquitoes, and learn to take common sense precautions.

Until next time.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Health Care and Essential Oils

Complementary alternative medicine has been offered by health care providers and holistic practitioners as an answer to help resolve certain maladies that people want as options to be treated versus traditional medicine. One of those methodologies is the use of essential oils. Essential oils have been used for thousands of years for their health, cosmetic, and emotionally uplifting properties. Primarily extracted through careful steam distillation, but also through cold pressing, the purest essential oils are far more powerful and effective than dry herbs, delivering quick and effective results.

According to www.YoungLiving.com, while some essential oils may uplift the spirits, others may empower you to release negative thoughts and habits. Essential oils can be your key to a more fulfilling and balanced emotional life. Modern lifestyles don’t always create optimal conditions for physical wellness. Poor diet, lack of exercise, and an overabundance of environmental toxins can leave the body unbalanced and diminish energy levels. From cleansing and weight management to supporting every system of the body, essential oils and essential oil-infused supplements can provide the targeted solutions you need to restore balance and feel your best.

Incense and essential oils from plants have always played an important part in religious and spiritual ceremonies, helping participants to transcend the trivial and connect with something larger than themselves. Research shows that the pure constituents in these oils stimulate olfactory receptors and activate regions in the brain’s limbic system associated with memory, emotion, and state of mind. For more detailed information on essential oils, visit this website: http://www.youngliving.com/en_US/discover/guide/about .

Essential oils are non water-based phytochemicals made up of volatile aromatic compounds. Although they are fat soluble, they do not include fatty lipids or acids found in vegetable and animal oils. Essential oils are very clean, almost crisp, to the touch and are immediately absorbed by the skin. Pure, unadulterated essential oils are translucent and range in color from crystal clear to deep blue, according to this website: http://www.doterra.com/us/essentialDefinition.php .

In addition to their intrinsic benefits to plants and being beautifully fragrant to people, essential oils have been used throughout history in many cultures for their medicinal and therapeutic benefits. Modern scientific study and trends toward more holistic approaches to wellness are driving a revival and new discovery of essential oil health applications.

According to www.DoTerra.com, topical application of essential oils can have immediate, localized benefit to the target area. They have restorative and calming properties and can be used effectively with massage and beauty therapy. They are also natural disinfectants. The chemical structure of essential oils also allows them to be absorbed into the bloodstream via the skin for internal benefit throughout the body.

Essential oils can also be used as dietary supplements supporting a variety of healthy conditions. Some essential oils have powerful antioxidant properties while others help support healthy inflammatory response in cells. Many essential oils are generally regarded as being safe for dietary use, but some oils should not be taken internally. Do not use any essential oil product internally that does not have the appropriate dietary supplement facts on its label.

Using essential oils can be both profoundly simple and life changing at the same time. Working with someone who has used essential oils before will help first-time users have a more beneficial and enjoyable experience. A large amount of information is readily available for those desiring to increase their knowledge of essential oil applications.

(Be sure to use only 100 percent pure, therapeutic-grade essential oils and follow all label warnings and instructions. Essential oils should not be used in the eyes, inside the ear canal, or in open wounds. If redness or irritation occurs when using essential oils topically, apply any vegetable oil, such as fractionated coconut oil or olive oil, to the affected area. Consult your physician before using essential oils if you are pregnant or under a doctor's care.)

According to www.CrunchyBetty.com, here are the top 7 essential oils to consider when you want to start using them in your personal care products or homemade cleaning supplies:

·         Peppermint (good for lip balms, oily/acneic skin, and cleaning products)
·         Rosemary (good for hair preparations, oily/acneic skin, and cleaning products)
·         Sweet orange (good for all skin types and very soothing in room sprays for children)
·         Rose geranium (good for all skin types, creating perfumes, and for use in homemade moisturizers)
·         Tea tree (great for healing, getting rid of dandruff, oily/acneic skin, and cleaning products)
·         Lavender (great for all skin types, for relaxation, hair preparations, and cleaning products)
·         Lemon (great for lifting moods, cleaning preparations, and sparingly in toners and products for oily skin)

All of these essential oils also happen to be some of the least expensive and easiest to find. Here are some references for learning more about how to safely and effectively use essential oils in skincare, aromatherapy, and cleaning products: 

·         Aromaweb.com is the best source for all things aromatherapy on the internet
·         Wavelengths Natural Health has an abundance of information on essential oil profiles and aromatherapy
·         All of the essential oil profiles on Mountain Rose Herbs.com contain descriptions, usage, and precautions
·         The book Aromatherapy: Soothing Remedies to Restore, Rejuvenate, and Heal contains an incredible amount of level-headed knowledge and recipes using essential oils
·         The Essential Oils Book by Colleen K. Dodt is small, but chock full of great info
·         And The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy is one last book to look for when learning more (and for more great recipes)

According to this website: http://www.crunchybetty.com/21-things-you-should-know-about-essential-oils , there is much more detailed information on essential oils, including 21 Things You Should Know About Using Essential Oils.

Essential oils have many affects on the human body, most of which are very therapeutic when used in correct application. It also makes sense to talk with your family physician about the use of essential oils, especially if you have certain health or medical conditions that may be affected by their use. Most individuals are not adversely affected, but it always makes sense to research what is best for you.

Until next time.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Health Care and Ebola Virus

The current deadly disease du jour is the Ebola Virus, primarily because it is currently receiving worldwide attention for an outbreak in West Africa. The World Health Organization (WHO) and other groups have designated the situation there as extremely critical and very dangerous. That status is likely not to change for the better anytime soon as there is now an apparent epidemic in several countries in Africa that are experiencing a rapid expansion of new cases.

Don’t be deceived. Ebola is indeed deadly as there is no known cure for it. The current mortality rate is extremely high of people who have contracted the virus, believed to have originated in bats. The exact source is not known, but it is in form similar to another disease that has been determined by health experts to have the same type of origination.  

According to WHO, Ebola first appeared in 1976, in 2 simultaneous outbreaks, in Nzara, Sudan, and in Yambuku, Democratic Republic of Congo. The latter was in a village situated near the Ebola River, from which the disease takes its name. Here are a few key facts about the disease:

·         Ebola virus disease (EVD), formerly known as Ebola haemorrhagic fever, is a severe, often fatal illness in humans.
·         EVD outbreaks have a case fatality rate of up to 90%.
·         EVD outbreaks occur primarily in remote villages in Central and West Africa, near tropical rainforests.
·         The virus is transmitted to people from wild animals and spreads in the human population through human-to-human transmission.
·         Fruit bats of the Pteropodidae family are considered to be the natural host of the Ebola virus.
·         Severely ill patients require intensive supportive care. No licensed specific treatment or vaccine is available for use in people or animals.

EVD is a severe acute viral illness often characterized by the sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat, according to WHO. This is followed by vomiting, diarrhea, rash, impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding. Laboratory findings include low white blood cell and platelet counts and elevated liver enzymes.
 
People are infectious as long as their blood and secretions contain the virus.  The incubation period, that is, the time interval from infection with the virus to onset of symptoms, is 2 to 21 days. Much more info on this situation can be found at the WHO website: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs103/en/ .

Accroding to the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC), in Africa confirmed cases of Ebola HF have been reported in these countries:

·         Guinea
·         Liberia
·         Sierra Leone
·         Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)
·         Gabon
·         South Sudan
·         Ivory Coast
·         Uganda
·         Republic of the Congo (ROC)
·         South Africa (imported)

During outbreaks of Ebola HF, those at highest risk include health care workers and the family and friends of an infected individual. Health care workers in Africa should consult the Infection Control for Viral Hemorrhagic Fevers In the African Health Care Setting to learn how to prevent and control infections.

When cases of the disease do appear, there is increased risk of transmission within health care settings, reported by the CDC. Therefore, health care workers must be able to recognize a case of Ebola HF and be ready to employ practical viral hemorrhagic fever isolation precautions or barrier nursing techniques. They should also have the capability to request diagnostic tests or prepare samples for shipping and testing elsewhere. Barrier nursing techniques include:

·         Wearing of protective clothing (such as masks, gloves, gowns, and goggles).
·         The use of infection-control measures (such as complete equipment sterilization and routine use of disinfectant).
·         Isolation of Ebola HF patients from contact with unprotected persons.

The aim of all of these techniques is to avoid contact with the blood or secretions of an infected patient. If a patient with Ebola HF dies, it is equally important that direct contact with the body of the deceased patient be prevented, according to the CDC. Significant info can also be found at this website: http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/prevention/index.html .

The current situation with the Ebola outbreak in West Africa is still evolving with continued high death rates close to 1,000 individuals over the past few months. However, except for two health care workers flown to the United States for special treatment, there are no known existing cases of infected Ebola victims in the country. The situation with those medical missionaries was extremely unique and merited special favor for treatment. Fortunately, though still in less than desirable condition, they are showing signs of recovery. Both individuals were administered a serum while still in Africa that has shown incredible results.

According to CNN Health, the experimental drug, known as ZMapp, was developed by the biotech firm Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc., which is based in San Diego. The patients were told that the treatment had never been tried before in a human being but had shown promise in small experiments with monkeys.

The process by which the medication was made available to the two patients under treatment now is highly unusual. World Health Organization spokesman Gregory Hartl cautioned that health authorities "cannot start using untested drugs in the middle of an outbreak, for various reasons."

And, Doctors Without Borders similarly weighed in on the side of caution. "It is important to keep in mind that a large-scale provision of treatments and vaccines that are in very early stages of development has a series of scientific and ethical implications," the organization said in a statement. "As doctors, trying an untested drug on patients is a very difficult choice since our first priority is to do no harm, and we would not be sure that the experimental treatment would do more harm than good."

According to CNN Health, ZMapp has not been approved for human use and has not even gone through the clinical trial process, which is standard to prove the safety and efficacy of a medication. It may have been given under the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's "compassionate use" regulation, which allows access to investigational drugs outside clinical trials.
 
Getting approval for compassionate use is often long and laborious, but in the case of the medical missionaries now being treated in a special infectious disease unit of Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia, they received the medication within seven to 10 days of their exposure to the Ebola virus. Although the new serum shows promise, it is not authorized yet for use in every patient. The drug is still considered highly experimental. Much more info can be found at this website: http://www.cnn.com/2014/08/04/health/experimental-ebola-serum/ .

Ebola is deadly, and can be contracted under circumstances as outlined in this blog. However, even though there is merit for concern, wide spread fear mongering and disinformation is uncalled for within the media and general public. Knowing about the disease and how you can be infected is significant in your understanding of Ebola. The probability of a similar outbreak in the US is very remote at the present time.  That being said, always be vigilant in your interactions with anyone who appears ill for any reason, or who may have recently traveled to areas of the world with high rates of infected population.

Until next time.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Health Care and Bug Bites

Summer time is an idyllic time of year. The temperatures are warm, if not hot; and you can be involved in so many activities outdoors that it may be you just don’t have time to do everything you want to do. You can go on vacation with the family because school is out for a few months, and you can travel almost anywhere without worrying too much about bad weather.

You can go to the beach, go swimming at the lake, lay out in your backyard to work on your tan. You can work outside in the yard, or take a hike in the mountains or the woods. There are just so many fun things to do during the warmer months—except deal with bug bites.

Because you are more exposed during the Spring, Summer, and Fall seasons, and you usually are wearing less clothing during this time of the year, you’re more than likely going to get bitten by those pesky little creatures typically lumped into the same category called “BUGS.” They consist of mosquitoes, ants, bees, wasps, spiders, chiggers, and a host of other creepy, crawly, flying, biting kinds of insects. Most of time, the bites are not deadly--just inconvenient and a nuisance.

The bites usually itch and cause some swelling, depending on the type of bite. However, if you are allergic to certain types of insects, the problem could be worse. For example, people who have a low tolerance for certain types of flying insects, a sting from a bee or wasp could be life threatening if the reaction is severe. Bites from certain types of spiders can be very bad if they are in a class of poisonous arachnids.

There are many different types of insects that bite or sting, according to EveryDayHealth.com. Some bites and stings, like those from fire ants, wasps, hornets, and bees, are painful. Some can also spread illnesses, such as Lyme disease (black-legged tick), Rocky Mountain spotted fever (dog or wood tick), and West Nile virus (mosquito).  

The bites of other bugs, such as mosquitoes, mites, and fleas, are itchy and uncomfortable, but usually harmless. Learning to identify a bug bite by how it looks and feels will help you know whether to seek medical attention immediately or treat the skin bump at home. Much more detailed information can be found at this website: http://www.everydayhealth.com/skin-and-beauty-photos/how-to-identify-common-bug-bites.aspx .

According to HealthLine.com, if you are bitten or stung, you may see or feel the insect on your skin during the attack. Some victims do not notice the insect and are not aware of a bite or sting until one or more of the following symptoms emerge:

·         swelling, which may be concentrated in the affected area or may spread throughout the body
·         redness or rash
·         pain in the affected area or muscular pain
·         itching
·         heat on and around the site of the bite or sting
·         numbness or tingling in the affected area

Symptoms of a severe reaction requiring immediate medical treatment include:

·         fever
·         difficulty breathing
·         nausea or vomiting
·         muscle spasms
·         rapid heartbeat
·         swelling of the lips and throat
·         confusion
·         loss of consciousness

If you feel ill or experience flu-like symptoms in the days following an insect bite, see your physician for tests to rule out infections or diseases you may have contracted from the insect. More details can be found at this site: http://www.healthline.com/health/bug-bites.

According to KidsHealth.org, in the case of a systemic reaction, the person may break out in hives. Other symptoms can include wheezing; shortness of breath; rapid heartbeat; faintness; and swelling of the face, lips, throat, or tongue. If a person has these symptoms, call 911 immediately. If an epinephrine auto-injector (EpiPen) is available, it should be used right away. It hardly ever happens, but severe allergic reactions to bee and wasp stings can be fatal if the person doesn't get medical help. Much more detailed info can be found at this site: http://kidshealth.org/teen/safety/first_aid/bug_bites.html .

Although the warm months are when bugs seem to be at their feistiest, you can also get them from bed bugs and other inside varmints during any time of the year. According to the National Institutes for Health (NIH), in the United States, some mosquitoes spread West Nile Virus. Travelers outside the United States may be at risk for malaria and other infections. To prevent insect bites and their complications:

·         Don't bother insects.
·         Use insect repellant.
·         Wear protective clothing.
·         Be careful when you eat outside because food attracts insects.
·         If you know you have severe allergic reactions to insect bites, carry an emergency epinephrine kit.

Pesky bugs like fleas can bite any time, winter or summer. Fleas are small insects that feed on the blood of humans, dogs, cats, and other warm-blooded animals. Pet owners may not be bothered by fleas until after the pet is gone for a long period of time. Fleas look for other sources of food and begin to bite humans. Bites often occur around the waist, ankles, armpits, and in the bend of the elbows and knees. If you get a flea infestation, you need to treat the affected areas.

The goal of treatment is to get rid of the fleas. This can be done by treating your home, pets, and outside areas with chemicals (pesticides). Small children should not be in the home when pesticides are being used. Birds and fish must be protected when chemicals are sprayed. Home foggers and flea collars do not always work to get rid of fleas. If home treatments do not work, you may need to get professional pest control help.

You can use an over-the-counter 1% hydrocortisone to relieve itching. Antihistamines you take by mouth may also help with itching. Here is a site for more detailed material on this subject: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/insectbitesandstings.html .

Many bug bites can be treated with over the counter medications. Talk with your local pharmacist or your doctor for simple solutions. If your reaction is more severe, you may wish to notify your allergist for suggestions and medications. Critical, life threatening reactions should be handled immediately by calling emergency responders. If you or a loved one has this type of possible outcome, be vigilant in your preventive measures to avoid contact with bugs that bite.

Until next time.