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Enterovirus 68 is the Respiratory Virus Packing a Punch in the Midwest

enterovirus 68 respiratory virus

A rare virus has reemerged in the Midwest hospitalizing hundreds of kids and threatening to cause an epidemic, all before the start of the actual cold and flu season. Health officials warn that while the virus is not deadly, it is crowding intensive care units across the nation.

Known as Enterovirus EV-D68 (enterovirus 68), this strain is similar to the rhinovirus which causes the common cold. The illness is marked by severe respiratory distress, particularly in children under 10 years of age whose little airways can become narrowed, characterized by a wheezing noise.

Where have the worst cases been reported?

Currently, Colorado has been hit the worst with 900 cases treated at Children’s Hospital Colorado in Denver, and that’s just since mid-August. According to the CDC, nine other states including Missouri, Kansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Iowa, Ohio, Oklahoma, Utah and Georgia have all asked for assistance in treating this virus. Pediatric intensive care units are filling up, with the worst cases being reported in children who already suffer from asthma.

First identified in the 1960s, enterovirus 68 is rare but not new. In 2009 it made a small appearance in Georgia, Pennsylvania and Arizona. What’s disconcerting is the number of cases confirmed this year alone, which already tops 1,000.  

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Diseases That Kill Versus What We Donate – Do Charities Need a Hook?

Over the past few weeks my social media timelines have been filled with celebrities, friends and family members filming themselves doing the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, a popular meme that involves either dumping ice water on your head or donating to the ALS Association (also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease) or both. To date, The ALS Association has raised over 88.5 million dollars, a significant jump from the 2.6 million raised during the same time frame last year.

donating versus death graph 1While the general public debates about whether to continue this seemingly endless loop of videos, nominations and giving, it’s definitely an interesting case study in human behavior, and why people give to certain charities.

Often, the most crippling diseases and those that take the most lives get ignored. Do they just need better PR?

This graph shows the distinction between the diseases that kill the most people in the US versus the ones garnering the most donations. While heart disease leads the pack, claiming almost 600,000 lives in 2013, it has the third largest donation pool.

While third place might not seem too bad, heart disease still gets to stand on the podium, the actual dollars donated are just a fraction of what is raised by the Komen Race for the Cure for breast cancer, the fourth largest killer.

Unless your charity has jazz hands, it’s probably not raising enough money. 

The past two decades have seen a significant jump in the way charities reach their target audience. Websites, online campaigns and social media “shares” should be  making more money for research and drug treatment across the board, but that’s not happening. Unless your disease has a good “hook,” celebrity endorsement, telethon or ongoing national campaign, you’ll only get the donations of passionate supporters.

In an article on Slate magazine, senior editor, Felix Salmon urged generous donors to contribute to charities that have more of an immediate positive effect including, “areas such as education, or clean water, or animal rescue, or the arts, or simply just giving money to poor people.”

If nothing else, hopefully the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge phenomenon will challenge and inspire other charity leaders to come up with inventive ways to raise money. For the rest of us, it’s still a good lesson in philanthropy, though maybe we need to spread our financial kindness out just a bit  more.


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Wilderness Lovers Rejoice! Poison Ivy May be Kept at Bay With Rhu Tox Treatment

If you’ve ever suffered from the itching, redness and swelling of poison ivy, you know how miserable these symptoms can be. While a host of pharmaceutical and natural products exist to aid in healing, the homeopathic solution Rhus Tox has a seen a resurgence with nature lovers. Its popularity is due in part to claims that it can create an immunity to the plant.

rhu tox

Rhu Toxicodendron (Rhu Tox) is an extract from the poison ivy plant. Compound pharmacies dilute the extract down until the final product has just enough extract to help the patient become desensitized to the plant. As a treatment, Rhu Tox is commonly given in pill form (taken under the tongue) to lessen the itchy painful rash that occurs when the sap of the plant comes in contact with skin.

As a prevention method, Rhu Tox is given in smaller doses during the off-season with the hope that the patient will build up an immunity when the plant is most active during the height of summer. In many people, even if the regimen didn’t make them completely immune, it still lessened the effects of the breakout significantly.

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Lipitor Lawsuits On the Rise as Cases of Type 2 Related Diabetes Increase

lipitor crop

Pfizer’s drug, Lipitor is well known for its cholesterol-lowering prowess. However, it’s quickly becoming known for a less pleasant reason – it may also cause type 2 diabetes and memory loss.

That’s what several women filing lawsuits against Pfizer are claiming, anyway. They say that the company knew about these harmful side effects, but failed to properly warn the public while encouraging them to buy Lipitor.

Two years ago, the FDA warned that Lipitor and other statins had been linked to memory loss and an increased risk of diabetes, though the risk was small. It was at that time that the first uptick in lawsuits against Pfizer was seen, primarily from women. Allegedly, women are more likely to develop diabetes after Lipitor use, and reap fewer benefits from taking the medication.

In the last five months alone, the number of lawsuits by women claiming Lipitor caused them to develop type 2 diabetes rocketed from 56 to almost 1000 cases.

Many are suggesting the recent jump in numbers in lawsuits against Pfizer is due to the decision to consolidate all lawsuits involving claims that Lipitor causes diabetes into one Federal courtroom. Those that opposed the decision warned it could cause “copycat” filings against the company.

Another contributing factor to the large number of suits brought against Pfizer and Lipitor is that Lipitor is the best-selling prescription drug ever. More than 29 million people in the United States have been prescribed Lipitor to help lower their cholesterol.

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IV Bars Are the Trendy New Way to Treat a Hangover. But Do They Work?

hangover iv therapy

If you’ve ever had too much to drink you know the next morning, a hangover can be a miserable reminder. Your tongue feels thick and furry, your head hurts and your stomach churns. People have time-tested remedies for curing the dreaded hangover including rest, water, Tylenol and even the Chinese buffet. Now, a few enterprising doctors want you to know you have another choice, IV Hydration. And, you don’t even have to go to a hospital to get it.

If you get squeamish around needles, particularly if they’re in your arm, you’ll probably just want to continue your Saturday morning tradition at the Chinese buffet, but if you don’t mind a little stick and you’re willing to shell out $119 – $150, this might be for you. During treatment, customers are hooked up to IV bags that contain saline solution, vitamins and other, “wellness” ingredients.

In Las Vegas, Florida, New York and other cities across the US, hydration bars have become the trendy go-to for curing not only the feelings of malaise and dehydration that come from a hangover, but also the common cold. The concept is so popular in Las Vegas, a bus called Hangover Heaven boasts that it’s served more than 20,000 patients since its inception.

hangover heaven bus

In New York, IV therapy is popular in many wellness spas because it promises to treat a number of ailments including sunburn, exhaustion, and poor nutrition.

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Doctors Looking at New Technology to Reduce the Effects and Cost of Treating Diabetes

The CDC’s latest figures indicate 29.1 million people, or 9.3% of the U.S. population, are diabetic. In 2012 alone, they estimated the costs for those diagnosed with the disease surpassed $245 billion, which puts diabetes nearly $100 billion more than the cost of cancer care.

Dr. Brett Osborn, author of Get Serious: A Neurosurgeon’s Guide to Optimal Health and Fitness, says that “More than 30% of Medicare dollars are spent on diabetics and/or related complications.”

These astounding figures have caused researchers, scientists, and tech companies to look for new and more affordable ways to reduce the costs for patients, and the effects of the disease. Here’s a look at some of the ways new technology is helping doctors and patients alike.

Smart Contact Lenses from Google

The search engine giant isn’t content with just making its Google Glass wearable heads up computer. Their latest project, dubbed Smart Contact Lenses, aims to “measure glucose levels in tears using a tiny wireless chip and miniaturized glucose sensor that are embedded between two layers of soft contact lens material. We’re testing prototypes that can generate a reading once per second.” With that kind of data, you won’t have to stop and prick yourself, collect your blood on a strip, and test for results.


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Study Finds Anesthesiologists May Be Failing To Wash Hands Before Tending to Patients

anesthesia hand washing

Today in things that make you go, “Ick” is the revelation that many anesthesiologists are failing to properly wash their hands when working with patients.

A new study suggests this lack of hand hygiene may be putting patients at risk for infections. On average, anesthesiologists have 149 “hand hygiene opportunities” per hour that a patient is under anesthesia.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) there are five hand hygiene opportunities that help in reducing the risk of infections caused by health care. The five opportunities are: before touching a patient, after touching a patient, before a clean procedure, after touching a patient’s surroundings, and after exposure to bodily fluids.

Researchers from Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center found anesthesiologists were least likely to wash their hands properly during the first and last 20 minutes of their patient being under an anesthetic. This lack of hygiene corresponds with increases in the amount of bacterial contamination of frequently touched objects in the same time period.

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New Guidelines Suggest Some Women Can Skip Invasive Annual Pelvic Exam

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For millions of teenage girls and women, the annual pelvic examination has long been considered a necessary annoyance, but now, a new study suggests that in some cases, this invasive procedure is no longer needed.

Recently, the American College of Physicians announced new guidelines that suggest non-pregnant adult women who are involved in monogamous relationships who have no prior history of disease, can skip the annual exam saying, ” A review of the exams found they rarely catch disease but are costly, uncomfortable and even embarrassing.”

As Dr. Nancy Snyderman pointed out in the video, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists remains in favor of an annual exam.

Pap smears are still important
The Pap smear test, which screens for cervical cancer, should still be completed every three to five years, unless your gynecologist instructs otherwise based on your personal medical history.

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British Study Suggests Chewing Gum May Be Beneficial For Concentration

chewing gum

Teachers who dismiss gum as a noisy, sticky classroom nuisance might want to reconsider their position. A growing number of educators believe there could be some minty value in the chewing process, and a recent study suggests chewing a stick at the right time, might actually help students concentrate.

In the past, chewing gum was considered a treat, something that was given as a reward, but certainly not considered a learning tool. Now, according to a study in the British Journal of Psychology, researchers have determined that chewing gum may help students maintain their focus for longer periods of time.

These results challenge a previously published piece in the same journal from 2012 that stated chewing gum decreased short term memory.

Educators who work with children are constantly looking for ways to help them succeed. According to Bartlesville, Oklahoma teacher, Heather Davis, the first step is realizing that every child learns in a different way. “I do allow gum because learning style research indicates that some kids need intake to learn and some need movement,” she said. “I don’t formally assess my students’ learning styles anymore, but if a kid can chew gum, make at least a 75 on the assignment, and doesn’t disturb anyone else, then they can chew it.”

Over the last few years, more and more occupational therapists, teachers, and psychologists have stepped forward to tout the benefits of chewing gum in the classroom. A few of these benefits include:

  • Increased short term memory
  • Less fidgeting
  • Heightened alertness
  • Reduces/eliminates other negative social behaviors like sucking on pencils and thumbs
  • Some children find the oral activity calming
  • Chewing helps dull background noise by activating the Eustachian tubes

Allowing children to chew gum in school, or while doing homework may be beneficial but there should be ground rules established. To avoid trading cavities for good grades, only offer up sugar-free flavors. To ensure that gum-chewing doesn’t become a concentration tool for some, but a distraction to others, tell kids they can keep chewing as long as no one else can see or hear it.

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Released Today! New Guidelines Warn About Rare Liver Disorder Associated with OTC, Herbal and Prescription Medication

medication, herbal, liver

Today, The American College of Gastroenterology (ACG) released new clinical guidelines on the diagnosis and management of idiosyncratic drug-induced liver injury (DILI). The article, featured in The American Journal of Gastroenterology, focuses on the rise in incidents of this rare adverse drug reaction that seems to correlate with the rise in herbal and dietary supplement use over the past 10 years.

The liver has an important job, it breaks down everything we swallow including food, drink and medication. To ensure their safety and efficacy, new drugs go through extensive testing before they’re released to the public, but in a small number of cases, the liver becomes susceptible to injury.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is tasked with monitoring and regulating new medication, but herbal supplements often fly under the radar.

“A lot of consumers have a preconceived notion that if it’s a natural product, it must be safe. But that is not necessarily the case,” said Herbert Bonkovsky, MD, FACG, co-author of the guidelines. “Most of these products are not well-regulated and have very little oversight. Traces of heavy metals and prescription drugs have even been found in some herbal and dietary supplements. We encourage patients to talk to their doctor about all medications they are taking, and herbal and dietary supplements should be no exception.”

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