DiversityNursing Blog

'Kissing Bug' Now Spreading Tropical Disease in U.S.

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Wed, Nov 05, 2014 @ 11:52 AM

By Steven Reinberg

kissing bug

Residents of the southern United States may be at risk for a parasitic infection that can lead to severe heart disease and death, three new studies suggest.

Chagas disease, which is transmitted by "kissing bugs" that feed on the faces of humans at night, was once thought limited to Mexico, Central America and South America.

That's no longer the case, the new research shows.

"We are finding new evidence that locally acquired human transmission is occurring in Texas," said Melissa Nolan Garcia, a research associate at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and the lead author of two of the three studies.

Garcia is concerned that the number of infected people in the United States is growing and far exceeds the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's estimate of 300,000.

In one pilot study, her team looked at 17 blood donors in Texas who tested positive for the parasite that causes Chagas disease.

"We were surprised to find that 36 percent had evidence of being a locally acquired case," she said. "Additionally, 41 percent of this presumably healthy blood donor population had heart abnormalities consistent with Chagas cardiac disease."

The CDC, however, still believes most people with the disease in the United States were infected in Mexico, Central and South America, said Dr. Susan Montgomery, of the agency's parasitic diseases branch.

"There have been a few reports of people becoming infected with these bugs here in the United States," she said. "We don't know how often that is happening because there may be cases that are undiagnosed, since many doctors would not think to test their patients for this disease. However, we believe the risk of infection is very low."

Maybe so, but kissing bugs -- blood-sucking insects called triatomine bugs -- are found across the lower half of the United States, according to the CDC. The insects feed on animals and people at night.

The feces of infected bugs contains the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi, which can enter the body through breaks in the skin. Chagas disease can also be transmitted through blood.

It's a silent killer, Garcia said. People don't feel sick, so they don't seek care, but it causes heart disease in about 30 percent of those who get infected, she said.

In another study, Garcia's team collected 40 insects in 11 Texas counties. They found that 73 percent carried the parasite and half of those had bitten humans as well as other animals, such as dogs, rabbits and raccoons.

A third study found that most people infected with Chagas aren't treated.

For that project, Dr. Jennifer Manne-Goehler, a clinical fellow at Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, collected data on nearly 2,000 people whose blood tested positive for Chagas.

Her team found that only 422 doses of medication for the infection were given by the CDC from 2007 to 2013. "This highlights an enormous treatment gap," Manne-Goehler said in a news release.

The findings of all three studies, published recently in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, were to be presented Tuesday in New Orleans at the annual meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.

Symptoms of Chagas can range from none to severe with fever, fatigue, body aches and serious cardiac and intestinal complications.

"Physicians should consider Chagas when patients have swelling and enlargement of the heart not caused by high blood pressure, diabetes or other causes, even if they do not have a history of travel," Garcia said.

However, the two treatments for this disease are "only available [in the United States] via an investigative drug protocol regulated by the CDC," Garcia said. They are not yet approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Efforts are under way to develop other treatments for Chagas disease, Montgomery said.

"Several groups have made some exciting progress in drug development," she said, "but none have reached the point where they can be used to treat patients in regular clinical practice."

Source: health.usnews.com

Topics: health, healthcare, nurses, CDC, medical, medicine, treatment, hospitals, practice, infection, bug, tropical disease, clinical, kissing bug

Will Overpopulation Lead To Public Health Catastrophe?

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Wed, Oct 29, 2014 @ 02:39 PM

By David McNamee

four babies on a blanket

A new report finds that by 2100, there will be more people alive on the planet than has ever previously been predicted. We investigate what the consequences these extra bodies may have for maintaining public health.

The potentially catastrophic consequences of an exponentially growing global population is a favorite subject for writers of dystopian fiction.

The most recent example, Utopia - a forthcoming David Fincher-directed series for HBO - won critical acclaim in its original incarnation on UK television for its depiction of a conspiracy-laden modern world where the real threat to public health is not Ebola or other headline-friendly communicable viruses, but overpopulation.

Fears over the ever-expanding number of human bodies on our planet are not new and have been debated by researchers and policy makers for decades, if not centuries. However, recent research by University of Washington demographer Prof. Adrian Raftery - using modern statistical modeling and the latest data on population, fertility and mortality - has found that previous projections on population growth may have been conservative.

"Our new projections are probabilistic, and we find that there will probably be between 9.6 and 12.3 billion people in 2100," Prof. Raftery told Medical News Today. "This projection is based on a statistical model that uses all available past data on fertility and mortality from all countries in a systematic way, unlike previous projections that were based on expert assumptions."

Prof. Raftery's figure places up to an additional 5 billion people more on the Earth by 2100 than have been previously calculated.

A key finding of the study is that the fertility rate in Africa is declining much more slowly than has been previously estimated, which Prof. Raftery tells us "has major long-term implications for population."

Fertility rates declining more slowly in Africa than previously reported

A 2003 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report found that, in sub-Saharan Africa, both fertility and mortality rates were high, with the proportion of people aged over 65 expected to remain small, increasing from an estimated 2.9% in 2000 to 3.7% in 2030.

The CDC report notes that fertility rates declined in developing countries during the preceding 30 years, following a 20th century trend among developed countries. The pattern established by developed countries - and presumed to follow in developing countries - was that countries shift from high fertility and high mortality rates to low fertility and delayed mortality.

This transition starts with declining infant and childhood mortality as a result of improved public health measures. Improvements in infant and childhood mortality contribute to longer life expectancy and a younger population.

This trend of adults living longer, healthier lives is typically followed by a decline in fertility rates. The CDC report suggested that by 2030, there would be similar proportions of younger and older people in developing countries, by that point mirroring the age distribution in developed countries circa 1990.

Prof. Raftery's research, however, notes that in Nigeria - Africa's most populous country - each woman has an average of six children, and in the last 5 years, the child mortality rate has fallen from 136 per 1,000 live births to 117. This works out as a population increase of 20 people per square mile over the same timespan.

How will population growth affect developing countries?

But what does this mean for countries where the public health system is already stretched to breaking point - as has been demonstrated by the recent Ebola epidemic?

"Rapid population growth is likely to increase the burden on the public health service proportionally," answered Prof. Raftery.

"There are already big public health needs and challenges in high-fertility countries, and rapid population growth will make it even harder to meet them." However, if the fertility rate declines faster, Prof. Raftery suggests that high-fertility countries can reap "a demographic dividend."

He explained:

"This is a period of about a generation during which the number of dependents (children and old people) is small. This frees up resources for public health, education, infrastructure and environmental protection, and can make it easier for the economy to grow. This can happen even while the population is still increasing."

Does this suggest that an increasing population is not quite as much of a threat, but that it is more specifically the accelerations and decelerations in fertility rates that provide warning signs to future public health crises?

"Following a long run of an increasing human population growth rate, over the past half century the rate has been halved from about 2% to about 1%," Darryl Holman, professor of biological anthropology at the University of Washington, explained to MNT.

"The turnaround is quite remarkable," he said. "But as long as the growth rate remains positive, our species will eventually reach numbers and densities where technological solutions cannot ameliorate resource scarcity."

High population density leads to a much higher rate of contact between humans, which means that communicable diseases - ranging from the common cold to Dengue fever - can be much more easily transmitted.

And more people means greater efforts are needed to control waste management and provide clean water. If these needs cannot be adequately met, then diarrheal diseases become much more common, resulting in what Prof. Holman described to the University of Washington's news website The Daily UW as a "huge, huge, huge difference in mortality rates."

Taking a more general view, "the anticipated increase in the number of older persons will have dramatic consequences for public health, the health care financing and delivery systems, informal caregiving, and pension systems," wrote the authors of the CDC's 2003 report.

Overpopulation and the environment

"Can we assume that life on earth as we know it can continue no matter what the environmental conditions?," asked the authors of a 2001 Johns Hopkins School of Public Health report on the health consequences of population growth.

The Johns Hopkins report quoted figures demonstrating that unclean water and poor sanitation kill over 12 million people every year, while air pollution kills 3 million. In 64 of 105 developing countries, population has grown faster than food supplies.

By 2025, the report claimed, humankind could be using over 90% of all available freshwater, leaving just 10% for the world's plants and animals.

Prof. Holman summarizes the writings of experts Joel Cohen, E.O. Wilson, Paul Ehrlich and Ronald Lee, who have argued that the consequences of long-term environmental degradation - "specifically rising sea levels, disruption of agriculture and the increased frequency of extreme weather events resulting from anthropogenic climate change, exacerbated by resource scarcity" - create social problems that lead to social unrest.

With more people living together than ever before, it seems inevitable that this compounded social unrest would lead to increased warfare and fighting for resources.

According to the Johns Hopkins researchers, about half of the world's population currently occupies a coastal strip 200 kilometers wide - which means that 50% of us are squeezed together on just 10% of the world's land surface.

The projected flooding of these coastal regions as a result of global warming and rising sea levels could displace millions of people, result in widespread droughts and disrupt agriculture.

The Johns Hopkins team identified two main courses of action to divert these potential disasters.

Firstly - sustainable development. The report authors argued this should include:

  • More efficient use of energy
  • Managing cities better
  • Phasing out subsidies that encourage waste
  • Managing water resources and protecting freshwater sources
  • Harvesting forest products rather than destroying forests
  • Preserving arable land and increasing food production
  • Managing coastal zones and ocean fisheries
  • Protecting biodiversity hotspots.

The second vital area of action is the stabilization of population through good-quality family planning, which "would buy time to protect natural resources."

How to reduce fertility in a morally acceptable way?

Commenting on Prof. Raftery's finding that we may be welcoming an additional 5 billion individuals onto the planet by 2100 than had previously been estimated - a potential global population of 12.3 billion people - Prof. Holman admits that "it is difficult to know what the public health effects will be."

He explains:

"By then, we may see severe petroleum and fresh water resource shortages, climate changes that affect agriculture patterns that, in turn, affect food supplies. Reducing fertility in socially and morally acceptable ways seems like one public health strategy to avoid - or at least postpone - testing some of these limits."

In Utopia, a sinister governmental organization proposes to sterilize a large percentage of the population by rolling out a secretly modified vaccine in response to a manufactured flu pandemic. Obviously, that is not a socially or morally acceptable strategy for reducing fertility - but what is?

Experts consider boosting the education of girls in developing countries to be a prime solution.

As well as acquiring more control over their reproductive life, an educated female workforce should have more opportunities of employment and of earning a living wage. Studies report that the children of educated women also have better chances of survival and will become educated themselves. This pattern continuing across generations is associated with a decline in fertility rates.

A 2011 article by the Earth Policy Institute (EPI), analyzing data from the United Nations (UN), states that "countries in which more children are enrolled in school - even at the primary level - tend to have strikingly lower fertility rates."

In particular:

"Female education is especially important. Research consistently shows that women who are empowered through education tend to have fewer children and have them later. If and when they do become mothers, they tend to be healthier and raise healthier children, who then also stay in school longer. They earn more money with which to support their families, and contribute more to their communities' economic growth. Indeed, educating girls can transform whole communities."

The relationship between education, fertility and national poverty is a direct one. As the EPI authors add: "When mortality rates decline quickly but fertility rates fail to follow, countries can find it harder to reduce poverty."

The UN's 2012 Revision of the world population prospects report suggested if we make rapid reductions in family size, then it may still be possible to constrain the global population to 8 billion by 2045.

No projections are set in stone - all are contingent on what extent fertility rates will sway over the next century. And, as Prof. Holman pointed out to us, the nature of the threat posed by overpopulation has "been vigorously debated for over 200 years" with experts still not in complete accord.

For instance, in the 1980s, said Prof. Holman, the economist Julian Simon and ecologist Paul Ehrlich went on tour together, with a series of debates about the consequences of population growth.

"Ehrlich argued that continued population growth would lead to disaster for humans. Simon argued that population growth provided more people to invent new solutions to the problems confronting humans," said Prof. Holman, adding:

"Given the trends to this point, Simon has been 'more right.' One simple measure of this is mortality rates, which have decreased for most human groups. The flaw in Simon's argument may well be that we have never hit the limits of our finite earth. Positive population growth guarantees that we will, someday, hit some hard limits."

"So that," Prof. Holman concluded, "is the long term."

Source: www.medicalnewstoday.com

Topics: health, healthcare, research, disease, health care, CDC, public health, over population, future, population, people, Earth, data

Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg And Wife Donate $25 Million To Fight Ebola

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Wed, Oct 15, 2014 @ 11:34 AM

By  JAMES MARTIN

GTY mark zuckerberg facebook sk 131031 16x9 992

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Dr. Priscilla Chan are donating $25 million to the CDC Foundation to help fight the Ebola epidemic, which has taken the lives of more than 4,000 people and continues to rage out of control in West Africa.

The donation will be used for the CDC Ebola response effort in the most severely affected countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone and other areas of the world where the disease poses the greatest threat, the foundation said Tuesday.

"The Ebola epidemic is at a critical turning point," Zuckerberg said Tuesday in a statement posted on Facebook. "It has infected 8,400 people so far, but it is spreading very quickly and projections suggest it could infect 1 million people or more over the next several months if not addressed."

The CDC Foundation says the money will go towards urgent needs on the ground, including equipping community care centers, hiring and training local staff, identifying Ebola cases and tracing contacts, vehicles to be used for specimen transport, burial support, and translation services and communications -- all of which it says are vital to fighting the outbreak.

"The most important step we can take is to stop Ebola at its source," CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden said in a statement. "The sooner the world comes together to help West Africa, the safer we all will be." He said today's "significant contribution from Mark Zuckerberg and Dr. Priscilla Chan will help us rapidly advance the fight against Ebola."

Source: www.cbsnews.com

Topics: Ebola, West Africa, epidemic, Mark Zuckerberg, Dr. Priscilla Chan, CDC, Facebook, donation

New Test To Bump Up Diagnoses Of Illness In Kids

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Wed, Oct 15, 2014 @ 11:21 AM

By MIKE STOBBE

140909 enterovirus 68 1557 9d1da5c8bf0f158a07aef008e8b15565 resized 600

For more than two months, health officials have been struggling to understand the size of a national wave of severe respiratory illnesses caused by an unusual virus. This week, they expect the wave to start looking a whole lot bigger.

But that's because a new test will be speeding through a backlog of cases. Starting Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is using a new test to help the agency process four or five times more specimens per day that it has been.

The test is a yes/no check for enterovirus 68, which since August has been fingered as the cause of hundreds of asthma-like respiratory illnesses in children — some so severe the patients needed a breathing machine. The virus is being investigated as a cause of at least 6 deaths.

It will largely replace a test which can distinguish a number of viruses, but has a much longer turnaround.

The result? Instead of national case counts growing by around 30 a day, they're expected to jump to 90 or more.

But for at least a week or two, the anticipated flood of new numbers will reflect what was seen in the backlog of about 1,000 specimens from September. The numbers will not show what's been happening more recently, noted Mark Pallansch, director of the CDC's division of viral diseases.

Enterovirus 68 is one of a pack of viruses that spread around the country every year around the start of school, generally causing cold-like illnesses. Those viruses tend to wane after September, and some experts think that's what's been happening.

One of the places hardest hit by the enterovirus 68 wave was Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri. The specialized pediatric hospital was flooded with cases of wheezing, very sick children in August, hitting a peak of nearly 300 in the last week of the month.

But that kind of patient traffic has steadily declined since mid-September, said Dr. Jason Newland, a pediatric infectious diseases physician there.

"Now it's settled down" to near-normal levels, Newland said. Given the seasonality of the virus, "it makes sense it would kind of be going away," he added.

The germ was first identified in the U.S. in 1962, and small numbers of cases have been regularly reported since 1987. Because it's not routinely tested for, it may have spread widely in previous years without being identified in people who just seemed to have a cold, health officials have said.

But some viruses seem to surge in multi-year cycles, and it's possible that enterovirus surged this year for the first time in quite a while. If that's true, it may have had an unusually harsh impact because there were a large number of children who had never been infected with it before and never acquired immunity, Newland said.

Whatever the reason, the virus gained national attention in August when hospitals in Kansas City and Chicago saw severe breathing illnesses in kids in numbers they never see at that time of year.

Health officials began finding enterovirus 68. The CDC, in Atlanta, has been receiving specimens from severely ill children all over the country and doing about 80 percent of the testing for the virus. The test has been used for disease surveillance, but not treatment. Doctors give over-the-counter medicines for milder cases, and provide oxygen or other supportive care for more severe ones.

The CDC has been diagnosing enterovirus 68 in roughly half of the specimens sent in, Pallansch said. Others have been diagnosed with an assortment of other respiratory germs.

As of Friday, lab tests by the CDC have confirmed illness caused by the germ in 691 people in 46 states and the District of Columbia. The CDC is expected to post new numbers Tuesday and Wednesday.

Aside from the CDC, labs in California, Indiana, Minnesota and New York also have been doing enterovirus testing and contributing to the national count. It hasn't been determined if or when the states will begin using the new test, which was developed by a CDC team led by Allan Nix.

Meanwhile, the virus also is being eyed as possible factor in muscle weakness and paralysis in at least 27 children and adults in a dozen states. That includes at least 10 in the Denver area, and a cluster of three seen at Children's Mercy, Newland said.

Source: http://news.yahoo.com


Topics: sick, enterovirus 68, lab tests, nursing, health, healthcare, nurses, health care, CDC, children, medical, hospital

Debilitating Case of Mosquito-borne Chikungunya Reported in U.S.

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Mon, Jul 21, 2014 @ 12:54 PM

By Val Willingham and Miriam Falco

mosq resized 600

 (CNN) -- Chikungunya -- a tropical disease with a funny name that packs a wallop like having your bones crushed -- has finally taken up residence in the United States.

Ever since the first local transmission of chikungunya was reported in the Americas late last year, health officials have been bracing for the arrival of the debilitating, mosquito-borne virus in the United States. Just seven months after the first cases were found in the Caribbean, the Centers for Disease Control and Preventionreported the first locally acquired case of chikungunya in Florida.

Even though chikungunya is not on the National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System list, 31 states and two U.S. territories have reported cases of the disease since the beginning of the year. But only Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands reported locally acquired cases. All the other cases were travelers who were infected in countries where the virus was endemic and were diagnosed upon returning to the United States.

That ended Thursday, when the CDC reported a man in Florida, who had not recently traveled outside the country, came down with the illness.

As of right now, the Florida Department of Health confirmed there are at least two cases. One case is in Miami Dade County and the other is in Palm Beach County.

Its arrival did not surprise the chair of the Florida Keys Mosquito Control Board.

"It was just a matter of when. We are prepared in the Keys and have been prepared for some time to deal with chikungunya," Steve Smith said. "From what I am seeing, I'm sure there are more cases out there that we don't know about. It's really a matter of time."

The CDC is working closely with the Florida Department of Health to investigate how the patient came down with the virus. The CDC will also monitor for additional locally acquired U.S. cases in the coming weeks and months.

The virus, which can cause joint pain and arthritis-like symptoms, has been on the U.S. public health radar for some time.

Usually about 25 to 28 infected travelers bring it to the United States each year. But this new case represents the first time that mosquitoes themselves are thought to have transferred the disease within the continental United States

"The arrival of chikungunya virus, first in the tropical Americas and now in the United States, underscores the risks posed by this and other exotic pathogens," said Roger Nasci, chief of CDC's Arboviral Diseases Branch. "This emphasizes the importance of CDC's health security initiatives designed to maintain effective surveillance networks, diagnostic laboratories and mosquito control programs both in the United States and around the world."

The virus is not deadly, but it can be extremely painful, with symptoms lasting for weeks. 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, says Nasci. People infected with chikungunya will often have severe joint pain, particularly in their hands and feet, and can also quickly get very high fevers.

The good news, said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious diseases expert with Vanderbilt University in Nashville, is that the United States is more sophisticated when it comes to controlling mosquitoes than many other nations and should be able to keep the problem under control.

"We live in a largely air-conditioned environment, and we have a lot of screening (window screens, porch screens)," Shaffner said. "So we can separate the humans from the mosquito population, but we cannot be completely be isolated."

Mosquito-borne virus worries CDC

Chikungunya was originally identified in East Africa in the 1950s. Then about 10 years ago, chikungunya spread to the Indian Ocean and India, and a few years later an outbreak in northern Italy sickened about 200 people. Now at least 74 countries plus the United States are reporting local transmission of the virus.

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 byAedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus 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.

Shaffner and other 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.

Source: www.cnn.com


Topics: US, virus, illness, mosquito, Chikungunya, spread, health, disease, CDC

3 More Diagnosed With Rare Plague in Colorado

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Mon, Jul 21, 2014 @ 12:44 PM

By Reuters

bacteria resized 600

Three more people in Colorado have been diagnosed with the plague after coming in contact with an infected dog whose owner contracted a life-threatening form of the disease, state health officials said on Friday.

In all, four people were infected with the disease from the same source, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said in a statement.

Last week the department said a man in an eastern Colorado county whose dog died of the plague had been diagnosed with pneumonic plague, a rare and serious form of the disease.

The man remains hospitalized, but authorities have not released his condition.

The three people in the latest reported cases had "mild symptoms" and have fully recovered after being treated with antibiotics, the department said, adding that they are no longer contagious.

Two of the patients in the new cases contracted pneumonic plague, the department said.

Pneumonic plague is the only form of the disease that can be transmitted person-to-person, usually through infectious droplets from coughing.

The bacteria that causes plague occurs naturally in the western United States, primarily in California, New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The infected canine in Colorado likely contracted the disease from prairie dogs or rabbits, which are the primary hosts for fleas that carry the bacteria.

When an infected animal dies, the fleas spread the disease when they find another host.

Colorado has seen a total of 12 cases of humans infected with the plague over the last decade, said Jennifer House, the department's public health veterinarian.

"We usually don't see an outbreak like this related to the same source," House said.

Colorado had not had a confirmed human case of pneumonic plague since 2004, she said.

Source: http://www.foxnews.com/health

Topics: plague, Colorado, news, blog, humans, dog, health, disease, CDC, public health, infection

Last year's flu season wound up on the mild side, CDC says

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Wed, Jun 11, 2014 @ 01:00 PM

By KAREN KAPLAN

la sci sn influenza flu season recap cdc 20140 001 resized 600

Another influenza season is in the books, and overall it caused less sickness and death than flu seasons in the recent past, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Between Sept. 29, 2013, and May 17, 2014, a total of 53,471 specimens sent to U.S. labs tested positive for a flu virus. Among them, 87% were influenza A viruses, and the most common of these were versions of the H1N1 virus that prompted the swine flu epidemic in 2009. The other 13% of the confirmed specimens were influenza B viruses.

The CDC findings, which were published Thursday in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, did not estimate a total number of flu deaths for the 2013-14 flu season. But based on records kept by doctors and hospitals, researchers concluded that flu activity in the last year resulted in “lower levels of outpatient illness and mortality” compared with years when the predominant strains were versions of the H3N2 virus.

At least 96 children died of the flu in the last year, laboratory tests confirmed. Those deaths were reported in 30 states, New York City and Chicago. In about half of these cases, the patients had at least one preexisting condition, such as a neurologic disorder or a pulmonary disease, that may have made them more vulnerable to the flu.

The most striking statistic in the report is the rate of hospitalization among people between the ages of 50 and 64. Over the course of the entire flu season, the cumulative hospitalization rate for these adults was 54.3 per 100,000 people. In the previous four years, that figure has been as low as 8.1 and it never topped 40.6.

The report noted one human case of a H3N2 virus that was first spotted in pigs in 2010 and was identified in a dozen people the following year. The new case was a child from Iowa who had direct contact with pigs. The patient fully recovered, apparently without spreading it to relatives or anyone else, according to the CDC.

The vaccine for the 2014-15 flu season will be based on the same four viruses, the CDC said.

Source: latimes.com

Topics: flu, virus, CDC, vaccine

Hospitals Crack Down on Workers Refusing Flu Shots

Posted by Alycia Sullivan

Thu, Jan 17, 2013 @ 01:43 PM

fluPatients can refuse a flu shot. Should doctors and nurses have that right, too? That is the thorny question surfacing as U.S. hospitals increasingly crack down on employees who won't get flu shots, with some workers losing their jobs over their refusal.

"Where does it say that I am no longer a patient if I'm a nurse," wondered Carrie Calhoun, a longtime critical care nurse in suburban Chicago who was fired last month after she refused a flu shot.

Hospitals' get-tougher measures coincide with an earlier-than-usual flu season hitting harder than in recent mild seasons. Flu is widespread in most states, and at least 20 children have died.

Most doctors and nurses do get flu shots. But in the past two months, at least 15 nurses and other hospital staffers in four states have been fired for refusing, and several others have resigned, according to affected workers, hospital authorities and published reports.

In Rhode Island, one of three states with tough penalties behind a mandatory vaccine policy for health care workers, more than 1,000 workers recently signed a petition opposing the policy, according to a labor union that has filed suit to end the regulation.

Why would people whose job is to protect sick patients refuse a flu shot? The reasons vary: allergies to flu vaccine, which are rare; religious objections; and skepticism about whether vaccinating health workers will prevent flu in patients.

Dr. Carolyn Bridges, associate director for adult immunization at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, says the strongest evidence is from studies in nursing homes, linking flu vaccination among health care workers with fewer patient deaths from all causes.

"We would all like to see stronger data," she said. But other evidence shows flu vaccination "significantly decreases" flu cases, she said. "It should work the same in a health care worker versus somebody out in the community."

Cancer nurse Joyce Gingerich is among the skeptics and says her decision to avoid the shot is mostly "a personal thing." She's among seven employees at IU Health Goshen Hospital in northern Indiana who were recently fired for refusing flu shots. Gingerich said she gets other vaccinations but thinks it should be a choice. She opposes "the injustice of being forced to put something in my body."

Medical ethicist Art Caplan says health care workers' ethical obligation to protect patients trumps their individual rights.

"If you don't want to do it, you shouldn't work in that environment," said Caplan, medical ethics chief at New York University's Langone Medical Center. "Patients should demand that their health care provider gets flu shots - and they should ask them."

For some people, flu causes only mild symptoms. But it can also lead to pneumonia, and there are thousands of hospitalizations and deaths each year. The number of deaths has varied in recent decades from about 3,000 to 49,000.

A survey by CDC researchers found that in 2011, more than 400 U.S. hospitals required flu vaccinations for their employees and 29 hospitals fired unvaccinated employees.

At Calhoun's hospital, Alexian Brothers Medical Center in Elk Grove Village, Ill., unvaccinated workers granted exemptions must wear masks and tell patients, "I'm wearing the mask for your safety," Calhoun says. She says that's discriminatory and may make patients want to avoid "the dirty nurse" with the mask.

The hospital justified its vaccination policy in an email, citing the CDC's warning that this year's flu outbreak was "expected to be among the worst in a decade" and noted that Illinois has already been hit especially hard. The mandatory vaccine policy "is consistent with our health system's mission to provide the safest environment possible."

The government recommends flu shots for nearly everyone, starting at age 6 months. Vaccination rates among the general public are generally lower than among health care workers.

According to the most recent federal data, about 63 percent of U.S. health care workers had flu shots as of November. That's up from previous years, but the government wants 90 percent coverage of health care workers by 2020.

The highest rate, about 88 percent, was among pharmacists, followed by doctors at 84 percent, and nurses, 82 percent. Fewer than half of nursing assistants and aides are vaccinated, Bridges said.

Some hospitals have achieved 90 percent but many fall short. A government health advisory panel has urged those below 90 percent to consider a mandatory program.

Also, the accreditation body over hospitals requires them to offer flu vaccines to workers, and those failing to do that and improve vaccination rates could lose accreditation.

Starting this year, the government's Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is requiring hospitals to report employees' flu vaccination rates as a means to boost the rates, the CDC's Bridges said. Eventually the data will be posted on the agency's "Hospital Compare" website.

Several leading doctor groups support mandatory flu shots for workers. And the American Medical Association in November endorsed mandatory shots for those with direct patient contact in nursing homes; elderly patients are particularly vulnerable to flu-related complications. The American Nurses Association supports mandates if they're adopted at the state level and affect all hospitals, but also says exceptions should be allowed for medical or religious reasons.

Mandates for vaccinating health care workers against other diseases, including measles, mumps and hepatitis, are widely accepted. But some workers have less faith that flu shots work - partly because there are several types of flu virus that often differ each season and manufacturers must reformulate vaccines to try and match the circulating strains.

While not 100 percent effective, this year's vaccine is a good match, the CDC's Bridges said.

Several states have laws or regulations requiring flu vaccination for health care workers but only three - Arkansas, Maine and Rhode Island - spell out penalties for those who refuse, according to Alexandra Stewart, a George Washington University expert in immunization policy and co-author of a study appearing this month in the journal Vaccine.

Rhode Island's regulation, enacted in December, may be the toughest and is being challenged in court by a health workers union. The rule allows exemptions for religious or medical reasons, but requires unvaccinated workers in contact with patients to wear face masks during flu season. Employees who refuse the masks can be fined $100 and may face a complaint or reprimand for unprofessional conduct that could result in losing their professional license.

Some Rhode Island hospitals post signs announcing that workers wearing masks have not received flu shots. Opponents say the masks violate their health privacy.

"We really strongly support the goal of increasing vaccination rates among health care workers and among the population as a whole," but it should be voluntary, said SEIU Healthcare Employees Union spokesman Chas Walker.

Supporters of health care worker mandates note that to protect public health, courts have endorsed forced vaccination laws affecting the general population during disease outbreaks, and have upheld vaccination requirements for schoolchildren.

Cases involving flu vaccine mandates for health workers have had less success. A 2009 New York state regulation mandating health care worker vaccinations for swine flu and seasonal flu was challenged in court but was later rescinded because of a vaccine shortage. And labor unions have challenged individual hospital mandates enacted without collective bargaining; an appeals court upheld that argument in 2007 in a widely cited case involving Virginia Mason Hospital in Seattle.

Calhoun, the Illinois nurse, says she is unsure of her options.

"Most of the hospitals in my area are all implementing these policies," she said. "This conflict could end the career I have dedicated myself to."

--

Online:

R.I. union lawsuit against mandatory vaccines: http://www.seiu1199ne.org/files/2013/01/FluLawsuitRI.pdf

CDC: http://www.cdc.gov

 

 

Topics: flu, flu shot, refusal, employees, fired, lawsuit, CDC, hospital, vaccine

Nurse busts top 5 flu myths

Posted by Alycia Sullivan

Fri, Jan 11, 2013 @ 12:33 PM

by 

Video

The flu season is the meanest it has been in a decade. 

In fact, an updated map from the CDC shows the Commonwealth presently in the red zone, which is the highest category for flu cases reported in states.

Nurses at the CVS Minute Clinic said there are some myths about the flu and its vaccine.

  • #1: It is too late to get the seasonal flu shot.
  • #2: The flu shot can give you the flu.
  • #3: If you got the flu vaccine last year, you don’t have to get it again this year.
  • #4: There are serious side effects caused by the flu vaccine.
  • #5: Natural immunity or living a healthy lifestyle is better than getting immunity from the flu shot.

Watch the video above to hear why Nurse Practitioner Anne Pohnert said these are false. 

Topics: flu, myths, nurse, CDC

Recent Jobs

Article or Blog Submissions

If you are interested in submitting content for our Blog, please ensure it fits the criteria below:
  • Relevant information for Nurses
  • Does NOT promote a product
  • Informative about Diversity, Inclusion & Cultural Competence

Agreement to publish on our DiversityNursing.com Blog is at our sole discretion.

Thank you

Subscribe to Email our eNewsletter

Recent Posts

Posts by Topic

see all