It’s that time of year again. The leaves are a-changing, there is a crispness in the air, and you’re finding it impossible to NOT purchase Halloween candy that you will inevitably eat and have to buy again anyway. Oh, and your local pharmacy, Facebook feed, tv, magazines, and just about any other media outlet are reminding you to go get your flu shot.
Just a day after reading about a woman in Nevada who died from a bacterial infection resistant to EVERY SINGLE antibiotic, I discovered that my sister had just finished a course of antibiotics for an upper respiratory infection known as pharyngitis. Not all that interesting until you consider that my sister had strep test-negative pharyngitis, meaning not caused by the bacteria Streptococcus. As my palm smacked my forehead in disbelief and I attempted to explain why taking antibiotics might not have been a great idea, I said to myself, “gosh darn it Heather, you’ve got a blog, go blog.” Continue reading Our Precious Antibiotics
National vaccination coverage statistics for adolescents (13-17 years old) were recently published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Wait, wasn’t this supposed to be a cancer blog? Oh, it is–the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine prevents infection by the HPV strains that cause cancer.
In 2015, 56% of adolescents had at least 1 dose of HPV vaccine, 45% had 2 doses, and 35% had all 3 doses required for maximal protection. In comparison for the same adolescent population, 87% had a Tdap vaccine and 81% had a meningococcal vaccine.
So why the low HPV vaccination rates? Continue reading Preventing cancer in our children
Epidemiologists say there’s little worry about the impact the Olympics will play in the spread of Zika virus. While that may be true–it is winter in Rio–the virus is not there for the Olympics. The growing number of locally acquired infections in Miami highlight how restricting our attention to big, flashy events like the Olympics does a disservice to curbing this epidemic.
The most significant clinical outcomes of Zika virus infection are birth defects in babies born to infected pregnant women. While a majority of the focus to restrain Zika virus involves travel restrictions for pregnant women or women planning to become pregnant, we need to remember that the virus doesn’t seek out pregnant women. We are all susceptible and we can all contribute to minimizing the spread of Zika virus and reducing its affect on the next generation of our world. Continue reading A socialist view of the Zika epidemic
It’s no secret that I’m an unabashed and staunch supporter of vaccines. Man’s most influential medical accomplishments: vaccines, antibiotics, and water purification have all contributed to lengthening human life by reducing infectious disease. The public health implications of vaccination aren’t questioned–epidemiological data clearly show that vaccines work. Continue reading Protecting kids who can’t be vaccinated
Chances are you’ve been hearing a lot about mumps lately. If you live in the greater Boston area, The Boston Globe reports that Harvard has been hit the hardest with 13 confirmed cases. The grand total for Massachusetts so far in 2016 stands at 26 cases (and all of the U.S. at 250 cases). As we barrel towards peak season for mumps, these numbers are alarming. So what’s with all the mumps? Continue reading What’s with all the mumps?
14 years after we’ve last been fascinated by Mulder and Scully’s investigations of paranormal activities on prime time, the duo went back to work at the FBI’s X-Files in a 6-episode mini-season. This season was just enough to whet fans’ appetites with fond memories of their favorite stories (Eve, anyone?) and infuriate us with a cliffhanger ending. But it was the bookended storyline linking episodes 1 and 6, that made my scientist blood boil (FYI–just a saying, tissues would be incinerated long before blood could boil).
In a blitz of media frenzy, Charlie Sheen recently announced he is HIV positive. So, should we care?
Before saying anything else, absolutely and unequivocally: YES! Raising awareness for disease is always a good thing. Remember that ALS ice bucket challenge? Even a disease like HIV, which for the general public is a has-been, benefits from media attention. To the medical and scientific community, HIV is so much more. HIV remains the number 1 infectious disease killer and top-funded research area. Despite not yet having an effective vaccine (the Holy Grail of infectious disease if there ever was one), we’ve made enormous progress in understanding this unwieldy virus.
It’s that time of year again. The sequences are in, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have made their recommendations, and the vaccine has been prepared. As an immunologist, I’m sad to say that I know far too many people who decide to forgo their flu shots each year. When I ask why, I’ve gotten a variety of answers including:
“I never get the flu”
“I once got flu from the shot”
“The flu shot never works, it’s just a guess”
And my all-time favorite:
“My body is stronger than the flu”
I’d like to set the record straight since each of these statements is ultimately and ridiculously flawed.
For many years, we’ve known that measles virus infection messes with your immune system. During infection, you are at greater risk of infections caused by other pathogens because measles thwarts the proper immune attack. At the same time, your body makes a long-lasting response to the measles virus. This is often known as the “measles paradox”.