Archive for the ‘Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’ Category

Autism and Wandering – a constant struggle

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

I have written before in this space about special needs children, including children with autism. This week I want to turn my attention to one aspect of autism – wandering – and some of the ways parents and schools are trying to keep kids safe. Wandering is something I really had not heard of before, but I’ve since learned that it is a serious danger to children with autism or other cognitive deficits. It is also a major source of stress to parents who are constantly worried about their child wandering off.

All children have a tendency to wander away from their parents at times. When my daughter was two, I lost her at Sports Authority. I thought she was standing right next to me while I was looking at something, then I looked down and she was gone. After a few frantic minutes – and with the quick help of the store employees – we found her all the way on the opposite side of the store looking at balls. She was perfectly fine, but it was terrifying for me.

For reasons that are not well understood, children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) tend to wander more than non-autistic children. As reported by the Child Mind Institute and others, a recent study by the Interactive Autism Network has finally tried to quantify what has traditionally been more anecdotal evidence about wandering.

According to the responses from more than 800 parents, roughly 50 percent of children between the ages of 4 and 10 with an ASD wander at some point, four times more than their unaffected siblings. The behavior peaks at 4, almost four times higher than their unaffected siblings, but almost 30 percent of kids with an ASD between the ages of 7 and 10 are still eloping, eight times more than their unaffected brothers and sisters.

Autistic children seem to wander for two basic reasons. One is to find something they like, such as their favorite pond or playground; and one is to get away from something they don’t like such as a stressful school environment. It’s not really running away, at least as that term is usually used to describe a child who decides to leave home because of some real or perceived injustice at home. A majority of parents in the study described their child as happy and focused when they wandered off. It is usually a matter of the child being drawn to something that he or she likes. One child referenced in the Child Mind story had a fascination with exit signs. One day at school, the boy wandered off through the woods toward the highway to find his favorite exit sign. Thankfully, a good Samaritan picked-up the boy and returned him to where he belonged.

The danger for children is very real. While concrete statistics are difficult to come by, drowning seems to be the biggest danger (there are some who believe that autistic children are drawn to water). Children can also wander into traffic. Of course, when any small child wanders alone there is the risk of getting lost or being abducted. To further complicate matters, thirty-five percent of families in the study reported that their child is never or rarely able to communicate basic identifying information such as name, address and phone number. This obviously makes it harder for a wandering child to get back home. Even older or more high-functioning children may – due to their social anxiety – be reluctant to seek out help or cooperate with someone who is trying to intervene.

Wandering represents a challenge to schools because it can be very difficult to monitor a child all day long, especially during class changes and recess. The problem, however, also occurs at home. Wandering occurs not just during the day; night-time wandering is an especially big fear for parents of autistic children. Some children have been known to get up in the middle of the night, undo the deadbolt on the front door, and walk-off into the night. The terror of finding your child gone in the middle of the night is unimaginable. Some parents have installed deadbolts higher up on the doors, some have installed alarms that go off if the door is opened. Some parents have gone so far as to have their children wear tracking devices that send out a signal that can be pin-pointed. While all of these techniques can help, there are no sure-fire methods of preventing wandering. It is a constant worry for parents.

The autism community has taken action by getting the Center for Disease Control’s safety subcommittee to assign a specific medical code for wandering, which will be in conjunction with the diagnosis of ASD. By doing this, it is hoped that doctors will more readily recognize wandering as a legitimate diagnosis that they can address with the parents or other caregivers (the new code applies to adults with ASD as well). The American Academy of Pediatrics is also preparing a fact sheet to educate doctors on the topic so that they can better work with parents to try to reduce the incidence of wandering. The new code may also make it easier for parents to seek reimbursement from their insurance companies for alarms and tracking devices, and it may make it easier for parents to argue to their schools that a one-on-one monitor is needed as part of the child’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP). The new code takes effect in October 2011.

Lori McIlwain, Chairwoman of the National Autism Association, recently discussed how to deal with wandering:

The best overall strategy is a multi-tiered approach, which includes educating the child about safety and dangers using whatever means of communication works, including social stories, language and/or visual prompts. It’s also important that caregivers—and schools—work to understand what is causing, or contributing to, the wandering or bolting behaviors so that any triggers may be addressed or eliminated.

Have any of our readers had any experience with wandering? I’d like to hear your stories as to how you deal with it and how it affects your life.

Related Nash and Associates Links:

Dogs a Huge Help to Special Needs Kids

The Daily Struggle of Raising a Disabled Child

Many Parents Still Believe Vaccines Cause Autism

 

 

Photo courtesy of: Issueswithautism.com

Coming Soon? Restored Breathing for Spinal Cord Injury Patients

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

image from msstrength.com

The online version of the journal Nature publishes an article today about a potential breakthrough in the treatment of spinal cord patients. While I do not have access to the full article, medicalnewstoday.com provides an overview of the research work. The highlight is that the researchers from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine were able to restore breathing in rodents with spinal cord injuries.

This research provides optimism for similar success in humans (clinical trials with humans are hopefully forthcoming). In the recently released studies, the scientists combined “…an old technology a peripheral nerve graft, and a new technology an enzyme” to be able to restore 80-100% of breathing function in the rodents.

Using a graft from the sciatic nerve, surgeons have been able to restore function to damaged peripheral nerves in the arms or legs for 100 years. But, they’ve had little or no success in using a graft on the spinal cord. Nearly 20 years ago, [Jerry Silver, professor of neurosciences at Case Western Reserve and senior author,] found that after a spinal injury, a structural component of cartilage, called chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans, was present and involved in the scarring that prevents axons from regenerating and reconnecting. Silver knew that the bacteria Proteus vulgaris produced an enzyme called Chondroitinase ABC, which could break down such structures. In previous testing, he found that the enzyme clips the inhibitory sugary branches of proteoglycans, essentially opening routes for nerves to grow through.

In this study, the researchers used a section of peripheral nerve to bridge a spinal cord injury at the second cervical level, which had paralyzed one-half of the diaphragm. They then injected Chondroitinase ABC. The enzyme opens passageways through scar tissue formed at the insertion site and promotes neuron growth and plasticity. Within the graft, Schwann cells, which provide structural support and protection to peripheral nerves, guide and support the long-distance regeneration of the severed spinal nerves. Nearly 3,000 severed nerves entered the bridge and 400 to 500 nerves grew out the other side, near disconnected motor neurons that control the diaphragm. There, Chondroitinase ABC prevented scarring from blocking continued growth and reinnervation.

“All the nerves hook up with interneurons and somehow unwanted activities are filtered out but signals for breathing come through,” Silver said. “The spinal cord is smart.”

Three months after the procedure, tests recording nerve and muscle activity showed that 80 to more than 100 percent of breathing function was restored. Breathing function was maintained at the same levels six months after treatment”

From medicalnewstoday.com

This could be life-changing for those spinal cord injury patients who currently need ventilators to survive. If human studies prove the efficacy of such treatment, patients would have the hope of being able to breath on their own again. Not only would this dramatically improve these patients’ quality of life, but it would also provide a dramatically improved outcome for these patients. Currently, “[r]estoration of breathing is the top desire of people with upper spinal cord injuries. Respiratory infections, which attack through the ventilators they rely on, are their top killer.”

The BBC is reporting that “[r]esearchers hope to begin trials in humans. They are also investigating whether bladder function can be restored, which can be lost when the lower spine is damaged.”

The CDC’s most recent statistics, which are a few years old, suggest that there are currently about 200,000 people in the United States who are living with spinal cord injuries. This number increases by approximately 12,000-20,000 new patients annually. If some portion of these individuals could be provided hope for breathing on their own and or regaining bladder function, their lives could be dramatically improved.

Related Articles:

Spinal Cord Injury Updates: More Reasons for Optimism?

New Treatment Holds Promise for Patients With Spinal Cord Injuries

New Microchip Promises to Make Life Much Easier for Paraplegic Patients

Can Copper Surfaces and Duct Tape Reduce Hospital Infections and Deaths?

Thursday, July 7th, 2011

Image from medgadget.com

How many times have you heard about someone entering the hospital healthy, or relatively so, and developing a dangerous infection while hospitalized? What about the number of times that you may have visited your own doctor’s office or your child’s pediatrician’s office and wondered whether the cold you got a few days later was coincidence or the result of having been in the waiting and exam rooms following other sick patients? Have you ever considered what cleaning procedures are done in hospital rooms when one patient is discharged before another takes their place?

In the past, Brian Nash and the other legal bloggers here at Eye Opener have written posts and made mention of the importance of hospital cleanliness and sterility, see the related posts below. We have been involved in cases involving the devastating results of infections. However, everyone knows that there are going to be germs in hospitals. Even the best hospitals have to work to keep the patients, rooms and visitors clean and safe.

Well, there is news that may make keeping hospitals and other health care environments less germy in the future. Two recent articles have focused on seemingly simple solutions, copper and duct tape, that may have major impacts on infection control.

Copper Surfaces Dramatically Reduce Infections by Killing Bacteria

A Reuters’ article reports that a recent study “presented at the World Health Organization’s 1st International Conference on Prevention and Infection Control (ICPIC) in Geneva, Switzerland” shows that “replacing the most heavily contaminated touch surfaces in ICUs with antimicrobial copper will control bacteria growth and cut down on infection rates.” According to the Reuters’ article:

[a]ntimicrobial copper surfaces in intensive care units (ICU) kill 97 percent of bacteria that can cause hospital-acquired infections, according to preliminary results of a multisite clinical trial in the United States. The results also showed a 40 percent reduction in the risk of acquiring an infection.

This news could have a profound impact on health-care costs, disease spread, and most importantly lives lost. If hospitals are able to replace some of their current surfaces with copper surfaces, at least in the parts of the hospital that are most frequently the source of infections, there could be a dramatic improvement in hospital-acquired infections.

Hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) are the fourth leading cause of death in the United States behind heart disease, strokes and cancer.

According to estimates provided by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, nearly one in every 20 hospitalized U.S. patients acquires an HAI, resulting in 100,000 lives lost each year.

From Reuters

Perhaps even more infections could be prevented if these changes could be made outside of just ICUs. For instance, perhaps copper surfaces could replace highly touched surfaces on sink handles, the doors to hospital rooms, hospital bed rails, or in out-patient surgery centers and long-term care facilities that are not housed within hospitals.

Duct Tape Warnings Keep Others Far Enough Away from Infected Patients

Image from ducttapesales.com

An article from Medicalnewstoday reports that some hospitals are using plain duct tape – just colored red – to achieve a reduction in infection rates from highly infectious patients without having to deal with the hassle and expense of all visitors or hospital personnel who enter the room having to rescrub and use new gowns every time they enter the room of an infected patient. The study looked at highly infectious diseases like C. diff that require isolation of patients and very careful hand washing to avoid spreading the infection. So how does duct tape help?

The Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) commissioned a study to corner off a three foot perimeter around the bed of patients in isolation. Medical personnel could enter the room unprotected if they stayed outside the perimeter. Direct patient contact or presence inside the perimeter meant a redo of the cleansing process. The concept, called “Red Box” employs red duct tape, a color used as it provides a strong visual reminder to those who enter the room to be aware.

The study found that 33% of all who entered the rooms could do so without the addition of gowns and gloves, saving the environment, hospital and patient costs, and time without compromising the patient or the medical personnel.

From Medicalnewstoday

How Else Can We Reduce Infections?

What ideas do you have for the use of copper surfaces? Do you think that copper surfaces or duct tape could make a dramatic difference in the safety of hospital admission? What about the cost? Do you think that hospitals would pay the upfront costs of replacing surfaces with copper to be able to dramatically cut infection rates? What about other low cost solutions like duct-tape around the perimeter of the bed? Can you think of other low-cost solutions that could minimize infections and maximize safety?

Related Posts:

New federal study finds ‘lax infection control’ at same-day surgery centers

FDA warning to healthcare professionals: use sterile prep pads!

Diseases of Summer: Ticks and Lyme Disease

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

family-time2

Summer is heating up, and there are lots of outdoor activities in which to participate. Along with the thermostat, however, there is also a rise in the deer tick population! This equates to an increase in Lyme disease, the most commonly reported vector-borne illness in America! Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey all all “hotbeds” for this disease, comprising 5 of the top  12 states comprising 95% of all Lyme disease cases nationwide.

According to a recent post by Roberta Seldon in Boomer Health and Lifestyle, the deer tick population is a “bumper crop” this year, partly due to the wet winter in the Midatlantic and Northeast United States. Tick activity peaks in June and July, and this correlates to rates of illness as reported by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The CDC also reported 2009 as the second-highest incidence of disease cases, following 2007; with the estimated increase in the deer tick population, 2011 might go down in the record books as the highest year ever since the beginning of recording/reporting lyme disease (1995). The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) breaks down the jurisdictions even further into cases per County, with the top two counties being Baltimore and Anne Arundel, with Howard, Harford and Carroll counties being right in the mix.

What is a deer tick and what does it look like?

The deer tick, as it is commonly called, is really the black-legged tick or Ixodes scapularis. This is NOT the same as the dog tick; it is a much-smaller version with different coloration. The Canadian Lyme Disease site provides an excellent pictoral description and differentiation of the various types of ticks and relative sizes. The deer tick, especially in the nymph stage, is so very tiny and nearly impossible to see, and it is this very pinpoint little bug that causes most of the infections.

The CDC website (one of my favorites for all kinds of information related to infectious diseases and other public health topics) details the disease transmission process and prevention, diagnosis and treatment information. The site discusses many myths about the tick, its removal, the disease, its symptoms and long-term sequellae.

Did you know that the tick itself does not cause the disease? The tick carries a bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi that has to be transmitted through the saliva during feeding. It takes at least 24 hours, if not 36 to 48  hours, of tick attachment and feeding in order to transmit the bacteria. Thus, besides various prevention techniques with appropriate clothing and wearing bug spray with DEET, it is critical to perform (or have someone else perform) a “tick-check” after being in wooded areas or areas known to have deer activity. The best way to remove this little critter is by using tweezers and grasping the head while applying gentle traction in the opposite direction of attachment. Even if you are not the environmental type but you have a dog, be sure to apply tick-prevention remedies to your pet since they can bring these critters into your home.

What are some common symptoms of Lyme disease?

The most common symptom, and the one classically associated with Lyme disease, is the bulls-eye type rash (called erythema migrans) that develops at the site of the infection/tick bite.

There is a central area of redness, and over several days, the red ring starts to migrate peripherally, followed by an area of clearing; it clearly resembles a bulls-eye target. According to the CDC, approximately 68% of those infected report this rash. The next most common symptom is joint pain that can involve one or more joints and typically migrates to various joints. Other more serious presentations include paralysis of the facial nerve (Bell’s palsy), meningitis or encephalitis, and even heart block or problems with the electrical conduction system of the heart leading to irregular heart rhythms.

The Maryland DHMH just released a video on Lyme Disease in Maryland. Dr. Katherine Feldman describes the disease.  It is a 7-minute and 23-second video with lots of good information. Please, click the link to watch and learn!

Other tick-borne illnesses:

Lyme disease is not the only disease transmitted by ticks. Ticks live on the blood of the hosts on which they feed. They can transmit a variety of pathogens via their bite and/or saliva that have been acquired from other hosts. Some of these infections include anaplasmosis, babesiosis, ehrlichiosis and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF). As an aside, don’t let the Rocky Mountain part fool you! North Carolina has one of the highest incidence rates of RMSF nationwide!

QUESTION: Do you know someone who has had Lyme Disease? Were there any unusual circumstances surrounding the diagnosis? Share your story so others can be more aware!

Images courtesy of:

(c) L. Gerlach on Blisstree.com

Summer Vacation Checklist: Add Vaccination to Your List!

Monday, May 30th, 2011

Photo from guardian.co.uk

Ahhh, summer vacation is coming. Passport? Airline tickets? Three 1oz containers? Zipper-lock bag? Sunblock? Camera? Vaccination status?

Summer is typically the busiest time for vacationers to explore new territories, or even old ones. Granted, the economy has replaced some travelers’ grand plans with much more modest ones, but many are still planning trips to Mexico and other foreign destinations. The summer is also a big time for missionary groups to head to underserved areas to provide assistance and medical care. The events of September 11th have forever changed travel for the United States and countries all over the world. There is now a new concern…..your vaccination status!

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the United States is experiencing its largest outbreak of measles in 15 years! USA Today reported a record 118 cases of confirmed measles in the USA between January 1 and May 20 of this year, mostly acquired abroad by unvaccinated individuals and brought back to the States. Measles was reported to have been “eradicated” from the USA as of the year 2000 due mostly to the efforts of immunization, but measles is still prevalent in other parts of the world.

Over 42,000 cases were diagnosed in an outbreak among young adults in Brazil in 1997! Third-world countries are not the only ones affected; over 7,500 cases have been diagnosed in France between January and March of this year, according to the CDC! And the outbreaks continue across most countries of Europe. Failure to vaccinate and receive periodic “booster shots” to provide immunity allows the virus to infect that individual who then gets sick. Since the virus is spread via respiratory droplets (coughing and sneezing), public modes of transportation allow for contact with infected individuals.

Measles is NOT just a rash!

According to the Associated Press, 2 of every 5 of these 118 patients required hospitalization; none died, but measles can have deadly consequences. Worldwide, measles causes nearly 800,000 deaths annually, mostly in small children. Some of the bad consequences include encephalitis characterized by vomiting, seizures, coma and even death; of those who survive this, approximately one-third are left with permanent neurologic deficits.

Once the spots are gone…

Interestingly, there is a late complication of measles infection, called subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE), that occurs from 5 to 15 years after the acute infection; the virus causes a slow degeneration of the brain and central nervous system long after the initial infection. Measles can also cause bronchiolitis or bronchopneumonia, and it can be associated with secondary bacterial infections due to the depleted immune system that occurs while fighting the virus.

Measles is NOT the only vaccine-preventable disease available for infection!

There have been recent outbreaks of mumps, another viral disease that has potential complications of pancreatitis, orchitis and even meningitis and encephalitis.

There have been outbreaks of Bordetella pertussis (part of the DPT vaccine), otherwise known as “whooping cough.” Pertussis can severely affect young children under 2 years, but it affects adults as well. Since the vaccine does not impart lifelong immunity, adults become a reservoir for this disease, unless a booster shot is given, and the adults spread the disease to unvaccinated children.

Haemophilus influenza type B, known as HIB, can cause typical cases of upper respiratory infections, sinusitis and otitis media (common ear infection); it can also cause epiglottitis, a potentially fatal infection of the epiglottis. The epiglottis is a flap of tissue that acts like a valve, protecting our airway when we eat and swallow food. This “valve” swells up so large from the infection that it can totally obstruct the airway and prevent a child from breathing; it is a medical emergency that can require emergent tracheostomy! An HIB vaccine has been available for years, and this infectious culprit had nearly been eradicated, as well, in the USA. The anti-vaccine movement has produced many children, adolescents and even young adults who have never received this vaccine  - et voila….there is a resurgence of HIB and Haemophilus epiglottitis.

Hepatitis B is a virus (HBV) for which a vaccine has also been available for over 20 years. It is a 3-shot regimen, but it also requires that titers be drawn after vaccination to prove immunity. HBV can be transmitted through sexual contact or any exchange of body fluids, including contaminated food in rare instances. Although the human body can fight some cases of HBV, other cases become chronic and lead to liver failure and/or liver cancer. Wouldn’t you know it? May is “Hepatitis Awareness Month” for the CDC!

There are plenty more vaccines available for a multitude of viral, bacterial and other infectious agents. Additionally, there are immunoglobulin shots that can address other infectious conditions and act as prophylaxis during your time abroad.

The Moral of the Story

Check your own vaccination status first. If you are not sure, your doctor can do blood tests to determine if you are immune to specific infectious agents…even the chicken pox virus! Secondly, take the time to check the CDC website (www.cdc.gov) for infections endemic to the area to which you are traveling. Follow guidelines offered for disease prevention and possible vaccines, medications or immunoglobulins available.

Be aware and be prepared! Protect yourself and those near and dear to you!

 

Deadly Super Bugs on the rise.

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011

Health scares are common and are many times overblown. However, the evolution of bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics (dubbed Super Bugs) is a very real and growing danger. Yahoo Health is reporting that two especially dangerous bacteria – MRSA and CRKP – are becoming resistant to all but the most advanced antibiotics, which is posing a major health threat.

Klebsiella is a common type of gram-negative bacteria that are found in our intestines (where the bugs don’t cause disease). MRSA (methacillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus) is a type of bacteria that live on the skin and can burrow deep into the body if someone has cuts or wounds, including those from surgery.

The reason for this new resistance is likely over-use (which includes mis-use) of antibiotics by health care providers (with likely some contribution from use of antibiotics in animals). For a few years now, there has been a growing recognition that doctors are over-prescribing antibiotics, i.e., routinely prescribing antibiotics when they are not necessary. For example, in 2005, U.S. News reported a Harvard study that revealed that doctors routinely prescribed antibiotics for sore throats in children when they were not indicated. A 2007 study indicated that Dutch doctors (whom are generally considered more careful in their use of antibiotics) routinely prescribed antibiotics for respiratory tract infections when they were not indicated.

The Problem with “Overuse”

The danger this poses is that antibiotics – even effective ones – typically leave some bacteria alive. These tend to be the stronger or more resistant bacteria, which then leads to the development of more and more resistance. This occurs in a single individual body in which a patient may have less response to an antibiotic after earlier use of that same antibiotic, but because of the easy spread of bacteria in our world, it also occurs on a global scale. For certain strains of bacteria, doctors are becoming hard-pressed to treat these infections.

CRKP – worse than MRSA?

Thankfully, MRSA is still responsive to several antibiotics so it is still considered a treatable infection. CRKP, however, is of more concern because it is only responsive to Colistin, which can be toxic to the kidneys. Therefore, doctors have no good options when treating CRKP. While so far, the risk of healthy people dying from MRSA and CRKP remains very low, the most vulnerable of us (the elderly and the chronically ill) remain at risk because of their lowered immune system and because the elderly are in nursing homes or other long-term care facilities where infections tend to spread more easily than in the general community.

CRKP has now been reported in 36 US states—and health officials suspect that it may also be triggering infections in the other 14 states where reporting isn’t required. High rates have been found in long-term care facilities in Los Angeles County, where the superbug was previously believed to be rare, according to a study presented earlier this month.

It is essential that we rein in the casual use of antibiotics before we are left with infections that have no cure. Doctors must be better trained to know when antibiotics are necessary and when they are not. For example, antibiotics are useless against viruses (such as the common cold), but how many of you have been given an antibiotic by a doctor “just in case” or because your symptoms have gone on slightly longer than a typical cold would last? It is unfortunately a more common occurrence than we realize. The past success of antibiotics has naturally led doctors to want to give them to patients to relieve suffering. No one wants to turn down a patient who is seeking relief.  However, it makes no sense to give antibiotics to a patient who has no bacterial infection or whose illness will clear up on its own.

Patient Awareness is key

The problem, however, is more than just educating doctors. Patients share some blame too. We – the public – need to learn that antibiotics are not always needed, which can be a difficult lesson to learn when we’re sick. Everyone knows that antibiotics are a quick and effective remedy against common bacterial infections. Antibiotics have saved countless lives over the years and have relieved untold human suffering. So naturally, when we are sick (or our child is sick) and we go to the doctor, we want to see results. We want something that will alleviate the pain and symptoms, not simply be told to wait for the illness to run its course. Sometimes, however, that is the best course when you consider the side-effects of antibiotics and the dangers of over-use. That being said, who wants to hear that when you’re in pain and want relief? It is very easy to demand of doctors that they use all available means to treat a sick child. Doctors need to be able to stand-up to patients and educate them on why antibiotics are not necessarily the best course of treatment in a specific situation.

Don’t kill the good ones!

Doctors also have to teach patients that antibiotics are not targeted killers.  The body contains a lot of good bacteria that are vital to our body’s functioning.  Antibiotics kill those bacteria as well, which some researchers believe can adversely affect health by allowing harmful bacteria to proliferate.  (If you have seen “probiotocs” advertised on certain food products – like yogurt – that is an attempt to introduce good bacteria back into your body.).

Some basic steps to take

In order to protect yourself (or a loved one), good hygiene remains the most effective method of remaining infection-free.  Thankfully, neither MRSA or CRKP are transmitted through the air.  They are typically transmitted through person-to-person contact, or else through hospital equipment such as IV lines, catheters, or ventilators.  If you have a loved one in a hospital or nursing home, be vigilant with your hand-washing and those of the healthcare providers caring for your loved one.

Also, if you are a patient who has been prescribed antibiotics, follow your pharmacist’s orders scrupulously and take the medication in the proper dosage and for the proper amount of time.  Stopping antibiotics too soon can leave bacteria alive, which contributes to the evolution of more resistant bacteria.  You may feel better and want to stop the medication, but it is important to take the full dose.

So – now that you know the risks of over-using antibiotics, are you willing to forego antibiotics when you are sick in order to do your part for the greater good?

UPDATE: (Editor – Brian Nash) Within an hour of posting Mike Sander’s blog on MRSA (and CRKP), I came across a tweet about Manuka Honey is being used for dressings to fight the spread of Super Bugs – particularly MRSA.

Researchers now believe that it can also put a stop to the rates at which superbugs are becoming resistant to antibiotics.

Anyone know of this practice being used in your area hospital or clinics? Does anyone know if this really works? If so, most interesting and useful. Here to spread the word – how about you spreading it too?

Decreasing Obesity Risks in Children: Another Benefit of Breastfeeding

Friday, March 25th, 2011

Image from fooducate.com

In the United States today, one of the major health problems is obesity. The CDC reports that “[i]n 2009, only Colorado and the District of Columbia had a prevalence of obesity less than 20%.”  The number of both adults and children who are obese is huge and continues to rise dramatically.  The CDC website provides maps that show just how prevalent this problem is in our country. Particularly troubling is that “[t]hirty-three states had a prevalence equal to or greater than 25%; nine of these states (Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and West Virginia) had a prevalence of obesity equal to or greater than 30%).  This represents an enormous number of people in our country who are at risk for major health complications, such as “cardiovascular disease, certain types of cancer, and type 2 diabetes.”

While there has been an emphasis in our country on various ways to decrease these obesity statistics (including improving nutrition and increasing exercise), I wonder whether additional emphasis should be paid to children being given a great start to health. A recent article in the Baltimore Sun caught my attention. The article explains how diabetic moms, including those who had gestational diabetes during pregnancy but are not otherwise diabetic, are both more likely to give birth to a larger than average baby and also how their child is “more likely to become obese in childhood.”  The good news, the article explains, is that:

…a new study says that if you breastfeed your baby for at least six months, your child will be no more likely to put on weight than those whose moms are not diabetic.

This is just one more example of how breastfeeding for at least six months can dramatically improve your child’s chances of lifelong health.  Through breastfeeding alone, these moms can erase the increased risk that these children will become obese.

What they found appears to be a real advantage for breastfeeding: If the babies had been breastfed for six months or more, children born to diabetic moms looked nearly the same as the children of non-diabetic moms. And they were no more likely to be obese.

On the other hand, children who were breastfed for less than six months — and who had been exposed to diabetes in the womb — had significantly higher BMIs, thicker waists and stored more fat around their midsections than the other children in the study.

While I was excited to read about one more reason to support breastfeeding, I was concerned about whether this is a realistic choice for many families in our country.  Many moms who are committed to breastfeeding their children and who are successful at the start, do not continue breastfeeding for at least six months. The CDC Breastfeeding Report Card for 2010 says that “…3 out of every 4 new mothers in the United States now starts out breastfeeding… However, rates of breastfeeding at 6 and 12 months as well as rates of exclusive breastfeeding at 3 and 6 months remain stagnant and low.”  The national average is that while 75% of moms have breastfed, only 43% are breastfeeding at all at 6 months and only a mere 13.3% are exclusively breastfeeding at 6 months.  At 3 months, a time when infants would not have started solid food, only 33% of moms are still exclusively breastfeeding.  This means that there is a large drop off from what moms do when their babies are born and what they are doing by the time their babies reach 3 months.

However, the study about diabetes found that at least six months of breastfeeding was essential in protecting these kids from the increased risks of obesity. From both personal experience and anecdotal evidence, I suspect that many families are facing hard decisions about employment and breastfeeding. I suspect that a significant part of the large drop off between the numbers of moms’ breastfeeding at birth and those breastfeeding exclusively at 3 months has to do with employment. Given that the US lags so far behind other countries in paid parental leave, most moms have no choice but to go back to work full-time by the time their infants are 3 months (if not earlier).  Many moms face no choice at that point but to stop or severely limit breastfeeding, as few employers offer the time, space or scheduling to truly make moms successful at the difficult job of trying to pump while working.

I believe that the health care costs of treating individuals with obesity and all of the associated health problems should be examined against the costs of providing more complete support to new families.  What do you think?  Could employers better support breastfeeding in an attempt to increase the number of healthy children whose risks of obesity are lowered? Do you think that lack of paid leave or increased support in the workplace for breastfeeding is really the reason for decreased breastfeeding or are there other factors at play?

 

 

CDC Features – Data Show 1 in 303 Children Have Cerebral Palsy

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

Cerebral palsy – how common is it? A recent “Features” posting by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) provides some answers and gives parents some ‘early signs’ of which to be aware.

While everyone knows that cerebral palsy (CP) can be a devastating condition, it is less well-known how common CP actually is. The Center for Disease Control recently released new data on the frequency of CP. In its study, it found that CP affects 3.3 per 1,000 eight-year-old children, or 1 in 303 children. This data was collected from select communities in Georgia, Alabama and Wisconsin, not the nation overall. Rates may differ slightly in other localities. However, the CDC pointed out that its most current findings on CP frequency were similar to previous studies which showed that CP affected 3.6 per 1,000, or 1 in 278 children.  

In reporting the data, the CDC also advised parents what to look out for in terms of signs of CP, based on the age of the child. Parents should consult a physician if they notice any of the following signs:

A child over 2 months with cerebral palsy might have difficulty controlling head when picked up, or have stiff legs that cross or “scissor” when picked up;

A child over 6 months with cerebral palsy might continue to have a hard time controlling head when picked up, or reach with only one hand while keeping the other in a fist;

A child over 10 months with cerebral palsy might crawl by pushing off with one hand and leg while dragging the opposite hand and leg, or not sit by himself or herself;

A child over 12 months with cerebral palsy might not crawl, or not be able to stand with support;

A child over 24 months with cerebral palsy might not be able to walk, or not be able to push a toy with wheels.`

Parents, be aware of these early signs!  If you are not sure what to do or to whom you can turn, the CDC offers the following information:

To find out who to speak to in your area, contact the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities by calling 1-800-695-0285 or visiting the Center’s Web site

Of course, you always have your child’s pediatrician as a starting point.

We've Heard of MRSA – Now We Learn that Doctors Struggle to Treat Gram-Negative Bacterial Infections – NYTimes.com

Saturday, February 27th, 2010

An article in yesterday’s New York Times by Andrew Pollack - Doctors Struggle to Treat Gram-Negative Bacterial Infections – NYTimes.com – brings to the public’s awareness that  Gram-negative organisms such as Klebsiella pneumoniae and Acinetobacter are becoming almost as common but have very few treatment options in the form of effective antibiotic coverage.        

The bacteria, classified as Gram-negative because of their reaction to the so-called Gram stain test, can cause severe pneumonia and infections of the urinary tract, bloodstream and other parts of the body. Their cell structure makes them more difficult to attack with antibiotics than Gram-positive organisms like MRSA.

Mr. Pollack reports that “[a]ccording to researchers at SUNY Downstate Medical Center, more than 20 percent of the Klebsiella infections in Brooklyn hospitals are now resistant to virtually all modern antibiotics. And those supergerms are now spreading worldwide.”

The number of infections occurring annually in hospitals is simply staggering – roughly 1.7 million hospital-associated infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More horrifying is the CDCP’s estimate that when taking into account all types of bacteria combined, these organisms cause or contribute to 99,000 deaths each year.

“For Gram-positives we need better drugs; for Gram-negatives we need any drugs,” said Dr. Brad Spellberg, an infectious-disease specialist at Harbor-U.C.L.A. Medical Center in Torrance, Calif., and the author of “Rising Plague,” a book about drug-resistant pathogens.

Mr. Pollack’s article also sheds light on yet another little-known but equally tragic fact – a physician’s choices in treating some of these deadly Gram-negative bacteria are not without significant risks to the patient – neuro and nephrotoxicity.

Doctors treating resistant strains of Gram-negative bacteria are often forced to rely on two similar antibiotics developed in the 1940s — colistin and polymyxin B. These drugs were largely abandoned decades ago because they can cause kidney and nerve damage, but because they have not been used much, bacteria have not had much chance to evolve resistance to them yet.

“You don’t really have much choice,” said Dr. Azza Elemam, an infectious-disease specialist in Louisville, Ky. “If a person has a life-threatening infection, you have to take a risk of causing damage to the kidney.”

As many are aware or becoming increasingly aware, the drug-resistant bacteria are believed to be the by-product of overuse of antibiotics by healthcare providers over the past many decades.  Specialists in infectious disease have been vocal advocates for the judicious use of antibiotic therapy and avoidance of the ‘take a pill’ first approach by many front line providers such as internists.

In his article, Mr. Pollack provides a link to a campaign started by the parents of a 27 year old young man, who survived his post-operative, hospital-acquired MRSA infection twice only to die a victim of a Gram-negative organism, Enterobacter aerogenes. These advocates for prevention of hospital-acquired infections, Armando and Victoria Nahum, started the Safe Care Campaign.  A visit to this site is most instructive and we invite you to do so.