The Flu Season That Just Won’t End: Second Viral Wave Is Pushing Otherwise Mild Year Into The Record Books
The current season began the week of Thanksgiving, a typical start time, but in mid-February, a nastier strain started causing more illnesses and driving up hospitalizations. In other public health news: over-treatment, suicide, exercise, depression, cholesterol, autism, abuse, and more.
The Associated Press:
Two-Wave US Flu Season Is Now The Longest In A Decade
Three months ago, this flu season was shaping up to be short and mild in the U.S. But a surprising second viral wave has made it the longest in 10 years. This flu season has been officially going for 21 weeks, according to reports collected through last week and released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That makes it among the longest seen since the government started tracking flu season duration more than 20 years ago. Some experts likened the unusual double waves to having two different flu seasons compressed, back-to-back, into one. (4/19)
Can The Culture Of Overtreatment Be Curbed In Medical Training?
When family physician Jenna Fox signed on for a yearlong advanced obstetrics fellowship after her residency to learn to deliver babies, she knew she'd need to practice as many cesarean sections as possible. The problem was, she also knew C-sections aren't always good for patients. Many women's health experts argue they're often unnecessary and increase health risks for mom and baby. Doctors are working to decrease high C-section rates in hospitals around the country. Fox and her colleagues on the labor and delivery floor at the University of Rochester try hard to prevent them, particularly primary C-sections, when a woman needs one for her first baby. (Gordon, 4/19)
You Can Help: When A Loved One Shows Signs Of Suicide Risk, Reach Out
If you know someone struggling with despair, depression or thoughts of suicide, you may be wondering how to help. Most Americans say that they understand that suicide is preventable and that they would act to help someone they know who is at risk, according to a national survey conducted by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention in 2018. (Chatterjee, 4/20)
The New York Times:
Why Does Exercise Guard Against Cancer? Inflammation May Play A Role
One of the most important benefits of exercise is in how it reduces our risk of developing a number of types of cancer — especially colorectal cancer, which according to some estimates is the malignancy most influenced by physical activity. But how workouts guard against colon cancer remains largely unknown. Physical activity speeds the movement of waste through the intestines, as anyone who has had to hunt for a bathroom during a workout knows. But this does not seem to fully account for the protective effects of exercise. Instead, a small study published in February in The Journal of Physiology suggests we should also look to changes in our bloodstream after exercise. (Reynolds, 4/22)
Can Virtual Reality Boost Positive Feelings In Patients With Depression?
The University of California, Los Angeles, psychiatry researcher and her colleagues are testing whether virtual reality can curb anhedonia, a symptom of depression and other serious mental health conditions that’s marked by a lack of interest or ability to feel pleasure. They’re putting patients into pleasant scenarios — like a stroll through a sun-soaked forest while piano music plays — and coaching them to pay close attention to the positive parts.The idea is to help patients learn to plan positive activities, take part in them, and soak up the good feelings in the process. (Thielking, 4/22)
The New York Times:
Should You Be Eating Eggs?
Once more, Humpty Dumpty took a great fall last month when a new study linked egg consumption to cardiovascular disease. What follows may — or may not — put Humpty back together again, especially for egg lovers who cheered the latest dietary guidelines that seemed to exonerate this popular cholesterol-rich food. While suggesting that Americans “eat as little dietary cholesterol as possible,” the guidelines’ scientific report in 2015 stated “cholesterol is not a nutrient of concern for overconsumption.” (Brody, 4/22)
The New York Times:
The Search For A Biomarker For Early Autism Diagnosis
Every pediatrician knows that it’s important to diagnose autism when a child is as young as possible, because when younger children get help and intensive therapy, their developmental outcomes improve, as measured in everything from improved language, cognition and social skills to normalized brain activity. “The signs and symptoms for most children are there between 12 and 24 months,” said Dr. Paul S. Carbone, an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Utah and a co-author of “Autism Spectrum Disorder: What Every Parent Needs to Know,” published by the American Academy of Pediatrics. “If we can get them in for evaluation by then, the therapies are available as young as those ages, you can easily start by 2,” he said. “We’d like to give kids the benefit of getting started early.” (Klass, 4/22)
Coaching Families Can Prevent Abuse, Neglect. This Is What It Looks Like.
Whitney Bell and Ana Maria Rodriguez sit on the floor in Bell's central Phoenix apartment, comparing notes about the trio of little boys in the room. The women sound like two friends sharing mom stories. And they are friends, but what brought them together was a program Bell and her husband signed up for when she was pregnant with Lawrence, who's now 3. The Healthy Families program gave the young family assistance with everything from where to find diapers to health care, all through regular home visits from Rodriguez. When Bell learned she was pregnant with twins, Healthy Families helped her and her husband in their hunt for a larger apartment. (Pitzl, 4/19)
To Treat Pain Syndrome, Children's Mercy Doctors Try To Change How 'Brain Interprets Signals'
The result is something clinicians often refer to as Amplified Pain Syndrome, though it's sometimes called juvenile fibromyalgia or central sensitization syndrome. Because the patients who experience this syndrome don't appear to be ill, the pain is difficult to understand and to treat. But it couldn't be more real to those experiencing it, of whom 80-85% are female. Often, by the time patients receive the diagnosis, the pain has gone on for months or years, and this makes it difficult to estimate just how many people suffer from the problem. [Cara] Hoffart is part of the team in the Rehabilitation for Amplified Pain Syndrome Program at Children's Mercy. It offers intensive physical and occupational therapy, relaxation techniques, stress-management training, and music and therapeutic art in three to four-weeks sessions. (Kniggendorf, 4/19)
The Washington Post:
Medical Mystery With Disabling Symptoms Took Three Years To Solve
Kimberly Ho, a newly minted nurse at Children’s National Medical Center just off a 12-hour overnight shift, struggled to focus on a presentation about working with sexually traumatized children and adolescents. As the picture of a skin infection flashed on the screen, the 22-year-old snapped to attention. The instructor was recounting the story of a teenage patient who had been given an incorrect diagnosis by a doctor in training — a breach of hospital protocol that had caused an uproar. The lecture, aimed at new staff members, emphasized the importance of working within the chain of command. The girl’s actual diagnosis was largely beside the point — except to Ho. (Boodman, 4/20)
The Washington Post:
Epidermolysis Bullosa: Texas Baby Ja’bari Gray Was Born Without Skin, Mother Says
It should have been one of the happiest moments of Priscilla Maldonado’s life, but, instead, the 25-year-old mother was terrified. It was New Year’s Day, and she had just delivered her newborn son, Ja’bari. She said she heard her son’s soft cries — and then the hospital room fell silent. No one told her she had a healthy baby boy. No one told her how much he weighed or how long he was. No one brought him to meet his mother and place him on her chest. (Bever, 4/19)
When Is Snoring A Sign Of A Serious Health Issue?
An estimated 40 percent of adults in the U.S. snore. And, men: You tend to out-snore women. (Yes, this may explain why you get kicked or shoved at night!) And despite the myth that snoring is a sign of deep sleep, there's really no upside to it. "Snoring really does not demonstrate anything good," says Erich Voigt, an ear, nose, and throat doctor and sleep specialist at New York University Langone Health. "You can have beautifully deep sleep in a silent sleep." (Aubrey, 4/22)
Kaiser Health News:
Listen: Syphilis Spreads Into Rural America
Lauren Weber, one of Kaiser Health News’ new Midwest correspondents, joined St. Louis Public Radio reporter Jeremy Goodwin on “St. Louis on the Air” Friday to discuss how syphilis is making inroads into rural counties across the Midwest and West. In Missouri, the total number of syphilis patients has more than quadrupled since 2012, testing the weakened public health safety net in areas unfamiliar with the potentially deadly infection. Listen to the interview on the St. Louis Public Radio website. (4/19)