Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Solve the outbreak!

Originally posted on Public Health--Research & Library News:

CDC_SolveappDo you want to be a disease detective?  the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have released a new app, Solve the Outbreak.

New outbreaks happen every day and CDC’s disease detectives are on the front lines, working 24/7 to save lives and protect people. When a new outbreak happens, disease detectives are sent in to figure out how outbreaks are started, before they can spread.  with this new, free app for the iPad, you can play the role of an Epidemic Intelligence Service agent. Find clues about outbreaks and make tough decisions about what to do next: Do you quarantine the village? Talk to people who are sick? Ask for more lab results?

With fictional outbreaks based on real-life cases, you’ll have to puzzle through the evidence to earn points for each clue. The better your answers, the higher your score – and the more quickly you’ll save lives…

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March 22, 2013 Posted by | Educational Resources (High School/Early College(, Health Education (General Public) | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Internet search data and unreported side effects of drugs

Originally posted on Public Health--Research & Library News:

A very interesting use of crowdsourcing for medical research.

Using data drawn from queries entered into Google, Microsoft and Yahoo search engines, scientists at Microsoft, Stanford and Columbia University have for the first time been able to detect evidence of unreported prescription drug side effects before they were found by the Food and Drug Administration’s warning system.

Using automated software tools to examine queries by six million Internet users taken from Web search logs in 2010, the researchers looked for searches relating to an antidepressant, paroxetine, and a cholesterol lowering drug, pravastatin. They were able to find evidence that the combination of the two drugs caused high blood sugar.

The study, which was reported in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association [White, R.W. et al. Web-scale pharmacovigilance: listening to signals from the crowd. J Am Med Inform Assoc doi:10.1136/amiajnl-2012-001482] on Wednesday, is based on data-mining techniques similar to those…

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March 22, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Epidemiology: What Is It and Why Should Adult Children Know About It? With Link to a Related Supercourse

From the 14th January posting at As Our Parents Age – Timely Topics for Adult Children

It happens over and over again as I listen to the radio or read the news. I hear about an aging parent issue or a disease that is increasing in magnitude. Or sometime it’s a health issue that is affecting certain groups of people or a new bit of research the describes problems with an intervention — one that I thought was working well. Invariably these stories make me ask why? Sometimes I ask a more personal question, “If that seems to work for me, how come researchers say is isn’t effective?”

In just about every case, I answer my question by learning more about the study of epidemiology — a field that explores and collects data about how diseases specifically and health issues in general occur and affect people and in certain places. Epidemiology measures by some period of time. This short video from the Centers from Disease Control explains more.

Epidemiology can be difficult to understand, especially because people, including me, tend to personalize the issues. Here are just a few questions to illustrate this personalization.

  • What risk factors for exposure to hazards contribute to aging parent falls as individuals age (in fact we are talking here about people over 60)? Why don’t people worry environmental health problems  and do things early on to prevent falls?
  • How come after years and years, I’m suddenly told that yearly mammograms are less important?
  • Why are men being cautioned to reconsider using prostate tests for routine cancer screening?
  • Why are older seniors now being told to consider getting fewer screening tests such as colonoscopies as they age?

Click here to read the rest of the blog item

Related Resource

Supercourse: Epidemiology, Global Health, and the Internet

Supercourse is a repository of lectures on global health and prevention designed to improve the teaching of prevention. Supercourse has a network of over 56000 scientists in 174 countries who are sharing for free a library of 5050 lectures in 31 languages.

January 17, 2012 Posted by | Consumer Health, health care | , , , | Leave a comment

Bacteria Present In Abundance In Public Restrooms

 

Figure 4. Results of SourceTracker analysis showing the average contributions of different sources to the surface-associated bacterial communities in twelve public restrooms.

The “unknown” source is not shown but would bring the total of each sample up to 100%.

From the 27 November 2011 Medical News Today article

Everyone wonders what bugs might be lurking in public bathrooms. Now researchers are using novel genetic sequencing methods to answer this question, revealing a plethora of bacteria all around, from the doors and the floors to the faucet handles and toilet seats, with potential public health implications, as reported in the online journal PLoS ONE.

Led by Gilberto Flores and Noah Fierer of the University of Colorado, Boulder, the researchers investigated 12 public restrooms, 6 male and 6 female, in Colorado. Using a high-throughput genetic sequencing technique, they identified various bacteria on all the surfaces they tested. The floor had the most diverse bacterial community, and human skin was the primary source of bacteria on all surfaces. Interestingly, there were a few differences between the bacteria found in the male versus female bathrooms.

November 28, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health, Medical and Health Research News, Public Health | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2009 H1N1 Pandemic As Model For Healthy Computer Power

From the 15 June 2011 Medical News Today article

An evaluation of the Public Health Grid (PHGrid) technology during the 2009H1N1 influenza pandemic could enhance the capabilities of epidemiologists and disease-control agencies when the next emergent disease appears, according to a study published in the International Journal of Grid and Utility Computing***. …

…During the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, however, the Public Health Informatics and Technology Program Office at the CDC together with various partners used simulated data to explore how a decentralized information architecture run on the Public Health Grid (PHGrid) might be used to acquire relevant data quickly, securely and to effectively model the spread of disease. The main advantage of building the system on the PHGrid is that it allows for disparate, distributed data and services to be used by the public health community and so avoids the obstacles seen with repurposing specialized surveillance systems.

“The speed with which public health officials can identify, respond, and deploy interventions in response to public health events has the potential to change the course or impact of a disease,” the team explains. The PHGrid framework could be used to address specific surveillance needs such as those related to novel pandemic influenza in 2009. By using advances made by the “grid” community in health and other fields, PHGrid was able to focus on specific issues without having to re-invent and re-evaluate the information technology needed by using established data tools and formats. Such an approach also avoided the need to find ways to circumvent bugs and problems that would have arisen had new technology been developed at the time for the specific purpose. …

*** For suggestions on how to get this article for free or at low cost, click here

June 15, 2011 Posted by | Public Health | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Census Data Aids Disease Simulation Studies

Researchers used U.S. census data to create a synthetic population that helps disease modelers simulate the spread of infectious outbreaks, including H1N1. [From NIMGS News Item, March 31, 2010]

 

The US Census Bureau is only mandated to count people for Congressional District apportionments.
However, the US Census Bureau has historically increased its role through collecting and disseminating data in many  areas, including housing, health insurance, foreign trade, economics, and state income. 

Non government researchers apply census data in many imaginative and practical ways. For example,  a North Carolina corporation is using population data to “simulate the spread of an infectious outbreak through a community and identify the best ways to intervene”.  A recent news item outlines their progress.

June 3, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

   

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