Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Surveillance Reveals Common Tickborne Threat in US Northeast and Midwest

Surveillance Reveals Common Tickborne Threat in US Northeast and Midwest

By Bridget M. Kuehn

From News@JAMA, July 13, 2012

People should take action to prevent tick bites in the Northeast and upper Midwest, where infections with babesiosis are common, according to a report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Individuals living in or visiting the Northeast or upper Midwest regions of the United States have another good reason to be vigilant about preventing tick bites: a new report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that infections with the tickborne infection babesiosis are common in the United States.

Prompted by an increase in reports of babesiosis infections transmitted by tick bites and blood transfusion in the United States, the CDC launched a national surveillance program to assess the frequency of babesiosis transmission. The surveillance program, which included 18 states and New York City, identified 1124 confirmed and probable cases, including 10 associated with blood transfusion. The vast majority of cases were reported in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin. More than half of the cases occurred in individuals aged 60 years or older, and most patients (82%) experienced the onset of symptoms during the months of June, July, and August…

…they advise people in affected regions to avoid tick-infested areas, to wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts when outside, to apply repellents, and to shower and check for ticks after potential exposure.

Incidence* of reported cases of babesiosis, by county of residence† — 18 states,§ 2011

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The figure shows incidence of reported cases of babesiosis, by county of residence, in 18 states during 2011. The 1,124 cases occurred in residents of 15 of the 18 states in which babesiosis was a reportable disease in 2011; 1,092 cases (97%) were reported by the seven main B. microti-endemic states. County-level incidence rates ranged from 0 to >100 cases per 100,000 persons.

 * Per 100,000 persons.† N = 1,116; county of residence was unknown for eight of the 1,124 patients.§ California, Connecticut, Delaware, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin.Alternate Text: The figure above shows incidence of reported cases of babesiosis, by county of residence, in 18 states during 2011. The 1,124 cases occurred in residents of 15 of the 18 states in which babesiosis was a reportable disease in 2011; 1,092 cases (97%) were reported by the seven main B. microti-endemic states. County-level incidence rates ranged from 0 to >100 cases per 100,000 persons.Related Resources

  • Ticks (US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
    How to avoid ticks, what to do if bitten, tick information (as life cycle),related disease information, and more
  • Tick Bites (MedlinePlus)
    Links to basic information, specific conditions, research, news, and more

July 16, 2012 Posted by | environmental health | , , | Leave a comment

[Reblog] Maternal Health and the Status of Women


Maternal Health and the Status of Women

Both globally and domestically, maternal health and the standing of women are inextricably linked. If women do not have the means and access to give birth safely, with trained and educated midwives, physicians and nurses, with appropriate prenatal education and care, it is often indicative of the standing of women in their communities and countries overall. Women’s inequality is also linked to the soaring population growth in developing countries, which will pose a range of new challenges for the next few generations.

Some may point to the United States as an anomaly, citing women’s increasing economic and financial independence, education, and leadership roles in America, while in terms of maternal health rankings, we remain pathetically far down the line for our resources (49 other countries are safer places to give birth than the U.S. – despite us spending more money on healthcare than anywhere else). Of course, the recent and incessant attacks on allowing women to access credible, accurate, up-to-date and comprehensive sexual and reproductive health education and services makes this statistic not entirely…surprising, shall we say.

So, I found the incredibly detailed and visually impressive infographic by the National Post, pulled from spectacular data and research done by Save the Children to be particularly fascinating. What they did was combine information on the health, economic, and education status of women to create overall rankings of the best and worst countries for women, splitting the countries into categories of more developed, less developed, and least developed, and the countries were ranked in relation to the other countries in their category (the divisions were based on the 2008 United Nations Population Division’s World Population Prospects, which most recently no longer classified based on development standing). While these divisions and the rankings can certainly be contentious and may incite some disagreement (nothing unusual there, these kind of rankings usually are), I thought the results were interesting. Some highlights – Norway is first, Somalia is last. The United States was 19th, and Canada was 17th (Estonia fell in between us and the Great White North) in the most developed. Israel is first in the less developed category, and Bhutan is first in the least developed category. The full report with data from Save the Children is also available, if you want to learn more about the information combined to make this image. Take a look:

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A Woman’s Place – Courtesy of the National Post

One thing that I thought was particularly great was that the researchers combined women’s health and children’s heath data to create rankings specific to being a mother, when that category is sometimes only assessed based on access to reproductive care.The specific rankings of maternal health highlights largely mimics the overall standing of women, as seen here – Norway is number one, again, and Niger falls into last place:

Mother’s Index, Courtesy of Save the Children

I think these images and graphs are particularly moving given one of the top health stories coming out of the New York Times today, which showed that a recent Johns Hopkins study indicated meeting the contraception needs of women in developing countries could reduce maternal mortality (and thereby increase the standing of women in many of the nations doing poorly in the above ranking) globally by a third. When looking at the countries in the infographic that have low rates of using modern contraception and the correlation between that and their ranking in terms of status of women, it’s not surprising what the JH researchers found. Many of the countries farther down in the rankings have rates below 50%, and for those countries filling the bottom 25 slots, none of them even reach a rate that is a third of the population in terms of contraceptive use – which of course in most cases has to do with availability, not choice. Wonderfully, the Gates Foundation yesterday announced that they would be donating $1 billion to increase the access to contraceptives in developing countries.

Also of note, and in relation to maternal and newborn health, is a new study recently published by Mailman researchers that showed PEPFAR funded programs in sub-Saharan Africa increased access to healthcare facilities for women (particularly important for this region, as 50% of maternal deaths occur there), thereby increasing the number of births occurring in these facilities – reducing the avoidable (and sometimes inevitable) complications from labor and delivery, decreasing the chance of infection and increasing treatment if contracted. This has clear implications for children as well (and why I think this study relates to the National Post infographic and the NY Times article), since newborns are also able to be assessed by trained healthcare workers and potentially life-threatening conditions averted – including HIV, if the newborns have HIV+ mothers and need early anti-retroviral treatment and a relationship with a healthcare worker and system. And it goes without saying that if a new mother is struggling with post-delivery healthcare issues, including abscesses and fistulas, or was dealing with a high-risk pre-labor condition like preeclampsia, the child will have an increasingly difficult early life, perhaps even a motherless one.

July 16, 2012 Posted by | Health Statistics, Public Health | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Stimulant Marketed As ‘Natural’ In Sports Supplement Actually Of Synthetic Origin


Stimulant Marketed As ‘Natural’ In Sports Supplement Actually Of Synthetic Origin (Medical News Today, 16 July 2012)

A new study published in the journal Drug Testing and Analysis found that DMAA, a stimulant often found in many nutritional and sports supplements, does not originate from natural substances and is actually comprised of synthetic compounds.

The substance DMAA (1,3-dimethylamylamine) is a stimulant existing in various pre-workout supplements and often labeled as part of geranium plants. The safety and origin of DMAA in these supplements is often the subject of intense debate and has been recently linked to the death of two U.S. soldiers, causing the Army to pull the supplement from its commissaries. …

..”The FDA should regulate and/or ban products in which significant amounts of synthetic pharmacological compounds are added,” Armstrong opined. “Also, this information should be clearly labeled – including their effects and possible side effects – so that consumers can make an informed choice.


July 16, 2012 Posted by | Consumer Health, Consumer Safety | , , , | Leave a comment

Giving Time Can Give You Time

If you want to feel as if you have more time, try giving it away by volunteering to do things for others, suggests a new U.S. study.

If you want to feel as if you have more time, try giving it away by volunteering to do things for others, suggests a new U.S. study. (iStock)

From the 16 July 2012 article at Medical News Today

Many people these days feel a sense of “time famine” – never having enough minutes and hours to do everything. We all know that our objective amount of time can’t be increased (there are only 24 hours in a day), but a new study suggests that volunteering our limited time – giving it away – may actually increase our sense of unhurried leisure.

Across four different experiments, researchers found that people’s subjective sense of having time, called ‘time affluence,’ can be increased: compared with wasting time, spending time on oneself, and even gaining a windfall of ‘free’ time, spending time on others increased participants’ feelings of time affluence. …

July 16, 2012 Posted by | Psychology | , , , , | Leave a comment

Red Yeast Rice: An Introduction (A Fact Sheet from NCCAM)

English: red rice3 wine before filtering 2 -mo...

Excerpts from Red Yeast Rice backgrounder Web page (US National Center for Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine)

Red yeast rice is a traditional Chinese culinary and medicinal product. In the United States, dietary supplements containing red yeast rice have been marketed to help lower blood levels of cholesterol and related lipids. Red yeast rice products may not be safe; some may have the same side effects as certain cholesterol-lowering drugs, and some may contain a potentially harmful contaminant. This fact sheet provides basic information about red yeast rice, summarizes scientific research on effectiveness and safety, discusses the legal status of red yeast rice, and suggests sources for additional information.

Key Points

  • Some red yeast rice products contain substantial amounts of monacolin K, which is chemically identical to the active ingredient in the cholesterol-lowering drug lovastatin. These products may lower blood cholesterol levels and can cause the same types of side effects and drug interactions as lovastatin.
  • Other red yeast rice products contain little or no monacolin K. It is not known whether these products have any effect on blood cholesterol levels.
  • Consumers have no way of knowing how much monacolin K is present in most red yeast rice products. The labels on these products usually state only the amount of red yeast rice that they contain, not the amount of monacolin K.


  • The same types of side effects that can occur in patients taking lovastatin as a drug can also occur in patients who take red yeast rice products that contain monacolin K. Potential side effects include myopathy (muscle symptoms such as pain and weakness), rhabdomyolysis (a condition in which muscle fibers break down, releasing substances into the bloodstream that can harm the kidneys), and liver toxicity. Each of these three side effects has been reported in people who were taking red yeast rice.
  • Red yeast rice supplements should not be used while pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Lovastatin can interact with a variety of drugs to increase the risk of rhabdomyolysis; these drugs include other cholesterol-lowering agents, certain antibiotics, the antidepressant nefazodone, drugs used to treat fungal infections, and drugs used to treat HIV infection. Red yeast rice containing monacolin K could interact with drugs in the same way.
  • If the process of culturing red yeast rice is not carefully controlled, a substance called citrinin can form. Citrinin has been shown to cause kidney failure in experimental animals and genetic damage in human cells. In a 2011 analysis of red yeast rice products sold as dietary supplements, 4 of 11 products were found to contain this contaminant.

Legal Status of Red Yeast Rice

In 1998, the FDA determined that a red yeast rice product that contained a substantial amount of monacolin K was an unapproved new drug, not a dietary supplement. On several occasions since then, the FDA has taken action against companies selling red yeast rice products that contain more than trace amounts of monacolin K, warning them that it is against the law to market these products as dietary supplements.

The US National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) includes the section Herbs at a Glance.

This  series of fact sheets that provides basic information about specific herbs or botanicals—common names, uses, potential side effects, and resources for more information.

MedlinePlus Trusted Health Information for You

Drugs, Supplements, and Herbal Information 
Learn about your prescription drugs and over-the-counter medicines. Includes side effects, dosage, special precautions, and more.
Browse dietary supplements and herbal remedies to learn about their effectiveness, usual dosage, and drug interactions.

Dietary Supplements Labels Database 

Information about label ingredients in more than 6,000 selected brands of dietary supplements. It enables users to compare label ingredients in different brands. Information is also provided on the “structure/function” claims made by manufacturers.
These claims by manufacturers have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Companies may not market as dietary supplements any products that are intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
Longwood Herbal Task Force
This site has in-depth monographs about herbal products and supplements written by health professionals and students. It provides clinical information summaries, patient fact sheets, and information about toxicity and interactions as well as relevant links. The task force is a cooperative effort of the staff and students from Children’s Hospital, the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, and the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.

July 16, 2012 Posted by | Finding Aids/Directories, Health Education (General Public), Nutrition | , , | Leave a comment


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