Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

[News item] Adults only really catch flu about twice a decade

Don’t think the article is advocating skip the annual flu shots!

Adults only really catch flu about twice a decade, suggests study 

From the release

 

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Adults over the age of 30 only catch flu about twice a decade, a new study suggests.

Flu-like illness can be caused by many pathogens, making it difficult to assess how often people are infected by influenza.

Researchers analysed blood samples from volunteers in Southern China, looking at antibody levels against nine different influenza strains that circulated from 1968 to 2009.

They found that while children get flu on average every other year, flu infections become less frequent as people progress through childhood and early adulthood. From the age of 30 onwards, flu infections tend to occur at a steady rate of about two per decade.

Dr Adam Kucharski, who worked on the study at Imperial College London before moving to the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said: “There’s a lot of debate in the field as to how often people get flu, as opposed to flu-like illness caused by something else. These symptoms could sometimes be caused by common cold viruses, such as rhinovirus or coronavirus. Also, some people might not realise they had flu, but the infection will show up when a blood sample is subsequently tested. This is the first time anyone has reconstructed a group’s history of infection from modern-day blood samples.”

Dr Steven Riley, senior author of the study, from the Medical Research Council Centre for Outbreak Analysis and Modelling at Imperial, said: “For adults, we found that influenza infection is actually much less common than some people think. In childhood and adolescence, it’s much more common, possibly because we mix more with other people. The exact frequency of infection will vary depending on background levels of flu and vaccination.”

In addition to estimating the frequency of flu infection, the researchers, from the UK, the US and China, developed a mathematical model of how our immunity to flu changes over a lifetime as we encounter different strains of the virus.

March 7, 2015 Posted by | Consumer Health, Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] Researchers have cracked a code that governs infections by a major group of viruses including the common cold and polio

From the 5 February 2015 University of Leeds press release

 

Researchers have cracked a code that governs infections by a major group of viruses including the common cold and polio.

Until now, scientists had not noticed the code, which had been hidden in plain sight in the sequence of the ribonucleic acid (RNA) that makes up this type of viral genome.

But a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) Early Edition by a group from the University of Leeds and University of York unlocks its meaning and demonstrates that jamming the code can disrupt virus assembly. Stopping a virus assembling can stop it functioning and therefore prevent disease.

Professor Peter Stockley, Professor of Biological Chemistry in the University of Leeds’Faculty of Biological Sciences, who led the study, said: “If you think of this as molecular warfare, these are the encrypted signals that allow a virus to deploy itself effectively.

“Now, for this whole class of viruses, we have found the ‘Enigma machine’—the coding system that was hiding these signals from us. We have shown that not only can we read these messages but we can jam them and stop the virus’ deployment.”

Single-stranded RNA viruses are the simplest type of virus and were probably one of the earliest to evolve. However, they are still among the most potent and damaging of infectious pathogens.

Rhinovirus (which causes the common cold) accounts for more infections every year than all other infectious agents put together (about 1 billion cases), while emergent infections such as chikungunya and tick-borne encephalitis are from the same ancient family.

Other single-stranded RNA viruses include the hepatitis C virus, HIV and the winter vomiting bug norovirus.

This breakthrough was the result of three stages of research:

  • In 2012, researchers at the University of Leeds published the first observations at a single-molecule level of how the core of a single-stranded RNA virus packs itself into its outer shell—a remarkable process because the core must first be correctly folded to fit into the protective viral protein coat. The viruses solve this fiendish problem in milliseconds. The next challenge for researchers was to find out how the viruses did this.
  • University of York mathematicians Dr Eric Dykeman and Professor Reidun Twarock, working with the Leeds group, then devised mathematical algorithms to crack the code governing the process and built computer-based models of the coding system.
  • In this latest study, the two groups have unlocked the code. The group used single-molecule fluorescence spectroscopy to watch the codes being used by the satellite tobacco necrosis virus, a single stranded RNA plant virus.

Read the entire article here

 

February 6, 2015 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Atlantic article] The Cold-Medicine Racket

From the 19 December 2014 Atlantic article by 

There are now hundreds of flashy “cold and flu” products, but still only a handful of simple, cheap ingredients. Here’s one new way to cut through the noise.

One in four people, when buying an over-the-counter medicine to treat a headache, will go for a brand name product. Unless that person is a pharmacist. In that case, according to research from the National Bureau of Economic Research, they’ll almost certainly buy a generic version. The pharmacists know, and trust, that the drugs are identical.

But Bayer aspirin costs $6.29 at CVS, while the same amount of CVS-brand aspirin costs less than a third of that, $1.99. The two products are required by law to be “bioequivalent,” and CVS even has signs imploring shoppers to go for the cheaper option. Yet many people do no such thing. The difference in price between brand names and generics accounts for tens of billions of dollars “wasted” every year by Americans in pharmacies, according to the economics researchers. They also found that more highly educated people are more likely to buy generic medications, concluding that “misinformation explains a sizable share of the brand premium for health products.”

Consumer confusion, or misplaced trust, is compounded by the fact that a drug store is likely to have upwards of 300 cold-and-flu products.

Angelotti, formerly at Google, has now co-created a program that can help people pare down their options. On the Iodine site, you can click on the symptoms you’re experiencing, and that will comb a database of common cold-and-flu products and tell you which ones meet your needs. The results also include product reviews (via Google, with over 100,000 medication reviews so far), dosage forms (liquid or pill), active ingredients, and the names of generic versions at various pharmacies.

[janice’s note…it would still be wise to consult with an expert…as in a licensed pharmacist!]

January 20, 2015 Posted by | Consumer Health, Tutorials/Finding aids | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Preventing, treating common cold: Nothing to sneeze at — ScienceDaily

Preventing, treating common cold: Nothing to sneeze at — ScienceDaily.

 

From the 30 January article

 

What works?

Prevention

  • Clean hands: a review of 67 randomized controlled trials (RCTs) indicated that handwashing, a traditional public health approach, as well as alcohol disinfectants and gloves, is likely effective.
  • Zinc may work for children (and possibly adults) — at least 2 RCTs indicated that children who took 10 or 15 mg of zinc sulfate daily had lower rates of colds and fewer absences from school due to colds. The authors suggest that zinc may also work for adults.
  • Probiotics: there is some evidence that probiotics may help prevent colds, although the types and combinations of organisms varied in the studies as did the formulations (pills, liquids, etc.), making comparison difficult.

Treatment

  • Antihistamines combined with decongestants and/or pain medications appear to be somewhat or moderately effective in treating colds in older children — but not in children under age 5 — and adults.
  • Pain relievers: ibuprofen and acetaminophen help with pain and fever. Ibuprofen appears better for fever in children.
  • Nasal sprays: ipratropium, a drug used to treat allergies and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, may alleviate runny nose when used in a nasal spray but has no effect on congestion.

Other approaches and treatments

According to the evidence, the benefits of frequently used remedies such as ginseng, (found in ColdFX), gargling, vapour rubs and homeopathy are unclear. Cough medicines show no benefit in children but may offer slight benefit in adults. Honey has a slight effect in relieving cough symptoms in children over age 1. Vitamin C and antibiotics show no benefit, and misused antibiotics can have associated harms.

The authors note that the evidence for preventing and treating colds is often of poor quality and has inconsistent results.

“Much more evidence now exists in this area, but many uncertainties remain regarding interventions to prevent and treat the common cold,” write the authors. “We focused on RCTs and systematic reviews and meta-analyses of RCTs for therapy, but few of the studies had a low risk of bias. However, many of the results were inconsistent and had small effects (e.g., vitamin C), which arouses suspicion that any noted benefit may represent bias rather than a true effect.”


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Canadian Medical Association JournalNote: Materials may be edited for content and length.

English: Original description: "This full...

English: Original description: “This full color 17″x22″ poster is planned for use in doctor’s offices, clinics, other healthcare facilities, and media outlets. It is intended to raise awareness about appropriate antibiotic use for upper respiratory infections in adults. It explains that antibiotics are not the best answer for a cold or flu.” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

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February 1, 2014 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , | Leave a comment

[Reblog] Why Are Grocery and Retail Workers Important to Public Health?

From the 29th August 2013 article at Sound Progress by 

14462025_mCold and flu season is just around the corner.  So what do grocery and retail workers have to do with public health? In a nutshell, they handle your food and if they don’t have adequate sick days from their employers, you may be more likely to get sick.

That is why, paid sick leave for grocery and retail workers is so important.

In addition to the common colds and flus that are passed along when an ill cashier touches every item that goes into a customer’s grocery bag, serious illnesses are spread as a result of people working while sick.

A lack of paid sick leave can also harm child health and school performance.

No caregiver wants to be in the position of choosing between staying home to care for a sick child and going to work so they can pay the bills. However, without adequate paid sick leave, many families must decide between caring for a sick child at home and losing needed pay or risking their jobs.

  • One in five workers in a recent survey we conducted of grocery and supercenter workers live with at least one child and do not have any other adults in their households.
  • In Washington, the majority of preschoolers and school-age children live in homes where all parents are employed.

Adequate paid sick days mean fewer children going to school sick. When parents can stay at home with their kids, recovery times are shorter and germs stay home too—ensuring healthier schools, families and communities. For more information read our policy brief on Paid Sick Days on our website.  Also see our article on the results of our examination of paid sick leave for grocery and retail workers.

So be sure to cover your cough with your elbow, AND ask your local supermarket if they offer paid sick days to their employees!

 

August 30, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , , , | Leave a comment

Zinc lozenges may shorten common cold duration

From the 16 August 2011 Eureka News Alert

 

Depending on the total dosage of zinc and the composition of lozenges, zinc lozenges may shorten the duration of common cold episodes by up to 40%, says Dr. Harri Hemila from the University of Helsinki.

For treating the common cold, zinc lozenges are dissolved slowly in the mouth. Interest in zinc lozenges started in the early 1980s from the serendipitous observation that a cold of a young girl with leukemia rapidly disappeared when she dissolved a therapeutic zinc tablet in her mouth instead of swallowing it. Since then over a dozen studies have been carried out to find out whether zinc lozenges are effective, but the results of those studies have diverged.

Dr. Harri Hemila of the University of Helsinki, Finland, carried out a meta-analysis of all the placebo-controlled trials that have examined the effect of zinc lozenges on natural common cold infections. Of the 13 trial comparisons identified, five used a total daily zinc dose of less than 75 mg and uniformly those five comparisons found no effect of zinc. Three trials used zinc acetate in daily doses of over 75 mg, with the average indicating a 42% reduction in the duration of colds. Five trials used zinc salts other than acetate in daily doses of over 75 mg, with the average indicating a 20% decrease in the duration of colds.

In several studies, zinc lozenges caused adverse effects, such as bad taste, but there is no evidence that zinc lozenges might cause long term harm. Furthermore, in the most recent trial on zinc acetate lozenges, there were no significant differences between the zinc and placebo groups in the occurrence of adverse effects although the daily dose of zinc was 92 mg. Dr. Hemila concluded that “since a large proportion of trial participants have remained without adverse effects, zinc lozenges might be useful for them as a treatment option for the common cold.”

 

August 17, 2011 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , | Leave a comment

A Cure For The Common Cold? New Drug Could Cure Nearly Any Viral Infection

Simplistic overview of the main viral infectio...

Image via Wikipedia

From a 10 August 2011 Medical News Today article

Most bacterial infections can be treated with antibiotics such as penicillin, discovered decades ago. However, such drugs are useless against viral infections, including influenza, the common cold, and deadly hemorrhagic fevers such as Ebola. Now, in a development that could transform how viral infections are treated, a team of researchers at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory has designed a drug that can identify cells that have been infected by any type of virus, then kill those cells to terminate the infection…

Click here to read the rest of this news article

(This drug has not even reached clinical trials yet, so it will be awhile before it gets to being approved, and then, if approved, being available to the general public)

August 10, 2011 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , | Leave a comment

   

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