Monday, June 16th, 2014
California’s public health officials have declared an epidemic of whooping cough, the bacterial respiratory infection also called pertussis, in light of a staggering 800 cases of the disease reported in the state over the past two weeks alone. More from CNN:
The agency says that there were 3,458 whooping cough cases reported between January 1 and June 10, well ahead of the number of cases reported for all of 2013.
This is a problem of “epidemic proportions,” the department said. And the number of actual cases may be even higher, because past studies have shown that for every case of whooping cough that is reported, there are 10 more that are not officially counted.
Whooping cough, known to doctors as pertussis, is a highly contagious respiratory infection that is caused by a bacterium known as Bordetella pertussis.
The popular name for the disease comes from the whooping sound an infected person makes when gasping for breath after a coughing fit.
The bacteria spreads through coughing and sneezing. One person can infect up to 15 people nearby, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Typically symptoms appear an average of seven to 10 days after exposure.
Infants and young children are more vulnerable to the disease than other age groups. It can be particularly dangerous for babies. About half of the infants who get whooping cough end up in a hospital. Some cases are fatal.
That’s why the public health department in California is strongly urging people to make sure their vaccinations are up to date, especially if they’re pregnant. State health officials are working closely with schools and local health departments to spread the word.
“Unlike some other vaccine-preventable diseases like measles, neither vaccination nor illness from pertussis offers lifetime immunity,” Dr. Ron Chapman, director of the California Department of Public Health, said in a statement. “However, vaccination is still the best defense against the potentially fatal diseases.”
All adults should get a Tdap booster, unless you had one as a teenager (after age 11).
The CDC declared 2012 to be the worst year for whooping cough in a half century, blaming inconsistent vaccinations and boosters for at least part of the outbreak.
Find out if your child is too sick for school and shop thermometers.
Add a Comment
Thursday, May 22nd, 2014
The placenta, the organ that a woman’s body generates during pregnancy to nourish her growing baby, was once thought to be “sterile,” but new research has identified a number of bacteria that thrive in it–bacteria that may have a large impact on the baby’s health when it is born. More from The New York Times:
The research is part of a broader scientific effort to explore the microbiome, the trillions of microbes — bacteria, viruses and fungi — that colonize the human body, inside and out. Those organisms affect digestion, metabolism and an unknown array of biological processes, and may play a role in the development of obesity, diabetes and other illnesses.
During pregnancy, the authors of the new study suspect, the wrong mix of bacteria in the placenta may contribute to premature births, a devastating problem worldwide. Although the research is preliminary, it may help explain why periodontal disease and urinary infections in pregnant women are linked to an increased risk of premature birth. The findings also suggest a need for more studies on the effects of antibiotics taken during pregnancy.
The new study suggests that babies may acquire an important part of their normal gut bacteria from the placenta. If further research confirms the findings, that may be reassuring news for women who have had cesareans. Some researchers have suggested that babies born by cesarean miss out on helpful bacteria that they would normally be exposed to in the birth canal.
“I think women can be reassured that they have not doomed their infant’s microbiome for the rest of its life,” said Dr. Kjersti Aagaard, the first author of the new study, published on Wednesday in Science Translational Medicine. She added that studies were needed to determine the influence of cesareans on the microbiome.
Previous studies have looked at bacteria that inhabit the mouth, skin, vagina and intestines. But only recently has attention turned to the placenta, a one-pound organ that forms inside the uterus and acts as a life support system for the fetus. It provides oxygen and nutrients, removes wastes and secretes hormones.
“People are intrigued by the role of the placenta,” said Dr. Aagaard, an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston. “There’s no other time in life that we acquire a totally new organ. And then we get rid of it.”
Image: Healthy baby, via Shutterstock
Add a Comment
Tuesday, February 25th, 2014
A semi-soft, Hispanic-style cheese has apparently sickened a number of babies in Maryland and California, and one baby has died from what officials believe is listeria contamination. Listeria is a bacteria that is most dangerous to young children and pregnant women. The Associated Press has more:
Add a Comment
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday that the death occurred in California. Seven additional illnesses were reported in Maryland.
All of the Maryland victims reported eating soft or semi-soft Hispanic-style cheese that they purchased at different locations of the same grocery store chain. Listeria was later detected in a sample of Caujada en Terron, or fresh cheese curd, purchased at that chain.
The CDC says three of the victims are newborns. Two of those ill are mothers of two of the ill newborns.
The agency says the cheese was probably produced by Roos Foods of Kenton, Del.
Friday, October 11th, 2013
The overuse–and, in the case of using it to treat the common cold, the improper use–of antibiotic drugs is a problem in most of the developed world. Health experts in the U.S. and overseas worry that over-prescription is resulting in a growing number of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacterial illnesses. To combat the problem and raise awareness, researchers in England are experimenting with having children share the message “Take care, not antibiotics” with each other. More from Reuters:
Starting in January, 13-year-olds at the eighth-grade level in England’s schools will be teaching peers and younger kids about microbes, proper hygiene and why antibiotic overuse is a bad thing. Researchers hope to implement a nation-wide program in September 2014.
“The idea is that the kids will go back home and tell their parents what they’ve learned,” said lead researcher Donna Lecky of Public Health England in the United Kingdom.
To counter a worrisome increase in antibiotic-resistant diseases, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) in 2008 designated November 18 as European Antibiotic Awareness Day.
In 2010, 24 European Union states, plus Norway and Iceland, reported their most recent antibiotics use to the ECDC. Overall, numbers of antibiotic doses decreased or stabilized in 15 countries and increased in 11 since the last survey in 2009.
The same report stated that the most commonly prescribed antibiotics in community health clinics, not including hospitals, were drugs in the penicillin family, another category known as macrolides and tetracyclines.
Image: Child with a cold, via Shutterstock
Add a Comment
Wednesday, October 9th, 2013
Nearly 300 people in 18 states have been sickened by a salmonella bacteria that has been traced back to contaminated chicken packaged by Foster Farms, according to an alert released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Salmonella poisoning is especially dangerous for people with compromised immune systems and young infants. More from The Boston Globe:
While some USDA employees have been furloughed due to the partial government shutdown, food safety inspectors at beef and poultry plants are still conducting routine inspections and investigating illness outbreaks.
Consumers can identify raw Foster Farm chicken products associated with the outbreak by looking for the following numbers on the package: P6137, P6137A, and P7632.
The products were mainly distributed to retail outlets in California, Oregon and Washington State, the USDA said, but no recall has been issued because the food safety service has been “unable to link the illnesses to a specific product and a specific production period.”
Instead, consumers should remember to handle all raw meat and poultry in a safe manner, cooking chicken thoroughly until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 °F. They should also avoid cross contamination of raw chicken juices with other foods like fresh produce that won’t be cooked before consuming; for example, they should use separate cutting boards for preparing these foods.
Another tip recommended by food safety scientists: Don’t wash raw poultry before preparing it since that can foster the spread of bacteria.
“If you wash it, you’re more likely to spray bacteria all over the kitchen and yourself,” said Drexel University food safety researcher Dr. Jennifer Quinlan in a new video campaign she launched to get people to stop rinsing raw chicken.
Image: Raw chicken, via Shutterstock
Add a Comment