Category Archives: Infections

The gray areas of assisted suicide

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When J.D. Falk was dying of stomach cancer in 2011, his wife says doctors would only talk about death in euphemisms. (Photo: courtesy of Hope Arnold)

By April Dembosky, KQED

SAN FRANCISCO — Physician-assisted suicide is illegal in all but five states. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen in the rest. Sick patients sometimes ask for help in hastening their deaths, and some doctors will hint, vaguely, how to do it.

This leads to bizarre, veiled conversations between medical professionals and overwhelmed families.

Doctors and nurses want to help but also want to avoid prosecution, so they speak carefully, parsing their words. Family members, in the midst of one of the most confusing and emotional times of their lives, are left to interpret euphemisms.

Doctors and nurses want to help but also want to avoid prosecution, so they speak carefully, parsing their words.

That’s what still frustrates Hope Arnold. She says throughout the 10 months her husband J.D. Falk was being treated for stomach cancer in 2011, no one would talk straight with them.

“All the nurses, all the doctors,” says Arnold. “everybody we ever interacted with, no one said, ‘You’re dying.’”

Until finally, one doctor did. And that’s when Falk, who was just 35, started to plan. He summoned his extended family. And Hope made arrangements for him to come home on hospice. Continue reading

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Planning on going on a cruise? Check in here first.

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Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 11.20.45 AMThe independent investigative journalism website ProPublica has set up a webpage where you can search a database of over 300 cruise ships that make port in the U.S., where you are able to see their health and safety records going back as far as 2010, as well as their current position and deck plans.

To search the database, go here.

 

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Pet geckos linked to Salmonella outbreak

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creasted-geckos-325A total of 20 persons infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Muenchen have been reported from 16 states since January 1st including two in Washington state, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports.

Three of these ill persons have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported.

The outbreak appears to be linked to pet crested geckos purchased from multiple pet stores in different states, with Ten of 11 ill persons interviewed reported contact with a crested gecko in the week before their illness began.

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The CDC advises:

This outbreak is a reminder to follow simple steps to enjoy your pet and keep your family healthy. CDC does not recommend that pet owners get rid of their geckos.

It is very important to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water right after touching pet reptiles or anything in the area where they live and roam.

More steps on how to enjoy your pet reptile and protect yourself and your family from illness are available in English and en Español.

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Washington state whooping cough study shows vaccine protection fades over time

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But vaccination still the best tool for protection, health officials say

From the Washington State Department of Health:

Photomicrograph of the bacteria that causes whooping cough

A new study shows that whooping cough vaccinations wear off over time, but they’re still the best protection against the dangerous disease.

The study, released in the May edition of the journal Pediatrics, used data from the 2012 whooping cough epidemic in Washington.

The article, entitled “Tdap Vaccine Effectiveness in Adolescents During the 2012 Washington State Pertussis Epidemic” is one of the first studies to test how long the adolescent and adult (Tdap) whooping cough vaccines are effective.

The investigation analyzed vaccine histories of 11- to 19-year-olds who contracted whooping cough — also called pertussis == during the 2012 epidemic.

For each case, researchers also looked at the vaccine histories of three adolescents that didn’t have whooping cough but were the same age and went to the same doctor.

While whooping cough vaccines are the best form of defense against the disease, the study found that much of the protection from the Tdap vaccine may wear off after two to four years.

State officials say the study shows that Tdap is most effective in its first year, underscoring the importance of high-risk individuals and pregnant women getting vaccinated. Continue reading

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As many as 36 E. coli cases linked to Whatcom county fair

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Escherichia Coli_NIAID E Coli BacteriaWhatcom County health officials report that as of May 1st they have identified 18 laboratory-confirmed cases of infection with E. coli O157 linked to a fair held late last month and additional 18 cases with symptoms that appear to be due to highly pathogenic bacterium. Five cases have been hospitalized.

Over a thousand primary school children from all of the school districts in Whatcom County attended the event, the Milk Makers Fest, that was held at the Northwest Fairgrounds in Lynden on April 21 – 23.

The bacterium, shiga toxin-producing E. coli O157, can be contracted by consuming food or by coming into contact with animals.

The Whatcom County Health Department is  continuing to interview cases to determine if there was a common food or water source or activity, such as the petting zoo or other contact with livestock. Washington State Department of Health Communicable Disease Epidemiology is assisting with the outbreak investigation.

Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria normally live in the intestines of people and animals. Most E. coli are harmless and actually are an important part of a healthy human intestinal tract.

However, some E. coli are pathogenic, meaning they can cause illness, either diarrhea or illness outside of the intestinal tract. Continue reading

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Gonorrhea cases jump 40% in Washington state

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Gonorrhea bacteria - Photo CDC

Gonorrhea bacteria – Photo CDC

Cases of the sexually transmitted infection gonorrhea continued to climb in Washington state last year, rising to 6,136 cases in 2014, up from 4,395 cases in 2013 – a jump of almost 40 percent.

The latest increase follows a 33 percent increase from 2012 to 2013, Washington state health officials said Wednesday.

The latest increase follows a 33 percent increase from 2012 to 2013. Rates of infection in Washington have more than doubled since 2009 rising from 34 cases per 100,000 people to a rate of 88 cases per 100,000 people in 2014. State and local health officials have yet to learn why the number of infections keeps climbing.

“The continued increase in cases is concerning,” said Zandt Bryan, infectious disease coordinator for the department. “We’re working closely with local health partners to monitor the situation, and to share information about the importance of routine screening, getting exposed partners treated quickly, and the need to practice safe sex.”

Increases in gonorrhea diagnoses have been seen in men and women of various age groups, but young adults continue to be the most affected. Most counties around the state saw an increase in cases of the disease. However, some have seen bigger spikes. Clark, Kitsap, Snohomish, Yakima, Grant, and Spokane counties all experienced outbreaks during 2014.

  • Gonorrhea is the second most common sexually transmitted disease in the state after chlamydia.
  • The disease is spread through unprotected sex with an infected partner.
  • The infection often has no symptoms, particularly among women.If symptoms are present, they may include discharge or painful urination.
  • Serious long-term health issues can occur if the disease isn’t treated, including pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility, and increased chances of HIV transmission.
  • Drugs that are currently available are effective against the disease, but gonorrhea can become resistant to medications.

The Department of Health urges anyone who is experiencing symptoms, or has a partner that has been diagnosed, to be tested. Sexually active individuals with multiple partners are encouraged to have routine screenings. Prevention methods include consistent and correct use of condoms, prompt treatment of partners, mutual monogamy, and abstinence. Continue reading

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E. coli outbreak in Whatcom County

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TEscherichiaColi_NIAIDhe Whatcom County Health Department (WCHD) is investigating an outbreak of E. coli associated with the Milk Makers Fest at the Northwest Fairgrounds in Lynden on 4/21 – 4/23/15.

Over a thousand primary school children from all of the school districts in Whatcom County attended the event.

Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria normally live in the intestines of people and animals. Most E. coli are harmless and actually are an important part of a healthy human intestinal tract.

However, some E. coli are pathogenic, meaning they can cause illness, either diarrhea or illness outside of the intestinal tract.

The types of E. coli that can cause diarrhea can be transmitted through contaminated water or food, or through contact with animals or persons. Continue reading

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Whooping cough case up sharply in Washington state

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There have been a total of 387 cases of whooping cough reported statewide so far this year, compared to 85 reported cases during the same time period last year, the Washington State Department of Health reports.

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Newborns and infants, who cannot be immunized against the disease, are at greatest risk of serious complications. To date, 25 infants under one year of age were reported as having whooping cough and six of them were hospitalized. Of these hospitalized infants, five (83%) were three months of age or younger.

How to protect infants from whooping cough – CDC

Because the disease can make babies so sick, and they can catch it from anyone around them, they need protection. These are the three important ways you can help protect them with vaccines:

  • If you are pregnant, get vaccinated with the whooping cough vaccine in your third trimester.
  • Surround your baby with family members and caregivers who are up-to-date with their whooping cough vaccine.
  • Make sure your baby gets all his doses of the whooping cough vaccine according to CDC’s recommended schedule.

Whooping cough fact sheet from the Department of Health

Continue reading

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Pregnant women urged to get pertussis vaccine

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From the Snohomish Health District

Cases of whooping cough in Snohomish County on the rise

Alert IconIn a trend consistent with information released by the Washington State Department of Health, the number of whooping cough (pertussis) cases in Snohomish County is increasing.

Since January, there have been 40 confirmed cases and most of which have been in the last few weeks. This compares to just 57 and 23 cases in all of 2013 and 2014 respectively.

Pregnancy changes the immune system in mothers, and waiting until delivery to administer the vaccine still puts the newborn at risk.

Whooping cough is a serious disease that affects the respiratory system and is spread by coughing and sneezing.

Of the 40 cases in our county, nearly three-quarters have been students between the ages of 6 and 18. This is not surprising given the close quarters students keep during the school day.

“We are seeing an explosion of pertussis cases statewide and locally,” said Dr. Gary Goldbaum, health officer and director at the Snohomish Health District. “Thankfully we are not at the epidemic levels last seen in 2012, and I am hopeful that by all of us doing our part, we can spare Snohomish County from a repeat.”  Continue reading

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