Category Archives: Infections

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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Whooping cough outbreak growing in Washington

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Department of Health urges everyone, especially pregnant women, to get Tdap vaccine

From the Washington State Department of Health

Alert IconWhooping cough is on the rise in Washington and state health officials are urging people to get vaccinated against the disease, especially pregnant women.

So far in 2015 there have been 319 cases of whooping cough reported compared to 49 reported cases during the same time in 2014.

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

Rates of whooping cough are continuing to rise in several areas around the state, which is a concern to health officials.

While everyone is encouraged to get vaccinated against the disease, newborn babies who are too young to be vaccinated are at high risk for severe disease.

That’s why it’s especially important that pregnant women get vaccinated during each pregnancy, toward the end of their pregnancy, to best protect their newborn.

“Women who are pregnant should be sure to talk to their health care provider, doctor, or midwife about getting their Tdap vaccine before they give birth,” said Dr. Scott Lindquist, communicable disease epidemiologist for the state Department of Health “It’s also important that everyone else in the family is vaccinated to keep babies safe.” Continue reading

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U.S. prescription drug spending rose 13 percent in 2014: IMS report | Reuters

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Twenty-dollar bill in a pill bottleU.S. spending on prescription medicines jumped 13 percent to $374 billion in 2014, the biggest percentage increase since 2001, as demand surged for expensive new breakthrough hepatitis C treatments, a report released on Tuesday showed.

Demand for newer cancer and multiple sclerosis treatments, price increases on branded medicines, particularly insulin products for diabetes, and the entry of few new generic versions of big-selling drugs also contributed to the double-digit spending rise in 2014, the report by IMS Health Holdings Inc found.

via U.S. prescription drug spending rose 13 percent in 2014: IMS report | Reuters.

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Two people diagnosed with TB at Mount Rainier High School

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Photomicrograph Mycobacterium tuberculosis.

From Public Health – Seattle King County

Over the past three months, two people at Mount Rainier High School in Des Moines have been diagnosed with active tuberculosis (TB).

The first person was found with infectious TB in early January, the second in late March. Both individuals are being treated to ensure a full recovery.

At this time, investigation by health officials has found no evidence that TB was acquired at school. Both people have other risk factors for TB that are unrelated to the school environment.

Out of an abundance of caution, public health officials are recommending that all 1700 students and staff at Mount Rainier High School get TB tests.

 However, out of an abundance of caution, public health officials are recommending that all 1700 students and staff at Mount Rainier High School get TB tests.

“We have not found a link that suggests the infection was passed at the school. But we are examining every possibility, and that’s why we’re recommending TB testing for all students and staff at this time,” said Dr. Jeff Duchin, Interim Health Officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County. Continue reading

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Steer Clear of Raw Milk, Researchers Warn – WebMD

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Photo by Maciej Lewandowski

Photo by Maciej Lewandowski

Raw milk causes more than half of all milk-related foodborne illnesses in the United States, even though only about 3.5 percent of Americans drink raw milk, according to a new report.

The researchers warned that people are nearly 100 times more likely to get a foodborne illness from raw (unpasteurized) milk than from pasteurized milk.

via Steer Clear of Raw Milk, Researchers Warn – WebMD.

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Ebola Proves Persistent in Guinea, Where Crisis Started – WSJ

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Ebola virusThe epidemic, so explosive last summer and fall, has been contained to a coastal area around and between the capital cities of Guinea and Sierra Leone.

But the number of new cases is still staggering for an Ebola outbreak—82 in the week ended March 29, according to the World Health Organization.

Most are in Guinea, where the first cases of the deadly disease were diagnosed in March 2014.

via Ebola Proves Persistent in Guinea, Where Crisis Started – WSJ.

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Measles vaccinations jump after scare, public dialogue | The Seattle Times

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Boy gets shot vaccine injectionFueled in part by growing reports of measles cases nationwide — including a high-profile Disneyland outbreak — vaccinations to prevent the highly contagious disease jumped by 27 percent in Washington state this winter, compared with the same December-through-February stretch a year ago.

via Measles vaccinations jump after scare, public dialogue | The Seattle Times.

 

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The Cost of a Cure: Medicare Spent $4.5 Billion on New Hepatitis C Drugs Last Year

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Twenty-dollar bill in a pill bottleBy Charles Ornstein
ProPublica.

This story was co-published with the Washington Post.

Medicare spent $4.5 billion last year on new, pricey medications that cure the liver disease hepatitis C 2014 more than 15 times what it spent the year before on older treatments for the disease, previously undisclosed federal data shows.

The extraordinary outlays for these breakthrough drugs, which can cost $1,000 a day or more, will be borne largely by federal taxpayers, who pay for most of Medicare’s prescription drug program.

The most-discussed of the new drugs, Sovaldi, which costs $84,000 for a 12-week course of treatment, accounted for more than $3 billion of the spending.

But the expenditures will also mean higher deductibles and maximum out-of-pocket costs for many of the program’s 39 million seniors and disabled enrollees, who pay a smaller share of its cost, experts and federal officials said.

The spending dwarfs the approximately $286 million that the program, known as Part D, spent on earlier-generation hepatitis C drugs in 2013, said Sean Cavanugh, director of Medicare and deputy administrator at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

The most-discussed of the new drugs, Sovaldi, which costs $84,000 for a 12-week course of treatment, accounted for more than $3 billion of the spending. Spending on another drug, Harvoni, hit $670 million even though it only came on the market only in October. Bills for a third drug, Olysio, often taken in conjunction with Sovaldi, reached $821 million.

Medicare also spent $157 million on older hepatitis C drugs in 2014, bringing the total spending for the category to more than $4.7 billion.

The spending surge is unlike anything Part D has seen. The nine-year-old program has benefited in recent years from a slowdown in prescription drug costs as several blockbusters, including the cholesterol-lowering drug Lipitor and the blood thinner Plavix, have lost patent protection and have faced competition from generics. Continue reading

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Our plan to combat and prevent antibiotic-resistant bacteria

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TuberculosisOp-Ed: By Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services Sylvia Mathews, Secretary of the Department of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, and  Secretary of the Department of Defense Ash Carter

Antibiotics save millions of lives every year. Today, however, the emergence of drug resistance in bacteria is undermining the effectiveness of current antibiotics and our ability to treat and prevent disease.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that drug-resistant bacteria cause two million illnesses and approximately 23,000 deaths each year in the United States alone.

Antibiotic resistance also limits our ability to perform a range of modern medical procedures, such as chemotherapy, surgery, and organ transplants. That’s why fighting antibiotic resistance is a national priority.

Combating and preventing antibiotic resistance, however, will be a long-term effort. That’s why, today, the Administration is releasing the National Action Plan for Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria (NAP).

The NAP outlines a whole-of-government approach over the next five years targeted at addressing this threat:

1. Slow the emergence of resistant bacteria and prevent the spread of resistant infections 

The judicious use of antibiotics in health care and agriculture settings is essential to combating the rise in antibiotic resistance. We can help slow the emergence of resistant bacteria by being smarter about prescribing practices across all human and animal health care settings, and by continuing to eliminate the use of medically-important antibiotics for growth promotion in animals. Continue reading

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Olympus issues urgent steps for cleaning device linked to superbugs | Reuters

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creOlympus Corp, the largest maker of a medical device at the center of recent U.S. superbug outbreaks, issued new cleaning instructions for its equipment on Thursday, urging health providers to adopt them “as soon as possible.”

Olympus said in a 13-page letter that a small-bristle brush required for the new procedures to clean potentially deadly bacteria from the devices would be shipped “no later than May 8.”

via Olympus issues urgent steps for cleaning device linked to superbugs | Reuters.

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No evidence Ebola in West Africa is becoming more deadly, study

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Ebola virusFrom the National Institutes of Health

The Ebola virus circulating in humans in West Africa is undergoing relatively few mutations, none of which suggest that it is becoming more severe or transmissible, according to a National Institutes of Health study in the journal Science.

The study compares virus sequencing data from samples taken from patients in Guinea (March 2014), Sierra Leone (June 2014) and Mali (November 2014).

Ebola virus, isolated in November 2014 from patient blood samples obtained in Mali. The virus was isolated on Vero cells in a BSL-4 suite at Rocky Mountain Laboratories.

“The Ebola virus in the ongoing West African outbreak appears to be stable—that is, it does not appear to be mutating more rapidly than viruses in previous Ebola outbreaks, and that is reassuring,” said Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of NIH. “We look forward to additional information to validate this finding, because understanding and tracking Ebola virus evolution are critical to ensuring that our scientific and public health response keeps pace.” Continue reading

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Shellfish harvest in Portage Bay will be limited due to pollution

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Portage Bay Bellingham LumiThe state Department of Health has placed restrictions on shellfish harvesting for part of Portage Bay in Whatcom County due to high levels of bacteria.

Water tests show that at certain times, the shellfish area is affected by polluted runoff from the Nooksack River.

Portage Bay usually has good water quality, but during specific times of the year the Nooksack River carries higher levels of bacteria into the shellfish harvesting area.

As a result, state health officials have changed the classification of nearly 500 of the 1,300 commercial shellfish harvesting acres in the bay from “approved” to “conditionally approved.”

Harvesting in the conditionally approved area will be closed each year from April through June and again from October through December. Continue reading

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Cities turn to social media to police restaurants

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yelp-logoBy Jenni Bergal
Stateline

Many diners regularly click onto the Yelp website to read reviews posted by other patrons before visiting a restaurant.

Now prospective customers also can use Yelp to check health inspection scores for eateries in San Francisco, Louisville and several other communities.

Local governments increasingly are turning to social media to alert the public to health violations and to nudge establishments into cleaning up their acts. A few cities are even mining users’ comments to track foodborne illnesses or predict which establishments are likely t­­o have sanitation problems.

Customers also can use Yelp to check health inspection scores for eateries in San Francisco, Louisville and several other communities.

“For consumers, posting inspection information on Yelp is a good thing because they’re able to make better, informed decisions about where to eat,” said Michael Luca, an assistant professor at Harvard Business School who specializes in the economics of online businesses. “It also holds restaurants more accountable about cleanliness.” Continue reading

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Tuberculosis cases fall in Washington state, but remains a concern

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Photomicrograph Mycobacterium tuberculosis.There were 193 cases of tuberculosis (TB)  in Washington state last year, an 8 percent decline from the 209 cases reported in 2013.

“Tuberculosis remains a disease of concern internationally and in Washington,” State Communicable Disease Epidemiologist Dr. Scott Lindquist said. “TB can be diagnosed, treated, and cured, yet it takes real commitment and effort to effectively deal with this disease.”

The counties with the most cases in 2014 were King (100), Snohomish (18), Clark (15), Pierce (13), Yakima (11), and Thurston (7).

More than 72 percent of cases in the state were in people born outside the U.S. or its territories. Overall, 43.5 percent of all cases in Washington were among Asians, followed by Hispanics (15.5 percent), blacks (15.5 percent), and whites (11.9 percent).

About a third of the world’s population is infected with TB.

Between 2012 and 2014 the greatest risk of TB in Washington was among Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander communities (27.7 cases per 100,000).

About a third of the world’s population is infected with the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis, a dangerous microorganism that usually infects the lungs but can attack other parts of the body as well.

TB is spread in the air when someone who’s infected coughs, sneezes, or speaks and others breathe in the bacteria. Continue reading

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