Category Archives: Lungs & Breathing

Test could boost newborn cystic fibrosis screening

Share

Illustration of the lungs in blueBy Barbara Feder Ostrov
KHN

Stanford University scientists say they’ve devised a more accurate and comprehensive DNA test to screen newborns for cystic fibrosis, the most common fatal genetic disease in the United States.

Affecting about one in 3,900 babies born in the U.S., cystic fibrosis causes mucus to build up in the lungs, pancreas and other organs, leading to frequent lung infections and often requiring lifetime treatment for patients, whose median lifespan is 37 years.

Every state screens newborns for cystic fibrosis, but the current sequence of tests can miss cases, threatening babies’ lives.

The new method described in a recent article in The Journal of Molecular Diagnostics, promises to be more efficient and cost-effective, researchers said. It may also improve screening for non-white babies, for whom cystic fibrosis is rarer and harder to diagnose.

The new method promises to be more efficient and cost-effective and may also improve screening for non-white babies in whom cystic fibrosis harder to diagnose.

“I think this is a major advance. It offers the promise of potentially eliminating the false negative results that lead to missed cases,” said Dr. Philip Farrell, a former dean of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, and a nationally-known expert on cystic fibrosis screening for newborns. “If you miss a case, you’ve got a baby out there who has a significant possibility of dying undiagnosed.”

Cystic fibrosis is caused by a defect in the CFTR gene, which regulates the movement of water and salt out of the body’s cells. In California, current genetic screens look for 40 of the most common mutations of the CFTR gene in newborns.

Yet any of the more than 2,000 known mutations in that gene could play a role in the disease, and there are likely others that have not yet been discovered.

The new test uses “next generation” DNA sequencing that can quickly and more cheaply look at the entire CFTR gene, not just selected mutations. It does not require an extra blood sample. Rather, it uses the tiny amount of blood drawn from the common newborn heel stick test that’s already used to screen for a number of diseases, including cystic fibrosis.

The researchers say this advance can enable testing labs to review many newborn samples at a time and reduce costs, allowing a technology previously used only to diagnose individual cases to be applied to a large population. Continue reading

Share

Death rates rise among middle-aged whites

Share

By Lisa Gillespie
KHN

Study Finds ‘Mortality Gap’ Among Middle-Aged Whites

Don’t blame suicide and substance abuse entirely for rising death rates among middle-aged white Americans, asserts a new study out Friday.

Screen Shot 2016-01-29 at 8.42.43 AM

“Death gap” for middle-aged whites widest in the south.

They’re both factors, but the bigger culprit is almost two decades of stalled progress in fighting leading causes of death — such as heart disease, diabetes and respiratory disease — according to a Commonwealth Fund analysis of data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The fund studied actual and expected death rates, and causes of death, for working-age adults from 1968 through 2014.

The “death gap” was most pronounced in seven states: West Virginia, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama and Arkansas.

Its analysis follows a much-discussed study circulated late last year that found death rates had been rising for non-Hispanic, white Americans between ages 45 and 54 since 1999, following several decades of decline. The two Princeton economists who authored that study — one was Angus Deaton, last year’s winner of the Nobel Memorial Prize in economic science — attributed the turnabout to rising rates of drug abuse, suicides and alcohol-related liver disease.

“White Americans are now facing a substantial ‘mortality gap’,” according to Commonwealth, which cited higher-than-expected death rates for white adults ages 45 to 54 in 2014. Continue reading

Share

HUD Proposes Nationwide Smoking Ban In Public Housing

Share

Cigarette thumbPublic housing residents would be banned from smoking, not just in public spaces on the premises, but in their own apartments under a proposal Thursday by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The public will have 60 days to comment on the proposal, which is drawing criticism from many residents and being praised by others concerned about second-hand smoke.

Share

Should the smoking age be 21? Some legislators say yes

Share

Cigarette thumbBy Jenni Bergal
Stateline

Nearly a dozen states have considered bills this year to boost the legal age for buying tobacco products.

While a growing number of states have turned their attention to marijuana legalization, another proposal has been quietly catching fire among some legislators—raising the legal age to buy cigarettes.

Measures to raise the smoking age to 21 were introduced this year in Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, the District of Columbia and here in Washington state.

This summer, Hawaii became the first state to approve increasing the smoking age from 18 to 21 starting Jan 1. A similar measure passed the California Senate, but stalled in the Assembly. And nearly a dozen other states have considered bills this year to boost the legal age for buying tobacco products.

“It really is about good public health,” said Democratic Hawaii state Sen. Rosalyn Baker, who sponsored the legislation. “If you can keep individuals from beginning to smoke until they’re at least 21, then you have a much greater chance of them never becoming lifelong smokers.”

Supporters say hiking the legal age to 21 not only will save lives but will cut medical costs for states. But opponents say it would hurt small businesses, reduce tax revenue and violate the personal freedom of young adults who are legally able to vote and join the military. Continue reading

Share

Smoke from wildfires pose health threat, officials warn

Share

From the Washington Department of Health

fire-moves-through-forestSixteen large wildfires and many smaller ones now span about 400,000 acres of Eastern Washington.

State health officials warn that smoke from the fires raise health concerns for people in the 11 affected counties.

This is especially true for children and those with health conditions.

People in areas affected by wildfire smoke are encouraged to monitor air quality using current information found on the Department of Ecology’s website.

Breathing smoky air can cause shortness of breath, coughing and chest pain in healthy people. However, people with asthma or other lung diseases may experience more serious symptoms. Continue reading

Share

Facing death but fighting the aid-in-dying movement

Share
end-of-life-kpcc-2-770

Stephanie Packer (Photo by Stephanie O’Neill / KPCC)

By Stephanie O’Neill
Southern California Public Radio

Stephanie Packer was 29 when she found out she has a terminal lung disease.

It’s the same age as Brittany Maynard, who last year was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. Maynard, of northern California, opted to end her life via physician-assisted suicide in Oregon last fall.

Maynard’s quest for control over the end of her life continues to galvanize the “aid-in-dying” movement nationwide, with legislation pending in California and a dozen other states.

But unlike Maynard, Packer says physician-assisted suicide will never be an option for her.

“Wanting the pain to stop, wanting the humiliating side effects to go away – that’s absolutely natural,” Packer says. “I absolutely have been there, and I still get there some days. But I don’t get to that point of wanting to end it all, because I have been given the tools to understand that today is a horrible day, but tomorrow doesn’t have to be.”

A recent spring afternoon in Packer’s kitchen is a good day, as she prepares lunch with her four children.

end-of-life-kpcc-770

The Packer family gathers in the kitchen to cook dinner. From left: Jacob, 8; Brian Sr. ; Brian Jr., 11; Savannah, 5; Scarlett, 10; and Stephanie. (Photo by Stephanie O’Neill / KPCC)

“Do you want to help?” she asks the eager crowd of siblings gathered tightly around her at the stovetop.

“Yeah!” yells 5-year-old Savannah.

“I do!” says Jacob, 8.

Managing four kids as each vies for the chance to help make chicken salad sandwiches can be trying. But for Packer, these are the moments she cherishes. Continue reading

Share

Common asthma steroids linked to side effects in adrenal glands | Reuters

Share

Illustration of the lungs in blueAfter stopping steroids commonly prescribed for asthma and allergies, a significant number of people may experience signs of malfunctioning in the adrenal glands, a European study finds.

So-called adrenal insufficiency can be dangerous, especially if the person’s body has to cope with a stress like surgery, injury or a serious illness, the study authors say.

Source: Common asthma steroids linked to side effects in adrenal glands | Reuters

Share

FDA warns consumers of the dangers of using homeopathic products to treat asthma

Share

FDA warns consumers about the potential health risks of over-the-counter asthma products labeled as homeopathic

From the Food and Drug Administration

Illustration of the lungs in blueThe U.S. Food and Drug Administration is warning consumers not to rely on asthma products  labeled as homeopathic that are sold over-the-counter (OTC). These products have not been evaluated by the FDA for safety and effectiveness.

Asthma is a serious, chronic lung condition. If asthma is not appropriately treated and managed, patients may have wheezing, shortness of breath, and coughing, and could be at risk for life-threatening asthma attacks that may require emergency care or hospitalization.

Although there is no cure for asthma, there are many prescription asthma treatments approved by FDA as safe and effective, as well as some products that are marketed OTC in accordance with an FDA monograph.  Continue reading

Share

Vaccination is the most effective flu prevention for seniors

Share

Flu shot todayBy Dr. Kory B. Fowler
Medical Director, Intermountain Region
Humana

The influenza virus– commonly known as the flu – affects up to 20 percent of Americans annually, leaving more than 200,000 people hospitalized from complications each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The flu is particularly dangerous for Washington seniors, who often have pre-existing chronic health conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease.

Last year the flu vaccine prevented 6.6 million illnesses, 3.2 million doctor visits and at least 79,000 hospitalizations.

There are many ways to reduce the risk of catching the virus, such as washing your hands often, but an annual flu shot is the most effective way to prevent the flu and reduce the risk of complications. Continue reading

Share

Enterovirus D-68 confirmed in two patients at Seattle Children’s Hospital

Share

From Seattle Children’s Hospital

Parents strongly encouraged to take precautions, seek medical attention for troubled breathing, wheezing in babies, children, teens

EV68-infographicSEATTLE – Sept. 19, 2014 – Seattle Children’s Hospital announced today that two children have tested positive for Enterovirus D-68 (EV-D68).

The children, whose names were not released, have preexisting health conditions that exacerbated their condition but were stable enough to be discharged from the hospital earlier this week.

The presence of EV-D68 in the two children was confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on Thursday.

Results for three other children who were tested for EV-D68 were negative. Two of those children have been discharged; one is deceased.

No children in Washington or the United States have died of EV-D68 related illness. Continue reading

Share

How Racism Creeps Into Medicine – The Atlantic

Share

Illustration of the lungs in blueIn 1864, the year before the Civil War ended, a massive study was launched to quantify the bodies of Union soldiers. One key finding in what would become a 613-page report was that soldiers classified as “White” had a higher lung capacity than those labeled “Full Blacks” or “Mulattoes.” The study relied on the spirometer—a medical instrument that measures lung capacity.

via How Racism Creeps Into Medicine – The Atlantic.

Share

Death with Dignity Act prescriptions rise 43 percent

Share

Washington MapThe number of Washington state residents who obtained prescriptions for a lethal dose of drugs under the state’s Death with Dignity Act rose from 121 in 2012 to 175 in 2013, a 43% increase over the previous year.

Of the 159 who died

  • 77 percent had cancer
  • 15 percent had a neuro-degenerative disease, including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease).
  • 8 percent had other conditions, including heart and respiratory disease,

Their ages ranged from 29 to 95 years. Ninety-seven percent were white, and 76% had some college education. Ninety-five percent lived west of the Cascades.

Of the 159 who died, 119 ingested the medication and 26 did not. In 14 cases, it is unknown whether they took the medicines.

Reasons that patients gave for obtaining the lethal prescriptions included

  • Concerns about loss of autonomy – 91 percent
  • Concerns about loss of dignity – 79 percent
  • Concerns about loss of the ability to participate in activities that make life enjoyable – 89 percent.

Under the state’s Death with Dignity Act, terminally ill adult patients have had the right to ask their physician to prescribe a lethal dose of medication to end their life. Since the law’s enactment, 550 people have acted on that right since the law went into effect.

The 2013 Death with Dignity Act Report and information about the Washington State Death with Dignity Act are on the agency website.

Share

States target asthma care as number of patients grow

Share

Washington is one of the few states that has made the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America honor roll of states that have adopted comprehensive public policies supporting people with asthma, food allergies, anaphylaxis risk and related allergic diseases in schools.

Illustration of the lungs in blueBy Michael Ollove
Stateline Staff Writer

April 16, 2014 

In a valley wedged between the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, St. Louis often finds itself beset by a stationary air mass that only a severe storm of some kind can dislodge.

St. Louis is also an industrial city with high humidity, so it’s no wonder it usually makes the list of worst places for asthmatics to live.

But the state has also pioneered advances in addressing asthma treatment and costs. Two years ago, the Missouri legislature became the first to allow schools to stock quick-relief asthma medications for emergencies.  Continue reading

Share