Tag Archives: Center For Disease Control and Prevention

Straight, No Chaser: Flu Myths and Questions

Flu season ahead
Every year 36,000 people die and over 200,000 are hospitalized each year due to the flu—in the U.S. alone. If you’re not getting a vaccine every year, you are subjecting yourself to a significantly higher risk and allowing fears and myths to get the better of you. Knowledge is power. Learn the facts.
Does the flu shot give you the flu?
No, no, no. The influenza vaccine cannot cause flu illness. There are vaccines that involve the delivery of live virus, including mumps, measles, rubella, chicken pox and polio. Influenza is not in that category. Flu shots are made either with ‘inactivated’ vaccine viruses that are not infectious or they contain no flu vaccine viruses at all (and instead have recombinant particles that serve to stimulate your immune system).
The most common side effects from the influenza shot are soreness, redness, tenderness or swelling where the shot was given. Low-grade fever, headache and muscle aches also may occur. These symptoms are among the same symptoms you see with influenza, so it’s easy to confuse them as flu symptoms. They are not.
Controlled medical studies have been performed on humans in which some people received flu shots and others received shots containing salt water. There were no differences in symptoms other than increased redness and soreness at the injection site for those receiving influenza vaccine. The flu shot does not give you the flu.
flu-shot-myth
I swear I’ve gotten the flu right after getting the flu shot! How is that possible if I can’t get the flu from the flu shot?
I always remind people that the flu vaccine does an even better job of preventing you from dying from the flu than it does in preventing you from catching the flu (and it does that at a 70–90% rate).  It primes your immune system to better fight off the influenza virus when you’re exposed to it.
There are several reasons why someone still might get a flu-like illness after being vaccinated against the flu:

  • Influenza is just one group of respiratory viruses. There are many other viruses that cause similar symptoms including the common cold, which is also most commonly seen during “flu season.” The flu vaccine only protects against influenza, so any other infection timed correctly can give you similar symptoms.
  • When you get immunized against influenza, it takes the body up to two weeks to obtain the desired level of protection. There is nothing preventing you from having been infected before or during the period immediately before immunity sets in. Such an occurrence will result in your obtaining the flu despite being vaccinated.
  • An additional reason why some people may experience flu-like symptoms despite getting vaccinated is that they may have been exposed to a strain of influenza that is different from the viruses against which the vaccine is designed to protect. The ability of a flu vaccine to protect a person depends largely on the match between the viruses selected to make the vaccine and those causing illness among the population that same year.
  • It is also the case that the flu vaccine doesn’t always provide adequate protection against the flu. This is more likely to occur among people who have weakened immune systems or people age 65 and older. Even if the vaccine is 90% effect, some individuals will contact the flu despite having been vaccinated.

Please don’t get the wrong message from this section. These explanations are the exceptions, not the rule. In the overwhelming number of cases, the influenza vaccine does an excellent job of protecting against and prevent disease from the influenza virus.
Is it better to get the flu than the flu vaccine?
No. Influenza causes tens of thousands of deaths every year. If you have asthma, diabetes, heart disease or are especially young or old, you are placing yourself at significant risk by not getting vaccinated. Even if you aren’t in one of the above categories and are otherwise healthy, a flu infection can cause serious complications, including hospitalization or death.

flu-vaccine-facts-myths

Why do I need a flu vaccine every year?
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a yearly flu vaccine for just about everyone six months and older. Once vaccinated, your immune protection decreases over time. These boosters are scheduled and dosed to help you maintain the best level of protection against influenza. Additionally, the virus mutates (changes) every year, so what you were covered for this year may not apply next year.
You can make a decision not to get vaccinated, but frankly, that’s accepts a risk that you flies in the face of a reasonable risk/benefit analysis, and you would be doing so in the face of the solid consensus of medical evidence and research. You should seriously question the motives or knowledge of someone who suggests that you should not get vaccinate for influenza, particularly if they profess to be involved in healthcare. Get vaccinated.
Feel free to ask your SMA expert consultant any questions you may have on this topic.
Take the #72HoursChallenge, and join the community. As a thank you for being a valued subscriber to Straight, No Chaser, we’d like to offer you a complimentary 30-day membership at www.72hourslife.com. Just use the code #NoChaser, and yes, it’s ok if you share!
Order your copy of Dr. Sterling’s new books There are 72 Hours in a Day: Using Efficiency to Better Enjoy Every Part of Your Life and The 72 Hours in a Day Workbook: The Journey to The 72 Hours Life in 72 Days at Amazon or at www.72hourslife.com. Receive introductory pricing with orders!
Thanks for liking and following Straight, No Chaser! This public service provides a sample of what http://www.SterlingMedicalAdvice.com (SMA) and 844-SMA-TALK offers. Please share our page with your friends on WordPress, like us on Facebook SterlingMedicalAdvice.com and follow us on Twitter at @asksterlingmd.
Copyright © 2017 · Sterling Initiatives, LLC · Powered by WordPress
 

Straight, No Chaser: Cervical Health Awareness

cervical_health_awareness_month

January is Cervical Health Awareness Month, and to that end, The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) boldly proclaims “No woman should die of cervical cancer.”
It’s cervical health month in the United States, and this point has a rather simple message: Cervical cancer is highly preventable and can be cured when discovered and treatment early. Here are some quick tips to help you check this off of your list of concerns.

  • Every child should get vaccinated at age 11 or 12. Even if you’ve reached age 26 and haven’t been vaccinated, you should discuss options with your physician.
  • The most important thing you can do to help prevent cervical cancer is to get screened regularly starting at age 21.

pap smear

  • The Pap test (or smear) should be performed regularly at age 21. It looks for precancerous changes to the cervix that identify the need for early treatment. In many cases a normal test will eliminate the need for another test for the next three years, but your physician will discuss your individual circumstances in this regard.
  • The HPV test looks for the virus that is now known to be the cause of cervical cancer. Furthermore, human papillomavirus (HPV) is sexually transmitted. The HPV test can be done at the same time as the Pap test from the same examination.

Hopefully knowing these simple tools will convince you to be attentive to preventing and managing your cervical health. This is a public health success story in that cervical cancer could be eliminated if everyone followed the above steps. The rest is up to you.
Feel free to ask your SMA expert consultant any questions you may have on this topic.
Order your copy of Dr. Sterling’s new book Behind The Curtain: A Peek at Life from within the ER at jeffreysterlingbooks.com, iTunes, Amazon, Barnes and Nobles and wherever books are sold.
Thanks for liking and following Straight, No Chaser! This public service provides a sample of what http://www.SterlingMedicalAdvice.com (SMA) and 844-SMA-TALK offers. Please share our page with your friends on WordPress, like us on Facebook SterlingMedicalAdvice.com and follow us on Twitter at @asksterlingmd.
Copyright © 2017 · Sterling Initiatives, LLC · Powered by WordPress

Straight, No Chaser: Inappropriate Antibiotic Use

antibiotics

Whenever physicians attempt to discuss inappropriate antibiotic use with patients, too often fear replaces logic. These days, antibiotic use is treated as a convenience consideration, regardless if there’s actually a disease present that can be treated by antibiotics. Here are some principles your physician is mindful of when deciding if you actually need antibiotics.
Significant complications exist from missing any disease. If a heart attack is missed, your heart can rupture, and you can die. If a fracture is missed, you can develop necrosis, arthritis and loss of limb. If pneumonia is missed, you can go into respiratory failure and die. Etc., etc. As an emergency physician, my colleagues and I are more in tune than any other specialty of physicians with the risks and consequences of misdiagnosing critical illness; in fact it’s one of the main components of the speciality.
The point is giving medicine is not based on either fear or treating conditions that have a low probability of existing. Any physician is weighing the value of the information you provide to determine what appropriate management will be; that’s the Art of Medicine, and that will always be left to the individual judgment of your treating physician. That said, the days of such absolute power by physicians are going the way of the dinosaur. Evidence-based medicine and outcomes-based medicine are here to stay. Multiple guidelines for best practices exist across many medical conditions, including when to order ankle x-rays and not, when to order neck x-rays and not, when to treat various infections and not. What’s new here is identifying opportunities to avoid exposing patients to unnecessary, costly medical interventions. What’s also new is you the patient can be better empowered and knowledgeable about the conditions you have and the care you receive.
abx
The risk of inappropriate antibiotic use is more real, more present and more important than practicing defensive medicine. There are classes of antibiotics that we can no longer use. I mentioned previously how Staph is resistant to several of the penicillins we’ve used for decades due to resistance, which occurs from overuse and inappropriate use, most frequently seen in treatment of viral illnesses. Yes readers, MRSA stands for methicillin-resistant Staph Aureus, and that’s why it’s known as a ‘super-bug’. Approximately 80% of those ear, nose and throat infections you’re coming to the emergency room for and asking/receiving antibiotics for are viral illness and would be better on their own in 48-72 hours. Similarly, treatment of gonorrhea has recently been revised by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) because of the emergence of resistance to the medications used against it. Again, this has resulted from overuse and inappropriate use of these medications, largely in treatment of viral illnesses. One of the more powerful antibiotics we had at our disposal (a member of the fluoroquinolone class) just got pulled back from its 15 different indications for usage due to emerging resistance. This particularly powerful entity, instead of being withheld for serious diseases, was being used for urinary tract infections, minor skin and soft tissue illness and other conditions that eventually led to a loss of effectiveness. Why would such things be done? Profits and defensive medicine are two reasons that rapidly come to mind.
This is a lot more serious than just overusing medications. Sepsis is a condition where an infection overwhelms the body and isn’t just limited to the local site where the infection originated. It can be so devastating that your body goes into shock, losing its ability to function and deliver blood throughout your body. Initial treatment of real illness suffers when we’re using medications that are less effective because bacteria have had time to mutate or otherwise become resistant due to non-lethal exposures.

getsmart_16_3731609472

The CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics have consistently promoted this philosophy. It’s been included in JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association. Inappropriate antibiotic use has consequences!

Consider the following lists of conditions that commonly can be treated without antibiotics.

  • Common colds and upper respiratory illnesses, including non-strep pharyngitis
  • Influenza (flu)
  • Most coughs and bronchitis (chest cold with a cough)
  • Many ear infections (also called otitis media)
  • Many skin rashes

To be clear, no one is recommending or promoting inappropriate or less than appropriate treatment of conditions that actually exist. No one is suggesting that anything you read here or anywhere else is more important than the real-time judgement of your physician. Just appreciate that opportunities exist to do the right thing and the wrong thing, and medicine is better with an informed patient.
Feel free to ask your SMA expert consultant any questions you may have on this topic.
Order your copy of Dr. Sterling’s new book Behind The Curtain: A Peek at Life from within the ER at jeffreysterlingbooks.com, iTunes, Amazon, Barnes and Nobles and wherever books are sold.
Thanks for liking and following Straight, No Chaser! This public service provides a sample of what http://www.SterlingMedicalAdvice.com (SMA) and 844-SMA-TALK offers. Please share our page with your friends on WordPress, like us on Facebook SterlingMedicalAdvice.com and follow us on Twitter at @asksterlingmd.
Copyright © 2017 · Sterling Initiatives, LLC · Powered by WordPress

Straight, No Chaser: Inappropriate Antibiotic Use

antibiotics

Whenever physicians attempt to discuss inappropriate antibiotic use with patients, too often fear replaces logic. These days, antibiotic use is treated as a convenience consideration, regardless if there’s actually a disease present that can be treated by antibiotics. Here are some principles your physician is mindful of when deciding if you actually need antibiotics.
Significant complications exist from missing any disease. If a heart attack is missed, your heart can rupture, and you can die. If a fracture is missed, you can develop necrosis, arthritis and loss of limb. If pneumonia is missed, you can go into respiratory failure and die. Etc., etc. As an emergency physician, my colleagues and I are more in tune than any other specialty of physicians with the risks and consequences of misdiagnosing critical illness; in fact it’s one of the main components of the speciality.
The point is giving medicine is not based on either fear or treating conditions that have a low probability of existing. Any physician is weighing the value of the information you provide to determine what appropriate management will be; that’s the Art of Medicine, and that will always be left to the individual judgment of your treating physician. That said, the days of such absolute power by physicians are going the way of the dinosaur. Evidence-based medicine and outcomes-based medicine are here to stay. Multiple guidelines for best practices exist across many medical conditions, including when to order ankle x-rays and not, when to order neck x-rays and not, when to treat various infections and not. What’s new here is identifying opportunities to avoid exposing patients to unnecessary, costly medical interventions. What’s also new is you the patient can be better empowered and knowledgeable about the conditions you have and the care you receive.
abx
The risk of inappropriate antibiotic use is more real, more present and more important than practicing defensive medicine. There are classes of antibiotics that we can no longer use. I mentioned previously how Staph is resistant to several of the penicillins we’ve used for decades due to resistance, which occurs from overuse and inappropriate use, most frequently seen in treatment of viral illnesses. Yes readers, MRSA stands for methicillin-resistant Staph Aureus, and that’s why it’s known as a ‘super-bug’. Approximately 80% of those ear, nose and throat infections you’re coming to the emergency room for and asking/receiving antibiotics for are viral illness and would be better on their own in 48-72 hours. Similarly, treatment of gonorrhea has recently been revised by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) because of the emergence of resistance to the medications used against it. Again, this has resulted from overuse and inappropriate use of these medications, largely in treatment of viral illnesses. One of the more powerful antibiotics we had at our disposal (a member of the fluoroquinolone class) just got pulled back from its 15 different indications for usage due to emerging resistance. This particularly powerful entity, instead of being withheld for serious diseases, was being used for urinary tract infections, minor skin and soft tissue illness and other conditions that eventually led to a loss of effectiveness. Why would such things be done? Profits and defensive medicine are two reasons that rapidly come to mind.
This is a lot more serious than just overusing medications. Sepsis is a condition where an infection overwhelms the body and isn’t just limited to the local site where the infection originated. It can be so devastating that your body goes into shock, losing its ability to function and deliver blood throughout your body. Initial treatment of real illness suffers when we’re using medications that are less effective because bacteria have had time to mutate or otherwise become resistant due to non-lethal exposures.

getsmart_16_3731609472

The CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics have consistently promoted this philosophy. It’s been included in JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association. Inappropriate antibiotic use has consequences!

Consider the following lists of conditions that commonly can be treated without antibiotics.

  • Common colds and upper respiratory illnesses, including non-strep pharyngitis
  • Influenza (flu)
  • Most coughs and bronchitis (chest cold with a cough)
  • Many ear infections (also called otitis media)
  • Many skin rashes

To be clear, no one is recommending or promoting inappropriate or less than appropriate treatment of conditions that actually exist. No one is suggesting that anything you read here or anywhere else is more important than the real-time judgement of your physician. Just appreciate that opportunities exist to do the right thing and the wrong thing, and medicine is better with an informed patient.
Feel free to ask your SMA expert consultant any questions you may have on this topic.
Order your copy of Dr. Sterling’s new book Behind The Curtain: A Peek at Life from within the ER at jeffreysterlingbooks.com, iTunes, Amazon, Barnes and Nobles and wherever books are sold.
Thanks for liking and following Straight, No Chaser! This public service provides a sample of what http://www.SterlingMedicalAdvice.com (SMA) and 844-SMA-TALK offers. Please share our page with your friends on WordPress, like us on Facebook SterlingMedicalAdvice.com and follow us on Twitter at @asksterlingmd.
Copyright © 2016 · Sterling Initiatives, LLC · Powered by WordPress

Straight, No Chaser: Cervical Health Awareness

cervical_health_awareness_month

January is Cervical Health Awareness Month, and to that end, The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) boldly proclaims “No woman should die of cervical cancer.”
It’s cervical health month in the United States, and this point has a rather simple message: Cervical cancer is highly preventable and can be cured when discovered and treatment early. Here are some quick tips to help you check this off of your list of concerns.

  • Every child should get vaccinated at age 11 or 12. Even if you’ve reached age 26 and haven’t been vaccinated, you should discuss options with your physician.
  • The most important thing you can do to help prevent cervical cancer is to get screened regularly starting at age 21.

pap smear

  • The Pap test (or smear) should be performed regularly at age 21. It looks for precancerous changes to the cervix that identify the need for early treatment. In many cases a normal test will eliminate the need for another test for the next three years, but your physician will discuss your individual circumstances in this regard.
  • The HPV test looks for the virus that is now known to be the cause of cervical cancer. Furthermore, human papillomavirus (HPV) is sexually transmitted. The HPV test can be done at the same time as the Pap test from the same examination.

Hopefully knowing these simple tools will convince you to be attentive to preventing and managing your cervical health. This is a public health success story in that cervical cancer could be eliminated if everyone followed the above steps. The rest is up to you.
Feel free to ask your SMA expert consultant any questions you may have on this topic.
Order your copy of Dr. Sterling’s new book Behind The Curtain: A Peek at Life from within the ER at jeffreysterlingbooks.com, iTunes, Amazon, Barnes and Nobles and wherever books are sold.
Thanks for liking and following Straight, No Chaser! This public service provides a sample of what http://www.SterlingMedicalAdvice.com (SMA) and 844-SMA-TALK offers. Please share our page with your friends on WordPress, like us on Facebook SterlingMedicalAdvice.com and follow us on Twitter at @asksterlingmd.

Straight, No Chaser: Flu Myths and Questions

Flu season ahead
Every year 36,000 people die and over 200,000 are hospitalized each year due to the flu—in the U.S. alone. If you’re not getting a vaccine every year, you are subjecting yourself to a significantly higher risk and allowing fears and myths to get the better of you. Knowledge is power. Learn the facts.
Does the flu shot give you the flu?
No, no, no. The influenza vaccine cannot cause flu illness. There are vaccines that involve the delivery of live virus, including mumps, measles, rubella, chicken pox and polio. Influenza is not in that category. Flu shots are made either with ‘inactivated’ vaccine viruses that are not infectious or they contain no flu vaccine viruses at all (and instead have recombinant particles that serve to stimulate your immune system).
The most common side effects from the influenza shot are soreness, redness, tenderness or swelling where the shot was given. Low-grade fever, headache and muscle aches also may occur. These symptoms are among the same symptoms you see with influenza, so it’s easy to confuse them as flu symptoms. They are not.
Controlled medical studies have been performed on humans in which some people received flu shots and others received shots containing salt water. There were no differences in symptoms other than increased redness and soreness at the injection site for those receiving influenza vaccine. The flu shot does not give you the flu.
flu-shot-myth
I swear I’ve gotten the flu right after getting the flu shot! How is that possible if I can’t get the flu from the flu shot?
I always remind people that the flu vaccine does an even better job of preventing you from dying from the flu than it does in preventing you from catching the flu (and it does that at a 70–90% rate).  It primes your immune system to better fight off the influenza virus when you’re exposed to it.
There are several reasons why someone still might get a flu-like illness after being vaccinated against the flu:

  • Influenza is just one group of respiratory viruses. There are many other viruses that cause similar symptoms including the common cold, which is also most commonly seen during “flu season.” The flu vaccine only protects against influenza, so any other infection timed correctly can give you similar symptoms.
  • When you get immunized against influenza, it takes the body up to two weeks to obtain the desired level of protection. There is nothing preventing you from having been infected before or during the period immediately before immunity sets in. Such an occurrence will result in your obtaining the flu despite being vaccinated.
  • An additional reason why some people may experience flu-like symptoms despite getting vaccinated is that they may have been exposed to a strain of influenza that is different from the viruses against which the vaccine is designed to protect. The ability of a flu vaccine to protect a person depends largely on the match between the viruses selected to make the vaccine and those causing illness among the population that same year.
  • It is also the case that the flu vaccine doesn’t always provide adequate protection against the flu. This is more likely to occur among people who have weakened immune systems or people age 65 and older. Even if the vaccine is 90% effect, some individuals will contact the flu despite having been vaccinated.

Please don’t get the wrong message from this section. These explanations are the exceptions, not the rule. In the overwhelming number of cases, the influenza vaccine does an excellent job of protecting against and prevent disease from the influenza virus.
Is it better to get the flu than the flu vaccine?
No. Influenza causes tens of thousands of deaths every year. If you have asthma, diabetes, heart disease or are especially young or old, you are placing yourself at significant risk by not getting vaccinated. Even if you aren’t in one of the above categories and are otherwise healthy, a flu infection can cause serious complications, including hospitalization or death.

flu-vaccine-facts-myths

Why do I need a flu vaccine every year?
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a yearly flu vaccine for just about everyone six months and older. Once vaccinated, your immune protection decreases over time. These boosters are scheduled and dosed to help you maintain the best level of protection against influenza. Additionally, the virus mutates (changes) every year, so what you were covered for this year may not apply next year.
You can make a decision not to get vaccinated, but frankly, that’s accepts a risk that you flies in the face of a reasonable risk/benefit analysis, and you would be doing so in the face of the solid consensus of medical evidence and research. You should seriously question the motives or knowledge of someone who suggests that you should not get vaccinate for influenza, particularly if they profess to be involved in healthcare. Get vaccinated.
Order your copy of Dr. Sterling’s new book Behind The Curtain: A Peek at Life from within the ER at jeffreysterlingbooks.com, iTunes, AmazonBarnes and Nobles and wherever books are sold.
Thanks for liking and following Straight, No Chaser! This public service provides a sample of what http://www.SterlingMedicalAdvice.com (SMA) and 844-SMA-TALK offers. Please share our page with your friends on WordPress, like us on Facebook @ SterlingMedicalAdvice.com and follow us on Twitter at @asksterlingmd.

Copyright © 2015 · Sterling Initiatives, LLC · Powered by WordPress

Straight, No Chaser In The News: Ebola Virus – Likely Not Coming Soon To a City Near You

ebola

We must be doing something right when so many of you are asking about Ebola virus. I say that because of the incredibly high probability that neither you nor I will ever see a case of Ebola. In the news is an outbreak of the Ebola virus in West Africa. In this Straight, No Chaser, we will discuss the threat and spread of Ebola, and in a subsequent post, we will review the disease itself.
The basis of concern of diseases such as Ebola is we have become a global community. Worldwide travel now imports and exports diseases in a way not previously common, exposing far-flung populations to seemingly esoteric and rare conditions. The concept that a deadly disease such as Ebola virus is simply a plane ride away is a scary one.

ebola1

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Ebola has infected 1,323 people and killed 729 people in the current outbreak, which includes Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. The Director of the CDC has described this outbreak as follows: “This is a tragic, painful, dreadful, merciless virus. It is the largest, most complex outbreak that we know of in history.” Notably, as the World Health Organization (WHO) has mobilized medical attention and support to those in need, some of those providing care have become infected. As such…
Your concerns are straightforward:

  • Is Ebola “coming” to my country?
  • Can I become infected by the Ebola virus?

Focusing on the United States, the answers to both questions are yes, but the risk of your becoming infected are so remote that you should simply understand how to avoid the threat. Furthermore it is important to understand that bringing an infected American home for treatment (as is occurring in Atlanta) is not the same as exposing the population to the disease.

ebola_virus

And so, here are some quick facts for your consideration:

  • Ebola virus is not transmitted like the cold or flu. It requires significant exposure to blood or bodily fluids.
  • Prior to that contact, you’d be most likely be aware of its presence. Those infected with Ebola are so ill so quick that it’s obvious.
  • The chances of an infected and unrecognized person infected with Ebola making it to the U.S. through commercial air travel are infinitesimal.
  • Over $100 million in medical support is being provided by the WHO and CDC to combat this outbreak.
  • Medical management of Ebola is not especially complicated once identified.
  • It is estimated the current outbreak will be defeated within 3-6 months.

What should you do? Continue the same diligence you should be applying to your health everyday.

  • Engage in healthy habits, including hand washing and maintaining a level of health to support a vibrant immune system.
  • Avoid risky behaviors involving transfer of blood and other bodily fluids.
  • Get prompt medical attention for those appearing sick, particularly after recent travel to areas affected by disease outbreaks.

We end this post with another two thoughts from the Director of the CDC:

  • “Although it will not be quick and it will not be easy, we do know how to stop Ebola.”
  • “Ebola poses little risk to the U.S. general population.”

Thanks for liking and following Straight, No Chaser! This public service provides a sample of what 844-SMA-TALK and http://www.SterlingMedicalAdvice.com (SMA) offers. Please share our page with your friends on WordPress. We are also on Facebook atSterlingMedicalAdvice.com and Twitter at @asksterlingmd.

Copyright © 2014 · Sterling Initiatives, LLC · Powered by WordPress

Straight, No Chaser: Flu Myths and Questions

flu-vaccine-facts-myths

Every year 36,000 people die and over 200,000 are hospitalized each year due to the flu—in the U.S. alone. If you’re not getting a vaccine every year, you are subjecting yourself to a significantly higher risk and allowing fears and myths to get the better of you. Knowledge is power. Learn the facts.
Does the flu shot give you the flu?
No, no, no. The influenza vaccine cannot cause flu illness. There are vaccines that involve the delivery of live virus, including mumps, measles, rubella, chicken pox and polio. Influenza is not in that category. Flu shots are made either with ‘inactivated’ vaccine viruses that are not infectious or they contain no flu vaccine viruses at all (and instead have recombinant particles that serve to stimulate your immune system).
The most common side effects from the influenza shot are soreness, redness, tenderness or swelling where the shot was given. Low-grade fever, headache and muscle aches also may occur. These symptoms are among the same symptoms you see with influenza, so it’s easy to confuse them as flu symptoms. They are not.
Controlled medical studies have been performed on humans in which some people received flu shots and others received shots containing salt water. There were no differences in symptoms other than increased redness and soreness at the injection site for those receiving influenza vaccine. The flu shot does not give you the flu.
I swear I’ve gotten the flu right after getting the flu shot! How is that possible if I can’t get the flu from the flu shot?
I always remind people that the flu vaccine does an even better job of preventing you from dying from the flu than it does in preventing you from catching the flu (and it does that at a 70–90% rate).  It primes your immune system to better fight off the influenza virus when you’re exposed to it.
There are several reasons why someone still might get a flu-like illness after being vaccinated against the flu:

  • Influenza is just one group of respiratory viruses. There are many other viruses that cause similar symptoms including the common cold, which is also most commonly seen during “flu season.” The flu vaccine only protects against influenza, so any other infection timed correctly can give you similar symptoms.
  • When you get immunized against influenza, it takes the body up to two weeks to obtain the desired level of protection. There is nothing preventing you from having been infected before or during the period immediately before immunity sets in. Such an occurrence will result in your obtaining the flu despite being vaccinated.
  • An additional reason why some people may experience flu-like symptoms despite getting vaccinated is that they may have been exposed to a strain of influenza that is different from the viruses against which the vaccine is designed to protect. The ability of a flu vaccine to protect a person depends largely on the match between the viruses selected to make the vaccine and those causing illness among the population that same year.
  • It is also the case that the flu vaccine doesn’t always provide adequate protection against the flu. This is more likely to occur among people that have weakened immune systems or people age 65 and older. Even if the vaccine is 90% effect, some individuals will contact the flu despite having been vaccinated.

Please don’t get the wrong message from this section. These explanations are the exceptions, not the rule. In the overwhelming number of cases, the influenza vaccine does an excellent job of protecting against and prevent disease from the influenza virus.
Is it better to get the flu than the flu vaccine?
No. Influenza causes tens of thousands of deaths every year. If you have asthma, diabetes, heart disease or are especially young or old, you are placing yourself at significant risk by not getting vaccinated. Even if you aren’t in one of the above categories and are otherwise healthy, a flu infection can cause serious complications, including hospitalization or death.
Why do I need a flu vaccine every year?
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a yearly flu vaccine for just about everyone six months and older. Once vaccinated, your immune protection decreases over time. These boosters are scheduled and dosed to help you maintain the best level of protection against influenza. Additionally, the virus mutates (changes) every year, so what you were covered for this year may not apply next year.
You can make a decision not to get vaccinated, and Straight, No Chaser has posted tips for you to protect yourself in the event you choose not to. (Click here to review.) However, you’re doing so in the face of the solid consensus of medical evidence and research. You should seriously question the motives or knowledge of someone who suggests that you should not get vaccinate for influenza, particularly if they profess to be involved in healthcare. Get vaccinated.
Thanks for liking and following Straight, No Chaser! This public service provides a sample of what http://www.SterlingMedicalAdvice.com offers. Please share our page with your friends on WordPress. We are also on Facebook at SterlingMedicalAdvice.com and Twitter at @asksterlingmd.

Copyright © 2013 · Sterling Initiatives, LLC · Powered by WordPress

Straight, No Chaser: 10 Questions You Want Answered About Genital Herpes

Herp_leg1 herpes_2
If you’re in a room, look around. Look to your left, then to your right. Look behind and in front of you. Then look deep inside yourself. Statistically, one of the people you’ve just viewed has genital herpes. Different studies suggest between 16-25% of us between ages 14-49 are infected.

Questions You Want Answered Regarding Genital Herpes

1. How common is it? That’s actually a question with two answers. One of five or six individuals have herpes (well over 50 million Americans if you’re keeping count), but it’s estimated that just short of 800,000 new cases occur every year.
2. How do you get it? Herpes is transmitted sexually (genital, oral and/or anal contact) via someone already infected.
3. Can you really get it from a cold sore? Possibly and theoretically yes, but usually not. The Herpes Simplex Virus-1 (HSV-1) is usually found in oral blisters (i.e. ‘cold sores’ or ‘fever blisters’), and its family member HSV-2 is usually found on or near the genitalia, but both can be found in either. Although the Center for Disease Control and Prevention states that “Generally, a person can only get HSV-2 infection during sexual contact with someone who has a genital HSV-2 infection,” many (if not most) emergency physicians have diagnosed herpes based on transmission from oral as well as genital sex.
4. What are the symptoms? Most have no symptoms or symptoms that may be mistaken for the flu (fever, body aches and swollen and tender lymph nodes). The prototypical symptoms are a cluster of blisters (around your genitalia, mouth, fingers or rectum) or painful ulcers.
5. Does it really stay around forever? Yes. Fortunately, the frequency and severity of outbreaks decrease as you age (assuming your immunity is good). If you are immunocompromised, HSV infections can be devastating.
6. If I catch chickenpox or shingles, does that mean I’ll have genital herpes? No. There are many different herpesviruses. HSV-2 is the virus that causes genital herpes. Varicella zoster virus (VZV) is the virus that causes chickenpox and shingles. Varicella zoster does not cause genital herpes.
7. Is it true you can catch herpes in the eye? Yes. Wash your hands. Or else…
Herpes Simplex KeratitisHerpeticWhitlow

8. What was that last picture? That wasn’t an just eye, there was also a finger! Well, how did you get it got from the genitals to the eye (Please don’t answer in the comments section…)? That’s called herpetic whitlow. Notice the common theme of grouped clusters of small blisters (vesicles) again. Regarding that eye infection (herpes keratitis), it can cause blindness.

9. Is it true that women get it more often? Some estimates suggest that 25% of American women and 20% of men have genital herpes. Transmission from males to females is easier than from females to males, but guys, I wouldn’t take any chances.
10. What about the babies? 80-90% of general herpes infections to newborns are transmitted during childbirth as the newborn passes through the birth canal. C-section is recommended for all women in labor with active symptoms or lesions of herpes.
11. How do you treat this anyway? Antiviral medications are used at first sign of outbreaks. These medications don’t cure you of herpes, but they do shorten the frequency and severity of outbreaks. Plus, you’ve got to let your sexual partner know about this. It’s criminal not to.
Overall, my best advice to you is prevention, knowledge about your status, recognition of symptoms and prompt treatment. It is very important to emphasize that many people live quite normal lives with herpes. That still doesn’t mean you should be cavalier or irresponsible about it.
I welcome your questions or comments.
Copyright © 2013 · Sterling Initiatives, LLC · Powered by WordPress

Straight, No Chaser: Gonorrhea (No Clapping)

GonorrheaPHIL_3766
Some of you are old enough to remember when Gonorrhea was called ‘The Clap’, but do any of you know why it was called that? Read on for the answer. In the meantime, realize how disgusting a disease this is. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that well over 800,000 cases of gonorrhea occur yearly. To make matters worse, have you heard about the new ‘Super Gonorrhea’? Don’t let this happen to you.

Here’s what I want you to know about Gonorrhea:

1. It’s a real good reason to wear condoms and a just as good of a reason to wash your hands. Gonorrhea most commonly presents with no symptoms (more often the case in women), but it has two symptoms that won’t let you forget it. It’s the STD that may present with burning upon urination so severe that you feel like you are peeing razor blades. It’s also defined by copious discharge. If you’re exuding white, yellow or green pus, think gonorrhea. As was the case with Chlamydia, it can affect the rectum (proctitis) or a portion of the testicles (epidydimitis), as well as the throat or eyes. Wash your hands after using the bathroom, gents.
2. It’s contagious. If you’re sexually active with someone infected, odds are you’ll get it. It can be acquired via oral, vaginal or anal sex, and ejaculation isn’t required for transmission. Even worse, that means you can pass it to your newborn child (There’s even a name for the condition: ophthalmia neonatorum, as seen in the lead picture.).
2. Treatment doesn’t prevent you from reacquiring it. If you don’t change the behavior, you won’t change the future risk.
3. If both partners aren’t treated, then neither is treated. This can just get passed back and forth like a ping-pong ball. If you have several sexual partners, you’ll manage to introduce a lot of drama into a lot of lives. If you are treated, you should not engage in sexual activity until one week after your partner has completed treatment.
4. It causes serious complications. PID (pelvic inflammatory disease – a complication of untreated Gonorrhea and Chlamydia) is a serious enough topic to warrant its own post, but untreated infections lead to infertility and an increased rate of tubal (ectopic) pregnancies. Gonorrhea also spreads through the blood and joints. Many of these complications are life-threatening.
5. STDs hang out together. Gonorrhea that goes untreated increases the chances of acquiring or transmitting HIV/AIDS. An infection with Gonorrhea should prompt treatment for other STDs and testing for HIV. It is generally assumed that if you have gonorrhea, you’ve likely been infected with Chlamydia.
6. It is easily prevented and treated. Wear condoms each time, every time. Get evaluated early with the development of signs or symptoms. Discuss the discovery of Gonorrhea with all sexual contacts from the last several months. This is an infection you don’t have to catch.
7. It is now super, but not in a good way. Due to antibiotic resistance, treatment of gonorrhea is becoming more complicated. We are seeing more patients who don’t respond to the first course of treatment. Consider antibiotic resistance if symptoms persists more than three days after completion of treatment.

Now, about The Clap.

Traditionally, there have been three theories about why gonorrhea is called the clap, only one of which sound legitimate to me.
1. Treatment (allegedly) used to involved ‘clapping’ a book together around the penis to expel the discharge. Not only does that not make sense, I can’t imagine men letting someone smash their penis in that manner, when you could just ‘milk’ the discharge out (no pun intended). This is a very common explanation, though…
2. The clap may be a mispronunciation of the phrase ‘the collapse’, which is what gonorrhea was called by medics when GIs were being infected with gonorrhea in WWII.
3. Finally, perhaps, clap is derived from the French word for brothel, ‘clapier’. Makes sense if you’re in Paris, but in NY, why wouldn’t it have been called ‘the broth’, because that’s kind of how it looks… Sorry if you’re reading this during lunch. Then again, I did spare you a picture of genital gonorrhea.
Let me know if you have any questions or comments.
Copyright © 2013 · Sterling Initiatives, LLC · Powered by WordPress

Straight, No Chaser: Inappropriate Antibiotic Use

antibioticsabx

Here’s a great concern regarding strep throat and the previous post that leads to a much more important topic (I’ll take the liberty of paraphrasing.): What about the concern of missing strep throat? Significant complications can result, including damage to the kidney (in a condition caused post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis). First I’ll address the concern, then I’ll get to the topic at hand.
Significant complications exist from missing any disease. If a heart attack is missed, your heart can rupture, and you can die. If a fracture is missed, you can develop necrosis, arthritis and loss of limb. If pneumonia is missed, you can go into respiratory failure and die. Etc., etc. As an emergency physician, my colleagues and I are more in tune than any other specialty of physicians with the risks and consequences of misdiagnosing critical illness; in fact it’s one of the main components of the speciality.
The point is medicine is not based on either fear or treating conditions that have a low probability of existing. Any physician is weighing the value of the information you provide to determine what appropriate management will be; that’s the Art of Medicine, and that will always be left to the individual judgment of your treating physician. That said, the days of such absolute power by physicians are going the way of the dinosaur. Evidence-based medicine and outcomes-based medicine are here to stay. Multiple guidelines for best practices exist across many medical conditions, including when to order ankle x-rays and not, when to order neck x-rays and not, when to treat various infections and not. What’s new here is identifying opportunities to avoid exposing patients to unnecessary, costly medical interventions. What’s also new is you the patient can be better empowered and knowledgeable about the conditions you have and the care you receive.
The risk of inappropriate antibiotic use is more real, more present and more important than practicing defensive medicine. There are classes of antibiotics that we can no longer use. I mentioned just this week how Staph is resistant to several of the penicillins we’ve used for decades due to resistance, which occurs from overuse and inappropriate use, most frequently seen in treatment of viral illnesses. Yes readers, MRSA stands for methicillin-resistant Staph Aureus, and that’s why it’s known as a ‘super-bug’. Approximately 80% of those ear, nose and throat infections you’re coming to the emergency room for and asking/receiving antibiotics for are viral illness and would be better on their own in 48-72 hours. Similarly, treatment of gonorrhea has recently been revised by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) because of the emergence of resistance to the medications used against it. Again, this has resulted from overuse and inappropriate use of these medications, largely in treatment of viral illnesses. One of the more powerful antibiotics we had at our disposal (a member of the fluoroquinolone class) just got pulled back from its 15 different indications for usage due to emerging resistance. This particularly powerful entity, instead of being withheld for serious diseases, was being used for urinary tract infections, minor skin and soft tissue illness and other conditions that eventually led to a loss of effectiveness. Why would such things be done? Profits and defensive medicine are two reasons that rapidly come to mind.
This is a lot more serious than just overusing medications. Sepsis is a condition where an infection overwhelms the body and isn’t just limited to the local site where the infection originated. It can be so devastating that your body goes into shock, losing its ability to function and deliver blood throughout your body. Initial treatment of real illness suffers when we’re using medications that are less effective because bacteria have had time to mutate or otherwise become resistant due to non-lethal exposures.
The CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics have consistently promoted this philosophy. It’s been included in JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association. Inappropriate antibiotic use has consequences!

Consider the following lists of conditions that commonly can be treated without antibiotics.

  • Common colds and upper respiratory illnesses, including non-strep pharyngitis
  • Influenza (flu)
  • Most coughs and bronchitis (chest cold with a cough)
  • Many ear infections (also called otitis media)
  • Many skin rashes

To be clear, no one is recommending or promoting inappropriate or less than appropriate treatment of conditions that actually exist. No one is suggesting that anything you read here or anywhere else is more important than the real-time judgement of your physician. Just appreciate that opportunities exist to do the right thing and the wrong thing, and medicine is better with an informed patient.

Straight, No Chaser: Your Questions on Treatment of Fire Related Injuries

firevictim
Questions, you’ve got questions (Why are you so shy about posting them?).  Here we go.  Today, your focus is on the aftermath and treatment of fire related injury.
1)   What does carbon monoxide poisoning look like?

  • Carbon Monoxide (CO) poisoning is very dangerous because the gas is colorless and odorless.  You should suspect that you’re feeling its effect when you’re feeling like you have the flu after perhaps being in a contained area with a motor running or after a fire.  Headache is the most common symptom, and you may also feel nauseated, with malaise (feeling ‘blah’) and fatigue also being common symptoms.

2)   How are the burns treated?

  • Burns cause serious illness.  The thermal component can cause direct damage to your airway.  The toxins contained within (carbon monoxide and cyanide) can kill you independent of any other consideration.  Burns are especially prone to infection, so you don’t want significant skin burns exposed to everything outside of a burnt house while you’re waiting for the ambulance.
  • The burns will be treated according to the severity.  A lot of intravenous fluid, pain management, clear blister removal and infection control will be in order.  Especially serious burns may require a burn unit and skin grafting.

3)   What can I do to treat while waiting for the ambulance?

  • Keep calm, and keep them calm.
  • Be prepared to start CPR if necessary.
  • If any injuries have occurred to the head and neck, lay the person down and don’t move them.
  • Cover any bleeding areas, and apply enough pressure to stop external bleeding.
  • If you have a clean sheet, wrap the person in it.

4)   I know someone who says she was intubated (i.e. had a ‘breathing tube’ placed), and they were feeling fine after a fire.  Why would this have been done?

  • It’s hard to comment on the management of individual cases sight unseen, but most likely soot or burning was noted somewhere inside the airway (e.g. the mouth, nose or oral cavity).  Intubation would have been done to protect and secure the airway before in collapses.  If you wait until the last possible moment, it could be too late.