Wrap It Up

The California Department of Public Health recently reported that STDs have reached a new all time high in California. Here are the very unsexy numbers: “More than 300,000 cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and early syphilis were reported: a 45 percent increase compared to five years ago.” According to the LA Times, “the trend is mirrored nationwide, where STDs have been rising for five years.”

Most concerning, reports the CDPH, is that in 2017 “there were 30 stillbirths due to congenital syphilis in California. This is the highest number reported since 1995.”  In addition, the CDC notes that “an infected baby may be born without signs or symptoms of disease. However, if not treated immediately, the baby may develop serious problems within a few weeks. Untreated babies can have health problems such as cataracts, deafness, or seizures, and can die.”

CDPH Director and State Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Smith is quoted as saying:

“STDs are preventable by consistently using condoms, and many STDs can be cured with antibiotics. Regular testing and treatment are very important for people who are sexually active, even for people who have no symptoms. Most people infected with an STD do not know it.

According to the statement from CDPH:

Chlamydia and gonorrhea rates are highest among people under age 30. If left untreated, chlamydia and gonorrhea can cause pelvic inflammatory disease and lead to infertility, ectopic pregnancy, and chronic pelvic pain. Syphilis can cause permanent loss of vision, hearing and other neurologic problems.

If you are looking for a free testing site, the CDC has you covered: Get Tested.

“Nightmare Bacteria” on the Move and Moving Fast

Antibiotic resistant bacteria is on the rise across the United States. According to the CDC, “more than 23,000 Americans die each year from infections caused by germs resistant to antibiotics.” They recently released a report with even more startling news. In 2017 there were over 200 cases of “nightmare” bacteria found in 27 states. According to LiveScience:

One particularly concerning type of antibiotic-resistant bacteria is called carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, or CRE, which has been dubbed “nightmare” bacteria. These bacteria are not only resistant to many antibiotics but are also highly lethal, killing up to 50 percent of infected patients, according to the CDC.

Doctors liken the spread of CRE and other antibiotic-resistant germs to a wildfire, which is difficult to contain once it spreads widely.

Even more concerning is that 1 in 10 people show no symptoms at all.  And while the “nightmare bacteria” known as CRE has not been found in all states (yet), general antibiotic resistance is just about everywhere.

The CDC suggests an aggressive approach. No, they don’t want you to go out and buy containment suits and build a bunker, though that is my suggestion. They emphasize that “early and aggressive action—when even a single case is found—can keep germs with unusual resistance from spreading in health care facilities and causing hard-to-treat or even untreatable infections.” This includes health care providers identifying resistant germs rapidly and “using infection control measures such as hospital gloves, gowns and more stringent cleaning in the rooms of infected patients. They also recommend testing patients without symptoms who may carry and spread the germs.”

Reminder: Guinea Pigs are Rodents

Rodents carry disease. I’m not going to go down the Internet rabbit hole and debate whether the guinea pig is a rodent or not, but I will let this quote from the CDC do it for me:

This outbreak is a reminder that pet rodents such as guinea pigs, regardless of where they are purchased or adopted, can carry Salmonella bacteria even when they look healthy and clean…Pet rodents are not recommended as pets for children younger than 5 years, and should not be kept in childcare centers.

Yes, the adorable pet guinea pig/rodent you are keeping as a pet could be carrying the Salmonella bacteria. Nine people in ten states have reported Salmonella cases linked to pet guinea pigs, prompting an advisory from the CDC. Symptoms include diarrhea, fever, and stomach pain. The illness usually lasts four to seven days and most people will recover without treatment. In some cases, hospitalization may be required. Salmonella can be more severe for children under than five, older adults, and those with weakened immune systems.

The CDC’s advice for pet rodent owners: wash your hands, don’t eat or drink while playing with your pet rodent, and be aware that any surfaces your pet rodent scurries across could be contaminated. Most importantly (in my opinion): “do not kiss, nuzzle, or hold pet rodents close to your face.”

Beware the Flu, Part Five

According the most recent CDC update, the total number of pediatric flu deaths stands at 84. Just before that, the CDC confirmed that only 26% of kids who died from the flu received flu shots. Though the flu vaccine this year was found to be only 36% effective for the entire population, it’s effectiveness rose to 59% among children between the ages of six months and eight years. Hearing that the flu vaccine was so generally ineffective this year may have influenced some parents to not get shots for their children. In fact, promoting the nearly 60% effective statistic could have encouraged many more children to be vaccinated. Still, the prevailing headlines all focus on the “only 36%” effective statistic.  And according to TIME,

36% effectiveness may not seem very impressive, but the CDC emphasizes in the report that even small increases in immunity can have a large impact on public health. CDC data has shown that even in 2014-2015, a year when vaccine effectiveness didn’t even hit 20%, immunizations prevented as many as 144,000 flu-related hospitalizations and 4,000 deaths. Plus, people who get the shot, but who still end up getting sick, tend to have less severe illnesses than unvaccinated people.

It’s not clear if flu season has hits its peak yet, and could continue through March. This seems likely to me, based entirely on the number of people I see not washing their hands after using the bathroom.

 

Earlier:
Beware the Flu
Beware the Flu, Part Two
Beware the Flu, Part Three
Beware the Flu, Part Four

Beware the Flu, Part Four

Flu is still on the rise, according to the CDC. Alarming headlines like “The Flu is Killing Up to 4,000 Americans a Week” and stories of kidsteenagers, and young people dying are popping up all over. Another article tells the story of a woman who contracted two different strains of the flu at different times; the second flu ultimately leading to her death.

There are signs of a slowdown along the Canadian border and the West Coast but overall cases are expected to rise in the coming weeks, according to CDC spokeswoman Kristen Nordlund. She adds that anytime H3N2 strains are dominant, “we tend to see more severe disease more hospitalizations, more deaths.” In addition, it’s possible we are seeing a second wave of Influenza B infections.

 

As a reminder, you can still get a flu shot! The flu shot can lessen the severity of flu symptoms. And please don’t “forget” to wash your hands. I am forever astounded by the number of people I see use the bathroom and not wash their hand with soap and water. Don’t be a blockhead, wash your hands.

Earlier:
Beware the Flu
Beware the Flu, Part Two
Beware the Flu, Part Three