Lyme Disease Prevention: Do You Know What to Do?

Summer is coming to an end and in most places, cooler temperatures mean less bug bites. However, with fall approaching and camping trips being planned left and right, you may want to think twice before assuming that the days of creepy bugs and itchy bites are behind you. Ticks are still out in abundance regardless of the temperature drop, and the consequences of a tick bite have the potential to be treacherous. Ticks are pesky little members of the arachnid family that are commonly found in low vegetation areas and are hematophagous; in other words, they survive by feeding off of the blood of mammals, reptiles, birds, and amphibians. Blood plays a crucial role in tick development because blood is needed to reach each new stage of a tick’s life cycle. In fact, many ticks die due to failure to find a blood host. But how do ticks latch on to a feeding source? Ticks are not something we regularly see crawling around on your floor like a spider. Instead, ticks actually identify well used paths and remain on blades of grass or twigs. When a body part brushes against the grass or twig, ticks will quickly climb up the host and latch on to feed. But there are bigger, and scarier, reasons why it is important to avoid ticks at all costs. Ticks play a massive role in disease transmission, second only to mosquitos, and are responsible for vector-borne illnesses such as Lyme disease, Colorado tick fever, and Tularemia (although it is important to remember that not all tick bites result in disease). Although all forms of tickborne illnesses are serious, Lyme...

CDC States 2012-2013 Flu Vaccine is an Excellent Match

Have you had your flu shot yet this year?  Or are you one of those that doesn’t believe they’re safe, think they’re unnecessary or just never get around to getting it?  According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) this year’s vaccine is an excellent match for the flu strain making the rounds this year.  In addition, the flu strain that is expected to be prevalent is one that is usually associated with a very severe flu season.  So, if you think it’s a waste of time, the CDC will disagree with you, especially this year.   The strongest flu activity right now is in the south and southeast but this is just the beginning of the season and it will spread so a flu vaccine is valuable now and continues to be so later in the flu season.  As of early November 37% of the population has already received the vaccine and the CDC recommends that everyone over the age of 6 be vaccinated. Perhaps you believe that you shouldn’t need to put vaccines in your body and you don’t really care about whether you have to take some time off from work this year.  What about all of the elderly and children that you will come into contact with over the next few months, whether you know them or not?  Children under 2 and the elderly are most at risk of contracting the flu and of developing complications that can be very serious and even deadly.  Getting a flu vaccine is as easy as popping into a local pharmacy or lab testing facility, where no appointment is needed and the wait...

HIV and STDs Still Worry Health Officials

If you engage in unprotected sex of any type or with any person you run the risk of contracting a potentially incurable disease.  Between misinformation and shame of their risky behavior people continue to contract HIV and other STDs and then spread them to other people.  We, as a nation, are not doing enough to prevent these diseases.  Is it the old puritan morality that makes people think that STDs are a punishment from God and too bad for the sinners who contract them?  It certainly isn’t very christian to look away while more people continue to suffer. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) just released information in their Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report that a new strain of gonorrhea that is resistant to all antibiotics has been identified in Japan.  Although it hasn’t been seen in the US or Canada yet, health officials are concerned.  Being treated with the wrong antibiotic can create resistant strains of diseases that don’t respond to even the last resort medications, cephalosporin-class antibiotics.  One of the possible reasons for this is that gonorrhea in the pharynx, contracted via oral sex is very difficult to treat with antibiotics. HIV also continues to be a problem in the United States and recent studies have shown that the areas of the US, especially in the South that are the poorest, continue to have the highest rates of HIV infection and AIDs.  Misinformation, for example that HIV is still a disease of only gay men, leads people to engage in risky behavior because they think they are immune.  Then, once they have contracted the disease, they may...

Pregnant? Take the Right Precautions!

Syphilis is a disease of old-timers and not a problem any more, right?  Horror stories from the past about people with nasty sores going blind and crazy in old age make the name itself scary.  Unfortunately, the disease is alive and well, so to speak.  People engaging in risky behavior, like unprotected sex with multiple partners, or even unprotected sex with one partner who may not be monogamous are at a high risk for this and other STDs including HIV, Gonorrhea and Chlamydia.  For pregnant women any of these STDs can cause severe health issues or death in their unborn children.  Although it is recommended that pregnant women be tested for STDs early in the pregnancy, many health care workers do not follow through and recommend the screenings, or women don’t see the doctor early in pregnancy. If it’s caught early, treatment with penicillin can halt the progression of syphilis and it’s many horrifying long term consequences.  Syphilis is easily transmitted to unborn babies and can cause late abortions or stillborn babies, as well as congenital syphilis in the baby.  Nearly half of babies infected with syphilis that passes through the mother’s placenta die shortly before or after birth.  The number of cases of syphilis in pregnant women is rising and the children who survive can suffer blindness, deafness, facial deformities and nerve damage.   Receiving treatment early in pregnancy can eliminate the disease in the expectant mother and greatly reduce the chances of congenital syphilis.  A recent study showed that something as simple as training health care workers to urge women to get the screening when they find out they are...

The Superbug: Are You Safe in the Hospital?

One would expect that doctors, of all people, realize the importance of washing their hands to prevent the spread of disease.  Based on the number of superbug cases in Southern California hospitals during the past year, they’ve gotten lazy.  Unfortunately, this type of laziness can cost lives and it’s unacceptable!  Doctors in the media are recommending that before a doctor ever touches you, you ask, “When was the last time you washed your hands?” or even, “Would you please wash your hands first?”  It may sound rude, but the alternative can be deadly.  A little rudeness can save your life or that of your loved one. The superbug that has been in the news this week is the antibiotic-resistant CRKP or carbapenem-resistant Klebsiella pneumoniae.  Once thought to be rare, it is now showing up in Los Angeles county.  There were over 350 cases reported between June and December of last year.  Although the general population isn’t at risk of infection, those who are elderly and spending long periods of time in the hospital are more likely to contract the disease and can catch it through contagion with those who visit or care for them.  Tests that can determine exactly which type of antibiotic-resistant virus a person has contracted are critical to fighting the infection.  Because the viruses have mutated to defend against specific drugs, using the right one can mean life and death and stop the virus in time. If you have a loved one in the hospital or are planning to be in one soon, get your lines ready for the doctors: Have they washed their hands?  And have...