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Waning whooping cough immunity after DTaP–a new analysis

Protect Your Baby from Whooping Cough.

Despite the fact that over 95% of kindergarteners in the United States are properly vaccinated against whooping cough (Bordetella pertussis) with the DTaP vaccine, there are persistent reports that the rates of whooping cough have risen during the past few years. Several outbreaks, along with an outright epidemic in Washington state, seemed to indicate that the vaccine’s effectiveness is waning faster than expected.

A recently published study in Pediatrics evaluates reports of increased rates of pertussis in the six years after receipt of the fifth (of five) DTaP doses. These reports suggest that waning of immunity to pertussis from DTaP is occurring before the recommended booster age of 11 to 12 years. The researchers tracked more than 400,000 Minnesota and Oregon children using immunization records and state health department whooping cough data. All of those children were born between 1998 and 2003 and received the recommended series of five DTaP shots, the final one usually given at 4-6 years old.Read More »Waning whooping cough immunity after DTaP–a new analysis

Vitamin D reduces breast cancer risk–is there anything to it?

vitamin-DOne of my favorite topics to debunk is the use of supplements to prevent (or worse yet, cure) cancer. As I have discussed in the past, supplements are, with just a couple of exceptions, worthless in preventing cancer

Potential causes for cancer are numerous. InfectionsRadon gasCigarette smokingSun exposure. Obesity. With over 200 types of cancer, each with a different pathophysiology, there may be an equal (and probably greater) number of causes for “cancer.” Although many causes of cancer can be easily avoided, such as stopping smoking, testing your house for radon, getting an HPV vaccine to prevent human papillomavirus infections, and wearing sunblock to reduce the risk of melanomas, the sheer complexity and number of types of cancer means that there is probably not going to be any simple panacea to preventing (or even curing) cancer. 

But because cancer is so frightening, and treating it is risky, debilitating and, in some cases, fruitless, we look for the easy solution, the easy prevention with a pill. But the evidence science has found indicates that this doesn’t really work. Of course, according to 2012 cancer statistics, 577,000 people died of various cancers in 2012, and about 160,000 died directly as a result of smoking (or second hand smoking). So, you can easily drop your risk dying of cancer by more than 25% just by quitting smoking. Otherwise, it’s just not that simple.Read More »Vitamin D reduces breast cancer risk–is there anything to it?

Acupuncture for treating Bell’s palsy–myth vs. science

4acupunctureOf all of the alternative medicine therapies, acupuncture is the one that seems to get the most research money, and gets the most claims of effectiveness. Emphasize “claim”, because as of yet, there are no studies that show anything beyond a placebo effect, and some have shown results worse than placebo. Most of the studies are poorly designed, with poor control groups, with poor results.

Here are just some of the Cochrane reviews of acupuncture research that conclude that acupuncture lacks any clinical efficacy:

That’s just a few of many negative studies. 

So what is acupuncture? Its theoretical basis is that health and sickness are caused by the good or bad flow of Qi through the body, in particular along the twelve major meridians of the body (though some authorities list fourteen or even more) which run from head to toe along the body, and which are associated with the bladder, gallbladder, heart, large intestine, small intestine, kidneys, liver, lungs, spleen, stomach, pericardium, and other things. It is a form of woo medical procedure based on sticking needles into the dermis at precise points to affect the Qi. Except there is no evidence at all that this Qi exists. It’s pseudoscience.Read More »Acupuncture for treating Bell’s palsy–myth vs. science

Pandemic flu vaccine and narcolepsy–an analysis

H1N1 vaccineToday, the British Medical Journal published a retrospective study, by Elizabeth Miller, that analyzes the risk of narcolepsy in children and adolescents in England who received the 2009 A/H1N1 pandemic flu vaccine (Pandemrix) from October 2009 through mid-2010. This study followed up on the observations seen in Finland and other countries that there was some increased risk of narcolepsy in children a few months after receiving the vaccine.

As background, narcolepsy is a chronic neurological disorder caused by the brain’s inability to regulate sleep-wake cycles normally. Individuals with narcolepsy often experience daytime sleep patterns, but the disorder should not be confused with insomnia. It is not caused by a mental illness or psychological problems. It is most likely affected by a number of genetic mutations and abnormalities that affect specific biologic factors in the brain, combined with an environmental trigger during the brain’s development, such as a virus. It may also be a result of an autoimmune disorder. At this time, there is no cure for narcolepsy, but it can be successfully treated by medications and other therapies.

Roughly 70% of individuals who have narcolepsy have a comorbidity of cataplexy,  a sudden and transient episode of loss of muscle tone, often triggered by strong emotions. Read More »Pandemic flu vaccine and narcolepsy–an analysis

Early 2013 estimates of flu vaccine effectiveness–an analysis

This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an interim report on the effectiveness of this season’s flu vaccine in the United States. Because these reports will be cherry picked for data by vaccine denialists (and may cause vaccine supporters to worry about their support of this particular vaccine), I want to look at the data carefully, and make sure we understand what is exactly reported.

Vaccine effectiveness 2013-02

Read More »Early 2013 estimates of flu vaccine effectiveness–an analysis

Antioxidant supplements for cancer–myth vs. science

I’ve never been a fan of vitamin supplements. Aside from a very few supplements intended for a few specific clinical conditions, like vitamin C and scurvy, they have little use in preventing or treating diseases. In fact, because mammalian physiology has evolved a homeostasis for these chemicals, any excess amount that can’t be stored in the fat or other tissue is cleared by the kidneys and becomes part of your urine. I’m willing to venture that the urine of many Americans is quite expensive, with all of the cleared vitamins and other micronutrients. A balanced diet over several weeks is sufficient to provide the body with all of the nutrients and vitamins to be healthy and strong. You are not even required to have all vitamins and nutrients every day, as storage of a few nutrients will be released as necessary, and clinical manifestations of nutrient deficiency may take weeks or months.  

Read More »Antioxidant supplements for cancer–myth vs. science

Tamiflu-does it work

According to the CDC, this year’s flu season is pretty serious in the USA. Current data, shows that about 4.6% of patient visits to health care providers are for influenza like illnesses (ILI). Thirty states and New York City are now reporting high ILI activity; an increase from 24 states last week. Additionally, 10 states are reporting moderate levels of ILI activity. Forty-eight states reported widespread geographic influenza activity for the week of January 6-12, 2013. This increased from 47 states in the previous week. 

2013-flu-outbreak-week-03

 

Although there has been a slight drop-off in ILI visits over the past couple of weeks since the peak in early January, the CDC continues to identify this season as a “moderately severe” one, and supplies in some areas have tight supplies of the flu vaccine. Read More »Tamiflu-does it work

The 2012-13 flu season getting deadlier

Flu-Shot-logoThe CDC is reporting that influenza activity continues to increase in the United States and most of the country is now observing high levels of influenza-like-illness (ILI). ILI reports are approaching levels that usually seen during moderately severe flu seasons. Of course, the CDC continues to recommend vaccinations for the flu, and antiviral treatment if appropriate.

According to Dr. Joe Bresee, Chief of the Epidemiology and Prevention Branch in CDC’s Influenza Division, “While we can’t say for certain how severe this season will be, we can say that a lot of people are getting sick with influenza and we are getting reports of severe illness and hospitalizations. Anyone who has not already been vaccinated should do so now. And it’s important to remember that people who have severe influenza illness, or who are at high risk of serious influenza-related complications, should get treated with influenza antiviral medications if they get flu symptoms regardless of whether or not they got vaccinated. Also, you don’t need to wait for a positive laboratory test to start taking antivirals.”Read More »The 2012-13 flu season getting deadlier