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Repeated contact with mumps may overwhelm immunization

A recent study, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, concluded that after an intense face-to-face educational technique, used among Orthodox Jews, apparently led to an outbreak of mumps in 2009 and 2010, despite high vaccination rates in the group. In a one-year period, from June 28, 2009, through June 27, 2010, 3,502 cases of mumps were reported in New Jersey, New York City and New York’s Orange and Rockland counties. The study examined 1,648 of those cases, 97% were Orthodox Jews, and found 89% had received two doses of the vaccine and 8% received one dose, a relatively high rate of vaccination.

Many of the individuals attended a religious school where they practiced an intense training technique called chavruta, which involves close contact with a partner across a narrow table. Partners change frequently, and he discussion is often loud and may involve shouting since a larger group may be close to each other, all trying to make an argument or point. This prolonged contact overwhelmed the immunity, from the mumps vaccination (part of the MMR vaccine), for individuals. The study did find high rates of two-dose coverage reduced the severity of the disease and the transmission to people in settings of less exposure. Also, the study found that mumps did not spread outside of the Orthodox Jewish community in the area, further supporting the overall effectiveness of the mumps vaccine in the broader community.Read More »Repeated contact with mumps may overwhelm immunization

Massachusetts hits compounding pharmacies linked to meningitis outbreak

The fungal meningitis outbreak related to a compounding pharmacy’s production of methylprednisolone acetate for epidural injection has reached 354 cases and 25 deaths according to the CDC. As I reported earlier, the reasons for the outbreak are multifold, from lax regulation of the compounding pharmacy, which are pharmacies… Read More »Massachusetts hits compounding pharmacies linked to meningitis outbreak

Harvard hospital retracts statement about data on aspartame and cancer

This is a story about clinical research, misinterpreting said clinical research, an overaggressive Public Relations department, honest scientists, and good scientific journalism. Let’s start at the beginning. This week, an article was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition by Schernhammer et al.,… Read More »Harvard hospital retracts statement about data on aspartame and cancer

“Homeopaths without Borders” going to Haiti to provide water

Yes, there is a group called Homeopaths without Borders. Apparently, the group that does lifesaving work across the world, Doctors without Borders, are too busy, utilizing real evidence-based medicine with real medications, risking their own lives, and doing great works, to be worried about homeopathy, a pseudoscientific concept, even if this group steals their imprimatur without shame.

Homeopaths without Borders are sending their water magicians to Haiti, a country that has had to suffer so much during the past few years. During their time their, “the team will be in Port-au-Prince to complete the final session of the Fundamentals Program—a foundational curriculum in homeopathic therapeutics incorporating theoretical and clinical training.” Clinical training on the poor residents of Haiti? Have they not suffered enough?Read More »“Homeopaths without Borders” going to Haiti to provide water

Whooping cough update: Colorado outbreak hits 1000 cases

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has reported that as of October 6, 2012, a whooping cough (Bordetella pertussis) outbreak has hit over 1000 cases since the beginning of the year, far exceeding the 5 year average of 2007-2011. The chart below shows the dramatic weekly increases in cases in Colorado since beginning of the year.

Read More »Whooping cough update: Colorado outbreak hits 1000 cases

Echinacea and the common cold–Myth vs. Science

It’s getting close to winter once again, so people always recommend their various lotions and potions to either prevent the common cold or, at least, to reduce the course of the disease. Alternative medicine’s favorite disease to treat is the common cold, mainly because it’s an easy disease to handle without too many serious problems. Also, from the patient’s perspective, the length and seriousness of the cold is usually very subjective, since the patient has a difficult time making an accurate determination when the cold started or ended, and making a quantitative assessment of the seriousness of the disease. Moreover,  confirmation bias is usually the reason one hears that something worked for the cold–the person who reports some product works forgets all the times it doesn’t. Or completely misjudges the actual effects of any treatment.

The list of products that you might run across in your local pharmacy that claim to have an effect on the common cold are many. Zinc, oscillococcinum, garlic, and vitamin C. I wrote about these products last winter, and they mostly don’t work. The strangest cold remedy you might find is oscillococcinum, which is a homeopathic preparation derived from duck liver and heart, diluted to 200C, or 200 1:100 dilutions.  In other words, in a liter of water there are precisely no molecules of duck guts. And there isn’t any logical explanation of a possible mechanism that would allow one to conclude that duck offal has an effect on cold viruses. Though Oscillococcinum is supposed to be used for flus, many use it for colds, but it doesn’t matter, why would a diluted potion of duck guts cure any virus? Well, Cochrane Reviews concluded that ”current evidence does not support a preventative effect of Oscillococcinum-like homeopathic medicines in influenza and influenza-like syndromes.Read More »Echinacea and the common cold–Myth vs. Science