August 12th, 2014
04:38 PM ET
School children get low marks when it comes to spreading germs, often sharing bugs with their classmates. So scientists wondered if putting hand sanitizers into elementary school classrooms would lead to fewer absences.
Researchers in New Zealand set out to discover if using alcohol-based hand sanitizers, in addition to regular hand washing, would cut back on absentee rates in schools.
They recruited 68 primary schools, and all students were given a half-hour hygiene lesson. They then assigned half of the schools to a control group where children washed their hands with soap and water. The schools in the intervention group did the same, but were also asked to use classroom hand sanitizers when they coughed or sneezed, and before meals.
April 21st, 2014
04:24 PM ET
Every year, there are up to 870,000 prescriptions of codeine written for children in emergency rooms in the United States.
And that's a huge danger, because the narcotic can have particularly powerful effects on children. So powerful that the American Academy of Pediatrics issued guidelines against its use in 1997. Yet, despite those guidelines, a new study in the journal Pediatrics has found that little has changed in codeine prescribing habits.
Study author Dr. Sunitha Kaiser and her colleagues evaluated the National Hospital and Ambulatory Medical Care Survey database for emergency room visits of children between the ages of 3 and 17 from 2010 through 2010. They found found that in the nine years evaluated, the percentage of codeine prescriptions dropped very little - from 3.7% to 2.9%. FULL POST
April 10th, 2014
02:23 PM ET
Tamiflu, commonly used to reduce flu symptoms, may not work as well as the federal government believed when it spent more than $1.3 billion stockpiling it.
The Cochrane Collaboration, a nonprofit network of health practitioners, researchers and patient advocates, recently analyzed 46 clinical study reports on Tamiflu and another influenza drug called Relenza to determine their effectiveness.
The researchers concluded that while both drugs can stop adults' symptoms about half a day earlier, on average, than no treatment, the drugs do not reduce the rate of serious influenza complications, such as hospitalizations and pneumonia. The results were published this week in the British Medical Journal.
"A significant number of doctors see them as pretty mediocre drugs that don't do a whole bunch," said Dr. Peter Doshi, an assistant professor at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy and associate editor at BMJ.
January 27th, 2014
01:59 PM ET
Although the world of medicine has made incredible progress when it comes to tackling certain illnesses, scientists still have not been able to find the cure for the common cold. But there are ways to prevent colds as well as treat them. The question is, which are the most effective?
According to a review in the recent edition of the Canadian Medical Association Journal, hand washing and possibly taking zinc seem to be the best ways to avoid getting sick. Investigators reviewed 67 randomized controlled trials that showed hand washing as well as alcohol disinfectants are the best ways to ward off colds.
Zinc was found to work mostly in children, with two trials showing that little ones who took 10 to 12 milligrams of zinc sulfate every day had fewer colds and fewer absences from school because of colds. Authors of the study suggest that zinc could work for adults. Vitamin C, the "gold standard" of cold fighters, did not seem as effective.
December 23rd, 2013
04:18 PM ET
While some may consider women “the fairer sex,” science says otherwise.
It’s been known that women, in general, have stronger immune systems. Researchers say males have more bacterial, viral, fungal and parasitic reactions than females, as well as more severe reactions, and women have a "more robust response to antigenic challenges such as infection and vaccination," according to a new study published Monday.
Why women have stronger immune reactions hasn't always been clear. But the new study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, finds it may have something to do with testosterone. FULL POST
December 12th, 2013
12:49 PM ET
Last year's flu season was one of the worst in recent memory, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Tom Frieden said Thursday, and although this season is off to a slower start, people should still get flu vaccines.
"Last year was a relatively severe season," Frieden said, noting that 381,000 people were hospitalized, and 169 children died from the flu. "This is higher than we've seen in many flu seasons."
The good news, Frieden said, is that the flu vaccine prevented millions of illnesses. "We estimate that during last year's flu season, flu vaccination prevented 6.6 million people from getting sick with the flu, 3.2 million from going to see a doctor and at least 79,000 hospitalizations." FULL POST
October 17th, 2013
05:32 PM ET
Update 10/18 3:30 p.m.: The CDC has released an abbreviated FluView report for the week ending in October 12. See it here
Published 10/17: Now that the U.S. government shutdown is over, federal workers are returning to work, including the furloughed doctors and epidemiologists who work for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
One of the many things the CDC does is keep track of the flu, something that was stopped on October 1, leaving the overall flu picture in the United States a little murky.
Every Friday, the CDC is supposed to post how many cases of flu have been reported in the 50 states and U.S. territories. But during the shutdown, the CDC said on its website that it would "not be routinely analyzing surveillance data nor testing laboratory specimens submitted as part of routine surveillance."
So the most recent weekly CDC report provides data for the week of September 21. Under normal circumstances, the CDC would be posting data tomorrow from the week ending October 12 (they are always one week behind). But since their staff is just now returning to work, it's likely the FluView reports will probably resume next Friday, a CDC spokesperson said.
January 23rd, 2013
01:00 PM ET
Drama surrounding research on the deadly H5N1 avian flu continues, as 40 scientists urge work on the virus to continue in countries that have established guidelines on the safety and aims of the research. The United States is not among them.
"We declared a pause to this important research to provide time to explain the public-health benefits of this work, to describe the measures in place to minimize possible risks, and to enable organizations and governments around the world to review their policies (for example on biosafety, biosecurity, oversight, and communication) regarding these experiments," the letter states.
December 24th, 2012
06:53 AM ET
Ho ho ho, here's some Christmas-themed science!
The British Medical Journal's Christmas issue this month features a study about reindeer that treats a fantastical idea with some medical reality. The result is a lesson in how reindeer noses compare to the noses of humans and what purpose their underlying structures serve.
Can Ince, a professor who works in intensive care medicine at Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands, studies microcirculation, or how the smallest blood vessels in the body receive blood. Red blood cells go to these vessels to relieve themselves of oxygen, delivering it to the tissues that need it.
December 3rd, 2012
02:52 PM ET
If you haven't received your flu shot yet, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says now is the time to make sure you're protected. The agency says flu season is ramping up early this year - for the first time in almost a decade.
According to CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden, H3N2 is the predominant strain this year. It's generally associated with a severe flu season. "The strains we are seeing suggest this could be a bad flu year," Frieden said. "But this year's vaccine is an excellent match with the influenza that's circulating."
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