November 25th, 2013
04:00 PM ET
Severe MRSA infections have decreased by 54.2% in U.S. hospitals since 2005, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suggesting efforts to combat the deadly superbug are working.
MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, is a type of staph infection. While about one in three people carry staph on their skin, usually without getting sick, studies show approximately two in 100 people carry MRSA.
MRSA is called a "superbug" because it is one of the bacterial infections that has developed a resistance to commonly-used medications. The CDC attributes the rise of superbugs to the overuse of antibiotics in the general population.
Since 2005, the CDC has been tracking MRSA cases in nine cities across the United States. An estimated 80,400 invasive MRSA infections occurred in 2011, compared to about 111,200 in 2005, according to the public health organization. The results were published in one of the American Medical Association's scientific journals, JAMA Internal Medicine.
October 28th, 2013
02:00 PM ET
Providing condoms to adolescents has been - and likely will continue to be - a controversial topic. But the American Academy of Pediatrics is asking communities, educators, parents and doctors to step up in making this form of contraception more available to teens.
"Although abstinence of sexual activity is the most effective method for prevention of pregnancy and STIs (sexually transmitted infections), young people should be prepared for the time when they will become sexually active," several doctors wrote in a policy statement published Monday in the organization's journal Pediatrics. "When used consistently and correctly, male latex condoms reduce the risk of pregnancy and many STIs, including HIV."
Teen pregnancy rates are declining in the United States; in 2011, the number of babies born to women aged 15 to 19 was at a record low, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But sexually transmitted infections, or STIs, continue to be a problem for this age group. The CDC estimates that people between the ages of 15 and 24 account for half of the 20 million new STI cases that are reported each year.
In the statement, an update from their 2001 position, the pediatricians' organization recommends removing restrictions and barriers that often prevent teens from accessing condoms. Parents should be talking to their teens about sex, the doctors say, and pediatricians can help. The paper's authors encourage their colleagues to provide condoms in their offices and support increasing access in the community. They also recommend providing condoms in schools, in addition to comprehensive sexual education.
October 7th, 2013
12:44 PM ET
Since 1999, sales of prescription painkillers in the United States have quadrupled. So have the number of fatal poisonings due to prescription painkillers, according to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Prescription drug misuse is now responsible for more deaths than heroin and cocaine combined.
Despite these shocking statistics, a new report from Trust for America's Health finds many states are lacking effective strategies to curb prescription drug abuse.
The report, titled "Prescription Drug Abuse: Strategies to Stop the Epidemic," shows more than half the states scored a six or less on the advocacy organization's scale, which assesses the ways states are trying to combat prescription drug abuse. Only two states, New Mexico and Vermont, scored 10 out of 10.
"In the past two decades we've seen many advances in the development of new prescription drugs, which have been a miracle for many," said Jeff Levi, executive director of Trust for America's Health. "But we've also seen a corresponding rise in misuse, and the consequences can be dire."
October 3rd, 2013
12:00 PM ET
With all the talk of "superbugs" and antibiotic-resistant bacteria, you might think prescriptions for unnecessary antibiotics is relatively infrequent, especially for conditions where these drugs rarely work.
New research from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston suggests the opposite. Dr. Michael L. Barnett, lead author, and Dr. Jeffrey A. Linder, senior author, found that prescriptions of antibiotics for sore throat and acute bronchitis are far more common than they should be.
"You have a viral infection for which the antibiotics are not going to help, and you’re putting a chemical in your body that has a very real chance of hurting you," Linder said. Side effects of antibiotics include diarrhea, vaginitis in women, interactions with other medications and more serious reactions in a small number of people.
Also concerning: When you take antibiotics, there's a chance the disease you're fighting - or other bacteria in your body - will mutate, making it more resistant to antibiotics in the future.
"People may have infections that are harder to treat down the line because we're overusing antibiotics today," Linder said.
September 16th, 2013
01:46 PM ET
Efforts to increase healthy habits in American teens may be making an impact, according to a new study. Adolescents are moving more, eating better and watching less TV than they used to, and researchers say obesity rates in this group may finally be stabilizing.
The study results come a little more than a month after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced it was seeing signs of progress in the fight against childhood obesity, especially in low-income families.
In the new study, published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, researchers analyzed data from three sets of students in grades 6 to 10. One set was surveyed during the 2001-2002 school year, another set during the 2005-2006 school year and the third set from the 2009-2010 school year. Researchers asked the students about their daily physical activity, nutrition, breakfast consumption, TV habits, and height and weight. They then compared the answers across the three school years to identify trends in healthy - or unhealthy - behaviors.
August 21st, 2013
05:01 PM ET
The new strain of bird flu that killed at least 40 people in China this year likely evolved through close contact between ducks and chickens in markets selling live birds, according to a genetic analysis published in the journal Nature. At least 130 people became infected during the outbreak, which began in March.
“We clearly identified that the source of human infection came from the infected chickens, not any other types of birds,” said Yi Guan, a professor of virology at the University of Hong Kong and one of the study authors. The analysis also shows the virus was shed from the birds' oral or upper respiratory tract, not from fecal material. According to Yi, this suggests that H7N9 reasonably well adapted to infect humans, a finding that's supported by other research.
The research group also discovered a previously unrecognized variety of bird flu – an H7N7 strain, with a genetic makeup similar to the novel H7N9 strain. The H7N7 strain was also able to infect mammals in laboratory conditions.
Any variety of influenza is broadly characterized by two of its proteins: the type of hemaglutinin (“H”) and the type of neuraminidase (“N”).
August 15th, 2013
04:01 PM ET
Just days after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released statistics showing promise in the fight against childhood obesity, another study suggests the American public health system shouldn't be celebrating quite yet.
While new statistics show childhood obesity rates in the United States are dropping, obesity in adults still accounts for 18% of deaths among black or white Americans between ages 40 and 85, according to a study published this week in the American Journal of Public Health. Researchers say that's approximately 1 in 5 black or white Americans who are dying from illnesses related to obesity.
Even though the statistics may not surprise those who work in public health, they are nearly three times higher than previous estimates, according to study authors. FULL POST
July 22nd, 2013
05:19 PM ET
Of all the dangers you've imagined your child facing, a falling TV probably didn't make the top of the list. But a new study shows parents may need to pay more attention to their flatscreen safety.
An average of 17,000 children come to the hospital with TV-related injuries each year, according to the study, which published Monday in the journal Pediatrics. The researchers looked at emergency room data between 1990 and 2011.
"Although the overall rate of TV-related injuries stayed fairly constant, the rate of injury associated with a falling TV almost doubled during the study period," the study authors concluded.
June 18th, 2013
01:41 PM ET
It seems we often hear of another patient who has been desperately waiting for a transplant that could save his or her life.
Earlier this month it was a 10-year-old girl in Pennsylvania hoping for a new set of lungs. Before that it was Molly Pearce, who needs four organ transplants to survive. In September a man walked the streets of his South Carolina town asking strangers for a kidney for his wife.
More than 118,000 people in the United States are currently awaiting organ donations, according to OrganDonor.gov; 18 of them die each day without a donation.
Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg is hoping to change that with the power of the world’s largest social networking site. On May 1, 2012, Facebook launched an initiative aimed at encouraging more people to register as organ donors.
June 10th, 2013
02:55 PM ET
Maybe you’re better off taking the bus.
A new study in the July issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs found that 35% of designated drivers - those responsible for driving friends who may have had too much to drink - also consume alcohol and 1 in 5 had blood-alcohol levels high enough to impair their driving.
Researchers interviewed and tested 1,100 people in the downtown area of an unnamed Southeastern college community. Of the designated drivers who drank alcohol, half had blood alcohol levels higher than .05%, the new recommended limit for drunken driving (the current limit is .08%).
“If you look at how people choose their designated drivers, oftentimes they’re chosen by who is least drunk or who has successfully driven intoxicated in the past,” says Adam Barry, an assistant professor of health education and behavior at the University of Florida. “That’s disconcerting.”
About this blog
Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.