Oct 19, 2014

Enough about Ebola. Get a Flu Shot!

The CDC and the Dallas Hospital are in deep doo-doo. Unlike Vegas, what happened in Dallas didn't stay in Dallas.

In an article by Christina Coleman called "5 Mistakes The CDC and Texas Health Presbyterian (THP) Hospital Made While Handling Ebola," she wrote just a few days ago that 1) Thomas Duncan, the man from Liberia who had Ebola, was sent home from THP the first time despite his fever and his telling the nurse he came from West Africa, 2) improper protective gear, like for Nina Pham, the first person and a nurse in the US to contract Ebola, who attended to Duncan, 3) inappropriate disposal of waste, 4) lack of response by the CDC in regard to the training for nursing staff, and 5) the CDC's endorsement for Amber Vinson, the second person and a nurse who contracted Ebola and who also attended to Duncan, to board a jet packed with132 other people, all contributed to the possible exponential spread of Ebola.

Figure it like this, taking one of many examples: Vinson traveled from Dallas to Cleveland on a plane while she may have been showing early symptoms with Ebola. While in Cleveland, attending to her bridesmaids and their gowns, she may have been sweating or coughing or sneezing and she touched the gowns. 

The bridal shop closed after it was revealed that Vinson had been there and it was confirmed that she had Ebola upon Vinson's return to Dallas. The owner said that no bridal shop workers would go to her store for fear they would catch Ebola and their families would be at risk. In addition, the TSA agent in Cleveland who patted down Vinson was put on administrative leave as an Ebola "suspect." And there it is--the exponential part, or if you don't know what exponential means, think of it as the virus multiplying out of control. Remember, that's just one example. What about the people on the plane and other people in the airport who may have had bodily contact with Vinson?

"The only way that a person can contract Ebola is by coming into direct contact with the bodily fluids of somebody who is showing symptoms. In other words, if they don't have symptoms, they're not contagious," said President Obama, quoting the CDC.

But could Obama's words change? Maybe, like the government could decide it is airborne. Stuff like that always happens. Remember Saccharine and cancer? 

But take a simple thing like a flu shot. The CDC says, "While there are many different flu viruses, the seasonal flu vaccine is designed to protect against the main flu viruses that research suggests will cause the most illness during the upcoming flu season."

You may ask, why am I quoting the CDC? That is a fair question given that they f---ed up with Ebola in Dallas. I'm giving them kudos because despite what happened in Dallas, the CDC has done wonderful things over time, like this sampling since the CDC's inception in 1946:

1949: The US was declared free of malaria as a significant public health problem.

1957: National guidelines for influenza vaccine were developed.

1964: The first Surgeon General’s report linking smoking to lung cancer was released. It stated that “cigarette smoking is a health hazard of sufficient importance in the United States to warrant appropriate remedial action.

1978: Alcorn County, Mississippi, reported cases of the first outbreak of tuberculosis resistance to formerly effective drugs.

1982: CDC advised of the possible risk of Reye syndrome associated with the use of aspirin by children with chickenpox and flu-like symptoms.

1994: Polio elimination was certified in the Americas.

And these more recent ones:

2005: Rubella was eliminated in the United States.

2009: CDC identifies the novel H1N1 influenza virus. The H1N1 flu pandemic dominated CDC activity for the year, and demonstrated CDC's unique ability to assess and explain the risk.

2010: In the aftermath of the 7.0 magnitude earthquake in Haiti, CDC response efforts helped prevent 7,000 deaths from cholera.

So if you have had a stroke or any condition where your immunity is compromised, you need to take steps to fight the flu. First and foremost, get a flu vaccine. Even if you don’t have a regular doctor or nurse, you can get a flu vaccine. Look around. In case you've been in hibernation, they're offered at pharmacies, health centers, and many local colleges, too.

In case you did get a shot and still contracted the flu, the antiviral drugs can make your illness milder and make you feel better faster. They may also prevent serious health problems that can result from the flu. You might consider getting a pneumococcal vaccine to protect against pneumonia. Pneumonia is an example of a flu-related complication that can cause death. Pneumococcal vaccines may be given at the same time as flu vaccines.

The height of the flu season is from November til March. November is two weeks away. There's still time.

Oct 6, 2014

Selfie Helped Woman Who Was Having a Stroke: She Captured the Whole Thing

One of the many dictionary-type websites defines selfie as, "a photograph that one takes of oneself with a digital camera or a front-facing smartphone, tablet, or webcam, especially for posting on a social-networking or photo-sharing website." 

I have done so myself in a moment when I wanted to capture myself with a new hairstyle or a new outfit, albeit without posting it anywhere. Selfies are pure vanity moments, but so what? Everyone is allowed. And hardly no one takes one selfie. It has to be right. The least I took was three--I won't tell you the most--and I was on break and had nothing to do but photograph myself. 

Thanks to one woman's stroke selfie, she has put a "face" on the symptoms. Back in April, 2014, Stacey Yepes, from Ontario, Canada, started experiencing stroke-like symptoms. Her docs from the ER told her that her symptoms were just stress and sent her home. Later, it happened again on the way out of the hospital's parking lot.


During that second attack, Yepes recorded a selfie on her Smart phone. When she arrived at the ER again, doctors saw the picture and knew for sure she was having a stroke. (I believe the correct interjection here is "duh").

One vascular neurologist, Elizabeth Carroll, D.O., serves as South Austin Medical Center Stroke Medical Director who saw Yepes stroke selfie. Dr. Carroll says when Yepes initially experienced stroke-like symptoms that went away, she probably had a transient ischemic attack (TIA).

"They come and they go," says Dr. Carroll. "People are visual a lot of the time. When they actually see something happening it's much more effective potentially than if they read about or if they had a friend who had it. But that actual visual seeing it I think is very potent for a lot of people."

Yepes had it all: face numbness, slurred speech, difficulty walking. And yet the doctors dismissed her as being stress-related. That proves my point, shared by many: Doctors don't know everything, especially about strokes.

“It’s hard to say why there was an incorrect diagnosis initially, but things like that can happen,” Dr. Markku Kaste, of the World Stroke Organization, said. “Still, the quicker you go to the hospital, the higher the likelihood of a good outcome.”

Dr. Kaste is right, but Yepes had to go to the hospital twice, to give the doctors a chance to issue the correct diagnosis as a do-over. Couldn't they tell from her classic symptoms? The doctors probably missed the lecture on strokes in medical school. Good grief. There's no excuse.