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2018 Flu Season is a Doozy

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The data shows this is has been one of the worst flu seasons on record.  Health officials continue to warn that the nasty flu strain, this year, has managed to spread to just about every corner of the United States.

Dan Jernigan, MD, puts it simply: “Flu is everywhere in the United States right now.”  The Director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases of Influenza Division and the Captain of US Public Health Service continues, “There’s lots of flu in lots of places.”

First of all, the season started earlier than usual, which is definitely not a good sign.  Furthermore, at least half of all states have reported significant flu activity.  Indeed, Brenda Fitzgerald CDC Director adds, “We are currently in the midst of a very active flu season with much of the nation experiencing widespread and intense activity.”

So far, then, the data suggests that this will likely be one of the most severe flu seasons in years and will probably be quite similar to the flu season during 2014 and 2015.

And the reason this year is so rough has everything to do with the particular strain of the bug.  The H3N2 strain is less common but more severe and, apparently, the immunizations did not have as much success as years past.  This strain, unfortunately, is commonly linked to the most severe illnesses among older adults (age 65 and over) as well as young children (under the age of 5).

Jernigan continues, “This strain is associated with more cases and more hospitalizations and more deaths.”

Sure enough, not only are reported flu cases on the rise, but it looks like flu-related deaths are also up, this year.  For one, pediatric deaths from complications of the flu, in the first week, are already up seven to bring the total for the season up to 20.  Also, hospitalizations—especially among adults over the age of 50 and children under the age of 5 are on the rise.

Obviously, health experts and officials are urging that everyone get a flu shot but also there are several things you can do to further minimize your risks:

    • Avoid close contact with those sick people
    • If you get sick, limit your contact with other people
    • Cover your nose and mouth—with a tissue—when you sneeze or cough and then properly discard the tissues
    • Wash your hands with warm water and soap, and do it often
    • Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects you suspect to be contaminated with the flu

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Indicators on MRI Scans May Provide Tips on Multiple Sclerosis Development

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Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

A tremendous discovery possibly has been made to help predict what type of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) may develop up to one year after the first attack. MS is a tricky disease where the body’s own immune system attacks the protective layers of nerves within the central nervous system. There is no simple way of diagnosing MS as doctors have to rely on symptoms and tests to eliminate other diseases. It is a disease which leaves its victims in the dark as its progression and severity are extremely unpredictable. MRIs have been used extensively to study the effects of MS on the brain.

MRIs are a valuable tool to allow doctors to visually see lesions within the central nervous system which could indicate the presence of MS. Even though not all lesions which appear on an MRI are due to MS, the imaging tool can be used by doctors to determine future treatment options.

Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

Researchers are now becoming craftier in their analysis of MRI results to determine what the future may hold for an individual with an MS diagnosis. A formula based on the number, size, and length of lesions on the first MRI after the onset of MS can potentially allow doctors to determine the prognosis of a patient.

There are numerous types of MS and, on occasion, demyelinating incidents may have no future attack. This is known as clinically isolated syndrome (CIS). This can sometimes delay the decision of what type of treatment to utilize and when to apply it.

In an effort to put their theory to the test, researchers studied patients with a CIS. They measured their lesions after the first attack and took the same measurements over the course of one year.

The study looked at 46 patients and 25 (54%) of them progressed to MS after the completion of one year. It was noted that individuals who had lesions that were temporal, occipital, or perpendicular to the corpus callosum on the initial MRI had an increased risk for another attack.

Any patient who displayed greater than 13 lesions, a largest lesion of more than 0.75cm in length, and a lesion perpendicular to the corpus callosum was at a 19 times greater risk of conversion MS.

A closer look at these indicating factors can help doctors determine which patients are less likely to experience a future attack within the next year and patients who should be on high alert.

The results of the study were invigorating in scientists’ quest to shorten the time it takes to diagnose MS and to deliver proper treatment. However, further research is required to determine if this method is the proper tool to predict the prognosis of everyone who suffers from a CIS.

“It was a fine study, intriguing, interesting, and adds to what we know about the imaging factor, but it’s not actionable yet,” said Bruce Bebo, executive vice president of research at the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

Until then, doctors will utilize their knowledge of what MRIs reveal after an initial CIS to make an accurate prediction of the likelihood it develops into MS.

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Group of Doctors Mobilized by a City to Treat Addiction at any Location on the Street

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Mark Farrell

The mayor of San Francisco, Mark Farrell, has organized a unique medical team to tackle the growing opioidcrisis in the city. The 10-person medical team was given $6 million in funding to locate homeless citizens and heroin addicts to prescribe them the medication buprenorphine. The program is a pioneering initiative to assist those suffering from opioid addiction who would otherwise fail to get treatment. The team’s goal is to prescribe the medication to at least 250 addicts over the course of their program as first reported by the San Francisco Chronicle. Doctors are working mercilessly to provide access to the medication to the homeless who suffer from addiction.

Mark Farrell

“The consequences of standing still on this issue are unacceptable,” Farrell told TheChronicle. “Drug abuse is rampant on our streets, and the recipe of waiting for addicts to come into a clinic voluntarily is not working. Plain and simple. So we’re going to take a different approach.”

Buprenorphine is known by the brand name Suboxone. It has shown to be more effective at limiting urges and the effects of withdrawal symptoms than methadone. Patients can take buprenorphine as a daily pill or a dissolvable strip.

The Department of Public Health first got the idea for the program back in 2016 when they prescribed buprenorphine in tent camps. They noticed a remarkable trend of nearly 60 percent of the roughly 200 individuals prescribed the medication still making positive steps to stay away from opioids.

The encouraging trend of the one-year pilot study inspired the health department to take things a step further with the street program. “Homeless people who use drugs are especially vulnerable and our health system is adapting by going directly to them with compassionate outreach and expertise,” DPH Director Barbara Garcia said.

Many people are afraid to seek treatment for opioid addiction at clinics due to either a degrading social stigma or the fear of being sent to jail. The street program aims to find people, wherever they may be located, before they fall victim to overdose.

Mayor Farrell believes the investment into the program will pay dividends. “When you think about it, we’re doing a couple things, one saving lives with this program and second, the reduction of emergency costs for individuals who are in our ambulances, emergency rooms and hospitals,” Farrell said.

The one of a kind program by the San Francisco DPH team has been praised by drug addiction experts. Dr. Alex Stalcup, who leads a clinic in the Bay area and is a nationally renowned expert on addiction treatment, is enthusiastic about the program. He stated buprenorphine as “blindingly effective.”

“It clearly saves lives. It ought to be part of the national program. And people who go into tents, like San Francisco has done to distribute Suboxone, they are my heroes,” Stalcup stated.

The DPH hopes to see a resounding change in the city’s opioid addiction epidemic. The department believes there to be roughly 11,000 heroin addicts in the city who utilize needles and a sizable portion of that figure are expected to be homeless.

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Post Operative Care: Groundbreaking sensor for analyze patient’s rehab

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Post Operative Care

Groundbreaking sensor could potentially allow doctors to analyze patient’s rehab from afar. Researchers at the University of Waterloo have constructed an innovative self-powered sensor which could enable doctors to oversee their patients’ post-surgery rehabilitation or post surgery care or  Post Operative Care thousands of miles away.

Hassan Askari, a Ph.D. engineering student at Waterloo University, and his teambelieve there is a vast array of applications for their new sensor. Askari’s team included Ph.D. student Ehsan Asadi, doctoral student Zia Saadatnia, professors at Waterloo Amir Khajepour and Mir Behrad Khamesee, and professor at the University of Toronto Jean Zu.

The primary application of their tube-shaped sensor is to be connected to orthopedic braces patients wear after an operation and feed data to easily accessible devices such as a smartphone. The sensors use for knee rehabilitation in particular was studied by the research team. Doctors can analyze crucial identifiers of improvement after joint procedures such as range of motion from the comforts of home. Adjustments that need to be made to a patient’s rehabilitation program post-surgery can be spotted immediately by doctors with the sensor to avoid further disruption to the patient’s progress.

Post Operative Care

“That data would be continuously collected, so it would be as though the physician or physiotherapist was always there, always observing the patient,” said Hassan Askari.

The same sensor utilized for patient rehabilitation after surgery can potentially be used in the tires of autonomous vehicles to spot and adjust to dangerous driving conditions such as icy roads.

The research team performed tests on a model of the sensor by combining triboelectric and electromagnetic generators to produce a current.

The sensor produces an ample amount of electricity to power electronic circuits for wireless signal transmissions when twisted.

“The aim was to develop a sensor that works without having a battery attached to it,” said Askari. “It is its own power source.”

This device would be a tremendous fit for scenarios where dependability is critical as replacing worn out batteries would be a costly and tedious task.

The sensorsmeasure roughly six centimetres long and one centimetre wide and likely can be assembled for $5 to $10 per unit.

Using solely triboelectricity, researchers are now focusing on reducing the size of the sensor even more. Askari’s team is researching tremendously for technology to utilize the sensor’s use in tires.

When the sensor is fitted to the inside of car tires, it could have the capacity to detect changes in road conditions, including dangers like icy roads, and send the data to the computer of a self-driving vehicle so it can make proper modifications in driving patterns.

“Based on the forces, the interaction between the road and the tires, we could actually detect ice or rain,” said Askari. “That is extremely important information for autonomous driving.”

A study which outlines their research, A flexible tube-based triboelectric–electromagnetic sensor for knee rehabilitation assessment, was published in the journal Sensors and Actuators A: Physical.

Sources: Waterloo, Waterloo Engineering, Science Direct

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