Got Asthma? Get a Flu Shot!

30 09 2010

(The following is courtesy of CDC)

If you have asthma, you’re probably familiar with the wheezing, breathlessness and coughing that comes with it. But did you know that the flu can make your asthma worse, and that having asthma puts you at higher risk for serious flu complications? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), even if your asthma is controlled by medicine, getting the flu can still make your asthma worse. It can even land you in the hospital. During the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, about one-third of all people in the hospital from 2009 H1N1 had asthma.

Experts believe that the 2009 H1N1 virus will still be around during the 2010-2011 flu season. This season’s vaccine will protect against the 2009 H1N1 virus. The 2010-2011 flu vaccine will also protect against two other flu viruses that research shows may cause a lot illness during the upcoming season. CDC recommends a flu vaccine as the first and best defense against seasonal and 2009 H1N1 flu. In fact, CDC now encourages everyone 6 months and older to get a flu vaccine. “We hope the new recommendation this season will protect more people from the flu,” says Dr. Anne Schuchat, Director of CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

But there is a special message for people who have asthma, “People with asthma and other underlying conditions are at special risk and it’s important that they be protected from the flu, including 2009 H1N1, this season. Get a flu shot,” Schuchat urges.

While symptoms and severity can vary, the flu is typically worse than the common cold, and can cause symptoms including high fever, headache, tiredness, cough, sore throat, and muscle aches. Vomiting and diarrhea can also occur, although usually more often in children. Call your doctor right away if you get flu symptoms.

Asthma puts adults and children at more of a risk for complications from the flu. The flu vaccine is safe and cannot give you the flu. The flu shot rather than the nasal spray is suggested for people with asthma or other medical conditions.

Because different flu viruses go around each year, a new flu vaccine is made each year to fight seasonal flu, which is why it is important to get a seasonal flu vaccine every year. Even if you got a vaccine last season, you should still get a flu shot this season, because the protection from last year’s vaccine may have gone away, plus this season’s vaccine will protect against new strains of flu viruses.

Vaccine is available through your doctor, pharmacist, local health clinic, and flu clinics at local retail outlets. For more information, visit www.flu.gov, www.cdc.gov/flu, or contact CDC at 1-800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636).





Safe Sex Can (Still) Save the World!

27 09 2010

At my very small liberal arts college in the late ’80s/early ’90s, talk of safe sex had just begun, trailing the growing HIV/AIDS crisis as public education efforts often do.

They weren’t yet handing out condoms in the student union, but our resident advisors regularly counseled us to “be safe,” and we were given plenty of bananas on which to practice our condom unrolling skills.

Out in the real world (beyond our college campus), movies like Long Time Companion, as well as the touring AIDS quilt were like a Scared Straight (as it were) for college sexual behavior.

Early commercials portrayed AIDS as a death sentence, and they were petrifying performances that had many of us reaching for condoms long before we had a sexual partner.

Fast forward two decades—the picture of HIV/AIDS has changed dramatically, both in terms of survivability and perceived risk of infection. While HIV infection rates continue to grow (approximately 56,000 new HIV infections occur each year in the U.S.),    HIV infection has now become a chronic condition for many.

Today’s commercials are less scary, with ads like this one emphasizing making the right choice (using condoms) during sex:

Once people started surviving AIDS, safe sex lost its immediacy, with a character like the “safe sex angel” now signifying a switch to a lighter, breezier approach.

Also, the fact that condom use and other safer sex behaviors reduce one’s chance of infection with a life-altering STI like gonorrhea, chlamydia, herpes, or HPV is often barely acknowledged in public awareness campaigns, although it should be trumpeted loud and often.  Safe sex isn’t just about HIV prevention.

The misperception that the AIDS crisis is past has allowed many people to back away from safer sex practices that could save their lives. Everywhere, there are indications that safe sex isn’t what it used to be. In Britain, an HIV+ pop star recently admitted to having unprotected sex. and a recent study found that many young gay men (a population at extreme risk for HIV infection) admitted to having unprotected sex with other men.

Studies show that at least 200,000 people are infected with HIV in the U.S. and don’t know it. According to news reports, those most likely to receive a late diagnosis of HIV and to die from AIDS are adults over 50.

HIV leads to AIDS and death, if left untreated. And there is no such thing as safe sex.

Don’t make the mistake of believing that safe sex is a thing of the past.  You can protect yourself from needless infection and chronic health complications by following these simple steps. And as parents, we need to practice what we preach:





Three Social Media Trends to Watch

23 09 2010

Whether you’re active on Facebook or Twitter, or use your iPhone to track news and traffic, social media is taking center stage in the way we interact as a society. Some of the constant communication can be stressful, but it’s clear the two-way flow of information is democratizing news,increasing patient access to health information, and literally bringing the world to our fingertips.

If the thought of even more two-way communication makes your head hurt, stop reading here.

If these next three trends typify where we’re going, it’s quite likely that today’s social media will seem quaint in a few short years.

  1. Geo-locating Foursquare and its ilk, including Facebook Places, “tag” users as they wander around town or across the country. These updates, “Jane Smith is now in Starbucks in downtown Bellingham” appear as status updates. Why would someone want to share location information with the public? Isn’t that sort of creepy? To old notions of privacy, geo-tagging is a little creepy, but to the social media pioneer, tagging allows one to track others (“Hey! I’m at Starbucks too!”) and possibly meet up or view communities in real time.
  2. URL meets IRL – Fasten your seat belts, folks, we’re entering another dimension at the intersection of virtual and real called “social scanning.”  Programs like Stickybits encourage you to “tag your world.” You can add barcodes to businesses you frequent and then scan in photos, video, and commentary in real time.  It is also a real sticker that you can download and place on a real business -sort of a virtual Like button. A boon to businesses that elicit positive scans, but one wonders if negative scans will be left in place for long. 
  3. Specialized content sharing – Only interested in news and information relating to red fire ant behavior in the Mojave Desert? Niche content sharing is for you!  For many media consumers, scanning all headlines is no longer a desired use of time. Instead, people want to target their attention to a sub-topic or interest area.  Answering the question, “What are you working on?” people working in a specific field are able to share project ideas, photos, even drafts for others to review and comment upon. This makes way for seriously collaborative opportunities.

What does all this mean to health information, patient privacy, and infectious disease? Well, what if in the future we scan our doctor and leave comments in real-time for those who follow us on Facebook.  For example, “Don’t ever use this pediatrician, he’s very poor with fussy kids.”

Or maybe we’re newly diagnosed with hep C, and we want to filter our content by that disease alone?  Or we are a nonprofit health coalition interested in soliciting feedback on our new website. Sites like Dribbble allow us to do just that. Interested in infectious disease as a patient or caregiver? The notion of online community is going to change radically over the next decade. Whatever happens next, it’s clear Facebook and Twitter are only the beginning.

And the lines between the virtual world and the real world will become very blurry.





Finally… Designer Hospital Gowns!

20 09 2010

Spent any time in the hospital lately?  Chances are you were dressed up in a Johnny gown, those little wisps of cloth that expose more than most of us care to show.

Although versatile—Johnny gowns tie so they can open from the back or the front, depending on the access your healthcare professional needs—basically they’re a piece of cloth with a couple of strings at the neck.

When determined nurses wave a Johnny at us, they take our dignity along with our pants.

But thanks to some fashion designers, we may be getting some of our dignity back.

Across the pond, designer Ben de Lisi created a modest, functional, and fashionable gown for patients.

At the Cleveland Clinic, they’ve had a gown redesign project in the works for the last three years.  Designer Diane von Furstenberg recently showcased her reversible gown that brings style, color, and full-coverage to the patient.

Feedback on the designer gown has been generally positive, although there were some grumblings about the color, and a few male patients felt the gowns were too feminine.

Designing hospital gowns is not as simple as one might think.  Patients come in all shapes and sizes and their requirements vary.

Don’t know about you, but we’re just happy that somebody is doing something to close the “gap!”





Is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Infectious?

16 09 2010

A couple of studies written up over the past year suggest that chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), may be an infectious disease.

Hold your horses, said CDC this summer.  They did their own study and found no such result.   The retroviruses, or virus gene sequences, other researchers have found to be common in a significant number of CFS+ study participants were not found by CDC in their study.

Talk about “conflicted findings!”  Which study is accurate?

If CFS in an infectious disease, then how do we treat and prevent it?

Until we know what causes CFS, prevention is nearly impossible.  Treatment options are all over the board and will likely remain so until causative agents are identified, and in most cases, physicians are managing rather than treating the illness.  CDC recommends the following options for CFS patients:

  • Professional Counseling
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
  • Graded Exercise Therapy (GET)
  • Symptomatic Treatment
  • Alternative Therapies
  • Support Groups
  • Pharmacologic Therapy
  • Sleep Hygiene
  • Pain Therapy
  • Orthostatic Instability Treatment
  • Antidepressants

Another thing to consider: If CFS may be an infectious disease, what about our blood supply?  CFS is hard to diagnose, so how many potential blood donors rolling up their sleeves can be accurately identified and stopped from giving blood?  Or should they be stopped?  If CFS isn’t infectious, then probably not, but if it is, then probably so!

Dr. Harvey Alter at the NIH is the scientist to watch on this.  He’s a superstar in the world of viral hepatitis, and it looks like CFS might be his next big thing.

There’s too much conflicting information right now as to the cause of CFS, but to be affected by (or infected with) CFS is not easy.  The millions of people living with it deserve our attention.  We need to tip the scale so that we have more answers than questions.





Social Media Questions? Lets Talk

13 09 2010

Have you tried to set up Facebook for your health department? Are you considering regular tweets for your health coalition? Are some elements of social media confusing to you? PKIDs Social Media Roundtable for Health Educators is for you!

Beginning Thursday, September 23rd @9am Pacific, PKIDs will host a monthly roundtable discussion during which we will review and present potential solutions to your social media related questions. We hope to learn from each other and help each other through the occasionally puzzling maze that is social media.

There are three ways to participate:

  1. Submit your organization’s question by 9/22 to connect@pkids.org and we’ll do our best to incorporate it into the discussion
  2. Sign up for the Roundtable, by going here
  3. Don’t be shy! Call in, discuss, and participate on 9/23.




PKIDs Now Hiring

9 09 2010

PKIDs is doing exciting work and would like to invite  individuals on the West Coast to join us in these forward-moving times. We will hire either two part-time people, or one full-time person.

We’re seeking a creative person afflicted with perpetual curiosity to work in a fast-paced, collaborative environment.

The ideal candidates are energetic, expert multi-taskers and the two focuses are:

Tech Savvy and Research Acumen

The right person will have experience and expertise in the following:

  • Social media participant (more than just a Facebook, Twitter account-holder) – you know how to use social media to promote your ideas and causes
  • MS Office Suite Expert – you know how to use various office products (including Excel, Word, Outlook) and have a few efficient tricks up your sleeve.
  • Adobe  – You can make, share and comment on .pdfs and can easily work in other Adobe products
  • Proficient blogger, writer, and SEO practitioner

This individual will also have writing, research, and editorial acumen with an ability to craft messages for various social and traditional communications outlets.  The right person will participate in all programs – leading in some and assisting with others.

Experience:

  • 3+ years experience in the areas outlined above
  • Exceptional communication and organizational skills
  • Strategic thinker, excellent writer
  • Proven track record in online community/social media
  • Strong project management and interpersonal skills
  • Health and medical knowledge a plus
  • Bachelor’s degree

All PKIDs’ employees work from home offices and one must be comfortable and productive in that environment. You are expected to have your own working phone, computer, and a fast-internet connection available for work usage.

Please visit our website to find out more about us www.pkids.org and feel free to email any questions you may have.

Please send your resume, salary requirements, links to online work, writing samples, and anything else you would like us to see to pkids@pkids.org.