Washington state whooping cough study shows vaccine protection fades over time

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But vaccination still the best tool for protection, health officials say

From the Washington State Department of Health:

Photomicrograph of the bacteria that causes whooping cough

A new study shows that whooping cough vaccinations wear off over time, but they’re still the best protection against the dangerous disease.

The study, released in the May edition of the journal Pediatrics, used data from the 2012 whooping cough epidemic in Washington.

The article, entitled “Tdap Vaccine Effectiveness in Adolescents During the 2012 Washington State Pertussis Epidemic” is one of the first studies to test how long the adolescent and adult (Tdap) whooping cough vaccines are effective.

The investigation analyzed vaccine histories of 11- to 19-year-olds who contracted whooping cough — also called pertussis == during the 2012 epidemic.

For each case, researchers also looked at the vaccine histories of three adolescents that didn’t have whooping cough but were the same age and went to the same doctor.

While whooping cough vaccines are the best form of defense against the disease, the study found that much of the protection from the Tdap vaccine may wear off after two to four years.

State officials say the study shows that Tdap is most effective in its first year, underscoring the importance of high-risk individuals and pregnant women getting vaccinated. Continue reading

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As many as 36 E. coli cases linked to Whatcom county fair

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Escherichia Coli_NIAID E Coli BacteriaWhatcom County health officials report that as of May 1st they have identified 18 laboratory-confirmed cases of infection with E. coli O157 linked to a fair held late last month and additional 18 cases with symptoms that appear to be due to highly pathogenic bacterium. Five cases have been hospitalized.

Over a thousand primary school children from all of the school districts in Whatcom County attended the event, the Milk Makers Fest, that was held at the Northwest Fairgrounds in Lynden on April 21 – 23.

The bacterium, shiga toxin-producing E. coli O157, can be contracted by consuming food or by coming into contact with animals.

The Whatcom County Health Department is  continuing to interview cases to determine if there was a common food or water source or activity, such as the petting zoo or other contact with livestock. Washington State Department of Health Communicable Disease Epidemiology is assisting with the outbreak investigation.

Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria normally live in the intestines of people and animals. Most E. coli are harmless and actually are an important part of a healthy human intestinal tract.

However, some E. coli are pathogenic, meaning they can cause illness, either diarrhea or illness outside of the intestinal tract. Continue reading

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Paying Medicaid enrollees to get check ups, quit smoking and low weight: Will It pay off?

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wellness-incentive-570By Phil Galewitz
KHN

When Bruce Hodgins went to the doctor for a checkup in Sioux City, Iowa, he was asked to complete a lengthy survey to gauge his health risks.

In return for filling it out, he saved a $10 monthly premium for his Medicaid coverage.

In Las Cruces, N.M., Isabel Juarez had her eyes tested, her teeth cleaned and recorded how many steps she walked with a pedometer.

In exchange, she received a $100 gift card from Medicaid to help her buy health care products including mouthwash, vitamins, soap and toothpaste.

Taking a cue from workplace wellness programs, Iowa and New Mexico are among more than a dozen states offering incentives to Medicaid beneficiaries to get them to make healthier decisions — and potentially save money for the state-federal health insurance program for the poor.

The stakes are huge because Medicaid enrollees are more likely to engage in unhealthy practices, such as smoking, and are less likely to get preventive care, studies show. Continue reading

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Top five stories of the week

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Credit: Dan Shirly

Credit: Dan Shirly

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Psychiatrists unveil new resource for patients

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apa-understanding-mentalBy Lisa Gillespie
KHN

As mental health professionals, policy makers and advocates focus on taking steps to mend the fragmented mental health care system, the role of patients and their friends and families is sometimes overlooked.

That’s why the American Psychiatric Association is releasing a first-of-its-kind book to decode in plain English the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – a guide for mental health providers that is also used to determine insurance coverage.

The resource, Understanding Mental Disorders: Your Guide To DSM-5, includes in-depth explanations of risk factors, symptoms and symptom management, treatment options and success stories.

This gets at one of APA’s reasons for releasing this volume — to help create a more accurate picture of what a particular illness or disorder might involve. Continue reading

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Running out of money is more than just a worry for many seniors, study finds

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clockBy Michelle Andrews
KHN

For many older people and their families, particularly those dealing with conditions such as Alzheimer’s or cancer that often require long-term, pricey medical care, running out of money is a nagging concern.

Families are right to be worried, according to a new study that analyzed data from nearly 1,200 people who died between 2010 and 2012 and who participated in the University of Michigan’s ongoing national Health and Retirement Study.

Among people who were age 85 or older when they died,  one in five had no assets left apart from their homes, and 12 percent had no assets left at all, only income from sources such as Social Security or pensions.

Among people who were age 85 or older when they died,  one in five had no assets left apart from their homes, and 12 percent had no assets left at all, only income from sources such as Social Security or pensions.

The analysis by the Employee Benefit Research Institute found that those who died younger were even worse off.

Among people who died between age 50 and 64, 30 percent were without assets and 37 percent had only their homes. Continue reading

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4 in 10 Americans Breathe Unhealthy Air: Report: MedlinePlus

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620px-AlfedPalmersmokestacksMore than four in 10 Americans, or about 138.5 million people, are breathing unhealthy air, a new report finds.

Despite the fact that many cities have shown improvements in air quality, other metropolitan areas have recorded more days of air that contained high levels of both ozone and particle pollution.

And a handful of cities saw their highest number of unhealthy days ever, according to the American Lung Association’s annual report on air quality.

Source: 4 in 10 Americans Breathe Unhealthy Air: Report: MedlinePlus

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Dropping One Sugary Soda a Day Could Cut Diabetes Risk: Study

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Soda Pop TopPeople who love sugary sodas and flavored milk may have a heightened risk of type 2 diabetes, regardless of their body weight, a large new study finds.

The good news, the researchers said, is that swapping just one of those drinks each day — for water or unsweetened coffee or tea — could lower diabetes risk by up to 25 percent.

Source: Dropping One Sugary Soda a Day Could Cut Diabetes Risk: Study

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Killer Pharmacy: Inside a Medical Mass Murder Case

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Magnifying GlassNewsweek tells the story of a seemingly innocuous Massachusetts pharmacy that was making millions of dollars by cutting corners, fabricating records and ignoring laws designed to keep contaminated drugs off the market.

The company perpetrated what may be one of the most murderous corporate crimes in U.S. history by pumping out deadly medicines that infected more than 800 people with fungal meningitis in 2012, 64 of whom died.

Source: Killer Pharmacy: Inside a Medical Mass Murder Case

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Experts clarify best intervals, ages for cervical cancer screening | Reuters

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“Guidelines recommend not screening prior to age 21, screening no more frequently than every 3 years and ending screening among low-risk women,” said Dr. George F. Sawaya of the University of California, San Francisco Center for Healthcare Value, who coauthored the new guidelines.

Source: Experts clarify best intervals, ages for cervical cancer screening | Reuters

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The Doctor Will Video Chat With You Now: Insurer Covers Virtual Visits – NPR

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you can live stream movies, why not live stream medical care?

Insurance company UnitedHealthcare will start covering visits to the doctor’s office — via video chat. Patients and physicians talk live online — on smartphones, tablets or home computer — to get to a clinical diagnosis.

This move to cybermedicine could save insurers a ton of money — or have unintended consequences.

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