Few health stories in 2013 captured as much news coverage and attention than the launch of the Federal Health Exchange website and its rocky beginnings. Many were excited by the prospect of lower health insurance costs, promised by the administration, and flocked to the website to sign up. But, due to technical difficulties, hundreds of thousands of customers were left out in the cold and unable to enroll in coverage. Insurance companies reported very few applications received even months after the site’s launch.
By November, 2014, the problems that plagued the site earlier had seemed to be fixed with the officials announcing 100,000 application submissions on the first day of open enrollment. But, higher than expected premium cost and lower coverage for consumers — combined with complicated and costly systems for hospitals — highlights just how much further ‘Obamacare’ has to go before it will be seen as a success.
While Ebola didn’t start in 2014, it sure came on like a lion then. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that, as of January 6, 2015, a total of 21,007 cases were reported, and nearly 9,000 deaths were attributed to the disease.
The inevitable happened which captured headlines around the country, igniting a firestorm, sending people running for surgical masks and hazmat suites to protect themselves from the disease. But, was it much-ado-about-nothing? Within a few weeks, everything seemed back to normal again.
Enterovirus D68 (EV-D68) took the U.S. by surprise in 2014, with a confirmed total of 1,153 people within 49 states and the District of Columbia affected.
Amid the ongoing debate whether e-cigarettes are a less dangerous alternative to smoking, the use of these devices soared in 2014. A U.S. National Institutes of Health survey found that more than double number of 10th graders are likely to have tried e-cigarettes, to those who will have tried traditional cigarettes.
No matter where you land on the issue of healthy meals in public schools one thing is for sure, the kids weren’t happy in 2014. Championed by First Lady, Michelle Obama, federal regulations on what constitutes a healthy meal were met with opposition from the recipients of those lunches. Kids around the country took to social media, tweeting photos of their meals along with the trending hashtag #ThanksMichelleObama.
When most think about a patient seeking assisted suicide we picture a face of many more years than that of Brittany Maynard’s, an attractive 29-year old woman from California. Brittany suffered from cancer and moved to Oregon in 2014 to take advantage of the state’s “Death With Dignity Act” — at the same time capturing the nations attention to the serious subject of an individuals right to die.
A small but growing number of parents who have shun vaccinating their children, based on beliefs that vaccines cause conditions like Autism, are unwittingly playing a role in the resurgence of once-rare childhood diseases. In 2014, California suffered its worst outbreak of pertussis, also know as ‘whooping cough’, in 70 years. CDC statistics also show that U.S. measles cases have reached a 20-year high.
Although the legalization of marijuana in Washington state, Oregon, and Colorado was for recreational use, I have added it to this list for the social significance it points to. Namely, the changing tide in public sentiment toward pot and its use. Many states have already, up-till-now, had laws for its legal medical use. However, in many cases, the wider view of pot as a ‘bad thing’ stymied its spread as a potential option for those seeking a serious alternative to pharmaceuticals. This recent wave of states legalizing its use could signal a change in opinion, and open doors for patients looking for other options.
America, and the world, was shocked when it learned that one of its beloved stars had committed suicide. Robin Williams took his own life after years of struggling with depression. After his death, Williams’ wife revealed he had also recently been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, and an autopsy revealed his brain showed signs of Lewd Body Disease, a form of dementia that can cause hallucinations and concentration problems.
Although it’s not confirmed these conditions played a role in William’s suicide, his death has shed light on several frequently misdiagnosed or understood disorders.
Restaurants and concession stands must now post calorie counts on their menus. Under newly finalized FDA rules, chain restaurants, vending machines, and theatre and amusement park snacks must post their calorie counts. Personally, I don’t want to know my ‘elephant ear’ is 1,500 calories… I just want to shove it in my face while spinning 800 rpm’s on the tilt-a-whirl.
By first depositing living cells encapsulated in a hydrogel with a 3D printer, scientists at Weill Cornell Medical College were able to construct and grow the first artificial ears that look and act like real ones. Using human cells, specifically from the same patient, reduces any possibility of rejection.
Nurses once again topped the list of ‘professions with the highest ethical standards’ in Gallup’s 2014 survey on honesty and ethics. Way to go nurses… Whoop, whoop!
A North Carolina man became the first patient in state history to receive a “bionic eye”, Argus II retinal prostheses, allowing him to see light for the first time in 30 years. Then, in the later half of the year, a double arm amputee was fitted with robotic arms that he was able to control… wait for it, with his mind! How freakin’ cool is that?
Ebola is all everyone is talking about, we are even a little guilty of it ourselves. Every day, the reports we all hear grow more and more dire and disconcerting.
The USA discovered it had a chink in its disease prevention protocol armor when the news of its first diagnosed Ebola patient came to light back in September, of this year. Thomas Eric Duncan was the first patient in the states diagnosed with the deadly disease. Initially misdiagnosed and released with a treatment of antibiotics, Duncan was finally admitted into the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital where he eventually succumbed to the disease.
Spreading the fear further, two healthcare workers who treated him were also then diagnosed with the virus themselves. If this could happen in Texas, surely it will be in my town next, right? Which means I should board up my windows, stock up on MRE’s and surgical masks and stay indoors for a year or two… right?
Well, before we all lose our heads over what is certainly a very serious situation, we should do a little homework and find out exactly what is happening, and what is being done to prevent the need for us all to flee to our fallout shelters.
So, I have collected some resources to help you weed out the facts from all of the hype.
First is this report by Fox News’ Shepard Smith. In contrast to much of the hyperbolic coverage, this report is very level.
Second, Stephen Colbert is known for his satire and comedy. But, alongside his funny-bone tickling comments is some serious reporting as well.
And finally, NBC News released a story titled, Don’t Panic: Why Ebola Won’t Become an Epidemic in New York
This is not all to say Ebola is not a very serious threat, which it most certainly is. Many, many thousands of people across the globe have been, or will be affected by it. But, before you take out a second mortgage to have your house hermetically sealed shut, spend a few minutes to educate yourself with the facts.
Yahoo News reports today, that in response to the Dallas Hospital ER handling of the recently confirmed Ebola virus case, the CDC was prompted to issue a nationwide alert to all hospitals updating them of how to appropriately respond to possible cases of the deadly disease.
The Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) Algorithm for Evaluation of the Returned Traveler and the Checklist for Patients Being Evaluated for Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in the United States are located on the CDC.gov website, and are to help hospital staff identify and evaluate returning travelers for the EVD.
If you have not familiarized yourself with the signs and proper handling of patients who may have the EVD please follow this link to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website here: Ebola Update.
There is still a mystery surrounding Enterovirus cases spreading around the country. Now the CDC is investigating possible connections between the virus and temporary paralysis. Although its symptoms are similar to the common cold, its rapid progression and severity makes it very different — with many cases ending up in Intensive Care. Hundreds are hospitalized in 11 states, at higher risk are children with asthma.
Here are some important things you should know:
• Highly contagious, spreadable by cough or sneeze, and also can live on surfaces. But full knowledge of how is spreads is unknown due to lack of scientific studies on the virus.
• Starts like common cold; Runny Nose, Coughing, sneezing and fever
• Progresses rapidly; difficulty breathing, possible loss of consciousness (look for wheezing, shortness of breath or difficulty speaking)
Apparently this isn’t the first case of an outbreak of Enterovirus (EV-D68). According to a 2011 CDC report, from 2008 to 2010 there were clusters of Acute Respiratory Illness associated with EV-D68 across multiple continents including Asia, Europe and the United States. While it’s not the first time however, health officials are scratching their heads as to why it has reemerged… and with such voracity.
Particularly alarming is the lack of specific treatment for the virus and its, now possible, connection to acute onset of focal limb weakness — or temporary paralysis. Instead, health officials are tasked with treating the symptoms of the infection, often requiring hospitalization.
The CDC has a specific link for Healthcare Professionals on Evaluating, Reporting, Testing and Infection Control Recommendations here.
Officials say, the yet-as identified patient is under “strict isolation” in Dallas, Texas, apparently confirming a statement issued on Monday by the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas.
Monday night Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas released the following statement:
“Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas has admitted a patient into strict isolation to be evaluated for potential Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) based on the patient’s symptoms and recent travel history. The hospital is following all Centers for Disease Control and Texas Department of Heath recommendations to ensure the safety of patients, hospital staff, volunteers, physicians and visitors. The CDC anticipates preliminary results tomorrow (Wednesday).”
In a press conference, CDC Director Tom Frieden said the patient in question had been traveling in Liberia, where he may have contracted the disease.
“It is certainly possible that someone who had contact with this individual…could develop Ebola in the coming weeks,” Frieden said, but added that “there is no doubt in my mind that we will stop it here.”
According to the CDC website, “The 2014 Ebola outbreak is the largest in history and the first Ebola epidemic the world has ever known.” The virus is know to be transmitted by contact with blood or body fluids (including but not limited to urine, saliva, feces, vomit, and semen) of a person who is sick with Ebola. Objects, such as needles and syringes, that have been contaminated and animals that are infected are also know means of transmitting the virus. At this time it is not believed that Ebola is transmitted through the air or by water.
There is currently no known treatment or cure for the virus.
Complete information on the Ebola Virus can be found on the CDC website at CDC.gov.
The CNBC story can be found here.
Dallas CBS News Report.