Prevention In Getting H1N1 Flu

There is growing concern for everyone’s health and safety as the H1N1 virus (swine flu)
becomes more widespread. Swine flu is a respiratory disease of pigs caused by type A
influenza viruses that causes regular outbreaks in pigs. Normally, people are not
affected by swine flu, but human infections can happen and as we have seen recently,
have happened.

H1N1 in particular is a unique combination of four different strains of
influenza, of which two strains are swine flu, one is an avian flu, and one is a human flu.
The symptoms of H1N1 flu include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache,
chills and fatigue. Some people have reported diarrhea and vomiting, as well.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) warn that people may be able to infect others
beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 7 or more days after becoming
sick. That means that the flu is contagious before you even know you are sick, as well as
while you are sick.

Our bodies are under constant attack from microbes, allergens and environmental
conditions, and it is the job of our immune system to serve as our protector or buffer
against these elements. Given the recent flu outbreak and with allergy season upon us,
supporting your immune system is more important than ever if you want to stay healthy.
The best way to strengthen your immune system is with a comprehensive approach that
involves healthy lifestyle practices, stress management, regular exercise, a healthy diet,
and nutritional supplementation.

The skin is the body’s first line of defense. Since many viruses are airborne, avoiding
them completely may be impossible because germs, viruses and bacteria live on
surfaces for a short time and can enter the body through the mucus membranes in the
mouth, nose and eyes. This is why it is important to wash your hands before touching
your face. Good health habits alone can be natural ways to boost the immune system or
at least prevent the immune system from having to work so hard.
Viruses can survive for several hours on hands, tissues, or hard surfaces. A healthy
person can contract a virus by touching a contaminated surface and then touching his or
her own mouth or nose. Using an antibiotic soap may help prevent the spreading of
germs, but these soaps can also contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistant
bacteria, so it is best to use them only when necessary. Continue reading

Brown University Study Of Marijuana Use In Head And Neck Cancer

Researchers at the Departments of Community Health, Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Brown University, Providence, RI, USA, have found that Cannabinoids, constituents of marijuana smoke, have been recognized to have potential antitumor properties. They wrote, “However, for the subjects who have the same level of smoking or alcohol drinking, we observed attenuated risk of HNSCC (head and neck squamous cell carcinoma ) among those who use marijuana compared with those who do not. Our study suggests that moderate marijuana use is associated with reduced risk.

California’s Real Death Panels: Insurers Deny 21% of Claims

OAKLAND, Calif., Sept. 2 /PRNewswire/ — More than one of every five requests for medical claims for insured patients, even when recommended by a patient’s physician, are rejected by California’s largest private insurers, amounting to very real death panels in practice daily in the nation’s biggest state, according to data released today by the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee.

CNA/NNOC researchers analyzed data reported by the insurers to the California Department of Managed Care. From 2002 through June 30, 2009, the six largest insurers operating in California rejected 31.2 million claims for care – 21 percent of all claims. “With all the dishonest claims made by some politicians about alleged ‘death panels’ in proposed national legislation, the reality for patients today is a daily, cold-hearted rejection of desperately needed medical care by the nation’s biggest and wealthiest insurance companies simply because they don’t want to pay for it,” said Deborah Burger, RN, CNA/NNOC co-president.

For the first half of 2009, as the national debate over healthcare reform was escalating, the rejection rates are even more striking.

PacifiCare denied 40 percent of all California claims in the first six months of 2009. Cigna, which gained notoriety two years ago for denying a liver transplant to 17-year-old Nataline Sarkisyan of Northridge, Calif. and then reversing itself, tragically too late to save her life, was still rejecting one-third of all claims for the first half of 2009.

“Every claim that is denied represents a real patient enduring pain and suffering. Every denial has real, sometimes fatal consequences,” said Burger. PacifiCare, for example, denied a special procedure for treatment of bone cancer for Nick Colombo, a 17-year-old teen from Placentia, Calif. Again, after protests organized by Nick’s family and friends, CNA/NNOC, and netroots activists, PacifiCare reversed its decision. But like Nataline Sarkisyan, the delay resulted in critical time lost, and Nick ultimately died. “This was his last effort and the procedure had worked before with people in Nick’s situation,” said his older brother Ricky. California Blues rejected 28 percent of claims in the first half of 2009. In 2008, six days before RN Kim Kutcher of Dana Point, Calif., was scheduled to have special back surgery, Blue Cross denied authorization for the procedure as “investigational” even though the lumbar artificial disc she was to receive had FDA approval.

At the time of denial, which she calls “insurance hell,” Kutcher notes she had “already gone through pre-op testing, donated a unit of blood, had appointments with four physicians.” Kutcher paid $60,000 out of pocket for the operation and is still fighting Blue Cross. Kaiser Permanente, which denied 28 percent of all claims in the first half of 2009, was one of two systems to reject options for radiation and chemotherapy for 57-year-old Bob Scott of Sacramento after his diagnosis of a brain tumor in 2005. The reason cited was his age, says wife Cheryl Scott, RN. “He had been in perfect health all of his life. This was his first problem other than a sprained ankle. He died six months later.” Rejection of care is a very lucrative business for the insurance giants. The top 18 insurance giants racked up $15.9 billion in profits last year. “The routine denial of care by private insurers is like the elephant in the room no one in the present national healthcare debate seems to want to talk about,” Burger said. “Nothing in any of the major bills advancing in the Senate or House or proposed by the administration would challenge this practice.” “The United States remains the only country in the industrialized world where human lives are sacrificed for private profit, a national disgrace that seems on the verge of perpetuation,” she said.

CNA/NNOC supports an alternative approach, expanding Medicare to cover all Americans, which would give the U.S. a national system similar to what exists in other nations. Data released in late August by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, which tracks developed nations, found that among 30 industrial nations, the U.S. ranks last in life expectancy at birth for men, and 24th for women.

CNA/NNOC represents 86,000 registered nurses in all 50 states, and is working toward unification with the Massachusetts Nurses Association and United American Nurses to build a new 150,000 member national nurses organization.

SOURCE California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee

Innovative, Low-Cost Medical and Diagnostic Tests

In the developing world, the availability of many medical technologies is limited by cost, durability, and ease-of-use. This is especially true of expensive diagnostic devices, which are critical for detecting diseases that are endemic in developing countries. However, researchers are working to develop low-cost, user-friendly alternatives that could improve the ability of healthcare providers to diagnose a range of conditions.

Harvard researchers have developed an alternative microfluidic device that replaces standard silicon, glass, or plastic substrates with treated paper. Fluids flow through the microchannels in the paper device in the same way that they would in a standard chip. Researchers have used the device to test for glucose and protein in urine, but hope to adapt it for the possibility of testing blood samples for HIV/AIDS, dengue fever, or hepatitis. While a traditional microfluidic device costs between $10 and $1,000USD, the materials to create the paper devices, known as microPADS, cost only three cents. The design of the microPAD device allows for several tests to be conducted simultaneously, furthering the cost and resource savings.

To help better diagnose infectious diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis, researchers have developed a microscope that attaches to any cellular telephone with a camera feature. The device, known as a CellScope, is able to illuminate pathogens in a sample treated with fluorescent molecular “tags.” It is estimated that the production of first CellScopes will cost roughly $1,000 each, but with further developments the price could drop to just a few hundred dollars, including the cell phone. Not only can an individual use the microscope to view the pathogens, but they can also send an image to a healthcare facility for assistance making an appropriate diagnostic determination.

Efforts have also been made by scientists at the Burnet Institute to improve HIV-testing procedures. A prototype monitoring test has been designed for use in remote settings. The new test, which uses a finger-prick blood sample, allows individuals to determine their CD4+ T-cell count within 30 minutes. The CD4+ T-cells are critical for healthy immune system function and their levels are a deciding factor with regard to starting anti-retroviral therapy. Standard CD4 tests are often not available in the developing world due to their cost, the need for specialized equipment and trained personnel, and the long wait period to obtain test results.

Though these diagnostic technologies offer improvements in the developing world, as The Wall Street Journal reports, acceptance may be slower in the United States. Some researchers have found success when applying African healthcare models to rural areas of the U.S., and results using low-cost technologies originally conceived for use in the developing world may follow this trend. The use of innovative low-cost testing methods may also assist with telemedicine initiatives, as they allow healthcare providers to conduct necessary tests and provide better diagnostic information to consultants. Through discussion among global health experts – as allowed by telemedicine initiatives like iCons in Medicine – innovative diagnostic tools and other cost-saving measures may become more popular, and help to provide improved care worldwide.