Posted by: msmc4 | November 15, 2011

The Power of Handwashing

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 2.2 million children  die from diarrheal diseases, which is more than AIDS, TB, and Malaria combined. What makes this statistic even more sad is that the majority of these deaths could have been prevented through proper handwashing techniques.

The importance of handwashing is a relatively old concept, but is often overlooked in the battle against infectious disease. Luckily, a non-profit organization is hoping to reestablish the importance of handwashing in the fight against infectious diseases through a revolutionary handwashing station called the Tippy Tap.  What makes this handwashing device revolutionary is that it conserves water, hygienic, and can be built anywhere in the world. To learn more about this handwashing station, please watch the video below.

Posted by: msmc4 | March 30, 2010


Methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a bacterium highly resistant to antibiotics such a methicillin, oxacillin, penicillin, and amoxicillin. Symptoms of MRSA include pus filled boils, sepsis, urinary tract infections, pneumonia, and death. MRSA infections most commonly occur within hospitals and healthcare centers because of the weakened state of immune systems. However, it is possible to contract MRSA in the community.

An article in next month’s issue of the Journal of Emerging Infectious Diseases states that Community-acquired, drug-resistant MRSA is becoming common among children in intensive care units. As a result, the CDC has recommended that patients should be examined prior to being admitted followed by a weekly routine screening. By doing so, hospital administrators hope to prevent the spread of MRSA to other patients.

Unfortunately, hospitals are not the only places seeing an increase in the number of MRSA patients. Recently, there have been several reports of MRSA being found in public setting such as schools and daycare centers. As a response to increasing concerns of MRSA, the CDC released the following guidelines to help prevent the spread of MRSA:

  • Avoid direct contact with another person’s infection.
  • Do not share personal items, such as towels or razors that have touched infected skin.
  • Do not touch used bandages.
  • Keep cuts and scrapes clean and covered.
  • Maintain good hygiene
  • Clean hands regularly
  • Know the signs of MRSA and get treated early.
Posted by: msmc4 | March 30, 2010

Mumps Making A Return?

Recently, there has been an outbreak of Mumps in Orthodox Jewish communities in New York and New Jersey. CDC officials have traced the source of the outbreak to an 11-year-old boy who had recently returned from flying abroad. After the news broke regarding the outbreak, many people were furious because this family did not have their son vaccinated with the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine.

Mumps is a highly infectious disease that is contracted by touching infected surfaces and through the inhalation of the virus. It is a concern to health officials because a person will be contagious days before they show any symptoms. Symptoms of mumps include fever, headache, muscle aches, loss of appetite, inflammation of the brain, swelling of the reproductive organs, and deafness.

Even though the majority of the community received the MMR vaccine, a lot of people still contracted mumps. The CDC explains that the MMR vaccine is not 100% effective, and that it is still possible to contract mumps. However, the CDC reports that symptoms would be milder compared to those who are unvaccinated.

Should vaccinations be required? If not, will we see an increase in once rare infectious diseases?

Posted by: msmc4 | March 30, 2010

Hand Sanitizers, The Good and Bad.

I will be the first to admit that I am constantly putting on hand sanitizer. Regardless of its form, if it is available I will use it.  Once the sanitizer has dried, I feel safe enough to then eat and even rub my eyes. After all, is not the function of hand sanitizer to disinfect?

According to an article in the NY Times, the function of hand sanitizer is to disinfect, but it does not mean that all hand sanitizers actually do. A study conducted on hand sanitizers available at stores found that at least one brand did not kill the majority of harmful bacteria. When researchers looked at the sanitizer’s ingredients, they found that its alcohol concentration was less than 60%. In order for a hand sanitizer to be effective, it must have an alcohol concentration between 60 and 95%. Any less will not kill the microbes.

So before you buy your next hand sanitizer, be sure to check its alcohol concentration!

Posted by: msmc4 | March 30, 2010

Worse than Swine Flu?

Penicillin is one of the most well-known and widely used antibiotic around the world. Doctors prescribe penicillin for hundreds of infectious diseases. Unfortunately, researchers have come to the conclusion that penicillin and other similar antibiotics will eventually become obsolete. In other words, they will no longer have an effect on bacteria.

Why is this happening? According to Dr. Holloway of the World Health Organization (WHO), over-prescription and mis-prescribing by doctors; insufficient duration of treatment and misuse of antibiotics by patients; and the use of antibiotics as growth hormones all contribute to antibiotic resistance. An example of this can be found in France, Spain, and Romania. In these countries, doctors and pharmacists have been overprescribing antibiotics to patients without first determining the agent. Because antibiotics were wrongly prescribed, it resulted in the increased emergence of drug resistant diseases such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, dysentery, and MRSA.

Due to the lack of new antibiotics, a person’s immune system is sometimes the only defense against drug resistant diseases. Because there are policies restricting the amount of time antibiotics can be used, pharmaceutical companies no longer find antibiotics as a profitable business when compared to chronic diseases. As a result, research and development of antibiotics are no longer keeping up with the development of resistance organisms.

In a CNN article, the author states that governments need to provide incentives for companies to develop new antibiotics. What kind of programs do you believe would promote the research and development of new antibiotics?

Posted by: msmc4 | March 29, 2010

Reaction to TB Article

After researching the topic of tuberculosis, I decided to revisit an article that I had linked to a previous blog post. In this article, it describes a situation where a tuberculosis patient was allowed to board an airplane despite being on several do-not-board lists.

For me, after reading this article my initial reaction was disappointment. The purpose of government is to protect its citizens by upholding policies and laws. Unfortunately, in this situation policies were clearly broken and more than 50 people were put at risk. The re-circulation of air and small area within the airplane created an optimal environment for Tuberculosis to spread. As a public health student, I found this article to be disappointing because research has shown prevention is a lot easier compared to treatment. I wonder how many similar situations occur each year in the US, and if the number would decrease if stricter consequences were in place.


Posted by: msmc4 | March 29, 2010

E. coli

Enterohemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC) is a newly recognized emerging infectious disease that causes several outbreaks a year. What makes this disease dangerous is its production of a shiga-toxin, high virulence, and low infectious dose. EHEC is transmitted through the ingestion of infected animal feces. Because of its low infectious dose, a person only needs to consume a tiny amount before becoming ill. According to the CDC, symptoms of EHEC will usually occur within 3-4 days after ingestion. Symptoms of EHEC can include stomach cramps, bloody diarrhea, and vomiting. However, there is a possibility for more severe symptoms to develop such as kidney failure and death. Fluid and electrolyte replacement is the suggested form of treatment. Although antibiotics are available, researches have suggested it be rarely prescribed because of the risk that EHEC could mutate and become resistant.

Why am I blogging about this?  EHEC is a disease that peaks in the summer months. During the summer, many people are grilling hamburgers and visiting animal fairs.It is important for us to realize that EHEC is spread through the consumption of undercooked hamburger meat, and through the ingestion of infected animal feces. The CDC released the following guidelines to help prevent contracting EHEC:

·  WASH YOUR HANDS thoroughly after using the bathroom or changing diapers and before preparing or eating food. WASH YOUR HANDS after contact with animals or their environments (at farms, petting zoos, fairs, even your own backyard).

·  COOK meats thoroughly. Ground beef and meat that has been needle-tenderized should be cooked to a temperature of at least 160°F/70˚C. It’s best to use a thermometer, as color is not a very reliable indicator of “doneness.”

·  AVOID raw milk, unpasteurized dairy products, and unpasteurized juices (like fresh apple cider).

·  AVOID swallowing water when swimming or playing in lakes, ponds, streams, swimming pools, and backyard “kiddie” pools.

·  PREVENT cross contamination in food preparation areas by thoroughly washing hands, counters, cutting boards, and utensils after they touch raw meat.

Here is a video describing the impact EHEC can have. After watching this video, do you believe that the government should place stricter regulations on animals in public settings?

Posted by: msmc4 | March 26, 2010


As I have continued to research infectious diseases, I have noticed one question in particular being asked frequently. What is the most effective way to avoid contracting an infectious disease? According to the CDC, the most effective way to prevent contracting or transmitting an infectious disease is through proper hand hygiene.

There are five steps to proper hand washing:

  1. Adjust the temperature of the water so that it is lukewarm
  2. Place a quarter size amount of soap in your hands. Vigorously wash your hands for at least 20 seconds focusing on the back of the hands, wrists, between the fingers, and under the fingernails.
  3. Rinse hands well.
  4. With the water running, dry hands with a single use paper towel.
  5. Using the paper towel, turn water off.

In order to reduce the risk of contracting an infectious disease, proper hand washing should be done after using the restroom, coughing, sneezing, using tobacco, handling raw meat, and any other activities that contaminate hands. For a more descriptive list, click here. Alternatives such as alcohol-based sanitizers can be used if soap and water are not available.

Posted by: msmc4 | March 26, 2010

West Nile Virus

Recently, I have noticed the temperature outside slowly increasing. This rise in temperature serves not only as a reminder of the coming break from school, but also the endless number of warm summer nights. As more and more of our time is spent outside, it vital to remember to apply mosquito repellent.

According to the CDC, the number of West Nile Virus (WNV) cases has increased substantially within the past decade. In the late 1990’s, the majority of cases were documented on the east coast of the U.S. However; if we look at today almost all 50 states have a documented human case of WNV. The WNV is a RNA virus that is transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito. People who contract WNV often have symptoms similar to the flu. Depending on the immune strength of the host, WNV has the potential to be very serious and even fatal.

Preventing WNV is very simple and only takes a few seconds. By putting on mosquito repellent containing DEET, you are preventing WNV while saving yourself countless hours of uncomfortable itching.

Posted by: msmc4 | March 24, 2010


While browsing through the website CNN Health, I was very surprised to come across several articles regarding Tuberculosis (TB) in the US.  Unfortunately, these type of articles show that the occurrence of TB is on the rise, and if not addressed many believe it will be the “plague” of future generations.

According to the CDC, TB is a disease caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. This type of bacteria primarily attacks the lungs; however, it has the possibility to attack other parts of the body. If TB goes untreated, it has the potential to be fatal. There are two conditions associated with TB: latent TB infection and TB disease. A person with latent TB is not infectious, but still carries the bacteria. On the other hand, TB disease is active and considered very contagious. TB is spread through the inhalation of respiratory droplets. In other words, a person with active TB can release germs from their body into the air through coughing, sneezing, speaking, and even singing. People nearby may breathe in the bacteria and then contract TB. Fortunately, TB is curable through the administration of antibiotics.

Even though TB is curable, there are several reasons why I believe that a more aggressive approach to TB is needed. TB is curable and has been around for centuries, and yet we still have been unable to eradicate it. Researchers put the number of deaths caused by TB each year in the millions. Even with this statistic, the primary diagnostic method and vaccine for TB date almost a century old. Some may say that research for a more modern vaccine and diagnostic method is unnecessary because the antibiotic is still effective. However, over the past few years researchers have seen an increase in the number of multiple drug resistant TB cases. Eventually the antibiotic, which was developed in the 1960’s, could be completely ineffective against the new strains of TB.

Here is a video giving a glimpse into the issue of TB.

Older Posts »