Tag Archives: virus

Common respiratory virus often flies under diagnostic radar, especially for seniors

Mark Taylor

About Mark Taylor

Mark Taylor is an independent health care journalist based outside Chicago. Taylor was legal affairs reporter for Modern Healthcare magazine and writes for newspapers, as well as Medicare NewsGroup and Hospitals & Health Networks. He is a former Kaiser Media Fellow and a founding member of AHCJ.

Photo: Alyssa L. Miller via Flickr

Photo: Alyssa L. Miller via Flickr

While waiting for a shuttle bus at the annual meeting of the Gerontological Society of America in Orlando, I met a fellow conference attendee who worked for a drug company. When he mentioned his company was researching a vaccine for a viral infection called respiratory syncytial virus, commonly known as RSV, I had to scratch my head.

I stupidly thought it was one of those recently concocted pseudo-conditions drug companies occasionally tout to market new products. Continue reading

Flu hitting seniors hard across the country

Liz Seegert

About Liz Seegert

Liz Seegert (@lseegert), is AHCJ’s topic editor on aging. Her work has appeared in Kaiser Health News, The Atlantic.com, New America Media, AARP.com and other outlets. She is a senior fellow at the Center for Health, Media & Policy at Hunter College in New York City, and co-produces HealthStyles for WBAI-FM/Pacifica Radio.

Image via CDC.gov

It’s the first week of January and winter seems to have finally arrived with a vengeance. In addition to the cold and snow, many older adults are also fighting this year’s flu.

The CDC reports the virus is widespread in 43 states — from New England to the Pacific Northwest. The flu can cause severe illness and life-threatening complications with older adults and those with respiratory problems at especially high risk.

Some 5 percent to 20 percent of the U.S. population gets the flu each year. More than 200,000 are hospitalized from its complications.

By the first day of 2015, CDC’s influenza surveillance systems were showing “elevated” activity, including increasing hospitalizations rates in people 65 years and older. CBS Atlanta reported that “flu-related hospitalizations for the elderly have doubled from this time last year” across the country. Media outlets report increased flu-related deaths among local elderly in recent days. Continue reading

Resources for covering Ebola following Texas patient’s diagnosis

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates AHCJ's social media efforts and edits and manages production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

Image via CDC

Image via CDC

With today’s announcement of the first Ebola case to be diagnosed in the U.S., it’s worth brushing up on the facts about the virus to help your readers, viewers and listeners understand.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is hosting a briefing at 5:30 p.m. ET about the case, diagnosed in a patient at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas. Expected to speak during that briefing:

  • Thomas Frieden, M.D., M.P.H, director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • David Lakey, M.D., commissioner, Texas Department of State Health Services
  • Edward Goodman, M.D., FACP, FIDSA, FSHEA, hospital epidemiologist, Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas
  • Zachary Thompson, M.A., director, Dallas County Health and Human Services

And here are some resources to use in your reporting: Continue reading

‘Virus hunter’ stays ahead of outbreaks

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism, and he has blogged for Covering Health ever since.

Writing for Men’s Journal, Tom Clynes followed Nathan Wolfe — the virological and epidemiological equivalent of a rock star — to remote regions of Cameroon (PDF), one of the raw frontiers in the transmission of disease between animals and humans and the place where some scientists believe HIV may have made its way to humans more than a century ago.

Supported by generous grant funding from heavyweights like Google.org and the United States Department of Defense, Wolfe travels the world visiting places — from East Asian poultry and wild animal markets to bush meat hunters in central African rain forests — known as hotbeds of animal-to-human disease transmission. Clynes’ sometimes-graphic account follows Wolfe, head of the Global Viral Forecasting Initiative, as he visits African subsistence hunters to take blood samples and to educate them about safe hunting practices.

Clynes writes that Wolfe has pioneered a new, immersive model of disease detection that gives him a fighting chance of detecting the next big human pandemic before it gets out of control.

GVFI’s method flies in the face of the “parachute science” approach that has long typified data collection in the Third World. Wolfe thinks he’s got the system down, and he believes that, with the right collaborators, his model can be scaled up and repeated anywhere in the world.

Working like this, one village at a time, Wolfe has quickly accumulated one of the most comprehensive blood collections on Earth, some 25,000 human and 16,000 animal samples that are available to researchers around the globe. “I can guarantee that these repositories of samples will be treasure troves of information for the future,” says Michael Worobey, of the University of Arizona.

The global health community believes the dangers Wolfe and his team and others in the field are working to detect are very real, lending an urgency to GVFI’s work.

The SARS outbreak killed more than 700, but it could have been far worse. A massive international containment effort, led by the WHO, averted a doomsday scenario and quickly controlled the outbreak. What worries people like Dr. Michael Ryan, coordinator of the WHO’s Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network, is that SARS may have been just a rehearsal for something worse. “We winged it with SARS,” says Ryan, “and we got away with it, because the core countries had the capacity to deal with it. But if SARS had happened in rural Africa we’d still be dealing with it. And I think it’s inevitable that we’ll be hit with something new that will be harder to put back in its box.”