Since the COVID-19 vaccines were authorized by the FDA, one of the big questions has been how well they prevent transmission of the COVID-19 even among those who have been vaccinated. The clinical trials used disease — an infection with symptoms — as the endpoint because stopping severe disease and death was the most important priority. In addition, it’s very difficult to develop a vaccine that creates sterilizing immunity, the type of immunity that prevents infection — the virus’s ability to enter cells and begin replicating. Continue reading
Two high-profile safety breaches have highlighted the importance of close adherence to infection control protocols in dental clinics and offices.
In both recent cases, patients have been advised to undergo testing for HIV and hepatitis B and C due to possible exposure to bloodborne pathogens.
In Seattle and nearby Vashon Island, news broke in early April that nearly 1,300 students face infection risks because equipment used in school clinics was improperly sterilized. Ten school-based dental clinics operated by Neighborcare, a local health center have been impacted by the safety breach. Continue reading
Sacramento Bee health reporter Sammy Caiola worked quickly to give her readers the story about the death of a young California father from complications of a dental infection.
Her reporting began at 10 a.m. on Jan. 31 when she found the kernel of the story in an email. By that afternoon, Caiola had tracked down and visited with the man’s grieving widow, interviewed a knowledgeable local dentist on the causes of dental deaths and located peer-reviewed research that added depth and context to her piece. Continue reading
The recent story of a young California husband and father who died after suffering complications from a dental problem serves as a sad reminder of the important ties between oral health and overall health.
Vadim Anatoliyevich Kondratyuk, 26, a long-haul truck driver, was headed east to New York when he started feeling pain in the lower left side of his mouth.
It is likely that three patients and two volunteers contracted hepatitis B at a large free dental clinic held in 2009 in Berkeley County, W.V., according to investigators.
Investigators documented problems with infection control at the large Mission of Mercy clinic, held at a school gymnasium. But they were unable to definitively link those breaches with the five infections, or to determine exactly how the patients and volunteers were infected. They have shared their conclusions in the October issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association.
The news of the cluster of hepatitis B infections among attendees at the West Virginia clinic attracted wide attention in 2010, after health officials sent out letters notifying hundreds of clinic patients and volunteers that they might have been exposed. The highly infectious hepatitis B virus can lead to serious liver damage. Continue reading
Following the devastating tornado in Joplin, Mo., county public health officials found themselves in conflict with state officials about alerting the public to an aggressive fungal infection that was showing up in people who were injured in the storm and its aftermath.
According to emails obtained by Sarah Okeson of the Springfield, Mo., News-Leader, state officials were concerned about panicking the public and declined to issue the alert.
Photo by Red Cross: Carl Manning GKCARC via Flickr
Local officials, on the other hand, say they wanted to “ensure that any hospital/health care provider would recognize the illness in a timely manner and begin aggressive anti-fungal treatment.” Faced with a denial from the state, the local officials issued a limited alert to 43 health care contacts and to health care providers.
A week after the county’s request – and two days after the News-Leader ran a story written by Okeson about the fungal infections – the state issued a health advisory.
The infections drew the interest of federal officials, including Benjamin Park, who leads an epidemiology team at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Park repeatedly emailed acting state epidemiologist Dr. George Turabelidze offering assistance and emphasizing that “There could be some important public health information that is obtained from this (risk factors, exposures, environmental sampling?) that would be important for future disaster events.” In one email, Park refers to receiving “inquiries all the way up to HHS secretary about this.”
Guidance for releasing information in a public health crisis
The Association of Health Care Journalists recently worked with the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) and the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) to develop guidelines for releasing information in a public health crisis.
“Stories like these raise questions about how public health agencies respond to outbreaks,” said Charles Ornstein, president of AHCJ’s board of directors. “That’s why I’m particularly glad that AHCJ has worked alongside ASTHO and NACCHO to come up with guidance about the type of information that should be released in public health emergencies. Working collaboratively, journalists and public health officials can improve the information shared during outbreaks and earn the public’s trust.”
The guidelines include advice to health official to consider publicizing an illness or death when “A major epidemic or novel illness is emerging, or a natural disaster or other major event affecting public health has occurred or is anticipated.”
The guidance emphasizes the importance of openness, stating that information should be withheld only when there is a clearly justified reason.
- Joplin hospital staff took action during disaster
- Doctors operated by flashlight, workers scrambled in tornado-ravaged hospital
- Health officials, journalists agree on standards
- Guidance on the release of information concerning deaths, epidemics or emerging diseases
- CDC: Rare fungus risk in future tornadoes
- CDC releases report about Joplin fungus
- Fungus infects tornado victim
- Woman who survived Joplin tornado dies with rare fungus