Saturday, July 30, 2011

Generic levofloxacin gets FDA approval

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved last month generic versions of the fluoroquinolone antibiotic levofloxacin.
Levofloxacin is used to treat mild, moderate, or severe bacterial infections in people 18 years and older. It is used to treat infections of the skin, sinuses, kidneys, bladder, and prostate caused by specific bacteria. It also is used to treat certain bacterial infections that cause bronchitis or pneumonia, and to treat those exposed to inhalational anthrax.
According to Keith Webber, Ph.D., deputy director, Office of Pharmaceutical Science in the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, "Generic drugs are important options that allow greater access to health care for Americans. FDA-approved generic drugs must meet rigorous standards and are required to be of high quality so that people can be assured that their medications will act the same in the body as the brand-name product."

The generic drug is approved in all dosage forms; tablet, liquid and injectable. 12 manufacturers application have been approved: Akorn Inc., Aurobindo Pharma Ltd., Dr. Reddy's Laboratories Ltd. Glenmark Generics Ltd., Hi-Tech Pharmacal Co. Inc., Lupin Ltd., Mylan Pharmaceuticals Inc., Sagent Strides LLC, Sandoz Inc., Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Torrent Pharmaceuticals Ltd. and Wockhardt Ltd.
Fluoroquinolones are synthetic, broad spectrum antibiotics approved for the treatment or prevention of certain bacterial infections. Like other antibacterial drugs, fluoroquinolones do not treat viral infections such as colds or flu.
Other fluoroquinolones include ciprofloxacin, gemifloxacin, Avelox (moxifloxacin), Noroxin (norfloxacin), and ofloxacin.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Allman Brothers Band to hold Hepatitis C benefit concert

The blues and rock legends will hold a Hepatitis C benefit concert in New York on Wednesday, July 27, on the eve of World Hepatitis Day.
63-year-old band cofounder, Gregg Allman has a special motivation to promote hepatitis C awareness; it was just a little over a year ago that the rocker had a liver transplant at the Jacksonville Mayo Clinic. His liver suffered extensive damage from the viral disease since beingdiagnosed with Hepatitis C in late 2007.
Allman is working with the American Liver Foundation (ALF) and pharmaceutical giant Merck promoting awareness of this growing public health issue.
"I'm excited to be working with Merck and the American Liver Foundation because there are many people who have been diagnosed with chronic hepatitis C, but aren't taking action. I want to tell them, don't wait. Doing nothing is not an option; they need to talk with their doctor," said the vocalist and keyboardist of the Allman Brothers Band.
According to the ALF, nearly 3.2 million Americans have chronic hepatitis C virus infection, a potentially serious disease that can damage the liver over time and lead to cirrhosis, end-stage liver disease and liver cancer. Many people infected with chronic hepatitis C do not know that they have the virus – approximately 60 to 80 percent of people infected with chronic hepatitis C virus do not have symptoms.
According to eMax Health, individuals can get hepatitis C through contact with an infected person’s blood. This can occur in a variety of ways, such as being born to a mother who has the disease, having sex with an infected individual, being tattooed or pierced with an unsterilized needle that was used on an infected person, sharing drug needles with an infected individual, experiencing an accidental needle stick from a needle that was used on an infected person, or using an infected person’s toothbrush or razor.

Hepatitis C can be either "acute" or "chronic". Acute hepatitis C virus infection is a short-term illness that occurs within the 1st 6 months after someone is exposed to hepatitis C virus. For most people, acute infection leads to chronic infection. Chronic hepatitis C is a serious disease than can result in long-term health problems, or even death. There is no vaccine for hepatitis C.
Hepatitis C has been treated with combo drugs like peginterferon and ribavirin. However, just last month we saw the first FDA approval of new hepatitis C drugs in 20 years which make claims of a possible cure of the disease; Merck’s Victrelis and Vertex Pharmaceutical’s Incivek.
World Hepatitis Day is Thursday, July 28, 2011. It is an annual event that each year provides international focus for patient groups and people living with hepatitis B and C. It is an opportunity around which interested groups can raise awareness and influence real change in disease prevention and access to testing and treatment.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

CDC releases new country-specific yellow fever vaccine recommendations

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in conjunction with the World Health Organization (WHO), and other travel medicine experts released the new country-specific yellow fever vaccine recommendations Monday on their website.
There are three general categories of yellow fever recommendations outlined on the website:
Recommended: Vaccination recommended for all travelers ≥9 months of age to areas with endemic or transitional yellow fever risk, as determined by persistent or periodic YFV transmission.
Generally not recommended: Vaccination generally not recommended in areas where the potential for yellow fever virus (YFV) exposure is low, as determined by absence of reports of human yellow fever and past evidence suggestive of only low levels of YFV transmission. However, vaccination might be considered for a small subset of travelers who are at increased risk for exposure to YFV because of prolonged travel, heavy exposure to mosquitoes, or inability to avoid mosquito bites.
Not recommended: Vaccination not recommended in areas where there is no risk of YFV transmission, as determined by absence of past or present evidence of YFV circulation in the area or environmental conditions not conducive to YFV transmission.

Changes in recommendations are seen in the following countries: Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ecuador, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, São Tomé and Príncipe, Somalia, Tanzania, Trinidad and Tobago, Venezuela, and Zambia. 
See the recommendations at the following link:

Monday, July 25, 2011

The WHO wants increased STI and HIV services for gay and transgender people

The World Health Organization (WHO) issued new recommendations Tuesday to help doctors and policymakers increase treatment and prevention services for sexually transmitted infection (STI) and HIV in men who have sex with men and transgender people.
The new guidelines Prevention and treatment of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) among men who have sex with men and transgender people: Recommendations for a public health approach provide 21 recommendations for actions to be taken by multiple stakeholders, in close cooperation with men who have sex with men and transgender people.
The impetus behind the guidelines is a resurgence of HIV infection among men who have sex with men, particularly in industrialized countries and newly identified HIV epidemics among men who have sex with men in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and Latin America. Generally, men who have sex with men are nearly 20 times more likely to be infected with HIV than general populations according to the WHO.

According to Dr Gottfried Hirnschall, WHO's Director of HIV/AIDS Department, "We cannot imagine fully reversing the global spread of HIV without addressing the specific HIV needs of these key populations. We are issuing these guidelines to help countries and communities scale-up the services needed to reduce new infections and save lives."
The WHO also say that stigma and criminalization is experienced by many men who have sex with men and transgender people in many countries, which drives such relationships underground, making people afraid to seek HIV prevention and treatment services.
"Urgent action is needed to ensure that the basic human rights of people most at risk of HIV infection are respected and that they have the information and tools to protect themselves against HIV and gain access to antiretroviral therapy if needed,” said Mariângela Simào, Chief, Prevention, Vulnerability and Rights, UNAIDS.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Rhode Island man sickened with Vibrio parahaemolyticus after consuming raw clams

The Rhode Island Department of Health issued a health warning Friday after a man was sickened with a gastrointestinal infection after eating raw clams.
The man, in his 70s, became infected with the bacterium, Vibrio parahaemolyticus after eating raw clams earlier in July. He has been treated for the infection and is recovering.
The Rhode Island Department of Health is still investigating to determine where the clams were harvested.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says Vibrio parahaemolyticus is a bacterium in the same family as those that cause cholera. It lives in brackish saltwater and causes gastrointestinal illness in humans. V. parahaemolyticus naturally inhabits coastal waters in the United States and Canada and is present in higher concentrations during summer.
V. parahaemolyticus causes watery diarrhea often with abdominal cramping, nausea, vomiting, fever and chills. Usually these symptoms occur within 24 hours of ingestion. Illness is usually self-limited and lasts 3 days. Severe disease is rare and occurs more commonly in persons with weakened immune systems.

Health officials in Rhode Island offer the following recommendations to the public:
  • Do not eat raw oysters, clams, mussels, or shellfish.
  • Cook all shellfish thoroughly.
  • For shellfish in a hard shell (clams, oysters, mussels), boil for five minutes after the shells open or steam for 9 minutes after the shells open.
  • Do not eat clams, oysters, or mussels that do not open during cooking.
  • Boil shucked oysters for at least 3 minutes or fry in oil that is 375 degrees for 10 minutes.
  • Eat shellfish promptly after cooking and refrigerate leftovers.
  • Clean surfaces, cutting boards, and utensils after they have come in contact with raw shellfish or shellfish juices.
  • Harvest shellfish from approved areas only and refrigerate shellfish immediately.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Santa Barbara County man is first human WNV case in California this year

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) reported Friday that the first human case of West Nile virus was confirmed in the state.
The Santa Barbara County man was hospitalized and is now recovering at home.
CDPH Chief Deputy Director Kathleen Billingsley said yesterday, "With the first confirmed human illness from West Nile virus this year, we are intensifying our surveillance for the virus with the help of all counties.”
To date, West Nile virus has been detected in 17 counties across the state:  Contra Costa, Fresno, Inyo, Kern, Kings, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Joaquin, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, Stanislaus, Sutter, Tulare, and Ventura.
West Nile virus is a mosquito-borne disease that can cause encephalitis, a brain inflammation. West Nile virus was first detected in North America in 1999 in New York. Prior to that it had only been found in Africa, Eastern Europe, and West Asia.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 80 percent of people (about 4 out of 5) who are infected with WNV will not show any symptoms at all.
Up to 20 percent of the people who become infected have symptoms such as fever, headache, and body aches, nausea, vomiting, and sometimes swollen lymph glands or a skin rash on the chest, stomach and back. Symptoms can last for as short as a few days, though even healthy people have become sick for several weeks.
About one in 150 people infected with WNV will develop severe illness. The severe symptoms can include high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis. These symptoms may last several weeks, and neurological effects may be permanent.

There is no specific treatment for WNV infection.
CDPH recommends that individuals prevent exposure to mosquito bites and West Nile virus by practicing the “Four Ds”:
  1. DEET – Apply insect repellent containing DEET, picaradin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR3535 according to label instructions. Repellents keep the mosquitoes from biting you. DEET can be used safely on infants and children 2 months of age and older.
  2. DRESS – Wear clothing that reduces the risk of skin exposure to mosquito bites.
  3. DAWN AND DUSK – Mosquitoes bite in the early morning and evening so it is important to wear repellent at this time. Make sure that your doors and windows have tight-fitting screens to keep out mosquitoes. Repair or replace screens with tears or holes.
  4. DRAIN – Mosquitoes lay their eggs on standing water. Eliminate all sources of standing water on your property, including flower pots, old car tires, rain gutters and pet bowls. If you have a pond, use mosquito fish (available from your local mosquito and vector control agency) or commercially available products to eliminate mosquito larvae.

Davao, Philippines dengue fever cases increase 150%

Photo/wikimedia commons

In Davao, dengue fever is king. It is the number one infectious disease monitored by the Philippines Department of Health (DOH) in the region.
According to the DOH 2010 annual surveillance report just released, Davao recorded 9,563 cases last year.  In 2009, the Davao region recorded 3,800 cases of the mosquito-borne virus- representing a more than 150% increase.
According to the Sun Star, in Davao City alone, 7,034 cases of dengue have been recorded, Davao del Norte posted 753 cases, Davao Oriental has 616 cases, Davao del Sur has 480 cases, and 313 cases were recorded in Compostela Valley province.
A prevention and control strategy has been put in place which involves: searching and destroying all mosquitoes breeding sites, self-protection measures, seeking early treatment, and saying no to indiscriminate fogging except during outbreaks.
According to the WHO, dengue is transmitted by the bite of an Aedes mosquito infected with any one of the four dengue viruses. It occurs in tropical and sub-tropical areas of the world. Symptoms appear 3—14 days after the infective bite. Dengue fever is a febrile illness that affects infants, young children and adults.
Symptoms range from a mild fever, to incapacitating high fever, with severe headache, pain behind the eyes, muscle and joint pain, and rash. There are no specific antiviral medicines for dengue. It is important to maintain hydration. Use of acetylsalicylic acid (e.g. aspirin) and non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (e.g. Ibuprofen) is not recommended.
Dengue hemorrhagic fever (fever, abdominal pain, vomiting, bleeding) is a potentially lethal complication, affecting mainly children. Early clinical diagnosis and careful clinical management by experienced physicians and nurses increase survival of patients.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Quick health and safety tips before traveling abroad

There are things you can and should do to better prepare yourself for things that can potentially go wrong while out of the country.
1. Learn about the health risks in the country you are visiting to include diseases, weather and security issues
2. See a travel medicine physician or other physician who is knowledgeable about travel medicine at least 4-6 weeks prior to leaving
3. If you are bringing small children, are pregnant, have a disability or are immunocompromised; ensure your physician that you’re seeing is aware of your situation.
4. When packing for overseas travel; Place a copy of your passport and travel documents in each piece of luggage, in case you lose the original documents. Don’t forget to leave a copy with a friend or relative at home.
5. Pack a first aid kit for this particular trip. Include things that may not be easy to buy at your destination, over the counter medications, insect spray, etc.
6. Pack prescription medications in carryon baggage.
7. Check to see if your health insurance covers you overseas.
8. Consider purchasing travel medical insurance and medical evacuation insurance depending on your destination.

9. Learn in advance where the closest hospitals and doctors are in the place you are visiting.
10. Write down and keep with you the phone number and address of the US Embassy or consulate office closest to where you’ll be staying
11. Register with the Department of State about your travel. Registration is very helpful if you find yourself in a situation where there is unexpected civil unrest or a natural disaster, such as an earthquake or hurricane.
12. Take care of yourself while overseas; be careful with food and water, use of insect repellent, driving, etc.
13. If after you come back home and get sick, make sure you tell your doctor about your overseas travel.
This list is not exhaustive, but should give you a heads up on things you can do to be better informed and prepared.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Wyoming health officials warn of increases in Campylobacter infections

The Wyoming Department of Health reported in a news release Thursday a sharp increase statewide in Campylobacter bacterial infections this summer.
Since June 1, the department has identified 29 cases of Campylobacter infections in Wyoming residents. This represents a 4-fold increase compared to historical data for the same time period.
At least six people have been hospitalized; nearly three-quarters of the patients are male.
Public health officials attempt to interview each reported case of Campylobacter infection in state residents. Among patients interviewed to date, exposure to animals, especially cattle and dogs, has been common. 
According to Kelly Weidenbach, epidemiologist with the department’s Infectious Disease Epidemiology Program, “In many cases, the animals were noted to be ill with diarrhea when the person had contact with them.  Several have been ranchers or individuals who recently attended a cattle branding and who were accidentally exposed to fecal material.”
Campylobacter infection is common in farm animals and certain pets. A single ill calf can shed millions of bacteria in its feces. Campylobacter bacteria are also common in the feces of ill puppies and kittens. Campylobacter often causes illness in young animals, but infected older animals often have no symptoms. Humans are exposed to the bacteria in the fecal material and then become sick. 
What is Campylobacter? It is a bacterium that can also be found, with not quite the frequency as in chicken, in healthy cattle, birds, raw milk, and contaminated water. Most cases of campylobacteriosis are associated with eating raw or undercooked poultry meat or from cross-contamination of other foods by these items. Infants may get the infection by contact with poultry packages in shopping carts. It is also possible to be infected from the feces of an infected pet cat, dog or farm animal. It is the leading cause of bacterial diarrhea in the United States, more than Salmonella and Shigella combined.
It doesn’t take a lot of this organism to get you ill. In some studies it showed that as little as 500 organisms can cause disease in some individuals. The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention says that you can get infected from one drop of juice from raw chicken meat.
Campylobacter jejuni, the species most often implicated in infection causes diarrhea, which may be watery or sticky and can contain blood and white blood cells. Other symptoms often present are fever, abdominal pain, nausea, headache and muscle pain. The illness usually occurs 2-5 days after ingestion of the contaminated food or water. Illness generally lasts 7-10 days, but relapses are not uncommon (about 25% of cases).

There can be complications associated with campylobacteriosis; they include arthritis and neurological disorder Guillain-Barré syndrome. It is estimated that the latter is seen in one out of every 1000 cases of Campylobacter.
Most cases of Campylobacter are self-limiting and do not require treatment. However, severe cases can be treated with antibiotics to shorten the length of the disease.
“We want residents to be aware of this increase in human illness, and we want them to take actions to prevent illness among themselves and their family members,” Weidenbach said.
Read more infectious disease news at Outbreak News
The Wyoming Department of Health offers the following recommended precautions:
  • Washing hands with soap and water before eating or other hand-to-mouth contact.

  • If ill with diarrhea, wash hands frequently to minimize the chance of spreading the illness to others. Campylobacter is transmitted in feces.

  • Those ill with diarrhea who handle food for other people, work in a daycare/childcare setting or work as a healthcare provider with direct patient contact should stay out of work until at least 48 hours after the last bout of diarrhea or vomiting.

  • Those who work or volunteer where they have contact with animals should wear gloves while working and wash hands before moving to a different activity. Animals often have fecal material on their bodies. 

  • Wash hands thoroughly before drinking, eating or putting anything in the mouth.

  • Avoid consuming unpasteurized milk or products made from unpasteurized milk. Raw milk is often contaminated with fecal bacteria from the cows. 

To prevent foodborne infections with Campylobacter:
  • In the supermarket, choose well-wrapped chicken, and put it in a plastic bag to keep juices from leaking.

  • Store chicken at 40° F or below. If you won’t use it for a couple of days, freeze it.

  • Thaw frozen chicken in a refrigerator (in its packaging and on a plate), or on a plate in a microwave oven. Cook chicken thawed in a microwave oven right away.

  • Prevent cross contamination. Separate raw chicken from other foods. Immediately after preparing it, wash your hands with soap and water, and clean anything you or raw chicken touched. 

  • To kill harmful bacteria, cook chicken to at least 165° F

  • Don’t return cooked meat to the plate that held it raw. 

  • Refrigerate or freeze leftovers within two hours of cooking.