Unbiased Analysis of Today's Healthcare Issues

Lifetime protection aganst the flu?

The Atlantic has an interesting article about recent efforts to create a flu vaccine that protects patients against influenza for decades, or even their entire lifetime. Currently, the flu vaccine helps the body produce antibodies that attack influenza surface proteins. The problem is that the flu is quick learner; it readily mutates ts surface proteins […]

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Should the CDC warn Americans about a ‘potential’ epidemic?

Although at first glance, the answer would be ‘yes’, the answer is not so straight-forward.  Consider the case of the recent H7N9 influenza outbreak in China.  Although the media gave some coverage to this issue, the risk of a pandemic was not emphasized. The reason may be Bayesian updating.  Previous influenza threats in recent years […]

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Why are there so few vaccine suppliers?

In many cases, only a handful of suppliers produce vaccines for a given disease.  In fact, for several vaccine types the U.S. has fewer suppliers than countries with a smaller market and a higher level of government purchase. One reason for this finding could be strict government regulation.  All vaccines must be approved by the […]

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Economics of the Timing of Influenza Vaccine

Although the H1N1 influenza virus has garnered most of the media attention, protecting children against standard strains of influenza has generally been shown to be cost effective.  However, the cost effectiveness depends on the timing.  The flu season generally lasts from September to June, but flu generally has the highest incidence in November and December. […]

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World War I’s Greatest Killer

“It is sometimes called the Great Swine Flu epidemic and sometimes the Great Spanish Flu epidemic, but in either case it was ferocious.  World War I killed twenty-one million people in four years; swine flu did the same in its first four months.  Almost 80 percent of American causalities in the First World War came […]

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H1N1: Do I have it? Do I need a vaccine?

Two weeks ago, the U.S. government released its H1N1 vaccine to the public.  Many people have had a number of questions about whether or not they should get the vaccine.  The CDC website has a list of Key Facts and a Q&A section that is helpful.   There are five major groups who should have […]

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Looming Threat: H1N1 Outbreak in the Fall

The Washington Post reports that most Americans are not very concerned about swine flu.  Should they be worried?  Maps from the New England Journal of Medicine and RhizaLabs detail that swine flu is still a problem. The CDC reports that “from April 15, 2009 to July 24, 2009, states reported a total of 43,771 confirmed […]

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Should health care providers be compelled to work during declared public health emergencies?

Carl Coleman say no.   Working during a pandemic is a supererogatory behavior — i.e., acts that are commendable if done voluntarily, but that go beyond what is expected.  Coleman argues that “…while health care professionals can legitimately be sanctioned for violating voluntarily-assumed employment or contractual agreements, they should not be compelled to assume life-threatening risks […]

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Flu Surveillance

Google searches as a public health resource: Google.org has released Flu Trends, an online reporting tool for flu-related search activity. It’s long been theorized that Google’s search data would be useful to predict epidemics. This is the first time they’ve released a tool like this to the public. As they say on the main page: We have found a […]

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Do we finally know how vaccines work?

Vaccines work well because of an adjuvant. The adjuvant boosts immunity but physicians did not know how it worked until now. The Economist reports (“A shot in the dark not more“) that Stephanie Eisenbarth, Richard Flavell an co-authors have discovered that the adjuvant “works by stimulating bits of the immune system called NOD-like receptors.” Why […]

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