APNewsBreak: 80,000 people died of flu last winter in US
By MIKE STOBBE
AP Medical Writer
Thursday, September 27
NEW YORK (AP) — An estimated 80,000 Americans died of flu and its complications last winter — the disease’s highest death toll in at least four decades.
The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Robert Redfield, revealed the total in an interview Tuesday night with The Associated Press.
Flu experts knew it was a very bad season, but at least one found the size of the estimate surprising.
“That’s huge,” said Dr. William Schaffner, a Vanderbilt University vaccine expert. The tally was nearly twice as much as what health officials previously considered a bad year, he said.
In recent years, flu-related deaths have ranged from about 12,000 to 56,000, according to the CDC.
Last fall and winter, the U.S. went through one of the most severe flu seasons in recent memory. It was driven by a kind of flu that tends to put more people in the hospital and cause more deaths, particularly among young children and the elderly.
The season peaked in early February and it was mostly over by the end of March.
Making a bad year worse, the flu vaccine didn’t work very well. Experts nevertheless say vaccination is still worth it because it makes illnesses less severe and save lives.
“I’d like to see more people get vaccinated,” Redfield told the AP at an event in New York. “We lost 80,000 people last year to the flu.”
CDC officials do not have exact counts of how many people die from flu each year. Flu is so common that not all flu cases are reported, and flu is not always listed on death certificates. So the CDC uses statistical models, which are periodically revised, to make estimates.
Fatal complications from the flu can include pneumonia, stroke and heart attack.
CDC officials called the 80,000 figure preliminary, and it may be slightly revised. But they said it is not expected to go down.
It eclipses the estimates for every flu season going back to the winter of 1976-1977. Estimates for many earlier seasons were not readily available.
Last winter was not the worst flu season on record, however. The 1918 flu pandemic, which lasted nearly two years, killed more than 500,000 Americans, historians estimate.
It’s not easy to compare flu seasons through history, partly because the nation’s population is changing. There are more Americans — and more elderly Americans — today than in decades past, noted Dr. Daniel Jernigan, a CDC flu expert.
U.S. health officials on Thursday are scheduled to hold a media event in Washington, D.C., to stress the importance of vaccinations to protect against whatever flu circulates this coming winter.
And how bad is it going to be? So far, the flu that’s been detected is a milder strain, and early signs are that the vaccine is shaping up to be a good match, Jernigan said.
The makeup of the vaccine has been changed this year to try to better protect against expected strains.
“We don’t know what’s going to happen, but we’re seeing more encouraging signs than we were early last year,” Jernigan said.
The Associated Press Health & Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
Inexpensive TB test holds promise for low-income countries
Study shows diagnostic test effective, easy to employ in Malawi
COLUMBUS, Ohio – A low-cost, easy-to-replicate test for tuberculosis might help developing nations better identify and treat the infectious and sometimes deadly disease, new research suggests.
A study of the $2 test in rural Malawi in southeastern Africa found that it was reliable and could be easily employed in areas with a high incidence of tuberculosis, said study author Jesse Kwiek, an associate professor of microbiology at The Ohio State University.
The TB CX-test is designed to not only detect tuberculosis, but to determine whether the infecting strain is resistant to any of a handful of antibiotics used to treat it. In this study of 96 people at high risk of TB, however, drug-resistant forms of the disease were not detected, and further studies are underway to assess the role the inexpensive test could play in identifying the best route of treatment, Kwiek said.
The study was published in the African Journal of Laboratory Medicine.
Tuberculosis is a bacterial infection that usually attacks the lungs, but also can harm other parts of the body, including the kidney, spine and brain. Not everyone infected with TB bacteria falls ill, but in those who do, untreated TB can be fatal.
An estimated 4,000 people die of tuberculosis each day worldwide, according to 2017 estimates from the World Health Organization. Malawi is among 20 countries the WHO has classified as having a high number of people infected with both TB and HIV. Most cases there are diagnosed based on clinical symptoms and simple cell culture tests that do not reveal any details about whether the infection is drug-resistant.
To run the new experimental test, a health care provider collects a phlegm sample from the respiratory tract of a person with suspected tuberculosis and uses a dropper to place samples in four compartments on a round plate. After about 10 days to two weeks in a temperature-controlled environment, TB (if present) bacteria show up in at least one quadrant.
Each of the other three quadrants (which are color coded) contains one of three antibiotics used to treat the infection: ciproflaxin, isoniazid or rifampicin. If the bacteria grow in any one or more of those three compartments, the test shows that the tuberculosis is resistant to one or more common treatments. The test was developed by study co-author Carlton Evans of the Imperial College of London and Cayetano Heredia University in Peru.
The new diagnostic test provides more information than the most commonly run test worldwide, in which phlegm is spread on a slide and examined later for TB, Kwiek said, but isn’t as expensive as more-costly gene-based diagnostic testing that is rarely found in low-income and middle-income countries.
“The diagnostic approach that is typically used in the field doesn’t tell you anything about drug susceptibility, and knowing that is key to effectively treating infections of antibiotic-resistant tuberculosis,” Kwiek said.
The advanced molecular tests used in the U.S. and other wealthy countries are excellent, but they aren’t accessible to much of the world because they are expensive and require specific supplies and training, he said. In Malawi, each sample would cost about $18 to test using the WHO-recommended GeneXpert test.
“This new $2 CX-test is fast, effective and cheap and enables clinicians to know about drug resistance up front so that they can personalize treatment,” Kwiek said.
Previous laboratory-based work has proven the test’s ability to detect resistance to treatment, but the Malawi study didn’t provide much information about that because none of the cases found in the small study was resistant.
The new study did, however, show that the test was simple to use in the field, and that it reliably found TB cases – 13 in this study – that were later confirmed by advanced testing.
“Close to a quarter of the world’s population is infected with tuberculosis, representing 1.9 billion people – 10 percent of whom will develop active TB in their lifetimes,” said Jordi Torrelles, the study’s lead author and a former associate professor of microbiology at Ohio State who now works at the Texas Biomedical Research Institute.
“We need better tests to diagnose TB and address which treatments will be most successful,” he said.
Experiments in countries with a high prevalence of drug resistance will need to be completed before the tuberculosis CX-test could be put into widespread use.
Torrelles said research on the same test is underway in China, Guatemala and Ethiopia and that a second-generation test that examines resistance to 11 drugs also will be studied. That test would cost approximately $9 per sample and provide results within two weeks, he said.
“This is important when you consider that current culture techniques used to detect drug resistance take two to three months to provide results in low-income countries,” Torrelles said.
He and his collaborators at Ohio State and elsewhere also are interested in the implications of using this type of testing for bovine tuberculosis, which is a major agricultural concern and also can be spread from cows to humans.
Other Ohio State researchers who worked on the study were Sabeen Sidiki, Holden Kelley, Alison Norris, Xueliang Pan, Shu-Hua Wang and Annie Zhang, the study’s lead author and an undergraduate at the time of the work.
Written by Misti Crane
Cleveland Clinic receives designation
The Parkinson’s Foundation is expanding its Center of Excellence global network to meet a growing demand to care for people living with the disease. The Foundation will host plaque unveiling ceremonies in October to officially recognize three new centers receiving this designation: Cleveland Clinic, the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston and Cleveland Clinic Nevada in Las Vegas.
New data revealed in the Foundation’s “Parkinson’s Prevalence Project” estimate that 930,000 people in the United States will be living with PD by 2020, a number that will rise to 1.2 million by 2030. The Parkinson’s Foundation Center of Excellence network — who are at the leading edge of the latest medications, therapies and innovations in Parkinson’s disease — is comprised of 45 leading academic medical centers, 31 of which are in the United States and serve more than 145,000 individuals diagnosed with Parkinson’s annually.
Making research integrity a priority
One-day summit at Ohio State brings in national leaders to discuss improving culture
Public trust in science depends on renewed efforts to protect the integrity of research, according to speakers at a Sept. 23 Ohio State University summit.
Experts involved in research from universities, funding agencies and scientific journals from around the country emphasized the need for a “culture of trust” around research and pledged to find ways to support that culture.
Without public trust, “we don’t have a research enterprise,” said Suzanne Rivera, vice president for research at Case Western Reserve University.
Problems of research misconduct can erode the public’s trust in science, and everyone involved needs to work on protecting the integrity of the process, Rivera said.
Rivera was one of 21 speakers at the one-day summit sponsored by Ohio State’s Office of Research. It was titled “Seeking Solutions in Research Integrity: A View from All Perspectives.”
The summit featured speakers from a variety of institutions, including Columbia University, Emory University, the Annals of Internal Medicine and the federal Office of Research Integrity, among others. It attracted more than 130 attendees from around the country.
Recently, there has been more public attention on cases of research misconduct from around the country, said Morley Stone, senior vice president for research at Ohio State.
“If you’re not struggling with one of these big issues right now at your institution, it is a not a matter of ‘if,’ it is a matter of ‘when,’” Stone said.
Bruce A. McPheron, Ohio State’s executive vice president and provost, said it is hard to tell whether there really has been an increase in research misconduct, or just better ways of detecting it.
“In this age of data sharing, online publication and new tools, there are more ways for people to manipulate science, but also more ways to evaluate science,” he said.
In his plenary talk, McPheron noted that scientists are all guided by one principle. “And that common principle is that we all seek some measure of truth.”
But the world of research is also driven by intense competition, which can lead some researchers astray. One thing that universities can do is to make sure that the reward system for faculty aligns with principles of truth and integrity, McPheron said.
“It is important to say that this is what we believe in,” McPheron said. “These are our expectations.”
While misconduct is a serious issue, it is not the only – or even the most common – reason for having to retract scientific papers.
“When we encounter problems, most of the time they are problems of sloppiness,” Rivera said. “The minority of cases we encounter have to do with deliberate, willful cheating.”
Jay Walsh, vice president for research at Northwestern University, agreed.
“We make mistakes as scientists all the time. We need to make sure that when we find those mistakes, we talk about them. That’s part of the scientific process,” Walsh said.
But as some retractions get more negative public attention in media outlets like Retraction Watch, some researchers might think twice before reporting errors, Rivera said.
“We could all do more to reward and celebrate people who do come forward to talk about errors and oversights,” she said.
More media and public attention to alleged misconduct also sometimes comes with demands for quick resolutions. But Stone noted that research misconduct investigations can sometimes take months or even years to complete.
Speakers noted that faculty accused of misconduct must be given the opportunity to defend themselves.
“We have to be clear that we have a process (for investigating misconduct claims) and that we’re going to follow due process,” Walsh said.
These investigations often take longer than anyone initially thought they would, and the media and public sometimes have “unreasonable expectations” for how long the process should take, he said.
McPheron noted that Ohio State has had several high-profile cases involving research integrity and research misconduct in the past several years. Those cases helped spark the idea of holding this conference, he said, in order to help develop solutions.
And these incidents prompted Ohio State to take concrete steps to address problems related to research integrity. The university took as its starting point the 2017 report “Fostering Integrity in Research” written by a committee of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
That committee was headed by Robert Nerem, who earned his PhD at Ohio State and is an emeritus professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Nerem outlined the report at the conference.
One key step Ohio State has taken is requiring that “anyone who touches research and creative expression” on campus – which includes about 16,000 faculty, staff and students – should complete Responsible Conduct of Research training, McPheron said.
Besides RCR training, the university is revising data policies to meet current needs and developing guidelines that clearly define authorship standards. Ohio State has made electronic lab notebook technology available to all faculty, staff and students to improve institutional management of data and has provided access to iThenticate software to screen documents for possible plagiarized or copied data.
In addition, at the request of faculty, the Center for Ethics and Human Values will host a series of campus conversations on research ethics.
McPheron noted that a key part of Ohio State’s efforts is ensuring that it has the right people leading the effort to protect research integrity. Jennifer Yucel, who heads the university’s research compliance office, and Susan Garfinkel, who recently joined Ohio State from the federal Office of Research Integrity, are “acknowledged national leaders in the this area,” he said.
McPheron said Ohio State continues to look for ways to improve.
“We don’t have things all figured out. But it is our job to figure it out,” he said.
“We have to be willing to talk about this issue and create a culture (of research integrity). This is a continued conversation that’s never going to be done. What we need to do is commit collectively to solving this problem.”
More Ohioans Now Legally Required to Report Suspected Elder Abuse
COLUMBUS, OHIO – September 27, 2018 – Starting on Sept. 29, Ohio law greatly expands the number of individuals required to report suspicions of elder abuse, neglect or exploitation. Mandatory reporters now include many more individuals in the financial services, legal and medical professions – for example, pharmacists, dialysis technicians, firefighters, first responders, building inspectors, CPAs, real estate agents, bank employees, financial planners and notary publics.
“This expansion of mandatory reporters will help us in our goal of protecting our vulnerable family members, friends and neighbors from harm,” said Cynthia Dungey, director of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS), which supervises Ohio’s Adult Protective Services (APS) program. “Older adults make up the fastest-growing segment of Ohio’s population so all of us need to be vigilant. If you suspect that elder abuse, neglect or exploitation might be occurring, please report it.”
“We work with state and local partners to ensure that our elders are able to live independently, and with dignity and respect, in their homes and communities for as long as possible,” added Beverley Laubert, director of the Ohio Department of Aging. “Each of us must feel empowered to speak up when we suspect that a neighbor, friend or loved one might be the subject of abuse, neglect or exploitation. Likewise, we deserve to know that people who serve our elders daily will take action when they spot warning signs.”
The law changes also require ODJFS to develop and make available educational materials for mandatory reporters. As a result, the agency developed guidebooks for financial services professionals, legal and law enforcement professionals, medical professionals and the public.
Anyone in Ohio can report possible elder abuse 24/7 by calling 1-855-OHIO-APS or by contacting the nearest county department of job and family services (JFS). To find the nearest county JFS, visit jfs.ohio.gov/county. Physical proof or other evidence is not required. Reports can be made anonymously.
If mandatory reporters fail to report possible abuse, they could face criminal charges and fines of up to $500. Ohio law allows no exceptions for professional relationships – for example, doctor/patient relationships or attorney/client relationships.
Elder abuse can include physical, sexual or psychological abuse, as well as neglect, abandonment or financial exploitation. In addition to physical injuries, the following are just a few of the possible indicators: being isolated, missing appointments, appearing frightened or avoiding specific people, suddenly withdrawing from usual activities or interactions, changes in mood or temperament, changes in personal hygiene, or being resistant to touching.
For more information, see the publication “A Guide to Protecting Ohio’s Elders” (JFS 08025), which is available at www.odjfs.state.oh.us/forms/pubs/. Industry-specific guides for financial services professionals, legal and law enforcement professionals, and medical professionals will be available soon.
Learn more about elder abuse, including how to recognize warning signs and who to call is you suspect abuse, neglect or exploitation, visit the Ohio Department of Aging’s Elder Abuse webpage at www.aging.ohio.gov/elderabuse.
The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services manages vital programs that strengthen Ohio families. These include job training and employment services, unemployment insurance, cash and food assistance, child care, child and adult protective services, adoption, and child support services.
The Ohio Department of Aging serves and advocates for the needs of Ohioans age 60 and older, as well as their families, caregivers and communities. Programs include home and community based long-term supports and services, as well as initiatives to promote health and wellness throughout the lifespan.
International Day of Older Persons: Top Tips to Keep Seniors Safe Online
Seniors are One of the Most Vulnerable Groups to Online Threats and Scams
September 28, 2018. On October 1st, the world celebrates the International Day of Older Persons, initiated by the United Nations. It is estimated that there are almost 700 million people over the age of 60 worldwide, and this number is growing every year.
Scammers use technology to target older people because they often aren’t well informed on online security. According to the FBI’s data released this year, older adults lost $342 million to scam in 2017. On average, each victim suffered a loss of nearly $7,000, which could have bought them a 2-week trip abroad for two.
NordVPN’s digital privacy expert Daniel Markuson provides some tips on how older adults can stay safe online.
Top tips to keep seniors safe online
Find trusted support. If you get any notifications or calls about viruses on your computer, it might be fraud. Use only official support services or consult someone you know and trust. Technical support scam is the fourth most popular scam in the United States and gaining in popularity worldwide.
Be careful on public WiFi. Found free WiFi at a restaurant or cafe? Enjoy it! Just don’t log into your personal accounts or online banking – that makes it easy for hackers to steal your sensitive data. Additionally, use a VPN (or Virtual Private Network), like NordVPN, for an extra layer of protection. It will protect your devices and online activities from online snoopers.
Use strong passwords. Use longer phrases or words with numbers and don’t share your login details with anyone. Do your best to use different passwords for different accounts. What is more, always protect all of your devices with passwords.
Email safety first. The first rule: ignore urgent email requests, especially from senders you don’t know. If an email is asking you to take immediate action, it’s probably fraud. Don’t reply to such messages, don’t click on links or buttons, and don’t download any attachments. Remember, a legitimate business will never ask you to send sensitive information over the email.
Protect your money. Don’t send money to people you don’t know over the Internet. When shopping online or doing online banking, make sure the checkout address starts with HTTPS – the S is for “secure.” All those scammy letters claiming you won a zillion or a new iPhone are surely fake.
NordVPN is the world’s most advanced VPN service provider that is more security oriented than most VPN services. It offers double VPN encryption, ad blocking & Onion Over VPN. The product is very user-friendly, offers one of the best prices on the market, has over 5,000 servers worldwide and is P2P friendly. One of the key features of NordVPN is zero log policy. For more information: nordvpn.com.