Top Travel Tips To Ensure You Don’t Come Back With More Than You Left With

passport and airticketsPassport. Check.

Tickets. Check.

Health. Huh?

That’s Right! For those of you planning to get away this summer, SRxA’s Word on Health reminds you get your health planning in before leaving for the airport.  While an overseas trip may appear to be “just what the doctor ordered” , it can also pose various health hazards, depending on the type of travel, length of stay and destination.

Significant changes in altitude, humidity and temperature can lead to illness, and in many parts of the world – especially developing countries and tropical locations – the risk of infectious disease is high.

travel-vaccinations-600x400Not all countries are high-risk for travelers,” said Christopher Ohl MD, an infectious disease specialist at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C. “Europe is generally safe, and so are Canada, Japan, Australia. But anybody planning to go to Mexico or Central America, the Caribbean, South America, Africa, most anywhere in Asia, or the Pacific islands should definitely look into what health risks they’ll encounter and what they’ll need to do to minimize their chances of getting ill.”

So where should you look for this information?  The Internet, of course, has a multitude of resources, some better than others, but you still need to be aware that even reputable sites such as those of the U.S. State Department, federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organization offer only general information about the world’s countries and often do not include specifics about particular locations or activities within those countries.

For someone going to South Africa, there’s a big difference between staying in a modern hotel in Cape Town for a week and going on a two-week budget trip to Kruger National Park!

travel healthBecause the details of an individual’s health, destination, activities, accommodations and mode of travel are important elements in determining health risk, a travel medicine specialist is probably the best person to consult

Travel clinics also stock the sort of vaccines and anti-malarial medications you’ll need and can advise on up-to-the-minute requirements.

In addition to administering shots and writing prescriptions, travel clinics also provide information on how to avoid insect-borne diseases, how to self-treat diarrhea and other common ailments, what to eat and drink and what to avoid eating and drinking and so on, all based on the person’s health status, where they’re going, what they’re going to be doing and how long they’re going to be there.

And because accidents, not diseases, are the most common cause of injury and death among travelers the clinic can also provide safety tips based on information from the State Department and authoritative foreign sources, such as whether there may be civil disturbances in a particular location, whether it’s advisable to travel at night or even “if it’s safe to rent a scooter.”

Travel-Vaccinations1But don’t leave it until the last minute. Travelers, regardless of their age or the type of trip they’re planning should visit a travel clinic at least four to six weeks before departure, to allow sufficient time to get prescriptions filled and for vaccines to take effect. Even if the destination doesn’t call for any special shots, he said, a trip abroad presents a good opportunity to see that “routine” vaccinations such as measles-mumps-rubella, diphtheria-pertussis-tetanus, chickenpox and flu, are up to date.

And in the unfortunate event that you return home with something other than a suntan and souvenirs, travel clinics can also provide post-travel medical care. A number of diseases common overseas don’t present symptoms right away, some can even take months to develop, and they might not be recognized by a general practitioner.

Stay safe this summer!SRxA-logo for web

 

Breaking Cancer News– 122 years later!

On December 3, 1890 William Russell, a pathologist in the School of Medicine at the Royal Infirmary in Edinburgh, gave an address to the Pathological Society of London.  In it he outlined his findings of “a characteristic organism of cancer” that he had observed microscopically in all forms of cancer that he examined, as well as in certain cases of tuberculosis, syphilis and skin infection.

On May 8, 2012, Catherine de Martel and Martyn Plummer from the International Agency for Research on Cancer in France announced: “Infections with certain viruses, bacteria, and parasites are one of the biggest and preventable causes of cancer worldwide.”

In case you haven’t already done the math, that means it’s taken 122 years for someone to take notice.

A hundred and twenty two years ago!  That’s the year Eiffel Tower was completed, it’s around the time that  serial killer Jack the Ripper was terrorizing London, the same year Thomas Edison used electric Christmas lights for the first time and the year Vincent Van Gogh, the Dutch painter, committed suicide.

How, you might ask, have scientists put men on the moon, developed the internet, flying cars and metal-free underwear bombs, but yet remain so ignorant about cancer and its origin?

How can the infectious causes of tuberculosis, leprosy, syphilis, smallpox, polio, malaria, and other viral and bacterial and parasitic diseases be so well understood, but the cause of cancer be unknown?

The fact that all cancers could conceivably be caused by an infectious agent now seems a distinct possibility. That, until now,  this has been overlooked, ignored, or unrecognized by twentieth century doctors is simply incredible.

According to de Martel and Plummer, one in six cancers, accounting for around two million cases a year, are caused by preventable infections. They claim “application of existing public-health methods for infection prevention, such as vaccination, safer injection practice, or antimicrobial treatments, could have a substantial effect on future burden of cancer worldwide.”

The percentage of cancers related to infection is about three times higher in developing than in developed countries. For example the fraction of infection-related cancers is around 3.3%in Australia and New Zealand to 32.7% in sub-Saharan Africa.

Many infection-related cancers are preventable, particularly those associated with human papillomaviruses (HPV), Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), hepatitis B (HBV) and C viruses (HCV).

Of these infection-related cancers, cervical cancer accounts for around half of the cancer in women. In men, liver and gastric cancers accounted for more than 80%.

Dr. de Martel says: “Although cancer is considered a major non-communicable disease, a sizable proportion of its causation is infectious and simple non-communicable disease paradigms will not be sufficient.

Clearly we need to start making up for 122 years of lost time and directing further research and treatment efforts into these preventable causes of cancer.  Since vaccines for HPV and HBV are available, and increasing their availability, and lowering the cost should be a priority for governments and health systems around the world.

Fit to be President?

President Barack Obama knows a thing or two about fitness. Photographers have snapped him playing golf in Hawaii on Christmas Eve, doing impromptu pull-ups before giving a speech in Montana, and even playing a game of pick-up basketball on Election Day. His love of these sports, coupled with his well-documented gym habits and disciplined diet, has led the media to herald Obama as the new face of presidential health.

But, as SRxA’s Word on Health has learned, not all American presidents have been such model specimens of health. Some of them, far from it.  In fact, disease, injury, and destructive habits have run rampant in the 43 commanders-in-chief.

To mark this President’s Day we decided take a look at some the least healthy presidents in American history.

James Monroe, the Fifth President (1817-1825) was shot with a bullet during the Battle of Trenton.  To save his life, a doctor stuck his index finger into the wound to stop Monroe from bleeding out. In 1785, Monroe contracted malaria while visiting a swampy area of the Mississippi River. Sporadic feverish flare-ups plagued him for years afterwards.

In August 1825, Monroe suffered a severe seizure. Though the cause was never pinpointed, it’s speculated that it was triggered by either mushroom poisoning, a stroke, or cerebral malaria.

In 1830, Monroe developed a chronic lung illness that crippled him for several months, leaving him with labored breathing, fever, night sweats, and a nagging cough that sometimes had him spitting up blood. Though never officially diagnosed his symptoms are strongly suggestive of tuberculosis.

Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President (1901-1909) was a frail and sickly child. In the hope of alleviating his asthma and other ailments Roosevelt was encouraged to do lots of physical activity. Boxing became one of his favorite hobbies. However, after being elected to the White House, he suffered a blow to his left eye resulting in a detached retina which left him blind on that side. Later he also lost the hearing in his left ear as a result of surgery necessitated by a middle ear infection

Roosevelt then contracted malaria and suffered an infected leg wound during an expedition into the Amazon rainforest. These injuries resulted in chest pains, high fever, and delirium. Though he didn’t die, he returned to America in a decrepit physical state, and was often unable to leave his bed for years afterwards.

Ronald Reagan, the 40th President (1981-1989) had many well documented health problems. Just like Roosevelt, these included hearing and sight issues. Reagan was so nearsighted that he was disqualified from serving during World War II. Later, when he got glasses, he was surprised to see that trees had leaves – something he’d never known before.

Reagan used a hearing aid in his right ear early in his presidency but later started wearing one in his left ear. It’s been speculated that his hearing was damaged during his early years as a Hollywood actor, when he was exposed to repeated loud gunshot during the filming of his Western movies.

Other health problems included multiple urinary tract infections, prostate stones, colon tumors and skin cancers.  Finally, though he was famous for having a near-photographic memory during his prime, Reagan’s memory deteriorated when he hit his 70s, and he would sometimes forget the names of key staffers and visiting dignitaries. He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease in 1994.

Woodrow Wilson, the 28th President (1913-1921) suffered from hypertension, headaches, double-vision and multiple strokes throughout adulthood. His third stroke, in 1906, left him blind in his left eye. Finally, in 1919, the president suffered a massive stroke that paralyzed his left side and forced him into a wheelchair. Wilson decided to keep his condition a secret from the public, so isolated himself in the White House, where for the last 3 years of his term his wife Edith made all presidential decisions for him.

, the 34th President (1953-1961) was a four-pack-a-day smoker. He also suffered from Crohn’s disease and gallstones, both of which required surgery. In 1955 Eisenhower suffered a heart attack so severe that his cardiologist advised the president not to run for a second term. Eisenhower ignored his advice, ran, and was reelected. His second term was marred by even more heart trouble: during a five-month span in 1968, he suffered four heart attacks and 14 cardiac arrests. These weakened him to the point where he could only be out of bed for 45 minutes a day, and he died the next year.

John F. Kennedy, 35th President (1961-1963) is remembered as a glamorous, tragic playboy, assassinated too young. What’s less well know is the litany of health problems he suffered throughout his life.

Kennedy’s childhood was riddled with health issues. At 2 years old, he contracted measles, whooping cough, chickenpox and then scarlet fever, which almost killed him. Later in his childhood, he frequently had upper respiratory infections and bronchitis, as well as allergies, frequent colds, asthma.

During his teens, Kennedy underwent an emergency appendectomy, had his tonsils removed, suffered a severe case of pneumonia, and two episodes of jaundice.

While studying at Harvard, Kennedy contracted urethritis, an inflammation of the urethra that results in painful urination. As he failed to seek immediate treatment, this became a chronic problem for many years.

After years of suffering back pains, Kennedy was diagnosed at age 30 with Addison’s disease, a rare endocrine disorder that generally results in fatigue, muscle weakness, nausea, and bronzing of the skin. Kennedy was so ill that he was given the last rites and physicians speculated that he would die within the year. However, steroid therapy and experimental medicinal implants of hormones, animal organ cells, vitamins, enzymes, pain killers and amphetamines and kept him alive. Then in 1966, he was diagnosed with hypothyroidism. The presence of two endocrine diseases raises the possibility that Kennedy had autoimmune polyendocrine syndrome type 2 (APS 2).

We wish all our readers a Happy and Healthy President’s Day.

Happy Birthday Mr. President – Get well soon!

As many American’s celebrate Presidents’ Day,  SRxA’s Word on Health has been musing about the health of America’s founding father.  Although George Washington was physically strong, he was not the indominatable human force that popular history paints. He was often sick, particularly with infections. These were serious infections, many of them life-threatening.

Our research reveals that over the course of his lifetime, Washington suffered from diphtheria, malaria, smallpox, tuberculosis, dysentery, quinsy, pneumonia and epiglottitis.  In later life, he had dental problems, progressive deafness, short-sightedness and infertility.

From the age of 17 to almost the end of his life, Washington had recurrent attacks of malaria. Malaria was then common in Virginia. Interestingly, an effective treatment for malaria had been discovered in the previous century. But, for some reason, Washington did not receive the treatment until 1784, when he was in his 50s.

At age 19 Washington spent time on Barbados. Around this time George developed a severe case of smallpox, which ultimately left his skin scarred for life. Shortly after returning from Barbados, Washington developed tuberculosis.

Washington had a tendency to become depressed when ill. He was haunted by premonitions of death, perhaps because his father and half-brother both died prematurely. Thomas Jefferson wrote that Washington was, in all aspects of his life, “inclined to gloomy apprehensions.”

In 1759 Washington married Martha Dandridge Custis. He was 26, she was a 28 year old widow who had borne four children during her previous marriage. Martha never became pregnant during her 40-year marriage to Washington. Given her previous fertility, it could well be concluded that the difficulty was not with her but with her husband.

Washington’s height, sterility, large hands, pockmarks, plus certain personality features and even his well-documented dental problems have led to the suggestion he had XYY syndrome.

By middle age Washington had no teeth left. Washington’s clumsy, ill-fitting dentures distorted his lips. This undoubtedly contributed to his dour expression.

No one is quite sure what killed Washington. He was in fine health at age 67 when he developed hoarseness and a sore throat. There was little alarm until he awoke in the middle of the night with difficulty breathing, almost unable to talk. A doctor was summoned, but Washington did not wait, ordering an employee to bleed him. The doctor arrived and, according to the principles of the day, bled him again. Eventually, Washington requested no further bleeding be performed, but he was bled again anyway. The bleedings inflicted by Washington’s doctors hastened his end. Some 80 ounces of blood (about 35% of his total blood volume) were removed in 12 hours.

One of the three doctors attending him objected to continued bleeding, arguing instead for tracheotomy which would have been  life-saving in epiglottitis. However, back then this treatment was considered experimental and dangerous.

Nevertheless, a  fourth physician, arrived at Mount Vernon the day after Washington died. The doctor hoped that Washington was in a suspended state, from which he could be aroused and then treated with tracheotomy.  It was proposed that the body be thawed gradually, first in cool water and then with warm blankets and rubbing of the skin, with the subsequent performance of a tracheotomy, artificial respiration at the tracheotomy site, and transfusion of lamb’s blood.

Sadly, we will never know if this would have worked as Martha Washington vetoed the plan!

Nonprofits Calls on America to Expand Health Research

Policymakers and public health experts from across the globe gathered on Capitol Hill this week to call on the United States to bolster its commitment to fighting the deadly diseases that afflict the developing world.

Organized by the Global Health Technologies Coalition, the briefing featured a panel discussion in which participants explained how vaccines, drugs, diagnostics, and devices can catalyze improvements in a country’s health infrastructure. Panelists also examined how the U.S. can assure that residents of the developing world have a voice in the development and use of new health tools.

“Thanks to U.S. investment and innovation, undeniable progress has been made in preventing, diagnosing, and treating conditions like HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, and other neglected tropical diseases,” said Jana Armstrong, Executive Director of the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative North America, “But the fight against infectious disease is by no means won. American leaders in both the public and private sectors must recommit to this fight.”

Word on Health agrees, but wonders why the pharmaceutical and biotech industry wasn’t invited to the party. The Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDs, Malaria and Tuberculosis (GBC) was created to turn business assets into disease-fighting assets and has been pivotal in joining the corporate sector, governments and civil society together in common cause. Many pharmaceutical and biotech companies are members of GBC and have done outstanding work in this area. If you work for one of them, we’d love to hear from you.