Read the latest news from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine’s Department of Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases. The links below take you to articles where you can learn more about our faculty’s latest achievements, awards, and honors.
- Why is there so much sickness with airplane travel over the holidays? Karen D'Souza in a 12/4/17 article in The Mercury News explains that when people who are stressed out from holiday preparation are enclosed in a confined space, an airplane, infectious disease transmission is common.
Michael Angarone, D.O. and assistant professor of infectious diseases at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, reports on the probability of catching a virus during holiday airplane travel: "On a plane, the stakes are even higher."
D'Souza offers some suggestions for preventing sickness for those who need to fly over the holidays. She recommends not sweating the small stuff and keeping stress at bay. She also suggests getting enough sleep, drinking enough water, and packing for your trip early. Most importantly, travelers should wash their hands frequently, consider sanitizing their tray tables, and avoid using an unwrapped blanket while on board.
- According to an NBC News article by Linda Carroll from 12/3/17, flu season this year may prove worse and more dangerous than last year. The probable, dominant strain of flu this year, H3N2, causes more severe illness, according to William Schaffner, an infectious diseases specialist at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
Michael Ison, MD, a professor of infectious diseases and organ transplantation at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, says:" Typically in years when the predominant strain is H3N2, there are more hospitalizations, more severe disease and people tend to get sicker."
It is especially crucial for adults ages 50+ to receive a flu shot, since older adults have a three to five times increased risk of heart attack and a two to three times increased risk of stroke in the two to eight week period after recovering from the flu, according to Schaffner.
From the NBC Nightly News video segment featured in Carroll's article, it is important to know that there are 7,000 confirmed cases of flu in the U.S. this year so far, which is double the number of flu cases last year. With the holidays, the flu is more easily spread due to the large groups of people coming together. The peak season for the flu is occurring now and will last through February 2018. It takes two weeks after receiving a flu shot vaccine for it to fully take effect. The nasal spray flu vaccine is not recommended.
Congratulations to Michael Angarone, DO, and assistant professor of infectious diseases at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, on achieving the John X. Thomas, Jr. Best Teachers of Feinberg Award 2017! Kudos to you on your award. The Division of Infectious Diseases very much appreciates all your hard work with medical students.
- Mandy Stadtmiller in the Daily Beast writes that the STD epidemic in the U.S. will be getting much worse. The CDC in its annual Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance Report reported that for the third year in a row the cases of the top three tracked STDs in America: chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis, are rising. While HIV rates nationwide were declining in 2016, several U.S. cities, including Miami, Atlanta, New Orleans, and San Antonio, continue to see an alarming rise in HIV infections. The CDC recommends that everyone get tested for STDs at least once in their lifetime. Public health experts caution that proposed federal cuts to STD funding will cause STD rates to skyrocket, much more infertility, and billions of dollars in health care costs. Public health experts seek a return to the same levels of STD-prevention funding as occurred in the 1990s and hope for a $40 million STD-prevention budget for 2018. During the 1990s when STD prevention funding was emphasized, the U.S. almost completely eradicated syphilis. Recently, however, 52% of STD prevention clinics have faced budget cuts. The U.S. now sees all known treatments starting to fail for some cases of gonorrhea. Michael Angarone, DO and assistant professor of infectious diseases at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, states that drug-resistant bacteria [for gonorrhea] has started to appear in the U.S. Angarone adds, "So not only do you have this issue where we're seeing more cases of infection, now we're starting to see and get concerned about growing resistance to the treatment that we have."
From a study involving 34 healthcare professionals who wore either long-sleeve coats or short-sleeve coats while interacting with mannequins to simulate patient care, it was found that no transmission of pathogens occurred when doctors wore short-sleeved coats. The healthcare professionals examined either a mannequin contaminated with cauliflower mosaic virus DNA or an uncontaminated mannequin.
Michael Angarone, DO, and assistant professor of medicine in infectious diseases at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine points out that although the virus contamined those wearing long-sleeve coats more often than short-sleeved coats, only one case of transmission to an uninfected "patient" occurred. Morever, Angarone states that "there may be a risk when wearing long sleeves, but it does not prove that long sleeves are transmitting pathogens to uninfected persons." He advises all healthcare professionals to maintain "regular and consistent use of hand hygiene practices" as a best practice.
- Lisa Rapaport with Reuters reports from a study on medical error causing serious injuries that patients want their doctors to listen to them and explain what safety measures the hospital is implementing to prevent the same medical error from reoccurring. The study was comprised of 27 patients, 3 family members, and 10 staff members at three different U.S. hospitals. A total of 27 of the 30 patients and family members from the study received compensation. Patients who experienced medical errors reported a strong preference for doctors listening to them instead of talking about treatment and communicating medical information. Of the 30 participants in this study, 24 reported that they did not receive information about safety improvements. Gary Noskin, MD, senior vice president and chief medical officer at Northwestern Medicine and professor of medicine within Infectious Diseases at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, was not involved in the study and explains how this new finding contrasts with the typical response from hospitals after medical errors: “Traditionally, hospitals follow a ‘deny and defend’ strategy providing a paucity of information to patients." He also adds that open [communication] after medical errors may prevent litigation. Physicians practicing active listening instead of talking after a medical error may prove both meaningful to patients and advantageous to hospitals.
- British researchers may have found a link between mood and flu shot efficacy, especially in adults over 65. It is possible that being in a good mood when one receives the flu shot improves his/her chances of protection from the flu. Michael Ison, MD, professor in Infectious Diseases and Organ Transplantation at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, however, warns against waiting until one is in a good mood to receive a flu shot. Ison recommends that people get a flu shot when it is offered regardless of what kind of mood they are in.
- Babafemi Taiwo, MBBS, the division chief of Infectious Diseases at Northwestern University, spearheads the division's international research in HIV/AIDS. Taiwo brings an international perspective to the division as his medical education and HIV/AIDS research stretch across two continents. Taiwo graduated from medical school at The University of Ibadan in Nigeria. He then completed residency at Berkshire Medical Center in Massachusetts and a fellowship at Northwestern University in Chicago. He also worked as an internal medicine specialist at Duke University and Duke's HIV Clinic. Taiwo encourages collaboration between investigators and clinical doctors in Nigeria and the U.S. in researching, treating infected patients, and eradicating HIV/ AIDS.