News And Events

CDC Collaboration With Dominican Republic Results in Measurable Health Gains

The Dominican Republic has recently gotten attention for its notable public-heath improvements since the CDC established a full-time country office there five years ago.

Recently Dr. Tom Kenyon, director of CDC’s Center for Global Health, and Dr. Debbi Birx, who leads CDC’s Division of Global HIV/AIDS, visited the Dominican Republic to review CDC programs aimed at protecting public health. Kenyon and Birx are the highest-level CDC officials to visit the Dominican Republic since CDC’s country office officially opened in 2009.
 
During their visit from Jan. 9-11, Drs. Kenyon and Birx visited San Cristobal Hospital and ventured to Little Haiti in the Dominican Republic’s capital, Santo Domingo, to meet with a non-government organization that works with Haitians living in the Dominican Republic. They also spent time with the country’s public health leaders, including Dr. Hidalgo Nuñez, Minister of Health in the Dominican Republic, and with the newly arrived US Ambassador, James Brewster.
 
The visit allowed them to discuss public-health topics, including: collaboration on HIV/AIDS, non-communicable diseases, infectious-disease outbreaks, road safety, and travelers’ health.
 
The partnership between the Dominican Republic and CDC has resulted in remarkable progress against HIV/AIDS and other diseases in just a few years.

In 2013, all 77 HIV clinics in the Dominican Republic adopted the use of ART cards and an electronic reporting tool to track treatment and clinical follow-up of more than 30,000 people living with HIV. The CDC has also assisted the Ministry of Health to strengthen their laboratory capacity. 
 
CDC actively supports efforts between both the Dominican Republic and Haiti to address four priority diseases: cholera, HIV, malaria and tuberculosis. 

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The OMS, Ltd. is a nationally recognized team of physicians and medical specialists who work closely with other occupational health and safety professionals. To find out more click here or call us at  (800) 359-1979.

 

 

Scientists Trace Roots of 'Black Death'

An international team of scientists discovered that two of the world's most devastating plagues -- the plague of Justinian and the Black Death, each of which killed up to half the people in Europe -- were caused by distinct strains of the same pathogen, one that faded out on its own, the other leading to worldwide spread and re-emergence in the late 1800s. These findings suggest a new strain of plague could emerge again in humans in the future.
The research generates new questions, including: Why did this pandemic die out?

The findings are dramatic because little has been known about the origins of the Justinian Plague, which contributed to the end to the Roman Empire, and its relationship to the Black Death, some 800 years later. The Plague of Justinian struck in the sixth century and killed between 30 and 50 million people -- virtually half the world's population as it spread across Asia, North Africa, Arabia and Europe. The Black Death would strike some 800 years later with similar force, killing 50 million Europeans between just 1347 and 1351 alone.

Researchers from several universities isolated miniscule DNA fragments from the 1,500-year-old teeth of two victims of the Justinian plague, buried in Bavaria, Germany. They reconstructed the genome of the oldest Yersinia pestis, the bacterium responsible for the plague, and compared it to a database of genomes of more than 100 contemporary strains. The results are published in the online edition of The Lancet Infectious Disease. They show the strain responsible for the Justinian outbreak was an evolutionary 'dead-end' and distinct from strains involved later in the Black Death and other plague pandemics that would follow.

The third pandemic, which spread from Hong Kong across the globe is likely a descendant of the Black Death strain and thus much more successful than the one responsible for the Justinian Plague.

This study raises questions about why a pathogen that was so deadly died out. One testable possibility is that human populations evolved to become less susceptible. Another possibility is that changes in the climate became less suitable for the plague bacterium to survive in the wild.

Fortunately, we now have antibiotics that could be used to effectively treat plague, which lessens the chances of another large-scale human pandemic.

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The OMS, Ltd. is a nationally recognized team of physicians and medical specialists who work closely with other occupational health and safety professionals. To find out more click here or call us at  (800) 359-1979.

Going To The Caribbean? Do Not Forget Your Mosquito Repellant

Planning a trip to the Caribbean for Spring Break?  In addition to the sunscreen, be sure to pack mosquito repellant!

Chikungunya (CHIKV) is a viral illness spread from human to human through the bite of a mosquito.  Before December of 2013, the illness had not been locally acquired in the Western Hemisphere.  Since then, the number of confirmed and suspected cases of this illness in the Caribbean Islands continues to grow rapidly and as of last week reached 2115 cases.

The French Islands of the Antilles are the center of the Chikungunya epidemic.  Martinique, the French side of St. Martin, The Dutch side of St. Martin,  the island of St. Bart and Dominica have all reported new cases.  Aruba, Anguilla, and French Guyana have reported imported cases. The British Virgin Islands have reported no new cases this week and six for the entire outbreak.

Chikungunya virus infection can cause a debilitating illness, most often characterized by fever, headache, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, muscle pain, rash, and joint pain. The term ‘chikungunya’ means ‘that which bends up’ in the Kimakonde language of Mozambique. Acute chikungunya fever typically lasts a few days to a few weeks, but, some patients have prolonged fatigue lasting several weeks.

The incubation period (time from infection to illness) can be 2-12 days, but is usually 3-7 days. Chikungunya virus infection is thought to confer life-long immunity. Fatalities related to chikungunya virus are rare.

There is no vaccine for Chikungunya and no cure.  The best strategy for preventing Chikungunya virus infections is preventing mosquito bites.  The use of mosquito repellents and the use of screens or netting is advised by the Center for Disease Control. 

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The OMS, Ltd. is a nationally recognized team of physicians and medical specialists who work closely with other occupational health and safety professionals. To find out more click here or call us at  (800) 359-1979.

OSHA's New Web Resource Aims To Improve Safety Of Patients And Hospital Workers

OSHA recently launched a new educational web resource, http://www.osha.gov/hospitals, which features materials to help hospitals prevent worker injuries, assess workplace safety needs, enhance safe patient handling programs, and implement safety and health management systems. The materials include fact books, self-assessments and best-practice guides.

“These new materials can help prevent hospital worker injuries and improve patient safety, while reducing costs,” said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health. "At the heart of these materials are the lessons from high-performing hospitals that have implemented best practices….”

The website's materials on safe patient handling address the most common injuries hospital workers face, including: lifting and moving patients, workplace violence, slips and falls, exposure to chemicals and hazardous drugs, exposures to needles and infectious diseases. In 2012, US hospitals recorded 250,000 work-related injuries and illnesses, almost 60,000 of which caused employees to miss work. Nationwide, workers' compensation losses result in a total annual expense of $2 billion for hospitals.

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The OMS, Ltd. is a nationally recognized team of physicians and medical specialists who work closely with other occupational health and safety professionals. To find out more click here or call us at  (800) 359-1979.

Severe Mental Illness Linked With Substance Abuse

New data that links severe mental illness and substance use could lead to more effective treatment options, according to a leading expert in psychiatry and addiction issues.

The Washington University School of Medicine-St. Louis and the University of Southern California jointly conducted a study of nearly 20,000 individuals, 9,142 of whom were diagnosed with severe psychotic illnesses, collected over a five-year period. The findings were published online in JAMA Psychiatry.

“What we are learning is that this overlap of mental illness with addictive disorders is not random,” said the National Institute on Drug Abuse Deputy Director Wilson Compton.

Researchers looked at nicotine, alcohol, marijuana and recreational drug use in mentally healthy test subjects and psychiatric patients diagnosed with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or schizoaffective disorder. The study found that 30 percent of those with a severe mental illness engaged in binge drinking (four servings of alcohol or more), compared to 8 percent in the mentally healthy population.

The results for smoking and marijuana were much higher. More than 75 percent of those with severe mental illness were heavy smokers and 50 percent were heavy marijuana users. In the mentally healthy population, only 33 percent were heavy smokers and 18 percent were heavy marijuana users. Compton said the findings do much in the way of helping both patients and doctors.

“We can use the fact that [mental illness and addictive disorders] go together to better reorganize our treatment centers to both address the mental illness and the substance issues,” he explained.

Past studies had been completed with individuals diagnosed with milder cases of mental illnesses, but this new study confirmed that rates of substance use in those with severe mental illnesses is much higher than previously assumed, according to the article.

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The OMS, Ltd. is a nationally recognized team of physicians and medical specialists who work closely with other occupational health and safety professionals. To find out more click here or call us at  (800) 359-1979.

School Environment May Help Deter Drug Use

Students feeling good about their school environment may affect their drug use more than the threat of random drug testing, a new study finds.

A survey of high school students found that the possibility that they might face drug testing didn't really discourage them from alcohol, cigarettes or marijuana. But students who thought their school had a positive environment were less apt to try cigarettes and pot.

Those students were about 20 percent less likely to try smoking pot and about 15 percent less likely to light up a cigarette than students who didn't feel that their school was a positive place, the survey found. And the trend held true, more or less, regardless of demographic or geographic factors.

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg Public Policy Center looked at 361 high school students across the country. The students were initially interviewed in 2008 as part of the more general National Annenberg Survey of Youth. A year later, researchers followed up and asked participants whether they had tried alcohol, or smoked cigarettes or marijuana. The research was published Monday in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

A school that has a positive climate might also practice drug testing, an author of the study said – the two aren't mutually exclusive. But this study suggests that administrators concerned about substance abuse might want to try programs that encourage a more respectful school climate before turning to drug testing.

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The OMS, Ltd. is a nationally recognized team of physicians and medical specialists who work closely with other occupational health and safety professionals. To find out more click here or call us at  (800) 359-1979.

Limited Health Care Options For Undocumented Immigrants

Nearly 12 million undocumented immigrants living in the US don’t have access to affordable health care under The Affordable Care Act. Under the federal law, undocumented immigrants are excluded from getting federal subsidies to buy health insurance, and they cannot shop for coverage in the health insurance marketplace.

More than half of all undocumented immigrants don’t have health insurance, and only a few have insurance through employer-sponsored programs. The Urban Institute estimates that 25 percent of people who will remain without health insurance once the Affordable Care Act is fully implemented will be undocumented immigrants, making up the nation’s second-largest population of uninsured.

Though undocumented immigrants are barred from being eligible for federally funded health coverage, they are eligible for some services. For instance, they are eligible for emergency care under Medicaid if they meet requirements, like having a low income.

There are also some states considering whether to extend health care benefits to undocumented immigrants. This could be done as long as benefits are covered with funds from the state, not the federal government. A state lawmaker in California is already planning to introduce legislation that would allow undocumented immigrants to have access to health insurance through the state’s version of the Affordable Care Act.

In the meantime, undocumented immigrants are turning to community health clinics and nonprofit organizations to get the medical care they need.

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The OMS, Ltd. is a nationally recognized team of physicians and medical specialists who work closely with other occupational health and safety professionals. To find out more click here or call us at  (800) 359-1979.

The 13 Biggest Health Stories of 2013

January 23, 2014- Here’s a round-up of the biggest health stories in 2013 -- topics that had the biggest impact and generated the most buzz – around the globe.

1. New heart attack guidelines. This year, the first guidelines for preventing heart attacks and strokes were issued by the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology.

2. Michelle Obama's "Drink Up" campaign: The First Lady unveiled her newest health initiative late this year, called “Drink Up,” which aims to encourage everyone to drink more water.

3. The (glitchy) rollout of healthcare.gov. The website that is meant to serve as a health insurance marketplace for Americans has had its fair share of technical bugs since it launched in October.

4. Obama's BRAIN Initiative. The BRAIN Initiative (which stands for Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies) was propsed by Obama to map brain activity in an effort to better understand brain diseases and conditions such as Alzheimer's and autism.

5. The MERS virus. The Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus has been reported in nine countries so far, including four European countries, though most cases have been identified in Middle Eastern countries. About half of people who developed the virus have died.

6. The polio outbreak in Syria. Syria was considered "polio-free" in 1999, but because of conflict, vaccination rates have plummeted from above 90 percent in 2011 to 68 percent three years later. As a result, a massive polio vaccination effort has been launched in the country.

7. The comeback of whooping cough and measles. Health officials said the whooping cough epidemic is likely a result of a new pertussis vaccine that seems to not be as effective, and a decrease in vaccinations. Meanwhile there have been eight outbreaks of measles (as of September) in the U.S., mostly in places with low vaccination rates.

8. Increasing use of -- and confusion about -- e-cigarettes. Are electronic cigarettes dangerous? Can they help you quit smoking real cigarettes? Should they be regulated? These were all questions raised this year, none of which have a clear answer.

9. The beginning of the end of trans fats. The FDA proposed this year to require the food industry to phase out trans fats, by no longer considering them as "generally recognized as safe." They still exist in some foods such as margarine, microwave popcorn and frozen pizza.

10. The naming of the "most-stressed" generation. And the title goes to … millenials (otherwise known as the 18-to-33 set).

11. The new DSM. The newest edition of the psychiatry bible, the DSM-5, came out this year; the last version was published in 1994.

12. Multiple reports of HIV "cures." When it comes to "curing" HIV, 2013 was an especially hopeful year. In March, doctors reported that a baby infected with HIV in the womb was put in remission after being given faster and stronger treatment than usual immediately after being born.

13. Increased accessibility to the morning-after pill. All age restrictions to purchase Plan B One-Step (and generic versions of the emergency contraceptive) were lifted this year after a lengthy court battle.

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The OMS, Ltd. is a nationally recognized team of physicians and medical specialists who work closely with other occupational health and safety professionals. To find out more click here or call us at  (800) 359-1979.