Archive | July 2022

QUOTE FOR THE WEEKEND:

This could be due to a number of reasons, according to Dr. Judy Tung, section chief of Adult Internal Medicine at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center. Cold and flu viruses are continuing to circulate — in fact, in late April and early May, New York state saw an unusual spike in influenza — coinciding with summer allergies, not to mention an uptick in COVID-19 cases due to the rise of Omicron subvariants.

Dr. Judy Tung, expert on how to treat yourself at home for COVID-19 and colds

Dr. Judy Tung

“Summer cold symptoms are common and confusing this year not only because of COVID but also because of the late flu peak,” says Dr. Tung.

HealthMatters New York Presbyterian

Colds in the summer!

While people are accustomed to dealing with runny noses and scratchy throats in the fall and winter, many are experiencing the same symptoms this summer.

This could be due to a number of reasons, according to Dr. Judy Tung, section chief of Adult Internal Medicine at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center. Cold and flu viruses are continuing to circulate — in fact, in late April and early May, New York state saw an unusual spike in influenza — coinciding with summer allergies, not to mention an uptick in COVID-19 cases due to the rise of Omicron subvariants.

“Summer cold symptoms are common and confusing this year not only because of COVID but also because of the late flu peak,” says Dr. Tung.

To understand what viruses are circulating now and how to tell the difference between a summer cold, allergies, and COVID-19, Health Matters spoke with Dr. Tung, who is also associate dean for faculty development at Weill Cornell Medicine.

What have you seen this year with the flu and colds?

We started to see a resurgence of flu at the end of 2021, and then a big drop in cases at the beginning of 2022, during the initial Omicron surge. But with the relaxation of masking and distancing this spring, influenza experienced a late peak.

As for colds, this summer a lot more GI symptoms that accompany colds — vomiting and diarrhea in addition to fever, congestion and cough. This probably speaks to a dominance of enterovirus, a common summer cold virus that can produce more GI symptoms or pink eye symptoms than rhinovirus, which is more dominant in the winter. This can be confusing, because COVID also causes GI symptoms.

Why are we usually able to avoid bad colds in the summer? Why are colds lasting longer?One theory for why colds are lasting longer is that the immune system got a little forgetful, not having been exposed to the most current viral strains, and therefore is less prepared to fight them off. The immune system builds antibodies and other memory white blood cells to fight off pathogens after being exposed to them. When our immune systems are exposed to cold viruses all year long, they are “on the ready.” That didn’t happen last year because of all the precautions people took to protect themselves against COVID.

What are the biggest differences in symptoms between common colds, allergies, and COVID-19?
COVID is associated with loss of smell and taste, or unusual tastes that are not common in uncomplicated colds. Sinus infections can do this, but regular colds typically don’t affect smell or taste to the degree we see in COVID-19.

Allergies can really feel like a cold, down to the body aches when allergies are severe. Allergies do not produce fever and normally take many days of postnasal dripping to cause a cough, whereas colds and COVID can move to coughing swiftly.

What’s the best way to care for summer colds?
There is little difference in the way we care for summer and winter colds — drink fluids and get plenty of rest. One advantage of summer is that you can open windows to ensure that shared space is well ventilated, especially if there is a member in the household who is sick.

With the rise of the Omicron subvariants, what is important to keep in mind when you come down with what seems to be an ordinary cold or allergy symptoms?
It is important to get tested for COVID if you have cold symptoms — not because you are going to get gravely ill, but because you may inadvertently pass it along to someone who could get gravely ill.

Vaccination and boosting definitely protect people from severe COVID infection, preventing hospitalization and death. However, Omicron is highly infectious, and there is increasing evidence that while the vaccines are still proving to protect us against severe COVID, they are not as effective against stopping us from getting infected or reinfected.

Furthermore, there is some recent evidence that while Omicron is definitely milder than Delta, it is more contagious and may linger for longer, so people stay masked for 10 to 14 days and to use home antigen tests and look for a negative test to guide on when you can relax with masking again.

 

QUOTE FOR FRIDAY:

“As the weather gets warmer, we tend to spend more time outside under the hot sun. It’s important to know the difference between heat stroke and heat exhaustion.]

Both heat stroke and heat exhaustion are caused by your body’s inability to cool itself.

Sweat is your body’s natural tool for cooling you down. If you overexercise or work strenuously in hot weather or a heated room, your body may have difficulty producing enough sweat to keep you cool.

Heat exhaustion occurs when the body loses excess amounts of water and salt, typically from sweating. On the other hand, heat stroke is a serious medical emergency that occurs when your body is unable to control its internal temperature.”.

Healthline (healthline.com)

Heat Stroke

Heatstroke is a condition caused by your body overheating, usually as a result of prolonged exposure to or physical exertion in high temperatures. This most serious form of heat injury, heatstroke, can occur if your body temperature rises to 104 F (40 C) or higher. The condition is most common in the summer months.

Heatstroke requires emergency treatment. Untreated heatstroke can quickly damage your brain, heart, kidneys and muscles. The damage worsens the longer treatment is delayed, increasing your risk of serious complications or death.

Heatstroke can occur as a result of:

  • Exposure to a hot environment. In a type of heatstroke, called nonexertional (classic) heatstroke, being in a hot environment leads to a rise in core body temperature. This type of heatstroke typically occurs after exposure to hot, humid weather, especially for prolonged periods. It occurs most often in older adults and in people with chronic illness.
  • Strenuous activity. Exertional heatstroke is caused by an increase in core body temperature brought on by intense physical activity in hot weather. Anyone exercising or working in hot weather can get exertional heatstroke, but it’s most likely to occur if you’re not used to high temperatures.

In either type of heatstroke, your condition can be brought on by:

  • Wearing excess clothing that prevents sweat from evaporating easily and cooling your body
  • Drinking alcohol, which can affect your body’s ability to regulate your temperature
  • Becoming dehydrated by not drinking enough water to replenish fluids lost through sweating

Heatstroke signs and symptoms include:

  • High body temperature. A core body temperature of 104 F (40 C) or higher, obtained with a rectal thermometer, is the main sign of heatstroke.
  • Altered mental state or behavior. Confusion, agitation, slurred speech, irritability, delirium, seizures and coma can all result from heatstroke.
  • Alteration in sweating. In heatstroke brought on by hot weather, your skin will feel hot and dry to the touch. However, in heatstroke brought on by strenuous exercise, your skin may feel dry or slightly moist.
  • Nausea and vomiting. You may feel sick to your stomach or vomit.
  • Flushed skin. Your skin may turn red as your body temperature increases.
  • Rapid breathing. Your breathing may become rapid and shallow.
  • Racing heart rate. Your pulse may significantly increase because heat stress places a tremendous burden on your heart to help cool your body.
  • Headache. Your head may throb.

Risk factors

Anyone can develop heatstroke, but several factors increase your risk:

  • Age. Your ability to cope with extreme heat depends on the strength of your central nervous system. In the very young, the central nervous system is not fully developed, and in adults over 65, the central nervous system begins to deteriorate, which makes your body less able to cope with changes in body temperature. Both age groups usually have difficulty remaining hydrated, which also increases risk.
  • Exertion in hot weather. Military training and participating in sports, such as football or long-distance running events, in hot weather are among the situations that can lead to heatstroke.
  • Sudden exposure to hot weather. You may be more susceptible to heat-related illness if you’re exposed to a sudden increase in temperature, such as during an early-summer heat wave or travel to a hotter climate.Limit activity for at least several days to allow yourself to acclimate to the change. However, you may still have an increased risk of heatstroke until you’ve experienced several weeks of higher temperatures.
  • A lack of air conditioning. Fans may make you feel better, but during sustained hot weather, air conditioning is the most effective way to cool down and lower humidity.
  • Certain medications. Some medications affect your body’s ability to stay hydrated and respond to heat. Be especially careful in hot weather if you take medications that narrow your blood vessels (vasoconstrictors), regulate your blood pressure by blocking adrenaline (beta blockers), rid your body of sodium and water (diuretics), or reduce psychiatric symptoms (antidepressants or antipsychotics).Stimulants for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and illegal stimulants such as amphetamines and cocaine also make you more vulnerable to heatstroke.
  • Certain health conditions. Certain chronic illnesses, such as heart or lung disease, might increase your risk of heatstroke. So can being obese, being sedentary and having a history of previous heatstroke.

Complications

Heatstroke can result in a number of complications, depending on how long the body temperature is high. Severe complications include:

  • Vital organ damage. Without a quick response to lower body temperature, heatstroke can cause your brain or other vital organs to swell, possibly resulting in permanent damage.
  • Death. Without prompt and adequate treatment, heatstroke can be fatal.

When to go to the doctor or call 911:

If you think a person may be experiencing heatstroke, seek immediate medical help. Call 911 or your local emergency services number.

Take immediate action to cool the overheated person while waiting for emergency treatment.

  • Get the person into shade or indoors.
  • Remove excess clothing.
  • Cool the person with whatever means available — put in a cool tub of water or a cool shower, spray with a garden hose, sponge with cool water, fan while misting with cool water, or place ice packs or cold, wet towels on the person’s head, neck, armpits and groin.
  • Without prompt and adequate treatment, heatstroke can be fatal.

Prevention

Heatstroke is predictable and preventable. Take these steps to prevent heatstroke during hot weather:

  • Wear loosefitting, lightweight clothing. Wearing excess clothing or clothing that fits tightly won’t allow your body to cool properly.
  • Protect against sunburn. Sunburn affects your body’s ability to cool itself, so protect yourself outdoors with a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses and use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15. Apply sunscreen generously, and reapply every two hours — or more often if you’re swimming or sweating.
  • Drink plenty of fluids. Staying hydrated will help your body sweat and maintain a normal body temperature
  • Never leave anyone in a parked car. This is a common cause of heat-related deaths in children. When parked in the sun, the temperature in your car can rise 20 degrees F (more than 11 C) in 10 minutes.It’s not safe to leave a person in a parked car in warm or hot weather, even if the windows are cracked or the car is in shade. When your car is parked, keep it locked to prevent a child from getting inside.
  • Take it easy during the hottest parts of the day. If you can’t avoid strenuous activity in hot weather, drink fluids and rest frequently in a cool spot. Try to schedule exercise or physical labor for cooler parts of the day, such as early morning or evening.
  • Get acclimated. Limit time spent working or exercising in heat until you’re conditioned to it. People who are not used to hot weather are especially susceptible to heat-related illness. It can take several weeks for your body to adjust to hot weather.
  • Be cautious if you’re at increased risk. If you take medications or have a condition that increases your risk of heat-related problems, avoid the heat and act quickly if you notice symptoms of overheating. If you participate in a strenuous sporting event or activity in hot weather, make sure there are medical services available in case of a heat emergency.

QUOTE FOR THURSDAY:

“Poliomyelitis (polio) is a highly infectious viral disease that largely affects children under 5 years of age. The virus is transmitted by person-to-person spread mainly through the faecal-oral route or, less frequently, by a common vehicle (e.g. contaminated water or food) and multiplies in the intestine, from where it can invade the nervous system and cause paralysis.

In 1988, the World Health Assembly adopted a resolution for the worldwide eradication of polio, marking the launch of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, spearheaded by national governments, WHO, Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), UNICEF, and later joined by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. Wild poliovirus cases have decreased by over 99% since 1988, from an estimated 350 000 cases in more than 125 endemic countries then to 175reported cases in 2019.

Of the 3 strains of wild poliovirus (type 1, type 2 and type 3), wild poliovirus type 2 was eradicated in 1999 and no case of wild poliovirus type 3 has been found since the last reported case in Nigeria in November 2012. Both strains have officially been certified as globally eradicated. As at 2020, wild poliovirus type 1 affects two countries: Pakistan and Afghanistan.”

WHO World Health Organization

QUOTE FOR WEDNESDAY:

“Polio, or poliomyelitis, is a disabling and life-threatening disease caused by the poliovirus.  The virus spreads from per son to person and can infect a person’s spinal cord, causing paralysis (can’t move parts of the body). Most people who get infected with poliovirus (about 72 out of 100) will not have any visible symptoms.  About 1 out of 4 people (or 25 out of 100) with poliovirus infection will have flu-like symptoms.  A smaller proportion of people (much less than one out of 100, or 1-5 out of 1000) with poliovirus infection will develop other, more serious symptoms that affect the brain and spinal cord.  This would include Paresthesia (feeling of pins and needles in the legs), others with Meningitis (infection of the covering of the spinal cord and/or brain) occurs in about 1 out of 25 people with poliovirus infection to Paralysis=the worst symptom (can’t move parts of the body) or weakness in the arms, legs, or both, occurs in about 1 out of 200 people with poliovirus infectionl.”

CDC Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

 

QUOTE FOR TUESDAY:

‘What is Meningitis? Meningitis is an infection of the tissues covering the brain and spinal cord (meninges). Viral meningitis is an infection caused by viruses and bacterial meningitis is an infection caused by bacteria.

Viral meningitis is usually less serious and goes away without treatment. Many different viruses can cause viral meningitis. Most of the viruses are common during the summer and fall months.

Bacterial meningitis is extremely serious. Brain damage, hearing loss or learning disability may happen after having bacterial meningitis. It is important to know what bacteria are causing bacterial meningitis so that the correct medicine can be used to prevent others from getting sick. The earlier the medicine is given the more successful it is. Streptococcus pneumonia and Neisseria meningitidis are two kinds of bacteria that cause bacterial meningitis. Haemophilus influenzae type b bacteria mostly attacks the very young but with the vaccination program in infants, meningitis in children happens less frequently.

Many of the viruses that cause viral meningitis can be spread through saliva or stool. Bacteria that cause bacterial meningitis can spread person-to-person through contact with fluids from the mouth or nose of a sick person. Most people already have natural protection against many of these germs.”.

John Hopkins Medicine

 

Bacterial versus Viral Infections.

As you might think, bacterial infections are caused by bacteria, and viral infections are caused by viruses. Perhaps the most important distinction between bacteria and viruses is that antibiotic drugs usually kill bacteria, but they aren’t effective against viruses.

Bacteria

Bacteria are single-celled microorganisms that thrive in many different types of environments. Some varieties live in extremes of cold or heat. Others make their home in people’s intestines, where they help digest food. Most bacteria cause no harm to people, but there are exceptions.

Infections caused by bacteria include:

  • Strep throat
  • Tuberculosis
  • Urinary tract infections

Inappropriate use of antibiotics has helped create bacterial diseases that are resistant to treatment with different types of antibiotic medications.

Viruses

Viruses are even smaller than bacteria and require living hosts — such as people, plants or animals — to multiply. Otherwise, they can’t survive. When a virus enters your body, it invades some of your cells and takes over the cell machinery, redirecting it to produce the virus.

Diseases caused by viruses include:

  • Chickenpox
  • AIDS
  • Common colds

In some cases, it may be difficult to determine whether a bacterium or a virus is causing your symptoms. Many ailments — such as pneumonia, meningitis and diarrhea — can be caused by either bacteria or viruses.

Bacterial and viral infections have many things in common. Both types of infections are caused by microbes — bacteria and viruses, respectively — and spread by things such as:

  • Coughing and sneezing.
  • Contact with infected people, especially through kissing and sex.
  • Contact with contaminated surfaces, food, and water.
  • Contact with infected creatures, including pets, livestock, and insects such as fleas and ticks.

Microbes can also cause:

  • Acute infections, which are short-lived.
  • Chronic infections, which can last for weeks, months, or a lifetime.
  • Latent infections, which may not cause symptoms at first but can reactivate over a period of months and years.

Most importantly, bacterial and viral infections, can cause mild, moderate, and severe diseases.

Throughout history, millions of people have died of diseases such as bubonic plague or the Black Death, which is caused by Yersinia pestis bacteria, and smallpox, which is caused by the variola virus. In recent times, viral infections have been responsible for two major pandemics: the 1918-1919 “Spanish flu” epidemic that killed 20-40 million people, and the ongoing HIV/AIDS epidemic that killed an estimated 1.5 million people worldwide in 2013 alone.Bacterial and viral infections can cause similar symptoms such as coughing and sneezing, fever, inflammation, vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, and cramping — all of which are ways the immune system tries to rid the body of infectious organisms. But bacterial and viral infections are dissimilar in many other important respects, most of them due to the organisms’ structural differences and the way they respond to medications.

The Differences Between Bacteria and Viruses

Although bacteria and viruses are both too small to be seen without a microscope, they’re as different as giraffes and goldfish.Bacteria are relatively complex, single-celled creatures with a rigid wall and a thin, rubbery membrane surrounding the fluid inside the cell. They can reproduce on their own. Fossilized records show that bacteria have existed for about 3.5 billion years, and bacteria can survive in different environments, including extreme heat and cold, radioactive waste, and the human body.

Most bacteria are harmless, and some actually help by digesting food, destroying disease-causing microbes, fighting cancer cells, and providing essential nutrients. Fewer than 1% of bacteria cause diseases in people.

Viruses are tinier: the largest of them are smaller than the smallest bacteria. All they have is a protein coat and a core of genetic material, either RNA or DNA. Unlike bacteria, viruses can’t survive without a host. They can only reproduce by attaching themselves to cells. In most cases, they reprogram the cells to make new viruses until the cells burst and die. In other cases, they turn normal cells into malignant or cancerous cells.

Also unlike bacteria, most viruses do cause disease, and they’re quite specific about the cells they attack. For example, certain viruses attack cells in the liver, respiratory system, or blood. In some cases, viruses target bacteria.

Diagnosis of Bacterial and Viral Infections

You should consult your doctor if you think you have a bacterial or viral infection. Exceptions include the common cold, which is usually not life-threatening.

In some cases, it’s difficult to determine the origin of an infection because many ailments — including pneumonia, meningitis, and diarrhea — can be caused by either bacteria or viruses. But your doctor often can pinpoint the cause by listening to your medical history and doing a physical exam.

If necessary, he or she also can order a blood or urine test to help confirm a diagnosis, or a “culture test” of tissue to identify bacteria or viruses. Occasionally, a biopsy of affected tissue may be required.

QUOTE FOR MONDAY:

“The overall function of the immune system is to prevent or limit infection.  The immune system can distinguish between normal, healthy cells and unhealthy cells by recognizing a variety of “danger” cues called danger-associated molecular patterns (DAMPs). Cells may be unhealthy because of infection or because of cellular damage caused by non-infectious agents like sunburn or cancer. Infectious microbes such as viruses and bacteria release another set of signals recognized by the immune system called pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs).When the immune system first recognizes these signals, it responds to address the problem. If an immune response cannot be activated when there is sufficient need, problems arise, like infection.”

NIH The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease

The Immune System

 

 

 

 

Immune system. Human anatomy. Human silhouette with internal organs.

We hear those 2 words “Immune System “a lot; what is the immune system?  The main parts of the immune system are:

  • white blood cells.
  • antibodies.
  • complement system.
  • lymphatic system.
  • spleen.
  • bone marrow.
  • thymus.

Your immune system is a large network of organs, white blood cells, proteins (antibodies) and chemicals. This system works together to protect you from foreign invaders (bacteria, viruses, parasites, and fungi) that cause infection, illness and disease.

What does the immune system do and how does it work?

Your immune system works hard to keep you healthy. Its job is to keep germs out of your body, destroy them or limit the extent of their harm if they get in.

When your immune system is working properly: When your immune system is working properly, it can tell which cells are yours and which substances are foreign to your body. It activates, mobilizes, attacks and kills foreign invader germs that can cause you harm. Your immune system learns about germs after you’ve been exposed to them too. Your body develops antibodies to protect you from those specific germs. An example of this concept occurs when you get a vaccine. Your immune system builds up antibodies to foreign cells in the vaccine and will quickly remember these foreign cells and destroy them if you are exposed to them in the future. Sometimes doctors can prescribe antibiotics to help your immune system if you get sick. But antibiotics only kill certain bacteria. They don’t kill viruses.

When your immune system is not working properly: When your immune system can’t mount a winning attack against an invader, a problem, such as an infection, develops. Also, sometimes your immune system mounts an attack when there is no invader or doesn’t stop an attack after the invader has been killed. These activities result in such problems as autoimmune diseases and allergic reactions.

Your immune system is made of up a complex collection of cells and organs. They all work together to protect you from germs and help you get better when you’re sick. The main parts of the immune system are:

  • White blood cells: Serving as an army against harmful bacteria and viruses, white blood cells search for, attack and destroy germs to keep you healthy. White blood cells are a key part of your immune system. There are many white blood cell types in your immune system. Each cell type either circulates in your bloodstream and throughout your body or resides in a particular tissue, waiting to be called into action. Each cell type has a specific mission in your body’s defense system. Each has a different way of recognizing a problem, communicating with other cells on the defense team and performing their function.
  • Lymph nodes: These small glands filter and destroy germs so they can’t spread to other parts of your body and make you sick. They also are part of your body’s lymphatic system. Lymph nodes contain immune cells that analyze the foreign invaders brought into your body. They then activate, replicate and send the specific lymphocytes (white blood cells) to fight off that particular invader. You have hundreds of lymph nodes all over your body, including in your neck, armpits, and groin. Swollen, tender lymph nodes are a clue that your body is fighting an infection.
  • Spleen: Your spleen stores white blood cells that defend your body from foreign invaders. It also filters your blood, destroying old and damaged red blood cells.
  • Tonsils and adenoids: Because they are located in your throat and nasal passage, tonsils and adenoids can trap foreign invaders (for example, bacteria or viruses) as soon as they enter your body. They have immune cells that produce antibodies to protect you from foreign invaders that cause throat and lung infections.
  • Thymus: This small organ in your upper chest beneath your breast bone helps mature a certain type of white blood cell. The specific task of this cell is to learn to recognize and remember an invader so that an attack can be quickly mounted the next time this invader is encountered.
  • Bone marrow: Stem cells in the spongy center of your bones develop into red blood cells, plasma cells and a variety of white blood cells and other types of immune cells. Your bone marrow makes billions of new blood cells every day and releases them into your bloodstream.
  • Skin, mucous membranes and other first-line defenses: Your skin is the first line of defense in preventing and destroying germs before they enter your body. Skin produces oils and secretes other protective immune system cells. Mucous membranes line the respiratory, digestive, urinary and reproductive tracts. These membranes secrete mucus, which lubricates and moistens surfaces. Germs stick to mucus in the respiratory tract and then are moved out of the airways by hair-like structures called cilia. Tiny hairs in your nose catch germs. Enzymes found in sweat, tears, saliva and mucus membranes as well as secretions in the vagina all defend and destroy germs.
  • Stomach and bowel: Stomach acid kills many bacteria soon after they enter your body. You also have beneficial (good) bacteria in your intestines that kill harmful bacteria.