CDC: Lyme Disease Isn’t the Only Tick-borne Disease to Worry About

Cases of a tick-borne disease, called babesiosis, more than doubled in some Northeastern states between 2011 and 2019, researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported last week. This disease is transmitted through the black-legged tick (shown at left), also known as the deer tick and the same tick which transmits Lyme Disease.

Although many people with babesiosis are asymptomatic, others develop flulike symptoms, including fevers, chills, sweats and muscle aches. The disease can be severe or even fatal in people who have compromised immune systems or other risk factors.

The disease, which for decades was extremely rare in the United States, is now endemic in 10 states in the Northeast and the Midwest, the agency said. New York and Connecticut are two states in which it is most common. The increase may have been fueled by rising temperatures and the growing population of deer, two factors that help ticks thrive, experts said.

Norovirus Surging: How to Protect Your Family

Most norovirus outbreaks in the U.S. happen between November and April. On average, the country sees around 20 million cases per year, with nearly 110,000 hospitalizations and 900 deaths, mostly among those who are 65 and older.

Norovirus appears to be at a seasonal high, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The rate of norovirus tests coming back positive, averaged over three weeks, exceeded 15% at the end of last week. That’s the highest recorded since late March 2022.

Norovirus is sometimes referred to as the stomach flu, but it is not related to the influenza virus. Rather, it is a highly contagious virus that typically causes gastrointestinal symptoms like diarrhea, vomiting, nausea and stomach pain. Mild fever and aches are possible, too.

Just a few virus particles are enough to make someone sick, and they spread easily via hands, surfaces, food and water. An infected person can transmit the virus for days after they’re feeling better, potentially even up to two weeks, according to the CDC.

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Tips to Prevent Norovirus
You can help protect yourself and others from norovirus by washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water and following other simple prevention tips.

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HPV Vaccine Prevents Six Types of Cancer

According to the American Cancer Society, Human Papillomavirus (HPV) can cause six types of cancer. While there is no treatment for HPV, there is a vaccine that can prevent it.

“I recommend all children between the ages of 9 to 14 receive the HPV vaccine before they are sexually active,” advises AAHPO Vice President and pediatrician Garbis Baydar, MD. “There are medical studies which clearly show that the vaccine not only prevents sexually transmitted genital warts, but also prevents cervical cancer in females, penile cancer in males and oral and food pipe cancer in both sexes.”

The American Cancer Society asserts that the HPV vaccine can prevent more than 90% of HPV cancers, including most cervical cancers. Talk to your child’s doctor and visit cancer.org/hpv to learn more.

Recall of EzriCare Eye Drops

If you have purchased eye drops sold under the brand names of EzriCare or Delsam Pharma Artificial Tears, immediately discontinue use of the eye drops. They have been recalled due to possible contamination linked to eye infection cases in 12 states, including New Jersey and New York.

“Fortunately, these brands have very small market share in our region,” noted AAHPO President and ophthalmologist Lawrence V. Najarian, MD.

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Should You Be Smoking Marijuana to Treat Your Glaucoma?

January is Glaucoma Awareness Month. AAHPO President and ophthalmologist Lawrence V. Najarian, MD is sharing this article from the Glaucoma Research Foundation, which notes: “Although marijuana can lower eye pressure, please consider its side effects, short duration of action, and lack of evidence that its use alters the course of glaucoma.”

Glaucoma is a disease of the optic nerve, the cable that carries visual information from the eye to the brain. Damage to the optic nerve from glaucoma can result in vision loss and blindness. Treatments that lower the pressure in the eye both lower the risk of developing the optic nerve damage that defines glaucoma, and the risk of pre-existing damage getting worse.

Marijuana as a Treatment Alternative
One of the commonly discussed alternatives for the treatment of glaucoma is the smoking of marijuana, because smoking marijuana does lower the eye pressure. Less often appreciated is the fact that marijuana’s effect on eye pressure only lasts 3-4 hours, meaning that to lower the eye pressure around the clock it would have to be smoked 6-8 times a day.

Furthermore, marijuana’s mood-altering effects prevent the patient who is using it from driving, operating heavy machinery, and functioning at maximum mental capacity. Marijuana cigarettes also contain hundreds of compounds that damage the lungs, and the chronic, frequent use of marijuana can damage the brain.

Learn more from the Glaucoma Research Foundation

Protect Your Family from the Dangers of Radon

Did you know that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States after smoking?

What is Radon?
Radon is an odorless and invisible radioactive gas naturally released from rocks, soil, and water. In outdoor environments, radon levels are very low and generally not considered harmful.

Radon can get into homes or buildings through small cracks or holes and build up to higher levels. Over time, breathing in high radon levels can cause lung cancer.

The good news is that lung cancer from radon is preventable.

Click on the arrow below to watch video, or Learn more from the CD.

What to Expect from the New Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently issued a rule that allows hearing aids to be available over-the-counter (OTC). This rule enables consumers who perceive themselves to have mild to moderate hearing loss to buy hearing aids from stores or online retailers without a medical exam or prescription.

This rule, which took effect October 17, is expected to make hearing aids more accessible to the public, but many questions remain unanswered: what does it mean to have perceived mild to moderate hearing loss; what can we expect from this new category of hearing aids; and how can audiologists and hearing specialists help even when there isn’t a need for a hearing exam to obtain these devices? Enrique Perez, MD, Assistant Professor of Otolaryngology at the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai, shares his thoughts on the FDA rule and the benefit OTC hearing aids can bring to consumers.

Who might benefit most from this new rule?
Older adults who have noticed they are struggling somewhat with hearing in their day-to-day activities would likely benefit the most. The rule applies to people age 18 and older with perceived mild to moderate hearing loss, which can be subjective to quantify without an exam. The OTC devices would likely be suitable for people without serious otologic (ear) disease, frequent discomfort in the ear, or ear infections.

What devices are covered under the rule?
The rule covers air conduction hearing aids, which mimic the way we naturally hear but deliver amplified sound to the inner ear. This is opposed to bone-anchored hearing aids, which require surgical implantation, or personal sound amplification products, which are not mean for impaired hearing but are intended for people with normal hearing to amplify sounds in certain situations.

It remains to be seen how OTC hearing aids will eventually be labeled, but it is important that the labels are comprehensive, to ensure that individuals are not misled. For example, an OTC label could point out that the product is different from a prescription hearing aid and that if you are not seeing a benefit, you should be evaluated by a specialist.

How might an audiologist help?
Hearing aids becoming available over the counter doesn’t necessarily mean there is no longer any need for an audiologist. As more people have access to hearing aids, audiologists might start to see a big
chunk of these people we might not ordinarily see in clinic.

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Our Own Dr. Tsoline Kojaoghlanian Discusses the RSV Virus Surge, Its Warning Signs and Preventive Measures

Editor’s Note: This article/video appeared on NY1 “News All Day” on Nov. 3, 2022, quoting AAHPO Board Member and pediatric infectious disease specialist Tsoline Kojaoghlanian, MD.

Cases of Respiratory Syncytial Virus — known as RSV — are surging around the country.

In the past, RSV has been considered a common, seasonal respiratory infection. But this year it’s hitting harder and earlier.

With flu season underway, and COVID-19 still a challenge, some experts are calling it a ‘“triple-demic.” Hospitals and children’s wards are already being pushed to capacity.

Dr. Tsoline Kojaoghlanian is a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Maimonides Children’s Hospital in Brooklyn who joined “News All Day” for more insight into the disease.

Dr. Kojaoghlanian says some of the warning signs include labored or unusually fast breathing, poor eating and grunting or nasal flaring. To protect your family, the doctor recommends washing your hands, keeping sick family members away from infants, avoid crowded places, and keep kids away from smokers.

Dr. Kojaoghlanian told us that their pediatric intensive care unit is equipped with the right staffing is ready for the expected surge in sick children requiring intensive care. With that care, most babies do well.

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Q&A about Omicron Subvariant from Johns Hopkins University

Johns Hopkins University professor and virologist Andy Pekosz, PhD has been tracking coronavirus variants since the early days of the pandemic. He spoke recently on a podcast and below is an edited transcript of that podcast.

Q. What’s happening now with omicron’s subvariants?
A. When a variant emerges, it never stops mutating and changing. And omicron, being a really transmissible virus, amplified how quickly we see these mutations emerge. We went from one version to five [in a relatively short period of time].

These [subvariants] are different from one another. Some scientists say that what we call omicron subvariants now are equivalent to what we referred to as different variants earlier in the pandemic. There’s a lot of diversity in omicron, which is contributing to issues with COVID-19 vaccine efficacy and treatments.

Q. How are these subvariants impacting vaccine efficacy and treatments?
A. First, all these omicron variants are good at evading some portion of the vaccine-induced immunity. Vaccines are still protecting against severe disease, but even if you are vaccinated, if you’re exposed, you should expect to have a symptomatic infection. We’re seeing case numbers go up, but we’re not seeing hospitalizations, disease severity, or death go up anywhere close to that same rate. Vaccines are working against severe disease, not against infection.

The other important thing is that these variants of omicron have different susceptibilities to different monoclonal antibody treatments. It becomes tricky to figure out which treatment you can take. We don’t have the capability to quickly tell someone, “You’re infected with BA.4,” yet the efficacy of the treatment is completely dependent upon which variant you’re being infected with.

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