Category Archives: Health

Drug-resistant staph plagues hog farm workers

From Chartbin, a look a the world’s carnivorous habits using the latest available data from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.

From Chartbin, a look a the world’s carnivorous habits using the latest available data from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.

Factory farmed meat has become the rule, rather than the exception, when it comes to the food we eat at home and in most restaurants. Called Intensive animal farming by Big Agra, factory farming uses dense populations of animals, confined in shed or pens, forced to stands surrounded ankle deep in their own feces and urine,

Because bodily waste serves as a perfect breeding ground for bacteria, beef, poultry, and hog farmers feed or inject their livestock with ongoing doses of antibiotics.

But the combination of dense populations, rampant bacterial growth in waste-soaked soil, and the process of natural selection virtually guarantees that bacteria, with their reproductive rates thousands of times faster than that of humans, will evolve to resist the drugs designed to kill them.

The result is a panoply of organisms like methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aurea, or MRSA, better known to the mass media as flesh-eating bacteria capable of standing off what has been the antibiotic of last resort when all others have failed.

One of the meats most intensively factory-farmed is pork, asn thius image from Farm Sanctuary is an example of the origins of your morning bacon and evening pork chops:


So the next logical question is this: Does working on a factory farm, the perfect storm of conditions for breeding MRSA, result in higher rates of MRSA infections for workers?

A new study looks at that question, using hog farm workers, and the answers are just what you’d expect.

From the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health:

New Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health-led research suggests that some workers at industrial hog production facilities are not only carrying livestock-associated, antibiotic-resistant bacteria in their noses, but may also be developing skin infections from these bacteria.

The findings are published Nov. 16 in PLOS ONE [open access].

“Before this study, we knew that many hog workers were carrying livestock-associated and multidrug-resistant Staphylococcus aureus strains in their noses, but we didn’t know what that meant in terms of worker health,” says study leader Christopher D. Heaney, PhD, an assistant professor at the Bloomberg School’s departments of Environmental Health and Engineering, and Epidemiology. “It wasn’t clear whether hog workers carrying these bacteria might be at increased risk of infection. This study suggests that carrying these bacteria may not always be harmless to humans.”

Because the study was small, the researchers say there is a need to confirm the findings, but the results highlight the need to identify ways to protect workers from being exposed to these bacteria on the job, and to take a fresh look at antibiotic use and resistance in food animal production. Hogs are given antibiotics in order to grow them more quickly for sale, and the overuse of antibiotics has been linked to the development of bacteria that are resistant to many of the drugs used to treat staph infections.

The researchers, involving collaborators at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the Rural Empowerment Association for Community Help in Warsaw, NC, and the Statens Serum Institut in Copenhagen, enrolled 103 hog workers in North Carolina and 80 members of their households (either children or other adults) to have their noses swabbed to determine whether they were carrying strains of S. aureus in their nasal passages. Each person was also shown pictures of skin and soft tissue infections caused by S. aureus and asked if they had developed those symptoms in the previous three months.

The researchers found that 45 of 103 hog workers (44 percent) and 31 of 80 household members (39 percent) carried S. aureus in their noses. Nearly half of the S. aureus strains being carried by hog workers were mutidrug-resistant and nearly a third of S. aureus strains being carried by household members were. Six percent of the hog workers and 11 percent of the children who lived with them reported a recent skin and soft tissue infection (no adult household members reported such infections).

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Depression rate soars among adolescent girls

Rising rates of depression among the adolescents and the young. From the study.

Rising rates of depression among the adolescents and the young. From the study.

A sobering new study reveals a growing mental health crisis, as depression rates steadily rise among America’s adolescents, with the increases most pronounced among young women.

We suspect the causes are, ultimately economic, sparked by the Great Recession and the surge in sexist and racist rhetoric encouraged by the right wing of American politics to deflect attention from the unprecedented rise to power of the plutocracy and their elected and appointed shills at all levels of governance.

As part of the deflection strategy, a brilliance piece of semantic jujitsu has rebranded civility as political correctness, enabling the resurgence of the open expression of behaviors, both semantic and somatic, once considered beyond the pale in the wake of civil rights and feminist revolutions that began in the middle 1950’s.

Targeting, the ongoing and growing assault on reproductive rights, and the radical rise of the national wealth into the hands of a few, soaring personal debt levels, and the loss of hope to live better than one’s parents, are good reasons to be depressed. And to be angry and engaged in the struggle to win back their stolen futures. . .

From Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health:

The rate of adolescents reporting a recent bout of clinical depression grew by 37 percent over the decade ending in 2014, with one in six girls reporting an episode in the past year, new Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health-led research suggests.

The findings, published online Nov. 14 in the journal Pediatrics, highlight a need to focus on the mental well-being of young people and match those in peril with mental health professionals.

“This shows us there are a growing number of untreated adolescents with depression and that we are making few inroads in getting mental health care to this population,” says study leader Ramin Mojtabai, MD, PhD, MPH, a professor in the Department of Mental Health at the Bloomberg School. “It is imperative that we find ways to reach these teenagers and help them manage their depression.”

Suicide rates have been increasing in recent years, particularly among adolescent girls and young women. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this month reported that suicide rates among American middle school students – those aged 10 to 14 – were higher than rates of death from motor vehicle crashes in that age group.

For the study, the researchers analyzed data from the 2005 to 2014 National Surveys on Drug Use and Health on adolescents and young adults to examine trends in “major depressive episodes” over the previous year. Major depressive episodes, also known as clinical depression, occur when someone develops a depressed mood or a loss of interest or pleasure in daily activities along with other depressive symptoms consistently for at least two weeks.

Overall, 176,245 adolescents aged 12 to 17 and 180,459 adults aged 18 to 25 were involved in the annual study between 2005 and 2014. Participants were told about symptoms of depression and were asked whether they had experienced them in the prior year. In 2005, 8.7 percent of adolescents reported major depressive episodes in the past year; the figure was 11.3 percent in 2014. The percentage had remained relatively steady from 2005 to 2011, but grew from 2012 through 2014.

Among girls, the prevalence of major depressive episodes increased from 13.1 percent in 2005 to 17.3 percent in 2014. White adolescents and young adults were also more likely than non-whites to experience these episodes. Among young adults, the prevalence of these episodes grew from 8.8 percent in 2005 to 9.6 percent in 2014, though the increase was only found in those ages 18 to 20.

The findings were based only on self-reporting, not on clinical diagnoses. The researchers controlled for substance abuse and socioeconomic factors.

There were few significant changes in the use of mental health treatment among those adolescents and young adults with depression. In adolescents, after 2011, there were small increases in visits to specialty mental health providers, the use of inpatient and day treatment centers and medication. These increases, however, were not enough to keep up with the increases in those with clinical depression.

The increase in some treatment could be related to the expansion of health insurance under the Affordable Care Act and mental health parity legislation, though the future of health insurance expansion is in doubt following the recent election of a new U.S. president.

The researchers say it is unclear what is driving the rise in major depressive episodes, particularly among girls. They say adolescent girls may have been exposed to a greater degree of depression risk factors in recent years. Cyberbullying, for example, may have increased more in girls, as studies have shown that they use mobile phones more frequently and intensively than boys and problematic mobile phone use among young people has been linked to depressed mood.

The results coincided with a major economic downturn, but there has not been an increase in the prevalence of clinical depression among adults over the period and this study found no increase among those age 21 to 25.

“The growing number of depressed adolescents and young adults who do not receive any mental health treatment calls for renewed outreach efforts, especially in school and college health centers, counseling services and pediatric practices, where many of the untreated adolescents and adults with depression may be detected and managed,” Mojtabai says.

National Trends in the Prevalence and Treatment of Depresson in Adolescents and Young Adults”[open access]  was written by Ramin Mojtabai, Mark Olfson and Beth Han.

More austerian misery on the Mediterranean

In the European Unions, Great Recession bailouts were contingent on harsh memoranda from the Troika — the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank, and the European Commission — documents spelling out harsh conditions, ranging from mandated selloffs of ports, transportation systems, and other state resources, as well as those pay, pension, and healthcare benefits.

The hardest hit countries in the European Union were the PIIGS, Portgual, Italy, Ireland, Greece, and Spain.

Two PIIGS are feeling the pain, one physically.

Spanish unions battle the Troika.


Spain’s two biggest unions said on Thursday that they “firmly opposed” measures demanded by Brussels to reduce the public deficit and demanded a hike in the minimum wage.

“We firmly reject the adjustment of €5.5 billion demanded by the European Commission,” the head of the UGT union, Pepe Alvarez, told a joint news conference with Ignacio Fernandez Toxo who heads the nation’s biggest union Commissiones Obreras.

Spain had agreed with Brussels to reduce its public deficit from 5.1 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2015 to 4.6 percent this year and 3.1 percent in 2017.

But the draft 2017 budget which Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s conservative government sent to Brussels last month forecasts a public deficit of 3.6 percent this year.

The European Commission responded by demanding that Madrid adopt additional measures to lower the deficit down to 3.1 percent, which will require roughly 5.5 billion euros ($6.1 billion) in spending cuts and tax increases.

The pain is physical in Greece

The Hellenic republic was the hardest hit of the PIIGS, and employment is still at stunningly high levels, with nearly half of Greek young people jobless and unemployment rates rising among older workers.

The latest numbers, released Thursday by the Hellenic Statistical Authority:

Austerity measures have been notably harsh, and the anti-austerity Syriza-led government surrendered to the Troika, inflicting still more pension, pay, and healthcare benefits whiles selling off more of the commons.

Just what impact the Troika has had can be illustrated in one sobering story from Kathimerini:

Spending on dental care in Greece declined by up to 64 percent between 2009 and 2015, according to data compiled by the country’s statistical authority which also showed that overall health spending fell by slightly over 19 percent over the same period.

According to ELSTAT, in 2009 Greeks spent a total of 1.95 billion euros on oral care (an average 473.4 euros per household). Six years later, spending had dropped to 701 million euros (an average of 169.5 euros per household).

Experts say that pressed by the ongoing financial crisis, Greeks chose to sacrifice oral care in favor of less flexible health spending such as medicine and hospital treatment.

Experts warn that the situation is made worse by the deterioration of public dental care service which has been hit by shortages in staff and equipment.

So the cash keeps flowing out of the country, while pain and suffering increases.

So is the power of the lootocrats.

Childhood traumas linked to adult drug use

This is one case where the intuitive also proves to be scientific: Childhood sexual abuse and exposure to scenes of violence leads to a much greater rte of adult drug, especially for males.

In other words, the long-term emotional damage inflicted by early traumas leads to self-medication in later years.

Other key factors are also linked to adult misuse of prescription pain killers.

From the American Public Health Association:

Children who are sexually abused are nearly five times more likely to inject drugs in adulthood as those who are not — while children who witness violence are about three  times more likely — according to new research.

Researchers from NYU School of Medicine and The Center for Drug Use and HIV/HCV Research used a nationally representative sample of more than 12,000 Americans to explore associations between nine childhood traumas and adult drug use.

Additionally: the association between sexual abuse during childhood and injection drug use was more than seven times as strong for males as females.

“Screening for and addressing childhood trauma may be an important strategy to prevent initiation of drug use,” said lead researcher Kelly Quinn, PhD, MPH, assistant professor at NYU School of Medicine’s Department of Population Health. “And for drug users, trauma-informed interventions throughout the life course are important for treatment and mitigation of relapse.”

Additionally, data found that neglect, emotional abuse, parental incarceration and parental binge drinking were associated with 25-55 percent increased odds of prescription pain reliever misuse.

Suicides prompt French nurses to stage a walkout

Sadly, few of us understand the critical role nurses play in our healthcare system, their roles overshadowed by those of the physicians.

Nurses are often overworked and overtaxed emotionally, a lesson we learned during 15 years of marriage to a passionately dedicated registered nurses.

In France, nurses have responded to the pressures of their jobs with a nationwide job action, a movement we entirely support.


Striking nurses are holding protests across France on Tuesday in what was described as an “unprecedented” movement aimed at raising the alarm call about the state of their profession.

France is renowned worldwide for the quality of its health service, but nurses in France might have something to say about that.

On Tuesday hospital staff held protests across the country including a march from Montparnasse to the Health Ministry in Paris to demonstrate their growing anger at their worsening conditions of work.

Other hospital workers joined the protests.

Various nursing unions were due to hold talks with health minister Marisol Touraine. She may have difficulty quelling their anger which is focussed in various areas: lack of investment, lack of staff, being overworked, no time for patients.

In September nurses called for action after a wave of suicides that were believed to be related to the stresses of the job.

Studies affirm the critical roles of nursing

During out years of marriage, we heard countless stories about medication errors in physician hospital orders, sometimes errors that would have cost patients their lives had not attentive nurses spotted them.

We also heard stories we can personally verify about the critical role nurses play in encouraging patients to comply with regimens essential to their well being, including dietary orders to diabetic patients. One patient, an internally known celebrity, owed her life to our then-spouses admonitions.

But don’t just take our word for it.

One major study published earlier this year concluded:

Nurses play a unique yet invisible role in identifying, interrupting and recovering medical errors.

Another, earlier study reached a similar conclusion:

Nurses’  vigilance and adoption of precaution measures about medication errors are key factors for preventing medication errors.

Yet another study noted the role of nurses in determining the outcome of patient hospitalizations:

Studies have repeatedly found that the practice environment in which nurses work is a determining factor in nurse and patient outcomes. These studies find that the distinguishing attributes of Magnet hospitals are present in where nurses have high levels of job satisfaction and have low levels of burnout where the practice environment is poor, nurses working in hospitals with good work environments have the benefit of adequate staffing and patients in these hospitals have better outcomes.

From yet another major study:

Staffing adequacy directly affected emotional exhaustion, and use of a nursing model of care had a direct effect on nurses’ personal accomplishment. Both directly affected patient safety outcomes.

Conclusions: The results suggest that patient safety outcomes are related to the quality of the nursing practice work environment and nursing leadership’s role in changing the work environment to decrease nurse burnout.

Then consider this from a research brief from the Center for Studying Health System Change:

Nurses are “the largest deliverer of healthcare in the U.S.,” according to a representative of an accrediting organization, and as hospital participation in quality improvement activities increases, so does the role of nursing. Universally, respondents described how vital nurses are to hospitals; that nursing care is a major reason why people need to come to a hospital. As one hospital CEO said of nurses, they are the “heart and soul of the hospital.”

Finally, we offer this conclusion from another major study, this one focusing on the role of hospital employee satisfaction and patient outcomes:

[H]ealth care organizations that provide a good working environment which enhances the service capability of staff through empowered decision making will lead to more satisfied nurses who are more likely to remain loyal to the organization and  provide a higher level of care resulting in higher patient satisfaction. Organizations that desire to improve patient satisfaction must therefore be concerned about internal issues related to employee satisfaction and view their employees as customers too.  A connection appears to exist between how engaged an employee is with the employee’s role in the patient care process and the level of patient satisfaction. This interrelationship affects not only satisfaction levels but also patient loyalty and financial performance.

So support your local nurses as though your life depended on it, because some day it might.

Charts of the day: Major healthcare disparities

Three charts from a series by CNN Money examining healthcare disparities in the major industrialize nations of the West:




Map of the day: Asian tsunami deaths 1996-2015

From the Yomiuri Shimbun: