World Health Organization Warns of NCoV Spread

With flu season winding down, public health professionals may soon have a new virus to focus on—the coronavirus. Coronavirus is in the same family as SARS and the common cold. According to a recent CNN article, coronavirus was found in Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Kingdom.

Six people have died from the virus worldwide, prompting Vanderbilt University Medical Center infectious disease specialist Dr. William Schaffner to state, “I wouldn’t be shocked if it came here.”

The CDC is working closely with the World Health Organization and is requesting that doctors ask patients exhibiting certain symptoms where they’ve recently traveled. Infection symptoms include an acute respiratory infection, fever, and a cough.

Experts warn that this virus, which the World Health Organization has dubbed NCoV (novel coronavirus), has a range of effects that include pneumonia and kidney failure. There is no evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission, according to the article.

But human-to-human transmission is possible and was documented in a case within the United Kingdom.

Learn more about NCoV by visiting the World Health Organization’s website.


Pittsburgh’s Health Monitoring Systems Helping New Jersey Department of Health Monitor Effects of Superstorm Nemo

(Pittsburgh, PA)—While Superstorm Nemo is only expected to produce an inch of snow in Pittsburgh, areas to our north and east are bracing for the worst. North Side based Health Monitoring Systems is helping public health officials in New Jersey, which is preparing for 12-18 inches of snow, to proactively monitor this potential public health emergency.

Read more

New Study Questions Thinking About How Vector-Borne Pathogens Spread

A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that the “trail of the most rapid transmission of human infections does not lead through large, public gather places, but from house-to-house.”

The study took place on the island of Iquitos in Peru as researchers sought to discover how dengue fever outbreaks started. “The findings provide a different way for thinking about how a vector-borne pathogen may spread through a population, and have implications for better disease surveillance and control,” according to disease ecologist and Emory University researcher Gonzalo Vazquez-Prokopec.

To discover how the virus spreads from person to person, researchers tracked and mapped outbreak patterns of two large neighborhoods. “When a case of dengue was confirmed through a blood test, social workers would interview the patient, recording all the places the patient went during the 15 days leading up to the onset of fever,” according to the article. The data was then plotted using GIS technology.

Dengue fever has not impacted the United States since a 2009-10 outbreak in the Florida Keys. But while we are relatively unaffected by dengue here, the results of the study provide food for thought about how we perceive infection to spread.

“We suspect that the importance of human movement that we observed in Iquitos will hold in other populations,” according to Vazeuez-Prokopec.


Energy Drinks Related to Increased ER Visits?

A recent study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration asserts that emergency rooms across the country are treating increasing numbers of patients who experience complications from consuming energy drinks. The study refers to the drinks as a “rising public health problem,” adding that 20,000 ER visits in 2011 were linked to the drinks.

Energy drinks can increase blood pressure and heart rates—and cardiologists interviewed for the study stated that ER patients “frequently complain of heart racing, heart skipping, and panic-attack like symptoms.”

The symptoms, which have resulted in a doubling of energy drink-related ER visits in just four years, have even caused Chicago to consider banning energy drink sales to individuals under the age of 21.In a response by the American Beverage Association, it is noted that the study did not “share information about the overall health of those who may have consumed energy drinks.”

To dive further into the topic, HMS attempted to confirm the study’s results by looking at data collected in ERs across the country. We found that there was not much evidence in the data that showed a direct correlation between energy drinks and ER visits.

However, the very nature of the symptoms described—racing heart, heart skipping—means that the chief complaints may not stand out in an analysis as being directly related to energy drinks.

This analysis gets to the heart of the “fun” part of data collection—sifting through data to find correlations that can better serve the public’s health. For more information on the study, visit the HLN website.