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Weekly Health Digest: Better Flu Vaccine, Reversal Of Life Expectancy Trends, Fire Related Power Outages, And More

Photo by Michael Held on Unsplash

A summary of important health news from the past week

Building a better flu vaccine — one you don’t have to get every year

By: Elizabeth Cohen and John Bonifield

The effectiveness of the current flu shot depends on how accurate scientists are at predicting what strains should be targeted every year. The shot can only cover some strains, and thus, its effectiveness varies every season. Doctors at the NIH started testing a new flu shot last spring. This shot, as opposed to the current one, would cover every strain. Nonetheless, the NIH has been working on a universal flu shot for almost ten years and predict that it will take another ten for it to enter the market. To improve the flu shot, smaller manufacturers have also taken steps such as growing the virus in the lab as opposed to in chicken eggs. Others have stopped growing the complete virus and have started to just grow the virus protein, which is faster and more effective. 

Dying too young: Deaths among middle-aged adults reversing life expectancy trends

By: Erika Edwards

According to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, people are dying years and even decades before expectations, especially in the America’s Rust Belt “with one-third of the country’s deaths reported in just four states: Kentucky, Indian, Ohio and Pennsylvania.” Life expectancy in America increased steadily from the late 1950s through 2014, then declined up to 2017. The oldest age was 78.9 years with the low of 78.6 in 2017. The study attributes the decline to more people dying between the ages of 25 and 64 than should be dying. Men have a higher death rate than women in this age group. People are dying in that age range because of drug overdoses, alcohol, suicides, diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure. Additionally, chronic stress from economic downturns in the Rust Belt impact growing midlife death rates as well. Paying attention to manifestations of stress could help stop the decline.

New Strawberry-Flavored H.I.V. Drugs for Babies Are Offered at $1 a Day

By: Donald G. McNeil Jr.

Cipla, a generic Indian drug manufacturer, has announced a new AIDS prevention medicine suitable for children. The new drug, Quadrimune, is a strawberry-flavored granule that can be mixed with milk or soft baby foods. This drug was developed because former AIDS medications came in the form of hard pills and bitter syrups that are difficult for children to consume. Quadrimune is still under review by the Food and Drug Administration but the hope is that it can counter the thousands of AIDS related deaths for children in developing countries.

Coping With (Power) Loss: California’s Hospitals, Clinics, Patients Face New Reality

By Mark Kreidler

Pacific Gas & Electric Co. and Southern California Edison have been intentionally cutting power in some communities who are at high risk for electrical fires. This leads life saving health care clinics and hospitals rethinking their disaster preparedness plans, which include what to do when the power goes out. These plans are not intended for scheduled cut offs that last days or even weeks. This article provides answers to critical questions, such as what to do if you have a scheduled procedure during a cut off and how cut offs impact certain types of treatments and types of facilities.