The World Health Organization will have convened on Friday to evaluate whether Zika is still to be classified as a “ public health emergency of international concern.” I am not sure of the criteria for such a classification, but it does not seem to me that we have yet seen most of the consequences of Zika in those yet to be born. Furthermore, it is not clear how Zika will fare though the turn of the seasons.
The effects of Zika are generally serious to devastating. It is fascinating and confounding that these effects vary by geography. This means Zika has different effects depending on where the infection is contracted. The American Society for Tropical Medicine recently convened and examined this question which needs much more formal study.
Women are more likely to get Zika from men than men are to get it from women. This is because the virus is now believed to suppress the vaginal immune response (Vaginal immune response ! Who knew ? ) and thus go undetected so it can establish infection in both mother and baby.
Blood banks in affected states have been screening for Zika. Only 40 out of 800,000 positives have been found. This is not meant to represent an assessment of Zika prevalence in these states since the people who come to donate are screened and kept from donating if they have risk factors for the infection.
In other news, there is another option for women with vaginal atrophy. Many older women and those who have had cancer have vaginal atrophy, which manifests as dry, thin, inelastic tissue. It also manifests as pain during intercourse. Fourteen percent of all women have low equal desire and sex related personal distress. Part of this in older women may related to vaginal atrophy. Unfortunately, this is not always addressed at the doctor’s office. Many such patients are not able or wiling to use vaginal estrogen. They may now use DHEA, dehydroepiandrosterone, an adrenal androgen, as a daily vaginal capsule, to help with this. The trade name will be Prasterone and it has recently been approved by the FDA ( Food and Drug Administration) for this use.
The idea of using vaginal estrogen in breast cancer survivors has, until recently, not been considered due to concerns that the hormone enters the systemic circulation and might cause increased risk of recurrence. However a recent study published in JAMA Oncology has shown that estradiol secreting vaginal rings and intravaginal testosterone cream are both safe and effective therapies in those breast cancer patients who are receiving aromatase inhibitor (AI) therapy.
In insurance news, President elect Trump has indicated that he favors preserving the prohibition against insurers denying coverage due to preexisting conditions. He also favors allowing parents to keep children on policies until the age of 26. An article in the Wall Street Journal recently opined that keeping these provisions without keeping the universal mandate (requirement for everyone to have insurance or be fined) and the funds it would bring in, would strain the coffers of health insurance companies bound to keep the first two provisions.
At this point, hearsay reigns in matters of the new administration’s policies. Before the election, Republican politicians spoke of eliminating the individual mandate on health insurance. Now, there is talk of revamping it. Similarly, and more realistically, it is said that Medicaid under the new administration is more like to be altered than it is to be shrunk, as Republican candidates suggested.
This column has covered the falling teen birth rate. Recent analysis of this data has shown that this is the case much more in urban compared to rural areas. Between 2007 and 2015, the teen birth rate fell 50% in cities, but only 37% in rural areas. Teen birth rates fell most among white and hispanic girls.
In related news, a recent study in the American Journal of Public Health showed some interesting relationships between childbearing and longevity. Over 20,000 women were followed for over 16 years. Researchers discovered that a larger number of children is associated with less longevity in black women, but more longevity in white women. They also found that women who delay their first birth until at least 25 are more likely that their counterparts to live until age 90.
Stay tuned next week for more breaking news from the world of Obstetrics and Gynecology.