Medical Monday: Breaking News from the World of Obstetrics and Gynecology

Policy News

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Under the ACA, the Affordable Care Act, all health insurance providers were required to cover the full range or reproductive health services including birth control and abortion. However, a suit filed by two Christian has succeeded in blocking the part of the mandate that pertains to coverage of the abortion pill. DHHS (Department of Health and Human Services ) will no longer be able to enforce this portion of the mandate against them. 

The US provides health care aid to many countries. In those health care systems, birth control and abortion services are provided. However the US Gag rule has prevented funds from continuing to go to countries which provide abortion services. . The Trump administration has created auspices under which exceptions to the gag rule may be obtained. This is because there are some such countries whose national law requires health care providers to include information about such services. Such countries may continue to receive US aid under what is being called the “ affirmative duty defense”. Theater loophole, the “passive duty” exception, the US may continue to supply funding if abortion is legal in that country. 

Texas continues to rally. Texas comes in at 47th in vaccination rates. A new group called the Texas HPV coalition aims to increase this rate to 80% before 2026, stemming a tide of HPV related diseases including cancer. 

As previously reported, Texas had shot itself in the foot by defunding and otherwise weakening primary health care for the poor, and reproductive health care in general. It has also been early in the race to defund Planned Parenthood and teen pregnancy prevention programs. Now its teen pregnancy rates, and more worryingly, the material morbidity and mortality rates are skyrocketing. Texans are now are trying to circle the wagons. In particular, the Dallas City Council has by itself resolved to spend $300,000 on a program to curb teen pregnancy rates. 

Nationally the same logic is at work. This coming week the Senate will vote on a bill which will create “Maternal Mortality Review Committees”  that track and investigate maternal mortality. 

Physician leadership is again voicing its defense of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). A recent article in Forbes has highlighted the uniform positions of the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the American Psychiatric Association. How can this not give the administration pause ? 

An Oregon county has sued the Trump administration for their new guideline which give preferential funding to health care programs that promote abstinence. If they prevail, it could block these guidelines nationwide. 

Because contraception has now somewhat unexpectedly become such a controversial topic, the medical community is lobbying harder and harder for drug companies and the FDA (Food and Drug Administration to make birth control an over the counter medication. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have long advocated for this regard the oral contraceptive pill. Now the American Medical Association  was set to consider a resolution to this effect. 

Medical News 

Vitamin D is increasingly in the spotlight. This time,  new study has shown that adequate levels of vitamin D protect against miscarriage. Women at high latitudes in areas with little sunlight and little seafood are more prone to vitamin D deficiency. 

A new study out of Duke indicates that young women’s exercise rates drop off after high school. Additionally they drop off more quickly than do mens. More research is needed to understand and correct this phenomenon. 

Remember the Zika virus epidemic ? A new study shows that over half of Floridians took no precautions whatsoever against the virus. The report has shown that much more education is needed. 

Here is a sad commentary on out profession and on our relatively affluent population: Less than10 percent of our population get the recommended screening and counseling pertaining to preventive health care. This pertained to basics like measurements of vital signs and blood tests, but also to imaging studies like mammograms and colonoscopies for colon cancer screenings. Preventive health screening should also include counseling on weight, tobacco and alcohol use, screening for depression and currency on vaccinations. 

 Alcohol is harder on women than it is on men. This may be related mainly to weight. A new study indicates that young women who drink regularly and heavily ( 4-5 alcoholic drinks) are probably destined for low bone density such as osteoporosis. Women have little androgen (male hormone) compared to men, and androgen protect bone. Estrogen does too, but its production ceases after menopause, when osteoporosis is at its highest risk. Young women need to realize they are likely olive considerably longer than their mother and grandmothers. To do so in comfort and wellness, they need to take really good care of themselves. 

Stay tuned for more news from the fascinating world of Obstetrics and Gynecology, here, next week on Medical Monday. 


Belated Medical Monday: Breaking News from the World of Obstetrics and Gynecology

In policy news, things are moving at a slower, more measured pace. Moreover, the policy pendulum is swinging back to a more moderate place. In a move striking many as too little too late, the House GOP has proposed adding $15 billion to their now failed ACHA (American Health Care Act) making it more palatable to centrist republicans. This money would be pad to reimbursing health insurance companies for high cost patients. The intention is that this would help states reduce health insurance premiums for clients starting in 2018. The Kaiser Family Foundation has estimated that health insurance premiums will go up for the average ACA (Affordable Care Act) client by 19% if federal subsidies are withdrawn. Even with this 15 billion dollar amendment, the GOP did not have enough votes to pass their bill, and now Congress has adjourned for spring break recess. 

According to the Gallup poll, the majority of Americans now support the ACA. This is now the case for the first time since the ACA became law seven years ago. Though 55% of Americans now support it, many feel it could be improved. Centrist Democrats, calling themselves the “ New democrats”  and moderate Republicans,  “the Tuesday group”, are beginning to work with one another on small feasible improvements to the ACA which could benefit everyone.

Senator Bernie Sanders has promised to propose a bill for a single payor system, the so-called “ public option”, also known as “Medicare for all”  in 2018. 

Sixteen State’s Attorneys General have filed an Amicus brief against a new Ohio law which prevents health care providers who offer abortions from receiving any federal funds for any services. A US District Judge in Missouri has reversed a similar law in Missouri. 

In other abortion news, the 2013 Texas House Bill 2 required doctors to have admitting privileges in order to provide abortions. It also required them to do so in ambulatory surgical centers. Finally, it decreased the limit from 24 weeks to 20 weeks. The first two requirements put many midlevel providers in office settings out of business. About half of all abortion providers were put out of business. 

A new study in JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association, looked at the changes in practice since this law has taken effect. It turns out there were 20 % fewer abortions performed in that time frame. It also turns out that the abortions performed were done at a later gestational age. The researchers also calculated that an increased umber of abortions were performed illicitly. 

In medical news, the WHO (World Health Organization) has data indicating that fully 10% of all deaths worldwide are due to smoking. The number is believed to be underestimated since the effects of second hand smoke have not been accounted for. 

Death rates from the main types of cancer for all types of people have declined between 2010 and 2014. The decrease washout 2 %. 

In other good news, TDAP vaccine given in pregnancy is associated with lower rates of pertussis in babies later. (surprise ! ) 

Looking back at Zika, new data has shown us that 10% of women with Zika infection in pregnancy had a baby with a serious birth defect. The number may be higher since not all babies born to mothers with Zika have been given neuroimaging. Also in Zika news, a vaccine under development is progressing to phase two testing.  

In other vaccine news, according to the CDC, as of 2014, about 42% of all people carry the virus. A large new Scottish study of 20,000 women has shown that the HPV vaccine has been associated with a 90% fall in the prevalence of the virus.


Stay tuned for more breaking news from the exciting world of Ob/Gyn here, next week on Medical Monday. 

Thanks for your patience with my delay during Passover ! 

Here is may first ever angel food cake, made gluten free from scratch. It is served with a dairy free chocolate ganache, lemon curd, and cherry berry sauce. 

Medical Monday:Breaking News from the World of Obstetrics and Gynecology

We start this Monday with the piece of grossly under reported news. few seem to be aware of the fact that prenatal cannabis use is linked with cognitive impairment academic under achievement in children. Both the American Academy Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists advise against its use because best. Many patients assume that because it is legal it is safe. Marijuana’s main psychoactive ingredient THC or tetrahydrocannabinol crosses the placenta to reach the fetus. It not only affects brain development and cognition but also birth weight as well. Have you seen anything about this lately? 

Planned home birth is again in the news. A new study shows that planned home birth  is associated with increased risk of complications, especially in women who are having their first baby or in those 41 weeks or more. This particular study looks at the rate of neonatal death, the most severe complication.  Researchers found that those who delivered with midwives at home had a neonatal death rate of 24.4 per 10,000 birth compared to 5.09 per 10,000 births delivering with a midwife in the hospital. 

300,000 babies are born in United States every month. Typically 273,000 women take time off of work to care for newborn whereas 22,000 men do the same. A recent study in the American Journal of Public Health as shown that maternity and paternity leave rates in the United States have been constant over the last 20 years. This may be related to the fact that only 12% of workers in the private sector have access to pay family leave. This lags far behind other developed nations of similar socioeconomic status.

Recent work from the Pew Research Center revealed the new president's views on vaccines are not shared with the majority of Americans who overwhelmingly support requiring children to be vaccinated before attending school. 82% of Americans support children receiving the MMR vaccine before attending school. 

Representatives from numerous physicians organizations have descended upon the halls of the Senate offices to lobby their respective representatives about the need to retain certain characteristics of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). These organizations include the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Family Physicians, The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the American College of Physicians, and the American Osteopathic Association. They have placed particular focus on the provisions for the care of women and children as these provide the foundation for lifelong medical care and wellness. They have placed particular emphasis on the need to have a replacement in place before the current plan is repealed. The same groups, representing over half a million United States physicians, sent a letter to the White House and Congressional leaders leaders asking them to ensure that women's health, including preventive prenatal and neonatal care, be protected. 

A subcommittee within the House is beginning to work on replacing the ACA. They are looking at the issue of preexisting conditions, and at age ratings which determine the charges paid for insurance by age. They're also considering a shorter grace period for those who fail to pay premiums on time. The process is contentious between Democrats and Republicans,  but it is also reportedly contentious between different Republican legislators as well. Republican lawmakers nowassert that they intend to “repair not repeal” the ACA. 

Last week, a meeting between State Insurance Commissioner's and brokers met with the Senate Health Education Labor and Pension Committee. They warned the Committee that more healthcare plans are likely to”defect from the Affordable Care Act marketplaces unless Congress and the Trump administration provide concrete assurances within the next two months”. They also warned that those insurers that remain are likely to increase their rates by as much as 20% if this occurs. Specifically, the insurance industry wants GOP lawmakers to ensure that they will fund ACA subsidies in 2018. They need this information so that they can make their budgets for the next year. ACA subsidies are currently the subject of court battle between Republican Representatives and the White House. Amidst all this, the Department of Health and Human Services introduced a rule, the "Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act; Market Stabilization”, which is meant to stabilize the health insurance market for individuals. The GOP appears to understand that it is in everyone’s best interest to stabilize the insurance markets. 

Threat of repeal of the ACA continues to spur women women into seeking long acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) such as MIrena (IUD) and Nexplanon (subderrmal insert). Month-to-month adoption of these methods is at record highs and continues to rise. Women are also stockpiling prescriptions of contraceptive and the prescriptions Some states such as New York are addressing the problem by requiring State governed insurance agencies to cover contraception with no or minimal copays. Massachusetts has developed a bill to provide free contraceptives to all of its residents. 

The is busy time for women’s health  and health care in general. Find out the names and contact information for your elected officials. Make your views known. 


Stay tuned for more breaking news from the world of Obstetrics and Gynecology, next week on Medical Monday. 

Medical Monday: breaking news from the world of obstetrics and gynecology

Here is some good news on the Zika front. It is been over 45 days without anyone in South Beach Miami contracting Zika virus in from a local mosquito. For this reason Governor Rick Scott has lifted the Zika zone warning in South Beach. Miami's Little River area was cleared earlier this week. Officials are still warning pregnant women to avoid the entire area and to protect against mosquito bites.

Five babies in New York City have been born with Congenital Zika Virus Syndrome. Interestingly, eight other infants have tested positive for Zika virus in New York City but have not shown evidence of the syndrome.

Zika remains a threatening and somewhat mysterious disease. A woman in Columbia has been the subject of study because her Zika virus infection lasted so long. Normally the disease is mild and runs it's course over a few days time. However the pregnant patient in question tested positive for Zika for 107 days after the onset of symptoms. Because of this, researchers speculate that the baby may serve as a reservoir for the virus. When this baby was ultimately born at 37 weeks gestation, it did indeed show microcephaly, indicating that it had been infected by Zika as well. However, interestingly, the baby tested negative for Zika in serum, urine and cerebrospinal fluid. Even though the Zika virus had done it's damage as evidenced by the babies microcephaly, the baby had already developed Zika antibodies prior to birth.

Three experimental Zika vaccines are under development. One of them has finished the first round of human testing then will move to phase 2 trials in the first quarter of 2017. Four or five more Zika vaccines are expected to begin development next year.

Perhaps the most important comments about Zika came from a Dr. Antonio Crespo the Chief Quality Officer at Phillips Hospital at Orlando Health. Writing in the contributors blog for The Hill, Dr. Crespo indicates the northward migration of Zika virus is probably the first of many such diseases. He cautions that the nation's response to Zika and the outcomes that we will see should be studied in preparation for future such threats. 

In other news, youngsters are not the only ones skipping their vaccines. Older people are more vulnerable to influenza, pneumonia and shingles. Vaccines are available for all of these things. 

Young people between the ages of nine and 26 should be vaccinated against the human papilloma virus (HPV). However, vaccination rates in this case fall short of ideal. A new study indicates a counterintuitive result. It turns out that short conversations between Dr. and parents or Dr. and patient are more likely to result in vaccine utilization than are long conversations. Researchers have interpreted this finding by speculating that long conversations raise more doubt than short ones. I would speculate, by contrast, that when a patient shows reluctance or asks questions, the conversation goes longer. Such patients who are disinclined to vaccinate to begin with are less likely to vaccinate even after the conversation takes place. I think the conversations between caregivers and patients need to be as long as they need to be and they certainly very greatly between patients and circumstances. I'm going to file this in the chickens and eggs category.

Also in the chicken and eggs category is the following study. It turns out that researchers have identified a link between pubic hair grooming and sexually transmitted infection (STI) risk. There is a direct relationship between pubic hair grooming and sexually transmitted infection risk. In fact, there is nearly 4 times the likelihood of having an STI among those who are groomed as infrequently as weekly. I ask myself, is this because grooming inherently makes the tissues more vulnerable? Honestly I doubt this. Do those who groom have more partners? Do those who have more partners groom more ? Which comes first?

Officials from the incoming Republican administration have reiterated their plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA). However reporting on more detailed discussions among leader elect reveals a realistic understanding that this change might take two or three years. They even have a name for their strategy: "repeal and delay".

Meanwhile the American Hospital Association has warned the new administration that "repealing the affordable care act could cost hospitals $165 billion by the middle of the next decade" And "trigger an unprecedented public health crisis". 

Similarly the Urban Institute has reported that 30 million people stand to lose coverage if the Affordable Care Act is repealed without putting anything in place to replace it.

Many women are aware of the likelihood of some form of curtailment of the ACA, particularly of reproductive health care coverage. A Kaiser study indicates that many women are flocking in to obtain contraceptives, including longer acting methods to see them through a longer period of time.

In the good news department, the Senate has passed a landslide vote ratifying the 21st Century Cures Act. This is a $6.3 billion measure to "increased federal support for medical research, mental health care, and controlling the opioid epidemic". The bill had strong bipartisan support and cleared by a vote of 94 to 5.

We will finish with a fantastic study on the relationship between optimism and health.The Nurses Heath Study is a very long running and large study of 70,000 women between 2004 to 2012. It is been mined for all kinds of research. In this most recent study released out of Harvard Public Health, those with the most optimism had 40% lower risk of heart disease and stroke compared to those with the least optimism. Optimism was linked with lower inflammation and healthier biomarker levels including lipid levels. Researchers concluded that the correlation between optimism and longevity was the result of optimistic people having healthier lifestyles such as diet, sleep patterns, and other factors.


Stay tuned for more breaking news from the exciting world of Obstetrics and Gynecology next week on Medical Monday. 

Medical Monday: Breaking News from the World of Obstetrics and Gynecology

Congress has finally passed legislation allocating $1.1 billion to fund the fight against Zika. This will cover primarily vaccine development, but also mosquito control efforts. This is very good news; however many would argue that this is too little too late.  The director of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Dr. Anthony Fauci, has indicated that more fundamental research on Zika "will need to be cut back.

There are over 2000 confirmed cases of Zika among American pregnant women. The majority of these are from Puerto Rico. However, the true number is probably under appreciated, due to lack to testing or delays in getting testing results back. Zika Virus may be transmitted through the bite of the Aedes Mosquito, but also via body fluids. By body fluids they mean tears or sweat, not only blood and sex related secretions. Zika virus causes numerous serious abnormalities in the developing fetal and neonatal brain, and can cause post viral paralysis ( Guillane Barre Syndrome) in non pregnant adults. 

A scandal is developing in Florida. Officials in Miami Dade County are accusing the Florida Department of Health of keeping the mosquito capture sites secret, a charge which the Health Department denies. This all started when the Miami Herald sued to find out the location of the traps. 

Texas, which has not yet experienced a confirmed case of Zika, is still expected to be at risk. This is because such epidemics travel in a delayed fashion. Dr. Peter Hotez, Dean of the National school of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, Has stated that we will not know if we've had local transmission of the Zika virus in Texas until seven or eight months from now, when babies are born with microcephaly. He noted that detecting the virus is difficult because most people who are infected are asymptomatic.

ACOG’s Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology has published a report indicating that from 2000 to 2014 maternal mortality in the Continental 48 states has increased 27%. A 2015 report from the World Health Organization indicated that the US has a higher maternal mortality rates than Iran, Libya, and Turkey. This is been reported in previous weeks, although these new numbers put it in better global perspective.

In the good news department, the use of antenatal steroids in women at high risk for preterm labor has been expanded. Until recently we used such steroids to accelerate lung maturation in unborn babies through 34 weeks of gestation. For reference, 40 weeks is the due date and 37 to 41 weeks is considered full-term. The period of 34 to 37 weeks was considered preterm, but until recently there was no proof that the use of antenatal corticosteroids helped this group of babies. Now there is. Accordingly the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has published an updated committee opinion on the use of these medications. With this expanded therapy, it would be reasonable to expect fewer breathing complications in this group of premature babies. 

In the "proud of my college" category, The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has been solicited by the Federal government to "review and recommend updates to" several preventive health services for women under the Affordable Care Act. ACOG’s draft recommendations states that “ women should be able to get free mammograms as early as age 40 and if any follow-up is required, like a biopsy, it should be considered an integral part of the screening and also covered at no cost.” ACOG has also recommended that male birth control be covered as well.

Also in the good news department, the death rate from ovarian cancer decreased 16% between the years 2002 and 2012. 

In the vaccination success department, the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared America free of measles. The WHO Director General Dr. Margaret Chan has indicated that the Americas is the first region in the world to eliminate measles. It has achieved this after a 22 year vaccination campaign. As the measles may be imported from elsewhere, vaccinations for measles should continue as per usual.

Also in the vaccine success department is this: A recent study indicates that the recent introduction of a prenatal TDAP booster vaccination has been effective. This booster can prevent both the development of pertussis ( whooping cough) and decrease the severity of neonatal pertussis infections that do occur. 

Our last bit of news this week is also in the good news category. Teen pregnancies have declined over the last 10 years and the most recent data is even better. Data from 2015 indicate indicate that the teenage birth rate in the United States has hit a new record low, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The rate had a one year decline of 8% falling to 22.3 births for every 1000 women between the ages of 15 and 19. Experts attribute this to teenagers having less sex, using more reliable contraception, and being more aware of the difficulty of having a child while still a teenager.


Stay tuned for more news from the world of OB/GYN next week on Medical Monday.


Medical Monday: Weekly News Update in  Obstetrics and Gynecology

It's a mixed week in OB/GYN news, as always.

A Swedish study indicates that women who are overweight or obese at the time of the first pregnancy are more likely to develop diabetes in the next decade or two of their life. The risk of increase is six times baseline.

The eighth circuit court of appeal in St. Louis Missouri has taken the position that forcing employers to cover the cost of contraception through their insurance “ violates the groups religious freedoms".

In other news in the war on contraception, the Congressional Budget Office has estimated that cutting off funds from Planned Parenthood for one year could "reduce healthcare access for about 390,000 people" and at least through the Planned Parenthood budget with sales tax payers about $235 million. They hasten to indicate that defunding the organization could result in"several thousand unplanned births that would drive up government costs elsewhere such as in the Medicaid budget which pays for 45% of all births in this country.

The Census Bureau reports that the percentage of people without health insurance dropped in 2014 to 10.4 % down from 13.3 % the year before.

In the department of general women's health the following finding is rather striking. When comparing the cost of institutional care for male Alzheimer's patients versus women's Alzheimer's patients the following is noted. The cost of caring for women with Alzheimer's is six times greater then for a man with the same diagnosis. This is because when man has Alzheimer’s, female family members put much more time and energy into their care, saving them from expensive institutionalization. The reverse is not true when male family members take care of women with Alzheimer’s.

In other gender gap news, the Journal of the American medical Association reports that the gender gap in academic medicine is alive and well. Despite the fact that half of all medical school graduates are and have been women for sometime, Men are 15 percent more likely to have the rank of full professor. It also shows that women generally do produce less reach her research than men, But that this may be due to lack of mentorship, institutional support, and most importantly research funding through research grants. According to the same study, men received over twice as much research funding from their employers for equipment and labs. Women researchers are also less likely to receive NIH grants than there male colleagues.

For some good news this week we will have to turn to the field of vaccines. The CDC or Centers for Disease Control found that about 90% of children under the age of three were vaccinated against the common disease entities in the years between 1994 and 2013. What did this do for us? The CDC estimates that this will have prevented 732,000 early deaths in United States alone.

Finally, also in the good news department, the flu vaccine may be more effective this year according to the CDC or Centers for Disease Control. It is estimated that it will be nearly 3 times as effective as last year’s preparation. Remember that even if the vaccine doesn't prevent flu entirely, it will decrease the severity of flu which is very important in children and other vulnerable populations.

Stay tuned for more news from the world of OB/GYN next week in Medical Monday.


Medical Monday: Gardasil Gets an Upgrade

Most of you are familiar with Human Papilloma Virus, aka HPV. This is the very prevalent virus which causes precancer and cancer of the human anogenital area. When I first started training in gynecology, fighting HPV seems like such an uphill battle, since it spreads so easily and is so prevalent. And then came the idea of a vaccine. It seemed too good to be true. 

Gardasil was developed and released. I am proud to say one of my friends was involved. It protects against two strains of HPV known to cause cancer, and two which cause condyloma or warts. Physicians all over the world rejoiced, but adoption rates weren't what we had hoped. 

Gardasil was initially studied in girls and women since the disease caused in women is more common and more severe. And so it was initially approved only for women. I got all my children vaccinated, and even the boys before it was approved for boys. One of my sons did some research after he got his shot, and approached me later, asking, " Mom isn't this just for girls ? " I reassured him that nothing bad would happen. It works just as well in boys and men, who distribute the virus, usually without having any disease themselves.  It eventually was approved for boys. 

Now Gardasil has been expanded to cover NINE viruses ! It is worth noting who is eligible to receive it: 

Boys ages 9-15.

Girls and women ages 9-26. 

 I expect that the age differential in eligibility between boys and girls is simple a case of what groups have had validating studies done, and I anticipate that the boys group will be expanded to the same age group as girls eventually. 

Chilling statistics anyone? 

" In 2013, coverage of at least one dose of HPV vaccine was 57.3% among adolescent girls and 34.6% among adolescent boys2According to the CDC, for every year that coverage does not increase, an additional 4,400 women will develop cervical cancer3. Furthermore, if health care providers increase HPV vaccination coverage to 80%, it is estimated that an additional 53,000 cases of cervical cancer could be prevented during the lifetime of those younger than 12 years." 

reference: ACOG Clinical Practice: The 9-Valent HPV Vaccine 

Gardasil has had a very good side effect profile, with just some arm soreness at the site. We believe its benefits far outweigh the risks. 

To learn more about HPV, please see Pap Smears, HPV and Cervical Health

Medical Monday: Infections by the numbers

Ebola is on everyone's mind. Worldwide the death toll is approximately 2000 people most of whom were in West Africa. People are not aware that it is not easily spread. The odds of getting it in United States are vanishingly small. Sadly there is not yet any vaccine for Ebola. 

To put the death toll from Ebola into perspective consider these numbers: 

9,700,000 children under five per year die from  preventable disease.

250,000 per year,  probably more from flu or flu related complications. 

100,000 per year die of measles of cholera 

1,500,000 per year die of diarrheal disease

Now let's consider our little corner of the world, Montana. Flu season officially started at the end of September. This year Montana has had 5 confirmed cases so far. However, in the previous reporting year we had a total of 3192 cases, 313 hospitalizations and eight deaths that attributed to influenza, with the bulk of cases being in December and January. 

What about Montana's other common preventable infectious disease ? It's Pertussis of course. It is also known as whooping cough. However in the previous reporting year we had a total of 661 conference cases. There were 361 hospitalizations and 15 deaths, mostly of people over 65.

Our scourges, flu and pertussis,  are vaccine preventable diseases. What about theGuillain-Barr syndrome (GBS) , or temporary paralysis ? It too has been studied and it's incidence in the US is around 3000-6000 cases per year whether or not a vaccine was or was not received. It has been determined that one is much more likely to get GBS after flu than after a flu vaccine.

 As I look at the disease rate time charts for prior seasons of each of these vaccine- preventable diseases, I see that we are right ahead of the big bumps in numbers of cases. I hope we get ahead of the curves this year. Pertussis and flu vaccines are available everywhere now.