Social Distancing and Flattening the Curve- what it really means

Social Distancing and Flattening the Curve- what it really means

  You may have seen the above image floating around on social media in the past week.  A common caption for this images is “The one who stayed away saved them all.”  This is the perfect representation of social distancing and why it is so important right now.  So what exactly does “social distancing” mean?  There is a lot that we don’t know about the novel Coronavirus causing our current pandemic, but one thing we do know for sure is that it is spread person to person by coughing, sneezing, or any kind of respiratory droplets.  We want to reduce the number of people that we are each exposed to as each person that is around us can “share” their respiratory droplets with all of those around them. By keeping our distance from one another, we are hoping to slow the spread of this virus.  The idea of “social distancing” is why schools, restaurants, churches, movie theaters, stores and just about any event that has more than 10 people in the same area has been cancelled.   That brings me to the idea of “flattening the curve.”  The “curve” we are talking about here is the number of people expected to become infected with COVID-19.  With novel viruses such as this strain of coronavirus, we can expect that much of the population will eventually get the virus since we do not have immunity to this virus (each time your body sees a virus, the immune system will makes cells that will help to “remember” the virus should you body see it again.  If the body is presented with the same virus...
Coronavirus…it’s here. Now what?

Coronavirus…it’s here. Now what?

  You can’t turn on the TV or scroll through social media these days without seeing something about the novel Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19.  Everyone, including scientist, have a lot of questions about this virus, so here is what we know right now (this article was originally published on February 29, 2020, so information will likely change on a daily basis): What is a Coronovirus? Human Coronaviruses as a whole are by no means new. In fact, most people have likely had coronavirus at some point in their life as these viruses typically cause mild respiratory illnesses like the common cold.  So then what is the difference with COVID-19? It appears that this particular coronavirus likely started in bats. In the past, those coronaviruses that started in animals and then spread to humans have caused more significant illnesses.  The two prior coronaviruses to start in this particular manner were SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) in 2003 and MERS (Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome) which surfaced in 2012. The COVID-19 virus is “novel” meaning that until December 2019, this strain had not been identified in humans.   What do we know about COVID-19 so far? Scientists at the Center for Disease Control (CDC), at the World Health Organization (WHO), as well as numerous labs around the world are feverishly working to try and learn as much as possible about this particular strain of coronavirus.  Right now, much of what is speculated about COVID-19 is based on what we know about other coronavirus strains. It is likely that this virus is spread from person to person, but how easily it spreads is...
Mumps- What you need to know

Mumps- What you need to know

This week the Louisiana Office of Public Health reported that 5 students at LSU have tested positive for mumps.  It seems that in recent years we have been seeing outbreaks of mumps, particularly on college campuses (the last cases reported at LSU occurred in 2017),  so here is what you need to know about mumps and how to protect yourself and your children. What is Mumps? Mumps is a viral illness that is spread through respiratory droplets or saliva (so coughing, sneezing or sharing drinks).  An infection with the mumps virus may begin as nonspecific fever, headache, and malaise, but then often progresses to the most common symptom of mumps which is pain and swelling of the parotid gland.  As you can see in the pictures below, the parotid gland is located just in front of the ear and at the upper part of the jaw.  Swelling of the parotid gland, called parotitis, can be quite impressive and cause the ear to push outwards and the angle of the jaw to no longer be easily seen.  More serious complications of mumps include orchitis (which is swelling of the testicles that may lead to sterility) or oophoritis (which is swelling of the ovaries), encephalitis (swelling around the brain) or deafness.  Death from mumps is very rare (even in the pre-vaccine era).                     How common is Mumps? Mumps vaccination became commonplace in 1967, but prior to that time, there were over 186,000 cases each year here in the US.  Since routine vaccination, there has been a 99% reduction in the number of...
Friendly to Whom?

Friendly to Whom?

Take a moment and consider the first time mother who had a prolonged labor, attempted a vaginal delivery only to require a c-section hours later.  There is a high likelihood that this mother had been awake for over 24 hours. Now, she has her newborn exclusively in her hospital room, and while nurses and care staff come in to check on them every few hours, the use of the newborn nursery is discouraged.  Instead this mother, who is both mentally and physically exhausted, will need to do as much skin to skin time as possible while attempting to breastfeed, something that everyone told her would be so “natural” and “easy.” As the frustration mounts when her newborn doesn’t latch well and then begins the normal pattern of wanting to feed hourly (also known as cluster feeding), this new mother is likely running on minimal to no sleep as well as postpartum hormones.  When inquiring about formula or a pacifier, she is then told that those things are really not recommended and that this is all normal. After all, the hospital is “baby friendly” and considering the option of formula would really just be “giving up.” Is this where the pendulum with breastfeeding has swung? Well, for those hospitals going for “Baby-Friendly designation”, it seems that this just might be the case. “I can assure you that I have not spent 21 years of schooling, 3 years of residency training, 9 years in general pediatric practice, and 9 years as a mother to be unfriendly to babies.” The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) was launched in 2001 in the United States...
Up in Smoke

Up in Smoke

Do you remember 1964? If you need a jog down memory lane or if that’s ancient history to you, let me give you a quick rundown…the cost of new house was $13,050, a gallon of gas was 30¢, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. received the Nobel Peace Prize, and the Beatles held the top 5 spots on the Billboard Top 40 singles.  That was also the year that for the first time ever, the US Surgeon General issued a warning that cigarette smoking could lead to cancer.  In the 55 years since this first warning, additional research has shown just how harmful cigarette smoking can be and ultimately led to a dramatic decline in the rates of cigarette smoking here in the US.  When the “Truth Initiative” youth anti-smoking campaign was launched in 1998, 23% of teens were smokers. By 2017, that number had declined to 2.1% of middle schoolers and 7.6% of high schoolers…a successful endeavor for sure.  However, now, a new rising epidemic of electronic cigarettes and vaping is poised to cause the gains of the prior 5 decades to go up in (vapor) smoke . “Many of those liquids which are marketed as “nicotine free” were found to, in fact, contain nicotine.” The term “e-cigarette” encompasses a wide array of devices which can look like anything from a traditional cigarette to a sleek USB stick.  These devices use a battery powered heating coil that transforms a solution containing nicotine, flavoring chemicals and other additives into an aerosol that is inhaled into the lungs.  Currently, the top selling e-cigarette brand in the United States is JUUL which...