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V.19 No.44 | 11/4/2010
“Left Over Bits”

Miss Diagnosis

Insulin Shock


Some diseases, like people, just have a special “it” factor that captures the imagination of the public. For instance, Ebola erupted on the scene with unprecedented dramatic flair. The virus achieved fame by learning to demolish the inner layer of human blood vessels. This little trick causes hemorrhagic death grisly enough to put all those horror-movie faux grotesqueries to shame. Or consider the case of last year’s media darling, the dreaded H1N1 “swine” flu. Like a sadistic serial killer with major mommy issues, this disease made a name for itself by killing off children and pregnant women faster than you could say “front page news.”

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V.19 No.2 | 1/14/2010

First Round of Shots on Me!


Let's all raise our syringes in a special toast to the upcoming National Influenza Vaccination Week Jan. 10-16.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that H1N1 vaccine is now available to everyone in most states. Here in New Mexico, two special flu shot clinics will make 2,000 doses of H1N1 vaccine available on a first-come, first-serve basis Saturday, Jan. 9. You can get vaccinated 1 to 4 p.m. at the Stanford Public Health Office (1111 Stanford, near the UNM Law Center) or from noon to 7:45 p.m. at Sam's Club, (10600 Coors Blvd Bypass NW). Visit or call 1-866-358-2878 for more information.

But National Influenza Vaccination Week would be unthinkable without a robust National Folic Acid Awareness Week preceding it. This week of Jan. 4-10 serves to remind all women of childbearing age to consume at least 400 micrograms of folic acid daily before and during pregnancy to help prevent neural tube defects. The month of January, in fact, is National Birth Defect Prevention Month, and you can obtain more information on prevention of birth defects here.

V.18 No.50 | 12/10/2009

Cheery Health News From Miss Diagnosis


Health reform developments continue to roll in at press-defying speeds. The Senate bill's public option may be on its death bed, as Democrats consider replacing it with a Medicare buy-in option for people 55 or older and expansion of Medicaid from 133 percent to 150 percent of the federal poverty level.

Another option on the table is allowing the government to contract with insurers to set up coverage for uninsured people, similar to the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. Additionally, the Senate rejected Sen. Bill Nelson's amendment, which was nearly identical to the House bill's Stupak amendments and would have further restricted abortion services.

Drug makers, however, are still on the docket, with an amendment under consideration that would allow pharmacies and and drug wholesalers to purchase FDA-approved generic prescription drugs from certain foreign countries instead of Big Pharma. Guess who doesn't want to see that amendment pass?

Not to be outdone, H1N1 jostles for a place on the front page. A new study published by the Public Library of Science estimates that illness, hospitalization and death from the fall and winter H1N1 season will NOT exceed that of regular seasonal flu.

However, the prevalence of death and severe illness will be primarily experienced by young adults and young children rather than the elderly. The authors warn that their estimates depend upon an assumption regarding the total rate of infection, and that severity could increase if the virus mutates or if stress on the health care system leads to suboptimal treatment of severe cases.

Another study from NYU and the NIH found severe airway damage upon autopsy of H1N1 victims as well as an increased risk of death for young people, obese people or those with chronic underlying conditions such as asthma.

The proposed post-H1N1 makeout party.

Hot H1N1 Update from Miss Diagnosis


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report on H1N1 vaccine safety based on all the information that has been collected since the vaccines have hit the market. The report’s take-home lesson? So far, so good.

This means that Miss Diagnosis feels pretty smart about telling you to get vaccinated in her column this week. And she continues to stand by the recommendation, given that the risks of vaccination remain marginal compared to the risks of contracting H1N1. Miss Diagnosis plans to celebrate her excellent judgment with plenty of hand washing. This way, her decontaminated hands will be perfectly poised to vaccinate anyone who asks.

Of course, if you’re not in one of these lucky priority groups—pregnant women, household members/caretakers of infants younger than 6 months old, children 6 to 59 months of age, children and adults 5 to 64 years of age with certain chronic health conditions, and healthcare workers—you’ll have to be patient and wait. But Miss Dx will be happy to poke ya when it’s your turn. The caring and compassionate medical staff (of one: me) here at the Alibi will let you know as soon as Uncle Sam says it’s okay to begin vaccinating everyone.

Unless you’re in an emergency without the time or resources to check the facts, it’s never a good idea to make a medical decision just because someone says, “trust me. It’s safe.” Since I want all of you lovely Alibi readers to be informed medical decision-makers, I’ve included a breakdown of the CDC report below in order to demonstrate how I reached the conclusion that risks associated with vaccination are small.

The report was released Friday, Dec. 4 in an early edition of the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The publication posts the most current data from two vaccine safety monitoring programs, the national Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) and the Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD). The VAERS is a passive reporting system, and as such is unable to establish cause and effect between vaccination and adverse events, although it does provide nationwide surveillance for potential problems. The VSD, on the other hand, uses data collection techniques and comparison groups that enable the system to detect associations between adverse events and vaccination. This means the VSD is superior in terms of establishing cause and effect.

So far, people are reporting adverse events following H1N1 vaccination to the VAERS at a higher rate than that of seasonal flu reports, with 4.4 serious adverse events reported per 1 million H1N1 vaccines distributed, as compared with 2.9 serious adverse events per 1 million doses of seasonal flu vaccine. This contrasts with the VSD, which has followed over 438,000 people but has not seen the same relative increase in adverse events. The CDC postulates that increased reporting of H1N1 vaccine-associated adverse events to the VAERS is due to increased awareness and increased motivation to report events associated with a high-profile disease like H1N1 than with regular ol’ seasonal flu.

Over 46 million doses of H1N1 vaccine have been distributed in the U.S., and 13 deaths have been reported to the VAERS. Of these 13 deaths, 9 were found to occur in people with serious underlying illness, one occurred because of a motor vehicle accident, and three are still under investigation. To me, it looks as though two of the deaths could be vaccine-related, but I’m not a coroner with a complete autopsy report in my paws, so my opinion is purely conjecture.

The VSD, on the other hand, has received one report of anaphylaxis (or an acute, life-threatening allergic reaction) and no reports of Guillian-Barre syndrome, which is a serious neurological reaction seen in about 1 per 100,000 vaccinations during the infamous 1976 flu vaccination campaign. No increased rates were detected for other potential adverse events, like seizure or allergic reaction.

Taken together, the VAERS and the VSD show that there aren’t any unexpected or bizarre side effects cropping up. So let’s all celebrate with a big drunk make-out party once everyone’s vaccinated! Until then, though, keep your mucus membranes to yourself and continue washing those germy mitts!

V.18 No.49 | 12/3/2009

H1N1 Update


From the state’s Department of Health.

Visits to the doctor for flu symptoms jumped from 4.9 percent to 5.4 percent last week after many weeks of steady decline.

There were two deaths last week.

A 59-year-old woman from Luna County whose medical history has not been determined yet

A 78-year-old woman from Bernalillo County with chronic medical conditions

There have been 42 deaths from H1N1 in New Mexico total.

The DOH has ordered more than 100,000 doses of the vaccine for a total of 403,520. Bernalillo County will see 133.910.

For state H1N1 info, go here or call 1-866-850-5893.

For information in Spanish, call 1-800-784-0394

For a list of statewide flu clinics, click here or call 1-866-681-5872

National H1N1 Information is available here.


Waiting With the Devil: Health Care or Hell?


I used to laugh at the guy on “COPS” who insists on getting a badge number. There are threats to avenge, at some future date, the injustice being done to him. It’s so stereotypical. The police must hear this stuff even more regularly than we do on TV. Does anyone ever have a valid issue? Do they ever follow up?

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Miss Diagnosis

H1N1 and Other Diseases of Civilization


One of the greatest tragedies of my life is that the crabby robot dude in The Matrix compared human beings to viruses before I was able to publish my doctoral dissertation, tentatively titled Infectious Intelligence: The World’s First Bipedal Disease. Sadly, The Matrix totally stole my thunder, because my dissertation explained how human beings have overrun the planet in the same way that a virulent infectious organism overruns its host. I demonstrated how we’ve colonized the Earth via senseless reproduction (Don’t believe me? Go stand in line at the mall next Black Friday.), and excreted our toxins into the environment while squandering resources and jeopardizing the health of our host planet. And just as infection by a microorganism would cause you to spike a fever, human activity has resulted in global warming.

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H1N1 Update


The state’s Department of Health is conducting an investigation of H1N1 deaths by race and ethnicity. So far, analysis indicates Native Americans “are over-represented in the deaths.” Though they only make up 10 percent of the population, 20 percent of H1N1 deaths have occurred in Native populations.

There were four new H1N1 deaths in New Mexico last week:

An infant male from Quay County without chronic medical conditions

A 49 year-old male from Bernalillo County without chronic medical conditions,

A 54 year-old female from Curry County with chronic medical conditions

A 74 year-old female from Valencia County with chronic medical conditions

There have been 946 hospitalizations in the state this year, with 71 new ones last week. But visits to doctors for flu symptoms have dropped from 5.8 percent last week to 3.8 percent this week.

For state H1N1 info, go here or call 1-866-850-5893.

For information in Spanish, call 1-800-784-0394

For a list of statewide flu clinics, click here or call 1-866-681-5872

National H1N1 Information is available here.

V.18 No.47 | 11/19/2009

This just in from the Department of Health: The list of vaccine priority groups will now include adults with medical conditions that react poorly to the flu.

There have been 36 H1N1- related deaths in New Mexico, with seven last week:

A 12-year-old boy from Doña Ana County with chronic medical conditions

A 29-year-old woman from Doña Ana County without chronic medical conditions

A 43-year-old woman from Bernalillo County with chronic medical conditions.

A 52-year-old man from Eddy County with chronic medical conditions

A 57-year-old man from Bernalillo County with chronic medical conditions

A 58-year-old man from Bernalillo County with chronic medical conditions

A 62-year-old man from Bernalillo County with chronic medical conditions

The DOH has ordered 283,430 doses of the vaccine; there are an estimated 2 million people in the state. Bernalillo County will get 89,910.

For state H1N1 info, go here or call 1-866-850-5893.

For information in Spanish, call 1-800-784-0394

For a list of statewide flu clinics, click here or call 1-866-681-5872

National H1N1 Information is available here.

V.18 No.45 | 11/5/2009

H1N1 Update from the Department of Health


According to the department, there were five H1N1 deaths in New Mexico last week:

A 27-year-old female from Doña Ana County without chronic medical conditions

A 53-year-old male from McKinley County without chronic medical conditions

A 4-year-old male from San Juan County without chronic medical conditions

A 53-year-old male from Bernalillo County with chronic medical conditions

A 51-year-old male from Valencia County with chronic medical conditions.

26 deaths in the state have been related to H1N1.

There were 2 percent fewer doctor visits last week for flu-like symptoms than the week before.

The severity of Novel H1N1—the strain in New Mexico—has not changed since the spring.

DOH has ordered 186,760 doses of vaccine, but it’s trickling in. (New Mexico has an estimated 2 million citizens, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.) These people have vaccine priority: pregnant women; household members/caretakers of infants less than 6 months old; children 6 to 59 months of age; children 5 to 18 years with certain chronic health conditions that increase their risk of complications from flu; and healthcare workers and emergency medical service personnel with direct patient care.

For state H1N1 info, go here or call 1-866-850-5893.

For information in Spanish, call 1-800-784-0394

For a list of statewide flu clinics, click here or call 1-866-681-5872

National H1N1 Information is available here

V.18 No.41 |


The Daily Word 10.08.09: Barefoot Burglars, Asperger's, Matt Damon

The Daily Word

Eighteen-year-old plane-stealing, barefoot burglar lives in trees.

Berry gears up for icky Albuquerque economy.

So-so Senate health care plan could cut deficit.

Mislabeled DNA sample keeps a serial killer free for a decade, during which he killed others.

Another New Mexican dies of H1N1.

Romanian-born German novelist Herta Müller wins Nobel Prize for Literature.

Genealogists establish Michelle Obama's roots back to a South Carolina slave and an unknown white man.

French culture minister surprised by calls for his resignation after his confession that he bought Thai boys for sex.

Men's channel website lists 10 actresses "past their prime," as in hotness. Like that hag, 34-year-old Drew Barrymore.

New NBC show "Community" character has Asperger's; the depiction is very accurate and still very funny.

It's Matt Damon's birthday. And my sister's! Happy birthday, Korkers!

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