Health in the news

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Melatonin poisoning reports among kids up 530% from 2012 to 2021

Over the past decade, poison control has been getting more and more reports of kids accidentally ingesting melatonin supplements. In fact, reports of melatonin ingestions among children jumped by 530% from January 1, 2012 to December 21, 2021, according to a new study published in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. For the study, a team from the Children’s Hospital of Michigan, the Wayne State University School of Medicine (Varun Vohra, PharmD) and Boston Children’s Hospital analyzed data on children from the American Association of Poison Control Centers’ National Poison Data System.

Persistent residential segregation contributes to worse diabetes health in Black youths

A new study identified a link between persistent racial residential segregation and worse diabetes health in Black adolescents with type 1 diabetes. These findings highlight the impact of residential location for young people with diabetes, Deborah A. Ellis, professor of family medicine and public health sciences at Wayne State University, said at the American Diabetes Association Scientific Sessions. Ellis and colleagues evaluated the association between racial residential segregation and diabetes management and glycemic control among Black adolescents with type 1 diabetes. “In the world of adult diabetes, there has been a lot of focus on social determinants of health, but in pediatrics, there has been less,” said Ellis. The main outcomes measured were HbA1c and diabetes management. The results suggested that racial residential segregation was predictive of the diabetes health of Black youths with type 1 diabetes, even after controlling for effects of household income and neighborhood adversity. “It is interesting that racial residential segregation was even more explanatory than the adversity characteristics of the neighborhood,” said Ellis.

When chronic pain becomes who you are

For decades, psychologists and pain researchers have recognized the role of thoughts and emotions in pain. Pain begins with a signal that nerves send to the brain. But what we actually experience is the brain’s interpretation of that signal – and the brain can sometimes be an unreliable narrator. For those experiencing chronic pain, pain often persists. Some experiencing chronic pain seek online communities, which are not always supportive environments. While conducting research on online groups for people with chronic pain, Hallie Tankha, a doctoral student researching pain psychology at Wayne State University, remembers one incident in particular: One member of a chronic pain Facebook group had left his bed for the first time in days and gone out to volunteer. When he shared how the experience had relieved some of his pain, other members of the group interpreted his anecdote as unsolicited advice and an indictment of their own inability to recover.  

Long COVID still a risk, even for vaccinated people

By Jeanna D. Smiley  Long COVID can cause persistent COVID-19 symptoms including loss of smell, fatigue, mood changes, and brain fog in addition to disorders of the heart, kidneys, and lungs. These symptoms emerge or continue at least one month after a SARS-CoV-2 infection. It is estimated that 7.7 to 23 million Americans may have developed long COVID, a condition also called post-acute COVID or chronic COVID. While researchers have observed that vaccines have been effective in fending off some of the worst long COVID symptoms, they also found that mild breakthrough COVID-19 infections can trigger lingering, severe symptoms of long COVID even in vaccinated people. Dr. Joseph A. Roche, an associate professor in health sciences at Wayne State University agreed that vaccines do not replace other risk reduction methods for COVID-19. He pointed to a paper he authored, which urges “continued nonpharmacological risk-reduction measures…to complement vaccination efforts.” In his research, Dr. Roche cited mathematical models which predicted that such measures should stay in place for a year, even after the population reaches ideal vaccination levels.  
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How a global shortage of contrast dye is affecting CT scans, tests at Michigan hospitals

By Kristen Jordan Shamus  A shortage of contrast dye used for CT scans, gastrointestinal imaging, angiograms and cardiac catheterizations is expected to cause delays across the country and around the world in need of the procedures. The shortage of iodine-based contrast dye was sparked by ongoing COVID-19 lockdowns in Shanghai, China, which have forded GE Healthcare’s pharmaceutical manufacturing plant to temporarily close. Dr. Daniel Myers, a vice chairman of radiology at Henry Ford Health System and clinical professor of radiology at Wayne State University’s School of Medicine, said the hospital system’s supply has been interrupted. “We have had meetings with folks at Bracco and discussed it…We’ve had assurances from them that there won’t be issues for customers such as Henry Ford Health, who obtain a high percentage of our contrast from them…” Myers said. Myers said he’s like to think the impact in Michigan will be minimal, and it’s important for people to continue scheduling testing as their doctors recommend. “I don’t want people to think they shouldn’t go see their doctors because they won’t get an adequate test. People need to get their health care.”  
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New measure of sperm age may be predictor of pregnancy success

A novel technique to measure the age of male sperm has the potential to predict the success and time it takes to become pregnant, according to a newly published study by researchers at the Wayne State University School of Medicine. “Sperm epigenetic clock associates with pregnancy outcomes in the general population,” published in the journal Human Reproduction, found that sperm epigenetic aging clocks may act as a novel biomarker to predict couples’ time to pregnancy. The findings also underscore the importance of the male partner in reproductive success. “Chronological age is a significant determinant of reproductive capacity and success among couples attempting pregnancy, but chronological age does not encapsulate the cumulative genetic and external – environmental conditions – factors, and thus it serves as a proxy measure of the ‘true’ biological age of cells,” said J. Richard Pilsner, Ph.D., lead author of the study. Dr. Pilsner is the Robert J. Sokol, M.D., Endowed Chair of Molecular Obstetrics and Gynecology and director of Molecular Genetics and Infertility at WSU’s C.S. Mott Center for Human Growth and Development. “Semen quality outcomes utilizing World Health Organization guidelines have been used to assess male infertility for decades, but they remain poor predictors of reproductive outcomes. Thus, the ability to capture the biological age of sperm may provide a novel platform to better assess the male contribution to reproductive success, especially among infertile couples.”
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Michigan baby formula factory focus of FDA probe after infant illnesses

A southwest Michigan factory just a few miles from the Indiana border is at the center of an infant formula recall that’s helped fuel shortages across the U.S. and raised concerns about federal oversight of contamination in food production. Abbott Nutrition, a division of Abbott Laboratories that employs an estimated 420 people in its factory and R&D facility in Sturgis, voluntarily recalled various brands and lot codes of powdered formula – including Similac, the most sold brand in the U.S. – in February. The recall came five months after an initial complaint that an infant in Minnesota hospitalized with a bacterial infection had consumed Similac from the Sturgis factory. The Food and Drug Administration first inspected the plant last September, when it found contamination risks. By the end of February, the FDA had identified five infants who became seriously ill with bacterial infections after they consumed the formula. Four had been infected with Cronobacter sakazakii – an infrequent infection that can be deadly for babies – and one had been infected with salmonella. Two of the infected infants died. The FDA continues to investigate. “It’s super serious – one of the worst” infant infections, said Dr. Eric McGrath, director of Wayne Pediatrics. He said he had treated a child with a cronobacter infection years ago – the only one in his 12 years as a pediatric infectious disease specialist. “The reason that this germ is devastating is that can cause blood infections and meningitis, and complications that include brain abscesses,” McGrath said. At minimum, a baby with cronobacter infection is hospitalized for three weeks and likely subjected to a spinal tap and other trauma.  

Reasons why most young adults sweep depression under the rug

Over the last decade, more than half of young adults with depression reported not receiving treatment in a survey, and important reasons were related to cost and stigma. Cos of care was the most common problem for young patients with major depressive episodes, with the frequency of cost being cited as a barrier to mental health care going from 51.1% to 54.7% in 2019. Other barriers to care included people not knowing where to go for treatment, worrying about confidentiality, not wanting to take medication, and not having the time, researchers wrote in JAMA Network Open. Community-based education is vital to combat some of those beliefs, said Arash Javanbakht, associate professor of psychiatry at Wayne State University’s School of Medicine. He said the study’s results suggest the medical community is “behind in educating the public not only about mental illness but also [about] how to navigate the healthcare system, get evaluated, and receive needed care.” “Many patients think medications are addictive, zombify them, or change the way of their thinking,” said Javanbakht. “This also closely ties with the stigma of having mental illness [and] its personal, cultural, and media aspects…There is a need for more realistic education about the prevalence of mental illness, its biological nature, variety of treatment options, and similarities with other illnesses of the body. The government should definitely be more active in this area of public education via media and social media.”
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Spotlight on the News: Inside Mental Health Awareness Month

As part of Mental Health Awareness Month, Spotlight on the News hosted a discussion about what’s being done in Michigan to increase the number of sorely needed behavioral health professionals, which included insights from Dr. Sheryl Kubiak, dean of the Wayne State University School of Social Work. “As many know, the behavioral health issues that have arisen because of the pandemic have accelerated the need for people with professional degrees in mental health and substance abuse disorders. Unfortunately, prior to the pandemic, we had a shortage of professionals in those fields, particularly in public sector mental health and community mental health. It’s so accelerated now that many of organizations and community providers have up to 30% vacancy rates, and that’s resulted in closing programs and waitlists. It really is not the time to be doing that,” Kubiak said. “From an academic setting, I’m trying to encourage people to come into this profession, but we’ve got some hurdles: high cost of tuition and low wages. It’s not the greatest environment, but it is very worthwhile and we’re working on some of those issues.”  
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How to protect your family from horrific news images – and still stay informed

Arash Javanbakht, associate professor of psychiatry and the director of the Stress, Trauma, and Anxiety Research Clinic at Wayne State University, wrote an article explaining how images of disaster affect us and provides some practical tips about how to stay informed while minimizing harm. “A wide of body of evidence has shown that trauma affects not only those who suffer through it; it also affects other people who are exposed to the suffering in other ways. This is in part because humans are empathetic and social beings. Indirect and vicarious exposure to trauma often occurs in the lives of first responders, refugees, journalists and others, event when they do not directly experience the trauma themselves,” Javanbakht writes. He provides a list of tips to stay informed while minimizing harm, including limited exposure and emotional intensity from media, time away from the news, an awareness of positive news, finding activities that allow for emotional recharging, and talking to others. “We can also reduce the negative impact on ourselves through helping others, especially those affected by these calamities. When I feel affected by the traumatic experiences of my patients, remembering that the end goal is helping them and reducing their sufferings helps me process my feelings. Sadness, anxiety, anger, and frustration can be channeled into actions such as attending fundraising activities and volunteering to help the victims. This can even be a family activity that teaches children a mature and altruistic response to others’ suffering,” said Javanbakht.
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Rethinking your drinking

Thirty-five years after the federal government created a public health campaign to raise awareness of a growing epidemic of alcoholism in the U.S., the problem became more pronounced, especially among young women, during the pandemic. Figures from Nielsen report national alcohol sales surged 54% in March 2020. April is National Alcohol Awareness Month, an opportunity to reexamine your relationship with alcohol, said Erika Bocknek, an associate professor of counseling psychology at Wayne State University. “It’s a moment to step back and reflect before your drinking gets out of hand,” she said. The first step to evaluating your drinking is to ask yourself why you’re having a drink, Bocknek said. “Alcohol plays a pervasive role in our culture, so it’s easy to make drinking issues seem less problematic. It’s important to remember that the problem can be invisible…The reason alcohol works as a coping strategy is because it dulls your senses and forces you to relax,” Bocknek said.  
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Michigan primary care doctors push for more state investment to address worsening shortage

By Danielle Salisbury People who regularly see primary care physicians tend to live long and healthier lives – if they can locate and secure doctors near home, Michigan doctors said. Despite the necessity of such practitioners, who handle patients from birth to death, there are too few of them and trends suggest there will be even fewer as current practitioners age and medical students with six-figure loan debts choose more lucrative specialties. Of Michigan’s 83 counties, 75 are at least partially designated as having shortages in primary care doctors. To address the situation, the state academy is calling on state leaders to invest an additional $31.4 million in existing programs, MIDOCS and the Michigan State Loan Repayment Program. MIDOCS, funded by the state, increases the number of medical residency training slots in primary care and other high-need specialties. Those accepted must commit to two years of practice in a rural or urban underserved area after they complete their residences. In exchange, they may receive up to $75,000 for repayment of eligible educational loans. The program partners with the medical schools at four state universities, including Wayne State.
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How Biden’s new ‘test to treat’ COVID plan works – and why it might not be enough

This week, the Biden administration is launching a test to treat COVID program. High-risk patients with COVID symptoms will be able to walk into hundreds of pharmacies for a free COVID test and walk out with a free course of pills. The program, according to some experts, is limited in scope. COVID pills are new, and they come with prescribing challenges. Pfizer’s Paxlovid can interfere with many commonly prescribed drugs and cause health problems. Merck’s molnupiravir comes with precautions due to reproductive risks. Independent pharmacies say they can help. “Pharmacists are medication experts. We have been managing drug interactions and dose adjustments routinely for decades. We could handle this,” said Susan Davis, a pharmacy professor at Wayne State University’s Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences.  

What can happen when sleep apnea goes undiagnosed

By Katherine Lee  Sleep apnea is a common and potentially serious sleep disorder. It causes you to stop breathing temporarily and occurs repeatedly during sleep. These pauses in breathing can happen as many as hundreds of times in one night. Your brain registers what’s going on and wakes you up, though sometimes only partially or for such short moments you may not even realize the arousals. Because the primary symptoms of sleep apnea occur during sleep, many people with sleep apnea may not even realize it’s happening. Sleep apnea can take a toll on the body and lead to a number of negative physical, cognitive, emotional, and behavioral effects, including inflammation throughout the body caused by chronic cycles of accelerated heart rate and increased blood pressure. “There’s good evidence that having obstructive sleep apnea puts you at increased risk for high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, and death,” said James Rowley, professor of medicine and division chief of pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine at Wayne State University School of Medicine.  
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Many Ukrainians face a future of lasting psychological wounds from the Russian invasion

By Arash Javanbakht  Arash Javanbakht, associate professor of psychiatry and director of the Stress, Trauma, and Anxiety Research Clinic at Wayne State University, authored an article about the psychological wounds caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine that could linger for generations. Javanbakht outlines research findings that human-caused catastrophes have a higher likelihood than natural disasters of causing severe consequences including PTSD, depression, and anxiety. Children are specifically vulnerable, and trauma can be transferred from parents to their current and future children. “Putting human suffering into numbers as I’ve done here is not in any way meant to convert a human tragedy into a cold statistical concept,” Javanbakht wrote. “The purpose is to show the enormous impact of such calamity. Each life or livelihood lost is a tragedy in and of itself.”  

Sleeping 1 extra hour linked to eating 270 fewer daily calories, study shows

To be more successful when it comes to weight loss goals, the secret may be a good night's sleep. New research suggests that an extra hour of sleep every night could help sleep-deprived people who are overweight eat 270 fewer calories per day without even trying. That change translates to nearly nine pounds of weight loss over a year. The study is not the first to connect sleep with eating patterns. Despite a growing body of evidence suggesting that adequate sleep helps people stick to a healthy diet, sleep still doesn't tend to be part of weight loss conversations - even those that happen between doctors and their patients. But that's changing, says Dr. James Rowley, a professor of critical care and sleep medicine at Wayne State University. "For many years, sleep just was not considered part of the 'equation' so to speak," Rowley said. "Now there is growing recognition that sleep needs to be considered as an important component of cardiovascular health, metabolic health, and exercise and eating. It's clear that adequate sleep is important for overall health." Dr. Rowley said he's already started to recommend more sleep to aid in weight loss and weight maintenance in his own practice, and that this new research is an important piece of the puzzle that reinforces the effect improved sleep quantity can have on calorie consumption.  
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Why taking fever-reducing meds and drinking fluids may not be the best way to treat flu and fever

By Tamara Hew-Butler  Tamara Hew-Butler, associate professor of exercise and sports science in Wayne State University’s College of Education, wrote an article addressing the use of fever reducers and fluids in battling the flu. These well-intentioned and firmly entrenched recommendations offer comfort to those sidelined with fever, flu or vaccine side effects. But, Hew-Butler says you may be surprised to learn the science supporting these recommendations is speculative at best, harmful at worst and comes with caveats. 
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Opinion: We're infectious disease specialists at WSU. What COVID-19 has taught us so far

As co-directors of the Wayne State University Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases, Marcus Zervos, M.D., Teena Chopra, M.D., M.P.H., Paul Kilgore, M.D., M.P.H., and Matthew Seeger, Ph.D, share their perspectives on lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic. The experts discuss parallels between previous pandemics, exacerbated health disparities, a lack of response and resource coordination, the dangers of misinformation, and ways the public health system can better prepare for future pandemics. Together, the co-directors assert that if we learn from this pandemic, our post-COVID-19 world will be more resilient, health disparities will be reduced, and our public health system will become stronger.  

Flurona symptoms and protections

The first case of Flurona has been reported in the United States. Doctors say the co-infections are a mix between Influenza and Covid, where patients will show positive results for both viruses. Health care professionals say the best defense is the vaccine, in addition to wearing masks and social distancing. Doctors recommend surgical masks, like an N-95, which provides the best protection, unlike cloth masks that don’t guard against the transmission of respiratory fluids. Flurona symptoms include fever, cough, fatigue, runny nose, body aches and sore throat. “Every year we get the annual Flu shot and it is still important this year, especially when we know that we have a very super-infectious variant circulating and we don’t want to get co-infections with Flu and Omicron,” said Wayne State University professor of infectious diseases Dr. Teena Chopra, MD, MPH. “Respiratory viruses have a very similar way of transmission. You know influenza transmission is through droplet infections, whereas Omicron, which is coronavirus, we know to be airborne and highly infectious.”  
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State awards WSU $4.3M to increase readiness to fight infectious diseases

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has awarded $4.3 million to the Wayne State University Center for Emerging and Infectious Diseases. The funds will increase lab facilities to collect and analyze genomic data to address emerging infectious disease threats and enhance the state’s ability to respond to those threats. The funding, part of $18.5 million provided to WSU, Michigan Tech University, Michigan State University and the University of Michigan, will increase infectious disease sequencing capacity in the state, beginning with the COVID-19 virus. “COVID-19 has clearly demonstrated that we need more lab capacity in the state, and specifically in southeast Michigan,” said Marcus Zervos, M.D., co-director of the WSU Center for Emerging and Infectious Diseases and COVID-19 advisor to the City of Detroit. “We must be prepared for the next mutation or the next disease.”