There was a time not too long ago when doctors could cure a patient with gonorrhoea (aka the clap) with their eyes shut. But then this was the pre-HIV days when this disease stood centre-stage among sexually-transmitted diseases.
With the attention diverted to HIV and AIDS, the disease was practically unheard of in the media. What really happened was that Neisseria gonorrhoeae (aka gonococcus), the bacteria causing this disease, continued to proliferate quietly without the bells and whistles, not making the headlines because it was so easily treated with the wide array of modern antibiotics that were readily available. Up to now, that is.
The World Health Organization(WHO) warned yesterday of a spreading resistance to drugs used to treat the sexually transmitted disease gonorrhoea.
Millions of people with the condition may be at risk of running out of treatment options unless urgent action is taken, the United Nations agency said.
Up till now, the germ had developed resistance to many antibiotics which had been used over time; so much so, the current mainstay is the use of cephalosporin group of antibiotics, in particular ceftriaxone. But , there now emerges reports that even this antibiotic has proven useless. Left untreated, gonorrhoea causes infertility in men and women and may add considerable healthcare costs if left untreated.
WHO has called for greater vigilance on the correct use of antibiotics and more research into alternative treatments for so-called gonococcal infections, which is quite understandable, as research for new antibiotics have taken a back-seat in recent years. Meanwhile, for individuals, the best way of not contracting the disease is of course having a regular partner or abstinence, failing which condom usage has proven effective.
Couldn’t help recalling that last year, quite a number of physicians made the headlines..so here’s my list of the Dr Jekylls and Dr Hydes of 2011.
The Worst Doctors
1. Conrad Murray,MD
Physician to the King of Pop.. in November he was sentenced to 4 years in jail for his conviction on a charge of involuntary manslaughter in the pop star’s death. There wasn’t much substance in his defence once he admitted to using propafol injected intravenously into Michael Jackson’s veins so as to enable him to sleep at home. What was worse was that this drug is normally used in a hospital setting with the patient hooked on close monitors; using it otherwise (at home) constitutes negligence and inappropriate use.
2. Gerald J Klein, MD
Gerald who? Well, he was one of 14 Florida doctors indicted in August 2011 for illegally distributing opioid analgesics such as oxycodone and sedatives like Xanax. Drug addicts and dealers would queue in their clinics to sell or receive drugs illegally under the pretext of valid medical reasons. Opioid analgesics were dispensed and prescribed on an assembly line basis, paid for with cash and credit cards. Clinic employees hauled their money to the bank in large garbage bags. This way, each doctor netted USD 1 million yearly. “Drug dealers in white coats”, said the FBI.Read more here.
3. John R McLean,MD and others
The Maryland cardiologist was convicted on 6 charges of healthcare fraud relating to insurance claims that he had filed for doing unnecessary coronary angiograms and angioplasties (invasive test and treatment of blocked heart arteries), as well as for ordering unnecessary tests and making false entries in patient medical records. In November, Dr. McLean was sentenced to 8 years in jail.
The buck does not stop here in Maryland – already two other cases are being heard (see here and here) of similar cases where cardiologists have done unnecessary procedures on otherwise well patients, in return for unethical financial rewards.
In the next blog entry, I will name the best doctors of 2011.
- U.S. Drug overdose deaths are increasing (psychologytoday.com)
The media has been awash with articles on the dangers of a radioactive fallout from the damaged Fukushima plant in Japan. But how real is the threat of radiation on health?
Here’s a quick 101 on radiation exposure:
- 3 things determine if a radiation blast is harmless or lethal: the radiation intensity, its duration and whether treatment is available.
- Intensity of exposure is measured as millisieverts (mSv).
- The duration of exposure is largely determined by the half-life of the various radioactive chemicals produced in a fallout. It can range from 8 days for radioactive iodine to 30 years for cesium-137.
Its generally true that we are all subject to radiation in our lives and its interesting to see what levels are involved:
US coast-to-coast round-trip airplane flight …………………..0.03 mSv
Natural radiation for average person per year……………………3 mSv
Chest X-ray ……………………………………………………………………….0.1 mSv
CT scan of abdomen & pelvis with contrast material…………30 mSv
Single dose required to cause acute radiation sickness……1000 mSv
Single dose required to cause death within weeks………..10,000 mSv
To know whether someone has got acute radiation sickness, the common symptoms to look for are nausea, vomiting, bleeding and fever (due to invading germs) which can appear within hours of exposure. However, with massive doses of radiation, redness and blistering of the skin can occur. Perhaps, more importantly, the long-term effects can be more disastrous even with much lower doses of radiation – the main danger being cancer, including leukemia. Birth defects have also been known to occur.
There seems to be an obsession for potassium iodide tablets but the fact remains that these will only be helpful against radioactive iodine if taken before being exposed. Furthermore, it will have no effect on other radioactive substances, including the feared cesium-137. Once exposed, the best bet is to throw away contaminated clothes and to have a good shower.
There is no specific cure for radiation exposure, with treatment directed at supportive measures. Hence the paranoia surrounding a radioactive fallout..