If you’re “lucky” like me, today is a PD (Professional Development) Day at school and next week is March break. While we are thankfully going on vacation, we are not leaving until next Thursday - meaning I have 4 days to figure out what to do with my son (aka I’ve been scrambling). I have to admit, this scrambling has caused some chaos in my life leading to the inability to choose a blog topic this week. It’s not that I don’t have a topic, the problem is that I have a number of topics and just can’t decide on which one I want to blog on! Rather than pick a single topic I thought I’d embrace my March Madness and share the articles and topics that have tickled my fancy this week!
1. High Pathogenic Avian Influenza found in Tennessee Farm – if you recall the outbreak of Avian Influenza in 2015, you may know that it caused the destruction of 49.5 million chickens and turkeys. Some believe it was the largest animal health emergency in the US, so when a farm in Tennessee was found to have a positive test you can imagine how quickly people jumped to action. The CDC has stated the H7N9 strain found on the farm poses a low risk for humans. The farm is under quarantine as are 6 other farms in a 30-mile radius. From various articles I have read so far this week the other farms are clear, but this certainly highlights the fact that influenza can hit at anytime and anywhere. Whether we’re a producer of chickens, turkeys or ducks or a healthcare worker, we need to be vigilant during “flu” season.
2. The Medical Minute: Is it a bad cold or RSV? – if you’re a parent, you may have experienced that moment of panic when you’re trying to determine if the “cold” your child has is turning or has turned into something worse. Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a nasty virus that can turn a runny nose and cough into a child who is having trouble breathing. According to the article I was reading from PennState Health, an infected person can be contagious for up to 20 days after infection, meaning we can easily pass it on to our young children who are far more susceptible to this virus than we are. We can also easily pass it onto the elderly for which RSV causes >14,000 deaths per year. Oh, and by the way, we are also still in prime RSV season!
3. Flu can cause worse symptoms in people with asthma – being an asthmatic, this is a topic near and dear to me, particularly since I know firsthand what happens when the flu turns to pneumonia….. A study published by researchers at the University of Southampton assessed lung samples from asthmatics and healthy volunteers. The researchers investigated whether immune system differences could explain why asthmatics are more likely to end up in hospital if they get flu. According to the results, samples from healthy people showed a strong immune system-triggering reaction to the flu virus versus samples from asthma patients where the reaction was much weaker. Further studies need to be conducted to determine whether the difference in immune response is due to the asthma itself, or the medications used by participating asthmatics to control their condition, but I hope you agree this is a pretty cool study!
While on the surface (pun intended) you may be wondering why I found these articles or studies so interesting as they do not directly talk to the need for cleaning and disinfection which in essence is the basis for the Talk Clean To Me blog. The reason is because both RSV and Influenza, regardless of whether it’s a strain that infects humans or animal, are transmitted via surfaces and fomites. When it comes to Avian Influenza, the need for strict infection control and biosecurity measures is paramount to limit the spread of disease and minimize the number of birds that need to be culled if even a single confirmed infection shows up on a farm.
Similarly, as these articles highlight, the fact that transmission of these viruses can occur with relative ease from healthy individuals (a.k.a. someone who will “get over” an infection with relative ease) to more susceptible individuals (the young, the old, or the asthmatics). The importance of hand hygiene and disinfection of the environment needs to be top of mind. Spring may just be around the corner and yes, the clocks turn back this weekend, robins have been showing up and in my back yard I have buds on the trees, but we’re not out of the woods yet when it comes to RSV or Influenza infections. We need to be vigilant, and these articles keep us grounded and highlight why we need to be vigilant.