Heart Disease

Hi Everyone! Sorry about the delay in getting this post out – since June, I have started graduate school at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School in Newark NJ. Last semester was extremely busy, but now that I am in the swing of things, I will be focusing my efforts back on Disease Detective! Going forward, I will be making relevant posts on prevalent diseases. Enjoy!

heart-disease-heart-mesh

For my first post getting back into Disease Detective, I have decided to write about Heart Disease. February is American Heart Month, and with Valentine’s Day right around the corner, I figured this topic would be fitting. Below, I have some of the major facts and figures about Heart Disease.

  • Heart Disease is not actually a single disease. The term “Heart Disease” is used to described several different types of heart conditions, including:
    • Atherosclerosis (narrowed, stiffening blood vessels)
    • Heart Failure
    • Heart Attack
    • Arrhythmia (many different types)
    • Congenital Heart Defects
    • Various Heart Valve Conditions
  • Heart Disease is currently the leading cause of death for adults in the United States, with over 600,000 individuals dying each year (as of 2014). One American dies every minute from a condition classified under heart disease.
    • Coronary heart disease alone kills over 365,000 Americans every year
fs_heart_disease

Heart Disease Death Rates in the USA, by County (www.cdc.gov)

  • Since heart disease consists of many different conditions, there is no single set of symptoms to look for. In addition, men and women can experience different symptoms for many of the same conditions. In general, the following symptoms could be signs of an underlying heart condition caused by a atherosclerotic disease,
  • While it used to be considered a fatal diagnosis, Heart Disease is no longer a death sentence – many treatments exist to help patients manage their specific condition and overall health so they can continue to live long lives
  • In many cases, heart disease can be treated non-invasively through the use of medications and lifestyle changes. Adopting a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and taking any prescription medications your doctor prescribes will help control your condition and improve your health. In some cases however, surgery may need to be performed to correct the condition before it becomes fatal.

 

For more information on Heart Disease, please visit:

American Heart Association

Mayo Clinic Heart Disease Information

CDC Heart Disease

 

Measles

Hi Everyone! Sorry for the delay in getting this post out. I graduated from Drew University a few weeks ago and have been busy seeing family and friends. After my short break, I am back and ready to keep you informed! Going forward, I plan to have a new disease post at regular intervals, so make sure to follow Disease Detective to keep up to date!

This week, I am writing about measles, also known as Rubeola. Measles gained popularity in the media last year when a widespread outbreak began at Disneyland California and sickened many Americans across the West coast. Below, I have outlined the major facts about measles.

measles

Measles Virus (nature.com)

  • Measles is an extremely contagious disease that is caused by the measles virus.
  • The measles virus is commonly spread through contact with infected body fluids and through the air via sneezing and coughing.
  • Globally, measles is one of the leading causes of death for young children.
  • The early symptoms of measles include fever, cough, sore throat, and a runny nose. As the disease progresses, a rash begins to spread across the body, starting on the face and neck, and extending to the rest of the body and limbs.
  • No antiviral treatments exist to treat patients with measles. The standard of care for those who are sickened involves providing supportive therapy to help the body fight off the virus.
  • Patients who do not receive treatment will usually die from complications as a result of the measles virus. Common complications include severe dehydration and high fever, but some severe case may be accompanied by encephalitis and pneumonia.
  • Fortunately, there is an effective vaccine to protect children and adults from contracting the measles virus. The MMR vaccine (measles-mumps-rubella) is administered in two doses to children to develop immunity against the virus. The measles vaccine has been used for over 50 years and is proven to be highly effective and safe. Additionally, vaccinating a child against the measles is very affordable, costing about $1.
  • The WHO has established a goal to eradicate measles by the year 2020. This goal will be reached through an international vaccine effort, coordinated by the WHO.
  • Many measles outbreaks in the United States, where vaccination against measles is mandatory, arise from one of two sources – either an unvaccinated individual travels oversees and contracts the disease, bringing it home and spreading it to others who are unvaccinated; OR a foreign individual who has the measles comes to the United States and spreads the disease to unvaccinated individuals.
measles-torso_300x174_M2100364

Stereotypical rash found on patients with the measles virus (nhs.uk)

 

Keep following Disease Detective to learn more about other diseases! If you have a suggestion for future topics or hear of an interesting news story about diseases that you would like me to address, please comment below!

For more information:

http://www.cdc.gov/measles/

http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs286/en/

Advice on Making a Blog

Making Disease Detective was a journey that took me weeks to work out the kinks. What started out as a simple interest really grew into a passion to share knowledge with others. If you’re reading this, you are most likely interested in blogging, but are unsure how to get started. I remember being in this situation a few months ago and I figured that this would be a great opportunity to share some advice on how to blog based on what I have found works for me. Below are six key tips to help get your blogs off the ground and build them up to the way you want them to be. Enjoy!

  1. Pick a topic you are passionate about. When I wanted to start my blog, I had an assortment of ideas running through my head about what I could write about. After talking with some friends, I had narrowed my topic down to two main choices. What finally sold me on Disease Detective was my passion to become a physician and to be a part of the medical community. During my undergraduate years at Drew University, I have taken a diverse set of biology courses to provide me with a solid, scientific foundation that allowed me to write about diseases in blog posts that everyone can easily understand. Whatever topic you end up choosing, make sure you have a passion for it, because it will make writing and maintaining the blog much easier. Spending the time now to think about what topic you will write about will save you confusion and aggravation later on.
  1. Determine who your audience will be early in your planning process. Once you establish who your audience is, you can easily write your posts. Deciding your audience takes some time, but can only be decided after you have picked your topic. Writing to a specific audience is important because it will help your blog reach the viewers you are looking for, and it will help you focus the tone of your writing. Getting this out of the way before creating your blog will make it easier to focus on sharing your information when it is time to write posts.
  1. Get started using WordPress. Yes, there are many web design platforms to choose from, but in my opinion, WordPress is one of the easiest platforms to get started on if you have little to no experience. Starting out with a free WordPress account, you can easily configure your blog and have it up and running in a matter of 15 minutes. While picking a theme can be challenging given the numerous options, start out with a simple (free!) theme to get going, and then work to make it your own. Overtime, if you see fit, you can upgrade to paid themes or higher-level WordPress accounts to gain more advanced features, but the free account is more than enough to get you started.
  1. Don’t be afraid to play around with the visual theme of your blog. Once your blog is running, has a few posts, and has some followers, it’s time to work on perfecting the visual appeal of your blog to make it your own. Adjusting the color palette of your theme, or changing the theme all together are some of the fastest ways to change your blogs aesthetics. The visual theme of your blog should complement the topic you are blogging about. For Disease Detective, I choose a simple color palette that tied in the colors in my logo. This theme makes it easy for my readers to comfortably read text, see images, and navigate the blog. Best of all, the theme I choose was free! Find a theme that makes you happy, highlights your hard work, and goes with the topic you are presenting!
  1. Blog on a regular basis! Whether you blog daily, weekly, or biweekly, once you start your blog you should aim to blog on a weekly basis. Admittedly, I have not been 100% perfect on this myself, but if you can blog on a regular basis, you can keep your followers actively engaged with your content. Keeping the web traffic flowing to your blog may not be your priority when you are fresh and starting up, but eventually, you will want to build up your followers so that your hard work can be recognized. Blogging regularly shows that you are more serious about your topic and it gives your followers something to look forward to at a predictable time.
  1. Use social media to help spread your blog when you are ready to attract more followers and traffic. Once you have posted a few posts and have configured your blog the way you want, it is time to start generating some traffic. Expanding your reach is a nice way to showcase your hard work and share your thoughts with others. Social media is one of the easiest ways to do this as you can quickly reach a large amount of people in a short time. Start by making a Twitter account for your blog and linking it to your blog site – doing so will drive traffic between the two places and expand your reach. If you have personal social media accounts, publicize yourself and share the URL for your blog – The more you spread your blog, the more followers you will get.

 

I hope these tips were helpful! If anyone has any questions or suggestions, feel free to comment below and let me know! As I graduate Drew University, I plan to keep Disease Detective running, so enjoy the posts!

Chikungunya

When thinking about what to write this week, I was torn with what to write about. One of my classmates suggested that I write about Chikungunya, as she knows it affects many Caribbean countries. Looking into Chikungunya, I also see that this disease ties in nicely with the diseases I have already blogged about because, similar to Zika, it is transmissible via mosquitos. Below, I will talk about some of the major facts about Chikungunya, and describe how it is affecting the world today…

  • Chikungunya is a viral disease that was first noticed in Tanzania in 1952. When the first cases came in, this disease got its name based on one of the major symptoms that it causes. In the Kimakonde language, Chikungunya is derived from a word that means “to become distorted,” referring to the appearance of many patients.
  • Chikungunya is transmitted by mosquitos, primarily the Aedes aeqypti and Aedes albopictus Interestingly, these two species are also famous for transmitting other mosquito-based diseases, such as Dengue and Zika. Once bitten by an infected mosquito, Chikungunya symptoms can set in within 4-8 days.
  • The major symptoms of Chikungunya include a sudden fever with severe joint pain. In most cases, the joint pain disappears after a few days to a week, but sometimes this pain can last several months or years. Other symptoms include nausea, fatigue, muscle aches, and headaches.
  • Chikungunya is difficult to diagnose based on symptoms alone, but simple blood tests can quickly and easily confirm the diagnosis.
  • Unfortunately, there are currently no antiviral drugs to fight Chikungunya. When patients are identified, treatment is usually targeted at relieving symptoms. Fever and joint pain are commonly treated using standard treatments. The virus is usually cleared by the body within a week or two, but sometimes it can remain for longer.
  • The best way to prevent yourself from contracting Chikungunya if you are traveling to a region with high Chikungunya levels is to take efforts to prevent mosquito bites. Wearing long-sleeve shirts, pants, and mosquito repellents are internationally accepted standards to prevent mosquito bites. In addition, using mosquito nets, or ensuring that mosquito screens are installed in any room you stay in are also effective ways to minimize your contact with mosquitos.
  • Currently, Chikungunya is afflicting over 60 countries worldwide.

chikworldmap-102015

Where Chikungunya transmission is present, as of October 2015 (CDC.gov)

For more information:

http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs327/en/

http://www.cdc.gov/chikungunya/

 

HIV

This week, I am going to talk about what is arguably the most pressing virus that humans are facing today, not entirely because of its lethality, but because of its widespread effects and absence of a cure. Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) has currently infected 37 million individuals worldwide. Shockingly, it is estimated that only 54% of those who are infected with HIV are aware of their infection, meaning that roughly 46% of those infected are unaware that their bodies are fighting a potentially life-threatening diseases. Below, I want to present some facts about HIV:

 

  • It is estimated that there will be roughly 2 million new HIV infections every year
  • HIV is a virus that infects a person’s immune system, particularly their CD4 T cells
  • While the immune system is able to fight off most pathogens without a problem, HIV mutates so quickly in the body that the immune system is unable to effectively combat it
  • 2-4 weeks after being infected with HIV, a person may experience any of the following symptoms: fever, chills, rash, night sweats, muscle aches, fatigue, swollen lymph nodes, and mouth ulcers. Not all people will show these symptoms, and some people may not show symptoms at all for over 10 years.
  • After a certain amount of time, these symptoms will subside. When the symptoms subside, the virus is lying dormant in the body. During this time, the virus is being suppressed by the body’s immune system, but it is constantly evolving and mutating to find ways to break free.
  • Eventually, due to the chronic infection, the body’s immune system begins to lose its ability to hold back the virus and the CD4 T cells begin to die off. At this time, the virus rises in its numbers and the patient will progress to AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). When a patient has AIDS, they experience many negative symptoms, and eventually succumb to an opportunistic infection because the body’s immune system has been severely degraded.
  • There is no cure for HIV, and no vaccine to prevent people from contracting it. Fortunately, we have Anti-Retroviral Therapies (ART’s) which can greatly prolong an infected individual’s life by helping the immune system suppress the virus. These treatments, while effective, are also extremely expensive, adding a financial burden to those who are infected.

hiv aids ribbon

 

For more information:

http://www.who.int/hiv/data/epi_core_july2015.png?ua=1

http://www.who.int/hiv/data/en/

https://www.aids.gov/hiv-aids-basics/hiv-aids-101/signs-and-symptoms/index.html

 

Zika Virus Update!

So, it’s been a while since I first wrote about Zika Virus… Today, almost every major news outlet carried the story that the Deputy Director of the CDC publicly stated that “Zika is scarier than we initially thought.” Today alone, I noticed this quote on the front pages of many news apps and papers. Given the fear that this headline easily instills in others, I figured this would be the perfect time to break down the facts of Zika, as it is currently understood.

  • Since my last Zika post, it has been shown that Zika Virus can be transmitted sexually, with 7 confirmed cases in the US mainland resulting from this.
  • Zika Virus is actively spreading throughout most of South America, all of Central America, and is beginning to spread through North America, including 30 states in the US.
  • Caribbean islands, especially Puerto Rico, are predicted to have a large increase in their number of Zika cases in the near future as we head into the summer months and there is increased interactions between mosquitos and humans
  • The CDC is warning women who are pregnant, or who are considering becoming pregnant in the near future, to avoid traveling to regions of the world where Zika Virus is actively transmitting.
  • Zika virus has been linked to an increase in the rates of microcephaly, particularly in Brazil, however not all pregnant women who contract Zika Virus will give birth to babies with deformities
  • It is possible that Zika Virus is associated with an increase rate of other birth defects, including vision problems, auditory deficits, and abnormal growth
  • As with many diseases, if you are infected with Zika Virus and the body fights off the infection, there is little to no risk that you will contract the virus again given your body’s immune response and memory
  • The White House, as recommended by the CDC, is diverting $589 million dollars in funding that was earmarked for Ebola prevention to promote research into the Zika Virus
Zika Map April 12 2016

Map showing the countries where Zika is actively transmitting, as of April 12, 2016 (CDC.gov)

There is still much to learn about Zika Virus and the research community is examining new ways to study, diagnose, and treat Zika Virus. As more developments arise, I will definitely post more updates to keep you informed! Thanks for reading my blog, and please let me know if you have any questions or comments about any of the diseases I have talked about so far. If you have suggestions for other diseases for me to talk about, please comment them below!

 

Read more:

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2016/04/11/scarier-than-we-initially-thought-cdc-sounds-warning-zika-virus/82894878/

http://www.cdc.gov/zika/pregnancy/question-answers.html

 

 

MERS

MERS coronavirus

MERS-CoV (ecdc.eu)

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, commonly referred to as MERS has been circulating the world lately. Before the Zika Virus outbreak in Brazil and the Ebola crisis in Africa, MERS received a lot of attention from the media because it is a relatively new disease in humans. The first human cases of MERS were seen in 2012 in Saudi Arabia. Since that time, MERS has been seen in many countries around the world. MERS is currently circulating in the Arabian Peninsula and parts of the Republic of Korea. Since 2012, there have only been 2 cases confirmed in the US, both of which originated in travelers who had traveled to a region which had a MERS outbreak.

camel

MERS is caused by the MERS Coronavirus, known as MERS-CoV. It is believed that MERS-CoV originated in bats, but it is commonly found in camels. MERS transmits from animals to humans easily, but human to human transmission is not easily seen. MERS is fatal in many cases, especially in countries where the healthcare system is not very adequate. There is currently no vaccine to protect humans from contracting MERS, and there are no definitive treatments. To add to the difficulty in combating MERS, there are no clear diagnostic tests to allow doctors to accurately diagnose the disease in its early stages.

 

For More Information: