What You Need to Know About Shingrix

This is a photo of an HPV vaccine, which has nothing to do with shingles.
Photo credit: Pan American Health Organization, Creative Common license
Shingrix is a new vaccine approved to prevent shingles. What’s shingles? Should you get this vaccine? What if you already had a vaccine for shingles? Good questions. Read on. To understand shingles, we have to understand chicken pox. Chicken pox was an extremely common childhood illness before 1995, when routine vaccination for chicken pox began. Before that, an average of 4 million people got chicken pox each year in the U.S. and about 100 people died. Chicken pox is caused by the varice...

It’s Norovirus Season

A 3D graphical representation of a single Norovirus particle. The different colors represent different regions of the organism’s outer protein shell. Credit: CDC
My longtime readers know that I love to inform you about ways that Mother Nature tries to hurt us. Since it’s winter, norovirus deserves our attention as it wreaks its seasonal havoc and occasionally closes down schools. Norovirus causes inflammation of the stomach and intestines. It’s commonly referred to as a “stomach virus” or “stomach flu”. (But it’s not related to the influenza virus. So let’s stop calling it the stomach flu. It just confuses people and makes them think that the flu ...

Top Ten Reasons to Have a Flu Shot

Photo credit: Cpl. Jackeline Perez Rivera / Wikimedia
Every year I write a post in the late summer letting you know that flu season is approaching and to get a flu shot. I try to keep my posts informative and evidence-based, but I don’t have anything new to tell you about that. Actually, I do have one bit of news. Some of you may have heard of FluMist, the flu vaccine given by nasal spray. It’s especially popular with children and with patients with needle phobias because it’s not injected. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC...

Prolonged Antibiotics Don’t Help in Lyme Disease

erythema migrains
Lyme disease is a bacterial illness transmitted by tick bites. It is treated with antibiotics, and most guidelines suggest a two to four week course of treatment. Most patients’ symptoms resolve at that point, but 10 to 20% of patients continue to have fatigue, joint and muscle pain, sleep problems, and difficulty concentrating. These patients can be quite debilitated and no specific effective treatment has been found for them. A patient advocacy group has recommended treatment with antib...

Should You Get Antibiotics for that Upper Respiratory Infection?

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

“The waiting is the hardest part.” -- Tom Petty

Over 100 million doctor visits in the US each year result in a prescription for antibiotics. Over a third of those visits are for respiratory infections. A large fraction of the antibiotics prescribed yield absolutely no benefit to the patient. The issue is much more severe than just unnecessary spending on ineffective medication. As I’ve written before, antibiotic overuse is a major cause of More

CDC Issues Travel Warning due to Zika Virus

Photo credit: CDC
Here’s a fun question to float at your next cocktail party: Which animal bite has killed the greatest number of people? It’s the mosquito. By far. Because mosquitoes transmit malaria, which has killed more people than any other germ. And now, as security guards are coming to remove you from the cocktail party, let me remind you that mosquitoes also spread West Nile Virus, Yellow Fever, Dengue Fever and lots of other dangerous infectious diseases. Our eternal foe, the mosquito, was in t...