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Lyme Disease: Tick Bites, Rash, Determining Your Risk

This is how small the tick that causes lyme disease can be.

Notice how tiny the tick that causes Lyme disease can be.

by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

When someone comes in my office for a tick bite, their main concern is usually, what’s their risk for Lyme disease.

And I can’t blame them. Lyme disease from tick bite warnings are all over the media (one reason probably is New York is a high-risk state), and since the disease has only been recognized in the U.S. since 1975 (first suspected by a physician in Lyme, Connecticut, who was seeing kids with unusual symptoms) we’re still learning about it. This, and its rather general initial symptoms, make it rife for myth and speculation.

One thing’s for certain, Lyme disease is serious business. And it’s at full force in the summer because that’s when the ticks that spread it are most prevalent. So, in this post, I’ll try to answer some of the most common questions I’m asked.

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7 Truths about Tuberculosis and How They Affect You

A chest x-ray from a person with tuberculosis (in right upper part of the photo.(

A chest X-ray from a person with tuberculosis (in right upper part of the photo).

by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

Lately I’ve had several interviewers ask me a question I haven’t been asked before: How contagious is tuberculosis? I’m guessing the reason is either the highly reported outbreak in a California classroom, a couple of publicized cases of multiple-drug resistant tuberculosis found in foreigners traveling here in the United States, or the news of camps of children—some reportedly with TB—at the U.S.-Mexican border.

But then, I should never be surprised that people would like to know about the risk of one of the oldest, deadliest, and still most worldwide prevalent diseases around. And since this could well be a deadly concern in disaster situations, I thought it a good subject to address.

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7 Measles FAQs: What You Need to Know

Koplik spots, typical for the measles, though they occasionally show up with other viruses. (Click to zoom.)

Typical measles rash. (Click to zoom.) Usually starts on the face three to five days after symptoms begin. Travels down the body.

by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

One of the worst U.S. measles outbreaks in years is going on in Ohio. So far, around 70 people have been infected. Another outbreak, in California, has involved about 60 people.

Though the measles is considered essentially eradicated in the U.S., there are a few cases here every year. This is a big year for them though, with 187 cases nationwide as of May 9, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

So this is a good time to bone up on your knowledge. Here are seven FAQs about this very contagious viral infection.

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U.S. Sees Its First Case of MERS Virus: What You Should Know

U.S. Sees Its First Case of MERS Virus: What You Should Know | The Survival Doctor

by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

It was inevitable that the virus known as Middle East respiratory syndrome, or MERS, would come to the United States. Friday, the CDC announced that it has hit our shores through at least one known infected person.

You may have seen this announcement being reported in the media. Here’s some information to help you put the news into context.

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Do Air Driers Help or Hurt When Drying Your Hands? Take the Hand Washing Quiz!

tsd-handwashing

 

by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

I’ve examined literally thousands of people with colds, flus, and stomach viruses in my time and have caught less than a handful (pun intended) of their infections.

The reason? I attribute it a lot of it to proper hand washing (and a good immune system).

Yes, protective gear, such as gloves, is important, but hand washing is still one of the most effective things you can do to protect yourself against many, many infections—as long as you do it in the proper way.

Here’s a quiz on proper hand washing that I based on facts and the documenting studies at the CDC’s website. To tell the truth, before I read the research, I’m not sure I would have scored 100 percent. Let me know what you score! (I’ll list the questions again at the end so you can count how many you got right.)

 

>> Proper Hand Washing: Take The Quiz! -

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6 Things You Need to Know About Malaria, Just in Case

Normal red blood cells have light centers. The purplish ones have been infested with malaria parasites.

A “Long-Term-Disaster Diseases” post. See the rest in the series here.

by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

Normal red blood cells have light centers. The blue ones have been infested with malaria parasites.

Today, April 25, is World Malaria Day.

When my father was a boy in Mississippi, he had malaria. Millions of others did also in the American South in the 1930s. After a few days of the typical fever, teeth-chattering chills, and drenching sweats he got over it. Many did. But many others died. Millions still do—some here in the United States.

We don’t yet have a vaccine for malaria, but we do have effective drugs. Even so, during a long-term disaster, those drugs may not be available. So here are some important facts to know.

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Your Disaster Decontamination Guide: Step-by-Step Mega Cleaning

Your Disaster Decontamination Guide: Step-by-Step Mega Cleaning

by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

This is part 2 in the universal-precautions series. See part 1—your disaster fashion guide—here

Imagine there’s a long-term disaster. An infectious disease has broken out. It could be something as common as a stomach virus or as devastating as Ebola. When medical care is scarce, either could be deadly … and both involve the expulsion of infectious fluids, such as diarrhea (and, in Ebola’s case, blood).

Two of your family members have gotten the disease. It’s up to you to care for them.

So you put on your “personal protective equipment” and get to work. But when you get a break from your caregiving responsibilities, there’s another step you need to take to better protect yourself from the disease. It’s part two of the “universal precautions.”  (Part one was putting on that protective gear.) You need to disinfect your environment.

How to Clean Up Blood and Other Potentially Infectious Fluids

Disinfecting your surroundings means not just wiping up blood, vomit, and other fluids but cleaning them up in such a way that you kill all the contagious [... continue reading]

Your Disaster Fashion Guide: The Outfit That Fights Diseases

Your Disaster Fashion Guide: The Outfit That Fights Diseases | The Survival Doctor

by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

Back when I was growing up, I don’t think the phrase “universal precautions” was in a health care worker’s vocabulary. Now, we’re well-versed in such “precautions”—techniques that help prevent spreading diseases. But back then, people were more lax.

We lived more like you might live at home with your family today—which is not like you’d want to live during a disaster.

Back then, sure, people with highly contagious diseases were isolated, but few health care workers were afraid of getting a little blood on them from someone with no obvious illness. (Of course they should have been because people did get hepatitis from contaminated needle sticks, cuts, etc.)

Even when I was in training, I knew of a pathologist who examined surgical specimens gloveless so he could get a feel of the texture.

Then came AIDS, and everything changed.

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Unprecedented Ebola Outbreak. Could It Spread Here?

Unprecedented Ebola Outbreak Happening Now: Could It Spread Here?

A field technician demonstrates protective gear in Zaire during the first Ebola outbreak in 1976.

This is the third post in my “Long-Term Disaster Diseases” series. See the rest here.

by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

A new outbreak of Ebola is going on in Africa, and Doctors Without Borders is calling it “an epidemic of a magnitude never seen before”—not because of the number of cases or deaths. There have been more in previous outbreaks. It’s because of how the disease is spreading.

In the past, Ebola has always stayed confined to a small region. This time the same strain of the virus has been found infecting people several hundred miles from the original area.

The questions on the minds of many people who don’t live in Africa are, could it come here? If so, how do I prevent it?

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Long-Term-Disaster Diseases Part II: Typhoid Fever

What Is Typhoid Fever?

Some diseases that aren’t a big problem in the most industrialized nations now could become a problem during a long-term disaster. This is the second in a series of posts I’m writing about such diseases. See part one, on typhus, here.

by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

We don’t hear much about typhoid fever in the United States. To most of us, it’s a mysterious disease that we know is serious, but we’re not sure what it looks like. Is it even really a fever?

We need to be able to recognize it, though, because in certain conditions during a long-term disaster, it could spread rapidly. And proper early treatment dramatically lowers your risk of dying from it.

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