January 17th, 2009

Salmonella, CDC, and How to Prevent a Cold

Today’s ID/HIV Link-o-Rama is being brought to you from the frozen tundra of Boston, MA:

  • This past summer’s salmonella outbreak that sickened more than 1000 people was linked to raw jalapeno and serrano peppers.  In the current one, the suspected culprit is contaminated peanut butter.  Aside from the fact that raw hot peppers and peanut butter in a jar are both uncooked, I can hardly think of any two foods as being more dissimilar.  (“Would you like some hot salsa with your peanut butter?”)  Count food safety as one of the formidable challenges for the newcomers to the FDA (along with perhaps updating their clunky web site).
  • Another government-agency transition will be taking place at the CDC, as current chief Julie Gerberding will be stepping down.  (Can’t seem to find this info on their now-excellent site — maybe waiting for the official day, Jan 20 2009.)  Her tenure will be forever linked to her strong position during the anthrax attacks of 2001, which led to her subsequent appointment — plus charges that she softened her position on global warming to match that of President Bush.  And there was a notable appearance in this famous Journal of Epidemiology.
  • The pneumococcal vaccine has significantly reduced cases of pneumonia in infants, and meningitis in both children and adults.  The current rate of pneumococcal meningitis is 0.79 case per 100,000 persons, confirming what I always tell our ID fellows — that bacterial meningitis is a rare entity indeed, so it’s no wonder we are consulted on virtually every case.  It doesn’t matter that choosing the right antibiotic is usually easy; these cases are terrifying.
  • Add a reduced risk of colds to the (long) list of benefits associated with a good night’s sleep.  Study volunteers (yes, people volunteered for this) were 3-fold more likely to get a cold after a rhinovirus challenge if they slept less than 7 hours a night.  I am not by nature one of those paranoid ID doctors who believes that the world is filled with nasty micro-critters just waiting to strike — in fact, I’m relatively laissez-faire on most ID-related issues.  (Eating in Mexico City, for example.) However, I’m terrified of colds (am convinced the severity of colds is proportional to nose size) and can think of few greater motivations for getting enough sleep than this latest research.
  • Speaking of cold — cold weather, that is — the high temperature in Montreal yesterday was -4.0 degrees Fahrenheit.  As I write this, it is a comparatively balmy 1 degree above zero.  Say what you will about the CROI organizers, they are a hardy bunch.  This year’s meeting should make those Februaries in Chicago seem like a trip to the Caribbean.

Stay warm!

2 Responses to “Salmonella, CDC, and How to Prevent a Cold”

  1. Marcella says:

    My aunt retired as a Health administrator and she hardly had any cold then however when she went back to serving as a General Practitioner seeing many patients with cold, she has had very bad cold twice for the last nine months despite sleeping better and for longer hours.

    I feel universal precaution is still important to doctors.

  2. Paul Sax says:

    Marcella —

    Ah yes, one of the hazards of being a doctor … getting colds from sick patients! Of course my wife (as a pediatrician) is so much more engulfed in this than I am — you should hear the kind of secretions she’s exposed to in the course of a typical winter day at the office!


HIV Information: Author Paul Sax, M.D.

Paul E. Sax, MD

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NEJM Journal Watch
Infectious Diseases

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