Recent Newspaper & Online Columns by Kate Scannell MD

'Tis the season of the 'Winter Flu Olympics' -- again

January 19, 2013

Tags: 2013, influenza, flu, California, flu vaccination, Scannell, flu Olympics, "The Sick Person's Etiquette Guide -- How to Contain Your Own Secretions with Style and Make the World a Healthier Place", Common Sense Medical Society, Benghazi flu

By Dr. Kate Scannell, Syndicated Columnist
First Published in Print: 01/19/2013

Last week, while sitting in a doctor's crowded waiting room, I watched the new season of the Winter Flu Olympics.

A sneezing competition was in progress when I arrived. And within mere minutes of taking my seat, I thought I had witnessed the worst sneeze I might ever see in my entire life. It erupted without warning from a young man, slouched in his chair, tethered to an iPod, staring glassy-eyed at the ceiling. His Vesuvian sneeze rocked the room, spewed a misty cloud of viral detritus throughout our cramped quarters. It was an appallingly effortless performance -- entailing not even the slightest gesture toward covering his mouth.

I was ready to score him a perfect 10 in the category of "most obnoxious sneeze, greatest risk of public contagion." But then an older gentleman came out of nowhere and trumped him. He suddenly stood up, placed his hands on his hips, bent abruptly backward and inhaled deeply. Several of us tried to protect ourselves -- turning away or wrapping scarves across our faces. Alas, like a whipsaw, his body bent violently forward, flinging a wet and turbulent "ahhHHH-CHOooooo!" into the collective airspace.

In other events: Competitive coughing generated comparable infectious excitement within the room. And rivalry remained fierce, running nose-to-nose, for "greatest number of missed tissue-tosses into the wastebasket."

Still, as engrossing as these events may have been, I soon realized that every passing moment spent in the waiting room only increased my risk of getting sick. My hopes for leaving infection-free depleted faster than all the Purell dispensers stationed by the doors.

I derived meager consolation in considering how the experience might help inform the next revision of my best-selling book, "The Sick Person's Etiquette Guide -- How to Contain Your Own Secretions with Style and Make the World a Healthier Place." Published by the Common Sense Medical Association, it makes for a good read in front of the fireplace during a cold winter's night ... or, actually, just during a cold.

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The American eugenics movement -- In our living history

June 25, 2012

Tags: eugenics, Elaine Riddick, California, North Carolina, 2012, Scannell

By Dr. Kate Scannell, Syndicated columnist; First Published in Print: 06/23/2012

It's important to know about Elaine Riddick and what happened to her in North Carolina one godless day in 1967. Her disturbing personal story tells a troubling American tale that most of us would like to forget or deny.

But Riddick's story provides a living history of the American eugenics movement, experienced by tens of thousands of people who were forcibly sterilized by order of their state's governments. In fact, California was one of 32 states that supported and practiced eugenics, and about one-third of the 64,000 sterilizations that occurred nationwide between the dawn of the 20th century and the late 1970s were performed in California. (more…)

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California's whooping cough epidemic -- a (really) scary story

October 4, 2010

Tags: whooping cough, pertussis, epidemic, California, Scannell, medical school, public health

By Kate Scannell, Contributing columnist Bay Area News Group

MY NEPHEW is a self-proclaimed connoisseur of scary movies. Over time, he has refined his tastes, and he is no longer interested in the "boring" films that lamely depend upon rivers of blood, high-octave screaming, high-octane lethal pursuits, and passe props like hatchets, knives, and guns. For him, a "quality" horror film now requires potent doses of supernatural and psychological thrills and a smattering of aliens or interspecies creatures. Multicolored slime, however, has maintained its perpetual allure.

After delivering his critique of yet another gruesome film during a recent dinner together, he asked whether I had seen any good horror stories.

Well, yes, I thought. I had been watching the nightly news, following the wars, monitoring the Gulf Coast oil spill, reading the financial pages, and ... to top it all off, I was also a doctor.

Being a doctor can bring you up-close and personal to a variety of frightening circumstances that can make your toes curl permanently. (more…)

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