Recent Newspaper & Online Columns by Kate Scannell MD

When mosquitoes go viral -- Public health at global crossroads

September 22, 2014

Tags: global warming, climate change, health, mosquitoes, west nile virus, chikungunya, dengue, American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, California Department of Public Health, transboundary

By Dr. Kate Scannell, Syndicated columnist
First published in print: 09/21/2014

You can always find me in a crowd -- if you're a mosquito.

I could be concealed within total-body protective gear, adorned with mosquito-repellant bands on my ankles and wrists, lathered with DEET and oil of lemon eucalyptus, topped with a permethrin-infused hat, and, still, if there's a mosquito within flying distance it will hunt me down and bite me. It will release pheromonal signals, inviting all its friends to join the blood fest.

It's not just the ferocious itching from these bites that bothers me. Or my cortisone---slathered ankles making it look as though I'm always wearing white athletic socks. Or being haunted by the nightmarish image of a blood-sucking mosquito that had been magnified to gigantic proportions in a pre-med biology seminar.

No, I'm primarily disturbed by the terrible efficiency of these biting creatures to transmit human diseases. Nasty diseases, like West Nile Virus, dengue fever, chikungunya virus, yellow fever and malaria.

In particular, mosquito-borne viral infections have been receiving much attention lately. The buzz is that many have been spreading beyond their traditional geographic confines due to shifts in mosquito habitats instigated by changes in temperature and precipitation associated with global warming. (more…)

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Exercising healthy judgment about exercise

June 11, 2012

Tags: exercise, PloS, health, adverse health consequences exercise, Mayo Clinic Proceedings

By Dr. Kate Scannell, Syndicated columnist; First Published in Print: 06/09/2012

Can physical exercise be unhealthy for you?

Throughout my career as a doctor, this question certainly ranks amongst "the top 10" questions ever raised by my patients. Typically, it was asked by patients who, like Mark Twain, had "never taken any exercise except sleeping and resting" and intended to argue against my recommendation for a healthy dose of physical activity.

Everyone, it seemed, could recount a cautionary tale about a friend or family member who had suffered some ungodly accident or illness in the course of exercising. (more…)

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Suffering Congress in this post-9/11 era

September 10, 2011

Tags: 9/11, health, suffering, patients, September 11, medical

By Dr. Kate Scannell, Syndicated columnist
First Published in Print: 09/10/2011

Ten years ago, I wrote this column about doctoring throughout the week that followed the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Most of the patients I saw had reported feeling anxious, distracted and troubled. Many were overwhelmed by anger, fear, sadness, or existential angst. Cognitive disturbances were epidemic -- trouble concentrating, thinking, and remembering.

I wrote then: "Depression's devitalizing fog cast across the lives of most patients and coworkers to varying degrees, and, on several occasions, the phrase 'Prozac nation' assumed new and prescient significance ... ."

Like many Americans, I was struggling a decade ago to find my way to "some kind of normal" through the communal haze, all the while the Twin Towers' ashes had not yet fully settled. It seemed that for days, the thick dust and debris kept falling, continually layering over what had been routine, obscuring the familiar. Everything became coated with dark surrealism.

Two days after the attack when I arrived at work, I stood hesitantly outside my office a while. I looked through the doorway at my old desk, my crammed bookshelves, my stacked medical journals, the photographs and cards from patients tacked to the walls -- and it all looked so very strange. The daily habit of my life and career felt suddenly foreign to me.

That same day, a patient told me that he felt thoroughly vindicated for not having followed my recommendation to schedule a screening colonoscopy. "After all," he said, "it could've been me in those Towers. And believe me, I would've been cursing you in my final moments knowing that I'd wasted my time having that test while an airplane took me out."

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