Recent Newspaper & Online Columns by Kate Scannell MD

The top 10 medical stories of 2010

December 26, 2010

Tags: Top ten medical stories of 2010, top health stories of 2010, swine flu, whooping cough, synthetic life, concussions, FDA, food safety, frozen embros, Avandia, bed bugs, AIDS, health care reform, Kate Scannell

By Dr. Kate Scannell, Syndicated columnist
First Published in Print: 12/26/2010

WHILE THE past year regaled us with a wealth of medical stories, the government's health care reform legislation took center stage. Meanwhile, the swine flu virus whimpered, but a killer bacterium left us with a whooping cough. Scientists created the world's first synthetic organism inside a Petri dish, while old-world bed bugs crawled into our mattresses. A baby was born from a fertilized human egg that had been frozen for two decades, and, following yet another Salmonella epidemic traced to tainted poultry, the FDA finally cracked down on the egg industry.

The swine flu whimpered
The swine flu hogged media attention, panicked millions of people and consumed considerable public health resources. Its causative virus -- H1N1 -- spread throughout the world like a hog on ice, ultimately proving to be much less formidable than experts had predicted. In the bitter end, critics claimed that the World Health Organization (WHO) had exaggerated the danger, fanning public fears about the scarcity of antiviral medications and life-saving medical interventions. An editorial in the British Medical Journal claimed that some experts advising the WHO about the pandemic had financial ties to drug companies that manufactured antivirals and vaccines. Still, the threat of a global pandemic forced governments and health care systems to plan collaboratively for a more coordinated and efficient emergency response to the next public health crisis.

The cough that whooped California
For six decades, whooping cough -- formally known as "pertussis" -- had been rather quiet on the Western front. But in July the CDC reported that six California infants had died from the infection. (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
PUBLISHED IN PRINT 07/11/2010

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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