Fall is around the corner, and with it comes the influenza season. Each year an average of 200,000 people in the US are hospitalized with influenza, and 36,000 die.1,2 With the addition of the novel H1N1 strain (swine flu), this season promises to be more interesting, and even less predictable, than most. There can be no doubt, however, that this one set of viruses will exact a heavy toll for thousands of families this season.
Too often in medicine we find ourselves confronted with problems we cannot fix. Some traumas are too severe, some infections have too much of a head start. Some diseases are poorly understood, while others have no known treatment. One of the darker adages of medicine still holds true: In spite of all our advances, the world mortality rate seems to be holding quite steady at 100%.
Thankfully, influenza is not a disease against which we are helpless. We have ways to limit its spread, and medicines with a modest effect in assuaging symptoms and shortening the length of illness. Most importantly, we have vaccines that can safely prevent the disease altogether.
There are myriad misconceptions and fears surrounding the influenza and its vaccines, most are not new and have been addressed elsewhere, including the concern that the influenza vaccines cause the flu (they don’t), that the thimerosal they contain causes autism (it doesn’t), and that it can trigger Guillan Barre Syndrome (it can3, at a rate of 1/1,000,000, similar to the background rate of Guillan Barre in the population4). The confusion has been compounded by the emergence of the novel H1N1 pandemic. With so much at stake, it is exceedingly important to have clear, accurate information available to physicians and the public alike. (more…)
Consider this list:
- Sex Matters: tuning in to what turns you on.
- Ticker tune-up tips for guys.
- Manatomy explained.
- Burning down under? It’s time to fess up.
- Pumped Up: ED meds aren’t working? An implant could be the solution.
- When your hoo-ha’s burning, don’t use this common cure!
- Go Om: Meditation can be the healthy answer for type A’s.
- Sexy Seniors: The age-old pleasures and challenges of getting it on.
- Pain: Are your knees at ease?
- Retail Therapy: Four proven ways to battle the call of the mall.
- Detox Diets: The Scary New Skinny
Readers acquainted with popular culture know that such inane, annoying phrases are typical of American women’s magazines. Thus it may be surprising to learn that only three entries were quoted from sources clearly recognizable as such: numbers 3 and 6 from Cosmopolitan, and number 11 from Glamour. The rest were found in WebMD: the Magazine:
The magazine appears to have been introduced in 2005. According to its masthead page,
WebMD’s mission is to provide objective, trustworthy, and timely health information. Our website and magazine provide credible content, tools, and in-depth reference material about health subjects that matter to you. We are committed to providing information on a wide variety of health topics, all of which are reviewed by our board-certified physicians.
Every physician I know receives a “COMPLIMENTARY WAITING ROOM COPY” each month; the 3 or 4 waiting rooms that I’ve perused have been amply stocked. I suspect that most office managers are happy to be provided with free reading material that seems appropriate for patients, and that most physicians haven’t given the magazine more than a passing glance. The problem is that the magazine, like the consumer website of the same name, offers a mixture of accurate-if-mundane information, misleading health claims, exaggerated nutritional advice, unwarranted fear-mongering, and pseudoscientific nonsense. I’ll limit examples and comments to the final four categories. (more…)