Archive for February 4, 2008

Woman Puts Seatbelt on Case of Busch Beer But Not Baby

ST. AUGUSTINE, FL – Investigators say a woman accused of drunk driving had a case of beer buckled up safely, and a one year old girl sitting in the backseat without a seatbelt or car seat.

On Super Bowl Sunday, a deputy saw a car drive through a red light and swerve back and forth over the center lane on U.S. 1 South.

The deputy stopped the car.

Investigators say the woman, who identified herself as Tina Williams, smelled of alcohol.

According to the report, Williams told the deputy she never had a license and was running out of gas.

The deputy saw a case of Busch beer in the front seat with a seat belt around it, and a baby girl in the backseat.

When asked why the girl wasn’t restrained, Williams reportedly told the officer, “I don’t know.”

Williams told the deputy she had a few drinks. Authorities say she staggered when she got out of her car.

The deputy arrested her for DUI after she failed a field sobriety test.

Authorities also found two silver metal pipes in her purse.

Williams faces charges of driving under the influence, child endangerment, driving without a valid license running a red light and not having a seatbelt or child restraint.

Well…..glad to see that she had her priorities in order.

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Who Knew I Could Be Hip?

I was passing a young man fashionably loitering on the sidewalk today and noticed that his pink satin embroidered jacket (which clashed with his red patterned shorts and boxers but in a nice, eye popping kinda way) had a price tag hanging from the back.  I helpfully told him “Baby, you have a tag hanging from the back of your jacket!” just in case he wanted to remove it because being embarrassed in public is the absolute worst thing to ever happen to a teenager, or so I recalled. 

“Ma’am, hanging tags are HIP.”  

“They are?”

“Yes’m.”

How ’bout that?!  Next time I forget to remove a tag, I can feel smugly content basking in the knowledge that I am at the cutting edge of fashion.  Of course, my tags aren’t going to say $250 for an embroidered jacket.  My tags are generally marked final clearance $3.97. 

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Flu Season Here, Ready or Not

Flu season is in full swing, with wide outbreaks in 11 states — and a new strain is starting to emerge that this year’s vaccine doesn’t specifically target, the government’s public health chief said.

People still should get their flu shot, and there’s plenty available, Dr. Julie Gerberding, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said.

So far, the majority of flu cases are being caused by strains that are a good match to the vaccine — and it should provide some cross-protection against the new bug, too, Gerberding stressed.

“We’re still very optimistic” about the protection, Gerberding said. “If people haven’t gotten their flu shot, it really is still not too late.”

Every year, the flu infects up to 20 percent of the population, causes the hospitalization of 200,000 people and kills 36,000.

Flu is a virus, but it can make its victims vulnerable to bacterial infections, in the lungs or the bloodstream, at the same time.

Children are at particular risk, and the CDC this week sent an alert to doctors to watch for young flu victims who might also have such bacterial infections as the notorious drug-resistant staph known as MRSA.

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Here in NE Florida, many students (and teachers) have been missing from school today.  While we’re listed as having sporadic outbreaks by the CDC’s flu tracking statistics, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if next week showed quite a bit more flu activity.  

Come to think of it, the Super Bowl may have had a bit to do with the absenteeism today. 

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Defenseless Against Influenza

The World Health Organization announced mystifying news last week: The garden-variety influenza virus H1N1 that periodically besets the world, and is doing so this winter, seems to be developing a startling new resistance to Tamiflu (oseltamivir), the first and most important of antiviral drugs for influenza.That such a thing should happen is curious. No one bothers much with Tamiflu as a primary weapon of attack against the regular flu — at least not outside Japan, where aggressive marketing by a subsidiary of the global patent-holder, Hoffman-La Roche, has convinced the populace to more or less pop the stuff like candy. For flu programs in nursing homes and hospitals elsewhere, other antivirals come a lot cheaper and work just as well.

The problem is that the world, Canada included, has been counting on Tamiflu to come through in the event of a global epidemic of the H5N1 avian flu virus. This strategy always carried with it a high amount of uncertainty; the odd, surprising behaviour of H1N1 can only make matters worse.

It would not be such a great shock to see Tamiflu resistance develop in H1N1 because of overprescribing. Public health experts warned against this danger in 2005, when the drug was still scarce and patients panicked by headlines about avian flu were besieging their doctors. It was all too easy to imagine that jittery personal stockpilers of the drug might ransack their medical cabinets the instant they displayed any symptoms of flu or flu-like illness.

Yet according to the latest WHO report, the Tamiflu-resistant strain turns out to be most predominant in Europe, particularly Norway. It hasn’t been spotted at all in Tamiflu-crazy Japan, where one would expect to see it first if human irresponsibility were to blame. The organization cannot be sure that “selective drug pressure” bears no responsibility for this new clinical surprise, but none of the patients who were found to have the Tamiflu-resistant virus had taken the drug or been in contact with a user of it.

The implications for avian flu planning, the WHO says, are “uncertain” at this point. Avian flu has not yet begun to spread efficiently from human to human. Its mechanism of action on human victims is different enough from that of H1N1 that there remains hope that Tamiflu will be useful against H5N1. And in a way, physicians would be glad to have Tamiflu turn out to be useless against less threatening types of influenza, in order to reduce casual users’ price pressure on a drug that governments are only now topping up their stockpiles of. (Hoffman- La Roche actually issued a warning this week that it expects 2008 revenues from Tamiflu to be dramatically lower as the first desperate surge of government stockpiling finally ends.)

But the really frightening story lurking in the background is that no one is too sure whether Tamiflu will do any good at all against pandemic avian flu, which so far has an observed mortality rate of about 50% in humans who get it from working or living with poultry. If H5N1 mutates into a virus that readily jumps from human to human, unforeseeable changes will arise in the virus’ structure and activity. A layman can only be nervous at hearing that the world’s best scientists have apparently underestimated the ability of ordinary flu to outmanoeuvre our best flu drug.

And so far, real-world tests of Tamiflu against H5N1 have been disappointing. Indeed, there are critics who don’t consider its performance all that dazzling against any type of influenza at all. Vietnamese doctors who tried it with bird flu patients there, in the eye of the H5N1 storm, described it as “useless,” and some subvariants of H5N1 are already known to be Tamiflu-resistant. The WHO is now experimenting with tackling H5N1 by means of higher dosages — which, if it appears at all effective, will create another pell-mell stockpiling race amongst governments — and combining it with other drugs. Meanwhile, everyone is wondering what the ultimate shelf life of Tamiflu will turn out to be: It is still a new drug, and the known life span is just five years.

One day, perhaps, we will all be able to sleep easier knowing that the threat of viral pandemic is a thing of the past, thanks to an abundantly equipped arsenal of proven, broad-spectrum antivirals. But there are no magic bullets yet. We are still vulnerable, and our most important defences in the event of a catastrophe will, for now, remain those available to our ancestors: minimizing unnecessary interpersonal contact and practicing good hygiene.

That IS bad news.   Having an emergency supply of food and essential medications on hand just in case is a good idea.

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103rd H5N1 Death in Indonesia

JAKARTA (Reuters) – A 29-year old Indonesian woman has died of bird flu, bringing the death toll from the virus in the Southeast Asian country to 103, the health ministry said on Monday.

The woman, from Tangerang, west of the Indonesian capital Jakarta, died on Saturday after being treated at the city’s Persahabatan hospital for about a week, ministry spokeswoman Lily Sulistyowati said in a statement.

The woman’s neighbors kept chickens but the source of the infection remained unclear, she said.

The woman is the eighth person to die of bird flu in Indonesia this year. Some experts say the flare-up is caused by a number factors such as damp weather and poor sanitation during the rainy season.

“Fowl remains the source of bird flu infections,” the spokeswoman said.

The ministry also said that a 38-year-old woman from western Jakarta had tested positive for bird flu. She was being treated at Persahabatan and had been put on a ventilator, the statement said.

Her case brought the number of bird flu cases in the country to 126. Of these, 103 people have died, making Indonesia the country with the highest death toll from the disease.

Contact with sick fowl is the most common way of contracting bird flu, endemic in bird populations in most of Indonesia.

Although bird flu remains an animal disease, experts fear the H5N1 virus could mutate into a form easily passed from human to human. Millions of people could die because they would have no immunity to the new strain.

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