And Yet Again

I didn’t think I’d be writing about the flu this year, yet I am. Why? Because, despite thinking I was safe since I didn’t have it in December as usual, I have it now. Actually, I’m in the I-feel-like-an-old-dishrag stage now. Humph, that’s probably why it took me six days to do the laundry (I’m still not done with the putting away) and the dishes. We were lucky enough to have my daughter and new son-in-law do the marketing for us. But it was only then that it became apparent she has it, too.

I have written before about the fact that the flu shot doesn’t guarantee you won’t get the flu, but that if you are one of the unlucky ones to get the flu after the shot, it will not be as virulent. Thank goodness. It’s day seven and I’m just now reaching the stage where I can do something… writing, dishes, laundry…IF I get back into bed for at least an hour between tasks. To be honest, sometimes I have to interrupt those tasks to take that hour rest.

I have read some good murder mysteries and thrillers while listening to silence. Then I could tolerate the television and discovered Dr. Bramwell on Amazon Prime. Terrific for someone who loves Victoriana (I did write Portal in Time and am seriously considering the requests for a sequel.)

But what’s different about the flu and the flu shot this year, I wondered as soon as I felt better enough to wonder about anything. This is the latest information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at https://www.cdc.gov/flu/spotlights/flu-season-updates-2018.htm. By the way, they have loads of information about this year’s flu season, but you may have to use the glossary which they so thoughtfully provide.

January 11, 2019 – With the 2018-2019 flu season well underway, CDC today estimated that so far this season, between about 6 million and 7 million people have been sick with flu, up to half of those people have sought medical care for their illness, and between 69,000 and 84,000 people have been hospitalized from flu. CDC expects flu activity to continue for weeks and continues to recommend flu vaccination and appropriate use of antiviral medications.

Flu vaccination is the first line of defense to prevent flu and its potentially serious complications, including death in children. Flu vaccines have been shown to be life-saving in children, in addition to having other benefits.  Flu vaccination has been shown in several studies to reduce severity of illness in people who get vaccinated but still get sick. Antiviral drugs are a second line of defense that can be used to treat flu illness. CDC recommends that people who are very sick or people who are at high risk of serious flu complications who develop flu symptoms should see a health care provider early in their illness for possible treatment with a flu antiviral drug.

CDC’s weekly FluView reports when and where influenza activity is occurring, what influenza viruses are circulating and their properties, and reports the impact influenza is having on hospitalization and deaths in the United States based on data collected from eight different surveillance systems.

So far this season, H1N1 viruses have predominated nationally, however in the southeast, H3N2 viruses have been most commonly reported. The number of states reporting widespread activity increased this week to 30 from 24 states last week. While levels of influenza-like-illness (ILI) declined slightly over the previous week in this week’s report, ILI remains elevated and 15 states and New York City continue to experience high flu activity. There also was a decline in the percent of respiratory specimens testing positive for flu at clinical laboratories however this number remains elevated also.  During some previous seasons, drops in ILI and the percent of specimens testing positive for flu have been observed following the holidays.”

Surprisingly to me, Business Insider at https://www.businessinsider.com/flu-shot-2018-effectiveness-availability-where-to-get-2018-9 answered my question about how the flu shot is different this year.

“The formulation has been changed in two key ways: the nasty H3N2 strain that sickened many people last year has been updated, and the influenza B virus targeted for protection in the vaccine has been changed, too. So far, the revamped vaccines look promising.

‘It appears that the virus is doing a little better job, if we look at what’s gone on in the southern hemisphere season,’ Webby said. [Richard Webby, an infectious disease expert at St Jude Children’s Research Hospital.]

Down south in Australia, for example, it’s been a fairly mild flu season, with flu activity circulating at ‘low’ levels, according to the Australian Department of Health. That may not perfectly translate to an equally mild flu season up north, but what Webby’s seen so far suggests that the shot is also combatting the flu better than it did last year.

Okay, I took the vaccine, am having a less virulent bout of the flu but it’s still here. Now what? The Kidney Foundation of Canada at https://www.kidney.ca/treating-the-common-cold-and-flu—tips-for-kidney-patients offered a succinct answer:

  1. For most people with kidney disease, acetaminophen(Tylenol®) is safe to use for headache, pain and fever.
  2. Cold and flu medications that contain decongestants may increase blood pressure. In addition, avoid cough and cold medications that contain ASA or NSAIDs (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications) such as ibuprofen (Advil®, Motrin®) or naproxen (Aleve®). If you have to use a decongestant, use a nasal spray or nasal drops. (Note: these nasal sprays are habit forming. If you use them more than three days in a row, the blood vessels in your nose can become dependent on the spray.)
  3. Sore throat?Many cough syrups and throat lozenges contain sugar. Make sure you read the label to check the ingredients list, prior to use. Some sugar free or sucrose-free products are available on the market. Gargling with salt water may also be an effective way to soothe a sore throat.
  4. Avoid herbal remedies.Herbal medications and products are not regulated in the same way that pharmaceutical products are. Therefore, the list of ingredients is not always accurate and some herbal medicines have been found to contain pesticides, poisonous plants, hormones, heavy metals and other compounds that are potentially dangerous. Some herbal medications also include diuretics, high levels of potassium, and/or other ingredients that can affect the kidneys or interact with your prescription medications to change their effectiveness.
  5. Vitamin C is not the answer. High doses of vitamin C (500 mg or more) can cause damage to kidneys. There is a specially formulated multivitamin for people with kidney disease that has the right amount of vitamins that your kidneys can handle. Ask your healthcare team about this.

Questions?  Your pharmacist and members of your kidney health team are the best source of information. Ensure you read the label, even on over the counter medications that you’ve taken before, as ingredients do change from time to time. If you have severe symptoms that are lasting longer than 7 days, you should see your doctor.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Not That Kind of Trial

I enjoy reading murder mysteries and thrillers, especially Victorian era ones like the work of Anne Perry.  Sometimes they include –  or even start with – the trial and work their way backwards to the crime. The trial. That got me to thinking about a different kind of trial: clinical trials. How did they begin? What are they? WHY are they?

According to the National Institutes of Health (part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) at https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/studies/clinicaltrials/:

“Clinical trials are research studies that explore whether a medical strategy, treatment, or device is safe and effective for humans. These studies also may show which medical approaches work best for certain illnesses or groups of people. Clinical trials produce the best data available for health care decision making.

The purpose of clinical trials is research, so the studies follow strict scientific standards. These standards protect patients and help produce reliable study results.

Clinical trials are one of the final stages of a long and careful research process. The process often begins in a laboratory (lab), where scientists first develop and test new ideas.

If an approach seems promising, the next step may involve animal testing. This shows how the approach affects a living body and whether it’s harmful. However, an approach that works well in the lab or animals doesn’t always work well in people. Thus, research in humans is needed.

For safety purposes, clinical trials start with small groups of patients to find out whether a new approach causes any harm. In later phases of clinical trials, researchers learn more about the new approach’s risks and benefits.

A clinical trial may find that a new strategy, treatment, or device
• improves patient outcomes;
• offers no benefit; or
• causes unexpected harm

All of these results are important because they advance medical knowledge and help improve patient care.”

That seemed to answer my last question, too, since their purpose is safely test new drugs or therapies.

Are these something recent? Something developed since the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) was instituted? No, they are far, far older. This is from Dr. Arun Bhatt’s Evolution of Clinical Research: A History Before and Beyond James Lind, which you can find at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3149409/. I found it fascinating.

“The world’s first clinical trial is recorded in the ‘Book of Daniel’ in The Bible…. This experiment resembling a clinical trial was not conducted by a medical, but by King Nebuchadnezzar a resourceful military leader…. During his rule in Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar ordered his people to eat only meat and drink only wine, a diet he believed would keep them in sound physical condition…. But several young men of royal blood, who preferred to eat vegetables, objected. The king allowed these rebels to follow a diet of legumes and water — but only for 10 days. When Nebuchadnezzar’s experiment ended, the vegetarians appeared better nourished than the meat-eaters, so the king permitted the legume lovers to continue their diet…. This probably was the one of the first times in evolution of human species that an open uncontrolled human experiment guided a decision about public health.”

Well, then, who is this James Lind mentioned in the title of Dr. Bhatt’s paper? I turned to England’s The Museum: Brought to Life at http://broughttolife.sciencemuseum.org.uk/broughttolife/people/jameslind for the answer:

“The Scottish surgeon James Lind was born in Edinburgh and served an apprenticeship at the Edinburgh College of Surgeons. He then worked as a ship’s surgeon until he opened his own practice in Edinburgh in 1748. Lind discovered the use of citrus fruit as a cure for scurvy when he conducted an early clinical trial. While working as a naval surgeon, Lind encountered cases of scurvy, a disease which often struck sailors on long voyages. The cause, a lack of essential vitamins, was unknown at the time. Earlier doctors had suggested that fresh fruit could be used to treat scurvy, but Lind was the first to test the effects of different diets systematically on a group of patients in a clinical trial. In 1754 he began to feed 12 scurvy patients different foods and found that patients eating citrus fruits such as lemons and oranges recovered much faster than those who were given other kinds of food.”

And now? Why are clinical trials important to us as kidney patients? In this year’s May 21st blog (Use the topic dropdown to the right of the blog itself; it’s easier than scrolling through all the blogs.), I wrote about the benefits of All of Us Research Project. The following is from that blog.

“The goal is to advance precision medicine. Precision medicine is health care that is based on you as an individual. It takes into account factors like where you live, what you do, and your family health history. Precision medicine’s goal is to be able to tell people the best ways to stay healthy. If someone does get sick, precision medicine may help health care teams find the treatment that will work best.

Researchers Share Discoveries

Research may help in many ways. It may help find the best ways for people to stay healthy. It may also help create better tests and find the treatments that will work best for different people.”

KidneyX is also involved. On June 24th (Use the topic dropdown again.), I included their principles in the blog.

Principles

  • Patient-Centered Ensure all product development is patient-centered
  • Urgent Create a sense of urgency to meet the needs of people with kidney diseases
  • Achievable Ground in scientifically-driven technology development
  • Catalytic Reduce regulatory and financial risks to catalyze investment in kidney space
  • Collaborative Foster multidisciplinary collaboration including innovators throughout science and technology, the business community, patients, care partners, and other stakeholders
  • Additive Address barriers to innovation public/private sectors do not otherwise
  • Sustainable Invest in a diverse portfolio to balance risk and sustain KidneyX”

Did you notice that first principle: patient-centered? Or the fifth one: collaborative? We are included in that; we’re the patients.

IDEA Lab is one of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ partners. This is how they define themselves:

‘We test and validate solutions to solve challenging problems in the delivery of health and human services.’”

I know, I know. Now you want to know where you can join clinical trials. How about Antidote? You can go to their website at https://antidote.me/match/search/questions/1?utm_campaign=unisearch&utm_source=slowitdownckd_com&utm_medium=ctsearch&utm_content=no_js or use the widget to the bottom right of the blog. If you’d like a bit more information, I wrote about them on Oct. 7th, 2017 (Use the month dropdown if you’d like to read that blog.)

I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea… and I’ve run out of space.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!