A mosquito-borne virus has become a growing concern for Americans and people throughout the world.  The Zika virus can affect anyone for up to a week and present with fever, rash, joint pain, red eyes, and other symptoms. However 80% of people afflicted with the virus have no symptoms at all.   Zika virus is especially dangerous to pregnant women because it has been associated with babies being born with microcephaly, a neurodevelopmental disorder where the brain does not fully develop and presents with a disproportionately small head.  The World Health Organization (WHO) has deemed it a “global health threat.”  This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s Emergency Operations Center moved to Level 1, the highest level, due to risk of Zika virus transmission in the

US.   The most recent Zika virus outbreak began in Brazil in 2015 and is transmitted through Aedes mosquitos.  There is no vaccine to prevent or protect people from the virus, and treatment is typical for the flu: plenty of rest, fluids, and fever/pain relievers as needed.  Once diagnosed, it is necessary to further avoid mosquito bites as bites can transmit the virus to other people.  The best way to avoid mosquito bites is long-sleeved clothing when outdoors and applying mosquito repellent. Consumer Reports has released ratings of sprays that protect best against Aedes mosquitos.   The CDC reports that no cases of Zika have been transmitted by mosquito bites in the continental United States, but cases have been diagnosed in…

For Tobacco-Free Awareness Week, NeedyMeds is taking a look at the costs of a smoking habit.  Smoking certainly has a cost on public health, with nearly half a million deaths attributed to tobacco use every year.  Smoking causes cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung diseases, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), as well as increases risk for tuberculosis, eye disease, and problems with your immune system.  Since the Surgeon General started reporting on smoking and its health impacts in 1964, 20 million people have died from smoking-related illnesses, including 2.5 million nonsmokers who were exposed to secondhand smoke.  There are also substantial financial costs. On top of the cost of cigarettes, Americans spend nearly $170 billion in health-care costs and more than $156 billion

in lost productivity due to smoking-related illnesses or premature death each year.   For someone who smokes a pack a day, one could feasibly spend between $1,600 and $3,600 on cigarettes each year (depending on the state in which one lives/buys cigarettes).  WalletHub, a personal finance resource, found that if smokers were to invest the money they usually spend on cigarettes in the stock market they could see a return ranging from $16,000 to $34,500 (annual return calculated using historical average return rate for the S&P 500 minus inflation rate during same time period). Health-care for smoking-related issues costs an average of $2,100 to $4,700 per year.   Previous studies have also found that smoking can lead to loss of income either through absenteeism, workplace bias, or…

This week is National Influenza Vaccination Week in the US.  Established by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2005, this week highlights the importance of continuing flu vaccination through the holidays and beyond. Vaccines against the flu are the best defense against the virus and developing flu-related complications.   The CDC holds National Influenza Vaccination Week in December as vaccinations tend to drop quickly after the end of November, leaving some vulnerable during the holiday season. Going on vacation or having relatives visiting from afar can expose people to different strains of the flu than what they have built a immune response to, which can spread illness for those unprotected. The flu vaccine protects against multiple strains of the flu viruses. Yearly

vaccinations are recommended because flu viruses are always changing, and each year the vaccine is updated to better match circulating influenza strains.   In a previous blog post we gave tips on how to avoid the cold and flu.  As mentioned there, everyone over the age of 6 months should get a flu vaccine every season.  This is especially important for young children, pregnant women, people with diabetes or heart disease, or people over the age of 65.  For infants younger than 6 months, the vaccinations of those around them are the only defense against catching the flu.   Millions of influenza vaccines have been administered safely over the decades. For those in need of assistance procuring the influenza vaccine our database of free, low-cost,…

We have had various blog posts about the importance of medication adherence. The subject remains important as researchers find 20-30% of prescriptions are never filled and half of all people do not follow their drug instructions.  With a wide variety of factors contributing to patients not following through a treatment as directed, it can have a serious impact on one’s health and finances.   People have many reasons for medication non-adherence. Confusion can be a factor, whether in relation to multiple prescriptions or unclear doctor’s orders.  Other patients don’t take medicine to avoid side effects. Cost is an obvious factor for those unable to afford their prescriptions. Not following drug regimens can result in needless hospitalizations and emergency room visits, which can cost much more than the skipped medication.

Research shows as much as $289 billion is spent on avoidable hospital trips annually for people who don’t follow their prescription regimens. It is estimated that as many people die from medication non-adherence as from strokes each year.   Some organizations have devised different methods to combat patients’ non-compliance.  The University of Pennsylvania has given some patients electronic pill bottles that light up and beep when a dose is missed. If the light and beep continue to be ignored, a relative or the patient’s doctor will be notified.  To further motivate people to take their medications, following the directions and the pill bottle’s alerts enter the patient into small lotteries that offer $5 to $50.  A project in Hawaii connects doctors…

The last week of April was World Immunization Week, but August is National Immunization Awareness Month for the US. This is the time of year when children and teenagers are heading back to school, infants are entering preschools or day care programs, and many adults are heading into college or continuing their careers in the work force. Regardless of the situation, the need for getting vaccinated is important to be aware of year round.   According to Marvin M. Lipman, MD, Consumer Reports’ chief medical advisor, “Each year, at least 30,000 people die from complications related to vaccine-preventable diseases.” The onset of immunity and its duration varies from vaccine to vaccine. There are vaccines that are good for ten years, five years, and even vaccines that need

to be renewed yearly. Dr. Lipman states, "Getting the right shots doesn't guarantee that you won't get sick, but it will significantly improve your odds." Even if a person is vaccinated as a child the ability to fend off vaccine-preventable diseases may begin to lessen. Vaccines boosters are used to build immunity against illnesses and others protect against common adulthood illness. Often people wonder what is the need for an already healthy person to be vaccinated; vaccination in adulthood is beneficial because as people grow older they are not as effectively able to form antibodies to fend off illness as well as younger people are.   Vaccinations help keep diseases such as polio and measles in check. Fifteen years ago, measles was declared eradicated…