Some of the health threats faced by the Centers for Disease and Prevention this year we’ve seen before. One we thought we’d never see again. The Atlanta-based CDC tackled health issues around the world in 2019. Here are nine the center says are the biggest.
1. Vaping lung injuries
As of Dec. 10, the CDC has reported 52 deaths and 2,409 cases of people with lung injuries related to ecigarettes or vaping use. These cases encompass all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. In November, the American Medical Association called for an immediate ban on all electronic cigarettes and vaping devices. In Georgia, House Health and Human Services Chairwoman Sharon Cooper, a Marietta Republican, said she wants the state to pull flavored vaping liquids from stores and raise the purchase age to 21 to help keep the smoking product out of the hands of children.
Drug overdoses continue to be a major problem across America, the CDC reported. More than two-thirds of 70,000 U.S. drug overdose deaths in 2017 involved opioids. Georgia is showing signs of improvement in opioid abuse. The AJC reported in August that prescriptions for opioids — such as hydrocodone and oxycodone — dropped by 13 percent between 2016 and 2018. During the same timeframe, the number of patients who got such prescriptions from five or more doctors, dispensed at five or more pharmacies, fell by more than half. That number is now 12.2 people per 100,000, down from 30.8, the AJC reported.
3. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria and fungi
Antibiotic-resistant bacteria and fungi cause more than 2.8 million infections and 35,000 deaths in the United States each year, according to a Nov. 13 CDC report. These are sometimes referred to as antimicrobial-resistant germs. The deadly superbug fungus Candida auris continues to spread around the world and has now been reported in 14 states, including Georgia, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. And just this week, the CDC and public health officials in several states said they are investigating another outbreak of multidrug-resistant human Campylobacter jejuni infections linked to contact with puppies from pet stores.
4. E. coli and salmonella outbreaks
Throughout 2019, the CDC investigated and resolved more than 75 outbreaks related to food or animal contact, including salmonella linked to ground beef, raw turkey, precut melons and papayas; and E. coli outbreaks were linked to flour, ground bison and romaine lettuce. In September, the CDC announced a salmonella outbreak related to pig ear dog treats had grown to 143 cases reported in 35 states, with three cases in Georgia. Thirty-three people had been hospitalized. In July, the CDC expanded a salmonella infection linked to backyard poultry to 768 people in 48 states, resulting in the deaths of two people. Six cases were in Georgia.
Progress in HIV prevention has stalled, the CDC reported, with gaps in testing, treatment and prevention hindering efforts to stop new infections. DeKalb County is in the forefront of changing that, however. The county is the focus of an intense effort aimed at preventing the spread of the virus and was one of three sites chosen earlier this year by the CDC to receive $1.5 million for a pilot program.
This year, there were more U.S. measles cases than in any of the past 25 years. As of Dec. 5, CDC reported 1,276 cases of measles in 31 states for 2019. There has been a confirmed case of measles in Atlanta and three cases in Cobb County. The Georgia Department of Public Health said the cases were limited to three families who live in the same vicinity, the AJC reported. All of those sickened were either unvaccinated or their vaccination status was unknown.
7. Immunization and vaccination
Although the CDC said influenza activity for the 2019-2020 season in the United States remained low, that wasn’t the case in Georgia. In the week ending Nov. 30, 5.85% of patient visits to doctors were for the flu, up from 5.31% the week before, according to the latest surveillance report from the state health department. Flu activity has been steadily rising over the past several weeks. There have been 132 flu-related hospitalizations in metro Atlanta and one flu-related death reported in the state.
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