Latest Massachusetts flu updates

I can’t get them up fast enough. So check in below. As of Thursday early afternoon, the Globe was reporting that the Lowell brothers — the state’s only 2 confirmed cases –did not infect anyone on their little league team.

The Globe flu update.


Mass Dept. of Health 


 The New York Times has a “flu tracker”  map with updates.

 Keep this, also from the Times, in mind as you read: 

Without the news media the public would be dangerously unaware of the swine flu outbreak, but perhaps without saturation coverage on cable news networks and the velocity of information on the Internet, the public would not be so hysterical, medical professionals said.

“It’s a fine line between educating people and frightening them,” said Dr. Marvin J. Tenenbaum, the director of medicine at St. Francis Hospital on Long Island.

All swine, all the time

That’s the health news these days.

AP reports the first U.S. death this morning.

Here’s the latest from the state.

Here’s the Globe’s story.

In Massachusetts, the more urgent question yesterday was whether four elementary school children with flu-like symptoms actually carry the virus that causes swine flu. Samples from the children – two each in Lowell and Spencer – have been sent to government labs for genetic fingerprinting, local health authorities said.

In Spencer, siblings in the second and third grade at Lake Street School had just returned from a family vacation in Mexico and fell ill yesterday, said Ralph Hicks, superintendent of the Spencer-East Brookfield Regional School District. “I had the principal take the rest of the children out of the rooms, the custodian disinfected surfaces – things kids would touch, desktops, doorknobs – and this evening the entire building is being disinfected,” Hicks said last night.

A spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health said yesterday that no cases of swine flu have been confirmed in the state, nor has any other New England state reported positive results. Federal authorities said all 64 patients with confirmed cases of the disease reside in California, Kansas, New York, Ohio, and Texas, with three people requiring hospitalization in California and two in Texas. They range in age from 7 to 54 years old, with an average age of 16 – evidence reflecting that the majority of confirmed cases are from the New York preparatory school.

Here’s the Herald.

Live chat with Brigham docs on swine flu this morning

Live chat with Brigham docs on swine flu at 11:30 via White Coat Notes

You’ll find updates on the local situation from the state health department here.

As you absorb all the coverage of the outbreaks, keep in mind that this is a tough story to cover. How do we play it? Too much and we cause panic; not enough and we’re not doing our jobs.

Health care heroines, med school murder suspects and the grateful alive

donorzone1If you can spare another click, you’ll find my Week in Review at There, I comment on med school murder suspects, Phil Lesh and his liver and two very different points of view on the most important women in health care.

Boston Marathon medics and truckin’ down Comm Ave.

(Sorry, I went to a The Grateful Dead show this weekend. I will spare you any long, strange trip puns.)  

WBUR’s Martha Bebinger had a nice piece on Marathon medics yesterday:

BOSTON – For runners, the Boston Marathon – the oldest in the country, with Heartbreak Hill and storied champions – is legendary. In public health circles, it’s known as one of the largest planned mass casualties in the country.

Roughly 1,300 medical responders are mobilizing on the morning of the marathon, ready to treat an expected 8,900 runners whose bodies will crack in the strain of running 26.2 miles.

Also, check out the Globe’s great photos of the day. I took my tween and his pal down to the finish line. Copley Square was jammed but it was fun for us to walk the end of the course and cheer on the middle of the pack  as they came into Back Bay: You can do it!…You’re almost there.”

New digs for Boston LGBT health center


  Check out the new Fenway Health building, where patients can now get their teeth and eyes checked. Who knew a little gay health clinic would turn into a (near) Longwood presence?

Click here for more info and photos.

Biotech subsidies: Which cat’s side are you on?

My week in review is up on the site.  I talk about ob/gyn MRSA at BI, the Himmelhandlers in The Nation and a new biolab delay. (Note that today’s Globe reports on more pediatric patient safety issues – this time at MGH.)  

One story I cover in the review is the “Stop Biotech Looting” campaign, launched by unionized electricians angry they’re not being hired to work on state-subsidized life science construction projects. The effort includes billboards, pickets, flyers and a website. All list a litany of complaints against biotech companies,  including two recently aided by Massachusetts Life Sciences Center  — Genzyme and Shire.

The campaign — a project of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 103 — casts the companies as “biotech fat cats” collecting “corporate welfare” and points out years of pharma misdeeds including high prices, unsafe products and tax evasion.


Note that the union brought up none of these issues last year when they pledged their  support for the $1 billion life sciences bill.  Other activists  did object  to the subsidies, basically arguing that they would be  givaways to companies that would expand here anyway.  This from a story I wrote for Nature Network Boston. 

(As) the bill picks up pace in the legislature, critics have begun questioning the premise that the state is about to lose its dominance in the life sciences. By most measures, they say, the state is an industry nexus and there is little evidence of an exodus of life science companies.


At issue is a section of the bill that would expand tax incentives—amounting to as much as $25 million a year for 10 years—and fund road and sewer improvements to lure new companies to Massachusetts.


“When we say we will pay you to locate in a thriving mecca of this industry, it is dangerous,” said Sen. Mark Montigny, a New Bedford Democrat, during a State House hearing earlier this month.


Supporters of the bill said the danger is in letting a valuable industry slip away.


“Leadership in life sciences is ours to lose,” said University of Massachusetts president Jack Wilson at the same hearing.


   Speaking to the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday, MLSC presidents Susan Windhan-Bannister mentioned new construction jobs several times, but not the campaign. She responded to a question about the union effort by saying she thinks the message is “off point.” That same day, Gov. Deval Patrick addressed the issue a bit differently. The Boston Business Journal reported that he brought picketing union members into a MassBio meeting and asked the companies there to work with them.

I heard some of the union billboards were in Cambridge’s Kendell Square, but I couldn’t find any. I did find one near Biogen Idec from MassBio.  It features a close-up of a child with no hair kissing a kitten and reads: “Paving the way in Massachusetts for discoveries that will change the lives of patient around the world”


New hospital safety and efficiency survey

The Leapfrog Group, a coalition made up of businesses, government agencies and health care researchers, released the result of a survey on hospital safety and efficiency this week.

Click here to check out area hospitals.

Here’s what they found overall:

“As the Obama administration and Congress consider health care reform options, it is clear we have a long way to go to achieve hospital quality and cost-effectiveness worthy of the nation’s $2.3 trillion annual investment, ” said Leapfrog CEO Leah Binder. “According to our data, a majority of hospitals have significant safety and efficiency deficits.”

  Among surveyed hospitals, efficiency standards – defined as highest quality and lowest resource use -are met by only 24% of hospitals for heart bypass surgery, 21% for heart angioplasty, 14% for heart attack care, and 14% for pneumonia care.

Sixty-five percent of participating hospitals do not have all recommended policies in place to prevent common hospital-acquired infections (HAIs).

– Seventy-five percent do not fully meet the standards for 13 evidence-based safety practices, ranging from hand washing to competency of the nursing staff.

– Only 26% and 34% of reporting hospitals are fully meeting standards for treating two common acute conditions, heart attacks (AMI) and pneumonia, respectively.

– Only 30% and 25% of hospitals are fully meeting standards to prevent hospital-acquired pressure ulcers or hospital-acquired injuries, respectively.

Breast cancer in developing countries

Update 4/16 — Webcast of the event

I didn’t intend to become a HSPH calendar of events this week, but this one stood out.  Plus, Jim Smith — who reported on Latin America  before coming to Boston — has the back story on in today’s Globe

Felicia Marie Knaul, a Harvard-trained global health economist living in Mexico, was 41 when she received a diagnosis of breast cancer and underwent a mastectomy. She responded by launching a nationwide early-detection project for breast cancer and sharing her own story of hair loss, chemotherapy, reconstructive surgery, and emotional survival.

This evening, when Knaul appears at a forum at the Harvard School of Public Health to discuss her work in Mexico, she’ll have a champion on stage with her. The host will be her husband, Julio Frenk, a leading global health policy specialist who became dean of Harvard’s School of Public Health in January.

“I have an ally in many, many senses,” Knaul said.

“All of the work to start the program, and most of the presentations, we did as a couple, with Julio speaking very openly about his experiences as a partner of a woman with breast cancer, and how to provide the dignity a woman needs, especially when she’s going through something like this.”

Frenk said he felt the forum would be an appropriate way for him and Knaul to introduce themselves to the Boston medical community because the personal issue they confronted as a couple is so closely aligned with his policy priorities as he takes the helm at the graduate school.

“All my life I have studied the health system. It’s been very revealing for me to be on the other side, on the receiving side, and to feel what a patient has to go through in diagnosis and treatment. It’s given me a whole different perspective of my patient – the health system,” Frenk said in an interview.







Tuesday, April 14
4:15-5:45 PM
Harvard School of Public HealthPPPHP_BC_smaller (PPPHP_BC_4.14.09_smaller.jpg)
Kresge Building, Snyder Auditorium
677 Huntington Avenue, Boston


Julio Frenk
Dean and T & G Angelopoulos Professor of Public
Health and International Development, HSPH

Felicia Marie Knaul
Senior Economist, Mexican Health Foundation
Director, Breast Cancer: Tómatelo a Pecho

Jennifer Leaning
Co-Director, Harvard Humanitarian Initiative
Professor of the Practice of Global Health, HSPH
Associate Professor of Medicine, HMS

Lawrence Shulman
Chief Medical Officer and Sr. Vice-President for
Medical Affairs, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Associate Professor of Medicine, HMS

Walter Willett
Chair of the Department of Nutrition and
Fredrick John Stare Professor of Epidemiology
and Nutrition, HSPH

A webcast and podcast will be available after the event.

Today: Talk on HIV/AIDS in Africa

Evolving HIV/AIDS Policies in Africa

A lecture by His Excellency Festus Gontebanye Mogae
Former President of the Republic of Botswana (1998-2008)
Monday, April 13, 12:30 – 1:30
Kresge G2
Harvard School of Public Health
677 Huntington Ave., Boston

Download pdf poster for the lecture



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