Follow These Social Media Doctors Fighting Medical Misinformation

I often hear that we need more doctors on social media fighting medical misinformation.

You know what the real problem is?

There aren’t enough folks following the doctors who are on social media fighting medical misinformation…

Where Are the Social Media Doctors Fighting Medical Misinformation?

Sure, more would likely be better, but you can’t get past the simple fact that those pushing quackery and medical misinformation can easily attract huge followings on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

Your friendly pediatrician (tweetiatrician) combating that medical misinformation?

Not so much…

Is that because most of us like writing more than fighting for likes?

Probably.

It’s also likely a function of the simple fact that fake facts are more interesting than real facts.

Follow These Social Media Doctors Fighting Medical Misinformation

So know that you know that they exist, where are these doctors fighting medical misinformation and which ones should you follow?

Here are some to get you started.

David Gorski is one of the social media doctors who is fighting medical misinformation who is active on Twitter.

Gorski has been writing about medical misinformation on the Internet since before there was an Internet.

If you aren’t reading his blog Respectful Insolence, then you likely don’t know why quackademic medicine is such a problem, you may not have been aware of all of the players who have been scamming pushing complementary and alternative medicine over the years, and you might have never heard of misinformed consent. He is also active on Science Based Medicine, where he is a managing editor.

Like David Gorski, Steven Novella has been writing about pseudoscience for a long time, first at the NESS (the New England Skeptical Society) and then at The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe, Neurologica, and Science-Based Medicine.

Are you following them?

Jennifer Gunter is one of the more popular social media doctors fighting medical misinformation.

Jennifer Gunter may be best known for calling out Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop and her jade vaginal eggs, vaginal steaming, and other quackery. Active on Twitter, she also has a column in the New York Times, has a new book coming out, The Vagina Bible (pre-order it now!), and she is getting her own TV show!!!

She is another doctor you should be following, as she is doing a great job of calling out non-evidence based treatments.

And then there are these folks you should be reading and following (no, they are not all doctors…):

That they all don’t have millions of followers is one of the reasons that folks fall for medical misinformation is so easily.

It’s the reason that you might go to a chiropractor when you are having problems breastfeeding, even though you don’t really understand how chiropractic works.

And why you buy homeopathic “medicines” when your kids have colic or a runny nose, not understanding that you don’t get any active medicine when you buy something with homeopathy on the label.

From misinformation about vaccines to every type of alternative medicine scam out there, these folks have been writing and warning us about them for a long time.

Surprised when someone “breaks a story” about celebrity anti-vaxxers or the “latest” alternative medicine fad that is hurting folks? You wouldn’t be if you were following these folks fighting medical misinformation.

More on Social Media Doctors Fighting Medical Misinformation

The New Vaccine Surveillance Network Report on Enterovirus D68 Infections

Anyone who has been following the outbreaks of Acute Flaccid Myelitis the last few years will likely think the following report is long overdue.

The report, Enterovirus D68–Associated Acute Respiratory Illness — New Vaccine Surveillance Network, United States, July–October,2017 and 2018, is especially welcome by those folks who are already convinced that AFM is associated with EV D68.

The New Vaccine Surveillance Network Report on Enterovirus D68 Infections

But wait, why was surveillance done through the New Vaccine Surveillance Network?

And for that matter, what is the New Vaccine Surveillance Network?

“The New Vaccine Surveillance Network (NVSN) includes study sites that focus on population-based surveillance and data collection on the use and impact of vaccines and the impact of vaccine policies. Since 2006, NVSN sites have conducted active, population-based surveillance for hospitalizations and outpatient visits associated with acute gastroenteritis (AGE) in children (2006-present). NVSN sites have conducted surveillance for acute respiratory illness (ARI) from 2000 to 2009, and again beginning in 2015.”

New Vaccine Surveillance Network (NVSN)

Before you start thinking that this means a new Enterovirus D68 vaccine is coming out soon, many NVSN studies have nothing to do with vaccines…

“NVSN supports broad-based surveillance and research projects for acute gastroenteritis and acute respiratory infections in areas with a population base of at least 500,000.”

New Vaccine Surveillance Network (NVSN) Overview

In addition to studies on the flu and pneumococcal disease, they have done studies on norovirus, coronavirus, human metapneumovirus, HPIV, RSV, and rhinovirus infections.

So what did they find out about Enterovirus D68 infections?

“Based on preliminary data, test results were positive for EV-D68 for two (0.08%) of 2,433 patients with ARI who were tested during 2017 and 358 (13.9%) of 2,579 tested during 2018. “

Enterovirus D68–Associated Acute Respiratory Illness — New Vaccine Surveillance Network, United States, July–October, 2017 and 2018

There were a lot more EV D68 infecions in 2018 than there were in 2017

And what does that mean?

Considering that we had “only” 33 confirmed cases of AFM in 16 states in 2017 and at least 223 confirmed cases of AFM in 41 states in 2018, the rise in EV-D68 cases seems to correlate with the rise in AFM.

“Although AFM is rare in the United States, these AFM surveillance data, along with the EV-D68 activity documented through NVSN, provide additional supporting evidence for a temporal association between EV-D68 respiratory illness and AFM. “

Enterovirus D68–Associated Acute Respiratory Illness — New Vaccine Surveillance Network, United States, July–October, 2017 and 2018

Again, few people are going to be surprised by this news…

So, what’s next?

You mean besides the 2019 AFM season?

More on Acute Flaccid Myelitis News


Infants’ Ibuprofen Concentrated Oral Suspension Recall

Three lots of  Infants' Ibuprofen Concentrated Oral Suspension that were made by Tris Pharma, Inc. and sold under the Equate, CVS Health, and Family Wellness brands and sold at Wal-Mart, CVS, and Family Dollar stores have been recalled.

If you have little kids who sometimes take pain or fever medications, you will want to check your medicine cabinet for this recall.

Three lots of Infants’ Ibuprofen Concentrated Oral Suspension have been recalled because the concentration in the bottle might be higher than they it is supposed to be.

What does that mean?

Although they are supposed to be at a 50mg per 1.25ml concentration, if it is indeed higher, then if you gave your child 1.25ml, they might get more than just 50mg.

“To date, Tris Pharma, Inc. has not received any reports of adverse events related to the lots of product that are the subject of this recall.”

How much more? We don’t know, since we don’t know what the “potentially” higher concentration might be.

Infants’ Ibuprofen Concentrated Oral Suspension Recall

Fortunately, the recall is limited to just 3 lots of  Infants’ Ibuprofen Concentrated Oral Suspension that were made by Tris Pharma, Inc. and sold under the Equate, CVS Health, and Family Wellness brands and sold at Wal-Mart, CVS, and Family Dollar stores.

Do you have any recalled Ibuprofen?
Do you have any recalled Ibuprofen? Check your lot numbers!

If you have the recalled Ibuprofen, don’t use it. Contact Tris Pharma for a refund.

And seek medical attention if you think your child got too much Ibuprofen and is having any symptoms, especially nausea, vomiting, epigastric pain, or more rarely, diarrhea.

Fortunately, getting extra Ibuprofen is not usually as dangerous as getting extra Acetaminophen.

Although, of course, neither is good! Be careful when dosing your kids and be sure they need it first.

Oh, and yes, at least in this case, store brand Ibuprofen at Family Dollar and Wal-Mart is the same as store brand Ibuprofen at CVS…

More on Infants’ Ibuprofen Concentrated Oral Suspension Recall

Does My Child Need a Flu Test?

Your child has a fever, cough, runny nose, body aches and chills.

Should you rush them to your pediatrician for a flu test?

Diagnosing the Flu with a Flu Test

While you may want to seek medical attention, depending on your child’s age and how sick they are, believe it or not, you don’t need a flu test to get diagnosed with the flu.

“If your doctor needs to know for sure whether you have the flu, there are laboratory tests that can be done.”

CDC on Diagnosing Flu

A flu test is an option though.

Most people do not need a flu test.
Most people do not need a flu test.

Is it a good option?

A necessary option?

“Most people with flu symptoms are not tested because the test results usually do not change how you are treated.”

CDC on Diagnosing Flu

While a diagnosis of the flu can be made clinically, based on your symptoms, a flu test can be a good idea:

  • to help determine the cause of an outbreak (mostly if there aren’t already a lot of flu cases in your area)
  • if someone is at high risk for flu complications

In general though, most people do not need a flu test, especially during the active part of flu season.

What’s the problem with doing a flu test?

“In January 2017, the FDA reclassified antigen-based RIDT systems into class II. This reclassification was to help improve the overall quality of flu testing. The reclassification was prompted, in part, by recognition that the poor sensitivity of some of antigen-based RIDTs resulted in misdiagnosed cases, and, according to anecdotal reports, even death.”

FDA on CLIA-Waived Rapid Flu Test Facts

Mostly, they are neither as accurate nor as easy to interpret as most folks think, even the newer versions of these tests.

Have you ever heard someone say that they tested positive for both flu A and flu B?

When a flu tests is positive for both A and B flu strains, it invalidates the test. They may have had either flu A or flu B or neither, but they almost certainly didn’t have both.

The antigen-based rapid flu tests that most doctors and clinics use, which give results in 10 or 15 minutes, are also prone to both false positive (you don’t really have the flu, even though your test was positive), and more commonly, false negative (you actually do have the flu, even though your test was negative) results, depending if flu is active at the time.

Other flu tests are available, but are more expensive and take longer to get results, so aren’t used as often. These include “rapid” nucleic acid detection based tests that can be done in a doctor’s office, rapid nucleic acid detection based tests and rapid influenza diagnostic tests that are done in a central lab, PCR tests, and viral cultures.

So why do so many people rush to the doctor to get a flu test?

Many think that if they are positive, then they can take Tamiflu or another flu medicine and get better faster.

The problem with thinking like that is that few people actually need to take Tamiflu, as at best, it only helps you get better about a day quicker than if you didn’t take it. That’s why the recommendations for Tamiflu say to reserve it for children under two to five years of age and others who might be at high risk for flu complications.

Since most other people don’t need to take Tamiflu, they don’t necessarily need a flu test or a definitive diagnosis of the flu. Again, even if they did need Tamiflu, the diagnosis of the flu could be made clinically.

And even more importantly, a negative flu test doesn’t necessarily mean that you don’t really have the flu, especially if you have classic flu symptoms in the middle of flu season. Again, a negative flu test could be a false negative.

“RIDTs may be used to help with diagnostic and treatment decisions for patients in clinical settings, such as whether to prescribe antiviral medications. However, due to the limited sensitivities and predictive values of RIDTs , negative results of RIDTs do not exclude influenza virus infection in patients with signs and symptoms suggestive of influenza. Therefore, antiviral treatment should not be withheld from patients with suspected influenza, even if they test negative.”

CDC on Guidance for Clinicians on the Use of Rapid Influenza Diagnostic Tests

Have you ever had a negative flu test and the doctor still gave you Tamiflu? Then why did they do the test?

Diagnosing the Flu Without a Flu Test

If the results of flu testing aren’t going to change how you are treated, then you probably don’t need to have the flu test done in the first place.

Plus it saves you from having a swab stuck up your nose.

But kids should have flu tests, right?

Although rapid flu tests might be a little more accurate in kids than adults, it is not by much, so you are left with the same issues.

A positive test might reassure you that it really is the flu, but your child could still have the flu if their test is negative. A diagnosis and treatment decision can be made clinically, without a flu test, remembering that most older, healthy kids don’t need to be treated with Tamiflu.

We can’t skip flu season (although we sure can try if we get vaccinated and protected), but we can try and skip flu testing season.

More on Flu Tests

Acute Flaccid Myelitis Update

Breaking News – The CDC has updated the Acute Flaccid Myelitis (AFM) case counts. (see below).

These 223 confirmed cases are among the total of 374 reports that CDC received of patients under investigation.

We continue to get regular updates from the CDC about AFM.

CDC Telebriefing: Update on Acute Flaccid Myelitis (AFM) in the U.S.

Unfortunately, we aren’t getting the real answer we were looking for – how to stop the outbreak.

Acute Flaccid Myelitis Update

Since the last update, we have learned that:

  • the case count is up to 223 confirmed cases among 374 reports, with most cases being confirmed at this point (2018)
  • cases have been reported in 41 states (2018)
  • there have been 2 confirmed cases (NC and UT) among 15 reported cases so far this year (2019)

That means that we have clearly exceeded the last record of 149 cases in 2016.

There are also 49 confirmed cases and 28 cases under investigation in Canada since January 2018.

In other news:

  • the CSTE will be issuing issued a new statement on AFM reporting reaffirming that they “are confident state and local health departments are working closely with doctors to ensure suspected cases are reported.”
  • the CDC has posted updated treatment guidelines
  • an MMWR early release, Increase in Acute Flaccid Myelitis — United States, 2018,  will provide details on the first 80 cases of 2018 – but sound similar to what we have learned from outbreaks in 2014 and 2016…
  • the CDC is working with local and state health departments on better long term tracking of cases – something parents have been pushing for!
  • an AFM Task Force has been established to “bring together experts from a variety of scientific, medical, and public health disciplines to help solve this critical public health issue.”

Most importantly though, we again learned that the CDC still doesn’t feel that they have enough evidence to say that any one thing is causing AFM.

AFM Cases in the United States

In addition to this year’s cases, there were:

  • 33 confirmed cases in 16 states in 2017
  • 149 confirmed cases in 39 states in 2016
  • 22 confirmed cases in 17 states in 2015
  • 120 confirmed cases in 34 states in 2014 – with most of the cases being reported in California (24), Colorado (10), Utah (6), Massachusetts (9), Virginia (5), Indiana (5), and Illinois (4)

What’s next?

More on Acute Flaccid Myelitis News

Updated on March 27, 2019

Can Your Sick Child Still Go to Daycare or School?

There are a lot of different rules that dictate when kids can go to daycare or school when they are sick.

Kids don't always have to stay at home from daycare or school when they are sick.
Kids don’t always have to stay home from daycare or school when they are sick.

The actual rules of your daycare or school are the ones that you are likely most familiar with, but there are also recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the CDC, in addition to  state-specific regulations.

Can Your Sick Child Still Go to Daycare or School?

Most people know to stay home when they are sick.

“Stay home when you are sick. If possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick. You will help prevent others from catching your illness. Avoid close contact with people who are sick.”

CDC on Information for Schools & Childcare Providers

But what exactly does it mean to be “sick” and how long are you supposed to stay home and avoid other people?

“Most minor illnesses do not constitute a reason for excluding a child from child care, unless the illness prevents the child from participating in normal activities, as determined by the child care staff, or the illness requires a need for care that is greater than staff can provide.”

Recommendations for Inclusion or Exclusion (Red Book)

In general, your child does not need to be kept home and out of daycare or school if they are able to participate in routine activities, do not need extra care, and have:

  • a cold (unless they have a fever) or other upper respiratory infection, even if they have a green or yellow runny nose
  • RSV (unless they have a fever)
  • croup (unless they have a fever)
  • diarrhea that can be contained in a diaper or the child can make it to the bathroom without having an accident, as long as they aren’t having more than 2 stools above their usual or stools that contain blood or mucus
  • a rash without fever – most skin rashes won’t keep your kids out of school, like if they have poison ivy, hives, or even molluscum contagiosum and warts
  • Fifth disease – interestingly, you aren’t contagious once you have the characteristic Fifth disease rash
  • head lice – why not keep kids out of school if they have lice? It doesn’t stop them from spreading. They can get them treated at the end of the day.
  • pinworms – like lice, keeping kids out of school with pinworms isn’t going to stop them from spreading, although kids should be treated
  • pink eye – if caused by an infection, in general, should be able to stay or return if is improving, but keep in mind that most experts now think that kids with pink eye do not need to be excluded from daycare or school at all
  • oral lesions and are able to contain their drool (unless they have a fever), which would include hand foot mouth disease
  • skin lesions that can be covered, and if they can’t, then they can return after they have been on antibiotics for 24 hours (impetigo) or have started treatment (ringworm)
  • strep throat and have been fever free and on antibiotics for 24 hours
  • scabies – if you have started treatment
  • a sore throat (unless they have a fever)

Why don’t you have to keep your kids home when they have RSV or many of these other common childhood diseases?

In addition to the fact that some kids would never get to go to daycare or school, since these diseases are so common, many kids continue to be contagious even after their symptoms have gone away. So excluding them doesn’t really keep the illnesses from spreading through the daycare or school.

So why not just send them when they have a fever or really don’t feel well?

In addition to the possibility that they might be a little more contagious at those times, it is because the typical daycare or school isn’t able to provide the one-on-one care that your child would likely need when feeling that sick, as your child probably isn’t going to want to participate in typical group activities.

Policies that are overly strict at excluding children from daycare and school may also lead to antibiotic overuse, as parents rush their kids to the doctor for and push for a quick cure because they need to go back to work.

Exclusion Criteria for Vaccine Preventable Diseases

While the exclusion criteria for many diseases simply extends to when your child is fever free, starts treatment, or feels well enough to return to daycare or school, for many now vaccine-preventable diseases, you will be excluded (quarantined) for much longer:

  • hepatitis A virus infection – exclusion for one week after illness starts
  • measles – exclusion until four days after start of rash
  • mumps – exclusion until five days after start of parotid gland swelling
  • pertussis – exclusion until completes five days of antibiotics or has had cough for at least 21 days
  • rubella – exclusion until seven days after start of rash
  • chicken pox – exclusion until all lesions have crusted
  • diphtheria – if survives having respiratory diphtheria, would likely be excluded until finishes treatment and has two negative cultures at least 24 hours apart
  • rotavirus – as with other diseases that causes diarrhea, children should be excluded until “stool frequency becomes no more than 2 stools above that child’s normal frequency” as diarrhea is contained in the child’s diaper or they aren’t having accidents
  • tetanus – if survives having tetanus, wouldn’t be excluded, as tetanus is not contagious

Unfortunately, kids are often contagious with many of these diseases, especially measles and chicken pox, even before they have obvious symptoms, which is why large outbreaks used to be so common.

Children will often be excluded from daycare or school if they are unvaccinated or not completely vaccinated and they are exposed to a vaccine-preventable disease.

More on Sending Your Sick Child to Daycare or School