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Posts Tagged ‘occupational health’

New Laboratory Test for Norovirus

Friday, March 11th, 2011

In one of the first advances in research on Norovirus in some time, the US Food and Drug Administration (FAD) announced approval of  a first test for the quick identification of norovirus.  The test, called Ridascreen Norovirus 3rd Generation EIA assay will be used when there appears to be a clear avenue for transmission (when a number of people are sick who became symptomatic at the same time and had a common food source).  This test allows for early identification which can lead to early intervention.  Current tests are often only performed as state labs and can take several days for results.  The test was designed by Biopharm of Darmstadt, Germany.

In the past, some food service providers and health departments have delayed taking prompt norovirus action pending laboratory confirmation.  This new test should speed up that process and allow for more rapid response to confirmed outbreaks.

The new test is slightly less specific than the older versions- it simply confirms the presence of norovirus and does so by comparing it to about 600 known noro samples trying to find a match.  PCR confirmation which identifies specific strains can  (and should) always be done as a second or follow up  step.

This new test if sure to be a valuable tool in the on-going Norovirus battle – which appears to be in peak season now.

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What to expect this flu shot season (2010/ 2011)

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

Clearly, the 2009/2010 flu season was an unusual one.  The sudden appearance of H1N1, the lack of a vaccine, the decision to manufacture a vaccine and then its’ delayed arrival, all lead to a flu vaccination season like no other.  What’s on the horizon for the 2010/2011 flu vaccination season?  It may be early to say but we know the following:

1.  H1N1 is one of the three strains to be included in the seasonal flu vaccine.

2.  Vaccine prices have gone up.

3.  Nursing costs have also increased.

The WHO delivered the strains to the manufacturers on time but it is too soon to know how well the strains are growing.  We’ll get early reports from the manufacturers in about two weeks at the CDC/ AMA National Flu Vaccination Summit.

Last year, we saw the highest uptake of seasonal flu vaccine in history with nearly 40% of the US population getting their seasonal flu shots.  Let’s see if we can’t build on that this year.

Women and Medical Surveillance Programs: New challenges as the female workforce grows

Sunday, October 25th, 2009

Employees who participated in medical surveillance programs up until recently were overwhelmingly male.  That has changed in recent years and nearly every employer now has both male and female employees who are required to participate in annual medical surveillance requirements.  Yet, here has been no  medical surveillance program design, testing requirements or interpretation of findings based on gender.  Well, that may be changing very soon…

Recently, Corporate Wellness identified a pattern of abnormal laboratory findings in female employees who completed serum cholinesterase screens as baseline tests for a new environmental consulting client. They have more female employees than many others in the industry.  While the laboratory normal range for this test is 1900 to 3800 units per milliliter (U/mL), more than half of the female employees we tested this year had significantly lower results – some hovering around the 1000 U/mL mark even after retesting.  Normally,  we’d recommend limited potential for exposure and retest for 75% of normal and removal from all assignments that might include exposures for findings that are 60% of normal or below.

Together with Dr. Randy Young who heads clinical operations for LabCorp, we took a closer look.  We found that although there is currently only a single normal range for both males and females, normal findings for females, and especially females using estrogen based birth control, are more likely to be in the 1000 to 1800 units range – well below the published “normals” of 1800- to 3800 units.

LabCorp examined its own results, for our clients’ employees and their entire patient population and found that our observations appear to be correct.  And they will be publishing a new set of “normals” for both serum and rbc cholinesterase that are gender based.

For the moment, we are sending letters to all female employees whose laboratory results are below 1800 units, explaining where we are in the process of helping set new gender based normals but also offering retest if they’d like it.

We suspect that this may be the first of many things we learn as a result of the changing workforce.

Obama’s Aggressive Agenda for Healthcare Reform

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Word has is that President Obama wants a vote on his health care reform plan before Congress recesses for summer.  It is an aggressive timeline …

Our health care reform gold star of the week goes to Congressman John Hall who proposes that Congress itself participate in whatever health care plan is passed .  Congressman Hall subscribes to the theory – if it’s good enough for you., it’s good enough for us  Hat’s off to him for this proactive approach for staving off critics of the yet to be fully designed plan.

Our health care reform black mark of the week goes to Richard Scott; founder of Columbia/HC who has formed the group Conservatives for Patients Right and raised nearly $20 million to fight President Obama’s plan.  Keep in mind that Mr. Scott is the same man who was ousted from the company he founded after the FBI raided five Columbia Hospitals and three executives were indicted for systemic Medicare fraud.  Seems that he’s the wrong guy to be telling us we’re wrong in trying to fix this mess he helped create.

The bottom line is that fixing health care is key to righting the economy.  They are inextricably intertwined.  We cannot move forward without some kind of health care reform.  Obama’s plan may not be perfect, might not even be close, but at least it is a start.  And you have to start somewhere.

Hidden Costs of Medical Surveillance

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

Recently, we were asked ” Just what are the hidden costs of managing medical surveillance programs that you sometimes talk about?”  That may sound like a simple question but it really leads to a series of much more difficult questions.

 When was the last time that one of your new hires had his start date delayed because his medical clearance had not been received?

Did the delayed start cost you billable hours?

Did the delayed start cost you additional overtime or additional payments for contract personnel?

When was the last time one of your field personnel had to return to a clinic a second time or even a third time because some portion of the annual medical requirement had been omitted?

How many errors are there on the bills you review?

The cost of an asbestos exam isn’t simply what the clinic charges you for that exam.  Did they do the correct exam, with only the necessary components, in a single visit with minimal waiting time and report it  and bill it accurately in a timely fashion?