The Medical Insider

Interview with the Virus: Herpes

Me: Tell us who you are?

HSV-1: Oral herpes or herpes simplex virus 1 here. I cause cold sores. Sitting next to me, hiding behind a mask of shame, is my sibling herpes simplex 2…

HSV-2: I can speak for myself.

HSV-1: Sorry.

HSV-2: I’m the dreaded genital herpes – but for the record, these days HSV-1 causes as many herpes in the genital area as I do.   

Me: How’d that happen?

HSV-2: Most people get HSV-1 as children. About 7 out 10 people have cold sores. People get HSV-2 later with sexual activity. Because HSV-1 can cause both oral and genital herpes, those without natural immunity to HSV-1 can develop HSV-1 genital herpes through oral sex.   

HSV-1: Speaking for me and HSV-2 (HSV-2 groaned under its mask), we have an unjust rep because of where we go – not what we do. Yeah, I get it – nobody wants me on their date nights or vacation photos, but nobody wants COVID, either. Yet, we, and other STDs, are cemented in the Walk of Shame. Somebody said, “Life is sexually transmitted.” (HSV-1 looks at HSV-2 nervously.) HSV-2 have been relationship breakers. To me, infections are infections. COVID likes lungs, Staph likes skin, we like nerves and skin. Like our cousin, chicken pox/shingles, we spent most of our lives traveling, multiplying, and sleeping in nerves. Yes, I deserve respect. No, I will not live in whispers.

Read Full Story
Volume 14, Issue 22, Posted 10:11 AM, 11.15.2022

Mom's dementia saves our relationship

When I was young, I fell in school and got a deep gash, covered in black gravel, on my knee. The staff rushed me to a clinic. I screamed through the picking and stitching – the worst moments of my life.

Afterward, waiting to be picked up by school staff, I heard my name called. I turned and saw my mother, hands full of groceries, looking at me with huge, concerned eyes. I felt so safe.

I have no idea how she happened to be there, but she’s always managed to be there.  

After my father died, she moved in with me and my husband, Mark.

Two years ago, she suffered a stroke. She woke up, paranoid and delusional, as if in the midst of a psychological thriller.

She accused us of abusing our grownup kids and my brother's in-laws of cheating and stealing her money, of scheming to murder him. She thought she owned multiple houses. She told the stroke unit nurses how I tried to kill her by infusing poison into her skull.

Read Full Story
Volume 14, Issue 20, Posted 10:48 AM, 10.18.2022

My first colonoscopy: A tale of tiramisu and disappointment

Being a patient makes me a better doctor. But being a doctor does not make me a better patient.

For my 60th birthday, my family guilted me into booking a screening colonoscopy. My first, ever. Don’t judge me. Yes, I should’ve done it earlier, like when I was 45 as the guideline recommends. Because a colonoscopy is as much fun as filing back taxes, all I can say is – better late than never.

I picked colonoscopy instead of the easier annual stool cards, every-5-year sigmoidoscopy or colon scan, not for its excellent cancer detection rate but for its long interval between tests – 10 years.

Three months before the colonoscopy:

I called scheduling. The lady apologized that the next first-in-the-morning appointment was months away and scheduled it right after my birthday.

The next day, I picked up my gallon-jar bowel prep from the pharmacy and conveniently blocked it out of my mind. 

Read Full Story
Volume 14, Issue 19, Posted 11:27 AM, 10.04.2022

Can a polio vaccine give you polio?

The tip of an iceberg

In July, hell broke loose with the discovery of one locally acquired case of paralytic polio in a 25-year-old healthy but unvaccinated man in New York. So how can a single case of polio roil the public health sector – similar to or worse than 22,000 cases of monkeypox?

Background story

With an aggressive vaccine program, the U.S. eliminated polio in 1979. (Yup, I drew the graph.)   

Most people who are infected have no symptoms. Some suffer a few days of stomach flu-like illness. Only 1 in 200 to 2,000 develops paralysis. Experts estimate that for each case of paralysis, hundreds to thousands have been infected and just don’t know.

Read Full Story
Volume 14, Issue 18, Posted 9:31 AM, 09.20.2022

The positive side of the monkeypox crisis

About monkeypox, you can be concerned – curious even – but don’t lose sleep over it.

And good things can come out of a bad situation. Here are my three positive takes:

1. Few merits come with being older. But here’s one. If you’re 50 years old or over, you could be protected from the worst of monkeypox due to the smallpox vaccine.

Monkeypox is in the same family as smallpox. (By the way, they have nothing to do with chickenpox.) Data from Africa suggest most (85%) of those smallpox-vaccinated are protected or partially protected from monkeypox. We have no data from the current outbreak.

Read Full Story
Volume 14, Issue 16, Posted 9:54 AM, 08.16.2022

A secret to better transgender youth health

Janet was a Cleveland schoolteacher for decades. Now happily retired, she blogs about her rural life in Pennsylvania, quilt hearts, town council, surprise bear visits, and her three rescued barn cats. Given the transgender debate, she shares her stories.

Story #1: A self-portrait

I helped a first-grade boy with beginning reading in the late '90s. His parents told his teacher that he talked about wanting to be a girl. The teacher shared that with staff who worked with him so that we could support him if he needed us, but he didn't talk about his feelings at school.

For an art project, the art teacher traced each child’s full body outline, and the children colored their portraits with crayons. Afterward the classroom teacher wrote names on the portraits to hang them in the room.

Read Full Story
Volume 14, Issue 14, Posted 10:31 AM, 07.19.2022

Four must-know medical facts about abortion

A similar version of this column first appeared in the September 2021 issue of the Observer.

Overturning Roe v. Wade does not change medical facts.

Fact #1:

What does “you’re 6 weeks pregnant” mean?

Ohio has a 6-week abortion ban. You may think you have 6 weeks to plan after you miss your first period – WRONG. You have 2 weeks, at best.

Doctors date pregnancy starting the first day of your last actual period. Let’s say your periods are a perfect 28 days. The first day you miss your period – that is, the first time you’re clued in that you’re pregnant – you’re already 4 weeks pregnant.

Read Full Story
Volume 14, Issue 13, Posted 9:36 AM, 07.06.2022

'Tumor just vanished': Facts and hype

After months of bird flu, monkeypox, the never-ending COVID-19 omicron variants, we need great news:

“Small cancer drug trial sees tumors disappear in 100% of the patients,” Washington Post headlined.

“Rectal cancer drug trial of dostarlimab cures all patients,” Fox News.

“Tumor just vanished,” CNN.  

You’re excited, I’m excited, but I’m sure at the back of our heads, we’re all thinking: What’s the catch?

Here’s the big happy picture without the hype.

Read Full Story
Volume 14, Issue 12, Posted 10:01 AM, 06.21.2022

When vaccine scares more than smallpox

Pondering vaccine hesitancy, I thought, “If COVID-19 disfigured like smallpox, people would be more vaccine-inclined.”

Well, history proves me wrong.

Deadly, highly contagious, and mutilating, smallpox plagued mankind since prehistoric times.

In 18th century Europe, most were infected. Of those, 1/3 would die; many went blind.   

Between the 16th and 18th centuries, smallpox traveled with European settlers and decimated native populations in America and Africa.

Read Full Story
Volume 14, Issue 11, Posted 10:10 AM, 06.07.2022

Passing over some reasons you may be passing out

Years ago, a fluke happened.

I finished running on my treadmill. Feeling good, I decided to walk Rosie, my old German shepherd mix. At the end of the block, we ran into our neighbor Isla and her black Lab, Moose. We got talking – animatedly. After a while, I began to feel tsunamis of nausea and stomach pain.

Next thing I knew, I was staring at the great blue sky and wet dog noses.

I turned my head and saw another curiosity – in the distance, Isla was weaving and waving frantically in the middle of the street.

My first thought: She’s going to get herself killed.

Read Full Story
Volume 14, Issue 9, Posted 10:34 AM, 05.03.2022

Recognize the cancer troublemakers around us

We have trillions of cells in our body. They grow, multiply, and die following a strict genetic code. Damaged cells face three fates: repair, die, or get killed by our immune cells.   

Cancer starts with one or a few cells with damaged genetic materials. One reason we don’t get cancer daily: this cell needs to survive numerous rounds of mutations. Eventually it acquires the ability to evade our immunity and to multiply uncontrollably. The process is long and complicated. For example, from the time of infection, cervical cancer takes 10 to 30 years to develop.

Hereditary cancers are unusual (5% to 10% of all cancers are inherited). Most cancers develop because of environmental insults.

Read Full Story
Volume 14, Issue 8, Posted 9:26 AM, 04.19.2022

The cancer screen a few know

My friend Sharon, 72, was diagnosed with two cancers. The worse one was discovered by accident.

She has an abdominal tumor that began to bother her after decades of slow growth. As part of the workup, she got a total-body CT, which showed a suspicious spot on her lung.

A biopsy confirmed it was lung cancer. Because the cancer was small and limited to one area, she underwent surgical removal. We sighed with relief.

Unfortunately, at her one-year followup, more lung nodules appeared on CT. It seems the cancer had been more extensive. Her oncologist, who has a predilection for unadorned numbers, said, “You have a 25% chance of surviving 5 years.” Sharon said, “He can’t help himself.”

Read Full Story
Volume 14, Issue 7, Posted 10:56 AM, 04.05.2022

DIY COVID is here

Four months ago, Ela, 79, and her husband, Jake, 83, tested positive for COVID-19. A tough Polish lady who doesn’t like going to doctors, she waited. But when she passed out in the living room, her family was alarmed. Her daughter scrambled to find a clinic that was an hour away but could give them the monoclonal antibody infusion that day.

Jake got the infusion. But Ela was told, “Your oxygen is too low. It’s too late for the infusion treatment.” She was admitted to the hospital.

Hopefully soon, a new drug Paxlovid and a new Test and Treat Initiative will change this outcome. Paxlovid isn’t widely available yet, but it’s among the most effective of the four or five drugs that target early COVID-19 infections.

Read Full Story
Volume 14, Issue 6, Posted 10:39 AM, 03.15.2022

Biden's 'Moonshot' in the dark or reality?

On Feb. 2, 2022, President Biden “reignited” the Cancer Moonshot, a program he started in 2016, one year after he lost his son, Beau, to an aggressive brain tumor. The goal: Halve cancer deaths in 25 years. Is he, or the science, grounded in reality?

Maybe, but you and I need to lend a hand.

Here’s the current cancer landscape in the U.S.: About half of us (40%) will develop cancer in our lifetimes; of those diagnosed, half (20%) will die from it.

Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the U.S., behind heart disease.

Read Full Story
Volume 14, Issue 4, Posted 9:58 AM, 02.15.2022

Take another look at prediabetes

Last week, I did a glucose test on a 57-year-old patient because of urinary symptoms. The elevated number suggested she had diabetes. She wasn’t surprised. All her paternal aunts have diabetes. Until then, she was hoping she’d taken after her mom’s side of the family.

Later, I reviewed her old blood tests. A thought gnawed. While her previous glucose levels had been “normal,” they’d crept up into the prediabetic range. Had I told her that she was a prediabetic, could it delay her developing diabetes?

A sobering fact: Almost one in two Americans over the age 18 are either diabetic or prediabetic. Prediabetics make up 70% of that group. By the way, I’m talking about type 2 diabetes, or adult-onset diabetes, which is 90 to 95% of all diabetics.

Read Full Story
Volume 14, Issue 3, Posted 10:14 AM, 02.01.2022

Planting a New Year's resolution

Are you still sticking to your New Year’s resolution?

Kind of? Well, I last stepped on the scale three days ago. But you know what: Tomorrow is a new day. 

But may I suggest adding another one? One that will halve your risk of heart attack, mostly by lowering your blood pressure, cholesterol, sugar and reducing inflammation.

Studies suggest it may also reduce your risk of many cancers, especially colon, prostate, and breast. They, my friend, are currently among the top five causes of cancer deaths in the U.S. Many health effects like lowering blood pressure, glucose, cholesterol are apparent in days to weeks. I’m going to stop now because you get the point.

So what is this new New Year’s resolution? A plant-based diet.

Read Full Story
Volume 14, Issue 2, Posted 10:06 AM, 01.18.2022

VAERS: The angel is in the details

In the past year, I’ve learned to shut up and accept people’s refusal to be vaccinated – unless you’re my patient, then we still need to discuss it.

I respect:

“I don’t trust government (or health) bureaucrats.”

“Got COVID already.”

“I’m afraid of needles.”

“I’d like to wait a little longer to make sure.”

“COVID is like the flu.” (Umm, no.)

But there’s one alarming piece of misinformation that I’ve heard again and again – long before COVID-19 – that I must clarify:

“COVID-19 vaccines are linked to thousands of deaths. It’s reported on VAERS, a government site. And everybody knows vaccine reactions are grossly unreported.”

Read Full Story
Volume 13, Issue 23, Posted 10:34 AM, 12.07.2021

Is an aspirin a day right for you?

Last year, my younger brother turned 56, gained a few pounds. His blood pressure was up. Diabetes runs in our family. He started taking a baby aspirin a day because he read somewhere it’s good for his heart.

At the time, I thought nothing of it. What harm can a baby aspirin a day do? But after reading the draft of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force’s (USPSTF) new guidelines on aspirin, I’m having second thoughts.

For almost a century, cardiovascular disease, mostly heart attacks and strokes, has been the leading cause of deaths in the U.S. It accounts for one in three deaths.   

Those who suffer one event are at high risk of having a second one. Study after study showed that aspirin can significantly reduce the chance of a second heart attack or stroke. Aspirin works by reducing inflammation and, more importantly, impairing blood clot formation. It’s so effective that low-dose or baby aspirin (81 mg) works just fine.

Read Full Story
Volume 13, Issue 22, Posted 10:24 AM, 11.16.2021

Abortion talk for pro-life and pro-choice

It doesn’t matter where you sit on the spectrum of abortion. You do you, but we all need facts.

Last month, Texas began banning abortions after 6 weeks of pregnancy. Planned Parenthood estimates they turned away 85-90% of women mostly because they were too far along in their pregnancies. With abortion a 'hot topic' in the news lately, I thought I'd use this column to add a medical perspective to the discussion.

First, what does “you’re six weeks pregnant” mean?

Read Full Story
Volume 13, Issue 19, Posted 9:59 AM, 10.05.2021

Ivermectin: From dirt to Nobel Prize

Is it me or is the medical world upside down and sideways these days?

I can live with the “It’s a hard no on the vaccine.”

What bothers me: Muddy information from doctors. Recently, an Arkansas doctor headlined for giving jail prisoners (and himself and his family, apparently) a multi-drug cocktail including ivermectin, a deworming pill, to treat – and prevent – COVID-19.

He’s the tip of the iceberg. The CDC reports ivermectin prescriptions went from 3,600 per week pre-pandemic to “88,000 prescriptions in the week ending Aug. 13, 2021.”

I’m not here to trash talk ivermectin. Quite the opposite, ivermectin colors my world sky blue.

Read Full Story
Volume 13, Issue 17, Posted 10:43 AM, 09.08.2021

The buzz around a new weight-loss pill

I am (or should be) studying for my medical board recertification exam.

Instead of immersing myself in acid-base disorders, again, I’m learning:

  1. A mosquito’s mouthpiece has six needles.
  2. Cauliflower are actually flowers.
  3. Dr. Joseph Mercola, who's heavy on vitamins and light on facts and who's been warned multiple times by the FDA for his "unapproved and misbranded" products including COVID-19 treatment, makes a lot more money than any doctors I know.

But one newly FDA-approved, weight-loss drug – semaglutide (brand name Wegovy) – caught my attention.

I’ve read the studies and believe it has potential.

Read Full Story
Volume 13, Issue 16, Posted 10:13 AM, 08.17.2021

Part 3: It takes a village

This is the third article in a three-part series on harm reduction in drug overdoses.

The first time we saw Omi in the free clinic, she was in the throes of a heroin withdrawal. Her face was pale and sweaty; hands swollen and quivering. She was rocking gently – pampering waves of pain and nausea.

Her sister-in-law, who found her in Chicago the day before, was crying. “She’s family. She deserves another chance.”

Omi refused to go to the ER. I understood: There’s only so much the ER could do. Our clinic manager started calling drug rehab programs. On a Friday afternoon, everything was about to close.

Read Full Story
Volume 13, Issue 15, Posted 9:58 AM, 08.03.2021

Part Two: Meet the 'truck lady'

This is the second article in a three-part series on harm reduction in drug overdoses.

Omi, a 47-year-old heroin and cocaine addict, lived on the streets in Chicago for years. To survive, she had help.

Meet the “truck lady”

Melissa Hernandez, 39, born and raised in Chicago, describes her abusive childhood as “horrible, painful, and confusing.”

At age 12, she started using drugs, “just about everything.” Addled by drugs, abuse, and a bleak future, she couldn’t care whether she lived or died.

At 19, she had her son. She was shocked: “I can’t believe I can love somebody this much.” She quit drugs and never looked back.

Read Full Story
Volume 13, Issue 14, Posted 10:25 AM, 07.20.2021

Meet Omi

This is the first installment in a series of articles on harm reduction in drug overdoses.

Omi, as her family calls her, is a 47-year-old cocaine and heroin addict. She shares her story so you and I can understand and, hopefully, help her and others like her.

Her candor can be brutal: She stole, she robbed, she sold her body. “People whisper,” she said, and she wanted to tell her story her way.

An anything-but-routine gynecology visit

Weeks ago, at the clinic, my midwife colleague saw a new patient scheduled for a routine gynecology exam.

Alarmed, she called me in.

Read Full Story
Volume 13, Issue 13, Posted 10:28 AM, 07.06.2021

Worried about the new COVID-19 vaccines?

Two weeks ago, I got my first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. I felt bad, but for a different reason than you might think.

Today, we have effective vaccines targeting over 20 infections. Some infections can lead to cancer. Vaccines for HPV and Hepatitis B have significantly reduced the incidence of cervical cancer and liver cancer, respectively. So, yeah, I believe in vaccines.

But I’d be lying if I said I’m not worried about these new COVID-19 vaccines which seemed to have popped out overnight.  

Are they safe?

To alarm our immune system, older vaccines use weakened/dead viruses or part of the virus. The first two FDA-approved vaccines use a new technology. They deliver a sliver of genetic material that codes for just one protein – the spikes on the COVID-19 virus.

Read Full Story
Volume 13, Issue 2, Posted 10:01 AM, 01.19.2021

Bearers of the great pandemics

I once heard: Pandemics produce one thing reliably – amnesia.

Unless, of course, you are the bearer of the disease.

Bob, 67, was born in London, England. When he was 2½ years old, he contracted polio. The ordeal lasted a few weeks; back then all doctors could do was “wait and see … what muscles come back.” He survived, but his legs were partially paralyzed.

Read Full Story
Volume 12, Issue 24, Posted 9:54 AM, 12.15.2020

Going to a Christmas party? Calculate your own COVID-19 risk

Should you go to a Christmas party, meet friends for a drink, continue your yoga or kickboxing classes? There are online calculators, free and easy, that can estimate your COVID-19 risk.

For example, I swim at Lakewood High School with the O*H*I*O Masters Club. I’m trying to determine if it’s safe to continue swimming given the recent acceleration in COVID-19 cases.

Question #1: What’s my chance of encountering a COVID-19- infected person during my practice?

To determine that, I used an event risk assessment tool, designed by the Georgia Institute of Technology, at covid19risk.biosci.gatech.edu.

I answered two questions: crowd size and location. Voilà, in seconds, I found that in a group of 15 people, the probability that at least one person is infected with COVID-19 is 39% (data obtained 11/26/2020). The risk is not trivial.

Read Full Story
Volume 12, Issue 23, Posted 10:03 AM, 12.01.2020

A simple game plan to survive COVID-19

A recent headline: Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is 90% effective.

Well, maybe. It’s too early to tell based on a number released in the middle of a trial. The real news: Pfizer CEO profited by unloading $5.6 million of his own stock near its peak value – on the day of the announcement.

The real and better news: Not one, but several vaccines are close to being ready. Today over 100 vaccines are in the development pipeline.

However, “A vaccine is only a vaccine. It’s nothing until it’s a vaccination,” said Dr. Michael Osterholm, a renowned U.S. epidemiologist. Getting people vaccinated takes time.

Read Full Story
Volume 12, Issue 22, Posted 9:26 AM, 11.17.2020

COVID-19 virus does not want to kill me

Note to COVID-19 virus: It does you no good to kill your host – me. I die: you die.

So encountering the same virus, why do some people experience minimal symptoms while others end up on ventilators? The toll of an infection depends not only on the type of virus but also our immune response to it.  

Let’s watch a movie: "Alien 5: Invasion of SARS-CoV-2."

An innocent breath: Viruses land on airway cells via moist microscopic droplets. They enter the cells. Hypnotized by viral gene coding, the host cells mass-produce more viruses. Straight out of "Alien."

Read Full Story
Volume 12, Issue 20, Posted 10:25 AM, 10.20.2020

Talking to Kevin

Three years ago, Kevin, 58, was diagnosed with lymphoma. During a swim practice, he was suddenly out of breath. Tests showed blood clots in his lungs and pre-cancerous changes in his blood. Later that year, he woke up with banana-sized lymph nodes on his neck. The pre-cancerous blood had transformed to lymphoma. He underwent chemo; for two recurrences, a bone marrow transplant, then immunotherapy. The last treatment ended two months ago.

Through the ups and downs, he’s handled himself – and us (family, friends and acquaintances) with equanimity. I’m humbled by what I’ve learned from him.

On living with lymphoma:

Kevin: Maintaining normalcy is paramount.

He continued to work. Took his laptop to chemo. Distraction helps. The treatments tire him out, during and for weeks afterwards, but he shows up for swim practices. 

Read Full Story
Volume 12, Issue 19, Posted 9:54 AM, 10.06.2020

What Fauci can't tell you

Dr. Anthony Fauci, veteran director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, is one recommendation (we need to shut down—) away from POTUS’ dog house.

But I have no dog in the fight; I’ll tell you straight what Fauci can’t say.

1. How long will COVID-19 last?

Fauci: “Unclear.”

Me: Some experts predict another year or two. Others think it can become endemic like HIV and TB. The pandemic impacts each community differently. Our state has acted responsibly. I expect to wear a mask next year, but easier days are ahead.

Read Full Story
Volume 12, Issue 17, Posted 9:35 AM, 09.01.2020

Hepatitis C: A virus with a cure

In a Covid-19 world, many important health issues are carpeted.

One decidedly deserves more attention: Earlier this year, multiple expert groups including the CDC recommended screening all U.S. adults for – Hepatitis C virus (HCV).

HCV is a chronic, blood-borne liver disease and a leading cause of end-stage liver disease, liver transplant and liver cancer. About 1% of Americans have it; most have no symptoms and don’t know they have it. For example, in 2018, 3,621 new cases of HCV were reported to the CDC. But experts estimate the actual number was closer to 50,300.

Read Full Story
Volume 12, Issue 15, Posted 9:49 AM, 08.04.2020

And a tick visited my house

Last week I found a tick on the dog. Finally, a non-COVID-19 topic to discuss.

In Ohio, tickborne infections happen year-round; the first peak starts in June. We have a dozen different types. Three – the deer tick, the American dog tick, and the lone star tick – transmit human infections.

I’ll focus on the infamous deer tick, which causes Lyme disease among other infections. You’re doing great if you know the basics about the tick and the rash.

Read Full Story
Volume 12, Issue 13, Posted 10:08 AM, 07.07.2020

So you need the COVID-19 test?

Marc, age 22, developed a sore throat and dry cough. The next day, upon a friend’s suggestion, he did a drive-thru COVID-19 test at a local pharmacy. “Really easy,” he said.

He filled out a short online screening form, got an appointment within an hour. Before he left, he watched a video on do-it-yourself nose-swab. At the drive-thru, he was given a kit, swabbed himself and was done in minutes. The line was shorter than Popeye’s at dinner time.

Sponsored by the Family First Coronavirus Response Act, COVID-19 testing is free to Americans with or without insurance. Unlike hospitals and clinics, many drive-thru sites do not require a doctor’s referral.

Read Full Story
Volume 12, Issue 12, Posted 9:49 AM, 06.16.2020

What happened to non-COVID-19 emergencies?

In our medical teleconference, Gus, 46, said his glucose ran high. He was up several times at night to urinate. He needed insulin adjustment. Easy-peasy, we formulated a plan and were mighty pleased with ourselves.

Then he related an episode, by prefacing: “My wife said I must tell you this.” She, apparently, had been sitting quietly by the phone. Weeks ago, Gus experienced a sudden severe right arm pain that knocked him to the ground. The arm stayed numb for hours, and he’s been short of breath since.

I resisted an urge to shout, “Put your wife on the phone, Gus!” This could be anything from muscle spasm to heart attack. The first opportunity to do something had passed. Now we play catch up.

Read Full Story
Volume 12, Issue 9, Posted 9:43 AM, 05.05.2020

Confession of a COVID-19 virus

Call me SARS-CoV-2.

Short for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2. I’m responsible for the current pandemic: COVID-19 (Corona Virus Disease 2019). I plan to stay.

My animal hosts are bats and/or pangolins; my country of origin, China. Please don’t call me batty or Chinese. It’s neither funny nor productive.

I have hundreds of relatives, mostly in animal reservoirs. I’m the 7th one to infect humans. But it’s likely you’ve been infected by any of my four pesky, but mild-mannered cousins, who are major causes of common colds (5% to 30%).

Read Full Story
Volume 12, Issue 8, Posted 9:04 AM, 04.21.2020

No-panic approach to being coronavirus ready

People, take a deep breath, please.

Yes, there are confirmed cases of COVID-19, the coronavirus, in Cuyahoga County.

First, the most important message about respiratory infections: If you’re sick, stay home. Call your doctor if needed.

Currently, we have no treatment or vaccines for it.

I want to bring you up to speed on three important preventative measures.

Hand wash or sanitizer?

Hand washing, done properly and regularly, removes germs and chemicals very well.

If soap and water aren’t available, hand sanitizer (at least 60% alcohol) works for most microbes, including corona and flu viruses. Because alcohol kills by contact, make sure your hands are not too dirty or oily.

Read Full Story
Volume 12, Issue 6, Posted 11:49 AM, 03.10.2020

Sphynx versus sinuses

Rex, Sam’s hairless cat – excuse me, Sphynx – has a thing for coffee. His motto: I came, I saw, I spilled it. He soaks keyboards, knocks over furniture – not thought possible given his weight.

I saw him leap from the kitchen counter, bounce off an unsuspecting guest’s shoulder and land atop the cabinets.

Worshipped, he’s the official family screen saver, dinner conversation – “You won’t believe what the cat did today…” – and snuggler.

All’s well in Catsville, except one minor inconvenience: Sam’s cat allergy.

Read Full Story
Volume 12, Issue 5, Posted 10:05 AM, 03.03.2020

Beyond the keto diet

At 18, I did a diet that worked splendidly. I’ll share, but you’ll roll your eyes.

Dieting is our culture. One in two teenage girls tries dieting, including one-third with normal weight. Boys: one in four.

Dieting is also a necessity. Experts predict one in five teens today will be obese by age 35. Obesity affects 40 percent of adults.

The good news is structured diet and exercise can mitigate most complications associated with obesity.

The first question most people ask: Which diet works best?

Read Full Story
Volume 12, Issue 4, Posted 10:02 AM, 02.18.2020

Longevity as a choice

Walk in my shoes for a moment, please.

I’m a mother and a primary care physician. I aim to give my kids and my patients the best advice for living a long and healthy life.

When it comes to this job, I’m a winged unicorn of optimism. I believe an important fact: Experts estimate genetics contributes to 30% of our risk of early death.

That means longevity is a whopping 70%, you-can-make-it-happen modifiable. And the responsibility for making it happen falls on my right shoulder blade (yup, that’s where I feel the burn when things don’t work out).

Read Full Story
Volume 12, Issue 3, Posted 9:55 AM, 02.04.2020