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Health News

August 15, 2016

By Mendy Hecht, Hamaspik Gazette

Another Musician Blows Hygiene

This time it was a proper British bagpiper, and it ended tragically.

But recent articles in USA Today and other outlets reported the death of a 61-year-old Liverpool man due to his bagpipes, which he played regularly—and whose moist, dark interior hosted a flourishing fungus colony that gave the unfortunate man the lung condition that did him in.

The condition, hypersensitivity pneumonitis, is caused by inflammation and scarring of the lungs caused by the immune system fighting off invaders.  In the man’s case of “bagpipe lung,” those invaders were the mold and yeast growing in his regularly uncleaned bagpipes.

It’s not the first time a horn or wind instrument made a musician really sick.  British bagpiper John Shone came close to losing his life from “bagpipe lung” three years ago.  And the Nov. 2010 Gazette reported on Scott Bean of Connecticut, whose 15 years of on-and-off symptoms were attributed to the fusarium mold flourishing in his trombone—which, once thoroughly cleaned, also gave him a clean bill of health.

Flu’s in the News

Regardless of the fact that it’s around this time of the year that national health authorities select the three strains of flu virus to be included in the coming year’s vaccine, flu’s in the news again.

A McMaster University study finds that last year’s nasal spray and needle injection versions of the flu vaccine produced equal levels of community immunity against the flu virus. 

According to the study, conducted on Hutterite religious communities in rural Canada, community members who had gotten the standard flu vaccine by needle injection were found to have a 5.2 percent rate of flu occurrence (meaning, 94.8 percent flu-free)—while those community members who had gotten the standard flu vaccine by FluMist nasal spray were found to have a 5.3 percent rate of flu occurrence (meaning, 94.7 percent flu-free).

The strength of the three-strain FluMist is significant because a CDC advisory committee had previously voted against recommending the updated four-strain FluMist for children in the upcoming 2016-2017 flu season. 

But that vote was largely influenced by the fact that in the last three flu seasons, the annual vaccines, especially the nasal-spray vaccines, offered little to no protection against the dominant H1N1 and H3N2 flu strains.

Novartis working on asthma pill

A pill-based medication called fevipiprant is under development by giant drugmaker Novatis.  The medication, which just completed a clinical trial at the University of Leicester (England), would ostensibly help people with asthma simply take a pill to treat and control their asthma.

People with the common respiratory disorder typically use spray-based inhalers to open up the constricted airways that are a primary symptom of asthma.

In the study, 61 participants with asthma were given fevipiprant or a placebo.  After 12 weeks, the study found that participants on fevipiprant had much lower levels not of asthma symptoms but of certain white blood cell markers that are associated with asthma symptoms.

Bigger and longer studies are needed to test fevipiprant’s long-term safety; meanwhile, the drug is years away from the market and, contrary to some publicity, is not the first asthma pill in 20 years—several tablet-based asthma drugs called leukotriene receptor antagonists already exist.