Posts tagged ‘lake charles memorial’

Vaccine myth busters

*published: Oct. 27, 2009
Local doctors address patients’ reluctance about flu vaccinations

As swine flu vaccines slowly make their way to states, local doctors are addressing patients’ reluctance to get vaccinated.

One concern is that H1N1 vaccine is a live-virus vaccine.

Dr. Kevin Mocklin, medical director for Lake Charles Memorial Hospital, said the nasal flu mist contains an attenuated — or weakened — version of the virus.

“That plays a role in people’s fears, but the (Food and Drug Administration) has deemed this safe for children,” Mocklin said.

Another concern is over the preservative thimerosal, which contains trace amounts of mercury.

Dr. Carlos Choucino, an infectious disease specialist for Lake Charles Memorial and Moss Regional hospitals, said the preservative is necessary for multidose vials of the vaccine.

“There have always been concerns about the connection between mercury and autism in children,” Choucino said. “But the FDA reviewed data, and there was no conclusive evidence to make that connection.”

Choucino said the nasal mist is not designated for pregnant women because it may contain the preservative. This is also why pregnant women have priority with the flu shots, but not the nasal

Mocklin said no hospitals or health units know in advance what form of the vaccine they will receive.

The concept of swine flu parties — similar to chicken pox parties — has been addressed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, though no evidence has been found that such events have been held.

Spokesman Tom Skinner said the CDC has received a large number of calls and anecdotal evidence about such parties.

“I have not been asked that, but parents should keep in mind that not every sick child has swine flu,” Mocklin said. “So they would be exposing their child on a theory.”

A carry-over apprehension from the seasonal flu is the saying “I will get the virus from the (injectable) vaccine,” said Choucino.

“That is not possible because it is a dead virus,” he said. “The reaction may be to components in the shot.”

Choucino also said it takes 10 to 14 days after the shot for the body to develop immunity, so patients could be exposed and fall ill during that time.

Mocklin and Choucino said swine flu symptoms are mostly similar to those of the seasonal flu but that people should go to the hospital if they have a high fever for more than 24 hours.

“In children, we have seen the fever accompanied by diarrhea,” Choucino said.

He also said people with respiratory issues or liver and heart issues are more susceptible.

“The most important thing to do is try to prevent from ever getting the virus,” Choucino said. “And the best thing people can do is get the vaccine.”

Mocklin added people should get the vaccines for H1N1 and seasonal flu, because each vaccine only combats one strain.

“People should practice proper cough etiquette and use frequent hand washing, along with the vaccine,” Mocklin said. “And if you are sick, stay home.”

As of Oct. 21, Louisiana had received about 187,000 doses of the H1N1 vaccine, according to the state Department of Health and Hospitals.

Additional shipments are expected every five to 10 days for the next two to three months, according to a DHH news release issued Monday.


October 27, 2009 at 9:34 am Leave a comment

Experts: Parents must help stop underage drinking

*published Oct. 11, 2009

Authorities and psychiatrists say letting children and teens drink alcohol only increases long-term risks.

Homecomings, proms and graduations are annual events often accompanied by parties.

At those times, parents often rationalize allowing their teenagers to consume alcohol.

“Parents have a million reasons,” said Mary Kaye Allemond, program director for the Calcasieu Parish Office of Juvenile Justice Services. “Parents think, ‘they are going to drink anyway, so I might as well let them drink in my house,’ or ‘it’s a rite of passage, everyone drinks in Louisiana.”’

Allemond and health officials said most parents don’t realize the damage that is done when a teenager drinks.

“I always have to explain the medical side to parents who think the legal drinking age should be 18,” said Allemond, who has teenage children.

Psychiatrists at Lake Charles Memorial Hospital said drinking at an early age not only interrupts brain development, but may destroy areas of the brain that, if developed, would prevent a person from becoming addicted later in life.

“Between 14 and 20 years old is when all of the neuron connections are developing very quickly,” said Dr. Sreelatha Pulakhandam, who specialized in pediatric psychiatry.

The hippocampus and prefrontal cortex parts of the brain control memory and behavior.

“If both of those parts of the brain are smaller, it sets the teenager up to be behind on everything for the rest of their lives,” Pulakhandam said.

Pulakhandam laid out an ominous cycle: A weak memory affects learning ability. This would be exasperated by sleep deprivation caused by drinking. Peer pressure pushes the teenagers not only to drink, but drink large amounts.

“The chances of high-risk behavior, like unsafe driving, unprotected sex, are much higher while drinking,” Pulakhandam said.

Pulakhandam said the chances of suicide and depression also increase.

The Louisiana Caring Communities Youth Survey 2008 results show a steady increase in alcohol use by teenagers. The survey, conducted every two years, anonymously polls students in sixth, eighth, 10th and 12th grades about drug and alcohol use.

Calcasieu Parish results

When students were asked if they had an alcoholic beverage in the past 30 days, 9.3 percent of sixth-graders said yes, and the numbers steadily increased with age. For eighth graders, it was 26.1 percent; for 10th graders, 41.4 percent; and for 12 graders, 50.7-percent.

“With Louisiana culture, just about everything we do is targeted around alcohol,” said Allemond. “We drink at crawfish boils, barbecues, sporting events. So parents think it’s no big deal if the kids have a sip.”

Allemond said the Office of Juvenile Justice is focusing on changing attitudes by letting people know that what’s considered normal is actually hazardous for teenagers’ health.

When students were asked if they had been binge drinking in the past two weeks, 4.8 percent of sixth-graders said yes. And the answer was yes for 13.1 percent of eighth graders, 19.9 percent of 10th graders and 29 percent of 12th graders.

The survey defines binge drinking as having five or more alcoholic drinks in a row.

Allemond said parents have openly discussed providing alcohol at teenage parties in their homes, saying they feel they are helping keep them safe.

“I tell them all of the time, at these parties teenagers don’t have one beer. They are drinking as much as possible,” Allemond said. “Kids think they’re invinsible anyway. What are they going to think when we condone this?”

Focus on parents

Dr. Misty Kelly, director of psychiatric services at Lake Charles Memorial, said along with changing cultural norms, there are a lot of parenting issues to fix.

“In our in-patient program, we see a lot of children who start drinking to cope with family conflict or stresses in the home and at school,” Kelly said.

“A lot of parents are naïve, and they are not actively involved in their children’s lives or who they hang out with,” Kelly said. “The kids are pushed out, independent, and the parents are just busy with their own lives.”

A study by the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation estimated that underage drinking cost the residents of Louisiana $1.1 billion in 2005.

Those costs included $312.1 million on youth traffic crashes, $107.7 million on the outcomes of high-risk sex for people ages 14 to 20 and $21.6 million on fetal alcohol syndrome among mothers ages 15 to 20.

The Institute estimated that in 2005, underage drinkers consumed 14.7 percent of all alcohol sold in Louisiana, or about $305 million in sales.

Local law enforcers have said they do not have the manpower for patrols targeting underage drinking, but they encourage students and parents to report parties or places where juveniles are allowed to drink.

The main state criminal charge an adult could face for serving alcohol or drugs to someone under the age of 17 is contributing to the delinquency of juveniles.

The Office of Juvenile Justice is working on a grant that authorities could use to fund law enforcement patrols.


October 11, 2009 at 9:54 pm Leave a comment

Doctor’s orders

Boustany: Focus on your patients
*published June 30, 2009

At a Monday night commencement at the Lake Charles Country Club, U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany, RLafayette, encouraged graduating medical residents to focus on the doctor-patient relationship.

“Patients must be able to develop and openly communicate with their doctor,” Boustany, a cardiovascular surgeon, said. “That relationship is how preventable diseases like diabetes and hypertension can be controlled.”

Boustany said the better you know your patients, the easier it is to follow up and make sure they are following health recommendations.

Of the eight graduates of the LSU Family Medicine Residency Program, seven will remain in Louisiana. The LSU Health Science Centers focus on rural health.

Jeffrey Combetta, the chief resident, said he plans to stay in family medicine because he found it rewarding during his residency.

“You really get to know the people you are working with, and everyone knows your name,” Combetta said. He will work in Winnsboro.

Pearre Davenport said he originally planned to be a surgeon.

“I came here because of the good things I heard from other friends who went through the program,” Davenport said. “But I fell in love with the people and the area and it grew on me.”

Davenport, a San Diego native, will work in DeRidder.

Mayor Randy Roach talked about how the residency program has helped the area.

“Our area leads the state in uncompensated care,” he said. “So the residents really help improve the quality of health care in this area.”

“LSU has begun offering free tuition to students who agree to practice in rural areas,” Boustany said. “I believe that will help our state begin to improve the quality of primary care.”

The money needed for the residency training program at Lake Charles Memorial Hospital was restored in the state’s budget last Thursday.

The $500,000 needed for the program was among the projects outlined in House Bill 881, a supplemental spending bill.

Sen. Willie Mount, D-Lake Charles, told the American Press that the $500,000 will be recurring in the budget.

Boustany ended his speech by encouraging the doctors to stay grounded and take time to be with family and friends.

“I encourage you to become involved in your communities,” Boustany said. “To truly understand your patients and the illnesses you will be asked to treat, you must venture outside the office.”

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June 30, 2009 at 1:54 am Leave a comment