A killer cold? Even the healthy may be vulnerable

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    Dec 19, 2007 5:22 PM GMT
    A high school varsity athlete, a sturdy guy with a health history blissfully free of blips, 18-year-old Joseph Spencer had little reason to think anything was seriously wrong when he got sick last April.

    Doctors say Joseph Spencer could have died from adenovirus, a virus that usually just causes a cold.

    The vomiting, chills, fever -- "It must be the flu," he thought.

    Within hours, Spencer's fever was 104 degrees. Within days, he was in the intensive care unit at Providence Portland Medical Center in Oregon with full-blown pneumonia. Spencer's doctor was afraid this sturdy teenage boy was going to die.

    "His lungs had filled up with water, it was hard to get oxygen into him," explains Dr. David Gilbert, an infectious disease expert and Spencer's physician at Providence. "Things got so bad, I thought we were at risk of losing him."

    But as perplexing as what would make a hardy young man so sick -- so quickly -- was his diagnosis: adenovirus, the virus that usually causes nothing worse than a nasty cold.

    "In the past, we considered adenovirus a 98-pound weakling," says Dr. Dean Erdman, leader of the respiratory diagnostic program at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. "But adenovirus is causing severe disease and, in some cases, death in normal, healthy people."

    Read the rest of the artilce: http://www.cnn.com/2007/HEALTH/conditions/12/19/killer.cold/index.html
  • EricLA

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    Dec 20, 2007 1:09 AM GMT
    ACHOOOOOOOOO. Oops, sorry, I just sneezed all over this forum. Make sure to use your hand sanitizers folks!

    No criticism of you Caslon, I read this story, too, and I guess there's a reason to be concerned if you live in the affected area, but come on media! Isn't this just like Avian Flu, the Flesh Eating Virus, and any other similar medical story the media gloms onto and builds up bigger than it really is? Fear, fear, fear.

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    Dec 20, 2007 2:55 AM GMT
    Well, we dont know, do we. It is better to be forewarned and get yourself to the hospital if things take a turn for the worse, wouldnt you say?
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    Dec 20, 2007 3:23 AM GMT
    I think it's merely a sign of what's to come. Right now it is sensationalized by the media, sure, but the conditions are so right for a pandemic or some other mass extinction event.

    Look at the news stories like this and movies like (the most amazing) Children of Men and the new I Am Legend. It's like we know it's coming, like we're simply writing our future. Antibiotic abuse, drug resistance, genetic experimentation, pollution, chemicals, a global air travel network that allows people (and pathogens) to travel around the planet in very short order...

  • Dec 20, 2007 3:56 AM GMT
    Something like this is very rare, but when it happens, the news eats it up like a fire storm. You can be the healthiest person in the world but if you are predisposed (geneticlly) to something as simple as any of the andenoviridae or Epstein-Barr(mono, sometimes cancer) you're for the most part F*%Ked. Antibiotics only kill bacteria and the few antiviral drugs that are out there target only on species of virus.

    Best thing is to know what you are dealing with. Be educated in what you are hearing from the media and your health care workers.

    The worst thing (my opinion) are those hand sanatizers (sp?). Those were made for hospital workers or anyone working with infectious agents not for the general public. You need bacteria to be living on your skin and gut. Removing the normal flora is never a good thing and accually weakens your 1st line of defense from pathogens.

    Here's my 2 cents, i still have lots to learn yet.
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    Dec 20, 2007 4:00 AM GMT
    Isolated incidents like this happen all the time - it's just in the past they couldn't really be diagnosed.

    Interestingly, other serious viral infections have been notable for striking down young athletes, including the 1918 flu and the four-corners hanta virus. One clue to how this might be comes from recent studies on Avian flu.

    Each virus attacks a very specific tissue in the body, and this is determined by specific receptor molecules that the virus can bind to. (It's called "tissue tropism.") The receptor molecules for the avian flu are found in the upper respiratory tract of waterfowl, so it's easily spread among them. However, they're found only deep in the lungs of humans, which leads to two consequences:

    1) It's very difficult for this virus to infect humans. Only someone breathing very deeply - like an athlete - in a contaminated environment is likely to become infected. It would be very difficult to transmit between humans.

    2) Because the infection starts in the lower lung, it is immediately very serious and triggers a disproportionate, life-threatening immune response.

    The genes for these receptor molecules do get swapped around in the viruses, so it's possible for a virus with relatively low virulence to suddenly become deadly, but some additional mutation is needed to give it pandemic potential. The probability of this is exponentially smaller than the probability of a single mutation, but it seems to have happened in 1918.
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    Dec 20, 2007 4:02 AM GMT
    Wait, are the hand sanitizers really bad, Spartan Swimmer? I have been told that the soaps with antibiotics in them are bad, and I won't use them, because supposedly they foster bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics. But hand sanitizers are just alcohol in a gel solution. That doesn't seem any worse than washing your hands with normal soap, which we should all be doing pretty regularly in cold and flu season.

  • Dec 20, 2007 4:13 AM GMT
    The hand sanitizers are bad just like the soaps that are antibacterial. The gels being mostly alcohol kill everything (99.9%) where as the antibacterial soaps kill just as much but the difference is the ones that survive the antibacterial soaps are the bacterial that are resistant and their numbers will eventually out grow the non-resistant ones. Even that is perfectly fine UNTIL you get a cut and those bacteria get into your system.

    Not sure if any bacteria have become resistant to alcohol though, but for the when you use the gels, all the bacteria (have equal odds) that was on your hands can come back. But for both the gels and the soap (more for the hand sanitizers) leave your skin temporarily free of bacteria and in that time period, the possibility for a bacteria that is pathogenic to take up residence first and out grow the non-pathogenic ones increases.

  • Dec 20, 2007 4:18 AM GMT
    As for normal washing your hands with soap and water, most of us (including myself) don't wash or do it "right" to take away all the bacteria and viruses that are on our hands anyways but it still makes a difference.

    As for me, I don't mind getting a cold every now and then. Makes me realize how well our immune systems are at fighting off infections.
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    Dec 20, 2007 4:18 AM GMT
    Okay, you have convinced me. Thank you.
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    Dec 20, 2007 5:18 AM GMT
    and of course, eat really well so you have a well functioning immune system.
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    Dec 20, 2007 5:50 AM GMT
    Dont forget those of us who work in the food industry get it drilled into us about washing our hands so it does become habit.