Stolen Patient Records, Record-Breaking Flu (Abstract Science: Sept. 24-28)
Data breaches at healthcare provider sites are on the rise, powerful antibodies that control the HIV infection and a look at the record-breaking Flu virus of 2017-2018.
(Reuters Health News, 9/25/2018, Linda Carroll)
Identity theft is always a concern for individuals, but would you believe that your health data could put you at risk? A new report says health data breaches are on the rise. An analysis of attacks reported to the US Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of Civil Rights between January 2010 and December 2017—and published in the medical journal JAMA—finds that there were 2,149 such breaches in that period involving a stunning grand total of 176.4 million patient records. The most telling part of the study is where the hacks occurred. Although, nominally speaking, the largest number of breaches involved health care providers (doctors’ offices, etc), the kinds of attacks that led to the largest amount of stolen patient data happened at the health plan level. In fact, more than 60% of the breaches involving data that was stolen stemmed from health plans and, the authors note, the frequency and severity of breaches have been getting worse year after year.
(Science, 9/26/2018, Jon Cohen)
Anti-HIV drugs have prevented millions of early deaths from AIDS, but infected people must take the pills every day, for life. Now, two studies in small numbers of people show for the first time that infusions of two powerful anti-HIV antibodies can completely suppress the virus for several months. If the results pan out in larger studies, they could simplify treatment for people who have difficulty taking daily medication, reduce the risk of drug resistance emergence, and even help cut HIV transmission rates. In the first study, nine of the 11 people who stopped ARVs suppressed the virus to below standard tests’ detection levels for an average of 15 weeks before HIV rebounded. Analyses showed that the two people whose virus rebounded earliest had HIV variants that were resistant to both antibodies at the trial’s start. Intriguingly, two of the participants have remained off ARVs for a year without the virus rebounding. The antibodies performed less well in people who began with high levels of virus, but four of the seven participants did suppress HIV for about 3 months. The people who did not respond to infusions again at the outset had viruses that dodged the antibodies. The second trial involved seven people who were not on treatment and had relatively high levels of virus at the start. The antibodies performed less well, but four of the seven participants did suppress HIV for about 3 months
(Washington Post, 9/27/2018, Lena H. Sun)
Flu season is coming! Influenza killed about 80,000 people in the 2017-2018 season, according to figures released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Combined with hospitalizations, that total is more than any season influenza in decades. The previous high for a regular flu season, based on analyses dating back more than three decades, was 56,000 deaths. The CDC recommends that those 6 months and older get a flu vaccine before the end of October. It takes about two weeks for the body to produce a full immune response. Despite the dreadful season last year, overall vaccination coverage remained flat; as in previous years, less than half of the U.S. population was vaccinated. But most concerning to officials was the drop-in coverage among the youngest children — those under 5 — who are at highest risk for serious flu complications. This year also marks the 100th anniversary of the worst pandemic in human history, the Spanish flu that killed 50 million to 100 million people during the winter of 1918-1919.
--Compiled by Social Media Specialist Jillian Scola