Weekly Roundup 7.29.16

The lawn is a lovely shade of brown. What can one say after that? The hot, humid days always evoke for me very strong childhood memories when the days were long and the season far too short and time was spent by swimming pools and on long morning bike rides. And the season figures prominently into some of the news of the week as well because along with everything else, it is mosquito season.

  • FDA Asks Some Counties in Florida to Halt Blood Collection Due to Zika – Until recently it had appeared that the only cases of Zika in the continental U.S. had occurred among people who had traveled in areas where the virus has proliferated or due to sexual transmission. This week that changed. FDA announced this week that the agency was taking “important steps” with respect to Zika control by asking some specific counties in Florida to cease collecting blood donations until Zika measures could be put into place through the use of investigational testing or inactivation technologies. This came after Florida health officials announced that they were conducting an investigation into non-travel, non-sexually transmitted cases of Zika in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties suggesting the possibility of local transmission. This is a story to watch well beyond the boundaries of summer.
  • CMS Issues Star Rating System for Hospitals – Generally speaking, as patients, we blindly go to whatever hospital that is nearby. In some rural areas, there are few choices. We are little informed by anything other than the word of mouth experience of others, online reviews or opinions shaped by what we have read in the newspaper. Now CMS provides you with the ability to see not only the strengths and weaknesses of a particular hospital across multiple categories of assessment, but to compare hospitals in your vicinity vis a vis one another to see how they stack up. Having used it, let me assure you that the results can be quite eye-opening, particularly if you are in an area where your choices may be few. You can search by zip code or by specific hospital name. When you search, you don’t just get a little information – you get a lot across a spectrum. You can check it out here.
  • FDA Opens an Ear About HIV and Blood Donation – This week the agency announced that it was opening up a docket to accept public comment about blood donation and HIV. The existing policy came into scrutiny as a result of the tragic Orlando mass shooting that occurred in a gay bar in which scores of people were not only killed but many left wounded and in need of blood. The irony was noted widely that under existing FDA policy on blood donations and gay men, most would be barred from donating blood needed for transfusion purposes. The agency last updated its guidance on the topic in December 2015 to reconsider the total ban that existed to one that was time based. Now the agency will consider an approach that is based on individual risk assessment. Comments in the docket can be filed here, and as of this writing there have been 44.

That’s it for me this week folks. Have a wonderful weekend. August is coming!

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