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Am Fam Physician. 2004;69(10):2298

Data from a 2000 report prepared for the American Association of Suicidology show that the overall rate of suicide in the United States is 10.7 per 100,000 persons. According to Preventing Suicide, persons who are contemplating suicide can reach a trained crisis line worker 24 hours a day, seven days a week, by calling the National Hopeline Network (1-800-784-2433). The hotline network links crisis centers around the country, ensuring that all calls are answered in a timely manner and that callers receive assistance from a crisis center in their area. By this fall, the hotline’s network will be expanded to include more than 350 centers.

Although standard influenza vaccine was in short supply during the past flu season, 80 percent of a new nasal spray influenza vaccine (FluMist) was not used. In June 2003, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the nasal spray vaccine for use in healthy persons five to 49 years of age. The vaccine is made from live but weakened influenza viruses. According to an article in The New York Times, the manufacturer of the vaccine offered 250,000 doses free to states; however, state health departments asked for only 40,000 doses. Factors contributing to the lack of consumer demand included the high price (up to $150 per dose) charged by physicians distributing the vaccine.

Alcohol use is involved in 25 percent of crash-related deaths in passengers younger than 14 years, according to a data analysis summarized in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reviewed data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a census of motor vehicle crashes occurring on U.S. public roadways and resulting in the death of an occupant or nonoccupant within 30 days of the crash. A total of 9,622 child passengers died in motor vehicle crashes between 1997 and 2000; 2,335 were killed in crashes involving drinking drivers. Of the crash-related deaths, 1,624 involved at least one driver with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 g per dL or higher.

Fighting antibiotic resistance may take a little creativity, according to a news brief in American Medical News. When physicians in six Minnesota health plans believed that an antibiotic would not be helpful, they gave a “cold kit” to patients with upper respiratory infections or acute bronchitis. The kit contained over-the-counter medications (pain reliever, decongestant, cough syrup, cough lozenges), chicken soup, and a tea bag. Researchers found that in the three days after an office visit, the patients who received a cold kit were less likely to have an antibiotic prescription filled than were the patients who did not receive a kit. During the winter of 2000–2001, more than 30,000 cold kits were distributed as part of a campaign to educate the public about the appropriate use of antibiotics.

It’s the end of an era. Norman George Heatley, an English biochemist who played a pivotal role in the development of penicillin, died at the age of 92 on January 4, 2004. As reported in The Lancet, Heatley was the last survivor of a group of scientists who collaborated on the development of antibacterial agents subsequent to Alexander Fleming’s discovery of a penicillin-producing mold. Despite the shortage of raw materials during World War II, Heatley designed an assay for penicillin, devised a way to separate penicillin from its impurities, and conducted successful animal trials of penicillin. A paper detailing the success of penicillin trials in humans was published in The Lancet in August 1941.

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