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Avoiding hepatitis.


Avoiding Hepatitis

I was flying in a chartered plane the other day in which the only magazine rack on board was stocked with Playboy-type magazines. (I surmised that the customary clientele on this plane was male executives.) As I sorted through the stack looking for something to read, a Penthouse with George Burns and Vanessa Williams on the cover fell out, and I confess--I peeked at those now infamous pictures.

My reaction is that the medical profession needs to be doing a much better job of educating our young people who experiment with deviant methods of sexual gratification. Anything that involves oral-anal contact is inviting exposure to the hepatitis virus. For example, homosexual men have far more hepatitis than other groups in our society and should certainly be vaccinated against hepatitis B if they have not already been.

Do our young people, who are led to believe by the liberal press that "anything goes' in sexual practices, know that they are inviting a host of health disasters? Are they made aware of the threats to health posed by sex acts as portrayed by Vanessa Williams and her female partner? Do most young people know about the risk of contracting a whole catalog of sexually transmitted diseases including hepatitis B? Do they know of the need to vaccinate against this disease should they elect to follow these practices? And how about those who know about the shots but cannot afford the $100 to get them?

Of the sexually transmitted diseases, hepatitis B poses the most serious health hazard to society. It is passed from victims to the uninfected by deviant sexual relations, through needles shared by illicit drug users and through blood donated by carriers. Thus, hepatitis is spread beyond the homosexual and drug-user circles to innocent members of society. Not only a personal but a community and a world-wide health problem results. Hepatitis B is responsible for most cases of liver cancer, which on a world-wide basis kills more people then any other single form of cancer.

It appears that those getting hepatitis B may never fully recover. Approximately 1 to 3 percent of those contracting acute hepatitis go on to develop fulminant hepatitis and die. A more benign disease may go into relative remission, but it often does not go away entirely. From 5 to 10 percent of hepatitis-B victims become chronic carriers and can infect others for the rest of their lives.

A vaccine to prevent hepatitis B is available. It is rather expensive, but it is strongly urged for members of those groups in danger of developing the disease.

A whole generation is in need of an education program warning of the dangers of the "new' sexually transmitted diseases. Most of these diseases are incurable, which makes them more insidious than other venereal diseases. Perhaps it's time for society to take a stand against the portrayal of sexual practices that pose health threats to the rest of society.

A growing number of persons, predominantly women, are developing liver failure with no identifiable cause. These persons are diagnosed as having primary biliary cirrhosis or PBC. (See page 58.) Since the cause is not yet recognized, more research is urgently needed. Drugs such as transquilizers and birth-control pills have been suspected.

Mild Myasthenia Gravis

Dear Dr. SerVaas:

This is in response to the letter from Lois Harvey. For now, forget the cats! She is wondering if her daughter's muscular weakness could be an allergy to cats. I too am hypoglycemic. I, too, had some benefit from the diet, but was still plagued with the muscular weakness and fatigue until, mercifully, a doctor I went to about the hypoglycemia spotted the real cause and sent me to a doctor who is a specialist in myasthenia. (The Post published an excellent article on the subject last month, except that the mild form was not mentioned.) To make a long story short, after years of being branded as neurotic and depressed, I was diagnosed correctly as having the mild form of myasthenia gravis. She will very likely have a difficult time finding someone who will take her seriously and do the Tensilon test, but she should not stop until she does. One of my friends who suggested it to her doctor was told she could not have that. She wasn't rich enough! Well, I'm nowhere nearly as rich as Onassis either, but I have it. Although there is no connection between the two, my specialist, who has studied the disease for around 45 years, says the two diseases are often found in the same patient.

She should try to find a specialist in myasthenia, and will probably have to go to a large clinic. Next to that, a neurologist would probably be best.

I'll gladly correspond with the ladies if I can be of help.

Mildred N. McAnally Bourbonnais, Illinois

Sun Lovers

"Fry Now, Pay Later' is the headline for a slick ad with a glamorous bathing beauty sunning herself to a warm bronze in the tropical sun. The ad, commissioned by the American Cancer Society, is great but it probably won't discourage sun lovers. If you can't resist the sun spots in the wintertime, be informed about cover-up protection. Sun tan screens, dry-skin lotions and even make-up help protect the skin against the ravages of the sun's rays. Wear a hat!

Unsuspected Cancer

Dear Dr. SerVaas:

My husband, while under the care of a physician for adult-onset diabetes (age 62), became ill in February 1984, was operated on and was found to have an abdomen full of metastasized cancer. After chemotherapy and a brave, sweet struggle, he died July 30, 1984. Throught the trauma and agony of those five short months, we asked ourselves over and over--where were the warning signs of cancer? Where has research come up with answers? This is a man who in 72 years never smoked anything--could never afford anything alcoholic other than an occasional beer or highball! Never did anything to excess.

I would be interested to see The Saturday Evening Post do an occasional article on the rate of success of chemotherapy or cobalt or any method on the different types of cancer. Paul's cancer was adenocarcinoma. Are all seniors doomed to succumb to some type of cancer?

God help us all! Thank you for your excellent program and magazine!

Mrs. Norman Paul Johnson Sequim, Washington

Dear Mrs. Johnson:

It is true that our chances of getting cancer increase with each year as we grow older. The warning signs could be in the stool in the form of hidden blood and I'm sure you will want to do this test regularly yourself.

Eating a high-fiber diet protects against colon cancer. This has been established with good research and is now backed up by the National Cancer Institute. Concer of the colon and the rectum is the nation's No. 2 killer cancer. We're so sorry to learn that it struck your husband so unexpectedly.

Gas Attack

Dear Dr. SerVaas:

I have a few problems which I hope you can assist me in solving. I have been trying to increase my intake of fiber and have tried many of the various bean recipes in your publication. The trouble is the excessive flatulence which these products cause. Is there any natural remedy or method of preparation which can eliminate this problem?

I hope to hear from you in the near future and hope you can offer some solution. Thank you for disseminating the information which otherwise would not be available.

Edward J. Beck Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Dear Mr. Beck:

If you will drink at least eight cups of warm water daily you will have less gas. While we don't understand why, cold water doesn't relieve flatus as well. Try drinking citrus tea which is nothing more than a quarter of lime in hot water with some prune juice to sweeten. Don't drink tea or coffee to increase your water intake because they contain caffeine and xanthine. More exercise will help too. Don't add baking soda to your beans as you don't need the extra sodium.

Passing gas from the colon is not harmful to your health, it's just embarrassing for some. Better to ignore the flatus and eat the beans than suffer the real problem of a slightly smelly colostomy bag brought on by nice polite refined fiber-depleted wind-free bland diet.

Easier Home Testing For Hidden Blood

Unlike other tests for hidden blood, Helena Laboratories' new ColoScreen Self-Test (CS-T) eliminates the need for unpleasant handling of stool specimens. CS-T uses a chemical detector pad sandwiched between two sheets of biodegradable paper. To perform the test, the pad is floated in the toilet bowl following a bowel movement. If there is blood present, the test areas of the pad turn red. ColoScreen Self-Test's one-step testing makes messy sample and chemical handling obsolete. Test pad can be flushed in the toilet.

IUD Alert

Doctors throughout the country have been receiving recall notices on the Dalkon Shield intrauterine contraceptive devices. The Dalkon Shield was marketed between 1970 and 1974. In 1980 A.H. Robins, the manufacturer, recommended that the Dalkon Shield be removed from women who continued to use it; the Food and Drug Administration and other government agencies followed suit in 1983.

Substantial medical opinion holds that the continued use of the Dalkon Shield may pose a serious personal health hazard to users. Therefore, Robins is launching a national public-information program to alert women still using the devices to call their physicians or clinics for an appointment to have them removed.

The early IUDs were frequently expelled by the uterus. To counter this, the Dalkon Shield was designed. This device was not expelled so readily as other designs because of small barbs along the sides. These barbs, however, were the undoing of the device. Occasionally, they penetrated the uterine wall with a dire consequence--bacteria from the uterus entered the abdominal cavity. Peritonitis resulted and a few related deaths have been reported.

Robins is sponsoring television, newspaper and magazine advertising asking women who believe they may still be using the Dalkon Shield to call their physicians or clinics for an appointment. Robins will pay the customary fees charged for examination and removal of the device.

The Dalkon Shield, "crablike' in shape with fins on either side, has a single tail string attached to enable the inserter and user to determine proper placement and to provide a means of removal. The tail string, thicker than that used with other IUDs, is black in appearance and has a knot approximately three centimeters from its end. Other makes of IUDs have two strings on them. If you can feel two strings, you do not have a Dalkon Shield and no examination is needed.

If you had an IUD inserted in the 1970s, and it has a single string attached, chances are it is a Dalkon Shield. The Robins Company will pay for your examination and for the removal of the device. For this service, you may go to your own doctor.

Cat Call

Dear Dr. SerVaas:

This letter is in response to a letter to the editor in your November 1984 issue of The Saturday Evening Post by Lois Harvey, Merriam, Kansas, titled "A Weakness for Cats.'

Ms. Harvey erroneously referred to the muscle weakness Martina Navratilova experienced several years ago as an allergy to cats. In fact, she had contracted a disease from her cat called toxoplasmosis, a protozoan disease that is widespread in both the human and animal population. Fortunately, it generally does not cause severe illness in most cases but has the potential for causing abortion, birth defects and even death in rare cases.

Because the cat is the primary host for this disease, it is usually considered to be the main source of infection. Toxoplasmosis can also be contracted by eating rare meat that has not been heated to more than 151|F., by drinking unpasteurized milk or by handling soil contaminated with the organism.

Not all human ailments associated with animals are allergies, so tell your doctor if persistent symptoms occur.

John S. Baker, D.V.M. West Lafayette, Indiana


Dear Dr. SerVaas:

I would be interested in donating any or all of my organs at my death, even skin, bone, etc., for transplanting.

I have a granddaughter who is now awaiting a heart-lung transplant in northern California or Palo Alto. She has been accepted and now awaits a donor.

M. Hollingsworth Rowland Heights, California

Dear Mrs. Hollingsworth:

Your name has been entered on the computer at the SatEvePost Society. We have also entered the need for a heart-lung transplant for your granddaughter. All those willing to donate organs at the time of their death are encouraged to register at our exchange for Society members. Members needing organs are invited to register as well.

The promise of cyclosporin to prevent or retard rejection of transplants has created a great demand for organs. The lack of organs is the greatest problem for victims and for physicians waiting to do transplants. The Saturday Evening Post Society has a clearing house and computer space allotted so that all those willing to donate their organs at death can register with the Post. All those who now need an organ or expect to need an organ in the future should also register their needs as potential recipients. Availabilities and needs will be matched on the computer.

Photo: Hepatitis viruses are shed in stools. They are also found in semen and other body fluids. These viruses enter the body through blood transfusions and through the mouth from eating food and drink contaminated by feces or by deviant oral sexual contact. Illicit drug users are infected by sharing syringe needles. The cause of another liver disease, primary biliary cirrhosis, is unknown. (See page 58.)

Photo: We tried the ColoScreen Self-Test and found it did indeed detect the small amount of blood we had added to the water in the laboratory dish on the right. Dish on left contained clear water.

Photo: Anyone still using one of these Dalkon Shields should contact her physician immediately to have it removed.
COPYRIGHT 1985 Saturday Evening Post Society
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Copyright 1985 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:SerVaas, Cory
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Article Type:column
Date:Jan 1, 1985
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