Mary Pickett, M.D.

Mary Pickett, M.D., is is a Lecturer for Harvard Medical School and a Senior Medical Editor for Harvard Health Publications. She is also an associate professor at Oregon Health & Science University where she is a primary care doctor for adults. She supervises and educates residents in the field of Internal Medicine, for outpatient and hospital care.

Posts by Mary Pickett, M.D.

Mary Pickett, M.D.

Global cooperation needed to stop the spread of Ebola virus disease

The news and images out of West Africa, the center of an outbreak of deadly Ebola virus, are a bit scary. In the three countries affected by the outbreak —Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea — more than 1,300 people have been sickened by the virus and more than 700 have died. Liberia closed its borders in an effort to prevent the infection from spreading. Images of health workers in protective gear ministering to patients and disinfecting the dead flash across screens. The Peace Corps has pulled all of its volunteers out of the three countries, and U.S. health officials have issued a warning not to travel to this area. We live in an interconnected world in which air travel can spread contagious infection thousands of miles away in a few hours. The director-general of the World Health Organization has warned that this outbreak is moving faster than our efforts to control it and it comes with a high risk of spread to other countries. If Ebola does spread, containing the epidemic will take a level of cooperation on the part of the global public that we’ve never before needed.

Mary Pickett, M.D.

Few plan for long-term care though most will need it

Two of every three Americans who reach age 65 will at some point need long-term care for up to three years. Yet the majority of those age 40 and older have done “little or no planning” for how they might pay for long-term care when they get older. That’s a key finding from a new survey of 1,019 Americans over age 40 on the topic of long-term care. The survey was done by the Associated Press and NORC at the University of Chicago. Most people underestimate the cost of nursing home care (it averages $6,700 a month) and overestimate what Medicare will cover. And few people are setting aside money for long-term care even as most worry about key issues of aging such as memory loss or being a burden to family members. Without a crystal ball, it’s tricky to plan for the future. It’s easy to convince yourself that you or a partner won’t need long-term care. But the statistics suggest you should start planning now, even if your plan isn’t perfect.

Mary Pickett, M.D.

Limiting antibiotic use in farm animals will help reduce antibiotic resistance

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has ruled that farmers must limit the use of antibiotics called cephalosporins to prevent infections in seemingly healthy cows, pigs, chicken, and turkeys. According to the FDA, 24.6 million pounds of antibiotics are used each year in cattle, pigs, chickens, and turkeys purely for the sake of prevention. This practice has contributed to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which are a growing threat to human health. Doctors often prescribe cephalosporins to stop common infections such as pneumonia and urinary tract infections. They are also used before surgery. Unfortunately, more and more infections are resistant to cephalosporins. Doctors are being asked to prescribe antibiotics only when they are most needed. Farmers should do the same thing. Otherwise, antibiotics lose their power. Bacteria strains become drug-resistant. And people suffer.