Infectious diseases

Is hand sanitizer better at preventing the flu than soap and water?

John Ross, MD, FIDSA

Contributing Editor

In an eight-month study of toddlers in day care, researchers compared handwashing with soap and water to frequent and rigorous use of hand sanitizer. While the results were better for the hand sanitizer group, the study conditions may not reflect real-world hand hygiene.

Meningitis vaccines: What parents need to know

Claire McCarthy, MD

Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

Most people who get viral meningitis get better without treatment, but bacterial meningitis is much more serious, and can be fatal. Meningitis vaccines can help protect against the most common bacteria responsible; two are given in infancy, and the third should be given before adolescence.

Lyme disease: Resolving the “Lyme wars”

Most people who get Lyme disease recover after a course of antibiotics, but some patients continue to experience symptoms for months or even years. There is much controversy around post-treatment Lyme disease, particularly in how long patients should continue taking antibiotics.

Ticked off: America’s quiet epidemic of tickborne diseases

John Ross, MD, FIDSA

Contributing Editor

The number of annual cases of Lyme disease in the United States nearly doubled from 2004 to 2016 (and those are just the reported cases), but several other serious illnesses can be spread by ticks and mosquitoes.

PrEP: Protection against HIV in a pill?

Meera Sunder, MBBS, MRCOG

Contributing Editor

While there is still no cure for HIV, it has become much more treatable, and now PrEP offers a way to help prevent it. PrEP involves a medication that combines two antiretroviral drugs that, if taken daily, can prevent HIV infection.

4 things to know about ticks and Lyme

Claire McCarthy, MD

Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

It’s smart to be concerned about Lyme disease, but awareness of symptoms and taking some simple precautions when you or your family members spend time outdoors can help you avoid being bitten by ticks.

The bacterial horror of hot-air hand dryers

John Ross, MD, FIDSA

Contributing Editor

Researchers testing the dispersal of bacteria in public restrooms found that the hand dryers were picking up bacterial deposits, likely from aerosolized microbes caused by the flushing of uncovered toilets.

3 ways to help get more children immunized

Claire McCarthy, MD

Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

In order to increase the number of children who receive all the recommended vaccinations, greater effort must be made in providing health care access to all children, and doctors must understand the wide range of reasons for parents’ resistance to vaccines.

Celebrities get shingles, too

Robert H. Shmerling, MD

Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

Shingles is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox, though it can be dormant in a person for decades before flaring up suddenly. Not everyone who has had chickenpox will develop shingles, but it is more common in those who are older or who have a weakened immune system.

Vaccinations: More than just kid stuff

Robert H. Shmerling, MD

Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

Some people think that once they reach adulthood they no longer need any vaccinations, but this is not true. Besides an annual flu shot (which everyone should get), adults should get several other vaccinations, and depending on current guidelines, may need an occasional booster shot or a new vaccine.