For nearly nine years, scientists inside the boxy brick Western Connecticut Health Network Research Center have been working to develop a more accurate test to diagnose the scourge of the Connecticut woods: Lyme disease. Lyme disease is carried by the tiny blacklegged tick, commonly known as a deer tick. When a blacklegged tick infected with Lyme bites a human, it can transmit a tiny microscopic organism, called a spirochete, that moves around the human body, evading easy detection. Researchers in Danbury have been trying to detect that spirochete, similar to those that cause syphilis and other diseases, in people’s blood. Pathology research scientist Donna Guralski powered up her microscope and computer recently to show the culprit: a fluorescent green corkscrew-shaped organism that twisted around the screen, just as it would burrow through a person’s blood vessel walls and into tissue.
When Clinton resident Austin Haughwout uploaded YouTube videos of his pistol and flamethrower-equipped drones last year, he triggered a national debate over the use of weaponized drones that is expected to result in new state legislation. Eight states, including Vermont and Maine, now have laws prohibiting or limiting the weaponization of drones, and Connecticut is expected to take up a similar ban in the next legislative session. A proposal in Connecticut to make it a felony to carry a weapon or an explosive in a drone was approved by the House during the 2016 legislative session, but the Senate failed to take action. “Hopefully, next year, we will get the legislation across the finish line,” said Rep. Stephen Dargan, D-West Haven, co-chair of the legislature’s Public Safety and Security Committee. Nationally, there were 632,068 drones registered as of December, according to Alison Duquette, a spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
Connecticut’s shift next month from weekly to “real-time” reporting of prescriptions for opioids and other controlled substances is an effective way to help stem opioid-related deaths, a new study suggests. Researchers from Vanderbilt University who analyzed states’ prescription drug monitoring programs – central databases that log controlled substances dispensed to patients — found that programs that were “updated with greater frequency” and that reported data for a broad range of drugs were associated with greater declines in opioid-related deaths. The study in the journal Health Affairs comes as Connecticut prepares to put a policy in place requiring that pharmacies report controlled substance (Schedule II to V) prescriptions “immediately,” or at least within 24 hours after they are dispensed, into the central database, known as the Connecticut Prescription Monitoring and Reporting System (CPMRS). The CPMRS, maintained by the Department of Consumer Protection, can be accessed by doctors and pharmacists to give them a complete picture of a patient’s medication use, including prescriptions by other providers. It also can be used by law enforcement officials to investigate physician prescribing.
A new report that identifies the most distinctive cause of injury death for each state, compared to national rates, has some findings that might be expected:
Seven states in Appalachia and the Southwest, for example, had unintentional firearms deaths roughly two to four times the national rate. Those states have high gun ownership rates and lack safe-storage laws. Three states – Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska – had as their most distinctive injury motor vehicle crashes involving passengers. Four safety provisions – primary seatbelt laws, mandatory key ignition locks for drunk drivers, booster seats, and nighttime driving restrictions for teens – are absent in Montana, while South Dakota and Nebraska have only one each. Connecticut had as its most distinctive cause of injury death “unintentional suffocation” – the only state with that outlier cause.
Connecticut slipped two spots, to sixth place, in an annual report on the nation’s health, with high scores on infectious disease prevention and immunizations, but relatively poor rankings on drug-related deaths and excessive drinking. The 2015 version of the longstanding America’s Health Rankings shows Connecticut remains among the top 10 healthiest states overall, behind Hawaii, Vermont, Massachusetts, Minnesota and New Hampshire, in that order. In 2014, Connecticut ranked fourth after Hawaii, Vermont and Massachusetts. The report, issued by the United Health Foundation, shows Connecticut fares well on measures such as obesity, occupational fatalities, health insurance access, and the incidence of infectious disease. It is among the 10 best-ranked states in terms of cancer deaths (seventh), premature death (third), availability of primary care physicians and dentists (sixth and fifth, respectively), and percent of children living in poverty (eighth).
As melanoma rates continue to rise nationally, particularly among young people, experts warn that skin cancer will become increasingly common unless community leaders and policy makers emphasize its prevention. More than 9,000 people nationwide die of melanoma each year, and the rate of new cases doubled between 1982 and 2011, according to a recent U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report. In 2011 alone, the most recent year for which CDC data is available, there were 65,000 cases diagnosed in the United States. In Connecticut, residents are diagnosed with skin cancer at the same rate as residents of Florida, CDC data shows. Outreach efforts and policy changes could prevent an estimated 21,000 new cases of melanoma each year, the CDC said.
If you’re a woman, Connecticut is not a bad place to be. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) released a report last month that examined the status of women by state. Overall, Minnesota was named the best place for women because of that state’s policies around issues such as reproductive rights, employment, poverty, and health. Three states – Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont – tied for second. Even better news?
The last time Congress passed any significant law protecting a woman’s reproductive rights, Bill Clinton was President. That was 1994, and in the interim, people who would colonize the U.S. womb –maybe make it the 51st state — have been busy. And people who disagree with that colonization have seemed strangely quiet. Some relief greets the news that Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal and others have introduced S. 1696, the Women’s Health Protection Act of 2013. If the legislation passes the Senate, which has no shot of being called for a House vote while Speaker John Boehner holds sway, it is an acknowledgement (finally) that women have the right to decide their reproductive destiny, and closing health clinics restricts that right.