National Public Health Week: A Healthier America Begins Today

This week is National Public Health Week (NPHW). The annual observance brings U.S. communities together to recognize the contributions of public health and highlight issues that are important to improving the public’s health. The theme for National Public Health Week (NPHW) 2012 — A Healthier America Begins Today: Join the Movement — addresses the issue of prevention and wellness.

National Public Health Week

New Common Cold Virus Variant Deadly

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that a new virulent strain of the common cold virus, adenovirus, has caused 10 deaths over the last 18 months [1]. The virus, identified as adenovirus serotype 14 (Ad14), is a rarely reported strain of adenovirus that can cause severe and even fatal respiratory illness. It’s unusual since adenoviruses typically cause non-lethal infections. According the the CDC report:

The cases described in this report are unusual because they suggest the emergence of a new and virulent Ad14 variant that has spread within the United States.


Indeed, between the months of March-June 2007, Ad14 caused at least 140 respiratory illnesses in three states; Oregon, Texas and Washington [1]. More than 50 of those patients were hospitalized, including 24 who were admitted to intensive care units. Nine of those patients died, most from severe pneumonia. People of all ages have been affected, including healthy young adults, typically the group least susceptible.

The Best Way to Stay Healthy and Avoid Getting Sick

The best way to stay healthy and avoid getting sick is to wash your hands. Some of the most recent scientific evidence comes from a study of hospital-acquired methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infection. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA or “staph”) is a bacteria that can enter the body through breaks in the skin and cause severe infections and even death, especially in people who are already sick. MRSA represents a major control problem in hospitals as it has developed a resistance to all penicillins, including methicillin and other narrow-spectrum beta-lactamase-resistant penicillin antibiotics [1]. Researchers concluded at the end of the study that hospitals could greatly limit the spread of MRSA through the use of increased barrier protection (gloves) by workers and more frequent hand washing [2].