Restricting Freedom, from Typhoid Mary to Covid-19

We are seeing a lot of pushback on government restrictions imposed to limit the spread of COVID-19. Many people refuse to wear masks or practice social distancing. Some claim that the disease has been conquered, pointing to improvement in survival rates, and manage to ignore the increasing number of new infections and hospitalizations. Some continue

Covid-19 in Children: A New Study Out of China

Children may be less likely to develop COVID-19, but they can get it too; and it may be more severe for infants. Reports on the new coronavirus disease COVID-19 have reassured us that children are less likely to be infected and are likely to have milder symptoms. An information page on the Seattle Children’s Hospital

Water Fluoridation: Public Health, Not Poison

I think we can all agree that “Look, Mom – no cavities!” is good news. But we continue to disagree about the best way to achieve that. Fluoridation of public water sources remains controversial as a public health measure despite the strong evidence that fluoride prevents tooth decay. Public debates can become quite heated, with

There’s No Vaccine for HIV/AIDS, But There’s Truvada

Science has made great strides in understanding, treating, and preventing HIV/AIDS. We can hope for an AIDS vaccine, but meanwhile there is a pill that can markedly reduce the risk of becoming infected. Truvada: a good alternative while we wait for an AIDS vaccine. Image taken from the NIAID flickr page with a Creative Commons license. The story of

Opioids: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Opium, a dried latex collected from the opium poppy, was the original “wonder drug.” It effectively relieved pain and had other medicinal effects – and incidentally produced euphoria and addiction. There is archaeological evidence that it was used as early as 5700 BC. It was the active ingredient in laudanum and paregoric. For decades, these

Ebola: Science Is Making Progress

Good news! Research on Ebola has identified a 100% effective vaccine and medications that produce a 90% survival rate. The Ebola virus There have been 24 outbreaks of Ebola virus disease (also known as Ebola hemorrhagic fever) in Africa since 1976. It spreads through contact with infected body fluids. Case fatality rates have ranged from

Science’s Triumph Over Infectious Disease Has a Downside

Book review: Plagues and the Paradox of Progress: Why the World Is Getting Healthier in Worrisome Ways, by Thomas J. Bollyky. MIT Press, Cambridge, 2018. ISBN 978-0-262-03844-4. 272 pages. $27.95 This book explains the history of infectious diseases and plagues and shows how science has worked to overcome them; the author, Thomas Bollyky, argues that the progress

Measles Was Gone, But It Came Back

Measles was eliminated from the United States in 2000. It could have stayed gone, but it didn’t. As of April 19, 626 cases had been reported to the CDC so far in 2019 in multiple states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New

The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment: A Fiasco with a Silver Lining

The Tuskegee syphilis experiment studied black men with advanced syphilis for 40 years. Patients were lied to and prevented from getting treatment. A black mark in the history of American medicine, it led to important reforms. The Tuskegee experiment was one of the most regrettable incidents in the history of medicine in the U.S. Conducted

Smoking Cessation

Smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease and death. There are effective pharmacological and non-pharmacological methods to help people stop smoking. Conventional medicine is often accused of ignoring prevention, just letting preventable diseases develop, and then only treating symptoms. And the Science-Based Medicine blog is often accused of ignoring the flaws of conventional medicine

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