Flu, cancer top 2015 health headlines
Posted December 30, 2015
Raleigh, N.C. — The year 2015 will be remembered for many events that reflect North Carolina and the nation's health concerns.
The past year began with big news about the final week of 2014: State health officials reported an early and unexpected peak in flu cases. By April, it led to about 200 flu-related deaths in the state – the majority of those deaths were people age 65 and older.
The high numbers are partly linked to a late mutation of the H3N2 strain, which meant the flu vaccine was only about 18 percent effective.
It hit work places and schools especially hard.
"Quite a few reports of schools that have had high levels of absenteeism to the point that they've had to dismiss school," said Dr. Zack Moore of the N.C. Division of Public Health.
However, it wasn't just flu numbers that were on the rise.
In September, "Trust for America's Health" reported that North Carolina ranked 24th among the states in adult obesity and 7th for obesity rates in 2- to 4-year-old kids in low income families.
That could increase the number of children who go on to develop high blood pressure, heart disease, kidney disease, cancer and diabetes if parents don't improve their children's diets and get them more physically active.
"It's far easier and far more effective to prevent overweight and obesity in our youngest than the alternative," said Jeff Levi, executive director for Trust for America's Health.
Another government report added a new urgency to efforts to raise awareness for autism.
The CDC once estimated that 1 out of 68 children born would develop autism spectrum disorder, but in October, new data showed it's as many as 1 out of 45 children.
In August, former President Jimmy Carter raised awareness for metastatic melanoma when he announced that it was the cause of tumors found in his liver and brain.
It was just this month that Carter announced good news after radiation and a new melanoma drug therapy, called Keytruda, cleared him of the cancer.
Last spring, Superior Court Judge Carl Fox also raised awareness and action for cancer, but his was a different type of cancer, myelodysplastic syndrome.
The announcement sparked a large bone marrow donor drive, not only to help him but also other African American's with blood cancers.
The best potential donor match for African Americans are others of the same race, yet African Americans only make up 7 percent of the donor registry.
By September, a suitable donor wasn't found, but Fox did receive a stem cell transplant at the North Carolina Cancer Hospital using umbilical cord blood.
He's now home recovering, with positive signs that his cancer is gone. His new immune system is working.