The Top 10 Health Stories of 2006
Vaccines, Unsafe Food, Inhaled Insulin: WebMD Picks the Most Important Medical News of the Year
3. Shingles VaccineShingles Vaccine Cuts Agony of Aging
Until this year, a person who lived to be 85 had a 50-50 chance of getting
Shingles is the benign name for an extremely painful condition. It's caused
by reactivation of a virus called VZV -- better known as chickenpox
virus. One in five people who have had chickenpox will get shingles.
Chickenpox goes away, but VZV does not. It's a herpes virus that
hides out at the base of the nerves, waiting for the immune system to weaken
with age or immune-suppressing drugs. When this happens, a person gets painful
skin blisters -- or worse.
A third of shingles cases become the excruciating condition called
postherpetic neuralgia or PHN. When shingles affects the eye, it's called
ophthalmic zoster. Ophthalmic zoster may cause blindness as well as unrelenting
This year, the
. The CDC now recommends
for everyone age 60 and older.
, vaccination prevented shingles in more than half of
recipients. And those who did get shingles got far milder cases. Perhaps most
importantly, the shingles vaccine cuts PHN by two-thirds.
4. Food Safety Under Fire
Is the U.S. food-safety system faltering?
This year we've seen warnings of dangerous bacteria in foods that are
supposed to be good for you. The list includes
in spinach, , , botulism in carrot juice, and, at this writing, still
unidentified vegetables contaminated with in
There are some things you can do to . These include keeping foods
refrigerated, looking for signs of deterioration in bagged produce, buying
foods with the latest possible "sell-by" date, and tossing out foods
that are no longer fresh.
But some public health advocates say the outbreaks underscore
. Indeed, a May 2006 Harris poll found that 70% of Americans
have a negative opinion of the agency.
However, a December 2006 Gallup poll shows that while Americans are paying
more attention to food warnings and nutritional recommendations than five years
to ensure U.S. food safety.
5. Stents: Safe as We Thought?
Before this year, there seemed no end to the popularity of drug-coated
stents. Patients even demanded that their cardiologists use them to prop open
their clogged arteries.
Now, as 2006 draws to a close, an heart
carry their own risk of fatal
Drug-coated stents are the latest thing in the evolving treatment of blocked
arteries. But the stent story shows that solving one problem creates
First, there were bypass operations. These open surgeries take a blood
vessel from another part of the body and use it to bypass blockage in a heart