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ALLERGIES & AGING

1 out of 10 Americans have a food allergy.

A new study shows a surprising number of sufferers developed reactions as adults.

(and a lot of us *believe* we have a food allergy when we really don’t)
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FOOD ALLERGY 101

  • More than 160 foods cause allergic reactions.
  • Food allergies are an immune system response. They can be managed by avoiding the allergen, but NEVER cured.
  • Symptoms range from mild (hives) to life-threatening (anaphylaxis).
  • Approx. 5% of U.S. children have a food allergy vs. approx. 10% of adults (26M).
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About The Study

Northwestern University scientists surveyed 40K American adults over a 2-year period. The findings:

  • Approx. 50% of adults with a food allergy developed it later in life. 
  • Adult-onset food allergies were equally common in those with & without a childhood food allergy.
  • Only half of adults with a “food allergy” had an official diagnosis.
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Allergy v. Intolerance

According to Dr. Ruchi Gupta, one of the study’s co-authors, nearly 1 out of 5 American adults *believe* they have a food allergy; they most likely have a food sensitivity or intolerance.

Why do allergies start in adulthood? No one knows.

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Most Common Food Allergies in America

  • Shellfish (ex: shrimp, lobster, crab)
  • Milk
  • Peanuts
  • Tree Nuts (ex: cashews, walnuts)
  • Fin Fish (ex: tuna, salmon, halibut)
  • Eggs
  • Wheat
  • Soy
  • Sesame
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Of the 26 million U.S. adult with a food allergy, 12 million developed the allergy as adults. The most common adult-onset food allergies are shellfish, soy, tree nut & fin fish (halibut, salmon). Read about a new drug that might protect those with peanut allergies.

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“DRY JANUARY”

(we’re not talkin’ about the weather)

 

Why not drinking alcohol for the first month of the year is a trend & why some say it *could* reset your body for the entire year.

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“Dry January” – Backstory

  • “Dry January” has existed for yrs. A charity made it mainstream.
  • Promoting healthy drinking habits in the UK, Alcohol Change UK, officially started a “Dry January” campaign in 2013, inspired by an employee who stopped drinking in January to prep for a marathon.
  • Alcohol Change UK claims the campaign grew from 4,000 to 4M participants in 2018.
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Does Dry January “Reset” Your Body?

*Limited* research says yes.
More research is needed.

A study of 816 people who didn’t drink in January 2018 (but resumed drinking after) said 6+ months later they still felt the positive effects –  they had lost weight, slept better & drank less than before their
“Dry January” experience.

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“Dry January is a good concept because it makes us more mindful…. I like to say, as goes January, so goes the rest of the year, I think it comes down to more balance, doing things in balance, rather than going overboard.”

Dr. Roy Buchinsky, University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center. Some doctors feel the sudden elimination of alcohol is extreme, doesn't promote a healthy relationship with alcohol, & leads to a rebound effect later.
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For those who regularly drink heavily, suddenly eliminating alcohol can cause serious and potentially dangerous,withdrawal symptoms. But research shows it can also lead to better sleep & mood (removing a depressant that adds to winter blues).

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Universal Cancer Test?

A medical breakthrough may screen you for cancer in only
10 minutes.

It wouldn’t be able to detect where the cancer is or its severity, but it may offer cheap & fast info.

 

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How It Works

  • Blood test detects the presence of cancer cells in the body with 90% accuracy.
  • Australian researchers discovered cancerous DNA changes color when mixed with a liquid containing metal (gold nanoparticles, in this case.)
  • 10 minutes for results.
  • Not tested on humans yet. Clinical trials still needed.
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Why It Matters

  • Inexpensive, quick diagnosis: currently cancer tests require a doctor to do a biopsy of a tumor, typically requires a patient noticing a lump or symptom. Results take about a week.
  • “Instant results” health trend: development is the latest in a series of testing for HIV, strep throat, or even heart attack with results in 30 minutes or less.

 

 

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“There’s been an enormous push to advance this kind of testing, since the ability to both obtain the sample and get the results quickly shortens time to diagnosis and time to treatment, allowing for  treatment updates and changes in real time, while the patient is still in front of the physician.”

Dr. Darria Long Gillespie to SmartHER News
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Both the study's researchers & its critics warn its too early to call this a "holy grail" cancer test. One UCLA researcher warns he's more concerned with possible false positives, while others are troubled by those whose cancer the test didn't detect.

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The Power of Charcoal

The beauty world’s new “it” ingredient – ridding your body of toxins & impurities.

Could activated charcoal do the same for your insides? And is it safe?

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Wait, Eating Charcoal?

  • Activated charcoal (or activated carbon) is a black, odorless powder made by heating charcoal under extreme temps, creates “pores” to “trap” chemicals. 
  • Benefits claimed: prevents gas, bloating, & hangovers.
  • Potential Risks: vomiting, diarrhea or constipation.
  • As supplements, charcoal pills are NOT regulated by the FDA.
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It’s Actually Not New

Emergency rooms use activated charcoal powder to treat some oral poisoning and drug overdoses. Typically given orally in a highly-concentrated form mixed with water – not a pill.

As a natural beauty product, ancient Egyptians reportedly called it “black magic” for its many uses (medicinal & for ink).

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So How Does It Work?

  • Once swallowed, it binds to the chemical or toxin in the stomach so the body can’t absorb it.
  • BUT… while ER effectiveness is proven, there are conflicting results on its ability to relieve gas or bloating.
  • No studies support its use for other afflictions, like hangovers or high cholesterol.
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Despite mixed results on its effectiveness as a supplement, it has taken off over the past year as a beauty aid. The global market for activated charcoal is expected to double by 2022 creating a $6.2 billion industry. As always, best to consult your doctor.

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CALL ME (MAYBE)

The most comprehensive study on a topic that’s played to our greatest fear for years.

Does the radiation from your cell phone cause cancer?

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The Study

  • 10-year study by the National Institutes for Health’s National Toxicology Program.
  • Rodents (rats/mice) were exposed to varying levels of radio frequency radiation (the same radiation used by certain cell phones) for 9 hrs a day for 2 yrs.
  • Lowest radiation exposure was equal to our cell phones; highest was 4x legal amount for humans.
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RESULTS:

“… clear evidence that male rats exposed to high levels of radio frequency radiation (RFR) like that used in 2G and 3G cell phones developed cancerous heart tumors.”

Researchers say they believe the link between radiation & tumors is “real“, however, they also admit that results are not the same for female rats, or male/female mice.

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“In our studies, rats and mice received radio frequency radiation across their whole bodies. By contrast, people are mostly exposed in specific local tissues close to where they hold the phone.”

John Bucher, Ph.D., NTP senior scientist of study explaining one reason why the study can't be applied directly to humans, but also why more research is needed.
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“An important lesson that should be learned from the NTP studies is that we can no longer assume that any current or future wireless technology, including 5G, is safe without adequate testing.”

Dr. Ronald Melnick who says the FDA's response to the study is inadequate. The FDA disagrees with conclusion that there is "clear evidence" of a link between radio frequency radiation & tumors. Melnick says rodents weren't exposed to radiation that much higher than humans on cell phones.
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Researchers say their results do NOT apply to 4G - 5G networks expected to debut over the next few years. According to one research firm, Americans check their phone on average of every 12 min and look at our phone at least 80 times / day. Tips to reduce your exposure:

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Breathing The Burn

As the wildfires continue to rage in California, the state suffers from some of the worst air quality in the world.

Why it matters & what to know about air quality.

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What Is “Air Quality”?

  • Who: The EPA measures it by using the Air Quality Index or “API” that ranges from 0 – 500.
  • How: Calculates 5 factors: ground-level ozone, particle pollution, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, & nitrogen dioxide.
  • Why It Matters: “Healthy” air quality is around 50. Areas in CA have measured higher than 200 (“very unhealthy” for everyone).

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“Very little of the smoke is leaving the state.”

National Weather Service meteorologist Drew Peterson explaining why the air quality is so bad in the Bay Area, 200 miles from the deadliest fire in California history. The smoke is getting "trapped", only exiting through a sliver of opening near San Francisco's Golden Gate.
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Why It Matters:

  • The super tiny particles in the air from the wildfires can irritate our eyes & lungs, but also pass into our blood stream leading to internal inflammation. Scientists are unsure about all effects of long-term exposure.
  • One report says breathing in particles from the wildfires is equal to smoking 10 cigarettes a day (Quartz).

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Something To Consider

Many Californians are encouraged to not spend a lot of time outside, and if they do, to wear masks.

Not all masks are created equal.

Bandanas, surgical masks do not block particles; only respirator masks (ex: N95, R99 or P100) are designed to protect against at least 95% of airborne particles.

 

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Several of the deadly California wildfires are still not contained. Fires have caused school closures, rescheduling of outside sporting events, and impacted air quality in Oregon. Want to check your air quality? Enter you zip code at airnow.gov (link on source page).

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Hands-Off Cold Season?

Kids get 6 to 8 colds a year.

New research now says the best medicine for a child’s common cold?
Nearly nothing at all.

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The Basics:

  • British Medical Journal review.
  • Researchers weighed risks and effectiveness of over-the-counter medicines for adults and children.
  • Conclusions: Children showed no clear improvement from ANY medications (or alternative treatments like honey or Vitamin C) except for “saline nasal irrigation.”
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“The bottom line is that for all of the over-the-counter cough and cold medications, there is limited to no evidence of efficacy for any cold symptoms, particularly in those under 6 years.”

Dr. Ian Paul, professor of pediatrics at Penn State College of Medicine, reacting to the research. Since 2007 he's studied cold treatments for children and his research showed that a dose of “buckwheat honey" 30 minutes before bed, often had the best results for children (and their parents).
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How Do You Know When A Cold Is A Cold?

“A common cold tends to have symptoms from neck up.”

Dr. Darria, MD, Mom & Author of the upcoming book "Mom Hacks" says "If your child has a really high fever, if they're acting lethargic, if they have significant pain in any one spot (sore throat, ear pain), those suggest something more than a common cold."
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SmartHER Tips

What Dr. Darria Does:

  • Nasal saline rinse & suction.
  • A teaspoon of honey (for children over a year old) at bedtime.
  • Cold mist humidifier.
  • Breathing cold air (outside or from the freezer) can help reduce swelling & soothe children.
  • Treat fever as needed (Acetaminophen or Ibuprofen).
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Adults get on avg. 2 to 4 colds a year & the British Medical Journal review showed adults benefited *somewhat* from antihistamines & decongestants. Check out our source page for a very cool graphic by the British Medical Journal that shows what works and what doesn’t

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LLAMA LLAMA

 

 

The star of a famous children’s book may provide life-saving antibodies to protect us against the flu.  Why llamas may be just what the doctor ordered.

 

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Breaking It Down

  • The flu vaccine prompts our body to create antibodies to attack the flu virus.
  • Currently the flu vaccine targets specific flu strains. But flu strains mutate often & sometimes the vaccines don’t match the most aggressive strains of the season.
  • The Goal: A universal vaccine that can target many flu strains at one time, giving us more protection.
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New Research

  • Gave llamas the flu vaccine
  • Collected antibodies llamas produced
  • Combined the llama antibodies into a “mega” antibody capable of recognizing many different flu strains
  • Sprayed the llama antibodies into mice through their nose and the mice did NOT get flu
  • Goal: Do the same for humans.
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“This approach is similar to antivenom.”

Ted Ross, University of Georgia’s Center for Vaccines & Immunology who cautioned the human immune system may actually attack the llama antibodies instead of using them to protect against the flu. Researchers believe humans might need to get several doses of the antibodies to be protected, raising concerns about whether or not we would build up immunity to the antibodies.
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In The Meantime…

“Getting your flu shot, avoiding touching public surfaces (think elevator buttons, stairwell railings), and washing your hands frequently is the best way to stay safe – and what I’m doing!”

Dr. Darria Long Gillespie, ER doctor & author of upcoming book "Mom Hacks." Reminder: The flu vaccine, on average, is about 45% effective.
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Why use llamas? Their antibodies are particularly small and easy to latch onto viruses like the flu. Meantime, 120 Americans are participating in a study to see if a vaccine that prompts the body to fight a variety of flu strains is ultimately effective.

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Halloween Fear Factor

 

 

 

A day devoted to being frightened, but WHY does our brain *like* to be scared?

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New Scare Study Findings

  • Surveyed those *voluntarily* visiting an “extreme” haunted house.
  • Afterwards, about half reported being in a better mood.
  • Those who wore brain sensors had decreased brain activity, suggesting “being scared interrupts their thinking.”
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Why It Matters

That interruption in thinking may mean people were processing info more efficiently or that they were in a relaxed “zen” state.

Important to note: this research is for *voluntarily* scary situations and one where there was no real threat to begin with.

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“It is a reprioritizing of energy, of focus into the body. You’re grounded, not being caught up in thinking.”

Margie Kerr, a sociologist at the University of Pittsburgh and co-author of the study, likening the feeling to a runner's experience in which you push yourself and then feel-good endorphins rush through the body.
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Science: Control is Key

Our “thinking” brain communicates with our “emotional” brain when we are in a safe space, changing our feeling from fear to enjoyment (i.e. seeing a lion at the zoo vs. a lion in wild.)

If we are able to overcome the initial “fight or flight” rush, we feel satisfied and more confident to confront things that initially scared us.

 

 

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Why do some loved to be scared & others hate it? Science says if the "emotional" brain is too frightened it makes "thinking" brain feel helpless (not fun). Conversely, if the "emotional brain" is bored & "thinking" brain is too overpowering, scary experiences might not be enjoyable.

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REVEALING A SECRET

 

 

A well-known Hollywood actress just came forward as one of the 2.3M people living with MS worldwide. Women are 2 to 3 times more likely to be diagnosed.

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“I have #multiplesclerosis. I am in an exacerbation. By the grace of the lord, and will power and the understanding producers at Netflix, I have a job. A wonderful job. I am disabled. I fall sometimes. I drop things. My memory is foggy. And my left side is asking for directions from a broken gps…. I don’t know exactly what I will do precisely but I will do my best.”

Actress Selma Blair revealing she was recently diagnosed with MS.
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WHAT IS MS?

“In MS, the immune system attacks the protective sheath (myelin) that covers nerve fibers and causes communication problems between your brain and the rest of your body. Eventually, the disease can cause the nerves themselves to deteriorate or become permanently damaged.”

Mayo Clinic
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ALL ABOUT MS

  • Symptoms: fatigue, numbness, weakness, muscle pain, vision difficulties, & cognitive problems.
  • Cause unknown, but believed to have a genetic and/or environmental component.
  • No MS test; MS diagnosis issued after other illnesses ruled out.
  • MS requires lifelong managed care.
  • MS complications can be fatal.
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HOPE ON THE HORIZON

There is NO known MS cure.

Since 1993, the FDA has approved 14 drugs intended to slow down MS.

In 2018, the FDA approved the first drug intended to both slow down MS AND reduce its symptoms.

 

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Not only are women more likely than men to develop MS, but MS is particularly prevalent among women of childbearing age.

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FIGHTING THE FLU

Last year’s flu season was one of the deadliest in decades.

Est. 80,000 Americans died, including 183 children.

Is an ineffective flu vaccine to blame, a bad flu strain, or the fact that less than half of Americans got vaccinated?

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“By the time we figure out if a flu season is mild or not, the damage has been done. … Everyone should look at every season as if it will be a bad season. We want everyone to get vaccinated.”

Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams. Last year, a particularly dangerous virus strain (A H3N2) was found amongst patients testing positive for the flu. The nation had record hospitalizations rates & 80% of those who died from flu last year were unvaccinated.
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Flu Shot: What to Know

  • Three different flu viruses: A, B & C (“A” most common).
  • How they’re made: Viruses typically grown in chicken eggs (for last 70 yrs).
  • Won’t make you sick: Viruses killed, but body develops antibodies to fight flu. Any reaction is your body building resistance, not “getting flu.” Takes 2 weeks for immunity.
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Do I Really Need One?

  • It’s not a perfect science. Each flu vaccine includes several flu strains, but effectiveness can vary. Last year’s was 40% effective (vs. 45% avg. over last 7 years.)
  • So why get a flu shot then? “Some effectiveness better than none,” may make flu symptoms milder. CDC warns not getting flu shot, puts others at risk. You build immunity w/each shot.
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PERSPECTIVE:
1918 Flu Pandemic

This year marks 100 years since the worst flu pandemic in history, which infected one-third of the world’s population & 500,000 Americans.

Despite medical advancements, World Health Organization says “another pandemic caused by a new influenza is a certainty.” When or how severe it will be is unknown.

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Not A Unified Global Fight

  • Most developed countries have policies on flu immunization, but many & some of the most populous (ex: China, India, & Pakistan) do not have one.
  • Flu virus constantly mutates & flu guidance varies by country. (Ex: In U.S. & Canada, flu shot is recommended to everyone older than 6 mos, but in U.K. its targeted only to children & those over 65.)
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U.S. health officials recommend getting a flu shot by the end of October. Bonus for those afraid of needles, after two years of not recommending it, the CDC is now encouraging a flu nasal spray as an alternative to a flu shot.

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MEDICAL MYSTERY

30 years after polio was eliminated in America, a similar virus is paralyzing U.S. children – and there’s no vaccination.

Why the CDC is “concerned.”

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“Acute Flaccid Myelitis”

  • AFM attacks body’s nervous system, specifically the spinal cord, & can cause paralysis.
  • Primarily affects children.
  • CDC: no confirmed cause, but viruses, environmental toxins, & genetic disorders may be to blame. Still investigating.
  • No treatment; patients receive aggressive support care while the virus runs its course.
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What to Watch For

“There’s a sudden onset of weakness in the arm, leg, face, or the muscles that help us swallow and that we use to speak.”

Dr. Amaran Moodley, Blank Children’s Hospital in Des Moines, IA. In severe cases a person can suffer respiratory failure and must be put on a ventilator.
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Important to Know

  • CDC: AFM a very rare condition.
  • Since the CDC began tracking AFM in 2014, there have been a total of 362 cases (vs. polio with 15K cases/year in 1950s.)
  • Bi-annual cycle? 2014 saw a 120 cases of AFM, but 2015 had 22. Another spike in 2016 with 149 cases & then 23 in 2017. Too early to say what it means for 2018.
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According to the CDC, 38 cases of acute flaccid myelitis have been reported in 16 states this year (through the end of September.) Colorado has seen the most cases with 14.

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