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Why the CDC calls this flu season “unusual” as cases spread nationwide.

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The Basics

Flu activity: increasing & “elevated.”

  • Est. of *at least* 2.6M flu illnesses, 1,300 deaths, incl. 10 pediatric deaths.
  • Nearly half of all U.S. states have flu activity.
  • States with highest activity: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Mexico, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, & Washington.
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A Unique Season

“Activity is being caused mostly by influenza B/Victoria viruses, which is unusual for this time of year.” CDC

  • 2 dominate flu strains: Influenza A & B.
  • Both can impact any age but influenza B tends to be more common in little children & young adults.
  • Influenza B usually peaks late in the year but this year America has more B cases reported than A. No one knows why.
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Context

  • Flu activity is higher and more widespread NOW than it was last year at the same time.
  • However, hospitalization rates remain about the same compared to other recent seasons.
  • One theory why? More Americans have Influenza B strain, which more often impacts the young. Young adults tend to avoid hospitalizations more than the elderly.

 

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“When my kids come home from school I have them take off all of their clothes and wash their hands to their elbows and wash their faces.”

Dr. Darria Long Gillespie, ER room physician and author of “Mom Hacks” with one way she tries to keep her two children healthy during flu season. She says often the flu vaccine will be more effective against Influenza B strains, because other strains tend to mutate rapidly, making effective immunizations especially challenging.
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According to CDC forecasting it is more likely the flu will peak in late December instead of January or February. Is this year's vaccine a good "fit" for this year's flu? We'll know in coming weeks. Doctors say early indications point to "yes" but we won't know for sure until AFTER flu season.

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“State of Emergency”

An island paradise, an American territory, thousands of miles from “the mainland” in midst of a major measles outbreak.

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What To Know

Samoa: Independent island nation in the South Pacific with population of approx. 200,000. A measles outbreak since mid-October has killed more than 70 (mostly children), infected nearly 4,900.

American Samoa: Neighboring island, a U.S. territory about the size of Washington D.C. with population of around 50,000. Officials recently declared a measles outbreak.

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“You have scores of people dying, and the society is paralyzed,”

Dr. Paulus Tsai, a Hawaiian-based surgeon who traveled to Samoa as part of a group of health professionals to help administer a mass vaccination. Experienced doctors say they have never seen anything like this - with hospitals overcapacity.
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What Happened

  • Low inoculation rates led to a vulnerable population.
  • Last year two nurses caused the deaths of two infants by mixing the measles vaccine incorrectly. Vaccination rates, already trending lower, dropped further over safety concerns.
  • Most victims who have died: Children under 5-years-old. Those who survive suffer from pneumonia and other complications.
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What’s Next

  • As victim numbers continue to rise, schools, public gatherings, government agencies have been shutdown.
  • Medical teams have responded from all over the world.
  • CDC sent personnel, vaccines to region. Reminder: An outbreak is defined by CDC as 3 or more cases. 10 “mainland” U.S. states have reported measles outbreaks this year.
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Why It Matters: America has the highest number of measles cases in more than 25 years - with most cases concentrated in New York State. No deaths have been reported. Samoa/American Samoa serves as an interesting test cases for what can happen to isolated communities with low vaccination rates.

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Will Red Or White Meat Make You “Blue”?

 

New study shows white meat is no healthier than red meat when it comes to your cholesterol.

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About The Study:

  • Published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
  • 113 participants split into two groups: diets high or low in saturated fats & spent a month eating red (lean beef or pork), white (chicken or turkey) and nonmeat (plant-based) proteins with regular diet periods in btwn.
  • Periodic blood tests measured cholesterol levels.
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“When we planned this study, we expected red meat to have a more adverse effect on blood cholesterol levels than white meat, but we were surprised that this was not the case – their effects on cholesterol are identical when saturated fat levels are equivalent.”

Dr. Ronald Krauss, study author, director of atherosclerosis research at the Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute, and professor at the University of California at San Francisco.
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The Takeaways:

  • Of the three diets examined in the study, only the plant-based diet was associated with healthy blood cholesterol levels.
  • Eating red or white meat impacted LDL (bad) cholesterol the same, even when all groups ate equal levels of saturated fat.
  • Fish, processed meats, & grass-fed beef not included in study.
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This small study challenges gov't dietary guidelines promoting white meat as a healthier option to red meat. Red meat consumption has declined in recent years in connection with health concerns.

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Can Man’s Best Friend…
Save Us From Cancer?

 

 

 

Hundreds of dogs are testing a cancer vaccine in the largest clinical trial of its kind.

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What’s Happening:

  • Prof. Stephen Johnston, Arizona State Univ. Center for Innovations in Medicine, has worked on a cancer vaccine for over a decade.
  • Human trials = very expensive & difficult to get approved.
  • Johnson partnered w/a veterinarian (Colorado State Univ).
  • 800+ dogs are testing a vaccine that aims to prevent or delay a variety of cancers.
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“Cancer is actually the leading cause of death in adult dogs. They develop these tumors spontaneously as a result of old age in a way that’s very, very similar to the way humans do.”

Veterinarian & cancer survivor, Dr. Doug Thamm, Colorado State University's Flint Animal Cancer Center. Dogs get cancer at nearly the same rate as humans. If this vaccine lowers cancer rates or delays the onset in dogs, it could be a promising sign in the quest to vaccinate against cancer in humans.
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Other cancer drugs have been tested successfully on dogs before humans. However, a vaccine is different than a typical drug - it works to help the human immune system identify a potential danger and fight it. Cancer is notoriously tricky to identify.

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The average American drinks more than 1 cup each day, according to the most USDA recent information. A venti ice coffee from Starbucks is 24 ounces -- that's three cups.

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TIPPING THE SCALE?

New study shows most parents underestimate how much their child weighs (and so do their doctors).

Why This Matters

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THE NEW STUDY

  • Researchers looked at data focusing on nearly 25,000 children between 0-19 years old.
  • RESULTS: 55% of parents underestimated how overweight their child was; more than 1/3 of children did the same.
  • Physicians *appeared* to have a “tendency” to also underestimate, according to researchers.
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“Identifying weight problems in childhood & adolescence is a unique window of opportunity to have a lifetime impact on health.”

Lead researcher Abrar Alshahrani, University of Nottingham, UK who says parents used words like "big boned" or "solid" to describe their children to avoid using a term like "overweight" or "obese."A Researchers say not having frank conversations about weight could lead to a lack of treatment.
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Why It Matters:

  • Overweight or obese children have increased worldwide.
  • Nearly 1 out of 5 children in the U.S. are obese. Obesity readings differ by age groups, but a higher percentage of children qualify as obese as they get older.
  • Impact of obesity isn’t just physical. New research shows a link between obesity in children to anxiety & depression.
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Does this study sound familiar? It did to us too. Turns out we covered a story about pet owners in America ignoring obesity in their pets! Researchers in both studies don't explain WHY we don't have accurate images.

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THE NEW MARIJUANA?

 

 

 

Why some cities (and states) want to make “magic mushrooms” easier for their citizens to consume.

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Word To Know:

“psilocybin”

  • hallucinogenic ingredient in some mushrooms.
  • federally banned “controlled substance” like peyote & heroin.
  • Denver Psilocybin Mushroom Initiative – would decriminalize the use of “magic mushrooms.”
  • Iowa, California, & Oregon have or will consider similar laws.
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Why?

  • Supporters make similar arguments to those advocating for easier access to marijuana: potential health benefits, and saves police (& therefore, taxpayers) time & money arresting people for non-violent drug offenses.
  • Opponents say there’s too many unknowns, for the well-being of the individual and the community.
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“It’s really unprecedented in medical history to see effects for depression that are caused by a single medication.”

Matthew Johnson, Ph.D, who found a single dose of psilocybin can benefit someone suffering from depression or anxiety for months. However, he also believes medical supervision is necessary, saying "bad trips...can lead to dangerous behavior when out in the wild."
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Even if states or cities vote to decriminalize mushrooms, like marijuana, it remains a federal crime. Denver's initiative, which appears likely to fail, wouldn't technically make "shrooming" legal, but it would make crimes of use and possession a low priority for police.

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FEELING STRESSED?

Scientists discover a 20-minute treatment they say will significantly improve your well-being.

And it’s free.

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“NATURE PILL”

“Nature Pill” = a dose of nature.

  • Univ. of Michigan researchers started with this thought: We know nature can decrease stress levels, but how much nature do you need to make a difference?
  • Study: 36 people took *at least* a 10-min “nature pill” anytime they wanted 3x a week for 8 weeks.
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WAIT A SECOND…

  • How do you measure stress? Saliva samples allowed researchers to check cortisol (“stress hormone”) levels.
  • What determines “nature”? No hard fast rule. Anything that gave participants a “sense of nature.”
  • A Catch! Sitting on a park bench & texting didn’t count! No reading, social media, internet, phone calls or aerobic exercise (walking = ok).
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“Thirty minutes is the ideal time for the greatest stress reduction. But 20 minutes is sufficient. Start with five minutes and see where it takes you.”

Dr. MaryCarol Hunter, lead study author and associate professor at the University of Michigan, who said the study provides the first ever evidence of how nature can improve our stress levels during our regular routine.
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Researchers said they hope this study provides a catalyst for more research on how to prescribe "nature pills" based on age, gender, or even the season.

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“Forced” Vaccinations?

In a rare move, NYC requires vaccinations in one neighborhood plagued by measles, as the nation hits the second-highest number of cases in nearly 20 years.

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Important Context:

  • What is an aoutbreaka? CDC defines it as 3 or more cases.
  • 7 active outbreaks – linked to outside travelers visiting areas with low vaccination rates.
  • As of Monday, there are 465 cases in 19 states.
  • 2019 = the second-highest number of measles cases in America since disease thought eradicated in 2000.
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“There’s no question that vaccines are safe, effective and life-saving.a

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio declaring a public health emergency in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, requiring vaccinations for those who live and/or work in a predominately Orthodox Jewish neighborhood where a measles outbreak started in October and has yet to be contained. Williamsburg has 228 confirmed cases of measles since October; 26 cases over the last week.
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aI donat think itas up to the city to mandate anything. We all have constitutional rights.”

A local Brooklyn mother in the area impacted giving only the name of "Gitty" to the New York Times for fear of retaliation. The NY Civil Liberties Union criticized the city's "forced vaccinations." While public officials are not physically forcing anyone to be vaccinated, those without vaccination records may face penalties/fine. There are no federal laws on vaccinations. States set vaccination requirements.
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Rockland County, NY recently declared a public health emergency outlawing those unvaccinated from visiting public places; A judge temporarily halted the order. Officials worry about further spread of measles as Jewish families gather next week to celebrate Passover.

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Does Your Gender Determine When Your Diagnosed?

 

 

A New Study Says Yes.

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THE STUDY

  • University of Copenhagen researchers examined medical records of nearly 7 million Danish adults over two decades.
  • Compared when males and females suffering from the same diseases were diagnosed.
  • Why It Matters: Earlier diagnosis leads to earlier treatment.
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THE RESULTS

  • For the 770 diseases examined, women were diagnosed on average 4 years later than men suffering from the disease.
  • Example: Women diagnosed with cancer on average 2.5 years later than men.
  • Exception: For osteoporosis, women generally diagnosed ahead of breaking a bone, but the opposite was true for men.
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aIt has been surprising to see that there is such a big difference between the diseases that affect men and women and between their patient care…”

Lead study author, David Westergaard. The study does not explain WHY the diagnosis discrepancy might be happening. Some suggest gender bias. Others say men tend to go to the doctor less frequently than women, making their symptoms more severe/obvious when they are seen.
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“Since this study was just of people hospitalized, itas tough to know if the later diagnosis for women was due to later onset of disease, or actually taking longer to diagnose it, but it does raise some important questions and observations.”

Dr. Darria Long Gillespie, MD, mom & author of the book "Mom Hacks."
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Although a 2001 CDC study found that women are more likely to go to the doctor than men, a more recent study found that overall Americans go to the doctor less than we used to. In 2010, the average American adult made approx. 4 doctor visits (vs. 5 in 2001).

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THE SECRET SAUCE?

A first of its kind study says your genes may hold the key to a happy marriage.

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YALE STUDY

  • Focus of the research: a genetic variation on the gene receptor for oxytocin.
  • Oxytocin = hormone often linked to “greater empathy, sociability, and emotional stability.a
  • Study found as long as one person (man or woman) had this genetic variation the couple overall had higher marital satisfaction.
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aThis study shows that how we feel in our close relationships is influenced by more than just our shared experiences with our partners over time.”

Lead author Joan Monin, Yale School of Public Health, who also noted the study found those WITH the genetic variation were less "anxiously attached" to their partner, one potenital factor in a happy marriage.
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Something To Consider:

What if we don’t have it? The study isn’t saying this genetic variation guarantees a happy marriage, but it does indicate that the correlation is interesting enough to study further.

Study Limitations: Only 178 married couples studied. Researchers say a larger study, with a greater diversity of couples is needed to look more closely at this association.

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Want to check your genetic compatibility? Companies Instant Chemisty & Gene Partner offer a dive into your relationship DNA. Do you think this is helpful or hurtful information for a couple?

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“BRAIN ATTACK”

Devastating & Deadly

Described as a heart attack for your brain, stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in America and took the life of actor Luke Perry.

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What Exactly Is A Stroke?

  • What Happens: when a blood vessel in the brain gets blocked (most common), or a blood vessel bursts (less common, but more deadly).
  • Causes: factors include high cholesterol, high blood pressure, smoking and diabetes. Drug use and family history can play a role as well for those with blood vessel or clotting problems.
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aFor all types of stroke, time is brain. That means that seeking treatment immediately is crucial to reverse the damage and save brain cells and lives.”

Dr. Darria Long Gillespie, former ER doc & author of "Mom Hacks" who says a common misconception is that strokes effect only older people. Dr. Darria says with more young people confronting obesity or high blood pressure, stroke becomes a possibility.
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Stroke Symptoms:

  • Stroke can be catastrophic, but also prevented.
  • Warning signs of stroke: “FAST”: Face drooping? Arms (one or the other) numb or immobile? Slurred speech? Time?
  • Sometimes symptoms come & go in 24 hrs, but serve as important pre-stroke warning signs.
  • Sudden severe headache, confusion, numbness, or vomiting.
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“I want to do something with my life. When my time here is up, I donat want to look back and see that I didnat do anything.”

Luke Perry in 1992 during the height of his fame playing Dylan McKay on "Beverly Hills, 90210" about why he left his small hometown for Hollywood. No further details about Perry's stroke surfaced after it was first reported last week. A representative said he passed away in the presence of his family, including his two children.
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Stroke may be one of leading causes of death in America, but it's also the LEADING cause of disabilities, such as paralysis or memory loss. A stroke happens every 40 seconds and two-thirds of survivors will confront some sort of disability.

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