Review Category : Health

Officials on Alert for Measles During Super Bowl

NFL Media(PHOENIX) — Arizona health officials are attempting to contain a measles outbreak that has already spread through multiple states as thousands of fans arrive in Phoenix ahead of Sunday’s Super Bowl.

Officials are already monitoring 1,000 people in Arizona who were exposed to the contagious virus after seven people were found to be infected in the state.

“This is a critical point in this outbreak,” said Arizona Department of Health Services’ Director Will Humble. “If the public health system and medical community are able to identify every single susceptible case and get them into isolation, we have a chance of stopping this outbreak here.”

Measles is one of the most contagious viruses in existence and will infect an estimated 90 percent of unvaccinated people who are exposed to the virus. The incubation period is on average 14 days, but an infected person can be contagious up to four days before they start to show symptoms.

With scores of fans expected to head to Phoenix this weekend to watch the game between the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks, health officials have delivered stern warnings to try and keep the disease from spreading in the state.

Anyone not vaccinated for measles is asked to stay out of public areas for 21 days. In Phoenix’s Maricopa County, the health department is asking unvaccinated children to stay home from school or day care for another three weeks in order to protect them from potential infection.

“If we miss any potential cases and some of them go to a congregate setting with numerous susceptible contacts, we could be in for a long and protracted outbreak,” said Humble on the health department website.

The current measles outbreak has infected at least 84 people in 14 states after originating in the Disneyland theme park, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While immune globulin can be given to help mitigate symptoms, there is no way for health officials to stop those exposed from developing the disease. Symptoms of measles include fever, cough, runny nose and the tell-tale red rash, according to the CDC. In severe cases it can cause pneumonia, encephalitis or swelling of the brain, and death.

This week, the health department detailed their health and public safety plans for the Super Bowl.

In addition to monitoring for dangerous pathogens and suspicious substances, the department will conduct “illness monitoring at urgent care centers, and monitoring poison control center calls related to Super Bowl events.”

The department said the enhanced surveillance will allow them to more quickly “identify health threats” and respond immediately.

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Preemies Experience Social Development Problems as They Age

iStock/Thinkstock(HELSINKI, Finland) — In addition to physical problems that children who were born prematurely might suffer, scientists say they may encounter certain psychological problems during their teen and young adult years.

In a study of people born prematurely during the 1980s, scientists at the National Institute for Health and Welfare in Helsinki, Finland, says that many of these grown preemies tend to see themselves as less attractive than other individuals.

Another roadblock to their social development, according to Dr. Tuija Mannisto, is that they also have a harder time being sexually intimate with a partner or else, delay having sexual relationships.

While these problems are not insignificant, Dr. Edward McCabe of the March of Dimes says they should also not be too alarming.

McCabe, who was not involved in the study, contends that preemies typically have more cautious personalities than people who were born full-term and that putting off sex isn’t necessarily bad.

He also maintains that there have been advancements in the treatment of preemies at intensive care units so that those born in more recent times may not have the same issues as the older generation.

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Time to Get Hooked on Phonics Again

iStock/Thinkstock(BUFFALO, N.Y.) — Remember Hooked on Phonics? Ads for this commercial system of reading education through phonetics were everywhere during the early 1990s until the company ran into trouble with the FTC, leading it to file for bankruptcy.

However, the basic concept of phonics to help kids read though sounding out words is making a comeback.

A University of Buffalo study says that phonics is more effective in teaching youngsters to read faster than the commonly taught technique of visually memorizing word patterns.

UB assistant professor of psychology Chris McNorgan contends that phonological information enables children to better identify individual words.

Furthermore, teaching them to be more sensitive to auditory information is key to improving reading performance, according to McNorgan.

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Possible Cure for Peanut Allergies Developed

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Have Australian researchers come up with a cure for peanut allergies?

It’s possible that they may have, based on the results of an experiment in which 60 youngsters with these allergies were either given a placebo or the probiotic lactobacillus rhamnosus combined with peanut protein.

The trial conducted by the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute lasted 18 months and by the end, eighty percent of children who took the probiotic became tolerant to peanuts. In contrast, only four percent in the control group could consume peanuts without an allergic reaction.

Lead researcher Mimi Tang remarked, “These findings provide the first vital step towards developing a cure for peanut allergy and possibly other food allergies.”

Tang, however, cautioned that more research needs to be done to determine if the treatment with the probiotic could produce long-term relief for those with peanut allergies.

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Study: Expensive Placebos More Effective than Cheap Ones

Jeffrey Hamilton/Digital Vision/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — A new study shows that placebos are more effective when they cost more.

Researchers looked at data from 12 patients with moderate to severe Parkinson’s disease who were told they were being given one injection that was a more expensive version of a new drug and one injection that was a cheap version. In fact, patients were given saline — a placebo — both times. According to the study, published in the journal Neurology, patients had their brain activity and motor function measured to determine effectiveness.

While neither placebo was as effective as the Parkinson’s drug levodopa, the expensive version of the placebo prompted better performance on motor skills tests. “Perceptions of cost,” the researchers determined, “are capable of altering the placebo response in clinical studies.”

Dr. Alberto Espay, an associate professor at the University of Cincinnati Department of Neurology and Rehabilitation Medicine, said in a press release that “if we can find strategies to harness the placebo response to enhance the benefits of treatments, we could potentially maximize the benefit of treatment while reducing the dosage of drugs needed and possibly reducing side effects.”

Because the study involved such a small sample of participants, further research may be needed to prove the findings.

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Does Shaving Make Your Hair Darker and Thicker?

Jacek Chabraszewski/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — When faced with a patch of unruly hair on your body, it’s tempting to grab a razor and cut it down to size. But should you think again before reaching for the blade to solve your over-active follicles?

Dr. Debbie Yi, an Emergency Medicine and Neurology physician at the Hospital of UPenn, cuts this myth down to size. Dr. Yi asserts that our hair is a lot like grass: thick at the bottom and thinner towards the ends.

“So when we shave, all you’re doing is causing a cut, that makes the hair more coarse and more stubbly. So it might appear to be darker, and might appear to be thicker, but sadly, it actually isn’t,” Dr. Yi says.

So the next time you reach for that razor to get rid of unsightly hair, never fear, the hair that remains isn’t thicker or darker — it’s just an illusion.

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How Tom Brady’s Cold Could Affect the Super Bowl

Jared Wickerham/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — This is nothing to sneeze at ahead of the Super Bowl: Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has a cold.

Brady told reporters he’s sure he’ll be fine in time for Sunday’s clash against the Seattle Seahwaks, saying, “It’s been lingering, so I’m just trying to get some rest. A lot of garlic, old remedies, everything I can.”

But epidemiologists aren’t sold on the garlic — but they also say there’s a good chance Brady will be just fine in time for the big game.

“That will keep those linebackers away,” Dr. William Schaffner, chair of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, said of the garlic remedy, which he called “folklore.”

“People get better as time passes with colds, so I expect that he will indeed improve by the time Sunday comes along,” he added.

Schaffner, who has not treated Brady, said most colds go away after about four or five days. He also said the most important thing Brady can do this week is stay hydrated and get plenty of sleep at night.

“That’s the stuff your grandmother told you which is actually is useful,” he said.

Exercise also helps with symptom relief because it stimulates adrenaline production, Schaffner said.

Adrenaline constricts the blood vessels in the nose to relieve some of the stuffiness from a cold. He said most people have their favorite over-the-counter drugs for symptom relief, and those might help Brady, too.

“I think hydration, sleep, the passage of time and his exercise actually bode well for his performance on Sunday,” Schaffner said. “He may not need that garlic to keep away the linebackers.”

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Family Seeking Liver Donor to Save Twins Asks for Public’s Help

Bhakpong/iStock/Thinkstock(TORONTO) — A family desperately searching for a liver donor for their twin daughters have started a campaign in order to find a stranger willing to donate to save their girls.

Binh and Phuoc Wagner, 3, of Ontario, Canada, both need liver transplants because of a genetic condition called Alagille syndrome, which can affect bile ducts in the liver and lead to severe liver damage.

The twins were adopted from Vietnam in 2012 by Johanne and Michael Wagner, who were aware the girls’ livers were in trouble during the adoption.

“We knew they were very ill,” Johanne Wagner said. “Those girls knocked on our doors and they were supposed to be with us, and it just took a different path. As soon as we heard about them, we knew they were they were part of our family.”

Last year, the girls’ condition worsened to the point that they were able to be put on a transplant list. While the girls each need their own donor, the family was delighted to find out that Michael Wagner was a donor match.

Wagner can only give liver tissue to one child because of the way the liver regenerates. Doctors will determine which girl is sicker and she will undergo the procedure.

“We found ourselves to be very lucky that we qualified right away,” said Johanne Wager of her husband being a match. “[We’re] relieved but we need one more donor.”

The family has now turned to social media and public outreach in the hope that a stranger could be a match and also be willing to undergo rigorous medical procedures and an operation in order to save their daughter’s life.

After starting a Facebook page to draw attention to the twins’ story, Johanne Wagner said hundreds of people started flooding her Facebook page offering to be a living donor. Wagner is directing anyone interested to the Toronto General Hospital Living Donor Assessment Office to see if they fit the profile.

Dr. Les Lilly, the medical director of liver transplant at Toronto General Hospital, estimated that anonymous living donors account for a fraction of liver donations, but that with social media the practice could become more commonplace.

“We do have people who step forward and want to help out, and they’re considered anonymous donors,” said Lilly. “I think there’s a greater awareness,” of being a living donor through social media.

Lilly cautioned that becoming a living donor is not easy. A person’s blood type must be compatible with the recipient and they must pass a battery of tests to ensure they are healthy enough to donate. After the operation, they have to be out of work for weeks as they recover.

Lilly said hospital officials go slowly with tests so that donors are not overwhelmed and feel they still can change their minds.

“We’re very, very conscious of donor safety,” said Lilly. “We realize some people might go into process very enthusiastically,” but later decide it is not right for them.

Billie Potkonjak, director of health promotion and patient services at the Canadian Liver Foundation, said they’re seeing more and more anonymous living liver donor cases.

“Certainly, the proliferation of social media makes it easier for people to go public with their situation and to talk about it publicly,” said Potkonjak. “It definitely highlights the need for organ donation.”

Johanne Wagner said it’s likely her husband will donate his liver to one of the girls within the next few weeks.

In spite of the difficulties they’re facing, Johanne Wagner said they’re staying positive and thankful for the public’s support.

“We would travel this road all over again,” she said.

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Money Is Not the Root of All Happiness

iStock/Thinkstock(EAST LANSING, Mich.) — You’ve heard the cliché a million times: money can’t buy happiness. Well, maybe there’s something to it after all.

Researchers at Michigan State University and the University of British Columbia aren’t saying that having money is a bad thing since it can make life easier. However, they contend that fewer money worries doesn’t necessarily equate to a happy life.

After reviewing data from 12,300 people who answered a 2010 Census survey that recorded levels of their happiness and income, the researchers discovered that “higher income is associated with experiencing less daily sadness, but has no bearing on daily happiness.”

In other words, happiness and sadness, while different emotions, are not opposite emotions.

So, while money can get people out of predicaments that make them sad, it won’t make them any happier.

As leader author Kostadin Kushlev explains, “People limit their own ability to experience happiness if they let money take over.” Instead, they need to focus on making better choices that will bring them true contentment.

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Paying Pregnant Women to Stop Smoking Pays Off

Wavebreak Media(ATLANTA) — Most women understand the perils of smoking while pregnant yet many women continue to light up anyway, which can affect their health and the well-being of their fetus.

The problem is more pervasive than one might imagine. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that one out of 10 pregnant women still smokes within the last three months of pregnancy.

Smoking cessation programs directed at pregnant women have had some degree of success but a research team of scientists from the U.K. says that an especially effective approach is to bribe the women with shopping vouchers.

In their study of more than 600 pregnant smokers, one group received the equivalent of $600 worth of vouchers, provided they started cessation programs and/or stopped smoking. The other group signed up for programs and other therapies but weren’t given vouchers.

Ultimately, 23 percent of the voucher group quit right away and 15 percent were still off cigarettes a year later. The control group was not as successful with nine percent having stopped smoking and just four percent staying smoke-free 12 months later.

Ethical concerns aside, the researchers believe the cash incentive program should at least be considered as “an important preventive health care intervention strategy.”

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