iStock/Thinkstock(IOWA CITY, Iowa) — Healthcare workers, more than any other group, know that clean hands go a long way to prevent the spread of infection, but a new study finds that hand hygiene amongst that group is rather low, but peer pressure helps improve the practice.

Researchers at the University of Iowa’s Carver College of Medicine studied hand hygiene compliance and opportunities, as well as the location and proximity of every healthcare worker in the intensive care unit of the University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics during a 10-day period for 24 hours a day.

After recording more than 47,000 hand hygiene opportunities, the estimated hand hygiene rate was seven percent higher when healthcare workers were in close proximity to peers as compared to when healthcare workers were alone — 28 percent vs. 21 percent.

“Social network effects, or peer effects, have been associated with smoking, obesity, happiness and worker productivity. As we found, this influence extends to hand hygiene compliance, too,” said Philip Polgreen, MD, an author of the study.

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Wavebreak Media/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — A mysterious virus, enterovirus 68, is striking children and spreading fast across the country. Twenty-seven states are confirmed or suspected of having cases of the virus.

ABC chief health and medical editor Doctor Richard Besser says the illness starts off like a cold, but parents need to be aware if their child develops breathing difficulties or a reluctance to eat.

Dr. Besser says the danger signs include wheezing and difficulty speaking or eating.

“If you look at your child’s belly and there’s inpulling with every breath, or blueness around the lips, those are signs your child may not be getting enough air,” Dr. Besser warns.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting 97 confirmed enterovirus cases, but public health officials may never know the true scope of the outbreak because the CDC doesn’t require hospitals and labs to report enterovirus 68.

Dr. Besser says if a child has a cold “and it’s acting like every other cold, there’s nothing to worry about.”

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Wavebreak Media/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — A mysterious virus, enterovirus 68, is striking children and spreading fast across the country. Twenty-seven states are confirmed or suspected of having cases of the virus.

ABC chief health and medical editor Doctor Richard Besser says the illness starts off like a cold, but parents need to be aware if their child develops breathing difficulties or a reluctance to eat.

Dr. Besser says the danger signs include wheezing and difficulty speaking or eating.

“If you look at your child’s belly and there’s inpulling with every breath, or blueness around the lips, those are signs your child may not be getting enough air,” Dr. Besser warns.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting 97 confirmed enterovirus cases, but public health officials may never know the true scope of the outbreak because the CDC doesn’t require hospitals and labs to report enterovirus 68.

Dr. Besser says if a child has a cold “and it’s acting like every other cold, there’s nothing to worry about.”

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VILevi/iStockphoto/Thinkstock(OMAHA, Neb.) — Dr. Rick Sacra, the American patient being treated for Ebola at the Nebraska Medical Center, continues to improve, the hospital says.

In a Monday press release, the hospital says that staff members are seeking ways to entertain Sacra while he remains in the Biocontainment Unit. Sacra’s wife says that a chess board and a supply of books have been given to her husband. “Someone also brought in a Nerf hoop, which Rick discovered he might need a lot more practice with,” Debbie Sacra said.

According to the release, Sacra still tires easily, but is, “becoming sharper [mentally] every day.” Sacra has held conversations with his pastor from his hometown and a former colleague from Liberia.

Doctors say they “continue to be pleased” with Sacra’s progress.

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VILevi/iStockphoto/Thinkstock(OMAHA, Neb.) — Dr. Rick Sacra, the American patient being treated for Ebola at the Nebraska Medical Center, continues to improve, the hospital says.

In a Monday press release, the hospital says that staff members are seeking ways to entertain Sacra while he remains in the Biocontainment Unit. Sacra’s wife says that a chess board and a supply of books have been given to her husband. “Someone also brought in a Nerf hoop, which Rick discovered he might need a lot more practice with,” Debbie Sacra said.

According to the release, Sacra still tires easily, but is, “becoming sharper [mentally] every day.” Sacra has held conversations with his pastor from his hometown and a former colleague from Liberia.

Doctors say they “continue to be pleased” with Sacra’s progress.

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Alex459/iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new figures on Tuesday showing that the number of deaths caused by opioid prescription painkillers, such as Vicodin and OxyContin, are significantly higher than in years past.

According to the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, the number of deaths caused by prescription painkillers has climbed from 4,263 in 1999 to almost 19,000 in 2011. Poisoning was the number one cause of injury-related deaths in the U.S., of which 90 percent were related to drugs.

Those between the ages of 55 and 65 had the highest rate of death related to drugs.

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Bumbasor/iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — President Obama will visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta on Tuesday, where he is expected to share a new plan to help fight the deadly Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Obama may push for an increased involvement of U.S. doctors and military members in Africa. He also, “is expected to urge Congress to approve the request he made last week for an additional $88 million to fund his proposal,” according to the Journal.

In a Monday night call with senior administration officials, Obama talked about ramping up the U.S. response to the outbreak by creating a joint force command headquarters in the Liberian capital, providing engineers to help build treatment centers and training West African health care workers.

The U.S. is expected to help build up to 17 facilities and train up to 500 health care workers per week while also helping to bolster a campaign to train residents on how to protect themselves and still help family members who may show symptoms of the disease. After the “scaling up” is complete, more than 3,000 Department of Defense workers will be on the ground supporting efforts against the outbreak.

Obama is also expected to request an additional $88 million in funding. The U.S. has already dedicated $175 million.

The European Union also reaffirmed its efforts against the outbreak on Monday, touting its work to help the West African nations. Meanwhile, the African Union was preparing to send 30 more Ebola specialists to the region.

The latest figures from the World Health Organization latest death toll were released on September 7, showing that over 2,200 of West Africa’s 4,366 Ebola patients have died.

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The respiratory virus that’s been sweeping the nation and sending asthmatic children to the hospital may have only been officially reported in 97 children, but experts say that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Dr. Claudia Hoyen said the virus, called enterovirus D68, probably affected thousands of children — and that’s just in Cleveland, where she works. The virus has been reported in 21 states, according to state health departments.

At UH Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital in Cleveland, about 20 children normally go to the intensive care unit each month with respiratory symptoms, said Hoyen, who heads the hospital’s pediatric infection control program. But for the last two months, the hospital’s intensive care unit has treated 80 children per month, she said.

“That’s fourfold over what we would normally get,” Hoyen said.

The rare enterovirus starts out like the common cold but can quickly turn more serious — especially in children with asthma. Enteroviruses often appear in the summer and fall, but an outbreak like this hasn’t occurred since the 1960s, Hoyen said.

Although UH has not yet determined how many cases of enterovirus D68 it treated this summer, Hoyen said she can extrapolate the number of extra ICU patients over two months to guess how many children had less-severe cases, too.

“My guess is that this is probably in the thousands, because a lot of the kids probably had infections and their parents just thought it was a little cough,” she said. “They weren’t sick enough to seek actual medical attention.”

Since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention doesn’t require hospitals and labs to report enterovirus D68, public health officials may never know the true scope of the outbreak, said ABC News Chief Health and Medical Editor Dr. Richard Besser.

“So although the CDC is reporting 97 confirmed enterovirus cases, this number does not in any way reflect the true number of people who are infected or sick,” Besser said, adding that most local health departments have no way of testing for the virus and no reason to do so because there is no cure available. “My advice: forget about this number. Look to your health department.”

Besser said parents should simply ask their doctors whether enterovirus D68 is in their town and be vigilant if it is.

“If your child has any difficulty breathing (wheezing, difficulty speaking or eating, belly pulling in with breaths, blueness around the lips) see a doctor right away,” he said.

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Courtesy Brigid Bink(NEW YORK) — Two Pennsylvania sisters who found out they were pregnant just days apart and shared the same due date say they think their sons will be “best buds” after being born just 22 hours apart.

The two boys, Jack Bink and Owen Whitaker, will celebrate different birthdays — Jack on Sept. 10 and Owen on Sept. 11 — but that is about the only thing that marks a difference in the way they entered the world.

Jack’s mom, Brigid Bink, 31, of Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, announced to her family just after Christmas last year that she and her husband, Lee, were expecting their first child, and the first grandchild on both sides.

Three days later, Bink was in her kitchen cooking when her sister, Owen’s mom, Emily Whitaker, 27, knocked on her door and told her that she had taken a pregnancy test and she and her husband, Colin, were pregnant too.

“She said, ‘You’re never going to believe this,’” Bink recalled to ABC News. “She was in disbelief.”

The sisters, who live 10 minutes apart, then found out they shared the same due date, Sept. 15.

Whitaker, a teacher, and Bink, who works in marketing, went through their pregnancies together, sharing the bad, like surprising side effects, and the good, such as maternity clothing sales.

“It was so nice to be able to pick up the phone and call her and say, ‘Did this happen to you?’ or, ‘Is this normal?’ or, ‘I found this great maternity dress on sale,’” Bink said.

Their closeness remained through the end of their pregnancies, when they each went into labor almost exactly one day apart, and both a few days ahead of their due date.

“I went into labor Tuesday night around 11:30 p.m., and she went in the next day at almost the same time,” Bink said. “We were down the hall from each other and the nurses would come in and give us reports on each other.”

After Bink delivered her son, Jack, at 7:34 a.m., on Sept. 10, she got updates via text from her brother-in-law on her sister’s status.

Though the sisters had shared everything together during their nine months of pregnancy, they got one last surprise when Whitaker gave birth at 5:30 a.m. the next morning and discovered she, too, had a boy, Owen.

“Neither of us knew the sex of our baby,” Bink said. “She called me in the morning and we were both hysterical. We thought one of us would have a boy and one would have a girl.”

“When we found out they were both boys, you just keep thinking of the future and them going to school together and playing together,” she said. “I just think they’re going to be best buds.”

Now the sisters, whose birth story was first reported by ABC News affiliate WPVI, are both home from the hospital and sharing their sons’ futures together.

“Our sons share a pediatrician and both went today,” Bink said. “The babies are happy and healthy and we both just feel very lucky.”

Also on top of the world are Bink and Whitaker’s parents, who, in the span of 22 hours, welcomed their first and second grandchildren into the world, and the sisters’ two other siblings, a younger brother and a younger sister.

“I’ve never seen them more happy,” Bink said. “The whole thing has just been surreal.”

“It’s been a great bonding experience for our whole family,” she said.

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Frazzled. Exhausted. Guilt-ridden. These are just a few phrases many working parents use to describe themselves.

When every day seems like a struggle, when it feels like you can barely breathe, when you’re literally running from one place to another, it’s time to slow down and give yourself a break.

Tuesday is National Working Parents Day and while the origin of the day is unknown, HolidayInsights.com calls it a day to give “recognition to moms and dads who work hard to provide for their children. Every day dad, and often mom, go off to work. They work hard to earn money to make ends meet. They work hard to be able to afford the extras that kids want and need. This includes things like school trips, funding the proms, athletics, music, dance classes, clubs, and much, much more.”

“If you’re a working parent, then I don’t need to tell you that it can be tough, you live it every day,” said Nancy Aragon, assistant professor at Argosy University Online Programs’ College of Behavioral Sciences. “Even so, there is some good news to celebrate on the work-life balance front.”

Here are her seven top tips for finding that elusive “balance”:

1) Take advantage of work places that are becoming more employee-centric.

Employers are beginning to recognize that their employees’ well-being and happiness is directly associated with a better bottom line. This represents expanded opportunities for work-life balance options such as flexible work schedules, telecommuting (even part-time), job-sharing, and wellness initiatives. Talk with your manager or HR representative to learn more about your organization’s policies. Often, organizations have great policies and resources but don’t communicate them very effectively with employees. So, take the initiative and ask. Even if there aren’t any official work-life policies in your workplace, managers are often very willing to work out custom schedules and options with individual employees.

2) You have a purpose-filled life, so use it.

Work-life balance has traditionally been viewed through the lens of scarcity and inherent conflict. Involvement in work must mean lack of involvement in family and vice-versa. Happily, this is not necessarily true. More recent research suggests that there are benefits and synergy gained from being involved in work, family and community. So, take a moment to reframe the way you think about your various work and family obligations. Your life overflows with purpose. That is a cause for celebration. Not really feeling the love yet? Here is a counter-intuitive suggestion that works — volunteer more. Volunteer in community activities such as at your children’s schools or the local animal shelter or whatever you are passionate about in your community. The research backs up this counter-intuitive suggestion — the more you do, the happier you feel and the more satisfied you are with your work-life balance. But wait, there is even more good news. Many employers have policies to encourage community involvement among their employees by allowing employees to volunteer during paid work time. Look into it with your company. If your employer doesn’t have this type of policy yet, it could be time to suggest it.

3) Technology: Learn when to set boundaries.

No doubt about it: Technology has improved the quality of our daily lives. Too much of a good thing isn’t good though, particularly when it comes to technology encroaching on work-life balance. Try setting technology boundaries for yourself and your family. Set boundaries for when you will accept work calls or emails and when you won’t. Set boundaries with your family regarding technology-free together time too.

4) To laugh or cry: The choice is yours.

Laughter is great medicine. That old truth is extremely applicable to working parents seeking balance. When the hair-pulling, frustrating details of work-life balance assaults you, step back and try to view your circumstances as if it were a scene in your favorite comedy movie. We love being an audience member watching this kind of drama unravel, so why not love it from center-stage too? You can’t always change your circumstances, but you certainly can change how you react to them.

5) Delegate and combine family time.

Any time can be family time — cooking meals, cleaning house, doing homework or yard work are great examples of potential family time opportunities. Family time doesn’t have to be a scarce and precious commodity carved out after all other work is done. Bring the family to the daily routine chores and delegate responsibilities. Even young children can help, with a little planning, oversight and creativity. You might just be amazed at how much family time you actually have while also getting necessary tasks accomplished. Dinner preparation can be a family affair instead of just one more thing for an exhausted parent to take care of. This is also a great way to help teach your children life skills and model the idea that a good work ethic can be fun and rewarding.

6) Celebrate mini-wins every day.

I am a big believer in daily to-do lists. Setting aside a few minutes first thing in the morning to jot down my daily to-do’s has become one of my cherished “me-time” rituals. Not only does it help ensure that I don’t forget an important task, committee meeting, or orthodontist appointment, it gives me the opportunity to celebrate little mini-wins every day. There is a sense of satisfaction that comes from checking off an accomplished task, no matter how small or mundane. Keeping a daily to-do list is a good time management tip in general when it comes to work-life balance, but it also represents an opportunity to start celebrating mini-wins all day, every day, one check mark at a time.

7) Mind-readers in your life? Not mine — let’s talk.

Don’t assume that your family, friends, coworkers or boss understand your point of view. This type of assumption can lead to a slippery slope of thinking that can pick up negative momentum alarmingly quickly for an exhausted working parent. The thinking might go something like this: “I obviously need a little help here. Anyone can see that! Since she/he/they aren’t offering to help, it must mean they don’t care. This is so unfair, why am I always the one to make sure things are taken care of. It sure would be nice to be appreciated every now and then.” These unspoken thoughts have a way of boiling over and spewing out in an angry hot mess that leaves the recipients of your vent dazed and confused and you looking a bit unbalanced. Chances are pretty good that people in your life don’t intuitively know your thoughts and needs. So tell them by communicating in a non-defensive manner. Similarly, be willing to listen to their lived experience and point of view too — you might be surprised by what you hear from your children, partner, co-workers and friends.

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