iStock/Thinkstock(TUSCON, Ariz.) — Germ-a-phobes of the world unite. Your anxiety appears to be well-founded. At least that’s what a new study suggests.

The study measured just how quickly viruses were spread in a work setting despite people’s best efforts to isolate themselves from sneezing and coughing co-workers.

To demonstrate how avoiding germs may be a losing battle, study researcher Charles Gerba, a microbiologist at the University of Arizona, placed a harmless virus on a few surfaces inside an office building, hotel rooms and a health care facility.

Later in the day, Gerba’s team sampled between 60 and 100 surfaces in each of the buildings that were contaminated with bacteriophage MS-2.

The result was that the virus was found on 40 to 60 percent of light switches, door knobs, tabletops and various other surfaces within two-to-four hours.

What Gerba was trying to prove was how a far more dangerous infectious agent, such as norovirus, can move swiftly through just about any place where people congregate.

So is it really a losing battle? Not entirely, according to Gerba, who says that disinfecting wipes and diligent hand cleaning reduces the spread of viruses by as much as 80 to 99 percent.

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iStock/Thinkstock(SEATTLE) — Despite warnings from public health experts that overprescribing antibiotics could lead to difficult-to-treat “superbugs,” doctors are prescribing antibiotics to children about twice as often as they are actually needed, a new study found.

Researchers at Seattle Children’s Hospital examined past studies between 2001 and 2011 to see how doctors treated common childhood respiratory infections, conditions including sore throats, ear infections and sinusitis. They found that although only 27.4 percent of the infections were caused by bacteria and could therefore be treated with an antibiotic, a whopping 57 percent of them were actually treated with antibiotics.

That amounts to 11.4 million unnecessary prescriptions for antibiotics per year, researchers say. Antibiotics are no good against viral infections and have only been shown to work against bacterial infections.

Lead study author Dr. Matthew Kronman, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Seattle Children’s Hospital, said the results are disheartening, particularly because his team found no appreciable change in prescribing rates over 10 years.

“Whatever we are doing now, it isn’t working,” he said. “We need to come up with new strategies to understand why this…exists.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics, the top pediatrician’s group in the United States, has periodically issued guidelines on the use of antibiotics in kids, notably in 2001 for sinusitis and 2004 for ear infections. But the demands of parents, as well as difficulties doctors face in quickly distinguishing between viral and bacterial infections, still fuels the trend.

Experts not involved with the research said their big fear is that they will eventually have no treatment options for superbugs. An estimated 2 million Americans are infected with antibiotic-resistant organisms, resulting in 23,000 deaths each year, according to a 2013 report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

But there are other reasons that antibiotics should only be used when they’re needed.

“For some infections, like acute bronchitis, pharyngitis with a negative strep test, and URI, we know that antibiotics do not help you get better faster and are not needed,” said Dr. Mark Ebell, a family medicine physician and professor at the University of Georgia College of Public Health in Athens. “Even sinusitis and [ear infections] may be caused by viruses and often resolve without antibiotics.”

Ebell added that antibiotics can also hurt kids in other ways, such as causing nausea and vomiting. Antibiotics can also upset the delicate balance of gut bacteria, leading to diarrhea. In rare cases, they can lead to a debilitating allergic reaction called anaphylaxis, which can be life-threatening.

When antibiotics are necessary, however, they can be lifesaving. Patients with more severe symptoms — such as pain, worsening symptom or high fever — are more likely to benefit from an antibiotic, Ebell said.

Doctor’s Take

Doctors overprescribe antibiotics for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the difficulty in determining the exact nature of an infection when they see it.

“In several situations, the diagnosis is not very clear cut,” said Dr. Mobeen Rathore, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at Wolfson Children’s Hospital in Jacksonville, Florida, and professor at the University of Florida, who was not involved with the research.

All the more reason, doctors say, that parents should be aware of what to do if their child has a runny nose or a sore throat. For patients with the common cold, the best defense is to drink plenty of fluids, get rest and use over-the-counter medications for symptomatic control. Antibiotics should not be taken for mild to moderate sinus infections, unless symptoms last longer than seven days or worsen after clinical improvement, according the American Academy of Family Physicians.

Of course, parents should never hesitate to call their pediatrician or family physician with questions at the first sign of illness. But even then, it is good to ask questions as to the necessity of antibiotics.

“It’s OK to ask your physician, ‘Why are you prescribing an antibiotic for my son-daughter?’” Kronman of Seattle Children’s Hospital said. “Have a discussion with your physician. Is an antibiotic really needed for this cold or are there other things we can try?”

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iStock/Thinkstock(BUFFALO, N.Y.) — The controversy surrounding former Baltimore Ravens star Ray Rice has focused more attention on domestic violence, otherwise known as intimate partner violence.

Even before the Rice incident became a huge national story, Dr. Kathleen Parks of the University of Buffalo’s Research Institute on Addictions conducted a five-year study on coeds who were physically or sexually abused and whether the experience caused them to drink more and as a result, increased their risk of future abuse.

Parks said that of the nearly one thousand college-aged women who suffered intimate partner violence, many were victimized the next year and often turned to alcohol as a way to cope.

However, the study determined that drinking did not make a woman more susceptible to be attacked again but rather, it was her experience of being previously abused that was the greater indicator of future assaults.

Yet, even though something terrible happened to them at least once, Parks says that most of the women managed to escape the pattern of victimization as time went by.

According to the UB study, “The year prior to and the first year of college may be a critical period for intervening to reduce risk for severe victimization.”

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iStock/Thinkstock(CORVALLIS, Ore.) — Everyone’s got to shuck their mortal coil at some point but perhaps there are ways of delaying the inevitable.

One option, at least for men, is to try and eliminate stress from their lives. An Oregon State University study contends that high stress will shave years off an older man’s life compared to their peers who aren’t as bothered by everyday hassles or traumatic life events like job loss or divorce.

Interestingly enough, Carolyn Aldwin, who heads OSU’s Center for Healthy Aging Research, says that these two types of stressors aren’t necessarily related, that is, a man who experienced some major bad luck in his life may nonetheless be able to easily handle everyday annoyances.

In her study, Aldwin looked at life events and daily hassles that caused stress to 1,300 men over 16 years and then followed them for another five. During that period, 43 percent had passed away.

It soon became clear that men who experienced fewer traumatic life events and better managed the stress of everyday life had a far lower mortality rate than men who reported higher numbers of stressful life events and regularly lost their cool at stuff they often couldn’t control.

As Aldwin explains, “It’s not the number of hassles that does you in, it’s the perception of them being a big deal that causes problems.” Her advice? “Don’t make mountains out of molehills.”

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Enterovirus D68, the respiratory illness suspected of hospitalizing hundreds of children across the nation, has now spread to the Northeast and is likely to hit the whole country, according to experts.

Connecticut and New York are the latest states to report cases of the rapidly spreading virus that has targeted young children, especially those with asthma, in 21 states.

The Connecticut Department of Public Health received reports “from two hospitals in different parts of the state of clusters of severe respiratory illness among young children that could be due to enterovirus D68,” the agency said in a statement.

Connecticut is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to confirm the cases.

The New York State Department of Health has also confirmed more than a dozen cases of enterovirus D68 in children living in the state’s capital and central regions, officials said.

The CDC has not confirmed New York’s cases.

As of Saturday, enterovirus D68 had spread to 21 states across the Midwest and East Coast, with confirmed cases spanning from New Mexico to Montana to Delaware.

The virus is likely to continue spreading, ABC News’ Dr. Richard Besser said Sunday morning.

“It’s very hard for a virus to be limited by borders,” Besser said. “I expect that it’s going to hit the whole country.”

Enterovirus D68 comes from a family of viruses that can cause cold-like symptoms, typically during the month of September.

Besser warned parents to watch out for symptoms of coughs and wheezing among their children, especially if their children are asthmatic.

“The best approach for prevention is what we talk about all the time for respiratory infections, colds, and flus and that’s really good hand washing,” Besser said.

There have been no reported cases of adults contracting the virus.

Adults may already have built an immunity towards the virus from previous infections, or may just get a milder version of the disease, Besser said.

Children who contract enterovirus D68 first suffer from what appears to be a common cold, with symptoms including a runny nose, coughing, and sneezing, according to Besser.

The symptoms then escalate to difficulty breathing. Besser said parents should look out for their children exhibiting signs of wheezing, difficulty eating or speaking, and blueness around the lips.

Doctors have found a way to treat the symptoms, helping kids breath more easily so they can get through the virus, Besser said.

“It’s the same medicine that’s used for children who have asthma,” he said. “But when I was in the emergency room this week in St. Louis, they were giving it to children who didn’t have asthma, and you could just see them turn around. Their airways would open up — some of them could leave the emergency room. Some had to stay, but the medicine helps a lot.”

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The pending child abuse case against Minnesota Viking Adrian Peterson has brought spanking, a common form of child discipline used by parents, back into public scrutiny.

“By the the time they reach adolescence, 85 percent of the nation’s children will have been, at one point or another, spanked,” Dr. Alan Kazdin, a psychologist at Yale University told ABC News. The figure comes from a 2003 study in which Kazdin investigated the use of spanking in disciplining children.

Between 70 percent and 90 percent of Americans admit to using some form of physical force when disciplining their kids, according to Southern Methodist University psychology professor George Holden.

“Physical punishment is extremely common for young children,” Holden told ABC News. “It’s very common in the United States.”

Kazdin’s 2003 study defines spanking as “hitting a child with an open hand on the buttocks or extremities with the intent to discipline without leaving a bruise or causing physical harm.”

But while spanking is prevalent, it is ineffective, Kazdin said.

“You don’t need spanking to change behavior,” Kazdin said. “It is not effective at all. It increases aggression in children, has emotional consequences.”

The line between spanking and more serious physical abuse is often muddled by theoretical and practical definitions, Kazdin said.

His study defines physical abuse as “corporal punishment that is harsh and excessive, involves the use of objects … is directed to other parts of the body than the extremities, and causes or has the potential to cause physical harm.”

Kazdin notes that parents can sometimes use objects in what would routinely be considered a spanking.

In the case of Adrian Peterson, the NFL player used a switch, or a tree branch, to spank his son, his lawyer said in a statement to ESPN.com.

“He used the same kind of discipline with his child that he experienced as a child growing up in east Texas,” the statement read. “Adrian never intended to harm his son and deeply regrets the unintentional injury.”

Peterson was booked and charged with reckless or negligent injury to a child, a felony, in Montgomery County, Texas, on Saturday morning. He was released after posting $15,000 bond.

Texas law defines child abuse as “an act or omission that endangers or impairs a child’s physical, mental or emotional health and development,” according to Texas’ Family Code.

But the state makes an exception for “reasonable discipline” by the child’s parent or guardian.

“Corporal punishment is not in itself abusive under the law,” according to a statement from the office of Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott.

Physical discipline, like a spanking, would only become abusive if “observable and material impairment occurs as a result,” according to the statement.

Parents in every state can legally hit their child as long as the force is “reasonable.”

Coporal punishment is also allowed in schools in 19 states, including Texas, according to the Center for Effective Discipline.

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Researchers are backing up the old adage, “Happy wife, happy life,” with a new study that says a wife’s happiness is more crucial than the husband’s in maintaining a lasting marriage.

The more content the wife is, the happier the husband will be with his life, no matter his feelings on the union, according to researchers at Rutgers University and the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research.

“I think it comes down to the fact that when a wife is satisfied with the marriage she tends to do a lot more for her husband, which has a positive effect on his life,” said Deborah Carr, a professor at Rutgers’ Department of Sociology, School of Arts and Science.

“Men tend to be less vocal about their relationships and their level of marital unhappiness might not be translated to their wives.”

The study analyzed the feelings of both spouses to determine a marriages’ influence on adults’ psychological well-being, asking questions on whether partners appreciates each other, gets on one another’s nerves, or understand each other.

Researchers examined nearly 400 couples who participated in a national study of income, health, and disability in 2009. On average, couples were married for 39 years.

While husbands rated their marriage slightly more positive than their wives, both usually said their general life satisfaction was high. Still, researchers found that wives became less happy if their spouses were sick, while husbands’ happiness levels did not change if the roles were reversed.

The study’s lead authors said results showed the impact marriage quality bears on health and well-being as couples age.

“The quality of a marriage is important because it provides a buffer against the health-depleting effects of later life stressors and helps couples manage difficult decisions regarding health and medical decision making,” Carr added.

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Researchers are backing up the old adage, “Happy wife, happy life,” with a new study that says a wife’s happiness is more crucial than the husband’s in maintaining a lasting marriage.

The more content the wife is, the happier the husband will be with his life, no matter his feelings on the union, according to researchers at Rutgers University and the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research.

“I think it comes down to the fact that when a wife is satisfied with the marriage she tends to do a lot more for her husband, which has a positive effect on his life,” said Deborah Carr, a professor at Rutgers’ Department of Sociology, School of Arts and Science.

“Men tend to be less vocal about their relationships and their level of marital unhappiness might not be translated to their wives.”

The study analyzed the feelings of both spouses to determine a marriages’ influence on adults’ psychological well-being, asking questions on whether partners appreciates each other, gets on one another’s nerves, or understand each other.

Researchers examined nearly 400 couples who participated in a national study of income, health, and disability in 2009. On average, couples were married for 39 years.

While husbands rated their marriage slightly more positive than their wives, both usually said their general life satisfaction was high. Still, researchers found that wives became less happy if their spouses were sick, while husbands’ happiness levels did not change if the roles were reversed.

The study’s lead authors said results showed the impact marriage quality bears on health and well-being as couples age.

“The quality of a marriage is important because it provides a buffer against the health-depleting effects of later life stressors and helps couples manage difficult decisions regarding health and medical decision making,” Carr added.

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Ingram Publishing/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — A new study said that peer pressure is not necessarily the primary reason why teens have sex, but rather, the belief that their fellow teenagers are doing so.

The review, published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Review indicated that the most important factor in teenagers opting to have sex at such a young age is that they think their peers are doing so as well. The review looked at data from multiple studies including over 50,000 teens.

Researchers indicate that the data could provide “important implications” for dealing with teenage sexual behavior.

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iStock/Thinkstock(BETHESDA, Md.) — The first two doses of an experimental Ebola vaccine have been injected into human subjects in the National Institutes of Health’s fast-tracked clinical trial.

A 39-year-old woman was the first person to receive the vaccine, which had previously only been tested in monkeys. She received the injection Tuesday at the NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, agency officials said. A 27-year-old woman was given the shot Friday, officials said.

The trial will test the safety of the vaccine, which was developed by GlaxoSmithKline and the NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. It was expedited by the burgeoning Ebola outbreak in West Africa, where more than 1,900 people have died from the infection, according to the World Health Organization.

The vaccine, which is designed to prevent Ebola, is different from the experimental drug ZMapp, which is designed to treat the infection.

“There is an urgent need for a protective Ebola vaccine, and it is important to establish that a vaccine is safe and spurs the immune system to react in a way necessary to protect against infection,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the NIH, said in a statement Thursday.

Though the vaccine has “performed extremely well” in primate studies, Fauci said, this is the first time it has been tested in humans.

The phase 1 clinical trial will involve 20 men and women between the ages of 18 and 50, according to the NIH. Researchers will use the study to determine whether the vaccine is safe and see whether it prompts an immune response necessary to protect against Ebola.

No human subjects will be infected with Ebola, officials said.

A $4.7 million grant will also go toward additional Ebola vaccine trials in September at Oxford University in England, as well as centers in Gambia and Mali, according to GlaxoSmithKline. In all, 140 patients will be tested.

Though Ebola was discovered nearly 40 years ago, it was so rare that drug manufacturers weren’t interested in investing in finding a vaccine for it, said Dr. William Schaffner, chair of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. Its rarity also made it impossible for scientists to conduct field studies.

“There’s always the layperson’s query of ‘Why don’t they rush this?’ ‘Why don’t these guys work a little later at night?'” Schaffner told ABC News in July. “It’s a little more complicated than that.”

GlaxoSmithKline became involved in the Ebola vaccine because it bought Swiss vaccine company Okairos AG in 2013. Okairos, originally a Merck spinoff, had been working on the vaccine with the NIH since 2011, a GlaxoSmithKline spokeswoman told ABC News.

Fauci said in July that it would take until late 2015 for a vaccine — if successful — to be administered to a limited number of health workers, but GlaxoSmithKline said in a statement this week that the grant will also enable it to manufacture 10,000 doses of the vaccine while the trials are ongoing. If the vaccine trials are successful, it will be able to make stocks available immediately to the World Health Organization.

The NIH said it should have initial data from the trial in late 2014.

The trial for a different vaccine is set to begin at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Silver Spring, Maryland. This vaccine was a collaboration between the U.S. Department of Defense and Iowa pharmaceutical company NewLink Genetics Corp.

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