How to Protect Yourself From the Seasonal Flu

How to Protect Yourself From the Seasonal Flu

News Picture: How to Protect Yourself From the Seasonal Flu

FRIDAY, Sept. 23, 2016 (HealthDay News) — Don’t let this year’s flu season catch you by surprise.

Experts say an annual flu shot is the best way to avoid the aches, fever, congestion and fatigue that flu brings — and to protect those who are at high risk for flu-related complications.

“Every year, people die from influenza,” said Cindy Weston, an assistant professor of nursing at Texas A&M University. “After sizable outbreaks, people will respond with large amounts of vaccinations, but they should be getting vaccinated every year to protect those most vulnerable, mainly children and the elderly.”

Now that it’s fall, it’s time for your shot.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends an annual flu shot for everyone older than 6 months of age. This includes pregnant women.

Babies less than 8 months old may need to get the vaccine in two doses. And people over age 65 should get the high-dose shot. Adults with severe egg allergies can get an alternative form of protection called Flublok, according to the CDC.

Some people may have allergies so severe they can’t get the shot at all. “[They] are dependent upon everyone else getting immunized in order to stay at low risk for the flu,” Weston said.

For healthy adults, the flu may seem like a relatively minor inconvenience, and some go out of their way to avoid vaccination.

Some fear the shot will give them the flu — not true. Others dread the inevitable needle sting. (FluMist, the nasal flu vaccine, was found to be ineffective and is not recommended.) And some may believe a shot isn’t necessary now, because they had one last year. That’s just not true, Weston said.

“The flu strain mutates every year,” she explained. “The flu shot you get this year is different from the one you got last year because it is made specifically for the prominent strains of the virus.”

If vaccination rates are low, a potentially deadly flu outbreak could occur, Weston said. Millions of people get the flu every year, leading to hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations and thousands of deaths, according to the CDC.

“Flu season typically lasts from fall to spring,” Weston said. “The outbreak may peak at various times during those seasons, but people should be vaccinated before they return home for the holidays to prevent an outbreak.”

After you get the shot, it takes two weeks for your body to develop antibodies against the virus, Weston pointed out.

In the meantime, good hygiene will help you stay healthy.

“Washing your hands properly, covering your cough, avoid[ing] hand contact with your face and eyes, and wiping down surfaces with disinfectant are all ways to help stop the spread of the flu,” Weston said.

It’s also important to be aware of warning signs and flu symptoms, such as:

“The best way to avoid the flu is to get vaccinated,” Weston said. “When it comes to you and your family’s health, it’s best to take the cautious approach and get your shot.”

— Mary Elizabeth Dallas

MedicalNews
Copyright © 2016 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

SOURCE: Texas A&M University, news release, Sept. 19, 2016

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Drug-Resistant Germs Thrive in America's Corroding Water Systems

Drug-Resistant Germs Thrive in America's Corroding Water Systems

News Picture: Drug-Resistant Germs Thrive in America's Corroding Water SystemsBy Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

Latest Infectious Disease News

FRIDAY, Sept. 23, 2016 (HealthDay News) — The thousands of miles of aging, corroding pipes that bring water to Americans each day may be home to dangerous drug-resistant bacteria, a new report warns.

These harmful bacteria include legionella, which causes Legionnaires’ disease; pseudomonas, which can trigger pneumonia; and mycobacteria, which can cause tuberculosis and other illnesses, the researchers said.

While these bacteria thrive in many environments, they “can [also] live in the pipes; they can survive on tiny amounts of nutrients found in water,” explained lead researcher Dr. Jeffrey Griffiths, a professor of public health and medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston.

Overall, his team’s analysis of 100 million Medicare records found that between 1991 and 2006, more than 617,000 older Americans were hospitalized after falling ill from infection with these three common bacteria — which are often found in plumbing.

Health-care costs for related illnesses totaled $9 billion in Medicare payments — an average of $600 million a year, Griffiths’ group said. Conditions like pneumonia, tuberculosis and Legionnaires’ disease typically affect the elderly and people with compromised immune systems, experts say.

Many of the bacteria that triggered these cases may already be resistant to one or more antibiotics, as was seen in 1 percent to 2 percent of hospitalizations. Not only are antibiotic-resistant bacteria much more dangerous for patients, but treating such cases boosts costs by 10 percent to 40 percent, Griffiths said. He was former chair of the Drinking Water Committee for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Science Advisory Board.

The study comes as the U.S. Senate approved a $9 billion bill on Sept. 15 known as the Water Resources Development Act. According to The New York Times, the bill would earmark funds to repair ports, dams, levees and other water infrastructure in 17 states. However, it’s unclear if the bill will pass the House of Representatives, the Times said.

Still, isn’t the water from most public water systems already rigorously treated to cut down on germs?

Yes, Griffiths’ team said, but most of that happens at water treatment plants that are located far from the typical home.

After chlorinated water leaves the treatment plant, it may have to travel far to reach homes, hospitals and other buildings. By that point, its chlorine content is so depleted it may no longer kill the bacteria lurking in pipes.

That’s how harmful bacteria can enter drinking water, Griffiths said, or even daily showers, where it can be inhaled in the shower spray.

The recent water crisis in Flint, Mich., highlights the problem, he said. A change in the source of city water — running through aging and corroded pipes — exposed thousands of children to high levels of lead and also caused an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease that led to 90 known cases and 10 deaths, Griffiths noted.

And while the his study estimates that more than 600,000 Americans are sickened each year by the types of bacteria often found in water pipes, the number may be even higher, Griffiths said. That’s because most people who are infected don’t end up in the hospital, so their cases aren’t recorded.

He stressed that although dangerous bacteria can lurk in water pipes, it’s impossible to know what percentage of infectious-disease cases can be blamed on germs found in plumbing.

For example, pseudomonas infections can arise through contact with bacteria in plumbing and those living elsewhere. “I can’t give a reliable number for this, because people have not been paying attention to the pipe infections in the past,” Griffiths explained.

In addition, this study only covered people 65 and older, so how these bacteria affect younger people isn’t known, Griffiths said.

What can be done?

Replacing the entire infrastructure of crumbling water pipes in the United States is probably not possible, Griffiths said, and might not even prevent bacteria from returning.

But interim steps can be taken to lower illness rates, he added.

People can do little to prevent being exposed to these pathogens. Filtering your water won’t catch the bacteria, because they are so tiny they pass through most filters, Griffiths said.

However, in buildings such as hospitals and nursing homes — where people are particularly susceptible to these germs — water could be heated to kill the bacteria before it’s distributed throughout the facility, reasoned Griffiths.

Mae Wu works on the health program at the National Resources Defense Council, an environmental advocacy group. She said there’s a need to get “some serious funding for replacing our drinking water infrastructure around the country.”

How much money? “To upgrade all of our infrastructure will cost more than $1 trillion,” Wu said.

But such incidents like the one in Flint highlight the urgency of the situation.

“Flint put this problem under the spotlight for a lot of people,” Wu said. “But, it’s not just about lead — this study highlights one of the other big reasons why we need to upgrade our drinking water infrastructure.”

Another environmental expert said more research may be needed to figure out the best way to curb the danger.

“We are only beginning to understand what goes on inside our buildings in the plumbing,” said Lynn Thorp, the national campaigns director of Clean Water Action, another advocacy group. “We think there is a lot of room for innovation and investment.”

People should support efforts by local governments and water systems “to dig into this to learn more and solve the problems,” Thorp said.

“I don’t think people should be alarmed; I think they should understand that this is something we can’t ignore,” she said.

The study was published Sept. 12 in the Journal of Public Health Policy.

MedicalNews
Copyright © 2016 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

SOURCES: Jeffrey Griffiths, M.D., professor, public health and medicine, Tufts University Schools of Medicine, Boston; Lynn Thorp, director, national campaigns, Clean Water Action; Mae Wu, staff attorney, health program, National Resources Defense Council; Sept. 12, 2016, Journal of Public Health Policy

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The 'Love Hormone' May Quiet Tinnitus

The 'Love Hormone' May Quiet Tinnitus
News Picture: The 'Love Hormone' May Quiet TinnitusBy Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

Latest Hearing News

THURSDAY, Sept. 22, 2016 (HealthDay News) — People suffering from chronic ringing in the ears — called tinnitus — may find some relief by spraying the hormone oxytocin in their nose, a small initial study by Brazilian researchers suggests.

Oxytocin — dubbed the “love hormone” because it promotes social connections — might also help relieve the annoying and sometimes disturbing noises of tinnitus.

“Oxytocin has actions in the brain and the ear that may help in tinnitus treatment and provide immediate relief,” said lead researcher Dr. Andreia Azevedo. She is with the department of otolaryngology at the Universidade Federal de Sao Paulo.

But, at least one hearing specialist was unconvinced that oxytocin would help.

And, even Azevedo said it isn’t clear how oxytocin might work to relieve tinnitus. She speculated that it may have an effect in the ear, probably related to fluid regulation in the inner ear, and a brain effect that may be related to the production of the neurotransmitter dopamine.

“For some patients, tinnitus disappeared or reached a non-distress level,” Azevedo said. “As usual in tinnitus treatment, in some patients the tinnitus kept low, and for some it raised after drug therapy ended.”

Although oxytocin appeared safe, its long-term effects aren’t known, Azevedo said. “We did not have any side effects, but further larger studies are necessary to establish the role of oxytocin in tinnitus treatment,” she added.

The research team is conducting additional studies to see if increasing doses of oxytocin can improve and lengthen the response.

“We expect that these trials will raise the interest in this drug and result in larger randomized trials,” Azevedo said.

The results of the study were scheduled to be presented Thursday at the meeting of the American Academy of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery in San Diego. Findings presented at meetings are generally viewed as preliminary until they’ve been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

As many as one in 10 Americans suffers from tinnitus. The disorder is characterized by hearing sounds when there are none. The sounds can be perceived as ringing, buzzing, crickets or hissing. For those who struggle with it daily, the noise is so bothersome that it interferes with thinking, emotions, hearing, sleep and concentration, according to a previously published study. That study was released online July 21 in JAMA Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery.

For the new study, the researchers randomly assigned 17 people with tinnitus, average age 63, to puffs of oxytocin or a placebo (distilled water) in each nostril.

The study volunteers were asked to assess their symptoms 30 minutes after treatment, and then again, 24 hours later.

Azevedo’s team found that patients who received oxytocin reported a significant reduction in tinnitus, compared with those who received the placebo.

Dr. Darius Kohan is chief of otology/neurotology at Lenox Hill Hospital and Manhattan Eye, Ear, and Throat Hospital in New York City. “It’s good people are doing research on this,” he said, “because there isn’t any one treatment that works very well.”

Kohan remains skeptical, however, about using oxytocin to treat tinnitus, because so many treatments have been tried and have failed.

“Whenever there is a medical condition and there are a thousand different treatments, it means that none of them work, because if there was one that worked we would all be doing it,” he said.

Results of this small trial are not sufficient to draw any conclusions about oxytocin as a treatment, Kohan added.

“There are too many ifs with this. Is it possible that it helps? Yes. Is it possible it’s a placebo effect? Yes,” Kohan said. “You can’t tell from this small study whether or not the treatment is effective over the long term.”

In addition, he said, the hormone can have serious side effects, including abnormal heartbeat, abnormally low blood pressure, high blood pressure, allergic reactions, breathing difficulty, nausea and vomiting.

People suffering from tinnitus shouldn’t start using oxytocin in hopes of curing themselves, Kohan said.

“This is not something you take lightly. You don’t know if it has benefits in the long term, and you can potentially have bad side effects. I would not recommend it,” he said.

MedicalNews
Copyright © 2016 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

SOURCES: Andreia Azevedo, M.D., department of otolaryngology, Universidade Federal de Sao Paulo, Brazil; Darius Kohan, M.D., chief, otology/neurotology, Lenox Hill Hospital, and Manhattan Eye, Ear, and Throat Hospital, New York City; Sept. 22, 2016, presentation, meeting, American Academy of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery, San Diego, Calif.

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How to Protect Yourself From the Seasonal Flu

How to Protect Yourself From the Seasonal Flu

News Picture: How to Protect Yourself From the Seasonal Flu

FRIDAY, Sept. 23, 2016 (HealthDay News) — Don’t let this year’s flu season catch you by surprise.

Experts say an annual flu shot is the best way to avoid the aches, fever, congestion and fatigue that flu brings — and to protect those who are at high risk for flu-related complications.

“Every year, people die from influenza,” said Cindy Weston, an assistant professor of nursing at Texas A&M University. “After sizable outbreaks, people will respond with large amounts of vaccinations, but they should be getting vaccinated every year to protect those most vulnerable, mainly children and the elderly.”

Now that it’s fall, it’s time for your shot.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends an annual flu shot for everyone older than 6 months of age. This includes pregnant women.

Babies less than 8 months old may need to get the vaccine in two doses. And people over age 65 should get the high-dose shot. Adults with severe egg allergies can get an alternative form of protection called Flublok, according to the CDC.

Some people may have allergies so severe they can’t get the shot at all. “[They] are dependent upon everyone else getting immunized in order to stay at low risk for the flu,” Weston said.

For healthy adults, the flu may seem like a relatively minor inconvenience, and some go out of their way to avoid vaccination.

Some fear the shot will give them the flu — not true. Others dread the inevitable needle sting. (FluMist, the nasal flu vaccine, was found to be ineffective and is not recommended.) And some may believe a shot isn’t necessary now, because they had one last year. That’s just not true, Weston said.

“The flu strain mutates every year,” she explained. “The flu shot you get this year is different from the one you got last year because it is made specifically for the prominent strains of the virus.”

If vaccination rates are low, a potentially deadly flu outbreak could occur, Weston said. Millions of people get the flu every year, leading to hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations and thousands of deaths, according to the CDC.

“Flu season typically lasts from fall to spring,” Weston said. “The outbreak may peak at various times during those seasons, but people should be vaccinated before they return home for the holidays to prevent an outbreak.”

After you get the shot, it takes two weeks for your body to develop antibodies against the virus, Weston pointed out.

In the meantime, good hygiene will help you stay healthy.

“Washing your hands properly, covering your cough, avoid[ing] hand contact with your face and eyes, and wiping down surfaces with disinfectant are all ways to help stop the spread of the flu,” Weston said.

It’s also important to be aware of warning signs and flu symptoms, such as:

“The best way to avoid the flu is to get vaccinated,” Weston said. “When it comes to you and your family’s health, it’s best to take the cautious approach and get your shot.”

— Mary Elizabeth Dallas

MedicalNews
Copyright © 2016 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

SOURCE: Texas A&M University, news release, Sept. 19, 2016

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Health Tip: Get a Safe Car for a Teen Driver

Health Tip: Get a Safe Car for a Teen Driver

Latest Healthy Kids News

(HealthDay News) — Parents have limited control over the actions of a young driver. But they do have control over choice of car.

The DMV.org website suggests:

  • Opting for a four-door sedan with four cylinders, including good safety technology such as anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control and air bags.
  • Choosing a car with a long and excellent crash-safety record.
  • Understanding that higher-end models can be pricier up front, and more expensive to insure.

— Diana Kohnle

MedicalNews
Copyright © 2016 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

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