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

Copyright © 2016 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

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

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Vasectomy May Not Raise Prostate Cancer Risk After All

Vasectomy May Not Raise Prostate Cancer Risk After All
News Picture: Vasectomy May Not Raise Prostate Cancer Risk After AllBy Don Rauf
HealthDay Reporter

Latest Mens Health News

MONDAY, Sept. 19, 2016 (HealthDay News) — A large, new study challenges previous research that suggested vasectomies might increase the risk of prostate cancer or dying from it.

In the latest finding, researchers found no connection between vasectomies and overall risk of prostate cancer, or of dying from the disease.

The American Cancer Society epidemiologists reviewed more than 7,000 prostate cancer deaths, as opposed to the just over 800 prostate cancer deaths that were studied by Harvard scientists in a 2014 study.

Vasectomy is an effective and inexpensive long-term method of birth control,” said new study author Eric Jacobs. “This new, large study provides some reassurance that vasectomy is unlikely to meaningfully increase risk of prostate cancer.”

Jacobs and his colleagues reviewed data on almost 364,000 men aged 40 and older who participated in the Cancer Prevention Study II, a vast research project organized by the American Cancer Society. A total of just over 42,000 men were identified as having had a vasectomy, a surgical procedure that blocks or cuts the tubes that carry sperm from the testicles.

“This cohort [group in the cancer prevention study] was particularly informative because of the large number of fatal prostate cancers, over 7,400, that occurred during 30 years of follow-up,” said Jacobs.

In addition, the study authors analyzed information on a subgroup of about 66,000 men from the same study. They were followed, starting in 1992, for new diagnoses of prostate cancer. This group allowed the investigators to assess any link between vasectomy and overall risk of being diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Based on this data, the investigators found no link between vasectomy and either the risk of prostate cancer or the risk of fatal prostate cancer.

The findings were published online Sept. 19 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Dr. Sumanta Pal is a medical oncologist at the City of Hope National Medical Center in Duarte, Calif. He said, “The current study mitigates concern that vasectomy could potentially be related to the development of prostate cancer, or death related to this disease.”

Jacobs noted that the results of the earlier Harvard study, published in the same journal in July 2014, received a considerable amount of media attention at the time. So, it is reasonable to expect that some men considering vasectomy might have become concerned about the procedure, he said.

That study, the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, sponsored by the Harvard School of Public Health, found that vasectomy was linked with about a 10 percent greater overall risk of prostate cancer and about a 20 percent higher risk of fatal prostate cancer.

“It’s not clear why the two studies found somewhat different results,” said Jacobs. “It should be noted that the increase in risk of prostate cancer observed in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study was relatively small, so the results of the two studies are not all that different. Sometimes study results differ by chance.”

The American Cancer Society reports that one in seven U.S. men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in his lifetime. After non-melanoma skin cancer, the disease is the most common form of cancer in men.

Although it’s also the second-leading cause of cancer-related death in men (more than 26,000 are expected to die from prostate cancer this year), the American Cancer Society says it can often be treated successfully with surgery and radiation.

And many men have slow-growing tumors, so they’re more likely to die of another cause than prostate cancer.

Dr. Pal said there are currently no treatments proven to effectively reduce prostate cancer risk.

“However, we do think that early detection is associated with improved outcomes,” he said. “The most recent guidelines suggest a tailored approach to prostate cancer screening, taking into account factors such as family history.”

The PSA blood test is the standard screening method for prostate cancer. Prostate-specific antigen, or PSA, is a protein produced by cells of the prostate gland. The blood level of PSA is often elevated in men with prostate cancer.

However, there’s much debate in medical circles over the value of PSA screening.

Jacobs added that maintaining a healthy weight and quitting smoking may lower risk of the disease.

Smoking and obesity have consistently been linked with higher risk of fatal prostate cancer,” he said.

More information

The American Cancer Society offers information on signs and symptoms of prostate cancer, screening and treatment options.

Copyright © 2016 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

SOURCES: Eric Jacobs, Ph.D., cancer epidemiologist, American Cancer Society, Atlanta; Sumanta Pal, M.D., medical oncologist, City of Hope National Medical Center, Duarte, Calif., and spokesman, American Society of Clinical Oncology; Sept. 19, 2016, Journal of Clinical Oncology, online

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FDA OKs 1st Drug to Treat Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy

FDA OKs 1st Drug to Treat Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy
News Picture: FDA OKs 1st Drug to Treat Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy

MONDAY, Sept. 19, 2016 (HealthDay News) — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Monday granted preliminary approval to the first drug for a rare form of muscular dystrophy.

Exondys 51 (eteplirsen) was granted accelerated approval to treat Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a genetic disorder that progressively weakens the muscular systems of its victims. Most are in a wheelchair by their teens and do not survive past their 20s or 30s.

“Patients with a particular type of Duchenne muscular dystrophy will now have access to an approved treatment for this rare and devastating disease,” Dr. Janet Woodcock, director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said in an agency news release.

“In rare diseases, new drug development is especially challenging, due to the small numbers of people affected by each disease and the lack of medical understanding of many disorders,” Woodcock said.

“Accelerated approval makes this drug available to patients based on initial data, but we eagerly await learning more about the efficacy [effectiveness] of this drug through a confirmatory clinical trial that the [drug’s maker] must conduct after approval,” Woodcock added.

The FDA gave its accelerated approval even though an agency advisory panel had recommended against the drug, saying there was little evidence that it benefited patients. That advisory vote was met with significant pushback from patients’ families, some physicians and politicians, the Associated Press reported.

Under the accelerated approval provision, the FDA is requiring the maker of Exondys 51 — Sarepta Therapeutics of Cambridge, Mass. — to conduct a clinical trial to confirm that the drug helps patients.

Duchenne is the most common form of muscular dystrophy. The disease occurs when the body lacks a protein, called dystrophin, that helps keep muscle cells intact.

Exondys 51, which is injected, is specifically used for the treatment of patients who have a confirmed mutation in the gene that produces dystrophin, the FDA said.

Essentially, the drug helps cells “skip” over the faulty section of genetic coding and allows the production of a form of the dystrophin protein, according to Sarepta Therapeutics.

Exondys 51 was placed on a fast-track approval, which speeds up the review of drugs that are intended to treat serious or life-threatening conditions or have the potential to address an unmet medical need. This approval can be based on research that shows there is a reasonable likelihood that the drug will benefit patients, the FDA said.

Exondys 51 was also given an “orphan drug” designation, which provides certain financial incentives to drug makers to encourage the development of drugs for rare diseases.

The accelerated approval was based on findings that the drug helped increase skeletal muscle in some patients, the FDA said.

Commonly reported side effects among those taking Exondys 51 included balance disorder and vomiting. The FDA said its decision to grant preliminary approval to the drug takes into account that Duchenne is a life-threatening and debilitating disease affecting children.

Disease symptoms usually develop early in life, between the ages of 3 and 5, and become more severe with age. People lose the ability to perform normal daily tasks without help. Many patients must use a wheelchair by the time they are teenagers. Over time, potentially fatal heart and lung conditions can develop.

Boys develop Duchenne far more often than girls. But, the disease can affect anyone — even those who don’t have a family history of the genetic disorder, the FDA said. Roughly one of every 3,600 male infants worldwide has the disease.

— Mary Elizabeth Dallas

Copyright © 2016 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

SOURCE: U.S. Food and Drug Administration, news release, Sept. 19, 2016; Associated Press

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Healthy Diet May Be Key to Kids' Reading Skills

Healthy Diet May Be Key to Kids' Reading Skills

News Picture: Healthy Diet May Be Key to Kids' Reading Skills

MONDAY, Sept. 19, 2016 (HealthDay News) — Healthy eating may offer young children an unexpected benefit — it might help them become better readers, a new study suggests.

Researchers in Finland found students’ reading skills improved more between first grade and third grade if they didn’t eat a lot of sugary foods or red meat, and if their diet consisted mainly of vegetables, berries and other fruits, as well as fish, whole grains and unsaturated fats.

The study included 161 Finnish students. They were between the ages of 6 and 8 (first grade to third grade). The researchers reviewed the children’s diets and their reading ability using food diaries and standardized reading tests.

A healthier diet was associated with better reading skills by third grade, regardless of how well the students could read in first grade, the researchers said.

“Another significant observation is that the associations of diet quality with reading skills were also independent of many confounding factors, such as socioeconomic status, physical activity, body adiposity [fat] and physical fitness,” study author Eero Haapala said in a University of Eastern Finland news release. He is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Eastern Finland and the University of Jyvaskyla.

Does that mean parents of picky eaters should be concerned about their child’s reading abilities? Not necessarily. Although this study found an association between the foods young children ate and their reading skills, it didn’t prove cause-and-effect.

Still, the study’s authors said parents, schools, governments and corporations all have an opportunity to enhance academic performance in schools by making healthy foods more available to children.

The study was published recently in the European Journal of Nutrition.

— Mary Elizabeth Dallas

Copyright © 2016 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

SOURCE: University of Eastern Finland, news release, Sept. 13, 2016

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CDC: Too Many Antibiotics Still Being Prescribed in U.S.

CDC: Too Many Antibiotics Still Being Prescribed in U.S.

News Picture: CDC: Too Many Antibiotics Still Being Prescribed in U.S.By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

Latest Infectious Disease News

MONDAY, Sept. 19, 2016 (HealthDay News) — Despite growing concerns about creating drug-resistant bacteria, overprescribing of antibiotics in U.S. hospitals didn’t drop between 2006 and 2012, according to a new federal report.

Over that time period, 55 percent of patients received at least one dose of antibiotics during their hospital stay, whether it was needed or not, researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

“Antibiotic use remains common, and use of the most powerful antibiotics is rising,” said lead researcher James Baggs, a CDC epidemiologist.

Although the use of antibiotics remained about the same during the study period, a significant increase was seen in the use of newer antibiotics, Baggs said.

“Because inappropriate antibiotic use increases the risk of antibiotic resistance and other side effects, continued monitoring of antibiotic use is critical to future improvements in patient safety,” he said.

The report was published online Sept. 19 in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

For the study, Baggs and his colleagues used information from a database that includes about 300 hospitals and more than 34 million patients.

Dr. Ateev Mehrotra is an associate professor at Harvard Medical School’s department of health care policy, in Boston. He said, “We’ve known for decades that there are too many antibiotics being used.” Mehrotra co-authored an accompanying journal editorial.

“We still give a lot of people antibiotics they don’t need,” he said. And doctors know they are prescribing too many antibiotics, he added.

“This is about the fact that doctors are human — doctors think patients want antibiotics,” Mehrotra said.

One reason for overprescribing is that it’s easy to do and many doctors figure it might not help, but it won’t hurt, Mehrotra suggested. So, “they give it just to be safe, which drives a lot of the prescribing,” he said.

To get doctors to prescribe fewer antibiotics, several tactics could be tried, Mehrotra said. For example, having physicians justify the use of the antibiotic on the medical record might help them stop and think before prescribing. In addition, patients can ask their doctor why antibiotics are being prescribed, and if they are really necessary.

Antibiotics and antibiotic-resistant bacteria are a worldwide problem and will be a topic discussed this week at the United Nations General Assembly.

Before the U.N. gathering, Ramanan Laxminarayan, director of the nonprofit Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics and Policy, is scheduled to hold a meeting of health experts to focus attention on the problem.

“Because of how antibiotics around the world both in developed and developing countries are being used, they are not as effective as they were in the past,” he said.

“In fact, we now have many multidrug-resistant infections that are not treatable with any antibiotics we have, and consequently there is now a call for global action to solve the problem,” Laxminarayan said.

The antibiotic problem around the world is a two-sided, he explained.

“In developed nations, too many people are being prescribed antibiotics unnecessarily, while in many developing countries too few have access to these lifesaving drugs,” he said.

“Far more people die because of lack of access than they do from drug resistance,” Laxminarayan said.

“We need investment in new diagnostic tools, antibiotics and alternatives to antibiotics,” he said.

Copyright © 2016 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

SOURCES: James Baggs, Ph.D., epidemiologist, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Ateev Mehrotra, M.D., M.P.H., associate professor, department of health care policy, Harvard Medical School, Boston; Ramanan Laxminarayan, Ph.D., director, Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics and Policy; Sept. 19, 2016, JAMA Internal Medicine , online

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