New Study Confirms That Flu Vaccine Can Reduce Risk for a Heart Attack

 Heart Health  Comments Off on New Study Confirms That Flu Vaccine Can Reduce Risk for a Heart Attack
Aug 222013
 

You probably thought that the flu vaccine was only good for cutting your chances of getting influenza. But for over 10 years, researchers have known of a link between influenza and heart disease.

According to Mail Online, a new study published in the journal Heart confirms that for middle-aged men, a flu vaccine can cut their risk of a heart attack in half, or about 45%.

It’s not completely understood how a flu vaccine helps your heart health. But one possible explanation, as indicated in an article published on HowStuffWorks, is that the vaccine helps your immune system fight off infections at an early stage. This in turn prevents your body from activating an inflammatory response.

When our arteries become inflamed, our blood may thicken, and blood clots may form. Both of these changes in our circulatory system can lead to a heart attack, especially if our arteries are already narrowed with plague. By preventing the inflammation from occurring, the vaccine helps reduce our chances of getting a heart attack from a viral infection.

So you now have another reason to get your flu vaccine every year. It not only cuts of chances of getting the flu, it also cuts your risk of a heart attack, at least for middle-aged men.

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Michael Douglas Publicizes That HPV Can Also Cause Throat Cancer

 Cancer  Comments Off on Michael Douglas Publicizes That HPV Can Also Cause Throat Cancer
Jun 032013
 

In a candid conversation with the Guardian, the actor Michael Douglas reveals that his throat cancer was caused by HPV transmitted to him through oral sex, a.k.a. cunnilingus.

According to the National Cancer Institute, HPV is not one virus but a group of more than 150 related viruses. Known as the human papillomaviruses, they are sexually transmitted and can cause genital warts, almost all cervical cancers, most anal cancers and some vaginal, penile and oropharyngeal (throat) cancers.

There are two HPV vaccines available. Gardasil is effective in preventing cervical, anal, vulvar and vaginal cancers as well as genital warts. Cervarix is effective for the prevention of cervical cancer and precancerous cervical lesions caused by HPV. These vaccines are not approved for the prevention of penile or throat cancers caused by HPV.

The best prevention is for you to have a long-term, mutually monogamous relationship with an uninfected partner. Condoms help reduce your risk of HPV transmission, but is not 100% effective.

Michael Douglas has been clear of his throat cancer for two years. This followed an 8 week treatment of intensive chemotherapy and radiation. He is lucky since his type of stage 4 cancer is often fatal. But if you are fortunate to clear yourself of this type of cancer, it doesn’t come back 95% of the time.

The National Cancer Institute also states that by 2020, HPV will cause more throat cancers than cervical cancers in the US. This type of HPV infection can cause cancer of the oropharynx (middle part of your throat including the soft palate), the base of your tongue and your tonsils. Michael Douglas’s stage four tumor was at the base of his tongue.

I applaud Mr. Douglas for being open and honest. Throat cancer as the result of an HPV infection through transmission by oral sex is on the rise, especially among men. By 2020, throat cancers caused by an HPV infection will outnumber cervical cancers caused by HPV. Practicing safe sex is your best defense against getting this type of cancer.

Hepatitis A Outbreak Associated With Frozen Berry Mix

 Uncategorized  Comments Off on Hepatitis A Outbreak Associated With Frozen Berry Mix
Jun 022013
 

The FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced on May 31, 2013,  people in 5 states have become ill with acute hepatitis A in association with consumption of Townsend Farms Organic Anti-Oxidant Blend. This blend is a frozen berry and pomegranate seed mix sold through Costco markets. The 5 states reporting this hepatitis A outbreak are Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona and California.

The illness onset dates range from April 26 through May 17, 2013, according to the CDC. 11 of 17 people interviewed reported eating the Townsend Farms blend and purchased from Costco. The CDC is currently investigating if this product is sold at other stores or venues. Preliminary tests show that this outbreak strain of hepatitis A is genotype 1B. This strain is common in North Africa and the Middle East regions, but is rarely seen in the Americas.

This genotype was identified in a 2013 outbreak in Europe and a 2012 outbreak in British Columbia related to a frozen berry blend with pomegranate seeds from Egypt. The Townsend Farms Organic Anti-Oxidant Blend frozen berry mix uses produce from the US, Argentina, Chile and Turkey, according to the label.

Hepatitis A is a human disease usually occurring when an infected food handler prepares food without good hand hygiene. It is a virus found in stools and blood of infected people about 15 to 45 days before symptoms occur. You can catch hepatitis A if:

  • You eat or drink contaminated food or water
  • You come in contact with an infected person’s stool or blood
  • An infected person does not wash their hands properly after using the bathroom and contaminates objects or food that they touch
  • Or you participate in oral or anal sexual practices.

According to the US National Library of Medicine, symptoms of hepatitis A include:

  • Dark urine
  • Fatigue
  • Itching
  • Loss of appetite
  • Low-grade fever
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Pale or clay-colored stools
  • And yellow skin or jaundice

There is no specific treatment for hepatitis A. Over 85% of patients with hepatitis A recover within 3 months. Almost all patients recover within 6 months. The virus does not remain in the body after the infection goes away.

Vaccines for hepatitis A are available. The vaccine begins to protect you about 4 weeks after receiving the first dose. You can reduce your risks of catching this virus by

  • Always washing your hands properly after using the restroom and when you come in contact with an infected person’s blood, stool or other bodily fluid
  • Avoid unclean food and water

The University of Maine states that the best way to keep raw fruits and vegetables safe are to

  • Wash your hands with hot soapy water before and after preparing food
  • Clean your counter top, cutting boards and utensils after peeling produce and before cutting and chopping.
  • Don’t wash produce with soaps or detergents
  • Use clean potable cold water to wash produce
  • Spray fragile produce like berries with distilled water in a colander
  • After washing, dry produce with a clean paper towel

 

New Coronavirus Is Causing Concern Among Medical Researchers

 Uncategorized  Comments Off on New Coronavirus Is Causing Concern Among Medical Researchers
Feb 272013
 
Coronavirus CDC Dr Fred Murphy

Photo Courtesy of CDC Dr. Fred Murphy

If you ever had a mild to moderate upper-respiratory infection, changes are that you were infected with one of four coronaviruses that frequently infect humans. The fifth type of coronavirus causes severe acute respiratory syndrome and is called SARS-CoV. Now, however, there appears to be a sixth coronavirus that also causes severe illness and is called the “novel coronavirus” or NCoV.

The four moderate coronaviruses easily infect us, and is more of a nuisance than a threat to our life. On the other hand, SARS and the Novel Coronavirus are severe enough to seriously threaten the life of anyone who gets infected. Luckily, we have not had any SARS infections anywhere in the world since 2004. Unfortunately, the Novel Coronavirus may be more deadly than SARS. So far, however, only thirteen people in the world are known to have been infected with the Novel Coronavirus. But of those thirteen, seven are dead.

Of the thirteen who have been infected with the Novel Coronavirus, six are in Saudi Arabia, two in Jordan and the other are from Britain and Germany and traveled to the Middle East. There are no known cases in the US.

Researchers still don’t know the source of the virus or how it spreads. The researchers at this point do know what it looks like and what its gene sequence is. This is a good starting point for scientist to figure out how dangerous this new virus can be.

What they don’t know is how widespread the virus is or what percentage of the population is susceptible to the severe form of the disease. It’s possible that medical scientist have only seen the most severe form of the disease, and the majority of the population only gets mildly sick. But it is also possible that this disease could cause severe illness to the majority of our population. It’s just too early to tell. Right now, however, the disease appears to be contained to the Middle East region. But with modern world travel, this type of disease could quickly infect most nations.

Like most coronaviruses, the Novel Coronavirus probably spreads in airborne droplets from breathing, coughs and sneezes. Many researchers are fearing that this virus, like most coronaviruses, will easily infect most of the world. It’s just a matter of time. That is why researchers are eager to learn as much about this virus as they can to help contain it.

Currently, there are no travel alerts for the Arabian Peninsula or its nearby countries, since the risk of infection is still considered low. To protect yourself from this form of disease, you should wash your hands often with soap and water, try avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth and avoid close contact with anyone who is sick. An ounce of prevention is a pound of cure.

Sources:

CDC: About Coronavirus and Novel Coronavirus Recently Detected

Reuters: Analysis: Emerging deadly virus demands swift sleuth work

Norovirus Infects Luxury Cruise Ship Passengers Once Again

 Uncategorized  Comments Off on Norovirus Infects Luxury Cruise Ship Passengers Once Again
Dec 292012
 

A cruise can be adventurous and romantic, but one small virus can make that experience rather miserable. One problem with a small ecosystem like a cruise ship is that a fast growing virus like the norovirus can spread quickly from person to person.

That is exactly what happened recently on the Queen Mary 2. 194 passengers and 11 crew members were sick for a few days with vomiting and diarrhea. The same thing happened earlier in the week on the Emerald Princess, where 189 passengers and 31 crew members were stricken with the same illness.

Even though the virus responsible for all this illness on cruise ships has not been identified, the norovirus is the most likely suspect. The United Kingdom has had problems with this virus this winter in schools, hospitals, nursing homes and day care centers.

What is the norovirus and its symptoms?

According to the CDC, the norovirus is actually a group of related viruses. These viruses affects the stomach and intestines. The illness that they cause is called gastroenteritis, which is an inflammation of the stomach and intestines.

The virus was originally called the Norwalk agent. The name came from a 1968 outbreak of gastroenteritis at the Bronson Elementary School located in Norwalk, Ohio.

Symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, nausea and stomach cramping. You can also have low grade fever, chills, headache, muscle aches and fatigue.

These viruses are found in the stool and vomit of infected people. You can get these viruses in your body by eating contaminated foods or drinks, touching contaminated surfaces or objects, or coming in direct contact with a contaminated person.

The viruses usually are not serious, and most people will feel better in a few days. However, you can still be contagious even 3 days after you recover from the illness.

What is the treatment for a norovirus infection?

There is no treatment or vaccine for the norovirus. You must make sure that you don’t become dehydrated. Drink plenty of fluids. You may need hospitalization if you become severely dehydrated. Symptoms of dehydration include a decrease in urination, dry mouth and throat, and feeling dizzy when you stand.

How can you prevent an infection?

Its not easy, since it only takes about 20 viruses to infect you. Not only that, but the norovirus can survive for up to 12 hours on a contaminated surface.

However, you can help prevent the spread of the viruses with good hand hygiene. Wash your hands frequently, especially after using the bathroom and before handling food or drinks. If soap and water are not available, use alcohol hand sanitizers. Also, it is best to eat hot foods, and drinks that are bottled.

When you wash your hands, make sure that you are washing them long enough. You should hold your hands under a stream of warm water for at least a count of 15 to insure that your hands are completely washed. After washing, make sure that you completely dry your hands.

So, if you find yourself with a lot of people in a small confined space like a cruise ship, practice caution. Wash your hands frequently, especially after touching frequently touched objects, using the bathroom or hand shaking. Try not to rub your face, eyes, mouth or nose with your hands. And try to stick with hot, individually served foods and bottled drinks. Hopefully, you can wash away those nasty noroviruses before they infect you.

References:

Reuters: "Passengers on Queen Mary 2 sickened by unidentified pathogen"

CDC: "Prevent The Spread of Norovirus"

CDC: "Staying Healthy on a Cruise"

Wikipedia: Norovirus