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7 things to know about the human plague, symptoms and how to protect yourself

Published: Tuesday, June 27, 2017 @ 3:39 PM

What You Need To Know: The Plague

Two new cases of the human plague have been confirmed in New Mexico Tuesday, according to health officials.

» RELATED: Possible plague case in Georgia 

This year, New Mexico has seen three cases of the plague, the first of which was reported in early June.

>> Read more trending news 

All three cases required hospitalization, according to the New Mexico Department of Health.

Here are seven things to know about the plague:

What is it?

According to Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, plague is a disease caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis that affects humans and other mammals.

» RELATED: Stray cat's plague death prompts 'fever watch' 

What is the history of plague?

Historians and scientists have recorded three major plague pandemics, according to the CDC.

The first, called the Justinian Plague (after 6th century Byzantine emperor Justinian I), began in A.D. 541 in central Africa and spread to Egypt and the Mediterranean.

The “Great Plague” or “Black Death” originated in China in 1334 and eventually spread to Europe, where approximately 60 percent of the population died of the disease.

» RELATED: The 'Black Death': Are gerbils, not rats, to blame for plague? 

Lastly, the 1860s “Modern Plague,” which also began in China, spread to port cities around the world by rats on steamships, according to the CDC.

In 1894, French bacteriologist Alexandre Yersin discovered the causative bacterium, Yersinia pestis.

Ten million deaths resulted from the last pandemic, which eventually affected mammals in the Americas, Africa and Asia.

It was during this last pandemic that scientists identified infectious flea bites as the culprit in the spread of the disease.

More about the history of plague.

Where in the U.S. is human plague most common?

Human plague usually occurs after an outbreak in which several susceptible rodents die, infected fleas leave the dead rodents and seek blood from other hosts.

These outbreaks usually occur in southwestern states, particularly in Arizona, California, Colorado and New Mexico, according to the CDC.

» RELATED: Lyme disease risks could increase after mouse plague, experts warn 

According to the World Health Organization, an average of five to 15 cases occur annually in the U.S.

Since 1900, more than 80 percent of those cases have been in the bubonic form.

Worldwide, there are approximately 1,000-3,000 cases of naturally occurring plague reported every year.

More about plague in the U.S.

How do humans and other animals get plague?

Usually, humans get plague after a bite from a rodent flea carrying the bacterium.

Humans can also get plague after handling (touching or skinning) an animal (like squirrels, prairie dogs, rats or rabbits) infected with plague.

According to the CDC, inhaling droplets from the cough of an infected human or mammal (sick cats, in particular) can also lead to plague.

» RELATED: Rare tick-borne illness worries some medical professionals 

What are the types of plague and their symptoms?

Bubonic plague (most common)

  • Tender, warm and swollen nymph nodes in the groin, armpit or neck usually develop within a week after an infected flea bite.
  • Signs and symptoms include sudden fever and chills, headache, fatigue, muscle aches.
  • If bubonic plague is not treated, it can spread to other areas of body and lead to septicemic or pneumonic plague.

Septicemic plague

  • Occurs when bacteria multiply in the bloodstream.
  • Signs and symptoms include fever and chills; abdominal pain; diarrhea; vomiting; extreme fatigue and light-headedness; bleeding from mouth, nose, rectum, under skin; shock; gangrene (blackening, tissue death) in fingers, toes and nose.
  • Septicemic plague can quickly lead to organ failure.

Pneumonic plague (least common)

  • Pneumonic plague, which affects the lungs, is the most dangerous plague and is easily spread person-to-person through cough droplets.
  • Signs and symptoms (within a few hours after infection) include bloody cough, difficulty breathing, high fever, nausea, vomiting, headache, weakness.
  • If it is not treated quickly, pneumonic plague is almost always fatal.

» RELATED: What is Lyme disease and how to avoid it 

How is plague treated?

Immediately see a doctor if you develop symptoms of plague and have been in an area where the disease is known to occur.
Your doctor will likely give you strong antibiotics (streptomycin, gentamicin or others) to combat the disease.

If there are serious complications like organ failure or bleeding abnormalities, doctors will administer intravenous fluids, respiratory support and give patients oxygen.

How to protect yourself, your family and your pets against plague

You and your family

The CDC warns against picking up or touching dead animals and letting pets sleep in the bed with you.

Experts also recommend eliminating any nesting places for rodents such as sheds, garages or rock piles, brush, trash and excess firewood.

Other ways to protect yourself and your family include wearing gloves if handling dead or sick animals, using an insect repellent with DEET to prevent flea bites and reporting sick or dead animals to your local health department or to law enforcement officials.

» RELATED: Ticks the season: How to prevent, find and get rid of ticks this summer 


Flea medicine should be administered regular for both dogs and cats.

Keep your pet’s food in rodent-proof containers and don’t let them hunt or roam in rodent habitats.

If your pet becomes ill, see a veterinarian as soon as possible.

More about plague at


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4 drinks that could be sabotaging your weight loss efforts

Published: Tuesday, January 16, 2018 @ 3:01 PM

The following four drinks are some that can sabotage your diet when you're trying to cut calories Juices Coffee with add-ins Alcohol Smoothies

When you're trying to lose weight, you may not give much thought to what you drink, but those calories definitely add up! These "liquid calories" can sabotage your weight-loss efforts, and you may not feel as full as if you'd eaten the same number of calories. Many drinks also provide little to no nutrients and are often loaded with sugar, which can further hamper your weight loss.

»RELATED: Drink up: Black tea helps you lose weight with gut bacteria, study says

These drinks – and their calories – may add up to more than you realize, even on a single day. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offered a sample list of the drinks you may choose during a day in order to total the calories. They started with a morning coffee shop run with a 16-ounce café latte made with whole milk at 265 calories. A non-diet soda with lunch had 227 calories, and an afternoon sweetened lemon iced tea from the vending machine was 180 calories. A glass of non-diet ginger ale with dinner added 124 calories for a daily total of a whopping 796 calories!

The following four drinks are some that can sabotage your diet when you're trying to cut calories:

Orange juice prices could rise as much as $2.30 per gallon, because Hurricane Irma destroyed much of Florida's crop.


You may think that swapping out sugary sodas for fruit juices is good for your diet, but it may not be as good as you think. Fruit juices are concentrated sources of natural sugar, so they have more calories and don't fill you up as much as fresh, frozen or canned fruits do, according to the Mayo Clinic.

For example, a 20-ounce glass of 100 percent apple juice has 300 calories, and the same portion of 100 percent orange juice has 280, the CDC says.

»RELATED: It's official: Coffee is good for you, according to new research


A plain black cup of coffee isn't a calorie problem, according to the Mayo Clinic. It contains fewer than five calories and no fat, but most people need at least a few extras with their coffee, and these also add extra calories.

Although at-home add-ins like creamer and sugar raise the calorie count, a specialty coffee can make it soar. A grande (16-ounce) size of white chocolate mocha espresso at Starbucks has 360 calories. If you choose a venti (20 ounces), you'll be drinking 460 calories.

The sidecar is a classic sour cocktail containing three ingredients: cognac, lemon juice and orange liqueur. CONTRIBUTED BY MARCEL(For the AJC)


A few drinks after work with your friends or a couple of beers or glasses of wine with a meal can raise your calorie count.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution previously took a look at some of the calories contained in popular alcoholic beverages and found that five ounces of red wine has about 106 calories, and five ounces of white wine has 100 calories. A regular Budweiser beer comes in at 143 calories, and Bud Light isn't far behind at 110 calories. Cocktails like a four-ounce margarita up the calorie count even higher at 168 calories, and a 4.5-ounce Piña colada packs 245 calories. These counts could vary somewhat depending on the alcohol and sugar content of your specific drink.

The Angel Food smoothie from Smoothie King contains 340 calories for a 20-ounce serving and 690 for 40 ounces.(For the AJC)


Smoothies have a "health halo" that leads many people to believe they're harmless, Marisa Moore, a local dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, told the AJC.

Serving size is important, she pointed out. For example, a 20-ounce Angel Food smoothie from Smoothie King containing 340 calories. If you order the 40-ounce mixture of strawberries, bananas, nonfat milk, vanilla and other natural flavors and turbinado sugar, you'll be getting a whopping 690 calories. You can save some calories by omitting the sugar, saving 90 calories on a 20-ounce Angel Food smoothie, but it's still fairly high in calories.


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8 odd but effective ways to stop snoring 

Published: Monday, January 29, 2018 @ 4:25 PM

Here are some weird but effective snoring solutions from sleep experts Sleep on a tennis ball Buy a longer pillow Change out your pillows Pop a bit of peppermint Mix mint into the humidifier

Lose any sleep from your own or your partner's snoring lately? 

For many Americans, it's a lethargic yes. Snoring is a buzz kill, a sleep robber and maybe an indicator of serious health issues, including the obstructive sleep apnea that can lead to heart disease.

»RELATED: Want better sleep? Write a to-do list, study says

Some 90 million American adults snore, according to, and many could find relief with general health solutions. The Mayo Clinic recommends getting 7-8 hours of sleep a night if you snore, for example, or losing weight since overweight people can have extra throat tissues that contribute to snoring. 

There are also expensive, extensive solutions like oral devices, according to dentist Gene Sambataro. The mandibular advancement device designed to remove obstructions in the airway, for example, "is one of the most widely-accepted dental appliances for the treatment of sleep apnea, useful in forcing the lower jaw down and forward slightly," he says. 

Sambataro, a holistic clinician and author of the book “Stop the Snore”, recommends checking out some of the more unusual stop-storing methods, too, until you find something that works for you or your partner.

"Be careful not to look for quick fixes," he adds. "There are remedies out there – traditional and unconventional – but you should be thorough to remedy what can be a serious problem."

If you're not quit ready for oral devices or losing weigh, there are some weird but effective snoring solutions from Sambataro and other sleep experts:

Sleep on a tennis ball. Lying on your back when you sleep puts greater pressure on your throat, so shifting to your side may work to quiet loud snoring, Dr. M. Safwan Badr, president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, told Huffington Post. To improve your odds of actually staying asleep on your side, sew a tennis ball into the front pocket of an old t-shirt, then wear the shirt backwards to bed. This should make it super uncomfortable to lie on your back once you drift off. Once you've adjusted to the new sleep position (and stopped snoring), you can ditch the uncomfy shirt.

Using a full body pillow may also help with snoring.(Contributed by the AJC)

Buy a longer pillow. According to Reader's Digest, a full-length body pillow can help you adjust to sleeping on your side.

Do tongue aerobics. Sounds a little odd, and you may not want an audience, but strengthening your tongue and the facial muscles you use to chew and swallow with exercises known as "myofunctional therapy" can work wonders with snoring, according to Sambataro. "Muscle weakness within the tongue, mouth, and upper throat may lead to snoring and obstructive sleep apnea," he says. 

Change out your pillows. No, you're not trying to re-decorate the snoring away. Instead, you're after the allergens in your bedroom and in your pillow that may contribute to snoring. "If you feel fine during the day but obstructed at night, these things may be contributing to your snoring," Sambataro says. "Everyone should evaluate whether your pillows are creating some nasal congestion due to a reaction to the material."

Pop a bit of peppermint. A drop or two of peppermint oil rubbed around your nose may be able to open nasal passages, and peppermint mouthwash could shrink throat tissue that contributes to snoring, according to RD.

Mix mint into the humidifier. If you have the option to use a humidifier at night, bump your odds of opening your nasal passages by adding a few drops of peppermint oil to the water, RD suggested.

Combat snoring with a nose cone. Sambataro also suggests nose cones you place in each nostril to expand it. "This technique has a similar effect as strips, without the irritation of removing them in the morning," he notes.

Nod off after nasal sprays. With regular use, sprays will help get rid of the bacteria and fungus that produce mucous and eventually obstruct the nasal airway, Sambataro noted.


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Is your marriage over? 7 signs it may be time to call it quits (and 5 signs to stay)

Published: Wednesday, January 24, 2018 @ 9:32 AM

Fairytale Wedding Involves Woman Who Married Herself

If all you read is the Ladies Home Journal column "Can This Marriage Be Saved?", you'd think the answer is always a roaring  yes. But that standby, a popular read since its launch in 1953, is selected by counselors of couples in situations they can salvage, especially with the help of therapists.

Outside of LHJ's pages, many marriages do not last and should not last. Is yours one of them? According to psychologists, marriage counselors and divorce experts, there are signs that you should break things off.

»RELATED: This is how online dating is changing who we marry in unexpected ways

For couples evaluating whether to stay or go in a troubled marriage, divorce coaches and counselors offer seven signs that point to the door, and five that indicate counseling might help put you back together again.

7 signs you should probably leave your marriage

Domestic abuse has entered the relationship. This is the most difficult break to deal with because the abuse ordinarily escalates when a victim tries to leave the relationship. But it's one of two reasons a person should not play the divorce waiting game, certified divorce coach Cathy Meyer said in LiveAbout. The other was a spouse who had an addiction to pornography.

You have shaky reasons for wanting to stay married. People who are staying in a marriage to avoid pain or fear probably aren't in a marriage that will endure, according to licensed clinical social worker Susan Pease Gadoua in Psychology Today. "This indicates the marriage hasn't much glue." Sample statements in that vein include, "I'm staying because I'm afraid of not seeing my children every day," "I don't know how I'd make ends meet without my spouse," and "No one will ever love me like this again."

Gadoua recommended a strict examination of reasons for staying in an unhappy marriage. "Where I see people go wrong in such a decision is when they forgo their own needs and focus primarily on meeting the needs of their spouses or children." Once people awaken to the fact that they've done all they can to improve the relationship and must now sever the tie, almost all realize "letting go of the unhealthy relationship was the best decision they'd ever made," she noted.

One spouse is a serial cheater. Certain people are not able to remain monogamous and this makes them not cut out for marriage, Alisa Bowman, author of Project: Happily Ever After, told Woman's Day. A secondary sign that it's time to move away from a marriage with a cheater is when he constantly tries to blame you for the philandering and untrustworthiness, usually claiming you are too jealous or controlling, she added.

An unfaithful spouse keeps an ex-lover as a friend. Just ending the affair is not enough, according to Bryce Kaye, Ph.D., author of The Marriage First Aid Kit, told WD. For a marriage to fully get past adultery, the unfaithful half of the couple cannot maintain a "friendship" with the former lover, even if he or she professes that the friendship is completely innocent. "Nothing good can come out of it," Kaye advised.

Your interactions are almost exclusively negative. When you're trying to evaluate the worth of a struggling marriage, take into consideration both how strong and how frequent your negative interactions are, advised marriage counselor Racheal Tasker on the GuideDoc blog. "The magic ratio in any happy relationship is five positive interactions for every one negative interaction," she said. "If you find that you have significantly more negative interactions with your partner than positive interactions, it may be a sign that you need a divorce."

Another crucial indicator that divorce should be a possibility: severe and hurtful arguments, particularly if they tend to become personal insult fests and you can't resolve conflicts without feeling devalued.

One partner dramatically changes the way they handle money. From an attorney's perspective, according to Dawn Cardi, a Manhattan matrimonial lawyer who spoke to WD, the shifting around of accounts is telling, even though a spouse may shrug it off. "People will come to me and say, 'My husband changed accounts. He's moving money.' That's a sign to me that he's already ready to get out of the marriage and move onto the divorce stage."

One of you wants children and the other does not. There are many areas of compromise in a marriage, but this is not one of them. If one partner is categorically opposed to having kids and the other has becoming a parent as a prime item on the bucket list, "you may be looking at the end of your marriage," Bowman said in WD.

There are also reasons to stay, according to experts.

Consider these 5 signs you might want to give it another go:

Barring physical abuse or untreated drug abuse, there are some signs that a couple might be a good candidate to try to repair an ailing marriage. These are five signs that indicate a marriage may be down, but it's not out:

A rift has recently been disclosed. The more recently a crack in the marriage has come out into the open, the better your odds of repairing the breach, according to Kaye.

"The clock starts ticking on the end of a marriage as soon as one spouse puts the [couple's] problems out in the open," he said. "The more time that passes after that without any effort made, the lower the odds are that you'll stay together."

You still share the same core values. No, you'll never agree on everything, and no one really wants to if you're being honest. Still, to get in the marriage salvage arena, you'll need to continue sharing basic values.

"If there is at least a little common ground regarding religion, politics, finances, education and the like, there is a decent foundation upon which to build," noted Robert Weiss, a licensed clinical social worker and certified sexual addiction therapist, in Pop Sugar. If you share core values and can agree to disagree on peripheral issues, there's a good chance you'll be able to work through marital challenges.

You both want to work through a cheating episode. For most people, infidelity might seem like the top reason to answer, "Oh hell no" to staying in a marriage. If the cheater is unwilling to do the heavy salvage work, that's certainly true, according to Bowman. But some cheating falls into the "This marriage can be saved" category -- if the cheater has regrets, makes apologies, promises to put an end to the affair and seek counseling.

You still enjoy spending time together amid the tough times. "One of the primary reasons for being around another person is that it's fun and enjoyable at least some of the time," Weiss added. If you still like to hang out and enjoy some shared hobbies, that might also indicate your relationship is worth saving.

The thought of leaving fills you with the distress of doubt. This is not the same as the manipulative doubts that are usually involved in a domestic violence situation. So, if that's not your issue, and you find yourself "constantly mulling" about a decision to stay or go, you might need to stay, according to marriage therapist Michele Weiner-Davis in Pop Sugar. If you are still resisting leaving, you probably still have sound reasons to stick around and rebuild the foundation of your relationship.


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Attention, adults: 9 ways to fight cabin fever (each under $15)

Published: Tuesday, January 09, 2018 @ 11:40 AM

Here are some ways to combat cabin fever Get outside for 30 minutes in the middle of the day and take a walk Grow something small inside Host a fruit-salad exchange Bump up your comfort food with tropical ingredients Roast up some winter pep Hit the aquarium or pet store

Argh, winter! 

Sick of the snow, ceaseless rain, being in the house − and the whining (from you not the babies)?

Sounds like cabin fever, which adults suffer from more than the little ones.

While it's not as serious as seasonal affective disorder, it's important to make every attempt to shake off this mind-numbing boredom or that feeling of being trapped. Just know, it can be done. And since it so often occurs in the post-Christmas financial slump of winter, the second encouraging message is that fending off the winter blahs and that shut-in feeling does not have to cost much. While the Caribbean getaway would be swell, it won't be necessary.

In fact, psychologists, nutritionists and all around fun activity planners recommended these nine ways adults can combat cabin fever, each costing $15 or less:

•Walk towards the light. Cost: Free

This tip from psychologist Margaret Wehrenberg in Psychology Today helps those with SAD, but will also give you a lift if you're trying to shake the ordinary winter blahs. "Get outside for 30 minutes in the middle of the day and take a walk," she advised. "It helps activate your brain and you will feel more energetic, not less, if you get outside. Natural light always trumps artificial light, and even on a cloudy day you will get a fair amount of the right kind of light to wake up your brain." Not feeling the fun factor here? Make the idea of walking outdoors more appealing by doing like the kids do and playing a game with a companion while you walk. Follow the Leader is a good one, or "side of the path" Bingo. For the latter, give yourself a point each time you see, for example, red berries, a recycle bin, a cat in the window and a feather on the ground. Whoever gets the most points wins, say, a hot beverage prepared by the other. Change the items that need to be spotted and your route for the next day.

•Take creativity to the tub. Cost: $10

So you're not in a Jacuzzi with a tropical beverage in hand. Innovate! Take to your own tub, with your mate or by yourself, with tub crayons in tow. Have fun drawing all over the walls while you soak in warm water. Win, win.

•Grow something small inside. Cost: $2, $5 or $7

While it's also mood-boosting to browse colorful seed catalogs, it's far more active and less budget-busting to start growing something indoors. Yes, now, when you're feeling trapped and out of sorts, not next spring when you're already hopeful and bouncy. This nurturing of small plants or seeds into larger plants and flowers taps into a feeling of being responsible for the growth and blossoming of life, psychotherapist Sheri Jacobson told the Huffington Post. "This is an activity which, similar to caring for a pet, can help with feeling worthwhile and purposeful, and thus helping to combat depression." Three good growing projects for beginners:

•Roar back at the weather. Cost: Free

To get your blood pumping, a quick boost to the metabolism and amused stares from the neighbors, taunt the weather. Saunter out to the mailbox in shorts, t-shirt and flip-flops and then race back yelling "I am mighty!" (Or insert your favorite affirmation here.) Bellow "Let It Go" while you shovel (not snowblow) the walk or driveway, or dress warmly and go howl at the moon for 60 seconds every night at the same time. If it's torrential rain keeping you homebound (but it's not thundering), apply your facial wash and then use rainwater to rinse it off – while you're in your bathing suit, outdoors. The idea is that if you can gain the upper hand with the weather for a few seconds, you can tolerate it with good humor for a few more days.

»Snow day? 5 kid-friendly craft ideas to ward off cabin fever

•Bump up your comfort food with tropical ingredients. $6

It's not just your imagination. When you're stuck inside and it's cold out, you really do experience a biological craving for denser nutrition, Paula Pavelka, a registered nurse and certified health counselor in Palo Alto, California told Parents. "You should just go with that inclination to eat more substantial, hot foods than you might in the warm months."

But to keep cabin fever from setting in after you indulge, get creative with lower calorie ingredients that still zing. Pavelka's favorite: mango chili, made by substituting frozen mango chunks or pieces of fresh, firm mango for half the diced tomatoes in your chili recipe. Top each bowl with more chopped mango.

•Host a fruit-salad exchange. $10-$12 each for 6-8 adults

Speaking of tropical, remember that Christmas cookie exchange? To get both the social interaction that battles cabin fever and lots of delightful vitamins and fiber, why not try a fruit salad exchange with as many friends as you can get interested? Each person brings enough cut-up fruit for all, and you make up a line to dip out a half-cup at a time in take-home bowls (that way no one swipes all the raspberries, for example.) Put a signup list on a social network, and list all the prime ingredients including watermelon, pineapple, star fruit, kiwi. Not only will it taste great, but you'll also have enough exotic fruit salad to cheer up at least a couple of work lunches.

•Hold a suitcase party. $15 each for 10-20 adults

About that Caribbean vacation. So you can't afford it and neither can any of your friends. But together you could afford a much more modest getaway – for two of you. A suitcase party is the fun way to make that happen.

Here's how you do it: Invite all your friends to contribute $15 for a possible getaway for two in your area. When you know whether you have $150 or more to spend, comb Groupon, Airbnb and other discount local travel options. Put together a modest package for an overnight that includes accommodations for two, an outing and maybe brunch. And here is how you all get to enjoy the break from winter discontent: pair up and come to a "Suitcase Party" potluck and music. Everyone dresses the way they'd need to if they won the final prize and is prepared to leave that evening. Each pair is assigned a numbered ticket that corresponds to the same numbers in a bowl. Start around 6 p.m. Every 20 minutes, in a reverse elimination, randomly choose one number. Those two stay at the party, and so on, until just one couple's number is left. They depart for the excursion and the rest of you continue to enjoy your winter get-together.

Sweet potatoes and aduki beans fill this vegan casserole, but you could swap out regular potatoes or another kind of bean if you prefer. Contributed by Nassima Rothacker(American-Statesman Staff)

•Roast up some winter pep. $10

The dark makes our bodies crave sugar in the colder months, and that adds pounds and the old "sugar-high, sugar-low" cycle, both creators of cabin fever. Fight the urge by eating naturally sweet dishes, like Pavelka's recipe for roasted root vegetables. She cubes sweet potatoes, carrots, onions and beets, tosses them with about a tablespoon of olive oil, and roasts them on a baking pan in a preheated 400°F oven. Check the mix after 20 minutes, stir if needed and take them out when they're nice and brown.

•Hit the aquarium or pet store. $0

Living, breathing things can coax you out of the winter doldrums. But instead of spending the big bucks to visit the local aquarium or zoo, see if you can't find a local pet store with birds and guinea pigs and such. Or, look for an aquarium store (saltwater is the best) where you can spend minutes or hours gazing at the tropical fish.


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