New strain of norovirus spreading quickly in U.S.

Published: Thursday, January 24, 2013 @ 11:33 PM
Updated: Thursday, January 24, 2013 @ 11:33 PM

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The flu is not the only highly contagious disease raging this winter.

A new strain of norovirus is causing intestinal illness outbreaks across the country, the CDC confirmed today.  

Norovirus is often to blame when large numbers of people get sick on cruise ships or in schools, nursing homes, and other places where people live, work, or play in close quarters.

CDC officials also reported a rise in outbreaks of sickness caused by drinking raw milk. The findings appear in the Jan. 25 issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.


New Norovirus Spread Quickly

The new norovirus strain was first identified in Australia in March of last year, and it had spread across the United States by year’s end.

Of the 266 norovirus outbreaks reported during the last four months of 2012, 141 involved the Australian strain.

During this time, outbreaks caused by it rose from 19% to 58%. Sickness from norovirus is often called "food poisoning," but the highly contagious virus can also be spread by water, person-to-person contact, or simply by touching an infected object.

Outbreaks can happen anytime, but they are most common in the winter months.

Cruise Ship Outbreak Involved New Strain

A norovirus outbreak late last week that involved 300 children at an Arkansas middle school was not caused by the newer strain.

But one that happened during a Christmas sailing of the luxury cruise ship Queen Mary 2 was, says Jan Vinje, PhD, who heads the National Calicivirus Laboratory at the CDC.

CDC epidemiologist Aron Hall says it may not be clear for several months if more people are getting sick or more outbreaks are occurring as a result of the new strain.

“We see new strains emerge every few years and sometimes they are associated with increased disease activity,” he says. “We certainly want people to be aware that this potential exists, but the mainstays of norovirus prevention are still the most important things people can do to protect themselves.”

He suggests these strategies to prevent infection:

  • Wash your hands often.
  • Disinfect surfaces.
  • Avoid preparing food or caring for others when you're sick.
  • Keep your hands away from your face as much as possible.

23 Food-borne Illness Deaths in 2009, 2010

A separate report on food-borne disease outbreaks in 2009 and 2010 showed a decline in such outbreaks, but CDC epidemiologist Hannah Gould, PhD, says the drop was largely due to a new way of reporting the illnesses that excluded many norovirus cases.

There were 1,527 food-borne illness outbreaks reported to CDC during the two-year period, resulting in nearly 29,500 illnesses, 1,184 hospitalizations, and 23 deaths.

Beef, dairy, fish, and poultry were associated with the largest number of outbreaks, but eggs made more people sick than any other single food.

A large salmonella outbreak in 2010 led to the recall of more than half a billion eggs and sickened about 2,000 people across the country.

Other foods implicated in multi-state outbreaks during the reporting period included alfalfa sprouts, ground turkey, ground beef, unpasteurized cheeses, hazelnuts, and cookie dough.

Raw Milk Outbreaks Increasing

Gould says dairy joined the list of foods that caused the most illness for the first time in years, due to a growing number of outbreaks caused by unpasteurized dairy products.

Sixty percent of states allow the sale of raw milk in some form, according to a 2011 survey by the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture.

Last year, another group of CDC researchers reported that raw milk is 150 times more likely to cause illness than pasteurized milk.

Contamination with campylobacter bacteria is responsible for most illnesses linked to raw milk and the foods made from it.

Seventeen campylobacter outbreaks that were traced to unpasteurized dairy products were reported in 2009 and 2010.

Gould says food-borne illness is often preventable if people remember to:

  • Wash hands frequently when preparing food.
  • Separate foods that could spread pathogens.
  • Cook foods thoroughly.
  • Keep foods that can spoil refrigerated.
SOURCES:Barclay, L., and Gould, H. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Jan. 25, 2013.Hannah Gould, PhD, epidemiologist, CDC.Jan Vinje, PhD, director, National Calicivirus Laboratory, Division of Viral Diseases, CDC.Aron Hall, DVM, Division of Viral Diseases, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, CDC.News release, CDC.Food Safety News: "Norovirus update, Jan 24, 2013."NBC News: "Passengers on Queen Mary Sickened by Unidentified Pathogen." © 2013 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

The blessing inside my sister's Alzheimer's disease

Published: Sunday, March 05, 2017 @ 12:56 PM

Jennifer Palmieri's sister Dana Drago, who was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's. MUST CREDIT: Courtesy of Jennifer Palmieri.
Handout
Jennifer Palmieri's sister Dana Drago, who was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's. MUST CREDIT: Courtesy of Jennifer Palmieri.(Handout)

Last month my sister passed away from early-onset Alzheimer's. She was 58 and probably had the disease for well over a decade. 

Awful. Anyone I share this news with has a visible physical reaction to it. They shudder. Take a deep breath. It's the disease everyone fears. Alzheimer's doesn't just kill you, they are thinking, it robs you of the person you are long before it has the mercy to kill you. 

Every day, more Americans receive the devastating news that someone in their family has this affliction. For now, there is not a lot of hope for recovery. It can make you envious of cancer patients; their families get to have hope. Having come through this experience with my sister, I am afraid that I can't offer these new Alzheimer's families hope for a recovery. But I do hope that by relaying the story of my sister's journey, I can offer them some peace. 

My sister Dana was brilliant, beautiful, full of positive energy, a force of nature. She was not an easy person. She was driven and successful, and, as the disease progressed unbeknown to all of us, it became harder to connect with her. Ironically, that began to change once she got the diagnosis. 

When she called each of us with the news, she already had it all figured out. We were all to understand that, really, she saw the diagnosis as a blessing. It was going to allow her to retire early. It would motivate our family to spend time together we would not have otherwise done. It would shorten her life, but she would make sure the days she had left were of the highest quality.  

For my part, I had a hard time reconciling her optimistic attitude with the knowledge there was no hope for recovery. I envied those cancer patients. But I eventually learned one of the gifts that came with this illness: It strips away your notions of how life is supposed to be and forces you to reassess what it means for a moment, a day, a life to have value. 

Equipped with a more realistic set of expectations, I saw that families fighting cancer faced their own torment. Debilitating treatments, anxiety over whether you are pursuing the right treatment, unrealistic hopes and crushing disappointments. It could ruin whatever time the person has left. My family was spared that particular kind of torment. Dana was true to her word about how she was going to spend her time. In the end, she had far fewer days than we expected, but she brought our family together in ways we never would have enjoyed had she not been ill, and in ways we could not have enjoyed if she was in endless treatments. That was a blessing. 

Patti Eilbacher has Alzheimer's. AJC reporter Zachary Hansen demonstrates a simple test that can indicate a cognitive disease. (BOB ANDRES/AJC)

I should be clear that my sister did not give up her own hope of recovering from Alzheimer's. Early on, she spoke of changes she had to make in her life until "they" found a cure for "this disease." I admired her resolute refusal to see the disease as part of herself. She would not let it define her. 

For years she vigilantly fought her decline and sought to protect her independence. Eventually she ended up in hospice. But she needn't have worried that leaving her home meant losing herself. It was in that hospice room that I saw her refined - not reduced but refined - to her most essential self, a person full of grace and love. Of all the moments in my life I had with my big sister, the ones with the most value, the most intimacy, the most joy, were the ones I spent simply holding her hand in her hospice room. No distractions, no expectations or pressures, a time to simply be present, to simply be sisters. My other two sisters, Dana's best friend and I would sit with Dana and repeat her own mantra back to her - all is well. And it was.  

Even after she largely lost the ability to speak, I could look into her eyes and see she was still there. She was still Dana. I would tell her so. "I see you. I see you in there." She would nod in response. Once or twice, I would even get a smile. Those were days of true value. 

I wish no other family ever had to lose someone to "this disease." But for all those on this path, please know that it does not mean you must be robbed of your loved ones before they leave this earth. They are still there, and the time you spend with them can be a gift of grace you might otherwise never have known. My hope for you is that you get to share the heavenly peace and love our family was able to share with our sister while she was with us. It is a blessing.  

- - -  

Palmieri served as White House communications director from 2013 to 2015 and was communications director for Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign.

Grandmother adopts healthy habits and loses more than 100 pounds

Published: Thursday, July 13, 2017 @ 1:59 PM

Time Inc.
Time
Time Inc.(Time)

Laura Hyman is proof that it’s never too late to make a change.

After losing both her mother and mother-in-law in short period of time, the 54-year-old grandmother decided it was finally time to lose weight.

“My mother was only 70 years old [when she died] and I was 50 years old. I got scared and I did not want to miss out on my kids and my grandkids,” said Hyman, who was used to “taking care of everyone else but myself.” At her heaviest, she weighed 264 lbs.

RELATED: 12 weight-loss secrets from Atlantans who shed 100-plus pounds

A self-described “emotional eater,” Hyman started the Isagenix weight loss program with her husband Myron in September 2015. Swapping fried foods and carb-heavy meals in favor of organic foods like chicken, quinoa and vegetables and enjoying the program’s shakes helped the retired Indio, California-based couple lose 100 pounds each in less than a year.

“[Isagenix] gave us a time schedule for our meals and snacks,” says Hyman, who now weighs 161 lbs. and eats five times a day: two shakes, two snacks and one full meal. “This system taught us that not only the food we are eating counts but the timing of when we are eating is so important.” Now after dinner, Hyman says, “the kitchen is closed.”

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The couple also started the IsaBody Challenge, a 16-week body transformation program, at the beginning of their weight loss journeys.

“It became a great support system through the Isabody Facebook page,” says Hyman. “I could go on there daily and get workout ideas and meal ideas, and when I put my first before-and-after pictures in there, I could not believe how much love and support I got. It was unlike anything I have ever experienced.”

RELATED: Here's one weight loss tip for every day of the week, according to Atlanta dietitians

Since October, Hyman has also amped up her workouts, hiring a trainer and going to the gym 3 to 4 times a week. “I’ve gained 8 lbs. of lean muscle, which is different because I’m used to the scale going down,” she says. “But now it’s going up and I’m seeing where it is, in muscle. I’m still able to get rid of the visceral fat with the system and it’s amazing.”

Now on her sixth IsaBody Challenge, Hyman was just picked as a finalist out of more than 30,000 applicants Myron received an honorable mention, and she feels better than ever.

RELATED: 9 things no one tells you about weight-loss surgery

“I fuel my body and don’t eat for emotional reasons,” she says. “I feel better than I did in my 20s.”

And being able to do it with her husband has made it even more rewarding.

“We’ve both invested in each other, cheered each other on and never let the other feel like a failure,” says Hyman. “Accomplishing this weight loss together has made our relationship so much stronger.”

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5 reasons to breastfeed your child 

Published: Wednesday, October 11, 2017 @ 12:57 PM
Updated: Wednesday, October 11, 2017 @ 12:57 PM

Breastfeeding has health benefits for mothers and children. A new study suggests breastfeeding can reduce a mother's risk of heart attack and stroke. The study analyzed 289,573 women in China. 6 months of breastfeeding = 4% less likely to have hea

Many new moms have heard that "breast is best" when it comes to feeding their babies, but they may not have all the facts on just what makes it best.

When you're making the personal decision about how to feed your child, it helps to know exactly why experts so strongly recommend breastfeeding.

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Here are five major benefits of breastfeeding:

Providing an immune system boost

Breast milk contains antibodies, immune factors, enzymes and white blood cells – all of which can help protect your baby against diseases and infections, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Your baby will be less likely to have ear infections, vomiting, diarrhea, pneumonia and other common yet potentially serious ailments as a result.

Even better, this immune system boost can, in some cases, last after you've weaned your baby.

Breastfeeding provides your baby with many important health benefits.(Sergei Bobylev/For the AJC)

Building a strong emotional bond

Psychology Today touts the bond that develops between nursing moms and their babies. This is not only because of the close, extended contact but also due to the release of hormones in moms as well as their babies.

This close bonding is believed by many to help reduce social and behavioral problems later in life, the Cleveland Clinic says.

Improving brain development

Previous studies have linked breastfeeding to better cognitive outcomes in older adolescents and adults. A Brown University study now suggests that changes in brain development occur even earlier than that  "almost right off the bat." 

Researchers used baby-friendly MRIs to look at the brain's white matter, which helps parts of the brain communicate with one another. Babies in the study who were exclusively being breastfed had 20 to 30 percent more white matter growth than babies who weren't.

Fulfilling your child's unique – and changing – nutritional needs

Breast milk changes composition to adapt to your child's nutritional needs, according to Psychology Today. It contains all the nutrition your baby needs for his or her first six months and continues to provide benefits beyond that.

And even if your baby is premature, the breast milk you produce in the first few weeks is also designed to meet your baby's unique needs. For example, it's higher in protein and minerals; it also contains different types of fat that can be more easily absorbed and digested by your premature baby.

Lowering your child's risk of SIDS

Breastfeeding is thought to lower your child's risk of SIDS – sudden infant death syndrome. 

Medical experts usually recommend that to keep your baby safe, you should keep him or her in the same room if you'd like to, but not in the same bed. They suggest that breastfeeding moms keep their babies in a crib beside their own bed to make breastfeeding easier and keep babies safe from bedding or from being accidently rolled over on.

Need help or advice about breastfeeding?

If you'd like to breastfeed your baby but have concerns or want more information, hospitals usually employ lactation consultants who can help you and your baby with breastfeeding. To find one on your own, search at ilca.org/why-ibclc/falc.

5 ways to stop killing your back with bad posture at work

Published: Tuesday, October 10, 2017 @ 12:10 PM
Updated: Tuesday, October 10, 2017 @ 12:10 PM

Here are five of the best ways to have better posture at work Consider a chair with a backrest that supports the curve of your lower back Sit with your back in a normal, slightly arched position to avoid back pain Combat back pain by spending part of your work day sitting on an exercise ball Lumo Lift, a device that attaches to your shirt with a magnet, vibrates when you should adjust your posture At least once an hour, stand and stretch

"Sit up straight!" may sound like nagging straight out of the 1950s, but it's spot on advice for the 21st century workplace. 

Constant shifting around to get comfortable at your work computer, and hunched over a smart phone at home, wreaks havoc on your back, neck and shoulders.
Regular computer users perform 50,000 to 200,000 keystrokes each day, according to the nonprofit website, OrthoInfo.com, compiled by orthopedic surgeons. "Under certain circumstances and for vulnerable individuals, frequent computer use that involves awkward postures, repetition, and forceful exertions may be related to nerve, muscle, tendon, and ligament damage," OrthoInfo.com noted

RELATED: Lose the belly pooch: 7 do’s and don’ts to accomplish a flat stomach

Postures induced by using modern technology can also cause other health problems. When you lean forward at your desk, for example, you're more likely to clench your jaw and tighten facial muscles, which leads to headaches and jaw pain, according to LiveStrong.com.
Hunching over can also reduce your lung capacity by as much as 30 percent, Dr. Rene Cailliet told Livestrong.com. The former director of University of Southern California's Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation noted that lungs underperforming leads to a deficit of oxygenated blood which in turn can contribute to shortness of breath, cloudy thinking and even heart and vascular disease.
But you don't have to sit back and accept these plagues of poor posture as a cost of using technology.

Experts from business coaches to orthopedic surgeons suggest ways to improve your posture and spare your back.

Here are five of the best ways to have better posture at work:

The Edge Desk System is a portable, foldable desk and kneeling chair that expands and collapses in 10 seconds. (Photo courtesy Edge Desk/TNS)

Choose your chair. To encourage great posture in an office environment, your best bet is a chair that is stable and adjusts easily for height and tilt, according to reporting on the OrthoInfo website. "Consider a chair with a backrest that supports the curve of your lower (lumbar) back," the organization said. "Experts recommend you consider positioning your thighs horizontal with your knees at about the same level as your hips. Rest your feet comfortably on the floor or on a footrest if you need one." 

Other chair attributes that encourage great posture included a padded seat with a pan at least one-inch wider than your hips as well as adjustable armrests that position your elbows near your waist.

Sit like you mean it. An OrthoInfo.com article written and reviewed by orthopedic surgeons recommends sitting with your back in a normal, slightly arched position to avoid back pain. Other work posture basics from the orthopedic surgeon community include keeping your head and shoulders erect, and making sure your work surface is set at a height that won't require you to lean forward.

Sit on a ball. Cybersecurity expert and entrepreneur Joseph Steinberg, told Inc magazine that he combats back pain and other drawbacks of bad posture at work by spending part of his work day sitting on an exercise ball, alternating it with his leather office chair. 

"Sitting on the ball makes it more difficult to slouch, engages various muscle groups that remain at rest when slouching on a chair, and builds muscle," he noted. "While the ball is clearly not as comfortable a seat as an executive chair, I got used to it pretty quickly."

Get a vibrating reminder. Steinberg also recommended the Lumo Lift, a tiny device that attaches to your shirt with a magnet. If you slouch, it gently vibrates to remind you to adjust your posture.

Stand and stretch. Even if you're not slouching, you need ample breaks to combat back pain and other effects of working in front of computers for a long time. At least once an hour you should stand and stretch, according to OrthoInfo.com. Place your hands on your lower back and gently arch backward before returning to your work.