Pertussis awareness

PERTUSSIS IS A common disease in the United States, with frequent outbreaks and periodic epidemics every three to five years. It is also called whooping cough because of the “whooping” sound people often make while gasping for air after a coughing fit.

Found only in humans, this highly contagious bacterial disease is spread from person to person, usually by coughing or sneezing while in close contact with others.

In rare cases, pertussis can be fatal. Before routine child vaccination became widespread in the 1940s, pertussis caused thousands of fatalities each year in the U.S.

It starts off with cold-like symptoms, including:

• Runny nose
• Low-grade fever
• Mild, occasional cough

As the disease progresses, the traditional symptoms of pertussis appear, including:

• Fits of many rapid coughs followed by a high-pitched “whoop”
• Vomiting
• Exhaustion following coughing fits

In infants, the cough can be minimal or not even there. Infants may have another symptom known as apnea — a pause in the child’s breathing pattern. Pertussis is most dangerous for babies, and more than half of infants younger than one year of age who get the disease must be hospitalized.

An adult booster shot for pertussis—called Tdap for tetanus, diphtheria and acellular pertussis—has been available since 2005. Fewer than one in 10 adults have received the shot; most don’t even know they need it, learning about the booster
only when they see a doctor for a tetanus shot.

In 2010 California had a pertussis epidemic with more than 9,000 cases, including 10 deaths. Washington state just declared an epidemic in April, with the worst outbreak seen there in decades. State officials are seeking help from federal disease experts and are urging residents to get vaccinated amid worry that cases of the highly contagious disease are likely to spike much higher—perhaps as many as 3,000 cases by the end of 2012.

Outbreaks are also being monitored in counties California, Florida, Iowa, Montana, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin.
For more information, go to gov/pertussis.

Mosquito conrol tips for a healthy summer

Drain mosquitoes away

Standing water in your backyard—decorative fountains, fish ponds, even a dribble of water on the lids of your garbage cans—can be a breeding ground for mosquitoes. To keep the mosquito population from exploding, check your yard for places water can collect. Low spots in lawns and holes in trees can trap water, so fill these in. Cover rain barrels with a screening cloth to keep mosquitoes out.

“You need to be fastidious. I’ve seen mosquitoes breed in discarded bottle caps,” says Conlon. It takes mosquitoes five days to go from egg to adult, says Conlon, so you can keep a bird bath as long as you empty it every few days.

Mosquitoes don’t breed in deep or flowing water, so choose circulating fountains and avoid shallow fish ponds less than a foot deep. A larvicide in water features will also reduce mosquitoes.

Dress for success

When getting dressed, choose light-colored, loose-fitting clothing. “Mosquitoes can and will bite through tight clothing,” says Conlon. Studies have shown that some mosquito breeds are attracted to the colors red and blue.

Spray on a mosquito repellent containing DEET, recommends Dr. Joseph Vinetz, professor of medicine and director of travel and tropical medicine at the University of California, San Diego. Because no repellent is foolproof, Vinetz also prescribes antimalarial drugs for travelers headed to Africa, Asia and South America, where there’s a higher risk of contracting malaria, an often fatal illness. The Environmental Protection Agency also recommends the use of repellents containing picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus (aka p-menthane 3,8-diol, or PMD) and the biopesticide IR3535. The insecticide permethrin can be sprayed on clothing and shoes for further protection, but it’s highly toxic to cats, so use with caution.

Defend your territory

Spraying your property with insecticides should be your last line of defense, says Conlon, whose organization advocates limiting their use to reduce the possibility of mosquitoes building resistance. “While there are chemicals you can use, most only last a few hours and some involve non-target kills of other insects that help our ecosystem,” he notes. And, contrary to popular belief, he adds, mosquitoes do not breed in grass, so spraying the lawn is overkill.

To defend outdoor space, use fire and fans instead. Citronella candles provide a mild repellent, but it’s actually the smoke that keeps bugs away. Mosquitoes are weak fliers, so outdoor fans blow them away.

As for expensive mosquito traps and zappers, save your money. “We don’t advocate things that haven’t been proven effective, though some folks swear by them. As public health professionals, we don’t want people to think they’re protected when they’re not,” says Conlon

Source: CostcoConnectionJune2012

West Nile Virus – Symptoms and recovery

West Nile virus will develop severe symptoms of the disease,” says Dr. Joseph Vinetz, professor of medicine at the University of California, San Diego. Persons age 50 or older are at the highest risk for severe disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

West Nile symptoms, which usually last a week, range from fevers, headaches, nausea and vomiting to muscle weakness, vision loss and even paralysis. In rare cases, the virus can be fatal, though 80 percent of folks who contract the virus don’t experience any symptoms.

While severe cases may require hospitalization, usually to replenish fluids, Vinetz says most folks will feel better by taking ibuprofen, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (aka NSAIDs) or acetaminophen. He cautions against the use of aspirin because of the potential for side effects.

As for malaria, Vinetz advises anyone who returns from a high-risk region with a fever to immediately see a physician to rule out malaria. The CDC’s Division of Vector-Borne Diseases ( has additional information on West Nile virus, malaria and other mosquito-transmitted diseases.

What’s Your Vector?

“Vector-borne disease” is the term used to describe an illness caused by an infectious microbe that is transmitted to people by spiders or blood-sucking insects, such as mosquitoes, fleas, lice, biting flies and bugs, mites and ticks. The term “vector” refers to any arthropod that transmits a disease through feeding activity.

Scratching the Surface

Whether you bite, tap, or polish them, your nails serve a purpose that goes beyond nervous habits and decorative flair. Nails protect the tips of fingers and toes, while helping you pick things up. And let’s face it, what do you call on when you have a nagging itch?

Your nails can also reveal your overall health — cluing you into ailments like diabetes, melanoma, and anemia. So as your nails care for you, make sure you reciprocate.

  • Avoid biting your nails — it can damage the keratin and cause hangnails, which can lead to infection.
  • Never remove cuticles — they help protect the nail bed.
  • If you get frequent manicures and pedicures, consider bringing your own instruments.
  • Clean and trim nails regularly. Keep them square shaped with a slight curve at the edges.
  • Watch for changes in color or texture. Slow–growing, yellowish nails that thicken or cave in can be a sign of lung disease. White nails can be a symptom of liver conditions like hepatitis. Pitting or rippling of the nail can point to arthritis or psoriasis. Yellow nails with a pink undertone at the base can indicate diabetes. And dark lines beneath the nail can signal melanoma. Pay attention to the ridges as well. Vertical lines aren’t a problem, but horizontal lines can sometimes point to a metabolic condition.

Contain Your Irritation

As many as 20% of Americans have Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Cramping, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea can be painful, disabling, and lead to more serious conditions such as cancer. Although you can’t cure IBS, you can manage it.

  • Change your diet: Eating a high–fiber diet, avoiding caffeine, dairy, and alcohol, and bulking up on low–fat, high–carb meals might help reduce symptoms. Drinking 6–8 glasses of water a day flushes out the colon and keeps the digestive track functioning smoothly.
  • Tackle stress head–on: While the average person might experience butterflies before a stressful event, those with IBS have more pronounced symptoms. Stress reduction techniques such as yoga, walking, and meditation can help calm the mind… and the colon.
  • Avoid bloating: Fast eating, chewing gum, shallow breathing, and gulping water can lead to swallowing large amounts of air, which can trigger IBS. Make sure meal times are relaxed and eat smaller, more frequent portions.

Immune Boost

Cold and flu season usually exits as winter comes to a close. But that doesn’t mean you’re in the clear. During spring cleaning, germ stragglers can emerge and attack. Boost your immunity so you can spring into spring without sniffles.

Sleep: If you don’t get enough rest, your body can’t muster the strength to fight off invasions. While it varies by individual, experts recommend at least 7–9 solid hours. If you nod off in the afternoon or struggle to rise, you could probably use a few more winks.

Exercise: Physical activity not only releases hormones like endorphins, which rev your natural defenses, it also uses energy and releases stress — an illness magnet — to quiet you, so you can get the zzz you need.

Diet: Studies show that a diet deficient in essential fatty acids (in fish and nuts) weakens immune function and can cause depression — a precursor to physical sickness; so fatten up those cells with omega-3s. Get enough zinc (in meats, almonds, and beans), vitamin C (in broccoli, red bell peppers, and citrus fruits), and vitamin D (from sunshine) — all powerful agents for maintaining health. Load up on yogurt or kefir to introduce good bacteria that ward off disease. And eat fresh garlic, which boasts antimicrobial properties.