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by Robert Preidt

Raw Tuna Suspected as Source of Salmonella Outbreak: CDC

At least 53 people in nine states have fallen ill, while 10 have been hospitalized, agency reports
FRIDAY, May 22, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Raw tuna is suspected as the source of a salmonella outbreak that has now sickened 53 people in nine states, according to U.S. health officials.
No deaths have been reported. But 10 people have been sick enough to be hospitalized, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday in a statement. The majority of those who fell ill said they had recently eaten sushi that included raw tuna.
However, "a common brand or supplier of raw tuna has not been identified," the CDC said in its statement.
While the bulk of cases, 31, are in California, eight other states are affected: Arizona (10), Illinois (1), Mississippi (1), New Mexico (6), South Dakota (1), Virginia (1), Washington (1) and Wisconsin (1), the agency said.
Most of the cases have involved people who live in the southwestern United States, or who traveled to that part of the country in the week before they became sick, the CDC said. The first case was reported on March 5, and state and federal health officials have found five clusters where ill people ate sushi at the same establishments.
"This outbreak reinforces the ever-present risks associated with eating fish, meat or poultry that have not been properly cooked and prepared," said Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
"This outbreak begs the question as to whether the sushi was prepackaged from a distributor, based on the size and number of states involved, along with the potential issue of improper food handling and storage," Glatter added.
Another expert agreed that eating raw or undercooked food will always carry some risk of food poisoning.
"The outbreak reaffirms the importance of the consumer being cautious and informed when dining on raw or undercooked (i.e. "seared" beef, pork, seafood, fish etc.)," said Dr. Howard Selinger, chair of family medicine at the Frank H. Netter MD School of Medicine at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Conn.
"There is always a small inherent risk of bacterial contamination," Selinger explained. "There is no way to mitigate this risk down to zero. Thoroughly rinsing the item is not sufficient."
Salmonella causes more than one million cases of food poisoning in the United States every year, according to the CDC. Symptoms include diarrhea, cramping and fever. In this latest outbreak, a variant known as salmonella paratyphi B has been identified as the source of illness.
"This is a good reminder to Californians that there are sometimes risks when eating raw or undercooked meats, fish or poultry," Dr. Karen Smith, director of the California Department of Public Health, said in a statement. "This is particularly true for young children, the elderly, or people with compromised immune systems who may be at an increased risk of severe illness."
More information
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on salmonella (http://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/index.html ).
SOURCES: Robert Glatter, M.D., emergency physician, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City; Howard Selinger, M.D., chair, family medicine, Frank H. Netter MD School of Medicine, Quinnipiac University, Hamden, Conn.; May 21, 2015, statement, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; May 21, 2015, statement, California Department of Public Health
by Robert Preidt

Animals May Ease Social Anxiety in Children With Autism

Playing with guinea pig in stressful situation was calming, study finds
FRIDAY, May 22, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Being around animals may help reduce social anxiety in children with autism, new research suggests.
The findings could lead to new treatment approaches that use pets such as dogs, cats and guinea pigs to help children with autism improve their social skills and interactions with other people, the researchers said.
The study included 38 children with autism and 76 children without the disorder. All of the children wore special wrist devices designed to detect anxiety and other responses to social situations.
The children first read a book by themselves. Then, they read a book to two other children and then had 10 minutes of group play. After that, the children were given 10 minutes of supervised play with guinea pigs. Researchers chose guinea pigs because of their small size and gentle nature.
Compared to other children, those with autism had higher levels of anxiety when reading silently, reading aloud and during group play. However, the youngsters with autism had a significant drop in anxiety levels during the session with the guinea pig.
This could be because pets offer unqualified acceptance and make children with autism feel more secure, according to Marguerite O'Haire, from the Center for the Human-Animal Bond in the College of Veterinary Medicine at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., and colleagues.
The study was published online recently in the journal Developmental Psychobiology. The research was partly funded by the U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
"Previous studies suggest that in the presence of companion animals, children with autism spectrum disorders function better socially," James Griffin, of the NICHD's Child Development and Behavior Branch, said in an agency news release. "This study provides physiological evidence that the proximity of animals eases the stress that children with autism may experience in social situations."
However, the findings do not mean that parents of children with autism should get a pet for their children, O'Haire said. Further research is needed to learn how animals might be used in programs to help children with autism develop social skills, she said.
More information
The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about autism (http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/autism/autism.htm ).
SOURCES: U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, news release, May 20, 2015
by Robert Preidt

Depression May Intensify Anger in Veterans With PTSD: Study

Aggressive outbursts can unleash harm to others or to soldiers themselves, researchers say
FRIDAY, May 22, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Anger often escalates quickly in veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) when they're depressed, a new study reveals.
"Our study findings should draw attention to anger as a major treatment need when military service members screen positive for PTSD or for depression, and especially when they screen positive for both," lead researcher Raymond Novaco said in a news release from the American Psychological Association.
PTSD is an anxiety disorder that develops after living through or witnessing a dangerous event. People with the disorder may feel intense stress, suffer from flashbacks or experience a "fight or flight" response when there's no apparent danger.
In the study, Novaco's team examined the mental-health records of almost 2,100 soldiers -- mostly men -- who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and later sought treatment.
Those who showed signs of depression and PTSD had higher levels of anger and believed they were more likely to hurt themselves, the researchers said. Almost three-quarters of those with signs of PTSD also appeared to suffer from depression.
"PTSD and depression dominate the landscape, but these, of course, are formal psychiatric disorders," said Novaco, who is professor of psychology and social behavior at the University of California, Irvine.
"There is no diagnostic category for anger, nor do I think there should be, so anger slips from research attention," he added.
Why worry about anger?
It's not uncommon among veterans in general and can often be violent, according to Novaco. His team pointed to prior studies, including one of 18,000 soldiers returning from Iraq that found that 40 percent experienced anger outbursts, more than 30 percent uttered violent threats to others, and 15 percent engaged in physical fighting.
However, while anger "is a driver of violent behavior," it is also amenable to focused psychological treatment, Novaco said.
The study was published this month in Psychological Trauma: Theory Research, Practice and Policy.
More information
To find out more about PTSD, head to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs ( http://www.ptsd.va.gov ).
SOURCE: American Psychological Association, news release, May 11, 2015
by Robert Preidt

Health Highlights: May 22, 2015

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
FDA: Inadequate Testing, Cleaning at Jeni's Ice Cream Plant
There was inadequate cleaning and testing at Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams plant in Columbus, Ohio before listeria was detected in some of its ice cream, a Food and Drug Administration investigation found.
Jeni's recalled all of its products last month and conducted intensive cleaning before starting to make ice cream again and re-opening its shops last Friday, the Associated Press reported.
No illnesses have been reported in connection with the recall.
After a Freedom of Information request, the AP obtained the results of the FDA investigation. It found that Jeni's did not have an adequate sampling and testing program and was not sufficiently sanitizing some surfaces, including floors.
DEA Arrests 48 in Raids Targeting Illegal Sales of Prescription Painkillers
Forty-eight people, including seven doctors, were arrested in four Southern states as part of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's largest operation against illegal trafficking of prescription drugs.
Wednesday's raids came after a 15-month investigation that focused on the illicit sale and distribution of prescription painkillers such as oxycodone and hydrocodone, and the tranquilizer Xanax, The New York Times reported.
The 48 arrests in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi were in addition to 230 other arrests made during the investigation of pharmacists, doctors, street-level dealers and others, DEA officials said.
Among those arrested and charged Wednesday were two doctors in Mobile, Ala. who ran two pain clinics and also owned a pharmacy, and an Arkansas pharmacist who used fake prescriptions to sell 93,000 hydrocodone pills for about $500,000 in 2013, The Times reported.
Climate Change a National Security Threat: Obama
Climate change is a threat to national security, President Barack Obama says.
On Wednesday, he told cadets at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut that people who deny climate change are putting at risk the nation and its military, and that failure to take action on climate change would be "dereliction of duty," the Associated Press reported.
Climate change and rising sea levels would hamper the readiness of U.S. forces and could increase social tensions and political instability worldwide, the president warned.
"Denying (climate change) or refusing to deal with it undermines our national security," Obama said, the AP reported.
"Make no mistake, it will impact how our military defends our country," he added. "We need to act and we need to act now."
by Robert Preidt

Health Tip: Why Is My Nose Bleeding?

Here are some common triggers
(HealthDay News) -- Nosebleeds can be frightening and uncomfortable, but are rarely serious.
The Cleveland Clinic says possible nosebleed triggers include:
Warm or hot, non-humid air that dries membranes inside the nasal passages. Sinusitis, a cold or allergy that triggers lots of sneezing and blowing of the nose. A facial injury. Sticking a foreign object in the nose, or picking the nose. High blood pressure, or taking a medication that thins the blood. Exposure to an irritating chemical. A deviated septum. Surgery involving the nose or face.
by Robert Preidt

More Babies Born to Mothers Addicted to Pain Meds

Also rising are costs to treat infants' withdrawal symptoms, study says
FRIDAY, May 22, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- The number of infants born to American mothers addicted to prescription pain medications is rising, and so are the costs of treating those babies, researchers report.
The new research supports recent recommendations to screen or test pregnant women for substance abuse, according to the study's authors.
Done over three years at one U.S. hospital, the study included 40 painkiller-exposed newborns in the first year, 57 in the second year, and 63 in the third year. Researchers determined that 50 percent to 60 percent of the babies developed neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), which includes withdrawal symptoms and complications.
These infants remained in the hospital after birth for an average of 23 days. A healthy drug-free newborn usually only stays in the hospital for one or two days. The average stay for painkiller-exposed newborns without NAS was five days, the study found.
"At our institution, costs associated with treating infants with NAS are exponentially higher than the costs associated with infants not affected," wrote Dr. Kay Roussos-Ross, an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology, and colleagues from the University of Florida College of Medicine.
In the study, the cost of treatment for newborns with NAS rose from $1.1 million in the first year to $1.5 million in the second year. In the third year, costs increased to $1.8 million. Compared to healthy newborns, costs to treat babies with NAS were 15 to 16 times higher, according to the study.
The findings add to previous studies that found high costs for treating babies born to women addicted to painkillers. Most of the treatment is paid for by state Medicaid programs.
A number of major medical groups have called for universal drug screening during pregnancy, but it is not yet standard practice, the study authors noted.
The findings were published recently in the Journal of Addiction Medicine.
More information
The American Pregnancy Association has more about pregnancy and prescription drugs (http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-health/abusing-prescription-drugs-during-pregnancy/ ).
SOURCE: Journal of Addiction Medicine, news release, May 19, 2015
by Robert Preidt

Weight Training's Benefits May Depend on Genetics

Study shows muscle-building exercise not as effective in women with high risk for obesity
THURSDAY, May 21, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- How well resistance exercises work may depend on a woman's genetic risk for obesity, new research suggests.
Strength-building workouts seem to be most effective for those with a low genetic risk for a high body-mass index (BMI), the study found. BMI is a rough estimate of a person's body fat -- the higher the number, the more fat a person has.
"This doesn't mean that resistance training is futile for women with higher genetic risk for obesity. It means those with lower genetic risk just benefited more," said Jennifer Bea, an assistant professor at the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Tucson.
"We have previously shown that the resistance training was important for these women in many other ways, including improved bone density. Like most interventions, exercise is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. People with higher genetic risk scores for higher BMI may benefit more from aerobic training, for example," Bea said in a university news release.
Researchers examined the genetic markers of nearly 150 women. They were between 30 and 65 years old. All participated in the year-long Bone Estrogen and Strength Training (BEST) study. Each woman received a genetic risk score for obesity, which was based on 21 genetic markers, or indicators, believed to affect body weight.
Eighty-four women were asked to participate in supervised, high-intensity resistance training and moderate weight-bearing exercises. The exercise sessions lasted for 75 minutes each. The women were asked to do these exercises three days a week for one year.
During this time, the women took calcium supplements but made no other changes to their typical diet. The participants recorded their food intake at random intervals.
The researchers found that the benefits of resistance training, which included weight loss as well as loss of body fat and belly fat, depended on a woman's genetics and her risk for obesity.
The study was published recently in the International Journal of Obesity.
More research is needed, the study authors pointed out. They said that future studies should include a more diverse group of people. And they added that future studies should also identify ideal weight-management strategies based on an individual's genetic profile.
More information
The U.S. National Institute on Aging provides more information on weight training (http://www.nia.nih.gov/health/publication/exercise-physical-activity/sample-exercises-strength ).
SOURCE: University of Arizona, news release, April 30, 2015
by Robert Preidt

Cold Weather a Bigger Killer Than Heat, Study Finds

But moderate, not extreme, temperatures more deadly, researchers say
THURSDAY, May 21, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Cold weather kills 20 times more people worldwide than hot weather, a new study shows.
In addition, deaths caused by moderately cold or hot weather far exceed those from extreme cold or heat, the researchers reported in the May 20 issue of The Lancet.
"It's often assumed that extreme weather causes the majority of deaths, with most previous research focusing on the effects of extreme heat waves," lead author Antonio Gasparrini, of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine in the United Kingdom, said in a journal news release.
"Current public-health policies focus almost exclusively on minimizing the health consequences of heat waves. Our findings suggest that these measures need to be refocused and extended to take account of a whole range of effects associated with temperature," Gasparrini concluded.
The research team looked at more than 74 million deaths that occurred in 13 countries between 1985 and 2012. The countries in the study included a wide range of climates. Nearly 8 percent of all deaths were temperature-related. About 3 percent of deaths were temperature-related in Brazil, Sweden and Thailand, the study found. In China, Italy and Japan, about 11 percent of deaths were related to temperature.
Cold caused about 7 percent of all deaths worldwide. Heat caused just 0.42 percent of deaths, the findings showed.
Extreme temperatures caused less than 1 percent of all deaths, the study found. Nearly 7 percent of deaths were caused by moderately hot or cold temperatures, with most caused by moderate cold (6.6 percent), the researchers said.
The authors of an accompanying editorial, Keith Dear and Zhan Wang, from Duke Kunshan University in China, were concerned that the study didn't include information of susceptibility to temperature changes. Socioeconomic status, age and air pollutants could increase susceptibility, they said.
"Since high or low temperatures affect susceptible groups such as unwell, young and elderly people the most, attempts to mitigate the risk associated with temperature would benefit from in-depth studies of the interaction between attributable mortality and socioeconomic factors, to avoid adverse policy outcomes and achieve effective adaptation," they explained.
More information
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention outlines how to cope with natural disasters and extreme weather (http://www.emergency.cdc.gov/disasters/index.asp ).
SOURCE: The Lancet, news release, May 20, 2015
by Robert Preidt

Over 4 Million Working Americans Suffer From Anxiety Disorders

Illness can be debilitating, but treatment is available so workers can stay productive, experts say
THURSDAY, May 21, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- A new study finds that 4.3 million Americans with full-time jobs had an anxiety disorder in the past year.
That number represents 3.7 percent of full-time workers aged 18 and older, according to the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
As the agency explained, people with anxiety disorders experience overwhelming worry and fear. However, these conditions can be managed through counseling and/or medication.
"People with anxiety disorders can have a hard time gaining employment and sometimes dealing with certain situations," SAMHSA administrator Pamela Hyde said in an agency news release. "But fortunately, with treatment and support they can make enormous contributions to the workplace and the community."
Researchers analyzed data from 67,500 respondents aged 12 and older who took part in SAMHSA's annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health between 2008 and 2012.
Rates of anxiety disorders were even higher among adults without full-time jobs: 5.6 percent among part-time workers (1.7 million adults); 6.9 percent among those who were unemployed (1 million adults); and 8.9 percent among those not in the workforce (5.9 million adults).
Overall, 5.7 percent of all American adults -- almost 13 million people -- had suffered from an anxiety disorder in the past year, the report found.
According to Hyde, "employers, unions, educators, health providers and all segments of the community need to work together so that we can help people surmount the challenges of anxiety disorders and lead full, productive lives."
More information
The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has more about anxiety disorders (http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/anxiety-disorders/index.shtml ).
SOURCE: U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, news release, May 21, 2015
by Robert Preidt

Quadriplegic Uses Thoughts to Control Robotic Arms

Research is still preliminary, but implants have worked for several patients
THURSDAY, May 21, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- A gunshot wound to the spine left Erik Sorto paralyzed from the neck down. Yet today he is able to do some of life's most simple, but vital, actions -- such as taking a drink from a cup -- by using a robotic arm that he controls with his mind.
It sounds like science fiction, but researchers have steadily been making progress in developing mind-controlled robotic limbs. The hope is to one day give people with paralysis or amputations more independence.
However, experts caution that this research is still in its early stages.
Still, Sorto's case, reported in the May 22 issue of Science, represents an important advance, according to experts. He has two tiny chips implanted in an area of the brain called the posterior parietal cortex (PPC), which controls the intention to move.
That's in contrast to the handful of other paralyzed individuals who've been given similar implants. But in those cases, the chips have been placed in the brain's motor cortex, which is involved in the direct execution of movement.
It's a key distinction, explained senior researcher Richard Andersen, a professor of neuroscience at the California Institute of Technology, in Pasadena.
Signals sent from the brain's motor cortex are involved in the details of movement -- like "lift the arm" and "extend the arm." Signals from the PPC are "higher level," and related to overall goals, such as "I want to pick up that cup."
So devices implanted in the PPC could make it easier for people to control a robotic arm with their thoughts, and make those movements more fluid and natural, Andersen said.
And for Sorto, it worked. After recovering from surgery to have the chips implanted in his brain, he underwent training to see if he could learn to move the robotic arm using only his thoughts.
The big surprise, according to Andersen, was that Sorto was able to control the arm on day one.
"It was very intuitive for him," Andersen said. "Needless to say, we were pleased that it worked."
He said two additional patients have since had chips implanted in the PPC, and Sorto has had his for three years now. In addition, a few patients at other research centers have had similar devices implanted.
But much more work remains before people with paralysis or amputations will be able to use the technology in their everyday lives, Andersen stressed.
For now, the robotic arms are confined to the lab setting. After surgery, patients are left with terminals protruding from the skull that are used to connect the implanted chips to a computer system that decodes the signals being sent from the brain -- such as, "I want to pick up that cup." That message sparks the robotic arm to move.
For the approach to work in real life, the technology will have to go wireless, said Andrew Pruszynski, the author of an editorial published with the study, and an assistant professor at Western University, in London, Ontario, Canada.
"We'll need to be able to imbed everything in the patient, like we do with cochlear implants and pacemakers," said Pruszynski.
"And since this requires brain surgery," he added, "you'd want to be sure that the chips last."
Pruszynski said this advance follows years of research in primates, and it's a "great demonstration" that signals from the PPC in humans can be decoded and used to move a robotic limb.
But that does not mean that targeting the PPC is the best or only approach. Ultimately, Pruszynski said, people may benefit from having chips implanted in both the PPC and the motor cortex, to get more detailed control over movement.
Andersen said the goal is, in fact, to give patients that fine movement control, for everyday tasks such as tooth-brushing and shaving -- the very routines Sorto has said he misses.
To help get there, the researchers are working on technology that will relay signals from the robotic arm back into the part of the brain that gives us the perception of touch.
Pruszynski agreed that's a key step. Sensory feedback to the brain is necessary for any action that require a dexterous hand, he said.
It's hard to say when technology like this will be widely available for people with paralysis, according to Pruszynski. But he said the new research is one more step toward making it a reality.
More information
The Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation has more on spinal cord injuries (http://www.christopherreeve.org/site/c.mtKZKgMWKwG/b.4453403/k.CDCA/Spinal_Cord_Injury.htm ).
SOURCES: Richard Andersen, Ph.D., professor, neuroscience, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Calif.; Andrew Pruszynski, Ph.D., assistant professor, physiology and pharmacology, Western University, London, Ontario, Canada; May 22, 2015, Science

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