Friday, June 17, 2005

Preparing for Pandemic Flu

From Darren Perron
Channel 3 News - WCAX-TV
South Burlington, Vermont - June 15, 2005

The World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control have urged local governments to prepare for a catastrophic outbreak of the flu. Health leaders say another flu pandemic is coming and it might be the "Bird Flu."

The Vermont Health Department held a drill Wednesday. It was called "Operation Achoo!" -- a comical name for a serious drill.

"The Vermont Health Department and other local agencies are very concerned about this," said State Epidemiologist Dr. Cort Lohff.

The table-top drill tested the state's Pandemic Flu Plan. The scenario -- hospital and emergency officials respond to a widespread outbreak in Vermont. One out 3 Vermonters affected.

"We know a pandemic is coming," said Dr. Lohff. "We need to be prepared for the worst case scenario."

Resources would be stretched thin during a deadly outbreak. So, health and emergency officials must be ready. They would have to quickly identify the strain and coordinate a plan of attack. Vaccines and hospital space would be limited. Public alerts -- a must.

"One of the biggest challenges would be communication," said Dr. Lohff.

It's unclear which strain will lead to the next pandemic. Right now, world health leaders fear the "Bird Flu."

The illness, now in Southeast Asia, has killed millions of chickens and fifty people who handled infected birds. Currently, the "Bird Flu" cannot be transmitted by humans. But if the virus mutates, it could have catastrophic results.

Three flu pandemics have occurred during the 20th century so far. Health officials say there's no way to tell when the next one will hit. But again, they say it's coming. Preparations will continue at the state level and health officials expect to put the Response Plan to a field test sometime next year.

Darren Perron - Channel 3 News


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Thursday, June 16, 2005

Protect Yourself From West Nile Virus

Spring, 2005 is the seventh season of living with the West Nile virus here in America. New research shows that the West Nile family of illnesses (yes, there are more than one) are more threatening than once believed.

According to a recent Associated Press report, the West Nile virus is proving to be far more serious than its long-time "nuisance" classification seems to indicate. The medical establishment has long considered West Nile only a serious threat to the elderly, or those with weakened immune systems. But more and more often in the last few years, the virus has been manifesting itself as a polio-like partial paralysis among hardy, healthy, active people in their 30s, 40s, and 50s.

Since its first recorded presence in the U.S. in 1999, this insect-borne illness has infected more than 16,000 Americans, killing more than 650. The West Nile is typically spread to humans by female mosquitoes (and tainted blood products). Those infected can be completely non-symptomatic, or they may experience fatigue and weakness, paralysis - and obviously, death.

The AP article quoted one doctor working with the National Institutes of Health as saying that there are currently more annual cases of paralysis in the U.S. caused by West Nile than during many years when polio was at the forefront of American disease worries, back in the 40's & 50's. The problem may be much worse than even this NIH scientist figures, since these West Nile symptoms are often likely to be mistaken by doctors for strokes or other paralyzing ailments.

As time passes, concern about the virus (and its cousin, West Nile fever), seems to be fading somewhat from the public's consciousness - even though, after almost seven years, there is still no cure, no vaccine, or even an approved course of treatment for the disease. And with a relatively mild, wet winter behind us in much of the United States, we will probably see mosquito breeding kick into high gear, and analysts are worried that 2005 might prove to be one of the worst seasons yet for the disease.

This lack of headlines could lead to a dangerous lack of awareness about the only real defense we have against infection: Insect repellants. Until recently, the most recommended products were those that contained 100% DEET, not the safest ingredient by far, to be putting on your body, but recently the CDC has begun to approve "bug sprays" containing more natural ingredients.

Of course, we recommend NoMo from The Wellness Group USA, one of the very best organic insect deterrents available, completely safe, and easy to use. Just spray some on your hands, and apply to all of your exposed areas, and enjoy your gardening, outdoor picnic, sports event, yard work, whatever, and AS A PRECAUTION, stay away from wetlands, swamps, and standing water, whenever possible.

Do these things, and you'll avoid the "West Nile Boys", and have a pleasant, insect bite-free Spring, Summer and Fall.

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Tuesday, June 14, 2005

CDC Adopts New Repellent Guidance for Upcoming Mosquito Season

Americans have more options than ever to use in protecting themselves from mosquito bites. Today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new guidance about effective mosquito repellents available in the United States. The updated guidance includes addition of two active ingredients - picaridin and oil of lemon eucalyptus - which have been shown to offer long-lasting protection against mosquito bites. Repellents containing DEET continue to be a highly effective repellent option and are also included in the CDC guidelines.

Picaridin, also known as KBR 3023, is an ingredient found in many mosquito repellents used in Europe, Australia, Latin America and Asia for some time. Evidence indicates that it works very well, often comparable with DEET products of similar concentration. One product, containing 7 percent picaridin, is being distributed in the United States for the first time this year. The other repellent is oil of lemon eucalyptus (also known as p-menthane 3,8-diol or PMD), a plant-based mosquito repellent that provided protection time similar to low concentration DEET products in two recent studies. It is available in a variety of formulations throughout the United States.

"We're very excited that the number of options people have to protect themselves from mosquitoes and therefore West Nile Virus has increased," said CDC Director Julie L. Gerberding. "Products containing DEET, picaridin and oil of lemon eucalyptus are all excellent choices. The important thing is that they remember to protect themselves from mosquito bites when they're going to be outside. We want people to enjoy their spring and summer free of West Nile Virus."

Mosquito season has already begun in some parts of the country. With mosquitoes comes the risk of West Nile Virus infection and other infections spread by mosquitoes. Just one bite can lead to an infection that could cause serious illness or even death. While people over 50 are more likely to become seriously ill if infected with WNV, people of any age can become mildly to seriously ill. Most people who contract West Nile Virus do not show any symptoms. However, about 20 percent of people experience symptoms such as fever, headache, nausea and vomiting and an estimated 1 in 150 people infected with WNV will develop severe illness. The severe symptoms can include high fever, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss and paralysis.

DEET, picaridin and oil of lemon eucalyptus are all registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which regulates these products. Repellents registered with EPA have been evaluated for both safety and efficacy when used according to label instructions.

CDC recommends that people use repellent anytime they go outside, especially during prime mosquito biting hours, between dusk and dawn. People should follow the label instructions, and if they start getting bitten re-apply repellent.

CDC works with state and local health departments, federal and other government agencies, as well as private industry, to prepare for and prevent new cases of West Nile virus infection. CDC coordinates ArboNet, a nation-wide electronic database that gathers information about West Nile virus in humans and animals, in order to guide prevention and response activities. To learn more about how to protect yourself and your family from West Nile Virus, please visit More information on the guidance is available at

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Friday, June 10, 2005

Immune System Offers New Alzheimer's Target

From Yahoo News - HealthDay

FRIDAY, June 10 (HealthDay News) -- An immune system defect may encourage the accumulation of amyloid-beta waste products in the brains of some Alzheimer's patients, according to a new study.

This oversaturation of the brain with amyloid-beta protein could lead to the formation of amyloid plaques -- the definitive hallmark of Alzheimer's disease.

The finding could lead to new ways of diagnosing and treating Alzheimer's by identifying and correcting this defect in the innate immune system, say researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles.

This is the first study to find that the innate -- the more primitive part -- of the immune system may be a factor in the development of Alzheimer's, the team adds.

In their study, published in the June 10 Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, the researchers compared blood samples from healthy people with those of Alzheimer's patients. In healthy people, innate immune system cells called macrophages easily cleared amyloid-beta in a test tube. In contrast, Alzheimer's patients' macrophages couldn't adequately perform this task.

"Macrophages are the janitors of the innate immune system, gobbling up waste products in the brain and throughout the body," study first author Dr. Milan Fiala said in a prepared statement.
The Alzheimer's patients' macrophages may not effectively bind to amyloid-beta or may have trouble in the absorption or uptake of amyloid-beta, Fiala said. This defect in the innate immune system may also be present in other conditions such as cardiovascular disease, which also involves a steady buildup of waste and plaque.

"If further study shows that this defective macrophage function is present in most Alzheimer's disease patients, new hormonal or immune-boosting approaches may offer new approaches to treating the disease," Fiala said.

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Aging has more about Alzheimer's disease.

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Wednesday, June 01, 2005

West Nile Virus: What You Need To Know

What Is West Nile Virus?
West Nile virus (WNV) is a potentially serious illness. Experts believe WNV is established as a seasonal epidemic in North America that flares up in the summer and continues into the fall. This fact sheet contains important information that can help you recognize and prevent West Nile virus.

What Are the Symptoms of WNV?

WNV affects the central nervous system. Symptoms vary.

Serious Symptoms in a Few People. About one in 150 people infected with WNV will develop severe illness. The severe symptoms can include high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis. These symptoms may last several weeks, and neurological effects may be permanent. Milder Symptoms in Some People. Up to 20 percent of the people who become infected will display symptoms which can include fever, headache, and body aches, nausea, vomiting, and sometimes swollen lymph glands or a skin rash on the chest, stomach and back. Symptoms can last for as short as a few days, though even healthy people have been sick for several weeks.
No Symptoms in Most People. Approximately 80 percent of people (about 4 out of 5) who are infected with WNV will not show any symptoms at all.

How Does West Nile Virus Spread?

Infected Mosquitoes. Most often, WNV is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. Mosquitoes are WNV carriers that become infected when they feed on infected birds. Infected mosquitoes can then spread WNV to humans and other animals when they bite.

Transfusions, Transplants, and Mother-to-Child. In a very small number of cases, WNV also has been spread through blood transfusions, organ transplants, breastfeeding and even during pregnancy from mother to baby.

Not through touching. WNV is not spread through casual contact such as touching or kissing a person with the virus.
How Soon Do Infected People Get Sick?
People typically develop symptoms between 3 and 14 days after they are bitten by the infected mosquito.
How Is WNV Infection Treated?
There is no specific treatment for WNV infection. In cases with milder symptoms, people experience symptoms such as fever and aches that pass on their own. In more severe cases, people usually need to go to the hospital where they can receive supportive treatment including intravenous fluids, help with breathing and nursing care.

What Should I Do if I Think I Have WNV?
Milder WNV illness improves on its own, and people do not necessarily need to seek medical attention for this infection though they may choose to do so. If you develop symptoms of severe WNV illness, such as unusually severe headaches or confusion, seek medical attention immediately. Severe WNV illness usually requires hospitalization. Pregnant women and nursing mothers are encouraged to talk to their doctor if they develop symptoms that could be WNV.

What Is the Risk of Getting Sick from WNV?

People over 50 at higher risk to get sick. People over the age of 50 are more likely to develop serious symptoms of WNV if they do get sick and should take special care to avoid mosquito bites.

Being outside means you're at risk. The more time you're outdoors, the more time you could be bitten by an infected mosquito. Pay attention to avoiding mosquito bites if you spend a lot of time outside, either working or playing.

Risk through medical procedures is very low. All donated blood is checked for WNV before being used. The risk of getting WNV through blood transfusions and organ transplants is very small, and should not prevent people who need surgery from having it. If you have concerns, talk to your doctor.

Pregnancy and nursing do not increase risk of becoming infected with WNV. The risk that WNV may present to a fetus or an infant infected through breastmilk is still being evaluated. Talk with your care provider is you have concerns.

What Can I Do to Prevent WNV?

The easiest and best way to avoid WNV is to prevent mosquito bites.

When you are outdoors, use insect repellents NOT containing DEET (N, N-diethyl-meta-toluamide). No Mo offers natural toxic free defense!

Many mosquitoes are most active at dusk and dawn. Be sure to use insect repellent and wear long sleeves and pants at these times or consider staying indoors during these hours. Light-colored clothing can help you see mosquitoes that land on you.

Make sure you have good screens on your windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out.

Get rid of mosquito breeding sites by emptying standing water from flower pots, buckets and barrels. Change the water in pet dishes and replace the water in bird baths weekly. Drill holes in tire swings so water drains out. Keep children's wading pools empty and on their sides when they aren't being used.

What Is the CDC Doing About WNV?
CDC is working with state and local health departments, the Food and Drug Administration and other government agencies, as well as private industry, to prepare for and prevent new cases of WNV.

Some things CDC is doing include:

Coordinating a nation-wide electronic database where states share information about WNV

Helping states develop and carry out improved mosquito prevention and control programs

Developing better, faster tests to detect and diagnose WNV

Creating new education tools and programs for the media, the public, and health professionals

Opening new testing laboratories for WNV

What Else Should I Know?

If you find a dead bird: Don't handle the body with your bare hands. Contact your local health department for instructions on reporting and disposing of the body.

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