Health

Sound the Mosquito Alarm, Across the USA

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THURSDAY, Sept. 21, 2017 (HealthDay News) — Two species of disease-transmitting mosquitoes could likely flourish in most of the United States, government researchers report.

Specifically, Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus could survive and reproduce for at least part of the year in three-quarters of the counties in the lower 48 states if introduced there, according to researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These two species can transmit viruses that cause Zika, dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever.

The range where Aedes aegypti could survive includes much of the eastern United States south of the Great Lakes, as well as parts of several southwestern states. The range where Aedes albopictus could survive extends farther into the northeast but is more limited in the southwest.

The study and accompanying maps were published online Sept. 21 in the Journal of Medical Entomology.

This research can help efforts to control mosquitoes and the diseases they carry, according to the CDC team.

“Surveillance efforts can be focused in counties where Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus could survive and reproduce if introduced to an area during the months when mosquitoes are locally active or at least survive during summer months if introduced,” senior author Rebecca Eisen, a research biologist with the CDC, said in a journal news release.

“Additionally, the maps can help health care providers and the public understand where these types of mosquitoes could be found so that they can take steps to protect against mosquito bites and possible infection,” she added.

The study and maps don’t address mosquito abundance or risk of virus transmission, researchers said.

They also noted whole counties might not be suitable for the mosquitoes. For example, warmer city environments may be good habitats for the two mosquito species, while cooler rural areas may not.

Temperature is the strongest factor in determining whether the two species can survive and reproduce, the researchers said.

They added that standing water from rain is a more important factor in egg laying for Aedes albopictus than for Aedes aegypti. That may explain why the range of Aedes albopictus is greater in the eastern U.S. and lesser in the drier southwest.

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Booze Often Glorified on YouTube Videos

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THURSDAY, Sept. 21, 2017 (HealthDay News) — If kids only watched YouTube for insights into drinking, they’d get a very slanted view, new research shows.

The study found alcohol intake is typically shown only as fun, with none of the downsides.

Researchers analyzed 137 YouTube videos that featured alcohol brands popular with underage drinkers. The videos had been viewed nearly 97 million times, and 1 in 10 depicted chugging, the investigators said.

“Our aim is not to say we should be censoring this,” said lead researcher Dr. Brian Primack, director of the University of Pittsburgh Center for Research on Media, Technology and Health.

However, “knowing about this content should help us develop appropriate educational programs,” he added.

The alcohol products ranged from beer to vodka to cognac. Forty percent of the videos were conventional ads, while others featured someone highlighting a particular product and perhaps suggesting recipes.

The study appears in the September issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

There is no way to know how many of the tens of millions of viewers were underage, Primack said.

Parents don’t need to say “no more internet,” Primack noted in a journal news release. But he said they should try to educate their children about alcohol ads.

They should also explain that alcohol companies try to manipulate people by suggesting alcohol helps people socialize and have fun, he added.

“Parents can be important purveyors of media literacy,” Primack said. “They can help their kids become more critical thinkers about what they see in ads.”

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For Men, Fitness Can Often Last a Lifetime

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THURSDAY, Sept. 21, 2017 (HealthDay News) — Active middle-aged men are likely to stay active into old age, a new study finds.

The research included nearly 3,500 British men, aged 40 to 59 at the start of the study. The researchers followed the men’s health for 20 years. Those who were physically active in mid-life were nearly three times more likely to be active at the end of the study period.

Men who played sports in mid-life were more likely to be active in old age than those who did other types of physical activity in mid-life. That was especially true of those who played sports for many years, the findings showed.

Men who played sports for 25 years or more were nearly five times more likely to be physically active in old age than those who didn’t play sports, the study authors said.

But plenty of men took up high levels of walking as they aged. At the start of the study, just 27 percent reported high levels of walking. By the end of the study, that number was 62 percent.

The study was published online Sept. 20 in the journal BMJ Open.

“Early engagement in sport and structured exercise may be vital for developing the necessary motor skills needed to establish a lifelong habit for physical activity. However, it may also be important to provide opportunities to take up other forms of activity, such as walking, during the transition to old age,” study lead author Daniel Aggio, from University College London (UCL), said in a journal news release.

There are a number of reasons why playing sports in middle age may increase the likelihood of being active in old age, the UCL researchers suggested.

“One possibility is that people’s enjoyment of sport may be more likely to persist into old age than preferences for other types of activity,” the authors wrote.

“Sport participation in mid-life may help maintain physical function and [physical activity] self-efficacy in later life, increasing psychological and physical readiness for [physical activity] in old age,” the researchers added.

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Inflammatory Bowel Disease May Raise Cancer Risk in Kids

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THURSDAY, Sept. 21, 2017 (HealthDay News) — Children with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) face an increased risk of cancer, a new study claims.

The risk persists into adulthood, and is especially elevated for gastrointestinal cancers, the researchers added.

The “extent and duration of chronic inflammation might be the main driving mechanisms underlying the increased risk of cancer,” the researchers suggested.

The international team, led by Dr. Ola Olen, a pediatric gastroenterologist at Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, compared about 9,400 patients in Sweden who were diagnosed with IBD before age 18 to a control group of nearly 93,000 people without IBD.

The risk of cancer up to an average age of 30 was 3.3 cases per 1,000 person years among those with IBD. That compared with 1.5 cases per 1,000 person years in the control group.

So, the overall risk of cancer among people with IBD is still low, the researchers noted. And the study did not prove that IBD caused cancer risk to rise.

Cancer risk increased in the first year after IBD diagnosis and remained high beyond five years of follow-up, especially for gastrointestinal cancers such as in the colon, small intestine and liver.

Chronic liver disease, longstanding colitis and a family history of early cancer were risk factors for any cancer in people diagnosed with IBD as children, according to the study published Sept. 20 in the BMJ.

“Childhood-onset inflammatory bowel disease is associated with an increased risk of any cancer, especially gastrointestinal cancers, both during childhood and later in life. The higher risk of cancer has not fallen over time,” the scientists said in a journal news release.

But families of children with IBD should “focus on the very low incidence of cancer in childhood,” Susan Hutfless wrote in an accompanying editorial. She is an assistant professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

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Australian schoolgirl raises alarm over flesh-eating disease

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A generic photo of an injured kneeImage copyrightGetty Images
Image caption Cases of a flesh-eating disease have rapidly increased in parts of Victoria (File photo)

An Australian schoolgirl suffering from a flesh-eating ulcer is calling for better government funding for research into the infectious disease.

Ella Crofts, 13, is slowly recovering from a Buruli ulcer, a skin disease more usually found in developing world.

Her case has prompted doctors to warn of a growing epidemic in area of Victoria state where she lives.

Health authorities there have have recorded 159 cases of the infection in the year to September.

That is nearly three times the number of cases recorded three years ago.

Experts do not know how to prevent the disease nor how it is contracted.

WARNING: Graphic image below

Ms Croft, from the town of Tyabb, says her case began in April, with a sore knee that deteriorated into an open wound.

“Slowly it got worse, with my knee becoming swollen and inflamed, until one day, the skin started breaking down,” she said in a statement online.

The outdoors-loving teenager said dry swab tests failed to pick up any bacteria, and antibiotics for common infection also didn’t stop her knee worsening.

Her doctor, infectious disease expert and Associate Prof Daniel O’Brien at the Geelong and Royal Melbourne hospitals, told the BBC that Ella had suffered a severe case of Mycobacterium Ulcerans disease or Buruli ulcer.

“The bacteria gets under the skin and slowly eats its way through the skin and the tissue underneath a limb until it’s treated. The longer you leave it the worse it gets, it’s a progressive, destructive infection.”

Ella has had three operations and months of powerful antibiotics to treat the destructive infection.

“I’ve had six months of quality medical care and still have not recovered,” she said.


What is the Buruli ulcer?

  • A skin disease caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium ulcerans.
  • The bacteria emits toxins that destroy skin cells, small blood vessels and the fat under the skin, leading to ulcers forming and skin loss.
  • The ulcer gets bigger with time and can lead to permanent disfigurement or disability.
  • Usually affects limbs but can also be found on the face and body.
  • Doctors do not know how the disease is transmitted to humans but it’s believed to arise from the environment and soil.
  • There are also theories that mosquitoes can carry the bacteria.

The teenager has set up a petition calling on federal and state government to increase research into the disease.

“Why are the numbers in Victoria increasing so rapidly? Why is it moving? It used to be common on the Bellarine peninsula, now it’s mostly on the Mornington Peninsula,” she wrote in her petition.

Image copyrightELLA CROFTS
Image caption The Buruli ulcer attacking Ella’s knee

Associate Prof O’Brien told the BBC there was a “worsening epidemic” in coastal Victoria.

“The cases are rapidly increasing, they seem to be doubling every year, and we’re getting twice as many severe cases than we used to, maybe because the organism is growing more virulent,” he said.

He was also concerned that the disease was popping up in different areas, and said health authorities had limited knowledge of how to intervene.

Victoria’s Department of Health said it was studying local possum faeces for traces of the bacteria and providing funding for studies into mosquitoes.

It is also working with the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners to develop training guides for doctors to help them diagnose the disease quicker.

In Australia, cases of Buruli ulcers are most common in localised coastal areas of Victoria. It has also been diagnosed in the tropical regions of Queensland.

It is more commonly found in rural West Africa, Central Africa, New Guinea, Latin America and tropical regions of Asia.

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Hell in a bottle: I survived an acid attack

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On average in 2016, there were two acid attacks a day. 2017 is now projected to be the year with the highest number of attacks ever recorded in the UK.

Over the past few years there has been a change in the way acid has been used. No longer just associated with shame or honour attacks, acid is now a weapon used by moped thieves as well as a means of settling gang disputes.

We follow four separate acid attack victims who highlight this growing trend.

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Chronic fatigue therapy ‘could help teenagers’, study says

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Exhausted childImage copyrightThinkstock

A training programme tested on children with mild or moderate chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) can reduce fatigue and increase attendance at school, a small study from the University of Bristol suggests.

The Lightning Process, a type of brain therapy, was used alongside specialist medical care.

But ME charities said they did not recommend or endorse the process.

The NHS currently recommends behavioural and exercise therapy.

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), is a disabling illness that affects 1% of secondary school children in the UK, causing them to miss a day or more of school per week.

In total, it is thought to affect 250,000 people in Britain.

Esther Crawley, lead study author and professor of child health at the University of Bristol, decided to research the Lightning Process after the parents of her patients asked her about it in her clinic.

“I have to say that I never expected it would work,” she said.

What is the Lightning Process?

  • a training course that teaches how to use the brain to improve the body’s level of health
  • it is run over three half-days in group sessions and costs about £650
  • it focuses on using simple exercises, movements and gestures to help stimulate recovery
  • it combines elements of osteopathy, life coaching and neurolinguistic programming
  • the scientific community is sceptical of it
  • no previous research had been done to investigate how effective it is
  • it is not available on the NHS

For the Bristol study, published in Journal of Archives of Disease in Childhood, 51 children aged 12-18 years received standard medical care plus three days of the LP training programme, while another 49 received standard care alone.

Six months later, the group that received the additional training said they were experiencing less fatigue and anxiety and better physical function than the control group.

After a year, the training group also reported they felt less depressed and had spent more days at school, compared with the other group – who also said their symptoms had improved.

Image copyrightGetty Images

Prof Crawley said there were limitations to the study – they did not know why LP had worked and could not say whether it would help adults or younger children.

And she said more research was needed to find out if the same results could be achieved again and to understand more about the process, before it could be incorporated into NHS care.

About 250 youngsters with CFS/ME have therapy each year. Current treatments include:

  • medication
  • cognitive behavioural therapy
  • graded exercise therapy
  • activity management

Charities and campaign groups say CFS is not a mental health condition and psychological-based therapies such as the Lightning Process are not going to help.

They say people have reported spending huge amounts of money on the training with no obvious benefit, and some have even experienced worsening symptoms.

They are calling for more science-based research into the physical causes of chronic fatigue syndrome.

‘Over-simplistic’

Dr Charles Shepherd, medical adviser for the ME Association, said: “The Lightning Process is not a treatment that we endorse or recommend for people with ME/CFS.

“It may well be that there are some people with a general fatigue state resulting from stress, emotional or psychological problems who could benefit from a ‘mind over matter’ retraining approach such as this.”

But he said this was not to be confused with ME/CFS.

He said: “There has been a very significant growth in biomedical research globally into ME/CFS in the past decade which has demonstrated clear abnormalities in brain, muscle and immune system function.

“The over-simplistic and largely psychological model of ME/CFS causation that is being put forward to patients by Lightning Process practitioners is totally out of step with emerging scientific evidence as to its cause.”

‘Vulnerable children’

The ME Association said using children and young people with ME/CFS in trials of this nature was “unethical and potentially damaging to their lives and health”.

Jane Colby, executive director of the Young ME Sufferers Trust, said: “As a former head teacher, I know that children are vulnerable, especially when they are ill.

“They desperately want to believe the adults around them, but if their body is telling them something different from what the adults are saying, the child must be in conflict about what to believe.”

Action for ME said it did not recommend any single form of intervention or treatment for ME and advised people to “examine with scepticism any treatment, therapy or other approach which claims to offer a cure”.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence announced on Tuesday that it would be revising the guidelines on the diagnosis and management of ME/CFS.

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Nine in 10 GPs rated good or outstanding

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A GP listening to a patient's heartImage copyrightScience Photo Library

Nine in 10 GP surgeries in England have been rated as good and outstanding by inspectors.

It means general practice is the highest performing sector in the NHS, according to the Care Quality Commission ratings, above hospitals, mental health and social care.

But inspectors did flag up safety concerns at one in seven practices.

The inspection regime has taken nearly three years to complete and involved more than 7,300 surgeries.

The safety concerns included problems with:

  • storing vaccines at the right temperature
  • filling in prescriptions quickly enough
  • having defibrillators that work properly
  • learning from mistakes

But some of these concerns were not considered serious enough to warrant the practice getting an inadequate or requires-improvement rating.

Prof Steve Field, the CQC’s chief inspector of GPs, said the sector should be commended for its efforts given the pressures being faced by doctors.

Over the past three years there has been a 7% increase in the number of people registering with GP practices and reports that people are finding it more difficult to access a GP.

But Prof Field said he was impressed by what he found.

“The pressures on GPs are very real, but we have found many practices are already delivering care in new and innovative ways to benefit their patients and wider community.”

This includes practices embracing digital technologies such as telecare and working proactively with other services, including district nurses, to provide services across large rural areas.

In fact, GPs in rural areas were more likely to get outstanding ratings than those in urban areas, some of which are struggling to recruit doctors.

‘Soaring demand’

The report also showed a number of practices had improved following re-inspections of 1,400 of the worst performers.

Dr Richard Vautrey, of the British Medical Association, said: “These positive results are undoubtedly down to the hard work of GPs and practice staff, but many are in an environment where they are increasingly struggling to deliver effective care to their local communities.

“A recent BMA survey found a majority of GPs in England are considering temporarily closing their practice list to new patients because of the impact of soaring demand, stagnating budgets and widespread staff shortages.”

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the results were a “huge achievement”.

But he acknowledged there was now a need to “expand the workforce so that these high levels of care can be sustained”.

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Quit smoking campaign Stoptobber backs e-cigs for first time

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Stoptober advertImage copyrightOther
Image caption The Stoptober campaign runs from 1 October

The annual Stoptober campaign in England is embracing e-cigarettes for the first time – in a sign vaping is being seen as the key to getting people to quit.

Health experts have tended to shy away from explicitly promoting e-cigarettes.

But the government campaign during October will feature vaping in its TV adverts for the first time.

It comes after e-cigarettes proved the most popular tool for quitting during last year’s campaign.

Some 53% of people used them, helping push the numbers of people taking part in Stoptober since its launch in 2012 to over 1.5 million.

E-cigarettes are not yet officially prescribed on the NHS.

However, doctors and other health professionals are encouraged to advise smokers who want to use them that they are a better alternative to smoking.

Government experts have been encouraged by newly released research suggesting record numbers of attempts to give up are proving successful.

University College London researchers found 20% of attempts were successful in the first six months of 2017, compared with an average of 16% over the previous 10 years.

A successful attempt was judged to be one where the person had tried to stop smoking in the past year and was still abstaining at the time of the survey.

The biggest rise in successful attempts to quit was among people from poorer backgrounds, who have traditionally been the least likely to give up.

Image copyrightOther
Image caption The Stoptober TV advert features a man in an allotment using an e-cigarette

Deputy chief medical officer Prof Gina Radford said e-cigarettes were playing an important role and as they had “95% less harmful products” in them than cigarettes it was only right that they were promoted during Stoptober.

But she also said there were a number of other factors that were proving effective in reducing smoking rates, including restrictions that have been brought in such as standardised packaging and bans on displays in shops.

Is smoking being stubbed out?

15.5%

Over 18s smoked in England in 2016

  • 26.8% Over 18s smoked in England in 2000

  • 1 in 5 Attempts to quit successful in early 2017

  • 5 “Stoptober” campaigns have been run

  • Over 1.5m have tried quit during them

Public Health England
PA

Latest figures suggest just over 15% of people were smoking in 2016, down from 21% in 2007, when the smoking ban was introduced, and over 26% at the turn of the century.

As smoking has decreased, vaping has increased. About one in 20 people over 16 regularly uses e-cigarettes currently – a quarter of them are smokers or ex-smokers.

But Prof Radford said: “The battle against smoking is far from over – it is still the country’s biggest killer, causing 79,000 deaths a year.

“And for every death, another 20 smokers are suffering smoking-related disease.”

Meanwhile, NHS Health Scotland has stated for the first time that e-cigarettes are “definitely” less harmful than smoking tobacco.

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Quit smoking campaign Stoptober backs e-cigs for first time

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Stoptober advertImage copyrightOther
Image caption The Stoptober campaign runs from 1 October

The annual Stoptober campaign in England is embracing e-cigarettes for the first time – in a sign vaping is being seen as the key to getting people to quit.

Health experts have tended to shy away from explicitly promoting e-cigarettes.

But the government campaign during October will feature vaping in its TV adverts for the first time.

It comes after e-cigarettes proved the most popular tool for quitting during last year’s campaign.

Some 53% of people used them, helping push the numbers of people taking part in Stoptober since its launch in 2012 to over 1.5 million.

E-cigarettes are not yet officially prescribed on the NHS.

However, doctors and other health professionals are encouraged to advise smokers who want to use them that they are a better alternative to smoking.

Government experts have been encouraged by newly released research suggesting record numbers of attempts to give up are proving successful.

University College London researchers found 20% of attempts were successful in the first six months of 2017, compared with an average of 16% over the previous 10 years.

A successful attempt was judged to be one where the person had tried to stop smoking in the past year and was still abstaining at the time of the survey.

The biggest rise in successful attempts to quit was among people from poorer backgrounds, who have traditionally been the least likely to give up.

Image copyrightOther
Image caption The Stoptober TV advert features a man in an allotment using an e-cigarette

Deputy chief medical officer Prof Gina Radford said e-cigarettes were playing an important role and as they had “95% less harmful products” in them than cigarettes it was only right that they were promoted during Stoptober.

But she also said there were a number of other factors that were proving effective in reducing smoking rates, including restrictions that have been brought in such as standardised packaging and bans on displays in shops.

Is smoking being stubbed out?

15.5%

Over 18s smoked in England in 2016

  • 26.8% Over 18s smoked in England in 2000

  • 1 in 5 Attempts to quit successful in early 2017

  • 5 “Stoptober” campaigns have been run

  • Over 1.5m have tried quit during them

Public Health England
PA

Latest figures suggest just over 15% of people were smoking in 2016, down from 21% in 2007, when the smoking ban was introduced, and over 26% at the turn of the century.

As smoking has decreased, vaping has increased. About one in 20 people over 16 regularly uses e-cigarettes currently – a quarter of them are smokers or ex-smokers.

But Prof Radford said: “The battle against smoking is far from over – it is still the country’s biggest killer, causing 79,000 deaths a year.

“And for every death, another 20 smokers are suffering smoking-related disease.”

Meanwhile, NHS Health Scotland has stated for the first time that e-cigarettes are “definitely” less harmful than smoking tobacco.

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