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Thursday
Oct112018

Hurricane Michael, other disasters can take lasting toll on children's mental health

iStock/ThinkstockBY: DR. COLETTE POOLE-BOYKIN

(NEW YORK) -- Windows boarded and emergency plans in place, with gallons of water and canned goods stocked. As people who are rushing to prepare for an impending natural disaster check items on to-do lists, it is possible to overlook a less visible need -- the mental health of children.

Stress reactions to calamities like hurricanes, floods and fires tend to show up in increased emergency room admissions, and such trauma can have a particularly lasting effect on children. Research shows that adverse childhood experiences today can turn into chronic illnesses in adulthood.

It's important to know that mental health problems are not uncommon in children. Ten to 20 percent of children and teens suffer from a diagnosable anxiety disorder. And it's highly likely many more suffer from anxiety issues that may not meet the criteria for a diagnosis, but still cause impairment and difficulty for the child. Since anxiety disorder is the most prevalent mental health condition in children, caregivers may want to help keep their child’s anxiety levels low during and after hurricanes and other disasters.

Here are some tips to understand how disasters may affect children's mental health and ways to help.

Why are children particularly vulnerable to trauma from disasters?

- Children are most vulnerable because they may not be able to understand all that is going on around them, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.

- They may also struggle to communicate how they are feeling during this unfamiliar event that is threatening their safety and that of their family.

- Any child can suffer emotional distress from a disaster. But some children are at particular risk: Those who are under 8 years old and those who have endured trauma in the past or struggled with emotional, behavioral, or developmental problems.

What are some possible signs that a child is suffering mental stress after a calamity?


- They may show a change in their mood or behavior, such as becoming sad, anxious or scared, according to the CDC's blog, "Helping children cope with disaster."

- They may be more resistant to separating from caregivers to go to child care programs or school, or even to go to bed or play in another room.

- They may also have sleep problems -- sleeping too little or too much -- as well as headaches and stomachaches.

- Children often find it difficult to concentrate on school work after a disaster.

- Children may also, for a period of time, become more self-centered or immature and appear more clingy, less cooperative, more demanding, and irritable, the CDC says. Older children and adolescents may turn to smoking, alcohol, or other drugs to deal with their feelings.

How to help children weather a disaster with peace of mind?


- Inform children of what's going on with age-appropriate details, and start a conversation. Acknowledge it is a real-world problem, as opposed to fears from fairy tales or nightmares.

- Children need to know what they can expect and what you and other adults are doing to keep your family safe.

- Encourage them to ask questions.

- Teach children principles of deep breathing while they are calm. One possibility is to use a bottle of bubbles. Ask the children to focus on their breathing, take a deep breath allowing their tummy rise, and blowing the biggest bubble they can. This requires control so that the child will naturally breathe deeply with this activity.

- For children who already have anxiety, shielding them from their fears can work against them. A better approach is to offer nonjudgmental and validating phrases like, “I believe you can handle this!”

- Overexposure has the potential to inadvertently traumatize or re-traumatize children, so adults should limit what they say about the turmoil in front of kids and restrict exposure to media coverage of the disaster and its aftermath.

- Parents and caregivers may also want to ask friends and relatives for additional support for the family and children.

- Consider professional help such as from a therapist or psychologist if a child continues to be very upset for more than two to four weeks after the disaster; if their problems get worse instead of better over time; or if their reactions after their school work or relationships with friends or family.

- Stress may be unavoidable, but stress-related symptoms and disorders are preventable. It is possible to build resilience in children by remaining aware of the importance of healthy coping methods and the dangers of unchecked stress.

If you or a loved one needs help, there is a disaster distress helpline that operates every day at all times, run by the federal agency for mental health and substance abuse. Call 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746 to connect with a trained crisis counselor focused on distress from disasters.

Dr. Colette Poole-Boykin is a child psychiatry fellow at the Yale Child Studies Center and a member of the ABC News Medical Unit.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Oct112018

Tech addiction clinic in India treating its first Netflix-related case

Netflix(NEW YORK) -- A mental health institute in India admitted its first patient for Netflix addiction.

The 26-year-old man is being treated by Dr. Manoj Kumar Sharma, a professor at the National Institute of Mental Health & Neurosciences in Bengaluru, who said the man was watching Netflix to obtain a "feeling of goodness."

"It was helping him to relax and overcome environmental distress," Sharma said, adding that the dependency "led to preoccupation with show series, loss of control and psychological withdrawal in [the] form of irritation, if [he was] not allowed to watch."

Doctors from the Service for Healthy Use of Technology Clinic, which is part of NIMHANS, said this is their first case involving addiction to the television streaming service.

The unidentified man was watching more than seven hours of Netflix per day, Sharma said, which caused "physical, social and occupational consequences."

His treatment includes a combination of relaxation exercises, career guidance and psychological intervention to help him overcome the debilitating condition.

Sharma said most clients at the SHUT Clinic are seeking treatment for video game addiction, averaging around seven to 10 hours per day of online gaming. Doctors are now beginning to research "the emerging preference for online show[s]."

There is currently no gold standard treatment for internet addiction.

In China, a growing number of internet "boot camps" have emerged to help young people with an over-reliance on technology. Reports have said the facilities put addicts through military-style training.

Inquiries from people concerned about internet addiction are on the rise, but people should only be concerned once they've "lost the power of choice," Eytan Alexander, the CEO and founder of UK Addiction Treatment told ABC News.

"With Netflix, just because you go and watch a series from start to finish in one evening, does that mean you’re an addict? No," he said. "But if you miss work, or you are isolating yourself from your family because you’re compelled to watch Netflix, then maybe you’ve got to ask yourself some questions."

UKAT’s treatment centers tackle the underlying causes of addiction, although the link between compulsive behaviors and other mental health disorders is not always clear.

"Addiction mimics mental health and mental health mimics addiction," he said. "It is a compulsive obsessive disorder that gets you to do the same thing over and over again and thinking 'This time it’s going to be different' and it's not. Because experience shows you it's going to go badly."

Netflix declared 2017 "a year in bingeing" last December. The streaming service announced that the world watched more than 140 million hours per day last year. The average user streamed around 60 movies in 2017, including one person who watched "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl" 365 days in a row.

Netflix launched in India in 2016 and has begun developing programs for the market. The company launched its first Indian TV show, a spy thriller called "Sacred Games," in July according to Reuters. It's unclear which shows the man was watching.

Netflix did not respond to ABC News' request for comment.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Oct102018

'The View' hosts get candid about 'going through it' on World Mental Health Day

ABCNews.com(NEW YORK) -- On World Mental Health Day, "The View" co-hosts had an open conversation about their own experiences and discussed the role of social media in the growing mental health crisis.

Meghan McCain spoke about working through the death of her father in August, on her third day back at the show.

"One of the things I wanted to say when I came back was that we do not talk about grief and death enough at all," McCain said. "I'm in an intense grieving process right now, I'm still struggling with how to talk about it."

"Make no mistake, I'm happy to be here on this show," she continued. "But, mornings and nights are still really hard for me."

In the midst of her coping process, McCain said she realized the grieving process should be discussed more openly.

"We should be able to talk in our culture about dying, cancer, grief -- without stigma," she said.

Whoopi Goldberg talked about how she continues grieving in her own life, as well.

"I also am still in grief for my brother -- and my mom," Goldberg said. Her brother, Clyde Johnson, died in 2015 and her mother, Emma Johnson, in 2010.

"You keep thinking, 'Oh there's going to come a day when I'll be back to what I was,'" she said. "We're all going through it —- and so we have to become stewards of each other."

Yvette Nicole Brown, who joined the table as a guest co-host, pointed to social media's role in the mental health crisis among younger generations.

"When I was a kid, if something happened at school, it stayed at school for 12 hours until you returned to school. You could leave it there," Brown said. "Now, it follows you ... it becomes a feeling where the pain and the despair, that is your entire life."

Goldberg compared it to a time when cancer was stigmatized and open conversations around the disease were discouraged.

"We can't afford to do that," she said. "It's not just young people, it's people my age, it's people your age ... who are thinking they're not good enough or they're inadequate, or they don't have what's needed ... we have to look out for each other."

McCain called attention to the suicide epidemic among veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and more.

"We should be talking about this in a broad sense," she said. "We're still not doing enough with the V.A., we are not doing enough to support veterans when they integrate back into society."

Anyone who has had thoughts of suicide or self-harm or knows someone who is in crisis -- or who just need to talk to someone -- please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741-741.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Oct102018

Six ways to prioritize your mental health

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- In a year that has taken us from the #MeToo movement to the Supreme Court nomination fight to mass shootings and more — not to mention the stressors of our own daily lives — it's clear that we could all be better by taking time to care for our mental health.

Fortunately, a mental health break no longer means shelling out hundreds of dollars or taking a chunk out of your day to talk to a therapist in their office.

As people around the globe mark World Mental Health Day, here are six easy ways to prioritize your mental health.

1. Schedule a therapy session like it's a workout

Thanks to apps and websites, some are skipping an in-person visit and talking to a professional with technology, on their own schedule and on the cheap.

One new option, Basis, offers 45-minute phone or video sessions with a trained specialist for $35 — about the price of a workout class.

Basis, which is also available through an app, was founded by an ex-Uber executive and a Stanford psychologist.

Other apps offer everything from meditation to help quitting a bad habit. Here are seven apps to try.

2. Do an actual workout

There's a reason the saying "sweat it out" is still around.

If exercise becomes a regular part of your life, it is medically proven to help keep those keep poor mental health at bay.

It has been shown that in people who are depressed, the hippocampus — the part of the brain that regulates mood — is smaller. Regular exercise can promote nerve cell growth in this part of the brain, which can improve brain function, and therefore a person's mood, research shows.

The key is to pick an activity that you won't dread doing every day and one that you can continue doing for the long-haul, experts say.

Even better, schedule a workout with a friend or loved one so you can sweat and connect together.

3. Back away from your phone

Taking time to disconnect from phone calls, emails and social media can be hard, but it's so worth it.

Putting your phone down for just an hour or two a day — or going big and shutting it off for a day or a weekend — can help give your mind a break, help you feel more in charge of your own time and give you time to do things that fill you with joy.

Here is a step-by-step guide on how to unplug from Catherine Price, author of "How to Break Up With Your Phone."

4. Go to sleep 10 minutes earlier

Allowing yourself more sleep, even if it's just a few minutes each night, is one of the best gifts you can give yourself, research shows.

The average amount of sleep Americans get each night keeps dropping. That reduced amount of sleep can lead to social problems and increased feelings of loneliness, according to a recent study, which found that losing sleep can impair the parts of the brain related to socialization.

To increase the amount of sleep you're getting, plan your day backwards. Start with noting the time you need to go to sleep, and then take note of how much time you need after you stop activities to get ready for bed. You can then plan from there.

Create a ritual for yourself around bedtime, whether it's taking a bath, reading a book, meditating or just having time to be still. Keep your phone out of your room and your TV off before bed, too.

5. Use your vacation days

Using paid vacation days from your employer can decrease stress, improve quality of sleep and lower the risk of heart disease, studies show.

Yet, American employees forfeited 212 million paid vacation days in 2017, according to Project: Time Off, a coalition of organizations working to change Americans’ thinking and behavior around vacation time.

Americans who take all or most of their vacation days to travel report being 20 percent happier with their personal relationships and 56 percent happier with their health and well-being than those who travel with little or none of their vacation time, the coalition found in its State of American Vacation 2018 report.

To maximize the vacation days you have earned, experts recommend requesting time off as far in advance as possible. Also think about your time off as a day here and there, instead of having to take it in larger spaces of time, like a week.

6. Stock your kitchen with brain foods

What you choose to eat affects not just your waistline, but how you think and feel, according to a growing body of research.

Overall healthy eating — particularly fruits, vegetables, healthy fats and whole grains — has been linked in studies that found they lower risk of depression and even suicide.

Nutrition also improves the immune system, which subsequently influences our mood and risk of depression.

Eat foods like salmon, dark chocolate, berries and spinach and kale as part of your daily diet.

If you've had thoughts of suicide or self-harm or know someone who is in crisis, or if you just need to talk to someone, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741-741.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Oct092018

Acute flaccid myelitis partially paralyzes children in Minnesota

iStock/ThinkstockBY: DR. TAMBETTA OJONG

(NEW YORK) -- Recently making headlines is a rare complication occurring from some viruses called acute flaccid myelitis (AFM). It affects the spinal cord and causes partial paralysis.

There were three new cases of suspected AFM reported in children on Tuesday in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The children are being treated at the UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh where they're currently undergoing diagnostic procedures and treatment.

"Isolation protocols and infection control procedures are in place, and we are working with the CDC and the Allegheny County Health Department to further monitor and evaluate the patient conditions,” according to a UPMC Children’s Hospital spokesperson.

There have been more than 38 cases of AFM reported this year since Sept. 30, from 16 states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Since September, six children in Minnesota have been affected, and Colorado has reported 14 cases.

Most of Colorado’s cases are part of an outbreak of enterovirus A71, which is a particular strain of the virus family to which polio belongs, though two children were infected with enterovirus D68, which is also a particular strain of the virus family to which polio belongs. All the Coloradans were hospitalized, and most have recovered.

Over the past four years -- August 2014 through August 2018 -- the CDC has received information on a total of 262 cases across the U.S., with most cases occurring in children. The CDC estimates that fewer than one in a million will get AFM every year in the United States.

What is Acute Flaccid Myelitis (AFM)?

It's a rare condition that affects the spinal cord, the part of the nervous system that carries brain instructions to the rest of the body, according to the CDC. AFM is caused by a variety of things such as viruses, environmental toxins, and genetic disorders.

How is it transmitted?

Many of the diseases associated with AFM are transmitted through the digestive system via fecal-hand-oral contamination. The virus then infects cells of the mouth, nose, and throat. It can incubate for up to 14 days.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms look like a respiratory illness with fever, but some progress to neurologic symptoms begin. Because it affects the spinal cord, most will suddenly have arm or leg weakness and loss of muscle tone and reflexes. However, some will also have the following symptoms:

-- facial droop/weakness
-- difficulty moving the eyes
-- drooping eyelids or difficulty with swallowing or slurred speech

The most severe symptom of an AFM is a respiratory failure when the nerves affect the muscles that move the lungs.

Who is affected?


It predominantly affects children and young adults.

What are the causes?

Common causes include viruses: poliovirus and other enteroviruses, west nile virus, which is commonly transmitted via a mosquito, adenovirus and other environmental toxins and genetic disorders. There are many types of enteroviruses, and a few have been linked to AFM.

How is it diagnosed?

Doctors do a physical exam to determine the involvement of the nervous system. They can also order a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to look at the brain and spinal cord, as well as a lab evaluation of the fluid around the brain and spinal cord. A clinician can also look at nerve conduction, how well electrical impulses are flowing along the nerves.

What is the treatment?

There's no specific treatment for AFM. Supportive care -- the same kind of care you give someone with the flu -- helps, but a clinician may recommend physical or occupational therapy to help with arm or leg weakness.

How can it be prevented?

Make sure your child gets the poliovirus vaccine. It works. Protect against bites from mosquitoes by using repellent in addition to staying indoors at dusk and dawn. To keep viruses at bay, washing hands often will lower the chance of getting sick or spreading germs.

Dr. Tambetta Ojong is a family medicine resident at SUNY Downstate Medical Center and a member of the ABC News Medical Unit.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Oct092018

29-year-old chef with terminal cancer describes how she plans to live out her final days

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- You may know Fatima Ali from her time on "Top Chef," but after a candid, witty and heartbreaking essay she recently penned for Bon Appetit, you'll quickly realize that the best way to describe this New York City chef isn't as a TV star, but with words like courage and bravery.

In a remarkable, moving essay for the site, Ali reveals that a rare form of cancer she dealt with last year has returned "with a vengeance" and that she has just about a year to live.

But this terminal diagnosis isn't going to stop the 29-year-old from living out her final days in style or sharing them with the ones she loves.

As her essay opens with an anecdote about flying first class, Ali admits that the diagnosis has "forced me to upgrade my life" and that though, "I was looking forward to being 30, flirty and thriving," she'll instead settle on stepping "it up on the flirting. I have no time to lose."

"It’s funny, isn’t it?" she writes. "When we think we have all the time in the world to live, we forget to indulge in the experiences of living."

"When that choice is yanked away from us, that’s when we scramble to feel," she continues. "I am desperate to overload my senses in the coming months, making reservations at the world’s best restaurants, reaching out to past lovers and friends, and smothering my family, giving them the time that I so selfishly guarded before."

It's really incredible how Ali is able to keep her humor and wit, even as her body fails her. She next admits that she DM-ed a restaurant and even used her "illness as a tactic" in order to get a reservation.

"I’m floored when I receive a reply from chef Rene Redzepi himself. Turns out that people respond when you tell them you’re dying of cancer," she quips.

"It’s funny, isn’t it? When we think we have all the time in the world to live, we forget to indulge in the experiences of living. When that choice is yanked away from us, that’s when we scramble to feel. I am desperate to overload my senses in the coming months, making reservations at the world’s best restaurants, reaching out to past lovers and friends, and smothering my family, giving them the time that I so selfishly guarded before."

But the young chef is also able to make sure to include the more heartbreaking aspects of what's to come like the napkin she keeps in her wallet, the one with names written on it for people she plans to reach out and make amends to.

"I have to learn how to ask for forgiveness without expecting to receive it. It’s probably the most frightening thing I have ever had to do, and I’ve experienced some seriously terror-inducing moments," she writes.

And even as she's enjoying "knowing that I can finally live for myself, even if it’s just for a few more precious months," she admits that she's scared of what's to come.

"I suspect I won’t last very long," she adds. "There’s a faint feeling deep inside my gut like a rumble of passing air, ever expanding and filling slowly until, one day, I’ll pop."

Until that time comes, much like her first-class foray and her direct messages to elite restaurants, Ali is going to use each day she has left to "experience something new."

"I was always deathly afraid of being average in any way, and now I desperately wish to have a simple, uneventful life," she closes.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Oct082018

Second person dies from allergic reaction after allegedly eating food at Pret a Manger in the UK

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A second person believed to have died from an allergic reaction after eating a Pret a Manger product has been identified as 42-year-old dental nurse Celia Marsh.

Marsh died at Royal United Hospital in Bath, England, after allegedly ingesting a dairy product in a “super-veg rainbow flatbread” on December 27, 2017, according to the BBC.

The food giant has recently faced a backlash after an inquest by the West London Coroner’s Court found that their policy of food labelling for allergens was “inadequate” after 15-year-old Natasha Ednan-Laperouse died from an allergic reaction to sesame in a baguette in 2016, according to the New York Times.

Pret a Manger CEO Clive Schlee promised there would be “meaningful change to come from this tragedy” after the death of Ednan-Laperouse, according to the BBC.

However, in the case of Celia Marsh, Pret has blamed the product supplier COYO for providing them with a defective product, which they said contained dairy.

“COYO, the dairy-free yoghurt brand which supplies supermarkets and shops across the U.K., mis-sold to Pret a guaranteed dairy-free yoghurt that was found to contain dairy protein,” a spokesperson for Pret a Manger told ABC News. “This is believed to have resulted in the tragic death of a customer from an allergic reaction in December 2017.”

Pret said they have terminated their relationship with COYO, and are now in the process of taking legal action against the company. They added that “deepest sympathies are with the family and friends of our customer in this terrible case and we will seek to assist them in any way we can.”

COYO have since hit back at the food chain, describing Pret’s claims as “unfounded.”

“The dairy-free product we provided to Pret in December 2017, at the time of this tragedy, is not linked to the product we recalled in February 2018,” COYO said in a statement.

They added that they will continue to cooperate with all authorities and assist the inquest in finding the true cause. "We urge all parties to work together, and not to speculate on the cause of this tragic death which is unknown as far as we are aware and is still being investigated by the Coroners court.”

A spokesman for the coroner told the BBC that they were still awaiting results of pathology tests into Marsh’s death.

A charity called Allergy UK, which supports people with allergies, declined to comment on the ongoing Pret investigation, but CEO Carla Jones has expressed “huge concern” after the inquest into Natasha Ednan-Laperouse’s death.

“We are seeing so many fatal incidents caused principally by a lack of communication on the allergen content of food,” she said. “Whilst those living with allergies must be vigilant on their own behalf, the broader food industry needs to do more than just the bare minimum when it comes to catering for the allergic community.”

Allergy UK estimates that 2 million people in the UK currently suffer from a food allergy, and that around 10 people die every year from allergen-induced anaphylaxis.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Oct082018

Makers of LaCroix hit with lawsuit alleging their sparkling water contains 'synthetic' ingredients, including a 'cockroach insecticide'

ABC News(COOK COUNTY, Ill.) -- The makers of the wildly popular sparkling water LaCroix, which has become a phenomenon over the past year, were hit with a lawsuit alleging the beverage contains "non-natural flavorings," including an ingredient said to be used as a "cockroach insecticide."

The lawsuit, which is seeking class action status, was filed in Cook County, Illinois, against the drink's parent company, National Beverage Corporation, and slammed what it said was the "practice of mislabeling their signature product, LaCroix Water, as 'all-natural,'" according to court documents obtained by ABC News.

The beverage makers "mislead consumers into believing that their product is natural when it is not," the complaint added. Moreover, the suit alleged the bubbly water contains the ingredient "linalool" which it says "is used as a cockroach insecticide."

The National Beverage Corp. "categorically denies all allegations" in the suit, the company said in a statement, slamming it as "without basis in fact or law regarding the natural composition" of LaCroix sparkling waters.

"Natural flavors in LaCroix are derived from the natural essence oils from the named fruit used in each of the flavors," the statement added. "The lawsuit provides no support for its false statements about LaCroix’s ingredients."

Legal expert Areva Martin told Good Morning America, that if the suit's "claims are substantiated, this could have a dire effect on the company."

"It may be forced to change it's labeling, we know the company prides itself on providing a natural and organic water, so if they have to change that labeling, that can change their entire marketing strategy," she added.

But experts say that even if the allegations are true, consumers shouldn't jump to conclusions about the bubbly beverage, saying LaCroix would have to contain 50 percent of the linalool in order to pose a health risk, and that the natural chemical is often found in fruits and spices such as cinnamon.

"The consumer should not be alarmed by this lawsuit," Roger Clemens, a food safety expert from the University of Southern California, told GMA. "The compounds under discussion occur naturally and citrus beverages like orange juice, lime juice."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Oct052018

Some fruits evolve to smell stronger when ripe and attract animals that eat them 

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) --  Fruit scents tell animals when a fruit is ripe, but they also help the plant reproduce, as it's seeds are moved from one place to another.

In a new study, researchers show that certain fruits growing in areas with large lemur populations have evolved to smell stronger when ripe to accommodate for the stronger sense of smell lemurs have.

The researchers, from the University of Ulm in Germany, the University of Connecticut and the University of Antananarivo in Madagascar, looked at 30 plant species in Ranomafana National Park in Madagascar to see if fruit scents had evolved as a signal to attract their target "seed dispersers," which were lemurs in this case.

They found that fruits lemurs ate most produced two times as much scent as fruits that were eaten by birds. Moreover, these fruits also showed the largest differences in the chemical composition of the scent when the fruits were ripe compared to when they were unripe.

“These changes are substantially smaller in [fruit] species that are dispersed exclusively or to a large extent by birds,” lead author Omer Nevo, of the University of Ulm, told ABC News. “This indicates that the changes in fruit scent in lemur-dispersed species are not an inevitable byproduct of fruit maturation, which is present in all fruits, but unique to species which rely on smell-led animals like lemurs.”

According to the study, most lemurs are red-green color blind and nocturnal, so relying on their sense of smell to find food is paramount — in fact, their olfactory bulbs are relatively large. Therefore, it makes sense that lemurs would use their sense of smell to feed on fruits "that provide a reliable chemical signal of ripeness," Nevo said.

In all, the study took about four months to collect samples and another three months to conduct the chemical and data analysis.

Although the study found that fruit scents signaled ripeness, it's still unclear what other information they could divulge about the fruit.

This is an area of study Nevo said he plans to tackle next.

“I next plan to try to understand if fruit scent also encodes information on fruit quality,” Nevo said. “what chemicals do that and whether the lemurs are particularly attuned to them.”

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Oct052018

Flu season is here: What you need to know

By Dr. Jonathan Steinman

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- It’s the start of fall, which means flu season is here.

Last year, flu hospitalizations were the highest they’ve ever been; 106 out of every 100,000 people were hospitalized for the flu in the 2017-18 season, with people over age 65 accounting for 58 percent of those hospitalizations and 180 pediatric deaths.

Flu and the common cold can both make you feel crummy, but they are caused by different viruses. Colds are usually milder and do not result in serious health problems associated with the flu, like pneumonia or hospitalizations.

Right now, being prepared is the best thing you can do before the season hits. Here’s what you need to know.

When does flu season start?

Flu season may start as early as October in North America, but generally, it begins sometime in the fall and ends in March. The flu virus, however, can be detected at any point throughout the year, which is important to know if you ever have symptoms, even in the summer. Experts can’t really predict the severity of each flu season, as different strains of the virus can have different impacts on timing and length of the season.

Should I get the flu shot? When?

Yes. With few exceptions, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends everyone 6 months of age and older to get vaccinated every year. It is the first line of defense in treating the flu. Although people who are moderately or severely ill should wait to recover before getting the shot. Only people with severe, life-threatening allergies to the vaccine or any of its ingredients should avoid the shot. According to the CDC, anyone who is between 2 and 50 years old should get either the shot or the nasal spray. The American Academy of Pediatrics, however, says the flu shot is the preferred choice over the nasal spray for children

You can get vaccinated at any time as fall approaches, but October is probably the best time to get it done. The CDC recommends that everyone get vaccinated by the end of October, which gives your body the roughly two-week period it needs to develop an immune response to the vaccine prior to the start of peak flu season. If you miss this deadline, however, the vaccine can still offer some benefit. So it's important to get it as long as people are still getting sick.

What if I’m pregnant?


It is highly recommended that all pregnant women get the flu shot. The body changes during pregnancy — heart rate and oxygen consumption increase while lung capacity decreases. That means if a mother-to-be gets the flu, they are more susceptible to life-threatening complications than the general population. So all women who are or expect to be pregnant should get the flu vaccine. This is all the more important considering a recent CDC survey showed that only half of pregnant women get the vaccine.

I heard the flu shot makes you sick. Is that true?

No. The flu vaccine contains an inactivated virus, which means that the virus contained in the vaccine can’t actually infect you. It does take one to two weeks for your immune system to protect you from the flu. So, if someone becomes sick after their shot, it is most likely because their body wasn’t protected from the flu yet, not from the vaccine itself.

Similarly, there are sometimes mismatches between the virus strain someone gets sick with and the strains used to make the vaccine. In these cases, the vaccine might be imperfect at fighting all strains of the flu that might exist, but it's still the best defense we have.

How do I know if I have the flu?

Flu symptoms often come suddenly, and can vary significantly depending on the person. These include fever, cough, sore throat, nasal congestion, body aches, headaches, and fatigue. While the flu may seem similar to a common cold, colds are usually slower to develop, and less likely to result in fevers.

Some patients with severe infections may have symptoms — like difficulty breathing and confusion — that are cause for concern and might require immediate medical attention to treat them. Medical attention should also be sought for children with the flu who develop bluish skin, aren't waking up or aren't eating. In all cases, if the person's symptoms suddenly worsen after appearing to initially improve, a visit to a clinician is warranted.

I think I have the flu. What do I do next?

In most cases, if symptoms are mild, staying home and leaving only to get medical care is the best course of action. If you must leave the house, wear a face mask, wash your hands, and cover coughs and sneezes with your elbow.

People with severe symptoms, as well as people at high risk from the flu (young children, people 65 and older and pregnant women), should contact their doctors if they develop symptoms. In some cases, people may get antiviral medications, which can lessen symptoms, shorten the time of illness and reduce complications.

How is the shot made?

Manufacturers have many methods of producing flu vaccines. The most common method is the egg-based vaccine, where strains of the virus are injected into eggs and incubated for several days. They are then weakened or killed and afterward purified to be used in a shot or nasal spray.

The next method is through cell-based technology. In these vaccines, the eggs used to incubate the virus are replaced with animal cells. This method is faster in producing vaccines than the older egg-based method.

Another method uses recombinant technology. In these cases, a certain gene is taken from the flu virus, to be inserted into a different non-flu virus which grows in insect cells. This genetically altered non-flu virus then replicates in insect cells. After the virus has been replicated, manufacturers purify the protein produced from the flu gene, which is used in the vaccine. The advantage of this method is that it doesn't use eggs, so people with severe egg allergies can be vaccinated.

For all these methods, the FDA must test and approve the vaccines prior to their release to the public.

What are the side effects of the flu shot?

Most side effects are mild and resolve quickly on their own. Soreness in the area of the shot is pretty common. In addition, people may have headaches, fevers and nausea. Seek immediate symptoms if someone is showing signs of a severe allergic reaction, such as difficulty breathing, hoarseness or eye and lip swelling.

Where should I get the flu shot?

Grocery stores, pharmacies, doctor’s offices, and hospitals are all offering flu shots. Experts say it doesn’t matter where you get it, as long as you get it.

Flu season is here. Preventing its spread requires good hygiene and high vaccination rates. If you are experiencing any symptoms, avoid contact with other people. If symptoms are starting to get severe, contact your doctor. Working together will be critical in halting flu season.

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