Friday, September 04, 2009

Get ready because the Swine Flu pandemic is going to hit hard this year in the US.

There is a great deal of concern and misinformation about this new virus, and we should take care to know the facts.


The article, below, is the latest research indicating that we need to be careful, but not freaked out about the H1N1 outbreak.

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Fears that the H1N1 swine flu will turn into a "superbug" this year may be unfounded, say researchers at the University of Maryland.

In laboratory tests, the virus responsible for the swine flu pandemic did not take a virulent turn when combined with other strains of seasonal flu. But it did spread more rapidly than the other viruses, confirming the need for swine flu vaccinations, the researchers said.

The researchers exposed ferrets to three different viruses, the H1N1 swine flu and two seasonal strains of flu. The H1N1 strain dominated the others, reproducing by about twice as much, the researchers reported online in the journal PLoS Currents.

"The H1N1 pandemic virus has a clear biological advantage over the two main seasonal flu strains and all the makings of a virus fully adapted to humans," Daniel Perez, the lead researcher and program director of the University of Maryland-based Prevention and Control of Avian Influenza Coordinated Agricultural Project, said in a Sept. 1 university news release.

"I'm not surprised to find that the pandemic virus is more infectious, simply because it's new, so hosts haven't had a chance to build immunity yet. Meanwhile, the older strains encounter resistance from hosts' immunity to them," Perez added.

In the lab tests, after being infected with the new swine flu virus and one of the more familiar seasonal viruses (H3N2), some of the ferrets developed intestinal illness in addition to respiratory symptoms. The researchers hope further studies will determine if this type of co-infection and multiple symptoms are behind some of the deaths caused by the new pandemic virus.

Also, the swine flu virus caused infections deeper in the ferrets' respiratory system than the H1 and H3 seasonal viruses, which remained in the nasal passages.

"Our findings underscore the need for vaccinating against the pandemic flu virus this season," Perez said. "The findings of this study are preliminary, but the far greater communicability of the pandemic virus serves as a clearly blinking warning light."

Perez's team used samples of the H1N1 pandemic variety from last spring's initial outbreak of swine flu. They believe theirs is the first study to look at how swine flu interacts with seasonal flu viruses.

Another hopeful sign that the swine flu pandemic might be milder than predicted came last month from two infectious-disease experts at the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Drs. David Morens and Jeffery Taubenberger challenged the notion that a mild flu in the spring can herald a more severe resurgence in the fall, a theory that has some scientists predicting a potentially dangerous swine flu resurgence this fall.

"Pandemic history suggests that changes neither in transmissibility nor in pathogenicity are inevitable," concluded Morens and Taubenberger in an article published in the Aug. 12 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Looking at the 1918-19 Spanish flu, which is thought to have killed 20 million to 40 million people worldwide, the researchers said the course of that illness varied greatly globally. They found no proof that it began in the spring with a less severe wave of infection and became more lethal through the summer as it picked up mutations.

They also studied 14 major flu epidemics dating to the 16th century and found no evidence supporting the "herald waves" theory.

Overall, "examination of past pandemics reveals a great diversity of severity," they said. "Some newer evidence [is] casting doubt on original herald wave theories."


Thursday, September 03, 2009

Debunking the Myths

When it comes to our health, it is critical to get past hyperbole and straight to the sane middle ground.

We are now in a debate that is awash with misinformation, disinformation, and absurdities. The thing about this that is so frustrating is that it's so important to get this right!!

So we have put together these myths, with the fact checked responses to them. Please let us know your thoughts.

Health Care Myths Debunked

Let’s put some of the myths about the health care plan into perspective. Media Matters checked the facts.

Myth: Health care reform will provide health insurance to illegal immigrants.

Fact: No federal benefits go to those who are not legally in the United States.

House Bill: “No Federal Payment for Undocumented Aliens.” According to America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009, Page 143, Line 3, Section 246: “No Federal Payment for Undocumented Aliens. Nothing in this subtitle shall allow Federal payments for affordability credits on behalf of individuals who are not lawfully present in the United States.” [America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009]

Myth: A government-run plan will encourage seniors to choose an early death.

Fact: Counseling will be offered to seniors on a voluntary basis.

“Sec. 1233 of the bill, labeled ‘Advance Care Planning Consultation’ details how the bill would, for the first time, require Medicare to cover the cost of end-of-life counseling sessions. According to the bill, ’such consultation shall include the following: An explanation by the practitioner of advance care planning, including key questions and considerations, important steps, and suggested people to talk to; an explanation by the practitioner of advance directives, including living wills and durable powers of attorney, and their uses; an explanation by the practitioner of the role and responsibilities of a health care proxy.’” [PolitiFact.com, 7/16/09]

MYTH: The government-run plan will allow taxpayer funds to pay for abortions.

Fact: Private insurance companies decide whether or not to cover abortions and consumers can choose a plan in line with their own beliefs.

Abortion Is Not Mandated In The Reform Legislation. According to Planned Parenthood: “Nothing in any of the current health care reform bills mandates abortion coverage – or any other type of medical procedure – in the Exchange. Abortion is not mandated any more than any other medical procedure in health care reform.” [PlannedParenthood.org, accessed 7/30/09]

MYTH: We don’t need an overhaul of health care.

Fact:…there are millions of people who can’t get health insurance. And those people cost you, and everyone else with insurance, more because they often can’t pay for the care they do receive. Your premiums go up each year in part to help cover the cost of those who can’t afford to go to the doctor and end up having to go to the emergency room instead.

MYTH: A public option will result in Americans being forced out of their current plans.

Fact: House Bill Allows For Continuation Of Current Coverage. According to PolitiFact.com: “The House bill allows for existing policies to be grandfathered in, so that people who currently have individual health insurance policies will not lose coverage.” [PolitiFact.com, 7/22/09]

MYTH: A government option will result in health care rationing for Americans.

Fact: Health care is already rationed by insurance companies.

Private insurance companies ration care to Americans every single day. They reject applications based on pre-existing conditions and family history. They rescind coverage after an illness has been diagnosed. Their premiums and deductibles are so high that millions of Americans are forced to delay care or declare bankruptcy due to high costs.

MYTH: Government-run health care will put a bureaucrat between you and your doctor.

Fact: There is already a bureaucrat between you and your doctor. It’s called the insurance company.

The private health insurance industry bureaucrats are standing between you and your doctor right now. They hire outside firms to determine how much you might cost them. Private insurance companies make decisions on who does and does not get health care based solely on how much they value your life.

MYTH: A government option will force private insurance companies out of business.

Fact: It will provide competition for insurance companies where there is currently a lack of competition.

The introduction of more competition in the health insurance market will not put private companies out of business – it will force them, in true free-market style, to meet the demands of consumers and to start providing quality coverage to all Americans.

[...]

Senate Democrats Have Proposed That Public Health Care Should “Comply With All The Rules And Standards That Apply To Private Insurance” To Ensure That Private Insurance Can Compete. According to the New York Times: “In an effort to defuse the most explosive issue in the debate over comprehensive health care legislation, a top Senate Democrat has proposed that any new government-run insurance program comply with all the rules and standards that apply to private insurance. The proposal was made Monday by Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, the third-ranking member of the Senate Democratic leadership, in a bid to address fears that a public program would drive private insurers from the market.” [New York Times, 5/5/09]

MYTH: An employer mandate will hurt small businesses.

Fact: Recently, the two Senate Committees currently working on the health care bill removed the mandate for employers to provide health insurance coverage to their employees. And the House bill has specific provisions to exclude very small businesses from the mandate as well as providing a simple description for what would occur if the employer did not provide health coverage.

MYTH: Democrats in Congress keep trumpeting the benefits of a public option, but refuse to accept the plan for themselves and their families.

Fact: Senate HELP Committee Passed Amendment To “Require Members Of Congress To Enroll In The Government-Run Public Plan.” According to Congressional Quarterly, “the panel adopted by 12-11 an amendment by Tom Coburn, R-Okla., that would require members of Congress to enroll in the government-run public plan created by the legislation. ‘We should take the lead, sacrifice and demonstrate our faith on how good we think this will be, Coburn said.” [Congressional Quarterly, 7/14/09]

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Here's The Problem

Millions of people - including a substantial number of the "worried well" - take a daily dose of the drug in the belief it will keep them healthy.

But at a conference for leading doctors, British scientists said they have found that for healthy people taking aspirin does not significantly reduce the risk of a heart attack.

At the same time they found it almost doubles the risk of being admitted to hospital due to internal bleeding.

The findings show that for otherwise healthy people the risks of taking aspirin outweigh the benefits. The doctors stressed that patients who had already suffered a heart attack should continue to take the drug.


What To Do Then?

Perhaps an alternative to this pill is a daily glass of wine -- which ALSO decreases platelett accumulation in your arteries, ALSO has healthy polyphenols and resveretrols, and ALSO tastes a lot better than an aspirin pill!!

Read the whole story: Telegraph

Monday, August 31, 2009

What Synthetic Sweeteners Do In Your Brain

This great article was just released in the L.A. Times reporting on Brain Scans taken while people taste either normal sugar or a number of synthetic sweeteners.

Here's the bottom line: You may taste it (subjectively) as sweet, but your brain doesn't take it (objectively) the same way.

If you taste sugar, certain areas of your brain light up. However, your brain does NOT respond the same way when you taste the synthetics. Subjects taste sugary sweetness, but your body doesn't respond to it in the same way.

Perhaps this explains why scientists are so confused by the effect of zero-calorie sweeteners on something like weight control. The Nurses Health Study showed that consumption of these synthetics results in INCREASED weight, even when compared to drinking regular sugary soft drinks!!

Doesn't this just reiterate what we have said over and over. The "calories-in, calories-out" dogma of our current nutrition scientists is not the whole story. There is more to weight control, more to living a healthy life, more to optimal health, than this notion.

By contrast, if our approach were to simply eat food, there would be no confusion in any of these data -- of course the brain acts differently to synthetics versus the real thing ... of course the body responds differently to artificial sweeteners, and of course the consumption of synthetic ingredients of any type can interfere with your body's natural working ability to regulate anything ... including its weight!

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