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Flu vaccine is only moderately protective

 This year’s flu vaccine is offering moderate protection against the main family of viruses causing illness, data released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show.

The data comes as what has been a pretty active flu season is near its apex in many parts of the country.

“We won’t know when the peak has occurred until we’ve passed it and have a couple of weeks to look back,” said Lynnette Brammer, head of domestic influenza surveillance at the CDC. “We hopefully are approaching the peak but we may not be there yet.”

Overall, getting a flu shot cut one’s risk of contracting flu and needing to see a doctor by 48 percent this season, when the effectiveness of the various components of the vaccine were assessed together, according to the report published in the CDC’s online journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Far and away the most common cause of influenza so far this year is the influenza A virus family known as H3N2. Seasons when H3N2 viruses dominate are typically harsh because the virus is

Brain tumor triggers woman’s sudden

 A woman in Spain who suddenly became very religious and believed she was speaking with the Virgin Mary turned out to have a brain tumor that appears to have caused her symptoms, according to a new report of the case.

The 60-year-old women was said to be a happy, positive person who was not particularly religious. But over a two-month period, her friends and family noticed changes in her personality and behavior. She appeared sad and withdrawn, and also showed increasing interest in the Bible and other sacred writings, the report said.

The woman started spending hours during the day reciting religious writings. She also had mystical experiences, in which she reported seeing, feeling and talking with the Virgin Mary, the report said. [8 Ways Religion Impacts Your Life]

Those close to her thought the woman might be experiencing depression, because she was caring for a relative with cancer at the time.

However, when her doctors performed an MRI, they saw several lesions in her brain. After taking a biopsy from one of the lesions, doctors diagnosed the woman with

Brain damage for soccer players

 Scientists have found signs of brain damage that could cause dementia in a handful of former soccer players, fuelling worries about the danger of frequent knocks from heading the ball or colliding with others on the field.

The small study was the first of its kind, involving post mortems on six men who died with dementia after long careers playing soccer. All were skilled headers of the ball.

It suggests that some professional soccer players might risk the same long-term cognitive problems suffered by boxers and some American football players.

But experts said more research was needed to prove any definitive link between heading a football and developing dementia, and they added that the risk was likely to be minimal for occasional players.

“We’ve demonstrated that the same type of pathology that occurs in ex-boxers can also occur in some ex-footballers who have dementia, but I’d emphasize this is a very small number of players,” said co-lead researcher Huw Morris of London’s UCL Institute of Neurology.

“The average playing career of these players was 26

Vulnerability to Anthrax Varies Widely

People’s susceptibility to anthrax toxin is determined by their genes and can vary greatly among individuals, a new study says.

Anthrax is an infectious disease widely regarded as a potential bioterrorism weapon.

Stanford University School of Medicine researchers analyzed immune cells from 234 people and found that the cells of three of the people were virtually insensitive to anthrax toxin, while the cells of others were hundreds of times more sensitive than those of other people.

The findings could help lead to new treatments and could also have important implications for U.S. national security, according to a university news release. For example, people known to be more resistant could act as first-line responders in an anthrax bioterrorism attack.

The study appears online Feb. 6 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“This research offers an important proof of principle. They’ve showed that genetically determined variations in the level of expression of a human protein can influence the susceptibility of host cells to anthrax toxin,” Dr. David Relman said in the release.

Relman is a professor of microbiology and immunology and of medicine at Stanford, chair of the Institute

Bored Workers Often Turn to Chocolate

Chronic boredom grips one-fourth of office workers, which may affect their quality of work as well as their physical and mental health, a new study suggests.

British researchers asked 102 office workers if they got bored at work and how they managed that boredom. Of those surveyed, 25 percent said they are chronically bored, and often eat chocolate or drink coffee to cope. The apathetic workers also said they were more likely to drink alcohol at the end of day.

Boredom also affected how well the workers performed their jobs. Nearly 80 percent of those polled said boredom caused them to lose their concentration, and more than half said it caused them to make mistakes. About half of the workers admitted that boredom might force them to leave their job.

“My analysis of the results suggests that the most significant cause of office boredom is an undemanding workload. So managers should look at ways of reducing sources of workplace boredom and at encouraging healthier ways of coping,” said Dr. Sandi Mann, from the University of Central Lancashire in a news release. “We also found that some people are far more prone to boredom than

Vaccinations Aren’t Just for Kids

Public health experts often focus immunization awareness efforts toward protecting children, and with good reason: Facing a potentially bewildering schedule of vaccinations for their young ones, parents usually need all the help they can get.

But vaccinations aren’t just kid stuff.

Medical science is creating an increasing number of immunizations targeted at adults, to help them avoid life-threatening diseases in middle-age and opportunistic infections when they’re older.

“Immunization is a life-long issue that we need to pay a lot of attention to,” said Dr. Georges C. Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association.

Some adult vaccinations are very well-known, like the annual shot that aims to prevent the spread of influenza.

“You need an influenza shot every year,” Benjamin said. “Part of that is because the virus changes every year, sometimes a little and sometimes a lot.”

The flu vaccine is the least challenging of adult vaccines to promote because just about everyone can and should get one, with very few exceptions, said Dr. Carolyn B. Bridges, associate director for adult immunizations at the Immunization Services Division of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“People don’t

Cocaine addiction leads to build-up of iron in brain

Cocaine is one of the most widely-used illicit drugs in the Western world and is highly addictive. A report last year by the UK government’s Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs found that almost one in 10 of all 16-to 59-year-olds have used cocaine in their lifetime. Cocaine use was implicated in, but not necessarily the cause of 234 deaths in Scotland, England and Wales in 2013. However, despite significant advances in our understanding of the biology of addiction — including how the brains of people addicted to cocaine may differ in structure — there is currently no medical treatment for cocaine addiction; most individuals are treated with talking or cognitive therapies.

A team of researchers led by Dr Karen Ersche from the Department of Psychiatry at Cambridge examined brain tissue in 44 people who were addicted to cocaine and 44 healthy control volunteers. In the cocaine group, they detected excessive amounts of iron in a region of the brain known as the globus pallidus, which ordinarily acts as a ‘brake’ for inhibiting behaviour.

Particularly striking was the fact that the concentration of iron in this area was directly linked with the duration of cocaine

Second case of ‘Down syndrome’

Human cells normally contain 23 pairs of chromosomes, for a total of 46. Down syndrome occurs when a person’s cells contain a third copy of chromosome 21 (also known as trisomy 21). In turn, apes have 24 pairs of chromosomes, for a total of 48. Trisomy 22 is diagnosed when the cells of apes such as chimpanzees, gorillas or orangutans contain a third copy of chromosome 22.

The first confirmed case of a chimpanzee with trisomy 22 was documented in 1969. The chimpanzee described nearly five decades ago died before its second birthday. This means that Kanako is the longest living chimp with this chromosomal disorder that scientists are aware of.

Kanako was born in captivity in 1992, at a facility which was transferred to Kyoto University in 2011 and renamed as Kumamoto Sanctuary, Wildlife Research Centre. She experienced stunted growth from an early age, suffers from a congenital heart disease and has underdeveloped teeth. Kanako developed cataracts before the age of one, and became blind by the age of seven. Having cross eyes and suffering from a disorder that causes the progressive thinning of her corneas count among her vision problems. These symptoms are also

virus co-evolution explains confusing experimental results

CRISPR is an acquired immune system that allows bacteria and other single-celled organisms to store snippets of DNA to protect themselves from viruses called phages. The system allows a cell to “remember” and mount a defense against phages it has previously battled.

Beginning in 2012, scientists discovered they could use CRISPR proteins to precisely edit the genomes of not only bacteria but also of animals and humans. That discovery captured Sciencemagazine’s Breakthrough of the Year in 2015 and could eventually allow scientists to reprogram the cells of people with genetic diseases.

Despite rapid advances in the use of CRISPR for editing genomes, scientists still have many questions about how CRISPR defenses evolved in bacteria and other single-celled prokaryotic organisms. Michael Deem, a physicist and bioengineer from Rice, was first drawn to CRISPR in 2010 and has created a number of computer models to explore CRISPR’s inner workings.

In a new study in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface, Deem and former graduate student Pu Han found there is a subtle interplay between phages and bacteria that can change, depending upon how often the two encounter one another and how quickly each evolves defenses against

Using a rabbit virus to treat multiple myeloma

Multiple myeloma is a cancer of plasma B cells, a cell type within the body’s immune system. MM is the second most common blood cancer and, unfortunately, remains difficult to treat. Even with the introduction of new chemotherapy regimens, most patients still succumb to disease relapse either from reinfusion of cancerous cells during stem cell transplant or expansion of drug-resistant disease after chemotherapy

In the recent study, Eric C. Bartee, Ph.D., an assistant professor of Microbiology and Immunology at MUSC, and his colleagues at MUSC and the University of Oslo took a novel approach to treating MM: using viral oncolytics to specifically target and destroy cancer cells.

“What I thought was really interesting here was that we could actually get rid of disease and it didn’t appear to ever come back,” said Bartee.

For the past several years, Bartee has been using myxoma virus to treat MM in cell culture. MYXV exclusively infects rabbits and is therefore noninfectious to humans. However, previous work from the Bartee laboratory showed the MYXV was able to kill human MM cells.

Currently, stem cell transplants, using a patient’s own stem cells, are used as a treatment for MM,

Drug treatment could combat hearing loss

Each of us is born with about 15,000 hair cells per ear, and once damaged, these cells cannot regrow. However, researchers at MIT, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Massachusetts Eye and Ear have now discovered a combination of drugs that expands the population of progenitor cells (also called supporting cells) in the ear and induces them to become hair cells, offering a potential new way to treat hearing loss.

“Hearing loss is a real problem as people get older. It’s very much of an unmet need, and this is an entirely new approach,” says Robert Langer, the David H. Koch Institute Professor at MIT, a member of the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, and one of the senior authors of the study.

Jeffrey Karp, an associate professor of medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) and Harvard Medical School in Boston; and Albert Edge, a professor of otolaryngology at Harvard Medical School based at Massachusetts Eye and Ear, are also senior authors of the paper, which appears in the Feb. 21 issue of Cell Reports.

Lead authors are Will McLean, a recent PhD recipient at the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology, and

New Bacteria in Tattoo infections

An investigation into skin lesions that two people developed after getting tattoos has concluded that both were infected with a bacteria not previously linked to the practice.

The infections involved Mycobacterium haemophilum, which usually only strikes individuals whose immune system are compromised. In this instance, however, the patients, both from Seattle, developed rashing despite the fact that both had normal immune systems, a report on the investigation found.

“Two people developed chronic skin infections after receiving tattoos at the same parlor,” explained study lead author Dr. Meagan K. Kay from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “The patrons were thought to have been exposed through use of tap water during rinsing and diluting of inks.”

Kay, an epidemic intelligence service officer with the CDC, and her team report their findings in the September issue of the CDC’s journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.

The authors pointed out that tattooing is not considered a sterile procedure, is not regulated at the federal level and can be risky. And while the specific inks and colorings (pigments) commonly used to apply tattoos are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the rules usually apply only

8 Little Ways to Cut Your Cell Phone

  1. Use a headset. Sounds obvious, but headsets emit much less radiation than cell phones do, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), and they keep your cell phone away from your head. The farther away you are from a source of radiation, the less damage it can do.
  2. Text when you can. Your constantly texting teens are onto something: Cell phones use less energy (and emit less radiation) when you text than when you talk, says the EWG. Texting also keeps the radiation source farther away from your brain.
  3. Use cell phones for FYI-only calls. Don’t use your cell phone for that long overdue, hour-long catch-up with your sister. Keep calls as short as possible —Do you need me to get the dry cleaning, honey? — and switch to a landline if they’re veering off into chitchat territory.
  4. Watch the bars. Can you hear me now? If you’re struggling to maintain a connection, ditch the call and wait until you have better service. When your phone has fewer signal bars, it has to work harder (and, therefore, emit more radiation) to connect.
  5. Keep the phone away from your ear when you can. EMF-Health.comrecommends

7 Foolish Health Rumors

Chewing gum takes seven years to pass through your digestive tract.

The truth: Gum addicts can relax. Although your body can’t digest chewing gum, it doesn’t just sit in your stomach, according to Snopes.com. You eliminate it when you go to the bathroom just like other food you haven’t digested.

Plucking a gray hair causes two to grow back.

The truth: It’s fine to tweeze that errant hair. Genetics plays a key role in when you go gray, regardless of how often you pluck. It can take six months from the time a hair falls out until it grows back long enough for you to notice it; during that time, you’ll automatically see more gray hair as part of the aging process, explains Snopes.com.

Antiperspirant deodorants cause breast cancer.

The truth: Going au naturel won’t protect your breasts from cancer. This mythprobably came about because some antiperspirants contain aluminum, which can show up as a false-positive finding on a mammogram. All this means is you should skip the white stuff before a breast cancer screening. Though concerns have been raised about parabens in deodorant raising estrogen levels — and thus possibly increasing cancer

Just Walk You can Helps Heart adn Brain

Regular aerobic exercise such as walking may protect the memory center in the brain, while stretching exercise may cause the center — called the hippocampus — to shrink, researchers reported.

In a randomized study involving men and women in their mid-60s, walking three times a week for a year led to increases in the volume of the hippocampus, which plays an important role in memory, according to Dr. Arthur Kramer, of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in Urbana, Ill., and colleagues.

On the other hand, control participants who took stretching classes saw drops in the volume of the hippocampus, Kramer and colleagues reported online in theProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The findings suggest that it’s possible to overcome the age-related decline in hippocampal volume with only moderate exercise, Kramer told MedPage Today, leading to better fitness and perhaps to better spatial memory. “I don’t see a down side to it,” he said.

The volume of the hippocampus is known to fall with age by between 1 percent and 2 percent a year, the researchers noted, leading to impaired memory and increased risk for dementia.

But animal research suggests that exercise

A Guide to Good Personal Hygiene

Personal Hygiene: Healthy Habits Include Good Grooming

If you want to minimize your risk of infection and also enhance your overall health, follow these basic personal hygiene habits:

  • Bathe regularly. Wash your body and your hair often. “I’m not saying that you need to shower or bathe every day,” remarks Dr. Novey. “But you should clean your body and shampoo your hair at regular intervals that work for you.” Your body is constantly shedding skin. Novey explains, “That skin needs to come off. Otherwise, it will cake up and can cause illnesses.”
  • Trim your nails. Keeping your finger and toenails trimmed and in good shape will prevent problems such as hang nails and infected nail beds. Feet that are clean and dry are less likely to contract athlete’s foot, Novey says.
  • Brush and floss. Ideally, you should brush your teeth after every meal. At the very least, brush your teeth twice a day and floss daily. Brushing minimizes the accumulation of bacteria in your mouth, which can cause tooth decay and gum disease, Novey says. Flossing, too, helps maintain strong, healthy gums. “The bacteria that builds up and causes gum diseasecan go straight to the heart and

Tips to Boost Women’s Health

1: Eat a healthy diet. “You want to eat as close to a natural foods diet as you can,” says Donald Novey, MD, an integrative medicine physician with the Advocate Medical Group in Park Ridge, Ill. That means a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables and fewer processed foods. Eat whole grains and high-fiber foods and choose leaner cuts of meat, fish, and poultry. Include low-fat dairy products in your diet as well — depending on your age, you need between 800 and 1,500 milligrams of calcium daily to help avoid osteoporosis, Dr. Novey says. Avoid foods and beverages that are high in calories, sugar, salt, and fat.

Healthy eating will help you maintain a proper weight for your height, which is important because being overweight can lead to a number of illnesses. Looking for a healthy snack? Try some raw vegetables, such as celery, carrots, broccoli, cucumbers, or zucchini with dip made from low-fat yogurt.

If you’re not getting enough vitamins and nutrients in your diet, you might want to take a multivitamin and a calcium supplement to make sure you’re maintaining good health.

2: Exercise. Heart disease is the leading cause of death

Can you be addicted to healthy foods

We’re all told healthy eating is the way to go, but some people take it to an extreme— becoming so focused on what they eat that they have no time for anything else in their life.

Orthorexia nervosa often starts as an interest in learning how to eat healthy and results in a person focusing all of his or her energy into controlling every piece of food he or she consumes. The National Eating Disorders Association says it’s similar to anorexia nervosa and bulimia, but instead of targeting the quantity of food, these people spend all their time focusing on what they eat.

The condition is not about what people put into their mouths— but about what happens after a person’s diet takes over their lives.

“What’s happening now in the culture is an obsession with getting food that is clean and pure.  And so as opposed to the traditional eating disorders where one is driven to be as thin as they possibly could be, that’s sort of the motivation,” said Sondra Kronberg, M.S., R.D., of the National Eating Disorder Association. “In orthorexia, the motivation is to be as clean, and as pure, and as

Can eating less help reduce a aging?

We already know eating less — and eating well — may help reduce the risk of chronic diseases like obesity, diabetes, heart disease and even cancer. But could limiting caloric intake help stall the aging process overall? According to research published this month in the journal Mollecular & Cellular Proteomics, that may very well be the case — and the results may be more effective than your local drugstore’s most expensive moisturizer.

In a mice study, researchers at Brigham Young University found that when ribosomes, which generate cells’ proteins, slow down, aging slows as well. Reducing calorie consumption in the mice was enough to slow that production.

For the study,  the authors gave one group of mice unlimited access to food yet restricted the caloric intake of the other group by 35 percent. Both groups received the necessary nutrients for survival.

“When you restrict calorie consumption, there’s almost a linear increase in lifespan,” senior author John Price, a biochemistry professor at BYU, said in a release. “We inferred that the restriction caused real biochemical changes that slowed down the rate of aging.”

While the research hasn’t been replicated in humans, researchers said their findings

7 signs it’s more serious in cold

If you think you have “just a cold” but are concerned it could be something more, it’s best to err on the safe side and visit your doctor. This is especially true if you have a chronic condition such as asthma, severe allergies, diabetes, kidney disease, HIV, or an autoimmune disease. The same goes for pregnant women and anyone under age six or over 65—the common cold affects these groups of people differently and can be more serious than it is for healthy individuals.

We spoke to doctors to find out what symptoms tip them off that it’s more than a cold. Here, the red flags they look for.

You’ve had symptoms for longer than four days

The common cold tends to clear up on its own in three to four days, says Melisa Lai Becker, MD, site chief of emergency medicine at Cambridge Health Alliance. It starts with a scratchy throat, congestion, and runny nose, and then a cough usually develops. While your cough and post-nasal drip may linger, most symptoms should disappear after four days.

“With a cold, you ultimately feel okay after a couple days of rest, hydration, and Kleenex,” she