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Just in Time for Spring: A Lethal New Strain of the Flu!

Friday, April 24, 2009
From Reuters:

"A strain of flu never seen before has killed up to 60 people in Mexico and also appeared in the United States, where eight people were infected but recovered, health officials said on Friday."

"The World Health Organization said tests showed the virus from 12 of the Mexican patients was the same genetically as a new strain of swine flu, designated H1N1, seen in eight people in California and Texas."

"Mexico reported 1,004 suspected cases of the new virus, including four possible cases in Mexicali on the border with California.

Most of the dead were aged between 25 and 45, a health official said. It was a worrying sign as seasonal flu can be more deadly among the very young and the very old but a hallmark of pandemics is that they affect healthy young adults."
[Full Story]

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Elder Abuse Frighteningly Common, Study Suggests

Thursday, January 22, 2009
From The Daily Mail:

"Half of family members who look after someone with dementia admit they behave abusively towards them, say researchers.

And a third own up to 'significant' levels of abuse, according to the first study of its kind.

Those with Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia are frequently the butt of swearing and shouting, and may even be hit by members of their own family, the study says."

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Al-Qaeda + The Plague = ?

A few days ago, the Sun reported that the plague (though which variant -- bubonic or pneumonic -- was not specified) had broken out among al-Qaeda recruits training in Algeria, killing more than forty people in the organization's remote enclave in the country's Tisi Ouzou province. Although the tabloid's story seems to make light of the situation ("ANTI-TERROR bosses last night hailed their latest ally in the war on terror — the BLACK DEATH"), a related article in the more reputable Telegraph suggests that the cell may have actually been developing biological weapons when the plague broke out. Given the fact that "[i]t was reported last year that up to 100 potential terrorists had attempted to become postgraduate students in Britain in an attempt to use laboratories" to hone their skills, such possibilities are indeed quite frightening.

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Well, Do Cell Phones Cause Cancer of Not?

Sunday, June 8, 2008
From the New York Times:

"Last week, three prominent neurosurgeons told the CNN interviewer Larry King that they did not hold cellphones next to their ears. 'I think the safe practice,' said Dr. Keith Black, a surgeon at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, 'is to use an earpiece so you keep the microwave antenna away from your brain.'"

"Along with Senator Edward M. Kennedy's recent diagnosis of a glioma, a type of tumor that critics have long associated with cellphone use, the doctors' remarks have helped reignite a long-simmering debate about cellphones and cancer."

Some scary stuff here.

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Child Abuse May Alter Genes in Suicide Victims, Study Says

From McGill University's Public and Media Newsroom:

"A team of McGill University scientists has discovered important differences between the brains of suicide victims and so-called normal brains. Although the genetic sequence was identical in the suicide and non-suicide brains, there were differences in their epigenetic marking - a chemical coating influenced by environmental factors."

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Scared Sober?

From Reason's Hit and Run:

"Many juniors and seniors were driven to tears -- a few to near hysterics -- May 26 when a uniformed police officer arrived in several classrooms to notify them that a fellow student had been killed in a drunken-driving accident."

"About 10 a.m., students were called to the athletic stadium, where they learned that their classmates had not died. There, a group of seniors, police officers and firefighters staged a startlingly realistic alcohol-induced fatal car crash. The students who had purportedly died portrayed ghostly apparitions encircling the scene."

From the comments following the post:
Gahan: "This sort of crap makes me want to call that police officer's family and tell them he was killed in the line of duty, just for kicks."

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Tyson Slaughters 15,000 Hens in Wake of Avian Flu Outbreak

Thursday, June 5, 2008
From WESH-Orlando:

"Officials with Tyson Foods said some of their hens tested positive for the disease in Arkansas.

Authorities said the strain of the virus is not harmful to humans, but Tyson decided to slaughter and bury 15,000 hens after they showed signs of exposure."

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Hospitals Learn Not to Reuse "Disinfectant" Wipes Infected With Drug-Resistant Bacteria

Wednesday, June 4, 2008
From Reuters:

"Disinfectant wipes routinely used in hospitals may actually spread drug-resistant bacteria rather than kill the dangerous infections, British researchers said on Tuesday.

While the wipes killed some bacteria, a study of two hospitals showed they did not get them all and could transfer the so-called superbugs to other surfaces, Gareth Williams, a microbiologist at Cardiff University, said."

and

"MRSA infections can range from boils to more severe infections of the bloodstream, lungs and surgical sites. Most cases are associated with hospitals, nursing homes or other health care facilities.

The superbug can cause life-threatening and disfiguring infections and can often only be treated with expensive, intravenous antibiotics."

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Coca-Cola to Remove Potentially-Dangerous Additive From Products by August

Wednesday, May 28, 2008
In an article in The Independent, Martin Hickman reports that Coca-Cola, the world's largest manufacturer of soft drinks has decided to phase out the use of sodium benzoate in its beverages "where technically possible" by August. Although sodium benzoate is a naturally-occurring chemical and is found in some common fruits, the concentration of the substance in products such as Diet Coke tends to be extremely high.

Widely used as a preservative, sodium benzoate has been shown to damage DNA in yeast cells and, according to a study conducted by researchers at England's Southampton University, sodium benzoate (E211) is "one of seven E-numbers found to worsen hyperactivity" in humans. Furthermore, "[i]f combined with vitamin A, sodium benzoate can form a potentially carcinogenic substance, benzene."

It is not known whether sodium benzoate, which is also found in several popular Pepsi products, will affect human DNA.

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When Forgetfulness Equals Wisdom

Wednesday, May 21, 2008
From the New York Times:

"Some brains do deteriorate with age. Alzheimer’s disease, for example, strikes 13 percent of Americans 65 and older. But for most aging adults, the authors say, much of what occurs is a gradually widening focus of attention that makes it more difficult to latch onto just one fact, like a name or a telephone number. Although that can be frustrating, it is often useful."

"For example, in studies where subjects are asked to read passages that are interrupted with unexpected words or phrases, adults 60 and older work much more slowly than college students. Although the students plow through the texts at a consistent speed regardless of what the out-of-place words mean, older people slow down even more when the words are related to the topic at hand. That indicates that they are not just stumbling over the extra information, but are taking it in and processing it."

"Such tendencies can yield big advantages in the real world, where it is not always clear what information is important, or will become important. A seemingly irrelevant point or suggestion in a memo can take on new meaning if the original plan changes. Or extra details that stole your attention, like others’ yawning and fidgeting, may help you assess the speaker’s real impact."

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Men Married to Educated Women Live Longer

According to a recent study undertaken by researchers in Norway, married men can live up to thirty-five percent longer if wed to a well-educated woman. Since women are often more health-conscious than men and because women often prepare food and otherwise care for their spouses, the study suggests, men married to more educated women (who are, in turn, more likely to research nutrition and fitness than their less educated counterparts) live healthier lives. The level of a man's education, on the other hand, seems to have no effect on his partner's longevity. While Norwegian media outlets such as Verdens Gang seem to focus on the effects of a woman's education on her spouse in heterosexual unions, the findings are only a small part of a much larger study published in Social Science & Medicine's most recent issue. The full study, entitled "Brittle bones, pain and fractures -- Lay constructions of osteoporosis among Norwegian women attending the Nord-Trondelag Health Study (HUNT)" may be purchased for $31.50.

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"I Choose You!"

Monday, May 5, 2008
From the Associated Press:

"Doctors know some patients needing lifesaving care won't get it in a flu pandemic or other disaster. The gut-wrenching dilemma will be deciding who to let die.

Now, an influential group of physicians has drafted a grimly specific list of recommendations for which patients wouldn't be treated. They include the very elderly, seriously hurt trauma victims, severely burned patients and those with severe dementia."

"To prepare, hospitals should designate a triage team with the Godlike task of deciding who will and who won't get lifesaving care, the task force wrote. Those out of luck are the people at high risk of death and a slim chance of long-term survival. But the recommendations get much more specific, and include:

-People older than 85.
-Those with severe trauma, which could include critical injuries from car crashes and shootings.
-Severely burned patients older than 60.
-Those with severe mental impairment, which could include advanced Alzheimer's disease.
-Those with a severe chronic disease, such as advanced heart failure, lung disease or poorly controlled diabetes."

"If followed to a tee, such rules could exclude care for the poorest, most disadvantaged citizens who suffer disproportionately from chronic disease and disability, he said. While health care rationing will be necessary in a mass disaster, 'there are some real ethical concerns here.'"
[Full story]

Scary. Real damn scary.

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This Is, Like, The Second Incest Story This Month

Monday, April 7, 2008

"'I knew it was illegal, of course I knew it was illegal but you know, so what.

Mrs Deaves said the physical relationship with her father was like 'a sexual relationship with any other man'.

For Mr Deaves the sexual relationship was 'absolutely fantastic'.

A US psychologist told 60 Minutes the Deaves's relationship was an example of 'Genetic Sexual Attraction'.

He said the phenomenon was not rare, and society would be surprised at how prevalent it was."

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Alzheimer's Research Still Lagging

From the New York Times:

The new approach to dealing with Alzheimer's Disease:

"If Dad wants to polish off the duck sauce in a Chinese restaurant like it's a bowl of soup, why not? If Grandma wants to help out by washing the dishes but makes a mess of it, leave her to it and just rewash them later when she's not looking. Pull out old family pictures to give the patient something to talk about. Learn the art of fragmented, irrational conversation and follow the patient's lead instead of trying to control the dialogue.

Basically, just tango on. And hope somebody will do the same for you when your time comes. Unless the big breakthrough happens first."
[Full Story]

Harrowing.

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