Stories tagged health

Gesundheit!: Viral illness is spreading through the Midwest
Gesundheit!: Viral illness is spreading through the MidwestCourtesy SCA Svenska Cellulosa Ak...
An unusually high number of cases of Enterovirus D68 (EV-D68) have been showing up recently in clinics and hospitals in the Midwest. The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention says EV-D68 (related to the common cold) is a mild to severe upper respiratory illness that can cause wheezing and coughing and in some cases even more severe symptoms can develop. Some patients can be treated with a nebulizer but others - such as those afflicted with asthma - can develop even more dangerous conditions. In one reported case, an infected child's lungs were disturbed to such a degree, he had to be placed on a blood oxygenator.

The outbreak is affecting mostly school-aged children because they haven't yet built up their immune systems like adults have. And even previously healthy children are getting sick. Between 2009 and 2013 the CDC reported only 79 cases of EV-D68, but already this year there have been more cases confirmed than in any previous year.

The illness can be spread through aerosol transmission via coughing or sneezing or by direct contact with a person or surface containing the virus. The best prevention against the virus is for adults and children to wash their hands regularly.

Scientific American report
Enterovirus D68 info on CDC site supplies some helpful links to help answer your questions.


Smoking messes up your brain's cognitive skills: Sure it's funny now, but see if you can remember to laugh about it in your 50s, pal.
Smoking messes up your brain's cognitive skills: Sure it's funny now, but see if you can remember to laugh about it in your 50s, pal.Courtesy jaduarte
I don’t know why this should surprise anyone, but a study coming from King’s College in London suggests that smoking not only adversely affects your physical health but also damages your mental health, reducing your brain’s capacity to learn, reason, and remember.

The study was published in the journal Age and Aging and involved lifestyle data gathered from 8,800 people over 50 years of age. The study was looking for links between the likelihood of stroke or heart attack, and the condition of the brain. Four years after the initial data was collected, participants were examined again, and given brain tests, such as naming as many animals as they could in a minute’s time, or learning new words. The same tests were administered again eight years later.

Not only did participants with high-risk physical conditions such as obesity or high blood pressure fair poorly in the cognitive tests, but those who smoked had a “consistent association” with lower scores as well.

"We have identified a number of risk factors which could be associated with accelerated cognitive decline, all of which, could be modifiable," said Dr. Alex Dregan, one of the researchers involved. "We need to make people aware of the need to do some lifestyle changes because of the risk of cognitive decline."

BBC story
Heavy smoking and dementia


A brisk walk in the fresh air: Sure it's cold and miserable but it's inexpensive and easy to do (once you get off the couch). It also has nothing on Ernest Shackleton.
A brisk walk in the fresh air: Sure it's cold and miserable but it's inexpensive and easy to do (once you get off the couch). It also has nothing on Ernest Shackleton.Courtesy Mark Ryan
Okay. It’s 2012! The beginning of a brand new year. A time for making resolutions, a time for change. That special new era that began with a magical tick past midnight on December 31st when you suddenly emerged from a decades-long thick-skinned cocoon of self-destructive behavior, and miraculously transformed into a brand new person of action, rebirth, and eventual six-pack abs.

Okay, maybe not suddenly, but let’s say 12 to 15 hours after midnight when you finally came out of the bacchanalian stupor you’d plunged yourself into the night before.

But the point is you can now become that perfect human being you (and mainly your mother) always suspected was hiding beneath that sweatpants ensemble. Imagine what you can do now when you replace your mantra of instant gratification with one of self-control. Nicotine’s mastery over your soul will dissipate like a smoke-ring in the breeze. Inappropriate outbursts at dinner parties will be a thing of the past as you’re transformed into the designated driver instead of driving the host’s porcelain bus. Oatmeal will substitute for Twinkies for breakfast, and broccoli will become your new BFF.

The possibilities for improvement seem limitless, don’t they? It just takes a little effort.

You know, with obesity plaguing the US, this would be a perfect time to let go of the game controller, drag your ample hinderbutt off the couch, and get some of that exercise you’ve been promising to do since 1988. It doesn’t mean you have to join a high-priced health club, or spend hours contorted into a pretzel at a local yoga class. The easiest thing to do is just head outside for a good old fashion walk, a nice long stroll in the bracing winter air. It’s not going to cost you a cent to do it (unless you live here in Minnesota and the legislature decides to tax it to help pay for a brand new stadium for the Vikings).

What’s that you say? You’d like to lose those extra 65 lbs but you just can’t seem to get motivated? What? You think it sounds like a nice idea but it’s only 25° above zero? Yes, yes, I know. Getting all bundled up in long underwear, winter coat, and boots to face the elements is a real drag.

Well, poooooooooooor you. WAH, WAH, WAH, WAH, WAH! You are unbelievable. What a sniveling crybaby! Is that all you can do is whine? You think it’s too cold? You crave motivation?! Well, here’s some motivation for you: Starting next weekend, have your mommy drive you to the Science Museum of Minnesota and buy you a ticket for the Omni Theater so you can watch the magnificent Shackleton’s Antarctic Adventure, one of five large format films that are part of the museum’s annual OmniFest 2012.

Shackleton’s Antarctic Adventure is an amazing - no! – an astounding story of man against nature. It details the struggles of the fearless and eternally optimistic Ernest Shackleton and his crew of 27 men who set sail on the ship Endurance headed for Antarctica. I don’t want to give away the story but let’s just say after you see what these courageous guys endured over a period of seventeen months, I guarantee you’ll feel deeply ashamed for driving to work in your heated car and living inside four walls.

OmniFest 2012 runs from January 6 – February 17, 2012 at the Science Museum of Minnesota’s Omni Theater, and features five big-screen films: Amazing Caves, Amazon, Wolves, Search for the Great Sharks, and of course Shackleton’s Antarctic Adventure. The films rotate throughout the day, so check the OmniFest 2012 website to make sure you have the correct times for the shows you want to see. Of course, if you were anything like Shackleton, you'd just show up after a 20 mile trek in the blinding snow and expect things to work out your way. Wimp!

Working class blues: In some cases, not working may be better for your mental health
Working class blues: In some cases, not working may be better for your mental healthCourtesy Mark Ryan
During these tough economic times people are often overworked, or underemployed, or forced to accept menial jobs for which they’re vastly overqualified and underpaid. Those who toil under such less-than-ideal conditions will often hear statements like “Well, at least you still have a job.” On the surface that may seem like a silver lining in an otherwise gloomy situation, but according to a new study published in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine being stuck in a lousy, demeaning job could be much worse for your mental health than not working at all.

That’s it, I’m out of here! (Just kidding, Liza - I like my job)

CNN story


Back in 1998, a British doctor named Andrew Wakefield did a study on twelve children, and wrote a paper claiming that a link existed between childhood vaccinations and autism.

Naturally, this freaked out a lot of parents, and lots of folks stopped having their kids vaccinated. Consequently, infection rates of diseases that are totally preventable with vaccines—like measles and whooping cough—went up.

Then, other scientists were unable to reproduce Wakefield's experiment, which kind of made it seem like it was wasn't accurate to begin with. Wakefield couldn't even reproduce his experiment. Nonetheless, lots of people stuck to the idea that autism is caused by vaccines, or by ingredients in vaccines. When these ingredients were removed because of the concern, people picked other ingredients to blame. Still scientists could find no link between any of the components of vaccines and autism.

Meanwhile, most of the other scientists involved with Wakefield's research removed their names from the published results. And then The Lancet, the respected medical journal that originally published Wakefield's research, actually retracted the study, because it was so inaccurate. And then Wakefield had his medical license, because his poor research was so irresponsible. Still Wakefield and his supporters insisted that the link existed, and that he was the target of a global conspiracy.

Now, there's another nail in a coffin that just won't stay shut: a journalist (who has signed a statement saying that he has no financial interest in the debate) has found that Wakefield's original research on the twelve children was fraudulent. Wakefield misrepresented the medical histories of his subjects to make it appear that they had developed autism after receiving the vaccine for mumps, measles and rubella, when, in fact, some of the subjects had shown signs of autism before receiving the vaccine, and some had not developed autism at all.

During all this, Wakefield accepted $674,000 from lawyers preparing a lawsuit against vaccine manufacturers. Eh... whoops.

The new information suggests that not only was Wakefield's research inaccurate, he deliberately falsified it.

It's an interesting story, but as Dr. Max Wiznitzer points out in the article linked to above, the medical and scientific communities already knew Wakefield was a fraud, and Wakefield's followers aren't likely to change their positions now, so it's a little bit of a moot point.

Wakefield himself says that the truth is in his book, which he wants you to buy.


Podcast Crew members Annie, Mai, and Alonzo at the Walker Art Center
Podcast Crew members Annie, Mai, and Alonzo at the Walker Art CenterCourtesy KAYSC

A few months ago, I shared a video created by the Podcast Crew in the Kitty Andersen Youth Science Center ( at the Science Museum of Minnesota. The Podcast Crew were a group of high school staff who worked to create a series of web-based videos about infectious diseases for the Disease Detectives exhibit ( We worked from January through August learning video production skills, learning about different infectious disease topics, talking to experts and folks on the museum floor.

Well, earlier this month, one of our videos, Malaria Worldwide, screened at the Walker Art Center as part of the All City Youth Film Festival, and I wanted to share that here as well. You can watch the video here, which features interviews with folks at the MN Department of Health and Metro Mosquito Control District as well as some cows from the U of M Ag School.

This man is surprised: To learn about the new technology. Because you can also read science news articles on your phone.
This man is surprised: To learn about the new technology. Because you can also read science news articles on your phone.Courtesy CJ Sorg
Believe it, y'all: scientists are developing cheap, disposable chips that will be able to diagnose any of a range of sexually transmitted diseases that you might be carrying. All you have to do would be to pee on your phone. Or pee on a chip, and then plug it into your phone. And, viola, you've got male itch. Or female itch. Or whatever.

Joke about dropping your phone in the toilet, joke about coverage area, joke about app store, joke about loving your phone. Joke about herpes.