Flu Update and Outlook for 2019

The Flu virus is spreading, and the CDC reports 19 states and New York City with high flu activity relative to the average cross the country.  Those states include: Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, and Virginia. Another nine states have moderate activity.

"The season is really starting to pick up," said Lynnette Brammer, the lead of CDC's domestic influenza surveillance team.

The A strains of the flu virus are the most common so far, in particular H1N1. "There's still a lot more flu season to come," Brammer said. "I expect activity to continue for several more weeks."

Last year’s flu season was one of the worst on record, with the highest death toll in over 20 years. U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, MD, said an estimated 80,000 Americans died of flu in 2018 and its complications and about 900,000 landed in the hospital.

Since 2010, the flu has affected about 9 million to 35 million annually.

What are the latest stats on the flu season?

Brammer said it's too early to tell how severe this season will be or what the mix of viruses will be. The hospitalization rate is still relatively low compared with last year, and deaths are still below epidemic levels, she said.

The CDC says 13 children have died related to flu this season. Most are associated with the A H1N1 strain of the virus. 

How Effective is this Year's Flu Vaccine?

It is impossible to predict how well the updated vaccine will work.There are many strains of the two types of flu viruses, A and B, that infect humans. In order to have flu shots ready for flu season, experts have to decide, many months in advance, which strains to include in the vaccine. Because strains of the virus can rapidly mutate, the vaccine is not always a perfect immunization. Even when the vaccine is a good match, the way it is produced can also affect its efficacy. In addition, most flu shots are grown in eggs, which may change the viruses and affect how effective they are.

Where Can I Get a Vaccine?

It's offered at doctors' offices, clinics, health departments, college health centers, pharmacies, and at many offices and some schools. Many insurance plans pay for the annual vaccination, and older adults covered under Medicare Part B can get the vaccine free, with no copay or deductible. For more information about where to get a flu vaccination, go to the Vaccine Locator.

How Are Flu Vaccines Produced?

During flu season, experts study samples of the viruses circulating to evaluate how well the vaccine protected against those viruses. They use that information to help make their decision for the next one. This year, the vaccine will protect against two A strains -- H1N1 and H3N2 -- and a B strain. The quadrivalent vaccine will protect against an additional B strain.

Like all other vaccines, the one for flu isn't perfect, but it cuts the risk of illness from 30% to 60% in the general population, the CDC says. In general, vaccines work better against influenza B and influenza A (H1N1) viruses than they do against influenza A (H3N2) viruses, the CDC says.

Who Gets Hit the Hardest?

Seniors always get hit the hardest, but the Flu is also hard on children. Thousands of U.S. children had been hospitalized and 180 children had died of flu-related causes in the past 12 months. Among the children who died, about 80% had not had a flu shot, according to the CDC. Children younger than 2 are especially vulnerable. Those ages 6 months and under are also much more likely to get complications, but they're too young to be vaccinated, so the best idea is to be sure everyone in contact with them is vaccinated. Adults ages 65 years and above are at greater risk than younger, healthy adults due to weakened immune systems. Typically, these older adults account for most flu-related deaths and more than half of flu-related hospitalizations. Pregnant women, as well as those who have delivered a baby in the previous 2 weeks, are more likely to have a severe illness than women who aren't pregnant.

Anyone with a chronic medical condition is more likely to have complications. These conditions include:

  • Asthma
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Obesity
  • A compromised immune system due to cancer, HIV, or other conditions

When Does Flu Season End?

Although you can get the flu anytime, flu season generally starts in October and extends into March or April. But ''it usually peaks in the U.S. in February, says William Schaffner, MD, medical director of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases. 

What Types of Flu shots are Available this year?

For the 2018-2019 season, there are several vaccines:

  • Trivalent vaccines, which protect against three flu strains: two A and one B
  • Quadrivalent vaccines, which protect against two A and two B strains
  • A high-dose vaccine that protects against two A and one B strain, meant for adults 65 and above, who usually have weaker immune systems
  • An adjuvanted vaccine, made using an ingredient that helps trigger a stronger immune response, is also an option for older adults. It protects against two A strains and one B.
  • A nasal spray vaccine for people ages 2 to 49 that protects against four strains: two A and two B. It is not for pregnant women and people with weakened immunity, among other conditions.

Children who have never been vaccinated against influenza will need two doses, spaced at least 4 weeks apart.

Which Vaccines Work Best?

While the quadrivalent vaccine protects against more viruses, the CDC says there is no preference among the recommended and approved vaccines. Ask your doctor which is best for you. Different vaccines are approved for different age groups.

Up to 166 million doses of the flu vaccine are expected to be produced for this flu season, including 119 quadrivalent. However, if it is not available, it is better to get another flu vaccine than to wait for it, the CDC says.

Any flu shot is better than none. Don’t delay getting one if you can't get your first choice.

Who Should Get a Flu Shot and When?

In general, everyone over 6 months of age should get vaccinated, and the earlier the better. Late September or early October are ideal, according to the CDC.The AAP says that all children 6 months and older should get the shot to help cut the risk of severe illness and death as soon as possible, but preferably by the end of October. 

Who Should Not get a Flu Shot?

Anyone who got Guillain-Barre syndrome within 6 weeks of a previous flu vaccination should not get vaccinated, the CDC says. Nor should anyone with a known severe, life-threatening allergy to any ingredients in a vaccine.

Does the Nasal Flu Vaccine Work?

The nasal spray vaccine, FluMist, is once again being recommended by the CDC. Although it didn’t work well against H1N1 viruses, it did against some B viruses and H3N2 viruses. It’s available for children 2 and older who don’t have a compromised immune system.

What are Common Flu symptoms?

They usually come more suddenly than cold symptoms. They include fever, feeling feverish, the chills, having a cough, sore throat, runny nose, muscle or body aches, headache, and fatigue. Less common are vomiting and diarrhea. Children are more likely to have vomiting and diarrhea than adults are, the CDC says. Not everyone with the flu has a fever.

What Can I Do I if I Think I Have the Flu?

Stay home, rest, and avoid contact with others except to get medical care if needed, experts say. Avoid contact with others for at least 24 hours after the fever subsides to avoid spreading the flu. Be on the lookout for emergency warning signs that you may be getting serious flu-related complications, the CDC says.

In children, these include:

  • Fast or troubled breathing
  • Bluish skin color
  • Severe irritability
  • Fever plus a rash
  • Lack of interaction
  • Not drinking fluids
  • Symptoms that improve then return with fever and a worse cough

In adults, they include:

  • Breathing trouble
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Dizziness or confusion
  • Severe or persistent vomiting

Symptoms that improve but then return with a fever and worsening cough.

What are Flu Treatments?

The FDA in October approved the first new flu treatment in nearly 20 years: baloxavir marboxil (Xofluza). The new treatment joins the other three approved antivirals for flu, including oseltamivir (generic or Tamiflu), peramivir (Rapivab), and zanamivir (Relenza). Antiviral drugs can lessen your symptoms and shorten sick time by 1 or 2 days, according to the CDC. These are prescription medicines in various forms, such as pills, liquid, an inhaled powder, or an IV solution. Ask your doctor if they are right for you. They may also have side effects. Tamiflu may cause nausea and vomiting, and it may make headaches and psychiatric effects more likely. And in a recent study, it didn’t lessen complications. It's important to start the drugs early, as studies show they work best when started within 2 days of getting sick. But your doctor may decide they can still be helpful if started later than that.

What Are Alternative Flu Treatments?

Elderberry has received a lot of buzz, but health experts say the jury is out. This natural remedy may help treat flu and cold symptoms by cutting congestion and perhaps by making you sweat more, experts at the University of Maryland say. In one study, an elderberry extract called Sambucol helped shorten how long the flu lasts by about 3 days. But the product also has other herbs, plus vitamin C, so it's unclear whether the elderberry alone helped. In another study, a lozenge with elderberry extract helped ease flu symptoms if taken within a day of when the symptoms started. And in the lab, some researchers found elderberry could kill the H1N1 flu virus -- but that was in test tubes, not people. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: "Although some preliminary research indicates that elderberry may relieve flu symptoms, the evidence is not strong enough to support its use for this purpose."

Aside from getting a Flu shot,  what more can I do help lower the chance of getting the of Flu?

Wash your hands, wash your hands and wash you hands some more. Everyday preventive actions are important. Avoid people who are ill, practice good hygiene, cover your cough with your arm, and clean off your mobile device. Stay at home if you are sick, and wash your hands again.








What is Kombucha and Why Should I Drink it?

Unless you've been hiding under a rock for the last few years, you have heard about Kombucha and some of the health cliams that are being made by all sorts of celebrities and dieticians. But what is Kombucha and why is it good for our health?

First, a little background and history. Kombucha is a fermented tea whose origins date back thousands of years and has its roots in Easter Medicine from japan and China. It contains some of the same health benefits as tea such , but it is also naturally rich in probiotics, which is a key to a health digestive system Kombucha also contains antioxidants, can kill harmful bacteria and may help fight several diseases.

Here are the top 5 health benefits of kombucha, based on scientific evidence.

1) The production of Probiotics when Making Kombucha

Kombucha is made by adding certain strains of bacteria, yeast and sugar to black or green tea, then allowing it to ferment for a week or more. It is during this process the bacteria and yeast form a mushroom-like film on the surface of the liquid. This is how kombucha gets its other name, "mushroom tea." This material is a living symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY), and can be used to ferment new kombucha.The fermentation process produces acetic acid, which can be found in vinegar and other acidic compounds. Small trace levels of alcohol and gases that make it carbonated. A byproduct of this process is probiotic bacteria. Probiotics provide your gut with healthy bacteria. These bacteria can improve many aspects of health, including digestion, inflammation and even weight loss.

2) Kombucha Contains Antioxidants

Antioxidants are substances that fight molecules that can be potentially damaging to cells in the human body. Many scientists believe that antioxidants from foods and beverages are better in the body's fight against aging for your health than antioxidant supplements. Kombucha, especially when made with green tea, appears to have antioxidant effects in your liver. Rat studies consistently find that drinking kombucha regularly reduces liver toxicity caused by toxic chemicals, in some cases by at least 70%. While no human studies exist on this topic, it does seem like a promising area of research for people with liver disease.

3) Kombucha can Kill Bacteria

Acetic acid is also produced during the fermentation of kombucha. Like the polyphenols in tea, the antimicrobial effects of acetic acid can prevent the growth of unwanted bacteria and yeasts. able to kill many potentially harmful microorganisms Kombucha made from black or green tea appears to have strong antibacterial properties, particularly against infection-causing bacteria and These antimicrobial effects suppress the growth of undesirable bacteria and yeasts, but they do not affect the beneficial, probiotic bacteria and yeasts involved in kombucha fermentation. The health relevance of these antimicrobial properties is unclear.

4) Reduce Risk of Heart Disease

Heart disease is the world's leading cause of death, and some studies in rats show that kombucha can greatly reduce “bad” LDL and improve “good” HDL cholesterol, in as few as 30 days. Even more importantly, tea (especially green tea) protects LDL cholesterol particles from oxidation, which is thought to contribute to heart disease. Green tea drinkers have up to a 31% lower risk of developing heart disease, a benefit that may also apply to kombucha.

5. Prevent Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes affects over 300 million people worldwide. A study in diabetic rats found that kombucha slowed down the digestion of carbs, reduced blood sugar levels and also improved liver and kidney function. Green tea Kombucha is likely to be even more beneficial. In fact, a review study of almost 300,000 individuals found that green tea drinkers had an 18% lower risk of becoming diabetic. More studies are needed to investigate the benefits of kombucha for the control of blood sugar.

6) Lower Cancer Risk

Cancer is one of the world's leading causes of death. In certain test-tube studies, kombucha helped prevent the growth and spread of malignant cancer cells due to its high concentration of antioxidants and tea polyphenols, which can block gene mutation. For this reason, it is not surprising that tea drinkers are much less likely to develop various types of cancer. However, whether kombucha has any anti-cancer effects in people has not been confirmed, and more research is needed.


Does CBD Oil Have Real Benefits?

By most of you have heard or read about the benefits of CBD Oil. You drip a couple of drops from a dropper under your tongue every morning and you should begin to feel less soreness and inflammation. While many are still unconvinced about the accuracy of the some of the claims about the benefits of CBD Oil, the thought about the potential is quite compelling. After all, cannabis hasn't disappointed thus far. Imagine if CBD Oil could help treat and even cure some life's most debilitating and common ailments like cancer, inflammation, arthritis, pain, anxiety, allergies and seizures? Obviously more research needs to be done, but now that states like California, Colorado and Oregon have decriminalized the recreational use of marijuana and cannabis, that should be coming soon.

Research has already begun on using CBD Oil to treat serious neurological diseases and neurodegenerative disorders like Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, Multiple Sclerosis and Stroke, which could lead to significant improvement of quality of life for million of people around the world. The idea is that receptors in the brain could benefit from the molecular make-up of CBD, and help slow or even reverse the effects of these terrible diseases. And research on the effect of CBD on cancer, the mother of all diseases, is being conducted by the National Cancer Institute, so this is no joke.

If you are one of those people who is willing to try it out, then you need to know the best ways to ingest the oil. Some drop it under their tongue from a dropper, and some (like me) put into their coffee. But depending on where you live, it might be hard to find. Because CBD Oil is not an intoxicant, it might be available at your local natural pharmacy. Or, if you live in California, Colorado or Oregon, you can buy it at your local dispensary. Either way, CBD Oil, like many other natural remedies, seems to be here to stay. Some of the reported side-effects of CBD Oil are dizziness and nausea.

For more information about the use and benefits of CBD, visit the FDA website.




Strange Health Facts -- Explained

Why are yawns contagious?
Human beings mirror the behaviors of people they care about, and yawning falls into this category, speculate researchers. In a recent University of Pisa study, researchers observed more than 100 men and women yawning in front of strangers, acquaintances, friends and family. The infectious influence of yawning was twice as likely among friends, and three times as likely for family members as it was for strangers and acquaintances.

Why do teeth shift as we age?
Teeth are held in an arch form between the tongue, and lips and cheeks. “Your tongue pushes outward on your teeth, causing spacing, while your lips and cheeks push inward, causing crowding,” says Dr. Andrew Trosien, a private-practice orthodontist in Tracy, Calif. Over time, these pressures can change, shifting the equilibrium, and your teeth can start to feel excessive pressure from either the tongue or lips.

Generally speaking, a little bit of crowding or spacing is not a concern. Sometimes though, tooth movement can be a sign of gum disease or other problems. In addition, if the teeth shift into a bad alignment, they can wear down, chip or cause other functional issues. Make sure to ask your dentist if you’re concerned, and most orthodontists will offer a free consultation.

Can achy joints really give the weather forecast?
“Yes. This is something I hear from my patients on a regular basis,” says Dr. David Borenstein, who’s treated arthritis patients for more than 35 years in Washington, D.C. When bad weather is coming, the barometric pressure drops in the atmosphere, and it causes a fluid shift in all human bodies. It’s slight, and most of us don’t notice a change, says Borenstein, but in patients with joint injuries, damage or arthritis, the fluid can’t move through these joints as effortlessly, resulting in feelings of stiffness and pain.

Why do women have colder feet and hands than men? 
“Women conserve more heat around their core organs than men do, which means less heat makes it to a woman’s extremities,” says Borenstein. Since women are biologically geared to carry babies, it’s vital that their bodies keep their vital organs warm. So blood flow in women is designed to support the central part of the body, compared to the arms and legs.

At-home Spa Secrets

With all that seasonal spreading of cheer and giving of joy, who has the time -- or the bucks -- for a much-needed spa visit? Instead of crafting a missive to Santa, we’ve got three letters for you: DIY. “At-home beauty treatments are fun, frugal, and relaxing,” says Janice Cox, author of Natural Beauty at Home. “You probably have some great ingredients in your kitchen ready to go. All it takes is a little planning,” she says. Now get glowing.

Step No. 1: Set the Spa Stage

  • Reserve your home’s bathroom for a couple of off-peak hours when you can laze uninterrupted.
  • Plan your home spa treatments, select your ingredients and shop for anything you don’t already have. (See below for our favorite recipes.)
  • Invite a beauty buddy or two. “DIY spa treatments create real quality time between you and a friend or family member,” says Cox.

Step No. 2: Balms Away

  • Before your spa buddy arrives, light scented candles and make sure your spa area is warm.
  • Get into the spa mood with herbal tea and relaxing music. Don fluffy robes and slippers or comfy clothes like yoga wear.
  • Go slow with your treatments and enjoy the moment.

Step No. 3: Spa-la-la-la

  • These home spa treatments are easy, effective and all-natural. “Just be sure to do a patch-test first by dabbing on the inside of your elbow,” says Greta Breedlove, author of The Herbal Home Spa.

Janice Cox’s Divine DIY Facial

  1. Remove all makeup and wash your face.
  2. Exfoliate by gently rubbing your face with a paste of ground oatmeal mixed with milk.
  3. Apply a moisturizing, healing mask of good-quality honey -- local is best. Keep on for no more than 10 minutes, before rinsing thoroughly.
  4. With a towel over your head, steam your face over a bowl filled with hot, but not scalding, botanical tea. Chamomile is calming, green tea is healing, rose hips and hibiscus are balancing.
  5. Close pores with a rinse of cool water.
  6. Massage sweet almond oil or your favorite creamy facial moisturizer across your face and neck.

Janice Cox’s Sweet Silkening Body Scrub

  1. Mix 1/4 cup of olive or vegetable oil with 1 cup of granulated sugar. Optional add-ins: aromatherapy or essential oil; vitamin A, C or E oil; dried, pulverized rose petals.
  2. Cover your floor or sit on the edge of your tub.
  3. With your hands, a loofah or a washcloth, massage mixture onto skin. Use circular motions and light pressure to stimulate circulation.
  4. Rinse off in shower.
  5. Apply a generous amount of rich body lotion all over, starting at your toes.

Greta Breedlove’s Peppermint Treat
Holiday candy canes inspired this nourishing hand and foot treatment. “It’s more effective without nail polish on, so it makes a great prelude to a home mani/pedi,” says Breedlove. This recipe is for ten fingers and toes:

  1. Make a paste of 2 tablespoons each of ground almonds, ground oatmeal and honey. Add two egg yolks and 6 drops of peppermint oil. Blend with a whisk.
  2. Slather mixture onto hands and feet.
  3. Cover with clean old socks.
  4. Wear at least 20 minutes before rinsing.