Usually, flulike symptoms drop quickly after the peak of the season, which usually occurs mid- to late-February, but this season those symptoms have plateaued. “It looks like we still have a ways to go,” said Lynnette Brammer, the head of the CDC’s Domestic Influenza Surveillance team. In other public health news: memory, cancer treatment, sleep deprivation, contrast agents for CT scans, older fathers, stillbirths and more.
The Wall Street Journal: The Flu Season Hasn’t Been This Bad This Late In 20 Years
The percentage of doctor visits for flulike symptoms last week, 4.4%, is the highest figure for this time of the year since 1998, the first season the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began tracking flu prevalence this way. While this season hasn’t been as extreme as some in recent years, it has been a long one. It is still widespread in 42 states, though that’s down from 47 states and Puerto Rico for the week ended March 9, the CDC says. (Umlauf and Abbott, 3/22)
Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Flu Activity Continues To Go Down But Still Considered High
Flu activity in Georgia continues to decline but remains high and widespread. The Georgia Department of Public Health said 4 percent of patient visits to doctors were for the flu during the week ending March 16. That’s down from 4.2 percent of visits the week before, according to the most recent report released on Friday. (Oliviero, 3/22)
The New York Times: Can We Get Better At Forgetting?
Whatever its other properties, memory is a reliable troublemaker, especially when navigating its stockpile of embarrassments and moral stumbles. Ten minutes into an important job interview and here come screenshots from a past disaster: the spilled latte, the painful attempt at humor. Two dates into a warming relationship and up come flashbacks of an earlier, abusive partner. The bad timing is one thing. But why can’t those events be somehow submerged amid the brain’s many other dimming bad memories? (Carey, 3/22)
The Associated Press: Special Evaluations Can Help Seniors Cope With Cancer Care
Before she could start breast cancer treatment, Nancy Simpson had to walk in a straight line, count backward from 20 and repeat a silly phrase. It was all part of a special kind of medical fitness test for older patients that’s starting to catch on among cancer doctors. Instead of assuming that elderly patients are too frail for treatment or recommending harsh drugs tested only in younger patients, they are taking a broader look. Specialists call these tests geriatric assessments, and they require doctors to take the time to evaluate physical and mental fitness, along with emotional and social well-being. (3/22)
NPR: Sleep Deprived? Try These Strategies To Catch Up
There are lots of reasons why many of us don’t get the recommended seven hours or more of sleep each night. Travel schedules, work deadlines, TV bingeing and — a big one — having young children all take a toll. Research published recently in the journal Sleep finds that up to six years after the birth of a child, many mothers and fathers still don’t sleep as much as they did before their child was born. For parents, there’s just less time in the day to devote to yourself. (Aubrey, 3/24)
NPR: Contrast Agents For CT Scans: Time To Rethink The Risk?
One of the most widely used drugs in the world isn’t really a drug, at least not in the usual sense. It’s more like a dye. Physicians call this drug “contrast,” shorthand for contrast agent. Contrast agents are chemical compounds that doctors use to improve the quality of an imaging test. In the emergency room, where I work, contrast is most commonly given intravenously during a CT scan. (Dalton, 3/23)
The New York Times: The Risks To Babies Of Older Fathers
People are becoming parents at ever-increasing ages, a trend that can have implications for the health of the pregnancy, the babies and the women who birth them. But while most women know that reproductive risks to themselves and their babies rise as they get older, few men past 40 realize that their advancing years may also confer a risk. The age at which couples start families has been rising steadily for the last four decades as more couples marry later and delay having children until they’ve completed their education and are secure in their careers. (Brody, 3/25)
The Washington Post: Could Excessive Sleep During Pregnancy Be Related To Stillbirths?
It can be difficult to sleep while pregnant. Any number of issues can interrupt sleep, including the frequent need to urinate, back pain, abdominal discomfort and shortness of breath, among others. Moreover, disruptive sleep during pregnancy can be risky for the fetus, contributing to curbing growth. But a recent study suggests that excessive, undisturbed sleep may be a problem, too. Sleeping continuously for nine or more hours may be related to the danger of late stillbirth, that is, the loss or death of a baby before or during delivery. (Cimons, 3/24)
Kaiser Health News: She Was Dancing On The Roof And Talking Gibberish. A Special Kind Of ER Helped Her.
For decades, hospitals have strained to accommodate patients in psychiatric crisis in emergency rooms. The horror stories of failure abound: Patients heavily sedated or shackled to gurneys for days while awaiting placement in a specialized psychiatric hospital, their symptoms exacerbated by the noise and chaos of emergency medicine. Long wait times in crowded ERs for people who show up with serious medical emergencies. High costs for taxpayers, insurers and families as patients languish longer than necessary in the most expensive place to get care. (Gorman, 3/25)
The Hill: Ebola Outbreak Hits 1,000 Cases
More than a thousand people have been infected with the deadly Ebola virus in two eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in an outbreak that has claimed hundreds of lives and flummoxed public health officials. The Congolese health ministry said Sunday the virus has killed at least 629 people and infected 1,009 people, making it by far the worst Ebola outbreak in Congo’s modern history, and the second-worst outbreak in the world, behind an epidemic that struck three West African countries beginning in 2014. (Wilson, 3/24)
The New York Times: Why You Procrastinate. (It Has Nothing To Do With Self-Control.)
If you’ve ever put off an important task to, say, alphabetize your spice drawer, you know it wouldn’t be fair to describe yourself as lazy. After all, alphabetizing requires focus and effort — and hey, maybe you even went the extra mile to wipe down each bottle before putting it back. And it’s not like you’re hanging out with friends or watching Netflix. You’re cleaning — something your parents would be proud of! This isn’t laziness or bad time management. This is procrastination. (Lieberman, 3/25)
The Washington Post: Americans Are Becoming Less Happy, And There’s Research To Prove It
Life in America keeps getting more miserable, according to the latest data from the General Social Survey, one of the longest-running and most highly regarded public opinion research projects in the nation. On a scale of 1 to 3, where 1 represents “not too happy” and 3 means “very happy,” Americans on average give themselves a 2.18 — just a hair above “pretty happy.” That’s a significant decline from the nation’s peak happiness, as measured by the survey, of the early 1990s. The change is driven by the number of people who say they’re not too happy: 13% in 2018 compared with 8% in 1990. That’s a more than 50% increase in unhappy people. (Ingraham, 3/23)
The Washington Post: A Toddler’s Dwindling Voice Was Chalked Up To Acid Reflux. Her Problem Was Far More Serious.
Vivienne Weil was an unusually quiet baby. “She never cried loudly enough to bother us,” recalled Natalia Weil of her daughter, who was born in 2011. Although Vivienne babbled energetically in her early months, her vocalizing diminished around the time of her first birthday. So did the quality of her voice, which dwindled from normal to raspy to little more than a whisper. Vivienne also was a late talker: She didn’t begin speaking until she was 2. (Boodman, 3/23)
The Washington Post: A Mind-Boggling Trip Into The 3-Pound Slimy, Spongy Mass That Is The Human Brain
What weighs three pounds and is much more than a slimy, spongy mass? The human brain, of course. It’s the most complex organ in the body — home to 86 billion neurons that act like a miraculous supercomputer, allowing our bodies to function and our minds to roam freely. But how much do you really know about your own brain? If you’re brain-curious, a visit to BrainFacts.org may be in order. (Blakemore, 3/23)
The Washington Post: Can Beet Juice Improve Athletic Performance?
Carnitine, chromium, anabolic steroids: Athletes have experimented with a broad array of aids in pursuit of performance edge. A popular — if unglamorous — one today that seems safe and backed by solid data: the juice of beets, for the nitrates they contain. Inorganic nitrate is added to cured and processed meats to extend their shelf life and give them their distinctive pink color. It’s also naturally found in spinach, arugula and beets. In the past decade, new evidence has suggested that the nitrate in these vegetables enhances athletic performance and may also increase cardiovascular health in old age. (Ortega, 3/24)
This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.
Source : Kaiser Health