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Getting children ready for flu season
Some children may need two flu shots this year, depending on their age and when they received last year's vaccine.
September 10th, 2012
11:28 AM ET

Getting children ready for flu season

Flu season has officially started and although most influenza cases don’t begin to pop up till late October, doctors say September is a perfect time to get vaccinated. And that includes getting shots for your youngsters and teens.

This week, the American Academy of Pediatrics released its new guidelines on influenza and children. Although there are no major changes, the group stresses  it’s important for parents to talk to their child’s pediatrician about the vaccine.

Over the past few years, the Centers for Disease Control had recommended that children over the age of six months get either a traditional flu shot or a LAIV (live attenuated intranasal vaccine) sprayed in the nose, also known as FluMist. That has not changed. But because of the configuration of this year’s vaccine, the AAP is recommending parents be aware of how many shots their children should have.

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June 21st, 2012
02:00 PM ET

Mutant bird flu would be airborne, scientists say

Here's what it takes to make a deadly virus transmissible through the air: as few as five genetic mutations, according to a new study.

This research, published in the journal Science, is the second of two controversial studies to finally be released that examines how the H5N1 bird flu virus can be genetically altered and transmitted in mammals. Publication of both studies had been delayed many months due to fears that the research could be misused and become a bio-security threat.

Although these particular engineered forms of H5N1 have not been found in nature, the virus has potential to mutate enough such that it could become airborne.

H5N1 influenza can be deadly to people, but in its natural forms it does not easily transfer between people through respiratory droplets, as far as scientists know. The World Health Organization has recorded 355 humans deaths from it out of 602 cases, although some research has questioned this high mortality rate.

The journals Science and Nature had agreed to postpone the publication of the two studies related to the genetically altered virus.

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Why stress makes colds more likely
April 2nd, 2012
03:07 PM ET

Why stress makes colds more likely

Most of us know from experience that stress weakens our immune system. Colds always seem to strike when we're overworked or emotionally exhausted, as do eczema flare-ups, headaches and a myriad of other health problems.

Doctors long ago confirmed that the connection between stress and health is real, but they haven't been able to fully explain it. Now, in a new study, researchers say they've identified a specific biological process linking life stressors - such as money trouble or divorce - to an illness.

In this case it's the common cold.
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Filed under: Cold and flu • Health.com • Stress

Two dead in Louisiana after unclean water used in neti pots
December 16th, 2011
07:24 PM ET

Two dead in Louisiana after unclean water used in neti pots

Louisiana health officials are warning residents not to use nonsterilized tap water in neti pots after the deaths of two people who exposed their brains to a deadly amoeba while flushing out their nasal passages.

The amoeba, Naegleria fowleri, can be found in lakes and ponds as well as in contaminated lukewarm tap water. The organism doesn't pose a threat when ingested, but if it becomes lodged in a person's nose it can end up in the brain and cause an infection.

The infection, lethal in 95% of cases, triggers an array of symptoms that resemble those of bacterial meningitis, including vomiting, headaches and sleepiness. As it progresses, it can cause changes in a person’s behavior and lead to confusion and hallucinations. It usually causes death within one to 12 days, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. FULL POST

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Filed under: Cold and flu • Health.com

November 15th, 2011
04:09 PM ET

Health threats loom at Occupy protests

The Empowered Patient is a regular feature from CNN Senior Medical News Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen that helps put you in the driver's seat when it comes to health care.

As fall turns to winter, health problems could plague Occupy protests across the country, infectious disease experts say.

In New York City, police removed Occupy Wall Street protesters from Zuccotti Park, citing an “increasing health and fire safety hazard to those camped in the park.” A judge subsequently issued an injunction allowing the protestors back in.

Occupy movements across the country face three challenges: winter, sanitation, and crowding, says Dr. Buddy Creech, an infectious disease expert and associate director of the Vanderbilt Vaccine Program.

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What the Yuck: Frequent flyer sickness
October 7th, 2011
09:56 AM ET

What the Yuck: Frequent flyer sickness

Too embarrassed to ask your doctor about sex, body quirks, or the latest celeb health fad? In a regular feature and a new book, "What the Yuck?!," Health magazine medical editor Dr. Roshini Raj tackles your most personal and provocative questions. Send 'em to Dr. Raj at whattheyuck@health.com.

I have to travel a lot for my new job. Will I get sick more often if I’m a frequent flyer?

Actually, the recycled air on planes is probably better for you than most air in office buildings. It’s well filtered before it’s blown back out.
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2 flu cases transmitted from pigs
In rare cases, a person may contract an influenza virus from a pig.
September 2nd, 2011
04:23 PM ET

2 flu cases transmitted from pigs

You may remember "swine flu" as the 2009 H1N1 virus, which sent people out for hand sanitizer in droves and avoiding anyone who was coughing and sneezing. No one actually caught it from a pig; it's transmitted from person to person. But on Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports on two children who were indeed sickened by a flu virus that originated from pigs.

The CDC report "describes two cases of febrile respiratory illness caused by swine-origin influenza A (H3N2) viruses identified on August 19 and August 26."  Researchers also discovered that the virus that sickened the children had a genetic component of the 2009 H1N1 flu virus that was incorrectly tagged as a swine flu. Transmission of the flu from pigs to humans is rare, but it does happen.

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FDA targets unapproved prescription cold meds
March 2nd, 2011
03:40 PM ET

FDA targets unapproved prescription cold meds

Companies that make, distribute or market unapproved prescription cough, cold and allergy medications were put on notice Wednesday by the Food and Drug Administration that their products can't be legally marketed in the United States.

The FDA says the safety, effectiveness and quality of 27 active ingredients in approximately 500 unapproved drugs have not been evaluated by the agency. Deborah Autor, director of the Office of Compliance in the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said the agency doesn't know what's in these drugs or how they were made.

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Flu and You: Too late for flu shot?
February 18th, 2011
05:25 PM ET

Flu and You: Too late for flu shot?

As winter begins to thaw, you might think that you no longer have to worry about colds and flu.

But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that flu season peaks in January or February, and can last late into May. And the agency has issued a public service announcement to remind us that  it's not too late to vaccinate.

The level of flu during the week of between February 6 through 12 “remained elevated,” reported the CDC. FULL POST


Zinc may curb cold symptoms
February 15th, 2011
07:37 PM ET

Zinc may curb cold symptoms

As everyone knows, there's no cure for the common cold. So most people simply suffer through two or more colds a year, often missing days of work or school in the process.

Scientists still haven't found a cure, but a new expert review suggests that taking zinc supplements may help ease cold symptoms—and may even prevent the viral infections altogether.

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About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.

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