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August 12th, 2014
04:38 PM ET

Hand sanitizer doesn't help in schools

School children get low marks when it comes to spreading germs, often sharing bugs with their classmates. So scientists wondered if putting hand sanitizers into elementary school classrooms would lead to fewer absences.

The study

Researchers in New Zealand set out to discover if using alcohol-based hand sanitizers, in addition to regular hand washing, would cut back on absentee rates in schools.

They recruited 68 primary schools, and all students were given a half-hour hygiene lesson. They then assigned half of the schools to a control group where children washed their hands with soap and water. The schools in the intervention group did the same, but were also asked to use classroom hand sanitizers when they coughed or sneezed, and before meals.
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Food poisoning? It was likely a restaurant worker, says CDC
June 3rd, 2014
01:01 PM ET

Food poisoning? It was likely a restaurant worker, says CDC

Approximately 20 million people fall ill every year due to norovirus, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which says the food service industry could do much to decrease that number.

Restaurants and catering services are the most common sources for norovirus outbreaks from contaminated food, according to the report. "Infected food workers are frequently the source of these outbreaks, often by touching ready-to-eat foods served in restaurants with their bare hands," CDC experts wrote.

Norovirus is the most common cause of acute gastroenteritis - often called a stomach bug - in the United States, according to the CDC. Symptoms generally include stomach pain, nausea and diarrhea.

Norovirus particles spread whenever an infected person vomits or defecates. Because swallowing just 18 norovirus particles can sicken a new host, the virus spreads easily, especially when the infected patient is preparing food for a lot of people.

Norovirus is also hardy: It can live for up to two weeks on countertops, survive freezing temperatures, and is resistant to many disinfectants and hand sanitizer.
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May 20th, 2014
09:31 AM ET

E. coli, MRSA can survive for days on planes

Ever sit on a plane and wonder how long the germs left by passengers past plan on hanging around?

A new study examined how long two potentially deadly bacteria – E. coli and MRSA – can live on various surfaces inside an airplane’s cabin, and how easily they are transmitted by contact.

Researchers at Auburn University used actual armrests, toilet flush handles, tray tables, window shades, seats and seat pockets provided by Delta Airlines for the study – inoculating them with bacteria and storing them in conditions meant to simulate a pressurized cabin: 75 degrees Fahrenheit at 20% humidity.

In general, bacteria lived longest on the most porous surfaces. For example, MRSA lasted seven days on the cloth seat pocket, six days on the rubber armrest and leather seat, five days on the plastic window shade and tray table, and four days on the steel toilet handle.
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Zit-causing bug bears Frank Zappa's name
Frank Zappa's name has been bestowed on jellyfish, spiders and an asteroid -- and now, an acne-causing bacterium.
February 18th, 2014
05:04 PM ET

Zit-causing bug bears Frank Zappa's name

In 1968, Rolling Stone reported on how Frank Zappa influenced the Beatles. Nearly 50 years later, Zappa has inspired scientists to name a acne-causing bug after him.

Sound weird? Actually, it’s not. All kinds of beetles (Steven Colbert, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld), plants (Princess Diana orchid, President Obama moss ) and animals (John Cleese's wooly lemur ) are just some of the organisms named after celebrities.

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Filed under: Conditions • Germs

Best ways to prevent and treat the common cold
January 27th, 2014
01:59 PM ET

Best ways to prevent and treat the common cold

Although the world of medicine has made incredible progress when it comes to tackling certain illnesses, scientists still have not been able to find the cure for the common cold. But there are ways to prevent colds as well as treat them. The question is, which are the most effective?

According to a review in the recent edition of the Canadian Medical Association Journal, hand washing and possibly taking zinc seem to be the best ways to avoid getting sick. Investigators reviewed 67 randomized controlled trials that showed hand washing as well as alcohol disinfectants are the best ways to ward off colds.

Zinc was found to work mostly in children, with two trials showing that little ones who took 10 to 12 milligrams of zinc sulfate every day had fewer colds and fewer absences from school because of colds. Authors of the study suggest that zinc could work for adults. Vitamin C, the "gold standard" of cold fighters, did not seem as effective.

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Copper in hospital rooms may stop infections
Researchers installed copper alloy surfaces in the areas of the ICU room shown above.
May 14th, 2013
04:12 PM ET

Copper in hospital rooms may stop infections

Hospital-acquired infections are a huge problem in the United States. Wouldn't it be amazing if they could be prevented merely through the materials used in the hospital room?

Researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina explored covering key surfaces in hospital intensive care units in copper alloy, and found that this is an effective measure against the spread of some key types of bacterial infections. Their study is published in the journal Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology.

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Beware the germs in pools
A pre-swim shower can help keep swimming healthy for everyone in the pool this summer.
May 28th, 2012
11:38 AM ET

Beware the germs in pools

It's almost the beginning of summer and you know what that means: Swim season is here. But beware. No matter how clean they may look, public pools could have nasty germs lurking in the water causing them to be more like public bathrooms.

A recent survey conducted by the Water Quality and Health Council found one in five Americans admit to using a public pool for quick relief (urinating) and seven in 10 confessed to skipping a shower before going for a swim.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a pre-swim shower removes sweat, cosmetics and other dirt that could mix with chlorine to create irritants in pool water.

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What the Yuck: Is the hand-sanitizer pump dirty?
January 21st, 2012
03:24 PM ET

What the Yuck: Is the hand-sanitizer pump dirty?

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.

Q: How dirty is the pump of hand-sanitizing gel in my doctor’s office, at the gym, and in other public places?

A: Frankly, the part of the pump your finger touches is probably pretty nasty, but the hand sanitizer you’re pumping out should get rid of any germs.

To be extra safe, use a tissue or pull down your shirt to press on the gel dispenser. Better yet, carry your own bottle, and use it often.

And when in doubt, wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds. Overall, that simple move is the best way to keep your hands germ-free.


Modern plague has origins in Black Death, scientists say
Scientists found bacterial DNA in teeth from medieval skulls like this one, from the Museum of London.
October 12th, 2011
01:00 PM ET

Modern plague has origins in Black Death, scientists say

As the rains raged on in 1340s Europe, most of the crops rotted, leading to food shortages in a colder environment. Amidst the malnourished population, rodents, fleas and perhaps even lice were spreading a disease that had most likely never before infected humankind, and would wipe out up to half of Europe within five years.

This is the vision of the Black Death that scientists put forth in a new study in the journal Nature. For the first time ever, they have reconstructed the genome of an ancient disease based on skeletal remains.

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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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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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