Tag Archives: virus

AIDS Awareness Month

AIDS Awareness Month

December is AIDS Awareness Month, and more than 1 million Americans are living with HIV, but 1 in 5 aren’t aware they’re infected.

Learning About AIDS

 

HIV has not disappeared since it was an epidemic. Every 9.5 minutes, someone in the U.S. is infected. It’s important to continue to raise awareness and fund education.

Continuing to Educate About AIDS

 

HIV is a virus that attacks the body’s immune system. Eventually, it can destroy enough T cells that the body can’t fight off infections or other diseases.

Attacking T-Cells

 

The worst version of an HIV infection is AIDS, and those suffering from it get severe illnesses because their immune system is so damaged.

Damaged Immune Systems

 

In the 1980s when the AIDS epidemic began, those who contracted HIV weren’t likely to live more than a few years. Now, thanks to antiretroviral therapy, their quality of life is much better.

Improving AIDS Quality of Life

 

Antiretroviral therapy helps stop HIV from multiplying. Patients’ immune cells can then live longer and reduce the risk of transmitting HIV to others.

People at high risk for contracting HIV/AIDS can take PrEP to help prevent infection.

Protect Yourself with PrEP

Flaming Hot

Hot Enough

There’s a good reason to make sure you’re always cooking your meat to the right temps: foodborne illness.

Foodborne illness, or food poisoning, is when you eat or drink foods that are contaminated by bacteria, viruses, parasites, or even poisonous chemicals. There are more than 250 different foodborne illnesses. The top 5 are the most dangerous.

Myths vs. Facts

Myth: Food poisoning is rare and not that serious.

Facts:

Foodborne Illness Stats
Statistics via the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Myth: I will know if I have food poisoning.

Facts: Food poisoning is often blamed on things like “a stomach bug,” but it can have many symptoms.

The most common symptoms are nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, and diarrhea. You could experience all of these or just one. It really depends on what caused it.

Myth: This happened because my food was dirty.

Facts: There are lots of reasons this can happen.

Fresh fruit and veggies can be contaminated if they’re washed in tainted water or touched by unwashed hands or sick people who help process the food.

Some healthy animals have certain kinds of bacteria to help their digestion. These can come in contact with the meat you eat during processing. Salmonella, one of the most dangerous foodborne illnesses, can infect a hen so that its eggs are infected from the start.

Leaving raw food to thaw out of the fridge or leaving cooked food out for too long, like at a potluck or BBQ, can let bacteria grow.

Food coming into contact during cooking with raw meats or dirty cutting boards and knives can spread the bacteria to things that were clean!

What Should I Do?

First, make sure you’re washing your fruits and veggies after you buy them and storing things safely.

Heat can kill bacteria, so always make sure you cook your food to the right temperature. You can do this by using a food thermometer.

Place the thermometer in the thickest part of the food, but it shouldn’t be touching bone or fat. Check the temp toward the end of cooking but before you think it will be done. And make sure to clean it well with hot, soapy water between each use.

Use these handy guides to cook and grill your food to safe temperatures:

Meat & Poultry Temperature Guide
Image via Food Network

 

Grill Master Guide
Image via Visual News

Up Next:

Wondering how long your food is actually good for? We can help make sense of all those dates!

Save

HPV Vaccine for Back-to-School

Protect Your Kids From Cancer This Back-to-School Season

In 2015, about 12,900 new cases of invasive cervical cancer will be diagnosed, according to the American Cancer Society. And about 4,100 women will die from their cervical cancer this year.

But you can help save your daughters from this fate by making sure they get the HPV vaccine.

HPV and Cancer

HPV, or human papillomavirus, is the most common sexually transmitted infection, and it causes many health problems. In fact, nearly all sexually active adults will get it at some point in their lives, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

There are many different types of the virus, and while some may cause no problems and go away, others cause warts, cervical, vaginal, vulvar, penile, anal, and oral cancer in women or men.

In fact, the HPV infection causes 5% of all cancers worldwide, and 10,000 Americans die from cancers caused by HPV each year, according to The New York Times. And 14 million new cases of HPV are diagnosed in the U.S. each year.

HPV can cause cancer years or even decades after you first get HPV and can be spread to others that whole time, even when you have no symptoms. There is no way to know which people with HPV will develop cancer and other problems.

Debunking Concerns About the HPV Vaccine

The vaccine targets the kinds of HPV that most commonly cause cervical cancer. Gardasil also protects against the kind that causes warts. And just this year in March, the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and CDC approved a new version of the vaccine that protects against 9 different strains of HPV.

While the vaccine can literally prevent cancer and has been proven highly effective, its use isn’t as widespread as the virus it protects against.

Some worry about the safety of the vaccine. It is fully endorsed by the FDA and CDC, which continue to closely monitor the vaccine’s safety. And it has very mild side effects, such as:

• Arm pain or redness where the shot was given
• Dizziness
• Fainting
• Nausea
• Headache

When the side effects of HPV are cancer, these seem like a minor risk to protect your kids’ futures.

Others have worried that the vaccine will promote sexual behavior, especially unsafe behavior. But as this U.S. News article discusses, a study from early this year shows that the vaccine hasn’t influenced these behaviors in women.

Protecting Your Kids

The HPV vaccine is safe, effective, and highly recommended by your doctors. The HPV vaccine is just as important for your kids as vaccines that protect against diseases like mumps and measles.

The vaccine is a series of 3 shots recommended for girls AND boys between the ages of 11 and 12 but can be given anytime between the ages of 9 and 26. However, the earlier they get it, the more likely they are to be protected.

Talk to your doctor about giving your kids the HPV vaccine during back-to-school checkups and sports physicals this year. When cancer is on the line, protecting your kids now is always the best plan.

 

Health Alliance covers HPV vaccinations.

Should You Be Fighting Your Symptoms with Antibiotics?

What Do Your Symptoms Mean?

Have you ever heard people say they’re getting the flu when they have a stomach bug? How about a stuffy nose or sore throat just being allergies?

We try to diagnose ourselves all the time. That’s how sites like WebMD got so popular. And trying to figure out what’s wrong is a good thing, but sometimes it’s really hard to know what our bodies’ symptoms are trying to tell us.

And believe it or not, knowing if you have a bacterial infection, a cold, or the flu can make a big difference.

When you have a bacterial infection, your doctor gives you an antibiotic. Antibiotics only cure infections caused by bacteria, like:

  • Strep throat
  • Staph infection
  • Sinus infections
  • Some pneumonia
  • Some ear infections

Antibiotics can make you or your kids feel better fast when they’re taken for those things. But if you take antibiotics for infections they can’t treat, like ones caused by viruses, bacteria can build up antibiotic resistance.

When you take antibiotics and don’t have an infection from bacteria, it gives the bacteria the chance to learn from the antibiotic, and then it can change to survive and grow, which means next time you really need an antibiotic, it might not work as well. This is bacteria becoming antibiotic resistant.

Some of the illnesses antibiotics can’t cure are:

  • Colds
  • Flu
  • Most coughs and bronchitis
  • Sore throat not caused by strep
  • Runny nose

Unfortunately, a bacterial infection in your lungs or strep throat can have a lot of the same symptoms as the flu. Your doctor can tell whether you have a bacterial or viral infection by doing a quick test, like a throat swab.

If you’re trying to figure out if you need to go to the doctor because you’re not sure if you have more than a common cold, though, this chart can help:

What Your Symptoms Mean

If you’re prescribed an antibiotic, make sure you take it exactly how your doctor told you to. Don’t stop taking it early, even if you feel better. You need to kill all of the bacteria to keep from getting sick again.

If you do have a viral infection, like a cold or the flu, these are things you can try to feel better:

  • Get lots of rest.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Take an over-the-counter pain reliever. Ask your doctor or pharmacist which pain relievers are right for your child’s age and how much you should give him or her.
  • Try over-the-counter cold or cough medicine (check if it’s OK for kids).

And if you’re still not sure, don’t forget that Health Alliance members can call the Anytime Nurse Line 24/7 for help figuring out what you might have and if you should visit the doctor.

Save

Asthma Treatment

Know Your Asthma

What Is Asthma?

Asthma is a long-term disease where your airways become inflamed and narrow, making it harder to breathe. This can cause chest tightness, shortness of breath, and coughing.

It’s affects all ages, but is usually diagnosed in kids. More than 25 million people have it.

Your airways are tubes that carry air in and out of your lungs. When the airways react to an allergen, the muscles around them tighten, which limits the air getting into the lungs.

Cells in the airways can also make more mucus in this situation, which further makes it hard to breathe.

And once this has all happened, it’s easy for things like stress or activity to make it even worse. Asthma’s symptoms are in many ways, a chain reaction.

There is no cure for asthma, but there are great forms of treatment, including meds, nebulizers, and inhalers. These let you prevent and treat attacks right away to prevent a more serious attack, which can require emergency care.

Your Asthma

Everyone’s is a little different. Many things create the recipe, or chain reaction, for your asthma. Your age, triggers, allergens in your environment, weight, overall health, where you live, and which meds you’re taking can all matter.

Common Triggers

  • Acid Reflux
  • Allergies
  • Bad Weather
  • Certain Foods
  • Certain Medicines
  • Cold or Dry Air
  • Exercise
  • Food Additives
  • Fragrances
  • High Humidity
  • Infections from Flu, Cold, or Virus
  • Pets
  • Strong Emotions or Stress

Common Allergens

  • Chemicals
  • Cockroach Allergens
  • Dust Mites
  • Mold
  • Outdoor Air Pollution
  • Smoke from Burning Outdoors
  • Tobacco Smoke

Your allergies especially affect your asthma. Your runny nose, sniffling, and sneezing can actually start that chain reaction. And by treating them, you can actually improve your asthma.

Treatment

Everyone with asthma should have an Asthma Action Plan that they make with their doctor. It’s a personalized plan that has:

  • The kinds of medicine you’ll take
  • When you’ll take it
  • How you’ll manage it long-term
  • How you should handle attacks
  • How you’ll manage your allergies
  • When you should go to your doctor or the ER

Even though each person will have a different set of things that cause their symptoms, asthma medicine categories are the same for everyone.

Combinations and doses vary, but most people with asthma have 2 kinds of meds, a quick-relief one in case of a flare-up and a long-term controller they take daily.

Types of Meds

Medicine Category

What It Does

Examples

Long-Term Control

This is your most important med. When taken daily, these help control symptoms and prevent attacks. Skipping doses raises your risk of attack.
  • Inhaled Corticosteroids
  • Leukotriene Modifiers
  • Long-Acting Beta-Agonists (LABAs)
  • A Combination Inhaler with a Corticosteroid and an LABA

Quick-Relief or Rescue Meds

Take these as needed to quickly treat an attack and to prevent attacks from exercise. If you’re using these more than 2x a week, tell your doctor. Short-Acting Beta-Agonists:
  • Albuterol (Proventil, Ventolin)
  • Metaproterenol (Alupent, Metaprel)
  • Pirbuterol (Maxair)
  • Bitolterol (Tornalate)
  • Levalbuterol (Xopenex)

Oral Steroids:

  • Prednisone
  • Prednisolone
  • Methylprednisolone

Allergy-Induced Asthma

Take these daily or as needed to control allergies, like pollen, mold, grass, etc.
  • Allergy Shots (Immunotherapy)
  • Omalizumab (Xolair)

Info via National Institutes of Health (NIH)

Your Action Plan

Make sure you have the answers to these important questions in your action plan:

  • What are the names of my medicines?
  • What does each one do?
  • What are their side effects?
  • What can I do to decrease their side effects?
  • Will they work with other drugs, vitamins, food, and drinks?
  • How much is a dose of each?
  • When is the best time to take each? With breakfast, before bed, or with symptoms?
  • How long do I have to take them?

Things You Can Do

You should also work with your doctor or our disease management program to make sure you know how to use your inhaler and flow meter.

Keeping track of your triggers and taking care of yourself can also help: