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Medieval skeleton offers clues to history of leprosy

Fri, 01/27/2017 - 08:15

An analysis of a skeleton unearthed from a burial site in the U.K. has revealed clues to the history of infectious disease of leprosy, researchers reported.

The skeleton was unearthed during an excavation of the medieval site of Winchester, England-based St. Mary Magdalen hospital cemetery and chapel. Radiocarbon dating of the skeleton revealed that it was buried sometime during the late 11th or early 12th Century.

Scientific detective work suggested that the remained belonged to a male religious pilgrim who might have caught leprosy during his travels. The analysis also allowed researchers to genotype the disease.

The study also revealed that leprosy-causing bacteria have slightly changed over hundreds of years, probably explaining the decline in the devastating disease after it peaked in medieval Europe and humans gradually developed resistance to it.

However, the 2F strain lineage that was genotyped by the researchers is still linked with some cases in regions like south-central and western Asia. Though the disease continues to occur, it was removed as a public health issue in 2000, which means that it affects less than one case per 10,000 individuals.

Leprosy, which primarily affects the patient’s skin, eyes and nerves, is now totally curable with multidrug therapy, which the World Health Organization (WHO) has been distributing for free since 1995.

Companies: WHOGeneral: HealthRegion: United Kingdom
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Cervical cancer even deadlier to U.S. women than doctors previously thought

Thu, 01/26/2017 - 08:19

The disease of cervical cancer is even deadlier to American women than health experts previously thought, with African-American women being at particularly higher risk, according to a new study.

According to the study, most women get cervical cancer from HPV (human papillomavirus) infection, which is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the United States. As per an estimate by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP), more than 11,000 women in the nation are diagnosed with cervical cancer annually.

Laura Kilpatrick, a cervical cancer survivor, said she was 29 years old and was flying back to her home in Greensboro from her honeymoon when she first realized something went wrong.

Sharing her unpleasant experience, Kilpatrick said, "I was soaked in blood, and a week later, a doctor diagnosed me with cervical caner . I don't think that you can put into words that feeling of what that news is like."

However, there are some ways to avoid the potentially deadly disease, and the Gardasil vaccine is one of them. Doctors recommend boys and girls receive their first three Gardasil shots at age of 11 or 12 years. But, one can receive vaccinate up to age of 26 years.

The alarming findings of the new study were published earlier this week, as January is being observed as the Cervical Cancer Awareness Month.

General: HealthResearch
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FDA grants priority review for Genentech’s Actemra to treat GCA

Wed, 01/25/2017 - 08:50

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has reportedly accepted Genentech’s supplemental biologics license application and has granted priority review for Actemra for the treatment of patients with giant cell arteritis (GCA).
GCA is a chronic and potentially life-threatening autoimmune condition, for which there has been no new treatment in more than five decades.

Dr. Sandra Horning, chief medical officer and head of the global product development division at Genentech, said that the positive outcome demonstrated the company’s commitment to helping needy patients.

Announcing the FDA’s decision, Horning said, “This positive outcome in [giant cell arteritis] GCA, a condition for which there have been no new treatments in more than 50 years, demonstrates Genentech’s commitment to helping patients with unmet needs.

The positive outcome is based on the results of the phase 3 GiACTA research of 251 patients that showed Actemra combined with glucocorticoid led to sustained remission of GCA as compared with a steroid taper regimen alone.

Horning stressed that they would continue to work closely with the federal agency to bring the investigational medicine to individuals with GCA at the earliest possible.

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Burnt toast, roasted potatoes can cause cancer: FSA

Tue, 01/24/2017 - 06:06

The U.K. Food Standards Agency (FSA) has launched a campaign to warn people about increased risk of cancer linked to eating burnt toast, over-roasted potatoes or other starchy foods cooked at high temperatures.

The campaign, launched on Monday, is based on longstanding evidence from various animal studies conducted in the past. Though it is yet to be proved in human studies, many health experts have warned that overcooked starchy foods, such as over-roasted potatoes, can increase risk of cancer due to high levels of a compound called acrylamide.

The acrylamide compound makes foods like bread and potatoes turn golden in color when the foods is baked, fried toasted or roasted. Formed from simple sugars like glucose, acrylamide reacts with an amino acid called asparagine, when starchy foods are cooked at temperatures higher than 120 degrees Celsius. It may be noted here that amino acid asparagine is found naturally in such starchy foods.

If you cook a starchy cooked for too long at high temperatures, these foods simply turn from golden to brown and finally black in color. In the process, they produce higher-than-accepted levels of acrylamide, which increases the risk of cancer.

Steve Wearne, the director of policy at the FSA, said in a statement, “Our research indicates that the majority of people are not aware that acrylamide exists, or that they might be able to reduce their personal intake.”

The Food Standards Agency’s newly launched “Go for Gold” campaign urges people to cook their foods only until gold, and not to let food to turn darker in color. The main aim of the campaign is to raise awareness among the public.

Companies: FSAGeneral: HealthRegion: United Kingdom
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Trump injects further uncertainty into unsettled insurance landscape

Mon, 01/23/2017 - 09:06

U. S. President Donald Trump's executive order pertaining to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which he signed just hours after being sworn into office, injected further uncertainty into the nation's already fragile health insurance market.

Through his first executive order, Trump instructed federal agencies to grant relief to ACA-affected constituencies. It was a clear signal that Trump's administration wants to move swiftly to unwind the maximum possible elements of ACA on its own even before the Republican-led Congress acts to repeal the 2010 health insurance law.

Robert Laszewski, the president of a consulting firm called Health Policy & Strategy Associates, called Trump's executive order a "bomb" on the nation's already frail insurance market.

Speaking on the topic, Laszewski said, "Instead of sending a signal that there's going to be an orderly transition, they've sent a signal that it's going to be a disorderly transition. How does the Trump administration think this is not going to make the situation worse?"

Over the past many years, ACA has changed how 20 million people in the nation get health coverage and what type of benefits health insurers must offer to their customers. But, Trumps has been a vocal opponent of the law. During his election campaign last year, he repeatedly vowed to repeal the law if he would be elected to power.

Experts say Trump's executive order, coupled with his recent comments about moving quickly to repeal and replace the ACA, will pressurize Republican lawmakers to act faster than they might have originally planned.

General: HealthPeople: Donald Trump
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Fla. bill aims to make it easier for doctors to order marijuana treatment for patients

Sun, 01/22/2017 - 05:29

A Florida senator recently released the state legislature’s first attempt to conduct a constitutional amendment that legalized sale and use of medical marijuana.
Sen. Rob Bradley’s proposal (SB 406) calls for an increasing number of marijuana licenses to make it easier for physicians to order the marijuana treatment for patients in need.

The measure surfaced days after state health officials published proposed regulations to implement the constitutional amendment that enjoyed more than 71 per cent endorsement from state voters in November last year.

Under Bradley’s proposal, Florida could get another twenty marijuana operators or dispensing organizations once the number of registered patients hits 500,000. Currently, the state has only 7 licensed marijuana dispensing organizations.

Ben Pollara, who managed the campaign of the political committee that supported Amendment 2 in November, welcomed the proposal, calling it a “good start” towards implementing the approved constitutional amendment.

Commenting on the proposal, Pollara said, “It’s a good start toward implementing both the letter and the spirit of the constitutional amendment. I appreciate the fact that Sen. Bradley's bill actually respects that we're implementing a constitutional amendment here.”

Many states, including Michigan Maine, Florida and California, have legalized medical marijuana. In California, where medical marijuana revolution started in 1996, more than 720,000 individuals out of 39 million have been issued medical marijuana cards.

General: HealthRegion: Florida
Categories: US News

California reports first child death from flu

Sat, 01/21/2017 - 08:00

California public health officials on Friday reported the first death of a child in this year’s flu season, and warned that it could be a much more relentless flu season than that of last year’s.

Dr. Karen Smith, the chief of the California Public Health Department (CPHD), said in a statement that this year’s flu season has already claimed a total of 14 lives of people under the age of 65. The figure is notably larger than three deaths recorded by the same time in 2015.

Children’s Hospital Los Angeles’ Dr. Michael Neely warned that the number of flu-related illnesses and deaths could continue to soar for the next few weeks.

Referring to the child’s death, CPHD said, “This is a tragic reminder that the flu is a serious illness for people of all ages and kills thousands of Americans each year … If it keeps going up at this rate and stays up then we will see a lot more cases this year.”

The rate of hospitalization for flu-related illnesses in the state is at its highest level in more than a decade, excluding 2009’s H1N1 epidemic that caused awfully widespread illnesses. The Golden State has thus far seen 83 flu-related outbreaks, nearly twice as many as in a typical year.

Flu is a common viral infection but it can be deadly in high-risk groups, such as children and the elderly. Common symptoms include fever, chills, cough, runny nose, muscle aches, headache and fatigue.

General: HealthRegion: California
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Many beauty companies use harmful ingredients & then support cancer research: Paltrow

Fri, 01/20/2017 - 08:59

A number of American manufacturers of beauty products use harmful ingredients and then set up charities to support research in the field of breast, cervical and ovarian cancers, actress Gwyneth Paltrow alleged in her new wellness book.

In her “Goop Clean Beauty,” Paltrow claims to have offered the ultimate guide to gain and maintain beauty. It is totally different from ridiculous beauty procedures (vaginal steaming etc) that the actress suggested in the past.

Appearing genuinely passionate about transforming the massive cosmetics industry for the better, Paltrow claimed that she and her Goop team introduced the new book to help people to look and feel beautiful.

In the foreword, Paltrow said, “We find it ironic that many of the U.S.'s biggest beauty companies use ingredients that are known to be harmful and then set up foundations and charities to support breast, cervical and ovarian cancer research.”

Goop’s editors suggest that the best way to jump-start the journey to optimal health s to detox, and it is possible by significantly easing the load by consuming the right food. Any food items that can cause inflammation should be removed form diet.

The new wellness book teaches a tough lesson. It stresses that it is almost impossible to escape toxins, but one can learn to spot it and get rid of it using the right approach.

General: HealthPeople: Gwyneth Paltrow
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Zoo Miami’s matriarch gorilla Josephine dies

Thu, 01/19/2017 - 08:12

Zoo Miami's matriarch gorilla named Josephine was euthanized Wednesday morning as she was suffering for several untreatable health issues, zoo authorities have confirmed.

Announcing the nearly 50-year-old great ape's death, zoo authorities write on social media that they decided to euthanize Josephine as her several health issues had slowly incapacitated her and couldn't be treated with positive results because of her advanced age.

In a fresh post on Twitter, the zoo wrote, "With very heavy hearts we announce the loss of our matriarch gorilla, Josephine."

Josephine, who was grandmother to the internet-sensation Harambe, took birth in the wild in March 1967 and had been brought to Zoo Miami in March 1983.

At the zoo, she gave birth to her first offspring, a male gorilla named Moja, in the year of 1984. Moja was the first gorilla to born at the zoo.

Moja was later moved to Texas-based Gladys Porter Zoo, where he fathered a number of gorillas. Of his sons, Harambe, gained worldwide attention in 2016 when a zookeeper at the Cincinnati Zoo shot him to protect a child that had fallen in his enclosure.

General: HealthRegion: Miami
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Researchers struggling to determine whether marijuana can treat MS symptoms

Wed, 01/18/2017 - 08:12

In a bid to determine whether marijuana can really treat MS symptoms, researchers at Colorado State University’s Integrative Neurophysiology Laboratory are studying individuals with MS who are already using the drug as a treatment.

Though a number of anecdotal reports have claimed that medical marijuana can effectively treat MS symptoms like muscle weakness, anxiety and fatigue, they haven’t been scientifically verified.

Marijuana in known to contain more than one hundred compounds, but Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD) are said to have the most significance for medical purposes.

But, there is currently no information regarding the most effective ratio of THC and CBD and how frequently individuals with MS should use the drug.

Many marijuana advocates argue that little is known about the beneficial effects of the drug because of how the drug is regulated at the federal level. Its classification makes it very tricky for researchers to study it in clinical trials.

As marijuana is on Schedule 1, doctors are not permitted to prescribe it, even in states like Colorado where medical marijuana is legal. In such states doctors can only provide patients with a “permission slip” for medical marijuana that has to be approved by a state agency.

General: HealthResearchRegion: Colorado
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Antibiotic resistance occurs as part of natural evolution process: CDC

Tue, 01/17/2017 - 09:05

Regardless of how effective an antibiotic drug is at killing bacteria, new drugs will be required as bacteria gradually mutate and increasingly grow more resistant to the existing drugs, According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC).

The CDC wrote on its website that antibiotic resistance can be slowed but not stopped because it is a part of a natural evolution process.

The federal agency wrote, “Antibiotic resistance occurs as part of a natural evolution process, it can be significantly slowed but not stopped. New antibiotics will always be needed to keep up with resistant bacteria as well as new diagnostic tests to track the development of resistance.”

Drug-resistant bacterial “superbugs” became a big concern for public health officials after an investigation in the death of a Nevada woman revealed that she had been infected with a bacterial superbug infection that was resistant to all FDA-approved antibiotics.

In other words, there was no antibiotic available in the United States that could treat the women, who was in her 70s, and lived in Reno, Nevada.

Public health experts warned that while cases of superbugs resistant to all antibiotics are currently quite rare, but such deadly cases could become prevalent in the future. Experts have also warned that long hospitals stays and lengthy exposures to different antibiotics can significantly increase the odds of developing a drug-resistant bacterial infection.

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Researchers detect Lyme disease with wearable sensors

Mon, 01/16/2017 - 08:58

A news research conducted by a tem of experts from Stanford University showed that smart watches along with some other personal biosensor devices may help detect the Lyme disease, which is carried by infected ticks.

During the two-year study, the researchers looked at five dozen individuals, who were asked to wear several devices. The wearable devices gathered a broad-ranging amount of information about the participating individuals, including their heart rates, blood oxygen levels and skin temperature.

Sharing the findings of their study, the researchers reported, “[The devices] measure heart rate, blood oxygen, skin temperature, sleep, calories expended, exercise and even exposure to radiation. That’s paired with occasional laboratory tests to measure blood chemistry and some genetic information.”

Dr. Michael Snyder, chair of Genetics at Stanford University who also participated in the study, explained that his wearable biosensors enabled him to notice an elevated heart rate and decreased oxygen that alarmed him. Later, he was plagued with fever that went on for many days.

Caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, the tick-borne Lyme disease is characterized by a rash that is often in a bull's-eye pattern and symptoms like fever, chills, sweats and muscle aches.

The new study was reported by the Science Daily, an American website that publishes news and articles on a range of topics, including global warming, exoplanets, stem cells, bird flu, autism, nanotechnology and evolution.

General: HealthResearch
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U.S. flu activity continues to grow

Sat, 01/14/2017 - 08:59

As flu activity continues to grow across the United States, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) has once again recommended people to get their flu shots before it’s too late.

In its latest update, CDC warned that all ten of its regions are already above their baseline percentages of clinic visits for flulike illness, and the nation as a whole has been above its baseline for the marker for the fourth week in a row.

The federal agency added that flu activity has not yet peaked as it is expected to keep climbing over the coming weeks.

Lynnette Brammer, an epidemiologist with CDC, said, “Anyone who has not gotten vaccinated yet this season should get vaccinated now. Even though activity is elevated, we are probably not at peak yet. Even if we were at peak, you've still got half the season to go.”

Brammer added that the Northwest has been hit harder by flu infections, and the activity could have peaked in this region, but it is still difficult to say as more cases of flu infections could surface in coming weeks.

The dominant strain right now is H3N2, which often signals a severe season that affects the oldest and youngest people the hardest. Symptoms include soar throat, runny nose, fever, chills, cough, headache and fatigue.

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Palm oil-containing Nutella and other products are safe: Ferrero

Fri, 01/13/2017 - 09:32

Ferrero U.S.A. Inc, the American arm of Italian manufacturer of branded chocolate and confectionery products, has defended the use of palm oil in its products like Nutella, arguing that they are totally safe for human consumption.

Derived from palm plants’ fruits and kernels, palm oil is used in a range of food products as it makes food easy to spread. It is consumed across the globe in convenience foods like chips, snacks and frozen foods.

But, some studied suggested that it can cause health hazards. Various contaminants found in palm oil can prove a health hazard for all age groups, prompting authorities to express particular concern for infants and toddlers.

In response the concerns, Ferrero’s general counsel Beth M. Kotran said, “Ferrero wants to assure its consumers that Nutella and other Ferrero products that contain palm oil are safe.”

In a campaign launched in October last year, the company explained that palm oil in Nutell and other products is heated only to safe temperatures that don’t result in contaminants.

Many other foods sold and consumed in the U.S., such as Cheerios, Nutri-Grain, Pop Tarts, Kit Kat candy bars, Ben & Jerry’s ice creams, and some of branded foods from Target’s Archer Farms, also contain palm oil.

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IVG can pose significant ethical dilemmas: researchers warn

Thu, 01/12/2017 - 07:56

While fertility experts and many couples are excited about a new technique that could allow doctors to create sperm and egg cells in a lab dish, some are arguing that it will pose significant ethical dilemmas.

The controversial technique, referred to as "in vitro gametogenesis (IVG)," can certainly help a lot in treating infertility, but it could also result in "embryo farming" and a craze for having "designer" babies.

Dr. Eli Adashi, a professor at Providence, Rhode Island-based Brown University' said IVG has already showed IVG can successfully be performed among mice. However, it is yet to be approved for use among humans to treat infertility.

Study authors wrote, "With science and medicine hurtling forward at breakneck speed, the rapid transformation of reproductive and regenerative medicine may surprise us. Before the inevitable, society will be well advised to strike and maintain a vigorous public conversation on the ethical challenges of IVG."

IVG could lead to a number of ethical problems. For instance, clinics might create dozens of eggs or embryos for their clients to choose from, and couples might create a huge number of embryos in order to select the best traits for their child. It would essentially devalue human life.

The theoretical implications of IVG were detailed in a paper published Wednesday (Jan. 11) in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

General: HealthResearchRegion: New England
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Researchers find no link between joint pain and weather

Wed, 01/11/2017 - 08:59

People often blame weather for symptoms associated with back pain or achy joints, but a new study has suggested that weather plays no part in symptoms associated such aches.

The new study, conducted by the George Institute for Global Health, refuted the widely established thought that changes in the weather, including temperature, pressure of air and humidity, trigger episodes of back pain and arthritis.

Prof. Chris Maher, who led the study, said that the belief that cold weather triggers episodes of back pain and arthritis is not based on facts.

Explaining his point of view, Maher said, “But our research suggests this belief may be based on the fact that people recall events that confirm their pre-existing views. Humans … take note of pain on the days when it’s cold and rainy outside, but discount the days when they have symptoms but the weather is mild and sunny.”

The researchers studied the cases of nearly 1000 individuals with lower back pain and 350 with knee pain. They compared weather conditions at the time the patients first noticed pain with the weather a week and a month before the start of pain as a control measure.

Results of the study, which was conducted across Australia with average daily temperatures ranging from 5.4 degree Celsius to 32.8 degree Celsius, showed no link between back or knee pain and weather conditions.

General: HealthResearchRegion: Australia
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Flu activity on the rise across the nation: CDC

Tue, 01/10/2017 - 08:39

Seasonal flu activity is on the rise across the United States, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) has confirmed hat at least 10 states have already reported high levels of the contagious virus.

Alabama, Carolina, New York, Oklahoma, Georgia, Louisiana, Missouri and Utah are among the states with high flu activity. The strength of flu activity is typically measured on the basis of the total number of flu-related clinic visits.

Five states, viz. Arkansas, California, Michigan, Tennessee and Washington, have reported minimal influenza-like illness activity. Overall, 9 regions have reported flu activity at or above their region-specific baseline levels.

Dr. William Schaffner, a communicable disease expert with Vanderbilt University Medical Center, “Flu varies, it’s fickle sometimes it starts earlier sometimes it’s later. It should peak sometime in February and then it will likely abate through March.”

The most prevalent strain of influenza in the United States is A (H3), and public health experts continue to encourage people to get a flu shot to avoid it.

Characterized by symptoms like fever, chills, runny nose, congestion, headache and fatigue; flu/influenza particularly attacks the victim’s lungs, nose and throat. Children, older people and pregnant women and other individuals with weak immune systems are more prone to contract the contagious virus.

Companies: CDCGeneral: HealthRegion: New York
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Eric Trump’s foundation reportedly raised over $16M for children’s hospital

Mon, 01/09/2017 - 08:53

President-elect Donald Trump’s son Eric Trump helped raise more than $16 million for Memphis, Tennessee-based St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital over the last decade, N.Y. Times reported.

According to the report, 33-year-old Trump raised $16.3 million through the Eric Trump Foundation for the hospital; and Richard C. Shadyac Jr., the president of the hospital’s fundraising organization, praised Trump for his support in a letter written dated Dec. 30.

However, he will no longer use his namesake foundation to raise funds for any missions because of the perception that any such donations could be tied to access to his president-elect father. He called the pronouncement a “heartbreaking” decision.

When asked for a comment, he said, “It’s truly one of the most heartbreaking things I’ve ever had to do … We raised so much money for St. Jude. The second somebody is elected into public office, you’re no longer given the benefit of the doubt no matter how good your track record was, no matter how much you’ve done.”

St. Jude’s 328,000 square feet Kay Research Care Center in Tennessee includes the Eric Trump Foundation Surgery and Intensive Care Unit (ICU) Center.

Even as the junior Trump has declared his decision to stop raising funds for his namesake foundation, he stressed that that he would continue to be a vocal advocate for the ongoing battle against pediatric cancer and St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital’s mission.

General: HealthPeople: Donald Trump
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Zika isn’t as deadly as many believe: expert says

Sun, 01/08/2017 - 07:22

The devastating Zika epidemic gained global attention in the last couple of years, but it in most cases it is actually a mild illness symptoms similar to that of common cold.

Participating in the First Friday talk held at The Cedars, Dr. Jonathan Frye, a renowned ecologist and natural science professor at Mac College, gave a presentation titled “The Epidemic Spread of the Zika Virus,” and spoke about various dangers, misnomers and myths about the virus.

Frye said Zika might have reached epidemic levels, but it isn’t typically deadly. Symptoms are hardly ever severe enough to require hospitalization, and Zika-related deaths are very rare. It is related to diseases like yellow fever, dengue and West Nile.

Speaking on the topic, he added, “There’s this whole family of diseases caused by a family of viruses. They share some common features, but have slight differences in how they work. It was not an epidemic at first, because there were so few cases.”

Zika virus was named after Uganda’s Zika forest, where it was first detected among monkeys in the late 1940s. The first case of Zika illness in humans was reported in 1952 in the African country of Nigeria.

Symptoms of Zika infection include fever, rash, pain in joints, muscle pain, red eyes, headache and fatigue, which usually last a few days to more than a week.

General: HealthResearch
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Doctors support NIH’s new peanut-allergy guidelines

Sat, 01/07/2017 - 09:18

Bloomington-Normal area doctors have supported the National Institutes of Health’s new guidelines inclusion of peanuts in baby foods.

The NIH advised in its revised guidelines that children should be exposed to peanut-containing foods starting the age of 6 months as it would help build protection against scary peanut allergies. Some babies can be exposed to peanut-containing foods as early as 4 months of age.

The new guidelines represent a drastic change in opinion as many pediatricians had previously been advising parents to avoid feeding their babies with foods containing peanuts until age 3.

Dr. Andrea Kane, a pediatrician at Advocate Children’s Medical Group in Bloomington, welcomed the new guidelines, saying she was very excited because the new guidelines confirmed what she had been doing for the last 1½ year.

Dr. Robert Kocur, an allergist/immunologist at OSF Medical Group-College Avenue in Bloomington, said, “I think, for the most part, the recommendations are good. It potentially represents a very hopeful thing for all of us to reduce the incidence of allergies.”

The new guidelines are based on the 2015 NIH-funded study, which found that 2 per cent of children in the United States who ate peanuts became allergic but 14 per cent of those who avoided peanuts become suffered the same health issue.

General: HealthRegion: Bloomington
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