Flu basics

Flu basics

  • Flu activity most commonly peaks in the US in January or February.
  • CDC recommends vaccinations for the vast majority of people ages 6 months and older. For timely protection, people should try to be immunized as soon as the vaccine becomes available in their community, ideally by October.
  • That’s especially important for those most vulnerable to flu complications, which includes:
    • Children younger than 5 years
    • Adults over 50
    • People with chronic health problems and those with weakened immune systems
    • Pregnant women and those who may become pregnant during flu season
    • Residents of nursing homes
    • American Indians and Alaska natives
    • People who are morbidly obese (defined as having a body mass index, or BMI, of 40 or more)
  • Those who live with or care for someone at high risk of flu complications—including parents of babies too young to be vaccinated.
  • Children aged 6 months through 8 years who are receiving influenza vaccine for the first time, or who have received less than two doses since July 2010, will require two doses of vaccine administered ≥4 weeks apart.

Who should hold off on getting the flu shot?

  • Some people shouldn’t get a flu shot before talking with their doctors, however. This includes people who have had a severe reaction to a past flu vaccine or have a history of Guillain-Barré syndrome. People with egg allergies can usually get a flu shot, but they may want to ask their doctor if a newer egg-free vaccine is best for them.
  • People who are ill should delay getting a flu shot until they are healthy, according to CDC.

Trivalent vs. Quadrivalent Vaccine

  • Most of the 2013-2014 vaccine supply will protect against three different strains of influenza as usual, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But some vaccines will guard against four flu strains. These “quadrivalent” vaccines may offer broader protection, depending on the flu strains that dominate this year.
  • Other than age or other health indications, CDC notes that it does not recommend one vaccine over another. It is suggested that people should not put off getting the traditional trivalent vaccine shot if a quadrivalent type isn’t available in their area.
  • The traditional trivalent vaccines will protect against two A viruses and one B virus: specifically, an H1N1-type virus, an H3N2 virus and a virus similar to a strain that occurred during the 2012-2013 season .  The newer quadrivalent vaccine will add protection to an additional B virus strain.
  • There are 13 formulations of influenza vaccine available this season, including one quadrivalent nasal vaccine (brand name FluMist). It’s intended for healthy people ages 2 to 49, excluding pregnant women.

Need health insurance?

health insuranceImagine shopping for health insurance the way you shop for clothes at the mall. You could see your choices, get answers to your questions, and select the health plan that fits you and your budget best.

That’s what you’ll get when you shop for health insurance on an exchange.

Established through the Affordable Care Act, exchanges are state-based* marketplaces designed to make it easier for people to purchase health insurance. Small employers will be able to go through exchanges to offer insurance to their employees as well.

Simplifying your choice

When health care reform takes full effect in January 2014, most people will be required to carry health insurance. That means if you don’t currently have health coverage, you’ll have to get it or risk being fined.

Exchanges bring together information about all of your health insurance options in one online location. They allow you to compare your choices, learn if you’re eligible for public health insurance programs or tax credits that will make coverage more affordable, and join the plan of your choosing.

You can enroll in an exchange starting in October 2013.

How they can help

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, exchanges will perform a number of valuable functions. For instance, they will:

  • Certify that a health plan provides key benefits, follows established limits concerning deductibles and co-pays, and meets other requirements.
  • Provide information on all of the plans offered in a standardized format.
  • Assign ratings to each plan based on quality and price.
  • Operate a website and toll-free phone number where you can get information on the plans and purchase them if you qualify.

A good buy

Having health insurance is a tremendous benefit. But finding the right plan takes time. Exchanges will help make the process easier. And that may make good health easier to achieve and maintain.

You can learn more about exchanges and health care reform at www.healthcare.gov or visit yakimamemorial.org/patients-and-visitors-insurance-exchange-information.asp.

* Some states have elected not to set up an exchange. In those states, the federal government will operate the exchange.

4 food safety threats at the office—and how to avoid them

food safeFoodborne illnesses can spread at work just as they spread at home. But there’s plenty you can do to avoid them.

Most of us spend at least a little time eating while on the job. But many of us don’t give enough thought to the safety of the foods we eat at the office.

“I think most people take food safety for granted,” says Ximena Jimenez, RDN, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

 

That’s particularly easy to do at work, where much more than food can be on your plate and food safety is unlikely to get the same level of attention you might give it at home.

Whether you brown bag it, hit the drive-thru then eat at your desk, or simply help yourself to items in the office fridge, there may be dangers lurking. Here are four workplace food safety threats—and what you can do about them.

 

1. Food that isn’t cool. The bacteria that cause many of these illnesses thrive in temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees—an area known as the danger zone. To slow their growth, it’s important to keep perishable foods—such as leftovers, sandwiches, dairy products, meats, cut fruits and vegetables and opened condiments—below 40 degrees.

To stay safe:

  • Refrigerate perishable foods you bring from home as soon as you get to work. If you don’t have a refrigerator at the office, keep your food in an insulated lunch bag with a freezer pack.
  • Don’t let leftovers go unchilled for more than two hours. So, for example, if you have lunch delivered to your desk or you bring in takeout, eat it as soon as possible. Once you’re done eating, re-refrigerate.
  • Place a thermometer in your office refrigerator and check it periodically to make sure it stays below 40 degrees.

 

2. Food that’s outlived its shelf life. It doesn’t take long for good food to go bad. So if a food doesn’t seem right to you, get rid of it. Keep in mind, though, food can be contaminated without you knowing.

“Germs and bacteria may not be seen,” says Jimenez. “They may not even be smelled.”

To stay safe:

  • Throw away foods that are past their expiration dates.
  • As a general rule, don’t keep leftovers for more than four days.
  • Label leftovers you place in the refrigerator with today’s date. That makes it easier to know when it’s time to throw something away.

 

3. Dirty hands. Throughout your workday, you touch things that contain germs—your phone, your keyboard, even the hands of others. Those germs can spread to your mouth when you eat something.

To stay safe:

  • Always wash your hands before eating. “It’s the easiest way to prevent the spread of germs,” Jimenez says. Use warm water and soap and scrub well for 20 seconds. Then, once you rinse, dry your hands with paper towel or a clean towel. “That’s very important,” says Jimenez. “If you use a dirty towel, why wash your hands?”
  • Keep hand sanitizer at your desk. Use it when soap and water aren’t available.

 

4. Germ-covered surfaces. Refrigerators, microwave ovens and countertops can become breeding grounds for germs.

To stay safe:

  • Cover food when reheating it to prevent microwave splatter. (And be aware, reheated food should reach a temperature of 165 degrees. Use a food thermometer to check.)
  • Clean up spills and messes right away. Use warm, soapy water and a clean sponge, then rinse. (Sponges can get very germy, so replace them often.)
  • Set a cleaning schedule with your coworkers. At least once a week, toss food that isn’t safe to eat. At least once a month, clean the refrigerator and microwave with a solution of equal parts water and vinegar—inside and out. And remember, with all of the people in and out of the refrigerator, handles can become especially dirty. You may want to clean them even more often.
  • If you carry lunch in a reusable bag, clean it often.

 

Remember, food safety at work is everyone’s job.

 

Fathers & Pregnancy

dad babyWe know how important fathers are when the baby comes, but it’s becoming increasingly clear how important they are during pregnancy as well.

Dads can impact the health and well-being of their kids by supporting mom emotionally during pregnancy (which reduces her stress) and encouraging healthy pregnancy behaviors. Guys are especially good at helping moms-to-be learn to blow off the small stuff and not to believe everything they read on the internet.

When a father is involved, it reduces maternal health risk and increases rates of breast feeding. And of course, by being a source of support for mom, his involvement enhances her mothering experience.

This paternal involvement doesn’t just boost mom-to-be’s support system, it also prepares dad to be an active part of the parenting team. Fathers who are involved with the pregnancy—buying things for baby, going with mom to prenatal check-ups, attending classes—were more likely to stay  involved once the baby arrived.

But dads have a different timeline than moms for connecting with the pregnancy. While mom is off and running once the pregnancy test turns positive, for dad it starts later, often when he sees the first ultrasound, or hears the heartbeat for the first time. Although moms can mistake this lagging behind as a sign that he’s not as excited about the baby, he’s really just on a different timetable. He hasn’t gotten to connect with the baby through morning sickness, heartburn or bladder kicks, so the baby is less a physical reality to dads, making it harder to really feel like there’s going to be a baby in a few months.

HOW MOM-TO-BE CAN ENCOURAGE DAD’S INVOLVEMENT:

  • Schedule prenatal appointments and classes so that he can be there too.
  • Involve him when getting their home ready for baby.
  • Make staying active during pregnancy a team effort.
  • Take turns writing notes to their future child.
  • Who doesn’t like a party? Have your baby shower be for both of you and invite other guys.

Your Emergency Supply Kit – What you should have in it

emergency supplyDo you know what should be in a basic emergency supply kit?

A basic emergency supply kit could include the following recommended items:

  • Water, one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
  • Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
  • Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Dust mask to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  • Manual can opener for food
  • Local maps
  • Cell phone with chargers, inverter or solar charger

For more information, visit http://www.ready.gov/basic-disaster-supplies-kit

Image Gently, Image Wisely: Nationwide campaign to optimize the use of medical radiation exposure

Guest:  Dr. Feldmann—Memorial’s Valley Imaging

Date: September 24, 2013

 

  • Image Gently:  “To ensure that every imaging study is thoughtful, appropriate and indicated for each and every child.” The “Image Gently” campaign developed and widely embraced a few years ago successfully lowered dose but at the expense image quality
  • Image Wisely:  Charter members of Image Wisely are American College of Radiology (ACR), Radiological Society of North America (RSNA), American Society of Radiologic Technologists (ASRT), and American Associates of Physicists in Medicine (AAPM)
  • Approximately 60 million CT scans are performed in the US per year. It is a test that allows physicians to make timely & accurate diagnoses that save lives.
  • We are all exposed to natural background radiation primarily from cosmic radiation & radon gas of 3 – 5 mSv/year.
  • A round trip flight from Seattle to NY is equivalent to one chest x-ray. One CT scan is equivalent to 1 to 3 years of natural background radiation.
  • CT scans account for half of all medical radiation exposure – although the radiation exposure risks are very low, physicians, hospitals, & engineers are continually striving to lower radiation dose and risk
  • SafeCT is FDA certified & approved. It cuts radiation dose in half and preserves image quality.
  • Safe CT was developed by a group of math PhD’s in Israel, it employs complex mathematical iterative algorithms that suppress noise. The noise is analogous to radio background static.
  • Memorial implemented SafeCT in August for all CT scanners. This technology is embraced & utilized at the Mayo Clinic, Mass General Hospital, and many other institutions.

SafeCT Patient Benefits:

  • Reduction of radiation dose by 40%-60%
  • Does not increase costs to patients
  • Any process that reduces radiation dose will increase patient safety
  • Steep reduction in radiation dose while maintaining excellent image quality
  • Provided by Memorial Hospital to improve the quality of CT imaging while adhering to the goals of the nationwide Image Gently and Image Wisely campaigns to lower radiation dose to the patient

 

To learn more visit: memorialsvalleyimaging.org/

To grieve alone is to suffer most…

peaceIn the Talmud can be found these insightful words:

“To grieve alone is to suffer most.”

The Cottage in the Meadow; with the wood, the stone, the carpet, the electricity, the community generosity, and the placement of key figures—all of these elements have come together in such a way that the sum is ever so much greater than its parts. For this is a place where hundreds have now come, from near and from far, to share an experience at the end of life which is so much greater and full of peace and comfort than patients or families could have ever expected.

Just yesterday, a patient’s son said to me, “I never knew this place existed . . . until we needed it. I had no idea how beautiful this experience could be. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

We work so that no one grieves alone.

A thankful Healthy Yakima reader: Read Rob’s Story

apple“Please accept my sincere Thank You for publishing Healthy Yakima.  I’m a recent “convert” to the healthy lifestyle and do not intend to spend any time looking back.  What did it for me was watching the documentary “Hungry for Change” and buying a NutriBullet machine.  I’ve lost 35 pounds (over 5 months) and will turn 50 in a few weeks weighing 138 pounds— my weight in High School.

Yakima needs more positive messages like those contained in Healthy Yakima to reinforce the importance of nutrition & exercise.  Since my conversion to the healthy lifestyle, I am much more aware of the harmful advertisements like the Carl’s Jr. TV ad—this shows a burger that I am guessing is close to 1,000 calories, and full of fat, sodium, and who knows what else . . .

I’ve learned a lot about nutrition over these past 5 months, and believe education & information are key to changing behaviors.  I’m learning to read labels and to understand what I am eating.  Hats off to you for taking the leadership role in creating this publication—there is much work to be done.”

—Rob Tee

Read the inaugural issue of Healthy Yakima here: http://bit.ly/15G36NP