Health Updates 27 February 2012

  • Flu season is just starting, but appears to be mild: “The winter flu season has finally begun, federal health officials announced on Friday, making this the latest start to the season in 24 years – and thus far it is one of the mildest.  The unusually warm winter this year ‘might play a role,’ said Dr. Joseph Bresee, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Flu viruses survive longer on surfaces in cold, dry weather, and cold weather makes people huddle indoors, where they are more likely to transmit the disease.  Far fewer Americans than usual have been hospitalized with flu, and there have been only 3 confirmed flu deaths among children thus far this season, compared with 122 last season….The CDC declares a flu season officially started after three straight weeks in which more than 10 percent of all respiratory specimens reported to it contain an influenza virus.” (NY Times)
  • Active video games no fix for kids’ fitness: “Giving kids a Nintendo Wii may not be the answer to childhood obesity, according to a trial that found no boost in physical activity after children received the console with active games….’Although children can do moderate or vigorous activity with active video games in laboratory settings, they either did not elect to play the provided games at that level of intensity, or compensated for the increased intensity by being less active at other times in the day’, the group concluded….’.”  And taking the consoles home didn’t help, either.  “‘These results provide no reason to believe that simply acquiring an active video game under naturalistic circumstances provides a public health benefit to children,’ the researchers concluded.” (Crystal Phend, MedPage Today)
  • Abdominal strains common in pro baseball players: “More major league baseball players are being sidelined with abdominal muscle strains, according to a new study that suggests there may be too much focus on building strength and not enough on stretching and flexibility in the pros.  The injuries, known as side strains, typically occur with twisting or pivoting – such as during a pitcher’s throwing motion or a batter’s swing – and are also common in tennis and golf.  ‘Part of this is just, you’re doing something that’s not a natural motion … so the body takes a beating,’ said Dr. Joshua Dines, from the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, who worked on the study.  If you keep doing those motions over and over, he said, your body is going to break down at some point.  ‘I think there’s also a balance between working out and also staying limber – a lot of this is dependent on flexibility,’ Dines told Reuters Health‘It’s great to work out, great to do your core stuff.  But make sure you stretch’.” (MedlinePlus)
  • Hospitals ranked for emergency medicine quality: “Patients admitted to the top hospitals for emergency medicine in the United States have a nearly 42 percent lower death rate than those admitted to other hospitals in the nation, according to a new report.  If all hospitals performed at the same level as the top-ranked hospitals, nearly 171,000 more people in the United States might have survived their emergency hospitalization between 2008 and 2010, according to HealthGrades, an independent provider of consumer information about doctors and hospitals….’It is imperative that anyone experiencing a medical emergency go directly to the closest hospital, especially in the event of a heart attack or stroke,’ report author Dr. Arshad Rahim, director of accelerated clinical excellence at HealthGrades, said in a company news release. ‘That said, our study findings show the care you receive once admitted to the hospital can also make the difference between life and death….We encourage all patients to educate themselves about the quality of emergency medical providers in their area and to choose a top-performing hospital whenever there is a choice’.” (HealthDay)

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