Health Updates 23 April 2012

  • Bedbugs can infest your office, too: “Add bedbugs to your list of potential occupational health hazards.  A new report reveals nearly half of all the employees of a US government office in Tennessee were bitten by the blood-thirsty invaders while at work.  A bedbug-detecting German shepherd confirmed the infestation at an unidentified building in Clarksville, Tenn., last September, and investigators concluded that at least 35 workers had suffered bites.  Although one woman had bite marks over all her body, the bugs didn’t cause serious health problems, according to the US centers for Disease Control and Prevention report.  Bedbugs can easily expand their territory beyond bedrooms, said Michael Potter, professor of entomology at the University of Kentucky in Lexington.  ‘They start in homes and beds, and as people move about, they get transported into office buildings, schools, libraries, movie theaters, retail stores, you name it’….A 2011 survey of US pest control companies found that 38 percent had responded to infestations at office buildings, up from 17 percent the year before.  Treatment at schools and day-care centers rose to 36 percent from 10 percent, and visits to hospitals jumped from 12 percent of their jobs to almost one-third.  Bedbugs bite people, often at night, and become engorged with their blood.  The bites cause welts, itching and swelling.  However, bedbugs do not carry disease like some other insects.” (HealthDay)
  • Air pollution sickens seniors: “Both short-term and long-term exposure to fine-particle air pollution can lead to increased hospitalizations among older individuals, a prediction model analysis found.” Long-term exposure saw the highest increases for  hospitalizations for all conditions; short-term exposure saw increased hospitalizations among the elderly for causes including pneumonia, stroke, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.  “For all causes in areas with high levels of pollution, women were more commonly hospitalized, accounting for 56% of admissions for respiratory conditions, 55% of admissions for cardiovascular disease, 59% for strokes, and 57% for diabetes….Numerous potential mechanisms could contribute to health problems in older people, including direct effects on tissues of the lung and heart, and indirect effects through inflammation and oxidative stress, the authors suggested.  In addition, they noted that recent studies have suggested that mice prone to atherosclerosis developed worse and more unstable plaque when exposed to airborne particulate matter.”  (Nancy Walsh, MedPage Today)
  • Talking to yourself could have mental benefits: “People who talk to themselves while searching for specific objects may be able to find them faster, researchers say.  Previous studies have suggested that when children talk to themselves it helps guide their behavior.  For example, kids may talk to themselves through tying their shoes to help remember how it’s done.  The authors of the new study set out to determine if the same was true for adults….In the experiment, adult participants were shown 20 pictures of different objects and asked to find one of them (for example, a jar of peanut butter on a supermarket shelf,or a stick of butter in the refrigerator).  In some tests, they saw only a text label informing them of what they had to find.  In other tests, the participants were told to locate the object again.  This time, however, they were instructed to say the name of the object to themselves.  They study revealed that by talking to themselves, people found the object more quickly….The study authors concluded in their report, however, that ‘although the present results provide evidence that self-directed speech affects some aspect of the visual search process that is specific to the target category, there is no evidence at present that self-directed speech affected the efficiency of locating the target.” (
  • Tick season starting early this year: “Tick season has started earlier than normal due to the mild winter, which means hikers, gardeners and others who love the outdoors should take precautions to prevent becoming a meal for ticks, an expert says.  People also should keep alert for symptoms of tick-borne diseases….Lyme disease and anaplasmosis both are caused by bacteria carried by ticks, while babesiosis is a parasite that infects red blood cells.  But there are a number of things people can do to protect themselves from ticks. ‘The first thing is just tick avoidance — staying out of areas where ticks are going to be present: tall grass, shrubs, leaf litter….Also use insect repellent, such as DEET‘…”.  Some other tips: “1). keep grass short in yards and don’t go into overgrown areas; 2). wear long clothing to prevent ticks from accessing your skin; 3). after spreading time outdoors, thoroughly check yourself, your children and your pets for ticks; 4). stay on trails when you hike — if you leave the path, wear long pants tucked into your socks; 5). if you find ticks, remove them immediately.  Pinch near its mouth and put it out slowly in a continuous motion.  Don’t twist the tick because doing so may leave mouth parts embedded in the skin.  Fever, headache and muscle pain can be signs of a tick-borne  illness.  A hallmark of Lyme disease is a bull’s-eye-patterned rash.” (MedlinePlus)

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