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Health Capsules: July 24

CDC issues ‘crypto’ warning for swimmers

The CDC recently issued a national advisory about “crypto,” a parasite that can live in chlorinated pools and other environments.

As the summer heat sets in and more Americans head to pools and lakes to cool off, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued an advisory about “crypto,” a fecal parasite that can be transmitted via swimming in infected waters.

The parasite’s full name is cryptosporidium, and infections have been on the rise in recent years. It causes an illness called cryptosporidiosis, which can leave healthy adults suffering from “profuse, watery diarrhea” for as long as three weeks, according to the CDC.

About 7,500 cases were reported between 2009 and 2017, but the CDC estimates that the actual number of cases was much higher due to underreporting. Most cases have been reported in July and August.

The illness is generally worse in children, pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems. Only one fatality has been reported since 2009, although nearly 300 people have been hospitalized.

Although contact with crypto by swimmers has been responsible for well over one-third of cases, the infection can also be caused by contact with infected animals, mainly cattle. It also can be transmitted in childcare settings. A small number of cases have involved people drinking unpasteurized milk or cider infected with crypto.

In pools and lakes, the parasite can enter the body when a swimmer swallows contaminated water. Cryptosporidium has a high tolerance to chlorine, and can survive in a properly chlorinated pool for up to seven days, the CDC said.

Some preventive measures cited by the CDC that can help stem infections include not swallowing any water while swimming, and avoiding any swimming for at least two weeks after having diarrhea. Young children with diarrhea should not be placed in child care. Following a known outbreak, all surfaces should be cleaned with hydrogen peroxide, an effective means of killing the parasite.

All meats may be equally bad for “bad” cholesterol

Contrary to decades of expert advice, white meat may raise blood cholesterol to the same degree as red meat, a new study found.

Whether it’s red or white may not matter … consuming any type of meat has similar effects on blood cholesterol levels, a recent study found.

Scientists involved in the research, conducted at Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute in California, were shocked to discover that consuming high levels of either red meat or white meat produced similar increases in blood cholesterol levels, compared to consuming plant proteins only. This was the case whether or not the study participants’ diets contained high levels of saturated fat, which increased blood cholesterol to the same extent with all three protein sources.

“When we planned this study, we expected red meat to have a more adverse effect on blood cholesterol levels than white meat, but we were surprised that this was not the case – their effects on cholesterol are identical when saturated fat levels are equivalent,” said the study’s senior author Ronald Krauss, M.D., director of atherosclerosis research at CHORI.

Their results indicate that restricting meat altogether, whether red or white, in favor of plant-based protein is more effective for lowering blood cholesterol levels than previously thought, Krauss said.

The study also found that consuming high amounts of saturated fat increased concentrations of large cholesterol-enriched LDL particles. Similarly, red and white meat increased amounts of large LDL in comparison to non-meat diets.

Health experts have urged Americans to consume less red meat over the past few decades due to its links with heart disease. U.S. government dietary guidelines have pointed to poultry as a healthier protein source.

“Our results indicate that current advice to restrict red meat and not white meat should not be based only on their effects on blood cholesterol … other effects of red meat consumption could contribute to heart disease, and these effects should be explored in more detail in an effort to improve health,” Krauss said. The study was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Uptick in suburban deer numbers related to more tickborne disease

Increasing populations of deer in residential areas are bringing more disease-carrying ticks with them.

Tickborne infections are on the increase in the U.S.: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] estimates that the incidence of Lyme disease alone may in reality be 10 times higher than the 30,000 reported cases now recorded annually.

One reason cited for the increase is the growing population of deer – a key link in the chain of tickborne infection transmission to humans – in suburban areas.

As their natural habitats are cleared for new development, more deer are taking refuge in residential neighborhoods, where food is plentiful and predators few, and reproducing quickly. Those deer are primary reproductive hosts to the ticks which carry disease.

With more deer – and more ticks – encroaching on suburban homes, tick bite prevention has become even more important. Healthcare providers emphasize a few basic prevention techniques: Wear insect repellent containing DEET when outside, wear long pants when walking in the woods or working outdoors, check for ticks frequently, and shower immediately after spending time outside. Putting clothes in the dryer on high heat for 10 minutes before throwing them in the laundry will also kill any ticks which may be present.

Common personal care products can pose dangers to kids

Most people don’t think of personal care products like shampoo, lotion, makeup and cologne as unsafe for children, so they are generally kept within easy reach.  However, these types of products sent nearly 65,000 children under age 5 to U.S. emergency rooms between 2002 and 2016 – about one child every two hours.

A study recently conducted at Nationwide Children’s Hospital’s Center for Injury Research and Policy found that most injuries from these types of products occurred when a child either swallowed the product [about 76%] or it made contact with a child’s eyes or skin [about 19%], causing either poisoning or chemical burns.

“Kids this age can’t read, so they don’t know what they are looking at. They see a bottle with a colorful label that looks or smells like something they are allowed to eat or drink, so they try to open it and take a swallow,” said Rebecca McAdams, M.A., MPH, senior research associate at the center and the study’s co-author.

The top three categories leading to injuries were nail care, hair care and skin care products, followed by fragrances. Nail polish remover was the single item that led to the most ER visits, while more than half of the injuries requiring hospitalization were from hair care products.

The authors also expressed concern about kids’ easy access to these products. “Children watch their parents use these items and may try to imitate their behavior. Since these products are often stored in easy-to-reach places and are not typically in child-resistant containers, it can be easy for kids to get to and open the bottles,” said McAdams.

They recommended that parents and child caregivers follow these simple safety tips:

• Store all personal care products up, away and out of sight – in a cabinet that can be locked or latched is best. Never leave personal care products unattended and put them away immediately after use.

• Keep all personal care products in their original containers.

• Know how to get help. Save the national Poison Help Line (1-800-222-1222) in your cell phone and post it near home phones.

On the calendar

BJC hosts an American Red Cross Community Blood Drive on Friday, July 26 from noon-4 p.m. at Barnes-Jewish St. Peters Hospital, 10 Hospital Drive in St. Peters, in Suite 117 of Medical Office Building 1; and at Progress West Hospital, 2 Progress Point Parkway in O’Fallon, in Conference Room B. Appointments are not required, but may speed the donation process. Use sponsor codes BJSTPETERS or PROGRESS WEST when signing up online at redcrossblood.org or by phone at (800) 733-2767.

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BJC Progress West Hospital sponsors a free Teddy Bear Clinic for children on Saturday, July 27 from 9-10:30 a.m. at the hospital, 2 Progress Point Parkway in O’Fallon, in the cafeteria. Bring your favorite teddy bear or stuffed friend for a “check-up;” the event will include a tour of the hospital, story time and coloring activity. The event is open to all ages, but recommended for ages 2-5. No advance registration is required.

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BJC of St. Charles County offers free Know Your Numbers Health Screenings for adults on Friday, Aug. 9 from 7:30-9:30 a.m. at Barnes-Jewish St. Peters Hospital, 10 Hospital Drive in St. Peters, in Suite 117 of Medical Office Building 1. Tests include fasting glucose, lung function, blood pressure and BMI screenings. Participants should fast for at least 10 hours prior to screening if a glucose test is desired. To register, call (636) 928-9355 for an appointment.

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A free class for caregivers, Setting Boundaries, is offered on Thursday, Aug. 15 from 3:30-5:30 p.m. at Barnes-Jewish St. Peters Hospital, 10 Hospital Drive in St. Peters, in Room 108A of Medical Office Building 1. This class, part of a monthly caregiver series, is best for friends and family members caring for someone who is developmentally disabled; however, topics are relevant for anyone caring for someone with a chronic condition. For more information or to register, call (636) 928-9355.

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BJC St. Louis Children’s Hospital sponsors a Family and Friends CPR course on Tuesday, Aug. 20 from 6:30-9 p.m. at Progress West Hospital, 2 Progress Point Parkway in O’Fallon, in Conference Room B. This class is designed for parents, grandparents, babysitters [ages 10-15 if accompanied by an adult] and childcare providers. It is taught by a registered nurse who uses the American Heart Association curriculum. The class does not include certification. The course fee is $25 per person. To register, call (636) 344-5437.

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BJC hosts a Kidscan! Support Group meeting for kids whose parent or caregiver has been diagnosed with cancer on Monday, Aug. 19 from 6:30-8 p.m. at Siteman Cancer Center, 150 Entrance Way in St. Peters. Call (636) 916-9974 to register.

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