Cynthia (Cindy) Weiss (@cindyweiss)
Activity by Cynthia (Cindy) Weiss
MULTIMEDIA ALERT: For audio and video of Vandana Bhide, M.D., talking about the flu and flu vaccinations, visit the Mayo Clinic News Network.
Jacksonville, FL — Flu season is upon us, and despite what most people think, influenza is a serious and potentially deadly disorder. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that an average of 30,000 deaths occur annually as a result of flu and associated complications. With last year's flu outbreak ranking among the worst in recent history, Mayo Clinic experts offer advice and dispel many misconceptions about the flu to help people stay healthy.
"The vaccine is the best defense against flu and serious flu-related conditions, and because it's difficult to predict how and when the flu will strike, I recommend getting it as early as you can," says Teresa Seville, M.D., Infectious Diseases, Mayo Clinic in Arizona.
Vandana Bhide, M.D., internal medicine specialist at Mayo Clinic in Florida, advises everyone to consider a flu shot, particularly those at high risk for complications — individuals over the age of 65, pregnant women, children 6 months to two years, and individuals with chronic medical disorders or who are immune-compromised. "Though many people who get the flu will have fever, muscle aches and need to stay home from work or school for a few days, certain people can develop serious complications, which could include pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus infections and other conditions. The vaccine can help avoid these issues."
This year, there are several new options for vaccination, including a shot and nasal spray with four strains of influenza rather than the traditional three strains. A high-dose vaccine for the elderly is also available as well as a new vaccine without egg proteins, for those with egg allergies. "There is an option for everyone," says Dr. Bhide.
One of the most common myths about the flu is that the vaccine will cause the flu. "Although many people believe this, it is a myth," says Jennifer White, M.D., family medicine physician at Mayo Clinic Health System in Springfield, Minn. "Injectable flu vaccines are composed of portions of inactivated flu proteins, and it's impossible for them to cause the flu. Nasal spray vaccines have live, weakened flu organisms that can't multiply or cause disease."
Dr. White adds that pregnant women are encouraged to use the injectable vaccines as the nasal sprays have not yet been studied in pregnant women.
"In general, the best way to avoid getting sick with the flu is by getting vaccinated and practicing healthy habits," says Dr. Seville.
Here are some tips for avoiding illness:
For more information about preventing the flu, please visitmayoclinic.com.
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Jacksonville, Fla. — August 24, 2012. As another storms brews in the Atlantic, residents of coastal communities are starting to prepare for a potential severe weather emergency. But hurricane shutters, flashlights and batteries are not the only things to consider. Food safety is critical to maintaining wellbeing during a natural disaster, and finding creative ways to feed a family can become an issue if refrigeration and electricity are unavailable.
MULTIMEDIA ALERT: Video and audio clips of Ron Stone, Nutrition Services at Mayo Clinic, are available for journalists to download on the Mayo Clinic News Network.
"Whether it's a hurricane or another natural disaster, it's critical to understand basic food and water safety, particularly if power outages or flooding occur. Having a plan in place will ensure proper nutrition, energy, and long-term wellness," says Sherry Mahoney, director of Nutrition and Food Services at Mayo Clinic in Florida.
She advises creating a meal plan in advance, "since most people aren't thinking about recipes (during a disaster), and refrigeration and cooking may become a problem."
But eating out of a can doesn't have to be boring, says Ron Stone, Assistant Director of Nutrition. "There are many options to mix and match from your pantry, and with advanced planning and a little creativity, you can provide healthy and delicious meals for your family," he says."
Under their direction, Mayo Clinic dietetic interns recently created sample three-day meal plans (PDF) to feed a family of four. The recipes do not require the use of power or refrigeration, but are still "colorful, exciting and nutritious," Mahoney says.
The recipe list (PDF) includes "Coconut Oatmeal Energy Bars," "Stir It Up Vanilla Pudding Parfait," "Reggie's Chopped Barbecue Chicken Salad on Flatbread" or "Chocoholic Peanut Butter Pie."
Here are tips from Stone for prepping your pantry and planning an emergency menu:
Jacksonville, Fla. — August 7, 2012. Summer can mean more than just an increase in temperatures, humidity and outdoor physical activity. It can also mean an increased risk of kidney stones, which affect approximately 3.8 million people in the United States and are on the rise.
Multimedia Alert: Video and audio clips of Dr. Haley are available for journalists to download on the Mayo Clinic News Network.
According to William Haley, M.D., a nephrologist at Mayo Clinic's Kidney Stone Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla., heat, humidity and lack of proper hydration all lead to a higher prevalence of kidney stones.
"In the summer or during hotter months, there is an increased incidence of kidney stones occurring in stone formers. The main reason for this is due to the amount of water we take in and use," Dr. Haley explains. "Our bodies are made up of mostly water and we use it regularly. But in the heat, we may not be drinking as much as we should, or taking in the right types of fluids, so we become dehydrated, which can lead to the production of more stones."
Kidney stones are small, hard deposits of mineral and acid salts that form when the urine becomes concentrated. The minerals crystallize and stick together, thus forming a stone, which can range in size from a grain of sand to a golf ball.
VIDEO ALERT: Audio and video resources available on Mayo Clinic's YouTube Channel.
Jacksonville, Fla. — July 18, 2012. As sports training season gets underway, Florida parents, particularly those of youth athletes, should be aware of a new law that goes into effect on Sunday pertaining to concussions and the ability of student athletes to return to play if they suffer a head injury.
With the adoption of HB 291, Florida's youth athlete concussion bill, which goes into effect on Sunday, July 1, Florida joins more than 30 states that have adopted concussion guidelines for youth sports.
The bill, which was introduced by Rep. Ron "Doc" Renuart, R- Ponte Vedra, mandates that any athlete suspected of sustaining a concussion or head injury be immediately removed from practice or competition until the athlete receives written medical clearance to return from an appropriate health care practitioner.
"There are over 300,000 head injuries reported annually in high school athletics and over 90 percent are concussions, so it's important that coaches, parents and sports officials be aware of the pervasiveness of concussions, the signs and symptoms, and the fact that returning to play too soon after sustaining an injury could have detrimental effects," says Mayo Clinic family and sports medicine physician Jennifer Roth Maynard, M.D., who is also chair of the Northeast Florida Regional Sports Concussion Task Force.
After a concussion, if an athlete continues to play or returns to play too early, there is a significant risk of experiencing another concussion, Dr. Maynard says. "Repeat concussions may take longer to resolve and come with a risk of permanent neurological damage or, rarely, death." Children, adolescents and female athletes appear to be at a higher risk for concussions, and may also take longer to recover.
With the new law, there is no same-day return to play. Rather, the ruling specifies a graduated return to exercise protocol (light aerobic activity, moderate aerobic activity, sport specific drills, full contact practice) that must be supervised and approved by a responsible adult or athletic trainer before a physician will give the final clearance to safely return to sport.
"Since each person may present concussion differently, the diagnosis of a concussion, assessment of its severity and knowing when an athlete can return to physical activity, competition, work or school is not always clear. Mayo Clinic advocates for having a computerized baseline concussion assessment for each athlete to assist in identifying and quantifying changes in brain function should a concussion occur," says Dr. Maynard.
Baseline computerized neurocognitive testing is used to help establish the normal brain function of an athlete with respect to memory, reaction time, speed and concentration. When compared to a post-injury test, this is a helpful tool for a physician to determine when the brain has returned to normal and it is safe for an athlete to begin a return to play protocol. This non-invasive test is set up in "video-game" type format and takes about 15-20 minutes to complete. Mayo Clinic's campus in Florida began providing baseline assessments earlier this year and is offering screening opportunities at a flat rate of $20 per athlete, regardless of insurance coverage.