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Five tips for good gut health during the holidays

Both the stress and the fun of the holiday season can take a toll on gut health. Take extra steps this season and beyond to feel your best. Photo (c) Revelant - Fotolia.com

Both the stress and the fun of the holiday season can take a toll on gut health. Take extra steps this season and beyond to feel your best. Photo (c) Revelant – Fotolia.com

(StatePoint) The holiday season can be one of the most stressful times of the year and you may have noticed you’re more prone to colds and upset stomach when you’re stressed. Stress tends to slow the digestive process. What’s more, 70 percent of the immune system lies in the digestive system, according to findings reported in “Clinical & Experimental Immunology.”

Unfortunately, one of the most stressful seasons coincides with one of the most indulgent. To help, Vincent Pedre, MD, author of the new book, “Happy Gut: The Cleansing Program to Help You Lose Weight, Gain Energy, and Eliminate Pain,” is offering useful tips to lessen digestive upset and keep your gut healthy over the holidays.

• Pack healthful snacks. When traveling, people tend to grab unhealthy foods for convenience. Pack nutritious foods like carrots, apples, almonds and frozen yogurt to keep the body strong. Foods like yogurt, which contain probiotics, not only address digestive issues, but are said to help stave off colds. One study found that those who took a probiotic supplement with Lactobacillus rhamnosus, a type of healthy probiotic bacteria, recovered earlier and reported less severe symptoms.

• Eat mindfully. Eating in a hurry is a major no-no for good gut health, and makes you more likely to overeat, since it takes the brain about 20 minutes to recognize when you’re full. Plus, eating quickly can cause gas, acid indigestion and bloating.

“When we stop and really enjoy what we’re eating we’re less likely to overdo it, and we’ll avoid issues like emotional eating,” says Dr. Pedre.

• Relieve stress. Take some “me time.” Maintaining an exercise routine and practicing deep breathing relaxation techniques can do wonders for mental and digestive health, and help alleviate stress’ negative effects on the digestive system, such as gas, acid reflux and stomach cramps.

• Maintain a sleep routine. Get an adequate night’s rest of at least eight hours nightly. Your body and gut like predictability. Plus, staying up late could make you more likely to visit the fridge and eat that piece of chocolate cake that’ll lead to an upset stomach.

• Help your body naturally. Overeating or drinking is easy to do this time of year, but it can cause stomach distress. Check out local natural product retailers, which offer homoeopathic medicines like Nux vomica to relieve nausea, heartburn, acid indigestion or fullness associated with overindulgence of food or drink. While these uses have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration for efficacy, Nux vomica is one of the most popular homeopathic medicines. It’s also easy to take. The pellets are quickly absorbed under the tongue without water, as opposed to being absorbed through the stomach, which may not be functioning at its peak. As a homeopathic medicine, it has no known side effects such as constipation, diarrhea, gas or drowsiness.

To learn about relieving a variety of acute stomach issues, explore the Boiron Medicine Finder app. This free resource, available on Android and iOS devices, allows users to find the right homeopathic medicine for many everyday conditions.

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“Thanks for Giving” Campaign Begins

 

One hour, one gift, three lives

During a time of year where many give thanks, Michigan Blood is showing its appreciation for blood donors with a gift of gratitude. An hour of one person’s time means not only the gift of life for three Michiganders, but a gift for the donor, as well.

Starting November 23, the non-profit will give blood donors a freshly baked pumpkin pie, courtesy of Family Fare.

After closing for Thanksgiving Day, blood centers will reopen Friday, November 25, to give thanks to donors with Target or Amazon gift cards. This continues through #GivingTuesday, November 29. On that day, Michigan Blood will also be collecting donations of new school supplies for schools in need in the community.

“We’re inviting blood donors to double their impact—helping people isn’t only limited to blood donation,” said Carleen Crawford, Director of Community Relations and Marketing for Michigan Blood. “Donating school supplies for our area schools in need is just one small way that we can give back to our local communities. We can all contribute.”

Dates and times for the event vary by location. Here are hours for “Thanks for Giving” blood drives in the Grand Rapids Area:

Grand Rapids Area Donor Center

1036 Fuller Ave NE

Wednesday, 11/23: 8am – 7pm
Friday, 11/25: 6am – 4pm
Saturday, 11/26: 7am – 2pm
Sunday, 11/27: 7am – 2pm
Monday, 11/28: 8am – 7pm
Tuesday, 11/29: 8am – 7pm

More information can be found at MIBloodGift.org

Michigan Blood is the sole provider of blood and blood products for more than 60 hospitals in Michigan, including Spectrum Health, Metro Health, and Mercy Health St. Mary’s. Donations given outside of Michigan Blood do not have direct local impact. Donating blood with Michigan Blood helps save the lives of patients in Michigan hospitals. Any healthy person 17 or older (or 16 with parental consent) who weighs at least 112 pounds may be eligible to donate, although females age 18 and under must weigh 120 pounds or more. Blood donors should bring photo ID. We are currently in urgent need of O-Negative blood donations. To schedule an appointment, please call 1-866-MIBLOOD (642-5663) or schedule online at https://donate.miblood.org.

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Difficult conversations today can provide a world of comfort tomorrow

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If you knew you had a limited time to live, how would you want to spend your time? Do your family members and friends understand how you’d want to spend those precious moments? Would you know how to honor their final wishes?

Talking about end-of-life preferences is never an easy conversation, but it’s an important one to have to ensure that you and your loved ones’ wishes for care and comfort are properly honored when serious illness sets in. With November’s designation as National Hospice & Palliative Care Month, it’s the perfect opportunity to begin or revisit this difficult discussion, before the reality of illness makes it a much more emotional process.

“We often see a distinct difference in the experiences of the patients and families we serve who have documented their thoughts on end-of-life care and those who have not,” said Michael Paletta MD, FAAHPM, Hospice of Michigan vice president, medical affairs and chief medical officer. “Having shared preferences regarding medical intervention and comfort care, those who’ve pre-planned enter this difficult time with a peace of mind that comes from already knowing the answers to tough decisions that may lie ahead.”

Most of us wouldn’t think of going into a major life event without advance thought and planning—buying a house, getting married, and entering retirement. Yet many don’t plan for one of the most critical life experiences we all will face. Taking the time now to clarify your final wishes and understand those of your loved ones can ensure that preferences regarding medical intervention, as well as personal, emotional and spiritual desires, deliver the best quality of life, even in the midst of serious illness.

“If you’re having trouble starting an end-of-life conversation with family and friends, look for opportunities to segue into it from other discussions,” said HOM Social Worker Susan Mueller, MSW. “The news of the day could be the catalyst. The death of a celebrity may open the door. Engage older family members by asking about the deaths of their loved ones. Such communication provides an opportunity to naturally shift into talking about your own mortality in a way that’s comfortable for everyone.”

As you and your loved ones gather for this sensitive conversation, consider the following:

*Who do you want making your healthcare decisions if you are unable? Sometimes a spouse or family member is the best choice. Sometimes not. It’s most important to choose someone who knows you very well and can make difficult decisions to ensure your wishes are followed.

*What kind of medical treatment do you or don’t you want? It’s more than just deciding whether or not you want life support. It’s identifying your definition of life support and expressing any religious or personal beliefs that will help those around you understand which intervention(s) you find acceptable.

*How comfortable do you want to be? Completely comfortable seems the obvious answer, but if that leaves you more drowsy and sleepy than you otherwise would be is there a balance you’d like to achieve? But it’s not just pain management. Is there favorite music you’d like played and readings you’d like to hear? What about massage therapies and personal care? No end-of-life wish is too insignificant and should be shared.

*What do you want your loved ones to know? Providing clear direction regarding funeral and burial arrangements is vital. But, it’s also an opportunity to leave a personal legacy. Sharing your expressions of love, forgiveness and peace, even your thoughts and acceptance of death itself, can bring years of comfort to your friends and family.

Nobody knows what the future will hold, but planning and communicating end-of-life wishes can provide some certainty during a difficult time. Hospice of Michigan offers Have you had the talk? (www.haveyouhadthetalk.com) one of many online resources that can help you and your loved ones discuss and document your preferences. For those needing help broaching the subject, Hospice of Michigan spiritual care advisors and social workers are also available to offer tips on getting the conversation started. Having the difficult discussion today means you and your loved ones can live all of your tomorrows in dignity, comfort and peace.

For more information, call 888-247-5701 or visit www.hom.org.

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National Rural Health Day

hea-national-rural-health-dayThe National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health (NOSORH) and other state/national rural stakeholders will celebrate National Rural Health Day on Thursday, November 17, 2016.

NOSORH created National Rural Health Day as a way to showcase rural America; increase awareness of rural health-related issues; and promote the efforts of NOSORH, State Offices of Rural Health and others in addressing those issues. Plans call for National Rural Health Day to become an annual celebration on the third Thursday of each November.

Approximately 62 million people—nearly one in five Americans—live in rural and frontier communities throughout the United States. “These small towns, farming communities and frontier areas are wonderful places to live and work; they are places where neighbors know each other and work together,” said NOSORH Director Teryl Eisinger. “The hospitals and providers serving these rural communities not only provide quality patient care, but they also help keep good jobs in rural America.”

These communities also face unique healthcare needs. “Today more than ever, rural communities must tackle accessibility issues, a lack of healthcare providers, the needs of an aging population suffering from a greater number of chronic conditions, and larger percentages of un- and underinsured citizens,” Eisinger said. “Meanwhile, rural hospitals are threatened with declining reimbursement rates and disproportionate funding levels that makes it challenging to serve their residents.”

State Offices of Rural Health play a key role in addressing those needs. All 50 states maintain a State Office of Rural Health, each of which shares a similar mission: to foster relationships, disseminate information and provide technical assistance that improves access to, and the quality of, health care for its rural citizens. In the past year alone, State Offices of Rural Health collectively provided technical assistance to more than 28,000 rural communities.

For example, White Pine Family Medicine in Cedar Springs is among the most devoted Rural Health Clinics around. Being driven by that compassion and understanding the need for this specialized type of health care, they became a Rural Health Clinic in April of 2004, continuing the long-standing tradition of rural health medicine from the original clinic established in 1976. Being owned and operated by two Physician Assistants makes White Pine Family Medicine an even more unique situation. They have grown to having a total of five physician assistants and their medical director, who is a D.O., along with a fully staffed office. But their devotion goes beyond health care. They have conducted food drives, collect toys for tots, and each Christmas they select a family from their practice to adopt, provide gifts and a holiday meal for. They sponsor sports physical clinics, contribute to the local museums, and participate with local businesses. If you are looking for quality, efficient, personal patient care right in your own backyard, give your local Rural Health Clinics a try.

Additional information about National Rural Health Day can be found at nosorh.org/nrhd.

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Two food service facilities impacted by nationwide strawberry recall 

 

Recently, the Kent County Health Department was alerted by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and Michigan Department of Health and Human Services regarding an ongoing recall of frozen strawberries sold to certain commercial food service establishments. These strawberries are believed to be connected to a Hepatitis A outbreak nationwide. Because these strawberries may have been consumed over the past few months, there are two very important concerns for Health Department staff: the risk of people becoming ill with Hepatitis A, and vaccinating those who may have been exposed before they become ill. Treatment is available for those exposed in the past 14 days. In Kent County, two facilities have served strawberries from the suspected lots in the last two weeks: Romano’s Macaroni Grill, 5525 28th Street, Grand Rapids, MI 49512 (near I-96) and HCR ManorCare Grand Rapids, 2320 E Beltline SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49546

“If you have eaten an item containing strawberries at Macaroni Grill or HRC ManorCare on the Beltline in the last 14 days, you should receive either the Hepatitis A vaccination as soon as possible to try to prevent the illness,” said Adam London, Kent County Health Department Administrative Health Officer. “The immunization is only effective up to 14 days after exposure, so it is important to contact your health care provider while you are in the 14 day window. If it has been longer than 14 days, you should be aware of the symptoms of Hepatitis A and if you become ill, contact your health care provider.”

Hepatitis A is a highly contagious liver infection that can be spread by eating contaminated food. “If someone has the virus, it is possible for them to transmit the illness to others, especially through food preparation,” London added. “As with many viral illnesses, personal hygiene and good handwashing can help prevent the illness from spreading.” Symptoms include:

. Jaundice (a yellowing of the skin or eyes)

. Dark urine

. Fever

. Fatigue

. Loss of appetite

. Nausea

. Vomiting

. Abdominal pain

. Clay-colored bowel movements

The Health Department urges individuals who need vaccination to do so as soon as possible. This chart explains the timeline for those who may have been exposed to receive vaccination:

If you ate strawberries at Macaroni Grill October 21-26, the window to get the vaccination has closed. If you ate them Thursday, October 27, then Thursday, November 10 is the last day you can receive the vaccination; and if you ate them on Friday, October 28, then Friday, November 11 is the last day you can receive the vaccination.

If you ate strawberries at HCR on October 24, the window to get the vaccination is closed. They did not serve them the other dates.

In case you have been traveling within Michigan, there is a complete list of restaurants statewide that may have served the recalled frozen strawberries in recent weeks at www.michigan.gov/documents/mdard/Hep_A_List_of_Known_and_Possible_Locations_11042016_1310_540528_7.pdf.

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Blood buddies forever 

 

Donor continues bloodline after bone marrow donation

Rebecca Meeker

Rebecca Meeker

DS, MICH. (October 3, 2016) – Sixteen years ago, Rebecca Meeker received a phone call that would change her life forever. “I was working on a wedding cake and then I got this phone call. I found out I was a potential match for a patient who needed a bone marrow transplant,” said Meeker of Saginaw.

Rebecca signed up to join the National Marrow Donor Program’s Be The Match Registry eight years earlier after watching a local news story about a young girl in need of a bone marrow transplant. Although she was notified months later that she was a potential match for a young patient, she was not the best match.

“I was really disappointed because I wanted to help that child,” she said.

But the call in September 2000 would give her an opportunity to help another patient. After a series of blood testing, she was found to be the best match for a young woman in need of a bone marrow transplant. The following December, Rebecca underwent a bone marrow extraction procedure for the transplant. Her life would never be the same.
“I was so happy to help and I had a quick recovery,” said Meeker.

It wouldn’t be the last time she was called on. Five months later, Rebecca was asked to donate peripheral blood stem cells for the same patient, a procedure similar to a blood donation.
“Of course I had to help, I wasn’t going to leave her hanging. I just thought, ‘tell me what I have do,’” she said.

A year after the bone marrow donation in December 2001, Rebecca had the opportunity to talk with the patient, learn her name (Amy), and discovered they shared the same heritage. She didn’t know the phone call would be her last conversation with Amy. Amy died a month later from health complications.

“She liked music and we shared the same German/Swiss background,” Rebecca said. “She was a part of me. She was my blood buddy. I was totally devastated when I got the call from Amy’s grandmother that she passed away. She was cancer free.”

Rebecca had the honor of traveling to Missouri to attend Amy’s funeral for a final farewell and meet her family. Amy was buried wearing a best friend necklace engraved with “Blood Buddy” on the back—a gift from Rebecca. Rebecca wears the other half as a reminder of Amy’s life and their blood connection.

The experience solidified the importance of blood donation and continues to motivate Rebecca to donate blood regularly. As a 15-gallon blood donor, she has donated every blood component with Michigan Blood.

“If I was called to go through the process again to help someone else, I would do it again,” she says. “I think of Amy often when I donate blood. After everything, I still wanted to keep up with giving blood. What is it costing me when I can help someone else? I’d hope someone would do the same for me and my family if we were in need.”

Joining Be the Match

Those between the ages of 18-44 who are interested in joining the Be The Match Registry can visit https://join.bethematch.org/MichiganBlood to join online and a swab kit will be mailed to their home. For questions about joining the registry, individuals can contact Caitlin Regan at (616) 233-8609 or by email at cregan@miblood.org.
Donating Blood 

Any healthy person 17 or older (or 16 with parental consent) who weighs at least 110 pounds may be eligible to donate, although females age 18 and under must weigh 120 pounds or more. Blood donors should bring photo ID. Walk-ins are welcome, but appointments are preferred. Donors can schedule an appointment by calling 1-866-MIBLOOD or by visiting www.miblood.org.

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Never accept pain as a natural part of aging or illness 

September is National Pain Awareness Month. Palliative care treatment can help alleviate symptoms for those dealing with physical, emotional and spiritual discomfort.  

September is National Pain Awareness Month. Palliative care treatment can help alleviate symptoms for those dealing with physical, emotional and spiritual discomfort.

from Hospice of Michigan

Contrary to what many may believe, pain does not have to be part of a loved one’s natural aging process or chronic illness, and no one should experience pain at the end of life. September’s designation as National Pain Awareness Month is an opportunity for caregivers to better understand, and help alleviate, their loved one’s physical, emotional and spiritual discomfort.

Palliative care offers comfort and improved quality of life to patients and families by identifying and managing pain and other distressing symptoms such as nausea, and shortness of breath. It differs from hospice care in that palliative care can be provided at the same time as curative treatment and is appropriate for people of any age with uncontrolled pain or symptoms, at any stage of an illness.

Uncontrolled pain can lead to needless suffering, poor sleep, urinary retention, limited mobility or breathing, fear or anxiety. Individuals experiencing pain may say they are fine when they are not since pain awareness varies across cultures, genders and beliefs. Some people are very vocal about their pain and desire pain relief. Others think they need to be tough and refuse to acknowledge their pain. Some people believe pain is a way to atone for sins or is part of the aging process.  Many believe that they will become ‘addicted’ to pain pills, or fear being overmedicated.

“Physical pain can be made worse by emotional or spiritual pain, and that distress can make it more difficult to achieve comfort,” said Michael Paletta MD, FAAHPM, Hospice of Michigan vice president, medical affairs and chief medical officer. “Patients and caregivers alike often fail to recognize emotional and spiritual pain. Overlooking or ignoring signs of such distress does nothing to improve quality of life or patient care. Those experiencing chronic pain should always seek help, while others should be vigilant for signs of physical, emotional and spiritual pain within their loved ones.”

Everyone’s experience with pain is different. There is no test or X-ray to measure pain. For those who find it difficult to vocalize or admit their pain, family and friends can look for such signs as grimacing, restlessness, irritability, mood swings, wringing of hands, teeth grinding, moaning, sleep disturbance, poor concentration or decreased activity. Keeping track of a loved one’s pain occurrences, the level and type of pain and when medication was taken, can help clinicians prescribe the proper course of palliative care treatment.

And, while it can be difficult for family and friends to see a loved one in pain, they often suffer, too. Pain may cause a strain on the relationship, frustrations and/or anger. Caregivers often have the added daily stress of increased responsibility for maintaining the home on top of caregiving responsibilities. They may also have to endure emotional outbursts from the patient in pain. Family life may become constricted; communication, activities and interactions amongst family and friends may center on pain. The family’s social life may suffer and individuals may become progressively isolated from friends and the community.

Pain not only takes a physical toll on a patient, but an emotional and spiritual toll as well. Hospice of Michigan spiritual care coordinators and social workers relieve emotional and spiritual distress by identifying concerns, offering expert advice, a listening ear, and meeting patient and family member goals.

When traditional pain relief methods are not enough, enjoying music and art, a relaxing massage and the companionship of a pet can help a loved one maximize comfort and quality of life. Introducing music, art, massage and pet interactions alongside medical interventions and counseling provides patients with a holistic plan of care. Such “life’s pleasures” help patients control symptoms, manage stress and relieve anxiety.

Hospice of Michigan clinicians educate patients and families on the many types of pain management, always mindful of a patient’s wishes and beliefs in developing a course of treatment.

September’s designation as National Pain Awareness Month is a great reminder for everyone who deals with pain – patients, caregivers and clinicians – that pain should never be tolerated. The care teams at Hospice of Michigan are dedicated to identifying and relieving pain of all types – physical, emotional and spiritual.

 

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Smart nutrition tips for healthy families

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(StatePoint) Nutrition is important for everyone, but especially for children, as it is directly linked to all aspects of their growth and development.

Childhood obesity affects one in six children and adolescents in the United States. Though associated with elevated risks of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, bone and joint problems, and sleep apnea, among other health problems, childhood obesity can usually be prevented.

“Families should focus on the importance of healthful eating and active lifestyles,” says Kristi King, registered dietitian nutritionist and Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics spokesperson. “Parents can inspire kids to eat healthfully by getting them involved in shopping and preparing your family’s meals.”

Before You Head to the Store

Create a shopping list together, so kids feel like they are part of the decision making process.

“Include food items from each of the ‘MyPlate’ food groups from the USDA, which include fruits, vegetables, grains, protein and dairy,” says King.

Before you head out the door, grab your reusable shopping bag to reduce waste. Wash your bag regularly to prevent the spread of harmful bacteria.

At the Store

Once you get to the store, shop together and encourage children to pick a few new foods they would like to try.

“Talk about foods’ colors, shapes, flavors and textures as you shop,” says King. “And take time to read the food labels. This not only helps kids understand nutrition concepts, but also gives them a chance to practice reading skills.”

Back at Home

When you return home, involve children in putting groceries away — especially foods that require refrigeration or freezing. Refrigerate perishable food items promptly and properly. “Explain to your kids the importance of refrigerating perishable foods within two hours,” King says. “And remember, the clock starts when you pull an item from the refrigerated case at the store, so head straight home after your shopping trip if you have perishables in the car.”

For more healthful eating tips, recipes, videos and more, visit KidsEatRight.org.

As role models, parents and caregivers play a vital role in children’s nutrition — teaching children about healthful foods and making sure kids get enough physical activity each day. “Consult a registered dietitian nutritionist in your area to ensure your family is getting all of the necessary nutrients,” says King.

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Stay cool pool without chlorine 

HEA-Stay-cool-pool

Saltwater pool is a healthy alternative

(BPT) – As summer temperatures rise, backyard and neighborhood pools become more attractive for old and young alike. The one thing most folks don’t like, however, is the smell of the chlorine or how it burns your eyes or feels on your skin once you get out of the water. The chlorine is there to help keep the water clean and clear, and most pools require a lot of regular maintenance to maintain the proper levels.

Saltwater pools, however, offer a better way to enjoy a dip without the smell or feeling of chlorine. They work by converting salt to chlorine using an electrolytic converter. This produces the same type of bacteria-killing chlorine found in a traditional pool, but in a radically different fashion.

How saltwater pools work

Instead of dumping a bunch of chemical chlorine all at one time and letting it dissipate until more is needed, a saltwater pool adds chlorine to the water at a constant rate. This displaces the bad smell and burning irritation we normally associate with chlorine, while maintaining the right amount at all times.

As the water exits the converter and enters the pool, the sanitizing chlorine eventually reverts back to salt, and the process repeats itself, conserving salt and keeping sanitizer levels balanced. However new salt does need to be added occasionally as salt levels can drop due to splash-out, rain, and filter back-washing. Pool owners still should test weekly for pH and chlorine, and monthly for other water balance factors.

Lower maintenance, less expensive

The other good news for home owners and pool managers is that saltwater pools require far less maintenance than traditional pools and are much less expensive to maintain as pool salt is far cheaper than traditional chlorine. This is a big reason why so many hotels and water parks in the United States have already made the switch. The initial construction and installation of an electrolytic converter is very small and easily made up in maintenance savings. Even converting an existing chlorine pool to saltwater can pay off quickly.

The technology for a saltwater pool was first developed in Australia in the 1960s, and today, more than 80 percent of all pools Down Under use this system. In the United States, saltwater pools first began to see use in the 1980s and have grown exponentially in popularity. According to data published in Pool & Spa News, today there are more than 1.4 million saltwater pools in operation nationwide and an estimated 75 percent of all new in-ground pools are salt water, compared with only 15 percent in 2002.

Some may be concerned about the effect of salt on pool equipment, construction materials, decks and surrounding structures. However, the actual amount of salt used is very low, less than .01 as salty as sea water. You may be able to barely taste the salt in the pool, but much less so than you can taste and feel the chlorine in a standard pool. When pools are properly constructed and normal maintenance is followed, saltwater has no effect on pool finishes, equipment and decks.

To learn more about saltwater pools and other uses for salt, visit saltinstitute.org.

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Eight human cases of Influenza A H3N2 variant confirmed in Michigan 

 

LANSING, Mich. – The Michigan Departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture and Rural Development today announced that there have been eight human cases of influenza A variant viruses reported in Michigan. They have tested positive for influenza A H3N2 variant (H3N2v) and one person has been hospitalized and since released. All of the confirmed cases had exposure to swine at county fairs in Muskegon, Cass, and Ingham counties during July and August where sick pigs had also been identified.

MDHHS and MDARD are working closely with local health departments, the healthcare community, and fairs to protect swine exhibitors and the public and identify any additional cases.

Fair exhibitors and animal caretakers should be following proper biosecurity processes such as regular hand-washing with soap and water, disinfecting wash areas at least once each day and making sure it has time to dry thoroughly after being disinfected. Additionally, weight scales and sorting boards should also be disinfected. Use a 10 percent bleach/water mixture in combination with a detergent (dish or laundry soap) to increase effectiveness.

In 2012, there were six H3N2v cases in Michigan and in 2013 two cases were confirmed. Human infection is thought to happen when an infected pig coughs or sneezes and droplets with influenza virus land in someone’s nose or mouth, or are inhaled. There also is some evidence that the virus might spread by someone touching something that has virus on it and then touching their mouth or nose.

Symptoms of H3N2v infection in people are usually mild and similar to those of seasonal flu viruses, but as with seasonal flu, complications can lead to hospitalization and death. Symptoms include fever and respiratory symptoms, such as cough and runny nose, as well as body aches, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. Some populations are at higher risk of developing complications if they get influenza, including children younger than five years of age, people 65 years of age and older, pregnant women, and people with certain long-term health conditions like asthma, diabetes, heart disease, weakened immune systems, and neurological or neurodevelopmental conditions.

The incubation period (the time it takes from exposure to illness) for this influenza is typically similar to seasonal influenza at about two days, but may be up to 10 days. Currently, there is no vaccine for H3N2v and the seasonal flu vaccine will not protect against H3N2v. Antiviral drugs are effective in treating H3N2v virus infections. Early treatment works best and may be especially important for people with a high-risk condition.

Below are some steps that you can take to protect yourself and prevent the spread of any illness:

• Anyone who is at high risk of serious flu complications and planning to attend a fair should avoid pigs and swine barns.

• Do not eat or drink in livestock barns or show rings

• Don’t take toys, pacifiers, cups, baby bottles, strollers, or similar items into pig areas.

• Avoid contact with pigs if you have flu-like symptoms. Wait seven days after your illness started or until you have been without fever for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medications, whichever is longer.

• Avoid close contact with sick people.

• Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.

• Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.

• If you are sick, stay home from work or school until your illness is over.

While it does not protect against H3N2v, MDHHS recommends annual season influenza vaccination for everyone six months of age and older to reduce the risk of infection from other influenza viruses.

For more information about H3N2v, visit www.cdc.gov/flu/swineflu/h3n2v-basics.htm.

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