Health
Thursday, May 14, 2009
 
No vaccine makes swine flu a potential national problem
By Dr. Anthony Policastro

Swine flu has been in the headlines for days now. The headlines change every day. By the time this article is printed, the situation will have changed even more. Therefore, it is hard to write a timely article on this particular disease. There are some facts that bear no relation to time. The first is that we have flu epidemics every year. They usually occur in the December to February time frame. We start an immunization program for it prior to that. The viruses contained in the immunization are scientists' best guesses as to which flu viruses are going to be prevalent that particular year. They usually guess correctly so many people are protected before each year's outbreak. One of the issues with swine flu is that there is currently no immunization for it. Cross reaction to other flu strains is not present. Therefore, no one is immune to the virus. For that reason many more people would be affected by an outbreak. The second fact is that every year people who get the flu die from its complications. The mortality rate is low. Many more people survive flu complications than in the past. The problem is that the death rate will be the same low percentage for swine flu that it is for other forms of flu. The difference will be that more people will be infected. Therefore, even with the low rate, a larger number of infected people means a larger number of people with complications. This would put a strain on our medical resources. The third fact is that since there is no protection the likelihood of stopping it from spreading is lower. At best, efforts to keep away from infected individuals will result in fewer people being infected as it goes through an area. Like all flu epidemics, this one will likely run its course over a matter of weeks to months. The trick is to avoid it for that period of time. Frequent handwashing during an epidemic is the best form of protection. This particular flu virus does respond to anti viral medications. In a large scale epidemic, we may run short on those medications. If you do get the flu, treat the symptoms. It is wise to get seen early if you suspect a complication. The complication of most concern is pneumonia. For that reason, anyone with the flu who has breathing problems should be seen quickly by their physician. It is likely that when all is said and done, the swine flu will come and go like any other flu virus. How much of a problem it is will depend on the number of people infected and the number with complications. We won't know those numbers until after it has run its course.

Place limits on the liquid candy, soda, fruit juice & sports drinks
By Karyl Rattay, MD, MS

As the warm weather arrives in our area, kids will be heading outdoors to the playground, to ride bikes, play basketball and baseball, skateboard, play hopscotch, and whatever games their minds can create. Then they'll come running inside thirsty, grabbing the first thing available from the fridge to drink. If you think that by skipping soda and stocking the shelves with juice and sports drinks you've done the right thing, you may need to think again. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, overconsumption of juice, even 100% fruit juice, can contribute to weight gain, tooth decay and abdominal pain. While fruit juice does have vitamin C and some are fortified with calcium, when children drink a lot of juice, they are getting calories mostly from sugars and carbohydrates. This is not to say drinking 100% fruit juice isn't without benefits. In a pinch, a four-ounce glass of 100% fruit juice can be a substitute for, but is not really the equivalent of, one serving of fruit. But it is still best to limit fruit juice consumption to no more than 4 ounces per day for younger children. So when serving juice keep these suggestions in mind:
  • Make sure it's 100% juice and not a fruit drink–like Hi-C–which contains little or no fruit and lots of sugar.
  • Infants under 12 months of age should ideally not be given juice. When you do introduce 100% fruit juice to your kids, keep it to 4 ounces a day and be sure it's in a cup, not a bottle, to prevent it from becoming a security object.
  • When introducing juice, dilute it with water. That way, children get the fluids they need without as many calories and develop a taste for juice that isn't ultra-sweet.
  • Children between the ages of 1 and 6 years should only have 4 ounces of 100% fruit juice a day; for older kids, limit 100% fruit juice to 8 ounces a day.
  • Don't substitute juice for fruit in your children's diet – kids should be encouraged to eat whole fruits.
  • Sports drinks, on the outside, are marketed as the perfect replenishment after strenuous physical activity. But inside the bottle, sports drinks are really just sugar-sweetened beverages, "liquid candy," with very little, or no, nutritional value. Unless your child is participating in 60 or more minutes of vigorous physical activity, sports beverages are nothing more than unnecessary calories. So what should you stock those on those refrigerator shelves?
  • Water - even the average child athlete can and should get all the necessary hydration by drinking plenty of water before, during, and after physical activity. Try adding orange, lemon, or lime wedges for appealing color and flavor.
  • Milk - fat-free and 1% milk provides kids with important nutrients to help meet daily requirements of vitamins and minerals, including calcium, potassium, iron, and vitamins A and D, and many others. Plain milk is recommended; however, flavored milk is better than no milk at all.
  • 100% Fruit Juice - limited amounts of 100% fruit and vegetable juices with no added sweeteners.
Of course, "liquid candy" comes in other forms too. On average, children today are drinking twice as much soda as milk. From a health perspective, regular soda is very high in sugar and calories and contains nothing of nutritional value. So, don't cancel out the benefits of outside play by letting kids fill up on high calorie, low nutrient, sugar-sweetened beverages. Try following the 5-2-1-Almost None formula for a healthy lifestyle: get 5 servings of fruits and veggies a day, limit screen time to 2 hours per day, get at least 1 hour of physical activity a day, and drink almost no sugar-sweetened beverages. Karyl Rattay, MD, MS, is a pediatric preventive medicine physician and an expert in obesity prevention for Nemours Health and Prevention Services, based in Newark.

Free prescription drug discount cards still available in Sussex
Sussex County is continuing its discount card program to help consumers cope with the high price of prescription drugs, especially during these tough economic times. County Administrator David B. Baker reminds the public that the free Prescription Drug Discount Cards are available at all 14 public libraries, as well as in the County Administrative Offices and West Complex buildings in Georgetown. Additionally, they are available at many town and city offices, as well as senior centers. And County officials are now working to make the cards available at local, participating pharmacies. The County is making the free cards available under a program sponsored by the National Association of Counties (NACo). The cards offer an average savings of 20 percent off the retail price of commonly prescribed drugs. The cards may be used by all residents, regardless of age, income, or existing health coverage. Most major pharmacies accept the NACo card, with a national network of more than 59,000 pharmacies participating. No application is necessary. Since its launch in late 2007, approximately 16,000 cards have been distributed throughout Sussex County. As of February 2009, more than 6,100 prescriptions have been filled using the cards in Sussex County, saving users an average of $14.66 for a total savings of almost $115,500. There is no cost to county taxpayers for NACo and Sussex County to make the cards available. Residents can call toll free 1-877-321-2652 or visit caremark.com/naco for assistance. Residents with general questions also can call 302-855-7700. Any retailer, organization or other groups interested in partnering with Sussex County to distribute the cards should contact the Sussex County Personnel Office at 855-7711. The discount card program is administered by Caremark Rx, Inc. The National Association of Counties (NACo) is the only national organization that represents county governments in the United States. For more information about NACo, visit naco.org.

Look Good...Feel Better Women undergoing chemotherapy or radiation treatment for cancer can now receive free professional help to cosmetically disguise the appearance-related side effects of their treatments. Look Good...Feel Better, a program developed by the Cosmetic, Toiletry, and Fragrance Association Foundation, the American Cancer Society, and the National Cosmetology Association, trains volunteer cosmetologists to help women with cancer, conceal loss of hair, skin problems and other side effects that can result from cancer therapy. The next program will be hosted by the Cancer Care Center at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital on Monday, June 15 from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Cancer Care Center's 2nd floor conference room. The program is free to all patients in active cancer treatment. Registration is required, and space is limited. To register, contact Nanticoke Memorial Hospital's Cancer Care Center at 302-629-6611, ext. 2588.

Cancer Support Group The Wellness Community-Delaware offers a General Cancer Support Group for people affected by cancer and their loved ones. The free monthly support group meets in the Second Floor Conference Room of the Cancer Care Center at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital in Seaford on the third Monday of each month from 4:30 to 6 p.m. The Wellness Community-Delaware is dedicated to helping people affected by cancer enhance their health and well-being through participation in a professional program of emotional support and hope. All facilitators of these groups are trained mental health professionals. For more information and to register, call 645-9150.

Depression Support Group There will be a free bimonthly Depression Support Group meeting in Laurel on the second and fourth Wednesday evenings from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Any person who has signs and symptoms of depression and is under the care of a professional counselor/MD is welcome to attend. To register, call Life Matters Counseling and Consulting at 302-465-6612.

Stroke support group Nanticoke Memorial Hospital's next Stroke Support Group meeting is Thursday, May 21 at 1:30 p.m. at the hospital's second floor Cancer Care Center Conference Room. The support group is designed for individuals who have survived a stroke as well as their families and caregivers. The two-hour support group meetings will consist of guest speakers and breakaway sessions, in which caregivers and stroke survivors will meet in two groups to discuss concerns, provide support and allow for networking. Refreshments will be provided. Pre-registration is not required and there is no charge to participate. For more information, contact Nanticoke Memorial Hospital at 302-629-6611, ext. 8626.

NMH offers diabetes education Nanticoke Memorial Hospital will hold a four-session diabetes education program beginning June 3 and continuing June 10, 17 and 24 from 5 to 7 p.m. at the hospital. The cost of the four-session program may be reimbursable by insurance. This program includes weekly education sessions and individualized meal planning for diabetes self-management. The goal is to give participants the self-management skills necessary to control their diabetes. Family members/significant others are welcome to attend. Pre-registration is required. To register and to obtain additional information regarding the course, contact Nanticoke Memorial Hospital's Diabetes Education department at 302-629-6611, ext. 2446.

Volunteers needed The Delaware Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society needs volunteers to help with their spring fundraising event Twilight at Baywood Greens on Friday, May 29 in Long Neck. Volunteers are needed on the day of the event from 4 to 8 p.m. and may choose from a range of activities, including registering event participants, supporting participants at rest stops, distributing t-shirts, loading and unloading supplies, setting up refreshments, and cheerleading at the finish line. For more information, contact Jenna Wagner at 302-655-5610 or email jenna.wagner@MSdelaware.org.