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Friday Favorites: 4 health stories you might've missed

Murder or a Heart Attack

Thomas Hawk via Flickr Creative Commons

Did Covered California mess up your tax form? Don't have a heart attack: We have advice!

The news this week was nuts! I'm talking about that New England Journal of Medicine study, which found that babies who eat foods containing legumes are less likely to develop peanut allergies by age five.

Here's more on that study, plus KPCC's other best health stories of the week:

Allergy doctors explain surprising benefit of peanuts for allergy-prone babies

An allergy doctor from Mattel Children's Hospital UCLA joined AirTalk with Larry Mantle to answer some good follow-up questions to the study: How quickly might these findings be adopted by the medical community? And how does this apply to other common allergies, like pollen and shellfish?

What can you do to stop superbugs?

That whole exposure-as-prevention theory doesn't hold true when it comes to antibiotics.

The recent outbreak of antibiotic-resistant bacteria at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center points to a larger problem: Antibiotic resistance can develop through overuse of the drugs. I compiled some tips on how we can all use antibiotics more responsibly.

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Covered California messed up my tax form. What should I do? (updated)

taxes 1040 tax time tax return filing

Photo by 401(K) 2012 via Flickr Creative Commons

Covered California sent postcards to 100,000 households statewide, letting consumers know the tax form they already received was wrong and to wait for a new one.

For people in about 100,000 California households, taxes just got a bit more complicated.

Here's the gist: Everyone who purchased health insurance through the state-run exchange received a tax form from Covered California. Except some of those forms were wrong.  Now, the agency is scrambling to send out new, accurate forms.

Something similar happened at the federal level, too. Healthcare.gov had to send out corrected tax forms to more than 800,000 taxpayers in states where the federal exchange is active.

KPCC health reporter Elizabeth Aguilera joined Take Two this morning to talk about this situation and what consumers should know. Here's some background information and her tips:

What went wrong?

The Covered California errors revolve around inconsistencies of enrollment in subsidized health insurance plans. For instance, someone may have been enrolled for only three months but the tax form says they were enrolled for six months. (The federal problem was different – it was about incorrect premiums on the forms).

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FAQ: Could this be a bad year for West Nile virus?

mosquito

Photo by Sean McCann via Flickr Creative Commons

In Orange County, mosquitoes have been breeding "at an alarming rate and volume throughout the winter months," says Jared Dever, with the county's Mosquito and Vector Control District.

Last year, California reported 798 human cases of West Nile Virus – the most since 2005, when there were 880 cases.

In Southern California, some vector control districts are preparing for the possibility that 2015 could be another bad year for the disease.

What is West Nile virus?

West Nile virus is most commonly transmitted from mosquitoes to people.

An estimated 70 to 80 percent of people who contract the virus show no symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

About one in five people who are infected will develop a rash, plus other symptoms like headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting or rash. Less than 1 percent of people infected with the virus will develop a serious neurologic illness, like encephalitis or meningitis, according to the CDC.

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3 things to consider when choosing a hospital for childbirth

newborn baby infant

Sean Gallup/Getty Images

California's rate of early elected deliveries has dropped dramatically since 2010, from 15 percent to just two percent in 2014, according to a new report from the Leapfrog Group.

Unlike in emergency situations, mothers and fathers have time - a solid nine months - to choose which hospital they want to use for childbirth.

Erica Mobley, spokeswoman for the Leapfrog Group, says expectant parents should do their research - and her group can help. Each year, the non-profit watchdog releases a report examining the safety and quality of maternity care at hospitals across the country.

She spoke on AirTalk with Larry Mantle on Monday about the report, which looks closely at three indicators of maternity care at hospitals:

  • Rate of early elective deliveries. This measures how many women are giving birth before 39 weeks of gestation, without medical need. Some choose artificial induction, others a scheduled C-section. These early elective deliveries can result in neonatal care unit admissions, longer hospital stays and higher costs, according to the report
  • Episiotomy rates. An episiotomy is an incision made in the birth canal during childbirth. This process has been linked to health complications for the mother and increased delivery costs, according to the report.
  • High-risk delivery standards. This measures whether a hospital is equipped to handle babies born weighing less than 3 pounds, 4.91 ounces.

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What can you do to stop superbugs?

Amoxicillin pill antibiotics

Photo by Gene Han/LarimdaME via Flickr Creative Commons

Superbugs develop as we use - and overuse - antibiotics. One way to stop the spread of these bacterium is to take antibiotics responsibly.

If you've been following the news about the bacterial outbreak at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, you've heard that it's caused by an antibiotic-resistant bacterium Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae,  known as "CRE."

CRE is just one of the growing number of  "superbugs" that experts say pose significant public health risks, due to their antibiotic resistance.

Read our Superbug FAQ to learn how CRE became a "superbug."

Sometimes that resistance comes about naturally, through evolution. But it's also caused by overuse of antibiotics - something we can all help stop.

I spoke with Dr. Arjun Srinivasan, associate director for healthcare-associated infection prevention programs at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), who offered a few tips:

Use antibiotics responsibly

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