Reporting on health and quality of life in South LA

Star in your own 'Outbreak' with new iPad app from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Screenshot via the CDC iPad app

A new app from the CDC aims to teach the public about disease outbreaks and how they are stopped.

Everyone's heard (and loved) this plot before: There's an uncontrollable disease that's spreading like wildfire, and it's up to innovative doctors and researchers to understand the sickness before it's too late.

Whether it's Dustin Hoffman in Outbreak or Kate Winslet in Contagion, everyone loves a stop-at-nothing super scientist.

Now, you can be that scientist, with a new iPad app created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The federal government's health agency announced a new Apple game this week called Solve the Outbreak, where you work your way up from a Trainee to an esteemed Disease Detective by answering questions about outbreaks.

Examples include: "Do you quarantine the village? Talk to the people who are sick? Ask for more lab results?"

With correct answers come higher scores and more lives saved. And, the CDC hopes, a greater knowledge of disease, how it spreads and what health officials do to stop real-life outbreaks.

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1 in 8 Americans has type 2 diabetes and the arrival of coronavirus: In health news today

insulin

Heather Aitken/Flickr Creative Commons

Insulin. A new poll indicates that one in eight Americans has type 2 diabetes, and that only 21 percent consider themselves well-versed on the disease. (Heather Aitken/Flickr Creative Commons)

One in eight Americans has type 2 diabetes, according to a new poll – and more than one in three has a family member who's been diagnosed with the disease or has been diagnosed themselves. That's according to HealthDay, which also noted that only 21 percent of those polled reported knowing much about the disease, meaning that folks among the remaining 79 percent may have diabetes but not know it.

The National Center for Health Statistics reported Tuesday that more than 38,300 people died of drug overdoses in 2010, which marked an increase from the previous year. The Los Angeles Times says that's the 11th consecutive year during which the number of fatal overdoses has increased, and that in 2010, the majority of overdoses involved prescription drugs like Oxycontin and Percocet.

Know anybody who seems to have a cold every few weeks or so? U.S. News & World Report says a new study indicates chromosomes could partly explain why some people seem to be immune to the common cold while others seem particularly vulnerable. Researchers found that when otherwise healthy young adults had immune systems in which the cells had relatively short telomeres, they were more prone to catching a cold.

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Becoming a virutal 'Disease Detective' and allergy relief from acupuncture: In health news today

NYCTCM/Flickr

A new study shows that acupuncture may be effective in helping reduce allergy symptoms and the need to take allergy medicine.

As L.A.'s weather roller coaster continues, going from 80 degrees to about 50 degrees within a few days, many of us are suffering from ongoing allergies. But there's hope: CBS News reports acupuncture may help ease these seasonal allergies and hay fever. In a trial, researchers found 12 acupuncture treatments may help reduce the need to take allergy medicine -- at least on a short term basis. The study found that patients who received acupuncture saw improvements in their quality of life and had a lesser need for allergy medicine. But many of the acupuncture's positive effects seemed to wane a few months after treatment.

According to a new study, many people do judge a book by its cover -- especially in a hospital's Intensive Care Unit (ICU).  The Los Angeles Times reports that according to new research from JAMA Internal Medicine, families of patients in the ICU said physicians who don't have visible piercings or tattoos make a better first impression. In the survey of 337 people, each person was shown pictures of doctors and asked to select the best one. More than half of those asked chose a doctor in a white coat and traditional clothing. About one third emphasized the importance of a lack of tattoos and piercings.

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The best Valentine's Day present ever and benefits of the backstroke: In health news today

Flickr via Sum_of_Marc

Swimming can be good exercise and beneficial for your back. Some trainers suggest starting with moves like the backstroke.

Health officials say the flu epidemic seems to be lessening but seniors in particular are still at risk. NBC News reports that so far this season, almost 9,000 people have been hospitalized due to the flu and its complications - with people older than 65 accounting for more than half of that number.

With the weather warming up and bikini season near, the New York Times reports that swimming is good exercise that can also help ease back pain. Working out in a pool can strengthen your back and core muscles, while the buoyancy helps alleviate stress on your joints. Trainers suggest starting with the breastroke or the backstroke since freestyle or butterfly involve more "trunk rotation."

If the liver damage wasn't enough to scare you, a new study shows that even moderate alcohol consumption may substanitally increase your risk of dying from cancer. SFGate.com reports that in 2009, between 18,000 and 21,000 people in the U.S. died of alcohol-related cancers,  including liver and breast cancer. Although the study's authors recognized the possible health benefits of alcohol as well, they said booze causes 10 times as many deaths as it prevents.

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Old fashioned hand-washing more effective than sanitizer for killing germs

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Leah-Anne Thompson/iStockphoto.com

Hand washing remains the most effective way to rid yourself of germs -- as long as you're doing it correctly. Scrub your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds (or, two rounds of the "Happy Birthday" song.)

During flu season, hand sanitizer is everywhere: in cubicles, classrooms and supermarkets.

But how effective is this "super" germ killer?

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the sanitizer doesn't work as well as washing for hands that are visibly dirty. It also doesn't eliminate all types of germs -- most notably, norovirus, a serious stomach bug that can spread quickly in schools.

The New York Times reports that influenza and many other common viruses are coated in envelope-like lipids that alcohol in sanitizer can rupture. But viruses that aren't coated, like norovirus, are often not affected by the sanitizer.

The NY Times cites a CDC study from 2011 that examined long-term care facilities and the outbreak of disease. The study found that at facilities where staff members used alcohol-based sanitizers, they were six times more likely to have an outbreak of norovirus than at locations where the staff preferred using soap and water.

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