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Take the Bite Out of Summer

by Alexandra Zega

 

Summer means the arrival of certain illnesses and infections caused by bacteria, viruses and bugs that thrive in the warm, moist environment. Although the risk of catching these diseases is low, there are some precautions to take to stay healthy.

For more information on all the diseases, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at www.cdc.gov.

MOSQUITOES


West Nile virus:

What it is — A viral infection that first showed up in the U.S. 10 years ago and infected thousands each summer but has dropped off dramatically in recent years.

How it spreads — When a mosquito feeds on a bird infected with West Nile, the mosquito can carry the virus and infect a person through a bite. It is not transmitted from person to person.

Symptoms — Most people who are infected never develop symptoms. About 20 percent will develop headache, fever, body aches or rash. In very rare cases, the virus can lead to encephalitis (inflammation in the brain). Last year, 32 people in the United States died of West Nile virus.

Treatment — Doctors can treat the symptoms, but there is no cure; most patients recover on their own.

Prevention — Spray insect repellent with DEET on exposed skin. Avoid being outdoors at dusk, when mosquitoes are most active. Remove all standing water from flower pots and bird baths.

Incidence — 720 confirmed cases in the U.S. last year.

Dengue fever:

What it is — A viral infection.

How it spreads — Dengue is transmitted by infected mosquitoes, not person to person. Dengue is the most common cause of fever in U.S. travelers to the Caribbean, central and South America and Asia. Upon their return to the U.S., sickened travelers can infect domestic mosquitoes, who then spread it to other people.

Symptoms — Dengue typically causes mild illness or none at all. Symptoms can include fever, headache, severe joint pain, eye pain, rash and vomiting. Rarely, severe cases can lead to dengue hemorrhagic fever, which can be fatal.

Treatment — There is no specific drug to treat dengue illness, but the symptoms usually can be treated.

Prevention — As with West Nile, the best prevention is avoiding mosquito bites. Researchers at St. Louis University are conducting a human clinical trial of an experimental dengue vaccine. E-mail vaccine@slu.edu or call 314-977-6333

Incidence — The most common mosquito-borne virus, dengue infects more than 100 million people worldwide each year, mainly in tropical regions. There were no reports of cases acquired in the U.S. before 1980. Since then, a few cases have been reported along the Texas-Mexico border. Last month, the CDC confirmed 28 cases of dengue in Key West, Fla. Other recent outbreaks have been linked to American relief workers returning from Haiti.

TICKS

Lyme disease:

What it is — A bacterial infection.

How it spreads — The disease is transmitted to humans by infected blacklegged ticks who in turn were infected by small rodents. It is not spread from human to human.

Symptoms — Fever, headache, fatigue, chills, swollen lymph nodes and a bulls-eye shaped rash in about 75 percent of cases. If untreated, the infection can produce symptoms ranging from facial paralysis, neck stiffness, dizziness and arthritis. Up to 5 percent of people who are untreated will develop neurological symptoms including pain, numbness and tingling in the extremities, and problems with memory and concentration.

Treatment — If the infection is caught early, a three-week course of antibiotics can usually stop its spread to joints and the nervous system.

Prevention — Tuck shirts into pants and pants into socks. Use insect repellent with DEET on exposed skin and permethrin on clothes (available at stores that sell outdoor equipment). Perform tick checks of the whole body, and remove any ticks with sharp tweezers. It is rare to contract Lyme disease if the tick has been on your body for fewer than 24 hours.

Incidence — Most reported Lyme disease cases come from Ne w England and upper Midwestern states. All states reported 28,921 confirmed and 6,277 probable cases of Lyme disease to the CDC in 2008, a 5 percent increase over 2007.

BATS, RACCOONS and SKUNKS

Rabies:

What it is — A viral disease that infects mammals.

How it spreads — Rabies is transmitted through the bites of wild, rabid animals.

Incidence — The majority of rabies cases reported to the CDC occur in wildlife, although most wild animals are not rabid. Last year in St. Louis County, Mo., 590 bats were tested; 23 had rabies. Domestic pets account for 7 percent of animal rabies cases. Human cases are extremely rare, with one or two a year nationwide. The death of a Texas County man in 2008 was the first in Missouri since 1959.

Symptoms — The virus infects the central nervous system and is fatal if not treated early. Early symptoms include fever, headache and weakness. Anxiety, confusion, paralysis and hallucinations can develop.

Treatment — If you are bitten by a wild animal, wash the area with soap and water and seek treatment immediately. Prophylactic shots can prevent rabies infection.

Prevention — Make sure your pets' rabies vaccinations are up to date. If you find a live or dead bat in your home, do not attempt to capture it. Call your county's health department, which will come collect the bat so it can be tested for disease.

BACTERIA

Bacterial meningitis:

What it is — An infection of the blood around the spinal cord and brain. Viral meningitis is generally less severe and tends to resolve on its own.

How it spreads — Bacterial meningitis is contagious in close contact among people through the exchange of saliva or respiratory secretions, although it is not as easily transmitted as the cold or flu and is not spread through the air.

Who it affects — Teenagers at sleep-away camp and college students living in dorms are at increased risk for meningococcal disease.

Symptoms — Common symptoms include fever, headache and stiff neck that may be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light or an altered mental state. Rare but serious cases can result in the loss of limbs, deafness, seizures or brain damage.

Treatment — Early diagnosis is important to prevent severe illness and the spread of the disease. Meningococcal infections can be treated with antibiotics such as penicillin.

Prevention — A vaccine for bacterial meningitis protects about 90 percent of people who get it. The CDC recommends the vaccine for everyone ages 11 to 18.

Incidence — 1,000 to 2,600 Americans get meningococcal disease every year. About one in 10 cases is fatal.

E. Coli:

What it is — A group of bacterial strains found in the intestines that are mostly harmless. Some strains can cause diarrhea and intestinal illnesses.

How it spreads — E. coli is spread through contact with water or food contaminated with animal feces. Raw milk, undercooked meat, swimming pools and bodies of water can all contain the bacteria. Water test results in the Lake of the Ozarks this month, for example turned up positive for high levels of E. coli.

Symptoms — Stomach cramps, diarrhea and vomiting.

Treatment — The symptoms can be treated with hydration. Antibiotics are generally not recommended. Most infections resolve within a week. Rarely, severe infections can lead to kidney damage and death.

Prevention — Wash hands with soap and water after using the bathroom or changing diapers. Avoid swallowing pool or lake water. Cook meat and wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly.

Incidence — There are an estimated 70,000 E. coli infections each year in the U.S. Many people who are infected don't seek medical care or aren't tested for E. coli.

(c) 2010, B.Bernhard, St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

5 Tips for Teen Job-Seekers

by Alexandra Zega

Finding a summer job can be a full-time job, but with the right tools and the right attitude, teens can land one.

"The landscape has definitely improved since last summer," says Steve Kimball, acting senior vice president of marketing for SnagAJob.com. "But it's still a tough market out there for these teens."

A new survey, commissioned by Kimball's group, found that 29 percent of managers say a teen's stiffest competition comes from adults who've re-entered the seasonal or hourly work force because of economic pressures. But 6 percent of hiring managers intend to hire more workers than they did last summer.

"In the fast-food industry, the grocery world and the entertainment world — movie theaters, bowling alleys — we're definitely seeing more seasonal or teen hiring," Kimball says.

Internet job sites are a great place for teens to begin the hunt, Kimball says, because many of them offer thousands of listings categorized by location and industry. He also offers teens a few pointers for snagging a job once they land an interview.

—Be flexible about "where you apply and with your schedule. Don't go into it just wanting to have one type of job." Willingness to work nights, weekends and other odd hours might give teens an edge over adults who have more family commitments or second jobs.

—Be prepared. Practice for the interview with a friend or relative who can role-play and toss some questions your way. Check out the tips and sample interview videos on snagajob.com.

—Mind the details. "It's all about standing out. Pay attention to how you're dressed, the voice mail greeting on your cell phone. No text messaging or answering calls. Make sure you're really answering the questions and looking the person in the eye."

—Apply, apply, apply. "Apply to at least 10 jobs. Teens right now are competing against more seasoned workers, but you can increase your batting average by applying to at least 10 places."

—And remember, a job can be beneficial even if it's not exactly what you set out to do. "It's not just about the money or the work itself," says Kimball. "It's learning the interview process, having to show up on time, learning to provide customer service."

 

(c) 2010, Heidi Stevens,Chicago Tribune.

Tips to Stay Cool This Summer

by Alexandra Zega

  

With the official start of summer just around the corner, DTE Energy is offering the following tips to help customers save money and keep cool:

Around the house
--Close blinds, shades and curtains to keep summer heat out.
-- Keep the fireplace damper and doors tightly closed to prevent cooled air from escaping.
-- Run the dishwasher in the cooler part of the day when the lower temperature can better offset the heat and humidity the appliance will produce.

Air conditioning
-- Set the air conditioner thermostat at the highest comfortable setting. When leaving home for more than five hours, raise the thermostat five to 10 degrees. Raising the thermostat just a couple degrees can cut cooling costs by as much as five percent.
-- Regular maintenance is important to operating air conditioners efficiently. Check filters at least once a month. Dirty filters cause air conditioners to work harder and use more energy. Many filters can be removed, washed and dried, and reinstalled. Check the owner's manual or contact the manufacturer for more information.
-- Keep air conditioning units free of obstructions, inside and out, so air can flow freely. Outdoor units should be free of bushes, and leaf and grass debris. Indoors, move furniture and draperies to prevent blocking window units, vents and air returns.
-- Position window air conditioners on the shaded side of the house, away from direct sunlight. Window units generally are not designed to cool more than one room. Close the doors leading to uncooled parts of the house for more efficient cooling.
-- In homes with central air conditioning, leave room doors and air registers open so the system can operate effectively.

Fans

-- Make sure ceiling fan blades rotate clockwise in the summer months to draw cooler air up from the floor.
-- A window fan in an apartment or one-story home should be put in a window on the warmest side of the structure; in a two-story home, put it in an upstairs window. Fans draw cooler air inside during the night and circulate air during the day. Make sure draperies are secured away from the fan for better air circulation and safety.
-- Prevent heat build-up in the attic by opening attic vents and making sure any lower vents are not blocked. A cooler attic benefits the living area below. An exhaust fan or whole-house fan mounted in the attic will pull hot air out of the attic and living areas and draw cooler air in.
-- Use an exhaust fan to blow hot air out of your kitchen while cooking. The savings in your cooling costs will far outweigh the fan's electricity use.

 

(c)RISMEDIA

 

Facebook has been under fire for the changes made to its privacy model last month, yet despite the latest privacy and control settings announced this week by Mark Zuckerberg, some groups are rallying users to boycott or even delete their profiles on Facebook on May 31 and June 6 in protest. For those who are not ready to completely delete their profile or are perhaps too emotionally invested in their account, there are less extreme options to consider.

Here are six tips to consider:

1. Never share your password with anyone – Not even your best friend or significant other

2. Watch the digital crumbs you leave behind – Remember: your photos, videos, comments live forever on the Web. Don't post anything you wouldn't want your grandma or future employer to see. Also never post sensitive info, such as your phone number, e-mail or birthday. And there's no need to share everything in your status updates (e.g. "Off to Vegas for the holiday weekend!")

3. Ignore the "Check Out the Best Beach Bods" link from your "friend" – It likely came from a hacker who broke into their account

4. Make sure links posted to your page are safe – Use smart Facebook applications like Norton Safe Web for Facebook to run a scan for poisonous links posted on your wall

5. Limit your "Circle of Trust" – If you are using social networking sites to connect with family and friends, ignore requests from people you do not know – it could be a cybercriminal

6. Stay informed of Facebook's privacy settings and changes to it

 

(c) RISMEDIA

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