- Created on 07 December 2012
CHICAGO (AP) — State health officials say there's more flu activity this year than before and it's a good time to get a flu vaccine.
Both Gov. Pat Quinn and Department of Public Health Director Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck received vaccines during an event Thursday in Chicago.
Hasbrouck says there's been more flu activity this year than years past.
Flu season typically runs from October to May, with the peak around January.
Health officials say virtually everyone should get a vaccination each year to guard against new strains of the flu. The exceptions are babies under 6 months old and people who are allergic to the vaccine.
The virus can be spread through coughing, sneezing or touching objects carrying the virus, such as telephones and door knobs.
- Created on 06 December 2012
WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans are living longer, and Republicans want to raise the Medicare eligibility age to help reduce the government's huge deficits.
But doing so could have some surprising consequences, including higher premiums for people on Medicare, as well as for workers in employer health plans and those buying their own policies. More people could also be left uninsured.
House Speaker John Boehner put the idea on the table this week during budget talks.
Raising the eligibility age from 65 to 67 would reduce Medicare spending by about 5 percent annually, saving billions of dollars.
The seniors' lobby AARP is worried — and mounting a major campaign to block any change.
President Barack Obama was willing to consider the idea in the past. He hasn't said what he'd do now.
- Created on 04 December 2012
(CNN) -- If you haven't received your flu shot yet, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says now is the time to make sure you're protected. The agency says flu season is ramping up early this year - for the first time in almost a decade.
According to CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden, H3N2 is the predominant strain this year. It's generally associated with a severe flu season. "The strains we are seeing suggest this could be a bad flu year," Frieden said. "But this year's vaccine is an excellent match with the influenza that's circulating."
Dr. Melinda Wharton, Acting Director of CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, says current activity is highest in the South.
"We're seeing the highest level in the southeastern and south central region of the United States," she said. "Five states had high levels: Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and Texas. Moderate levels of illness have been recorded in Missouri and Georgia."
The CDC says about 123 million doses of the vaccine have already been distributed to health care providers, and about 112 million people have already been vaccinated.
Among doctors, nurses and pharmacists, about 80% to 90% have already been vaccinated, Frieden said, along with almost half of all pregnant women. The number of children being vaccinated has also increased. "I encourage everyone 6 months and up to get vaccinated," Frieden said.
Each year there are approximately 200,000 hospitalizations for flu-related illnesses.
- Created on 05 December 2012
(Reuters) - People who have recently lost their jobs are more likely to suffer a heart attack than their employed peers, in some cases running a risk as high as 35 percent, according to a U.S. study.
Researchers, whose results appeared in the Archives of Internal Medicine, found that each successive job loss was tied to a higher chance of heart problems among more than 13,000 older adults, although it's not clear how unemployment itself might have caused the extra heart attacks.
A combination of stress, worsening lifestyle and poor management of chronic conditions without health insurance may be to blame, said Matthew Dupre, the lead researcher from the Duke Clinical Research Institute in Durham, North Carolina.
"Those without a job may be unable to control their high blood pressure or to manage their diabetes (with their usual medication), or rates of smoking may be exacerbated," Dupre told Reuters Health.
But it's still too early to know for sure what's behind the link, he said, which means it's also too early to recommend ways to ward off heart problems among the recently-employed.
The data came from a large U.S. study of 13,451 adults who were interviewed every other year, for an average of 12 years, about their health, lifestyle and life events such as employment and job loss.
The study participants were 55 years old at the onset, on average, and two-thirds of them were overweight or obese. One in seven people was initially unemployed.
During the research period, 1,061 of the participants - almost eight percent - had a heart attack.
Dupre's team found that the more times people had been let go leading up to the latest survey, the higher their chance of having a heart attack.
Unemployment was still linked to a 35 percent increased risk of heart attack after the researchers had accounted for the effects of poverty and education, as well as race, age and other heart risks.
"We weren't surprised to find the association, but we were surprised to find that the effects were so large, on par with classic risk factors such as hypertension and diabetes," Dupre said. "The associations are strong, and they remain despite accounting for a whole host of possible explanations."
People were especially likely to have a heart attack during their first year of being out of work, they reported.
Dupre said people who have recently lost their jobs, as well as the doctors who treat them, should be aware of these added heart risks and be extra vigilant about the signs and symptoms of a heart attack.
The author of a commentary that appeared with the study said more research is needed to understand the link and who may be most at risk.
Studies have shown "a fairly convincing relationship between job loss and adverse health," said William Gallo, from City University of New York.
"Egregiously absent is research on why and how a socioeconomic exposure, such as job loss, influences health." SOURCE: bit.ly/WtbYIQ
(Reporting from New York by Genevra Pittman at Reuters Health; editing by Elaine Lies)
- Created on 03 December 2012
(AP) — Three Illinois non-profit organizations will share $1.3 million in federal funding to help improve a network for sharing clinical and administrative data among health care providers.
The work will focus on underserved areas of the state.
The funds will be used to implement the Illinois Health Information Exchange. The network is designed to foster better care coordination among providers and reduce medical errors and duplicative tests.
It's also aimed at controlling health care costs and improving treatment outcomes.
Gov. Pat Quinn announced the funding award on Saturday.
He called it "a critical part of our efforts to transform our health care system into one that focuses on wellness and keeping people healthy through better preventive care."