Don’t Eat Armadillos!

Apparently there is a reason that armadillos are encased in that wonderful hard gray shell (other than to protect them from predators, I mean). Armadillos are responsible for most of the cases of LEPROSY in the United States.

I didn’t know there was any leprosy in the U.S.

According to weather.com:

Each year, about 150 Americans contract leprosy – the same skin-sore causing disease that’s been around since biblical times

Leprosy’s source in the United States? Armadillos, according to a genetic study on leprosy bacteria published in 2011. When people in the Southern United States hunt, kill and eat infected armadillos, the disease is transmitted to humans.

Although there’s a low risk of leprosy infection from armadillos, it’s best to avoid the risk entirely by avoiding the animals, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

I suspect that a few of those armadillos that get eaten were also road-kill, which has its own dangers. I guess if I were hungry enough I would eat one, even if it was road-kill, but I’m thankful to stick to hamburger meat and chicken!

The Health Resources and Services Administration (part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) has this to say about leprosy:

Hansen’s Disease (Leprosy) Facts

  • Most (95 percent) of the human population is not susceptible to infection with M. leprae, the bacteria that causes Hansen’s disease (leprosy).

  • Treatment with standard antibiotic drugs is very effective.

  • Patients become noninfectious after taking only a few doses of medication and need not be isolated from family and friends.

  • Diagnosis in the U.S. is often delayed because health care providers are unaware of Hansen’s disease (leprosy) and its symptoms.

  • Early diagnosis and treatment prevents nerve involvement, the hallmark of Hansen’s disease (leprosy), and the disability it causes.

  • Without nerve involvement, Hansen’s disease (leprosy) is a minor skin disease.

  • 213 new cases were reported in the U.S. in 2009 (the most recent year for which data are available).

  • Most (97 or 65%) of these new cases were reported in

    • California

    • Florida

    • Hawaii

    • Louisiana

    • Massachusetts

    • New York

    • Texas

I am glad I looked this up because I learned some new facts — e.g., that the effects on the skin are not serious (although they cause the most stigma) and that the hallmark of leprosy is nerve involvement.

Anyway… stay away from those armadillos, friends.

Armadillos have the right of way in Austin, TX

Armadillos have the right of way in Austin, TX

Floods and Public Health

Hurricane Sandy affected drinking water

Here are some excerpts from an article I wrote for Bellaonline.com a few years back. I thought it would be apropos post-Hurricane Sandy: (clicking more will take you to the complete article on Bellaonline.com)

Floods can significantly threaten public health, not only in terms of deaths by drowning, but also indirectly through carbon monoxide poisoning, waterborne disease, hypo- or hyperthermia, infected wounds, and electrocution.

When polluted rivers and lakes overflow due to floods, or torrential rains cause sewage systems to overflow, the ground itself can become contaminated with dangerous chemicals or fecal matter. If the flooded area contains crops, those crops will also be contaminated, possibly resulting in high levels of toxic chemicals….. more

Gasoline powered devices such as generators and blowers are often used during cleanup after floods. These devices can be very dangerous if they are used inside, even when doors and windows are opened. Carbon monoxide can build up over time and nearby individuals may not realize anything is wrong until it is too late…. more

Hurricanes and other severe storms often cause downed power lines in addition to floods. Since water is an excellent conductor of electricity, stepping into flood waters where a power line is down is the same as dropping your hair dryer into your bath water… more

The presence of bacteria and viruses in flood waters can result in an infection if you have a break in the skin, such as a cut or abrasion. Unfortunately, wounds like these are often sustained during cleanup efforts… more

Finally, floods can increase the risk of heat-related illnesses (hyperthermia) in the summer, and decreased body temperature (hypothermia) in winter or even in summer. Flood water is often much colder than body temperature, especially if it is related to runoff from mountain snow. If a person is stranded in a flood and spend too much time in the water, their body temperature can drop to dangerous levels… more

Floods can be deadly weather events, but you can reduce your risk by taking precautions.

Tuckerton, New Jersey

Update on my health

Last Thursday I went to see my cardiologist because my right leg, the one they used for the heart catheterization, had been swollen for a week and was painful if I walked or stood for very long. (actually, it wasn’t the same cardiologist who did the procedure, because he was out of town) She gave me an order for ultrasound tests of the arteries and the veins in the right leg. She expected it would be a problem with the artery, such as an arteriovenous fistula or a pseudoaneurysm, because they are common complications after a heart cath.

When I went back on Friday for the tests, it turned out that I had a blood clot in one of the veins of my leg — what they call DVT, or deep vein thrombosis. DVT can be very dangerous because if the clot breaks off it may travel to the lungs and cause a pulmonary embolism. So the cardiologist sent me down to the ER and they started me on blood thinners.

I was moved to a regular room in the mid-afternoon. I spent the rest of Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and part of today in the hospital — the first time I’ve been hospitalized for a non-mental illness condition since I had my children! My youngest is 24, so you can see it’s been a long time.

It was boring, but I did watch a few old movies I’d never seen before like Men in Black and Ghostbusters. Needless to say, I’ve very thankful to be home again!

I’m A-OK!

from Wikipedia Commons

Yesterday’s heart cath was not a fun experience, but as it turned out, I had NO BLOCKAGES at all! I was so happy to hear that! With my high triglycerides & high cholesterol it is very surprising, but I know I have only been granted a reprieve, and it won’t last forever. It is past time for me to get my act together — to eat right and exercise, the way I have known I should do for a long, long time. I’ve had high cholesterol for at least 5 years, and it has just gotten worse over time. I’ve also gained weight, about 30 lbs. over the last 4 1/2 years.

Fortunately, I have had no problems with high blood sugar or blood pressure. These often co-occur with the high cholesterol etc. to form “metabolic syndrome”. Some of the meds I take, especially Seroquel, can cause metabolic syndrome.

I’m taking it easy for a few days to make sure the catheter insertion site doesn’t break open and start to bleed again. Because they put it in an artery, any break would cause blood to spurt out every time my heart beats. Yikes!

Thanks to everyone who commented & liked my post yesterday about the procedure. I hope all my readers are having a good day!

Heart Catheterization

Today I went to see the cardiologist for the first time. After hearing my symptoms and looking at my EKG, he strongly suggested that I have a heart catheterization right away (although I had the option of a stress test first). Given my extremely high cholesterol and triglycerides, plus the fact that I don’t exercise or eat the way I should, I decided to go ahead and skip the stress test to be on the safe side.

I am very thankful that I have insurance available to pay for this; otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to do anything but worry.

Sad or Silly — or both?

I’m not sure what to make of this report (below) from Medscape concerning women who get genital cosmetic surgery. I can see having plastic surgery if I had a big ugly wart or something equally disturbing ‘down there.’ But I would NOT do just because I had one labia longer than the other, as a woman mentioned in the report.

To me, this is just another reason for women to feel inadequate and to feel they must change themselves to be attractive. And that’s sad.

It’s silly, too. All that money spent, and who will see it? Insurance won’t cover it unless it’s a medical issue — in which case it’s no longer cosmetic surgery.

Here’s the report:

Gynecologists Alarmed by Plastic Surgery Trend

By Deena Beasley

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) Aug 27 – Trained as a gynecologist and reconstructive surgeon, Dr. John Miklos calls himself a “medical tailor,” specializing in surgery to reshape a woman’s genitalia.

The Atlanta surgeon, who has performed gynecological surgery for nearly 20 years, cites cases of patients who say their sexual response improved after vaginoplasty, a procedure to surgically tighten a vagina stretched by childbirth or aging.

“Women come to me and say they don’t have the urge to have sex anymore because they don’t feel anything,” Miklos said. “I guarantee that if a man didn’t feel anything, he wouldn’t have sex either.”

Female genital cosmetic surgery is a small segment of the U.S. plastic surgery market, but it is growing, with thousands of women estimated to undergo such procedures every year. That growth comes despite a warning from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) in a 2007 notice to member physicians that strongly questioned the medical validity and safety of female genital cosmetic surgery. Earlier this year the group debated the trend at its annual meeting in San Diego.

“None of these procedures have proven effectiveness, and there is potential for harm,” Dr. Cheryl Iglesia, a Washington, D.C., gynecologist and former ACOG committee member, wrote in an editorial published in the June issue of Obstetrics and Gynecology. “Women are being misled or are confused about what is normal,” she wrote – and about what constitutes a condition that can actually be helped through treatment.

Critics say the trend is the latest service aimed at women pursuing an impossible ideal of physical perfection, hyped by Internet pornography and advertising by surgeons who may not explain all the risks, such as infections, scarring, pain and the loss of the very sensations some patients seek to enhance. Continue reading

How a Bag Spread a Norovirus to an Entire Soccer Team by Dr. Sharon Orrange/Primary Care Physician: at DailyStrength Doctors and Advisors

How a Bag Spread a Norovirus to an Entire Soccer Team by Dr. Sharon Orrange/Primary Care Physician: at DailyStrength Doctors and Advisors. (click to read article)

I like my reusable grocery bags, and when I can use them, I do so. But this article is enough to give me pause, thinking I should be more careful with them.

A girls’ soccer team from Oregon went to a tournament and became ill with a gastrointestinal virus (with vomiting and diarrhea). According to the article, an investigation by the CDC revealed that the virus was spread by contact with a reusable grocery bag that was in the bathroom used by the first girl who became ill.

The bag contained snacks for the girls, including chips in individual bags and fresh grapes. The virus that made the girls sick was later found in the bag.

The first lesson here is don’t keep food in the bathroom! Yuck!

Second, as the article states, these viruses can spread very quickly, since exposure to any item near the ill person can lead to another case. In this case, the food that was in the bag (and the bag too) should have been trashed.

The CDC recommends using a bleach-based cleaner to disinfect the surfaces and objects in the bathroom and other areas used by the ill person (see prevent the spread of norovirus). Lysol disinfectant also claims to kill norovirus, but there is conflicting information. Note that neither Lysol nor Clorox wipes will kill these viruses.

Although it is impossible to complete kill all germs in a home setting, using disinfectants properly can greatly reduce the number of germs and therefore the likelihood of infection. By the way, if you take a proton pump inhibitor such as Prilosec or Nexium, you are especially vulnerable to norovirus and other similar germs. They are not easily killed by stomach acid, but if you don’t have as much stomach acid as the normal person it’s even worse.

You don’t want this nasty virus, because you will wish you were dead. Even though it usually lasts only 24-48 hours, they will seem like the longest hours of your life. The only thing I’ve ever had that was worse was Montezuma’s Revenge.

Depression and Stroke

If you follow the medical news, especially Medscape, then you probably already know that a recent review article showed an association (not necessarily a causal relationship) between depression and stroke risk. The increased risk of stroke associated with depression was seen in both men and women, and data suggested it might be independent of other risk factors for stroke (e.g. high blood pressure, diabetes).

This news may be enough to make some of us depressed.

However, there is no reason to think that every person with depression is in danger of having a stroke tomorrow, or that it is impossible to change the level of risk. Most of us know that diet, exercise, and control of other medical conditions such as high cholesterol can decrease stroke risk. Depression may be associated with stroke through one or more of these factors. After all, who feels like eating healthy and exercising during an episode of depression? I know I don’t. If I could somehow motivate myself to take care of my body even during depression, it would probably improve my mood as well as reducing my stroke risk.

I must add a caveat here: the review did not state explicitly whether the patients had unipolar depression, bipolar depression, or either one. This could make a huge difference since bipolar depression has a number of unique characteristics and responds to typical medications in different ways.

Further reading:
Additional information about stroke

The FAST acronym for detecting a possible stroke

Lollipop Tuesday — Exercising

It’s the dreaded ‘E’ word, one that I’ve hated for most of my adult life. I doubt I have ever been in “good” shape, even when I was young, but there were times I was in “acceptable” shape. The rest of the time it was not good, and the older I’ve become the “not gooder” it has gotten.

So Friday evening my lower back started screaming at me. I’m not sure why; it was probably just a bunch of little things that added up to be too much for my lackadaisical back, hip, and abdominal muscle groups. Or maybe it was a fibromyalgia flare-up. In any case, the worst spasms were in the lower right. So I went to bed with a cold pack and 600 mg of ibuprofen. In the morning I felt better, but it wasn’t long before it started again, preventing me from attending a meeting Saturday afternoon.

from the American Institute of Physics

Once it started feeling better, I knew I had to get up and do something different. I went to the Internet and Google for information on how to fix my back problem. I had suspected that stretching was important, and in fact that was the first type of exercise listed. Stretching should begin even before the pain is completely gone (but not when it’s acute). Once the pain has resolved it is time for strengthening exercises that focus on the back, abdomen, hips, buttocks and thighs (not to say I don’t need strengthening elsewhere).

So that’s my new activity for this week’s Lollipop Tuesday — a commitment to daily strengthening exercises, 15 minutes twice a day. Next week I’ll let you know how it went :-).

Here are some of the resources where I found info on exercises for back pain:

American Ortho Low Back Pain Exercise Guide
Mayo Clinic Back Exercises in 15 minutes a Day
Video with 2 good exercises

Looking Out for Men’s Health

I was very pleased to learn on Thursday about the legislation introduced in several states, including Ohio, Missouri, Georgia, and Virginia, aimed at protecting men from making uninformed decisions about vasectomies and erectile dysfunction (ED) treatments.

Earlier this year, Virginia state senator Janet Howell introduced a bill that would required men seeking prescriptions for ED drugs like Viagra to undergo a rectal exam and a cardiac stress test. Both of these tests are highly relevant to making an informed decision about ED treatment — if the man’s heart is not strong enough for sexual activity, he could die from taking Viagra. Similarly, ED drugs can have serious effects on the prostate, so it is imperative that a rectal exam be given prior to ED drug prescriptions in order to make sure that the man has no prostate trouble.

Unfortunately, this bill was defeated 21-19 in the Virginia State Senate, but I do hope it will be introduced again in the future; since male lawmakers have been so solicitous of the needs of women to make informed decisions related to sexual health, it is important for women to show their concerns about men.

Ohio state senator offered a similar bill, which would require psychological testing to ensure that ED is due to a medical problem and not a psychological one (in which case drug treatment would be inappropriate). In addition, men would be informed in writing of the possible harm that could result from ED drugs, and required to sign a statement that they understand and accept these risks.

“The men in our lives, including members of the General Assembly, generously devote time to fundamental female reproductive issues–the least we can do is return the favor,” Senator Nina Turner said. “It is crucial that we take the appropriate steps to shelter vulnerable men from the potential side effects of these drugs.”

Georgia and Missouri legislators recently considered bills to limit access to vasectomies, given the fact that many children would be deprived of the right to be born as a result of this surgery. One bill limited vasectomies to instances when the man would die or be seriously injured if he did not have the procedure.

Some have suggested that these measures are meant as payback to the male legislators who have introduced (and passed) bills about women’s sexual health — specifically abortion and contraception — and there may be some truth to that. After all, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, right? Why assume that men can make good decisions without help but women cannot? There is no scientific evidence to support this popular misconception.

In any case, I am proud of the women who are looking out for men’s health, and I hope that will continue.