Friday, January 6, 2012

Elderly Drivers: Stop or Go?

Without so much as a tap on the brakes, my aunt whizzed through another stop sign.
"What are you doing?" I shrieked. "That was a stop sign."
"Oh," she replied rather offhandedly, "they just put those there so you'll look before you go into an intersection."

That was the day I stopped riding with my aunt but not the day she stopped driving. From then on, I had visions of an enormous pink Chevy leading a parade of cascading accidents. And I wasn't far from wrong.
She drove with what she knew to be the utmost caution. . . .never exceeding 30 miles per hour, even on I35! She expected, even demanded that traffic would give way to her like the seas parted for Moses. Sometimes, it did. But mostly, driving with her was a harrowing experience with no end in sight.
So, when do the elderly become a menace on the roads? And, what can you do when they refuse to give up the keys? Here are a few suggestions I've found.

Causes for Concern
Poor Vision - Cataracts, glaucoma, and macular degeneration can reduce visual acuity and limit visual fields, so a yearly eye exam is imperative for the elderly driver. Ask the doctor about driving, and don't take the word of the elderly driver on the results of her exam.
Poor Hearing - Something as simple as a clogged ear passage can create a hearing loss. A doctor can identify the problem and offer solutions, so have elderly hearing checked yearly.
Poor Flexibility and Limited Range of Motion - Good drivers rely on looking out rear and side windows as well as checking rearview mirrors. When a driver lacks the ability to turn his head and shoulders to look outside, he may not see oncoming vehicles or obstacles traveling in the car's blindspot.
Reduced Reaction Time - As we age, we slow down, and reaction times diminish. Keeping extra space between the driver's and other cars can help reduce the likelihood of accidents, but there comes a time when reactions are too slow for road safety. Click here for a reaction time test that will show you graphically how far you travel after you see a red light!
How to Get (and Keep) the Keys
A few states, , require road tests for persons over 65 when their licenses are renewed. An additional sss states require vision tests with license renewals. Consider yourself fortunate if you live in one of these states because it may be that the state will refuse to renew the elder's license. If you live elsewhere, here are a few tricks to try.
Talk with your Elder about the Convenience of Mass Transit - Many mass transit authorities have special services and special fares for the elderly and disabled. Check with your local transit authority. And talk with your elder about how nice it is to be able to enjoy the scenery while someone else does the driving.
Give Your Elder a Refresher Course - Not only will a refresher course improve road awareness, it may help your elder earn a discount on his car insurance. Courses and informative pamphlets are available from the AARP, AAA, and the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. You'll find links to these sites at the end of this article.
Report unsafe driving to your local Department of Public Safety. They may have additional help to offer you.
"Break" the Car - My teenagers unplugged a few vital wires when my father, who suffers from Alzheimer's disease, refused to relinquish the keys. We knew his cognitive ability was far too impaired for him to recognize the problem, and he was always comforted when we said we'd have the car repaired "soon."
Remove the Keys - Distract your elder from finding "lost" keys by offering an immediate alternative way to go somewhere. While this may be the most unpleasant way to stop your elder from driving, remember that you are not only protecting him but all the rest of us as well.

And what happened to my aunt? She got a ticket from a wonderful traffic officer whom we all blessed on a daily basis! Fearing the loss of her auto insurance, she voluntarily gave up driving.
Web Resources
Driving Safely While Aging Gracefully is a free booklet you can read online.
AARP offers a refresher course for elderly drivers as well as a number of other helpful resources. See their site at
AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has a terrific new site,, that you shouldn't miss if you're a senior driver or have a senior driver in your family. Exercises, examples of perceptual loss due to aging, emergency tips, and much, much more - all free. Please don't miss it!
For more in depth information on elderly drivers, see the OLR research report.

Prevent or Delay Alzheimer's Disease

Argh! Where are my glasses? I put them down . . . to do what? And when?
As the daughter of an Alzheimer's patient, this inability to keep up with everyday items, like my glasses and car keys, drives me absolutely nuts! Absent-mindedness has always plagued me. Now, it keeps me anxious and guessing. Is this an early sign of Alzheimer's disease? Could I end up like my father, crippled with this disease?

I decided to stop worrying about it and act!
I searched the latest literature to see what techniques (no prescriptions, thank you!) could prevent or delay the onset of Alzheimer's disease. Here are some of the things I found.
Diet Counts!
Vitamin E
Diets rich in vitamin E and essential oils may help prevent Alzheimer's disease. A study recently reported in the Archives of Neurology (2002) found that participants, aged 65-102, who ate fish at least once each week showed 36% less decline in cognitive functioning over the study's three+ years. Similar results have been found in the Rotterdam Study, a study tracking over 9000 participants. Those researchers found that participants who ate fish most often were only one-third as likely to develop Alzheimer's Disease as those who ate fish least often. These studies provide compelling reasons to add at least one meal of fish to your diet every week.
What other foods should you include? Olive oil is an especially valuable source of vitamin E and other anti-oxidants. I prefer the extra virgin variety of olive oil for its milder taste. With a squeeze of fresh lime juice, olive oil makes a very pleasant salad dressing. And I've discovered that the more I use it, the more I like it.
B Vitamins
B vitamins, particularly folic acid and vitamin B-12, help prevent Alzheimer's as well as a host of other diseases such as heart disease and stroke. A study from the National Institute on Aging found that mice fed a diet rich in folic acid were able to repair damage to the DNA of nerve cells in the hippocampus (an area needed for memory and learning). Foods rich in B vitamins whole grains, yeast, meat, low-fat dairy products, lentils and leafy greens.
Can't I just take a pill?
B vitamins may not be readily absorbable from pills. Certainly, the supplement pills are better than nothing, but for good absorption by the body, vitamin B shots may be preferable. Vitamin E and fish oil capsules are readily absorbed, so they should help. Check with your doctor or a nutritionist for correct dosages.
Substituting Soy for Dairy products
Soy may have protective properties and is a good source of B vitamins. I've known for years that ice cream gives me a stomach-ache. The problem is that I'm an ice cream junkie, a dairy products junkie, for that matter. I never met an aged cheddar cheese I didn't like. So I was very surprised to find that I actually prefer soy-based milk and ice creams to their dairy counterparts. I haven't tried soy-based cheeses yet. If you have, or if you've tried other soy substitutes, let me know what you think.
A caution: genetically-altered soy beans are often used in soy-based products. Without labeling, such as that Western European countries require on all genetically-altered foods, it is difficult to be certain that genetically-altered beans have been excluded from the products you're eating. I get mine at the health-food store for a little added protection. Although I cannot tell if the product contains some genetically-altered soy, the fact that it is organically grown assures me it is free of pesticide residues.
What about NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs)?
One of the prevailing theories is that inflammation causes or encourages Alzheimer's disease. This theory led to the suggestion that a daily regimen of NSAIDs (Ibuprofen and similar products) might prevent the disease. However, researchers at Georgetown University Medical Center (8th International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease and Related Disorders, July 25, 2002) found no significant benefits from NSAIDS compared to a placebo.
What to Avoid
A brand-new study, also reported in Stockholm (July 23, 2002) during the 8th International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease and Related Disorders, found that, among people who do not have the gene that predisposes people to Alzheimer's disease, smoking is significantly related to the occurrence of Alzheimer's disease. Yet another reason to stop smoking now!
Even small amounts of mercury may create the neurofibrillar tangles (abnormal TAU proteins) that occur in Alzheimer's and related diseases according to research conducted at the University of Calgary Faculty of Medicine. So I'll avoid silver/mercury tooth fillings. My mercury-filled thermometer now resides in the garbage can. The newer digital thermometers are easier, quicker, and safer to use.
Other Benefits of a Nutritious Diet
A nutritious diet, combined with a healthy lifestyle may prevent or ameliorate many diseases related to aging. With a US growing population now over 65+ (17 million+ according to the latest US census), seniors with serious medical problems may soon require more care than we can as a nation provide. We must do all we can to eliminate the problems associated with aging. Then the golden years may be truly golden.

Short Trips Can Stimulate Alzheimer's Patients

Severe degradation of short-term memory means that my father, an Alzheimer's elder, is seldom interested in movies or books. And, although music used to be a source of enjoyment, he no longer listens with pleasure. Left to his own devices, he sits. . .and sits. . .and sits unless he's sleeping. What to do?

We've found that visually stimulating events often perk our Alzheimer's elder right up. So we've added weekly, sometimes daily, trips, preferably four hours or less in duration, to his routine. These appear to add to his enjoyment of life and stimulate him to the extent that sometimes he'll add spontaneous comments to a conversation, a rare event nowadays.
Here are some of the outings that have added a little oomph to his life (and provided a short break from the daily grind of caregiving):
IMAX presentations offer stunning cinematography that grabs and holds attention. The presentations are usually fairly short, about an hour in length, without a complicated story line. He enjoys the 3D effects and has remembered these films for several hours after the fact.
A ride on the Dallas Area Rapid Transit rail takes less than three hours when you board at one end of the line and ride round-trip. In between, there are interesting stopovers, such as the West End, where people congregate for restaurants and entertainment. We think he enjoys watching the people as much as the museums and restaurants.
Talk about visual stimulation! You couldn't find a place with more going on or more interesting things to see. He loves the market, and, as a bonus, we're able to find really fresh fruits and vegetables and flowers for the garden.
From time to time, community theaters produce old favorites that he still remembers. And the Grandbury Opera produces farces that we can all enjoy together. Trips to small towns like Grandbury that have preserved their history can supply openings to reminisce.
If you'd never visited a supermarket, imagine how exciting your first trip would be! It's probably quite similar for our Alzheimer's elder and never fails to amuse him.
Bookstores no longer hold much interest for my father, but walking the mall provides lots of opportunity for people-watching. He doesn't care much for exercise these days, so a trip to the mall provides a built-in excuse for walking.
These particular jaunts might not work for your Alzheimer's elder, but they should fire up your imagination.

1-2-3, Weight Loss & Maintenance Has Become So Easy

Millions of people spend billions of dollars, hoping to achieve the same thing, effective weight management. For years, many people have struggled to maintain a healthy weight and body. With a majority of Americans being overweight or even obese, the problem has grown into a crisis. Nearly 300,000 people die each year from weight-related disease.
Every week seems to bring out the next fad diet designed to help you "shed the pounds." The problem is that most of these programs are not effective. Some work for a few days, but the weight comes back. Others are downright unhealthy. From products to exercise equipment, people are looking for the answer to their weight-management problem.
We believe the key to effective weight-management is a lifestyle of health. The pH Factor Weight-Management System combines a sensible eating plan, exercise, water consumption, and superior nutrition to help you create a lifestyle of health.
We feel the missing key to this challenge for many is the pH factor. Since blood pH is so critical to life, the body protects the blood at all costs. The typical diet consists of foods that when digested create acid that is put into the blood. The body has to neutralize this acid or risk major problems. Fat is one of the primary buffers used by the body to help deal with acid. When the body cannot neutralize acid, it stores it in fat cells.
When attempting to lose fat, we typically cut calories. But, if our system remains acidic, then instead of burning fat, which would release more acid into the system, the body burns muscle instead. The pH Factor Weight-Management System helps you to identify those foods that are creating excess acid in the system and also provides products that are alkaline. This combination can help you to raise your body pH, thereby creating an environment for health.
Tired of fighting to lose weight only to gain it back, again and again. It is a horrible cycle. Not only is it depressing, it is unhealthy. ForMor has discovered what we feel to be the missing key to long-term weight management. It is the pH Factor.
Welcome to the pH Factor Rapid Weight-Loss System. Success with this system requires strict adherence to the system. Failure to follow the system reduces the effectiveness of the system and lessens your chances of accomplishing the desired result.
A lifestyle of health is paramount to weight-management and health. This includes: sensible eating, moderate and consistent exercise, sufficient water consumption, and a good nutritional program. The pH Factor Rapid Weight-Loss System combines these into a simple plan. For the next 14 days, we are going to transform your body into a more effective, fat-burning machine. Order your products a get started'll be glad you did!!!
The pH Factor

"pH" or "potential for hydrogen" is the measure used to determine whether something is an acid or alkaline. It is measured on a scale from 0 - 14, with 6.8 - 7.0 being considered neutral. Anything below 6.8 is considered acid, and anything above 7.4 is considered alkaline. The pH of the blood is just over 7.3. If blood pH is altered, major problems, including death, are imminent. Therefore, the body has multiple buffers in place to make sure the blood pH remains constant.
The primary buffers the body uses are: sodium, calcium, and body fat. When acid is present in the blood, the body looks to neutralize it with an alkaline substance. The primary neutralizing agent is sodium, then calcium. The body actually takes calcium from the bones in order to neutralize blood acid. If it cannot be easily neutralized, then the body stores the acid in the fat cells. That creates a major weight-management problem.
Let's look at how this all works. Like any machine, our body needs fuel in order operate. Unfortunately, the fuel or food that most people use is not what the body needs or desires. In order to operate at peak efficiency, the body needs the proper food. The typical diet is high in food with little to no food value.
The problem goes much deeper than just lower efficiency. Like any machine, the fuel that we burn creates exhaust or by-products, sometimes called ash. In the body, our food is burned as fuel on the cellular level. The blood is the vehicle used to carry the food to the cell, and is also used to carry the waste or exhaust away from the cell to be eliminated.
When raw fruits and vegetables are consumed, the body breaks it down and sends it to the cells for fuel. The cell burns the fuel and the exhaust is an alkaline ash. When food from the typical diet is burned as fuel, the exhaust created is an acid ash. That acid is then carried in the blood.
Since blood pH is so critical to life, the body protects the blood at all costs. The body has to neutralize this acid or risk major problems.
Our goal then is to reduce the amount of food that creates an acidic ash and increase the foods that create an alkaline ash.
Effects of Acid

Acid in the body acts very much like acid outside the body. It creates waste. It ages the skin, degenerates tissues, and causes major problems. Additionally, most health concerns are created by an over abundance of acid in the system. Reducing acid in the system is critical to long-term health.
Many people love to drink a can of soda. If you look on the label, you will discover that a can of soda primarily contains acid. The pH of a soda is around 2.3. That is highly toxic. The body has to scramble to neutralize that acid in the system. It uses sodium, calcium from the bones or teeth, or anything else it has to in order to neutralize the acid.
Part of this system includes a slight change in some of the foods that we normally would eat. We understand that most people will not eliminate all the bad food from their diet, so instead of eliminating it, we are going to suggest a strategy of reduction.

Most people are dehydrated. Drinking sufficient amounts of good water is critical to your success. In order to determine your water needs, convert your body weight to ounces and divide it by two (2), and that is how many ounces of water you should consume each day. Pure water is the only thing that counts toward your daily intake. Even water mixed with Pro Factor Shakes does not count toward your daily needs. For best results, you should drink only distilled water charged with the Crystal Catalyst Concentrate. Mix one-half (Ѕ) ounce of Crystal Catalyst Concentrate to one (1) gallon of distilled water.

Building lean muscle, burning additional calories, and improving overall health are just some of the benefits of consistent exercise. For the next 14 days, commit to doing some sort of physical activity for at least 20 minutes a day for ten (10) of the 14 days of this program. That may include: walking, jogging, riding a bike, playing with your kids or grandkids, or other activities like, chasing your spouse around the house, that will raise your heart rate. Make it something you enjoy. Just commit to it for the next two weeks.

In life, balance is to be desired. When anything is done to excess, we are in danger of getting out of balance. Usually it is not one piece of cake, or one soda that does us in. It is when sodas, cakes, and other acid-producing foods are consumed in excess that we create problems. You can even get out of balance on the other side. The life span of most professional athletes and vegetarians, is actually less than some couch potatoes. But, we need to identify the things we are doing in excess in our food consumption, and make some extreme choices on how to bring those into balance.
For instance, one customer was drinking 6-8 diet sodas per day. For him, it was an extreme choice to eliminate diet sodas from his daily life, but that was one of the extreme choices he has made. For others it may be 6-8 cups of coffee, or two desserts per day, or the mid-afternoon candy bars. We do not suggest that you necessarily quit these types of things cold turkey. Rather, start to exercise some discipline and control over yourself in these things. Instead of eight sodas a day, drink only two. Instead of four cups of coffee, drink only one or two. Instead of four packs of sugar in your tea, maybe only one or two. Instead of a late night snack, drink two glasses of water charged with the Crystal Catalyst Concentrate. Instead of always taking the elevator, take the stairs once a day. Maybe reduce your portion sizes when you eat. When you go to a buffet, maybe just go through once. Remove from your thinking the idea that when you go to a buffet, "you have to get your money's worth," by eating as much as you can. The purpose of eating is to give you enough fuel to get to the next meal and nothing more. For best results, we strongly suggest that you make some extreme choices.

Scaling Down (almost) Painlessly

Moving to a smaller house or apartment in a retirement community almost always involves a certain degree of trauma, both for the elder who's moving and for family members. However, by planning ahead you can reduce the discomfort involved and turn what might well become a nightmare into a pleasant event.
Begin by Planning for the Move
Where is the elder moving? Go to the actual house or apartment with tape measure, pad and pencil and write down measurements. Floor space is important, but don't forget about ceilings. Many elders own large pieces of furniture that may not fit into rooms with low ceilings. Your work here will determine which pieces can move with your elder.
And while you're at the actual location, talk to several other elders who already live there. What is their life style? Do they go outside the property on frequent trips? How do they dress? Casual lifestyles will require an entirely different style of dress than more formal ones.
Gather Supplies and Contact Helpers
Having all the supplies you will need in one place will speed your task. You'll want a number of storage bins; five or six should be sufficient to hold sorted items. Plastic bags can be used for discarded belongings and as a container for articles to be donated to charities. Packing boxes and supplies such as padding materials and wide sealing tape are must-haves. Labels and dark marking pens are essential to ensure that boxes go to their intended location.
While you're in the gathering stage, begin to contact helpers you'll need. Among these may be: estate sale professionals certified appraisers moving companies house cleaners repair specialists (electricians, plumbers, carpenters, painters)
Ask friends, relatives, and senior real estate specialists for recommendations. Also, check with the Better Business Bureau to ascertain whether problems have been reported about particular companies or individuals.
Approach Your Task One Room at a Time
Who should help? The elder and one family member should assume responsibility for sorting all items and some packing. Do not include everyone in the family if you want to make the job quick and easy because distractions increase in geometric proportion to the number of persons doing the sorting.
Sort all the items in one single room at once, beginning and ending in the kitchen. Why start there? Because kitchens in small houses and apartments typically are short on storage space, and the elder needs time and experience to determine which items are true necessities, and which may never be used. If you reduce kitchen items to a bare minimum at the beginning, your elder can determine what's needed and what's not by living with them ahead of time. After living with fewer items, your elder may find that items once thought essential may not be needed. Complete work in the kitchen at the very end of your tasks.
Even though you intend to stay in only one room, distractions will occur. Resist them by stacking items that belong in another room at the door. A bin or box placed just inside the door can contain all the items that have homes elsewhere.
Make your motto One Thing at a Time; One Time for each Thing. Once you've picked up an item, decide then and there what its fate should be. Place it in one of the bins you've labeled: Discards Donations Distribution to Relatives Keepers Uncertainties Large collections of books may require their own bins. You might have bins for Collectors' editions, books to be stored, books to be sold to book dealers.
When you have finished categorizing all the items in the room, start the packing process. Items in the Uncertainties bin can be packed for storage.
If an unbreakable item is to be moved only a short distance, don't waste time on elaborate packing and padding. Items like crystal and china, however, require excellent packing, regardless of the distance they will be moved. If you can't do a great job, leave packing fragile items to professionals.
Mark boxes as you go.
Mark boxes as you go.
Mark boxes as you go.
Nothing is more frustrating than finding that you've shipped your elder's bed linens to Aunt Minnie and kept a silver salver you meant to send your nephew.
Don't try to do everything at once. Do only one room on any given day, and take the time to enjoy reminiscing as you sort items.
This is also the perfect time to have a certified appraiser come in to appraise items that may be of significant value. Very expensive items may be auctioned at an auction house such as Christy's or Sotheby's. Less expensive items can be sold to local antiques dealers. By having an idea of their value before going to dealers, you reduce the chance that dealers can scam you.
You could also consider selling items through an on-line auction. If you do so, remember that you will be responsible for shipping items and ensuring their condition to successful bidders.
Distribute Items to the Intended Recipients
Schedule a single day for distribution of items. In-town relatives can come to pick up items intended for them; they may also be helpful by taking bags to charities, books to resellers, boxes to storage, and trash to dumps.
Use this day for shipping as well. Small items can be shipped via UPS or FedEx; large pieces of furniture and antiques may require special handling by movers. Once you've finished distribution, you should have a considerably reduced pile of boxes and furniture. These boxes should contain only items to be moved to the elder's new residence or to storage. Remaining items should be those to be sold in an estate sale.
Move the Elder to His New Residence
Will the mover actually show up on time? Will the mover actually show up at all? Increase the probability of a good outcome for the move by contacting the mover to confirm arrangement a week ahead and the day before the actual move is scheduled. Of course, missed appointments may still occur, but if you've checked out the company with the Better Business Bureau and reminded the company of your appointment, the chances are good that the move will go as planned.
Accompany your elder to his new residence and help him with the moving-in process. Even if not all boxes can be emptied in a single day, he will feel more comfortable if a few items that are meaningful to him are unpacked and placed where he can find them.
Hold an Estate Sale
Once the movers have left the premises, the estate sale professionals should come in to evaluate and price items for the estate sale. Give them a key to the house, and then get out of their way. If you have chosen well, these professionals can do a great job of pricing items to sell and clearing the house of whatever remains. They will take a percentage of the sale receipts as compensation.
The days of the sale are good days to keep your elder busy elsewhere. A tearful elder does nothing to help sales.
Schedule a professional cleaning service to clean the house once the estate sale is over. When that has been completed to your satisfaction, turn the keys over to your senior real estate professional and give yourself a big pat on the back. You're done!
Click here for a checklist to help you through this process. Or copy this address into your browser address bar.

Nursing Home Staffing Levels: How Much Is Enough?

During the week of February 17, 2002, headlines screamed the news - more than 92% of US nursing homes fail to have an adequate number of staff to provide quality care for elderly residents. Newspapers and radio programs based their stories on the new study the Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA) recently provided to the Senate's Special Committee on Aging.
Interesting findings led us to reexamine our current data set of nursing home deficiencies. What we found may surprise you; there was no relationship between the level of staffing and the number of deficiencies reported for nursing homes. However, there was a relationship between level of staffing and percent of residents with pressure sores and physical restraints.
This article is provided to you so you'll have a greater understanding of what these findings mean.
The HCFA Study
Purpose - HCFA's study was performed at the request of the Senate's Special Committee on Aging to determine what minimum level of nursing home staffing was required in order to provide quality care.
Findings - The study reported that a minimum level of staffing, determined to be 2.9 hours of Certified Nursing Aide (CAN) time per resident was required for quality care. A number of measures went into this finding. Among them, a time and motion study examined the time required for basic services such as dressing and toileting.
A correlational study that examined the relationship between pressure (bed) sores and staffing found that a higher level of staffing was related to lower levels of pressure sores. This study was somewhat limited by the fact that homes with very low levels of staffing refused to participate; it may be inferred that the correlational findings would have been stronger with the participation of these homes.
In addition, the HCFA study examined the accuracy of reported level of staffing in survey and cost reports. They found that cost reports were more accurate than survey results in reflecting an accurate level of staffing as determined by nursing home payrolls.
Limitations - The report was limited by the extent of the data gathered (3 states included) and may not be generalizable across all states.
When Should Staffing Concern You
When the best is began examining long-term care, we attempted to gather data on staffing and found that it was extremely difficult to acquire accurate information. Then a well-respected administrator advised us that while staffing was important, it was not as good as measure of quality as the level of care residents actually received. We have learned through experience how right his advice was.
So what should you look for when determining the quality of care residents receive? Look for residents who are well groomed and not lethargic. Look for residents actively engaged in activities; although each nursing home is required to have an activities director, this does not mean that scheduled activities actually occur. Check the latest survey ratings for the percent of residents with pressure sores. Look for a rating close to zero. We also suggest that you examine the percent of residents with physical restraints because physical restraints may be used as a substitute for staff. Again, look for a rating close to zero. Look for the quality of interactions between staff and residents. Even though a minimum level of staffing is required for quality care, merely having staff at that level does not guarantee quality care. Homes may have high numbers of staff that do not interact appropriately with residents. Listen for reactions to resident complaints. Staff who ignore requests and complaints are not providing quality care.
What You Can Do to Find Good Care Check nursing home ratings and visit only those with few or, still better, no deficiencies. Call your state's long-term care ombudsman to get information on resident/family complaints. Although these complaints are not standardized and may include wide variations in severity, a large number of complaints should warn you away from homes receiving them. Consider non-profit care first. In general, non-profit homes have fewer reported deficiencies and higher levels of staffing than do for-profit homes.
What Else Can You Do?
The current growth in an aging population means that more and more people will require long-term care unless we do something about it now. That something becomes very personal for those of us in the Baby Boomer generation who will, within a few years, be part of the generation potentially needing nursing home care.
So, how's your health? Do what you can to ensure that your later life will not be complicated by any of the three leading causes of nursing home stays: heart disease, stroke and cancer.

My Teenaged Parents

Frankly, as a single parent of young children, I struggled. But, as the single parent of teenagers, I stunk! Faced with the reality of children who could (and did) do whatever they really, really wanted to do, I was often baffled.
Functioning as the caregiver of two adult parents, I again find myself baffled. But I am sure of one thing -- It's no wonder many caregivers die before the elders they care for! They simply wear out!
Consider this recent exchange:
ME: "How is that new medication working?"
PARENT: "It doesn't work. I still feel sick."
ME: "OK, call the doctor and tell him."
PARENT: "I can't. He doesn't answer calls on the weekend."
ME: "Well, someone does."
PARENT: "No, they just tell me to go to the emergency room."
ME: "OK, call the doctor's office on Monday."
PARENT: "Well, he doesn't have anything better to offer."
ME: "How do you know?"
PARENT: "He never does."
ME: "Well, call anyway, OK?"
PARENT: "He doesn't pay any attention to me."
ME: "He can't help if he doesn't know you're still sick. So, call, OK?"
PARENT: mumbles something unintelligible.
ME on MONDAY: "Did you call the doctor?"
PARENT: "No, I'm feeling better today."
ME: "Well, how about I go to the doctor with you?"
PARENT: "No, I'm not a child. And I don't want you treating me like one!"
I've run headlong into these issues more and more often of late. It's enough to drive you to drink - or whatever it is you do to deal with unending frustration. After all, these are my parents - and they are adults. . .or at least they used to be.
Could I get help? You can guess the answer! Something about hell freezing over.
I'm not about to win this battle, but I could use a friend during some of the more serious skirmishes. Here are a few things that could really lift my spirits:
Come over. Don't send flowers. They're just something else to take care of. But a home-cooked meal would be great.
Stay and serve it. Even greater!
Call often. Not me, my parents. Give them someone else to vent to.
Be a chauffer. Take them to the doctor, to shop, whatever. Just take them off my hands for a little while.
Start a "Caregiver's Day Out" at your church, synagogue or temple. Give me a break - just a few hours would be wonderful.
Suggest a companion from the Senior Corps. These retired adults spend 10-20 hours each week being a companion to shut-ins. If you're retired, consider becoming one yourself.
Lobby your Representatives and Senators for more funding for Adult Day Care Centers. The nearest one to me is 45 miles away and does not provide transportation.
Some people believe that life is a school with lessons for each of us. If so, my lesson is patience. I know I have to grow it for myself. . .but, please, rally round in the meanwhile. My patience cells are still infants!

Beat High Prescription Drug Prices

Anyone who's been to the pharmacy to fill a prescription lately is well aware that prices on prescription drugs have gone through the stratosphere. But there are steps you can take immediately to reduce your expenses in this area. Moreover, there are long-term actions you can take to create an atmosphere in which such high prices cannot flourish. This week and next, we'll discuss these steps.
1. Stay well. You know the drill.
Diet. Eat more live food. The best kind comes from your own yard. You benefit doubly by the nutrition fresh live food provides and the exercise you get caring for your plantings.
Exercise. Walking is great, but you will also benefit from lifting weights.
Stress reduction. Worry is there to alert you to potential harm, but past a certain point, it is self-defeating. Regular meditation will help you keep a tendency to worry and stress out under control.
Do something to help others. Often, changing your focus from internal to external helps reduce your awareness of discomfort. And it's always helpful to be reminded that many other people have a more difficult life than you.
2. Ask your physician about alternative methods to health:
Lifestyle changes. Lifestyle changes may bring about the good effects you seek. Such changes may include changing to a vegetarian or semi-vegetarian diet, increasing the types and frequency of activities and exercise. Add meditation to your daily routine. Get a dental checkup. Gum disease is associated with heart problems.
Generic substitutes for name-brand prescription drugs. Frequently less expensive generic drugs may be substituted without losing effectiveness.
Alternative medicine. Many Americans, concerned with the high cost of medical care, not just prescriptions drugs, but the medical care industry as a whole, have moved toward a more natural approach, seeking help from acupuncturists, naturopaths, chiropractors, etc. Who knows what might help? Try something new if you're not entirely satisfied with your present treatment. If your physician is totally opposed to alternative medicine, you might consider trying a different physician.
Biomedical Devices. We've had good results with a device called a Plant Growth Stimulator, such good results, in fact, that we have avoided antibiotics for more than ten years. However, we suggest you not use it on your ivy houseplant. Too much of a good thing!
You can learn more about biomedical devices from Wayne Green's website at:
Look under the section entitled "Bioelectrifier." And, no, we're not making a joke here. Something similar has been recently tested at Columbia University's Medical Center with very positive results. Be aware, however, that these devices are not approved by the Federal Drug Administration.
3. Reduce your dependence on medication of all types. - If you, your children, or your elders don't absolutely have to take it, don't. Popping a pill to cure a minor ailment can have serious consequences, including:
Bacteria resistance to antibiotics. Tina goes to her physician for antibiotics every time she gets a cold. The fact that antibiotics don't work on colds doesn't keep her from asking for or her physician from prescribing a course of antibiotics, just to be sure. Meanwhile, Americans are experiencing the effects of drug-resistant bacteria.
Over-medication. It's difficult to know exactly the extent to which Americans, particularly the very young and the very old are being over-medicated, but many believe it to be significant. Lethargy, lack of interest in surroundings, slurred speech, unsteady gait - all can be symptomatic of overmedication. So, watch children and senior citizens for signs that they may be over-medicated.
Your pharmacist can be a great resource in this instance. Find one who likes to talk. Ask questions, and listen to her answers.
If you suspect overmedication, act quickly. One of easiest things you can do in this case is to check with your local pharmacist. He or she, if aware of the various medications an individual is taking, can tell you whether or not overmedication is likely. Your pharmacist is an especially good resource in those instances in which a patient is receiving medications by prescribed by different physicians.
A caveat: We are, by no means, advocating refusing needed medications. We do, however, suggest that close attention to the numbers and types of medications taken can not only reduce the high costs associated with prescription medications but may, in many cases, contribute to a greater level of health. The body has its wisdom and its healing mechanisms. Often, we simply need to get out of the way and let them work for us.
Self-medication errors. Especially with easy availability of prescription drugs from foreign pharmacies and so many available over-the-counter medications, it's easy to overdo it. Don't! Just because pills are easily available does not guarantee their safety. And certain combinations of over-the-counter drugs and other substances, such as alcohol, can be deadly.
Drug interactions. Not only do certain drugs create unwanted interactions when combined, others can create unwanted side effects when taken with certain foods. Know what to watch out for by checking out the side effects of all medications.
4. Get prescription drugs free - maybe! Most pharmaceutical companies offer certain expensive drugs free to patients who might not otherwise be able to afford them. The rules for each company vary, so find out which company manufactures the drug you need, then go to their website or call them to see what they require. In general, you may qualify if your income is below a certain level and your physician recommends that you receive drugs from their free drug program. There may be a number of different qualifiers, however, depending on the manufacturer and the specific program, so you must check each drug and each company individually.
The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association of America maintains a list of drug companies and their free drug programs. Check them out at This helpful file may be downloaded in Adobe format.
5. Order by mail from the least expensive American pharmacy. Often PHARMOR has the least expensive pricing; AARP, the most expensive pricing. And watch out for shipping and handling costs that can add up quickly, especially for overnight shipping required on products such as Xalatan (a medication for glaucoma). Sometimes, if you buy in quantity, you can avoid shipping and handling charges altogether, so look for these deals.
The best site we've found for comparing prescription prices is Find them at:
You can search on a specific drug name on this site and find a variety of sizes and quantities from a variety of pharmacies. Try it. We think it's a find!
6. Order from foreign pharmacies - with or without a prescription.
Pharmaceutical companies sell the same prescriptions drugs in foreign countries that they sell in the US. The difference is the price, typically 30 to 50% lower than prices in the US.
On visits to Canada, we frequently stock up on drugs not available or available at much higher prices in the US. But you don't need to go to Canada or Mexico to take advantage of these savings. Pharmacies in these and other countries offer you the option of buying by mail.
You don't necessarily need a prescription to order. Although prescriptions are required in the US, our own government's regulations do not require them for our purchases from foreign pharmacies.
Many foreign pharmacy websites offer price lists for prescription drugs, a handy way to compare prices to those of the US. Among those we have found are:
Don't limit your search to these pharmacy sites; many sites will provide price comparisons.
Things to Keep in Mind
In spite of the fact that US regulations do not require a prescription for drugs, certain foreign pharmacies do require a doctor's recommendation. The fee for that "online consultation" is usually about $75.00 US, so you may eat up any savings if you deal with pharmacies with this requirement.
Also, pay attention to shipping and handling costs. When you add those to the price of the drugs, you may find costs reach or exceed those of American discount pharmacies. However, you can amortize those costs to a certain extent by buying the full three-months supply allowed by US government regulations.
Make sure you compare prices before you place your final order. While many drugs are cheaper from foreign pharmacies, not all are. Keep notes of US discount pharmacy prices for comparison.
Some foreign pharmacies sell counterfeit prescription drugs. You'll want to stay away from them. So which are reputable? A number of Internet companies claim to give you a "heads-up" on which pharmacies are trustworthy and which are not. We have not tried any of them, but an investment of $10-$25 seems worthwhile to ensure that you actually receive the prescriptions you need rather than imitations that could be harmful. Take a look at these sites:
Again, don't limit yourself to these sites. There are dozens more we have not listed that may be just as good or better.
7. Go across the border for prescription drugs.
Avoid shipping and handling costs by going across the border to buy your prescription drugs. But, don't form a co-op for buying prescription drugs. This violates US government regulations that state that you can buy prescription medications only for your own use and only for a three-month period of use. Violation of these rules could mean that your cheap prescriptions could be confiscated at the border.
Nothing would stop you, however, from taking a mini-vacation with friends to make prescription drug purchases. And, with many prices considerably lower than those in the US, you could take a fun break and still save money.
Use the same cautionary tactics you would use buying from foreign pharmacies by mail order. Get a recommendation for a reputable pharmacy. Ask around. Your friends may already be going across the border for prescription medications and have a pharmacy they trust.
8. Boycott pharmaceutical companies that advertise heavily.
Recently, certain oil companies announced that they would reduce prices because their oil reserves had been replenished. While this may be true, it is also true that they are aware of and responsive to consumer demands to cut prices or lose revenue. An Internet boycott of Exxon/Mobil may have had the desired effect. Boycotting the products of big pharmaceutical companies can create a similar reduction in prices.
Big pharmaceutical companies claim that US prices remain high in order to cover the costs of the research and development of new drugs. If this is true, how is it that those same companies can afford to sell their goods in foreign markets? Their answer: foreign government price controls set the maximum price to be charged at a level that covers both their production and their research and development costs. Typically, those prices are only a modest fraction of prices extracted from patients in the United States.
Where does the additional money paid by US consumers go? Would it surprise you to learn that typically only half as much money is spent on research and development as is spent on marketing and advertising? Or that pharmaceutical companies yearly spend $8,000 to $13,000 per physician in marketing efforts? And unknown amounts in direct consumer media advertising?
Pharmaceutical companies claim that their stepped-up advertising efforts are in response to consumer demand and that their advertising enhances communications between physicians and their patients. When was the last time you and your physician had a good discussion about the merits of a particular prescription drug?
Such expenditures will stop if, and only if, consumers refuse to support them.
9. Boycott pharmaceutical companies that lobby heavily.
Pharmaceutical companies contribute heavily to campaigns, more to national candidates than state or local, but they do contribute to all candidates that we have researched. So, it's no wonder that the federal government fails to comment on the high prices of prescriptions.
By boycotting the largest offenders, we can send the same message sent to the oil companies: reduce your prices or lose our business. And buying prescription medications from foreign rather than domestic sources is a subtle but effective form of boycott.
Refusing to pay high prices on prescription medications is not the only form that a boycott can take. Pharmaceutical companies or their parent companies manufacture many other products.
For example, Pfizer, the manufacturer of Aricept, Celebrex, and Glucotrol also produces Bubblicious bubble gum, Certs, Chicklets, and Dentyne. BenGay, Lubriderm, Listerine, Rolaids, and Sudafed are also Pfizer products.
Pharmacia, acquired by Monsanto in 2000, produces not only the prescription drugs Celebrex, Xalatan, and Xanax, but also over-the-counter Rogaine and the herbicide "Roundup."
Less expensive generic or house brands are easily available to replace these products. While the same pharmaceutical company may still manufacture the products, the profit margins on house brands are usually quite a bit smaller than those of name-brand products.
10. Become an activist!
Lobby Congress, lobby state legislatures, tell your friends, and involve your local senior centers. Refuse to vote for legislators who accept big lobby gifts and vacation junkets. Writing letters, not emails, to protest the gargantuan sums spent on lobbying may be marginally effective. However, your refusal to vote for legislators who support pharmaceutical interest can be effective, if you let them know why they are losing your vote.
BONUS: Elders in certain nursing homes and assisted living communities pay thousands extra when prescriptions are blister-packed in individual doses. Storing prescriptions in a plastic box with the patient's name prominently displayed can cut these costs dramatically.
Take Back Your Power
So there you have it - ten ways to reduce your costs for prescription medications. You have in it your power to avoid being victimized by high prices for prescription medications, but only if you take action now. Do it today. Take back your power. Vote with your dollars. Vote with your ballots.

Today, Living Well Means Making Healthy Choices

Today, Living Well Means Making Healthy Choices
by: News Canada

Here are some tips to help:
o Eat for health as well as for pleasure.
o Read food labels carefully - know what you eat.
o Follow your body weight, blood pressure and blood values.
o Quit smoking - there is a lot of help available once you make the decision.
o Make time to exercise regularly at a level appropriate for you.
o Explore ways to reduce stress such as meditation or other relaxation techniques.
You'll not only feel better - you'll improve your chances of living a longer, healthier life.

The Kidney Foundation Promotes Healthy Choices

How you live today can make a big difference in how you'll live tomorrow. Making healthy choices early on - what you eat, how active you are, and how you cope with stress or spend your leisure time - has been proven to lower your risk of disease and illness in later years.
"Chronic conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease, which can lead to kidney disease, are on the rise and develop in many cases as a result of poor diet and lifestyle choices," says Dr. Larry Bryan, Director of Health Promotion and Wellness at The Kidney Foundation of Canada. "Today we know that by changing the way we live, we can prevent many of these conditions."
Making proper food choices is a simple way to invest in your future health. Learn more about the foods you eat and the new products available that offer more healthful alternatives. Food is one of life's pleasures - eating healthy, balanced meals will add to your enjoyment as well as ensure that you are meeting your nutritional needs. If you have dietary restrictions as a result of diabetes, cardiovascular or kidney disease, talk to your dietician about new food ideas that take into account your personal food preferences.
Becoming more active also improves both your physical health and emotional well-being. Staying physically fit gives you better control over body weight, increases your energy, helps you to sleep better, prevents bone loss and reduces stress. If you need to limit your physical activity for health reasons, talk to your healthcare team about a suitable exercise or sports program before you begin.
"Living well today means making healthy choices. It means taking charge of your health so that you can live not only longer, but also better," says Dr. Bryan. It's not easy to change a lifetime of eating habits, or to suddenly start thinking like an athlete, he admits, but when you consider the potential benefits, it's certainly worth the effort.
The Kidney Foundation of Canada, founded in 1964, funds kidney-related research, provides services for the special needs of people living with kidney disease and those at risk, advocates for access to high quality healthcare and actively promotes awareness of and commitment to organ donation.

'Keyhole' Surgery: An Innovative Boon For Live Kidney Donors

Each year, a growing number of Canadians make the heartfelt decision to give one of their kidneys to a relative or friend in need.
While this life-saving gesture is a blessing for the recipient, it can pose challenges on a number of levels for the donor. The standard practice for removing a kidney is to make a 20- to 30- centimetre incision across the side of the body, go through two to three layers of muscle and remove 10 centimetres of rib. With incurred scarring and several months of subsequent inactivity, the decision to be a donor is understandably daunting for many.
Yet thanks to an innovative medical procedure called laparoscopic or "keyhole" surgery, painful incisions and long recovery periods may soon be a thing of the past.
"Compared to traditional means, keyhole surgery is major abdominal surgery without uncomfortable incisions and disfiguring," said Dr. Joseph Mamazza, lead surgeon and medical director of the Minimal Access Therapeutic Program at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto. "It involves an 8 to10 centimetre cut in the groin area, so there is less chance of infection and other complications. "
During the procedure, doctors inflate the donor's abdomen to make small keyhole-size incisions. A laparoscope (tiny fibre optic camera) is then inserted, along with long instruments used to sever blood vessels and detach the kidney.
Two years ago, Glenn Collins underwent the first laparoscopic kidney retrieval in Southern Alberta in order to help his older brother, Michael, a diabetic who was diagnosed with kidney disease in 1997. Glenn's gift gave Michael a new lease on life, particularly since his brother had been deemed an unlikely candidate for a transplant on account of his age and medical history.
A strong advocate of organ donation, Glenn approached a clinic in Calgary about becoming a live kidney donor after he read about laparoscopic surgery on the Internet.
"It was an easy decision to make because Michael was in need," said Glenn. "While any member of our large family would have probably come through, I stepped up for the call because I was the youngest and most fit, and passed all the tests to determine if I was a suitable donor."
Asked about his recovery, Glenn recalls waking up the day after surgery and walking the long corridor to Michael's room.
"If it wasn't for the scar, I would never have believed that I had had surgery!" he said.
According to Dr. Mamazza, laparoscopic surgery is advantageous for a number of reasons. For starters, live donor kidneys usually last twice as long as kidneys taken from cadaveric donors - people who have died suddenly as a result of some kind of trauma. In addition, live donors who undergo laparoscopic surgery suffer from minimal post-operative discomfort and usually have a faster convalescence, with their hospital stay reduced from a few months to a few days.
"Keyhole surgery goes a long way in allaying both the donor and recipient's fear," said Dr. Mamazza.
Today, living donation is on the rise, accounting for almost 40% of all kidney transplants performed.
The world's first live donor keyhole surgery procedure was performed in February 1995 at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. Since 2001, The Kidney Foundation of Canada has supported the work of Canadian researchers involved in the study of laparoscopic procedures.
The only national health charity serving the particular needs of people living with kidney disease, The Kidney Foundation of Canada funds research, provides educational and emotional support services, advocates for access to high quality healthcare, and actively promotes awareness of and commitment to organ donation.

Study Examines Use Of Wireless And Handhelds At Patients' Bedside

Researchers are investigating the use of wireless technology and handheld computers to bring quality information about treatment and diagnosis to physicians at the bedside and in the examining room. Earlier research found that when physicians are given the opportunity to request information at the bedside, they used it extensively and it made a difference in their delivery of healthcare by providing more accurate diagnosis and treatment information.
This project is one of many initiatives of the Bell University Laboratories, a unique collaborative research program, funded by Bell Canada, that encourages innovation through collaboration in the development of communications technology in Canada.
The project is studying what information hospital and community-based physicians need when they are administering care to patients. The investigators are also studying the ideal format for delivering the information on mobile computers and to determine if the use of handheld devices can improve patient care and prescribing procedures in clinical and hospital settings. For example, the technology would allow physicians using a mobile computer to access information about possible drug interaction when writing a prescription at a patient's bedside.
"The bottom line for us is, what gets delivered to the physician is not just information, but information that we have determined to be the best that's available," said Dr. Lawrence Spero, laboratory manager at Bell University Health Communication Labs.
During the course of this study, a variety of wireless devices have been tested, including RIM Blackberry handhelds, as well as both the Palm Pilot and iPAQ computers. Testing will continue using other devices including the Xybernaut, a wearable computer that can boost a user's productivity by almost an hour per day. Currently, the research is academic, so no patients have been involved with the devices. The researchers plan to move the study into a hospital setting within a year.

No More Bad Hair Days : Tips For Clearing Stubborn Dandruff

Dandruff - that dry, itchy, white flaking of the scalp - affects up to 70% of the population in various degrees of severity. It results from skin cells reproducing too rapidly, producing visible flakes. Dandruff is worse in dry climates and when the hair is not washed often. Mild dandruff can be kept under control with shampoos containing zinc pyrithione such as Dan Gard. What happens when these do not work?
This means you may have stubborn, more severe dandruff. And if you have yellowish crusting (scales) either on the scalp, face, chest or back, you may have seborrheic dermatitis. In this case, the crusty scales are often oily, accompanied by a red, itchy scalp. Seborrheic dermatitis tends to flare up with stress and with the cold, dry winter months.
An effective option for these stubborn cases is shampoos containing tar which have a triple action - they dissolve the scales, are antiseptic (fight bacteria), and soothe itching and redness. Dr. Robert Solomon, a Dermatologist in Toronto at St. Michael's Hospital states: " Tar shampoos are generally safe and effective against severe dandruff or seborrheic dermatitis. A tar shampoo like Polytar AF is highly effective since it is the only combination of tar with salicylic acid, as well as an antifungal and soothing menthol; unlike other tar shampoos, it actually has a nice scent".
Here are some general tips to follow: Shampoo at least 3 times a week with a non-medicated shampoo or an anti-dandruff shampoo (depending on severity), massaging scalp gently Three times a week, do the following: use an anti-dandruff shampoo first to clean your scalp, then rinse well. Follow with a trusted medicated shampoo like Polytar; Make sure you leave it in contact with your scalp for at least 5 minutes before rinsing If your scalp condition does not improve within 2 weeks of this regimen, see your physician or pharmacist.

What is Hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C is an infectious virus that is carried in the blood and harms the liver. About 240,000 Canadians are infected, many of whom are unaware that they even have it. The number of people with hepatitis C is increasing in Canada and around the world, primarily among those who share needles and other drug equipment. An estimated 5,000 Canadians - mostly young people - get this virus each year.
Although the hepatitis C virus has been around for a long time, it was only identified in 1989. It causes inflammation of the liver, which often progresses to cirrhosis (scarring that makes it difficult for the liver to function normally). Of the estimated 5,000 people that are newly infected each year, up to 70 percent experience no symptoms. For some, symptoms may not show up for 20 or 30 years. In the meantime, they may, unknowingly, be infecting others. That is why it is important to know if you are at risk and how to take preventative action.
If you think you have hepatitis C, or that you may be at risk, visit your doctor and ask for the simple blood test for this disease. For more information, contact a health care professional, and visit Health Canada's Web site at

Ways You Can Get Infected With Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is spread through contact with infected blood. Here are just some of the ways in which you can be infected with this virus:
Sharing needles, straws, pipes, spoons and other drug-related equipment.
(At least two-thirds of all new hepatitis C infections are drug-use related. Cleaning equipment with bleach does not always effectively kill the virus)
Getting a tattoo, body piercing or acupuncture from an operator who does not use sterile equipment or techniques
Being born to a mother with hepatitis C
Getting pierced by a needle or sharp equipment that has infected blood on it ( in a hospital, workplace situation, etc.)
People who had blood transfusions before the testing of blood donations became mandatory in 1990 may also be at risk. And, while the risk is low, it is also possible to become infected by sharing personal household articles such as a razor or toothbrush with an infected person. The risk of transmission of hepatitis C during sex is also low, unless both parties have open bleeding sores.
It is estimated that 240, 000 people in Canada are currently infected with hepatitis C, of whom only 30% know they have the virus.
If you think you may be at risk, either now or from past risky activities see a doctor. The virus can be detected with a simple blood test, and there are steps and medications you can take to successfully minimize the effects of the disease if your diagnosis is positive. For more information, visit Health Canada's Web site at

The Risks Of Piercing And Tattooing

If you plan to get a tattoo, or body piercing, you should know that there is a risk of getting hepatitis C from old, unsterile tattooing needles that have been used on more than one customer, or from unsterile practice by the tattoo artist (i.e. licking the tattooing needle, using the same ink or ink containers for more than one person, or testing needle sharpness by pricking his/her hand.)
Body piercing also poses a risk of hepatitis C transmission since it involves the use of needles and possible exposure to blood. If needles and other piercing equipment are not adequately sterilized between customers, they could be a source of hepatitis C infection.
Don't let anyone use homemade or reused equipment (including needles, ink or jewelry) on you. Insist on fresh, single-use, disposable needles and fresh ink in new disposable containers, and make sure that all equipment is disinfected and sterilized with an autoclave. Be aware that cleaning with bleach or any other disinfectant doesn't always kill the hepatitis C virus.
For more information visit Health Canada's Web site at

Hepatitis C Virus Lives In Your Liver

Your liver works 24 hours a day, performing over 500 vital functions for your body. Most of the blood that returns to your heart passes through the liver. Your body can't function without it.
The hepatitis C virus lives in your liver. It inflames liver cells, which, over time, affects the way your liver functions. The effect of the hepatitis C virus varies from person to person. There is no way to predict how your body will react to it. There are, however, some things that are known:
You can live with hepatitis C for many years without experiencing any major symptoms, or you might simply feel tired. Symptoms can come and go over time. Their presence or absence does not tell you the degree to which liver damage may or may not be occurring.
Chronic, long-term inflammation of the liver can cause liver cell damage and result in fibrosis (liver scarring), or even cirrhosis. This damage can occur in as little as five years, or as long as 30 years.
About 20% of chronic hepatitis patients develop cirrhosis within 10 to 20 years.
Use of recreational drugs or alcohol can speed up inflammation and the development of fibrosis or cirrhosis.
There is an increased risk of liver cancer in people with cirrhosis.
The good news is that current drug treatments can be very effective for people with hepatitis C. Combined with proper nutrition, plenty of rest, and avoidance of recreational drugs and alcohol, these treatments help many who have the virus lead relatively healthy lives.
If you think you may be at risk of getting hepatitis C, see your doctor. The virus can be detected by a simple blood test. For more information on how to keep your liver happy and healthy, visit Health Canada's Web site at

Getting Tough On E. Coli Can Help Prevent Kidney Failure

Despite the fact that Canada's food supply is among the safest in the world, sometimes the food we eat can make us sick.
Foodborne illness, of which there are more than one million cases reported each year, results from the presence of a harmful strain of bacteria called E. coli, which is found in contaminated aliments. These bacteria produce toxins that cause diarrhea, abdominal cramps, fever and vomiting.
One particular strain of E. coli may lead to a condition known as Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS), which causes damage to the kidneys - particularly among children and the elderly. Common foods that contain harmful E. coli are beef, pork, lamb and poultry. However, as Montrealer Pascale Dupont discovered, these are not the only potential sources. Her 9-year-old daughter Йmilie developed HUS through an E. coli infection she most likely contracted after eating mussels.
"My daughter was in the hospital for weeks and had to undergo dialysis treatments because of kidney failure due to infection," explained Dupont. "While she is no longer on dialysis, her kidneys were permanently damaged, and she will likely need dialysis again in the future."
According to Dr. Marie-Josйe Clermont, a nephrologist at Montreal's St-Justine Hospital, "Infections could be prevented if people recognized that they play an important role in ensuring the safety of the foods they eat."
To help reduce the risk of foodborne illness, The Kidney Foundation of Canada recommends the following four guidelines:
CLEAN: Wash hands, utensils and surfaces with soap and hot water before, during, and after food preparation. Wash raw vegetables; lettuce should be washed leaf by leaf to remove all visible soil.
SEPARATE: Don't cross-contaminate by allowing uncooked foods and their juices to come into contact with one another. Use a separate cutting board for raw meats and vegetables. Always keep foods covered.
COOK: Cook food thoroughly at proper temperatures and serve immediately.
CHILL: Freeze or refrigerate perishables, prepared foods and leftovers within two hours. Thaw meats in the microwave or in the refrigerator, but never at room temperature.
For further information, visit The Kidney Foundation of Canada's Web site at

Kidney Disease - Early Detection Thwarted By Silent Symptoms

"The first clues started to appear about a year before I was diagnosed, but the signs were small and insignificant," said Carrie Donohue. "I was having intense headaches and muscle cramps in my hands and feet, and I was always thirsty. Looking back now, it seems obvious that these were signs of kidney disease, only my husband and I didn't know it then."
Carrie's story is not unique. When a person's kidneys fail, it seems to happen suddenly, without warning. They learn afterwards that their kidneys had been failing slowly - unknown to them - for quite some time. The signs were there, but often mistaken for something else, or simply overlooked.
These silent symptoms have given rise to new approaches in the effort to stem the tide of chronic kidney disease (CKD), which doctors estimate at 1.9 million cases in Canada today. Thanks to research and sophisticated disease tracking systems, specific groups of people have been identified as most likely to develop kidney disease and the push is on for better screening of those at risk.
The high-risk category includes people who are over 50 years of age, have diabetes, hypertension or cardiovascular disease, or have a family history of kidney disease. Yet despite this knowledge, it remains difficult to identify chronic kidney disease early enough to begin the type of care that would either delay or avoid the onset of end-stage renal disease when either dialysis or a transplant becomes necessary.
"Many of the symptoms of CKD are difficult to diagnose," said Dr. Adeera Levin, former President of the Canadian Society of Nephrology and member of The Kidney Foundation of Canada's National Research Council. "Itching, thirst, fatigue and muscle cramping are not specific to kidney disease and don't raise a warning flag to most people, especially since they are likely living with other health conditions that tend to mask, or overshadow them."
"We know that - if detected early enough - it is possible to reverse or slow the progress of chronic kidney disease," explained Levin. "For many people this could mean not having to go on dialysis or, at the very least, delay it for years."
The Kidney Foundation of Canada recommends that people at risk take a more proactive approach to their health. For example, if you are a person with diabetes, strict blood sugar control is important. Controlling high blood pressure can also prevent kidney damage.
However, not all people who develop chronic kidney disease fall into these high-risk groups. Carrie Donohue was otherwise healthy and in her mid-twenties when she began experiencing symptoms. That's why The Kidney Foundation also recommends that all Canadians learn about the warning signs of kidney disease, and that they talk to their doctor about the possibility of blood and urine tests to identify problems early.
Today, Carrie leads a normal life. Thanks to a living kidney donation from her husband, Ken, she was able to fulfill her lifelong dream of becoming a teacher. Her story has a happy ending. However, a greater understanding and awareness of the warning signs could make stories like these a thing of the past.

What Does It Mean To Be Fit?

When we think of the word "fit," what comes to most people's minds is strength and flexibility. When exercise specialists describe fitness, however, they take five different categories into consideration: body composition, flexibility, muscular strength, muscular endurance, and aerobic fitness.
Body Composition refers to how your body is made up - your height relative to your weight, the percentage of fat relative to the percentage of muscle.
Flexibility refers to your range of motion - what's your ability to bend in various ways without doing yourself harm.
Muscular Strength refers to the greatest amount of force a particular group of muscles can produce - for example, the greatest weight you are capable of lifting just once.
Muscular Endurance is different. It refers to your ability to produce a moderate force over a longer period of time. An example is lifting half of your maximum four times per minute for a few minutes.
Aerobic Fitness is different again. It refers to your body's ability to perform low-intensity tasks over a long period of time.
When you injure your back it's usually because you have done something that requires you to be fitter than you are in one, or more, of these various categories. So when you think about becoming fitter, try to consider your lifestyle and the types of activities you ask your body to do. For more information visit

Pain In The Neck?

Neck pain is less common than low back pain, which affects about 80 percent of us at some time in our lives. Nevertheless, a huge number of adults - between 38 and 50 percent - have to cope with a sore neck at some point.
Until recently, the cervical spine was largely ignored by researchers. Why? Because neck pain caused far less disability and absenteeism from work than low back pain.
Like the low back, the neck is subject to sprains and strains, joint problems, and disc problems.
When younger people develop acute neck strain it is usually a result of turning awkwardly during the night, or playing a sport such as squash that requires jarring movements. They may also strain a neck muscle lifting things improperly.
Middle-aged people are more likely to develop neck pain as a result of the normal degenerative changes of the discs and joints of the spine.
Whiplash - sprained or torn ligaments and/or muscles - can affect people of any age. In most cases, whiplash is caused by a car accident; if your car is hit from the rear, your head is snapped backward as your body is thrown forward.
Then, of course, is the new category of neck patients that has been emerging: people whose jobs require them to sit for long periods of time in a position that stresses the cervical spine - for example computer work.
As the research on neck pain continues, we'll be learning more about treatment. But right now, we know enough to show neck pain sufferers how to eliminate, or at least reduce, their neck pain with exercise and changes in both their work habits and the way their workstations are set up. For more information, visit the

Back To Golf

It's true that many golfers suffer from back pain. If you are one of them but love the game, you can have it both ways. It just takes some practice and patience.
Trunk rotation - at least the lack of it - is the most common problem for golfers who are prone to back pain. The more skilled and flexible you are, the more you can rely on your hips and trunk to rotate when you swing. This is the crux of the matter. A great golf shot requires hip and trunk rotation because that's what gives power to your shots. If you don't rotate well, your arms - and especially your back - will have to do a lot of extra work.
If you're a seasonal golfer it's normal to experience some aches and pains during the first few rounds of play. Here are some basic tips for the beginning of the season in particular... although you should keep them in mind whenever you play.
Walk the course when possible; a golf bag which you can wear backpack style distributes the weight far better than one which you sling over your shoulder. (Bouncing around in a golf cart can make back pain a lot worse. Riding also allows your body to cool down and tighten up between holes.)
Take extra time to stretch and warm up before you begin to play.
Take practice swings throughout the round to keep your muscles warm and limber.
Limit your time on the driving range - some of the most common injuries are caused by overuse of muscles.
Talk to your golf pro. He/she can show you how to make some mechanical adjustments to your swing that will put less stress on your back.
If your back hurts, take a few days off from the course . . . but try to maintain some level of physical activity. Check with your doctor, of course, but these days most health care professionals who deal with back pain do not recommend long term bedrest.
Always bend your knees to tee your ball, replace divots, fix ball marks and lift a heavy golf bag because bending incorrectly dozens of times adds up.
Strength, flexibility and endurance are the three most important things to keep in mind, especially if you are a chronic back pain sufferer.
If you suffer from back pain, a regular exercise program is a must. For more information as well as exercises designed specifically for golfers, visit

Back In The Garden

For many Canadians, gardening is the most joyful activity of summer. But if you love to garden and you also suffer from back pain, you know that you can cause yourself a lot of grief unless you follow some basic ergonomic principles.
Gardening, of course, is a seasonal activity here in Canada. During the winter, few of us make much use of the muscle groups we employ for typical gardening activities. The one exception is washing floors, but, truthfully, how often do you do that?
But even if you linger over the linoleum daily from October to March, it's still important to warm up and stretch your muscles before you dig. Here's a tip - the easiest way to warm up your muscles is to take a hot shower BEFORE you garden. This is called a passive warm-up. You'll still need to stretch, but you can do this in the garden. Use the same motions you use when weeding, raking, digging, etc. - whatever your planned tasks - but do them slowly, holding each stretch for about 10 seconds.
It's also important to do some gentle stretching after you garden, especially if you've overdone it and your muscles feel tight. Another hot shower can help as well.
Another rule: Go slow! When the weather breaks, it's tempting to turn over ALL the earth on the first afternoon. Trouble is, by the time your back aches, you've already done too much. By pacing yourself, you can ensure that your back will be fit enough to garden again next weekend!
A third principle to keep in mind is that a change is as good as a rest. Vary your activities rather than doing all your weeding, for instance, at once. In other words, shovel for a few minutes, dump, rake, weed. Rest for a while, then repeat.
Avoid staying in any one position for too long. Gardening involves bending, kneeling, standing, walking, and reaching; don't spend more than 15 minutes in any one of these positions before changing to something else.
Also, don't mix and match activities with positions. If you're crouching down to weed, don't suddenly reach up and stretch to snip at a stray vine. Don't bend forward with your knees straight. And as in any activity, try not to lift and twist at the same time.
Remember to hold heavy objects close to your body. So what if they're muddy - getting dirty is part and parcel of gardening's charm.
Finally, organize your tool shed so that heavy supplies are stored at waist level. Invest in some back-friendly tools like a kneeling bench with handles, shears, shovels and weeders with long handles to minimize bending, an angled rake, and a swan-necked watering can.
If you keep this advice in mind, there's no reason for back pain to keep you out of your garden.
For more information visit

Wake Up To The Facts About A Good Night's Sleep

Just about everyone has heard that sleep is important to health and well-being, but did you know just how important it really is? The fact is, the human body can survive without food and water longer than it can without adequate sleep. Assess your own sleep needs and test your Sleep IQ with the quiz below.
1. Do you know the cause of your stuffy nose, puffy eyes, and sneezing when you wake up in the morning? nothing, it's normal the onset of a cold my bedding
Answer: c
It's often dust mites, mold, and mildew lurking in your bedding that cause these allergic reactions. Dust mites, mold, and mildew thrive in the damp and moist environment of your feather and down pillows and bedding. These fills trap moisture and create a clammy atmosphere that allergens love. Wool, however, is hypo-allergenic and absorbs moisture then releases it quickly into the environment keeping you and your bedding dry - all night long. Wool's remarkable ability to absorb moisture is important as the average person loses up to a pint of moisture a night while they sleep.
2. Do you know why your joints are achy and stiff in the morning? not enough sleep excessive tossing and turning all of the above
Answer: b
Excessive tossing and turning is often the cause of aches and joint pain. According to an Australian study, the average person tosses and turns 45 to 50 times per night. This disrupts sleep and causes joint pain. The study also showed that participants who slept on a wool mattress pad reduced their tossing and turning by more than 50 percent. Participants also had a lower, steadier heart rate. A wool mattress pad cushions the body's pressure points like shoulders, hips, and ankles making it the ideal choice for a restful night's sleep. Natura World,, North America's largest manufacturer of wool bedding, produces mattress pads filled with pure wool encased in 100% unbleached cotton, designed to give you a healthier night's sleep.
3. Is it hot in here, or is it me? What is the solution? sleeping in different beds getting different covers for each of us a wool duvet
Answer: c
The sleep scenario that couples often report is the "too hot too cold syndrome" with one partner curling up to keep warm and the other partner kicking off the covers to cool down. A Natura wool filled duvet is the perfect solution.
Wool regulates to each partner's body temperature, keeping both comfortable all night long.
Natura World, the largest North American manufacturer of wool bedding, has a complete collection designed to eliminate the breeding ground for common sleep allergens. Natura's pillows, duvets, and mattress pads are filled with pure wool and encased in 100% unbleached cotton. Natura's wool bedding collection is available at Home Outfitters, or for a retailer near you, call 1-888-NATURA3.
Natura World is concerned about your health, so if any sleep condition lasts for more than two weeks, consult your doctor.

Sleep Tip

Just about everyone has heard that sleep is important to health and well-being, but did you know that…
Wool Keeps Your Bedding Dust Mite Free
Did you know that beds are a prime habitat for allergens such as dust mites? A typical mattress may house anywhere from 100,000 to 10 million mites. Traditional bedding materials such as feathers and down trap moisture, creating a clammy environment that these allergens love. Wool bedding, however, is breathable. It naturally prevents bedding from absorbing body moisture. It simply lifts it away, keeping bedding dry and fresh. Natura World,, North America's largest manufacturer of wool bedding, has a collection of pillows, duvets and mattress pads filled with pure wool and encased in 100% unbleached cotton. The Natura bedding collection is available at Home Outfitters, or for a retailer near you, call 1-888-NATURA3.
Natura World is concerned about your health, so if any sleep condition lasts for more than two weeks, consult your doctor.

Healthy Aging - Surviving In Today's World

The older we get, the faster life moves. Unfortunately, as our body ages, we take on the strain of our years. Keeping pace in a hectic world can take its toll. Elderly people need to use extra care to ensure their safety.
When we're young, we can fall and almost bounce back up. Our bones and muscles are flexible enough to handle extreme sports. Then, age sets in. The warning signs come in brittle bones and weakened muscles. At this point in life, even a simple slip and fall can have disastrous consequences.
What can older people do to safeguard themselves? Seniors need to take steps - cautiously - to a safer way of life.
Maintain a secure footing
Here are some tips for preventing falls around the house. Make sure carpets and rugs are securely fastened to the floor, especially at the corners. Don't over extend yourself to reach objects. Use a stable, secure foot stool to reach high places. Use a non-slip mat in the bathtub or shower. Keep a firm grip on handrails while climbing or descending stairs. Never take unnecessary risks - don't try to carry more than you can handle, avoid slippery surfaces such as icy sidewalks, and watch where you are walking to avoid pitfalls along the way.
Make your safety back-up plan
Quite often, seniors live alone. They may not have a daily routine that brings them in contact with other people. For people in this situation, a fall or other mishap at home could lead to catastrophe unless a safety plan is in place.
Here's a good solution. Arrange to speak to a specific person every day. A friend, family member, neighbour or care provider can be your direct link to safety. If you have a friend who also lives alone, make it a daily habit to keep in touch - even for a brief moment. A simple phone call will do. Have a set time for the call so that if one person doesn't hear from the other, they get help right away.
Treat drugs with respect
Many seniors require medication on a daily basis. Though drugs may be an essential element of your healthy lifestyle, always remember that medication can be dangerous in the wrong hands. Always dispose of unused medications by flushing them down a toilet. Never take prescription medicine intended for someone else. Always keep medicine in its original container, with dosage and instructions clearly labelled. Keep a log of when prescription medicines are taking for reference by someone else should you be unable to take your medicine yourself. Never let medical conditions go unattended. If your prescription medicine doesn't seem to be effective, call your doctor or pharmacist immediately.
Living a safe and healthy lifestyle will help you enjoy your senior years. For more than a century, St. John Ambulance has been helping Canadians make the most of their life through first aid training and quality products. To learn more, contact the office nearest you or visit us on the Internet at

Don't Fool With A Seizure

You and a friend are enjoying an outing when -suddenly-your companion appears to lose consciousness, falls to the ground and starts to shake uncontrollably. The person is having a seizure. How can you help?
St. John Ambulance, Canada's leader in first aid training and products, offers these tips.
1. Make the area safe for the casualty. Keep onlookers away.
2. Don't try to restrict the person's movements in the convulsion. Gently guide them to protect them from injury.
3. Carefully loosen any tight clothing, especially around the neck.
4. Never put anything in the mouth of the casualty, between the teeth or attempt to hold their tongue.
5. Never try to give the person food or drink.
6. After a seizure, assess the casualty for injuries.
7. Keep the casualty at rest for up to an hour, regularly monitoring pulse and breathing.
8. Seek medical attention if the casualty does not fully recover, or has a second major seizure within a few minutes.
9. If this is the first time the person has had a seizure, always get medical help.
10. Learn what to do in an emergency - take St. John Ambulance first aid training. Contact the office in your area or check us out online at

Breast Cancer Education Gets Visual

If a picture is worth a thousand words, how do you use pictures to help people understand and learn about a sensitive subject like breast cancer? Researchers from the division of biomedical communications in the department of surgery at the University of Toronto are exploring the use of images to study how best to teach women at risk about breast cancer.
Text and images are used on the Breast Matters site ( breastmatters) to explain and portray the complex information about breast cancer and breast health for Canadian women. The site is informational, free of jargon and includes definitions and visual explanations of complex concepts. The site includes an overview of breast anatomy, a section on early detection of breast cancer, self-examination, annual check-ups, mammography, ultrasound and x-ray and biopsy. Also included is information about breast cancer risk factors, risk reduction and links and resources for more information.
"Our team uses medical illustration to bridge art, science, medicine and communication," said Professor Linda Wilson-Pauwels, co-lead investigator of the study. "Design and communication theory combined with scientific knowledge informs the production of visual material for health promotion and medical education - in this case about breast cancer."
An initiative of the Bell University Laboratories, a collaborative research program funded by Bell Canada that contributes to innovation and leadership in the development of communications technology in Canada, the researchers used a focus group of 10 women from the breast cancer screening program at Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto to determine what breast cancer information to feature and what sorts of visuals to use. Photography, video, animation and illustration are used with varying levels of complexity and interactivity to provide a visually stunning learning experience.
A second part of the site will be developed in 2003 for women coping with breast cancer. Breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer in Canadian women. It accounts for almost 1 in 3 cancer diagnoses among Canadian women. On average, 104 Canadian women die of breast cancer every week, according to Canadian Cancer Society estimates.

Zen Mind: A Personal View

Zen mind is the "Natural" state of our beings: No self, no identity, no memes, no beliefs.
Any idea of "what is" takes us away from what is – to be in the moment, all ideas need to be gone. There's not even an "I" to have the ideas.
The natural being acts as an outcome of the movement of the universe, in the same way that an artist's brush is moved by its "universe".
All "teachings", "spiritual" paths or "sacred" practices actually take us away from the moment, because it needs an "I" to do them, with an agenda of some kind, something to gain. All of which removes us from the eternal identity-free moment.
The only way that "what is" can be experienced is to lose all traces of self, in which case the "what is" can't be experienced because there is no one there to experience it.
Any description of the state of the natural mind is false – it cannot be described and anyone who says they can is deluding themselves and/or you – to be described, there still has to be an identity there to describe it and if there is, that state can't be real.
There is not even an "ultimate" state to gain, because the very idea that there is, takes us away from it.
All there is, is the operation of the universe in its all-ness. There's no such thing as "enlightened" or "unenlightened". These are just ideas of what is.
Even "bliss" or "transcendence" is a state of mind that needs an "I" to experience those feelings.
Thoughts are the glue of our belief structures. "I" is the creation of thoughts and beliefs.
What's operating when we think we are functioning human beings is the operating system of the species brain, running sophisticated meme/belief structures that are the content of our identities/sense of self.
The only act consciousness can "do" is to let go of "self" awareness. Consciousness, to be fully there, needs to have no "I" attached to it - and then, who is there to be conscious?
The natural state is where everything is meaningful and meaningless – everything is part of the whole and no link in the chain can be more essential than another.
Action and thought, from this place, is an instantaneous, pure response to the call of the moment. It is the moment, the universe acting, not the person.
True peace is an absence of agitation, an absence of self-generated internal activity. So peace cannot be "done", or created – it's an absence of doing. This allows unadulterated "what is-ness" to be. All action out of this state is completely harmonious (even if there was anyone "there" to experience the harmony – there isn't) and non-conflicting. There is nothing there to conflict with anything else.
A natural being feels the world cleanly, whereas an "I", full of beliefs and ideas of self, overlays those unadulterated feelings with external content, imbuing them with emotional "charge". This charge is reactive to the world around it, continually creating conflict as it attempts to dissipate.
(Modern research shows that there is a gap of approximately half a second between the body/mind's initiation of a physical action and our conscious intention to do so. This suggests that the body/mind acts according to its belief instructions, not any conscious intention. The "I" is just along for the ride – late - while pretending to be in charge.)
What comes out of the moment relates only to that moment. It's already past and non-existent as it is experienced. To hold to anything experienced or said in that moment, is to live in the dead past.
If you can't touch it, show it, taste it, does it have any reality? That's not to say it isn't real, but it may not be real. It could be a construct of ideas.
Whatever is actual or real can only be there when all ideas, all thoughts, all belief, all traces of identity are gone – when there is no "I" left to take us out of the moment. If the eternal now moment is all there is, this is the only way to be in it.
Thought is only necessary, only of any use, when it is called for by the moment, for a particular task. To keep thinking beyond the particular call of the moment is the same as keeping your arm above your head all the time, or holding your stomach muscles tensed all the time.
If you took every real momentary experience of the natural being – the smell of a flower, a sunset, the death of a friend, a humorous situation, the movement of smoke on the wind – all of these in every moment, but with no self, no "I" there to even be aware of these things, this is the state of natural mind.

West Nile Virus

West Nile virus is a strain of encephalitis similar to Saint Louis encephalitis, which reached epidemic proportions in the 1950's and 60's. West Nile virus, like encephalitis, is transmitted by mosquitos. There are several species of mosquitos that have been identified as vectors for West Nile, and more species are constantly being identified. One of the most common species, Culex pipiens or house mosquito, is a carrier as is the Tiger mosquito. These two species are common in and around residential areas which makes the disease that much more dangerous.
West Nile virus was first isolated in 1937 in a woman's blood in the West Nile province of Uganda. Since then there have been outbreaks of epidemic proportions in Israel in the 50's, France in the 60's, thousands of cases in South Africa in the 70's, and found in New York City in 1999. As of December 2002 there are 3,775 reported cases in the United States.It is not known how West Nile arrived in New York, but speculation ranges from an increase of human world travel to terrorist attempts at biological warfare. These speculations were prior to 9/11 and the anthrax threats. We still do not know how West Nile arrived but the latter is a more viable possibility then it was in 1999.
2002 brought 216 fatalities throughout the United States and 3,775 reported cases. The fatalities were nearly all elderly. Most people who become infected with the virus will have either no symptoms or mild ones, which indicates reported case numbers are much lower than actual cases. Most people who are infected with the virus will not have any type of illness. It is estimated that 20% of the people who become infected will develop fever: mild symptoms, including fever, headache, and body aches, occasionally with a skin rash on the trunk of the body and swollen lymph glands.The symptoms of severe infection include headache, high fever, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, and paralysis. It is estimated that 1 in 150 persons infected with this virus will develop a more severe form of disease. (From the C.D.C. website)The speed of the spread of this disease across country is attributed to wild and domestic birds. They are the most common vertebrae host for the disease thus making it extremely mobile. Crows, blue jays, pigeons, chickens, and hawks are among those carriers of the virus which once bitten and infected, cross state lines and are bitten by a local mosquito which in turn bites a local bird etc. The point is, movement is rapid and quarantine is next to impossible.
In an attempt to put a stop to the virus in the early stages resulted in mass fogging in New York City in 1999. It did little to stop the spread of the virus but caused an uproar among the human population. These treatments were done with the blessing of both the E.P.A. as well as the C.D.C. From what information I have pieced together about 70% of the population was in favor of the treatment and thirty adamantly opposed. Those in opposition were substantially more verbal. New York City was sued by a variety of environmental groups claiming the city was illegally spraying pesticides and contaminating water. ( I can only assume these groups never bothered to actually look at the Hudson River or other water bodies in the city.) As of December 3, 2002, a federal judge dismissed the lawsuit and ruled in favor of the New York City.Horses are also affected by the disease. As of June 2002 there is an effective vaccination for horses. There is also an approved larvicide that can be used in horse troughs. The larvicide is called Pre-Strike and is Altosid in a granular form. The vaccination is expensive and has to be applied by a veterinarian.What can be done for people? The states and counties that do not have a mosquito commission are rapidly getting one. Surveillance will increase. Mosquito control will become more prevalent especially with an increase of larviciding. The C.D.C. recommends that you try to avoid getting bit by avoiding heavily infested areas, using a repellent when you go outside, staying inside at peak mosquito times (dawn and dusk) and most importantly limit the number of places available for mosquitoes to lay their eggs by eliminating standing water sources.
You can find more great information and resources like this on the ScaPest web site