Health Buzz: Fungal Meningitis Kills 5, Sickens 35

How to break your sitting habit; is obesity cultural?

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Meningitis Update: 5 Dead and 35 Ill across 23 States

The death toll is now up to five among those infected with a rare form of meningitis, and at least 35 more are ill, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed yesterday. Health officials believe those infected were exposed to the fungal meningitis through a contaminated steroid injection typically used to treat back pain. A leaf mold likely contaminated the steroids, which were made by New England Compounding Center (NECC) in Framingham, Mass. NECC has since recalled three lots of the steroid. Officials are urging doctors and hospitals across 23 states to contact patients who may have received the steroid injection in the last three months, and they're encouraging facilities to stop using any products made by NECC.

A Nashville clinic received the largest shipment of this steroid, and correspondingly, Tennessee residents have been hit hard by the outbreak, with 25 reported infections and three deaths, according to Reuters. The other two confirmed deaths were in Virginia and Maryland. The CDC suspects the contaminated steroid may have been administered to patients across 23 states. Meningitis symptoms include severe headache, dizziness, nausea, and fever, and possibly slurred speech and difficulty walking and urinating. If you're experiencing these symptoms, call your medical provider to determine whether you may have been infected by a contaminated product.

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  • How to Break Your Sitting Habit

    When trying to break up sedentary time, author Joan Vernikos advises focusing on frequency. "Standing up often is what seems to matter," she says. "Every time you stand up, the body initiates a shift in fluids, volume, and hormones, and causes muscles to contract. And almost every nerve in the body is stimulated."

    In addition to a range of physical perks, activity breaks also boost brain power and confidence. "The overarching finding is that with just a little bit of effort, we can avert some of the problems that come with sitting and also have some immediate positive benefits," says UCLA's Toni Yancey, who wrote Instant Recess: Building a Fit Nation 10 Minutes at a Time.

    Use these rules of thumbs to get started: Don't do sitting what you can do standing or walking. And take back some of the labor you've assigned to all those labor-saving technologies. Experts suggest the following:

    At home:

    1. Fold clothes or iron while watching TV; walk around the house during commercial breaks.

    2. Stand up when you read the morning paper. [Read more: How to Break Your Sitting Habit]

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    • Is Obesity Cultural?

      When salmon swim against the current of a river, running a gauntlet of grizzlies, we are impressed by the fortitude nature endows. When many of them die trying, it's no great surprise. I can't recall ever hearing anyone suggest that the many salmon who die along the way lack the personal responsibility of those who make it, writes U.S. News blogger David Katz. All are striving; some succeed, but most fail. The species survives (so far), but less than 5 percent of the fish overcome the obstacles. Things play out predictably: Overall, the current and the gauntlet prevail.

      Culture is the current in which we humans swim. In our modern, obesigenic culture, some few succeed, and most succumb. Like the salmon, our species is surviving—but paying a high cost. Very few win a fight with the prevailing culture. Most are swept along by the obesigenic flow. Please hold that thought.

      The advent of some good news about obesity trends might have lulled us into a false sense of security, or at least accomplishment. We have heard, for instance, that obesity rates in children and adults alike seem to have plateaued. We have examples of seemingly effective interventions. [Read more: Is Obesity Cultural?]

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