Articles Posted in Consumer Health

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MFile, ZeroSilence3 Snowmobile photo.jpgSnowmobile season started a little later in Maine this year because of unseasonably warm temperatures. Underneath the snow on Maine’s 14,000 miles of snowmobile trails, there was water and soft ground. The Maine Warden Service and Maine Snowmobile Association, promoting snowmobile safety, urged snowmobile riders to use the added time to prepare themselves better for the season and cautioned against riding the trails before they were groomed.

When snowmobiling on new snow, there is a danger of hitting rocks that can throw you into trees or other obstacles. In addition, the quality of the snow can dramatically affect steering. The forward momentum of the snowmobile causes a buildup that can cause the snowmobile to turn away, but if conditions are hard or bare, there is no buildup of snow, which changes the steering. If the condition of the snow is poor, you cannot safely travel at a fast speed. In some cases, snowmobiles travelling on lakes and streams break the ice, falling through. In Maine advisories are issued by the state government and private snowmobile clubs regarding the safety of frozen surfaces, and it’s important to always check those before you go out throughout the entire snowmobiling season.

Last season, there were 177 snowmobile crashes in Maine. Six of these were fatal. According to the Maine Warden Service, the most common reasons for these crashes are speed, driving beyond one’s ability, and driving outside the distance of people’s headlights at night. Alcohol can also contribute to crashes. Other factors that can affect the ability to drive a snowmobile safely are visibility, snow and ice conditions, faulty equipment, operator fatigue, and the rider’s age. If you are planning to go out snowmobiling, it is important to tell friends or family about your trip plans. Often, riders fail to leave a plan behind, which can make a rescue much harder.
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operation-1389104-m-5.jpgThe government is cracking down on hospitals with the highest rates of infection and complications by docking Medicare payments. Those hospitals with the worst rates of infections and complications are going to lose 1% of each Medicare payment for one year starting this fall. Federal officials have released a preliminary analysis that identifies 761 hospitals that may be assessed based on poor performance. The estimated sanctions total $330 million over the year, although there may be some changes to assessments before the end of the year. Infections at hospitals are on a decline, but they are still extremely common.

The penalties will hit some types of hospitals especially hard. Penalties are more likely to be imposed on hospitals that are publicly owned or that treat substantial numbers of low-income patients. Major teaching hospitals will likely also be affected.

In calculating a hospital’s infection rates, the government will consider the hospital’s size, location, and affiliation with any medical school. One of the factors that contribute to a high scores were high rate of urinary and bloodstream infections among Medicare patients being treated in intensive care. Another factor is a high rate of surgery-related complications. Certain type of hospitals, such as rehabilitation clinics, children’s hospitals, psychiatric facilities, cancer centers, and critical-access hospitals are exempt from the penalties, as are hospitals with too few patients to be properly evaluated.
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asbestos-244234-m-2.jpgMaine has a long history of thriving shipbuilding and paper industries. These two industries are known for the industrial use of asbestos, which is associated with a high rate of health problems such as mesothelioma. In the two decades between 1980-2000 there were 387 fatalities from asbestos poisoning, from both asbestosis and mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that arises in the mesothelium, a layer of tissue that is found inside human bodies, covering internal organs. It is aggressive and it is deadly. Work-related or occupational exposure to asbestos puts workers at high risk for mesothelioma.

How does exposure to asbestos trigger cancer? Asbestos occurs naturally and microscopic fibers of it can become lodged in the mesothelium, often the mesothelium covering the lungs. Over time these fibers can result in the development of cancerous tumors. Exactly how this process occurs is still being researched. One theory is that the asbestos fibers cause cells in the mesothelium to become irritated. This leads to cellular damage giving rise to cancer. Another theory is that the fibers enter the mesothelial cells. This disrupts the ordinary cellular division and causes genetic changes leading to cancer. Still another theory is that free radicals are produced by asbestos exposure. Free radicals are molecules that damage DNA and trigger mutation in otherwise healthy cells.
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flame-3-1189018-m.jpgA large percentage of Americans have red polyethylene gas cans in their garages. They are used to refuel chainsaws or lawnmowers or other equipment. Injuries resulting from exploding plastic gas cans (video) are surprisingly common. These injuries may include burnt skin, coma, and limb damage. The treatments required are extensive.

Tragically, about 40% of burn victims hurt due to gas cans are children. Fumes outside the gas can ignite as you pour or fill gas resulting in a flashback fire. Currently, gas cans have safety warnings that tell users to keep them away from flames and electric motors. But these warnings can be inadequate. Moreover, flame arrestors could make them safer.

Some manufacturers do install flame arrestors, but the law doesn’t mandate their installation yet. They are small mesh screens that can keep gas cans from exploding. They are installed in the spout of the cans. Shockingly, it only costs 5 cents to include an arrestor in the design of the can and yet some manufacturers will not pay even that much to keep their consumers safe.
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stethoscope-2-1080262-m-2.jpgMost Maine residents go to the doctor in hopes of taking care of their health. They don’t anticipate that a visit to the doctor will get them sick. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have found that every day an estimated 1 in 20 patients develops an infection, a good percentage of which happen because pathogens have spread between patients through the hands of health care professionals. There are guidelines recommending all physicians wash their hands before and after a patient visit. However, there aren’t similar guidelines that mandate disinfection after the use of medical equipment that comes into contact with patients.

A study by the Swiss director of infection control at University of Geneva Hospital found that people might be getting sick because doctors are not taking adequate precautions cleaning their stethoscopes between patients. The study’s author explained that there are no guidelines to clean stethoscopes, even though they carry as much bacteria as a doctor has on his fingertips.

The study was conducted between January 2009 and May 2009 at a Swiss university teaching hospital. The researchers studied three doctors that examined 83 hospital patients. The researchers were analyzing how much bacteria accumulated on different parts of the doctor’s gloved or ungloved dominant hand versus on the diaphragm and tube of the stethoscopes. 489 surfaces were sampled to assess bacteria.
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surgeon-3-391477-m.jpgA USA Today investigation uncovered thousands of unnecessary surgeries around America last year. USA Today looked through government records and medical databases and concluded that 10-20% of surgeries are performed unnecessarily in certain specialties. Public attention has focused on unnecessary cardiac stent surgeries, but actually a number of other specialties have also been plagued by unnecessary surgeries.

Some other common operations that may not be warranted by the medical facts are spinal surgeries, angioplasty, pacemaker implants, hysterectomies and cesarean sections. The Journal of the American Medical Association reviewed records for 112,000 patients and found that, in a surprising 22.5% of cases, there was no medical evidence to support installing an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator, for example.

Similarly, Surgical Neurology International looked at 274 patients with back and neck complaints in 2011. More than 17% of these patients were told they needed surgery although they had no neurological or radiographic findings to show necessity.
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grandmother,taliesin,morguefile.com.jpgAlzheimer’s disease is a progressive brain disorder that destroys brain cells leading to a steady decline in memory, mental capability and the ability to perform the usual activities of daily living. Alzheimer’s disease has no cure. People with Alzheimer’s disease can live for many years after losing the ability to perform even simple daily tasks. They require a great deal of attention and help from caregivers who, most often, are family members, relatives and friends.

Alzheimer’s disease is the 6th leading cause of death among all ages in the United States. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, roughly 5.2 million Americans have this disease or some other form of dementia. This number will rise to almost 23.8 million by 2050, as the boomer population ages.

Alzheimer’s is a major drag on state and federal budgets, not to mention families. The annual cost of Alzheimer’s is expected to reach $1 trillion a year by mid-century, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

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%22Baby Car Seat%22 by kdshutterman, FreeDigitalPhotos.net.jpgWe are pleased to join the U.S. Department of Transportation and Safe-kids in their effort to promote Child Passenger Safety.

This Sunday marks the beginning of “Child Passenger Safety Week” (September 15th-22nd) .

Car crashes remain the primary cause of death for children between the ages of 1-13 within the United States. The most effective way to protect children within the car is to ensure that they are secured in a properly installed car seat or booster seat for age, height, and weight requirements. In other words “put them in the right seat, at the right time, and use it in the right way”.

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file000921513512.jpgThe Consumer Product Safety Commission has recently addressed the subject of bedrail safety. In part, this investigation was initiated by the tireless efforts of one woman, after her mother tragically died after becoming entrapped within the bedrails of her bed in a nursing home facility. Until now, the actual number of deaths from bedrails have not elicited much response from policy makers. However, public pressure, a changing age demographic, and the number of reported injuries by the CPSC just may. Approximately 37,000 people were treated in hospitals between 2003-2011 for injuries sustained from bedrails. Additionally, between January 2003 and September 2012, 155 fatalities have been attributed to bedrails.

Upon case investigation, the CPSC identified potential bedrail hazards. Ranked as to frequency of occurrence, they are entrapment, falls, miscellaneous incidents, and structural integrity. Rail entrapment occurs in over 90 percent of these accidental deaths.

The majority of these injuries, 61 percent, actually occurred in home care settings according to the study, and over a quarter of the injuries happened in nursing home or assisted living facilities.
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A1A3_1_20121112_88403886.jpgWe certainly hope so. News reports this morning are stating that safety officials are calling for legislation requiring the presence of carbon monoxide detectors in schools after seven adults and 42 children became ill at an Atlanta, Georgia elementary school yesterday, prompting a full school evacuation and emergency room care for those affected by the deadly gas.

Carbon Monoxide (CO) is an odorless and tasteless gas produced by inefficient fuel combustion. Indications of carbon monoxide poisoning tend to resemble the flu with symptoms such as nausea, malaise, headache, dizziness and fatigue. If not recognized in a timely manner, toxicity can cause death. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, “The effects of CO exposure can vary greatly from person to person depending on age, overall health and the concentration and length of exposure.” The EPA website listed below offers a wealth of information regarding the dangers and prevention of CO poisoning.

Carbon monoxide detectors are not required by law, in most schools, within the United States. Shouldn’t they be required by law, or building code, in any public place using fuel as a heating source? What about our hospitals, nursing homes, day-care facilities and workplaces?
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