Prevent the spread of cold and flu germs

December 20, 2011

Ten easy steps to keep you and others healthier this holiday season

Each year, millions of people suffer from a cold or flu, and this year is likely to be no different. Between 15 million and 61 million people in the United States will get the flu this year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Temperature taking is a key indicator of flu patterns and should be taken seriously, according to Mary Pappas, the New York-area school nurse credited with first alerting officials about the H1N1 outbreak in 2009.

“The flu usually comes with a fever while the common cold does not, so taking your temperature is the easiest way to tell the difference,” she said.

A high or prolonged fever can be an indicator of when to seek medical attention, so it’s important to monitor your temperature on an ongoing basis when you are sick.

Pappas has been taking temperatures for nearly 30 years and, as a school nurse, takes as many as 50 per day. But whether it’s one temperature or 100, she maintains that the most important consideration is that it be accurate. While there are many types of thermometers available, Pappas favors the Exergen TemporalScanner because of its proven accuracy and ease-of-use; all it requires is a simple swipe across the forehead.

“Whether it’s a student at my school or a parent at home, I know taking a temperature can be a challenge, especially with young children who may be uncomfortable and fussy,” Pappas said. “What I love about the TemporalScanner is that it’s not invasive like an ear, rectal or oral thermometer. No matter what a student comes to see me for, I’m able to get an accurate reading. It’s so easy to use that you can take someone’s temperature even when they are sleeping and not disturb them.”

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Zombie dancers shuffle, step to ‘Thriller’ for record attempt

October 25, 2011

Chandler Osman, 12, an Issaquah Middle School student, strikes a ‘Thriller’ pose Oct. 22 during rehearsal for Green Halloween Festival performances. By Greg Farrar

The undead shuffle across TV and cinema screens. Zombies chomp across bestseller lists. Even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention created a droll guide to surviving a zombie apocalypse.

The zombie zeitgeist is ceaseless. Just like a horde of the undead on a mindless search for brains.

The pop culture phenomenon reaches Issaquah on Oct. 29 as revelers dressed as the undead shuffle downtown and in the Issaquah Highlands just before Halloween.

The most able-bodied zombies plan to inch to the Green Halloween Festival and the Issaquah Library to duplicate the complicated choreography from the 1983 Michael Jackson epic, “Thriller” — a 14-minute MTV masterpiece from “An American Werewolf in London” director John Landis.

Zombies plan to re-create “Thriller” at 2 p.m. for festivalgoers and at 4 p.m. at the downtown library. Then, zombies around the globe plan to gather for Thrill the World, a simultaneous attempt to dance to “Thriller” and set a world record. In Issaquah, 6 p.m. is the designated hour for the Thrill the World attempt.

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State has poor record for student immunizations, high rate of exemptions

September 20, 2011

A report released not long before students returned to school said that Washington kindergartners do not meet state or national goals for required immunizations when they enter school.

Completed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the study is touted by the federal government as the first of its kind. Besides the lack of compliance with vaccinations, the study also notes Washington has the highest immunization exemption rate in the country.

“This is not necessarily news to us,” said Michele Roberts, program manager for immunizations with the state Department of Health. “It’s a dubious honor.”

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Evergreen State is prime turf for skin cancer

August 16, 2011

With cloud cover not only being common, but seemingly the norm around Puget Sound, many locals may not be overly worried about exposure to the sun and the possibility of skin cancer such exposure can cause.

Living in one of the highest zones in the United States for rates of skin cancer, residents should keep an eye out for the development of asymmetrical moles. Thinkstock

That might be a big mistake according to area doctors and the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to the CDC, the rate of new melanoma diagnoses in the state are 35 percent higher than the national average from 2001-2005. Melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin cancer.

The occurrences of melanoma in the state was the fifth highest in the country. An estimated 1,900 state residents were diagnosed with melanoma in 2008. The two most common forms of skin cancer — basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas — are highly curable, according to Roger Muller, senior medical director for United Healthcare of Washington.

Melanomas are not. Approximately 175 people in Washington die of melanoma each year, according to the CDC. That’s the 16th highest melanoma death rate nationally and 7.4 percent higher than the national average. In a seemingly odd statistic given our local climate, Washington’s Island County is among the top 10 counties in the country for new melanoma cases striking the area at the dangerous clip of 130 percent above the national average.

“At first blush, I can see how the numbers could be surprising given that much of the year here is cloudy,” said Arlo Miller, a dermatologist with Virginia Mason Issaquah. “However, digging into melanoma risk factors … it actually makes a lot of sense.”

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STDs, or STIs, remain a risky social concern

February 15, 2011

Students typically learn about sexually transmitted infections starting in fifth grade, but many people, post-graduation, get no such reminder unless they get one.

Of course, the best way to avoid what people commonly call an STD, or STI, is to skip sex.

“Abstinence is the only 100 percent way to avoid an STI,” Victoria Fletcher, director of clinician services for Planned Parenthood, said. “Abstinence, or being in a long-term monogamous relationship, definitely has a place in preventing STIs.”

The sexually active can reduce the spread of a virus by using condoms, Overlake Medical Center Issaquah family medicine doctor Christy Gibson said. Receive free condoms this week, and any week, from Planned Parenthood in Issaquah, 75 N.W. Dogwood St., Suite B. The clinic is open on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday.

Many times, people will visit their doctor and asked to be tested for everything, Planned Parenthood Health Center Manager Annelise Ring said. Instead of going that route, she suggested patients talk about their risks with their physician.

“We try to whittle it down to what they really need, so they’re not paying for a bunch of stuff they don’t really need,” Ring said.

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Concussions have serious repercussions

October 12, 2010

Here he comes: the hulking middle linebacker. He cuts through the offensive line and jukes the blockers, heading toward the quarterback with explosive speed. The quarterback, now defenseless, has precious moments to brace himself before the defender pummels him.

The crowd flinches as the crack of the hit echoes through the stadium and the quarterback is whipped to the ground. For the linebacker, it’s a sack; for the quarterback, it’s a concussion.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention classifies concussions as minor traumatic brain injuries that are the result of the bumps, blows or jolts to the head that cause the head and brain to move quickly back and forth. The motion alters the way the brain typically functions, according to the CDC. Read more

Flu shot protects against three strains

October 12, 2010

This year’s flu shot protects against three types of influenza: the H3N2 virus, an influenza B virus and H1N1, also known as swine flu.

Flu shots combining vaccinations are not uncommon, said Virginia Mason Issaquah primary care doctor Ted Naiman, citing data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Marjorie Eikenberry (left), of Timber Ridge, prepares to receive her flu shot at Virginia Mason’s Issaquah clinic from Maxim Healthcare’s Delnaz Pithawalla, a registered nurse, as Eikenberry’s husband of 63 years, Ralph (background), receives his. By Greg Farrar

“Every year, it’s got multiple different ingredients,” he said. “Basically, what the CDC does is they look at the strains of influenzas the year before that made people the sickest and killed the most people, and they use those to make the next year’s vaccine.”

Influenza, a respiratory illness, can cause a multitude of symptoms, including fever, cough, sore throat, a runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headaches, fatigue or vomiting.

Most people recover in two weeks, but sometimes the disease has complications leading to pneumonia, bronchitis, and sinus and ear infections.

Every year, between 5 percent and 20 percent of people get the flu, according to the CDC.

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Summer fun includes protection from the sun

July 20, 2010

Michelle Johnson, Jackie Potter and Hayley Magee (from left), on summer vacation from classes at Skyline High School, share sunscreen sprays and lotions of SPF 15, 30 and 50, before sunbathing July 14 on the dock at Pine Lake Park. By Greg Farrar

Go into any drugstore and you’re bound to run into a plethora of sunscreen options this summer. But do you really know what to look for?

Many people don’t, so you’re not alone.

“There are a lot of sunscreens out there,” Amy Cheng, a dermatologist with Virginia Mason Medical Center, said.

Even the federal Food and Drug Administration doesn’t have a consumer-friendly system of standards regulating the claims of companies who make sunscreen, despite the Sunburn Protection Factor label.

Since 2007, officials with the FDA have posted consumer updates on its website saying it’s in process of developing a set of standards, but those have yet to come to fruition. Read more

Know safety, laws about fireworks

June 29, 2010

A dummy hand is missing fingers after incorrectly lighting a Silver Salute, which is equal to the effects of 100 firecrackers. By Elizabeth DeVos

The Fourth of July is about enjoying the sun, if it decides to come out from behind the clouds, picnics and the exciting sounds and vast array of colors from lighting off fireworks.

In cities where fireworks are legal, stands opened this June 21. Although fireworks are illegal within the city limits of Issaquah, many people still ignite the dangerous explosives and quickly run away in order to watch the fiery display they put off.

“We want to remind residents of Washington to be safe,” said Karen Jones, deputy state fire marshal of the state fire marshal and data analysis. “Check the laws of your community as they change.”

According to the annual fireworks report put out by the Washington State Patrol, males ages 15-21 account for most fireworks-related injuries. In 2009, 200 firework related injuries were reported.

Hand and eye injuries are reported most, followed by head, face and ear injuries, according to the National Fire Protection Association and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention websites.

“Plan ahead for mishaps,” said Special Agent Phillip Whitley, of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

It’s also important to understand which fireworks are legal in your area, he said.

Fireworks should be left unaltered and only used as directed by the warning label that’s required by federal law. An improvised, altered firework can lead to burns, amputation of limbs and even death. Read more

Living with rheumatoid arthritis

June 15, 2010

Hands. They are often our first interactions with the world. They lift a mug of coffee to your lips. They greet new acquaintances with a firm grasp. They hold loved ones close in an embrace.

Meredith Froemke

But when rheumatoid arthritis took away Issaquah resident Meredith Froemke’s ability to lift or greet or hold, her world got much smaller.

“The disease was so misunderstood by the outside world,” Froemke said,” that I didn’t have the courage to come forward, because I found I was really discriminated against.”

Froemke was diagnosed with RA in 1993. She was 28.

“‘This has got to be a mistake,’” she thought. “I had never even seen anybody my age with rheumatoid arthritis.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2007 RA affected more seniors, but about 12 percent of Washington state residents between the ages of 18 and 44 were reported to have the condition. The autoimmune disease causes the lining in the joints to swell and eventually digest cartilage and bone. As the tissue degenerates, it usually causes the affected joint to lose its shape, causing a loss of range of motion and pain.

“One day I woke up, and I was so sick,” Froemke remembered. “I couldn’t move my jaw, my arms, my fingers, my legs, my neck. I was in a complete state of paralysis.”

She said the weight of her bed sheet felt like a house was sitting on her. Froemke was quickly diagnosed with RA, and she had to drastically alter her lifestyle to adapt to the condition. Read more

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