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62 posts from June 2011


Just chill.... #RochMN

Been outside yet?

It's like a toaster oven out there in Rochester and surrounding southeast Minnesota communities.

It's hot, it's humid, the sun is unrelenting and to top it all off there's a hot wind gusting.

In other words, it's way uncomfortable.

If you live without air conditioning, this is the time when overheating can be a problem for you, your children and your pets.

I'll repeat what public health authorities often tell us at this time of year: Check on your elderly neighbors to make sure they're not overheated.

Winona County Public Health says "being in an air-conditioned environment, even if only for a few hours each day, will reduce the risk of heat-related illness."

So I've come up with some ideas for you to try out. Call it an experiment in "just chillin'."

• Host a water balloon fight. Invite the neighbors, especially your elderly neighbors. Tell everyone to show up in shorts or a swim suit — or else. Offer "gentle" games such as tossing the water balloon back and forth and make sure the balloons are good and breakable so that everyone gets wet at least once. The younger crowd can have a knock-down, drag-out water balloon fight afterward for the older crowd to watch from a shaded lawn chair. A few bags of water balloons, if you shop at lower-cost spots, will cost but a few dollars.

• Put your water sprinkler in a dry spot in the lawn and turn it on. Once again, invite everyone (young and old) to jump through the water. This will do double duty because you'll water the lawn and cool down your crew at the same time.

• Have an iced tea-making contest amongst your neighbors. Everyone makes sun tea this afternoon and then you all meet in the middle after icing the tea, each with pitcher, and everyone brings his or her own tumbler. Experiment. Put a sprig of an herb from your garden in the tea. Make it with a dash of cranberry juice or drop some frozen fruit in (whatever type you've got in the freezer).

• Make slushes as a family. Get out the blender or food processor and toss in some frozen fruits, yogurt, fresh fruit and maybe even a little ice. Make this the main course of your dinner.

• Head out to one of the many beaches (the ones that are open despite the pending Minnesota government shutdown, such as Foster Arend park). Foster Arend in particular has chilly water because it's spring-fed. But be cautious and follow beach safety rules to stay both cool and safe.

• Head out to Apache Mall. Find a bench and people watch for a while. Again, Winona County Public Health's advice about finding an air-conditioned environment, even for a couple of hours, can make a world of difference.

• Get out the fishing poles and head to the Zumbro River. Find a safe spot and wade on in to fish from the river (don't forget the sun screen). 

• Visit the air-conditioned climes of Rochester Methodist Hospital, Olmsted Medical Center Hospital or Saint Marys Hospital. Check out the gift shop. Eat lunch in the cafeteria. Ask about volunteer opportunities.

• I realize it might not be possible financially for everyone. But, if you're able, head to a local restaurant for a milkshake (yes it's OK to treat yourself once in a while), iced tea or fruit juice. Enjoy the air conditioning and conversation.

• Head to the YMCA, Rec Center, or a local fitness center, the Silver Lake Pool or the closest swimming pool and swim your heart out. See if you can find one of the ice-cream dip cones that have nuts embedded in the chocolate at the concession stand. Burn energy, get hungry, enjoy the water — and don't forget sunscreen.

• Go to a beach for the sole purpose of building a sand castle and digging deep into the wet and cool part of the sand to make a moat. Just keep in mind that many Minnesota state parks will be closed and inaccessible this week if the state government truly shuts down at 12:00 a.m. Thursday night/Friday morning (July 1, 2011). 

• Make home-made ice-cream and experiment with different kinds of fruit. If you've got an ice-cream maker, this is the time to have a treat. Try the recipe for adding, say, peaches or strawberries. Yum.

• Have a water gun fight with iced water. Take a big tub, fill it with water and then dump a bag or two of ice in before you let the kids fill their water guns. Invite Grandma to participate from her shaded lawn chair. She gets the biggest gun, filled with the coldest water and gets to intervene with a big blast of cold water whenever she thinks somebody needs help. Whoever gets hit with Grandma's water gets to refill her gun. This game can last as long as the sun does.

• Take a long, cool walk this evening after the sun sets, enjoying whatever breezes blow. Do a dance with your hands in the air, like the actor in the movie "Elizabethtown."

• Drink plenty of water.

• Keep a dish of refrigerator water and a damp cloth to wipe your forehead.

• If you get hot, run your wrists under the faucet with cool water for a while. That seems to help me cool off quickly.

• Take a cold-water shower. That's invigorating and you'll get cooled down. 

Pulse on Health
By Jeff Hansel, member Association of Health Care Journalists
Health Reporter for the, 18 1st Ave. S.E. in Rochester, Minnesota 55904 
Twitter Hansel's Pulse: @Jeff Hansel

Will swimming make your kids sick....?

Fire up your kids for summer swimming — but get ready for the "ick" factor, too.

Baylor College of Medicine says there might be creepy things in the water that you really don't want your kids to swallow.

Baylor College of Medicine highly edited for clarity
[Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas. Photo by Jeff Hansel. Copyright.]

"Outbreaks of diarrhea are most commonly caused by cryptosporidium, a protozoa bacteria associated with pools and water parks," says a Baylor announcement. "This organism can survive because it is resistant to the chlorine levels used for these venues. Skin infections and respiratory illnesses can also be caused by water-borne organisms."

Baylor's Dr. Gordon Schutze, a pediatrician, offers this advice:
• Shower, using soap and water, before swimming. Wash the perianal area thoroughly.
• Take advantage of adult swim time to take young children to the bathroom.
• Check and change diapers frequently.
• Wash hands with soap and water after toilet use and diaper-changing activities. These should occur at a distance from the recreational water source.
• Infants and children who are not toilet trained should use proper fitting swim diapers
• Wash hands with soap and water before and after consumption of food and drink. Keep food and drink away from the pool
• Children in diapers should not be allowed to sit down on a splash pad. These play areas have a water reservoir underneath that recycles water, so if a child has diarrhea due to an infectious agent, it can come back through the water spray to potentially contaminate others.
• At lakes, avoid stagnant water and areas where there is raw sewage, fertilizer or animal feces run off. At beaches, look for posted signs that warn of bacteria contamination and do not use the beach if there has been any contamination.

Pulse on Health
By Jeff Hansel, member Association of Health Care Journalists
Health Reporter for the, 18 1st Ave. S.E. in Rochester, Minnesota 55904 
Twitter Hansel's Pulse: @Jeff Hansel


Winona State says tart cherry lowers blood pressure....

Winona State University researchers got a surprise when they studied tart cherry paste to decrease pain following strenuous exercise.

"CherryFlex ProSport Shot, a tart cherry gel made from whole fruit and marketed under the name FruitFast, was used in the study," says a Winona State announcement.

A total of 19 healthy, college-age males participated, completing a placebo and tart-cherry-use phase of the study.

The scientists found "an acute analgesic effect decreasing muscle tenderness and pain perception after subjects ingested the tart cherry supplement. Cherry supplement ingestion was also associated with a strong trend of lowering subject’s systolic blood pressure. On average, the subject’s systolic blood pressure decreased by 8 mmHg." The lowered blood pressure was the surprising finding.

[Winona State researcher measures blood pressure in a study participant. Photo submitted by copyright holder Winona State University. Please click to enlarge.]

Pulse on Health
By Jeff Hansel, member Association of Health Care Journalists
Health Reporter for the, 18 1st Ave. S.E. in Rochester, Minnesota 55904 
Twitter Hansel's Pulse: @Jeff Hansel


Mayo Medical Laboratories gets -- ALL OF CHINA... #RochMN

Mayo Clinic announced this afternoon that it has signed a "multiyear agreement" with Wuhan Kindstar Globalgen Technology, Inc. "to provide specialized laboratory support based on provision of knowledge from Mayo Clinic's Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology and its reference laboratory, Mayo Medical Laboratories.

Please keep in mind this is an information-sharing agreement. But the last I knew, Mayo Medical Laboratories here in Rochester, Minnesota needed many Fed-Ex flights weekly landing at the Rochester International Airport just to handle all the patient samples being sent from across the country.

The Superior Drive Support Center has a 100,000-square-foot, expansion-ready area set aside left over from the days when Celestica was housed at the site. Now the facility already hums starting very early in the morning as the first patient-sample shipments arrive and hundreds of workers check, verify, sort and label, then provide next-day results.

The new agreement to serve China "supports Mayo's efforts to improve patient care worldwide and expand Mayo Medical Laboratories' international activities with shared goals for providing high-quality patient care by helping physicians order the right tests at the right time."

The clinic in its announcement quoted Mayo Medical Laboratories CEO Dr. Franklin Cockerill as saying, "as Mayo Clinic collaborates with others to provide the best in health care, we extend the hope and healing of Mayo Clinic to people everywhere. It is how we bring our values to life, make our mission a reality, and achieve our global vision for the future."

His words summarize Mayo's increasingly open plans to go national, go international and bring "the Mayo model of care" to as many people as possible. 

Kindstar offers sample testing to more than 2,000 hospital in China. The collaboration with Mayo will help Kindstar expand the tests it can offer. 

According to Mayo, "Mayo Clinic will provide advice on tests, laboratory quality, and accreditation standards, as well as test information, including standard operating procedures (SOPs) and methodologies, to help Kindstar accelerate its development."

The clinic noted that it participated in Series B financing of Kindstar and will receive Kindstar equity as part of the collaborative agreement.

In my personal opinion, this is a transformative move for Mayo as it will bring dollars back to the clinic, and likely patients eventually as well. Mayo Medical Laboratories has agreements with testing labs all over the U.S.

Those labs send samples to Mayo in Rochester for rarely-done tests that Mayo Medical Laboratories can perform because it sees a high enough volume of samples to make the process viable. Typically, labs that submit samples to Mayo in Rochester can call and get treatment and diagnostic advice from experts.

Pulse on Health
By Jeff Hansel, member Association of Health Care Journalists
Health Reporter for the, 18 1st Ave. S.E. in Rochester, Minnesota 55904 
Twitter Hansel's Pulse: @Jeff Hansel

URGENT Minnesota doc, dentist, nurse, therapist licensing... #RochMN

If you're a doctor, nurse, radiology technician, massage therapist, respiratory therapist, physical therapist or other medical professional in Minnesota whose license is nearing expiration, RENEW YOUR LICENSE NOW to avoid losing your ability to practice your specialty as of Thursday.

Minnesota state government is preparing to shut down Thursday afternoon (June 30, 2011). If the Legislature and governor don't come to a budget agreement by then, the Minnesota Board of Medical Practice is likely to close.

That means it will cease issuing new state medical licenses for doctors, and renewing licenses that expire. 

This is probably true for other specialties besides medical doctors. So the time to act is right now.

For physicians, "online renewals for those with licenses expiring through September 30, 2011 may renew online prior to 12:00 Noon June 30th, 2011," the Board of Medical Practice says.

If you're other than a physician, but still need a state license, better check with your board to make sure you're good to go.

The Minnesota Board of Nursing says it is not currently among agencies considered essential and it will close. Its biennial funding runs out Thursday.

Thus, the Board of Nursing says, it will not:
• Grant new licenses.  
• Accept new license applications.
• Accept test results from the nurse license testing service.
• Notify testing services of an individual's eligibility to test.
• Accept confirmation of nursing program completion from any nursing program.
• Renew existing nurse licenses. 
"If your license expires, you may not work as a nurse until we resume operations and are able to process your renewal application," the Board of Nursing says.
• Verify current licensure of Minnesota nurses.
• Confirm that someone is licensed as a nurse.
• Check disciplinary status.
• Accept complaints about nursing service.
• Provide online services.
• Provide board staff for communication availability.

The concerns also cover dentists, dental hygienists and other health professionals who require state licensure. If you live in small-town Minnesota, you might want to check to make sure your doctors and nurses have all renewed their licenses.

Imagine if your town doc's license expires and the clinic can't recruit a replacement from out of state (because out-of-staters won't be licensed in Minnesota).

Intriguingly, there won't be anybody to get in trouble with if you go ahead and practice medicine — until the budget problem gets fixed. Then you'll have to face the board.

Read great work on this topic by Minnesota Public Radio's Lorna Benson.

Pulse on Health
By Jeff Hansel, member Association of Health Care Journalists
Health Reporter for the, 18 1st Ave. S.E. in Rochester, Minnesota 55904 
Twitter Hansel's Pulse: @Jeff Hansel

U.S. soldier's leg muscle regrown...

A U.S. soldier's leg muscle has been regrown after doctors at McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh

"Marine Isaias Hernandez lost 70 per cent of his right thigh muscles when an enemy mortar exploded as he tried to carry out repairs to a truck in Afghanistan," says a Daily Mail online article out of the United Kingdom. "With such severe muscle damage Hernandez would ordinarily have had his leg amputated. But a re-think in the way soldiers are treated led to the wounded warrior being injected with a growth promoting substance extracted from pig bladders."

The injection apparently triggered his thigh muscle to regrow, which has allowed doctors to "restore functionality" to his leg, according to the Institute.

Dr. Steve Wolf at the U.S Army Institute for Surgical Research used "extracellular matrix (ECM) technology" developed by Dr. Stephen Badylak.

Pulse on Health
By Jeff Hansel, member Association of Health Care Journalists
Health Reporter for the, 18 1st Ave. S.E. in Rochester, Minnesota 55904 
Twitter Hansel's Pulse: @Jeff Hansel


Mother Jones critiques QPP... #AustinMN

Mother Jones has taken a swipe (or two or three or four) at Quality Pork Processors in Austin, Minnesota, as well as Hormel Foods in a piece called "The Spam Factor's Dirty Secret."

"First Hormel gutted the union. Then it sped up the line. And when the pig-brain machine made workers sick, they got canned," the opinion piece by Ted Genoways says.

Company, state and federal investigators came to the conclusion that harvesting pig-brain tissue for human consumption (in foods like brains-and-eggs and brains-and-gravy) led to a mysterious neurological illness.

The human body of workers who stood near the "head table" where brains were harvested (and brain mist was present due to compressed air harvesting) underwent an autoimmune response and attacked the human nervous system.

The Post-Bulletin's news coverage over the years about the mystery illness at QPP will give you background to fully appreciate the Mother Jones piece:

• Trigger for illnesses a mystery, December 6, 2007

• Union leader says alertness caught employees' ailments, December 6, 2007

• Mayo diagnosis could classify new illness, Dec. 8, 2007

• QPP pork safe to eat, says Health Department, Dec. 21, 2007

• Workers at meat-processing plant in Indiana checked for symptoms, Jan. 17, 2008

• Another case of slaughterhouse sickness found, March 6, 2008

• Kruse goes public to raise awareness, March 29, 2008

• Rare medical investigation unfolds, March 29, 2008

• *** Mystery illness puts spotlight on Austin *** 

(Full description of how the mystery unfolded) March 29, 2008

• Futures forever changed, March 29, 2008

• Plenty of praise to go around, March 29, 2008

• PIN patients struggle for compensation, April 10, 2008

• PIN test, April 17, 2008

• Mystery brain mist disease revealed, Feb. 26, 2009

Pulse on Health
By Jeff Hansel, member Association of Health Care Journalists
Health Reporter for the, 18 1st Ave. S.E. in Rochester, Minnesota 55904 
Twitter Hansel's Pulse: @Jeff Hansel

Do health providers cause high blood pressure...?

Scientific American writer Katherine Harmon reports online that you should take multiple blood pressure readings to get a reliable sense of your status.

"There's nothing relaxing about sitting in a doctor's examining room, being poked and prodded while you’re wearing a stiff paper gown and a pair of socks that suddenly feel super awkward," says an article published online Tuesday.

A visit with your health provider can lead to "white coat syndrome," Scientific American says. That's a "temporary high blood pressure brought on by the health care providers themselves."

So if your readings at the doctor's office differ from those you take at home, it's possible your health provider herself is the root cause.

I personally recall a physician who wanted to prescribe high blood pressure medicine the first time she ever reviewed my case — because my pressure (while she rambled about how at risk I was as an aging diabetic) reached an all-time high when she put the pressure cuff on my arm.

Interesting that I never had such a high reading before, and have never had such a high reading since. Sometimes, the only thing you need for a decrease in high blood pressure is time away from the doctor!

But don't let that dissuade you from medical care. Just consider seeking a second opinion if your need for medication seems uncertain.

Pulse on Health
By Jeff Hansel, member Association of Health Care Journalists
Health Reporter for the, 18 1st Ave. S.E. in Rochester, Minnesota 55904 
Twitter Hansel's Pulse: @Jeff Hansel


Olmsted Medical Center: Watch for heat stress in your kids....

Olmsted Medical Center here in Rochester, Minnesota says you should keep an eye on your kids when they're involved in summertime sports.

"Children sweat less than adults, which can cause their body temperature to rise quickly," the medical center says in its patient newsletter called "Health Notes."

Symptoms of heat exhaustion or heat stroke include:
• Nausea
• Vomiting
• Dizziness
• A change in mental status
• Disorientation

"If your child has any of these symptoms, seek emergency care immediately," Health Notes directs. "To prevent heat-related concerns, consider reducing or canceling workouts on hot, humid days, and make sure children have unlimited access to fluids during games."

Pulse on Health
By Jeff Hansel, member Association of Health Care Journalists
Health Reporter for the, 18 1st Ave. S.E. in Rochester, Minnesota 55904 
Twitter Hansel's Pulse: @Jeff Hansel

Swimming safety from Olmsted Medical Center.... #RochMN

Olmsted Medical Center has the following advice for parents this summer who expect their kids to be around rivers, ponds and swimming pools:

• Keep a close eye on all swimming children, even in a toddler pool or when a lifeguard is present. Stay within an arm's length of infants, toddlers and young children in and around water.

• Teach older children to always swim with a buddy and only in areas supervised by lifeguards and marked as a safe area for swimming. Allow diving only after checking that the water is deep enough.

• Take CPR and get swim lessons for children starting at age 4.

• Use a life jacket to help keep a non-swimmer afloat, rather than noodles, air mattresses, water wings, or air-filled toys. All children — and adults, too — need life jackets when boating. Make sure the jacket fits snugly and can't slip over the child's head once fastened.

(Source: Olmsted Medical Center's patient newsletter called "Health Notes")

Pulse on Health
By Jeff Hansel, member Association of Health Care Journalists
Health Reporter for the, 18 1st Ave. S.E. in Rochester, Minnesota 55904 
Twitter Hansel's Pulse: @Jeff Hansel