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The Hazards of a Florida Summer

spiderWhen I saw this story once again (since 1999) going around on Facebook warning us that there is a NEW POISONOUS SPIDER IN THE UNITED STATES, I felt inclined to educate the ignorant on the hazards of a Florida Summer. As the story goes, the venomous ‘two-striped telamonia’ spider lurks beneath toilet seats in public restrooms ready to bite you in the butt and kill you. False says SNOPES

But now that the weather has almost overnight turned from winter to summer, a lot of critters are anxious to reintroduce themselves into our lives. Whether indoors or outside, venomous spiders are a part of Florida living, as are snakes, gators, yellow flies, yellow jackets, hornets and mosquitos and here at the beach, we also entertain the nuisance called no-seams, during dusk especially.

So what do we need to be aware of?

Summertime is perfect to be barefoot outside, but of course, some of those buggers will also make their way into our homes, where many of us are barefoot more often. My bare feet are stuck underneath my computer desk as I type this and on occasion I nervously rub them together, to shake off whatever may be lurking down there!! Just in case.

A particularly troublesome bug is the spider and feet aren’t the only body parts they attack. There are only less than a handful of deadly spiders in the U.S., most famously the Black Widow, which has been spotted in 49 states. (Alaska still appears to be safe.)  But other spiders can also produce a very itchy bite that seems to take forever to go away and sometimes leaves a (semi) permanent mark.
Since nobody wants to run to the doctor every time an insect or arachnid stings or bites, for cot reasons alone already. But spider bites can be serious, and it’s therefore a good idea to learn how to identify those bites and what kind of treatment is best. In addition to itching and pain, some spider bites can cause skin damage, infection, muscle aches, cramping throughout the body, and chest and abdominal pain.
And yes, some people have died from spider bites.
The hobo spider is a non-native species of spider that originally came to the United States from Europe. The spider is found in the northwest portion of the country, and probably arrived in the 1920s, getting into the country accidentally in packages and crates that were shipped from overseas. The hobo spider is brown with no special markings, but it has a potentially dangerous bite that produces distinctive symptoms.

Spider bites can be deadly and painful. It’s important to be able to recognize spider bite symptoms quickly after they appear. Starting spider bite treatment early can make all the difference. By looking at some pictures of spider bites and reading a little advice you can be way ahead in the event of getting bit.

For everyone living in the U.S.,remember there are only three types of potentially deadly spider bites in the U.S.:

• Brown Recluse spider bite (southern two-thirds of the country)
• Hobo Spider bite (out west)
• Black Widow spider bite (everywhere except Alaska)

The Brown Recluse likes to hide in boxes, books, and other hard to reach places. They are often found around human habitations, outdoors under rocks and bark as well as indoors in houses, schools, sheds, and barns. The brown recluse is about 1/2 inch long. It is brown and bears a violin-shaped dorsal stripe on its cephalothorax.Their bites can be mild to serious and occasionally fatal. As of 1984, at least 5 deaths had been reported from their bites in the USA. Their hemolytic or cytotoxic venom is dangerous because of its toxic effect on cells. The toxins in the bite kill the cells surrounding the puncture, producing a black gangrenous spot. Often, the skin proceeds to peel away from the area around the wound, exposing the underlying tissues. In extreme cases, an area 6 inches across can be severely affected and, since the wounds are slow to heal, they leave a very unpleasant scar.

Other symptoms can be:

• Headache
• Nausea
• Abdominal cramps
• Joint stiffness
• High fever
• Possible kidney failure if left untreated

The brown recluse spider doesn’t spin webs, but likes to crawl around to hunt. They are often found lurking in the basement or in the garage. To kill brown recluse spiders, grab a vacuum and go around your house cleaning under and around things. Suck up any spiders you may find.
A more effective way to kill the brown recluse spiders in your home is to use brown recluse traps. These can be bought online and are made specifically for brown recluse spiders. They attract brown recluse spiders with a sweet scent and then of course kill them.

The Widows

Florida has four species of venomous Widow spiders, of which two, the Southern Black Widow and the Brown Widow may be found around buildings. The Northern Black Widow is found only in the Florida Panhandle and makes its web at the end of low tree branches. The Red Widow is mainly found in sand scrub habitat in central and south central Florida.Their venom is neurotoxic (affects nervous system).

A bite victim may feel the following symptoms:

• Painful rigidity in abdominal muscles
• Tightness in the chest
• Increased blood pressure
• Rise in body temperature
• Nausea and Sweating
• Death is uncommon but may happen in the elderly or very young usually from asphyxia 14-32 hours after being bitten.

Hobo Spiders

Dry Bites: As many as half of all people bitten by hobo spiders will have no symptoms. This is because the bites are “dry”, meaning that the spider failed to inject any of its venom into the person.

Early Signs: When venom is injected into a bite, the area will become numb within 15 minutes, with other parts of the body, such as the tongue, possibly feeling numb as well. It will begin to turn red, and become swollen and hard within 18 hours.

Blistering: After a span of 24 hours, the hobo spider bite will start to blister in the middle of the wound. During this time, the victim may experience bad headaches and suffer from visual or auditory hallucinations.

Serious Symptoms: The blister will break open on the second day and ooze fluids, eventually scabbing over in about 3 weeks. In severe cases, after 2 to 3 days the area can become black, and in 10 days the flesh in the region of the bite may rot, requiring surgical intervention.
The hobo spider bite will leave a scar. In some instances, it can be as long as 2 or 3 years before the bite heals completely.

Here are a few hints on how to identify a spider bite.

Evaluate the Pain

If you feel pain when the spider bites, it’s likely a black widow spider bite, whose bite is often but not always painful. You may also develop severe body aches and fever.
A brown recluse spider bite is a slight sting at best. Most of the time you feel nothing. They hide in or under boxes, under your bed sheets, in your clothes. The first you know about it is the pain that develops several minutes to hours after the bite.
As a brown recluse spider bite progresses it takes a nasty turn. You may not know when it a brown recluse bites you, but when the bite area becomes red, blistered, or black you know it’s a brown recluse. The area starts out small, and the redness spreads. A black spot of dead tissue develops in the middle of the redness. This dead tissue can be anything from small and superficial to deep and large—sometimes enough to warrant a skin graft when everything’s said and done. As the tissue dies, the area becomes very painful.

Now the hobo spider can cause skin damage, but less so than the brown recluse, while the black widow spider bite causes a red spot that’s sometimes hard to see, but another symptom will be much more obvious; it usually causes painful muscle aches and cramping throughout the body for one to three weeks.

Poisonous Spider Bite Treatment:

If at all possible, get to a doctor. If you can’t, consider the following:
If you think the spider was a brown recluse or hobo spider:
keep the wound cool and slow your breathing. This will help slow the venom’s spread: Apply ice, and keep the area at heart level or above.
Even though bites are rarely fatal, secondary infections can quickly turn so. The next step you need to do is make sure you do everything possible to prevent infection.
As the black layer of dead skin (eschar) sloughs off, treat the wound as you would any other, by keeping it clean and covered and applying antibiotic ointment or honey. Some large wounds take several weeks to heal. If it starts looking infected, you’ll need oral antibiotics.

Treat the pain.

Take an over-the-counter pain reliever.
If you think the spider was a black widow take a pain reliever like ibuprofen or aspirin for the muscle cramps.
Within minutes to hours, a black widow bite can lead to severe chest and abdominal pain mimicking appendicitis or a heart attack. It can make your blood pressure go up and may need to be treated. (Possible signs include an quickened pulse and a flushed face.)
If you can’t get to a doctor, rest to try to lower the blood pressure.
The good news is that these days, thanks to anti-venom, it’s extremely  rare to die from a spider bite and those that do are typically caused by an allergic reaction or a severe secondary infection.
That being said, most people are still terrified of spiders and shake out their sheets before hopping into bed.

Last but not least, I’d suggest, if it’s got eight legs and bit someone, try and recover the critter, no matter how small, and give it to medical staff when being treated so it can be properly identified.

Now there are a dozen other spiders in the State that are intriguing if not fascinating to learn about HERE at http://floridabackyardspiders.com


Tomorrow we’ll talk about the six venomous snakes that are indigenous  to Florida — the eastern diamondback, pigmy rattler, canebrake rattler, cottonmouth (commonly called a water moccasin), copperhead and coral snake.

Honoring EMS Workers this Week

Honoring EMS Workers this WeekA statement from Dr. Nicole Lurie, Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response

This week, our nation honors emergency medical service (EMS) professionals for their dedication to public service.

Over the past century, the field of emergency medical services has grown from hospital interns who rode in horse-drawn carriages transporting the sick and injured in a few cities during the 1800s. Today our nation draws on diverse network of nearly a million EMS physicians, nurses, paramedics, emergency medical technicians, dispatchers, and support staff in every community. With each passing year, EMS has demonstrated increasing importance in our nation’s health care system.

EMS practitioners serve our nation in its darkest hours and at a moment’s notice. In recent months, they provided care after a deadly mudslide in Washington state, in the aftermath of a tornado in Arkansas, and when a gunman opened fire in a Navy facility in Washington, D.C. EMS practitioners work just as diligently to protect health and save lives in every American town and city every day in emergencies large or small.

At HHS, we recognize the connection between the care patients receive through the primary care providers, the acute care provided by emergency medical services practitioners and the care provided in emergency departments. We know that a seamless health care system is required, day in and day out, for our nation’s health security.

To that end, we are working on a wide variety of projects. Among them: We are partnering with EMS practitioners to link EMS records with other electronic health record systems and health information exchanges.

We also are working through the Federal Interagency Committee on EMS to improve coordination among federal agencies that affect emergency medicine. We’re exploring ways to improve the effectiveness and reliability of Enhanced 911 services, and working with EMS practitioners to implement a strategy that ensures a culture of safety within the EMS community.

We also are providing guidance, training, and materials to assist EMS providers who face active shooter situations.

Please join me in taking a few moments during EMS week to thank an emergency medical services practitioner.

EMS: Dedicated. For life.



Wherever and whenever crisis hits, the men and women of our emergency medical services (EMS) rush to the scene. With unyielding steadiness, they bring care to those who need it most. During Emergency Medical Services Week, we show our gratitude to the EMS practitioners who aid our families, friends, and neighbors in their darkest moments.

We saw their professionalism in action after a devastating storm hit Vilonia, Arkansas. Immediately after a tornado struck, 200 people, including EMS personnel from other counties, were ready to go house to house searching for injured neighbors. We saw it after last month’s mudslide in Washington State when first responders and rescue crews braved unsteady ground to search for survivors. And we see it in towns and cities across America every hour of every day. My Administration is dedicated to supporting the vital work of our paramedics, emergency medical technicians, 911 dispatchers, and EMS medical directors.

This week, we thank the EMS providers who ease suffering and so often mean the difference between life and death. Let us honor their service with a renewed commitment to them. Let us ensure that those who watch over our communities have the support they need to get the job done.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim May 18 through May 24, 2014, as Emergency Medical Services Week. I encourage all Americans to observe this occasion by showing their support for their local EMS providers and taking steps to improve their personal safety and preparedness.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this sixteenth day of May, in the year of our Lord two thousand fourteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-eighth.


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What is Oil Pulling?

What is Oil Pulling?There has been a lot of hype in the mainstream media about “oil pulling” for a healthier mouth and body. The idea is to put 1 – 2 tablespoons of sesame oil, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, or sunflower oil in your mouth and swish it around for 15 – 20 minutes; do this first, every morning. Then brush your teeth afterwards.

One tablespoon of cold pressed, organic sesame oil seems to be the preferred oil to use.

The oil is supposed to increase the secretion of saliva produced in your mouth and in doing so it has been said it reduces plaque, removes bacteria and naturally cleans your teeth and gums leaving you with fresh breath.

This new fad is really thousands of years old and was practiced in Ayurvedic medicine, an alternative medicine native to a southern region of Asia.

Some have written that the oil is difficult to keep in your mouth for the recommended time without vomiting, but the method is to swish the oil, pushing and pulling it through the teeth, as opposed to a gargle technique.

Keep in mind the increased saliva will increase the amount of fluid in your mouth, so the original 1 -2 tablespoons will soon become a much larger amount of fluid. Upon spitting it out, it should be frothy, if not, you are doing it wrong according to the experts.

As the oil mixes with your natural saliva, the lipids in the oil pull out toxins from the saliva, absorbing them so when you spit out the oil, you spit out the toxins before they are reabsorbed in the body.

While I couldn’t readily find any reputably named scientific studies, some “studies” have shown that the sesami oil reduces the amount of germs in the plaque on your teeth and in your spit. The “soapy” environment created by all the swishing around naturally cleans the mouth and reduces fungus.

Other suggested benefits include:
-Better smelling breath
-Prevention of oral dryness
-Strengthening of the teeth, gum and jaw

Still other suggested benefits claimed are:
-Reduction in migraine headaches
-Cures hang-overs
-Reduces allergy symptoms and sinus congestion
-Better sleep
-Improves your skin

According to US News, coconut oil may stop plaque from forming, but the evidence of expecting greater benefits is lacking. “There’s absolutely no data whatsoever that shows diabetes can be treated or prevented, or that heart disease can be,” says Lyla Blake-Gumbs, a physician with the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Integrative Medicine. “It’s not a new practice, it’s been done thousands of years, but there were no real records kept?. So I can’t go to any objective, well-run clinical trials to look into the other claims.”

While on the lookout for affordable, healthy alternatives, oil pulling is relatively simple and a non-invasive, painless, inexpensive treatment. Maybe I’ll even try it myself and do a follow up story about the results, but in the meantime, try it for yourself if you feel so inclined to do so, but a few words of warning, “Don’t swallow the oil.” You may end up with an upset stomach or even diarrhea!

One more important item to consider: Don’t spit into your sink or in the toilet as the oil may clog your pipes; it’s best to spit into something disposable and toss it into the trash.

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Pet Research Helps People and Pets

Pet Research Helps People and Pets
Where would we be without our furry friends? Pet dogs and cats stand by us with love and loyalty, sharing our lives’ ups and downs. Our beloved pets can also share many of the same medical problems that we have, like asthma, diabetes, and even cancer. Doctors, veterinarians, and scientists work together to study diseases that affect both pets and people. The aim is to improve medical care for people as well as our companion animals.

More than half of U.S. households have at least one pet. In 2011, we had more than 144 million pet dogs and cats. Many people consider pets to be part of their family. And like any family member, pets can get sick.

“Our pets live in our houses. They drink the same water and eat some of the same foods. They’re exposed to many of the same environmental risks. They share many of the same genes, which is why they get many of the same diseases,” says Dr. Amy LeBlanc, a veterinarian and cancer expert at the University of Tennessee.

Pet dogs, for instance, can develop cancer naturally just as people do. “Tumors in dogs tend to spread the same way that our tumors spread. And they respond to therapies the same way that our cancers respond to treatments like chemotherapy and radiation,” says LeBlanc.

Pet cats, too, might inherit genes that raise their risk for conditions, like severe kidney disease, that can be similar to human disease. “Cats get asthma just like we do, and they can be allergic to dust mites just like us,” says Dr. Leslie Lyons, an expert in cat genetics at the University of Missouri. “Cats can become obese from eating the wrong kinds of foods and just sitting around the house, which can raise the risk for diabetes, just like us.”

Over the years, NIH-funded studies of dogs and cats with naturally occurring diseases have led to improved therapies for both people and pets. For example, researchers studied an aggressive type of childhood bone cancer that’s rare in people (affecting about 600 children and teens a year) but common in dogs (affecting up to 15,000 a year). The cancer, called osteosarcoma, arises in large bones in the arms and upper legs. By studying pet dogs and people, researchers developed techniques that are now being used to prevent arm and leg amputations and sometimes cure the cancer.

In other research, NIH-funded scientists studied pet dogs with blood cancer to develop better treatments based on bone marrow transplants or stem cell therapies. The improved techniques have now been widely adopted for treating human cancers across the country. The therapies are also used to treat cancer in dogs at some veterinary hospitals.

These types of medical advances are made possible because owners of sick pets enrolled them in veterinary clinical trials. Such trials can help speed the discovery of new and effective therapies for human patients and ultimately improve care for pets too. As in human clinical studies, cats or dogs might receive experimental treatments for cancer or other conditions. Some veterinary clinical studies evaluate different types of imaging techniques that might help humans and animals. Others study the biology of certain genetic conditions that pass down from dogs and cats to their puppies or kittens.

“The idea is that human medicine can learn from the work we do in the veterinary sciences, and vice versa. We can learn from each other,” says LeBlanc. “It’s a concept that’s called ‘one medicine.’ It’s a mutual exchange of discovery.”

“This isn’t a new philosophy; certainly this type of comparative research has been going on for decades,” adds Dr. David Vail, a veterinarian and cancer specialist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “But, it’s probably been just in the last 10 years that clinical trials involving pets have become well-organized.”

In 2003, NIH launched a program—called the Comparative Oncology Program—to learn more about the biology and treatment of cancer. Scientists compare natural cancers in people and in animals (mostly pet dogs). Today, the program runs a research network that includes 20 veterinary centers across the United States and in Canada.

Pet dogs with different types of cancer can receive cutting-edge treatments at these centers that might save their lives. At the same time, the studies add to our understanding of cancer in all creatures.

“Because NIH is concerned with human health, the goal of these studies is to develop therapies for people,” says Vail. “But at the end of the day, I’m a veterinarian, and so the two-way flow of information is important to me. I want these treatments to come back to my veterinary clinic.”

Pets participating in NIH-sponsored veterinary clinical studies get a lot of oversight and care. “We spend time talking with pet owners to make sure they understand possible risks and benefits of the study,” LeBlanc says. As in human studies, a data safety and monitoring board tracks the trial’s progress. If serious side effects or other problems arise, the trial will be halted or altered, just as in human studies.

Although much NIH-funded research focuses on dogs, cats are also important in helping to understand human disease. Lyons studies cats with a condition called polycystic kidney disease (PKD). “It’s one of the more common inherited diseases in cats, especially Persian cats, and it’s a common inherited trait in humans,” Lyons says. PKD leads to harmful buildup of fluid-filled cysts on the kidneys.

PKD can hit cats hard when they’re about 7 years old. But it takes much longer to be noticed in people.

“In humans, the condition generally leads to kidney failure later in life, when people are in their 50s or 60s,” says Lyons. “We can’t stop this disease. There are no effective treatments that have been approved for humans that will slow progression of the cysts and delay the onset of kidney failure.”

Lyons and her team are now working to set up veterinary clinical trials for PKD. “If we could find a therapy that helps fix PKD in cats, we could make a lot of cats better. And then, most important, we may be able to develop effective treatments for humans,” says Lyons.

“When owners enroll their pets in a trial, they often hope their pet will benefit. But they also like that they’re contributing to the greater good,”” LeBlanc says. “A drug that’s tested in dogs or cats might one day help a very sick person or maybe help some other pets.”

Not all pets can qualify for veterinary clinical research. The pet’s condition needs to match the type of research study under way. If approved for a study, pets often receive medical care free of charge.

To learn about NIH-sponsored comparative studies of cancer, visit NIH’s Comparative Oncology Program website. Your veterinarian might also be able to help you find veterinary clinical trials. Or try looking at the websites of local veterinary schools, which often list ongoing studies of pets.

Whether human or pet, basic steps for staying healthy can be similar:
-Get plenty of physical activity. Activity can strengthen joints and muscles and improve heart health.
-Walk or run with your dog.
-Play often with your cat.
-Maintain a healthy weight. Excess weight in pets can raise the risk for some of the same conditions that can affect overweight humans: diabetes, joint problems, and certain cancers.
-Eat a healthy diet, or a specialized diet if needed. Ask your veterinarian about the right diet for your pet. Some “people foods” can be dangerous for pets.
-Don’t smoke. Secondhand smoke can harm your pets just like it does people.

This article was written by News in Health (NIH).
Managing Editor: Harrison Wein, Ph.D.
Editor: Vicki Contie
Contributors: Vicki Contie, Alan Defibaugh (illustrations) and Dana Steinberg

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What You Need to Know About Hepatitis C

What You Need to Know About Hepatitis CIf you were born between 1945 and 1965 you are 5 times more likely to have Hepatitis C. More than 75% of people with Hep C were born between these years according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). You can have Hep C with no symptoms and live for decades with the virus and not feel sick at all.

Hepatitis C can cause liver damage, liver failure, cirrhosis of the liver, liver cancer and even death. Hepatitis C is the leading cause of liver transplants! Getting tested for Hepatitis C can help many people access lifesaving treatments that can prevent serious liver damage. Successful treatments can eliminate the virus from the body and prevent liver damage, cirrhosis, and even liver cancer.

Here is more information about Hepatitus C from the CDC:

Hepatitis C has been called a silent epidemic because most people with Hepatitis C do not know they are infected.

In 2012, CDC started recommending Hepatitis C testing for everyone born from 1945 – 1965.
Most people with Hepatitis C don’t know they are infected so getting tested is the only way to know.
The longer people live with Hepatitis C undiagnosed and untreated, the more likely they are to develop serious, life-threatening liver disease. Getting tested can help people learn if they are infected and get them into lifesaving care and treatment.

Most boomers are believed to have become infected in the 1970s and 1980s when rates of Hepatitis C were the highest.

How do you get Hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C is usually spread when blood from a person infected with the Hepatitis C virus enters the body of someone who is not infected. This can happen through multiple ways. Before widespread screening of the blood supply began in 1992, Hepatitis C was spread through blood transfusions and organ transplants. People with clotting problems who took blood products prior to 1987 could have been exposed to Hepatitis C. Sharing needles or other equipment to inject drugs was and is a very efficient way to transmit the virus. People have also become infected with the Hepatitis C virus from body piercing or tattoos that were done in prisons, homes, or in other unlicensed or informal facilities.

Although uncommon, outbreaks of Hepatitis C have occurred from poor infection control in health care settings. In rare cases, Hepatitis C may be sexually transmitted. Babies born to mothers with Hepatitis C can get infected during childbirth. Still, many people do not know how or when they were infected.

Hepatitis C is not spread by casual contact, kissing, hugging, sneezing, coughing, breastfeeding or sharing food, eating utensils or glasses.

Many people with chronic Hepatitis C do not have symptoms and do not know they are infected. People with chronic Hepatitis C can live for decades without symptoms or feeling sick.
When symptoms do appear, they often are a sign of advanced liver disease. Symptoms of Hepatitis C can include: fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, grey-colored stools, joint pain and/or jaundice.

hepatitus-c-progressionInformation on Testing
The only way to know if someone has Hepatitis C is to get tested. Doctors use a blood test, called a Hepatitis C Antibody Test, to find out if a person has ever been infected with Hepatitis C. The Hepatitis C Antibody Test looks for antibodies to the Hepatitis C virus. Antibodies are chemicals released into the bloodstream when someone gets infected. The antibody test results will take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to come back, although new Rapid Antibody Tests are available in some settings.

A Non-reactive or a negative Hepatitis C antibody test result means that a person does not have Hepatitis C. However, if a person has been recently exposed to the Hepatitis C virus, he or she will need to be tested again.

A Reactive or a positive Hepatitis C antibody test result means that Hepatitis C antibodies were found in the blood and a person has been infected with the Hepatitis C virus at some point in time.

A reactive antibody test does not necessarily mean a person still has Hepatitis C. Once people have been infected, they will always have antibodies in their blood. This is true if even if they have cleared the Hepatitis C virus. A reactive antibody test requires an additional, follow-up test to determine if a person is currently infected with Hepatitis C.

How is chronic Hepatitis C treated?
Medications, called antivirals, can be used to treat many people with chronic Hepatitis C. There are several medications available to treat chronic Hepatitis C, including new treatments that appear to be more effective and have fewer side effects than previous options. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) maintains a complete list of approved treatments for Hepatitis C.

However, not everyone needs or can benefit from treatment. It is important to be checked by a doctor experienced in treating chronic Hepatitis C. He or she can determine the most appropriate medical care. Decisions about starting treatment are based on many factors, such as the type of virus, the condition of the liver, and other health conditions. Whether or not to be treated or when to start treatment should be discussed with your doctor.

To protect your liver, you can:
-Ask your doctor before taking any prescription, over-the-counter medications, supplements or -vitamins. For instance, some drugs, such as certain pain medications, can potentially damage the liver
-Avoid alcohol since it can increase the speed of liver damage
-Talk to your doctor about getting vaccinated against Hepatitis A and B

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New Science Board to Advise Health and Human Services

New Science Board to Advise Health and Human ServicesSix experts from outside the federal government will join the National Biodefense Science Board (NBSB) to provide advice and guidance to HHS’ assistant secretary for preparedness and response, and to the HHS Secretary, on preventing, preparing for, and responding to adverse health effects of public health emergencies.

The new members replace members whose terms expire April 30, 2014.

The ASPR serves as the Secretary’s principal advisor on bioterrorism and other public health emergencies and coordinates the federal public health and medical response to disasters.

“NBSB members are vital to our operations here in HHS. They bring a wealth of knowledge, expertise, and experience. Over the past six years, the board has helped us improve federal policies and practices in disaster preparedness and response,” said Assistant Secretary Nicole Lurie, M.D. “I look forward to working with the new members in helping to build more resilient communities across the nation.”

The NBSB was created under the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act of 2006 and chartered in May 2007. Since then, the board has provided recommendations on federal disaster preparedness and response issues. In the past year, these issues have included anticipated responsibilities of the Strategic National Stockpile in the year 2020 and cost-effective ways to meet those responsibilities. The stockpile has large quantities of medicine and medical supplies to protect the public if there is a public health emergency, such as a terrorist attack, flu outbreak, or earthquake, severe enough to cause local supplies to run out.

The board has 13 voting members with a broad range of expertise in science, medicine, and public health. There also are voting and non-voting members from federal and state government agencies as deemed appropriate by the HHS Secretary.

Information about the NBSB and its meetings is available at http://www.phe.gov/Preparedness/legal/boards/nbsb/Pages/default.aspx.

Incoming members are as follows:

-Virginia Caine, M.D., director of the Marion County Public Health Department in Indianapolis;, associate professor of medicine, Indiana University School of Medicine, and board member of the National Medical Association.
-David Ecker, Ph.D., divisional vice president and a general manager at Ibis Biosciences, Inc., an Abbott company located in Carlsbad, Calif. He is serving his first term as a voting member on the NBSB and has been chosen to be reappointed for an additional three-year term.
-Noreen Hynes, M.D., M.P.H., D.T.M.& H., associate professor of medicine and public health, and director of the Geographic Medicine Center of the Division of Infectious Diseases, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore.
-Catherine Slemp, M.D., M.P.H., public health consultant. She previously served as West Virginia’s state health officer with the Bureau for Public Health.
-Tammy Spain, Ph.D., senior member of the technical staff at the Charles Stark Draper Laboratory, Bioengineering Center at the University of South Florida.
-David Weinstock, M.D., assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, Associate Physician at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Affiliated Faculty at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, all Boston.

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Shingles Vaccine and Treatments to Reduce Risks

shingles from News in HealthIf you’ve ever had chickenpox, you may be at risk for a painful disease called shingles as you grow older. Shingles is a sometimes-agonizing skin rash and nerve disease that’s caused by a virus. Fortunately, you can take steps to prevent shingles or ease its serious effects.

Shingles usually affects adults after age 50, although it can strike at any age. “In the U.S., the incidence of shingles is actually increasing,” says Dr. Jeffrey Cohen, an infectious disease researcher at NIH. “If you live to be 85 years old, you have a 50% chance of getting shingles.”

Shingles is caused by the varicella-zoster virus—the same virus that causes chickenpox. Once you’ve had chickenpox, the virus stays with you for life, hidden and inactive in your nerve cells. Your immune system helps keep chickenpox from returning. But later in life, the virus can re-emerge and cause shingles (also known as herpes zoster).

You can’t “catch” shingles from someone else. But it is possible for a person with a blistery shingles rash to pass on the varicella-zoster virus to someone who’s never had chickenpox or a chickenpox vaccine. If that happens, the other person would get chickenpox, not shingles.

Shingles may cause skin sensitivity ranging from mild itching to severe pain along with burning, tingling, or numbness. A rash with fluid-filled blisters nearly always appears on just one side of the body or face. The rash usually lasts for 7 to 10 days. Other symptoms may include chills, fever, upset stomach, and headache.

Shingles can lead to some serious problems. If it appears on your face, it can affect your hearing and vision. It may cause lasting eye damage or blindness. After the rash fades, the pain may linger for months or years, especially in older people. This lasting pain, called post-herpetic neuralgia, affects nearly 1 out of every 3 older people with shingles. The pain can be so severe that even the gentlest touch or breeze can feel excruciating.

To help prevent these problems, see your doctor at the first sign of shingles. Early treatment can shorten the length of infection and reduce the risk of serious complications.

To treat shingles, your doctor may prescribe antiviral drugs to help fight the varicella-zoster virus. Steroids can lessen pain and shorten the time you’re sick. Other types of medicines can also relieve pain.

Fortunately, a vaccine called Zostavax can help prevent shingles or decrease its severity. It’s been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for people ages 50 and older. “The vaccine can prevent shingles and reduce the risk of post-herpetic neuralgia, which can be very debilitating,” Cohen says.

The shingles vaccine is available by prescription. Unfortunately, the vaccine is expensive, and the costs aren’t always covered by health insurance. If you’re considering the shingles vaccine, be sure to discuss the pros and cons of the vaccine with your doctor, and check with your insurance provider about coverage.

Now that people have been receiving the shingles vaccine for several years, researchers are evaluating whether booster shots might be appropriate. Scientists are also studying post-herpetic neuralgia to find better ways to treat this complication from shingles.

This article was written by News in Health (NIH).
Managing Editor: Harrison Wein, Ph.D.
Editor: Vicki Contie
Vicki Contie, Sara Crocoll, Alan Defibaugh (illustrations), and Harrison Wein

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The Nation’s Health is Improving

The Nation's Health is ImprovingThe nation’s health is improving in more than half of the critical measures that are known to have major influence in reducing preventable disease and death, according to a new report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Healthy People 2020 represents the nation’s current 10-year goals and objectives for health promotion and disease prevention. Twenty-six specific measures—in categories such as access to care, maternal and child health, tobacco use, nutrition and physical activity—were identified as high-priority health issues. These Leading Health Indicators (LHI), if addressed appropriately, have the potential to significantly reduce major influences or threats on the public’s health that cause illness and death.

“The Leading Health Indicators are intended to motivate action to improve the health of the whole population. Today’s LHI Progress Report shows that we are doing just that,” says Dr. Howard Koh, Assistant Secretary for Health. Koh also notes that with the full implementation of the Affordable Care Act, we can expect to see more improvements across these indicators.

There are 14 health indicators that have either been met or are improving in this first third of the decade, including:

    Fewer adults smoking cigarettes;
    Fewer children exposed to secondhand smoke;
    More adults meeting physical activity targets; and
    Fewer adolescents using alcohol or illicit drugs.

While progress has been made across several indicators, the LHI Progress Report highlights areas where further work is needed to improve the health of all Americans. There are 11 Leading Health Indicators that have not shown significant improvement at this point in the decade, and 1 indicator where only baseline data are available.

For more information about the Leading Health Indicators Progress Update, please visit http://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/LHI/default.aspx.

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Health care System now Transparent, Affordable, and Accountable

Health care System now Transparent, Affordable, and AccountableAs part of the Obama administration’s work to make our health care system more transparent, affordable, and accountable, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced the release of new, privacy-protected data on services and procedures provided to Medicare beneficiaries by physicians and other health care professionals. The new data also show payment and submitted charges, or bills, for those services and procedures by provider.

“Currently, consumers have limited information about how physicians and other health care professionals practice medicine,” said Secretary Sebelius. “This data will help fill that gap by offering insight into the Medicare portion of a physician’s practice. The data released afford researchers, policymakers and the public a new window into health care spending and physician practice patterns.”

The new data set has information for over 880,000 distinct health care providers who collectively received $77 billion in Medicare payments in 2012, under the Medicare Part B Fee-For-Service program. With this data, it will be possible to conduct a wide range of analyses that compare 6,000 different types of services and procedures provided, as well as payments received by individual health care providers.

The information also allows comparisons by physician, specialty, location, the types of medical service and procedures delivered, Medicare payment, and submitted charges. Physicians and other health care professionals determine what they will charge for services and procedures provided to patients and these “charges” are the amount the physician or health care professional generally bills for the service or procedure.

“Data transparency is a key aspect of transformation of the health care delivery system,” said CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner. “While there’s more work ahead, this data release will help beneficiaries and consumers better understand how care is delivered through the Medicare program.”

Last May, CMS released hospital charge data allowing consumers to compare what hospitals charge for common inpatient and outpatient services across the country.

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2014 Shrimp Festival 5K Run or Walk

2014 Shrimp Festival 5K Run or WalkIt is time to plan for the 2014 Isle of Eight Flags 5K run or walk, sponsored by the YMCA. Invite your friends and family to take part in this community-wide event and stay healthy together.

With four events to choose from, there’s sure to be a race for everyone.

The events will be held Saturday, May 3, 2014, and the race begins at 8:00 am at Main Beach.

Registration is available online http://www.firstcoastymca.org/branch/mcarthur or at the Welcome Center.

2014 Shrimp Festival 1 Mile Katie Caples Run/Walk
Main Beach
8:45 AM – 11:00 AM
Fees: $15.00

2014 Shrimp Festival 1/2 Mile Popcorn Shrimp Run/Walk
Main Beach
9:00 AM – 11:00 AM
Fees: $12.00

2014 Shrimp Festival 5K Run (ages 18 & up)
Main Beach
8:00 AM – 11:00 AM
Fees: $30.00

2014 Shrimp Festival 5K Run (ages 9-17)
Main Beach
8:00 AM – 11:00 AM
Fees: $30.00

2014 Shrimp Festival 5K Walk (ages 18 & up)
Main Beach
8:00 AM – 11:00 AM
Fees: $30.00

2014 Shrimp Festival 5K Walk (ages 9-17)
Main Beach
8:00 AM – 11:00 AM
Fees: $30.00

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CLUB 14 FITNESS Spring Launch 2014

CLUB 14 FITNESS Spring Launch 2014CLUB 14 FITNESS is rolling out their spring Les Mills routines and raising awareness for Cedar Haven’s Women’s Home, too.

This free event will be held Saturday, April 19, 2014, from 9:00 to noon, and you can try all of their Les Mills programs; simply call the gym to reserve any equipment you’ll need ahead of time at (904) 206-4414.

The Cedar Haven Transitional house seeks to assist women that have been challenged by homelessness in Nassau County with stays of up to 180 days in an effort to assist them towards permanent housing.

Located in Fernandina Beach, Cedar Haven is always in need of donated money, gift cards to Walmart, toilet paper, paper towels, dishwashing detergent, laundry detergent, and journals.

There are lots of wonderful prizes that have been donated for raffles that will be held throughout the morning. So come check out the new routines, or try them for free for the very first time… and you may win a prize, too.

Here is a little about CLUB 14 FITNESS and each of the Les Mills Fitness programs they offer:

BODYSTEP™ is the energizing step workout that makes you feel liberated and alive. Using a height-adjustable step and simple movements on, over and around the step you get huge motivation from sing-a-long music and approachable instructors. Cardio blocks push fat burning systems into high gear followed by muscle conditioning tracks that shape and tone your body.

BODYCOMBAT™ is a fiercely energetic program inspired by martial arts and draws from a wide array of disciplines such as karate, boxing, taekwando, tai chi and muay thai. Supported by driving music and powerful role model instructors, you strike, punch, kick and kata your way through calories to superior cardio fitness.

CXWORX™ is ideal for tightening your tummy and butt. CXWORX focuses on the torso and sling muscles that connect your upper body to your lower body. This 30 minute core class will tighten and tone your core while improving your functional strength so you can run foster, play harder and stand stronger!

BODYPUMP™ is the original barbell class that strengthens your entire body. This 60 minute workout challenges all your major muscle groups by using the best weight room exercises like squats, presses, lifts, and curls. Great music, awesome insturctors and your choice of weight inspire you to get the results you came for – and fast!

BODYFLOW™ is the YOGA, TAI CHI, and PILATES workout that builds flexibility and strength, leaving you feeling centered and calm.

RPM™ is the indoor cycling workout where you ride to the rhythm of powerful music. Take on the terrain with your inspiring team coach who leads the pack through hills, flats, mountain peaks, time trials, and interval training. Discover your athlete within – sweat and burn to reach your endorphin high.

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Statement on National Minority Health Month

Heartbleed Bug Attacking ServersWashington D.C. – In April, we commemorate National Minority Health Month, a time to raise awareness about health disparities that persist among racial and ethnic minorities. This year’s theme – “Prevention is Power: Taking Action for Health Equity” – embodies the ambitious goal put forward by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to achieve “a nation free of disparities in health and health care.”

Despite some recent progress in addressing health disparities, great challenges remain. Minorities are far more likely than non-Hispanic whites to suffer from chronic conditions, many of which are preventable. This is a particularly troubling statistic, because chronic diseases account for seven of the ten leading causes of death in our nation.

For example, African Americans, American Indians and Alaska Natives are twice as likely to be diagnosed with diabetes and Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders are more than three times as likely to receive the same diagnosis. And Latinos are twice as likely to die from liver cancer.

While these persistent disparities are deeply troubling, there are some hopeful trends. The gap in life expectancy between African Americans and non-Hispanic whites has been closing, and is now the smallest it’s been since these statistics have been tracked.

Additionally, seasonal flu vaccination coverage has tripled for children over the past four years and has contributed to a reduction in vaccination disparities among minority children.

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, health coverage is now more affordable and accessible for millions of Americans, including minority groups. For minority populations, the law addresses inequities in access to quality and affordable coverage.

The impact of the Affordable Care Act on communities across our nation is transformative. Over seven million African Americans, nearly four million Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and over eight million Latinos with private insurance now have access to expanded preventive services with no cost sharing. This includes screening for colon cancer, Pap smears and mammograms for women, well-child visits, and flu shots for children and adults. Communities across the country are now stronger because the law invests in creating healthier communities, strong public health infrastructure, and preventing disease before it starts.

During Minority Health Month, we applaud the commitment of all of our federal, state, tribal, and local partners in our shared work to implement the HHS Action Plan to Reduce Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities and the National Stakeholder Strategy for Achieving Health Equity. To learn more about National Minority Health Month and what HHS is doing to achieve health equity, please visit www.minorityhealth.hhs.gov

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Stamp Out Smoking Tobacco-Free Living

Stamp Out Smoking Tobacco-Free LivingMost of us know that smoking is unhealthy. So why do so many people still do it? The answers are complex. Researchers have found effective ways to help people quit smoking—or prevent them from starting in the first place. The tricky part is putting these tools to use. We can all take steps to help stamp out smoking.

Fifty years ago, the first Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health revealed that smoking cigarettes raises your risk of developing several diseases. Since then, smoking rates have declined, saving millions of lives. But at the same time, more than 20 million Americans have died too soon because of smoking. And more than 3,200 children under age 18 smoke their first cigarette every day as a result of tobacco industry marketing and other influences.

We know a lot more than we used to about the dangers of tobacco smoke. “When you smoke, you inhale thousands of hazardous chemicals,” explains Dr. Michele Bloch, a tobacco control expert at NIH. “They travel all around inside your body and cause damage to numerous parts.”

Cigarette smoke can quickly damage delicate lung tissue. It doesn’t have a chance to heal when it’s exposed to smoke day after day. The result can be a wide range of deadly lung conditions, such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

The chemicals from tobacco smoke travel from the lungs into the bloodstream. They damage your heart and blood vessels to cause cardiovascular problems, such as heart disease and stroke. Cardiovascular disease kills over 800,000 people a year nationwide.

The compounds in tobacco smoke can enter cells throughout your body and damage the DNA inside. DNA is the long threadlike molecule found in nearly all your cells. It’s an essential “blueprint” that controls how your cells grow, where they go, and what they do.

When DNA gets damaged, cells can begin to grow abnormally. The body usually attacks and kills such cells. But the toxic chemicals in cigarette smoke weaken this process, making it easier for the cells to multiply out of control. The result is cancer.

Smokers dramatically increase their risk of developing many types of cancer. Nearly all lung cancer, the number one cancer killer, is caused by smoking. Smoking can lead to cancer in many parts of the body, including the throat, mouth, nasal cavity, stomach, pancreas, liver, kidney, bladder, colon, rectum, and cervix. It can also cause leukemia, a cancer of the blood.

Smoking can cause all sorts of other health issues, too. When the DNA in sperm becomes damaged, it can lead to infertility. Smoking while you’re pregnant can cause a host of problems, including low birth weight and preterm delivery. Smokers are 30% to 40% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than nonsmokers. And smoking can make it harder for the body to fight disease.

“People who are exposed to secondhand smoke from other people’s cigarettes have many of these same problems,” Bloch says. Secondhand smoke contains a mixture of hazardous compounds similar to that inhaled by smokers. Researchers estimate that 2.5 million nonsmokers have died from secondhand smoke since 1964.

The best way to prevent tobacco-related health problems is to keep kids from smoking in the first place. “The vast majority of new smokers begin when they are too young to appreciate the risk,” Bloch says.

“Usually people start smoking when they are adolescents,” explains Dr. Ivan Montoya, an NIH expert on treating substance abuse. “Adolescents who start smoking regularly can very quickly become addicted to nicotine and tobacco. It is then very difficult to quit.”

Nicotine is the primary drug in tobacco that causes addiction. “Nicotine is a very addictive substance,” Montoya says. “It takes only a few contacts with the substance to become addicted.”

It takes just 10 seconds for the nicotine from one puff of smoke to reach the brain. Once it gets there, it causes cells in the brain to release a chemical called dopamine. The dopamine can make you feel calm and satisfied, or alert and focused. Over time, the brain cells of smokers change to expect regular bursts of extra dopamine. When smokers try to quit, their brains crave more nicotine.

“Some people are more susceptible than others to get addicted to tobacco,” Montoya says. Scientists have found some genes that seem to be involved in nicotine dependence, but the work is still ongoing.

Researchers do know that the health of even long-time smokers can improve quickly after quitting. Within a year of quitting, heart attack risk drops dramatically. Within 5 years, the risk of stroke can fall to nearly that of a nonsmoker. Quitting also lowers the risk of cancer and other diseases.

“If you are a smoker, the single most important thing you can do to protect your health and the health of your family is to quit,” Bloch says. “And help is available.”

Research has revealed effective strategies to help people quit smoking. That’s partly why quit rates for smokers are on the rise. More than half of all people who’ve smoked have already quit.

Studies show that people who talk to their doctors about quitting or call quit lines for advice are more successful than those who go it alone. Quitters can double or triple their chances of success by using medications approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and nicotine patches, gum, or lozenges, along with coaching support.

“Different things work for different people,” explains Dr. David Theodore Levy, a tobacco control expert at Georgetown University Medical Center. “Most people make many quit attempts before they’re successful.” Check to see if stop-smoking therapy is covered under your health plan.

You’ve probably seen electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, promoted as an alternative to traditional cigarettes. These battery-powered devices deliver nicotine to the lungs without burning tobacco. However, they still release hazardous chemicals into the air. Unlike traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes can be advertised on TV and radio, and many people worry that they’ll be attractive to kids.

E-cigarettes aren’t regulated by FDA. Scientists still don’t know their health effects, including how they could affect attempts to quit smoking. “The evidence is only beginning to come in,” Levy says, and research is ongoing.

NIH-funded scientists continue to look for more effective therapies and approaches to help people quit. Researchers are also developing vaccines against nicotine, Montoya says. The vaccine would prompt your body to identify nicotine as a foreign substance and fight to block it from reaching the brain, which might help extinguish the addiction.

“Quitting is lifesaving, and early quitting is especially good,” Bloch says. Let’s all work to end the use of cigarettes and other tobacco products. If you’re a smoker, free help is available at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) and online at smokefree.gov.

This article was originally published by News in Health (NIH)
Managing Editor: Harrison Wein, Ph.D.
Editor: Vicki Contie
Contributors: Vicki Contie, Sara Crocoll, Alan Defibaugh (illustrations), and Harrison Wein

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HeartWise Eating Plan at Baptist Medical

HeartWise Eating Plan at Baptist MedicalApril 10, 2014, from 5:00 to 7:00pm, Baptist Medical Center Nassau will be offering a two-hour presentation, “The HeartWise Eating Plan.”

This presentation and interactive discussion, facilitated by Baptist Health Registered Dietitians, we will clear up the confusion on how to eat your way to a healthy heart, all while enjoying a variety of heart-healthy snacks and refreshments. They’ll also provide you with the support materials you need to make small changes over time that add up to big health benefits for life.

The HeartWise Eating Plan is based on the scientifically proven, heart-healthy Mediterranean style of eating. Not another fad diet; this is a sustainable approach to eating well, maintaining a healthy weight, and loving your heart.

A few of the topics include:
– Fats that make your arteries happy.
– Hidden sources of sodium and sugar.
– Eating well while dining out.
– Daily calorie level needed to meet your personal goals.
– The benefits of learning to “veg out.”
– Why it’s good to “go nuts” a few times a week.

Admission is only $20.00 per person.

The class will be held in the Main Rayonier meeting room. Enter through the Main entrance. Turn right at the first hallway next to Baptist Pharmacy. Rayonier Room is the 3rd door on the right.

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Every April is National Autism Awareness Month

April is National Autism Awareness MonthThe following is a statement by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius reminding us that April is National Autism Awareness Month.

Every day, the millions of Americans living with autism and their families face unique and daunting challenges that many of us will never fully appreciate. During National Autism Awareness Month, we renew our commitment to better understand autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and improve the lives of individuals living with it.

A recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 1 in 68 children in the United States has been identified with ASD. This latest estimate makes it clear that autism affects the lives of millions of Americans, including our friends, neighbors, colleagues and family members.

ASD is a developmental disability characterized, in varying degrees, by persistent difficulties in social communication and restrictive and repetitive behaviors, interests, or activities. We know that early screening and intervention at younger ages helps children get the most effective treatments earlier in life. Yet the CDC found that most children with autism are diagnosed after age 4, even though autism can be diagnosed as early as age 2.

Catching potential developmental delays like ASD early can make a big difference in the lives of those children. Parents can track their child’s development with milestone checklists (find them at www.cdc.gov/Milestones), and health care providers now have easy-to-use resources for screening children through the new Birth to 5: Watch Me Thrive! initiative (www.hhs.gov/WatchMeThrive). Uncovering developmental concerns and acting early is the best way for families to access the services and supports they and their children need.

Because of the Affordable Care Act, most insurance plans must now cover autism screening for children at 18 and 24 months – with no out-of-pocket costs.

In addition, the Affordable Care Act includes many important benefits and protections that address the health care needs of those with autism. Insurers are no longer allowed to exclude anyone with autism or charge more based on this pre-existing condition. Also, children are now able to remain on their parents’ health plan until the age of 26. And millions more families now have access to affordable quality health coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace.

For people with autism and their families, greater access to health care and the new benefits and rights under the Affordable Care Act mean more options and greater peace of mind.

The Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee, with both federal and public members, coordinates efforts within HHS concerning autism. Research sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, CDC, and the Health Resources and Services Administration is advancing our understanding of autism risk factors and supporting the development of new tools for early detection and intervention.

There is also a growing understanding of the significant needs that individuals with autism have across their lifespan, including education, employment, housing, and other supports that would allow them to fully participate in community life. The Administration for Community Living has bolstered our commitment to promoting the health, well-being, and independence for those with autism and their families and caregivers.

This April, let us recommit ourselves to making advances through research and effective services and supports that will enhance the lives of the individuals and families—our children, friends, and neighbors—who live every day with autism.

For more information on resources available for individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities, their families, and caregivers, see:

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