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Anchor lead: Flu infection is continuing at a high level,
Elizabeth Tracey reports

The CDC is reporting almost 5000 deaths from the flu so far
this season, and while rates of new cases have dropped a bit from last week,
they remain high. Aaron Milstone, an infectious disease expert at Johns
Hopkins, says there are steps you can take to protect yourself and loved ones.

Milstone: People always think oh it’s flu season already I
didn’t get my vaccine, its too late. Well right now we’re seeing B but we will
be seeing A we anticipate, so we still encourage people to get the vaccine.
Usually it’s the opposite, where early in the season we’re seeing A we remind
people they can still get the vaccine it protects against the B strain, so I
still think people who haven’t gotten the vaccine should absolutely go out and
get the vaccine, remembering their common sense that if they have a fever they
should stay at home and protect the kids in their class or their coworkers. I
think right now common sense is going to be the big one.  :31

CDC data indicate that the flu circulating now seems to hit
children especially hard, so they too need vaccination. At Johns Hopkins, I’m
Elizabeth Tracey.

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Anchor lead: Should all parents of babies in the neonatal
intensive care unit be treated for staph? Elizabeth Tracey reports

Using a nasal ointment and a medicated wipe in parents of
infants in the neonatal intensive care unit reduced how often the babies were
infected with bacteria known as ‘staph’ by more than fifty percent, a study by
Aaron Milstone and colleagues at Johns Hopkins has shown. Milstone identifies
future directions.

Milstone: One of the big questions will be should this
intervention in the future be done with a screening and identifying people with
staph aureus or should this be an intervention that’s done to everyone? Because
screening is expensive, it takes time, and so it will take 24 to 48 hours to
figure out which parents actually have it before you can intervene, so we’re
also entertaining other strategies that might allow us to do a simpler strategy
that would target all parents and be a little more cost-effective.  :29

Milstone says just having all parents undergo treatment may
be best. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.

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Anchor lead: Can a simple intervention reduce a common
infection in newborns? Elizabeth Tracey reports

Bacteria known by the shorthand ‘staph’ can cause serious
and sometimes life-threatening infections in newborn babies, especially those
in the neonatal intensive care unit or NICU. Now a new study by Aaron Milstone,
a pediatric infectious diseases expert at Johns Hopkins, and colleagues, shows
that simply applying an antibiotic ointment to the nasal cavities and using an
antibacterial hand wipe in parents helps.

Milstone: The first finding was that many babies got the
bacteria from their parents and not from the healthcare environment. More than
half in fact, and we found that the intervention was very effective at reducing
the chances that babies were going to get it from their parents, more than
fifty percent, so there was a fifty percent reduction in those babies that got
the bacteria from their parents when the parents were treated.  :24

Milstone notes that treating parents had no negative side
effects. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.

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Anchor lead: If you choose to fast there are many ways to
do so, Elizabeth Tracey reports

Studies on fasting have utilized different patterns, such as
eating only 600 calories two days per week and consuming a normal diet on other
days, but Mark Mattson, a neurosciences researcher at Johns Hopkins and author
of a recent paper on the benefits of fasting, says in creating a schedule
simplicity is best.

Mattson: Fast for at least 16 hours a day or a couple days a
week eat only one meal. It takes two to four weeks to adapt, and it might be
good to do it with a spouse or a friend or a coworker.  :11

Fasting with a partner may help you persist, Mattson says,
and don’t be surprised by the social cost of doing so.

Mattson: One of the downsides from a social standpoint is
obvious: you have a breakfast meeting with someone and then you don’t eat
breakfast and they’re eating bacon and eggs and you’re drinking tea.   :10

Mattson notes that our societal conventions may be a
challenge at first but there’s no evidence that three meals a day and snacks
are anyone’s most healthful choice. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.

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Anchor lead: If you choose to fast, should you also
exercise? Elizabeth Tracey reports

If you’ve chosen a fasting regimen to improve your health,
should you also exercise? Mark Mattson, a neurosciences researcher at Johns
Hopkins and author of a recent paper on fasting, says the answer is a
resounding yes.

Mattson: If you work out in the fasting state you get an
additive effect of the beneficial effects of the fasting and the exercise,
insulin sensitivity, fat loss- makes a lot of sense, right? You’re already
using fats and then now you’re exercising when you don’t have any glucose in
your liver.  :18

Mattson says benefits begin on a cellular level.

Mattson: In response to the fasting and exercise the cells
upregulate mechanisms that clear out molecules that are damaged by free
radicals, and then when you eat and rest the cells can grow.   :11

Mattson notes that the benefits of fasting have been shown
in cancer, neurodegenerative and metabolic diseases. At Johns Hopkins, I’m
Elizabeth Tracey.

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Anchor lead: How can fasting be good for us? Elizabeth Tracey reports

Voluntarily restricting food intake allows our metabolism to use stored fat as an energy source, with a recent review paper by Mark Mattson, a neurosciences researcher at Johns Hopkins, and colleagues, finding multiple benefits. And Mattson says there is a biological basis for why it may be a healthy choice.

Mattson: Animals in the wild, including our human ancestors, before the agricultural revolution and before there was food constantly available, lived in environments where food was sparse and they didn’t wake up in the morning and have food waiting for them. They had to spend a lot of energy as well as mental effort to figure out where the food is and how to acquire it. As far as we can tell from modern day hunter gatherers we’re geared genetically to go extended time periods without food and be able to function well.   :32

Mattson says people can tailor their own fasting strategies to suit their needs. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.

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Anchor lead: Restricting food intake so your body experiences fasting may help your health, Elizabeth Tracey reports

Fasting involves having your body use stored fat as an energy source, with a recent review paper by Mark Mattson, a neurosciences researcher at Johns Hopkins, and colleagues, finding that even in the absence of dieting, such a practice results in weight loss. Mattson says it also has a number of other positive effects.

Mattson: Those changes we think based on a lot of data from animals and some data particularly from overweight humans which has been many many studies of intermittent fasting. There are many things that happen that protect organs against the chronic diseases that plague our modern society.  Heart disease, type 2 diabetes, age-related neurodegenerative disorders, and even things like inflammatory bowel disease and many cancers.  :28

Mattson notes that definitive studies, where fasting’s benefits are evaluated prospectively and over long periods of time, haven’t yet been done in people, and these are clearly needed to firmly establish the benefits of the practice. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.