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UCSF Initiative Links ‘Sugar Science’ to Your Health

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

These days, sugar is pretty close to everywhere in the American diet. You probably know that too much sugar is probably not great for your health.

Now, a new initiative from UC San Francisco is spelling out the health dangers in clear terms. The  project is called “sugar science,” and science there is.

A team of researchers distilled 8,000 studies and research papers, and found strong evidence showing overconsumption of added sugar overloads vital organs and contributes to three major chronic illnesses: heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and liver disease. Continue reading

State Issues ‘Tailored’ Quarantine Guidelines for Travelers from Ebola-Affected Countries

Gov. Jerry Brown meets with state officials, including Dr. Ron Chapman, state health officer, on

Gov. Jerry Brown met last week with state officials, including state health officer Dr. Ron Chapman, center left. (Brad Alexander/Office of the Governor)

Joining other states across the country, California’s health officer has now added guidelines for a “risk-based quarantine order” for people traveling to California from one of the three Ebola-affected West African countries, Guinea, LIberia and Sierra Leone.

California’s guidelines consistent with those from the Centers for Disease Control

At present there are no known or suspected cases of Ebola in California.

The state’s order is directed at anyone traveling to California from one of the affected countries who has also had contact with someone who has a confirmed case of Ebola.

Dr. Ron Chapman, California’s health officer, said the state is establishing a “standard protocol requiring some level of quarantine for those at highest risk of contracting and spreading Ebola.” Continue reading

Genetic Variant Linked to Lower Breast Cancer Rates in Latinas

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

Researchers have long known that Latina women have lower rates of breast cancer compared to African-American and white women. They have mainly pointed to lifestyle and environmental factors to explain why –- Latinas tend to have more children, breast feed longer, and drink less alcohol, all factors that are associated with lower disease rates.

Now, an international study led by scientists at UC San Francisco shows that a genetic variant unique to Latina women with indigenous ancestry plays a significant role, too.

“When we were accounting for all the non-genetic risk factors in our analysis, it was not enough to explain that women with more indigenous American ancestry tended to have less breast cancer,” says lead author Prof. Laura Fejerman, a member of UCSF’s Institute of Human Genetics. Continue reading

Ebola Is Not That Contagious, and 10 Other Quick Facts

Two nurses at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas contracted Ebola from a patient they were treating, but 44 of 48 others who came in contact with the patient, including his fiancee,  have completed their quarantine period and are cleared of the disease. The remaining four should complete their quarantine soon. (Mike Stone/Getty Images)

Two nurses at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas contracted Ebola from a patient they were treating, but 44 of 48 others who came in contact with the patient, including his fiancee, have completed their quarantine period and are cleared of the disease. The remaining four should complete their quarantine soon. (Mike Stone/Getty Images)

By Alison Bruzek, NPR

Basic information about Ebola isn’t as clear as it probably could be.

A recent poll by the Harvard School of Public Health, for instance, found that 38 percent of Americans are worried that Ebola will infect them or a family member in the next year, despite assurances that the U.S. will stop Ebola in its tracks.

We’ve put together a primer on what you need to know. We’ll update it as new information develops.

1. It’s Not That Contagious. Really.

Each person who contracts the virus spreads it, on average, to one or two other people. It’s not as contagious as HIV, SARS or measles.

2. Ebola Is Not Airborne…

Ebola is transmitted through bodily fluids, such as blood, sweat, saliva, breast milk, feces, urine and semen. However, infectious disease specialists say Ebola is not an airborne disease, like the flu. Continue reading

Poll: More Than Half of Americans Worry About Ebola Outbreak in U.S.

Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas where two health care workers. Two nurses there have tested positive for Ebola.  (Stewart F. House/Getty Images)

Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas where two health nurses have tested positive for Ebola. (Stewart F. House/Getty Images)

By Scott Hensley, NPR

A Harvard School of Public Health poll finds that more than a third of Americans (38 percent) are worried that Ebola will infect them or a family member over the next year.

I think the public has received Ebola 101, but not Ebola 102.”

Most (81 percent) believe Ebola can spread from someone who is sick and has symptoms. And that’s correct.

Body fluids, such as blood, urine and feces, can carry the virus from one person to another. And almost all the poll respondents (95 percent) agreed that direct contact with body fluids from a person with Ebola symptoms was likely to cause infection.

A large proportion (85 percent) of people believes the virus can be transmitted by a sneeze or cough. That’s highly unlikely. “Common sense and observation tell us that spread of the virus via coughing or sneezing is rare, if it happens at all,” the World Health Organization says. Continue reading

32 Myths — and Plenty of Facts — About the Flu Vaccine

KQED News social media editor Olivia Hubert-Allen gets her flu shot. (Lisa Pickoff-White/KQED)

KQED News social media editor Olivia Allen-Price gets her flu shot. (Lisa Pickoff-White/KQED)

By Tara Haelle, NPR

Brace yourselves: Flu season is coming. And along with the coughing, fevers and aches you can expect a lot of unreliable or downright wrong information about the flu vaccine.

Flu kills more people in a year in the U.S. than Ebola has killed in the history of the world.

Many people underestimate the health risks from flu. Thousands of Americans die from flu-related complications in a typical year, and last season’s H1N1 strain hit young adults particularly hard.

Flu and pneumonia combined consistently rank among the top 10 causes of death in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It was ranked eighth in 2011, the most recent year for which data are available. Continue reading

Why Advocates Say Brown’s Veto of Livestock Antibiotics Bill is a Good Thing

(iStock/Getty Images)

(iStock/Getty Images)

By Joe Rubin

Senate Bill 835 was crafted as a measure aimed at limiting antibiotic use in livestock. To those concerned about the growing problem of antibiotic resistance, it might seem surprising that Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed the bill earlier this week. Yet advocates believe that in striking down the bill, California is poised to take a leading role on the issue.

‘The governor sent a message that he isn’t going to accept fig-leaf solutions to tackle this problem.’ — Natural Resources Defense Council spokesman    

Here’s why: Critics had assailed the bill as too industry-friendly and unlikely to make much impact on antibiotic resistance.

SB835 would have codified a recent Food and Drug Administration voluntary ban on the use of antibiotics for growth-promoting purposes. The measure had sailed through the Legislature. But a coalition, including the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Consumers Union and several leading medical experts on antibiotic resistance, quietly created a campaign urging the governor to veto the bill. Continue reading

Vaccine Opt-Out Rate at Son’s School is 32% — ‘Should I Freak Out?’

(Jeff J. Mitchell: Getty Images)

(Jeff J. Mitchell: Getty Images)

Statewide, there has been a dramatic increase in parents choosing not to vaccinate their children. The rate of parents opting out by filing what’s called a “personal belief exemption,” or PBE, doubled over seven years.

Parents check a school’s test scores in advance. Why not vaccine rates?

Earlier this month, State of Health published a chart where people could look up any elementary school in California and see the PBE rate at their children’s schools.

Hours after we published, Cosmo Garvin of Sacramento sent me a tweet. “Really nice work,” the tweet said. “But just found out PBE rate at my kid’s school is 32 percent. Should I freak out?”

Thirty-two percent. That means one in three kids is not vaccinated.

Assessing Risk to Your Own Child Continue reading

Drought May Be Driving Increase in West Nile

A security guard walks the perimeter of the Almaden Reservoir on January 28, 2014 in San Jose, California. Now in its third straight year of drought conditions, California is experiencing its driest year on record, dating back 119 years, and reservoirs throughout the state have low water levels. Santa Clara County reservoirs are at 3 percent of capacity or lower. California Gov. Jerry Brown officially declared a drought emergency to speed up assistance to local governments, streamline water transfers and potentially ease environmental protection requirements for dam releases. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

A security guard walks the perimeter of the Almaden Reservoir in San Jose. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Public health experts say the state’s historic drought is partly to blame for the recent rise in West Nile virus infections. Cases this year have more than doubled to 311, compared to the same time last year.

West Nile virus is spread by mosquitoes. They contract the virus when they feed on infected birds, then spread it to other birds they bite next. A shortage of water can accelerate this cycle.

“When we have less water, birds and mosquitoes are seeking out the same water sources, and therefore are more likely to come in to closer proximity to one another, thus amplifying the virus,” said Vicki Kramer, chief of vector-borne diseases at the state department of public health.

Also, the water sources that do exist are more likely to stagnate. Stagnant water creates an excellent habitat for mosquitoes to breed. Continue reading

Vaccine Opt-Out Rate Doubled in 7 Years; Look Up Your School Online

By Olivia Allen-Price and Lisa Aliferis

California law requires that children entering kindergarten be fully vaccinated against a range of diseases. But despite overwhelming evidence that vaccines are safe and effective, the rate of parents opting out of vaccines for their children has doubled since 2007.

To opt out, parents must file a personal belief exemption, or PBE, a signed statement that vaccines are against their personal beliefs. In the 2007-2008 school year, the statewide PBE rate was 1.56 percent. By 2013-2014, the most recent year statistics are available, the rate had jumped to 3.15 percent.

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PBE rates vary by county and by individual school. In the Bay Area, Marin has the highest PBE rate by far — 7.57 percent. (Marin was highest in the Bay Area last year too.) The PBE rate at private schools tends to be higher, overall, then that at public schools. In the 2013-2014 school year, only 85 percent of private school kindergarten students statewide were fully vaccinated when school started, compared to about 90 percent of public school students. Other students enter on “conditional” status, meaning the school is to follow up with these children to make sure they receive all their vaccines.
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