Scientists Find Virus May be to Blame for AFM

October 30th, 2019

Child with thermometer in mouth, in bedScientists have found the strongest evidence yet that a virus is to blame for a mysterious illness that can start like the sniffles, but quickly paralyze children.

Virus Causing AFM

Acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) is a rare, but serious condition. It affects the nervous system, specifically the area of the spinal cord called grey matter, which causes the muscles and reflexes in the body to become weak.

Since the first reports from California in 2012, the United States has experienced an increasingly bigger outbreak every other year, from late summer into early fall. 

Researchers checked patient’s spinal fluids for signs the immune system had fought an invading virus. Kids who got sick harbored antibodies that target enteroviruses. This is what the specialists believed was causing AFM, but had no proof.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) noted that AFM spikes coincide with seasons when certain strains of enteroviruses named EV-D68 and EV-A71 were causing respiratory illnesses.  Doctors rarely found those viruses in the patient’s spinal fluid, leaving them unsure of the link. Antibodies programmed to track specific germs only wind up in spinal fluid if they fought infections there. 

Researchers customized a Harvard-developed tool to search for evidence of hundreds of viruses simultaneously. Add some spinal fluid and any antibodies present would stick to their target, able to be identified.

In tests of spinal fluid from 42 AFM patients and 58 children with unrelated neurological illnesses, only enterovirus-targeting antibodies emerged. Nearly three-fourths of patients harbored them, compared to less than 10 percent of other children.

Further work is underway to narrow it down to specific strains.

The findings were reported on October 21, in “Nature Medicine.”

Symptoms of AFM

AFM symptoms may seem like the common cold at first, but it becomes serious fast. Symptoms include:

  • Drooping eyelids and trouble moving eyes
  • Face may feel weak
  • Hard time swallowing or speaking
  • Loss of muscle tone
  • Pain
  • Slurred speech
  • Sudden weakness in arms and legs
  • Trouble breathing 

According to the CDC, if your child exhibits these symptoms it is important to seek help right away.

What IAA has to Say

New discoveries are being made every day and Insurance Administrator of America thinks you should stay up to date! Stay tuned to this blog for the latest on health and science. Remember, with IAA one call does it all.

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Are Alternative Meat Products Good for You and the Environment?

October 23rd, 2019

Chicken and cow next to each other Alternative meat products are rising in popularity as consumers look to eat a more sustainable diet.

Types of Products

Generally alternative meat products fall into two categories: plant-based protein and cell-based protein:

  1. Plant-based protein products: Protein is extracted and isolated from the plant, then combined with other plant-based ingredients with the goal of making the product as meaty as possible. An example includes the Beyond Burger.
  2. Cell-based meat: An animal cell is extracted from an animal and grown in a lab culture to create a piece of meat. In the six weeks it takes to grow a chicken for slaughter, the cell culture based process provides the same amount of meat. These products have not been released into the mass market.

At this point in time, there is no industry wide term for these types of products.

Alternative Meats, Your Health and the Environment

Based on calories alone, plant-based protein is healthier than animal-based meat. Cell-based meat also has the potential to be healthier than regular animal meat because it can be engineered to contain more protein, essential amino acids and vitamins, while reducing the amount of saturated fat and minimizing the chance of animal-borne illnesses contaminating the meat.

“Fake burgers” however, are higher in sodium than beef and turkey burgers.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, livestock accounts for 14.5 percent of annual worldwide greenhouse gas emissions produced by human activity. Cattle alone produce 65 percent of livestock emissions. This happens because carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere when forests are cleared to make room for animal feed production and livestock grazing.  Animals also release methane through burps and flatulence when digesting their food. Animal manure and rice paddies are also huge sources of methane.

When it comes to the environment, meat alternatives don’t offer the best emissions solution. Cellular-based meat alternatives release five times the emissions as chicken, putting their emissions just under beef.  Plant-based meat alternatives produce the same amount of emissions as chicken, which is about five times the emission of legumes and vegetables. 

Alternative meats may not necessarily be good for the environment, but they can help.  With the global population expected to rise to 9.7 billion by 2050, meat alternatives could be effective in creating a more substantial food supply without forcing people to change their diet too drastically.

Alternative meat products are still more expensive than regular meat products.

What IAA has to Say

Beef burger or plant-based burger? Insurance Administrator of America wants you to order the meal that you (and your doctor) think is best for your overall health. Remember, with IAA one call does it all. 

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Sia Opens up About EDS Diagnosis

October 16th, 2019

EDS ButtonFamed singer Sia opened up to fans about living with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS).

What is EDS?

On October 4, Sia discussed on Twitter that she is living and dealing with EDS.

EDS is a disorder that deals with the connective tissue. The disorder causes a severe defect in the production of collagen. Collagen is responsible for providing your muscles and skin with elasticity and firmness. When collagen degenerates or stops being produced properly, the body starts to resemble a “limp sack.” Collagen deficiency can lead to muscle and joint problems, as well as other skin mutations.

Those with EDS may experience the following symptoms:

  • Bruising easily: Caused by narrow blood vessels. Blood vessels are likely to be extremely delicate and require constant monitoring to ensure that the individual doesn’t rupture a vein or develop an aneurysm. 
  • Cardiovascular problems
  • Dental crowding
  • Loose joints: Patients’ fingers and toes are likely to be extremely flexible. It is often paired with loose joints that are prone to breaking or sprains.
  • Osteoarthritis: Early onset osteoarthritis is a common problem.
  • Soft, spongy skin: Patients often have extremely soft, spongy skin. Their muscles are weak and undefined, and their skin may be easily pulled and “putty” like. Wounds may be difficult to heal, which will result in deep and obvious scarring.

It is an inherited syndrome and it cannot be passed on any other way.

Types of EDS

There are multiple forms of EDS, the most common are:

  1. Hypermobility: The most common form, this type of EDS makes your joints bend further than they should. This makes them more likely to be dislocated or sprained. Up to one in 1,000 people may have this form of EDS.
  2. Classical: In this type of EDS, your skin is smooth, extremely stretchy and fragile. People with this form of EDS often have scars over their knees and elbows and bruise easily. They are also likely to have sprains, dislocations, or conditions like flat feet as well as problems with a heart valve or artery. This form of EDS happens in about one in every 20,000 to 40,000 people.
  3. Vascular: About one person in 250,000 people is born with the vascular type of EDS. This type weakens the blood vessels and makes your organs more likely to have a tear.

There are other rare types of EDS:

  1. Kyphoscoliosis: About 60 cases of this type of EDS have been found worldwide. This is when babies are born with weak muscles and bones. They often have unusually long limbs or fingers and a curved spine that gets worse as they grow. They also often have eye problems, like shortsightedness or glaucoma.
  2. Arthrochalasia: Babies are born with their hip joints out of place. Their joints are extremely loose, and they have the same kind of curved spine as those with kyphoscoliosis. About 30 cases of this type have been diagnosed.
  3. Dermatosparaxis: Only about a dozen cases have been reported, making it the rarest type. People with this form have extremely soft, doughy skin that is easily bruised and scarred. They are also more likely to have hernias. 

What IAA has to Say

When a celebrity speaks out on their personal diagnosis and/or disorder, it allows for a better understanding of certain health conditions. Insurance Administrator of America wants you to have this information on certain diseases and conditions through these blog posts. Remember, with IAA one call does it all.

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October is SIDS Awareness Month

October 10th, 2019

Pregant woman with heart hands over stomach Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is the unexplained death of an infant younger than one year of age.

Causes of SIDS

SIDS is the leading cause of death in children between one month and one year of age. Although the cause is unknown, it appears that SIDS might be associated with defects in the portion of an infant’s brain that controls breathing and arousal from sleep.

A number of physical factors can make an infant more vulnerable to SIDS. These factors vary from child to child and include:

  1. Brain defects: Some infants are born with problems that make them more likely to die of SIDS. In many of these babies, the portion of the brain that controls breathing and arousal from sleep hasn’t matured enough to work properly.
  2. Low birth weight: Premature birth or being part of a multiple birth increases the likelihood that a baby’s brain hasn’t matured completely, so he or she has less control over such automatic processes as breathing and heart rate.
  3. Respiratory infection: Many infants who die of SIDS had recently had a cold, which might contribute to breathing problems.

Researchers have identified several other factors that might increase a baby’s risk of SIDS:

  • Family history: Babies who had siblings or cousins die of SIDS are at a higher risk.
  • Gender: Boys are slightly more likely to die of SIDS.
  • Secondhand smoke: Babies who live with smokers have a higher risk.

Infants are most vulnerable between the second and fourth months of life.

SIDS Prevention

While there is no one certain cause, parents can help prevent SIDS by:

  1. Back to sleep: Place the baby to sleep on his or her back, rather than on the stomach or side, every time the baby is put to sleep for the first year of life. Stomach sleeping can increase “re-breathing,” when a baby breathes his or her own exhaled air. As the baby re-breathes exhaled air, the oxygen level in the body drops and the level of carbon dioxide rises.
  2. Keep the crib as bare as possible: Use a firm mattress and avoid placing the baby on fluffy padding. Don’t leave pillows, fluffy toys or stuffed animals in the crib. These can interfere with breathing if your baby’s face presses against them.
  3. Don’t overheat your baby: To keep your baby warm, try a sleep sack or other sleep clothing that doesn’t require additional covers. Don’t cover your baby’s head.
  4. Have your baby sleep in your room: Ideally, your baby should sleep in your room with you, but alone in a crib for at least six months. Adult beds aren’t safe for infants. A baby can become trapped and suffocate between the headboard slats, the space between the mattress and the bed frame, or the space between the mattress and the wall.
  5. Breastfeed your baby if possible: Breastfeeding for at least six months lowers the risk of SIDS.
  6. Don’t use baby monitors and other commercial devices that claim to reduce the risk of SIDS: The American Academy of Pediatrics discourages the use of monitors and other devices because of ineffectiveness and safety issues.
  7. Offer a pacifier: Sucking on a pacifier without a strap or string at naptime and bedtime might reduce the risk of SIDS.

Immunizing your baby can also potentially help reduce the risk of SIDS.

What IAA has to Say

Insurance Administrator of America wants you to help spread the word on SIDS Awareness Month by sharing this blog post with friends and family. Remember, with IAA one call does it all.

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Death Toll From Rare Mosquito Born Virus Rises

October 3rd, 2019

Hand spraying bug sprayAt least 11 people have died from Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE), a rare disease spread by mosquitoes.

What is EEE?

Eastern equine encephalitis, commonly known as EEE, is a virus transmitted by mosquitoes. There are typically five to 10 human cases reported in the United States each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

This year there has been an increase in the number of reported cases, nearly 30 among several states.

About 30 percent of all cases result in death. There have been four deaths in Massachusetts, four deaths in Michigan, two in Connecticut, and one in Rhode Island.

It takes four to 10 days after the bite of an infected mosquito to develop symptoms of EEE. Severe cases of EEE (involving inflammation of the brain) begin with the sudden onset of the following symptoms:

  • Chills
  • Headache
  • High fever
  • Vomiting

The illness may then progress into disorientation, seizures and coma.Many of those who survive have mild to severe brain damage.

Mosquito Bite Prevention

Protect yourself from EEE by preventing mosquito bites:

  • Eliminate mosquito breeding sites by empting standing water from flower pots, buckets, barrels, and other containers
  • Have secure, intact screens on windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out
  • Use insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535 or oil of lemon eucalyptus, on exposed skin and/or clothing
  • Wear long sleeves and pants when weather permits

EEE typically occurs from late spring to early fall.

What IAA has to Say

Insurance Administrator of America is here to remind you to take precautions when it comes to mosquitoes. IAA knows that their bite may be small, but they can have large consequences.

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