A summary of important health news from the past week.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta: The epidemic of gun violence is treatable
The recent shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida serves as another painful reminder that gun violence is a major issue in this country. Under the perspective that gun violence is an infectious disease, gun deaths can be preventable when the appropriate public health efforts are put into effect. Treating the symptoms of gun violence is important and can alleviate tremendous suffering in the future.
Kidney stones on the rise in the U.S., study suggests
A new study published Mayo Clinic Proceedings indicated that kidney stones have increased in Minnesota over approximately three decades. In particular, kidney stones increased by fourfold in women and by twofold in men. Women aged 18 to 39 experienced the highest increase in kidney stones.
Flu Season Shows First Signs of Slowing
The last surveillance report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that flu cases seem to be leveling off, signaling the flu season is heading towards its end. Both the number of states reporting widespread flu activity and the number of doctors visits attributed to the flu have decreased slightly. However, the season is not over and officials are still recommending the flu shot.
FDA approves first blood test for concussion
For the first time, the US Food and Drug Administration has approved a blood test that can detect concussions in adults. The Brain Trauma Indicator test measures biomarkers that are released into the brain and pass through the blood-brain barrier when there is a head injury. This test can be taken up to 12 hours after injury and the results can be reviewed within 3-4 hours. This blood test could reduce the cost of concussion screening - as CT scans are the current method of concussion diagnosis can cost from $800 to $1,5000 - and would cost only about $150. Researchers are currently working on creating a blood test for concussion detection in children.
By: Taylor Eisenstein
Dogs are often referred to as being “man’s best friend.” Other animals—including cats, birds, and horses—are similarly cherished and adored. According to statistics provided by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), in 2012 approximately 43,346,000 households owned dogs, while 36,117,000 households owned cats. Many households owned birds and horses, in addition to less popular exotic and specialty animals such as fish, ferrets, hamsters, guinea pigs, turtles, snakes, and poultry. In 2011, six out of ten surveyed pet owners even regarded their pets as being part of the family.
Our animal friends are more than just cute; they also provide companionship, social support, and affection. Many studies demonstrate the potentially beneficial impacts of companion animals on humans’ emotional and psychological well-being. According to a literature review conducted by Deborah Wells, companion animals may decrease feelings of anxiety and depression, potentially increase self-esteem, and help alleviate stress, especially during difficult life events. A study conducted in 2011 similarly found that pet owners experienced a greater sense of well-being, in addition to “healthier positive personality characteristics,” such as greater conscientiousness; this study also indicated that thinking about one’s pet was effective in alleviating negative feelings that stem from social rejection.
Some individuals leverage the unique therapeutic benefits of animals in the form of emotional support animals. According to the Animal Legal and Historical Center, an emotional support animal is a “companion animal that provides therapeutic benefits to an individual with a mental or psychiatric disability,” and that individual must have a "verifiable disability.” These animals are distinct from service animals; while a service animal is typically a dog that is trained to perform certain tasks for its owner, emotional support animals—which can include many different types of animals—are not trained for a specific purpose and merely provide benefits via their companionship.
Some studies even illustrate that benefits stemming from contact with animals might extend to physical health as well. For instance, dogs—and other animals requiring physical exertion for care—are often significant motivators for exercise. Owners typically exhibit an increase in physical exercise from walking their dogs, which can benefit their overall physical health.
In previous studies, animals have also been shown to positively impact humans’ physical health in various other ways; companion animals have been shown to reduce blood pressure and heart rate and release hormones like serotonin.[1,5] Pet owners may also visit the doctor less and reduce risk of developing chronic illnesses. A 2017 study conducted in Sweden even illustrated that dog owners in single-person households had a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, and dog owners in the general population had lower mortality.
Despite existing research indicating positive effects that pets have on human health, additional research has provided mixed results, particularly in regard to physical benefits. Regardless, pets are significant to humans’ daily lives; they are largely treasured and viewed as another member of the family. Individuals typically don’t seek pets solely because they may lead to improved health. Instead, people “value the relationship and contribution their pet makes to their quality of life.”
1. Wells, D. L. (2009). The effects of animals on human health and well‐being. Journal of Social Issues, 65(3), 523-543.
2. McConnell, A. R., Brown, C. M., Shoda, T. M., Stayton, L. E., & Martin, C. E. (2011). Friends with benefits: on the positive consequences of pet ownership. Journal of personality and social psychology, 101(6), 1239.
3. Serpell, J. A. (1990, April). Evidence for long term effects of pet ownership on human health. In Pets, Benefits and Practice. Waltham Symposium (Vol. 20, pp. 1-7).
4. Mubanga, M., Byberg, L., Nowak, C., Egenvall, A., Magnusson, P. K., Ingelsson, E., & Fall, T. (2017). Dog ownership and the risk of cardiovascular disease and death–a nationwide cohort study. Scientific reports, 7(1), 15821.
5. Knight, S., & Edwards, V. (2008). In the company of wolves: the physical, social, and psychological benefits of dog ownership. Journal of aging and health, 20(4), 437-455.
6. McNicholas, J., Gilbey, A., Rennie, A., Ahmedzai, S., Dono, J. A., & Ormerod, E. (2005). Pet ownership and human health: a brief review of evidence and issues. Bmj, 331(7527), 1252-1254.
A summary of important health news from the past week.
The opioid epidemic has spread rapidly across America, leaving public health officials to think of response to what has become a crisis. The San Francisco Department of Public Health unanimously decided to launch the nation's first legal safe injection sites to combat the opioid epidemic. The safe injection sites will provide counseling and referrals to social and health services, while serving as a facility where people can consume previously obtained drugs under the supervision of staff trained to respond to drug-related medical emergencies.
Flu still on the rise, hospitalizations high, CDC says
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