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August 5, 2016

Food | Not a Reward, Not a Punishment

As a young child, I remember sitting in the grocery cart kiddie seat each week as my mother grocery shopped. Most of the time I was expected to just sit there quietly but occasionally, mom would treat me to a box of animal crackers. I would make the little delectable critters last a good long time. The best part was telling a story about each animal before popping it in my mouth. Nowadays when I go to the grocery store, I often see one of three scenarios unfold: 1) a child is misbehaving and a parent bribes the child with food to acquire the desired behavior; 2) the child is behaving and the reward is food or 3) the child is misbehaving and food is withheld as a punishment. In all three cases, food is attached to the behavior. The message is behave in a certain way and food will come your way. Food for some has become a reward or a punishment instead of nourishment and something to be enjoyed with family and friends in community. Unfortunately, the child who expects a sweet for being good at the store at age 4 or 5 may become an adult who reaches for food as a reward for a long day at work. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, parents should not use food as a reward or punishment. Punishment by withholding foods can make a child anxious. In addition, children may turn the table on their parents and punish them by refusing to eat (certain foods), thereby gaining attention, and causing the parents to be anxious. Furthermore, attaching treats to a behavior can undermine healthy eating habits and interfere with a child’s natural ability to determine if he or she is full and satisfied or still hungry. Currently, one-third of children and adolescents ages 6-19 are overweight or obese. Promoting healthy eating habits and making mealtime fun with good conversation and laughter is an important step to turning those numbers around. When food is used as a reward for achieving good grades, eating everything on the plate, or picking up toys, there are consequences. The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) lists several consequences for using food rewards: It compromises classroom learning. Schools, child care centers, and even parents have nutrition programs. They extol the virtues of eating a balanced diet with plenty of fruits, veggies, whole grains, and lean proteins. These lessons are meaningless if they are contradicted by rewarding children with sweets. The state of Connecticut Department of Education states, “It’s like saying, “You need to eat healthy foods to feel and do your best, but when you behave or perform your best, you will be rewarded with unhealthy food.” It contributes to poor health. When food is presented as a reward, children are more apt to learn a preference for sweet foods and junk foods. Cookies, candy, and junk food all contribute to health problems including childhood obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and cavities. It encourages overconsumption of unhealthy foods. Foods used as rewards often are high in sugar, fat, sodium, and calories. By associating these foods with celebration of even the smallest achievements, children learn to grab these foods as a default mode as they head toward adulthood. It contributes to the path to adult obesity. Statistically, children, who are rewarded frequently with food, are more prone to be overweight or obese adults. The associations are strong and hard to break. Educators have long used rewards in the classroom to motivate students. Parents have used refrigerator charts to track good behavior. Coaches have dangled “carrots” in front of players. You don’t have to do away with rewards. The key is combining motivational strategies with occasional, healthy rewards. The CSPI offers the following examples of beneficial, inexpensive rewards for children: Social rewards – praise, thanks, big hugs, nods, smiles, winks, high fives Recognition – little notes in the lunchbox, school paper tacked to the refrigerator, a special homemade ribbon or “certificate” Privileges – extra story time at night, play date with friends, playing an educational game on the computer, special outing on the weekend, child’s choice for movie or music Family rewards – game night, dancing together, hiking, playing outside together(everyone!), eating on a picnic blanket together, family reading time, art/craft time, puzzle time Stuff – little things like school supplies, toys, and trinkets – do this in moderation. Experts agree that the most effective rewards for children are time related not thing related. To learn more about alternatives to food rewards, check out these websites: Connecticut Department of Education Center for Science in the Public Interest Lorraine Wichtowski is a community health educator at Noyes Health in Dansville. If you have questions or suggestions for future articles she can be reached at or 585-335-4327. ... Read More

July 28, 2016

Breastfeeding – Benefits for Child and Mom

This August marks the first anniversary of the Healthy Baby Café at the Genesee Community College campus on Clara Barton Street in Dansville. To celebrate, the Healthy Baby Café will be hosting a drop-in open house on Thursday, August 11th from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the GCC campus in Dansville. There will be light refreshments and a chance to win a gift basket. The celebration is open to anyone interested in breastfeeding including expectant moms, moms, and anyone who supports them. The café, open every Thursday from 1 pm – 3 pm, is a social place for anyone interested in knowing more about breastfeeding support and education. The effort coordinated by the Livingston County Department of Health and Noyes Health is designed to help women breastfeed and understand the benefits to both mom and child. Breastfeeding isn’t always easy but with education and support, most women can be successful. Two certified lactation consultants, experts in breastfeeding, are present at the Baby Café each week to assist moms and answer their questions. All of this is part of a New York State initiative to promote exclusive and sustained breastfeeding. Organizations including the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American College of Nurse-Midwives recommend exclusively breastfeeding for the first six months of life and continuing to breastfeed to twelve months as new foods are introduced. Breastfeeding or feeding expressed human milk provides optimal growth. It is the perfect mix of fat, sugar, water, and protein for brain and body development. In addition, it is scientifically well-established that breastfeeding has several other health benefits. The AAP and CDC support and promote breastfeeding as it protects against a variety of diseases and conditions. Research suggests that breastfed babies are at lower risk of: Bacteremia (bacteria in the blood) Diarrhea Respiratory tract infections Necrotizing enterocolitis (infection and inflammation of the bowel wall) Otitis media (ear infection) Urinary tract infections Late onset sepsis in preterm infants Type 1 and type 2 diabetes in later childhood Lymphoma, leukemia, and Hodgkin’s disease Childhood overweight and obesity Moms also benefit from breastfeeding. Mothers often feel relaxed and fulfilled when breastfeeding due to the release of a hormone called oxytocin. This hormone helps with milk production and uterine contractions (both during and after delivery.) In addition, oxytocin is known as a social bonding hormone. When it is released into the mom’s system during breastfeeding, she gets warm feelings of love for her child. It basically aids the bonding process between mother and child. While the emotional connection is fantastic, moms also benefit from breastfeeding physically. Health benefits for mom include: Quicker and easier recovery after childbirth. Oxytocin, released during breastfeeding, acts to return the uterus to its regular size more quickly and can reduce postpartum bleeding. Research indicates that women who have breastfed experience reduced rates of breast and ovarian cancer later in life. Decreased menstrual blood loss and increased child spacing. Earlier return to pre-pregnancy weight. Breastfeeding also provides economic benefits. It is the most economical way to feed an infant. Except for the cost of added nutritional food for the mother, the cost is $0. Breast pumps are now provided by WIC and the Affordable Care Act requires health plans to provide breastfeeding support, counseling, and equipment for the duration of breastfeeding. Insurance policies vary so a woman interested in a breast pump should call her insurance company for specifics. Infant formulas range in price and also require bottles and sterilized water. Depending on the chosen formula, costs can range anywhere from approximately, $1500 to $3000 per year. The added health benefits also lower health care costs as much as $475 per infant during the first year of life. To learn more about breastfeeding, visit one of these sites: New York State WIC at: American Academy of Pediatrics at: Office on Women’s Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services at: Livingston County resources include: Noyes Health OB nurses, the Baby Café, and breastfeeding classes. For more information, call either Noyes Health at 585-335-4249 or the Livingston County Department of Health at 585-243-7299. Lorraine Wichtowski is a community health educator at Noyes Health in Dansville. If you have questions or suggestions for future articles she can be reached at or 585-335-4327. ... Read More

July 28, 2016

Look Good Feel Good Event

Cancer can rob a woman of her energy, appetite, and strength. But it doesn’t have to take away her self-confidence. Look Good Feel Better is a FREE program that teaches beauty techniques to women in active cancer treatment. The workshop includes skincare, makeup application, nail care and accessory style tips. Every woman will receive a complementary makeup kit to take home. The next Look Good Feel Better session is on Monday, August 29th from 10 am to noon in conference room D at Noyes Health hospital in Dansville. Registration is required, please call 1-800-227-2345. ... Read More

July 21, 2016

Benefits of Volunteering

Some of the best times in life occur when you volunteer – not because you have to but because you want to. One of my first experiences volunteering was as a teen. I worked at a camp for developmentally disabled young adults. My job was to be a friend and basically play in the pool (tough job!). As is the case with so many volunteer activities, I gained and learned more from the campers than they gained or learned from me. The work while fun was exhausting but I distinctly remember coming home every night with a smile on my face and a great camper story to share. The mental health benefits of volunteering are well-researched and documented. Research now confirms that volunteering is good for your physical health as well. Volunteering for altruistic reasons, that is for the benefit of others not out of obligation or to pad your resume, has significant social and mental health benefits. According to a report from the Corporation for National and Community Service, “volunteer activities can strengthen the social ties that protect individuals from isolation during difficult times, while the experience of helping others leads to a sense of greater self-worth and trust.” Several studies agree in their findings that volunteering is correlated with lower rates of depression, a greater sense of purpose, and higher self-esteem. In addition, a 2000 East Carolina Study found that older volunteers, in particular, experience greater life satisfaction and greater positive changes in their perceived health as a result of volunteer activities. Not only does perceived health improve, studies now show that actual physical health is positively correlated with volunteering. The Assets and Health Dynamics Among the Oldest Old Study found a correlation between volunteering and better health and lower mortality rates. Those who volunteered for at least 100 hours per year were two-thirds as likely as non-volunteers to report bad health, and also one-third as likely to die. Besides longevity, volunteering seems to help with chronic pain and blood pressure. A 2002 study, found those who suffered from chronic pain experienced declines in their pain intensity and decreased levels of disability and depression when they began to serve as peer volunteers for others also suffering from chronic pain. Furthermore, a 2013 study from Carnegie Mellon University, found adults over age 50 who volunteered on a regular basis were less likely to develop high blood pressure than non-volunteers. It is important to note that all these studies are correlational. We cannot say volunteering is directly responsible for any of these benefits; however, study after study finds a positive relationship between volunteering and good health. There can be no doubt that volunteering is a win-win for society – good for the volunteers and good for the recipients. One interesting finding is that there appears to be a benefit threshold. Two studies based on data collected from the Assets and Health Dynamics Among the Oldest Old report found that the volunteering threshold is 100 hours per year, or about two hours per week. According to the authors, “typically, no or little relationship was found between volunteering and positive health outcomes when an individual engaged in less than 100 hours per year. There did not appear to be any additional benefits to health as the number of volunteer hours increased beyond 100 hours.” The Americans’ Changing Lives survey found that a more moderate level of volunteering was necessary for health benefits. Those individuals who volunteered at least 40 hours per year, as well as those who volunteered with just one organization or group, had the lowest risk of mortality. The moral of the story, volunteer one to two hours per week for an organization or group you care about in order to reap the most health benefits. The possibilities are endless. Volunteer opportunities include nursing homes, hospitals, daycares, food pantries, civic and church organizations, animal shelters, education/literacy programs, gardening, housekeeping, home maintenance/repair, telephone calling, crafts, and more. There is something for everyone. Consider volunteering. You can’t beat the pay – smiles, satisfaction, and better health! Lorraine Wichtowski is a community health educator at Noyes Health in Dansville. If you have questions or suggestions for future articles she can be reached at or 585-335-4327. ... Read More

July 19, 2016

Dansville Lions Club Donation to Noyes

Dansville Lions Club members Mike Cloonan and Barry Haywood visited Noyes Health July 13 to present a $2000 donation to the Ann and Carl Myers Cancer Center project. Accepting the donation were Noyes Health Foundation Chairman Jon Shay, Noyes Health President/CEO Amy Pollard and Noyes Health Director of Public Relations and Foundation Mary Sue Dehn. The check is part of Dansville Lions Club’s multi-year commitment to support the Cancer Center, which is expected to open early next year. PICTURED (L. to R.): Noyes Health President/CEO Amy Pollard, Dansville Lions Club President Mike Cloonan, Dansville Lions Club Member Barry Haywood, Noyes Health Foundation Chairman Jon Shay and Noyes Health Director of Public Relations and Foundation Mary Sue Dehn. For more information visit, Noyes Health Facebook Page or contact Mary Sue Dehn, Director of PR/Foundation or 585-335-4323. ... Read More

July 15, 2016

Making Sense of Salt

And the food debates continue…eat eggs, don’t eat eggs, eat eggs…butter out, margarine in, nope wait, olive oil in! Now add to the list, confusion over salt (sodium). A recent study published in The Lancet reported that a low salt diet was associated with increased risk for heart disease and death. Whoa, hold the presses, what? Haven’t we been told for years that a low salt diet is associated with better health? It can be frustrating to read headlines that contradict everything we’ve been told for the last decade or more. To sort out the confusion, several doctors analyzed The Lancet report and then looked at the evidence from several other major respected and well-researched studies. Their conclusion recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine was that The Lancet study was flawed in a number of ways. Their suggestion based on an overwhelming amount of evidence – keep holding the salt. For the majority, lower sodium levels will significantly improve blood pressure and heart health. Over the last 40 years, the average sodium intake has increased dramatically and most Americans consume way too much. The average American consumes more than 3,400 milligrams of sodium each day. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends people eat no more than 1,500 milligrams per day. The CDC and the American Diabetes Association suggest consuming less than 2,300 mg sodium per day. While the numbers vary a bit, everyone agrees that minimally cutting back to 2,300 mg or less will significantly improve blood pressure and heart health for many people. The 2009-2012 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey looked at almost 15,000 participants. They found 89% of adults and over 90% of children exceeded the recommended daily allowances for sodium. Among hypertensive adults (those with high blood pressure), 86% exceeded the 2,300 mg threshold. Here is what we know. High sodium intake contributes to high rates of blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke. And while everyone’s individual body chemistry is different, the majority of people will benefit from a low sodium diet, rich in fruits, veggies, whole grains, and lean meats as opposed to a high-sodium processed food diet. Nearly 400,000 deaths per year are attributed to high blood pressure and decreasing sodium levels could prevent some of these deaths. Keeping tabs on your sodium intake is one piece of the prevention puzzle. But who knows how much salt they eat? It turns out not too many people. Most folks underestimate how much they take in, if they can estimate at all. The AHA surveyed 1,000 adults and found that 33% could not estimate how much sodium they ate; and another 54% thought they were eating less than 2,000 mg sodium a day (but they weren’t!). We estimate poorly because 75% of our sodium comes from processed, prepackaged, and restaurant foods – not from the salt shaker. In addition, not all processed foods are created equal so one slice of frozen cheese pizza can range from 450 mg to 1200mg. So where do you start? The American Heart Association, American Diabetes Association, and the CDC offer the following information and tips: Six popular foods can add high levels of sodium to your diet including: bread and rolls, cold cuts and cured meats, pizza, poultry (sodium varies depending on preparation methods), canned soups and broths, and sandwiches/burgers from fast food restaurants. Check labels to find lower sodium varieties. Many of the large chain restaurants include nutrition facts on their menus or websites. Consider using a sodium tracker, either a paper/pencil type or an app. Buy fresh, frozen (no sauce), or no salt added canned vegetables. Use fresh poultry or pork (with no saline or salt solution added), fish, and lean meat. Read labels and buy low sodium, lower sodium, reduced sodium, or no salt added versions of products. For example, compare ½ cup serving sizes of three types of Delmonte diced tomatoes: Regular diced tomatoes – 130 mg sodium – 5% of daily allowance Diced tomatoes with basil, garlic, and oregano – 350 mg sodium – 15% of daily allowance No-salt added diced tomatoes – 15 mg sodium – 1% of daily allowance Limit your use of mixes and “instant” products, including flavored rice and ready-made pasta in a can. Before heading out to dinner, check to see if the restaurant lists nutrition facts on its website. Request that no salt be added to your food. Beware of hidden sources of sodium such as salad dressings, marinades, spaghetti sauce, taco sauce, teriyaki sauce, salsa, ketchup, and barbeque sauce. Watch out for pickled foods such as pickles, relish, and sauerkraut. One pickle wedge can have 500 mg of sodium. Read the label first and eat these occasionally. Eat plenty of vegetables and fruits. They have no added sodium! One final note, some people do need a bit more sodium in their diets. According to the AHA, the 1,500 mg guideline does not apply to people who lose big amounts of sodium in sweat, like competitive athletes, and workers exposed to major heat, such as foundry workers, fire fighters, or outdoor workers in the summer, or to those directed otherwise by their physician. Talk with your doctor if you have any questions or concerns about your sodium levels. For more information on sodium, try these websites: American Heart Association at CDC at American Diabetes Association at Lorraine Wichtowski is a community health educator at Noyes Health in Dansville. If you have questions or suggestions for future articles she can be reached at or 585-335-4327. ... Read More

July 11, 2016

Healthy Hydration

The hot weather is here and many folks wonder if they are getting enough to drink. This is important because according to Dr. Jack Guralnik of the National Institute on Aging, “Water is involved in all body processes…you the need the proper amount for all those processes to work correctly.” For the most part, healthy bodies are very good at regulating water. We sweat, urinate, defecate and lose water; then ingest water, juice, eat veggies and fruit to take in water. Our bodies signal thirst and we get a glass of water. This balance, however, can get upset when the temperatures soar into the high 80s and 90s. Even the healthiest people can become dehydrated on hot days, especially if they are exercising. But dehydration is more of a problem in the elderly, who have a decreased sensitivity to thirst and very young children who cannot communicate they are thirsty. In addition, people who perspire heavily, overweight people, and those with chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, or cystic fibrosis may need to drink more water to stay properly hydrated. Furthermore, some folks take medications that act as diuretics, causing the body to lose more fluid. “Dehydration is very dangerous. It can lead to an emergency visit and it can do significant damage to your body if left untreated,” says Dr. Sandra Schneider with the American College of Emergency Physicians. “But dehydration is also easily preventable, especially if the cause is excessive heat.” Dehydration can lead to problems ranging from fatigue or headache to a life threatening condition such as heat stroke. The best way to keep all systems running smoothly is education and prevention. Knowing the warning signs and preventive measures are the first lines of defense against dehydration. Warning Signs of Dehydration Thirst Flushed skin Increased body temperature Faster breathing and pulse rate Weakness and fatigue Dry or sticky mouth Loss of appetite Low blood pressure Inability to produce tears Low or no urine output for 8 hours or if urine is concentrated and appears dark yellow Sunken eyes Dizziness or light headedness Dry cough Preventive Measures Pay attention to the color of your urine. Pale and clear means you are well hydrated. If it is dark, drink more fluids. (Note: certain vitamins and medications can color your urine.) Drink more on hot days even if you are not exercising. Stay out of excessive heat if possible; wear light clothing and a hat when outdoors. Avoid alcoholic and caffeinated beverages as they can worsen dehydration. Get in the water bottle habit. Take one for every member of the family wherever you go. Water is the best beverage for hydration. It is all you need for low or moderate activity such as walking for an hour or less. Save sports drinks for longer, intense exercise or if you plan on being in the heat for more than a few hours. (Note: Sports drinks replace fluid and chemicals such as sodium and potassium. They can also contain large amounts of sugar.) Avoid fruit juices and soda as they can be hard on your stomach if dehydrated. Drink water before and during exercise. After exercise, replenish your system with a healthy snack like orange slices, bananas, or a handful of unsalted nuts. (Note: According to the American Heart Association’s Dr. Batson, “Drinking water before (exercise) is much more important. Otherwise, you’re playing catch-up and your heart is straining.”) Watch the weather - know when it is going to be hot. If you travel, your body may react differently to high elevations or temperatures that are significantly hotter than NY temps. Pay close attention to the elderly, young children, and those with chronic diseases during hot spells. Remind them to drink more on those days. For more information on proper hydration, check out these websites: Cleveland Clinic at American Heart Association at Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics at Lorraine Wichtowski is a community health educator at Noyes Health in Dansville. If you have questions or suggestions for future articles she can be reached at or 585-335-4327. ... Read More

June 30, 2016

Fruit and Vegetable Benefits

Every summer for most of my adult years, I have planted a garden - sometimes small, sometimes large, sometimes bountiful, sometimes not so much so. No matter the outcome of the garden, my family always enjoyed the process and the harvest. Goodness knows nothing tastes better than beans, tomatoes, or cucumbers straight out of the garden. Fortunately for upstate NY folks, fresh veggies are readily available this time of year either from the garden out back, a local farm market, or roadside stand. In addition, many supermarkets offer produce from local growers this time of year. It is the perfect opportunity to indulge in as many veggies as you want, introduce children to new varieties, and experiment with new recipes. Everyone from the CDC to the American Heart Association to the American Medical Association recommends that Americans bump up their fruit and vegetable intake. So what’s the big deal? Why the push? Is this just another fad? The answer is “No, this is not a fad.” This is actually going back to the diet of our ancestors long before the age of cheese puffs, chocolate cereals, and pastries wrapped in plastic at the gas station. It turns out our moms, grandmothers, and great grandmothers were right – eat your fruits and veggies! Human bodies function best on foods as close to their original form as possible; not ones invented in a chemistry lab at a large food company. This basically means carrots, apples, and broccoli, raw, steamed, or sautéed will always trump potato chips, cookies, and TV dinners. Numerous research studies show that vegetables and fruits, unlike any other food group, provide the most benefits for the heart, blood pressure, digestive tract, and diabetes. Heart Benefits Most vegetables are naturally low in fat and none have cholesterol. Harvard Public Health reports that there is “compelling evidence that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can lower the risk of heart disease and stroke.” Harvard studies and numerous others in the U.S. and Europe all found similar results: Individuals who ate more than 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day had roughly a 20% lower risk of coronary heart disease and stroke compared with individuals who ate less than 3 servings. Blood Pressure A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products that limits total fat can reduce blood pressure. One major study found that people who followed this diet reduced their systolic (upper number of a blood pressure reading) by about 11 mm Hg and their diastolic blood pressure (the lower number) by almost 6 mm Hg. This is as much as many medications can achieve. A 2005 trial known as the Optimal Macronutrient Intake Trial for Heart Health showed that a fruit and vegetable rich diet lowered blood pressure even more when some of the carbohydrates were replaced with healthy saturated fat or protein. (i.e. – take out some of the pasta and add a piece of fish, chicken, or other lean protein.) Digestive Tract According to a 1998 study published in the Journal of Nutrition, vegetables contain indigestible fiber, which absorbs water and expands as it passes through the digestive system. Authors of the study indicate that this can calm irritable bowel syndrome and by triggering regular bowel movements can relieve or prevent constipation. In addition, the bulking and softening action of insoluble fiber also decreases the pressure inside the intestinal tract and may help prevent diverticulosis. Diabetes A review of three major studies that included over 187,000 men and women who were free of major chronic diseases found that greater consumption of whole fruits, especially blueberries, grapes, and apples, is associated with lower risk of type 2 diabetes. A 2008 report in Diabetes Care looked at over 70,000 female nurses aged 38-63 years who were free of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes. Research showed that consumption of leafy green vegetables and fruits was associated with lower risk of diabetes. Overall Health Vegetables are important sources of many nutrients, including potassium, folate (folic acid), vitamin A and vitamin C. Potassium helps with blood pressure. Vegetable sources of potassium include sweet potatoes, white beans, tomato products, beet greens, soybeans, lima beans, spinach, lentils, and kidney beans. Vitamin A keeps eye and skin healthy and helps to fight against infections. High vitamin A foods include sweet potatoes, carrots, dark leafy greens, winter squashes, lettuce, dried apricots, cantaloupe, bell peppers, and tropical fruits. Vitamin C helps heal cuts and wounds and keeps teeth and gums healthy. It is also aids in iron absorption. Papaya, strawberries, pineapple, kiwi, cantaloupe, and raspberries are also excellent vitamin C sources. Cranberries, blueberries, and watermelon are examples of very good sources, while apples, pears, and bananas are in the good category. Folate helps the body form red blood cells. Proper quantities of folate reduce the risk of neural tube defects, spina bifida, and anencephaly in fetal development. Good sources of folate include: lentils, dried beans, peas, avocado, broccoli, spinach, collard or turnip greens, okra, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, and citrus fruit and juice. To learn more about the benefits of fruits and vegetables, try these websites: United States Department of Agriculture at Produce for Better Health Foundation at Livingston County Farm Market List at Lorraine Wichtowski is a community health educator at Noyes Health in Dansville. If you have questions or suggestions for future articles she can be reached at or 585-335-4327. ... Read More

June 23, 2016

Zika Virus

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the Zika virus is spreading and with it concern for the public’s health. Zika was discovered in the 1950s and for many decades outbreaks were small and sporadic. The first large outbreak of disease was not reported until 2007 when there was a rise in cases on the Island of Yap. Fast forward to 2016 and the scenario has changed dramatically. Today, WHO states that 60 countries and territories report continuing mosquito borne transmissions of the virus; the most serious outbreak occurring in Brazil. The CDC indicates that the Zika virus will continue to spread. Zika virus spreads to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito (Ae.aegypti or Ae. Albopictus). This species is aggressive and primarily a daytime biter but can also bite at night. The Ae. Aegypti is the mosquito that most efficiently transmits the Zika virus. At this point in time, the Ae. Aegypti is found in the Deep South and Southwest United States. The Ae. Albopictus mosquito on the other hand is more prevalent. Its territory extends to portions of the Midwest and mid-Atlantic including the New York City and surrounding areas. According to the NY Department of Health, it is not clear if the albopictus is transmitting the virus to humans. Basically this means, we know for sure Ae. Aegypti is the more efficient vector (transmitter) and that type of mosquito does live in the southern regions of the U.S. We don’t know if albopictus will do the same – it may since it has been implicated in other virus outbreaks such as a recent Dengue outbreak in Hawaii. All that being said, it is very important to note that there have been zero cases of locally acquired mosquito borne cases in the U.S. All 755 U.S. cases to date have been travel associated cases. The NY Department of Health states “In the U.S., no mosquitos have yet been found carrying the virus. The only cases in the U.S. are in people who got the virus while traveling to Zika affected areas or through sexual transmission from someone who traveled there.” As noted, Zika spreads when a mosquito bites an infected person. That mosquito can then spread the virus by biting more people. There are three other ways Zika can spread: 1) during sex with a man infected with Zika; 2) from a pregnant woman to her fetus during pregnancy or around the time of birth; or 3) through blood transfusion (likely but not yet confirmed by the CDC). The good news is that for the vast majority of people, the virus is mild. In fact, the CDC reports that many won’t have symptoms or will only have mild symptoms. The most common symptoms are fever, rash, joint pain, or red eyes. Other symptoms may include muscle pain or headache. Symptoms can last for several days to a week. Overall, the symptoms and effects are mild for the majority of people; however, there is scientific consensus that Zika virus is a cause of microcephaly and Guillain-Barre syndrome. The biggest concern regarding Zika is its effect on fetuses. Contracting the virus during pregnancy can cause a serious birth defect called microcephaly which translates to ‘small head’. The baby’s brain does not grow at the expected rate during pregnancy and as a result major defects can occur. Microcephaly has been linked with the following problems: seizures, developmental delays, intellectual disability, problems with movement and balance, feeding problems, hearing loss, or vision problems. For this reason, women who are pregnant or may become pregnant and their partners need to exercise extra caution to avoid the virus. In addition to the effect on fetuses, Zika is also causing Guillain-Barre syndrome in a small number of people. In Guillain-Barre syndrome, the body's immune system attacks part of the nervous system causing muscle weakness and loss of sensation in the legs and/or arms. For some people, these symptoms can lead to paralysis of the legs, arms, chest, or facial muscles. At this point, only 3 cases of Zika related Guillain-Barre syndrome have been identified in the U.S. Once again, those cases were not contracted by mosquito bites here in the U.S. The best way to prevent Zika as well as other mosquito bite transmitted viruses such as West Nile and Eastern Equine Encephalitis is to protect yourself and your family from mosquito bites. The New York Department of Health and the CDC offer the following advice: Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants. Stay in places with air conditioning and window and door screens to keep mosquitos outside. Treat your clothing and gear with permethrin or buy pre-treated items. Use EPA registered insect repellents. Follow directions carefully and never use insect repellent on babies younger than 2 months old. Do not use products containing oil of lemon eucalyptus or para-menthane-diol on children younger than 3 years old. Mosquito netting can be used to cover babies younger than 2 months old in carriers, strollers, or cribs to protect them from mosquito bites. Sleep under a mosquito net if air conditioning or screened rooms are not available or if sleeping outdoors. Prevent sexual transmission of Zika by using condoms or abstaining from sex. Reduce the mosquito population near your home by reducing or eliminating standing water and debris. Dispose of cans, containers, pots or other water holding containers. Dispose of used tires which are a significant breeding ground for mosquitos. Turn over plastic wading pools and wheelbarrows when not in use. Change water in birdbaths twice weekly. Clean and chlorinate pools and hot tubs on a regular basis. Drain water from pool covers. Pregnant women should not travel to Zika areas. If you must travel, take extra precautions. For more information about travel advisories or what to do if you believe you have the Zika virus, visit the following websites: New York Department of Health – The NY Department of Health also has a toll free line for Zika questions - 1-888-364-4723. CDC - World Health Organization - Lorraine Wichtowski is a community health educator at Noyes Health in Dansville. If you have questions or suggestions for future articles she can be reached at or 585-335-4327. ... Read More

June 17, 2016

Bicycle Safety

One of my fondest memories of childhood was riding my bicycle. That purple banana seat bike outfitted with a white flower power basket and handle bar streamers gave me a sense of independence and adventure. I could visit friends on my own, bike over to grandpa’s house on the lake, or go for miles on a dirt road in search of critters and treasures. More than a few times, I took a spill and was fortunate to get by with only a scraped knee. Unfortunately, many people are not so lucky. In 2013 in the U.S., there were an estimated 494,000 emergency department visits due to bicycle-related injuries. According to the CDC, children (5-14 years), adolescents, and young adults (15-24 years) have the highest rates of nonfatal bicycle-related injuries, accounting for more than one-third of all bicycle-related injuries seen in U.S. emergency departments. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that males are at particular risk. 88% of the bicyclists killed and 80% of those injured are male. Teaching bicycle safety at a young age is an important first step toward lowering those statistics. Bicycle safety falls into four big categories: helmet and clothing, bike mechanics, control, and rules of the road. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and offer the following tips: Helmet and Clothing Wear a bicycle helmet every time you ride, even in your driveway. Helmets provide some protection for your face, head, and brain in case you fall down. The U.S. government requires all helmets to meet safety standards. All helmets should have a sticker from the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) indicating it meets the standards. Helmets should fit properly and straps should be fastened snugly. It should be worn level and cover your forehead. (for complete fitting information, visit Livingston County Cornell Cooperative Extension at Wear neon, fluorescent, or bright colors during the day, dusk, dawn, or night. Wear something reflective – tape, markings on shoes/shirts/pants, or flashing lights. Wear sneakers when biking. Never ride barefoot or in sandals. Avoid wearing anything that can get caught in the chain such as loose pant legs, backpack straps, or loose shoes laces. DO NOT wear headphones or earbuds. It is against NYS law and it is dangerous. You must be able to hear everything in your surroundings including cars, trucks, dogs, and people. Bike Mechanics Get the right size bike – when you are on your bicycle, stand straddling the top bar of your bike so that both feet are flat on the ground. There should be 1 to 3 inches of space between you and the top bar if using a road bike and 3 to 4 inches if a mountain bicycle. Make sure your seat, handlebars, and wheels fit tightly. The seat height should be adjusted to allow a slight bend at the knee when the leg if fully extended. The handle bar should be at the same height with the seat. Oil the bike chain regularly. Check the brakes and make sure they are not sticking. Check the tires and make sure they have enough air. Control of Your Bike Always ride with your hands on the handlebars. Carry books and other items in the bicycle basket or in a backpack. Stay alert for wet leaves, big puddles, potholes, storm grates, gravel and rocks, curbs, trash, pets, and wild animals. If you see any of these hazards, slow down and point them out to anyone else riding with you. Avoid riding at night if at all possible. If you must be out, be sure you and the bicycle are outfitted with reflective tape and flashing lights. (48% of bicycle fatalities occur between 4 p.m. and midnight.) Never ride a bicycle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. (24% of bicyclists killed had blood alcohol concentrations of .08 g/dL or higher) Rules of the Road Go with the traffic flow. Ride on the right, in the same direction as other vehicles. Go with the flow – not against it. Learn hand signals and use them. Obey all traffic laws. Bicyclists must obey all the same traffic signs, signals, and lane markings as vehicles. Always stop and check for traffic in both directions when leaving your driveway, an alley, or curb. Look left-right-left before entering a road. Cross at intersections. If it is a busy road, walk your bike across the street at the cross walk. Do not pull out between parked cars; drivers will not see you coming. Ride in straight, predictable lines; look over your shoulder for traffic, and use hand signals before changing lane position. Alert pedestrians that you are near by saying, “excuse me” or “passing on your left” or use a bell or horn. Use bike lanes or designated bike routes whenever you can. Ride single file on the street with friends. For more information about bicycle safety, check out these websites: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration at KidsHealth at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Livingston County at New York State bicycle laws at Lorraine Wichtowski is a community health educator at Noyes Health in Dansville. If you have questions or suggestions for future articles she can be reached at or 585-335-4327. ... Read More