HEALTH

N.Y. Health Department urges New Yorkers to get flu shots as this season’s illness rates begin to climb

BY Michael Johnsen

ALBANY — The New York Department of Health on Monday announced that reported cases of influenza are increasing throughout New York, and flu activity in the state is now considered to be widespread, with laboratory-confirmed cases in more than half the regions. 

Since New York began its annual seasonal flu surveillance this fall, influenza cases have been reported in 47 counties and the five boroughs of New York City. This is consistent with nationwide reporting that shows influenza activity is also increasing in many regions of the country. 

"The early reports of flu cases in New York further emphasize the importance of people getting a flu vaccination now," stated State Health Commissioner Nirav Shah. "A flu vaccination is a safe and effective way to reduce your risk for flu and also protect the health of your family and friends."

Shah reminded New Yorkers who have not been vaccinated for influenza that it’s not too late to get their annual vaccination. Healthcare providers and local health departments continue to have ample supplies of flu vaccine. "Most health insurance plans cover flu vaccines," the department stated. "Pharmacists are also able to give flu shots and pharmacies may be an easy and convenient place to receive a flu vaccination."

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HEALTH

Research: Vitamin D levels during pregnancy could impact birth weight

BY Michael Johnsen

CHEVY CHASE, Md. — Vitamin D levels in women during pregnancy could impact birth weight, according to research released Tuesday by the Endocrine Society.

“We found that a mother’s vitamin D level, in the first or second trimester of pregnancy, was related to the normal growth of babies who delivered at term,” stated Alison Gernand of the University of Pittsburgh and lead author of the study. “If a mother was vitamin D-deficient, the birth weight of her baby was 46 g lower after accounting for other characteristics of the mom. Also, if moms were vitamin D-deficient in the first trimester, they had twice the risk of delivering a baby that suffered from growth restriction during the pregnancy.”

The major source of vitamin D for children and adults is exposure to natural sunlight. Very few foods naturally contain or are fortified with vitamin D. Thus, the major cause of vitamin D deficiency is inadequate exposure to sunlight. Vitamin D deficiency can result in abnormalities in calcium, phosphorus and bone metabolism, and there has been recent interest in understanding the role of vitamin D in other health conditions. Previous studies have shown inconsistent associations between maternal vitamin D status and fetal size.

The study has been accepted for publication in The Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

 

 

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GSK launches smoking-cessation site

BY Alaric DeArment

PARSIPPANY, N.J. — The consumer healthcare division of drug maker GlaxoSmithKline has launched a new website designed to encourage people to quit smoking and promote such products as nicotine gums, lozenges and patches.

Quit.com is described as a "total quit-smoking online resource" that includes features to help smokers create personalized plans for quitting without relapsing.

"Quitting smoking is tough and requires focus and effort, but that’s only half the equation," University of Pittsburgh addiction researcher and paid consult to GSK Saul Shiffman said.

The company noted that 15 million smokers try to quit each year, but only 5% succeed when they go cold turkey or use no support.


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