Coronavirus Update

As of today, March 11, 2020, the Coronavirus has infected more than 120,000people worldwide, in over 100 countries, including the United States. The CDC has reported over 4,700 deaths around the globe, including 50 in the US.

A nursing home facility in Kirkland, Washington has become the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak, and officials there are scrambling to contain the spread of the virus, as well as try and keep the public from panicking. Mixed messages from the Trump Administration has done little to mitigate the panic, which spilled over again onto wall Street with the Dow falling over 7.8% and the S&P 500 dropping 7.6%. The CDC is urging caution while trying to keep the public calm. Sporting events like the Paribas Open in Indian Wells, California are being cancelled, and health officials are encouraging the public to practice safe interactions like social distancing.

In addition, California Governor Gavin Newsom has allowed the Cruise Ship Grand Princess to dock in Oakland after waiting a week outside the Golden gate. There are 2,500 passengers on board,and over 2 dozen have tested positively for the virus, making Bay Area residents nervous. All of this against the backdrop of increased criticism over the Trump Administration's handing of the crisis, especially as it relates to clear and transparent messaging, and testing. To date, less than 4,000 US patients have received testing.

The Federal Government has created a new website, and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Director of Allergy and infectious diseases has issue a sobering message to all Americans, as colleges and Universities shut down, and large group gatherings, including concerts and events, are either cancelled or postponed. The South by Southwest Music Festival in Austin has been cancelled, and Coachella in California has been postponed until October 2020.

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Americans have been cleaning out shelves at their local supermarkets as retailers struggle to keep crucial supplies available, and are even issuing quota on how much of one item (ie, toilet paper) a single customer can buy. It appears that China's approach to containing the virus has worked, and while the economic cost has been great, time should allow economies to recover. Global equity markets continue to demonstrate very high volatility as uncertainty reigns.



 

Five Habits to Help You Sleep

Getting enough sleep can do more than lift our spirits. Research shows that skimping on shut-eye can wear down our immune systems, making us more susceptible to colds and even raising our risk for obesity and heart disease. And 2 in 3 women say they have trouble snoozing, reports a survey from the National Sleep Foundation (NSF). That’s because we may be our own worst enemies: Many of our daily habits -- from when we shower to what we snack on -- can sabotage our slumber.

Make the following tweaks to your routine, and soon you’ll be having sweet dreams.

Clean Your Room
Mom was right: Not only does making your bed keep your bedroom tidy, but it can also help you rest easy. According to recent research from the NSF, people who made their bed daily were 19 percent more likely to get a good night’s sleep. A messy atmosphere can be distracting, causing you to toss and turn, explains Dr. Gila Hertz, director of the Huntington Medical Group Sleep Disorders Center in Huntington Station, N.Y. To create your own sanctuary, straighten your bedroom each morning and invest in comfortable linens.

Lay off the Caffeine
That grande latte can come back to haunt you -- even if you drank it in the afternoon. People metabolize caffeine at difference rates and, for some, the compound can linger in their systems for up to eight hours, says Dr. Judith Leech, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Ottawa and a member of the Canadian Sleep Society. “The brain needs to be completely relaxed to drift into sleep, so any stimulating substances can interfere with the process,” says Hertz. He advises steering clear of caffeine at least five hours before bedtime. For a buzz-free afternoon pick-me-up, brew a mug of herbal tea and lemon.

Snack Wisely
Want a nighttime nosh? Steer clear of spicy or greasy fare. “These foods can give you heartburn in the middle of the night,” says Leech. The best bedtime snack: a small amount of complex carbohydrates, such as a handful of whole-wheat crackers or whole-grain cereal. It regulates your blood sugar throughout the evening, explains Leech.

Dim the Lights
Your bedside lamp can keep you from nodding off. Harvard researchers found that exposure to bright lights a few hours before bedtime can interfere with your body’s production of melatonin, a hormone that induces sleep. “Light signals that it’s dawn and it’s time to wake up,” says Leech. Swap your regular bulbs for those with softer wattage, and remove any light source, like the glow from your alarm clock or cell phone. “Turning the clock around so it’s not facing you can be beneficial,” says Leech.

Shower in the Morning
A steamy bath before bed seems relaxing, but it can actually have the opposite effect. As you nod off, your body heat dips, says Hertz. “But a hot shower can raise your core temperature, delaying sleep onset,” he says. Change up your routine so you bathe in the a.m., or wash up a few hours before bedtime -- so you can snooze peacefully.

Is The H1N1 Pandemic Over?

Last year’s H1N1 virus, also known as swine flu, triggered the first flu pandemic in decades. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were more than 60 million cases of H1N1, more than 274,000 hospitalizations and approximately 12,500 deaths. Learn what to expect from H1N1 in the coming year, so you and your family can stay healthy during cold and flu season.

H1N1: What to Expect in 2010-11
In August, the World Health Organization declared the H1N1 pandemic over. Out-of-season outbreaks have waned, H1N1 is no longer the dominant influenza virus, and much of the population has either been vaccinated or exposed to the virus. “At this time, we do not see any evidence of another pandemic on the horizon,” says Jeffrey Dimond, a spokesman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While this is good news, it doesn’t mean you can abandon your efforts to keep yourself and your family safe from swine flu. “The H1N1 virus is still circulating,” explains Dimond. “Like other seasonal flu strains, it will probably begin circulating more aggressively as we get into flu season this fall.”

Vaccination Update
The No. 1 way to protect yourself and your loved ones from H1N1 is to get vaccinated. This year, there are some important changes to the vaccination process:

  • Just one vaccine. Do you remember getting two shots last year? There were two different influenza vaccines -- one for seasonal flu and one for swine flu. That’s because H1N1 wasn’t identified until after manufacturers had already started to produce the seasonal flu vaccine. “This year, one influenza vaccine that also incorporates H1N1 will be available,” says Dr. Peter Katona, associate clinical professor of medicine in the department of infectious diseases at the University of California, Los Angeles, Health System.
  • Increased distribution. In February, a panel of immunization experts voted to expand the influenza vaccine recommendation to include everyone 6 months and older. In past years, it focused on children, the elderly and those in close contact with people at higher risk.

The hope is that these changes will make the 2010-11 flu season less dangerous. One thing that hasn’t changed is when and where to get your vaccine. Check with your doctor, neighborhood clinic or local pharmacy; yearly flu vaccination should begin in September or as soon as it’s available. Too often people make the mistake of waiting until coworkers and friends are sniffling and sneezing, but it’s best to get vaccinated before flu season peaks to stop the spread of germs. Not sure where to get vaccinated? Visit the CDC’s Flu Vaccine Finder at cdc.gov/h1n1flu/vaccination.

Keep Your Guard Up
A flu shot isn’t license to slack off on other stay-healthy strategies. “The flu is unpredictable, so we just don’t know at this time to what extent any rebound of H1N1 flu might occur,” says Dimond. That’s why it’s crucial to follow this flu-fighting checklist to stay well and keep your family germ-free.

  • Wash up. Hygiene is key to stopping the spread of H1N1. “Wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 30 seconds, and use alcohol-based hand sanitizers when soap and water are not available,” says Dimond. 
  • Cover your coughs. Sneeze and cough into the crook of your elbow, not your hand, if you don’t have a tissue. When you sneeze, thousands of infectious droplets go flying. If they land on your hands, you spread the germs to anything you touch, where they can remain contagious for several hours.
  • Take a sick day. Feeling under the weather? Don’t go into the office, and don’t send your little one to school when she’s ill. “You may think you’re impressing coworkers with your dedication, but you’re not doing anyone any favors by spreading germs around the office,” says Dimond.
  • Bolster your immune system. “Eat a healthy diet, engage in regular exercise and practice stress-reduction techniques,” says Katona. Stock up on antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, take a brisk walk most days, and engage in some soothing me-time (try practicing yoga or meditation or taking a long, hot bath).

Are Your Kids Gross Habits Really that Bad?

We’ve all been there: Your son drops an animal cracker on the floor, then bends over to pick it up and eat it. You think to yourself, “10-second rule!” No damage done, right? But how bad is it, really? Are you letting your kids pick up germs and bacteria, or are they actually boosting their immune systems? And what about all the other gross things kids do throughout the day? Inquiring moms need to know.

To find out when -- and if -- being a germophobe mom pays, we talked with Carole Marsh, author of The Here & Now Reproducible Book of a Kid's Official Guide to Germs: Our Enemies and Our Friends!
 

Eating a cookie dropped on the floor: How bad is it?
I don’t think you can protect kids from every single thing that appears to be germy. And I think it’s pretty safe to say that kids are going to eat cereal off the floor no matter what you do, so don’t worry about this one!” Marsh says.

Researchers continue to debate the probable risks of eating food dropped on the floor; several studies have come to varying conclusions. A study at Connecticut College found that after hitting the ground, wet food was safe to eat for 30 seconds and dry food was fine after a full minute. However, another study at Clemson University found that food dropped onto surfaces intentionally contaminated with salmonella picked up enough of the bacteria to make a person sick.

While there is a risk of picking up bacteria from a fallen cookie crumb, think of it this way: Many objects you frequently touch -- like kitchen sponges, faucets and elevator buttons -- can contain significant amounts of bacteria, and you can’t live in constant fear of coming into contact with germs. So when it comes to dropping something edible on the floor, most health experts advise parents not to worry.

Drinking out of the same juice box: How bad is it?
Keeping beverages to yourself doesn’t make you a germophobe. In fact, sharing a beverage with a friend or family member carries multiple health risks, from tooth decay to strep throat and even meningitis.

“Some times of the year, every other kid has a cold, so there’s a good chance that a child with a cold is going to drink out of that juice box. Viruses such as colds can be transmitted through bodily fluids like saliva. And let’s not talk about all the other unmentionable gunky stuff that inevitably gets on the straws,” says Marsh. “Even when everyone’s healthy, it’s important to teach kids good habits -- and learning not to drink out of the same cup or juice box as someone else is simply a healthy habit to teach.”

So do your family a favor and keep juice boxes separate at snack time.

Sharing eye shadow: How bad is it?
Kids love to test-drive the pretty things moms wear, but unless you buy makeup specifically for your child, it’s best to keep her fingers out of the pot.

 “Children have different skin sensitivities, especially around their eyes,” says Marsh.

Moreover, researchers have found that makeup, especially eye makeup, is often packed with germs, infections and even uber-icky Staphylococcus aureus, a toxic bacterium.

“Different people have different hygiene habits -- maybe someone else’s eye shadow has been left open on a bathroom sink and has been contaminated with something,” says Marsh.

Bottom line: It’s simply safer not to share.

Sharing earrings: How bad is it?
You hopefully wouldn’t let your friend stick a finger covered in gunk in your ear -- so letting your daughter use a friend’s earrings should induce a similar sense of ickiness. Hepatitis is common in sharing earrings, as well as a slew of other nasty viruses.

“Never share jewelry for piercings of any kind,” Marsh advises. “It just takes the tiniest opening in the skin for an infection to get in.”

Eating your own boogers: How bad is it?
Health experts generally disagree on the benefits of picking your nose: Some say it’s good for you, some say it’s bad -- and some say it doesn’t matter.

“This one is really high on the gross-factor list, but it’s most likely harmless,” says Marsh. “Just don’t eat anybody else’s boogers!”

Whether or not digging for nose-gold is actually good for your health, those same experts would agree it’s a gross habit that your kid should kick to the curb.

Drinking bathwater: How bad is it?
When you consider the concoction of stuff in bathwater -- shampoo, bacteria and germs -- it sounds, well, disgusting. But just like a spilled cookie isn’t the end of the world, a little bath water is also harmless for your tot.

“Kids don’t typically drink 8 ounces of bathwater -- they’d probably get a handful or a slurp -- so it’s not something to be overly concerned about,” says Marsh. “I just wouldn’t make a regular habit of it, since the soap in the water could cause an upset stomach or diarrhea. Plus, there could be fecal matter in the water, which is obviously not something you want to consume.”

So don’t worry if your child takes a sip of the soapy stuff. Just make sure she goes to the bathroom before taking a bath.

Sharing hats: How bad is it?
This is one problem that’s stood the test of time. Your parents probably advised you not to share hats when you were a kid -- and since then, not much has changed.

“These days, there are a lot of lice outbreaks, so it’s best not to share hats. If it’s going to cause a huge headache, why risk it?” says Marsh.

Lice still love any head -- whether it’s dirty or squeaky clean -- and can lay eggs in any hair they find. Keep your kids safe by asking them not to swap hats with their friends.

At the end of the day, Marsh says moms only really need to worry about getting their kids immunized, making sure they wash their hands and teaching them healthy habits -- like the importance of good nutrition and a full night’s sleep. “When you see a child doing something gross, don’t focus on the germs. Focus on what’s good and healthy for all of us. For instance, say: ‘This is what we do to stay healthy and happy.’”