1. Immune reaction to mosquito bites may transmit a deadly virus

    The surprising danger of your mosquito bite

    It's summer -- and that means the sun is brighter... the days are longer... and the bugs are, well, buggier.

    It seems like the bugs come back every year fiercer than the last!

    But it turns out that itchy, inflamed mosquito bite isn't just a nuisance -- because the latest research shows that the swelling and itching also can help a virus like Zika or West Nile infect and spread through your body more quickly.

    A recent study on mice published in the journal Immunity examined the bites from the type of mosquito that transmits Zika, dengue fever, and Chikungunya.

    One group of mice was "bitten" by a mosquito, while another was "injected" with live viruses.

    The researchers found that the mosquitoes' saliva triggers white blood cells to rush to the bite site, which causes the swelling. But instead of fighting infection, these immune cells can actually get infected -- and then pass the virus along to other cells, spreading the infection throughout the body.

    The mice that were simply "injected" with the virus -- without the contact with the mosquito saliva -- did not experience the same inflammatory immune response, and subsequent massive replication.

    And when they inhibited the inflammatory response -- in short, making the itching and swelling go away -- it not only lessened the severity of the infection, but it also lowered the risk of death, with the survival rate skyrocketing from 10 percent to 50 percent.

    And sure, those were mice -- but these infections can be fatal to humans, too, The American Mosquito Control Association estimates that more than one million people worldwide die from mosquito-borne illnesses each year.

    If you do get bitten by a mosquito, resist the urge to scratch it -- because any additional inflammation at the site of the bite will just help the infection spread even more.

    Your best bet? Don't get bitten in the first place.

    First, get rid of any standing water that attracts mosquitoes. You don't want to invite the enemy in.

    Use screens at home on your windows and on your porch to keep the little blood-suckers out.

    If staying in isn't an option, use a bug zapper and natural and safe mosquito deterrents like essential oils. Try citronella (extracted from the leaves and stems of lemongrass), peppermint, lavender, eucalyptus, tea tree, cedar, or rose geranium oils... or a combination of all of the above.

  2. The obesity virus: don't believe the hype

    The obesity virus: don't believe the hype

    Could a virus be to blame for the ballooning on the American public at large? According to a recent study, that could be the case. But not so fast… Let's take a closer look.

    The study's author, Nikhil Dhurandhar, an associate professor at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Louisiana, said "When this virus goes to fat tissue, it replicates, making more copies of itself and in the process increasing the number of new fat cells." Then he added that this "may explain why the fat tissue expands and why people get fat when they are infected with the virus."

    I don't have a problem with the study itself - it's interesting and legitimate medical research. But I do have a problem with the way the story was reported. The sensationalist manner in which it was splashed across nearly every news channel and website was shameful. The Fox News website, for example, ran the story about the virus with the headline "Obesity 'virus' spreads like common cold." TV news broadcasts ran teasers saying "weight gain could be caused by a virus."

    These over-simplified story angles implied that obesity could be "caught" like a cold. And the story was positioned in this way because that's exactly the sort of thing a nation with an obesity epidemic wants to hear. What fat person wouldn't stay tuned through the commercial break to hear the good news that his weight issue has more to do with a virus than the half-gallon of ice cream he just wolfed down?

    But the fact is, the study doesn't really say the virus is a cause of chronic obesity. The weight gain caused by the virus only lasts until the body's resistance to the bug can be established - about three months. Dhurandhar even pointed out that "people could be fat for reasons other than viral infections." The study's real finding is that the virus can make people who are already fat gain weight because they have more fat cells for the virus to replicate. It's not that fat people are fat because they have caught this virus!

    But how many people do you think stuck with the story long enough to read those details buried in the fifth paragraph, or glossed over with a few words at the end of a TV news segment?

    As if you needed more proof that personal accountability and responsibility are all but dead in our culture, check out this next story…

  3. Scientists look to 1918 flu survivors for vaccine answers

    A new study shows that some of our oldest citizens could actually better equipped to weather a disease pandemic than the rest of us.
  4. Flu shots fall short…again

    According to reports, this year's flu season was the worst in three years - and they're saying it's because the virus that so many people had injected into their systems was completely ineffective against the flu.
  5. Are you safe from MRSA?

    According to a study, almost 95,000 Americans contracted an MRSA infection, and it killed 18,650 of them.

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