HEALTH

CDC: Face masks not necessary for anyone but healthcare professionals

BY Michael Johnsen

ATLANTA The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Saturday issued an interim recommendation around face masks and respirators, suggesting that they are not necessary for use for anyone except those healthcare professionals treating a patient who is either known to have or is suspected of having the H1N1 influenza.

Face masks were one of the items that drug stores quickly ran out of in the wake of the first H1N1 flu reports last month.

“Information on the effectiveness of face masks and respirators for decreasing the risk of influenza infection in community settings is extremely limited,” the CDC stated. “Thus, it is difficult to assess their potential effectiveness in decreasing the risk of novel influenza A (H1N1) virus transmission.”

Instead, the CDC recommended people concerned about contacting the H1N1 virus should wash hands frequently, either with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand cleaner; cover mouths and noses when coughing or sneezing; avoid touching eyes, noses and mouths; if sick with the flu, stay home and minimize contact with others for seven days after symptoms begin or after being symptom-free for 24 hours, whichever is longer; and avoid close contact, within 6 ft., with people infected with the H1N1 virus.

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Study finds link between vitamin D deficiency, bacterial vaginosis

BY Michael Johnsen

BETHESDA, Md. There may be a link between vitamin D deficiency and bacterial vaginosis, a vaginal infection that is common among pregnant women and can lead to complications.

According to data to be published in the June 2009 issue of the Journal of Nutrition, researchers tracking 469 pregnant women found that 41% of those women had BV, and that the prevalence of BV decreased as vitamin D concentration increased.

Researchers concluded that vitamin D insufficiency is associated with BV in the first four months of pregnancy. Further, poor vitamin D status may contribute to the strong racial disparity in the prevalence of BV in U.S. women. Controlled intervention trials will be needed to confirm this hypothesis, the researchers suggested.

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Vitamin D intake can help asthma, COPD patients

BY Michael Johnsen

SAN DIEGO Vitamin D may slow the progressive decline in the ability to breathe that can occur in people with asthma, as a result of human airway smooth muscle proliferation, according to researchers at the University of Pennsylvania in a study released Wednesday.

The group found that calcitriol, a form of vitamin D synthesized within the body, reduced growth-factor-induced HASM proliferation in cells isolated from both persons with asthma and from persons without the disease. The proliferation is a part of process called airway remodeling, which occurs in many people with asthma, and leads to reduced lung function over time.

The researchers believe that by slowing airway remodeling, they can prevent or forestall the irreversible decline in breathing that leaves many asthmatics even more vulnerable when they suffer an asthma attack.

“Calcitriol has recently earned prominence for its anti-inflammatory effects,” stated Gautam Damera, who presented the research at the American Thoracic Society’s 105th International Conference on Wednesday. “But our study is the first to reveal the potent role of calcitriol in inhibiting ASM proliferation.”

The investigators have also conducted experiments to determine whether calcitriol, which is currently used to treat psoriasis, could be an effective therapy for COPD.

Although preliminary, their data shows that calcitriol appears to reduce pro-inflammatory cytokine secretions in COPD. As with asthma, the researchers believe, calcitriol may also have the added benefit of slowing, if not stopping, the progression of airway remodeling. Others in the field believe calcitriol may also have the potential to inhibit the development and growth of several types of cancer.

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