Health Highlights: Dec. 9, 2010

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Americans Using Nutmeg to Get High

Some Americans are getting high on nutmeg, which can be hallucinogenic like LSD and give a buzz that lasts for one to two days. But the awful side effects mean it's a one-time thing in most cases.

"It's the flavor of the month," said Dr. Jeffrey Bernstein, medical director of the Florida Poison Information Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, ABC News reported. "But most people only try it once because they have such nasty side effects. The rewards are not worth the risks."

Nutmeg contains a compound called myristicin, which can have mind-altering effects if ingested in large quantities.

However, consuming copious amounts of nutmeg can cause severe gut reactions such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, as well as heart and nerve problems, ABC News reported.

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CDC Urges Older Adults to Get Flu Vaccine

Flu vaccination is critical for adults age 65 and older because they're at greater risk for serious flu complications such as pneumonia, says the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As part of National Influenza Vaccination Week, the agency designated Thursday as Older Adults Vaccination Day.

Because the body's ability to fight illness weakens with age, older adults have some of the highest rates of hospitalization and death from the flu, the CDC said. Each year, older adults account for about 9 out of 10 seasonal flu-related deaths and more than 6 out of 10 seasonal flu-related hospital stays in the United States.

The CDC is working with a number of grassroots and national organizations to educate older adults about the serious threat posed by the flu and the protection offered by flu vaccination.

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Aretha Franklin Has Pancreatic Cancer, Reports Say

Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, according to media reports.

Detroit-based news outlets reported on Wednesday that the 68-year-old singer underwent surgery last week. Last month, Franklin announced she was canceling all concert dates and personal appearances through May.

And The Detroit News confirmed that Franklin has pancreatic cancer, which has the highest mortality rate of all major cancers, killing around 95 percent of patients within five years of diagnosis.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson said Wednesday that he has visited Franklin several times recently and she is "recovering very well" from the surgery.

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American Workers Average 14 Sick Days a Year

In 2007, U.S. workers took an average of 10 days off because they were sick or injured and another 4 days off to care for a sick child or other family member, says a federal government report.

The latest News and Numbers from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality also said that workers ages 55 to 64 took an average of 18 days off work, compared with 10 days for workers ages 16 to 24.

The analysis of data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey also found that:

  • About 38 percent of female workers and 30 percent of male workers missed work due to personal illness or injury.
  • About 24 percent of married women and 17 percent of married men ages 16 to 64 took time off work to care for a sick child or other family member, compared with 14 percent of unmarried women and 7 percent of unmarried men.
  • Uninsured workers (26 percent) were less likely to take sick days than those with private insurance (36.5 percent) or those with Medicaid or other public insurance (32 percent).

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Posted: December 2010


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