GateHouse News Sevice's weekly Health Watch with tips on flu season etiquette, sleep preventing weight gain, and baby boomer hepatits C risk.


Flu season etiquette tips from the Emily Post Institute

When the flu hits, manners may not be the first thing that comes to mind. Yet, good "flu etiquette" and hygiene can go a long way in helping to prevent the spread of influenza. While most Americans recognize that the flu virus spreads easily, they admit to sometimes forgetting their manners when they have the flu: a 2011 survey of more than 1,000 Americans found that three out of four Americans (75%) would go to at least one social situation if they had symptoms of the flu (out of a list of seven).

Influenza, or "the flu," is a contagious viral infection of the nose, throat, and lungs which occurs most often in the late fall, winter, and early spring. Flu is a serious infection which is associated, on average, with more than 200,000 hospitalizations due to flu related complications and can lead to thousands of deaths every year in the United States.   "No one wants to spread the flu to family, friends, or colleagues. Yet many of us admit to tossing our manners aside when we have the flu," said Anna Post, great-great-granddaughter of Emily Post and co-author of the 18th edition of Emily Post's Etiquette. "Knowing how to politely cancel an event you're hosting or how to avoid shaking your client's hand because you're sick can help avoid a potentially difficult and awkward situation. By following appropriate flu etiquette, we can all play a role in preventing the spread of the flu virus."   The Emily Post Institute offers the following etiquette tips to manage common situations where the flu virus might be spread from one person to another:   Share space, not the flu: Covering sneezes and coughs is a good habit all year round, especially during flu season. The flu virus can spread up to six feet away from coughing, sneezing, or even just talking.   Know when to take a sick day: The flu is highly contagious and the people you work with don't want to get sick. Knowing the symptoms of flu versus a cold is important so you know when to take a sick day and see a doctor. Remember the acronym F.A.C.T.S. to recognize if you might have the flu (Fever, Aches, Chills, Tiredness with Sudden Onset).   In tight quarters: It's tough to point out someone's behavior mid-flight with hours left to go. However, flu is highly contagious. If there's no other seat available, consider saying, "I can see you're not feeling well -- would you mind covering your mouth when you cough? Thanks." Most people when prompted are eager to show good manners and do the right thing.   "Every year, millions of Americans get influenza. We are all personally responsible for helping to control its spread," says Susan J. Rehm, MD, medical director at the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID). "The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends flu vaccine as the first and most important step in preventing influenza, as well as good hygiene. If symptoms arise, see a doctor quickly. The flu can be treated with prescription antiviral medicines."   To help children recognize flu symptoms, learn good habits, and pass the time with a fun activity this winter, download a free coloring book at On, you'll find information to help you distinguish between flu and cold symptoms, sign up for flu alerts in your area, and download a free "Fight the Flu" iPhone app.   This influenza education campaign and survey are supported by Genentech, a member of the Roche Group.

-- Brandpoint

New Research

A study by the American Cancer Society (ACS) has found that people who drink four or more cups of coffee (caffeinated) have half the risk of dying of throat or mouth cancer that people who drink less or no coffee have.

Researchers believe that the antioxidants and polyphenols found in coffee, not the caffeine, reduce the growth and development of mouth and throat cancers. The biggest risk factors for developing these cancers are tobacco and alcohol use, but HPV infection has become a greater risk factor in the past 30 years.

In a press statement, lead study author Janet Hildebrand cautions, "We are not recommending people all drink 4 cups of coffee a day. This is just a little bit of good news for those of us who enjoy coffee." The study found that the link between drinking decaf coffee and dying of throat or mouth cancer was insignificant and the link for tea was non-existant.


Health Tip: Sleep prevents winter weight gain

Lack of sleep can lead to eating more junk food, and it can negatively impact your metabolism, making it harder to properly process what you eat. A comfortable and supportive mattress and pillow can help you sleep soundly, awake refreshed and feel less stressed. Also, take a few moments to relax before bed each night, to allow your body time to adjust and settle in for the night.

-- Family Features

Number to Know

12.5 million: Approximate number of obese children and adolescents (ages 2-19) in the US.


Boomer's Health: Vets twice as likely to be infected with chronic hepatitis C

An estimated 3.2 million Americans have chronic hepatitis C, a potentially serious disease that, if left untreated, can damage the liver over time and lead to cirrhosis, or scarring of the liver, end-stage liver disease and liver cancer. Liver failure from chronic hepatitis C is the leading cause of liver transplants in the United States.

Many people infected with chronic hep C virus do not know they have it. Approximately 70 to 80 percent of those newly infected with the virus do not have symptoms. In many people with chronic hepatitis C, signs or symptoms may not appear for years.

Among those disproportionately affected by chronic hep C is the veteran community, a population twice as likely to be infected with chronic hep C as the general population. Veterans may be at increased risk because they may have additional risk factors, such as having had blood exposure during combat, or immunization by air gun injection. Of the six million veterans receiving care from the Veterans Affairs' (VA) health care system in 2010, 165,005 had evidence of chronic hep C. Most veterans with the disease being treated in the VA health care system in recent years were likely infected during the Vietnam War era any time from 1964 to 1975.

Veterans in VA care with chronic hepatitis C have higher rates of related conditions that could complicate their health. Many veterans with chronic hep C already have evidence of cirrhosis, or scarring of the liver, and even more of those infected will develop cirrhosis over a span of 20 to 30 years. Since serious complications, like liver disease, usually happen years after initial infection, an increase in hep C-related deaths in veterans is expected over the next decade.

Many veterans also fall within the "baby boomer" generation, or those born between 1945 and 1965, another group disproportionately affected by the disease. It is estimated that one in 30 baby boomers has been infected with hepatitis C and they are five times more likely to be infected than other adults. More than 2 million U.S. baby boomers are infected with hepatitis C. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently issued recommendations that all U.S. baby boomers should get a one-time test for the hepatitis C virus.

For more information on chronic hepatitis, please visit

-- Brandpoint

GateHouse News Service