While the outbreak of a new strain of coronavirus in China is making headlines, your risk of contracting it in the U.S. is very low. Right now, the influenza or flu virus is far more active in the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that over 15 million people in the U.S. have been sick with the flu this season. Over 150,000 people have been hospitalized, and at least 8,000 people have died. On average, the flu is responsible for between 12,000 and 61,000 deaths each year.
The flu shot is the best way to protect yourself against getting the flu, but there’s another extremely effective way to fend off the flu virus and help protect yourself against other viruses and illnesses: wash your hands! The CDC says you should lather up and wash your hands with warm water for at least 20 seconds several times a day to protect yourself. Hands are the main way viruses are transmitted. Outside of inhaling airborne particles from someone else’s cough or sneeze, touching your hand to a contaminated surface and then to your eyes, nose, or mouth is the most common way a virus gets inside you.
Fire season in Australia is always dangerous, however, this year’s drought conditions have been unusually severe. There have been wildfires in every Australian state, with New South Wales being hit the hardest. The blazes have torn through bushland, wooded areas, and national parks. Cities and neighborhoods have also been impacted. In total, more than 17.9 million acres (7.3 million ha) have burned across Australia. At least a half a billion animals have been affected by the fires, including birds, reptiles, and mammals.
Australian authorities are working to combat the fire crisis with more than 2,000 firefighters and military support. The United States, Canada, and New Zealand have sent additional firefighters to help Australians battle the fires. Since Australia is only about halfway through its summer season, the country could still be months away from ending the fires and finding relief. Multiple organizations are collecting donations to help both the people and animals devastated by the fires.
Some high schools in Tempe, Arizona, now have mindfulness rooms—a place for students to take time to reflect and reset. The rooms exist to help teens cope with stressors such as anxiety, peer pressure, testing, social media, and much more. Some of teens’ biggest reasons for using the mindfulness room at one school are to find relief from stress, anxiety, and pressure.
According to Tempe high school social worker Lauri Pagano, mindfulness room sessions can provide students with a healthy coping mechanism in the way of mindfulness. Pagano says, “Mindfulness helps with allowing us that moment to disconnect, to be at ease with quiet and peace within ourselves, just shut out the noise for a little while.”
In December 2019, the U.S. state of Alaska’s Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) confirmed that a teen patient has met the case definition for EVALI — e-cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung injury. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed the case, noting the Alaskan case means that all 50 states have reported vaping-related illnesses. The Alaskan teen had vaped both nicotine and THC products.
As of late November 2019, Alaska had been the only state without a confirmed case of EVALI. The CDC reported that more than 2,000 people had been sickened by vaping-related products and at least 47 people have died. The compound named vitamin E acetate, found in some THC-containing products, has been named as the likely culprit in the outbreak.
Researchers at the World Health Organization (WHO) released the first global country-by-country report on teens’ physical activity in November. After surveying 1.6 million teens from 146 countries over 15 years, they found that 81 percent of teens did not meet the WHO recommendations of one hour of moderate to vigorous activity a day.
The WHO’s World Health Assembly no longer believes it will reach its goal of reducing teen inactivity by 15 percent globally by 2030. The researchers and public health experts are striving to inform teens about the importance of exercise for both mental and physical health. Research shows physical activity is linked to relieving symptoms of depression; lowering risk of cancer, disease, diabetes, and obesity; and living longer.
November is National Native American Heritage Month in the United States. During the month, the Library of Congress, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Museum, and more join in paying tribute to the rich ancestry and traditions of Native Americans.
The U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Indian Affairs kicked-off ceremonies with keynote speaker Nick Hanson. Hanson is Inupiaq and from Unalakleet, Alaska. He appeared numerous times on the popular television show American Ninja Warrior, where he earned the nickname “Eskimo Ninja.” Through this platform, Hanson has become a motivational speaker, coach, and mentor, and is especially passionate about engaging today’s youth. With higher suicide rates among Native Americans and Alaska Native people, he has also made it his mission to raise awareness about suicide prevention. “I think that we really struggle a lot with identity,” Hanson said. “Being Alaska Native, I know exactly what it means to try to figure out who I am.” Hanson says rooting himself in his Alaska Native culture has helped set him on the right path.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is focusing on vitamin E acetate as a “potential toxin of concern” in the recent outbreak of vaping-related injuries and illnesses in the United States. Vitamin E acetate, also known as vitamin E oil, is a common nutritional supplement that is found in many common products. It is safe when applied to your skin, but when it is heated and inhaled it turns into a thick, greasy substance that can coat your lungs. Health officials tested samples of fluid from the lungs of 29 patients with vaping illnesses and found vitamin E acetate in all 29 samples. However, officials say there may be additional ingredients or toxins that are making people sick. Nearly all of the 29 patients also said they had vaped products that contained THC (the ingredient in marijuana that gets people high).
Eighth grader Kara Fan, a 14-year-old from California, is America’s new top young scientist. She won the top prize of $25,000 over nine other finalists in the 3M Young Scientist Challenge—a national competition held annually in St. Paul, Minnesota. The competition encourages middle schoolers to come up with projects to tackle global problems.
For two days, students worked one-on-one with world-renowned scientists. The 10 finalists then presented their projects to 3M and Discovery Education executives. Fan received the top prize for her invention of a nano particle liquid bandage to replace antibiotics. After learning she had won, Fan stated, “My project is important because it reduces the overuse of antibiotics.” The more exposure bacteria have had to antibiotics, the more their resistance has grown. This leads to superbugs, which make people very sick and are resistant to all but the most powerful antibiotics.