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Archive for April, 2009

What Does Phase Five Pandemic Mean?

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009 by:

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently raised the Swine flu pandemic threat from phase 4 to phase 5 (on a scale of 1-6). This is the first time in history a phase 5 level has been given.

With the WHO Director General Dr. General Margaret Chan making statements like: “The whole of humanity is under threat in a pandemic.” And Spain confirming the first case of swine flu in a person who had not recently traveled to Mexico, it’s hard not to get a little concerned.

Upon writing this 10 countries have confirmed Swine Flu outbreaks: Mexico, US, Canada, Germany, Austria, Spain, UK, Israel, New Zealand and Peru.

So what exactly is a phase five pandemic?

Phases 1-3: Predominantly animal infections: few human infections

Phase 4: Sustained human to human transmission

Phases 5-6/Pandemic: Widespread human infection

The current Phase 5 designation is characterized by human-to-human spread of the virus into at least two countries in one WHO region. The declaration of Phase 5 is a strong signal that a pandemic is imminent and that the time to finalize the organization, communication, and implementation of the planned mitigation measures is short.

WHO official Keiji Fukuda said countries other than Mexico need to consider social distancing measures such as closing schools and delaying public meetings. Since then, 74 schools in the US have closed. What are your thoughts on the situation?

The Disease Formally Known as Swine Flu

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009 by:

In an attempt to halt the rapidly diminishing demand for pork, the swine flu has been renamed–2009 H1N1. (Can anyone really see that catching on?)

But regardless of the name, if you’re like me you can’t help but watch the spread. Personally, I want to be the first to know if it’s popping up anywhere near my child’s preschool.

Currently there are 8 confirmed cases in the GTA – none in my home city of Toronto just yet. And the US has just confirmed their first 2009 H1N1 (swine flu) related death – a 23-month-old in Texas.

The best place we’ve found for worldwide updates is:

The map highlights the spread and you can click individual icons for related links in your area.

Should Parents Worry About the Swine Flu?

Monday, April 27th, 2009 by:

If your kids are like mine they get sick–a lot. I’m convinced my toddler’s preschool is a petri dish for all things contagious. So when the European Union health commissioner advised Europeans against traveling to U.S. or Mexico due to the recent Swine Flu outbreak it made me a little nervous (I’m sure Canada will be next on the EU Health Hit list. After all we have 6 confirmed cases).

Knowledge is the past way to fight off unwarranted fear so here are the facts for parents:

What is the swine flu?

A highly contagious acute respiratory disease normally found in pigs. Swine flu is usually spread through contact with pigs, but some limited cases of human-to-human contact have been reported.

Could there be a pandemic?

Experts say there is cause for concern but not alarm. (Even though the death toll in Mexico has reached 152 and officials have shut every school in the country.) Health officials worry the swine flu virus will combine with a human flu virus or mutate on its own to become easily transmissible. As the virus circulates, it becomes more likely a pandemic strain will emerge, but there is no way to predict when, and if, this will happen.

What can parents do?

Listen to regular updates and practice good hygiene. Wash your hands, and your child’s hands, frequently and stay at home if you feel ill. As for diet, it’s safe to eat pork. The swine flu virus dies when cooked to temperatures of 158 F (70C) or higher.

Stand and Deliver

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009 by:

When it comes to labor any mother can tell you longer is not better. Once those contractions start, you just want to get the baby out. Now a new study at the Institute of Women’s and Children’s Health in Australia has found that the North American tradition of laying on our backs to deliver may not be the fastest (or best) way to go.

The study looked at 3,706 women and found that if women lie on their back during labor it can have and adverse effects on uterine contractions and impede the labor process.

Walking and upright positions in the first stage of labor reduce the length of labor and don’t seem to be associated with increased intervention or negative effects on mothers’ and babies’ wellbeing. Women should be encouraged to take whatever position they find most comfortable in the first stage of labor, but if it’s speed you’re after you may want to stand, sit or walk around.

Soak Up The Sun

Friday, April 17th, 2009 by:

I love the sun. I love the way it feels beating down on my face, the way it heats up my body after an especially frigid winter, and I love the way it makes me look. After a recent afternoon walk I was bombarded with: “You look so healthy.” And “Did you just get a facial?” How could something so good be bad?

Yes, we get it. Too much sun increases our skin cancer risk. There’s no need to report on anymore bad news. Which is why I was so excited to hear of a new UK study that found that women who soak up the sun during their last trimester of pregnancy can increase their unborn child’s bone density.

The connection is presumably explained by vitamin D, which is synthesized in the skin after sun exposure and plays a key role in bone health. It’s possible that a mother’s vitamin D levels late in pregnancy have lasting effects on her child’s later bone development. Bring on the rays! (In moderation of course.)

Spit and Tell

Thursday, April 9th, 2009 by:

When I first became pregnant, I couldn’t get enough information about my expanding bump. Books, online advice, chats with other moms–I did it all. I also discovered 23andme, an online personal genomics company. For $399, and a 2.5-milliliter vile of spit, the company decodes a part of your DNA and lets you know if you are more or less likely than the general population to get a host of ailments ranging from breast cancer to Parkinson’s disease. It also traces your lineage further back than any family tree ever could, and offers lots of relevant information for moms-to-be–such as whether breastfeeding will increase your child’s IQ (yes, this is genetically determined). Now, 23andme has launched an online pregnancy community.

The founding members include 14 of the top online mommy bloggers. 23andme’s pregnancy community provides the ideal forum to chat with moms about information learned through 23andme, as well as more general pregnancy chatter. You never know what you might find out.

“In my third pregnancy I had the genetic marker for down’s syndrome,” says 23andme pregnancy community founding member and author of Motherhood Uncensored Kristen Chase. “Through a blog community I was alerted to the fact that one in three Asian Women have that genetic marker [and it means nothing].” Chase’s ancestory on 23andme was strongly Asian. “If I’d have known this fact before, it may have saved me a lot of stress and extra tests,” says Chase.

If you can’t afford the $399 to take the test, Chase encourages you to join up for the 23andme pregnancy community and take their pregnancy surveys–which you can do for free. “It’s such a unique way of gathering information and a way to help others in the future.”