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Roundup: Flu Season Picking Up; Vaping-Linked Lung Injury Update; and Healthy ‘Green Spaces’

Flu Season is Picking Up in Some States, But Not Too Late to Get Flu Shot, CDC Says

Seasonal influenza (the flu) in the U.S. continues to increase, but the level of activity and the predominant influenza virus varies by state and region, according to the latest report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The CDC reported widespread flu in five states: Alabama, California, Louisiana, Nevada and South Carolina. This time last year, no states showed widespread activity. The CDC’s most recent update shows that 2.5 percent of patient visits reported nationally were due to influenza-like illness. This percentage is slightly above the national baseline of 2.4 percent.

High levels of flu were reported in seven states — Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, Nevada, South Carolina and Texas — as well as Puerto Rico. Last year, only one state reported high levels of flu at this time.

However, it’s difficult to determine at this time how severe this year’s flu season will be, the CDC says. During the recent severe 2017-18 influenza season, which lasted an unusually long period with widespread high influenza activity throughout the nation, there were higher rates of outpatient visits and hospitalizations, compared with other recent seasons.

In the U.S., the typical flu season runs from October through May, usually peaking in February.

It’s not too late to get a flu shot, the CDC emphasizes. The flu vaccine “is always the best way to prevent flu and its potentially serious complications.”

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Vaping-Linked Lung Illnesses Increase to 2,290 Cases Nationwide

There were 2,290 cases of lung illnesses linked to vaping as of Nov. 20, according to the latest updated from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

That represents an increase of 118 cases from the previous update a week earlier. The vaping-related injuries have been reported in 49 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Alaska remains the only state without any vaping-related injuries, the CDC.

The agency has confirmed 47 deaths in 25 states, including Florida, and the District of Columbia.

The CDC recommends that people not use e-cigarette products that contain THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. While it appears that vitamin E acetate, is associated with the nationwide outbreak of lung injuries, the CDC says it cannot rule out other chemicals at this time.

Many of the vaping products used by those who became ill were illegally obtained from friends or the street, the CDC said.

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‘Green Spaces’ in Urban Settings can Help Prolong Your Life, Study Finds

Nature can be good for your health, especially if you live in an urban setting, according to a new study.

Urban residents who live close to “green spaces” — such as a park or an urban garden or a backyard — are less likely to die before their life expectancy, according to a new Lancet Planetary Health study [5].

“Interventions to increase and manage green spaces should therefore be considered as a strategic public health intervention,” researchers concluded.

Researchers reviewed several studies that monitored more than 8 million people worldwide, including the U.S. “Green spaces are associated with more physical activity, physical or mental restoration and reduced stress,” among other benefits, researchers found.