Yolo County: Confirmed Case of Zika Joins Others in California

shutterstock_363993479For those who don’t know, there has been an outbreak of a new virus known as Zika throughout many parts of the world. The Zika virus is spread via infected mosquitoes belonging to the Aedes species. While being infected with the Zika virus is rarely deadly—in fact, symptoms can be relatively mild—it has been discovered that pregnant women who are infected give birth to babies with serious neurological birth defects. Although the Zika outbreak has occurred mostly in Brazil, a recent Zika case was confirmed in Yolo County.

Yolo County Zika Case

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently announced that an individual recently tested positive for the Zika virus after returning to Yolo County from another country. Many health professionals have recommended that pregnant women avoid traveling to areas where the Zika virus has been found; however, people are now beginning to worry about the virus spreading from Latin America into parts of California.

Adding to that particular worry is the fact that the Los Angeles Daily News recently reported that the Southern California mosquitoes, which are small black and white striped mosquitoes, can carry the Zika virus as well. Even though these mosquitoes are found across the state and despite the fact that a Zika virus case was recently reported, health officials still believe that an outbreak of the Zika virus throughout the state of California is highly unlikely.

Safety Precautions

Even though a Zika virus outbreak is reported to be highly unlikely, it is still a good idea to take precautions. Women who are pregnant should reconsider traveling to areas where Zika outbreaks have been reported. Zika outbreaks have occurred throughout South America as well as Mexico. Anyone that has traveled to these locations and has shown symptoms of the Zika virus, which include mild fever, joint pain, rash, headaches and conjunctivitis, should be tested as the Zika virus can be sexually transmitted as well.

Here at the Benefits Store, we aim to provide California residents with up-to-date information about important health news in addition to providing health insurance advice.

New Electrical Forehead Patch Could Treat PTSD

shutterstock_256470055It was recently discovered in a new trial that a treatment called eTNS (external trigeminal nerve stimulation) used for epilepsy and depression could potentially help to reduce the severity of chronic PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). eTNS is a wearable electrical brain stimulator—basically a patch that is worn on the forehead powered by a 9-volt battery.

The way the eTNS works is that it sends a weak electrical current through the patch while the patient is sleeping. The current helps to stimulate the cranial nerves running through the forehead. This, in turn, results in signals being sent to the parts of the brain that control thinking, behavior and mood. These parts of the brain also include the amygdala, the autonomic nervous system and the medial prefrontal cortex, all of which display abnormal activity in patients suffering from PTSD.

Promising Trial Results

The trial consisted of 12 patients with the average age of 53 suffering from PTSD. These patients were survivors of domestic abuse, car accidents, rape and other traumatic events. They underwent eight weeks of eTNS outpatient treatment by wearing the patch for eight hours every night as they slept. These patients continued previous treatments of their PTSD as they underwent the trial—treatments that included medication, psychotherapy or both. The patients completed a questionnaire before and after the trial that the researchers could use in order to assess how severe their symptoms were prior to the eTNS treatment and compare them to their symptoms following the treatment. They found that, on average, their symptoms were reduced by more than 30 percent, and the severity of their depression was reduced by more than 50 percent.

Following the success of the first trial, researchers are planning to collaborate with the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System to conduct a trial consisting of 74 veterans.

Results of the trial to treat patients suffering from PTSD using eTNS proved successful and could provide a new way to help PTSD patients. Be sure to visit us at the Benefits Store today to keep yourself informed about new medical news and healthcare information.

Science Breakthrough: Key Found to Halting Alzheimer’s Disease

shutterstock_247872679Alzheimer’s Disease is a condition that affects around 5.1 million Americans. Recently, a group of researchers at the University of Southampton in England stumbled upon the possibility that a chemical designed to reduce neuroinflammation may be able to protect against the memory and behavioral changes that are typically associated with Alzheimer’s patients.

Previous researchers linked chronic inflammation, which is caused by an overactive immune system, to Alzheimer’s. The new findings show that inflammation is not actually a result of Alzheimer’s, but is actually a key driver of the disease. Researchers conducted an experiment in which they compared the tissues of healthy brains with those of Alzheimer’s patients. They found that the brains of Alzheimer’s patients contained higher levels of microglia, which suggests brain inflammation. The molecules that regulate these levels of microglia within the brain became more active as the severity of the patient’s Alzheimer’s increased.

In a second experiment, the chemical GW2580 was given to mice that had a condition similar to Alzheimer’s. Researchers found that the chemical helped to reduce memory loss as well as reduce behavioral problems in these mice. Researchers then provided these mice with inhibitors that prevented the microglia from multiplying. Once the microglia levels stabilized, the progression of the disease stalled. The inhibitor helped to prevent the breakdown in communication between the brain’s nerve cells, which is what Alzheimer’s patients usually experience.

The tests that were conducted on mice have shown a particular pathway that is active in the development of Alzheimer’s. Researchers are now planning on using the results of these experiments in order to develop a safe and suitable drug that can be tested on humans. The findings have also shown that both diet and lifestyle may play an active part in preventing Alzheimer’s since they could possibly help to fight inflammation.

Alzheimer’s disease continues to be a serious problem for millions of Americans. Fortunately, new research could result in the development of drugs that may prevent the disease. To keep up to date with medical news, or for information about healthcare, be sure to visit us at The Benefits Store.

Tougher Rules for Affordable Care Act Special Enrollment Periods

shutterstock_237872491Insurers have raised concerns about the lack of regulations regarding the Affordable Care Act official enrollment periods, stating that health care spending and overall premiums have risen because of individuals who are not buying health insurance within the official enrollment period and who are waiting instead to purchase insurance only when they get sick. This has led to plans by the Obama administration to tighten the rules for anyone enrolling in insurance via HealthCare.gov outside of the official enrollment period.

As the rules stand now, people can purchase health insurance coverage after the enrollment deadline if special circumstances apply, such as a change in employment, the birth of a new child, marriage and divorce. Exceptions were also made for uninsured people looking to get coverage at the same time as they did their taxes or for those who had technical problems with the insurance website.

Insurers believe that the rules concerning signing up for healthcare insurance outside of the official enrollment period are way too broad as they stand, allowing people to take advantage of the fact. According to a top federal official, the administration plans to eliminate some of the criteria for late sign-ups in addition to making the criteria language clearer to help cut down on costs.

A New Task Force

Andy Slavitt, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, believes that tightening the existing rules will help ensure that the special enrollment period will serve its original purpose. A new task force will be implemented to make sure that people are honest in regards to health insurance purchases. The task force will even terminate health insurance coverage for any consumers that enrolled outside of the official deadline without having a legitimate reason for doing so.

Rules for special enrollment periods are set to become much stricter. For more information concerning the Affordable Care Act or for advice on how to enroll, visit us at The Benefits Store today.

The Zika Virus: What You Need to Know

shutterstock_278964704Margaret Chan, the director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO), recently declared a public health emergency due to the outbreak of the Zika virus, a new mosquito-borne virus that is connected to a neurological birth disorder and that is rapidly spreading around the world.

WHO estimates that between three million and four million people throughout the Americas will be infected with the Zika virus over the course of this year. The virus is spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito and has broken out in 29 countries so far. Because it is connected to a neurological birth disorder, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is recommending that pregnant women not travel to these countries. In fact, health officials in these countries have even begun recommending that female citizens avoid getting pregnant for upwards of two years. The U.S. Defense Department is currently offering pregnant employees and their beneficiaries that are stationed in affected countries voluntary relocation. The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci, called the viral outbreak a pandemic in progress. The following are important facts that everyone should know about the Zika virus:

  • What is it?—The Zika virus is similar to the yellow fever, dengue and West Nile viruses. However, there are no vaccines or medicines to treat the Zika virus as of yet.
  • What does it cause?—The virus is linked to microcephaly, which is a neurological disorder that causes abnormally small heads in newborns, which can lead to severe developmental problems or even death. There were only 146 cases of microcephaly in 2014. Since the outbreak, there have been 404 cases since November 2015 in Brazil alone. Learn more about the condition by reading this article about microcephaly.
  • How is it spread?—The most common way that it’s spread is through Aedes mosquito bites. However, the CDC reported that the latest outbreak was transmitted via sex.

Be sure to avoid traveling to areas currently dealing with a serious Zika outbreak. Here at the Benefits Store, we aim to keep you updated on all the newest health-related news.