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Drinking coffee may protect some people against Parkinson’s

A recent study found lower levels of caffeine in the blood of people with Parkinson’s disease. The study compared people with Parkinson’s who carry a particular genetic mutation known to increase Parkinson’s risk with people who carry the same mutation but do not have the disease.

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive brain disorder characterized by tremors, rigidity in the limbs and torso, and movement and balance problems. People with the condition also have an increased risk of depression and dementia.

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, more than 1 million people in North America and more than 4 million people worldwide have Parkinson’s disease. In the United States, about 60,000 people receive a diagnosis each year.

Around 15% of people with the disease have a family history of Parkinson’s, which suggests they inherited genes that increased their risk of developing the condition. However, most cases result from a complex, poorly understood interaction of genetic and environmental factors.

Several environmental factors, such as head trauma, chemicals, and drugs, have associations with increased risk, whereas exercise has associations with reduced risk.

A 2010 review of previous research found that the more caffeine people regularly consumed, the lower their risk of developing Parkinson’s.

Another study showed that people with Parkinson’s who have no genetic risk factors for the disease have lower caffeine levels in their blood than people without the disease.

A team led by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, MA, set out to discover whether coffee might also protect people with a mutation in the LRRK2 gene. Having this gene increases the risk of developing the disease but does not guarantee it.

The researchers compared people with and without Parkinson’s disease. Both groups contained people with and without a mutation in the LRRK2 gene.

The researchers found that the differences in the blood caffeine levels between people with Parkinson’s and those without were greater among individuals with this genetic mutation.

Dr. Grace Crotty, who led the research, says:

“These results are promising and encourage future research exploring caffeine and caffeine-related therapies to lessen the chance that people with this gene develop Parkinson’s … It’s also possible that caffeine levels in the blood could be used as a biomarker to help identify which people with this gene will develop the disease, assuming caffeine levels remain relatively stable.”

The authors published the study in the journal Neurology.

The scientists analyzed blood plasma samples from 368 individuals enrolled in the LRRK2 Cohort Consortium, a research project established in 2009 coordinated and funded by the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.

One group contained 188 individuals with Parkinson’s, and the control group included 180 people without the disease. Around the same proportion of each group had a mutation in the LRRK2 gene.

When the researchers compared the chemical profile of plasma from the two groups, they found the levels of five particular chemicals differed the most — all of them caffeine-related.

Concentrations of all five chemicals were significantly lower among

Will a flu shot protect you from coronavirus?

Health experts are urging people to get their flu shot this year as the number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. are once again on the rise.

But could getting a flu shot also protect you from COVID-19? No, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health.

“While it would be nice, there’s no evidence that flu shots can protect you from COVID-19, an entirely different disease,” ADPH said in a Facebook post.

That doesn’t mean you should skip the flu vaccine, however.

“The flu shot can help protect you from having the flu, which results is hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations a year and thousands of deaths. Plus, with the continued spread of COVID-19, experts warn that without proper precautions, we could experience a “twindemic” of both flu and COVID-19,” ADPH added.

The Centers for Disease Control recommends people get vaccinated before flu season starts and begins to spread in your community. It takes about two weeks after the vaccination for antibodies that protect against the flu to develop in the body.

The CDC recommends people get vaccinated by the end of October. The flu vaccine is recommended for:

  • Everyone 6 months or older
  • High risk groups including young children, pregnant women, people with certain chronic health conditions and people age 65 and older.
  • Healthcare workers
  • Caregivers for people in high risk groups or for infants younger than 6 months old

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Renew the Savings Clause: protect water supply

COVD-19 still wreaks havoc in Florida, but South Floridians are engaged in a battle for our health and safety on another front — water scarcity. While most residents do not worry about their water supply as long as they get water when they turn on their tap, it is not guaranteed. On Thursday, Sept. 24, a subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment held a Congressional hearing in Washington, D.C. on the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) and water management in Florida. The hearing was held as lawmakers are considering the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA).

U.S Rep. Brian Mast wants to pass legislation in the WRDA that would drastically alter Lake Okeechobee’s regulation schedule in an attempt to curb toxic algae blooms in our coastal estuaries. Mast’s proposal would direct the Army Corps of Engineers to drain Lake Okeechobee’s crucial water supply to unprecedented low depths during the dry season. This would be a major departure from the Savings Clause, the provision in the WRDA that has safeguarded South Florida’s water supply for 20 years.

The continued debate surrounding the management of our water and its impact on our health and safety is important to all of us. As these crucial conversations happen remotely from Washington, D.C., Tallahassee and our regional water management district, it is important to find solutions to environmental problems that benefit all citizens and communities, not just the one with the loudest political voice.

Originally enacted in 2000, CERP remains the primary vehicle for guaranteeing that our state’s greatest natural treasure remains viable for generations to come. CERP’s implementation was approved by the passage of federal legislation known as the Water Resources Development Act. This legislation was significant for a number of reasons. First, it provided baseline protections to South Florida’s water supply. Lawmakers in 2000 recognized the needs of water users in the area — most critically the more than 6 million residents in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties. Second, the passage of WRDA put politics aside and showed that it’s possible to do two big things at once — restore the Everglades while meeting all of the water-related needs of the region, including water supply and flood control.

Unfortunately, politics has disrupted both sensibility and science in 2020. Instead of uniting to do big things, it has left us divided on how to create a safer environmental future. But now is the worst possible time to ignore sound water management practices. Water is more essential than ever, not only for everyday living but for life-saving hygiene. It’s necessary for our recovering businesses and the viability of our drinking water supply.

Politicians like Brian Mast are good at creating simplified talking points to address complex issues, but they fail to understand larger consequences beyond the boundaries of their own districts. Mast has loudly proclaimed that water-users permit rights should end when they infringe on the health and safety of others. That sounds reasonable but is simply untrue and not supported by science.

White House virus testing couldn’t protect Trump

WASHINGTON (AP) — His press secretary once described President Donald Trump as the “most tested man in America” when it came to COVID-19. And variations on that message were the White House ready response any time critics questioned the president’s lax approach to following guidelines for avoiding the novel coronavirus.

But that testing operation proved woefully insufficient in protecting the president and those who work for him at the White House, as evidenced by a string of positive tests over the past week for Trump, his wife and others in their orbit.

Trump demonstrated in dramatic fashion that relying on testing alone isn’t enough to create a safe bubble. Mask wearing and social distancing are other key ingredients for preventing the spread of COVID-19, and both have often been in short supply at the White House.

From the earliest days of the virus, Trump has provided conflicting advice on wearing a mask, noting that federal health experts were recommending them, but adding that “I don’t think I’m going to be doing it.”

At another point, he said that “maybe they’re great, and maybe they’re just good. Maybe they’re not so good.”

And just last week, he poked at Democratic presidential rival Joe Biden on the topic: “Every time you see him, he’s got a mask. He could be speaking 200 feet ways from them, and he shows up with the biggest mask I’ve ever seen.”

While the White House has not insisted on masks, it has insisted on testing. Anyone in close proximity to the president or vice president is tested prior to the day’s events, including reporters. The White House says the president is also tested regularly, as are his most senior aides.

“He’s tested more than anyone, multiple times a day. And we believe that he’s acting appropriately,” White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in July when asked whether the president was sending mixed messages on mask wearing. McEnany herself tested positive for the virus on Monday, she said.

Trump’s doctor, Navy Cmdr. Sean Conley, has refused to say when Trump last tested negative for COVID-19.

A negative test result can sound reassuring, but it doesn’t necessarily mean a person is free from the coronavirus and not contagious. When the virus enters the body, it takes over a cell’s machinery to copy itself, while fending off the body’s immune defenses. But the process takes a few days, so it can take a while before viral particles can be detected by a test. In other words, testing too early can mean no virus will be collected on the swab.

There are other reasons for false negative test results. A test could be conducted poorly and not get a good sample. And compared with other tests, rapid tests return more false negatives. The Food and Drug Administration has said the Abbott ID Now test — one used for screening at the White House — is meant to be used with people who are suspected of being sick and a

Inside the flawed White House testing scheme that failed to protect Trump

U.S. President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence
U.S. President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence

U.S. President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President Donald Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis is raising fresh questions about the White House’s strategy for testing and containing the virus for a president whose cavalier attitude about the coronavirus has persisted since it landed on American shores.

The president has said others are tested before getting close to him, appearing to hold it as an iron shield of safety. He has largely eschewed mask-wearing and social distancing in meetings, travel and public events, while holding rallies for thousands of often maskless supporters. 

The Trump administration has increasingly pinned its coronavirus testing strategy for the nation on antigen tests, which do not need a traditional lab for processing and quickly return results to patients. But the results are less accurate than those of the slower PCR tests. 

An early Abbott test used by the White House was plagued with problems, with multiple researchers finding that it was less accurate than rival companies’ tests in picking up positive cases. But the new antigen test the White House is using has not been independently evaluated for accuracy and reliability. Moreover, the Trump administration recently shipped antigen tests from Abbott and other manufacturers to thousands of nursing homes to test residents and staff.

Testing “isn’t a ‘get out of jail free card,'” said Dr. Alan Wells, medical director of clinical labs at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and creator of its test for the novel coronavirus. In general, antigen tests can miss up to half the cases that are detected by polymerase chain reaction tests, depending on the population of patients tested, he said.

The White House said the president’s diagnosis was confirmed with a PCR test but declined to say which test delivered his initial result. The White House has been using a new antigen test from Abbott Laboratories to screen its staff for COVID-19, according to two administration officials. 

The test, known as BinaxNOW, received an emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration in August. It produces results in 15 minutes. Yet little is independently known about how effective it is. According to the company, the test is 97% accurate in detecting positives and 98.5% accurate in identifying those without disease. Abbott’s stated performance of its antigen test was based on examining people within seven days of COVID symptoms appearing.

The president and first lady have both had symptoms, according to White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and the first lady’s Twitter account. The president was admitted to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Friday evening “out of an abundance of caution,” White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in a statement.

Vice President Mike Pence is also tested daily for the virus and tested negative, spokesperson Devin O’Malley said Friday, but he did not respond to a follow-up question about which test was used.

Trump heavily promoted another Abbott rapid testing device, the

Protect Your Teeth From Tartar Stains With This Dentist’s Hygiene Tips

The break-up of the UK is coming – but will it be violent or peaceful?

By Charles TurnerBetween 1991 and 1995 two multinational states fell apart. Yugoslavia broke up in a civil war that killed 150,000, while Czechoslovakia broke up peacefully following referendums in both of its constituent parts. Another such state now faces the prospect of doing the same: the United Kingdom. How might it happen? Where does the UK lie on the spectrum where one end is Yugoslavia and the other is Czechoslovakia?If you agree with the late Roger Scruton that we are a “settled people” and think it matters that few people in the UK are into gun ownership, then we are so clearly at the Czechoslovak end that the question is absurd. But it’s worth remembering that in April 1992, with the war over Croatia underway, Bosnian Muslims, Croats and Serbs demonstrated in Sarajevo to tell the world that the same could not happen there. They were wrong, and for the next three years the worst men in Bosnia did what the worst men everywhere do if a train of events happens under the right structural conditions.In Bosnia those conditions included two religious and geopolitical fault lines, one between the Christian and Islamic worlds, the other between the Catholic and the Orthodox Christian worlds. They were not the ‘ancient hatreds’ too many talked about, but they did assert themselves in the way outside states backed one side or the other.Bohemia used to be on a fault line of its own – the Catholic/Protestant one that plunged central Europe into the Thirty Years War. But by 1992 the plates had long stopped rubbing against one another and in any case the Czechs – the most secular people in Europe – had no interest in holding on to poorer and more religious Slovakia.  Referendums in each part showed a majority for separation.The UK has a Catholic/Protestant fault line too. In Northern Ireland it was active for 30 years and killed 3,500 people – equivalent to 200,000 for the UK as a whole. Two decades on from the Good Friday Agreement, the people of Northern Ireland don’t want to revisit that nightmare, which means that if there is a no-deal Brexit and Northern Ireland becomes a smuggler’s paradise in January, a border poll later in the decade may well see both parts of Ireland agree, if not exactly as amicably as Czechs and Slovaks agreed to part, to unite as a new and sovereign member of the European Union.Remarkably, the people of the rest of the UK will have had no say in the matter. Moreover, many of the leading English Brexiters will accept a vote for Irish unity. The Northern Ireland Protocol and the internal market bill are meant to keep NI in the UK for now, but if push comes to shove, they will let it go without a fight.Contrary to the current talk of the British empire and the nostalgia around it, they are not

When Can You Stop Wearing A Face Mask To Protect From COVID-19?

#PandemicLife has been going for what feels like forever (real time: six months), and the whole thing is starting to feel endless. With restrictions on just about every aspect of life and the constant need to wear face masks in public, it’s only natural to wonder when the novel coronavirus pandemic will end. Or, at the very least, when you can stop wearing face masks everywhere.

Sure, you already know that face masks are one of several crucial ways you can help prevent the spread of COVID-19, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO). With more than 200,000 deaths in the U.S. and seven million confirmed cases (and counting!), per Johns Hopkins, strapping on a mask is a pretty small sacrifice to make for the greater good of all. Especially the elderly or immunocompromised among us. But no one is denying that face masks can be uncomfortable, hot, and annoying at times.

So . . . when can you be done with them? Here’s what you need to know about when you might be able to stop wearing a face mask for good:

There’s no hard end date when you can stop wearing a face mask.

To be honest, there’s not even a clear timeline in place. “It’s very difficult to say, considering the number of cases in the world are still increasing,” says Rajeev Fernando, MD, an infectious-disease expert in Southampton, N.Y. “We just have to watch and wait.”

Fernando anticipates that mask wearing will continue “at least through the winter season, but possibly longer.”

Given how common face masks are now, experts expect that they’ll continue to be used even in a post-pandemic world—when we eventually get there.

“There are thousands of respiratory viruses out there, and masks can help protect against them,” Fernando says. “Eventually, it will become good practice to always wear face masks out in public, especially during the winter.”

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The face mask timeline also depends on whether there’s a COVID-19 vaccine.

A good vaccine for COVID-19 needs to be developed before we can stop wearing face masks, says Richard Watkins, MD, an infectious-disease physician in Akron, Ohio, and a professor of internal medicine at the Northeast Ohio Medical University.

Even then, he says, people will need to wait until “the vaccine is widely available and experts think herd immunity has been reached.” (Herd immunity, in case you’re not familiar with it, is a situation where a sufficient enough portion of the population is immune to an infectious disease, through infection or vaccination, to make person-to-person spread unlikely.)

It’s unclear at this point exactly what percentage of the population would need to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to reach herd immunity, Fernando says.

But Watkins doesn’t expect mask mandates to loosen up much before then. “It is

Hydroxychloroquine didn’t protect health care workers from coronavirus, study shows

Another study is warning against President Trump’s debunked coronavirus treatment.

Despite being studied as an early coronavirus treatment, studies have found the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine ineffective and even dangerous when used to fight coronavirus. A study published Wednesday added to that evidence, finding that the drug was ineffective in preventing health care workers from contracting coronavirus.

For the study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania focused on 125 health care workers. Some of them received hydroxychloroquine for eight weeks from April to July, while others got a placebo. Throughout that time, four of the 64 workers who got the drug ended up with COVID-19, while four of the 61 who got the placebo did as well. Six of those who tested positive developed coronavirus symptoms, but none needed to be hospitalized. As a result, the researchers said they “cannot recommend the routine use of hydroxychloroquine” to prevent infections among health care workers.

In June, a clinical trial published in the New England Journal of Medicine also showed hydroxychloroquine wasn’t effective in preventing coronavirus infections after exposure to the virus. The FDA has since removed its emergency use authorization for the drug as a coronavirus treatment, and in July it released a study showing how the drug could cause serious side effects in hospitalized patients.

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