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Tackling Autumn’s Frightfest



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It’s October, and we are rapidly heading toward the end-of-the-month scarefest — Halloween. But we’ve got plenty of other issues to spook us this month, if we let them.

An eye-opening number of young people are being felled by lung problems attributed to vaping. More than 1,200 incidents of breathing issues in young, otherwise healthy patients have been reported nationwide, as of early October, with more than two dozen deaths occurring. Current thinking is that street products containing THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) oils or other additives for vaping devices are at the root of this breathtaking epidemic. The CDC suggests “refraining from using e-cigarette, or vaping products…” so long as this outbreak is under investigation.

With no vaccine or select treatment currently available, reports of Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), carried by infected mosquitoes, is sending shivers up the spine: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns that one-third of those infected with EEE will die — and not all fully recover.

We are equally conscious of tickborne diseases. Not just a warm weather issue, black legged deer ticks, of which 50 percent are suspected of carrying Lyme bacteria, are active until temperatures dip below freezing. There are 30,000 cases of Lyme Disease alone reported in the US every year.

Take heart: using an EPA-registered insect repellent keeps ticks and mosquitoes at bay. Long sleeved shirts and long pants protect young and old, and clothing can be treated with .5 percent permethrin; and keep baby’s stroller covered. Get rid of standing water to control the mosquito population.

Pink everywhere reminds us that October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. The National Breast Cancer Foundation Inc reports one in eight women in the US will develop breast cancer in a lifetime, and nearly 42,000 women will die from breast cancer in the US this year. The statistics are frightening. Mens’ hair should also stand on end: more than 2,500 American men will get breast cancer, with a death rate of around 500.

The good news is, the decline in use of Hormone Replacement Therapy has resulted in a reduction of breast cancer in women 50-plus; early detection plus better screening and treatment mean 62 percent of breast cancers are diagnosed early enough for a five-year survival rate of 99 percent. Monthly self-exams and scheduled mammograms are a pathway to early detection.

These are things over which we have some control, unlike the scariest thing this month — an attitude of hate promoted through a video depicting a faux-Trump character shooting politicians and journalists. Shown at a pro-Trump group meeting last weekend, it has the power to ramp up fear. That the President has condemned the video is of little comfort. Promoting violence against media has more dangerous implications than any other thing the month of October could scare up. Hate makes Halloween look pretty wimpy and is as much a threat to livelihood as any health or environmental hazard.

It’s a frightfest, for sure, but being proactive, knowledgable, and supportive will ensure we all live our lives to the fullest.

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