TIME ebola

Male Ebola Survivors Told to Abstain from Sex for Three Months

The Ebola virus can persist in semen for longer than in blood or other body fluids

Men who recover from the Ebola virus should avoid having sex for three months to minimize the risk of transmitting the virus on in their semen, the World Health Organization (WHO) said Friday via Twitter.

WHO also gave a fuller statement on its website, saying that while the sexual transmission of Ebola has not been documented, studies have found that the live virus can remain in semen for up to 82 days after the onset of symptoms.

“Because of the potential to transmit the virus sexually during this time, they should maintain good personal hygiene after masturbation, and either abstain from sex (including oral sex) for three months after onset of symptoms, or use condoms if abstinence is not possible,” according to the statement.

Ebola has infected nearly 16,000 people in the current outbreak, with Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia seeing the most cases. The virus normally spreads via bodily fluids such as blood and saliva.

TIME Research

The Weird Reason Happy Things Make You Cry

No need to be embarrassed the next time you get all worked up

Think back to the one of the happiest moments of your life, say a wedding day or the birth of a child. During these life-changing moments, it’s safe to say you were probably crying. It may feel silly when it happens—especially if you’re someone who often turns into a blubbering mess over a heartwarming viral video. But it turns out crying when you’re happy isn’t so crazy after all: A forthcoming study in the journal Psychological Science found that people who are often reduced to happy tears may actually be better at regulating their emotions.

HEALTH.COM: 3 Reasons Why Crying Is Good for You

The researchers looked at “dimorphous expressions,” which is the technical term for when you’re experiencing one super strong emotion (say, happiness) but showing two expressions at the same time (like laughing and crying). To reach their findings, they asked people to report how they felt after viewing photos of babies, half of whom had their faces manipulated to give them rounder features and bigger eyes—tweaks meant to essentially push the participants past the edge of cute overload.

As expected, the babies with altered characteristics caused the strongest reactions, and more than half of participants said the photos caused them to feel not only happy but downright overwhelmed. But interestingly, many of the people in the overwhelmed group were also more likely to choose aggressive expressions, saying they wanted to pinch their cheeks or “eat them up.” And those people, the ones who used these dimorphous expressions, found it easier to regulate their intense feelings, says lead study author Oriana Aragón, PhD, a psychologist at Yale University.

HEALTH.COM: 12 Ways We Sabotage Our Mental Health

“People who peaked really high after seeing the babies actually got back down better from the experience,” suggesting that two contrasting expressions may be the brain‘s way of bringing you back into equilibrium, Aragón explains.

The researchers also reported that the cheek-pinchers were more likely to say they shed tears during happy moments—like being reunited with a loved one—so the findings may apply to a lot of situations, from laughing when you’re nervous to bawling over that paraplegic veteran who surprised his new wife by standing up for their first dance.

So, no need to be embarrassed the next time you get all worked up, just let it out. You’ll be back to normal in no time.

HEALTH.COM: 22 Ways to Get Happy Now

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

TIME Research

5 Science-Backed Reasons Why Music is Good for You

music
Getty Images

Next time you’re preparing for a work presentation, crank up the Bach

Music is a powerful medium: Not only does it make us want to jump to our feet and “shake it off, shake it off” (thanks Taylor Swift), but soul-stirring tunes also can help us fight through myriad health challenges as well. Here are five great reasons to pump up the jams, and listen with intent:

It can help ease pain

Feeling achy? A study conducted in the journal Frontiers in Psychology found that when fibromyalgia patients were exposed to 10-minutes of music they liked—anything from pop to folk to classical—that was slower than 120 beats per minute, they experienced less pain versus when they listened to pink noise. The participants also saw an increase in their mobility with the music.

HEALTH.COM: 7 Tricks for Instant Calm

It could help you focus

Next time you’re preparing for a work presentation or studying for something, listen to a little Vivaldi or Bach. A 2007 study from the Stanford University School of Medicine found that tuning into music from the late baroque period, leads to changes in the brain (recorded by an fMRI scan) that help with attention and storing events into memory.

It elevates workout performance

We all know that bopping to Beyoncé can be a lifesaver during that cardio kickboxing class, but did you know it could also be the key to successfully sweating through those unbelievably grueling high-intensity interval training (HIIT) sessions, too? Researchers had 20 active adults perform two interval workouts—four, 30-second “all-out” cycling sprints with four minutes of rest in between—one with music and one without. Those who sweated to beats not only found the interval training much more enjoyable, but it also revved them up, making them exercise harder, too.

HEALTH.COM: 10 Mood-Boosting Meals

It cheers you up

As we creep into the colder months, those winter blues have a way of raining on our happiness parade. Luckily, music is a proven spirit saver. According to a 2011 study published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, certain classical tunes caused folks to get the chills, which in turn led to the release of dopamine, a chemical in the brain that can help you feel jollier. To reap this mood-boosting benefit, download “Clair de Lune,” by Claude Debussy, “New World Symphony—Movement 4,” by Antonin Dvorak, and “First Breath After Coma” by Alexander Keats—they have all been scientifically proven to keep you in good cheer.

It can keep you calm

Switching to mellow music during a stressful drive may prevent road rage and even help you drive better, according to a 2013 study in the journal Ergonomics. Researchers found that upbeat music made people happy, but as soon as the drive became demanding, an abrupt dial change to more soothing tunes kept study participants calmer and boosted driving ability better than those who didn’t change the station as quickly.

HEALTH.COM: 12 Worst Habits For Your Mental Health

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

TIME food and drink

Beware of Nutmeg This Thanksgiving

Too much of the spice can make you feel as if you are "encased in mud"

There’s a new threat this holiday season. The New York Times reports that toxicologists have a warning for anyone getting into the spices over Thanksgiving to be extra careful of nutmeg.

The spice has long been noted for its unpleasant side effects when abused or taken in large quantities, thanks to a chemical in it called myristicin, which “belongs to a family of compounds with psychoactive potential.” It seems that the spice has often been used by prison inmates or teenagers who are looking for an accessible high. As little as two tablespoons of nutmeg can cause what the Times describes as “an out-of-body sensation.”

So just what does an overdose of nutmeg feel like? “People have told me that it feels like you are encased in mud,” Dr. Edward Boyer, Professor of Emergency Medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, told the Times. “You’re not exactly comatose, but you feel really sluggish. And your remembrance of events during this time period is incomplete at best.”

Boyer also told the Times that he’d seen two cases of nutmeg poisoning that were so severe, the patients needed to be hospitalized.

There is good news, however, for most nutmeg fans. The amount of spice added to traditional pumpkin pie recipes or sprinkled on egg nog won’t cause any adverse reactions.

[NYT]

TIME Diet/Nutrition

5 Amazing Health Benefits of Cinnamon

cinnamon on a spoon
Getty Images

Now you have health reasons to love the spice, too

Cinnamon is one of my feel-good foods. The scent reminds me of fall, my favorite time of year, and brings back memories of making apple pies with my mom, and celebrating the holidays.

While I’ve always been a fan of its flavor and aroma, as a nutritionist, I’m also thrilled to spread the news about cinnamon’s health benefits. For example, one teaspoon of cinnamon packs as much antioxidant potency as a half cup of blueberries, and cinnamon’s natural antimicrobial properties have been shown to fight strains of E. coli, as well as Candida yeast. Also, while technically not sweet, “sweet spices” like cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger have been shown to boost satiety and mimic sweetness, which allows you to cut back on sugar in nearly anything, from your morning cup of joe to a batch of homemade muffins.

HEALTH.COM: 20 Filling Foods That Help You Lose Weight

Pretty impressive, but that’s not all. Here are five more potential health benefits of spicing things up!

Better heart health

In a recent study from Penn State, researchers found that a diet rich in spices, like cinnamon and turmeric, helped curb the negative effects of downing a fatty meal. After a high-fat meal, levels of fats in your blood known as triglycerides rise, and chronically high triglycerides raise the risk of heart disease. In this small study (in just six overweight but otherwise healthy men between 30 and 65) the results of adding spices were significant. On two separate days, volunteers added two tablespoons of spices, including cinnamon, to a fatty meal, which was tested against an identical control meal without spices. Blood samples drawn after meals revealed that in addition to 13% higher blood antioxidant levels, the spices reduced triglycerides by about 30%.

Blood sugar regulation

In research led by U.S. Department of Agriculture, scientists found that antioxidant-rich cinnamon extract helped reduce risk factors associated with diabetes and heart disease. In the study, 22 obese volunteers with prediabetes were divided randomly into two groups. One was given a placebo, the other a dose of dried water-soluble cinnamon extract twice a day, along with their usual diets. Fasting blood samples collected at the beginning of the study, and after six and 12 weeks revealed that the cinnamon extract improved antioxidant status, and helped reduce blood sugar levels.

HEALTH.COM: 10 Easy Ways to Slash Sugar from Your Diet

Diabetes protection

Cinnamon has been shown to slow stomach emptying, which curbs the sharp rise in blood sugar following meals, and improves the effectiveness, or sensitivity of insulin. A University of Georgia study also found that cinnamon can prevent tissue damage and inflammation caused by high levels of blood sugar. When blood sugar levels are high, sugar bonds with proteins to form compounds called advanced glycation end products, or AGEs. AGEs activate the immune system, which triggers the inflammation and tissue damage associated with aging and diabetes. In the study, researchers found a strong and direct link between the antioxidant content of common herbs and spices, including cinnamon, and their ability to prevent AGEs from forming. This effect also further decrease the risk of heart damage, since AGEs contribute to hardening of the arteries.

HEALTH.COM: 14 Biggest Myths About Type 2 Diabetes

Better brain function

Research shows that just smelling cinnamon enhances cognitive processing, but consuming it significantly ups brain function. Scientists at Wheeling Jesuit University asked volunteers to complete computer-based tasks while chewing no gum, plain gum, or gum flavored with cinnamon, peppermint, or jasmine. Cognitive processing was boosted the most in those given cinnamon, which sped up visual-motor responses and improved attention scores. This aromatic spice may also help the brain heal. One study from scientists at the Agricultural Research Service found that cinnamon extract prevented brain cells from swelling in the ways typically seen after a traumatic brain injury or stroke.

HEALTH.COM: 12 Ways to Improve Your Concentration at Work

Parkinson’s protection

In animal research supported by grants from National Institutes of Health, scientists found that after ground cinnamon is ingested, it’s metabolized into a substance called sodium benzoate, which enters into the brain. In mice with Parkinson’s, the positive effects included neuron protection, normalized levels of neurotransmitters, and improved motor functions.

Plus, 10 ways to use it

To take advantage of cinnamon’s potential benefits, incorporate it into more meals. One of the things I love about this spice is how versatile it is. I use it in both sweet and savory dishes, and I feel like I’m always finding new ways to add it to meals, snacks, and beverages. Here are 10 easy ideas:

  • Sprinkle cinnamon into your coffee, or add it to your coffee grounds before brewing.
  • Add a dash or two of cinnamon to hot oatmeal, overnight oats, or cold whole grain cereal.
  • Fold cinnamon into yogurt, along with cooked, chilled quinoa, fresh cut fruit, and nuts or seeds.
  • Freeze cinnamon in ice cubes to add zest and aroma to water or cocktails.
  • Season roasted or grilled fruit with a sprinkle of cinnamon.
  • Stir cinnamon into almond butter, or any nut or seed butter, and use as a dip for fresh apple or pear wedges or a filling for celery.
  • Add a pinch of cinnamon to lentil or black bean soup, or vegetarian chili.
  • Season roasted cauliflower, sweet potatoes, spaghetti, and butternut squash with a pinch of cinnamon.
  • Sprinkle a little cinnamon onto popped popcorn.
  • Stir a little cinnamon into melted dark chocolate and drizzle over whole nuts to make spicy ‘bark’ or use as a dip or coating for fresh fruit.

NOTE: While cinnamon is healthful, just be sure not to overdo it. Don’t take cinnamon supplements unless they have been prescribed by your physician, and check out this info from the National Library of Medicine about the potential risks for some of consuming too much cinnamon.

Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, is Health’s contributing nutrition editor, and privately counsels clients in New York, Los Angeles, and long distance. Cynthia is currently the sports nutrition consultant to the New York Rangers NHL team and the Tampa Bay Rays MLB team, and is board certified as a specialist in sports dietetics.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

TIME Pakistan

Militants Gun Down Pakistan Health Workers as Polio Crisis Intensifies

Hospital staff stand near the bodies of anti-polio drive campaign workers who were shot by gunmen, at a hospital morgue in Quetta
Hospital staff stand near the bodies of antipolio campaign workers who were shot by gunmen, at a hospital morgue in Quetta, Pakistan, on Nov. 26, 2014 Naseer Ahmed—Reuters

There have been 260 new cases of polio diagnosed in the South Asian nation this year

Public-health workers continue to be gunned down at will by Islamic militants across Pakistan, where ongoing attacks against vaccination teams have hampered the government’s ability to rein in a spiraling polio crisis.

On Wednesday, heavily armed militants in the Baluchistan region capital of Quetta mowed down members of an antipolio campaign, leaving four public-health workers dead and three others injured. Survivors of the ambush chided government officials for failing to provide sufficient security for the team.

“Two men on a motorcycle stopped our car and started shooting. No security arrangements were made,” one of the victims told the Pakistani newspaper Dawn. “We called everyone, but no one came to our rescue.”

The bloody scene in Quetta this week has sadly become all too familiar in conflict-riven Pakistan. On Monday, near the city of Peshawar, gunmen mounted on a motorcycle shot and injured another polio health worker. A Taliban splinter group later claimed responsibility for the attack and issued a statement deriding the polio vaccine as “dangerous to health” and “against Islam,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

The uptick in brazen attacks against health workers has saddled Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s embattled administration with renewed criticism, after he made boisterous promises during his campaign in 2013 to make peace with Taliban forces.

“Such cowardly attacks against our goal of polio-free Pakistan will further strengthen our resolve to stamp this menace out of the country,” Ayesha Raza Farooq, the Pakistani Prime Minister’s focal person on polio eradication, said in a statement on Monday. “I urge the provincial government to take all measures necessary to protect the polio teams and ensure safe conduct of polio campaigns.”

The militants’ suspicion of vaccination programs has been fueled in large part by the bogus hepatitis B campaign crafted by U.S. clandestine officials searching for Osama bin Laden in Pakistan in 2011, which later lead to the dramatic killing of the al-Qaeda chief by Navy Seals.

In 2012, Taliban forces operating in the country’s tribal belt banned polio vaccinations and began openly attacking public-health officials trying to administer inoculations. More than 60 public-health workers have been killed in the country since the declaration.

Since 2012, transmission of the virus has been most intense in the country’s restive Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). But following an offensive launched by the Pakistani military against insurgents in FATA’s North Waziristan in June, close to 1 million people fled the area. As a result of the exodus, the polio epidemic has spread to other parts of Pakistan that had previously been unexposed to the highly contagious virus.

In the onslaught’s wake, public-health officials claim to have vaccinated more than 1 million people in the past few months, including 850,000 children under the age of 10, who were previously inaccessible, according to the Global Polio Initiative. Still, polio continues to spread across the country.

Public-health officials confirmed this week the existence of 260 new polio cases in Pakistan this year — a fourfold increase since the same duration in 2013, according to the New York Times. Pakistan is one of just three countries where polio remains endemic.

TIME ebola

Ebola Cases in Sierra Leone Will ‘Soon Eclipse’ Liberia

Members of the burial team carry a body to his grave at King Tom Cemetery in Freetown, Sierra Leone, on Nov. 19, 2014.
Members of the burial team carry a body to his grave at King Tom Cemetery in Freetown, Sierra Leone, on Nov. 19, 2014. The Washington Post/Getty Images

1,339 cases of the country's 6,599 overall were recorded in three weeks in November

Sierra Leone will “soon” dethrone Liberia as the hardest-hit country in West Africa’s Ebola outbreak, the World Health Organization cautioned Wednesday.

Nearly one-fifth of Sierra Leone’s total cases of Ebola were reported in a three-week period that ended Sunday, according to new figures released by the global health agency. WHO reports that 1,339 of the country’s 6,599 known cases (including 1,398 deaths) were reported in the 21 days prior to Nov. 23.

Six hundred cases were reported throughout the three most-affected countries overall in the past week.

Transmission remains “intense” in Sierra Leone, the assessment states, mostly due to heavy transmission in the western and northern regions. That’s in contrast with Guinea, where more than 2,100 cases (including 1,260 deaths) have been reported, and in Liberia, which is currently the worst-hit, with 3,016 of its 7,168 cases having proven fatal.

The uptick comes after the United Nations recently announced it will not reach its goal of Ebola containment in the three most-impacted nations by Dec. 1.

The U.N. Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER) has deployed personnel and resources to West Africa to control the outbreak. Some experts say more mobile treatment facilities are needed instead of large 100+ bed facilities, since many of the countries’ outbreaks are popping up in regions that are more spread out and hard to reach.

In Sierra Leone, however, the capital of Freetown remains the worst-affected area. Overall, more than 15,935 people have contracted the virus, resulting in at least 5,689 deaths.

TIME Cancer

Scientists Discover a New Way to Predict Blood Cancer

Red blood cells
Getty Images

Scientists may be able to detect cancer risk in the blood much, much earlier

Two different groups of researchers have unintentionally come to the same conclusion: some people have a marker in their blood that signals an increases risk of developing blood cancers like leukemia or lymphoma. Two new studies published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine reveal that certain mutations that are not present at birth but instead develop as a person ages—called somatic mutations—may be indicators for later blood cancers.

According to DNA blood samples collected from healthy people, the researchers were able to show that people with certain somatic mutations in their blood were 10 times as likely than for people without the mutations to develop these rare cancers. Those who carried the mutations had a 5% risk of developing the cancers within five years after having their DNA sampled and tested.

The findings were discovered by researchers at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Harvard Medical School, and Harvard-affiliated hospitals, but not all together. In one study, researchers thought it would be possible to detect these mutations in blood, given the likelihood that getting blood cancers increases with age. They found this to be true, and they also found that the mutations indicated a higher risk for other diseases like type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, and ischemic stroke. The latter findings still need to be confirmed.

The researchers of the second study were initially looking at something completely separate. When they started their study, they were analyzing whether somatic mutations had anything to do with the risk for schizophrenia. But during their research they discovered that the mutations they found were concentrated in specific genes: cancer genes. By following the patients in their study, they discovered a link between the mutations and a high risk for blood cancer.

In a statement, the study authors say having similar findings from both approaches corroborates each others’ findings.

Steven McCarroll, a senior author of the second study and an assistant professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School, says the research is still too early for there to be any clinical benefit for patients.

“I imagine there’s some debate about whether some people might want the information, but today there’s not a way for people to benefit medically from having the information,” McCarroll tells TIME, because there’s no surgery they can undergo or preventive drug they can take. “But, I am hopeful over the next couple of years that a lot of people will start working on this because it will open the door to new strategies for early detection and prevention.”

TIME

Ebola Vaccine Is Safe and Effective, According to First Study

Trials of a vaccine against Ebola show that it is safe and able to trigger an immune response against the virus

In the first results from tests on an experimental Ebola vaccine, researchers at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) report for the first time Wednesday that the shot is safe and that it leads to an immune response among healthy volunteers. The vaccine, developed by the National Institutes of Health and GlaxoSmithKline, was tested in 20 participants in the US at the NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda.

“This tells us that this is kind of a positive signal about moving to the next stage,” says Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of NIAID.

MORE: We’re Getting Closer to Vaccines and Drugs for Ebola

The vaccine is meant to protect uninfected people from Ebola, and, if effective, would be tested next in populations in high-risk areas such as west Africa, where the outbreak is ongoing, to immunize them against the virus. It does not contain live Ebola virus, but does contain snippets of its protein coat, just enough to alert the immune system to produce antibodies and immune cells that can recognize and destroy any live viruses that people might eventually encounter. The pieces of Ebola protein are introduced to the body via another virus, one related to the common cold that infects chimps.

The shot was tested in two doses among 10 people each; it triggered antibodies and immune cells that in primate studies were enough to protect them against a challenge of Ebola up to 10 months later. Whether that’s also the case among people won’t be known until the vaccine is tested among thousands more in west Africa, including health care workers and family members of ill patients, who are most vulnerable to getting exposed to the virus.

Only two people reported brief fevers after getting vaccinated.

MORE: Here’s How the Ebola Vaccine Trial Is Doing

The vaccine is one of two that scientists are preparing to test in the outbreak zone beginning in early 2015. Another candidate uses an entirely different approach involving a live Ebola virus that has been crippled so it can’t reproduce once it infects a person. The advantage to that system is that it might launch a stronger and more robust immune response than the NIAID and GSK shot, which may require a boost after several months to maintain strong immune protection against Ebola. “At the end of the day, you don’t know which is the most effective until you test them, and that’s the point,” says Fauci.

TIME Cancer

U.S. Smoking Rate Hits Historic Low

186025671
Getty Images

And the number of people who say they smoke every day has dropped, too

Cigarette smoking among American adults has hit at an all-time low, health officials said Wednesday.

The percentage of smokers over the age of 18 dropped from 20.9% in 2005 to 17.8% in 2013, according to a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report. That’s the lowest rate of smoking adults since the CDC started tracking the numbers via its National Health Interview Survey in 1965. Over the course of eight years, the number of U.S. smokers dropped from 45.1 million to 42.1 million, the report reveals.

Still, the CDC worries too many Americans still smoke, and a Nov. 13 report from the agency showed that a high number of young people still smoke, putting millions at risk for premature death.

The good news for health officials is that people seem to be cutting back, if not quitting. The number of people who smoke every day has dropped nearly 4% from 2005 to 2013, and the proportion of smokers who smoke only some days has increased. Of course, smoking less habitually still poses tremendous danger for the health.

“Though smokers are smoking fewer cigarettes, cutting back by a few cigarettes a day rather than quitting completely does not produce significant health benefits,” said Brian King, a senior scientific adviser with the CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health, in a statement.

Cigarette smoking continues to be the leading cause of preventable death among Americans, reportedly racks up $289 billion a year in medical costs and productivity loss.

Around 70% of all cigarette smokers want to kick the habit, and if a smoker quits by the time they turn 40, they can gain almost all of the 10 years of life expectancy they lose by smoking.

Americans who want to quit smoking can call 1-800-QUIT-NOW for free counseling and resources, or visit the CDC’s antismoking tips site here.

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser