TIME Healthcare

Need Your Flu Shot? Just Call an Uber

Uber Taxi App In Madrid
In this photo illustration the new smart phone taxi app 'Uber' shows how to select a pick up location next to a taxi lane on October 14, 2014 in Madrid, Spain. Pablo Blazquez Dominguez—Getty Images

The one-day program is available in three U.S. cities

Uber on Thursday launched a one-day pilot program to deliver free flu shots and flu prevention packs in three major U.S. cities.

The UberHEALTH service will be available only Thursday in Boston, New York and Washington, D.C., between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. ET, according to Uber’s blog. The service can be requested while ordering a ride on the Uber app, after which a registered nurse will administer flu shots and distribute materials for up to 10 people at no additional cost.

The free flu shot service, which is a partner project with Vaccine Finder, is only the latest of Uber’s limited time specials. Uber has previously rolled out delivery services for air conditioners and diapers, and even its own Optimus Prime.

 

TIME Diet/Nutrition

Here’s the Good-Bad News About Trans Fats

trans fat apple pie
Getty Images

We still need to slash trans fat consumption, a new study finds

We’re eating less trans fat than we did 30 years ago, but we haven’t cut it by enough. A new study in The Journal of the American Heart Association analyzed the types of fat 12,000 adults were eating through six surveys that were part of the Minnesota Health Survey.

Between 1980-2009, both men and women slashed their trans fat consumption by about a third—32% and 35%, respectively. That’s encouraging, but the study also found that 1.9% of men’s daily calories come from trans fat, while 1.7% of women’s calories do. Per American Heart Association guidelines, that number should be much smaller: no more than 1% of daily calories.

Saturated fat dropped too, but people still eat about twice as much as the American Heart Association thinks is healthy. Omega-3 intake didn’t change much, and the group thinks it should be higher.

That makes for a mixed report card on fat, and another recent study found that we eat way more trans fat than we think. It lurks in all kinds of packaged foods—even in the labels that read “0 grams of trans fat”—and is linked to a higher risk of heart disease. Last year, the FDA declared that it’s considering revoking trans fat’s classification as “generally recognized as safe,” or GRAS.

To steer clear of added trans fat, check ingredient labels for words like “partially hydrogenated oil.” Even a little goes a long way toward 1% of your daily calories.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

Should I Eat Cheese?

Welcome to Should I Eat This?—our weekly poll of five experts who answer nutrition questions that gnaw at you.

should i eat cheese
Illustration by Lon Tweeten for TIME

4/5 experts say yes.

Science types are a rational folk. But dangle a block of cheese in front of them and, nutrition be damned, taste comes first.

“Good bread, good cheese, and good wine? The best,” says Dr. David Katz, MD, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center. “And frankly, pleasure is good for health.”

Meanwhile, Chuck Benbrook, research professor at Washington State University’s Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources, also gives cheese the thumb’s up—but with a caveat. He’s the author of several studies about dairy, including one from 2013 that found organic dairy has 62% more healthy omega-3s than conventional milk, partly due to the cow’s diet of fresh grass. Now, he’s a convert. “Pasture grasses and legumes provide milk cows with the building blocks for health-promoting omega-3 fatty acids, as well as the rich, earthy flavor in grass-fed whole milk,” he says. And he only eats full-fat cheese (so there’s your scientific blessing to skip the skim stuff).

Speaking of fat, there might be something unique about the kind that comes from dairy. Recent research linked French Canadians’ dairy consumption to better metabolic health. The study author Iwona Rudkowska, a researcher at the CHU de Québec Research Center, points out that dairy contains a fatty acid has been shown to have health-promoting effects on metabolic health, including diabetes, she says.

Cheese—well, the fat in cheese—even helps our bodies absorb more nutrients during digestion, says Sylvie Turgeon, researcher and professor in the food science department at Université Laval in Québec. (The Québecois, it seems, really love their fromage.)

But in the health department, cheese gets a demerit from Katz. “In addition to be highly concentrated in calories and saturated fat, cheese tends to be very high in sodium,” says Katz. “It’s a good protein source, but there are better ones that don’t have such baggage.”

Registered dietitian Lindsay Malone, from the Cleveland Clinic, agrees. “A better way to spice up your salad, sandwich or snack,” she says, is “nuts, nut butters or avocados.”

If the thought of a grilled-nut-butter-sandwich gets you down, don’t despair. You can—and probably should—eat cheese sparingly for its protein, calcium and vitamin D, Malone says. Two slices of Swiss pack 44% of your daily calcium and 15 grams of protein.

The results are clear: even nutrition buffs go weak in the knees for cheese.

Read next: Should I Eat Eggs?

TIME ebola

How Worried Are You About Ebola?

As the Ebola epidemic continues in West Africa, the U.S. and other countries could also see cases of the disease in coming weeks and months.

Tell us how you feel about the U.S.’s efforts to contain Ebola in this 10 question survey, and see how other responders rate the country’s preparedness.

TIME Research

6 Medical Breakthroughs That Matter

Medical research
Getty Images

Including an alternative cancer treatment

It’s not every day that you catch wind of a true health game changer. That’s because research is more often than not a long, slow process of trial and error, and for every bright idea there are a bunch that don’t pan out. Luckily, this year brought plenty of major steps forward, including a new cure for a deadly disease and innovative gadgets that zap your migraines. Here are the developments making a difference right now.

New tech for migraine pain

Technology is opening up a new route to much-needed headache helpers. “Current drugs just don’t do the trick for many people,” says John Delfino, MD, a headache specialist at NYU Langone Medical Center. But the FDA recently approved two gadgets for migraines: Cefaly, a band that’s worn across your forehead for 20 minutes daily, and SpringTMS, a device you hold to the back of your head at the onset of pain. Both work by stimulating certain nerves deep in the head, using electrical signals (in the case of Cefaly) or magnetic energy (for the SpringTMS). There’s also new hope for debilitating cluster headaches in the form of an electrode that’s implanted behind the jaw and controlled by a remote. In the initial trial, 68% reported relief when they turned on the electrode during a headache, and of that group, over 80% had fewer episodes.

HEALTH.COM: 18 Signs You’re Having a Migraine

A watch that tracks your health

Say good-bye to your current fit tracker: The Apple Watch, when used with your iPhone, can log your steps and even your heart rate, giving you more feedback in one gizmo than ever. (Oh, and you can ask Siri for directions during your runs.) Available early next year, the watch will sync with the Health iPhone app, which you can get now. You can use Health to import your calorie, sleep, and fitness data from apps you already use, like Nike+.

An alternative cancer treatment

Everyone knows the storied side effects of chemotherapy: hair loss, diarrhea and more. That’s because chemo drugs destroy cells that multiply quickly, whether they’re cancerous or healthy. But scientists are finally finding success with a more selective approach: immunotherapy. These treatments harness your body’s natural defenses to beat cancer back. “What we’ve discovered is that cancer cells evade your immune system by putting it into overdrive, causing it to tire out and give up. The new drugs interrupt the cycle so your body can fight,” explains J. Leonard Lichtenfeld, MD, deputy chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society. The results so far have been staggering: “It’s not an overstatement to say this is a turning point in cancer research, especially for patients with melanoma,” Dr. Lichtenfeld says. Treatments for cancers of the kidney, lung and pancreas could be up next.

HEALTH.COM: 15 Worst Things to Say to a Cancer Patient

A real cure for Hep C

Usually symptomless, hepatitis C kills 15,000 Americans a year. Until now, treatment helped a mere 30 to 40% of people with the virus, which is passed via infected blood and can lead to liver failure and liver cancer. But in December 2013, the FDA approved Sovaldi (sofosbuvir), a pill that cures up to 90% of hep C patients when used with another new drug, simeprevir. “Before, it was like fighting a war with flyswatters, but now the big guns have arrived,” says Douglas Dieterich, MD, professor of medicine in the division of liver disease at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, who also was involved in clinical trials of Sovaldi. More help is expected to be FDA-approved soon: ledipasvir, combined with sofosbuvir, for one form of hep C known as genotype 1, as well as a three-drug cocktail that has cured 90% of people treated with it.

HEALTH.COM: 8 Things You Didn’t Know About Hepatitis

A smarter pregnancy test

An upgraded pee stick from Clearblue not only tells you if you’re pregnant but also gives you an idea of how far along you might be, via an extra strip that measures the concentration (not just the presence) of human chorionic gonadotropin in your urine. “It doesn’t beat the tests your doctor will run. But it could help women with irregular periods (caused by, say, breast-feeding or polycystic ovary syndrome) begin prenatal care on time,” says Pamela Berens, MD, professor of ob-gyn at the University of Texas Health Science Center.

A new way to fight breast cancer

Women with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), an abnormality that can become invasive breast cancer, or a strong family history of the disease are often prescribed tamoxifen to prevent it. “But many women won’t even start taking it, because they’ve heard of side effects like hot flashes and blood clots,” says Seema Khan, MD, of Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. To see if there might be a better way, Dr. Khan prescribed tamoxifen in the form of either a pill or a gel applied to the breast to 26 women awaiting surgery for DCIS. Women who used the gel showed the same decrease in abnormal cell growth as the pill group—and they had no increase in blood markers linked to clots and other symptoms. The availability of the gel is still a few years away, but Dr. Khan says a topical gel might work for other drugs as well, suggesting that this is one discovery that could lead to many more.

HEALTH.COM: 12 Things That (Probably) DON’T Cause Breast Cancer

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

TIME Research

Aluminum May Reduce Sperm Count According to a New Study

The study, conducted jointly by researchers from France and the U.K., analyzed semen samples from 62 donors

Aluminum may be a major contributor to male infertility and reduced sperm counts, according to a new study released on Monday.

The study, published in the journal Reproductive Toxicology and conducted jointly by researchers at Keele University in the U.K. and the universities of Lyon and St.-Étienne in France, analyzed the sperm of 62 donors at a French clinic using fluorescence microscopy with an aluminum-specific stain. The researchers not only confirmed that semen does contain aluminum, but found that the sperm count is lowered as its aluminum content increases.

Professor Christopher Exley, an expert on human exposure to aluminum and the lead researcher in the study, said that endocrine disruptors and other environmental factors are generally blamed for the decline in male fertility that has been taking place over the past several decades.

“Human exposure to aluminum has increased significantly over the same time period and our observation of significant contamination of male semen by aluminum must implicate aluminum as a potential contributor to these changes in reproductive fertility,” he said.

TIME ebola

Connecticut Quarantines 9 People for Possible Ebola Exposure

Electron micrograph of Ebola virus
NIAID/EPA

None of them are showing symptoms of illness, but are being monitored as a precautionary measure

Nine people in Connecticut who could have been exposed to Ebola have been ordered to stay home for 21 days, the state’s Public Health Department said on Wednesday.

The people being watched by state health authorities are not showing symptoms of illness, but are being monitored as a precautionary measure, the Connecticut Mirror reports.

The quarantined people include three Yale University students, and all the others are from one family, the New York Times says. The people also include recent visitors to West Africa.

The home quarantines are the first use of the state’s toughened measures to keep Ebola at bay, after Governor Dannel Malloy declared a public-health emergency in the state and reserved the right to impose 21-day quarantines with twice daily temperature checks on at-risk individuals.

U.S. political and health officials are seeking to contain Ebola through state-ordered quarantines, after two Dallas nurses who treated an Ebola patient contracted the disease and illustrated its potential to leapfrog through the U.S., if not controlled. A quarantine in Texas for dozens of people possibly exposed to Ebola ended this week with all declared virus-free.

Federal health officials also said Wednesday that travelers from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, who arrive in the U.S. through six states, will, as of next week, be ordered to communicate daily with health authorities for 21 days about their condition.

[The Connecticut Mirror]

Read next: How Ebola Hysteria Could Help Contain Flu Season

TIME ebola

Here’s What Would Happen if Ebola Was Stolen From a Lab

Biohazard sticker on laboratory window
Adam Gault—OJO Images RF/Getty Images

The virus is considered a bioterrorism agent. But massive fines, jail time and a risk of deadly exposure may be enough of a deterrent

Scientists routinely study deadly pathogens like Ebola in order to find ways to fight them and discover potential cures. But what would happen if a sample of Ebola was taken from a lab illegally?

Under federal regulations, Ebola is considered a “select agent and toxin” that has the “potential to pose a severe threat to public health and safety,” and it’s illegal to possess, use or transfer a deadly pathogen to another individual without a certificate from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, says John Kraemer, an expert on infectious diseases and the law at Georgetown University’s Department of Health Systems Administration. Obtaining that certificate requires meeting a set of biosafety and biosecurity requirements. And the penalties for failing to do so can be steep.

The government has levied fines of hundreds of thousands of dollars to laboratories that have violated the select agent regulations. In 2008, HHS docked Texas A&M University $1 million for safety violations at its biodefense lab. Individuals who steal a disease sample could face similarly steep fines and time behind bars. Under federal law, HHS can fine a person up to $250,000 for each violation and can recommend imprisonment of up to five years.

But there is an additional layer of sensitivity to handling Ebola. The CDC considers viral hemorrhagic fevers, which includes Ebola, a Category A bioterrorism agent. And since 2001, several bioterrorism laws have strengthened criminal penalties against those who attempt to commandeer them. The Patriot Act in 2001 created a provision banning the transfer of a select agent like Ebola, and the Bioterrorism Act of 2002 gave more authority to the HHS to regulate those agents and diseases.

In September, the Obama administration issued new regulations for federally funded labs that work with contagious diseases like Ebola. Some researchers have criticized the guidelines as not being strong enough over fears that the pathogens, which are often made stronger in a lab, could potentially be used as bioweapons.

Kraemer says two scenarios could likely play out if Ebola samples fell into the wrong hands. If a researcher acquired Ebola for misguided research, for example, then they would likely get fined by HHS and could be sentenced to five years in prison.

“If however someone broke into a hospital to steal Ebola for some other reason, it’d be at least 10 years,” Kraemer says. “If someone acquires Ebola with an intent to weaponize it, then they can get life in prison. And, of course, if you actually use Ebola as a weapon, you can be prosecuted under federal anti-terrorism laws, with penalties up to the death penalty.”

Given the security required at labs authorized to handle potential biological weapons, as well as the risk that someone stealing a pathogen may also become infected by it, those latter scenarios are highly unlikely.

“Stealing an Ebola sample would be extremely dangerous because the thief would face a significant risk of exposure,” says Robert Field, a professor of law at Drexel University. “Other pathogens would be safer to steal because protection is easier.”

Like, for instance, anthrax.

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