TIME ebola

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000

Red cross members from Guinea place an Ebola-infected body into a grave in a cemetery now overwhelmed with fresh graves in Gueckedou, Guinea on Oct. 17, 2014.
Red cross members from Guinea place an Ebola-infected body into a grave in a cemetery now overwhelmed with fresh graves in Gueckedou, Guinea on Oct. 17, 2014. Kristin Palitza—DPA /LANDOV

The new figure suggests that the spread of the disease has slowed in West Africa. Just 30 people died from the disease in the past week versus hundreds in prior weeks

Almost 5,000 people have died of Ebola in West Africa, the World Health Organization (WHO) said Friday. More than 13,500 cases have been confirmed since the beginning of the outbreak earlier this year.

The new death figure may indicate that the spread of the deadly disease has slowed. Approximately 30 people died of Ebola in the past week, according to WHO figures. The weekly death toll measured in the hundreds just weeks ago.

The updated figures follow a week of news that seem to suggest that the number of cases of Ebola is on the decline, especially in Liberia. Still, health officials warned earlier this week that much work remains to be done.

“A slight decline in cases in a few days versus getting this thing closed out is a completely different ball game,” said World Health Organization assistant director general Bruce Aylward on a conference call earlier this week. “It’s like saying your pet tiger is under control.”

With a few exceptions, Ebola has been centered in West Africa. All but ten of the Ebola deaths have been in the countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

TIME Exercise/Fitness

Here’s Your New Reason to Demand a Treadmill Desk

keyboard hands
Getty Images

The health benefits of anything-but-sitting

Active workstations do more than just burn on-the-clock calories, finds a new study in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology. Standing desks and treadmill desks might make you healthier while also improving mood and not interfering with work.

Study co-author Michael Sliter, PhD, assistant professor of psychology at Purdue University-Indianapolis, wondered if active workstations were good for anything but caloric expenditure on company time. “That would be of limited value if people actually performed worse, were stressed out when they were doing it, or got bored of it,” he says. So the study assigned 180 people to one of four workstations: a seated desk, standing desk, treadmill desk or cycling desk. After a bit of practice, they did 35 minutes worth of tasks. Researchers measured their performance and how much they liked their workstation in reported levels of boredom, stress, satisfaction and how engaged they were in the task.

MORE: This Hamster Wheel Treadmill Desk Is the Ideal Way to Make Your Coworkers Hate You

“We were able to show that these active workstations have psychological benefits without performance detriment,” says Sliter—for the most part, that is. People at treadmill desks were less bored, less stressed and more satisfied than those at seated, standing or cycling desks. In terms of how well people were able to do their job, everyone performed equally except for the desk cyclists. Turns out, Sisyphean pedaling while whizzing through Excel spreadsheets doesn’t do your work performance or mental health any favors: desk cyclists generally performed worse and were less satisfied, though Sliter says they were probably too uncomfortable to be bored.

“It was kind of funny watching people, because you could actually see their arms moving up and down while they were pedaling,” says Sliter, who walks on his treadmill desk about three hours a day. “We found that you can’t really work very well when you’re also pedaling.”

Being active at work is one way to combat the dreaded sitting-desk syndrome: loads of research shows that seated desks are a ticking time bomb for your health. This new study shows that standing up to sitting at work has more than just physical benefits—it might help your mind, too.

MORE: VIDEO: Walking While Working

TIME ebola

This Might Be Why Some Survive Ebola

A new mice study may help explain Ebola's varying impacts

Scientists in a biosafety level 4 lab have discovered that genetics are likely involved in how susceptible someone is to Ebola, finds a new mice study published in the journal Science.

Why some people survive Ebola and others do not, even when they’re treated in the same conditions, is a question that’s long intrigued researchers. The current outbreak has also revealed that humans show symptoms of the disease differently; a significant number do not present hemorrhagic fever symptoms like heavy diarrhea, vomiting and bleeding before death.

So far, researchers have primarily used monkeys to study the Ebola virus, but in the new study, the researchers discovered that a genetically diverse population of mice had wide variations in their responses and symptoms to the Ebola virus—similar to how humans have reacted. It’s notable because mice very rarely have similar immune responses to humans, which is why discoveries made in mouse models are evaluated skeptically.

When the researchers infected the mice with Ebola, they found that some of the mice survived with mild disease symptoms, some died, and some died with severe hemorrhagic fever symptoms similar to those observed in humans. Researchers Michael G. Katze and Angela L. Rasmussen of the University of Washington also identified a few potential genetic pathways that might differ in mice who survive the disease versus those who die from it. The hope is that these pathways could help researchers develop drugs for the disease.

“We now have a model that represents the human Ebola disease that we could test vaccines in, we could test novel therapeutics in, and we also could start getting information about the genes that are responsible for the resistance to Ebola and the susceptibility to Ebola,” said Katze in a video about the study. Before the researchers can make the leap to developing drugs for humans, they will have to confirm that the pathways also exist in humans and work in the same way. But the new research is a starting point.

The team started studying the progression of the Ebola virus in mice a few years ago, before the current outbreak of Ebola started in West Africa. Only a handful of of scientists work in the few high-security containment labs in the United States. The training, Katze told TIME, is intense and requires psychological testing. “We’ve been studying Ebola for almost a decade. We’ve always been interested in Ebola because it’s a very interesting virus. It’s like the rockstar of viruses,” Katze told TIME in early October.

Read on for more about the scientists’ emerging Ebola research.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

Why Kids Who Eat Junk Food Early Prefer It Later in Life

Half-eaten pizza , Buffalo wings and sodas
Jupiterimages/Getty Images

Early exposure can influence children to prefer those same foods growing up

Children tend to develop poor dietary habits during their first year that stick with them for the rest of their lives, according to a new study, notably those in lower income families.

“Dietary patterns are harder to change later if you ignore the first year, a critical period for the development of taste preferences and the establishment of eating habits,” lead author Xiaozhong Wen, an assistant professor at the University of Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, said in a statement.

Parents from lower income brackets and education levels tend to feed their children formula milk rather than breastfeed in a baby’s first six months, the researchers wrote in Pediatrics after looking at the eating patterns of more than 1,500 infants at six and 12 months old. After the breastfeeding period, those same parents often feed their children foods that are higher in sugar and fat — like candy, ice cream and fries. Alternatively, parents with higher income and better education tend to follow dietary guidelines recommended by doctors.

These habits have repercussions later in life, the study finds, as early exposure to certain types of food can influence children to prefer those same foods as they grow up.

“This is both an opportunity and a challenge,” added Wen. “We have an opportunity to start making dietary changes at the very beginning of life.”

TIME Transportation

How Daylight Saving Time Can Be Dangerous

Beware traffic accidents

When you’re enjoying your extra hour in bed Sunday morning, spare a thought for what that 60 minutes might cost.

While some dislike the seasonal shifts of Daylight Saving Time (DST) for the minor inconvenience to their sleep cycles and busy schedules, there’s a more serious side to the scheme: the loss of an hour of afternoon sunlight when it ends—as it does this weekend—may increase the likelihood of traffic accidents.

“Darkness kills and sunlight saves lives,” said University of Washington Law Professor Steve Calandrillo, who has studied the effectiveness of different DST policies. “The question is ‘when do you want sunlight?'”

For Calandrillo, who advocates for DST to be implemented throughout the year, the answer is simple: more people are active during the evening, including kids, and the additional sunlight that DST provides helps provide drivers with the visibility necessary to see pedestrians. “At 5 pm virtually everyone in society is awake,” he said. “There are far more people asleep at 7 in the morning than at 7 in the evening.”

In addition to leading to poor visibility in darkness, some experts say the requirement for people to abruptly adapt to a time change overnight may lead to dangerous driving. “Even though it’s dark, you’re still behaving like it’s light,” said Lawrence University economist David Gerard, of the first weeks after a time change. People may drive faster, he said, and pedestrians may be less attentive.

Advocates of perpetual DST have some statistics on their side. Adding an hour of sunlight in the evening year-round would save the lives of more than 170 pedestrians annually, according to a 2004 study in Accident Analysis and Prevention. The lives of nearly 200 vehicle occupants would also theoretically be saved by the change.

But despite this data, some child advocacy groups such as the National PTA have argued for more sunlight in the morning hours when children will be traveling to school. In 2005, the group opposed bringing DST forward into March from April. “People who take their kids to school in the morning, they kind of like Daylight Saving Time,” said Gerard. “They can deal with [darkness] at the end of the day, but in the morning it’s tough getting going.”

Both advocates and opponents of DST can agree, however, that better light equals greater safety — which is why some child safety advocates say that communities need to focus on providing better artificial street lighting, regardless of whether it’s used in the morning or evening. “The more visible kids are,” said Margaux Mennesson, a spokesperson for the group Safe Routes to School,”the safer they are.”

TIME ebola

Maine Judge Says Nurse Must Follow Ebola Quarantine for Now

A victory for Kaci Hickox

A judge in Maine rejected the state’s attempt to forcibly quarantine a nurse who has been clashing with officials over her defiance of a voluntary Ebola quarantine on Friday, reversing a court order that briefly mandated she avoid public places and transportation. The nurse still must continue daily temperature monitoring and approve travel with state officials, the judge ordered.

The order came Friday following a temporary order Thursday. The state has been pushing the nurse, Kaci Hickox, to follow quarantine guidelines laid out by federal officials for people at “some risk” of Ebola.

“I’m humbled today by the judge’s decision and even more humbled by the support that we have received from the town, the state of Maine, across the U.S. and even across the globe,” Hickox told reporters. “I know that Ebola is a scary disease. I have seen it face to face. I know that we are nowhere near winning this battle. We’ll only win this battle as we continue this discussion, as we gain a better collective understanding about Ebola and public health, as we overcome the fear and most importantly as we end the outbreak that is still ongoing in West Africa today.”

Maine Gov. Paul LePage described the decision as “unfortunate,” but promised to enforce it.

MORE: The CDC has less power than you think and likes it that way

Hickox, who recently returned from West Africa to Ebola patients suffering from the outbreak that has killed almost 5,000 people, went for a bike ride with her boyfriend Thursday in defiance of Maine’s voluntary quarantine guidelines. District Court Chief Judge Charles LaVerdiere cared for Ebola patients “generously, kindly and with compassion,” CNN reports. “We owe her and all professionals who give of themselves in this way a debt of gratitude,” he wrote in his decision.

Hickox has not shown any symptoms and has tested negative for the disease, which has a 21-day incubation period. She was fiercely critical of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie when she was first quarantined on a state order there before being allowed to return home to Maine, calling it a violation of her human rights. Health advocates have criticized quarantine measures put in place as putting fear over science and potentially hampering efforts to contain the outbreak in West Africa by making it harder for health workers to travel to and from the region.

“I’m fighting for something much more than myself,” Hickox said this week. “There are so many aid workers coming back. It scares me to think how they’re going to be treated and how they’re going to feel.”

TIME Research

12 Key Health Items to Carry Every Day

Purse contents
Getty Images

Toting these essential items in your purse or wallet could save you when a sudden health issue strikes

What’s in your purse, backpack, or pockets? Aside from your keys, wallet, and mobile phone, chances are you’ve got some old receipts and a few dollars worth of loose change—and nothing that would help you if you landed in a health jam. Health emergencies can pop up at any time, so make sure you have these 12 small—but essential—items stowed away in your bag or your desk drawers at work.

Insurance card

This card can be used for more than simply filling out health forms. It’s also an easy way for medics to identify your name and call your insurance company for more information in an emergency. “Your insurance card is the next best thing to your social security card,” says Melisa Lai Becker, MD, site chief of emergency medicine at Cambridge Health Alliance, near Boston. If you can’t find space in your wallet, snap a picture of the front and back and keep them on your smartphone, Dr. Lai Becker suggests. Two others to add: your business card and your doctor’s. The first is another easy way to identify you, while the second hints at what conditions you might have. “If the card is for a cardiologist, then you know the person is seeing someone for a heart issue,” Dr. Lai Becker says.

HEALTH.COM: How to Stock a Smart First Aid Kit

Emergency contacts

In an emergency, medics will want to know who to contact. “Medical personnel are accustomed to looking for ICE under a phone’s contact list,” Dr. Lai Becker says. That stands for “In Case of Emergency” and is usually entered with the phone number of a family member. You can list your medications, allergies, health conditions, and doctor’s name in the note section of the contact too. Keeping a written list isn’t a bad idea since most phones these days are password protected, though the new Health app from Apple will allow you to make an emergency card accessible from the lock screen.

Water

A 2011 study published in The Journal of Nutrition found that women with even mild dehydration experienced headaches, poor concentration, fatigue, and worse moods. So it’s a good idea to have some H2O on you no matter the temperature. “We breathe out water all the time,” Dr. Lai Becker says. “It’s important to keep up lubrication.” Though eight cups a day is the traditional recommendation, there’s an easy way to tell if you’re dehydrated: check your pee. “If you’re turning the water yellow then the urine is too concentrated,” Dr. Lai Becker says. “Your goal is to have a light yellow urine.”

HEALTH.COM: 14 Surprising Reasons You’re Dehydrated

Pain reliever

Headaches pop up at the most inconvenient times. “So many people deal with the pain and don’t do anything,” says Robin Miller, MD, a board-certified internist and co-author of The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife and Beyond. At the end of the day, taking an over-the-counter pain reliever like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help you focus more on work projects or errands. Ibuprofen is also an anti-inflammatory drug, so it’s good for treating backaches, muscle soreness, and menstrual cramps. Acetaminophen is thought to be better for headaches and arthritis. The best time to pop a pill would be as soon as you start to feel pain, Dr. Miller says. Just make sure you’re taking the medication as prescribed, so read the label.

Antacid

Chest pain after a meal is no fun, especially when you’re dining out. If you’re going to a restaurant where the food may flare up your heartburn, it’s safe to have a chewable antacid on you in case. “Take just one when you start to feel something,” Dr. Miller says. Otherwise, you can save it for another day. Tums has the added benefit of giving you extra calcium, Dr. Miller says. The medication’s main ingredient is calcium carbonate, also used as a dietary supplement for people low on the nutrient, according to the National Institutes of Health. Be wary of how much you take though. Too many may lead to a case of diarrhea, Dr. Miller says.

HEALTH.COM: 14 Foods That Fight Heartburn

Bandages

Having a couple bandages on you is useful because there’s always someone looking for one, Dr. Lai Becker says. You never knew when you will get a paper cut or scrape. Not covering your wound up leaves it vulnerable to bacteria you come across throughout the day. If you don’t have access to any antibiotic ointment, that’s fine. With any minor cut, the most important thing is to wash it out with plain tap water, Dr. Lai Becker says. Add soap if there’s oil or grease in your wound and apply pressure for any bleeding.

Tummy reliever

Diarrhea is an all-too-common ailment you need to be ready to handle. The CDC reports that travelers’ diarrhea affects 30% to 50% of vacationers. Luckily, Pepto-Bismol contains an agent shown to reduce the incidence of travelers’ diarrhea by 50%, according to the CDC. Like antacid, it comes in a compact chewable form. “If you’re going to a questionable place to eat, take one before you eat,” Dr. Miller says. Don’t freak out, though, if you get a black tongue or stool. That happens in some people and is normal, Dr. Miller says.

HEALTH.COM: 27 Mistakes Healthy People Make

Tissues

If you do yourself one favor this cold and flu season, carry a set of tissues. “You don’t want to be blowing on your sleeve,” Dr. Miller says. That’s a surefire way to spread germs to your clothing and even infect others. According to the National Institutes of Health, you can catch a cold if your nose, eyes, or mouth touch anything contaminated by the virus. In addition to stocking up on tissues, you should practice proper hand washing too. In a Michigan State University study of college students, researchers found 23% didn’t use soap when washing their hands and—big yikes—10% didn’t wash their hands at all.

Sunscreen

Just because you slather on sunscreen in the morning doesn’t guarantee it will stick all day. Most formulas wear off as you sweat—more so after a workout. “Even rubbing your nose or face can wipe it off,” says Debra Jaliman, MD, a New York City-based dermatologist and author of Skin Rules. You should be reapplying the lotion daily every two hours—yes, even on cloudy days—to protect from cumulative sun damage. That also means little spots like the tops of feet or your ears, Dr. Jaliman says. If you’re not a fan of messy lotion, you can opt for a powder formula or spray sunscreen.

Floss

If you’re already flossing once a day, good job—you’re doing better than 10% of Americans who don’t floss at all, according to the American Dental Association. If you’re going out for a round of wings, though, it doesn’t hurt to have some floss with you. Bits of stray food can sit in your teeth for a while, says Gigi Meinecke, a dentist in Potomac, Maryland, and spokesperson for the Academy of General Dentistry. That can be uncomfortable and lead to more serious problems like an abscess, a tooth infection that can spread to your gums. Don’t want to carry a whole pack? Cut off the corner of a regular mailing envelope and place a little floss inside, Dr. Meinecke suggests. “You can’t carry your brush easily,” she says. “But you can carry floss anywhere.”

HEALTH.COM: 20 Things That Can Ruin Your Smile

Aspirin

A travel pack of aspirin is great to have around if you or someone you know has heart troubles. “It’s one of the first line agents medics will give to someone who calls an ambulance with chest pain,” Dr. Lai Becker says. During a heart attack, your blood vessels can’t supply enough oxygen to the muscle because of a clot that forms and blocks an artery, according to the American Heart Association. “Aspirin works to inhibit the function of the platelets that help people form clots,” Dr. Lai Becker says. As long as you’re not allergic, medics will usually give four baby aspirin to the patient to chew, Dr. Lai Becker says.

Benadryl

Just four melt-away tablets of children’s Benadryl could temper a severe allergic reaction, Dr. Lai Becker says. When someone goes into potentially life-threatening anaphylaxis, the chemical histamine is released in your body. When a large amount of histamines is released, your lips, tongue, face, and airway can swell and you can have trouble breathing, Dr. Lai Becker says. It’s a medical emergency so call 9-1-1, but Benadryl is a powerful antihistamine that can help block the chemical. Giving someone about 50 milligrams of Benadryl could be the start to saving a life, Dr. Lai Becker says. (Chewables are 12. 5 milligrams; liquids are 12.5 milligrams per teaspoon, and capsules may be 25 or 50 milligrams.)

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

TIME ebola

Aid Groups See Fallout From Quarantine Debate

Kaci Hickox, a nurse who arrived in New Jersey on October 24 after treating Ebola patients in West Africa, seen in a hospital quarantine tent in Newark, New Jersey, Oct. 26, 2014.
Kaci Hickox, a nurse who arrived in New Jersey on October 24 after treating Ebola patients in West Africa, seen in a hospital quarantine tent in Newark, New Jersey, Oct. 26, 2014. Reuters

The fight over Ebola quarantines in the United States is already discouraging doctors, nurses and other health workers from signing up to go to Africa and battle the outbreak where help is needed most.

Would-be volunteers are worried about losing three additional weeks of work when they return to the United States, about still-evolving isolation rules and about being holed up in an unfamiliar place, aid organizations say.

They also worry about mistreatment generated by the public fear of Ebola, the organizations say.

“We have seen a big deterrence,” said Margaret…

Read the rest of the story at NBC News

TIME Diet/Nutrition

4 Real Things To Fear On Halloween

Halloween candy
Getty Images

Beware these Halloween health risks

While a good scare has surprising health benefits, Halloween arrives with some health risks. Kids dressed as zombies and teenagers in masks don’t scare you? Here are the real health hazards to fear come Halloween night.

Excessive Candy Consumption

Halloween is the high point of the year for the millions of Americans who love candy. Americans are expected to spend $2.5 billion on candy this Halloween, according to the National Confectioners Association. That money goes straight to the trick-or-treating bags of millions of kids, who collect an average of 3,500 to 7,000 calories on Halloween night, according to University of Alabama at Birmingham public health professor Donna Arnett. It’s hard to say how much of children eat, but the average 13-year-old boy would need to walk more than 100 miles to burn off those candy calories.

Pedestrian Traffic

Halloween is the deadliest day of the year for young pedestrians, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A child pedestrian is four times more likely to die on Halloween than any other day. Many more are injured. Child safety advocate Janette Fennell suggests trick-or-treating in groups and taping reflective tape to costumes to stay safe on the road. As always, pedestrians should cross streets at corners and look carefully before walking.

Drunk Driving

Holidays are often the riskiest days to be on the road, and Halloween is no exception. The last time the holiday fell on a weekend, in 2011, 74 people died in drunk driving incidents, compared to about 27 people on an average day. Because Halloween falls on a Friday this year, your chances of encountering a drunk driver on the road may be especially high. That may not be reason enough to avoid the roads entirely, but watch for drivers that seem out of control. Of course, don’t drink if you need to drive yourself.

Marijuana Candy

It may sound far-fetched, but law enforcement officials in Colorado are warning parents to look out for candy that may be laced with marijuana. So-called edibles are legal in the state for adults over age 21, but local officials fear that young kids may wind up with some of the substance in their trick-or-treat bags. Marijuana-laced candy appears and tastes like other candy, so Denver police recommend that parents toss any candy that isn’t clearly packaged from a recognizable brand.

MORE: This Is What Pot Does To The Teenage Brain

TIME Diet/Nutrition

Here’s Another Reason to Try the Mediterranean Diet

Mediterranean diet
Getty Images

Bring on the nuts and veggies

The Mediterranean diet, high in vegetables, nuts and healthy fats like olive oil, has once again proven itself worthy of our plates.

People who maintained a version of the Mediterranean diet had a 50% lower risk of developing chronic kidney disease and a 42% lower risk of rapid kidney function decline, according to a new study published in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology. Over about seven years, researchers scored 900 participants’ diets on a scale based on how closely their eating habits resembled the Mediterranean diet. They found that every one-point increase in Mediterranean diet score was linked to a 17% decrease in their likelihood of developing chronic kidney disease—a disease that afflicts around 20 million Americans.

Though the researchers are not entirely certain why the Mediterranean diet is successful in warding off kidney disease, they believe it might have to do with the diet’s effects on inflammation in the kidney cells and the lining inside the heart and blood vessels. Past research has shown that the Mediterranean diet has positive effects on inflammation and blood pressure, which in turn benefits the kidneys.

The Mediterranean diet has been shown consistently to benefit the body; studies suggest it can keep you healthy in old age, ward off memory loss, fight diabetes, and lower risk of heart attacks, stroke, and childhood asthma. Of course, no diet is a cure-all, especially if it’s not accompanied by other healthy behaviors like exercising, drinking in moderation, and avoiding smoking. Still, the Mediterranean diet is certainly a good place to start.

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