TIME Food & Drink

Blue Bell Creameries Issues Recall of All Products

Blue Bell ice cream in Lawrence, Kan., Friday, April 10, 2015
Orlin Wagner—AP Blue Bell ice cream in Lawrence, Kans., on April 10, 2015

Blue Bell Creameries is recalling all of its products, thanks to a listeriosis scare

(BRENHAM, Texas) — Texas-based Blue Bell Creameries issued a voluntary recall Monday night for all of its products on the market after two samples of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream tested positive for listeriosis.

The company “can’t say with certainty” how the bacteria was introduced to the manufacturing line, Blue Bell’s chief executive Paul Kruse said in a statement.

“We’re committed to doing the 100 percent right thing, and the best way to do that is to take all of our products off the market until we can be confident that they are all safe,” Kruse said.

The first recall in the family-owned creamery’s 108-year history was issued last month after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention linked ice cream contaminated with listeriosis to three deaths at a Kansas hospital. Five others in Kansas and Texas were sickened with the disease.

The foodborne illness was tracked to a production line in Brenham, Texas, and later to a second line in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma.

The recall extends to retail outlets in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Wyoming and international locations.

A manufacturing facility in Oklahoma where operations were suspended earlier this month for sanitizing will remain closed as Blue Bell continues to investigate the source of the bacteria, the statement said.

Blue Bell is also implementing a process to test all of its products before releasing them to the market.

TIME public health

California Measles Outbreak Is Over, Health Officials Say

No new cases related to the outbreak have been reported in 42 days

A measles outbreak that infected 131 Californians has ended, the state’s Department of Public Health said Friday.

The outbreak, which began in December at Disneyland, infected people ranging from 6 weeks to 70 years old, sending 19% of them to the hospital. No new cases related to the outbreak have been reported in 42 days, officials said.

“Having this measles outbreak behind us is a significant accomplishment,” Gil Chavez, California’s state epidemiologist, said during a press call. “Measles can be very serious with devastating consequences.”

Health officials believe a tourist brought measles to Disney’s Anaheim, Calif. theme parks in December, eventually infecting 42 people at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure. The disease then spread to a number of students, teachers, health care workers and other Californians. No deaths were reported.

At least 56 of the people who contracted measles during the outbreak had not been vaccinated, according to Chavez (the vaccination status of 38% of those who were infected is unknown). He encouraged unvaccinated people to get the measles vaccine “to protect themselves, to protect their loved ones and to protect the community at large.”

TIME Environment

North America May Have to Live With Bird Flu For a ‘Few Years,’ Says Top USDA Vet

A flock of turkeys at a Minnesota poultry farm
Bethany Hahn—AP A flock of turkeys at a Minnesota poultry farm

No quick end to the outbreak

A leading agriculture official has forecast that North America’s bird flu outbreak could last for some time.

“It’s something in North America that we may have to live with for a few years,” the USDA’s chief veterinary officer John Clifford told lawmakers in Minnesota.

The state is the area of the U.S. hardest hit by the disease, detecting bird flu on 26 turkey farms. Bird flu has also been found in Wisconsin, South Dakota and others.

A Minnesota House committee voted unanimously Thursday to allocate nearly $900,000 to help combat bird flu, which has afflicted 1.6 million turkeys in the state and become an economic blight for its almost $1 billion turkey industry.

No cases of human infections have been reported so far.

TIME public health

Not All Birth Control Covered by Insurance Companies Under Obamacare

Woman taking birth controll pill
Frank May—picture-alliance/dpa/AP

A new study from the Kaiser Family Foundation finds not all birth control is covered without costs or copays, including some IUDs and emergency contraceptives

Most health insurance companies are offering the free birth control required under the Affordable Care Act, but gaps still remain, according to a new report.

The Kaiser Family Foundation examined 20 health insurance providers in five states and found women are still paying some contraceptives, including vaginal rings, patches and implants.

The free birth control requirement is both a key and controversial piece of President Obama’s signature health law, seen as one of the many ways the law helps lower health costs for women. The report found that while many insurance carriers in California, Georgia, Michigan, New Jersey and Texas are covering contraceptives cost-free, some do not fully cover Depo-Provera shots, the OrthoEvra patch, certain types of intrauterine devices or IUDs, and emergency contraception.

Without coverage, the contraceptives can be expensive. An IUD, for example, costs up to $1,000—which means that without insurance coverage, one of the most effective forms of birth control is unavailable to some of the women who want to use it.

“We encourage the administration to provide guidance and clarity to insurance companies to ensure all women can access the birth control methods that work for them without cost barriers, as the law intended,” Cecile Richards, the president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement.

The Kaiser report notes that insurance carriers are permitted to limit the forms of birth control they cover under Obamacare, but the companies should still offer leeway to consumers who have a medical need for certain devices, the report found.

The report also found that despite the widespread attention to the effect the contraceptive mandate would have on religious institutions that oppose birth control, few groups have applied for a religious exception to the law.

Read more: Why You’re Still Paying for Birth Control Even Though It’s ‘Free’ Now

TIME Healthcare

20 Ways to Stop Allergies

woman-blowing-nose
Getty Images

From dust mites to pet dander, here's how to tackle annoying allergens

It’s like a scene from a low-budget horror flick: the trees are blooming, the grass is growing…and runny-nosed zombies are invading the planet! Seasonal allergies are here, but if you’re one of the sniffly multitudes, you may have noticed that the “allergy season” can span most of the year (and that symptoms may flare right before your period).

Here’s your best defense—from least to most invasive, medically speaking. Try the first few and you may not need to hit the pharmacy at all.

Tree pollens, grasses, and weeds

Your symptoms surfaced as early as February, when trees started blooming. Right now, it’s grasses that are making you miserable (they will through late summer). Weeds will keep you wheezing through fall.

1. Police pollen

Click on the National Allergy Bureau’s website for a daily ranking of allergens, including seasonal tree pollens, grasses, weeds, and outdoor molds. Stay indoors when levels are high or very high for those that you’re sensitive to.

2. Wear a mask

If you must finish that gardening before the in-laws show up, don a not-so-chic but très useful N95 filter mask ($17 for 20; drugstore.com), which keeps pollen out of your nose and mouth.

3. Wash your hair at night

Rinse the pollen out, especially if you’re a gel or mousse fan. These products can trap pollen.

Read more: 14 Reasons You’re Always Tired

4. Soak up the calm

In one study, seasonal allergy (hay fever) sufferers had a more extreme reaction the day after performing a stressful task, such as giving a speech.

“Stress raises levels of the hormone cortisol,” says Clifford Bassett, MD, an allergist at New York University Medical Center, and that often leads to an amped-up allergic response.

A few minutes of meditation or a soak in the tub should help.

5. Keep your nose clean

“Your nose is like a car windshield—pollen sticks to it,” says Neil Kao, MD, an allergist at the Allergic Disease and Asthma Center, in Greenville, S.C.

Try a saline sinus rinse (amazon.com), found at any drugstore.

If that doesn’t do it, buy the nonprescription herbal nasal spray NasalCrom (cromolyn sodium), which helps prevent allergic reactions in your nose.

6. Take an antihistamine

There have never been more over-the-counter antihistamine options.

You may be able to find relief with 10 milligrams of cetirizine (Zyrtec) once a day.

If those don’t work, ask your doctor for a prescription antihistamine such as fexofanadine (Allegra, but also available as a generic) or levocetirizine dihydrochloride (Xyzal).

7. Try the sprays

If nasal washes and antihistamines don’t work for you, up the ante with a prescription steroid spray like Flonase, but you can skip decongestants; Dr. Kao says they don’t work for allergies and may worsen your congestion after several days of use.

Read more: 25 Ways to Allergy-Proof Your Home

Dust mites

Dust mites thrive in homes that are warmer than 70 degrees and have a humidity above 50 percent. Here’s how to beat them.

8. Cool (and dry) it Keeping your home temp in the mid to low 60s and the humidity between 40% and 45% should send them packing.

Buy a home hygrometer ($10; amazon.com) to measure humidity levels.

9. Use barriers

To fight dust mites, look for mattress and pillow encasements at stores like Target, as well as online retailers like AllergyBuyersClub.com; costs range from $50 to $150 for bedding made from organic cotton.

10. Boil your bedding

Not literally, but you should wash your sheets and pillowcases weekly in water that’s at least 140 degrees; a study in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology found that this temperature wiped out all dust mites.

11. Outsource housekeeping

This won’t take much arm-twisting, will it?

Vacuuming and sweeping stir up dust mites and their droppings, which can take more than two hours to settle.

If you can’t hire someone else to clean your house while you’re away, invest in a vacuum cleaner with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter, like the Eureka Boss SmartVac ($150; target.com)—and wear a trusty filter mask.

Read more: 11 Unexpected Spring Allergy Triggers

12. Try acupuncture

At least one study and lots of anecdotal evidence suggest it can help.

“I’ve seen amazing results in my allergic patients,” says Roberta Lee, MD, vice chair of the Department of Integrative Medicine at the Beth Israel Medical Center, in New York City.

She thinks acupuncture may decrease stress hormones, which can reduce inflammation. A session usually costs $100 to $150; ask your insurance company if some or all of that is covered.

13. Indoor mold

Mold thrives in warmer, more humid weather. Don’t assume it’s not there just because you can’t see it: Mold can hide under carpets, in walls, or anywhere. Here’s how to beat it.

14. Bleach it

A 5% bleach solution and a rag or sponge can zap small mold problems.

If you’ve got a very large moldy area (more than 10 square feet), consider hiring a mold-cleanup crew. Find one at the Indoor Air Quality Association.

15. Dry up rooms

Put an exhaust fan in bathrooms and laundry rooms, and a dehumidifier in unfinished basements.

Read more: A Sleep Meditation for a Restful Night

16. Get HEPA

Filters, that is. Ideally, you want a central air-conditioning system with a HEPA filter attached.

If you don’t have central air, try free-standing air cleaners in key rooms such as the bedroom.

Change the filters at least every three months and have your heating and air-conditioning units inspected (and cleaned, if necessary) every six.

Pet dander

If you’re set off by pets, you may be allergic to proteins found in the animal’s saliva, dander (dead skin flakes), and urine. And all furry pets carry these proteins; studies suggest hypoallergenic cats and dogs can cause just as many symptoms as the regular kind. Here are better steps you can take if you can’t bear to part with Rover or Frisky.

17. Ban him from the bedroom

Just keeping pets out (or better yet, away from your upstairs entirely) can help relieve your symptoms.

18. Cut the rug

Consider replacing wall-to-wall carpeting with hardwood floors, tile, or linoleum, which won’t trap dander.

19. Get him groomed

Your pet that is. Ask your nonallergic partner or child to comb him every day, preferably outside, with a comb dipped in distilled water, which traps dander.

And a weekly bath (more often will dry his skin, making the dander problem worse) is a must.

20. Get shot

Immunotherapy has about an 85% effectiveness rate in decreasing allergic symptoms, including those triggered by animal proteins.

You get one to two weekly shots to expose you to very small doses of the allergen, and the dose is gradually increased over about six months.

You’ll need maintenance shots about once a month for three to five years.

Read more: 10 Ways to Soothe a Sore Throat

Could it be something else?

Do you have a runny, stuffy nose that just won’t quit? If dust-proofing your house and taking antihistamines don’t make you feel better, you may have a condition called chronic nonallergic rhinitis, a swelling of your nasal lining and passages that leaves you congested and drippy.

“Unlike your usual allergies, you don’t have an itchy nose, eyes, or throat, and you don’t respond to allergy medications,” explains Dr. Bassett.

Try eliminating irritants like strong odors (think perfume or household cleaners). Saline nasal sprays and rinses often bring relief, but if they don’t work, ask your doctor for a steroid nasal spray.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

TIME toxins

Blue Bell Expands Ice Cream Recall

A Blue Bell Cotton Candy Bar.
AP A Blue Bell Cotton Candy Bar.

Blue Bell ice cream contaminated with listeria has been linked to three deaths at a Kansas hospital this year

Blue Bell Creameries is expanding its recall of products made at its Broken Arrow, Okla. plant after additional products tested positive for bacteria known to be a leading cause of deadly food poisoning, the company announced Tuesday.

The recall expansion includes the company’s banana pudding ice cream and a host of other products manufactured on the same equipment.

Blue Bell ice cream contaminated with listeria, a food-borne bacteria that sickens 1,600 people in the United States annually, has been linked to three deaths at a Kansas hospital this year. The sick, elderly and young are particularly vulnerable to the bacteria, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Read More: How Ice Cream Gets Contaminated—and Sometimes Kills

TIME public health

White House Says Climate Change Threatens Public Health

'This is not just a future threat, this is a present threat'

Extreme heat and increased asthma attacks due to pollution and smog are among the consequences of climate change that pose a danger to public health, the White House said Tuesday. The Obama administration will partners with medical schools and private partners like Microsoft, among other initiatives, to address the issue.

“This is not just a future threat, this is a present threat,” said Brian Deese, the president’s senior climate change advisor, on a conference call. “The challenges we face are real and they are clear and present in people’s daily lives.”

Tuesday’s announcement came part of a week-long effort by the President to draw attention to the public health implications of climate change, Deese said. Among the new initiatives announced is an effort from Microsoft to use drones to collect data and eventually build an early warning system for infectious disease outbreaks.

President Obama was also set to address the issue at an appearance at Howard University Tuesday afternoon.

Read More: Carbon Regs Will Help Your Health More Than the Planet’s

The White House outlined the devastating impact of the climate change on public health in a report last year, highlighting increased asthma-related hospitalizations due to pollution and the effects of extreme heat. Research suggests that the number of asthma-related hospitalizations in the New York City area will have increased by more than 7% between 1990 and 2020 due to climate change, for instance, and extraordinary heat waves in many cities have caused death as well.

The focus on climate change and public health comes at a crucial moment for U.S. efforts to safeguard the environment. The White House hopes to play a leading role in crafting a landmark global agreement on climate change at a United Nations Conference in December.

TIME public health

You Asked: Why Do My Boobs Hurt?

You Asked: Why Do My Boobs Hurt?
Illustration by Peter Oumanski for TIME

Most of the time, blame hormones.

From a dull ache to a sharp stab, breasts hurt in a hundred different ways for a hundred different reasons. For many women, those myriad aches and stabs are the results of normal, healthy hormone fluctuations related to their menstrual cycles.

“Pain is most common during that period of a woman’s cycle just before she menstruates, when hormones like estrogen and progesterone peak,” says Karthik Ghosh, MD, director of the breast clinic at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

You probably already knew that. But when your hormones go haywire, why do your breasts feel beat up? Rising estrogen levels stimulate the breasts’ milk ducts, while spiking progesterone does the same to a woman’s milk glands. Both can result in swelling and pain. Progesterone also causes fluid retention, which can lead to a feeling of heaviness or tenderness, Ghosh says.

With the onset of menstruation, levels of those hormones drop off, Ghosh says. For that reason, breast pain or tenderness tends to subside as soon as a woman starts her period. Because oral contraceptives iron out those hormonal peaks and valleys, women on birth control often don’t experience this monthly ebb and flow of aching. (But when women first start a contraceptive like the pill, some pain is common.)

Many women also experience cysts, which result when pockets of fluid form within the ducts of the breast. These cysts can sometimes be painful, says Dr. Susan Harvey, director of the Johns Hopkins Breast Imaging Section.

Young women in puberty, pregnant women and older women nearing menopause may all experience breast pain due to hormone fluctuations, says Dr. Bonmyong Lee, Harvey’s colleague and an assistant professor of radiology at Johns Hopkins. Particularly during the early stages of menopause, women who may have never had pain or cysts may suddenly start to experience both, Lee says.

Apart from these hormone-related issues, Ghosh says anything that causes chest wall muscle soreness—like starting a new workout—can cause what’s called secondary pain in the breasts. So can a common type of inflammation, called costochondritus, which affects the place where a woman’s ribs and sternum come together. Even an unsupportive brassiere can allow the breasts to pull on the chest wall, leading to pain, Ghosh says.

One condition that tends not to cause pain is cancer. For women who may notice a lump that is sensitive or painful, it’s more likely a benign cyst, Ghosh says. Still, she recommends seeing a doctor if you find a lump, painful or otherwise.

There are several less common or unproven causes of breast pain, from infection to caffeine consumption. So how can you determine whether to worry or brush it off? If the pain is concentrated in one part of your breast and doesn’t subside after a few weeks, see someone, Harvey says. You should also visit a doctor if your skin is flushed or red, which may be a sign of an infection.

“There’s no golden rule when it comes to identifying specific types of breast pain,” Ghosh says. “If it worries you or seems out of the ordinary, see a doctor.”

Read next: Should I Dry Brush My Skin?

 

TIME public health

Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria From Texan Cattle Yards Are Now Airborne, Study Finds

A herd of longhorn cattle stand as wildfire rages near on September 1, 2011 in Graford, Texas
Tom Pennington—Getty Images A herd of longhorn cattle stand as wildfire rages near on September 1, 2011 in Graford, Texas

Researchers say the bacteria are capable of "traveling for long distances"

A new study says the DNA from antibiotic-resistant bacteria found in American cattle yards has become airborne, creating a new pathway by which such bacteria can potentially spread to humans and hinder treatment of life-threatening infections.

Researchers gathered airborne particulate matter (PM) from around 10 commercial cattle yards within a 200 mile radius of Lubbock, Texas over a period of six-months. They found the air downwind of the yards contained antibiotics, bacteria and a “significantly greater” number of microbial communities containing antibiotic-resistant genes. That’s according to the study to be published in next month’s issue of Environmental Health Perspectives.

“To our knowledge, this study is among the first to detect and quantify antibiotics and antibiotic resistance genes…associated with airborne PM emitted from beef cattle feed yards,” said the authors, who are researchers in environmental toxicology at Texas Tech University and at a testing lab in Lubbock.

Co-author Phil Smith told the Texas Tribune that the bacteria could be active for a long time and “could be traveling for long distances.”

His colleague, molecular biologist Greg Mayer, told the paper that some of the study’s findings “made me not want to breathe.”

Because antibodies are poorly absorbed by cows they are released into the environment through excretion. Once in the environment, bacteria will undergo natural selection and genes that have acquired natural immunities will survive.

The genes that have gone airborne are contained in dried fecal matter that has become dust and gets picked up by winds as they whip through the stockyards.

The Texas Tribune reported that representatives from the Texas cattle industry (estimated to control around 14 million beef cows) criticized the study, saying it portrayed the airborne bacteria as overly hazardous to human health.

But the mass of PM2.5 particles (the kind that can be inhaled into lungs) released into the atmosphere is eye opening, with the study estimating the total amount released by cattle yards in Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas exceeds 46,000 lbs.(21,000 kg) per day.

Antibiotic-resistant bacterial DNA is already known to be transferable to humans if ingested via water or meat.


TIME HIV/AIDS

HIV Triggers a Public Health Emergency in Indiana

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence responds to a question during a news conference, March 25, 2015, in Scottsburg, Ind.
Darron Cummings—AP Indiana Gov. Mike Pence responds to a question during a news conference, March 25, 2015, in Scottsburg, Ind.

Intravenous drug use identified as the source of infections

Gov. Mike Pence declared a public health emergency Thursday in south Indiana’s Scott County, which has seen a large HIV flare-up from intravenous drug use.

At least 79 HIV confirmed cases have been tied to the southern Indiana country since January, up from fewer than five new cases in a typical year, and the state expects that figure to rise as officials scramble to alert up to 100 people linked to those newly infected. Intravenous drug use has been named as the primary infection source in every confirmed case.

“This is all-hands-on-deck. This is a very serious situation,” Pence said at a news conference on Thursday.

The emergency order will set up a command center to coordinate HIV and substance abuse treatment. Pence also authorized a temporary needle-exchange program, on recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, after the governor had previously said he opposed the practice.

“Scott County is facing an epidemic of HIV, but this is not a Scott County problem; this is an Indiana problem,” the Governor said in a statement. “ I am confident that together we will stop this HIV outbreak in its tracks.”

Read next: This Map Shows the Deadliest Counties in the U.S.

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