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Hot Topics Archives 2014

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Hot Topics
2014 Archives



July 2014

North Carolinians at risk for mosquito-borne viruses

North Carolina is one of at least 27 states in the nation reporting cases of a new mosquito-borne virus called chikungunya, which may lead to severe joint pain that lingers for months. In addition, there have been 74 national cases reported this year of the mosquito-borne dengue virus, transmitted locally and imported by travelers.

Both viruses have a human-mosquito-human cycle, hence traveler imported cases are of concern, according to Stephanie Richards, assistant professor in ECU's Department of Health Education and Promotion.

One of the primary vectors of chikunguna and dengue viruses are from a mosquito species abundant in North Carolina, Aedes albopictus (also known as the tiger or forest mosquito), she said.

State funding for mosquito control has been eliminated within the past five years, Richards added, and the subsequent reduction in surveillance/risk assessment systems and vector control leave the public at greater risk for vector borne disease.

Note to media: Richards is available to speak with the media about mosquito-borne disease in eastern North Carolina. Contact Richards: http://www.ecu.edu/cs-hhp/hlth/richardsst.cfm
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June 2014

ECU pediatricians favor meningitis vaccine recommendations

North Carolina’s Commission for Public Health recently approved a mandate for incoming seventh graders to be vaccinated against meningitis – an infection of the brain or spinal cord – and other meningococcal diseases beginning July 2015. The mandate also includes an additional booster for incoming high school seniors beginning July 2020.

Barring lack of approval by the state’s Rules Review Commission later this month, the new policies will align North Carolina’s policy with recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the national Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.

Meningococcal disease is caused by a certain type of bacteria that infects the brain, spinal cord, bloodstream or lungs. Although it’s considered rare – affecting about 3,000 people nationwide every year – it is potentially fatal and extremely expensive to treat.

According to information published by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, 10 to 15 percent of those who contract a meningococcal disease die from it. Twenty percent of survivors suffer debilitating long-term effects, including brain damage.

Meningococcal diseases that would be prevented by the vaccine tend to be more prevalent in the adolescent population, but only about half of North Carolina’s teens are vaccinated against them.

The following physicians in East Carolina University’s Department of Pediatrics are experts on adolescent health issues and the importance of immunizations for this population: Dr. Roytesa Savage, director of ECU’s Pediatric Outpatient Center and associate professor of pediatrics; Dr. David Holder, clinical associate professor for pediatrics; and Dr. Sharon Mangan, clinical associate professor of pediatrics.

In addition, the following ECU physicians serve on the North Carolina Immunization Advisory Committee: Dr. Karin Hillenbrand, associate professor for pediatrics and director of ECU’s pediatric residency program; and Dr. Kristina Simeonsson, associate professor for pediatrics and public health.

Note to media: To arrange an interview with one of the above physicians, contact Amy A. Ellis at 252-744-3764 or ellisa14@ecu.edu.

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Physical activities urged as component of summer fun

When the school year winds down and children are released for the summer, their thoughts may turn to lazy days filled with television and video games. But spending the summer that way could lead to a decline in physical fitness, said ECU kinesiology professor Grace Anne Vick, director of the Lifetime Physical Activity and Fitness program. Vick recommends parental involvement to prevent that decline.

Vick suggests that parents limit the time children spend watching television, playing video games or using computers. Instead she suggests that families take advantage of outdoor activities such as biking, hiking, skating and swimming. Children who are home during the day can play outside with other children in the neighborhood, enjoying games like soccer, basketball, frisbee, kickball or baseball.

Guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend children between the ages of 6-17 receive at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day, while incorporating muscle and bone strengthening activities two to three days a week. Opportunities to help children stay active in Greenville include a number of summer camps focused around dance, nature, sports and fitness, as well as free parks and the Green Mill Run Greenway - a 1.5 mile scenic walkway for walkers, runners, bicyclists and nature enthusiasts.

NOTE TO MEDIA:  Vick is available to speak with the media about her recommendations for keeping children active and fit during the summer. Contact her by e-mail at vickg@ecu.edu or by phone at (252) 737-1286. 



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Insurance coverage to expand for autism patients

The North Carolina Senate is preparing to finalize a bill approved last year by the state's House of Representatives mandating more universal health insurance coverage for autism services. And the North Carolina State Health Plan announced May 30 that families of state employees and retirees will soon be eligible for a leading autism treatment.

Next year, the State Health Plan will offer members up to $36,000 per year in coverage for applied behavioral analysis – a treatment that addresses the behavior problems that can occur with autism spectrum disorder. Qualifying patients will be younger than 26 and diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder by a licensed physician or clinical psychologist who has deemed the treatment medically necessary.

Autism spectrum disorder refers to a group of developmental disabilities that affect how a person understands what they see, hear or sense, according to information published by the Autism Society of North Carolina. People with ASD typically have difficulty understanding verbal and nonverbal communication and learning appropriate ways of behaving and interacting socially.

Dr. Michael Reichel, a developmental and behavioral specialist in East Carolina University’s pediatrics department, and director of ECU Physicians’ Family Autism Center, is an expert on autism spectrum disorder and the importance of early intervention and treatment. He said ECU’s multidisciplinary Center is poised to help more families throughout the region.

“Our goal is to help parents and professionals in our region navigate the complex systems of diagnosis, the behavioral and educational care, and social and community supports available for families dealing with autism spectrum disorder,” he said.

The Autism Society of North Carolina will hold their Autism Awareness Day at the North Carolina General Assembly in Raleigh on June 10.

According to the advocacy group Autism Speaks, 37 states currently recognize the benefits of autism treatment.

NOTE TO MEDIA: To arrange an interview with Reichel, contact Amy Ellis at 252-744-3764 or ellisa14@ecu.edu.

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May 2014

Roper advises preventive care to combat MERS virus

The Centers for Disease Control has issued travel advisories urging simple measures to prevent the spread of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), following the second confirmed case of the virus in the United States.

MERS is a Corona virus – similar to SARS – that leads to fever, cough and shortness of breath, with about a 30 percent fatality rate. ECU professor Rachel Roper, Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the Brody School of Medicine, is a virologist who was involved in the sequencing and analysis of the first SARS genome as well as the development of vaccines against SARS.

Roper said the primary concerns related to MERS are the high fatality rate and its potential to mutate into a virus that spreads more easily from human to human. Global travel increases the spread of the disease and there are no drugs or vaccines to treat or prevent it, she said.

Close human-to-human contact is now spreading the disease, and infection may occur before symptoms appear. She advises frequent hand washing, which removes viruses before they can get into the eyes, nose or mouth, and avoiding persons demonstrating respiratory symptoms or anyone who has had contact with known MERS-infected individuals.

Face masks can protect against airborne droplets and virus particles as well, she said. Because viruses are always evolving, Roper said that ongoing research and constant surveillance by health agencies will help to protect public health.

NOTE TO MEDIA: To arrange an interview with Roper, contact Kathryn Kennedy at 252-744-7482 or
kennedyk@ecu.edu.


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Healthy picnics, cookouts require attention to safe food practices

Warm sunny days and summer holidays will most likely inspire weekend cookouts and outdoor picnics. ECU professor William Hill, Health Education and Promotion, said food safety practices include planning ahead, packing food safely, cooking food to the proper temperature and keeping cold foods cold.

Hill is an expert in food safety education. He can speak to this topic and can be reached at (252) 737-1475
 or by e-mail at hillw@ecu.edu.

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April 2014

President Proclaims April as Financial Capability Month

With student loan debt topping 1.17 trillion (now more than the national credit card debt), Dr. Bryce Jorgensen, assistant professor of child development and family relations at East Carolina University, urges the students in his family resource management course to plan, evaluate, and make wise choices when it comes to their finances and debt, specifically credit card and student loan debt. Using the president’s proclamation of April as Financial Capability Month, he is taking his message to the masses offering advice on tracking monthly spending, creating a budget, setting SMART financial goals, and taking extra precautions to plug “spending leaks” such as a daily trip to Starbucks or the vending machine.  

Jorgensen’s research focuses on financial socialization, the financial messages children receive from their environment, in particular from their parents. He warns that many parents keep family finances under wraps while showcasing a consumer-driven lifestyle leading their children – who will one day have to make their own financial decisions – with a skewed perspective on the difference between needs and wants.  

Jorgensen is available to speak with the media about family finances, student loan debt, and financial education. Contact Jorgensen at 252-737-2074 or jorgensenb@ecu.edu.
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ECU runners to join'much different' Boston Marathon

A Brody School of Medicine professor and a student in the School of Dental Medicine are among the Greenville locals who will be running in the Boston Marathon on Monday, April 21. For emergency medicine professor Dr. Kori Brewer, it’s her first time running in the marathon since 2009 and she expects this year to be “a much different experience” in the wake of last year’s bombing. Quinn Woodruff was actually in Boston for the race when the bombing occurred and will return to run again this year. To set up an interview with either of them, contact Kathryn Kennedy at 252-744-2482.

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Screening, panel discussion to highlight coastal controversy 

A film screening and panel discussion of the documentary "Shored Up" at ECU April 22 will focus on the controversial ongoing development of coastal areas in spite of a near constant threat of destruction from coastal storms. ECU professor Dr. Reide Corbett, pictured, said the film "takes us to the heart of this coastal controversy." Read more...

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Earth Day Expo at ECU highlights biodiversity

The ECU Center for Biodiversity and Department of Biology will host the annual Earth Day Expo from 4 – 6 p.m. April 8 in Howell Science Complex on campus. ECU researchers and non-profit organizations will provide interactive activities and displays. Children may enjoy live animals and plants, lab activities and natural history story times. Read more…

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March 2014

Crisis in Ukraine heats up following weekend vote

Crisis continues in the Ukraine following a weekend referendum in which the citizens of Crimea voted to join Russia. The U.S. and European Union have announced sanctions in response. ECU economics professor Dr. Richard Ericson is an expert on Russia and Eastern European economics, and he is available to speak to the media. Contact Ericson at 252-328-6006 or
ericsonr@ecu.edu.

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March madness takes practice for optimal performance

College athletes and fans will soon be caught up in March madness, the frenzy that often accompanies the annual contest for the winning title in the NCAA men’s basketball championship tournament. But not all athletes will perform as well as they’d like once they arrive in the spotlight. Competing well within a stressful environment requires practice, training and effort, according to ECU kinesiology professor Dr. Tom Raedeke, who teaches athletes how to maintain their mental focus despite negative distractions and media attention.

Raedeke has been at ECU since 1998 and has experience in venues like the U.S. Olympic Training Center.  His research interests include the social psychology of sport and exercise participation including motivation, physical activity adherence, mental skills training, stress, and burnout. 

He is available for media interviews related to the impact of March madness on college athletes. Contact Raedeke at (252) 737-1292 or raedeket@ecu.edu

 

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February 2014

High-powered recreational drug prompts health warning

A drug five times more powerful than heroin and 16 times more potent than morphine has arrived in the East, leading to a health advisory Feb. 19 from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.

ECU experts on the drug, a dangerous substance that has been linked to three deaths in the state, include ECU psychiatrist Dr. Thomas Penders and Dr. William Meggs.

Penders is an associate professor of psychiatric medicine and is board-certified in psychiatry and neurology. Meggs is professor of emergency medicine and medical toxicologist at the Brody School of Medicine. To arrange an interview, contact Doug Boyd at 252-744-2482 or boydd@ecu.edu.
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Play, pay attention on 'honey-do' list for Valentines

Valentine’s Day often serves as a reminder to refocus on loved ones and healthy relationships. East Carolina University’s Dr. Lisa Tyndall, director of the Family Therapy Clinic, offers a 'honey-do' list for maintaining a healthy relationship with that special someone on Valentine’s Day or any day throughout the year.

Do pay attention. Pay attention to yourself, your partner and the relationship. Both the individuals who make up the relationship, and the relationship itself need nurturing, but the first step is to pay attention.

Do assume the best about the other person. People in happy relationships general assume the best about their partner, even if the partner makes a mistake, the mistake is seen more as an anomaly than as a regular occurrence.

Do communicate. Spend time actually talking and looking each other in the eye. Conversations are just qualitatively different when two people look each other in the eyes. This kind of communication quality really communicates that the other person is important and that what he/she has to say is important.

Do spend time playing together. Playing and exploring new activities together is important to continuing to also explore each other and see each other as dynamic individuals. This can be anything from a house project to a type of class or just going hiking.

Do pay attention to the little moments. Little moments, like the few minutes before you leave for the day, or when you return home, can add up to an overall increased sense of connectedness. Take those few minutes to give an affectionate hug or kiss and some verbal reassurance of your relationship, ie. –  say “I love you” in the morning and at night and it will be a great way to book-end your day!

Individuals who need more advice for keeping a relationship strong or getting it back on track may contact ECU's Family Therapy Clinic. The clinic has been a resource for families in the community for more than 20 years, offering a wide range of services, including individual therapy, couple therapy, family therapy and premarital services. To learn more or to schedule an appointment, call 252-328-4206.

NOTE TO MEDIA:
Tyndall is available for media questions by e-mail at tyndalll@ecu.edu or by phone at 252-328-4206.


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Will CVS tobacco decision impact chain's brand?

Popular pharmacy chain CVS announced Feb. 5 that it will stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco products at its stores by Oct. 1, stating that the product is incompatible with its purpose of encouraging healthy lifestyles. ECU marketing professor Christy Ashley can speak about the effect that decision may have on the chain's brand and its market share. For media interviews, contact Ashley at 252-328-6099 or e-mail ASHLEYC@ecu.edu
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January 2014

Concussion litigation effects on professional, recreational athletics

When the Super Bowl kicked off Sunday, Feb. 2, two players who’ve recently missed games due to concussions were suited up and ready to play: Wes Welker of the Denver Broncos and Percy Harvin of the Seattle Seahawks. Last fall, the National Football League settled a lawsuit with former players over concussions. Daniel Goldberg, an attorney, bioethicist and faculty member at the Brody School of  Medicine at East Carolina University, is a published expert on NFL concussion litigation and its possible effects from the professional ranks down to hometown leagues. He may be reached at goldbergd@ecu.edu or 252-744-5699. 
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Small lifestyle changes can help improve health

Already struggling to stick to those ambitious New Year’s resolutions? Don’t despair. Department of Psychology professor Lesley Lutes has conducted research indicating that small, more sustainable lifestyle changes can still go a long way toward improving health. Members of the media may contact Lutes for an interview at 252-328-1374 or lutesl@ecu.edu.

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ECU specialist offers advice on New Year's exercise resolutions

About a third of New Year’s resolvers make weight loss a primary goal, and about 15 percent aim to begin exercising, according to one study. For those who plan to start working out, whether it’s easy walking or serious weights, ECU sports medicine specialist Dr. Brock Niceler has some recommendations. To interview Niceler, contact Doug Boyd of ECU News Services at 252-744-2482 or boydd@ecu.edu.
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