Hot Topics Archives 2014

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Hot Topics
2014 Archives

December 2014

ECU professor offers advice for stress-free holiday traveling with children

As the holidays approach, many families are hitting the road and taking trips to visit families, friends and loved ones. This can be especially challenging for families with young children who struggle to keep them happy and occupied while traveling by plane, train, or automobile.

ECU Child Development and Family Relations instructor Ashley Norris puts forth a few ideas to keep little travelers busy and entertained:

  • Pack a few small new toys and keep them stashed away until the day of travel. When children start to get restless, pull out one toy at a time. Examples include a small baby doll, a puzzle or a new book.

  • Play a game likes “I spy.” Young toddlers focus on objects and colors, but for older preschoolers, alter the game to describe family members and friends of the child. For example, “I’m thinking of a person who likes horses…”

  • Special snacks. Pack a mixture of snacks that have a balance of protein and carbs to keep children full and satisfied, and perhaps a special treat to keep children excited. Lollipops work well, since they take a little longer to eat.

  • Sing along songs. Pack a fun play microphone and sing the child’s favorite Disney, radio or holiday songs. This will keep children busy and makes fun, happy memories.

  • Plan for movement breaks with rest stop breaks. Pick restaurants with play areas or rest stops with natural grass areas so children can move and run. Play a quick game of Simon Says to get children moving.

With a little planning and preparation, holiday travel can fly by with less stress and good memories.

Note to media: Norris is available for media interviews. Call 252-916-3490 to arrange an interview.

Flu vaccination important despite mutated virus

Recent news about the emergence of a mutated flu virus should serve as a wakeup call to those who haven’t gotten a flu vaccination this year, according to Dr. Paul Cook, infectious diseases specialist at the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University. And despite speculation that the current vaccine may not protect against this new virus, he said those who have gotten vaccinated already shouldn’t worry that it was for naught.

The Centers for Disease Control recently reported that over half of the H3N2, or Influenza A, virus samples they’ve tested thus far this season were found to be antigenetically different – or “drifted” – from the virus used in this year’s vaccine. Because this H3 virus seems to be dominating the current flu scene, the CDC is predicting a heavier flu season, with more hospitalizations and deaths than in past years.

“This happens all the time with influenza viruses; it’s nothing new,” said Cook. “The mutated virus was recognized back in the spring, but by then this year’s vaccine had already been developed and was being manufactured. Next year’s vaccine will take the mutated H3N2 into effect.”

But even with the prospect of lower protection rates, Cook said vaccination is still the best protection against the flu, and especially important for those at high risk for serious complications from it, like pregnant women, the elderly and people whose immune systems are compromised due to HIV or cancer.

“The current vaccine still covers H1N1 effectively, as well as influenza B, and those viruses are still out there,” he said. “We think it may even be providing some immunity against the mutated virus. Besides, the vaccine itself is pretty innocuous.”

Cook urges people to visit the doctor early if they begin experiencing symptoms like fever, sore throat, cough or body aches. And he echoed the CDC’s recommendation for primary care providers to be vigilant about prescribing antiviral medications like Tamiflu and Relenza as soon as flu is suspected. These medications can lessen the duration and severity of the illness when started within 48 hours of symptom onset.

Note to media: Cook is available for media interviews. Contact Amy Ellis, public communication specialist, at (252) 744-3764 or to schedule an interview.

Care for HIV patients outpacing peer programs nationwide

The HIV Program operated out of the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University is outpacing peer programs nationwide in keeping patients healthier and limiting the spread of HIV.

Brody’s program is the primary provider for HIV care in 30 counties across eastern North Carolina. In that area, an estimated 1,400 people have been treated at the HIV program.

The goal of health care providers is to increase the number of those individuals who are “viral load suppressed,” meaning they have an undetectable amount of the HIV virus in their blood and are less likely to transmit the disease.

An estimated 81 percent of the HIV patient population treated at ECU was virally suppressed in a data collection period from 2013-2014. That compares to an average of 73 percent of patients virally suppressed in peer programs nationwide.

Additionally, approximately 98 percent of patients participating in new HIV care programs at Brody are virally suppressed, according to Dr. Diane Campbell, the administrator of the ECU HIV Program.

These efforts are supported by three Ryan White grants totaling over $1.4 million, awarded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to provide care for people who do not have sufficient health care coverage or financial resources to cope with HIV.

Note to Media: Campbell is available to speak with the media. Contact Kathryn Kennedy, chief of communication for health sciences, at or (252)744-2482 to schedule an interview.

November 2014

ECU diabetes care team teaches healthy cooking

As the holiday season approaches, a multidisciplinary health care team at East Carolina University is helping patients balance celebration with self-care through a new cooking series called “Eat Right Now!”

Six video segments, developed by the Department of Family Medicine’s TeleTEAM for Diabetes Care and hosted by ECU registered dietitian nutritionist Jill Jennings, were created with diabetes patients in mind, but the content is useful for anyone who’d like to eat healthier or anyone who needs help implementing dietary recommendations in their own kitchens, Jennings said.

“Instead of merely focusing on a list of forbidden foods, we’re trying to teach viewers, especially those with diabetes, about the types of foods and meals they are encouraged to eat,” said Jennings. “Typically, when people focus on what they cannot eat, they become dispirited, feel deprived and lose motivation. We want to show them how to make healthier choices for themselves so they can achieve and maintain a healthy weight, reduce their cholesterol and blood pressure, and just feel better overall.”

November is Diabetes Awareness Month, but it’s also a time when many people experience stress about food choices associated with special occasions and gatherings, so Jennings and her fellow team members have taken their show on the road recently.

Representatives from nutrition, behavioral therapy and pharmacotherapy have been visiting clinics to provide diabetes education, both in person and via telemonitor, to selected groups of patients. Each meeting begins with a viewing of “Eat Right Now!” followed by an open discussion among patients and providers.

The Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration are funding the efforts.

For more information on ECU’s TeleTEAM for Diabetes Care or to view the “Eat Right Now!” episodes, go to

Note to media: Jill Jennings is available for media interviews on the topics of proper nutrition for diabetes patients and healthy eating in general. To schedule an interview, contact Amy A. Ellis, ECU News Services, at or 252-744-3764.


October 2014

ECU professors share expert opinions on politics and humor

The November elections are just behind us and late night television comedians have been cranking up the political jokes. How far public opinion might be swayed by the humor targeting politicians is the subject of a new book by East Carolina University political science professors Jody Baumgartner and Jonathan Morris.

The professors’ latest book, “Politics is a Joke! How TV Comedians are Remaking Political Life,” examines the effect of television humor on political success. Published July 22, the book focuses primarily on late night talk shows with Jay Leno, David Letterman, Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart, who are the “major players,” said Baumgartner.

The two held a discussion on politics and humor, along with a book signing on Oct. 29 at Barnes & Noble in Greenville.

In researching the book, Baumgartner and Morris examined more than 100,000 jokes from late night comedy programs, collected since 1988 from the Center for Media Public Affairs. They selected approximately 200 jokes to include in their book.

Baumgartner’s previous books include “Conventional Wisdom and American Elections” and “Laughing Matters: Humor and American Politics in the Media Age,” which he co-edited with Morris.

Whereas “Laughing Matters” was academically oriented, Baumgartner said “Politics is a Joke!” could be enjoyed by anyone with an interest in political humor.

“We’re hoping to reach a more general audience with this book, but also have it accessible to our colleagues who study political humor to use it as reference,” said Morris. “People who have read the book keep saying that they skip through our analysis and go straight to the jokes.”


NOTE TO MEDIA: Jonathan S. Morris is an expert on political communication, public opinion, the U.S. Congress, American politics and elections. He can be reached at or (252) 328-1067. Jody Baumgartner is an expert on humor and politics, the vice presidency, campaigns and elections. He can be reached at (252) 328-2843 or

ECU expert offers tips on weight management

As the holiday season approaches, many of us look forward to fun events full of family, friends and food. However, those who are working to achieve or maintain a healthy weight may also worry about gaining extra pounds amidst the celebration.

Registered dietitian nutritionist Kay Craven of ECU’s Department of Family Medicine points out a few simple strategies that can curb weight gain during all the festivities.

  • Plan ahead. When you enter a party, take a few minutes to survey the foods that are available before you fill your plate. Decide which ones are most appealing to you and choose small portions of those. Rather than trying it all, take the time to savor and enjoy the foods you chose. Then move away from the food and focus on the friends and fun.

  • Don’t skip meals. Many people are tempted to skip lunch in order to splurge in the evening. But arriving at a party with an empty stomach often increases the temptation to overindulge. Instead, eat a small meal or snack such as vegetable sticks, fresh fruit, low fat yogurt or cheese, or a few nuts prior to the party. Don’t skip breakfast, either; research shows that will only lead you to consume more calories later in the day.

  • Choose vegetables first. Holiday meals are usually large and involve multiple helpings. Opting for vegetables and salad with low fat dressing first can fill you up early and stave off the desire for large portions of higher calorie meats and desserts.

  • Slow down. Mom was right. Eating slowly gives your brain time to register how full you really are. Wait ten minutes to evaluate your hunger before going back for seconds.

  • Bring a healthy dish. Many celebrations are potluck. If you offer to bring something on the lighter side, you know a healthy option will be available. And other guests will probably thank you.

  • Keep moving. Consider wearing a pedometer and set goals – or have a contest between family members – to increase your steps during the holidays. Take a walk with family members during gatherings. Or plan outdoor games with the kids.

Note to media: Kay Craven is available for media interviews to discuss healthy weight management tips for the approaching holiday season. To arrange an interview, contact Amy Ellis, ECU News Services, at or 252-744-3764.

ECU experts examine potential impact from Ebola outbreak

As the Ebola outbreak in West Africa intensifies daily, East Carolina University experts are coming together to present a public discussion of the disease and its potential impact in the United States.

Experts on infectious disease and the impact of pandemics will present an interdisciplinary panel addressing “Ebola: African Dilemma or Global Health Crisis” at 6 p.m. Oct. 16 in Rivers 102 on campus. The event is free and open to the public.

Following initial comments from panel members, an extended period of question and answer is planned.

Panel experts, departments and areas of expertise are as follows:
  • Alethia Cook, Security Studies – security implications of pandemic disease
  • Paul Cook, Internal Medicine and Infectious Disease – infectious diseases
  • Viva Reynolds, Geography, Planning and Environment – medical geography
  • Kristina Simeonsson, Public Health – vaccine-preventable diseases, preparedness and the epidemiology of infectious diseases
  • Angela Thompson, History – history of epidemics and public health
  • Bob Thompson, Public Administration – health policy
  • Holly Mathews, Anthropology – medical anthropology
  • Issa Thullah, Master of Arts in International Studies and Certificate in Security Studies student – Co-Founder of Project Tumara, from Sierra Leone

Note to media: To arrange an interview, contact Alethia H. Cook, director of Security Studies and associate professor, Political Science at 328-5869 or Her office is located in Brewster, A-134.


September 2014

September is Sickle Cell Awareness Month

Between 90,000 and 100,000 Americans are living with sickle cell disease today and approximately 125 infants are born with it every year in North Carolina - 25 of them in eastern North Carolina. September has been designated National Sickle Cell Awareness Month to increase awareness of their plight.

“Normal red blood cells are soft and round and can squeeze through tiny blood vessels. They carry oxygen to all parts of the body through a substance called hemoglobin,” said Dr. Beng Fuh, director of hematology and oncology for the Department of Pediatrics at the Brody School of Medicine.

Fuh said sickle cell disease is an inherited blood disorder that occurs predominantly in African-Americans. The red blood cells of people with the disease contain mostly abnormal hemoglobin, which causes their red blood cells to stiffen, bend into the shape of a sickle – a curved tool once used to harvest wheat – and sometimes block small blood vessels. Complications include anemia, tissue and organ damage, strokes and excruciating pain.

Because blood transfusions are one of the main treatments for these complications, ECU’s Sickle Cell Awareness Committee has partnered with the local American Red Cross to encourage eligible donors to give blood in September to help ensure a stable and diverse blood supply for people living with this disease.

ECU’s sickle cell disease program is one of the largest in the state with approximately 900 adult and pediatric patients.

Note to media: Dr. Beng Fuh, director of hematology and oncology for East Carolina University’s Department of Pediatrics, is available to speak with the media about sickle cell disease. Please call Amy Ellis in ECU News Services (252-744-3764) or email to arrange an interview.


August 2014

Good parent/teacher relationships enhance child success

The Labor Day holiday and weeks that follow find families with schoolchildren settling into the new school year. To help children succeed, ECU Child Development and Family Relations instructor Ashley Norris recommends that parents build an open, supportive relationship with their children's teachers.

Norris advises parents of children from kindergarten to high school to stay involved and keep the doors of communication with teachers open. She offers the following tips to make that happen:

  • Communicate early and often. Provide teachers with information on your family's activities and your child's interests and strengths. This helps teachers accommodate academic challenges specific to your child.

  • Volunteer. Not all volunteering requires time off work for activities during the school day. Teachers may appreciate help putting together games, cutting laminate, printing pictures of projects, or even writing a grant for their next STEM project. Let teachers know your strengths and ask how you may help.

  • Share major life changes. If your family is expecting a new baby, getting a puppy or moving to a new house, share these milestones with the teacher. Children handle major life transitions differently and teachers can be more supportive of your child's emotional needs if they know about these changes.

  • Communicate the positive, not just the negative.  Build relationships by sharing positive, happy moments such as an exciting family vacation. Offer to share cultural experiences by bringing in photographs and talking about the trip with the child's class. A relationship built on positives will make it easier to confide hardships that may arise over the year.

  • Be creative in your communication. Schools often have web sites, social media accounts and other outlets to enhance ongoing communication with families. If you are having difficulty communicating face-to-face with your child's teacher, consider alternative methods that you both might find more comfortable.

  • Reciprocate appreciation and patience. It is important that teachers and families let each other know how much we appreciate and value what we do for each other. Something as small as a handwritten note can go a long way in building a relationship and keeping lines of communication open.  

Note to media: Norris is available for media interviews. Call 252-916-3490 to arrange an interview.  

ECU expert offers tips for selfies

More than 26,000 ECU students are expected for the first day of classes Aug. 26. No doubt some of those students will take selfies as they move in, participate in orientation activities or attend the season’s first football game. Many will post selfies with their new roommates, signaling a commitment to bond with this person, which could potentially have a positive impact on their relationship, says East Carolina University psychology assistant professor and social psychologist Dr. Michael Baker. Here, Baker offers five tips to help students make good choices when it comes to posting selfies: 

  • Safety first! People’s capacity to pay attention to the things that are happening around them is very limited. Focusing on the task of taking a selfie makes people less aware of their surroundings, which can have dangerous and even deadly consequences. Make sure that you are out of the way of potential harm prior to holding up your phone.

  • Be responsible about what you convey in your selfies. Self-presentation is an important element of human social behavior and selfies can be a powerful tool for letting others know how you define yourself. Employers sometimes screen personal social media to learn more about the character of job applicants. A selfie showing you hard at work in the library or volunteering could be beneficial whereas one displaying illegal or reckless behavior could be detrimental.

  • Exercise moderation in posting selfies. People who constantly post pictures of themselves on social media can seem narcissistic and self-obsessed.

  • Include others. Selfies don’t have to be entirely selfish. Including friends and family in a selfie can signal to others that you have a bond with that person. This can serve to strengthen social relationships, which are important for psychological health and well-being.

  • Keep it positive. Selfies can also be harmful to your relationships with others. When taking a selfie, don’t include someone in the background who is in an embarrassing or compromising position. Put yourself in their shoes and think about how you would feel if the situation were reversed. Also, when commenting on other people’s selfies, don’t mock or insult them.

NOTE TO MEDIA: Dr. Baker is available for media questions by e-mail at or by phone at 252-328-6059.
ECU experts offer tips for back to school nutrition

With a new school year around the corner, parents' thoughts turn to preparation. Notebooks, pencils, book bags and lunchboxes in a multitude of colors fill retailers' aisles. While children fret over which cartoon character will adorn this year's lunchbox, parents know that what goes in that box each day can be a much bigger challenge.

East Carolina University nutrition science clinical instructor Nancy Harris and nutrition science graduate student Elizabeth Kroeger offer five easy steps to help parents make it through another year of healthy lunches:

  1. Take the kids shopping with you. Engage children in healthful food gathering – bring them to farmers markets, pick-your-own farms, and have a family garden or windowsill herb garden. If they pick it or grow it, they will be more likely to eat and enjoy it.

  2. Switch it up. Vary protein sources like tuna, peanut butter, turkey or beans, and offer different whole-grain bread, tortillas or crackers. Rotate fruits and vegetables based off what is in season.

  3. Indulge a little. A few Hershey’s Kisses, a couple of mini-sized pieces of chocolate, dried fruit, or even a mini banana pudding (banana flavored low-fat pudding and two vanilla wafers) are a good treats that satisfy that sweet tooth. It’s all about portion control with this, so read the label and note the portion size.

  4. Promote lunchbox safety. Teach children to wash their hands before digging into lunch, but pack antibacterial towelettes in the lunch box just in case. Keep food temperature safety zones in mind. Include a frozen icepack if needed to help keep perishable items cold until lunchtime.

  5. Sit down and review the weekly or monthly lunch menu with your child. Discuss which foods are liked and why certain foods are healthier choices than others. Make sure the choices include whole grains, vegetables, fruits and low-fat or fat-free dairy.

Daily nutrition is about more than just what’s for lunch. Harris and Kroeger remind parents to help their children start the day off right and stay on track.

“Don’t skip breakfast,” said Harris. “Studies show children who eat breakfast tend to have higher school attendance, concentrate better and score better on tests than their counterparts. If pressed for time, make fruit and yogurt parfaits the night before to grab while you’re running out the door.”

Kroeger, who works with the snack programs at the Pitt County Boys and Girls Clubs, warns of what she terms snack attacks. “A snack attack could happen at any time. It is that moment when your child is feeling drained and may want to reach for a soda or candy bar,” said Kroeger. “To ensure your kids have the fuel to help them last them through mid-day hunger or after school activities try mix dried fruit, unsalted nuts, and popcorn in a snack-size bag for a quick trail mix.”

NOTE TO MEDIA: Harris and Kroeger are available for media questions by e-mail at and or by phone at 252-328-4274.


Nancy Harris


Elizabeth Kroeger

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:

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

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 or by phone at (252) 737-1286. 

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


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

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


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
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.

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...

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…


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

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



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




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.

Tyndall is available for media questions by e-mail at or by phone at 252-328-4206.

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

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 or 252-744-5699. 
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

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