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Venomous spiders: How to identify the pests and get them out of your home

Most people aren't too happy when they encounter a spider, and that's especially true if the creepy-crawly you come across happens to be dangerously venomous.

>> Brown recluse spiders: 4 things to know as the dangerous pests become more active

Although it's understandable to be anxious about venomous spiders, it’s important to know the difference between a harmless spider and a dangerous one.

Here are some important tips from experts on dealing with venomous spiders and what to do if you think you’ve been bit.

Identify types of venomous spiders

Even if you think you've been bitten by a spider, most are actually harmless, according to the Mayo Clinic

Only a few types have venom strong enough to harm you and fangs (yikes!) long enough to penetrate your skin.

Venomous spiders found in the Southeast include:

  • Black widow – identified by the pattern of red coloration on the underside of its abdomen.
  • Brown widow – identified by an orange hourglass shape on a brown body
  • Brown recluse – identified by its brown color and dark violin-shaped marking on its head.

(Identifications from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and UGA Extension)

>> 10 ways to prevent tick bites on people and pets

Wear gloves when you're working outside or in the garage

If you stick your bare hand into some brush, you may be bitten by a brown or black widow. Although they usually try to avoid people, they don't have a choice if you accidentally wrap your hand around one, according to UGA Extension. Be sure to wear long sleeves and gloves when you're cleaning in the garage, clearing brush or pulling a log off a woodpile.

Look out for your clothes and shoes

Black and brown widows can also hide in clothes and shoes that have been left outside, UGA Extension advised. The best solution is to not leave these items outside (or in your garage) if you can possibly avoid it, and, if not, make sure you shake them out and check them carefully before putting them on.

Use insect repellent

The Mayo Clinic recommends using an insect repellent containing DEET on your clothes and shoes.

>> Dangerous plant that causes blindness, 3rd degree burns found in multiple states, officials say

Don't create a habitat your home

Don't store firewood against your house, since it can serve as a haven for spiders which can then find their way inside. The same is true for piles of rocks or lumber near your home.

Clean up spider webs

If you see a spider web inside your home, vacuum it up, put it in a sealed bag and dispose of it outside.

Make it harder for spiders to get inside your home

Make sure you have screens on your windows and doors that fit tightly. Seal any cracks where spiders could work their way into your home.

Recognize the signs of a bite

Many spider bites go unnoticed or cause only an itchy bump. However, if you have any of the following symptoms, you may have been bitten by a venomous spider and should seek medical attention, according to the Mayo Clinic:

>> Read more trending news 

  • Pain – starting around the bite mark and possibly spreading to the abdomen, back or chest
  • Abdominal cramping – can be severe
  • Excessive sweating
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Body aches
  • Skin that becomes dark blue or purple and develops into a deep open sore

Aimovig: New migraine prevention drug approved by FDA

If you suffer from chronic migraines, relief is here.

According to The Associated Press, the Food and Drug Administration last week approved Aimovig, a monthly shot that aims to reduce migraines. The drug, developed by Amgen Inc. and Novartis AG, is "injected monthly just under the skin using a pen-like device," the AP reported. Its price tag: $6,900 annually before insurance.

>> On ActionNewsJax.com: New drug could reduce migraines

But how does Aimovig work? The FDA said it blocks "the activity of calcitonin gene-related peptide, a molecule that is involved in migraine attacks." Amgen researchers said participants in one study saw their migraines reduced by half and experienced "minor side effects" like colds, the AP reported.

>> Read more trending news 

If Aimovig doesn't sound right for you, you're still in luck: Three similar shots and various pills to combat migraines are in the works.

Read more here.

– The Associated Press contributed to this report.

New autism research could predict whether children as young as 3 months old are at risk

A groundbreaking study is being done at Boston Children's Hospital that researchers say could potentially predict whether a child as young as 3 months old is at-risk for developing autism.

>> Watch the news report here

Right now, most children can't receive a reliable diagnosis until they are at least 1 year old. 

Chase Minicucci and his mother, Hillary Steele Minicucci, regularly go to Boston Children’s to track his development. Chase seems to be a typically developing toddler, and he’s learning to point and use words to express his needs.

>> Could blood and urine test be used to diagnose autism?

However, Chase has been identified as at risk because his older brother, who is 7, has autism.

“We did the testing, and one day after his 4th birthday … the doctor said, ‘so your son has autism,’” said Hillary Steele Minicucci. 

Hillary and her husband also have a 6-year-old daughter who does not have autism, but autism is more prevalent in boys. 

Research shows one in five children whose siblings have autism will also be on the spectrum. Hillary spent the first year of Chase's life watching his behavior closely and worrying.

“I was literally making myself crazy over it,” she said. 

Hillary was able to find a spot for Chase in a study at Boston Children's Cognitive Neuroscience Lab, involving 99 siblings of children with autism.

Infants as young as 3 months old and toddlers up to 36 months old spend only a few minutes wearing a cap with more than 100 sensors. While wearing it, they watch a T.V. showing cartoons, which is also an eye tracker.

Boston Children's Cognitive Neuroscience Lab Director Dr. Charles Nelson said by studying their EEG signals, the electrical activity in the brain, they can predict which infants are likely to develop autism.

“What we've seen is at 3 months of age, we've seen patterns of brain activity that basically predict who, three years later, will develop autism,” said Nelson. 

>> Read more trending news 

One of the big unknowns is when does autism develop, and Nelson said the study is shining light on whether it happens before or after birth. 

“It's very unlikely that brain development was perfectly normal until birth and then something happened. The fact that we see it so early, just at 3 months, makes me think that it started before birth. But what derailed brain development, we don't know,” he said. 

Dr. Nelson stressed the medical community is not at the point yet where a 3-month-old could receive a diagnosis, but the child could be flagged. The next step is developing early intervention strategies for that age group.

As for Chase, his mother said that right now, he doesn't seem to be exhibiting some of the warning signs, which has given her some much-needed reassurance.

“I can start to enjoy my baby now,” she said. 

The study is ongoing and open to three groups of children: 

  • Babies with older siblings with ASD
  • Babies with no family history of autism who failed an autism screening
  • Typically developing babies

Because the EEG caps are relatively inexpensive, Nelson hopes someday soon every local pediatrician's office could have one and all infants could be identified within a critical window of time.

Major depression diagnoses on the rise in the U.S., study finds

Over the past five years, diagnoses of major depression in the United States have risen by at least 33 percent.

>> On AJC.com: People with depression are more likely to use certain words — here’s how they express themselves

That’s according to a new report from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, for which analysts assessed the BCBS Health Index built from billions of claims for more than 41 million commercially insured Americans annually.

>> Read more trending news 

The index, which quantifies how more than 200 diseases and conditions affect quality of life, showed that major depression is the second most significant condition on overall health in America. The first is hypertension, or high blood pressure.

According to the report, those diagnosed with major depression are nearly 30 percent less healthy on average than those without the condition. Such a decrease in overall health may mean a loss of nearly 10 years of healthy life for both men and women.

>> On AJC.com: Why are Americans so lonely? Massive study finds nearly half of US feels alone, young adults most of all

More than 9 million commercially insured Americans in the index are affected by major depression. The rate of diagnosis in the country is 4.4 percent. But while diagnoses are up 33 percent since 2013 overall, the rate is even higher among teens and young adults − 47 percent. For teen girls, specifically, the rate has risen by 65 percent.

"The high rates for adolescents and millennials could have a substantial health impact for decades to come," Trent Haywood, senior vice president and chief medical officer for BCBSA, said in a statement. "Further education and research is needed to identify methods for both physicians and patients to effectively treat major depression and begin a path to recovery and better overall health." 

Analysts also found that overall, women are more than twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with major depression (6 percent compared to 2.8 percent, respectively).

>> On AJC.com: Depressed? Reduce your symptoms with this type of exercise

Geographically, 49 of the 50 states saw rising diagnosis rates between 2013 and 2016. Hawaii was the only state that experienced a slight decline (a rate of less than 2 percent). Communities in New England, the Pacific Northwest and areas throughout the South and Midwest had higher rates of major depression compared to the rest of the country.

Rhode Island had the highest diagnosis rate with 6 percent. However, the authors noted that differences in efforts to screen for major depression can result in varying diagnoses rates across states.

“While major depression is the second most impactful health condition for the nation, it is complicated by an increased likelihood of overlapping diagnoses of other chronic, behavioral health and pain-related conditions,” authors of the report wrote.

In fact, of the 9 million Americans diagnosed with major depression in 2016, only 15 percent were diagnosed with depression alone. Eighty-five percent, according to the analysis, were diagnosed with an additional health condition.

>> On AJC.com: 5 signs you should ask your doctor about depression

In addition to a lower quality of life, those diagnosed with major depression are more likely to use more healthcare services, resulting in more than twice the spending.

It’s important to note that the report’s findings, based on people with BCBS commercial health insurance, are likely an underestimate. Most Americans are covered by a commercial health plan, but many who report symptoms of depression say they have not been diagnosed or received treatment for the condition.

According to the World Health Organization, more than 300 million people of all ages suffer from depression, and it’s the leading cause of disability worldwide.

>> On AJC.com: The suicide rate for teen girls is the highest it’s been in 40 years — Is social media to blame? 

Additionally, approximately 800,000 people die of suicide each year; that’s one person every 40 seconds. In the U.S., between 1999 and 2014, the suicide rate rose by 24 percent. And, according to recent data released from the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide rates among 15- to 19-year-old girls doubled between 2007 and 2015, reaching a 40-year high.

Read the full Blue Cross Blue Shield report at bcbs.com.

Study says most Americans feel lonely, young adults are the loneliest

study on loneliness from U.S. health insurer Cigna says that most Americans feel left out or alone at least some of the time.

According to a May 1 news release, the national survey was conducted on 20,096 U.S. adults over age 18. The findings show that those who report being the loneliest are adults ages 18-22.

>> Read more trending news 

NPR reported that Cigna used the UCLA Loneliness Scale -- one of the best-known tools for measuring loneliness -- to obtain results. The questionnaire, from University of California, Los Angeles, calculates a loneliness score based on a series of statements and a formula. Those who score between 20 and 80 are considered lonely. The higher the score, the more socially isolated and lonely the respondent is.

Twenty questions are on the questionnaire, which is balanced between positive, such as “How often do you feel outgoing and friendly?” and negative, such as, “How often do you feel alone?”

Forty-six percent of those surveyed said they sometimes or always feel alone. Forty-seven percent said they sometimes or always felt left out.

Other results said Americans who live with others were less likely to report feeling lonely, and those who were single parents or guardians were more likely to be lonely although they lived with children. About 43 percent of Americans said they sometimes or always feel their relationships are not meaningful. Fifty-three percent said they have meaningful in-person social interactions on a daily basis, and 27 percent rarely or never feel as though there are people who understand them.

Although young adults in the study have reported being the loneliest, the study reported that social media is not a sole predictor of loneliness. Those who spend more time or less time than desired with family have similar feelings of loneliness. Those who reported that they work, sleep and exercise just the right amount had lower loneliness scores.

“There is an inherent link between loneliness and the workplace, with employers in a unique position to be a critical part of the solution,” Dr. Douglas Nemecek, Cigna chief medical officer for behavioral health, said in the release. “Fortunately, these results clearly point to the benefits meaningful in-person connections can have on loneliness, including those in the workplace and the one that takes place in your doctor’s office as a part of the annual checkup.”

Independent market research company Ipsos, founded in France in 1975, conducted the study in the form of a poll on behalf of Cigna, the news release said. The poll was conducted online in English from Feb. 21 - March 6, 2018.

More information on the study, including the method for getting the results, are at Cigna.com.

Death of loved one during pregnancy may affect child's mental health, study says

Grieving the death of a loved one can affect an entire family, including babies. In fact, losing a relative during pregnancy may affect the mental health of a child later in life, according to a new report.

>> On AJC.com: Smoking while pregnant study: 1 in 14 women still smoke while pregnant

Researchers from Stanford University recently conducted a study, published in the American Economic Review, to determine the effect a family member’s death may have on children.

To do so, they examined Swedish infants born between 1973 and 2011 whose mother lost a close relative, such as a sibling, parent, maternal grandparent, the child’s father or her own older child, during her pregnancy.

>> Breast cancer patients may help boost survival chances by building muscle, study says

They followed those children through adulthood, comparing their health outcomes to kids whose maternal relatives died in the year after their birth. They gathered the data from their medical records and Sweden’s novel prescription drug registry, which contains all prescription drug purchases.

Lastly, they considered the impact the death may have had on the fetus, including fetal exposure to maternal stress from bereavement and even changes to family resources or household composition.

>> On AJC.com: Is light drinking while pregnant really dangerous?

After analyzing their results, they found that “that prenatal exposure to the death of a maternal relative increases take-up of ADHD medications during childhood and anti-anxiety and depression medications in adulthood,” the researchers wrote in a statement.

Furthermore, they discovered the death of a relative up to three generations apart during pregnancy can also create consequences. 

“Our study offers complementary evidence linking early-life circumstance to adult mental health, but breaks new ground by focusing on stress,” the authors wrote, “which may be more pertinent than malnutrition in modern developed countries such as the United States and Sweden, and by tracing health outcomes throughout the time period between the fetal shock and adulthood.”

>> Read more trending news 

To combat the issue, the researchers recommend that governments implement policies to help reduce stress during pregnancy. They believe such policies should especially target poor families as they are more likely to experience stress than more advantaged ones. 

Although their findings are concerning, they hope they can better help expecting mothers have healthier pregnancies and birth healthier children. 

“Of course, you cannot prevent family members from dying, and we certainly do not want our findings to constitute yet another source of stress for expecting mothers,” the scientists said. “But our findings potentially point to the importance of generally reducing stress during pregnancy, for example through prenatal paid maternity leave and programs that provide resources and social support to poor, pregnant women.”

>> On AJC.com: Why pregnant women should be careful around cats

Breast cancer patients may help boost survival chances by building muscle, study says

Chemotherapy and radiation are common treatments for breast cancer. However, building muscle may also help boost chances of survival, according to a new report. 

>> On AJC.com: Breast cancer treatment may trigger heart problems, study says

Researchers from Kaiser Permanente recently conducted a study, published in JAMA Oncology, to determine the association between muscle quality and the disease. 

To do so, they examined 3,241 women from Kaiser Permanente of Northern California and the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. The participants were diagnosed with stages II or III breast cancer between January 2000 and December 2013. Scientists then used CT scans to observe muscle tissues.

>> Read more trending news 

After analyzing the results, they found that higher muscle mass upped survival rates, while lower muscle mass was linked with a higher risk of death.

In fact, more than one-third of the individuals with sarcopenia, a condition that causes muscle loss, “had a significantly increased risk of death compared with patients without sarcopenia,” the authors wrote in the study.

>> On AJC.com: Study: Fat linked to breast cancer even if you have healthy weight

Furthermore, building muscle may also help with other cancers.

“Our findings are likely generalizable across many other nonmetastatic cancers because the associations with muscle and improved survival for those with metastatic cancer has been observed across a variety of solid tumors,” they said.

While the scientists did not thoroughly explore why low muscle mass is connected to low breast cancer survival rates, they think inflammation may be a factor as cancer-related inflammation can decrease muscle mass and increase fat.

The researchers now hope to continue their investigations and believe their findings will lead to better treatment practices.

“We should also consider interventions to improve muscle mass, such as resistance training or protein supplementation,” they said. “In the era of precision medicine, the direct measurement of muscle and adiposity will help to guide treatment plans and interventions to optimize survival outcomes.” 

>> On AJC.com: Sugar can fuel cancerous cells, study says

Second wave of the flu: What you need to know

Although the flu season may be winding down, an uptick of another flu strain is setting the scene for a possible second wave of flu, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

>> Read more trending news

The strain of flu that has dominated this season, influenza A (H3N2), is on the decline, but cases of influenza B have increased, according to the CDC's weekly statement ending on March 11. The report notes that 58 percent of all laboratory-confirmed cases of flu were caused by the B strain.

>> Related: CDC warns of second wave of flu virus

Here are 6 things you need to know about this late-season rise in influenza B.

1. It’s not a total surprise. This second wave of influenza B cases is not unexpected. A late-season surge of influenza B often takes place when H3N2 is dominant in the beginning of a season.

2. Influenza B is less associated with severe illness but CDC says don’t take this strain lightly. 

H3N2 is associated with more severe illness, complications, hospitalizations and deaths, especially among children, people older than 65 and those with chronic conditions. But CDC spokeswoman Kristen Nordlund urged vigilance."We know that illness associated with influenza B can be just as severe as illness associated with influenza A," Nordlund told CNN. "We also know that influenza B tends to be more severe for younger children."

3. There’s been an uptick of influenza B in Georgia, but overall numbers continue to fall. 

As of the week ending March 17, the Georgia Department of Public Health said 3.5 percent of patient visits to doctors were for the flu, down from 3.7 percent of patient visits the week before. A month ago, 11.9 percent of patient visits to doctors were for the flu. In Georgia, influenza A cases continue to represent a larger portion of laboratory-confirmed cases of flu: 8.9 percent for influenza A, and 3.9 percent for influenza B.

4. Believe it or not, it’s still not too late to get a shot if you haven’t. 

The CDC recommends vaccination “as long as flu viruses are circulating” and the season can run as late as May. In Georgia, there is “moderate” intensity of influenza, according to the most recent report. Influenza B viruses tend to respond better to vaccines than influenza A viruses. This season’s vaccine is believed to be about 36 percent effective overall, with lower effectiveness against the H3N2 strain, according to a mid-season estimate by the CDC. But even partial protection can help reduce the severity of illness.

5. Don’t let your guard down. Continue to take steps to protect you and your family from catching and spreading the flu. Wash your hands - before and after eating, after using the restroom, after coming home from work and school, after touching your mouth or nose. Hand-hygiene is one of the simplest and most effective ways to stop the spread of germs.

6. Cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze, and stay home if you are sick. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone (except to get medical care or other necessities). Your fever should be gone for at least 24 hours without the use of a fever-reducing medicine, such as Tylenol. You should stay home from work, school, travel, shopping, social events, and public gatherings. Check with your child's daycare or school before sending your child back. Many have rules and it’s generally at least a full day after they don't have any fever without medication.

Grilling meat could raise your risk of high blood pressure, study says

Grill lovers beware. Before you fire up the grill, a new report says that barbecue may increase your risk of high blood pressure.

Researchers from the American Heart Association presented a report Wednesday that explored whether foods cooked at high temperatures affect blood pressure. 

To do so, they examined more than 100,000 people from various long-term health studies. Researchers gathered information about the individuals’ cooking methods and the development of high blood pressure among those who regularly ate beef, poultry or fish. 

>> Read more trending news 

After analyzing the results, researchers found that none of the participants had high blood pressure, diabetes or cancer at the start of the program. About 37,000 of them had developed high blood pressure during the followup 12 to 16 years later.

When the scientists took a closer look, they discovered that those who reported eating two servings of red meat, chicken or fish a week were at higher risk for hypertension. 

The risk was 17 percent higher for people who grilled, broiled or roasted beef, chicken or fish more than 15 times a month, compared to those who did it less than four times a month. 

Related: How barbershops can help trim high blood pressure in black men

Furthermore, the risk was 15 percent higher for those who liked their meats well-done as opposed to rarer. High blood pressure risk was also higher for those estimated to have consumed the highest levels of heterocyclic aromatic amines, a chemical found on meats that are charred or exposed to high temperatures.

“The chemicals produced by cooking meats at high temperatures induce oxidative stress, inflammation and insulin resistance in animal studies, and these pathways may also lead to an elevated risk of developing high blood pressure,” Gang Liu said in a Wednesday news release

“Our findings suggest that it may help reduce the risk of high blood pressure if you don’t eat these foods cooked well done and avoid the use of open-flame and/or high-temperature cooking methods, including grilling/barbequing and broiling.”

Find out more about the report at the American Heart Association website.

Death penalty for some drug dealers part of Trump opioid plan, report says

President Donald Trump's proposal to fight the nation's growing opioid epidemic reportedly includes pursuing the death penalty for some drug traffickers. 

According to Reuters, Trump will detail his plan – which calls for stronger penalties for dealers, fewer opioid prescriptions, and improvements to drug education and access to treatment – Monday in New Hampshire.

>> Read more trending news 

Andrew Bremberg, Trump's domestic policy director, said the Justice Department "will seek the death penalty against drug traffickers when it's appropriate under current law," Reuters reported. The death penalty currently can be sought for some drug-related murders, the news service reported.

Read more here or here.

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