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Health Capsules: July 5

By: Lisa Russell


BJC Hospice recently opened Evelyn’s House at 1000 N. Mason Road in Creve Coeur.

New BJC hospice house opens in Creve Coeur

Evelyn’s House, a new BJC hospice facility located on the campus of Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital in Creve Coeur, opened on June 19. The 16-bed, 18,000-square-foot facility provides compassionate end-of-life care for adult and pediatric patients throughout the St. Louis area. Evelyn’s House offers an alternative to home care in special circumstances, such as the short-term management of a patient’s pain and symptoms, as well as providing respite for caregivers. The house is named in honor of Evelyn E. Newman, a community leader and philanthropist who passed away in 2015.

“Evelyn’s House offers our patients exceptional quality medical care in a peaceful, homelike setting, designed specifically to relieve symptoms, improve quality of life, enhance dignity and support patients and families,” said Patrick White, M.D., chief medical officer for BJC Hospice. “We are proud to be able to offer patients who have serious medical illness, with personalized medical care delivered from a highly trained and compassionate team.”

 

University of Missouri researchers have tested a system to make travel safer in construction zones.

Making construction zones safer

As millions of summer travelers hit the nation’s roadways, they are invariably faced with frustrating lane closures, detours and delays because of road repairs and construction projects that must be completed during warm-weather months. These construction zones also are a major safety hazard, causing thousands of traffic accidents and, unfortunately, multiple fatalities among both motorists and workers every summer.

After studying systems to alleviate backups and delays – and make construction zones safer – researchers at the University of Missouri found that using variable speed limits in construction zones is one way to accomplish all of these goals.

Assisted by the Missouri Department of Transportation, a team from the university’s College of Engineering, led by Associate Professor Praveen Edara, conducted tests of of variable advisory speed limits [VASL], which use changeable speed signs to vary the advisory speed and gradually slow drivers down as they approach a work zone. They measured the system’s effect on lessening congestion and reducing rear-end and lane-changing accidents on a fairly dangerous stretch of Interstate 270 between Interstate 44 and Manchester Road [Hwy. 100].

“The idea was to see if warning drivers of slower speeds ahead helped reduce crashes,” Edara said. “Where there is queueing, if drivers are not aware of the queue downstream, they don’t have enough time to hit the brakes to slow down or stop, thus increasing the likelihood of a crash. Instead of posting a message asking them to slow down, the VASL system posts an advisory speed limit based on the actual downstream traffic speed.”

The tests showed that VASL systems are effective in gradually slowing drivers as they enter work zones. Their results showed that VASL use resulted in a 39 to 53 percent decrease in average queue length, with only a 4 to 8 percent increase in travel time. The incidence of rear-end collisions decreased by 30 percent, with a 20 percent drop in lane-changing conflicts. Maximum speeds through the work zones decreased by as much as 10 miles per hour. Overall, while travel time was slightly longer, lines were shorter and collisions less frequent, Edara noted.

“You can get both safety benefits and mobility benefits by deploying variable advisory speed limit systems in work zones,” he said. The MU team’s findings were recently published in the Journal of Transportation Safety and Security.

 

A caution to swimmers

Swimmers enjoying the nation’s waterways this summer may want to take reasonable precautions to prevent contracting an extremely rare but deadly infection. Its cause is an amoeba known as Naegleria fowleri or N. fowleri, which has been called the “brain-eating amoeba” in news stories. This amoeba thrives in freshwater lakes and rivers, as well as in poorly maintained swimming pools.

A single-celled organism, N. fowleri causes primary amebic meningoencephalitis [PAM], which destroys brain tissue and causes swelling and death, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC].

“Humans are the accidental host – we are not part of this amoeba’s life cycle. But when it finds a nice warm environment like your nose, it looks for a food source,” said CDC Epidemiologist Jonathan Yoder.

The nose is the route of entry into the body for N. fowleri; drinking water contaminated with the organism cannot cause infection. Generally, this occurs when people jump or dive into warm water when the weather has been hot for a long period of time, which results in higher water temperatures and lower water levels. The amoeba then travels up the nose to the brain and spinal cord.

While infections with N. fowleri are indeed rare – only 143 known infections were reported in the U.S. between 1962 and 2016 – they occur mainly during the months of July, August and September. Most of these infections have been contracted in southern states, but they can also happen farther north. Only one infection to date has been reported in Missouri. However, once a person is infected, the fatality rate is over 97 percent: Just four out of those 143 known infected individuals survived.

In its early stages, N. fowleri infection may be similar to bacterial meningitis. Initial symptoms of PAM start one to 14 days after infection, and include headache, fever, nausea, vomiting and stiff neck. After the start of symptoms, the disease progresses rapidly and usually causes death within three to seven days.

The few survivors of PAM were all treated with powerful drugs soon after infection, but most victims don’t start treatment in time. Rapid tests for N. fowleri do exist, but because the infection is so rarely seen, doctors usually don’t suspect it until it’s too late. If they have been swimmming in warm freshwater rivers or lakes within the previous two weeks, people should seek emergency medical care immediately if they develop a sudden onset of fever, headache, stiff neck and/or vomiting. Health officials recommend that swimmers hold their noses or wear nose clips when jumping feet-first into freshwater lakes and rivers. Avoiding extremely warm or low-level waters also may be protective.

 

On the calendar

Home Alone, a program designed especially for children ages 9 and 10 who may be staying home alone for the first time, is from 9-10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, July 12 at the St. Luke’s Hospital Institute for Health Education, 222 S. Woods Mill Road in Chesterfield. Topics covered in the session include handling the unexpected, stranger danger, simple first aid, dealing with loneliness and boredom, storm safety, trust and honesty. Children may not register for Home Alone and Sitter Skills classes on the same day. Cost is $15 per child. Register [using the child’s name] at www.stlukes-stl.com; for more information, call (314) 542-4848.

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Sitter Skills, a program for beginning babysitters, is offered from noon-2:30 p.m. on Wednesday, July 12 at the St. Luke’s Hospital Institute for Health Education, 222 S. Woods Mill Road in Chesterfield. The course is designed for girls and boys age 11 and older to help make the babysitting experience a success. It covers babysitting basics, safety information, first aid and child development. Participation certificate, babysitting handbook and bag, and a light snack are provided. Children may not be registered for Sitter Skills and Home Alone classes on the same day. Cost is $20 per child. Register [using the child’s name] at www.stlukes-stl.com; for more information, call (314) 542-4848.

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Babysitting 101, presented by St. Louis Children’s Hospital, is offered from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. on Tuesday, July 18 at the Wildwood Municipal Building, 16860 Main St. in Wildwood. This class is an introduction to the basics of babysitting; topics include the business of babysitting, child development, safety and first aid, and fun and games. A workbook and light snack are provided. Children of any age considering babysitting may attend. The course fee is $30 per child. To register, call (314) 454-5437.

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