Articles Posted in Travel Risks

dexter-300x282All critters great and small may be adorable and adored, but some extreme and unsupported claims for the mental health benefits that pets bring may be launching a needed correction in how so-called emotional support animals get accommodated in public spaces.

It would be tough to make up this story, much less explain why a recent United Airlines passenger, a performance artist, thought it appropriate to try to fly with her pet peacock (he’s shown in a photo taken by his owner and posted on his public Instagram account). She claimed it was an emotional support animal, protected under disability law, and she said she had purchased a separate seat for the hefty bird.

United, which hasn’t endeared itself to the public with its customer service, said it thrice had told this passenger in advance that her peacock wasn’t getting on its jet.

dui-300x150Politicians and policy-makers can’t ignore the rising number of vehicular deaths, and they must crack down fast and hard on the increasing road toll associated with alcohol abuse.

At the request of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a blue-ribbon expert group has examined not only the overall increase in road deaths — to 37,461 in 2016, a 5.6 percent rise over the year previous. The panel from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine also focused on the 10,000 deaths per year attributed to alcohol impairment. The experts called these road fatalities, which are increasing in number, “entirely preventable,” and recommended tough ways to reduce booze-related deaths.

They have recommended that a new national sobriety standard should be put in place, the Associated Press reported, reducing motorists’ allowable blood-alcohol concentration “from 0.08 to 0.05. All states have 0.08 thresholds. A Utah law passed last year that lowers the state’s threshold to 0.05 doesn’t go into effect until Dec. 30.”

usfs-thomas-fire-300x200The clock may be counting down to 2017’s end but Mother Nature isn’t giving up on whipping up calamities that wreak havoc on parts of the nation’s health care system and millions of Americans’ well-being. After swaths of the country were inundated by hurricanes and flooding, the West Coast is now battling yet more huge blazes.

Raging wildfires in Southern California not only have added big time to the billions of dollars that such blazes have caused this year in damage and suffering to people, property, and animals, they also have provided the entire coast with a harsh reminder of the importance of air quality to health.

With luck, public cooperation, and outstanding work by fire fighters, police, and other first-responders, the loss of life has been low in a series of blazes on the Westside of Los Angeles, in the city’s northern reaches, in San Diego, and most especially in Ventura and Santa Barbara. The “Thomas Fire,” burning over hundreds of acres in Ventura and Santa Barbara, has become the third largest wildfire in California record books. The Southern California blazes follow hard on the heels of disastrous infernos in Northern California’s wine country.

jet-300x154Tens of thousands of Americans will hit the skies in the next few days, struggling to squeeze in that last bit of business before the holidays shut down 2017 opportunities. Are these business travelers harming their own health?

The New York Times has put up an interesting report on the ubiquity and stress of business-required travel, arguing that jet-setting for work not only has lost whatever glamor it once may have held but also that experts increasingly are worried about the health toll it inflicts.

The paper, noting that more formal research needs to done, cites studies showing that “frequent business travel accelerates aging and increases the likelihood of suffering a stroke or heart attack, and that more than 70 percent of business travelers report some symptoms of an unhealthy lifestyle, including poor diet, lack of exercise, excess drinking, stress, mood swings and gastrointestinal problems.”

bike-300x300As more Americans try to stay healthier and to beat the pains of commuting by car, bus, or light rail systems, many (including yours truly) have turned to bicycling. But as a result, non-fatal bike injuries have skyrocketed—especially for men and for riders older than 45—and two-wheel collision treatment has become expensive: The annual cost of medical care for bike crashes in 2013 alone exceeded $24.4 billion, double the amount for all occupational illnesses.

Those are findings of a multi-year study (1997-2013) of electronic records on 3.8 million non-fatal and 9,839 bike-related deaths, research published in Injury Prevention, an online specialty journal.

A key reason why the cost of cycling wrecks—including for emergency transport, hospital charges, rehabilitation, nursing home stays, and lost work and quality of life—has raced upwards: Bikers more than ever are mixing it up with cars on streets.  Road collisions accounted for just under half of biking injuries in 1997. They’re almost two-thirds of such wrecks now.

cdc-logo-300x226When it comes to the nation’s health, the Trump Administration and the GOP-dominated Congress seem determined to prove they know how to do penny-wise and pound-foolish. They’re amply demonstrating this with proposed slashes in the nation’s basic budget for public health. They’re calling for a $1 billion cut for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, notably in the agency’s funding to combat bioterrorism and outbreaks of disease, as well as to battle smoking and to provide critical medical services like immunizations. Their target is the Prevention and Public Health Fund, set up under the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. With the ACA under fire by partisans who want to repeal and replace it, the fund was already imperiled. GOP lawmakers, determined to cut domestic spending, seem disinclined to come up with substitute sums.

Andy Harris, a Maryland Republican congressman, physician, and House appropriations health subcommittee member, has been quoted as calling the public health money, “a slush fund.” He argued that, “It’s been used by the secretary [of health and human services] for whatever the secretary wants. It’s a misnomer to call it the Prevention and Public Health Fund, because it’s been used for other things, and it’s about time we eliminated it.”

The Obama Administration did embarrass Congress by tapping the fund to provide emergency aid last summer to Florida, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, and other states battling tropical infections, including Zika and dengue fever. Congress took a long recess vacation, as states clamored for help for mosquito eradication and vaccine development to deal with Zika, a virus that can cause severe birth defects and other harms.

Because the holidays should be filled with abundant joy, here are a few ways to safeguard the health and well-being of you and yours in the days ahead:

house fireDon’t ignore deadly fire dangers

The tragic Oakland, Calif., warehouse-concert hall blaze that claimed at least 36 lives has provided a timely reminder: Fires remain a huge concern, and, especially as cold weather sets in and families add seasonal lighting displays, caution needs to be a watchword. Yes, building codes have improved admirably over time, and fire fighters and many inspectors do a public service that deserves a salute. But affordable housing, especially in big cities like Washington, D.C., remains in crisis shortage. This has forced many, including young people, into overcrowded, substandard housing—some as little more than squatters in dangerous, vacant, or dubious buildings. Meantime, many homeowners resort to space heaters or other devices (including turning on kitchen stoves and ovens) as temperatures fall. Or they’re putting up flashy holiday light displays or even Christmas trees with risky electricals. These excesses can overwhelm safety systems, and not every property owner does due diligence to maintain now common household alarms.  The National Fire Protection Association reports that firefighters across the country in 2015 responded to more than 1.3 million blazes, which killed more than 3,200 Americans and injured almost 16,000, and caused more than $14 billion in damages.  U.S. fire departments, between 2010 and 2014, responded to an estimated average of 210 home fires per year that began with Christmas trees. These blazes caused an annual average of six civilian deaths, 16 civilian injuries, and $16.2 million in direct property damage. Common sense doesn’t change: Be careful while cooking holiday feasts. Think super safety when setting up holiday displays. Reconsider if portable heaters make sense in your home. Ensure your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are working. Click here for some seasonal fire safety ideas.

aedes-aegyptiThe 2016 Summer Olympic Games are about to launch, and who would have guessed that Miami, and not Rio, is the city that officials are buzzing about because of the tropical malady Zika?

State and local officials say they are stepping up the battle against the mosquito-borne scourge after confirming four locally contracted Zika cases in a neighborhood not far from downtown Miami; none of the cases can be tracked to those who might have traveled outside the United States or engaged in unprotected sex with a Zika carrier−the means by which the infection has occurred, thus far, in the American mainland.

The confirmation of a localized spread of Zika has prompted a major push for pest detection and control in the Wynwood area, a bohemian neighborhood with many restaurants and art galleries.

stemcellBeneficial therapies can topple over to medical nightmares in a blink, especially when regulators seem to have looked askance or even shut their eyes and slumbered. The Food and Drug Administration may need to look into what  is going on with the burgeoning business of so-called stem cell treatments.

Two academics took to the Internet and found “at least 351 businesses in 570 locations …marketing stem cell therapies that have not been fully vetted by medical researchers or blessed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration,” they reported in the peer reviewed, academic journal Cell Stem Cell.

To be sure, they did not visit the facilities in person, and they use care not to describe any of them as violating state or federal laws or regulations. They used rigorous, robust online means, though, to look at the operations’ Internet pitches, which, as The Los Angeles Times notes:

Health officials and parents in Brazil are grappling with a surge of birth defects traced to mosquitoes. In the last year, more than 2,700 infants have been born with microcephaly, tiny heads and brains that leave children permanently disabled. That rate is about 20 times higher than recent years.

The culprit receiving tentative blame is Zika, a tropical virus named for the Ugandan forest where it was first found decades ago. The infection can cause microcephaly. Its presence was detected in the amniotic fluid of two mothers with microcephalic babies. Health officials also are finding that other moms who delivered malformed children reported Zika symptoms during their pregnancy.

Brazilians have stepped up their long-running and sometimes successful war on aedes aegypti, the mosquito that carries Zika and other diseases, including dengue fever, yellow fever, and chikungunya. Before the Zika outbreak, Brazil already was waging a pitched battle against dengue fever, which in 2015 had infected 1 million — twice the number of infections from the year previous. Dengue fever killed at least 839 Brazilians in 2015, an 89 percent increase in fatalities over the year previous.

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