Don’t lose your cookies

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Ever run though the kitchen when your mom or dad or grandparent was whipping up a batch of cookies, and grab a finger-ful of raw cookie dough from the bowl?  Very sugary, very smooth, maybe a chocolate chip or two – yummy.  Sound like fun?  But, you were always warned that the raw eggs will make you sick. 

Well, beware.  The New York Times Health section recently ran an article looking at disease outbreaks associated with uncooked cookie batter, and came up with an interesting suspicion – maybe the concern is not limited to raw eggs.  Researchers studied packaged cookie dough, which uses pasteurized eggs, and still found that infections were occurring.  The source?  They suspect that flour may be the source, as it was the only raw ingredient that went into the mix. 

Further research will be needed to know if this is true, but the bottom line is that if you buy food that is intended to be cooked or baked before you eat it, then you should avoid eating it raw.  A simple solution, so long as you can keep your fingers out of the mixing bowl.

Stomach upset?  Come in to Student Health Services, our healthcare team can help.

Healthy eating!

Roger Miller, MD (OSU Student Health Services)

Does listening to loud music hurt my hearing?

Jogging with tunes

Happy times

Q: Since coming to college, I have been going to concerts and listening to music more often. I am worried about hearing loss. Am I at risk?

A: You have good reason to worry about your hearing. Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) is a condition that can cause permanent damage to the inner ear. It can occur after a very loud single event (like a bomb blast) or after repetitive exposure to moderately loud sounds. Going to loud concerts and listening to headphones too loud has been shown to lead to NIHL.

The intensity of sounds is measured in decibels. Whispering is in the neighborhood of 30 dB, while normal conversation is around 60-70 dB. A lawnmower puts out about 90 dB and an iPod at its highest setting cranks out 100 dB. The National Institute of Health has found that repetitive exposure to sounds greater than 85 dB can lead to NIHL. How loud is that? If you turn a stereo up to just loud enough so that you can have normal conversation over the music, it is roughly 85 dB.

There are two components involved with NIHL. The first is how loud the noise is, while the second is how long you’re exposed to it.  So what is a safe level of exposure?  It has been found to be safe to listen to iPods at 70 percent volume for 4 hours.

So what can you do to enjoy music and protect your hearing at the same time?

Most mp3 players now have options to lower the maximum volume, which is a good idea.  Purchasing noise-canceling headphones will reduce the need to turn up the volume because the ambient noise is too loud, but they’re pretty pricey.  A cheaper option would be larger ear-cup headphones that block out ambient noise better than ear buds.  If you frequent a lot of concerts, you should consider wearing earplugs – believe me, at 110-120dB (!!) you’ll still be able to enjoy the show.

Adam Brandeberry (Ohio State University College of Medicine)

Kathy Horava, MD (Ohio State University Student Health Services)

Check your melons!

CDC Case Count (click to enlarge)

Last week, CDC and FDA issued updated alerts about the multi-state Listeria outbreak associated with cantaloupe.  The alerts are based on 72 cases that have been identified since the beginning of August, resulting in 13 deaths. 

Listeria is a bacteria that causes fever and diarrhea, and usually resolves on its own.  However, for the elderly and people with suppressed immunity, this infection can be much more severe and and sometimes fatal.  It can also cause miscarriage or fetal damage, so it is especially dangerous for pregnant women. 

Most notable is that this organism can grow at refrigerator temperatures, and is killed by cooking.  For raw fruit like cantaloupe, thorough rinsing before eating is recommended.  The CDC has identified certain brands of cantaloupe, grown in southern Colorado, that should not be eaten.

CDC update, 9-21-11:

CDC Listeria page:

FDA press release, 9-14-11:

Keep an eye out for updates on this situation.

Roger Miller, MD
Student Health Services
The Ohio State University

Pet Lovers Beware!!

Pets/Salmonella (click to enlarge)

Keep it clean!

Lots of students have pets at home or on campus.  Did you known that dry pet foods and treats can be a health risk for humans?  The CDC recently published a report about outbreaks of intestinal infections with a bacteria called Salmonella, that was linked to humans handling certain dry foods for their pets.  These outbreaks were in multiple states, with Pennsylvania, New York, and Ohio leading the way.

How do you safely feed Fido or Frisky?  Here are some tips:

  • Purchase products (canned or bagged) with no visible signs of damage to the packaging, such as dents, tears, or discolorations.
  • Wash your hands for 20 seconds with water and soap right after handling pet food and treats, and especially before preparing, serving or eating food, drinks or preparing baby bottles
  • Preferably, people should feed their pet in areas other than the kitchen.
  • Wash pet food bowls, dishes and scooping utensils with soap and hot water regularly. Avoid washing these items in the kitchen sink or bathtubs to prevent cross-contamination. In households where there is no alternative, the sink area should be adequately sanitized after these items have been cleaned and removed.
  • Do not use the pet’s feeding bowl as a scooping utensil – use a clean, dedicated scoop, spoon, or cup.
  • Pet food should not be handled or stored in areas where food for humans is prepared.
  • If possible, store dry pet food in its original bag inside a clean, dedicated plastic container with a lid, keeping the top of the bag folded or closed.
  • Promptly refrigerate or discard unused, leftover wet pet food and containers (e.g., cans, pouches). Refrigerating foods quickly prevents the growth of most harmful bacteria.
  • Dry pet food and pet treats should be stored in a cool, dry place under 80 degrees F.
  • Children younger than 5 years of age should not be allowed to touch or eat pet food, treats, or supplements and should be kept away from pet feeding areas. Young children are especially at risk for illness because their immune systems are still developing and because they are more likely than others to put their fingers or other items into their mouths.

Remember, washing your hands is the most important step to prevent many types of illness.  Well, I just filled up Brutus’ food bowl, better go wash my hands! 

Come on, boy, lets go!!

Roger Miller, MD
Student Health Services
The Ohio State University


Student Health and a Healthy Campus

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Check your running shoes!

Pertussis Campaign

Student Health Services gets involved in all sorts of disease outbreak announcements, vaccine information, and health awareness activities and serves as the public health agency for issues that impact students.  We work with experts from the OSU Medical Center, Columbus Public Health, the Franklin County Board of Health, the Ohio Department of Health and even the CDC! 

So, how healthy is our “public”?  The 20th century brought a nearly 30-year increase in life expectancy, and dramatic decreases in infectious diseases.  Now that we are 10 years into the 21st century, are we still making progress?  The CDC asked their public health experts to rank this past decade’s top achievements – here are the ones that most impact health on campus:   

Vaccine-Preventable Diseases – we are now up to 17 different diseases covered by our childhood and adult immunization programs, preventing 42,00 deaths and 20 million illnesses each year for children born from 2001 to present.

Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases – Tuberculosis cases have dropped 30%, and certain infections that can occur in hospitals have decreased 58%.  We are also seeing more rapid detection of diseases like HIV and West Nile virus.

Tobacco Control – The number of current smokers found in youth surveys decreased from 35% to 19% this decade, although this trend has slowed in the last few years.  State-wide comprehensive smoke-free laws that prohibit smoking in worksites, restaurants, and bars did not exist in the US in 2000, but that number increased to 25 states and the District of Columbia (DC) by 2010.

Motor Vehicle Safety – even though we drove our motor vehicles more in 2010 than in 2000, death and injury rates due to crashes, and the number of pedestrians and bicyclists killed all decreased.   This is largely due to safer cars and roads, along with seat belt and child car seat laws.

Cardiovascular Disease Prevention – These top killers each decreased by about a third in this decade, associated with better control of blood pressure and cholesterol, less smoking, and better treatments.

Public Health Preparedness and Response – 9/11 provided many lessons about preparedness, and now the public health system can respond more rapidly to new threats, like the H1N1 flu and the cholera outbreak in Haiti.

Due to these and other health interventions, the death rate in the United States declined from 881.9 per 100,000 population to 741.0 in the past ten years, a record low.  Want more detailed analysis?  Visit the CDC’s Ten Great Public Health Achievements — United States, 2001–2010.

Healthy Living!

Roger Miller, MD
Student Health Services
The Ohio State University