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Legionnaires' case confirmed in Middle River nursing home

The Baltimore County health department said Friday it is monitoring for Legionnaires' disease at Oakwood Care Center, a 130-bed nursing home in Middle River, after one case was confirmed.

Legionnaires' disease is a kind of pneumonia caused by bacteria that grows naturally in water, and often found in large plumbing systems. It's spread from small droplets of water in the air, and not person to person.

Most people don't get sick, but the disease can be deadly for those who are older and have weakened immune systems, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms can appear up to two weeks after exposure and include aches, fever and shortness of breath.

The CDC said up to 18,000 people are hospitalized each year nationally with the disease. State data shows there were 162 cases last year, including 32 in Baltimore County.

No one at Oakwood could be reached for comment.

Meredith.cohn@baltsun.com

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Parents should be careful with children's medication dosages

That teaspoon of acetaminophen parents give their children when they have a fever may not be a teaspoon at all. Studies show parents who use utensils from the kitchen drawer may inadvertently give their child too little or too much of all kinds of medicines, and that can sometimes lead to severe side effects. Parents should be using a carefully marked dropper or the cap that comes with the medication, consulting the recommended dosages for their child's weight and age, according to Dr. Scott Krugman, chairman of pediatrics at MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center.

How big a problem are incorrectly measured drugs for kids?

A recent study found more than 10,000 calls to the poison center each year are due to liquid medication dosage errors.

Because children's dosages for each medication vary by weight, there are no "standard" medication doses for medications prescribed to children. Additionally, many medications come in a variety of concentrations. Both of these features increase the...

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State offers guidelines to handle drugs for cancer, rheumatology disorders

A state health department work group has developed a set of standards for how drugs to treat cancer and rheumatology and blood conditions are dosed and controlled, perhaps serving as a national model.

The work group was formed by the General Assembly, which exempted oncologists and rheumatologists treating patients in their offices in legislation passed two years ago on the heels of deaths in Maryland linked to compounding, or remixing of government approved drugs, done at a Massachusetts pharmacy.

The legislature tasked the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene work group to study appropriate safety standards for mixing and delivering medications by oncologists, rheumatologists and hematologists outside of hospitals.

Doctor groups have agreed to voluntarily adopt the standards, which will be overseen by the Board of Physicians.

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Five cold-related deaths reported in Md.

Cold temperatures were a factor in five deaths across Maryland this month, and health officials are urging the elderly and other vulnerable populations to be wary of hypothermia and other cold-related illnesses this winter.

The victims included three people aged 65 or older in Wicomico, Prince George's and Carroll counties, and two men aged 18-44 in Frederick and Anne Arundel counties, according to the state health department. Health officials do not release further details on cases, citing privacy concerns.

In general, health officials report cold-related illnesses and deaths including hypothermia and frostbite as well as injuries related to home heating, including carbon monoxide poisoning and burns.

"Cold-related deaths are tragic, but preventable," Dr. Laura Herrera Scott, state deputy secretary for public health services, said in a statement. "Especially at risk are the elderly, the homeless population and those who use drugs or alcohol."

Hypothermia occurs when the body...

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Childhood deaths dropping in Maryland

Unexpected deaths of infants and children dropped to 171 in 2013 from 302 in 2007, a 43 percent decline, according to new state health data.

The numbers come from the Child Fatality Review, a nationwide effort to track and prevent the deaths, which include injuries, homicides, suicides sudden infant death syndrome and unknown medical conditions. Maryland began its program in 1999 and 2007 represents a peak year. There were 273 in 2000.

The data don't include deaths from a known medical condition. There were 696 deaths of infants and children from all causes in 2013, according to the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

State health officials attribute the decline in infants and older kids to a safe sleep initiative, better child safety seat laws and violence prevention measures, among other policies. Cell phone and texting bans while driving, as well as a crib bumper ban, an impaired driver program and pregnancy and tobacco cessation campaign are expected to further drive...

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Lower stress to protect your heart, expert says

Heart disease is a leading killer of Americans, and there are many factors that put people at risk. But among the top problems is something hard to measure – stress – according to Dr. Michael Miller, professor of cardiovascular medicine, epidemiology and public health in the University of Maryland School of Medicine and author of "Heal Your Heart: The Positive Emotions Prescription to Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease." He says there are actions everyone can take to lower their stress, and their risk of a heart attack.

What are the major risk factors for heart disease, and where do you rank stress?

Nine risk factors account for well over 90 percent of heart attacks. In addition to the four major factors — cigarette smoking, diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol — other risk factors include being sedentary, having excess abdominal (belly) fat, not consuming vegetables and fruits daily, and consuming alcohol. Last but certainly not least is stress, which represents up to 25 percent...

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