Long Bouts of Space Travel May Harm Astronauts’ Brains – Consumer Health News


MONDAY, Oct. 18, 2021 (HealthDay News) — Prolonged stays in space appear to damage astronauts’ brains, a small, new study suggests.

The researchers studied five Russian cosmonauts, mean age 49, who stayed on the International Space Station (ISS) for an average of 5.5 months.

Blood samples were taken from the cosmonauts 20 days before their departure to the ISS, and one day, one week, and about three weeks after they returned to Earth.

The blood samples were analyzed for five biomarkers of brain damage: neurofilament light (NFL), glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), total tau (T-tau), and two amyloid beta proteins.

Levels of three of the biomarkers — NFL, GFAP and the amyloid beta protein Aβ40 — were significantly higher after the cosmonauts returned from the space station, according to the study published online recently in the journal JAMA Neurology.

“This is the first time that concrete proof of brain-cell damage has been documented in blood tests following space flights. This must be explored further and prevented if space travel is to become more common in the future,” said study co-senior author Henrik Zetterberg, a professor of neuroscience at the University of Gothenburg, in Sweden.

“To get there, we must help one another to find out why the damage arises. Is it being weightless, changes in brain fluid, or stressors associated with launch and landing, or is it caused by something else? Here, loads of exciting experimental studies on humans can be done on Earth,” he explained in a university news release.

The researchers also found brain changes when they conducted MRI scans of the cosmonauts’ brains after their return to Earth, and there were deviations in clinical tests of their brains.

However, the study was too small for a full investigation of the link between those findings and spending a long period of time in space.

The researchers are now discussing follow-up studies.

“If we can sort out what causes the damage, the biomarkers we’ve developed may help us find out how best to remedy the problem,” Zetterberg said.

Previous research has shown that an extended time in space can have harmful physical impacts, including muscle and bone loss, vision problems and changes in gut bacteria.

More information

NASA has more about the human body in space.

SOURCE: University of Gothenburg, news release, Oct. 12, 2021



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Consumer News: Gun sales hit new record, High travel demand leading to raised prices and more!


CNN– Gun sales are hitting new record highs. The FBI says they conducted more than 3.5 million gun related background checks in April. That marks a 20% increase over the same period in 2020. The National Shooting Sports Foundation says more guns were sold last month than any April on record. The reason for the spike? It’s thought to be fueled by fears of more gun control legislation and rising crime rates.

Face masks will be required for U.S. travelers until at least September 13. Last Friday, the Transportation Security Administration extended a mask mandate that was set to expire next month. The rule has been in effect since February 2. Since then, the TSA says its received reports of about 2,000 people violating the mandate.

Speaking of travel, experts say a record number of people are gearing up to go on vacation or visit their loved ones, but that demand is now raising prices whether you’re traveling on the road or in the skies. Mandy Gaither has details.





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BBB CONSUMER TIPS: Is travel insurance right for you? | News


Many people are beginning to think about life after COVID, and part of that thinking involves planning a well-deserved getaway. Before you finalize your travel plans, be sure you have given careful thought to whether you need to purchase travel insurance. There are circumstances that could cause you to cancel your trip, return home early or force you to seek emergency medical treatment while traveling. Travel insurance may provide the extra protection you need. Better Business Bureau is advising travelers to weigh the pros and cons of travel insurance before going on an extensive trip.

Before you purchase coverage, check your homeowner’s or medical insurance policies to avoid any overlap. For instance, expensive items such as your camcorder, laptop computer or jewelry may be covered by your homeowner’s insurance should they be stolen while you are traveling. If the airline loses your checked luggage, they are required to reimburse you for your bags (up to a certain dollar amount). Or, if you become sick or injured while traveling, your personal medical insurance may pick up the cost of your medical bills.

Some of the different types of insurance available include:

Trip cancellation/interruption (TCI): If your plans suddenly change and you have to cancel or end your trip early, TCI will cover you for this. But it will only reimburse you for reasons on the insurer’s acceptable list, such as injury, sickness, or death of yourself, a family member, traveling companion or business partner. Some policies will cover only medical issues, and some will not cover pre-existing medical conditions. It’s important to read the fine print.

Emergency medical evacuation: If you are going on an adventure vacation or to an area that is far from modern medical facilities, it may be a good idea to buy this coverage. If adequate treatment is not available at a local hospital, you would be transferred to the nearest acceptable medical faculty.

Baggage loss: This coverage reimburses you for lost, stolen or damaged bags. As you are packing, make a list of everything you are taking with you. If your bag is lost, you may be reimbursed for some contents, but not all. Baggage-loss protection is only necessary if you are carrying more than $2,500 worth of items in your bags. Be sure to check your homeowner’s policy.

BBB recommends travelers take the following into consideration:

Read the fine print: Know exactly what coverage you are getting and what is covered. Policies and insurance firms differ in what they cover.

You may not need to buy it right away: Travel insurance can be purchased days before your trip. Check to see if the policy you are considering requires you to purchase within a set time period after you’ve booked your travel. For trip cancellation insurance, you won’t be covered if you buy the policy after you’ve become ill or natural disaster has wiped out your vacation destination.

Not every trip needs travel insurance: If your total trip is a couple hundred dollars in airfare, travel insurance probably isn’t worth it. But if you’re taking the trip of a lifetime and spending thousands, travel insurance is a good consideration.

Don’t fall for high pressure sales tactics: Don’t let someone pressure you into buying travel insurance right away. You are the only one who can decide if you truly need it.

Pay with a credit card: Protect yourself further by paying for travel related expenditures, including insurance, with a credit card. Ask your credit card issuer if there are additional protections that come with your credit card. Some travel insurance may be built into your credit purchases.

Don’t forget travel agents: Consumers spend billions of dollars each year traveling. This past year of uncertainty has renewed our appreciation for local travel agents who can help navigate travel issues. Good planning goes a long way toward making travel efficient and stress-free so why not use a professional?

For more tips you can trust, visit bbb.org.





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Consumer Confidence in Travel Gets a Boost as Vaccines Roll Out


Vaccines are boosting consumer confidence in travel. Airlines, airports, travel agencies and cruise lines are all reporting increased traffic and bookings.

New research from Allianz details this surge and how vaccines are driving it and how other health and safety measures continue to increase confidence as well.

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A majority of the 3,500 customers that Allianz surveyed (67 percent) said that they believe receiving a COVID-19 vaccine will make them feel safe enough to travel again. Customers over the age of 65 placed more importance on receiving the vaccine (78 percent) versus customers in younger age ranges.

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When it comes to feeling safe traveling, consumers felt safer if they themselves were vaccinated versus ensuring that all those around them were vaccinated, such as airline crew or other travelers. Sixty-seven percent said receiving the vaccine was more impactful while 47 percent said it was more impactful for airline crews or other travelers receiving the vaccine.

Allianz asked travelers what would make them feel safe enough to travel again. Apart from the 67 percent that said COVID-19 vaccines, 66 percent said wearing masks on planes, in airports, etcetera. Fifty-nine percent said blocked seats/limited capacity on planes and trains, and 58 percent said advanced sanitizing efforts at airports and hotels. Forty-seven percent said others receiving a COVID-19 vaccine would make them feel safe to travel, and 44 percent of people said that declining cases in the destination they are visiting would be a major factor. Forty-one percent said that requiring proof of a negative COVID-19 test would make them feel safe.

“It is a huge accomplishment to have three highly-effective COVID-19 vaccines in distribution throughout the U.S.,” said Daniel Durazo, director of marketing and communications at Allianz Partners USA. “Our survey finds that increased traveler confidence is a direct result of improved vaccine availability, and we are pleased to see how vaccines will impact the recovery of the travel industry and travelers’ vacation plans in 2021 and beyond.”

The Allianz survey results show just how passionate its customers are about traveling. When asked when travelers anticipate traveling next, the vast majority are planning to within the next year.

Already, 13 percent of respondents said they were traveling now. Nine percent will travel within less than a month, and 19 percent will travel within one to three months. Eighteen percent plan to travel within four to six months, and 15 percent said they would vacation in seven to 12 months. Five percent said that they would wait more than 12 months while 21 percent said that they don’t know when they will travel again.

Plans for vacations are mostly local at the moment. Most customers are still planning to travel within the Continental U.S. (56 percent) for their next trip. That is followed by Mexico, the Caribbean or Hawaii (21 percent) and Europe (15 percent).

Allianz customers are also ready to fly again. In a continued positive sign for the airline industry, which has faced a difficult year of decreased demand, Allianz discovered that most customers (70 percent) plan to fly their next destination, compared to driving (20 percent).





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Health Highlights: March 23, 2021 – Consumer Health News


U.S. Adults Gained Average of 2 Pounds a Month During Lockdowns

American adults under COVID-19 lockdowns gained an average of more than half a pound every 10 days, which works out to 2 pounds a month, a small study shows.

That means that adults who maintained lockdown measures could easily have gained 20 pounds since the start of the pandemic a year ago, study senior author Dr. Gregory Marcus, a cardiologist and professor of medicine at University of California, San Francisco, told the The New York Times.

The study included fewer than 300 people nationwide and used weight measurements from Bluetooth-connected smart scales. The findings were outlined in a research letter published Monday in the journal JAMA Network Open.

“We know that weight gain is a public health problem in the U.S. already, so anything making it worse is definitely concerning, and shelter-in-place orders are so ubiquitous that the sheer number of people affected by this makes it extremely relevant,” Marcus, told the Times.

Many of the people in the study were losing weight before shelter-in-place orders were issued in their states, Marcus noted.

“It’s reasonable to assume these individuals are more engaged with their health in general, and more disciplined and on top of things,” he said. “That suggests we could be underestimating — that this is the tip of the iceberg.”

Excess weight has been linked to a greater risk of developing more severe COVID-19 disease, and the United States already has among the highest rates of overweight and obesity in the world. Some 42 percent of American adults over age 20 have obesity, while another 32 percent of Americans are overweight, the Times reported.

Obamacare’s Reach Surges With 200,000 New Signups, More States Involved

More than 200,000 Americans signed up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act during the first two weeks of an open enrollment period created by President Joe Biden.

That response shows that people who lost insurance during the COVID-19 pandemic are in desperate need of coverage, according to federal officials and health policy experts, The New York Times reported.

Tuesday is the 11th anniversary of the health law’s signing, and even some strongly Republican states are thinking about taking advantage of a provision in Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus law that makes Medicaid expansion more fiscally appealing.

Alabama and Wyoming are considering expanding Medicaid to residents whose incomes are too high to qualify at the moment but too low to afford private health insurance, the Times reported.

Expanding access to health care has been a core issue for Biden, both when he was vice president and during his campaign for the presidency. A week after he took office, he ordered the law’s insurance marketplaces to reopen for three months, from February to May 15, to help people struggling to find coverage.

Previously, only those who had “qualifying life events,” including job losses, could sign up outside of the traditional fall enrollment period.

Groups Call for U.S. to Ease International Travel Restrictions

The Biden administration needs to create a plan in the next five weeks to ease international travel restrictions introduced early in the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a letter that airlines and other tourism-related groups sent to the White House.

The more than two dozen groups want people who’ve received COVID-19 vaccination to be exempt from testing before entering the United States, and also want the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to say that it’s safe for vaccinated people to travel, the Associated Press reported.

These and other steps will speed the travel and airline industries’ recovery from the devastating drop in travel during the pandemic, according to the groups, which include Airlines for America, the U.S. Travel Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Airline passenger traffic remains below 2019 levels, but is picking up. More than 1 million people passed through U.S. airport checkpoints each of the last 11 days, and on Sunday it reached more than 1.5 million for the first time in more than a year, the AP reported.

In making its case for easing restrictions, the groups cited the recent decline in reported new cases, hospitalizations and deaths related to COVID-19 in the United States. Nearly 45 million Americans, more than 13% of the population, have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the CDC.

“The time to plan for and chart a defined roadmap to reopen international travel is now,” they wrote in a letter to White House virus response coordinator Jeffrey Zients.

The White House referred to remarks made by CDC Director Rochelle Walensky on Monday. Walensky said the health agency is working on new guidance for people who are vaccinated, but raised concern about recent increases in new reported cases of coronavirus in many European countries.

“If we look at our European friends, we just don’t want to be at this rapid uptick of cases again, and that is very possible that that could happen,’ she said. “We are so close to vaccinating so many more people… Now is not the time to travel.”

Fully-Vaccinated People Can Visit Unvaccinated Family and Friends: CDC

Fully-vaccinated people can visit unvaccinated family and friends without restrictions, but should restrict visits to one unvaccinated household at a time, the US. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday.

“In the setting that the unvaccinated people are from a single household, and all the unvaccinated people are at low risk of severe COVID-19 illness, no prevention measures are needed, so these visits could happen indoors with no mask or physical distancing,” Tami Skoff, a CDC epidemiologist on the Clinical Guidelines Team of the Vaccine Task Force, said in a web briefing, CNN reported.

“And the example we like to give here is fully vaccinated grandparents can visit with their unvaccinated daughter and her unvaccinated children, assuming none of them are at high risk of severe disease. These visits can be done indoors with no masks or physical distancing,” Skoff said.

“There is a growing body of evidence that suggests that fully vaccinated people are less likely to have asymptomatic infection, and therefore potentially less likely to transmit SARS-CoV-2 to others,” Skoff added.

“There’s a lot of accumulating evidence that the currently available vaccines really helped to reduce or stop spread of this virus from fully vaccinated people to others,” she said.

Fully vaccinated means that it’s been two weeks since a person has received the second dose of a two-dose vaccine or two weeks since receiving the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, CNN reported.

But CDC officials said even fully vaccinated grandparents should not take their grandchildren to crowded places, such as church.



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Consumer News: Air travel continues to soar and one airline is testing a new way to travel!


CNN– Air travel continues to soar. The Transportation Security Administration says they’ve screened more than one million people a day at airports for six straight days. That’s a streak not even seen during last year’s peak holiday season. More than 7.5 million people have passed through U.S. airports since Thursday. The bigger numbers are still only about half of what travel figures were before the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Federal Aviation Administration is cracking down on unruly passengers on United States flights. The FAA said there have been more than 500 reports of misbehaving passengers since December. The FAA says it is now extending strict enforcement against those who disobey COVID-related mask policies. It is also encouraging agency officials to consider both civil and criminal charges, including fines and jail time.

ABC NEWS– There is a new way you can travel without touching a thing. One U.S. airline is testing what they’re calling “Biometric technology.” ABC’s Gio Benitez has the details.





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National Consumer Protection Week has tips to help you fight crooks


 

Worried about getting taken in by the latest scam? Concerned about the possibility that your ID could be stolen, and you suddenly find yourself saddled with thousands of dollars of surprise bills? This week could bring you some peace of mind.

Better Business Bureau (BBB) is among the partners working with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to promote National Consumer Protection Week during February 28 through March 6. The week is devoted to informing consumers of their rights and educating the public about scam and ID theft prevention. You may have rights as a consumer that you did not realize you had – rights that could make all the difference in today’s rough-and-tumble, internet-based financial landscape. Check out ftc.gov for a list of upcoming online events designed to give you the information you need to stay safe.

BBB’s basics for safeguarding against scams

At the very least, guard yourself with these fundamental consumer protection tips:

  • When someone you have not met asks you to send them money, especially by wire transfer, prepaid debit card or gift card, don’t do it.
  • Never click on links or attachments in unsolicited emails or texts. That’s how crooks put malware on your devices.
  • Don’t trust the legitimacy of something by its looks. Emails and websites are easy to fake with copied logos and graphics.
  • Don’t trust your Caller ID. It can be faked to read any way a crook wants it to read.
  • Buy online only from legitimate sources with a website address that has the “s” in “https.” Look for the lock icon in the address bar as well.
  • Look up any company you’re unfamiliar with at BBB.org.
  • Treat your personal identification information like gold. Don’t give it away to anyone who contacts you out of the blue. Your banking, Social Security and insurance numbers should be closely guarded.
  • Anyone pressuring you to act quickly could be a scammer who doesn’t want you to have time to seriously consider the “offer.”
  • Get details in writing and read them thoroughly.
  • Don’t overshare on social media. Con artists can collect your information from such sources and use it to make you think they know you.
  • Keep your travel plans to yourself and only share them after the fact.
  • Shred junk mail, old documents, bills and medical paperwork.
  • Monitor your accounts and check out any unknown transaction, even for tiny amounts (crooks start with small amounts to see if you pay attention).
  • Use strong passwords and keep software and virus protections updated constantly.

 

Be sure to check the FTC website for National Consumer Protection Week events designed to help you spot coronavirus scams that are now proliferating online. 

Check out BBB’s articles on phishing scams, tech support scams, and social security scams.

Scammers never quit, but they can be thwarted by staying on top of the latest tips and news from organizations that monitor them, like the FTC and BBB

Go to BBB.org to look up online marketplace business profiles, file a complaint, or write a customer review. Visit BBB Scam Tracker to research and report scams.

Read more about BBB Accreditation Standards and BBB Standards for Trust. Learn how to become a BBB Accredited Business.





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There’s Pent-Up Demand for Travel, but COVID Has Altered Consumer Behavior


This week, the Travel Technology Association (Travel Tech) released its ‘Future Travel Enthusiasm in the Age of COVID-19’ report—an examination of the latest travel trend data, which highlights growing enthusiasm for future travel and the ways in which travel is expected to evolve in the pandemic’s wake.

Now a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s clear that consumers are eager to begin traveling again once vaccines become widely distributed. Hardly surprising, given all of the trips that had to be canceled in 2020, paired with nearly 12 months of various lockdowns and stay-at-home orders, Travel Tech’s research revealed that 82 percent of American families have already made travel plans for 2021.

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Travelers’ experiences during COVID-19, including habits and behaviors they’ve acquired during this period, will affect the ways people travel moving forward. Among the changes adopted by travel and hospitality companies during the pandemic has been a transition to increased reliance on technology. As travelers continue to expect enhanced cleaning protocols, safety precautions and flexible cancelation options, new technologies are poised to play a crucial role in the travel industry’s future.

—52 percent of American travelers are excited about tech’s potential to further personalize their travel experiences.

—65 percent agree that tech will be important in mitigating health risks during travel.

—65 percent believe that accommodations will need to rely on the latest tech to help travelers feel safe.

—47 percent want tech options to make last-minute restaurant reservations.

—55 percent want more self-service machines in lieu of ticket desks.

Since travel was put on hold in 2020 and most people have spent the past 12 months at home, consumers are eager to make up for lost time, especially with the hope inspired by the release of COVID-19 vaccines. The renewed sense that travel is a privilege, rather than a given, has travelers ready to spring at the first opportunity.

—65 percent of respondents said they plan on traveling more than they did pre-COVID.

—33 percent are willing to spend more on travel than they traditionally would.

—54 percent said they are more likely to take their bucket-list trip this year than ever before.

Still, the psychological effects of COVID living aren’t likely to fade quickly, and consumers are expected to continue the behavior patterns they’ve adopted over the past year. The “new normal” will continue to include social distancing, leading consumers to select short-term rentals and non-traditional lodging options over hotel stays. Other aspects of travel will also continue to be affected by the desire to steer clear of other human beings as much as possible.

—59 percent of families said they’re more likely to drive instead of fly for their next trip.

—61 percent of families said they’re more likely to visit an outdoorsy destination than an urban one.

The element of uncertainty, which has become a staple of the COVID experience, has also affected travelers’ mindsets and potential behaviors. They’ve become more diligent in terms of travel planning, with 69 percent of respondents in a recent study indicating that they would research their next trip more thoroughly than they have done in the past. The tendency to favor domestic travel will also continue through 2021.

—80 percent of American travelers will take more precautions due to COVID and will look to travel industry operators to help them navigate safely the “new normal”.

—62 percent were interested in vacationing close to home and were limiting their search to domestic destinations.

—85 percent said they would be more likely to travel abroad if airport testing were in place.





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