Alaskapox – Here Comes Another One (Maybe)

Map of Fairbanks, Alaska
Fairbanks, Alaska

Alaskapox Overview

Alaskapox is a recently discovered virus belonging to the orthopoxvirus genus family (viruses that are obtained by human contact with animals). The disease is mainly known for causing skin lesions. 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) epidemiologist Julia Rogers who has been assigned to the Alaska Division of Public Health stated: “Orthopoxviruses are zoonotic viruses, meaning that they circulate primarily within animal populations with spill over into humans occasionally,”.

While it shares similarities with other orthopoxviruses like the variola virus (smallpox) and monkeypox, Alaskapox is still a mystery, with only a handful of cases reported.

Microscopic photo of a virus
Alaskapox Cases 

The first individuals to acquire the disease was in Fairbanks, Alaska in 2015, and since then, only seven other cases have been documented as of February 2024, and all of them are in Alaska. Most notably in the city of Fairbanks, which is perplexing.

Symptoms and Treatments

Symptoms typically involve one or more skin lesions, resembling bumps or swelling, accompanied by swollen lymph nodes. Additionally, there may be joint or muscle pain that accompanies it. Some cases involve the lesion to persist for six months or more, while others are resolved within weeks.

So far, there has been only one fatality in 2023, but this was an individual with an underlying health condition who succumbed to the virus. Currently, no specific treatment exists, and recovery relies on the body’s immune response, indicating that those with more healthy immune systems stand a better chance of recovering early.

Ongoing Research

Diagram showing antibodies in the human body

Much research is required, but scientists suspect small mammals like voles and flying squirrels might be carriers, although the transmission process between animals and humans is unclear. While close contact seems a possibility, further investigation is still needed.

Also, the extent of the virus’s geographic distribution and potential for wider spread is undetermined at this time.

Preventive Measures

Given the lack of current information, practicing general hygiene the same as we did with Covid is recommended, especially in the state of Alaska. Frequent handwashing and avoiding contact with sick animals remains prudent and the handling of wild animals or keeping them as pets is not recommended. If you experience unexplained skin lesions, particularly if you’ve been in areas where Alaskapox is known to occur, consult your doctor promptly!

Looking to the Future

Continued research is crucial to understand the virus’s biology, transmission dynamics, and potential for wider spreading of the disease, and developing diagnostic tools and potential treatments would be vital for effective management. Public health awareness campaigns educating individuals about Alaskapox and preventive measures should be enacted.

Summary

Like other diseases, scientists suspect that Alaskapox was acquired through animal contact; however, the virus appears rare. At least at this time, vigilance and ongoing research are crucial to ensure preparedness for future outcomes. If you have concerns, consult your healthcare provider or local public health department for accurate and up-to-date information.

While the virus remains a mystery, ongoing research will no doubt contribute to better preventative care and lead to a solution, such as a vaccine. We just have to wait and see!

 

What is Sarcoidosis?

Sarcoidosis Overview

Sarcoidosis is a rare disease that can affect multiple organs within the body. Characterized by the formation of small abnormal masses known as granulomas, which are part of the body’s immune system.  

Diagram of people with sarcodisis
Wikipedia CC

This condition can impact various organs, leading to a variety of symptoms. Although the precise cause of sarcoidosis remains elusive, researchers believe it involves an abnormal immune response, but that is not conclusive.

In one case, a 55-year-old man who has a strong immune system was diagnosed with the disease. An MRI found he has lymph nodes in his lungs causing him to run out of breath by just walking up a flight of stairs. Although this condition is not fatal, the question arises how a physically fit individual be infected with the disease? More studies are needed. 

Granulomas – The Explanation

As mentioned, one of the primary trademarks of sarcoidosis is the development of granulomas, which are a tight cluster of cells to fight off an infection or foreign substance, commonly known as inflammation.

The reason for granuloma development can be due to pathogens, damaged cells, and toxic compounds, among other conditions that infect the body.

This inflammation can form in organs such as the lungs, lymph nodes, skin, eyes, heart, liver, and nervous system. The distribution of granulomas throughout the body contributes to the variability in symptoms and clinical manifestations.

The Organs

Lungs

Illustration of the lungs
Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay

This organ is the most commonly affected with sarcoidosis disease and pulmonary symptoms are among the most prevalent. Individuals may experience persistent cough, shortness of breath, and chest pain. In some cases, the ailment may advance to pulmonary fibrosis, a condition that results in the scarring of lung tissue, compromising respiratory functions.

Skin

Rashes and lesions are the common symptoms of this disease. The manifestations on the skin can vary in appearance and can come with painful red nodules. Lupus pernio is one of these manifestations that can cause potential disfigurement. It is not essentially painful but if other organs are affected, other symptoms could occur.

Heart and Nervous System

Diagram of the Human Heart

Cardiac sarcoidosis is a rare form of the disease but is concerning for individuals who have it as it can lead to cardiac complications. Studies have shown that cardiac sarcoidosis occurs in approximately 5-25% of people with sarcoidosis but is a bit harder to diagnose since the developing symptoms are common with other heart-related ailments; such as arrhythmia. 

Individuals who believe they may have this form of sarcoidosis should confer with their cardiologist regularly.

Treatments

Corticosteroids, which is the term used to group anti-inflammatory medications are the most commonly prescribed drugs used to reduce immune activity, and prednisone is one of the most popular meds prescribed in this group. 

For those with pulmonary (lung) sarcoidosis, a spray may be prescribed. 

Conclusion

Sarcoidosis is an inflammatory disorder that can occur in a variety of organs but is most commonly found in the lungs. The exact cause is unknown at this time, but it is believed by many medical researchers to involve an abnormal immune response. 

Other factors may be from inheritance and scientists are not ruling out environmental triggers as well, such as exposure to certain chemicals or infectious agents.

Research is ongoing to find the specific causes of this disease. Regular monitoring and medical follow-ups are crucial for individuals with this rare condition.

 

Kudos to Mayor Adams for Bringing the 21st Century to Life in NYC!

Knightscope security robot is seen in downtown Houston. Knightscope is an American security camera and robotics company.
Knightscope’s K5 in action in downtown Houston. Photo: Stock.

February 4th Update: K5 is no longer patrolling the Times Square subway station and its effectiveness is now being reviewed by local authorities.

Is a Crime Terminator Here?

Not exactly, but it’s a start! New York City Mayor Adams has maintained his pledge to keep New York City high-tech and in so doing, he unveiled an autonomous robot that will patrol Times Square.

K5 as it is called stands about 5′ high and about 4′ wide and will act as the eyes and ears for the police. It maintains four cameras and has a button that can be pushed in case of emergency.

The robotics company Knightscope is the creators of this autonomous machine and stood beside Adams as he promoted it at a press conference in the Times Square subway. K5 is adorned with the NYPD colors. As the mayor was demonstrating it, its cameras were pointing directly at the reporters who attended the conference.

Autonomous robot in park
Photo by YAROSLAV SAPRYKIN on Unsplash

In keeping with the latest technology to fight crime in the city, the mayor said “The NYPD must be on the forefront of technology and be two steps ahead of those who are utilizing technology to hurt New Yorkers,” Adams said. “And trust me. They are.

And NYPD Chief of Transit Michael Kemper said “It’s very important that the public knows what this robot is, what its capabilities are.”.

Is K5 a Buy or Lease?

The city is leasing the drone robot. It will roam the Times Square station between midnight and 6 a.m., but it will not go onto subway platforms.

The robot will capture video footage only. No audio but does have an emergency button that will allow commuters to contact the police department for questions or to report an emergency. No facial recognition software is attached to the machine.

Some are Not Enthused

Civil rights advocates have alleged that the police department is not following the required protocols. Some say that a public review as outlined in a law called the POST Act is not being followed.

The statute requires the Adams administration to publish detailed descriptions of a new technology’s capabilities, how it will be used, and what will be done with any data that is collected. The public is supposed to have weeks to weigh in.

However, the NYPD stated that if this type of technology, similar to one already in use (the Digidog mobile robot), it should be incorporated into its already existing impact statement.

The Legal Aid Society is questioning the NYPD and alleging that they are bypassing the concept of this law.

Legal Aid attorney Shane Ferro stated, “What happens when the 400-pound autonomous robot hits somebody or falls down the stairs?”.

Mayor Adams contends these concerns by stating that these advancing technologies are a way to increase safety in policing and help the NYPD become more efficient.

He also said that K5 saves money.“This is below minimum wage,” Adams quipped. “No bathroom breaks. No meal breaks. This is a good investment.” and “… eventually, this is going to be part of the fabric of our subway system.”

At the End of the Day!

Will these new technologies help or hinder the New York City Police Department? The answer remains to be seen, but the mayor appears hopeful it will be advantageous for the city and add additional safety for its citizens.

FAQ – Covid-19 Moderna Booster for 2023

September 2023 – Covid Vaccine UPDATE

Pharmaceutical company Moderna has said that its new vaccine booster works against this new virus variant, and as of September 2023, you can get the booster at your local pharmacy.

Drawing of family wearing masks for fear of Covid
Image by Mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

Here Comes BA.2.86, Maybe

Most of us believe that the Sars-CoV-2 Coronavirus (Covid-19) is behind us and that we can go about our normal daily routines without having to worry about catching it again. Well, maybe that’s true. Then again, maybe not.

A new variant called Pirola, technically labeled BA.2.86 is starting to show its ugly face and according to some sources, it is spreading rapidly around the United States and the world.

So What Exactly is BA.2.86?

Illustration of covid virus superimposed on a globe
Image by Miroslava Chrienova from Pixabay

The BA.2.86 variant was first detected in Denmark and Israel in late August 2023 and has since been found in several other countries, including the United States.

According to researchers, this particular virus is a subvariant of Omicron, the most dominant variant of SARS-CoV-2. BA.2.86 is more transmissible than the other Omicron subvariants.

How Transferrable is this Variant?

3D anination of coronavirus with enevelope
3D medical animation of Spike S protein, HE protein, viral envelope, and helical RNA. Wikipedia Commons

Scientists say that it may be more resistant to the current vaccines and antibody treatments. This is because BA.2.86 has a number of mutations in its spike protein, which is the part that the virus uses to attach to your cells. However,

How severe is BA.2.86?

It is still too early to say whether this variant is more severe than the others. More studies are needed to determine its severity. However, some early studies have suggested that it may be more resistant to current vaccines and antibody treatments.

How can I protect myself from BA.2.86?

Maintain the standard methods of keeping clean, which include washing your hands frequently, carrying an antibacterial cleanser, avoiding large crowds, and avoiding close contact with people who are sick, to name a few.

Additionally, get vaccinated and boosted. Vaccines are still very effective at preventing serious illnesses and hospitalization from COVID-19, even against the new variants.

although most people have stopped using masks, if you feel more comfortable wearing one when outside, by all means, do, especially when in crowded areas.

Who are Most Affected?

Granddaughter with her grandfather
Photo by Kampus Production, Pexels

As with all the Covid-19 viruses or more generally speaking, with any viruses, if you are elderly, have health issues, or have a compromised immune system, you should be vigilant and take all the recommended precautions.

Additionally, when any new disease is circulating in your area, you should also speak to your medical provider for any additional precautions you may need to take.

Conclusion

Staying attentive to Covid is nothing new. Even though a new variant has materialized, that doesn’t mean you have to run to your bed and hide. Research is determining that this virus may be more transmissible than the previous subvariants, and possibly more resistant to the current vaccines, but as research continues on the BA.2.86 virant, it may turn out that it is not as contagious as the other. It is just a wait-and-see game.

The general recommendations are to just stay vigilant and maintain the Covid rules of keeping clean and safe, especially if you are in the high-risk health category.

Did You Know? A Fun List of Trivia Facts

Illustration of Alber EinstenImage by Rob de Roy from Pixabay

Knowledge Gets You Places

You won’t be getting a college degree nor will this help you to get a job, but these trivia notes will surely raise an eyebrow or two! Not to mention it will stimulate your brain.

Illustration of the human brain
Photo by Natasha Connell on Unsplash

Knowledge is Power

We’re not saying you will rule the world or become the next billionaire tomorrow, but the better we understand the world around us, the better decision-makers we become.

The power of knowledge expands horizons and instills critical thinking which can enhance our mental health. But probably most of all, having good intelligence works great for date nights! But if that is not useful to you, then at the very least, it can always help you finish your crossword puzzles or solve clues on Jeopardy!

On a more serious note, knowledge stimulates our brain which is a great benefit for our mental health. Through knowledge, we can navigate challenges, solve problems, and build a better world for future generations.

So let’s give it a go!

Animals

Hippopotamus in a lake
Image by Brigitte Werner from Pixabay
    • Hippopotamuses are listed as one of the most dangerous animals in the world. They are very territorial so don’t try to pet one! 
    • The oldest turtle in the world is Jonathan who is 190 years old.
    • There are twenty quadrillion ants on planet Earth. That’s a million billion or the number 1 followed by 15 zeros.
    • Male penguins give pebbles to the females as a courtship.

Happenings

    • Paul McCartney wrote the song Hey Jude to console John Lennon’s son, Jullian who was depressed from his parent’s divorce. McCartney made the change from Julian (AKA Jules) to Jude because he felt it sounded better. He composed the song in his car while riding to Lennon’s house.
    • CNN broadcaster Anderson Cooper is the son of Gloria Vanderbilt

History

Photo of Shakespear's house
Shakespeare’s birthplace. Stratford-upon-Avon. Photo: SMS
    • As was customary in 17th-century England, the dining room would have a long wooden table where the father would sit at the end, which was the only chair that had arms; hence, the expression chairman materialized. The table top was known as the board, which gives us the expression Chairman of the Board and Boardroom.
    • The Cosmetics company Avon was named after Stratford-upon-Avon, Shakespear’s birthplace.
    • The first American to win a Nobel Peace was Theodore Roosevelt.
    • Despite popular belief, Henry Ford did not invent the automobile. That credit goes to Illinois residents the Duryea Brothers, circa 1892.
    • The son of the detective who investigated the Lindberg kidnapping was Norman Schwarzkopf, the general who led Operation Desert Storm in the war on Iraq in 1991.
T-Rex Dinosaur in the jungle
Photo by Fausto García-Menéndez on Unsplash
    • The Mesozoic Era, which existed about 252 million to 66 million years ago, is the period when dinosaurs roamed the earth and it is the time when the Triassic, Cretaceous periods and all too familiar Jurassic era existed. Earth’s continents were breaking apart at this time and that is why we find remains of dinosaurs across the world, despite the vastness of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans that formed after it.

Biology

:Illustration of a bioligical connection
Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

Technology

    • 99% of all Internet communication travels through cables in the oceans.
    • Over 500 hours of videos are added to YouTube every minute.
    • You can have actual conversations with ChatGPT.
    • The most used word in the English language is “Time”.
    • The word searched the most on Google is “Love”.

Architecture / Engineering

JP Morgan Chase building under construction. Photo: SMS©
    • The copper framework of the Statue of Liberty weighs 125 tons.
    • The Pentagon in Washington DC is the largest office building in the world. The Willis Tower in Chicago comes in at number 4 and One World Trade Center, AKA the Freedom Tower in New York City, comes in at number 8, above the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. 
    • The famous London Bridge was dismantled in London and reassembled in Arizona.

Astronomy

    • If the sun blew up right now, we would still have another 8.3 minutes to live. That’s because light travels at a finite speed of 186,000 miles per second, so grab your beer or whatever strikes your fancy (legally of course) for the next 8.3 minutes and live it up. At least you will be happy for that one moment in time! 

Scam Stories that Will Make Your Blood Boil

In a previous article, we spoke about Covid-19 scams. Now, with Covid practically over, we are going to discuss real-life examples of some common deceptions used by nefarious individuals with the sole intention of illegally extracting money from you.

Illustration of a computer hacker asking for your password
Image by Mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

Intro – If It Walks Like a Duck…

How many times have you heard your phone ring only to see that it is a phone number you don’t recognize, but the ID says it is coming from your location? Or you get an email or text that tells you your subscription is overdue and to “click here” to update your information? Quite often, right?

Copy of email scam
Emails from what appear to be legitimate companies can be scams. Image: SMS©

Have you noticed that this is increasing and not decreasing? One might call it an epidemic of financial proportions! Well, here are a few real-life examples of how other people were getting scammed, how they responded to the scam, and what they did afterward.

We are not expecting you to become an expert on how to handle fictitious calls or emails by reading this article, but these incidents may just help you realize what is out there and help you stay on the side of caution when contacted by fraudulent individuals.

The Guy Told Me to Withdraw $140,000
– Wait What?

Interios of a bank
Photo: Unsplash

A question that one might ask is why any thief would be so stupid as to not anticipate the variables that can go wrong in an operation like this? Be it as it may, this is a true case of an elderly person being conned into summing up over $140,000 in cold cash to give to an individual who told her that she needed to pay her taxes immediately and deliver the money to him. Believe it or not, these individuals exist and they are out there!

The Details

A 70-year-old woman entered her local bank to withdraw $140,000 in cash. As per bank policy, the teller immediately advised the manager who asked the woman why she was withdrawing so much money in cash.

The woman responded that she received a call from a company she was affiliated with and they told her that she was behind on her taxes and subsequently, she needed to pay them $140,000 immediately. They said they would send someone to her house to pick up the money.

Hooded man talking on cell phone
iStock

The woman, obviously scared went to the bank to withdraw the money, and the bank, obviously aware that this was a scam, contacted law enforcement, and a sting operation was set up.

When the perpetrator came to the house, he was arrested and is currently serving time in prison, which according to reports, is not “getting out any time soon”.

They Count on Your Vulnerability

Elderly man looking out a window concerned
iStock

Loan Desperation

Joe, a 68-year-old married man with two children lost his job due to layoffs and was looking for work, but as the months proceeded, he realized that he was falling more and more behind on his debt, specifically his credit cards which were, at times, surpassing their 30-day delinquency period.

When delinquency of a bank payment surpasses 30 days, an alert is sent to the credit bureaus and it is noted on the credit report, subsequently lowering their credit rating. This can make it harder to prove creditworthiness when buying a car or applying for a loan. The man was getting very nervous with this credit score decrease. Time was of the essence for this individual.

Additionally, knowing that his credit cards were maxed out to their limit, he was worried about not having enough funds to support his household and he knew he had to do something about this fast, so he went online and searched for debt consolidation loans. He responded to a few of the listings that showed up. One of them was a  website that looked for companies that listed a variety of companies that could possibly approve a loan, based on his credit score, which was under 620.

He applied to numerous offers but they all ended up declining him. Later that day, Joe responded to an email that was sent to him offering him a loan for $6,000. Just the amount he was looking for!

A focused and serious looking man working and thinking hard on a computer
iStock

They gave him an 800 phone number to call. He called them and they told him that they don’t use the credit bureaus for checking creditworthiness and that they use a different method. They said the first step was to deposit money into his checking account to verify it was a valid account.

Afraid and anxious that he wouldn’t be able to support his family under his current financial conditions, he hastily followed their instructions and gave them his bank account information.

The next morning he noticed that there was $3000.00 deposited into his checking account and shortly thereafter, a “financial representative” called him to verify that the money was there.

What happened next would have been obvious to many; however, Joe, being in the state of mind that he was in caused him to mentality bypass this red flag and not think there was any issue with the process. This is one of the methods that scammers pray on – emotional stress!

Joe was told that he needed to send them the money back. They requested him to go to a local store that provides wire transfers. He proceeded to go to the local Rite Aide that was down the block from him; however, it was 8:45 AM and they were not opened yet. So he went to CVS, but they also didn’t open until 9:00 AM.

The caller was persistent (another red flag) and told him to find an open store, but he told them that he would just prefer to wait until the store opened. While he was waiting in his car for the store to open, he thumbed through his email messages on his iPhone and saw a message from J.P. Morgan Chase – the bank where he has his account.

The message said that they were sorry to hear that there was money illegally withdrawn from his account and that they replenished the account with the $3000 that was “missing” until an investigation was completed.

Man with credit card in hand upset that he'd been scammed
Photo: iStock

Now Joe woke up. It hit him like a ton of bricks and he realized he had been scammed. He ignored the spammer’s phone calls and drove directly to Chase.

The manager helped him place a report to their fraud department and Chase immediately withdrew the message that they received about a $3000 loss. In the end, no harm was done. Joe was saved from losing a lot of money and there was no record held against him from Chase, but had CVS or Rite Aide been open at the time, Joe would have most likely proceeded with the wire transfer.

Behind Your Bills Scare Tatic

Alexa was laid off from her job and she started falling behind on her bills. She was not that worried about her credit cards or FICO score so much as her utility bills, and she was most concerned about her electric bill.

Being two months behind on your electric bill is sure to concern even the most optimistic of people. Then the dreaded phone calls come in. Alexa is no exception to this.

But Alexa was no fool. She never answers phone calls that don’t have a  caller ID and even when the caller ID shows up, she won’t pick up if she doesn’t recognize the name of the company calling.

In Alexa’s situation, putting these two factors together wasn’t enough to catch her off guard. Being delinquent on her utility bill was certainly enough to catch her ill-prepared for what was to come.

The utility company called and she answered. Why would she not? The ID showed up who it was so she had no reason to believe it was not a fraudulent phone call.

The woman told her that she was delinquent and that she needed to bring the account up to date or her electric bill would be suspended. Alexa had no choice but to decide to use part of her mortgage money to pay for the electric bill and she reiterated that message to the woman who transferred her to a man who called himself “Dave”.

Dave explained to her in perfect English (no accent) the procedure where they could receive the money today by using Zelle. A quick and legitimate application where the recipient can receive money in a matter of seconds and most banks offer this method of money transfer.

Scared, Alexa complied and followed his directions. She went online to her bank app and clicked Zelle as directed by Dave. He told her that she should type in the box that asked for the amount of cash to be sent with the last four digits of her utility account number and that their algorithm would read it and know how to handle it; other words, by reading the utility code, the past due amount and only the past due amount will be withdrawn from her bank account.

Alexa followed his directions and the result was that it took out the amount that was listed as the code and not the past-due balance, so she ended up paying $347 more than she needed to pay.

When she told Dave what happened, he replied that this happens sometimes and he directed her to go back to the Zelle app. On the app, Alexa told him that she saw the Request Money button and asked him if she should enter the code in this box or request the exact amount that was withdrawn.

Dave corrected her and told her not to use the Request Money button but to use the Send Money button as she did before and the algorithm will correct itself and return her the amount she overpaid.

This is where Alexa drew the line. She realized that she had been scammed and hung up on Dave, not before telling him what she thought of him.

Alexa immediately contacted her bank and they initiated a return sequence via Zelle and Alexa was lucky. She had the band reverse the amount back into her bank account.

Zelle scams are on the rise and take many forms!

Conclusion

World Map With Currency Icons Network Over Dark Background,iStock

Spammers can approach you from anywhere in the world. Email, websites, phone calls or they could even approach you in the street. They prey on the elderly and hope their phone calls will reach vulnerable individuals, no matter what their age is.

Be wary of anything that even seems the slightest bit suspicious and never send anyone any money until you are sure they are the legitimate party!

 

 

Straightforward Answers on to How Not to Get Scammed!

Illustration collage of spammers
BE VIGILANT – BE AWARE!

Some say that scamming has become an epidemic. Whether you believe that or not, it is certainly on the rise and moving at an accelerated rate.

Today we begin a new series on scam artists. We will cover the basics regarding what they do, how they do it, and how you can protect yourself.

Scams can come by email, text, social media messages, or phone calls. Here are the first line of defense methods you should use to avoid getting hooked by these criminals. We call them red flags.

Things You Should Never Do!

Red Flag #1. Never Give Anyone Your Private Information

Illustration of a computer hacker asking for your password
Image by Mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

If you get a call, an email, or a text asking you for your social security number, birthday, bank account information, credit card information, medical information, or any other personal information, don’t give it to them and hang up! Call your institution directly to confirm that your information was not compromised.

NEVER GIVE YOUR PERSONAL INFORMATION TO A STRANGER WHO CONTACTS YOU! 

Red Flag #2. Never Agree to Send Cash or Use an App to Send Money!

If they don’t ask you for your personal information, they may contact you and request money regarding an emergency or other urgent issue. These people are sophisticated. They will sound professional and have a story to try to convince you how real the situation is. They may even already have some information about you, such as your name and address to make the story sound even more legitimate.

If you get tricked into believing them as many do, especially the elderly, they will discourage you from sending them a check, and instead, they will push you to send them money using apps such as Zelle, Venmo, Cash App or to wire them. DON’T!

What’s worse, they may tell you to bring the cash to them. Additionally, they may even tell you to have the cash ready and someone will pick it up at your house or a meeting place.

NEVER AGREE TO SENDING CASH!

Red Flag #3: You Won A Prize!

Although this category can’t be summed up in one article, we thought we’d acquaint you with the thousands of fraudulent methods scammers use to try to catch you off guard using legitimate companies and organizations to deceive you.

The scams may be from a phone call, email or text saying that you are the lucky winner of a prize drawing or that you will get a substantial discount if you send them money for the discount promotion or any variation of many other scenarios they may use.

If you didn’t enter any sweepstakes, consider the information very suspicious. If you get an email from what looks like a legitimate company but is asking you for money upfront via a rouse that you will get a discount or a prize, be wary and contact the business directly.

Screenshot of a scam from what appears to be from a ligitimate source
©SMS

There are ways to determine if these ‘promotions’ are real just by scrutinizing them a little bit. The email shown above exploits a legitimate retailer into making you think they are the ones sending you this promotion and if you click the link and answer a few questions, you may win the Stanley tool set. You won’t!

Some folks know how to determine that this is a deception, but for the majority of you who don’t, here’s what to look for.

    1. Take a look at where the email came from (circled in red). This is a dead giveaway. If it doesn’t have the domain name of the company, in this case, @acehardware.com, it is a scam.
    2. Many email scams do not show up with the language noted, but Google thinks that it came from Russia and is allowing you to translate the email copy into Russian. A legitimate email would never default to a request for a language translation. More on these deceptions will be in our upcoming articles.

Red Flag #4. Scammers Use Scare Tactics -Don’t Fall For It!

Man stressed and worried
Image by Sam Williams from Pixabay

Swindlers like to elicit emotions and their favorite tactic they will use is fear. They may tell you that your electricity is going to be terminated if you don’t pay them right now, or that they are from the IRS and you better pay immediately, or from a mortgage company or bank telling you that something bad is going to happen if you don’t send them money immediately.

Scammers prey on your fear that something bad is going to happen if you don’t comply

It gets worse and this happens to many of our elderly relatives. They may call you and pretend that they are one of your grandchildren and that they need money immediately because they are in trouble with the police. They will also ask you not to tell their parents, and now with AI at their disposal (which we will discuss in detail below), they can mimic your grandchild’s voice so that it sounds exactly like them.

DON’T FALL FOR SCARE TACTICS! 

What You Should Do if You Get One of These Calls

Hang up and call the source (Electric company, bank, mortgage company, etc.) directly. In the case of a relative or grandchild calling you. Tell them you will call them right back at the number you have for them. If they say no, you know it is a scam.

Red Flag #5. Con Artists Will Request Immediate Payment- Be Vigilant to These Signs of Urgency

100 dollar bills
Photo Unsplash

If the person tells you that they need the money NOW, it is a clear sign that something is definitely wrong! Legitimate companies or organizations will never tell you that.

They will work out a payment plan with you or let you consider the options and allow you to call them back later in the day or within a reasonable time period. They will never push you to send them money immediately!

 

DON’T FALL FOR CALLS OF URGENCY AND IMMEDIATE PAYMENT! 

Red Flag #6. Note the Accent!

Many of the scamers come from overseas and many of these are from people who will have foreign accents. This doesn’t mean that every time you receive a call from a person with a foreign accent the call will be fraudulent. Some may be from legitimate telemarketers or other businesses who may want you to sell you something or donate to a real charity, but you can add this to the list of KEEPING UP YOUR GUARD if you do receive a call like this.

IT IS RECOMMENDED THAT YOU DO NOT ANSWER ANY PHONE CALLS WHERE YOU DO NOT RECOGNIZE IT! 

Conclusion

Always approach unsolicited offers, emails, or calls with skepticism. Scammers often use urgency and pressure to manipulate you.

Verify the identity of the organization contacting you. Confirm their legitimacy through official websites or phone numbers, especially if they claim to be from a government agency, bank, or reputable company.

Be wary of requests for upfront payments to pay a bill, pay a charity, or to receive a prize. Legitimate organizations don’t require you to pay in a manner that sounds like a specific urgency

Never share personal information like Social Security numbers, bank account details, or credit card numbers via email, phone, or social media unless you’ve verified the recipient’s identity.

Stay informed about common frauds and the latest techniques thieves use.  You can follow the Federal Trade Commission’s scam page for the latest information on avoiding scams.

Trust Your Instincts: If something doesn’t feel right or seems too good to be true, it probably is. Trust your gut feeling and exercise caution.

Share your knowledge so that others will not fall for these scams.

By following these guidelines and staying vigilant, you can significantly reduce your risk of falling victim to fraudulent activity and protect your personal and financial information.

What is Aspartame?

Artificial sweetener aspartame on s spoon and its chemical bonds
Photo: iStock

Overview

In our previous article on artificial sweeteners, we spoke about the pros and cons of numerous sweetening agents, including aspartame, but there have been many discussions and research on this sugar substitute and subsequently, we will dwell into the specifics of aspartame, its history, controversy and the details of this sugar substitute.

What is Aspartame?

It is a low-calorie sweetener that is used as a sugar substitute in numerous food and beverage products. This sweetener is known for its exceptional sweetness and studies have shown it is about 200 times sweeter than table sugar.

Aspartame is used in diet soft drinks, sugar-free desserts, chewing gum, tabletop sweeteners, and various low-calorie or reduced-sugar food items.  It is a popular sugar substitute that, according to many reports, does not contribute to large increases in blood sugar levels, which benefits those with diabetes and others who are concerned about blood sugar levels.

A Bit of History

Stevia sugar substitute
Stevia sugar substitute. Photo: © SMS

James M. Schlatter is the chemist known for discovering aspartame. Its ingredients contain a peptide (a short chain of amino acids), specifically aspartic acid and phenylalanine that are joined together. It is this combination of amino acids that contributes to its sweetness.

A Weight Loss Alternative to Sugar

Due to its intense sweetness, only a fraction of its calorie intake is required to achieve the same level of sweetness compared to other sweeteners.

 Controversy 

There have been claims about potential health effects associated with aspartame consumption, including links to cancer, headaches, and potential neurological disorders, but these claims have not been substantiated after many studies, consequently, regulatory agencies have reaffirmed the safety of aspartame when consumed within the recommended levels.

Results

As of July 2023, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of the sweetener in the United States. Aspartame has also been studied by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the World Health Organization (WHO) and these agencies have also concluded that the sweetener is safe when consumed within the acceptable daily intake (ADI) levels.

Safety Exceptions

As with any drug, prescribed or over the counter), some people may experience mild reactions to aspartame, such as headaches, digestive issues or other ailments; however, this is relatively rare and studies have shown that most people do not experience side effects. For the vast majority of the population, aspartame is considered safe when consumed within recommended limits.

Additionally, it should be noted that aspartame may not be suitable for individuals with a rare genetic disorder called phenylketonuria (PKU). PKU is characterized by the body’s inability to metabolize phenylalanine, which is one of the amino acids present in aspartame.  

Those who have this disorder or other health conditions or are unsure if they should use aspartame may want to discuss with their medical professional if it is safe to consume. 

Conclusion

Aspartame is an artificial sweetener that is used as a sugar substitute in various food and beverage products. It is composed of two amino acids, asprtic acid and phenylalanin.

It is a low-calorie alternative to sugar, which is appealing to people who are looking to manage their weight. 

It has been evaluated by regulatory agencies around the world for years, and it is considered safe for most people when consumed within recommended limits.  However, it is recommended that individuals with phenylketonuria should avoid aspartame due to its phenylalanine content. As with any food additive, it is essential to consume aspartame in moderation as part of a balanced diet and if you have any health conditions or concerns, it is always prudent to consult with your medical professional before consuming aspartame.

Top 10 Medical Advancements of 2023

Robot touching computer screen
3D rendering 3D illustration of medical artificial intelligence robot working in a future hospital. Futuristic prosthetic healthcare for patients and biomedical technology concept.

In 2018, we published an article on medical advancements, but five years have passed and the advances in medicine have been astounding. Let’s take a look at some of the most significant medical advancements in recent years that have the potential to change medicine as we know it today!

CRISPR Gene Editing

Concept of treatment and adjustment of DNA molecule.
Wouldn’t it be great if medical scientists could simply replace bad genes with healthy ones?

Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats, known as CRISPR is a fairly new biological process that allows scientists to modify the DNA of living organisms.

The name arises from clustered DNA sequences, composed of a succession of repeats (short or long patterns of DNA, also RNA, that occur in multiple copies) separated by unique sequences called spacers.

It has made significant strides in genealogical research, but what is most appealing is its potential ability to cure certain diseases by editing faulty genes responsible for the disease. 

CAR T-Cell Therapy

Cancer cell, CAR t-cell (lymphocyte) and red blood cells on red background. vector Poster about immunotherapy or chemotherapy cancer
Cancer cell and CAR t-cell (lymphocyte) and red blood cells. Photo: iStock

This therapy, technically called Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy uses a patient’s own immune cells to attack cancer cells. Your immune system keeps track of all the substances normally found in your body. Any substance the immune system doesn’t recognize triggers an alarm, causing the system to attack it.

More specifically, it is a way to get immune cells called T cells (a type of white blood cell) to fight cancer by changing them in the lab so they can find and destroy the bad cells.

CAR T-cell therapy is also sometimes referred to as a type of cell-based gene therapy because it involves altering the genes inside T cells to help them attack the carcinogen.

This type of treatment can be very helpful in treating some types of cancer, even when other treatments are no longer working.

3D Printing in Medicine

Man applying prosthetics arm to a patient
Image by RAEng_Publications from Pixabay

Most of us have already seen or heard of 3D printing, but how is applied to medicine? 3D printing technology has already been used to create customized implants, prosthetics, and even human organs. Let’s take a look at what eD printing has done for the medical field so far this year.

    1. Surgical Training
      No doubt the use of 3D-printed anatomical models is the perfect training for medical professionals. Surgeons can understand more than ever before the patient’s anatomy and subsequently improve surgical outcomes.
    2. Prosthetics
      3D printing allows for the creation of personalized prosthetics, which is designed to perfectly match the anatomy of the individual. Not only is this a great advance for those who lose limbs due to diseases or accidents, but is extremely helpful for over 150,000 veterans who would definitely benefit from this technology.
    3. Patient-Specific Implants: Surgeons can use 3D printing to create implants tailored to a patient’s unique anatomy. This is particularly valuable in complex cases where off-the-shelf implants may not fit optimally or provide the required level of support.
    4. Organ and Tissue Bioprinting: While still an evolving technology, 3D bioprinting holds great promise for creating functional human organs and tissues for transplantation. This could potentially alleviate the shortage of organ donors and reduce the risk of transplant rejection.
    5. Drug Delivery Systems: 3D printing enables the production of complex drug delivery systems, such as personalized drug dosage forms or implants that release drugs gradually over time, improving treatment effectiveness and patient compliance.
    6. Medical Devices: 3D printing allows for the rapid prototyping and production of medical devices, ranging from simple instruments to more complex tools used in surgeries or diagnostic procedures.
    7. Orthotics and Wearables: Customized orthotic devices, such as braces and supports, can be easily produced using 3D printing technology, improving patient comfort and treatment outcomes.
    8. Education and Research: 3D-printed models are valuable educational tools for medical students and researchers. They can help in learning anatomy, practicing surgical techniques, and exploring new treatment options.
    9. Accessibility and Cost-Effectiveness: 3D printing can reduce the cost of manufacturing medical devices and prosthetics, making them more accessible to patients, especially in resource-constrained regions.
    10. Emergency Medicine: In remote or disaster-stricken areas, 3D printing can be used to produce essential medical supplies or devices quickly, helping to bridge the gap until conventional supply chains can be restored.

It’s important to note that while 3D printing has shown immense potential in the medical field, it also raises some ethical and regulatory considerations, especially in the case of bioprinting and patient-specific implants. Therefore, ongoing research and responsible implementation are crucial to fully harness the benefits of this technology while ensuring patient safety and ethical standards are upheld.

Precision Medicine

Precision medicine is a personalized approach to healthcare that considers a patient’s unique genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors when diagnosing and treating disease. It has the potential to greatly improve patient outcomes.

Regenerative Medicine

There are many animals that can regenerate. Now add humans to the list. Here doctors use stem cells and other techniques to repair or replace damaged tissue or organs. It has the potential to revolutionize the treatment of a wide range of diseases and injuries.

Liquid Biopsies

Liquid biopsies are a less invasive alternative to traditional biopsies and can detect cancer at an early stage. They are expected to become more widely used in the coming years.

Nanomedicine

Artist's rendering of nano robots interfacing with red blood cells
Artist’s illustration of nanomedicine robots inside a human artery flowing inside as a treatment for disease

No. Not Nano Nano from Mork and Mindy. This is mind-boggling stuff!
Nanomedicine involves the use of very tiny man-made devices, called nanoparticles to deliver drugs and treat diseases at a cellular level. It has the potential to greatly improve drug efficacy and reduce side effects.

Virtual Reality Therapy

Virtual reality therapy is a type of therapy that uses immersive technology to help patients with mental health disorders, phobias, and chronic pain. It has been shown to be effective in some cases and is expected to continue growing in popularity.

Artificial Intelligence

Illus
Doctors studying robotic AI to diagnose virtual Human Lungs with viruses spread inside

We saved the best for last! Artificial Intelligence. AI is being used to improve diagnosis, develop personalized treatments, and streamline administrative tasks. It is expected to become more prevalent in the coming years.

One of the most significant advancements in medical AI is its potential to diagnose issues with much greater accuracy. Machine learning algorithms can now analyze  X-rays, MRIs, and CT scans with a precision never before imagined.

These AI programs are designed to detect subtle anomalies that doctors might miss, and these faint but no doubt significant detections can provide more accurate diagnoses of cancer and other serious medical issues. Subsequently, it will allow medical professionals to detect life-threatening diseases at a much earlier time.

Conclusion

We are living in an exciting time for medical advancements and there is no telling how far these technologies will take us, although, anyone who watches Star Trek may have a pretty good idea of what’s in store!

 

When Do Dogs Start Feeling Hot

Pug, sitting and panting, 1 year old, isolated on white background
Photo: iStock

During these hot summer days, especially in the ones in the Midwest, we thought we’d give you some insight into how to take care of your canine family. There are many ways to keep your dog cool. We will list the most significant ones here but first, let’s look into when your pet starts to feel uncomfortably hot. 

When Dogs Get the Hot Spells

Dogs can start feeling hot when the temperature in the environment in which they are residing rises above their comfort level. Additionally, if they are active (running around, etc.) their body temperature will rise. This is why there are so many alerts about humans exercising or working in hot conditions and if humans have a hard time dealing with a hot environment, just think how dogs feel. Especially those that have an abundance of fur!

In general, canines will feel hot and uncomfortable when the temperature exceeds 80 degrees Fahrenheit, but it should be noted that this comfort level will differ depending on the breed of dog that you have and so their heat tolerance level will vary. With that said, however, stick to the 80-degree suggestion or if you want a more precise recommendation, ask your vet.

Your pet’s body temperature reaches 103 degrees or more, it can lead to organ failure and even death. Their body temperature can range from 101° to 102.5°, compared to humans whose body temperature ranges from 97.6° to 99.6°. When your dog’s temperature is 103° F or higher, it is considered a dog fever

About Specific Breeds

As mentioned, certain dog breeds are more susceptible to heat-related issues due to their physical characteristics. Brachycephalic breeds (skull bones that are shortened in length) such as bulldogs and pugs have compromised respiratory systems and subsequently, are more sensitive to the hot weather than other breeds. 

What to Look For

If you see any of the following conditions, you must help them as soon as possible:

    • Excessive panting
    • Drooling, restlessness
    • Weakness
    • Disorientation
    • Seeking shade
    • Lying flat on cool surfaces

Any of these can relate to your pet feeling overheated.

How to Keep Your Dog Cool

Jack russell terrier dog sits enjoying the cooling breeze from an electric fan on a white background
Photo: iStock

As mentioned, do what is necessary to keep the environment you and your pet are in below 80 degrees. Some of the items mentioned below may sound like common sense, but you’d be surprised how many people do not follow these basic rules.

    • Give them water ASAP.
    • If you are in a house and there is air conditioning, turn it on or use a fan if there are no cooling systems.
    • If you are outside, bring them to a cool place or if there is no place to go immediately, put them in the shade.
    • When you know hot weather is coming and you want to prepare, you can buy dog cooling vests.
    • If you have a backyard, think about a dog pool.

In Summary

It’s essential to monitor your dog’s behavior for signs of overheating. If you suspect your dog is feeling hot, it’s important to act quickly so that he or she doesn’t fall into the fever category or more importantly, that they are back to feeling comfortable.