In the news

Typhus in L.A.

Typhus, usually associated with deplorable living conditions, is in the news. Nearly 100 cases have been reported in and around Los Angeles so far this year. Is it something for us to worry about?

The disease – not to be confused with typhoid – produces fever, chills, rash and stupor, and is sometimes fatal. In the past it has been associated with wars and severe crowding. It decimated the army of Napoleon during his futile campaign against Russia. It tragically caused the death of Anne Frank just weeks before World War Two ended.

Historically, typhus was spread from one person to another by body lice. The L.A. outbreak is different in that it is being spread by fleas, and especially among the homeless. Fleas breed among rats and both critters thrive in garbage-strewn neighborhoods. Feral cats carry infected fleas that can spread to household pets and then to humans.

Those who own cats and dogs usually monitor and treat their animals for fleas but that is especially important if you live in suburban areas where feral cats, rats and opossums are present. Getting close to any wild animal risks diseases that are even worse than typhus.

Some pet owners have found that sprinkling brewer’s yeast on dog and cat food helps to prevent flea infestation but others claim that it doesn’t work. It might be worth trying it for about a month. Maybe it depends on the breed. The upside is that yeast contains nutrient vitamins and won’t harm your pet.  (Note – the preparation that contains yeast plus garlic should not be given to cats.)


Another step to avoid Alzheimer’s disease and dementia – omega-3 fats.

Omega-3 fats are the healthy fats – physicians refer to them as “essential fats” – that are especially important for normal brain and eye development in infants but we never outgrow the need for them. They are most abundant in fish, including shellfish, and in some plant foods such as walnuts, peas, Brussels sprouts, chia seeds and flaxseeds.

The brain-healthy effect of omega-3 fats has been determined from large population groups, from studies in animals and from their beneficial effect in a variety of neuropsychiatric problems that range from depression to behavior disorders.

A Dutch study showed that fish eaters had less cognitive decline than fish-avoiders. Persons living in Framingham, Massachusetts with the highest levels of DHA, an omega 3-fat found in fish, had a 47 percent (!) lower likelihood of dementia compared with those with the lowest levels. Finally, Alzheimer’s patients have low levels of omega-3 fat in their brains.

These findings should encourage you to include fish in your diet three to four times a week. (Sorry – fish sticks won’t do.) Fish oil is a perfectly good substitute but it doesn’t have the extra benefit of protein, a nutrient that many seniors lack in their diet.

Your mother was right: fish is brain food.










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