Today’s Headlines: An Update on the Nasal Spray Flu Vaccine, How Playing Cards Can Help Stroke Recovery, and the Benefits of Owning a Pet

This week, experts announced that they believe FluMist® is not effective. Advisors to the CDC found that it has not significantly prevented influenza in the last couple of years and therefore should not be the preferred vaccination method moving forward. “Vaccine experts say they are not sure [why the FluMist is not effective]. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, which advises the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cites one study that found FluMist only reduced the risk of serious influenza by 3 percent last year. Influenza is very difficult to vaccinate against. The virus is so mutation-prone that the vaccine has to be changed and made fresh every year. Even so, sometimes the circulating strains mutate faster than the vaccine makers make new vaccine.” The CDC still advises everyone to get the flu vaccine every year. (NBC)

Playing cards may assist stroke recovery. The act of holding objects and using hands and arms in some activities may increase motor skills. “…the type of task used for motor rehabilitation might be less relevant, as long as it is intensive, repetitive and gets the hands and arms moving…Approximately half of the patients, at random, were then allocated to the Wii rehab, while the rest were asked to do other recreational activities, such as playing cards…Both groups showed significant improvement in their motor skills at the end of the two weeks and four weeks later.” Other activities that appeared to be beneficial included playing Jenga® and bingo. (BBC)

If you own a pet, your lifespan may increase. A recent study has shown that female pet owners may lower their risk of dying from a stroke. “According to the National Death Index, as of 2006, 11 of every 1,000 non-pet owners had died of cardiovascular disease, compared to about 7 of every 1,000 pet owners. Specifically for stroke, male pet owners were just as likely to have died, but female pet owners were about 40 percent less likely to have died of stroke. Most of this association was driven by cat ownership, according to results in High Blood Pressure and Cardiovascular Prevention.” The research supporting and against owning a pet is ongoing. (Reuters)