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Texas boy battles brain infection doctors say was caused by flu

Witten Ramirez is fighting for his life after doctors said he contracted a brain infection caused by the flu.

Witten’s mother, Desiree, said that the whole family had the flu last week, but the 8-year-old had it worse than the others, KXAS reported.

She said he was sleeping too much and stumbled when he walked.

>> Read more trending news 

To be safe, Desiree took him to the emergency room, thinking that he might be having a reaction to medication. 

Instead, testing found that somehow the flu had caused an infection in his brain, which was attacking the part of the brain that controls movement.

Witten now cannot walk, sit, stand or talk, Desiree told KXAS.

Neurologists said the infection is called cerebellitis, an inflammatory process that can be a complication from the flu in rare cases with no risk factors.

“You can have otherwise seemingly healthy individuals whose bodies handle flu in such a way to lead to a neurologic complication, which is why we spend so much time focusing on prevention,” Dr. Benjamin Greenberg told KXAS.

Prevention, Greenberg said, is the flu vaccine.

Witten’s mother said her son didn’t get a flu shot this year as he had in previous years.

Children can recover from cerebellitis, but doing so will involve rehabilitation, which is already planned for Witten, KXAS reported

Flu virus spread by breathing, study finds

Most people believe that the influenza virus is spread through the coughs and sneezes of infected people, but new research published Thursday suggests that the flu virus is spread more easily than previously thought.

>> Read more trending news

Medical professionals believe that the virus is spread most often by “droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But researchers studying how the virus spreads recently found large amounts of the virus in the breath of people suffering from the flu, according to the University of Maryland’s School of Public Health.

>> Related: Influenza surveillance map: Where is the flu in my state? 

The researchers -- from the University of Maryland, San Jose State University, Missouri Western State University and the University of California, Berkeley -- published their findings Thursday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“We found that flu cases contaminated the air around them with infectious virus just by breathing, without coughing or sneezing,” said Donald Milton, professor of environmental health in the University of Maryland School of Public Health and lead researcher for the study.

Milton and his team examined the virus content in the breath of 142 people who were diagnosed with flu as they were breathing normally, speaking, coughing and sneezing. Researchers found that a majority of those who participated in the study had enough of the infectious virus in just their regular, exhaled breath to possibly infect another person.

A review of the data collected from the coughs and sneezes of infected participants showed that neither action appeared to have a large impact on whether or not the virus was spread.

>> Related: 11 things parents need to know about the flu, the vaccine, how long kids need to stay out of school  

“People with flu generate infectious aerosols (tiny droplets that stay suspended in the air for a long time), even when they are not coughing and especially during the first days of illness,” Milton said.

The study’s authors said the results highlighted how necessary it is for people who have the flu to stay at home.

>> Related: What is the H3N2 flu and how bad is flu season this year? 

“The study findings suggest that keeping surfaces clean, washing our hands all the time, and avoiding people who are coughing does not provide complete protection from getting the flu,” said Sheryl Ehrman, the dean of the Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering at San Jose State University. “Staying home and out of public spaces could make a difference in the spread of the influenza virus.”

Chris Pratt loved and nuzzled his sheep. Then he ate him.

The sheep on actor Chris Pratt’s farm had a glorious life on his way to the menu.

“He was groomed and shorn, his hooves medicated, de-wormed, no antibiotics necessary,” Pratt, who has filmed movies including “Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2” and “Passengers” in Atlanta, said in a lengthy Instagram post. “Surrounded by laughing loving humans, including children to whom they provided such joy. Nuzzled, pet and loved every day.”

>> Read more trending news 

The sheep’s transition to his “final destination” as Pratt put it, was trauma-free: “Just a touch of a USDA certified wand to his head and he goes to sleep. The other sheep don’t even notice. It’s like unplugging a TV.”

Related: What time Chris Pratt showed up at a Fayette Kiwanis Club festival

The post has sparked impassioned responses from people who either applaud Pratt’s thoughtful approach to farm-to-table living or are totally freaked out that he plans to eat a creature he described in such tender terms.

“This absolute (expletive) literally just compared killing another sentient being to unplugging a TV,” one commenter posted. “You cannot justify the needless killing or unnaturally ending the life of an animal simply by saying ‘they had a good life.'”

Said another: “This is death. This is not food.”

A supporter posted, “It’s pathetic that people are commenting on here about how ‘terrible’ this is but it’s not affecting you! This is an animal from Chris’ farm and as a farm animal the cycle is a happy life then being used for consumption.”

Then a bunch of people started arguing over whether it’s healthier to eat meat or to consume only a vegetarian or vegan diet. Finally one guy introduced some levity by posting: “Poor Rocket!”

Here’s a previously posted photo; it’s not clear if the sheep posing for the camera is the one now on the dinner table.

High-salt diet could cause dementia, study finds

Consuming too much salt can be dangerous for your health. It can cause your blood pressure and cholesterol to skyrocket, but it might also cause memory loss, according to a new report

>> Read more trending news

Researchers from Weill Cornell Medicine in New York recently conducted an experiment, published in the Nature Neuroscience journal, to determine if salt was linked with memory loss.

To do so, the researchers observed mice, which were split into two groups. One group was given food containing 4 percent salt, and the other was fed food with 8 percent salt. The amounts represented an “8- to 16-fold increase in salt compared to a normal mouse diet” and was comparable to a high-salt diet for humans, scientists noted. 

>> On AJC.com: These 5 'healthy' foods may have more salt than you think 

After eight weeks, they examined the animals using magnetic resonance imaging, which captured photos of the anatomy and physiology of the brain. 

They discovered the high-salt diet reduced resting blood flow to the brain, causing dementia. They saw a 28 percent decrease in the blood flow in cortex and a 25 percent decrease in the hippocampus, which are two areas of the brain associated with learning and memory. 

Analysts also administered a recognition test, and the mice that consumed more salt performed significantly worse, compared to the mice on a regular diet. Mice with salty diets spent less time building nests and gathering materials. This was the case even for mice that had healthy blood pressure levels. 

>> Related: These are the best diets for 2018

“We discovered that mice fed a high-salt diet developed dementia even when blood pressure did not rise,” senior author Costantino Iadecola said in a statement. “This was surprising since, in humans, the deleterious effects of salt on cognition were attributed to hypertension.”

Why is that?

The researchers discovered that the high-salt diet prompted an immune response in the gut, which increased a protein called interleukin 17. Its job is to regulate immune and inflammatory responses. But high levels of interleukin 17 can cause a reduction in the production of nitric oxide, which affects brain functions. 

>> On AJC.com: Here’s what we always get wrong about salt 

Luckily, the scientists revealed they were able to reverse the immune signals by discontinuing the high-salt diets and prescribing drugs to lower the interleukin 17 levels.

Scientists now hope to continue their investigations by further exploring interleukin 17 and other ailments associated with it.

They said their findings may be able to “benefit people with diseases and conditions associated with elevated IL-17 levels, such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease and other autoimmune diseases.”

'Girther' conspiracy hits social media as critics question Trump's height, weight

On Tuesday, White House physician Dr. Ronny Jackson appeared before the press to give the details of President Donald Trump’s latest physical. According to Jackson — who was appointed by former President Barack Obama — the president is in great health, but some critics wasted no time casting doubt on Jackson’s analysis.

>> On Rare.us: Steve Bannon just cut a deal with Robert Mueller, reports say — here’s what we know

Most of the results were pretty straightforward. Trump aced a cognitive exam and has benefited from not drinking or smoking his entire life, Jackson said. The doctor said he is going to try to put the president on a diet but joked that the commander-in-chief might just live to be 200. At one point in the briefing, Jackson said Trump weighs 239 pounds and stands 6-foot-3. That puts his body mass index at 29.9. (You’re considered obese if your BMI hits 30.) But not everybody bought that last statistic.

>> Read more trending news 

More than a few people pointed to a photo of Trump standing side-by-side with Obama, who is 6-foot-1, and the men appear to be the same height.

There were also dozens of people who pointed to athletes with the same dimensions as Trump.

MSNBC’s Chris Hayes even termed the doctor doubters “girthers” — a stab at the “birther” conspiracy theorists who insisted that Obama was not born in the United States.

On Wednesday morning, “Morning Joe” host Joe Scarborough also cast doubts on the results that Jackson gave to the press. At one point in his segment, Scarborough said, “All I can tell you is this: If that’s what 239 pounds looks like, I would weigh 170 pounds. So yes, I have great respect for people who – great respect for this doctor, but if that’s what 6-foot-3, 239 pounds looks like, that’s a shock to me.”

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Study says people would rather hang out with their dogs than friends

A new study says that most dog owners would rather spend time with their pup than their friends.

Fox News reported that a study of 2,000 dog owners conducted by smart dog collar company Link AKC says more than half prefer their pet over pals. Owners said they sometimes skip out on social events to be with their dog.

>> Read more trending news 

Eighty-one percent of those surveyed said they spoke to their dog like they would a friend. Single dog owners were twice as likely to talk to their pet about relationship problems. Eighty percent of owners said it’s a deal breaker if their partner didn’t like their dog.

The study found that six in 10 pet owners said their dog takes care of them in some way, with many saying their pet helped them get through a breakup or death of a loved one. 

Sixty-two percent of the pet owners surveyed said their dogs helped get them out the house at least twice a day for a walk and more than two-thirds said their dog helps them exercise more regularly.

“The physical benefits of dog ownership are often the first that come to mind, but we’ve found the emotional and mental health benefits of having a furry companion are just as impactful,” Link AKC chief marketing officer Herbie Calves told Fox News. “People consider their dogs members of their family and are looking for ways to connect and interact with them on a deeper level.”

The survey supports Calves’ claim. Fifty-five percent say unconditional love and constant companionship is among the biggest benefit of dog ownership.

“Dog ownership is a great responsibility but also comes with great physical, emotional and mental benefits,” Calves said.

Is feeding a cold a real thing? 5 winter health myths debunked

You've probably heard winter health myths for years and you may have even accepted some of them as fact.

From being told to bundle up, so you don't catch a cold to your neighbor swearing he got the flu from his flu shot, these myths make the rounds every winter.

Breathe easy: 5 household plants that improve air quality

We separate fact from fiction with the following five winter health myths:

Cold weather can make you get sick.

Mom always warned you you'd get sick if you didn't bundle up before heading out in cold weather. Her advice wasn't exactly horrible, since you'll certainly be more comfortable and protected from frostbite. But cold by itself doesn't make you more likely to get sick, according to The Weather Channel. Most experts think we're more likely to get sick in colder months, but that's because we're all cooped up together, exchanging germs. Cold weather also dries out your nasal passages, reducing their ability to filter out infections. Despite evidence to the contrary, moms will probably keep warning their kids to bundle up. It's what they do.

>> Read more trending news 

You lose 90 percent of your body heat through your head.

Of all your body parts, your head is more likely to be exposed in cold weather. But that doesn't mean the myth about losing 90 percent of your body heat through your head is true, according to Business Insider. Sure, wearing a hat in cold weather will help you stay warm, but that's just because you're covering an exposed body part, not because there's anything special about your head. You could cover up any other exposed body part and also feel warmer.

You don't need sunscreen in the winter.

If you think you only need sunscreen in hotter weather, you've probably packed your lotion away by the time winter comes around. But even when the weather's overcast in the winter, up to 80 percent of the sun's rays can still penetrate the clouds, according to Reader's digest.

UVA rays are always present - even in winter - and they can damage the deeper layers of your skin, increasing your risk for skin cancer and causing premature aging of your skin. And if you're planning a ski trip, you should be even more careful. UV radiation increases with elevation, and snow reflects and intensifies sunlight. So whatever the season, wearing sunscreen with at least a 30 SPF is the safest way to go.

Feed a cold, starve a fever.

The origin of this myth may be rooted in antiquated beliefs about colds and fevers, according to CNN. It was once believed that your body literally became colder if you had a cold, so it needed to be "warmed up" with food. Fever was thought to need "cooling down" by not eating.

In reality, you need to eat whether you have a cold or a fever. Good, nutritious foods are important, but it's OK if your illness suppresses your appetite a little. Staying hydrated is most important, especially if you have a fever. You may need to replenish electrolytes, so sports drinks can be a good choice. Good ol' chicken soup will keep you hydrated while also helping to clear your nasal passages.

RELATED: Your guide to an (almost) allergy-free home

The flu shot can give you the flu.

This isn't true, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC). Flu shots are made with either an inactive form of the virus or no flu virus at all. Neither type can give you the flu. You may have a sore arm after getting a flu shot and some people report having a low-grade fever and aches for a day or two, but it's not the flu.

On the other hand, you may still get the flu even if you've had a flu shot, but the odds of getting it are much lower and, if you do get the flu, the symptoms will likely be less severe.

WATCH: Meteor spotted in Ohio, Michigan, Canada

The fireball lit up the sky just after 8 p.m. Tuesday.

>> Click here to watch

The dashboard cam video was shared by Mike Austin as he was driving north on I-75 near Bloomfield Hills, north of Detroit, Michigan. 

>> On WHIO.com: 2017 fireball caught on WHIO-TV weather camera

The fireball also was seen from northwest Ohio and southwest Ontario, Canada

>> Read more trending news 

It is not known whether the meteorite dissipated in the atmosphere or made it to the ground or into Lake Michigan.

White Castle will offer romantic Valentine’s Day package, reservations again

Fast food icon White Castle once again will offer its romantic Valentine’s Day package for those in love, but on a budget.

White Castle is now accepting reservations for its annual Valentine’s Day Dinner and for the first time, the chain is using OpenTable.com, or the reservation app, to allow diners to secure their spot for the traditional dinner with a twist, Cincinnati.com reported.

>> Read more trending news 

This year, like in years past, White Castle will offer its original slider and veggie slider.  To throw love into the meal, it’s also serving up a chocolate-covered strawberry smoothie, a combination of strawberries and vanilla yogurt that is topped with Ghirardelli chocolate sauce. It will also decorate the locations in red and pink balloons, throw tablecloths on the tables and give menus to its guests, Delish reported.

To make a reservation, either use OpenTable or you can call the local numbers listed here.

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