Don’t Look Now – #Zika is in Texas!

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By Dr. Rodney Rohde

Well Bobcats, it seems like we just moved past the Ebola stories from last year to look up and hear that another virus with another strange name is invading our shores – even right here in Texas. The World Health Organization declared the Zika (ZIKV) virus and its suspected link to birth defects an international public health emergency. The declaration signals the seriousness of the Zika outbreak and gives countries powerful new tools to fight it.

One of my primary goals as a scientist (public health and clinical microbiologist) is to deliver balanced and accurate information in regards to infectious disease outbreaks. As with any “new” emerging infectious disease, it is critical for global, national, state and local public health officials to report correct information in regards to any significant health threat to the general public. One doesn’t need to look that far back to see how the introduction of Ebola to the U.S. created unnecessary panic in many people. Zika, like other arboviruses, does pose some health threats and risks, but we should be careful to not create public health hysteria by adding any material for sensationalized headlines. Facts, along with common sense advice and concern, are all that is needed in this latest “threat” to our shores. Those of us in the realm of the medical laboratory, public health and healthcare should offer a consistent message, one of instruction and caution, but not of panic.

Zika – Who are you and What Should I Know? 

The Virus

ZIKV is in the Flavivirus genus of viruses in the family Flaviviridae. This genus includes the West Nile Virus, dengue virus, tick-borne encephalitis virus, yellow fever virus, zika virus and several other viruses which may cause encephalitis. The virus was first documented in the late 1940s, and outbreaks of Zika previously have been reported in tropical Africa, Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands. Zika virus likely will continue to spread to new areas. In May 2015, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) issued an alert regarding the first confirmed Zika virus infection in Brazil.

Signs / Symptoms

Zika fever typically presents with mild fever, rash (mostly maculo-papular), headaches, joint pain, muscle pain, lack of energy and non-purulent (no pus) pink eye, occurring about three to 12 days after the mosquito vector bite. Only one out of five people may develop symptoms, but in those who are affected, the disease is usually mild with symptoms that can last between two and seven days. It’s rare for someone infected with ZIKV to become seriously sick or die. Zika is not thought to spread through routine, direct person-to-person contact.

How is it transmitted (spread)?

Areas of Texas, like in some other states in the southern U.S., are home to two species of Aedes mosquitoes capable of transmitting ZIKV. The Zika virus is spread primarily to people through the bite of infected mosquitos. Spread of the virus through blood transfusion and sexual contact has been reported (first case occurred in Dallas, Texas, February 1, 2016). In addition, the CDC said there have been documented cases of virus transmission during labor, blood transfusion and laboratory exposure. While Zika has been found in breast milk, it’s not yet confirmed it can be passed to a baby through nursing.

Pregnancy Connection. Rarely, ZIKV can be spread transplacentally (from mother to child). This spread during pregnancy may be linked to birth defects, such as a condition called microcephaly (when a baby’s head is smaller than expected when compared with babies of the same sex and age). Our understanding of the link between Zika and pregnancy is evolving, and to date (February 3, 2016), there is not causal effect, which means there is no direct proof that ZIKV actually causes this condition. There is correlation (or an association) of this occurrence.

Is Zika in the U.S. or Texas?

The quick answer is yes! It actually arrived in Texas first (imported case) on January 11, 2016.  As of February 2, 2016, the Texas Department of State Health Services confirms there are a total of eight cases of Zika virus in Texas — six from Harris County and two in Dallas County (which includes the sexually transmitted case). Seven of the cases are all related to foreign travel. Currently, testing for Zika virus is done through the CDC, but Texas is working on the ability to test for the virus at its Austin lab. Remember, it’s always critical to have a medical laboratory confirmation of any infection. In fact, the Texas State CLS Program is in the business of producing those who conduct these important clinical laboratory tests. The virus will continue to be imported in to the U.S., and I would say the percentages are good for ZIKV to become locally transmitted since the two mosquito vectors are present here.

Should I be worried, and can I protect myself?

Currently there are no vaccines or treatment for Zika; the best way to protect yourself is to prevent mosquito bites. You can do this by wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants and treating your clothing and other items with permethrin. Use an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellant as directed, but not on babies younger than two months of age; instead, cover your baby in clothing and cover the crib, stroller or baby carrier with mosquito netting.

If you’ve recently traveled to an area with Zika and develop signs/symptoms, tell your doctor that you traveled to a country with Zika virus. Because the symptoms of Zika are similar to dengue and chikungunya, special blood tests may be needed.

If you get sick with Zika, make sure to get plenty of rest and fluids, and take medicines like acetaminophen or paracetamol to reduce fever and pain. Don’t take aspirin or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen. You can also prevent others from getting sick by avoiding mosquito bites during the first week of illness following the same steps outlined above, because Zika virus can stay in the blood during the first week of infection.

What is being done?

Recently, CDC issued travel notices for people traveling to areas where Zika virus transmission is ongoing. Specific areas where Zika virus transmission is ongoing are often difficult to determine and are likely to keep changing over time. It’s important to keep up to date on CDC’s travel notices for recommendations on what to do if you travel to an area with Zika. CDC has also provided guidance, in consultation with major medical societies, to the healthcare community. Work and research is being ramped up on possible vaccine production, blood donor screening and possible links to birth defects.

For more information, please see my article and recent radio interview. I will also be interviewed by KTSW on February 4, 2016.  Remember, it’s very important to get the facts with any disease outbreak and always to keep your #perspective.

Adapted from R. Rohde article: Zika Cases Confirmed in North America: Time to Panic?Accessed February 3, 2016.

KUT and @TexasStandard: Five Things to Know About the Spreading Zika Virus

_C9A0007Dr. Rodney E. Rohde (@RodneyRohde) is Professor, Research Dean and Chair of the Clinical Laboratory Science Program (CLS) in the College of Health Professions of Texas State University. He has been recognized with teaching excellence at both Texas State and Austin Community College. He has published a book on MRSA stories, over 50 research articles, book chapters and abstracts and presented at more than 100 international, national and state conferences. Dr. Rohde is the current Texas Association for Clinical Laboratory Science (TACLS) President and has been involved in licensure efforts in Texas since 2007.

Trail mix

 

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Texas State junior Mason Puckett stops for a scenic selfie along the Pacific Crest Trail. He completed the hike with his brother, Conor, in four months.

Bobcat, brother conquer Pacific Crest Trail  

By Mariah Medina

Mason Puckett began his college education as a criminal justice major, but after a four-month, 2,650-mile hike, the Texas State University junior has a broader scope of interest for his future.

It was a journey with his brother, Conor, along the legendary Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) that set Mason on a new path. The red-haired duo came home on October 28 lighter by a combined 60 pounds, and a lot richer in experiences.

“The reason we, as backpackers, do what we do is multifaceted and impossible to answer,” Conor wrote before making the trip. “Smelling fresh air hinted by the different scents of the country under your feet … It’s the fire burning in your chest and the mile-long views from the top of mountain passes. Pulsating adrenaline after an encounter with a not-so-friendly animal and the inexplicable, mouthwatering deliciousness that trail food becomes. All of these require a removal from day-to-day, week-to-week distractions in order to experience.”

For months the men called various places along the trail from Mexico to Canada home — making sure to write about their experiences weekly on Conor’s blog, SeePuckHike.wordpress.com. From inflamed knees to encounters with area wildlife, first-aid training and hikes through Texas state parks couldn’t prepare the two for what adventures the trail held.

“Hiking a long trail is very mentally exhausting as well because every day we had to hike for 12 hours, and we knew we would be out for no less than four months,” Mason says. “So there really isn’t any great way to train for a long trail besides hiking a long trail.”

The trail passes through six of the seven major ecosystems— excluding the tundra — making the PCT a favorite choice for Conor. He had initially planned on making the trip with a friend, but financial problems came up, and Conor reached out to his brother.

“I was in my English class and immediately I said yes because I can always take summer classes if I need to make up hours,” Mason says. Bringing the idea to their parents, however, was a new obstacle. While the brothers are both Eagle Scouts and very familiar with the wilderness, their parents expressed concerns ranging from “how will you afford it?” to “what if you get eaten by a bear?” After some discussion, they got parental approval, and ― more importantly — the approval of the Pacific Crest Trail Association.

There was a delay of about a week from their planned starting date, but the duo were eventually among a group of 50 PCT hikers to begin the trail on July 1.    Equipped with backpacks filled with Snickers, oatmeal cream pies and other high-calorie foods, the two set off for the Canadian border. Thanks to the hospitality of others, who would give Mason and Conor rides to local eateries and back to the trail whenever necessity took them off course, the brothers are among the 4,605 people who have successfully hiked the PCT.

Conor, who has a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from The University of Texas at Austin, joined the workforce.  Mason returned to Texas State in January with a renewed focus on careers relevant to land management and wildlife preservation.

 

Photo courtesy of Mason Puckett

Top 15 TXST Moments of 2015

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2015 was full of memorable moments at Texas State University. Here are some of the top moments in no particular order as measured by their popularity on our social media accounts.

15.  San Marcos ranks as one of the 50 Best Small College Towns in America

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It’s hard to deny that San Marcos is an amazing place to live. This year it was ranked as one of the top small college towns in the country.

14. Butler Hall at Texas State University made U.S. News & World Report’s list of haunted university residence halls

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Students have long reported strange sounds and feelings of being watched in Butler Hall.

13. Acclaimed film director Robert Rodriguez delivered the LBJ Distinguished Lecture

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In his speech, Rodriguez urged the audience to “embrace the idea that you are a student” and to remember the maxim, “action first, inspiration second.”

12. Bubble Believers bring joy to the Texas State campus

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This fall, the Texas State Bubble Believers spread positive energy across campus, blowing bubbles and giving words of encouragement to passers-by.

11. Texas State University at sunset from our Instagram follower, @jdbecceiro

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This photo taken by one of our Instagram followers, quickly became our most popular Instagram post, earning more than 2,200 likes on the social network.

10. Texas State celebrates the anniversary of the Higher Education Act

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The Higher Education Act, signed by Texas State University distinguished alumnus President Lyndon B. Johnson on this campus 50 years ago, opened up possibilities for thousands of lower- and middle-income students who otherwise might never have pursued advanced education.

9. Alkek Library celebrates its 25th anniversary

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The Albert B. Alkek Library, named for an influential oilman and philanthropist, was founded in 1990 and celebrated its 25th anniversary this year.

8. Texas State sets enrollment record for 18th consecutive year

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Texas State University announced the most diverse student body in the school’s history, part of a record-setting enrollment for the 2015 fall semester.

7. Star Wars Day at Texas State

TIE fighters and AT-ATs were spotted on campus in these two popular posts in honor of Star Wars Day.

6. Lost bull on campus

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Students were instructed to “steer” clear of the area as a lost bull made its way on to campus.

5. Texas State launches Snapchat account and filtersCVpNkJNWwAABZNd

Texas State expanded its social media presence with a Snapchat account. The popular photo sharing app is one of the fastest growing.

4. Therapy dogs visit Alkek Library

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The therapy dogs from Divine Canines made multiple visits to the Alkek Library during finals week to help students get through the stress of the exams.

3. Texas State student goes viral with sign language version of “Uptown Funk”

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Texas State student, Brian Guendling brought the house down with his sign language version of the Bruno Mars hit, “Uptown Funk” and became a YouTube sensation overnight.

2. Texas State physics professors uncover a hidden secret behind one of history’s most iconic photos.

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Texas State professor, Don Olson uncovered a secret behind this iconic photo.

1. Students volunteer to help with flood relief

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After the San Marcos area was struck by flooding in both May and October, the students of Texas State University volunteered in the relief efforts.

Preparing for Thanksgiving

by Texas State SLAC

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The days are getting shorter as your to-do list is getting longer. You might be tempted to put some class work off till after Thanksgiving because you don’t want to be doing homework, writing papers, working on projects or studying for tests while you are around family and friends, eating turkey and then sleeping off the L-tryptophan! But by putting off course assignments, you could find yourself neck-deep in work — and facing lowered motivation because the semester is almost over. Plus you’ll have finals to study for. Here is a better course of action.

Today and tonight:

  1. Write a rough outline for a paper and/or presentation.
  2. Review notes about your 99 physics problems (or problems in any other class) and do related homework.
  3. Plan and start any projects and/or presentations due by the end of class.
  4. Read notes for other upcoming tests.

Tomorrow night and the next few nights:

  1. Write the first paragraph of your paper and/or prepare the first slide of your presentation.
  2. Continue working on homework due before and after Thanksgiving.
  3. Implement plans for projects and/or presentations and begin needed research.
  4. Study your notes a little more.

The next week:

  1. Go over your work to make sure it is written or presented in a professional manner.
  2. Make necessary corrections to homework and to your notes.
  3. Develop plans and projects more and research more as needed.
  4. Continue studying as needed.

During Thanksgiving, you can be worry free because either you are done with all your projects or you are finishing them in manageable amounts.

This takes planning, but you can get started now. Once the ball is rolling, it’s easier to keep it in motion. Don’t sabotage yourself by waiting until the last minute. Start getting the work done today so that this Thanksgiving is as restful as possible.

 

Stay “App-to-Date”

Apps are an important addition to any phone.

Apps are an important addition to any smartphone. Photo credit: danielygo/flickr.com

by Julia Sloan

Let’s answer the question that millions search Google for every day: “What are the best apps for my phone?” There are complicated and in-depth lists that rate apps by company, genre and cost. There are so many, in fact, that the search for the “best app” is almost fruitless. With college schedules getting more hectic, students need apps that are easy to learn and use and are beneficial for college life. Here are our picks for the top six must-have (and mostly free for iOS and Android) apps for college students.

MyFitnessPal

Trying out a diet but still eating pizza at Harris every time you finish at the Rec? MyFitnessPal can help. This app allows you to track calories and meals, set a goal weight and browse recipes (see the “Community” tab) for simple meals. For support, you can add your friends and even comment on or “like” their updates. Not only does this app have 16 million+ downloads, it’s free on iOS, Android and Windows operating systems.

Spotify

Need some tunes while you’re waiting for the bus? Spotify is free to download, easy to use and is overflowing with songs to suit your music needs. Spotify Premium allows you to listen offline without an Internet connection. It does cost a bit of cash to use, but there are discounts for students and families. Google Play comes in at a close second, allowing you access to the music you keep in your cloud.

Grade Tracker Pro

Grade Tracker Pro allows you to calculate the grades you need to pass a class, whether the professor operates on a point system or percentage system. It also calculates current GPA standing and class averages.

BillGuard

Your end-of-the-week Chipotle tradition sounds delicious, but may not be so healthy for a college budget. Paired with your bank account, BillGuard keeps track of your spending and notifies you if someone tries to use your card.  Stay on top of your money habits with this app that allows you to budget efficiently.

Forest

It is hard to complete the ever-growing pile of homework with the constant urge to check your messages and notifications. Solve your habit of procrastination and self-distraction with this clever app by growing your own forest. Set an amount of time to stay off your phone and in that time, the small tree will grow. If you use your phone before your set time is up, the tree will die. The only downside is that it does cost .99 cents for iPhone users. Find more about this clever app here.

Snapseed

What does social media need more of? Filters. Snapseed is a free app that offers many filters for photos without endless searching, and is great for adding that extra flair to your Instagram and Facebook photos. Capture your best Bobcat game-day moments in style, from the tailgate to the final touchdown.

Do you have any apps that you’d like to recommend? We’d love to hear how you use technology to make college life easier to manage.

 

 

 

 

How the “Google Maps Method” Can Help You Through Essay Tests

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When you read an essay question, do you get a headache? Does your brain go blank? Try comparing taking essay tests to using Google Maps or another map search engine. Principles that achieve good map search results also work for answering essay questions.

GET DIRECTIONS

Read the question thoroughly. Details determine the route you take in your explanation.

Search tip: Identify specifics in an essay question so you don’t waste time on false starts and explanations that are loose or dead ends.

 ASSESS THE MOST EFFICIENT ROUTE

Make an outline of relevant information to make clear connections, organized by main and subordinate ideas.

Search tip: Link relevant ideas into a navigable whole. If links or chains of reasoning are random or chaotic, your answer could miss the mark.

PLAN YOUR ROUTE

Visualize action words to find your line of argument:

  • ANALYZE – provide an in-depth exploration of a topic, considering components of ideas and their interrelationships
  • EXPLAIN – clarify, interpret, give reasons for differences of opinion or of results, analyze causes
  • ILLUSTRATE – justify your position or answer a question using concrete examples
  • TRACE – describe the evolution, development or progress of the subject step-by-step, sometimes using chronological order
  • COMPARE/CONTRAST – emphasize similarities and/or differences between two topics, give reasons pro and con
  • PROVE – argue the truth of a statement by giving factual evidence and logical reasoning
  • CRITICIZE – express your judgment about the merit, truth or usefulness of the views or factors mentioned in the question and support your judgment with facts and explanations
  • EVALUATE – appraise, give your viewpoint, cite limitations and advantages, include the opinion of authorities and give evidence to support your position
  • INTERPRET – translate, give examples or comment on a subject, usually including your own viewpoint
  • REVIEW – examine and respond to possible problems or obstacles in your account

Search tip: Use the essay question as your guide to choose the line of argument that allows you to make your strongest, most concise argument. Then, map your answer! 

PRINT OUT YOUR MAP

If your professor allows, take in an outline or more than one outline of essay questions, but be SURE this is OK before you do this. If you can’t take in an outline, go in with one (or more) in your mind, and write it inside of your bluebook or on your paper first thing. This helps when you can’t remember something because of stress. It also helps you stay calm and focused during tests.

Happenings: Library Turns 25

Alkek Library Celebrates 25th Year

by Julia Sloan

Our Albert B. Alkek Library, named for an influential oilman and philanthropist, was founded in 1990. Previously, the J. C. Kellam Building housed our books and resources. To symbolically mark the official move to the new library, which opened on May 1, 1990, a long line of students, faculty and staff formed a “Book-It Brigade” to transfer four books from JCK to Alkek: La relacion y comentarios del governado Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca from the Southwestern Writers Collection, Selections from the Poems of Robert Burns, the aptly titled Move! and The Color Purple by Alice Walker.

New column-wraps on Alkek celebrate the building's 25 years.

Column wraps on Alkek celebrate the building’s first 25 years.

Members of the Texas State community are invited to join a reenactment of this event on September 23 at 10 a.m. The line will start at Old Main, where the very first Texas State library was, and end at the top of the Alkek Library staircase. Some of the people who were involved in the original Book-it Brigade are still a part of the Alkek family, working and serving our library as it celebrates 25 years on the Texas State campus.

Library Associate Vice President Joan Heath is excited about the many events that will mark the building’s first quarter-century. “The whole point of this celebration is to share it with the whole campus community,” she says. These 25 years bring the past and the present of Texas State population together, giving “the students back then and the students of today something in common, 25 years apart,” says Heath.

As technology advances, more and more students are turning to online resources for completing class assignments. The Alkek Library serves both as a physical library and a virtual one, offering books to check out and online databases for extended research. Despite the changes that have taken place over the past 25 years, Heath says, “People still need the physical library. It feels great to walk out on the main floor and see it so busy. To me, that’s a message. That says we’re doing something to meet the needs of students.”

Many celebrations are happening this semester. Join in the party! Learn about all the planned events at txstate.edu/library.