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Screenshot via Public Domain Review
Screenshot via Public Domain Review

1950s Advice For Curing a Cold Includes Jazz Radio and a Good Book

Screenshot via Public Domain Review
Screenshot via Public Domain Review

Beware, germaphobes: this educational film from the 1950s will make you never want to leave the house again. Part of a series called “Health and Safety for You,” the 1955 short film “Sniffles and Sneezes” warns of the ease with which germs can be spread at school and at home. Sneezy Jane touches a doorknob shortly before Bob, who picks up her germs and transfers them to a book he’s sharing with Sue, who licks her finger to turn pages and passes them along on a pencil to Ann, who spreads them on the cutlery while setting the family dinner table. Yum.

The film serves up some practical advice for staying healthy that will sound familiar. Eat balanced meals, exercise, get a good night’s sleep, and wash your hands. The film’s advice for treatment after catching a cold is cautious: stay in bed—really, do not leave the confines of your bed—listen to some jazz on the radio, and read a book. Use disposable tissues instead of handkerchiefs, which in 1955 were still a socially accepted way of cleaning up your snot. Don’t chew on pencils, which is kind of gross regardless of your infection status.

Other advice borders on paranoia. “Never take bites of other people’s food,” the narrator commands. "Never drink out of someone else’s glass." Never!

Breathing germs on each other. Image Credit:Screenshot via Public Domain Review

These days, researchers can be a little more lackadaisical about cold-spreading germs. According to the Common Cold Centre at the University of Cardiff in the UK, "Despite the fact that very few of us escape from at least a couple of common cold infections each year, common cold viruses are not very contagious."

"Under laboratory conditions," the Common Cold Centre says, "when healthy volunteers are kept with others who are suffering from common cold infections it has proven remarkably difficult to spread infection from one person to another." While washing your hands seems to help stop the spread of the infection, there's only one real way to avoid colds altogether: “Become a hermit.”

The old film strip warns that what seems like a cold could actually be the beginnings of a more serious disease, like diphtheria, measles, or whooping cough, which just a decade ago would have seemed like outdated advice. Since the ‘50s, these diseases have largely been eradicated thanks to vaccines and herd immunity—but they’re all on the rise again thanks to anti-vaccination advocacy. Back to the ‘50s we go!

[h/t: Public Domain Review]

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Emery Smith
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Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
The 'Alien' Mummy Is of Course Human—And Yet, Still Unusual
Emery Smith
Emery Smith

Ata has never been an alien, but she's always been an enigma. Discovered in 2003 in a leather pouch near an abandoned mining town in Chile's Atacama Desert, the tiny, 6-inch mummy's unusual features—including a narrow, sloped head, angled eyes, missing ribs, and oddly dense bones—had both the “It's aliens!” crowd and paleopathologists intrigued. Now, a team of researchers from Stanford University School of Medicine and UC-San Francisco has completed a deep genomic analysis that reveals why Ata looks as she does.

As they lay out in a paper published this week in Genome Research, the researchers found a host of genetic mutations that doomed the fetus—some of which have never been seen before.

Stanford professor of microbiology and immunology Garry Nolan first analyzed Ata back in 2012; the mummy had been purchased by a Spanish businessman and studied by a doctor named Steven Greer, who made her a star of his UFO/ET conspiracy movie Sirius. Nolan was also given a sample of her bone marrow; his DNA analysis confirmed she was, of course, human. But Nolan's study, published in the journal Science, also found something very odd: Though she was just 6 inches long when she died—a typical size for a midterm fetus—her bones appeared to be 6 to 8 years old. This did not lead Nolan to hypothesize an alien origin for Ata, but to infer that she may have had a rare bone disorder.

The current analysis confirmed that interpretation. The researchers found 40 mutations in several genes that govern bone development; these mutations have been linked to "diseases of small stature, rib anomalies, cranial malformations, premature joint fusion, and osteochondrodysplasia (also known as skeletal dysplasia)," they write. The latter is commonly known as dwarfism. Some of these mutations are linked to conditions including Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which affects connective tissue, and Kabuki syndrome, which causes a range of physical deformities and cognitive issues. Other mutations known to cause disease had never before been associated with bone growth or developmental disorders until being discovered in Ata.

scientist measures the the 6-inch-long mummy called Ata, which is not an alien
Emery Smith

"Given the size of the specimen and the severity of the mutations … it seems likely the specimen was a pre-term birth," they write. "While we can only speculate as to the cause for multiple mutations in Ata's genome, the specimen was found in La Noria, one of the Atacama Desert's many abandoned nitrate mining towns, which suggests a possible role for prenatal nitrate exposure leading to DNA damage."

Though the researchers haven't identified the exact age of Ata's remains, they're estimated to be less than 500 years old (and potentially as young as 40 years old). Genomic analysis also confirms that Ata is very much not only an Earthling, but a local; her DNA is a nearest match to three individuals from the Chilote people of Chile.

In a press statement, study co-lead Atul Butte, director of the Institute for Computational Health Sciences at UC-San Francisco, stressed the potential applications of the study to genetic disorders. "For me, what really came of this study was the idea that we shouldn't stop investigating when we find one gene that might explain a symptom. It could be multiple things going wrong, and it's worth getting a full explanation, especially as we head closer and closer to gene therapy," Butte said. "We could presumably one day fix some of these disorders."

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iStock
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Health
Just Two Cans of Soda a Day May Double Your Risk of Death From Heart Disease
iStock
iStock

If you've been stocking your refrigerator full of carbonated corn syrup in anticipation of warmer weather, the American Heart Association has some bad news. The advocacy group on Wednesday released results of research that demonstrate a link between consumption of sugary drinks—including soda, fruit juices, and other sweetened beverages—and an increased risk of dying from heart disease.

Study participants who reported consuming 24 ounces or more of sugary drinks per day had twice the risk of death from coronary artery disease of those who averaged less than 1 ounce daily. There was also an increased risk of death overall, including from other cardiovascular conditions.

The study, led by Emory University professor Jean Welsh, examined data taken from a longitudinal study of 17,930 adults over the age of 45 with no previous history of heart disease, stroke, or diabetes. Researchers followed participants for six years, and examined death records to determine causes. They observed a greater risk of death associated with sugary drinks even when they controlled for other factors, including race, income, education, smoking habits, and physical activity. The study does not show cause and effect, the researchers said, but does illuminate a trend.

The study also noted that while it showed an increased risk of death from heart disease, consumption of sugary foods was not shown to carry similar risk. One possible explanation is that the body metabolizes the sugars differently: Solid foods carry other nutrients, like fat and protein, that slow metabolism, while sugary drinks provide an undiluted influx of carbohydrates that the body must process.

The news will likely prove troublesome for the beverage industry, which has long contended with concerns that sugary drinks contribute to type 2 diabetes and tooth decay. Some cities, including Seattle, have introduced controversial "soda tax" plans that raise the sales tax on the drinks in an effort to discourage consumption.

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