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Listeria bacteria? It’s bigger than Blue Bell

Listeria bacteria? It’s bigger than Blue Bell

If you've got a half-eaten container of Blue Bell ice cream in your freezer, should you finish it off? 

Throw it away, says Dr. Skip Nolan, director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. 

There's a chance -- albeit small -- it contains the troublesome listeria monocytogenes bacteria that prompted a nationwide recall by Texas-based Blue Bell Creameries after listeria was found to have contaminated products made at several of its factories. 

All Blue Bell selections, including ice cream, frozen yogurt, sherbet and single-serve cups, on Monday were swept from store shelves following the deaths of three people in Kansas and reports it has sickened a handful of people in other states, not including Mississippi. 

Symptoms are mostly gastrointestinal and include fever, nausea, diarrhea, severe headaches and abdominal pain and cramps. 

However, listeria cases have been around for a long time, Nolan said. In fact, the outbreak linked to Blue Bell began as long as five years ago, officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday. 

"There's a lot that people don't know about this," Nolan said of listeria bacteria. 

For starters:

It's found just about everywhere. "Surveys show that if you culture produce in the grocery store, deli meat and other surfaces, it's pretty easy to find," Nolan said. "The same thing is true in your refrigerator. Everybody gets exposed to it, but only certain people get it."

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Center focuses on overlooked population

Center focuses on overlooked population

For the last several years, a group of researchers at the University of Mississippi Medical Center has pored over studies to determine the health risks facing minority males in the state. 

From a higher propensity for developing chronic kidney disease at an earlier age to having on average a shorter life span, the statistics have shown a health-care disparity among minority males, particularly African-American men, said Dr. Marino Bruce, director of the Center of Health for Minority Males (C-HMM), part of the University of Mississippi Medical Center's Myrlie Evers-Williams Institute for the Elimination of Health Disparities. 

The reasons are numerous, the answers murky. But the lack of a primary health-care physician - or medical home - among minority males is one of the first problems believed to face the population, said Bruce, an affiliate faculty member at UMMC's School of Medicine and professor of criminal justice and sociology at Jackson State University. 

"The question that we have to ask and have answered is, 'What are the ways in which we can encourage minority males in particular to have a medical home?'" said Bruce. 

"Minority males - particularly African-American males - don't have medical homes, but that's the group that's most likely to have early onset of disease," he added. 

Bruce said African-American males have the shortest lifespans among populations, and when looking at heart disease, kidney disease and cancer, the same group tends to have an earlier onset. 

"Hypertension," he added. "We're talking about hypertension in folks that are barely 20 years old. College-age African-American males are twice as likely to have hypertension as white males the same age." 

The increased likelihood of African-American males developing hypertension at a younger age - even in their 20s - can be further compounded by weight issues, said Bruce. This increases the risk of a serious cardiac event to four or five times greater than healthy individuals. 

"And both of those are largely preventable," said Bruce. 

These issues - their causes and, it is hoped, solutions - are why C-HMM is around, said Bruce.

"The disparities among men of color, particularly African-American males, compared to their Caucasian counterparts is a national problem," said Dr. Bettina Beech, UMMC's associate vice chancellor for population health and director of the Evers-Williams Institute.

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Hughes’ gift to MIND Center may help ‘save the next generation’

Dr. Thomas "Tom" Mosley Jr., a nationally renowned authority on brain aging, was honored on April 14 as the recipient of the Dudley & Robbie Hughes Distinguished MIND Center Chair. 

A gift of $2 million from Robbie and Dudley Hughes of Jackson endowed the faculty chair for the Memory Impairment and Neurodegenerative Dementia (MIND) Center, which Mosley directs in its work to expose the causes of, and find treatments for, Alzheimer's disease and related forms of dementia. 

"It is critically important for the center to have the chair for the long-term success of the MIND Center," said Mosley, professor of medicine (geriatrics) and neurology, Billy S. Guyton Distinguished Professor and associate director of geriatric medicine.

"It ensures that UMMC will be able to recruit a top scientist and sustain our leadership in this area long after my career is over."

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Hughes’ gift to MIND Center may help ‘save the next generation’
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