December 1997
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Patients at Johns Hopkins should feel reassured that there is a much reduced chance they will catch the flu from health care workers, according to Edward J. Bernacki, M.D., M.P.H., director of occupational medicine and chairman of the joint committee on health safety and environment.

Using "herd immunity," Johns Hopkins Hospital has reduced the number of workers who can catch and spread flu by vaccinating over 5,200 employees.

"Our main goal was to achieve herd immunity," Bernacki says. "It means that there are so few people susceptible to flu that the likelihood of spreading it to patients is minimal. And herd immunity will also prevent significant numbers of our health care workers from getting sick. Our second goal was to prevent large numbers of health care workers from having to stay home with flu over any one- or two-day period."

The vaccination program gave free shots to employees, students and volunteers at the hospital and schools of medicine, nursing and public health. The success of the program, Bernacki says, was due to the close cooperation between his office of occupational health services and the office of hospital epidemiology, directed by Trish Perl, M.D.

For media inquiries only, contact Marc Kusinitz at (410) 955-8665 or


This holiday season, in addition to being vigilant about the type of toys they buy for their youngest children, parents must be aware of toys older siblings might have or bring into the house. Parents should set up "safety zones" in the house where older siblings can play with small-part toys, but younger siblings can not enter, says Modena Wilson, MD, director of general pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center. "Older children must also be trained about the dangers their toys can create for their little brother and sister," she says.

For media inquiries only, contact Wendy Mullins Smith at (410) 223-1741 or


Planning, shopping, cooking and the prospect of cleaning up afterwards can leave even the heartiest holiday celebrant "stressed out."

"Try not to let worrying get in the way of enjoying the holidays," advises Rudolf Hoehn-Saric, M.D., director of the anxiety disorders clinic at Johns Hopkins. "Worrying has a purpose--it is a way of coping with issues or choices that can't be resolved rationally. Some worry is good to prime yourself to cope with things you can't anticipate, but too much can prevent you from taking risks, increase your susceptibility to disease, and generally make life much less enjoyable." And for those who find that their stress and anxiety extend beyond the holidays and interfere with daily living, there is help, Hoehn-Saric notes.

"We can treat generalized anxiety disorder," he explains. "For a new study of such treatments, some of the subjects we've recruited initially tell us they don't think there's anything wrong with their worrying process--they just feel they're Žstressed out'. If worrying about a variety of factors is keeping you from leading a normal life, treatment may be able to help you get control of your anxiety." To volunteer for the new study, call (410) 955-5653

For media inquiries only, contact Michael Purdy at (410) 955-8725 or


It's extremely difficult to pass up the high-calorie, tempting hors d'oeuvres, cakes and pies served at holiday get-togethers, especially if you're a diabetic.

But diabetics can be a bit more lenient with their diets around holiday time, provided they check with their physician, keep up an exercise plan and make adjustments in their insulin, says Gloria Elfert, M.S., R.D./L.D., a nutritionist with The Johns Hopkins Diabetes Center.

Diabetics should do what they can to control their situations, Elfert says. They can bring a dessert or side dish that fits into their meal patterns, eat a regular snack before going to a party, and make holiday decorations rather than cookies to give as gifts. But giving in to temptation is okay as long as it's done in moderation and with a doctor's OK.

"You can be careful without being a martyr to the cause," Elfert says. She has a set of written "Helpful Hints" for handling the holidays.

For media inquiries only, contact Karen Infeld at (410) 955-1534 or

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