Creepy Urban Legends that Have a Basis in Truth

14 Things You Didn’t Know About Donald Trump

The Puebla tunnels Joel Merino/Shutterstock Citizens of Puebla City, located in the southeast of Mexico, told folktales about a mysterious network of tunnels hidden beneath the city. For hundreds of years, no such tunnels were ever found, so people assumed that they were nothing more than the stuff of legends. But then in 2015, a […]

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The Truth Behind This Year’s Record-Breaking Flu Season

As flu seasons go, this one has been a doozy. While it’s been nowhere near the devastation caused by the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918, which killed 675,000 Americans, it’s perhaps a close second.

As of February 2018, 23,324 people have been hospitalized with confirmed flu-related illnesses, and 114 children, including 45 under age 5, have died, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). (Adult flu deaths will be tallied after the season ends.)

And it’s not over anytime soon. “We have six more weeks of flu season left before we get back to baseline,” says Kristen Nordlund, a CDC spokesperson.

Several factors have made this flu season one of the worst on record:

  • A particularly nasty strain. The CDC tracks more than one strain of influenza, and this year’s dominant strain is the virulent H3N2 variety, which usually packs a greater punch than other virus types. “We know from previous years where H3N2 is dominant that it tends to be a more severe season, especially for the elderly and the very young,” says Nordlund. “We’ve been comparing this season to previous years when H3N2 was dominant. One of those seasons was the 2014–15 season.” The same strain dominated this year. But this time around, it’s worse.
  • Unfortunate timing. “The cumulative hospitalization rate for this year has already surpassed the end-of-season hospitalization rate for that year,” Nordlund says. “We tend to see different parts of the country being hit by the flu at different times. What was different this season was that the flu was everywhere all at once, and it stayed that way for three consecutive weeks. That’s just something we have not seen before.” (Final numbers on flu activity, hospitalizations, and deaths won’t be available until after the epidemic ends.) A possible explanation is that the virus was picking up steam just as people were coming inside from the winter’s cold and congregating at end-of-year holiday functions.
  • The limitations of the flu shot. In general, the influenza vaccine, which is engineered to protect against several flu strains, just isn’t that good at protecting against H3N2 strains. “When H3N2 is put into eggs (as part of the manufacturing process), for some reason, it ends up experiencing changes so it looks a little bit different from the virus that is actually circulating,” Nordlund says. As a result, there’s usually lower vaccine efficacy with H3N2 flu, even when the vaccine is well-matched to what’s circulating at first. The vaccine effectiveness is estimated to be around 25 percent against H3N2, far lower than what public health officials would like to see, which is closer to 60 percent and up.

If there’s any good news, it’s that H3N2 flu is finally starting to lose steam. And although other strains of the flu, including H1N1 and influenza B, are still surging, this year’s vaccine seems to be much more effective against them, says William Schaffner, MD, professor of preventive and infectious diseases at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville.

It’s not too late to get a flu shot, experts say. Even if you come down with the flu—and here are six flu symptoms you shouldn’t ignore, the illness will probably be less severe and you’re less likely to suffer life-threatening complications such as pneumonia.

“A major reason we give the vaccine is to prevent complications,” says Dr. Schaffner. “We often overlook this very positive influence of the vaccine when we talk about effectiveness.”

To keep illness at bay, wash your hands frequently (or using hand sanitizer if you can’t get to the sink). Avoid sick people—even those who say they’re not contagious. And load up on these foods that help prevent colds and flu.

Feel like you are coming down with the flu? Ask your doctor to prescribe an anti-viral medication like Tamiflu, particularly if you’re at a high risk of complications, and stay home until you feel better.

The post The Truth Behind This Year’s Record-Breaking Flu Season appeared first on Reader's Digest.

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No truth to claims woman in slashing video has died, cops says – Nation

PETALING JAYA: There is no truth to claims that the woman who was brutally slashed by her husband and another man died from her injuries, say police.

R. Komathi, 42, was slashed and beaten by her husband before he and a friend bundled her into a car and dumped her at the Seremban Hospital.

South Klang OCPD Asst Comm Shamsul Amar Ramli, however, said on Saturday that there was no truth to postings on social media about Komathi’s death.

“The victim is in stable condition and is still receiving treatment at the hospital.

“Her sister R. Kogila has also sent a voice note via WhatsApp denying that Komathi has died,” he said, adding that those caught spreading false news on the case could be prosecuted under Section 233 of the Multimedia and Communications Act.

ACP Shamsul Amar said police are continuing to search for the two suspects involved.

It was reported that the man had attacked his wife at her workplace, with a video clip of the incident having since gone viral.

The motive of the attack is believed to be jealousy as the husband suspected Komathi was having an affair.

In the two-and-a-half-minute video, a man is seen dragging and beating Komathi in front of a blue car while screams can be heard in the background in an area believed to be in Klang.

Another man, brandishing a parang, then gets out of the car and walks towards his friend, who is dragging the woman towards the passenger side of the vehicle.

Related stories:

Cops investigating viral slashing video

Cops searching for two men filmed attacking woman

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No truth to viral message on water contamination, says Health D-G – Nation

KUALA LUMPUR: The Health Ministry has denied the existence of a food poisoning outbreak linked to the safety of water supply in the Klang Valley.

A message on the matter had gone viral on WhatsApp on Friday (March 2).

Health Director-General Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah in a statement on Saturday said the ministry had confirmed that the information contained in the message was untrue.

“Based on checks and verification, no increase in the occurrence of food poisoning has been reported. The occurrence of food poisoning cases is currently isolated and under control, and has nothing to do with water supply or water supply disruption,” he said.

“The Health Ministry will continue to monitor the status of food poisoning cases,” he said, adding that the public should not worry and refrain from trusting information which has not been verified by the ministry. – Bernama


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No truth to viral message on PM’s ‘special announcement’ – Nation

PETALING JAYA: A message which has gone viral on social media that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak was due to make an important announcement on Wednesday is false.

The message was accompanied by a screengrab of Najib’s purported appearance on Astro Awani, along with the words “Special announcement by the Prime Minister” and “Watch the live announcement at 11.30am later”.

Although not explicitly stated, the viral message appeared to suggest an announcement about the coming general election.

Sources at the Prime Minister’s Office have, however, said that the message is false.

Astro Awani’s anchor and journalist Ashwad Ismail also tweeted that the screengrab was from 2013.

There have been a number of false messages circulating on social media in recent weeks pertaining to announcements on the general election.

One viral message stated that the parliament would be dissolved on Feb 22 and proceeded to give dates for both nomination and polling days.

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The Truth About Household Items Rumored to Kill

Electrical outlets

Istvan Banyai for Reader’s Digest

The Fear: If you stick a fork or a bobby pin in one of the sockets, you’ll be electrocuted.

The Reality: If you stick something in one of the sockets, you could get 
a nasty shock. The left slot is connected to the neutral wire, the right 
is connected to the hot one, and electricity flows from hot to neutral. Sticking something into either slot will disrupt the flow and send it into you. This happens on a surprisingly frequent basis: The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports that 5,500 people went to the emergency room in 2015 with injuries from outlets. 
If you have newer outlets, they’re safer. The National Electrical Code requires new kitchen countertop outlets (and some others) to be ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlets, which quickly shut the current off if there’s an imbalance—because some of the current is leaking into you. But you may still get zapped.

Will It Kill You? It might. A jolt from a standard 120-volt outlet could trigger cardiac arrest.


Istvan Banyai for Reader’s Digest

The Fear: Fishing bread out of the toaster with 
silverware might electrocute you.

The Reality: While not many people are electrocuted by small appliances (the Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates seven deaths a year, on average), it’s still a bad idea to stick anything besides bread into a toaster, according to the NFPA. Even if you unplug it, you could damage the heating element, which could shock you or start a fire the next time you make toast.

Will It Kill You? The chances are pretty remote. You largely risk a shock or burn.

Check out these other common habits that are hurting your health.

Teflon pans

Istvan Banyai for Reader’s Digest

The Fear: Bits of Teflon from scratched pans will poison you.

The Reality: The American Cancer Society says there are no known risks in eating food cooked 
in Teflon pans. But you do need to worry about letting the pan get too hot. The plastics used 
in Teflon, called fluoro­polymers, begin to 
break down at 500°F. 
At around 660°F, they 
release at least six toxic gases. Breathing in 
the released fumes 
can cause respiratory 
problems and flu-like 

Will It Kill You? Eat your eggs. You’ll be fine.

Don’t miss these cooking mistakes that can make your food toxic.

Small appliances around water

Istvan Banyai for Reader’s Digest

The Fear: If you plug in an appliance while your hands are wet, moisture will transfer the current from the plug to you.

The Reality: Since water conducts electricity extremely well and electric currents flow where there is the least resistance, they will usually go through that water—and into you—if the opportunity presents itself. Your body is more likely to resist electrical current if your skin is dry.

Will It Kill You? It could. If your hands are wet when you plug in your iron, you might get a shock. And if your whole body is wet, yes, you could die from a fatal shock to your heart.

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Silica gel packets

Istvan Banyai for Reader’s Digest

The Fear: The gel packs in shipping containers all say “Do not eat,” so they must be deadly.

The Reality: The American Association of Poison Control Centers documented 33,705 incidents of people eating silica in 2010, nearly 90 percent of them involving children under six. But none died from poisoning, because silica is chemically inert and nontoxic. The real danger is from choking on the packets.

Will It Kill You? No, but keep the packets away from young children.

Microwave ovens

Istvan Banyai for Reader’s Digest

The Fear: Microwaves emit radiation that can cause cancer.

The Reality: There are two types of radiation. Ionizing radiation, the kind that’s emitted after a nuclear explosion, is the bad stuff. Microwave ovens emit nonionizing radiation, a safer kind, and at a level low enough to comply with safety standards. Microwaves operate at about three gigahertz, which is fairly low on the electro­magnetic spectrum.

Will It Kill You? No. 
Go ahead and hover while you wait for that Hot Pocket.

Power lines

Istvan Banyai for Reader’s Digest

The Fear: The electromagnetic fields around electric power lines can give you cancer.

The Reality: A 1979 study found that the 
incidence of childhood leukemia was higher in Denver neighborhoods near high-voltage power lines. But more recent studies show no such correlation. Stepping 
on a downed live power line is the real threat—­otherwise, you’re fine. The electromagnetic waves given off are the safer, nonionizing kind and are at an extremely low frequency.

Will It Kill You? No. Power lines are worse for property values than for your health.

Cell phones

Istvan Banyai for Reader’s Digest

The Fear: Radiation from your phone might cause brain cancer.

The Reality: The good news is that cell phones, like microwave ovens, give off nonionizing 
radiation—the safer kind. Your phone gives off about two gigahertz of radiation per second, less than a microwave oven. But a few studies have shown increased risk of brain cancer 
in heavy cell phone 

Will It Kill You? 
Probably not. But 
research is ongoing.

These are the ways technology can actually make you sick.

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Gasoline cans

Istvan Banyai for Reader’s Digest

The Fear: The container could allow the gas 
to escape and connect with static electricity, causing a spark.

The Reality: New fuel containers must have flame-arresting screens that prevent heat from getting in, as well as spring-closing lids and spout covers to prevent spillage. (Note: Your old milk jug has none of those things.) 
The new containers also present little chance of creating a spark, even though the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) warns that static electricity can build up as a result of 
the gas can sliding around your trunk or truck bed during your travels. Between 2010 and 2016, the 
Petroleum Equipment Institute, which tracks such things, had no reported 
incidents of fires caused by static-electric discharge.

Will It Kill You? 
Not if you’re using a proper can. But OSHA recommends that you take it out of your 
vehicle and set it on the ground before slowly filling it.

Plastic food containers

FEA_Will-It-Kill-You_US180309Istvan Banyai for Reader’s Digest

The Fear: Microwaves pull chemicals out of plastic and allow your food to absorb them.

The Reality: Bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical found in hard, clear plastic takeout and food-­storage containers, 
does leach into your food when microwaved. 
Although studies have linked it with asthma, 
diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and reproductive problems, among others, the FDA maintains that the amount 
of BPA in everyday 
plastics is safe.

Will It Kill You? No. 
But you’re better off using a nonplastic (glass or ceramic) dish labeled “microwave safe.”

Look out for these household items that do pose a huge health risk.

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