1. The deadly 'new' superbug -- and how to avoid it

    Going to the hospital is supposed to be the beginning of your recovery -- but for millions of us, it's the beginning of a nightmare.

    Close to 2 million Americans get infections in hospitals that they didn't have when they walked in, and close to 100,000 die of them.

    These people are literally killed by dirty rooms and careless care -- and new numbers from the CDC show that one bug in particular is responsible for a shocking percentage of those illnesses and deaths.

    Clostridium difficile, or C-diff for short, caused 336,600 illnesses in 2009 alone, more than double the 139,000 people infected by the bacteria in 2000. And the number of deaths from the bug has skyrocketed, from 2,700 in 2000 to more than 14,000 in 2009.

    People don't get C-diff at home. They don't pick it up in airports. And, no, they don't get it from dirty gas station bathrooms either. Nope. According to the CDC, 94 percent of all C-diff cases are connected to hospitals, nursing homes, and other care facilities.

    The bug is spread by contact with poop, which shows you the importance of washing your hands. And once it's on someone's hands, the spores can transfer onto walls, counters, doors, bedframes, and more -- and live on those surfaces for months at a time, resisting nearly every cleaner except for bleach.

    Inside the body, it's even stronger -- resistant to most drugs and even thriving after you take an antibiotic, since those meds will wipe out the friendly gut bacteria that can keep invaders like C-diff in check.

    Obviously, that means the best way to avoid C-diff completely is to avoid both hospitals and antibiotics.

    But that's not possible for everyone. Life happens. We get sick. We get hospitalized. And sometimes, even those of us who manage to avoid meds most of the time end up taking an antibiotic.

    And that's why you shouldn't wait to arm yourself -- take action now to protect your gut from everyday bacterial invaders, and you'll also make it better able to withstand the assault of an antibiotic.

    Dr. Mark Stengler, a leading naturopath, says that anyone taking an antibiotic needs a probiotic -- and not just any old off-the-shelf supplement (and certainly not the worthless little "probiotic" yogurts).

    Instead, take a probiotic that's actually been tested in human studies -- and even more importantly, keep taking it for at least a month after your antibiotic prescription has ended.

    Dr. Stengler added that the best probiotic for fighting C-diff is Sacharomyces boulardii -- so if you're spending any time in a care facility, be sure that one's at the top of your list.

  2. Bacteria love your cellphone

    I'm always a little grossed out when I see someone walk out of the bathroom with a cellphone in hand -- either checking messages or already mid-conversation.

    Don't ask when -- or where -- that conversation started... you probably don't want to know.

    The thought alone is enough to make you sick, but the latest research shows how it could make you literally ill: Cellphones are crawling with germs, including the nasty bacteria that live in poop.

    I don't know about you, but that's enough to make me think twice about borrowing someone else's cellphone.

    British researchers collected 390 samples from cellphones and hands in 12 U.K. cities and found bacteria on 92 percent of phones and 82 percent of hands.

    Now, you know there are different types of bacteria out there. Some of them are bound to be crawling on you at any given time, and most of them are pretty harmless.

    But 16 percent of hands and cellphones had the E. coli bacteria found in feces -- even though 95 percent claimed to have washed their hands.

    Yeah, right.

    The researchers say they didn't ask if people used their phones on the toilet -- but point out that since people use their phones pretty much everywhere else, it's not out of the question that people are conducting business while doing their business.

    And that means you could transfer germs to the phone while on the toilet, wash your hands and then get germy all over again when you pick up the phone -- because phones don't get washed.

    Not if you want to be able to use the phone, anyway.

    You're not supposed to use liquids of any kind on the newest phones, and the alcohol that can kill bugs is a definite no-no on those shiny smartphone screens.

    That means the best defense is prevention: Don't touch your phone when you're in the bathroom. Write on the walls instead.

    Then, wash you hands before you even think of checking to see who texted you you while you were doing your business.

    Finally, don't borrow anyone else's cellphone. And, just to be safe, don't let anyone borrow yours.

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