Category Archives: Health

Group boxing and health therapy for vets are on L.A.’s health agenda

A new West Hollywood boutique boxing studio, mindfulness in Studio City and a fundraiser at the Grove. Here’s a look at wellness news around Los Angeles.

Open since early October, Crubox focuses on 50-minute high-intensity group boxing classes. Participants work on and off with a heavy bag for an all-body workout that is aimed to burn between 600 and 800 calories. Once sealed off in the striking, brick-walled space — no cellphones, specific water breaks — expect to follow sets based on traditional boxing moves that are also designed to work the core. The classes are for all levels. Classes can hold up to 24 people. Boxing gloves are provided.

Info: First-timers pay $30 for the first two classes; subsequent single classes are $30. Packages available. 8453 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood; (323) 917-5026

Since it opened in the spring of 2016, the Den Meditation Studio on La Brea Avenue and 4th Street has drawn a steady stream of yoga and mindfulness buffs to its all-day classes. Owner Tal Rabinowitz has just brought that brand of happy to the Valley with the recent opening of a studio in Studio City. The new spot mimics the cozy, laid-back appeal of the original. The 2,000-square-foot space features an interior made from reclaimed wood and brick; guests can help themselves to the generous tea and coffee bar, and lounge in a reading corner stacked with motivational and inspiring books. Classes are in a similar vein to the first studio, and include a “Lunchtime Detox” or an end-of-day “Happiness” session.

Info: $23 per class. Packages available. New customers can pay $50 for 21 days of unlimited classes, plus three special workshops. 12323 Ventura Blvd.; (818) 856-8303.

If anyone could benefit from alternative healing methods such as chiropractic and massage, it would be military veterans suffering from PTSD. In early November, Los Angeles organization Heaven & Earth Oasis is hosting its annual event to raise money for free treatments such as water therapy and acupuncture for veterans struggling with anxiety and pain. Founder and president Valerie Heath said the goal of Heaven & Earth Oasis is to offer “a safe and peaceful healing space … providing free holistic and alternative recovery therapies to those traumatized by war.”

Info: 5th Annual Veterans Thrive event, Nov. 4, 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Maggiano’s Little Italy in the Grove. Tickets are $175; $200 at the door; or $1,500 for a table of 10.

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As flames fade, wine country grapples with emotional scars of devastating fires

In the days since fires ravaged towns here, people have pulled together. Strangers at coffee shops share their trauma, talking of homes destroyed and loved ones lost.

Almost everyone seems to know a neighbor who knocked on a door or lifted someone into a car, and saved a life.

The phrase “The love in the air is thicker than the smoke” is on signs in shop windows, in Facebook posts and on people’s lips.

The community solidarity has buoyed people’s spirits, experts say. But when it fades, the trauma will stay.

“That’s when the cracks start to show,” said Jennifer MacLeamy, a therapist in Petaluma, which neighbors Santa Rosa, the city hardest hit by the fires. “People’s lives are still devastated.”

The wildfires that ripped through the region killed more than 40 people and displaced tens of thousands from their homes. Those who evacuated had only minutes to do so, leaving them with few, if any, possessions.

Other natural disasters, including previous wildfires in California, have left scars in the minds of survivors, studies have shown. Already, therapists in the Bay Area report hearing from patients who say they’re having trouble sleeping or feel scared when they hear heavy winds or sirens.

Health workers say North Bay residents require psychological attention to head off serious problems. Those mental health needs, however, are often neglected after disasters as communities focus on repairing the damage that can be seen.

Anxiety, flashbacks and tantrums

Talking to therapists at the Petaluma Health Center recently, a woman described her 4-year-old son as extra needy and energetic since they evacuated their home.

“I told my mom he’s a Stage 5 clinger right now,” the woman told MacLeamy, who is the center’s director of behavioral health.

Children might have separation anxiety, be unusually irritable or complain of headaches or stomachaches after traumatic events, MacLeamy said. Some might regress and begin sucking their thumbs, throwing tantrums and wetting the bed even though they had grown out of those behaviors.

MacLeamy created a Parenting Through Crisis class last week after co-workers told her they were struggling to talk to their children about the fire. She said the cashier at the grocery store started crying when MacLeamy asked how she was doing.

“People are just barely stitched together,” she said.

Julayne Smithson, 55, was working as a nurse at Kaiser Santa Rosa hospital while her mobile home burned across the street. She had purchased the home and moved to Santa Rosa just three weeks before.

Smithson and her Chihuahua, Tiki, found a place to live temporarily, but are still searching for permanent housing.

“It’s just amazing how stressful this all is. You don’t realize it, you don’t realize you’re in stress, but you’re just exhausted,” said Smithson, 55.

Anxiety, flashbacks, sleep disruptions, and hypervigilance are normal, and what therapists call an acute stress reaction. The strain may reopen old emotional wounds, or lead alcoholics to begin drinking again. Not everyone experiences these problems immediately.

“We’re really anticipating the reality of this to hit people in the next couple of weeks — the reality of what they lost,” said Maryellen Curran, who oversees behavioral health services for the Santa Rosa Community Health centers.

PTSD after natural disasters

The feelings could develop into post-traumatic stress disorder if they continue for more than a month and interfere with relationships or work, experts say.

A study of Californians evacuated from their homes during the 2003 wildfires showed that 33% were depressed and 24% were experiencing PTSD three months later. People whose property was damaged and who were injured or had a loved one injured were the most likely to be affected.

Lawrence Palinkas, USC professor of social policy and health, said people trained in mental health should be triaging survivors of the fires and referring those who are particularly stressed or not coping well into treatment.

Some experts say there’s a 30-day window after a traumatic event, a “golden month,” in which even small interventions can make a difference.

“It should be happening right now,” Palinkas said. “Simply because you’ve provided food and shelter, it doesn’t mean the job is completed.”

Sonoma County health workers have been administering psychological first aid to evacuated people for days, county health department spokesman Scott Alonso said.

“As long as those shelters are open and there’s a need, our folks will be out there,” Alonso said.

Some questioned whether the region has the capacity to provide more mental health care. The healthcare system took a major hit in the fires, with hospitals and clinics damaged and hundreds of medical professionals losing their homes.

When community solidarity fades

Even for those who didn’t lose homes or loved ones, seeing a hometown dotted with trucks from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and people wearing masks can be painful. The air still smells of smoke.

Cyndi Evans, 49, couldn’t sleep through the night for days last week because the winds were changing so quickly that a new neighborhood could be at risk within minutes.

“I felt very vulnerable, very raw,” said Evans, who lives south of downtown Santa Rosa.

Evans said she’s grateful her home was spared and her family is safe. She began volunteering at a shelter last week.

“I still feel weepy for our town,” she said. “This isn’t over yet.”

Many people, some of whom are experiencing survivor’s guilt, welcomed those displaced into their homes. Shelters in the region reported having too many volunteers and donations.

The sense of unity and support that swells after a crisis is one of the best ways to ward off PTSD and depression, but it often wanes when rebuilding starts, Palinkas said.

Some groups will feel slighted because they won’t get as many resources as others, he said. Social networks also fray after disasters because loved ones have died, people scatter to find new housing, and survivors tend to withdraw because they feel isolated, he said.

“The disruption of the social fabric of the community is as much a victim of a disaster like this as the disruption of individual health and well-being,” Palinkas said.

Andrea Williams-Epting, 30, started a Facebook group to share mental health resources for people affected by the fire. She said she’s heard people in Guerneville — about 20 miles west of Santa Rosa and close to a redwood park — say they’ve become sensitive to certain triggers: the sound of the wind, helicopters, people smoking or candles.

‘Walking Dead’ actor Tom Payne talks training — for the zombie apocalypse

If the dead do rise, will you be ready?

Actor Tom Payne, who plays the role of Paul “Jesus” Rovia on AMC’s megahit “The Walking Dead,” which has its Season 8 premiere Sunday night, believes he may have a fighting chance.

Training to slay zombies for the camera has real-world application.

“If you want to survive the zombie apocalypse,” Payne said, “you need to focus on increasing your stamina.” If you’ve ever seen a show about zombies, there are lot of them, and they just keep coming.

Sure, it’s fictional, but the idea of zombie fighting can be motivating for increasing one’s fitness. Case in point: the popularity of the “Zombies, Run!” app some runners use for motivation. Payne’s motivation is: “I want to do the character justice for his fighting ability.”

Payne explained that most “Walking Dead” characters, both on the show and in the comic book it’s based on, have “scrappy fights. They brawl. It’s really messy.” But “Jesus” is different. “The character is more dynamic and thoughtful about his fighting.”

This partially relates to Payne’s smaller stature. Standing 5 feet 7, , he endeavors to be less brawler, more Bruce Lee.

“I’ve been learning some high kicking and other martial arts stuff because that’s the basis of the character,” Payne said. “I have a new appreciation for how fit martial artists are. There is so much energy being exerted when you fight.”

But one of the things focused on is conservation of energy.

“When you don’t know how to fight you tend to put all your energy into one punch. That will tire you out quickly. You learn to keep energy in reserve and use your body in an efficient manner.”

And the training was important, he said. “It’s a real cardiovascular workout doing the filming. You sweat so much.” Payne said. “I was surprised how much they have us do our own stunts. I kept waiting for the stunt double to come in, and they almost never did.”

Payne did gymnastics when he was younger and had the size and experience for the tumbling the role demands. But he didn’t have a fighting background and needed to learn.

“It was a challenge to see if I could do it. I didn’t want them using a stunt double because it looks better if you can do the fighting moves yourself.”

To learn to fight for the camera, he had to learn to actually fight.

“When learning boxing and martial arts, there wasn’t any fakery in my training. When teaching you the basics of fighting, even though it’s faked for the camera, they teach you to do it for real.”

Payne enjoys having the new skill, but also refers to it as “weird.”

“There was a moment when I felt like it was creeping into my personal life. I’m not an aggressive person in any way, but there have been situations at night with alcohol involved where people are being obnoxious and you feel more capable and it’s very strange. It gives me a different kind of confidence. Learning this skill changes you.”

Perhaps Armageddon is around the corner, and perhaps it isn’t. If the apocalypse is nigh, Payne says, “I feel a little more capable now. I might be able to survive.”

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The hottest trends in workout wear this fall

There you are, suiting up and showing up for barre or yoga class, an early-morning run, spin, or hike. And then it’s off to brunch, work, kids, dates … life.

The athleisurewear trend particularly suits Southern California, where so many of us swear by clothing that can transition from workouts to the rest of our lives.

The retail apocalypse is hitting many clothing categories and shopping centers. Sales of “active apparel” totaled just more than $45 billion in the 12 months ending June 2017, up slightly compared to the prior 12 months, according to NPD Group’s consumer tracking.

And if you need head-into-the-holidays, get-in or stay-in shape inspiration, there is evidence that what we wear really does affect us psychologically. Researchers even have term for it: “enclothed cognition.” So, yes, that new racerback sport bra and crop leggings just may help you go the extra mile.

We headed out to the Active Collective trade show at the Huntington Beach Hyatt Regency Resort & Spa to see the trends many are going to be spending money on to crisscross town. Luckily, there are still the mesh, cutouts, moto-chic and bold geometrics that we love from Onzie and Electric and Rose. Here are a few other notable trends:

Lush botanicals

Lush Botanicals ala the ENCHANTED LEGGING (Spring ’18 Collection) ($88, noliyoga.com) Noli Yoga / Noli Yoga

Sweet, floral patterns are giving way to lush botanical, even jungle, patterns as seen at brands Jala (SUP Yoga Leggings in Tropic Thunder, $82), Live Clothing (Ultimate Neon Leaf Legging, $98), Lorna Jane (Amazonia Core Ankle Biter Tights, $106.99, Wild Botanical Sports Bra, $62.99); Wear It to Heart (Rapa Nui Sports Bra, $45), Noli (Enchanted Leggings, $88) and PopActive (Banana Leaf Aurora Bra, $65, Leggings, $68).

Extended sizing

Fit-To Size: Lululemon wasn't at the Activewear trend show but their Enlite Bra is an example of the trend toward more specific sizing: ($98, shop.lululemon.com)
Fit-To Size: Lululemon wasn’t at the Activewear trend show but their Enlite Bra is an example of the trend toward more specific sizing: ($98, shop.lululemon.com) Lululemon / Lululemon

Megabrands such as Lululemon showcased and quickly sold out of extended-fit sports bras last year, and brands at Active Collection trade show continued the trend. Shock Absorber — tagline, is “Only the ball should bounce” — offers sports bras for U.K.-size C-cups up to HH (that’s apparently a size L in the U.S.) à la its Active D+ Classic Support Bra ($59.99). Shape Active offers sizes XS to 3XL, Danskin XS-3X and Beyond Yoga XXS to XXL.

Even ‘smarter’ workout clothes

Smart: Designed to get wet but not heavy to take you from yoga to windsurfing Mahiku Hawaii's Aloha Sport Leggings ($90)
Smart: Designed to get wet but not heavy to take you from yoga to windsurfing Mahiku Hawaii’s Aloha Sport Leggings ($90) Mahiku Hawaii / Mahiku Hawaii

Sweat wicking, butt lifting, thigh firming, core supporting, tired-leg relieving: These are just a few ways technology is supercharging activewear. The Intelligent Legging ($129) incorporates slimming shapewear; Koral Sway Leggings ($135) are made with compression fabric to reduce lactic buildup and increase oxygen; Mahiku Hawaii’s Aloha Sport ($90) leggings are designed to get wet but not heavy to take you from yoga to windsurfing. Varley highlights sweat-wicking, antimicrobial materials (Runyan Black Bra $65), and HPE’s antimicrobial silver technology helps prevent bacterial buildup (High-Waist Seamless Leggings, $135, Moon White and Keep Me Close Bra, $85).

Environmentally friendly

Eco-conscious activewear: Inspire Active Wear (Wing Long Leggings $84)
Eco-conscious activewear: Inspire Active Wear (Wing Long Leggings $84) Inspire Active Wear

Eco-conscious activewear — made from, for example, recycled plastic bottles and recycled wool, or prioritizing sustainability — can be found at Lolë (Olivie pant, $90, and Travis Top, $75); Prana (Boost Bra, $59); RE3 (Dreamcatcher Hot Shorts, $49); Teeki (Great Star Nation Hot Pant, $72, and Tank, $32); and Inspire Active Wear (Wing Long Leggings, $84).

Inspirational

Insprational activewear: For Better Not Worse (DREAMER DOER T-Shirt, $44)
Insprational activewear: For Better Not Worse (DREAMER DOER T-Shirt, $44) For Better Not Worse / For Better Not Worse

As a popular running coach says: “You are strong! You are beautiful! You are brave! You are smart! That hill is tough — you are tougher!” You can get inspired with For Better Not Worse (Dreamer Doer T-Shirt, $44); GoodHYuoman (Everyday Grateful Pullover, $68); Sub_Urban Riot (Good Vibes Tee, $44). Channel your inner warrior with NUYU’s “Warrior Princess” Muscle Tank, $55.

Flashy and glamorous

Wear It To Heart (Disco 54 Tank, Disco Candy Bralette)
Wear It To Heart (Disco 54 Tank, Disco Candy Bralette) Wear It To Heart

Because some days you just need to be extra-extra not ordinary: Hollie Watman (Gray Foil Halter Top, $130); Wear It to Heart (Disco 54 tank, $54, Disco Candy Bralette, $49, and Ophelia / Sapphire Disco Track Reversible Bomber Jacket, $140); Lukka Lux Black Stained Glass Renegade Jacket, $98, Metroid Legging ($88).

4 ways to escape the daily grind and make summer last just a little bit longer

It’s possible to cram a lot into these waning days of warm weather, without having to go very far. A quick look at fitness-related staycation options in and around SoCal to jump on before temperatures dip:

Ahhhh. Free yoga with a Pacific view

Terranea Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes is hosting a free yoga class on its 16,000-square-foot outdoor lawns overlooking the ocean on Sept. 24. The annual Seaside Yoga Gathering, held partly to commemorate National Yoga Awareness Month, is expected to bring in about 300 people to browse through an outdoor wellness marketplace, chat with the resort’s fitness experts and then launch into a sequence of asanas for the next hour as the sun sets. The class is designed for all levels.

Info: 4 p.m. Sept. 24 for wellness marketplace, 5 p.m. for yoga. Free, but show up early to get a spot. And bring a mat. 100 Terranea Way, Rancho Palos Verdes. terranea.com.

Surf or SUP in Laguna Beach

Check in at the Inn at Laguna Beach or the Laguna Beach House and see if hotel owner John Grossman — who splits his time between these and his Carmel properties under his Classic Hotels & Resorts group — can take you on a personal surf or stand-up paddle-boarding session.

The “Surf or SUP with the owner” program at the hotels allows visitors to choose their marine activity, and have Grossman — a former World Surf Kayaking champion who surfs daily — take them out to San Onofre State Beach or Emerald Bay.

“It’s an amazing way to be outdoors, see the sea life, canyons and coves,” Grossman said. Beginners are welcome for their first foray out, as long as they are “happy and comfortable in the open ocean,” he said.

Info: The sessions — which include transportation and snacks — are included in a guest’s room rate; equipment rentals are extra. Rates start at $197 at Laguna Beach House, and $249 at the Inn at Laguna Beach. classichotels.com

John Grossman, owner of The Inn at Laguna Beach and the Laguna Beach House, takes personal service to a new level. (Erin Feinblatt)

You need a digital detox in Catalina

Fun, fitness and camaraderie are at the heart of Camp Xanadu, a summer camp-styled three-day event in Catalina. The Sept. 29 to Oct. 1 getaway is for people “seeking creative inspiration, a digital detox, looking for their tribe or have a nice weekend of adventure,” co-founder Ryan Blackstock said. Attendees at the adults-only camp stay in cabins or can rent a private tent, are fed fresh, seasonal foods and can opt in and out of events such as morning yoga and meditation, a 90-minute boot camp, kayaking, hiking, astronomy classes and sessions on relationships.

“It’s geared for people who are looking for professional and personal growth and development,” co-founder Heidi Hong said. “There’s so much therapy being in nature, surrounded by the ocean.”

Info: $645 includes the camp, transportation to Catalina via private boat, and all meals and activities. Boat leaves from Long Beach Harbor at 6 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 29 and returns Sunday evening, Oct. 1. campxanadu.org

(Camp Xanadu)

Chill time at some of L.A.’s swankest pools

And if you’d rather stay really close to home, there’s always Day Axe, a service that offers day access to the pools, spas and other facilities at a clutch of local luxury hotels. These include the Fairmont Miramar in Santa Monica, the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, the Intercontinental in Century City and the Ritz-Carlton in Marina del Rey.

Each hotel has different offerings, but amenities in the pass can include the pool and sun loungers, showers, changing rooms and hot tubs, and discounts at the hotel’s bars and restaurants. Cabanas cost extra. Day Axe also offers the passes at hotels in Palm Springs, Orange County, San Diego and San Francisco.

Info: Prices can vary but run from $20 per person at the Fairmont Miramar to $50 at the Beverly Hilton. dayaxe.com

(Fairmont Miramar)

Here’s why you’re about to see actress Judith Light everywhere, talking about flu shots

There are celebrities who speak out against vaccines. And some in the yoga community do too. But yoga practitioner and actress Judith Light is different. She’s encouraging you to get your flu shot. Now.

Light, who stars in the critically acclaimed comedy-drama “Transparent,” now in its fourth season, has long been a fan of physical activity as part of her approach to health and longevity.

“I’ve been doing yoga for close to 20 years,” Light, 68, said. She practices Kundalini yoga, saying: “It’s a great breadth of core work, which is why I like it so much. It keeps my body working properly and functioning at a high level.”

Light lauded the breathing techniques taught to practitioners of Kundalini and when working in the theater will practice yoga immediately before going on stage to enhance her diaphragmatic control. “It’s a very strenuous workout,” Light said.

Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times

Beyond that, her fitness is achieved by walking the streets of New York. “The city is my gym,” she said.

But exercise can do only so much to keep a person well. That’s why Light has become such an outspoken advocate of people getting an annual flu vaccination. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fewer than 60% of children get the flu shot annually, and barely more than 40% of adults do.

“I’ve had the flu,” she said. “It’s just awful.” In the past, Light was intermittent in getting the flu shot, but now she is resolute about getting it every year. But it’s not just not wanting to get sick that has made her such an advocate of the vaccine.

Light, who is working with the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (you can watch her public service announcement at www.nfid.org/flualert) to promote flu vaccination, said, “Every four minutes in the U.S., someone over 65 is hospitalized with the flu. And every 12 minutes someone over 65 dies from it. I’m over 65. Those are powerful statistics for me.”

But it’s not just self-interest motivating her message.

“My manager, who died last year, had emphysema. I was concerned about his health and how the flu would affect him. Not putting other people at risk is a big part of why I advocate for the flu shot,” she said. Light explained that working in theater means lots of contact: “You greet supporters and fans and everyone is hugging and kissing and posing for photos. You want to be responsible by not infecting other people.” The more people who get the flu shot, the greater the herd immunity protects those at greater risk.

When asked about people turning to “Dr. Google” for information on vaccines, Light had this to say: “Everyone who is smart knows that you talk to your doctor. There are a lot of people out there with a lot of opinions, and I understand that. All I’m saying is, talk to your doctor.”

And most doctors, along with Light, the CDC, and the NFID, recommend that everyone over the age of 6 months, barring a contraindicated medical condition, get the flu shot every year.

“People don’t make it a priority,” Light said. “Getting the annual flu shot needs greater focus. Take the family. Make it an outing.”

Fell is a certified strength and conditioning specialist and owner of bodyforwife.com.

Hike Vasquez Rocks, famous from ‘Westworld’ and ‘Planet of the Apes’

 

People all over the world know Vasquez Rocks because it’s been a featured location for decades in movies such as “Planet of the Apes” and “Blazing Saddles” and TV shows like “Westworld” and “Star Trek.”

But I’m always surprised by how few Los Angeles residents have seen the strange lunar landscape in person. This moderately demanding walk near Aqua Dulce Canyon Road and the Antelope Valley Freeway northeast of Santa Clarita makes a great introduction to the hideout of legendary California outlaw Tiburcio Vásquez and even includes a stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail.

1. Begin this walk at the Interpretive Center, off the main parking lot, by the entrance to Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park. Leave the parking lot the way you came in, turn left and follow a brown rail fence to find the beginning of the Nature-Heritage Trail.

Find more great L.A. Walks — maps included >»

2. Notice as you go the signs naming the native plants and indicating various indigenous dwellings and pictographs. Stay straight on the the trail as it crosses the Horse Trail.

3. With the sharp rock outcroppings rising to your left, pass a yellow gate and walk across a wide dirt parking lot.

4. Pass another yellow gate and walk straight ahead, aiming for a tall pepper tree.

5. Bear left, just in front of the pepper tree, and pick up a marked section of the Pacific Crest Trail, the walking single track that spans the West Coast from Mexico to Canada.

6. Stay on the Pacific Coast Trail as it hugs close to the rocks and begins to climb. Notice signs for native plants like bladderpod, matchweed, buckwheat and Our Lord’s Candle.

7. As the trail narrows among some boulders, you will see signs saying you’re on the Geology Trail. When this hits the dirt road, turn right and return to the parking lot.

The stats

Distance: 2 miles

Difficulty: 3 on a scale of 1 to 5

Duration: 1 hour

Details: Bicycles and dogs on leash welcome. Free parking. Currently open daily 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Park closes at 5 p.m. starting Nov. 5, for the winter months.

Fleming is the author of “Secret Stairs: A Walking Guide to the Historic Staircases of Los Angeles” and “Secret Walks: A Walking Guide to the Hidden Trails of Los Angeles.” Each month, he leads a free walk at one of his favorite spots in Southern California. Find out more at his Facebook page, Secret Stairs. He can also be reached at charles.fleming@latimes.com.

Twitter: @misterfleming

MORE L.A. WALKS

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San Diego is struggling with a huge hepatitis A outbreak. Is it coming to L.A.?

 

Health officials in San Diego have scrambled for months to contain an outbreak of hepatitis A — vaccinating more than 19,000 people, putting up posters at bus stations and distributing hand sanitizer and cleansing wipes.

Despite those efforts, 16 people have died of the highly contagious virus in San Diego County and hundreds have become ill in what officials say is the nation’s second-largest outbreak of hepatitis A in decades.

Earlier this month, San Diego officials declared a public health emergency.

Though Los Angeles has so far escaped an outbreak, public health officials are hoping to head off a similar emergency. They say the virus could easily spread to Los Angeles because of its proximity to San Diego and the region’s large homeless population.

San Diego opens downtown restrooms amid hepatitis A crisis »

“We know it’s getting worse in San Diego, so we’re really ramping up,” said Cristin Mondy, the county’s area health officer for a region that includes downtown Los Angeles.

In their efforts to get their outbreak under control, San Diego health officials have adopted a technique from L.A. that they hope will stop cases from spreading locally: washing the streets with bleach.

“They didn’t have any outbreaks. We did. So we were like, ‘What’s going on there?’ ” said San Diego County public health officer Dr. Wilma Wooten. “That’s what we wanted to replicate here.”

Several hundred infected in San Diego

Hepatitis A is transmitted through feces, either through close contact, often sexual, with an infected person or by eating contaminated foods. The virus can cause liver damage or even death, especially for people who already have other liver diseases, such as hepatitis B or C.

San Diego health officials first identified an outbreak in March but traced the first case back to November.

Since November, 421 people in San Diego County have been infected with the virus, including the 16 who died, health officials said. Typically there are only two or three cases of hepatitis A per month in the county. The majority of those infected in the ongoing outbreak were either homeless or illicit-drug users, with cases concentrated in downtown San Diego and the cities of El Cajon, Santee and La Mesa, Wooten said.

A related outbreak began in Santa Cruz County as well this year, where 69 people have been infected by the same strain of hepatitis A so far, she said. Though hepatitis A is often contracted through contaminated food, the strain circulating in San Diego and Santa Cruz isn’t associated with food, but instead seems to be spreading from person to person, she said.

“We know that the numbers are going to increase, and they’ve been increasing since we first identified the outbreak,” Wooten said.

Since the spring, San Diego officials have put together a command center that meets once a week to map strategy. They investigate every case to find out who else might have been exposed and give them medicines. They sent out an alert Friday to try to locate anyone who might have caught the virus from an infected patient at a restaurant in Pacific Beach.

Workers have also visited homeless encampments and riverbeds to vaccinate thousands of people. Earlier this month they installed 40 hand-washing stations in areas of the city of San Diego with high homeless populations.

Unsanitary conditions make it more likely for hepatitis A to spread. A common way for the virus to be transmitted is when an infected person uses the bathroom and doesn’t wash their hands, experts say.

Wooten said that over the summer she looked into ways that other health departments manage disease risk, especially those with big homeless populations. That’s when she learned that L.A. not only washes streets with water, but sanitizes them with bleach.

On Monday, San Diego crews began cleaning streets with a bleach solution, she said.

“We know that individuals here are ill, they’re on the streets, and there’s fecal material on the streets,” Wooten said. “Sanitation is going to help that.”

County health officials and city leaders will visit L.A. next week to see the practice firsthand, she said.

Gonzalo Barriga of the Los Angeles Department of Public Works said the protocol, known as Operation Healthy Streets, began after the city was cited in 2012 for multiple health hazards on skid row.

Now, city workers regularly clean sections of sidewalk in the neighborhood, with each street getting washed every two weeks, he said. Inspectors ask homeless people to remove their belongings from an area. Then they spray a bleach solution on any biohazards or waste on the street, such as feces or syringes, and dispose of them, said Barriga, who oversees the inspectors.

Then they wash the streets with water, followed by misting with a liquid that’s about 10% bleach, he said.

Los Angeles could be the next region hit

Cleaning the streets is especially important because health workers have been struggling to get people vaccinated against hepatitis A, Mondy said. Typically only children and people at high risk are vaccinated for hepatitis A, but the county is now recommending vaccines for all homeless people as well as illicit-drug users.

Cases of hepatitis in the United States have hit historic lows since a vaccine was introduced in 1995. Since then, there’s been only one outbreak bigger than San Diego’s, in which more than 900 people were infected after eating contaminated green onions served at a restaurant in Pennsylvania in 2003.

In Los Angeles County, 55 people have been diagnosed with hepatitis A since November, which is in line with the average case numbers for previous years, according to data from the health department. Five of the people infected lived in either San Diego or Santa Cruz counties when they were exposed, officials say.

Mondy said many people she approaches about getting a hepatitis shot don’t feel a sense of urgency because there’s no outbreak in L.A. So far county health officials have given out 1,000 vaccines, but they’re considering offering restaurant gift cards as an incentive to get more people to get inoculated.

Mondy said officials are targeting soup kitchens and clinics near Union Station and the downtown Greyhound bus station, because that’s where people are likely to arrive from San Diego.

“We’re trying our best to prevent this outbreak from happening,” she said. “We can see that there’s potential based on what’s going on in San Diego and Santa Cruz, so we’re making sure that our population is protected.”

A worker tapes signage telling people to get vaccinated to protect themselves against Hepatitis A in downtown San Diego. (Eduardo Contreras / AP)

soumya.karlamangla@latimes.com

Twitter: @skarlamangla

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Sorry, pumpkin spice latte. You’re not the only way to indulge this holiday season

Pumpkins are for more than carving or scooping out of a can and into a pie crust. The seeds of the bright orange squash, and the spices associated with it, are showing up in handy, pantry-friendly products, lending a festive nutritional punch to everything from nut butter to popcorn.

“Pumpkin has a wealth of vitamins A and C, magnesium and fiber,” said Maggie Michalczyk, a registered dietitian in Chicago whose blog — Once Upon a Pumpkin — extols the health virtues of the squash currently enjoying its seasonal spotlight. “It contains beta-carotene, a precursor to vitamin A in the body, that supports a vision, especially night vision.”

Here are a few tasty ways to get your squash on:

Kick off the day with Pumpkin Flax from Sweet Home Farm, a mildly sweetened crunchy granola liberally sprinkled with pumpkin seeds. The addition of molasses and cinnamon bark accentuates the flavors of fall. The cereal comes in space-efficient milk carton-shaped packaging and is not so crumbly that you can’t pour some into a baggie to munch on in the car.

Info: $8.59.Available at sweethomefarm.com or Albertsons, Bristol Farms and Wal-Mart.

There are just three ingredients in Living Intentions’ Activated Sprouted Pumpkin Seeds — pumpkin seeds, Himalayan crystal salt and cold-pressed olive oil. The act of sprouting the seeds makes them easier to digest and retains the essential nutrients of the seeds, like zinc and amino acids, according to Living Intentions.

Info: $7.99. Available at livingintentions.com, Whole Foods, Sprouts and other natural grocery stores.

Nut butters are increasingly popular as a healthy and flavorful protein source, and the Pumpkin Spice Almond Butter from Sprouts makes one of these staples anything but basic. Creamy almonds are swirled together with pumpkin pie spices — a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves and allspice. The product does have some cane sugar, but a little goes a long way.

Info: $6.99 at Sprouts,

It contains popcorn, roasted pumpkin seeds and walnuts, but the limited edition Pumpkin Spice Caramel Corn from the five-generation old G.H Cretors brand should ideally be savored like a special treat. The flavorful corn and nut chunks are coated with cane sugar, brown sugar, and brown rice syrup. Still, the liberal sprinkling of pumpkin seeds, as well as the fortifying ground spices, will leave you feeling at least a little virtuous.

Info: $3.99 to $4.79 at Whole Foods, Target and other retailers. ghcretors.com

What Dirty John reveals about domestic abuse

 

The Los Angeles Times series “Dirty John” tells the story of a grifter in Orange County who lied to and manipulated his wife.

John Meehan threatened Debra Newell’s family and isolated her from them. He told her he loved her, but called her names and said her kids were waiting for her to die so they could get her money. He was controlling, and watched her on video cameras he installed in their house.

Meehan was a con man and Newell his prey. But experts say their relationship is also an example of emotional abuse, a form of domestic violence that many women struggle to escape.

Emotional abuse can escalate to violence, but doesn’t always. Abusers instead control their partners with words.

The abuse, sometimes called coercive control, can be difficult to spot, both inside and outside the relationship. And when women realize they do want to leave, they might be scared their partners will hurt them. They might stay for financial security, to keep their family together, or for love.

Lisa Aronson Fontes, author of the book “Invisible Chains: Overcoming Coercive Control in Your Intimate Relationship,” said some women think they can make their partners act differently by changing their own behavior.

“If someone is just experiencing the coercive control and not physical violence then they may feel that they themselves are the problem,” Fontes said. “Many women would say, ‘I wish he could just hit me because then … I would have a concrete reason to leave.’”

What does emotional abuse look like?

Domestic violence is any way to gain power over a partner, ranging from punching a spouse to poking holes in a condom to force a pregnancy. Emotional abuse is tricky, because it includes behaviors that are “often wrapped in a package of caring,” Fontes said.

A boyfriend might forbid his girlfriend from talking to certain people or going places, saying he’s worried other men will fall in love with her. He might read her emails or track her movements. If she doesn’t comply, he could threaten to take away access to her car or credit cards, or to withhold affection or inflict violence.

Some more examples:

  • Threatening to physically harm you or your family
  • Trying to isolate you from family or friends
  • Refusing to trust you
  • Attempting to control what you wear or eat
  • Keeping you from leaving the house
  • Monitoring where you go and whom you see
  • Showing up unexpectedly in places, such as your workplace, when you didn’t want a visit
  • Calling you names or humiliating you in public
  • Saying you’d never find anyone better
  • Destroying things that were important to you
  • Keeping you from having your own money to use

The National Domestic Violence Hotline has a fuller list of the signs of various kinds of domestic abuse.

The abused are often walking on eggshells, afraid a small misstep could set off the abuser. They may, however, misinterpret the controlling behavior, experts say.

“Sometimes women think it’s a sign of love, but it’s a sign of control,” said Arlene Drake, a therapist who practices in West Los Angeles.

How common is it?

It’s difficult to know how many people are psychologically abused in the United States, in part because there are no laws that make such controlling behaviors illegal. The United Kingdom deemed “coercive and controlling behavior in an intimate relationship” a crime nearly two years ago, and there have been more than 200 convictions so far, according to Fontes.

Studies suggest emotional abuse is quite common. Physical abuse rarely happens without psychological abuse, and 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men is a victim of some form of physical violence by an intimate partner at least once in their life, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Psychological aggression is experienced more frequently and severely by women than men, according to a 2010 survey by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But the survey still found that 48% of men and women had experienced at least one form of such aggression by an intimate partner at some time.

The behaviors most commonly reported included monitoring where partners went and calling them fat, ugly, crazy or stupid.

Why is it so hard to leave?

An abused woman will try to leave a relationship an average of seven times before she gets out for good, according to the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

Abusers often gaslight women, a tactic in which they make their victims question their own perception of reality. They tell them that something that happened didn’t actually happen, so the women don’t trust themselves.

They also deliberately destroy women’s self-esteem, so they feel like they couldn’t be OK on their own. Men might also try to make them experience guilt by saying they’ll commit suicide if the women leave.

“That gets women stuck, and not in a pleasant way,” said Kathleen Gray, a therapist in Los Angeles who has counseled domestic abuse survivors. “One of the things I would say to them is, ‘He’s going to keep casting that hook, but you’ve got to swim by.… Do not engage.’”

Gray said women may also feel as though they need a man to be accepted in society. Plus, women tend to feel responsible for making romantic relationships work, so they’re more likely to make concessions and hope the situation improves, she said.

What can you do if you’re worried about abuse?

Victims become increasingly isolated in these relationships, Fontes said.

“That’s why it’s so important to stay in touch with somebody … and reflect back to them that they are a good person,” she said.

Victims should contact a domestic violence agency to get help. The National Domestic Violence Hotline offers phone counseling and online chatting. Loveisrespect is a similar resource targeted at teens where you can text, chat or message an advocate. RAINN, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, also offers assistance.

Women in such relationships eventually realize that there is no placating an abuser, Drake said. She said that many women ignore their intuition because they fall in love or want the relationship to survive.

“We do that in hopes that things will be better when we marry them or live with them,” Drake said. “The truth is it doesn’t end up better, it just gets worse.”