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Peter Patkos
1110 North Broad Street
Lansdale  PA 19446
 Phone: 215-327-7491
Office Phone: 215-362-2260
Fax: 267-354-6879
Peter Patkos

My Blog

Eerily Early Flu Season Has Arrived With a Vengeance

January 14, 2013 4:08 am

Halloween may have brought us witches and goblins, but it also brought us a glimpse of scary things to come. As flu cases started trickling through in late October, instead of post-New Year, we couldn't have foreseen the current levels we are now witnessing. Instead of the start of season rolling through right now, we are at levels which usually aren't seen until mid-March, and that spells trouble.

Centers for Disease Control (CDC) officials are reporting this to be the earliest and deadliest start to the flu virus season in over a decade. They also report the rise in states recording flu activity to have gone up an alarming 25 percent since Christmas Eve to include 41 states with 18 child fatalities. And with this season’s departure not coming anytime soon, those numbers are sure to rise significantly. CDC estimates 200,000 people are hospitalized each year due to influenza infection and anywhere between 3,000 and 49,000 will die. If these numbers scare you, and you dread the crippling effects of the flu as much as most do, you should take every precaution available to avoid it.

New studies have shed light on the not so great news that influenza vaccines don't do as well as initially thought, however they still provide considerable protection. With over 300 rampant strands of influenza out there, scientists must guess on which combination of flu killers will work best in the upcoming season. Obviously our vaccine system needs improvement, but it's still the safest bet to get your flu shot.

Although numbers vary year to year, on average, the vaccine is 59 percent protective in adults 18-65, and nasal vaccines are 83 percent protective in children. Unfortunately, the effectiveness is at its worst for the group with the greatest severe infection risk – the elderly. The CDC stresses that the most precaution should be concentrated on the highest, most susceptible, risk groups: children, pregnant females, and the elderly.

Spreading it Forward
In states with high influenza rates, 70-80 percent of the coughs or sneezes we hear around us stem from the flu. Consequently, the virus travels thru the air onto banisters, computer keyboards, door handles, menus at the diner, and potentially breathed into our lungs. The flu virus can survive up to eight hours on hard surfaces such as metal or plastic – once touched it will likely spread to your nose and mouth. On average, we touch our faces 18 times an hour, thereby providing the virus a clear path to our lungs. Spots to fear at work? How about your water bottle, those elevator buttons, the coffee machine or the dreaded copier, which may all be coated with influenza germs.

The CDC strongly recommends keeping your hands clean after touching foreign objects especially during flu season. While hand washing with soap and water for 30 seconds is preferred, we know that option is not always practical, or available. The CDC also recommends the supplementary use of hand sanitizers and antimicrobial cleansers to ward off these deadly germs when washing with soap and water is not available.

Source: Purasol Laboratories LLC

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Preparing for Winter Driving

January 14, 2013 4:08 am

Hazardous conditions like snow-covered roads and black ice often make winter driving unpredictable. To help prepare and keep motorists safe on winter roads, experts encourage drivers to not only install winter tires, but also use the changing seasons as a reminder to engage in routine tire maintenance. Preparing early for winter weather and anticipating and avoiding dangerous circumstances can help drivers maintain control and stay safe on the road.

"Drivers should consider replacing their all-season tires with a product made specifically for winter road conditions," says Chuck Yurkovich, vice president of global technology for Cooper Tire. "The key is to have those discussions with a trusted dealer before the first storm hits. Even if an area does not typically receive harsh winter weather, it's important to conduct routine tire maintenance checks as the seasons change."

In addition to properly equipping vehicles with winter tires, drivers are advised to follow basic winter driving and tire maintenance tips:

Drive cautiously: Experts say the best advice for driving in harsh winter weather is to not drive at all, but according to the U.S. Department of Transportation, driving – even in ice or snow – is an everyday part of life for the owners of more than 250 million vehicles on the road in the U.S.

• Double the anticipated stopping distance when braking anytime conditions are not dry. It will take longer to come to a stop in snowy or icy conditions.
• Do not assume a four-wheel drive vehicle will stop faster than a two-wheel drive vehicle – four-wheel drive offers no braking advantage.
• Always reduce speed during winter conditions.
• When purchasing winter tires, replace all four tires. Due to the different grip capabilities of summer, all-season and winter tires, the driver will not get all of the handling and traction benefits if all tires are not replaced.
• Drivers should keep in mind that it is best to check their owner's manual to see how their vehicle should be serviced in cold weather.

Examine tread: The only part of a vehicle to touch the road is the tires, and tire tread is a vital part of handling, cornering, accelerating and braking.

• For winter weather driving, a general rule is the more tread depth, the better. A tire's minimum tread depth should be more than 2/32 of an inch deep all around the tire. Drivers can check tread depth by using a U.S. penny. Insert the edge of the coin into the tread with Lincoln going in headfirst. If the top of Lincoln's head is covered by tread that means there is at least a minimum acceptable amount of tread; if the top of his head is visible at any location on the tire, the tire is worn out and it's time to replace it. For winter driving in adverse conditions, your tires should exceed the minimum tread depth standard.
• While examining the tread, also look for signs of uneven wear or damage such as cuts, cracks, splits, punctures and bulges. These conditions shorten the life of tires and, if not corrected, further tire damage, tire failure or air loss may occur.

Test air pressure: Tire pressure plays a critical role in the overall performance of tires. Under inflation creates excessive stress on the tire, while over inflation can cause uneven wear in addition to handling and braking issues.

• Tire pressure decreases by about one pound per square inch for every 10-degree drop in outside air temperature, so it is vital that drivers check the air pressure regularly as winter weather approaches.
• Drivers should follow the guidelines found in the vehicle owner's manual or tire placard (or sticker) attached to the vehicle door edge to determine the correct air pressure for their vehicle's tires. A common myth is that the tire pressure listed on the sidewall is the optimal pressure, while in reality it is the maximum pressure.
• Air pressure should be checked when the tires are cool, meaning they are not hot from driving even a mile.
• Should any of these checks reveal the need for required maintenance – or when in doubt about the condition of their tires – drivers should take vehicles to a tire dealer for a professional inspection.

Source: Cooper Tire

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Facebook Beta-Testing Timeline Changes

January 14, 2013 4:08 am

By Nick Caruso

Over a year ago, Facebook introduced Timeline, a chronological way to re-vamp the Wall and organize your content and posts. But heads up, Facebook users: the company is already beta-testing changes to Timeline in New Zealand and parts of Europe and these changes may come our way soon. What can you expect? Here's a first look:

• The boxes below your cover image will be replaced with a more functional tabbed design. This includes the sections for Friends, Photos, Map, Likes, Notes, etc. Say goodbye to those clunky boxes and hello to a sleeker display.

• Your "subscribers" will now be called your "followers." Making it similar to Twitter, this simply shakes up the semantics of the "subscriber" notion. Your "Friends" will remain so, and no changes to Friends are due at this time.

• Posts will now show in a single wide-column display on the left as opposed to two split-screen columns.

• Names will now be displayed over the bottom of cover photos, and basic info will be located on the right side of the profile photo instead of below.

• Facebook is adding a new collections manager, which allows users to reorder collections so they can put maps, friends, etc., wherever they want them. This allows for more customization and control amongst pages.

For the time being, these changes will only take affect on personal Facebook profiles, but Facebook will most likely make these same changes to brand pages as well.

Source: Chicago Tribune

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Note to Renters: Insure Your Belongings!

January 11, 2013 4:06 am

By John Voket

I need a bunch of you – specifically you renters – to take a moment and consider an important piece of advice about your stuff. If you love it, then make an extra effort to protect it.

Did you know the majority of homeowners buy insurance, but just one in three college-aged renters insures their belongings? Even more shocking: at least half of all renters fail to buy any insurance protection for their possessions.

Way too many consumers are under the mistaken impression that their landlord’s policy will cover their losses, according to the Connecticut Better Business Bureau. BBB says renter’s insurance generally covers property damage or loss caused by theft, fire, vandalism or storms. In addition, most policies include liability coverage, which protects a tenant if someone gets hurt when visiting their home or apartment.

The cost of renter’s insurance is usually lower than homeowner’s insurance because it covers only personal property and liability, not the structure. The amount of the deductible can also affect the cost of premiums.

Two types of renter’s insurance coverage are available:

-Actual cash value insurance pays to replace items up to the policy’s limits, minus a deduction for depreciation.
-Replacement cost insurance pays the actual cost of replacing your possessions, regardless of depreciation, up to the limits on the policy.

Consider the value of possessions versus the cost of insurance - even a college student can have property worth several thousand dollars, such as computers, televisions, furniture, jewelry or small appliances.

When seeking a renter’s insurance quote:

-Determine if you have specific items of high value, you also may need a rider to cover those items.

-Ask what deductibles apply to the policy.

-Find out whether the policy will cover living costs if you are unable to occupy your current apartment or home.

-Inquire about exclusions, such as types of property that would not be covered.

-Ask the insurer if they give discounts for burglar alarms, fire extinguishers, sprinkler systems or deadbolts on exterior doors.

-If you are switching insurers, be sure that the new policy is in effect before dropping the old one.

As with any insurance product, BBB advises consumers to get estimates from several companies before buying a policy.


Published with permission from RISMedia.


Shovel Safe This Season

January 11, 2013 4:06 am

With winter snowfall looming in some parts of the country, area residents will need to clear out their driveways and sidewalks. While shoveling can be a great winter workout, the American Heart Association warns that for most people, shoveling snow may not lead to health problems, however, the risk of a heart attack during snow shoveling increases for others.

"One of the reasons heart attacks can occur during snow shoveling is the combination of colder temperatures and physical exertion which increases the workload on the heart," says Vishal Gupta, MD, MPH, Borgess Cardiology Group, of the Borgess Heart Institute, Borgess Medical Center. "As a result, too much strain on the heart during these conditions can cause a heart attack."

To help make snow removal safer, consider the following tips.

-Consult a doctor. If you have a medical condition or don't exercise on a regular basis, schedule a meeting with your doctor prior to the first anticipated snowfall.
-Take frequent breaks during shoveling so you don't overstress your heart.
-Don't eat a heavy meal prior or soon after shoveling since it can place an extra load on your heart.
-Don't drink alcoholic beverages before or immediately after shoveling. Alcohol may increase a person's sensation of warmth and may cause them to underestimate the extra strain their body is under in the cold.
-Be aware of the dangers of hypothermia. Heart failure causes most deaths in hypothermia. Wear a hat and dress in layers of warm clothing, which traps air between layers forming a protective insulation.
-Use a small shovel or consider a snow thrower. Lifting heavy snow can raise blood pressure acutely. It is safer to lift smaller amounts more times, than to lug a few huge shovelfuls of snow. When possible, simply push the snow.
-Listen to your body. If you feel the warning signs for heart attack, stop what you're doing immediately and call 9-1-1.

The warning signs of a heart attack include:
-Uncomfortable pressure, fullness, squeezing or pain in the center of the chest that lasts for more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back.
-Pain spreading to the shoulders, neck and arms.
-Chest discomfort with lightheadness, fainting, sweating, nausea or shortness of breath.


Published with permission from RISMedia.


30-Year Fixed-Rate Mortgage Averages 3.40 Percent

January 11, 2013 4:06 am

Freddie Mac released the results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®), showing fixed mortgage rates moving higher following December's employment report. The 30-year fixed averaged 3.40 percent, its highest reading in eight weeks. The all-time record low for the average 30-year fixed was 3.31 percent set November 21, 2012.

News Facts

-30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 3.40 percent with an average 0.7 point for the week ending January 10, 2013, up from last week when it averaged 3.34 percent. Last year at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 3.89 percent.

-15-year FRM this week averaged 2.66 percent with an average 0.7 point, up from last week when it averaged 2.64 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 3.16 percent.

-5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 2.67 percent this week with an average 0.6 point, down from last week when it averaged 2.71 percent. A year ago, the 5-year ARM averaged 2.82 percent.

-1-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 2.60 percent this week with an average 0.5 point, up from last week when it averaged 2.57. At this time last year, the 1-year ARM averaged 2.76 percent.

"Fixed mortgage rates increased slightly following a positive employment report for December," says Frank Nothaft, vice president and chief economist, Freddie Mac. "The economy added 155,000 jobs, above the consensus market forecast, and November's job growth was revised upward by another 24,000 workers. This helped keep the unemployment rate steady at 7.8 percent, the lowest since December 2008. For all of 2012, 1.86 million jobs were created and represented the largest annual gain since 2006."

Source: Freddie Mac

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Housing Affordability Index to Set Annual Record for 2012

January 10, 2013 4:04 am

With 11 months of data reported, 2012 will clearly go down as a record year for favorable housing affordability conditions, and a great year for buyers who could get a mortgage, according to the National Association of Realtors®.

NAR's national Housing Affordability Index stood at 198.2 in November, based on the relationship between median home price, median family income and average mortgage interest rate. The higher the index, the greater the household purchasing power; recordkeeping began in 1970.

An index of 100 is defined as the point where a median-income household has exactly enough income to qualify for the purchase of a median-priced existing single-family home, assuming a 20 percent downpayment and 25 percent of gross income devoted to mortgage principal and interest payments. For first-time buyers making small down payments, the affordability levels are relatively lower.

For all of 2012, NAR projects the housing affordability index to be a record high 194, up from 186 in 2011, which was the previous record. November's reading was 2.5 index points below October, but up 1.5 index points from a year earlier.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said home buyers are able to stay well within their means. "Although 2012 was highest on record, the excessively tight underwriting precluded many would-be homebuyers from locking-in generational low interest rates," he said. "Rising home prices and a gradual uptrend in mortgage interest rates will offset improvements in family income, but 2013 likely will be the third best on record in terms of household buying power. A window of opportunity remains open for buyers who can qualify for a mortgage."

NAR projects the housing affordability index to average 160 during 2013, which means on a national basis that a median-income family would have 160 percent of the income needed to purchase a median-priced existing single-family home. Conditions vary widely, with the highest buying power in the Midwest. Even in the West, where the regional index is lower, the typical family is well positioned in most markets.

NAR President Gary Thomas said the minor erosion in affordability conditions moving forward could be mitigated by bank and regulatory policies. "Clearer rules from the government regarding future lawsuits and buybacks of Fannie and Freddie loans could encourage banks to use their massive cash holdings to originate more loans," he said.

"A more sensible lending environment that makes it easier for other financially qualified buyers to get a mortgage would allow many more households to enter the market, boosting home sales as much as 10 to 15 percent," Thomas said.

Source: NAR

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Helping Consumers Reduce Sodium Intake

January 10, 2013 4:04 am

Most Americans consume way too much sodium, with salt (sodium chloride) being the most common form. That can be a serious health hazard, because excess sodium consumption contributes to the development and escalation of high blood pressure, a leading cause of heart disease, kidney disease and stroke.

Research shows that Americans consume, on average, about 3,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium every day. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends a reduction of sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg daily.

Those age 51 and older, and people of any age who are African-American or have high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease should further reduce sodium intake to 1,500 mg daily. This amount meets your essential need for sodium. These populations comprise about half the U.S. population.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently reported that children and adolescents consume about the same amount of sodium as adults and also risk developing high blood pressure. The researchers found that kids who consumed the most sodium faced double the risk of having high blood pressure, compared to those who took in less sodium. For overweight or obese children, the risk was more than triple.

“There has been a common misconception that sodium intake is just a concern for people with high blood pressure,” says Jessica Leighton, Ph.D., MPH, senior advisor for science in the Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Foods and Veterinary Medicine. “But it’s a health risk for all people, including children, as the CDC report shows.”

FDA is working on a number of fronts to help consumers manage their sodium intake.

Seeking a Gradual Reduction

FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) are collaborating to identify ways that sodium can be reduced in foods sold in the nation’s marketplaces and restaurants.

“Approximately 75 percent of the total sodium intake for most individuals comes not from people adding salt to their food but from packaged and restaurant foods,” says Michael R. Taylor, FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine. “That makes it very difficult for consumers to reduce their sodium intake with the foods currently available to them in the marketplace.”
What’s a Consumer to Do?

When shopping for food, consumers can read food labels and choose foods that are lower in sodium.

The Nutrition Facts Label on food and beverage packages lists the “Percent Daily Value (%DV)” of sodium in one serving of a food, based on 2,400 mg per day. The %DV tells you whether a food contributes a little or a lot to your total daily diet. Foods providing 5%DV or less of sodium per serving are considered low in sodium and foods providing 20%DV or more of sodium per serving are considered high. But remember, all of the nutrition information on the label is based upon one serving of the food and many packaged foods have more than one serving.

It is recommended that consumers not exceed 100 percent of the daily value for sodium and those advised to limit intake to 1,500 mg per day should aim for about 65 percent of the daily value. Consumers can also be aware of the sources of sodium in their diet. In a report issued in February 2012, CDC identified these 10 foods as the greatest sources of sodium:

-breads and rolls
-luncheon meat, such as deli ham or turkey
-poultry, fresh and processed—(Much of the raw chicken bought from a store has been injected with a sodium solution.)
-cheeseburgers and other sandwiches
-cheese, natural and processed
-pasta dishes
-meat dishes, such as meat loaf with gravy
-savory snack foods, such as potato chips, pretzels and popcorn

To help consumers put the Dietary Guidelines into action, including recommendations regarding sodium, personalized tools and resources are also available at

Published with permission from RISMedia.


12 Tips to be Energy Efficient Each Month of 2013

January 10, 2013 4:04 am

Start 2013 off right! Make a plan to be energy efficient every month of the year with these 12 energy-saving tips.

January: Replace old, inefficient incandescent light bulbs in your home with energy-efficient lighting – like new CFLs, halogen incandescents or LEDs – to save between $50 and $100 a year in energy costs.

February: February can be a weather-weary month to commute, so partner up with two friends at least twice a week to carpool and save $144 each on yearly gas charges.

March: With spring just around the corner, get ready to open up your home to new, efficient windows. Replacing single-pane windows with ENERGY STAR-qualified windows can save you up to $1000 annually.

April: This April Fools, outsmart the energy vampires in your home by unplugging what you're not using. Use a smart power strip for automatic savings.

May: In honor of EE Global 2013, share one of the other tips with an international friend, family member, or associate to help save energy worldwide.

June: For the summer driving season, avoid speeding, rapid acceleration, and rapid breaking to lower gas mileage by 33 percent (at highway speeds). Drivers can save up to 240 gallons of gasoline, or nearly $1000, by driving sensibly on the highway.

July: Make sure your AC equipment is in top running order, since cooling puts the greatest stress on your summer energy bills.

August: Plug energy leaks with weather stripping and caulking, and be sure your house is properly insulated to save up to 20 percent on energy bills.

September: If you and your kids are out at school and work, install a programmable thermostat – or even a smart thermostat – to lower your home's temperature while it's empty. This can reduce energy bills by up to 10 percent.

October: To save energy at your own dinner table, replace an old fridge with an ENERGY STAR model to save up to $200 each year.

November: Keep the temperature of your water heater at 120 degrees, and insulate the hot water storage tank to save money on heating costs.

December: You made so many energy-saving changes this year, give yourself the gift of a home energy assessment to see how much more energy you can save next year!

Source: Alliance to Save Energy

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Cleaning Made Simple

January 9, 2013 4:02 am

(Family Features) Giving your home a good cleaning doesn’t have to be a big chore. You can make the whole house look and feel fresher by focusing on a few key areas.

Even if you vacuum regularly, floors and carpets could use a deep down cleaning now and then.
• For carpeted areas — Start by vacuuming as usual, to pick up surface debris. Move as much furniture out of the room as possible. If you don’t want to rent a carpet cleaner, you can use a handheld electric spot scrubber to remove stains.
• For hardwood or vinyl tile areas — Vacuum as usual. Remove as much furniture as possible. Use a steam mop to clean and sanitize the floor.
• For other tiled areas — If your tile is natural stone, treat stains based on type. If the stain is calcium based, from grout buildup, mineral deposits or hard water, use a pH balanced cleaner for stone.


Freshen up the bathroom with these simple cleaning tricks.
• Take care of the tub by scrubbing with baking soda on a clean, damp sponge. Rinse, then wipe dry. You can clean and deodorize your vinyl shower curtain by giving it the same treatment.
• If you have stone, granite or marble surfaces, use a cleaner made specifically for those materials. Some general purpose cleaners may contain acids, bleach or ammonia that could break down the sealer on natural stone, making the surface more likely to stain.

Take care of those areas that might not get daily attention.
• Empty the refrigerator and remove the shelves and bins, giving them a good cleaning with a solution of 1/4 cup multi-surface cleaner and one gallon of warm water. Rinse and dry thoroughly before putting them back.
• To sanitize washable hard, nonporous surfaces such as granite, without damaging them, use a spray specifically for natural stone. Spray until thoroughly wet and leave it for one minute. Wipe with a clean cloth or let air dry — do not rinse.
• Use a duster with a long handle to clean in higher areas, such as the tops of cabinets, ceiling corners, vents and recessed lighting fixtures.

They take up a lot of real estate in the home — make sure they’re clean, too.
• If your washing machine does not have a specific washer cleaning cycle, add liquid chlorine bleach to the dispenser and run a normal cycle with hot water.
• Check the drain area of your dishwasher and remove any bits of food or small items. Place a bowl, right side up, in the top rack and fill it with one cup of white vinegar. With nothing else inside, run the dishwasher on its shortest cycle to remove soap scum and hard water buildup.
• Don’t forget the outside of your appliances. For light cleaning, dilute 1/4 cup multi-purpose cleaner in a gallon of warm water. Wipe your washer, dryer and refrigerator clean. For tougher cleaning, use some full-strength multi-purpose cleaner directly on a sponge. Rinse surfaces thoroughly with plain water afterwards. Regular cleaners can leave residue on stainless steel surfaces, however, so use a steel cleaning product that will clean now and resist fingerprints and grease later on.

Source: DuPont

Published with permission from RISMedia.