Review Category : Health

CDC Says Microneedle Measles Vaccine Patch Could Be ‘Game-Changer’

James Gathany/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(NEW YORK) — The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday that a microneedle patch currently being developed could be a major advancement in the effort to vaccinate people against measles and other diseases.

The patch, being developed by the CDC and the Georgia Institute of Technology, is designed to be administered by workers with minimal training. It would also simplify storage, distribution and disposal, as compared to traditional vaccines.

A CDC press release said the square centimeter patch could be administered with the press of a thumb. The underside of the patch contains 100 “solid, conical microneedles made of polymer, sugar, and vaccine that are a fraction of a millimeter long.”

The CDC says that when applied, the microneedles press into the skin and dissolve within minutes, releasing the vaccine. Afterward, the patch can be discarded.

“Every day, 400 children are killed by measles complications worldwide,” said James Goodson, epidemiologist from the CDC’s Global Immunization Division. “With no needles, syringes, sterile water or sharps disposals needed, the microneedle patch offers great hope of a new tool to reach the world’s children faster, even in the most remote areas.”

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Women Put an Average of 168 Chemicals on Their Bodies Each Day, Consumer Group Says

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — American women put an average of 168 chemicals on their bodies each day, according to a nonprofit group, but two senators say federal regulations on personal care products have barely changed since the 1930s.

Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, introduced an amendment to the federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act that would give the Food and Drug Administration more power and oversight to regulate the chemicals men and women slather on their bodies every day. They’re calling it the Personal Care Products Safety Act.

“From shampoo to lotion, the use of personal care products is widespread, however, there are very few protections in place to ensure their safety,” Feinstein said in a statement.

The 98-page bill includes a system of registering personal care companies, their products and their ingredients, and it would require the FDA to review five chemicals that appear generally in personal care products each year to evaluate their safety. The first set of chemicals will likely be diazolidinyl urea, lead acetate, methylene glycol/formaldehyde, propyl paraben and quaternium-15, according to Feinstein’s office.

The senators worked with the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit consumer health advocacy group that started the Skin Deep database about a decade ago. The Skin Deep database allows consumers to look up personal care products to learn what chemicals they contain, and whether those chemicals are associated with any health risks.

“These are basic tools that should have been granted to the FDA decades ago, but are only now being provided in the Feinstein-Collins bill,” said Scott Faber, Environmental Working Group’s vice president of government affairs. “Cosmetics are sort of the last unregulated area of consumer products law. I can’t overstate how little law is now on the books. The FDA virtually has no power to regulate the products we use everyday.”

According to the Environmental Working Group, women use an average of 12 products a day, containing 168 different chemicals. Men use fewer products, but still put 85 chemicals on their bodies. Teens on average use 17 personal care products a day, according to the group, which tested 20 teens’ blood and urine seven years ago to find out which chemicals from these products were ending up in their bodies. They said they found 16 hormone-altering chemicals, including parabens and phthalates.

“Many if not most of these chemicals are probably safe,” Farber said. “We can’t know for sure because they haven’t been subject to any kind of review by a third party.”

Farber said attempts to give the FDA more authority over cosmetics date back to the Eisenhower administration, but they were unsuccessful. This time, industry leaders including Johnson and Johnson, Revlon and Personal Care Products Council, the industry trade group, have come out to say they support the bill.

“While we believe our products are the safest category that FDA regulates, we also believe well-crafted, science-based reforms will enhance industry’s ability to innovate and further strengthen consumer confidence in the products they trust and use every day,” the Personal Care Products Council said in a statement. “The current patchwork regulatory approach with varying state bills does not achieve this goal.”

The FDA said it cannot comment on proposed legislation.

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Expert Tips for Healthy Airport Eating this Summer

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Plenty of travelers plan to shed a few pounds before their summer trips, but that necessary evil — the airport — is filled with potential pitfalls for derailing your diet just as you embark on your beach vacation.

So what’s a hungry summer flier to do?

Most importantly, eat your typical, healthy meal before you leave for the airport. That’s your first line of defense for avoiding a food court filled with high-fat, high-calorie fast food.

Brooke Alpert, a nutrition expert an author of The Sugar Detox: Lose Weight, Feel Great and Look Years Younger, specifically focuses on meeting the demands of her clients’ busy schedules, teaching them to eat well without feeling deprived. She shared with ABC News her top tips for staying healthy at the airport.

  1. Don’t sit and wait. You’re about to be sitting for a flight so before you board, don’t sit while you wait. Walk, walk and walk.
  2. Always invest in water once you’ve gone through security. Nothing makes you more likely to make a poor choice than dehydration.
  3. Don’t purchase anything to eat that you wouldn’t get on a normal non-travel day. Indulge when it’s worth it, not on a pack of Skittles.
  4. Smoothies can be your salvation. So many airports have a Smoothie King, get the one with Greek yogurt and you have a satisfying protein filled yummy meal.
  5. If you’re sweet tooth is calling, opt for plain dark chocolate. It’s your healthiest option and pretty much guilt-free as long as you don’t eat the whole bar.
  6. Don’t be fooled by dried fruit. Most dried fruit is loaded with sugar so skip it and opt for a piece of fresh fruit instead.
  7. BYOT, bring your own tea. Teabags can go through security and are a great way to have a healthy drink while on the plane, just ask for hot water and use your high quality teabag from home.

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Survey Shows Evolving Views of Men’s Roles in Society

Stockbyte/Digital Vision/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — What is the American Dream in 2015? For most men, it means being a good husband, father, son or friend.

That’s one of the surprising findings of a survey entitled “The Shriver Report Snapshot: An Insight Into the 21st Century Man.”

Of the more than 800 men surveyed, 60 percent said that the real marker of success is personal achievement at home. Just under one in four said that financial success is what represents the American Dream.

In terms of how men should exhibit strength, 68 percent said the best way of doing so is through strong personal character and a sense of integrity.

The other answers were:

  • Ability to provide financially — 44 percent
  • Confidence to follow one’s own path — 40 percent
  • Emotional strength to deal with stressful situations — 37 percent
  • Physical strength — 11 percent

The survey had the support of The California Endowment and was conducted by Hart Research Associates.

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Digital Device Users Getting Younger and Younger and Younger

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Nowadays, before a child in the U.S. even says his first word, he may actually be playing with an electronic device.

According to the Einstein Healthcare Network, which surveyed 370 parents with children from half-a-year to four years old, more than a third of infants handled smartphones and tablets by the age of six months and one in seven use these gadgets for an hour a day by the time they turned one.

Also, 52 percent of parents, who were from a low-income, minority community, reported that before the age of one, their children had viewed TV while 24 percent made a call to someone, 15 percent used apps and 12 percent played video games.

Overall, most kids were using mobile devices by age two, the survey found.

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Smiley Faces May Help Kids Eat Healthy

stockerteam/iStock/Thinkstock (CINCINNATI) — Getting children to eat healthy, particularly in school where a larger selection of unhealthy foods is readily available, is an ongoing challenge.

Researchers in Cincinnati tried a simple reward when visiting an inner-city school.

For 3 months, they placed “Green Smiley Faced” emoticons near the healthful foods, according to a new study published in the Pediatric Academic Society.

Researchers then introduced a small prize for children who selected a “Power Plate” for lunch, which was a well-balanced combination of food items which created a healthy meal.

After 5 months, the number of children who purchased fat free milk increased by 549 percent and those who chose the “Power Plate” tripled.

Fruit and vegetable consumption also increased over the study.

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Gender Identity Versus Attraction: ‘It’s Apples and Oranges’ Says Bruce Jenner

ABC News(NEW YORK) — When Brandon Jenner, Bruce Jenner’s son, learned his dad is transgender, his “biggest question,” he tells ABC News, was who his father might want to be in a relationship with in the future.

“I feel like in life we’re all looking for love and so many things are done in the world just to try to gain love, you know,” Brandon says, turning to his dad. “From here on out. … I wonder how your—what your desires are in that regard. If you’re looking forward to meeting somebody.”

When people come out as transgender — especially if they choose to transition medically — one of the most common questions they face is how it affects whom they are attracted to and whom they love. The fact is—for many transgender people—it simply doesn’t.

As Bruce Jenner tells Diane Sawyer, “It’s apples and oranges.”

“Never Been With a Guy”

Jenner tells ABC that when it comes to attraction, “No, I’m not gay. I am not gay. I am, as far as I know — heterosexual.”

“I’ve never been with a guy — I’ve always been married, raising kids, doing all that kind of stuff,” Jenner adds. “There’s two different things here. Sexuality is who you personally are attracted to—who turns you on— male or female. But gender identity has to do with who you are as a person and your soul, and who you identify with inside, okay?”

Endocrinologist Dr. Norman Spack, the co-director of a special gender management clinic at Boston Children’s Hospital and an Associate Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, says that at first—years ago—even he needed a lesson. “I was confused about, does this make so-and-so gay? Does this make so-and-so straight?” Spack says.

But after treating 200 transgender adults, Spack still recites a lesson he learned early on from a member of the community.

“Sexual orientation is who you go to bed with,” Spack tells ABC News, “but gender identity is who you go to bed as.”

“A Human Experience”

Jennifer Boylan, a transgender woman and author of She’s Not There: a Life in Two Genders, is a parent to two boys and a professor at Barnard in New York. Boylan remained married to her wife, Deirdre, through her transition. They have been together since 1988, when Boylan was living as a man. They are together still.

Boylan understands that some people may be confused.

“It is a human experience,” Boylan tells Diane Sawyer. “To address this issue, as Bruce Jenner is addressing this now, takes courage. It takes honesty. And it takes the support of people around you who will treat you with love rather than disdain.”

“My sense of myself as female was something that never left me,” Boylan adds, “But I was always attracted to women. My general experience is that whoever you were attracted to before remains who you’re attracted to after.”

“There are no hard and fast rules. The important thing to understand is that sexuality, who you love, and gender identity, who you are, those really are different things.”

Nick Adams, who works for GLAAD and is also transgender, urges everyone to remember that sexual orientation isn’t about sex, “It’s about who you love—who you want to fall in love with.” Adams, who transitioned in his early thirties, was oriented towards men even before transitioning to male himself. Today, he has been with his partner John since 2001. “I am a gay man,” Adams says.

Jay Brown, of the Human Rights Campaign — a transgender man who identifies as straight, may have been labeled a lesbian before his transition.

“Take me,” Brown says, “I’m a transgender man married to a woman. My gender identity is male and my sexual orientation is straight. Transgender people can be gay, lesbian, bisexual or straight. We’re dads and moms, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters. We’re your co-workers, and your neighbors. We’re 7-year-old children and 70-year-old grandparents. We’re a diverse community, representing all racial and ethnic backgrounds, as well as faith backgrounds.”

“A Poverty of Our Language”

As Andrew Solomon writes in his book Far from The Tree, “It is a poverty of our language that we use the word sex to refer both to gender and to carnal acts.” In other words–your sex (whether you are male or female)—has nothing to do with, well, sex (as in—sex acts).

Dr. Spack says he has been “delighted” to see partners of all genders stand by and support his transgender patients. “I tried to play a game,” Spack says, “I’d try to guess whether a patient’s partner was male, female, or what. I never ask leading questions that would give it away. I could never guess whether — in their affirmed gender—they would be gay, straight, or bi. One thing has absolutely nothing to do with the other. And the data shows it.”

“Every person is different, every experience is different,” adds psychiatrist Dr. Stephen B. Levine, “Everyone is a mosaic.”

So how do we know someone’s gender identity? Their orientation? The answer is we can’t—at least not until they choose to share it.

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Seven Questions Answered About Transgender People

m_a_r_t_i_n/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — It is believed there have always been people whose brain and bodies are at odds when it comes to their gender. In the past two decades, the term “transgender” has been used to define this population.

As part of Diane Sawyer’s exclusive interview with Bruce Jenner Friday on ABC’s 20/20, a few experts offered to help answer questions often asked about the transgender community.

1. So How Many People Are Transgender?

While it’s impossible to know exactly how many transgender people live in the U.S., the most commonly cited estimate is 700,000—more than the population of Washington, D.C. Most experts on the transgender community believe that the number is probably higher.

“If you’re in a high school of 2,000 kids, you’re probably going to have somewhere between two and four trans kids in that school at any one time,” says Dr. Norman Spack, the co-director of the gender management clinic at Boston Children’s Hospital.

Dr. Johanna Olson, the medical director of the transgender clinic at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles notes that it would be helpful for the government to collect data about the community. “What we really need is a census bureau question that says, ‘Does anyone in your household identify as a gender different than the one they were assigned at birth?’” says Olson. “And that would probably give us a better prevalence number and a more accurate reflection of the trans experience.”

2. Is Being a Transgender Person Considered a Disorder?

No. And, as Dr. Olson says, “Being transgender is not a mental illness” either. In May 2013, medical professionals removed “Gender Identity Disorder” from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) — replacing it with “Gender Dysphoria”. They also changed the criteria for diagnosis.

“Gender Dysphoria” is the term medical experts use to describe the distress a person may feel when their gender identity does not match the gender they were assigned at birth. There are various treatment options available to manage this discontent including mental health services, hormonal treatments, and— in some cases— surgery. There is a debate in the medical and transgender communities about whether or not “Gender Dysphoria” should remain in the DSM. Some believe removing it could limit patients’ access to insurance coverage.

3. Are There Transgender Children?

Yes. Children can be transgender, but not all children who experiment with gender play or exhibit gender nonconforming behavior will be transgender adults. Experts say only a small fraction of young children who exhibit gender noncomforming behavior will go on to be transgender later in life. In other words, most of these children will go on to report that their sex assigned at birth aligns with their gender identity.

Children who are diagnosed with gender dysphoria and continue to experience these intense feelings through adolescence are referred to as persisters. Those who do not continue through puberty are desisters.

“Think of someone running a hurdle,” Dr. Spack says. “The persisters run over the hurdle and continue on the path to becoming a transgender adult. The desisters hit a wall and they do not transition. The first thing to know is that you can’t define children for sure until they hit puberty. We don’t have a litmus test.”

“What we need to understand is that in development, all of us get dramatically transformed over time,” says psychiatrist Dr. Stephen B. Levine of Case Western Reserve School of Medicine, who has treated hundreds of transgender people, “by forces we don’t fully understand.”

Dr. Spack agrees, but adds that for that small fraction who persist, their feelings of gender dysphoria are a sign of who they will be as adults. “I take care of many children who lift the sheets before they go to bed and pray that they’ll wake up with a different body,” Spack says. “And then they lift the sheets when they wake up and say, ‘Why did this happen to me? Why should I feel this way?’”

That’s why Dr. Spack tells concerned parents to get professional counseling.

“If your kid expresses issues around gender identity it is so, so important to take it seriously,” Spack says. “It is still all too common for transgender people to take their lives. Sometimes they don’t know there is treatment for them.”

As Jenner tells Diane Sawyer, his feeling of gender dysphoria started in childhood and “it never, never ever went away.”

4. What Treatment Is Given to Children?

“Most people know their gender in early childhood,” says Dr. Olson. So for an adolescent experiencing intense gender dysphoria, the first medical option is to take puberty blockers, which prevent physical changes such as breast development and facial hair—buying a child time before a surge of unwanted hormones. It’s important to know that puberty blockers are completely reversible, but are not without some risks including effects on bone development and height. After puberty blockers, the second step for a medical transition is cross-sex hormones which have irreversible effects, such as breast growth from estrogen and facial hair growth brought on by testosterone.

A small Dutch study —out just last year— of transgender adolescents who were started on puberty blockers as children suggests that those who undergo this treatment (followed later by cross-sex hormones and/or surgery) turn out just as happy as their peers, avoiding the depression that all too often plagues transgender youth.

Jenner notes that when he began hormones as an adult, the treatment immediately aided in quality of life. They “take the edge off,” Jenner says.

As Dr. Levine tells us, sometimes the most important step before any medical intervention is understanding. “I want every parent with a gender atypical child,” Levine tells ABC, “to be fascinated with that child, to be interested in that child, to protect the child and to help the child understand the world.”

5. Do All Transgender People Have Surgery?

No. Not all transgender people have surgery—or any medical intervention. Being transgender is not about physical changes—it is about gender identity. For a transgender person, their gender identity does not align with their biological sex.

As Dr. Spack says, “For transgender people, their bodies below the brain do not define their gender status.”

Not all transgender people report experiencing gender dysphoria — the term that describes distress related to identifying with a gender different from the one assigned at birth. But for those who do, medical intervention can be a great relief.

There are various reasons some transgender people do not have surgery. For many, the cost is prohibitive. For others, having surgery is not the most important way for them to express their gender. As Dr. Olson says, “There are some people that are completely fine—by the way—with the genitals they have.”

For those who do have surgery, the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) recommends coming to the decision with the guidance of mental health professionals who specialize in transgender medicine. They also recommend living in the gender role a person identifies with for at least 12 continuous months. As Dr. Levine says, “This is not a cavalier thing.”

6. How Many Transgender People Are Lost to Suicide and Murder?

Following the death of Leelah Alcorn in late December — the transgender young woman whose suicide note ended in the plea “Fix society. Please” — there have been an additional eight transgender youth who have died by suicide in 2015. Nick Adams, who works for GLAAD and is a transgender man, says that all of us should be concerned about these tragic numbers. Adams says he believes the number of transgender people who commit suicide isn’t “because transgender people are more mentally unstable than non-transgender people—it’s because we live in a society that gives us very little hope that we can be accepted and understood as our true selves. The culture needs to change so that transgender people can see a future for themselves and survive.”

As for homicides, “In 2015,” Adams adds, “seven transgender women have been murdered in the United States.”

Dr. Olson says that some of these tragic findings apply even to her youngest patients, “There’s a lot of self-harm, there’s a lot of cutting, there’s a lot of burning, there’s a lot of suicidal thoughts,” Olson tells ABC News, “There’s a lot of suicide attempts even in very young kids. And so it’s a scary time. And it’s a really important time to be listening if something’s happening like that for a kid.”

“I would like to think we can save some lives here,” Jenner tells Diane Sawyer.

7. What About the Law? Are Transgender People Protected?

This year, Barack Obama became the first President to mention the community in an official address. “He actually was the first one to say the actual word, “transgender,” Jenner says. “I will certainly give him credit for that.” And just this past July, Obama signed an Executive Order prohibiting transgender discrimination for federal employees and contractors. But not every state has a law explicitly protecting all transgender workers.

Right now in 32 states there is no explicit state law protecting people from being fired for being transgender. Only 18 states (California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington) and D.C. currently prohibit discrimination based on gender identity. And according to the Human Rights Campaign, while “nearly 91% of Fortune 500 companies include sexual orientation in their workplace policies” only “61 percent include gender identity.”

As President Obama said when he signed the order, “Today in America, millions of our fellow citizens wake up and go to work with the awareness that they could lose their job, not because of anything they do or fail to do, but because of who they are: lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender. And that’s wrong.”

This video outlines definitions for transgender terminology, along with appropriate ways to use each word.

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Heroin Use Continues To Rise Over 10 Years

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -– The number of heroin users has continued to increase over the past 10 years.

From 2002 to 2013, the number of heroin users has increased from 404,000 to 681,000, while the number of users undergoing treatment has increased from 277,000 to 526,000, according to a survey released Thursday by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

The increase has overwhelmed some substance abuse treatment facilities, with almost one in ten of them working above capacity, according to researchers.

With over 11 million abusers of prescription pain medication, there was increasing concern that many of them would become heroin users.

While there is evidence that abusers of prescription pain medication are at greater risk for becoming heroin users compared to non-prescription drug abusers, only a small number of them actually make the transition, according to the survey’s authors.

Heroin users increase in number every year, and while treatment programs try to keep pace, researchers say it is an ongoing issue that needs to be addressed and monitored.

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Why Botulism Is Found in Canned Foods and How to Keep Your Pantry Safe

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — After a botulism outbreak following a church potluck in Ohio left a woman dead and sickened up to 28 others, health officials say canned food could be to blame.

Officials are looking into canned fruits and vegetables as well as pasta and potatoes salads and other menu items, according to Ohio Department of Health spokeswoman Shannon Libby.

So, you may be wondering how to keep your pantry safe in time for picnic season.

Here’s what you need to know:

What is botulism?

Botulism is caused by a nerve toxin released by certain bacteria, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“All forms of botulism can be fatal and are considered medical emergencies,” according to the CDC. “Foodborne botulism is a public health emergency because many people can be poisoned by eating a contaminated food.”

Symptoms can take between 6 hours and 10 days to arise, and they include double vision or blurred vision, drooping eyelids, slurred speech, difficulty swallowing and muscle weakness, according to the National Institutes of Health.

How common is it?

“Botulism has virtually been eliminated in this country,” said Dr. William Schaffner, chairman of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee.

There are about 145 cases a year in the U.S., according to the CDC. Only 15 percent of those are foodborne. The rest are either wound-related or something called infant botulism, which involves consuming the spores.

Why is it found in canned goods?

The bacteria Clostridium botulinum releases the toxin that causes botulism as part of its natural anaerobic process, meaning it multiplies in an oxygen-free environment, like a sealed can, Schaffner said.

“Back in the day when there was a lot of home-canning, people didn’t always meticulously follow protocols,” Schaffner said. “The spores were not killed and given that this was now an environment in a sealed container, the bacteria could multiply and produce the toxin.”

With the advent of commercial canning and better understanding of botulism to put food safety procedures in place, he said it’s now rare to have a canned good-related botulism outbreak.

What can you do to stay safe?

Unless the Ohio potluck investigators find that the food that caused the illness was commercially canned, Schaffner said people have nothing to worry about. But if they see a can that is puffy or dented, discard it.

“Spoilage of one kind or another likely occurred,” he said. “There’s no reason to subject yourself to any kind of chance of getting sick.”

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