Review Category : Health

Amid Zika Outbreak, England Warns Pregnant Women to Delay Travel to Florida

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Public health officials in England are advising pregnant women to delay nonessential travel to Florida after the first known local transmission of the Zika virus was discovered in the U.S.

In its updated travel advice, Public Health England increased the risk designation for Florida from low to medium.

“The risk in Florida is considered moderate based on the number and spread of cases and their demonstrated ability to implement effective control measures for similar diseases such as dengue – a virus transmitted by the same mosquito,” the health agency said in its public guidance. “Pregnant women should consider postponing nonessential travel to affected areas until after the pregnancy. At present, only a zone of about 1 square mile in Miami-Dade County is considered at risk of active transmission.”

A Zika outbreak was confirmed in Florida on Friday, marking the first time the virus has been found to be transmitted via infected mosquitoes within the continental United States. At least four people — three men and one woman — have been infected through local transmission so far, officials said.

“This means Florida has become the first state in our nation to have local transmission of the Zika virus,” Florida Gov. Rick Scott said Friday.

A small area north of downtown Miami that is about a square mile in size is believed to be the only place where the Zika virus is being transmitted from mosquitoes to people. The area is under close surveillance and door-to-door outreach is underway there, officials said at a press conference Friday.

State and local officials have also been contracting with local companies to eliminate mosquito habitats through increased spraying, including of aerial liquid larvicide.

“We’re being very aggressive at testing people there we are testing the mosquitoes there and we spraying to make sure it’s contained,” Scott said, adding that health officials do not think that the transmission was ongoing.

For months, health experts have warned that a small local outbreak of the disease was likely to occur within the U.S. and that local and state health departments should be ready. The Zika cases in Florida come at a time when tourists from around the world are visiting the Sunshine State’s theme parks, beaches and urban arts districts.

And while public health officials in England have updated the country’s travel advice in light of the outbreak in Florida, the leading national public health institute in the United States is not yet advising pregnant women to avoid non-essential travel to the southern state.

“All the evidence we have seen indicates that this is mosquito-borne transmission that occurred several weeks ago in several blocks in Miami,” Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said in a statement Friday. “We continue to recommend that everyone in areas where Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are present—and especially pregnant women—take steps to avoid mosquito bites. We will continue to support Florida’s efforts to investigate and respond to Zika and will reassess the situation and our recommendations on a daily basis.”

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President Obama Signs Bill Mandating GMO Labeling

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — A bill that creates a federal labeling standard for foods containing genetically modified ingredients (commonly called GMOs) was signed into law by President Barack Obama Friday.

“This measure will provide new opportunities for consumers to have access to information about their food,” Katie Hill, a White House spokeswoman, told ABC News.

The legislation requires food packages to display an electronic code, text label, or some sort of symbol signifying whether or not they contain GMOs.

GMOs, often called “genetically engineered” crops, have their genetic information modified to give a plant a desirable trait.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, genetically engineered crops first entered the U.S. food supply in the 1990s, and account for 93 percent of planted soybeans and 88 percent of corn.

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4-Year-Old Whose Prosthetic Leg Was Stolen Gets New ‘Ghostbusters’-Themed Limb, Free Trip to Disneyland

KABC-TV(PALMDALE, Calif.) — A 4-year-old California boy whose prosthetic leg was was stolen at a beach this past weekend was surprised on Wednesday with a new Ghostbusters-themed limb.

The custom-designed prosthetic was created and donated by Michael Metichecchia, owner of Essential Orthotics and Prosthetics in Palmdale, California, according to ABC-owned station KABC-TV.

Metichecchia, who is an amputee himself, told KABC-TV he heard 4-year-old Liam Brenes’ story earlier this week and was compelled to help.

Liam’s right leg was amputated at the age of 1 due to a rare condition called FATCO syndrome.

This past Sunday, while Liam was playing in the water at a beach, his prosthetic — along with a family member’s cellphone, wallet and camera — was stolen.

Though it usually takes weeks to create a permanent prosthetic limb, Metichecchia and his team worked overtime to get a new leg to Liam in just a few days.

“We had a lot of people on board that really wanted to help get this done, so me and a couple other gentlemen met at the office this morning around 4 a.m. to get it finished up,” Metichecchia told KABC-TV on Wednesday.

Little Liam and his parents went into Metichecchia’s office later that day under the impression they were just getting a temporary leg. So when staff came out with the custom-designed permanent Ghostbusters prosthetic, they were in shock.

“Whoaaa!” Liam exclaimed in joy.

The 4-year-old’s dad, Frank Brenes, told KABC-TV that the surprise felt like “Christmas in July.”

“I’m so ecstatic, so thankful,” he said. “They could not have done better. They hit the nail on the head for this little boy, this little Ghostbusters fanatic. He loves it. I mean, the smile on his face says it all when he sees it.”

The surprises for Liam didn’t stop there. Another offer of help came from “Shark Tank” star Robert Herjavec, who arranged for the family to get a VIP tour of Disneyland.

“It just broke my heart,” Herjavec told KABC-TV. “I mean, to think about what the little boy has gone through. And with everything that’s happening in the world and so much negativity, I just thought if I had the opportunity to make him grow up in an environment where he thinks there are some good people in the world, why not?”

Liam’s mother, Amanda McFarland said she was overwhelmed with gratitude.

“I just have such a good feeling about people,” McFarland told KABC-TV. “They’re so caring. There’s been so much generosity. I don’t even have words for it right now.”

With Liam now powered by Ghostbusters, his dad said the only issue now is figuring out how to slow him down.

“I’m a little bit afraid, I’ve been trying to keep up with him,” he said with a laugh. “He is so quick, and nothing’s going to stop him.”

The Walt Disney Co. is the parent company of ABC News.

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What to Know About First Local Zika Outbreak in Continental US

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — For the first time in the continental U.S., the Zika virus has been spread locally through infected mosquitoes.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott announced the first local Zika outbreak Friday, saying that four people have been infected. For months, health experts have warned that a small local outbreak of the disease was likely to occur and that local and state health departments should be ready.

Here’s what you need to know about the latest Zika outbreak:

Where is the outbreak located?

The affected area is believed to be north of downtown Miami and to be about one square mile in size.

The area is under close surveillance and according to officials at the press conference Friday, door-to-door outreach is underway there. State and local officials have also been contracting with local companies to eliminate mosquito habitats through increased spraying, including of aerial liquid larvicide.

What about the mosquitoes that carry Zika? What should I know about them?

To date, there have been no mosquitoes found in Florida that have tested positive for Zika. Over 19,000 mosquitoes have been screened for Zika in Florida. The specific species of mosquito thought to transmit Zika, Aedes aegypti, prefers urban environments to wetlands, is more active during the day, and doesn’t travel far distances. Florida officials are confident that they’ll be able to control and reduce mosquito populations based on their success responding to outbreaks of Dengue and Chikungunya mosquito-borne illnesses. They advise residents to continue to wear repellent, eliminate standing water, and wear long-sleeved clothing to decrease the chance of getting mosquito bites.

What should pregnant women know?

Pregnant woman can travel to Florida and have a low risk of transmission. However, pregnant women should still take the following precautions to prevent mosquito bites:

  • Wear long sleeves and pants.
  • Use insect repellent with at least 30 percent Deet.
  • Avoid areas with standing water.
  • Stay in places with adequate window screens and air conditioning.

Pregnant women can see their health providers to receive a Zika prevention kit, which includes condoms, bug spray, and other precautionary tools.

What are the risks for those who are not pregnant?

About 80 percent of infected persons who contract Zika will be asymptomatic, yet around 20 percent of infected persons may show symptoms. Most cases have consisted of mild symptoms such as fever, joint pain, and rash. These symptoms usually go away in seven to 10 days. Reports have shown that there may be a rare association with Guillain-Barre syndrome in people that have been affected by Zika. Guillain-Barre is a rare syndrome in which the body’s immune system can attack nerves and cause a temporary, reversible paralysis. The syndrome often takes places after an infectious illness normally caused by certain viruses.

What precautions are being taken for the blood donation?

Given the concern for blood donation transmission in the recent local cases, the Florida government has provided $620,000 in funds to support blood donation testing. In the meantime, pregnant women will receive blood from counties without known cases of Zika.

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Zika Cases Spike in Puerto Rico as Virus Spreads ‘Silently and Rapidly’

iStock/Thinkstock(ATLANTA) — The Zika virus is rapidly spreading though Puerto Rico, leading to more than 5,500 infections, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Friday.

Puerto Rico has been dealing with the Zika outbreak for months, and Zika infections have spiked recently, rising from 14 percent testing positive among those tested in February to 64 percent in June, the CDC reported. Officials are calling the situation in Puerto Rico “a Zika epidemic.”

“The virus is silently and rapidly spreading in Puerto Rico,” said Dr. Lyle R. Peterson, incident manager for the CDC’s Zika response and director of the CDC’s Division of Vector-Borne Diseases.

“This could lead to hundreds of infants being born with microcephaly or other birth defects in the coming year,” Peterson said in a statement Friday. “We must do all we can to protect pregnant women from Zika and to prepare to care for infants born with microcephaly.”

Microcephaly is a birth defect characterized by an abnormally small head and brain, leading to significant developmental problems.

Of the thousands of people who have tested positive in Puerto Rico, 672 were pregnant women, according to the CDC. The virus has also been found in 77 of 78 municipalities in Puerto Rico and CDC officials believe the positive cases may be just a fraction of total Zika cases actually present, since 80 percent of infected people do not exhibit symptoms. But even asymptomatic people can transmit the virus to a mosquito if it bites them.

While the virus is mainly a concern due to its effects on fetal development, it has in rare cases been linked to serious complications in adults. Among people with confirmed Zika infections, 21 people have developed Guillain-Barre syndrome, which can lead to temporary paralysis. One infected person died after developing a severe low platelet count in their blood, officials said.

The CDC has urged the Puerto Rican government to increase mosquito control to reduce the population of the insects that spread the virus. Those living in Puerto Rico or traveling there are urged to wear bug spray and stay indoors to avoid exposure to mosquitoes.

Pregnant women and their partners are advised to use barrier contraception to insure the women aren’t exposed to the virus through sexual contact.

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Teen Battling Bone Cancer Marries High School Sweetheart in Hospital

iStock/Thinkstock(TULSA, Okla.) — When Swift Myers and Abbi Myers, nee Ruicker, wed on Sunday, it was from the bed at an Oklahoma hospital where Swift Myers, 18, has spent the last month battling cancer.

Since seventh grade, Myers has battled Ewing sarcoma, a cancerous tumor that occurs in bones or soft tissues, according to the National Institutes of Health. His latest bout with the disease landed him in an intensive care unit at Saint Frances Children’s Hospital in Tulsa, Oklahoma, for the last month.

Two days before their wedding day, Myers asked Abbi, also 18 and his girlfriend of two years, to marry him.

“He said, ‘Will you be my wife?,’ and we’ve always joked about so I just kind of laughed,” Abbi told ABC News Friday. “The next day he said, ‘You know I was being serious right?'”

Abbi told Myers that if he was serious he needed to call her dad to ask for her hand in marriage. Myers picked up the phone and called Abbi’s dad and the wedding planning began immediately.

“Some of the nurses were in the room and as soon as they heard the conversation they took off,” Abbi said. “They did everything.”

The nursing staff at Saint Francis Children’s Hospital acted as the couple’s wedding planners, gathering decorations and finding a wedding cake, a videographer and a photographer.

“It felt like I was hearing a love story straight out of a movie,” Meagan Ready, the couple’s wedding photographer, told ABC News of being asked to help. “I was humbled to have been asked to document such a special occasion.”

On Sunday night, around 100 of the couple’s friends and family, and the nurses and doctors caring for Myers, packed into a room at the hospital to watch the couple wed. So many people wanted to attend that the wedding was live-streamed on Facebook and some guests lined a sidewalk outside to celebrate the couple from afar.

A teacher at the high school where the Myers met bought the couple wedding bands from a local jeweler. Myers added a bowtie to his hospital attire and said his “I do” from his hospital bed.

The hospital bed later featured a “Just Married” sign on poster board signed by guests.

“I was in shock,” Abbi said of the outpouring of love. “I’m still in shock.”

After exchanging wedding vows and sealing their marriage with a kiss, the couple hosted a wedding reception complete with cake.

“I’m really grateful for the nurses,” Abbi said. “They are still at work and still went through and did all of this in less than two days for us and that really meant a lot.”

Myers is continuing treatments for his cancer, with Abbi by his side every minute of the day.

“Since the wedding he’s been much better and in better spirits,” she said.

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Your Body: Performance Enhancing Substances and Teens

iStock/ThinkstockBy DR. JENNIFER ASHTON, ABC News Senior Medical Contributor

Steroids, creatine and protein supplements are becoming increasingly available to teens, despite the lack of proven benefit.

In fact, researchers have found an increase of steroid use in high school students and a doubling in the use of human growth hormone.

Many teens and their parents are unaware that most supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. They’re also frequently contaminated with metals, steroids and stimulants.

It’s important to emphasize inner health and fitness as much as external appearance with your teens.

Consider the risks as much as any possible benefits. Some of the side effects of performance enhancing substances include stomach pain, nausea, dehydration and possible damage to heart, kidneys and liver if taken in high doses.

It’s also helpful to consult a dietician or nutritionist to learn ways to increase muscle mass and boost athletic performance using whole foods.

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First Outbreak of Locally Transmitted Zika Virus Confirmed in Continental US

iStock/Thinkstock(MIAMI) — An outbreak of the Zika virus has been confirmed in Florida, marking the first time the virus has been found to be transmitted via infected mosquitoes within the U.S.

The outbreak has infected at least four people through local transmission, Florida officials said Friday.

“This means Florida has become the first state in our nation to have local transmission of the Zika virus,” Florida Gov. Rick Scott said Friday.

More than 1,650 people have been diagnosed with Zika within the U.S., but the vast majority have been people who contracted the virus while abroad. A small number of people contracted the Zika virus through sexual transmission within the U.S.

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FDA Halts Florida Blood Donations in Two Counties over Zika Concerns

Hemera/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Blood donations have been halted in two Florida counties being investigated as the epicenter of a possible outbreak of locally transmitted Zika virus, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

At least four cases of Zika infections in Miami-Dade and Broward counties are being investigated by the Florida Health Department as a possible outbreak of locally transmitted Zika. On Wednesday, the FDA asked all blood donation centers in both Miami-Dade and Broward counties to cease collecting blood until they can implement tests to check donor blood for signs of the Zika virus. The FDA also recommended that adjacent and nearby counties adhere to these requirements as well.

“These may be the first cases of local Zika virus transmission by mosquitoes in the continental United States,” FDA officials said in a statement. “In consideration of the possibility of an emerging local outbreak of Zika virus, and as a prudent measure to help assure the safety of blood and blood products, FDA is requesting that all blood establishments in Miami-Dade County and Broward County cease collecting blood immediately until” officials can implement tests for Zika.

More than 1,650 people have been diagnosed with Zika within the U.S., but the vast majority have been people who contracted the virus while abroad. A small number of people contracted the Zika virus through sexual transmission within the U.S.

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How Health Experts Investigate Possible Zika Outbreaks

iStock/Thinkstock(TALLAHASSEE, Fla.) — The Florida Health Department is now investigating four Zika infections that may have been transmitted locally.

More than 1,300 people have been diagnosed with Zika in the U.S. and virtually all contracted the disease while traveling abroad. A small number were due to sexual transmission of the disease.

If the investigation determines that Zika was passed on by an infected mosquito in Florida, it would be the first occurrence of a local transmission in the continental United States. Concern over a possible Zika outbreak has led the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to offer assistance to the Florida Health Department.

After two new cases were reported, the Florida Health Department expanded its investigation and started going door-to-door to reach people in areas where the infections were reported. Sample collections, including urine samples, are being requested to determine if there are ongoing infections, according to the Florida health officials.

Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University Medical School, explained to ABC News that an epidemiological investigation to determine if there is an outbreak can take time as many investigators fan out over neighborhoods to look for any sign of the virus in both insects and people.

Investigators will “try to figure out where the infection was likely acquired,” said Schaffner. If they believe it was locally acquired, they’ll start searching in different areas for the Aedes Aegypti mosquito that has been linked to the disease.

He also explained that urine tests are used to help identify a potential outbreak because they are easy to acquire and don’t require medical staff as blood samples do.

“It can be very elaborate” to do these investigations, Schaffner explained. “As we talk about this, all of these investigations are very personnel dependent.”

Should an outbreak of the virus be confirmed in Florida, Schaffner said the health department would likely send out mosquito control experts to spray affected homes with insecticides.

“They will actually have people going through backyards and looking at sites where they need to spray,” he said.

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