Review Category : Health

First US Zika Virus-Related Death Reported in Puerto Rico

iStock/Thinkstock(SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico) — The first U.S. death related to the Zika virus was reported Friday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A patient infected with the virus developed a severe blood-clotting disease called thrombocytopenia that lead to his death, according to the CDC. The disease is characterized by low platelet counts in the blood, which can lead to difficulty clotting.

There have been at least 683 confirmed cases of the Zika virus in Puerto Rico, where the virus is being transmitted from insects to people, according to the CDC.

The vast majority reported mild symptoms, including fever, headache and rash. A total of 49 pregnant women were found to be infected with the virus.

Sixteen patients needed hospitalization after the infection, including six who had a paralysis syndrome called Guillain-Barre, which officials are investigating to see if it is linked to the virus, the CDC said.

Common symptoms of the Zika virus include fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis, according to the CDC. Approximately one in five people infected with the virus shows symptoms. Severe complications from the virus that require hospitalization are rare and most people are over the worst of the symptoms after a week, according to the CDC.

To stem the outbreak, the CDC reported that it has enhanced surveillance systems to monitor the virus and increased activities to protect pregnant women from being infected. Health officials are also spraying both indoors and outdoors in an effort to stop mosquitoes from infecting pregnant women.

The virus has also been associated with a rise of microcephaly birth defect cases. The birth defect is characterized by a malformed or smaller head and brain and can result in serious developmental delays.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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US Cases of Zika Virus Top 400

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The Zika virus continues to spread throughout the Western Hemisphere, including in wide swaths of Central and South America. Concerns are growing for pregnant women because the mosquito-borne virus has been shown to cause a serious birth defect called microcephaly, characterized by an abnormally small head and brain.

Here are the latest updates about the outbreak, which the World Health Organization has deemed a “global health emergency.”

Puerto Rico Faces Growing Number of Zika Cases

At least 474 people in Puerto Rico have already been diagnosed with Zika as officials race to curb the outbreak. The virus has already been transmitted from mosquitoes to people on the island, unlike in the continental U.S., where no cases have been contracted from an insect.

This week the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said they have awarded $5 million to 20 health centers in the area to help with family planning, contraception and outreach to those most at risk for negative consequence of contracting a Zika infection.

“In Puerto Rico, and around the world, the Zika virus is a serious and challenging health threat,” Secretary of HHS, Sylvia M. Burwell, said in a statement on Tuesday. “We are committed to doing everything we can to combat this threat and to help strengthen health care in Puerto Rico.”

First Commercial Zika Test is Approved by FDA

Quest Diagnostics announced today they have received emergency authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to sell the first commercially available diagnostic test for Zika directly to health care providers. Currently, doctors must coordinate with their state and local health department if they want to test a patient for the virus.

Quest Diagnostics plans to make the new test broadly available to physicians for patient testing, including in Puerto Rico, early next week.

Zika Cases in the US Top 400

At least 426 people have been diagnose with Zika in the 50 U.S. states since the outbreak was first detected late last year. Of those who have been diagnosed 36 were pregnant women.
All except eight cases were contracted from a person traveling abroad. The eight other cases were sexually transmitted. The virus has not yet been spread in the US through mosquitoes.

In U.S. territories, outside the 50 states, the number of those infected is far higher at 599 people. Among those infected were 59 pregnant women.

South Korea Creates Olympic Outfits that Protect Athletes from Mosquitoes

The South Korean Olympic athletes will have a unique way of avoiding mosquitoes at the summer Olympics in Brazil, thanks to new “Zika-proof” uniforms.

Unveiled this week, the uniforms contain mosquito-repellent to keep athletes safe from mosquitoes that carry the Zika virus, according to the Associated Press.

The outfits also feature long pants and sleeves to keep athletes covered during the opening ceremony. Due to strict restrictions, the Korean Olympic Committee could not make similar changes for uniforms worn during competition, according to the AP, but athletes will be able to wear spray insect repellent.

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Your Body: The Link Between Your Birth Month and Allergies

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

Could the season in which your child is born determine whether he or she will suffer from allergies later in life?

A new study published in the journal Allergies suggests that babies who are born in the fall have an increased risk of developing eczema, and those born in the fall and winter are more prone to asthma.

The researchers found that the allergies did not just occur in childhood. They followed babies until they grew up and noticed that birth season had an affect throughout life.

Despite the link found between birth month and allergies, the researchers are not advocating that parents plan the timing of their pregnancy around it.

Here’s my take: Since many of us suffer from allergies, the key is prevention and treatment. Reducing our exposure in our environment as much as possible and treating symptoms with multiple types of allergy medications can be incredibly helpful.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Author’s Proposed ‘Meternity’ Leave from Work Sparks Backlash

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — An author’s suggestion that all women would benefit from “meternity” leave that would give them time to step away from their jobs has sparked controversy.

Meghann Foye is the author of Meternity, a new novel in which an overworked editor fakes her own pregnancy in order to get paid time off — a “meternity” leave.

In her own life, Foye, 38, also worked as a magazine editor and has said she felt jealous of parents who left the office to pick up their kids. Foye revealed she once declared to a pregnant friend that she needed her own maternity leave.

“Of course, that didn’t happen,” Foye wrote in an article in the New York Post. “But the more I thought about it, the more I came to believe in the value of a ‘meternity’ leave — which is, to me, a sabbatical-like break that allows women and, to a lesser degree, men to shift their focus to the part of their lives that doesn’t revolve around their jobs.”

Foye continued, “And as I watched my friends take their real maternity leaves, I saw that spending three months detached from their desks made them much more sure of themselves. One friend made the decision to leave her corporate career to create her own business; another decided to switch industries. From the outside, it seemed like those few weeks of them shifting their focus to something other than their jobs gave them a whole new lens through which to see their lives.”

Foye’s proposal of a “meternity” leave has sparked backlash from moms who say maternity leave was no break for them, but a recovery from delivering a child, and then weeks and months spent devoting themselves to that child’s every need. Readers called her New York Post article “baffling” and “ridiculous.”

Foye was scheduled to appear Friday on ABC’s Good Morning America but cancelled her appearance after the backlash. Foye issued a statement through her publisher, Mira Books.

“I have tremendous respect for women who take time away from building their careers to raise their children. It’s inarguably the hardest job in the world. I’ve seen my closest friends do just that. I would never begrudge anyone who decides to start a family and takes maternity leave. And I totally get it when moms who return to work need to leave at 6: they have a second job waiting for them when they get home after working all day,” the statement read. “My concept of ‘meternity’ is designed to introduce and support the notion that all women deserve the opportunity to take stock and re-examine their goals in order to birth a life that works for them. Moms need it, and so do the rest of us who are trying to figure out the work/life balance. More than anything, all women—moms and those who aren’t—need to support each other.”

Dr. Janet Taylor, a psychiatrist and mother-of-four, said Friday on GMA that the idea of “meternity” leave is dividing.

“It minimizes the notion of stress and guilt for working moms and it also really undermines the fact that being a mother is a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week full-time commitment,” Taylor said. “We can’t belittle that because we know that our kids just don’t need us when they’re younger and they’re infants, they need us throughout their lives.”

“There is a reality about what it takes to be a mom and that means taking time off and there a number of, millions of women, who can’t even take a day off because if they take a day off they’ll lose their jobs and don’t even have maternity leave,” she added.

ABC News’ Chief Business and Economics Correspondent Rebecca Jarvis said the debate might be a reaction to trends in society and the workplace.

“People are delaying parenthood longer. The average age of a first-time mother is 26,” Jarvis said on GMA. “On top of that, companies in the great recession cut back so dramatically there are fewer people to fill that void when someone is out, whether that’s for maternity leave or, heaven forbid, sick leave, there are fewer people to cover the void in the workplace.”

“I appreciate how people who are still sitting in the workplace feel when they have to fill in for whomever that person is,” she added. “But as somebody, again, who plans to hopefully have that bond someday with my own child and plans to have children someday, I can appreciate the importance of that and that, I think, supersedes everything else.”

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Legally Blind Fifth Grader Sees Mother for First Time

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Fifth grader Christopher Ward, Jr., has been legally blind all his life, but he recently got to see his mother for the first time through new electronic glasses.

The 12-year-old from Forest, Virginia, traveled up to Washington, D.C., a few weeks ago to demo a new wearable technology called eSight, according to his mother, Marquita Hackley.

eSight’s hands-free headset contains a small, high-speed camera that captures live video, which is sent to a LED screen in front of the user’s eyes, allowing them to see with “unprecedented visual clarity,” according to eSight’s website.

For Hackley, witnessing her son use the glasses and “really see for the first time in his 12 years of life” was “overwhelming and exciting.”

“The very first thing he did was turn to me and say, ‘Oh, Mommy! There you are!” Hackley, 32, told ABC News Thursday. “And then to hear him say, ‘I saw my mom, and she was very pretty,’ was so heartwarming. And aside from pretty, just the fact he could even see me meant the whole world to me.”

Ward also got to watch his favorite TV show SpongeBob, Hackley said. She explained that though her son “watches TV a little bit at home, [but] in order to see anything, he has to be directly up on the TV” and that “even then, he still can’t see all that clearly.”

Ward was born with optic nerve hypoplasia, meaning his optic nerve never fully developed before birth, Hackley said, adding that Ward “only has little light perception in his left eye and very, very low vision in his right eye.”

“Something has to be up in his face, almost touching for him to see it,” she said. “And even though Ward wears glasses on a daily basis, they’re more for protection than vision because there is a strong possibility he could lose the little sight he does have if were to get hurt or hit on the face.”

Hackley is now raising money to buy eSight for Ward, she said, explaining that the glasses cost $15,000 and her insurance doesn’t cover it.

She believes the technology could change Ward’s life and open up more opportunities, such as getting more chances to stay in regular classes and learning how to read and write print.

Currently, Ward has to use a braille reader and writer to communicate through text, Hackley said.

“Christopher is just a very loving kid, always happy and never complains about anything,” she said. “I’ll do anything to help get him what he deserves.”

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Breast Cancer Survivor Will Walk 1,000 Miles to Congress

Paulette McKenzie Leaphart(WASHINGTON) — Paulette Leaphart, 49, is going to Washington, D.C. And she will make the entire 1,000-mile journey on foot.

Nothing will stand in her way – not even the shirt on her back. Literally.

She will walk from Biloxi, Mississippi, tomorrow completely topless, showing the evidence of her double mastectomy. Leaphart wants to talk to lawmakers about the uphill battle everyday Americans with cancer, like herself, face in trying to afford the sky-high cost of life-saving treatments. She is serious about putting health care reform front and center on the table of Capitol Hill, and this breast cancer survivor thinks she can do it.

“I’m marching to D.C. to put my scars in the face of Congress,” Leaphart told ABC News.

It was in January 2014 when her world turned upside down. Her doctor diagnosed her with stage 2, grade 3 breast cancer, and it was aggressive.

Two days before Valentine’s Day in February 2014, Leaphart underwent a double mastectomy following her doctor’s advice.

Leaphart would soon learn that breast reconstruction was not an option for her. Her doctor feared that it could further complicate her health. Every decision became a matter of life or death. Leaphart chose to live.

“I was devastated,” Leaphart said. “I was torn to pieces.”

Leaphart would be further torn apart by the costs involved. The single mom of four girls, ages 8, 13, 14 and 15, pays $1,500 every two months for her medications. She says it’s not just the cancer that kills a patient; it’s also the immense stress of worrying about how one will pay for the overwhelming medical bills.

“I lost everything fighting,” Leaphart said. “I didn’t have insurance…I lost my house. I had to sell my car. I had to sell everything that I had of value.”

“It’s ridiculous, in this country, to have to pay so much to save our lives,” Leaphart added. “I want [Congress] to do something with these high-priced prescriptions.”

According to a 2007 survey conducted by USA Today/Kaiser Foundation/Harvard School of Public Health, 33 percent of cancer patients had trouble paying medical bills and 43 percent reported skipping treatments or not filling prescriptions because of the cost.

A 2011 study by the Journal of the National Cancer Institute concluded that the cost of cancer care in the U.S. reached an estimated $125 billion in 2010, and could top $157 billion by 2020 – troubling statistics for Leaphart.

Preparing for the 1,000-Mile Walk

Leaphart has spent the last year in training for the journey to D.C. She started out taking a few steps a day. Now, she says she walks 30 miles a day for six hours – half in the morning, and the other half in the evening. She is sometimes topless. Leaphart says she also trains three days a week in the gym for three hours a day.

“People ask if I’m worried about her safety,” said Emily MacKenzie, who is directing a documentary, Scar Story, about Leaphart. “Of course…I worry about encountering people along the way who will not take kindly to the sight of a bare-chested, breast-less woman walking without shame or fear. I worry that people will be ugly to her, but, again, that’s something Paulette has faced many times and is emotionally strong enough to handle.”

There are also questions about nudity laws. Could Leaphart face arrest along her planned route from Mississippi to Alabama to South Carolina to North Carolina to Virginia and finally to Washington, D.C.?

“We printed out state by state what the laws are,” MacKenzie said. “It boils down to whether or not someone has nipples. She has no nipples or breasts.”

“It doesn’t mean that the sight of a topless woman won‘t be provocative to some people,” MacKenzie added.

ABC News senior legal correspondent Sunny Hostin said Leaphart could face legal action depending “on the law in each state that she walks through and how each state defines nudity and indecent exposure.”

“In Mississippi, North Carolina and Virginia, indecent exposure is defined as exposing ones ‘private parts.’ In Alabama, it is defined as the exposure of genitals. In Washington, D.C., it has been defined as engaging in a sexual act in public, and, finally in South Carolina, as exposing your person. Since breasts are not genitals, it would seem that she can run through Alabama. But are they considered ‘private parts’ thus becoming a problem for her in North Carolina, Virginia and Mississippi? And in South Carolina, she would be arguably ‘exposing her person.'”

“Ultimately, it would be insane for a law enforcement officer to arrest her in front of her camera crew,” Hostin rebutted. “Imagine the publicity.”

There are even more questions from those who ask if Leaphart is taking too big a leap of faith.

“We have a lot of people who have their doubts. ‘Can a person really do this’? they say,” MacKenzie admitted. “I worry about the physical strain of such a long walk. I worry about sunburns and sprained ankles, but Paulette reminds me that though any of that may happen, she’ll take it in stride, mend up and keep going.”

Leaphart isn’t worried. A host of family, friends and well-wishers will join her on the walk, and some promise to be there from start to finish. Leaphart’s story has garnered a lot of attention, at home and abroad. She even appeared in Beyonce’s musical film “Lemonade.”

“I have so many people all over the world cheering me on,” Leaphart said. “It’s been crazy.”

She wants the spotlight, however, to be on breast cancer. In 2015 there were 60,290 new breast cancer cases in the U.S. and 40,290 deaths, according to the American Cancer Society. This survivor wants to make a point along the way. On the arduous 1,000-mile trek, she wants to say, “The pink ribbon just ain’t doing it.”

“We need to tell the truth,” Leaphart explained. “There is nothing pink, and pretty, and tied up in a bow, about breast cancer.”

So, to make the point, she will set out, bearing all, undeterred and unwavering, unflinching and unyielding.

An RV will be her resting place when the sun goes down.

Leaphart admits she is going out on a limb with her plans to talk to D.C.-area politicians because she has no scheduled meetings.

“I plan to rally until they open their doors and talk to me,” Leaphart said.

You can follow her journey on her Facebook page, and donate to her cause on GoFundMe.

“She is a normal woman. She is a mom. She is a friend,” McKenzie said. “She is a woman who has such hope and such faith… What she is doing is so inspiring and beautiful.”

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This Miami Plastic Surgeon Uses Snapchat to Record His Surgeries Live in the Operating Room

iStock/Thinkstock(MIAMI) — Miami plastic surgeon Dr. Michael Salzhauer has managed to amass one of the largest followings on Snapchat, one 10-second video at a time.

Salzhauer, better known as “Dr. Miami,” uses Snapchat during his patients’ surgeries to document the procedures. As a result, he has millions of Snapchat fans and hundreds of new patients.

“Snapchat and social media has allowed us to show our work to an audience that we would never be able to reach if I had run a local commercial, you know?” Salzhauer told ABC News’ “Nightline.” “Social media allows us to draw patients from really everywhere. I have a travel concierge now.”

Salzhauer says he was kicked off Instagram for being too graphic, so his 16-year-old daughter introduced him to Snapchat. He now has two full-time employees who Snapchat his activities from the moment he walks through the door and into the operating room.

When he first started using Snapchat during his surgeries, Salzhauer said “maybe one in three” would allow him to Snapchat their surgeries.

“But now it’s people actually coming asking to be on the Snapchat,” he said.

After seeing his videos on Snapchat, 26-year-old Cynthia flew over 1,000 miles just to have Salzhauer operate on her.

“I started watching his Snapchats, and in the beginning it was a little gross, and then after that I was just amazed with his work,” Cynthia told “Nightline.” “So by watching his Snapchat, it made my decision a little easier, because every person that I saw on the Snapchat looked different from before. So it was just cool.”

Cynthia was happy to let Salzhauer Snapchat her surgery so her friends could see what happened as she was unconscious and undergoing a Brazilian butt lift.

“Actually, I feel good and comfortable, and I have a lot of friends, so they know what I’m doing. And I just want them to be part of my little story with him,” Cynthia said. “Honestly, I don’t mind [my surgery being on Salzhauer’s Snapchat], because it’s not like my face is there. It’s basically private, kind of private. He’s just showing his work and that’s it.”

Salzhauer asks his patients if they want to have their procedures shown on Snapchat and has them sign permission forms.

He insists that Snapchat doesn’t distract him in the operating room, and so far, Salzhauer said, no lawsuits stemming from his Snapchat use have come his way.

“We’re careful. We hope it never happens, but I think, like, body cameras on police and cameras in schools are a good thing too, you know? It keeps everybody focused, and, you know, it’s helpful to go back to the videotape and see,” Salzhauer said. “I think all surgery should be on tape. I feel like that — what’s wrong with transparency?”

Every Snapchat is orchestrated to maximize the impact on social media, he says, and his popularity only seems to be growing. He came in second place for the 2016 Shorty Award Snapchatter of the Year, losing to DJ Khaled. And his practice has also exploded.

“We used to get maybe ten appointments a day [but then] we got so many appointments we had to stop taking appointments … because we had a backlog already for more than a year out,” Salzhauer said. “There’s a waiting list.”

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Beating Heart Cells Created From Human Skin Cells in New Study

Wavebreak Media/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Scientists have found a new way to transform human skin cells into heart-like cells in mice by using chemicals instead of genetic modification, in what some experts are calling a major breakthrough.

Researchers used a chemical cocktail that affected the DNA replication and prompted the cells to convert into a heart-like cell, according to a new study published in the journal Science that shows promise in the field of tissue regeneration.

When researchers transplanted these cells into a mouse heart with dead heart cells — a scenario very similar to the aftermath of a heart attack — the treated skin cells were able to function as heart-like cells.

The study addresses a key problem for heart attack survivors. Because heart muscle cells do not recover well from injury, injured heart muscle can lead to a lifetime of problems, including heart failure for heart attack survivors.

These findings create a “new avenue for creating heart cells,” said Dr. Richard Lee, a professor of stem cell and regenerative biology at Harvard University, who was not involved in the study.

He called the findings a “big step” and “potentially game changing.”

“It might be easier to make a patient’s own heart cells than we previously thought,” he added.

The study findings suggest that it may be possible to turn a patient’s own skin cells into heart muscle, then transplant them back in the patient, according to Shen Ding, senior investigator at Gladstone Institute and professor of stem cell research and pharmaceutical chemistry at the University of California, San Francisco.

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Until now, the conversion of skin cells into heart-like cells has required adding and modifying genes, which has not shown a high rate of success. Of the heart-like cells generated using genetic methods, only about 0.1 percent behave like heart cells, by beating spontaneously, for example.

In this study, when using the cocktail of molecules, 97 percent of the reprogrammed cells behaved like heart cells.

“Efficiency and authenticity are much better and this is why we feel very excited,” Ding said.

In the distant future, Ding is hopeful that a medication might contain molecules similar to those in his study.

In theory, this medication could help treat the scarred heart tissue that can develop after a heart attack. Someday, it may be possible to target this damaged tissue and change it into functional, heart muscle cells through medication.

“It is actually a very impressive breakthrough,” Lee said.

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First Commercial Zika Virus Test Gets FDA Approval

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The Food and Drug Administration approved the first commercial U.S. test Thursday to diagnose the Zika virus.

The news comes as states and the federal government struggle to get ahead of the epidemic as it makes its way to the U.S. from South America.

Quest Diagnostics says it has received emergency authorization from the FDA to sell the first commercially developed diagnostic test for the mosquito-borne virus. Until now, patients who wanted the test had to go through their state or local health departments.

Quest Diagnostics plans to make the new test broadly available to physicians for patient testing, including in Puerto Rico, early next week.

International and U.S. health officials have confirmed Zika infection during pregnancy can cause fetal microcephaly — characterized by an abnormally small head and brain — and other birth defects, and warned that local outbreaks in the United States are possible.

Symptoms of Zika include fever, rash, joint pain, and red eyes.

So far, there have been no confirmed cases of Zika spreading from mosquitoes to people in either Canada or the U.S. There have been a few cases reported of the virus transmitting through sexual contact in the U.S.

Three European countries — France, Italy and Portugal — are among the eight countries that have reported person-to-person transmission of the virus via sexual contact.

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Teen Pregnancy Rates Hit Historic Lows, CDC Finds

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Teen pregnancy rates continue to drop throughout the U.S., and have reached a new historic low, according to a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

There were 24.2 live births per 1,000 teens between the ages of 15 to 19 in 2014, according to the report in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. This represents a 61 percent decrease from 1991.

“The United States has made remarkable progress in reducing both teen pregnancy and racial and ethnic differences, but the reality is, too many American teens are still having babies,” CDC Director Tom Frieden said in a statement Thursday. “By better understanding the many factors that contribute to teen pregnancy we can better design, implement, evaluate, and improve prevention interventions and further reduce disparities.”

From 2006 to 2014, the teen birth rate declined 41 percent overall. The decrease was the largest among Hispanics, with a 51 percent drop (38 live births per 1,000 teens in 2014), followed by a 44 percent drop among African Americans (34.9 live births per 1,000 teens in 2014), and a 35 percent drop among whites (17.3 live births per 1,000 teens in 2014.)

While the lower teen pregnancy rates were noted nationwide, the researchers highlighted states where teen pregnancy remained a persistent problem. In Nebraska, rates among African Americans (42.6 per 1,000) and Hispanics (53.9 per 1,000) far exceeded national rates. In Arkansas, the teen birth rate remained far above the national average at 41.5 per 1,000.

“These data underscore that the solution to our nation’s teen pregnancy problem is not going to be a one-size-fits-all — teen birth rates vary greatly across state lines and even within states,” Lisa Romero, a health scientist in CDC’s Division of Reproductive Health and lead author of the analysis, said in a statement.

“Together, we can work to implement proven prevention programs that take into account unique, local needs,” Romero said.

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