Review Category : Health

Health Officials Release Lists of Potential Measles Exposure Sites

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Two outbreaks of the measles virus that have infected at least 141 people have led state and local health departments to release lists of the sites where residents might have been exposed to the virus in the hopes of curbing the outbreak.

In California, the San Bernardino County Health Department’s list reveals how staples of the community, such as grocery stores or a Walmart, could be sites of potential infections and not just hospitals or schools with low vaccination rates.

Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert from Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said the range of potential infectious sites shows how important it is that every eligible person gets the measles vaccine.

The virus “can be in a house of worship, it can be at a theme park. It can really be anywhere,” said Schaffner. “There doesn’t have to be close contact through the measles source and the susceptible person,” to get infected.

In San Bernardino, where nine people measles cases have been reported, the health department list reflects a variety of places where people could have been exposed to the measles virus, from Walmart to Target to a local sushi restaurant and chocolate store.

A Walmart spokesman told ABC News that company officials “take the safety of our customers and associates very seriously” and had instructed their associates, who were working when an infected person visited the store, to adhere to the health department’s guidance.

A Target spokesman told ABC News that the company has posted a notice in the store and were working with local health officials.

The measles virus is among the most contagious viruses identified and can be transmitted four days before an infected person shows symptoms. By simply exhaling, an infected person can leave virus particles in the air that can infect anyone who does not have immunity.

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Substance Abuse Rampant Among Pregnant Teens

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(AUSTIN, Texas) — Teenage girls who become pregnant certainly have to grow up much faster than their non-pregnant peers.

However, it turns out that a majority of them engage in destructive behavior than can harm their unborn child as well as themselves, according to researchers at the University of Texas at Austin and Saint Louis University’s School of Social Work.

Based on a large, nationally representative sample, almost six in ten pregnant teens admitted taking one or more substances during the past 12 months that included alcohol, marijuana and other drugs. That’s compared to 35 percent of girls who are not pregnant.

The study also found that a third of pregnant girls age 12 to 14 years old said they used one or more of these substances within the last 30 days.

However, alcohol and drug use dropped substantially across all ages groups as the girls went further into their pregnancies.

Nevertheless, lead study author Christopher Salas-Wright at UT Austin’s School of Social Work says that statistics show more work needs to be done. He added that levels of substance abuse among pregnant teens declined by 50 percent when the girls came from homes with strong adult support and supervision. Also, girls who kept attending school were also less inclined to use alcohol and drugs.

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Lengthy Unemployment Shown to Change Personalities

iStock/Thinkstock(STIRLING, Scotland) — The longer unemployment lasts, the longer it can affect one’s personality, according to one study, which seems to disapprove the notion that people’s personalities are fixed.

Researcher Christopher Boyce of the University of Stirling in Scotland says that over time, being out of work can make people less agreeable and as a result, may hamper their efforts to get hired.

Based on a standard personality test given to 7,000 German adults, Boyce looked at the effects of unemployment on hundreds who were thrown out of work by examining the following personality traits: conscientiousness, neuroticism, agreeableness, extraversion and openness.

Interestingly enough, unemployed men’s levels of agreeableness increased in the first two years of being out of work but those levels dropped afterwards. Meanwhile, women’s agreeableness declined steadily from the point when they first lost their jobs.

On the other hand, conscientiousness, which is tied to the enjoyment of income, fell among men throughout their unemployment but rose initially for women before declining.

One way or the other, Boyce says prolonged unemployment has a detrimental effect on one’s personality and society should have more compassion for people who are unable to find a job due to changes that are often beyond their control.

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Men Who Share Equally in Housework Don’t Like It Much

Pixland/Thinkstock(ATLANTA) — Who knew? Men who live in a country where the culture is more open to husbands and wives sharing housework seem to get more upset about their participation in this drudgery than in countries where women are expected to do all the housework.

Researchers from Emory University and Umea University in Sweden surveyed 14,000 adults from 30 countries and discovered that women on average said they did about three-quarters of the housework while men handled just over 30 percent.

Meanwhile, around 38 percent of men from the U.S., Australia, Denmark, Mexico, the United Kingdom, Latvia, Sweden and Poland, all considered gender egalitarian countries, said they shared about 50 percent of the chores at home.

But here’s where it gets interesting. Men from these countries also complained about doing an unfair amount of housework as opposed to those from less egalitarian countries.

Although it seems counter-intuitive, lead study author Sabino Kornrich says this resentment may stem from being aware that shared housework is just assumed in the country they live in.

Meanwhile, men in Japan, where women are expected to do most if not all of the housework, don’t feel the same kind of resentment even if they actually get around to helping a little bit around the house.

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Renowned Neurologist Oliver Sacks Announces He Has Terminal Cancer

Thos Robinson/Getty Images for World Science Festival(NEW YORK) — Renowned neurologist and author of Awakenings Oliver Sacks announced Thursday that he has terminal cancer.

Sacks, a professor of neurology at New York University School of Medicine, said in a New York Times article that cancer had been found in his liver nine years after he was first diagnosed with a rare ocular tumor.

The doctor wrote that the initial treatment for the tumor in his eye left him partially blind and noted that most tumors of this kind do not metastasize.

“I am among the unlucky 2 percent,” he wrote for the New York Times. “I feel grateful that I have been granted nine years of good health and productivity since the original diagnosis, but now I am face to face with dying.”

Sacks, 81, is best known for his writing on neurological case histories including “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat” and an “An Anthropologist on Mars.” His book Awakenings, based on his work in the 1960s with patients who were unable to initiate movement, was turned into an Oscar-nominated movie of the same name starring Robin Williams and Robert De Niro.

Sacks, whose biography will be released this spring, wrote that he feels “intensely alive” after his diagnosis.

“Over the last few days, I have been able to see my life as from a great altitude, as a sort of landscape, and with a deepening sense of the connection of all its parts,” he wrote. “This does not mean I am finished with life.”

While the famed doctor plans to give up following “politics or arguments about global warming,” he said he feels the world is being left in good hands.

“I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude,” he wrote. “Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.”

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Renowned Neurologist Oliver Sacks Announces He Has Terminal Cancer

Thos Robinson/Getty Images for World Science Festival(NEW YORK) — Renowned neurologist and author of Awakenings Oliver Sacks announced Thursday that he has terminal cancer.

Sacks, a professor of neurology at New York University School of Medicine, said in a New York Times article that cancer had been found in his liver nine years after he was first diagnosed with a rare ocular tumor.

The doctor wrote that the initial treatment for the tumor in his eye left him partially blind and noted that most tumors of this kind do not metastasize.

“I am among the unlucky 2 percent,” he wrote for the New York Times. “I feel grateful that I have been granted nine years of good health and productivity since the original diagnosis, but now I am face to face with dying.”

Sacks, 81, is best known for his writing on neurological case histories including “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat” and an “An Anthropologist on Mars.” His book Awakenings, based on his work in the 1960s with patients who were unable to initiate movement, was turned into an Oscar-nominated movie of the same name starring Robin Williams and Robert De Niro.

Sacks, whose biography will be released this spring, wrote that he feels “intensely alive” after his diagnosis.

“Over the last few days, I have been able to see my life as from a great altitude, as a sort of landscape, and with a deepening sense of the connection of all its parts,” he wrote. “This does not mean I am finished with life.”

While the famed doctor plans to give up following “politics or arguments about global warming,” he said he feels the world is being left in good hands.

“I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude,” he wrote. “Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.”

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Mental Health Services Needed for Many Homeless Children

iStock/Thinkstock(RALEIGH, N.C.) — Of the 2.5 million children in the U.S. who are homeless each year, about one in four have issues severe enough to require the services of mental health professionals.

So says Dr. Mary Haskett, a psychology professor at North Carolina State University, who headed a pilot study on the effects of homelessness on kids in Wake County.

Joined by a team from Community Action Targeting Children who are Homeless (CATCH), Haskett explained these youngsters are at risk from mental health problems because of constant exposure to poverty and violence as well as lack of proper health care.

After assessing the conditions of 328 homeless children in Wake County shelters, Haskett said that 25 percent of those between two months- and six-years-old required mental health services. That figure is at least double the general population.

Haskett and co-author Jenna Armstrong add that homeless children five- and six-years-old fared much worse in language and academic skills than kids from “normal” households.

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Proposed Updates to Dietary Guidelines Include Limits on Caffeine and ‘Empty Calories’

hemeroskopion/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — An advisory panel made its recommendations to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services in regards to an update of dietary guidelines for Americans for 2015.

In the 600-page report, the panel recommends setting daily limits for “empty calories,” or the solid fats and added sugars that “provide calories but few or no nutrients.” Those limits would vary by age and gender.

Children between the ages of two and eight would be urged to keep their “empty calories” at about 120 calories per day; children nine to 13 years old would be advised to keep that figure between 120 and 250 calories per day. Girls and women above the age of 14 would have their guidelines for “empty calories” set at 120 to 250 daily, while boys and men of the same age would be advised to stay between 160 and 330 calories.

The panel also recommends a daily limit of 400 milligrams of caffeine per day. Consumption of caffeine to that point “is not associated with adverse health consequences.” The average cup of coffee contains about 95 milligrams of caffeine, allowing up to four cups daily for coffee drinkers.

Finally, the panel placed more pressure on the food industry to promote healthy eating, urging the industry to encourage healthy eating by making low-fat or fat-free options default in restaurants, as well as fruit and non-fried vegetables in children’s meals. Further recommendations included whole wheat buns in restaurants and reformulated food by manufacturers to lower intake of sodium, added sugars, saturated fat and calories, while increasing consumption of whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell released a statement on the proposed guidelines, saying that they are “at the core of our efforts to promote the health and well-being of American families.” The two departments will now review the report and begin the process of updating those guidelines.

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Same-Sex Couple Blames Discrimination After Pediatrician Allegedly Refuses to See Their Newborn

byryo/iStock/Thinkstock(OAK PARK, Mich.) — A married same-sex couple in Michigan say they felt discriminated against after a pediatrician refused to see their newborn daughter, according to their attorney.

Jami and Krista Contreras of Oak Park, Michigan, welcomed their daughter, Bay, four months ago. Six days after Bay was born, the couple took the infant to a pediatrician, Dr. Vesna Roi, they had chosen after an earlier prenatal visit with the doctor, the couple’s attorney, Dana Nessel, told ABC News.

But after they arrived in the waiting room at Eastlake Pediatrics in Roseville, Michigan, Roi’s colleague came out to meet the family and told them that Roi had decided she couldn’t care for Bay, Nessel said.

Eastlake Pediatrics didn’t immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment.

Nessel said the couple had met with Roi after a long search for a pediatrician who worked in holistic medicine.

The couple immediately found a pediatrician elsewhere, but were still upset by their interaction. Nessel said they posted about their experience on Facebook and that they felt discriminated against because of their sexual orientation. The couple started to get responses from family and friends.

The couple decided to take their story public recently to show discrimination among LGBTQ people that they say is still occurring, according to Nessel. She also said the couple wanted to draw attention to other potential instances of discrimination, including a pending state law called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which could, in Nessel’s opinion, allow for people to discriminate based on their moral or religious beliefs.

Calls to Roi’s office and home were not immediately returned.

There are no laws in Michigan that protect lesbian, transgender, gay, bisexual or queer people from discrimination.

After Contreras posted about Roi allegedly dropping them as patients, the pediatrician apparently sent the couple a letter apologizing for not meeting them in person, but not changing her position.

The doctor wrote she “would not be able to develop the personal patient doctor relationship that I normally do with my patients,” according to a copy of the letter Nessel sent to ABC News on behalf of the couple.

Roi also wrote that she didn’t talk to them in person because she felt her presence “would take away much of the excitement” for the new parents. She also wrote in the letter she did not have their number to call them before they arrived for their first appointment with Bay.

Roi didn’t specifically write that she refused to treat Bay because of the couple’s sexual orientation, but both spouses and their lawyer said they believe Roi’s letter leaves no doubt about her motivation.

She added in the letter, ”Please know that I believe that God gives us free choice and I would never judge anyone based on what they do with that free choice.”

The couple has no plans to file a lawsuit or medical complaint, according to Nessel.

Medical ethics experts say Roi’s actions may have been legal, but are ethically complicated.

According to the American Medical Association, doctors should not “refuse care based on race, gender or sexual orientation,” but they can refuse specific treatments if they are incompatible with “personal, religious or moral beliefs.”

Dr. Margaret Moon, associate professor of pediatrics and a faculty member at the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics, said it’s acceptable that Roi felt she could not establish a patient-doctor relationship with the family, but said the doctor could have been upfront earlier.

“The family experienced distress and a sense of discrimination. The family experienced a harm,” Moon said. “The pediatrician could have handled this much differently.”

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Scopes Faulted for Hospital ‘Superbug’ Outbreak Were New, Cleaned Properly, Officials Say, FDA Offers Recommendations

Photo by David McNew/Getty Images(LOS ANGELES) — A California hospital apologized Thursday to patients who became infected with an antibiotic-resistant bug, and said it has identified the source of the infections: two contaminated endoscopes that were cleaned according to manufacturer instructions but retained the bug anyway.

Seven people have become infected with the drug-resistant “superbug” known as CRE at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center after undergoing endoscopy procedures, and CRE may have played a role in two of its patients’ deaths, the hospital said Wednesday afternoon, adding that 179 people were exposed to the germ.

The scopes were new and had only been in use since June, said Dr. Zachary Rubin, medical director of clinical epidemiology and infection prevention at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.

“There are several manufacturers for these scopes,” said Dr. Benjamin Schwartz, deputy chief of the acute communicable disease control program, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. “Because of the complexity of these scopes, which is necessary for the life-saving procedures for these scopes, they are very, very difficult to clean. The manufacturer recommendations were followed by UCLA.”

The first case occurred in mid-December when a patient became ill after undergoing endoscopy to examine his or her gallbladder, the hospital has learned.

“The patient developed almost immediately an infection afterwards with unusual bacteria that was resistant to strains of normally active antibiotics,” Rubin said, explaining that it took time to trace the cases back to this original patient.

The hospital has now taken all of its scopes out of use, and has implemented additional cleaning protocols beyond manufacturer recommendations. It has emailed and called all patients who underwent endoscopy from Oct. 23 through Jan. 28, officials said.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Thursday released a safety alert about duodenoscopes, the devices involved in the CRE outbreak in Los Angeles.

The alert aims to “raise awareness among health care professionals…that the complex design of ERCP endoscopes may impede effective reprocessing.” The administration defines reprocessing as “a detailed, multistep process to clean and disinfect or sterilize reusable devices.”

Even when done meticulously, however, the FDA is concerned that the process “may not entirely eliminate” the risk of transmitting infection.

The FDA also offered recommendations for reprocessing, including urging healthcare professionals to follow manufacturer instructions, report problems to the manufacturer, and adhering to best practices including the implementation of a comprehensive quality control program.

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