Review Category : Health

Bring Zika-Fighting GMO Mosquitos to Puerto Rico, Says Congressman

naruedom/iStock/Thinkstock(SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico) — As the number of Zika cases in Puerto Rico skyrocket into the thousands, Congressman Pedro Pierluisi, the island’s sole representative, has called for zika-fighting, genetically-modified mosquitoes to be considered for deployment on the island as one way of combating the mosquito-borne illness that is ravaging the Caribbean island.

In an interview with ABC News, Pierluisi said, “We should be thinking out of the box.”

The virus has infected over 5,500 people living on the island, including at least 676 pregnant women. By comparison, the total for the entire mainland U.S. is just over 1,600.

“I have written to the FDA, the CDC, I have raised the issue in Congress,” Pierluisi told ABC News. “If it is being used in Florida, it should be used in Puerto Rico as well!”

The congressman, who is allowed to advocate on behalf of the island but cannot vote in Congress, also said more needs to be done to develop a vaccine to protect against the virus.

“Because the virus is starting to affect the mainland, finally someone is starting to pay attention,” the congressman said. “As a territory, Puerto Rico often becomes an afterthought for federal authorities.”

According to the CDC, “Hundreds to thousands more pregnant women in Puerto Rico could become infected with Zika by the end of the year.”

Dr. Steve Waterman, chief of the CDC’s Dengue Branch in Puerto Rico, told ABC News that his agency projects that 25 to 40 percent of the island will be infected with Zika by the end of the year.

Genetically-modified mosquitoes have been developed by multiple companies but all are considered experimental in the U.S. and none have been approved for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Getting approval for using GMO mosquitoes throughout Puerto Rico is likely to take months or even years. The modified insects are considered an “animal drug,” meaning there is no emergency fast-track approval for “compassionate use” as there is for human drugs, and the technology would be subject to rigorous review.

As ABC reported last month, genetically-modified mosquitos designed by the British biotech company Oxitec could be tested in a small Florida island later this year pending approval by the FDA and local officials.

That trial has been met with resistance by some members of the community.

Additionally, Oxitec CEO Haydn Parry told ABC News that he has not been contacted by the Puerto Rican government for use of the company’s technology, dubbed OX51A3. He said even if the technology was approved tomorrow, it would take months to set up the infrastructure needed to release the mosquitoes on a widespread scale.

“The [FDA] animal drug system is a long-term slow pathway. If we are going to help in Puerto Rico, you’d have to have emergency-use authorization,” he explained.

Parry disagreed that emergency action should not be considered just because the mosquito is classified as an animal drug.

The FDA “needs to find a way to move that forward because the objective is to help human health,” he said.

The FDA declined to speak about the possibility of a mosquito trial in Puerto Rico, since an application for such a trial has not been submitted.

It’s unclear how the genetically-modified insects would be received on the island, which has been a U.S. territory since 1952 and is home to nearly 3.5 million people.

While the virus has reached epidemic proportions on the island, some interventions have been resisted.

On July 6, the CDC urged island officials to begin an aerial spraying campaign to combat the virus using a chemical called “Naled.”

That chemical is toxic to fish, birds, and bees, but does not generally pollute soil or water, according to the Extension Toxicology Network, a collaborative project between several major universities that is hosted by Cornell University.

The proposal was met with street protests, and was eventually killed.

The first phase 1 clinical trials on humans for a Zika vaccine began on Tuesday, National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Anthony Fauci said Wednesday. The trial includes 80 volunteers between the ages of 18 and 35, and is expected to produce data by the end of the year.

Without additional funding from Congress, however, the planning necessary for an eventual Phase 2 would be “significantly” slowed, Fauci said. In the best case scenario, Fauci estimated that a vaccine could be available for use in early 2018.

The vaccine as currently being tested, if approved, would be used for women who are not yet pregnant but who are of childbearing age. Ultimately, Fauci said, a vaccine would also ideally cover sexual partners of any such women.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

Average Weight of American Men is 15 Pounds More Than 20 Years Ago

TonyYao/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — With larger portion sizes and many foods higher in fat, it’s not a surprise to find that the average weight of American men has increased by about 15 pounds over the last two decades, according to a new study published Wednesday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“[This rate] is always a cause for alarm,” Dr. Goutham Rao, Chairman of the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health at Case Western Medical Center told ABC News.

He said rising obesity rates continue to be a major source of health problems for many Americans. “The prevalence of obesity in adults has increased since 2006, and this is true for kids as well. We are even seeing more children with adult problems, like high blood pressure.”

Rao said he sees more patients every day with obesity-related illnesses.

“Obesity is not just related to diabetes and heart disease,” he said. Patients “are having problems with their mobility, arthritis, and there is a psychological component as well.”

Researchers from the CDC found that the average weight of U.S. men over the age of 20 has increased to 195.7 pounds, according to data from 2011 to 2014. The former average, 180.7 lbs. was based on data from 1988-1994. The heights of both men and women remained about the same.

Women and children are not immune to the slow weight gain of recent decades,either. The average woman in 1960 weighed 140.2 pounds. Today, the average weight for women is 168.5 pounds. Adolescent boys and girls seem to be the most at risk, with a 12 pound average weight gain — proportionately more based on height — compared to 20 years ago.

Rao said the increase in weight gain over the past 50 years is due to many factors, since body weight is determined by genetics as well as environment.

But the news isn’t all bad. According to CDC data, the rate at which American men are gaining weight is slowing down. Since 2002, U.S. men increased their average weight by just 5 pounds.

Researchers in the study used data on weight, height, circumference and other body measurements from 19,151 participants in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, between 2011-2014.

While the rate of weight gain has decreased, experts say the overall increase in weight is still worrying.

Rao said there are basic steps people can take to begin losing weight. Choosing to drink water instead of beverages that contain calories and taking a walk around the neighborhood are some small changes in daily routine that can have a big impact on health.

He also said that people who are trying to lose weight should not focus on the number of pounds lost or a certain deadline for the weight loss. “Think about adopting healthy behaviors that can last a lifetime,” Rao said.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

Why Zika Virus is Unlikely to Become ‘Endemic’ in the Continental US

ABC News(NEW YORK) — An outbreak of locally-transmitted Zika virus in Florida has led to the infection of 14 people and a massive effort by local and state health officials to stem the spread of the virus. While health experts have long predicted a small outbreak like this in the continental U.S., there is less concern that the virus could reach widespread, epidemic levels or become a permanent problem in the way West Nile has remained in the U.S. since 1999.

While the mosquito-borne Zika virus has drawn some comparisons with the West Nile virus, experts say the Zika virus will likely behave very differently and there seems to be less chance of having the virus end up “endemic” — representing a “constant presence and/or usual prevalence” that remains “in a population within a geographic area,” according to the CDC — as West Nile has.

The West Nile virus, which can live in birds, insects and humans, initially appeared in North America in 1999 when it infected many people. In recent years West Nile has continued to be present, but no longer causes widespread outbreaks.

Experts say that lessons from West Nile suggest that Zika is less easily spread across the U.S.

Dr. Stephen Morse, an infectious disease expert at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, explained that since Zika virus is present mainly in mosquitoes and humans there is less chance it will live on in the wild, after steps have been taken to stop an outbreak.

“West Nile has a natural ecology in birds and mosquitoes so it has a place to maintain itself in a natural reservoir,” outside of humans, he explained.

Morse said in some countries with large populations of primates, there’s a higher chance the virus could remain endemic, but that it was less likely to occur in the U.S. Additionally Morse said there is less chance that large swaths of people in the U.S. will be infected since many people have either air conditioning or keep screens on windows, which keep out mosquitoes.

Craig Levy, an Epidemiologist and Zoologist at the Maricopa County Department of Public Health, has studied West Nile and dealt with a local outbreak of the virus. He said responding to West Nile outbreaks can help health officials respond to Zika so that they don’t underestimate the situation.

Most important is to have “response plans ready” and to “be flexible as things may not occur as we expect it to,” Levy said.

He added that he doubted the Zika virus would return year after year as West Nile has, as long as health officials are able to reduce or eliminate the affected-Aedes Aegypti mosquito population.

Officials remain concerned about the Zika virus and the chance, even if unlikely, that it could become a permanent problem in the U.S.

Today the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) announced they were kicking off a trial for a possible Zika vaccine — a beginning for new treatment options, but one that will not be ready for several years.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

SC Resident Hospitalized After Being Exposed to Brain-Eating Amoeba

iStock/Thinkstock(CHARLESTON COUNTY, S.C.) — A South Carolina resident has contracted a rare brain-eating infection after swimming in the Edisto River in Charleston County, according to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC).

Lab tests conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that the infection resulted from exposure to the organism Naegleria fowleri. The infection is fatal in about 95 percent of cases, according to SCDHEC.

“Naegleria fowleri causes the disease primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM), a brain infection that leads to the destruction of brain tissue. In its early stages, symptoms of PAM may be similar to symptoms of bacterial meningitis,” the CDC states on its website. “The disease progresses rapidly and usually causes death within about five days.”

Dr. Linda Bell, state epidemiologist at SCDHEC, said in a statement that “this organism occurs naturally and is all around us and is present in many warm water lakes, rivers and streams, but infection in humans is very rare. In fact, there have been fewer than 40 cases reported nationwide in the past 10 years.”

The organism is only found in freshwater bodies, and not in salty ocean water.

To prevent the infection, Bell advises avoiding swimming or jumping into bodies of warm freshwater when water levels are low. She also recommends holding your nose or using a nose plug. A person cannot be infected from just drinking water containing the amoeba, Bell says.

Heather Woolwine, spokesperson for the Medical University of South Carolina, confirmed to ABC News that the resident was being treated at the facility for the infection, but could not provide any further information.

Dr. William Schaffner, an expert of infectious disease, told ABC News earlier this year that avoiding all freshwater may be impractical since the “amoeba are in small numbers everywhere.”

“They go hibernate in the winter time. They’re part of natural environment,” he said.

Symptoms of Naegleria fowleria infection include headache, fever, nausea or vomiting. Later symptoms are stiff neck, confusion, lack of attention to people and surroundings, lack of balance, seizures, and hallucinations, according to the CDC.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

NIAID Warns Zika Vaccine Trial Could Be Slowed Without New Funding

iStock/Thinkstock(BETHESDA, Md.) — Federal health officials warned that without additional government funding, a critical part of the Zika vaccine trial could be delayed.

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has started testing a candidate for its first Zika vaccine Wednesday. On a call with reporters, NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci said that this Phase I part of the trial will involve 80 volunteers between the ages of 18 to 35.

This first step in the trial is designed to test the vaccine’s safety. If that is successful, the trial will progress to a Phase II part of the trial, where many more people will be studied in various locations across the globe to see if the vaccine is safe and effective.

Fauci told reporters that without additional funding, this critical Phase II part of the trial could likely be delayed.

“When I say we’re going to run out of money soon I mean really soon,” Fauci said. He pointed out that normally researchers would start to prepare clinics and subjects for a Phase II trial to start in January, on the assumption the Phase I trial goes well.

“We cannot afford to delay the work to develop a safe and effective vaccine,” Fauci said.

A push for $1.9 billion by President Barack Obama to fight the Zika virus has remained stalled in Congress, which is currently out of session for the August recess.

The vaccine uses DNA fragments of the Zika virus to prime the immune system to recognize and fight the virus. A similar vaccine was developed by NIAID for the West Nile Virus.

Fauci cautioned that even if all the trial goes well, a Zika vaccine will likely not be approved for widespread use soon. Should the Phase II trial start on time in January, it will not be until the following year that researchers get the results. The Phase II trial would then be followed by a Phase III trial before getting final approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The NIAID vaccine is one of a number of vaccine candidates being studied as a possible way to stop the spread of the Zika virus. Fauci said even if the vaccine is not approved for years, researchers anticipate the virus will likely return in future years in countries where the virus has reach epidemic levels.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

Feds Fund New Registry for Babies Suffering from Zika-Related Microcephaly

iStock/Thinkstock(ATLANTA) — The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has announced new funds to create a registry aimed at helping babies born with microcephaly, the birth defect stemming from mothers contracting the Zika virus.

The $16 million, funded from the previously re-appropriated Ebola funds, is to help quickly notify families of resources, while helping to create a way to monitor and track developmental outcomes of the children impacted by the serious birth defect, characterized by an abnormally small head and brain, leading to significant developmental problems.

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell told ABC News the purpose of the funds going to 40 states is to help connect the families to services and information.

“It will go to each of the states and the states will have programs in terms of both tracking and making sure the information is coming in, as well as figuring out ways that those states are going to support those parents,” she explained. “It’s also important for some of the babies — understanding what the microcephaly will look like over a period of time is very important to better understanding the disease. So, the babies will then be tracked in terms of developmental milestones and other things.”

Microcephaly has a wide range of associated symptoms, depending on the condition’s severity. Researchers expect there to be a spectrum of other issues stemming from Zika-infected pregnancies.

“There are many unknowns in terms of when women may get it during their pregnancy,” Burwell said. “We want to learn as much as we can as quickly as we can, as well as make sure we support those families of microcephaly children.”

There have been 13 cases in the U.S. where babies have been born to a mother infected with the Zika virus contracted overseas, but Burwell said health officials expect more over time.

The 40 states and territories receiving the funding are: Alabama, New Hampshire, American Samoa, New Jersey, Arizona, New Mexico, California, New York, Connecticut, North Carolina, Florida, Northern Mariana, Georgia, Ohio, Guam, Oklahoma, Hawaii, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Puerto Rico, Indiana, Rhode, Iowa, South Carolina, Kansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Texas, Louisiana, Utah, Maryland, Vermont, Massachusetts, Virginia, Minnesota, Virgin Islands, Mississippi, West Virginia, Missouri and Wisconsin.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

‘Workout Wednesday’ on “GMA”: Celebrity Trainer Noah Neiman Leads a Live-Stream Workout

Noah Neiman/ABC News(NEW YORK) — Noah Neiman is a celebrity trainer who has helped stars including Katie Holmes, Naomi Campbell, Jake Gyllenhaal and Kanye West get in shape for the red carpet.

Neiman, a Barry’s Bootcamp master instructor and Nike-sponsored trainer, is leading a live-streamed workout Wednesday on Good Morning America for “Workout Wednesday.” In the series, top fitness personalities lead workouts that are live-streamed on every Wednesday morning.

Read below for all you need to know about Neiman’s “Workout Wednesday” workout.


Your own energy! No equipment needed.


Bootcamp-style, incorporating elements of strength and conditioning work and boxing.


1) Learn to be okay with being uncomfortable. Strengthening your body is a challenge. Just like most areas in life, the biggest rewards come after the greatest struggle. Strength, health, and confidence in your body are feelings earned and not given. UPS doesn’t show up at your door to deliver them to you. This workout will give your body the reason to get stronger, and more importantly, it will show you that you’re strong enough to do it. We aren’t made of glass. This workout is just a friendly little reminder

3) Always feel like a Beyonce commanding the workout. Whether you’re in shape or out. Confidence can change your whole game up. It’s okay to feel awkward, especially doing new things, but have fun with it. Never let feelings of self consciousness deter your commitment. Everyone starts as a beginner. Even if you’re squatting or throwing a punch for the very first time, commit and own every move like the swaggy spirit of Muhammad Ali is coursing through your muscles.

3) Become a master at the basics. “Workout Wednesday” will feature a lot of moves that you can consistently do in order to get better at them. When we get better at basic movement patterns, our body gets stronger and more efficient (healthier).

Bonus: Noah’s Tips to Maximize Your Workout Burn

1) The best way to lose weight, which is a big reason people train nowadays, is to strength train. Don’t focus on a cardio-based program, especially one centered around extended low-intensity jogging or steady-state cardio. There is very little caloric burn during and there are only slight added benefits after. When we build muscle,our body becomes better able to burn calories throughout the day, even when we aren’t working out. We release hormones that put our body in a better position to stay at a favorable weight. The more muscle the better. Don’t worry. You will NOT end up looking like the cover of a bodybuilding magazine, ladies. You don’t have the hormones or eat enough for that!

2) I’m guilty of this. Fitness professionals love to post crazy videos of the insane fetes they have trained their bodies to achieve. That is NOT what it takes to get stronger and healthier. We just do that for the ‘gram. What we DO do as professionals is go in everyday and get stronger at the basics. Don’t be intimidated by what you see on social media. That is not real life folks!

3) Focus on enjoying the journey, not being consumed by the end goal. It’s ironic, the more I trained to get a certain look, the more daunting working out was. I started training 18 years ago because I was out of shape and thought that a slick set of abs would make me happy. I struggled to stay consistent and hated every minute of working out. The more I focused on how good the workout made me feel after, and not the aesthetics, the more consistent I became. I learned to love the process, as hard as it was sometimes. I did end up getting those abs one day, but I found that happens long before that point.

Visit every Wednesday starting at 8 a.m. ET for a new workout! Upcoming workouts include an Olympics-inspired workout led by Men’s Health magazine’s BJ Gaddour and a Pilates workout led by Sebastien Lagree.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

Your Body: Tips for Taking the Sleep Aid Ambien

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

A man recently called 9-1-1 to say that he was in the wreckage of a crashed cargo plane with three unconscious passengers. But one problem — there was no plane crash. The man was really home in bed experiencing an Ambien-fueled hallucination.

Police say the man took only half an Ambien when he couldn’t sleep after having surgery. Because of the hallucination, he actually called 9-1-1 thinking he’d been in an airplane crash.

In most people, prescription sleep aids are safe and effective for short term use, but problems can arise when used with other medications, alcohol or in some people with seemingly no warning.

Here’s what I discuss with my patients who are considering a medication like Ambien:

  1. If using Ambien for the first time, try to wait for a Friday or Saturday night so you can rest the next day if you’re not working.
  2. Never combine Ambien with other drugs like Xanax or Valium or alcohol.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

Local Zika Virus Infection Diagnosed Outside of Affected Area in Miami

iStock/Thinkstock(MIAMI) — A new case of locally transmitted Zika virus has been diagnosed outside of the 1-square-mile outbreak area in northern Miami initially identified by health officials, the Florida Health Department said Tuesday.

The new case raises the total number of locally acquired Zika infections from mosquitoes to 15 in Miami-Dade County. The Florida Health Department has identified a square-mile section of Miami as the area where the virus is being transmitted and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned pregnant women to stay away from that area to avoid being infected.

Although the newest Zika case was identified outside of the affected area, the Florida Health Department released a statement saying they still believe that transmission of the Zika virus is “only taking place within the identified one-square-mile area in Miami.”

Since the first cases in the outbreak were identified, the health department has interviewed more than 340 people in the area to see if the virus has spread. Mosquito control is currently spraying the area to reduce the mosquito population further and the investigation into the outbreak is ongoing.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

Zika Outbreak Timeline: How Our Understanding of the Disease Has Changed

iStock/Thinkstock(MIAMI) — The Zika virus was first identified in 1947 and did not receive much attention from scientists until last year’s outbreak in Brazil.

Massive amounts of resources have now been dedicated to understanding and stopping the virus that has been linked to the birth defect microcephaly.

Here’s a rundown at the major events of the Zika outbreak.

Zika virus first discovered in primates in Zika forrest in Africa.

May 2015:
Brazil confirms locally-acquired Zika cases; the disease had not been found in South America prior. The virus had previously caused outbreaks in French Polynesia and other South Asian countries. In adults, the disease causes mild symptoms including fever, rash and pink eye that usually go away in a week.

October-November 2015:
The virus spreads quickly in South America and health departments start to see cases in Cabo Verde and Colombia in October. The following month new cases are reported in Panama, El Salvador, Mexico, Guatemala and Paraguay.

November 11, 2015:
Brazilian officials issue a National Public Health Emergency after a large increase of microcephaly cases. The birth defect is characterized by an abnormally small head and is associated with serious developmental delays or sometimes death.

November 17, 2015:

Amniotic fluid from two pregnant women in Brazil test positive for Zika, leading to fears that the virus can be passed from a mother’s placenta to a developing fetus.

December 2015:
Zika is reported in Honduras, French Guiana and Martinique.

December 31, 2015:
U.S. reports its first locally acquired Zika case in Puerto Rico. The island now has 4,666 locally-acuired cases, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

January 2016:
Cases are reported in Ecuador, Barbados, Bolivia, Haiti, Saint Martin, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, French Polynesia, Curacao, Suriname and Jamaica.

January 12, 2016:
CDC finds Zika in the brain tissues of babies born with microcephaly, thus providing strong evidence for the association of Zika and microcephaly.

January 15, 2016:

U.S. advises pregnant women to avoid travel to endemic areas or to take precautions against mosquito bites.

February 2, 2016:
U.S. reports cases of male-to-female sexual transmission of Zika in Texas from a person who had traveled from Venezuela. Zika was known to be able to be transmitted sexually but researchers initially did not anticipate how often it would be able to be transmitted through sexual contact.

February 4, 2016:
Brazil reports a case of Zika transmission through blood transfusion.

April 13, 2016:

After extensive reviews of medical literature, the CDC confirms the Zika virus can cause the rare and devastating birth defect microcephaly.

“It is now clear that the virus causes microcephaly,” CDC Director Tom Frieden said. “We’ve now confirmed what mounting evidence has suggested, affirming our early guidance to pregnant women and their partners to take steps to avoid Zika infection and to health care professionals who are talking to patients every day. We are working to do everything possible to protect the American public.”

April 15, 2016:
CDC confirms first male-to-male sexual transmission cases in Texas. This is the first time the disease had been known to spread between two male partners.

May 2016:
Cases are reported in Grenada, Belize and Argentina.

July 15, 2016:

CDC confirms first female-to-male sexual transmission cases in New York. This was the first time the virus was found to spread from a female to her partner through sexual contact. The CDC now advises anyone with a pregnant partner to avoid unprotected sex for the duration of the pregnancy.

July 26, 2016:
Inovio Pharmaceuticals and GeneOne start vaccine trials.

July 29, 2016:
Florida Gov. Rick Scott confirms four cases of locally-acquired Zika in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties.

“This is not just a Florida issue. This is a U.S. issue. It is a national issue. We’re just the front of it,” Scott said during a news conference.

August 1, 2016: CDC issues travel advisory for pregnant women to the Wynwood neighborhood in Miami, Florida. It’s one of the first times in modern history that the CDC has implemented a travel warning within the continental U.S. over a disease outbreak.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →