Review Category : Health

WHO Declares Zika Virus a Global Health Emergency

iStock/Thinkstock(GENEVA) — The World Health Organization declared Monday that the Zika virus has reached the status of a global emergency.

By deciding to declare that the mosquito-borne virus is a “public health emergency of international concern,” it allows more money, resources and scientific research to be dedicated to addressing the growing disease.

The last time that the international organization used such a classification was the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014.

Late last week, Margaret Chan, the director-general of the WHO, said that the level of alarm about Zika is already “extremely high.”

The current outbreak of the virus, which has been linked to babies being born with a birth defect known as microcephaly — abnormally small heads — has been traced back to Brazil, and it has since spread to a growing number of countries in Central and South America, as well as dozens of cases reported in the U.S. among people who had traveled to the region recently.

President Obama spoke to Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff on Friday about the ways that the countries can work together to address the growing issue.

“The leaders agreed on the importance of collaborative efforts to deepen our knowledge, advance research, and accelerate work to develop better vaccines and other technologies to control the virus,” the White House press office said in a statement Friday. “The leaders agreed to continue to prioritize building national, regional, and global capacity to combat infectious disease threats more broadly.”

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Your Body: Doing Yoga in the Snow

iStock/ThinkstockDR. JENNIFER ASHTON, ABC News Senior Medical Contributor

Forgot doing yoga in scorching hot temperatures — winter’s hottest trend is doing yoga in the snow.

“Snowga,” as it’s been dubbed, is great if you want to increase your balance, focus, concentration and muscle toning. That’s because most snowga classes typically focus on holding, standing or balancing poses such as tree pose, eagle pose, dancer’s pose or warrior pose.

So what should you know if you want to work out in the snow? Here are my tips:

  • Footwear is key.
  • Dress in layers. This way as you heat up, you can peel off some clothing and still stay warm.
  • Hydrate. You can get just as dehydrated in the cold as you can in the heat.

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WHO to Decide If Zika Virus Should Be Deemed a Global Health Emergency

iStock/Thinkstock(GENEVA) — The World Health Organization is meeting Monday to decide if the Zika virus has reached the status of a global emergency.

If it decides to declare the mosquito-borne virus is a “public health emergency of international concern,” then it would allow more money, resources and scientific research to be dedicated to addressing the growing disease.

The last time that the international organization used such a classification was the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014.

Late last week, Margaret Chan, the director-general of the WHO, said that the level of alarm about Zika is already “extremely high.”

The current outbreak of the virus, which has been linked to babies being born with a birth defect known as microcephaly — abnormally small heads — has been traced back to Brazil, and it has since spread to a growing number of countries in Central and South America, as well as dozens of cases reported in the U.S. among people who had traveled to the region recently.

President Obama spoke to Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff on Friday about the ways that the countries can work together to address the growing issue.

“The leaders agreed on the importance of collaborative efforts to deepen our knowledge, advance research, and accelerate work to develop better vaccines and other technologies to control the virus,” the White House press office said in a statement Friday. “The leaders agreed to continue to prioritize building national, regional, and global capacity to combat infectious disease threats more broadly.”

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All Your Zika Questions Answered

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — As the Zika virus spreads, many people are concerned and unsure about what the virus does and where it is transmitted. ABC News’ Chief Health and Medical Editor Dr. Richard Besser compiled a list of the most common questions and his answers.

@DrRichardBesser @RobinRoberts wife is pregnant and we have trip planned to Jamaica in Feb. Should we cancel?

— Nic (@NicN44) January 26, 2016

The number of countries with proven Zika virus transmission is growing. That is because according to the Pan American Health Association, the mosquito that transmits the virus is found in every country in the Americas except for Chile and Canada. That means the potential for disease transmission exists. If a country has transmission of dengue virus or Chikungunya virus, it likely will have Zika virus transmission since they are spread by the same mosquito. The CDC keeps a list of countries for which they have a travel advisory for pregnant women and some trying to get pregnant. However, the list will be continually changing and it’s possible that some countries not on the list may simply not be looking as hard for Zika.

For most people a Zika virus infection causes no symptoms at all. For those who develop symptoms, the illness is usually mild. However, there is growing evidence of a link between Zika virus infection during pregnancy and severe brain damage in the developing fetus. For that reason women who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant should avoid travel to affected countries if at all possible.

@DrRichardBesser @RobinRoberts I thought Zika did not transmit from person to person, just from mosquitoes. Is that incorrect?

— Aoife Toomey (@at_dc) January 26, 2016

The primary means of Zika virus transmission is by mosquito. To transmit the virus, a mosquito must bite a person who is infected with Zika virus and then bite another person. The virus is transmitted by the mosquito’s saliva. If you can avoid getting bitten by mosquitoes, you can prevent infections.

There is some evidence that in rare occasions Zika virus may be sexually transmitted, however, some scientists feel this needs additional confirmation. As an added precaution, health officials in the United Kingdom recommend that men who are returning from Zika-affected countries use condoms during sexual intercourse for days if their partner is pregnant or trying to conceive.

The virus is not transmitted by other forms of close contact.

@DrRichardBesser so ok to travel to Caribbean if no chance of pregnancy right?

— Shelly Snyder (@shelsnyder) January 26, 2016

Eighty percent of people will have no symptoms. Those who do get ill, many have a mild illness with fever, headache, rash, red eyes, and joint pain. There is some indication that Zika virus infection increases the risk of having a rare neurological condition called Guillain-Barré syndrome, a form of paralysis that is usually reversible. There are studies under way to look at this possible connection.

@GMA @DrRichardBesser if one did travel to a country that has Zika, how long to wait before getting pregnant

— Peg Wahrendorff (@pwdorff) January 26, 2016

There is much we don’t know about Zika virus since it has not been well studied and has been felt to be a mild illness. According to experts at the CDC and NIH, similar viruses do not linger in the body after a person has recovered from the infection. After a couple weeks virus is undetectable in the blood. Once the virus is gone, there should be no effect on future pregnancies.

@DrRichardBesser so ok to travel to Caribbean if no chance of pregnancy right?

— Shelly Snyder (@shelsnyder) January 26, 2016

There have been no cases of disease transmission in the United States. The mosquito that transmits Zika is found in many parts of the country so it is possible that there will be limited transmission once winter is over and mosquitoes get more active. Experts do not believe there will be widespread outbreaks in the United States for several reasons. We have not experienced widespread outbreaks of dengue fever and chikungunya, other diseases transmitted by the mosquito that spreads Zika. This may be because this mosquito, Aedes aegypti, tends to be a daytime, indoor biter. It breeds in water in and around the home. Since most homes in America have windows and screens, there are fewer opportunities to get bit and spread the infection.

@DrRichardBesser I’m planning to go to St. Croix USVI in March (28 weeks pregnant then), am I at risk? I would think I’m far enough along..

— Cameron Emily (@CameronEm87) January 26, 2016

There are many unanswered questions. It is not known whether there is a time during pregnancy when the virus no longer poses a risk. It is not known if there is a period that is riskiest for getting the infection. There are currently studies under way and being planned to answer these very important questions.

@GMA @DrRichardBesser Is Zika like malaria? Will it stay in ur system long term? If my kids are infected now, will it affect pregnancy L8r?

— Vanessa Weisman (@VAWeisman) January 26, 2016

Thankfully, Zika is very different than malaria. There is no evidence that Zika virus stays in your body after you have recovered from infection.

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‘Youngest’ Conjoined Twins Separated, Swiss Doctors Say

iStock/Thinkstock(BERN, Switzerland) — A pair of conjoined twins may have made history after their successful separation, according to Swiss doctors.

The babies, Lydia and Maya, were joined together by the liver and chest when they were born eight weeks premature in December at a hospital in Bern, Switzerland. According to BBC, the hospital said they both had their own vital organs despite being “extensively conjoined on the liver.”

The two are technically among triplets as well, and their sibling is fully separate and healthy.

According to BBC, doctors were planning to wait to do the surgery until they were older, but after they each suffered a life-threatening condition, they needed the operation.

A team of 13 doctors worked together to successfully separate the two girls. The hospital told BBC there was a 1 percent chance the operation would be a success and conjoined twins at their size had “never been successfully separated before.”

Lydia and Maya are now recovering in a hospital’s pediatric intesive care unit.

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FAA Makes it Easier for Transgender Pilots to Get Certified

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Transgender pilots are no longer considered to suffer from a gender identity disorder — that’s according to an updated medical guide at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which changed its terminology from “gender identity disorder” to what it now calls “gender dysphoria,” a more widely-accepted term within the LGBT community.

The FAA tells ABC News that the change was intended to streamline the process for transgender pilots and make sure pilots receive medical certification as quickly as possible. The federal agency was quick to note, however, that there is no new policy and the vast majority of transgender people who seek an FAA medical certificate get their certificate as long as they do not have disqualifying medical conditions.

“We have issued medical certificates to transgender pilots and air traffic controllers for many years,” the FAA said in a statement to ABC News.

“Previously, each case was managed at FAA Headquarters. If there was no prior history of associated mental health issues, after several years following gender re-assignment surgery, airmen were advised they were eligible for an unrestricted (regular) medical certificate,” the statement said. “No mental health status report was required.”

According to the updated Aviation Medical Examiner (AME) guide, transgender pilots who have either undergone gender re-assignment surgery five or more years ago, or have taken hormone therapy for for five or more years, are not required to submit a mental health status report.

However, those transgender pilots who have been taking hormone therapy or had a gender reassignment surgery within five years need to submit a mental health status report or an “evaluation from the treating physician, using World Professional Association for Transgender Health guidelines (WPATH), which addresses items listed in the Mental Health Status Report.”

Proponents of the change say the updated terminology doesn’t go far enough. Jessica Taylor, a transgender pilot who’s been flying for seven years, told ABC News that while it’s a big step forward for the transgender community, she’s still campaigning for the FAA to remove “gender dysphoria” from the AME guide altogether.

“I still cannot believe we are treating gender dysphoria as a separate issue from being a breathing human,” Taylor said.

One positive outcome, though, Taylor said, is that the updated AME guide has simplified things for transgender pilots.

“This has taken so much ambiguity for myself and every other airman for what the FAA is using as criteria for a transgender airman or airwoman,” Taylor said.

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Army Captain Father Meets Quadruplets for 1st Time Since Deployment

ABCNews.com(HINSDALE, Ill.) — An Army captain on deployment from South Korea came home to meet his newborn quadruplets for the first time.

Army Captain Anthony Burch arrived home Thursday to spend time with his wife, Mary Pat, who gave birth to the foursome — Henry, Molly, Nathaniel, and Samuel — last Sunday. The couple already has a nearly 2-year-old daughter, Alice.

Although Burch couldn’t be there in person for the delivery, he was able to witness the birth thanks to FaceTime.

“He could see the babies as they were taken to the warmers and he got the rundown on how they were doing and how much they weighed,” said his wife.

“I was very grateful because once we figured out I wasn’t going to be back in time — I was just grateful to be able to witness firsthand that they were healthy and safe and that my wife was healthy and safe,” he added.

The couple originally thought they were going to be expecting triplets. One ultrasound later and they found out there would be four babies.

“We wanted a big family, but we thought we’d be able to spread it out more,” said Mary Pat. “Instead, we got an instant upgrade.”

Though Anthony arrived home Thursday, he waited until the next morning to surprise his daughter Alice.

“We waited until the morning when we would normally wake her up. Instead of her mother going in to get her, it was me. It was tough because all night long I was just thinking about going in there and waking her up,” he said. “She was so excited.”

The quadruplets remained in the neonatal intensive care unit at AMITA Adventist Medical Center in Hinsdale, Illinois, on Saturday. The couple said the babies will spend a couple weeks in the NICU to gain strength, but they were doing phenomenally well.

Anthony will spend the next two weeks of his paternity leave visiting with the new additions to his family. The couple said they will be taking the quadruplets out of the NICU on Saturday to get them baptized.

Mary Pat and the babies plan to stay in Tinley Park with her parents until Anthony returns from South Korea in the summer.

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Major Zika Outbreak in the US Unlikely, Health Official Says

Anest/iStock/ThinkStock(WASHINGTON) – The Zika virus outbreak is unlikely to spread quickly to the United States, a top health official said Friday.

“Zika is not coming up the coast so you don’t have to worry,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in remarks to the Economic Club of Washington, D.C.
“We’ve not seen a major outbreak” in the continental U.S., Fauci said, adding that the NIH and its counterparts are not taking the issue lightly.

“What we do is prepare for a major outbreak,” Fauci said. “In reality, we believe it is unlikely it will happen.”

The Zika virus is spread to humans through a mosquito bite. Pregnant woman are most impacted by the virus because it can lead to microcephaly in newborns. The birth defect causes babies to be born with abnormally small heads and brains. Microcephaly has been linked to seizures, hearing loss, vision problems, developmental delays and difficulty swallowing.

Symptoms of the virus can last from several days to a week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms include fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis.

The CDC has issued a travel alert of countries that pregnant women should avoid, which includes Puerto Rico, Brazil, Mexico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Ecuador, Haiti, Guatemala, Dominican Republic and Barbados.

Fauci said the Food and Drug Administration is looking into restricting those who can participate in donating blood due to the outbreak but he isn’t aware of any other major precautionary steps being prepared by the government, such as screening people at airports.

Right now the best way to combat the virus is to control the mosquitoes that carry and transmit the virus, he said. Individuals can also use insect repellent and wear long sleeves and pants to protect themselves from being bit.

Fauci said it would take “a few years” for a vaccine to be widely available due to the regulatory process, although the testing phase could begin by the end of the year.

“I don’t expect the widespread use of an approved regulatory vaccine for at least a few years,” he said.

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Zika Virus in Rio: Doctor Treating Infants Says ‘This is Scary’

Anson_iStock/iStock/ThinkStock(NEW YORK) – A Brazilian doctor working with 130 infants born with the rare birth defect associated with exposure to the Zika virus in utero — microcephaly — said the disease has been frightening for both patients and doctors.

“This was the first time we related Zika virus to microcephaly,” Dr. Camilla Ventura is an ophthalmologist at the Altino Ventura hospital told ABC News. “This is scary.”

Microcephaly has been associated with the Zika virus in Brazil after the outbreak started last May. More than 4,000 infants have been born in the country with the condition, characterized by an abnormally small head and brain.

“We are dealing with disease that we have no information about and we, the Brazilians are responding differently from what we expected to see,” Ventura said of the Zika virus.

Ventura said the team is testing various aspects of the infants’ comprehension and reaction to see what, if any, developmental delays they have.

Ventura demonstrated with one young patient how they used toys and sound as tests.

The doctor said the birth defects have been difficult not only for the children but for the parents and that mothers have come in depressed or with other psychological problems as a result.

“Many of the mothers, they did not know that their babies had issues and it was as surprise not only for the doctors but for these mothers, they were not expecting at all,” Ventura said. “Many got depressed.”
Ventura said they started group counseling sessions to help mothers cope with the birth defects.

“Little by little we are working with these mothers, they are exchanging experience,” she said. “They can open themselves, they can express their feelings.”

The key, she said, is to teach the mothers how to help their infants outside of the clinic. Ventura said the infants are doing better and better with therapies.

“It’s very important to not only come to the center weekly but also mothers they have to learn to treat these babies at home,” she said.

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German Shepherd Named Quasimodo Living With Rare Spinal Condition

Courtesy of Emily Ochs(EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn.) — Quasimodo, a sweet German shepherd with a rare spinal condition, is looking for a forever home.

“Quasimodo has nothing wrong with him. He’s just a little different than ‘normal’ dogs,” said Sara Anderson of Secondhand Hounds animal rescue in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. “His body is compressed because of his condition [short spine syndrome], so all of his organs are crammed in his belly.”

Anderson, 31, told ABC News that she first heard about Quasi through a shelter contact in Kentucky.

“His personality is amazing,” she said. “He is one of the sweetest, most loving dogs, once he trusts you. He has a great ‘spunk’ about him.”

Anderson, who’s a “sucker for special needs dogs,” said Quasi’s temporary foster family explained the pup was named after the character Quasimodo–the protagonist from the film “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.”

“The Quasi of Secondhand Hounds is our hero because he is the definition of the qualities we all admire in our dogs,” the foster parent said. “Born different, but never knowing any other way, he seeks to please the people who have shown him kind hands and warm hearts. He may not be as pretty as many dogs on the outside, but his heart and soul shine through and make him one of God’s most beautiful creatures.”

Anderson said that Quasi would be seeing a specialist Friday to find out more about his spinal condition that causes him to appear hunched.

Quasi now has his own Facebook page — “Quasi the Great” — with 1,100 fans and counting.

“I hope to bring awareness to animals in shelters and rescues,” Anderson said. “I want to bring awareness to special needs pets. Just because they’re not ‘normal’ doesn’t mean that they’re not special…that they’re not worth it. Special needs just mean that they’re a special pet.”

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