Review Category : Health

Number of People Without Health Insurance in the US on the Decline

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Things are apparently looking up in the effort to provide health insurance coverage to more Americans.

The National Health Interview Survey, which studies civilian populations across the U.S., published its estimates for the first nine months of 2015, based on interviews with a representative sample of nearly 80,000 people.

The report says 28.8 million people were uninsured at the time of interview in 2015, which is 7.2 million fewer uninsured than in 2014. Overall, the percentage of uninsured persons, both adults and children, fell from 11.5 percent in 2014 to 9.1 percent in 2015.

States that expanded Medicaid coverage to those with low incomes saw their percentage of uninsured people drop to a larger degree than those states which did not.

The report shows the largest magnitude of decline was seen in poor and near-poor populations, although non-poor persons showed a decline as well.

Racial difference also remained a prominent factor, according to the report. Hispanics continued to show the highest proportion of uninsured persons, at 27.9 percent.

Researchers note that the proportion of uninsured people had been on the rise from 1997 to 2010, and then stabilized until 2013. The current decline continues a downward trend that has been detected since 2013.

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Zika Virus May Be Linked to Infant Eye Abnormalities, Study Says

iStock/Thinkstock(RIO DE JANEIRO) — The Zika virus may be associated with another birth defect in infants, according to a new study published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association Ophthalmology.

Researchers from Brazil found that some infants exposed to the virus had ocular defects including atrophied retinas, abnormal iris pigmentation and lens that moved out of place.

The Zika virus has spread exponentially across the Americas, and especially in Brazil, since the outbreak was identified in May 2015. Brazil was the first to raise the alarm that the virus could be linked to a rare birth defect called microcephaly, characterized by an abnormally small head and brain in infants.

This study is the first to possibly connect the virus to eye abnormalities in newborns.

Researchers focused on 29 infants with microcephaly in Brazil. They found that 23 mothers reported Zika-like symptoms during their pregnancy. Of the affected infants, 10 had ocular abnormalities that ranged from minor to “vision-threatening” defects. Both eyes were affected in seven out of the 10 infants.

The most common defects were mottled pigments and atrophy. The optic nerve was also found to be abnormal in some of the infants.

Dr. Buddy Creech, an associate professor of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said other viruses, including herpes and rubella, are known to cause ocular birth defects in infants.

“This idea of a virus contracted during pregnancy causing damage to the central nervous system is not a shocking finding,” Creech said.

Although the case study was small, Creech said these kinds of investigations will be key to uncovering how the Zika virus works and where there are “windows of risk” for pregnant women.

“We’re learning about this virus and we don’t know what to expect,” said Creech. “We need papers like this that give us ability to move further down the road.”

The researchers said they could not definitively link the ocular defects to the Zika virus until there were more studies to rule out that the ocular lesions were not caused by other diseases including West Nile or toxoplasmosis.

ABC News’ Chief Health and Medical Editor Dr. Richard Besser said this early study highlighted concerns that there could be an unknown “spectrum” of effects related to the Zika virus.

“One of the reasons that CDC [Centers for Disease Control] wants to create a registry of potentially exposed pregnant women is the recognition that for most infections that can damage the fetus, there is a spectrum of effects,” said Besser, adding that rubella can also cause hearing loss and visual problems even if microcephaly does not develop. “Microcephaly may just be the tip of the iceberg.”

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Make-A-Wish Gives Kidney Transplant Survivor a Renovated Truck

iStock/Thinkstock(GREENWICH, Conn.) — Strangers from around the country came together to make over a pickup truck for an 18-year-old kidney transplant survivor.

Nick Cesarini, of Greenwich, Connecticut, was surprised with the truck Saturday in a reveal so dramatic his twin sister flew home from college to attend it. Even his elderly grandfather made a rare trip out of the house to see his grandson’s reaction.

“I was blown away,” Cesarini said. “I wasn’t expecting half of the things they’d done to it.”

Cesarini was born with a kidney condition that worsened as he became older. By the time he was a junior in high school, Cesarini had to travel 30 minutes three times each week for dialysis.

“I would get out of school a little early and then by the time treatment was over and I was home it’d be 9 p.m.,” Cesarini said. “I remember it like it was yesterday.”

Cesarini said he received a kidney transplant in December 2014 and has since been rebuilding his life. The college student purchased his own truck, a Ford F-250, last August from a local car dealership.

The teen’s wish was to have the Make-A-Wish Foundation revamp his truck.

“It was always a dream for me to have a truck,” Cesarini said.

The truck landed in the hands of Red Line Restorations, Inc., a Bridgeport, Connecticut, auto shop that specializes in restoring European and race cars. The shop made an exception for Cesarini.

“Nick and his dad came out to us with his truck and showed us the list of all the things he wanted done,” Red Line Restorations’ PJ Pitcher told ABC News. “You’d hope for him to have his dream of what he wants to come true be everything he wanted.”

While reviewing Cesarini’s long wish list, Pitcher discovered that the truck also needed a new transmission. That repair alone would have blown the $5,000 Make-A-Wish budget, according to Pitcher.

“I called Nick and told him and he said, ‘Well, I’d rather have a truck that’s reliable that I can drive than one that looks cool parked in my driveway,’” Pitcher recalled. “I said in my head, ‘We’re really going to go above and beyond for his wish.’”

Pitcher said Scott Johnson, who is involved in the local Make-A-Wish chapter, repaired Cesarini’s transmission for free. The Redline Restorations team then sought help from colleagues around the country who donated tires, rims, windows and more.

“As far as Nick knew, all he was getting back was his truck with a new transmission,” Pitcher said. “That let us surprise him.”

“When he pulled the sheet off it was this beautiful, jet-black monster of a truck,” he said of Saturday’s reveal. “He was literally at a loss for words.”

Cesarini said nothing can hold him back from driving his new truck.

“Unfortunately it’s snowing right now but I’ve already burned through a tank of gas,” he said. “My friends love it. My family loves it. It’s a great experience.”

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Zika Virus Outbreak: Florida Expands State of Emergency

iStock/Thinkstock(TALLAHASSEE, Fla.) — New cases of people diagnosed with the Zika virus in Florida has prompted government officials to expand a state of emergency to two additional counties, for a total of seven counties.

The Florida Surgeon General and Secretary of Health Dr. John Armstrong announced Monday that 16 people in total have been diagnosed with the Zika virus.

The counties now under a public health emergency are Broward, Hillsborough, Lee, Miami-Dade, Osceloa, Santa Rosa and St. Johns.

Armstrong urged residents to help stop mosquito activity by draining “standing water weekly, no matter how seemingly small. A couple drops of water in a bottle cap can be a breeding location for mosquitoes.”

Meanwhile, in related news, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, said on Monday the U.S. is “better prepared” for an outbreak of the Zika virus compared to last year.

“I think we are clearly better prepared for an outbreak like Zika then [we] were, let’s say, a year or so ago,” Fauci told reporters. “I think that’s testified by the fact that we have responded very, very rapidly to this. We had the president of the United States involved in a very thorough briefing and briefings of this very early on.”

Unlike the Ebola outbreak, where the outbreak was not identified for weeks to months, the response to the Zika virus outbreak has been swift, Fauci said.

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Numbers of People Without Health Insurance in the US on the Decline

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Things are apparently looking up in the effort to provide health insurance coverage to more Americans.

The National Health Interview Survey, which studies civilian populations across the U.S., published its estimates for the first nine months of 2015, based on interviews with a representative sample of nearly 80,000 people.

The report says 28.8 million people were uninsured at the time of interview in 2015, which is 7.2 million fewer uninsured than in 2014. Overall, the percentage of uninsured persons, both adults and children, fell from 11.5 percent in 2014 to 9.1 percent in 2015.

States that expanded Medicaid coverage to those with low incomes saw their percentage of uninsured people drop to a larger degree than those states which did not.

The report shows the largest magnitude of decline was seen in poor and near-poor populations, although non-poor persons showed a decline as well.

Racial difference also remained a prominent factor, according to the report. Hispanics continued to show the highest proportion of uninsured persons, at 27.9 percent.

Researchers note that the proportion of uninsured people had been on the rise from 1997 to 2010, and then stabilized until 2013. The current decline continues a downward trend that has been detected since 2013.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Your Body: Menopause and Depression

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

Depression can come in many shapes and sizes, and it does tend to affect women more than men. But now, new research shows that there may be a link between the age when a woman enters menopause and whether or not she develops depression.

Menopause itself is not a risk factor for depression, but the hormonal fluctuations that occur during menopause can increase the risk for someone who is already vulnerable.

My prescription: Don’t assume that a change in your mood is all hormonal or due to menopause. You could be experiencing both at the same time.

And let’s drop the stigma that exists with respect to mental illness and depression. It’s common and it can definitely affect your life, so ask for help.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Zika Virus Outbreak: Consumer Reports Shares Best Zika-Fighting Repellents

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — With concern surrounding the Zika virus at an all-time high, Consumer Reports has re-released its exclusive ratings of mosquito repellents that best protect against the virus.

The new release highlights the results regarding the Aedes Egypti mosquito, the mosquito known to carry and spread Zika.

Officials Monday announced that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Emergency Operations Center had been moved to Level 1, the agency’s highest level, because of the risk of Zika virus transmission in the United States.

The Zika virus has been spreading throughout the Americas and the World Health Organization has deemed it a “global health threat.”

Consumer Reports found three products to be most effective in combating the mosquito known for carrying Zika: Sawyer Fisherman’s Formula Picaridin, Natrapel 8 Hour and Off! Deepwoods VIII.

Click HERE to read the full list from Consumer Reports.

The magazine said its research found the best Zika-fighting repellents contained either 25 percent Deet or 20 percent Picardin.

The magazine warned consumers against using products made of natural plant oils.

“Some of those even failed our tests immediately and the mosquitos bit right through our testers’ arms,” Sue Byrne, Consumer Reports‘ senior editor for health and food, told ABC News.

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 show symptoms.

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

Guillain-Barre syndrome is an immunological reaction that can occur after viral or bacterial infections.

The CDC says it is safe to use insect repellent while pregnant or nursing. The agency recommends choosing an EPA-registered insect repellent and advises paying close attention to the directions on the product label.

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“Girls” Star Lena Dunham Taking Time Off for ‘Chronic’ Illness

Kevin Winter/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — The acclaimed HBO show Girls is back for a new season this month, but its biggest star will not being making press appearances due to a “chronic condition.”

Lena Dunham took to Instagram Monday to write, “I just wanted to let you know that, while I am so excited for Girls to return on Feb 21, I won’t be out and about doing press for the new season. As many of you know I have endometriosis, a chronic condition that affects approximately 1 in 10 women’s reproductive health.”

The writer and creator of the show, 29, added that she’s going through a “rough patch” with the illness and that doctors told her to rest.

“That’s a hard thing to do, but I’m trying, because all I want is to make season 6 of Girls the best one yet,” she said.

According to the Mayo Clinic, endometriosis can result in “severe” pain and fertility problems due to tissue that grows outside the uterus instead of inside, which is normal in most women.

Usually, a star of a show would be on tour prior to the start of a new season, giving interviews and meeting with the media.

“So many women with this disease literally don’t have the option of time off and I won’t take it for granted,” she added with the closing, “Back soon.”

Dunham has starred on Girls since she helped create the show in 2012.

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Dad’s Advice to Other Fathers: ‘Respect the Mother of Your Child’

iStock/Thinkstock(CRESSWELL, England) — A U.K. dad’s advice to fellow dads “respect the mother of your child” has gone viral after being posted in a Facebook tribute to the mother of his 9-month-old son.

Tony Emms, of Cresswell Northumberland, in the U.K., posted on Facebook last month a photo of his fiancé, Charlotte Sperry, sleeping next to the couple’s 9-month-old son.

Along with the photo, Emms included a long description of all the things he says Sperry does for their child and household.

“I sometimes don’t give this woman the credit she is due, when I come from work she is always “tired” now it’s me who has been at work doing stuff all day, but lately I’ve been thinking what this amazing woman does while I’m out..surely she just sits with the baby and watches TV and has a chilled day right? NO is the answer, when I leave for work she fears woken up by me and has to Spring straight in to action to get up and get her self sorted for the hectic day she has…so gets up baby is kicking off cause he is hungry but so is she, she doesn’t eat but baby does..then sits and plays with him, then changed a disgusting nappy, then plays again, he falls asleep..brilliant mummy can have a nap, no she doesn’t she does the washing, cleans up baby’s toys and starts washing the pots from the night before..baby wakes up and is hungry mummy hasn’t had breakfast but she still doesn’t eat she gets baby set for his lunch, after his lunch he then wants attention and plays…remember mummy still hasn’t eaten..all the cleaning she done earlier is now time wasted as baby’s toys are everywhere..I come home from working and get annoyed that o have to tidy up and say mummy hasn’t done anything yet she has worked her ass of all day to make sure the baby is healthy and happy…if any other daddy’s out there feel like me think about what you’ve done and what mummy has done. Respect the mother of your child. She is a special type of human that has given up everything to bring up your baby. I truly love my 2 sleeping baby’s and they both deserve their rest,” he wrote.

Emms’ Facebook post has since been liked more than 42,000 times and shared more than 14,000 times.

“I think my post had the reaction it did because it made other people realize just what mothers do,” Emms told ABC News by email.

Emms said his job schedule is such that he spends more time at home in the winter, and that being home with his family put Sperry’s role into perspective.

“Having done this [staying home] it reflected to me just how much my partner has to do during the day,” Emms told ABC News. “I literally posted the status just as my way of apologising and making it aware to any other daddys on my friends list just how much mummies do.”

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Zika Virus Outbreak Prompts CDC to Activate Highest Emergency Ops Level

Mario Tama/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Emergency Operations Center has been moved to Level 1, the agency’s highest level, due to the risk of Zika virus transmission in the U.S., officials said Monday.

The Level 1 activation is “reflecting the agency’s assessment of the need for an accelerated preparedness to bring together experts to focus intently and work efficiently in anticipation of local Zika virus transmission by mosquitoes,” the agency said in a statement.

The highest level activation means the CDC staff will work around the clock to combat a critical emergency. The three other Level 1 activations have been to combat Ebola, to combat H1N1 influenza in 2009, and after Hurricane Katrina.

The Zika virus has been spreading throughout the Americas and the World Health Organization has deemed it a “global health threat.”

The operations center will be work on multiple fronts to stop the Zika virus, including developing different tests to diagnose Zika in people, conduct studies to understand if it’s linked to the birth defect microcephaly and a rare paralysis syndrome called Guillain-Barre syndrome. Additionally, they will continue surveillance for the virus in the U.S. to identify an outbreak early on and to provide on the ground support in Puerto Rico, Brazil and Colombia.

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

Guillain-Barre syndrome is an immunological reaction that can occur after viral or bacterial infections.

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