Review Category : Health

Former Afghan Soldier Gets New Hands After Rare Transplant

Hemera/Thinkstock(KOCHI, India) — A former Afghan soldier who lost his hands while diffusing a bomb now has two new hands after a rarely performed transplant was carried out at a hospital in India’s southwestern town of Kochi last month.

“It was a real team effort,” Subramania Iyer, head of the plastic surgery department at Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences, told ABC News. “The procedure took about 15 hours and nearly 20 doctors and assistants were involved.”

The patient, Abdul Rahim, 30, approached Iyer and his team nearly six months ago after scouting for hand transplants in several countries, including Iran, Iyer said.

After months of counselling, the operation was conducted on April 10 and Rahim is now recuperating. He is already using his new hands for day-to-day activities, hospital officials say.

The donor was a 54-year-old man who lost his life in a traffic accident.

“We will need to monitor Rahim for several months,” Iyer said, noting that there was always a risk of rejection.

The most challenging part of the operation, Iyer added, was the logistics.

“The donor’s hands was in another department so we had to transport them, all the while preparing Rahim for surgery,” Iyer said.

It’s not the first hand transplant performed at Amrita Institute. The first was done in January, and the recipient is progressing extremely well, doing all routine activities, according to a written statement from the hospital.

“Since difficulty was anticipated in getting hands to be donated, an awareness campaign was initiated through public meetings, newspaper articles and TV talks,” the statement continued.

The price for Rahim’s operation was set at $23,500 (1.5 million Indian rupees).

While Iyer said his team improved between the first and the second transplants, he added that this kind of operation is not suddenly going to become popular.

“We need to be very cautious with these types of transplants,” he said, “as they require a lot of physical therapy and medication.”

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Iowa Teen Set to Graduate High School After ‘Miraculous’ Recovery From Traumatic Brain Injury

TongRo Images/Thinkstock(WAUKEE, Iowa) — An Iowa teenager’s high school graduation on Monday will be nothing short of a miracle when she accepts her diploma after overcoming a traumatic brain injury.

Nearly four years ago, Taylor Hale was like any high school freshman, excited to spend time with friends after a high school football game.

“I begged my mom to go,” Hale, who was 14-years-old at the time, recalled to ABC News.

Hours later, Hale’s mom, Stacey Henningsen, got a phone call from one of her daughter’s friends saying that Hale had been in a car accident and was being taken to the hospital by ambulance.

Hale, of Waukee, Iowa, had playfully jumped on the hood of a friend’s car to keep him from leaving. Her family says she was flung off of the vehicle and onto the pavement, where she hit her head and would remain unconscious.

“They said it was a very severe traumatic brain injury,” Hale’s father, Chuck Hale, said of the diagnosis from doctors.

Hale spent a week in a medically-induced coma before taking a turn for the worse.

“They woke me up about three in the morning to say that they had been doing CPR and lifesaving measures for probably about an hour-and-a-half to two hours,” said Chuck.

“That’s when it was finally starting to sink in that she might actually not wake up,” said Henningsen.

When all seemed lost, Hale’s parents invited a chiropractor, Dr. Jeff Stickel, to come to the hospital to help their daughter.

“Her aunt had been in for chiropractic adjustments and they just were asking if there was anything I can do,” Stickel explained of how the family found him.

Just hours before doctors were scheduled to take Hale off life support, Stickel met the teen for the first time.

“I just felt like if I could get my hands on her head and neck that there was maybe a chance that there was an interference in there in her healing and that’s why she wasn’t waking up,” he said. “I just remember my fingers kind of moving.”

“I could feel Taylor’s energy and she was definitely alive,” Stickel said. “She was not dying.”

A few hours after Stickel left the hospital, doctors began taking Hale off life support. What happened next, Hale’s family says, shocked everyone.

“The nurse came in and said, ‘I don’t know how to tell you this but she’s breathing on her own and we don’t know how or why,’” Henningsen recalled. “Within an hour she kind of opened her eye to her grandpa. Then the next hour she would kind of just lift her arm up.”

Hale continued to stun her doctors with her recovery, walking and talking just five weeks after the accident.

Leading experts say that recoveries from traumatic brain injuries like Hale’s are becoming increasingly more common.

“We are learning now that these previous notions we had of what’s impossible really are obsolete and the human brain is much more resilient than we have ever given it credit for,” said Dr. Stephan Mayer, a neurosurgeon and the director of the Institute for Critical Care at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.

Hale, who will turn 18 next month, says she is excited to graduate and is looking forward to her future, including the continuation of her education at a local community college.

“Afterwards I’m going to be the happiest person in the world because I did do it and I fought for my life,” she said. “I finished high school and I can go on to bigger and better things in my future.”

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USDA Says Mechanically Tenderized Beef Must Be Labeled

PaulCowan/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service announced a final rule on Wednesday that will require labeling of mechanically tenderized beef products in grocery stores.

Mechanically tenderized beef, like steaks and roasts, are repeatedly pierced by small needles or blades to tenderize, increasing the risk of spreading dangerous bacteria like Ecoli 0157:H7 and salmonella.

The constant piercings can cause bacteria on the surface to be transferred inside the beef, according to the USDA.

So far, these products are not labeled, so consumers have no way of knowing it has been mechanically tenderized and that it needs to be cooked at a higher temperature to make sure it’s safe to eat.

“Labeling mechanically tenderized beef products and including cooking instructions on the package are important steps in helping consumers to safely prepare these products,” Deputy Under Secretary Al Almanza said in a statement. “This common sense change will lead to safer meals and fewer foodborne illnesses.”

The new labeling requirements will also include safe cooking instructions when they appear in grocery stores in May 2016.

Since 2000, the USDA said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has received reports of six outbreaks attributable to needle or blade tenderized beef products prepared in restaurants and consumers’ homes.

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Laughing Gas a Growing Trend to Ease Labor Pains

iStock/Thinkstock(RICHMOND, Va.) — An expectant mother from Virginia is following the trend of using laughing gas as a way to help ease labor pain.

Samantha Corfield has been preparing for the birth of her first child with a nursery ready so far and a car seat bought. The soon-to-be mom and nurse has noticed the trend in expectant mothers using laughing gas as pain relief while giving birth.

“I like the idea of not using an epidural if possible and doing more of a natural birth, but having something to take the edge off,” she said to ABC News affiliate WRIC-TV.

According to Dr. Keith Berkle of the Virgina Women’s Center, laughing gas, or nitrous oxide, arrived in Richmond about a year ago and has now become a part of a push for safe, pain control alternatives.

“Obstetrics is turning into a choose your own adventure sort of game and nitrous oxide is really facilitating that for lots of women,” Dr. Berkle said to WRIC-TV.

Dr. Berkle said each time Corfield has a contraction, she can breathe in the laughing gas for relief. The effect would then wear off when she stopped.

“I can take as much of it as I want and as little as I want, which I like,” Corfield told WRIC-TV.

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Researchers Fear Hackers Could Target Artificial Pancreas

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — New technology that could easily administer insulin to diabetics as an “artificial pancreas” has the potential to change millions of lives, but researchers are warning they could also leave patients open to potentially dangerous attacks by hackers.

For Type 1 diabetics the promise of an “artificial pancreas” could mean finding a way to live without daily blood sugar monitoring. However, some researchers are concerned that these new pumps could leave patients open to hackers who could tamper with insulin levels that are sent from a glucose monitor to the insulin pump.

In an article published in the journal Diabetes, Technology and Therapeutics, Dr. Yogish Kudva along with other researchers reviewed the cyber security of these devices that are currently being tested.

“We wanted to make sure that this important aspect of the field was adequately addressed as we get ready at scaling up on our studies,” Kudva said.

In the closed-loop systems of these devices, nearly all are still being researched. A person’s blood sugar can be measured by a glucose meter which would “talk” to their insulin pump to either raise or lower their insulin dose depending on blood sugar. While the devices are currently in the testing phase, Kudva said he and his team were concerned researchers were not considering security systems for the devices.

In the article, Kudva and his team pointed out that if data is not encrypted in a wireless system, a hacker could add in wrong data that could change the insulin level in the device, potentially to dangerous levels.

“I think the most important issue is to get security people more involved,” said Kudva. “I don’t think there is enough security expertise at this time.”

Sarah Ann MacLeish, an endocrinologist and osteopath at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland, said with these new machines patients could be at higher risk for becoming sick from cyber attacks, since they will not be checking their blood sugars as regularly as they are with the current devices that require blood sugar monitoring daily.

“They’ll know right away if there’s a problem,” MacLeish said of current insulin pumps. “If they aren’t checking their blood sugar they can be very sick if there’s a problem.”

One possible option for these “artificial pancreas” devices currently being tested is adding some kind of back up or warning system to help ensure they are safe, MacLeish said.

An alarm could be triggered “if there’s something programmed in there that doesn’t seem right,” MacLeish said. For example, if the insulin dose doubled, the machine could alert the patient who would manually confirm or deny the dosage.

Potential complications from the wrong dosage could be too much insulin, which can lead to seizure, or too little, which can lead to dangerously high blood sugar levels.

One extremely simple closed-loop device is already on the market, Kudva said, and he expects more advanced versions to enter the market in about three years. He said he hopes that device makers will consider more security options or be more transparent about security measures they have already taken.

“I think that’s the next step,” Kudva said of the closed-loop “artificial pancreas” development.

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Blue Bell Ice Cream to Lay Off One-Third of Its Staff After Listeria Outbreak

Jamie Squire/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Affected by the listeria outbreak that killed three people and sent seven others to the hospital, Blue Bell Creameries announced Friday that it will lay off 37 percent of its staff.

Blue Bell voluntarily recalled all products on April 20. It shut down operations to “embark on an intensive cleaning program” and begin a reboot on April 27. The Brenham, Texas-based company announced that this process is taking longer than expected, and it’s not clear when production will resume. When it does, it will be limited and gradual.

“The agonizing decision to lay off hundreds of our great workers and reduce hours and pay for others was the most difficult one I have had to make in my time as Blue Bell’s CEO and President,” said Blue Bell Creameries CEO and President Paul Kruse.

“At Blue Bell, our employees are part of our family, and we did everything we could to keep people on our payroll for as long as possible. At the same time, we have an obligation to do what is necessary to bring Blue Bell back and ensure its viability in the future. This is a sad day for all of us at Blue Bell, and for me personally,” he added.

The company said it will lay off 750 full-time and 700 part-time employees and furlough 1,400 others. The overall workforce had included 3,900 people.

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Map Breaks Down Most Distinctive Causes of Death for Each State

CDC/Preventing Chronic Disease Journal(NEW YORK) — A new map has revealed the most distinctive causes of death for each state from black lung in coal-heavy states to influenza in a few cold-weather states.

The map was created by looking at the causes of death for each state, calculating the rate of death per capita, and then comparing them against national rates. The findings were published Thursday in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease, Public Health Research, Practice and Policy.

Francis Boscoe, a research scientist at the New York State Health Department and lead author of the study, told ABC News that they looked for outliers in each state to determine the most distinctive cause of death.

“In Alaska, the number of deaths due to accidents by boat or plane is 41 per million but in rest of country it’s six [deaths] per million so it’s seven times higher,” said Boscoe, explaining one notable outlier.

Other unusual outliers include higher rates of tuberculosis deaths in Texas and HIV-related deaths in Florida. Three states — New Mexico, Nevada and Oregon — reported having higher than the national average death rates related to “legal intervention,” meaning a death caused by police and other persons with legal authority to use deadly force. This can include the death of the officer or a bystander.

Boscoe said he came up with the idea for the map in part to start a conversation about causes of death that may not get as much attention as more common causes of death, such as cancer or heart disease.

“Mashing them together on the same map is a colorful way to do that,” he said. “The map does … provoke this conversation.”

Alicia McDonald, a researcher of epidemiology at the Department of Occupational Medicine at the North-Shore-LIJ Health System, said this kind of map can provide clear information about where public health departments can devote their resources.

“State health departments can design prevention programs or even creating programs to identify programs who may have that particular disease,” said McDonald, who was not involved in this study.

McDonald said she was especially surprised by deaths linked to treatable diseases such as syphilis that can be treated with antibiotics, or HIV, which can usually be managed by anti-retroviral therapies.

“Wait a minute, what’s going on in this population? Why is this the common cause of death?” McDonald said of the questions the study can raise. “You start to question, ‘Are there interventions in place where you can prevent [this?]'”

McDonald said she was also alarmed by the higher rates of fatal tuberculosis cases in Texas and deaths related to nutritional deficiencies that were found in Vermont, New Hampshire and North Carolina.

“That’s surprising [because] that’s a developing country leading cause of death,” McDonald said of both TB and nutritional deficiency. “To see [TB deaths] in Texas in the U.S. is somewhat surprising.”

McDonald said she hopes researchers will dig further into the data to find out which populations are most at risk for these diseases and if they fell into certain patterns along age-related, sociological or racial lines.

“This map is very useful to all of us as health professionals to really see common causes of death that we may not think are issues in our particular state,” said McDonald. “This allows us to further investigate to see how the disease conditions are affecting” local residents.

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Geckos Linked to Dangerous Salmonella Outbreak in 16 States

iStock/Thinkstock(ATLANTA) — A dangerous Salmonella outbreak in 16 states has been linked to pet geckos, according to a new report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Starting on Jan. 1, 20 people ranging in ages from 1 to 57 years old have been reported as being infected with the same strain of Salmonella, according to the CDC. Of those sickened, three have been hospitalized as a result of the bacteria.

Eleven of those sickened reported they had pet geckos, which are known to be carriers of the bacteria.

Infectious disease expert Dr. William Schaffner, at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said that the infected reptiles will not show any visible symptoms.

“Salmonella has the extraordinary capacity to infect not only mammals and chickens and fowl but also reptiles,” said Schaffner. The bacteria “can create long-standing infections in reptiles.”

Owners will not be able to detect visible symptoms in their pet reptiles and should be vigilant about washing their hands after holding their pets, Schaffner said.

“They can be hazardous to their owners,” he said, noting the bacteria can be excreted by the animal and owners can be infected if they handle the pet and then touch their face or mouth.

Unlike Salmonella infections from food, people generally are exposed to less bacteria from pet interactions, meaning they will likely not get as sick, Schaffner said. However, the symptoms of Salmonella, including fever, chills and diarrhea, are virtually indistinguishable from many other sicknesses.

If anyone has a gecko and starts to exhibit these symptoms, they should have doctors test cultures for the Salmonella bacteria, Schaffner said. Any positive Salmonella test is sent to the CDC to discern if it’s part of a strain seen throughout the country.

As a result, the CDC can now find smaller outbreaks even in a large number of states, Schaffner said.

“This is an extraordinary way that in the 21st century we can detect outbreaks now that previously would have been undetected,” he said.

The Salmonella bacteria causes an estimated 19,000 hospitalizations and 380 deaths every year, according to the CDC.

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Utah Eats Double the National Candy Average

iStock/Thinkstock(HERSHEY, Pa.) — Liquor is quicker but candy is just dandy for residents of Utah, a new study by The Hershey Company found.

In fact, the consumption of candy in Utah is double the national average and those doing most of the munching are Mormons who make up close to two-thirds of the state’s population.

Candy is something of an obsession with members of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints. One might even call it a vice because technically, it’s the only one they’re allowed.

Mormons are supposed to eschew alcohol, illegal drugs, tobacco and caffeine so what left, says Brigham Young University professor Glenn Christensen, is candy.

Therefore, instead of finding a keg at a Utah picnic, chances are you’ll come across bowls of sweet confections, the one big favorite being Twizzlers.

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Weekend Drug Use Often Creeps into the Work Week

iStock/Thinkstock(BOSTON) — Recreational use of illicit drugs is a gateway to habitual use, says Judith Bernstein, a professor of community health sciences at Boston University in Massachusetts.

Bernstein, who co-authored a study on drug use, says that people who start smoking pot, snorting coke or popping opioids on the weekends often extend these activities to the week.

The study followed the drug-using behavior of close to 500 people, most of whom were from the inner city. Eleven percent of this group claimed they only took drugs on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

However, in a six-month follow-up, more than half of the weekend drug users were also taking drugs during the week while 27 percent reported no change and 19 percent quit altogether.

Bernstein says the finding should be a wake-up call to primary care doctors not to ignore patients who admit to recreational drug use, given that these substances can cause both physical and psychological damage.

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