Review Category : Health

Hurricane Matthew Health Risks Could Last Long After Storm Passes

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — As Hurricane Matthew continues to churn just off the coast of Florida, nearly all hospitals throughout the state remain open and ready to help those injured or sick during the storm, according to authorities.

While injuries such as lacerations, blunt-force trauma and concussions might be expected during a hurricane, these big storms can also increase the risk for a host of health conditions that may not be so obvious, such as heart attacks, carbon monoxide poisoning and skin infections.

Emergency room doctors at the University of Miami Hospital are not only ready to treat patients for injuries from winds and rain, but also for serious cardiac events, according to University of Miami Hospital Chief Operating Officer Kymberlee Manni.

“Anytime you get people get stressed, the risk of heart attack and stroke” goes up, Manni told ABC News on Thursday as the hospital geared up to deal with Hurricane Matthew. Studies of past hurricanes have found that heart attack risk and stroke risk goes up in the days, weeks and sometimes years after a major storm.

After Superstorm Sandy came ashore in New Jersey and New York, researchers found the incidence of heart attacks appeared to increase, according to a 2014 study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings. They found that heart attacks in areas most affected by the storm increased 22 percent in the two weeks after the storm compared to the two weeks prior. There was a 31 percent increase in the 30-day mortality rate after a heart attack, the study found.

Researchers also saw a 7 percent increase in the incidence of stroke but found no difference in mortality after the storm. Another study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association found a three-fold increase in heart attack six years after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans.

Mary Casey-Lockyear, senior associate for Disaster Health Services at the national headquarters of the American Red Cross, said it’s key for residents with cardiac problems to try and remain stress-free as much as possible during the storm and to not overexert themselves.

“In a snowstorm, people think ‘I have to shovel the snow,'” Casey-Lockyear said. “In this storm, [people think] ‘I have to get this big branches off the roof. Get the young neighbor to do it.”

As the storm knocks out power and residents start to rely on generators, the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning also increases.

The Florida Department of Health studied how often people reported carbon monoxide poisoning before and after major storms and found the rate of people visiting the emergency room due to carbon monoxide poisoning “was significantly greater” after major storms.

In 2005, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that gas-powered generators were an “important cause” of hurricane-related injury and death, even though they are “not perceived as an important health problem by the public.”

Driving rain and rising waters can be a serious problem for people stuck in the storm due to the increased risk of infection. Skin fungal infections can develop due to prolonged exposure to a wet environment and contaminated water can cause people to develop MRSA (methicillin resistant staph aureus) if they have open wounds, according to a 2005 CDC report that examined the health effects of Hurricane Katrina.

Some hurricane-related injuries can happen even before the storm hits.

University of Miami Hospital CEO Michael Gittelman told ABC News on Thursday that approximately “a few dozen” people had been taken to the ER for eye injuries after they were injured as they boarded up windows and homes before the storm arrived in Florida.

“We’ve been encouraging people to wear safety glasses as they put up shutters and hammering,” Gittelman said.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Your Body: Fentanyl — The New Illicit Drug of Choice

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

It’s the drug that investigators now believe may have been responsible for Prince’s death. It’s called Fentanyl and now new reports from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveal that as overdose deaths from synthetic opioids continue to climb, law enforcement seizures of Fentayl are skyrocketing.

So here’s what you need to know if you’re prescribed Fentanyl:

  • Short-term use of opioid narcotics is fine, especially after surgery and they can be safe and effective. But long-term, the risks start to go way up.
  • Ask you doctor about a plan. Are there alternative medications, or can you use other complementary therapies, like accupuncture?
  • And never mix Fentayl or other opioid narcotics with any other medication or alcohol without first checking with your pharmacist or a physician.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Late Reporter’s Story Saves Woman with Brain Aneurysm

Courtesy The Lisa Colagrossi Foundation/Todd Crawford(NEW YORK) — When Lisa Colagrossi, a reporter for WABC-TV in New York City, died last year of an undiagnosed brain aneurysm, her husband, Todd Crawford, vowed to turn his family’s loss into something that could save other lives.

Crawford founded The Lisa Colagrossi Foundation, dedicated to teaching the signs and symptoms of brain aneurysms. Crawford said his wife, who left behind two young sons, did not know that her struggle with a terrible headache was a top symptom for the medical emergency that would take her life.

“I said, ‘Don’t you think we should get those checked?’” Crawford recalled in an interview that aired Friday on Good Morning America. “She said, ‘I don’t have time. I’ll take an aspirin and power through it.’”

Colagrossi had just finished an assignment in New York City on March 19, 2015, when she collapsed and was rushed to a hospital.

“I got a call from one of the top neurosurgeons in the world from New York City saying that they had my wife and they weren’t sure why,” Crawford recalled.

Colagrossi passed away on March 20, 2015, at age 49 after the brain aneurysm led to a massive brain hemorrhage.

Crawford has retold his wife’s story in hopes that others will seek medical help should they experience symptoms of a brain aneurysm.

Kris Sorensen, 52, decided to seek treatment for a sudden headache after receiving a call from her sister Angela, who had heard Crawford speak on a radio broadcast.

“That afternoon I just went into the emergency room I told them what was going on and nine hours later I went home with this [brain aneurysm] diagnosis,” Sorensen, of San Diego, told ABC News.

Sorensen and Crawford met for the first time last week in New York City, where the inaugural gala for The Lisa Colagrossi Foundation was held on Sept. 29.

“It’s really a credit to my loving and beautiful wife that Angela heard my story and that Kris can be counted as a survivor and is here today,” Crawford said.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Canadian Hospital Apologizes After Nurse Mistakenly Tells Man His Mother Died

ABC News(NEW YORK) — A hospital in Canada apologized after a nurse mistakenly called a man and told him that his mother had died when she was actually alive and well.

Sophie Nemis, 99, was taken to Seven Oaks General Hospital in Winnipeg, Manitoba, last month after she twisted an ankle, ABC News partner CTV News reported.

Her son, Daniel Nemis, told CTV News that he had not received an update on his mother’s condition for several days when he suddenly got a phone call — one that he says he will never forget.

When Daniel Nemis picked up, he said he heard, “‘Daniel? Daniel? Daniel?’ [in] a gentle voice, soft voice from [a] nurse.”

And then: “I’m sorry, your mother passed.”

Daniel Nemis said he then began crying and demanded to know how such a minor injury could lead to his mother’s death. He told CTV News that his 99-year-old mother was “extremely independent” and led a healthy life, adding that she “doesn’t wait for anybody — winter [or] summer.”

Midway through the call, the nurse realized she had made a mistake and called the wrong person.

The nurse reportedly said, “I’m sorry but your — whoops, wrong person,” Daniel Nemis told CTV News.

“The crying stopped, [but] the screaming started,” he said, adding that it took quite a while for him to calm down.

The hospital “is deeply sorry for any grief that may have been caused, even momentarily,” according to the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, which manages Seven Oaks General Hospital.

“A patient had passed away overnight, and the nurse coming on shift was responsible to call the next of kin,” the health authority told ABC News in a statement. “The nurse looked at the wrong page in the chart binder, realized part way into the call that she had the wrong name and apologized profusely.”

“The Seven Oaks General Hospital Patient Relations Consultant and the Patient Care Team Manager called as well, to apologize, followed by the hospital’s Chief Nursing Officer, who conveyed her apologies and invited to meet personally with the family member. Patient identifier policies have been reviewed with staff to prevent this from happening again. The mistake was extremely unfortunate and regrettable.”

Now, Sophie Nemis is working to get back on her feet before turning 100 in December, CTV News reported.

Daniel Nemis did not immediately respond to ABC News’ requests for additional comment.

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Woman’s Mystery Illness Turns Out to Be Tick-Borne Disease

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — A 66-year-old woman’s mysterious illness that left her feverish and with slurred speech initially stumped her doctors. As the woman’s condition continued to deteriorate, an infectious disease doctor eventually identified the cause — the woman had contracted a bacterial disease caused by a tick bite.

Researchers from George Washington University School of Medicine wrote about deciphering the medical mystery in a case study published in the BMJ medical journal today. Tick-borne illnesses are concerning to many health experts because the symptoms can be mistaken for other illnesses.

“Many of these tick-borne illnesses all end up looking and sounding the same — joint, bone aches, sometimes they have a little nausea and vomiting,” said Dr. Frank Esper, a pediatric infectious disease physician at UH Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital who was not involved in the study. “You don’t know if that’s from Lyme, or flu. Many times they get better on their own.”

The woman from a mid-Atlantic state arrived at the hospital five days after she exhibited symptoms, according to the researchers. She had a throbbing headache, fever, unstable balance and diarrhea. When doctors examined her, they found a large rash on her chest and fluid in her lungs. For more than a day, doctors were unable to pinpoint exactly what was wrong with the patient. Thirty-eight hours after she was admitted to the hospital, the patient started to have seizures, signaling a severe neurological reaction.

After spending more than a day and half in the hospital, the patient met with an infectious disease doctor. The doctor suspected a tick-borne illness after hearing that the patient had found and removed a tick from her groin two weeks earlier. The doctor ordered an IV drip of an antibiotic called doxycycline, often given to people with tick-borne infections.

A blood test finally revealed that the woman had contracted a rare tick-borne illness called human monocytic ehrlichiosis, the “most common life-threatening tick-borne illness in the USA,” according to the researchers. Caused by bacteria called Ehrlichia, the disease was reported just 1,518 times in 2013, the latest year data was available from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, the reported number of ehrlichiosis has been on the rise, according to CDC data. In 2010, just 740 cases were reported, according to the CDC. The fatality rate among people with human monocytic ehrlichiosis is estimated to be between 3 to 5 percent, according to the researchers.

The woman eventually recovered after being given the intravenous doxycycline.

Unfortunately, for those who enjoy the outdoors in fall, ticks are more prevalent as the weather turns colder, according to Esper.

“This is the time of year that we see the tick-borne illness,” Esper said. “Late summer, early fall is when we see the tick-borne disease be more active, when people are walking around enjoying the fall colors.”

If you a find a tick on your body, don’t throw the insect away, Esper said.

“If somebody finds a tick, they give me a call. I say, ‘Don’t throw the tick away. Bring it to me,'” Esper said. “We can tell what type of tick it is and if it carries any of the above diseases. … Keep the tick. Put it in the bag, and bring it in.”

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How Florida Hospitals Are Preparing for Hurricane Matthew

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Hospitals up and down Florida’s Atlantic coast are getting ready for a direct hit from Hurricane Matthew by implementing emergency measures and, in some cases, evacuating patients.

At least two hospitals in Jacksonville, Florida, have evacuated patients, according to a hospital spokeswoman. Baptist Nassau Hospital and Baptist Beaches Hospital in Jacksonville finished evacuating patients to nearby hospitals Thursday morning.

Cindy Hamilton, a spokeswoman for Baptist Health System, said three Baptist hospitals would remain open, including a children’s hospital and three free-standing emergency rooms, to deal with people injured during the storm. Members of the hospital’s Planned Emergency Response Team, including doctors and other medical staff, have volunteered to treat patients both during the storm and immediately after.

“One team stays before and during the storm,” Hamilton said, noting that when the first team comes home “then the B team comes in” to relieve them.

Hamilton said the B team can stay at a shelter or their home if it’s not in an evacuated area.

“They get their home ready [for the storm] and as soon as they hear the word, they come back in,” she told ABC News.

At the University of Miami Hospital, CEO Michael Gittelman said the hospital had 290 patients in a building that has the potential to treat patients in 600 hospital beds.

Gittelman said he was especially reassured after he had talked to one longtime hospital employee Thursday.

“She’d been through four hurricanes here,” said Gittelman, who also pointed out the windows had been fitted with impact glass. “That makes me feel good about the building.”

The hospital also has a hurricane preparedness team that has been prepping for the hospital to remain self-sufficient in case authorities or other back-up services can’t reach them for days, according to University of Miami Hospital Chief Operating Officer Kymberlee Manni.

“Typically, we plan for five to seven days if we have to shelter in place,” Manni said. “We planned for the absolute maximum impact on this one.”

Manni said the hospital also has agreements with fuel and other supply companies that when roads are clear again they and other medical centers will be the first stop, meaning they can quickly replenish supplies after the storm.

“Because of prior planning, we know exactly what we need,” said Manni, explaining they are able to send a list of needed supplies before the storm even arrives.

Once the storm hits, Manni said lacerations and other injuries from debris are common. Additionally, the stress of the storm can put other people at risk for major health events.

“Anytime you get people get stressed, the risk of heart attack and stroke go up,” she explained.

Staff working during the storm are encouraged to bring spouses, children or even pets to the hospital’s conference center so that they know their family is safe as they work.

“When staff and physicians are working, they don’t have to worry about what’s going on at home,” Gittelman explained.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Cheerleader Who Suffered Multiple Concussions Warns Other Athletes

Kaitlyn Behnke(NEW YORK) — Concussions are associated with sports such as football, soccer and even baseball, but Kaitlyn Behnke is issuing a warning about another physical activity: cheerleading.

Behnke, 22, started competitive cheering when she was just 6 years old, and for the next 15 years she practiced 15 hours per week. During that time she says she suffered five concussions and was forced to quit her lifelong passion because the risk was too high.

“It’s been over a year and I still have headaches 60 to 70 percent of the day,” she said.

Behnke said she suffered a sixth concussion after leaving the sport. She claims that concussion, which occurred while moving furniture, would not have happened if she had not suffered five previous concussions.

Behnke told ABC’s Good Morning America that she made the decision to give up cheerleading after seeing a specialist in Houston, where she said she learned that she would likely suffer even more concussions if she continued to cheer.

“And who knows what the side effects of those would be because I was already seeing some memory issues,” said Behnke, who is now a senior at the University of Texas in Austin.

Behnke’s first concussion came when she was 13 years old — not from flying through the air and falling, but from lifting another girl into the air.

“I caught the girl and both my arms were around her and it just so happened that I missed the mat when I fell and I hit my head right on the basketball floor. That one was scary because I did lose vision for a while,” she said.

Cheerleading has long been part of American sports culture, and it is now more popular than ever. By one estimate, three million young people cheer — more than 400,000 at the high school level.

Cheerleaders are no longer only on the sidelines. Many cheer competitively — performing routines that features complex acrobatic stunts, flips and lifts — and some get injured, sometimes seriously.

According to a 2012 report and policy statement from the American Association of Pediatrics, the risk of “direct catastrophic injury” was “considerably higher” for cheerleading. The AAP said the injuries could result in “permanent injury, paralysis or death.”

From 1982 to 2009, cheerleading accounted for 65 percent of all direct catastrophic injuries to female cheerleaders in high school and for 70 or such injuries at the college level, the report added.

After her fourth concussion — which occurred when she was a sophomore on the squad at the University of Texas — Behnke’s long-term effects became more apparent.

“I really started having some … short term memory issues, not being able to remember where I parked my car, not being able to find words when I was talking, things like that,” she said, adding, “the main one for me is headaches.”

Behnke hopes to raise awareness about cheer injuries so other young women will also begin to take them seriously.

“I think that if I had done everything smarter I would still be cheering right now,” she said. “It’s hard but I think that if I had played it smarter and sat out longer and let myself truly recover and not gotten the repetitive concussion, I wouldn’t be in the position that I’m in now.”

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Your Body: Coffee Cravings May Be in Your Genes

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

Coffee is one of the most consumed beverages worldwide and one of the leading sources of caffeine intake. Now, researchers report they have found a new possible genetic link to coffee drinking.

The gene, called PDSS2, was inversely correlated to the quantity of coffee consumed in certain populations — in other words, those who had less expression of the gene tended to drink more coffee.

Here’s my take on coffee consumption: Data has clearly shown that coffee has some real health benefits. But too much can definitely increase your heart rate, blood pressure and lead to insomnia.

The key is finding that happy medium. For me, I keep it to about four cups a day spread out over about 10 hours.

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Study: Humans Can Live to 115

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Here’s a new goal for yourself: try to live to the age of 115.

An expert on aging at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Dr. Jan Vijg, tells The New York Times, “It seems highly likely we have reached our ceiling. From now on, this is it. Humans will never get older than 115.”

Along with his graduate students Xiao Dong and Brandon Milholland, Dr. Vijg published the results of a new study on the topic Wednesday in the journal Nature.

The researchers analyzed the International Database on Longevity, which featured information on 534 people who reached extremely old ages.

Dr. Vijg and his team analyzed the data, noting the year that each person died, and charted the greatest age that someone had reached every year since the 1960s.

It was observed that people rarely lived beyond 115 years.

So, how can we maximize our time on this planet in the future? Dr. Vijg suggests it can be done with healthy habits and possibly with drugs that can repair cellular damage that comes with age.

Dr. Vijg says, “There’s a good chance to improve health span, that’s the most important thing.”

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Further Evidence of Link Between Guillain-Barre Paralysis Syndrome and Zika Virus Infection, Study Finds

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The Zika virus outbreak has been a major concern for public health officials in the past year, with growing evidence that the virus is not only linked to, but is the cause of a devastating birth defect called microcephaly, characterized by an abnormally small head and brain, often leading to significant developmental issues.

Now, researchers have found more evidence that the mosquito-borne virus may be linked to Guillain-Barre syndrome, an immunological reaction that can cause temporary paralysis, according to a small study published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Guillain-Barre is an immunological reaction that can occur after a viral or bacterial infection. It can damage nerve cells and cause temporary paralysis. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that current research “suggests that GBS [Guillain-Barre syndrome] is strongly associated with Zika” but they are still investigating.

Researchers from multiple institutions, including the University Hospital of Valle in Colombia, examined 68 patients with Guillain-Barre at six hospitals in Colombia to see if a Zika infection could be related to the condition.

Researchers found that 97 percent — or 66 of the 68 patients — reported Zika symptoms four weeks before the syndrome developed. The two patients without Zika symptoms were in areas with ongoing Zika transmission. Additionally, 17 patients were found to have genetic material from the Zika virus in their bodies, indicating an active infection, according to the study.

Fifty percent of the patients developed facial paralysis and 31 percent of the patients required mechanical ventilation to stay alive, the study found.

Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said in a previous interview that experts were concerned about the potential link between the virus and the syndrome long before the widespread Zika outbreak in Central and South America.

“It has concerned us from the beginning. We knew when it was out in the Pacific, when there were outbreaks of Guillain-Barre, it was occurring at the same time,” Schaffner said.

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