Review Category : Health

US Ebola Patient Gets Serum from Recovered Victim to Fight Virus

iStock/Thinkstock(OMAHA, Neb.) — Dr. Rick Sacra, the third American missionary to become infected with Ebola in Liberia, received a blood transfusion from Dr. Kent Brantly, one of the other victims who was successfully treated for the disease, doctors said Thursday.

“Convalescent transfusion plasma was taken from a donor who had recovered, therefore presumably had antibodies against the virus that Rick had not yet had time to develop and two separate transfusions were harvested and given with no difficulties whatsoever,” explained Dr. Phil Smith at a press conference from Nebraska Medical Center, where Sacra is being treated. Smith is the director of the hospital’s bio-containment unit.

Dr. Angela Hewitt, the associate medical director of NMC’s bio-containment unit, elaborated: “[Sacra] received two doses of convalescent serum from Dr. Kent Brantly. He’s received an experimental drug every night actually for the last several days since his arrival.”

Doctors, however, don’t know how much of a role the transfusion played in Sacra’s condition, which has improved from stable to good.

“I don’t how much of his recovery is due to the drug, how much is due to the convalescent serum and how much is due to aggressive IV fluids and other medications to help him,” Smith said.

Sacra, a missionary with the group SIM, contracted Ebola while treating pregnant patients in Liberia. He was transported to Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha on Friday for treatment.

Sacra is the third American missionary to become infected in Monrovia, Liberia, following Ebola survivors Nancy Writebol and Brantly, who were treated and released from Emory University Hospital in August. A fourth American who became infected in Sierra Leone while working for the World Health Organization arrived in Atlanta for treatment at Emory University Hospital Tuesday.

So far, the Ebola outbreak in West Africa has killed at least 2,296 people and sickened 1,997 more, according to the latest data from the World Health Organization.

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After a Can of Soda, Walk It Off

iStock/Thinkstock(SYRACUSE, N.Y.) — Sweetened soda is losing its popularity in the U.S. but not soon enough for health officials who believe that high-fructose corn syrup is a serious threat to Americans’ health.

One of the chief problems with the ingredient is that transforms into fatty acids, some of which stay in the liver while the rest of it filters into the blood stream. Either way, fructose is a health menace.

Amy Bidwell, currently a researcher at SUNY Oswego in New York, conducted a small study at Syracuse University to determine if physical activity could lessen then detrimental effects of fructose when included in soda.

Among 22 students who volunteered for the experiment, half moved around half as much as they normally did on a daily basis while the other participants doubled their activity, namely walking about 12,000 steps a day. Meanwhile, everyone drank two fructose-laden sodas daily for a total of 500 calories.

Bidwell also conducted metabolic and health tests before and after the two-week experiment and found, to some dismay, that the group who didn’t walk as much experienced higher concentrations of very-low-density lipoproteins, a type of bad cholesterol that builds up on the walls of arteries.

Naturally, Bidwell believes that cutting out high-fructose corn syrup is the best option but if people feel the need to drink soda, she recommends plenty of exercise to help offset its effects.

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Some Infertile Women More Prone to Mental Illness

iStock/Thinkstock(CARDIFF, Wales) — Infertility can be devastating for a couple trying but failing to have a child and it’s a fact of life for about 15 percent of couples in the U.S.

Dr. Sofia Gameiro at Cardiff University in the United Kingdom says the psychological side-effects from the inability to conceive include depression, anger, and frustration.

Based on a study of more than 7,100 women in the Netherlands who underwent fertility treatments over a five-year span, Gameiro learned that those who were not able to have children and refused to accept that reality were 2.8 times more likely to develop problems associated with mental illness than women willing to move past their problem.

Even women who previously gave birth but couldn’t expand their families were 1.5 times at greater risk of mental illness if they were unable to let go of their desire to have more kids.

Although each case is different, Gameiro suggested that attempting to give up the idea of having children might help women in the long term for their own psychological well-being. She suggested that focusing on other goals, such as a career, might help relieve some of the angst of infertility.

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ER Visits for High Blood Pressure Increase Dramatically

iStock/Thinkstock(KALAMAZOO, Mich.) — It’s possible that hearing about all the risks of having high blood pressure could actually be giving Americans high blood pressure.

Certainly it’s a problem with as many as 76 million adults believed to have hypertension, some going for years without it ever being diagnosed.

What’s more, the number of people visiting emergency rooms for high blood pressure with no known cause rose 25 percent between 2006 and 2011 while visits for hypertension with complications and secondary hypertension also increased by 19 percent during that time span.

The upside, according to Sourabh Aggarwal, M.D. at Western Michigan University School of Medicine, is that admissions for these conditions have dropped. Of those admitted, deaths fell by more than a third from 2006 through 2011, likely because doctors are better equipped at treating the disease.

Just the same, Aggarwal says that people need to have a better handle on treating hypertension before it sends them to the hospital. The American Heart Association recommends adults get themselves to an ER if their blood pressure is 180/110, otherwise known as hypertensive crisis.

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FDA Approves Weight-Management Drug Contrave

Jack Hollingsworth/Photodisc/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved weight-management drug Contrave on Wednesday to help adults with weight-related health problems.

According to a press release from the FDA, the drug is approved for use in adults with a body mass index above 30 (considered obese) or above 27 (considered overweight), or who suffer from high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes or high cholesterol. “Obesity continues to be a major public health concern,” says Jean-Marc Guettier, director of the Division of Metabolism and Endocrinology Products in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “When used as directed in combination with a healthy lifestyle that includes a reduced-calorie diet and exercise, Contrave provides another treatment option for chronic weight management.”

Contrave combines two FDA-approved drugs, naltrexone and bupropion. Naltrexone is approved to treat alcohol and opioid depenence, while bupropion is used to treat depression and season affective disorder, and as a smoking cessation aid.

Contrave was expected to receive FDA approval in 2011, but the agency opted to wait for the results of clinical trials to evaluate the cardiovascular risks of the drug. Even after approving the drug, the FDA is requiring several more post-marketing trials to ensure patient safety.

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Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Pledge $50M for Ebola Outbreak

iStock/Thinkstock(SEATTLE) — The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced on Wednesday a $50 million pledge to help fight the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

“The foundation will immediately release flexible funds to United Nations agencies and international organizations involved in the response to enable them and national governments to purchase badly needed supplies and scale up emergency operations in affected countries,” it said in a statement.

“In addition, the foundation will work with public and private sector partners to accelerate the development of therapies, vaccines, and diagnostics that could be effective in treating patients and preventing further transmission of the disease,” the statement continued.

According to the latest data from the World Health Organization, the Ebola outbreak in West Africa has killed at least 2,296 people and sickened 1,997 more.

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Oregon Girl Dies from E. Coli as Friend Battles Same Bug

Courtesy Aleasha Hargitt-Profitt(OTIS, Ore.) — A 4-year-old girl has died of complications from E. coli while her 5-year-old friend remains in critical condition, also infected with E. coli, a lawyer for the girl’s family told ABC News.

Serena Profitt of Otis, Oregon, was gone in the “blink of an eye,” her aunt said.

Aleasha Hargitt-Profitt said a nurse pulled the family aside and said, “Mother-to-mother, everything should be OK,” but the little girl was brain dead about 12 hours later.

Serena shared a sandwich with a 5-year-old boy during a Labor Day weekend gathering on Saturday, Aug. 30, but it’s not yet clear whether the sandwich carried the deadly bacteria, said Hargitt-Profitt, who explained what happened in the following days.

On Sunday night, Serena began to experience gastrointestinal pain. On Monday, the little boy was sick, too, and they both had diarrhea.

Two days later, Serena’s stools had turned bloody and she wasn’t eating, according to Hargitt-Profitt, so her family took her to a hospital. But she was sent home two more times over the following days without ever being tested for E. coli, Hargitt-Profitt said.

By Saturday morning, Serena’s body was going into shock, so her family took her to a different emergency room, where doctors discovered she had gone into complete kidney failure and put her on dialysis. They also ordered an E. coli test.

“Sunday morning, she woke up and had great color and was able to sit up in bed for the first time” since she’d gotten sick, Hargitt-Profitt said. “She was able to talk to her mom and dad and tell them she loved them.”

By that afternoon, however, Serena had a stroke that paralyzed the right half of her body, Hargitt-Profitt said. At 2 a.m. on Monday morning, she had a massive seizure, and doctors learned that her brain was “covered in blood,” Hargitt-Profitt said.

Although the little girl went into surgery to relieve pressure on her brain, she had no brain activity. They learned that she was brain dead at around noon, and the Profitts knew it was time to say goodbye.

“They said their goodbyes,” Hargitt-Profitt said. “They sat with her and sang her songs.”

Serena died of hemolytic uremic syndrome, which is a common complication of E. coli, according Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, where she died. In hemolytic uremic syndrome, red blood cells are prematurely destroyed and clog the blood-filtering system of the kidneys.

“Serena tested positive for E. coli, but we don’t yet know which strain,” hospital spokeswoman Tamara Hargens-Bradley told ABC News. “A sample has been sent to the state lab for further testing.”

Serena’s 5-year-old friend, who has not been named, is at another hospital in critical condition, according to Bob Marler, a food safety lawyer representing the Profitts.

“He’s also in acute kidney failure,” Marler said. “That’s what killed Serena.”

Hargitt-Profitt said the boy has tested positive for a rare and fast-acting form of E. coli called O157.

Although the Oregon state health department says it can’t comment or speculate on Serena’s pending test results, E. coli O157 sources would include “high-risk foods such as undercooked meat, unpasteurized milk or juices, restaurants at which [people with E. coli] have eaten, exposure to live animals, recreational water, and exposure to child care centers.”

E. coli is also more dangerous in young children and the elderly, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

State and county health departments are investigating to determine what both children did before they got sick at roughly the same time, according to Marler. He said it’s possible the sandwich is to blame, but it’s also possible they picked up the bacteria on something else.

Hargitt-Profitt said Serena’s family also owned goats, but no one has ever gotten sick from being around them. The gathering took place at the Profitt home and a restaurant, where the two children shared the sandwich, she said.

The Profitt family’s primary concern now is finding the source to make sure no one else gets sick, she said.

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How Other Fitness Wearables Can Fight Off Apple Watch Juggernaut

Apple(NEW YORK) — The newly unveiled Apple Watch should give existing wearable fitness trackers a run for their money, but the tech giant’s competitors in the burgeoning category aren’t about to take the onslaught lying down, industry experts said.

The Apple Watch is vulnerable on three particular fronts, experts note.

1. Price

“It’s a nice-looking piece but the price point is pretty high and the fact that it has to be tethered to an iPhone lessens its appeal,” said Jamison Cush, executive editor of TechTarget, a business technology publishing company.

Cush likes the sleek look of the $349 Apple Watch and praised its healthy dose of fitness monitoring features that will collect basic stats like steps, mileage and calories burned. But those are functions stand-alone trackers already do competently for a lot less money.

“Jawbone, Fitbit and the others do one thing and they do it really well at a good price,” Cush noted.

“Apple Watch does a lot of other things like communication and notifications, which some users may like but could be perceived as ‘feature creep’ by many users,” he said, using a term that is a play on “mission creep,” where the scope of a mission keeps expanding.

The Fitbit Flex costs about $100. The Jawbone UP24 retails for about $150.

2. Still Months from Hitting the Market

The Apple Watch is at least six months away from hitting the stores, Cush noted. And that gives Apple competitors quite some time to come up with new strategies and new products in response to the Apple Watch, he said.

“It’s the big idea now but by the time it comes out, the market will be much more mature and Apple will have some serious competition,” he said.

Patrick Moorhead, president and principal analyst of the tech consulting firm Moor Insights and Strategies, said because fitness tracking devices serve such a singular purpose, he believes the category won’t be dented too much by the Apple Watch entering the market — at least for now.

Apple unveiled two different apps on Tuesday for its watch that should intrigue both gym rats and casual movers, Moorhead said. The “activity” app will keep track of any movement you do throughout the day. The “workout” app will monitor more intense movement of workouts and sports. And third-party apps are expected to follow.

While the proprietary apps are a differentiator for the watch, Cush isn’t sure they are enough of a draw for anyone except for “fitness nerds.” But, he said, he thought its design — including a sharp display and six interchangeable wristbands — might tempt a few fashion-forward users away from other wearables.

“Most wearables are very techy, very geeky looking,” he noted. “This one is more fashionable and people may want to wear it because it looks good.”

3. Battery Life

Apple Watch’s toughest selling point could be its purportedly short battery life. Apple CEO Tim Cook has sidestepped the question of exactly how long the battery will last, but some tech blogs are reporting that the device will need at least a daily charge.

“Many fitness trackers can go a week or more without a charge,” Cush pointed out. “Battery life is the number-one complaint from users of any wearable and it limits growth in that category.”

But Moorhead noted that the Apple Watch might also drive quite a few new customers into the wearable market.

“Apple seems to have paid a lot of attention to user experience, functionality and ease of use. They’ve removed many of the barriers that were holding consumers back,” he said, adding that this might possibly benefit competitors as well.

Officials at Fitbit, the leading fitness wearable seller, said that far from being worried, they welcome the coming of the Apple Watch.

Company officials noted in a statement to ABC News Wednesday that Fitbit is a “trusted brand” that has a 70-percent market share of what it calls the “Connected Health and Fitness space.”

“Our mission remains empowering and inspiring people to lead healthier, more active lives, and to that end we welcome new products and services like Apple Watch into the market that help further that mission,” the company said in its statement.

Apple and Jawbone did not respond to requests by ABC News for comment.

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New Registered Nurses Always on the Move

iStock/Thinkstock(PRINCETON, N.J.) — Registered nurses may be a more valuable commodity than anyone realized based on a new study conducted by the RN Work Project and funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Although a certain amount of turnover at most jobs is pretty common, the study says that 17.5 percent of newly licensed RNs leave their first job within a year. In fact, a third of RNs are on to somewhere different by the end of their second year.

Generally speaking, the turnover occurs more often in health care settings other than hospitals.

Certainly, losing RNs can negatively impact any workplace as high turnovers have been shown to be linked with an increase in physical restraints, pressure ulcers and patient falls.

However, co-author Christine Kovner says that turnovers can actually be helpful when a poorly functioning nurse leaves. On the other hand, things become more complicated if RNs with outstanding work habits seek work elsewhere.

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Breath Test Could Determine Presence of Lung Cancer

Hemera/Thinkstock(FOGGIA, Italy) — It seems too simple to be true but researchers from the University of Foggia in Italy now say that lung cancer can be diagnosed by recording the temperature of exhaled breath.

To reach that conclusion, 82 people who were shown in an x-ray to have possibly contracted lung cancer were given full diagnostic tests. Afterwards, doctors said that half of the diagnoses were correct while 42 patients were deemed cancer-free.

Meanwhile, the breath temperature of all the participants was measured by a thermometer device known as a X-Halo device whereupon those with cancer had the higher temperatures.

Professor Giovanna Elisiana Carpagnano says scientists can accurately prove the presence of lung cancer because of a cut-off value in the measurement of the breath temperature.

Although still in the experimental stages, the professors say doctors hope to one day make the procedure standard in order to provide “patients with a stress-free and simple test that is also cheaper and less intensive for clinicians.”

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