Review Category : Health

FDA Warns Tobacco Companies About Flavored Cigarettes Loophole

iStock/Thinkstock(SILVER SPRING, MD) — The Food and Drug Administration sent warning letters to four tobacco manufacturers on Friday for selling flavored cigarettes that are labeled as “little cigars” or “cigars.”

A 2009 law banned the sale of cigarettes with sweet flavors that were thought to entice children and put them at risk of developing an addiction to smoking.

The four tobacco companies – Swisher International LLC, Cheyenne International LLC, Prime Time International Co. and Southern Cross Tobacco Company Inc. – sold products with flavors including grape, cherry, wild cherry and strawberry.

“Flavored cigarettes appeal to kids and disguise the bad taste of tobacco, but they are just as addictive as regular tobacco products and have the same harmful health effects,” Mitch Zeller, director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products, said in a statement. “Because about 90 percent of adult daily smokers smoked their first cigarette by the age of 18, continued enforcement of the ban on cigarettes with characterizing flavors is vital to protect future generations from a lifetime of addiction.”

The FDA found that the so-called “little cigars” and “cigars” meet the definition of cigarettes under the Tobacco Control Act, because they are likely to be bought as cigarettes based on their appearance and packaging.

The companies have 15 days to respond to the FDA’s letter to avoid fines or federal lawsuits.

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New CDC Survey Shows Significant Number of Americans Did Not Get Flu Shot

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Have you had your flu shot?

A new survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that 40% of Americans haven’t gotten theirs this year.

In a press release, the CDC said only 2 out of 5 Americans recieved the vaccine.

“We are glad to see that people are making the decision to protect themselves and their families from flu, but coverage is still low and we urge people to get vaccinated if they haven’t yet,” said Nancy Messonnier, M.D., director of CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. “We have a tool that is proven to prevent flu illness and hospitalization but millions of people are not taking advantage of it. Too many people are unprotected.”

According to the press release, the percentage is based on survey data collected through early November 2016.

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Police Leave Double Amputee Lying on Ground During Arrest, Video Shows

Jay King(Money gram Music)/Facebook(MIAMI) — A woman with a double amputation was left lying on the ground for several minutes after she fell off her wheelchair while being arrested at a gas station in Miami-Dade County, Florida, according to videos captured by witnesses and a police officer’s body camera.

The woman who was arrested — 52-year-old Mary Brown of Homestead, Florida — lost the lower half of her legs several years ago due to diabetes, according to her lawyer, Mark DiGowan. He told ABC News Friday that her arrest was “egregious, given the fact she is disabled.”

Brown was arrested for allegedly trespassing and panhandling at a Chevron gas station in Homestead on Dec. 3, DiGowan said. Brown denies the allegations of trespassing and panhandling, according to DiGowan.

Brown’s arrest first gained national attention earlier this week, when cellphone video taken by witnesses was shared on social media.

On Thursday, the Miami-Dade Police Department released longer videos of the incident that were recorded by a body camera worn by one of the officer’s involved.

The police department wrote in a statement that the release of the body cam footage was part of its “commitment to openness and transparency.”

In the first body cam video released by police, two officers can be seen arguing with Brown about her alleged panhandling and trespassing before they eventually push her in her wheelchair to their patrol car and ask her to get in.

Brown can be heard repeatedly saying, “I didn’t do anything wrong” and “I’m not going in that car.” She is then seen on the video slamming the patrol car door shut.

The two officers eventually try to handcuff Brown. She responds numerous time, “Stop hurting me.”

At one point during the handcuffing attempt, an officer can be heard saying, “Whatchu gonna do? You’re gonna hit me? Are you gonna hit me?” The other officer replies, “I think that’s what she was trying to do.”

Shortly after, Brown can be seen falling off her wheelchair to the ground.

“See what you did?” she says.

“You did that,” one of the officers replies.

DiGowan said that Brown was left “laying on the ground in pain” for at least five minutes.

In a second video taken from the same body cam, Brown can be seen eventually being picked up off the ground and placed back into her wheelchair. She is later seen being put onto a stretcher and into an ambulance.

DiGowan said an ambulance took her to jail. He said that Brown was released of her own recognizance on Thursday.

According to DiGowan, police officers told Brown she was arrested for panhandling, but the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office has not yet filed any formal charges against Brown.

The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office, and the owner of the Chevron gas station where the arrest occurred, could not be immediately reached for comment Friday.

DiGowan said he plans to file a lawsuit against Miami-Dade County on behalf of Brown. On Thursday, he sent a statutorily required notice to the state and county of his intent to file a lawsuit.

In the notice obtained by ABC News, DiGowan wrote that the Miami-Dade police officers who arrested Brown “acted in a reckless, wanton and grossly negligent manner.” He also said that Brown suffered “severe injuries” as a result of the arrest.

The Miami-Dade Police Department did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment.

However, the department’s director, Juan Perez, did release a statement on Thursday, saying that he has “taken a personal interest in the video regarding the arrest of a disabled woman in South Miami-Dade.”

“As a result, I’ve directed staff to contact organizations for disabled persons, to ensure our officers are utilizing current best practices when dealing with individuals requiring special assistance,” Perez said. “Although this discretionary arrest was appropriate, it’s important that we continue to work with our community and social service agencies in identifying alternatives to arrest that can provide meaningful assistance to those in need while addressing the quality of life concerns of our residents and businesses.”

DiGowan criticized Perez’s response.

“They certainly should not have waited to train their officers,” he said. “Ms. Brown was stripped of her dignity. She has never experienced something like this in her entire life. This was obviously a living nightmare for her.”

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Heroin Overdoses Killed More People in US Than HIV, Melanoma or Firearms in 2015

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The opioid epidemic continues to worsen in the U.S., with more people dying from heroin overdoses than firearm homicides, melanoma or HIV-related causes, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In 2015 at least 13,150 people died of heroin overdose, according to the CDC Wonder database, which houses public health data.

That number was higher than the number of people killed in firearm homicides in the same year, which was 12,974, or the number of deaths attributed to HIV, which was 6,465, according to the CDC database. It was also higher than the number of people killed by the most deadly form of skin cancer, melanoma, which the American Cancer Society estimated caused 9,940 deaths in 2015.

The staggering number of deaths related to heroin use is just a part of the toll of the opioid epidemic. In 2014, 28,000 people died from opioid overdoses — which includes heroin overdoses — and half were due to prescription drugs.

Dr. Caleb Alexander, co-director for the Johns Hopkins Center for Drug Safety and Effectiveness, said the heroin overdose numbers first highlighted by The Washington Post on Thursday, were “alarming” and showed the growing impact of opioid abuse in the U.S.

“Both heroin and illicit fentanyl are really complicating efforts to try and reduce opioid-related injuries and deaths,” Alexander told ABC News Friday. Fentanyl is an opioid often made and sold illicitly that can be as much as 100 times more potent than heroin.

Alexander pointed out that what makes the problem more difficult is that addicts have multiple avenues to find and take opioids from prescription drugs to illicit substances like heroin or fentanyl or even veterinary opioids like carfentanil, which was designed to sedate elephants.

“There are a lot of different sources of this products,” Alexander said. “The underlying things that fuel this is the vast number of Americans that is physically dependent or addicted to the product.”

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Girl With Leukemia Granted Wish to Become a Princess for a Day

iStock/Thinkstock(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) — A 4-year-old California girl battling leukemia took over the city of Sacramento Friday as Make-A-Wish transformed her into a princess for a day.

Alyla Stamp, 4, of Yuba City, California, was surprised Friday morning with a trip to a Macy’s department store in Sacramento where she received her princess makeover, including a dress and shoes.

Alylya was later picked up by a royal carriage to be escorted to her coronation and royal ball at the Golden 1 Center, the indoor arena home to the NBA’s Sacramento Kings.

Alyla’s mom, Savanna Stamp, said in the days leading to her princess day, Alyla had no idea what was in store. She first told wish granters from Make-A-Wish Sacramento that she wanted to be her aunt for a day, then changed her wish to being a princess.

“We call them the fairies,” Stamp said of the Make-A-Wish Northeastern California and Northern Nevada wish granters. “We just tell her, ‘The fairies are working on your wish.’”

Stamp told ABC News her daughter was diagnosed in September 2015 with childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), a cancer of the blood and bone marrow, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Alyla was so weak at the time she was diagnosed that she could not even walk, her mom said. She has undergone multiple surgeries since her diagnosis and is still undergoing a maintenance regime of chemotherapy treatments.

Stamp said doctors have told the family that Alyla will need to continue treatments until November 2017 and then she will be in remission.

“She’s had a really good attitude,” Stamp said. “I think it’s made her not scared of anything, going through all of this.”

Alyla’s princess day will include one surprise that is very special to her family. The girl’s grandmother has flown in from Nebraska, where Alyla’s family lived until a few months ago, to surprise her.

The grandmother will be in costume as a queen and will crown Alyla as Sacramento’s Princess.

“Her grandmother Margaret would take care of her when her dad and I were working,” said Stamp. “This day is just going to be one surprise after another.”

Alyla’s special day is happening on National Believe Day, part of Make-A-Wish’s annual partnership with Macy’s. For every letter to Santa Claus received Friday online at or in store, Macy’s will donate $2 to Make-A-Wish.

During her royal ball Friday, Alyla will encourage her subjects to write letters to Santa to help Make-A-Wish make more children’s wishes come true. There will also be a traditional waltz performance by dancers from the Sacramento Ballet and greetings from Sacramento Kings’ president Chris Granger and his family.

“We just want the Grangers and Macy’s to know we really appreciate them for making this special day happen,” said Stamp. “It’s really cool what Make-A-Wish and their partners can do for these kids because they’re been through a lot and to put a really great memory on the not so great memories they’ve had in hospitals, it really makes a difference.”

Saturday, Alyla and her family, including her younger brother and her dad, Damian, in addition to her mom, will take part in the Santa parade in downtown Sacramento.

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Florida Gov. Says Florida Free of Zika Transmission

iStock/Thinkstock(MIAMI) — Florida Gov. Rick Scott announced Friday that Florida is now clear of locally-transmitted Zika for the first time since July. Since the Zika outbreak was announced in the state, four zones of ongoing Zika transmission had been identified and subsequently cleared in recent months.

day the last “Zika zone” in the state, located in the South Beach area of Miami Beach, was declared free of the Zika virus transmission.

“The South Beach area now does not have any local transmission of Zika and that’s a very good day for our state,” Scott told reporters.

The Zika outbreak in Florida was the first time the virus had spread via mosquitoes in the continental United States. Texas announced its first case of locally transmitted Zika virus last month.

Scott called the end of the outbreak an “outstanding day.”

“We’re going to make sure that everybody knows that this state is open for business,” Scott said.

There have been 249 locally transmitted cases of the Zika virus in Florida, according to the Florida Department of Health.

The Zika virus is primarily spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito and generally causes mild symptoms in adults. But when a pregnant woman is infected, it is associated with an increased risk of birth defects, including microcephaly, characterized by an abnormally small head or brain. It can result in diminished mental capacity or other developmental delays.

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Grieving Mom Hides Hot Wheels Around Town in Honor of Son Who Died of Cancer

Courtesy Tracey Blackmore (NEW YORK) — An Indiana mother is hoping to preserve her son’s memory by hiding his favorite toys, Hot Wheels cars, around the neighborhood for strangers to find.

“Since he passed, it’s hard dealing with your grief,” Tracey Blackmore of Carmel, Indiana told ABC News. “You can be sad and feel sorry for yourself or you could do something about it. I just wanted to to spread his love and his story and also help raise money for childhood cancer research.”

On June 13, 2015, Brooks Blackmore, 6, was diagnosed with two astrocytomas, which are cancerous tumors of the brain. He underwent several bouts of radiation to fight the inoperable, stage 4 tumors. But in March 2016 another tumor developed and on May 21, 2016, Brooks died.

“I just miss his laugh and the joy he would bring to our lives,” Blackmore said of her son. “He was such a silly boy always making little fart jokes or butt jokes. He has younger siblings. They are now 3 years old. They’re boy-girl twins and I miss the love that he would share with them.”

To add to the more than $20,000 Brooks’ family has raised for childhood cancer research, Blackmore began assembling bags labeled “Finders Keepers, #BeBrooksBrave.”

Each bag contains Brooks’ story, statistics on childhood cancer, a copy of Brooks’ painting, a link to his St. Baldrick’s Foundation fundraising page and a packaged Hot Wheels car donated by the Mattel toy company.

“Brooks has always loved Hot Wheels,” Blackmore said. “Whenever he was home and sick he would always ask to go out and get a Hot Wheel. This kid would remember every Hot Wheel he had, where he got it, where he got it from. We probably went out four to five times a week when he was undergoing treatment.”

December 20 would have been Brooks’ 7th birthday. In an effort to remember him on that day and during the holidays, Blackmore began scattering 200-plus Hot Wheels cars in some of Brooks’ favorite places including Target, his old preschool, the Chick-fil-A play area and his favorite restaurant, Panera.

“We have a very emotional month here, so I wanted to bring it joy and happiness instead of sadness,” Blackmore said. “I wanted to inspire others to keep fighting, be brave and hopefully do something good for somebody else too.”

Blackmore hopes the cars will cheer someone up just as they did for Brooks. She has mailed some Hot Wheels across the country so out-of-state family can hide them as well.

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Your Body: Fighting the Winter Blues

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

Some people suffer from the winter blues. Shorter, colder days come with the winter months and, for some, so does seasonal affective disorder.

Many people start to develop the telltale signs after falling back with the clock. Symptoms include irritability, excessive sleeping, and loss of interest. Some may notice lethargy and weight gain.

So here are some things you can do to combat the winter blues: See the light. Even though we have less daylight time, being outside in the sun for just 10 to 15 minutes everyday is important. Some people find those light boxes also help. And if your budget allows, head south for even a short vacation. It might be just what the doctor ordered.

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Parents of Formerly Conjoined Twins Say Seeing Them Separated Is ‘Surreal’

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The mother of twin girls born conjoined at the abdomen and chest it said it was “surreal” to see her daughters separated.

Speaking to reporters alongside doctors Thursday, Aida Sandoval, and her husband, Arturo Sandoval, were brought to tears as they recounted their daughters’ operation earlier this week.

Erika and Eva Sandoval, 2, of Antelope, California, were born joined at the lower chest and upper abdomen, referred to as omphalo-ischiopagus twins. While they were born with their heart and lungs separate, they shared some lower anatomical structures, including a liver, bladder and two kidneys.

“It has been a long journey to get here. It’s really been a dream come true,” Aida Sandoval told reporters. “We want to get them to this place where they can still have an individual life and still be together.”

It took at least 50 doctors and other medical staff 18 hours to safely separate the girls at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital in Palo Alto, California. They remain in recovery at the hospital after undergoing surgery on Tuesday.

Prior to the surgery, the hospital estimated there was a 70 percent chance that both girls would survive the arduous procedure.

To take on the difficult surgery, the medical team created a 3-D model of the girls’ shared abdomen to help guide them through the surgery. They also had their MRI and CT scans available.

The girls’ mother said today when she first saw them in the hospital it was surreal to see them separate for the first time in their lives.

“It still seems very surreal to see one on one side and one on the other side,” Aida Sandoval said. “It brings us all joy.”

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Firefighters Hang Christmas Lights For Man Who Fell Nearly Six Feet Off Ladder

Erik Gaines(NEW YORK) — A crew of firefighters in Washington state helped save Christmas for the family of a man who fell nearly six feet off a ladder while trying to hang Christmas lights at his home.

Erik Gaines, 35, was home alone with his three young children Sunday decorating the outside of the family’s Puyallup, Washington, home for the holidays. He had just hung the first string of lights on his two-story home when the base of the ladder kicked out from underneath him and he crashed down.

Gaines’ left leg got caught in one of the rungs of the ladder as he crashed onto the ground. His 11- and 7-year-old daughters called 911 for their dad while Gaines’ 1-year-old son slept in his crib.

Just as Gaines’ wife pulled up to the house, rescue crews from Central Pierce Fire & Rescue arrived to take Gaines to the hospital.

As Gaines was treated at the hospital for injuries, including a torn rotator cuff, broken leg and a chipped bone on his shoulder, he received good news. The same firefighters who rescued him were planning to come back to his house on their day off to finish hanging his Christmas lights.

“They were so upset, so we thought let’s just give back and spread a little joy,” Sean Irwin, one of the four firefighters who put up the lights on Tuesday, told ABC News. “We thought it’d be cool if they pulled in home from the hospital and they had their lights up.”

Irwin said the firefighters had a relatively easy job to do because Gaines had so carefully laid out the lights for his home. The completed the job in about one hour.

“Putting up lights was pushed to the back burner after my fall,” Gaines said. “But when I heard they offered, it definitely got me emotional to know that they had thought to do that.”

The firefighters also told Gaines they will be back in January to finish the job.

“They called when we got home from the hospital and made sure the timers were all working for the lights to go on and off and offered to come back after the first of the year to take the lights down,” Gaines said.

Gaines is now home from the hospital as he awaits at least one more surgery to repair his injuries.

“My family and friends have taken pictures for me and put them on social media so I can see them,” said Gaines, who is now mostly immobile. “It’s really comforting to know that they’re up and that my family gets to continue to celebrate as normal.”

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