Review Category : Health

CDC: Enterovirus 68 Confirmed in Seven States, Concern over Emergency Room Overcrowding

Credit: James Gathany/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(NEW YORK) — The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has confirmed Enterovirus 68 in seven states, with at least 84 individuals infected.

On Thursday, the CDC confirmed the presence of the disease in Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, and Montana. Confirmation of the disease’s presence in a state is helpful in that it allows doctors to more quickly diagnose who is critically ill. The number of cases, however, does not reflect the true spread of the disease, as testing is not done on every child who appears to have the disease.

Among the greatest threats posed by Enterovirus 68 is the flood of patients with even mild symptoms who are overwhelming emergency rooms around the country.

Nancy Burke, an administrator in the Emergency Department at Advocate Christ Children’s Hospital in Oak Lawn, Illinois, said that there has been a jump in the number of people arriving at the emergency room due to fear. The hospital, Burke says, is at full capacity, which strains resources and resource management.

Dr. Mary Anne Jackson, Director of Infectious Diseases at Mercy Children’s Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri, said that she feels the rush of children being brought to the emergency room with Enterovirus 68 symptoms has slowed in recent days.

Many of the children who have been brought to emergency rooms around the nation, hospitals say, do not test positive for the virus.

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Researchers Say Enzyme May Hold Key to Targeting Cancer Cells

Photokanok/iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Researchers say they may have discovered a way to target cancer cells to more effectively treat leukemia.

In a study published in the journal Cell, researchers at Harvard University found that cancer cells are particularly dependent on one particular enzyme to survive. In laboratory mice who were genetically altered to avoid the presence of that enzyme in their systems, cancer cells failed to grow.

Researchers say that the elimination of the enzyme did not impact normal cells, as they were able to utilize a different enzyme for energy.

The study remains in the very preliminary phase, as testing has only been conducted on mice. Still, researchers believe that it may help them by pointing out that the way that cells metabolize energy could help in targeting cancer.

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Couple Completes Bucket List for Unborn Child

Courtesy Dan Haley(NEW YORK) — When you find out you’re pregnant, it’s not unusual for parents to start dreaming of all the places and experiences you want to share with your bundle of joy once they’re born.

Jenna and Dan Haley, of Philadelphia, had to get started on those plans much earlier than expected. At only 13 weeks, their unborn son, Shane, was diagnosed with anencephaly, a birth defect in which babies are born without parts of their brain and skull.

“We learned of his condition on April 10,” Dan, 25, told ABC News. “We were shocked and devastated. It’s definitely not something anyone ever expects to hear. As we learned more about his diagnosis we experienced pretty much every emotion you could imagine.”

Over time, however, the disheartened couple “accepted his condition for what it was, and decided to give Shane all the love we could while we have him with us,” the father said.

The Haleys learned the life expectancy for infants born with anencephaly is extremely short — generally ranging from mere hours to a few days — so their time with Shane would not only be precious, but limited.

“When we found out that Jenna was expecting, we would often talk about all of the places that we wanted to go as a family after Shane was born,” Dan recalled. “After his diagnosis and understanding that almost 100 percent of babies with anencephaly die shortly after birth, we decided to start visiting the places we had wanted to go with him while he was living in his mother’s womb.”

The couple made a bucket list of significant activities and locations they still wanted to share with Shane, from going to a Phillies game, visiting the Statue of Liberty and Times Square in New York City, to even taking their unborn son to enjoy a famous cheesesteak from Geno’s in Philadelphia, all while Jenna was pregnant.

“He’s still our little boy and even though he’s been given such a short life expectancy because of anencephaly, we wanted to make sure that we gave him a lifetime worth of adventures and love while he’s with us,” said Dan.

The proud parents-to-be have been chronicling their bucket list adventures on their Facebook page, Prayers for Shane, for the nearly 175,000 followers who’ve joined in to witness their journey and provide support, something for which the Haleys are so incredibly thankful.

“One thing we would want people to take away is that each human life is so valuable and that it’s so important to live each day to its fullest potential,” Dan explained. “Whether we live one hour or 100 years, our time here is limited. Make sure to enjoy the little things in life and hug those who mean the most to you. Choose to make the most of the hand you’re dealt and always look on the bright side of every situation and the world will be a better place because of it.”

And as for their growing boy who is due on Oct. 12, he can rest assured his parents are over the moon to meet him.

“We honestly just can’t wait to hold Shane in our arms and show him how much we love him,” said Dan. “It’s all in God’s hands and we will accept His will, but we just can’t wait to finally hold and hug our little man!”

As of early September, the Haleys had completed their entire bucket list for Shane.

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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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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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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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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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