Review Category : Health

Government to Remove Restrictions on Marijuana Research

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — According to The New York Times, which cites unnamed officials, the Obama administration is planning to remove a restriction to marijuana research which could advance scientific study of the drug.

The University of Mississippi has been the only institution authorized to grow the drug to use in medical studies, hobbling scientific research. However, the DEA will soon allow other universities to apply to grow marijuana, according to the report.

John Hudak, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said, “It will create a supply of research-grade marijuana that is diverse, but more importantly, it will be competitive and you will have growers motivated to meet the demand of researchers.”

President Obama has stated he views marijuana as no more dangerous than alcohol. Four states and Washington, D.C., have legalized the drug for recreational use, and 25 states allow medical marijuana in some form.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Florida Confirms Case of Brain-Eating Amoeba

Centers for Disease Control (CDC)(FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla.) — The Florida Department of Health has confirmed a case of brain-eating amoeba. The potentially deadly infection was contracted by a swimmer who bathed in unsanitary water at a private residence in Broward County, ABC News 10 reports.

The amoeba, whose scientific name is Naegleria fowlerii, can cause a rare and devastating infection of the brain, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

The confirmation of the case in Florida comes just days after 11-year-old Hannah Collins succumbed to the amoeba after swimming in a river in South Carolina.

Authorities did not give the name, age or gender of the Florida individual, but said that they were currently receiving treatment in a hospital.

The organism is commonly found in warm freshwater, according to the CDC, usually enters the body through the nasal passage and can cause a rare but extremely deadly infection of the brain.

Of 133 people known to have been infected with the brain-eating amoeba in the United States from 1962 to 2014, only three people have survived, according to the CDC.

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Mother of 5-Year-Old Transgender Girl Fights Texas School District Over Bathroom Access

Courtesy Kimberly Shappley(PEARLAND, Texas) — The mother of a 5-year-old transgender girl in Pearland, Texas, is continuing her fight against the Pearland Independent School District to allow her daughter to use the girls’ bathroom.

Kimberly Shappley — mom of soon-to-be kindergartner, Kai Shappley — said her fight against the school district started in May. The district allows students to use gender-neutral bathrooms, found in some areas of the school, but the mom says that isn’t enough.

“I went to the campus and approached the school district to try and work with them,” she told ABC News today. “I wanted to make sure Kai wouldn’t be discriminated against and be able to use the girl’s bathroom, but it soon became very apparent that the superintendent has a very strong, prejudiced stance against the LGBTQ community.”

Coincidentally, later that month, the Obama administration issued a directive to schools saying that transgender students should be able to use bathrooms that match their gender identity.

The district’s superintendent, Dr. John Kelly, said in a statement in May to The Pearland Journal that he believed the directive was just “one more example of unconstitutional interference and social engineering by the federal government.”

“What’s next? Legalizing pedophilia and polygamy?” he said. “Unless we return to the Biblical basis on which our nation’s laws were established, we are in serious trouble – and cannot expect God’s continued favor.”

Kelly added that it “has been the position of Pearland ISD administration that children whose parents declare them ‘transgender’ must go to the bathroom for the sex indicated on their birth certificate. Such student(s) have also been allowed to use a private bathroom (such as in the nurse’s station) if they are so inclined.”

In a statement to ABC News, Pearland ISD said its “stance on transgender students remains” and that all “Pearland ISD kindergarten classrooms have a private, gender-neutral bathroom within the classroom for student use.”

Kimberly Shappley told ABC News that she was still concerned her daughter, Kai, would feel alienated and discriminated against if she wanted to use the girls’ bathroom during recess, physical education, or assemblies — times she might not have access to a kindergarten classroom where a gender-neutral bathroom is available.

Though Shappley said she found the words and actions of the superintendent and the school “hurtful,” she said she would be the first to admit she “used to be one of them.”

“I am a devout and conservative Christian and an ordained minister,” she said and explained that she tried to force Kai into being a boy when she was a toddler.

“I knew my kid was different before the age of 2,” Shappley said. “My child was very feminine, flamboyant and dramatic. No matter how I tried to punish, reshape or discipline her, she continued being very feminine.”

By the age of 3, Kai began “adamantly saying and verbalizing she was a girl.”

Shappley said a turning point for her came, though, when Kai — who was called Joseph back then — began “consistently praying for Joseph to go to heaven.”

“Kai was begging the Lord to let her die,” she said. “My child would pray and ask the Lord to let Joseph go to heaven and be with Jesus.”

Shappley said she then began doing research and discovered that transgender children without familial support are at a significantly higher risk of suicide.

“That did it for me,” she said. “I chose to stick with the words in red in the Bible, the words that Jesus spoke. I clung to those words, prayed and fasted — and the Lord just helped me to be my kid’s mom.”

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Kids With Epilepsy Feel Discrimination and Stigma, Study Finds

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Feelings of exhaustion, discrimination, embarrassment over loss of privacy and body functions, as well as an overwhelming sense life disruption are common among children with epilepsy, according to a new study released today.

“Depending on age group, we see different reactions not just from patients themselves but also from their families,” Dr. Asim Shahid, Pediatric Epilepsy Specialist at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital, told ABC News. He said he hears these worries and fears every day when diagnosing children and helping them adjust to taking medication.

In his experience, they may feel inadequate in comparison to children without the condition; it can become “a source of anxiety and stress.”

The study, published in the medical journal Pediatrics, looked at 43 previously published articles from 21 countries, including interviews of 951 children, adolescents and young adult patients about their experiences with epilepsy. The articles reviewed for this study revealed the struggles young epileptic patients face while coping with the disease. Researchers only reviewed articles in English, so some were excluded.

Epilepsy, a condition causing electrical misfiring in the brain which can lead to seizures, affects up to eight out of every 1,000 people.

The children interviewed for the study often reported common fears and concerns including worries over the possibility of dying, embarrassment over an inability to control their bodies or social pressures related to the illness, according to the researchers from various institutions including the Sydney School of Public Health and Discipline of Paediatrics and Child Health at the University of Sydney.

Some said having seizures disturbed their “basic trust in their bodies and in themselves” making them feel more likely to be injured. Due to the erratic nature of seizures, other children had fears of dying suddenly or becoming a “vegetable.”

School can be especially difficult because seizures can lead to memory difficulties or attention problems that make children “feel slow” compared to their classmates. Some children and adolescents with epilepsy are teased or asked questions about the medications they have to take to treat their condition, according to the study. Just trying to interact with their peers may also pose a problem.

Shahid said in school many teachers and even school nurses don’t have a firm grasp of epilepsy and what a seizures looks like.

“Seizures are not just you shake for a minute and half and then you’re fine it’s much broader,” he said.

Many children also reported common worries about being different and having seizures that could lead to unwanted attention from their peers in school. These emotional reactions could possibly have clear impacts on the child’s overall health, according to the researchers.

“It is estimated that 38 percent to 50 percent of children are nonadherent to their antiepileptic medication within the first 6 months of initiating therapy,” the authors wrote. “This may be due to their desire to appear and feel normal, the unrelenting side effects of medication, and disempowerment.”

The disease can also impact their social life since it can mean curbing a person’s ability to go to parties, drink alcohol or play sports. One person interviewed in the studies told researchers they felt more isolated from friends.

“I don’t go out anymore because I can’t do the things my friends do, so why bother?” the unidentified patient was quoted as saying in the study.

Shahid pointed out some medications can exacerbate the struggles patients face socially. “They are ‘in a fog,’ that’s what I heard from many patients,” he told ABC News.

“There are medications that result in hair loss…tremors,” he added, describing their effect on self-esteem. “There’s a lot of things that are supposed to help you but can make things worse.”

The researchers are now calling for epileptic treatment and management to address these psychosocial needs of young patients so that they do not feel stigmatized or limited in their lifestyle due to their illness.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Your Body: How to Avoid Bug Bites

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

Mosquitoes and other biting insects may be an unfortunate part of summer. But you don’t have to suffer — there are ways to avoid those nasty bug bites.

Look for proven ingredients like DEET, picaridin and IR3535 to give you long-lasting protection. If you want to avoid products that contain DEET, there are natural alternatives, like eucalyptus oil, peppermint oil, neem oil and citronella.

Just one coat of bug spray on your exposed skin is enough. To protect your face, spray the product on the palm of your hand first before applying it to your face.

My tip: Cover up with long sleeves and pants if possible, and if you do get bitten, apply ice, a Benadryl gel or an over-the-counter steroid cream, and don’t ever scratch.

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Personal Trainer’s Journey with Condition that Causes Repeated Skin Cancer

Mount Sinai Health Systems(NEW YORK) — When Erica Dingler was 12, she noticed a small white spot in her jaw almost like a tooth poking through.

She remembers the physician took one look at her jaw and and asked to see her palms. Dingler’s palms had small pits in it — a class sign of a rare genetic condition called Gorlin syndrome.

The disease affects about 1 in 57,000 people in the U.S. and is due to mutations on a gene called the PTCH1 gene. People who have the genetic mutation are significantly more likely to develop skin cancer, specifically the cancer called basal cell carcinoma. While it is the most common form of skin cancer and it is rarely fatal, it can require surgery to remove cancerous masses.

At 12, Dingler faced a lifetime of doctor’s appointments and check-ups to look for signs of cancer.

Dingler, now 30, has been through dozens of procedures and surgeries to remove the cancerous masses on her face and scalp, with three removed in the last month. She said she’s now been inspired to speak out about the condition so that others can understand what it’s like to live with the disease and give hope to newly diagnosed patients that they can live a normal life.

She said in the beginning she felt she could not be a normal kid after her doctors gave stern warnings that she needed to stay out of the sun, a tall order for the adolescent girl who loved the beach.

“At first I was definitely a little nervous because my dermatologist at least gave me the impression that I should almost stay in a hole,” Dingler recalled. “For a 12-year-old girl, at the time you’re trying to find yourself.”

She said initially she felt nervous about simply going outside to be with friends or go to school events, but eventually she learned how to properly protect herself with sunscreen and hats to decrease her chance of developing skin cancer.

“For 20 years now I’ve been going through many doctor’s visits and making sure I watch my skin,” Dingler told ABC News. “Sunscreen is my friend right now.”

But despite all her efforts, Dingler has not been able to avoid the carcinomas that are so common for Golin patients. She estimates she’s had anywhere between 20 to 40 basal cell carcinomas, and in the past month has had three cancerous or possibly cancerous growths removed.

“This past week I had to have a big patch on my lip and forehead,” she said of after the carcinomas were removed. “It does make you a little bit self-conscious and a little bit self-aware.”

Dr. Hooman Khorasani, chief of the Division of Dermatology and Cosmetic Surgery at Mount Sinai Health Systems in New York, said he estimates that he’s taken at least 25 carcinomas or likely-carcinomas from Dingler. Three carcinomas were removed in the last month.

He emphasizes his goal is to make sure he leaves her with as little scarring as possible, while removing any cancerous tissue.

“One of the most important things is for us to make sure she doesn’t look deformed,” said Khorasani, explaining that he takes extra care to minimize potential scars.

It’s rare for these kinds of basal cell carcinomas to become fatal, Khorasani said, unless a person doesn’t receive treatment or if their immune system is compromised. Golin syndrome is also associated with other health effects, including a slightly larger head size, benign jaw tumors that can displace teeth and increased chance of other kinds of tumors, including a brain tumor called medulloblastoma, often detected in childhood.

The toll of these health conditions can also affect the mental health of people with Gorlin syndrome. Multiple studies have found Gorlin patients are at a higher risk of depression and other psychological issues. One published study found that 56 percent of people with Gorlin syndrome reported depression or use of antidepressants. The same percentage reported anxiety about possible future surgical procedures to have carcinomas removed.

Helping patients cope with the disease is key, Khorasani said, and he works with other specialists, including a counselor and psychiatrist, when treating patients. Most Gorlin syndrome patients are diagnosed in their late teens or early 20s, just as they’re heading out into the world.

“Being able to counsel patients about these things and making sure their mental health is OK,” is important, he said, noting that the condition doesn’t have to mean a patient stays hidden away for their whole lives. He pointed to Dingler as an role model.

“She’s very functional and very amazing attitude about it,” he said. “She’s very good at being upbeat.”

Dingler said years of dealing with the disease and learning how to cope have helped give her a positive outlook.

“I can go and live a regular life,” she said. “The sun is still my friend.”

Recently married with a job as a professional trainer, Dingler said simply living with the condition for so long has toughened her up for questions about her scars or bandages.

“If anything for a New Yorker, it’s helped me have a thicker skin both literally and figuratively,” she said.

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Gina Rodriguez Discusses Battle with Weight, Hashimoto’s Disease

Jeffrey R. Staab/CBS(NEW YORK) — Gina Rodriguez is openly discussing her battle with Hashimoto’s disease in the September issue of Health magazine.

The autoimmune disease can lead to an underactive thyroid and weight gain.

“It’s always been a battle for me with weight,” the Jane the Virgin star said. “Keeping weight off is very difficult because my metabolism is pretty much shot, which to me felt like a curse when I was 19.”

Working in an industry that puts so much emphasis on looks has made that battle even tougher for the 32-year-old.

“As an actress, I was like, ‘Seriously?! In a world that’s so vain, I have to deal with the disease that makes you not keep weight off?'” she adds. “But it actually became a blessing because then I got to represent not only women and Latinas, but also women who are dealing with this disease.”

Rodriguez is winning that weight battle with a combination of a gluten-free diet and plenty of exercise.

“If I can at least walk for 30 minutes a day, it’s extremely helpful for my thyroid gland,” she says. “Running, boxing, jump rope and hitting the heavy bag are my workout constants.”

Rodriguez even manages to squeeze in some exercise while she’s on set.

“I like to do videos of me dancing,” she says. “And I’ll do squats. I’ll drop into a squat any day of the week, even mid-scene.”

Jane the Virgin returns for its third season in October on The CW Network.

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Four New Zika Virus Cases Reported in Florida Outbreak

iStock/Thinkstock(MIAMI) — Four new Zika infections acquired locally through mosquitoes have been reported in northern Miami, Florida Gov. Rick Scott said Tuesday.

The new cases brings the total infected by the Zika outbreak, which was first detected last month in Miami, to at least 21 people. The Florida Department of Health said it continues to focus on a 1-square-mile area in northern Miami where they believe the infections are ongoing.

All of the new infections were reported in that area.

The Miami outbreak is the first time the Zika virus has been spread through infected mosquitoes in the continental U.S. Officials from the Florida Department of Health have continued to go door to door to test subjects for Zika and to spray areas where the Aedes aegypti mosquito, the species that spreads Zika, could be hiding.

“Today, we have learned that there are four new individuals that have local transmissions of Zika in our state, likely through a mosquito bite,” Scott said in a statement Tuesday, calling on the federal government to pass a bill to allot funds to fight Zika. “This is not only an issue affecting us here in Florida — this is a national issue. Florida is just at the head of it with the first cases of local transmission of Zika.”

The new infections were reported the same day that Texas reported its first Zika-related death. An infant with Zika-linked microcephaly died soon after being born. The infant’s mother contracted the disease while in Latin America and the virus had affected the child in utero.

Scott said the federal government had not yet fulfilled his request for an additional 10,000 Zika prevention kits and called on Congress to come back into session to resolve the issue over the Zika funds.

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Fertility Rates Drop to Lowest Level Measured in the US, Says the CDC

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Fertility rates in America –- the number of babies born per woman between ages of 15 and 44 -– are at the lowest levels ever recorded, according to researchers in a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The findings are based on population data from the CDC that is released every quarter and tracks birth and fertility statistics dating back to 1909. This does not indicate there are more infertile women; rather it means that fewer babies are being born to women of likely childbearing age in the U.S. Measuring the fertility rate is viewed as a more accurate data compared to overall birthrate which measures the rate of babies born compared to the total U.S. population.

Today the fertility rate has decreased from 60 births per thousand women in the first quarter of 2015 down to 59.8 per thousand in the first quarter of 2016. This means there are on average less than 6 babies born for every 100 women in this age group. In 2010 there were 6.4 births for every 100 women in the group. This follows a trend in recent years of declining birth rates in the U.S. with general fertility rates declining more than 10 percent since 2007.

The report is the first time the CDC is releasing the fertility rate data quarterly instead of annually in an effort to understand more trends from this data and provide better information to public health and other medical officials.

The “report is trying to give us a picture of what is happening to fertility among U.S. women by specific characteristics, in particular by age,” Donna Strobino, a professor of Population, Family and Reproductive Health at Johns Hopkins University told ABC News.

The report also found a continued decline in birth rates for women between the ages of 15 and 29 and an overall drop in teen birth rates. The birth rate for those between 15 to 19 declined from 22.7 per births per thousand women to 20.8 births per thousand.

While teen pregnancy is decreasing, pregnancy rates among older women between the ages of 30 to 44 are increasing. Birth rates increased the most for women between the ages of 30 to 34 rising from 95.6 to 97.9 per thousand women, part of an ongoing trend.

Strobino pointed out that the findings reflect demographic changes in general.

“The good news is that infertility treatment has allowed women to extend the age of childbirthing, going along with a lot of trends we are seeing in increasing age of marriage, increasing education levels and increasing labor force participation,” she said. “The bad news is the complications associated with aging that have to do with an increase in chronic diseases as women age, increase in pregnancy induced complications and increase in complications for the fetus and newborn.”

Lauren Rossen, Senior Service Fellow at National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and lead statistician for this CDC report, said they hoped by releasing the information quarterly for a first time it will help surveillance.

“We have focused on indicators that are important for public health surveillance and to public health practitioners, public health researchers, and the broader community,” Rossen said.

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DC Hospital Evacuates NICU After Dangerous Bacteria Found

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — A hospital in Washington, D.C., has started to move patients from its neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) after bacteria was found on three of the patients, hospital officials said.

Officials from the Prince George’s Hospital Center made the announcement Tuesday after a bacteria called Pseudomonas was found on the patients. The patients had no symptoms of infection, according to a statement by the Prince George’s Hospital Center.

The bacteria is found naturally in the environment, but can be dangerous or even deadly for people with weakened immune systems.

“Infections of the blood, pneumonia, and infections following surgery can lead to severe illness and death in these people,” according to the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.

Sickened infants in a NICU would likely have a weakened immune system and be at increased risk for developing serious complications if infected by the bacteria.

The hospital is working with the Prince George’s County Health Department, the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and the University of Maryland School of Medicine to identify the source of the outbreak. The Washington Suburban Sanitation Commission issued a statement reporting that water samples at a station near the hospital were clear and showed no signs of the bacteria that were present on the NICU patients.

“Our highest priority is the safety and well-being of all of our patients and their families, as well as our valued team of caregivers,” officials from the hospital said in a statement Tuesday. “We realize that this situation is a source of concern to families, staff and the community. All parties should be assured of our commitment to manage this transfer process and concurrent investigation as smoothly as possible, and to provide many layers of support.”

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