Review Category : Health

Teen’s caffeine-related death highlights the dangers of the common stimulant

Medioimages/Photodisc/Thinkstock(COLUMBIA, S.C.) — The death of a teen who drank caffeinated beverages has spotlighted the possible dangers of caffeine.

Davis Allen Cripe, 16, died last month due to a “caffeine-induced cardiac event” according to the Richland County coroner in Columbia, South Carolina.

Cripe consumed just three caffeinated beverages, but the high levels of caffeine caused a cardiac event, according to Dr. Gary Watts, the Richland County coroner.

He said there was not enough caffeine to be “toxic” causing a “caffeine overdose.”

Instead the caffeine “brought on this cardiac event,” Watts told ABC News. The teen did not have a family history of cardiac arrhythmia or irregular heart beat and there was nothing structurally wrong with his heart.

But how can caffeine, a key component in many common beverages, turn deadly? It can depend on the amount consumed and the person’s health history.

The Mayo Clinic reports that approximately 400 milligrams (mg) of caffeine a day is safe for most healthy adults, which is roughly “the amount of caffeine in four cups of brewed coffee, 10 cans of cola or two ‘energy shot’ drinks.”

It’s unclear how much is safe or unsafe for teens or young children, since studies of its effects are not permitted in children.

But, the American Academy of Pediatrics advised parents in a 2011 report to keep kids and teens away from energy drinks over concerns of high-levels of caffeine.

“Caffeine –- by far the most popular stimulant -– has been linked to a number of harmful health effects in children, including effects on the developing neurologic and cardiovascular systems,” AAP officials said. “In general, caffeine-containing beverages, including soda, should be avoided.”

Generally, once consumed, the drug is “rapidly absorbed into the blood and easily passes the blood–brain barrier to function as a mild stimulant of the central nervous system,” according to a report on caffeine-related deaths in the Journal of Toxicology.

The report found that, while millions consume caffeine beverages every day without any issues, there have been some rare cases of caffeine overdose causing heart problems and death.

“Overdosing with caffeine causes excitement, agitation and people experience tachycardia, heart palpitations and often require emergency hospital treatment,” the report states.

While Cripe did not have underlying issues, according to the coroner, Dr. Bruce Goldberger, a toxicologist and professor at University of Florida College of Medicine, said that caffeine can exacerbate genetic issues that put people at increased risk for irregular heart beat or cardiac arrhythmia after consuming caffeine, even if they don’t ingest extremely high levels that would be considered “toxic.”

“There are certain cardiac arrhythmia that cause sudden death in young people,” Goldberger said.

The rise of caffeine packed energy drinks, pills or powders have also drawn attention from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and other health organizations.

In 2015, the FDA issued a report urging consumers to stay away from caffeine powders, pointing out a “single teaspoon of pure caffeine is roughly equivalent to the amount in 28 cups of coffee.”

They reported two deaths had been associated with these types of products.

Also in 2015, the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) reported 1,661 single exposures to caffeine-containing energy drinks, with five major complications but no deaths. The AAPCC also reported 3,023 single exposures to caffeine as a street drug, with 17 major complications and one death.

Dr. Crystal Tan contributed to this article. She is an anesthesiology resident at Massachusetts General Hospital and part of the ABC News medical unit.

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New Ebola outbreak leaves three dead in Democratic Republic of Congo

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — A year after the worst-ever Ebola outbreak was declared over, a new cluster of the disease is suspected of causing three deaths in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The World Health Organization, which first reported the outbreak last week, said Monday that 19 people are suspected of developing Ebola infections and three of the patients have died in the remote Bas-Uele province. Despite attempts to trace contacts and stop the disease, the WHO reported the “national risk” for the region is “high.”

“At this stage, the overall risk is high at national level due to the known impact of Ebola outbreaks, remoteness of the affected area, limited access to health care and suboptimal surveillance,” they reported.

In an account of the outbreak’s start, WHO officials revealed how quickly the virus is suspected of spreading from patient to patient.

The first suspected case was a 39-year-old man who arrived at a remote clinic on April 22 with fever, weakness, vomiting, bloody diarrhea and nosebleeds. He was on his way to another health center for further treatment, but died before he arrived.

Two days later, the motorcycle driver who transported the first patient and another person who had helped during the transport also developed symptoms. The driver died from the illness on April 26, just four days after the first patient arrived for treatment.

Other people who have developed symptoms were “close” to these three patients, according to the WHO.

In an effort to stop the outbreak from spreading rapidly, a health team was sent out and is now identifying contacts who may have been exposed to the deadly virus. At least 125 people close to those who fell ill with the disease are being monitored.

Isolation centers will be set up in case the outbreak spreads, according to the WHO. Aid groups are also setting up isolation facilities in the event that the outbreak becomes considerably worse.

The Ebola virus is a hemorrhagic fever.

This marks the eighth outbreak of the deadly virus since it was first discovered in 1976. Starting in March 2014, a massive Ebola outbreak spread through multiple countries, including Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. Nearly 29,000 people were suspected to have been infected and more than 11,000 people died from the virus, according to the WHO.

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Gestational diabetes may increase with warmer days, study finds

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Diabetes during pregnancy has long frustrated doctors trying to discern why some women are more at risk for the disease than others. Though some factors have been associated with increased risk for the condition, including age, family history, excess weight and race, many questions remain.

A new study published today in the Canadian Medical Association Journal looked at 396,828 pregnant women and found another potential factor that could increase the risk for gestational diabetes: rising temperatures.
“There is also growing evidence supporting a link between air temperature, metabolic function and energy expenditure,” the authors wrote.

Researchers at the Mount Sinai Hospital, University of Toronto and St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, studied 555,911 births from women in the Toronto area between 2002 and 2014 to see if certain temperatures were associated with increased risk of gestational diabetes.

They studied the average temperatures for 30 days before a pregnant woman’s routine test for gestational diabetes, which occurs at 27 weeks.

They found that the prevalence of women diagnosed with gestational diabetes was higher if there the weather was warmer shortly before they were diagnosed. When the average temperature was above 24 degrees Celsius, or about 75 degrees Fahrenheit, approximately 7.7 percent of women were diagnosed with gestational diabetes. When the average temperature was below -10 degrees Celsius, or about 14 degrees Fahrenheit, just 4.6 percent of pregnant women studied were diagnosed with the condition.

“If the association between air temperature and risk of gestational diabetes mellitus is real, then modifying the thermal environment (e.g., lowering the setting on a home thermostat or spending more time outdoors in cooler weather) may reduce risk of gestational diabetes mellitus,” the authors concluded.

Previous studies have found that cold temperature can have major changes on how the body processes fat and adipose tissue. Cold temperatures are associated with an increase of “brown fat” in the body, which can improve glucose levels and metabolism, according to at least one published study by the National Institutes of Health.

Dr. David Hackney, Division Chief, Maternal Fetal Medicine at UH Cleveland Medical Center, said the study was interesting and joins a growing number looking at how temperature can affect effect the body’s metabolism.
It’s an “area of concern due to issues regarding rising temperatures and global warming,” Hackney said. “We’re starting to see a rising number of studies across a number of different fields.”

This study is a start. He said that far more research would need to be done to correlate simple temperature changes to rates of gestational diabetes. There may be several factors that could create the relationship.
“As the temperature changes, maybe they go outside less or there’s impacts on activity levels or changes in particles of the air,” Hackney said.

Gestational diabetes is associated with a host of birth complications. Some fetuses can become extremely large in the womb and become injured during the birthing process or an emergency cesarean section may be required to safely deliver the baby.

Newborns with mothers who had gestational diabetes may also suffer from low blood sugar immediately after delivery. Hackney said there are concerns they could be at increased risk for metabolic issues as they grow older.

For women, having gestational diabetes can increases risk for type 2 diabetes even years after giving birth.

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Hospitals remain key targets as ransomware attacks expected to increase

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The massive cyberattack this weekend that used “Wannacry” ransomware to infiltrate hundreds of thousands of computers has left organizations around the world — including medical care providers — on high alert.

The attack on the British National Health Service that affected 16 hospitals became the most visible and frightening symbol of the attack, after several patients were sent to other hospitals and surgeries were canceled. While the scale of this weekend’s attack has been massive, authorities say it is just part of what will be a continuing pattern of ransomware attacks.

Last year, multiple medical facilities in the U.S. were targeted in different attacks, with some paying thousands of dollars to recover their files. The hackers used ransomware to encrypt data, lock computers and hold the information for ransom payments.

In April 2016, the FBI published a ransomware explainer that mentioned recent attacks on U.S. hospitals, along with school districts, state and local governments, and law enforcement agencies.

“During 2015, law enforcement saw an increase in these types of cyber attacks, particularly against organizations because the payoffs are higher,” FBI officials wrote.

Hospitals can be especially vulnerable, since their networks are rarely offline, according to Mark Burnette, a cyber-security expert and shareholder at the LBMC Information Security, which specializes in healthcare security.

“For hospitals to maintain their systems, they need to have a planned down time,” Burnette explained. “You have to reboot a system … It’s difficult for hospitals to justify a lot of planned down time.”

As a result of being unable to easily update and reboot their systems, hospitals may put off updating vulnerable software. The most recent attack, using a form of ransomware called “WannaCry” that was discovered by the National Security Agency, targeted a specific vulnerability in Microsoft Windows.

Microsoft released a patch for this vulnerability in March, but networks that had neglected to upgrade their systems were still vulnerable to attack.

Burnette said that hospitals are valued targets since they are seen as “treasure trove of information.”

“You have Personal ID info, like social security numbers or home addresses or bank acct info, then you have protected health info, which is HIPAA data, and then you’ve got cardholder data,” he said.

Hospitals are increasingly attempting to “harden” their systems by discarding unneeded software that would make systems more vulnerable, Burnette said. Hardening systems and creating more separation between systems can create additional levels of security, so that if the network is compromised, it doesn’t affect every computer or device on that network.

“Hardening a system can be described as turning off unnecessary services and capability so they are not available to be targeted,” Burnette said. He explained that if a system is supposed to work as a file server, the IT department can remove other software like email and web browsers that would make it more vulnerable to be hacked.

But Burnette said hospitals are particularly vulnerable because many haven’t yet completed those steps. They also typically have open networks where “everything is accessible to everything else on the network.”

“You take systems that are similar and put them in certain segments of network and put in security rules,” so only stuff that needs to get in, gets in, Burnette said.

He said an increasing number of healthcare providers are becoming aware of the risks and trying to take action.

The FBI has advised a multi-pronged approach to battling hackers including implementing software restriction policies, backing up data regularly, patching operating systems and restricting access to certain key files or directories.

“There’s no one method or tool that will completely protect you or your organization from a ransomware attack,” said FBI Cyber Division Assistant Director James Trainor in the statement. “But contingency and remediation planning is crucial to business recovery and continuity — and these plans should be tested regularly.”

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Mother’s Day surprise: Baby born in car on way to hospital

iStock/Thinkstock(MOUNT WASHINGTON, Ky.) — A Kentucky woman received a Mother’s Day surprise Sunday when she gave birth to her son while on the way to the hospital.

Christy High of Mount Washington, Kentucky, said her son was ready to come as she was riding in the back seat of the family car.

“I tried reasoning with him [the baby] and asked for a few more minutes, but he wasn’t cooperating,” High joked. “He wailed [when] he came out, and that was the first time my husband knew what was going on. He said, ‘What was that?’ and I said, ‘It’s Oliver. It’s OK.'”

“I wouldn’t have it any other way than how it went down,” she added. “He will always be the best Mother’s Day gift I ever got.”

High, who is now a mom of two, told ABC News that she went into labor in the early morning hours of May 14.

As her husband, Jon High, was driving her to the hospital, her water broke, she said.

Oliver Joseph High was born two weeks early at 6:10 a.m., weighing 6 pounds, 10 ounces.

High, a hypno-doula, delivered her son herself and placed him on her chest where he immediately began nursing, she said.

Staff at Clark Memorial in Jeffersonville, Indiana, greeted the family upon their arrival.

High said her husband is “ecstatic” about the couple’s bundle of joy.

“He was very nervous being the driver, I’m sure, but he was my rock star,” she added. “He got us here safely and he is an amazing father.”

Oliver joins big sister Rowan, 3, who was born on St. Patrick ‘s Day in 2014.

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Privacy debate emerges over ‘textalyzer’ devices

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — New York lawmakers are trying to combat distracted driving by pushing a bill that would let police use so-called “textalyzers,” or devices that could determine whether a person was on the phone at the time of an accident.

But privacy advocates say this technology may disclose too much information to authorities.

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D-Day veteran breaks skydiving world record at age 101

iStock/Thinkstock(DEVON, England) — At 101, Verdun Hayes is living proof that you’re never too old to make your mark or experience new things.

Last year, the D-Day veteran tried skydiving for the first time to celebrate his 100th birthday.

Joined by four generations of his family, Hayes returned to the air over Devon, England, on Sunday, breaking the world record for the oldest tandem skydiver.

Hayes nabbed the top spot by a mere 35 days, knocking a Canadian from the record books who completed the feat at 101 years and 3 days old.

See more in the video below.

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How two moms are celebrating Mother’s Day with their 1st child

Lauren Wethers Coggins (WASHINGTON) — Figuring out what to do for Mom on Mother’s Day is usually hard enough.

But for two Maryland women who welcomed their first child last December, it’s been difficult trying to figure out how to celebrate each other in a unique way.

Lauren Wethers Coggins met her future wife, Essence Coggins, 11 years ago in Washington, D.C., at Howard University.

“One Howard homecoming, we kept crossing each other’s paths,” Wethers Coggins told ABC News. “The universe was saying, ‘Can y’all at least exchange information?'”

A year later, they began dating. The Cogginses, who live in Oxon Hill, Maryland, wed in February 2014, after a three-year engagement.

Although Wethers Coggins, 32, admitted she was unsure if she’d ever marry, she always knew she wanted to be a mom.

“Starting a family was very intentional,” she said. “It’s not like it could happen on accident.”

Coggins, 35, was on the same page.

“Growing up, I always wanted to have one child and adopt another,” she said. “Even though, as I got older, having [or carrying] one was not a desire of mine.”

The two decided to expand their family through at-home artificial insemination with a known donor, Wethers Coggins said.

“Essence and I were able to be a part of it … with a cup. It was nice to be able to take the doctor’s office and the sperm bank out of the equation,” said Wethers Coggins, who carried their child.

She continued, “I have a whole new respect for the creation of life. It can be stressful when you want to create a life and it’s not necessarily — poof! — we can do it.”

Wethers Coggins, a stay-at-home mom, gave birth to a girl, Averie Wethers Coggins, on Dec. 23, 2016.

The two women admitted they had to “decide what roles would be like,” Wethers Coggins said, but it happened “intuitively.”

“I’m her gestational parent, so I’m the traditional mom,” Wethers Coggins explained. “She’s breast-fed, so we have that uniqueness.”

In their household, Coggins is referred to as Mahtu, or Ma too.

“Being able to shape and develop a human being of my own is a great feeling,” Coggins told ABC News. “I am a teacher and live a life of giving. It’s nice to be able to literally reap what I sow.”

Still, when it came to Mother’s Day, the two had to compromise.

“Nobody really gets a break,” Wethers Coggins said. “For you to leave, then I’d have the baby, so what am I going to do? You want to feel like it’s your day because it’s your first Mother’s Day … but you have to be selfless.”

The two went back and forth about whether they each should have alone time or spend the day together as a family. Eventually, they decided on the latter.

“In an ideal world, I’d love to take a weekend trip somewhere beautiful … with Lauren,” Coggins said. “Just to get away and relax together.”

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Wisconsin police officer to donate kidney to 8-year-old boy she just met

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — A police officer in Rock County, Wisconsin, is going above and beyond her oath to protect and serve by donating her kidney to an 8-year-old boy who she’s just met.

Officer Lindsey Bittorf of the Milton Police Department was browsing Facebook in early December when she came across a post by a mother in Janesville, Wisconsin, who had made a public plea for potential kidney donors for her 8-year-old son, Jackson Arneson. Bittorf didn’t know the family, but she was moved by the mother’s post.

Jackson was born with a kidney condition called Posterior Urethral Valves, and his family always knew that one day he would need a transplant. After years of testing determined that family and friends weren’t a match, his mother, Kristi Goll, turned to social media.

Goll shared a photo of her little boy, saying that recent lab results showed his kidney function is still decreasing and he’s in need of a new kidney, preferably from a living donor. Her Facebook post was shared nearly 1,500 times.

“I always knew these days would come, it’s just so hard when they are here. I have reached out before, I am just trying again to see if we can find anyone out there that would be interested in being tested,” Goll wrote on Facebook. “This would be the very best gift we could receive.”

For a successful kidney transplant, the donor must be in good health, their blood type must be compatible with the recipient and both people involved need to match a certain number of antigens.

After seeing Goll’s Facebook post, Bittorf was compelled to get tested to see if she was a match.

“I’m pretty set in my ways, so if I set my mind to something, there’s really not talking me out of doing this. I was doing it,” Bittorf told ABC News affiliate WISN.

The police officer passed the initial health test, finding that she shared the same blood type as Jackson and they matched three antigens – more than enough to proceed with a kidney transplant. At 30, she’s also within the appropriate age range and in general good health.

Bittorf said doctors were “shocked” that a complete stranger was such a good match for Jackson.

“This is seriously, like, meant to be,” she said in an interview with WISN. “It’s going to be me.”

Last week, the police officer surprised Jackson and his family at their home with the good news. Bittorf told the boy, “I took an oath to serve and protect our community, and now my kidney’s going to serve and protect you.”

“We hugged a lot and we cried a lot, and it was just a pretty amazing moment,” Goll said in an interview with WISN, wiping away tears.

Jackson and Bittorf are scheduled for transplant surgery on June 22.

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7 siblings adopted together after years in foster care

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — A family of three in Georgia became a family of 10 when they adopted seven siblings who spent nearly their entire lives in foster care.

Josh and Jessaka Clark, of Rincon, are now not just the parents of their 3-year-old son, Noah, but also Maria, 14, Elizabet, 11, Guillermo, 10, Jason, 8, Kristina, 7, Katerin, 7, and James, 5.

“It was full of emotion,” Jessaka Clark, 25, told ABC News of Tuesday’s adoption ceremony. “Honestly it’s still surreal to me.”

The seven siblings, whom the Clarks dubbed the “super seven,” first entered their new family’s lives in April 2016 as foster children.

Clark said she and her husband both knew they wanted to adopt children when they got married five years ago. More than two years after she gave birth to Noah, Clark watched as her husband got a call from a case manager about taking in the seven siblings.

“Josh hung up the phone and said, ‘What do you think of seven?’ and I said, ‘A 7-year-old?,’ and he said, ‘No, seven kids,’” Clark recalled. “We prayed about it that night and woke up and said the same thing to each other, ‘If not us, then who?’”

The “super seven” siblings, who previously lived in a children’s home together, moved into the Clarks’ three-bedroom home in August 2016.

“The hardest part to get used to actually was having school-age kids,” Clark said. “I remember the first time they came home with homework and I had to figure out how to help six kids with their homework.”

She continued, “We didn’t get done with homework until 8 p.m. that night but we finally figured out a routine.”

The family saw their way through hardships, especially with the older children, whom Clark said worried their new home would not be their forever home.

“They are excited and now know they’re loved and know that this is it,” said Clark, whose parents were foster parents. “We’ve seen a change in behavior even since the adoption, a turn to, ‘I don’t have to keep my bags packed.’”

The siblings’ ability to stay in one home made for an easier transition to their permanent home, according to a spokeswoman for the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services, the state agency that represented the children in the adoption.

“The Clarks are an exceptional couple who understood the importance of siblings remaining together and were committed to making that happen for these seven children from the beginning,” Susan Boatwright said in a statement to ABC News. “Siblings who are adopted together are able to maintain an important family bond and tend to have an easier time transitioning to a new home in what would otherwise be a difficult time in their lives.”

“This month as we celebrate National Foster Care Month, we celebrate families such as the Clarks who open their hearts to provide loving homes to children in need,” the statement read. “We hope others will be inspired to do the same.”

Clark, a stay-at-home mom, and her husband, who works in the finance department of a local motorcycle dealership, have been embraced by their friends and church community, who donated nearly everything they needed to bring all seven children home.

They are hoping to move to a bigger home because, even with eight kids in total, the Clarks hope to adopt again.

“The way my husband and I see it is there are roughly 13,000 kids in foster care in Georgia and around 1,200 waiting to be adopted,” Clark said. “We don’t know how we could close our door when those kids are out there.”

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