Review Category : Health

Parents Want ‘Opt-Out’ Option for HPV Vaccine, Study Finds

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The HPV, or Human Papilloma Virus, vaccine has continued to be seen as controversial. Despite continued recommendations and support from leading medical institutions, parents remain wary about requiring children to receive an HPV vaccination for school admissions, according to a new study.

While just 21 percent of parents thought laws requiring the vaccine before school was a “good idea,” that number rose significantly — to 57 percent — if there was an “opt-out” provision offered, according to the study published Friday in the journal Cancer Epdiemology, Biomarkers and Prevention.

“We were expecting a higher number of parents supporting vaccine requirements,” study author, Wiliam Calo of the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Gillings School of Global Public Health at the University of North Carolina told ABC News. “21 percent is a lot lower than we expected.”

Calo added that he feared an opt-out provision could make the laws less effective.

HPV infects approximately 80 million people, about 14 million per year, in the U.S., according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The virus can have serious effects on both men and women, causing genital warts, as well as vaginal, vulvar, penile, and anal cancers. The HPV vaccine was approved in 2006 and is now available starting at the age of nine and up to age 26.

The majority of states have introduced legislation on HPV vaccination. Half of those have enacted regulations around funding, public health messaging, or school requirements and three jurisdictions have made HPV vaccination required for school attendance: Rhode Island, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.

Controversy over the HPV vaccine, which was developed to help combat a hugely growing rate of infection, has persisted for a few reasons. The survey aimed to assess parents’ current views on the vaccine in light of states considering the vaccine as a requirement for school admission. Researchers from multiple institutions, including the University of North Carolina, surveyed an ethnically diverse group of more than 1,500 parents of 11 to 17-year-olds from around the country.

They found that many parents often did not trust there was a need for the vaccine or did not feel they knew enough about it. Approximately 23 percent were concerned the vaccine could cause long-lasting health problems and 32 percent thought the vaccine was a ploy for drug companies to make money.

Calo said many parents were also unaware of the ways the vaccine could safeguard health.

“One of the most surprising findings of the study is that 60 percent of people don’t believe the vaccine is effective in preventing cervical cancer,” Calo said.

HPV a virus that is often passed through sexual relations, which is one reason some parents have been hesitant to vaccinate their children.

But, it is “important to start vaccinating at age of 11 or 12 as opposed to waiting until people become sexually active because that’s when there is the most benefit of the vaccine,” Dr. Henry Bernstein, pediatrician and member of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Committee on Infectious Disease told ABC News.

Because HPV protects against preventable cancers, Bernstein said it is most effective when it is administered earlier, before the conditions exist for those cancers to develop.

The side effects of the vaccine have also raised some concern, particularly in the first years after the vaccine was introduced. Stories about severe side-effects traveled the internet, creating fear about lasting complications or even death. From June 2006 through September 2015 there were 117 deaths reported out of the 80 million doses of HPV vaccine given, according to the CDC. However, they said that, upon further review, none of these cases had evidence to show the vaccine caused the death.

In most cases, “the side effects are quite mild –- a little redness or soreness at the site,” Dr. Bernstein said, adding that the vaccine is exceptionally safe. “Otherwise, it has been very well tolerated by teenagers of both sexes.”

Vaccination rates remain low with only 40 percent of girls and 22 percent of boys aged 13 to 17 finishing the HPV vaccination series, according to a 2014 study. The Department of Health Human Services has set a goal of an 80 percent vaccination rate in 2020.

While many parents remain suspicious of the vaccine, the vast majority of medical experts support giving children and teens the vaccine. The CDC, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) are among the institutions that recommend routine vaccination of both boys and girls for HPV.

“I’m not surprised,” Dr. Georges Benjamin, the executive director of the American Public Health Association, told ABC News. “There has been a terrible job of promoting it. The funds have not been there to promote the vaccine as part of a comprehensive vaccination program.”

The vaccine has been extensively studied since it was officially recommended in 2006 and studies have shown major gains in protecting health of teens. Four years after the vaccine was recommended in the U.S., related HPV decreased by 56 percent in teen girls, according to the CDC.

“The HPV vaccine is the first vaccine that is an anti-cancer vaccine and we have not really made that case effectively,” he said. “That’s the real tragedy here.”

Bernstein said it’s important for boys to also get the vaccination since they can also develop cancers from HPV. Among young people, the most common cause of head and neck cancer is HPV.

In fact, he says, “I think immunizations are one of the number one public health achievements in the last century,” Bernstein, pediatrician and member of the AAP Committee on Infectious Disease. “Both my daughter and son have received the 3 dose series, among all of the other vaccines.”

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Teen with Cancer’s Wish for Puppy Is Granted

John Dietz(CORAL SPRINGS, Fla.) — A Florida teen who battled cancer has been granted her one wish.

Lacey Dietz, 15, of Coral Springs, Florida, was introduced to her new best friend, Casper, a miniature American Eskimo dog, on Aug. 13.

“She still had a couple of close friends come visit her, but for the most part, she’s alone all day long,” Lacey’s dad John Dietz told ABC News of his daughter. “From the moment she [and Casper] first met, he literally followed her wherever she’d go. That’s the first time I’ve seen her smile like that in a year.”

Lacey was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma on May 21, 2015. The active cheerleader was told she’d have to undergo 35 rounds of chemotherapy over the course of a year, her father said.

The news, delivered via phone call, was devastating to the Dietz family.

“It took my breath away,” John Dietz said. “I said, ‘I’m not understanding what you’re telling me’ and the nurse said, ‘Your daughter has cancer.’ The next thing I remember, my son, who was 18 years old at the time, walked into the garage and picked me up off the floor. I never understand people with cancer or people who had children with cancer until now. The world was black.”

Lacey completed all her chemo treatments at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg and has been in remission for six months, Dietz said.

Since her battle with lymphoma, Lacey and her family has been in contact with The Children’s Dream Fund, a Florida-based group.

When the teen was asked by her dream coordinator what would be her dream, she replied, “An American Eskimo puppy…an American Eskimo puppy…but a miniature, with pink ears and under 20 pounds, so he can come with me to my apartment in college!” the Children’s Dream Fund wrote in a press release.

On Aug. 13, the dog’s breeder and dream coordinators met Lacey and her parents at Tampa International Air Airport to present her with a puppy.

“Lacey’s been asking my wife and I if she could have a puppy for the last three years, but we would say, ‘No,'” Dietz recalled. “The Dream Fund asked if there’s anything she wanted, and she said, ‘a puppy.’ At that point we’re certainly not going to say no.”

Dietz said Casper has lifted Lacey’s spirits.

“One of the saddest things about watching my daughter in the last year was seeing her go from being an outgoing teenager with lots of friends, to becoming very much of a loner,” Dietz said. “Casper is a companion.”

He added: “She’s an extremely strong young lady that inspires me. God has huge plans for Lacey. She’s not beating cancer for no reason. Something big is going to happen in her life, and it already has. I hope Lacey takes this experience and continues to grow and realize she has no limits going forward.”

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Five Infected After Second Zika Transmission Site Located in Miami

iStock/Thinkstock(MIAMI) — A new cluster of five Zika infections around Miami beach has Florida health officials concerned the virus is being locally transmitted in a second area, according to Florida Gov. Rick Scott.

“We believe we have a new area where local transmission is occurring in Miami Beach,” the governor said.

Scott announced on Friday that state officials have identified the infections, which they believe have been transmitted by local mosquitoes, in a new area of Miami beach. The five people infected — three men and two women — include two Florida residents and three visitors from Texas, New York and Taiwan, respectively. In total, 36 people have been infected with Zika virus in the first local outbreak in the continental U.S.

Scott said the new area is under 1.5 miles in size and that mosquito control officials were spraying in an effort to reduce the population of the Aedes aegyti mosquito that spreads the Zika virus.

Previously, health officials believed local Zika virus transmission was limited to the Wynwood neighborhood in north Miami. That area, which is less than a square mile, has been subject to intense mosquito control programs and public health efforts to reduce infections.

Scott and Florida Surgeon General Dr. Celeste Philip explained to reporters Friday why they had not announced the second transmission site on Thursday, following multiple media reports of a second outbreak location.

“I want to assure everyone that if we I.D. additional areas of local transmission we will tell the local public immediately,” Philip told reporters Friday. Philip said there were a number of investigations in progress, but that there have been no other suspected areas of local transmission, aside from the two identified areas.

She said the investigation into the new cases concluded Friday morning.

Scott called for assistance from the federal government, including guidance for working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and asked the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for additional lab support and 5,000 more tests for the Zika virus.

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Second Zika Transmission Site Located in Miami

iStock/Thinkstock(MIAMI) — Local Zika transmission has been identified in a second area in Miami, according to Florida Gov. Rick Scott.

“We believe we have a new area where local transmission is occurring in Miami Beach,” said Scott.

Scott announced on Friday that state officials have identified a new cluster of infections in an area of Miami beach, which they believe have been transmitted by local mosquitoes. Scott said the area is under 1.5 miles in size.

Currently, five people have tested positive in this second cluster.

Previously, health officials believed local Zika virus transmission was limited to the Wynwood neighborhood in north Miami. The area, which is less than a square mile, has been subject to intense mosquito control programs and public health efforts to reduce infections.

The outbreak in Miami is the first time the Zika virus has been transmitted in the continental U.S. via local, infected mosquitoes.

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Your Body: Getting Rabies from Bats

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

Summertime means late nights outside and often when bats are flying around. So what do you do if a bat flies past you and touches you?

In the United States, most people get rabies from bats, not from dogs. And more often than not, they can’t find a bite with their naked eye.

Rabies is a preventable virus that is spread through the bite of a rabid animal. It attacks the central nervous system causing initial symptoms of fever, headache and general weakness. If left untreated, the virus progresses, causing confusion, an increase in saliva, paralysis and death.

Since the rabies virus can be transmitted through a bite or through a rabid animal’s saliva, it’s smart to make your way to the nearest emergency room or to your local health department for advice about what to do next.

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The Keurig for the Common Cold: CVS Creates Cold and Flu K-Cups

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — CVS has managed to turn the millions of single-serve coffee machines currently sitting on kitchen counters worldwide, into doctors. Sort of.

The pharmacy giant has just begun selling K-Cups filled with cold and flu medicine.

Eliminating the need to heat up water in a kettle or microwave, the devices use the coffee machines to quickly spout a hot, tea-like beverage laced with acetaminophen and a decongestant, both of which can speed relief of symptoms of those suffering from the cold and flu.

The K-Cups come in a daytime formula that’s flavored like berry and green-tea, and a nighttime version that tastes of white tea with honey and lemon.

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Possible Zika Cases Being Investigated in Miami Beach

iStock/Thinkstock(MIAMI) — Two possible cases of Zika have been reported in Miami Beach, setting off alarm in one of the country’s biggest tourist destinations even as public officials stress that the location where the virus was actually transmitted has not been confirmed.

“By now you may have seen the various news reports regarding the Zika virus linked to Miami Beach,” Miami Beach City Manager Jimmy Moraels said in a statement. “It is important to note that at this time the Department of Health has not confirmed any cases on Miami Beach, however we have been informed that cases are being investigated.”

The Florida Department of Health Thursday reported two new non-travel related cases of Zika showing up outside the one-square-mile area around Miami’s Wynwood arts district where several cases had previously been reported. City and state officials have said that the outbreak is contained to that specific area, where efforts to eradicate the mosquito population have also been focused.

The New York Times cited an anonymous health official saying a “handful” of cases had been linked to Miami Beach. The Miami Herald quoted an email reportedly sent from Moraels to Miami Beach commissioners in which he mentions a tourist who may have been infected during a stay there, as well as a local resident who lives and works in Miami Beach who may also have become infected.

The two additional cases reported Thursday bring the total number of local transmissions of the Zika virus in Florida to 35.

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In the Shadow of Olympic Games, Meet the People Living with Rio’s Contaminated Water

iStock/Thinkstock(RIO DE JANEIRO) — Alexandre Anderson accelerates his boat past a waterfall of sewage.

The third-generation fisherman used to make his livelihood in this bay in Rio de Janeiro, where several Olympic watersports were held this week.

“We are invisibles,” Anderson says. “I swam in these waters, my father swam in these waters, my grandparents swam in these waters…this is my house, they are killing my house.”

Sewage and garbage has flooded the bay with bacteria and viruses, contaminating fish with oil and heavy metals.

When Rio announced it would host the Olympics, Brazil promised that the local economy – and the health of local residents – would improve. The government said 80 percent of sewage would be treated.

“There was an economic point to bringing the Olympics here,” Anderson says. “But we knew this issue… we knew the Olympics would happen in the dirty water full of crap and bacteria, and after that we will be abandoned.”

ABC News found that one water sample in Guanabara Bay, where Olympic swimmers competed, had fecal bacteria at levels 40 times higher than what would be considered “contaminated” in some U.S. states. This is consistent with testing performed by other groups.

Anderson says people have been dying from Rio’s tainted waters for a long time. “We say there are powerful bacteria, something the media doesn’t know, but people are dying from dysentery, maybe without even knowing what they had,” he says.

Anderson says his reward for bringing attention to Rio’s public healthrisks has been death threats from local mobsters.

Even though the situation is dire, Anderson remains optimistic.

“While there is one fishermen, while there is one of my sons swimming in this water, my grandson, there will be a chance to recover it,” he says. “I have hope. I have hope. The bay is alive, we don’t see it as a piece of sea where there are fish and birds. We see it as a mother, something more spiritual.”

He adds, “Today the bay cries for the death of her children, but we also cry for its poisoning…[I’m] fighting for my son, my grandson, your son, your grandson to be able to enjoy a different bay than we see here.”

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Limited Vaccine to Prevent the Spread of ‘Explosive’ Yellow Fever Outbreak

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — An “explosive” outbreak of yellow fever has left officials struggling access to enough of the vaccine to protect millions who may need it. With the shortage, some experts are concerned the virus could spread past Africa, creating an urgent need for more protection.

This week, the World Health Organization (WHO) pledged to vaccinate 14 million people against the disease in 8,000 locations by diluting the vaccine to one-fifth the dose — a stop-gap measure aimed at providing at least some protection, since the vaccine is in limited supply and takes six months to develop.

“Protecting as many people as possible is at the heart of this strategy,” William Perea, Coordinator for the Control of Epidemic Diseases Unit at WHO said in a statement on Tuesday. “With a limited supply we need to use these vaccines very carefully.”

The current vaccination plan has public health officials concerned they won’t be able to protect enough people to prevent the spread of the virus, raising alarm the virus could reach densely populated regions in Asia, where it could spread rapidly or become endemic.

The yellow fever outbreak started in December of last year has caused 5,000 infections and at least 400 deaths in Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The disease is spread by mosquitoes, especially the Aedes aegypti mosquito that also spreads Zika virus.

Symptoms of yellow fever include fever, chills, severe headache, back pain and nausea; the virus has been fatal in approximately 20 percent of cases. The WHO and their partners have already vaccinated 16 million with a full dose of yellow fever vaccine that provides coverage for life. But as supplies have dwindled, they are implementing an emergency measure, diluting the vaccine further so that it will provide protection for one year.

Yellow fever “transmission in 2016 has been explosive and rapidly exhausted the usual global emergency stockpile of 6 million vaccine doses,” according to WHO officials in an August 6 statement.

Many public health experts are anxiously watching the yellow fever outbreak and are concerned it could spread to countries that have never faced large scale outbreaks of this virus before and therefore have little natural immunity, Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University Medical Center told ABC News. He described it as “an ominous little black cloud hanging over all of this.”

“Yellow fever has never been [widely] introduced into Asia,” he added. “The possibility exists that someone could travel to infected country and has virus in their system and start epidemic in part of the world heretofore unaffected.”

The WHO said they have a stockpile of 5 million emergency doses of the vaccine currently, but a second outbreak in a densely populated country could deplete the dangerously low vaccine supply.

Public health officials have to fight the virus on two fronts, Schaffner said, both by treating people and reducing mosquito populations so it doesn’t spread. He said an outbreak must be stopped early to prevent it spreading across the globe.

Following the Ebola outbreak that infected more than 28,000 and left 11,000 dead in the past year, a report from the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned that outbreaks can no longer be easily contained by geography.

“This epidemic in the three countries and its introduction to seven other countries illustrates how all countries are connected and that a threat in one country is a threat everywhere,” CDC researchers said in the June report.

Yellow fever is “tenacious” and the number of cases in Africa is probably far higher than what had been reported, Dr. Stephen Morse, an epidemiologist at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health told ABC News.

“Even if it isn’t a pandemic danger it could have effects. It is a globalized world and we all affect each other,” he said. “It may come here in a small way like Ebola or a big way.”

Morse said since the vaccine supply is limited it could be a struggle to contain a larger outbreak and that attempts to reduce the mosquito population is difficult.

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More Hispanics Uninsured Despite Obamacare Gains, Report Says

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — While the number of uninsured people in the United States appears to have declined since 2010, Hispanics remain at increased risk of going without health insurance compared with other racial and ethnic demographic groups, according to a new report published Thursday.

Released by the Commonwealth Fund, a private foundation focusing on the U.S. health care system, the report sought to identify people who still have no health care coverage since the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which President Obama enacted in 2010.

Hispanics have “become a growing share of the uninsured among racial and ethnic groups, rising from 29 percent in 2013 to 40 percent in 2016, more than twice their representation in the overall population,” according to the study. “In contrast, the share of whites has declined, falling from half in 2013 to 41 percent in 2016.”

The share of black uninsured black people also declined in that period, though only from 13 percent to 12 percent, according to the study.

“There is a larger slice of the pie made up of Latinos,” Sara Collins, lead author and vice president of the Health Care Coverage and Access at the Commonwealth Fund, told ABC News. “At the same time, the share of whites [and other race-ethnicities] dropped” as they gained more health care coverage.

The other risk factors for lacking health insurance include making less than $16,243 a year, being younger than 35 and working for a small business, according to the report. Overall coverage has improved, according to the report, with the number of uninsured people declining by 20 million since the ACA went into effect six years ago.

But the report found that 24 million working age adults were still uninsured during the study period from 2013 to 1016.

Researchers called 4,802 people in the United States on both landlines and cellphones from February to April of this year to get information on health care. They have done a series of surveys since 2013 to see how health care coverage has changed in the past three years.

Collins pointed out that undocumented immigrants, who include more Hispanics proportionality, were especially at risk for lacking health coverage because they are not eligible for Obamacare, Medicare or Medicaid services.

“Immigration reform [where] more people would gain citizenship would make more people eligible,” she said. “It also may be that [laws] not allowing non-citizens to enroll … could be loosened. California is looking at the federal government to allow immigrants to buy in the [Obamacare] marketplace.”

Rebecca Garfield, senior researcher at the Kaiser Family Foundation, pointed out that many states in the South, which have higher numbers of Hispanic residents, have also not expanded their Medicaid coverage, increasing the likelihood that low-income residents will remain without health coverage.

“Poor individuals are really being left behind,” she said. “We’re seeing continuing [trends of] high uninsured rates” for these groups.

Garfield pointed out that the lower rate of health care coverage for Hispanics isn’t surprising and that other research has found similar findings.

She also noted that Hispanics might face language barriers that hinder their getting coverage.

“Many people are aware that the law exists,” she said. “They may not be aware that they are personally eligible for free coverage.”

The Kaiser Family Foundation also released a study Thursday focusing on California that found 67 percent of uninsured residents in California are Hispanic and that half of them are undocumented. Overall, they found that of those who lacked health insurance in 2013, 79 percent now have coverage.

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