Review Category : Health

Florida Fertility Doctor Describes Struggle of Advising Patients Amid Zika Virus Outbreak

iStock/Thinkstock(MIAMI) — Fears over the impact of the Zika virus and how it can affect developing fetuses has led health officials to focus primarily on helping and protecting pregnant women. But fertility doctors in Miami, the location of the first cases of locally transmitted Zika cases in the continental U.S., say their patients, who often undergo months or years of treatment to get pregnant, also need better guidance and research.

In Miami, Paula Brusatori, 41, was ready for embryo transfer when news of the first local Zika transmission was reported. Brusatori and her wife have been trying to get pregnant for two years through in-vitro fertilization and were concerned after hearing the news.

Despite the concern, Brusatori and her wife ultimately decided to take the final step in the IVF process, where viable embryos are placed in the womb to achieve a pregnancy.

“This is happening now, but it may be something else tomorrow,” Brusatori said of the Zika outbreak. “We are cautious and scared [but] we are not getting any younger.”

For many other couples struggling to become pregnant, the decision to move forward with assisted reproduction has been fraught with questions and uncertainty.

Brusatori’s fertility doctor, Dr. Joelle Taylor, of the Fertility and IVF Center of Miami, said she has never seen this level of concern at her practice.

“The volume of phone calls more than doubled,” Taylor said. “We are seeing an increase in patient load in our schedule, primarily to discuss their fertility plans.”

Her patients’ questions include whether they should wait to get pregnant or whether to freeze embryos, Taylor said.

However, providing preconception counseling has been challenging, in part, because the data on Zika is limited.

Taylor and her fellow fertility doctors in Miami are not the only people concerned. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) announced Monday that they would lead a research program to provide grant funding for research “diagnosing, treating and preventing disorders of pregnancy and reproduction related to the ZIKA virus.”

These grants range from $10,000 to $50,000 and are supported by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ABOG), the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), and the Society for Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility (SREI).

“We need a fuller understanding of ZIKA in order to counsel our patients, and we need better tools in order to treat them,” ASRM President Dr. Owen K. Davis said in statement.

The research is welcome news for the doctors grappling with guiding patients through concerns over the Zika virus. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued guidelines for pregnant women, advising them to stay away from regions with ongoing outbreaks and to take precautions against being bitten my mosquitoes even if they live in areas where the virus is not currently being transmitted. The Aedes aegypti mosquito, the species responsible for spreading the Zika virus, can be found in 30 U.S. states, though, to date, an outbreak has been reported in only Florida.

The CDC also advises people who live in an area with Zika transmission and wish to become pregnant to talk to their health care provider about getting pregnant even if they do not have symptoms. Brusatori and her wife do not live in the 1-square-mile area in northern Miami identified by the CDC as being the source of the outbreak, but they live nearby and remain concerned about possible exposure.

“As a physician, this is very draining,” Taylor said. “You want to be able to offer your patients good information and answers to their questions.”

“We are limited by what we know, and we want to share without creating alarm,” Taylor added.

Women who exhibit symptoms are advised to wait eight weeks before getting pregnant. And men who exhibit symptoms are advised to wait six months before trying to conceive with a partner. However, for patients in Miami undergoing fertility treatments, waiting weeks to months can mean losing precious money and time.

“In my time in practice, I have not experienced anything quite like this,” Taylor said. “It is a crazy situation currently, and understandably so.”

She said she has been inundated with questions from patients and that due to the lack of research into the area, she often does not have clear answers.

“Patients currently in cycle have questions on whether quality of egg or sperm can be compromised. And we don’t have those answers,” Taylor said. “There are no cases to date that shows impact on egg quality or sperm quality.”

Data regarding Zika, its transmission and potential adverse effects on developing fetuses continue to change as doctors learn more about the viral infection. Information on the virus is changing so quickly that the ASRM last issued guidance in April and advised their doctors that the guidance published then may not be accurate for counseling and treatment weeks to months down the line.

ASRM officials are currently working on new guidelines for their doctors.

Dr. James Segars, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Johns Hopkins University and a member of the ASRM Zika Virus Guidance Task Force, said the new guidelines will take into account new information about how the virus can transmit through sexual contact from women to men.

“We really need answers. The research will inform the guidelines,” he said.

The advice for women to talk to their doctors if they want to get pregnant or are in the middle of fertility treatments remains the standard advice from the CDC.

“Like many decisions about pregnancy, fertility decisions are complex, and Zika is one more factor to consider,” Dr. Denise J. Jamieson, chief of the Women’s Health and Fertility Branch at the CDC and co-lead of the Pregnancy and Birth Defects Task Force for the Zika response, told ABC News. “We literally are evaluating information every day.”

In Miami, Taylor has decided not to advise her patients to wait an extended period of time.

“It’s really important for people locally to not be overwhelmed with fear or concern. Instead, directing their efforts to things they can control,” Taylor said, noting she has been advising her patients to avoid areas where Zika transmission has occurred and to wear bug spray and take other measures to protect themselves from mosquitoes.

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Report Urges Tired Drivers to Get Some Sleep, Stay Off Roads

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — A new report released Monday gives a startling new look at the growing threat of drowsy drivers on the road, urging Americans to just get some sleep.

With an estimated 83.6 million Americans admitting to sleeping less than the recommended daily seven to eight hours, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) said Monday that puts one in four drivers at risk of falling sleep at the wheel.

“It’s a much bigger problem than we realized,” said the GHSA’s Jonathan Adkins. “We’re not just drowsy. We’re literally falling asleep, comatose, behind the wheel and we’re crashing and we’re hurting ourselves and killing ourselves and others. … It’s a serious safety problem.”

In a report that included research from the American Automobile Association (AAA), the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the GHSA revealed that an average of 328,000 drowsy-driving crashes occurred on U.S. roads annually.

Of those crashes, the report found that 109,000 caused injuries and 6,400 of those crashes led to death.

Adkins likened a sleepy person’s impairment while driving to being drunk behind the wheel.

“Your judgment isn’t what it should be and your reaction time isn’t what it should be,” he said.

The GHSA also found that teenagers and young adults were involved in more than half of all drowsy-driving crashes annually. The report pointed to driving inexperience as well biological changes as possible causes.

In 2015 alone, the report said, drowsy driving killed 5,000 in related crashes.

Adkins said Monday that drowsy driving was a sign of the times, in which Americans are working too hard, not taking breaks or relaxing, and never allowing their minds to shut down.

“You really have to get that eight hours of sleep,” he said.

Just this May, a delivery truck on a Nashville, Tennessee, highway was captured on cellphone camera weaving in and out of a lane. It ended up hitting another vehicle, losing control and causing an eight-car pileup. No serious injuries were reported, despite a massive blaze on the road. The driver in that crash was reportedly cited with fatigue.

The issue also costs U.S. taxpayers an estimated $109 billion every year, not including the cost of property damage, Monday’s report found.

This year, the NTSB put fatigue on its list of “most-wanted transportation safety improvements.”

Experts shared the following tips to stay awake while driving:

  1. Keep the radio on.
  2. Open the window to get some air.
  3. Make sure to stop during long drives.

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New Locally Transmitted Zika Virus Case Found in Palm Beach County, Florida

iStock/Thinkstock(MIAMI) — A new Zika infection case has been identified in Palm Beach County, Florida, and officials said they believe it is related to the ongoing local Zika outbreak in northern Miami.

Investigators are looking into the new case and going door to door to take samples and look for signs of a growing outbreak, Florida Gov. Rick Scott said in a statement Monday.

However, health officials clarified that the infected person in Palm Beach County had recently been to Miami-Dade County, where more than a dozen people in a 1-square-mile area in northern Miami have been identified as having been infected with the Zika virus via mosquitoes locally. The outbreak of locally acquired Zika was first identified last month. The outbreak is the first time the virus has been spread via infected mosquitoes in the continental U.S.

Aerial pesticide spraying in northern Miami began last week to reduce the population of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which is the species responsible for spreading the virus. The outbreak of locally transmitted Zika in southern Florida has led to a total of 17 cases being identified, including the most recent case in Palm Beach County. Florida Department of Health officials have been going door to door to look for any other people who might have been infected, officials said.

Scott said Monday he was taking additional steps to teach Florida students about Zika prevention.

“While this investigation is ongoing, DOH still believes active transmissions are only taking place within the identified area that is less than one-square mile in Miami-Dade County,” Scott said in his statement. “With the announcement of this new case, and the upcoming new school year, I have directed DOH and DOE to closely work together to ensure students, parents, educators and district leaders have all the resources and guidance they need to combat the Zika virus.”

Scott said the Florida Departments of Health and Education along with the Florida Board of Governors are now distributing Zika teacher tool kits as well as other educational materials.

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Mom Invents Sightseeing Bucket List for Daughter Losing Her Vision

Catrina Frost(PHOENIX) — One 6-year-old girl in Arizona is losing her vision, so her mother came up with an idea that will ensure her daughter will have memories to last a lifetime.

Catrina Frost is taking her daughter Cailee Herrell on a sightseeing tour filled with bucket list items. The Phoenix, Arizona, woman invented the list because Herrell’s sight is deteriorating due to a rare disorder called familial exudative vitreoretinopathy or FEVR.

“Cailee is this unbelievable, heartwarming, magical little girl,” Frost gushed. “Nothing keeps her down. She doesn’t even recognize that she has a visual impairment.”

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, FEVR is a rare hereditary disorder that affects the retina and can cause blindness.

Herrell, who was diagnosed with a variety of vision problems at age 2, has already had five laser surgeries to delay some of her vision loss symptoms — “the most she can have,” Frost told ABC News. The mother added that right now Herrell’s vision is akin to looking through a snow globe that’s been shaken up.

Since there’s no treatment for FEVR, Frost, 40, who has three other sons, decided to take her daughter on several trips to create unforgettable moments.

“We were heading out to California on our way to see this doctor studying the disease and we drove past the Imperial Sand Dunes,” Frost recalled.

It was there that she came up with the idea to create a bucket list of adventures.

“I saw this little girl run up and down … these dunes. She was making sand angels and just having a blast. It kind of gave me the idea: I have to start gathering all of these experience for her,” Frost said.

So far they’ve been to Disneyland and Sea World in California. The two have even gone snail hunting.

In the future, Frost said she has other to do’s up her sleeve — from cooking classes to New York Fashion Week.

The mother added, “I also would really love to take her to ‘The Nutcracker’ in December and to visit the California Redwood National and State Parks.”

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Why Michael Phelps Has Polka Dot Patterns on His Shoulder in Rio

Al Bello/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — When Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympic athlete in history, hit the pool deck this weekend in Rio, Olympic viewers may have been perplexed by the purple circles that dotted his shoulder and back.

While it looked like it could be some odd injury, the circles were actually a sign that Phelps had taken up cupping — an alternative therapy often used to help athletes treat sore or injured muscles.

The technique involves putting cups over areas that are in pain or sore and creating negative pressure so the skin is slightly pulled into the small cups. The telltale circles are actually small bruises created when the skin is pulled into the cup.

Despite Phelps and other Olympic swimmers being a fan of cupping, there’s virtually no high-quality scientific evidence that cupping helps treat sore muscles.

While some small studies have shown a positive effect, often the effects were short-lived and likely a result of the placebo effect. Many of these studies also had methodology flaws. Larger, systemic reviews of many studies overwhelmingly concluded that there was no high-quality evidence to suggest cupping therapy provides any benefit.

The technique dates back thousands of years in Chinese and other cultures, according to Dr. Charles Kim, a musculoskeletal rehabilitation and rehab medicine specialist at NYU Langone’s Rusk Rehabilitation Center.

Despite the bruising, cupping should never hurt, Kim said, and that it’s akin to a “reverse” massage.

“Cupping is like massage in reverse — instead of pushing down on tissue,” you’re pulling up, he said, noting that he is a fan of the technique and has used it himself to help relax sore muscles.

“You feel relaxed, looser,” he said. “Aching tight muscles are relaxed.”

Alternative or cutting-edge therapies can often gain traction among elite athletes always looking for a way to eke out a performance advantage, Kim pointed out.

“A lot of these athletes, if it’s Olympic gold they’re seeking or a million dollars, they’re under pressure to find a competitive edge,” he said.

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When a Zika Virus Outbreak Is Considered ‘Over’

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The outbreak of locally spread Zika virus in Florida has led to a large response by state and local health authorities to curb the outbreak. But despite all their work to kill the mosquitoes that spread the virus and identify those who are infected, it will likely take time before they can declare the outbreak “over.”

Health departments have to look at multiple factors to declare an end to an outbreak, meaning that even if they haven’t found a new infection in weeks, the outbreak may technically be considered ongoing.

In some viral outbreaks, health departments have been able to look at the incubation period of an illness — the time between when a person is infected to when a person starts to show symptoms. When no new cases are found in an area after twice the incubation period has passed, the outbreak is considered over. During the Ebola outbreak, health officials estimated an outbreak was over if 42 days had passed with no new infections, since the incubation period for that virus is generally believed to be up to 21 days.

However, health officials in Florida have a more difficult job, since the Zika virus is spread mainly through infected mosquitoes, rather than from person to person, as with Ebola. In the case of a mosquito-borne virus, the incubation period is less important because the mosquitoes are a reservoir for the virus.

Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, explained health officials will likely be extremely cautious and look at a variety of factors before declaring an outbreak over.

“They’re going to keep their intense surveillance going not just going in the Wynwood area [the northern Miami neighborhood where the outbreak is located] but obviously all through southern Florida,” he said. “They would like as much time as possible before they commit themselves and say it’s over.”

Schaffner explained that declaring an outbreak over too early can do serious damage to the public’s view of the health department. Additionally, it could lead to additional cases if people stop taking preventative measures.

“It’s a matter of judgment. They would like some period of time and if there are no cases discovered and if there is sustained evidence that the Aedes [aegypti mosquito] population has been reduced,” he said.

So far, 16 people have been found infected from the local Zika outbreak in Miami, according to health officials. Aerial pesticide spraying began last week of the area where the outbreak is occurring to reduce the population of the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that spread the disease.

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Your Body: Card Games Can Help Stroke Victims

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

People recovering from stroke will often look to virtual reality treatments, which can help them recover function more quickly. However, these treatments can be expensive and difficult to access.

But now, in a new multi-center, randomized controlled study, researchers found that recreational activities like playing cards or playing bingo appear to be as useful as virtual reality games in improving motor function in stroke patients.

There are many mind games or exercises you can do to help your memory.

Crossword puzzles or learning a new language are always great for brain function. Eating a diet that’s good for your heart and waistline is also good for your brain, as is regular physical activity, like a simple, brisk daily walk.

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“Zero Belly” Smoothie Recipes for Breakfast, Lunch and Dessert

Ballantine Books(NEW YORK) — It’s summer and for many of us, that means cooling off with a delicious smoothie.

Smoothies made from fruit juice are essentially liquid sugar that spikes the blood sugar. But smoothies done right can be a secret weapon for weight loss, according to ABC News Nutrition and Wellness Correspondent Dave Zinczenko.

Zinczenko is the author of a new book, Zero Belly Smoothies, which claims to help you lose weight by drinking smoothies. He points to a unique blend of nutrients that can help flatten your belly, boost your metabolism and heal your digestive system.

For Zinczenko, the recipe for the perfect smoothie is a balance of fiber, healthy fats and protein. He’s also a fan of smoothies made with plant-based proteins. Zinczenko shares some of his favorite smoothie recipes for breakfast, lunch and dessert today on Good Morning America.

Breakfast Smoothies

Kick-start the day right. It’s all about that base, Zinczenko says. Choose a non-dairy base like coconut milk, green tea (which has zero calories), or unsweetened almond milk. You save 50 percent of the calories of regular milk with these choices.

Next, add a plant-based protein powder, which not only has fewer calories, but is also a good option for people that suffer from dairy allergies. These vegetarian powders also have belly-filling fiber from oats and flaxseed that will keep you full until lunchtime.

RECIPE: Fresh Off The Oat Smoothie

1/4 cup frozen blueberries

1/3 frozen banana

2 tablespoons rolled oats, cooked

2 teaspoons almonds

1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk

1 scoop plain plant-based protein powder

Water to blend (optional but recommended)

271 calories, 5.4 g fat, 29 g carbs, 5.4 g fiber, 11 g sugar, 29 g protein

RECIPE: Ginger Man Smoothie

1/2 cup frozen strawberries

1/4 frozen banana

1 cup unsweetened almond milk

1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and chopped 1 teaspoon ground axseed

Dash of ground pepper

1 scoop plain plant-based protein powder Water to blend (optional)

264 calories, 5 g fat, 26 g carbs, 6 g fiber, 11 g sugar, 29 g protein

Pre-Workout Smoothie

If you work out in the morning, you need a smoothie that’s packed with the perfect ratio of carbs and protein to build muscle. You can also add more protein with nuts and veggies like kale, which has 3 grams of protein per cup. Another option is almond butter, which has 3.5 grams of protein per tablespoon. Each of the smoothies below has about 30 grams of carbs. The result is the ultimate workout fuel.

RECIPE: Lemon Kale Protein Detox Smoothie


1/2 lemon, peeled and seeded

1/2 frozen banana

1 cup kale

1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk

1 scoop plain plant-based protein powder 3 ice cubes

Water to blend (optional)

254 calories, 7 g fat, 20 g carbs, 5 g fiber, 10 g sugar, 30 g protein

RECIPE: Coco-Nuts Smoothie

1/2 cup unsweetened light coconut milk

1 cup kale

1/2 frozen banana

1 tablespoon unsalted peanut butter

1/2 scoop vanilla plant-based protein powder 1/2 cup ice

273 calories, 11 g fat, 28 g carbs, 5 g fiber, 9 g sugar, 19 g protein

Lunchtime Smoothies

For a smoothie at lunch, choose an option with real fruits and vegetables. Try this one made with sweet potatoes and beets for lunch.

RECIPE: Potato Sweet Smoothie

1/2 cooked sweet potato, cooled, with skin off 1/2 frozen banana

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup unsweetened almond milk

1 scoop plain plant-based protein powder

280 calories, 5 g fat, 34 g carbs, 6 g fiber, 14 g sugar, 28 g protein

Smoothies for Dessert

Zinczenko reaches for smoothies with dark chocolate as dessert after dinner. Dark chocolate contains a high percentage of pure cocoa butter, a source of saturated fat called stearic acid that slows digestion.

RECIPE: Chocolate Decadence Smoothie

1/2 banana

1/4 ripe avocado, peeled, pitted, and quartered 1/4 cup black beans

1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk

1/4 cup chocolate plant-based protein powder 6 ice cubes

Water to blend (optional)

300 calories, 9 g fat, 34 g carb, 11 g fiber, 9 g sugar, 25 g protein

RECIPE: Almond Joy Smoothie

1/4 cup blueberries

1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder

2 tablespoons shredded coconut

1 cup unsweetened almond milk

1/4 cup black beans

6 ice cubes

1/4 cup chocolate plant-based protein powder

Water to blend (optional)

294 calories, 11 g fat, 24 g carbs, 10 g fiber, 7 g sugar, 25 g protein

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How Military Robots Can Save Lives

ABC News(COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.) — Saving a life can be hard enough, but doing it in the middle of a battlefield with bullets flying can seem nearly impossible. But military programs like the Medical Simulation Training Center (MSTC) at Fort Carson in Colorado are training military medics so they’re prepared for every situation during combat.

MSTC is a program that uses lifelike mannequins as well as special effects to mimic real -life combat scenarios. The mannequins can replicate cardiac arrest, gunshot wounds, loss of limb and other injuries common on the battlefield. They are even capable of showing various symptoms such as ear discharge, sweating and dilated pupils.

MSTC instructor Antonio Zavala told ABC News he’s aware of both medics and soldiers who were unable to care for injured service members because they did not have the proper training and preparation.

“Pretty much any intervention you can do on a real person you can do on these mannequins,” said Zavala.

Various sensors, animatronics and a central computer in the mannequins can relay feedback to an instructor. The mannequin’s condition can be changed from critical to stable by simply adjusting settings on an instructor’s tablet that is connected to the mannequin.

One of the biggest benefits of these mannequins is that they are capable of providing instant feedback to the students. This feedback allows students to assess the situation and determine what procedure is necessary. The mannequin is also equipped with inflating lungs, helping the students to visualize the breathing pattern of their patient. By being able to mimic a collapsed lung, the student has the opportunity to physically practice needle chest decompression.

The new tools are a far cry from how medics used to be trained.

“Training was nothing more than your NCO [non-commissioned officer] sitting down with you and pretty much going over a checklist,” said MSTC student Henry Poolam. “Everyone was good at regurgitating the answers but when it came time to apply it, is was a different story.”

The mannequin also has a circulatory system allowing an instructor to control blood pressure by lowering or elevating it. A student can identify the bleeding and apply digital pressure to stop it while a second soldier applies a tourniquet. If the soldier does not apply the correct pressure on the artery, or fails to correctly put on the tourniquet, the dummy will theoretically die.

These mannequins are giving soldiers the most realistic reenactment of a battle wound without putting the soldier’s safety at risk.

While nothing can fully prepare one for battle, these tools can help soldiers develop the muscle memory necessary to save lives in the face of danger.

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Bride Walks Down the Aisle With Man Who Was Saved by Her Fathers Heart Donation

ABC News(PITTSBURGH) — Although a bride wished her father could walk her down the aisle this weekend in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, she got the next best thing.

Jeni Stepien’s father Michael Stepien was murdered 10 years ago, but his heart saved another person’s life. A person Jeni Stepien didn’t even meet until the day before her wedding; Arthur Thomas a man who had been waiting for a heart for 16 years,

“We’ve been talking to him and writing letters and calling, and receiving flowers and sending gifts for the past ten years,” she said.

But she wanted a part of her father to be at her wedding.

“Jeni wrote me a letter, and she said ‘Tom, I’m the daughter of the man whose heart’s inside you, and I’m going to get married on August 6th. One further thing, if you’re willing – would you walk me down the aisle?'” Thomas said.

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