Review Category : Health

Zika Virus Found in Eyes of Adult Patients, Study Finds

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The Zika virus has been found in fluid around the eyes of some patients, shedding new light on how the virus affects healthy adults, according to a study published Thursday in Journal for the American Medical Association Ophthalmology.

The eyes of six patients infected in South America were swabbed by researchers from the Guangdong Provincial Institute of Public Health in China. When they tested their eye fluids, they found the Zika virus RNA.

“Here we have some evidence when the adult is infected, it would appear that highly specialized neural tissue is infected,” Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University Medical School, told ABC News. He said the next step would be examining if the virus caused any vision problems.

The virus was known to cause symptoms of severe eye damage in developing fetuses. Babies born with microcephaly have exhibited symptoms of eye infection, including lesions in the eye, but it was unclear if the development of microcephaly or the Zika virus itself led to the lesions.

Until now, it was also unclear if the virus was present in the eyes of adults.

Schaffner said researchers are still learning the many ways the Zika virus, which usually causes mild symptoms including fever, fatigue and pink eye, can affect adults and how it can remain in different parts of the body.

Despite being discovered in 1947, the Zika virus was not widely studied until the recent outbreak that started in Brazil last year and that has been linked to birth defects.

The virus has been found to cause severe birth defects in developing fetuses, including microcephaly, characterized by a small head, as well as other brain and eye defects.

Schaffner pointed out that these case studies are important to also help unravel what happens to otherwise healthy adults when they become infected with the virus.

“Every time you seem to lift up a corner there’s something else that Zika is involved in,” said Schaffner. “The more we study it the nastier the virus becomes.”

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Your Body: Exercising While Pregnant

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

A video of a Minneapolis woman has gone viral for her wakesurfing skills despite being overdue for the birth of her baby — which begs the question: Are sports dangerous right up to your due date?

The woman said wakesurfing is a hobby she loves to do and is a great stress reliever. Although the activity didn’t actually induce her labor immediately, her baby was born just five days after shooting the video.

Here’s my OB/GYN advice to you: Pregnancy is not a disease, so working out is not only safe, it’s recommended. Labor and delivery are kind of like athletic events, so why not train for them?

The only cautionary medical advice I have is to not do any sport during pregnancy that has a high risk of high velocity falls. This could be dangerous for your baby and its placenta.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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9-Year-Old Battling Brain Cancer Sworn Into Upstate New York Police Department

Ithica Police Department(ITHACA, N.Y.) — A 9-year-old battling terminal brain cancer has joined his local upstate New York police department as an honorary officer, allowing him to further his dreams of helping people, his parents said.

On Monday, the Ithaca Police Department welcomed Colin Hayward Toland to the police force, holding an official ceremony where Colin’s family, friends and fellow officers witnessed as he was sworn in as a police officer.

Colin was 2 years old when he was first diagnosed with brain cancer in June 2009, his father, Ian Hayward, told ABC News. The family, who was living in Connecticut at the time, was planning a trip to Vermont for Colin’s birthday and his parents’ 10-year anniversary when all of a sudden he fell ill, Hayward said.

“Things kind of took off rapidly,” Hayward said. “One day he was fine, the next he collapsed.”

Colin was then taken to Westchester Medical Center for emergency brain surgery, Hayward said. In the months that followed, he underwent two more brain surgeries and several months of high-dose chemotherapy before he went into remission.

Colin was cancer-free for a little over four years, Hayward said, before he relapsed about 20 months ago. Since then, he has undergone three more brain surgeries, the most recent this past May as a “last-ditch attempt” to “buy him a little bit of time,” Hayward said.

Colin has been on and off hospice for the past eight months. Last month, doctors told Hayward and his wife, Tamiko Toland, that they “couldn’t believe” that Colin was even walking considering how much the cancer had progressed. Once the family realized that Colin’s prognosis wasn’t looking good, they decided to do everything they could for him, Hayward said. They took him to Hawaii, to the Bahamas and to Camp Sunshine in Maine.

For a better quality of life, the family moved back to Ithaca, where both Hayward and Toland attended Cornell University, Hayward said.

Colin’s 12-year-old brother Aidan got to join the action as well, sharing the stage as Colin as he was sworn in and riding in a squad car with Colin and a member of the Ithaca Police Department.

After witnessing protests and violence against police in recent months, Colin “felt an immense amount of empathy” toward the officers, Hayward said, and decided that he wanted to become one. He told his parents that as a police officer, he would “love everyone.”

“Colin wants to help people,” Hayward said. “He wants to reach out and make people feel okay.”

When asked what he wants his role to be at the police department, Colin jokingly said that he would probably be a receptionist, because he “wouldn’t be good at catching bad guys,” he told his father. Colin also would like to read bedtime stories to inmates, Hayward said.

Colin’s favorite part of his swear-in ceremony was the badge he was given, he told local media in Ithaca. But Toland said it’s the message the badge represents that means the most to her son.

“He said, ‘Everyone should go for their dreams,'” Hayward said, adding that he’s “so inspired” by him and his dreams.

Colin’s dream came true on Monday, and about 300 people showed up to watch him be sworn in, including 150 fellow police officers and his entire fourth-grade class from Northeast Elementary School, which scheduled a field trip to watch their classmate’s moment of honor.

Hayward held Colin’s hand as Toland pinned his badge to his uniform, according to the Ithaca Police Department. Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick then announced that Sept. 12 will now be known as “Colin Toland Hayward Day.”

Hayward and Toland were “moved to tears” while watching their son be recognized in such a big way, they said.

“When you lose a child to this disease, the one thing I feel parents are concerned or worried about is their child being forgotten or their child being a statistic,” Hayward said — not being able to become whatever it is they wanted to become.”

The Ithaca Police Department posted a photo album to its Facebook page titled Officer Colin Toland reporting for duty and even created a customized duffle bag with Colin’s name embroidered on it.

Hayward said that his “hope is always there,” despite the harrowing ordeal Colin has endured through the years. But, rather than hoping for a cure, he instead hopes to make it through the day.

“It makes life much more manageable as a parent,” he said.

The family plans to travel to Orlando this weekend and hopes to take a trip to Niagara Falls in the near future, Toland said.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Mom Shares Video of Son with Cerebral Palsy Trying to Stand for National Anthem

iStock/Thinkstock(CHESTERFIELD, Mich.) — A 9-year-old boy with cerebral palsy who cannot walk or stand on his own was caught on camera giving his all to try to stand during the national anthem of an NFL game on TV.

Logan Wilson, of Chesterfield, Michigan, was watching a recording of a Detroit Lions game on Monday at his home from the couch. When the national anthem began to play, Logan spent nearly 10 minutes trying to stand on his own.

“He kept rewinding it from the DVR,” said Logan’s mom, Rebecca Wilson, who recorded her son from another room. “I was just kind of in shock.”

Wilson told ABC News her son is a huge fan of the Lions and the Detroit Tigers so they record the games for him to re-watch. Logan asked his mom to sit him on the couch so he could watch the game after he got home from school Monday.

“He walks with the assistance of a walker that he gets strapped into but it’s very supportive of him,” she said of Logan, who was born nearly four months early weighing 1 pound, 10 ounces. “I haven’t really seen him try to stand from that sitting position on his own like that,” she said.

Logan can be seen in the video putting his left hand to his chest since he has limited mobility on his right side, according to his mom.

Wilson posted the video of Logan to her Facebook page, along with the caption, “Even my 9 year old with CP (who can’t walk) knows you’re supposed to stand up during the national anthem…He loves it!”

The video has been viewed more than 14,000 times and sparked comments related to protests by some professional athletes during sporting events. Wilson said she posted the video just to share her pride in how far her son has come.

“He’s made a lot of accomplishments in the last nine years, from being told that he wouldn’t be able to do much of anything to being where he is today,” she said. “He’s just an amazing little boy.”

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Canada Approves Prescription Heroin to Combat Opioid Crisis

backpack555/iStock/Thinkstock(TORONTO) — Canada has approved prescription heroin to be given to some patients in an effort to combat the effects of the ongoing opioid crisis. The news comes as some health experts and policymakers in both Canada and the U.S. are looking to implement more harm reduction strategies, which focus on diminishing risk associated with intravenous drug use.

On Friday, Canada’s health ministry announced that doctors will now be able to prescribe diacetylmorphine or prescription-grade heroin for the treatment of “chronic relapsing opioid dependence.” The drugs will be given through Canada’s Special Access Programme (SAP) which provides access to drugs not currently available on the market for the treatment patients with serious or life-threatening conditions when “conventional therapies have failed, are unsuitable, or unavailable.”

“Scientific evidence supports the medical use of diacetylmorphine for the treatment of chronic relapsing opioid dependence in certain individual cases,” Canadian health officials said in a statement sent to ABC News today. “Health Canada recognizes the importance of providing physicians with the power to make evidence-based treatment proposals in these exceptional cases.”

Researchers in Canada have been using pilot programs to understand how giving prescription heroin or providing supervised injection sites could affect the health of intravenous drug users. These tactics are part of a harm reduction strategy aimed at reducing the risk surrounding opioid drug abuse without forcing an addict to stop using drugs. In the U.S. similar programs have been considered and the mayor of Ithaca, New York has plans to open the first supervised injection site in the country.

There were record number of deaths related to opioid overdoses in 2014 in the U.S. with 28,000 recorded deaths according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In Canada opioid-related deaths have risen sharply and make up half of all drug deaths, according to the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition.

Dr. Scott MacDonald developed a pilot program that studied the effects of providing prescription heroin to certain users in Vancouver and said researchers have seen huge success with the program.

“This is a kind of last resort to get them into care to get them off the streets,” MacDonald said. “We see them come to us every day rather than stay on the streets… that engagement and retention in care is a significant benefit.”

MacDonald said people who used to to be in and out of jail or the hospital have been able to reconnect with families, go back to school and retain employment.

“That’s a major success,” he said. In the pilot program users must be a long time heroin user, who has tried at least twice to stop using drugs. The drug users are allowed to come to the clinic between two to three times a day where they are provided a syringe and drugs for injection. Medical staff on site monitor the drug users and can intervene if they show signs of overdose.

Daniel Raymond, policy director for Harm Reduction New York, said that providing prescription heroin could viewed as an extension of medicine-based rehab programs that utilize drugs like morphine or buprenorphine that help medically address symptoms of opioid addiction and withdrawal.

“I think the idea is not so much the Marie Antoniette style let them have heroin,” said Raymond. “We know people who struggle with opioid disorder. We’ve been using bufneoprohine, morphine…none of them have been sufficiently scaled up.”

Raymond pointed out this treatment is only right for a small group of drug users.

“What we see from research is a small subset of people with entrenched treatment resistant drug problems,” said Raymond. “It seems to stabilize them, it gets them off of the street.”

Raymond said a move among health experts and other policy makers towards harm reduction shows a growing awareness that asking drug users to quit drugs isn’t always a feasible goal.

“There may be some people who have accumulated a lifetime of trauma,” Raymond said. For them “Stability is a goal in and of itself.”

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Chelsea Manning Surgery Decision Could Set Precedent for Trans Prisoners

Ztranger/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — While transgender advocacy groups say they applaud the Army’s decision to allow Chelsea Manning to receive gender transition surgery in prison, they also add that more work needs to be done to give transgender inmates the dignity they deserve.

Manning announced in a statement on Tuesday that she is ending her hunger strike after the Army said it will allow her to receive gender transition surgery while she is serving her 35-year sentence at a Kansas military prison. Manning said she is “unendingly relieved that the military is finally doing the right thing.”

Manning, a transgender woman who was previously known as Bradley Manning, was convicted in 2013 of leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents to the whistle-blower website WikiLeaks. Last week, Manning went on a hunger strike protesting the military prison’s refusal to allow her medical treatment for gender dysphoria, her lawyers announced in a statement.

“I applaud them for that. This is all that I wanted — for them to let me be me,” Manning said in a statement through her ACLU lawyers. “But it is hard not to wonder why it has taken so long. Also, why were such drastic measures needed? The surgery was recommended in April 2016. The recommendations for my hair length were back in 2014. In any case, I hope this sets a precedent for the thousands of trans people behind me hoping they will be given the treatment they need.”

Flor Bermudez, the managing attorney and detention project director for the Transgender Law Center, told ABC News today that she hopes other detention centers will follow the example set by the military prison.

“We hope that this is an example for other jurisdictions, including the Federal Bureau of Prisons, who are currently drafting medical guidelines and transgender-specific placement policies, to issue policies that allow for this medical treatment to be available,” Bermudez said. “We have been arguing that it is constitutionally required.”

Bermudez said she is glad that the Army chose to allow Manning to receive medical treatment, but added that “this decision was long overdue.”

“The Transgender Law Center supports the advocacy that has been done on behalf of Chelsea, because the military has been trying to prosecute her for an attempted suicide, which is specifically a symptom of their own causing,” Bermudez said.

Harper Jean Tobin, the policy director for the National Center for Transgender Equality, told ABC News in a statement, “We are heartened that Chelsea Manning’s hunger strike is over and that the military has committed to providing the health care she needs. This is consistent with the military’s promise to provide necessary health care for all transgender service members, and with the constitutional requirement that the government treat serious medical needs of any person it imprisons.”

Tobin reiterated Bermudez’s argument that there is still room for improvement, and called on the government to “do better.”

“We continue to be concerned that the military will force Manning to comply with male hair length requirements, something it has promised not to do for transgender female soldiers. And the fact that Manning is being charged and threatened with indefinite isolation for attempting suicide is the definition of cruelty. Human dignity has no exceptions, and our government should do better,” Tobin said.

Denny Meyer, a spokesperson for the Transgender American Veterans Association (TAVA), told ABC News today that the battle for transgender rights in the military is far from over.

“Transgender service members and veterans have at last been recognized and their service honored as the military has recently allowed people to begin to serve openly. The battle isn’t over. It’s a small step that this former service member is about to achieve self-realization through the medical procedures that all transgender service members are entitled to. We would hope that those who have served their countries honorably would be able to have all the rights and treatments and medical benefits that they are entitled to,” Meyer said.

“We are excited that she is getting the medical needs that she needs and she is not being discriminated against because of it,” Evan Young, president of TAVA, added. “They have a legal constitutional obligation to not deny them medical needs.”

However, even among LGBT advocates within the military community, Manning’s actions remain controversial.

Lt. Col. Steve Loomis, president of American Veterans for Equal Rights, the national LGBT veteran’s group, said in a statement, “We do not support Chelsea Manning’s dissent, and her actions while she was in the military. We have no opinion on her desire to change her gender, that is between her and her doctor.”

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Study: Half of Kids Live in Homes with Guns but Few Pediatricians Talk Firearm Safety

Photodisc/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — American Academy of Pediatrics has advised pediatricians for years to talk to families about firearm safety in the home. But a new study suggests that most pediatricians do not bring up the subject, and about a third of parents would ignore or even take offense to advice on guns.

Researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis surveyed more than 1,200 parents in pediatricians’ waiting rooms in Missouri and Illinois and found 50.2 percent of the children spend significant time in households with guns, according to the study, published Wednesday in The Journal of Pediatrics.

Approximately 36 percent of respondents said they had firearms in the home and an additional 14 percent reported their child was frequently in the home of relatives or friends with firearms, according to the study. Though most parents were open to discussions about gun safety with their pediatricians, a significant minority, or approximately one-third of parents, said they did not want to be asked whether they had a gun, and would ignore or even take offense to advice to remove guns from the home, researchers found.

Only 13 percent of parents reported their pediatrician asking them about household firearm access.

“Guns are an emotional topic,” said Dr. Jane Garbutt, lead author of the study and a professor of pediatrics at Washington University School of Medicine. “Our work suggests this type of conversation doesn’t happen enough. But we need to find a way for doctors and patients to have this discussion to keep kids safe.”

The study also suggests there’s room for improvement when it comes to firearm safety at home. Of parents who owned guns, 22 percent reported keeping their firearms and ammunition in the same location, and about a quarter said they kept at least one firearm loaded inside the home. Of those with a loaded firearm inside the home, 14 percent admitted it was potentially accessible to children.

Overall, three-quarters of respondents — including 71 percent of gun owners — said they thought pediatricians should discuss safe storage of firearms with parents, but only about 13 percent report having had such a discussion with their child’s doctor. Less than 1 percent of respondents said their child’s pediatrician was a significant source of firearm safety information.

Firearm-related incidents continue to pose a significant threat to child and adolescent health. In 2013, more than 6,000 children were hospitalized due to firearm-related incidents and 2,465 died, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

These statistics have made screening for children’s access to firearms and discussing firearm safety with parents an important part of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ violence prevention recommendations. The AAP encourages physicians to give parents guidance about the health hazards of firearms — even as discussing gun safety in the doctor’s office has become an increasingly contentious legal and political issue.

“It can be uncomfortable to talk about gun safety, just as it can be uncomfortable to talk about drug use, vaccines, or STDs,” said Dr. Judith Schaechter, a pediatrician and member of the AAP Council on Injury, Violence and Poison Prevention. “But if you do it in a respectful way — one that puts the child’s health and safety at the center of the conversation — I think families are actually very receptive.”

According to the study’s authors, there may be a number of reasons that more pediatricians aren’t having these conversations, including lack of time or training, fear of offending parents, and feeling that counseling would be ineffective.

New legislation has also impeded some physicians from bringing up firearms with patients. In 2011, Florida passed the Firearm Owners Privacy Act, which prohibits doctors from asking patients about whether they have a gun in the home. The law has subsequently been challenged by a number of professional organizations, including the AAP, and is currently the subject of a protracted legal battle. Since Florida passed its law, a dozen other states have introduced similar legislation.

The National Rifle Association did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment on the study.

One path forward may be for physicians to counsel patients about gun safety generally instead of directly questioning parents about whether they have guns in the home. According to the study, parents were more amenable to hearing messages about how to safely store firearms than they were to inquiries into whether they personally had firearms.

“We need to make it about hazard avoidance,” Garbutt said. “We need to place firearms in the same domain as medications or household poisons, and discuss them as we would other dangerous things in the home. The message from pediatricians has to be, ‘Lock it up. Keep it away from your child.’”

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Therapy Dog Embarks on 375-Mile Hike for Hospice Care Awareness

Hachi the Wonderdog/Facebook(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) — Meet Hachi, a tiny therapy dog that usually spends his days comforting and snuggling up with patients at Advanced Home Health and Hospice in Sacramento, California.

But since Monday, the 16-pound pup has been trekking through California wilderness — navigating mountainous terrain and snowy trails with his owner, Jeff Douglas, who is also the hospice’s chaplain.

The duo are on a what Douglas has called “Hachi’s Hike for Hospice,” a journey and campaign to raise awareness about hospice care and dispel the negative misconceptions that come with the term.

“Over the last few years, I’ve noticed that there’s been a lot of misconceptions about the purpose of hospice and that a lot of people come way too late to get the benefits of hospice care,” Douglas told ABC News Wednesday. “So, I thought, why don’t we leverage Hachi’s charm and personality and do a great feat that will be big enough to get more people to listen to our message?”

Douglas said he hopes he and Hachi can “start important conversations about end-of-life planning” with people they meet while adventuring from the California-Nevada border to the Pacific Ocean for the next three weeks.

“So many people think hospice care is about dying, when really, it’s about life and living the end of life on your own terms,” he said. “We want to plant the seed and help people see it’s important to have these conversations about end-of-life planning now. The ER is not the time to have those conversations.”

And though the chaplain is incredibly passionate about hospice care and the patients, Douglas said he also wants to use the hike for him and Hachi to enjoy the outdoors and each other’s company.

The chaplain explained he has been with Hachi since the Chihuahua-Shiba Inu mix was a puppy. Douglas said he first came across Hachi over five years ago when he caught sight of a group of girls playing with the “cutest little puppy” he had ever seen.

When he asked what the dog’s name was, the girls said, “Hachi,” which blew Douglas’ mind because he had just recently watched a movie inspired by the true story of Hachiko, a dog who became famous in Japan during the ’20s and ’30s for his loyalty.

Hachiko would meet his owner at a train station at the same time every day after he came back from work. Even when his owner died and didn’t come back, the story has it that Hachiko continued to go to the station every day at the same time for next nine years.

“When the girls said his name was Hachi, I just knew it was destiny,” Douglas said. “I asked their mother if they had any other pups from the same litter, and she said, ‘No, but you can have that one if you pay me.’ So I went to the ATM, got Hachi and the rest is history.”

Soon after, Douglas quickly noticed Hachi’s compassion and astute intuition when he witnessed the pup comfort a patient who had just lost a dog. He also took notice of Hachi’s athleticism.

Despite Hachi’s short stature and small body, the pup can walk for over 20 miles a day, Douglas said. He added that when he visited a veterinarian to make sure Hachi was in a good condition to do the 375-mile hike, the vet laughed and said he was more concerned about him than Hachi.

“The vet told me he’s like a K9 elite athlete,” Douglas said with a laugh. “Hachi is truly an amazing little dog.”

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Your Body: Links Between Alcohol and Cancer

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

Step away from the Chardonnay. A new study concludes that drinking is a direct cause of seven different kinds of cancer.

According to researchers, even moderate drinking can contribute to colon, breast, esophageal and liver cancer — and the more you drink, the higher your risk.

My medical take on this: Most things in moderation. This may be important for the subject of whether or not to drink because alcohol can be a part of our social fiber.

You have to ask yourself how much restriction you are capable of and whether or not it is worth it to you. You also need to assess your individual risk. For example, if breast cancer runs in your family, abstaining from alcohol completely may be right for you.

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Use Water to Thaw Your Frozen Food

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Science Nordic reports that Susanne Ekstedt, a researcher at the Food and Bioscience unit of SP Technical Research Institute of Sweden in Gothenburg, says that while people tend to thaw meat slowly, in the refrigerator, quicker is better when it comes to thawing frozen food.

“This is something food scientists have known to be true for a long time now. Most people don’t seem to be aware of this,” she said.

While keeping meat cold is important to limit bacterial growth while thawing it out, it’s possible to do it quickly in water.

Her recommendation is based on experiments with freezing and thawing different kinds of foods at the institute. The researchers concluded that the best way to thaw frozen meat or fish is to put it in cold water because water conducts heat better than air. The food should be wrapped in plastic to keep the food dry, but water will thaw food quickly and effectively and the faster food is thawed, the better it tastes.

Bjørg Egelandsdal is a professor at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences who specializes in meat, says, “There has never been any good scientific evidence behind the advice that food should be thawed in the refrigerator. Maybe the idea behind this advice is that refrigerator thawing is most hygienic but it is definitely better to thaw food quickly in water if you are going to use it right away.”

The reasons behind this have to do with ice crystal damage. When food stays below the freezing point for a long time, it creates opportunity for ice crystals to grow. Large ice crystals damage cells, reducing the food’s ability to hold fluids after thawing, which dries it out.

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