Review Category : Health

Zika Virus Outbreak Updates: Dallas Case Spotlights Sexual Transmission

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — As the Zika virus outbreak continues, including in wide swaths of Central and South America, concerns are growing, especially for pregnant women because the mosquito-borne virus has been linked with a serious birth defect called microcephaly, characterized by an abnormally small head and brain.

Here are the latest updates to what the World Health Organization is now calling a global health emergency.

CDC to Release New Guidelines After Sexually Transmitted Zika Virus Found in Dallas

A case of sexually transmitted Zika virus in the U.S. was confirmed Tuesday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

This is the first time in this current outbreak that the virus has been reported to have been transferred by sexual contact in the U.S. Normally the virus cannot spread from person to person and is usually transmitted via infected mosquitoes.

The Dallas Department of Health and Human Services reported that an infected traveler returned from a country with Zika transmission and infected a partner with the virus.

Officials from the CDC said in a statement that they “will issue guidance in the coming days on prevention of sexual transmission of Zika virus, with a focus on the male sexual partners of women who are or who may be pregnant.”

The CDC is now warning women who may become pregnant to consult their health care provider if their partner had exposure to the Zika virus and pregnant women should avoid exposure to semen from someone who had been exposed to the virus.

American Red Cross Asks Blood Donors to Wait 28 Days After Visiting Zika Areas

The American Red Cross is asking that anyone returning from a country with ongoing Zika transmission to wait 28 days before donating blood.

The American Red Cross is implementing the “self-deferral” as the Zika virus continues to spread across the Americas. The organization is also asking that anyone who develops symptoms in 14 days after donation to contact the blood center so the blood can be quarantined.

“The American Red Cross is dedicated to providing the safest, most reliable blood products possible to patients in need,” said Dr. Susan Stramer, vice president of Scientific Affairs at the American Red Cross. “We are closely monitoring the spread of Zika virus.”

There are at Least 48 People Infected in the U.S.

There are at least 48 people infected with the Zika virus. Nearly all — except in the sexually transmitted case mentioned above — are believed to have been contracted outside of the U.S.

Those infected are spread across 12 states, though the most cases have been found in Texas, with eight reported cases in that state.

Additionally, in Puerto Rico, where the ongoing Zika virus transmission is occurring, there are at least 20 people confirmed infected with the virus.

What Does the Virus Do?

Common symptoms of the Zika virus include fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis, according to the CDC. Approximately one in five people infected with the virus show symptoms. Severe complications from the virus that require hospitalization are rare, according to the CDC.

The virus has also been associated with a rise of microcephaly birth defects in which an infant is born with an abnormally small head, which can cause significant developmental delays.

The CDC is also investigating if a rare paralysis syndrome called Guillain-Barre is related to the virus. The syndrome is an immunological reaction that can also occur after other viral or bacterial infections.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Your Body: Asthma Among Kids

iStock/ThinkstockDR. JENNIFER ASHTON, ABC News Senior Medical Contributor

Compared to the 1990s, the past decade has seen fewer children in the United States who have developed asthma. But when you break it down by groups, asthma rates are still rising for some kids.

According to a new study from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), children born into poorer families are at a higher risk of asthma than ever before. Those born to non-poor families, meanwhile, are at a lower risk.

If you think your child has asthma, talk to your pediatrician.

You should also be aware of circumstances that trigger difficulty breathing. Notice if it is in conjunction with colds, exposure to cold temperatures, exercise or pets.

And avoid smoke. This includes even those who smoke outside. Particles from cigarette smoke land on hair and clothing, and can be carried back inside to your children.

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Study: Eating Seafood Could Stave Off Dementia

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — A new study suggests that eating seafood at least once a week could cut the risk for dementia diseases including Alzheimers and Lewy Body Dementia — the disorder from which the late Robin Williams reportedly suffered.

The research, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) initially examined whether eating fish caused increased mercury levels found in human brains.

The study utilized surveys of eating habits and brain examinations of patients who had a genetic risk of Alzheimers, as well as pre-and post-mortem examinations of their brains.

Researchers learned that while those who ate more fish did experience an increased amount of mercury, that mercury didn’t cause any additional cases of brain disease. In fact, the researchers noted, the test subjects who ate seafood at least once a week showed fewer instances of Alzheimers and other brain disorders than did people who didn’t eat seafood.

While higher mercury levels can cause brain disorders, the scientists say the selenium in fish counteracts mercury’s detrimental effects on the brain.

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Chef Says He Lost 101 Pounds Eating Pizza Every Day

Courtesy Pasquale Cozzolino(NEW YORK) — Pasquale Cozzolino is a master in the kitchen, but four years after he left Italy for America, the man who cooks exquisite meals with natural ingredients saw his weight balloon to more than 370 pounds.

“I discovered the Oreo, which we never had in Italy,” Cozzolino, who stands 6-foot-6, told ABC News. “It was like an addiction.”

Along with the Oreos, Cozzolino consumed soda and fried foods.

Cozzolino was so overweight that he couldn’t even play with his son at the park. He no longer recognized himself in the mirror.

Faced with his doctor’s warning that he could have a heart attack, Cozzolino turned to what he knew best: food.

He cut calories, going back to a Mediterranean-style diet. And pizza.

Cozzolino ate pizza every day for lunch, but his homemade Margherita version used dough containing just four ingredients: unbleached flour, water, a touch of sea salt and a little yeast. It’s topped with tomato sauce, basil and fresh mozzarella.

His now-famous pizza measures about 12 inches in diameter. It can be made quickly and easily, and contains fewer than 600 calories.

By cutting his overall food intake to about 2,700 calories per day -– featuring a healthy balance of protein, carbs and fats — Cozzolino says he lost 101 pounds in seven months.

The 38-year-old New York City resident now weighs about 270 pounds. He says the secret to weight loss is natural ingredients.

“I can tell you, when I go to the grocery store I always look at the label. If they have more than 10 ingredients, I give up,” he said.

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Zika Virus Vaccine Project Launched By Sanofi Pasteur

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — A French company is the first to announce it will attempt to develop a vaccine for the Zika virus.

The Sanofi Pasteur company announced Tuesday it had launched a vaccine research and development project to target the Zika virus.

The Zika virus outbreak continues to spread across multiple countries, with at least 28 countries identified as having current outbreaks of the virus, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The disease usually results in mild symptoms, including fever and rash that end after about a week. However, it has been associated with a rise of a dangerous birth defect called microcephaly, where an infant has an abnormally small head.

The World Health Organization declared the disease a “global public emergency” on Monday as the agency called on different governments and medical communities to combat the spread of the disease.

Officials from Sanofi Pasteur said their experience creating vaccines for similar viruses — including yellow fever and Japanese encephalitis — and attempts to create a possible dengue fever vaccine, may help them to find an new way to develop a Zika vaccine.

“Our invaluable collaborations with scientific and public health experts, both globally and in the regions affected by the outbreaks of [Zika virus], together with the mobilization of our best experts will expedite efforts to research and develop a vaccine for this disease,” said Dr. John Shiver, Global Head of R&D, Sanofi Pasteur, in a statement Tuesday.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told ABC News last week that based on past experiences with similar viruses, it may be possible for health officials to start testing a vaccine for the Zika virus later this year. The test would determine if the vaccine “is safe and effective,” he noted.

Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert based at Vanderbilt University, said the vaccine would likely be a “killed” virus — similar to a flu vaccine in which the virus is grown and then portions of the disable virus are used. A “killed” virus means it cannot lead to infection of the disease after it has been administered, as a vaccine, Schaffner noted.

While pregnant women are the focus of concern due to the virus’ association with a birth defect, Schaffner said they would probably not be the first ones to get the virus.

“Although we’re interested in protecting pregnant women, I think the actual strategy would be able to give vaccine to as many people in the population as possible,” Schaffner said of regions affected by the outbreak. “It would reduce the risk of the mosquito becoming infected,” and spreading the disease to pregnant women.

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Zika Virus Outbreak: Top Questions From ABC News’ Facebook Chat

iStock/Thinkstock(SALVADOR, Brazil) — With growing concerns about the Zika virus outbreak, ABC News’ Chief Health and Medical Editor Dr. Richard Besser took questions during a Facebook chat earlier Tuesday alongside Dr. Antonio Raimundo de Almeida, director of the Roberto Santos General Hospital in Salvador, Brazil.

Here are some of the top question and answers, and see the rest of the chat here.

Q: Given that it’s important to keep mosquitoes away, what kind of bug repellent would you recommend?

Besser: Personally, here in Brazil, I’ve been using a lot of repellent with DEET. The CDC has a number of recommendations — all of their recommendations are approved by the EPA as safe for people. In addition to DEET, there are products containing picaridin, IR3535 and oil of lemon eucalyptus. DEET is safe, even in pregnant women.

Almeida: The brand names are different here in Brazil, but ingredients are the same.

Besser: When it comes to using a mosquito repellent, you want to use a concentration proportional to how much time you’ll spend outside. The CDC says above 50% DEET, you get no added value. If you’re only going to be outside for an hour, 10% is fine. If you’ll be outside for longer, 30-50% could give you more protection. Think about how long you’re going to be in a spot where you could be bitten by mosquitoes, and choose your repellent accordingly.

Q: I have a trip planned to Mexico. I’m not pregnant, but I want to be pregnant in the next two years. Am I at risk?

Besser: For a lot of the science around Zika virus, the studies haven’t been done, so lessons are being taken from other viruses that are similar — this class of virus is called flavivirus. Once someone recovers from flavivirus infections, they can no longer find the virus in the body. The feeling is that there should not be long-term risk to a woman who gets a Zika virus infection unless it’s during the period that she’s pregnant.

Q: It’s winter here and not mosquito season. Why should we get concerned now?

Besser: It’s really all about preparedness and thinking ahead for what steps should be taken. What should be in place to reduce the number of people who get infected. There are many people from the United States who travel around the world, who travel to areas that are experiencing Zika and will come home. Some of them may be infected. Thankfully, mosquitoes aren’t active right now, but when they are active what should we be doing?

The CDC recommends anyone who returns, who has symptoms of Zika — fever, rash, red eyes, joint pain — see their doctor to be tested. They can be told to use repellent. But remember that 80 percent of people who have this may have no symptoms at all. We need to focus on what to do about mosquitoes in a big way. Think about in your home — are your screens repaired? Get them repaired before it’s mosquito season. Is there any free-standing water around your house? You want to get rid of that before mosquitoes are very active.

The steps you take to reduce the chance of Zika will also reduce the chance of West Nile virus, which is seen all over the U.S.

Almeida: The word is preparedness, you have to be prepared. You already have some dengue cases in Florida and the dengue is close to the Zika virus.

Q: How do we identify this particular mosquito?

Besser: That’s a good question. I’m not a mosquito expert. It’s a banded mosquito. It seems to have little lines.

Almeida: It’s a zebra.

Besser: Yes, it’s like a zebra with stripes on it, but I wouldn’t interrogate the mosquito too closely. I would do what I could to avoid getting bit by the mosquito. The CDC has really good maps, understanding where they transmit and understanding parts of the country are affected by the mosquitoes is very helpful.

Almeida: They have been here for 200 years. They came here from Africa — 200 years in Brazil.

Besser: The tragic thing, this is something we see in public health all the time. There was a time this mosquito was almost eliminated from the Americas. There was a big effort and it was because of Yellow Fever. There was a big effort to wipe out the Aedes aegypti.

Governments across the entire Western Hemisphere invested a lot of money in spraying and getting rid of free-standing water. All of these kinds of steps. They were very close. There were 16 countries that was declared free of mosquitoes.

What happens when diseases start appearing less and less, there is less money to continue the efforts, so the mosquito came back. It’s in every country in the Western Hemisphere except for Canada and Chile.

Q: There’s no scientific link between microcephaly and Zika. Why are pregnant women being told to avoid areas with the Zika virus like there’s scientific proof of a link?

Besser: When it comes to scientific proof, there are different levels of proof. There are very strong signals that there is a connection between Zika virus infection and microcephaly, the condition of very small heads and damaged brains. The rise of microcephaly came soon after the rise of the number of cases of the Zika virus. Scientists have been able to recover the Zika virus from babies who died who had microcephaly, from those brains and tissues.

That is some of the evidence that there is a connection. There are additional studies going on to prove it. You would hate to be in a situation where the world community decided “We’re going to wait. We’re going to wait until every paper has been published. We’re going to wait until there’s 100 percent scientific proof.” There are so many reasons we don’t want to spread disease with this specific mosquito if everyone turns out to be wrong. If it leads to a drop in Dengue fever and Chikungunya, that will be a very good thing. It will be bad that pregnant women were scared. But health experts around the world and here in Brazil are very worried.

Almeida: We have to prove that it’s caused by Zika, but the probability is very, very high. We have heard the Zika virus is in amniotic fluid and some tissues. We are confirming this again and again.

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Sexually Transmitted Case of Zika Virus Found in US, Dallas Health Dept. Says

HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images(DALLAS) — The Zika virus has been sexually transmitted between two people in the U.S., according to a report by the Dallas County Health and Human Services Department.

A patient contracted the disease in Dallas County after having sexual contact with a person who was infected with the Zika virus in a country where Zika virus was present, the agency said Tuesday.

“Now that we know Zika virus can be transmitted through sex, this increases our awareness campaign in educating the public about protecting themselves and others,” said Zachary Thompson, director of the Dallas County Health Department. “Next to abstinence, condoms are the best prevention method against any sexually transmitted infections.”

The Zika virus is usually spread through mosquito bites, although in extremely rare cases it has been reported to be transmitted from mother and child during birth and through sexual contact and blood transfusions.

The Zika virus outbreak continues to spread, with at least 28 countries/territories identified as having current outbreaks of the virus, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The disease usually results in mild symptoms including fever and rash that end after about a week. However, it has been associated with a rise of a dangerous birth defect called microcephaly, where an infant has an abnormally small head, leading to potentially serious developmental delays.

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Mom Defends Son Against Offensive Internet Meme

Courtesy AliceAnn Meyer(SAN ANTONIO) — A Texas mom is fighting back after discovering a mean-spirited meme of her 4-year-old son online.

“It’s basically making fun of the way he looks,” AliceAnn Meyer of San Antonio told ABC News Tuesday. “The first time I saw it I just kind of looked at it and said ‘It’s not even funny.’ Someone actually took the time to sit down and [create] it and I don’t understand that. I was shocked, for sure.”

Meyer, 35, said her son Jameson was diagnosed with Pfeiffer syndrome, also referred to as craniofacial syndrome. The rare genetic disorder impacts growth of the bones in the skull, hands and feet.

“There are three types of Pfeiffer syndrome and it depends on the child itself,” she said. “In Jameson’s case, he’s got type 1, so neurologically he’s 100 percent normal. He’s delayed in speech and he’s got some hearing loss, but his communication is normal. Just receptively he’s delayed.”

Despite his disorder, Jameson acts like any typical 4-year-old, Meyer said.

“He’s a little prankster,” she said. “He’s very mischievous. He loves to get a laugh out of people. We hear from his teachers and therapist how much he plays jokes and he’s just a super fun kid.”

On Jan. 30, Meyer said she was corresponding in a Pfeiffer syndrome Facebook support group when she got wind of a profanity-laced meme that had surfaced of her son.

She believes “Internet trolls” lifted the photo without permission from a 2014 blog she wrote about Jameson titled: “He’s Not Scary, He’s a Little Boy.”

As the meme circulated, Meyer said she reported the incident to Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. According to Meyer, the social media sites removed the meme 24 hours later; however, other Internet users have since re-posted the meme.

Twitter said it does not comment on individual accounts.

ABC News has also reached out to Facebook and Instagram.

Facebook and Instagram have not yet responded to ABC News’ request for comment.

“His face was everywhere and I thought it was a great opportunity to say ‘This is my son and this is who he is and this is what he has,'” Meyer said. “I can’t stop people from doing horrible things, but if his face is out there, I may as well make it for good rather than bad.”

In an effort to raise awareness on bullying and Pfeiffer syndrome, Meyer wrote a post for her blog, Jameson’s Journey, titled: “This Is My Son Jameson, And No, You May Not Use His Photo.”

“Exactly one week ago I spent my Saturday night fighting an individual to remove my son’s photo from his Facebook page, where it had been liked 5,000 times and shared nearly 3,000,” Meyer wrote. “It was no easy feat and took 100’s, maybe even 1,000’s of reports being submitted, an army of people fighting with me. So, to everyone that ‘LOL’d,’ shared, and posted that meme, let me start by introducing you to the child you find so funny. His name is Jameson. He is very real, and he was born with Pfeiffer syndrome.”

Meyer ended her post by informing readers what it’s like to live with Pfeiffer syndrome.

“Some of the moms in my [Facebook] group have been thanking me and I just want to say that Jameson’s not the only one that gets targeted,” Meyer said. “If I do something now and go through the process of standing up for him, then the more encounters I have, the better I get at talking to people. If someone wants to take his photo again, I’ll continue to fight and I’ll just keep using it to raise awareness.”

Meyer said she supports Choose Kind, an online campaign that’s dedicated to raising awareness of Internet bullying.

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Girl with Rare Medical Condition Gets Shout-Out from Selena Gomez

Image Group LA/ABC(NEW YORK) — All of Selena Gomez’s fans know that “The Heart Wants What It Wants,” and what the world wants is 7-year-old Audrey from Kentucky to keep singing her heart out.

Audrey’s enthusiastic rendition of Gomez’s “Love You Like a Love Song” has more than 14 million views — and counting — on Facebook.

Audrey has Diamond-Blackfan anemia, a rare bone marrow disorder. It’s a tough disease but she certainly has the right attitude and the spirit to fight it, as the Internet can clearly see.

Gomez even felt her energy, commenting on Audrey’s Facebook page, “Audrey, you are an amazing performer! Call me if you ever need a duet partner.”

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Zika Virus: The Latest on the Growing Outbreak

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The spread of the mosquito-borne Zika virus has become a worldwide concern, with the World Health Organization declaring it a global health emergency on Monday. This is the first time the agency has used that classification since the deadly Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

Here’s the latest on the virus, which has been linked to an alarming birth defect among newborns:

WHO Releases Recommendations After Issuing Global Health Emergency

The WHO has declared a global health emergency for just the fourth time in the agency’s history due to the ongoing Zika outbreak. The organization is now releasing recommendations for countries facing a Zika outbreak, including new travel measures.

The recommendations include improving communications so that an affected community is reporting possible cases, increasing surveillance of Zika virus infections and taking measures to control the mosquito population.

Additionally, WHO has advised travelers be updated about the potential risks, but that trade between countries should not be disrupted by the outbreak.

CDC Issues Travel Advisory for Total of 28 Countries, Territories

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has expanded travel advisories for a total of 28 countries and territories where there are reports of the Zika virus currently being transmitted from mosquitoes to humans.

The four new additions to the list announced Monday are American Samoa, Costa Rica, Curacao and Nicaragua.

The CDC has advised pregnant women to consider postponing travel to a country with ongoing Zika virus transmissions. Women who are thinking about pregnancy are advised to consult with their health care provider before traveling to countries with Zika virus transmissions.

What Does the Virus Do?

Common symptoms of the Zika virus include fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis, according to the CDC. Approximately one in five people infected with the virus show symptoms. Severe complications from the virus that require hospitalization are rare, according to the CDC.

The virus has also been associated with a rise of microcephaly birth defects in which an infant is born with an abnormally small head, which can cause significant developmental delays.

The CDC is also investigating if a rare paralysis syndrome called Guillain-Barre is related to the virus. The syndrome is an immunological reaction that can also occur after other viral or bacterial infections.

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