<![CDATA[NBC Southern California - Health News]]> Copyright 2015 http://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/health http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/NBC4_40x125.png NBC Southern California http://www.nbclosangeles.com en-us Thu, 30 Jul 2015 09:22:52 -0700 Thu, 30 Jul 2015 09:22:52 -0700 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[2 Dead, 31 Sick Amid 'Unusual' Legionnaires' Outbreak in NYC]]> Thu, 30 Jul 2015 09:09:45 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/legionnaires+outbreak.jpg

Nearly three dozen cases of Legionnaires' disease, a severe, often lethal, form of pneumonia spread through the air, have been reported in the Bronx over the last two weeks in what the Health Department is calling a concerning "unusual increase" in cases.

Thirty-one cases have been reported in south Bronx neighborhoods, primarily in High Bridge, Morrisania, Hunts Point and Mott Haven, since July 10, the Health Department said. Two of the people stricken with the condition died.

Legionnaires' disease is caused by exposure to the bacteria Legionella; in most cases, people are exposed to the bacteria by inhaling contaminated aerosols from cooling towers, hot tubs, showers and faucets or drinking water.

Officials are testing water from cooling towers and other potential sources in the area to determine the source of the outbreak.

Legionnaires' disease usually sets in two to 10 days after exposure to the bacteria and has symptoms similar to pneumonia, including shortness of breath, high fever, chills and chest pains. People with Legionnaires' also experience appetite loss, confusion, fatigue and muscle aches.

It cannot be spread person-to-person and those at highest risk for contracting the illness include the elderly, cigarette smokers, people with chronic lung or immune system disease and those receiving immunosuppressive drugs. Most cases can be treated successfully with antibiotics.

The Health Department urges anyone with symptoms to seek immediate medical attention.

"We are concerned about this unusual increase in Legionnaires' disease cases in the south Bronx," Health Commissioner Mary Bassett said in a statement. "We are conducting a swift investigation to determine the source of the outbreak and prevent future cases."

At a news briefing on hot weather Wednesday afternoon, Bassett said the investigation was in its early stages, and reiterated early treatment was crucial.

"We have our disease detectives out in the field, scanning the environment and looking for places to take samples," Bassett said.

"We know a lot about Legionnaires', we know a lot about outbreaks -- this particular outbreak is still under investigation. We have an evolving situation," she added. "This is a common and readily treated pneumonia and we want to make sure people get care."

Lincoln Medical Center in the Bronx confirmed it had received Legionnaires' patients, but declined to say how many and referred questions to the Health Department.

 

John Dudley, district manager of Bronx Community Board 3, said the Health Department hadn't notified him about the outbreak and he wanted more information to spread to residents in his neighborhoods.

"I'm shocked," Dudley said, adding he was at least glad to know the disease couldn't be spread through person-to-person contact.

James Rouse, 42, died of Legionnaires' three months ago; he's not one of the two deaths linked to the more recent Bronx outbreak, but his family wonders if it's connected. He lived in Manhattan but taught music to children in the South Bronx. On April 30, he went to the hospital with a 104-degree fever, was diagnosed with Legionnaires' and then died 10 days later. 

"If it turns out those two people died and it's related to my brother's death, and something could have been done about it -- that kind of tragedy, I couldn't put into words," said brother John Rouse of Coram.

An outbreak last hit the Bronx in December. Between then and January, 12 people in Co-op City contracted the potentially deadly disease. Officials said a contaminated cooling tower was likely linked to at least 75 percent of those cases. No one died in that outbreak.



Photo Credit: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Public Health Image Library]]>
<![CDATA[The Health Benefits of Having a Pet]]> Tue, 28 Jul 2015 10:10:15 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/dog-GettyImages-137551880.jpg

For centuries, humans have taken animal companions into their homes. But the utility of the animals goes beyond simple companionship. The evidence is increasingly clear that having a pet can lead to a longer, healthier life. Here are some of the ways a pet can help your health:

Pets encourage healthy habits.

Getting a furry, scaly or feathered friend can prompt lifestyle changes for the owner. While many associate getting a pet with waking up earlier to let the cat outside or extra trips to the store for dog food, studies show that pets can cause a tangible, positive impact on owners’ choices.

Own a dog? It should come as no surprise that walking your pooch has proven health benefits, and a People Pets Exercising Together study supports this. The study, conducted by the Wellness Institute at Chicago’s Northwestern Memorial Hospital, concluded that people who exercised with their pets were more likely to stick their workout routines than people who exercised alone. Pets, the study said, should be considered companions that are part of one’s social support network when losing weight, just as people are.

Walking the dog also has additional health benefits besides weight loss. Regular physical activity strengthens your bones and can help fend off osteoporosis. Being outside exposes you to the sun, which is a good source of vitamin D (just don’t forget to protect your skin from the sun). If you’re a cat person, consider stretching alongside your cat, which is good for alleviating arthritis pain, according to veterinarian Amy Flowers.

One study published by the journal Tobacco Control even found that more than a quarter of pet-owning smokers tried to quit smoking once they learned about the negative health effects of secondhand smoke on their animals. Secondhand smoke exposure is associated with certain cancers in cats and dogs; allergies in dogs; and eye, skin and respiratory diseases in birds.

Pets are friends who help us feel better.

Anyone with a good friend knows that just being there for someone can make all the difference when we’re going through a difficult time. This is just as true with our animal friends as with our human ones.

If you’re in a really bad mood, consider calmly petting your cat or dog. As Prevention magazine reported, the simple act of petting or other simple interaction with your pet causes your brain to release the calming hormone oxytocin, as the stress hormone cortisol goes down. One study found that dogs’ behavior toward humans was similarly influenced by the oxytocin system, so when you and your dog spend some quality time together, you’re actually engaging in a mutually beneficial, and healthy, social interaction.

Another study focusing on cat owners found that cat ownership lowered people’s risk of cardiovascular diseases. The research, conducted by the Zeenat Qureshi Stroke Research Center at the University of Minnesota, showed that people who owned or had owned a cat at one point were at lower risk for a fatal heart attack or stroke. The study suggested cat ownership as a “novel strategy” for reducing these health risks.

If you’re trying to think of a gift to give grandma or grandpa, consider a dog: A study in the Medical Journal of Australia found that senior citizens who regularly walked or interacted with dogs boosted the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps calm and rest the body. The researchers found that even just patting and talking to a dog has this effect.

Animals have more uses to assist humans than ever before.

Although not pets in the traditional sense, service animals have been a boon to people with disabilities and other special needs for decades. Guide dogs for the blind are not uncommon, but dogs can also help those who are deaf, those with diabetes, those prone to seizures and even children with autism.

What’s more, comfort animals provide that special companionship all of our pets do for us every day, but for people who need it the most. They console mourners at funeral homes and children traumatized by the death of a classmate by suicide. 

Oscar is a therapy cat famously known for his unique ability to predict when hospital patients are about to die. Oscar has a perfect streak in correctly selecting terminally ill patients with mere hours to live, then curling up next to them to comfort them in their final moments on Earth, NBC News reported. One theory is that Oscar can detect the release of ketones, biochemicals given off by dying cells.

It’s not just cats and dogs getting in on the act, though. Therapy animals run the gamut from birds to horses. There is even at least one therapy tortoise at a Florida nursing home that the residents call a friend. 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Some Cilantro Banned Over Feces, Toilet Paper in Fields: FDA]]> Tue, 28 Jul 2015 08:26:14 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/tlmd_cyclospora_cilantro.jpg

It appears that cilantro contaminated by human waste is to blame for several years of intestinal illnesses among Americans, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

The FDA announced on Monday that it has identified the cause of hundreds of U.S. cases of cyclosporiasis after health officials found human feces and toilet paper in growing fields in the state of Puebla, Mexico. The administration will detain Mexican cilantro at the border from April to August and forbid products from Puebla from entering into the U.S. without inspections and certification, according to a partial import ban dated Monday by the agency.

Last August, the FDA and Texas authorities linked suppliers in Puebla to infected cilantro at four Texas restaurants. Monday’s announcement, however, confirms that the central Mexican state is the source of many more cases of the disease.

Several major U.S. restaurant companies confirmed to Bloomberg Business that the cilantro they use will not be affected by the ban. A spokesman for Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. said that all of its cilantro comes from California. Yum! Brands Inc., which owns Taco Bell, is also reportedly not affected.

As NBC reported last month, cyclosporiasis is not spread through human-to-human contact, but rather, through a host, such as contaminated food. Cyclosporiasis is caused by cyclospora, a single-celled, microscopic parasite that attacks the small intestine. According to the CDC, a cyclosporiasis infection can last from a few days to more than a month. Symptoms may go away, only to return later, and it is common to feel very tired. Cyclospora usually causes diarrhea and frequent bowel movements.

Other common symptoms include loss of appetite, weight loss, stomach cramps, bloating, increased gas and nausea. Other symptoms include vomiting, body aches, headache, fever and other flu-like symptoms. Some people who are infected do not show any symptoms.

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<![CDATA[Rise in Autism May Be Due to Semantics: Study]]> Thu, 23 Jul 2015 08:51:24 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-142090923_Autism-generic.jpg

A new study out of Penn State University suggests that the increase in autism diagnosis is due to kids being classified and diagnosed differently, not because something catastrophic has happened to U.S. children, NBC News reported. 

Special education enrollment figures suggest 97 percent of the increase in autism between 2000 and 2010. The study, published in the American Journal of Medical Genetics, found that the figures could simply be accounted for by reclassification — at least among older kids. 

The researchers' conclusions won't end the debate on what caused the spike, but may offer some solace to worried parents and help explain such a huge jump in cases. 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Use of Morning-After Pill on Rise Among U.S. Teens]]> Wed, 22 Jul 2015 06:08:00 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/pill1.jpg

More than one in five sexually active teen girls have used the morning-after pill, according to a report released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The findings, which likely reflect the ease in which teens can buy the emergency contraceptive, show that usage of the morning-after pill rose steadily from a decade ago when it was one in 12.

Morning-after pills can cut chances of pregnancy by almost 90 percent if taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex.



Photo Credit: UIG via Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Early Drugs Halt AIDS, Prevent Spread, Studies Confirm]]> Tue, 21 Jul 2015 04:56:48 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/219*120/022309+AIDS+HIV+Ribbon.jpg

Two big studies detailed Monday confirm that earlier treatment for the AIDS virus not only keeps people healthy, but prevents them from infecting others, NBC News reported.

The results have AIDS experts more optimistic than ever that it's possible to put a serious dent into the pandemic of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which has killed nearly 40 million people and which has infected close to 37 million more. One study had such clear results that it was stopped last May so everyone could get the drugs.

"We have now the unique opportunity of ending the pandemic," said Dr. Julio Montaner, at a meeting of the International AIDS Society in Vancouver.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Don't Use Laundry Pods in Homes With Kids: Consumer Reports]]> Fri, 17 Jul 2015 09:16:15 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/laundrypods.jpg

Consumer Reports is warning parents that laundry detergent pods should never be used in homes where young children live of visit. 

Over the last several years, Poison Control Centers have fielded an increased number of calls about children eating, inhaling, or getting the laundry detergent serum on their skin.

However, Proctor and Gamble, the maker of the Tide, Gain, and Ariel laundry pods, has said the number of reports involving its pods is falling relative to sales and that most calls resulted in minor to no medical treatment actually, according to "Today."



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Anaheim Unveils Clinic on Wheels]]> Thu, 16 Jul 2015 00:01:27 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/150715-anaheim-ccru.jpg

The Anaheim Fire Department is delivering non-emergency medical services as part of a pilot program that is the first of its kind in California, officials said Wednesday.

Nearly one-third of 911 calls made in the city last year were for medical needs that were not urgent, Anaheim fire and rescue officials say.

Now, rather than treat and transport, the Community Care Response Unit (CCRU) will become a mobile clinic on wheels.

Nurse practitioner Victoria Morrison says she can give medicine, prescribe medicine and even stitch up wounds in the field.

"Most people cooperate. They really don't want to go to the ER," she said.

The goal is to cut down on emergency room overload. Doctors say it can be a seasonal issue.

"During the winter flu season, the wait can be hours - six, seven, eight hours - for low-level issues," Kaiser Permanente Dr. Nancy Gin said.

Organizers say in the first 30 days of service the CCRU was able to keep four out of 10 patients from going to the hospital, allowing advanced life-saving ambulances to be routed to true emergencies.

Officials expect to save money, too. A routine 911 call to the emergency room can run thousands of dollars. An in-home call with the CCRU costs about $350.

Anaheim residents have the option on their water bill to pay an annual $36 fee for paramedic services which would include the new ambulance.



Photo Credit: KNBC]]>
<![CDATA[Sugary Drinks May Kill 184,000 People Each Year: Study]]> Tue, 30 Jun 2015 11:11:00 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/soda+fountain.jpg

Consumption of soda, energy beverages, and other sugary drinks may be linked to 184,000 adult deaths each year worldwide, according to research published Tuesday in the journal Circulation.

“Many countries in the world have a significant number of deaths occurring from a single dietary factor, sugar-sweetened beverages," said study coauthor Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science & Policy at Tufts University. "It should be a global priority to substantially reduce or eliminate sugar-sweetened beverages from the diet."

The researchers looked at 62 dietary surveys conducted across 51 countries, along with data on national availability of sugar in 187 countries as well as other information. The surveys included data collected from 611,971 individuals between 1980 and 2010.

In the report, sugar sweetened beverages were defined as any sugar-sweetened sodas, fruit drinks, sports and energy drinks, sweetened iced teas, or homemade sugary drinks such as frescas, that contained at least 50 kcal per 8oz serving. Drinks that were 100 percent fruit juice was excluded.

According to the report, the researchers estimated that in 2010 sugary drinks may have been responsible for 133,000 deaths from diabetes, 45,000 deaths from cardiovascular disease, and 6, 450 deaths from cancer.

Researchers found the impact of sugar-sweetened beverages varied widely between populations. In Japan, an estimated percentage of deaths linked to such beverages was less than 1 percent in people over 65 years old, but it stood at 30 percent in Mexican adults younger than 45.

Mexico had the highest death rate attributable to sugar-sweetened beverages with an estimated 405 deaths per million adults (24,000 total deaths) and the U.S. ranked second with an estimated 125 deaths per million adults (25,000 total deaths).

In a statement, the American Beverage Association, a trade group representing soft drink manufacturers, said “This study does not show that consuming sugar-sweetened beverages causes chronic diseases and the authors themselves acknowledge that they are at best estimating effects of sugar-sweetened beverage consumption."

“America’s beverage companies are doing their part to offer consumers the fact-based information and the beverage options they need to make the right choices for themselves and their families," the statement added.

Liz Ruder, a professor of nutrition and dietetics at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, told NBC News it's not certain it was the sugar-sweetened beverages that caused the deaths since the study is not a randomized controlled trial.
"But because the authors have employed sophisticated statistical techniques and they have rich food consumption data I believe that these data are likely to be accurate," Ruder said. 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Whole Foods Recalls Macadamia Nuts for Possible Salmonella]]> Fri, 26 Jun 2015 16:28:24 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/whole+foods+macadamia+nuts.jpg

Whole Foods Market is voluntarily pulling macadamia nuts from its shelves in 12 states after a possible Salmonella contamination, the FDA announced this week.

Salmonella was detected as the nuts underwent routine testing, though no illnesses have been reported in connection with the food.

The product, labeled “Whole Foods Market Raw Macadamia Nuts,” was sold in 11-ounce plastic tubs with best-by dates between March 19, 2016, and June 21, 2016.

They were placed in Whole Food stores in California, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Hawaii, Kansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and Utah.

If you bought the potentially contaminated container, throw it away and bring in your receipt for a full refund, the FDA says.

Salmonella is a bacterium that causes diarrhea, fever, vomiting and abdominal cramps in those who are infected.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the illness usually lasts between four and seven days, and it can be potentially deadly in infants, seniors and those with impaired immune systems.

For more on the recall and how to contact Whole Foods, click here.
 



Photo Credit: FDA]]>
<![CDATA[Man Wins $500K After Phone Records Doctors Mocking Him]]> Thu, 25 Jun 2015 03:30:06 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-117009763.jpg

A Vienna, Virginia, man was awarded $500,000 after he unintentionally recorded his doctors mocking and insulting him while he was under anesthesia.

The plaintiff, who chose to remain anonymous, sued anesthesiologist Dr. Tiffany Ingham and three other medical professionals, who were released from the case. Ingham, 42, and her practice were ordered by a Reston, Virginia, jury to pay the plaintiff, The Washington Post reported.

The plaintiff used his phone to record post-procedure advice and aftercare instructions from his doctors during the April 2013 colonoscopy procedure.

While checking his phone on his way home, the plaintiff found he had recorded the entire examination and heard his doctors insulting him when he was under anesthesia.

Ingham was recorded mocking the amount of medicine needed to anesthetize the plaintiff.

"After five minutes of talking to you in pre-op, I wanted to punch you in the face and man you up a little bit," Ingham is heard saying.

Ingham and others mocked the plaintiff for taking many medications. One of the plaintiff’s medications, Gabapentin, was prescribed to treat an irritation in his genital area. A medical assistant touched the man's genitals and commented she might have contracted a sexually transmitted infection.

Ingham is recorded saying the medical assistant might get "some syphilis on your arm or something," then added, "It's probably tuberculosis in the penis, so you’ll be all right."

The genital area is typically not involved in a colonoscopy.

Ingham signed a post-operative note indicating the plaintiff had hemorrhoids. According to the lawsuit, Ingham stated she planned to note hemorrhoids even though she found none.

The plaintiff claimed he experienced mental anguish, lack of focus and anxiety after the incident. He said has had to see other healthcare professionals and be placed on anti-anxiety medications.

The plaintiff sued for defamation, intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, violation of Virginia health codes and medical malpractice. The Washington Post reported the jury awarded the man $100,000 for defamation and $200,000 for medical malpractice, as well as the $200,000 in punitive damages.

Ingham had worked out of the Aisthesis anesthesia practice. An Aisthesis employee told The Associated Press Ingham no longer works there.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Nearly 10K Cases of Ranch Salad Dressing Recalled]]> Wed, 24 Jun 2015 08:41:47 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/pinnacle-foods-recall.jpg

A New Jersey-based company is voluntarily recalling nearly 10,000 cases of Wish-Bone Ranch salad dressing sold in 24-ounce bottles after a customer alerted representatives the product was accidentally mixed with Wish-Bone Blue Cheese dressing, which contains eggs -- a potential life-threatening allergen, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Wednesday. 

The product was produced on April 23 by a contract manufacturer. In total, 8,678 cases of Wish-Bone Ranch dressing, distributed nationwide, are involved in the voluntary recall, the FDA said. The product is safe to consume for anyone who is not allergic to eggs.

 All affected distributors and retail customers, as well as the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network, are being notified and the affected product is being removed from store shelves.

Consumers who may have purchased the recalled product can return it for a full refund at the place of purchase. Look for a best used by date on the bottle of Feb. 17, 2016.

Consumers with questions should call (888) 299-7646 Monday through Friday between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. 



Photo Credit: Food and Drug Administration Handout]]>
<![CDATA[Several Brands of Bottled Water Recalled]]> Wed, 24 Jun 2015 07:39:55 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/bottles+of+water.jpg

Niagara Bottling has recalled its bottled water products after one of its spring sources was contaminated with E. coli.

The company urged customers to avoid drinking the water without boiling it first. The water should be boiled for one minute and then cooled.

While it was not immediately clear how widely the products were distributed, several major supermarket chains with stores across the northeast issued releases saying they had carried the water. 

E. coli can cause diarrhea, cramps, nausea, headaches and other symptoms. Niagara says it has not received any complaints of injury or illness.

The company says the contamination was discovered in the water supply on June 10, but the spring source did not notify it in a timely manner, so they have stopped using the source.

The contaminated water was sold under the following brand names:

  • 7-Eleven
  • Acadia
  • Acme
  • Big Y
  • Best Yet
  • Morning Fresh
  • Niagara
  • Nature’s Place
  • Pricerite
  • Shaw’s
  • Shoprite
  • Superchill
  • Western Beef Blue
  • Wegman’s

All spring water products produced at the company’s facilities in Hamburg and Allentown, Pennsylvania between 3 a.m. June 10 to 8 p.m. June 18 were recalled. 

Niagara Bottling did not immediately respond to media inquiries, but several supermarkets sent out press releases addressing the recall. Bottled water products were recalled at ACME Markets in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania; at Shaw’s grocery stores in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont; and at Wegmans grocery stores, which operate in Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

Affected products have codes that start with the letter F or A. The first digit after the letter indicates the number of the production line. The next two numbers indicate the day, then the month in letters, the year, and then the time, based on a 24-hour clock.

To download the full list of codes for affected products, click here.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[U.S. Officials Preparing for MERS Outbreak Following S. Korea]]> Fri, 17 Jul 2015 08:04:46 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-476401196.jpg

A deadly outbreak of the Middle East Respiratory Virus in South Korea is prompting health officials and experts to prepare for the possibility of more cases in the United States. 

MERS has infected 500 people worldwide since it first surfaced in Saudi Arabia in 2010, killing roughly a third of those affected, according to the CDC. Now, the virus has spread across South Korea, infecting more than 150 people and killing 11. 

That outbreak, the largest outside the Middle East, has sparked concerns about the potential for the virus to pop up in other countries, including the United States. The country, one of at least 16 to report cases since 2010, has previously handled two MERS patients. Some experts are preparing for that number to rise.

“In South Korea more people will get infected, and eventually they go on a plane and travel,” said Peter Daszak, a disease ecologist and member of the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia University. “The U.S. is consistently in one of the top 5 countries (to travel to); we are likely to have MERS to come to the U.S.”

MERS, part of the same family of viruses as the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome and the common cold, is believed to have originated in camels, officials say. The virus has since spread from human to human, particularly among people in close contact with an infected patient. The recent outbreak in South Korea, for example, has been traced to hospitals in the area that did not follow proper protocol when dealing with infections.

While officials say there is not an urgent threat of MERS to the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it is taking extra precautions given the situation in South Korea and the potential that one sick traveler could bring the virus back to the U.S.

Officials are changing the way they collect data and detect cases on MERS, as well as working with the World Health Organization to better understand the virus. The CDC recommends that Americans traveling outside the country take basic precautions such as frequently washing their hands and avoiding contact with people who appear ill. The CDC is also urging health professionals to be on the lookout for potential cases, taking extra care to examine patients who have traveled recently to countries affected by the outbreaks or had contact with someone exposed to the virus. 

Because the international cases have been traced to patients who traveled after contacting the virus — all the infections so far have been linked back to countries in and near the Arabian Peninsula — the CDC has been working with airports specifically to help them identify ill passengers and report them properly to the organization. Officials caution that the virus' flu-like symptoms, such as coughing, fever and shortness of breath, can make it difficult to diagnose. 

There is currently no travel ban to South Korea or any of the Middle Eastern countries affected by MERS. In fact, travel has more than doubled from 2000 to 2010 in the Middle Eastern region, according to the United Nations World Travel Organization. 

And despite concerns about travelers carrying the virus to new places, officials in at least one major U.S. airport are currently not taking additional precautions. Nancy Suey Castles, public relations director at Los Angeles International Airport, said while the airport has six daily flights entering and exiting the Incheon/Seoul International Airport, it has not made any changes to patrons’ arrivals or departures.

Castles said that if they did come in contact with a passenger who was infected with MERS, the protocol would be the same as any other sick passenger: separating them from the public, examining them and possibly transporting the patient to a hospital.

Despite its potentially deadly effects, treating MERS as any other virus is the ticket for best possible treatment, says Marie Forszt, director of marketing for Indianapolis' Community Hospital, which handled the first U.S. MERS case in 2014.

“Because it was the first case, no one had a specific process but it was an infectious disease,” Forszt said. “It wasn’t specific to MERS, but we just did what we do with every single case.”

She said the key to dealing with any infectious disease is to remain on high alert and keeping up with the CDC protocols.

“Shortly after MERS happened, Ebola ramped up,” she said. “There’s always some type of infectious disease, the process is the same no matter what the name is. We muddy the message when we have specific processes for MERS or a specific virus.” 

Being prepared to start that process of treating and containing cases is key, experts say, cautioning that as long as the virus spreads overseas, the United States will remain at risk.

“I don’t think anything in the Middle East will change quickly, specifically in Saudi Arabia,” Daszak, who is also president of the nonprofit EcoHealth Alliance,  said. “It will continue to spill into Saudi Arabia and around the world… people think South Korea is so far away, but it’s only one flight away.”

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<![CDATA[Teen Dies After Wisdom Teeth Extraction]]> Thu, 18 Jun 2015 15:09:18 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/teeth2.jpg

A Minnesota teen who had her wisdom teeth extracted died after complications from the procedure, KARE, NBC's affiliate in Minneapolis reported.

Sydney Galleger, 17, had just finished her junior year in high school. A captain of the dive team, the swimmer was considered healthy.

However, last Tuesday, when she got her wisdom teeth removed, complications occurred. At the end of the surgery, Galleger's blood pressure rose and her heart rate dropped, her mother wrote, according to KARE. Galleger was given CPR and transferred to a hospital, where she experienced seizures and brain swelling. On Monday, she passed away.

It's not clear what caused Galleger's death.

According to a 2007 article in the American Journal of Public Health, each year about 5 million people get their wisdom teeth pulled out. Experts say the procedure requires anesthesia, which comes with inherent risks.



Photo Credit: UIG via Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Bay Area Woman Claims Marijuana Pills Helped Save Dog's Life]]> Wed, 17 Jun 2015 18:41:58 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/188*120/0617-2015-PotPills.jpg

A Bay Area woman claims a cannabis pill made for animals helped save her dog's life.

Jocelyn Rosenthal said two years ago veterinarians told her Tuco, an Australian Shepherd mix, may not survive much longer.

The dog suffered from severe allergies and digestion problems, which kept him from absorbing nutrients in food.

"All his ribs were showing," Rosenthal said.

Rosenthal said prescription drugs made Tuco hallucinate, which prompted her to look for other options.

Tuco is now served a cannabis pill made by Washington-based Canna Companion.

The company on its website claims pets suffering from conditions ranging from joint pain to neurological issues may benefit from the hemp supplement.

"It quickly made a difference in his digestion," Rosenthal said after Tuco took the cannabis pills. "We could see that right away."

Rosenthal said Tuco put on 10 pounds since she started him on the cannabis treatment.

"There have been no side effects (and) no down sides we've been able to see," Rosenthal said.

In February, the FDA warned Canna Companion and companies offering similar pet products to remove unproven health claims from their website.

"Any new product on the market can have some risk if it hasn't been tested for efficacy or safety," veterinarian Stephanie Laplume said.

Laplume said more studies are needed before she would prescribe cannabis for patients. 

"It has potential use for both anti nausea and pain relief," Laplume said.

While doctors wait for conclusive evidence on cannabis treatment, Rosenthal said her healthy pup is all the proof she needs.

"He has gotten his life back," Rosenthal said.

The THC levels in Canna Companion products are extremeley low.

Cannabis for pets is legal in small doses. If the product contains less than 3 percent of THC levels it is considered a food supplement.

Still, veterinarians warn that self medicating your pet with marijuana can be deadly.



Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Trans Fat Linked to Worse Memory]]> Thu, 18 Jun 2015 07:50:53 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/TLMD-grasas-trans-trans-fat-shutterstock_162622850.jpg

Men who have more dietary trans fat in their meals may have worse memory, according to a newly released study by the UC San Diego School of Medicine.

On Tuesday, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said they would begin to phase the acid, which they previously called unsafe, out of foods.

Dietary trans fatty acids (dTFA), which are used in foods to improve taste, texture and durability, were linked by researchers to worse memory in men aged 45 and younger.

The study looked at 1,018 men and women who completed a dietary survey and a memory test. Men that consumed trans fat aged 45 and younger saw their performance drop 0.76 words for every additional gram of trans fat consumed.

“Trans fats were most strongly linked to worse memory in men during their high productivity years,” said Beatrice A. Golomb, MD, PhD, lead author and professor of medicine at UC San Diego School of Medicine said in a statement. “Trans fat consumption has previously shown adverse associations to behavior and mood—other pillars of brain function. However, to our knowledge a relation to memory or cognition had not been shown.”

Men with the highest observed trans fat levels in the study recalled an expected 12 fewer words, compared to men that consumed no trans fats.

The results were consistent when adjusting for age, exercise, ethnicity and mood.

The acids have previously been linked to negative effects on general health and are no longer recognized as safe by the FDA.

“As I tell patients, while trans fats increase the shelf life of foods, they reduce the shelf life of people,” said Golomb.

Alexis K. Bui of UC San Diego was a co-author of the study.

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<![CDATA[Adverse Health Effects from Synthetic Marijuana on the Rise: CDC]]> Thu, 11 Jun 2015 13:45:52 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/061015_synthetic_marijuana.jpg

Adverse health effects as a result of increased synthetic marijuana use are on the rise, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Thursday.

According to the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, monthly calls related to the use of the substances from January to May 2015 were up 229 percent over the same period in 2014. A total of 15 deaths was reported.

Synthetic cannabinoids include various psychoactive chemicals or a mixture of such chemicals that are sprayed onto plant material, which is then often smoked or ingested to achieve a "high." The most commonly reported negative health effects were agitation, tachycardia, drowsiness or lethargy, vomiting and confusion. About four out of five of those who used synthetic marijuana inhaled it through smoking, and the remaining one in five consumed it.

These products are sold under a variety of names, such as synthetic marijuana, spice, K2, black mamba and crazy clown, and can be sold in retail outlets as herbal products. Law enforcement agencies have regulated a number of the substances, but manufacturers of synthetic cannabinoids frequently change the formulation to avoid detection and regulation.

CDC officials have expressed concern about the rapid increase in poison center calls about synthetic cannabinoids and detrimental health effects reported, and they stressed a need for enhanced efforts to remove these products from the marketplace. The CDC has urged those who have these products in their home to dispose of them in a trash can that is not accessible to pets.

Recreational marijuana use is currently legal in four states, Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington, as well as the District of Columbia. While marijuana is legal for medical purposes and decriminalized in multiple additional states, it remains illegal under federal law.



Photo Credit: NBC Washington]]>
<![CDATA[Study Shows Drop in Underage Drinking]]> Fri, 12 Jun 2015 13:54:35 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-56909748.jpg

Underage drinking rates are dropping steadily, a new study reveals.

The report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) also showed a decline in underage binge drinking.

While alcohol remains more widely used than tobacco or illicit drugs, the report indicates that the level of underage drinking of those aged 12 to 20 dropped from 28.2 percent in 2002 to 22.7 percent in 2013. Binge drinking, defined as having five or more drinks within a couple of hours of each other, has also declined from 19.3 percent in 2002 to 14.2 percent in 2013.

Both locally and nationally, community coalitions, law enforcement, and organizations like SAMHSA have focused on preventing underage drinking through media campaigns and even apps. SAMHSA’s “Talk. They Hear You” mobile app, for example, prepares parents for conversations with children about the risks involved with alcohol consumption.

“When parents communicate clear expectations and they are supported by community efforts to prevent underage drinking, we can make a difference,” said Frances M. Harding, director of SAMHSA’s Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, in a press release. 


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<![CDATA[Pill That Reverses Abortion Causes a Stir]]> Tue, 09 Jun 2015 16:39:18 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-495798155_AbortionPillIlustration.jpg An Arizona law forces doctors to notify patients of pill that can reverse the effects of the abortion pill RU46. Many are not happy with the law. ]]> <![CDATA[Some Hospitals Charge 10 Times Medicare Rates: Study]]> Mon, 08 Jun 2015 13:51:48 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/hospital+price+hikes1.jpg

Dozens of U.S. hospitals are hiking up healthcare costs more than 1,000 percent – over 10 times the costs allowed by Medicare – and for the same medical services, new findings indicate.

New research out of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Washington & Lee University revealed that the 50 U.S. hospitals with the highest price markups are inflating health care costs far above actual prices by charging uninsured and out-of-network patients over 10 times the amount permitted by Medicare. The report was published in the June issue of Health Affairs.

“We as consumers are paying for this when hospitals charge 10 times what they should,” Gerard F. Anderson, professor at the Bloomberg School’s Department of Health Policy and Management at Johns Hopkins and coauthor of the study said, according to a press release. “What other industry can you think of that marks up the price of their product by 1,000 percent and remains in business?” he said.

Forty-nine of the 50 hospitals with the highest price markups are for-profit. Twenty of the hospitals in the report are located in Florida.

The report indicated that on the whole, hospitals with high markups are not exclusively located in high-cost cities. The priciest hospital, the study says, is North Okaloosa Medical Center, about an hour outside of Pensacola, Florida, where patients are charged 12.6 times more than costs allowed by Medicare.

In the report, Anderson and Ge Bai of Washington & Lee University, revealed that poor oversight of hospital charges as well as a lack of market competition are causing the severe price gouging. Consumers both with and without insurance are bearing the exorbitant costs.

“There is no justification for these outrageous rates but no one tells hospitals they can’t charge them,” said Anderson. “For the most part, there is no regulation of hospital rates and there are no market forces that force hospitals to lower their rates. They charge these prices simply because they can,” he said.

Anderson said price transparency could help to an extent, but currently most hospitals are not required to publicly share costs for procedures.

“This system has the effect of charging the highest prices to the most vulnerable patients and those with the least market power,” Anderson says. “The result is a market failure.” 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Docs Give Baby Thumb With Surgery]]> Fri, 29 May 2015 05:09:10 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/toddler+thumb+photo.jpg

A 1-year-old baby born without a thumb will soon be able to grab things with his right hand for the first time thanks to a procedure Long Island doctors say was no small feat. 

A tiny cast was taken off of Brandon Torres' newly created thumb on Tuesday, nearly a month after doctors at the Cohen Children's Medical Center in New Hyde Park performed a surgical procedure to create the crucial appendage. 

Torres, of Queens, was born without a right thumb due to a rare disorder known as Duane-radial ray syndrome, which the National Institutes for Health says affects the eyes and causes abnormalities to the bones in a person's arms and hands. Only a few families worldwide carry the genetic mutation that causes the syndrome.

In order to give Torres a thumb, doctors say they performed a procedure known as pollicization. Dr. Nick Bastidas, the pediatric plastic surgeon who performed the procedure, said he shortened Torres' index finger, then rotated it to the position of a thumb.

While he was doing that, he and other surgeons also lengthened Torres' blood vessels and transferred muscles to create a functional hand.

The April 27 procedure took about 2 1/2 hours to complete.

Bastidas said that the thumb is the most important finger on the hand because it allows humans to grasp and pinch.



Photo Credit: Handout]]>
<![CDATA[Ecstasy Used to Treat Patients]]> Thu, 28 May 2015 07:45:27 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/ecstasy+pills.jpg

The Federal Drug Administration is allowing a team of Bay Area psychotherapists to experiment with ecstasy to treat patients.

Dr. Phil Wolfson, who has offices in San Francisco and Marin County, is in charge of the 15-month experiment approved the FDA and Drug Enforcement Administration.

Wolfson said he knows firsthand that ecstasy, or MDMA, is effective in easing extreme anxiety because he used it to get through the worst time of his life when his son way dying from leukemia.

"It tends to bring on a mood change," Wolfson said. "It gives you a feeling of loving and caring. You're more accepting of your own failure and difficulties and being able to own them better."

Ecstasy, also known as Molly, is a drug commonly used at raves. The drug is currently considered by the federal government to have no therapeutic value.

Wolfson, however, received the government's blessing to conduct a clinical trial of 18 patients using the drug in conjunction with a number of intense therapeutic sessions.

"If a drug works for a disabling condition and can be labeled to be used in a safe way in that population, then we think we have an obligation to evaluate the data and do what the data support, such as allow a trial to proceed," an FDA spokeswoman said.

If the current trial goes as Wolfson believes it will, MDMA will then be used to treat large numbers of people over a two-year period.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>