<![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 Fri, 27 Feb 2015 23:03:10 -0800 Fri, 27 Feb 2015 23:03:10 -0800 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Family Sues Scope Maker After UCLA "Superbug" Outbreak]]> Thu, 26 Feb 2015 13:25:05 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/lafile-ronald-reagan-ucla-medical-center.jpg

The family of a woman who believes she died in connection to the UCLA "superbug" outbreak has sued a medical device company for wrongful death.

Antonia Torres Cerda's husband and four children in Kings County, as well as mother in Mexico, filed the suit against Olympus Corporation of the Americas in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Wednesday.

The 48-year-old was exposed to a contaminated duodenoscope while undergoing multiple procedures with the device at UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center in October. Cerda "suffered significant injury and died" according to lawsuit documents.

She died on Nov. 8, the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday.

The family's complaint also accused Olympus of products liability, negligence and fraud.

Another patient, Aaron Young, represented by the same lawyer, sued the company Monday. The 18-year-old high school student was still hospitalized at UCLA, the LA Times reported.

UCLA Health System officials said last week that medical equipment tainted with an antibiotic-resistant bacteria known as carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) may have caused the deaths of two patients and infected dozens of others between October 2014 and January 2015. The patients were being treated for a variety of issues, including gallstones and cancer.

The lawsuits asserted that after redesigning the Q180V Scope, an endoscope that may be reused on different patients, Olympus failed to update sterilizing instructions and exposed patients to "residual body fluids and organic debris."

UCLA officials said in an earlier statement that they "sterilized the scopes according to the standards stipulated by the manufacturer."

The LA Times reported that the school and the University of California Regents may be added as defendants in these case as more information is uncovered.

A UCLA spokesman told NBC4 the school does not comment on litigation. NBC4 reached out to Olympus without an immediate response.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[WATCH: Body Bags Are Getting Bigger]]> Thu, 26 Feb 2015 12:56:06 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/214*120/NC_bigbodybags.jpg With more than one third of U.S. adults overweight, coroners are having problems with standard body bags sizes being too small.]]> <![CDATA[Congresswoman Cracks Down on Liquid Detergent Pods]]> Thu, 26 Feb 2015 11:02:15 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Consumer-Reports-Pods.jpg

Congresswoman Jackie Speier  is set to introduce the tougher laws surrounding the packaging of liquid laundry detergent pods after a child ended up in intensive care after biting into such a colorful, and dangerous, packet.

The Detergent Poisoning and Child Safety Act would direct the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission to require safer, child-resistant packaging for liquid detergent packets. She's trying to prevent more children from getting sick, and in some cases, from dying.

Speier (D-San Francisco/San Mateo counties) was moved to act after hearing the story of Jill Koziol  whose 8-month-old daughter, Cate, spent two days in the pediatric intensive care unit after swallowing a detergent pod her husband was using to do the laundry in September 2014. Koziol had moved from Menlo Park, Calif., to New York City, where her husband was about to do laundry in the apartment building, when the baby crawled into the hamper and took a bite of the packet.

And in one of the most egregious cases, 7-month-old Michael Williams of Florida died in 2013 after swallowing such a liquid laundry packet. His mother said that she was living at a shelter, where someone had placed the pods inside a laundry basket on the bed where her son was asleep. She stepped away only to return and find that her son had eaten two.

The American Cleaning Institute called the legislation "unnecessary" because "there are already comprehensive activities taking place addressing the safety of detergent packets."

Spokesman Brian Sansoni told NBC Bay Area that these products should be kept out of reach of children "no matter what color they are."

“In addition, ACI and its detergent manufacturer members are actively engaged in a process – administered by the standard-setting group ASTM International – to enhance and standardize laundry packet labeling and packaging," the statement read.

According to industry experts and studies, detergent packets are popular, convenient, and dangerous because they deliver powerful chemicals in colorful, bite-sized packages that look like candy.

From 2012 to 2013 the National Poison Data System received 17,230 calls involving children exposed to chemicals by the packets. Of those, 769 required hospitalization for issues including seizures, vomiting blood, fluid in the lungs, dangerously slow heartbeats, respiratory arrest, gastric burn, and comas. One 7-month-old boy has died.

Many household products such as medicine and cleaning agents already require child-resistant packaging. But Speier’s legislation proposes expanding those rules to cover liquid detergent packets. According to her office, the proposal advocates requiring stronger, safer policies that cover the design and color of the packets, so that they aren’t as attractive to children; the composition of the packets, so that the consequences of exposure aren’t so severe; and the adequacy of the warning labels, to properly inform consumers about the risk.

Senator Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) is releasing companion legislation in the Senate.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

<![CDATA[Alternatives to Statins]]> Wed, 25 Feb 2015 22:16:46 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/225*120/2-25-15_Dr_Bruce_Pic.JPG

Cholesterol-lowering medication use is on the rise.

According to information from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 83 percent of American adults who took a cholesterol lowering medicine took a statin.

But other studies show that up to 10 percent of people taking statins can't continue taking them or don't wish to because of severe muscle aches.

Those people might be vulnerable to heart disease if they stop taking their medications and their only other choices were medicines that decreased absorption of cholesterol or filtering of the blood — until now.

A new experimental drug called a PCSK9 INHIBITOR might change the landscape for many.

"What the drug does it blocks the action of a key protein in the body," said Dr. P.K. Shahof the Cedars Sinai Heart Institute. "That protein is called PCSK9, which allows then the liver to clear cholesterol from the blood and the cholesterol levels drop in the blood."

Bill Lindsman was one of the people who stopped taking statins but worried that might cause him to go back to a time when high cholesterol endangered him.

"I had a heart attack and it scared the heck out of me and it woke me up that I had to live a better lifestyle," he said.

Shah suggested the experimental drug for Lindsman.

"The major limitation is that they are injectable," Shah said. "They have to be given like an insulin injection."

Landsman did not hesitate, saying that limitation didn't bother him at all. He now gives himself shots every few weeks.

"I feel great and I feel very excited and I feel liberated," he said.

Dr. Bruce offered more information and advice:

"The maker of the new drug told us it may be approved within a few months. No one should stop their current medication without checking with their doctor first. But if it is necessary to discontinue statins this may represent a life saving option for many."

<![CDATA[Hand Washing Dishes May Prevent Allergies: Study]]> Wed, 25 Feb 2015 08:24:46 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/dishwashingAllergy-529008409.jpg

Washing dishes might be the best chore for a kid.

Doing dishes by hand instead of using a dishwasher might prevent or reduce allergies in children, according to a Swedish study published in the journal Pediatrics yesterday.

The study of more than 1,000 children from Sweden found that those living in homes where dishes were washed by hand were 40 percent less likely to develop allergies compared to those in homes with a dishwasher.

A questionnaire asked parents about their dishwashing practices as well as whether their 7- or 8-year-olds had asthma, eczema or seasonal allergies.

The researchers suggest that allergy development was reduced due to increased microbial exposure from the bacteria left on dishes, and that the exposure is good for children because it may stimulate their immune systems.

The report references a German study from 2004 that compared hand-washing techniques and dishwashers and found that half of the subjects did not clean as well as a dishwasher. That study also found that milk products have the potential to stay on utensils enough to pose health risks.

"People whose immune systems are no longer busy fighting infection become disregulated and allergic,” Susan Wasserman, professor of medicine at McMaster University in Canada, told Live Science. Wasserman referred to the "hygiene hypothesis," a theory that the immune systems of children not exposed to as many microbes do know how to fight off allergens such as pollen.

The new study of Swedish children found that the development of allergies in children was reduced even more once the researchers analyzed other lifestyle factors. Eating fermented foods, living in crowded situations, and being a part of an immigrant family all prevent or reduce the development of allergies.

In the commentary of the study, two physicans at University of California, San Francisco, said that dishwater usage and other lifestyle choices should be researched further.

Photo Credit: Illustration/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Study Finds Obesity, Diabetes Link]]> Tue, 24 Feb 2015 13:26:17 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/UC-San-Diego-generic_6.jpg

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego, believe they have discovered the "root cause" of Type 2 diabetes — a molecular link between obesity and diabetes that may lead to new treatment.

Inflammation that results from obesity leads to insulin resistance, the first step in developing Type 2 diabetes, the study found.

One inflammatory molecule in particular, LTB4, is released by immune cells living in extra fat, called macrophages. Positive feedback then signals for the body to release more macrophages, which then release more LTB4 into the fatty cells in the liver, researchers found.

"This study is important because it reveals a root cause of type 2 diabetes," the study's senior author Dr. Jerrold M. Olefsky, professor of medicine and associate dean for scientific affairs, said in a statement. "And now that we understand that LTB4 is the inflammatory factor causing insulin resistance, we can inhibit it to break the link between obesity and diabetes."

Those LTB4 then bind to nearby cell surfaces, the researchers found. In people who are obese, those cells become inflamed and the body becomes resistant to insulin.

In the UC San Diego study, Olefsky and his team of researchers used genetically engineered mice to look for ways to reverse insulin resistance.

The team created genetically engineered mice that did not have the LTB4 receptor. Without the receptor, the health of obese mice “dramatically improved.”

The study was authored by Pingping Li, Da Young Oh, Gautam Bandyopadhyay, William S. Lagakos, Saswata Talukdar, Olivia Osborn, Andrew Johnson, Heekyung Chung, Rafael Mayoral, Michael Maris, Jachelle M Ofrecio, Sayaka Taguchi, Min Lu. All of the researchers are at UC San Diego.

The research was funded in part by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease, the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and Merck Inc.

Photo Credit: NBC 7 San Diego]]>
<![CDATA[Study Links Peanut Exposure to Allergy]]> Tue, 24 Feb 2015 12:45:57 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/peanut+butter+recall.jpg

A groundbreaking study released Monday argues that the key to preventing peanut allergies in children may lie in early and regular exposure to the food, but some parents aren't quite ready to expose their children.

Researchers at King’s College London found introducing peanut snacks to children at high-risk for the allergy made them less likely to develop it by the time they turned 5 than kids who avoided peanut snacks completely.

"Consumption rather than avoidance seems to protect against developing peanut allergy," said Dr. Gideon Lack, of King’s College.

But the news doesn't provide relief for parents of kids who already have a potentially fatal peanut allergy. 

"We just can’t take a chance. We don’t eat out. We don’t travel on planes. We have to live differently than the normal family," said Debbie Adler, whose 6-year-old son suffers from allergies.

Adler first discovered her son’s allergies when he experienced a severe reaction after eating frozen yogurt.

"He started vomiting profusely. I had never seen anything like this. Nonstop. Nonstop. Went on and on until he turned blue and passed out in my arms," Adler said.

In addition to milk, doctors found Adler’s son also had a peanut allergy. Allergies like his are not only a nuisance, but they can also be deadly. In some cases, just smelling peanuts is enough to cause a child to go into anaphylactic shock.

Adler’s son is not alone: More than 2 percent of kids in the United States are allergic to peanuts and that number is only climbing, according to the Associated Press. However, the King's College study could help reverse this upward trajectory.

Researchers enrolled 640 children under age 1 who were at high risk for peanut allergy. Half were given a peanut snack at least three times a week, while the others were told to avoid all peanuts until five.

Although counterintuitive, the results confirmed avoiding peanuts did not help ward off peanut allergies. In fact, 17 percent of the kids who avoided peanuts developed an allergy by age five. However, only three percent of the kids who ate the peanut snacks developed the same allergy.

"You need to be introduced to these proteins very early in life," Lack continued.

There is also a new patch designed to desensitize peanut allergy patients by exposing them to a small dose of peanut protein. The common thread appears to be that a little bit of exposure and consumption seems to teach the body that peanuts are not an enemy.

Adler hopes this technique will free other families from the debilitating effects of nut allergies.

"It would change our lives significantly is he could eat all of the things he’s allergic too."

Dr. Bruce’s Advice: If your kid has a lot of allergies, speak with a doctor and begin exposing them to tiny amounts of the allergens under supervision. If your child gets a rash or other symptoms, stop.

<![CDATA[Suicide Prevention: Helpful Resources, Links]]> Mon, 23 Feb 2015 13:58:37 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/nbc4-generic-open-nbcla.jpg

Use the links below for more information about suicide prevention and agencies that provide crisis intervention.

  • Crisis Text Line: Text "LISTEN" to 741741


<![CDATA[Breakthrough Device Could Help Sleep Apnea]]> Sat, 21 Feb 2015 10:32:30 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/174*120/02-20-15-Sleep-Apnea-Device.JPG

If you snore or have sleep apnea, there is a breakthrough treatment that may help, without the awkward masks typically used by chronic sufferers.

Sleep apnea, a condition that leads sleeping people to stop breathing for periods at night, can lead to high blood pressure and an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.

It can occur because of a problem in the brain, but more often it’s the result of an obstruction in the throat. When sufferers are on their back, the tissue drops down and blocks breathing.

Medicines don’t help. Most people get what’s called a CPAP mask, which pushes air past the obstruction, but most people dislike the mask because of its size and cumbersome tubes. More than 50 percent of people prescribed to wear one never do, or stop using it within a few months.

Irwin LaBlanc has had trouble sleeping for seven years.

“My symptoms are waking up throughout the night, snoring that became more severe,” he said.

Sleeping tests showed that LaBlanc was suffering from sleep apnea.

At first, he was prescribed the CPAP mask, but he disliked the device.

“For me, it was more trouble than it was worth,” he said.

So doctors recommended a tiny new device called Inspire that can be implanted into a patient. It is implanted using three tiny incisions for a battery pack.

“A signal is sent to the battery,” said Dr. Ryan Osborne of Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center, who performed LaBlanc’s surgery. “The battery then stimulates the nerve that moves the tongue forward so the patient is able to continue to breathe normally.”

LeBlanc’s breathing has dramatically improved, his doctors said.

“He had at least 75 percent fewer episodes where he stopped breathing,” said Dr. Heather Davis-Kingston. “Having a device like this will save lives.”

LeBlanc said it has already changed his life.

“When I wake up in the morning, I can just tell how much better I feel when I get out of bed,” he said. “I’ve slept so much better.”

<![CDATA[New Sterilization Rules Combat "Superbug" Infections]]> Fri, 20 Feb 2015 23:35:50 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/web_superbug_gordon_5p_1200x675_401693763890.jpg

Doctors and administrators at Ronald Reagan-UCLA Medical Center said Thursday that new procedures for cleaning a medical device used in some exams will prevent the "superbug" that led to two deaths and five other infections from spreading to anyone else.

Officials also faced tough questions as many wondered why it had taken them until yesterday to tell the public about an outbreak that began more than a month ago.

"It takes a little bit of time to identify the patients who are at risk for the procedure," said Dr. Zachary Rubin, the hospital’s medical director of infection prevention.

In mid-December, a UCLA patient received a gallbladder exam using a device called an endoscope.

The patient, whose identity was not disclosed, developed immediate symptoms of the "superbug" bacteria, doctors said. The patient had a fever, chills and then a massive infection.

Doctors tested the scope to make sure it was used and sterilized properly.

The devices are difficult to sterilize completely, and even feature warnings from the manufacturer. Doctors found two of the scopes may have transmitted the bacteria.

Researchers then found seven other cases of the infection stemming from the CRE bacteria, which is fatal in as many as half of those whose bloodstreams are exposed to it.

The bacteria exists naturally in many people’s intestines and will not affect them, but once it enters the bloodstream it can be deadly.

"We do do surveillance on a regular, routine basis for CRE, and we've actually done additional investigation over the past few years," Rubin said.

But the bacteria did not turn up when the first patient was admitted, the one who may have been a "carrier."

While researching any possible exposure, the hospital implemented new and stricter requirements for sterilizing the scopes.

Checking records to find out which endoscopies were performed on which patients with the two contaminated devices took time, said doctors.

They also didn't want to alarm all patients who'd had endoscopies if they weren't exposed to the same contaminated instruments.

Ultimately, they discovered 179 patients total who may have been exposed during procedures between October 2014 and Jan. 28.

Doctors are continuing to reach out to patients who may have been affected. Rubin said they have called and emailed patients out of an “abundance of caution.”

"What we're doing now is trying to identify any patients that have 'carrier state,'" Rubin said.

<![CDATA[Researchers Testing "Superbug" Vaccine]]> Thu, 19 Feb 2015 21:19:34 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/214*120/2-19-15-Superbug_Vaccine.JPG

Researchers at LA BioMed, a nonprofit independent lab, are on the cutting edge. They're in the final stages of developing a vaccine against MRSA - another hospital based infection.

If that works, it could one day lead to a vaccine against CRE and other so-called "superbugs."

"We've been preparing for this," said Dr. Jamie McKinnell, the LA BioMed lead researcher. "CRE is a pathogen that keeps me up at night. We're trying to figure out how to prevent it."

CRE is suspected of contributing to two deaths and seven infections at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.

The patients infected all had an advanced endoscopic procedure using an instrument that is difficult to sterilize.

Researchers say CRE is new to California, but is widely seen on the East Coast and in Israel.

Doctors say since CRE is resistant to antibiotics, the best way to deal with the problem is to try and prevent it from occurring in the first place.

Vaccines train your immune system how to identify the infectious bacteria so your body can fight it.

Researchers say if the MRSA vaccine is proven successful it would still be several years before it would be available to the public.

"The patients that will see the biggest benefit are patients that are going to the hospital," McKinnell said. "But, essentially, everybody is at risk of a MRSA infection so you could give it to every child and every adult."

Another preventive tool being studied is an antibacterial soap that's used in intensive care units.

"We're really interested in using an old hospital soap. It's called Chlorhexidine," McKinnell said. "That reduces their risk of carrying CRE and transmitting it to other patients."

Investigators say they're working with hospitals to develop a coordinated response to this CRE outbreak - to make sure it doesn't spread any further.

<![CDATA[Lab Tests New "Superbug" Vaccine]]> Thu, 19 Feb 2015 19:38:35 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/SUPERBUGVACCINECROUCHDIAZ_1200x675_401707075539.jpg A Torrance lab is using cutting edge technology to help develop a life-saving "superbug" vaccine. Angie Crouch reports for the NBC4 News on Thursday, Feb. 19, 2015.]]> <![CDATA[Q&A: What The "Superbug" Infections Mean For You]]> Thu, 19 Feb 2015 19:13:59 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/alerta-bacteria-hospital-ucla-2.jpg

What you need to know. A Q&A with NBC4’s Dr. Bruce Hensel about the "superbug" bacteria that led to two deaths and several infections at Ronald Reagan-UCLA Medical Center:

Question: How bad is this bug?

Dr. Bruce: CRE is not dangerous at all when it lives in the intestine, its normal habitat. But it can be deadly when it gets into the blood, which may have happened in some cases. Most antibiotics don’t work on it. Reports say it’s getting more common and up to 50 percent of people who get it in their blood may die.

Q: Who is in danger? Will it spread?

Dr. B: It doesn’t spread like the measles a flu or a cold. The only people in danger are people who had this specific procedure with a specific scope, called an endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography, or ERCP.

During the procedure, a tube is put down the throat and pushed through the stomach to the intestine. Then a smaller tube comes out and explores the liver, bile ducts and pancreas.

This is only done on people who have problems in that area, and they are the only ones who are vulnerable. It won’t spread through the air from person to person.

Q: How did it get on the scope and why wasn’t it sterilized?

Dr. B: The scope is unique, highly specialized and tiny - the size of spaghetti - and even the maker warns about the difficulty of sterilizing it.

Q: So how can people protect themselves?

Dr. B: If told you need ECRP, ask if its really necessary. Ask how they sterilize their devices, including which scope will be used and how it is sterilized.

Q: Why would this happen at UCLA, which is such a high-level medical center?

Dr. B: That may be exactly the point. UCLA actually has great records in controlling bugs, and remember they found this themselves. But only high-level centers do procedures like this, and those are the places that have the most complications.

But, let’s be clear: it is a very small percentage of patients who have this procedure done and almost all have no problem. These procedures can save lives by finding things nothing else can find, so the risk has to be weighed against the benefit.

Remember, you’re only in danger if you had this particular procedure; not others like an Upper GI or colonoscopy.

<![CDATA[FDA Warning: Traces of Peanuts Found in Cumin]]> Thu, 19 Feb 2015 08:52:15 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/cumin-86069470.jpg

Hundreds of products are being pulled from store shelves after traces of peanut were found in cumin spice — a life-threatening danger to some people with peanut allergies.

The recall has been ongoing since December, as more retailers identify products that contain the cumin. The Food and Drug Administration is now warning all people with peanut allergies to avoid cumin and products that contain cumin.

While such large allergy-related recalls are rare, undeclared allergens like peanuts are the leading cause of food recalls in the United States. That can be very unsettling to people who are keeping a close watch on what they or their children eat, since food allergies can be a matter of life or death.

"You might do all of the things you are supposed to do and read the label, but there could still be undeclared allergens," says Dr. Michael Pistiner, a Boston-based pediatric allergist. "It's challenging to know that and still feel comfortable."

Pistiner says he sees the recalls as low-risk, since often the amount of the undeclared allergen is very small. "But the highest risk is to our comfort," he says.

According to the group Food Allergy Research and Education, or FARE, 15 million Americans have food allergies, including 1 in 13 children. Eight foods account for more than 90 percent of the allergies — peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, wheat, soy, fish and shellfish.

Since 2006, those allergens are required by law to be listed on food packages if they are ingredients. The law is less clear when it comes to cross- contamination, however — companies aren't required to list on the label if peanuts or another allergen are processed in the same facility or on the same equipment.

Little is known about how many people may have reactions to allergens that accidentally make their way into food. Those reactions are hard to track — much harder than a pathogen like salmonella, for instance, which can be identified in a person's stool and traced directly to the same strains in a food manufacturing facility or on a farm.

The FDA said it had 428 reports of "adverse events" related to undeclared allergens between January 2012 and December 2014, including reports of three deaths. The agency would not release any detailed information on those reports, which are made by consumers and can't always be confirmed by the agency.

The agency said it has had at least seven reports from consumers related to the cumin recall. Hundreds of products have been recalled since December, from spice mixes to black beans to meats with marinades that include cumin. The spice is often used in Tex-Mex and Indian dishes. The FDA declined to provide any further details on how it happened or what company added peanuts or peanut residue to its cumin spice.

The FDA said packaged foods may not have enough of the affected cumin to trigger a reaction — but those who are sensitive should be careful just in case. Some products may not actually list cumin, but list "spices" instead.

Multiple recalls have spanned a two-month period. The first was on Dec. 26, when Texas-based Adams Foods recalled several of its cumin spices. On Feb. 9, the retailer Whole Foods recalled more than 100 products that potentially contained the cumin. Last Friday, Goya Foods recalled some brands of its black beans and black bean soup. Several other foods have been pulled off store shelves as well.

FARE, the allergy group, routinely notifies its members of what recalls are out there so they can keep track. And the group is pushing the FDA to ensure that allergens are treated as importantly as pathogens like salmonella and E. coli when the agency issues final food safety rules later this year.

"Requiring food processors and manufacturers to identify potential allergen hazards and develop plans to avoid those hazards is critical," the group told the FDA in comments on the rule.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[One Diet Change Can Improve Health, Study Finds: Health Headlines]]> Mon, 16 Feb 2015 22:26:38 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/web_hensel_headlines_5p_1200x675_400175171552.jpg A single diet change can improve health, a new study finds. Women may experience hot flashes for more of life than previously thought and report suggests women may not have to work out a lot to reduce risk of heart attacks. Dr. Bruce Hensel reports the health headlines for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m., Feb. 16, 2015.]]> <![CDATA[Severe Loss Could Lead to a Real "Broken Heart"]]> Sun, 15 Feb 2015 08:45:45 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/170*120/02-13-15_Hensel-Heart-Broken.JPG

Although Valentine’s Day is a happy day for many people, it is sad and lonely for some who feel broken-hearted.

Well, as it turns out, a severe loss can cause a real "broken heart."

The medical term is takotsubo cardiomyopathy.

It happens when a sudden surge of stress hormones attack the heart and cause its muscle to fail.

Dr. Elaine Kamil suffered from the condition a few years ago after a tragic loss

"We lost our 31-year-old son at the time, Adam," she said. "It was a horrible experience."

The emotional toll eventually took a physical toll, when Kamil awoke in the middle of the night with chest pain.

"So I thought this couldn't be a heart attack, but then it was really bad pain and it didn't get better, so I woke up my husband and made him take me to the emergency department," she said.

Dr. Puja Mehta of the Barbra Streisand Women’s Heart Center in the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute explained what was happening.

"The heart basically stops working properly, so it balloons out and there’s dysfunction of the actual muscle and people go into heart failure," she said.

The condition affects post-menopausal women most often, but it can affect anyone.

The good news is that when Broken Heart Syndrome is treated quickly it may actually be reversed. The longer the patient waits, the more likely it is that the damage can be permanent.

So, if you get chest pain or any other unusual symptoms after stress don’t ignore them. In many cases doctors can fix a broken heart if you get to them soon enough.

<![CDATA[What to Know for the Obamacare Deadline]]> Sun, 15 Feb 2015 00:19:50 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Obamacare-Signup.jpg

If you're not insured, there's still time to sign up for health coverage this year under Obamacare before the official deadline.

The official deadline to sign up for HealthCare.gov is 2:59 a.m. Eastern time on Monday, which is just before midnight Sunday on the West Coast.

The Obama administration projects that more than 9 million Americans will sign up by Sunday's deadline. That's up from the 7 million it estimates got insurance through the Affordable Care Act last year, cutting the number of uninsured from 17 percent at the end of 2013 to 12.9 percent at the end of 2014.

Here are six things to know about Obamacare enrollment before the Feb. 15 deadline.

Enrollment Is Off Without a Hitch

The 2015 enrollment effort is running more smoothly than it did when the insurance marketplaces first debuted in 2013.

The federal HealthCare.gov website and state-based sites experienced no major meltdowns during the current enrollment period, and wait times at call centers have improved, too.

But there are other concerns and issues to keep in mind when signing up for health care.

You May Have Trouble Getting Covered If You Miss the Deadline

In the first open enrollment period, from late 2013 to early 2014, insurance exchanges extended deadlines for many people, mostly due to technical glitches that slowed the application process.

Since the system is running more smoothly this time around, it may be more difficult to get the deadline extended.

Still, there are some exceptions if you miss the deadline. Certain life events — like getting married, having a child, becoming a legal resident or citizen of the U.S. or being denied Medicaid or Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) — can qualify you for a special enrollment period. 

The next open enrollment period is expected to begin in October and may end in December, rather than extending into 2016.

The Obamacare Law Faces a New Threat

The Affordable Care Act offers subsidized private health insurance to people who don’t have access to coverage at work, but about 8 million people could lose that financial assistance later in the year.

The Supreme Court is set to consider a case, King v. Burwell, in which Obamacare opponents argue that the law's wording lets the federal government pay health care subsidies only in states that have set up their own insurance exchanges, according to The Associated Press — something that most states haven’t done. The people who wrote the law, however, say it provides subsidies to people in every state.

Should the plaintiffs win the case, people in the 37 states where the federal government is running insurance markets could lose their subsidies. The court is expected to rule on the case in late June.

Some Could Face Stiff Premium Hikes

Many consumers who already signed up for Obamacare may experience a sticker shock during this enrollment period. They could see their premiums increase sharply if they automatically re-enroll in their current plans, instead of choosing new, lower-priced versions.

Learn if you qualify for lower costs on health insurance coverage here.

There's a Tax Penalty This Time

This is the first year consumers have to consider their health insurance at tax time. If you don’t have health care coverage in 2015, you’ll have to pay a penalty when you file your 2015 federal income tax return in 2016.

Federal health officials predict that 2 to 4 percent of taxpayers will end up paying a fine, which amounts to $95 per adult ($47.50 per child), up to $285 for a family, for the 2014 tax year. The penalties go up to a minimum of $325 per adult for the 2015 calendar year and $695 per adult for the 2016 calendar year.

There are exemptions from the fee for not having health care coverage — for instance, if you're uninsured for only one or two consecutive months of the year, if you were covered by May 1 of last year, or if the cheapest available coverage would have cost more than 8 percent of your household's income.

You Must Be Able to Prove Your Legal Status

You must be able to prove your legal status to qualify for Obamacare, health officials have warned.

About 200,000 people will be dropped from insurance policies at the end of February because they have been unable to prove they are legally living in the U.S., the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said. That's in addition to 112,000 people were dropped from their plans in September.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Device Helps Treat Migraines Without Medication]]> Wed, 11 Feb 2015 19:38:00 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/218*120/2-11-15-cefaly+migraine.JPG

For the first time, a new device is helping to treat and prevent migraines without medication.

The device is called Cefaly and it is a way of applying electrical stimulation to certain nerves across the forehead.

"Over time, with continued and repeated stimulation of that nerve, that nerve is less likely and less able to send these signals that generate migraine headaches,” said Doctor Vernon Williams of the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic.

While searching for a non-pharmaceutical solution for chronic migrants, Kim Holiver of Culver City discovered Cefaly. She brought the information to her doctor, Williams, who agreed to prescribe her the device.

Before the Cefaly treatment, Holiver lived in constant fear of getting a migraine, complete with pain so debilitating it would force her to put her life on hold.

“It feels like somebody has a knife and they’re driving it into either your eyes or your temples and I would say it’s not quite as bad as birth, but it can be close,” Holiver said.

Holiver used medications for relief; however, she did not like the side effects.

“And so I thought well if there’s something I can do that can decrease the medication I’m taking into my body, I want to give it a try,” Holiver said.

Cefaly is a headband attached to an adhesive electrode on the forehead. Holiver said that while it was stimulating the nerves it produced a relaxing tingling effect-and worked.

“By about two months I was 75 to 80 percent less of that type of migraine. It was amazing. It’s a completely different quality of life and it feels good not to be taking the medication,” Holiver said.

Not all headaches are migraines; so if you suffer you need a diagnosis first; if it is migraines this is a potential great option. Keep in mind it’s not covered by insurance and requires a doctor’s prescription. It costs about $350 and about $25 a month for supplies.

<![CDATA[Heart Disease Warnings For Women]]> Fri, 06 Feb 2015 20:12:42 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/NC_HeartAttack0210_722x406_2195153815.jpg

Many people think heart disease mainly affects men, but the fact is that it’s the number one killer of women.

Yet many women don’t know that and don’t recognize the symptoms. As a result, many delay diagnosis and treatment.

“The mortality of women from heart disease is actually higher than that of men,” said Ravi Dave, president of the American Heart Association.

Part of the reason for that may be that women ignore or deny their symptoms and don’t know that he symptoms of heart problems may be very different for men and women.

The classic symptom, crushing chest pain “like an elephant is sitting on a chest” isn’t always present and is less likely to occur in women than in men.

Women are more likely to have subtle symptoms including:

  • Tiredness
  • Weakness
  • Unexplained sweating
  • Shoulder pain
  • Neck pain
  • Arm pain

Erika Perez was only 37 when she was awakened one night by moderate chest pain. When she walked around she thought it was gas and tried some tea. When paramedics came she didn’t want to go with them to the hospital. Later, when she felt worse, her husband drove her to the ER and doctors found out she was having a massive heart attack.

“For me, having a heart attack, it was just… I was going to die and I called my family and I said goodbye to my husband,” Perez recalled.

Luckily doctors acted quickly. They did an angiogram, discovered a major blockage in a blood vessel and opened it with a stent.

That saved Perez’s life and she said it gave her a new outlook on the danger.

“I want to be here for my kids, I want to be here for my family and the best thing I could do is take care of myself and do everything the way it’s supposed to be,” she said.

What you can do:

  • Get regular checkups
  • Control your risk factors with diet, exercise and medicine if necessary
  • Check and control cholesterol levels
  • Don’t ever ignore any unexplained symptom

If you do have a heart attack, the sooner you get to a doctor the more likely the attack can be reversed and damage can be minimized or prevented.

Knowing it’s not just a man’s disease can save your life.

<![CDATA[UC System to Require Measles Shots]]> Fri, 06 Feb 2015 15:30:04 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/new+measles+photo.jpg

University of California students will have to be vaccinated against measles and other diseases under new rules that take effect in 2017.

Officials who announced the changes on Friday say the plan's been in the works but it took on new urgency after a measles outbreak at Disneyland last month that's spread to a half-dozen states and Mexico.

Currently UC only requires students to be inoculated against hepatitis B, although some individual campuses have stricter immunization rules.

The new rules will add vaccination requirements for measles, tuberculosis, chicken pox, whooping cough and meningitis.

University officials say there will be exemptions for medical or religious reasons.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[NBC4 Anchors Featured in PSA about Heart Health]]> Tue, 10 Feb 2015 22:56:56 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/220*120/02-06-20015-go-red-heart.jpg

Heart disease is America’s leading killer, according to the American Heart Association, but it poses an even greater threat to women. Cardiovascular diseases kill 1 in 3 women and more women than men die of these diseases every year.

The good news is 80 percent of cardiac events can be prevented with education and lifestyle changes.
In honor of Heart Month in February, the American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women encourages everyone to follow “Life’s Simple 7” to improve your heart health, and make one change for a healthy start.

1. Get active: Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity every day, five times a week.
2. Eat better: A heart-healthy diet is low in saturated and trans fat, cholesterol, sodium and added sugars, and high in whole grain fiber, lean protein and a variety fruits and vegetables.
3. Maintain a healthy weight: Bringing your body mass index (BMI) below 25 benefits your heart.
4. Stop smoking: To live a long and healthy life, break the nicotine addiction is very important.
5. Manage blood pressure: Keep blood pressure levels to less than 120/80. Uncontrolled high blood pressure can hurt you or have fatal consequences.
6. Control cholesterol: A cholesterol reading of 200 mg/dL or higher requires action. High cholesterol can cause blocked arteries, which may lead to a heart attack.
7. Reduce blood sugar: Blood sugar levels above 100 indicate that you may have diabetes or pre-diabetes, which increases heart attack risk.

It is equally important to learn the warning signs of a heart attack. Chest pain and radiating discomfort in the left arm are common symptoms for both men and women.

Women, however, may experience other warning signs, including shortness of breath, back or jaw pain and nausea. Call 9-1-1 immediately if you or someone with you has one or more of these symptoms.

Learn more at www.goredforwomen.org. To get involved locally in Southern California, visit http://lagored.ahaevents.org.

<![CDATA[Suspected Measles in NJ]]> Fri, 06 Feb 2015 17:36:11 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/214*120/Measles_Generic_722x406_19018080101.jpg

The Jersey City Department of Health and the state Department of Health are investigating a suspected case of measles in a 1-year-old baby who has not yet been vaccinated.

The baby has recovered, but out of an abundance of caution, residents in the building where the baby lives have been notified of the potential exposure. 

The latest time a person could become ill due to exposure in this case would be Feb. 7.

Measles is a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by a virus and is spread by contact with nasal or throat secretions of infected people. Measles can lead to serious side effects and, in rare cases, death. Measles symptoms usually appear in 10 to 12 days, but can occur as late as 18 days after exposure. Symptoms generally appear in two stages.

Anyone who's not vaccinated and may have been exposed to measles should contact their doctor if they show symptoms like rash, high fever, cough, runny nose and red watery eyes. They should call ahead in order to limit exposure to anyone else in a doctor's office or hospital. 

The first measles vaccine is not given until a child is between 12 and 15 months old.

This would mark the first case of measles in New Jersey this year. 

New York state has had three cases of measles this year. Last week, a college student who took an international flight into New York City and then an Amtrak train out of Penn Station was diagnosed with measles at Bard College in Dutchess County. 

<![CDATA[Dangerous Designer Drugs on the Rise With Teens]]> Fri, 06 Feb 2015 11:43:11 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/lagenerics-genericsla-nbc4-logo.jpg

They’re called designer drugs, implying they are stylish, cool, hip.

In fact they are either dangerous synthetic forms of illegal drugs or concoctions teens mix up on their own with household supplies.

Not only aren’t they cool, they are deadly - and use of them is on the rise.

Dr. Bardia Anvar, who has treated many teens for their reactions to these concoctions says they are hard to diagnose and to treat

"They have hallucinations that are very bizarre. They’re seeing… they’re having psychotic episodes that are bizarre or very scary for them, and we have to learn about these new drugs that are on the streets that you’ve – you know – you normally wouldn’t have heard of before," she said.

Breanna Phebus said she has taken the synthetic marijuana called spice.

"You can buy 'spice' at local smoke shops. I had no idea what I was getting into and as soon as I did it, I was hooked," she said.

Of the illicit drugs used by high school seniors, spice products are now second only to regular marijuana, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

As part of their appeal to teens, spice and other designer drugs are sold cheaply and the ingredients can be bought legally.

"I did a lot of synthetic things because I didn’t like to deal with drug dealers," Phebus said.

"Lean" or "Dirty Sprite" is another popular designer drug among teens.

Dirty Sprite is a combination of Sprite, Jolly Ranchers candies, and over-the-counter medicines. In some cases, within minutes after drinking the mixture, teens can stop breathing, slip into a coma and die.

Teens are also mixing bath salts with rat poison and smoking it, often with violent reactions. Those reactions can can occur unexpectedly with any so-called designer drug.

Phebus describes one of her episodes.

"Oh my God, terrifying. People would tell you what you did and you’re like ‘No, I didn’t do that,’" she recalls.

"I’d wake up on the floor butt naked, holes on the wall. I flooded my house one day, had no idea how it happened. Bruises everywhere. It was just a rampage for days of not knowing what you’re doing. It’s something unexplainable…it was just the worst vicious cycle that took me to the depths of hell that I could never explain to anybody," Phebus says.

On one occasion, Phebus fell through a glass table and cut herself severely. She also once spent 19 days in an Intensive Care unit recovering.

Phebus says she was willing to talk about her experience to help other kids avoid what she went through.

"And I remember everything - the feeling of dying alone and in the dark and out of my mind. Take it from an addict, you don’t want to be me," she says. "But it’s never too late to quit."

NBC4’s Dr. Bruce says she’s right.

"I’ve seen this and the other mixtures kill. Here’s how to prevent it. Try to lock household cleaners, pest control products, and bath salts up. Same with over-the-counter drugs. Keep a record of how much you have. If your teen acts erratically check to see if any is missing; of course if behavior does change for any reason get them checked up; if they have used, the earlier we get to them the more likely we can help."

<![CDATA[Smartphone Attachment Tests for HIV in 15 Minutes]]> Fri, 06 Feb 2015 00:34:22 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/214*120/Samiksha+Nayak+1+copy.jpg

Want to test yourself for HIV? You may soon be able to do that with your smartphone.

A team at Columbia University has created a smartphone attachment that is capable of testing blood for HIV and syphilis, relaying those results through an app.

The $34 “dongle” attachment, which delivers results in only 15 minutes, replicates finger-prick blood testing performed by devices that typically cost over $18,000, according to Science Daily

The attachment is able to analyze the blood sample and report the presence of HIV and syphilis antibodies. You can see it in action in the video above.

“The results that we have gotten with dongles are comparable to results that you can get in the lab,” Samuel K. Sia, associate professor of biomedical engineering at Columbia Engineering and the leader of the team, told NBC. 

It also receives power and information through a smartphone’s audio jack, making it compatible with many different brands of smartphones. 

Sia said the device could mean preventing millions in impoverished countries from being infected by sexually transmitted diseases.

“A technology like this is useful around the world,” Sia told NBC. “A lot of patients don’t have access to these tests at all. It could make a huge impact in developing countries and that was our motivation.” 

The Columbia University team obtained funding from a Saving Lives at Birth transition grant (USAID, Gates Foundation, Government of Norway, Grand Challenges Canada, and the World Bank) and Wallace H. Coulter Foundation.

Sia said the team hopes to take the device to the market for both global health and for consumer health back in the U.S.

This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story on our mobile site.]]>
<![CDATA[Dr. Bruce: Vaccinating Your Baby ]]> Wed, 04 Feb 2015 22:08:45 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/462420478.jpg

In the wake of the current measles outbreak, many parents are concerned about when to get their babies the MMR vaccine. NBC4’s Dr. Bruce Hensel has answers and advice.

Question: Why can’t I vaccinate my 6 month old?

Dr. Bruce’s Answer: Your child should get the first MMR vaccine after their first birthday. A booster shot should be given at age 5, before the child starts school. Vaccines that are given before 6 months are for viruses that the mother does not have immunity against, such as hepatitis. If a mother had the MMR vaccine and booster, she is immune and passes her antibodies to her baby during pregnancy and breast feeding and the baby is immune.

Question: Why can’t I vaccinate my baby before 1 year? Why can’t they start earlier?

Dr. Bruce’s Answer: The CDC does not recommend getting your child vaccinated before 1 year. This is largely due to limited research on the effectiveness of the vaccine between 6 and 12 months. If your baby was to get the shot at 6 months, he or she will still need to get another one after a year.

Question: What about children older than one who go to day care or preschool?

Dr. Bruce’s Answer: Definitely get the vaccine after 1 year. Even if your child is vaccinated, check to make sure that the other children have all of their vaccines and that the center has a policy to wash hands often. If your child has a cough or other flu-like symptoms, keep him or her home.

Realize that, since measles is contagious four days before symptoms, there is always a tiny chance someone who had it visited before he or she was sick. However, the chance is very remote if there have not been any cases near you.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Health Officials Urge Residents to Get Measles Vaccinations]]> Wed, 04 Feb 2015 18:43:07 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/2-4-15_Measles.JPG

Los Angeles County's interim health officer urged residents on Wednesday to ensure they are vaccinated for measles, and assured parents that vaccinating their children is safe.

The talk of measles has been putting parents, teachers and school administrators on edge.

More than 100 people have contracted measles nationwide this year, 99 of them in California and at least 25 in Los Angeles County, officials said. It's the largest outbreak the country has seen in 15 years, much of it traced to an outbreak at Disneyland.

State lawmakers are pushing to require vaccinations for children, unless their health is in danger.

A baby at Santa Monica High School's infant and toddler room had measles and officials have begun requiring that several parents show proof that both they and their toddlers are immune to measles.

Parents of 14 other infants were also told to keep their babies home for 21 days.

"So we have 14 babies that are going to be home," said Gail Pinsker, a spokeswoman for the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District. "They need to be home and out of the public, per the public health department."

Trena Summers, a parent, said she hopes those who are not vaccinated get vaccinated.

Officials are still worried about those who erroneously believe getting a vaccine is harmful.

"Unfortunately the myths about the association between vaccination and autism persists," Dr. Jeffrey Gunzenhauser said. "It's very important for people to know that there have been many scientific studies since that have completely shown that there is no association between autism and vaccinations."

<![CDATA[Stress in U.S. Proportional to Income: Study]]> Wed, 04 Feb 2015 23:39:16 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/donated+money.jpg

Money can’t buy you happiness, but the lack of it can buy you stress.

Americans living in lower-income households have a higher level of stress compared to Americans overall, according to a new study released by the American Psychological Association. 

The study conducted in August 2014 found that 72 percent of Americans reported feeling stressed about money at some point in the last month, while 22 percent said they experienced extreme stress about financial matters. 

But the study reflected an income gap, with those earning less than $50,000 per year reporting higher overall stress than those earning more. In 2007, a similar study found that income had no direct impact on stress levels. 

Age is also a factor into stress levels, as 77 percent of parents feel high levels of stress about money compared to 75 percent of millennials (ages 18 to 35 years old) and 76 percent of Gen Xers (ages 36 to 49-years-old).

“All Americans and particularly those groups that are most affected by stress — which include women, younger adults and those with lower incomes — need to address this issue sooner than later in order to better their health and well being,” APA CEO and Executive Vice President Norman B. Anderson, PhD, said in a statement.

But, the good news is that overall stress is spiraling down since the APA first started gathering their research in 2007. The average person reported stress level is 4.9 on a 10-point scale, lowered from 2007 when it was at 6.2.

<![CDATA[Feds Issue New Warning About Secondhand Smoke]]> Tue, 03 Feb 2015 21:19:28 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/150203-5pm-second-hand-smoke_1200x675_393444419845.jpg Federal health officials issued an urgent warning about secondhand smoke, saying there is no safe level of exposure when it comes to second hand smoke. Kathy Vara reports for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2015.]]> <![CDATA[Herbal Supplements Pulled From Shelves After Investigation]]> Wed, 04 Feb 2015 15:14:38 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/150203-5pm-herbal-supplements_1200x675_393440835742.jpg An investigation of herbal supplements sold in New York state suggests the products may not always contain the active ingredients on the label. Several nationwide retailers are pulling numerous herbal brands from their shelves. Dr. Bruce Hensel reports for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2015.]]> <![CDATA[Chef Heads to SoCal Schools to Teach Healthy Eating ]]> Mon, 02 Feb 2015 20:13:13 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/204*120/2-2-15-cooking+healthy+meals+children+school.JPG

Parents are still having a difficult time picking healthy foods for their children even when they want to make the right choices, and a move to send a chef to Southern California schools might help solve the problem.

In the average elementary school classroom, about one out of every three children is overweight or obese. This can eventually lead to heart disease and chronic health problems.

A new survey from the Cleveland Clinic released on Monday found that parents admitted the struggle about getting the best foods for their kids.

To cut through this confusion, the American Heart Association is sending a professional chef to Southern California elementary schools to teach kids how to eat heart healthy.

"So they start to become conscious of the different tastes on their plate and they know that everything doesn’t have to be just sugar, fat, and salt," said Chef Bryce Fluellen of the American Heart Association.

As part of the American Heart Association’s "Kids Cook with Heart" program, Fluellen makes weekly visits to students at several lower-income schools throughout Los Angeles.

During the 90-minute cooking sessions, the kids gain hands-on experience preparing healthy alternatives, such as fruit and vegetable smoothies.

“It tastes good because it makes my body stronger and it makes you live a longer life,” said Desire, a student at 61st Street Elementary School in Los Angeles.

The program lasts six weeks and is free for the schools and the students. By the end, the American Heart Association hopes that the kids will have learned the building blocks of what it takes to lead a healthy lifestyle.

"They’ll be able to make their own healthy meal on their own or at least have some skills that will help them build upon doing that in the future," Fluellen said.

Fluellen says that introducing even small dietary changes at a young age can help prevent such diseases as heart disease and diabetes. This is especially true for children from low-income neighborhoods, where fresh produce is expensive and often hard to find.

"I think it’s important because if we eat the healthy stuff that he’s telling us to eat and the fruits and vegetables, we’ll live a healthy life like for a long time," said Keiona, a 9-year-old who also attends 61st Street Elementary School.

This program is a great first step but parents need to build on what their kids are learning.

The same practices have to exist at home and in school. While it can be difficult especially with income and money stresses, the few extra minutes to buy and eat fresh and to develop good habits will really pay off.

<![CDATA[Preventing Winter Allergies]]> Mon, 02 Feb 2015 08:18:28 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/NC_winterallergies0130001_1500x845.jpg Winter season offers a break from pollen, but there are other allergens that can still cause suffering.]]> <![CDATA[Amtrak Traveler Has Measles: DOH]]> Sun, 01 Feb 2015 07:26:14 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/measles+vaccination.jpg

A college student who took an international flight into New York City and an Amtrak train out of Penn Station last week has been diagnosed with highly contagious measles.

The student was diagnosed at Bard College in Dutchess County, officials said, but had traveled into and out of New York City last Sunday, potentially exposing people beyond the campus. 

The student contracted the illness in Germany, then flew in to a New York City airport, before taking the train to Rhinebeck on the same day, officials said. They did not identify which airport the student passed through, but noted the student was in the early stages of infection, when there is less danger of contagion.

Anyone who traveled on Amtrak train no. 283 departing Penn Station at 1:20 p.m. on Jan. 25 is urged to contact their doctor if they're not immune to measles and they develop a fever. The train was headed to Albany and Niagara. 

People who may have been exposed and have symptoms consistent with measles should call their doctor or local emergency room before going for care so that others at the facilities aren't exposed. 

New York state has had three cases of measles this year, one in Dutchess County and two in New York City. 

A measles outbreak in New York City in early 2014 affected dozens of residents, initially in upper Manhattan and the Bronx, and then in Brooklyn and the Lower East Side. Officials had been looking at whether that outbreak may have spread because workers in medical facilities didn't recognize the symptoms quickly enough to isolate patients and prevent them from spreading it to others. 

Measles is a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by a virus and is spread by contact with nasal or throat secretions of infected people. Measles can lead to serious side effects and, in rare cases, death. Measles symptoms usually appear in 10 to 12 days, but can occur as late as 18 days after exposure. Symptoms generally appear in two stages.

Learn more about measles at health.ny.gov.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[How to Protect Your Family From Measles]]> Fri, 30 Jan 2015 18:43:57 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/MEASLESHENSEL_1200x675_391714371727.jpg State health records show there are now 91 confirmed cases of measles in California, this for a disease that was considered eliminated 15 years ago. Dr. Bruce Hensel tells you how you can protect your family on the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 30, 2015.]]> <![CDATA[What Does the Disneyland Measles Outbreak Mean?]]> Wed, 11 Feb 2015 09:02:27 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/215*120/MEASLES1.JPG

The outbreak of measles at Disneyland in Orange County, California, has reignited the debate over the anti-vaccination movement, driven by parents who question whether vaccines are safe and and whether there is a connection to autism in particular.

Medical experts say the study showing such a link has been repeatedly discredited and other parents counter their children are being endangered by irresponsible behavior.

Here’s what you should know.

How many people are affected?

One hundred and three people in California and and other states have reported contracting measles as a result of the outbreak that began at Disneyland in December, according to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The majority of the children and adults who became ill either had not been inoculated or did not know if they had been, said Dr. Anne Schuchat, assistant surgeon general and director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

“This is not a problem of the measles vaccine not working,” she told reporters this week. “This is a problem of the measles vaccine not being used.”

Since 2000, measles has been eliminated in the United States, meaning it is no longer native to the country. But it can still be spread by someone infected elsewhere and the CDC is assuming that is what happened at Disneyland. 

How widespread is measles?

Each year there are 20 million cases around the world, and 145,000 people die, according to the CDC. Other complications: encephalitis and pneumonia.

Last year, there were a record number of measles in the United States, 644 cases, up from a median of 60 a year over the previous decade. And this year a total of 121 cases in 17 states and the District of Columbia have reported. The Disneyland outbreak represents 85 percent of the cases.

Those numbers pale compared to the average number of cases reported each year before the vaccine became available: 549,000.

Is there reason to worry?

The CDC's Schuchat said the numbers for January were concerning.

"I want to do everything possible to prevent measles from getting a foothold in the United States and becoming endemic again," she said.

Dr. Stephen Morse, professor of epidemiology at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, said he thought the country was a long way from returning to the high number of measles cases and other diseases.

"If enough people are not taking these vaccines, we will see a resurgence, but right now these are fairly small events," he said. "So I think the reason everyone pays attention to it in medical and public health communities is simply because this is not a trend you would like to see really going up."

How high are vaccination rates?

Immunization rates remain high despite the attention the measles outbreak is receiving. Among kindergartners enrolled in the 2013-2014 school year, the median vaccination coverage was 93 percent and higher for measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough and chicken pox.

To provide what is called herd immunity -- to protect people who cannot be immunization and those for whom the vaccines are not effective -- experts recommend that between 90 and 95 percent of a community be fully inoculated. Health officials are worried about pockets of parents who are rejecting inoculation.

Morse said the control of a disease such as measles was hard won.

"When we actually had these diseases among us people feared them or at least really wanted a vaccine," he said. "Now of course we’re much more blasé, which is a mistake."

President Barack Obama weighs in

President Barack Obama, in a “Today” interview on Sunday, said parents had every reason to immunize their children.

"I understand that there are families that in some cases are concerned about the effect of vaccinations,” Obama said. “The science is, you know, pretty indisputable. We've looked at this again and again.”

What is the reaction from parents worried about vaccines?

Barbara Loe Fisher, the president of the National Vaccine Information Center, a Virginia-based nonprofit that advocates allowing parents to choose whether to vaccinate their children, said that it was premature to point fingers at those who decided to forgo vaccines.

"There is no question that there is a tremendous amount of pressure being placed on parents who are making informed vaccine decisions for their children," she said. "I think this has gone way too far. The discussion has gotten very ugly, it has gotten extremely polarized and it's caused a lot of parents to be very afraid of doctors and public health officials."

What about other diseases?

Mumps, rubella, pertussis or whooping cough and chickenpox are among others that could also spike if parents continue to forgo vaccinations, experts say.

“This isn’t just a measles problem,” said Dr. Gregory A. Poland, the director of the Mayo Clinic Vaccine Research Group in Rochester, Minnesota. “This is a problem for any transmissible disease for which we have safe and effective vaccines that aren’t unfortunately used.”

Measles is especially contagious, but there have been other outbreaks. Mumps, for example, is no longer common in the United States, with only 229 cases reported in 2012 compared to 186,000 cases each year before the mumps vaccination program began in 1967. But in 2009-2010, there were two large outbreaks, according to the CDC: one among mostly Hasidic Jewish children in New York who were delaying immunization, and another among mostly school aged children in Guam. 

This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story on our mobile site.]]>
<![CDATA[Lens Marks Vision Treatment Breakthrough]]> Fri, 30 Jan 2015 12:01:55 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/cataracts+eye+doctor.jpg

A new breakthrough lens that corrects nearsightedness, farsightedness, and reading vision in cataracts patients has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Melissa Crow is one of the first cataract patients to receive the new lens. Cataracts occur when the lens inside the eye becomes cloudy, but the new lens is used to replace that lens.

"With this lens, I don't have to compromise," said Crow.

Before undergoing surgery, Crow struggled to read. She described her vision as "blurry during the day and at night when I'm driving I notice that the lights reflect off of it and there’s a halo."

Dr. Kerry Assil, of the Assil Eye Institute, suggested the one-of-a-kind lens to cure Crow's cataracts and restore her full range of vision while eliminating the need for glasses. Crow did not even have to go to sleep for the procedure, which took less than an hour.

First, Assil numbed the eye, then he removed the cloudy lens. The new lens fit easily into the same spot in the eye.

"It has an envelope that we leave behind of the original lens and that envelope serves as a hammock to support the new synthetic lens," Assil said.

Just a few days later, Crow already noticed a major improvement in the quality of her eyesight.

"I was so excited. When I woke up that next morning, I could see 20/20 and it was amazing because I was used to getting up and just seeing a blur out of that eye and all of the sudden I was seeing print that I hadn’t seen in ages," Crow said.

Dr Bruce Says: This lens is not prescribed for near or far vision, which may be corrected by Lasik, or for reading vision, which affects everyone sooner or later. Its major use is as a replacement for cataract affected lenses but the added bonus is its ability to help with a wide range of vision problems.

<![CDATA[UC Davis Patient Tests Negative For Ebola]]> Fri, 30 Jan 2015 16:20:54 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/ebola-uc-davis.jpg

A patient feared to have Ebola has tested negative for the deadly virus, California health officials confirmed Friday.

The patient was transferred to UC Davis Medical Center on Thursday after showing symptoms consistent with the virus. A test conducted by the Sacramento County Public Health Laboratory came back negative Thursday night.

The hospital reports the patient is in good condition.

There is no threat to the general public, officials said.

Test results also came back negative Friday afternoon for a second suspected Ebola patient at the UC Davis Medical Center. That patient, too, came from Sacramento. Public health administrators haven't said whether the cases, or the patients, are related.

The possible Ebola cases came to light on Thursday, the same day the World Health Organization reported Ebola cases in three of the worst-hit West African countries are at the lowest level in seven months.

Photo Credit: KCRA-TV]]>
<![CDATA[Lens Marks Vision Treatment Breakthrough]]> Thu, 29 Jan 2015 20:24:25 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Hensel_Vision_Web_1200x675_391263811932.jpg For the first time, a lens that can improve your far, near and reading vision all at once. Dr Bruce Hensel reports for the NBC4 News at 5 and 6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015.]]>