<![CDATA[NBC Southern California - Health News]]>Copyright 2017http://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/health http://media.nbcnewyork.com/designimages/NBC4_40x125.png NBC Southern California http://www.nbclosangeles.comen-usSat, 23 Sep 2017 15:06:52 -0700Sat, 23 Sep 2017 15:06:52 -0700NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[CVS to Limit Opioid Prescriptions to 7-Day Supply]]> Thu, 21 Sep 2017 16:27:25 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/cvsgeneric_1200x675.jpg

CVS Pharmacy will limit opioid prescriptions to a seven-day supply for certain conditions, becoming the first national retail chain to restrict how many pain pills doctors can give patients, NBC News reported.

When filling prescriptions for opioid pills, pharmacists will also be required to talk to patients about the risks of addiction, secure storage of medications in the home and proper disposal, the retail pharmacy chain said Thursday.

The move by CVS to limit prescription opioids like OxyContin or Vicodin to a seven-day supply is a significant restriction for patients — the average pill supply given by doctors in the U.S. increased from 13 days in 2006 to 18 days in 2015, according to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Photo Credit: Getty Images, File ]]>
<![CDATA[A Guide to the Best Free Online Workouts]]> Thu, 17 Aug 2017 16:57:02 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/yoga-GettyImages-73695539.jpg

It's easy to get discouraged by the boutique fitness craze with $25 per class fees and the weekly chore of sitting by your computer to reserve a spot in that popular spin class that always sells out.

It's often tempting to just skip it, so the Associated Press rounded up its favorite free online workouts that you can do in your living room, at the office, in a park or on vacation. That means no more excuses for not getting your fitness on. And bonus, most of the sites also include meal plans, recipes and other nutrition inspiration.


One of the best online workouts around. Period. It rivals even the priciest apps and workout programs with tons of options that include everything from High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) to Pilates, yoga and strength training. If you're short on time there are 10-minute ab workouts and if you're super advanced, and if you want to be pushed, their 60 minute "insane cardio workout challenge" is killer and promises to burn roughly 1,000 calories. There are over 500 free workouts on the site and the no-frills videos feature cute husband and wife team Kelli and Daniel Segars. The website is easily customized so you can pick workouts based on difficulty level, what body parts you want to target and whether you want to use weights or if you prefer a no-equipment option.

Online: https://www.fitnessblender.com


Jessica Smith's motto is exercise should be fun otherwise you won't stick with it. She's the queen of walk and talks — online workouts where she marches in places for a mile or two while you chit chat. Her six-week Walk Strong program was so popular that she just released the 2.0 version. Smith's workouts are especially great for beginners, those who need extra motivation or want to feel like they're working out with a friend, not an unrelatable, six-pack ab guru. Her YouTube channel has more than 250 free workouts that includes Pilates, yoga, strength training and cardio plus workouts specifically targeted for beginners. And since many of her workouts are filmed in her living room, there's usually a few fun shots that include her dog Peanut who likes to get in the way because, hey, that's life.

Online: https://www.youtube.com/user/jessicasmithtv


The UK brand has some of the most coveted workout clothes around but they're also really committed to giving their tribe access to free, fun workouts even if they don't have a gym membership. Workouts in the #GetFit4Free campaign feature everything from HIIT to Pilates. We really like the 30-minute ultimate bum workout, beach body workout and ballet bootcamp encore. There are even videos taught by celeb teachers like yoga star Cat Meffan.

Online: http://www.sweatybetty.com/us/free-online-workout-videos


Don't be fooled by this pint-sized blonde. Her workouts pack a serious punch. We love her convenient weekly workout schedules that show you the equipment you'll need and gives you three videos to choose from: advanced, no equipment and beginner/low-impact. This is your best bet when you are short on time since her 15 minute workouts will definitely get your heart pumping. You can pick a six to 12 week program or, if you're advanced, you can follow Light's daily workout schedule which she posts weekly.

Online: https://zuzkalight.com


These versatile workouts are especially helpful if you want to use them while traveling or even at the gym. They work well at home too, since the workouts are photo slideshows that breakdown the moves with very specific written instructions and not videos, which means you don't have to worry about audio or the circle of death while your internet is recalibrating. There's something for all levels here including convenient quickies like their 30-day ab challenge with some videos under 5 minutes. Advanced folks can try the Navy Seal workout, train with Mr. Universe or try the 41 hardest ab exercises routine. And if you're not looking for an entirely new workout program but maybe just a few new moves to add to your routine there's plenty of inspiration, including 10 free weight moves you can try if you're looking to swap out machines or 15 burpee variations.

Online: http://www.livestrong.com/cat/sports-and-fitness


There's hundreds of videos to choose from on BeFit's YouTube channel. Pick from basics like strength training, ab routines, HIIT, Pilates, beach body or barre workouts. Or try something new like belly dance cardio, surfer girl workout, Krav Maga defense, Ballet Beautiful or channel your inner aerialist at Cirque School. There's tons of different options if you've only got 10 or 15 minutes or want a full-hour sweat session. BeFit also gives you access to big name trainers like Denise Austin, Jillian Michaels and yoga guru Kino MacGregor.

Online: https://www.youtube.com/user/BeFit/videos

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Why Do College Kids Think Backpacks Can Save a Drunk Friend?]]> Thu, 21 Sep 2017 18:37:57 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/drunk_pack_stock_image.jpg

In the final hours of his life, Tim Piazza lay on a couch in a Penn State frat house barely conscious and occasionally vomiting from alcohol poisoning and serious internal injuries.

Twice on a night of heavy drinking in early February, frat brothers, apparently oblivious to his injuries, strapped a backpack on the very ill young man. Piazza died a day later, February 4, at Hershey Medical Center.

In another, more recent death on a Pennsylvania college campus, dorm mates of Lafayette College freshman McCrae Williams put a backpack on the young lacrosse player as he lay in his bed this September. He had thrown up and fallen to the floor in his room after what has been described as a "day drink" party and possibly another party the night before.

The college kids in both instances put backpacks on their dying friends in the hope of preventing the young men from turning unconsciously onto their backs and asphyxiating on their vomit, according to authorities.

There is even a term for it now in college circles: "JanSporting," named after the popular brand of backpack used by high school and college students. Another term for it is "the drunk pack." Pillows often are placed in the backpack to prevent a person from turning from his or her side.

One article on the lifestyle website Total Frat Move claims "JanSporting" "just might save" a drunken friend's life, though it also emphasizes that overly intoxicated people shouldn't be left alone, regardless of what position they are put in.

"JanSporting" may be popular on campus, but it is not a prescription likely to gain support in the medical community anytime soon.

"Sadly, 'JanSporting' is another one of those internet-fueled misconceptions that people, especially college students, use to prevent bad outcomes from excessive alcohol consumption," said Dr. Ralph Riviello, vice chair of clinical operations at Drexel University's Department of Emergency Medicine. While "the backpack theoretically can prevent someone from rolling onto their back, aspiration can occur in other positions, and the degree of intoxication and responsiveness are the biggest determinants of aspiration."

He said if a friend is so drunk that unconscious vomiting is a concern, calling 911 is the right and immediate thing to do.

"If someone is that drunk that you are considering putting a backpack on them, you need to call 911. They need to be transported to ED for evaluation," Riviello said.

He said a common misconception among young people, particularly underage college students, is that going to an emergency room for intoxication will lead to ramifications with their college administrators.

But details of their hospital trip are protected by privacy rights and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act known as HIPAA.

"We see a lot of college kids on Friday or Saturday. We never would report them to the Dean’s office or campus officials," Riviello said. "We would encourage kids to seek help or visit their student health center and that sort of thing, but we don’t call the school."

The one call doctors and nurses might make? "We may call your parents if you’re underage and they are close enough to pick you up," he said.

Still, as recent college tragedies should teach other young people, Riviello said it’s better to get to a doctor quickly and live than worry about the embarrassment and fallout from being dangerously intoxicated.

"If you're that sick or you're that out of it, you need medical attention," Riviello said. "Your drunk friends aren’t going to provide the amount of attention that you need."

Photo Credit: NBC10]]>
<![CDATA[Photos: What to Keep in Your Disaster Emergency Kit]]> Thu, 21 Sep 2017 13:24:28 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Earthquake+Kit+19.jpg The American Red Cross provided NBC Los Angeles with a list of things that every household should keep in a backpack in the event of a natural disaster.Whether it's an earthquake, flood or wildfire, these items can help families be prepared for the worst. The items below can be kept in a disaster preparedness kit.

Photo Credit: American Red Cross]]>
<![CDATA['Scam': Kimmel Slams 'Kimmel Test' Senator's Bill]]> Wed, 20 Sep 2017 06:02:18 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Kimmel-Cassidy.jpg

Late-night host Jimmy Kimmel sounded off on Tuesday to blast Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy for his part in crafting the latest GOP health care proposal that, Kimmel said, goes against the promises the senator had made to him on his show. 

Kimmel had discussed health care with Cassidy after the late-night host revealed in early May that his newborn son had open-heart surgery to fix birth defects. This led Kimmel to deliver an emotional message to Congress, pleading for affordable health care for Americans, especially those in similar situations.

Cassidy then famously coined the "Jimmy Kimmel test" phrase, saying families like Kimmel's should not have to deal with high premiums, lifetime caps and rate hikes when it comes to coverage. A week after Kimmel's plea, the Louisiana senator appeared on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" to expand on his idea of affordable health care.

Kimmel is now claiming Cassidy "lied right to my face" in that conversation.

Cassidy delivered his replacement for the Affordable Health Care Act last week. In a proposed bill written with Sen. Lindsey Graham, states would receive block grants and cuts would be made to Medicaid, among other things.

"This new bill (passes) a different 'Jimmy Kimmel test,'" Kimmel said on his show. "In this one, your child with a pre-existing condition will get the care he needs if, and only if, his father is Jimmy Kimmel. Otherwise, you might be screwed." 

He claimed the Graham-Cassidy bill would kick 30 million Americans off their insurance and give states certain control over lifetime caps and coverage for people with pre-existing conditions. The Congressional Budget Office said it plans to deliver an initial analysis on the bill early next week, but can't do a full analysis by the end of the month. That's when a crucial deadline hits for Senate Republicans to act under special budget rules. 

In the meantime, groups including the American Medical Association and AARP have come out against the proposal. 

Kimmel went on to argue this latest bill is "actually worse" than the GOP's previous attempt to replace the ACA. That "skinny repeal" came to a halt when Republican Sen. John McCain delivered the deciding vote against it in the early hours of July 28.

Before McCain went thumbs down, GOP Sens. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski also voted "no."

"I hope they have the courage and good sense to do that again with this one," Kimmel said of the Graham-Cassidy proposal, calling it a "scam of a bill." 

"Health care is complicated. It's boring. I don't want to talk about it… And that's what these guys are relying on," Kimmel continued. "Most of the congresspeople who vote on this bill probably won't even read it, and they want us to do the same thing. They want us to treat it like an iTunes service agreement." 

Cassidy responded to Kimmel's heated monologue with a statement late Tuesday. 

"We have a September 30th deadline on our promise," the senator wrote. "Let's finish the job. We must because there is a mother and father whose child will have insurance because of Graham Cassidy Heller Johnson. There is someone whose pre-existing condition will be addressed because of GCHJ. I dedicated my medical career to care for such as these; this is why GCHJ must pass." 

Speaking on CNN Wednesday morning, Cassidy also argued that "more people will have coverage and we'll protect people with pre-existing conditions."

"I'm sorry he does not understand," Cassidy said of Kimmel.

Independent analysts have said the proposal allows states to take action that could raise the cost of coverage for people with pre-existing conditions. Cassidy said that if a state applied for a waiver it must provide affordable coverage.  

As Kimmel urged viewers to call their representatives with opposition to the bill, he offered one final reason why he renewed his health care debate.

"Before you post a nasty Facebook message saying I'm politicizing my son's health problems, I want you to know, I am politicizing my son's health problems because I have to," Kimmel said. "My family has health insurance. We don't have to worry about this, but other people do."

Photo Credit: Files
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<![CDATA[LA Has a Hepatitis A Outbreak]]> Tue, 19 Sep 2017 14:19:03 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/la+hepatitis.jpg

Health officials said Tuesday that Los Angeles County has a hepatitis A outbreak based on two "community-acquired" cases that cannot be traced back to San Diego County or Santa Cruz.

"We are in the situation of a hepatitis A outbreak ... as of this morning," Public Health Department Director Barbara Ferrer told the Board of Supervisors.

Most cases to date have been identified in patients who are homeless or drug users, but include workers at a health care facility working with those patients, Ferrer said. Ferrer urged anyone working with individuals at high risk of contracting the disease -- including health care providers, food-service workers and shelter employees -- to get vaccinated.

"The safest thing you can do if you work with a high-risk population or if you are worried ... is to get vaccinated," she said.

Children have been routinely vaccinated since 1999. But many adults lack protection against the virus.

"It is a good idea for everyone to talk to their doctor," said Dr. Sharon Balter, the chief of the department's communicable disease control program.

But Balter said the county should focus on the homeless population, where the greatest risk lies. Ferrer agreed.

"The reason we're particularly concerned (now) is because we have an outbreak in San Diego and we have an outbreak in Santa Cruz," and the contagion is in a "population not easily contained," she said.

The county typically sees about 40-60 cases of hepatitis A annually from the population at large, with a concentration often found among food-service workers. But those patients can be readily tracked and follow-up can be scheduled by phone or email, something that's not possible when patients are living on the street.

Hepatitis A is a highly contagious liver disease. Some individuals with hepatitis A may not have any symptoms, while others other may suffer mild symptoms over a period of weeks that can be treated with rest, good nutrition and fluids.

"Most people recover completely and don't have lasting liver damage," Ferrer said. However, both those who have other health issues or weakened immune systems can be hospitalized and suffer permanent liver damage.

And even those without symptoms can spread the disease, which mostly occurs though contact with feces via surfaces or sexual contact. Keeping hands clean can prevent contagion and part of the county outreach to homeless individuals will include distributing hand sanitizer.

An aggressive vaccination campaign is underway.

Photo Credit: Troy McLaurin]]>
<![CDATA[San Diego Hepatitis A Outbreak Likely to Last 6 Months]]> Tue, 19 Sep 2017 16:02:41 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/San-Diego-skyline-020916.jpg

One of the worst Hepatitis A outbreaks in San Diego County history is likely to continue for up to six months and lead to more victims, health experts said Tuesday. County and city officials also suggested not everyone needs to get a vaccine. 

Since the outbreak was identified in early March, 16 people have died. Two other deaths are being investigated as possibly connected to the outbreak.

There have been 444 confirmed cases with an additional 44 cases that are considered suspicious. Officials said 305 people have been hospitalized for Hepatitis A virus. To compare, there were 181 cases in California in 2015 with just 22 in San Diego.

Given the incubation period of 15 to 50 days, health officials expect the outbreak to continue an additional six months.

"Based on history, prior to the availability of the vaccine in the late 1990s, we expect this outbreak will last longer, and will likely have an additional number of further cases," said Dr. Nick Yphantides, San Diego County's chief medical officer.

Most of the cases have been from downtown San Diego, El Cajon, Santee, La Mesa, and the adjacent unincorporated areas, county officials said.

"This is personal, this is our community, and we will protect it,” said San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer as he unveiled a new media campaign he called "Vaccination, Sanitation & Education."

Officials want the public to know not everyone needs a vaccine.

The following occupational groups must be vaccinated: fire, emergency, law enforcement personnel, food handlers, health care personnel and professionals, service workers working directly with the homeless population, and individuals working directly in substance abuse treatment programs, and public transit workers.

Information on upcoming changes to get the vaccine can be found by calling 211 or www.211SanDiego.org.

Since 2006, children have received the Hepatitis A vaccine in accordance with school immunization requirements. 

Over 22,000 vaccinations have been performed by county health officials so far. Of these, 15,000 people were in a high-risk category, homeless, drug users.

The officials said 1,400 hygiene kits have been distributed, largely in the downtown area.

San Diego County Supervisor Ron Roberts said the first sign of something wrong was apparent in late February or early March.  He said the county and city have been ramping up efforts to deal with an outbreak ever since.

Public nurses have been sent into areas of the county to reach transients and other people who may not have seen the warnings and alerts on local media, Roberts said. 

“Vaccination and hygiene are the strongest things we can do,” Roberts said.

The most vulnerable are those living on the streets.

They’re most concerned for at-risk community – homeless, intravenous and illicit drug users, men who have sex with men, people who have sexual contact with someone who has the virus, people with a chronic liver disease, and individuals who have clotting factor disorders, Yphantides said.

Of the 444 confirmed Hepatitis A cases in San Diego County: 34 percent have occurred in individuals who are both homeless and IV or illicit drug users; 17 percent have occurred in individuals who are homeless only; 13 percent in individuals who are illicit or IV drug users only; 24 percent are neither homeless nor illicit drug users – but many of these cases have some relationship with individuals who are in an at-risk population; remaining 12 percent – no available records to classify accordingly.

Of the 16 deaths: officials had access to the personal history available on 15 of them. Those victims had underlying medical conditions, officials said. All but one was either homeless or/and an IV/illicit drug user.

The homeless outreach team with the City of San Diego and vaccination teams with the county have added public health nurses to administer the shots. They walk the river bed to vaccinate the homeless population living there.

"A big percentage of the people who have been victims of the Hepatitis A outbreak have been drug users or homeless people and we have both living along the river bed,"  said Sarah Hutmacher with San Diego River Park Foundation. 

Workers and volunteers with the organization pick up trash along the river. They encounter everything, including human waste and needles, both of which can spread Hepatitis A.

"It's very, very common for us to encounter places where you find human waste, toilet paper, stuff like that," Hutmacher said.

The San Diego River stretches across areas like Santee, Mission Valley and then out to the ocean at Ocean Beach dog beach. The virus can live in standing water for months. 

Of the 22,966 vaccines given by the county, 10,332 of those were given to at-risk population via field events, foot teams going out into at-risk remote places, mass vaccination clinics.

An additional 12,436 vaccines were given by community partners including clinics and pharmacies.

People who were known to have been exposed to the virus received the remaining 198 vaccines.

"We’re not recommending all adults get vaccinated for Hep A," said Yphantides. 

He added that a member of the general population who is concerned has the right to pursue getting the vaccine from his or her own medical provider.

Dr. William Tseng with the San Diego County Medical Society said the prescription is simple - wash your hands. 

"Remember what our moms used to tell us, what our teachers used to tell us – wash your hands," Tseng said. "Wash your hands. Say it 100 times, say it different ways."

The county sent out an alert to the public last week about possible contamination at World Famous restaurant in Pacific Beach. The restaurant has since been thoroughly cleaned.

Some diners, like Suzzette Haack, hope the news won't hurt business.

"It is not fair to the business. They don't deserve this or the reputation. They have a stellar reputation in the community," she said. 

As of now, it is the only restaurant in the county with this warning.

The county will only notify the public if a person who handles food and drinks at a local restaurant tests positive for the virus. But managers, hostesses, and even dishwashers are not included.

Photo Credit: NBC 7]]>
<![CDATA[LA Officials Fear Outbreak as Hepatitis Cases Pop Up Locally]]> Mon, 18 Sep 2017 19:04:21 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/la+hepatitis.jpg

Health officials are worried that a huge hepatitis outbreak plaguing San Diego could spread to Los Angeles County.

Health officials say LA's homeless population is at risk after more than 400 people, many of whom are transients, contracted hepatitis A in San Diego. Sixteen people have died there, but while there have been only eight cases in Los Angeles, at least two of the people with the disease moved up from San Diego to LA, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

Hepatitis A is a virus spread through fecal matter when people do not properly wash their hands. It can also spread through sexual contact and contaminate food.

"We worry that you just need one case in the setting of poor hygiene, poor sanitation and questionable practices in terms of washing hands and where they're procuring food, and now you have a large population that can get infected," said Suman Radhakrishma, a doctor at Dignity Health California Hospital.

LA County public health officials have stepped up the cleaning of Skid Row, using bleach mixture to try and prevent a local hepatitis outbreak. Outreach workers are also educating transients about how the virus is spread and encouraging them to get vaccinated at free clinics.

Signs of Hepatitis A:

Flu-like symptoms

Dark urine

Body aches

Jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes)

Photo Credit: Troy McLaurin]]>
<![CDATA[Infected Puppies Put 9 in Hospital, Sicken 30 More]]> Mon, 11 Sep 2017 15:22:19 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-55656729.jpg

Puppies carrying a common germ have infected 39 people, putting nine of them into the hospital, federal health officials told NBC News.

The cases are all linked to puppies sold in seven states by the pet store chain Petland, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. The infection, called Campylobacter, is common in dogs and it can pass to people easily.

“The ill people are from seven states (Florida, Kansas, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Wisconsin),” the CDC said. The illnesses go back nearly a year, to September of 2016.

Dogs infected with Campylobacter might look perfectly well, but they can also have diarrhea, vomiting, or a fever. In people, symptoms include diarrhea, sometimes bloody; fever; stomach cramps; nausea and vomiting.

Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images, File]]>
<![CDATA[California Assembly Votes to Repeal HIV Criminalization Laws]]> Thu, 07 Sep 2017 16:43:47 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/184*120/GettyImages-25762871.jpg

California lawmakers have voted to reduce the penalty for intentionally exposing someone to HIV from a felony to a misdemeanor.

Supporters say existing laws are relics of the decades-old AIDS scare. The bill passed Thursday by the Assembly, 44-13, would treat HIV like other communicable diseases under federal law.

It requires final Senate approval before heading to Gov. Jerry Brown.

Assemblyman Todd Gloria says current laws discriminate against people living with HIV and deter people from being tested. The San Diego Democrat says modern medical treatment has made HIV a much less devastating disease than it was when the so-called HIV-criminalization laws were passed in the 80s and 90s.

Republican Assemblyman Travis Allen of Huntington Beach opposes the bill and says it would endanger people.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Medical Exemptions Up for California Vaccinations]]> Thu, 07 Sep 2017 13:37:35 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-458535168-flushotnew.jpg

More parents sought medical exemptions for immunizations for incoming kindergartners in the year since California eliminated the personal-belief exemption -- but overall, fewer people are opting out, according to a new study.

The results published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association hint that some parents who don't want to vaccinate their children may have found doctors willing to give medical exemptions to students, the Los Angeles Times said. It's a potential trend that may undercut the collective protection against contagious diseases that the state law sought to bolster.

When students enroll in school, they're required to show proof that they were vaccinated against diseases such as polio, chickenpox and measles -- infections that can spread quickly through an unprotected group. Students can be exempted from the vaccine requirement if they have a medical condition that makes immunizations dangerous, such as pediatric cancer or HIV. In most states, parents also can get exemptions based on personal beliefs, the newspaper said.

State Senate Bill 277, passed in 2015, did away with those personal-belief exemptions in California. The legislation was prompted by a measles outbreak that originated at Disneyland in 2014 and wound up infecting 159 people. That outbreak was likely exacerbated by low vaccination rates, an earlier analysis found.

California's law sought to raise vaccination rates and improve herd immunity, the collective protection provided when an overwhelming majority of people in a group are immune to a disease. Herd immunity helps protect those who, because of medical reasons, cannot be vaccinated and are vulnerable to infections.

But the state law also widened the definition of a medical exemption, allowing doctors to take into account such factors as family medical history.

From 2015 to 2016, the medical exemption rate jumped from 0.17 percent to 0.51 percent -- a threefold increase.

The personal-belief exemption rate, by comparison, rose from 1.32 percent in 2005 to 2.37 percent in 2015, then fell to 0.56 percent in 2016, after the bill's passage. The rate didn't fall to zero largely because of children in multiyear transitional kindergarten programs who'd received personal-belief exemptions before 2016, according to the Times.

Researchers found the total exemption rate dropped from about 2.5 percent to just over 1 percent. That's good news for the law, said Paul Delamater, a health geographer at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and lead author of the new report.

Photo Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Smoke and Fire From Above: Wildfire Images From Space]]> Thu, 14 Sep 2017 06:00:14 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/204*120/09-14-2017-smoke-wildfires-centralafrica.a2017253.1200.3km.jpg NASA is tracking wildfires globally, offering a view from high above Earth that reveals the scope and size of major fires, some of which produce smoke plumes that stretch for miles.

Photo Credit: Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid Response Team]]>
<![CDATA[FDA Recalls Pacemakers Over Fear of Hackers]]> Fri, 01 Sep 2017 11:32:41 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/drvisit_1200x675.jpg

The Food and Drug Administration is recalling 465,000 pacemakers over fears that they could be hacked.

The pacemakers are to be uploaded with new secure software after the FDA discovered cybersecurity vulnerabilities that would allow a hacker to take over the medical device that controls the heart.

Pacemaker brands from Abbott -- the Accent, Anthem, Accent MRI, Accent ST, Assurity, and Allure -- are included in the recall.

Patients do not need another surgery. The FDA said the recall requires an in-person patient visit with a health-care provider. An update of the firmware, the device's permanent software, will take approximately 3 minutes to complete.

According to the FDA, while the pacemaker is being updated, it will operate in backup mode, pacing at 67 beats per minute, and essential, life-sustaining features will remain available. At the completion, the device will return to its pre-update settings.

"To further protect our patients, Abbott has developed new firmware with additional security measures that can be installed on our pacemakers," said Robert Ford, an Abbot executive vice president for medical devices, in a statement about the update. 

The FDA approved the firmware update last week.

Cybersecurity concerning patients' medical devices and their associated computers, networks, programs, and data focuses on protecting them from unintended or unauthorized access, change, or destruction.

The FDA said there have been no reports of unauthorized access to any patient's implanted device, and according to an advisory issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, compromising the security of the devices would require a highly complex set of circumstances.

Photo Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[California Could Allow for Legal Drug Injection Sites]]> Fri, 01 Sep 2017 11:59:21 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-517238888.jpg

In a few weeks' time, California may become the first state to legalize injection sites for IV and other drug users.

A bill, AB 186, would allow "specified counties or cities within those counties" to establish "supervised injection services programs" with the aim of preventing overdoses and the spread of HIV and other infections, reports NBC4 media partner KPCC.

The injection sites would have to be clean and be supervised by a health care professional. They would also need to provide hypodermic needles, the overdose reversal drug naloxone, and referrals to drug treatment.

"If we treat people humanely, if they're coming in and they're forming a relationship, we are much more likely to treat those abscesses, much more likely to catch early rates of infection, much more likely to save lives," said Assemblywoman Susan Eggman, who authored the bill.

The bill has passed the state Assembly and is awaiting a Senate vote in a couple of weeks.

Read more at KPCC.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Opposition Rises Against Bill to Allow Later Last Call Times]]> Thu, 31 Aug 2017 14:49:15 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-489093891.jpg

Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz spoke out Thursday against a state bill that would allow some bars and nightclubs to stay open until 4 a.m. and said it would lead to more deaths from drunk driving.

"Let me be clear. If this passes we can expect more DUIs, more drunk driving and more alcohol-related deaths," Koretz said while surrounded by opponents of the bill at a City Hall news conference. "Once this is the law it will be much harder to reverse."

The Let Our Communities Adjust Late Night Act (LOCAL) passed the state Senate and is now before the Assembly Appropriations Committee. If approved and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, individual cities would have the power to extend alcohol sales hours from California's current 2 a.m. curfew until as late as 4 a.m.

The bill's supporters, including co-author Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), argue that the law banning booze sales from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m. is outdated -- it was written in 1935 -- and is not in line with Los Angeles being one of the entertainment capitals of the world. They also say it would help businesses while giving the decision-making power to local jurisdictions.

The nonprofit group Alcohol Justice, which is opposed to the bill, said findings from various domestic and international studies have found that extending bar hours increases alcohol-related harm, including motor vehicle collisions.

But Wiener has argued that later bar times would be safer by creating a more regulated industry that would help fight underground, unsafe warehouse parties that cater to the after-hours crowd, and has pointed to the Ghost Ship warehouse fire in Oakland in 2016 that killed dozens of partygoers at an illegal concert.

The Los Angeles Times Editorial Board endorsed the bill on Thursday and said "there's no firm science behind last-call laws, no data that prove that 2 a.m. is better than 4 a.m or 6 a.m. or any other time. The laws are more a reflection of a state's history, its cultural practices and its politics."

Veronica De Lara, a member of the Los Angeles Drug Policy Alliance, argued that even if Los Angeles did not approve a 4 a.m. closing time, many nearby communities were still likely to do so and lead to more drunk drivers on the streets of L.A. as they drove through on the way home or between bars.

"A decision by one area to extend drinking hours would attract commuter drinkers from neighboring communities, placing them back on the road to travel home," she said.

Koretz introduced a City Council resolution on Aug. 22 opposing the bill.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[CDC Urged to Address Congenital Syphilis More Aggressively]]> Thu, 31 Aug 2017 13:22:13 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-184607733.jpg

The Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation on Friday called on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to move more aggressively against the growing crisis of congenital syphilis — mother to child transmission before or during birth.

The latest available figures — appearing in the October 2016 Sexually Transmitted Surveillance report — show that the number of cases across the nation stood at 487 in 2015, which was the highest since 2001, when 506 cases were recorded, AHF noted in a statement. It also cited a New York Times report that nearly five times as many babies across the country are born with syphilis as with HIV.

"In response to data revealing a growing crisis of congenital syphilis across the U.S.," a statement said, AHF urges the CDC "to act far more aggressively on prevention, education and treatment on the potentially deadly disease."

The organization also urged the Food and Drug Administration to investigate a continuing shortage of Pfizerís Bicillin L-A, the key syphilis drug used in the treatment of pregnant women. The shortage is contributing to the crisis, according to the statement.

Photo Credit: Fabrizio Balestrieri/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Trump Administration Cuts Funding to Teen Pregnancy Programs]]> Fri, 25 Aug 2017 03:24:58 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-3155076.jpg

The U.S. has experienced a drastic drop in teen pregnancies, which many hail as proof of the effectiveness of an Obama-era federal grant program, NBC News reported.

Started in 2010, the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program gives $89 million a year to 81 organizations around the country. It was renewed in 2015 for another five years.

But a letter from the Department of Health and Human Services dated July 3 shows that the Trump administration is slashing more than $200 million from the program without warning — meaning funding is now slated to end in June 2018, not in 2020.

The abrupt funding cut to teen pregnancy prevention, at a time when teenage births are at historic lows, has been called "highly unusual" by Senate Health Committee Democrats, especially since Congress has yet to vote on the 2018 appropriations bill.

Photo Credit: David Paul Morris/Getty Images, File]]>
<![CDATA[California Advances Universal Health Care Talks]]> Thu, 24 Aug 2017 18:04:18 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/184*120/GettyImages-25762871.jpg

California lawmakers will hold hearings on universal health care during the Legislature's year-end recess.

Speaker Anthony Rendon announced the plans Thursday after enduring weeks of backlash from members of his own party for a health care bill passed by the Senate.

That bill would have eliminated insurance companies in California and implemented a government-run health care system, known as a single-payer system. Rendon says he supports universal health care but couldn't move the Senate bill forward because it lacked key details about how the system would function and how it would be funded.

"I don't think we've at all had anything close to approaching an honest discussion about single payer," he said. "This is an attempt to have a serious discussion."

Rendon says a select committee headed by two members of the Assembly who are physicians will explore options for universal health care in the state.

Sen. Ricardo Lara, who authored the Senate legislation, praised Rendon for the announcement.

"I am glad the Assembly is joining the conversation about universal health care that started in the Senate this year," Lara, a Bell Gardens Democrat, said in a statement.

The California Nurses Association has harshly criticized Rendon over his decision to shelve Lara's bill. They said the Assembly should hold hearings on the existing bill instead.

"California does not need a Select Committee to hold hearings to develop a plan for achieving universal health care," Executive Director Bonnie Castillo said in a statement.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Parents Add Drug Tests to Back-to-School Routines]]> Thu, 24 Aug 2017 08:30:23 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/NC_drugtests0823_1500x845.jpg

Parents, worried about drug abuse and the country's rising opioid epidemic, are adding drug tests to their child's back-to-school routines this fall in places like Cincinnati, Ohio. Drug testing companies say parents test for amphetamines, barbiturates, cocaine and marijuana use, among others. 

<![CDATA[Backyard Chickens, Ducks Linked to Salmonella Cases: CDC]]> Tue, 22 Aug 2017 21:36:14 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/CHICKENS6.jpg

Recent salmonella outbreaks may be linked to backyard poultry, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In an outbreak advisory released Monday, the CDC said there have been 961 cases in 48 states and Washington, D.C., so far this year. Of the nearly 1,000 cases, 215 resulted in hospitalization and one in death.  

In tracking the illnesses, the CDC said 74 percent of those who got sick reported that they'd had contact with live poultry in the week before the illness started.

The federal agency and multiple states are investigating 10 separate multistate outbreaks of salmonella infections in people who had contact with backyard flocks. The CDC said chickens, ducks and their young can be carrying the salmonella bacteria but appear healthy and clean with no signs of illness.

The agency recommends always washing hands thoroughly with soap and water right after touching live poultry. They said children younger than 5 years old should not handle or touch live poultry without adult supervision.

There have been 56 reported cases of salmonella in Virginia — the highest number reported in the United States — seven in Maryland, and one in D.C. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images (File)]]>
<![CDATA[Cal State LA Receives $16.6M Dental Health Promotion Grant]]> Tue, 22 Aug 2017 11:31:16 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/214*120/89c83908557d4f359aa79f2ffa3b4332.jpg

Cal State Los Angeles was awarded a $16.6 million grant Tuesday from the California Department of Health Care Services to promote dental health among low-income children and young adults.

The university was one of 15 recipients of Local Dental Pilot Project funding, which is part of the Medi-Cal 2020 Dental Transformation Initiative that aims to help those enrolled in Denti-Cal, which provides dental services under Medi-Cal to about 6 million children in California.

"This grant recognizes our long history of service and engagement in underserved communities," Cal State L.A. President William A. Covino said. "With this grant, we will be able to assist children who desperately need dental care. We're grateful for the opportunity to serve in new ways."

The four-year grant is believed to be the largest in the university's history.

"Oral health is directly connected with overall health status and well-being across the lifespan," said CSULA professor Rita Ledesma, who is a principal investigator on the grant.

"Oral health can affect academic achievement, self-esteem, relationships, income and quality of life,'' she said. "The grant provides a unique opportunity to build partnerships with community-based organizations and deliver oral health screening, oral health education and supplemental services to address dental health disparities that children and families experience in our community."

CSULA officials said the project will implement educational and intervention strategies for children and young adults in the Los Angeles region and include health screenings. It will also focus on continuity of care and interdisciplinary training of students, agency staff and community members.

The project will also develop outreach to families who have children with special needs, and American Indian and Alaska native families. CSULA will team with USC and Children's Hospital Los Angeles as partners in reaching out to families with children with special needs.

"We look forward to joining with USC to carry out this important work," said Jose A. Gomez, Cal State L.A.'s executive vice president. "The knowledge and expertise of our two institutions will serve Los Angeles well."

<![CDATA[Target Unveils Sensory-Friendly Clothes for Kids]]> Tue, 22 Aug 2017 13:55:45 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/AP_17195684848248_opt.jpg

Target's children's brand Cat & Jack has expanded to include sensory-friendly pieces for kids with sensory processing sensitivities, the company recently announced.

Target designer Stacey Monsen said in a news release that finding clothes that fit her 7-year-old daughter who is not yet potty-trained is a challenge. After speaking with her colleagues and other parents who face similar challenges, she thought why not create pieces that address some of these problems?

The new apparel addresses guests’ most common requests – like removing tags and embellishments that can irritate the skin. The tags have been replaced with heat-transferred labels. Flat seams and one-dimensional graphic T-shirts were designed to minimize discomfort to the skin. They also created their leggings with a higher rise, to fit over diapers, if needed, for older kids.

"While it’s just a few pieces in the line, for some families, they'll make a huge difference," Julie Guggemos, Senior Vice President of Product Design and Development said.

Guggemos added the project's goal was to make the brand more inclusive and help all children feel comfortable and confident. 

"My goal is to keep being an advocate, for my daughter and for others," Monsen said. 

The Cat & Jack collection will expand this fall to include "adaptive pieces" to help address the needs of children living with disabilities.

The limited selection is available exclusively at Target.com.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Signs of Potential Eye Damage After Watching Eclipse: Expert]]> Tue, 22 Aug 2017 21:20:01 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-835902046.jpg

Experts have long warned that watching a solar eclipse without proper eyewear can lead to potential damage in your eyes. 

But what might that damage look like? 

Dr. Linda Chous, chief eye care officer for UnitedHealthcare, helps answer that question. 

If you’ve looked at the eclipse without glasses, do you feel the adverse effects immediately or over time?
It is unsafe for anyone to look directly at the sun for any length of time or during an eclipse, as damage can occur within seconds of exposure. The sun is incredibly bright – some 400,000 times brighter than a full moon. Any amount of exposure can cause short-term and long-term damage.

If immediately, what are the signs?
Short-term issues can include solar keratitis, which is similar to sunburn of the cornea (the front part of the eye). This can cause eye pain and light sensitivity, with symptoms often occurring within 24 hours after exposure.

If over time, what are the things you should look for?
Long-term issues can include solar retinopathy, which is when the sun burns a hole in the retinal tissues, usually occurring at the fovea. This can cause loss of central vision, with symptoms occurring immediately to two weeks after exposure. Depending on the severity of the retinopathy, vision problems can last for months or be permanent.

How do you know if you might have damaged your retina/vision?
There are often no immediate signs of eye damage after viewing an eclipse without proper eye protection. Symptoms can occur immediately, within several hours or even weeks after exposure. Potential signs of damage include sensitivity to light, eye pain and loss of vision in one or both eyes.

Is there anything you can do immediately following viewing without the glasses?
Visit a local eye care professional for a comprehensive exam if you or a family member experience discomfort or vision problems following the eclipse. It is important to note there can be a delayed response to any damage incurred during an eclipse, with symptoms showing up hours later.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[After Health Care Denial, Gay Couple Suing Mortgage Company]]> Thu, 17 Aug 2017 18:45:30 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/marriage+equality.JPG

A lesbian couple from the San Gabriel Valley filed a federal discrimination complaint Thursday against the wife's former employer and its health insurer for allegedly refusing to provide spousal health insurance coverage on an equal basis to heterosexual employees.

Judith Dominguez, a former employee of Cherry Creek Mortgage Co., and Patricia Martinez, her wife and partner of 29 years, contend the mortgage brokerage and UnitedHealth Group are violating federal laws prohibiting discrimination based on sex, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Affordable Care Act, according to the lawsuit filed in Los Angeles.

Representatives for Colorado-based Cherry Creek Mortgage and UnitedHealth Group in Minneapolis could not immediately be reached for comment.

According to the suit, Cherry Creek told Dominguez in December that the company would no longer offer spousal health care benefits to Martinez, showing Dominguez a policy statement that said the mortgage company only recognizes marriages between a man and a woman.

"The federal government and Supreme Court has said we're married, that our marriage is no less than any other," Dominguez said at a press conference. "The fact that they're putting my wife's health at risk by doing this is what made us do what we're doing."

Dominguez alleges the brokerage was retroactively retracting spousal health insurance coverage for her wife for the prior year -- leaving the couple faced with tens of thousands of dollars in unexpected charges for care after Martinez's two heart attacks in 2015.

When the Alhambra couple complained, Cherry Creek fired Dominguez, the suit alleges.

"The judge who married us said it was an honor to perform our ceremony," Martinez said. "He told us, `Now you are family.' Cherry Creek doesn't have the right to rip that apart. They can't take our rights away from us."

The couple and their supporters say they think some companies feel more emboldened under President Donald Trump to violate civil rights laws.

The mortgage brokerage claims it does not have to provide health insurance benefits to spouses of LGBT employees -- yet it markets its mortgage products to same-sex couples, and required Dominguez to attend a mandatory training for selling mortgages to same-sex couples, according to the complaint.

Cherry Creek is one of the companies that won the landmark Hobby Lobby case in which the Supreme Court ruled that family-owned companies had the religious freedom to deny contraception coverage. Some believe that ruling may now extend to issues like same-sex marriage. 

"I feel a little scared, a little insecure that I won't have the government standing behind me," Martinez said.

But the couple's lawyer, Dan Stormer, feels confident of their chances in court. "I think that the circumstances are dramatically different. I do not see that (Cherry Creek) could prevail on a Hobby Lobby claim."

Photo Credit: Troy McLaurin]]>
<![CDATA[New Noninvasive Eye Scan Could Detect Signs of Alzheimer's]]> Thu, 17 Aug 2017 15:58:42 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/eyes-retina-GettyImages-53351438.jpg

A newly developed noninvasive eye scan could detect the key signs of Alzheimer's disease years before patients experience symptoms, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center researchers announced Thursday.

Since Alzheimer's disease affects the retina — the back of the eye — similarly to the way it affects the brain, the high-definition eye scan reveals crucial warning signs of the disease: amyloid-beta deposits, a buildup of toxic proteins, according to the study published in JCI Insight.

The findings represent a major advancement toward identifying people at high risk for the debilitating condition years sooner, Cedars investigators said.

The study comes amid a sharp rise in the number of people affected by the disease. More than 5 million Americans have Alzheimer's disease, and that number is expected to triple by 2050, according to the Alzheimer's Association.

"The findings suggest that the retina may serve as a reliable source for Alzheimer's disease diagnosis," said the study's senior lead author, Dr. Maya Koronyo-Hamaoui, a principal investigator and associate professor in the hospital's departments of Neurosurgery and Biomedical Sciences.

"One of the major advantages of analyzing the retina is the repeatability, which allows us to monitor patients and potentially the progression of their disease," she said.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[San Fernando Valley a Hot Spot for West Nile This Season]]> Thu, 17 Aug 2017 13:29:54 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/west-nile-virus-GettyImages-2099603.jpg

Almost half of the 22 people from Los Angeles County who tested positive for West Nile virus so far this year are from the San Fernando Valley, a hot spot where the disease appears to be spreading this season, according to public health and vector control officials.

Officials with the Greater Los Angeles County Vector Control District this week reported a spike in West Nile virus activity, saying they found 49 infected mosquito samples in the region they serve in the last week alone, the Los Angeles Daily news reported. Statewide, Los Angeles County reported the highest number of people infected so far.

"San Fernando Valley is of heightened concern for us this year," Susanne Kluh, the vector control district's scientific-technical services director, said in a statement cited by the newspaper.

Of the 22 people who were sickened countywide, 19 were hospitalized, according to a recent advisory from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

The number of cases identified at this time is higher than the previous 5-year average, Los Angeles County health officials said, according to the Daily News.

Residents who recently tested positive were from Arcadia, Bellflower, Canoga Park, Palmdale and Winnetka.

Statewide, the number of infected people, mosquitoes and birds are fewer this year than last. But health officials said the recent heavy rainy season can increase mosquito populations, which can lead to other diseases such as Zika, the Daily News reported.

There is no vaccine or specific treatment for West Nile Virus.

Residents are urged to take precautions during warm temperatures by using DEET as an insect repellent, avoiding exposure at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes bite, and eliminating all sources of standing water.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Teen Overdose Death Rate Doubles]]> Thu, 17 Aug 2017 08:21:35 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/NC_teenoverdoses0816_1500x845.jpg

A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show a steep increase in fatal drug overdoses involving teenagers ages 15 - 19 since 2015 after years of decline. Deaths from fatal drug overdoses doubled, with most cases stemming from opioid use.