<![CDATA[NBC Southern California - Health News]]> Copyright 2014 http://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/health http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/NBC4_40x125.png NBC Southern California http://www.nbclosangeles.com en-us Mon, 21 Apr 2014 03:20:33 -0700 Mon, 21 Apr 2014 03:20:33 -0700 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Medical Assistant Students Practice on Prisoners]]> Tue, 15 Apr 2014 06:03:06 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/mesa+college+dental+assistant+students+prisoners1.jpg

San Diego community college students are getting a unique learning experience: Giving medical care to prisoners. 

Mesa College is the first community college in the county to partner with a prison to provide students with hands-on training.

These students are learning everything from giving vaccinations to doing X-rays for patients at Donovan State Prison.

Mesa College students are taking what they've learned in labs and using it to care for patients from all different medical backgrounds and ages at the prison.

The prison takes 32 students from Mesa's Dental, Medical and Information Technology programs. They go through four weeks of lab training and an orientation at the prison to prepare.

Then they start working with prison patients who have a variety of issues, including mental illness and disabilities.

The health care is free to the prison. However, inmates who can afford it do pay a co-pay. In turn, college students get 300 hours of training they need to become registered medical assistants.

Professors say the program prepares them for working in challenging medical situations that you couldn't get from a regular internship.

Mesa College dental assistant student Stefanie Delletorri agrees.

"It just gives you a realistic experience in a dental setting. It's always great practicing on models, but when you actually get to practice in a real-life it's completely different and you need that,” Delletorri said.

The prison plans to expand the partnership to include San Diego City College's nursing program this fall.

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<![CDATA[Removing Stigma from Lung Cancer]]> Fri, 11 Apr 2014 07:46:26 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Molly-Golbon.jpg

Molly Golbon doesn't take much for granted these days.

The 39-year old married working mom of two knows life can take unexpected turns. For her, it came with a pain in her throat, tiredness, and cough that wouldn't go away. 

"I went in for an MRI, and that's when they found there was something on the MRI," Golbon recalled. That something turned out to be lung cancer. "I think when they told me it was lung cancer, I thought it can't be. It can't be. It's probably bronchitis or pneumonia, it's not that."

Unfortunately, it was.

Until her diagnosis, Golbon, like many people, thought only smokers got lung cancer.

"The stigma for lung cancer is that it's a smoker's cancer and it's not. I've never smoked. No one in my family ever smoked," Golbon said.

Over a three week period, after going through a series of tests and scans, Golbon learned her cancer had spread into her brain, left hip and right shoulder.

"It was just too much to handle," Golbon said. "I think I had thoughts that my 4-1/2-year-old would not have any memory of me, and I just couldn't bear that thought."

Molly Golbon and her family enjoy an afternoon together at home.

Not Just a Smoker's Disease

When it comes to lung cancer, the statistics are scary. It kills more people than colon, breast, and prostate cancer combined.

While the majority of people who get lung cancer have smoked in the past, many, like Golbon, are non-smokers.

"Our estimates were about  10 percent of men in the U.S. who have never smoked get lung cancer and about 20 percent of women," said Golbon's oncologist Dr. Heather Wakalee, a nationally renowned  thoracic oncologist at Stanford University Medical Center.

"There's a lot of work being done trying to figure out how lung cancer in never smokers differ from lung cancer in smokers," Dr. Wakalee explained. "About a decade ago we were able to identify that there were gene mutations, changes in that particular gene that led to changes in the EGFR protein, and when that happened, it would develop lung cancer. It was the driving force behind lung cancer."

Treating Lung Cancer without Chemotherapy or Radiation

Dr. Wakalee suspected Golbon had this type of gene mutation and tested her for it.

"I was EGFR positive," Golbon said, which was was some of the best news she could have received. "If there was a cancer lottery, I feel like I had won it because I didn't have to go through chemotherapy, I didn't have to go through radiation, at least not yet." 

Here's why. With this type of lung cancer, doctors usually start out treating patients with oral medications. Since December, Golbon has been taking an oral drug called Tarceva, and the results have been remarkable.

Molly Golbon takes one Tarceva pill a day.

"My tumor was down 50 percent in February," she said. Not only that, the cancer that metastasized to Golbon's hip, shoulder, and brain is now almost undetectable.

This quick response to the medication isn't surprising to Dr. Wakalee.

"These drugs tend to work really quickly, they work within a week or two and people generally start to feel better, but they don't work forever," Dr. Wakalee said.

Every patient is different. Some patients stay on the medication for years, but for other people stop seeing benefits sooner.

"I can't tell someone how long they have, but I can tell them this is their step one," Dr. Wakalee said.

Golbon understands this, but for now, she's feeling healthier and is in a lot less pain.

"I'm breathing really well. I'm back to work. I'm back to yoga. I'm back to working out and to think it was one little pill."

Lung Cancer Research

Part of the reason Golbon decided to share her story was to get more funding for lung cancer research. At any given time, there's anywhere from 15 to 20 lung cancer clinical trials going on at Stanford.

"We couldn't have all these new drugs without doing the clinical trials," Dr. Wakalee said. "We all need to be working together to figure out how do we move forward to help everyone with the disease."

Resources:

American Lung Association

Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation

lungcancer.org

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<![CDATA[3 Men Die of Meningitis in LA County]]> Fri, 04 Apr 2014 03:55:50 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/invasive+meningococcal+disease.jpg

A day after health officials said at least eight cases of the most dangerous form of meningitis hit Los Angeles County since January, officials reported that three men died from it.

The three men, between 27 and 28, who died, contracted meningitis through sexual contact with other men, officials said. They were HIV positive.

Half the confirmed eight cases were among gay men, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

Of the remaining five, four have recovered. The condition of one is still unknown.

Invasive meningococcal disease, or IMD, is highly contagious and is the most severe form of meningitis, health officials said.

The health department came under fire when asked why officials hadn't reported that three men had died in the rash of cases this year.

"If people at home knew that these infections ended in fatalities, I think it would ramp up their interest, and perhaps urgency, of seeking out information about the disease," said Ged Kenslea, a spokesman for the AIDS Healthcare Foundation.

Health officials said they were not hiding anything. They said they only wanted to urge gay and bisexual men to get the meningococcal vaccine regardless of HIV status, especially those who share cigarettes, marijuana or use illegal drugs, officials said.

Symptoms may include:

  • High fever
  • Stiff neck
  • Altered mental state
  • Skin rash
  • Severe headache
  • Low blood pressure
  • Aversion to bright lights
  • General muscle pain

Symptoms usually occur within 5 days of the exposure, but may present as many as 10 days after exposure. The disease progresses rapidly and officials urge immediate diagnosis and treatment.

People who do not have health insurance can get free vaccinations through the health department beginning Thursday.

For a listing of clinics, call the LA County Information Line at 211 or visit http://publichealth.lacounty.gov/.

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<![CDATA[Highly Contagious Meningitis Confirmed in LA County]]> Wed, 02 Apr 2014 21:29:34 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/invasive+meningococcal+disease.jpg

Health officials renewed their call for vaccinations Wednesday after at least eight cases of the most dangerous form of meningitis, invasive meningococcal disease, were reported in Los Angeles County.

Half the confirmed cases were among gay men, three of whom were HIV-positive, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

Three of those four cases also confirmed either living in or socialized in West Hollywood and North Hollywood, ages 27 to 28.

Invasive meningococcal disease, or IMD, is highly contagious and is the most severe form of meningitis, health officials said.

"This does cause us some concern," West Hollywood City Councilman Josh Duran said. "It's not a sexually transmitted disease but it is a casually transmitted through saliva droplets."

The health department came under fire last year for not pushing vaccinations after two meningitis deaths were reported in West Hollywood.

"Last time around, we did not have the same commonality among several of the individuals that we've had this time," LA County Department of Public Health Director Dr. Jonathan Fielding said.

Gay and bisexual men are being urged to get the meningococcal vaccine regardless of HIV status, especially those who share cigarettes, marijuana or use illegal drugs, officials said.

"Invasive meningococcal disease is very serious and potentially deadly," said Robert Bolan, LA Gay and Lesbian Center medical director. "We’re concerned there have been four reported cases among gay and bisexual men in just the first three months of this year and that the county is reporting commonalities among some of the cases."

IMD is a sporadic and uncommon bacterial infection of the blood or the lining of the brain and spinal cord that can affect the entire body. The infection can cause brain damage, hearing loss, and even death. The bacteria can be spread by very close exposure to sneezing and coughing or direct contact with saliva or nose mucus.

Symptoms may include:

  • High fever
  • Stiff neck
  • Altered mental state
  • Skin rash
  • Severe headache
  • Low blood pressure
  • Aversion to bright lights
  • General muscle pain

Symptoms usually occur within 5 days of the exposure, but may present as many as 10 days after exposure. The disease progresses rapidly and officials urge immediate diagnosis and treatment.

People who do not have health insurance can get free vaccinations through the health department beginning Thursday.

For a listing of clinics, call the LA County Information Line at 211 or visit http://publichealth.lacounty.gov/.

NBC4's Mekahlo Medina and Dr. Bruce Hensel contributed to this report.

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<![CDATA[8,730 Pounds of Chicken Recalled]]> Wed, 02 Apr 2014 03:57:39 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/recalled-chicken.jpg

AdvancePierre Foods is recalling approximately 8,730 pounds of frozen chicken breast products due to misprinting and undeclared allergens, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The products recalled were "Our Down Home Style Chicken Breast Fritters for Chicken Frying" with lot code 5440730403 or 5440800403, produced March 14 and 21, 2014. Only these lot codes and dates are affected.

Oklahoma-based firm said these products were distributed to food service establishments in Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah and Virginia.
 
AdvancePierre Foods discovered the issue during an internal label review. The USDA said the problem occurred when AdvancePierre Foods used labels with an incorrect ingredient statement.
 
There have been no reports of allergic reactions.


Photo Credit: USDA]]>
<![CDATA[Missed the Obamacare Deadline? Here's What You Should Know]]> Tue, 01 Apr 2014 04:31:27 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/ObamaCarePic.jpg

March 31 was the day.

The last day to enroll in a health insurance plan on the federal and state Obamacare exchanges has officially past.

If you procrastinated, or if you're just wondering what happens next, here's what you need to know.

What if you didn't sign up by the deadline?

If you live in a state that uses the federal exchange and you haven't signed up by Monday night, not all is lost. An honor-system deadline extension may be available.

If you need extra time, explain that you tried to enroll during the open enrollment period but were not able to finish the process in time. (Initiating the online process before midnight or leaving your number on the phone hotline, for instance, would fulfill this requirement.) 

You can also request an extension based on qualifying life events. And some state-run exchanges have also extended the deadline further and have their own sets of rules.

But I didn't even try to sign up. What will happen to me?

If you can't say you tried to get a plan in time and didn't get health insurance by the deadline, you will have to pay a fee of $95 or 1 percent of your annual income — whichever is greater — on next year’s tax return.

I signed up for insurance. When will I be covered?

You must apply by April 15 in order to receive coverage starting in May. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, the consumers who are "in line" on the exchanges will still be enrolled, though, provided they pay their first month's premium in time.

What if I can't afford insurance at all?

The penalty for not buying health insurance only applies to people who can afford insurance but don't get it. If you didn't sign up by the deadline because you can't afford health insurance, you won't be charged the fee.

If that's the case, you should call (800) 318-2596 to explore your Medicaid options. If you live in a state that is not expanding Medicaid, you will not have to pay the fee — but you probably won't receive any insurance.

What happens next year?

If you didn't sign up for an insurance plan this year, the enrollment period for next year will start Nov. 15 and continue through Feb. 15, 2015.



Photo Credit: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Sex Harassment Study: Surprise Effect on Military Men]]> Fri, 28 Mar 2014 04:46:59 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/military+troops+generic.jpg

Frightening and threatening sexual harassment in the military may cause its male victims more distress than its female victims, a new study by the American Psychological Association has found.

The study analyzed Pentagon data from 2002, in which 6,304 service members who reported sexual harassment were asked to define how the incident made them feel. Fifty-two percent of women said they faced frightening and threatening sexual harassment, compared with 19 percent of men.

Although women more frequently reported frightening experiences of sexual harassment, men were more often distressed by them, according to the APA study, published this month in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology.

Researchers were surprised to find that men had more trouble coping with the incidents of sexual harassment and had more issues with work performance as a result than women did.

“Men may be less likely to think they’ll be sexually harassed, so it’s a particularly strong violation of their expectations and that could result in stronger negative reactions,” Dr. Isis Settles wrote in the study. “Another possibility is that men feel less able to cope with their sexual harassment than women, who know it’s a possibility and therefore are perhaps more emotionally prepared.”

Military members endure a lot while in combat, and that stress, in combination with sexual harassment, can leave long-lasting negative psychological effects, explained Dr. Carrie Bulger, who chairs the psychology department at Quinnipiac University.

“The types of effects after discharge would mostly be related to psychological health, such as depressive symptoms, anxiety, and even some physical health issues such as frequent headaches,” said Bulger, who has done extensive research on the prevalence of sexual harassment in different settings.

Bulger cautioned that the APA study's findings do not imply that experiences of sexual harassment are less negative for women, but rather suggest that the effects on men were more pronounced.

“Sexual harassment of men should be given more attention than it is in the military and in other work organizations,” Bulger said. “This is not just a women's issue. It should be something we are all concerned about for the health of our military members.”

Bulger added that although the study analyzed data from 12 years ago, its findings are still valid, because the issue of sexual harassment still persists in the military. However, now that the military's "don’t ask, don’t tell" policy has been repealed, it is possible that conditions may have changed for openly gay military members, she noted.

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<![CDATA[LA County Health Director Fielding to Retire]]> Thu, 27 Mar 2014 13:45:59 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/195*120/476575557.jpg

Dr. Jonathan Fielding announced plans Thursday to retire after 16 years as director of the Los Angeles County Health Department.

Fielding announced in a letter to colleagues that he will leave office when a successor is selected. He plans to return to UCLA, where he is a professor in the Schools of Medicine and Public Health, he said in the letter.

"It has been a great pleasure to work with each and every one of you over the years," Fielding wrote to staff members. With your assistance as Public Health Ambassadors, together we have changed the capacity and face of public health in the most populous county in the nation. Due to your commitment to mission, drive, and hard work to improve health in our county, your Department is viewed as one of the best local health departments in the nation."

Fielding has overseen a department of about 4,000 staff members responsible for a county of nearly 10 million people. He also serves as vice-chair of the First 5 Commission, which grants money to improve the health of children.

No timeline to select the next director has been released.

"Dr. Fielding's accomplishments in improving the health and safety of our residents are simply too long to list," county CEO Bill Fujioka tweeted.

Fielding was appointed to lead the health department in 2006, the same year the county public health department was established as a separate agency from the Department of Health Services.

Refresh this page for updates.
 

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<![CDATA[Can Ecstasy Treat PTSD?]]> Thu, 27 Mar 2014 06:50:25 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/daniel+sommers+family.jpg

It is being called a growing epidemic by the National Institutes of Health: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Now, there's growing debate over the use of an illegal drug to treat PTSD that some say is working with good success.

Estimates are that 30 percent of all Vietnam veterans, 20 percent of Iraq veterans and 10 percent of Afghanistan veterans have PTSD.

Some get better with a variety of treatments by therapists. But others like Daniel Somers do not.

Somers’ family believes in cases like his, the drug ecstasy may be the difference between life and death.

MDMA, known on the street as ecstasy, has been banned by the federal government and classified as a dangerous drug with no medicinal value.

But more studies appear to show it could it help veterans suffering with PTSD.

Somers, a veteran who served in the Army National Guard in Iraq as a machine gunner, was blown from a Humvee. He was diagnosed with PTSD-- a traumatic brain injury-- and other ailments. Medication and therapy did not seem to ease his mental or physical pain.

“He had literally, I'm not kidding you, a drawer that was this wide and this deep full of prescription bottles,” his mother Jean Somers described during an interview with NBC 7.

He eventually took his own life. Now, his parents wonder if treatments with MDMA could have saved him.

“If it's something that will starve a suicide, that will hold that off, then it's worth it,” Jean said.

A group of non-profit researchers think it's worth it. They have clinical trials underway approved by federal drug authorities. Still, there are no large trials.

Dr. Farris Tuma with the National Institute of Mental Health says the agency supports more experimental medication, but has concerns with MDMA.

“The challenge I have with it at this point is we can't narrow it down. (I) haven't seen the data to suggest here is the mechanism and the way we think the drug is going to work,” Tuma said.

The Somers say veterans like Daniel who fought for our freedom should have the freedom to do whatever it takes to get well.

“These guys are suffering so, so badly,” his father Howard Somers said. “Why don't we do whatever we can to help?"

Some therapists in Northern California are reportedly using MDMA in their practice even though it is illegal. Several therapists in San Diego told NBC 7 the drug is not being used here to their knowledge.

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<![CDATA[Calif. Scientists Track Deadly Food Contaminations]]> Tue, 25 Mar 2014 07:30:17 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/salmo.jpg

From salmonella-tainted chicken, to salads contaminated with listeria, 48 million Americans get sick every year from foodborne illnesses.

That's one in every six Americans.

State and federal inspectors are on the frontlines, tracking down the source of these outbreaks, doing similar work to police detectives. In their labs, they collect evidence and interview key witnesses.

Fifty-one-year-old Rick Schiller, of San Jose, knows all about food contamination. For him, it started last September with severe stomach pain, but quickly escalated to his leg turning purple and ballooning to twice its normal size.

"I reached down and touched it, and it felt on fire," Schiller recalled. "I couldn’t believe this was part of my body. When I squeezed it, it was hard as a rock."

Once hospitalized at Kaiser Santa Clara, a state lab test confirmed he had salmonella, a bacteria that kills 300 to 400 people every year.

Scientists knew what made Schiller sick, but they still needed to figure out how he got salmonella.

Investigators with the California Department of Public Health run three labs in the Bay Area, where they are trying to find the source of Schiller's illness, as well as tens of thousands of other cases reported every year in California.

Dr. James Watt is the Chief of the Communicable Disease Division. He says time is of the essence. The sooner you get to the food source, and remove it, the fewer people get sick.

"The point of contamination is really important, because the intervention you do will depend on where in the food chain the problem is," Watt said.

Even though the American food supply is among the safest in the world, an estimated 3,000 people die each year of foodborne diseases, with the elderly and young most at risk. The most deadly are salmonella, toxoplasma, listeria, norovirus, and compo-vector.

Doctors say, once they have isolated the bacteria, investigators go to work tracking it, similar to an episode of CSI.

"When we find bacteria that we think are culprits of any particular foodborne outbreak of bacterial illness, then we find these bacteria, and then we want to fingerprint them," said, Dr. Vishnu Chaturvedi, Chief of Microbial Diseases Laboratory Branch.

Scientists can track the genetic fingerprints and see if the same bacteria is showing up in other parts of the country and causing a full blown nationwide outbreak.

"Improving the safety of food is the very core of our lives, and is important," Watt said.

Using this approach, federal and state food investigators figured out salmonella-tainted chicken from three California Foster Farms plants sickened 400 people from 23 states, including Schiller.

“I was shocked,” Schiller said.

After food inspectors interviewed him, they tracked the tainted chicken to two packages of Fosters Farms chicken thighs, purchased two days before he got sick. His fiancee had cooked one package and froze the other. Lab workers tested the remaining meat and linked it to the nationwide outbreak.

Six months after the diagnosis, Schiller still feels the effects.

“The right arm is weaker than the left arm. I have echoing in my ear," Schiller said.

Even with his ongoing health issues, he knows it could be worse.

“I thank God I’m alive today, but someone of a weaker caliber may not have made it through this,” Schiller said.

The best way to prevent food illnesses is to clean your food thoroughly, and with chicken, cook it to at least 165 degrees to kill any potential bacteria, like salmonella.

Schiller says he follows that advice, and will now only eat chicken if it’s black on the outside.

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<![CDATA[Voters to Decide Whether Doctors Will Undergo Drug Testing]]> Mon, 24 Mar 2014 21:25:39 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/doctor_generic_health_722x406.jpg

Families who lost loved ones to medical negligence delivered thousands of signatures on Monday for a ballot measure that would require California doctors to undergo random drug testing.

The bill, the Troy And Alana Pack Act, is sponsored by Bob Pack -- a man whose children were killed in a car crash caused by an addict who was recklessly prescribed thousands of narcotic painkillers.

Several relatives of those who died as a result of medical malpractice tearfully recalled their experience at press conference Monday while holding photographs of their lost loved ones.

Supporters of the bill also spoke at the conference to announce 830,000 signatures, including one man whose father entered a vegetative state after an alleged alcoholic cardiologist walked out mid-surgery to go to lunch.

"Nearly one in five doctors, 18 percent of doctors, have a substance abuse problem during their careers," said Jamie Court of nonprofit group Consumer Watchdog.

The signatures were enough to get the measure in front of voters, strengthening the already-intense dispute between California lawyers and doctors.

The measure would: require random drug testings of doctors; require doctors to consult a database to make sure their patient isn't abusing prescription drugs before prescribing them to that patient; and lift the limit of $250,000 in "pain and suffering" damages in medical malpractice awards.

"If you lose a child because of medical negligence, the law says that child's life is worth $250,000," said Brian Kapitack of the Consumer Attorneys of California.

Doctors and hospitals, along with groups such as Planned Parenthood, are opposed to the bill and claim it is unnecessary, costly and badly timed with the rollout of the Affordable Care Act.

"This measure is really about just increasing trial lawyers fees," said Jason Kinney of the Protect Access Coalition.

Despite efforts by opposing groups to reach a compromise, California voters will have the final say when the measure appears on the ballot this November.

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<![CDATA[Calif. Polio-Like Virus Still a Mystery]]> Mon, 24 Mar 2014 19:10:45 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/107429828.jpg

Doctors are trying to learn more about a mysterious "polio-like" illness that sickened a new victim in Southern California.

A 2-year-old boy from Moorpark in Ventura County recently contracted the virus that has left as many as 25 children with paralyzed limbs. The cases have popped up from San Diego to the Bay Area.

The San Diego County Health Department says the illness is not a public health emergency, but they're watching for new cases and sharing tips on how to prevent it.

Researchers now say it is probably caused by a variant of a common virus.

"It's known to be something that can cause respiratory disease in people, a cold perhaps, a common cold," said Dr. Erc McDonald with the county health department.

Two cases were reported in San Diego in late 2012, and the victims were a teenager and an adult.

According to McDonald, it’s important to remember that while the disease can paralyze its victims, it is not polio.

"The other message is that we do have these rare, tragic instances that our state public health department is really doing a diligent effort to find the causes for,” said McDonald.

Good hygiene is the best way to avoid contracting the disease, McDonald recommends. That includes hand washing – especially after using the restroom – and not sharing food or drink with others. When you’re stick, stay home and don’t share the virus with others.

Local health agencies are being asked to report potential cases of the little-known virus to the state health department.

"But the numbers are very, very low. Certainly not something that is on the scale of some of the other public health threats. Something like influenza,” said McDonald. “We've had something like 50 deaths this season from influenza, and that puts it in a little perspective."

McDonald said the virus that causes that disease was first discovered in California in the 1960s. It is also linked to polio-like disease among children in Asia and Australia.



Photo Credit: Getty Images/OJO Images RF]]>
<![CDATA[Officials: No Fukushima Radiation at Calif. Beaches]]> Mon, 24 Mar 2014 15:44:08 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/215*120/Fukushima.jpg

The beach is safe. At least from radiation.

A YouTube video, seen by over 750,000 people, shot by an anonymous man holding a Geiger counter that captured readings of radiation on a San Mateo County beach stoked fears among the excitable that "Fukushima is here." 

But the radiation detected by the hand-held device has nothing to do with the faraway nuclear meltdown. In fact, it's nothing to worry about at all, according to the California Department of Public Health.

What the man found on Miramar Beach near Half Moon Bay is "mundane": naturally-occurring radioactive elements -- uranium, thorium and potassium -- present in the strips of black sand near the water's edge, the Contra Costa Times reported.

Scientists told the newspaper that the radiation is normal, natural and nothing to be upset about.

That's exactly the same message scientists gave the public in January, when the video first made the rounds.

To put it in perspective, taking an overseas flight exposes someone to about 25 times the dose of radiation seen on the beach, the newspaper reported.

The radioactive elements emitted following the meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi power station in 2011 -- including cesium 134 and 137 -- peaked at levels far below the limit of safe exposure before declining again to normal "background" levels, scientists said.

Here's the video that started it all, one more time:

 

 



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Recall for Parkers Farm Products]]> Sun, 23 Mar 2014 16:10:12 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/1148953.jpg

A major recall out of Minnesota is affecting foods sold at Costco, Wal-Mart, Target, Whole Foods and more stores nationwide.

Parkers Farm Acquisition has issued a voluntary recall of certain peanut butter, cheese, salsa and spreads due to a possible Listeria contamination.

A Minnesota Department of Agriculture test first detected the bacteria.

No illnesses have been reported from the tainted food, but people who have bought the following products are encouraged to return them or throw them out:

  • 16-ounce Parkers peanut butter in square plastic containers (tub with snap-on lid), including creamy, crunchy, honey creamy and honey crunchy varieties with a sell by date before 3/20/2015
  • 34-ounce Parkers peanut butter in round plastic containers (tub with snap-on lid), including creamy and crunchy varieties with a sell by date before 3/20/2015
  • 12-ounce Parkers spreads in round or square plastic containers (tub with snap-on lid), including jalapeño and pimento varieties with a sell by date before 9/20/2014
  • 8-ounce and 16-ounce Parkers cold pack cheese in round plastic containers (tub with snap-on lid), including sharp cheddar, bacon, onion, smoked cheddar, Swiss almond, horseradish, garlic, port wine, and “Swiss & cheddar” varieties with a sell by date before 3/20/2015
  • 16-ounce Parkers salsa in round plastic containers (tub with snap-on lid), including hot, mild, garlic, and fire-roasted varieties with a sell by date before 7/20/2014
  • 10-ounce Parkers cheese balls or logs (plastic overwrap), including sharp cheddar, port wine, ranch, and “smokey bacon” varieties with a sell by date before 3/20/2015
  • 10-ounce Happy Farms cheese balls (plastic overwrap), including sharp cheddar and port wine varieties with a sell by date before 3/20/2015
  • 16-ounce Happy Farms cold pack cheese in round plastic containers (tub with snap-on lid), including sharp cheddar and port wine varieties with a sell by date before 3/20/2015
  • 8-ounce Central Markets cold pack cheese in round plastic containers (tub with snap-on lid), including sharp cheddar, port wine, horseradish, and Swiss almond varieties with a sell by date before 3/20/2015
  • 12-ounce and 20-ounce Hy-Top cheese spread in round plastic containers (tub with snap-on lid), including pimento and jalapeño varieties with a sell by date before 9/20/2014;
    8-ounce Amish Classic cold pack cheese in round plastic containers (tub with snap-on lid), including sharp cheddar, port wine, and Swiss almond varieties with a sell by date before 3/20/2015
  • 14-ounce Say Cheez beer cheese in round plastic container (tub with snap on lid), including regular and hot varieties with a sell by date before 3/20/2015;
    10-ounce Win Schuler original variety cheese balls or logs (plastic overwrap) with a sell by date before 3/20/2015
  • 8-ounce,12-ounce, and 14-ounce Bucky Badger cheese spreads (tub with snap-on lid) including cheddar, port wine, bacon, garlic, horseradish, jalapeño, and Swiss almond varieties with a sell by date before 3/20/2015
  • 5-pound foodservice products including cold pack cheese foods, cheese spreads and peanut butter with a sell by date before 3/20/2015.

Listeria can cause listeriosis, a disease with symptoms including fever, severe headache, neck stiffness and nausea. The USDA says healthy people rarely contract listeriosis, but it can prove fatal to infants, elderly people and those with weak immune systems.

It can also lead to miscarriages and stillbirths in pregnant women.

If you have any questions about the recall, you can call Parkers Farm at 800-869-6685 or visit its website.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Girl Inspires Nationwide Support]]> Sun, 23 Mar 2014 03:56:38 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Hannahs-Law.jpg

A fundraiser is set to take place next month for a Levittown, Pa. baby girl who captured the hearts of thousands nationwide and even inspired the proposal of a state law.

JoJo’s Ice Cream & Water Ice will host an event raising money for Hannah Ginion, a 1-year-old girl suffering from a rare genetic disorder known as Krabbe Disease.

The young girl, who was born on January 15, 2013, seemed healthy at first, according to her mother Vicki Pizzullo.

"She was progressing like a normal baby," Pizzullo said. "She was perfectly healthy."

By the time Hannah turned 4-months however, the family noticed that something was wrong.

"It came on really slow," Pizzullo said. "She started crying all the time. She hated eating out of a bottle, she was choking and she was losing her swallowing ability. She would suck on a bottle and she would start choking. When we went to go feed her again, she was scared to eat."

The family then took her to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia where they learned the devastating news. On June 17, 2013, Hannah was diagnosed with Krabbe Disease, a rare degenerative disorder that affects the myelin sheath of the nervous system. Damage to the sheath slows down messages between the brain and the rest of the body, leading to problems with mental and physical development.

Krabbe Disease is so rare that it only affects 1 in 100,000 people, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Symptoms of the disease, including feeding difficulties, fever, vomiting, limb stiffness and seizures, normally begin to show when the child is between 3 to 6 months old. Infants who suffer from the disease generally have a life-expectancy of 2 years at the most. There is currently no cure.

After being told by doctors at CHOP that they weren't familiar enough with the disease to properly treat it, the family took Hannah to Dr. Maria Escolar, a specialist in the study of Neurodevelopment in rare disorders at the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh. By then however, it was too late to get a transplant that could have alleviated some of the symptoms.

"Once symptoms start, it's too late to go back to a transplant," Pizzullo said. "That's why it's so important to have it when they're born."

According to the family, Hannah could have received more effective treatment if doctors knew she had the disease immediately after her birth, a message that they ultimately took to Pennsylvania lawmakers.

"We went to Harrisburg in October and went in front of the House and had a press conference," she said.

The press conference led to the introduction of a bill known as Hannah’s Law, which would add Krabbe disease and five other disorders to the list of conditions Pennsylvania hospitals must screen for newborns.

House Bill 1654, introduced by State Rep. Angel Cruz, passed the state house last January. Despite this, Pizzullo says the Senate still hasn't placed it on their agenda.

"We don't think they did it intentionally," she said. "We just don't know if they know the importance of it."

That's why Pizzullo says she and her followers have worked so hard to raise greater awareness.

"We're trying to get the word out there and let them know they need to get this on the agenda as soon as possible," Pizzullo said. "We're trying to get this law passed so that all babies born in Pennsylvania will be tested for this disease as part of their screening."

Pizzullo quit her job of 15 years to be with her daughter and dedicated her life to raising awareness for the disease. Along the way, the family gained support from the community and followers nationwide, after they created a website and Facebook page as well as a support page for the bill.

"We just love all of her followers," Pizzullo said. "They're just amazing. People are so supportive, especially our community."

As Pizzullo continues the fight to bring awareness, she's also dealing with her daughter's deteriorating health.

"She's tube fed and she's on oxygen 24/7," Pizzullo said. "She should be walking around right now and living her life. She can't because she was never tested at birth. The disease deteriorates her brain, that's why she doesn't smile or laugh. She hasn't laughed in five months."

Despite her situation, Pizzullo says she takes solace in the fact that her daughter has proven to be an inspiration and major factor in a movement that could ultimately save the lives of other children.

"If we could help other families and have her name be forever known, it would just be amazing," Pizzullo said.

A fundraiser for Hannah will take place at JoJo’s Ice Cream & Water Ice on 8801 New Falls Road, in Levittown, Pa. on April 15 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

The event will include a raffle and music. You can also email the family at hopeforhannahbear@gmail.com for more information.
 



Photo Credit: Facebook.com]]>
<![CDATA[Alzheimer’s Affects Women More Than Breast Cancer]]> Wed, 19 Mar 2014 21:31:33 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/AP460882915675.jpg

A new report from the Alzheimer’s Association shows 60 percent of alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers are women and they are 2 and half times more likely than men to be caring for someone with the disease 24-7.

Susan M. Galeas, the president and CEO of Alzheimer's Association California Southland Chapter, says the value of this is study is that people will get more information at an earlier stage of the disease.

More information, go to the Alzheimer's Association Southland Chapter

Women have a 1 in 6 chance in getting this over the age of 60 and a 1 and 11 chance of getting breast cancer makes this important not only for the women but for the nation, she said.

Dr. Bruce agrees and points out that “earlier diagnosis can help both the caregiver and the patient; leading to earlier emotional support and treatments that may help the patient and caregiver cope and plan.”

Dr. Bruce’s advice:

  • Since most memory loss in not Alzheimer’s, anyone who has trouble focusing or remembering things should seek an expert’s advice.
  • The workup should include memory tests, an exam and blood tests because there are treatable forms of dementia or short-term memory loss.
  • Since this study shows that women are affected, as patients and care gviers, much more than previously thought, women never hesitate to seek both medical and emotional support.
  • Alzheimer’s affects more than 5 million Americans but that number is expected to skyrocket to 14 million in the next several decades.


Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Obama Reveals NCAA Picks, Touts "ACA Bracket" GIFs]]> Mon, 31 Mar 2014 01:47:25 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/pres_thumb_basketball.jpg

President Barack Obama picked Michigan State to beat defending champions Louisville in the NCAA  men's basketball tournament title game.

The nation’s first basketball fan filled out his bracket in his annual "BARACK-etology" segment that aired on ESPN Wednesday. The reveal came two days after the White House launched its own GIF-friendly, March Madness-themed Affordable Care Act bracket.

"Tom Izzo is a great tournament coach," Obama said. "I've got Michigan State going all the way. ... He knows how to motivate folks and he knows how to coach. My pick: Michigan State. Bring it home for me. It's been a while since I've won my pool."

Besides the fourth-seeded Spartans and Cardinals, Obama also selected No. 1 overall seed Florida and top seed Arizona to reach the Final Four in Arlington, Texas.

Obama's bracket is available on Whitehouse.gov, which is using March Madness to get more young people to sign up for health insurance before the March 31st deadline.

The  “ACA Bracket” called, “The 16 Sweetest Reasons to Get Covered," originally featured 16 GIFs, and on Wednesday afernoon was down to the final four. The interactive compilation allows users to vote for the top two reasons to get health coverage and is full of links to healthcare.gov.

People can vote using their Twitter or Facebook accounts for the their favorite GIFs. The “Insurance Companies are Accountable to You” GIF shows a cat dressed in a tux. The "Nobody's Invincible" GIF features an Elmo toy falling from a store shelf. The “You Might Qualify for Free or Low-Cost Coverage” GIF portrays “The Tonight Show” host Jimmy Fallon “mom dancing” with First Lady Michelle Obama. And "Women Can't be Charged More Than Men" shows the first lady slam dunking a basketball using a hoop held up by LeBron James.

The ACA bracket is part of the effort by the White House to spread the word about the health care deadline. In the first week of March, Obama sat down with comedian Zach Galifianakis for a “Between Two Ferns” mock interview meant to convince young people to get coverage.

On Thursday, the president is scheduled to appear on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" to talk about the ACA.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Costco Recalls Kirkland Signature Real Sliced Fruit]]> Fri, 14 Mar 2014 11:00:09 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/CostcoResized.jpg

Costco has recalled 59,780 cases of Kirkland Signature Real Sliced Fruit from shelves after the company behind the product, Oregon Freeze Dry Inc., determined that it could be contaminated with Salmonella.

Customers who could have purchased the sliced fruit were contacted by phone or mail and news of the recall was posted on the Costco website. The remaining Kirkland Signature Real Sliced Fruit has been tested and is safe for consumers, according to Food Safety News. No illnesses related to the sliced fruit have been reported, but Food Safety News warned that it is too early to tell.

 
Consumers who purchased the product with “best before” dates of February 14, 2015 to March 11, 2015 are encouraged to return the product to Costco for a refund.
 
Salmonella can cause infections in young children, the elderly and people with sensitive immune systems. Symptoms include diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps. Some people could develop Reiter’s syndrome, a disease that can lead to chronic arthritis.
 
Those with questions or concerns can call 1-888-641-2933 or email recall@ofd.com

 



Photo Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[New Technology Means Better Knee Surgeries]]> Fri, 21 Mar 2014 10:12:12 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/181*120/146275121.jpg

New digital mapping technology is allowing doctors to drastically improve the outcome of knee surgeries and improve the fit of new knees on patients' bodies.

Knee replacement surgery has become an increasingly common medical procedure for those in their 40s, 50s and 60s. But as many as 20 percent of all knee replacement recipients say they are unhappy with the results of their operation.

That may be because the pieces of their new artificial knee don’t fit as well as they should.

Dr. Jaime Hernandez, an orthopedic surgeon at Northridge Hospital, said knee replacements are usually done by feel with surgical instruments that aren’t designed for precision measurement. As a result, some of these surgeries could have more accurate results.

To solve this problem, Hernandez is using two high-tech imaging systems that create a GPS-like map of the knee and surrounding area and provide measurements within half a degree and half a millimeter.

"The idea is that, with this new technology, we can turn that 80 percent into a 90 percent or 95 and make this an almost perfect surgery," Hernandez said.

Using infrared signals and a special pointing device, the doctor first creates a virtual map of the area. He then receives real-time live measurements of the knee and its parts as he puts the new knee together. This helps to ensure that he is putting in the pieces as accurately as possible.

Another device then checks the pressure of the new knee before he puts in the final piece.

“The most important part of a knee replacement is to have the knee nice and snug and equal on both sides,” Hernandez explained. “You don’t want your knee too loose on one side and too tight on the other. You want it nice and snug all the way around.”

Los Angeles Police Department Officer Sandra Liddy tested Hernadez' surgery method and is currently recovering with hopes to get back on the streets as soon as she can.

"I'm in constant pain so I cannot put a uniform on right now," Liddy told NBC4 before her surgery. "Because I'm in pain, because I'm on medication, I can't get into a black and white (patrol car)."

"It needs to work, it has to work, because I need to go back to normal life," Liddy said.

NBC4 spoke with Liddy's doctor, and although she needs physical therapy, she is expected to be back at work with a pain-free knee.



Photo Credit: Getty Images/PhotoAlto]]>
<![CDATA[15% in Covered CA Haven't Made 1st Payment: Report]]> Mon, 10 Mar 2014 06:47:18 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Covered-California-health-exchange.jpg

Another problem may be shaping up for the Golden State's answer to the federal health care law.

According to the San Jose Mercury News, 15 percent of people in the Covered California program have not made their first month's payment.

The state's health care exchanges said they are trying to bill those enrollees via e-mail and by phone. These people could lose their insurance if they do not pay.

Last December, the health plans agreed to extend payment deadlines when they ran into huge numbers of applications piling up.

For people who don't have insurance right now in California, the deadline to sign up is March 31 or pay a penalty.
 



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[E-Cigs "Gateway" to Real Smoking: Study]]> Fri, 07 Mar 2014 12:56:43 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/ecigarette+woman+smoking.jpg

Teenagers using e-cigarettes are more likely to try smoking real cigarettes and are less likely to quit than kids who did not use the battery-powered devices, a new study found.

“The use of e-cigarettes does not discourage, and may encourage, conventional cigarette use among U.S. adolescents,” the study concluded.

Published online on Thursday in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Pediatrics, the study examined data collected from nearly 40,000 U.S. middle and high school students who completed the 2011 and 2012 National Youth Tobacco Survey.

The report also found that e-cigarette use among middle and high school students doubled between 2011 and 2012, from 3.1 percent to 6.5 percent.

"E-cigarettes are likely to be gateway devices for nicotine addiction among youth, opening up a whole new market for tobacco," said lead author Lauren Dutra, a postdoctoral fellow at the UCSF Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education.

But not everyone agrees with the conclusion drawn by the researchers. The study did not prove that teen e-cigarette smokers used tobacco after smoking e-cigarettes, because it examined two large data pools of teens in 2011 and 2012 rather than tracking the same people over two years.

Other experts said that just because e-cigarettes are being used by young people who smoke more and have a more difficult time kicking the habit does not mean that the devices are the root of the problem, according to The New York Times.  Those experts say it is possible that young people who use e-cigarettes, which deliver nicotine through vapor instead of the smoke associated with traditional cigarettes, were heavier smokers to begin with, or would have become heavy smokers down the line, the Times reported.

“The data in this study do not allow many of the broad conclusions that it draws,” said Thomas J. Glynn, a researcher at the American Cancer Society, according to the Times.

Experts remain divided on whether e-cigarettes, which entered the market about a decade ago, are a gateway to smoking or a path for the nation's 45 million smokers to help quit. 

A large federal survey published last year found that the overwhelming majority of young people who use e-cigarettes also smoke real tobacco. Another report concluded that while e-cigarette use among youths doubled from 2011 to 2012, real cigarette smoking for youths has continued to decline.

 

 

 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Rise in E-Cigarette Use Among Teens]]> Fri, 07 Mar 2014 10:25:11 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/e-cigarette-close-up-1203_2.jpg

The number of middle and high school students experimenting with e-cigarettes doubled between 2011 and 2012, according to a study released Thursday.

The study, authored in part by the Center for Tobacco Research and Education and the University of California, San Francisco also noted that electronic cigarette smokers were in no way less likely to smoke conventional cigarettes.

"We also saw that the kids who'd used e-cigarettes were more likely to progress from experimenting with conventional tobacco cigarettes to becoming regular tobacco cigarette users," Dr. Lauren Dutra, from the University of California, San Francisco told NBC News.

Dutra was part of the team that examined data from two large national surveys that each looked at 20,000 middle and high school kids.

The number of kids who tried e-cigarettes doubled from 3 percent in 2011 to 6.5 percent in 2012, according to the study.

"It's increasing so rapidly that we're really concerned about what we're going to see in the future,” Dutra said.

E-cigarettes are marketed the same way conventional cigarettes were marketed in the 1950s and 1960s, using television and radio ads. This type of marketing for conventional cigarettes has been banned for more than 40 years.

“Studies have shown that exposing young people to cigarette advertising can cause them to start smoking,” according to the study.

There’s also a growing concern that the vaping devices could be modified to be used with other drugs or alcohol.

"I've even heard stories of kids filling these devices with vodka and trying to vape vodka,” Dutra said.

Some experts say the nicotine delivered through these devices can alter the developing teen brain.

“There’s a part of the brain called the limbic system that is very susceptible to the effects of nicotine and it relates to behavior control as well as emotional development,” Dr. David Tinkelman, who focuses on the management of asthma and pulmonary disease, told NBC News.

NBC4 medical expert Dr. Bruce Hensel suggests that e-cigarettes may be useful for smokers who want to quit, “but only for a short time and kids should not use them at all.”

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<![CDATA[Partial Ban Approved on E-Cigarettes in LA]]> Tue, 04 Mar 2014 21:54:08 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/457925695.jpg

An ordinance that would ban the use of e-cigarettes from bars, nightclubs, restaurants and some other public places was approved by the Los Angeles City Council Tuesday after a debate that cited several studies and ended with some members expressing reservations about the proposal.

The ban, which went before the Arts, Parks, Health, Aging and River Committee in February, passed a full council vote on Tuesday afternoon.

WATCH: After Regulations Imposted, LA Could Wholly Ban Use of E-Cigarettes

The hearing Tuesday morning at City Hall included statements from Dr. Jonathan Fielding, head of the Los Angeles County Public Health Department, who supports the restrictions. He was one of several speakers who cautioned the council regarding e-cigarette use among young people.

"Some brands have candy flavoring such as chocolate, fruit and gummy bears, which appeal to children," Fielding said.

The ordinance also bans the use of e-cigarettes in public places such as beaches, restaurants and parks. Councilmember Joe Buscaino proposed an amendment during discussion that would exempt bars from the ban, but that exemption was defeated.

Buscaino argued that although he supports keeping e-cigarettes out of the hands of minors, the ban at bars would conflict with the rights of adults in a space where adults -- not children -- typically gather. 

The ordinance would not affect affect vaping lounges or stores, which as of late have been raking in big business. E-cigarettes would also still be allowed for "theatrical purposes.

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E-cigarette user Mark Burton, who was also on at the February meeting, cited a Drexel University study. The research "found that contaminate levels of the vapor, if you will, were far below what would be considered harmful," he said.

E-cigarettes, which have become wildly popular across the country and face similar contention in cities such as New York, use battery-powered metal cartridges to simulate the effect of smoking.

The cartridges heat liquid that contains small amounts of nicotine and additive flavors and turns it into vapor. Some council members expressed reservations about approving the ordinance because of studies presented that showed varying results regarding the effects of e-cigarettes.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration currently regulates cigarettes, cigarette tobacco, roll-your-own tobacco, and  smokeless tobacco. Only e-cigarettes marketed for therapeutic purposes are regulated by the agency.

"I'm struggling with this because I want to make sure we are solving a problem based on actual facts and justification," said Councilmember Paul Krekorian. "There are a variety of different views on the impact of what that second-hand vapor may be.

"There's a well-developed body of evidence on smoking. But, from everything I've heard, I don't think a case has been made that adult exposure should be something that this council acts on absent regulation by one of these agencies... equipped to make those difficult assessments."

READ: LA Cracks Down on "Addictive" E-Cigarettes

In an opinion piece published in February on a California business and politics blog, former president and CEO of the American Lung Association Charles D. Connor wrote that the proposed restrictions of smoking in public places made sense for traditional tobacco products -- but not for e-cigarettes.

"This proposal is misguided because it would do a public health disservice, discouraging smokers from switching to less-harmful electronic cigarettes that do not combust tobacco and therefore, do not create second-hand smoke," he wrote.

Other detractors of the bill have underlined that the proposed ban might encourage former smokers to revisit their habit.

The City Council has already begun regulating e-cigarettes. In late 2013, the council unanimously approved a measure that regulated the sale of e-cigarettes, which prohibited those under 18 from using them.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[WATCH: Obama, Biden Work Out Together]]> Fri, 28 Feb 2014 18:00:10 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/obamarun.jpg

Who needs sneakers or a gym to get a little exercise?

President Barack Obama or Vice President Joe Biden showed in a playful workout video that even the leaders of the free world can get a little exercise — even if it means running laps through the White House in a shirt and tie.

The video, released Thursday as a part of First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move fitness challenge, shows Biden entering the Oval Office as Obama is reading at his desk.

"Mr. President, are you ready to move?" Biden asks. Then both men set out running down the halls of the White House, outfitted in dress shoes and ties.

The first dogs Bo and Sunny look on quizzically as the pair jogs together outdoors. Finally, the president and vice president stretch before heading back into the Oval Office for a drink of water.

"After a good workout, you've got to drink up; otherwise, we're going to be in trouble with Jill and Michelle," Obama said.

The video was posted after Michelle Obama’s appearance last week on "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon," where she announced an online contest to promote staying healthy. If enough people participated, she said, the president and vice president would share how they move, too.

The contest challenged Americans to post on social media about how they exercise and eat healthy foods, and in response, thousands of users — including celebrities from Ryan Seacrest to Nancy Pelosi — submitted their habits on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #LetsMove.

"I want to see how people around the country are moving and changing the standards of health for our kids, because people are doing some amazing things," the first lady told Fallon.



Photo Credit: Courtesy Let's Move/YouTube]]>
<![CDATA[Secondhand Smoke Linked With Pregnancy Risks]]> Wed, 26 Feb 2014 18:00:11 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/generic+pregnant+generic.jpeg

Exposure to secondhand smoke is strongly linked to a woman’s increased risk of miscarriage, stillbirth and ectopic pregnancy, according to one of the largest and most comprehensive studies yet to examine the links between passive smoking and pregnancy.

Researchers from Roswell Park Cancer Institute looked at data from more than 80,000 women who went through the Woman’s’ Health Initiative.

Some of the women were current smokers (5,000), some were ex-smokers who had smoked at least 100 cigarettes (35,000) and some were non-smokers (41,000). All had been pregnant at least once.

“We observed significant associations between women who were active smokers during their reproductive years and three outcomes of fetal mortality—spontaneous abortion, stillbirth and tubal ectopic pregnancy,” the authors noted.

The data showed that women who never smoked were less likely to miscarry, have a stillborn or an ectopic pregnancy than either current or former smokers.

But when compared to women who never smoked or were exposed to secondhand smoke, women who experienced the highest levels of lifetime exposure to secondhand smoke were:

  • 17 percent more likely to miscarry
  • 55 percent more likely to give birth to a stillborn child
  • 61 percent more likely to have an ectopic pregnancy

Smokers, when compared to women who never smoked who were not exposed to secondhand smoke, were:

  • 16 percent more likely to miscarry
  • 44 percent more likely to give birth to a stillborn child
  • 43 percent more likely to have an ectopic pregnancy

Participants came from broad geographic backgrounds, across the U.S., having multiple ethnic, educational and socioeconomic backgrounds.

The study also found that women who were younger or better educated were less likely to miscarry or have complications. Women of minority ethnic backgrounds and those who were overweight were more likely to do so.

NBC 4’s chief medical editor Dr. Bruce Hensel said the reasons for these findings may have to do with decreased blood supply to the womb and developing baby, and is “one more reason to avoid all smoke whenever pregnant.”

If a woman who is pregnant or who wants to get pregnant works or lives with a smoker, they may cut down on exposure with designated smoking rooms, properly ventilated rooms, and by using air filters.

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<![CDATA[Study Aims to Curb Asthma Over-Medication]]> Tue, 25 Feb 2014 20:59:37 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/inhalersdsu.jpg

With 26 million Americans taking asthma medicines at a cost of $150 million a day, a new study seeks to determine how to change the fact that many of those patients are taking too much medicine.

Dr. John Mastronarde and his colleagues at Ohio State University Medical Center are researching how to get patients on the lowest dose of asthma medicine possible.

He said the drugs can cost patients between $3 and $500 per month.

Studies have found that cost may increase during acute attacks since patients increase the use of medication and inhalers to combat symptoms then continuing using those elevated doses after the attack.

Mastronarde said many asthma patients take more medicine than they need and though official guidelines suggest steadily tapering the dosage to the right amount, none have a proven successful way of weaning patients.

The study out of Ohio will examine medicines and inhalers to determine which combinations at which dose is best under which circumstances.

While some patients take too many medicines, increasing their risk of side effects, others avoid preventive treatments altogether because of the high costs. This study may reduce risks for some patients and may reduce hospitalizations and the danger of severe attacks in the future for others.

All patients who have asthma should get regular checkups to determine the lowest, and least costly dose of medication that is right for them.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[LA City Council to Vote on E-Cig Ban]]> Tue, 25 Feb 2014 08:21:03 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/ecigarette+woman+smoking.jpg

Tensions related to e-cigarettes are burning up, after proponents and opponents of the devices butted heads Monday afternoon in a Los Angeles City Council committee meeting to debate how to handle the tobacco substitute's use in public.

Councilmen Mitch O’Farrell and Paul Koretz on Jan. 14 motioned for Los Angeles’ chief legislative analyst (CLA) to review a policy proposal related to the general use and classification of e-cigarettes.

The ensuing report from CLA Gerry F. Miller recommended actions that would essentially treat e-cigarettes as traditional tobacco products.

The strict proposal, which was put before the Arts, Parks, Health, Aging and River Committee as part of Monday's meeting, passed unanimously and will go to the full council for a vote in the first week of March.

If passed, the ordinance would also ban the use of e-cigarettes in public places such as beaches, restaurants and parks.

“For anyone to say that e-cigarettes are not harmful, I think they are taking us down the same path tha the tobacco industry said in 1954 that cigarettes were not harmful,” Councilman Bernard Parks said during Monday’s meeting.

E-cigarette user Mark Burton, who was also on hand Monday, cited a Drexel University study.

The research “found that contaminate levels of the vapor, if you will, were far below what would be considered harmful,” he said.

In an opinion piece published last week on a California business and politics blog, former president and CEO of the American Lung Association Charles D. Connor wrote that the proposed restrictions of smoking in public places made sense for traditional tobacco products -- but not for e-cigarettes.

“This proposal is misguided because it would do a public health disservice, discouraging smokers from switching to less-harmful electronic cigarettes that do not combust tobacco and therefore, do not create second-hand smoke,” he wrote.

Other detractors of the bill have underlined that the proposed ban might encourage former smokers to revisit their bad habit.

E-cigarettes, which have become wildly popular across the country and face similar contention in cities such as New York, use battery-powered metal cartridges to simulate the effect of smoking.

The cartridges heat liquid that contains small amounts of nicotine and additive flavors and turns it into vapor.

An exemption was made to the proposal during Monday’s meeting that said the ordinance would not affect vape shops, which as of late have been raking in big business.

The City Council has already laid down the law on the devices by unanimously approving previous measures that prohibited those under 18 from using them and regulated sales.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA["Polio-like Illness" Found in CA Children]]> Mon, 24 Feb 2014 19:30:53 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/doctor-health-generic-1200-02.jpg

A paralyzing condition is affecting a small number of children in the state of California, researchers said.

Five children experienced a rapid onset of paralysis in one or both arms or legs, according to a case report described by Stanford University experts at the American Academy of Neurology annual meeting in Philadelphia.

Researchers are calling this a “Polio-like syndrome,” but reiterated that whatever is afflicting the children is not the polio virus.

In two of the cases, the children were tested positive for enterovirus-68, which comes from the same family as the polio virus.

Researchers did not say specifically where they foudn the cases, but said the children are from as far north in California as the Bay Area and as far south as San Diego.

“In the past decade, newly identified strains of enterovirus have been linked to polio-like outbreaks among children in Asia and Australia. These five new cases highlight the possibility of an emerging infectious polio-like syndrome in California,” said case report author Dr. Keith Van Haren, of Stanford University and a member of the American Academy of Neurology.

Three of the victims had symptoms of a respiratory illness before paralysis. In all five cases, the paralysis was permanent and it’s unclear how the children contracted the illness.

“Although poliovirus has been eradicated from most of the globe, other viruses can also injure the spine, leading to a polio-like syndrome,” Van Haren said.

All five children had been previously vaccinated against polio, researchers said. This means that a vaccination does not protect against this disease.

According to NBC4’s chief medical editor Dr. Bruce Hensel, since paralysis precedes other symptoms it is important to be on alert for the following:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Cough and congestion which further develops into
  • Numbness or weakness

If these symptoms occur, seek medical help quickly.

In addition to the five reported cases, experts believe there may be between 20 and 25 unidentified cases — all in the state of California.

Currently, California is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to see if there are cases outside of the state.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Health Officials Warn of CA Measles Spike]]> Fri, 21 Feb 2014 21:04:09 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/web_measles_villafranca.jpg

There has been a marked increase in measles cases in California so far this year, especially in Orange County where the numbers are continuing to grow and health officials are warning residents of specific spots where they may have been exposed to the extremely contagious illness.

Fifteen cases of measles have been confirmed in California this season, the California Department of Public Health announced Friday. At this time last year, there were two cases of measles in the state.

Also on Friday, health officials updated their numbers of deadly flu cases in the state. So far, at least 278 Californians have died from a flu-related illness, compared to 32 influenza fatalities by this time last year.

Between an especially severe flu season and the spike in measles cases, health officials lamented that 2014 is "off to a very bad start."

Measles is a contagious viral disease that spreads through the air via coughing or sneezing. Symptoms include a fever, followed by a cough, runny nose and rash, according to health officials.

“Immunization is the best defense against measles, with 99 percent of persons developing immunity after two doses,” said Dr. Ron Chapman, state health officer and director of CDPH, in a statement.

Those in California who contracted measles range in age from 5 months to 44 years of age, health officials said. Most of those patients were not vaccinated, and seven were intentionally not vaccinated under the personal belief exemption.

Among the California cases with onset in 2014, three carriers had traveled to the Philippines, and two had traveled to India, health officials said.

“With an outbreak in the Philippines and measles transmission ongoing in many parts of the world outside of North and South America, we can expect to see more imported cases of this vaccine-preventable disease,” Chapman said.

In Southern California, cases of measles have been found in Los Angeles, Riverside and Orange counties.

Four cases of measles in OC have been reported in the last seven weeks, with one stemming from December 2013, according to the county’s Health Care Agency.

Health officials in Orange County have pinpointed at least four places where measles exposure was possible. Anyone who visited these locations during the listed times is urged to speak with their doctor about possible measles exposure:

  • Del Taco, 7001 Katella Ave., Stanton; Feb. 10: 5:30-11 p.m. and Feb. 13: 4-9 p.m.
  • Pueblo Medical Center, 8045 Cerritos Ave., Stanton; Feb. 11: 2-4 p.m.
  • Western High School, 501 S. Western Ave., Anaheim; Feb. 13: 7:45 a.m. - 4 p.m.
  • West Anaheim Medical Center, 3033 W. Orange Ave., Anaheim; Feb. 14: 8 - 11 a.m.

Measles is contagious for roughly eight days – four days before and after the rash appears, health officials said.

CDPH encourages children to receive their first dose of the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine between 12 to 15 months.

A second dose is recommended when children start kindergarten, and anyone born since 1957 who has not had two doses might still be vulnerable and should seek additional immunization.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Teething Toys Recalled for Choking Hazard]]> Sat, 22 Feb 2014 07:45:18 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/218*120/recalled+teether.JPG

A squeaking teething toy sold at a popular big-box retail store is being recalled because the monkey-shaped teether may pose a choking hazard to young children, the company announced.

Made of soft orange rubber, the Squeeze & Teethe Monkey was sold at Target stores nationwide from December 2012 to January 2014, the manufacturer, Infantino, said in a recall alert. It cost about $12.99 and was marketed for ages newborn and up.

There have been at least seven reports of infants choking or gagging on the toy’s tail, according to the Associated Press. No injuries have been reported.

"Infantino" is marked on the back of the toy toward the rear and model number 206-647 is marked on the inside of the rear left leg.

About 191,000 Squeeze & Teethe Monkey teethers are included in the recall, the AP reported. A similar toy with the model number 206-949 is not affected, the company said.

Customers who have the recalled toy should stop using it immediately and call Infantino for a free replacement product. The company can be reached weekdays between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. PT by calling 888-808-3111, or customers can request a new item by clicking on this link.



Photo Credit: Infantino]]>
<![CDATA[Pregnant Woman Dies of Flu-Related Illness in LA County]]> Thu, 20 Feb 2014 22:43:56 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/01-24-2014-flu.jpg

A pregnant woman and her unborn baby died in Los Angeles County after succumbing to influenza-related symptoms in what has been a severe flu season in California.

Health officials urged county residents to get a seasonal flu vaccine following the South Bay woman’s death.

"Most individuals who get sick are able to treat themselves at home with over-the-counter medications, drinking plenty of fluids, resting and staying home from work or school," Jonathon Fielding, director of public health for Los Angeles County, said in a statement Thursday. "Others may develop complications such as pneumonia."

That was the case of the mother-to-be. Fielding said she developed inflammation of the lungs caused by an infection, the clinical definition of pneumonia.

Further details about the woman, including her age and how far along she was in her pregnancy, were not released because of patient privacy protection. Fielding said he was not aware of any other complicating health factors for the woman, besides her pregnancy.

"It is critical that all pregnant and postpartum women get vaccinated to protect themselves against the flu," Fielding said.  "We recommend that everyone, six months of age or older, receive either the influenza shot or the nasal spray vaccine."

Infant Dies From Whooping Cough

Fielding also said practicing basic hygience, such as washing your hands and covering coughs and sneezes helps in preventing the spread of the flu and other respiratory diseases. 

A total of 52 children, men and women have died due to influenza-related illnesses in Los Angeles County this year.

Doctors recommended that pregnant women suffering from a flu-like illness should start antiviral medication even before testing is confirmed. Symptoms include fever, cough, headache and muscle pain within the first three to five days of illness.

Flu-Like Virus Threatens Infants, Children

More than 200 people have died in California during this flu season, and officials said the flu will remain widespread through at least March.

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