<![CDATA[NBC Southern California - Health News]]> Copyright 2015 http://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/health http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/NBC4_40x125.png NBC Southern California http://www.nbclosangeles.com en-us Sun, 30 Aug 2015 06:58:08 -0700 Sun, 30 Aug 2015 06:58:08 -0700 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[New Options As Drug-Resistant Lice Spread]]> Fri, 28 Aug 2015 18:50:05 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/192*120/091208lice.jpg

As children start school, it’s not just the homework that's a big worry.

Head lice is also a big concern, especially after a recent study showed many states — including California — now has lice that has become resistant to traditional over-the-counter treatments.

The creatures are something that many parents are horrified to discover has come into their homes.

"I've even done home remedies like mayonnaise," said mom Lis Abujaber, who recently had a battle with lice that didn’t go away with traditional treatments.

To battle the pesky critters, some parents are turning to alternative options.

After trying all the home remedies she could without success, Abujaber visited Lice Clinics of America, a business that opened in Pasadena in January. It is one of several urgent care clinics for lice across the area.

Dahlia Sayegh was a hair salon owner before opening the facility.

"Our last year open as a regular hair salon we had numerous clients come in and I couldn't treat them. I felt helpless," said Sayegh.

Now, she uses a chemical-free method to kill lice and their eggs

"The AirAlle is the hot air that dehydrates the nits, the eggs and the lice," Sayegh said, demonstrating a device that resembles a vacuum hose.

After the hourlong treatment, the nits, eggs and lice are then combed out. Combined with a mousse and oil, the process costs anywhere from $60 to $175, compared to about $20 for over-the-counter remedies.

Last week, researchers said during a presentation at the American Chemical Society's 250th meeting that "KDR" or "knock down resistance" mutations in lice have "saturated" states, including California, which means drugstore treatments may not get rid of the issue.

"The prescription drugs are much more expensive and so the cost to society now in treating resistant head lice is going to be more,” said Dr. Ben Schwartz, with the LA County Department of Public Health.

Schwartz said going the usual route could still be a solution, though, for many families.

"You want something that is safe for your child. You want something that is appropriate for the child's age because different drugs are licensed for different aged children," he said.

Schwartz also said that lice is not associated with hygiene, and that all populations get it. He said a good rule of thumb to remember that lice don't jump or fly, they only crawl.

Head-to-head contact, more than pillows or even brushes, will spread lice, Schwartz said, adding that it is good to remember that they are not a disease carrier.

Prevention is a matter of checking your and your children's hair and checking in with your doctor, who may be the best source for what’s happening with lice around you.

Sayegh said she also helps her clients by given them advice on what to do after an infestation.

"I explain to them that they really need to be thorough with cleaning at home," Sayegh said.

At the end of this or any other lice-ridding process, there’s just one thing any mom wants, Liz Abujaber said.

"Get it done and know that it's going to work," Abujaber said.

The lice have been found in 25 states, including California, Florida, Massachusetts and Texas.

Use the links below for more information about treatments:

California Department of Public Health Guide

American Chemical Society Report

What to Do About Head Lice

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<![CDATA[Diabetes Drugs Can Cause Severe Joint Pain: FDA]]> Fri, 28 Aug 2015 11:47:30 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-166272621.jpg

Certain diabetes drugs can cause severe and disabling joint pain, the Food and Drug Administration warned patients on Friday.

"The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is warning that the type 2 diabetes medicines sitagliptin, saxagliptin, linagliptin, and alogliptin may cause joint pain that can be severe and disabling," the agency said in a statement.

These are generic names for Januvia, Onglyza, Tradjenta, and Nesina, which are all in the same calss and work by making more insulin for the body.

The drugs are already linked with some potentially severe side-effects. Januvia, for instance, can cause a severe inflammation of the pancreas called pancreatitis that's not only excruciating but that can be deadly. Onglyza has been linked with a higher risk of heart failure.
 



Photo Credit: Getty Images/Caiaimage/FILE]]>
<![CDATA[3 Generations Linked by Single Womb After Transplant]]> Fri, 28 Aug 2015 09:19:19 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/BoyWombTransplant.jpg

For one family in Sweden, a pioneering procedure has led to a baby being born from the same womb that nurtured his mother, uniting three generations.

The new mother, who lost her own uterus to cancer in her 20s, said it was "unimaginable" that she now had her own child, thanks to her mother's donated womb.

"It can't be described how happy we are," she told The Associated Press in an exclusive interview. "It's everything that I hoped for and a little bit more," said the woman, who asked that she and her mother not be identified in order to protect the privacy of her 9-month-old son.

Dr. Mats Brannstrom, who is behind the revolutionary process, has ushered in four babies, all boys, with transplanted wombs; a fifth is on the way. He said there was something very special about this case: "It's one uterus bridging three generations of a family."

Before his breakthrough, there had been two attempts to transplant a womb, in Saudi Arabia and Turkey, but no live births. Doctors in Britain, France, the United States and elsewhere are planning similar operations with wombs from women who have died recently, not living donors.

Brannstrom, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Sahlgrenska Hospital at the University of Gothenburg and Stockholm IVF, first transplanted wombs into nine women about two years ago as part of an experimental study, including the new mother, who was the first. Complications forced the removal of two of the wombs. The women in the trial were either born without a womb or had it removed due to cancer.

The new mother, in her early 30s, recalled that as hospital staffers wheeled in her mother for the transplant, "I was crying and told her I loved her and thank you for doing this."

The woman's mother (the baby's grandmother) said she immediately agreed when her daughter raised the idea.

The proud grandmother, in her mid-50s, acknowledged she has difficulty understanding the magnitude of the birth, but "at the same time, I sometimes think that I am a part of history."

The new mother underwent in vitro fertilization to make embryos using her eggs and her husband's sperm. Doctors waited a year after the transplant to ensure everything was OK. After four attempts to transfer embryos into the new womb, she got pregnant. There were no complications, and she delivered via cesarean section, as planned.

"Feeling him against my cheek was the most wonderful feeling ever," the mother said. In tribute to Brannstrom, she and her husband gave the baby the middle name of Mats.

She said they will one day tell the boy how he was conceived. "My thought is that he will always know how wanted he was," she said. "Hopefully when he grows up, uterus transplantation (will be) an acknowledged treatment for women like me and he will know that he was part of making that possible."

Brannstrom and his colleagues are planning more groundbreaking womb transplant procedures. One trial will use wombs from recently deceased women and another will employ robotic surgery to shorten the time of the 10- to 12-hour operations. Brannstrom is working with doctors in India, Singapore, Lebanon and Argentina to do womb transplants there.

Experts marvel at Brannstrom's work and described it as the biggest breakthrough in fertility medicine since IVF.

"This was impossible until Brannstrom did it," said Dr. Antonio Gargiulo, an associate reproductive endocrinologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston who has not been involved in the operations. He said removing a womb is unlike any other operation and that the organ must be very delicately grafted onto the recipient's major arteries and veins.

Gargiulo said doctors need to monitor whether babies in the womb get enough nutrients from the placenta and must ensure sufficient blood flow to the arteries.

Brannstrom said the blood flow during pregnancy was normal in all four babies and that all are healthy.

The new mother and her husband are contemplating a second child; the transplanted womb was intended for two pregnancies, before being removed so the mother can stop taking rejection medications.

She said she will be forever grateful to her mother.

"The real unique thing is what me and my mom went through," she said. "It's a big thing and he and his grandmother will have this bond for the rest of their lives."

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<![CDATA[Clothes Carry Germs Into Newborn ICU: Study]]> Tue, 25 Aug 2015 17:46:16 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/566440057.jpg

Parents and other people who come to visit babies in the newborn intensive care unit are sometimes carrying a potentially deadly germ on their clothing, researchers report.

They found respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) on 4 percent of samples taken from the clothing of visitors to a neonatal intensive care unit, and, more startling, from 9 percent of frequently touched places such as babies' bed rails, nurses' computers and visitors' chairs right next to cribs, according to NBC News.

The hands of nurses, doctors and visitors were clean, but clean hands can pick up germs from clothing and objects and transfer them to the highly vulnerable babies. While almost everyone gets RSV, which causes common cold symptoms, it sends 75,000 to 125,000 children to the hospital in the U.S. each year and kills as many as 200 of them.



Photo Credit: File - Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[FDA: Eggless Spread Doesn't Cut It as Mayo]]> Tue, 25 Aug 2015 13:19:46 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/just-mayo-AP_541645552391.jpg

A vegan spread called Just Mayo isn't actually mayonnaise, according to U.S. regulators, because it doesn't actually have eggs in it.

Hampton Creek, the company behind the spread, was issued a warning letter on Aug. 12 by the Food and Drug Administration, citing several purported violations.

Chief among them is the company's allegedly misleading branding of the product.

"The use of the term 'mayo' in the product names and the image of an egg may be misleading to consumers because it may lead them to believe that the products are the standardized food," wrote William Correll, director of the office of compliance for the FDA, in the letter. It was released publicly on Tuesday.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Another Hospital Outbreak Possibly Linked to Tainted Scopes]]> Wed, 19 Aug 2015 20:30:42 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/214*120/8-19-15-Hospital.JPG

Huntington Memorial Hospital officials said Wednesday they are investigating a spread of bacteria that may be linked to a medical scope that has been blamed for infections at hospitals across the country, including at Ronald Reagan UCLA and Cedars-Sinai medical centers.

Officials at the Pasadena hospital did not provide specifics about how many patients may be affected by the spread of pseudomonas bacteria, but described the number as "small."

Hospital officials said they alerted public health authorities about a possible link between infections and Olympus Corp. scopes, even though the link has not been confirmed.

Hospital officials said they also quarantined the suspected equipment and have been monitoring potentially affected patients.

"The link between this bacteria, pseudomonas, which is a commonly acquired bacteria found prevalently outside the hospital setting, has not yet been traced to a scope," said Dr. Paula Verrette, Huntington's senior vice president and chief medical officer for quality and physician services. "We are still investigating the potential link and have engaged two nationally renowned medical research facilities for assistance. "Even though the link between the scope and bacteria is not confirmed, we alerted the affected patients about a possible link as well as reported the bacterial growth to health officials."

Olympus scopes came under close scrutiny earlier this year, most notably after officials at UCLA announced in February that seven patients, including two who died, were exposed to antibiotic-resistant bacteria -- called CRE -- apparently spread by improperly disinfected Olympus duodenoscopes.

Cedars-Sinai announced a month later that four of its patients were similarly infected. In March, Olympus America Inc. issued revised guidelines for cleaning the scopes, but federal authorities -- including the U.S. Department of Justice -- have been actively investigating the infections and actions of scope manufacturers.

Duodenoscopes are flexible, lighted tubes inserted down the throat for visual examination of the duodenum or portion of the small intestine closest to the stomach. The devices are used to drain fluids from pancreatic and biliary ducts blocked by cancerous tumors, gallstones or other conditions.

Because the devices are reusable, they are supposed to be thoroughly cleaned after each use so pathogens are not transferred from one patient to the next.

"This is a problem facing every hospital and we will be part of the solution," Verrette said. "Guidelines in place for disinfecting and monitoring scopes for bacterial growth are in line with FDA and manufacturer standards.

"We cannot deprive appropriate care to patients whose health issues can be relieved and addressed through the use of these scopes, but we are proceeding with an abundance of caution in our disinfecting and monitoring protocols to ensure patient safety."

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<![CDATA[Souping: Hollywood's Latest Health Craze]]> Tue, 18 Aug 2015 07:30:25 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/US-CA-Soup-CR_1200x675_507529283654.jpg Health conscious Californians are abandoning their juice makers for the humble soup, which has been reinvented into the latest wellness trend.]]> <![CDATA[Coffee Aids Colon Cancer Recovery, Study Finds]]> Mon, 17 Aug 2015 19:45:28 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/coffee-generic-edit.jpg

Colon cancer patients who enjoy a few cups of coffee a day appear to survive their cancer better and are less likely to die early than non-coffee drinkers, researchers reported Monday.

It's the latest in a series of studies showing the benefits of coffee, which can lower the risk of diabetes, Parkinson's and cancer, according to NBC News. This is the first one to show it may help patients recover better, and should come as welcome news to colon cancer patients who worry if they can safely enjoy coffee.

"What we found in this slightly less than 1,000 patients is that those who drank coffee regularly had a better disease-free survival, meaning they had a lower rate of having their cancer recur or of dying," said Dr. Charles Fuchs, director of the Gastrointestinal Cancer Center at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.



Photo Credit: File - Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[7 Dead in Legionnaires' Outbreak]]> Tue, 04 Aug 2015 06:30:41 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/214*120/meeting+overlay+legionnaires.jpg

Three more people have died of Legionnaires' disease in the Bronx in an outbreak that has claimed seven lives in total and hospitalized more than 60 people, the New York City Health Department said Monday as hundreds of residents met with health experts and state and city officials at a town hall meeting to get answers.

Eighty-one cases of the disease, a severe, often lethal, form of pneumonia spread through the air, have been reported in the south Bronx since July 10, city officials said. That's 23 new cases since Wednesday, when 46 cases were announced as health officials first discussed the outbreak. The seven patients who died had underlying health conditions, authorities said.

As word of new deaths spread Monday, Bronx residents packed a town hall meeting at the Bronx Museum of the Arts to hear what state, city and local officials, as well as health experts, had to say about the deadly outbreak.

"We are not at a level of panic, but anxiety is really high," Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. said at the meeting.

Lines were out the door and at least 75 people had to stand outside because there was no room inside. Many were concerned about the growing number of dead. They also wanted to know what's being done to stop the spread of the disease.

"There's more questions than answers to this disease that's going around," South Bronx resident Renita Henry said. "I'm scared, yes, because it's right in my backyard."

Three people were released from the hospital Monday, bringing the total number of people discharged up to 28, according to the Health Department.

Officials announced the death of a fourth person on Saturday. The news came as two more Bronx buildings tested positive for the Legionella bacteria.

A Verizon office building at 117 E. 167th St. was the fourth location to test positive, according to Verizon spokesman John Bonomo. Streamline Plastic Co. at 2590 Park Ave. was the fifth location to test positive. Since the announcement, remediation and removal of the contaminants have been completed at both locations, officials said Monday. Verizon said that it would perform checks on all cooling systems at all its facilities in the Bronx.

"Over the weekend we did remediation, we decontaminated and everything got cleaned up today," Streamline Plastic Co. President Joe Bartner said, adding that the company looks to be back in operation on Tuesday.

The cases have been reported primarily in High Bridge, Morrisania, Hunts Point and Mott Haven since July 10, the Health Department said.

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

Twenty-two buildings have been visited as "disease detectives" hunt for the source of the outbreak, the city said Friday. Seventeen of those buildings have cooling towers -- five of those tested positive for Legionella, including one at Lincoln Hospital; one at Concourse Plaza, a shopping plaza; and one at the Opera House Hotel.

"Whatever's in the atmosphere gets pulled into the cooling tower, so there's a lot more dirt and debris and areas that organisms can grow in," Pete Stempkowski, of Clarity Water Technologies, said.

In addition to the Verizon location and plastic company, remediation has also been completed at the other three locations that tested positive: Lincoln Hospital, Concourse Plaza and the Opera House Hotel. The Department of Health said it resampled all sites Monday and would sample them again on Tuesday to make sure that the remediation was successful.

"The reason we sampled those towers is because those are the ones closest to where the people are getting sick," Dr. Jay Varma, of the Health Department, said. "We know with this disease it's not going to be from a cooling tower that's 10 miles away." 

Mayor de Blasio and Health Commissioner Mary Bassett said at a briefing Thursday there was no evidence of contamination within Lincoln Hospital, and though the hospital confirmed it is treating patients with the disease, Bassett said no one -- neither patients nor employees -- contracted it at the facility.

Since the cases are widely dispersed — as in they're not clustered in one or two buildings —authorities do not believe the outbreak is connected to any contaminated drinking water, Health Commissioner Mary Bassett said at a news briefing Thursday.

"The water supply in the south Bronx remains entirely safe. We don't know the source of this outbreak, but in recent months we have seen outbreaks associated with cooling towers and that's why we're focusing on them," Bassett said. "We're testing every cooling tower we can find in the area."

Both de Blasio and Bassett stressed there was no concern for alarm.

"People have to understand that this is a disease that can be treated -- and can be treated well if caught early," de Blasio said Thursday. "The exception can be with folks who are already unfortunately suffering from health challenges, particularly immune system challenges. But for the vast majority of New Yorkers, if they were even exposed, this can be addressed very well and very quickly so long as they seek medical treatment."

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

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

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

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

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<![CDATA[2 Dead, 31 Sick Amid 'Unusual' Legionnaires' Outbreak in NYC]]> Thu, 30 Jul 2015 10:41:09 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/legionnaires+outbreak.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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



Photo Credit: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Public Health Image Library]]>
<![CDATA[The Health Benefits of Having a Pet]]> Mon, 03 Aug 2015 11:49:28 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Dog-exercise-generic-park-outside.jpg

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

Pets encourage healthy habits.

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

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

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

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

Pets are friends who help us feel better.

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

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

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

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

Animals have more uses to assist humans than ever before.

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The genital area is typically not involved in a colonoscopy.

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

The contaminated water was sold under the following brand names:

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

"All his ribs were showing," Rosenthal said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The THC levels in Canna Companion products are extremeley low.

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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