<![CDATA[NBC New York - Health News - [NY Feature Page] Health]]>Copyright 2017http://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/healthen-usMon, 20 Feb 2017 03:37:04 -0500Mon, 20 Feb 2017 03:37:04 -0500NBC Local Integrated Media<![CDATA[Gore: Climate Change Poses Dangerous Health Consequences]]>Thu, 16 Feb 2017 16:16:56 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/AP_17047583778829-gore.jpg

Former Vice President Al Gore on Thursday said more attention must be paid to the dangerous health consequences of climate change, and he called on scientists, health officials and health care providers to work together to find solutions to the crisis.

Gore made the comments Thursday during the Health and Climate Meeting at The Carter Center in Atlanta. Gore helped organize the conference after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention abruptly canceled its own conference on climate change and health.

A number of CDC employees were attending, however, including Patrick Breysse, who leads the agency's efforts to investigate the relationship between environmental factors and health. CDC spokeswoman Kathy Harben said Breysse was there to represent the CDC but that some agency officials were attending on their own time.

Officials from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Institutes of Health and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration were also attending.

Public health experts have long said that climate change is a man-made problem that contributes to a range of health issues and illnesses, including heat stroke, respiratory illness and diseases spread by tropical insects.

The problems are already here, the Noble Peace Prize Winner said in his keynote speech, noting infectious diseases like zika are now spreading to areas where they previously were not found.

"It's hard to focus on some of these horrific consequences of the climate crisis on health, but hope is justified," Gore said. "We are going to win this.”

Gore also said the effects of climate change are falling hardest on the poor. Outbreaks of cholera, an acute intestinal illness caused by ingesting infected food and water, have in recent years struck places like Haiti and Niger. Cholera causes severe diarrhea and can lead to death by dehydration, sometimes within hours.

"Cholera likes warmer water," Gore said. "There are lots of examples of temperature spikes with water that had high levels where cholera becomes much worse and much worse of a problem."

In 2012, President Donald Trump tweeted that the concept of global warming was created by the Chinese to make U.S. manufacturing noncompetitive. He later said he was joking, but during the presidential campaign referred to global warming as "a hoax."

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, Trump's pick to head the Environmental Protection Agency, has been met with opposition from environmental groups and some Republicans on Capitol Hill.

Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine said Wednesday that she's going to vote against Pruitt because she has "significant concerns" over his active opposition to EPA policy and his lawsuits against the agency on policies important to Maine.

"We are now facing a new headwind," Gore said of the situation in Washington. " ... This is not the first time that there has been an unexpected obstacle. We will win this."

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: AP, Alex Sanz]]>
<![CDATA[China Carfentanil Ban a 'Game-Changer' in US Opioid Epidemic]]>Thu, 16 Feb 2017 10:10:40 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/DEA-Badge-Generic.jpg

So deadly it's considered a terrorist threat, carfentanil has been legal in China— until now. Beijing is banning carfentanil and three similar drugs as of March 1, China's Ministry of Public Security said Thursday, closing a major regulatory loophole in the fight to end America's opioid epidemic.

"It shows China's attitude as a responsible big country," Yu Haibin, the director of the Office of the National Narcotics Control Committee, told the Associated Press. "It will be a strong deterrent."

He added that China is actively considering other substances for sanction, including U-47700, an opioid marketed as an alternative to banned fentanyls. China said the March 1 ban will also apply to carfentanil's less-potent cousins furanyl fentanyl, acryl fentanyl and valeryl fentanyl.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration called China's move a potential "game-changer" that is likely to have a big impact in the U.S., where opioid demand has driven the proliferation of a new class of deadly drugs made by nimble chemists to stay one step ahead of new rules like this one. After China controlled 116 synthetic drugs in October 2015, seizures in the United States of compounds on that list plunged.

"It's a substantial step in the fight against opioids here in the United States," said Russell Baer, a DEA special agent in Washington. "We're persuaded it will have a definite impact."

Legally used as an anesthetic for elephants and other large animals, carfentanil burst into the North American drug supply last summer, causing hundreds of unsuspecting drug users to overdose. The DEA confirmed more than 400 seizures of carfentanil across eight U.S. states from July through October. So lethal an amount smaller than a poppy seed can kill a person, carfentanil was researched for years as a chemical weapon and used by Russian forces to subdue Chechen separatists at a Moscow theater in 2002.

New data from DEA laboratories suggests the supply of furanyl fentanyl is now surging. DEA labs identified 44 samples of furanyl fentanyl in the last three months of 2016, up three-fold from the prior quarter.

Though Beijing has said U.S. assertions that China is the top source of fentanyls lack evidence, the two countries have deepened cooperation as the U.S. opioid epidemic intensifies. Beijing already regulates fentanyl and 18 related compounds, even though they are not widely abused domestically. Since 2016, China has arrested dozens of synthetic drug exporters, destroyed eight illegal labs and seized around 2 tons of new psychoactive substances, according to the Office of the National Narcotics Control Committee.

But the battle against rapidly evolving synthetic drugs is complicated by the deeply global nature of the narcotics trade and the deeply national nature of law enforcement. Some online drug vendors host their websites on servers abroad to thwart police. All benefit by submerging their illicit packages in the vast tides of legitimate commerce shipped or sent by courier from China.

One example of the kind of global coordination needed to take down synthetic drug barons is the case of Zhang Lei, whom the U.S. Treasury Department designated a drug kingpin in 2014. China shared 4,221 clues with 58 countries and areas in the hunt for Zhang, Chinese drug control authorities said Thursday. Zhang was sentenced to 14 years in Chinese prison last year, according to one of his lawyers, Fan Renzhong.

In October, the AP identified 12 Chinese companies willing to export carfentanil around the world for a few thousand dollars a kilogram (2.2. pounds), no questions asked. That same month China began evaluating whether to ban carfentanil and the three other drugs. Usually, the process can take nine months. This time, it took just four. Good international cooperation and effective early warning systems to track the emergence of novel drugs helped speed the process, Chinese drug control officials said Thursday.

China's action is "a hopeful sign of political and strategic law enforcement cooperation," said Jeremy Douglas, a regional representative for the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime in Bangkok. "But having legislation is a first step. The law will need to be enforced effectively."

Offers for carfentanil from Chinese vendors were scarce Thursday, but the AP quickly secured five offers to export furanyl fentanyl to the United States. Some vendors also pushed U-47700.

"One news I just got is that the carfentanil and furanyl fentanyl etc opioid analogs will be controlled in China on March 1 effective," one vendor called Ete wrote in an email. "So if you need them pls make it before that day. After that day it will be unavailable."

The vendor did not immediately respond to a request for comment from AP.

Associated Press researcher Fu Ting contributed to this report from Shanghai.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: NBC San Diego, File]]>
<![CDATA[Would You Let Someone Who's Not a Dentist Pull Your Teeth?]]>Thu, 16 Feb 2017 10:43:30 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/AP_17046749125354-dentist.jpg

Need a tooth pulled or a cavity filled? Forget the dentist. A number of states are allowing or considering letting "dental therapists," professionals with a lower level of training, do the job.

In dozens of countries and a handful of U.S. states, dental therapists also sometimes called advanced dental hygiene practitioners help fill gaps in access to oral care for low-income, elderly and disabled people, and in rural areas where few dentists practice, according to many public health advocates.

In Massachusetts, a group that lobbies on behalf of dentists has for the first time signaled a willingness to embrace the concept, though its proposal is viewed as unnecessarily restrictive by sponsors of a competing bill in the Legislature.

Dentists have long opposed the midlevel position, citing concerns over safety and supervision.

"We are not a silver bullet for helping access to dental care, but we are a great tool," said Christy Jo Fogarty, a dental therapist in Minnesota, which in 2009 became the first state to broadly authorize and establish educational and training criteria for therapists. Often compared to a nurse practitioner, the therapist can perform more common procedures than dental hygienists, while leaving more complex tasks to licensed dentists.

Fogarty, a dental hygienist for 13 years before training to become a dental therapist, said her work includes fillings, temporary crowns and extractions. She regularly provides care in schools, Head Start centers and other community settings without a dentist physically present.

"We have kids who don't have to go to an emergency room for a toothache anymore," said Fogarty, one of more than 60 therapists in Minnesota.

In Massachusetts, with a higher rate of dentists per 100,000 residents than any other state, there were more than 36,000 visits to emergency rooms in 2014 for "preventable oral health" issues, costing the health care system as much as $36 million, according to an estimate by the state's Health Policy Commission.

Dentists often do not accept Medicaid because of low reimbursement rates, and dental procedures covered by the government insurance program vary from state to state.

"I can't tell you how many times I had to take my kids to an emergency room because of an abscessed tooth," said Maura Sullivan, who works for The Arc of Massachusetts, a group that advocates for people with disabilities and supports dental therapists. She said she struggled for years to find preventative dental care for her two sons, both with autism, in part because many dentists in her area would not accept Medicaid disability benefits.

Alaska has allowed dental therapists to work in tribal areas since 2004, and two other New England states, Maine in 2014 and Vermont in 2016, have since joined Minnesota in authorizing statewide programs. Proposals also are being considered in Arizona, Connecticut, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio and Texas. One recent North Dakota study found that Medicaid recipients suffered disproportionately from tooth decay and tooth loss, and conditions such as severe gingivitis.

Massachusetts dentists broke from the American Dental Association, a national organization that opposes the midlevel position, by filing a bill in January that would allow limited use of public health dental practitioners as part of a broader approach to improved oral health care.

"They could do any procedure that a dental hygienist can do, but if there is anything beyond that scope, it should be under direct supervision, which means a dentist needs to be there at the facility in case they develop a problem with an extraction or something like that," said Raymond Martin, president of the Massachusetts Dental Society.

The legislation would require practitioners to have at least two years of post-graduate level training and restrict them to serving only Medicaid patients or residents of "underserved" counties with a documented shortage of dentists.

Under a separate bill backed by Pew Charitable Trusts and other advocacy groups, dental therapists would work collaboratively with dentists but would be allowed to perform procedures under "general" rather than direct supervision — meaning a dentist would not have to be physically present. The measure would not specify the level of education for therapists but requires them to meet standards of a national dental accrediting commission.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: AP, Dawn Villella]]>
<![CDATA[Brain Scans May Detect Signs of Autism in Infants]]>Wed, 15 Feb 2017 20:57:36 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-5248112111.jpg

It may be possible to detect autism in babies before their first birthdays, a much earlier diagnosis than ever before, a small new study finds.

Using magnetic-resonance imaging scans, researchers at the University of North Carolina were able to predict — with an 80 percent accuracy rate — which babies who had an older sibling with autism would be diagnosed with the disorder, NBC News reported.

The brain imaging scans, taken at 6 months, at 12 months and again at 2 years, showed significant growth in brain volume during the first year in babies who would later meet the criteria for autism, such as not making eye contact, delaying speech or other displaying other developmental delays.

Parents who have a child with autism have a 2 percent to 18 percent increased risk of having a second child who is also affected, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.



Photo Credit: Sally Anscombe/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[South Florida Company Turns Cobra Venom Into Healing Treatment]]>Wed, 15 Feb 2017 19:42:41 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/021417+cobra+venom.jpg

When you think about Cobra venom, eventual death comes to mind. A South Florida company is changing the perception of the deadly venom.

Nutra Pharma Corp., a biotechnology company specializing in the acquisition, licensing and commercialization of pharmaceutical products and technologies,  has turned the toxin in the venom into treatment for pets and people.

The treatment fills medicine bottles at the facility in Plantation.

Tom Crutchfield, a herpetologist, says there’s really no need to be afraid of this potentially deadly snake.

“I always knew they were special even as a kid, because when I was a kid everybody hated snakes,” said Crutchfield.

He raises and handles the slithering creatures in his farm in Homestead.

Twice a month, Crutchfield milks the venom that will be used to help people and pets with chronic pain.

“The biodiversity on this planet never ceases to amaze me. And, the more we look, the more we find, the more medicines we find when we look at venoms and poisons and things like that. It’s amazing,” said Crutchfield.

The venom is taken to the Nutra Pharma lab, where it undergoes a process converting it from fluid to powder.

The product is then sold and marketed as Nyloxin, selling for $24.95.

“All the principle work has been in humans. So, the Nyloxin product is amazing. It’s non-addictive, no opiate, non-narcotic. In the last model, it outperformed morphine. It lasted six hours longer than morphine without any of the side effects,” explained Rik Deitsch, CEO of Nutra Pharma Corp.

Deitsch said the extracted venom is also good for pets. It’s sold as Pet Pain Away.

“The problem with pain medication for dogs and cats is there aren't a lot of choices,” said Deitsch.

The product comes as a spray and topical gel. The South Florida-based company says it has three patents on this specific healing formula.

Nutra Pharma says there are 46 published clinical studies about the product.

Nyloxin and Pet Pain Away are all natural and can also be used for auto immune diseases, viruses and pain. Every time the lab milks a cobra, more than 100 bottles of product are made.



Photo Credit: NBC Miami]]>
<![CDATA[NBC 4 New York & NY Giants Health & Fitness Expo]]>Thu, 07 May 2015 17:17:38 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/225*120/300x160_HFE.jpg]]><![CDATA[Sore Back? Try Heat and Exercise First, Guidelines Say]]>Tue, 14 Feb 2017 11:56:07 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/212*120/Back-Guy.jpg

Prescription drugs should only be a last resort as a treatment for lower back pain, a leading doctors' group said Monday.

NBC News reported on the new guidance from the American College of Physicians, which says doctors should tell patients to try heat wraps and exercise first, then over-the-counter drugs like ibuprofen (Tylenol has been shown to do little for back pain), before they prescribe opioids.

"Given that most patients with acute or subacute low back pain improve over time regardless of treatment, clinicians and patients should select nonpharmacologic treatment with superficial heat massage, acupuncture, or spinal manipulation," the group says in its new guidance, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Among the therapies that may help and have little risk of harm are tai chi, yoga and cognitive behavioral therapy, the group said.



Photo Credit: Getty Images, File]]>
<![CDATA[Aetna, Humana Call Off $34 Billion Deal]]>Tue, 14 Feb 2017 08:50:03 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/AP_16229419820877.jpg

Aetna and Humana called off a $34 billion proposal to combine the two major health insurers after a federal judge, citing antitrust concerns, shot down the deal.

The announcement Tuesday comes several days after another federal judge rejected a tie-up between two other massive insurers. Blue Cross-Blue Shield carrier Anthem is attempting to buy Cigna for $48 billion. Anthem has vowed to appeal that decision.

Aetna, the nation's third largest insurer, had announced its bid for Humana in 2015. The deal would have given Aetna the opportunity to significantly expand its presence in the fast-growing market for Medicare Advantage plans, privately run versions of the federal Medicare program for people who are over 65 or disabled.

But Aetna's attempt to gobble up the nation's fifth largest health insurer brought in the Department of Justice, which sued to block the deal last summer.

U.S. District Judge John Bates wrote in the decision last month that neither new competition nor plans to shed some of the combined company's businesses would be enough to ease antitrust concerns. Federal regulation would likely be "insufficient to prevent the merged firm from raising prices or reducing benefits," Bates ruled.

Aetna Chairman and CEO Mark Bertolini said in a company release Tuesday that "the current environment makes it too challenging to continue pursuing the transaction."

Humana is entitled to a $1 billion breakup fee, which would amount to about $630 million after taxes. The Louisville, Kentucky, insurer says it will announce its 2017 forecast and provide an update on its strategic plan after markets close Tuesday.

Aetna is based in Hartford, Connecticut.

The two deals blocked in federal courts would have melded the nation's five largest insurers into three, with UnitedHealth Group Inc. currently the biggest.

The insurers have argued that growing through acquisitions would allow them to better negotiate prices with pharmaceutical companies, hospitals and doctor groups that also are merging and growing larger. They also expect to cut expenses and add more customers, which helps them spread out the cost of investing in technology to manage and improve care.

Insurers have also said that combining would help them stabilize their business on the Affordable Care Act's public insurance exchanges.

But the American Medical Association said last week, after the Anthem-Cigna deal was shot down, that a merger would have created a health care behemoth too large to regulate and with too much control over the lives of consumers.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: AP, File]]>
<![CDATA[Firstborns Get Intellectual Advantage Over Siblings: Study]]>Mon, 13 Feb 2017 16:04:28 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/160*122/GettyImages-73781080.jpg

Firstborn children are set up for more academic and intellectual success, according to a new study that delved into nearly 40 years of data.

Today.com reported that firstborn babies and toddlers started scoring better on cognitive tests than their younger siblings at the same age, and the advantage continued through their lives.

The study was published in the Journal of Human Resources and based its findings on the Children of the National Longitudinal Survey of the Youth, which included information on thousands of Americans 14-21 years old who were interviewed several times starting in 1979.

“First-time parents tend to want to do everything right and generally have a greater awareness of their interactions with and investments in the firstborn," co-author Jee-Yeon K. Lehmann, an economist at the Analysis Group in Boston, told "Today."



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Shoveling Snow Can Be Deadly for Men: Study]]>Mon, 13 Feb 2017 14:45:47 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-462353044.jpg

Men are more likely to have a heart attack after a snowfall, probably from shoveling snow, according to Canadian researchers.

NBC News reported that researchers found a slight increase in heart attacks and deaths following a storm in Quebec. With each day of snow, these likelihoods increased. A single day of snowfall raised a man’s risk of heart attack by just less than one percent, the researchers reported in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

“Men are potentially more likely than women to shovel, particularly after heavy snowfalls,” researchers wrote. “Snow shoveling is a demanding cardiovascular exercise require more than 75 percent of the maximum heart rate, particularly with heavy loads.”

The study found that men were one-third more likely to die after an eight-inch snowfall compared to a dry day. Researchers did not find a similar trend with women.



Photo Credit: Getty Images, File]]>
<![CDATA[Woman Praises 911 Dispatcher]]>Sun, 12 Feb 2017 06:29:37 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/258*120/170211-911-dispatcherJPG.JPG

There were happy tears all around Saturday at the Corona Police Department when a woman met the 911 dispatcher who helped save her husband’s life.

On Jan. 21, Carolyn Evans called 911. Her husband, 65-year-old Jeff Evans, had suffered a heart attack and wasn’t breathing.

“His face is turning purple,” Carolyn Evans can be heard saying to the dispatcher in the 911 call.

Elise Rodriguez, the voice on the other end, kept Carolyn Evans calm and walked her through two rounds of CPR until paramedics arrived four minutes later.

“I want you to put the heel of your hand on the breast bone in the center of his chest,” Rodriguez instructed. “I want you to count out loud with me."

Even as the paramedics arrived and continued to administer life-saving care, Evans said Rodriguez deserves tremendous credit.

"She really walked me through the whole thing. I’d never done it,” Evan said. “I’ve been told about it. My daughter told us, but I've never done it. And [Rodriguez] perfectly walked me through it.”

For Rodriguez, it’s all part of the job, but she said it’s nice to hear about the end result and meet Evans’ family.

“When I found out from one of the officers initially on scene that he survived, I was really excited about that,” Rodriguez said. “You always hope for the best, but you have no idea what happens once they've been taken away.”

Jeff Evans had two stints put in and was put into a medically induced coma. But three weeks after his heart attack, he’s recovering well.

On Saturday, Evans, his wife and his 11 grandchildren wanted to thank the dispatchers and first responders who helped make that recovery possible.

“I’m able to read and comprehend,” Jeff Evans said. “It’s a miracle. I don’t understand it, but I’m good.”



Photo Credit: KNBC-TV ]]>
<![CDATA[US Judge Blocks Anthem-Cigna Health Insurance Merger]]>Thu, 09 Feb 2017 04:17:29 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/gavel-generic-stock.jpg

A federal judge on Wednesday rejected Anthem Inc.'s bid to buy rival health insurer Cigna Corp., saying the merger would likely lead to higher costs, less competition and diminished innovation.

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson said the merger would significantly reduce competition in the already concentrated insurance market, particularly for large national employers. Cigna and Anthem are two of just four insurers selling to companies with 5,000 employees spread across multiple states, and they compete aggressively for business, the judge wrote.

Berman Jackson was unconvinced by Anthem's argument that the merged company could save money for customers by combining the two insurers' different approaches to cost saving. Anthem has negotiated lower payments to doctors and hospitals, while Cigna has higher upfront expenses for wellness in the hopes of reducing future health expenses.

"Eliminating this competition from the marketplace would diminish the opportunity for the firms' ideas to be tested and refined, when this is just the sort of innovation the antitrust rules are supposed to foster," she wrote.

Anthem officials are reviewing the decision, spokeswoman Jill Belcher said. She declined to comment.

Last month, another federal judge rejected Aetna's roughly $34-billion bid to buy rival Humana, citing in part concerns about competition in hundreds of Medicare advantage markets.

Washington, D.C.-based U.S. District Judge John Bates said in an opinion filed Jan. 23 that federal regulation would probably be "insufficient to prevent the merged firm from raising prices or reducing benefits." He added that neither new competitors nor an Aetna plan to sell some of the combined company's business to another insurer, Molina Healthcare Inc., would be enough to ease competitive concerns.

An Aetna spokesman has said the company is strongly considering an appeal.

The Justice Department had sued last summer to block both deals, and the cases went to trial late last year.

The two deals would have consolidated the nation's five largest insurers into three, a list that includes UnitedHealth Group Inc., currently the largest.

The insurers have argued that by getting bigger they will be able to negotiate better prices with pharmaceutical companies, hospitals and doctor groups that also are growing. They also expect to cut expenses and add more customers, which helps them spread out the cost of investing in technology to manage and improve care.

Industry experts have said any consumer impact from these deals would take years to materialize and could lead to savings in some areas, along with higher costs elsewhere.

The American Medical Association cheered the ruling, saying the merger would have created a health care behemoth too big to regulate and with too much control over consumers' lives.

"In a David vs. Goliath battle between consumers and mega insurers, a federal judge today ruled that Anthem's proposed acquisition of Cigna poses a clear and present threat to the quality, accessibility and affordability of health care in the United States," Dr. Andrew Gurman, the AMA president, said in a statement.

Anthem CEO Joseph Swedish also has said the $48-billion Cigna deal would help stabilize pricing in the volatile public exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act. He has said that would enable his company to keep its commitment to the public exchanges, a statement seen by some as a sign that Anthem might slash that business if the deal falls through.

The Indianapolis-based insurer, which sells Blue Cross-Blue Shield coverage in key markets like California and New York, offers plans on exchanges in 14 states and covers 839,000 people.

Many insurers have struggled developing their business on the exchanges. Swedish said on Feb. 1 that his company is waiting to see whether the government can make some sort-term fixes for these markets before it decides how much it will participate next year.

He said Anthem is concerned about a health insurance tax and special enrollment periods that expensive customers use to sign up for coverage only when they need insurance, among other issues.

The Justice Department has pushed aggressively in recent years to block deals in several industries that they say will reduce competition. The Swedish company Electrolux and oil and gas service provider Haliburton both walked away from multi-billion-dollar deals after being sued by regulators.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto]]>
<![CDATA[Clinic Falsely Told Dozens They Had Alzheimer's, Suits Say ]]>Wed, 08 Feb 2017 10:05:40 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/AP_17027638904199-sm.jpg

Shawn Blazsek knew a string of concussions from high school football and boxing was catching up with him. He would go days without sleeping and was forgetting how to tie his shoes. Still, at age 33, he was stunned after being told he had Alzheimer's disease.

He started planning out who would take care of his four kids if something happened to his wife, and thought about how hard it would be for them when he could no longer recognize his family. So he stuffed fistfuls of sleeping pills into a bottle and wrote himself a note, vowing to swallow all of them when he wasn't able to remember the names of his children.

That day never came. Nine months later, he learned that the memory-loss center director who diagnosed him didn't have a medical or psychology license needed to do so. Then another test confirmed he did not have Alzheimer's.

He is one of more than 50 people suing the now-closed clinic's former director and its owner, saying they, too, were told they had Alzheimer's or another form of dementia. Most now know it's not true, while a few are awaiting confirmation.

Some say they spent months undergoing treatment while planning out their final years. Some quit their jobs, sold possessions or took one last special trip. One killed himself.

Blazsek crammed years of fatherly advice into a matter of months, showing his son how to check the oil on a car and teaching his wife about the household finances.

"I was preparing her to be a single mom," he said.

The couple figured he had no more than 10 years to live and even less time before his memory was gone.

"Here I am, thinking I'm going to be a widow at 43. What am I going to do?" said his wife, Jennifer. "Who's going to teach my boys how to shave? Who's going to play ball with them?"

So far, the case has yet to result in any charges against Sherry-Ann Jenkins, who opened the Toledo Clinic Cognitive Center in early 2015 through the Toledo Clinic, a multi-specialty medical center with more than 150 doctors.

Attorneys on both sides would not say whether there is a criminal investigation, although court records indicate the Ohio Medical Board has talked with some of the patients.

The lawsuits say that Jenkins, who has a doctorate degree in physiological science, wasn't authorized to order medical tests and that her husband, a licensed doctor who is a partner in the Toledo Clinic, signed off on the tests and was sometimes listed as the referring physician on billing even though he did not see any of the patients.

An attorney for the couple would not answer questions about the cognitive clinic, which abruptly shut down after about a year in early 2016. Jenkins and her husband did not respond to messages seeking comment.

In court filings responding to the lawsuits, each of which seeks more than $1 million in damages, their attorney did not dispute that Jenkins was unlicensed but denied most of the other allegations.

The former patients have sued the Toledo Clinic, as well, saying it should have known Jenkins lacked the training and credentials to treat and diagnose patients. Michael D'Eramo, chief administrative officer of the Toledo Clinic, said he could not comment.

Some describe her as compassionate and easy to talk with, saying she ended therapy sessions by telling them to give her a hug. At her suggestion, a few patients appeared in articles touting the benefits of her holistic treatments, which included memory games and daily doses of coconut oil. But they also say she fought hard against medication and getting a second opinion.

Nearly all of those diagnosed by Jenkins began seeing her after suffering traumatic brain injuries or worsening cognitive issue. Some, like Blazsek, are continuing treatment with other doctors.

Attorney David Zoll, who is representing those suing Jenkins, said that it's not clear how many patients she saw and that others might not know they were misdiagnosed with Alzheimer's. More than 30 people added their names to the lawsuits late last month.

He said he believes she was motivated by greed, saying several patients were overbilled. The cognitive clinic grew rapidly, he noted.

"Many times she would see the first person and have them bring in their whole family," Zoll said. "And many times she would diagnose the whole family."

Kay Taynor was diagnosed with Alzheimer's on her second visit to Jenkins and then referred five or six friends and family members to her office, including her husband of 48 years. All were told they had the disease, she said, but her husband, Gary, took it hardest.

"He's got a smile that just lights up the room, and I never saw it again," she said. "He just sunk in his chair. To me, he never stood up again. He was never tall again. He gave up."

Gary fell into depression, spending his final weeks sitting in a chair with his hands in his lap until he went into their garage and shot himself in the head, she said. An autopsy did not show any signs of Alzheimer's, she said.

Don Tanner said he, too, felt like taking his own life.

He was sent to the clinic for therapy in February 2015 after suffering a severe brain injury in a fall. The trauma of healing while dealing with the devastating diagnosis of Alzheimer's became unbearable.

"She gave me a death sentence," said Tanner, who told his wife he wanted to jump off a bridge and then thought about wandering off into the marsh behind their home with his gun.

He had seen firsthand how Alzheimer's gradually erodes someone while caring for his dad. He spent many days shaving and dressing his father, who died only months before Tanner's own diagnosis.

"It was just cemented in my mind that I wasn't going to put my family through that," he said.

His wife enlisted their daughters and friends to stay with him while she was at work, fearing what she'd find when she returned. "If he had a bad day, I didn't know where that would send him," said his wife, Monica.

It wasn't until last summer — after the clinic had closed — that a new doctor told him there was no way he had Alzheimer's.

"God must have been on my side, because I didn't go out there and get that damn gun," Tanner said. "But man I thought of it. Something kept telling me it's not there yet."

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Kids Are Trying Potentially Harmful E-Cigarette Hack]]>Tue, 07 Feb 2017 07:25:07 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/AP_34020085243.jpg

As many as a quarter of U.S. kids who are using e-cigarettes may be taking them apart and "dripping" — a method that gives them more vapor but a potentially higher hit of nicotine, researchers reported Monday, according to NBC News.

They recommended more research into whether it's more dangerous for kids, and experts said parents should ask their kids if they've tried it.

"E-cigarettes are also being used for 'dripping,' which involves vaporizing the e-liquid at high temperatures by dripping a couple of drops of e-liquid directly onto an atomizer's coil and then immediately inhaling the vapor that is produced," Dr. Suchitra Krishnan-Sarin of Yale University and colleagues reported in the journal Pediatrics.

"Among 1,080 ever e-cigarette users, 26.1 percent of students reported ever using e-cigarettes for dripping. Reasons for dripping included produced thicker clouds of vapor (63.5 percent), made flavors taste better (38.7 percent), produced a stronger throat hit (27.7 percent)," they added.



Photo Credit: AP Photo/Frank Franklin II]]>
<![CDATA[9.2 Million Signed Up for Obamacare in 2017]]>Fri, 03 Feb 2017 21:35:00 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/180*120/Obacare.jpg

Facing higher premiums, less choice and a last-minute advertising pullback, fewer people signed up for coverage this year through HealthCare.gov, according to data from a preliminary government report Friday.

About 9.2 million people signed up through HealthCare.gov, the insurance marketplace serving most states, said the Health and Human Services department. That's about 500,000 fewer customers than had enrolled last year in those same 39 states, or slippage of around 5 percent.

The report doesn't include figures from 11 states that run their own health insurance markets — including California and New York — so the final national number will be higher. But the preliminary report is being closely watched, because President Donald Trump and the GOP-led Congress have vowed to repeal the Obama-era health law and replace it with a plan yet to emerge.

Insurance markets created by former President Barack Obama's law provide subsidized private coverage for people who don't have access to health care through their jobs. Along with a Medicaid expansion aimed at low-income adults, the Affordable Care Act has helped millions get coverage, reducing the nation's uninsured rate to a historic low of about 9 percent.

But even before Trump's election victory, the ACA's markets were facing double-digit premium increases and a sharp drop in insurer participation. Although most customers receive taxpayer subsidies for their premiums, the increases averaged more than 20 percent nationally and much higher in several states.

The night he was inaugurated, Trump signed an executive order directing his administration to provide relief from "Obamacare." That was interpreted as a signal that officials would waive the law's tax penalties meant to nudge uninsured people to sign up. Then last week the administration pulled back about $5 million in ads that were part of a closing bid to woo the uninsured. Former Obama administration officials cried foul.

Trump administration spokesman Matt Lloyd said Friday that "Obamacare has failed" and the new president looks forward to providing relief through "patient-centered solutions that will work for the American people."

But independent analysts said the report also highlights the challenges that Trump and the GOP Congress will face trying to deliver on their promises without disrupting coverage for millions. That includes many people in states that Trump won in November, among them Florida (1.8 million); Texas (1.2 million); North Carolina (549,000); Georgia (494,000), and Pennsylvania (426,000).

"While enrollment is down, this does not exactly paint a picture of a program collapsing," said Larry Levitt of the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation.

"Enrollment had been tracking on pace with last year, but sign-ups slowed down in the final weeks of open enrollment," said Caroline Pearson of the consulting firm Avalere Health. The controversy over unwinding the health care law may have contributed, she said.

Nonetheless, Pearson said the demand for coverage "remains strong." She added, "Policymakers will need to consider how forthcoming changes will impact those currently purchasing coverage."

Supporters of the health care law, trying to beat back or blunt efforts to repeal it, blamed the Trump administration for the lackluster number.

Ron Pollack, executive director of the advocacy group Families USA, said Trump had tried to "sabotage" enrollment.

"Millions of consumers still got their insurance through the ACA," said Pollack. "The Republican rush to repeal the ACA without a replacement will do real harm to real people."

A final, national enrollment report isn't due until next month. Some of the 11 state-run insurance markets, including California, have extended open enrollment through Saturday. Washington, DC, also runs its own insurance market. HealthCare.gov's sign-up season ended Jan. 31.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: HealthCare.gov]]>
<![CDATA[Laundry Pod-Linked Eye Injuries Surged in Small Kids: Study]]>Fri, 03 Feb 2017 11:12:11 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-453144893.jpg

Liquid laundry packets are responsible for a surge in eye injuries in young children, according to new medical research.

The pods are already under scrutiny after thousands of incidents of kids mistaking them for toys or candy, the "Today" show reported. But chemical burns to the eyes of preschool-aged kids caused by the packets jumped 32-fold between 2012 and 2015, according to a report published in JAMA Ophthalmology.

The report noted that by the end of 2015, liquid laundry packet-involved eye injuries represented more than one in four chemical eye burns in children 3-4 years old.

An industry group says that voluntary safety standards meant to prevent such injuries were put in place after the period covered in the data.



Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto]]>
<![CDATA[Insurers Mull Exit From Exchanges or Price Hikes]]>Thu, 02 Feb 2017 16:52:51 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Obamacare-AP_30213472209.jpg

The Affordable Care Act's insurance exchanges have become too risky for major health insurers, and that's creating further doubt about coverage options consumers might have next year.

Anthem CEO Joseph Swedish said Wednesday his company is waiting to see whether the government makes some short-term fixes to the shaky exchanges before it decides how much it will participate next year. The Blue Cross-Blue Shield carrier is the nation's second largest insurer and sells coverage on exchanges in 14 states.

This is a separate and more immediate concern for consumers beyond whether the ACA will continue to exist. Congressional Republicans and President Donald Trump have vowed to repeal and replace the law. Republicans have promised they won't strand those now covered under the program, but they also haven't detailed their replacement plan.

Even if parts of the law continue to exist in some form, as many expect, the insurance exchanges through which millions have bought coverage are in peril. Swedish told Wall Street analysts during a conference call that if Anthem doesn't see stability in the exchanges heading into next year, "then we will begin making some very conscious decisions with respect to extracting ourselves."

The enrollment window for 2018 coverage is still several months away, but insurers have to decide by this spring whether they will participate.

Aetna, the nation's third largest insurer, said Tuesday that it will announce by April 1 whether it will stay in any of the four states where it currently sells coverage. Aetna said it lost $450 million last year on its ACA-compliant coverage — a big hit from a small slice of its overall business.

The losses that insurers have taken from coverage sold on these state-based exchanges in recent years have already prompted some to scale back their participation or raise rates, often dramatically. The higher prices and dwindling choices have made the markets unappealing for many consumers.

Insurers say they've struggled to attract young, healthy customers to their risk pools to help keep coverage costs in check. They also say they've been hurt by expensive customers who use special enrollment periods to sign up for coverage only when they need help paying big medical bills.

Swedish, the Anthem CEO, said Wednesday that his company has had extensive talks with Congressional leaders. Anthem would like to see fewer special enrollment periods and better verification of patients who are eligible, as well as the repeal of a health insurance tax and other fixes.

"While the direction in Washington has been positive, we still need certainty about short-term fixes in order to determine the extent of our participation in the individual market in 2018," he said.

Separately, Tennessee insurance commissioner Julie McPeak told a US Senate panel Wednesday that Congress needs to send the industry a clear signal by March to avoid disrupting the individual health insurance market for 2018.

"You need to provide some indication to plans as a quickly as possible," she told the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee.

Representatives of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services did not respond Wednesday to requests for comment on the exchanges.

Congress may wind up addressing several insurer concerns, but short-term fixes may not be enough to guarantee 2018 exchange participation, according to Gary Claxton, an insurance expert at the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation.

Claxton thinks insurers also will watch closely the debate over the fate of the ACA and, with it, the long-term prospects of the individual insurance market.

"Insurers really have to believe they see a future for a little while longer to continue to invest," he said.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: ap]]>
<![CDATA[Repeal of Health Law Could Mean Women Pay More For Less]]>Thu, 02 Feb 2017 14:55:20 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/180*120/ACA.jpg

From a return to higher premiums based on gender, to gaps in coverage for birth control and breast pumps, experts say women could end up paying more for less if the Obama-era health care law is repealed.

The 2010 law ended a common industry practice of charging women more than men for policies purchased directly from an insurer. It made maternity and newborn care a required benefit for individual health plans. And it set a list of preventive services to be provided at no extra cost to women, including birth control and breast pumps used by nursing mothers. That preventive care requirement also applies to most employer plans.

Nearly half of pregnancies are unplanned, and prior to "Obamacare" some women would get pregnant only to learn that their insurance did not cover maternity and delivery, said Dr. John Meigs, a longtime family practitioner in the small town of Centerville, Alabama.

"A lot of women were delaying their prenatal care until they could figure out what to do," said Meigs, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians. Pregnancy "is one of those things that ought to be covered, because it happens."

Democrats are keying in on the issue as they try to block or blunt the GOP drive to repeal the Affordable Care Act. "We don't want our country going backward when it comes to women's health," said Sen. Patty Murray, ranking Democrat on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

Women are widely seen as having benefited from the health law. In a recent AP-NORC poll, 44 percent said they thought women were better off as a result of the law, while only 24 percent said women were worse off.

"The ACA set minimum levels of benefits that health plans have to cover and many are highly used, or exclusively used by women," said Usha Ranji, a health policy expert with the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation. "Repeal and replace could take away that minimum level of benefits, which includes really commonly used services like contraception and maternity care."

Nashville-based singer Rachel Potter worries about what it could mean for her. She says she was lucky to be covered under the ACA when she unexpectedly became pregnant last year.

Bleeding early on and other complications sent her to the doctor's office frequently.

"We were able to monitor the pregnancy really closely," said Potter. "I was able to go to an amazing OB-GYN and I wouldn't have had access to that care if I had not been on this insurance." Her son Jude was born in December and is already on the road with her.

Potter's medical bill came to more than $40,000, but she only paid about $2,000 of that.

She's now thinking about getting a long-lasting form of birth control while her insurer is still required to cover it at no charge to her. "I don't know the future of the health insurance situation," said Potter.

Five doctor groups representing about 500,000 clinicians on Thursday called for maintaining the ACA's women's benefits, along with other protections. The groups include family physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American College of Physicians, and the American Osteopathic Association.

A Trump administration spokesman says speculation about components of an "Obamacare" replacement is premature.

Recently introduced legislation that seeks a middle path on health care would keep some of the Obama-era requirements, but make others a state option.

The bill co-authored by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, would allow states to keep the ACA or substitute an alternative with fewer federal requirements.

Under that approach, insurance plans in states that pick the alternative would not be required to cover maternity and newborn care. However, plans in all states would have to cover the ACA's preventive benefits, including birth control. Collins staff said the draft bill is a starting point.

Some "Obamacare" critics argue that required benefits for women have driven up costs for others, for example young men who don't need maternity care. Other experts say the impact on premiums is modest compared to provisions of the law such as guaranteed coverage for people with medical problems and tighter limits on how much older adults can be charged.

"Relative to other market changes, there is no indication that required coverage for women's health benefits was a primary driver of premium increases," said Caroline Pearson of the consulting firm Avalere Health.

Ranji, of the Kaiser Foundation, says the ACA made significant improvements for women. Before the law:

  • Pregnancy, a prior cesarean-section, a history of domestic violence, or problems with depression could be deemed a pre-existing condition, triggering restrictions on coverage or higher premiums.

  • About one-third of plans on the individual insurance market charged women between the age of 25 and 40 premiums at least 30 percent higher than men of the same age.

  • Only about 12 percent of plans available directly to individuals included maternity care.

  • About 20 percent of women of childbearing age covered by large employers spent some of their own money on birth control pills. Currently it's fewer than 4 percent.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes]]>
<![CDATA[Tackle Food Safety: Keep Your Food Safe on Game Day]]>Thu, 02 Feb 2017 14:38:06 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Screen+Shot+2017-02-02+at+2.25.05+PM.pngThe U.S. Food and Drug Administration released a list of food safety tips for Super Bowl party hosts.]]><![CDATA[Science Could Soon Develop Eggs, Sperm From Skin Cells]]>Thu, 02 Feb 2017 07:46:46 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/180*120/170131-babies-mn-1600.jpg

The world is on the brink of another revolution thanks to an emerging technology called in vitro gametogenesis, or IVG, which would allow doctors to develop eggs and sperm from a surprising source: skin cells, NBC News reported.

These reproductive cells could then be used to create fertilized embryos to be implanted into a woman's uterus (or, someday, an artificial womb).

Researchers in Japan created viable eggs from the skin cells of adult female mice, which were then fertilized with naturally derived sperm from male mice.

Using the same process in people isn't exactly feasible, so scientists need to find another way to turn primordial germ cells into mature eggs in vitro.

"It's a technology that will come someday, but the question is when and whether it will be completely safe," says Zev Rosenwaks, director of the Center for Reproductive Medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York.



Photo Credit: Blaine Harrington III/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Tuesday Night Is Deadline for Obamacare Coverage]]>Tue, 31 Jan 2017 08:21:19 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/OBAMACARE_AP_16320806519240.jpg

Overnight Tuesday is the deadline to sign up for coverage under the federal health care law. Even if the ultimate fate of Obamacare is uncertain, there's been no change for this year. About 11.5 million people had enrolled as of Dec. 24.

The deadline is midnight Pacific time in the 39 states served by HealthCare.gov, the government said. States with their own insurance websites may have different deadlines.

Although premiums are up significantly this year, more than 8 in 10 customers get subsidies, and more than half qualify for extra help with deductibles and copays.

President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans have promised to repeal and replace the Obama-era law, but without creating disruptions for millions already covered.

Consumers can enroll online or call 1-800-318-2596.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York

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<![CDATA[NJ Health Officials: Infant May Have Spread Measles]]>Tue, 31 Jan 2017 06:24:15 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/measles3.jpg

Health officials in New Jersey say that an infant with measles may have exposed people in Passaic County to the highly contagious disease.

The New Jersey DOH said that the 7-month-old infant traveled internationally before returning to the state in mid-to-late January.

Locations of potential exposure include:

• St. Joseph’s Wayne Hospital, 224 Hamburg Tpke., Wayne, NJ 07470:

o Jan. 21, between 6:50 a.m. and 1 p.m.

• Pediatric Emergency Department at St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center, 703 Main St., Paterson, NJ 07503:

o Jan. 23, between 6:30 a.m. and 3:45 p.m.

Health officials said that anyone exposed to the infant could develop symptoms as late as Feb. 15.

The infant was recovering at home on Monday. Officials said the case is not related to the Hudson County man who got measles while traveling internationally.

The airborne illness can cause serious complications such as pneumonia and swelling of the brain in 20 percent of patients. Measles symptoms include rash, high fever, cough, runny nose and red, watery eyes.

Health officials say children younger than 5 years old and adults older than 20 are especially at risk. Pregnant women who contract the virus can suffer a miscarriage.

Anyone who hasn't been vaccinated or hasn't had measles is at risk if exposed to the virus, officials said.

For more information on what to do if you've been exposed to measles, take a look at this PDF or visit the state's website to learn more about the illness.

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<![CDATA[Little Girls Doubt That Women Can Be Brilliant, Study Shows]]>Fri, 27 Jan 2017 12:02:57 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/education-nation169271319.jpg

Can women be brilliant? Little girls are not so sure.

A study published Thursday in the journal Science suggests that girls as young as 6 can be led to believe men are inherently smarter and more talented than women, making girls less motivated to pursue novel activities or ambitious careers. That such stereotypes exist is hardly a surprise, but the findings show these biases can affect children at a very young age.

"As a society, we associate a high level of intellectual ability with males more than females, and our research suggests that this association is picked up by children as young 6 and 7," said Andrei Cimpian, associate professor in the psychology department at New York University. Cimpian coauthored the study, which looked at 400 children ages 5-7.

In the first part of the study, girls and boys were told a story about a person who is "really, really smart," a child's idea of brilliance, and then asked to identify that person among the photos of two women and two men. The people in the photos were dressed professionally, looked the same age and appeared equally happy. At 5, both boys and girls tended to associate brilliance with their own gender, meaning that most girls chose women and most boys chose men.

But as they became older and began attending school, children apparently began endorsing gender stereotypes. At 6 and 7, girls were "significantly less likely" to pick women. The results were similar when the kids were shown photos of children.

Interestingly, when asked to select children who look like they do well in school, as opposed to being smart, girls tended to pick girls, which means that their perceptions of brilliance are not based on academic performance.

"These stereotypes float free of any objective markers of achievement and intelligence," Cimpian said.

In the second part of the study, children were introduced to two new board games, one described as an activity "for children who are really, really smart" and the other one "for children who try really, really hard." Five-year-old girls and boys were equally likely to want to play the game for smart kids, but at age 6 and 7, boys still wanted to play that game, while girls opted for the other activity.

"There isn't anything about the game itself that becomes less interesting for girls, but rather it's the description of it as being for kids that are really, really smart."

As a result, believing that they are not as gifted as boys, girls tend to shy away from demanding majors and fields, leading to big differences in aspirations and career choices between men and women. "These stereotypes discourage women's pursuit of many prestigious careers; that is, women are underrepresented in fields whose members cherish brilliance," the authors wrote.

It is still unclear where the stereotypes come from. Parents, teachers and peers and the media are the usual suspects, Cimpian said. But it is evident that action must be taken so that these biases don't curtail girls' professional aspirations. "Instill the idea that success in any line of work is not an innate ability, whatever it is, but rather putting your head down, being passionate about what you are doing," Cimpian said, adding that exposure to successful women who can serve as role models also helps.

Toy companies like Mattel, maker of the Barbie doll, have taken steps to try to reduce gender stereotypes. Mattel's "You can be anything" Barbie campaign tells girls that they can be paleontologists, veterinarians or professors, among other careers. The campaign also holds out the possibility that a girl can imagine herself to be a fairy princess.

Rebecca S. Bigler, professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, described Cimpian's study "as exceptionally nice work." She suggested that the stereotypes develop in early elementary school when students are exposed to famous scientists, composers and writers, the "geniuses" of history, who are overwhelmingly men. Bigler said it is important to combine that knowledge with information on gender discrimination.

"We need to explain to children that laws were created specifically to prevent women from becoming great scientists, artists, composers, writers, explorers, and leaders," Bigler added. "Children will then be ... more likely to believe in their own intellectual potential and contribute to social justice and equally by pursuing these careers themselves."

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: Getty Images/Caiaimage]]>
<![CDATA[NJ Becomes 1st State to Offer New Parents Free ‘Baby Boxes’]]>Fri, 27 Jan 2017 15:57:54 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/baby+box+new+jersey.jpg

New Jersey has become the first state where expectant parents can get a free "Baby Box" for their newborn.

The Baby Box Co. announced the Baby Box University program on Thursday. The global integrated program looks to reduce Sudden Unexpected Infant Death Syndrome (SUIDS) and provide a safe start for newborns in the state by providing their parents with potentially life-saving boxes.

The boxes, which are made from a durable cardboard, can be used as a baby's bed for the first months of life. Inside, the box contains diapers, wipes, and other goodies that are worth about $150. 

Expectant parents in New Jersey just need to complete a short parenting education course online to get their free baby box.

 The Baby

The New Jersey Child Fatality and Near Fatality Review Board (CFNFRB) is supporting the program using a grant from the CDC, which reviews fatalities and near-fatalities of children in order to identify their causes, relationship to governmental support systems, and methods of prevention.

The program will distribute approximately 105,000 Baby Boxes in 2017, according to Baby Box Co.

The use of baby boxes has been credited with helping Finland achieve one of the world’s lowest infant mortality rates.

"I'm grateful to the Child Fatality and Near Fatality Review Board for their efforts to promote infant safe sleep," said Commissioner Allison Blake of the New Jersey Department of Children and Families. "Through greater awareness and education, and by working together, we can make sleep time safe time for babies."

"Every year we review instances in which infants die suddenly and unexpectedly," said CFNFRB chair Kathryn McCans.

"In a significant proportion of these deaths, an unsafe sleep circumstance is a contributing factor. Baby Box University will help families make safe and healthy choices for their children by educating them about simple changes that will decrease the risk that a death will occur due to an unsafe sleep environment or SIDS."

The use of Baby Boxes has been credited with helping Finland achieve one of the world's lowest infant mortality rates. The initiative is credited with helping to decrease Finland's infant mortality rate from 65 deaths for each 1,000 children born in 1938 to 1.3 deaths per 1,000 births in 2013, according to the World Health Organization.

Parents can pick up their baby boxes at Cooper University Healthcare, Southern New Jersey Perinatal Cooperative and other locations. They can also have them delivered to their home.

Here’s how New Jersey parents can get a free baby box:

1. Register for free online at babyboxuniversity.com as a New Jersey resident. Be sure to include your correct contact information, including mailing address.

2. Watch the 10-15 minute New Jersey syllabus at babyboxuniversity.com. After taking a short quiz, you will receive a certificate of completion and be able to select local pick-up or direct delivery of your Baby Box.

3. If you select direct delivery, your Baby Box will ship to the address you provided when you registered on Baby Box University. If you select local pick up, bring your Baby Box University certificate to the closest participating distribution partner to collect your Baby Box.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: Baby Box Co.]]>
<![CDATA[Gore Revives Climate, Health Summit Canceled by CDC]]>Thu, 26 Jan 2017 22:21:46 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-519674944.jpg

A conference on climate change and health is back on but apparently minus the U.S. government.

Several organizers including former Vice President Al Gore have resurrected the meeting set for next month in Atlanta.

The government's top public health agency had planned the conference with the American Public Health Association (APHA), then canceled it in December without explanation.

The APHA says Gore, one of two keynote speakers, stepped in to help keep the meeting alive, NBC News reported.

"I was minding my own business and he picked up the phone and called me," APHA executive director Dr. Georges Benjamin told NBC News.

The decision to hold the meeting was hatched by Benjamin's group, Gore, the University of Washington and the Harvard Global Health Institute.

The one-day meeting is moving from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to the Carter Center. 

"It's going to be on climate and health, and in many ways it's going to be a very different meeting," Benjamin said.

Benjamin said he doesn't know if government officials will attend; many had been scheduled to speak at the conference .

An after-hours message to the CDC was not immediately returned.

A recent report by the U.S. government said global warming is a national public health problem. It said climate change is increasing the risk of respiratory problems and spread of disease from insects.

"Some of these health impacts are already underway in the United States," the report said.

In 2015, an international global health commission organized by the British medical journal Lancet said that hundreds of thousands of lives a year are at stake as global warming "threatens to undermine the last half century of gains in development and global health."

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Scientists Take First Steps to Growing Human Organs in Pigs]]>Fri, 27 Jan 2017 07:12:13 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/pig-embryo-research-salk-institute.jpg

Scientists have grown human cells inside pig embryos, a very early step toward the goal of growing livers and other human organs in animals to transplant into people.

The cells made up just a tiny part of each embryo, and the embryos were grown for only a few weeks, researchers reported Thursday.

Such human-animal research has raised ethical concerns. The U.S. government suspended taxpayer funding of experiments in 2015. The new work, done in California and Spain, was paid for by private foundations.

Any growing of human organs in pigs is "far away," said Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte of the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California, an author of the paper in the journal Cell.

He said the new research is "just a very early step toward the goal."

Even before that is achieved, he said, putting human cells in animals could pay off for studies of how genetic diseases develop and for screening potential drugs.

Animals with cells from different species are called chimeras. Such mixing has been done before with mice and rats. Larger animals like pigs would be needed to make human-sized organs. That could help ease the shortage of human donors for transplants.

The Salk team is working on making humanized pancreases, hearts and livers in pigs. The animals would grow those organs in place of their own, and they'd be euthanized before the organ is removed.

Most of the organ cells would be human. By injecting pig embryos with stem cells from the person who will get the transplant, the problem of rejection should be minimized, said another Salk researcher, Jun Wu.

Daniel Garry of the University of Minnesota, who is working on chimeras but didn't participate in the new work, called the Cell paper "an exciting initial step for this entire field."

Here's what the new paper reports:

Scientists used human stem cells, which are capable of producing a wide variety of specialized cells. They injected pig embryos made in the lab with three to 10 of those cells apiece, and implanted the embryos into sows. At three to four weeks of development, 186 embryos were removed and examined.

Less than 1 in every 100,000 embryonic cells was human, which still comes to about a million human cells, Wu said. That contribution is lower than expected, he said, "but we were very happy to see we actually can see the human cells after four weeks of development."

The cells generated the precursors of muscle, heart, pancreas, liver and spinal cord tissue in the embryos. The researchers said they plan to test ways to focus human cells on making specific tissues while avoiding any contribution to the brain, sperm or eggs.

That addresses ethical concerns that the approach could accidentally lead to pigs that gain some human qualities in their brains, or make human egg or sperm.

There was no sign of that in the new research. The government, meanwhile, has signaled that it may lift the federal funding ban soon but impose extra oversight of any proposed work.

A pig might not always have to be brought to term, Belmonte and Wu said. Even a pig fetus might provide human pancreatic cells to treat diabetes, or kidney cells to repair injuries to that organ, they said.

The University of Minnesota's Garry said the research offers some direction about what kind of human stem cells will work best. And it shows a need for boosting the number of human cells that appear in the embryo, he said.

Hiromitsu Nakauchi of Stanford University said his own unpublished experiments with pig and sheep embryos also found a sparse contribution from injected human cells. That's a challenge for making organs, but it might be surmounted by focusing cells on doing that job, he said.

Ethics experts were also impressed by the results. "It really does give a green light to explore more," said Insoo Hyun of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.

Hyun said he understood why some people might object on moral grounds to making animals with human organs.

"It seems kind of creepy," he said. But "this is a strategy to help save human lives" and so it is justified if properly done, he said.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: Salk Institute]]>
<![CDATA[How Far Can $15 Billion Go in Washington?]]>Thu, 26 Jan 2017 15:26:57 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-617792078_master.jpgIf one believes the back-of-the-envelope estimates by Republican leaders on Capitol Hill, President Donald Trump's border wall is going to cost between $12 billion and $15 billion. That's a lot of money, even though it's just a minute fraction of a $4 trillion federal budget. For comparison, here are a few examples of how far $15 billion of government funding can go.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[House Passes Abortion Funding Ban Days After Women's March]]>Thu, 26 Jan 2017 16:36:24 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/my-body-my-choice.jpg

Days after millions of people marched nationwide to bring attention to women’s issues, the Trump administration and Congress have responded with actions against women's reproductive rights.

On Tuesday afternoon, the U.S. House passed H.R. 7, anti-abortion legislation, voting 238-183. The bill proposes to permanently ban women from receiving federal financial assistance for abortions. While the bill does not ban abortions outright, it bans all government subsidies of abortions. This ban reaches beyond Medicaid to include private insurers that cover abortions through plans bought on exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act. The bill was sponsored by U.S. Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey.

“Pro-life Americans struggle for the day when abortion violence will be replaced by compassion and empathy for women and respect for weak and vulnerable children in the womb,” the Republican congressman said on the House floor. “They believe, as do my pro-life colleagues and I, that we ought to love them both--mother and child--and not fund the destruction of children through abortion.” 

The bill extends the provisions the Hyde Amendment, which excludes abortions from federally funded health care provided to low-income people, primarily through Medicaid. The only exceptions in the Hyde Amendment to permit abortions are rape, incest, or if the life of the mother is endangered. 

Most states have followed this provision, but 17 states still fund abortions for low-income women.

If H.R. 7 is signed into law, no state would be permitted to subsidize them. Furthermore, the law will indirectly stop insurance plans from offering abortion coverage by refusing government subsidies to women to choose plans that include abortion coverage under ACA.

“There is no chance this bill will pass the Senate,” said Matt House, senior aide to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. "It won't gain enough Democratic support."

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's office said it had no announcement to make about the legislation or when it might be taken up.

Identical versions of H.R. 7 were passed in 2014 and 2015, but never made it through the Senate and would have likely been vetoed by then-President Obama. However, if the bill passes in the Senate, President Trump could be expected to sign the bill into law, having voiced a strong anti-abortion stance on the campaign trail and through the revival of "The Mexico City Policy."

On Monday, President Trump reinstated the policy, which is an executive order blocking foreign aid or federal funding to any international nongovernmental organization that provides abortions. The “gag” order began with President Ronald Reagan in 1984. Since then, incoming Democratic presidents have rescinded the order and incoming Republican presidents have reinstated the order upon taking office. 

H.R. 7 comes on the heels of the Women’s March on Washington, which took place on Jan. 21 and expanded to sister marches in major cities across the country and around the world. A common theme in speeches and seen on signs at the marches was the phrase “my body, my choice,” referencing women’s reproductive health choices. One women's group, New Wave Feminists, was removed from the official sponsorship of the event after voicing anti-abortion views. 

“Decisions about a woman’s health care should be made in her doctor’s office, not on the House floor,” Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood, said in a statement about H.R. 7. “The bill passed by the House is a sweeping assault on women’s health that aims to eliminate abortion coverage for millions, make Hyde and other abortion bans permanent and undermine a woman’s ability to make personal decisions about her own health care.” 

Richards also said that the passage of H.R. 7 would disproportionately affect low-income women and women of color. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 75 percent of abortion patients are poor or low-income women and 59 percent are women of color.

“The House of Representatives’ vote today on H.R. 7 was a vote to punish women who seek abortions on the basis of how much money they earn, where they live, and how they are insured,” Dr. Willie Parker, board chair of Physicians for Reproductive Health, said in a statement. “No woman should be denied the ability to make this personal health decision because she is poor.”



Photo Credit: Toronto Star via Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[US Cancer Death Rate Dips, but Soars in Some Places: Study]]>Tue, 24 Jan 2017 13:29:54 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/smoking-stock-generic-73160938.jpg

Americans in certain struggling parts of the country are dying from cancer at rising rates, even as the cancer death rate nationwide continues to fall, an exhaustive new analysis has found.

In parts of the country that are relatively poor, and have higher rates of obesity and smoking, cancer death rates rose nearly 50 percent, while wealthier pockets of the country saw death rates fall by nearly half.

Better screening and treatment have contributed to the improvement in the nation as a whole — but the study underscores that not all Americans have benefited from these advances.

"We are going in the wrong direction," said Ali Mokdad, the study's lead author and a professor at the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. "We should be going forward, not backward."

Stark differences in regional cancer death rates have been found in previous research, but this one stands out for providing detailed estimates for deaths from nearly 30 types of cancer in all 3,100 U.S. counties over 35 years.

From 1980 to 2014, the U.S. death rate per 100,000 people for all cancers combined dropped from about 240 to 192 — a 20 percent decline. More than 19 million Americans died from cancer during that time, the study found.

The picture was rosiest the Colorado ski country, where cancer deaths per 100,000 residents dropped by almost half, from 130 in 1980 to just 70 in 2014; and bleakest in some eastern Kentucky counties, where they soared by up to 45 percent.

"We all know this is unacceptable ... in a country that spends more than anybody else on health," Mokdad said.

The Affordable Care Act took effect in the study's final years and emphasized prevention services including no-cost screenings for breast, colorectal and cervical cancers. Any resulting benefits wouldn't be evident in the latest results, since cancer takes years to develop. It's unknown whether similar coverage will be part of the replacement system the Trump administration and Congressional Republicans are seeking.

An editorial published with the study by Stephanie Wheeler, a University of North Carolina health policy specialist and Dr. Ethan Basch, a University of North Carolina cancer specialist, notes that many areas with the highest cancer death rates also strongly supported Donald Trump, "raising hopes that future policies developed by the incoming administration will provide resources" for these communities.

Researchers estimated county death rates using U.S. government death records and U.S. Census Bureau data. Results were published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Ahmedin Jemal, an American Cancer Society researcher, said better understanding variations in cancer death rates will help target cancer prevention and control.

Among the more striking disparities:

  • Among counties with the highest 2014 cancer death rates, six of the top 10 were in eastern Kentucky. Six of the 10 lowest rates were in the Colorado Rockies.
  • For lung cancer deaths, four of the five counties with the highest 2014 rates were in eastern Kentucky, with rates up to 80 percent higher than in 1980. Three of the five counties with the lowest 2014 rates were in the Colorado Rockies, where rates dropped by up to 60 percent.
  • Death rates for breast and colorectal cancers increased in Madison County, Mississippi and in 2014 were at least five times higher there than in Summit County, Colorado, where the rates fell. These are among cancers that can be successfully treated if detected early.

Smoking, obesity, physical activity and income explain many of the disparities, said study co-author Dr. Christopher Murray, also at the University of Washington.

But the study also raises questions. For example, relatively high rates of testicular cancer were found in parts of Southern California and far southern Texas for reasons that are unclear. Since treatments for this rare cancer are extremely effective, "almost nobody should die of testicular cancer," Murray said.

The poor showing for eastern Kentucky contrasts with wealthier parts of the state and "is tremendously troubling," said Ben Chandler, president of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, a nonpartisan group that funds health policy research and advocacy.

Chandler cited poor access to health care and high smoking rates and said the disparities highlight a need for statewide smoke-free laws. The foundation funded a study that found that Kentucky's 2014 Medicaid expansion under the ACA covered costs for many cancer-related preventive health measures including mammograms and colon cancer screenings.

How that expanded access will fare under with the health care law's expected repeal "has been of great concern to us," Chandler said.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: Getty Images, File
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<![CDATA[Police in Glendale, Calif., Give Dementia Patients Trackers]]>Tue, 24 Jan 2017 05:22:25 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/knbc-dementia-tracking-device-project-lifesaver.jpg

Police in the Los Angeles suburb of Glendale are hoping to reduce the time it takes to find missing people diagnosed with dementia by providing patients with tracking devices.

The Glendale Police Department has partnered with the nonprofit group Project Lifesaver to provide tracking devices to families with members who suffer from cognitive issues such as Alzheimer's disease of autism, The Los Angeles Times reported Sunday. If that relative wanders away, the device would allow authorities to find that person in minutes instead of hours.

Glendale police Sgt. Traci Fox says 15 people are currently enrolled in the program, which costs $375 per person for the first year.

Fox says the tracker program is a short-term solution for those with wandering relatives. She says families should still look for other ways to keep relatives from walking out.



Photo Credit: Project Lifesaver]]>
<![CDATA[US Health Officials Cancel Climate Conference]]>Mon, 23 Jan 2017 20:21:07 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/IceMeltingAP_4542707832.jpg

The government's top public health agency has canceled a conference next month on climate change and health but isn't saying why publicly.

But a co-sponsor said he was told by the CDC that it was worried how the conference would be viewed by the Trump administration.

The incoming administration did not ask or order that the meeting be canceled, said Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association.

"They had no idea or not whether the new administration would be supportive," said Benjamin. His group was a co-sponsor of the CDC event and has its own climate-themed conference planned for November.

Rather, the decision was "a strategic retreat," intended to head off a possible last minute cancellation or other repercussions from Trump officials who may prove hostile to spending money on climate change science, Benjamin said Monday.

"They decided the better part of valor was to stop and regroup" until it could be discussed with Trump's new health leadership, Benjamin said. A new CDC director has not been named.

The Climate and Health Summit, set for Feb. 14-16, was canceled last month. After media reports began to appear Monday, the CDC issued a statement saying it was looking at rescheduling the meeting, given budget constraints and potential overlap with the November conference.

Benjamin called the CDC's decision understandable but worrisome. He was echoed by Kristie Ebi, a professor of global health at the University of Washington in Seattle, who was invited to speak at the conference.

"In the long run, climate change is affecting the health of Americans," she said. "At some point, I hope they will go forward with the conference."

Most of the planning for the meeting began only in the fall and could probably benefit from more time, said Dr. Jonathan Patz, a University of Wisconsin professor of health and the environment who was organizing a conference session. "Personally, I would not try to over-interpret this" cancellation, he said.

Public health experts say climate change is a man-made problem that contributes to a range of health issues and illnesses, including heat stroke and diseases spread by tropical insects. The CDC has a $10 million program on climate and health, and published guidelines to help local health officials deal with human vulnerability to climate change.

In 2012, Trump tweeted that the concept of global warming was created by the Chinese to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive. He later said he was joking, but during the presidential campaign referred to global warming as "a hoax."

Before he took office, Trump met with former Vice President Al Gore and Leonardo DiCaprio, both prominent climate activists. Trump picked Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, as head of the Environmental Protection Agency. During his confirmation hearing, Pruitt backed away from his own past statements and said climate change is real.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: Thibault Camus, AP (File)]]>
<![CDATA[GOP Obamacare Replacement Plan Would Grant States More Power]]>Mon, 23 Jan 2017 20:05:50 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/obamacare-que-pasara-thumbnail.jpg

Republican senators introduced a partial replacement to the Affordable Care Act on Monday that would let states keep some aspects of the Obamacare law while eliminating the mandate requiring citizens to carry health insurance.

The measure is being billed as an "Obamacare replacement plan" aimed at empowering states and broadening health insurance access, NBC News reported.

The move comes days after President Donald Trump's issuance of an executive order directing the Health and Human Services Department to "waive, defer, grant exemptions from, or delay" any ACA requirement that would impose a fiscal burden.

For now, however, the executive order that Trump signed Friday night has changed very little.



Photo Credit: Getty Images (File)]]>
<![CDATA[WHO on 'High-Alert' Over New Outbreaks of Bird Flu]]>Mon, 23 Jan 2017 12:31:49 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/influenza1.jpg

The World Health Organization is urging all countries to monitor avian influenza and to report any human cases that could indicate the beginning of a flu pandemic, Reuters reported.

About 40 countries have reported new outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza in poultry and wild birds since November, according to WHO. Several strains of bird flu have been spreading across Europe and Asia, resulting in large-scale poultry slaughters and some human deaths in China.

Due to the rapid pace and expansive nature of these outbreaks, WHO director-general Dr. Margaret Chan said the organization is on "high alert."

The WHO’s 194 member states are required to detect and report human cases promptly, Chan added: "We cannot afford to miss the early signals."



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Fighting Winter Allergies]]>Mon, 23 Jan 2017 07:57:44 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/WinterAllergies0120_MP4-148517587405100001.jpgMany people believe that as the spring and fall seasons wrap up, so do their allergies, but that's not always the case once winter rolls around.]]><![CDATA[$12M Costco Pharmacy Settlement]]>Thu, 19 Jan 2017 22:41:53 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-477000903.jpg

Costco Wholesale Corp. has agreed to pay nearly $12 million to settle Justice Department allegations of lax pharmacy controls over a four-year period.

The Issaquah, Washington-based company acknowledges in the settlement announced Thursday that some of its pharmacies improperly filled prescriptions, kept poor records or failed to adequately track inventory between the start of 2012 and the end of 2015.

The case grew out of separate investigations conducted by federal authorities in Washington, Michigan and California.

Seattle U.S. Attorney Annette Hayes says good pharmacy controls are key to battling the nation's prescription drug abuse crisis. Hayes says companies like Costco that deliver huge volumes of the drugs have a responsibility to help keep such drugs from reaching the black market.

Costco has invested in a new, $127 million pharmacy management system and adopted new audit protocols.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: Getty Images, File]]>
<![CDATA[Judge Blocks Texas From Cutting Off Planned Parenthood]]>Thu, 19 Jan 2017 17:53:07 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/lafile-west-hollywood-planned-parenthood.jpg

Texas was temporarily blocked Thursday from ousting Planned Parenthood from the state's Medicaid program over secretly recorded videos taken by anti-abortion activists in 2015.

The decision by U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks adds Texas to the list of Republican-controlled states that have been thwarted in efforts to cut off Medicaid dollars to the nation's largest abortion provider. But Texas could still prevail -- the court order is not a ruling but effectively a delay that buys Planned Parenthood at least a few more weeks.

Planned Parenthood would have lost the funding Saturday had Sparks not intervened. Faced with that tight deadline, Sparks postponed the ouster until Feb. 21, giving him more time to decide whether Texas can exclude about two dozen clinics that serve about 11,000 low-income women.

"It's unconscionable, in my opinion," said Ken Lambrecht, president of Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas, while testifying earlier this week at the start of a three-day hearing in Austin.

Other federal courts have stopped states that similarly tried dropping Planned Parenthood, including Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi and Kansas. All cited heavily edited videos that claimed to show Planned Parenthood officials profiting from sales of fetal tissue for medical research. Planned Parenthood has denied wrongdoing, and investigations in 13 states didn't result in criminal charges.

Planned Parenthood receives about $4 million in reimbursements to provide non-abortion services such as cancer screenings and testing for sexually transmitted diseases. State health officials say Planned Parenthood provides services to only a fraction of the more than 4 million Medicaid patients in Texas.

No public money is used in Texas for abortion, but Republican lawmakers in statehouses and Congress have accelerated efforts to try to weaken Planned Parenthood in the wake of the videos.

Sparks is the same judge who put on hold new Texas rules requiring the burial or cremation of fetal remains.

He began the hearing on Planned Parenthood this week by scolding attorneys for lingering on the videos, which he said amounted to "baloney" in regards to the issue at stake.

Sparks told attorneys he instead wanted to know about the type of Medicaid services Planned Parenthood provides and how many clinics would be impacted.

It's a continuation of Texas' battle against Planned Parenthood. In 2011, it kicked the organization out of the state women's health program, which Republican leaders say is more robust due to the move. Last year, state health officials gave $1.6 million in taxpayer funding to the nonprofit of a prominent anti-abortion activist to help increase access to women's health care, a contract that was criticized by Planned Parenthood.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: KNBC-TV, File]]>
<![CDATA[1 in 4 US Men Have Cancer-Linked HPV Strain]]>Thu, 19 Jan 2017 13:44:32 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/HPV-Virus-Image.jpg

The first national estimate suggests that nearly half of U.S. men have genital infections caused by a sexually transmitted virus and that 1 in 4 has strains linked with several cancers.

Most human papillomavirus infections cause no symptoms and most disappear without treatment. And most adults will get an HPV infection at some point in their lives.

But high-risk HPV can cause cancer in the mouth and upper throat, cervical cancer in women and other cancers. Less harmful strains can cause genital warts

Vaccines in pre-teens and young adults can prevent HPV infections but experts say vaccination rates are too low.

The new estimate comes from an analysis of a 2013-14 national health survey. Results were published Thursday in the journal JAMA Oncology.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: Getty Images/Science Photo Libra]]>
<![CDATA[Mom, Toddler Daughter Fight Cancer at the Same Time]]>Wed, 18 Jan 2017 09:39:13 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/cancerstrikesmomandtot.jpg

Heather Wilson received some bad news just five days before Christmas.

The 31-year-old mother of three, who was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor six months earlier, learned that her 14-month-old daughter, London, also had cancer, the Today Show reported.

Doctors found a yolk sac tumor in the area of London's ovaries.

The two have been an inspiration as they bravely face the disease together, rallying friends and family to help ease the financial and emotional burden on the young mom from Covington, Georgia.



Photo Credit: Courtesy of Pam Hunt]]>
<![CDATA[Caffeine May Help Fight Cardiovascular Disease: Study]]>Wed, 18 Jan 2017 08:50:23 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-472209108.jpg

The cup of coffee you have each morning could be doing more than you think in the fight against cardiovascular disease.

According to a study from scientists at Stanford University, caffeine has been found to help people – especially elderly people – who have a "chronic inflammatory process" that may heighten the risk of having the disease.

Scientists used blood samples and studied medical and family history for 100 people in their multi-year study. The research found a connection between the inflammatory process and caffeine consumption – the metabolites in caffeine were seen to counteract inflammatory proteins.

Past studies have shown that those who drink caffeinated coffee are less likely to develop issues such as cardiovascular problems and multiple sclerosis — as well as live longer — than those who don’t have the beverage.

The study was published online in Nature Medicine in January.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[18M Will Lose Health Insurance With ACA Repeal: Analysis]]>Tue, 17 Jan 2017 15:12:53 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/obaGettyImages-630310534.jpg

About 18 million people would lose or drop their health insurance in the first year after Obamacare is repealed, the Congressional Budget Office reported Tuesday.

The nonpartisan federal agency also found that health insurance premiums would spike another 20 to 25 percent, NBC News reported. Within 10 years, 32 million more people would be without health insurance, the CBO projects.

Without a replacement, health care costs overall would continue to rise every year, as would the number of people going without health insurance, according to the projection

Premiums would continue to go up, as well.



Photo Credit: Getty Images for Moveon.org, File]]>
<![CDATA[Abortions in US at Lowest Level Since Roe v. Wade: Survey]]>Tue, 17 Jan 2017 13:06:56 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/AP_558685885003-Abortion-Report.jpg

Even as the election outcome intensifies America's abortion debate, a comprehensive new survey finds the annual number of abortions in the U.S has dropped to well under 1 million, the lowest level since 1974.

The report, which counted 926,200 abortions in 2014, was released Tuesday by the Guttmacher Institute, a research group which supports abortion rights. It is the only entity which strives to count all abortions in the U.S.; the latest federal survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lacks data from California, Maryland and New Hampshire.

The total from 2014 represented a drop of 12.5 percent from Guttmacher's previous survey, which tallied 1.06 million abortions in 2011. The decrease was spread nationwide; in only six states did abortions increase over the three-year span.

According to the report, the abortion rate was 14.6 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15-44, the lowest rate since abortion was legalized nationally in 1973 by the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision.

Following that ruling, the number of abortions in the U.S. rose steadily — reaching a peak of 1.6 million in 1990 — before starting a decline.

The authors of the new report, Guttmacher researchers Rachel Jones and Jenna Jerman, said the latest phase of the decline was likely the result of two main factors: the increased availability of affordable, long-lasting contraceptives that have reduced unintended pregnancies, and the surge of abortion restrictions in many states that have forced some clinics to close and hindered many women's access to the procedure.

Guttmacher's state-by-state breakdown showed big declines in abortions in some liberal states, such as California, that protect abortion rights, and also in some conservative states, such as Texas, that have passed laws to restrict abortions.

Jones noted that the majority of women who get abortions have low incomes, and nearly two-thirds are already parents.

"It can be very difficult for them to arrange for time off from work, transportation and child care," Jones said. "Some of the abortion rate decline is likely attributable to women who were prevented from accessing needed services."

The highest abortion rates were in the District of Columbia, New York, New Jersey, Maryland and Florida. The lowest rates were in Wyoming, Mississippi and South Dakota, states that had only one abortion clinic operating in 2014.

According to the report, the number of abortion clinics nationwide declined by 6 percent — from 839 in 2011 to 788 in 2014.

The report's release comes 10 days before the anti-abortion movement's annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., and at a time when the movement is emboldened by the outcome of the recent presidential, congressional and state elections.

In Congress, majority Republicans in both chambers are seeking to halt federal funding for Planned Parenthood, which provided more than one-third of the nation's abortions in 2014, and also to ban most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. President-elect Donald Trump has promised to sign both measures if they reach his desk, and also says he wants to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court with a "pro-life" justice.

One of Trump's top advisers, Kellyanne Conway, is scheduled to speak at the March for Life.

At the state level, tough new restrictions on abortion are being pushed in numerous Republican-controlled state legislatures, including Iowa and Kentucky, where the recent election gave the GOP full control. In Kentucky, lawmakers have already moved swiftly to enact a ban on abortions after 20 weeks and to require doctors to perform ultrasounds prior to abortions.

In some cases, abortion-rights supporters are fighting back with legal challenges, such as an effort by the American Civil Liberties Union to block Kentucky's new ultrasound bill.

Abortion-rights leaders also are warning that progress in reducing unintended pregnancies could be derailed by efforts to defund Planned Parenthood, a major supplier of contraceptives, and to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which greatly expanded health-insurance coverage of contraceptives.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: AP, File
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<![CDATA[Soup Shipped to Whole Foods Stores Recalled]]>Fri, 13 Jan 2017 06:46:20 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/whole+foods+recall.jpg

A Massachusetts company has recalled chicken soup sold to Whole Foods stores in the tri-state because the soups are mislabeled and contain known allergens, the USDA said.

More than 3,000 pounds of “Mom’s Chicken Soup” were recalled by Kettle Cuisine, which shipped the soup to Whole Foods locations in Connecticut and New Jersey, as well as Maine, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

Though labeled as chicken soup, the recalled products actually contain “Italian Wedding Soup with Meatballs,” a soup that contains eggs, milk and wheat, ingredients that are not declared on the label.

The USDA said no adverse reactions to the soup have been reported.

People with concerns about eggs, milk or wheat allergies should check their soup. The affected product comes in 24-ounce cups and has a use by date of Feb. 17, 2017. They bear the establishment number “P-18468.”

For more information, head to the page for this recall on the USDA website.

]]>
<![CDATA[The Pros and Cons of Marijuana Use]]>Thu, 12 Jan 2017 20:05:46 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/NC_pot0112_1500x845.jpgMarijuana use may help with chronic pain and nausea, but a new study says there are also negative consequences for young children and those at risk for certain mental illnesses. Experts from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine reviewed all research on marijuana published since 1999 to find who should smoke and who shouldn't. ]]><![CDATA[Ziploc Freezer Bags Help Premature Babies Stay Warm: Study]]>Thu, 12 Jan 2017 10:25:35 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/NICU+Hypothermia+011117.jpg

For premature babies, getting the slightest chill can increase their chance of life-threatening illnesses.

Nurses in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at Texas Health Fort Worth developed a program to keep fragile babies warmer.

It has led to a decrease of very low birth weight babies being admitted to the NICU as hypothermic, and potentially increasing their chance of survival.

Premature infants with admission temperatures below 96.8 degrees are at higher risk of mortality and some morbidities, including late-onset sepsis, intraventricular hemorrhage and oxygen toxicity.

The program involves placing the most fragile premature babies, usually less than 32 weeks gestation and 3.3 pounds, into Ziploc freezer bags.

The team cuts a hole at the top of the bag and slides the baby in head first moments after birth.

"It creates kind of a hot house effect so the babies stay warm. So, as they are rolled into the NICU, their admission temperatures are normal," said Stephanie Eidson, B.S.N., clinical educator.

"It sounds so simple that people might wonder why the focus on temperature is just now being addressed, but the process was actually very involved," said Lindsey Cannon, M.S.N., R.N., NICU manager.

Cannon and Eidson put together a team consisting of Labor & Delivery and NICU nurses and leaders, physicians, respiratory therapists and Operating Room, Engineering and Housekeeping staff to work on what's been called the "Hypothermia Eradication from Admission Temperatures "H.E.A.T." study."

The study resulted in interventions like the use of preheated radiant warmers, thermal mattresses, polypropylene bags and plastic shower caps to prevent infant heat loss upon birth.

Additionally, they increased the room temperature of the delivery room from 74 to 76 degrees, using cooling vests to keep staff comfortable.

Within two years, the percentage of hypothermic infants on NICU admission decreased from 20 to 10 percent, and the percentage of infants with normal temperatures increased from 50 to 70 percent, according to the hospital system.

Christine Evans gave birth to her twins girls at 30 weeks gestation in November.

Emma weighed three pounds and her sister, Abigail, weighed two pounds, 11 ounces.

"We are lucky that I came out okay and that they came out of it OK. The outcome could have been vastly different," Evans said.

Seconds after they were born, both girls were placed into Ziploc freezer bags. Elastic bowl covers were placed on their tiny heads.

"Seeing them in Ziploc bags was very odd. I didn't expect that one," said new father, Jason Evans.

"We could have been at any other hospital and not had the same outcome. We don't know. But we were in the right place at the right time," said Christine Evans.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[CVS Puts Out Cheaper Generic Competitor to EpiPen]]>Thu, 12 Jan 2017 11:42:50 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/epipen1.jpg

CVS is now selling a rival, generic version of Mylan's EpiPen at about a sixth of its price, just months after the maker of the life-saving allergy treatment was eviscerated before Congress because of its soaring cost to consumers.

The drugstore chain says it will charge $109.99 for a two-pack of the authorized generic version of Adrenaclick, a lesser-known treatment compared to EpiPen, which can cost more than $600.

CVS Health Corp., the nation's second-largest drugstore chain, says it cut the price of the generic version of Adrenaclick nearly in half. The lower price is now available at all CVS stores. The chain runs about 9,600 retail pharmacies in the United States, including several locations inside Target stores.

The emergency treatments are stocked by schools and parents of children with severe allergies. They are used to stop anaphylaxis, the potentially fatal allergic reactions to insect bites and stings and foods like nuts and eggs.

The syringes are filled with the hormone epinephrine, and they expire after a year. That often forces patients to fill new prescriptions even if they never used the old one.

Mylan NV began taking heat late last summer for its EpiPen pricing, which climbed more than 500 percent since 2007. A Congressional panel grilled CEO Heather Bresch in September about the soaring cost, which she has blamed in part on insurers, pharmacy benefits managers and other middlemen that stand between the drugmaker and the customer.

Mylan has since expanded the financial aid it offers customers and launched its own authorized generic in December, priced at $300 per two-pack.

But patients with no health insurance or plans that make them pay a high deductible before covering care can be exposed to the full price of the drug if they aren't aware of that financial aid or if they don't seek it.

CVS says the new price it is charging for the Adrenaclick generic applies to both insured patients and those who pay cash without coverage. It's what customers will pay at the pharmacy counter.

Additionally, Cigna has released a list of prescription drug changes and will no longer cover EpiPen effective Jan. 7, 2017. 

According to CNNMoney, Cigna spokeswoman Karen Eldred said "The generic version, available now in pharmacies, has the same drug formulation and device functionality as the branded medication, but at a substantial cost savings."

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Trump Asks Vaccination Skeptic Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to Lead Vaccination Safety Commission]]>Tue, 10 Jan 2017 16:17:26 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/trumpKennedy.jpg

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a vocal vaccination skeptic, said Tuesday that President-elect Donald Trump has asked him to "chair a commission on vaccination safety and scientific integrity" and that he has accepted.

Both Trump and Kennedy have spread fringe theories linking vaccines to autism in children, an idea that medical experts overwhelmingly reject and have warned is endangering public health by discouraging parents from immunizing their kids.

Trump has tweeted previously that he knew a child who developed autism after receiving immunizations, but he did not provide evidence for that claim.

Scientists have debunked the link between vaccines and autism. But Kennedy, the son of the late U.S. attorney general, believes there is connection and has advocated for parents to be allowed to opt out of vaccinations for their children.



Photo Credit: Getty Images (File)]]>
<![CDATA[Holiday Sweets Recalled Over Salmonella Concerns]]>Tue, 10 Jan 2017 08:46:14 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/holiday+sweets+recall.jpg

Hostess Brands and Palmer Candy Company have recalled holiday-themed sweets over concern the desserts may be contaminated with the harmful Salmonella bacteria.

Hostess Brands recalled its Holiday White Peppermint Hostess Twinkies in response to Blommer Chocolate Company’s recall of its confectionery coating, which contains milk powder ingredients recalled by Valley Milk Products. 

The milk powder ingredients recalled by Valley Milk Products were also in sweets distributed by Palmer Candy Company, which, like Hostess, issued a voluntary recall as a precaution.

Testing has shown no Salmonellain the milk confectionery coating supplied to Hostess and Palmer Candy. No illnesses have been reported.

All affected products were sold to grocery and convenience stores and other distributors nationwide.

A number of candy packages are in the Palmer Candy recall, including chocolate almond bark, Christmas tree pretzels, peanut brittle and holiday gift bowls. For more details about the recall, head to this FDA recall page.

The only Hostess product affected by the recall is the Holiday White Peppermint Hostess Twinkies. For further details about the recall, go to this FDA recall page.

Palmer Candy Company customer service can be reached at 712-258-5543.

Hostess Brands customer service can be reached at 1-800-483-7253.



Photo Credit: Handouts]]>
<![CDATA[Flu Season Hits Hard Nationwide]]>Fri, 06 Jan 2017 22:47:44 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/NC_flu0106_1500x845.jpgTwelve states are reporting widespread flu activity as the United States slide into flu season at the start of the year. The Centers for Disease Control say flu activity is higher this season compared to last year. ]]><![CDATA[Cancer Deaths Fell 25 Percent Since 1991]]>Fri, 06 Jan 2017 07:47:18 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/214*120/GettyImages-495314721-doctor.jpg

Fewer Americans are dying of cancer. The latest numbers from the American Cancer Society show a 25 percent drop in cancer deaths since 1991, the peak year for cancer deaths, NBC News reported.

Cancer rates are holding fairly steady, but better screening and better treatments mean that people who get cancer are living longer, the American Cancer Society says in its annual report. And as fewer and fewer people smoke, cancer death rates follow.

It projects that nearly 1.7 million people will be diagnosed with cancer in 2017 and 600,000 will die of it. 

"The continuing drops in the cancer death rate are a powerful sign of the potential we have to reduce cancer's deadly toll," said Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer for the group.



Photo Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[GOP House Panel: Halt Federal Money for Planned Parenthood]]>Thu, 05 Jan 2017 08:05:38 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Planned+Parenthood+NH.JPG

A Republican-run House panel created to investigate Planned Parenthood and the world of fetal tissue research has urged Congress to halt federal payments to the women's health organization. Democrats said the GOP probe had unearthed no wrongdoing and wasted taxpayers' money in an abusive investigation reminiscent of the late Sen. Joseph McCarthy. 

The Republican recommendation was included in the special committee's final report Wednesday and was no surprise. The GOP released the 471-page document just 16 days before Donald Trump becomes president, at the start of a year in which many Republicans hope Congress will finally cut off federal funds for the group. 

Most GOP lawmakers have long opposed Planned Parenthood because many of its clinics provide abortions. Their antagonism intensified after anti-abortion activists released secretly recorded videos in 2015 showing Planned Parenthood officials discussing how they sometimes provide fetal tissue to researchers, which is legal if no profit is made. 

"Planned Parenthood affiliates and clinics have repeatedly neglected their fiduciary duty requiring good stewardship of federal taxpayer dollars," wrote the panel, which was chaired by Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn. Republicans created the special committee in reaction to the videos. 

The report accused the group of violating federal laws by altering abortion procedures to obtain fetal tissue, disclosing patients' private information to firms that procure the tissue and "a general disinterest in clinical integrity." 

Planned Parenthood has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, and did so again Wednesday. 

"Today's Republican staff report once again demonstrates that this exercise was nothing more than a partisan attack on Planned Parenthood and women's access to safe and legal abortion," Dana Singiser, Planned Parenthood's vice president for Public Policy, said in a written statement. 

The group has long said the videos were doctored. 

Girding for GOP assaults on its budget, Planned Parenthood is circulating a petition of support it plans to submit to Congress and has organized events in West Virginia, Washington state and Maine aimed at galvanizing backers. 

Fetal tissue research has strong backing among scientists for its value in studying Down syndrome, eye disease and other problems. Blackburn's report said fetal tissue "makes a vanishingly small contribution to clinical and research efforts, if it contributes at all," and recommended curbing federal grants for such research. 

Democrats accused the panel of squandering $1.5 million in taxpayer funds with a probe that endangered the safety of people involved in abortions and fetal tissue work by providing information about them. They said it was evocative of baseless allegations about communist subversives lodged six decades ago by McCarthy, a Wisconsin Republican. 

"The select panel found no evidence of wrongdoing by health care providers, researchers or tissue procurement companies," wrote the Democrats, who were led by Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill. 

The panel also examined tissue procurement firms including StemExpress and research entities like the University of New Mexico. The report cited 15 instances in which the committee has provided information to U.S. and state authorities for possibly violating federal and state laws. 

Planned Parenthood's latest annual report shows that of more than $1.1 billion in yearly revenue, around half — $554 million — comes from government grants and reimbursements. It provides no breakdown. 

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has estimated that Planned Parenthood receives about $450 million annually in federal funds, mostly $390 million in reimbursements from the Medicaid program for low-income people. 

By law, federal funds cannot be used for abortions except for a handful of rare exceptions. 

The report recommended legislation letting states deny Medicaid and family planning payments to groups that provide abortions. Last month, the Obama administration issued a rule preventing states from blocking family planning funds to such clinics.  

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York

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<![CDATA[Peanuts Early and Often]]>Thu, 05 Jan 2017 09:05:39 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Peanut-baby.jpg

Peanut allergies are a big problem for many kids and their families, but new guidelines published could help protect high-risk tots and other youngsters, too, from developing the dangerous food allergy.

Feeding infants peanut butter when they are as young as four to six months old might prevent them from developing peanut allergies, according to research released from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

The new guidelines from the National Institutes of Health mark a change from past recommendations, which urged parents to delay giving children foods containing peanuts in their first few years. Peanut allergies can cause hives, rashes, breathing problems, and in the most severe cases, can even be fatal.

"It's old news, wrong old news, to wait," said Dr. Scott Sicherer, who represented the American Academy of Pediatrics on the guidelines panel.

Thursday's guidelines make that clear, urging parents and doctors to proactively introduce peanut-based foods early.

"Just because your uncle, aunt and sibling have an allergy, that's even more reason to give your baby the food now" — even if they're already older than 6 months, added Sicherer, a pediatric allergist at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York.

One key here is knowing your child’s risk for developing a peanut allergy, as children with the highest risk have eczema and/or an egg allergy.

A doctor or an allergist can test your child for peanut sensitivity. The number of American children allergic to peanuts has risen dramatically in recent decade, but the new guidelines may give new hope that allergy can be avoided.

Parents are advised not to give toddlers actual peanuts, which present a potential choking hazard.

In Columbus, Ohio, one doctor told Carrie Stevenson to avoid peanuts after her daughter was diagnosed with egg allergy. Then Stevenson found an allergy specialist who insisted that was the wrong advice — and offered baby Estelle a taste test of peanut butter in his office when she was 7 months old.

"I was really nervous," Stevenson recalled, unsure which doctor to believe. But, "we didn't want her to have any more allergies."

Now 18 months old, Estelle has eaten peanut butter or peanut-flavored puffs at least three times a week since then and so far seems healthy. Stevenson, pregnant again, plans early exposure for her next child, too.

The guidelines recommend:

  • All babies should try other solid foods before peanut-containing ones, to be sure they're developmentally ready.
  • High-risk babies should have peanut-containing foods introduced as early as 4 to 6 months after a check-up to tell if they should have the first taste in the doctor's office, or if it's OK to try at home with a parent watching for any reactions.
  • Moderate risk babies have milder eczema, typically treated with over-the-counter creams. They should start peanut-based foods around 6 months, at home.
  • Most babies are low risk, and parents can introduce peanut-based foods along with other solids, usually around 6 months.
  • Building tolerance requires making peanut-based foods part of the regular diet, about three times a week.

 

For more information, click this link for more tips.

What's the evidence? First, researchers noticed a 10-fold higher rate of peanut allergy among Jewish children in Britain, who aren't fed peanut products during infancy, compared to those in Israel where peanut-based foods are common starting around age 7 months.

Then in 2015, an NIH-funded study of 600 babies put that theory to the test, assigning them either to avoid or regularly eat age-appropriate peanut products. By age 5, only 2 percent of peanut eaters — and 11 percent of those at highest risk — had become allergic. Among peanut avoiders, 14 percent had become allergic, and 35 percent of those at highest risk.

Whether the dietary change will spur a drop in U.S. peanut allergies depends on how many parents heed the new advice — and if a parent seems skeptical, the guidelines urge doctors to follow up.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York


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<![CDATA[The Best Diet to Fight Brain Shrinkage]]>Wed, 04 Jan 2017 17:28:07 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/NC_diets0104_1500x845.jpgWhat are the best diets to help prevent brain shrinkage? A new study shows specific diets that may help fight brain volume loss as we age, NBC News reports. ]]><![CDATA[Police Investigating Accidental Poisoning That Killed 4 Kids]]>Tue, 03 Jan 2017 18:29:27 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/poisioning.jpg

A criminal investigation is underway into an accidental poisoning involving a professional-grade pesticide that left four children dead and an Amarillo woman in critical condition, police said Tuesday.

Authorities are looking into why the family had the pesticide pellets, called Weevil-cide, which is only supposed to be sold to people with professional licenses or certification and is marketed for use in rodent control in commercial transport of commodities and animal feed.

The father told first responders through a Spanish language interpreter that he had spread the pellets under the family's mobile home after obtaining the product from a friend, Amarillo Fire Capt. Larry Davis said. Davis said the product is not available for sale to the general public.

Davis said the father does not have that certification as far as he knows. He did not know whether the friend who gave him the product had a certification.

Amarillo police spokesman Officer Jeb Hilton says the department's special crimes unit is investigating because of the child deaths.

Once completed, the investigation will be turned over to the district attorney to determine whether charges will be filed. Hilton said other federal and state environmental regulation agencies may also investigate.

Fire officials said the children who died were three boys, ages 7, 9 and 11, and a 17-year-old girl. Officials have said all four children lived at the home in Amarillo, which is about 350 miles northwest of Dallas.

The children's mother, Martha Balderas, 45, was in critical condition Tuesday at University Medical Center in Lubbock, according to a hospital spokesman.

Five other family members, including the father and four other children, were being treated at BSA Health System in Amarillo and were in stable condition, hospital and fire officials said.

Crews who responded to a 5 a.m. call to the home on Monday originally thought it was related to carbon monoxide poisoning.

Authorities later determined that phosphine gas was likely released when the father took a garden hose at some point Sunday and tried to rinse away some of the pellets because family members had complained of the smell.

The water started the chemical reaction that released the phosphine gas. A visitor arrived early Monday, found everyone sick and called 911.

Phosphine gas can cause respiratory failure and in severe cases can cause a pulmonary edema, which fills the lungs full of fluid.

About 10 first responders from the police, fire and medical response departments were also taken to the hospital as a precautionary measure, Davis said.

Two were kept overnight for observation because of headache and nausea but were in good condition Tuesday, he said.

Chip Orton, emergency management coordinator for the city of Amarillo and Potter and Randall counties, says his staff was working with a number of state and federal agencies to decontaminate the home.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has hired a private contractor to help.

Orton said phosphine gas typically casts off in about eight to 12 hours after it's been in contact with water, but emergency workers close to the home were wearing protective breathing equipment and hazmat suits as a precaution.

He said he does not know when the home will be safe for the family to return.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: KAMR]]>
<![CDATA[Dieting Tips for a New Year]]>Wed, 04 Jan 2017 13:18:50 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/183*120/scale+generic+weight+generic.JPG

We make 'em, we break 'em.

New Year's diet resolutions fall like needles on Christmas trees as January goes on. Genes can work against us. Metabolism, too. But a food behavior researcher has tested a bunch of little ways to tip the scale toward success. 

His advice: Put it on autopilot. Make small changes in the kitchen, at the grocery store and in restaurants to help you make good choices without thinking. 

"As much as we all want to believe that we're master and commander of all our food decisions, that's just not true for most of us,'' said the researcher, Brian Wansink. "We're influenced by the things around us - the size of the plate, the things people are doing...the lighting.'' 

He heads the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab, has written books on taking control of food choices, and has had government and industry funding. 

Some tips are gimmicks, and some may not work as well for you as they did in tests. But they "make a lot of sense'' and many are backed by other studies, said one independent expert, Dr. William Yancy, a weight specialist at Duke University's diet and fitness center. 

To start: Make goals that are SMART - Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound, Yancy said. Instead of resolving to eat better, plan how to do it, such as having chips once or twice a week instead of every day. Rather than vague vows to get in shape, resolve to walk half an hour every day after dinner. 

Other tips from Wansink and research to support them: 

IN THE KITCHEN
Redo the pantry to put healthy stuff in front. You're three time more likely to eat the first food you see than the fifth one.

Tidy your kitchen before eating. Women asked to wait in a messy kitchen ate twice as many cookies as women in the same kitchen did when it was organized and quiet.

Redo the fridge. Even though it shortens shelf life, move fruits and vegetables out of crisper drawers and put them at eye level. Keep good foods in clear bags or containers and less healthy things like leftover pizza in aluminum foil. In one study, people who put fruits and vegetables on the top shelf ate nearly three times more of them than they did the week before.

Keep no food out except a fruit bowl. Researchers photographed 210 kitchens to see whether countertop food reflects the weight of women in each home. Those who left breakfast cereal out weighed 20 pounds more than neighbors who didn't; those with soft drinks out weighed 24 to 26 pounds more. Those with a fruit bowl weighed 13 pounds less.

AT THE TABLE
Beware the glassware. Use narrower glasses, pour wine when the glass is on the table rather than in your hand, and use a glass that doesn't match the color of the wine. A study found that people poured 12 percent more wine when using a wide glass, 12 percent more when holding the glass, and 9 percent more when pouring white wine into a clear glass versus a colored or opaque one. Pour any glass only half full - this cuts the average pour by 18 percent.

Use smaller plates and pay attention to color. Big plates make portions look small. In one study, people given larger bowls took 16 percent more cereal than those given smaller bowls, yet thought they ate less. People also take more food if it matches the color of their plate. But they eat less when the tablecloth or placemat matches the plate; it makes the food stand out more.

Keep the TV off and eat at a table. A study of dinner habits of 190 parents and 148 children found that the higher the parents' body mass index (a ratio of height and weight), the more likely they were to eat with the TV on. Eating at a table was linked to lower BMI.

Try small portions of "bad'' foods. Eat a bite or two, then distract yourself for 15 minutes to see if you feel satisfied. A study gave people different portions of chocolate, apple pie and potato chips and had them rate hunger and craving before and 15 minutes after eating. Bigger portion folks ate 103 calories more, but didn't feel more satisfied than those given less.

AT THE GROCERY STORE
Divide your shopping cart in half. Use a partition, purse or coat for a visual cue to fill at least half of your cart with fruits, vegetables and other healthy foods. In two studies, half of shoppers were given divided carts and told to put healthier items in front. They spent more on produce than those given regular shopping carts.

Be careful when buying in bulk . A study found that people who bought big containers of chips, juice boxes, cookies, crackers and granola bars ate half of it within the first week - twice as fast as they normally would. Tip: Repackage into single-serve bags or containers, or store it out of reach, such as the basement.

Eat an apple first. People given a sample of an apple at the store increased spending on fruits and vegetables versus those given no sample or a cookie. A healthy snack may prime people to buy better foods, not the fast, processed foods they gravitate to when shopping hungry.

Circle every island in the produce section. In a study of 1,200 shoppers, every minute spent in the produce section meant $1.80 more in fruit and vegetable sales.

AT A RESTAURANT
Let the light shine. Researchers checked sales receipts of patrons at four casual chain restaurants. Those in brighter rooms were more likely to order healthier fish, vegetables or white meat rather than fried food or dessert. Diners in dim rooms ordered 39 percent more calories.

Sit near a window. Researchers analyzed 330 diners' receipts after they left. The closer they were to a window, the fewer foods and alcoholic drinks they ordered.

Ask for a to-go box in advance. Half of diners in a study were told before they ordered that the portions were big and that they could have a doggie bag. Those told in advance wound up taking more food home. To-go boxes encourage people to eat about a third less.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: NBC10]]>
<![CDATA[Investigation Into Baby Exposed to Fentanyl]]>Tue, 03 Jan 2017 19:36:11 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Methuenhome.JPG

Police are investigating why a 10-month-old baby stopped breathing twice after being exposed to the opioid fentanyl in Methuen, Massachusetts.

There was drug paraphenalia found in the baby's mother's car, according to police.

Methuen police said they were called to a Treetop Way residence at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday for a report of a baby who was not breathing. 

Upon arrival, emergency personnel immediately began treating the child before transporting her to Lawrence General Hospital, where she stopped breathing twice and had to be revived by hospital staff. The child was later flown to Tufts Medical Center in Boston via MedFlight helicopter and has since been released from the hospital. 

Hospital tests indicated that the baby had fentanyl in her system. The type of drug and amount ingested has not been released. 

The baby lives with her mother and grandparents in Methuen, according to Michael Quinn, an attorney and family friend. 

“There are a lot of questions and they have no answers,” Quinn said. 

Quinn says the mother found the baby unresponsive Saturday after a nap and the grandfather started CPR. 

The baby’s mother has struggled with drugs, but has been clean for several months, according to Quinn. 

“She has no idea how this happened, even before she delivered the baby she was in a program and she has been drug free ever since and that hasn’t changed, she has had negative drug tests the whole time, there hasn’t been anything,” Quinn said. “They are still cooperating with police and whoever wants to talk about it and whatever the investigation shows, they’d like answers as well.” 

"It's disconcerting," Methuen Police Lt. Michael Pappalardo said. "It's heartbreaking, to say the least. It's a 10-month-old baby. It's very difficult to deal with a young child that has become a victim." 

"The opioid epidemic knows no boundaries," added Methuen Mayor Stephen Zanni. "We must continue to be vigilant in ensuring that children do not have access to harmful substances and to do everything we can to fight the disease of addiction." 

Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid medication that is similar to morphine but 50 to 100 times more potent. It is often mixed with or substituted for heroin. 

Methuen Police Chief Joseph Solomon said his department's focus now is to determine where the drug came from and how it wound up in the baby's system. 

No arrests have been made, but police said charges are still possible.  

The Department of Children and Families is investigating in collaboration with Methuen Police, Massachusetts State Police and the Essex County District Attorney's Office. 

The baby is now in the custody of an aunt. A DCF hearing is scheduled to be held on Tuesday.



Photo Credit: NBC Boston]]>
<![CDATA[Prosecutor in Pa. Tackles Heroin Scourge That Claimed Son]]>Tue, 03 Jan 2017 06:33:41 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/bruce17.jpg

The phone at Bruce Brandler's home rang at 3:37 a.m. It was the local hospital. His 16-year-old son was there, and he was in really bad shape.

A suspected heroin overdose, the nurse said.

Brandler didn't believe it. Erik had his problems, but heroin? It seemed impossible.

Nearly 10 years later, the nation is gripped by a spiraling crisis of opioid and heroin abuse — and Brandler, a veteran federal prosecutor recently promoted to interim U.S. attorney, suddenly finds himself in a position to do something about the scourge that claimed his youngest son's life.

Until now, he has never publicly discussed Erik's overdose death. It was private and just too painful. But Brandler, now the chief federal law enforcement officer for a sprawling judicial district that covers half of Pennsylvania, said he felt a responsibility that came with his new, higher-profile job.

"It's easier to cope with the passage of time, but it never goes away," Brandler told The Associated Press in an interview. "And, frankly, this whole heroin epidemic has brought it to the forefront."

Deadly heroin overdoses have more than quintupled in the years since Brandler lost his son. The illicit drug, along with highly addictive prescription pain relievers like oxycodone and fentanyl — a substance more powerful than heroin — now rival car crashes as the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S.

Erik's death proved that heroin doesn't discriminate, Brandler said. He urged parents to "open their eyes" to the threat and talk to their kids.

"I want to evaporate the myth that heroin addicts are just homeless derelicts," said Brandler, who, before his son's overdose, held that impression himself. "This epidemic hits everybody, and I think my situation exemplifies that."

The opioid crisis was already taking root when Brandler began having problems with Erik, the youngest of his three children. The teenager's grades dropped, his friends changed and he began keeping irregular hours. Brandler found marijuana in his room and talked to him about it, figuring that was the extent of his drug use.

Then, in spring 2007, Erik overdosed on Ecstasy and had to be treated at a hospital.

"That elevated it to a different level as far as I was concerned, a much more serious level, and I took what I thought were appropriate steps," Brandler said.

He called the police on his son's dealer, who was prosecuted. That summer, Erik completed an intensive treatment program that included frequent drug testing. Brandler thought his son had turned a corner.

He was mistaken.

On the night of Aug. 18, 2007, Erik and an older friend paid $60 for three bags of heroin. After shooting up, Erik passed out. His breathing became labored, his lips pale. But his companions didn't seek medical treatment, not then and not for hours. Finally, around 3 a.m., they dropped him off at the hospital.

At 5:40 a.m., he was pronounced dead.

Five people were charged criminally, including Erik's friend, who received more than five years in prison.

Brandler still doesn't know why his son, who excelled at tennis, went to a good school and had loads of friends, turned to heroin.

"I thought about that, of course, but it's really a waste of energy and emotions to go down that road because I'll never know the answer," Brandler said from his office near the Pennsylvania Capitol, where a framed photo of Erik — strapping, shaggy-haired and swinging a tennis racket — sits on a credenza.

What he can do is join his fellow prosecutors in tackling the problem.

In September, the Justice Department ordered all 93 U.S. attorneys across the country to come up with a strategy for combating overdose deaths from heroin and painkillers. Brandler released his plan, covering 3.2 million people in central and northeastern Pennsylvania, last month. Like others, it focuses on prevention, enforcement and treatment.

He said his office will prioritize opioid cases resulting in death, and aggressively prosecute doctors who overprescribe pain pills.

Additionally, prosecutors will hit the road — bringing physicians, recovering addicts, family members of overdose victims and others with them — to talk to schools and hard-hit communities.

Parents need to know that "if you think it can't happen to you, it can," Brandler said. "If it happened to me as a federal prosecutor, I think it can happen to anyone, and that's really the message I want to get out."

Federal appeals Judge Thomas Vanaskie said it's a message that needs to be heard.

"Education is the most important thing to me," said Vanaskie, who helps run a court program that gets federal convicts back on their feet and who has been working with a former heroin addict who robbed a bank to feed his addiction. "We've got to prevent people from becoming users."

Vanaskie, who has known Brandler for years, commended him for speaking out.

"Hearing it from him becomes so much more powerful," Vanaskie said. "I know it causes great personal pain on his part, but he personalizes, humanizes this matter."



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[North Texas Twins Born in Different Years]]>Tue, 03 Jan 2017 11:34:51 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Sanchez+Twins.jpg

An Arlington family celebrated the end of 2016 and the beginning of 2017 in an unusual way, with the birth of twin boys in two different years.

Medical City Arlington says Cassandra Martinez was due to deliver her third and fourth babies on Jan. 20, but they came early.

J'aiden Alexander Sanchez was the first to arrive at 11:46 p.m. on Dec. 31 while Jordan Xavier Sanchez arrived at 12:12 a.m. on New Year's Day, making him the first baby born at Medical City Arlington in 2017.

"I definitely was not expecting to spend the holiday in the hospital, but I am glad they're here and healthy," said Cassandra Martinez, the twins' mother.

In addition to having different birthdays, the Sanchez twins are the third set of twins of this generation in their father's family.

The hospital says twin brothers born on different days in different years, may be as rare as a one-in-a-million occurrence, according to some estimates.



Photo Credit: Medical City Arlington]]>
<![CDATA[Q&A: How GOP Could Repeal Health Care Law]]>Mon, 02 Jan 2017 11:30:30 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/OBAMACARE_AP_16320806519240.jpg

The stakes confronting Republicans determined to dismantle President Barack Obama's health care law were evident in one recent encounter between an Ohio congressman and a constituent. 

"He said, 'Now you guys own it. Now fix it. It's on your watch now,'" recalled GOP Rep. Pat Tiberi, chairman of a pivotal health subcommittee. "And this is a supporter." 

Republicans have unanimously opposed Obama's law since Democrats muscled it through Congress in 2010. They've tried derailing it scores of times but have failed, stymied by internal divisions and Obama's veto power. 

With the Republicans controlling Congress and Donald Trump entering the White House on Jan. 20, their mantra of repeal and replace is now a top-tier goal that the party's voters fully expect them to achieve — starting this week. 

But by unwinding the statute, the GOP would kill or recast programs that provide coverage to 20 million Americans who will be wary of anyone threatening their health insurance. And continuing Republican rifts over how to reshape the law, pay for the replacement and avoid destabilizing health insurance markets mean party leaders have a bumpy path ahead.

Q: What's first?
A: When the new Congress convenes Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has said his chamber will begin debating a bare bones budget for next year. Most significantly, that would trigger a special procedure letting Republicans repeal much of Obama's law by a simple Senate majority. 

That's big because GOP senators will have only a 52-48 edge. The debate will also be a way for Republicans to signal quickly to voters that they're starting to erase the law, even as they save actually doing it for later. 

Q: And then?
A: Lawmakers will work on legislation actually repealing much of Obama's law. 

The legislation is likely to erase the mandate that people buy insurance or face hefty IRS fines, which Republicans despise. Also facing elimination or reductions: taxes Obama imposed on upper-income people to finance the law, subsidies that help millions afford health care and the expansion of Medicaid health coverage to more lower-earning people. Federal aid to Planned Parenthood would be halted, reflecting GOP opposition to the right to abortion, one of the women's health services provided by the organization.

They hope to pass the bill by late spring, but its provisions probably won't take effect for up to four years to give lawmakers time to craft a replacement.

This won't be easy. Many congressional Republicans are from states like Arizona, Nevada and Pennsylvania that have added about 10 million people to Medicaid and will oppose abandoning so many voters. Others will be nervous about voting to repeal the overall law without having replacement legislation to show constituents.

Republicans also worry that during the transition to a new system, health insurers — already struggling in some states — might protect themselves by leaving some markets and boosting premiums. To ease that, GOP aides say they're considering including some kind of stabilization fund in the repeal bill to protect insurers against losses. That remains a work in progress.

Q: Will the 20 million people now covered lose their benefits?
A: Some probably will, a byproduct of reducing Medicaid coverage and dropping the requirement that individuals buy insurance.

That could be partly offset by some who'd purchase less expensive policies because the bill will probably let insurers drop coverage for some of the 10 services they now must provide, such as outpatient care and pregnancies.

At a briefing for reporters, top House GOP aides said the goal is "universal access" to health benefits, as opposed to aiming for coverage of all Americans. They said Obama's law ended up with many policies that are too expensive and offer limited access to doctors, but the shift in focus to "access" suggests Republicans don't want to be measured by the number of people actually covered.

The Senate's new minority leader, Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said recently that repealing Obama's law without a replacement would mean "huge calamity from one end of America to the other."

House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, called claims that 20 million people will lose coverage a "big lie." He said Republicans will provide "an adequate transition period to give people piece of mind."

Q: What about the replacement legislation?
A: Its ingredients remain unclear.

Trump, who's been vague, has proposed tax breaks to help people afford insurance, letting insurers sell policies across state lines and freeing states to decide how to spend Medicaid dollars.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., has offered similar ideas plus transforming Medicare into a system that offers subsidies for buying policies. He'd tax — for the first time — the most expensive employer-provided health benefits.

The GOP effort might involve several bills, with Republicans pushing measures through Congress as they're ready. And it will probably take years, which would put political pressure on the GOP.

"The American people will want to see change overnight," said Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York

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<![CDATA[Following Trump's Victory, GOP Hopes to Overhaul Medicaid]]>Thu, 29 Dec 2016 12:33:01 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/175153230-tom-price-paul-ryan.jpg

When President-elect Donald Trump takes office in January, Republicans will have the opportunity to pull off something they have wanted to do for years — overhaul Medicaid, the program that provides health care to tens of millions of lower-income and disabled Americans.

Any changes to the $500 billion-plus program hold enormous consequences not only for recipients but also for the states, which share in the cost.

Trump initially said during the presidential campaign that he would not cut Medicaid, but later expressed support for an idea pushed for years by Republicans in Congress — sending a fixed amount of money each year to the states in the form of block grants. Backers say such a change in the Medicaid formula is one of the best ways to rein in spending, but critics say big cuts would follow.

Currently, the federal government pays an agreed-upon percentage of each state's Medicaid costs, no matter how much they rise in any given year.

Republicans have argued that states have little incentive to keep expenses under control, because no state pays more than half the total cost. Both House Speaker Paul Ryan and Trump's pick for secretary of health and human services, Georgia Rep. Tom Price, want to switch to block grants.

Key questions facing Republicans will be how the funding is structured and how much flexibility will be given to the states.

"It's exciting because you know it's not going to be the same as it was, and it's nerve-wracking because you know it's not going to be the same as it was," said Terry England, a Republican state lawmaker who chairs the House budget committee in Georgia.

Republican control of Congress and the presidency means the GOP can act on its long-held priorities of reining in entitlement programs and repealing President Barack Obama's health care law, which allowed states to expand the number of people eligible for Medicaid. Thirty-one states have opted for the expansion.

It is not clear what the GOP's replacement plan will look like. Democrats have warned of dire consequences, and any proposed changes are likely to trigger a fight in Congress.

Last week, the Democratic Governors Association warned that repealing the Affordable Care Act would end health coverage for millions of people and shift the financial burden onto the states, costing them $68.5 billion in uncompensated care over the next decade. The group said the Medicaid expansion alone has provided coverage for millions of Americans who lacked insurance and that it had been a critical tool for states in combating the opioid epidemic.

In 2012, a plan by Ryan to reduce the federal deficit included a proposal to convert Medicaid funding into block grants with a cap on the amount the federal government would provide. Advocacy groups warned that that approach would ultimately lead to fewer people receiving coverage.

The Congressional Budget Office concluded that under Ryan's proposal, "states would need to increase their spending on these programs, make considerable cutbacks in them, or both."

Earlier this year, Ryan and Republican leaders offered another, more flexible option: States would receive a fixed amount from Washington for each person enrolled. That approach would allow federal payments to grow if, for example, a recession forced more people onto Medicaid.

More than 70 million are on Medicaid, nearly 10 million of them covered as a result of the expansion.

GOP budget documents say federal spending on Medicaid has increased 200 percent in the past 15 years, and the Congressional Budget Office projects it will climb 68 percent over the next decade to $642 billion. In addition, total state spending on Medicaid is expected to rise from about $216 billion in fiscal year 2015 to more than $337 billion in 2023.

How the GOP overhaul is ultimately structured will be critical, said Matt Salo, executive director of the National Association of Medicaid Directors.

"Some of my members are looking at this and saying if this isn't done right, if the money doesn't match what needs to be done, this is potentially the greatest intergovernmental transfer of financial risk in the country's history," he said.

States, many of them struggling with budget shortfalls, could end up covering fewer procedures or medications, instituting work requirements or requiring co-pays or premiums. Those that opted to expand Medicaid could decide it's no longer sustainable.

Among those now covered because of the expansion is 59-year-old Alan Purser of Wynne, Arkansas, who tapped into the program after losing his job in 2014 when the pawnshop where he worked was sold.

A few weeks after signing up, he went to the doctor because of a bad cough. He was diagnosed with blood clots in both lungs and ended up in the hospital for 10 days.

"Honestly, I would be dead without this coverage," said Purser, who is on disability. "I never would have gone to the doctor without insurance."

Purser said he fears having his benefits reduced.

"When you live on $730 a month," he said, "you have to watch where everything goes, and you just can't start paying more and more for your medicines."

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Single Shot From Doctor May Be Future of HIV Prevention]]>Thu, 29 Dec 2016 00:34:23 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/200429890-001.jpg

The Truvada pill is taken daily to prevent HIV and has been touted as a miracle drug responsible for lowering rates of the virus across the United States. But soon, the daily pill may be overshadowed by an even simpler method — a single flu shot-like injection at the doctor's office, once every two months, NBC News reported. 

The National Institutes of Health announced last week that it was entering the first-ever global clinical trial of an injectable HIV-prevention drug called cabotegravir. The trial is taking place in eight countries across three world regions — the Americas, Africa and Asia — and researchers are enrolling 4,500 gay and bisexual men along with transgender women, pulling from groups with the highest rates of new infections.

"The annual number of new HIV infections among young people, especially young men who have sex with men and transgender women who have sex with men, has been on the rise despite nearly flat HIV incidence among adults worldwide," said Raphael J. Landovitz, the protocol chair for the study. 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Minnesota Beats Rest of Country to Banning Germ-Killer]]>Sun, 25 Dec 2016 16:43:45 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/triclosan.jpg

Minnesota's first-in-the nation ban on soaps containing the once ubiquitous germ-killer triclosan takes effect Jan. 1, but the people who spearheaded the law say it's already having its desired effect on a national level. 

The federal government caught up to Minnesota's 2014 decision with its own ban that takes effect in September 2017. Major manufacturers have largely phased out the chemical already, with some products being marketed as triclosan-free. And it's an example of how changes can start at a local level.

"I wanted it to change the national situation with triclosan and it certainly has contributed to that,'' said state Sen. John Marty, an author of Minnesota's ban.

Triclosan once was widely used in anti-bacterial soaps, deodorants and even toothpaste. But studies began to show it could disrupt sex and thyroid hormones and other bodily functions, and scientists were concerned routine use could contribute to the development of resistant bacteria. And University of Minnesota research found that triclosan can break down into potentially harmful dioxins in lakes and rivers.

The group Friends of the Mississippi River and its allies in the Legislature, including Marty, got Gov. Mark Dayton to sign a ban in 2014 that gave the industry until Jan. 1, 2017, to comply.

In September, the FDA banned triclosan along with 18 other anti-bacterial chemicals from soaps nationwide, saying manufacturers had failed to show they were safe or more effective at killing germs than plain soap and water. However, the FDA allowed the use of some triclosan products such as Colgate Total toothpaste, saying it's effective at preventing gingivitis.

Marty and Trevor Russell, the water program director for Friends of the Mississippi River, acknowledged they can't take direct credit for the FDA's action because that rulemaking process began in 1978, though it didn't finalize the rule until after a legal battle with the Natural Resources Defense Council.

However, the Minnesota men hope their efforts helped turn opinions against the chemical and are confident the state's ban helped prod manufacturers to accelerate a phase-out that some companies such as Procter & Gamble and Johnson & Johnson had already begun.

Most major brands are now reformulated, said Brian Sansoni, spokesman for the American Cleaning Institute, a lobbying group. Soaps containing triclosan on store shelves are likely stocks that retailers are just using up, he said.

Russell noted he recently found Dial liquid anti-bacterial hand soap at two local Wal-Marts, two supermarkets and a Walgreens.

The industry is now submitting data to the FDA on the safety and effectiveness of the three main replacements, benzalkonium chloride, benzethonium chloride and chloroxylenol.

"Consumers can continue to use these products with confidence, like they always have,'' Sansoni said.

By going first, Russell said, Minnesota can identify any issues with implementing the ban and share it with the rest of the country.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: AP, File]]>
<![CDATA[Hey, Wait a Minute: Don't Cut Newborns' Cords Too Fast]]>Thu, 22 Dec 2016 08:40:18 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/pregnant-woman.jpg

Don't cut that umbilical cord too soon: A brief pause after birth could benefit most newborns by delivering them a surge of oxygen-rich blood. 

New recommendations for U.S. obstetricians, the latest in a debate over how quick to snip, suggest waiting "at least 30 seconds to 60 seconds after birth," for all healthy newborns. 

That's double what often happens now. It's common in the U.S. for doctors to cut the cord almost immediately, within 15 to 20 seconds of birth, unless the baby is premature. 

Cutting the cord is a memorable moment in the delivery room, and Wednesday's advice from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists won't interfere if dads want to help. 

An extra half minute may not seem like much, but a lot of oxygen-rich blood reaches the baby through the umbilical cord shortly after birth, said Dr. Maria Mascola of ACOG's Committee on Obstetric Practice. 

It may flow for up to five minutes, she said, but much of the placental blood transfers in that first minute — and there's increasing evidence that it has some health benefits. 

Here are some things to know: 

DOES THE CORD REALLY MATTER ONCE THE BABY BREATHES?
It can give a boost to what Dr. Tonse Raju of the National Institutes of Health calls the amazing transition that happens as the baby takes his or her first breath.

In the womb, the placenta acts as the fetus' lungs. But within seconds of birth, the circulation changes and lungs once filled with fluid inflate as the baby inhales air. Cut access to lingering placental blood in the cord too soon, and the baby misses extra oxygen to supplement those early breaths.

Before the 1960s, it wasn't uncommon to wait five minutes or more to cut the cord. Then, for unclear reasons, doctors began clamping and cutting almost immediately.

"Unfortunately, the value of immediate clamping has never been shown," said Raju, a perinatology specialist at NIH's National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. He wasn't involved with the new recommendation.

THE LATEST EVIDENCE
Studies began showing that babies born prematurely benefit from longer access to cord blood, with a lower risk of transfusions, anemia and bleeding in the brain. In response, ACOG recommended a pause for them.

Now ACOG cites research showing full-term babies benefit, too, with a lower risk of even mild iron deficiency that can delay cognitive development. One study showed waiting 3 minutes to cut the cord led to slightly better early brain development.

TODAY'S ADVICE
The World Health Organization says to wait one minute; some other groups say it's OK to wait two minutes, or even five. ACOG settled on "at least" 30 seconds to one minute.

However long the pause, it shouldn't interfere with mom holding her baby. NIH's Raju recommends telling parents, "While the baby's nice and warm on your skin, we'll take our time and then clamp."

ARE THERE RISKS?
Doctors won't delay cutting if the baby has problems breathing and needs emergency care.

An initial fear that delayed clamping spurs maternal bleeding has proved unfounded. But babies do need to be monitored for signs of jaundice, a risk for any newborn but one that may be slightly increased with delayed clamping.

WHAT ABOUT CORD BLOOD BANKING?
Some parents bank their child's umbilical cord blood for possible future medical use. Delayed cord cutting means there's less left to store, and ACOG said families should be counseled accordingly.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York

]]>
<![CDATA[Cancer-Stricken 'Jeopardy!' Player Wins $103K Before Death]]>Thu, 22 Dec 2016 10:20:33 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/CindyStowell-sm.jpg

Faced with a terminal diagnosis in her battle against colon cancer, Cindy Stowell saw an appearance on "Jeopardy!" in her final months as a "good opportunity" to help others struggling against the disease by donating money she might win to cancer research.

She made the most of it by winning six nights in a row and more than $103,000 in a run that ended on Wednesday's episode.

The Austin, Texas, woman died Dec. 5 at the age of 41, eight days before her first appearance aired on Dec. 13. "Jeopardy!" sent her advance copies of three of her appearances so she could watch them in the hospital, the show said in a statement . It also expedited getting her winnings to her.

Before her August audition for the show, Stowell emailed a "Jeopardy!" producer that she didn't have long to live and that if she were selected she'd like to donate any winnings to charities involved in cancer research.

She passed the audition and was booked for the first available taping on Aug. 31, "Jeopardy!" said. She won four games taped that day and returned for a Sept. 13 taping. She won two more games before finishing second in her final appearance.

"Cindy came on the show with a mission. We gave her the opportunity to fulfill that mission and she made the most of it," said "Jeopardy!" executive producer Harry Friedman.

In a video released by the show Wednesday night, Stowell called her appearance "a line in the sand" that she drew in her battle against the disease.

"I'm dying of cancer," she said. "I really want the money that I win to be used to help others and so this seems like a good opportunity,"

The Cancer Research Institute tweeted its thanks to Stowell on Wednesday for donating winnings and inspiring others to do the same.

Stowell came from behind to win several times during her run, which she said made the experience stressful, yet fun.

"Even when you think the odds are completely against you somehow you know, via luck or something, things can work out."

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: Jeopardy!
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<![CDATA[Catching Up With the Boy Who Had a Double Hand Transplant]]>Thu, 22 Dec 2016 06:52:21 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/handAP_16236722740436.jpg

Just two years ago, Zion Harvey thought he'd never throw a baseball again. 

The young boy had lost both his hands and legs after suffering an infection when he was a toddler. Today, a year and a half after he became the world's first child to have a double hand transplant, he says he's a new person.

NBC News has followed Zion's story each step of the way from his surgery to recovery. All the grueling therapy has paid off, his mother Pattie told NBC News. 

It has been a whirlwind year in the spotlight for 9-year-old Zion. Support has poured in from all corners.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[About 70 Employees Get Sick After NM Health Department Party]]>Wed, 21 Dec 2016 11:06:29 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/DOC_GettyImages-539738467.jpg

The New Mexico Department of Health said dozens of its employees became sick after its holiday party.

The New Mexican reports that about 70 staff members said they had gastrointestinal issues after the luncheon last week. A spokesman said more than 200 employees attended the catered luncheon at the Harold Runnels Building in Santa Fe.

Health Secretary Lynn Gallgher said Monday that investigators have not identified a specific contaminated food. She told her staff that the outbreak appears likely to have been caused by bacillus cereus or clostridium perfingens. Both can cause food-borne illness.

Epidemiologists are awaiting the results of laboratory test.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: Getty Images ]]>
<![CDATA[Female Doctors Outperform Male Counterparts: Study]]>Mon, 19 Dec 2016 15:38:21 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-125767555-Doctor-needle.jpg

Patients treated by women doctors are less likely to die of what ails them and less likely to have to return for more treatment, researchers reported Monday.

Yet, as NBC News reports, women doctors on average are paid less than their male counterparts and are less likely to be promoted. According to one study, white male doctors were found to earn an average $250,000 a year, while white female doctors earned an average $163,000 a year.

The researchers said that if all doctors performed as well as the female physicians included in their study, it would save 32,000 lives every year.



Photo Credit: Joe Raedle, Getty Images (File)]]>
<![CDATA[Family of 1st Puerto Rico Baby With Zika Defect Struggles]]>Mon, 19 Dec 2016 08:58:11 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/AP_16353514291200-zikathmb.jpg

Michelle Flandez had just given birth to her first son, but doctors in this U.S. territory whisked him away before she could see him. 

Perplexed, she demanded him back and then slowly unwrapped the blanket that covered him. 

"My husband and I looked at each other," she recalled. "No one had warned us. No one had given us the opportunity to decide what to do." 

It was mid-October, and in her arms lay what health officials announced as the first known baby born in Puerto Rico with a rare birth defect that has been linked to the mosquito-borne Zika virus. Those with microcephaly have abnormally small heads and often suffer impeded brain growth and other problems. 

The island, already struggling with a shortage of doctors and funds amid a worsening economic crisis, has more than 35,700 Zika cases, including nearly 3,000 involving pregnant women. Some 300 people overall have been hospitalized and five have died, including at least two who developed complications from a paralysis condition linked to Zika known as Guillain-Barre. 

Since the birth of Flandez's son, named Inti after an Inca sun god, four other babies have been born in Puerto Rico with birth defects linked to Zika, including microcephaly. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has projected a surge in cases next year. A study by the CDC estimates that up to 10,300 pregnant women in Puerto Rico could be infected with Zika and that between 100 and 270 babies could be born with microcephaly. The U.S. mainland, meanwhile, has reported more than 30 cases of birth defects linked to Zika. 

While Flandez had symptoms of Zika early in her pregnancy, she said she was told that tests showed a false positive. Sonograms in August and September showed no problems. 

Flandez ran a finger through the silky dark hair on Inti's tiny head on Friday as she described the challenges of raising her 3-month-old son on an island in economic crisis. She called several pediatric neurologists after he was born and found just one who accepted Medicaid. The earliest appointment she could get was in October 2017. 

Discouraged, she turned to relatives, one of whom detailed the family's plight on Facebook: "The family has remained quiet for too long. If this message reaches a pediatric neurologist who can help Inti, we will be more than grateful." 

The post was shared 11,000 times, and shortly afterward, an official at Puerto Rico's largest public hospital called and arranged an appointment for Inti. Since then, he has received therapy and now has several appointments scheduled through February with other doctors. 

But hardships persist. Flandez does not have a car, and she sometimes has to walk an hour with Inti to reach the closest bus stop when neighbors or friends cannot drive her to the doctor. Money also is tight for Flandez and her husband, who live in a two-bedroom apartment with no couch. 

"I have to pay rent, I have to eat ... I have to pay for transportation," she said as she cradled a sleepy Inti after breastfeeding him. 

Experts fear babies like Inti could develop other disabilities as they grow, burdening a health care system already breaking under an exodus of doctors fleeing for the U.S. mainland. The cost of treating a baby with Zika is estimated at $3.8 million, said Dr. Cynthia Moore, director of the CDC's division of congenital and developmental disorders. She said a Zika infection can bring many consequences, including poor eyesight or motor skills. 

"The more we learn about it, the more we find new problems," she said. "It's rapidly evolving." 

In Puerto Rico, health officials are pushing to secure more federal funds to fight the Zika epidemic, even as the number of weekly new cases has been dropping. Some of that money might be used as a special bonus for doctors who normally don't accept Medicaid patients, said Dr. Miguel Valencia Prado, director of the Health Department's Division of Children with Special Medical Needs. 

In addition, Valencia said he has established videoconferencing with at least two specialists in the U.S. who serve as consultants, and he is considering requesting that doctors based in the U.S. temporarily work in Puerto Rico on a rotational basis. 

Meanwhile, Flandez said she is taking it day-by-day with Inti, whom his older sister has nicknamed "Starman" because, as she explained to her mother, he is different from the rest and thus comes from the stars. 

Inti likes to have his feet tickled by the family's cat — "She's our emergency therapist," the mother says — and he seems to be soothed by the music of Iron Maiden songs when he cries, Flandez said with a laugh. 

"He's a normal child. I don't see him as someone for whom you should have pity," she said. "You never know how long he's going to live or how long I'm going to live. The most important thing is to do what's best right now."

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[US Drug Overdose Deaths Jump 33% in Past 5 Years]]>Sat, 17 Dec 2016 05:17:21 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-517239628-opioid-pills.jpg

Drug overdose deaths have increased by 33 percent in the past five years across the country, with some states seeing jumps of nearly 200 percent. 

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 30 states saw increases in overdose deaths resulting from the abuse of heroin and prescription painkillers, a class of drugs known as opioids. New Hampshire saw a 191 percent increase while North Dakota, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Maine had death rates jump by over 100 percent. 

"Too many Americans are feeling the devastation of the opioid crisis either from misuse of prescription opioids or use of illicit opioids," said Dr. Tom Frieden, head of the CDC. "Urgent action is needed to help health care providers treat pain safely and treat opioid use disorder effectively, support law enforcement strategies to reduce the availability of illicit opiates, and support states to develop and implement programs that can save lives."

Last year, more than 52,000 people died from drug overdoses, with almost two-thirds involving prescription or illegal opioids. Deaths from synthetic opioids, including illicit fentanyl, rose 73 percent, to 9,580. And prescription painkillers took the highest toll but posted the smallest increase. Abuse of drugs like Oxycontin and Vicodin killed 17,536, an increase of 4 percent.

In comparison, the number of people who died in car crashes was 37,757, an increase of 12 percent. Gun deaths, including homicides and suicides, totaled 36,252, up 7 percent.

The CDC report also included death certificate data for opioid overdoses in 28 states, finding that 16 saw a jump in death rates from synthetic opioids including illicit fentanyl. New York (135.7 percent), Connecticut (125.9 percent) and Illinois (120 percent) were the hardest hit. As for heroin deaths, 11 states had increases, with South Carolina (57.1 percent), North Carolina (46.4 percent) and Tennessee (43.5 percent) seeing the biggest spike.

"It's certainly disheartening for those of us in public health," said Katherine Keyes, a Columbia University epidemiologist who researches drug abuse issues. 

"Part of what has been concerning for many epidemiologists and other public health professionals is the rise in these high-dosage opioids like fentanyl that really are contributing in very pervasive ways to the overdose epidemic," she said. "What you saw in the CDC report is that one of the major categories where you saw an increase in overdoses was when fentanyl is involved. Certainly, that is not a surprise to those of us who have been working in opioid addiction and overdose. But it is a stark reminder that that is the challenge we are facing — these new synthetic opioids."

The Northeast has been hit especially hard by the drug crisis, with New Hampshire among those suffering the most. Just this year, overdose deaths were expected to top 500. The state's congressional delegation was among those supporting a bill that will provide $1 billion in funding to states to fight heroin and opioid abuse.

Heroin, fentanyl and prescription painkillers are the primary drivers of addiction in recent years.

"Obviously the fact that 500 people are going to succumb to addiction this year is just a terrible tragedy," said Republican Jeb Bradley, the state Senate majority leader. "It reminds us all that we have to make sure that we ... monitor carefully what's working and what isn't and be prepared as we come back in January to address this issue."

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Mylan to Offer Generic EpiPen for $300 Next Week]]>Fri, 16 Dec 2016 09:15:11 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/epipen-generics.jpg

Mylan is about to start selling a generic version of its EpiPen injector for $300 per two-pack, under half the cost of the name-brand lifesaving drug, the pharmaceutical company announced Friday.

The move comes after 20 state attorneys general launched a federal lawsuit alleging that Mylan and five other generic drug-makers artificially inflated and manipulated prices to reduce competition for an antibiotic and oral diabetes medication.

Mylan has been offering EpiPen, an emergency allergy treatment, for about $608, up more than 500 percent nine years ago, according to the Elsevier Clinical Solutions' Gold Standard Drug Database. The company came under fire this summer for those price hikes, leading to a congressional inquiry.

The $300 cost of the new generic EpiPen two-pack is wholesale for Mylan. It works the same way as EpiPen, the company said, and will arrive in pharmacies next week.

Sen. Bernie Sanders took issue with the announcement Friday morning, calling it a "PR move" that doesn't restore the drug to its 2007 prices.

Mylan CEO Heather Bresch told CNBC in August that lowering the price was not an option, though it also boosted its patient assistance program so that some families wouldn't have to pay out of pocket for the injector.

"Had we reduced the list price, I couldn't ensure that everyone who needs an EpiPen gets one," she said.

Connecticut is leading the states' lawsuits over drug pricing. Attorney General George Jepsen, whose office began its investigation more than two years ago into suspicious price increases of certain generic medications, said his staff "developed compelling evidence of collusion and anticompetitive conduct" among many companies that manufacture and market generic drugs.

Jepsen called Heritage Pharmaceuticals "the principal architect of the conspiracies," but said he had evidence of "widespread participation in illegal conspiracies across the generic drug industry."

Both Mylan and Teva Pharmaceuticals USA said they knew of no evidence that they had participated in price fixing. Teva said it "vigorously" denies any allegations of wrongdoing. Aurobindo Pharma USA Inc. declined to comment. The other companies named — Citron Pharma LLC and Mayne Pharma Inc. — didn't return requests for comment Thursday.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: Mylan
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<![CDATA[Deadline Extended to Sign Up for Obamacare]]>Fri, 16 Dec 2016 09:25:21 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Obamacare-AP_30213472209.jpg

The Obama administration is giving consumers a few extra days to sign up on HealthCare.gov in time for health insurance coverage to take effect Jan. 1.

The new deadline is 11:59 p.m. Pacific time on Monday, Dec. 19, says Kevin Counihan, CEO of the federal health insurance markets.

The unexpected extension was announced after close of business Thursday. Counihan said it's due to strong interest.

The old deadline was Thursday, Dec. 15.

The Obama administration has set a goal of signing up 13.8 million people for 2017, a modest increase. So far enrollment is running about on par with last year, but the share of new customers is down.

Open enrollment ends Jan. 31.

President-elect Donald Trump and the GOP Congress have vowed to repeal and replace the 2010 health care law.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: ap]]>
<![CDATA[Engineered Pink Pineapple Safe to Sell: FDA]]>Thu, 15 Dec 2016 06:31:47 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-503869977.jpg

A strain of pineapple genetically engineered to be pink instead of yellow got the go-ahead from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday, NBC News reported. 

The pink pineapple, made by Del Monte Fresh Produce, simply has some genes toned down to keep the flesh of the fruit pinker and sweeter, the FDA said. 

"(Del Monte's) new pineapple has been genetically engineered to produce lower levels of the enzymes already in conventional pineapple that convert the pink pigment lycopene to the yellow pigment beta carotene. Lycopene is the pigment that makes tomatoes red and watermelons pink, so it is commonly and safely consumed."

The pineapple will be grown in Costa Rica. The company will label it "extra sweet pink flesh pineapple."



Photo Credit: Getty]]>
<![CDATA[Huff, Puff and Explode: E-cigarette Fires, Injuries on Rise]]>Wed, 14 Dec 2016 13:48:18 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/ecigarette+woman+smoking.jpg

Katrina Williams wanted a safer alternative to smoking, and e-cigarettes seemed to be the answer until the day one exploded in her pocket as she drove home from a beauty salon.

"It was like a firecracker" as it seared third-degree burns in her leg, blasted through her charred pants and stuck in the dashboard, the New Yorker said. That was in April. Williams, a freight manager, said she still hasn't returned to work. "It was very disturbing."

Similar painful accidents have been recorded with increasing frequency over the past year as use of e-cigarettes has climbed, with faulty batteries seen as the suspected culprit. The industry maintains e-cigarettes are safe when used properly.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which started regulating e-cigarettes in May, identified about 66 explosions in 2015 and early 2016, after recording 92 explosions from 2009 to September 2015.

In late November, a clerk at a liquor store in New York's Grand Central Station was casually leaning against a counter when the e-cigarette in his pocket erupted. A security camera captured him frantically trying to snuff out a fountain of white-hot sparks.

Surveillance video also captured an e-cigarette explosion in September at a New Jersey mall that left a woman's Louis Vuitton bag smoking as she stood at a checkout counter.

Police say a teenage girl on a train at the Universal Orlando amusement park suffered burns in October when an electronic cigarette belonging to another visitor exploded and shot a fireball at her.

The numbers kept by the FDA may be an undercount. One hospital, the UW Medicine Regional Burn Center at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, says it has seen about 23 patients with e-cigarette burns since it started tracking them informally in October 2015.

"They are extremely dangerous and need to be revamped or revised," said Marc Freund, a New York attorney who represents both Williams and a 14-year-old boy who was partially blinded when an e-cigarette device exploded at a kiosk selling e-cigarettes at a Brooklyn mall.

The problems with the devices are linked to their lithium-ion batteries, which help vaporize liquid nicotine into a mist that distributors and some health experts say is far less harmful than traditional tobacco cigarettes.

The same types of batteries are used safely in many consumer electronics, but they've also been behind fires in hover boards and smartphones. Last year, the federal Department of Transportation issued a rule prohibiting passengers from packing e-cigarettes in checked luggage to protect against in-flight fires.

Thomas Kiklas, co-founder of the Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association, argues the devices are safe when used properly. He said the TVECA encourages proper recharging of the batteries as a way to prevent possible injuries.

Euromonitor International, a market research company, noted there were 10.8 million regular e-cigarette users in the U.S. in 2015, generating $3.5 billion in sales.

Gregory L. Bentley, an Irvine, California, attorney, won a nearly $2 million judgment in a product liability lawsuit for a woman burned by an e-cigarette last year. He said he has a growing list of similar cases, most of which involve batteries and other components manufactured in China that have been subject to little safety oversight.

"The problem is defectively manufactured batteries," he said. "Consumers need to know it's next to impossible to sue a Chinese company. If people want to seek compensation they have to target distributors, wholesalers and retailers."

Last week, the U.S. surgeon general called e-cigarettes an emerging public health threat to the nation's youth, although he highlighted the risk of nicotine addiction, not explosions.

New York Sen. Charles Schumer said the FDA should consider a recall.

"It's bad enough that e-cigarettes cause nicotine addiction and may be dangerous to a person's health, but now it seems they're doubling as a ticking time bomb," he said.

FDA spokesman Michael Felberbaum said the agency is reviewing the health impacts of all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes. He said the review will include an evaluation of the use of e-cigarette batteries, including "amperage, voltage, wattage, battery type" and other issues.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Where You Live Determines What Kills You]]>Wed, 14 Dec 2016 11:08:58 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-515791525.jpg

A new analysis by the Journal of the American Medical Association shows a county-by-county breakdown of what kills people in the U.S., NBC News reported.

Drug overdoses shot up 1,000 percent since 1980 in counties in Kentucky, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, western Pennsylvania and east-central Missouri. Diabetes-related deaths are more prevalent in Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi. Suicides and homicides were most prevalent in the western states.

Meanwhile, heart disease, is particularly high in the southeast of the United States, blamed on poor diet, a lack of exercise and less access to good medical care. 

"We found huge variation in all the leading causes of death," said Dr. Christopher Murray at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Seattle.



Photo Credit: Getty Images/Ikon Images]]>
<![CDATA[Fewer Teens Drink or Use Illegal Drugs Now]]>Wed, 14 Dec 2016 06:51:35 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-AB68607.jpg

Fewer American teenagers are using illegal drugs or drinking alcohol, researchers said. 

Rates are at a record low for eighth-graders, the team at the University of Michigan and the National Institutes of Health found, but there's a troubling increase in marijuana use among older teens in some states, NBC News reported.

The survey of 45,473 students in eighth, 10th and 12th grade at 372 public and private schools found 48 percent of 12th graders admit to having used a drug illegally in the past year, compared to 49 percent in 2015 and 54 percent in 2000. 

About a third of 10th graders have used any illicit drug and 17 percent of eighth graders have.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Obama Signs Bill Boosting Spending on Cancer Research]]>Tue, 13 Dec 2016 19:38:06 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-629519988.jpg

On a "bittersweet day" that brought back memories of loved ones lost, President Barack Obama signed into law legislation that makes new investments in cancer research and battling drug abuse.

Obama signed the bill Tuesday at a ceremony on the White House campus flanked by Vice President Joe Biden and key lawmakers from both parties. The 55-year-old president recounted that his own mother did not even reach his age, dying of cancer in her early 50s.

"It's not always easy to remember, but being able to honor those we've lost in this way and to know that we may be able to prevent other families from feeling that same loss, that makes it a good day," Obama said. "It's a good day to see us doing our jobs."

The 21st Century Cures Act invests $1.8 billion for a cancer research "moonshot" that is strongly supported by Biden. The vice president's son, Beau, died of brain cancer in 2015.

The bill also authorizes giving states $1 billion over two years to prevent and treat the abuse of heroin and other opioids and addictive drugs.

Overall, the measure plans $6.3 billion in new spending over the coming decade. The bill also streamlines the approval process for drugs and medical devices at the Food and Drug Administration, which some patient advocacy groups opposed.

Public Citizen said the bill pressures the FDA to approve new medical products and new uses for drugs based on weaker evidence of safety and efficacy.

"This bill remains a bad deal for patient safety, offering a small, temporary and non-guaranteed increase in public research funding at the expense of permanently weakening oversight by the Food and Drug Administration," Public Citizen said.

The signing ceremony represented a rare day in Obama's presidency, where lawmakers from both parties gathered to celebrate bipartisan joy over the passage of consequential legislation.

"I hope this bodes well for what will come next year — that we're back working together" Biden said.

Biden said he believed the bill would inject new urgency into fighting cancer and would give millions of Americans hope that they will be able to have their lives extended through research that will bring about new cures and treatments.

"Every day, millions of people are praying, praying for hope, praying for time," Biden said.

Obama also used the ceremony to make a pitch for his signature health insurance law that expanded coverage for 20 million Americans, but also faces the prospect of repeal in the next administration.

"I'm hopeful in the years ahead that Congress keeps working together in a bipartisan fashion to move us forward, rather than backward in support of the health of our people," Obama said.

Obama was introduced by David and Kate Grubb of West Virginia who lost their daughter Jessica in March to a drug overdose. David Grubb shared his daughter's struggle with addiction when Obama visited the state in October 2015. He said Jessica wanted treatment, but the closest place they could find for treatment was in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Grubb said the funding would make it possible for communities "to have the resources, to build the facilities, to do the kind of education that's absolutely needed so we can address this problem."

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Obama Signs 21st Century Cures Act]]>Tue, 13 Dec 2016 18:04:17 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Obama_Biden_21st_Century_Cures_act_1200x675_832199235608.jpgThe 21st Century Cures Act increases funding for medical research and hopes to speed approval of experimental treatments.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York

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<![CDATA[Oklahoma May Require Restroom Signs in Anti-Abortion Effort]]>Tue, 13 Dec 2016 13:50:46 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/AJ-griffin-oklahoma.jpg

Oklahoma plans to force hospitals, nursing homes, restaurants and public schools to post signs inside public restrooms directing pregnant women where to receive services as part of an effort to reduce abortions in the state.

The State Board of Health will consider regulations for the signs on Tuesday. Businesses and other organizations will have to pay an estimated $2.3 million to put up the signs because the Legislature didn't approve any money for them.

The provision for the signs was tucked into a law that the Legislature passed this year that requires the state to develop informational material "for the purpose of achieving an abortion-free society." The signs must be posted by January 2018.

Groups representing hospitals and restaurants are among those complaining that the new requirements are an expensive, unfunded mandate from the Legislature.

"We don't have any concern about the information they're trying to get out to women about their babies and their pregnancy. This is just the wrong way to do it," said Jim Hooper, president of the Oklahoma Restaurant Association. "It's just another mandate on small businesses. It's not just restaurants. It includes hospitals, nursing homes. It just doesn't make sense."

The anti-abortion group Oklahomans for Life requested the bill. The sponsor, Sen. A.J. Griffin, said she may revise the measure in the upcoming legislative session to more narrowly target it to exclude some facilities.

"I do see how it is going to need to be tempered a tad," said Griffin, a Republican from Guthrie. "We need to make sure we have something that's reasonable and still effective."

Under the law, the signs would state: "There are many public and private agencies willing and able to help you carry your child to term and assist you and your child after your child is born, whether you choose to keep your child or to place him or her for adoption. The State of Oklahoma strongly urges you to contact them if you are pregnant." The signs would also include a link to the Health Department's website.

In written comments provided to the Health Department, the Tulsa Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy called the proposed regulations "completely unnecessary and unwanted" and said they would provide a significant financial burden on already stressed state agencies, including the departments of Health and Education.

Don Maisch, an attorney for the State Department of Health who has worked on the rules, said the signage requirements apply to public restrooms of any entity that is regulated by the agency, including hospitals, hotels and motels, nursing homes, residential care facilities and most public schools.

"There is definitely a cost involved in moving forward with this," Maisch said.

The Oklahoma Hospital Association projected it would cost at least $225,000 for signage at the state's 140 licensed hospitals, with the fiscal impact on other licensed industries estimated at about $2.1 million.

Tony Lauinger, executive director of Oklahomans for Life, said the group's intent was for the Health Department to produce the signage, but only if the Legislature appropriated funds to do so.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: AP, Sue Ogrocki]]>
<![CDATA[NJ Clinical Lab Hack Exposes Personal Health Info of 34,000]]>Tue, 13 Dec 2016 07:34:47 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Quest+Diagnostics_21789268.jpg

Clinical laboratory services company Quest Diagnostics announced Monday that it is investigating a third-party hack into an internet application on its network. 

The Madison, New Jersey-based Fortune 500 healthcare company said in a press release that on Nov. 26, an unauthorized third party accessed the MyQuest by Care 360 internet application and obtained health information of about 34,000 patients.

In its statement, the company said the data accessed by the third party "included names, dates of birth, lab results and, in some instances, phone numbers."

None of the compromised information included Social Security numbers, credit card, insurance or other financial information, Quest says. The company says it immediately addressed the hack when it was discovered and has notified all affected individuals.

There is an investigation underway, and the company says it is working with a cybersecurity firm to determine the source and cause of the breach.

Anyone with questions on the incident can call Quest Diagnostics at (888) 320-9970 Monday through Friday between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. Eastern Time.

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<![CDATA[97-Year-Old Still Running Strong]]>Tue, 13 Dec 2016 10:14:35 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/NC_97yo1212_1920x1080.jpgWorld War II veteran Albert Booth is still running marathons at age 97 and has no plans of slowing down.

Photo Credit: WGAL-TV]]>
<![CDATA[Bill Murray, President Obama Talk Cubs, Sox at White House]]>Tue, 13 Dec 2016 06:49:43 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/murray+obama.png

A Cubs fan and a Sox fan walk into the Oval Office… to talk about health care?

That’s the theme of a new video tweeted out by the White House Sunday featuring President Barack Obama and Bill Murray.

The video is aimed at reminding Americans that they can sign up for health care for 2017 until Dec. 15. But it also undoubtedly features a little Cubs-Sox fan rivalry.

“Generally, I don’t let Cubs fans into the Oval Office,” Obama says at the beginning of the clip.

But, in typical Murray style, the Cubs fan, decked out in his beloved team’s gear, is quick to respond.

“It’s probably not a coincidence that your popularity is at an all-time high,” Murray says. “So I would just stick with this if I were you. I would just ride this baby.”

He then turns his arm and begins pointing at the Cubs logo stitched on the side of his sweater.

“It’s not going to happen,” Obama replies.

The conversation takes place as the two play a friendly putting game in the office, trying to hit a golf ball into a glass on the ground.

“It’s going to happen long before you make this putt,” Murray says before calmly hitting the ball right into the cup.

Obama, however, struggles to make it.

At one point, Murray bends down to pick up the ball, revealing that he is having knee problems, but he has no health insurance.

“Well, look Bill, you don’t have to go without health insurance because these days days, because of the Affordable Care Act, anybody can get health insurance, and it doesn’t matter if you already have something wrong with you because insurance companies have to take you even if you have a pre-existing condition,” Obama says.

Murray then asks if mental health is covered too and Obama confirms it is.

“Remember to go to healthcare.gov, shop for health care between Nov. 1 and Dec. 15 if you want healthcare by January 2017,” Obama says.

It’s not the first time Murray has brought his Cubs fandom to the White House.

In October, the celebrity fan crashed a White House press briefing to announce that he believed the Cubs would win the World Series. And sure enough, that’s exactly what happened.



Photo Credit: White House/Twitter
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<![CDATA[Washington is First State to Sue Monsanto Over PCB Pollution]]>Fri, 09 Dec 2016 09:08:58 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/washington-pcb-suit.jpg

Washington has become the first U.S. state to sue the agrochemical giant Monsanto over pervasive pollution from PCBs, the toxic industrial chemicals that have accumulated in plants, fish and people around the globe for decades. The company said the case "lacks merit."

Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced the lawsuit at a news conference in downtown Seattle Thursday, saying they expect to win hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars from the company.

"It is time to hold the sole U.S. manufacturer of PCBs accountable for the significant harm they have caused to our state," Ferguson said, noting that the chemicals continue to imperil the health of protected salmon and orcas despite the tens of millions of dollars Washington has spent to clean up the pollution. "Monsanto produced PCBs for decades while hiding what they knew about the toxic chemicals' harm to human health and the environment."

PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, were used in many industrial and commercial applications, including in paint, coolants, sealants and hydraulic fluids. Monsanto, based in St. Louis, produced them from 1935 until Congress banned them in 1979.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, PCBs have been shown to cause a variety of health problems, including cancer in animals as well as effects on the immune, nervous and reproductive systems.

Monsanto spokesman Scott S. Partridge said in a statement that the "case is experimental because it seeks to target a product manufacturer for selling a lawful and useful chemical four to eight decades ago that was applied by the U.S. government, Washington State, local cities, and industries into many products to make them safer. PCBs have not been produced in the U.S. for four decades, and Washington is now pursuing a case on a contingency fee basis that departs from settled law both in Washington and across the country. Most of the prior cases filed by the same contingency fee lawyers have been dismissed, and Monsanto believes this case similarly lacks merit."

In response to a similar lawsuit filed last year by the city of Spokane, Washington, Monsanto said a previous incarnation of the company produced the PCBs, which it said "served an important fire protection and safety purpose."

"PCBs sold at the time were a lawful and useful product that was then incorporated by third parties into other useful products," Charla Lord, a company spokeswoman, wrote. "If improper disposal or other improper uses created the necessity for clean-up costs, then these other third parties would bear responsibility for these costs."

Several other cities — including Portland, Oregon, and Oakland, Berkeley, San Jose, Long Beach and San Diego, California — have also sued Monsanto over PCB pollution, the Attorney General's Office said. Those cases are ongoing.

Ferguson, a Democrat, pointed to internal Monsanto documents that show the company long knew about the danger the chemicals posed. In 1937, an internal memo said testing on animals showed "systemic toxic effects" from prolonged exposure by inhaling PCB fumes or ingestion. In 1969, a company committee on PCBs noted, "There is too much customer/market need and selfishly too much Monsanto profit to go out."

"There is little probability that any action that can be taken will prevent the growing incrimination of specific polychlorinated biphenyls ... as nearly global environmental contaminants leading to contamination of human food (particularly fish), the killing of some marine species (shrimp), and the possible extinction of several species of fish eating birds," a committee memo said.

Nevertheless, Monsanto told officials around the country the contrary. In a letter to New Jersey's Department of Conservation that year, Monsanto wrote, "Based on available data, manufacturing and use experience, we do not believe PCBs to be seriously toxic."

Ferguson said that infuriated him. He noted that his great-grandparents settled along Washington's Skagit River in the late 19th century. The Skagit was one of more than 100 water bodies in the state listed in the lawsuit as being polluted with PCBs.

"That river, the Skagit River, which my family depended on to a great degree in the 19th century as they homesteaded here, is now contaminated by PCBs, as are the fish," he said. "That makes me mad."

Ferguson said his office had been in touch with counterparts in other states, but it remained unclear if other states would follow Washington's lead in suing the company.

Washington's lawsuit seeks damages on several grounds, including product liability for what it described as Monsanto's failure to warn about the danger of PCBs; negligence; and even trespass, for injuring the state's natural resources.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Coke Wants in on 'Foodie' Culture]]>Fri, 09 Dec 2016 10:20:23 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/coke-instagram.jpg

What beverage goes best with lobster rolls, a bagel sandwich stuffed with whitefish, or a bowl of ramen? Coke wants you to think of soda. 

Coca-Cola is trying to sell more of its flagship beverage by suggesting the cola can accompany a wide range of meals, rather than just the fast food and pizza with which it's a mainstay. It's why a recent TV ad featured a young couple grabbling mini-Cokes while making paella, and why food bloggers were paid to post photos on Instagram of various dishes, paired specifically with glass bottles of Coke that might appeal to the aesthetic of "foodie" culture. One photo showed a bowl of chicken chili with the soda. 

"The ultimate combination of two of my very favorites!" wrote the blogger, who has more than 53,000 followers. The caption disclosed that the post, which got about 430 "likes," was a sponsored ad. 

Although Coke has often been marketed as a good companion for food, the company is trying to make sure it isn't left behind as American tastes evolve and people move away from traditional sodas. The world's biggest beverage maker is particularly trying to update the drink's image among people in their 20s and 30s who may associate soda mainly with places like McDonald's and Domino's. 

"It's an Amateur Move to Limit Coca-Cola to Fast-Food," stated an online ad paid for by Coke on Vox Media sites. The post, which was designed to read like a news story, talked about famous food pairings and how tastes like Coca-Cola "go with everything." A digital video series with Univision also showed people enjoying Cokes with a variety of meals, including sushi. 

An internal briefing about the campaign with Vox Media's creative division, obtained by The Associated Press, said Coke "has long been associated with hamburgers, hot dogs and other classic American dishes," but that the focus of the push was "sharing Coca-Cola with family over a healthy home-cooked meal." 

The briefing said the paid "influencers" who posted on social media should show dishes that are not "grossly unhealthy or over-indulgent." Influencers submitted ideas for recipes and photos for approval. Among the pictures with Coke that made the cut: a poppyseed and chicken salad, steak with salsa verde and an herb-roasted chicken. 

The push comes as Coke faces growing competition in the beverage aisle, as well as criticism over its marketing of sugary drinks. U.S. sales volume for regular Coke is down 14 percent over the past decade, according to the industry tracker Beverage Digest, while Diet Coke's volume is down 29 percent. 

In another company development, Coca-Cola announced Friday that its CEO since 2008, Muhtar Kent, would step down on May 1 and be succeeded by its President and Chief Operating Officer James Quincey, CNBC reported. Kent will remain chairman.

To Wall Street, the Atlanta-based company emphasizes its array of beverages and investments in options like bottled teas that have bigger growth potential. And to public health advocates, the company has pledged it will market alternatives that would help reduce the number of calories people drink. 

At the same time, Coca-Cola is trying to shore up its flagship brand in the U.S. The strategy has been to reposition Coke as a more premium drink with packaging like mini-cans and glass bottles. That dovetails with the company's efforts to hitch the cola to a foodie culture that prizes photogenic qualities. 

Stuart Kronauge, senior vice president of marketing for Coca-Cola North America, said the association between Coke and hamburgers and pizza is largely a result of where the drinks have traditionally been sold. She said the recent campaign is a way to update the company's marketing, specifically among millennials, that says Coke goes well with food. 

"We just want to make sure that we expand the sense of it," she said. 

Kronauge also noted that the ad campaign incorporated Coke Zero, which is made with artificial sweeteners, and Coke Life, which is made with stevia. Although Coca-Cola is shifting into marketing for the holidays, Kronauge said the company plans to return to the theme of Coke pairing well with different foods. 

Ali Dibadj, a Bernstein analyst, said Coke's association with foods like burgers and fries contributes to the drink's unhealthy image. 

"If they can break those bounds down and match it up with a Caesar salad or quinoa salad, maybe it breaks down the mental barrier," Dibadj said. 

People associate Coke with pizza and burgers because those pairings are now part of U.S. culture, but also because they actually go well together, said John Fischer, a professor of wine, beverage and hospitality at the Culinary Institute of America. He disagrees with the premise that Coke goes well "with everything," as the Coke ad contends. 

"Coke is a fairly powerful flavor — it could obliterate more delicate flavors," Fischer said. 

Still, Fischer said people who don't have established ideas about food and drink pairings might try out Coke's claim and grow accustomed to having it with different foods. In that sense, he said, the company might try to "say it until it's true."

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Life Expectancy Drops for Americans, Rates and Causes Climb]]>Fri, 09 Dec 2016 09:18:10 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/er-sign.jpg

A decades-long trend of rising life expectancy in the U.S. could be ending: It declined last year and it is no better than it was four years ago.

In most of the years since World War II, life expectancy in the U.S. has inched up, thanks to medical advances, public health campaigns and better nutrition and education.

But last year it slipped, an exceedingly rare event in a year that did not include a major disease outbreak. Other one-year declines occurred in 1993, when the nation was in the throes of the AIDS epidemic, and 1980, the result of an especially nasty flu season.

In 2015, rates for 8 of the 10 leading causes of death rose. Even more troubling to health experts: the U.S. seems to be settling into a trend of no improvement at all.

"With four years, you're starting to see some indication of something a little more ominous," said S. Jay Olshansky, a University of Illinois-Chicago public health researcher.

An American born in 2015 is expected to live 78 years and 9½ months, on average, according to preliminary data released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. An American born in 2014 could expect to live about month longer, and even an American born in 2012 would have been expected to live slightly longer. In 1950, life expectancy was just over 68 years.

The United States ranks below dozens of other high-income countries in life expectancy, according to the World Bank. It is highest in Japan, at nearly 84 years.

The CDC report is based mainly on 2015 death certificates. There were more than 2.7 million deaths, or about 86,000 more than the previous year. The increase in raw numbers partly reflects the nation's growing and aging population.

It was led by an unusual upturn in the death rate from the nation's leading killer, heart disease. Death rates also increased for chronic lower lung disease, accidental injuries, stroke, Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, kidney disease and suicide.

The only clear drop was in cancer, the nation's No. 2 killer.

Experts aren't sure what's behind the stall. Some, like Olshansky, suspect obesity, an underlying factor in some of the largest causes of death, particularly heart disease.

But there's also the impact of rising drug overdoses and suicides, he noted. Drug overdose deaths soared 11 percent to more than 52,000 last year, the most ever, driven by increases in deaths from heroin, prescription painkillers and other so-called opioids.

"There are a lot of things happening at the same time," he said.

Some years the CDC later revises its life expectancy estimate after doing additional analysis, including for its 2014 estimate.

Average life expectancy declined for men, falling by more than two months, to 76 years and 3 ½ months in 2015. It fell by about one month for women, to 81 years and 2 ½ months, the CDC said.

Death rates increased for black men, white men, white women, and slightly for Hispanic men and women. But they did not change for black women.

The new CDC report did not offer a geographic breakdown of 2015 deaths, or analysis of death based on education or income. But other research has shown death rates are rising sharply for poorer people — particularly white people — in rural areas but not wealthier and more highly educated and people on the coasts.

"The troubling trends are most pronounced for the people who are the most disadvantaged," said Jennifer Karas Montez, a Syracuse University researcher who studies adult death patterns.

"But if we don't know why life expectancy is decreasing for some groups, we can't be confident that it won't start declining for others," she said.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: AP
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<![CDATA[Drug Overdoses Kill Record Number of Americans in 2015]]>Fri, 09 Dec 2016 09:19:34 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/heroin-needle.jpg

More than 50,000 Americans died from drug overdoses last year, the most ever.

The disastrous tally has been pushed to new heights by soaring abuse of heroin and prescription painkillers, a class of drugs known as opioids.

Heroin deaths rose 23 percent in one year, to 12,989, slightly higher than the number of gun homicides, according to government data released Thursday.

Deaths from synthetic opioids, including illicit fentanyl, rose 73 percent to 9,580. And prescription painkillers took the highest toll, but posted the smallest increase. Abuse of drugs like Oxycontin and Vicodin killed 17,536, an increase of 4 percent.

"I don't think we've ever seen anything like this. Certainly not in modern times," said Robert Anderson, who oversees death statistics at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The new numbers were part of the agency's annual tally of deaths and death rates in 2015.

Overall, overdose deaths rose 11 percent last year, to 52,404. By comparison, the number of people who died in car crashes was 37,757, an increase of 12 percent. Gun deaths, including homicides and suicides, totaled 36,252, up 7 percent.

As part of its annual report the CDC also found that rates for 8 of the 10 leading causes of death rose last year, causing the nation's life expectancy to go down for the first time in more than 20 years. Drug overdoses were a significant factor, but an unexpected increase in the death rate from heart disease, the nation's No. 1 killer, was another major reason.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Conjoined Twins Separated After 17-Hour Surgery in California]]>Fri, 09 Dec 2016 18:47:57 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/EvaErika.jpg

Erika and Eva Sandoval will be able to share the uncanny connection twins are said to have, but a grueling 17-hour surgery has ensured that they can soon do that safely.

The 2-year-old twins from Antelope, California, were born conjoined, but as of Wednesday were separated by surgeons at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford. The surgery began on Tuesday and lasted through early Wednesday, hospital officials said.

The girls are in stable condition, hospital officials said Thursday, although they remain in the intensive care unit. 

Erika and Eva's mother, Aida Sandoval, was overcome with emotion as she spoke to reporters Thursday afternoon. In Spanish, she said that her first words upon seeing the girls emerge from their respective operating rooms were, "You're missing your other part, my daughter. Where is your sister?"

"It still seems very surreal when I see one on one side and the other one on the other side," Aida Sandoval said. "But it brings us all joy to see them, that it happened, that it was a dream come true for everybody." 

Dr. Gary Hartman, a pediatric surgeon who led the medical team that performed the lengthy, complicated procedure, recalled meeting the girls' parents, Aida and Arturo Sandoval in 2014. They had just learned that their twins were conjoined and were experiencing "multiple anomalies," he said.

"From that moment forward, the goal of the family and of all of the providers here at Packard has been the same goal that we have for all of our children — and that is that we end up with two happy, healthy girls," Hartman said. 

Anyone who met Eva and Erika Sandoval prior to Tuesday's surgery "can testify to the happy part. That is entirely the fault of the Sandovals," he quipped.

"We think that this week we made a big step toward the healthy part," Hartman explained.

Aida Sandoval's pregnancy was overseen by Lucile Packard's perinatal center. She was 32 weeks along when the girls were born via emergency C-section, according to Hartman.

Eva and Erika have spent the first two years of their lives closely monitored by Stanford doctors and others closer to the Sandovals' home in Antelope. 

"They were basically joined at the pericardium – which is the sac that covers the heart – joined at the sternum, joined at the liver, they shared parts of the ... small and large bowel, and they shared most of the pelvic organs," said pediatric surgeon Dr. Matias Bruzoni. "So for us it was a big challenge, but little by little and with the help of a lot of people … we were able to, from the top down, finally separate them."

On Tuesday, too, Eva and Erika's surgery depended on about 50 experts in pediatric surgery, orthopedics and anesthesiology as well as plastic surgeons, radiologists, urologists, and more.  

Bruzoni said that once the girls were separated, the medical team split into two groups for Eva and Erika's reconstruction phases, which lasted longer than the separation.

"Everyone is very focused on the separation and all the questions are about the separation," Hartman said. But it "doesn’t matter if you get them separated, if you can't get them reconstructed and get them closed."

Hartman admitted that he was extremely concerned about Erika, the smaller twin. "She basically kept getting smaller. The more calories we gave her, the bigger Eva got," he said.

Doctors were worried about her ability to make it through the "stress of the surgery," but Hartman said the girls were reconstructed so well that Erika has already been taken off the ventilator and is recovering faster than Eva.

Hartman joked that he took it upon himself to add levity to the complex surgery.

"I wanted each girl to have half of [their] belly button so for the rest of their life they can look at that half a belly button and think, 'That was where I was connected to my sister,'" he said. "So that's the goofy thing."

The Sandovals knew, going into Tuesday, that Erika and Eva faced an estimated risk of mortality of up to 30 percent, Hartman said  

But Aida and Arturo Sandoval stuck by their decision. 

"Once you see them, you know their personalities are different," Arturo Sandoval said. "They [got to] have their own lives."

To that, Aida Sandoval added that it was difficult to watch one child feel sick and seek rest and sleep while the other was healthy, happy and wanted to play. She recalled one of the girls experiencing pain when plastic surgeons used tissue expanders to stretch their skin, but her sister simply wanted to "crab walk."

Expressing gratitude to the doctors at Stanford for supporting them, Aida Sandoval said that she had heard "how peaceful it was" in the operating rooms during Eva and Erika's separation and reconstruction.

Now, however, the girls' mother is excited to get "more gray hair."

"They always say, 'When you have twins, you're going to go crazy because one's over here, the other's over there," Aida Sandoval said. "I want to go chasing after one that way and then go chasing after the other. That’s something I do look forward to doing."



Photo Credit: David Hodges / DNK Digital]]>
<![CDATA[Bristol-Meyers Squibb to Pay $19.5M Over Abilify Marketing]]>Thu, 08 Dec 2016 22:28:04 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/AP_050615026049.jpg

Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. will pay $19.5 million to settle allegations that it promoted the anti-psychotic drug Abilify for unapproved uses and misled doctors about its dangers, it was announced Thursday.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris announced the settlement of a state business code violations lawsuit on the same day that the final agreement was received by a San Diego court.

New York-based Bristol-Myers Squibb denies any wrongdoing but agreed to various marketing restraints.

Abilify is manufactured by another company, Otsuka America Pharmaceutical, Inc. In a statement, Bristol-Myers Squibb said it has not marketed the drug since 2013.

"We are pleased to put this matter behind us so that we can focus on making transformational medicines for patients battling serious diseases," the statement said.

The lawsuit suit stemmed from an investigation by California, 42 other states and the District of Columbia into the marketing of Abilify for so-called off-label uses.

Abilify is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder and Tourette's disorder in adults and children. It generated $5.5 billion in sales in 2014.

California alleged that Bristol-Myers Squibb promoted the schizophrenia drug for unapproved uses on children and for elderly patients with dementia.

An FDA-approved medication guide from Otsuka says medicines such as Abilify can produce an increased risk of death in elderly patients with dementia-related psychosis and that antidepressant medicines may increase suicidal thoughts or actions in some children.

"In addition to incentivizing sales representatives to engage in off-label marketing, the investigation found that the company misled doctors and patients about the drug's risks and side effects and misrepresented the findings of scientific studies concerning the drug in marketing messages," according to the statement from Harris' office.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS]]>
<![CDATA[Teen Vaping Is Public Health Threat, Surgeon General Says ]]>Thu, 08 Dec 2016 09:13:23 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/vapes+3.PNG

The U.S. surgeon general is calling e-cigarettes an emerging public health threat to the nation's youth.

In a report being released Thursday, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy acknowledged a need for more research into the health effects of "vaping," but said e-cigarettes aren't harmless and too many teens are using them.

"My concern is e-cigarettes have the potential to create a whole new generation of kids who are addicted to nicotine," Murthy told The Associated Press. "If that leads to the use of other tobacco-related products, then we are going to be moving backward instead of forward."

Battery-powered e-cigarettes turn liquid nicotine into an inhalable vapor without the harmful tar generated by regular cigarettes. Vaping was first pushed as safer for current smokers. There's no scientific consensus on the risks or advantages of vaping, including how it affects the likelihood of someone either picking up regular tobacco products or kicking the habit.

Federal figures show that last year, 16 percent of high school students reported at least some use of e-cigarettes — even some who say they've never smoked a conventional cigarette. While not all contain nicotine, Murthy's report says e-cigarettes are the most commonly used tobacco-related product among youth.

Nicotine is bad for a developing brain no matter how it's exposed, Murthy said.

"Your kids are not an experiment," he says in a public service announcement being released with the report.

It's already illegal to sell e-cigarettes to minors. Earlier this year, the Food and Drug Administration issued new rules that, for the first time, will require makers of nicotine-emitting devices to begin submitting their ingredients for regulators to review. The vaping industry argues the regulations will wipe out small companies in favor of more harmful products, and likely will lobby the incoming Trump administration to undo the rules.

Murthy's report calls on parents and health workers to make concerns about e-cigarettes clear to young people. He said local officials should take action, too, such as including e-cigarettes in indoor smoke-free policies.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York

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<![CDATA[Pfizer Fined $100M for Epilepsy Drug Price Hike in UK]]>Wed, 07 Dec 2016 20:33:42 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/PfizerLogo-GettyImages-524975736%281%29.jpg

British regulators fined U.S. drugmaker Pfizer and distributor Flynn Pharma a record 89.4 million pounds ($112.7 million) Wednesday for increasing the cost of an epilepsy drug by as much as 2,600 percent.

Pfizer and Flynn Pharma charged "excessive and unfair prices" for the drug used by 48,000 people in Britain, the Competition and Markets Authority said. Pfizer was fined 84.2 million pounds and Flynn Pharma 5.2 million pounds.

"This is the highest fine the CMA has imposed and it sends out a clear message to the sector that we are determined to crack down on such behavior and to protect customers, including the NHS, and taxpayers from being exploited," Philip Marsden, chairman of the case decision group for the investigation, said in a statement.

The authority said the companies removed the official brand of Epanutin, Pfizer's name for phenytoin sodium capsules, so they could increase the price. As a result, the National Health Service saw the bill for drug increase to 50 million pounds in 2013, from 2 million pounds in 2012.

"The companies deliberately exploited the opportunity offered by de-branding to hike up the price for a drug which is relied upon by many thousands of patients," Marsden said.

Pfizer rejected the ruling, saying that Epanutin was a loss-making product and the deal with Flynn Pharma helped secure supplies of the drug for patients. It plans to appeal, as does Flynn Pharma.

"In this transaction, and in all of our business operations, we approached this divestment with integrity, and believe it fully complies with established competition law," Pfizer said.

Pfizer said the increased price of the drug was still 25 percent to 40 percent lower than the cost of an equivalent medicine by another supplier to the NHS.

"The ruling highlights real policy and legal issues concerning the respective roles of both the Department of Health and the CMA, in regulating the price of pharmaceutical products in the U.K.," the company said. "Pfizer will seek clarity on these issues as part of the appeal process."

Regulators around the world are getting tough on drugmakers amid soaring prices that companies say are justified by years of research and product development.

In one recent case, drugmaker Mylan said it would pay $465 million to settle allegations it overbilled Medicaid, the U.S. program that provides health insurance for poor people, for its EpiPen, used to provide emergency treatment for severe allergic reactions.

In another, Turing Pharmaceuticals' former CEO Martin Shkreli increased the price of Daraprim by 5,000 percent. The drug is the only approved treatment for toxoplasmosis, a life-threatening parasitic infection that mainly strikes pregnant women, cancer patients and AIDS patients.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Grooming Linked to Increased Risk of STIs: Study]]>Wed, 07 Dec 2016 15:46:23 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/disposablerazorfeuerherd.jpg

Grooming pubic hair may be linked to an increased risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease, according to a new study.

The study, published in the Sexually Transmitted Infections journal, surveyed 7,580 people between the ages of 18 and 65. The researches asked the participants whether they trimmed or shaved their pubic hair; how often they did so and what tools they used. Researches also asked the participants how many sexual partners they've had and whether they've had a sexually transmitted infection. 

The results showed that participants who trimmed or shaved their pubic hair had a higher rate of contracting an STI, but did not prove a direct correlation between the two.  

Participants who regularly groomed their pubic hair were 80 percent more likely to report contracting an STI than those who never groomed, according to the study. 

The researchers note small tears in the skin created during grooming could allow STI-causing bacteria to infect someone who shaves their private parts. 

But the correlation could also be accounted for if the people who groom tend to have more sexual partners, thus putting them at greater risk of contracting an STI.

The study had other limitations, like not asking participants if they used condoms during sex, Debby Herbenick, an associate professor at Indiana University Bloomington, told Live Science. 



Photo Credit: Getty]]>
<![CDATA[Biden Emotional at Cancer Funding Bill Partly Named for Son]]>Tue, 06 Dec 2016 06:34:15 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/AP_16341007670452.jpg

A bipartisan bill to speed government drug approvals and bolster biomedical research cleared its last procedural hurdle in the Senate on Monday in an emotional moment for outgoing Vice President Joe Biden, NBC News reported. 

The overwhelming 85-13 vote put the measure on track for final legislative approval by the Senate as early as Tuesday. President Barack Obama has promised to sign the measure, one of the last for the president and the 114th Congress, whose leaders hope to adjourn by week's end after a two-year session that has seen them clash frequently with the president. 

The bill envisions providing $6.3 billion over the next decade, including $1.8 billion for cancer research. Obama had placed Biden in charge of a "moonshot" to find ways to cure and treat the disease, which killed his son Beau, 46, last year. 

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., sought approval for renaming a portion of the bill after Beau Biden. The Senate agreed, and lawmakers of both parties applauded and lined up to share quiet words and pats on the shoulder with the vice president, who sat teary-eyed in the presiding officer's chair of the chamber where he served as senator for 36 years. A clerk handed Biden a tissue.



Photo Credit: Senate TV via AP]]>
<![CDATA[Texas Book Links Cancer, Abortion]]>Tue, 06 Dec 2016 07:03:55 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/doctor+medical+generic.jpg

A Texas state agency has released a new edition of a booklet for women considering an abortion that suggests there may be a link between terminating pregnancies and increased risks of breast cancer and depression.

The Texas Department of State Health Services issued the new edition of "A Woman's Right to Know" on Monday.

Since 2003, state law has mandated that pregnant women be provided information when mulling an abortion. The new edition of the booklet contains a section titled "Breast Cancer Risk," despite numerous, peer-reviewed studies that have refuted links between abortion and breast cancer. The booklet also says women who terminate pregnancies can become suicidal and infertile.

The Supreme Court has struck down key provisions of Texas' 2013 law placing some of the nation's tightest restrictions on abortion.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: Getty Images/OJO Images RF]]>
<![CDATA[1.9 Million Pounds of Ready-to-Eat Chicken Recalled]]>Mon, 05 Dec 2016 07:25:04 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/217*120/RECALLED+CHICKEN.jpg

Nearly two million pounds of ready-to-eat chicken products have been recalled due to concerns over bacteria, the USDA said Sunday.

National Steak and Poultry has recalled 1,976,089 pounds of poultry because the product is labeled “ready-to-eat” but may have been undercooked, and thus is at risk of containing dangerous bacteria.

Though no cases of illness have been reported, the items were shipped to food service locations nationwide and were sold directly to retail consumers, the USDA said.

The issue of possible contamination came to light after a customer complained to an establishment that their chicken appeared under-cooked.

The recall has been classified as a Class I recall by the USDA. A Class I recall is the most critical and involves a health hazard situation where there is reasonable probability that the use of the product will cause serious, adverse health consequences.

The products under recall include five-pound bags of product labeled “Distributed by National Steak and Poultry, Owasso, OK Fully Cooked, Diced, Grilled Boneless Chicken Breast Meat with Rib Meat” or labeled “Hormel Natural Choice 100% Natural No Preservatives Fully Cooked Roasted Chicken Breast Strips with Rib Meat Natural Smoke Flavor Added.” The former contains lot code 100416 and case code 70020; the latter contains lot code 100416 and case code 702113.

The recalled products were produced on various dates from Aug. 20, 2016 to Nov. 30, 2016. The cases containing the products subject to recall have the establishment number “P-6010T” inside the USDA mark of inspection, the USDA said.

Consumers who have purchased these products are urged not to consume or serve them. These products should be thrown away or returned to the place of purchase, the USDA said.

For more information about the recall, head to the USDA recall page. 

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<![CDATA[In 2015, Health Spending Surges in the U.S. ]]>Fri, 02 Dec 2016 20:00:42 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/170*120/AP_16320836144895-doctor.jpg

In 2015, Americans spent $3.2 trillion on medical expenses, up by 5.8 percent since 2014, NBC News reported.

Experts say there are also indications that health spending increased because people sought medical treatment for diseases they previously ignored because of lack of resources, according to a report released Friday by the Office of the Actuary at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

Spending on prescription drugs also surged last year, with a nine percent increase since 2014.

"Recent rapid growth was due to increased spending for new medicines (particularly for specialty drugs such as those used to treat hepatitis C), price growth in existing brand-name drugs, increased spending on generics, and a decrease in the number of expensive blockbuster drugs whose patents expired," the CMS report read.



Photo Credit: Rich Pedroncelli/AP]]>
<![CDATA[Shkreli Belittles Students Who Recreated His $750 Drug]]>Fri, 02 Dec 2016 11:56:52 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/shkreli.jpg

Martin Shkreli, the infamous former CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals who hiked the price on a live-saving drug from $13.50 to $750, is making news again. This time, it's for belittling a group of Australian students who replicated the active ingredient in his anti-parasitic medication for just $20, CNN reported.

The drug, Daraprim, is used to treat people with malaria. It is also used for those with weakened immune systems, such as chemotherapy and HIV patients. The group of 17-year-olds recreated the active ingredient in Daraprim, pyrimethamine, in a Sydney Grammar School chemistry lab.

But the 33-year-old so-called “pharma bro” Martin Shkreli was not impressed. He slammed the students’ achievement on Twitter and Periscope.

“These kids who ‘made Daraprim’ reminds me of Ahmed who ‘made the clock,” he tweeted. “Dumb journalists want a feel good story.”

The students worked with scientists from the University of Sydney under the direction of Dr. Alice Williamson and Associate Professor Matthew Todd.

"There were definitely a few obstacles along the way," said Brandon Lee, a Sydney student who took part in the research. "We had to try a lot of different reactions with a lot of different chemicals. But eventually we got there -- it took a bit over a year."  

Daraprim is named on the World Health Organization’s list of essential medicines. They produced about $110,000 worth of the replica, according to Turing’s prices, which are inflated 5000 percent. However, they could not sell it due to FDA regulations and Turing’s marketing rights to the drug.

Shkreli also expressed frustration at “the inability for people to understand how drugs come to be made” as social media users tweeted snarky responses to him. He replied to dozens of tweets, mentioning his patent and the complexities that he believes are being overlooked in the students' replication.

“Labor and equipment costs? Didn’t know you could get physical chemists to work for free?” he wrote. “I should use high school kids to make my medicines!”

And Shkreli had a final, Walter White-esque response to the “Breaking Good” project.

“And never, ever compare your cook game to mine,” he tweeted. “Highest yield, best purity, most scale. I have the synthesis game on lock.”

Shkreli was arrested in December 2015 on allegations of securities fraud. He pleaded not guilty during his hearing in July. His trial date has been set for June 26, 2017.



Photo Credit: AP
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<![CDATA[World AIDS Day 2016: Activists Urge Testing, Education]]>Thu, 01 Dec 2016 12:52:53 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/AP_405806892642.jpg

Dec. 1 marks World AIDS Day. It's a time to remember over 35 million people who have died from the disease since the early-1980s and show support for those who are struggling with it now. It's also a chance for health organizations and charities to raise awareness about testing and treatment.

In the United Kingdom, activists are spreading the message that HIV stigma is “not retro, just wrong.” The U.S. World AIDS Day theme for 2016 is “Leadership. Commitment. Impact,” and the United Nations launched the “Hands up for #HIVprevention” awareness campaign, emphasizing the importance of protecting at-risk demographics like young women and girls. 

Across the globe, approximately 34 million people suffer from HIV/AIDS, including more than 1.2 million who live in the United States. 

A red ribbon is a universal symbol of support and solidarity for those living with HIV or AIDS. Here's how organizations are raising awareness and money to help combat AIDS: 

World Health Organization
For World AIDS Day, the UN agency is advocating that health organizations should make self-testing equipment more readily available. About 14 million people around the world don’t know they have the disease -- one in eight AIDS survivors in the U.S. goes undiagnosed.

Self-testing allows individuals to check their HIV/AIDS status. If they do get a positive test result, they can then explore much-needed medical resources that will improve their standard of living and protect others from infection.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, there are two types of self-HIV tests: the Home Access HIV-1 Test System and the OraQuick In-home HIV test. You can buy a self-testing kit at drug stores like Walgreens and Rite Aid. 

(RED)
When U2’s Bono and activist Bobby Shriver founded (RED) in 2006, they were bent on eradicating HIV/AIDS in Africa. Since then, they’ve raised $365 million for grants to provide survivors with anti-retroviral treatments that can cost as little as 30 cents a day, but that still aren’t accessible to about 18 million people suffering from the disease.

This World AIDS Day, (RED) has partnered with companies to raise money for the Global Fund to Help Fight AIDS. For every handcrafted holiday drink purchased today, Starbucks will donate 25 cents to the cause. Profits from 20 Apple games sold on the iTunes app store are also going toward AIDS prevention, and New Yorkers can swing by the (BANK OF AMERICA)RED pop-up in Bryant Park to buy holiday gifts through Dec. 4.

According to (RED)’s website, “Bank of America will donate $1 for every purchase made with a Bank of America card using Apple Pay, up to $1M” beginning on Dec. 1. This contribution will be doubled by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has promised to match the money raised by (RED) this year, up to $78 million.

AIDS.gov
This World AIDS Day, the website’s team is asking Americans to educate themselves about the HIV/AIDS epidemic and how it manifests in the U.S. They’ve put together a resource page for readers to peruse, including links to the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, a timeline of HIV/AIDS, and information about the Affordable Care Act, which has provided coverage to survivors who couldn’t find insurance before because of their pre-existing condition.



Photo Credit: AP
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<![CDATA['Magic Mushrooms' May Ease Anxiety, Depression: NYU Study]]>Thu, 01 Dec 2016 08:26:44 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/hallucinogenic+mushrooms.jpg

The psychedelic drug in "magic mushrooms" can quickly and effectively help treat anxiety and depression in cancer patients, an effect that may last for months, two small studies show.

It worked for Dinah Bazer, who endured a terrifying hallucination that rid her of the fear that her ovarian cancer would return. And for Estalyn Walcoff, who says the drug experience led her to begin a comforting spiritual journey.

The work released Thursday is preliminary and experts say more definitive research must be done on the effects of the substance, called psilocybin.

But the record so far shows "very impressive results," said Dr. Craig Blinderman, who directs the adult palliative care service at the Columbia University Medical Center/New York-Presbyterian Hospital. He didn't participate in the work.

Psilocybin, also called shrooms, purple passion and little smoke, comes from certain kinds of mushrooms. It is illegal in the U.S., and if the federal government approves the treatment, it would be administered in clinics by specially trained staff, experts say.

Nobody should try it on their own, which would be risky, said the leaders of the two studies, Dr. Stephen Ross of New York University and Roland Griffiths of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

Psychedelic drugs have looked promising in the past for treating distress in cancer patients. But studies of medical use of psychedelics stopped in the early 1970s after a regulatory crackdown on the drugs, following their widespread recreational use. It has slowly resumed in recent years.

Griffiths said it's not clear whether psilocybin would work outside of cancer patients, although he suspects it might work in people facing other terminal conditions. Plans are also underway to study it in depression that resists standard treatment, he said.

The new studies, published in the Journal of Psychotherapy, are small. The NYU project, which also included psychotherapy, covered just 29 patients. The Hopkins study had 51.

Bazer, who lives in New York, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2010, when she was 63. Treatment was successful, but then she became anxious about it coming back.

"I just began to be filled with a terrible dread," she said in an interview. "You're waiting for the other shoe to drop. ... (The anxiety) was ruining my life."

She swallowed a capsule of psilocybin in 2012 in the company of two staff members trained to guide her through the several hours that the drug would affect her brain. As she listened to music through headphones, her eyes covered with a sleep mask, the drug went to work.

"Suddenly I was in a dark, terrifying place, lost in space, lost in time," she recalled. "I had no bearings and I was really, really terrified."

Then she saw her dread of a cancer recurrence as a black mass in her abdomen, and she furiously yelled at it to leave.

"As soon as that happened, the fear was gone," she said. "I was just floating in the music ... like being carried in a river."

Then she felt deep love for her family and friends, and sensed their love for her. "It felt like I was bathed in God's love ... I'm still an atheist, by the way, but that really seemed to be the only way to describe it."

Researchers said such mystical experiences appeared to play a role in the drug's therapeutic effect.

Walcoff, 69, a psychotherapist in Rochester, New York, also entered the NYU study because of her anxiety over a cancer recurrence, in her case, lymphoma. (Most participants had active cancer.)

Psilocybin "opened me up to pursue meditation and spiritual searching," Walcoff said, and as a result of that "I have become reassured and convinced that that phase of my life is over and it's not going to come back."

Most funding for the studies came from the Heffter Research Institute, a nonprofit organization that supports studies of psilocybin and other hallucinogens.

In both studies, psilocybin treatment had more effect on anxiety and depression than a placebo did. For example, by the day after treatment, about 80 percent of the treated NYU patients no longer qualified as clinically anxious or depressed by standard measures. That compares to about 30 percent for the placebo group. That's a remarkably fast response, experts said, and it endured for the seven weeks of the comparison.

The studies took different approaches for formulating a placebo. At NYU, patients were given niacin, which mimics some effects of psilocybin. At Hopkins, the placebo was a very low dose of psilocybin itself.

Researchers in both studies eventually gave full psilocybin treatment to the placebo groups and followed all the patients for about six months. The beneficial effects appeared to persist over that period. But the evidence for that is less strong than for the shorter term, because there was no longer any placebo comparison group.

No severe side effects arose from the treatment.

Dr. William Breitbart, chief of the psychiatry service at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, who didn't participate in the studies, said they were improvements over prior research on the topic. But there were still enough shortcomings to make him cautious about drawing conclusions, he said.

In any case, Bazer and Walcoff say the treatment affected more than their cancer anxieties. Walcoff said it has helped her work on being less judgmental and more self-accepting. Bazer said it made her a more patient driver and more active socially.

"It really changed everything for me," Bazer said. "And I still do not have anxiety about the cancer coming back."

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: AP/File]]>
<![CDATA[Texas Has Its First Local Zika Case]]>Mon, 28 Nov 2016 21:22:57 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-543392276-Mosquito.jpg

The first case of locally transmitted Zika virus in Texas has been reported in the Rio Grande Valley, the Texas Department of State Health Services reports.

“We knew it was only a matter of time before we saw a Zika case spread by a mosquito in Texas,” said Dr. John Hellerstedt, DSHS commissioner. 

The patient is a Cameron County resident who is not pregnant and who was confirmed last week by lab test to have been infected. She reported no recent travel to Mexico or anywhere else with ongoing Zika virus transmission and no other risk factors.

Laboratory testing found genetic material from the Zika virus in the patient’s urine, but a blood test was negative, indicating that the virus can no longer be spread from her by a mosquito.

Through last week, Texas has had 257 confirmed cases of Zika virus disease. Until now, all cases in the state had been associated with travel, including two infants born to women who had traveled during their pregnancy and two people who had sexual contact with infected travelers.

There are no other cases of suspected local transmission at this time, but health officials continue to conduct disease surveillance activities as part of the state's ongoing Zika response.

Cameron County, DSHS and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are working together to investigate and respond to the case. Further investigation will be necessary to attempt to pinpoint how and where the infection occurred, and health officials are also responding in a number of other ways.

DSHS has activated the State Medical Operations Center to support the response and is providing expertise, personnel and equipment for activities from disease investigation to mosquito surveillance to public education.

Cameron County and the City of Brownsville, with help from DSHS, have conducted an environmental assessment at the patient’s home and have been trapping and testing mosquitoes to learn more about activity in the area.

The samples collected will be tested at the DSHS laboratory in Austin.

Brownsville has recently sprayed for mosquitoes in the area and will continue to take action to reduce the mosquito population.

Health workers from Cameron County and DSHS will be going door to door in the area around where the case lived beginning this evening to educate the public about Zika, help people reduce potential mosquito breeding habitat on their property, and collect voluntary urine samples to determine whether other infections are present.

Zika virus is transmitted to people primarily through the bite of an infected mosquito, though sexual transmission can occur.

The four most common symptoms are fever, itchy rash, joint pain and eye redness.

While symptoms are usually minor, Zika can also cause severe birth defects, including microcephaly, and other poor birth outcomes in some women infected during pregnancy.



Photo Credit: Kevin Frayer, Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Millions May Be Misdiagnosed as Allergic to Penicillin]]>Fri, 25 Nov 2016 23:41:18 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/pennicillin.jpg

Some 90 percent of those diagnosed with a penicillin allergy can actually tolerate the antibiotics, according to a study presented recently at the annual meeting of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

In a finding that many doctors may not be aware of, an estimated 25 to 50 million Americans who may have been told they had the allergy could have been initially misdiagnosed or grown out of it, NBC News reported.

The solution for many is a simple two-step test, followed, as needed, by a low-dose oral penicillin, taken under a doctor's observation.

"The whole process takes about three hours and then we can say they're free to take penicillin in the future," said Dr. Elizabeth Phillips, a professor at Vanderbilt University.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Disfigured Boy Gets Surgery]]>Fri, 25 Nov 2016 14:21:22 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/180*120/ChimpAttack.jpg

A Congolese boy who was severely disfigured in a chimpanzee attack is marveling doctors with his resiliency a year after he was brought to New York to undergo reconstructive surgery. 

Nine-year-old Dunia Sibomana was the lone survivor three years ago when chimpanzees attacked him and two playmates near a preserve in Congo. His 4-year-old brother and a young cousin died. Dunia's face was left a frightening mask. His lips were ripped off, his cheek was torn apart and he was left with muscle damage that made it hard to swallow or communicate. 

In January, Dunia underwent a rare surgery at a Long Island hospital that involved grafting tissue and muscle from his forearm to recreate his lips. 

He still has a lot of healing ahead of him, but nearly a year later, Dunia is thriving with a host family in Brooklyn. He can once again open and close his mouth, eat and talk normally. 

And doctors and his host family say the boy, who was once self-conscious, shy and withdrawn, has blossomed. He has become fluent in English, learned taekwondo, soccer and surfing, and made friends in his new neighborhood. 

"He has a ton of friends. He can't walk down the street without people stopping to give him a high-five,'' said his host father, Kim Chaix. "It's New York City that's really raising this child.'' 

Dunia lives with Chaix, his wife and their 9-year-old daughter Annabelle, who walks to school with Dunia arm in arm. 

On a recent afternoon, Dunia played video games with Anabelle before reading the Dr. Seuss classic "The Cat in The Hat.'' 

"There's a connection between them,'' Chaix said of Dunia and his daughter. Dunia affectionately calls Annabelle "Goldie,'' after her golden hair. She reads him books at bedtime and makes him snacks. 

Dunia, who hadn't attended school in Congo, is now in second grade. 

"A lot of the social stigma that he came with is now gone,'' said Dr. Leon Klempner, an assistant professor of dentistry at Stony Brook Children's Hospital, who helped bring Dunia from Congo last November with the help of the nonprofit foundation Smile Rescue Fund for Kids. "He's got a lot more confidence now. He doesn't get the stares that he used to get.'' 

Dr. Alexander Dagum, the hospital's chief of plastic and reconstructive surgery, said he knows of only three other cases in which the same surgery has been performed. The hospital is covering the cost of the surgery, and the doctors have all donated their time.

Dunia has not lost complete touch with his homeland. He spends weekends with a family from Congo, brushing up on his heritage and native language of Swahili.

Dunia's mother died several years ago. His father still lives in Congo in an area without regular access to phones or internet, but the two communicate via videos they record for each other. Intermediaries deliver the recordings to Dunia's father.

Chaix said it's still unclear what Dunia's future holds - whether he'll stay in the U.S. after the school year or go to a boarding school in Rwanda. Chaix said Dunia once told him he didn't ever want to go back to Congo or speak Swahili again, but after spending time with other people from his home country and buying some traditional African clothing, he's "embraced it.''

"We've all grown from this whole experience,'' Chaix said.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: Seth Wenig/AP]]>
<![CDATA[US Abortion Rate Falls to Lowest Level in Decades: CDC]]>Wed, 23 Nov 2016 19:03:14 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/214*120/GettyImages-483023072-PP.jpg

The number and rate of abortions tallied by federal authorities have fallen to their lowest level in decades, according to new data released Wednesday.

The latest annual report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, incorporating data from 47 states, said the abortion rate for 2013 was 12.5 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15-44 years. That is down 5 percent from 2012, and is half the rate of 25 recorded in 1980.

The last time the CDC recorded a lower abortion rate was in 1971, two years before the U.S. Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision that established a nationwide right for women to have abortions. Abortion was legal in some states at that time.

The CDC tallied 664,435 abortions in 2013 from the 47 states, down 5 percent from 2012 and down 20 percent from 2004. The CDC does not receive abortion data from California, Maryland and New Hampshire — and thus its total is less than the widely accepted current estimate of more than 900,000 abortions per year in all 50 states.

Back in 1990, when California was supplying data, the CDC recorded a peak of more than 1.4 million abortions.

The CDC's latest findings meshed with an Associated Press state-by-state survey conducted last year — with extensive data from 2014 — showing that abortions had been declining in virtually every state since 2010. There were big declines in conservative states passing laws to restrict abortions and also in more liberal states that protected abortion rights.

The CDC report suggests there are several factors behind the abortion decline, including a sharp drop in adolescent pregnancies, expanded coverage of contraception costs by health care plans, and increased use of effective, long-lasting contraceptive methods such as intrauterine devices and hormonal implants.

Among the CDC's detailed findings:

  • Women in their 20s accounted for more than 58 percent of abortions and had the highest abortion rates. Young women and girls aged 19 and under accounted for 11.7 percent of abortions.
  • Two-thirds of abortions were performed within the first eight weeks of gestation, and nearly 92 percent by 13 weeks. Only 1.3 percent were performed after 20 weeks — a point at which many anti-abortion activists want a federal abortion ban to be imposed. President-elect Donald Trump has promised to support such a ban if legislation reaches his desk.
  • State abortion rates varied widely, from 3.6 per 1,000 women age 15-44 in Mississippi to 24.3 in New York. Mississippi is among a handful of states with only one functioning abortion clinic.
  • Medical abortions — generally using the drugs mifepristone and misoprostol — accounted for about 22 percent of abortions; surgical procedures accounted for nearly all the others.
  • About 15 percent of women who obtained an abortion were married. About 60 percent had previously given birth to at least one child.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: Getty Images, File]]>
<![CDATA[Zika-Caused Birth Defect May Become Clear Only After Birth]]>Wed, 23 Nov 2016 07:11:04 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/ZIKA_AP_16284531484792.jpg

Researchers say a severe birth defect caused by Zika infection may not be apparent at birth but develop months afterward, further confirmation that the virus can cause unseen damage to developing babies.

The findings come from a study of 13 Brazilian babies whose heads all appeared normal at birth but then grew much more slowly than normal.

Most people infected with Zika never develop symptoms, but infection during pregnancy can cause devastating birth defects, including microcephaly, in which a baby's skull is much smaller than expected because the brain hasn't developed properly.

Microcephaly is diagnosed based on a measurement of the baby's head circumference. It can be done during pregnancy using ultrasound, or after the baby is born. Doctors then compare the measurement to standard sizes of other kids, based on gender and age.

The study focused on 13 babies born in Brazil late last year and earlier this year. All had head heads that were a little small at birth, but within the normal range. Over the next five to 12 months, doctors noted their heads weren't growing at normal rates. Eleven were eventually diagnosed with microcephaly.

Many of the children also developed other problems that have been linked to Zika, including epilepsy, problems swallowing, muscle weakness and inflexible joints.

Dr. Peter Salama, chief of emergencies at the World Health Organization, told reporters in Geneva on Tuesday that understanding of the complications from Zika continues to evolve. "We are also learning lot every day," he said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the findings Tuesday. The authors were a team of researchers from Brazil and the United States.

"This is certainly the first detailed description of these kinds of cases," said Dr. Ganeshwaran Mochida, a pediatric neurologist at Boston Children's Hospital.

The study confirms that the absence of microcephaly at birth doesn't mean there are no abnormalities in the children of Zika-infected mothers, CDC officials said.

The findings, while discouraging, are not a surprise to scientists. A study out of Brazil earlier this year suggested that one in five cases of microcephaly likely had head sizes in the normal range at birth.

And microcephaly has also been diagnosed months after birth in cases caused by other germs.

Still, it is likely to further worry potentially infected parents who may grow alarmed by signs that their newborn's head is a little small, said Dr. Thierry Huisman, a Johns Hopkins University professor of radiology who has studied Zika-affected children.

The CDC now recommends monitoring babies born to Zika-infected women after birth, but the agency is looking at whether additional imaging should be recommended, said CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden.

Investigators are working to determine what proportion of Zika-infected women have babies with birth defects, and how the risk varies based on when during the pregnancy the infection occurred. Earlier research has suggested that 1 percent to 14 percent of Brazilian mothers infected in the first three months of pregnancy had babies with microcephaly and that the risk falls when infections happens later in the pregnancy.

WHO's Salama called the risk "small but significant, but it's definitely a moving target as well."

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Zika Birth Defect May Appear Months After Birth: CDC]]>Tue, 22 Nov 2016 12:24:52 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/zika-2sm.jpg

Babies whose mothers are infected with the Zika virus may develop small heads months after birth, meaning the birth defect may still affect infants who don't immediately present with it, according to new research from the CDC.

Zika-related brain abnormalities can also be found in babies who don't immediately present with smaller heads, a condition known as microcephaly, according to findings from the study, published Tuesday and conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in collaboration with the United States and Brazil

Researchers studied 13 Brazilian babies whose heads all appeared normal at birth but grew much more slowly than normal. Among the infants, 11 later developed microcephaly, which was accompanied by significant neurologic complications.

Among the potentially devastating complications linked to Zika, microcephaly is a condition in which an infant's skull is smaller than expected because the brain hasn't developed properly. The findings of the CDC's study reinforces the health organization's standing guidance that babies born to women who may have been infected with the Zika virus should undergo continuing medical and developmental evaluations of infants who may be infected with the Zika virus.

"CDC continues to recommend that pregnant women not travel to areas with Zika. If a pregnant woman travels to or lives in an area with active Zika virus transmission, she should talk with her healthcare provider and strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites and sexual transmission of Zika virus," the organization said in a press release announcing the study.

Most people infected with Zika never develop symptoms.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: Getty Images, File]]>
<![CDATA[Heinz Voluntarily Recalls Pork Gravy After Labeling Issue]]>Tue, 22 Nov 2016 11:57:20 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/gravy-sm-1.jpg

Heinz is voluntarily recalling about 500 cases of its HomeStyle Bistro Au Jus Gravy because some jars have been mislabeled as Heinz Pork Gravy without mentioning it contains milk and soy.

The labeling issue could present a health risk for people with allergies or sensitivity to milk or soy who consume the gravy. There have been no consumer reports of illness related to this product, according to the FDA recall notice.

Recalled jars can be identified with UPC 013000798907. They wre distributed to retailers across the United States.

“We deeply regret this situation and apologize to any consumers we have disappointed,” Heinz said in a statement about the recall.

The statement recommended consumers return or exchange the product. They can contact the company directly for a full refund by calling 866-572-3808 between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. ET.

The 12 oz jars of Heinz HomeStyle Gravy Bistro Au Jus is the only Heinz product being recalled. No other size or flavor has been mislabeled.



Photo Credit: FDA]]>
<![CDATA[Dementia Rates Might Be Declining, New Study Finds]]>Mon, 21 Nov 2016 22:40:53 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/AP_460730682850-Alzheimers-poster.jpg

Rates of Alzheimer's disease and other types of dementia appear to have fallen considerably since 2000, and better education may be partly responsible, researchers reported Monday.

Better treatment for diabetes and cardiovascular disease may also be helping, the researchers reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association, NBC News reported.

Dr. Kenneth Langa of the University of Michigan and colleagues studied records from 21,000 people with an average age of 75. 

Their study showed the rate of Alzheimer's disease and other dementias in adults aged 65 and up dropped to about 9 percent in 2012 from nearly 12 percent in 2000, continuing a decline noted in earlier research.



Photo Credit: Scott Eisen, AP (File)]]>
<![CDATA[Sabra Recalls Hummus Products Over Listeria Concerns]]>Mon, 21 Nov 2016 07:31:20 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/sabra-hummus.jpg

Sabra Dipping Company has issued a voluntary recall for a variety of its hummus products after Listeria monocytogenes was found at the Colonial Heights, Virginia-based company's manufacturing facility.

The recall affects hummus products that were made before Nov. 8, 2016, and sold across the United States and Canada at supermarkets and other stores.

Listeria monocytogenes was not found in tested finished product. Sabra said Saturday that its recall was issued out of an abundance of caution.

Listeria monocytogenes can cause serious serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people and others with weakened immune systems, according to the Food and Drug Administration. The species of bacteria can result in stillbirths or miscarriages among pregnant women.

Healthy people may experience short-term symptoms including high fever, severe headaches, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea.

The recalled products include a range across Sabra's line like hummus with red pepper, garlic, lemon, spinach and artichoke, and more.

Sabra products not included in the recall are: Sabra Organic Hummus, Sabra Salsa, Sabra Guacamole and Sabra Greek Yogurt Dips.

Consumers with a "best before" date up through Jan. 23, 2017, on the lid of these hummus items should discard the product:

 

  • Sabra Hummus Caramelized Onion 10OZ
  • Sabra Hummus Classic 7OZ
  • Sabra Hummus Classic 10OZ
  • Sabra Hummus Classic 17OZ
  • Sabra Hummus Classic 30OZ
  • Sabra Hummus Classic 5LB – 6ct
  • Sabra Hummus Classic 2OZ – 48ct: 3 x (16 x 2oz)
  • Sabra Hummus Classic with pretzels 4.56OZ
  • Sabra Hummus Garlic 7OZ
  • Sabra Hummus Garlic 10OZ
  • Sabra Hummus Garlic 17OZ
  • Sabra Hummus Garlic 32OZ
  • Sabra Hummus Garlic 30OZ
  • Sabra Hummus Garlic with pretzels 4.56OZ
  • Sabra Hummus Jalapeno 10OZ
  • Sabra Hummus Olive 10OZ
  • Sabra Hummus Pine Nut 10OZ
  • Sabra Hummus Pine Nut 7OZ
  • Sabra Hummus Pine Nut 17OZ
  • Sabra Hummus Pine Nut 32OZ
  • Sabra Hummus Red Pepper 7OZ
  • Sabra Hummus Red Pepper 10OZ
  • Sabra Hummus Red Pepper 17OZ
  • Sabra Hummus Red Pepper 32OZ
  • Sabra Hummus Red Pepper 30OZ
  • Sabra Hummus Red Pepper 5LB – 6ct
  • Sabra Hummus Red Pepper with pretzels 4.56OZ
  • Sabra Hummus Supremely Spicy 7OZ
  • Sabra Hummus Supremely Spicy 10OZ
  • Sabra Hummus Supremely Spicy 17OZ
  • Sabra Hummus Spinach & Artichoke 10OZ
  • Sabra Hummus Sun Dried Tomato 10OZ
  • Sabra Hummus Spinach & Artichoke 32OZ
  • Sabra Hummus Spinach & Artichoke 17OZ
  • Sabra Hummus Pine Nut 17OZ – 6ct
  • Sabra Hummus Red Pepper 17OZ – 6ct
  • Sabra Hummus Basil-Pesto 10OZ
  • Sabra Hummus Tuscan Herb Garden 32OZ
  • Sabra Hummus Classic 32OZ
  • Sabra Hummus Classic with pretzels 4.56OZ – 8ct
  • Sabra Hummus Garlic 23.5OZ
  • Sabra Hummus Classic 17OZ
  • Sabra Hummus Bold & Spicy with tortilla chips 4.56OZ
  • Sabra Hummus Garlic 17OZ – 6ct
  • Sabra Hummus Classic 2OZ – 6 x 2oz (12 x 6pks)
  • Sabra Hummus Lemon 10OZ
  • Sabra Hummus Red Pepper 2OZ – 6 x 2oz (12 x 6pks)
  • Sabra Hummus Tuscan Herb Garden 17OZ
  • Sabra Hummus Classic 2OZ – 16 x 2oz – 12 ct
  • Sabra Hummus Classic 2OZ – 12 x 2oz – 12 ct
  • Sabra Hummus SF Rosemary/Sea Salt 10OZ
  • Sabra Spreads Spicy Chili 8.5OZ – 8ct
  • Sabra Spreads Garlic Herb 8.5OZ – 8ct
  • Sabra Spreads Honey Mustard 8.5OZ – 8ct
  • Sabra Spreads Salt & Pepper 8.5OZ – 8ct
  • Sabra Hummus Taco 10OZ
  • Sabra Hummus 3 Pepper Chili 10OZ

Consumers can reach Sabra Consumer Relations at 1-866-265-6761 for from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET or visit www.sabrahummusrecall.com for information on being reimbursed. 

For more information, click here.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Zika No Longer Emergency, Still 'Enduring' Threat: WHO]]>Fri, 18 Nov 2016 14:57:22 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/mosquitoeszika.jpg

Acknowledging Zika is "here to stay," the United Nations health agency on Friday lifted a 9-month-old emergency declaration and prepared for a longer-term response to the mosquito-borne virus that can result in severe neurological defects in newborns whose mothers were infected.

WHO officials were quick to note that the move does not mean the agency is downgrading the threat of the virus that has spread across Latin America, the Caribbean and elsewhere. Nearly 30 countries have reported birth defects linked to Zika, with 2,100 cases of nervous-system malformations reported in Brazil alone.

The officials also emphasized that the now-lifted "Public Health Emergency of International Concern" was declared in February, when Zika clusters were appearing and a sharp increase in research was needed — and with the looming Rio Olympics in mind.

WHO said the emergency measures had led the world to an "urgent and coordinated response," but the virus had continued to spread. It acknowledged that "many aspects of this disease and associated consequences still remain to be understood, but this can best be done through sustained research."

"It is a significant and enduring public health challenge, but it no longer represents an emergency," Dr. David Heymann, who heads the WHO emergency committee on Zika, said after the panel met for the fifth time this year. "There was no downgrading of this."

Heymann said recommendations made in recent months were now being "internalized" at the Geneva-based agency.

"If anything, this has been escalated in importance by becoming activities that will be continued in the long-term in the World Health Organization," he said.

Zika is mainly spread by mosquitoes, but also can be spread through sex. Most infected people don't get sick. It can cause a mild illness, with fever, rash and joint pain.

It also causes microcephaly, or shrunken heads, in newborn children whose mothers were infected, leading to severe developmental problems and sowing grave concerns of would-be parents in countries hit by the virus.

Responding to the WHO announcement, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control reiterated its position that pregnant women should avoid traveling to areas with local transmission of Zika.

Dr. Peter Salama, WHO's director of emergencies, said the new phase of fighting the virus requires development donors "to step up to the plate and see this for what it is, which is a long-term problem that the world will have to deal with for many years to come."

"We are sending the message that Zika is here to stay, and WHO's response is here to stay in a very robust manner," Salama said.

Mike Stobbe contributed from New York.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Insulin Prices Double Since 2012]]>Thu, 17 Nov 2016 10:15:30 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/214*120/Insulin_Prices_Increase.jpgIncreases in insulin prices and a lack of generic options are forcing diabetic Americans to cut back on prescribed doses to stretch out their medication.

Photo Credit: KING]]>
<![CDATA['Addiction Is Not a Character Flaw': Surgeon General Report]]>Thu, 17 Nov 2016 08:15:20 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/murthyAP_968035797730.jpg

In what may be his last significant act as President Barack Obama's surgeon general, Dr. Vivek Murthy released a report Thursday calling for a major cultural shift in the way Americans view drug and alcohol addiction.

The report, "Facing Addiction in America," details the toll addiction takes on the nation — 78 people die each day from an opioid overdose; 20 million have a substance use disorder — and explains how brain science offers hope for recovery. While its findings have been reported elsewhere, including by other federal agencies, the report seeks to inspire action and sway public opinion in the style of the 1964 surgeon general's landmark report on smoking.

With President-elect Donald Trump taking office, it's uncertain whether access to addiction treatment will improve or deteriorate. Trump and the Republican-led Congress are pledging to repeal and replace the 2010 Affordable Care Act, which made addiction treatment an essential health benefit.

In an interview Wednesday, Murthy said he hasn't spoken to Trump but looks forward to working with his administration to save lives with expanded access to treatment.

"We have made progress," Murthy said. "How do we keep that progress going? A key part is making sure people have insurance coverage."

The Associated Press reviewed the report ahead of its official release. Here's a look at what's in it and some early reaction: 

MEDICATION MYTHS
The surgeon general's report refutes abstinence-only philosophies as unscientific and supports medications such as buprenorphine and methadone that are used to treat opioid addiction. That may annoy supporters of traditional 12-step programs who see medications as substituting one addiction for another.

Medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction can take time. "One study suggested that individuals who receive MAT for fewer than 3 years are more likely to relapse than those who are in treatment for 3 or more years," the report states.

TV-STYLE INTERVENTIONS
Staged interventions, like those depicted on TV, may backfire. Planned surprise confrontations "have not been demonstrated to be an effective way to engage people in treatment," the report says. The trouble with the approach? According to the surgeon general's report, it can heighten resistance and attack the self-worth of the addict. 

ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS
Alcoholics Anonymous was founded in 1935 because mainstream medicine wasn't treating alcohol disorders. That started a legacy of separating addiction treatment from the rest of medicine.

The report makes room for AA and other recovery support services, noting they don't require health insurance and are free, but it also says they "are not the same as treatment and have only recently been included as part of the health care system."

AA gets praise for adaptability. American Indians, for instance, have incorporated Native spirituality and allowed families to attend meetings. Research shows AA to be "an effective recovery resource," the report concludes. 

HIGHER ALCOHOL TAXES
Alcohol tax policies get a nod in a section on evidence-based prevention: "Higher alcohol taxes have also been shown to reduce alcohol consumption." Other policies suggested by research include limiting the density of stores selling alcohol, banning Sunday sales and holding bars liable for serving minors. 

WHAT ABOUT MARIJUANA?
The report suggests learning from alcohol and tobacco policies to find out what works to minimize harm as marijuana becomes legal.

Voters in eight states have approved adult use of recreational marijuana and more than two dozen states have medical marijuana laws. The report cites "a growing body of research" suggesting marijuana's chemicals can help with "pain, nausea, epilepsy, obesity, wasting disease, addiction, autoimmune disorders, and other conditions."

Murthy supports easing existing barriers to marijuana studies, but said Wednesday that he's worried the legalization movement is moving faster than research. "Marijuana is in fact addictive," he said. 

NOT A MORAL FAILING
Addiction is a chronic illness, not a character flaw or a moral failing, the report says. Stigma and shame have kept people from seeking help and weakened public investment.

Murthy issues a call to action in the preface: "How we respond to this crisis is a moral test for America. Are we a nation willing to take on an epidemic that is causing great human suffering and economic loss?"

RED STATE-BLUE STATE ISSUE
Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman, co-sponsor of bipartisan legislation passed this year that creates grants to expand treatment programs, said he hopes the report raises awareness.

"We have to change the way we talk about addiction and break the stigma to help more Americans suffering from this disease get the treatment and recovery they need," Portman said.

Addiction should be a bipartisan issue, said Democratic former U.S. Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy, an addiction treatment advocate.

"This affects all of America, but it really affects the Trump voter," Kennedy said. Red states such as West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky have the highest overdose rates, Kennedy said. Enforcing laws that require insurers to cover addiction treatment will be a test of Trump's "promise to put average Americans ahead of corporate interests," said Kennedy.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: AP
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<![CDATA[Major Grated Cheese Brands Hit by Nationwide Recall]]>Wed, 16 Nov 2016 15:19:30 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/cento+4c+cheese+recall.jpg

Fears of salmonella contamination have led to the recall of major grated cheese brands nationwide. 

4C Food Corp. has voluntarily recalled its 4C Grated Cheese, Homestyle Grated Cheese and Cento Grated Cheese brands over concern the cheeses may contain Salmonella.

4C Food Corp. said that none of the other food or cheese products it produces are affected by the recall.

No illnesses have been reported but 4C Food Corp. is voluntarily recalling the products out of an abundance of caution after FDA testing revealed the cheeses may be at risk.

The recall includes the following products, which were packed in 6-ounce vacuum-sealed glass jars with “best by” dates between November 12, 2016 and November 12, 2018.

4C All Natural Parmesan Grated Cheese (UPC 41387-33126) 
4C All Natural Parmesan/Romano Grated Cheese (UPC 41387-37126) 
4C All Natural 100% Imported Italian Pecorino Romano Cheese (UPC 41387-77126) 
4C HomeStyle All Natural Parmesan Grated Cheese (UPC 41387-32790) 
4C HomeStyle All Natural Parmesan/Romano Grated Cheese (UPC 41387-11627) 
4C HomeStyle All Natural 100% Imported Italian Pecorino Romano Cheese (UPC 41387-12302)  
Cento Parmesan Grated Cheese (UPC 70796-90502) 
Cento Romano Grated Cheese (UPC 70796-90501)  

Consumers with questions can contact 4C Foods Corp. at 866-969-1920.

Salmonella is an organism that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems.

Healthy persons infected with Salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. In rare circumstances, infection with Salmonella can result in the organism getting into the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses.

]]>
<![CDATA[Food Advocates Fear Trump Could Scrap Healthy School Lunches]]>Tue, 15 Nov 2016 10:34:57 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/AP_16319797568195trump-food.jpg

Will President-elect Donald Trump remake school lunches into his fast-food favorites of burgers and fried chicken?

Children grumbling about healthier school meal rules championed by first lady Michelle Obama may have reason to cheer Trump's election as the billionaire businessman is a proud patron of Kentucky Fried Chicken and McDonald's while promising to curb federal regulations.

The Obama administration has made healthier, safer and better labeled food a priority in the last eight years, significantly raising the profile of food policy and sometimes drawing the ire of Republicans, farmers and the food industry. The first lady made reducing childhood obesity one of her signature issues through her "Let's Move" campaign.

In addition to the healthier school meal rules, the administration ushered a sweeping food safety law through Congress, pushed through several new food labeling regulations, started to phase out trans fats, added calorie labels to menus and suggested new limits on sodium in packaged foods. The White House has also fended off efforts in the Republican Congress to trim the nation's food stamp program.

"Food advocates are already nostalgic for the Obama era and will be playing defense for the next four years," says Sam Kass, a former White House senior adviser on nutrition and personal chef for the Obamas.

A look at some of the food regulations that could be scrapped — or tweaked — in the new administration:

MAKING SCHOOL MEALS GREAT AGAIN
Trump himself hasn't weighed in on school meal regulations. But Republicans, school nutrition directors and some in the food industry have balked at parts of the administration's rules that set stricter fat, sugar and sodium limits on foods in the lunch line and beyond. While many students have now gotten used to the healthier foods, some schools still complain that they are costly and that it's difficult to meet the standards.

"I would be very surprised if we don't see some major changes on the school lunch program" and some other food issues, said Rep. Robert Aderholt of Alabama, the Republican chairman of the House subcommittee that oversees Agriculture Department spending.

Aderholt, who sits on Trump's agriculture advisory committee, says the Obama administration's approach was "activist driven" and people who voted for Trump are looking for a more common-sense approach.

One of many names that have been floated as a possible agriculture secretary is Sid Miller, the Texas Agriculture Commissioner who repealed a state ban on deep fryers and soda machines at schools. Miller recently got in trouble when he used a profanity on Twitter to describe Democrat Hillary Clinton; he blamed a staffer and the tweet was deleted.

THE FOOD POLICE
In September, the Trump campaign pitched rolling back food safety regulations in a fact sheet, arguing they are burdensome to farmers and criticizing increased inspections of food manufacturing facilities as "overkill." The sheet referred to the "food police" at the Food and Drug Administration. The campaign later deleted the proposal from its website.

Congress passed new food safety regulations in 2010, a year after a salmonella outbreak linked to a Georgia peanut company killed nine people. Michael Taylor, former FDA deputy commissioner for foods who oversaw the food safety rules, says it wouldn't be popular with consumers to roll them back.

"Consumers are only getting more focused on safety, health and wellness," Taylor says.

Trump himself is a self-professed germaphobe who prefers eating at fast-food restaurants because he believes they have higher food safety standards.

FOOD STAMPS
Congressional Republicans have been examining food stamps since the program's cost grew to almost $80 billion annually after the recession. Participation and costs have dipped since its 2013 high, but conservatives have suggested tightening eligibility standards or increasing work requirements. House Speaker Paul Ryan has for years championed an overhaul to the program.

Democrats in the Senate have consistently objected to any changes to the program, and will still wield influence. But they won't have the backing of a Democratic White House.

OTHER FOOD POLICY
Many other laws are either already in place or close to it, including a revised "nutrition facts" panel on the back of food packages, with a new line breaking out added sugars, a labeling law for genetically modified foods and calorie labeling on restaurant and supermarket menus.

In many cases, the rules are a result of compromise with industry. Kass says that pulling back may just create more cost and uncertainty for businesses.

"Unwinding things is really hard, especially when most of them have been implemented and industry has moved on," Kass says.

He predicts most of the regulations will stay, but that there will be little additional progress. Ongoing administration efforts to reduce sodium in food and antibiotics in meat could be casualties.

Margo Wootan, a lobbyist on nutrition issues for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, says advocates will continue to be aggressive at the state and local levels, hoping change will bubble up.

"The public is more interested than ever in nutrition and will continue to press companies," she says.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: Evan Vucci, AP]]>
<![CDATA[US Prisons Fight Opioids With Injections ]]>Tue, 15 Nov 2016 10:26:53 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/194*120/Opioids2.jpeg

U.S. prisons are experimenting with a high-priced monthly injection that could help addicted inmates stay off opioids after they are released, but skeptics question its effectiveness and say the manufacturer has aggressively marketed an unproven drug to corrections officials.

A single shot of Vivitrol, given in the buttocks, lasts for four weeks and eliminates the need for the daily doses common with alternatives such as methadone. But each shot costs as much as $1,000, and because the drug has a limited track record, experts do not agree on how well it works.

Proponents say Vivitrol could save money compared with the cost of locking up a drug offender — about $25,000 a year for each inmate at the Sheridan Correctional Center, 70 miles southwest of Chicago.

Dr. Joshua Lee, of New York University's medical school, said more evidence is needed to determine whether the medication can help substantial numbers of people and whether it's worth paying for, but the early results are encouraging.

"It sounds good, and for some of us, it feels like the right thing to do," said Lee, a leading researcher on the treatment.

Vivitrol is emerging as the nation searches for ways to ease an opioid epidemic that affects more than 2 million Americans and an estimated 15 percent of the U.S. prison population. Many experts view prisons — where addiction's human toll can be seen most clearly — as a natural place to discover what works.

Christopher Wolf had already served prison time for nonviolent crimes when he was ordered into treatment for a heroin addiction by a judge who suggested Vivitrol. Three months later, the 36-year-old from Centerville, Ohio, is clean and working full time as a cook.

He now suggests the medication to other addicts.

"I don't have cravings," Wolf said. "I see how much better life is. It gets better really fast."

Vivitrol targets receptors in the brain's reward system, blocking the high and extinguishing urges. In some programs, prisoners get an injection before release, then follow-up shots from any clinic.

For decades, researchers have recognized addiction as a relapsing brain disease with medication an important part of therapy. But most jails and prisons reject methadone and buprenorphine, the other government-approved medications for opioid addiction, because they are habit-forming and can be abused.

Just ask Joshua Meador, 28, an inmate at Sheridan who hopes to get into the Vivitrol program before his release in January. Before incarceration, he abused both older treatment drugs. When given take-home doses of methadone for the weekend, he would sell them for heroin.

"When I'm on Vivitrol, I can't get high," he said. The drug has no street value or abuse potential.

"You couldn't design something better for the criminal justice system," said David Farabee of the University of California at Los Angeles, who leads a Vivitrol study in a New Mexico jail. "There's been pushback with other medications, people saying, 'We're just changing one drug for another.' That argument goes out the window when you're talking about a blocker" like Vivitrol.

Prison systems in Illinois, Vermont, Wyoming and Wisconsin are trying the drug on a small scale. Michigan is offering Vivitrol to parolees who commit small crimes, if addiction is the reason for their new offense. The federal Bureau of Prisons ran a field trial in Texas and plans to expand the program to the Northeast next year. The drug's manufacturer hopes prisons will be the gateway to a larger market.

Also known as extended-release naltrexone, the medication won Food and Drug Administration approval for alcohol dependence in 2006 and in 2010 to prevent relapse in post-detox opioid users.

The evidence for giving Vivitrol to inmates is thin but promising.

In the biggest study, sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, about 300 offenders — most of them heroin users on probation or parole — were randomly assigned to receive either Vivitrol or brief counseling and referral to a treatment program.

After six months, the Vivitrol group had a lower rate of relapse, 43 percent compared with 64 percent. A year after treatment stopped, there had been no overdoses in the Vivitrol group and seven overdoses, including three deaths, in the other group. The results, published in March in the New England Journal of Medicine, have been promoted by the drugmaker, Ireland-based Alkermes, as it markets Vivitrol to U.S. correctional systems.

Yet addiction is stubborn. When the injections stopped, many in the study relapsed. A year later, relapse rates looked the same in the two groups.

"It does suggest six months wasn't enough," said Lee, the lead author.

T.J. Voller was a Vivitrol success story — until he wasn't. After Vivitrol was approved by the FDA, Voller talked about getting the shot with The Associated Press and Dr. Sanjay Gupta in a CNN segment. The 30-year-old was back at work and seemed proud of his recovery. But after 10 months on Vivitrol, he died of a heroin overdose.

"He was alone for the weekend and picked up that needle one last time," said his mother, Kathi Voller of Raynham, Massachusetts.

Advocates argue that inmates have a constitutional right to all FDA-approved addiction medications throughout their incarceration.

"Treatment should be offered from the moment they are brought into the system," said Sally Friedman, legal director of the New York-based Legal Action Center, which is looking for a test case to bring to court.

Physicians have learned to be cautious about pharmaceutical company marketing, said Andrew Kolodny, senior scientist at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University.

Not so for criminal justice officials, who may be too trusting, Kolodny said.

"When the drug company sends someone in to give them a talk and buy them pizza, they think they're getting a scientific lecture," he said.

Alkermes spokeswoman Jennifer Snyder said the company's sales team helps educate corrections staff and community care providers only after they have shown interest in Vivitrol.

There's widespread agreement that counseling, support groups and treatment for underlying problems such as depression are crucial for Vivitrol patients, said Dr. Joseph Garbely of Pennsylvania-based Caron Treatment Centers, which supports medication-assisted treatment and prefers Vivitrol.

"The disease of addiction is a cunning, baffling and powerful one," Garbely said. "And you need all hands on deck."

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Women Anxious About Future of Contraception Under Trump]]>Mon, 14 Nov 2016 06:59:10 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-566440215.jpg

More women are asking Planned Parenthood workers about access to birth control and other health care since Donald Trump was elected president, according to the organization's chief medical officer. 

Some women have taken to social media to discuss their concerns about the prospect of affordable access to women’s health care diminishing, with one long-lasting form of birth control called an IUD apparently attracting extra attention. 

Trump has promised to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act as one of his first acts in office, which could mean the end of free, FDA-approved contraception, including birth control pills, diaphragms, IUDs and emergency contraception like Plan B. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal on Friday, Trump said he would consider keeping at least two parts of President Barack Obama's signature health care law: a ban on insurers denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions and a provision that allows young adults to stay on their parents' plans. 

“Since the election, we have seen an uptick in questions about access to health care, birth control, and the Affordable Care Act,” said Dr. Raegan McDonald-Mosley, the chief medical officer of Planned Parenthood. “While we truly hope that birth control methods will be available, accessible and affordable to all women under the Trump administration, we understand people’s real concerns about losing access to birth control, which is basic health care for women.”

There is a real possibility that health care cuts could come in the months after Trump is inaugurated in January, according to Cindy Pearson, the 19-year executive director of National Women's Health Network.

"It's not an irrational fear," Pearson said. "It's a fear that stems from people who will soon be in charge of Congress and the White House. We're very concerned since Mr. Trump and Mr. Pence have supported policies that would leave women in difficult situations."

NBC has reached out Trump's campaign for comment. 

In an appearance on CNN's "State of the Nation" Sunday, House Speaker Paul Ryan would not answer a question about whether or not new health care legislation would include contraceptive coverage. 

"I’m not going to get into all the nitty-gritty details of these things," Ryan told host Jake Tapper. 

When Tapper pressed Ryan on the issue, the speaker responded: "I’m not going to get into ― I’m not going to get into hypotheticals about legislation that hasn’t even been drafted yet."

Trump has expressed different positions on women's health issues. He voiced disapproval for abortions during the campaign, even telling MSNBC’s Chris Matthews in March that women who get abortions should be “punished,” though he later backtracked on that statement. As for birth control, Trump said on "The Dr. Oz Show" in September that women shouldn't need a prescription to have access to it. 

There is one safe and effective form of birth control that can last for four years, when another president may be elected, and some women appear to be discussing it. 

The IUD, short for intrauterine device, is a T-shaped object inserted in a woman's uterus, where it can stay for years. It is 99 percent effective at preventing pregnancies — more than condoms, though IUDs do not prevent sexually transmitted diseases. Hormonal IUDs can last for about 3 to 6 years on average, while non-hormonal IUDs can last for up to 12 years, according to Planned Parenthood.

IUDs have offered a unique appeal for their longevity. Google searches for the term were four times their average on Wednesday night, after Trump was projected to win the presidency.

And women on Twitter have suggested that others get IUDs to last through a Trump presidency.

Kristyn Brandi, MD, OB/GYN and family planning specialist at Boston Medical Center and fellow with Physicians for Reproductive Health called the Affordable Care Act a "game-changer" for helping women afford contraception.

“We don't really know what will happen with the new administration," she said. "I have heard of several women that are concerned about either access to IUDs or replacing existing ones. We have already seen patients who are seeking contraception based on concerns about what will happen to reproductive health and the Affordable Care Act."

The talk of IUDs may have been prompted by an article in The Daily Beast last week. 

"What Donald Trump has promised to do—and what Mike Pence has actually done during his tenure as governor of Indiana—is to make birth control a lot more difficult for women to access,” Erin Gloria Ryan wrote, advocating that women consider getting an IUD in case Trump were elected.

IUDs are the third most popular form of contraception, according to Planned Parenthood, behind condoms and birth control pills, and they were already becoming more popular. The organization has seen a 91 percent increase in IUD users in the last five years alone.

McDonald-Mosley said Planned Parenthood expects that trend to continue in coming years. 

Democrats have long supported Planned Parenthood, but Republicans have fought in recent years to restrict funding to the organization. Since Trump was elected president, the organization has made it clear that they are there to stay. 

"We now face a very different future, and there is uncertainty ahead," their website read after the race was called. "But one thing is for sure: We will never back down, and Planned Parenthood will never stop providing the care patients need."

Pearson and the NWHN are preparing to "fight like crazy" to stop potential health care cuts, she said.

--Suzanne Ciechalski contributed to this story



Photo Credit: UIG via Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Still Fighting: Vietnam Vets Seek Help for Rare Cancer]]>Fri, 11 Nov 2016 07:15:38 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/VIETNAM_AP_16308712369800.jpg

They were the lucky ones who managed to make it home from Vietnam. Now, a half-century later, some veterans are finding out they, too, are victims of the war.

The enemy is a known killer in parts of Asia: Parasites ingested in raw or poorly cooked river fish. These liver flukes attach to the lining of the bile duct and, over time, cause inflammation and scarring. Decades after infection, a rare cancer called cholangiocarcinoma can develop. Symptoms typically do not occur until advanced stages.

Ralph Erickson, who heads post-deployment health services at the Department of Veterans Affairs, said about 700 cholangiocarcinoma patients have passed through the agency's medical system in the past 15 years. In some instances, the government has acknowledged that the illness is "as likely as not" connected to veterans' time in service. By VA standards, that's enough to make them eligible for benefits.

Less than half of those 700 submitted claims, however, in part because they were unaware of any possible link to service. Of the claims submitted, 3 out of 4 have been rejected, according to data obtained by The Associated Press through the Freedom of Information Act.

As a result, some veterans are spending their final days fighting the VA. They say they were never told they could be at risk, even though they were deployed to a region where the worms are endemic.

"Hard to believe," said veteran Michael Baughman, 64, as he sat in his living room in Danville, California, flipping through a photo album from his war days. "I dodged all those bullets, then get killed by a fish."

Baughman was drafted in late 1970 and sent to central Vietnam to do reconnaissance missions near Hue. Thanks partly to growing up hunting in the mountains of West Virginia, he proved gifted at noticing the smallest twig or leaf brushed out of place by the enemy. Walking point and clearing thick jungle with a machete, he was tasked with spotting booby traps and potential ambushes.

Often on long patrols, he said his unit would run out of rations and go fishing for dinner near the border with Laos.

"We would throw a grenade in the water, and then scoop them off the river floor," Baughman said. "We called it 'fish on a stick.'"

The men cooked the makeshift meal as best they could over a tiny, blue smokeless flame, but it never really got done.

He didn't think much of it, until he went for a long-overdue physical three years ago. His blood work indicated there might be a problem with his liver. Further testing revealed he had bile duct cancer.

Baughman's private physician wrote a letter highlighting the connection between liver flukes and bile duct cancer. A VA doctor also acknowledged the parasites are a primary risk factor but was not entirely convinced Baughman's illness was related to his time in Vietnam.

The veteran's claims for benefits were denied twice in 2015. He's awaiting word on his latest appeal.

Liver flukes infect an estimated 25 million people globally. The parasites are found mainly in parts of Southeast Asia, China and South Korea, where residents and tourists alike risk infection from specific types of freshwater fish such as tilapia and carp.

In one location in Laos, researchers found liver flukes — which can survive pickling and fermentation — in about 60 percent of villagers, and in some parts of Vietnam, up to 40 percent were infected.

In northeastern Thailand, where many villagers have a taste for the sour fish dish pla som, new bile duct cancers affect about 84 in 100,000 people, the world's highest recorded rate. Mobile clinics routinely perform bile duct ultrasound screening in hard-hit areas.

In the United States, cholangiocarcinoma is extremely rare, with roughly 5,000 people diagnosed each year, including some Asian immigrants who ate infected fish in their native countries. Liver flukes aren't the only risk factor for the disease; others include hepatitis B and C, cirrhosis and bile duct stones.

VA data, collected following an AP inquiry, show the number of benefit claims for bile duct cancer has increased sixfold since 2003. The requests hit a high of 60 last year, with nearly 80 percent denied. Decisions appear to be haphazard. Some are approved automatically. Others, presented with the same evidence, are denied. Some rejections are based on the fact that parasites were not found in stool samples, but those tests were conducted years after the worms would have died.

VA officials said that while they're sympathetic, it's up to the men to prove the connection to their time in service. They say because the cancer remains rare, it would be unrealistic and onerous to carry out regular screenings.

"We will look at each case and all the evidence that is presented to us and make a determination at that point," said Steve Westerfeld, a spokesman for the VA's Veterans Benefits Administration. "Certainly any veteran has an opportunity to appeal."

Many do, sometimes two or three times before either getting approved or giving up.

How much veterans, or their families, are compensated depends on many factors, including to what degree the illness is affecting their ability to have productive lives. An unmarried veteran can get nearly $3,000 a month, but some spouses said they get about half that amount. For many, it's not about the money. It's about raising awareness, both among veterans and the VA.

If American doctors better understood cholangiocarcinoma and the potential risks to those who served in Vietnam, they could use ultrasound to check veterans for inflammation, and then surgery might be possible for some of them, said Jeff Bethony, a liver fluke expert at George Washington University.

"Early is key," he said, adding he regularly receives desperate letters from veterans' family members. "The VA should be testing for this."

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Baby Powder Lawsuit: Woman Awarded More Than $70M]]>Fri, 28 Oct 2016 08:58:55 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Powder-GettyImages-119270124.jpg

A St. Louis jury on Thursday awarded a California woman more than $70 million in her lawsuit alleging that years of using Johnson & Johnson's baby powder caused her cancer, the latest case raising concerns about the health ramifications of extended talcum powder use.

The jury ruling ended the trial that began Sept. 26 in the case brought by Deborah Giannecchini of Modesto, California. She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2012. The suit accused Johnson & Johnson of "negligent conduct" in making and marketing its baby powder.

"We are pleased the jury did the right thing. They once again reaffirmed the need for Johnson & Johnson to warn the public of the ovarian cancer risk associated with its product," Jim Onder, an attorney for the plaintiff, told The Associated Press.

"We deeply sympathize with the women and families impacted by ovarian cancer," Carol Goodrich, a spokeswoman with Johnson & Johnson, said in a statement. "We will appeal today's verdict because we are guided by the science, which supports the safety of Johnson's Baby Powder."

Earlier this year, two other lawsuits in St. Louis ended in jury verdicts worth a combined $127 million. But two others in New Jersey were thrown out by a judge who said there wasn't reliable evidence that talc leads to ovarian cancer, an often fatal but relatively rare form of cancer. Ovarian cancer accounts for about 22,000 of the 1.7 million new cases of cancer expected to be diagnosed in the U.S. this year.

About 2,000 women have filed similar suits, and lawyers are reviewing thousands of other potential cases, most generated by ads touting the two big verdicts out of St. Louis — a $72 million award in February to relatives of an Alabama woman who died of ovarian cancer, and a $55 million award in May to a South Dakota survivor of the disease.

Much research has found no link or a weak one between ovarian cancer and using baby powder for feminine hygiene, and most major health groups have declared talc harmless. Johnson & Johnson, whose baby powder dominates the market, maintains it's perfectly safe.

But Onder of the Onder Law Firm in suburban St. Louis, which represented plaintiffs in all three St. Louis cases, cited other research that began connecting talcum powder to ovarian cancer in the 1970s. He said case studies have indicated that women who regularly use talc on their genital area face up to a 40 percent higher risk of developing ovarian cancer.

Onder has accused Johnson & Johnson of marketing toward overweight women, blacks and Hispanics — the very same women most at-risk for ovarian cancer, he said.

Factors known to increase a women's risk of ovarian cancer include age, obesity, use of estrogen therapy after menopause, not having any children, certain genetic mutations and personal or family history of breast or ovarian cancer.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies genital use of talc as "possibly carcinogenic." The National Toxicology Program, made up of parts of several different government agencies, has not fully reviewed talc.

Talc is a mineral that is mined from deposits around the world, including the U.S. The softest of minerals, it's crushed into a white powder. It's been widely used in cosmetics and other personal care products to absorb moisture since at least 1894, when Johnson & Johnson's Baby Powder was launched. But it's mainly used in a variety of other products, including paint and plastics.

The two St. Louis verdicts were the first talcum powder cases in which money was awarded. A federal jury in 2013 sided with another South Dakota woman, but it ordered no damages, a spokeswoman for Onder's firm said.

Johnson & Johnson has been targeted before by health and consumer groups over ingredients in its products, including Johnson's No More Tears baby shampoo. The company agreed in 2012 to eliminate 1,4-dioxane and formaldehyde, both considered probable carcinogens, from all products by 2015.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: Bloomberg via Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Children With 3-Way DNA Are Healthy: Study]]>Thu, 27 Oct 2016 09:31:49 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/AP_16299728950958-dna.jpg

More than 15 years ago, 17 babies were born after an experimental infertility treatment that gave them DNA from three people: Mom, Dad and an egg donor.

Now researchers have checked up on how the babies are doing as teenagers. The preliminary verdict: The kids are all right.

With no sign of unusual health problems and excellent grades in school at ages 13 to 18, these children are "doing well," said embryologist Jacques Cohen of the Institute for Reproductive Medicine & Science at Saint Barnabas in Livingston, New Jersey, where the treatment was done.

That includes Emma Foster, 17, of Red Bank, New Jersey. "I turned out normal," Foster said in an interview Tuesday. A cheerleader since age 10, she is now looking at colleges and thinking of majoring in engineering.

The infertility procedure is no longer performed. But the study of the children is timely because just last month, the first baby was born from a different procedure that also mixed genetic material from three people. That technique is aimed not at infertility but at preventing the child from inheriting harmful genes from the mother. Critics are concerned about its long-term safety.

So finding no problem so far from the infertility treatment is helpful and "a good message" for people considering the disease-prevention procedure, Cohen said. But he emphasized that his findings cannot be taken as proof that the newer procedure is safe and should be performed.

Cells carry DNA in two places: the nucleus, where the chromosomes are, and to a much smaller degree the mitochondria. Mitochondria are the little powerhouses in the cytoplasm, the liquid part of the egg cell outside the nucleus.

Both DNA-mixing procedures involve the mitochondria; the one that recently produced the baby was aimed at replacing a mother's defective mitochondria. Cohen's procedure injected a bit of mitochondria-containing cytoplasm into the mother's egg.

Genes in the mitochondrial DNA don't affect traits like eye and hair color but are important for keeping cells healthy throughout the body.

Cohen's hospital performed the infertility treatment between 1996 and 2001 on 33 couples who failed to conceive after roughly five tries at in vitro fertilization.

"We felt that there was something wrong with the cytoplasm" and that injecting a small amount of it from a healthy egg donor might aid embryo development, Cohen said.

Fourteen of the 33 patients became pregnant, and 13 ultimately gave birth to 18 babies, including two sets of twins and one of quadruplets. (One of the 18 babies was a twin from a standard egg donation; doctors also included data on that child in the follow-up study.)

Cohen and colleagues presented their findings Wednesday in the journal Reproductive BioMedicine Online.

The parents of the quadruplets refused multiple requests for follow-up information; doctors know only that all four are alive and in high school.

In detailed surveys, parents of the 14 other children all reported their kids in good health. One has chronic migraines, two have mild asthma, one is obese, seven have allergies, and one has attention deficit disorder. None of those rates are unusual for that number of children, doctors said. One boy was diagnosed with a borderline developmental disorder at 18 months but not when he was older, and he has an A average in school.

"These children have done well," Cohen said. "It's what we expected or at least had hoped."

At least two other clinics in the U.S. and several in other countries tried the technique after Cohen started it, but the U.S. work stopped after the Food and Drug Administration stepped in to regulate it. Cohen said his group tried to comply with the FDA's requirements for a permit to continue the work but lost funding before it could meet them.

It's not clear why the treatment worked for the 13 couples, Cohen said. One possibility is the infusion of mitochondria, but cytoplasm contains other molecules and structures too, he said.

In any case, it was a success for Emma's parents, Susan and Peter Foster, who had been trying for about seven years to have a baby.

When Cohen's experimental procedure was described to them and they were asked if they were interested, they had no doubts, Peter said.

Susan gave birth at 33. Emma was healthy and has continued that way, her parents say.

Emma is the only child in the survey to have been told about the procedure. She said she has long known her origins were unusual — her mom keeps a book that shows her as an embryo — but she didn't know the specifics until recently.

"I think it's really cool," she said. "It makes me different."

She may no longer carry any trace of the donor. Only two of eight babies tested after birth showed any sign of donor mitochondria, and Emma was one who showed none. Cohen said the tests, which were not as sensitive then as now, might have overlooked some traces.

The follow-up study has some limitations. It's based on a survey of parents, and the accuracy of such second-hand information can be shaky. And it includes just 13 teens, with no comparison group.

Still, Dr. James Grifo, director of infertility treatment at New York University, said the results suggest that criticism of research that mixes DNA from three people appears unfounded.

"The outcomes looked uniformly good ... suggesting that no harm was done," said Grifo, who did not participate in the new study. The donor cytoplasm "certainly may have played a role in allowing their embryo to develop to a stage that allowed a pregnancy."

In 1999, after years of experiments in mice, Grifo and colleagues made embryos with DNA from three people and transferred them to several patients' wombs, but no pregnancy resulted. Then the FDA stepped in and stopped the work.

"I think it should be allowed," Grifo said.

But Dr. Alan Copperman, director of infertility at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, said the jury is still out on whether using a third party's genetic material is safe.

"I don't think that we're yet able to declare victory and that we've figured out how to fix an unhealthy egg or embryo," Copperman said. Most eggs that fail to develop normally, especially with older patients, are because of abnormal chromosomes, so tinkering with the cytoplasm is not likely to be a solution for many people, he said.

But it apparently worked for the Fosters.

Emma "is a blessing and a miracle," Susan Foster said, "and medical science made that possible."

___

This story has been corrected to show that the research institution involved was the Institute for Reproductive Medicine & Science at Saint Barnabas.

Marchione reported from Milwaukee. Ritter reported from Livingston, New Jersey. Study: http://bit.ly/2eODF5K

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Experts Hope Mosquito-Borne Bacteria Can Beat Zika Virus]]>Wed, 26 Oct 2016 14:05:11 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/mosquitoeszika.jpg

Researchers are trying to infect mosquitoes in Brazil and Colombia with a type of bacteria that could prevent them from spreading the Zika virus and other dangerous diseases.

British and American governments are teaming up with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the U.K.-based Wellcome Trust to expand field tests in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil and the city of Bello in northwest Colombia, philanthropist Bill Gates told a conference Wednesday.

The tests revolve around the Wolbachia genus of bacteria, which has been shown to hamper the spread of viruses when it's carried by mosquitoes. The virus doesn't occur naturally in Aedes aegypti — the tropical mosquitoes primarily responsible for spreading viruses such as Zika, yellow fever, dengue fever and chikungunya — but researchers have spent more than 10 years working to coax the bacteria into infecting that particular breed of insect in a bid to derail the diseases it carries.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Gates said the $18 million roll-out would finally test whether the concept can work.

"We'll know within a year, if these mosquitoes we've released, if they're becoming common amongst the population," he said. "Then we'll see simply by the number of people who get sick from either Zika or dengue. If those numbers come down quite substantially in these cities but not in other cities that'll be the proof of this over a decade-long quest to use this intervention."

In a statement, the Eliminate Dengue campaign said the roll-out in Latin America follows earlier field trials in Australia, Vietnam and Indonesia as well as small-scale work in Brazil and Colombia dating back to 2014.

Zika was initially known only to cause flu-like symptoms in some people but has since attracted global concern after a surge of cases in babies born with small heads in northeast Brazil. The virus has since been linked to a birth defect known as microcephaly and become a leading public health worry.

In his AP interview, Gates also spoke about polio— he hopes next year will mark the last reported case of the disease — and the British exit from the European Union, which he said probably wouldn't be dramatic for U.K. science but "could create a little bit of uncertainty and disruption."

Finally, the billionaire Microsoft co-founder poured cold water on talk of a turn toward U.S. politics.

Gates, who was identified in leaked emails as being among those Hillary Clinton's campaign considered for vice president last spring, gave an emphatic "Nope, not me" when asked whether Americans should expect to see his name on the ballot in 2020.

"My full-time work for the rest of my life will be work for the foundation," he said.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: AP, File]]>
<![CDATA[FDA Steps Up Warnings About Testosterone Use]]>Wed, 26 Oct 2016 13:38:50 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/AP_16159721727583-fda-generic.jpg

The FDA announced Tuesday that it is increasing warnings against testosterone and other steroids, NBC News reported.

In addition to existing concerns about personality changes and other health issues, the drugs can be easily abused, according to the FDA.

"Reported serious adverse outcomes include heart attack, heart failure, stroke, depression, hostility, aggression, liver toxicity and male infertility," the FDA said in a statement. "Individuals abusing high doses of testosterone have also reported withdrawal symptoms, such as depression, fatigue, irritability, loss of appetite, decreased libido and insomnia."

Testosterone, which is used to fight the effects of aging, has been heavily criticized by the FDA. It is currently a $2 billion industry with men purchasing gels, pills and injections. 



Photo Credit: AP, File]]>
<![CDATA[Chipotle Sales Fall Again as It Tries to Win Back Customers]]>Wed, 26 Oct 2016 11:15:09 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Chipotle-GettyImages-509063322.jpg

Chipotle is still struggling to bring back customers to its restaurants after a food safety scare last year.

The burrito chain said Tuesday that sales fell 21.9 percent at established restaurants during the third quarter, worse than the 18.3 percent drop Wall Street analysts expected, according to FactSet. It's the fourth straight quarter of sales declines for the company after an E. coli outbreak last year sickened some customers.

Chipotle has given out millions of free burritos, launched a loyalty program and released food safety ads to try and win back customers. But the company is still hurting from the outbreak. Chipotle, which has more than 2,100 restaurants, said its profit plummeted 95 percent in the quarter.

Shares of Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. fell 2.4 percent after the market closed Tuesday.

To try to boost sales, Chipotle is cooking up new menu items and upgrading its digital ordering platform. Earlier this month, it started selling chorizo, a spicy pork sausage, at restaurants nationwide. And it announced Tuesday that it is testing two dessert items and plans to add one to its menu in the future — but didn't say what the treats would be. It also hopes that an updated site will lead to more digital orders, which now make up only 6 percent of sales, the company said.

Still, Chipotle said pricier avocados may keep its costs high. The company said a shortage is causing avocado prices to nearly triple from $30 a case to $80 a case.

Overall, Chipotle reported net income of $7.8 million, or 27 cents per share, in the three months ending Sept. 30, compared with $144.9 million, or $4.59 per share, in the same quarter a year ago. Adjusted earnings were 79 cents per share, below the $1.96 per share analysts expected, according to FactSet.

Revenue fell 15 percent to $1.04 billion, below the $1.09 billion analysts expected.

Chipotle said that it also plans to stop investing it its Southeast Asian-inspired chain ShopHouse. The food at that chain, which was started five years ago and has 15 restaurants, wasn't able to attract a big following, Chipotle said. The company said it is seeking "strategic alternatives" for ShopHouse. Instead, it plans to bet on pizza and burgers for growth. The company is an investor in Pizzeria Locale, a fast-cooking pizza chain with seven locations. Earlier this year, it applied for a trademark for "Better Burger."

Shares of Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. fell $8.83 to $396.84 in after-hours trading Tuesday. Its stock is down about 40 percent for the year.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images, File]]>
<![CDATA[Babies Should Sleep in Same Room as Parents: Pediatricians]]>Tue, 25 Oct 2016 09:22:12 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/NC_sleepstandards1024_1920x1080.jpg

The American Academy of Pediatrics is calling for infants to be kept in their parents' bedroom at night for six months to a year to reduce the risk of sleep-related death.

The new recommendations say babies should sleep on a separate surface, in a crib or bassinet, and never on something soft. The guidelines say babies should sleep in the same room as their parents, preferably until they're a year old. The nation's most influential pediatricians' group says it updated its safe-sleep guidance because of studies suggesting that room-sharing reduces the risk of sudden infant death syndrome by as much as 50 percent.

For two decades, the academy has advocated that babies be placed on their backs for sleeping to reduce risks of SIDS. Other recommendations include: avoiding bed-sharing; use of crib bumpers, blankets, pillows and soft toys; using pacifiers; and breastfeeding. But SIDS cases have plateaued at 3,500 unexplained deaths each year in the U.S., prompting the updated advice released Monday.

Noting that SIDS' risks are highest in the first six months, the academy says room-sharing but not bed-sharing is most likely to prevent suffocation that can occur when infants sleep with their parents.

"Placing the crib close to the parents' bed so that the infant is within view and reach can facilitate feeding, comforting, and monitoring of the infant," the academy says.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York

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<![CDATA[1 in 4 US Cancer Deaths Linked to Smoking]]>Mon, 24 Oct 2016 10:37:04 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/108938428e.jpg

Cigarettes contribute to more than 1 in 4 cancer deaths in the U.S. The rate is highest among men in southern states where smoking is more common and tobacco control policies are less strict. 

The American Cancer Society study found the highest rate among men in Arkansas, where 40 percent of cancer deaths were linked to cigarette smoking. Kentucky had the highest rate among women — 29 percent. 

The lowest rates were in Utah, where 22 percent of cancer deaths in men and 11 percent in women were linked with smoking. 

"The human costs of cigarette smoking are high in all states, regardless of ranking," the authors said. 

They analyzed 2014 health surveys and government data on smoking rates and deaths from about a dozen smoking-linked cancers. Lung, throat, stomach, liver, colon, pancreas and kidney cancers were among those included, along with leukemia. The researchers estimated how many cancer deaths were likely attributable to smoking, and compared that with deaths from all cancers. 

Results were published Monday in. JAMA Internal Medicine. 

While U.S. smoking rates have been falling, 40 million U.S. adults are cigarette smokers and smoking is the top cause of preventable deaths, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

NUMBERS
The study found that at least 167,000 cancer deaths in 2014 — about 29 percent of all U.S. cancer deaths — were attributable to smoking. 

Most of the 10 states with the highest rates of smoking-attributable cancer deaths were in the South, while most of the 10 states with the lowest rates were in the North or West. 

Among men, where smoking is generally more common, the cigarette-linked cancer death rate was highest in blacks at 35 percent, compared with 30 percent for whites and 27 percent for Hispanics. Among women, whites had the highest cigarette-linked cancer death rate — 21 percent, compared 19 percent for blacks and 12 percent for Hispanics. 

EXPLANATIONS
The researchers say nine of 14 states with the least comprehensive smoke-free indoor air policies are in the South. The average cigarette excise tax in major tobacco states, mostly in the South, is 49 cents, compared with $1.80 elsewhere. The tobacco industry heavily influences these policies and most of the U.S. tobacco crop is grown in the South, the researchers said. The region also has relatively high levels of poverty, which is also linked with smoking. 

REACTION
Dr. Hilary Tindle of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, said the results reflect what she sees as a tobacco researcher and internal medicine specialist in the South. She was not involved in the study. 

Smoking is more of a social norm there, and while her medical center has an indoor smoking ban, she said it's not unusual to walk through cloud of cigarette smoke outside the entrance. 

Tindle said the study results highlight the need for stronger tobacco control measures and show why doctors should discuss smoking at every patient visit, encourage smokers to quit and inform them about effective ways to do so.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: Tim Graham/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Infants, Parents Should Share Room: New Guidelines]]>Mon, 24 Oct 2016 10:35:11 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/NC_sleepstandards1024_1920x1080.jpgThe American Academy of Pediatrics has released updated guidelines for new parents on infant sleep safety. Experts say room sharing could reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) by half and recommend babies sleep in a crib or bassinet in the parent's bedroom for at least the first six months and up to age 1. ]]><![CDATA[Pediatrics Group Lifts 'No Screens Under 2' Rule]]>Fri, 21 Oct 2016 14:32:41 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-135280995.jpg

The American Academy of Pediatrics issued new screen media guidelines for parents with infants and young children, amending its previous recommendation that outright banned screens for children under the age of two.

In its policy statement released Friday, the AAP says it’s OK for children under the age of 18 months to Skype or Face Time with grandma and grandpa, and for older children and teens to do some of their socializing, learning and playing online – as long as they put down their devices long enough to sleep, exercise, eat, and engage in rich offline lives. 

The nation's leading group of pediatricians recommends children under 18 months, with the exception of video chatting, should avoid screens. Children between 18 months and 24 months should only be introduced to digital media that is high-quality and parents should watch it with their children in order to help them process what they’re seeing.

For children ages 2-5, digital media use should be limited to one hour a day. The guidelines again recommend high-quality, education media suited for children, such as Sesame Street and PBS.

Overall, parents should avoid using media to calm a child or replace physical activity. Parents are also recommended by the AAP to have media-free time with their children and media-free zones in the house. Parents should also have conversations with children about online safety and respecting people both on and offline.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[New Advice: Parents Should Share Screentime with Kids]]>Fri, 21 Oct 2016 10:46:47 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/NC_mediakids1020_1920x1080.jpgInstead of playing a constant game of keep-away, parents are now encouraged to join the fun. Updated guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics on kids' media usage represents a shift to making moms and dads "media mentors." Previously the influential group of pediatricians suggested no media before age 2. Now they say there's evidence toddlers as young as 18 months could learn and benefit from some forms of technology, as long as parents are there to guide them and the technology is not overly stimulating.


Photo Credit: NBC News]]>
<![CDATA[Woman With Cancer: '#JuJuOnThatChemo']]>Thu, 20 Oct 2016 14:21:49 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/214*120/chemo-dance-101916.PNG

A Texas woman is not letting cancer and chemo get her down. Ana-Alecia Ayala, who’s battling a rare form of uterine sarcoma, has joined the viral dance craze — and has a heartwarming message to share.

In a social media post shared Tuesday, Ayala, in her hospital gown and medical tubes attached to her, dances to "JuJu On That Beat" with her friend Danielle Andrus during a chemotherapy session at Baylor T. Boone Pickens Cancer Hospital in Dallas.

"We want to show the world that dancing and laughter is the best medicine," wrote Ayala, who's from Dallas. "#JustForFun #ChemoSucks #CancerAwareness #JuJuOnThatBeat #JuJuOnThatChemo."

Ayala, who has rhabdomyosarcoma, has had two surgeries for tumor removal and port placement since she was diagnosed in December 2015. She has been in chemo since January, according to her GoFundMe.



Photo Credit: Ana-Alecia Ayala]]>
<![CDATA[Obama Touts Health Care Law, Urges Young Adults to Sign Up ]]>Thu, 20 Oct 2016 14:05:23 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/TLMD-obamacare-website-sutterstock-st.jpg

President Barack Obama on Thursday defended his namesake health care program, long a target of Republicans and recently criticized by some Democrats, saying millions of Americans "now know the financial security of health insurance" because of the Affordable Care Act. 

"It's worked," he said, even while allowing that the program isn't perfect. "No law is."

Obama chalked up the Republican criticism to "nothing more than politics" and GOP envy that "a Democratic president named Barack Obama passed the law. That's just the truth." 

He called on both parties to set aside the "political rhetoric" and "be honest about what's working, what needs fixing and how we fix it." 

Obama said repealing the law, as congressional Republicans repeatedly have failed to do, won't solve the problem "because right off the bat repeal would take away health care from 20 million people" and affect millions of other health care consumers.

Less than two weeks before people can start to enroll in the overhaul's health plans on Nov. 1, Obama used a speech at a Florida college to kick off a push by the administration to encourage more people to sign up, with a particular emphasis on young adults.

Obama wants to burnish his legacy as the president who, after decades of failed attempts by Washington, finally brought health care to millions. But what he attempted Thursday was a difficult sales job, as the 2010 law faces some new and troubling challenges.

Premiums are rising by double digits in many parts of the country and some major insurers have quit the program, leaving consumers with few choices next year and contributing to higher prices. 

Democratic allies recently criticized the law. Former President Bill Clinton, while campaigning in support of Hillary Clinton's presidential bid, called the law "the craziest thing in the world." Gov. Mark Dayton, D-Minn., said it is "no longer affordable." 

Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell said this week that she expects 13.8 million people will sign up for 2017 coverage, a modest increase over the 12.7 million consumers who picked health insurance plans during open enrollment for this year.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[3 STDs Hit Record High: CDC]]>Wed, 19 Oct 2016 15:47:15 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/AP_16293715410881-chlamydia-generic.jpg

Infections from three sexually spread diseases have hit another record high.

Chlamydia was the most common. More than 1.5 million cases were reported in the U.S. last year, up 6 percent from the year before.

Nearly 400,000 gonorrhea cases were reported, up 13 percent. And there were about 24,000 cases of the most contagious forms of syphilis, up 19 percent.

The three infections are treatable with antibiotics.

Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say part of the growth may be due to better testing and diagnosis, but much of it is a real increase. They're not sure why.

The CDC released the new numbers Wednesday.

An estimated 20 million cases of sexually transmitted infections occur each year in the U.S.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: Dr. E. Arum, Dr. N. Jacobs/CDC via AP]]>
<![CDATA[Mom's Update on Conjoined Twins]]>Tue, 18 Oct 2016 08:12:23 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/conjoined+twins+gofundme+thumb.png

Nicole McDonald has reluctantly documented her family's experience as her twin sons who were attached at the head faced their most difficult surgery yet last week. But if supporters of her family read anything she hopes, it's her message to them and the doctors who saved her children. 

In a lengthy and emotional Facebook update on Saturday, the Illinois mother shared that as she and her husband "emerged from the depths of the hospital" in New York City last week, they were forced to face the fact that their family's private battle has quickly become a national story. 

"For those of you who don't know us, it might be interesting to note that we do not have TV or Internet access at home," she wrote. "We don't get to watch the news on a regular basis and we have literally spent the last 36 hours at the boys' bedside or waiting for updates from the doctors in the Caregiver Support Center at Montefiore."

McDonald's 13-month old sons, Jadon and Anias, were separated following 16 hours of surgery at Montefiore Medical Center. 

McDonald noted that at first, she didn't want to take her family's unique situation public, but agreed because they wanted to help show the medical miracle that would soon separate her sons. 

"Our biggest desire was to show how brilliant the team at Montefiore has been and to give the hospital the credit it deserves," she wrote. "The real heroes of this story are the people who have put countless hours, days and months into the success of today."

McDonald had been sharing updates on the surgery as the boys returned to their room one by one. 

Hours later, McDonald wrote that the brothers had been "finally reunited."

"How surreal. I now realize that I always saw you as separate because seeing you like this is really nothing different to me," McDonald wrote. "When I stand at your bedside, Jadon, it's almost as if Anias is still there. Anias, when I leaned over you I protected my hair from Jadon. But the view is still the same. This is how I always saw you. I love you so much. Now it's time to step forward into the new chapter of our life. I'm ready to fight and I know you are too."

McDonald earlier described the atmosphere as "one of celebration mixed with uncertainty." She says Jadon did better than Anias during the procedure, adding that doctors predict he may not be able to move part of his body at first. 

"When they told me they were wheeling Jadon up first, it took me a second to comprehend," she wrote. "I actually asked why they rearranged the room because I hadn't really internalized the idea that there would be 2 beds in here."

McDonald and her husband first found out they were having twins during a routine ultrasound when she was 17 weeks pregnant. But hours after learning the big news, the couple was called back for a repeat ultrasound, a call she said is "every pregnant mother's nightmare."

"It was on that day, in that dark room, that our whole life changed," McDonald wrote in a GoFundMe page for the family. "I was informed that I was pregnant with craniopagus twins, which in normal language means twins who are joined at the head. I was given the option on many occasions to abort my precious babies. I kindly declined. I had heard their heart beats...they spent their life listening to mine. It was my job as their mother to give them life and I decided that I would give everything up, if need be, to do so. Miracles happen...and there is one (really, two :)) unfolding before our very eyes."

McDonald went into labor on Sept. 9, 2015 and an emergency c-section was performed at Rush University Medical Center. 

The boys were named Jadon and Anias. 

While the babies started having some health problems shortly after birth, things quickly "went downhill" for the McDonald family.

"Anias started having trouble breathing," McDonald wrote. "Because of the way he was positioned in my belly, his chin was against his chest and his jaw couldn't grow. His airway was also constricted. As he required more oxygen for day to day life, his breathing got worse and worse, until eventually he was back on oxygen."

Months later, the couple met with a specialist in hopes of successfully separating the twins. Fast forward to October, the babies have undergone their final surgery, but their most difficult. 

The family's GoFundMe page had raised $161,161 as of Friday, exceeding their goal of $100,000 to aid with the babies' medical care. 

McDonald thanked those who helped her family during the trying time, saying "each and every one of you is a hero in your own way."

"The people who literally lift us up and carry us when we feel like we just can't take another step. We are so blessed to have so much support in our corner," she wrote. 

Most recently, McDonald said the boys are stable, but "there are some things happening that I can't really find the words to explain or allow myself to dwell on."

"Every thing changes from hour to hour and we just have to remember that the brain responds in crazy ways when it's been cut through," she wrote. "We still cannot hold the boys because they are intubated so we sit at their bedside and hold their hands, give them massages and kiss their faces. When I have a better understanding of their actual status, I will do my best to update. Thank you so much for your heartfelt support."


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<![CDATA[Study Examines Fridges' Chilling Effect on Tomato Taste]]>Mon, 17 Oct 2016 20:42:59 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/180*120/042615+Top+Crops+%288%29.jpg

If you buy tomatoes from John Banscher at his farmstand in New Jersey, he'll recommend keeping them out of the fridge or they'll lose some of their taste.

Now scientists have figured out why: It's because some of their genes chill out, says a study that may help solve that problem.

Cooling tomatoes below 54 degrees stops them from making some of the substances that contribute to their taste, according to researchers who dug into the genetic roots of the problem.

That robs the fruit of flavor, whether it happens in a home refrigerator or in cold storage before the produce reaches the grocery shelf, they said.

With the new detailed knowledge of how that happens, "maybe we can breed tomatoes to change that," said researcher Denise Tieman of the University of Florida in Gainesville.

She and colleagues there, in China and at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, report their findings in a paper published Monday by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

They showed that after seven days of storage at 39 degrees, tomatoes lost some of their supply of substances that produce their characteristic aroma, which is a key part of their flavor. Three days of sitting at room temperature didn't remedy that, and a taste test by 76 people confirmed the chilled tomatoes weren't as good as fresh fruit.

Tomatoes stored for just one or three days didn't lose their aroma substances.

Further research showed that the prolonged chilling reduced the activity of certain genes that make those compounds, Tieman said.

Her lab is already looking into the possibility of breeding tomatoes that don't lose flavor in the cold, she said.

In the meantime, "Just leave them out on the counter, or leave them in a shaded area, something like that," said Banscher, whose farm is in Gloucester County. "A tomato has a decent shelf life."

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: Getty Images, File]]>
<![CDATA[Racial Disparities in Breast Cancer Rates, Report Finds]]>Fri, 14 Oct 2016 13:42:53 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/strides6-PIC_0.jpg

Despite innovative technology for detection and treatment of breast cancer, black women continue to have the highest rate of mortality, a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed.

The report released on Thursday found that black and white women now have roughly similar incidences of breast cancer. For black women, this is bad news; for the past 40 years, they have had the lowest prevalence of breast cancer. That health advantage has disappeared, with increased incidences of cancer.

In addition to increased frequency of breast cancer, the death rate is higher for black women than white women by about 40 percent. White women are seeing a faster decrease in mortality.

The CDC report noted that the prevalence of cancer for white women has steadily decreased, and increased for black women, especially for those 60-79 years old. These trends are unique to black women; overall, the trends for the last few decades have shown less incidence and mortality from breast cancer.

While the relationship between obesity and breast cancer is unknown, the incidence of both have increased in black populations, according to the report. Increased physical activity and healthy diet to maintain a healthy weight may help in subsiding the incidence of breast cancer, the report says.

But above all, the report suggested that if care for all women was equal, there might be less exaggerated differences between black and white women.

“Measures to ensure access to quality care and the best-available treatments for all women diagnosed with breast cancer can help address these racial disparities,” it said.



Photo Credit: NBC7]]>
<![CDATA[4 Qualities Explain Why Big Cities Are Healthier: Survey]]>Tue, 11 Oct 2016 14:48:27 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/StretchMcDonalds.jpg

The American cities with the healthiest, happiest residents are Boston, San Francisco, Chicago, New York and Washington, D.C., according to a new survey that scored communities on important health measures, NBC News reported.

While they may not shriek "healthy living," they all have lots of sidewalks, parks and good public transportation, a report from Gallup and Healthways found. The four key components the group identified are walkability, easy biking, parks and public transit.

"Residents in these top five communities have, on average, significantly lower rates of smoking, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and depression compared with those in the five lowest-ranked active living communities," the groups said in a statement, adding to a large body of research that's found that access to green spaces, lowered stress and other factors translate into lower rates of disease and longer lives.



Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto]]>
<![CDATA[Moms Find Worms in Baby Formula]]>Wed, 12 Oct 2016 09:04:38 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/NC_maggotformula1011_1500x845.jpgA first-time mom says she found worms in a bottle of Similac baby formula that she fed her son. "Two ounces down I noticed the worms," said Taylor Seyler from Missouri. "Took it from his mouth, went and put a napkin over the faucet and we poured it down the drain and we saw the maggots on it." Her story isn't a unique one; another mother says she had a similar experience with Nutramigen formula. Manufacturers say contamination likely occurred after the packaging was opened. ]]><![CDATA[Zika-Related Health Problems Grow as Babies Age]]>Wed, 12 Oct 2016 08:50:49 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/zika-2sm.jpgBrazilian doctors are seeing unusual new health problems among infants born to mothers who contracted the Zika virus. The complications often go beyond those seen when other infections cause microcephaly.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[College Students Say 'Drunkorexia' Is More Than Buzzword]]>Tue, 11 Oct 2016 11:36:41 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-113218959beer.jpg

Despite attempts to curb students’ consumption of alcohol, binge-drinking is becoming the norm on college campuses, NBC News reported.

A group of young people spoke about the trend, called “drunkorexia," for "Today" show's Campus Undercovered series. According to the students interviewed, the habit altered their way of life, even leading to extended hospitalization, for one student.

A study from the University of Houston found that of 1,200 students surveyed, up to 80 percent altered their diet by restricting calories, overexercising, purging or using laxatives while also binge drinking.



Photo Credit: Getty Images/Aurora Creative]]>
<![CDATA[Zika 'Syndrome': Health Problems Mount as Babies Turn 1 ]]>Tue, 11 Oct 2016 10:27:15 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-507388502zika.jpg

Two weeks shy of his first birthday, doctors began feeding Jose Wesley Campos through a nose tube because swallowing problems had left him dangerously underweight.

Learning how to feed is the baby's latest struggle as medical problems mount for him and many other infants born with small heads to mothers infected with the Zika virus in Brazil.

"It hurts me to see him like this. I didn't want this for him," said Jose's mother, Solange Ferreira, breaking into tears as she cradled her son.

A year after a spike in the number of newborns with the defect known as microcephaly, doctors and researchers have seen many of the babies develop swallowing difficulties, epileptic seizures and vision and hearing problems.

While more study is needed, Zika-caused microcephaly appears to be causing more severe problems in these infants than in patients born with small heads because of the other infections known to cause microcephaly, such as German measles and herpes. The problems are so particular that doctors are now calling the condition congenital Zika syndrome.

"We are seeing a lot of seizures. And now they are having many problems eating, so a lot of these children start using feeding tubes," said Dr. Vanessa Van der Linden, a pediatric neurologist in Recife who was one of the first doctors to suspect that Zika caused microcephaly.

Zika, mainly transmitted by mosquito, was not known to cause birth defects until a large outbreak swept through northeastern states in Latin America's largest nation, setting off alarm worldwide. Numerous studies confirmed the link.

Seven percent of the babies with microcephaly that Van der Linden and her team have treated were also born with arm and leg deformities that had not previously been linked to other causes of microcephaly, she said.

To complicate matters, there are babies whose heads were normal at birth but stopped growing proportionally months later. Other infants infected with the virus in the womb did not have microcephaly but developed different problems, such as a patient of Van der Linden's who started having difficulties moving his left hand.

"We may not even know about the ones with slight problems out there," Van der Linden said. "We are writing the history of this disease."

On a recent day, Jose laid on a blue mat wearing just brown moccasins and a diaper, his bony chest pressed by a respiratory therapist helping him clear congested airways.

Jose, who has been visited by The Associated Press three times in the last year, is like a newborn. He is slow to follow objects with his crossed eyes. His head is unsteady when he tries to hold it up, and he weighs less than 13 pounds, far below the 22 pounds that is average for a baby his age.

Breathing problems make his cries sound like gargling, and his legs stiffen when he is picked up. To see, he must wear tiny blue-rimmed glasses, which makes him fussy.

Arthur Conceicao, who recently turned 1, has seizures every day despite taking medication for epilepsy. He also started taking high-calorie formula through a tube after he appeared to choke during meals.

"It's every mom's dream to see their child open his mouth and eat well," said his mother, Rozilene Ferreira, adding that each day seems to bring new problems.

Studies are underway to determine if the timing of the infection during pregnancy affects the severity of the abnormalities, said Ricardo Ximenes, a researcher at the Fiocruz Institute in Recife.

Also, three groups of babies whose mothers were infected with Zika are being followed for a study funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health. The groups include infants born with microcephaly, some born with normal-sized heads found to have brain damage or other physical problems and babies who have not had any symptoms or developmental delays.

At birth, Bernardo Oliveira's head measured more than 13 inches, well within the average range. His mother, Barbara Ferreira, thought her child was spared from the virus that had infected her during pregnancy and stricken many newborns in maternity wards in her hometown of Caruaru, a small city 80 miles west of Recife.

But Bernardo cried nonstop. The pediatrician told Ferreira that her baby was likely colicky and would get better by his third month. Instead, the crying got worse, so Ferreira took him to a government-funded event where neurologists were seeing patients with suspected brain damage.

"At the end of the second month, beginning of the third, his head stopped growing," Ferreira said. "Bernardo was afflicted by the Zika virus after all. I was in despair."

In Brazil, the government has reported 2,001 cases of microcephaly or other brain malformations in the last year. So far, only 343 have been confirmed by tests to have been caused by Zika, but the Health Ministry argues that the rest are most likely caused by the virus.

Health Minister Ricardo Barros said there was a drop of 85 percent in microcephaly cases in August and September compared to those months last year, when the first births started worrying pediatricians. He credited growing awareness of the virus and government attempts to combat mosquitoes through spraying campaigns.

Despite all the problems, some infants with the syndrome are showing signs of progress.

On a recent evening, 11-month-old Joao Miguel Silva Nunes pulled himself up in his playpen and played peek-a-boo with his mother, Rosileide da Silva.

"He is my source of pride," Silva said. "He makes me feel that things are working out."

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Blue Bell Recalls All Ice Creams with Suspect Cookie Dough]]>Tue, 11 Oct 2016 04:08:44 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/214*120/COOKIE-DOUGH.jpg

An Iowa company is recalling the cookie dough it sold to Blue Bell Creameries and other food companies because it may be contaminated with listeria bacteria.

Dough-maker Aspen Hills notified customers about the recall on Sunday, but it wasn't immediately clear whether any of this cookie dough had reached consumers because the Garner, Iowa, based company doesn't sell directly to consumers. Aspen Hills did not say the companies or states where the dough was sold.

Aspen Hills' cookie dough was implicated in last month's Blue Bell recall because the Texas-based ice cream-maker said its tests confirmed the presence of listeria in the product.

Aspen Hills spokesman Jon Austin said the cookie dough was voluntarily recalled because the company found lapses in its food safety system — such as inadequate documentation and failure to wear proper uniforms — that could have allowed the product to become contaminated.

"Any one of these issues is a matter we would take seriously, but collectively they represent to us an unacceptable lapse in the standards our customers — and we — expect," Austin said.

The company discovered the problems after reviewing its practices after the recall announced last month.

Austin said no illnesses have been linked to the company's products and none of the cookie dough it is recalling this week tested positive for listeria.

The recall includes 22,000 cases of cookie dough made between July 15 and September 30.

Austin said the dough was sold to about 27 food manufacturers, and those companies will determine whether additional products that used the cookie dough as an ingredient should be recalled.

One of those clients, Blue Bell Creameries, announced a recall Monday night of all of its products containing Aspen Hills cookie dough.

The Blue Bell recall involves half-gallons and pints of Blue Bell Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough and Blue Bell Cookie Two Step sold to retailers and three-gallon packages of Blue Bell Blue Monster, Blue Bell Chocolate Chip Cookie and Blue Bell Krazy Kookie Dough sold to food-service clients. They were produced between Feb. 2 and Sept. 7 and distributed in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.

Aside from last week's recall because of suspect cookie dough, Brenham, Texas-based Blue Bell halted sales, issued a voluntarily recall of all its products in April 2015 and shut down its three plants due to bacteria contamination that was linked to 10 listeria cases in four states, including three deaths in Kansas. The company resumed selling its products about four months later. Before resuming production, the company said it had implemented new cleaning and sanitizing procedures at its facilities, as well as new testing programs and new employee training.

The ice cream brand is beloved in Texas, where people impatiently awaited its return to store shelves after the recall.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that listeria causes roughly 1,600 illnesses and 260 deaths ever year in the United States.

Listeria can cause serious, sometimes fatal infections in young children and frail or elderly people, as well as those with weakened immune systems. Healthy people may suffer short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea, but the infection can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among expectant mothers.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: Blue Bell via Twitter]]>
<![CDATA[WHO Urges Countries to Raise Taxes on Sugary Drinks]]>Tue, 11 Oct 2016 07:01:04 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-519743196-sugar.jpg

The U.N. health agency on Tuesday recommended that countries use tax policy to increase the price of sugary drinks like sodas, sport drinks and even 100-percent fruit juices as a way to fight obesity, diabetes and tooth decay.

The World Health Organization, in a statement timed for World Obesity Day, said that the prevalence of obesity worldwide more than doubled between 1980 and 2014, when nearly 40 percent of people globally were overweight.

In a 36-page report on fiscal policy and diet, WHO also cited "strong evidence" that subsidies to reduced prices for fresh fruits and vegetables can help improve diets. It said that tax policies that lead to a 20-percent increase in the retail prices of sugary drinks would result in a proportional reduction in consumption.

Drawing on lessons from campaigns to fight tobacco use, WHO says imposing or increasing taxes on sugary drinks could help lower consumption of sugars, bringing health benefits and more income for governments such as to pay for health services. The health agency has long recommended that people keep intake of sugar to less than 10 percent of their total energy needs.

"Consumption of free sugars, including products like sugary drinks, is a major factor in the global increase of people suffering from obesity and diabetes," says Dr. Douglas Bettcher, who heads WHO's department for preventing non-communicable diseases. "If governments tax products like sugary drinks, they can reduce suffering and save lives."

WHO officials say that the U.S. is no longer the leading consumer of sugar-sweetened beverages — Chile and Mexico are now in front. They also noted rapid increase in consumption like China and sub-Saharan Africa. At least three in five adolescents in countries like Chile, Argentina and Algeria consume soft drinks daily, compared to between 20 to 40 percent in the U.S. and much of Europe.

"Taxation policies can be a very important tool — just one tool among many — but a very important tool for the reduction of sugar-sweetened beverages," said Dr. Francesco Branca, who heads WHO's Department for Nutrition and Health. He pointed to "pioneering" efforts by Michael Bloomberg, during his time as mayor of New York, and other U.S. officials to reduce sugar consumption.

The report was based on information collected in May last year, but WHO is coming forward with its recommendation on Tuesday because the evidence of the link between tax policy and reduced consumption coupled with health benefits have only recently emerged, said Temo Waqanivalu, coordinator of WHO's department for the prevention of non-communicable diseases.

Waqanivalu said that "discussion is ongoing" with companies behind such beverages on efforts to reduce sugar consumption.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Cartels Selling Deadly Fentanyl Disguised as Other Drugs]]>Mon, 10 Oct 2016 09:50:29 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/fentanyl+10-09.PNG

The Department of Justice and the Drug Enforcement Administration are warning people who illegally buy drugs and painkillers on the street or in Tijuana, Mexico, that drug cartels are selling lethal doses of fentanyl disguised as counterfeit OxyContin pills and street heroin.

The cartels are substituting fentanyl for heroin because they can produce it more cheaply and is much stronger and more deadly than the pharmaceutical fentanyl that a doctor would prescribe.

Authorities confiscated over 70 pounds of fentanyl and 6,000 counterfeit pills in September alone.

Just a small amount of the drug can be deadly — even for law enforcement confiscating it at the border. Two New Jersey police officers nearly fatally collapsed just from sealing a bag they had seized.

“It just really felt like that was it,” one of the New Jersey officers said. “It felt like I was dying. If I could imagine or describe a feeling where your body is just completely shutting down and preparing to stop living, that's the feeling I felt.”

The DOJ and DEA say just a few grains of fentanyl as small as a grain of salt can be lethal.

12 people died and more than 50 people overdosed in Sacramento recently when they used fentanyl, thinking it was OxyContin.

“I see this as an experienced prosecutor as like a death sentence for someone who thinks that they're buying oxy but really they are buying fentanyl because it's cheaper,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Sherri Walker Hobson said.

“It’s extremely profitable for the cartels. They aren’t having to wait for harvest. They aren’t having to harvest the poppy plants. They’re not having to manufacture that paste into heroin. They are literally just getting a chemical from China,” DEA spokeswoman Amy Roderick told NBC 7.

The cartels purchase fentanyl chemicals in China, mix them with a few other chemicals in places like Sinaloa in Mexico and smuggle most of the country’s supply through our borders.



Photo Credit: NBC 7]]>
<![CDATA[Breast Cancer Treatment Costs Vary Wildly, Study Finds]]>Mon, 10 Oct 2016 13:51:42 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/2092862-cancer-treatment-generic.jpg

A new study has found that breast cancer patients, insurance companies and government health plans are needlessly paying $1 billion to treat the disease, NBC News reported.

The cost of cancer treatment varies wildly, with no apparent rhyme or reason, Dr. Sharon Giordano and colleagues at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center reported Monday in the journal Cancer.

Expenses across a single class of drugs varied by as much as $46,000, according to the study, which reviewed four years of insurance claims filed by more than 14,000 breast cancer patients. And swapping one treatment for a less toxic alternative cut both the side effects and the costs.

Giordano told NBC News that the idea for the study came when a patient was reluctant to order a test confirming her cancer was gone: "She shared with me that she was still on a payment plan, still trying to pay off the debt from her breast cancer treatment five years earlier."



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Kid-Friendly Cannabis?]]>Mon, 10 Oct 2016 11:18:58 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Screen-Shot-2016-10-10-at-11.37.36-AM.jpgTampa, Florida's, first Family Medical Cannabis Clinic is now offering a non-euphoric strain of marijuana as a treatment option for children and adults with chronic seizures and muscle spasms.

Photo Credit: WFLA ]]>
<![CDATA['Lunchables' Recalled in 2 States Due to Misbranding, Undeclared Allergens]]>Mon, 10 Oct 2016 10:18:44 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/lunchables-recall.jpg

The Kraft Heinz Company is recalling 959 pounds of some "Lunchables" packaged lunch products in two states due to misbranding and undeclared allergens, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.

Kraft Heinz announced the recall Sunday of Lunchables Ham and American Cracker Stackers because they contain known allergens wheat and soy, which are not listed on the product label.

The recalled items were produced Sept. 21, 2016, and sold in Utah and California. The following products are subject to recall:

  • 3.4-oz. boxes containing four-compartment plastic trays of “Lunchables Ham and American Cracker Stackers,” with a “USE BY” date of 25 DEC 2016 and production times ranging from 9:13 to 10:00 stamped on the side of the plastic container.

Authorities said the problem was discovered Oct. 6, 2016, when the firm received a consumer complaint.

No illnesses or adverse reactions related to this recall have been confirmed.

Consumers who have purchased this product are urged to throw them away or returned them to the place of purchase. Anyone with questions about the recall can call the Kraft Heinz Consumer Relations Center at 800-573-3877.



Photo Credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service]]>
<![CDATA[EpiPen Maker to Pay $465M in Overbilling Case]]>Fri, 07 Oct 2016 16:47:21 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/epipen1.jpg

Mylan will pay $465 million to settle allegations that it overbilled Medicaid for its life-saving EpiPen allergy injection.

The federal government says EpiPen is a branded drug, which means Mylan should have been paying it a far higher rebate under the government's complex pricing rules.

Mylan said Friday the proposed settlement resolves all potential federal and state government claims. It also finds no wrongdoing on the part of the England-based company.

Mylan also lowered its 2016 guidance for earnings per share in part because of the upcoming launch of generic EpiPens. Its new range is for $4.70 to $4.90 per share, which is below the average analyst estimate of $4.95 per share compiled by FactSet.

Shares of the company jumped more than 9 percent in after-hours trading.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Study Says No, You Can't Live Forever]]>Wed, 05 Oct 2016 18:11:18 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/AP_95101701406Jeanne-Calment.jpg

If you wanted to live until, say, the year 2140, don't get your hopes up. A new study from the Einstein College of Medicine found that human beings' maximum lifespan is about 115 years, NBC News reported.

Jan Vijg, a genetics professor who was an author of the study, said his team looked through global databases on lifespans and found improvements in mortality peak at the age group of about 100 years.

"We show that improvements in survival with age tend to decline after age 100, and that the age at death of the world's oldest person has not increased since the 1990s. Our results strongly suggest that the maximum lifespan of humans is fixed and subject to natural constraints," the study said.

While the idea that humans cannot live forever isn't new, it wasn't always easy to back it up with evidence. But with countries keeping better records, Vijg said it's easier to find data to back it up.



Photo Credit: AP, File]]>
<![CDATA[Did Hospital Charge Couple for Holding Their Baby?]]>Wed, 05 Oct 2016 15:01:56 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/SKIN-TO-SKIN-4P-VO---00-00-39-15_21059698.jpg

A Utah couple was confused after receiving a $39.95 charge for "skin-to-skin contact" on a bill from their hospital after the birth of their child. Though it first seemed like a charge for holding the baby, the hospital told NBC's "Today" show the charge was to cover the cost of having an additional caregiver in the operating room.

The hospital issued a statement, saying they can't comment on a specific bill without consent from the patient due to privacy laws but added that, "in general, Utah Valley Hospital is an advocate for skin-to-skin contact between a mother and newborn directly after birth."

"In the case of a c-section, where the bedside caregiver is occupied caring for the mother during surgery, an additional nurse is brought into the OR to allow the infant to remain in the OR suite with the mother," the statement said. "This is to ensure both patients remain safe. There is an additional charge associated with bringing an extra caregiver into the OR. The charge is not for holding the baby, but for the additional caregiver needed to maintain the highest levels of patient safety."



Photo Credit: NewsChannel
This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story in your web browser.]]>
<![CDATA[Foods to Avoid Before Bed]]>Wed, 05 Oct 2016 12:04:12 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/NC_nightfoods1004_1920x1080.jpgHaving these late-night snacks can have a huge impact on sleep quality.]]><![CDATA[Doctors' Political Views May Affect Patient Care: Survey]]>Mon, 03 Oct 2016 16:44:10 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-542739377.jpg

Politics in the exam room? A new study suggests patient care may vary depending on whether the doctor is a Democrat or a Republican — at least when it comes to some hot-button health issues like firearm safety.

Health care has long drawn partisan political fights, like state laws surrounding abortion, or Florida's law restricting doctors from discussing guns with patients. But there's been little research on the doctor-patient side of those controversies. Can physicians leave their own political ideology at the door during something as simple as a checkup? 

So Yale University researchers took an initial step, looking up voter registration records and linking more than 20,000 primary care physicians to their party affiliations. Then they surveyed more than 200 of those doctors about how they'd react to different scenarios — health issues that might come up when a new patient outlines his or her medical history during a routine physical. 

Suffering depression? In denial about alcohol abuse? Ride a motorcycle without a helmet? Political affiliation didn't matter; the survey found doctors of both political stripes would react about the same to patients with those and some similar health issues. 

But Republican and Democratic doctors differed significantly when it came to some more politicized issues — abortion, marijuana and guns, the researchers reported Monday. 

Faced with a woman who wasn't currently pregnant but had undergone two abortions earlier in life, Republican doctors were twice as likely as their Democratic counterparts to say they'd discourage any future abortions and 35 percent more likely to discuss so-called mental health aspects of abortion, said study co-author Eitan Hersh, a Yale political science professor. 

Faced with a man who uses recreational marijuana three times a week, Republican doctors were 64 percent more likely to say they'd discuss marijuana's legal risks and 47 percent more likely to urge them to cut back than Democratic doctors. 

And Democratic doctors were 66 percent more likely to say they'd urge parents of small children not to store guns in the home — while Republican doctors instead preferred to ask about safe storage of the firearms, concluded the survey, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 

"This was really an eye-opener," said bioethicist Nancy Berlinger of The Hastings Center, a nonpartisan research institute. 

She wasn't involved with Monday's study but said it sheds light on the problem of "implicit bias" that affects people throughout society — the judgments we're not consciously aware of making. 

"We're all biased in some way. We can be biased for something as well as against something," Berlinger explained. When it comes to deeply partisan divides, doctors "can't screen that out just like the rest of us can't screen it out." 

Consider firearm safety, an important public health issue particularly for children, who too often are killed or injured when they find and play with a gun. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises that doctors ask about the presence of guns and counsel parents who keep firearms to store them unloaded in a locked case, with the ammunition locked up separately. 

Berlinger said doctors could examine if public health successes — such as how, over decades, child car seats became mandatory and embraced — bring lessons in communicating the need to also keep children safe from accidental shootings without the parent tuning out. 

When patients choose a doctor, "they don't necessarily know what they're getting ahead of time," Hersh said, noting that many other issues, from transgender health to end-of-life care, may be affected by the physician's political views. 

He called the survey a first step to studying the actual impact on patients. (The survey couldn't reflect whether doctors had recently changed their party affiliation, and didn't include those who live in states that don't have registration by party.)

"We don't leave things at the door," said Dr. Matthew Goldenberg, a Yale psychiatrist who co-authored the research. "Both patients and practitioners should be aware that there are these biases."

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: Getty Images, File]]>
<![CDATA[Mysterious Polio-Like Illness Paralyzing US Kids]]>Mon, 03 Oct 2016 20:36:19 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/carter_4_d469880f8dc2035fcfb6cdc6b59d3b54.nbcnews-ux-600-480.jpg

Three-year-old Carter Roberts was playful, healthy and active until he became one of over four dozen people in the United States diagnosed with acute flaccid myelitis, or AFM, NBC News reported. 

He was unable to move his arms or legs, and "doctors were working really hard to try and figure out what was going on," said his mother, Robin Roberts.

The mysterious muscle weakness, similar to polio, appears to be on the rise this year.

As of August 2016 there have been 50 cases of confirmed AFM across 24 states, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Monday, more than double 2015, when 21 cases for the whole year were reported.



Photo Credit: Robin Roberts via NBC News
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<![CDATA[CDC Warns Against Traveling to Asia as Zika Spreads There]]>Mon, 03 Oct 2016 05:49:54 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/184*120/Mosquito+Illnesses+Fort+Worth.jpg

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is warning pregnant women to stay away from 11 Southeast Asian countries where Zika is spreading, NBC News reported.

Thailand has been included on the list, where officials on Friday reported the first confirmed cases of birth defects linked to the virus. The other countries are Brunei, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Maldives, Philippines, Thailand, Timor-Leste (East Timor), and Vietnam.

Pregnant women should not travel to any area with a Zika travel notice and should consider postponing non-essential travel to the 11 countries in Southeast Asia listed in the newly issued considerations," the CDC advised on Thursday.



Photo Credit: Alice Barr]]>
<![CDATA[Experts Looked Inside Mylan's Upgraded EpiPen]]>Fri, 30 Sep 2016 13:34:18 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/epipen-julie-brown-injectors-nbc-news.jpg

With Congress trying to figure out Mylan's business model for the EpiPen, a medical technologies expert and a Seattle doctor have been physically taking apart the auto-injectors to find out exactly how the device has changed since Mylan acquired it, NBC News reported.

Mylan CEO Heather Bresch testified last week that it invested more than $1 billion enhancing the product, which is one of the reason the Epipen's price has risen from $100 to $600.

After a Seattle doctor cut open EpiPens from before and after Mylan's upgrades, NBC News sent versions of the epinephrine auto-injectors to a medical technology consulting firm. Despite seeing safety and graphics upgrades, both found the devices shared a similar "core."

After NBC News sent the firm's results to Mylan, a spokesman for the drugmaker said it was "not familiar with the research referenced in your email" but contended that "anyone who has used the product knows, the epinephrine auto-injector we have in the market today is substantially different than the one we acquired."



Photo Credit: James Cheng / for NBC News]]>
<![CDATA[Doctors Warn Zika Could Spread in Sweat and Tears]]>Thu, 29 Sep 2016 19:27:50 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/AP_16201766112052-zika-utah-mosquito.jpg

Doctors who treated a strange case of Zika say sweat and tears may be able to transmit the virus, NBC News reports.

A team at the University of Utah School of Medicine said their case, of a man who infected his adult son with Zika before he died, leaves no other alternatives than those two routes, according to their study in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The 73-year-old patient died in July, and he hadn't been very sick before he caught the virus and developed muscle aches, diarrhea and other symptoms. He became the first person in an American state to die of Zika.

Investigators spent weeks trying to figure out how his 38-year-old son, who hadn't traveled to a place where Zika spreads, got infected, eventually determining that "infectious levels of virus may have been present in sweat or tears," which the son touched without gloves during his father's illness.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Over 600K Vets May Be Uninsured in 2017]]>Thu, 29 Sep 2016 09:55:12 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/DOC_GettyImages-539738467.jpg

More than 600,000 U.S. military veterans will go without health insurance in 2017 if 19 states fail to expand their Medicaid programs, according to the Urban Institute.

The report found that many veterans fall into the “Medicaid gap” -- not poor enough to qualify for Medicaid, but making too much to qualify for federal subsidies stipulated in the Affordable Care Act. Some uninsured veterans may be able to obtain VA care, but not all of them choose it or meet the eligibility requirements. 

Thirty-two states have expanded their Medicaid programs since Obamacare passed in 2010, and 20 million more Americans have health insurance than did six years ago. Many Republican-controlled states refused to do it, leaving many of their residents in what's now called the "Medicaid gap."



Photo Credit: Getty Images ]]>
<![CDATA[3D-Printed Artificial Bones Could Help Heal Injuries]]>Wed, 28 Sep 2016 21:49:03 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/3d-skull-H.jpg

A new type of artificial bone shaped with a 3-D printer can repair deformed bones and help heal some spine, skull and jaw injuries, researchers say in a new report printed in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

When the bone material was tested in a monkey, the bone fused to the animal’s skull and new blood vessels grew into it, NBC News reports.

“Within four weeks, the implant had fully integrated, fully vascularized with the monkey’s own skull,” researcher Adam Jakus said. “And there is actually evidence of new bone formation.”

The hyper-elastic bone can be shaped with a 3-D printer to customize individual implants. Scientists hope to be able to test the implants in humans within the next five years.



Photo Credit: Adam E. Jakus, PhD]]>
<![CDATA[9 Out of 10 People Breathe Polluted Air: WHO]]>Wed, 28 Sep 2016 09:43:25 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/AP_484690709547.jpg

Nine out of ten people worldwide live in areas where air pollution exceeds guidelines, the World Health Organization said. The pollution puts these people at higher risk for heart disease, strokes and cancer. 

"Air pollution continues take a toll on the health of the most vulnerable populations — women, children and the older adults," Flavia Bustreo, assistant director general at the WHO said in a news release, NBC News reported. 

The new WHO air quality monitor shows that 92 percent of people live in places with dirty air. Approximately three million deaths each year are linked to outdoor air pollution. About 90 percent of those deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Disabled Man Gets License, Shows Driverless Tech's Potential]]>Wed, 28 Sep 2016 09:29:18 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/schmidt3.jpg

Former Indy Racing League driver Sam Schmidt has done a lot in the 16 years since an accident left him paralyzed from the neck down. He runs a racing team and a foundation. He's raced a sailboat using his chin. But the man who raced in the Indianapolis 500 hasn't been able to drive around his neighborhood — until now.

On Wednesday, Schmidt is set to receive the first license restricted to an autonomous vehicle in the U.S. The license allows him to drive on Nevada roads in his specially modified Corvette, which requires no hands on its steering wheel or feet on its pedals. Schmidt uses head motions to control the car's direction.

Fully driverless cars — several steps beyond the car that Schmitt is driving — are expected to reach U.S. roads in the next five to ten years, and the disabled community is eager for their arrival. More than 4 million people in the U.S. need assistance with daily tasks like eating or leaving home, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Others have less severe disabilities but are still unable to drive.

Disabled people are less likely than the non-disabled to be employed and are more likely to experience poverty, the bureau says. But that could change with the arrival of self-driving cars.

"It's coming. We're looking for something to help us get that level of independence," Schmidt told The Associated Press.

Schmidt is the bridge to that future. His car isn't fully autonomous; it uses four cameras to monitor his head and transmit his movements to the tires. He breathes into a tube to accelerate and sucks the air out when he wants to brake.

The car isn't practical for most people. Centennial, Colorado-based Arrow Electronics bought and modified Schmidt's $80,000 2016 Corvette Z06. It spent an additional six figures on cameras, sensors and computers and even more to add a steering wheel and brake pedals on the passenger side.

Schmidt's license requires that a licensed driver accompany him in the passenger seat to take over in case of emergency. When he drives, Schmidt must follow a pilot car. He can't drive in ice or snow. Those restrictions could eventually be eased, Nevada officials say.

Some in the disabled community would like to move directly to fully self-driving cars which wouldn't require licenses at all, says Henry Claypool, policy director of the Community Living Policy Center at the University of California, San Francisco.

"There are some people who are just so isolated that it really compromises their ability to enjoy their basic civil rights," Claypool said.

But Claypool says it's important to be patient and work with the industry now so when autonomous vehicles do arrive, they're accessible.

"There are real barriers to transportation and we need to be clear about what those are and make sure we leverage the technology to address them," said Claypool, who is wheelchair-bound but drives a $62,000 modified minivan.

Many companies are thinking inclusively. Google has worked closely with the blind while developing its self-driving cars. Tesla Motors has said it's working on an urban transport vehicle that would accommodate wheelchairs. Arrow is working on other projects, including a modified bicycle for a paraplegic athlete.

"Sam is our astronaut," said Joe Verrengia, Arrow's global director of social responsibility.

Arrow is making its design and software freely available in the hope that other companies will build on what it has done. Over the next 18 months, Schmidt hopes to modify a more advanced, semi-autonomous car that could drive itself for short stretches and could help him override potential mistakes. Right now, for example, he could accidentally turn the car if he looks to the side when he means to go straight. A car that was watching the road ahead could correct that.

But for now, the license means an end to 16 years in the passenger seat of a conversion van for trips around town.

"My wife hates driving that van. It makes us look like we're 75 and retired," said Schmidt, 52.

Schmidt is thrilled by the pace of improvement in technology. Within the first year of his partnership with Arrow, in an earlier version of his Corvette, Schmidt completed qualifying laps at the 2014 Indianapolis 500. Earlier this year, he raced to the summit of Pike's Peak.

"Me driving is a lifetime-old problem and these people came together and solved it in seven months," he said. "When you have the right people and the right resources and everyone concentrates on the goal, it gets done."

Schmidt, who co-owns the racing team Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and is chairman of the Conquer Paralysis Now foundation, can hardly narrow the list when asked where he wants to drive first. One stop is the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where he won a race in 1999. He'd also like to cruise down the Las Vegas strip.

And one simple pleasure: A trip to the drive-thru at In-N-Out Burger.

"It might be kind of fun just to sit there in line with 15 other people," he said.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Aetna to Subsidize Apple Watch]]>Wed, 28 Sep 2016 14:46:27 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/AP_16229419820877.jpg

Aetna announced that it will be making Apple Watches available for large employers and individual customers during open enrollment season.

The health care services company said the new initiative will revolutionize the customer's experience by, "combining the power of iOS apps and the unmatched user experience of Apple products including Apple Watch, iPhone and iPad with Aetna’s analytics-based wellness and care management programs."

Aetna said it will be the first major health care company to subsidize the cost of Apple Watches for customers by offering monthly payroll deductions. The Hartford-based company serves an estimated 45.3 million and will provide free Apple Watches to 50,000 of its employees. 

Apple will work with Aeton to create "deeply intergrated" health apps that will allow customers to manager their health, Aetna said.

“This is only the beginning - we look forward to using these tools to improve health outcomes and help more people achieve more healthy days,” said Mark Bertolini, Aetna Chairman and CEO.

Aetna's new health apps will offer features, such as:

  • Care management and wellness, to help guide consumers through health events like a new diagnosis or prescription medication with user-driven support from nurses and people with similar conditions.
  • Medication adherence, to help consumers remember to take their medications, easily order refills and connect with their doctor if they need a different treatment through their Apple Watch or iPhone.
  • Integration with Apple Wallet, allowing consumers to check their deductible and pay a bill.
  • Personalized health plan on-boarding, information, messaging and decision support to help Aetna members understand and make the most of their benefits.
The solutions will be available early 2017.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Baby Born With DNA from 3 People]]>Wed, 28 Sep 2016 06:04:26 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-481683717.jpg

Scientists say the first baby has been born from a controversial new technique that combines DNA from three people — the mother, the father and an egg donor.

The goal was to prevent the child from inheriting a fatal genetic disease from his mother, who had previously lost two children to the illness.

The birth of the boy is revealed in a research summary published by the journal Fertility & Sterility. Scientists are scheduled to present details at a meeting next month in Salt Lake City.

The magazine New Scientist, which first reported the birth, said the baby was born five months ago to Jordanian parents, and that they were treated in Mexico by a team led by Dr. John Zhang of the New Hope Fertility Center in New York. It's not clear where the child was born.

The technique is not approved in the United States, but Zhang told the magazine, "To save lives is the ethical thing to do."

A spokesman for the fertility center said Zhang was not available for further comment on Tuesday. Others involved in the research referred questions to Zhang.

The mother carries DNA that could have given her child Leigh syndrome, a severe neurological disorder that usually kills within a few years of birth. Her two previous children died of the disease at 8 months and 6 years, the research summary said.

The technique involved removing some of the mother's DNA from an egg, and leaving the disease-causing DNA behind. The healthy DNA was slipped into a donor's egg, which was then fertilized. As a result, the baby inherited DNA from both parents and the egg donor.

The technique is sometimes said to produce "three-parent babies," but the DNA contribution from the egg donor is very small.

People carry DNA in two places, the nucleus of the cell and in features called mitochondria, which lie outside the nucleus. The technique is designed to transfer only DNA of the nucleus to the donor egg, separating it from the mother's disease-causing mitochondrial DNA.

The research summary identified the mother as a 36-year-old woman and said her pregnancy was uneventful. One of the five eggs the researchers treated was suitable for use.

Critics question the technique's safety, saying children would have to be tracked for decades to make sure they remain healthy. And they say it passes a fundamental scientific boundary by altering the DNA inherited by future generations. Mitochondrial DNA is passed from women to their offspring.

Still, last year, Britain became the first country in the world to allow creation of human embryos with the technique. In the U.S., a panel of government advisers said earlier this year that it's ethical to test the approach in people if initial experiments follow certain strict safety steps.

That report was requested by the Food and Drug Administration, which is currently prevented by Congress from considering applications to approve testing the technique in people.

Shroukhrat Mitalipov, who has worked with the approach at the Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, said that given the panel's conclusion, "We believe it's time to move forward with FDA-approved clinical trials in the United States."

Henry Greely, who directs the Center for Law and the Biosciences at Stanford University, said Tuesday he sees nothing wrong with using the technique if it is safe and is aimed at diseases clearly caused by faulty mitochondrial DNA.

But he called the research leading to the newly reported birth "unethical, unwise, immoral." He said the approach "hasn't been sufficiently proven safe enough to try to use to make a baby."

Dieter Egli of the New York Stem Cell Foundation, who has done work in the area, was cautious about the implications of the new report.

"I wouldn't go out there at this point and tout the accomplishment because we don't have enough information," he said Tuesday. "We do not know exactly what was done."

"We have to wait" for a fuller report, he said.

The child is not the first to inherit DNA from three people. In the 1990s, some children were born after researchers used a different technique. But federal regulators intervened, and the field's interest now has passed to the new approach.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: UIG via Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Upside to Morning Sickness: Fewer Miscarriages, Stillbirths]]>Tue, 27 Sep 2016 13:31:34 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/pregnancy-generic.jpg

It's dreaded by moms-to-be but morning sickness is actually a good sign — for the baby, a government study shows, confirming common pregnancy lore and less rigorous research.

Women with nausea early in pregnancy were half as likely to have miscarriages and stillbirths as those who sailed through the first few months. Miscarriages were also less common in women who had nausea plus vomiting, although the benefit was stronger for those who just had nausea. 

Led by researchers at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the study involved almost 800 women who'd had at least one miscarriage and then became pregnant again. They were asked to record symptoms in daily diaries for the first eight weeks of pregnancy and in monthly questionnaires through the end of the first trimester.

Stefanie Hinkle, the lead author and a researcher at the national institute, called it the most rigorous study to date on the topic, but also noted that it's unclear if the results would apply to first-time pregnancies. 

Results were published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine . 

THE NUMBERS 

There were 188 miscarriages and stillbirths, affecting almost 1 in 4 pregnancies, which is similar to national estimates. More than 90 per cent occurred in the first trimester. 

Of the nearly 800 women in the study, 443 completed daily diaries, and just over half of them reported nausea by the eighth week of pregnancy, also similar to national estimates. About one in four had nausea and vomiting. The researchers then used statistical analyses to calculate that nausea alone, or nausea with vomiting, was linked with a 50 per cent to 75 per cent reduction in the risk of pregnancy loss.

STUDY STRENGTHS 

Unlike some previous studies linking morning sickness with fewer miscarriages, the new research had data on women even before they became pregnant, so they were able to include miscarriages that occurred soon after conception. Some previous studies asked women months later to recall whether they had morning sickness — a weaker method than using daily diaries. 

THE REASONS 

Causes of morning sickness are uncertain but it has been linked with high hormone levels that occur early in pregnancy. How it might reduce chances for miscarriages is also uncertain. Theories include the idea that nausea could make women avoid potentially harmful substances, including bacteria-contaminated food, which can increase risks for miscarriages. 

THE BOTTOM LINE 

Hinkle said the results should be reassuring to women concerned that morning sickness could be harmful. But she said unaffected women shouldn't be alarmed.

"Every pregnancy is different and just because they don't have symptoms doesn't mean they're going to have a pregnancy loss," Hinkle said.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Pfizer Decides Not to Break Up Business ]]>Mon, 26 Sep 2016 09:33:55 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Pfizer494838914.jpg

Pfizer will not split into two publicly traded companies, a decision that, at least for now, ends Wall Street speculation over the drugmaker's future.

The company said Monday it believes it is best positioned to maximize shareholder value in its current form, but it reserves the right to split in the future if the situation changes.

The maker of Viagra and the pain treatment Lyrica has been talking about a split for several years, thinking that two companies might grow faster than one. It had said it would make a decision by the end of this year.

Chances of the breakup actually taking place began to fade over the summer due in part to rising sales for key new drugs from Pfizer and rising prospects for its drugs under development.

Pfizer CEO Ian Read told analysts last month that the prospect of a split was not a "make-or-break decision" for the company.

The company said Monday that a split would not help the competitive positioning of its businesses, and such a move would create disruptions and increased costs.

The drugmaker's most likely path forward involves hunting for more acquisition targets, according to Bernstein analyst Dr. Tim Anderson.

Pfizer has been buying several companies and products to help make up for a wave of sales losses to cheaper, generic competition, most notably for the cholesterol pill Lipitor. It also attempted and failed at two mega-acquisitions, first of Britain's AstraZeneca Plc and this year of Ireland's Allergan Plc.

Last month, it said it would spend about $14 billion to buy cancer drug developer Medivation, and it was buying rights to AstraZeneca's portfolio of approved and experimental antibiotic and antifungal pills.

In June, Pfizer completed a $5.2-billion acquisition of Anacor Pharmaceuticals Inc., which could get a new eczema drug, crisaborole, approved by January.

"A critic could argue that Pfizer is back to being the same old Pfizer as before, relying on (mergers and acquisitions) to grow and to refill its pipeline, but at the expense of growing larger in the process depending on the size of deals it chases," Anderson said in a research note.

Shares of Pfizer Inc., based in New York, slipped 48 cents, or 1.4 percent, to $33.78 in premarket trading Monday. The stock had climbed about 6 percent so far this year, as of Friday.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[A Rare Bipartisan Agreement Reached, Briefly, on Abortion]]>Fri, 23 Sep 2016 17:45:28 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/CONGRESS_GettyImages-2062515.jpg

Abortion rights advocates and opponents in Congress reached a rare bipartisan consensus at a Friday hearing: Both sides agreed on the effectiveness of a ban on federal abortion funding.

Known as the Hyde Amendment, the 40-year-old law restricting federal funding for abortions has shown to be effective in curbing the number of abortions performed, both sides agreed. For anti-abortion Republicans, the policy’s functionality proves its success. But for abortion rights supporters, it’s a sign that women are simply being denied health care, NBC News reported.

Rep. Trent Franks said the fact that abortion hasn’t become a major issue in this general election campaign is disappointing.

“The American people deserve to know where the candidates stand, in the most important election this century and in the last century,” he said. Franks presided over the House judiciary subcommittee hearing Friday morning.



Photo Credit: Getty Images ]]>
<![CDATA[35 US States Sue British Drugmaker Over Marketing of Opioid]]>Fri, 23 Sep 2016 04:32:01 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-467024279-suboxone.jpg

Thirty-five states and the District of Columbia filed an antitrust lawsuit Thursday alleging that British drugmaker Indivior tried to keep cheaper, generic versions of Suboxone off the market, California's attorney general announced.

The complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania also names New Jersey's MonoSol Rx, a pharmaceutical dissolving-film company, for conspiring to corner the market on the popular medication used to treat people hooked on heroin and other painkillers.

According to the lawsuit, the company known today as Indivior was granted exclusive rights in 2002 to sell Suboxone tablets for seven years. When its rights expired, the company worked with MonoSol Rx to make an oral strip form of the drug that they then marketed as safer than tablets, the complaint said.

The attorneys general allege the conduct is illegal "product hopping," where a company makes small changes to a product to keep cheaper alternatives off the market, said Pennsylvania's Attorney General Bruce R. Beemer in a press release Thursday.

"When prescription drug companies unlawfully manipulate the marketplace to maximize profits, they put lives at risk and drive up the cost of health care for everyone," said California's Attorney General Kamala Harris in a statement.

Representatives of the two companies were not immediately available for comment.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: Spencer Platt, Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Mylan CEO Defends EpiPen Cost to Angry Lawmakers]]>Wed, 21 Sep 2016 16:49:32 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/609574240-mylan-ceo-house-oversight-committee.jpg

Outraged Republican and Democratic lawmakers on Wednesday grilled the head of pharmaceutical company Mylan about the significant cost increase of its life-saving EpiPens and the profits for a company with sales in excess of $11 billion.

Defending the company's business practices, Mylan CEO Heather Bresch told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that she wishes the company had "better anticipated the magnitude and acceleration" of the rising prices for some families.

"We never intended this," Bresch said, but maintained that her company doesn't make much profit from each emergency allergy shot.

The list price of EpiPens has grown to $608 for a two-pack, an increase of more than 500 percent since 2007. Families who rely on multiple EpiPens to respond when their children have allergic reactions, whether at home or at sporting events, have lashed out at Mylan in growing public outcry.

House Oversight Chairman Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, said high executive pay at Mylan "doesn't add up for a lot of people" as the EpiPen price has increased. Chaffetz said executives for the company made $300 million over five years while the list price for a pair of the emergency allergy shots rose.

"Parents don't have a choice," Chaffetz said. "If your loved one needs this, it better darn well be in your backpack."

Bresch, who displayed an EpiPen, said the company makes only $50 in profit on each EpiPen. But Chaffetz said he finds that "a little hard to believe."

The soft-spoken CEO patiently listened to criticism after criticism from lawmakers of both parties, but found no sympathy in the room. In response to one question, Bresch acknowledged that she made $18 million in salary last year.

"Sounds like you're doing pretty well on this," said Rep. John Mica, R-Fla.

When asked if she understood what the furor was about, she argued that the complexity of drug pricing is partially to blame.

"I truly believe the story got ahead of the facts," Bresch said.

EpiPens are used in emergencies to stop anaphylaxis, the potentially fatal allergic reactions to insect bites and stings and foods like nuts and eggs. People usually keep multiple EpiPens handy at home, school or work, but the syringes, prefilled with the hormone epinephrine, expire after a year.

The company says it has made strides to more widely distribute the drug to schools and others and raised awareness of deadly allergies. That requires investment, Bresch said.

The Mylan executive has some familiarity with Capitol Hill — she is the daughter of Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. But lawmakers so far haven't given any deference to her, and several other committees have called for investigations into the price increase.

Bresch noted that Mylan has said it will begin selling its generic version for $300 for a pair. That will still bring Mylan tens of millions of dollars in revenue while helping retain market share against current and future brand-name and generic competition.

Chaffetz said he was skeptical that the company will lose any money on the generic versions.

"This is why we don't believe you," he said.

The company has also offered coupon cards and has doubled the limit for eligibility for its patient assistance program. But critics have said the coupons, discount cards and patient assistance programs aren't real solutions because many customers won't use them or won't qualify for them.

Republican Rep. Scott DesJarlais of Tennessee, a physician, told Bresch that she was "trying to make us feel good" about the generic version and other programs, but that he doesn't feel good about it.

"A mother would cut off her right arm to get that drug. You chose to charge her $600 instead of cutting off her arm," DesJarlais said. "Lower the price so they can afford it."

Last year, more than 3.6 million U.S. prescriptions for two-packs of EpiPens were filled, according to data firm IMS Health. That brought in sales of nearly $1.7 billion for Mylan, though the company says it only receives about $1.1 billion after rebates and fees paid to insurers, distributors and other health care businesses.

In the Senate, leaders of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs' investigations subcommittee said earlier this month that they have begun an inquiry into the company's pricing and competition practices. The Aging Committee requested briefings on the issue, and Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has written several letters to Mylan demanding answers.

AP Health Writer Matthew Perrone and AP Medical Writer Linda A. Johnson contributed to this report.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Drug-Resistant Superbugs a 'Fundamental Threat': WHO]]>Wed, 21 Sep 2016 17:06:42 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/superbugmcr%281%29.jpg

While antibiotics were once hailed as miracle drugs, they've been abused and overused so much that they are now often powerless against fast-evolving bacteria. That bacterial evolution is far outpacing humans’ ability to research and develop new drugs effective enough to fight those infection-causing “superbugs,” NBC News reports.

"If antibiotics were telephones, we would still be calling each other using clunky rotary dials and copper lines," said Stefano Bertuzzi, CEO of the American Society for Microbiology.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that in the U.S. alone, more than two million people are infected by drug-resistant germs each year, and 23,000 die of their infections. Globally, the death toll from antibiotic-resistant microbes is 700,000 per year.

"Antimicrobial resistance poses a fundamental threat to human health, development and security," Dr. Margaret Chan, director-general of the United Nations' World Health Organization, said Wednesday while opening a U.N. meeting on the problem of superbugs.

"We are running out of time," she added.



Photo Credit: Walter Reed Army Institute for Research]]>
<![CDATA[Zuckerbergs' $3B to Ending Disease]]>Wed, 21 Sep 2016 14:14:13 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/AP_16265572079859-chan-zuckerberg-initiative-end-disease.jpg

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has a goal that's even more ambitious than connecting the entire world to the internet: He and his wife want to help eradicate all disease by the end of this century.

Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan are committing $3 billion over the next 10 years to accelerate basic scientific research, including the creation of research tools — from software to hardware to yet-undiscovered techniques — they hope will ultimately lead to scientific breakthroughs, the way the microscope and DNA sequencing have in generations past.

The goal, which they are unlikely to live to see accomplished, is to "cure, prevent or manage all disease" in the next 80 or so years. They acknowledge that this might sound a crazy, but point to how far medicine and science have come in the last century — with vaccines, statins for heart disease, chemotherapy, and so on — following millennia with little progress.

"So if you even just assume that we'll be able to continue to make progress on that same trajectory, then that implies that by the end of this century we will have been able to solve most of these types of things," Zuckerberg said in an interview. He and Chan have spent the past two years speaking to scientists and other experts to plan the endeavor. He emphasized "that this isn't something where we just read a book and decided we're going to do."

Through their philanthropic organization, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the commitment includes $600 million to fund a new research center in San Francisco where scientific and medical researchers will work alongside engineers on long-term projects spanning years or even decades. The goal is not to focus narrowly on specific ailments, such as bone cancer or Parkinson's disease, but rather to do basic research. One example: a cell atlas that maps out all the different types of cells in the body, which could help researchers create various types of drugs.

Chan's work as a pediatrician seems to be a big driver in their couple's decision to take up this latest cause.

"I've been with families where we've hit the limit of what's possible through medicine and science," Chan said. "I've had to tell families devastating diagnoses of leukemia, or that we just weren't able to resuscitate their child."

The couple spoke with The Associated Press in their home in Palo Alto, California, where their infant daughter, Max, had just woken from a nap. Their dog, Beast, came by to sit briefly during the 25-minute interview.

Zuckerberg and Chan hope that their effort will inspire other far-reaching efforts and collaboration in science, medicine and engineering, so that basic research is no longer relegated to the margins.

"We spend 50 times more on health care treating people who are sick than we spend on science research (to cure) diseases so that people don't get sick in the first place," Zuckerberg said. He added that the approach reflects a belief that "people are always going to suffer from disease so therefore we should focus on treating people who are sick."

Eric Lander, a professor of biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and director of the Broad Institute at MIT and Harvard, said he's had some 20 conversations with Zuckerberg and Chan over the past year about the initiative and called their goal "the right kind of goal for thinking about that kind of timeframe." He is not involved with the project itself, but expressed confidence in it.

"Mark has brought new models to industry with Facebook," he said, adding that while organizations like the National Institutes of Health are "fantastic," there is "no point in replicating what existing models do."

"It's very hard with today's science funding to build a team to work on scientific problems that are like what you would find at a world-class technology company, that are that scale," Zuckerberg said. "So that's something I think we can concretely help out with."

Their new center, called Biohub, will run as an independent research center at the University of California, San Francisco in collaboration with UC Berkeley and Stanford University.

The Chan Zuckerberg science initiative will be headed by Cori Bargmann, a neuroscientist who is best known in scientific circles for her research on the behavior of a tiny worm called C. elegans. Bargmann said the idea of bringing engineers and scientists together presents a "unique opportunity to take science in a new direction."

Zuckerberg said the couple decided to focus on creating better tools because this is where they see need, based on their conversations with scientists.

"It's not that no one is doing this today, but out of all the money that our society spends on science funding, probably not enough is going toward tool development," Zuckerberg said.

Tools, he added, are long-term investments. It will likely take years for the first tools to be developed through this initiative, and even longer before they are used to cure diseases.

Zuckerberg and Chan, who have committed to donating 99 percent of their wealth, have spent the past two years meeting with scientists and other experts to come up with the endeavor. The two stressed that they believe that their goal can be accomplished, if not in their lifetime, then in their child's lifetime. It was Max's birth last November that inspired the billionaire couple to give away nearly all their money to help solve the world's problems.

At the time, this was valued at more than $45 billion worth of Facebook stock, which the couple transferred to the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. The couple's philanthropy plan won't affect Zuckerberg's status as controlling shareholder of Facebook.

Zuckerberg and Chan often draw comparisons to Bill and Melinda Gates, whose philanthropic work also focuses on health and education. In an emailed statement, the Gates said investing "in basic science research is at the root of the world's most important innovations and achievements." Zuckerberg and Chan, they added "are making an incredible commitment to research and development that will lead to the breakthroughs to cure disease and lift millions out of poverty."

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Chipotle's New Push on Food Safety]]>Wed, 21 Sep 2016 12:58:05 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Chipotle-GettyImages-509063322.jpg

Chipotle is making another push to convince people that its food won't make them sick, with plans to run more newspaper and digital ads outlining the safety steps it has taken since last year's E. coli outbreak.

The ads beginning Wednesday will be an open letter from co-CEO Steve Ells, who also recorded a video that will be promoted online. The move underscores the Denver-based company's struggle to rebound from a series of food scares and extinguish any doubts that its burritos and bowls are safe to eat.

"There are definitely folks out there who aren't entirely sure," said Mark Crumpacker, who heads Chipotle's marketing. Crumpacker said those with lingering worries are preventing other sales too, since they can "veto" going to Chipotle in group outings.

Even more challenging will be winning back people who know the food is safe, but have started going to "places like McDonald's" or what Crumpacker called "knockoff" Chipotles.

To boost sales, the company has so far tried giving away coupons for millions of free entrees, introduced chorizo as a topping, started a summer loyalty program and offered free drinks to students in September. In the April-to-June quarter, sales at established Chipotle locations were still down 24 percent.

The changes have been a work in progress. In December, Chipotle said it was implementing high-resolution ingredient testing to prevent contaminants from reaching its restaurants. It has now ended that in favor of preventative measures that ensure the elimination of pathogens.

Chipotle is also using the sous-vide airtight cooking technique on beef and pork before they arrive in restaurants, and chopping its romaine lettuce in stores again, instead of in central commissaries. It says the commissaries were removing the outer dark green layer, which made people think that it had changed to a less-tasty iceberg lettuce. Chipotle says the lettuce is now washed in water, a mix of vinegar and hydrogen peroxide to kill germs, then rinsed in water again.

This isn't the first time Chipotle has said it's sorry and stressed its commitment to food safety. At the end of last year, it ran a similar open letter in newspapers that apologized for making people ill. Despite these kinds of actions, co-CEO Monty Moran noted the persistent effect of the intense media spotlight on the food scares, which included a norovirus outbreak at a Boston restaurant.

"People became very afraid of our food nationwide," Moran said.

Chipotle's latest efforts may run into the larger restaurant environment. Bernstein analyst Sara Senatore noted that a Chipotle sales recovery in the rest of this year could be hindered by broader industry weakness. Several companies including McDonald's, Dunkin' Donuts and Starbucks reported disappointing sales figures in the most recent quarter, with executives citing reasons like cheaper groceries and political uncertainty.

In the meantime, Chipotle is trying to adjust. To avoid wasting money on labor and extra food, Moran said the company has been holding boot camps around the country to retrain managers about staffing levels and supply orders.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images, File]]>
<![CDATA[Fitness Trackers No Guarantee for Weight Loss]]>Wed, 21 Sep 2016 10:13:47 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/NC_fitnesstrackers0920_1920x1080.jpgA new study suggests wearing a fitness tracker to tally the number of steps you take in a day doesn't necessarily mean the numbers on the scale will come down. The University of Pittsburgh recruited more than 400 overweight and obese young adults. They all went on a low-calorie diet, exercised and had counseling and support. Half were given activity monitors, worn on the upper arm, that measured energy expenditure. The theory was the devices would lead to greater weight loss. The strategy didn't work.

Photo Credit: NBC News]]>
<![CDATA[Smoking Leaves DNA Damage Years After Quitting: Study]]>Tue, 20 Sep 2016 17:13:53 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/smoking-stock-generic-73160938.jpg

Most — but not all — DNA damage from smoking fades over time, and the genetic changes occur in clear patterns, researchers reported in an American Heart Association journal Tuesday, according to NBC News.

The researchers examined 16,000 people who'd given blood samples before, and found that most damage faded by about five years after a person quit smoking. But smoking-related changes in 19 genes lasted 30 years, and may persist forever.

"Our study has found compelling evidence that smoking has a long-lasting impact on our molecular machinery, an impact that can last more than 30 years," said Roby Joehanes, of Hebrew SeniorLife and Harvard Medical School.

The researchers said those 19 genes could be used to see who is at risk of smoking-related diseases or as targets for drugs to treat cigarette smoke damage.



Photo Credit: Getty Images, File]]>
<![CDATA[Listeria Fears Spur Whole Wheat Eggo Recall]]>Tue, 20 Sep 2016 10:18:28 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/kellogg-eggo-recall-.jpg

Kellogg is recalling about 10,000 cases of Eggo Nutri-Grain whole wheat waffles over the possibility they were contaminated with Listeria bacteria.

No illnesses have been reported in connection with the products, Kellogg said in a Monday news release, but Listeria monocytogenes can cause infections in young children and others with weakened immune systems, like the frail or elderly.

The recalled waffles can be identified by looking for UPC code 38000 40370, dated better if before used by Nov. 21 and 22, 2017.

They were distributed in the following 25 states: Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Vermont, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Anyone who purchased the product can receive a full recall by calling 1-800-962-1413 or visiting https://www.kelloggs.com/en_US/contact-us.html, Kellogg said.



Photo Credit: Kellogg Company]]>
<![CDATA[Zika Mosquitoes Can Survive Over Next Months in Southern US]]>Tue, 20 Sep 2016 09:55:34 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Zika-Puerto-Rico-AP_71939457309.jpg

Even as a trendy Miami neighborhood has been declared Zika-free, the mosquitoes that transmit the virus can continue to survive over the next few months across the southeast United States from Florida to Texas, research shows.

The potential for an abundant population of the Aedes aegypti mosquito remains moderate or even high through November in the southernmost cities in the country, according to a study, “On the seasonal occurrence and abundance of the Zika virus vector mosquito Aedes aegypti in the contiguous United States.”

Florida with its hot, humid weather is particularly vulnerable. In November, the threat will be high in and around Miami and moderate in Jacksonville, Orlando and Tampa, in New Orleans and in Houston and Brownsville, Texas.

Only in December will the risk decrease enough so that Miami alone will have a moderate potential for a significant supply of mosquitoes. Elsewhere in Florida, Louisiana and Texas there will still be some potential, though a low one.

Winter weather will be too cold for the mosquitoes elsewhere.

“When a mosquito bites someone and gets a virus it needs a week or two depending on temperature to actually incubate a virus — for it to move from its mid gut up to its salivary glands,” said the study’s lead author, Andrew Monaghan, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado. “If you’re in cooler areas, not only is that slower but mosquitoes often won’t survive it long enough to go through that extrinsic incubation period.”

The study, which looked at 50 cities within the range of Aedes aegypti, was published in March before locally transmitted cases of Zika were discovered in Florida — 70 cases in all, many in the Wynwood arts neighborhood of Miami and across Biscayne Bay in Miami Beach. Authorities in Florida say that they have found the virus in mosquitoes trapped in a 1.5-square-mile area of Miami Beach, a first for the continental United States.

On Monday, officials declared the first Zika outbreak on the continental United States to be over. No new cases of Zika have been found in Wynwood for 45 days, which represent three full incubation periods for the virus. However more cases were found in Miami Beach last week.

Monaghan and the study’s other authors had warned that the prevalence of Aedes aegypti would likely increase as the weather got warmer.

From New York to LA
Researchers found that conditions in the United States are mostly unsuitable for the mosquitoes from December through March, except in southern Florida and south Texas, where the potential for an abundant population is low to moderate.

In the peak summer months, July through September, the mosquito can thrive in all 50 cities -- as far north as New York City along the East Coast and as far west as Los Angeles across the southern portion of the country, according to computer simulations run by researchers at the National Center for Atmospheric Research and the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center. The mosquitoes are most abundant in the Southeast, particularly southern Florida, and south Texas where locally acquired cases of Aedes-transmitted viruses have been reported previously. Higher poverty rates in cities along the U.S.-Mexico border may result in increased exposure to the mosquito.

But Zika is unlikely to spread widely in the United States as it has done in the Caribbean and Latin America, experts say. That’s because so many Americans live in air-conditioned homes and work in air-conditioned offices.

Zika was first identified in 1947 in Uganda, and has moved through tropical regions of the world over the past 10 years, according to experts.

The role of climate change
One question has been the role climate change is playing in the widespread Zika epidemic. Sharyn Stein, a climate scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund, said that though many factors can affect the spread of a disease like Zika, mosquito seasons are lasting longer.

“In some places it’s lasted three or four weeks longer than usual and so people will be exposed to mosquitoes carrying Zika for a lot longer period of time,” she said.

But how a warmer warm will influence the spread of the virus is not known, she said.

Much is not known about the virus and the latest mystery is how a dying man in Utah infected his son. Doctors in Utah warned that blood and other body fluids of people who are severely ill might be infectious.

Although most people with Zika have more mild symptoms, the disease can cause microcephaly in babies — and the accompanying devastating birth defects.

“While there is much we still don’t know about the dynamics of Zika virus transmission, understanding where the Aedes aegypti mosquito can survive in the U.S. and how its abundance fluctuates seasonally may help guide mosquito control efforts and public health preparedness,” Monaghan said when the study was released.

A battle over funding
President Obama has asked for $1.9 billion in emergency funding; Congress countered with $1.1 billion but has not passed the legislation. Republicans tried to prevent money from going to clinics in Puerto Rico run by ProFamilias, a Planned Parenthood partner, as part of their approval -- a provision Democrats have refused to agree to. This week, 77 mayors, including those of Miami Beach, Los Angeles, New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia and Boston, wrote to the Congressional leadership urging that Congress work together.

“Congress’ persistent inaction has forced the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to use more than $10 million of its funding for cancer and heart disease research for Zika,” the mayors wrote. “In total, $670 million has been diverted from other health priorities to fund Zika research. In addition, the CDC estimates that it will run out of funding to combat Zika at the end of this month, just as mosquito season reaches its peak.”

The CDC reports 20,870 cases of the Zika virus in the United States and its territories —  3,176 in the states and the District of Columbia, most of those brought by travelers, and 17,694 in the territories. So far, 1,887 pregnant women have tested positive for the virus, 731 in the states and 1,156 in the territories. Twenty-five babies are affected, according to the CDC's Dr. Anne Schuchat.  

“The critical resources that President Obama has requested would help prevent the spread of the virus by allowing local governments to work in cooperation with the CDC and the NIH to enhance mosquito control, conduct tests, and deploy a critical Zika vaccine,” they wrote.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has singled out the Obama administration and Democrats for blame.

A long history in the US
The Aedes aegypti mosquito, which also spreads viruses for yellow fever, dengue and chikungunya, has been in the United States since at least the mid-1600s, when the first cases of yellow fever were documented. It transmitted yellow fever up the northeastern seaboard as far as New York and dengue as early as 1780 in Pennsylvania.

“Conditions were more suitable for Aedes aegypti in the northeastern U.S. a couple of hundred years ago when piped water access was lower, sanitation was much worse,” Monaghan said. “And human exposure was higher as well. People weren’t living in air-conditioned, screened environments. The likelihood of them coming into contact with this mosquito was much higher.”

The mosquito was nearly eradicated in the United States in the first half of the 20th century but has since rebounded, though today its range has contracted to the southern tier and up the eastern seaboard.

Monaghan said he and his colleagues are working to improve their modeling so that public health and mosquito control officials could provide early warnings — not just of when the Aedes aegypti populations are elevated but also what might influence the transmission of the virus and other projections.

They noted that northern cities could become more vulnerable if a related species of mosquito, Aedes albopictus, starts to carry the virus. Aedes albopictus is more tolerant of the cold.



Photo Credit: ap
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<![CDATA[Drugmakers Fought State Opioid Limits Amid Crisis]]>Sun, 18 Sep 2016 16:08:06 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-517239628-opioid-pills.jpg

The makers of prescription painkillers have adopted a 50-state strategy that includes hundreds of lobbyists and millions in campaign contributions to help kill or weaken measures aimed at stemming the tide of prescription opioids, the drugs at the heart of a crisis that has cost 165,000 Americans their lives and pushed countless more to crippling addiction.

The drugmakers vow they're combating the addiction epidemic, but The Associated Press and the Center for Public Integrity found that they often employ a statehouse playbook of delay and defend that includes funding advocacy groups that use the veneer of independence to fight limits on their drugs, such as OxyContin, Vicodin and fentanyl, the narcotic linked to Prince's death.

The industry and its allies spent more than $880 million nationwide on lobbying and campaign contributions from 2006 through 2015 — more than 200 times what those advocating for stricter policies spent and eight times more than the influential gun lobby recorded for similar activities during that same period, the AP and Center for Public Integrity found.

The drugmakers and allied advocacy groups — such as the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network — also employed an annual average of 1,350 lobbyists in state capitals from Olympia to Tallahassee during that span, when opioids' addictive nature came under increasing scrutiny.

The pharmaceutical companies and allied groups have a number of legislative interests in addition to opioids that account for a portion of their political activity, but their steady presence in state capitals means they're poised to jump in quickly on any debate that affects them.

"The opioid lobby has been doing everything it can to preserve the status quo of aggressive prescribing," said Dr. Andrew Kolodny, an outspoken advocate for opioid reform. "They are reaping enormous profits from aggressive prescribing."

Prescription opioids are the cousins of heroin, prescribed to relieve pain. Sales of the drugs quadrupled from 1999 to 2010, rising in tandem with overdose deaths. Last year, 227 million opioid prescriptions were doled out in the U.S., enough to hand a bottle of pills to nine out of every 10 American adults.

The industry says it's committed to solving the problems linked to its painkillers. Major opioid-makers have launched initiatives to, among other things, encourage more cautious prescribing.

"We and our members stand with patients, providers, law enforcement, policymakers and others in calling for and supporting national policies and action to address opioid abuse," the industry group Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America said.

Doctors continue to prescribe opioids for ailments such as back pain and headaches, even though studies have shown weak or no evidence that the drugs are effective ways to treat routine chronic pain — and even though they come with the risk of addiction.

In 2007, executives at Purdue, the maker of OxyContin, pleaded guilty to misleading the public about the drug's addictive nature and agreed to pay $600 million in fines.

Lawmakers across the country have started attempting to limit the flood of prescribing and prevent overdoses. In 2012, for example, New Mexico considered a bill to limit initial prescriptions of opioidsfor acute pain to seven days to make addictions less likely and produce fewer leftover pills that could be peddled illegally. The bill died in the House Judiciary Committee.

"The lobbyists behind the scenes were killing it," said Bernadette Sanchez, the Democratic state senator who sponsored the measure.

Lobbyists for opioid makers and their allies declined to comment. But those groups had 15 lobbyists registered in New Mexico that year, up from nine the previous year. Among them were longtime players considered among the most influential advocates in Santa Fe.

Most judiciary committee members received drug industry contributions in 2012. Overall that year, drug companies and their employees contributed nearly $40,000 to New Mexico campaigns — roughly 70 percent more than in previous years with no governor's race on the ballot.

Pharmaceutical lobbyists are now pushing bills to fight opioid abuse that also promote a new product that pads their bottom lines: patent-protected abuse-deterrent opioids. They lobby for laws requiring insurers and pharmacists to give preferential treatment to the drugs, even though some experts say their abuse-deterrent qualities are easily circumvented.

So far, lawmakers have introduced scores of bills on the topic, with at least 21 using nearly identical language — some of it supplied by lobbyists.

One of the drugmakers' most powerful political engines is their financial support for opioid-friendly advocacy groups.

Such groups led the countercharge in Tennessee in 2014 when Republican state Rep. Ryan Williams began work to stanch the flow of prescription painkillers, alarmed by a rising number of drug-addicted babies. More than 900 were born the year before, nine times the amount in 2001, many of them hooked on the prescription opioids their mothers had taken.

Doctors told Williams that part of Tennessee's problem was a 2001 law that allowed clinicians to refuse to prescribe powerful narcotics only if they steered patients to an opioid-friendly doctor.

Williams' mission to repeal the law failed that year, after lobbying from the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network and the Academy of Integrative Pain Management — opposition that surprised Williams since prescribing painkillers for cancer patients would have remained legal.

Both the academy and the cancer group have been active across the country, making the case that lawmakers should balance efforts to address the opioid crisis with the needs of chronic pain patients. Between them, they have contacted legislators and other officials about opioid-related measures in at least 18 states.

The society's annual ranks of about 200 lobbyists around the country opposed opioid restrictions even in some cases where they specifically exempted cancer patients.

The Cancer Action Network listed four major opioid makers who donated at least $100,000 in 2015 and five more who gave at least $25,000. Companies that offer such sums get one-on-one meetings with the group's leaders.

The network said 6 percent of its funding last year came from drugmakers. "ACS CAN's only constituents are cancer patients, survivors, and their loved ones nationwide," spokesman David Woodmansee said.

The academy, until recently known as the American Academy of Pain Management, receives 15 percent of its funding from pharmaceutical companies, according to Executive Director Bob Twillman. Its state advocacy project is 100 percent funded by drugmakers, but he said that does not mean it is beholden to pharmaceutical interests.

"Most of the time we're saying, 'Gosh, yes, there should be some limits on opioid prescribing, reasonable limits,'" Twillman said, "but I don't think they would be in favor of that."

Purdue Pharma — the maker of OxyContin and one of the largest opioid producers by sales — gives to both groups. The company said in a statement that it contributes to a range of advocates, including some with differing views on opioid policy.

"It is imperative that we have legitimate policy debates without trying to silence those with whom we disagree," the statement said.

As for Williams, he tried again last year to repeal Tennessee's opioid prescribing law — and succeeded, even though the cancer network still opposed the repeal. The extra year had given Williams and his co-sponsor time to help educate their fellow lawmakers, he said.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: John Moore, Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Can This Patch Stop Drunk Driving?]]>Fri, 16 Sep 2016 15:18:42 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/DrunkPatch0915_MP4-147405607449700001.jpgA New Mexico company is hoping their new patch will help stop drunk driving. DermaTec has developed a patch that senses alcohol intake through sweat. It's called the ONUSBlue, as in it's "on us" to end drunk driving.]]><![CDATA[Florida's 1st Zika Outbreak Almost Over, Officials Say]]>Thu, 15 Sep 2016 17:07:31 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-585211752.jpg

The mainland United States's first official outbreak of Zika virus may be declared over by early next week, NBC News reported.

But another, in Miami Beach, is going strong, and on Thursday Florida health officials reported seven more Zika cases acquired locally, one of which involves a visitor from out of state.

It's been almost 45 days since Zika first started spreading locally, in Miami's Wynwood district, and "the clock is ticking" on that outbreak, Lillian Rivera, of the Florida Department of Health, told a Miami Beach City Council meeting Wednesday.

If no one new is infected in Wynwood by Monday, after the 45-day period that represents three full incubation periods for Zika virus, it can be declared free of active Zika transmission. Dr. Anne Schuchat of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that countdown Thursday.



Photo Credit: Getty Images, File]]>
<![CDATA[Fertility Doctor Accused Of Using Own Sperm]]>Tue, 13 Sep 2016 10:01:48 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/NC_fertilitydoctor0913_1920x1080.jpgInvestigators believe a retired Indianapolis doctor may have donated his own sperm to as many as 50 patients without their knowledge. WTHR's Steve Jefferson reports.]]><![CDATA[Emotional Support Turkey Brings Joy to Woman With Lupus]]>Tue, 13 Sep 2016 09:02:32 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Capture74.PNGMost of the time when you hear the words, "emotional support animal," you think of a dog, or some sort of cuddly animal. But a Washington woman with lupus has Sammi, her emotional support turkey, to help her go through her pain and depression. Read more on KHQ.]]><![CDATA[Zika Affected Woman's Brain and Memory, Doctors Say]]>Tue, 13 Sep 2016 07:27:26 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/184*120/AHORA-BEBE-ZIKA.jpg

The Zika virus is known to cause devastating damage to the brains of developing fetuses and now there is evidence that the virus could be more damaging to adults than has been believed, NBC News reported.

Italian researchers say they've found evidence Zika can affect the brains of adults, and may damage memory. A letter published in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases describes the case of a 32-year-old volunteer nurse infected with Zika in the Dominican Republic, who was treated for rash, headache and weakness.

"In our case, the patient reported early neurologic symptoms and moderate memory impairment in neuropsychologic examinations, all features consistent with the diagnosis of Zika virus-related encephalitis," the team at the National Institute for Infectious Diseases Lazzaro Spallanzani in Rome wrote. The doctors cited a recent study showing Zika might affect the adult brain.

Still, doctors stress that most people infected with Zika have very mild symptoms and often do not even know they have it.

]]>
<![CDATA[Study Details Sugar Industry Attempt to Shape Science]]>Mon, 12 Sep 2016 12:55:21 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-519743196-sugar.jpg

The sugar industry began funding research that cast doubt on sugar's role in heart disease — in part by pointing the finger at fat — as early as the 1960s, according to an analysis of newly uncovered documents.

The analysis published Monday is based on correspondence between a sugar trade group and researchers at Harvard University, and is the latest example showing how food and beverage makers attempt to shape public understanding of nutrition.

In 1964, the group now known as the Sugar Association internally discussed a campaign to address "negative attitudes toward sugar" after studies began emerging linking sugar with heart disease, according to documents dug up from public archives. The following year the group approved "Project 226," which entailed paying Harvard researchers today's equivalent of $48,900 for an article reviewing the scientific literature, supplying materials they wanted reviewed, and receiving drafts of the article.

The resulting article published in 1967 concluded there was "no doubt" that reducing cholesterol and saturated fat was the only dietary intervention needed to prevent heart disease. The researchers overstated the consistency of the literature on fat and cholesterol, while downplaying studies on sugar, according to the analysis.

"Let me assure you this is quite what we had in mind and we look forward to its appearance in print," wrote an employee of the sugar industry group to one of the authors.

The sugar industry's funding and role were not disclosed when the article was published by the New England Journal of Medicine. The journal, which did not require such disclosures at the time, began requesting author disclosures in 1984.

In an editorial published Monday that accompanied the sugar industry analysis, New York University professor of nutrition Marion Nestle noted that for decades following the study, scientists and health officials focused on reducing saturated fat, not sugar, to prevent heart disease.

While scientists are still working to understand links between diet and heart disease, concern has shifted in recent years to sugar and carbohydrates, and away from fat, Nestle said.

A committee advising the federal government on dietary guidelines says the available evidence shows "no appreciable relationship" between the dietary cholesterol and heart disease, although it still recommended limiting saturated fats.

The American Heart Association cites a study published in 2014 in saying that too much added sugar can increase risk of heart disease, though the authors of that study says the biological reasons for the link are not completely understood.

The findings published Monday are part of an ongoing project by a former dentist, Cristin Kearns, to reveal the sugar industry's decades-long efforts to counter science linking sugar with negative health effects, including diabetes. The latest work, published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, is based primarily on 31 pages of correspondence between the sugar group and one of the Harvard researchers who authored the review. 

In a statement, the Sugar Association said it "should have exercised greater transparency in all of its research activities," but that funding disclosures were not the norm when the review was published. The group also questioned Kearns' "continued attempts to reframe historical occurrences" to play into the current public sentiment against sugar.

The Sugar Association said it was a "disservice" that industry-funded research in general is considered "tainted."

Companies including Coca-Cola Co. and Kellogg Co. as well as groups for agricultural products like beef and blueberries regularly fund studies that become a part of scientific literature, are cited by other researchers, and are touted in press releases.

Companies say they adhere to scientific standards, and many researchers feel that industry funding is critical to advancing science given the growing competition for government funds. But critics say such studies are often thinly veiled marketing that undermine efforts to improve public health.

"Food company sponsorship, whether or not intentionally manipulative, undermines public trust in nutrition science, contributes to public confusion about what to eat," wrote Nestle, a longtime critic of industry funding of science. 

The authors of the analysis note they were unable to interview key actors quoted in the documents because they are no longer alive. They also note there is no direct evidence the sugar industry wrote or changed the manuscript, that the documents provide a limited window into the activities of the sugar industry group and that the roles of other industries and nutrition leaders in shaping the discussion about heart disease were not studied.

Nevertheless, they say the documents underscore why policy makers should consider giving less weight to industry-funded studies. Although funding disclosures are now common practice in the scientific community, the role sponsors play behind the scenes is still not always clear.

In June, the Associated Press reported on a study funded by the candy industry's trade group that found children who eat candy tend to weigh less than those who don't. The National Confectioners Association, which touted the findings in a press release, provided feedback to the authors on a draft even though a disclosure said it had no role in the paper. The association said its suggestions didn't alter the findings.

In November, the AP also reported on emails showing Coca-Cola was instrumental in creating a nonprofit that said its mission was to fight obesity, even though the group publicly said the soda maker had "no input" into its activities. A document circulated at Coke said the group would counter the "shrill rhetoric" of "public health extremists."

Coca-Cola subsequently conceded that it had not been transparent, and the group later disbanded.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Vaccination Critic Faces Possible Medical Board Discipline ]]>Sat, 10 Sep 2016 15:31:32 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-103919484.jpg

An Orange County pediatrician and outspoken critic of mandatory vaccinations faces possible discipline by California's medical board.

The Orange County Register reports Friday that Dr. Bob Sears is accused of failing to obtain a detailed medical history before writing a 2014 letter excusing a toddler from immunizations.

The board says Sears wrote the letter after the 2-year-old's mother described an adverse reaction to an earlier vaccination.

If Sears is found negligent, he could face a public reprimand or lose his medical license.

Sears declined comment to the newspaper. The Associated Press also sent an email seeking comment Friday.

Sears has authored a popular book on vaccines and advocates a staggered, alternative vaccination schedule that contrasts with recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[5-Second Rule Is Too Generous for Fallen Food: Study]]>Fri, 09 Sep 2016 17:42:24 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-462645054.jpg

It might be time to reconsider the five-second rule when thinking about eating food that has fallen on the floor.

Researchers at Rutgers University in New Jersey say in a new study that bacteria can contaminate food that falls on the floor instantaneously.

The findings were published this month in the American Society for Microbiology's journal.

Researcher Donald Schaffner said the five-second rule is a "significant oversimplification of what actually happens when bacteria transfer from a surface to food."

Schaffner's research isn't the first to conclude that the favorite excuse for why that yummy snack that fell on the ground is still OK to eat is wrong.

The research did find that longer contact time means more bacterial transfer, but that the type of food and surface is just as, or more, important.

The Rutgers researchers tested watermelon, bread, bread and butter, and gummy candy on stainless steel, ceramic tile, wood and carpet.

They found that watermelon had the most contamination, and that transfer of bacteria is affected most by moisture.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Chemicals Used to Fight Zika Worry Some Florida Residents]]>Thu, 08 Sep 2016 07:00:34 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/ZikaChems0907_MP4-147333531803900001.jpgOn the front lines in the fight against the Zika virus, crews in infected areas are double-dosing chemicals to kill larva and adult mosquitoes. People are being urged to use bug sprays with the ingredient DEET as another layer of protection, but all the chemical exposure is worrisome to a lot of people. "Right now, it's the better of two evils," said new mom Rochelle Colburn. ]]><![CDATA['Super Lice' on the Rise in Most States]]>Thu, 08 Sep 2016 13:34:18 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/NC_superlice0907_1920x1080.jpgSeptember is National Lice Awareness Month, but most people aren't aware of those cringe-worthy critters until they're dealing with a full-on infestation.

That was the issue Stacey Cole faced when her children became infested with lice.

"I just didn't know what I was supposed to do, what I needed to do in the house, what I needed to do to their heads," Cole said.

That helpless feeling comes at a time when a new study reports most states are overrun by what's often called "super lice."]]>
<![CDATA[Zika Doubled Birth Defect Rate in Brazil, Study Shows]]>Wed, 07 Sep 2016 15:32:56 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/AP_670850476149-zika.jpg

The arrival of Zika virus in Brazil doubled the rate of birth defects involving the nervous system, including microcephaly, researchers reported Wednesday.

Rates of Guillain-Barré syndrome — a rare, paralyzing side-effect of some infections — nearly tripled, the researchers said. And rates of other inflammatory conditions such as encephalitis doubled in the northeastern part of Brazil that was hardest hit by Zika, NBC News reported.

Separately, the World Health Organization tweaked its statement on Zika and the rise in rates of birth defects and Guillain-Barré syndrome, saying the virus is the "most likely explanation" for both.

"Beginning in mid-2014, we observed an unprecedented and significant rise in the hospitalization rate for congenital malformations of the nervous system, Guillain-Barré syndrome, encephalitis, myelitis, and encephalomyelitis," Brazil's Oswaldo Cruz Foundation explained in its report, which was published in the Center for Disease Control and Prevention journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.



Photo Credit: AP, File]]>
<![CDATA[Rep. Warns of Zika With Mosquitoes]]>Wed, 07 Sep 2016 15:08:35 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/090716+david+jolly+zika+mosquitoes.jpg

Florida Republican Rep. David Jolly brought a container of mosquitoes onto the House floor Wednesday to criticize Congress for failing to pass legislation to combat the mosquito-borne Zika virus in the Sunshine State.

"I rise with about 100 mosquitoes straight from Florida...mosquitoes capable of carrying the Zika virus," Jolly said, holding the container. "This is the reason for the urgency, this is the reason for the fear."

The bill, providing $1.1 billion to help combat the virus, is stalled in the Senate, where Democrats are blocking it in a dispute over restrictions the bill would place on funding for Planned Parenthood clinics.

Jolly, who represents the 13th District in Pinellas County, said the mosquitoes, still in their larval stage, came from researchers at the University of South Florida and aren't active carriers.

There have been 56 non-travel related Zika cases in Florida, many of them in Miami-Dade's "Zika zones" in Wynwood and Miami Beach, according to the Florida Department of Health. Additionally, some 577 travel-related Zika cases have been reported throughout Florida.

Jolly said he brought the mosquitoes to the House to convey the fear Floridians are feeling.

"It is our job to respond to the fear and the anxiety and the anger of a population concerned about a pending public health crisis, concerned about mosquitoes," he said. "You see, I brought these mosquitoes here today to convey that fear and that anxiety of millions of Americans and Floridians.

"Can you imagine, colleagues, the fear and anxiety in this chamber if these 100 mosquitoes were outside this jar, not inside this jar? Members of Congress would run down the hall to the physician's office to be tested, they would spray themselves before coming down here. This is the fear of Floridians right here."

Jolly is locked in a tough race in a redrawn congressional district against former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, who has since changed his affiliation to Democrat.

The congressman said Floridians are angry. He said it is too bad that candidates are going to spend money on campaign commercials about Zika, instead of responding together to solve the public health crisis.

"The time for politics of Zika is over. The politics of Zika are garbage right now," he said.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: Rep. David Jolly / YouTube
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<![CDATA[Family Grieves Loss of Newborn in Twins Viral Photo]]>Wed, 07 Sep 2016 10:45:13 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/baby+pacifier1.JPG

Days after a photo of Florida newborn twins hugging in a hospital went viral, the family is grieving the the loss of one of the boys, born with a rare medical condition. 

Twins Mason and Hawk Buchmeyer of St. Lucie County captured many hearts on social media thanks to a photo of the 3-week-old boys posted on Facebook on Sept. 1.

Little Mason is pictured embracing his brother Hawk and smiling.

"This picture was taken 11 days after they were born, it's the first time they have ever touched and as soon as Mason felt Hawk he reached out for his arm and smiled this big," the post reads. "We thought it was time for everyone pulling for our boy to see this picture."

The photo, showing little Hawk on a ventilator, has garnered over 100,000 likes and more than 27,000 shares.

Hawk was born with a congenital diaphragmatic hernia, which is a defect in the diaphragm. According to the National Institutes of Health, the diaphragm separates the organs in the abdomen from those in the chest.

Hawk had undergone numerous surgeries since his birth and was being treated at Shands Children's Hospital at The University of Florida in Gainesville.

On Wednesday morning, the parents, Brandy Guettler and Tommy Buchmeyer, posted a message on their Facebook page: "Our hearts are saddened this morning as our sweet little man was called home to be with Jesus. He went very peacefully and we know he's no longer suffering. Please give us some time to grieve and try to start the healing process."

The parents created the Facebook page for the twin brothers to keep family, friends and now strangers updated on the condition of the newborns.



Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto
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<![CDATA[Flu Season Arrives, With New Recommendations for Prevention]]>Wed, 07 Sep 2016 07:20:15 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/NC_fluvaccines0906_1920x1080.jpgThe nasal spray FluMist has been the flu vaccine preference among many parents for years, but the American Academy of Pediatrics says kids should not get it this year. The move comes after a panel of experts found that the nasal spray has not been effective the past three seasons. The AAP recommends instead that all kids over 6 months get the flu shot, which experts say was about 63-percent effective in protecting against the flu last year. ]]><![CDATA[Industry Insiders Estimate EpiPen Costs No More Than $30]]>Tue, 06 Sep 2016 15:27:01 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/epipen1.jpg

Mylan says middlemen and suppliers have forced them to jack up the prices on EpiPens by hundreds of dollars, but two industry insiders say the company pays no more than $30 per device, NBC News reports.

Some patients are forced to pay a little over $600 out of pocket for a two-pack of the lifesaving medication. Mylan sparked outrage last month when it was revealed the company had hiked up costs for the drug by over 400 percent since it acquired the brand.

Kevin Deane, a partner with the PA Consulting Group, a global technology and design firm that sold a drug delivery technology company to Pfizer in 2004, told NBC News that the base components for each EpiPen, including the plastic cap, tube and needle, might cost between $2 to $4 to purchase. Pharmacists contacted by NBC estimate that the epinephrine inside costs less than $1.

Mylan gets $274 from each sale, but must use that money to pay for costs, according to the company and Mylan CEO Heather Bresch, in a recent CNBC interview. Mylan didn't respond to an NBC News request to itemize its costs, but a Mylan spokesperson told NBC that "all of those costs would clearly make the $274 number significantly lower."



Photo Credit: AP, File]]>
<![CDATA[NY Attorney General to Investigate EpiPen Manufacturer]]>Tue, 06 Sep 2016 13:46:51 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/epipen1.jpg

New York's top prosecutor said he is launching an antitrust investigation into the maker of the EpiPen. 

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said Tuesday his office was opening the investigation into Mylan Pharmaceuticals, weeks after the company came under intense public scrutiny for steady increases in the price of the life-saving drug that is administered during anaphylactic allergic reactions. 

"If Mylan engaged in anti-competitive business practices, or violated antitrust laws with the intent and effect of limiting lower cost competition, we will hold them accountable," Schneiderman said in a statement. "Allergy sufferers have enough concerns to worry about — the availability of life-saving medical treatment should not be one of them. I will bring the full resources of my office to this critical investigation.”

The inquiry comes after a preliminary review by the Schneiderman's office found that Mylan may have inserted potentially anticompetitive terms into its sales contracts with numerous local school systems.

"No child’s life should be put at risk because a parent, school, or healthcare provider cannot afford a simple, life-saving device because of a drug-maker’s anti-competitive practices," Schneiderman said.

Mylan said that it provided free injectors to more than 65,000 schools under its EpiPen4Schools program, and that at one time, schools that wanted to buy more injectors than the company provided could purchase them "with a limited purchase restriction." But the company said that no restrictions are in place now.

"The program continues to adhere to all applicable laws and regulations," the company said. 

Mylan has increased the price of EpiPens from about $100 for two doses in 2008 to more than $600 this year, drawing intense scrutiny from the public recent weeks. 

Schneiderman's inquiry also comes about a week after an I-Team investigation revealed that the drugmaker fought to keep a cheaper generic version of the drug off the market. 

Mylan has previously said it is launching a cheaper generic version of EpiPen.



Photo Credit: AP, File]]>
<![CDATA[3 Common STDs Are Becoming Harder to Treat]]>Fri, 02 Sep 2016 17:27:42 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/AP_1602291933356134-STD.jpg

In the United States, drug-resistant gonorrhea is a public health problem of national concern. But untreatable gonorrhea isn't the only STD that has health officials worried, according to an NBC News report.

Earlier this week, the World Health Organization released new treatment guidelines for three common sexually transmitted diseases — chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis — in response to increasing antibiotic resistance.

Gonorrhea has developed the strongest resistance to drugs, according to the WHO, but the worries about untreatable syphilis and chlamydia come at a time when rates for the three STDs are rising rapidly in the U.S, especially among young people ages 20 to 24.

Gonorrhea is even starting to show decreased susceptibility to a "last line" treatment option. This makes this bacterium a multidrug-resistant organism, often called a "superbug."



Photo Credit: AP, File]]>
<![CDATA[FDA Bans Antibacterials From Soaps]]>Fri, 02 Sep 2016 18:04:13 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/antibacterial-soap.jpg

The federal government Friday banned more than a dozen chemicals long-used in antibacterial soaps, saying manufacturers failed to show they are safe and kill germs. 

"We have no scientific evidence that they are any better than plain soap and water," said Dr. Janet Woodcock, the Food and Drug Administration' drug center director, in a statement. 

Friday's decision primarily targets two once-ubiquitous ingredients — triclosan and triclocarban — that some limited animal research suggests can interfere with hormone levels and spur drug-resistant bacteria. 

The chemicals have long been under scrutiny, and a cleaning industry spokesman said most companies have already removed the now banned 19 chemicals from their soaps and washes. 

The FDA said it will allow companies more time to provide data on three other chemicals, which are still in a majority of products sold today. 

The agency told manufacturers nearly three years ago that they must show their products are safe and effective. Regulators said Friday the data submitted for the chemicals did not meet federal standards for proving safety and effectiveness. 

"Consumers may think antibacterial washes are more effective at preventing the spread of germs," Woodcock said in a statement. "In fact, some data suggests that antibacterial ingredients may do more harm than good over the long-term." 

The FDA ban comes more than 40 years after Congress asked the agency to evaluate triclosan and dozens of other antiseptic ingredients. Ultimately, the government agreed to publish its findings only after a three-year legal battle with an environmental group, the Natural Resources Defense Council, which accused the FDA of delaying a decision on the safety of triclosan. 

The group cited research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that found triclosan in the urine of three-quarters of Americans tested for various chemicals. 

The FDA is now undertaking a sweeping reevaluation of soaps and washes used by consumers and health professionals. 

The American Cleaning Institute, a cleaning chemical association, disputed the FDA's findings, saying in a statement "the FDA already has in its hands data that shows the safety and effectiveness of antibacterial soaps." 

The group's spokesman said companies are planning to submit data on three chemicals currently used by industry: benzalkonium chloride, benzethonium chloride and chloroxylenol. The FDA delayed making a decision on those chemicals for one year. 

The FDA decision does not apply to hand sanitizers, most of which use alcohol rather than antibacterial chemicals. 

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Obesity Rates Fall in Four States]]>Thu, 01 Sep 2016 13:23:47 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/teen+obesity+gastric+bypass.jpg

Obesity rates in Minnesota, Montana, New York and Ohio fell — the first time that any state has seen a decrease in the past decade, according to a report released Thursday, NBC News reported.

For the majority of U.S. states, obesity rates for American adults remained stable between 2014 and 2015, according to the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation annual report.

Meanwhile Kansas and Kentucky saw increases in their rates of obesity.

"Obesity remains one of the most significant epidemics our country has faced, contributing to millions of preventable illnesses and billions of dollars in avoidable health care costs," said Richard Hamburg, interim president of the Trust for America's Health.

People are considered overweight when their BMI hits 25, and they are obese when it gets to 30.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Zika Found in Trapped Fla. Mosquitoes, 1st in US Mainland ]]>Thu, 01 Sep 2016 22:28:48 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Large-Zika.jpg

Authorities in Florida said Thursday they have found the Zika virus in three groups of trapped mosquitoes in Miami Beach, the first time this has happened in the continental US.

Two weeks after announcing that five non-travel cases of Zika had been discovered in the city of Miami Beach, state officials confirmed that three mosquitoes taken from areas in the city tested positive for the virus.

"This find is disappointing, but not surprising," Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam said. "Florida is among the best in the nation when it comes to mosquito surveillance and control, and this detection enables us to continue to effectively target our resources."

Since the first non-travel Zika case in Miami-Dade County was identified just over a month ago mosquito controllers had not been able to find any bugs with the virus. 

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services said 95 more trapped mosquitoes tested negative since the three local mosquitoes with Zika were found. Intensive trapping and testing continues.

"Today, we learned of the first mosquitoes that have tested positive for the Zika virus in our state. DACS has only found three mosquito samples out of the more than 42,400 individual mosquitoes that have been tested across the state," Florida Gov. Rick Scott said in a statement. "These mosquitoes were trapped in the small area in Miami Beach where we believe local transmission has been occurring. The CDC is performing an additional test to verify that this is Zika and to identify the strain of the virus."

The new announcement was made by the Florida Department of Agriculture and came one week after the city notified the state’s Department of Health that they were testing several areas, including the Miami Beach Botanical Garden.

Miami Beach officials have spent the last two weeks spraying areas in the transmission zone, located between 8th Street and 28th Street. Code enforcement officials have been going through the area, fining people who have standing water and other areas on their property that are known to attract the insects – which carry the Zika virus – and help them breed.

The area in Miami Beach as well as the Wynwood section north of Downtown Miami have been classified as Zika Zones, where most of the infected local cases are believed to have come from.

On Thursday, the Florida Department of Health announced two new non-travel related Zika cases in Miami-Dade, one in the area in Miami Beach and one associated with Wynwood that experienced symptoms in July. 

In all, 49 non-travel related cases of the virus have been found in Florida since July while 576 travel-related cases have been confirmed.

"As it has been from the beginning, our goal is to eliminate the cycle of transmission by eliminating the mosquitoes," Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez said in a news release.

Authorities say one potential breeding ground residents should look out for are bromeliads. The inside of the plant provides the perfect environment for mosquito reproduction.

"The City of Miami is removing bromeliads from all public areas, they've been removed from the Botanical Garden, we did that over the last three days," Miami Beach City Manager Jimmy Morales said.

"If you have bromeliads I would ask you to please consider removing them or draining them after every rain or flushing them," Gimenez said.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Diamond of California Recalls Macadamia Nuts for Salmonella]]>Wed, 31 Aug 2016 11:52:41 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/212*120/recall-nuts.jpg

Two macadamia nut products sold nationwide under the Diamond of California brand are being recalled due to possible salmonella contamination. 

Snyder's-Lance, Inc. said it was voluntarily recalling 4-ounce packages of Diamond of California Chopped Macadamia Nuts and 2.25-ounce packages of Diamond of California Macadamia Halves and Pieces. 

A laboratory contracted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration detected salmonella in a package of the 4-ounce chopped nuts during testing. 

There have been no reported illnesses so far. 

To locate the production code on the package, consumers should look on the front of the package. A list of the affected lots can be found here or seen below.

 

Consumers can apply for a full refund online here or by calling (503) 364-0399 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. PT, Monday to Friday.



Photo Credit: FDA]]>
<![CDATA[Can Children Benefit From Probiotic Supplements?]]>Tue, 30 Aug 2016 11:41:54 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/NC_probiotics0829_1920x1080.jpgBilled as "good for your guts," Dr. Karpovs says probiotics help restore normal bacteria in the body. ]]><![CDATA[Orlando Theme Parks Offer Bug Spray to Ease Zika Fears]]>Mon, 29 Aug 2016 14:06:18 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Disney-GettyImages-94967642.jpg

Florida's major theme parks are now offering free bug repellent to visitors as concerns about mosquito-transmitted Zika virus mount.

Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando Resort and SeaWorld Orlando on Sunday began offering the mosquito spray and lotion free of charge at their parks.

No mosquito-transmitted case of the Zika virus has been found in central Florida. But theme park officials say they're offering the repellent as a precaution and to ease the fears of visitors.

The Department of Health is investigating mosquito-transmitted Zika cases in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties in South Florida, as well as in Pinellas County in the Tampa area.

Zika causes a mild illness in most people but can lead to severe brain-related birth defects if women are infected during pregnancy.

On Friday, Miami Beach city officials took part in a roundtable discussion with Governor Rick Scott and others, discussing the strategy at both the state and local level to fight the spread of the mosquito-borne disease.

Also Friday, the Food and Drug Administration announced it wants all U.S. blood banks to start screening for Zika virus, a major expansion intended to protect the nation's blood supply from the mosquito-borne disease.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: Bloomberg via Getty Images, File]]>
<![CDATA[Mylan Launching Generic Version of EpiPen]]>Mon, 29 Aug 2016 06:42:36 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/epipen1.jpg

Mylan says it will make available a generic version of its EpiPen, as criticism mounts over the price of its injectable medicine. 

The company said Monday that its U.S. subsidiary will put out a generic version of the EpiPen that will have a list price of $300 for a two-pack — about half the current price. It will be available in both 0.15 mg and 0.30 mg strengths. 

EpiPens are used in emergencies to treat severe allergies to insect bites and foods like nuts and eggs that can lead to anaphylactic shock. 

People usually keep a number of EpiPens handy at home, school or work. The syringes, prefilled with the hormone epinephrine, expire after a year. 

Mylan N.V. said that it anticipates having the generic versions available in the next several weeks. It will continue to market and distribute a branded EpiPen. 

The company charges $608 for a two-pack of the branded EpiPen. Mylan said it will keep in place the $300 savings card for the branded EpiPen and the revised patient assistance program announced last week. 

Consumers and politicians have accused the company of price-gouging, considering that the product has been on the market since 1987 and the price didn't start rising significantly until Mylan acquired it in 2007. 

There is also little competition, with the only rival product being Adrenaclick, which carries a list price of $461. 

Mylan CEO Heather Bresch has defended the price hikes, saying the company only received $274 of the total price for a twin-package while insurers, pharmacies and other parties divvy up the rest. 

People usually keep a number of EpiPens handy at home, school or work. The syringes, prefilled with the hormone epinephrine, expire after a year. 

Numerous members of Congress and other politicians this week have called for congressional hearings on Mylan's pricing, an investigation by the Federal Trade Commission and action by the Food and Drug Administration to increase competition by speeding up approvals of any rival products. 

At least two companies are trying to get U.S. approval to sell a rival brand or generic version of EpiPen. None is likely to hit the U.S. market until well into next year. Relief could come sooner from Imprimis Pharmaceuticals, a compounding pharmacy that prepares medicines to fill individual prescriptions. It said it might be able to sell a version in a few months and would likely charge around $100 for two injectors.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Could Clinton Save Obama's Struggling Health Overhaul?]]>Sun, 28 Aug 2016 13:54:57 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/AP_16239561422240-hillary-clinton-affordable-care-act.jpg

With the hourglass running out for his administration, President Barack Obama's health care law is struggling in many parts of the country. Double-digit premium increases and exits by big-name insurers have caused some to wonder whether "Obamacare" will go down as a failed experiment.

If Democrat Hillary Clinton wins the White House, expect her to mount a rescue effort. But how much Clinton could do depends on finding willing partners in Congress and among Republican governors, a real political challenge.

"There are turbulent waters," said Kathleen Sebelius, Obama's first secretary of Health and Human Services. "But do I see this as a death knell? No."

Next year's health insurance sign-up season starts a week before the Nov. 8 election, and the previews have been brutal. Premiums are expected to go up sharply in many insurance marketplaces, which offer subsidized private coverage to people lacking access to job-based plans.

At the same time, retrenchment by insurers that have lost hundreds of millions of dollars means that more areas will become one-insurer markets, losing the benefits of competition. The consulting firm Avalere Health projects that seven states will only have one insurer in each of their marketplace regions next year.

Administration officials say insurers set prices too low in a bid to gain market share, and the correction is leading to sticker shock. Insurers blame the problems on sicker-than-expected customers, disappointing enrollment and a premium stabilization system that failed to work as advertised. They also say some people are gaming the system, taking advantage of guaranteed coverage to get medical care only when they are sick.

Not all state markets are in trouble. What is more important, most of the 11 million people covered through HealthCare.gov and its state-run counterparts will be cushioned from premium increases by government subsidies that rise with the cost.

But many customers may have to switch to less comprehensive plans to keep their monthly premiums down. And millions of people who buy individual policies outside the government marketplaces get no financial help. They will have to pay the full increases or go without coverage and risk fines. (People with employer coverage and Medicare are largely unaffected.)

Tennessee's insurance commissioner said recently that the individual health insurance market in her state is "very near collapse." Premiums for the biggest insurer are expected to increase by an average of 62 percent. Two competitors will post average increases of 46 percent and 44 percent.

But because the spigot of federal subsidies remains wide open, an implosion of health insurance markets around the country seems unlikely. More than 8 out of 10 HealthCare.gov customers get subsidies covering about 70 percent of their total premiums. Instead, the damage is likely to be gradual. Rising premiums deter healthy people from signing up, leaving an insurance pool that's more expensive to cover each succeeding year.

"My real concern is 2018," said Caroline Pearson, a senior vice president with Avalere. "If there is no improvement in enrollment, we could see big sections of the country without any plans participating."

If Republican Donald Trump wins the White House, he'd start dismantling the Affordable Care Act. But Clinton would come with a long list of proposed fixes, from rearranging benefits to introducing a government-sponsored "public option" as an alternative to private insurers. Not all her ideas would require congressional action.

"She is going to find it important to continue to expand health care," said Joel Ario, a former Obama administration official who's now with the consulting firm Mannatt Health.

People in the Clinton camp say she recognizes that as president she'd have to get Obama's law working better, and is taking nothing off the table.

A look at some major ideas and their prospects:

PUBLIC OPTION
Clinton's primary rival, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, advocated "Medicare for all" and that pushed Clinton to a fuller embrace of government-run insurance. But Democrats could not get a public option through Congress even when they had undisputed control. Whichever party wins the Senate in November, the balance is expected to be close and Republicans are favored to retain control of the House.

While a new national insurance program seems a long shot, Obama's law allows states to experiment. "I think the public option is more likely to be tested at a state level," Sebelius said.

SWEETENING SUBSIDIES
Clinton has proposed more generous subsidies and tax credits for health care, which might also entice more people to sign up. But she'd have a tough time selling Republicans. It may be doable in the bargaining around budget and tax bills, but Democrats would be pressed to give up some of the health law's requirements, including a premiums formula that tends to favor older people over young adults.

INCREMENTAL CHANGES
Whether it's fixing a "family glitch" that can prevent dependents from getting subsidized coverage, requiring insurers to cover more routine services outside the annual deductible, or reworking the premium stabilization program for insurers, incremental changes seem to offer a president Clinton her easiest path.

MEDICAID EXPANSION
Expect a Clinton White House to tirelessly court the 19 states that have yet to expand Medicaid for low-income people. She'd ask Congress to provide the same three full years of federal financing that early-adopting states got under the health law. GOP governors would demand more flexibility with program rules.

"I'm just hoping that reality begins to sink in when she is inaugurated," Sebelius said. "If the law is not going to go away, then let's make it work."

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: AP, File]]>
<![CDATA[Obama: Americans at Risk Because of Zika Funding Delay]]>Sat, 27 Aug 2016 08:47:05 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-594886094-news.jpg

President Barack Obama urged Congress to make Zika funding its first priority after members return from a seven-week summer break, saying the delay is putting Americans at risk.

"[E]very day that Republican leaders in Congress wait to do their job, every day our experts have to wait to get the resources they need. That has real-life consequences," Obama said in his weekly radio address. "Weaker mosquito-control efforts. Longer wait times to get accurate diagnostic results. Delayed vaccines. It puts more Americans at risk."

Zika virus has caused two outbreaks in Florida and infected 42 people bitten by local mosquitoes. It's been brought to the continental U.S. by more than 2,000 people — probably many more than that — and infected more than 580 pregnant women in U.S. states.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Asymptomatic Man Spread Zika: CDC]]>Fri, 26 Aug 2016 19:03:27 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/cdcGettyImages-456691988.jpg

U.S. health officials on Friday reported the first case of Zika spread through sex by a man with no symptoms of the disease.

In the other 21 U.S. cases of sexual transmission, the virus was spread by someone who at some point had symptoms.

The report details the case of a Maryland man who went to the Dominican Republic, where there is a Zika outbreak. He didn't get sick during the trip or when he returned. But his sex partner, who hadn't traveled, did get sick with Zika and recovered.

Zika is mainly spread by mosquitoes. Most infected people don't get sick. It can cause a mild illness, with fever, rash and joint pain. But infection during pregnancy can lead to severe brain-related birth defects.

Doctors believe spreading from an infected person with no symptoms is extremely rare; it may be that they have smaller amounts of virus in their blood and bodily fluids and are less infectious.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises couples to use condoms for two months after a partner without symptoms has returned from a Zika outbreak area, if the woman is of child-bearing age. For men with symptoms, the CDC advises condoms for at least six months.

The Maryland case is unusual and doesn't warrant a change in that advice, said the CDC's Dr. John T. Brooks.

French researchers in April reported a similar case of a couple without symptoms who both tested positive for Zika. But both had visited a Zika area so infection from mosquito bites couldn't be ruled out.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: Getty Images, File]]>
<![CDATA[FDA: Test Blood Donations for Zika]]>Fri, 26 Aug 2016 13:51:32 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/3-10_mosquito.jpg

The Food and Drug Administration wants all U.S. blood centers to start screening for Zika, a major expansion intended to protect the nation's blood supply from the mosquito-borne virus.

Friday's advisory means all U.S. states and territories will need to begin testing blood donations for Zika. Previously, the FDA had limited the requirement to Puerto Rico and two Florida counties.

"There is still much uncertainty regarding the nature and extent of Zika virus transmission," said Dr. Peter Marks, director of the FDA's biologic products center, in an agency release. "At this time, the recommendation for testing the entire blood supply will help ensure that safe blood is available for all individuals who might need transfusion."

Blood collection sites already test donations for HIV, hepatitis, West Nile virus and other blood-borne viruses.

FDA officials said Zika testing is already underway in Puerto Rico and parts of Florida, where "it has shown to be beneficial in identifying donations infected with Zika virus."

The FDA has authorized use of two experimental blood-screening tests for Zika, one made by Roche and another from Hologic Inc. Several testing sites are already voluntarily using the technology, including blood centers in Texas. The cost of adding Zika testing to the blood screening process is less than $10, according to officials at South Texas Blood and Tissue Center.

Since February, U.S. blood centers have been turning away people who have recently traveled to areas with Zika outbreaks, under a previous FDA directive.

Zika is spread primarily by mosquito bites, as well as sex. There have been cases of Zika transmission through blood transfusion in Brazil.

The FDA works with other federal agencies to set standards for screening, testing and handling blood donations.

Last month, blood centers in Miami and Fort Lauderdale had to halt donations until they could begin screening each unit of blood. The order followed now-confirmed reports of local Zika transmission in the Miami area -- the first in the continental U.S.

Puerto Rico suspended blood donations and imported blood products in March until the island began screening its blood.

Friday's announcement follows recent pressure from members of Congress urging the FDA to expand Zika screening.

"We must implement widespread universal screening now to prevent any further contamination of the blood supply before it occurs and to pre-empt a widespread shortfall in the blood supply," stated Reps. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, Patrick Murphy, D-Fla. and a half-dozen other House members, in a letter to the FDA earlier this month.

The Zika virus causes only a mild illness in most people, but scientists have confirmed that infection during pregnancy can lead to severe brain-related birth defects.

The tropical mosquito that spreads Zika and other viruses is found in the southern U.S. While health officials have predicted that mosquitoes in the continental U.S. would begin spreading Zika this summer, they also have said they expect only isolated clusters of infections and not widespread outbreaks. So far, there have been about 40 cases of homegrown Zika in Florida.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: AP
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<![CDATA[No Confirmed Zika Cases Linked to Olympics: WHO]]>Thu, 25 Aug 2016 16:52:06 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Olympic-Rings-GettyImages-585531340.jpg

The U.N. health agency says reports from national authorities indicate no confirmed laboratory cases of the Zika virus in anyone associated with the Rio Olympics. 

The World Health Organization announced the findings Thursday in its weekly situation report on Zika.

A recent epidemic of the mosquito-borne virus, which first erupted in Brazil, has been linked to brain-related birth defects in newborns and other nervous system troubles in some adults. 

Before the Games, some medical experts expressed concerns the Games might cause the virus to spread faster than normal by drawing large numbers of foreign athletes and visitors who might carry it back home. The virus can also be spread through sex. 

Some Brazilian fans jeered U.S. athletes who made light of the risk or stayed home over fears about Zika.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: NurPhoto via Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA['They Know She Cares': Michelle Obama's School Nutrition Legacy]]>Fri, 26 Aug 2016 07:28:37 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-491569906.jpg

Fried chicken nuggets, chicken fingers, and patties are the thing of the past at Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia. Healthier options have been on the menu thanks to Michelle Obama's healthy school lunch initiative. 

When Rodney K. Taylor, director of food and nutrition services at the schools, received a directive to make lunch food healthier, by adding fruits, veggies and whole grains, he decided to take it a step further and eliminate the fried options. 

He begun serving grilled spice-rubbed chicken to students instead.  

“No-one made a peep,” Taylor said of the reaction among students.

The new nutritional standards in schools were spurred by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, one of the central policies at the heart of Obama’s effort to address childhood obesity. It was signed in 2010 and took effect in 2014. The legislation required schools to increase the servings of fruits and vegetables, increase the amount of whole grains, and reduce the amount of sodium and sugar in meals provided to students.

As Obama prepares to leave the White House at the end of 2016, it's not clear yet whether the changes are helping reduce childhood obesity. But supporters say the program is already a win because kids are eating whole grains and lower-sodium options.

“It was revolutionary, it took away the focus from the bottom line and moved it to nutrition,” said Taylor, who has over a decade of experience as food director. “When I first started no-one was talking about nutrition so we really contributed to the obesity epidemic. It’s a good thing the legislators stepped in.”

The act encountered heavy pushback from conservatives who viewed it as executive overreach. Obama, however, has never relented, exerting pressure on the GOP, including in a 2014 New York Times op-ed piece.

“Remember a few years ago when Congress declared that the sauce on a slice of pizza should count as a vegetable in school lunches? You don’t have to be a nutritionist to know that this doesn’t make much sense,” she wrote.

Later that year, at a White House event, she said, “I’m going to fight until the bitter end to make sure that every kid in this country continues to have the best nutrition that they can have in our schools.”

The first lady’s strategy paid off because in late January the Senate Agriculture Committee released a statement in favor of reauthorizing the program.

“Folks said we couldn’t come to an agreement on child nutrition reauthorization – let alone a bipartisan agreement – but we did,” chairman Pat Roberts said. “This bipartisan legislation is a true compromise. Not everyone got everything they wanted, but a lot of folks have a lot to be happy about.”

The School Nutrition Association, a nonprofit professional organization that advocates for healthful school meals, is one such party. The group previously criticized the new standards as financially prohibitive, too strict, and unfeasible for schools to adopt so quickly. HHFKA originally required 100 percent of all grains served at schools be whole grain rich and that sodium levels be cut in half by 2017. Those standards have been loosened—the whole grain requirement to 80 percent of all grains served and the sodium deadline extended to 2019.

“The SNA was pleased to work with the USDA and the White House to reach an agreement,” said Diane Pratt-Heavner, director of media relations at the SNA.
Kevin Concannon, USDA undersecretary for Food Nutrition and Consumer Services, said “we didn’t want to punish schools who were struggling to meet the standards.” Concannon went on to say, though, that more than 98 percent of schools are meeting the guidelines.

Sept. 30, 2015, marked the deadline for Congress to reauthorize the HHFKA but lawmakers blew past it. While the lack of reauthorization didn't impact existing programs, advocates pushing for reauthorization look at it as an opportunity to increase funding for school lunches. 

HHFKA is relatively new and measurable public health outcomes will take years if not decades.

Margot Wootan, director of of nutrition policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, though, expects a positive effect. Wootan called the act “enormously important” and explained that her expectations are not unreasonable because children get a third to half their daily calories from school meals. With the calories now coming from more nutritionally dense foods, positive outcomes are likely. Jessica Donze Black, director of Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods at The Pew Charitable Trusts, said with all the sound science behind the policy she expects that HHFKA will "significantly impact the health outcomes of children."     

Schools across the country have been reporting other positive outcomes. Since the widespread acceptance of the standards independent studies have shown that plate waste, where uneaten food ends up in the trash, is actually down while fruit and vegetable consumption has gone up.

Lynette Dodson, director of school nutrition of Carrolton City schools in Carrolton, Georgia, said that the children are eating the fruits and vegetables, going through three times as many bananas alone compared to before the act. Schools in Carrolton track the amount of fruit and vegetable consumption using production records. She also said that teachers in her district saw almost immediate positive impacts on student attentiveness and behavior.

Because of this Dodson said the district has adopted a new mantra. “Whole food is good food.”

Undersecretary Concannon, said he hears similar stories during his visits to schools all over the country. He called a lot of the early criticisms of the first lady’s initiative “more noise than anything else.” Concannon said families are on board, given that the school lunch program now serves close to 31 million children and the school breakfast program serves almost 15 million children, about 5 million more than before HHFKA was enacted. Statistics from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation support Concannon’s claim, with the number of parents who support the new standards outnumbering parents who do not 3 to 1.

“For kids, Michelle Obama has become a symbol," Concannon said. "They know she cares.” 

The first lady has vowed to continue to work on issues of childhood obesity even after her time in the White House is up.

“It's not like I have a one-year or two-year time frame on this issue. For me, this issue is the rest-of-my-life kind of time frame," she said at the White House earlier this year. "Because I know that's what it's going to take to truly solve this problem."



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Mylan Boosts EpiPen Programs, Doesn't Budge on Price]]>Thu, 25 Aug 2016 18:24:09 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/082316+epipen.jpg

Mylan is bulking up programs that help patients pay for its EpiPen emergency allergy treatment after weathering heated criticism about an average cost that has soared over the past decade. 

But the drugmaker didn't budge on its price hikes Thursday, which have drawn ire both in Congress and from families that have had to shell out increasingly large sums for the potentially life-saving treatment. 

That means the insurers and employers that pay the bulk of the EpiPen cost for many patients will continue to do so, contributing to higher health insurance costs. 

"That's just going to come out in the premiums," said Sabrina Corlette, a research professor at the Georgetown University's Health Policy Institute. "Everybody suffers, except the Mylan investors." 

Mylan joins a growing list of drugmakers, Turing Pharmaceuticals and Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. among them, that have been called out after mammoth price hikes for the drugs they sell, with little or no innovation. 

Turing's former CEO Martin Shkreli became the poster child of pharmaceutical-industry greed last fall for hiking the price of a life-saving drug, Daraprim, by more than 5,000 percent. 

He has applauded Mylan's actions. 

The average price of a two-dose EpiPen package climbed to about $608 earlier this year, up more than 500 percent from around $94 nine years ago, according to the Elsevier Clinical Solutions' Gold Standard Drug Database. 

Mylan CEO Heather Bresch told CNBC Thursday that lowering the price was not an option. 

"Had we reduced the list price, I couldn't ensure that everyone who needs an EpiPen gets one," she said. 

EpiPens are used in emergencies to treat severe allergies that can lead to anaphylactic shock. Roughly 40 million Americans have severe allergies to spider bites, bee stings and foods like nuts, eggs and shellfish. 

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and members of Congress from both parties have quickly ramped up criticism of the price Mylan charges for the medicine. 

Clinton said Wednesday that pharmaceutical and biotech industries can fuel American innovation, and combat debilitating diseases. But she added that "it's wrong when drug companies put profits ahead of patients, raising prices without justifying the value behind them." 

Bresch said Thursday that Mylan gets $274 for a two-dose EpiPen package. The rest of the $608 price goes to entities that stand between the drugmaker and the patient, like insurers, pharmacy benefits managers, wholesalers and drugstores. 

"This isn't an EpiPen issue," she said. "This isn't a Mylan issue. This is a health care issue." 

However, it is Mylan that is increasing the price of the drug and the company stuck by those price hikes Thursday. 

That stance brought a wave of new money from investors who drove Mylan's shares up more than 2 percent in morning trading, while major U.S. indexes slipped. 

Last year, more than 3.6 million U.S. prescriptions for two-packs of EpiPens were filled, according to data firm IMS Health. That brought in sales of nearly $1.7 billion for Mylan. 

Mylan said Thursday that it was doubling the eligibility for its patient assistance program to people with incomes four times higher than the federal poverty level. It said that means a family of four making up to $97,200 would pay nothing out of pocket for the treatment. It also noted that its $300 savings card would cut the bill in half for patients who would otherwise have to pay full price for the EpiPen. 

Patients also will be able to order the injected medicine directly from the company, to help lower costs. 

These measures could provide significant help for people with no coverage facing the full bill. But they might have more limited value to a patient whose insurer will cover most of the bill anyway and whose future premium could be affected by the drug's price. 

Customers of Express Scripts Holding Co., the nation's largest pharmacy benefits manager, pay about $73.50 out of pocket for an EpiPen prescription, spokesman Brian Henry said. He noted that price has stayed relatively stable the past couple years. 

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, dismissed the actions Mylan detailed Thursday as a baby step. 

"This step seems like a PR fix more than a real remedy, masking an exorbitant and callous price hike," the senator said in a statement.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York

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<![CDATA[Newborn Affected by Zika Stayed Infected for 2 Months ]]>Wed, 24 Aug 2016 19:07:58 -0500//media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/ZikaBaby-AP_272141986039.jpg

Doctors said a Brazilian baby with brain damage caused by the Zika virus stayed infected for more than two months after his birth, NBC News reported. 

The baby already had brain damage from the virus, which can infect a growing fetus. But the virus continued to actively infect him after he was born, Danielle Oliveira of the University of Sao Paulo and colleagues wrote in a letter to the New England Journal of Medicine. 

"When the infant was examined on day 54, he had no obvious illness or evidence of any immunocompromising condition," they wrote. An immune condition might explain a prolonged infection. The baby was developmentally delayed and had cerebral palsy. 

This suggests that newborns may still be at risk from the virus while their brains are growing and developing — another unpleasant surprise about the virus.



Photo Credit: AP]]>