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dwardolive/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Justin Bieber shared images of himself on Instagram inside a hyperbaric oxygen chamber, a type of therapy normally used for issues like wound healing and carbon monoxide poisoning.

Fans are now wondering if the pop star is using the chamber to improve his mental health. Bieber, 25, has been very public in recent Instagram posts about his current state.

“Been struggling a lot. Just feeling super disconnected and weird,” he wrote, in part, in a March 10 post.

Bieber explained to his fans in a post Monday that he is not touring or releasing new music because he is "very focused on repairing some of the deep rooted issues that I have as most of us have, so that I don’t fall apart, so that I can sustain my marriage and be the father I want to be.”

Hyperbaric chambers have not been scientifically proven to improve mental health. The chambers are used off-label as a treatment for various conditions, including depression and anxiety, according to Eileen Comia, a Connecticut-based integrated medicine specialist.

“There is a good feeling and uplifting of the mood because it also increases serotonin and you feel energized,” she said. “Pain is decreased. You feel good afterwards.”

A hyperbaric chamber allows the patient to breathe in oxygen at air pressure levels 1.5 to 3 times higher than average, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine, a health system headquartered in Baltimore, Md.

The treatment is typically performed as an outpatient procedure and doesn't require hospitalization. At-home chambers, like the one seen in Bieber's video, are now being offered online for purchase and rent.

There are risks associated with the treatment, including eye damage, middle ear injury, lung injuries and fire, according to Dr. Jennifer Ashton, ABC News chief medical correspondent.

"Certain complementary therapies, even if they haven’t been fully borne out in the medical literature, as long as they’re low risk, if they offer some benefit, like yoga or acupuncture, things like that, then it’s OK," she said. "But anytime you’re talking about a major risk with something that is not FDA cleared or approved, you really need to proceed with caution."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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VisualCommunications/iStock(NEW YORK) -- A yoga enthusiast with a massive Instagram following opened up about about her harrowing medical scare after pushing herself too far doing advanced yoga poses.

In 2017, Rebecca Leigh shared a photo of herself in the hospital to her more than 26,000 Instagram followers, revealing that she had a stroke after tearing an artery in her neck while practicing headstands and handstands.

"I never in a billion years thought I would have a stroke at my age, let alone from doing yoga," she wrote. "Please don’t think I am bashing yoga, I promise I’m not ... But the days of crazy headstands or inversions are over."

"No pose or picture is worth what I have been going through. Don’t be so tempted to push over your limits," she added. "I am living proof that it’s not worth it."

In a new interview with media outlet SWNS, Leigh said she'd suffered from neck pain and migraines in the past but knew this was a different type of pain.

"It was terrifying," she said. “It was like a curtain coming down all around me…my pupils were different sizes…I knew something was very, very wrong.”

At the emergency room, an MRI scan revealed the shocking news. Leigh said she couldn't believe "someone my age, in my health, could have a stroke."

Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Thirty-four percent of people hospitalized for stroke in 2009, the most recent data available, were under age 65.

ABC News' chief medical correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton said there are essentially two types of strokes: strokes caused by bleeding and strokes caused by a clot or a blocked blood vessel.

There have been case reports of the bleeding type of strokes caused by heads in extreme angled positions (such as in a sink at a hair salon or during a chiropractic adjustment) but there have also been cases of dislodged clots from big arteries in the neck from similar positions, Ashton said.

No matter what type of stroke, the symptoms don't differ and are important to look out for, according to Ashton. If you notice face drooping, arm weakness or speech difficulty you should call 911 immediately.

When it comes to extenuating neck positions whether with yoga, chiropractors or at the hair salon, Ashton recommends using common sense. Don't have your neck in extreme angles, don't have someone vigorously rub your neck over the carotid arteries, and understand that although the risk might be small of stroke or injury -- if you don't do it, the risk is even lower.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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Maine Medical Center(PORTLAND, Maine) -- There must be something in the air at Maine Medical Center.

Nine nurses -- all who work in labor and delivery -- are pregnant. And they're all due between April and July this year.

"After each one of us started to say, 'We're pregnant,' I think it was a happier announcement each time, and we're all there for each other," nurse Erin Grenier told ABC News affiliate WMTW-TV.

Eight of the nine pregnant nurses -- Erin Grenier, Rachel Stellmach,Brittney Vervill, Lonnie Souci, Amanda Spear, Samantha Giglio, Nicole Barnes and Holly Selby -- were photographed at the Maine Medical Center, which then posted the photo to their Facebook page.

The photo quickly garnered lots of excited responses for the group.

"It's really nice coming to work and seeing other people who are just as pregnant and watching their bellies pop and just talking about these experiences that we are going through together," nurse Amanda Spear said.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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monkeybusinessimages/iStockBY: DR. LEILA HAGHIGHAT

(NEW YORK) -- “Once upon a time” may be better read on paper than on a screen.

A new study suggests that toddlers interact more with their parents when they read print books compared to electronic versions. The results of the study were published today in the journal Pediatrics.

E-books sell well. The number of Americans who read e-books rose from 17 percent to 28 percent of Americans from 2011 to 2014, according to the Pew Research Center. Compared to print books, they tend to be cheaper and save shelf space.

But it’s just not the same when it comes to small children, said the lead author of the study.

“The print book is really the gold standard in eliciting positive interactions between parents and their children,” Dr. Tiffany Munzer told ABC News. She is a fellow in development behavioral pediatrics at the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. “Our goal with some of the kinds of findings in the study is not to make things harder for parents, but to help them focus on activities that spark interactions with their children where they feel that back-and-forth is really easy.”

She estimates that 30 percent of children read e-books at least once a week.

Dr. Munzer and her colleagues studied 37 pairs of parents and their toddlers. Each pair was videotaped in a lab reading three different stories from the Little Critter series back-to-back. For each story, parents had a 5-minute reading time limit, so results couldn’t be pegged to how long it took them to present the story. There were three book formats in total: an electronic tablet with enhanced visual and sound effects, an electronic tablet without enhanced effects, and a print book with illustrations. The number and types of interactions the families shared -- things like parents asking toddlers questions, telling them what they’re seeing on the page, and encouraging them to point out objects during the storytelling, were then tallied.

Parents had the most engagement with their toddlers in storytelling when they read print books. They also were able to get through more of the story in the five minutes if it was read aloud from a print book. Toddlers, too, made more statements with print books, and non-verbal signs of bonding were greater when print books were read.

When the parents read e-books, they made more statements about how to use the tablet; for instance, how to swipe to the next page or where to push a button.

Why do print books work better for toddlers than e-books?

Dr. Munzer feels the answer lies in the distractions built into e-books, like buttons to press, and its automated replacement of the variety of sounds and explanations that parents would otherwise provide themselves.

“The print book is a really beautiful object in that each parent and child interacts differently over a print book,” said Dr. Munzer. “Parents know their children well and have to make it come alive for their child to create that magic.”

Dr. Leila Haghighat is an internal medicine resident from Yale New Haven Hospital who also works with the ABC News Medical Unit.

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noipornpan/iStock(NEW YORK) -- In 2016, suicide became the second leading cause of death among those aged 10-34, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Nearly 9 percent of young people in grades nine through 12 reported that they had made at least one suicide attempt in the past 12 months, according to data compiled by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP).

Suicide is ranked as the 10th leading cause of death for all ages in the U.S. Since 2006, suicide rates have been increasing by a staggering 2 percent each year.

Talking about suicide, and about mental health more broadly, can make all the difference in raising awareness and helping to prevent it, experts say.

Here are warning signs for suicide, as well as steps people can take to spread awareness and potentially save lives.

Where is help available?

If you are having suicidal thoughts, call someone, anyone: a friend, neighbor, family member, religious figure, hospital, doctor, mental health specialist, the police department or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

It is important to remember you are not alone and people do want to help you, regardless of what you think.

Who is at risk for suicide?

The strongest risk factor for suicide is a previous attempt at suicide, according to the American Psychiatric Association.

Suicide is often linked to mental disorders, particularly depression and alcohol use disorders.

Certain events and circumstances may increase risk for suicide, such as having a psychiatric illness including depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and anxiety disorders.

While depression is a contributory factor for most suicides, it does not need to be present for a suicide to be attempted or completed, according to the AFSP.

Other risk factors for suicide include chronic physical illnesses, family history of suicide, history of exposure to trauma or abuse, recent losses or life stressors, military service, feelings of hopelessness and impulsiveness, misuse of alcohol and drugs and access to lethal means such as firearms, experts say.

Suicide risk also increases with age.

What warning signs should family and friends look for?

Significant changes in behavior are major warning signs that a person, especially one with depression, may be slipping closer to suicide, Dr. Dan Reidenberg, executive director of Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE), told "GMA" last year.

If someone with depression is acting out of character, it is time to ask more questions and get others involved and take action, he explained.

Other changes in behavior that may be red flags are withdrawal from family, friends, work and social activities, a change in activity level, increased anxiety, restlessness or agitation, and a lack of sleep.

"Look and listen for warning signs because it is not as if just one morning someone wakes up and says, 'Today is the day I’m going to do this,'" Reidenberg said. "It happens over time and falls on a continuum."

How can you help a suicidal person?

The most important thing loved ones can do is to be available, experts say.

Being available can mean being there to listen, without judgment, and to check in continually to say something as simple as, "Hi, how are you doing? I'm available and around," explained Reidenberg.

"Reassure them that they are important to you, you want them to be around and want them to be well," he said. "The reassurance that people care by statements and words mean a lot to someone who emotionally is drained from the depression."

Being willing to move past the stigma of speaking about depression is important.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline offers five steps to help someone who may be considering suicide.

1. Ask: There is a common misconception that asking someone if they have or if they are considering killing themselves puts the idea in their head -- it does not. Do not be afraid to ask!

2. Keep them safe: If someone admits to considering suicide, it is important to seek immediate medical attention, especially if they shared their plan with you or have access to firearms.

3. Be there: Listen without judgment and with empathy. Let them know they have a shoulder to lean on when they need.

4. Help them connect: Help them find a support system to reach out to. Support is very important for someone battling the idea of suicide. Those who have attempted to harm themselves are often at risk of another attempt at suicide.

5. Follow up: Following up could mean preventing thoughts of suicide or another attempt.

If you are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741-741. You can reach Trans Lifeline at 877-565-8860 (U.S.) or 877-330-6366 (Canada) and The Trevor Project at 866-488-7386.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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Sasiistock/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Two of the nation’s most prominent health organizations issued a joint policy statement on Monday endorsing widespread public health regulations to help reduce the amount of sugary drinks that kids consume.

The statement, issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and American Heart Association (AHA), will be published in the April issue of Pediatrics. It calls for additional taxes across the country on sugary beverages and limits on marketing of these drinks to children, as well as making drinks like water and milk the default beverages on children’s menu and ensuring access to healthy foods through federal nutrition assistance programs.

“As a nation we have to say ‘no’ to the onslaught of marketing of sugary drinks to our children,” said Rachel K. Johnson, professor emeritus of nutrition at the University of Vermont and former chair of the AHA’s nutrition committee, in a statement. “We know what works to protect kids’ health and it’s time we put effective policies in place that bring down rates of sugary drink consumption just like we’ve done with tobacco.”

Why are sugary drinks bad?

Childhood obesity rates have more than tripled since the 1970s, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and sugary drinks are one of the many factors that have contributed to this rise. Other factors include a lack of physical activity, poor sleep routines, and the overall consumption of higher-calorie, low-nutrition foods.

Sugary beverages are any drinks that contain added sugar. That includes not only most sodas, but fruit drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks, sweetened waters and coffee and tea beverages. There are also many different names for added sugar that might not immediately be apparent but show up on food labels, such as corn syrup, sucrose, and dextrose.

Juices can also be made with added sugars on top of the natural sugars already present in the fruits. They should not be given to kids under a year old and given in limited quantities to toddlers, according to the AAP. Instead of juice, consider eating whole fruits for their maximum nutritional value with fiber.

“For children, the biggest source of added sugars often is not what they eat, it’s what they drink,” Dr. Natalie D. Muth, a pediatrician and lead author of the policy statement, told ABC News.

Muth said that on average, children consume over 30 gallons of sugary drinks each year -- that's a bathtub full of sugar -- and that 17 percent of kids are getting their daily recommended amount of calories from sugary drinks rather than nutrient-dense foods.

“As a pediatrician, I am concerned that these sweetened drinks pose real — and preventable — risks to our children’s health, including tooth decay, diabetes, obesity and heart disease,” Muth said.

In a statement from the American Beverage Association (ABA), the trade group that represents the large non-alcoholic beverage companies, a spokesman told ABC News that “while soda consumption has declined by a third, the obesity rates have increased by a quarter, so if obesity was solely related to soda, it should’ve also gone down if they were directly correlated.”

Will these recommendations make a difference?

One of the AHA and AAP’s strongest recommendations is to introduce taxes on drinks with high sugar content, a move that has already shown success in several cities across the U.S. and other countries.

Berkeley, California, for example, was the first U.S. city to pass a tax on sugary drinks, which went into effect in 2015. In the two years after the tax went into effect, a study found that consumption of sugary drinks fell by 52 percent while water consumption rose by 29 percent. By comparison, there were no significant changes in sugary beverage consumption in San Francisco or Oakland, the two cities closest to Berkeley.

In other areas of public health, such as alcohol abuse and cigarette smoking, the implementation of higher taxes has also led to reductions in their use.

Muth said that the taxes would, in part, go back to the communities being taxed to help improve health. In Philadelphia, for example, she said that the money generated from a soda tax goes to pre-K programs in neighborhoods where people are most likely to buy sugary drinks. Incidentally, these neighborhoods also tend to be ones with lower socioeconomic status, which also tend to be the ones disproportionately targeted in ads for unhealthy foods and drinks.

In their statement, the ABA spokesman said that instead of additional taxes and regulations, “a better way to help reduce the amount of sugar consumers get from beverages...includes putting parents in the driver’s seat to decide what’s best for their children.”

“We are supporting parents who want less sugar in their kids’ diets by creating more drinks than ever before with less or no sugar, as well as smaller portion sizes, and by backing efforts to make water, milk or 100 percent juice the default beverages restaurants serve with children’s meals,” the spokesman continued, adding that it is working to reduce beverage calories consumed by 20 percent by 2025.

The guidelines released Monday are not waiting for the future, though. The AHA and AAP want parents to talk to their kids about healthy drink options and encourage them to drink only milk and water without drinks high in sugar as part of their diets. It’s important to teach kids how to read labels so that they can take initiative with their health.

What can parents do?

Muth recommended three ways parents can help:

· Starting at a young age, make water and milk the only available drinks for your kids. Eliminate sugary drinks at home, if possible, and give kids a fun, refillable water bottle that they can carry with them wherever they go. Parents should be role models by not consuming sugary drinks themselves.

· Teach kids that water and milk are the norm, even when going out to eat.

· Starting at around 7 or 8 years old, kids can start to recognize marketing tactics. Parents should talk to their children about these strategies that companies use to make them buy more drinks.

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(NEW YORK) -- A new device on the market for patients with heart failure is the first device in cardiology to receive a “breakthrough” designation by the Food and Drug Administration.

For many patients with heart failure who are already on the right medications, there’s not much else they can do unless they decide to undergo open-heart surgery to place a mechanical pump inside. However, the new device -- called the Optimizer Smart System and approved by the FDA on March 21 -- can improve advanced stages of the disease by helping the heart squeeze more effectively.

Heart failure is a chronic condition that affects about 6 million people in the United States. As the heart’s ability to pump blood to the rest of the body deteriorates, the heart becomes unable to squeeze, and fluid builds up in the body. This fluid can accumulate in the lungs, causing shortness of breath, or throughout the tissues of the body, causing generalized swelling. About half of people with heart failure die within five years of diagnosis.

The new device is implanted just beneath the skin of the upper chest via a minimally invasive procedure done by cardiologists. It is similar to how a pacemaker or defibrillator is implanted, but entirely different in its function.

During the procedure, electric wires from the device are connected to the heart. The device comes with a battery built into it, which needs to be charged each week by placing a small charger over the chest for one hour.

The device helps the heart through a therapy called “cardiac contractility modulation,” which involves delivering electric impulses to the heart for one-hour periods five times a day. Over time, this changes how proteins responsible for the heart’s ability to pump are made. After months of the therapy, the heart’s function improves.

In a 2018 study, people who used the Optimizer device had a roughly 8 percent lower rate of heart-related death and hospitalizations compared to people who did not receive the device. These patients also tolerated exercise better and reported an improved quality of life.

The device is already being used in Europe. Impulse Dynamics, the company that makes the devices, estimates that 3,000 devices are already being used outside the U.S.

The only known complications of the device thus far are those related to the procedure for placing it inside the body, such as infection and bleeding. However, these are rare and they are the same risks that exist for similar procedures. Further studies are needed to determine long-term effects of the device. “We now have in the armamentarium of the clinician something to treat a significant number of patients who did not have an option before,” Dr. Daniel Burkhoff, the chief medical officer of Impulse Dynamics, told ABC News. “We’re very excited about this opportunity to treat patients.”

Dr. Leila Haghighat is an internal medicine resident at Yale New Haven Hospital who also works with the ABC News Medical Unit.

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(NEW YORK) --  If you’ve read up on Greek mythology, then you might remember that Medusa, with her venomous snake hair and ability to turn her enemies to stone at a glance, was killed by the swift sword of Perseus.

But researchers at the Kyoto University of Science have discovered a way in which she lives on: through a giant virus that lives in hot springs and turns its hosts into “stone.”

The Medusavirus — real name Medusaviridae — is the first of its kind to be discovered in such a hot environment, where temperatures reach 110 degrees.

Along with the virus, which has over 2,000 spikes emanating from its surface, the scientists found evidence that the Medusavirus’ natural host “from ancient times” is an amoeba called Acanthamoeba castellanii. When the amoeba becomes infected, it loses water and hardens in a process called encystment — similar to turning its prey into stone, on a microbiological level at least.

The scientists do not believe humans can become infected by the Medusavirus.

The virus represents a new lineage belonging to a family of nucleocytoplasmic large DNA viruses, all of which contain double-stranded DNA just like humans.

What’s unique about the virus is that, in their study, the scientists found that it has histones, or molecules that are involved in the replication and organization of DNA, “similar to the way one would organize a garden hose around a reel,” Todd Ellerin, director of infectious diseases and vice chair of the Department of Medicine at South Shore Health in Weymouth, Massachusetts, told ABC News.

They also found that there was much overlap between the DNA of the virus and the amoeba, suggesting that the two evolved together, passing DNA back and forth over centuries.

Because of their many unique features, scientists believe these viruses are connected to major transitions in evolution, including DNA replication, a process critical to human life itself. As such, the discovery of this virus is significant in research on evolution.

Ellerin said, “It has a complexity that may help shed light on ancestral origins which could ultimately lead to insights that pose more questions than answers.”

Ashley Knight-Greenfield, MD, is a diagnostic radiology resident and member of the ABC News Medical Unit.

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ABC News(NEW YORK) -- We’ve all heard the clichés “kids these days” or “back in my day.” But while our immediate response might be to tune out or roll our eyes at those who came before us, new research suggests that maybe we should listen — at least when it comes to teens’ use of technology.

That’s because a new study has found that as digital media use has increased among teens who are part of Generation Z, aptly dubbed iGen, so have their feelings of loneliness and depression.

Young people are considered to be people born in 1995 and onward. The study, which looked at teens who were ages 13 to 18, found that after 2011, feelings of loneliness increased sharply, correlating with a rise in digital media use. Today, 95 percent of teens have smartphones compared to 23 percent of teens in 2011.

“Teens are on devices eight to 10 hours a day,” said lead author of the study Dr. Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University and author of “iGen.”

Twenge said that as a whole, teens are looking at their screens more these days and hanging out with their peers less. Studies have found that teens are using digital devices so much that they are interfering with their sleep, too.

For the study, Twenge’s team analyzed data from the Monitoring the Future and American Freshman surveys on teens ages 13 to 18 who were in middle school, high school and entering their first year of college. The nationally representative survey, which has been conducted on teens since 1976 and contains data on over eight million students, asks teens about their daily activities, mood, screen time and feelings of loneliness. It’s latest results showed that teens aren’t socializing as much as they used to — they are going to parties less, dating less, and hanging out with their friends fewer times per week.

Twenge’s study found that high school seniors in 2016 spent an hour less each day engaging in face-to-face interactions compared to their 1980s counterparts. In-person interactions can protect against loneliness, which is a known risk factor for depression.

The study also found slight differences between individual reports of loneliness and the overall average of time spent on digital media. In teens who continued to socialize with friends, there was little apparent effect of digital media on their feelings of loneliness — possibly because they used social media as a tool to connect and hang out with their friends.

By comparison, those who interacted less with others tended to report more feelings of loneliness and higher rates of digital media use. Twenge said it’s possible that the teens who reported being lonely might just be inherently less sociable, so they resort to their own devices for socialization, she emphasized that “online interaction is not the same as in-person social interaction.”

It’s possible to balance social media use in a way that doesn’t negatively affect a person’s mental health, according to Twenge, who said that one to two hours is probably ideal.

Smartphone developers have already provided the tools to make this possible. For example, on many smartphones, you can produce activity reports that allow you to monitor screen time and set limits on the amount of time certain apps are being used.

“Parents should encourage kids to hang out with peers in person, as this is protective against loneliness and depression, and is good for mental health and developing friendships,” Twenge said.

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Scott Olson/Getty Images(NEW YORK) --  The governor of Kentucky isn’t the only notable politician to question the necessity of vaccines, but experts warn that such comments are not happening in a vacuum, and could be exacerbating the confusion.

Gov. Matt Bevin said during a recent radio interview that he and his wife decided to take their nine children to so-called 'pox parties' to expose them to the chicken pox rather than having them vaccinated for the disease, and questioned why such vaccines are mandatory.

"Why are we forcing kids to get it?" Bevin said of the chicken pox vaccine in the interview with WKCT, a radio station in Bowling Green.

"If you are worried about your child getting chickenpox or whatever else, vaccinate your child. ... And in many instances, those vaccinations make great sense. But for some people, and for some parents, for some reason they choose otherwise," he said.

"This is America. The federal government should not be forcing this upon people. They just shouldn’t," Bevin said.

In addition to taking issue with so-called ‘pox parties,’ where parents bring their young children who have not been exposed to chicken pox over to the homes of children who have the disease in order to expose them without having to get the vaccine, Peter Hotez, a vaccine advocate and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, said that there are widespread implications for the governor’s comments.

“I think when the governor makes statements like he did, it erodes public confidence in vaccines,” Hotez said.

“Remember this is not happening in isolation. If this was just a one-off statement, it wouldn’t be so damaging,” he said.

Hotez points to the “almost 500 anti-vaccine websites on the internet” as part of the problem as well.

The misinformation in the digital sphere has been cited as problematic before. When 18-year-old Ethan Lindenberger testified before a Congressional committee on March 5, discussing his experience getting himself vaccinated in spite of his mother’s anti-vaccination beliefs, he said that the misinformation online played a role in her beliefs.

"My mother would turn to anti-vaccine groups online and on social media, looking for her evidence in defense rather than health officials and through clinical sources," Lindenberger said.

Daniel Salmon, the director of the Institute of Vaccine Safety at Johns Hopkins University, told ABC News in January how there are numerous legitimate-looking websites online for anti-vaccination organizations that have names very similar to the acronyms for several valid, official medical associations.

"For me, I know the difference, but the average parent is never going to know the difference. They're pseudo-science," Salmon said, adding, "it’s not a coincidence" that the acronyms for the misinformation campaigns are close to those of valid groups.

“The CDC website has all the information you need but the problem is it’s very difficult for a non-health professional to mine the website,” Hotez said, referring to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Social media platforms are taking some steps to reduce anti-vaccination groups’ online footprint. The Daily Beast reported Friday that GoFundMe is banning anyone raising money to spread misinformation about vaccines from using their platform.

That step comes after Facebook and Instagram announced certain steps that they are taking in the same vein, but Hotez thinks that their efforts, as well as similar steps by Amazon, do not go far enough.

“What Facebook and Amazon are doing are taking cosmetic measures to give the appearance that they care and that they're doing something... but the steps they've taken thus far are meaningless,” he said, adding that the most virulent anti-vaccine voices on social media are still “pervasive.”

Hotez – who has published a pro-vaccine book -- cites the number of “phony books and phony doctors” who have their books available for sale on Amazon, many of which are labeled as best sellers.

“The defense of vaccines in the United States is left to a handful of academics like myself,” he said.

Ruth Carrico, an associate professor in the infectious disease division at the University of Louisville, told ABC News that she was “trying to give [Bevin] the benefit of the doubt” after hearing his statements about whether or not vaccines should be mandatory.

“I think certainly it’s great to live in a country where we have free speech… however I think the message that was conveyed was not a message of public health and certainly not one for the 21st century,” Carrico said.

“I think the responsibility of a governor is to lead the people, and in leading the people you listen to the people and that means not only the general public but you also listen to the scientific evidence,” she said.

“I think that it would be hard to find someone that would disagree with the statement that in the 21st century it is unacceptable for a child or adult to suffer or die from a disease that is vaccine preventable,” she said.

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(NEW YORK) -- Deaths from the drug fentanyl in the United States climbed more than 1,000 percent from 2011 to 2016, according to a report released Thursday.

The number of fatalities involving the powerful synthetic opioid was relatively stable in 2011 and 2012, with roughly 1,600 deaths each of those years. The number began to increase in 2013, reaching just over 1,900 deaths.

Then the death rate doubled each year, skyrocketing to 18,335 overdoses in 2016, according to the report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The findings come just three months after another report published by the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics confirmed that fentanyl, a highly-potent painkiller that can shut down breathing in under a minute, is now the deadliest drug in America.

The latest report analyzed drug overdose deaths involving fentanyl, whether prescription or illicitly manufactured, as well as fatalities involving any fentanyl metabolites, precursors or analogs as identified in death certificates.

The researchers found that, although the overall rates of fentanyl fatalities in the Untied States remain highest among whites, overdose deaths are increasing faster among people of color. Between 2011 and 2016, the number of black Americans dying from fentanyl overdoses jumped 140.6 percent each year, while the country's Hispanic community experienced an increase of 118.3 percent annually, according to the report.

Fentanyl-related death rates between men and women in the United States were similar from 2011 through 2013. But by 2016, men were dying from the drug at nearly three times the rate of women, according to the report.

Last month, a study published in JAMA Network Open revealed that the number of opioid-related deaths in the United States has more than quadrupled in the past 18 years. The opioid epidemic has come in three waves, according to the study, with the third and current wave being tied to the increased use of what the study authors call illicitly manufactured synthetic opioids, including drugs like fentanyl.

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crankyT/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Birth control is used by millions of women but the questions around it are never ending for women -- from whether it will cause cancer or help prevent cancer to whether it can be taken forever or should not be taken at all.

Search “birth control pill” in particular online and you’ll get more than 100 million results. Since it is a pill taken every day by women, women want and deserve clear answers.

ABC News' Good Morning America spoke to three leading women’s health experts to debunk the most common myths about the birth control pill.

All three experts agreed the most important thing for women to know is that birth control is a very personal decision that should be individualized to each woman, under the care of a healthcare practitioner.

Here are five other things to know:

Myth 1: You have to take the pill at the exact same time every day

For most pills, there is no need to set a timer to take the pill at the exact same time down to the minute every day, the experts say.

If you are taking the pill for pregnancy prevention and miss taking it, you can catch up on your pills and still be protected, according to Dr. Alyssa Dweck, a New York-based OBGYN. For example, if you miss taking your pill on Monday and Tuesday, you can take two pills on Wednesday (Monday and Wednesday's pills) and two pills on Thursday (Tuesday and Thursday's pills) and be okay.

If you are just a few hours late taking the pill you may though experience some breakthrough bleeding, noted Dweck.

"There is a lot of wiggle room in terms of pregnancy prevention but the side effects like bleeding can be annoying," she said. "We try to tell people to take the pill at the same time every day so that they’re in the habit of taking the pill."

The one caveat is progestin-only pills, which should be taken within the same 3 hours each day to keep contraceptive coverage ongoing.

Myth 2: You have to stop taking the pill in your late 30s

If women are in good health and don't smoke, they can stay on the pill until menopause. In fact, being on the pill may actually prevent some perimenopause symptoms, according to Dweck.

"This is a big change from even 25 years ago when I first started practicing where we used to say every five years take a break or don’t take it after age 35," she said. "We have so much [research] behind the pill and they are so low dose [estrogen] now that we will keep women on birth control in the right doses until menopause."

Myth 3: Hormonal birth control fixes your hormones and periods

Taking hormonal birth control like the pill can help women with symptoms (like heavy bleeding and irregular periods) but it does not fix their hormone and menstrual cycle issues, according to Jolene Brighten, a Portland, Oregon-based functional medicine naturopathic medical doctor and author of Beyond the Pill.

"I call it 'the pill for every female ill,'" she said. "If a woman has fill in the blank – acne, migraines, headaches, cramps, heavy bleeding – [the pill] is what a lot of doctors go to first, and to their credit it’s because it can help, but in reality it’s just addressing the symptoms."

Brighten gives the example that if a woman has heavy bleeding it could be because of an iron deficiency, or menstrual cramps could be due to a magnesium deficiency. Taking the pill may ease the bleeding but not solve the nutrient deficiencies.

She recommends women come to their doctors armed with quantifiable data, like how often they have to change their tampons and for how many days their heavy bleeding lasts. Women should also be empowered to ask questions, like the type of lab testing they can have done to understand the cause of their symptoms.

"This is all about what is going to work the best for you and at no point should you take a backseat to your reproductive health," she said. "You should always be vigilant."

Myth 4: Taking the pill will hurt your fertility later on

Women who take the pill for 10 years and then go off of it are 10 years older than when they started on the pill, and it is that increase in age more than the pill that affects their fertility, according to Dweck.

In addition, women who take the pill to treat symptoms, like irregular periods, and then go off the pill to try to get pregnant still have the underlying menstrual issue that may affect their fertility, she explained.

"In general, any birth control method you’re on doesn’t impact your fertility because as you stop that method, your fertility comes back," said Dr. Neha Bhardwaj, an OBGYN at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. "I’ve had patients who get pregnant the same day I remove their IUD, for example."

Bhardwaj noted the exception is the birth control shot, or Depo-Provera, because that can delay a woman's fertility by more than three months.

Myth 5: Birth control is one size fits all

"This is not the birth control of your grandmother," said Bhardwaj. "This is a very different birth control formulation and we have a lot of birth control options available."

When the pill first became available, it had three times the estrogen that pills contain today, according to Bhardwaj. The diversity of birth control options now available means women can find the option best tailored to them.

Women can choose birth control pills, in particular, with lower doses of estrogen or ones that are designed to help decrease bloating or prevent acne.

"There is no best birth control," said Bhardwaj, who advises women to find a doctor they are comfortable having open conversations with in order to find the best fit.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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Nastasic/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Marijuana -- still illegal under federal law -- is now fully legal in 10 states and Washington, D.C. Some cities have stopped prosecuting people for possession of marijuana in small amounts.

Some states that have legalized it have everything from medical marijuana to on-demand recreational cannabis delivery.

But new research published in Lancet Psychiatry is a bit of a buzz kill.

Researchers looked at over 900 people with first-time psychotic episodes, the mental health conditions in which people lose touch with reality, across Europe and Brazil. They compared them to people without psychotic disorders, and the results were surprising.

The study found that daily cannabis users were more than three times as likely to end up with a psychotic disorder diagnosis compared to people who had never used the drug. Three out of 100 people will experience psychosis at some time in their lives in general, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

Even more worrisome were results related to THC concentration in marijuana. THC is the main mind-altering component in cannabis, and its concentration in marijuana varies depending on geographic location and source of marijuana. In places where THC in marijuana is over 10 percent, daily marijuana users were almost five times more likely to get a psychotic disorder.

But psychosis after regular marijuana use isn’t common, and not everybody thinks cannabis is so bad.

ABC News spoke with Dr. Corey Jaquez, a Board Certified family medicine physician who conducts evaluations and prescribes medical marijuana in Fairfield, Connecticut.

Jaquez became interested in medical cannabis out of a desire to help veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, especially the ones for whom existing medications failed.

“I’ve only had a handful of instances where patients had psychotic symptoms in the last 6 years,” he explained. “They were mostly people with other psychiatric illnesses who thought they could stop their meds and manage it strictly with cannabis.”

But for those who benefit from cannabis, the benefit is significant, Jaquez notes.

“They can do a 180. I took care of veteran who had to drop out of college because her PTSD was so bad. With cannabis, she returned to college and showed up to my office smiling the day she got into law school,” he said.

Robin Murray is a professor at the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College in London, and an author of the Lancet Psychiatry study.

“Regular marijuana isn’t what it used to be,” Murray told ABC News. “I’ve been a psychiatrist since the 1970’s, but I didn’t care about cannabis until the 2000’s. We’ve seen a lot more psychotic people smoking cannabis since the potency of THC starting going up -- from 6 percent to 14 percent -- over the last 10 years.”

The most surprising results from the study, according to Murray, were the big differences in the number of new cases of psychosis in different regions.

“It was four to five times higher in South London and Amsterdam than in some places in southern Europe. They smoke less cannabis there and it’s pretty much the old [lower THC] stuff,” he said.

Murray recommends that people use the results of the study to make healthy choices.

“If you have to smoke marijuana,” he said, “don’t smoke it so often, and go back to the traditional [lower THC] stuff. Just like alcohol, do it in moderation. A glass of wine or lager per day is different thank drinking a bottle of vodka every night.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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Uniquestock/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Hot drinks like coffee or tea get us going every morning, and when you’re tired from just waking up, they can’t go down fast enough. A new study, however, suggests that we might want to let them cool a bit before guzzling them down.

The study, published on Wednesday in the International Journal of Cancer, found that people who drank more than three cups of tea at a temperature over 140 degrees increased their risk of developing squamous cell esophageal cancer by about 90 percent. This type of cancer affects the cells lining the esophagus and causes them to replicate uncontrollably.

For people who drank fewer than three cups of tea per day or who drank any amount of cooler tea, the risk of esophageal cancer did not appear to worsen. For reference, hot beverages are frequently served at temperatures between 160 degrees and 185 degrees, according to a 2008 study.

“We’re not asking people not to drink coffee or tea,” said Dr. Farhad Islami, scientific director of cancer surveillance research at the American Cancer Society and lead author of the new study. “It’s not hard advice to follow.”

The association between hot beverages and esophageal cancer isn’t new, but this is the first study of its size to track people in real time and analyze the specific temperatures of a hot drink. In 2016, the World Health Organization issued a statement saying that “drinking very hot beverages probably causes cancer of the [esophagus] in humans,” but definitive evidence was lacking at the time.

Islami’s study looked at 50,000 Iranians who drank tea. Each participant was surveyed about their tea-drinking habits, including how often they drank tea. Then, they were given a cup of scalding hot tea and asked to tell researchers when the tea reached their preferred temperature as it cooled down. These temperatures were assumed to be how the participants drank their tea for the time in which they were followed for the study -- an average of 10 years. At the end of the study, the researchers compared drink temperatures to rates of esophageal cancer.

The exact reasons esophageal cancer might be linked to hot drinks aren’t entirely clear, Islami said, but there are some potential explanations. For one, the heat may cause chronic inflammation in the esophagus, which can damage the DNA in cells and lead to cancer. Another possibility is that the hot drinks might burn off the lining of the esophagus, which results in the body regenerating those cells and increases the chances that they grow with mutations -- a cancer risk.

Countries with the highest rates of esophageal cancer tend to be those that drink tea heavily, such as Malawi, Mongolia, Kenya, Bangladesh and China.

Esophageal cancer accounts for over 15,000 deaths each year in the U.S. and is more common among men than women. It’s also quite deadly; less than 20 percent of people with the cancer live past five years after their diagnosis. There is also no screening available for the cancer.

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Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Actress Emilia Clarke, better known as Daenerys Targaryen on the hit HBO show Game of Thrones, revealed that she had survived two brain aneurysms while filming the show’s early seasons in an essay published in The New Yorker on Thursday.

She said that in 2011, after wrapping up the first season of the show, she had been working out at the gym when she suddenly developed a headache. She said it was “as though an elastic band were squeezing my brain.”

Although Clarke tried ignoring it, she said that it persisted and that she eventually had to be rushed to a hospital, where doctors diagnosed her with two aneurysms, one of which burst open. Doctors were able to treat that one with minimally invasive surgery.

The other one, however, became a problem in 2013. During a routine brain scan monitoring the aneurysm, she said she discovered that it had doubled in size. She thought that she would be undergoing a procedure that was less invasive than the first but in the middle of it, the aneurysm burst and Clarke had to undergo open-brain surgery, which she was fortunate enough to recover from.

“In my years since my second surgery I have healed beyond my most unreasonable hopes,” she said.

Clarke’s story stands out not only because of her fame but also because her experiences with brain aneurysms are somewhat rare. How so? Here’s what you should know about brain aneurysms:

Brain aneurysms are relatively common, but few actually cause serious problems

A brain aneurysm occurs when a blood vessel in the brain has a weak spot that causes it to bulge and fill with blood. There are three types of aneurysms, with each developing for different reasons: some develop at the branch points of the blood vessels, others because of abnormalities in the blood vessel walls and still others because of an infection.

Most don’t ever cause symptoms. But when the blood vessel grows in size, the aneurysm can compress nerves and cause stroke-like symptoms. Other symptoms include vision changes, numbness, or weakness.

The aneurysm becomes a bigger problem when the blood vessel bursts -- this causes bleeding in the brain known as a subarachnoid hemorrhage, which is what Clarke experienced. These usually happen suddenly and cause terrible headaches.

Like many others who’ve described these headaches, Clarke said hers was “shooting, stabbing, constricting” and that “at some level, I knew what was happening: my brain was damaged.”

Bleeding in the brain can also cause nausea, vomiting, neck stiffness, light sensitivity, seizures, difficulty speaking or loss of conscious. It can also result in stroke or even death. In fact, in 2015, WABC-TV reporter Lisa Colagrossi died of a brain aneurysm at age 49.

About 4 percent of the population has a brain aneurysm at some time in their life, but far less have aneurysms that burst -- about 30,000 Americans each year. Brain aneurysms typically occur between the ages of 30 and 60 and are more common among women. About 20 to 30 percent of people who have aneurysms also end up with more than one.

Personal habits and hereditary diseases can increase risk for aneurysms

Some risk factors that can increase a person’s chance of developing a brain aneurysm include smoking, alcohol use, recreational drug use and high blood pressure. A variety of inherited diseases can raise the risk, too, including polycystic kidney disease, fibromuscular dysplasia, aortic coarctation, arteriovenous malformations and a connective tissue disease called Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. Even having a family history of brain aneurysms can increase the risk of forming a brain aneurysm.

There are two main treatments for aneurysms that cause symptoms

Aneurysms are diagnosed with brain imaging tests, such as an MRI or CT scan, which is commonly referred to as a CAT scan. Sometimes, aneurysms are accidentally picked up on scans ordered for other reasons. When an aneurysm is small or does not cause symptoms, repeat imaging is recommended every year to make sure the aneurysm isn’t growing.

There are two main treatments for aneurysms that are either causing symptoms or large in size. The more common treatment is called coiling, and it involves a doctor guiding a catheter through the groin up to the brain, where they release metal coils that plug up the aneurysm. This is the preferred method because it is less invasive. The other treatment, called clipping, requires open-brain surgery and involves closing the aneurysm with a metal clip.

The risk of death is high if an aneurysm bleeds

Many people with aneurysms live a long, full life and never even know it was there. If an aneurysm is discovered before symptoms, the treatments are effective. However, once an aneurysm bursts, the prognosis is grave. Twenty-five percent of people with a ruptured aneurysm don’t survive the first 24 hours after it happens, while another 25 percent die within the first six months of the rupture. Those who survive, meanwhile, are likely to suffer lifelong, permanent neurological damage.

Most people don’t have to worry about having a brain aneurysm

There is no formal recommendation for screening for brain aneurysms because of the low risk an aneurysm in the brain will burst, the risks associated with treatment and the anxiety that finding an aneurysm can provoke. That said, people with a first-degree relative or medical condition known to increase risk for brain aneurysms can consider getting screened.

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