Health Headlines

artisteer/iStockBy NICOLE PELLETIERE, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Safety experts are warning families of children being more exposed to poisonous household items, as COVID-19 has brought an abundance of disinfectants and sanitizing products into homes.

According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data, there was an increase in accidental poisonings since the start of the pandemic, with the AAPCC reporting 21,074 hand sanitizer exposure cases reported to 55 poison control centers. These cases took place from Jan. 1, 2020, through Aug. 2, 2020, a rate nearly 70% higher compared to the same time period during 2019.

Emily Samuel, program director at the nonprofit child safety organization Safe Kids Worldwide, said the heightened numbers are likely due to consumer demand for household cleaners, disinfectants and hand sanitizers during COVID-19. In addition, more people are home and balancing remote work, child care and homeschooling.

"So it is likely that the combination of balancing these priorities, more cleaning products in the home and gaps in supervision are leading to an increase in the number of calls to poison control centers related to young children getting into cleaning products," she told Good Morning America.

Here are Samuel's tips on how to avoid accidental poisonings.

1. Store household products out of children’s reach and sight. Young kids are often eye-level with items on counters and under kitchen and bathroom sinks. Keep cleaning supplies, laundry packets, hand sanitizers and personal care products where children can’t reach.

2. Keep household products in their original containers, and read product labels. Use and store products according to the product label. Kids can get into things quickly, so remember not to leave cleaning products or personal care products unattended while you are using them.

3. Store the Poison Control help number in your phone, and post it visibly inside your home:
1-800-222-1222. Specialists at poison control centers provide free, confidential, expert medical advice 24 hours a day. They can answer questions and help with possible poison emergencies.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Buggie HuggieBy THE GMA TEAM, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Nichole Clark ran into a problem familiar to many moms when she would take her middle son, Jonah, now 4, shopping with her.

"When we would go to the store, just getting him in the shopping cart would be a wrestling match," Clark told Good Morning America. "Then it would take just three seconds for him to lean out and reach for something, or I could turn my head and he was already one leg out [of the cart]."

When Jonah fell out of a shopping cart for the third time, hitting his head, Clark, also mom to 8- and 2-year-old sons, decided to find a solution.

"I just had this idea: What if we had something that went around him that would keep him safe inside the cart?" she said. "I thought if there was a tray that fit around him, and then he had place for his snacks and I could put some toys out for him to be entertained."

With that idea in mind, Clark got to work with her husband and father-in-law designing a shopping cart safety seat for her to use with Jonah.

When Clark went out with Jonah using the seat, she said she quickly learned she was not the only mom facing the same issue of shopping cart safety.

"As moms you take on this guilt, like you're the only one with this problem, that you're the only one who can't corral your kid," she said. "The more I went out the more I realized that other moms had this problem ... other moms would stop me and say, 'Where did you get this?'"

Inspired by the need, Clark, a stay-at-home mom and homeschool teacher to her sons, decided to keep perfecting the safety seat so she could help other moms.

Less than two years after Clark and her husband, Jeff, started building a safety seat for their son in their garage, they launched their company, Buggie Huggie.

Their $39.95 Buggie Huggie shopping cart tray is a portable tray that goes around the child and clips on to the shopping cart. It can fit children up to 50 pounds and then collapses to fit into a diaper bag, according to Clark.

"Immediately when a mom sees the product, they get it," she said. "I've had that expectation all along, that this will bring peace to moms and will bring safety to kids."

Between 2008 to 2008, there were more than 100,000 emergency department-treated injuries associated with shopping carts to children younger than the age of 5, according to data shared by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

The CPSC cites falls from shopping carts as among the leading causes of head injuries to young children, and recommends that parents keep children restrained by a seatbelt in the cart seat.

Buggie Huggie states on its website that the product has "passed all testing requirements" with the CPSC.

The product, which is now available online, is described by Clark as being "something really beautiful" that came out of her family's difficulty. Jonah, who sparked the idea for the invention, and his brothers all played important roles in bringing Buggie Huggie to life, according to Clark.

"The kids have been a big part of it the whole time," she said. "They're excited too."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Children's Healthcare of AtlantaBy GENEVIEVE SHAW BROWN, ABC News

(ATLANTA) -- Reunited and it feels so good for these tiny twin sisters.

Four-month-olds Justice and Journee Altidor have spent much of their short lives apart. But now, just in time for the holidays, they're together once more.

"It's a dream come true to have them reunited. I can't imagine the separation anxiety they probably experienced being separated as soon as they were born," their mother, Emanuella Altidor, told Good Morning America.

Prior to birth, Justice was diagnosed with a heart abnormality, a double aortic arch. She has been followed by cardiologists at the Children's Healthcare of Atlanta Heart Center since. She underwent her first open heart surgery at just 11 days old to repair her heart defect.

Despite surgery, she continued to experience trouble breathing from her collapsed airway and was placed on a ventilator. She needed an additional surgery, a 3D tracheal splint surgery.

On Oct. 6, Justice became what Children's believes to be the youngest person ever to undergo this surgery. Only 30 have ever been done nationwide. The procedure involves surgically implanting a 3D printed Airway Support Device.

"Justice's future is bright," said Dr. April Landry, pediatric otolaryngologists at Children's, who was one of two doctors to perform the surgery. "She will continue to be followed closely to monitor her breathing and eating, but she is expected to have a normal childhood."

She called part of the procedure "humbling. With this technology, we are able to achieve outcomes that would not have been possible even five years ago."

The girls' mom said they "feed off of each other's energy."

"When one is happy and playful the other does the exact same thing," Altidor told GMA. "Unfortunately, it also is true for crying too."

With Justice finally home with her family, the family is looking forward to the upcoming holidays.

"We are looking forward to capturing all of their first moments together," their mom said. "We love the holidays so we have a special outfits for every occasion."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


vladm/iStockBy LAURA ROMERO, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- As coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in the U.S. continue to set new records, blood centers and hospitals are sounding the alarm again over a shortage of donations amid the ongoing closure of schools, colleges and other collection locations.

Blood donations are not only important for conducting important surgeries and treating those with serious illness, but also affect the ability to harvest convalescent plasma, an antibody-rich serum made from the blood of recovering COVID patients that is used to treat those who are seriously ill.

According to America's Blood Centers, 13 community blood centers have a one-day supply or less while 22 centers have a two-day supply or less. The organization has 59 community blood centers across the country.

The issue is particularly acute in the rural healthcare system, where medical facilities rely on blood to stabilize patients while they are transferred to other facilities.

In New York alone, high schools and colleges account for 75,000 donations each school year.

“Across our state and country, we are seeing an alarmingly low supply of blood,” said Dr, Joan Uehlinger, the director of transfusion medicine at Montefiore Health System, in a statement released by the New York Blood Center.

To prepare for the winter, a typically slow season for blood donations, the Blood Center has partnered with hospitals to increase donations. Currently, in New York, donations are at just 65% of pre-pandemic levels, well below what is needed by hospitals.

“Giving blood was as easy as skipping chemistry,” Andrea Cefarelli, senior executive director at the New York Blood Center, told ABC News. “But with school and college campuses closed as well as other locations like places of worship, there is a chronic deficit between what we need and how many people are giving blood.”

Cefarelli said she is concerned that hospitals may cancel elective surgeries, a step they took in the spring amid the initial surge in cases.

Dr. Justin Juskewitch, a clinical pathologist at Mayo Clinic, echoed similar concerns about "individuals who have cancer, individuals who need to undergo surgeries, trauma patients.”

“These are individuals who require blood transfusions," Juskewitch said. "There’s a lot of need.”

Versiti, a healthcare organization that supplies blood in Wisconsin, Indiana and Michigan is reporting a shortage in blood supply and convalescent plasma as well (a treatment for severely ill COVID-19 patients made from the blood of those who recovered).

Last week, the organization issued an urgent plea to coronavirus survivors to donate.

Even though the company started collecting plasma early on, Dr. Dan Waxman, the vice president of transfusion medicine and senior medical officer at Versiti, told ABC News that about a month ago, distribution started to increase beyond what the company is collecting.

“We’ve had to bring in plasma from other parts of the country to meet the needs of hospitals,” said Waxman. “It’s a real problem. The demand just in the last three to four weeks has shot up exponentially.”

Paul Sullivan, the senior vice president at the American Red Cross told ABC News that the organization is also seeing a "significant" shortage of convalescent plasma.

"We are sending convalescent plasma to our hospitals at a rate faster than we're collecting it," Sullivan told ABC News. "So we need to obviously turn that around. Demand is high and we need more people to come out to our blood drives."

For Dr. Jay Bhatt, a practicing internist and ABC News contributor, doctors are having to “think creatively” about blood supply to have enough for patients in need.

“The wave of blood supply shortages we are seeing is deeply concerning and pushing caregivers to the brink of not having a vital substance to save lives,” Bhatt said. “We can't sustain more cases.”

In Delaware, Beebe Healthcare announced a partnership with the Blood Bank of Delmarva to make up for the shortfall caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The healthcare system’s CEO, Dr. David Tam, said he is concerned about the impact blood shortages have on rural healthcare systems. He said they depend on blood to stabilize patients who are later transferred to a place with a higher level of care.

Mobile donations at the Blood Bank of Delmarva are at just 43% of pre-pandemic levels.

“Having worked in emergency rooms and trauma rooms for many years, I know there are situations where you can use your entire hospital blood supply on one patient,” said Tam. “Everyone needs to donate.”

“Blood is necessary,” said Tam. “It saves lives.”

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


simon2579/iStockBy LUIS MARTINEZ, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- Gen. Gustave Perna, who is leading Operation Warp Speed's effort to distribute coronavirus vaccines nationwide, told ABC News he is confident that vaccines will be "on the street" and headed to communities just 24 hours after being authorized by the Food and Drug Administration.

While the first two vaccines to be distributed will likely be from Pfizer and Moderna, Alex Azar, the U.S. secretary of health and human affairs, described the news from Astra Zeneca's clinical trials as "very promising" and noted that the company's vaccine is already being produced in the country so it too can be ready for distribution once authorized by the FDA.

Perna and Azar made their comments in exclusive interviews with ABC News' correspondent Bob Woodruff during a visit to Operation Warp Speed's offices at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

"The news from Astra Zeneca and Oxford, is very important, and of course, very promising," Azar told Woodruff.

According to Azar, the drugmaker is already producing mass quantities of the vaccine in the U.S. as part of a $1.2 billion support plan announced by HHS. Under the deal, Astra Zeneca will have to provide 300 million doses of its vaccine in the U.S. once the vaccine is authorized by the FDA.

The parallel manufacturing of the vaccines -- while clinical trials are underway to measure their effectiveness -- is a hallmark of Operation Warp Speed's plan to make large quantities of a coronavirus vaccine quickly available in the country.

"We're going to be ready to distribute vaccines within 24 hours" after they receive emergency use authorization from the FDA, Perna told Woodruff.

Last week, Pfizer applied for authorization from the FDA and a hearing date was set for Dec. 10 to discuss the vaccine's possible authorization.

Perna believes the FDA's authorization, which he calls "D-Day," could occur between Dec. 10 and Dec. 14. Once it's authorized, he said, "24 hours later, vaccines are on the street."

At that point, the six million doses of Pfizer's vaccine will begin being distributed to 64 jurisdictions, the 50 states, eight territories and six metropolitan cities.

Perna said, "3 million we'll send out, the other 3 million we'll send out 21 days later because we want to make sure the second dose is available for everybody."

An additional 400,000 doses will be kept in reserves for any unforeseen circumstances.

"Pfizer's going to distribute it directly down to our administration sites," Perna said. "They're going to use FedEx and UPS to get it there. They know how to do this. They do it all the time."

Separately, Operation Warp Speed will send large vaccine kits, for up to 975 doses, containing needles, syringes, alcohol swabs, face masks and face shields needed to administer the vaccine. Most importantly, the kits will include cards for those receiving the vaccine, reminding them to get a second dose of the vaccine in three weeks.

When authorized by the FDA, the vaccine made by Moderna will be included within smaller kits, with similar materials, for up to 100 doses that will be transported by the McKesson Corporation to administration sites.

Azar expressed confidence that there will be no changes to Operation Warp Speed under Joe Biden's administration.

"It won't change anything about the process because we will ensure a professional cooperative effective transition," Azar said.

He noted that the personnel at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health, FDA, U.S. Department of Defense and HHS involved in Operation Warp Speed are all career people.

"They don't change, they're the same people on Jan. 19, as they are on Jan. 21," he said.

"We will ensure continuity, and by then -- by the time of any transition -- we believe many tens of millions of Americans will already have been vaccinated, and the mission of the next administration will be to simply not mess up what we've got going," Azar said.

As to whether Biden has information about the vaccines right now, Azar said "he and all Americans have it already, we have been completely transparent" about all of their plans.

Azar said he will take any of the vaccines as soon as he is allowed to do so, to show "the American people, the unvarnished confidence in the integrity and independence of the process."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


enviromantic/iStockBy DR. L. NEDDA DASTMALCHI, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- For decades, doctors have been searching for a surefire way to prevent atrial fibrillation, an abnormal heart rhythm that can prove fatal. Now, a new, high-quality study has ruled out two possible contenders: vitamin D and fish oil supplements.

The trial, called VITAL-Rhythm, took center stage at a recent virtual conference of the American Heart Association (AHA), the nation's largest professional organization of doctors who focus on the heart and cardiovascular system.

"Atrial Fibrillation is a very common condition and is hard to treat," said Dr. Christine Albert, the study's lead author and chair of the Department of Cardiology in the Smidt Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai. "There are an estimated 33 million people in the world with atrial fibrillation."

Atrial Fibrillation is not benign, she explained. If left untreated, it can lead to serious health consequences such as stroke, heart attacks, heart failure, dementia, and even death. Although early, less reliable studies hinted that vitamin D and fish oil might help, doctors said this new study shows they don't make a difference.

Doctors said it's a relief to see high-quality evidence like this, because it means they can focus on new research frontiers, and avoid prescribing unnecessary pills to their patients.

Prior studies identified a possible link between these supplements and atrial fibrillation rates, but it wasn't clear if these differences were caused by the supplements themselves, or by some other unexplained factor, such as lifestyle choices.

Albert and her research team embarked on a massive study comprised of 25,000 volunteers, who would be randomly selected to receive vitamin D, fish oil or a placebo pill.

Dr. Erin Michos, the director of women's cardiovascular health and the associate director of preventive cardiology at the Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease at Johns Hopkins University Medical Center, said the study received praise at this year's American Heart Association conference because it was a high-quality study that included diverse volunteers. This means that the findings are applicable regardless of race and gender.

"They studied vitamin D at 2000 IU per day compared to placebo, while simultaneously studying 840 milligrams a day of marine Omega-3s vs placebo. This was a randomized clinical trial and blinded, so participants did not know whether they were taking a supplement or placebo," Michos said.

Historically, large trials have been victim to underrepresentation and lack of diversity, making it difficult for clinicians to apply these trials to their true patient population. This study, meanwhile, represented a larger population of African Americans and women.

Michos said that the importance of having a strong representation of African Americans in this trial was critical. Many have a lower blood levels of vitamin D as a result of darker skin pigmentation, which leads to poor absorption of UVB light, which is necessary to create active vitamin D and utilize its benefits.

"I actually applaud the study investigators for their efforts in diversity in this trial," Michos said. "Twenty percent enrollment of Blacks means they were overrepresented relative to their proportion in the U.S. population."

In addition, Michos said that women are frequently underrepresented in cardiovascular trials, which usually limits doctors' understanding of whether a drug or treatment will work just as well in women as it does in men.

"However, this was not the case in VITAL- Rhythm trial," Michos said. "The VITAL trial enrolled 51% women."

In recent years, research has shown a behavioral shift among some Americans toward a rise in the consumption of supplements: an estimated 120 billion dollar industry.

But researchers say the true health benefits of supplements are often overstated.

"For the vast majority of supplements, there does not appear to be any benefit. Again, more is not better if one does not have a nutritional deficiency. Some high dose supplements can even cause harm," Michos said.

The evidence is growing that supplements do not prevent primary or repeated cardiovascular disease. Another study debut at AHA, the OMEMI trial, showed no benefit in adding marine n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids supplements to prevent a second heart attack.

But what has been shown, repeatedly, is the benefit of diet and exercise in preventing, or at times even reversing, conditions like atrial fibrillation.

"We tend to look for the magic nutrient so we do not have to eat good food," Albert said.

Albert said the most effective prevention is maintaining a healthy weight, reducing alcohol intake to 1-2 drinks per day and maintaining a healthy blood pressure.

Michos agreed -- she advised that a healthy lifestyle and dietary behaviors can prevent not only atrial fibrillation, but cardiac disease overall.

"Moderate exercise, following a healthy diet, maintaining a normal weight can decrease the risk of atrial fibrillation. I think the individuals would be better served by saving their money on supplements, which have not been shown to work, and instead focus their time and money on activities that promote a healthy lifestyle," she said.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


katleho Seisa/iStockBy DR. MOLLY STOUT, ABC News

(NEW YORK) --  Blue, white and red are not just the colors we've been seeing everywhere due to the recent U.S. election -- you may be seeing these colors on your fingers and toes due to the cooling temperatures. It's a medical condition called Raynaud's syndrome.

Although Raynaud's is not life-threatening, if you notice your fingers or toes turning red, white and blue this winter, you should speak to your dermatologist. For some, Raynaud's is the first sign of an underlying illness, and there may be lifestyle changes and medical treatments that can help.

What is Raynaud's syndrome?

Raynaud's occurs when blood vessels in the fingers or toes suddenly narrow or spasm, leading to a blue discoloration, followed by a sharply demarcated pale white discoloration, and finally, a red discoloration. It can often be symmetric, affecting fingers on both hands. The phenomenon was first described by the 19th century French medical student Maurice Raynaud.

"It's really an exaggerated cold response: When our body is cold it's normal for our blood vessels at the periphery, such as in our fingers, to narrow to conserve core body heat," said Dr. Emily Kiemig, a dermatologist and assistant professor at Northwestern's Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, who specializes in connective tissue and autoimmune diseases of the skin, and frequently cares for patients with Raynaud's.

"It's normal for fingers to turn a little blue when we're in a cold environment," she said, but when someone has Raynaud's, their blood vessels narrow, even at modestly cool temperatures, and remain clamped for long periods of time. Once the blood vessels return to a normal caliber, "blood flow rushes back in and the fingers will turn red."

In the U.S., we are entering Raynaud's season. The phenomenon is classically triggered by cold, but can also occur with vibration or emotional stress. It has been described occupationally in people who operate weed whackers and jackhammers.

Raynaud's can be split into two categories: Primary Raynaud's, also called Raynaud's disease, and Secondary Raynaud's, when the changes occur in the context of an underlying condition.

"On a personal note, I have Raynaud's, and the first time I noticed it, I was in the freezing library studying for medical school exams," Keimig said, "turns out, stress combined with cold can be a potent Raynaud's trigger as well."

I think I may be experiencing Raynaud's, how do I know for sure?

The appearance of Raynaud's is often alarming. A starkly white finger or group of white fingers in response to cold is typically the herald sign.

"Some physicians say you need to see all three colors, while some say you need just need to have the blue and the white, without the redness," Kiemig said.

For those who suffer from Raynaud's, it's not only the winter months that trigger flares, sometimes even a trip to the frozen aisle of the grocery store on a summer day is enough to bring it on.

Symptoms of Raynaud's may include numbness, tingling, discomfort and even throbbing pain. People who develop ulcers at the tips of the fingers should seek timely medical evaluation as breaks in the skin can lead to infection.

I think I have Raynaud's, what should I do next?

"The first thing to do if you notice the changes of Raynaud's is not to panic," Keimig said. Fortunately, the vast majority of people with Raynaud's have the primary version and do not have to worry about an underlying disease.

Flareups typically last 15 to 20 minutes, and gradually go away as you warm up.

"There is really no gold standard testing for Primary Raynaud's, such as X-rays or blood tests," Keimig said.

People who notice this phenomenon should bring it up to their primary care doctor or dermatologist, as conditions that go along with Secondary Raynaud's may be silent and Raynaud's may in fact be the first warning sign. These conditions include autoimmune diseases such as systemic sclerosis, dermatomyositis and lupus, which can have devastating effects on the entire body. Dr. Keimig specializes in such diseases, and frequently sees patients with Raynaud's disease in her clinic who are undergoing evaluation for another underlying disease.

I've been diagnosed with Raynaud's, what's next?

"If you've been diagnosed with Primary Raynaud's, there are a few lifestyle modifications that are important because it doesn't take a lot to trigger it. You don't necessarily need a polar vortex to bring this on," Kiemig said.

Keimig encourages all her patients with Raynaud's to dress in layers, and "literally put gloves in your car's glove compartment." Patients with Raynaud's should even consider having an insulator koozie or putting gloves on when holding a cold beverage.

"Don't forget to keep the core warm," Keimig said, since the whole reason the phenomenon occurs is because the body is trying to conserve its central body heat to help keep its vital organs working.

For those with Raynaud's flares, Keimig recommends immersing hands in warm -- not hot -- water, or running tap water.

"You don't want to develop a thermal burn," she cautioned.

Finally, those who smoke cigarettes should consider quitting, as nicotine can be damaging to the blood vessels.

Your doctor may also take a look at your medications as certain stimulants and chemotherapeutics can trigger Raynaud's disease.

How is Raynaud's treated?

The first thing you should do to keep from getting Raynaud's flareups is avoiding triggers.

If symptoms do develop, your primary care doctor may prescribe you a medication. Blood pressure medications have been repurposed due to their effect on relaxing the blood vessels in fingers.

"The basis of all treatments for Raynaud's is to relax the peripheral blood vessels," Kiemig said.

Calcium channel blockers are a class of blood pressure medication most frequently used to treat stubborn Raynaud's. Others, such as topical nitroglycerin paste, sildenafil and certain antidepressants, can also be helpful.

"All these medications need to be prescribed by a physician familiar with Raynaud's and the side effects of the medications," Keimig said.

For patients with very severe Raynaud's, who have ulcerations, Botox injections can even be helpful.

"Botox blocks the signal from the nerve endings to the blood vessels, so they never get the signal to clamp up," Kiemig said.

Botox injections can be performed by hand surgeons or dermatologists for Raynaud's patients with unrelenting ulcerations and infections. Rarely, a procedure called a sympathectomy can be used to block the nerve signals as well.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Bill Oxford/iStockBy MORGAN WINSOR, ABC News

(LONDON) -- U.K.-based pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca and England's University of Oxford announced Monday that late-stage trials show their COVID-19 vaccine was up to 90% effective in preventing the disease.

The results are based on interim analysis of phase 3 trials in the United Kingdom and Brazil, which looked at two different dosing regimens. One regimen showed vaccine efficacy of 90% when the drug, called AZD1222, was given as a half dose, followed by a full dose at least one month apart. A second regimen showed 62% efficacy when given as two full doses at least one month apart. The combined analysis from both dosing regimens showed an average efficacy of 70%, according to press releases from AstraZeneca and Oxford.

There were a total of 131 COVID-19 cases in the analysis, and no hospitalizations or severe cases of the disease were reported in participants receiving the vaccine candidate, according to the press releases.

"These findings show that we have an effective vaccine that will save many lives," Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group and chief investigator of the Oxford vaccine trial, said in a statement Monday. "Excitingly, we’ve found that one of our dosing regimens may be around 90% effective and if this dosing regime is used, more people could be vaccinated with planned vaccine supply."

AstraZeneca, which has promised not to profit from the vaccine "for the duration of the pandemic," said it will now immediately prepare to submit the data to regulators around the world -- including in the United Kingdom, Europe and Brazil -- that have framework in place for conditional or early approval. The company will also seek an emergency use listing from the World Health Organization for an accelerated pathway to vaccine availability in low-income nations.

Meanwhile, Oxford said it is submitting the full analysis of the interim results for independent scientific peer review and publication.

"Today marks an important milestone in our fight against the pandemic," AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot said in a statement Monday. "This vaccine’s efficacy and safety confirm that it will be highly effective against COVID-19 and will have an immediate impact on this public health emergency."

Clinical trials of AZD1222 are also being conducted in the United States, Japan, Russia, South Africa, Kenya and Latin America, with planned studies in other European and Asian countries. In total, AstraZeneca said it expects to enroll up to 60,000 participants globally.

The company said it is "making rapid progress in manufacturing" and expects to produce up to 3 billion doses of AZD1222 in 2021 on a rolling basis, pending regulatory approval. The vaccine can be stored, transported and handled at normal refrigerated conditions for at least six months and administered within existing health care settings.

"The vaccine’s simple supply chain and our no-profit pledge and commitment to broad, equitable and timely access means it will be affordable and globally available, supplying hundreds of millions of doses on approval," Soriot said.

The U.K. government has already placed orders for 100 million doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine candidate, along with 40 million doses of another developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, which has shown in a phase 3 trial to have 95% efficacy with no serious safety concerns to date.

Pfizer and BioNTech announced Friday that they had submitted a request to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for emergency use authorization of their COVID-19 vaccine candidate.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(IOWA CITY, Iowa) -- An Iowa nurse working on the same hospital floor where her father was being treated for COVID-19 is warning others in hopes to stop the spread and heartbreak caused by the novel coronavirus.

Bridget Otto is an intensive care unit nurse at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics' dedicated hospital for treating COVID-19 patients. Otto's dad, Dwight Doughan, tested positive Sept. 19.

Doughan was intubated and placed on a ventilator before being flown to the hospital where his daughter works.

"I was terrified because I had been watching this at the bedsides in the ICU since March," Otto, of Iowa City, told Good Morning America. "It was a relief having him stay at one of the top hospitals in the state so if he didn't make it, I knew we had tried everything."

Doughan, 69, is a father of three, husband to Conni Doughan and grandfather of four. He is a corn and soybean farmer and was getting ready for harvest when he became infected.

Otto said her father is physically active and had no prior medical issues.

"He just should not have be the person who got as sick as he did," she added. "It shows that this virus does not discriminate."

Otto said her "brilliant" coworkers have kept her up-to-date on her father's status and that she knows they're providing him top-notch care.

"It would've been a conflict of interest, so I mentally had to keep a distance and take patients on the opposite side of the unit," she said. "I wanted to still be able to do my job."

While on the ventilator, Doughan was sedated for weeks to minimize the traumatic experience, Otto said. He's now improving, and his tracheostomy tube was recently removed.

On Nov. 10, Otto took to Facebook and shared a public PSA on what it's like to have a loved one fight the virus.

"I try to remind myself that the general public cannot grasp how truly terrible it is, because they don't see it with their own eyes," she wrote. "For some reason mask wearing and caring about the health of others has been politicized. But when it comes down to it, that's selfish. If you cannot wear a mask in public and avoid large gatherings, it's a selfish choice."

Otto's post went on: "I have watched countless family members grieve the loss of loved ones due to this terrible virus. I have taken those family members' bodies to the morgue because of this virus. It is unlike anything I've ever experienced in my 7 years in critical care. This was almost us as a family. We are so truly lucky we still have my dad..."

"My experience is very personal, [but] even if it helps inspire one person to wear a mask or change their social habits ... the holidays are coming up and for big reasons it's looming over our heads as health care workers," she continued. "Are people going to listen to us or are we going to suffer in a few weeks? We cant just depend on a vaccine to come out and make this all go away. The hospitals are full. We need to be proactive and not reactive right now. There's a lot of misinformation."

Doughan is currently recovering at an acute rehab facility where his other daughter works. He's looking forward to getting back to his grandfather duties, including his youngest, Graham, who is 6 months.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Boyloso/iStockBy KATIE KINDELAN, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- As the number of COVID-19 cases continue to spike across the country and hospitals become full, nurses and doctors are taking to social media to beg the public to take COVID-19 seriously and follow safety guidelines.

"We are physically, socially and mentally exhausted," Dr. Kate Grossman, a pulmonary and critical care physician in Columbia, Missouri, wrote in a message shared on Twitter.

"I have seen so many emergent intubations. I've seen people more sick than I've ever seen in my life," Lacie Gooch, an intensive care unit nurse at Nebraska Medicine in Omaha, said in a video that Nebraska Medicine shared on Twitter this week.

"I have seen so many emergent intubations. I've seen people more sick than I've ever seen in my life." COVID ICU nurse Lacie Gooch hopes you will listen. @UNMC_ID @unmc @Prof_Lowe @DanielWJohnson9 @KellyCawcuttMD @JamesLawler11

— Nebraska Medicine (@NebraskaMed) November 17, 2020

Gooch, 25, is a cardiovascular ICU nurse who has been working shifts in her hospital's COVID-19 ICU since April.

She described a sense of frustration and exasperation at the disconnect between what she and her colleagues are doing to save lives inside the hospital, and what some people are doing to flaunt safety guidelines outside the hospital.

"We're tired. We're understaffed. We're taking care of very, very sick patients and our patient load just keeps going up. We're exhausted and frustrated that people aren't listening to us," said Gooch, who said she has patients who don't believe in COVID-19 even as they are hospitalized for it. "It kind of blows my mind and it's frustrating."

Gooch recalled driving to the hospital one night for an overnight shift and passing a car festival that was packed with people, most not wearing masks.

"I was just shocked and it was infuriating," she said. "It just kind of feels like a slap in the face to all the hard work that we're doing."

Nine months into the coronavirus pandemic, the United States remains the worst-affected nation, with about 12 million diagnosed cases of COVID-19 and over 250,000 deaths.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have recommended mask wearing, hand-washing and social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but not all state and local governments, nor private businesses, follow those guidelines.

Grossman, a mom of two who works with COVID-19 patients in the ICU, described the situation she sees by simply saying, "People don't get it."

"Nurses and nurse practitioners and [physician assistants] and doctors and respiratory therapists who are in the hospital, we see it," she said. "And it is so disheartening and demoralizing to leave work and just not see it, to see people gathering and talking about their Thanksgiving plans and travel plans, to see people waiting in a line outside a bar to get in when you're driving home after a horrible day. It's so upsetting."

Grossman shared her experience as a health care worker on the front lines in response to a question from her childhood best friend, actress and author June Diane Raphael, about how she was doing. Raphael then shared Grossman's text, with her permission, on Twitter, where it has more than 60,000 retweets.

This is the text I just received after asking my best friend ( pulmonary and critical care doctor) how she was doing. #WearAMask #SocialDistance

— June Diane Raphael (@MsJuneDiane) November 15, 2020

"I asked her how she was doing and the text that I got back just gutted me," said Raphael. "I could hear in her voice over text message that my friend is really going through it and really being traumatized by this health care situation that we've never been in before."

"When [Grossman] put her feelings out there, I really wanted to share it," she explained. "It really is up to all of us, with our platforms or even our own family members, to spread the word about how we can keep each other safe and healthy."

Grossman said she wants people to know that health care workers are doing all they can to help patients, but they need support from the entire community. She pointed out that health care workers like herself are also moms and dads whose kids are home doing remote learning and daughters and sons who miss visiting their parents and siblings.

Many of them will also be working over the holidays and will not travel to visit family and friends, following CDC guidance for all Americans to not travel for Thanksgiving this year.

"I leave work and I go home and I have a ninth grader at home who would love to be back in person starting high school and I have a 3-year-old to get to bed and I have a partner who is somehow keeping our house going while she works full-time and has a demanding job," said Grossman. "That's everyone in health care right now."

Grossman said she too has had experiences with patients where their first realization of how serious COVID-19 can be is when they're being taken to the ICU, or when she has to phone patients' families and its their first realization too.

That experience drove Ashley Bartholomew, an ICU nurse in El Paso, Texas, to take to Twitter to share her conversation with a patient who questioned whether those in the hospital were really dying of COVID-19.

"I'm brutally honest. I tell him in 10 years of being a nurse I've done more CPR and seen more people die in the last 2 weeks than I have in my entire career combined," she wrote on Twitter.

I’m an RN in El Paso and was recently transferred from the OR to COVID ICU.

I resigned from my job last week and I’ve been asked several times, “What was the breaking point?” I don’t know a specific one, but I’ll share this: a thread 🧵1/

— Ashley Bartholomew, BSN, RN (@TheBlondeRN) November 16, 2020

Bartholomew, a mom of three kids ages 7 and under, said she had to resign from her nursing job because of family logistics, but she stayed on an extra three weeks in the role this month to help with the rising COVID-19 patient load in the ICU.

While describing being a COVID-19 nurse as a "physically draining and mentally and emotionally draining" job, she also expressed feelings of defeat and frustration over people not taking the virus seriously.

"We're called heroes in the springtime and then by fall people are questioning what we're trying to say," said Bartholomew, referring to the beginning of the pandemic when people would stand outside and clap and cheer for health care workers. "It makes me feel defeated and it makes me feel scared."

Bartholomew said she worries that if people don't believe medical professionals about COVID-19 now, they may also not believe the science when a vaccine becomes available.

"That's our one glimmer of hope for the future," she said of a potential vaccine. "Trust the professionals that you've trusted for decades in your most vulnerable moments."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Liliboas/iStockBy KATIE KINDELAN, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- In any year, Thanksgiving can be both the best of times and the worst of times for families, but 2020 is bringing with it some even bigger potential landmines for conflict.

First, the holiday is taking place just weeks after a divisive election, the results of which some people are still protesting.

This Thanksgiving is also taking place amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has left families stressed emotionally, financially and physically.

With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now advising Americans not to travel for Thanksgiving, the holiday is also creating new conflict between family members with different ideas about how to celebrate safely.

"There’s the old saying, you only hurt the ones you love," Sherrill W. Hayes, Ph.D., professor of conflict management at Kennesaw State University in Georgia, said. "Because we say this stuff to one another, and we’ve got the long history of knowing that even after we’ve fought for a while we’re going to make up and everything is going to be okay, we feel we can have these debates."

The pandemic also means many families will be communicating on Thanksgiving this year via technology rather than in-person, another potential stressor.

"The truth is conflict happens every year for families, and that can make holidays so stress-inducing because people know that potential is there," said Kory Floyd, Ph.D., an author and professor of interpersonal communication at the University of Arizona. "Add to that the stresses of the pandemic and the stresses of the national election, and it can be very tough."

Here are five tips from mental health and communications experts to help keep the peace in the family:

1. Make a decision and move on

Once you make the decision about what's best for your family for celebrating the holidays safely, communicate it clearly and move on, advises Nicole Beurkens, Ph.D., a holistic child psychologist and the founder and director of Horizons Developmental Resource Center in Caledonia, Michigan.

"Once you’ve communicated that, 'yes we’re coming,' or 'no, we’re not,' or 'this is how we feel about it,' it’s important to not continue to feel obligated to engage in discussions or arguments about it," she said. "Ultimately each of us as individuals and as a family unit needs to decide what is best for us and then just calmly and respectfully communicate that and try to let go of how other people are going to feel around that."

Beurkens recommends communicating your decision by framing it around doing what's best for yourself and your family versus what is right or wrong to do.

"If there’s people in the family who do want to get together for the regular gathering, they can do that and it’s not our role to be argumentative or judgmental about that," she said. "Everybody needs to decide what’s best for them and stick with that and say, ‘I’m doing what’s right for me and whatever other people do is totally fine.’"

2. Use 'I' statements when the conversation gets heated

Whether you are talking politics or the pandemic, the experts say to frame the conversation around what you believe, instead of what your friend or family member should think.

"How we phrase things and how we present things is really half the battle," said Deborah Duley, the owner of Empowered Connections, LLC, a women-focused counseling center in Maryland. "Sometimes it’s not what you say but how you say it."

Using "I" statements, like "I believe," or "I hear what you're saying, but this is how I think," keeps your feelings to you and invites more of a conversation than a heated debate, according to Duley.

"When you say something to somebody, like, 'You should be feeling this,' or 'You should be feeling that,' they’re automatically not hearing what you’re saying anymore and going right to the defensive," she said. "Make it around what you think and what you believe using 'I' statements because people don’t automatically take offense to it."

3. Decide to be the one to defuse arguments

Experts say to take these words of former first lady Michelle Obama to heart at the Thanksgiving table -- "When they go low, we go high."

Specifically, Floyd says to have a conversation with yourself ahead of time to make sure you are the one going high when the conversation goes low.

"When a conversation starts to get heated, what keeps it from devolving is that someone in the conversation has the resolve not to let that happen," he said. "All it takes is one person to derail that sort of downward spiral that can happen in conflict."

"Resolve before going to the event or taking part in the conversation, that if things start to get heated, I’m going to be the bigger person. I’m going to be the one who makes the decision not to let the conversation devolve into a heated fight," added Floyd. "I’m going to be the one to say, ‘I understand your point of view,’ or, ‘Tell me more about it. I want to understand where you’re coming from,’ instead of the one who says, ‘You’re wrong.’"

4. De-escalate with humor and deep breaths

Duley, who described her political beliefs as being very different from her family's, said she has learned to take a few seconds before replying to something hurtful or inflammatory said by a family member.

"It's just a deep breath or just reminding myself that I don’t need to go there if I don’t want to," she said.

Floyd said simply cracking a joke can ease the tension of a stressful conversation.

"Whenever my wife and I feel like we’re going down the road of conflict, we derail it with humor," he said. "One of us will crack a joke, like, why are we even fighting about this? It reminds us that it’s not important enough to drive a wedge into our relationship."

"Humor has enormous stress relieving and tension relieving properties," Floyd added.

5. Set ground rules ahead of time

Before you even sit down at the dinner table or log onto a family Zoom call, experts say you should already have set ground rules with your family.

The ground rules can focus on everything from what topics will and will not be discussed to how potentially tough conversations will be handled, according to Hayes.

"What are the things we can talk about, and if we want to talk about important things, what are the ground rules for those conversations," he said. "One ground rule could be, we’re not going to make personal attacks."

Especially when it comes to families, people also need to set ground rules about fully hearing people out, Hayes noted.

"My ground rule number one is always, are you listening or are you waiting to talk," he said. "In families, we know the other people sitting around the table, whether it’s a virtual table or a real table, we think we know them so well, we’re not listening, but just hearing what we think they’re going to say."

Hayes says to listen to people by asking why they think that way, and then look for what your views and life experiences have in common.

"It’s way easier to focus on differences and chaos and disorder, but focusing on those commonalities makes a huge difference in breaking things down," he said.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(NEW YORK) -- The co-creator of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge died Sunday following his long battle with the neurodegenerative disease.

Pat Quinn's family posted on social media that the 37-year-old from Yonkers, New York, passed away in the morning. Quinn and Pete Frates launched the viral video campaign where people around the world poured ice-cold water over themselves and then nominated others to do the same to raise awareness and fund research into ALS.

"He was a blessing to us all in so many ways," the family wrote on his social media page.

ALS, also called Lou Gehrig's Disease after the Yankees legend who lost his life to it in 1941, is a neurological disease that mainly affects nerve cells responsible for controlling voluntary movements, such as walking, chewing and talking, according to the National Institutes of Health. There is no known cure, and scientists have worked for decades to determine a cause.

Quinn was diagnosed with ALS in 2013, a month after his 30th birthday, according to the ALS Association. He and Frates were friends and started two online groups, Quinn for the Win and Team Frate Train, to raise awareness and funds for the fight against ALS.

Their online presence and connections led to the co-creation of the Ice Bucket Challenge in 2014. Quinn and Frates saw fellow New York ALS patient Anthony Senerchia perform the challenge on his social media page and amplified the campaign, the ALS Association said.

Quinn and Frates recorded their own Ice Bucket videos and reached out to athletes, including Matt Ryan of the Atlanta Falcons, to participate and raise awareness and donations.

During the summer of 2014, the Ice Bucket Challenge included several big-name supporters and donors including Lady Gaga, Oprah Winfrey and Meghan Markle. Quinn told ABC's Nightline in an interview last year that he was surprised by how fast the campaign grew around the world.

"I am a huge basketball fan, so when people like Michael Jordan and Lebron James got involved, I lost it," he told Nightline.

The campaign raised $220 million for ALS research and sparked a wave of studies and development into finding new treatments.

"Pat fought ALS with positivity and bravery and inspired all around him. Those of us who knew him are devastated but grateful for all he did to advance the fight against ALS," the ALS Association said in a statement.

Frates died last year, and Senerchia died in 2017.

Quinn continued to conduct the challenge in the subsequent years, and he spoke around the country about the need for more awareness about the disease.

"The Ice Bucket Challenge connected with a sweet left hook to the jaw of ALS and shook the disease up, but by no means is this fight over. We need to knock this disease out," he said at an event in Boston last year to mark the campaign's fifth anniversary.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(NEW YORK) -- Goshen Health Hospital in Indiana has had to issue a public call for help from people with medical experience. In a Facebook post, the CEO wrote, “We invite you to consider if you are someone who could make a difference.”

The Mayo Clinic in Minnesota is bringing back retirees, redeploying employees from other parts of the country, and reassigning researchers to patient care after 905 employees contracted COVID-19 in the last two weeks.

And in North Dakota, the governor announced last week that to avoid a shortage of staff the state would implement “crisis” guidelines that allow nurses who test positive for COVID-19 to continue to work, as reported by the Grand Forks Herald.

Hospitals across the country are facing an influx of COVID-19 patients, the most Americans hospitalized for the disease at any other point in the pandemic. And after struggling with shortages of personal protective equipment, intensive care unit beds, ventilators and other equipment, hospitals are now facing a shortage of a harder to replace resource - health care workers.

“While hospitals can add beds, it is much harder to bring in additional health care workers, many of whom are justifiably experiencing a significant emotional and physical toll due to the impact of the pandemic,” Nancy Foster, vice president of quality and patient safety policy for the American Hospital Association said in a statement.

Eighteen percent of hospitals in the country said they had a critical shortage of medical staff on Nov. 18, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services first obtained by The Atlantic. And 22% say they expect to experience a critical staffing shortage in the next week.

In some states the statistics are even worse. In five states, more than a third of hospitals report critical staffing shortages.

In North Dakota, more than half of the state’s 47 hospitals faced a staffing shortage last week. And in the U.S. Virgin Islands, one of the islands’ two hospitals was overwhelmed, with the second expected to face a staffing shortage within the next week.

Six states, Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin, report that more than 30% of hospitals had a critical shortage of staff last week and several other states are just below 30%.

In North Dakota and the U.S. Virgin Islands, at least half of hospitals don’t have enough staff, and the second hospital in the Virgin Islands is expected to become overwhelmed in the next week.

Alex Garza, chief community health officer of SSM Health told ABC News Live the hospital’s staff is two weeks away from being overwhelmed by the increasing number of COVID-19 cases in the St. Louis area.

“Our health care heroes have fought valiantly day after day but we have no reserves, we have no backup that we can suddenly muster to come in and save the day,” Alex Garza, chief community health officer of SSM Health said in a briefing last week.

Nurses at St. Mary’s Medical Center in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, made the difficult decision to strike last week. Jim Gentile, a registered nurse at St. Mary’s, said they were being put in a dangerous situation because so many nurses have left that hospital for higher-paying jobs, leaving them without enough staff to deal with the surge.

“In two weeks we've doubled the number of COVID patients in our hospital and we thought we have to sound the alarm now because there are not enough nurses to take care of the patients,” he told ABC’s Brad Mielke on “Start Here.”

“That's called dangerous. It's extremely dangerous. When a patient comes to a hospital, they deserve a registered nurse to take care of them. If you have six to one ratio and they're all COVID patients and one starts to go bad, you spend the next two hours with that one patient. Those other five patients are totally ignored behind glass, behind isolation room. We can't even see them. It's dangerous.”

Vice President Mike Pence told governors Monday the federal government was “ready to roll our sleeves up and meet those capacity needs” on staffing shortages.

The North Dakota Department of Health announced that 60 Air Force medical personnel were being dispatched to the state. And White House Spokesman Michael Bars said more than 2,100 federal medical personnel are on the ground around the country.

“Currently, several thousand public health and medical personnel have been surged across all 50 states, territories, and tribal nations to support frontline responders and our hospital systems, as well as over 21,000 additional federal personnel deployed throughout the U.S. to support the whole-of-government coronavirus response,” he said in a statement.

Federal agencies have sent medical staff to more than 10 states in response to requests for help over the last two weeks, the Federal Emergency Management Administration said in a statement Friday.

Some nurses from New York City are also traveling to parts of the country where the virus is more severe to repay the favor from hospitals that send hundreds of nurses to help when New York was the epicenter of cases in the U.S. in April.

Intermountain Healthcare in Utah announced that 31 nurses from New York City were helping in intensive care, emergency, and surgical units around the state. The system is also hiring more than 200 traveling nurses, officials said in a press conference Friday.

But nurses across the country say more staff isn’t the only thing they need. They say everyone in communities around the country need to wear masks and follow guidelines like social distancing and avoiding indoor gatherings to slow the rapid spread of infections.

CDC studies have shown that parts of the country that require people to wear masks see less of the virus circulating in the community. In Kansas, COVID-19 cases decreased 6% in counties that kept a mask mandate over the summer. But in counties without a mandate COVID-19 cases increased 100%.

The CDC says wearing a face mask provides protection from exposure to the particles that carry the virus for both the person wearing it and anyone they come in contact with.

Public health experts say if 95% of Americans wore a face mask consistently it would make it much more difficult for the virus to spread, possibly preventing as many as 130,000 deaths.

“Everyone’s saying ‘it’s the year of the nurse,’ you know, health care heroes, and the thing is we can all be heroes just by doing one little thing and that’s wearing a mask and keeping our six feet,” Sarah Grabauskas, an ICU nurse in Idaho told ABC News.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


FILE photo - Tempura/iStockBy EMILY SHAPIRO, ABC News

(AURORA, Ill.) -- A nurse's words on the immense personal toll of treating COVID-19 patients has gone viral, including grabbing the attention of her local mayor.

At this week's city council committee meeting in Aurora, Illinois, Mayor Richard Irvin read the powerful message posted to Facebook Saturday by intensive care unit nurse Carol Williams.

"Look in her eyes, look at her face. The pain, the frustration," Irvin said at the meeting. "I want to read her words to you, to everybody listening, so I
Williams posted this selfie after spending five hours working to save a COVID-19 patient.

"In this moment, I felt defeated because I already knew what the outcome would be even though it hadn’t happened yet," Williams wrote.

"The inability to save a patient despite doing everything you can is mentally exhausting. Now imagine doing that on repeat for eight months and counting," she said. "Imagine watching a patient suffocating through a door while scrambling to get your PPE on because they inadvertently removed the mask they desperately need to breathe but you still need to protect yourself first."

"Imagine being the nurse and doctor telling a patient we need to put them on the ventilator because we have exhausted all other measures," Williams wrote. "Imagine being the nurse or doctor holding that same patient’s hand and stroking their head weeks later while their ventilator is removed because they haven’t improved and their family then says goodbyes and I love yous over FaceTime while they take their last breath."

Williams then urged readers to put themselves in the COVID-19 patient's shoes.

"The breathlessness, pain, fear, loneliness, isolation, anxiety, hopelessness and sadness. The need to use all your energy just to breathe," she said. "The true realization you may not get better and facing your own mortality."

Williams pleaded, "Stop kidding yourself that this isn’t going to affect you or someone you love or know, it will. Stop thinking that only unhealthy people with preexisting medical conditions or elderly people are the ones dying, they aren’t the only ones."

"Please do not discount all the lives lost or affected by this pandemic any longer," Williams concluded, asking for Americans to work together and come together as a country.

Mayor Irvin said at the meeting, "Remember her words. Remember the anguish on her face."

Many council members appeared overcome with emotion after hearing Williams' words, with one member saying, "So moved."

Aurora, Illinois, has over 10,000 COVID-19 cases and at least 155 deaths. The U.S. now has over 11.7 million cases and at least 252,654 deaths.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Amanda Edwards/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Alex Trebek died earlier this month after his long battle with stage 4 pancreatic cancer, but not before delivering a heartfelt message to Jeopardy! viewers.

At the beginning of Thursday's episode of the game show, which was pre-taped, Trebek shared a message in honor of World Pancreatic Cancer Day -- dedicated to raising awareness and funds to battle the disease.

During the short intro, the popular TV personality urged anyone who has experienced symptoms of the disease to seek out medical attention and get tested.

"I want you to be safe. This is a terrible disease," he said.

Jeopardy! social media accounts also shared a PSA to raise awareness to the disease.

Trebek, best-known for hosting Jeopardy! for over 30 years, died at the age of 80 after being diagnosed in March 2019. Despite his diagnosis, he continued working up until about 10 days before he passed.

The episodes he recorded will run through Christmas Day.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


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