Backyard chickens could soon be banned in the nation's capital

Wavebreakmedia Ltd/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Backyard chickens might soon be banned from the nation’s capital, if Mayor Muriel Bowser’s proposal to make chicken ownership in the city illegal becomes law.

At a news conference on Thursday, Bowser said she was concerned about the conditions the chickens might create for Washington, D.C.

"The provision is that we keep neighborhoods safe, and clean and rodent-free," she said. "This is a city. And it’s not usually the chickens that are the problem, but what they leave behind."

The city has long said backyard chicken ownership is illegal, even under the allowance for "common cage birds" that some have argued applies.

Some D.C. residents are worried about the possible ban, which is included in Bowser’s 2018 budget bill and could affect the group of urban farmers with chickens being displaced. The proposed ban has been the subject of backlash from some residents, especially since the mayor’s office has not provided a reason.

"I would be very unhappy if my chickens would be banned. They are amazing," a D.C. resident who wants to be called by her first name, Kathy, told ABC News. She said she's had chickens for three years now.

Besides keeping chickens as pets, some backyard chicken owners say they prefer eating their home-grown eggs. Kathy believes the eggs taste better because owners have the ability to feed the chickens a healthier diet.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have traced salmonella outbreaks to backyard birds. In 2016, eight outbreaks of salmonella infections across several states were linked to live poultry in backyard flocks; they were tied to 895 infections and more than 200 hospitalizations.

D.C. attorney Allison Sheedy and her husband Dan McInnis created the website to start a petition against the ban, after their own legal battle to obtain a permit for their four chickens. Within a week of launching the site, they had more than 500 signatures.

The couple said they were upset when they heard about this new proposal to ban backyard chickens in the city.

"Hopefully the change of law won’t go through," Sheedy told ABC News, "because it’s not appropriate to stick this in the budget."

Like Kathy, Sheedy believes that the chickens are good for the environment and considers them family members.

"It’s been really fun for our kids," said Sheedy.

The group is planning on attend the hearing at the Department of Health Budget Oversight on May 5th to raise their objections to the ban.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Artificial 'biobag' womb for extremely premature newborns in testing

Ondrooo/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Infants born extremely prematurely face a host of health issues from underdeveloped lungs that can cause chronic lung damage to fragile blood vessels that can cause bleeding in the brain.

For decades, doctors in the neonatal intensive care unit have done their best to mimic the complex environment of the womb as they work to keep these tiny infants alive.

This week, researchers at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia revealed a new device that could help save the lives of the smallest patients, in a study published in Nature Communications. The device acts as an artificial womb using a "biobag" to mimic the natural uterus that allows a fetus to develop.

"These infants have an urgent need for a bridge between the mother’s womb and the outside world," Dr. Alan W. Flake, a fetal surgeon and director of the Center for Fetal Research at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) said in a statement released yesterday.

"If we can develop an extra-uterine system to support growth and organ maturation for only a few weeks," he added, "we can dramatically improve outcomes for extremely premature babies."

Currently, the device is in the animal testing phase of development and more work will need to be done before it can be approved for testing on human infants.

When infants are born severely prematurely -- between 23 and 25 weeks -- their chances of survival, without ongoing complications including lung or brain problems, is low. That's due, in part, to their underdeveloped lungs, liver, kidney and brain that are forced to start working months earlier than normal.

"Everything is formed at that stage but is very, very immature," Dr. Jonathan Fanaroff, from the NICU at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital, who was not involved in the study, told ABC News. "Our job in the NICU is to support growth and minimize harm."

In hopes of building a better incubator, the team at CHOP created multiple prototype devices, eventually creating a device that features a biobag filled with amniotic fluid and a machine to oxygenate the blood via the umbilical cord.

An important part of this incubator, or extra-uterine support device, is the ability to sustain infants without using a ventilator, which can strain their underdeveloped lungs or cause scarring that leads to chronic lung disease.

By connecting the umbilical cord to a gas exchange that oxygenates the blood, the device function is similar to how a fetus "breathes" in the womb via the umbilical cord. The biobag is kept in a temperature controlled, near-sterile environment with the infant submerged in amniotic fluid. The device also allows researchers to monitor key vital signs and blood flow, so that doctors can respond quickly if the patient starts to deteriorate.

To see if the device might work on humans, researchers used lambs born at a gestation between 105 to 120 days, which is somewhat equivalent to a human infant born between 22 to 25 weeks. Using the most current device they developed, researchers measured how long eight prematurely born lambs survived in the device and grew. The animals were also tested to see if they were developing normally.

Five of the eight animals born between 105 to 108 days gestation lived between 25 and 28 days and three animals born at 115 to 120 days lived between 20 and 28 days in the device. The longest an animal was in the device was 28 days and the researchers stopped the experiment at that point, due to animal testing protocols, rather than a poor health outcome.

While the study is small and the findings preliminary, the researchers are hopeful that this device could be the future of caring for preterm infants that would be less taxing than current methods.

"This system is potentially far superior to what hospitals can currently do for a 23-week-old baby born at the cusp of viability," Flake said. "This could establish a new standard of care for this subset of extremely premature infants."

Dr. Jonathan Fanaroff from the NICU at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital, said should the device prove to be effective in humans as well as animal testing it could be a "major advance."

"I think it's very exciting. You know, in a lot of ways this is what we're trying to do in the NICU today, we're trying to do our best to mimic the environment they have in the womb," Fanaroff said. "This looks like the next step."

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


New study links 'emotional feeding' in young children to 'emotional eating' later in life

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- There may be a link between the common parenting practice known as "emotional feeding," or using food as a means of comforting or rewarding children, and the development later in life of "emotional eating," or the habit of eating to comfort or reward oneself, a new study suggests.

A team of researchers based out of Norway examined the eating habits of a group of 4-year-olds in Norway and then followed up every two years until the group turned 10.

The scientists found that among the sample of 801 children they examined, there was a "reciprocal relation between parental emotional feeding and child emotional eating," the study states in the abstract.

Dr. Jennifer Ashton, ABC News' chief women's health correspondent, discussed the warning for parents live on Good Morning America Wednesday, saying that with any parenting technique you want to lead by example.

"There are some good habits that we can establish in childhood, like are you eating as a family,” which Ashton said has been shown to reduce the risk of obesity. Ashton also recommended that parents "avoid using food as punishment or a reward and you want to talk about your emotions."

Both emotional feeding and emotional eating habits do not necessarily link eating to when one's body feels hunger.

The association between emotional feeding in young children and emotional eating in school-age children was only weakly positive, but remains statistically significant.

The study said that association may have important implications later, since analyses also revealed a connection between emotional eating and children's body mass index, a measure of overweight and obesity.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Your Body: What you need to know about urinary tract infections

iStock/ThinkstockBy DR. JENNIFER ASHTON, ABC News Senior Medical Contributor

Women are far more likely to suffer from urinary tract infections (UTIs) than men, statistics show.

UTIs can occur when bacteria travel through the urethra and into your bladder. Symptoms include frequent and urgent urination, pelvic pain, a burning sensation when peeing and, sometimes, blood in your urine.

While UTIs aren’t always caused by our behavior, there are some simple things we can do to lower our risk:

  • Drink more water. Cranberry juice can help, too.
  • Urinate immediately after sex.
  • Wipe front to back after using the bathroom.

If you think you have a UTI, getting a urine culture is very important to be sure the right antibiotic is prescribed for the type of bacteria causing the infection.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Bestselling author blasts America's sugar addiction in new book

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- New York Times bestselling author Dr. Ian K. Smith called out America's addiction to sweets in his new book Blast the Sugar Out, a guide designed for diabetic or pre-diabetic people looking to lead healthier lifestyles and for those who are looking to lose weight by reducing their sugar consumption.

The book, built as a five-week plan, can help you "regain control of your health destiny" in less than two months, Smith said in a statement.

"Get the sugar out and put the life back in," he added.

Smith shares the story of his brother, a marathon runner who was feeling lethargic energy levels and overall discomfort in his everyday life, but was unable to pinpoint cause of his troubles. Smith said that his brother eliminated sugar from his diet, and saw his energy levels sky rocket and the discomfort dissipate.

"He told me that he felt brand-new -- as if he had been given his life back," Smith writes in Blast the Sugar Out.

Smith breaks down his method for reducing sugar intake into five key factors that readers can hone in on: habits, schedule, choices, exercise and maintenance.

Smith encourages readers to pick up one good habit and break down one bad habit each week during the five-week program. He also recommends keeping an eating schedule or consuming meals and snacks at the same time every day.

When it comes to food and drink choices, Smith includes more than 50 recipes and organized meal plans in his book. Lastly, Smith emphasizes the importance of exercise and of maintenance -- or keeping up with a healthy lifestyle.

“This is not about making quick changes that you won’t stick with,” Smith said in the statement. “This is all about making lifestyle changes that are going to keep you healthy and active for the rest of your life.”

Blast the Sugar Out! is currently in bookstores nationwide.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Researchers find caterpillars that can chew and breakdown plastic

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Since plastic was invented, figuring out how to get rid of the stuff quickly without further harming the environment has been a puzzle. This week, researchers found one unlikely but possible solution: caterpillars.

Specifically, a type of caterpillar called a Galleria mellonella or "wax worm" which as been found to be able to breakdown common plastic material, according to a study published Tuesday in the Current Biology journal. The "wax worms" turn into greater wax moth or honeycomb moth, which often eat honeycombs by breaking down the wax structure.

"We have found that the larva of a common insect, Galleria mellonella, is able to biodegrade one of the toughest, most resilient, and most used plastics: polyethylene," co-author Federica Bertocchini of the Institute of Biomedicine and Biotechnology of Cantabria in Spain said in a statement Monday.

Plastics, created from fossil fuel oils, remain a staple of modern life. While some recycling initiatives have helped keep the material from ending up in nature, every year an estimated 8 million tons of plastic end up in our oceans alone, according to the United Nations Regional Information Center of Western Europe.

The researchers used a plastic bag made from polyethylene (PE) -- a common plastic substance, according to the study. They found that with a common shopping bag made of polyethylene, the insects were able to eat their way through after approximately 40 minutes. It took about 14 hours for 100 caterpillars to break down about 13 percent of the bag, according to the study. The insects were able to break the PE down to an organic compound called ethylene glycol.

Prior attempts at biodegrading PE with bacteria, fungus and nitric acid led the plastic to slowly disintegrate over weeks to months but not hours, according to the study authors.

While the researchers are still trying to understand the chemical reaction that allows the worm to break down the plastic, they say these insects are likely primed to breakdown the plastic due to their normal diet of wax honeycombs which contains similar chemical bonds to the ones found in PE.

"Wax is a polymer, a sort of 'natural plastic,' and has a chemical structure not dissimilar to polyethylene," Bertocchini said in the statement.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Only 37 percent say Trump should repeal and replace Obamacare (POLL)

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- As President Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress gear up for another attempt at repealing and replacing Obamacare, an ABC News/Washington Post poll finds broad public preference for keeping and improving it — including high levels of support for some of its key components.

See PDF with full results here.

Just 37 percent of Americans in the national survey say the Affordable Care Act should be repealed and replaced; 61 percent say it should be kept and fixed instead. Even more broadly, the public, by 79 to 13 percent, says Trump should seek to make the current law work as well as possible, not to make it fail as soon as possible, a strategy he has suggested.

These lopsidedly pro-Obamacare views are far different from the results of an ABC/Post poll in mid-January asking if Americans supported or opposed repealing the ACA: 46 and 47 percent, respectively. That question did not offer “keeping and improving” it as an alternative, and it was asked before the contours of the first, failed effort to repeal the law were known.

Obamacare’s rising fortunes are reflected in support for two key provisions of the law that Republicans have proposed changing in recent months. Surveyed Americans, by 70 to 26 percent, say coverage for existing conditions should be mandatory nationwide rather than left up to the states. Similarly, 62 percent prefer nationwide minimum insurance coverage standards (such as for preventive services, maternity and pediatric care, hospitalization and prescription drugs); just 33 percent would leave such standards up to the states.

Even among Republicans and conservatives polled, majorities support a nationwide standard for coverage of existing conditions (54 and 55 percent, respectively). A narrow majority of conservatives (53 percent) and a substantial share of Republicans (46 percent) also support a national standard for minimum coverage in this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates.

Further, just 20 percent of conservatives, a quarter of Republicans and 28 percent of Trump voters surveyed say he should try to encourage failure of the existing law.

In an additional expression of support for the law, polled Americans, by 43 to 26 percent, say they’d rather see Trump work with Democrats than with conservative Republicans in Congress to change it. Twenty-four percent prefer that he work with both.


These results reflect nearly universal sentiment among Democrats in favor of the law, majority preference among independents and moderates to keep and improve it and, as noted, divisions within the GOP and related groups.

For example, 93 percent of Hillary Clinton voters and 88 percent of Democrats surveyed support keeping the ACA and trying to improve it, as do two-thirds of independents and even 21 percent of Republicans and 18 percent of Trump voters. Eighty percent of Trump voters and 76 percent of Republicans prefer repeal and replace, as do 71 percent of strong conservatives — but just 46 percent of those who identified as “somewhat” conservative.

There are similar partisan and ideological patterns in support for the key Obamacare provisions examined: nationwide coverage for existing conditions and minimum coverage standards. Large majorities of polled Democrats, independents, liberals and moderates support these, while Republicans, conservatives and Trump voters are more closely divided.

Similarly, it’s notable that even among Republicans and Trump supporters asked, only about half say that Trump work with conservative congressional Republicans rather than with Democrats in Congress on health care. The rest in these groups say he should work with both (30 and 35 percent, respectively) or with Democrats (14 and 11 percent).

Other groups

Among other groups, support for a nationwide standard for covering existing conditions peaks at 78 percent among 50-to-64-year-olds, the age group most likely to need care but generally lacking access to Medicare. Support for this standard is lowest but still at 62 percent among under-40s.

In terms of nationwide minimum coverage requirements, support is lowest, 49 percent, among Medicare-covered seniors, versus 66 percent among all others.

In another age gap, repealing and replacing the ACA is least popular among under-40s (30 percent), versus 40 percent among those 40 or older. Support for repeal also rises with income, from 31 percent among households making less than $50,000 a year to 41 percent in those with higher incomes.

Men are more likely than women to favor repeal, by 7 points, and less likely to support nationwide minimum coverage requirements, by 9 points. In one of the sharpest splits (beyond partisanship and ideology), nearly half of polled whites support repealing and replacing the law, while only 16 percent of nonwhites, including 11 percent of blacks and 15 percent of Hispanics, agree.


This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by landline and cellular telephone April 17 to 20, 2017, in English and Spanish, among a random national sample of 1,004 adults. Results have a margin of sampling error of 3.5 points, including the design effect. Partisan divisions are 31-24-36 percent, Democrats-Republicans-independents.

The survey was produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates of New York City, with sampling, data collection and tabulation by Abt Associates of Cambridge, Massachusetts. See details on the survey’s methodology here.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Bone marrow transplant patient get 1920s-themed prom at hospital

iStock/Thinkstock(MANISTEE, Mich.) -- When Corinne Bass learned that her recovery from a recent bone marrow transplant would mean missing her senior prom, she and medical staff improvised to bring the party to the hospital.

Since August 2015, Bass had been battling aplastic anemia, a rare blood disorder. At the time, she was a high school junior in Manistee, Michigan.

"Aplastic anemia is basically your bone marrow not working," she said. "Your bone marrow is failing and that means you are not producing platelets, white cells or red cells."

She began intensive treatments. After her family moved to Grand Rapids, Bass was told by doctors that she would need a bone marrow transplant. In February, she received a transplant and continued receiving treatment at Spectrum Health Helen DeVos Children's Hospital.

During her lengthy hospital stay, Bass completed schoolwork, even receiving advanced-placement biology lessons at her bedside. She celebrated her 18th birthday at Helen DeVos Children's Hospital.

And, in March, with the help of her mother and the staff at Helen Devos, she planned her prom. It had to be held at the hospital, among a small group of people, to protect Bass from germs and infection.

"Since she was diagnosed, she has missed a lot of high school experiences," her mother, Heather Wilson, told Spectrum Health. "It's very important to get to do something like this."

She gave the party a "Great Gatsby" theme, complete with decorations, music and party favors.

The hospital's staff even got involved, finding Bass a dress as well as a limousine. Donning a sparkly 1920s dress, a headband, Mary Jane heels and yellow nail polish, Bass was first driven around in the limousine and then escorted on a red carpet to her prom.

"I think that they went beyond my expectations of what I thought it was going to be," Bass said of the staff. "I've been with them for so long that they're now like family."

Some of the staff also dressed in 1920s garb, dancing and toasting the day, and presented Bass with red roses.

"I have, like, this prom that I can remember," she said. "It's just really special ... It made up for the prom that I didn't get to go to."

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Heli-yoga takes yoga to new heights in Las Vegas

moodboard/Thinkstock(LAS VEGAS) -- There's rooftop yoga and hot yoga and nude yoga.

There's even goat yoga.

But if you're looking for the kind of yoga that will not only bring you inner peace but make your Instagram followers turn green with envy, look no further than heli-yoga.

It's a new Las Vegas experience from Maverick Helicopters. The company will transport guests from the Strip to the highest point in the Valley of Fire for a 75-minute yoga class led by Dray Gardner of Silent Savasana.

Up to six people can charter the chopper for the $3,500 experience. Requests must be made well in advance as the company has to clear the flight and landing with the state park.

Maverick pilot Riley Troy told ABC News their clients are the type of people who are not only looking to stay health-conscious on vacation, but who want to experience "the latest and greatest Las Vegas has to offer."

Yogis wear headphones during the class. Gardner, the instructor, said this eliminates noise pollution and the interaction becomes solely between the instructor and student.

His company, he said, "always tries to take yoga places it should not be." The company is the same one behind Vegas's Yoga in the Sky experience, where students take a class on the city's High Roller observation wheel.

Part of the reason to offer yoga in such unusual places is to "open the eyes" of people who might not otherwise be drawn to the practice. "I teach to the kindergartner, but if there's a PhD in the class, we tailor it to them too."

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Despite vaccination success, US still faces outbreaks

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- This week, the World Health Organization kicks off World Immunization Week "to promote the use of vaccines to protect people of all ages against disease."

In the U.S., overall vaccination compliance remains high for many childhood immunizations, with at least 90 percent of children getting the recommended vaccinations on time for measles/mumps/rubella, polio and chickenpox, according to a 2015 report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

However, the CDC found other vaccination rates fell below its target for what's known as herd immunity, or a population's resistance to the spread of a disease that results when a high percentage of individuals are immune. This included below than ideal vaccination rates for diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus (80 percent), hepatitis B (89 percent), and the gastrointestinal disease rotavirus (68 percent).

In recent years, outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases like measles or pertussis have made headlines, revealing how pockets of unvaccinated or undervaccinated people may still present a problem.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has been documenting outbreaks -- here's a look at some past and current outbreaks, and how health officials are responding.


In the last year, there has been a huge upswing in the number of mumps cases in the U.S. In 2016, there were multiple outbreaks of the mumps resulting in 5,748 total reported cases in the U.S. Comparatively, there were just 229 cases in 2015. Washington state has had 771 mumps cases since the start of an outbreak last October.

Earlier this month, Texas reported an outbreak of mumps that infected 221, the highest number since 1994, when 234 cases were reported, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.

Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said in an earlier interview that the recent mumps outbreaks appear to be occurring in populations with high vaccination rates.

"Although people are vaccinated, after about 15 years, there is some waning of immunity and if you get a strong exposure that exposure can overcome that diminished protection and you'll get a case of mumps," said Schaffner.

The CDC has confirmed that its Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) is reviewing vaccinations for mumps and considering recommending a booster shot during an outbreak.


There have been multiple measles outbreaks in recent years that have infected hundreds in Ohio, California and Minnesota, according to the AAP. On Monday, the Minnesota Department of Health reported at least 20 children under the age of 5 have been infected with the virus. Currently, 16 of these children have been confirmed to be unvaccinated against the virus.

Once a measles outbreak starts in an area with low vaccinations, it can be difficult to control, according to the CDC. Measles is one of the most infectious viruses in existence. It will infect 90 percent of susceptible people if they are exposed. The airborne virus can also remain in the air for hours, infecting people if they are in the same vicinity as someone who is ill, according to the CDC.

The measles virus was declared eradicated from the U.S. in 2000 and reached an all-time low with just 37 cases in 2004.


Whooping cough or pertussis has been significantly reduced by vaccines but continues to occur, since the vaccine's effectiveness decreases over time. Approximately four years after getting a vaccine for whooping cough, just three or four out of 10 people are protected against the virus, according to the CDC.

The CDC reports that there are between 10,000 to 40,000 cases of pertussis every year and up to 20 deaths.

In California, a massive outbreak of pertussis infected 9,934 in 2014. Just two years earlier, Washington state reported 2,530 cases, according to the AAP.

California gets tough about vaccinations

There has been some good news on the vaccination front. This month, California reported that the vaccination rate for kindergarteners had hit "a new high" rising from 93 to 96 percent after the state government made it tougher for parents to opt out of vaccination compliance.

Art Caplan, head of the Division of Medical Ethics at NYU School of Medicine at the Langone Medical Center, said the state of vaccination success in the U.S. is "mixed" but that California has been a bright spot.

"They've done an amazing job and one that might inspire other states in getting better reduction in the measles," Caplan said, who co-authored the book "Vaccination Ethics and Policy."

In Marin County, where much of the pertussis outbreak had spread in 2014, the vaccination rate has climbed dramatically from 77.9 percent of kindergarteners being in compliance to 93.2 percent today.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

ABC News Radio