Walgreens raises minimum age to buy tobacco to 21

Wolterk/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Walgreens has risen the minimum age to buy tobacco to 21 years old after it received criticism from the FDA earlier this year for selling tobacco products to minors.

The policy will be implemented chain-wide starting Sept. 1, the drug store company announced Tuesday in a press release, calling the change "the most recent step in an ongoing effort to further prevent youth access to tobacco products."

"We’ve seen positive results from other recent efforts to strengthen our policies related to tobacco sales, and believe this next step can be even more impactful to reduce its use among teens and young adults," said Walgreens President of Operations Richard Ashworth. "Through ongoing training and certification for pharmacists and technicians, we also continue to help and support people looking to quit the use of tobacco in their lives.”

The new policy aligns with recent efforts by states and municipalities to restrict tobacco sales to customers 21 and older, according to Walgreens.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


'Fertility warriors': How one family's IVF journey led to embryo adoption

The dKol la femme Project(NEW YORK) -- Nearly one out of every eight couples in the U.S. are affected by infertility. For National Infertility Awareness Week, “GMA” is spotlighting infertility stories to help demystify and destigmatize all paths to parenthood.

Kerri Morgan, 35, and her husband Chris Morgan, 38, always knew they wanted to have a family, but they never anticipated it would take nearly three years -- and a roller-coaster ride of emotions -- to finally meet their son.

“We were meant to be parents and we were meant even more to be parents to Brian,” Kerri said as she rocked their son in a “Star Wars”-themed nursery at their home in Wappingers Falls, New York.

Just six months into their marriage in 2016, Kerri was diagnosed with low ovarian reserve and faced issues with her fallopian tubes. Her ovaries were not functioning at the level expected for a woman her age; she was producing a diminished number of eggs, and it would be difficult for her to get pregnant.

“For many of us, this is a disease that is not curable,” Kerri told ABC News, which followed the family's path to parenthood for a full year. "Yes, there are treatment options ... But there are many things that we cannot do."

One in eight American couples struggle with infertility, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Based on 2015 data, 31 percent of the people using assisted reproductive technologies were diagnosed with “diminished ovarian reserve” like Kerri, according to the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART).

Kerri, a self-proclaimed “fertility warrior,” opted for in vitro fertilization (IVF), but the couple allotted funds for only one cycle, which, along with associated medications, can cost between $10,000 and $15,000, according to SART.

In the IVF process, eggs are removed from a woman's ovaries during egg retrieval and fertilized in a petri dish, where the fertilized egg cell begins to divide. The resulting embryo(s) are eventually transferred back into the uterus to hopefully grow to a full-term pregnancy and live birth.

The Morgans' doctor was able to retrieve five eggs from Kerri, but the resulting two embryos did not survive.

Kerri said she was heartbroken when they lost the embryos and said it felt like she lost her children.

“Even though it was only two days, it felt like ... we did it. We finally made babies,” she said through tears.

New ways to start a family

During their grieving process, Kerri began to research other ways to start a family and came across the National Registry for Adoption. The site serves as a meeting place for people with leftover embryos from their IVF process, and families who are looking to adopt.

There are more than 620,000 frozen embryos stored in the U.S., according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

When Kerri brought embryo adoption up to Chris, she told ABC News she wasn’t sure if he'd be on board since it would remove his genetic makeup from their child. To Kerri’s relief, he was very supportive.

“Part of me said it's only fair. It's not Kerri's DNA, so why should it be mine?” Chris told ABC News.

He said it felt like it was simply their next step in their path to parenthood.

In September 2017, the Morgans adopted a pair of embryos from Becky and Jim Sykes in West Virginia, who had previously conceived two boys via IVF and then put their remaining two embryos up for adoption.

Kerri and Becky struck up a friendship from across the country, exchanging emails and text messages with one another. Becky sent Kerri care packages and well wishes as she continued her IVF journey.

Unfortunately, the transfer of the first donated embryo failed. Kerri said she felt guilty for the unsuccessful pregnancy, but after she spoke with Becky, she received nothing but love and support.

Kerri wondered, "Is my body just not made to be pregnant?"

After some adjustments to her medication and a few false starts, Kerri’s doctors at Hudson Valley Fertility Clinic in Fishkill, New York, were able to thaw and successfully transfer the second adopted embryo.

When the Morgans received the good news, the first call they made -- after speaking to their mothers -- was to Becky, who screamed almost as loud as Kerri did upon hearing the news.

“I’m so happy for you, pregnant lady!” she said to Kerri.

“We wanted you to have this moment with us,” Kerri said in response.

Celebrating baby Brian Luke

"Kerri's going to be the most amazing mother in the world. I feel as if the world will be a better place with someone that Kerri has guided through their life's journey being in the world," Chris said. "That's why before I met Kerri, I knew I wanted to have a family someday, but once I met Kerri, I knew that we needed to have a family."

Redefining what it means to be a modern family, Kerri and Chris said they have maintained a friendship with the Sykes’.

Brian’s two genetic brothers, 5-year-old Nate and nearly 2-year-old Anthony, have already started to get to know him. Both sets of parents said they’re planning to foster a friendship among the boys. For now, Kerri said that the boys ask to FaceTime with baby Brian and Nate is eager to celebrate Brian’s first birthday to give him presents.

The families are planning to get together in person for the first time in June.

“It's another way that this entire story has been a complete blessing," Kerri said. "We've gained them as a family."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


The ABCs of infertility: Here's how people are getting pregnant in 2019

PhonlamaiPhoto/iStock(NEW YORK) -- In the 40 years since the world's first "test tube baby" was born, in vitro fertilization, or IVF, has become a household word.

But IVF is now also no longer the only option for people who want to bring a baby into the world.

From gestational surrogacy to embryo adoption, the number of ways a person can become a parent are both exciting and overwhelming.

"Good Morning America" tapped ABC News chief medical correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton, a board-certified OBGYN, to explain what to know about today's most common infertility treatment options.

But first, here are a few basics about infertility.

Infertility is defined as the inability to become pregnant after one year of having regular sexual intercourse without the use of birth control, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. The time span is shortened to six months without becoming pregnant for women age 35 and older.

The leading cause of infertility in women is the lack of or irregular ovulation, when an egg is released from the ovary and able to be fertilized. Other causes include scarring or blockage of the fallopian tubes (possibly from endometriosis or STIs), problems with the reproductive organs or hormones and problems with the thyroid gland or pituitary gland, according to ACOG.

A woman's fertility also decreases with age, most rapidly starting at age 37.

For men, the most common causes of infertility are problems in the testicles that affect how sperm are made and function, according to ACOG.

Obstetrician–gynecologists (OBGYNs) and reproductive endocrinologists are doctors who can help diagnose and treat infertility.

Now to the treatment options for infertility.

In vitro fertilization (IVF)

IVF is the most well-known treatment for infertility.

In this process, a woman's eggs and a man's sperm are combined in a laboratory to create an embryo, or embryos. The sperm may come from the woman's partner or a donor.

Five to 10 days after the embryo is created, it is examined by an embryologist to determine its viability, according to Ashton. If the embryo is viable, it is transferred into the woman's uterus through her cervix.

"The good news is most of the time IVF can be successful, it’s just a matter of when, how long, how much," said Ashton, who noted that IVF can cost anywhere from $12,000 to $17,000 per cycle.

Donor egg IVF

Women who do not have viable eggs can opt to use a donor egg.

Donors are typically age 30 and under and undergo both medical and psychological testing.

The recipient must take estrogen and progesterone until the pregnancy is underway and the placenta is self-sufficient.

Low Stim IVF

Also known as minimal stimulation IVF, Low Stim IVF stimulates the ovaries through low dosage medications.

Low Stim IVF is often safer and less expensive but it also brings a lower likelihood of success because a smaller number of eggs are retrieved.

Gestational surrogacy

With a gestational surrogate, an embryo is created through IVF and placed into the uterus of a surrogate to carry.

The embryo can be created with eggs from the mother and sperm from the father or with either donor eggs or donor sperm.

Gestational surrogacy can be expensive and is not legal in every state, according to Ashton. There are also important legal hurdles to cross, including making sure that the agreement between the surrogate and the parent(s) is legally documented.

The positive of a gestational surrogate is that the parent(s) not carrying the baby can still be involved with the pregnancy and be present at the birth.

Elective egg freezing

Elective egg freezing is something that women in their 20s should have a conversation about with their doctor, according to Ashton.

"This is not just for famous people. This is not just for rich celebrities," she said. "This is something that should be on the radar of every woman in her 20s. This is an insurance policy for your reproductive health."

Elective egg freezing can still cost as much as $15,000 for the whole process, but the cost is going down across the country as the process becomes more mainstream, Ashton noted.

A woman who chooses to freeze her eggs would first undergo a series of standard tests through a reproductive endocrinologist. If approved for the process, once the woman has her period, she would take stimulatory hormones in the first two weeks of her cycle.

At the two-week mark, the woman would have her eggs harvested while under general sedation. Then the eggs are frozen until the woman is ready to use them.

"For a young, healthy woman we could get 20, 30 eggs in one setting," Ashton said, noting the entire process takes only about two months.

Embryo adoption

Embryo adoption is an "emerging trend," according to Ashton, because so many couples have frozen embryos.

If a couple, or a woman, has more embryos than they plan to use, they can opt to donate their frozen embryos to infertility centers to be adopted by someone else.

"It’s just another example of the plethora of options available now to couples who want to become parents," Ashton said.

Foster care and adoption

Ashton stresses that every conversation about infertility should also include the options of adopting a child or caring for a child in the foster care system.

"I think it’s very important whenever we talk about fertility and infertility to include foster parenting and adoption as well because biology is oftentimes the least of what makes someone a parent," Ashton said.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


10-year-old girl born without hands wins national handwriting competition: 'It shows what perseverance and a positive attitude can do'

Cathryn Hinesley(NEW YORK) -- A 10-year-old girl born with no hands is this year's winner of a national handwriting competition.

Sara Hinesley, a third-grade student in Maryland, won the Nicholas Maxim Award in the 2019 Zaner-Bloser National Handwriting Contest. To be eligible for the Nicholas Maxim Award, a student must have a cognitive delay, or an intellectual, physical or developmental disability. A team of occupational therapists judged all of this year's entries.

"I felt excited and proud," Sara told "Good Morning America" about learning she won the award, which comes with a trophy and $500 in prize money as well as $500 in educational materials for her school.

Sara writes by gripping the pencil or pen with both of her arms. She loves to create art and sees writing cursive -- for which she won the award -- as an extension of art.

"Cursive is round and it's trying to connect [letters] so it’s art," she said.

Sara was born in China and adopted by the Hinesley family in the U.S. four years ago, at age six. She could only speak and write Mandarin when she arrived in the U.S., but quickly picked up English from her older sister, Veronica.

She figured out a method of writing on her own.

"Sara is very motivated and a disciplined student," said the girls' mother, Cathryn Hinesley. "She excels really at about anything she tries."

The third-grader has made the decision not to use prosthetic hands, according to Hinesley.

"All of her life she has figured out ways to overcome that challenge and it's really made her a very strategic thinker," Hinesley said. "Before she takes on a task she tends to plot out how she’s going to accomplish it and is usually successful."

She added, "Everything Sara does she really does to the best of her ability and on her own. She's a very independent, 'I can do it,' type of kid."

Sara will receive the award on June 13, the last school day of the year at her school, St. John’s Regional Catholic School in Frederick, Maryland. Sara is the first student from the school to win the Nicholas Maxim Award.

"Sara always has a smile on her face. Nothing gets her down at all," said the school's principal, Karen Smith. "She always seems to cope with whatever task is given. She always figures out a way to do it."

Sara won the Nicholas Maxim Award for excellence in cursive. Another student, in Ohio, won the award this year for excellence in manuscript (printing).

Sara's mom called her daughter's award-winning penmanship a "testament to the human spirit."

"It shows what perseverance and a positive attitude can do," Hinesley said. "Sara is a great example of that."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Measles cases 'likely' to break yearly record in just 4 months

Pornpak Khunatorn/iStock(NEW YORK) -- The number of measles cases in the U.S. so far this year is approaching the record for the decade -- and in just four months time, according to new data.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that there have been 626 confirmed cases of measles so far this year, an increase of 71 new cases since last week. Two new states -- Iowa and Tennessee -- join the list, bringing the total to 22.

The only year when there were more cases reported in the United States since the disease was eliminated in the U.S. in 2000 was in 2014 -- 667.

"In the coming weeks, 2019 confirmed case numbers will likely surpass 2014 levels," the CDC said in its update Monday.


There are more cases in New York than in any other state, though the exact number of cases was not immediately known because the outbreak in some areas started at the end of 2018. The New York City Health Department noted that there have been 359 confirmed measles cases in Brooklyn and Queens from October 2018, to April 18, 2019.

Separately, officials in New York's Rockland County noted that there have been 194 confirmed cases there in 2019. Of those, 80.8% of the infected individuals never received the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, Rockland County officials report.

The number of confirmed cases in other states are still in the double-digits, including 74 cases in Washington, 43 cases in Michigan, 23 in California and 13 in New Jersey.

Officials in New York are trying to take action to curb the spread of the highly contagious disease, for example, by fining people who refused to get vaccinated in designated areas as mandated by the mayor's office.


The spike in measles cases in the U.S. comes amid an uptick in global cases. The World Health Organization reported last week that the number of reported measles cases was up by 300% in the first three months of 2019 as compared to the same time period in 2018.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Debunking the top three myths about infertility

katleho Seisa/iStock(NEW YORK) -- In spite of the fact that over six million women in America struggle with infertility, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, there remain boundless misconceptions about conception.

In honor of National Infertility Awareness week which kicks off Monday, Good Morning America and ABC News' Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton teamed up to bust or break down some infertility myths about birth control, IVF treatments, age and more.

Infertility Myth 1: Using birth control for years can make you less fertile

Ashton, an OB-GYN, said this is one of the most common questions about infertility that she gets from patients. But rest assured, the answer is that using birth control for years does not make you less fertile.

Ashton says that no matter how long you have been on the pill, your ovaries will always be happy to have you back.

Birth control does not do anything to affect the quality of your eggs, and once the pills are out of your system -- which can only take 48 hours -- you can start a new ovulation cycle and get pregnant as soon as the first month you're off the pill.

Infertility Myth 2: Multiple rounds of IVF will not increase your chances of getting pregnant

Multiple rounds of IVF treatment will increase your chances of getting pregnant, according to Ashton. Studies show that if women do enough IVF cycles, the majority will conceive -- meaning the more rounds, the more chances.

The issue often arises because most women will drop out before that point because of the cost as well as the physical and emotional strain.

Infertility Myth 3: If you are under 30 you won't have fertility issues

While it is absolutely true that age is a massive factor when it comes to fertility (the older a woman gets, she has fewer eggs of lesser quality) there are also many younger women who face fertility issues, Ashton said.

If you are worried that you may be struggling with fertility and are over the age of 35, Ashton recommends getting tested for fertility problems after six months of trying to conceive naturally.

If you are under 35, Ashton recommends getting tested after a year of trying. It's not generally accepted to check your fertility status before trying to conceive, as tests can often be expensive and not covered by insurance, according to Ashton. If you are looking to be preventative and proactive when it comes to your fertility health, women should get screened frequently for STDs and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

What can decrease a woman's chance of becoming pregnant?

There are a few lifestyle factors that can decrease a woman's chances of getting pregnant. Those include being age 30 or over, smoking, heavy alcohol use, stress, poor diet, diabetes, or being significantly over or under weight, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


The crippling cost of infertility: What to know about resources that help

milanvirijevic/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Fundraising, grants, loans and credit card debt are now terms just as commonly associated with infertility as the words baby and pregnancy.

The average cost of one in vitro fertilization, or IVF, cycle in the United States is $12,400, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, a non-profit organization founded by fertility experts in the 1940s.

Add to that the reality that most pregnancies require more than one IVF cycle, plus ancillary expenses including medication, doctors appointments, genetic testing and embryo storage, and then subtract the fact that insurance coverage for infertility treatments is limited, and you have what often becomes a cost-prohibitive, or financially crippling, scenario for women trying to get pregnant.

Still, more than seven million women, nearly 12 percent, have used infertility services in their lifetime, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As a result of the rising costs and rising frequency of fertility treatments, a whole separate industry has sprouted to just financially help people have children. Here is a look at some of the resources now available:

Grants and scholarships

Certain hospitals, foundations and even states, such as New York, now offer grants and scholarships to help cover the cost of infertility treatments.

Some require you to live in certain states and to meet certain requirements, and some charge fees for applying. Make sure to carefully vet the grant or scholarship-giving institution before you share any information online.

The Kevin J. Lederer Life Foundation in Chicago is one foundation that offers grants to cover the medical costs of IVF treatments.

Other resources include the Kyle Busch Foundation, the Baby Quest Foundation and the Cade Foundation.

The Baby Quest Foundation offers around 10 grants for every 300 to 400 applications it receives, according to Pamela Hirsch, who founded the charity in 2011 after watching her daughter go through unsuccessful IVF treatments before turning to surrogacy to have her two children.

"Infertility becomes an issue of class because it's only available to those people who can afford it," she said. "There so many different types of issues that we try to address and it's frustrating that we don't have the funds to help more people than we do."

Baby Quest gives scholarships that fill the gap, so if an IVF treatment costs $10,000 and a grant recipient can only contribute $2,000, the foundation will give them $8,000. Other grants and scholarships give certain amounts of money and have different requirements, so applicants must do their research first.

"All we can do is offer an opportunity to remove that financial burden to allow them to pursue IVF or surrogacy," Hirsch said.

FertilityIQ, an online resource started by a couple searching for a fertility doctor, offers a state-by-state guide to available grants and charities, mostly for IVF.

The National Infertility Association, aka RESOLVE, national patient advocacy organization founded by a woman, offers a list online of grant and scholarship opportunities.

Fertility Within Reach, a national non-profit organization, also offers an online guide for everything from infertility treatment grants to adoption grants, fertility medication grants and programs for veterans and current members of the military.

Employers and insurers

More than 400 U.S. companies offer benefits for fertility treatments, according to data collected by Fertility IQ, a fertility information website. Even with some employers adding such benefits, the majority of IVF patients treated last year paid for all or some of their treatment out-of-pocket, according to Fertility IQ.

Fertility-focused organizations have begun to offer tips for employees who want to ask their employers for IVF benefits.

ABC News Chief Business Correspondent Rebecca Jarvis, who became pregnant thanks to the help of infertility treatments, also shared these three tips for women.

1. Call your insurance provider
: [Call] whatever insurance you're getting through your company and ask them what fertility benefits they offer. Typically it's the insurance providers themselves that can explain which benefits you're eligible for. Also, ask your insurance provider about different plans -- sometimes it's different coverage depending on which plan you're on, and it might make sense to switch.

2. Look at your partner's insurance: In some cases that's going to be a bigger benefit than the one you're getting from your company.

3. Negotiate: When you're going out and talking to these various fertility providers, negotiate. Caution against just making choice on cheapest option. If they're not the strongest provider, you could be setting yourself up for multiple rounds of treatment which becomes more expensive.

Only a handful of states require insurance providers to cover infertility treatments. The American Society of Reproductive Medicine maintains an online database of state-specific insurance requirements so you can know your rights in your state.


Some fertility clinics offer their own discounted treatment packages and financing, and there are independent companies that offer financing and loans to cover the cost of treatments.

RESOLVE offers a comprehensive online guide to infertility financing programs.


A quick search on GoFundMe, the crowdfunding platform, shows dozens and dozens of couples and individuals asking for financial help with their IVF journey. The website even has a page titled "Get help with IVF fundraising."

One couple profiled by ABC News, LaTanya and James Braxton, of Antioch, Tennessee, turned to GoFundMe after they realized the loan they took out to cover the $19,000 cost of their IVF treatment didn't account for the high cost of medicine that comes with an IVF cycle.

"We decided to be creative in exploring the different ways we could cover the difference and GoFundMe was one of the best opportunities we have," James said.

The Braxtons posted a video on their GoFundMe page explaining their decision to go this route. Using social media in addition to GoFundMe was a way for the couple to keep family and friends up to date on their IVF journey in a personable and relatable way.

The couple's GoFundMe page currently shows they have raised $10,685 of their $16,350 goal.

After experiencing a miscarriage with twins after their first round of IVF, the Braxtons still have nine frozen embryos and intend to try IVF again when LaTanya's body is ready.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


What to know about rising Sober Curious movement

aprilante/iStock(NEW YORK) -- A so-called Sober Curious movement that's been gaining in popularity focuses on eliminating alcohol for health, sleep and wellness reasons, and its founder encourages people to participate by asking them to imagine "what it's like to live hangover free."

Ruby Warrington, author of the book Sober Curious: The Blissful Sleep, Greater Focus, Limitless Presence, and Deep Connection Awaiting Us All on the Other Side of Alcohol, told ABC News' Good Morning America that she believes sobriety "can be a lifestyle choice for anybody."

"We don't have to drink. There's nothing that says, as an adult being, you have to consume alcohol," she added. "And yet, our society doesn't really lead us to believe that. In fact, it's very much the norm to drink."

Her book encourages readers to be more mindful about consuming alcohol.

She also touched on the stigma of saying you're "sober," comparing it to "if you were telling them you weren't eating gluten, or you were taking a break from dairy, they wouldn't bat an eyelid."

"But if you tell them you're not drinking, it can bring up all these issues," she said, adding that our "society is on alcohol as a social lubricant."

Listen Bar in New York City is a pop-up watering hole that caters specifically to the growing Sober Curious movement. All of the drinks -- from the creative cocktails to the shots -- are non-alcoholic.

The bar aims to be a place where people looking for a night out can go without feeling the social pressure to drink.

A 2017 survey found that a third of people wanted to cut back on their alcohol consumption -- some because of regret or embarrassment -- and many others for health reasons.

There's even a new app called "Sober Grind" which helps connect you with people who chose not to drink.

ABC News' Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton, who did her own variant of Sober Curious when she gave up alcohol for a month for wellness reasons during her Dry January challenge, came up with five "yes" or "no" questions she encourages you to ask yourself about alcohol -- especially keeping track of how many times you answer "yes."

Question 1: Have you had times when you ended up drinking more, or longer, than you intended?

Question 2: Have you gotten into situations while or after drinking that increased your chances of getting hurt?

Question 3: Have you had to drink much more than you once did to get the effect you want?

Question 4: Have you continued to drink even though it was making you feel depressed or anxious?

Question 5: Do you spend a lot of time drinking, being sick or getting over other after-effects?

If you answered "yes" to one or two of those questions, it could be a reason for concern, depending on your particular symptoms and their severity.

The earlier questions tend to be early signs of potential trouble, whereas the latter questions indicate that you have moved further down a risky path.

The questions are based on symptoms for alcohol use disorder in the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition. The DSM is the most commonly used system in the United States for diagnosing mental health disorders.

If you answered "yes" to some of the questions or are simply interested in the Sober Curious movement, Ashton shared some tips to help you stay on track.

First, keep a calendar so you can keep track of how many nights a week you drink. Second, recruit some friends and hold each other accountable to feel less pressure to consume alcohol. Finally, be curious.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


NYC issues $1,000 fines for refusing to get measles vaccinations

Hailshadow/iStock(NEW YORK) -- New York City followed through on its threat to fine people who refused to get measles vaccines on Thursday.

The city's health department issued civil summons to three people a week after issuing an emergency order requiring anyone 6 months or older who lived in four specific zip codes -- all in Brooklyn -- to get the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine within 48 hours. Each person will be on the hook for a $1,000 fine.

The zip codes -- 11205 in Clinton Hill, 11206 in Bushwick and 11211 and 11249 in Williamsburg -- are all in predominantly Orthodox Jewish communities.

"Since the Emergency Order took effect, the Health Department carefully investigated cases with the help of its disease detectives," the health department said in a press release. "Many of the people who were contacts of individuals with measles had proof of vaccination, however the Health Department identified three children who were exposed to the measles but still unvaccinated as of April 12."

In addition to the three people fined for being unvaccinated, the city also closed four additional schools for failure to provide vaccination and attendance records, the city said.

The health department had ordered United Talmudical Academy, a yeshiva preschool, closed on Tuesday, but it has now been allowed to reopen.

As of Thursday, there had been 359 measles cases in Queens and Brooklyn since the beginning of the outbreak last October, including 74 since the emergency order was issued on April 9.

"The initial child with measles was unvaccinated and acquired measles on a visit to Israel, where a large outbreak of the disease is occurring," according to the health department. "Since then, there have been additional people from Brooklyn and Queens who were unvaccinated and acquired measles while in Israel."

A lawsuit filed by five unnamed parents asking for the emergency order -- and mandatory vaccinations -- to be vacated "as arbitrary and capricious and contrary to law" was also shot down on Thursday.

"The pivotal question posed for this court's determination is whether Respondent Commissioner has a rational, non-pretextual basis for declaring a public health emergency and issuing the attendant orders challenged herein," Kings County Judge Lawrence Knipel wrote in his decision.

The judge found the emergency declaration to be well-founded, and followed up, writing, "A fireman need not obtain the informed consent of the owner before extinguishing a house fire. Vaccination is known to extinguish the fire of contagion."

Measles can cause fever, runny nose, diarrhea and pneumonia. Severe cases can even result in death, especially in infants, pregnant women, children and people with compromised immune systems.

The vaccine is considered "very safe" and effective by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which also debunks any concerns -- often held by so-called anti-vaxxers -- that the vaccine could cause autism.

"Vaccine safety experts, including experts at CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), agree that MMR vaccine is not responsible for increases in the number of children with autism," the CDC states on its website.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Study: 23andMe gene test might falsely reassure some people of breast cancer risk

JasonDoiy/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Since 2010, 23andMe has charged people to test themselves for potentially harmful gene mutations, such as those in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, which, when mutated, can dramatically increase a person’s risk for developing breast or ovarian cancer.

But while 23andMe can screen for the three most well-known BRCA mutations, the test is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration to test for the remaining 1,000-plus BRCA mutations. This presents a problem: As many as 94 percent of people carrying a BRCA mutation may receive a false-negative if they take the stripped-down test 23andMe offers, according to a recent study.

Dr. Pamela Munster, an oncologist and director of the Center for BRCA Research at UC San Francisco Medical Center, is one person who received one of these false-negatives. Two years after taking the 23andMe test in 2010, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

“I never thought I would be at high risk for a BRCA mutation,” Munster told ABC News, noting that even if she had been concerned about carrying a BRCA mutation, she would not have qualified for screening. “I didn’t meet any criteria that made me high risk.”

23andMe has introduced warning labels since Munster took the genetic test. A spokesperson for the company told ABC News that test results clearly warn customers that these "1,000-plus alleles or variants [are] not captured, so [the] panel does not rule out a potentially high-risk mutation.”

The spokesperson also pointed out that “before customers can even access their results, they’re required to review an eight-page module.” That module highlights the limits of the 23andMe test, noting that the 23andMe test should not replace routine screening and that results should be reviewed with a clinician, who can help the patient get a complete test done.

Munster said that she doesn’t think 23andMe is trying to mislead its customers, but expressed fear that they may not be able to fully interpret abnormal test results on their own.

BRCA mutations are rare in the United States., occurring in one in 300-500 women. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends BRCA screening in people with a strong family history of breast or ovarian cancer, or relatives who have BRCA mutations.

23andMe’s spokesperson told ABC News that “a substantial fraction” of the company’s BRCA carriers did not report a high-risk family history, so they wouldn’t have met the criteria for traditional BRCA screening. After they discovered their BRCA mutations, many of them undertook prophylactic surgeries to mitigate their risk, the spokesperson said.

Unlike 23andMe’s test, the physician-prescribed blood test, called a multigene panel test, screens for many mutations beyond BRCA genes.

“[While] a lot of people think of the heredity of breast cancer as purely BRCA-related, 90% of our genetic testing includes genes other than BRCA,” Dr. June Hou, gynecologic oncologist and director of Columbia University’s Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer Program, told ABC News.

BRCA mutations have also been linked to pancreatic cancer, colorectal cancer and skin cancers like melanoma, among others, Hou said. Because BRCA2 mutations have been linked to a higher risk of breast cancer in males, she said that she reminds female patients with BRCA2 mutations that the mutated gene might not only affect them but their male family members, too.

Case in point: Shortly after Munster discovered she had breast cancer, her father was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. When she recommended that he get screened, he came back positive for a BRCA2 mutation.

As scientists continue to uncover the genetics of breast cancer, the popularity of sites like 23andMe underscore concerns about who should be screened. Until then, experts recommend that doctors provide their patients with a safe space to discuss the pros and cons of testing and to recognize that breast cancer screening is individualized and patient specific.

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