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Friday
Dec082017

Flu season off to an early start, CDC report warns

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) --Flu season is officially off to an early start this year, according to researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Epidemic Intelligence Service.

The team of public health experts analyzed national data on flu trends and warned in a report published today that "several influenza activity indicators were higher than is typically seen for this time of year."

The amount of flu activity recorded at this part of the season is the highest it has been in six years, according to data released by the CDC.

The researchers added, however, that the predominant strain of the flu virus that has been spreading this year is one of the strains targeted in this year's flu vaccine. While they noted concerns that the current method of producing most flu vaccines, which involves the use of chicken eggs, is not perfect, they emphasized the importance of getting a flu shot in order to prevent the spread of the disease.

"Although influenza vaccine effectiveness can range widely from season to season, influenza vaccination is the most effective currently available method to prevent influenza and its complications," the report stated. "However, less than half of the U.S. population has been vaccinated in recent influenza seasons."

While the severity and timing of flu outbreaks vary year to year, peak flu activity in the U.S. usually occurs during December through February, the researchers added.

"It is difficult to predict when influenza activity will peak for the current season; however, influenza activity will increase in the coming weeks," the report stated.

The CDC's report observing heightened flu activity so far this season comes shortly after a team of international medical experts warned that the upcoming flu season in the U.S. could be a bad one, citing preliminary data from Australia, where the flu season is waning.

The CDC states on its website that an annual flu vaccine is the "the first and most important step in protecting against flu viruses."

In addition, the CDC recommends avoiding close contact with sick people, limiting your contact with others when you feel sick and covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, in order to prevent the spread of germs.

Other actions the CDC recommends to stop the spread of the seasonal flu include washing your hands often with soap and water; avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth; and disinfecting surfaces that may have been contaminated with flu germs.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Dec072017

Toddler in hospice care gets chance to sit on Santa's lap for the last time 

Purestock/Thinkstock(SALT LAKE CITY) -- With the Christmas season upon us, it's easy to get lost in the to-do list of the holidays.

But for the Agnew family of Salt Lake City, Utah, a visit from a stranger provided a memory they will never forget.

Miles Agnew, 2, has been in hospice care for months, and his health had been in slow decline. Last week "his little body went into shock and has started to shut down. We don't know what happened," his mother, Michelle Agnew, told ABC News.

He is now at Primary Children's Hospital where his "pain and discomfort can be managed," she said.

Miles was born with microcephaly and also has spastic quad cerebral palsy, cortical vision impairment, intractable epilepsy, brain malformations and feeding intolerance. He was adopted by the Agnews when he was three months old. In addition to Miles, the Agnews have two children, Hailey, 13, and Taveon, 11.

On Dec. 5, Miles and his siblings were treated to visit from Santa that was coordinated by the Secret Sleigh Project, an organization that matches medically fragile and home-bound children with Santa visits.

Jerry Bodily, aka Santa, said the visit was an emotional one that hit close to home.

"Back in the 70s when I met my former wife, she had two daughters, her youngest had been diagnosed with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, and six weeks after we met, she lost her battle, so I knew what the family was going through. I can’t lie, I got choked up, and there was a tear in Santa’s eye, but this was for this family’s memory," he said.

Sarah Portillo, founder of the Secret Sleigh Project told ABC News connecting with the Agnews was "no accident."

"It brings more meaning to the Christmas season," she said. "It elevated my hope that perhaps we are all here to orchestrate small miracles, as long as we are open to the opportunity. I am very grateful that we were able to be a part of this family's day, in some small way, and I will never forget it."

For Agnew, the day was incredibly special.

"With the turn in Miles' health and trying to make more memories as quickly as we can we didn’t think we would be able to do our Santa visit," Agnew said, adding that her family doesn't "take anything for granted. We treasure our time and our memories with our family so much. Although we have had so much heartache in our lives we try our hardest to keep moving forward."

The Agnews lost two other children to genetic conditions.

Despite all the pain she has experienced, Agnew said she remains grateful. "We are so fortunate for all the good times we’ve shared together and are so grateful for the friends, family and medical community that have supported us. Miles is such a special little boy who is very, very loved in our family."

(Editor's note: Santas are still needed in some cities around the country to visit with children. See the list of where there's a need here.)

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Dec072017

Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar sentenced to 60 years over child porn charges

ABCNews.com(LANSING, Mich.) -- Former Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar was sentenced to 60 years in prison after pleading guilty to federal child pornography charges in July.

Investigators said he possessed more than 37,000 videos and images of child pornography.

Michelle Benham, chief deputy clerk of U.S. District County Western District of Michigan, confirmed the sentence to ABC News.

Nassar also faces sentencing in two state courts after pleading guilty last month to seven counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct involving girls who were 15 years old or younger Ingham County in Michigan, as well as three other counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct in Eaton County, Michigan.

The charges relate to Nassar's time a faculty member at Michigan State University, from 1997 to 2016, when, the university said, he was fired after the allegations surfaced. As part of his plea agreement, Nassar admitted that touching the women and girls was not a medical procedure, and he will not be able to use it as a defense moving forward.

Sentencing in the state cases will take place in January.

Nassar is also named in civil lawsuits, in which he is accused of sexual misconduct by more than 125 women and girls.

Olympic gymnasts Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney and Gabby Douglas have publicly said they were abused by Nassar.


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Wednesday
Dec062017

Microwaving eggs could have explosive results

Eising/Digital Vision/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- It’s no yolk, microwaving boiled eggs is a bad idea.

In fact, they may explode -– and superheated water may be the culprit, said researchers authoring a new report under an unusual set of circumstances.

Anthony Nash, in a presentation Wednesday at the Acoustical Society of America meeting in New Orleans, offered a possible explanation of how this YouTube-cherished phenomenon happens.

As a researcher for the acoustics consulting firm Charles M. Salter Associates, Nash was asked to serve as an expert witness for a case in which a shelled hard-boiled egg that was reheated in a microwave exploded in a restaurant patron’s mouth, causing burns and possibly hearing damage.

While many may assume that pressure buildup within the egg causes these explosions, even eggs that have their shells removed can explode. And, as the researchers point out, boiled egg whites are just too soft to hold the amount of pressure required.

Using the conditions laid out in the legal case as a guide, the researchers reheated nearly 100 eggs in a microwave. Two out of three ruptured during reheating. But for the third that made it out whole –- explosive results. When the researchers poked the eggs with an instant-read thermometer, they popped violently.

Turns out, microwaved yolks are, on average, 22 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than microwaved water –- in other words, yolk is more responsive to microwave heating than water is.

They theorize that pockets of water in the yolk get superheated. Superheated water doesn’t boil immediately because surface tension of the water prevents bubbles from forming. But once that surface tension is broken, like when these pockets are disturbed, they suddenly boil, releasing a lot of bubbles rapidly and violently and causing what appears to be an explosion.

The researchers also found that the loudest sound from an exploding egg a foot away is about 130 decibels, similar to a soft balloon pop, and unlikely to cause hearing damage.

As for what happened to the litigation: “They settled,” Nash said. “As a case, hearing damage was up in the air, but getting burned was 100 percent.”

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Dec062017

Hormonal birth control linked to increased breast cancer risk, study says

Sebastien_B/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Women using hormonal birth control methods -- from the pill, to the ring and implants -- appeared to have a 20 percent higher risk of breast cancer, according to a new study of 1.8 million women in Denmark.

The study, which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine, included 1.8 million women over the course of nearly 11 years. Denmark has a nationwide registry, which enabled scientists to find data on the women.

The researchers addressed potential confounding factors that, on their own, could increase breast cancer risk such as smoking, family history, prior pregnancies, body-mass index and education, as a marker for socioeconomic status.

"I was hoping that I was able to recommend one product that was risk-free but could not recommend any product as risk-free," study co-author Dr. Lina Mørch told ABC News Wednesday.

According to the study, a statistically significant increase in breast cancer risk was found in women who had used hormonal contraception for at least a year. And, the breast cancer risk seemed to increase with the duration of hormonal contraceptive use.

Mørch said that the increase in risk persisted even after stopping if hormonal contraceptives had previously been used for at least five years. But this was not the case among short-term users. Mørch described "short-term users" as less than five years.

The data in the study backed up previous research linking oral contraceptive use with increased breast cancer risk. However, the increases in breast cancer risk seen in the study were relatively small and the absolute increases in breast cancer risk remained low.

Study authors said the risk of breast cancer should be balanced against the benefits of the use of hormonal contraceptives.

In previous studies, the use of oral contraceptives has been linked to lower risks of other types of cancer. Mørch said women using or considering the use of oral contraceptives should talk with their medical providers.

Mia Gaudet, Ph.D., of the American Cancer Society, told ABC News Wednesday: “Women who are using oral contraceptives might want to speak to their doctors about use before age 35 and after age 35. Depending on their reasons for using oral contraceptives, they might want to consider other options, including non-hormonal contraceptives.”

“Beyond their role as effective contraception, oral contraceptives are used to treat a variety of abnormal menstrual syndromes and have a net cancer benefit as they reduce the risk of ovarian, endometrial, and colorectal cancers,” Gaudet said.

“It's not black and white. There are a lot of things to take into account," Mørch said.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Dec062017

Mom vilified for self-care post responds to backlash

(Kristen Hewitt) Kristen Hewitt with her husband and two daughters. (NEW YORK) -- A Florida mom became the victim of a mom-blog frenzy this week after she posted on her Facebook page about a decision she made to skip her daughter's school assembly.

It was, Kristen Hewitt told ABC News, the first time she had ever missed one of her kids' events to do something for herself.

Her parenting crime: Going on a run and having her daughter's dad and grandmother attend the school assembly in her place.

In the days leading up to the school assembly for her 8-year-old, she had worked seven days in a row, had come off a hectic Thanksgiving holiday, was preparing a birthday party for her 6-year-old daughter and her husband had been on the road. She had a 15-hour work day ahead. "I have anxiety," she said. "I run for my anxiety and needed an hour to workout and prepare."

Hewitt said she talked to her daughter in advance of the event and told her how proud she was of her. She took her for ice cream afterwards.

She spent seven years trying to conceive and then when she did, the sports reporter sidelined her career when her children came along, she said, in order to focus solely on them. She told ABC News she "lost herself" for a time.

"I'd become over-anxious and overworked. Self-care is something we all need," she said. "Moms need to take a step back, especially during the holidays to take care of themselves."

While some of the comments Hewitt's received have echoed this sentiment, many did not. She has been called everything from a selfish b**** to a narcissist. But she maintains she "did what was best for me and for my family," she said.

And she'd do it all over again, if for no other reason than to model how important self-care is to her own daughter.

"It’s OK to say to no to kids every once in awhile and say yes to yourself."

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Dec062017

New superfood, at-home workouts among hottest wellness trends to watch in 2018

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- If you kick off 2018 by drinking a smoothie made with moringa and nondairy yogurt after working out at home, you will be right on trend.

Those three items - at-home workouts, moringa and alternative yogurts - are three of the buzziest health and wellness trends to watch in the New Year, according to website Well+Good.

Alexia Brue and Melisse Gelula, co-founders of the wellness-focused website, appeared on Good Morning America to give a first look at what the wellness sphere will be focused on in the New Year.

Moringa

Moringa is a superfood - a nutritionally dense food - full of nutrients like iron and vitamin A and is a complete protein plant, Gelula said.

"Turmeric and kale, they've had their buzz," Gelula said, referring to two other well-known superfoods. "[Moringa] is what you're going to be eating next year. It's showing up in every aisle of the grocery store."

How to implement the trend in your life:

Moringa is being sold now as an ingredient in snacks like bars and puffs. It also comes in powder form so can be added to smoothies, hummus and guacamole.

Moringa is also showing up in the beauty aisle in oils, Gelula said.

At-home workouts

More and more fitness companies are joining Peloton -- the at-home fitness leader that streams live spin classes on its custom bike -- in bringing the workout to you.

Other players, from popular workout studios to e-commerce giant Amazon, are building out their online classes so people can work out in the comfort of their own home at a fraction of the price.

"We're so excited that this year at-home fitness is getting even more amazing in that you have the motivation of an instructor really coming into your home with so many apps and streaming services," Brue said.

How to implement the trend in your life:

Anna Kaiser, trainer to stars including Shakira and Kelly Ripa, brings her New York City-based, dance-focused workout classes to the masses through AKT On Demand. The program includes an on-demand workout kit for $59 and full-length workouts, lifestyle videos and live training sessions that range in price from $9.99 to as much as $299.99 for an eight-week program.

Cardio trampolines are also growing in popularity because they can be purchased for less than $100 and pack a cardio punch in a small space.

Alternative yogurts

In the grocery store, the third 2018 wellness trend, nut milk yogurts, is taking over the yogurt case, Gelula said.

The nut milk yogurts are non-dairy alternatives that still contain probiotics and are rich in flavor, Gelula added. For the most protein, Gelula recommends choosing an almond-based yogurt.

How to implement the trend in your life:

Both indie and well-known brands are getting in on the trend by offering nondairy options like almond, coconut and cashew, and yogurts.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Dec062017

Two toddlers hospitalized after ingesting opioids in separate incidents

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Two New York City toddlers ingested drugs and were revived with Narcan in unrelated instances that occurred hours apart in the Bronx.

Edgardo Rodriguez, 20, was charged with reckless endangerment and endangering the welfare of a child after his 1-year-old daughter ingested heroin Saturday morning, police said.

According to the criminal complaint, Rodriguez told police, "I was using heroin in the bed before my kids laid down. My kids were there. Some of it spilled onto the bed. It made a mess. I went to sleep. I don't know how my daughter got in contact with the residue on the bed because I was high."

Hours later, Rodriguez and his mother noticed that the child was having difficulty breathing, according to police. She was taken to St. Barnabas Hospital and was administered three doses of Naloxone and placed on a Narcan drip. The 1-year-old has been transferred to Montefiore Medical Center, where she's in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit.

In a second unrelated incident last Friday night, a mother and father were walking with their 18-month-old daughter in the Bronx when the girl picked up a small bag with an unknown substance and ate it, police said. The father wiped the substance from her mouth; moments later, she turned a "greenish hue," police said. The little girl had a seizure and was rushed to a hospital, where she was given two shots of Narcan, police said.

The New York City Administration for Children's Services (ACS) said in a statement, “The safety and well-being of New York City’s children is our top priority. ACS and NYPD are actively investigating the events surrounding this incident.”

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Dec062017

Rigorous diet can put Type 2 diabetes into remission, study finds

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Some people with Type 2 diabetes were able to put the disease in remission without medication by following a rigorous diet plan, according to a study published in the Lancet medical journal.

"Our findings suggest that even if you have had Type 2 diabetes for six years, putting the disease into remission is feasible," Michael Lean, a professor from the University of Glasgow in Scotland who co-led the study, said in a statement.

The researchers looked at 149 participants who have had Type 2 diabetes for up to six years and monitored them closely as they underwent a liquid diet that provided only 825 to 853 calories per day for three to five months. The participants were then reintroduced to solid food and maintained a structured diet until the end of the yearlong study.

The researchers found that almost half the participants (68 total) were able to put their diabetes in remission without the use of medication after one year. In addition, those who undertook the study also lost an average of more than 20 pounds. Thirty-two of the 149 participants in the study, however, dropped out of the program.

The study comes at a time when more than 100 million American adults are living with diabetes or prediabetes, according to a report released earlier this year by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Prediabetes was defined by the CDC as a condition that, if not treated, often leads to Type 2 diabetes within five years.

In addition, approximately 90 to 95 percent of the more than 30 million Americans living with diabetes have Type 2 diabetes, according to the CDC.

Roy Taylor, a professor at Newcastle University in the U.K. who co-led the study, said in a statement announcing the findings that the impact that diet and lifestyle have on diabetes is "rarely discussed."

"Rather than addressing the root cause, management guidelines for Type 2 diabetes focus on reducing blood sugar levels through drug treatments. Diet and lifestyle are touched upon, but diabetes remission by cutting calories is rarely discussed," Taylor said.

He added that the participants were not asked to increase their physical activity at all, but only asked to modify their diet.

"A major difference from other studies is that we advised a period of dietary weight loss with no increase in physical activity, but during the long-term follow-up, increased daily activity is important," Taylor said.

Taylor also wrote that the study offered a more universal approach to reversing diabetes compared to undergoing bariatric surgery, which can achieve Type 2 diabetes remission for some people, but "is more expensive and risky, and is only available to a small number of patients."

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Dec062017

College student raises $220K for St. Jude Children's Hospital after pledge on Twitter goes viral

iStock/Thinkstock(PULLMAN, Wash.) -- A college student whose tweet about her attempt to raise money for St. Jude Children’s Hospital went viral is learning the power of social media.

Danni Messina, a sophomore at Washington State University, promised 25 cents for every “favorite” her tweet received, and 50 cents for every retweet. The only problem: She didn’t expect to get more than 475,000 favorites and more than 205,000 retweets, adding up to about a whopping $220,000.

“I drew a blank. I really had no idea what to expect,” Messina, 19, said on Good Morning America of her initial shock at her tweet’s success. “At the time, I had 600 followers and I thought, ‘OK, well that’s basically impossible.’ And then I’m like, ‘OK, this is the time. This is the time to make a change.’”

Messina said she started a GoFundMe page to make her mission a “team effort.”

“The GoFundMe has now reached a little over $86,000 and in total we’re at about $174,000 for St. Jude,” she said of the treatment and research facility in Memphis, Tennessee, that focuses on childhood cancer and other life-threatening diseases.

Kmart also took part in the fundraising, holding an official Danni Messina Day where customers had the option to donate money to St. Jude, a longstanding partner of theirs, at check out.

“They raised a little over $86,000 that day nationally,” Messina said. “All of that money is going to be donated to St. Jude in my name to help me out with this campaign to reach that goal of just around $220,000.”

Good Morning America co-anchor Michael Strahan, who is a spokesman for St. Jude, volunteering his time and starring in public service announcements to support the hospital’s mission, thanked Messina for her fundraising work.

“Thank you for your work with St. Jude’s, which I love,” he told her.

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