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Tuesday
Dec042018

2-year-old needs rare blood type to save her life, now there's a worldwide search underway 

OneBlood.org(NEW YORK) -- The family of a 2-year-old girl battling an aggressive form of cancer is desperately searching for a rare blood type that will allow her to obtain the life-saving treatment she needs.

Zainab Mughal was diagnosed with neuroblastoma two months ago. But her family believes the tumor in her stomach had been growing for at least 10 months before that, her father, Raheel Mughal, said in a video published by OneBlood, the organization aiding the family's search for Zainab's blood supply.

Mughal said his daughter's diagnosis was "the worst thing" they could have expected, until doctors discovered another problem.

Zainab's red blood cells are missing a common antigen known as Indian-B, said Susan Forbes, vice president of marketing and communications for OneBlood. Because the antigen is so common, it makes it difficult to find blood donors who are lacking it as well, Forbes said.

The blood is even harder to find because the donors must have blood types "O" or "A" and be 100 percent of Indian, Iranian or Pakistani descent, Forbes said.

Less than four percent of the world's population has the blood type Zainab needs to undergo treatment, which includes frequent blood transfusions, Forbes said. None of Zainab's family have turned out to be matches, Mughal said.

So far, OneBlood has located three matches, including one in the United Kingdom near London, with the help of the American Rare Donor Program, Forbes said. All three have since sent units of blood to the Miami area, where the family lives, Forbes said.

Zainab will need up to seven more people to donate throughout the course of her treatment, according to the organization. And more than 1,000 people who are of Iranian, Indian or Pakistani descent have donated blood to be tested, Forbes said.

"We will definitely need more blood," Mughal said. "My daughter, she’s still a long way from being perfect."

While the blood won't cure Zainab's cancer, it will allow her to undergo two bone marrow transplants, which will make her stronger and allow doctors to give her higher doses of chemotherapy, Forbes said.

The toddler is already undergoing regular chemotherapy, which has helped the tumor shrink, but "she still has a long road ahead of her," Forbes said.

"My daughter's life very much depends on the blood," Mughal said, describing the plea for help as a "humble request" from his heart.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Dec042018

FDA warns of dog foods recalled for too much Vitamin D

iStock/cmannphoto(NEW YORK) --  The Food and Drug Administration is warning pet owners that several brands of dry dog food contain too much vitamin D, which can be toxic in high amounts, increasing their risk of kidney failure.

The FDA said that dog food sourced from a single manufacturer, but sold by multiple brands, contained "excessive, potentially toxic levels of vitamin D." Recalls have been initiated for impacted food from Nutrisca, Natural Life Pet Products, Sunshine Mills, Inc., Kroger brand, and ELM dog foods.

 "After receiving complaints from pet owners about dogs with vitamin D toxicity, one of the firms reported to the FDA that it was recalling dry pet food due to potentially toxic levels of vitamin D. Many other brands with a common contract manufacturer have also been recalled. The FDA is working with the contract manufacturer to provide a comprehensive list of affected brands," the FDA said in a press release.

An FDA spokeswoman said they can't disclose the name of the manufacturer because it is protected information.

One of the companies, Nutrisca, said on its website that it received complaints from three pet owners who said their dogs showed vitamin D toxicity and that the excess levels were due to a "formulation error."

Another brand, Sunshine Mills, said its impacted products were distributed in the U.S. as well as exported to Japan, Puerto Rico, Colombia, Israel, Canada and South Korea.

Dogs that consume too much vitamin D can show symptoms like vomiting, loss of appetite, increased thirst or weight loss, according to the FDA. Toxic levels can cause kidney failure or death.

The FDA recommends people contact their dog's veterinarian if their dogs have been eating food from the recalled brands or if they show any symptoms associated with vitamin D toxicity.

For specific information about the types of food impacted by recalls check the FDA's website at fda.gov.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Dec042018

ABC News' Ginger Zee taps sleep training expert to help son sleep through the night

Ginger Zee(NEW YORK) -- ABC News' Good Morning America meteorologist Ginger Zee is the mother of two boys, Adrian, who will turn three later this month, and Miles, who was born in February.

Like any parent, Zee is constantly in search of one thing: sleep.

When she heard about a baby sleep training expert through Twitter, Zee reached out. She and her husband, Ben Aaron, worked with the expert, Dana Obleman, who writes on her website, "My job is to get your baby sleeping through the night!"

Here is their experience, in Zee's own words:

I’m exhausted.

The type of exhausted that I can’t even really describe.

The type of exhausted that only a parent of a newborn can understand. But I don’t have a newborn. I have an nine-month-old.

Miles is the sweetest little boy and the most joyous addition to our family. Unlike his older brother, Adrian, who has been sleeping through the night since he was two-months-old, Miles... is not.

And we have done nothing different! It’s expected the first few months, but by month 4 between pumping, feeding and his wake-ups with my GMA schedule, I was lucky if I got a broken 4-5 hours of sleep.

So by eight months and never getting more than four hours at a clip, it’s really hitting me hard. So I did what felt comfortable. I reached out to my ever helpful fans on Twitter.

Among the many suggestions came the critical one.

"You should get in touch with Dana Obleman. The sleep boss," wrote one follower.

Fast forward a few direct messages later and Dana was on the other line diagnosing our situation.

She asked very basic questions about our sleep routine for Miles, food and nap details.

Then she said the magic words: “You are doing a lot right, with a few small adjustments I think he could be sleeping through the night in less than a week.”

Serious music to these tired ears.

We set up a plan with Dana - one big issue: Miles isn’t eating enough during the day. The night bottles were taking his hunger from the day when he should be eating.

Dana told us that babies his age should average 20 to 24 ounces [of breastmilk or formula]. We were lucky to get 16 [ounces] in him. He loves solid foods.

We were also too haphazard with the bottles.

Dana said we needed to feed him as soon as he gets up, wait an hour-and-a-half, then do solids, [wait] an hour-and-a-half and go down for a morning nap. Ideally nap for 1 to 1.5 hours (this is never happening), wake up and get another bottle. Repeat the waiting game. Lunch, nap and bottle. Then dinner and one last bottle before sleep. Ideally totaling 24 ounces.

Even when it was breast milk, Miles just prefers solid food over formula or breast milk. So it’s a tough to get the food in him.

The first night Dana says when he wakes we can give him half of what he usually takes at night to start weening him from that overnight food.

He wakes at his usual 2:30 a.m. and I feed him four ounces. He goes back down until 5:30 am. Not bad.

The second and third nights are supposed to be the hardest. We are not to feed him. Let him cry and check on him every 10 minutes.

But that second night he only wakes up once at 2:30 a.m. and magically works himself back to sleep, as if he knew. Dana asked that we let him shift and make noises, even cry, for 10 minutes the first night, so we did and he went back to sleep.

We were lucky.

Night three was difficult. He woke up at 2:30 a.m. and cried. Hard. For almost an hour. It was true torture but I kept reminding myself that Dana said this would be good for us all in the long run. She’s right. He eventually goes back to sleep and wakes up hungry and actually eats a full bottle!

The next night I hear him, but only briefly at 2:30 a.m. and he’s back to sleep.

That’s seriously all it took. He’s been going 10 to 11-hour stretches regularly now and it’s really heavenly.

Now our only issue is bedtime. He loves to go to bed early. Once we can push that back we should be in a much better place. Dana has been checking in and has even given us tips to get him to sleep in later.

Dana warns that daylight saving time, teething and illness can throw it off. Always go back to letting them cry it out unless something is seriously wrong.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Dec042018

CDB is the latest wellness trend, but does it work?

Morrison1977/iStock(NEW YORK) -- It seems like everywhere you look, they’re selling CBD.

The non-hallucinogenic marijuana plant extract is being added to everything from skin creams to dog treats with claims of miracle-like results. Some CBD products even claim it can stop anxiety and treat Parkinson’s disease and seizure disorders.

But what is CBD, and is the hype actually real? Let’s have a look.

What is a Cannabinoid?

There are three types of cannabinoids. Endocannabinoids, which are produced naturally in the body; man-made cannabinoids, which can be really dangerous; and the most popular, cannabinoids such as THC and CBD, which come from the marijuana plant.

All three kinds of cannabinoids bind to cannabinoid receptors in the body. CB1 receptors, located primarily in the brain, are believed to control mood, memory, sleep, appetite and pain. CB2 receptors are located in parts of the body that produce blood cells, such as the spleen, and are believed to affect inflammation.

What is CBD?

CBD is short for cannabidiol, and it’s one chemical compound found in the Cannabis sativa plant -- in both marijuana and hemp. CBD differs from THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) because it doesn’t cause the intoxicating, euphoric “high” associated with marijuana.

What are the health benefits?

Though there are claims of health benefits wherever you go, the science isn’t quite there yet -- most of the research that has found benefits was done on animals. That’s because researching marijuana legally is difficult. Marijuana is a schedule I controlled substance, defined as having “no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”

Still, there’s a lot of anecdotal evidence, including the case of Charlotte Figi.

A robust and active toddler, Charlotte began having seizures early in life -- up to 50 per day. She was diagnosed with Dravet syndrome, a seizure disorder that can be uncontrollable with typical medications. After exhaustive research, Charlotte’s mother found that the best treatment was a combination of CBD extract with Charlotte’s normal antiepileptic drug regimen. This cut the seizures down to two to three per month, allowing her to live a normal childhood.

In June 2018, the Food and Drug Administration approved a CBD-containing seizure medication called Epidiolex, which can be used for the uncontrollable seizures caused by diseases such as Dravet Syndrome.

CBD is also widely used to treat pain and anxiety. Scientists are quick to say they are still unsure of the way this works, but they believe it may be due to CBD altering some brain pathways linked to these symptoms.

In skin care, CBD has been reported to treat itchiness, acne and allergic dermatitis -- a skin reaction to allergies. While the mechanisms here are also unknown, scientists think it may be due to cannabinoid receptors in the skin which, when activated, work to reduce inflammation.

As states move to legalize these compounds to the public, all of these claims will need to be studied.

How do people use CBD?

Many CBD products are sold as oils or balms, but they are also available in lotions, facial serums, lozenges or as part of cocktails. Although manufacturers claim there is an appropriate dose for the products they make, that is up for debate. The nutrition and supplement business, in general, is highly unregulated and this includes CBD products, even in states with legal marijuana.

What are the risks?

Both the benefits and risks of CBD lack substantiated research. As with any supplement, there is always a risk for unintended drug interaction. A small number of studies on animals indicate that CBD could potentially affect cell health and the breakdown of drugs in the liver. In humans, a study that investigated CBD’s effect on seizures noted side effects including diarrhea, vomiting, fatigue and increased sleepiness.

Why is it popular now?

In a word: marketing.

Similar to vitamin C and kale, CBD is undergoing a rise to fame just similar to the way that kale has been labeled a “superfood,” which is a non-medical buzzword. And with celebrities publicizing anecdotal benefits, there’s been easing tension surrounding CBD’s stigma.

But most importantly, as mentioned, it’s being marketed as a fix for various ailments.

Is it legal to use CBD?

Not exactly. As mentioned, marijuana is still a schedule I substance, and that includes CBD.

The issue of legality comes down to how the CBD is obtained. The THC portions of the cannabis plant include the flowering tops (buds), the leaves and the resin of the plant. The remainder -- the stalks and sterilized seeds -- is where most CBD comes from. However, producers can also obtain it from the THC portions in which case it might yield a mixture of THC and CBD.

According to Katherine Pfaff, a spokesperson for the Drug Enforcement Administration, “If the product does cause THC to enter the human body and/or contains greater than 0.3 percent of THC, it is an illegal substance that may not be manufactured, sold or consumed in the United States. If, however, the product does not cause THC to enter the human body and contains less than 0.3 percent THC, it is a non-controlled substance that may lawfully be sold.”

The National Institutes of Health lists over 150 studies involving CBD as a treatment for various diseases. The World Health Organization concluded in a press release that CBD is not harmful. And in the sports world, the World Anti-Doping Agency removed it from its prohibited substances list.

To top this off, CBD is widely available online as well as in countless bars and coffee shops nationwide. This legal ambiguity undoubtedly confuses consumers, and it won’t change until further research trickles in.

The bottom line is there are countless claims regarding CBD’s ability to cure common ailments and there are also many places to buy CBD over the counter. But while there are many people willing to answer for CBD, the reality is there are still many questions that the industry itself needs to answer.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Dec032018

FDA recalls blood pressure medication 

iStock/GlobalStockBy. Sumir Shah, M.D.

(NEW YORK) -- The Food and Drug Administration just announced a recall of Valsartan, a potentially life-saving blood pressure medication, after the discovery of a cancer-causing contaminant found in some batches. This is the third recall for this type of medication in 2018.

Teva Pharmaceuticals has recalled amlodipine/Valsartan and amlodipine/Valsartan/hydrochlorothiazide combination tablets, medications that are commonly used to treat high blood pressure.

The recall began after high levels of an active ingredient in Valsartan, N-nitroso-diethylamine (NDEA), was found in tablets produced in India. NDEA is a naturally occurring chemical in some foods, and can be found in drinking water, air pollution and industrial processes, but it’s also classified as a human carcinogen, meaning it may cause cancer in high levels.

Less than a month ago, the FDA also announced a recall of Irbesartan tablets, a drug in the same class as Valsartan, which also contained the NDEA ingredient. The tablets were produced by ScieGen Pharmaceuticals, a New York-based company with manufacturing relationships in India.

In July, the FDA announced another recall of an ingredient in Valsartan known as N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA). This impurity, another carcinogen, was noticed in medications produced by Zhejiang Huahai Pharmaceuticals in China. The impurity, according to the FDA, was a result of production process changes at the company.

“The FDA is committed to maintaining our gold standard for safety and efficacy,” said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb in a July statement. He added that when the agency discovers quality control problems, they take decisive action to alert the public and remove the product.

What is high blood pressure?

High blood pressure, which affects 75 million adults in the U.S., is one of the most common medical conditions. Blood pressure is a measure of how efficiently our hearts push blood through our arteries. If the pressure is too low, there is a risk that organs will not get enough blood; if pressure is too high, there’s a risk the heart is working too hard.

What is normal blood pressure?

Blood pressure measurement is divided into two phases. The first is pressure when the heart is squeezing, known as systolic. The second is pressure when the heart is relaxing, known as diastolic. If your doctor says your blood pressure is 130/80 -- the “130” would be systolic and the “80” would be diastolic.

While your target blood pressure is often determined by your age and medical conditions, most doctors recommend keeping it around 120/80.

Why is my blood pressure high?

It’s important to understand that the number will vary throughout the day, but that’s normal. High blood pressure can be caused by family history, obesity, smoking, high-salt diets, diabetes, lack of exercise or underlying kidney disease. Often, it can be controlled with a combination of lifestyle modifications and a variety of medications.

What is Valsartan/Ibresartan?

Valsartan is a medication for high blood pressure in a class known as Angiotensin Receptor Blockers (ARBs). These block a natural hormone called angiotensin II, which works to narrow your arteries, increasing your blood pressure. High blood pressure causes stress on your heart and can contribute to heart disease.

What does this recall mean for you?

If you are taking a blood pressure medication that was recently recalled, do not stop taking it. Instead, immediately contact your doctor to discuss a replacement drug. The FDA said that the effects of stopping this kind of medication abruptly can lead to rises in blood pressure that could pose further health threats.

Teva said they have not been informed of any health problems connected to contaminants in the recalled drugs.

According to the FDA website, people with questions should contact Teva by phone at: 888-838-2872 Monday-Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. EST. Voicemail is available 24 hours every day. You can also email them at druginfo@tevapharm.com.

Sumir Shah, M.D. is an emergency medicine physician in New York City, and a member of the ABC News Medical Unit.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Sunday
Dec022018

Mass shootings related to domestic violence often receive less attention, experts say

Scott Olson/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- For many, the term "mass shooting" conjures up a random attack in which a lone gunman opens fire, often for unknown reasons.

However, there have been just as many deadly mass shootings this year in which the shooter knew the victim, in many cases intimately, including instances of husbands killing their wives and children, or former partners killing their ex-girlfriends and other family members.  

The FBI defines a mass shooting as an incident where four or more people -- not including the suspect -- are killed. While there is no publicly accessible federal tracker of such incidents, various groups and watchdog organizations keep their own lists, often using different definitions of what qualifies as a mass shooting.

Of the 18 mass shootings that ABC News identified so far this year that fit the FBI's parameters, nine were instances of either intimate partner or family violence, both of which are forms of domestic violence.

Six of those nine cases involved men fatally shooting either their girlfriend, wife, or ex-partner, along with at least three other people. Some of those other victims were relatives of the female victim; others were bystanders.

Two of the nine cases involved a familial homicide, with parents or children shooting their direct relatives.

And in one case studied by ABC News, the male suspect kill his ex-partner's four young children. In another case, a mother killed her own children.

But too often, domestic violence doesn't receive the same media attention as other types of shootings, say many domestic violence and gun control advocacy groups.

“For so long, we’ve seen domestic violence as a personal issue – it happens in the home, don’t talk about it – but mass shootings show us otherwise,” said Bryan Pacheco, the spokesperson Safe Horizon, a crime and abuse victims' services agency. “These are not just personal issues. These are community issues that we all should be tackling.”

“The ability to help and support one survivor has the potential to save so many lives,” he added.
John Cohen is a former Homeland Security official and current criminal justice professor who also works as an ABC News contributor.

Cohen said that while it was not uncommon in the past for spurned partners to be violent towards their significant others, many of these incidents now involve powerful weapons and multiple bystander casualties.

“Unlike in years past when they may go into a location and harm that person, instead they're going into a school, a workplace, a house of worship, and they're seeking to address their grievance by shooting a large group of people,” Cohen said.

He specifically cited the deadly 2017 shooting at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. In that incident, the shooter went to the church after allegedly expressing anger towards his mother-in-law, who was a parishioner. The suspect went to the church looking for his relatives but ended up killing 26 people before killing himself, authorities said.

Earlier this week, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime released a report on the threats facing women around the world, showing that some of their greatest and deadliest dangers are at home.
The UN report found that 58 percent of women who were intentionally killed around the world in 2017 were killed by intimate partners or family members.

The report notes that globally, men are about four times more likely to be the victims of intentional homicide, but the share of women as victims goes up dramatically when looking specifically at violence perpetrated by an intimate partner or family member.

In those cases, 64 percent of victims of intimate partner- or family-related homicide are women, compared to the 36 percent of victims who are male. That percentage increases further for intimate partner homicide, as the report found that in those cases, 82 percent of victims are female and 18 percent are male.

The youngest victims of the deadly mass shootings this year were all killed in domestic violence incidents. In June, a man killed his two children –- ages 1 and 6 –- as well as his girlfriend’s other children –- ages 10 and 12 –- following a hostage situation in Florida before killing himself.

And the month before, a father killed his three children -- ages 4, 6, and 8 -- as well as his ex-wife’s new boyfriend. The suspect killed himself in front of his ex right after killing her boyfriend, she told The Huffington Post.

Pacheco said “people can’t fathom” instances where suspects kill their children, but it fits with the issues at hand in domestic violence cases.

“Domestic violence is about power and control and what’s the most terrible thing you can do to a mother or a father – usually a mother – is to harm their children,” he said.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Saturday
Dec012018

'Friend after friend was dying': HIV survivors look back at past 30 years of AIDS in the US

Saikat Paul/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images(NEW YORK) --  Mark Milano was 25 years old when he was diagnosed with AIDS in 1982, and so little was known about the disease that his doctor called it “AID.”

“I didn’t know what it was and he said, ‘Well it’s a life-threatening illness,’” Milano said of his interaction with the emergency room doctor.

Now, at age 62, Milano is among the growing group of seniors living with HIV or AIDS, and as World AIDS Day marks its 30th anniversary, there have been changes in both treating the once-mysterious disease and the ways in which those infected with them live their lives.

Milano moved from Chicago to New York City in 1987 and became a member of the activist group Act Up, which gained national prominence from the late 1980s to mid-1990s.

“At the time, I was seeing all my friends dying around me. Friend after friend after friend was dying,” Milano said.

Stephen Karpiak, who is now 72 years old and the current senior director for research at New York’s Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC), said that he couldn’t tally the number of memorial services he went to for friends who died of the disease.

He remembered friends who “died a lonely death, their families would disown them” and then also face discrimination from funeral homes that would either not hold services for those who died of the disease, or charge their loved ones more as a result.

“These were people in their late 20s, early 30s -- people who shouldn’t be dying,” said Karpiak, who does not have HIV but has researched the disease for decades.

He said that before 1995, an HIV diagnosis was “absolutely” viewed as a death sentence by many, saying that “within -- at max, two years, usually two months -- people were going to succumb.”

“They'd call you on the phone and they'd say, ‘I'm diagnosed,’ and your heart would sink because they didn’t have much time here left on this earth,” Karpiak said of conversations with friends at the time.

'I remember being fearful'

Gregg Bruckno was diagnosed when he was 29 years old in 1999, “a little bit after the AIDS crisis that I grew up in.”

He said that the outlook was slightly less pessimistic than earlier years, as “people were living longer, people weren’t dying in a year at that point,” but the perception of HIV and AIDS prior to his diagnosis impacted his decision to put off getting tested.

“The perception growing up was if you were gay or you were a drug addict, you would get AIDS,” Bruckno said.

“As a closeted gay man, I was horrified that that’s going to be me or if somebody finds out that I’m gay they're going to think I have AIDS,” he said.

“Going back to that time, you didn’t let anybody know that you had HIV because they would think you could spread it through casual contact,” he said, adding, “I remember being fearful.”

While awareness and medical treatments have improved over the past three decades, those who have been newly diagnosed still struggle with whom to tell and how to tell them about their status.

That is the case for Aalia Cox, a 31-year-old transgender woman who was diagnosed with HIV in 2014.

“I really don’t talk about HIV to people unless I know that they're positive, unless they're a friend and they know my status. I try to use HIV-neutral language all the time,” she said, referring to code she says “doesn’t disclose your status.” 

Cox said that even before she knew her HIV positive status, “people close to me were already saying I was going to get AIDS” while she was transitioning.

“I know for a fact the stigma still exists around HIV and AIDS,” she said.

Bruckno said that he feels more optimistic for those who are diagnosed now than he did for those who received such news earlier.

“When I talk to newly diagnosed people [now] I can assure them that things will be OK. My friends back then weren't so sure. People still died, even if you got the new medication, people were still dying,” he said.

The 'complication of success'

According to a 2015 estimate from the Centers for Disease Control, 47 percent of Americans with HIV were 50 years old or older, which Karpiak says should be "something to celebrate."

“I think the shift of HIV/AIDS from an imminent death sentence to being able to live a normal life span will probably be looked upon as one of the most significant medical achievements in the 20th century,” he said.

However, he added that there are concerns that he says are seen as “the complication of success,” as an aging populous faces additional medical problems, including cardiac or cognitive issues, battles with cancer, diabetes or kidney problems, he said.

“They have more of these diseases than other people do at their age,” Karpiak said. “Managing HIV becomes the easy part.”

Beyond those medical conditions, those who have HIV still face stigmas that, according to longer survivors like Milano, have shifted over the years.

Milano now works as an HIV educator at nonprofit ACRIA, which has partnered with GMHC, and said he’s seen distinct changes.

“People are far less afraid of people with HIV than they were in the '80s and '90s,” he said, but noted that it varies in different parts of the country.

That said, he feels there’s now “tremendous stigma” among gay men, which he said comes in complete contrast to earlier decades.

Milano said he’s found recently that within the gay community, those who are HIV negative “don’t want to have anything to do with you.”

“That’s really sad, that we have lost the solidarity that the gay community had in the '80s,” he said.

 Bruckno runs the Terry Brenneis Hub for Long-Term Survivors at GMHC, and said there has to be more attention paid to the emotional toll that older survivors face.

“There’s a lot of isolation; there’s a lot of depression,” he said, noting that he understands the fears of those in the community because he sometimes faces similar ones.

“I’m 48. I’m single. I was married to a man -- we broke up -- so I’m alone. I live alone. There are moments that I feel that I don’t want to die alone,” he said.

“So much has changed in 30 years, but there’s a lot of work [left]. It’s nice to know that we’ve come this far but there’s a new thing on the horizon: long-term survivors and people aging,” he said.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Saturday
Dec012018

Despite major strides in treatment, HIV/AIDS still a concern for millions

iStock

BY DR. JOHANNA KREAFLE

(NEW YORK) -- Since the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s, more than 70 million people worldwide have been afflicted with HIV/AIDS and about 35 million people have died. During the early days, thousands of people had mere months to live after they were diagnosed.

“With no effective treatment available in the 1980s, there was little hope for those diagnosed with HIV, facing debilitating illness and certain death within years,” said Dr. Gottfried Hirnschall in an article for the World Health Organization. Hirnschall is director of the HIV/AIDS Department and Global Hepatitis Programme at WHO.

Over the past 30 years, however, there have been significant advances in how we treat HIV/AIDS. We now have easily accessible testing, treatment and prevention options, including pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and various services that reach vulnerable communities.

But there’s still work to be done. In 2017 alone, an estimated 940,000 people worldwide died from HIV-related causes. About 37 million people worldwide have HIV, with 1.1 million of them being in the U.S. More concerning is that 162,500 Americans don’t know they have it, putting others at risk.

The 30th anniversary of World AIDS Day is on Dec. 1. It’s a day to raise awareness about HIV and the danger of AIDS. So here are some things you should know about HIV/AIDS.

What is HIV and AIDS?

HIV is a virus that attacks the body’s immune system, specifically CD4 cells, which are a kind of T cell. They help the immune system fight off infections. When it’s untreated, HIV decreases the number of CD4 cells in the body, making the person vulnerable to other infections or infection-related cancers. Over time, HIV can destroy so many of these cells that the body can’t fight off infections and disease, and that can lead to severe illness or even death.

HIV can also progress into acquired immunodeficiency virus (AIDS) when it isn’t treated. People with AIDS have such badly damaged immune systems that they become susceptible to opportunistic infections -- infections that people with normally functioning immune systems don’t get. AIDS is diagnosed either when the patient develops opportunistic infections or when their CD4 cell count hits 200 cells per microliter of blood or less. Without treatment, someone with AIDS may survive for about three years.

How do you get HIV?

HIV is a virus that’s spread through certain body fluids, specifically blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid, rectal fluids, vaginal fluids and breast milk. A person who has HIV can transmit the virus to another person when these fluids make contact with another person’s mucous membranes -- in the rectum, vagina, penis or mouth -- during anal, vaginal or oral sex. It can also be transmitted through damaged tissue or by sharing contaminated needles when using drugs. Moms can also transmit the virus to their babies during pregnancy, birth or breastfeeding.

HIV is not transmitted by air; water; saliva; sweat; tears; closed-mouth kissing; or by sharing toilets, food or drinks.

How can you protect yourself from getting HIV?

Use condoms correctly every time you have anal, vaginal or oral sex; and limit the number of sexual partners you have.

You and your partner should also get tested before having sex, if possible. The CDC recommends that everyone ages 13 to 64 get tested for HIV at least once for a screening. But certain groups of people with specific risk factors should get tested at least once per year, including any men who have sex with men -- the group most affected by HIV in the U.S. Talk to your doctor about how often you should get tested.

And, finally, don’t use injection drugs. If you do, don’t share needles.

What are the stages of HIV?

There are three stages that people with HIV go through:

Stage 1: Acute HIV infection. A flu-like illness may develop within two to four weeks of infection and last for several weeks. This is the body’s response to the infection. It’s also when HIV reproduces rapidly inside the body, making the person very contagious.

Stage 2: Clinical latency. A period of dormancy, HIV is still active during this stage, but it reproduces at very low levels. People with HIV may not have symptoms or get sick during this time. With treatment, people may stay in this stage for several decades. At the end of this stage, the amount of the virus in the body starts to go up and the immune system begins to weaken.

Stage 3: AIDS. The body’s immune system is significantly weakened, making the patient susceptible to opportunistic infections.

How do you know if you have HIV?

The only way to know if you have HIV is to get tested. While many people won’t feel anything, others might develop symptoms such as fever, chills, rash, muscle aches, sore throat or mouth ulcers within two to four weeks.

It’s important to remember that even if you have these symptoms, it doesn’t mean you have HIV -- each of these symptoms can be caused by other illnesses. But if you have been potentially exposed to HIV, it is critical to see a doctor and tell them about your risk so you can get proper testing and treatment.

HIV tests are very accurate, but no test can detect the virus immediately after infection -- how soon a test can detect the virus depends on different factors, including the type of test used. The more expensive tests, which aren’t routinely used, look for the actual virus in the blood. More common tests look for HIV antigens (substances that activate the immune system) or antibodies (proteins your body makes to combat HIV) and quickly offer results. Oftentimes you will need follow-up testing after these initial results to be sure the diagnosis is correct.

Is there a cure for HIV?

There is no effective cure for HIV, but with a combination of medications known as antiretroviral therapy (ART), patients can control it.

Introduced in the mid-90s, ART helps to decrease the amount of HIV in the blood, known as a viral load, and it can make the virus undetectable if used correctly. People undergoing ART can live long, healthy lives, and have almost no risk of transmitting the virus.

Pre-exposure prophylaxis is a more recent advance in HIV treatment. It’s meant to be taken by people who face a higher risk of contracting HIV. If taken properly, PrEP can reduce the risk of getting HIV from sex by 90 percent, and from injecting needles by 70 percent. If you’re at higher risk of getting HIV, talk to your doctor about PrEP.

If you ever think you’ve been exposed to HIV, post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) can help you avoid contracting the infection up to three days after exposure. Talk to a doctor right away if this is the case. Also, if you think you have HIV, get tested to determine if you might have other STDs such as syphilis, herpes, gonorrhea or chlamydia.

If you are living with HIV, there are ways to keep yourself healthy and protect others:

-- Find HIV care and take ART as prescribed

-- Get tested and treated for other STDs

-- Tell your sex or drug-using partner(s) that you are living with HIV, and use condoms correctly every time you have sex.

-- Talk to your partner(s) about PrEP.

-- If you are pregnant, talk to your doctor about how to prevent passing the infection to your newborn.

The CDC estimates the average annual cost of treating HIV/AIDS in 2010 was $23,000. In the same year, the estimated lifetime costs of treating HIV/AIDS were $379,668.

There are several resources available for people who need to pay for treatment, including private and federal options. Check here for more information.

Dr. Johanna Kreafle is an emergency medicine physician at the Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, North Carolina, and a member of the ABC News Medical Unit.

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Friday
Nov302018

2 high blood pressure medications added to recall of heart drug

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) --  A Food and Drug Administration recall of a heart medication due to a cancer-causing chemical now includes two blood pressure medications.

Teva Pharmaceuticals has issued a voluntary recall of its amlodipine/valsartan combination tablets and amlodipine/valsartan/hydrochlorothiazide combination tablets, both used to treat high blood pressure, according to the FDA.

The move is due to the detection of a probable human carcinogen known as NDEA, which has been found in valsartan API, the FDA said.

Valsartan API is an active pharmaceutical ingredient made by Mylan India, according to the FDA.

“This chemical is typically found in very small amounts in certain foods, drinking water, air pollution, and certain industrial processes,” the FDA said in a news release.

The FDA said Teva has so far not received any reports of adverse events "signaling a potential link or exposure" to valsartan.

Patients who take either tablets were advised to continue their medication and to reach out to their pharmacist or doctor for further information on an alternative treatment.

“The risk of harm to a patient’s health may be higher if the treatment is stopped immediately without any comparable alternative treatment,” the FDA said.

When reached for comment, a Teva spokesperson pointed ABC News to the FDA announcement and that of Mylan on Nov. 20.

Patients can also see a list of recalled medications, as well as a list of valsartan-containing products that have not been recalled, on the FDA's website.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Nov302018

US couple vacationing in Mexico died of carbon monoxide poisoning: Officials 

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- A U.S. couple who was vacationing in Mexico died from carbon monoxide poisoning, Mexican officials said.

Ed Winders and his partner, Barbara Moller, were staying in an Airbnb in the San Miguel de Allende region.

Police said the apartment's landlord discovered their bodies on Nov. 17 after not hearing from the couple for a few days.

Winders' son, Eric Winders, told ABC News that he was notified of his father's death by the U.S. Embassy.

“This is a devastating loss that totally -- should not have happened. Nobody should die like this,” Eric Winders said.

He continued, “The call is never good when the U.S. Embassy is trying to track you down to talk about your relatives, and it was so shocking to hear that news. No one wants to hear that news. I just curled up and cried on the floor.”

Eric Winders said his father and Moller, who lived in New Orleans, loved to vacation in Mexico. They had just arrived for their 11-day vacation in the country.

Eric Winders and his sister, Jennifer Winders, are now struggling to get the bodies back home.

“The logistics of dealing with a foreign government’s legal system is difficult and there’s certainly language barriers as well as in which they operate,” Eric Winders said.

The regional prosecutor’s office for the state of Guanajuato confirmed that carbon monoxide was the cause of death. A criminal investigation is underway.

A spokesperson for Airbnb told ABC News that the Mexican apartment would be removed from the site.

“We are deeply saddened by this tragedy, and our thoughts are with Ed and Barbara’s families, loved ones and friends,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “We are reaching out to their children to extend our full support to help them through this difficult time.”

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