Entries in Illnesses (6)


Risk for Illness and Injury Linger After Sandy

Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- It's been a week since superstorm Sandy unleashed flooding, power outages and wind damage on the East Coast, and although recovery efforts are underway, doctors warn that residents are not out of the woods for new health hazards.

Mold Causes Breathing Problems

With flooding comes mold, and it can make victims sick even if it's invisible, doctors warned.

"Even if you're not allergic, mold spores tend to be irritating to the airways and can cause respiratory symptoms," said Dr. David Rosenstreich, the director of Allergy and Immunology at Montefiore Medical Center.  He said that an estimated 10 percent to 20 percent of the population is allergic to mold.

Dr. Christopher Portier, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Center for Environmental Health, said mold can trigger asthma and even cause headaches when it's in a certain growth phase.

"Mold is going to be a serious problem unless you take care of it right now," said Portier, who also directs the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.  "It's very tricky to predict what's going to happen with it and the bottom line is that you really don't want it in your home."

Visible mold can be wiped away with a bleach and water mixture.

Portier suggested removing and discarding drywall and insulation that came into contact with floodwater and discarding items that can't be washed.  These include mattresses, carpeting, rugs and stuffed animals.

Bacteria Causes Illnesses and Infections

Floodwaters are dangerous because they often contain raw sewage, as ABC News Chief Health and Medical Editor Dr. Richard Besser proved last week, when he tested a sample from lower Manhattan and found gasoline, e.coli and coliform.

But the health risk isn't gone when the water recedes because contaminated puddles and surfaces remain, Portier said.

People, especially children, can get sick by touching contaminated objects and putting their hands in their mouths, causing gastrointestinal problems like diarrhea and vomiting, Portier said. They can also get infections from coming in contact with the bacteria with open sores and cuts, which can be "very difficult to treat."

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning from Back-up Generators

Superstorm Sandy left millions without power last Monday night, but already several people have died from carbon monoxide poisoning as a result of using back-up generators and coal stoves inside their homes without proper ventilation, according to the CDC.

"It's odorless," Portier said. "You can't tell it's there, and then you start getting a headache, lay down and don't get up."

Carbon monoxide poisoning affects red blood cells, which carry oxygen throughout the body.  However, the blood cells pick up carbon monoxide faster than they pick up oxygen, so when there's a lot of carbon monoxide in the air, they don't pick up enough oxygen.  The result is tissue damage from oxygen deprivation that can ultimately result in death.

Home Repairs Gone Awry and Other Injuries

Dr. Joseph Guarisco, the chief of emergency services for Ochsner Health System in New Orleans, said he saw it all in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina filled his ER with patients for months after the storm.

"It's going to be a new environment, and you have to be really mindful and that's the key thing," Guarisco said.  "There are dangers lurking everywhere that were not there before the storm."

For the first several weeks, Guarisco's patients ran into problems because they were evacuated outside their health networks and couldn't see their regular physicians or get their prescriptions.  He saw many patients with chronic issues, such as renal failure, who couldn't get access to normal treatment like dialysis.

He also saw hydration and nutrition issues, as well as patients who tried to ride out being sick on their own but eventually needed to see a doctor.  Some patients tried to eat contaminated or unrefrigerated food, and came down with gastrointestinal ailments.

Once that subsided, the home repair injuries started pouring in.

"As people return [home] it kind of evolves to a different nature of patients trying to put things back together," he said.  "They fall off the roof into standing water, lots of eye injuries from branches and debris.  Lots of soft tissue stuff."

He said people who had never used power tools in their lives suddenly felt compelled to use power chain saws, power drills and nail guns.  Many of them came in with hand injuries.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Tampa Doorman Logs No Sick Days in 26 Years

Hyatt(TAMPA, Fla.) --  If you are reading this right now at work with a tissue by your side, sniffling, achy but with just enough energy to trudge along, here’s some inspiration. Either that or you may find St. Petersburg resident Antonio de Sousa, 53, mildly annoying.

Every day for 26 years and six months de Sousa, 53, has put on his uniform -- shorts, a T-shirt and his smile -- and shown up for work every single day.

“I didn’t realize I wasn’t sick that long,” says de Sousa. "I was shocked when I started thinking about it. But I love what I do.”

De Sousa is a doorman for the Hyatt Regency in downtown Tampa. Whether rain or sleet -- well it doesn’t really sleet in Tampa so we will skip that and the snow part -- or whatever the condition outside, no matter how he feels, he has never taken any of the sick days his job gives annually.

“I’m a very reliable person. Even if I’m sick, I just drink coffee and take medicine that night. I think it’s because of the people I work around and people generally just cheer me up.”

De Sousa says he has been healthy for as long as he can remember. Before moving to Tampa he lived in France and met his wife while she was doing missionary work there. When he married her, he came to the U.S. to visit his ailing mother in-law and he never left. In France he never called out sick. He started a new streak with Hyatt that has spanned three decades.

“Even when I had my first job in France I didn’t call in sick. I missed a day once because it snowed, but it wasn’t my fault. I had to give my brother and sister a ride to work through the snow. I showed up to work about 90 minutes late, but my bosses were not there,” he jokes.

He is the type of employee every boss wishes they had, and the type of co-worker everybody finds difficult to emulate.

His co-workers say he waves and smiles at everybody. They marvel at how he kept the streak going for so long.

“I don’t know how he does it. Sure he may not get sick,” says a colleague who didn’t want to be identified. “But what about those days every so often when you just don’t have it in you. He is always happy.”

De Sousa admits the warm Florida weather has helped him continue his streak but he is not judgmental of others, including his two children, who he says have stayed home from school on occasion.

“Everybody is different. I wash my hands if I can every 30 minutes,” he says. “I don’t wait to get sick. I take one day at a time and everybody should too.”

The average American calls in sick around three days a year, so don’t feel so bad. If you are at work, and feeling a little down but you made it in anyway, congrats. Your streak is just beginning.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Death Toll from Listeria-Contaminated Cantaloupes Grows

Medioimages/Photodisc/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Public health officials said Tuesday that the country is in the midst of the deadliest outbreak of food-borne illness in more than a decade.

So far, 72 illnesses -- including 13 deaths -- have been linked to cantaloupes contaminated with listeria that came from Jensen Farms in Colorado, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported Tuesday.

Illnesses from the recalled melons, which were sold under the name Rocky Ford cantaloupes, have been reported in 18 states; deaths have been reported in Colorado (2), Kansas (1), Maryland (1), Missouri (1), Nebraska (1), New Mexico (4), Oklahoma (1), and Texas (2).

The CDC says it expects to see more cases of listeriosis next month "because patients can develop listeriosis up to 2 months after eating contaminated food."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Doctors Prescribing Fewer Antibiotics after Warnings of Overuse

Comstock Images/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Antibiotics are no longer the cure-all that physicians and parents once thought they were.

For years, doctors prescribed these drugs to children for everything from the common cold to earaches to respiratory infections.  In many cases, the antibiotics produced no healing and in fact, often led to a bacterial and viral resistance that made them powerless against the infections they're intended to cure.

This led health officials to warn against prescribing antibiotics for every illness that befalls kids.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the message was heard, though not as loud and clear as the agency would have liked.

The prescribing rates have fallen from a generation ago when they were 300 per 1,000 office visits in 1993-1994.  The last count was 229 prescriptions per 1,000 visits in 2007-2008, a decrease of 24 percent.

According to the CDC, new tests to immediately diagnose strep throat, which can be treated with antibiotics, were partly responsible for the drop.  However, a majority of antibiotic prescriptions for children are still for acute respiratory infections that don't respond to these drugs.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Heat Wave Especially Horrible for People with Certain Illnesses

Creatas/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- With about half the country baking in a heat wave, hospitals in some of the worst-hit areas are reporting cases of people coming into emergency rooms with heat-related illnesses. Many expect more as the heat wave continues. And they don't necessarily involve heat stroke or heat exhaustion.

"We do not see a lot of hot people but rather people with diseases, alcohol, drugs, old age and disability whose conditions are worsened by the heat," said Dr. James Adams, professor and chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

Very high heat and humidity can affect everyone, but experts say in addition to children and the elderly, people with the medical conditions that follow are especially susceptible to heat-related illness:

Allergies, Asthma and Other Breathing Problems

Allergy and asthma specialists say they are seeing more patients whose illnesses have been triggered by the heat and humidity as well as by increased levels of pollutants in the air.

"[We] have seen many new patients for the first time with a diagnosis of asthma made worse by heavy pollens and extreme temperature and humidity levels," said Dr. Clifford Bassett, medical director of Asthma & Allergy Care of New York.

Bassett also said that in addition to pollen, mold levels increase when it's very humid.

The heat wave is also causing more serious breathing problems, including very severe asthma attacks and a worsening of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). At Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia, several patients needed emergency treatment for both these conditions. One of them even needed a breathing tube.

During a heat wave, experts say room air conditioners may not make the environment cool enough.

Bassett advises anyone with allergies or asthma to stay where it's air conditioned, and to change and clean the filters frequently. If you need to go outside, check the pollen counts and pay special attention to ozone alerts.

Heart Disease

"During times of extreme heat, people are prone to dehydration," said Dr. Phil Ragno, director of cardiovascular health and wellness at Winthrop University Hospital in Mineola, N.Y. "The more activities we perform, we're losing fluid through perspiration, and that decreases the volume of blood in our system. Blood vessels also dilate when it's hot, and as a result, the heart has to pump harder to circulate a smaller amount of blood."

Ragno also says people with heart conditions should drink a lot of fluids before they leave the house when it's hot and should keep hydrated throughout the day.

"People with heart conditions should weigh themselves each morning. If their weight is down a bit, it might not be body weight, but body fluid they're losing, which is a sign of impending troubles," Ragno said.

Pregnant Women

"Pregnant women are already undergoing a lot of physiological changes," said Dr. Eric Coris, associate professor of family medicine at the University of South Florida College of Medicine in Tampa. "Blood volume expands and sometimes blood return is not as good, so they may get swelling in certain parts of the body."

Increased blood flow and hormone changes that occur during pregnancy can make women feel hotter, and the swelling can have that same effect. As a result, women need to drink plenty of water.

Pregnant women with borderline high blood pressure also need to carefully monitor salt intake.

Other Tips for Beating Heat-Related Illness

Besides staying indoors where it's cool, experts have advice for others who need or want to venture outside.

"People who are bedridden and don't have access to water and are not in an air-conditioned area are at highest risk of developing heat stroke," said Slovis.

Athletes who are exercising for a long period of time should drink at least 8 to 10 ounces of water every 15 minutes. If they are exercising for 30 to 60 minutes or longer, Coris says they should drink sports drinks to help replenish the salt lost through sweating.

"Salt helps the body hold on to fluid and as your sweat rate goes up, you're losing salt as well," Coris said.

But doctors also say people who are diabetic or hypertensive should be careful with sports drinks since they may contain sugar and salt.

It's also important to be aware of the signs of heat stroke, including a shallow pulse, dizziness or fainting, fever with a severe headache, loss of consciousness or signs of confusion.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Parents Favor Personal Genetic Testing for Their Children

Photodisc/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- So-called direct-to-consumer genetic testing has been hailed as one of the great medical breakthroughs of the 21st century.  According to a Georgetown University study in the journal Pediatrics, parents agree.

A survey found that parents favor genetic testing for their children to determine if they are at greater risk for disease as adults.

The tests included those for such common illnesses as colon, skin and lung cancers, heart disease, osteoporosis, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and Type 2 diabetes.

The authors say test results could motivate young and healthy people to modify their behavior before bad habits leading to disease become deep-seated.

But they also caution that -- so far at least -- "the actual risks, benefits and utility of genetic testing for common preventable health problems has not been established for adults or for children."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio