Top Five Winter Health Hazards

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Still digging out from the last storm? Bad news: There's more snow on the way, and all that fluffy white stuff can have heavy health consequences. Here's a look at the top five winter dangers and tips to protect yourself.

Heart Attacks and Strokes

Heart attack rates peak in winter, and a new study links lower temperatures with higher rates of hospitalization and death due to stroke. It's unclear whether the cold is to blame -- all that shoveling might have something to do with it. Either way, keep warm and don't overdo it.


Cold weather raises the risk of frostbite and hypothermia -- dangerous conditions tied to amputations and death. Avoid going outside in extremely cold temperatures if you can. Otherwise, bundle up in layers and stay dry. Seek medical care for signs of exposure like white, waxy skin and slurred speech.

Breaks and Sprains

Slippery sidewalks raise the risk of falls, and negotiating the heavy snow can wreak havoc on your chilly muscles. Take care when shoveling, and be sure to wear appropriate shoes or boots when out and about.


Winter is cold and it's flu season, but the cold temperatures have little to do with it. Rather, the weather forces people indoors where germs are easily spread. Protect yourself with a flu shot, and make sure to wash your hands often.


Winter got you down? You're not alone. An estimated 14 percent of Americans battle the winter blues, and almost half of those people (more women than men) have full-on seasonal affective disorder or SAD. Talk to your doctor if you think you might be affected. Antidepressants, talk therapy and even exposure to light can help.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


Marriage Isn’t What It Used To Be

Dejan Ristovski/Thinkstock(EVANSTON, Ill.) -- Just in time for Valentine’s Day, a researcher at Northwestern University has revealed what grumpy old people have been telling us for years: Marriage isn’t what it used to be.

That doesn’t mean marriage is worse than it was before, however.

“The average marriages are struggling these days, but the best marriages are better than ever,” said Eli Finkle, a professor of social psychology at Northwestern University who spent the last nine months examining literature on marriage from historical, sociological, economical and psychological perspectives.

He found that marriage has become more about mutual self-discovery and satisfaction and, in the last several hundred years, less about steering clear of starvation. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t other obligations, such as full time jobs and PTA meetings. As a result, husbands and wives aren’t putting in the time to make their marriages meaningful.

“Marriage has a greater potential for greatness than ever before, but a larger proportion of people are failing to meet that potential,” Finkle said. “It’s a supply and demand issue. If what you’re asking requires profound insight into each other, you’d better invest a lot of time in each other.”

His advice? Manage expectations by deciding what you’re willing to expect not to get from your marriage. If you can’t invest as much time because of the bad economy, for instance, be comfortable overlooking certain needs temporarily.

But, if that’s the case, “hold in your back pocket that the kids will eventually get older, and the economic climate will get better,” Finkle said.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


Kansas Reporter Loses Fingers and Toes to Deadly Meningitis

Courtesy Jamie McIntyre(NEW YORK) -- One evening in his University of Kansas dorm room, Andy Marso was experiencing flu-like symptoms and hundreds of purple blotches on his arms and legs. A day later, he was unable to walk, slipping into an unconsciousness and being helicoptered to a hospital intensive care unit.

It was April of 2004 and Marso had bacterial meningitis, the fiercest form of the disease, which ravaged his body with sepsis and eventually led to the amputation of most of his fingers and the front half of both his feet. He spent three weeks in a drug-induced coma, four months in the hospital, nine months in rehab and a year in a wheelchair, enduring painful burn treatments to try to save his limbs and skin grafts.

But today, at 32, he is a State House reporter with the Topeka Capital Journal, able to type 40 to 50 words a minute with his one remaining thumb and a nub on his other hand, and is meeting all the challenges that life has thrown at him.

"I can do 99 percent of what I used to do -- but it's completely different now," he told ABC News. "I use two hands to grip bigger things, and I usually make it work. I don't remember what it is like to have 10 fingers, but it doesn't bother me. This is my new normal."

Marso writes about his battle with the disease, in his new book, Worth the Pain, How Meningitis Nearly Killed Me -- Then Changed My Life for the Better.

The book, he said, had been "a dream my whole life and another reward this whole experience gave me."

Marso also wants to create awareness about available childhood vaccines that can prevent the disease in the first place.

Meningitis is an inflammatory condition of the meninges or membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord. It can come on abruptly with headache, fever, a stiff neck and nausea, among other symptoms, and lead to death if treatment does not begin within 24 to 72 hours.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report about 4,100 cases of bacterial meningitis annually, causing about 500 deaths.

Although most people with meningitis recover, it can cause serious complications, such as brain damage, hearing loss or learning disabilities.

Infants are at the higher risk for the disease than other age groups, according to the CDC, but college students living in dormitories and those who live in close quarters in the military are particularly vulnerable.

"There is a really high mortality rate," said Dr. Pritish K. Tosh, an infectious disease specialist at the Mayo Clinic. "Before the antibiotic era, in the 1900s, it was basically universally fatal."

Today, a series of vaccines are effective in preventing the disease among children and protecting adults from exposure.

"The hallmark of the infection is it moves very fast and aggressively," said Tosh, who did not treat Marso. "People feel fairly well, and then in a matter of a few hours, they could be starting to show signs of devastating illness."

Marso developed disseminated intravascular coagulation or DIC, the response to an "overwhelming" infection, according to Tosh.

"The body shuts down its organs in response overwhelming infection," he said.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


Gender Non-Conforming Youth Applaud Facebook for New Identity Tool

Alok-Vaid Menon(NEW YORK) -- Just hours ago, Alok Vaid-Menon changed their Facebook basic information to indicate they were "gender non-conforming." That's right, "their" and "they" are the pronouns that Vaid-Menon prefers.

The 22-year-old activist from New York City said reaction to the new custom gender field on the popular social networking site has been "overwhelmingly positive."

"For me, it's fundamentally about affirming people," Vaid-Menon told ABCNews.com. "It's personal and political."

Now, those who are uncomfortable with selecting "male" or "female" can choose up to 10 descriptors from more than 50 identities, including transgender, androgynous or genderqueer.

"About 200 people liked my status," Vaid-Menon said. "Now, a lot of us are thinking, how do we translate this into something significant? This is good but what's the next step?"

Facebook's change was implemented with the help of the LGBT advocacy group GLAAD. It was part of Facebook's new outreach on its Diversity Page.

"We were very concerned about privacy settings in the new feature options," said GLAAD spokesman Rich Ferraro. "If you elect a new gender, you can do it only to certain friend lists and can remain private to employers, classmates or parents."

Vaid-Menon works for New York City's Audre-Lord Project on issues of transgender justice and health care issues.

"There has never been a term, male or female, that fit me," said Vaid-Menon. "I was always taunted growing up in a small town in Texas that was conservative and Christian. And, I am South Asian and I was gender nonconforming, so I got a lot of harassment because I was too effeminate or too fashionable."

A 2011 report from the Center for Transgender Equality has also revealed that transgender Americans experience more poverty and violence than other groups.

Vaid-Menon, a Stanford University graduate, said there was much violence toward "perceived gender expression and not sexual orientation."

Now, when Vaid-Menon's birthday comes around, things will be more comfortable: Facebook will say, "Today is their birthday instead of his or her birthday."

Still there are many American terms, like "femme," that are still not on Facebook's list. The gender selection option is still just in English, and foreign terms for transgender that Indians like Vaid-Menon might select -- "kothi" or "banthi" or "hijra" -- are not yet included.

"But it's a work in progress," Vaid-Menon said. "They are going to update this with user input and we expect Facebook to expand to other languages and countries over time."

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


First Model in Wheelchair at New York Fashion Week Has Message for Fashion Industry

Fuse / Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The first woman to ever "walk" the runway at New York Fashion Week in a wheelchair says she plans to open the door that's "tightly closed shut" and appeal to high-end fashion lines to use persons with disabilities as models.

"I feel like the industry has gotten more accepting of diversity but you never hear of a model in a wheelchair and it's just ludicrous," said Dr. Danielle Sheypuk, who made history Feb. 6 as a model at the Carrie Hammer fashion show in New York City.

"I would like the whole spectrum of fashion designers to tune in, all the way up to high fashion like Tory Burch, Gucci and Louis Vitton because, why not?" Sheypuk said. "Many of us have successful careers and we have money and we want to spend it and we want to look good."

Sheypuk, 35, who has been in a wheelchair since age five due to spinal muscular atrophy, is one of those career women she describes. She is a New York-based clinical psychologist and was Ms. Wheelchair New York 2012.

Though she modeled briefly in high school, in Scranton, Penn., Sheypuk never had dreams of being a runway model until she met Hammer at a gala last year. Hammer, who gave up a job in advertising sales to start her eponymous fashion line, asked Sheypuk to join other CEOs, entrepreneurs and even a former Miss USA as "role models," instead of runway models, in her show this year.

"I remember tons and tons of flashbulbs going off and people applauding a lot," Sheypuk said of her runway debut. "The consensus afterwards was that the models, all of us, we exuded this happiness and pride that infiltrated the room, and the audience reacted."

Sheypuk says she added some of her own "style and finesse" on the runway to differentiate herself from the other models who were able to do the "typical runway strut," but that walking on the runway was just like how she lives her daily life.

"My wheelchair is just a part of my body -- an extension of me -- and I'm the main focus, not the chair," Sheypuk said. "That's how I look at it and I moved that perspective to the runway."

Now Sheypuk, who will be featured this spring in the Raw Beauty Project, a series of glamorous and sexy images of women with disabilities, says it is time for all of the fashion industry to follow Hammer's lead.

"Fashion is about dressing the body that you have," Sheypuk said. "It doesn't matter what disability you have, or if you have one. It's about knowing what to accentuate."

"It's important for the fashion industry to demonstrate how to do this because we really have no role models out there in terms of the fashion industry," she said. "The only way we can really normalize being in a wheelchair and increase acceptance is if everyone is listening."

Hammer, who is currently in London preparing for fashion week there next week, says she, for one, is not only listening but plans to feature "role models" again at her second New York Fashion Week show, this fall, and take the concept even further.

"There was an energy and sense of thrill that I'd never felt before at a fashion show," Hammer told ABC's Good Morning America by email. "For Fall Fashion week we will have our second Role Model fashion show at Lincoln Center and the first row won't be media or buyers -- it will be young girls and women who will learn that role models are the ones to look up to."

"The brands that step up to the plate by casting women who better and more accurately represent their customers will get big kudos and recognition," she said. "At the end of the day, aren't our customers what we do this for? Let's be sure that we are empowering them rather than demoralizing them."

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


State Laws Decrease Likelihood of Indoor Tanning in Teen Girls

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Female high school students are less likely to engage in indoor tanning in states with restrictions on the activity, according to a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Areas with indoor tanning laws, such as warning statements, signs, limited advertising and mandatory protective eyewear saw lower rates of exposure among teen girls.

Researchers, led by Gery Guy at the CDC's Division of Cancer Prevention and Control, looked at 2009 and 2011 surveys from high school students.  When examining the relationship between teens' tanning behaviors and state laws, they found that the odds of female students tanning were 30 percent less in states with indoor tanning laws compared to those that didn't implement any. The results were even less in states that had parental permission and age restriction laws, with girls 42 percent likely to tan.

System access laws included limited advertising about the benefits of tanning, operator-required incident reports and warning statements. Other laws, called youth access, include permission for minors. Though parental consent helps in restricting the activity, Guy said it's not enough.

"Given the social norms regarding tan skin, the desire to have tan skin, and the misconceptions regarding the risks of indoor tanning, it's important that multi-level approaches complement indoor tanning laws," Guy told ABC News.

Skin cancer is the most common of all cancers, accounting for nearly half of cases in the United States. Rates of disease are increasing among young females, and indoor tanning is cited as a potential cause. Harmful side effects of the activity include eye damage from UV rays, severe burns and early wrinkling of the skin.

States that restrict indoor tanning among minors include California, Illinios, Nevada, Oregon, Texas, and Vermont.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


Diagnosing Skin Disorders... with Selfies?

 iStock/ThinkstockBy Danielle Krol, M.D.

(PHILADELPHIA) -- Snapping a selfie of that worrying mole may be enough to save you a trip to the dermatologist, a small new study suggests.

This increasingly common practice, known as teledermatology, involves sending a photo of a suspicious skin lesion to a dermatologist, who can then evaluate the image and let the sender know whether it is harmless -- or if it needs further examination in a clinical setting.

Because these images can be captured with a cellphone camera, it is a notably convenient approach. But is it as good as an actual doctor’s visit?

That’s the question researchers at the University of Pennsylvania sought to answer in the new study, published Wednesday in the journal JAMA Dermatology. They studied 50 patients who were in the hospital for various reasons, but who also had a skin issue that required an expert opinion. The researchers lined up a consultation with a dermatologist for each of these patients -- but they also took a picture of the suspicious skin using a smartphone and sent these images to two additional board -- certified dermatologists to see if all of the doctors’ opinions matched up.

What they found was that in the cases where the in-person dermatologist recommended a biopsy of a suspicious lesion, the teledermatologists had agreed with this opinion an average of 95 percent of the time. They also found that if the in-person dermatologist recommended the patient get additional tests the same day, the teledermatologists agreed 90 percent of the time.

Study author Dr. Misha Rosenbach, an assistant professor of dermatology at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, said the findings may be particularly important for those who live in areas that make a special trip to the dermatologist inconvenient.

“We can improve patient satisfaction and increase access to health care with the incorporation of teledermatology,” said Rosenbach, who added that he has been using the method for years. “Teledermatology has been a useful tool in our practice.”

Dermatologists who were not involved with the research agreed that the approach holds a great deal of potential for those who do not have easy access to a qualified dermatologist.

“Adapting this widespread technology of transmitting information to a distant location, we can help make patient care more efficient,” said Dr. Martin Weinstock, a professor of dermatology at Brown University who also has used teledermatology to treat patients.

Dermatologist Dr. Darrell Rigel, meanwhile, said he feels the approach has promise. But he added that the idea comes attached with concerns about accuracy of diagnosis and other issues.

“By the use of innovative mobile technology, we can reach patients in rural communities that may not otherwise have access to healthcare,” said Rigel, a clinical professor of dermatology at New York University. “But in general, we are just not there yet.”

Doctor’s Take

What’s clear about teledermatology is that it is becoming increasingly popular. Given the fact that so many people carry cellphone cameras with them on a daily basis, it is a potentially convenient approach that may one day put the power, quite literally, in the hands of the patient.

And for many, it means increased access to professionals they would not otherwise be able to see. In a rural community hospital in Wyoming without dermatologist readily available, for instance, one could send images shot on a smartphone to larger centers, allowing complicated skin conditions to be more readily diagnosed.

What remains to be seen is whether teledermatology can ever truly replace the opportunity to have a trained professional physically examine and scrutinize a worrying lesion from every angle in person. The answer to this question will only come with additional research.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


Georgia Sheriff ‘Cancels’ Valentine’s Day

iStock/Thinkstock(OCONEE COUNTY, Ga.) -- Georgia residents knew they should prepare for the cancellation of flights, the cancellation of schools and the cancellation of work thanks to this week’s snow and ice storm that drove the state to a halt.

What they likely didn’t expect was the cancellation of Valentine’s Day.

In a post late Wednesday on the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page, which is updated by Sheriff Scott Berry and Chief Deputy Sheriff Lee Weems, the men of the 32,000-resident county got off the hook.

“The Oconee County County Sheriffs Office announces that Valentines Day has been CANCELLED from a line North of I-16 to the Georgia/Tennessee border. Men who live in the designated ‘NO VALENTINES DAY ZONE’ are exempt from having to run out and buy lottery scratchers and Hershey bars from the corner stores until February 18, 2014, due to ice, snow, freezing rain,” read the post.

The post received more than 800 likes and was shared more than 1,000 times, but it also got the point across to the county’s residents to stay off the icy roads, according to the post’s co-author.

“Last night we were trying to come up with a funny way of expressing the need to stay off the roads and how much of a help that is and the sheriff decided it would be a good idea to cancel Valentine’s Day,” Weems told ABC News.  “Our citizens have been very cooperative in staying off the roads.”

The more than 100 comments on the post were mostly humorous, although Weems says one person did call a local news outlet to ask what authority the sheriff had to cancel the romantic holiday.

“Obviously they were taking the statement a little too seriously,” Weems said.

The county, which sits just south of Athens, was hit by more than 5 inches of snow this week, closing public schools and many businesses since Tuesday. At the sheriff’s office, employees have been sleeping on cots and air mattresses to manage the clean-up and emergency efforts.

“We only get something like this every few years, at the most,” Weems said of the storm, the second major snowstorm to hit the South this winter.  “The local roads are left to us [to clean] and we just have limited equipment.”

Weems said the sheriff told him he would blame Weems for the Valentine’s cancellation if Berry’s wife complained, but so far they’ve only had one direct reply from a wife, and it was to thank the sheriff’s office.

“We have a jail employee who suffered an aneurysm over the weekend,” Weems said.  “His wife saw the post and sent a text message and wanted to thank the sheriff for cancelling Valentine’s Day so they can celebrate the holiday together later.”

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


Nurse Exonerated in Assisted Death of Her Terminally Ill Father

ABC News(PHILADELPHIA) -- Barbara Mancini, a 58-year-old Philadelphia nurse who was arrested in February 2013 for giving her 93-year-old terminally ill father a lethal dose of morphine, will not be charged with assisted suicide.

Her exoneration on Feb. 12 came one year to the day after the death of her father, Joseph Yourshaw.

A Schuylkill County judge, Jacqueline Russell, dismissed the case, saying there was not "competent evidence," according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. "A jury may not receive a case where it must rely on conjecture to reach a verdict."

At a news conference after the hearing, Mancini said, "I'm relieved and I'm happy, and that's something I haven't felt for over a year."

"The past year has been an unbearable torment," she said. "I don't know if it was a coincidence or if Judge Russell timed it that way specifically, but it was a nice present on the anniversary of my father's death."

Mancini, from Pottsville, Pa., was charged last year after she gave her father a dose of legally prescribed morphine. A hospice nurse who arrived at the home to care for Yourshaw found him unconscious and reported Mancini. He died four days later in the hospital.

Yourshaw had been in pain and told his daughter repeatedly that he wanted to die and Mancini was his medical decision-maker. He drank the morphine himself, but the state charged her with "recklessly endangering another person" and "aiding suicide," according to the criminal complaint.

As a result of the charges, Mancini had been suspended without pay from her job as an emergency room nurse at Lakenau Medical Center since August 2013.

The advocacy group Compassionate Choices, which had taken up Mancini's case, called it a "grave injustice," and described her as "a loving daughter who helped provide home hospice care for her dying father."

Yourshaw reportedly was taking prescribed morphine for a variety of painful illnesses: end-stage diabetes, heart and cardiovascular disease, stroke, kidney disease and arthritis.

Mancini was charged under a Pennsylvania state law that makes it illegal to assist in suicide.

Public support for assisted dying is gaining ground, according to a Feb. 7 report in The New York Times. It is now legal in Oregon, New Mexico, Vermont, Montana and Washington. Advocates in Connecticut are also strongly supporting "death with dignity" bills.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


'Nearly-Comatose' Pakistani Student May Be Sent Home

Shahraiz Bajwa(NEW YORK) -- A nearly-comatose Pakistani student, who was studying in Wisconsin, may be sent back to Pakistan after his student visa runs out at the end of February even though he can no longer talk or care for himself.

Muhammad Shahzaib Bajwa, 20, was studying at the University of Wisconsin-Superior when he was in a car accident in November. The car carrying Shahzaib Bajwa hit a deer and the 20-year-old suffered multiple fractures in his face after the animal went through the windshield. At the hospital, he choked on his own blood and temporarily went into cardiac arrest.

Although he was revived, he suffered brain-swelling and other injuries that left him in a “minimally conscious” state, according to his older brother Muhammad Shahraiz Bajwa.

“He opens his eyes...sometimes he smiles, sometimes he cries, he moves his legs. His body parts are all moving,” said Shahraiz Bajwa. “The trauma doctors say that he’s young and he’s intelligent, he needs time. It takes a lot of time for the brain to recover.”

Shahraiz Bajwa said it may take years to know how much of his brother's injuries will be permanent.

Shahzaib Bajwa was originally supposed to be in the U.S. for one semester and his visa was set to expire in November, according to Shahzaib Bajwa’s immigration attorney and his brother.

His lawyer, Saiko McIvor, said the student visa is supposed to be for students who are enrolled at a school, but was extended for Shahzaib Bajwa by the State Department after the car accident.

She said she had no information from the State Department if they would extend that visa or if they would allow Shahzaib Bajwa to stay under “humanitarian parole,” which would allow him to stay for a “temporary period of time due to a compelling emergency.”

“He’s definitely here in the country legally with the proper legal status,” said McIvor. “The question beyond that is will there be any visa status beyond that [date.] We will know within the next day or so. As of this moment we don’t know.”

According to a statement from Essentia Health-St. Mary’s Medical Center in Duluth, Minn., they are working to make arrangements to have Shahzaib Bajwa sent to Pakistan after his visa expires on Feb. 28.

“The U.S. State Department is not renewing Mr. Bajwa's visa, therefore he is not legally allowed to stay in the country,” read the statement. “St. Mary's Medical Center has been working with the State Department, which is making arrangements for Mr. Bajwa's medical transport home. This is an unfortunate situation and his caregivers are working closely with Mr. Bajwa's family to ensure the smoothest transition possible.”

The State Department has not independently confirmed that they will not renew Shahzaib Bajwa’s visa or consider allowing him to stay under humanitarian parole.

Shahraiz Bajwa said that the hospital had asked their mother to sign a consent form to allow them to discharge Shahzaib Bajwa and arrange transport back to Pakistan, but he had told her to wait to sign it.

Shahraiz Bajwa said that he and his mother want to keep the 20-year-old student in the U.S. because they believe his health could deteriorate greatly if he’s sent on a 24- to 30-hour flight to Pakistan and receive substandard care in that country.

Shahraiz Bajwa said their insurance, received through Shahzaib Bajwa’s exchange program, has offered to find a hospital to put his brother in Pakistan. But he doesn't believe his brother can survive in Pakistan.

“It’s pushing him towards death,” said Shahraiz Bajwa. “That hospital will take him out when he runs out of money.”

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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