MERS Coronovirus Death Toll Ticking Up

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The MERS coronovirus continues to spread throughout Saudi Arabia, where 41 people have died from the infection.

In the last week, at least six more Saudis have contracted the virus and two more have died, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The country has been ground zero for the outbreak, with 82 of the 103 known MERS cases across Europe and the Middle East.

Infections have also emerged in Jordan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Tunisia, Germany, France and Italy, according to the World Health Organization. All the cases have been linked to the Middle East.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Google Glass Assists Surgeons, Medical Students

David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images(COLUMBUS, Ohio) -- Google Glass has been used to film road trips, fashion shows, and boardwalk arrests. Now, a group of surgeons at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center can add that it can film surgical procedures too.

Christopher Kaeding, an orthopaedic surgeon at OSU, donned the wearable computer for a standard surgical procedure: repairing a torn ACL. When he first put them on, he said that it mildly disrupted his routine. "In surgery, you have a certain feel," he told ABC News. "But I was surprised how quickly I felt comfortable with it."

In this particular procedure, Glass' sole purpose was to allow Kaeding to join a Google Hangout, Google's video conferencing service. Also in the hangout were Robert Magnussen, an assistant professor of orthopaedics at OSU, as well as few of the medical school's second year students.

Ryan Blackwell, one of those students, said that Glass can give students an insider's perspective. "Most students have shadowed a surgeon in the operating room, but you're often stuck on the outside trying to get a glimpse of whatever you can," he said. "But with Glass, you get that [surgical] experience that weren't able to get before."

Magnussen adds that Glass' filming ability can reach more than just a couple of students at a time. For medical educators, he sees it as a way of making the curriculum more involved. "Say we're talking about the anatomy of the knee. Watching an actual knee surgery would liven up that lecture," he said.

Both Blackwell and Magnussen have a few minor quibbles about Glass' video quality and buffering. The location of Glass's camera also isn't ideal for surgery, making some of Kaeding's incisions difficult to see. "[The incisions] are still on the screen, but near the bottom," said Blackwell.

In addition, the short battery life may mean that Glass isn't suited for certain surgical procedures that take a long time. Even though an ACL surgery is pretty quick, Kaeding was prepared just in case. "I had a reserve battery in my pocket," he said. "It should extend [Glass' battery] by about two hours."

Other doctors at OSU have said that Glass could also be used to display a patient's X-rays, as well as both pathology reports and reference materials pertaining to the surgery. Though Glass has potential, it's important to keep the focus on the patient.

"Surgery is always linked to technology," said Charles Limb, an associate professor of head and neck surgery at Johns Hopkins Medical Institute. "But in many surgeries, less is more. Having access to all of these things might not help the patient even an iota."

Kaeding knows that Glass is still a prototype at this point and that there's room for improvement. But there is one thing that even he can tell is a huge benefit this early on. "Once it's on, it's hands free," he said. "You don't have to break sterility so you won't have to regown and reglove."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Valerie Harper, Fighting Cancer, ‘Defies The Odds’

Leslie Nestor Miranda/FilmMagic(NEW YORK) -- Valerie Harper said that doctors gave her months to live following her terminal brain cancer diagnosis.  Now the actress' doctor says she's turning a corner.

Dr. Jeremy Rudnick said Thursday on Today that the Mary Tyler Moore Show star is "getting pretty close to remission."

Harper has been undergoing chemotherapy as well as alternative treatments like acupuncture.

"It defies the odds," Dr. Rudnick said of 74-year-old Harper's response to the treatments, but he cautioned that Harper eventually will "develop resistance to the therapy."

"It's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when," he said, adding, "Going from having three months to live, or less; we're into our sixth month, and now there's even hope beyond...Life is about buying time."

Harper recently began production on a cable TV movie, The Town That Came A-Courtin'. She'll also join her Mary Tyler Moore Show co-stars Mary Tyler Moore, Betty White, Cloris Leachman and Georgia Engel in an episode of White's TV Land comedy, Hot in Cleveland, which will air next Wednesday.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Can Time Apart Save a Marriage?

Michael Roman/FilmMagic(NEW YORK) -- When Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas made the surprise announcement this week that they are hitting the pause button on their 13-year marriage, the two A-listers not only made headlines but also joined a Hollywood trend.

Douglas and Zeta-Jones, who have seen their marriage rocked by throat cancer, his, and bi-polar disorder, hers, joined couples including Billy Ray and Tish Cyrus and Rhea Perlman and Danny DeVito in choosing to not immediately divorce, but just take a break instead.

“Catherine and Michael are taking some time apart to evaluate and work on their marriage,” a rep for Zeta-Jones told ABC News in a statement Wednesday.  “There will be no further comment.”

Relationship experts say that informal separations such as that of Zeta-Jones, 43, and Douglas, 68, have about a 50 percent success of saving marriages.

“I think taking a break is an excellent idea,” said Donna Barnes, the author of Giving Up Junk Food Relationships.  “If you file for any kind of legal papers, that creates anxiety and anxiety is what’s causing these problems to start.”

According to People magazine, which first reported the Zeta-Jones and Douglas split, Douglas’ frank comments this year about the cause of his throat cancer -- he blamed it on a virus he contracted during oral sex -- may have been one of the factors contributing to the alleged rift.

“He gave very candid interviews about his sexual past that she really bristled at.  She was not happy about his comments and that sort of got the ball rolling in terms of the split,” Peter Castro, deputy editor for People, told ABC News.

If the history of Hollywood marriages is any precedent, Zeta-Jones and Douglas could be among the 50 percent of couples that survive a temporary split.

In July, one month after announcing their plans to divorce after 19 years of marriage, Billy Ray and Tish Cyrus said in a statement that, “we both woke up and realized we love each other and decided we want to stay together.”

Danny DeVito told reporters last December that, less than three months after announcing their divorce, he and Rhea Perlman, married for 30 years and the parents of three kids, are “working on getting back together.”

Other famous couples, including Jessica Biel and Justin Timberlake and even Prince William and Kate Middleton, took time off from their relationship before becoming engaged, and then walked happily down the aisle.

For couples considering taking a break to save their marriage, relationship expert Barnes has one piece of advice.

“A break is most effective when it’s cold turkey,” she said.  “If you’re still communicating, you don’t really get the benefit of a separation.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Miley’s Raunchy Performance Prompts Mom’s Open Letter

Theo Wargo/WireImage(FRISCO, Texas) -- Pop star Miley Cyrus’s raunchy performance at MTV’s Video Music Awards created a furor on Sunday night, and days later the resulting criticism shows no sign of abating.

Kim Keller, of Frisco, Texas, took the uncomfortable moment of watching the performance with her 13-year-old daughter and turned it into a lesson for her child, writing an open letter to her daughter on her blog, Roadkill Goldfish.

“Dear daughter, let Miley Cyrus be a lesson to you,” the letter opens. It goes on: “Yes, this is what happens when you constantly hear everything you do is awesome. This is what happens when people fawn over your every Tweet and Instagram photo. This is what happens when no responsible adult has ever said the word ‘no,’ made you change your clothes before leaving the house, or never spanked your butt for deliberate defiance."

“If you ever even consider doing something like that, I promise you that I will run up and twerk so you will see how ridiculous twerking looks. I will duct tape your mouth shut so your tongue doesn’t hangout like an overheated hound dog. I will smack any male whom you decide to smash against his pelvis -- after I first knock you on your butt for forgetting how a lady acts in public,” the letter continued.

She called on her daughter to demand respect for herself, and to not follow any peers who could engage in questionable behavior. She wrote that her role as a parent was to praise when praise was necessary, but also to correct and discipline when needed.

Her letter ended: “Dear daughter, I am going to fight or die trying to keep you from becoming like the Miley Cyruses of the world. You can thank me later.”

As of Wednesday night, there were more than 1,100 comments on the blog post. Many of them applauded Keller -- but some suggested she went too far, while others pointed out that Cyrus was an adult who makes her own choices.

“I had a lot of criticism that the blog was harsh and that I was attacking Miley, and people need to understand that I am a mother,” Keller told ABC News. “Miley is an example that I used with my kids and we have to use these teachable moments.”

She added, “I hear the debate, too, on how Miley’s not a role model. No, she’s not a role model, but she is in the public eye.”

During Cyrus’ performance, the 20-year-old “We Can’t Stop” singer stuck her tongue out, bent over at the waist with her legs wide apart and shook her hips.

Keller said her daughter grew up watching Cyrus as the star of the popular teen program Hannah Montana and thinks Cyrus’ transition is a cry for attention.

Keller said Cyrus’ performance made her “absolutely angry,” and she had a message for the singer.

“If I could say anything to Miley, I would say this … ‘Honey you are beautiful, you are valuable, you are loved, and you don’t have to do this for attention. This is not who God created you to be,’” she said.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Allergic Teenager Who Died at Camp Honored Through Foundation

Giorgi Family via KXTV/ABC News(NEW YORK) -- The parents of Natalie Giorgi, a 13-year-old girl who died July 27 after eating a camp treat containing peanuts, have launched a foundation to educate other parents and children about the dangers of food allergies.

Natalie was vacationing with her family at Camp Sacramento in California's Eldorado National Forest on Friday when she grabbed a crispy rice treat off a dessert tray at the campsite, ABC affiliate KXTV reported. But it was dark, and the teen failed to realize that the treat had been made with peanut butter before taking a bite.

Natalie quickly spit out the mouthful and alerted her mom, but it was too late. Within 20 minutes, she began vomiting and had difficulty breathing, a family friend told KXTV.

Three epinephrine autoinjectors were used in an effort to quell the full-body allergic reaction, according to the family friend, but Natalie went into cardiac arrest. She was rushed to the nearest hospital by ambulance but pronounced dead upon arrival.

The teenager's grieving parents, Louis and Joanne Giorgi, created the Natalie Giorgi Sunshine Foundation to "reduce dangerous food allergy deaths by spreading public awareness, provide education regarding emergency responses and increase the availability of epinephrine injectors in public places," according to the foundation's website.

"If we can change the minds of certain communities that foods can be lethal, we want people to be educated," Louis Giorgi told KXTV.

Since Natalie's death, her parents have learned that her sister, Catherine, is also allergic to peanuts, KXTV reported.

"A small amount of peanut, if you're a sensitive person, can be fatal," said Dr. Scott Sicherer, a professor of pediatrics and chief of the division of allergy and immunology at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. "And the peanut is a pretty common food, which can be hidden in things, so it's hard to avoid."

One in 20 U.S. children has a food allergy, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Peanuts are among the most common food allergens, which also include cow's milk, eggs, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soybeans and wheat. Peanuts are also one of the deadliest food allergens, according to Sicherer.

"Natalie would be thrilled that people are now starting to think about it and saying, 'Wait a second, I never took that child's food allergy seriously.' She'd like that," Joanne Giorgi told KXTV.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Mom Had 'Faith' in Survival of Hospital's Tiniest Baby

Faith, pictured cuddling with a bear, is expected to be a healthy child, but doctors will keep a close eye on her for complications. (Courtesy John Abbott/NYU Langone)(NEW YORK) -- As Marie Massey went into labor four months early, she wondered in desperation whether keeping her legs closed would do any good.

"You just think stupid things," she said.

Baby Faith was born anyway, and she weighed only 15 ounces -- lighter than a loaf of bread.

"They didn't think she was going to be alive, but I knew she was. Because I just knew it," Massey told ABC News.

The day before, Massey, 42, stayed home from work because she wasn't feeling well. She was 23 weeks pregnant and decided she only needed one day off, so she planned to return to her regular commute to Manhattan the following day.

But on the train from her home in Princeton, N.J., she didn't feel right. She nearly asked a conductor to stop the train, but as a veteran commuter, she didn't want to make everyone late for work, she said. She could wait 30 more minutes, she told herself.

Once she got to the bank where she worked, she leaned her chair back and rubbed her stomach.

That's when her coworker turned to her and said the thing she couldn't believe: "I think you're in labor."

"I said, 'Are you sure? It can't be. You're wrong,'" Massey recalled, noting her coworker told her that she had "the look" his wife had before she gave birth.

Massey called her doctor, who suggested she go straight to NYU Langone Medical Center. A short cab ride later, she was lying in a bed and undergoing an ultrasound.

"Oh boy, that's when everything started rolling," Massey said.

Trying to keep Massey calm, a nurse gave her a pet name, "chicken," and told her to relax. Then, Massey mentioned that she was feeling a little pressure, and the nurse said a little too calmly that she would be right back.

Minutes later, the room filled with doctors, who told her the baby was positioned to come out. They tried pills to stop Massey's labor, but it was no use.

Faith was born at 4:43 p.m. on March 7. She wasn't even born in a delivery room.

After Massey kissed the tiny baby hello, doctors told her that babies born at 23 weeks rarely survive, and if they do, they run the risk of cerebral palsy, brain bleeds and other complications.

"The list went on and on," Massey said. "So I'm laying there, and I kept saying to them, 'She's gonna be fine. Don't worry.' They said, 'But you don't understand Ms. Massey. There's no chance here.'"

Massey joked that "like a dingbat" she calmly suggested doctors give her daughter oxygen, steroids and anything else that might help her.

She remembered the dream she had the night before going into labor. In it, she said God told her he would take care of her daughter, but she had to have "faith."

And that's how Faith got her name.

Neonatologist Dr. Michael Espiritu at NYU Langone said Faith was the smallest baby he'd ever encountered and that she had a lot working against her. She was born because there was an infection in Massey's placenta. Though doctors often give steroids to mothers who prematurely go into labor to boost lung growth in the time before birth, Faith was born almost immediately after doctors counseled Massey on the gravity of the situation.

"Right as we started talking to her, it all started happening very fast," Espiritu said.

Babies born that young have only a 20 percent chance of survival, Espiritu said. And only 5 percent survive without significant brain damage.

The following morning, Massey got up to visit Faith. At the elevator, nurses saw her and told her she needed someone to accompany her downstairs. She'd just given birth, after all. She told them she'd wait, but left anyway. She wanted to see her baby girl, even though she couldn't hold her.

Faith was bright red, with translucent, underdeveloped skin, Massey said. She was in an incubator with bright purple lights, and was on a ventilator to help her premature lungs breath.

"Her breathing tube was the smallest one that we have," Espiritu said.

Faith's tiny body was covered in a saran wrap-like material to keep her warm.

A few days later, Massey was able to return home, but Faith would remain in the hospital for months to come.

Massey spent her maternity leave visiting Manhattan to see Faith. When she went back to work, her boss allowed her to take two-hour lunch breaks to visit the neonatal intensive care unit. Babies and parents would come in and go out, but Faith and Massey would stay behind.

She could always tell when a family was about to take their baby home because a car seat would appear behind that baby's bed. So when it was finally time for Faith to go home, nearly four months after her birthday, Massey bought two car seats for her.

That was in July. Now, Faith weighs nearly 10 pounds.

"She smiles like crazy," Massey said. "She's just a happy baby. As soon as you talk to her, she smiles."

Faith can even get on her hands and push her body all the way up, Massey said, describing it as some kind of baby yoga pose.

Espiritu saw Faith and Massey the day they left the NICU.

"It was such a happy day for me, for everyone who cared for her," he said. "Seeing her from when she was so tiny and seeing her look like she was a regular baby, as if nothing had happened to her."

Espiritu called Faith a "miracle." Her brain had no structural damage, she didn't need oxygen at the time of her discharge, and she avoided major surgery, he said. Still, doctors will need to pay special attention to her as she meets her milestones for the next several years.

"She beat remarkable odds, I think, to go home the way that she did," Espiritu said, adding that the NYU Langone staff took excellent care of her, but didn't do anything out of the ordinary for a preemie. "It surprised everyone that took care of her how strong she was."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Hospital Battling Amish Family's Decision to End Girl's Chemo

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- An Ohio appeals court has sided with a hospital that wants to continue treating a 10-year-old Amish girl with chemotherapy after her parents decided to stop the treatment for her leukemia.

Sarah Hershberger had tumors on her neck, chest and kidneys when her parents initially agreed to chemotherapy at Akron Children's Hospital earlier this year. Her family says the side effects were terrible and they decided to treat her leukemia with natural remedies instead.

On Tuesday, an appeals court ruled a juvenile court judge must reconsider the decision that blocked the hospital's attempt to give an attorney, who's also a registered nurse, limited guardianship over Sarah and the power to make medical decisions for her.

Though the Amish typically shy away from modern technology, her father agreed to a phone interview with ABC News.

"We've seen how sick it makes her," Andy Hershberger said. "Our belief is the natural stuff will do just as much as that stuff if it's God's will."

With chemotherapy, Sarah's doctor's say she has an 85 percent chance of survival and without it, she could die within a year.

In a statement to ABC News, Maria Schimer, the hospital attorney lobbying to take over Sarah's care said, "I believe there can be no doubt that it is in her best interest to have chemotherapy and have a chance to live a full life."

Sarah's tumors shrunk after a month of chemotherapy but Hershberger says the side effects became too much for her to handle. In June, the family stopped chemotherapy and began treating Sarah with natural medicines, such as herbs and vitamins.

"She would have more suffering doing chemo than not," Hershberger said.

In July, the hospital took the family to court seeking temporary guardianship. The judge in Medina County in northeast Ohio ruled that Sarah's parents had the right to make medical decisions for her because there's no evidence they are unfit.

As the family waits for the court's final decision, the Hershbergers say they plan to stay away from the hospital and leave their daughter's health in God's hands.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Arizona Boy to Be Given Medical Marijuana for Seizures

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(MESA, Ariz.) -- Zander Welton, 5, was born with cortical dysplasia, a genetic defect that disrupts cellular patterns in the brain and is often the cause of epilepsy.

Zander had his first seizure when he was 9 months old and now has them weekly. His parents, Jennifer and Jacob Welton of Mesa, Ariz., said they had tried multiple treatments, including various medications, brain surgery and even shock therapy, to help Zander.

Zander’s cortical dysplasia, combined with autism, has limited his speech to grunts or squeals, according to ABC affiliate KNXV-TV in Phoenix. He lets his parents know he is thirsty by bringing them an empty cup.

“If he’s sick, we have no way of knowing,” Jennifer Welton told KNXV-TV.

But Zander’s treatments have not completely stopped his seizures, according to his mother. She said that while his medication helped lessen their severity, they made him more combative.

The severity of Zander’s seizures can vary greatly. Sometimes only his eyes twitch, while other times the seizures are so severe Zander’s entire body stiffens, and he stops breathing, Welton said.

When Jennifer and Jacob Welton saw videos of other children who appeared to be thriving after they’d been  treated with medical marijuana, they pursued a medical marijuana card for Zander, and eventually found a doctor who was willing to treat Zander’s epilepsy that way.

Once they receive their card, the Weltons said they would treat Zander with cannabidiol oil, or CBD, a chemical found in marijuana.

“I wouldn’t even be thinking about this if it didn’t do something beneficial for him,” Jennifer Welton said. “I don’t want him stoned. I just want him better.”

But the effectiveness of treating epilepsy with CBD has not been studied in humans, only in epileptic animals.

Dr. Orrin Devinsky, a professor of neurology and director of New York University Langone’s Comprehensive Epilepsy Center, said although CBD has not been found to be an effective treatment for epilepsy, it was licensed in 22 other countries as a safe treatment for patients with multiple sclerosis spasms.

Devinsky said that for patients who have had little success in treating their seizures with other medications, CBD could be a last resort.

But Dr. Steven Wolf, director of Pediatric Epilepsy at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York,  said that parents should be wary of using CBD to treat epilepsy pending further studies. Wolf said that doctors didn’t yet know if children would build up a quick tolerance to CBD or if it would ultimately prove ineffective in treating seizures.

“I can say if this was my kid and if there was a possibility it would work, I would certainly want to know,” said Wolf. “This is interesting, but this needs investigation.”

Wolf said he had heard of some parents who’d given their children CBD to help treat specific forms of epilepsy, including epileptic seizures caused by cortical dysplasia, like Zander’s. Parents reported that the drug had helped their children and caused no serious side effects, said Wolf.

According to Wolf, two studies are currently recruiting patients to test the effectiveness of medical marijuana in treating epilepsy, but until those findings are known,  Wolf advised caution.

Although rare, Zander is not the first child under 18  to receive a medical marijuana card in Arizona. Currently, 39 other minors in the state have medical marijuana cards, according to the Arizona Department of Health.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


McDonald’s, Burger King Falling Short on Promise of Healthier Marketing to Kids? 

PRNewsFoto/Connecticut and Western Massachusetts McDonald's Owner/Operator Association(NEW YORK) -- Since 1974, the Better Business Bureau has maintained a set of marketing guidelines that urge fast food companies to exercise a level of restraint when marketing food to kids, meaning they ought to focus on foods themselves rather than toy and movie tie-ins, and emphasize healthy menu options. So how have they been doing? A new report, published in PLoS One, suggests that these companies are falling short -- particularly McDonald’s and Burger King, who are the overwhelming leaders in marketing fast food to kids.

Researchers looked at 92 ads from these restaurants that were aimed at kids, and they found that 69 percent of all of the ads contained toy premiums, and entertainment cross-promotions were present in 55 percent of ads. On the positive side, healthy foods appeared in 78 percent of these ads.

But the researchers say that the emphasis on tie-ins and toys in these advertisements are powerful enticements that get kids to urge their parents to buy them more fast food. They also say that this continued practice shows that these companies are poor at policing themselves when it comes to advertising to kids.

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