New Year's Eve a Bad Night for Pet ER Visits

pyotr021/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Between the champagne, the countdown and the fireworks, New Year's Eve can be a lot of fun, except for many of those with four legs, fur and a tail.

New Year's Eve is an especially busy time for emergency visits to the veterinarian, said Dr. Jerry Klein, supervising veterinarian at the Chicago Veterinary Emergency and Specialty Center.

"Most evenings have a certain kind of ebb and flow, but New Year’s Eve and New Year's Day is pretty constant," Klein said.

Party guests leave doors open, handbags unattended and cocktails in easy reach, he said. Klein said he always sees more furry patients during the holidays when other vet offices are closed. But because New Year's festivities keep people out so late, there's even more opportunity for something to go wrong and for frantic owners to recognize it.

"As people start to drink, they start to have losses in judgment," he said.

Dr. Jules Benson, the chief veterinary medical officer of the pet health insurance company Petplan, said claims for "foreign body ingestion" are up 52 percent on New Year's Eve compared to any other day of the year.

"Some of the things we saw were bones, rope, wood, metal shavings, sewing pins," he said. "One English Setter ate a sock, a quarter stick of butter and the ring pull from a soda can."

And because most veterinary offices are closed, sending sick pets and their owners to emergency clinics, treatment costs 46 percent more money, Benson said.

Purses are a danger because people often keep prescription and over-the-counter drugs in them, Klein said. Acetaminophen, or Tylenol, is especially toxic to cats, and Aleve and Ibuprofen are especially toxic to dogs, he said. And many sugar-free chewing gums contain xylitol, which can cause dogs to have a sudden drop in blood sugar and even cause liver damage. Small dogs are especially at risk, he said.

Benson said claims for pancreatitis, which occurs when dogs eat foods that are too rich for them, are up 7 percent on New Year's Eve. And poisonings are up 8.5 percent -- more than any other day of the year.

Chocolate, garlic, onions and grapes are also party food staples, but they're toxic to our furry friends. They can cause vomiting, anemia, kidney failure and other dangerous consequences, Dr. Klein said.

And although it may be polite to bring flowers with a bottle of wine to New Year's celebrations, seasonal lilies are deadly to cats. They're known to cause kidney failure, and all parts of the plant are "extremely toxic," Klein said.

"I can't tell you how many times the following day, two days later, the cat presents with vomiting," Klein said, adding that lilies are much more toxic than poinsettias.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


More Than 1.5 Million Cancer Deaths Avoided During 20 Years of Dropping Mortality Rates

AlexRaths/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The American Cancer Society says that more than 1.5 million cancer deaths that would have occurred over two decades have been avoided due to the 22-percent drop in cancer mortality seen in that span.

Between 2007 and 2011 -- the most recent five years for which data is available -- the average cancer death rate declined by 1.8 percent among men and 1.4 percent among women. The ACS attributes those declines to decreases in death rate among the most common cancers -- lung, breast, prostate and colon.

The report estimates that 1,658,370 cancer cases will be discovered in 2015, and 589,430 Americans will die of cancer in 2015.

Between 1991 and 2011, cancer death rates have dipped in every state. The smallest declines -- about 15 percent -- were found in the South, while declines of as large as 25 to 30 percent were seen in Maryland, New Jersey, Massachusetts, New York and Delaware.

"The continuing drops we're seeing in cancer mortality are reason to celebrate," John Seffrin, PhD, CEO of the American Cancer Society, said, "but not to stop." He notes that cancer "was responsible for nearly one in four deaths in the United States in 2011, making it the second-leading cause of death overall."

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


Life After Enterovirus: One Child's Continued Struggle with Paralysis

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Allen Howe was a typical 4-year-old, goofy and playful, until one day a few months ago when he became very sick.

What started out as a fever and a nagging cough quickly developed into 80 percent of his body becoming paralyzed, so much so that he was unable to lift his head.

The sudden onset of paralysis, baffling to his doctors, was a horrible nightmare for his mother.

“I felt helpless,” Teresa Howe said. “He was lying in bed and he literally was screaming, ‘Help me, Mom,’ and I’m just bawling.”

Watch the full story on Nightline Tuesday night at 12:35 a.m. ET

Allen’s parents took him to C.S. Mott’s Children’s Hospital at the University of Michigan, where the team of doctors who worked on him believe a virus, called enterovirus D68, which caused Allen’s cough, may have also caused his sudden paralysis. ED-V68 comes from the same viral family as polio.

As hospitals across the country brace for a flu season that could shape up to be worse and deadlier than in years past, it was just months ago that many had to treat young patients with a nasty strain of enterovirus, one that in extreme cases caused death.

From August to December this year, there have been 1,152 confirmed cases of enterovirus D68 in 49 states and Washington, D.C., almost all of them in children, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

To date, 12 of those confirmed cases resulted in death, the CDC reports, whereas 15 children have already died from flu this season.

But many families are dealing with enterovirus aftermath, with cases of paralysis noted in California, Colorado, and more recently in Texas and various Southern states. Michigan was hit hard.

Dr. Marie Lozon and her staff at C.S. Mott’s Children’s Hospital dealt with various enterovirus cases, including a few that led to paralysis.

“We added extra doctors and nurses, every day on every shift,” Lozon said of the hospital dealing with enterovirus these past few months. “We called back time off and we used our existing doctors staff, our faculty staff and said, ‘Guys, we have to run our enterovirus shift. Let’s make reasoned decisions about when we can make sure all the patients are safe, and handle the surge.’”

Nightline was granted exclusive access inside C.S. Mott’s Children’s Hospital for several days in October during the height of the enterovirus season, as doctors tried to crack the mystery of how the virus attacked.

Lozon said when she saw an alarming spike in both ED-V68 and pediatric paralysis, she started putting the pieces together.

“As soon as the respiratory cycle settled down a little bit, we started seeing children come in with this acute paralysis, and people started to link the enterovirus with that,” she said. “I cannot speak to causation. I am not saying the enterovirus brought about the paralysis. But you can see where the link came.”

This enterovirus season, which began in the summer, is now over, Lozon said. While it’s impossible to predict the intensity of next season, she said the virus will return. Until then, doctors are still learning from the cases they are still treating months after initial diagnosis.

When Allen was battling the virus, he was on a feeding tube because his throat muscles were affected by the paralysis. He had physical therapy twice a day, which required him to be strapped to a gurney, as hospital staff helped re-train his muscles, bending and straightening his legs as he cried in pain.

It was tough for a 4-year-old to understand why he can no longer play with his little brother, but amid the frustration and pain, there was hope, because Allen started making progress.

After a month of treatment and therapy, Allen was allowed to go home just in time for Thanksgiving. Through December, he has recovered enough muscle tone to walk again with the support of a walker or his mother helping him.

Dr. Marie Lozon said rather than parents panicking over EV-D68, which can be treated but has no vaccine, they should take the necessary steps to protect loved ones against the viruses that do, such as the flu.

“Every year, 36,000 Americans, roughly, die from a flu, and a certain percentage of those are children,” she said. “Our best tool is a yearly influenza vaccination, which is recommended by expert groups in our country.”

And as when dealing with most viruses, the best defense against enterovirus is common sense.

“We have a viral surges every year… now enterovirus is just another of the viruses that we’ve seen,” she said. “Yes, it made children very, very sick, but a lot of kids, it just gave them a really bad cold and cough, and they were fine at home.”

“I think we cover our cough. We use good hand hygiene and common sense. You would never send your child to school, feverish and coughing…and if we do that, we’re going to get through this,” Lozon added.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


Why New North Carolina Measles Cases Worries Health Officials

luiscar/iStock/Thinkstock(MOORSEVILLE, N.C.) -- A case of red measles, also known as Rubeola, was diagnosed earlier this week in Moorseville, North Carolina -- worrying health officials and highlighting the renewed threat of measles in the U.S.

The infected person was unvaccinated and had recently returned from a trip to India, confirmed Rebecca Carter, the public information officer for Mecklenburg County. Carter said she could not release any additional details such as the age or sex of the person due to patient confidentiality.

Dr. William Schaffner, chairman of the department of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, said this case is no trivial matter, warning that measles is highly contagious, spreading easily through coughing and sneezing. Symptoms include high fever, cough, runny nose, red eyes and sore throat followed by a rash that spreads all over the body. It can also lead to death, he added.

“People without gray hair forget that before vaccines became available, measles used to kill approximately 400 children a year in this country,” he said.

Before the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine series became common practice there were hundreds of thousands of cases each year in the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevent reported. The disease has come roaring back as more people refuse or delay immunization, Schaffner noted.

This year there have been 610 confirmed measles cases reported to CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. That is the highest number of cases since measles elimination was documented in the U.S. in 2000.

The majority of people at risk for measles are unvaccinated, Schaffner pointed out. Traveling to countries where there are large outbreaks also increases the risk, according to the CDC.

Many of the American cases this year were traced to an ongoing outbreak in the Philippines.

“Those of us who remember what it was like before immunization helped eradicate this disease are aghast that someone would not vaccinate,” Schaffner said.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson Visits Children's National Hospital

Jason Merritt/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson loves kids.

And, based on the photo he shared on Instagram, they love him, too.

During a recent visit to Children's National Hospital in Washington, D.C., the actor, 42, met a little girl named Kara "who insisted I look at w/ great admiration her beautiful, bright blue nail polish!" he wrote.

"Wow... I'm speechless! #InterestingHowMeetingChildrenLikeMsKara #HasAFunnyWayOfPuttingLifeIntoPerspective #StayStrongLittleMsThang" he added. 

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


How to Get the Most Out of Your Crowded Gym this January

YanLev/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- January is a busy time to hit the gym as crowds swell with new members eager to make good on their New Year's resolutions, but that doesn't mean your workout should suffer.

Gyms get a 12 percent membership bump in January, according to the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA), a nonprofit gym industry trade group. And, as a result, it may take a little longer to get to your favorite piece of workout equipment.

But don't fret. Here are some hacks from gym experts on how to make the most of your January workouts:

1) Become a late afternoon or evening gym-goer.

The most popular times to hit the gym are the lunch hour and before and after work, according to an IHRSA survey. If you want to skip the crowds, try for mid-afternoon or late evening.

The best times to go are between 2 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. or after 8:30 p.m., according to IHRSA.

2) Always make a plan.

You should never go to the gym and plan to just wing it, said personal trainer Liz Miersch, the editor-in-chief of Equinox's Q Blog.

"This is even more crucial during high usage times of year," Miersch said. "Map out your workout and stick to your plan so you can get in and out most efficiently and effectively."

3) Get in and get out.

"You don't need to spend hours in the gym," Miersch said. "Get in and out in 30 minutes or less with a tight strength and cardio combo circuit."

She said she loves a piece of equipment called the ViPR, which is basically a hollow rubber tube you flip around for 15 minutes or so.

4) Skip the treadmill.

Because the treadmill is the most popular piece of equipment in the gym, an IHRSA report shows, you're bound to spend some extra time waiting for your turn, especially in January.

So IHRSA spokeswoman Meredith Poppler suggests skipping it altogether.

"Everyone -- no matter how new to the gym -- knows how to walk," Poppler said. "Treadmills are the least intimidating piece of equipment in the gym, therefore they are the most used come January."

As a result, she suggested taking the opportunity to try either a less popular class or piece of equipment "and perhaps learn a new skill or favorite exercise."

5) Try the old school equipment along the walls.

Personal trainer Patty Buttenheim said January is a great time to try equipment that has stood the test of time, such as medicine balls, stability balls, resistance bands and other equipment that's usually placed along the perimeter of the gym.

Can't find a treadmill or elliptical machine? Try a jump rope for your cardio workout, she said.

"You’re waking up muscles you haven't really thought about in the longest time," she said. "You can get the exact same workout those machines will do."

6) Use the buddy system.

It's tough to stay accountable during the cold, dark winter months, so Buttenheim recommends partnering with a gym buddy. Not only will your buddy motivate you to get to the gym, but you can do drills with your buddy, like tossing a medicine ball back and forth.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


Why This Year's Subpar Flu Shot Can Still Save Your Life

iStock/Thinkstock(NASHVILLE, Tenn.) — Even though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention acknowledges that this year’s flu vaccine is not a good match for the most dominant strain of the virus, most experts still strongly advise getting a shot anyway.

“There is not just one strain of flu out there,” said Dr. William Schaffner, chairman of the department of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. “During the season, other flu strains will become active and we anticipate that they will match up with the vaccine.”

As Schaffner explained it, the flu vaccine operates more like a shot gun than a rifle.

“It’s designed to protect against three or four different strains, so a lot of people will be protected as the epidemic evolves,” he said.

Schaffner also speculated that even if the shot doesn't match up exactly with all strains of the virus, it may lessen the symptoms and duration of illness.

"It could potentially save lives, especially the lives of children, the elderly and other vulnerable groups," he said.

One of the reasons the flu vaccine has been somewhat ineffective so far, Schaffner said, is that the major form of the virus making the rounds is H3N2, which has “drifted” somewhat from its original state. As the epidemic moves into the later stages throughout January and into February, other flu types that are a better match for the vaccine could come into play, he said.

“That’s why it’s still not too late to get your flu shot,” Schaffner urged, adding that vaccinations are available at doctor’s offices, pharmacies and even drive-thrus in some communities.

“There may be some level of cross-protection but we won’t know until March or so until we look back,” Dr. Richard Besser, ABC News’ chief health and medical editor, suggested on Good Morning America Tuesday.

This year’s flu season has already been a rough one. The CDC has declared a flu epidemic, reporting that 15 children have died from complications from the disease, six of them in Tennessee, one of the states hardest hit by the outbreak. The agency said 22 states are reporting high flu-like illness activity, up from 13 just last week.

Besser said for the past four years flu season has been arriving earlier and earlier and that is a worrying trend.

“It seems to be peaking at the end of December and it used to be it did not peak until February or March,” he said.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


New Dating Site Encourages Users to 'Settle for Love' by Exposing Their Flaws

iStock/Thinkstock(WAUKESHA, Wis.) — First impressions matter, but what if they’re not accurate?

That’s what 30-year-old David Wheeler discovered after looking for dates on five websites.

“The biggest shock I had was, honestly, when I met a girl that had posted a picture when she was probably 18, and she was 30,” Wheeler of Waukesha, Wisconsin, told ABC's Good Morning America.

While dating sites like OkCupid, and others don’t advise users to exaggerate the truth, dating experts say it’s just our human nature to do so.

“One of the problems with online dating is it makes it so that you have so many options,” Laurel House, author of Screwing the Rules: The No-Games Guide to Love, explained. “You want to be able to shrink those options and really focus on the people who are right for you.”

In search of the truth, Wheeler recently launched Settle for Love, a free online dating site that encourages singles to get real. Instead of showing only their good side, be willing to admit to their flaws, too.

“I started posting a picture of myself balding, because I don’t want girls to think I’m ugly or looking different when I’m in person,” Wheeler said.

Some Settle for Love users believe online honesty will pay off.

“With other dating websites, people are afraid because they don’t want to be judged,” Ashley, 23, said in a video diary. “They don’t want to be rejected. This website encourages vulnerability and openness.”

House says Settle for Love helps speed up the dating dance.

“Instead of waiting three, four, five dates, one month, three months, 10 months, why don’t you show them right now?” the relationship coach suggested.

Some of the site’s fans have been confident enough to offer the total truth, promoting their strengths while also admitting their weaknesses.

“I’m overweight, I’m unemployed, I can be really clingy and I can be very annoying,” Alice, 26, explained. “But I’m also wicked smart and creative and loyal and I like to think I’m funny.”

Wheeler believes that getting real doesn’t mean giving up.

“People think that, ‘Oh, this is all about settling. It’s a bunch of losers,’” he said. “That’s not what this is about. Our site’s all about just representing who you are.”

Wheeler, in his Wisconsin hometown, is searching for a business partner to grow his website, while still searching for a life partner.

“I do feel like I’ll be married sometime soon,” he said.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


With 15 Children Dead, CDC Declares Flu Epidemic

Hemera/Thinkstock(ATLANTA) — Noting that 15 children have died from complications of flu so far this season, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has officially declared the illness an epidemic.

The number of states reporting a high amount of “influenza-like” illness activity has increased from 13 to 22 since last week’s report from the agency, with outbreaks in every region of the country.

Hospitalizations also climbed this week, with both seniors and kids younger than 4 accounting for the highest rate of hospitalizations.

At least six Tennessee children have died from influenza this year, the state's Department of Health reported. Tennessee is under the widespread outbreak category as of Monday, according to the CDC. So far, East Tennessee Children’s Hospital has seen 442 children with flu just this month.

While this year’s strain of the virus is especially severe, ABC News chief health and medical editor Dr. Richard Besser said flu can always be deadly for children, the elderly and anyone with a compromised immune system.

“Every year about a hundred children die from the flu,” he said Tuesday on Good Morning America.

About 90 percent of flu cases so far this year have been the H3N2 subtype, the CDC reported.

Flu strains are named for molecule types surrounding the outside of the virus particle, said Dr. Pritish Tosh, an infectious diseases physician with the Mayo Clinic and a member of the Mayo vaccine research group.

There are 17 different kinds of hemagglutinin, or H particles, which allow the virus to bind to cells, and nine different kinds of neuraminidase, or N particles, that allow the virus to spread the infection throughout the body, he said.

H3 subtypes tend to lead to the largest number of hospitalizations and deaths, Tosh said.

The hardest-hit states are in the South, Midwest and Western parts of the country, though Patsy Stinchfield, the director of infection prevention and control with Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, said it’s unclear why.

“The one thing we know about influenza is that it is unpredictable,” Stinchfield said. “We don't fully understand why but low vaccination rates may have something to do with areas getting hit harder.”

Besser said for the past four years, flu season has been hitting earlier and earlier, and that's a worrying trend. “It seems to be peaking at the end of December and it used to be it did not peak until February or March,” he said.

Although the current vaccine doesn't seem to be a good match for this year’s strain of the virus, Besser said, it still makes sense to get a flu shot, especially if you're in a high-risk group.

“There may be some level of cross-protection,” he said, "but we won’t know until March or so until we look back.”

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Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


Birds Sing Better While Sober

iStock/Thinkstock(PORTLAND, Ore.) — People blessed with beautiful singing voices get plenty of validation about their talent from others. The rest of us have to contend with singing alone in the shower, or pretending we're suddenly Sam Smith or Beyonce after a beer or five at the local karaoke bar.

Wouldn't it be great if we could really sing like a bird? What about a bird that's a bit soused?

Oregon Health and Science University researchers wanted to learn if alcohol actually affects the singing abilities of our feathered friends, so they spiked the water bowl of zebra finches with six percent alcohol.

Insisting that no zebra finches were hurt in the course of the experiment, researcher Christopher Olson told NPR the birds seemed to tolerate the mixture of H20 and a little booze.  Olson and his team did note, however, that audio revealed that the zebra finches' singing became a little less loud and bit more slurred.

The next study, he says, will study how birds learn new songs when they're under the influence.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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