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  • Former President George HW Bush released from hospital after treatment for pneumonia


    Twitter/@GeorgeHWBush(HOUSTON) -- Former President George H.W. Bush has been released from a Texas hospital after receiving treatment for pneumonia.

    Bush was admitted to Houston Methodist Hospital earlier this month after a persistent cough led to a pneumonia diagnosis, according to his staff.

    This is his third hospitalization just this year. In January, the former president was hospitalized for 12 days after contracting pneumonia. He recovered enough to toss the coin at the Super Bowl in Houston, Texas, on Feb. 5. However, Bush was again hospitalized after the event for reasons that were not disclosed at the time.

    This week, Bush's physician, Dr. Clint Doerr, a pulmonologist at Houston Methodist Hospital, said the former president was still in the hospital due to "chronic bronchitis."

    “While President Bush has recovered from pneumonia, he continues to deal with the effects of chronic bronchitis, which is a condition more prevalent with age. This means his airway has a constant, low-level of inflammation that can aggravate the symptoms of pneumonia," Doerr said in a statement.

    Doerr said Bush is expected to continue "aggressive respiratory treatments" to help treat the effects of chronic bronchitis after being discharged.

    Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

  • CDC working to keep yellow fever vaccine supply from running out


    Ingram Publishing/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A year after the Zika outbreak hit the U.S., health officials are now concerned about preparing to fight another mosquito-borne illness: yellow fever. On Friday, officials at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that they are taking urgent measures to keep the nation’s supply of yellow fever vaccine from being depleted within a few months.

    Only one vaccine called YF-VAX is licensed for use in the U.S. and the CDC reported Friday the vaccine is expected to run out by the middle of this year due to manufacturing problems with the supplier.

    Health officials are now working with the supplier Sanofi Pasteur and the FDA to make another yellow fever vaccine available. This vaccine called Stamaril is approved for use in 70 countries but not the U.S. It manufactured by Sanofi Pasteur France will be available at 252 sites in the U.S. This is a vast reduction from the estimated 4,000 sites that normally provide the yellow fever vaccine.

    In a statement Sanofi said they had a manufacturing issue after preparing to move to a new manufacturing facility in 2018. While they implemented restriction in 2016 so help stretch supply, they said they anticipate YF-VAX will be unavailable from the middle of 2017 through the middle of 2018.

    "Bringing answers to the global threat posed by yellow fever is a key commitment for Sanofi Pasteur. Sanofi Pasteur recognizes the challenge this supply disruption will cause for customers and for patients in need of yellow fever vaccine. We are making every effort to see that yellow fever vaccination continues in the U.S. during this YF-VAX vaccine supply disruption."

    Getting travelers to get immunized for protection remains a struggle. Every year approximately 500,000 vaccinations for yellow fever are given to travelers or the military, who are going to areas where the virus is endemic. However, an estimated 8 million U.S. residents traveled to 42 countries with endemic yellow fever virus transmission in 2015, according to the CDC.

    “Yellow fever virus can be exported by unimmunized travelers returning to countries where the virus is not endemic,” the CDC authors wrote. “Reports of yellow fever in at least 10 unimmunized returning U.S. and European travelers were recorded during 1970–2013.”

    The vaccine shortage comes as multiple yellow fever outbreaks have spread in different areas of the globe. In Brazil an outbreak erupted in December 2016, with 681 confirmed cases and 234 confirmed deaths as of April 20 2017, according to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). Over 800 cases remain under investigation. In 2015 an outbreak that started in Angola spread to other countries and caused 965 cases from 2015 to 2017, according to the CDC.

    The disease generally causes flu-like illness with high fevers. Most patients recover after this stage, but about one in five go on to have the most severe form of the fever, known as the “intoxication." It’s marked by bleeding, severe liver dysfunction, kidney failure, and jaundice-- hence the moniker “yellow” fever. The disease is often spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, the same insect that is the primary cause of the Zika virus infection.

    Earlier this month Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, co-wrote an editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine to warn of the potential spread of the yellow fever virus.

    “It is also conceivable that yellow fever outbreaks may occur in the U.S. territories, just as the recent Zika epidemic reached Puerto Rico, causing a significant outbreak there and leading to thousands of travel-related cases,” Fauci wrote with his co-author.

    While it is unlikely for yellow fever to sweep through the U.S., due in part to fewer mosquitoes, there is still a risk that unimmunized travellers could import the disease when they return from endemic regions.

    “In an era of frequent international travel, any marked increase in domestic cases in Brazil raises the possibility of travel-related cases and local transmission in regions where yellow fever is not endemic,” wrote Fauci and his co-author wrote.

    Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

  • 'Superman' visits tiny cancer patient at hospital window


    Courtesy Abby Breyfogle (ROCHESTER, Minn.) -- A toddler battling cancer confined to her hospital room received a special visit to her window on Thursday.

    Kendal Breyfogle was greeted by a window washer dressed as Superman at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, as part of the hospital's "Superhero Day" that took place on April 27.

    Kendal's mom, Abby Breyfogle, snapped a photo of the touching moment and shared it on her Facebook page.

    "It was the first time she ever saw that so she was apprehensive at first, but started giving them high fives and was mad when they left," Breyfogle of Pierre, South Dakota. "Child life here is great. It's hard for us because a lot of [activities] are in the hallways and we can't go into the hallway, so this was cool that we can be a part of it."

    Kendal and her twin sister, Kenedi, will turn 2 years old on May 1, 2015. Both girls were both diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia on Aug. 17, 2015.

    "Having two, of course it's sad, but we just immediately went to the next step because we need to fight this," Breyfogle told ABC News that year. "The doctor said it's very rare."

    Days later, Kendal and Kenedi were admitted into the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and began receiving chemotherapy.

    Today, Kenedi is 19 months in remission but in February, Kendal relapsed at her 17-month remission and was readmitted into the hospital.

    On May 4, Kendal will receive a bone marrow transplant from an international donor. Because of her compromised immune system, the active toddler cannot leave her hospital room, Breyfogle said.

    "She's just a typical 2-year-old -- she wants to be running and play not attached to tubes. ... We are trying to keep her entertained, but living in a 20-by-20 space is very difficult."

    For years, a team of child life specialists at the Mayo Clinic Children’s Center have been surprising kids like Kendal with visits from superheroes, the hospital told ABC News. This year, Superman, the Hulk, Batman and Spider-Man rappelled down the side of the children’s hospital and played games outside the windows. Later, they arrived indoors to meet with the patients and their families.

    “When the child life team plans events and offers activities, it is a way to normalize the hospital environment, making the hospital experience a bit more manageable,” said Kristi Rodgers, manager of the Child Life Program at the Mayo Clinic Children’s Center.

    Kendal must recover from the bone marrow transplant for 30 to 45 days before rejoining her twin, big sister Teagan, 4, and mom and dad, Breyfogle said.

    Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

  • Illinois dad walks again just months after car crash left him paralyzed


    Cole Thomas(ROCHELLE, Ill.) -- Illinois dad Cole Thomas walked out of rehab seven months after a car crash left him paralyzed.

    "On my way to work with a fully loaded work truck, I had a deer run out in front of me and I swerved into the ditch. And once I tried to get it back up on the road, I overcorrected and we rolled off the opposite side of the road," Thomas, 34, of Rochelle, told ABC News. "While we were rolling, my seat belt came off. I heard a click and felt a flap in front of my face, and then I got thrown around like a rag doll."

    Thomas shattered his L2 vertebra and was told he'd never walk again. But he never lost hope, pleading on Facebook from the ICU for a doctor or rehab center to heal him.

    "I am looking for a doctor, for a rehabilitation center, for someone or something that will help me be able to walk again," he said in this heartbreaking video, which amassed 13 million views. "I have the willpower and the strength to keep going and to push as hard as I can to be able to do it. I have two small girls at home -- a 4-year-old and an 8-year-old -- that need their daddy. And I want to be able to dance with them at their wedding day one day."

    The Shirley Ryan AbilityLab in Chicago answered his prayers, working with him diligently every day.

    "One of my very first therapists came in with a wheelchair and a transfer board, and said, 'You're going to get yourself sat up and get yourself to the edge of this bed and I'm not going to help you at all,' " Thomas said. "I looked at him and said, 'You're crazy.' And he said, 'Yeah, pretty much.' But I tried it.

    "Then to find out I can do it is such a confidence booster."

    Despite making significant progress much quicker than expected, he said it was often difficult to not fall into a "pity pit."

    "You get terribly into this pity pit," he said. "And it's so easy to fall into that too, because it's really, really hard to see any of the positives throughout any of it."

    Eventually, he was able to meet the ultimate goal he had set for himself.

    "Cole's No. 1 goal in occupational therapy was to be able to pick up his daughter," said his therapist, Sarah Zera. "Being able to really participate with his family and be a good family member was very important to him, and he really did his best to do that, along the entire spectrum of his care."

    On April 21, Thomas had a celebration in honor of going home. He walked himself to the car.

    "To go from being completely paralyzed from the waist down to being able to stand up from a chair to walk out the door -- on top of the world," he said of that special moment. "It's a whole new start."

    "The best way to get me to do something is tell me I can't," he added. "You never know what you're capable of until you try. Until you really dig down deep and you try."

    Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

  • No Zika detected in Florida mosquitoes so far this year, officials say


    iStock/Thinkstock(TALLAHASSEE, Fla.) -- With summer approaching, Florida health officials are taking steps to prevent another outbreak of the Zika virus. State and local officials have been monitoring for the virus in both humans, who could pick up the virus abroad, and in mosquitoes, which could transmit the illness to humans.

    Officials from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services said Thursday that no Zika virus has been detected in any mosquitoes tested this year. Since last year's outbreak began, they have tested 90,000 individual mosquitoes which represent 6,500 mosquito pools. There is no longer an ongoing outbreak in Florida.

    “As we enter into the warmer months, it's especially important that Florida communities are equipped with the knowledge and resources they need for their Zika-related response efforts,” said Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam said in a statement Thursday.

    Last year, officials in southern Florida had to combat outbreaks of locally transmitted Zika virus in four areas in or near Miami. In 2016, a total of 1,118 people in Florida were diagnosed with the disease.

    This year, there have been no outbreaks of locally transmitted Zika, although 33 people have been diagnosed with the disease in Florida after being infected outside the U.S. Zika virus usually causes mild symptoms in adults, but it has been linked to serious birth defects, including microcephaly and other brain defects, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    The virus is spread primarily via the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which been called a "cockroach" mosquito for its ability to live indoors and reproduce even in tiny pools of water. Mosquitoes like the Aedes aegypti are the primary way the Zika virus is spread, although the disease can also be transmitted through sexual contact.

    The Aedes aegypti mosquito has also been found to be resistant to pesticide spraying. Last year, after locally transmitted Zika was spread in Miami, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the initial mosquito-control measures were not effective.

    "Aggressive mosquito-control measures don't seem to be working as well as we would have liked," now-former CDC Director Tom Frieden told reporters at the time.

    Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said in an interview during the Zika outbreak last year that the Aedes aegypti mosquito is especially hard to combat for multiple reasons.

    "There's a history of Aedes being relatively resistant to conventional pesticide," Schaffner told ABC News. "When we say they're resistant that means the mosquito inherently can shrug off the pesticide."

    All outbreaks of locally transmitted Zika in Florida were declared over by last December, six months after the first outbreak was reported in July.

    Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

  • Your Body: The pros and cons of coconut water


    iStock/ThinkstockBy DR. JENNIFER ASHTON, ABC News Senior Medical Contributor

    Coconut water has been consumed by folks in tropical climates for centuries, and today, many people drink it for its taste and claimed benefits.

    Often referred to as "Nature’s Sports Drink," coconut water is packed with electrolytes and is good for hydration. And while it's a good substitute for sugary drinks, it does contain a small amount of sugar and salt.

    The drink is believed to be good for a number of health related ailments, like lowering blood pressure, weight loss and increased athletic performance. It's also thought to boost energy, lower cholesterol and reduce cellulite.

    But to be honest, there’s not enough scientific data to support most of these claims. Bottom line: If you like the taste of coconut water, go for it but don’t expect any health miracles just yet.

    Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

  • Mom and six sons cut their hair, donate it to kids in need


    Phoebe Kannisto(CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y.) -- One family in Cheektowaga, New York donated more than 17 feet of hair to an organization that helps kids in need.

    Phoebe Kannisto along with her six sons -- 10-year-old Andre, 8-year-old twins Silas and Emerson, and her 5-year-old triplets Herbie, Reed and Dexter -- ventured to a local hair salon, Hizair Hair Salon, to do the big chop.

    The family, which also includes Kannisto's husband of nearly 11 years, Eric, and their 2-year-old daughter Marah Taylor, later donated the hair, which totaled approximately 17 feet, to Children with Hair Loss, a non-profit organization that helps children with medically-related hair loss.

    Kannisto, who has donated her hair since she was a teenager, decided to get her children involved in 2015.

    "Three years ago a friend of mine lost her son to cancer and he was also a twin and very similar in age to my twins," she recalled to ABC News. "So on the first anniversary of his passing my three oldest sons donated their hair in his memory and that’s kind of how it started."

    Kannisto said although her younger children "have a simpler grasp on the concept, they understand that they’re helping sick kids who don’t have hair and can’t grow hair."

    And because it's a family affair, they're already gearing up for their next donation as Kannisto's youngest child -- 2-year-old Marah Taylor -- wants to donate.

    "We promised her we'd all go again so she could do it with us," the mom added with a laugh.

    Kannisto said it's imperative for her to donate to kids who are fighting cancer, in particular, since her husband is a cancer research scientist.

    "Cancer hits close to home for everybody," she said. "Everybody knows someone who’s affected by cancer."

    Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

  • Bride gets kidney transplant days before wedding: 'It saved my life'


    HYWARDS/iStock/Thinkstock(HEARTLAND, Tex.) -- A Texas bride received a life-saving kidney transplant just one week before walking down the aisle.

    Anu Philip of Heartland, Texas, underwent surgery on March 19 and was married on March 25. The 28-year-old had been discharged from the hospital 24 hours before, she said.

    "Everything was planned and we did not expect a kidney at all," Philip told ABC News. "It gave me more life to actually enjoy. Now I can travel, have children, and that was actually my main
    concern. I'm happy that my husband doesn't have to experience daily struggles that I was going through in taking care of me."

    When she was 9 months old, Philip had renal failure and was diagnosed with minimal change disease -- a disorder that results in abnormal kidney function, according to the Mayo Clinic.

    On Dec. 6, 2011, while Philip was studying at Criswell College in Dallas, her kidney failed. She was then placed on a transplant waiting list in 2012, she said.

    Three years later, Philip met her now-husband, Jeswin James, through a family member.

    James proposed on May 5, 2016, and the couple set their wedding date for March 25, 2017. But a week before, Philip got the call that she had matched with a donor at Medical City Hospital in Dallas.

    One day later, she received the transplant.

    Dr. Matthew Mulloy, surgical director of adult and pediatric abdominal transplants at Medical City Dallas Hospital, said Philip's surgery was successful.

    "She's young and otherwise healthy and she got a donor who was also a young, healthy donor," Mulloy told ABC News. "The difficult part was the time constraint for us. What she and I had talked
    about was that the challenge would be to get her in and out of the hospital quickly and for her to make it to her wedding. ... In this instant, my recommendation to her was to not pass on this
    donation."

    Mulloy said the normal recovery time for a transplant patient who does not experience complications is three to seven days.

    "We had a week," he added of Philip's procedure. "[I said], 'As long as you're willing to walk down the aisle and not do any dancing afterward, I think you'll be just fine."

    Mulloy said Philip's story highlights the essential need for organ donors, especially in April, which is National Donate Life Month, he said.

    Jeswin James, also 28, said he is grateful to the donor's family for the gift that was given to his wife.

    "Before the wedding, she was on dialysis for the past five years, so every day when she woke up, she very tired, very weak," James told ABC News. "After the transplant, she's energetic. My wife,
    she's healthy, she happy, she's full of life."

    Philip said she has written a thank you letter to the donor's family and hopes to meet them someday.

    "I am thankful or their selfless giving," she added. "Whoever they lost, they gave me life."

    Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

  • Exercise can help offset effects of 'fat gene,' study finds


    LuckyBusiness/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Doctors have long known that genetics can predispose some people to gain weight despite a healthy lifestyle while others seemingly never gain an ounce no matter how much they eat. A new study sheds light on how people can counteract their genetic makeup, even if it's in their DNA to put on more weight than others.

    Researchers from University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, the University of Copenhagen and other institutions conducted a meta-analysis examining 60 past genetic studies to see if physical activity could mitigate the effects a genetic predisposition to weight gain.

    "Decline in daily physical activity is thought to be a key contributor to the global obesity epidemic," the authors wrote. However, they explained that genetic make-up may also play a role in weight gain for people who are not physically active.

    They screened for 2.5 million genetic variants in 200,452 adults and also separated the subjects between those who were physically active -- about 77 percent -- and those who were physically inactive, about 23 percent. The researchers then looked at different markers that would indicate if a person was overweight including their body-mass index, waist circumference and hip-to-waist ratio.

    They found those with a genetic variation that predisposed them to gain weight -- called an FTO gene -- had the ability counteract the effects that gene through exercise. By looking at the data they found that those with the FTO gene who were physically active were able to reduce the weight-gain effects associated with the gene by about 30 percent.

    Dr. Goutham Rao, chairman of Family Medicine and Community Health at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center, said this type of research is key in helping patients better understand their weight and health.

    "Despite that sort of bad luck of having a genetic predisposition to obesity if you are physically active ... you're not going to reduce risk of obesity entirely but you reduce it significantly," Rao said.

    The mechanism that leads to people with FTO to be predisposed to gain weight is still not fully understood, but Rao said it's key to give people encouragement that taking healthy steps has an effect even if they haven't reached their goal weight.

    "The message is to be sympathetic," Rao said. Explaining he tells frustrated patients, "if you weren't doing your best you would weigh a lot more and be much less healthy."

    Dr. Kevin Niswender, associate professor of medicine, molecular physiology and biophysics at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said the study took on the "really interesting question" of if people can counteract their genetics through their lifestyle.

    "This study definitively confirms that lifestyle has an impact," he said.

    During their research the team also discovered 11 new genetic variants that likely predispose a person to weight gain and they said more may be found through similar studies.

    "In future studies, accounting for physical activity and other important lifestyle factors could boost the search for new obesity genes," said Mariaelisa Graff of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the lead author of the study. "To identify more genes whose effects are either dampened or amplified by physical activity, we need to carry out larger studies with more accurate measurement of physical levels."

    Niswender said finding new variants that indicate predisposition for weight gain can help give a better understanding of the complex mechanisms behind obesity.

    "For a long time we've been searching for this gene, the gene that causes obesity and it's just not like that," Niswender."there are a bunch of genes that cause obesity and the effect of each gene variant is really quite small."

    Graff said more study should need to be done to get more accurate measurements of the participants' physical activity. The researchers classified those as having a sedentary job, commute and leisure time as "inactive" while everyone else was declared physically active. Additionally, the study was done primarily in people of European descent, so the findings may not be be easily extrapolated to other groups.

    Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

  • Program helping US areas of need get foreign doctors up for renewal this week


    Monkey Business Images Ltd/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Amid a brewing debate on the future of America’s health care, a little known program sustaining a pipeline of doctors to underserved communities is set to expire on April 28th.

    The program, known as the Conrad 30 Waiver Program, offers individual states the opportunity to exempt up to 30 foreign doctors per year from their visa requirements, in exchange for practicing for
    a minimum of three years in areas with a dire need of health providers.

    From 2013 to 2015, more than half of U.S. states used at least 20-30 of their allotted waivers to remedy critical lapses in health care access, according to the Texas Primary Care Office.

    “Rural communities in Minnesota and across the country are short on doctors, and they rely on the Conrad 30 program to fill the gaps. Over the last 15 years, the Conrad 30 program has brought more
    than 15,000 physicians to underserved areas," said Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who is spearheading the effort to extend the Conrad 30 program, in a statement released earlier this month.

    Many physicians from around the world, known as international medical graduates, use J-1 visas to complete medical training in the United States. After their training finishes, they are expected to
    return to their home countries for two years until they can apply for legal residency in the U.S.

    The Conrad 30 allows foreign physicians to bypass that requirement through the provision of a J-1 waiver, letting them remain in the U.S. while working in communities desperately in need of
    doctors.

    The program is designed to counter the shortage of physicians in America. By 2025 the American Medical Association estimates the country will be short of between 60,000 and almost 95,000 physicians
    -- a deficit that will hit rural and low-income communities especially hard.

    Along with Sen. Klobuchar, Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) introduced the The Conrad State 30 & Physician Access Act earlier this month to renew the program until 2021.
    Since its introduction in 1994, the program has been periodically reauthorized.

    "We must provide opportunities for American-trained and educated physicians to remain in the country and practice where there is an identified need for quality care," said Senator Collins in a
    statement. "This legislation would allow for expanded access to health care in our rural or underserved communities, and in turn, would promote healthier lives."

    If the program fails to be reauthorized, the next generation J-1 waiver physicians will not qualify to apply for the waiver until the program is reinstated, potentially interrupting a crucial flow
    of doctors on which Americans depend.

    Dr. Sameer Alefrai, a Jordanian physician applying for a J-1 waiver this year, called the program a "win-win."

    "You get to stay here and continue working for a limited time until you satisfy your J-1 waiver, stay with your friends, colleagues, and keep progressing your career. And they get a physician in an
    underserved area," Alefrai told ABC News.

    The Conrad 30 program was instituted by Senator Kent Conrad of North Dakota in 1994, looking to address growing shortages of physicians in America, especially in rural communities. By 2006, it had
    grown tremendously, with the number of waivers from states rising from 89 in 1995 to more than 1,000 per year, leading the U.S. Government Accountability Office to describe it as, "a major means of
    placing physicians in underserved areas of the United States."

    The impact of the program is vast as these doctors may see hundreds to thousands of patients. A study in the Annals of Family medicine estimated an average primary care physician in the U.S. may
    see as many as 2,500 patients a year.

    In the past, the Conrad 30 program has enjoyed bipartisan support. However, under the new administration, the future of the program is unclear.

    "It’ll be a trial balloon, it certainly will test the waters if physician immigration continues to have the support of both sides of Congress as it has had in the past," Connie Berry, former
    manager of the Texas Primary Care Office told ABC News.

    The current legislation also seeks to reform the program, offering clarifications to existing rules, employment protections for physicians to prevent mistreatment and giving spouses work
    privileges.

    The bill also seeks to expand access to doctors, increasing the cap on waivers for individual states.

    Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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