<![CDATA[NBC 7 San Diego - Health News]]> Copyright 2015 http://www.nbcsandiego.com/news/health http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/KNSD+RSS+Feed+logo+blue.png NBC 7 San Diego http://www.nbcsandiego.com en-us Mon, 31 Aug 2015 08:46:37 -0700 Mon, 31 Aug 2015 08:46:37 -0700 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Diabetes Drugs Can Cause Severe Joint Pain: FDA]]> Fri, 28 Aug 2015 11:47:30 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-166272621.jpg

Certain diabetes drugs can cause severe and disabling joint pain, the Food and Drug Administration warned patients on Friday.

"The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is warning that the type 2 diabetes medicines sitagliptin, saxagliptin, linagliptin, and alogliptin may cause joint pain that can be severe and disabling," the agency said in a statement.

These are generic names for Januvia, Onglyza, Tradjenta, and Nesina, which are all in the same calss and work by making more insulin for the body.

The drugs are already linked with some potentially severe side-effects. Januvia, for instance, can cause a severe inflammation of the pancreas called pancreatitis that's not only excruciating but that can be deadly. Onglyza has been linked with a higher risk of heart failure.

Photo Credit: Getty Images/Caiaimage/FILE]]>
<![CDATA[3 Generations Linked by Single Womb After Transplant]]> Fri, 28 Aug 2015 09:19:19 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/BoyWombTransplant.jpg

For one family in Sweden, a pioneering procedure has led to a baby being born from the same womb that nurtured his mother, uniting three generations.

The new mother, who lost her own uterus to cancer in her 20s, said it was "unimaginable" that she now had her own child, thanks to her mother's donated womb.

"It can't be described how happy we are," she told The Associated Press in an exclusive interview. "It's everything that I hoped for and a little bit more," said the woman, who asked that she and her mother not be identified in order to protect the privacy of her 9-month-old son.

Dr. Mats Brannstrom, who is behind the revolutionary process, has ushered in four babies, all boys, with transplanted wombs; a fifth is on the way. He said there was something very special about this case: "It's one uterus bridging three generations of a family."

Before his breakthrough, there had been two attempts to transplant a womb, in Saudi Arabia and Turkey, but no live births. Doctors in Britain, France, the United States and elsewhere are planning similar operations with wombs from women who have died recently, not living donors.

Brannstrom, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Sahlgrenska Hospital at the University of Gothenburg and Stockholm IVF, first transplanted wombs into nine women about two years ago as part of an experimental study, including the new mother, who was the first. Complications forced the removal of two of the wombs. The women in the trial were either born without a womb or had it removed due to cancer.

The new mother, in her early 30s, recalled that as hospital staffers wheeled in her mother for the transplant, "I was crying and told her I loved her and thank you for doing this."

The woman's mother (the baby's grandmother) said she immediately agreed when her daughter raised the idea.

The proud grandmother, in her mid-50s, acknowledged she has difficulty understanding the magnitude of the birth, but "at the same time, I sometimes think that I am a part of history."

The new mother underwent in vitro fertilization to make embryos using her eggs and her husband's sperm. Doctors waited a year after the transplant to ensure everything was OK. After four attempts to transfer embryos into the new womb, she got pregnant. There were no complications, and she delivered via cesarean section, as planned.

"Feeling him against my cheek was the most wonderful feeling ever," the mother said. In tribute to Brannstrom, she and her husband gave the baby the middle name of Mats.

She said they will one day tell the boy how he was conceived. "My thought is that he will always know how wanted he was," she said. "Hopefully when he grows up, uterus transplantation (will be) an acknowledged treatment for women like me and he will know that he was part of making that possible."

Brannstrom and his colleagues are planning more groundbreaking womb transplant procedures. One trial will use wombs from recently deceased women and another will employ robotic surgery to shorten the time of the 10- to 12-hour operations. Brannstrom is working with doctors in India, Singapore, Lebanon and Argentina to do womb transplants there.

Experts marvel at Brannstrom's work and described it as the biggest breakthrough in fertility medicine since IVF.

"This was impossible until Brannstrom did it," said Dr. Antonio Gargiulo, an associate reproductive endocrinologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston who has not been involved in the operations. He said removing a womb is unlike any other operation and that the organ must be very delicately grafted onto the recipient's major arteries and veins.

Gargiulo said doctors need to monitor whether babies in the womb get enough nutrients from the placenta and must ensure sufficient blood flow to the arteries.

Brannstrom said the blood flow during pregnancy was normal in all four babies and that all are healthy.

The new mother and her husband are contemplating a second child; the transplanted womb was intended for two pregnancies, before being removed so the mother can stop taking rejection medications.

She said she will be forever grateful to her mother.

"The real unique thing is what me and my mom went through," she said. "It's a big thing and he and his grandmother will have this bond for the rest of their lives."

<![CDATA[Deadly Amoeba 'Very, Very Rare': Doc]]> Wed, 26 Aug 2015 07:35:27 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/candice11pm825_1200x675_513146435654.jpg NBC 7's Candice Nguyen reports on the death of Kelsey McClain after the 24-year-old San Diego woman swam in the Colorado River.]]> <![CDATA[Clothes Carry Germs Into Newborn ICU: Study]]> Tue, 25 Aug 2015 17:46:16 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/566440057.jpg

Parents and other people who come to visit babies in the newborn intensive care unit are sometimes carrying a potentially deadly germ on their clothing, researchers report.

They found respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) on 4 percent of samples taken from the clothing of visitors to a neonatal intensive care unit, and, more startling, from 9 percent of frequently touched places such as babies' bed rails, nurses' computers and visitors' chairs right next to cribs, according to NBC News.

The hands of nurses, doctors and visitors were clean, but clean hands can pick up germs from clothing and objects and transfer them to the highly vulnerable babies. While almost everyone gets RSV, which causes common cold symptoms, it sends 75,000 to 125,000 children to the hospital in the U.S. each year and kills as many as 200 of them.

Photo Credit: File - Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[More Kids Obese in U.S. Than Canada: Study]]> Tue, 25 Aug 2015 15:57:28 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/edt452267964.jpg

American children are growing up fatter than their Canadian counterparts, according to a study released Tuesday by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

The study looked at childhood obesity in the United States and Canada from the 1970s to the 2010s.

It found that obesity was just as prevalent in Canada as the United States in the late 1970s, but has shot up in America since 2001.

Between 2001 and 2004, the percentage of children and adolescents who were obese was 16.6 percent in the U.S., compared to 12.4 percent in Canada.

The chasm continued for the next decade. From 2009 to 2013, the obesity percentage in the U.S. was 17.5 percent, a notable contrast to Canada’s 13 percent.

The study also found the greatest discrepancy between obesity rates was the age group of 7-12, where the United States’ rate was more than 7 percentage points higher than Canada.

Those Americans younger, between 3 and 6 years old, and those older, between 13 and 19 years older, did not see a substantially higher obesity rate than Canada.

Girls were more likely to be obese than boys, the study also found.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Rare, Brain-Eating Amoeba Suspected in Woman's Death]]> Wed, 26 Aug 2015 07:36:23 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Kelsey-McClain-SD.jpg

A very rare form of meningitis caused by a brain-eating amoeba is suspected in the death of a 24-year-old San Diego woman, public health officials confirmed Tuesday.

Kelsey McClain died last week from a suspected case of primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM) caused by an amoeba associated with warm freshwater, according to health officials.

A report from the San Diego County Medical Examiner confirms McClain’s death was pronounced at 6:30 p.m. on Aug. 17 at Sharp Grossmont Hospital in La Mesa — eight days after her 24th birthday. The report cites McClain’s cause of death as cardiopulmonary arrest due to complications of bacterial meningitis.

The report says McClain first developed a headache on Aug. 13 and went to Sharp Grossmont Hospital the following day. Suffering from symptoms including a fever, vomiting and worsening headache, she came back to the hospital on Aug. 15.

“Her chest and head CTs were negative,” the report states. “A lumbar puncture was performed, which was presumptive for bacterial meningitis.”

McClain was given antibiotics. Overnight, she became sleepy, agitated and had “seizure-like activity,” the document says. She was intubated and transferred to the ICU. On Aug. 17, she was pronounced brain dead.

The report says there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding her death, and no reports of trauma, abuse or history of illicit drug use in the young woman's medical history.

Health officials say the organism linked to McClain’s PAM-suspected death is known as Naegleria fowleri.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and California Department of Public Health, the amoeba is commonly found in warm freshwater and soil and can cause a “rare and devastating infection of the brain” that is almost always fatal.

The CDC says the amoeba infects people when contaminated water enters the body through the nose. Once it enters the nose, it travels to the brain where it causes PAM.

The infection occurs when people swim or dive in warm freshwater, including lakes and rivers.

Yuma County Public Health officials say McClain had gone swimming in the Colorado River, in the regions of Martinez Lake and Fisher’s Landing, one week before becoming infected.

She then returned home to San Diego County.

Navaz Karanjia, the medical director at UC San Diego's Neurocritical Care Unit, said there is no proven cure, but a drug for another parasitic infection could help.

"The drug is called miltefosine," she said. "That has shown promise and could be helpful in saving people's lives."

However, since the hospital could not diagnose her problem, they were unable to try the drug in McClain's case.

Health officials say Naegleria is commonly found in freshwater all over the world, but infections are rare. In the U.S., Naegleria infections usually occur in warm southern states. Between 2005 and 2014, a total of 35 infections were reported, despite millions of recreational water exposures each year. This recent infection is one of eight reported in Arizona since 1962.

"It's important when one hears about something so frightening to keep it in perspective," said Karanjia. "For every one person who dies of naeglaria, a 1000 people will die of a drowning."

The Yuma County Public Health Services District says McClain’s case serves as a reminder for people to exercise caution while taking part in recreational water activities.

The health services district says preventive measures to avoid becoming infected with the organism include:

  • Be familiar with your surroundings and avoid swimming or jumping into bodies of warm freshwater, hot springs and thermally-polluted waters
  • Avoid swimming or jumping into freshwater during periods of high temperature and low water volume, particularly in areas with stagnant water
  • Hold the nose shut or use nose clips when jumping or diving into bodies of warm freshwater such as lakes, rivers or hot springs
  • Avoid digging in or stirring up the sediment while swimming in shallow water areas

"While infections with Naegleria fowleri are rare, when they do occur, it is usually during the summer months of July, August and September and when weather has been warmer than normal allowing for higher fresh water temperatures and lower water levels," Diana Gomez, Director of the Yuma County Public Health Services District, explained.

The CDC says people cannot be infected with this organism by drinking water contaminated with Naegleria, and the infection cannot spread from one person to another.

Yuma County Public Health officials are now awaiting confirmation from the CDC regarding the PAM link to McClain’s death.

NBC 7 in San Diego reached out to Sharp Grossmont Hospital Tuesday for comment on McClain's case. Bruce Hartman, spokesperson for Sharp Grossmont, issued this statement:

“It is indeed a tragedy that this patient contracted this rare and fatal amoebic infection. We are working closely with San Diego County Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as they investigate this case and how the infection was contracted. According to the CDC, there have only been 132 other reported cases of Naegleria fowleri infections since 1962, with only a handful occurring each year.”

In an unrelated case, 20-year-old north San Diego resident Koral Reef died in October 2014, also after contracting a rare, brain-eating amoeba.

Her mother, Cybil Meister, told NBC 7 she believes a family trip to Lake Havasu in Arizona was the source of the infection that killed her daughter.

Around Thanksgiving of 2013, Reef’s family noticed she wasn’t feeling well, and was suffering from headaches, a stiff neck and sensitivity to light and heat. By January 2014, her health worsened and by June 2014, she went to the emergency room.

Doctors were never able to pinpoint Reef’s condition. By September 2014, Meister said her daughter began losing her vision. An MRI revealed an amoeba covering Reef’s brain. In October 2014, Reef died.

In Reef’s case, doctors ultimately determined she died from a deadly, brain-eating amoeba known as Balathumia. Her mother believes Reef contracted the bacteria on that trip to Lake Havasu.

Photo Credit: DMV/CDC
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<![CDATA[FDA: Eggless Spread Doesn't Cut It as Mayo]]> Tue, 25 Aug 2015 13:19:46 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/just-mayo-AP_541645552391.jpg

A vegan spread called Just Mayo isn't actually mayonnaise, according to U.S. regulators, because it doesn't actually have eggs in it.

Hampton Creek, the company behind the spread, was issued a warning letter on Aug. 12 by the Food and Drug Administration, citing several purported violations.

Chief among them is the company's allegedly misleading branding of the product.

"The use of the term 'mayo' in the product names and the image of an egg may be misleading to consumers because it may lead them to believe that the products are the standardized food," wrote William Correll, director of the office of compliance for the FDA, in the letter. It was released publicly on Tuesday.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Del Mar Man Contracts West Nile Virus]]> Mon, 24 Aug 2015 15:27:32 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/mosquitoes-dfw-generic-05.jpg

A 73-year-old man from Del Mar is the first confirmed locally-acquired case of West Nile Virus in San Diego County during 2015, announced the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency Monday.

On August 2nd the man was admitted to the hospital after experiencing symptoms of encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain that is related to viral and bacterial infections.

After the California Department of Public Health Viral and Rickettsial Disease Laboratory performed tests, they confirmed the man had contracted West Nile Virus.

Carried by mosquitoes, West Nile Virus is transmitted to humans when a mosquito feeds on an infected bird and then bites a human.

Staff from the County Department of Environmental Health Vector Control Program performed tests around the Del Mar man’s house to check for potential sources of mosquito breeding and notified nearby residents.

While this is the first confirmed human infection in 2015, 95 dead birds and 18 batches of mosquitoes have been identified as infected by the Vector Control Program. This is a significant increase from last year, where only 41 dead birds and 6 mosquito batches were confirmed positive in 2014.

Last year 11 county residents were diagnosed with disease and two died. However, 80 percent of people who are infected with West Nile experience no symptoms. Twenty percent of people who do get sick have mild symptoms such as nausea, fever, fatigue, headache and swollen glands.

Serious neurological complications only occur in one out of 150 cases. The risk of life threatening complications greatly increases in people over the age of 50 and people with weakened immune systems.

“The late summer is when we expect West Nile virus to peak, and there were cases diagnosed through October last year, so people need to protect themselves from this potentially deadly disease,” said Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., County public health officer.
Country officials recommend that residents prevent mosquito breeding by dumping containers inside and outside the home that can hold still water, such as plant saucers, rain gutters, garbage cans and buckets, because mosquitoes breed in stagnant water.

If residents have unused swimming pools or ponds the Vector Control Program is providing free mosquito-eating fish to help control the mosquito population.

Additionally, officials recommend staying inside during peak mosquito activity, around dusk and dawn. Insect repellant that contains DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR3535 is best to keep mosquitoes away when spending time outdoors.

Dead birds and green swimming pools should be reported to the Control program at (858) 694-2888 or by emailing vector@sdcoounty.ca.gov.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[FDA Grants Local Co. Designation for Fungal Treatment]]> Fri, 21 Aug 2015 08:13:48 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Lab-work-generic-laboratory.jpg

San Diego's Vical Inc. has won a "qualified infectious disease product" designation from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for a proposed treatment of invasive aspergillosis, a potentially deadly fungal disease.

The infectious disease designation means the product will be eligible for priority review, fast-track treatment through the FDA’s approval process and a five-year extension of exclusivity on the marketplace.

Vical (Nasdaq: VICL) hopes to start Phase 1 preclinical testing on the product within the next nine months.

Vical’s proposed treatment, VL-2397, was initially developed by Japan-based Astellas Pharma Inc., but Astellas granted Vical an exclusive worldwide license to develop and commercialize it in March.

Vical said that in preclinical testing so far, VL-2397 has acted faster against fungi than other treatments currently on the market.

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<![CDATA[Carlsbad Doctor Accused of Sexually Assaulting Patient]]> Thu, 20 Aug 2015 17:54:39 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/John-McGuire-Doctor-Temecula_3.jpg

A Carlsbad physician accused of sexually assaulting a patient following a surgical medical procedure will face multiple felony charges, according to Riverside officials.

Dr. John McGuire, 44, was booked into the Southwest Detention Center Wednesday and charged with sexual battery, sexual penetration by force and sexual exploitation by physician, Riverside County Sheriff’s officials said. The first two are felony charges and the third a misdemeanor. 

The arrest stems from accusations made in July, when Temecula police officials began investigating allegations that McGuire sexually assaulted a patient at Temecula Valley Hospital. Investigators found evidence to support the allegations, Riverside County Sheriff’s officials said.

Temecula Valley Hospital said in a statement that the safety and well-being of their patients in their highest priority.

"The allegations being made were not reported to Temecula Valley Hospital at the time of the alleged incident. However, we intend to cooperate fully with the Sheriff's Department in their investigation of this matter," the statement said. "Dr. McGuire was never an employee of Temecula Valley Hospital. He resigned from the medical staff in June and is no longer treating patients at the hospital."

McGuire maintains a practice at Graybill Medical Group in Escondido. The Graybill Medical Group had no knowledge of the arrest when NBC7 reached out. 

Bail was set at $3 million.

Temecula Police officals will not disclose what charges the doctor is facing. Police coud not comment on whether the doctor had other victims. 

Anyone with information is asked to call Investigator Pemberton at (951) 696-3000.

Photo Credit: Riverside County Sheriff's Department]]>
<![CDATA[Souping: Hollywood's Latest Health Craze]]> Tue, 18 Aug 2015 07:30:25 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/US-CA-Soup-CR_1200x675_507529283654.jpg Health conscious Californians are abandoning their juice makers for the humble soup, which has been reinvented into the latest wellness trend.]]> <![CDATA[Coffee Aids Colon Cancer Recovery, Study Finds]]> Mon, 17 Aug 2015 19:45:28 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/coffee-generic-edit.jpg

Colon cancer patients who enjoy a few cups of coffee a day appear to survive their cancer better and are less likely to die early than non-coffee drinkers, researchers reported Monday.

It's the latest in a series of studies showing the benefits of coffee, which can lower the risk of diabetes, Parkinson's and cancer, according to NBC News. This is the first one to show it may help patients recover better, and should come as welcome news to colon cancer patients who worry if they can safely enjoy coffee.

"What we found in this slightly less than 1,000 patients is that those who drank coffee regularly had a better disease-free survival, meaning they had a lower rate of having their cancer recur or of dying," said Dr. Charles Fuchs, director of the Gastrointestinal Cancer Center at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.

Photo Credit: File - Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[West Nile Bird Deaths Nearly Double]]> Tue, 11 Aug 2015 14:58:17 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Mosquitos-generic.jpg

So far this year San Diego County has collected nearly twice as many dead and infected birds due to the West Nile virus as they did in all of 2014, officials reported Tuesday.

The County Department of Environmental Health’s Vector Control program has collected 75 dead infected birds so far this year. Last year, 41 dead infected birds and six mosquito batches were collected, according to the county's news website.

County officials will drop larvicide on wetlands Wednesday.

It will be the sixth time this year helicopters will be used to drop batches of larvicide with a bacterium that kills mosquito larvae but doesn’t hurt people and pets, officials said.

So far, there have been no reported cases of West Nile in humans.

Last year, 11 people in San Diego were diagnosed with the virus, which is the largest number since 2009. Two people were killed by the illness.

<![CDATA[Construction Begins on New Sharp Rees-Stealy Facility]]> Wed, 05 Aug 2015 14:53:55 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Sharp+overall+small%5B1%5D.jpg

Construction has begun on a new 100,000-square-foot building off Interstate 15, where healthcare services provider Sharp Rees-Stealy will be relocating its Rancho Bernardo branch operations.

The project on West Bernardo Drive is being developed by locally based Lankford & Associates Inc. and HP Investors LLC, with a targeted completion in early 2017, according to commercial brokerage company Colliers International, which brokered the lease.

A Colliers statement said U.S. Bank provided a $31.7 million construction loan for the office, which is being built by Hensel Phelps Construction Co. and McCarthy Building Cos. Inc. Davis Davis Architects is the core and shell architect, with design work by HKS Architects and Cuningham Group.

Colliers’ Tom Mercer and Kevin Craven brokered Sharp Rees-Stealy’s 20-year lease of the building on behalf of the developers and Drake Real Estate Partners. The lessee, San Diego-based Sharp Healthcare, was represented by Mike Labelle and Bridget Barwitz of Savills Studley.

Financial terms of the lease were not disclosed. Sharp Rees-Stealy will be relocating from its current office at 16950 Via Tazon in Rancho Bernardo.

The location of the new building is the former site of a Hooters restaurant and a Rodeway Inn hotel, which have been demolished.

Photo Credit: Sharp Rees-Stealy
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<![CDATA[Hantavirus Found in Carlsbad Mouse]]> Tue, 04 Aug 2015 14:58:44 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Lagoon-Paddleboard-0609.jpg

A mouse trapped in North County July 30 has tested positive for the potentially deadly hantavirus

The wild harvest mouse was living near Agua Hedionda Lagoon, a popular site for outdoor activities like kayaking and hiking.

The San Diego Department of Environmental Health announced the positive test result Tuesday as a way to warn residents about the threat of hantavirus. 

Hantavirus is a group of viruses that infect rodents and can be deadly to humans, when cleaning or sweeping where infected mice have nested.

Hantavirus can also be contracted by inhaling infected rodent droppings.

It’s rare for humans to contract hantavirus as long as wild rodents stay in the wild and don’t creep into garages, sheds, homes and cabins, health officials said.

Here’s how you can protect yourself, according to San Diego health officials:

  • Seal up all external holes in homes, garages and sheds larger than a dime to keep rodents from getting in.
  • Eliminate rodent infestations immediately.
  • Avoid rodent-infested areas and don’t stir up dust or materials that may be contaminated with rodent droppings and urine.
  • Clean up rodent droppings and urine using a wet cleaning method.

Photo Credit: NBC 7]]>
<![CDATA[HIV Rates High for Teen Sex Trade Workers: Study]]> Tue, 04 Aug 2015 20:06:28 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/576267001.jpg

Teenagers working in the sex trade industry in border cities are three times more likely to become infected with HIV than adult sex workers, according to new research from the University of California San Diego School of Medicine.

The UC San Diego School of Medicine published a study Tuesday in the “Journal of the American Medical Association” about minors working in the sex trade industry in two Mexican cities located on the U.S.-Mexico border.

The study focuses on 603 female sex workers 18 years old and younger recruited from Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez between March 2013 and January 2014. The participants were asked about their age when they joined the sex trade, their experiences with violence when forced into commercial sex, client volume and condom use.

They also provided blood samples for HIV testing.

Researchers found that six percent of those who reported entering the sex trade as teenagers tested positive for HIV. The study says this is compared to slightly less than two percent among those who started sex work as adults – or three times as high.

Researchers say poor condom use and effects of injection drug use contribute to the high rates of HIV infection among those entering the sex trade industry compared to those who enter as adults.

“The far higher rates of HIV infection among those women reporting being a minor in the sex trade is likely, at least in part, due to the combination of being violently compelled to have sex with male clients, being exposed to significantly more male sex clients each day and the lack of any condom use during their initiation to the sex industry,” said the study’s first author Jay Silverman, PhD, director of research for the Center on Gender Equity and Health and professor of medicine in the Division of Global Public Health at UC San Diego School of Medicine.

The study says more than 25 percent of sex workers in these two cities reported entering the sex trade before the age of 18. Nearly 12 percent – or one in eight – said they joined the sex trade before their 16th birthday.

The research also found that, compared with adult sex workers, those who started in the sex trade as adolescents were three times more likely to be violently coerced into sex with male clients.

Many of these young women reported having more than 10 male clients per day. They were also seven times less likely to use a condom during their first 30 days in the sex trade industry, the study says.

“Our study highlights the importance of social and structural factors, especially high levels of violence encountered by adolescents in the sex trade, in understanding vulnerability to HIV,” said senior author Kimberly Brouwer, PhD, director of the Prevention Scientific Working Group of the UC San Diego Center for AIDS Research and associate professor of medicine in the UC San Diego School of Medicine Division of Global Public Health.

The research was funded, in part by grants from the National Institutes of Health. The study was also co-authored by Carlos Magis-Rodriguez, MD, Phd, Argentina Servin Julie Ritter and Anita Raj, all of UC San Diego, and Shira M. Goldenberg of University of British Columbia.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[7 Dead in Legionnaires' Outbreak]]> Tue, 04 Aug 2015 06:30:41 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/214*120/meeting+overlay+legionnaires.jpg

Three more people have died of Legionnaires' disease in the Bronx in an outbreak that has claimed seven lives in total and hospitalized more than 60 people, the New York City Health Department said Monday as hundreds of residents met with health experts and state and city officials at a town hall meeting to get answers.

Eighty-one cases of the disease, a severe, often lethal, form of pneumonia spread through the air, have been reported in the south Bronx since July 10, city officials said. That's 23 new cases since Wednesday, when 46 cases were announced as health officials first discussed the outbreak. The seven patients who died had underlying health conditions, authorities said.

As word of new deaths spread Monday, Bronx residents packed a town hall meeting at the Bronx Museum of the Arts to hear what state, city and local officials, as well as health experts, had to say about the deadly outbreak.

"We are not at a level of panic, but anxiety is really high," Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. said at the meeting.

Lines were out the door and at least 75 people had to stand outside because there was no room inside. Many were concerned about the growing number of dead. They also wanted to know what's being done to stop the spread of the disease.

"There's more questions than answers to this disease that's going around," South Bronx resident Renita Henry said. "I'm scared, yes, because it's right in my backyard."

Three people were released from the hospital Monday, bringing the total number of people discharged up to 28, according to the Health Department.

Officials announced the death of a fourth person on Saturday. The news came as two more Bronx buildings tested positive for the Legionella bacteria.

A Verizon office building at 117 E. 167th St. was the fourth location to test positive, according to Verizon spokesman John Bonomo. Streamline Plastic Co. at 2590 Park Ave. was the fifth location to test positive. Since the announcement, remediation and removal of the contaminants have been completed at both locations, officials said Monday. Verizon said that it would perform checks on all cooling systems at all its facilities in the Bronx.

"Over the weekend we did remediation, we decontaminated and everything got cleaned up today," Streamline Plastic Co. President Joe Bartner said, adding that the company looks to be back in operation on Tuesday.

The cases have been reported primarily in High Bridge, Morrisania, Hunts Point and Mott Haven since July 10, the Health Department said.

Legionnaires' disease is caused by exposure to the bacteria Legionella; in most cases, people are exposed to the bacteria by inhaling contaminated aerosols from cooling towers, hot tubs, showers and faucets or drinking water.

Twenty-two buildings have been visited as "disease detectives" hunt for the source of the outbreak, the city said Friday. Seventeen of those buildings have cooling towers -- five of those tested positive for Legionella, including one at Lincoln Hospital; one at Concourse Plaza, a shopping plaza; and one at the Opera House Hotel.

"Whatever's in the atmosphere gets pulled into the cooling tower, so there's a lot more dirt and debris and areas that organisms can grow in," Pete Stempkowski, of Clarity Water Technologies, said.

In addition to the Verizon location and plastic company, remediation has also been completed at the other three locations that tested positive: Lincoln Hospital, Concourse Plaza and the Opera House Hotel. The Department of Health said it resampled all sites Monday and would sample them again on Tuesday to make sure that the remediation was successful.

"The reason we sampled those towers is because those are the ones closest to where the people are getting sick," Dr. Jay Varma, of the Health Department, said. "We know with this disease it's not going to be from a cooling tower that's 10 miles away." 

Mayor de Blasio and Health Commissioner Mary Bassett said at a briefing Thursday there was no evidence of contamination within Lincoln Hospital, and though the hospital confirmed it is treating patients with the disease, Bassett said no one -- neither patients nor employees -- contracted it at the facility.

Since the cases are widely dispersed — as in they're not clustered in one or two buildings —authorities do not believe the outbreak is connected to any contaminated drinking water, Health Commissioner Mary Bassett said at a news briefing Thursday.

"The water supply in the south Bronx remains entirely safe. We don't know the source of this outbreak, but in recent months we have seen outbreaks associated with cooling towers and that's why we're focusing on them," Bassett said. "We're testing every cooling tower we can find in the area."

Both de Blasio and Bassett stressed there was no concern for alarm.

"People have to understand that this is a disease that can be treated -- and can be treated well if caught early," de Blasio said Thursday. "The exception can be with folks who are already unfortunately suffering from health challenges, particularly immune system challenges. But for the vast majority of New Yorkers, if they were even exposed, this can be addressed very well and very quickly so long as they seek medical treatment."

Legionnaires' disease usually sets in two to 10 days after exposure to the bacteria and has symptoms similar to pneumonia, including shortness of breath, high fever, chills and chest pains. People with Legionnaires' also experience appetite loss, confusion, fatigue and muscle aches.

It cannot be spread person-to-person and those at highest risk for contracting the illness include the elderly, cigarette smokers, people with chronic lung or immune system disease and those receiving immunosuppressive drugs. Most cases can be treated successfully with antibiotics.

The Health Department urges anyone with symptoms to seek immediate medical attention.

An outbreak last hit the Bronx in December. Between then and January, 12 people in Co-op City contracted the potentially deadly disease. Officials said a contaminated cooling tower was likely linked to at least 75 percent of those cases. No one died in that outbreak.

<![CDATA[VA San Diego Cuts Backlog by 82%]]> Mon, 03 Aug 2015 21:53:24 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/gehring-VA-director-san-diego.jpg

More than a year after scandals forced the

Secretary of Veterans Affairs to resign

, VA directors in San Diego held a panel Monday to share improvements in patient care and wait times, while admitting some problems remain too difficult to overcome.

The VA San Diego Healthcare System has seen an 82 percent reduction in backlogs of cases this year, compared to the numbers in 2013, according to Patrick Prieb, director of the VA's Regional Office.

“Here in San Diego we've reduced our backlog from 20,434 cases in February of 2013 to 3,529 cases this week,” he said. “And we're on course to significantly reduce these even further in 2015.” Nationally, the backlog has been cut from 611,000 in March 2013 to 110,000 this week.

He attributed the progress in part to mandatory, 20-hour per month employee overtime and streamlining the claims process online. However, delays in appeals persist as the VA averages eight issues for a disabilities claim, and 11 percent appealed disagreements on a claim.

For the medical side, wait times are down to two days for the first appointment, but follow-up appointments still take time. Veterans are now offered a choice to seek an outside healthcare provider, officials said, and insurer TriWest is working with the VA and healthcare systems Sharp Healthcare and UC San Diego.

Jeffrey Gering, Director VA San Diego Healthcare, said about 75 percent of San Diego veterans choose to wait rather than go outside the system.

“If you are attached to the VA healthcare system, many of our veterans, in fact most of them, say, ‘Look I'll just wait,’” said Gering, “and so that might be 45 days, it might be 32 days, you know, or maybe longer, but we're calling every one of those veterans and offering that option.”

Wait times for local mental health patients average roughly 30 days.

Part of the reason for the delay is a 1 -percent rise in the number of patients seeking care, creating a very heavy workload.

The VA said it is also having trouble retaining psychologists on the payroll, despite two pay raises in the last three years. Some doctors are leaving the VA because of quality of life issues.

“It can be very stressful seeing patients with serious mental illness, hour after hour after hour, day in and day out particularly when the system is stressed with more patients coming to us,” Gering said.

Of the more than 10,000 veterans who were given the choice to be referred to a psychologist through another network provider, 20 to 25 percent are choosing to go outside the VA, Gering said.

The director said there is a push in Washington, D.C. to move veteran health care into the private sector.

"I hate to see the day when there is no VA," Gehring said. "With the push towards choice, I hope that's not a precursor for that to happen in the future."

The Vet Center and Aspire Center are two VA programs that are helping to care for veterans living with PTSD. The Vet Center uses a variety of treatment options like equine and surf therapy, while the Aspire Center is an intensive, live-in program for post 9-11 combat veterans who are homeless.

San Diego VA officials said they have also built strong partnerships with veterans’ advocacy groups to be sure they are meeting the needs of local veterans. This relationship has served as a model for the National VA – My VA Community.

The agency said it is striving to continue to improve to meet the changing needs of San Diego veterans.

Photo Credit: NBC 7]]>
<![CDATA[CA Nat'l Parks Have Worst Air Quality of Nation's Parks]]> Mon, 03 Aug 2015 15:14:19 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/179*120/yosemite-old-040915.jpg

Four California National Parks rank among some of the worst for air quality in the nation, according to a new report card released by a conservation group Tuesday.

Despite overall progress in the quality of air across the nation’s national parks, places where millions of families travel to escape the city air, hazy and polluted air continued to plague the skies, especially during the summer season, according to the report by the National Parks Conservation Assn.

Sequoia National Park, Kings Canyon National Park, Joshua Tree National Park and Yosemite National Park all received ‘F’ grades for their ozone levels and low scores for air visibility.

The California parks were among some of the most harmed by air pollution, according to the report’s list of top 12 parks affected by pollution.

All 12 parks on the list earned a ‘D’ in either the ‘healthy air’, ‘seeing clearly’, or ‘changing climates’ categories. Because of the hazy air, visitors often miss out on up to 50 miles of scenery.

For at least one month a year, visitors to the four California parks breathe air that is unhealthy for most visitors and rangers, the report found. The California parks were the only ones in the top 12 to receive ‘F’ grades for air quality.

“The overwhelming evidence reveals air that is cleaner but not yet clean,” according to the report.

But cleaning up the air pollution could take hundreds of years at the current pace of change, researchers said, citing loopholes in current legislation and climate change.

Nearly all parks are undergoing some degree of warming, researchers found in their report.

More than 80 percent of the temperatures in those parks are considered “extremely hot” compared to the last 112 years. Thirty percent of those parks have reached the highest temperatures they have seen on record, researchers found, and if those temperatures continue to rise, they will be climbing into uncharted territory.

To ameliorate the problem, researchers suggested allowing parks to set their own air quality targets, closing loopholes in current regulations, strengthening accountability and allowing park managers to play a greater role in creating and advancing plans.

Nine California national parks were named in the full list of 48 parks affected by air pollution.

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<![CDATA[2 Dead, 31 Sick Amid 'Unusual' Legionnaires' Outbreak in NYC]]> Thu, 30 Jul 2015 10:41:09 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/legionnaires+outbreak.jpg

Nearly three dozen cases of Legionnaires' disease, a severe, often lethal, form of pneumonia spread through the air, have been reported in the Bronx over the last two weeks in what the Health Department is calling a concerning "unusual increase" in cases.

Thirty-one cases have been reported in south Bronx neighborhoods, primarily in High Bridge, Morrisania, Hunts Point and Mott Haven, since July 10, the Health Department said. Two of the people stricken with the condition died.

Legionnaires' disease is caused by exposure to the bacteria Legionella; in most cases, people are exposed to the bacteria by inhaling contaminated aerosols from cooling towers, hot tubs, showers and faucets or drinking water.

Officials are testing water from cooling towers and other potential sources in the area to determine the source of the outbreak.

Legionnaires' disease usually sets in two to 10 days after exposure to the bacteria and has symptoms similar to pneumonia, including shortness of breath, high fever, chills and chest pains. People with Legionnaires' also experience appetite loss, confusion, fatigue and muscle aches.

It cannot be spread person-to-person and those at highest risk for contracting the illness include the elderly, cigarette smokers, people with chronic lung or immune system disease and those receiving immunosuppressive drugs. Most cases can be treated successfully with antibiotics.

The Health Department urges anyone with symptoms to seek immediate medical attention.

"We are concerned about this unusual increase in Legionnaires' disease cases in the south Bronx," Health Commissioner Mary Bassett said in a statement. "We are conducting a swift investigation to determine the source of the outbreak and prevent future cases."

At a news briefing on hot weather Wednesday afternoon, Bassett said the investigation was in its early stages, and reiterated early treatment was crucial.

"We have our disease detectives out in the field, scanning the environment and looking for places to take samples," Bassett said.

"We know a lot about Legionnaires', we know a lot about outbreaks -- this particular outbreak is still under investigation. We have an evolving situation," she added. "This is a common and readily treated pneumonia and we want to make sure people get care."

Lincoln Medical Center in the Bronx confirmed it had received Legionnaires' patients, but declined to say how many and referred questions to the Health Department.


John Dudley, district manager of Bronx Community Board 3, said the Health Department hadn't notified him about the outbreak and he wanted more information to spread to residents in his neighborhoods.

"I'm shocked," Dudley said, adding he was at least glad to know the disease couldn't be spread through person-to-person contact.

James Rouse, 42, died of Legionnaires' three months ago; he's not one of the two deaths linked to the more recent Bronx outbreak, but his family wonders if it's connected. He lived in Manhattan but taught music to children in the South Bronx. On April 30, he went to the hospital with a 104-degree fever, was diagnosed with Legionnaires' and then died 10 days later. 

"If it turns out those two people died and it's related to my brother's death, and something could have been done about it -- that kind of tragedy, I couldn't put into words," said brother John Rouse of Coram.

An outbreak last hit the Bronx in December. Between then and January, 12 people in Co-op City contracted the potentially deadly disease. Officials said a contaminated cooling tower was likely linked to at least 75 percent of those cases. No one died in that outbreak.

Photo Credit: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Public Health Image Library]]>
<![CDATA[La Jolla Institute, UCSD Collaboration]]> Tue, 28 Jul 2015 08:49:25 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/doctor_generic_health_722x406.jpg

The La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology announced Monday an official affiliation agreement with the University of California, San Diego Health System.

The agreement formalizes an informal, decades-old relationship built on shared research interests and a long history of successful scientific collaboration, the university said.

“For many years, we have enjoyed a cordial and mutually beneficial relationship with UCSD," said Mitchell Kronenberg, Ph.D., president and chief scientific officer of the La Jolla Institute. "The reinforcement of our longstanding relationship through a formal agreement is a transformative step for both institutions.”

The multi-year agreement with UCSD will facilitate joint faculty appointments, enhance the range and depth of collaboration between the two organizations, and promote closer integration between basic immunology research and clinical medicine to speed the development of treatments for diseases of the immune system.

The agreement with UCSD will align the Institute’s cutting-edge, fundamental research on the immune system with a world-class, research-focused medical school and hospital system.

“Scientists at both institutions have been very adept at making connections through informal channels,” said David Brenner, vice chancellor at UC San Diego Health Sciences and dean of the School of Medicine. “With a formal agreement in place, we can be strategic about strengthening immunology research on the Torrey Pines mesa. Without doubt, the close integration of scientists at LJI and UC San Diego with UC San Diego Health clinicians will spark innovation and allow us to deliver pioneering immune-based treatments and therapeutics to patients in the clinic.”

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<![CDATA[The Health Benefits of Having a Pet]]> Mon, 03 Aug 2015 11:49:28 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Dog-exercise-generic-park-outside.jpg

For centuries, humans have taken animal companions into their homes. But the utility of the animals goes beyond simple companionship. The evidence is increasingly clear that having a pet can lead to a longer, healthier life. Here are some of the ways a pet can help your health:

Pets encourage healthy habits.

Getting a furry, scaly or feathered friend can prompt lifestyle changes for the owner. While many associate getting a pet with waking up earlier to let the cat outside or extra trips to the store for dog food, studies show that pets can cause a tangible, positive impact on owners’ choices.

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Own a dog? It should come as no surprise that walking your pooch has proven health benefits, and a People Pets Exercising Together study supports this. The study, conducted by the Wellness Institute at Chicago’s Northwestern Memorial Hospital, concluded that people who exercised with their pets were more likely to stick their workout routines than people who exercised alone. Pets, the study said, should be considered companions that are part of one’s social support network when losing weight, just as people are.

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Walking the dog also has additional health benefits besides weight loss. Regular physical activity strengthens your bones and can help fend off osteoporosis. Being outside exposes you to the sun, which is a good source of vitamin D (just don’t forget to protect your skin from the sun). If you’re a cat person, consider stretching alongside your cat, which is good for alleviating arthritis pain, according to veterinarian Amy Flowers.

One study published by the journal Tobacco Control even found that more than a quarter of pet-owning smokers tried to quit smoking once they learned about the negative health effects of secondhand smoke on their animals. Secondhand smoke exposure is associated with certain cancers in cats and dogs; allergies in dogs; and eye, skin and respiratory diseases in birds.

Pets are friends who help us feel better.

Anyone with a good friend knows that just being there for someone can make all the difference when we’re going through a difficult time. This is just as true with our animal friends as with our human ones.

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If you’re in a really bad mood, consider calmly petting your cat or dog. As Prevention magazine reported, the simple act of petting or other simple interaction with your pet causes your brain to release the calming hormone oxytocin, as the stress hormone cortisol goes down. One study found that dogs’ behavior toward humans was similarly influenced by the oxytocin system, so when you and your dog spend some quality time together, you’re actually engaging in a mutually beneficial, and healthy, social interaction.

Another study focusing on cat owners found that cat ownership lowered people’s risk of cardiovascular diseases. The research, conducted by the Zeenat Qureshi Stroke Research Center at the University of Minnesota, showed that people who owned or had owned a cat at one point were at lower risk for a fatal heart attack or stroke. The study suggested cat ownership as a “novel strategy” for reducing these health risks.

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If you’re trying to think of a gift to give grandma or grandpa, consider a dog: A study in the Medical Journal of Australia found that senior citizens who regularly walked or interacted with dogs boosted the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps calm and rest the body. The researchers found that even just patting and talking to a dog has this effect.

Animals have more uses to assist humans than ever before.

Although not pets in the traditional sense, service animals have been a boon to people with disabilities and other special needs for decades. Guide dogs for the blind are not uncommon, but dogs can also help those who are deaf, those with diabetes, those prone to seizures and even children with autism.

What’s more, comfort animals provide that special companionship all of our pets do for us every day, but for people who need it the most. They console mourners at funeral homes and children traumatized by the death of a classmate by suicide. 

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Oscar is a therapy cat famously known for his unique ability to predict when hospital patients are about to die. Oscar has a perfect streak in correctly selecting terminally ill patients with mere hours to live, then curling up next to them to comfort them in their final moments on Earth, NBC News reported. One theory is that Oscar can detect the release of ketones, biochemicals given off by dying cells.

It’s not just cats and dogs getting in on the act, though. Therapy animals run the gamut from birds to horses. There is even at least one therapy tortoise at a Florida nursing home that the residents call a friend. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Some Cilantro Banned Over Feces, Toilet Paper in Fields: FDA]]> Tue, 28 Jul 2015 08:26:14 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/tlmd_cyclospora_cilantro.jpg

It appears that cilantro contaminated by human waste is to blame for several years of intestinal illnesses among Americans, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

The FDA announced on Monday that it has identified the cause of hundreds of U.S. cases of cyclosporiasis after health officials found human feces and toilet paper in growing fields in the state of Puebla, Mexico. The administration will detain Mexican cilantro at the border from April to August and forbid products from Puebla from entering into the U.S. without inspections and certification, according to a partial import ban dated Monday by the agency.

Last August, the FDA and Texas authorities linked suppliers in Puebla to infected cilantro at four Texas restaurants. Monday’s announcement, however, confirms that the central Mexican state is the source of many more cases of the disease.

Several major U.S. restaurant companies confirmed to Bloomberg Business that the cilantro they use will not be affected by the ban. A spokesman for Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. said that all of its cilantro comes from California. Yum! Brands Inc., which owns Taco Bell, is also reportedly not affected.

As NBC reported last month, cyclosporiasis is not spread through human-to-human contact, but rather, through a host, such as contaminated food. Cyclosporiasis is caused by cyclospora, a single-celled, microscopic parasite that attacks the small intestine. According to the CDC, a cyclosporiasis infection can last from a few days to more than a month. Symptoms may go away, only to return later, and it is common to feel very tired. Cyclospora usually causes diarrhea and frequent bowel movements.

Other common symptoms include loss of appetite, weight loss, stomach cramps, bloating, increased gas and nausea. Other symptoms include vomiting, body aches, headache, fever and other flu-like symptoms. Some people who are infected do not show any symptoms.

<![CDATA[Judge Stokes Right-to-Die Debate]]> Mon, 27 Jul 2015 11:05:53 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/188*120/judge-gregory-pollack.jpg

In a ruling issued Monday, a San Diego judge dismissed a right-to-die lawsuit while stoking the debate regarding a piece of legislation stalled in the California legislature.

The lawsuit filed on behalf of three patients and a doctor claims California law authorizes the medical practice of aid in dying. San Diego Superior Court Judge Gregory Pollack dismissed the suit Monday by saying the court can not do what the legislature must.

"To the extent that Penal Code 401 unfairly blocks the wishes of certain persons affected by it, rather than this court nixing the law as unconstitutional, the legislature ought to be fixing the law so that the legitimate needs of terminally-ill patients and their physicians are recognized, respected and protected," Judge Pollack wrote.

He added that several states have already enacted statutes legalizing physician-assisted suicide under certain conditions.

The issue garnered national attention when 29-year-old Brittany Maynard moved from California to Oregon to legally end her life following a diagnosis of terminal brain cancer.

Her mother, Deborah Ziegler, lives in Carlsbad and recently told NBC 7 she is committed more than ever to fight for an individual's right to die.

Plaintiffs Christy Lynne Donorovich-O’Donnell of Santa Clarita and Elizabeth Wallner of Sacramento traveled to San Diego for Friday's hearing.

O'Donnell, 47, said she believes she will die from lung, brain, spine, rib, and liver cancer before this issue is resolved in California.

Wallner, 51, has stage IV colon cancer that has metastasized to her liver and lungs. Outside court, she said she was disappointed in the ruling but hoped to see the issue move forward.

The plaintiffs plan to appeal Pollack's ruling.

A bill stalled in an Assembly committee earlier this month, due in large part to opposition from religious organizations that say allowing doctors to prescribe life-ending drugs is assisted suicide and goes against God's will.

The Assembly Health Committee includes multiple Democratic lawmakers from heavily Catholic districts in the Los Angeles area, where the archdiocese actively opposed the legislation.

Photo Credit: NBC 7]]>
<![CDATA[SD Judge to Dismiss Right-to-Die Lawsuit ]]> Fri, 24 Jul 2015 18:20:40 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/christy-o%27donnell-youtube.jpg

A San Diego judge indicated he will throw out a lawsuit filed by three patients and a doctor claiming that California law authorizes the medical practice of aid in dying.

The hearing Friday was to establish whether the lawsuit filed on behalf of Christy Lynne Donorovich-O’Donnell and Elizabeth Wallner merits a trial.

O'Donnell, who turned 47 on Friday, is battling lung, brain, spine, rib, and liver cancer. The civil rights attorney and former sergeant in the LAPD, lives in Santa Clarita with her 21-year-old daughter, Bailey.

In a clip posted to YouTube, O'Donnell said she spends time fearing the pain she's going to endure when she dies.

"All of that time that my mind spends thinking about that, I am not living," she said.

San Diego Superior Court Judge Gregory Pollack said it's not the court's decision to change the state constitution and said "maybe legislation should fix this. Not the court."

He added that he will issue his ruling on Monday and that he expected the ruling to be appealed, according to the Associated Press.

Wallner, 51, of Sacramento has stage IV colon cancer that has metastasized to her liver and lungs.

Outside court, she said she was disappointed in the ruling but hoped to see the issue move forward.

“If we shed some light on it, it actually makes it easier for the patients, easier for the families and a lot less likely for abuse,” said Wallner.

“The change the plaintiffs seek is something that the legislature needs to address,” said attorney Darin Wessel, who represents the Los Angeles County District Attorney.

A bill stalled in an Assembly committee earlier this month, due in large part to opposition from religious organizations that say allowing doctors to prescribe life-ending drugs is assisted suicide and goes against God's will.

The Assembly Health Committee includes multiple Democratic lawmakers from heavily Catholic districts in the Los Angeles area, where the archdiocese actively opposed the legislation.

The issue garnered national attention when 29-year-old Brittany Maynard moved from California to Oregon to legally end her life following a diagnosis of terminal brain cancer.

Her mother, Deborah Ziegler, lives in Carlsbad and recently told NBC 7 she is committed more than ever to fight for an individual's right to die.

O’Donnell’s attorney said they intend to appeal.

<![CDATA[Rise in Autism May Be Due to Semantics: Study]]> Thu, 23 Jul 2015 08:51:24 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-142090923_Autism-generic.jpg

A new study out of Penn State University suggests that the increase in autism diagnosis is due to kids being classified and diagnosed differently, not because something catastrophic has happened to U.S. children, NBC News reported. 

Special education enrollment figures suggest 97 percent of the increase in autism between 2000 and 2010. The study, published in the American Journal of Medical Genetics, found that the figures could simply be accounted for by reclassification — at least among older kids. 

The researchers' conclusions won't end the debate on what caused the spike, but may offer some solace to worried parents and help explain such a huge jump in cases. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[How to Pick the Right Surgeon]]> Thu, 23 Jul 2015 07:49:21 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/surgery_generic.jpg For the first time, you can get an idea of how many surgeries doctors have performed and how many complications they've had over the course of a five year period. It's performance data for 17,000 surgeons across the country. Investigative reporter Stephen Stock reports.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Protect Yourself Against West Nile Virus After Rainfall]]> Wed, 22 Jul 2015 15:47:01 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/llegada-de-mosquitos-a-Arizona.jpg

After the weekend’s record-breaking rainfall, San Diego County health officials are reminding people of the dangers of standing water in the fight against West Nile virus.

To make sure residents do not have potential breeding grounds in their house, officials recommend dumping out standing water in buckets, rain gutters, garbage cans or outdoor toys and cover up any collected rain water to use for lawns or landscaping. If the container is large, the county provides free mosquito-eating fish.

“These are simple things people can do to protect themselves and their families,” said Environmental Health Director Elizabeth Pozzebon in a statement. “They should also remember to wear insect repellent and report dead birds by calling or emailing our vector control program.”

Mosquitos, which can transmit the virus, breed easier in warmer temperatures. Still water gives the animals more places to breed as well.

Since the beginning of the year, vector control inspectors have picked up six infected batches of mosquitoes – the same amount collected for the whole of 2014.

The rise in mosquitoes with West Nile accompanies a May spike in the number of infected dead birds, which continues to grow.

“Mosquitoes are the main way people get exposed to West Nile virus,” said Department of Environmental Health Director Elizabeth Pozzebon in a statement, “so remember to get rid of standing water around your homes so mosquitoes can’t breed, wear insect repellent and report dead birds.”

So far, there have been no reported cases of West Nile in humans. Last year, 11 people in San Diego were diagnosed with the virus, which is the largest number since 2009. Two people were killed by the illness.

The county recommends doing three things when you want to avoid West Nile: Prevent, protect and report.

Officials say you should prevent mosquito breeding by dumping out anything around your home that can hold water. If you have ponds, the county offers free mosquito fish to help get rid of the pests.

Protect yourself from mosquito bites by using insect repellent with DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR3535. You could also wear long sleeves and pants, and make sure your doors and windows are secure enough to keep the insects out.

Finally, report any dead birds or green swimming pools you see to the vector control program by calling 858-694-2888, emailing vector@sdcounty.ca.gov or downloading the county’s app “Fight the Bite.”

<![CDATA[Use of Morning-After Pill on Rise Among U.S. Teens]]> Wed, 22 Jul 2015 06:08:00 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/pill1.jpg

More than one in five sexually active teen girls have used the morning-after pill, according to a report released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The findings, which likely reflect the ease in which teens can buy the emergency contraceptive, show that usage of the morning-after pill rose steadily from a decade ago when it was one in 12.

Morning-after pills can cut chances of pregnancy by almost 90 percent if taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex.

Photo Credit: UIG via Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[UCSD Health, Hospitals Rank No. 1 in San Diego]]> Tue, 21 Jul 2015 15:02:35 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/UCSD-Med-Center-Garske-2.jpg

UC San Diego Health and its associated hospitals have been ranked No. 1in San Diego and recognized by the U.S. News & World Report as one of the best in the nation, UCSD Health Sciences announced Tuesday.

The “Best Hospitals 2015-2016” ranking indicates which hospitals excel at treating patients with the most difficult conditions. By ranking departments individually, a patient can use this as a guide to determine which hospital could best help them if they suffer from an unusual or complex ailment.

U.S. News & World Report evaluated hospitals in 16 adult specialties and ranked the top 50 in most of the specialties. Less than 3 percent of the nearly 5,000 hospitals that were analyzed for "Best Hospitals 2015-16" were nationally ranked in even one specialty.

Meanwhile, UC San Diego Health ranked in Cancer (#23), Cardiology and Heart Surgery (#24), Diabetes and Endocrinology (#31), Ear, Nose & Throat (#33), Gastroenterology & GI Surgery (#24), Geriatrics (#18), Gynecology (#44), Nephrology (#20), Neurology & Neurosurgery (#22), Orthopedics (#31), Pulmonology (#6) and Urology (#25.)

"Ranking in the top 50 nationally in 12 specialties is a remarkable achievement for UC San Diego Health and represents an important tool for consumers in choosing a health care provider," said Paul Viviano, CEO, UC San Diego Health, in a press release. "UC San Diego's yearly rise in rankings is evidence of the extraordinary efforts of our team to offer demonstrably superior clinical care to all patients across a range of diseases and chronic conditions."

Amongst this triumph, UC San Diego Health will also open the Jacobs Medical Center in 2016, the largest hospital project in California. Specializing in cancer care, advanced surgery and women and infant care, the Center will be a 10-story high, 509,500-foot expansion of UC San Diego Health’s La Jolla facilities.

To read the full rankings, click here.

Photo Credit: Monica Garske]]>
<![CDATA[Early Drugs Halt AIDS, Prevent Spread, Studies Confirm]]> Tue, 21 Jul 2015 04:56:48 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/219*120/022309+AIDS+HIV+Ribbon.jpg

Two big studies detailed Monday confirm that earlier treatment for the AIDS virus not only keeps people healthy, but prevents them from infecting others, NBC News reported.

The results have AIDS experts more optimistic than ever that it's possible to put a serious dent into the pandemic of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which has killed nearly 40 million people and which has infected close to 37 million more. One study had such clear results that it was stopped last May so everyone could get the drugs.

"We have now the unique opportunity of ending the pandemic," said Dr. Julio Montaner, at a meeting of the International AIDS Society in Vancouver.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Don't Use Laundry Pods in Homes With Kids: Consumer Reports]]> Fri, 17 Jul 2015 09:16:15 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/laundrypods.jpg

Consumer Reports is warning parents that laundry detergent pods should never be used in homes where young children live of visit. 

Over the last several years, Poison Control Centers have fielded an increased number of calls about children eating, inhaling, or getting the laundry detergent serum on their skin.

However, Proctor and Gamble, the maker of the Tide, Gain, and Ariel laundry pods, has said the number of reports involving its pods is falling relative to sales and that most calls resulted in minor to no medical treatment actually, according to "Today."

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Our Brains Change What We See ]]> Mon, 13 Jul 2015 11:32:32 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/090411+brain+image.jpg

A study at UC San Diego says learning impacts how the brain processes what we see.

From taste to smell to past experience, our vision is influenced by perception.

A cognitive process known as top-down control changes the way we interact with the world based on prior knowledge and expectations.

An example of top-down control is being able to read a word with missing letters based on past experiences.

The research study at the UC San Diego School of Medicine was led by Takaki Komiyama, PhD, assistant professor of neurosciences and neurobiology.

The researchers found in lab tests when a mouse assigned a new meaning to a neutral stimulus top-down control became much more influential in activating the visual cortex.

The study, published in the online journal Nature Neuroscience, has broader implications on health research.

"In addition to revealing circuit mechanisms underlying these learning-related changes, our findings may have implications in understanding the pathophysiology of psychiatric diseases, such as schizophrenia, that generate abnormal perception," said Hiroshi Makino, PhD, postdoctoral researcher in Komiyama's lab in a written release.