<![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 Tue, 03 Mar 2015 08:57:16 -0800 Tue, 03 Mar 2015 08:57:16 -0800 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Brain Surgeons Use 3-D Technology]]> Tue, 03 Mar 2015 06:07:32 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/214*120/generic-brain2.jpg

For the first time, brain surgeons at UCLA’s Neurosurgery Center can look inside the heads of their patients before they go under the knife.

Using a breakthrough tool called the Surgical Theater, doctors can create ultra-realistic 3-D virtual replicas of a patient’s brain and look inside when preparing for surgery.

"We can see the anatomy with great precision and it’s not obscured by fluid, by blood, by any of the things that can be problematic during the operation," explains to Dr. Neil Martin of the UCLA Neurosurgery Center. “That allows us to operate with greater precision and a lot more confidence.”

Some problems can be cured if the surgery is performed perfectly. This 3-D technology improves the chance of a successful procedure by giving doctors a road map for the surgery. Once the 3-D virtual brain is created by combing layers of a traditional CT scan, it’s displayed on a large touch sensitive screen.

The surgeon can then manipulate the image by touch, rotating it, resizing it and locating specific parts of the anatomy.

"We’re prepared before we even get there," Dr. Martin said. "It shortens the operative time and, in my experience, that sense of déjà vu leads you to a much better operation."

Recently, Dr. Martin used the device to prepare for two surgeries that if performed perfectly could lead to a full cure.

Sibyl Stringer was diagnosed with an aneurism - a weakened blood vessel - which could have killed Stringer if it burst.

"I didn’t have any symptoms and it was discovered while we were looking for something else," Stringer said.

Lucas Deines discovered he has a non-cancerous brain tumor when visiting his doctor because of an unrelated problem with headaches. Although benign, the tumor had the power to recur and require further surgery or even radiation, according to Dr. Martin.

"I was scared to death to be frank," Deines said.

After studying the 3-D models of each of their brains, Dr. Martin was able to successfully complete Sibyl and Deines’ difficult surgeries without any major complications.

"I feel blessed that I’m talking to you, and that it’s not a bad dream," Deines said.

Dr. Bruce says: "Lucas told us that just five days after his surgery. This breakthrough technique may soon be used in other areas of the body as well. It may save lives and cut down on risks."

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[New App Lets Patients Receive Diagnosis Through Phone]]> Sun, 01 Mar 2015 16:57:37 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Liberty11P0228_1200x675_406144067928.jpg

Not feeling up for a visit to the doctor? A new phone application may be able to help you out.

Doctor on Demand can help diagnose common health problems without the patient ever having to step foot inside a hospital.

Users can download the application and talk with board-certified and licensed doctors in their area through a web cam.

Some doctors say this is another way of dealing with day-to-day care, but should not be used for chronic health issues.

The application works on a pay-per-visit basis with no other feeds and has medical and pediatric doctors available as well as psychologists and lactation consultants.

<![CDATA[Scripps Unveils New State-of-the-Art Heart Center]]> Fri, 27 Feb 2015 13:27:12 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/prebys-heart-center.jpg

Heart disease is the second leading cause of death in the county, and Scripps Health has unveiled its new state-of-the-art hospital dedicated to treating the heart.

The Prebys Cardiovascular Institute, which opened Thursday, has more than 160 rooms specifically designed to treat patients with heart problems, and six high-tech operating rooms used for less invasive procedures - something Scripps employees said can't be found in any other hospital.

San Diego loses nearly 4,000 people to heart disease annually, so the new facility will be a major benefit to locals, particularly the elderly.

Darla Calvert was diagnosed with heart failure in 2003 and underwent heart surgery that left her with a five pound device that pumps her blood for her.

Calvert said she credits Scripps Health doctors for saving her life.

"So far Scripps has approximately 23 patients with the L-VAD and as a result, all of us are alive and we wouldn't be without it," Calvert said.

The Prebys Cardiovascular Institute will treat its first 100 patients in under two weeks.

For more information, click here.

Photo Credit: Scripps Health]]>
<![CDATA[WATCH: Body Bags Are Getting Bigger]]> Thu, 26 Feb 2015 12:56:06 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/214*120/NC_bigbodybags.jpg With more than one third of U.S. adults overweight, coroners are having problems with standard body bags sizes being too small.]]> <![CDATA[Hand Washing Dishes May Prevent Allergies: Study]]> Wed, 25 Feb 2015 08:24:46 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/dishwashingAllergy-529008409.jpg

Washing dishes might be the best chore for a kid.

Doing dishes by hand instead of using a dishwasher might prevent or reduce allergies in children, according to a Swedish study published in the journal Pediatrics yesterday.

The study of more than 1,000 children from Sweden found that those living in homes where dishes were washed by hand were 40 percent less likely to develop allergies compared to those in homes with a dishwasher.

A questionnaire asked parents about their dishwashing practices as well as whether their 7- or 8-year-olds had asthma, eczema or seasonal allergies.

The researchers suggest that allergy development was reduced due to increased microbial exposure from the bacteria left on dishes, and that the exposure is good for children because it may stimulate their immune systems.

The report references a German study from 2004 that compared hand-washing techniques and dishwashers and found that half of the subjects did not clean as well as a dishwasher. That study also found that milk products have the potential to stay on utensils enough to pose health risks.

"People whose immune systems are no longer busy fighting infection become disregulated and allergic,” Susan Wasserman, professor of medicine at McMaster University in Canada, told Live Science. Wasserman referred to the "hygiene hypothesis," a theory that the immune systems of children not exposed to as many microbes do know how to fight off allergens such as pollen.

The new study of Swedish children found that the development of allergies in children was reduced even more once the researchers analyzed other lifestyle factors. Eating fermented foods, living in crowded situations, and being a part of an immigrant family all prevent or reduce the development of allergies.

In the commentary of the study, two physicans at University of California, San Francisco, said that dishwater usage and other lifestyle choices should be researched further.

Photo Credit: Illustration/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[UCSD Study Finds Root Cause of Type 2 Diabetes]]> Tue, 24 Feb 2015 13:26:17 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/UC-San-Diego-generic_6.jpg

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego, believe they have discovered the "root cause" of Type 2 diabetes — a molecular link between obesity and diabetes that may lead to new treatment.

Inflammation that results from obesity leads to insulin resistance, the first step in developing Type 2 diabetes, the study found.

One inflammatory molecule in particular, LTB4, is released by immune cells living in extra fat, called macrophages. Positive feedback then signals for the body to release more macrophages, which then release more LTB4 into the fatty cells in the liver, researchers found.

"This study is important because it reveals a root cause of type 2 diabetes," the study's senior author Dr. Jerrold M. Olefsky, professor of medicine and associate dean for scientific affairs, said in a statement. "And now that we understand that LTB4 is the inflammatory factor causing insulin resistance, we can inhibit it to break the link between obesity and diabetes."

Those LTB4 then bind to nearby cell surfaces, the researchers found. In people who are obese, those cells become inflamed and the body becomes resistant to insulin.

In the UC San Diego study, Olefsky and his team of researchers used genetically engineered mice to look for ways to reverse insulin resistance.

The team created genetically engineered mice that did not have the LTB4 receptor. Without the receptor, the health of obese mice “dramatically improved.”

The study was authored by Pingping Li, Da Young Oh, Gautam Bandyopadhyay, William S. Lagakos, Saswata Talukdar, Olivia Osborn, Andrew Johnson, Heekyung Chung, Rafael Mayoral, Michael Maris, Jachelle M Ofrecio, Sayaka Taguchi, Min Lu. All of the researchers are at UC San Diego.

The research was funded in part by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease, the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and Merck Inc.

Photo Credit: NBC 7 San Diego]]>
<![CDATA[Study Examines Peanut Allergy]]> Tue, 24 Feb 2015 12:45:57 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/peanut+butter+recall.jpg

A groundbreaking study released Monday argues that the key to preventing peanut allergies in children may lie in early and regular exposure to the food, but some parents aren't quite ready to expose their children.

Researchers at King’s College London found introducing peanut snacks to children at high-risk for the allergy made them less likely to develop it by the time they turned 5 than kids who avoided peanut snacks completely.

"Consumption rather than avoidance seems to protect against developing peanut allergy," said Dr. Gideon Lack, of King’s College.

But the news doesn't provide relief for parents of kids who already have a potentially fatal peanut allergy. 

"We just can’t take a chance. We don’t eat out. We don’t travel on planes. We have to live differently than the normal family," said Debbie Adler, whose 6-year-old son suffers from allergies.

Adler first discovered her son’s allergies when he experienced a severe reaction after eating frozen yogurt.

"He started vomiting profusely. I had never seen anything like this. Nonstop. Nonstop. Went on and on until he turned blue and passed out in my arms," Adler said.

In addition to milk, doctors found Adler’s son also had a peanut allergy. Allergies like his are not only a nuisance, but they can also be deadly. In some cases, just smelling peanuts is enough to cause a child to go into anaphylactic shock.

Adler’s son is not alone: More than 2 percent of kids in the United States are allergic to peanuts and that number is only climbing, according to the Associated Press. However, the King's College study could help reverse this upward trajectory.

Researchers enrolled 640 children under age 1 who were at high risk for peanut allergy. Half were given a peanut snack at least three times a week, while the others were told to avoid all peanuts until five.

Although counterintuitive, the results confirmed avoiding peanuts did not help ward off peanut allergies. In fact, 17 percent of the kids who avoided peanuts developed an allergy by age five. However, only three percent of the kids who ate the peanut snacks developed the same allergy.

"You need to be introduced to these proteins very early in life," Lack continued.

There is also a new patch designed to desensitize peanut allergy patients by exposing them to a small dose of peanut protein. The common thread appears to be that a little bit of exposure and consumption seems to teach the body that peanuts are not an enemy.

Adler hopes this technique will free other families from the debilitating effects of nut allergies.

"It would change our lives significantly is he could eat all of the things he’s allergic too."

Dr. Bruce’s Advice: If your kid has a lot of allergies, speak with a doctor and begin exposing them to tiny amounts of the allergens under supervision. If your child gets a rash or other symptoms, stop.

<![CDATA[New Rules to Combat "Superbugs"]]> Fri, 20 Feb 2015 23:35:50 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/web_superbug_gordon_5p_1200x675_401693763890.jpg

Doctors and administrators at Ronald Reagan-UCLA Medical Center said Thursday that new procedures for cleaning a medical device used in some exams will prevent the "superbug" that led to two deaths and five other infections from spreading to anyone else.

Officials also faced tough questions as many wondered why it had taken them until yesterday to tell the public about an outbreak that began more than a month ago.

"It takes a little bit of time to identify the patients who are at risk for the procedure," said Dr. Zachary Rubin, the hospital’s medical director of infection prevention.

In mid-December, a UCLA patient received a gallbladder exam using a device called an endoscope.

The patient, whose identity was not disclosed, developed immediate symptoms of the "superbug" bacteria, doctors said. The patient had a fever, chills and then a massive infection.

Doctors tested the scope to make sure it was used and sterilized properly.

The devices are difficult to sterilize completely, and even feature warnings from the manufacturer. Doctors found two of the scopes may have transmitted the bacteria.

Researchers then found seven other cases of the infection stemming from the CRE bacteria, which is fatal in as many as half of those whose bloodstreams are exposed to it.

The bacteria exists naturally in many people’s intestines and will not affect them, but once it enters the bloodstream it can be deadly.

"We do do surveillance on a regular, routine basis for CRE, and we've actually done additional investigation over the past few years," Rubin said.

But the bacteria did not turn up when the first patient was admitted, the one who may have been a "carrier."

While researching any possible exposure, the hospital implemented new and stricter requirements for sterilizing the scopes.

Checking records to find out which endoscopies were performed on which patients with the two contaminated devices took time, said doctors.

They also didn't want to alarm all patients who'd had endoscopies if they weren't exposed to the same contaminated instruments.

Ultimately, they discovered 179 patients total who may have been exposed during procedures between October 2014 and Jan. 28.

Doctors are continuing to reach out to patients who may have been affected. Rubin said they have called and emailed patients out of an “abundance of caution.”

"What we're doing now is trying to identify any patients that have 'carrier state,'" Rubin said.

<![CDATA[Hospital Device Spreads "Superbug"]]> Thu, 19 Feb 2015 16:48:46 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/endoscope.jpg

A bacterial "superbug" linked to two deaths and several infections at Ronald Reagan-UCLA Medical Center was transmitted from patient to patient by a medical device, health officials said Thursday.

There may also be more infections, authorities said.

Almost 180 patients at Ronald Reagan-UCLA Medical Center have been notified that they may have been exposed to the bacteria, Enterobacteriaceae (CRE), between October 2014 and January 2015.

The devices, called duodenoscopes, are used for diagnosing and treating certain problems of the biliary or pancreatic systems, and were known for needing rigorous disinfection. They are used in an estimated 500,000 procedures each year.

The Food and Drug Administration also issued a new warning, saying that the design of the minimally invasive device can harbor the dangerous bacteria, even if the manufacturer's detailed cleaning instructions are followed correctly.

"Meticulously cleaning duodenoscopes prior to high-level disinfection should reduce the risk of transmitting infection, but may not entirely eliminate it," said the warning, released Thursday morning.

About 135 patients across the U.S. may have been exposed to bacteria transmitted with the devices in 2013 and 2014, according to 75 reports delivered to the FDA.

The FDA recommended that doctors inform patients of the risks of using ERCP endoscopes before a procedure, and afterwards telling them what symptoms to look for that could indicate a CRE infection.

UCLA has called each of the 179 patients who may have been exposed to to CRE, hospital officials said. The  hospital's two duodenoscopes that may have been infected are no longer being used.

Photo Credit: Courtesy FDA]]>
<![CDATA[FDA Warning: Traces of Peanuts Found in Cumin]]> Thu, 19 Feb 2015 08:52:15 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/cumin-86069470.jpg

Hundreds of products are being pulled from store shelves after traces of peanut were found in cumin spice — a life-threatening danger to some people with peanut allergies.

The recall has been ongoing since December, as more retailers identify products that contain the cumin. The Food and Drug Administration is now warning all people with peanut allergies to avoid cumin and products that contain cumin.

While such large allergy-related recalls are rare, undeclared allergens like peanuts are the leading cause of food recalls in the United States. That can be very unsettling to people who are keeping a close watch on what they or their children eat, since food allergies can be a matter of life or death.

"You might do all of the things you are supposed to do and read the label, but there could still be undeclared allergens," says Dr. Michael Pistiner, a Boston-based pediatric allergist. "It's challenging to know that and still feel comfortable."

Pistiner says he sees the recalls as low-risk, since often the amount of the undeclared allergen is very small. "But the highest risk is to our comfort," he says.

According to the group Food Allergy Research and Education, or FARE, 15 million Americans have food allergies, including 1 in 13 children. Eight foods account for more than 90 percent of the allergies — peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, wheat, soy, fish and shellfish.

Since 2006, those allergens are required by law to be listed on food packages if they are ingredients. The law is less clear when it comes to cross- contamination, however — companies aren't required to list on the label if peanuts or another allergen are processed in the same facility or on the same equipment.

Little is known about how many people may have reactions to allergens that accidentally make their way into food. Those reactions are hard to track — much harder than a pathogen like salmonella, for instance, which can be identified in a person's stool and traced directly to the same strains in a food manufacturing facility or on a farm.

The FDA said it had 428 reports of "adverse events" related to undeclared allergens between January 2012 and December 2014, including reports of three deaths. The agency would not release any detailed information on those reports, which are made by consumers and can't always be confirmed by the agency.

The agency said it has had at least seven reports from consumers related to the cumin recall. Hundreds of products have been recalled since December, from spice mixes to black beans to meats with marinades that include cumin. The spice is often used in Tex-Mex and Indian dishes. The FDA declined to provide any further details on how it happened or what company added peanuts or peanut residue to its cumin spice.

The FDA said packaged foods may not have enough of the affected cumin to trigger a reaction — but those who are sensitive should be careful just in case. Some products may not actually list cumin, but list "spices" instead.

Multiple recalls have spanned a two-month period. The first was on Dec. 26, when Texas-based Adams Foods recalled several of its cumin spices. On Feb. 9, the retailer Whole Foods recalled more than 100 products that potentially contained the cumin. Last Friday, Goya Foods recalled some brands of its black beans and black bean soup. Several other foods have been pulled off store shelves as well.

FARE, the allergy group, routinely notifies its members of what recalls are out there so they can keep track. And the group is pushing the FDA to ensure that allergens are treated as importantly as pathogens like salmonella and E. coli when the agency issues final food safety rules later this year.

"Requiring food processors and manufacturers to identify potential allergen hazards and develop plans to avoid those hazards is critical," the group told the FDA in comments on the rule.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[What to Know for the Obamacare Deadline]]> Sun, 15 Feb 2015 00:19:50 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Obamacare-Signup.jpg

If you're not insured, there's still time to sign up for health coverage this year under Obamacare before the official deadline.

The official deadline to sign up for HealthCare.gov is 2:59 a.m. Eastern time on Monday, which is just before midnight Sunday on the West Coast.

The Obama administration projects that more than 9 million Americans will sign up by Sunday's deadline. That's up from the 7 million it estimates got insurance through the Affordable Care Act last year, cutting the number of uninsured from 17 percent at the end of 2013 to 12.9 percent at the end of 2014.

Here are six things to know about Obamacare enrollment before the Feb. 15 deadline.

Enrollment Is Off Without a Hitch

The 2015 enrollment effort is running more smoothly than it did when the insurance marketplaces first debuted in 2013.

The federal HealthCare.gov website and state-based sites experienced no major meltdowns during the current enrollment period, and wait times at call centers have improved, too.

But there are other concerns and issues to keep in mind when signing up for health care.

You May Have Trouble Getting Covered If You Miss the Deadline

In the first open enrollment period, from late 2013 to early 2014, insurance exchanges extended deadlines for many people, mostly due to technical glitches that slowed the application process.

Since the system is running more smoothly this time around, it may be more difficult to get the deadline extended.

Still, there are some exceptions if you miss the deadline. Certain life events — like getting married, having a child, becoming a legal resident or citizen of the U.S. or being denied Medicaid or Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) — can qualify you for a special enrollment period. 

The next open enrollment period is expected to begin in October and may end in December, rather than extending into 2016.

The Obamacare Law Faces a New Threat

The Affordable Care Act offers subsidized private health insurance to people who don’t have access to coverage at work, but about 8 million people could lose that financial assistance later in the year.

The Supreme Court is set to consider a case, King v. Burwell, in which Obamacare opponents argue that the law's wording lets the federal government pay health care subsidies only in states that have set up their own insurance exchanges, according to The Associated Press — something that most states haven’t done. The people who wrote the law, however, say it provides subsidies to people in every state.

Should the plaintiffs win the case, people in the 37 states where the federal government is running insurance markets could lose their subsidies. The court is expected to rule on the case in late June.

Some Could Face Stiff Premium Hikes

Many consumers who already signed up for Obamacare may experience a sticker shock during this enrollment period. They could see their premiums increase sharply if they automatically re-enroll in their current plans, instead of choosing new, lower-priced versions.

Learn if you qualify for lower costs on health insurance coverage here.

There's a Tax Penalty This Time

This is the first year consumers have to consider their health insurance at tax time. If you don’t have health care coverage in 2015, you’ll have to pay a penalty when you file your 2015 federal income tax return in 2016.

Federal health officials predict that 2 to 4 percent of taxpayers will end up paying a fine, which amounts to $95 per adult ($47.50 per child), up to $285 for a family, for the 2014 tax year. The penalties go up to a minimum of $325 per adult for the 2015 calendar year and $695 per adult for the 2016 calendar year.

There are exemptions from the fee for not having health care coverage — for instance, if you're uninsured for only one or two consecutive months of the year, if you were covered by May 1 of last year, or if the cheapest available coverage would have cost more than 8 percent of your household's income.

You Must Be Able to Prove Your Legal Status

You must be able to prove your legal status to qualify for Obamacare, health officials have warned.

About 200,000 people will be dropped from insurance policies at the end of February because they have been unable to prove they are legally living in the U.S., the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said. That's in addition to 112,000 people were dropped from their plans in September.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Study to Determine If Almonds Could Affect Heart Risk]]> Fri, 13 Feb 2015 09:00:31 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/160*120/Health-Foods-Almonds.jpg

Could eating almonds put you at risk for developing heart disease?

That's the focus of a forthcoming study to be conducted at Berkeley's Cholesterol Research Center (CRC) at the Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute (CHORI).

The CRC has posted an ad on Craigslist to recruit volunteers for the 13-week study. Researchers are looking for "apple shaped" men and women aged 20 and older, with a waist circumference of at least 40 inches for men and 35 inches for women.

Participants who qualify and complete the study will earn a $900 stipend, plus four weight-management counseling appointments and lab work results.

Photo Credit: Rachel Rique]]>
<![CDATA[Local Doc Advises Senate on Measles Outbreak]]> Tue, 10 Feb 2015 11:47:12 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Sawyer-Pediatrician.jpg

A San Diego doctor was one of three doctors to speak Tuesday before the Senate Health Committee as the panel discussed ways to prevent further outbreaks like the measles.

There are currently 1500 kindergartners in San Diego who are not fully immunized and that number is increasing, Professor of Clinical Pediatrics at the University of San Diego Dr. Mark Sawyer told the congressional committee.

He told the panel he believes misinformation is the leading reason behind a parent's choice not to vaccinate.

“All parents want what is best for their children but many parents are choosing not to have their children immunized because they have received inaccurate information about the risks and benefits of vaccines and the diseases they prevent,” said Sawyer.

The Senate Health Committee asked several doctors questions about vaccines and the risks associated with children getting immunized. All the doctors agreed that there are no real risks for children getting vaccinated.

Instead, by not getting vaccinations, parents raise the risk of their children getting sick and spreading their illness to others.

Sawyer said the top ways to prevent this is to improve the communication between parents and doctors about the effectiveness of vaccines, limit philosophical exemptions and monitor the vaccines we do use.

Parents need to talk with their doctors before making decisions on vaccines instead of reading articles online, he added.

“The internet is replete with anecdotes and misinformation that leads parents to think that vaccines have caused harm. What is overlooked by parents is the fact that just because an adverse health outcome occurs in the time after a vaccine, it doesn't mean that the vaccine caused the problem,” said Dr. Sawyer.

Last year, California passed a law that requires parents to get a doctors signature before signing paperwork to exempt their child from vaccinations for philosophical reasons.

Sawyer said these exemptions are made mainly because parents are getting misinformation about vaccines.

<![CDATA[UC System to Require Measles Shots]]> Fri, 06 Feb 2015 15:30:04 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/new+measles+photo.jpg

University of California students will have to be vaccinated against measles and other diseases under new rules that take effect in 2017.

Officials who announced the changes on Friday say the plan's been in the works but it took on new urgency after a measles outbreak at Disneyland last month that's spread to a half-dozen states and Mexico.

Currently UC only requires students to be inoculated against hepatitis B, although some individual campuses have stricter immunization rules.

The new rules will add vaccination requirements for measles, tuberculosis, chicken pox, whooping cough and meningitis.

University officials say there will be exemptions for medical or religious reasons.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Suspected Measles in NJ]]> Fri, 06 Feb 2015 17:36:11 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/214*120/Measles_Generic_722x406_19018080101.jpg

The Jersey City Department of Health and the state Department of Health are investigating a suspected case of measles in a 1-year-old baby who has not yet been vaccinated.

The baby has recovered, but out of an abundance of caution, residents in the building where the baby lives have been notified of the potential exposure. 

The latest time a person could become ill due to exposure in this case would be Feb. 7.

Measles is a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by a virus and is spread by contact with nasal or throat secretions of infected people. Measles can lead to serious side effects and, in rare cases, death. Measles symptoms usually appear in 10 to 12 days, but can occur as late as 18 days after exposure. Symptoms generally appear in two stages.

Anyone who's not vaccinated and may have been exposed to measles should contact their doctor if they show symptoms like rash, high fever, cough, runny nose and red watery eyes. They should call ahead in order to limit exposure to anyone else in a doctor's office or hospital. 

The first measles vaccine is not given until a child is between 12 and 15 months old.

This would mark the first case of measles in New Jersey this year. 

New York state has had three cases of measles this year. Last week, a college student who took an international flight into New York City and then an Amtrak train out of Penn Station was diagnosed with measles at Bard College in Dutchess County. 

<![CDATA[People Rush to Vaccinate After Measles Outbreak]]> Thu, 05 Feb 2015 20:18:07 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/T11P-MEASLES-VACCINATION-IMPORTANCE-VO---00000720.jpg

A rush of people – many of whom once were opposed to vaccination – are flooding doctors’ offices and hospitals for measles vaccine.

The surge in vaccinations follows a measles outbreak that originated in Disneyland last month. More than 90 cases of measles have been linked to the theme park, and some doctors blamed the anti-vaccination movement for how quickly the disease spread.

In San Diego, the rush to get vaccinated is being felt at Scripps Family medicine.

“Probably about 50 percent of my patients who weren’t vaccinating before are now coming in to vaccinate,” said Dr. Mark Shalauta.

Shalauta also said many adults are calling his office to see if they need a booster shot.

A small vial contains a vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella and doctors say a shot of this vaccine can protect you up to 95 percent throughout your adult life.

“Physicians or health care should have to, but otherwise adults if they just had one, that’s considered enough and that’s considered immune,” Shalauta said.

Doctors say the silver lining of the measles outbreak is the heightened awareness of the disease.

“Probably the one good thing that has come out of this whole thing is that people are rethinking it and a lot more are getting vaccinated as a result,” Shalauta said.

Local Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez has also introduced legislation that would eliminate waivers for parents choosing not to vaccinate their kids.

<![CDATA[Smartphone Attachment Tests for HIV in 15 Minutes]]> Fri, 06 Feb 2015 00:34:22 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/214*120/Samiksha+Nayak+1+copy.jpg

Want to test yourself for HIV? You may soon be able to do that with your smartphone.

A team at Columbia University has created a smartphone attachment that is capable of testing blood for HIV and syphilis, relaying those results through an app.

The $34 “dongle” attachment, which delivers results in only 15 minutes, replicates finger-prick blood testing performed by devices that typically cost over $18,000, according to Science Daily

The attachment is able to analyze the blood sample and report the presence of HIV and syphilis antibodies. You can see it in action in the video above.

“The results that we have gotten with dongles are comparable to results that you can get in the lab,” Samuel K. Sia, associate professor of biomedical engineering at Columbia Engineering and the leader of the team, told NBC. 

It also receives power and information through a smartphone’s audio jack, making it compatible with many different brands of smartphones. 

Sia said the device could mean preventing millions in impoverished countries from being infected by sexually transmitted diseases.

“A technology like this is useful around the world,” Sia told NBC. “A lot of patients don’t have access to these tests at all. It could make a huge impact in developing countries and that was our motivation.” 

The Columbia University team obtained funding from a Saving Lives at Birth transition grant (USAID, Gates Foundation, Government of Norway, Grand Challenges Canada, and the World Bank) and Wallace H. Coulter Foundation.

Sia said the team hopes to take the device to the market for both global health and for consumer health back in the U.S.

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<![CDATA[Stress in U.S. Proportional to Income: Study]]> Wed, 04 Feb 2015 23:39:16 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/donated+money.jpg

Money can’t buy you happiness, but the lack of it can buy you stress.

Americans living in lower-income households have a higher level of stress compared to Americans overall, according to a new study released by the American Psychological Association. 

The study conducted in August 2014 found that 72 percent of Americans reported feeling stressed about money at some point in the last month, while 22 percent said they experienced extreme stress about financial matters. 

But the study reflected an income gap, with those earning less than $50,000 per year reporting higher overall stress than those earning more. In 2007, a similar study found that income had no direct impact on stress levels. 

Age is also a factor into stress levels, as 77 percent of parents feel high levels of stress about money compared to 75 percent of millennials (ages 18 to 35 years old) and 76 percent of Gen Xers (ages 36 to 49-years-old).

“All Americans and particularly those groups that are most affected by stress — which include women, younger adults and those with lower incomes — need to address this issue sooner than later in order to better their health and well being,” APA CEO and Executive Vice President Norman B. Anderson, PhD, said in a statement.

But, the good news is that overall stress is spiraling down since the APA first started gathering their research in 2007. The average person reported stress level is 4.9 on a 10-point scale, lowered from 2007 when it was at 6.2.

<![CDATA[Covered California Lags on Paychecks: Contractor]]> Tue, 03 Feb 2015 06:40:07 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/dewan+gibson+covered+california+paycheck.JPG

As Covered California works to process more than a million health care applications and renewals, a San Diego man said it is falling behind in another area: paychecks.

Dewan Gibson is a front line soldier in the huge state health care exchange, which hopes to enroll 1.7 million Californians. If anyone has trouble navigating the revamped Covered California website, Gibson and other contractors like him come to the rescue.

“We’re the people when you click that link and you call, we come to you and help you enroll in Covered California,” Gibson told NBC 7.

He’s one of the state’s nearly 6,400 certified public enrollment counselors, and for every person he helps to enroll, the state is supposed to pay him a flat fee.

“So we’re well over $2,000 that I haven’t been paid,” he said.

Gibson estimates he has enrolled about 40 people since last summer, and all he has received is one check for $58.

Trying to find out why, Gibson turned to his only pay check. He said the help number printed on it has been crossed out with a marker, and the new number written in pen above it just goes to the general Covered California line.

“Well, it’s really frustrating. The only thing worse than not being paid is not knowing why you’re not being paid,” the counselor said.

When he called the general line, he was told they do not handle paychecks. A call to his trainer got him another number, but he has received no answers.

NBC 7 reached out to other groups in San Diego that do the kind of work Gibson does. While they did not want to do an interview, more than one said they have also seen delays in checks coming from the state.

A Covered California spokesperson responded to NBC 7 on Monday, saying the organization mailed Gibson a check late last week.

As for its communication issues, the spokesperson’s statement says, “We communicate regularly with our partners and keep them updated on the scheduling of payments."

Gibson said he received one email that informed him payments from September would be issued in February.

“No reason given,” he said. “You just receive this mass email and you can’t respond to it, can’t get anyone on the phone.”

Going forward, this stay-at-home father of three said he has far more valuable ways to spend his time, so he will not be taking on new clients.

<![CDATA[Preventing Winter Allergies]]> Mon, 02 Feb 2015 08:18:28 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/NC_winterallergies0130001_1500x845.jpg Winter season offers a break from pollen, but there are other allergens that can still cause suffering.]]> <![CDATA[Amtrak Traveler Has Measles: DOH]]> Sun, 01 Feb 2015 07:26:14 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/measles+vaccination.jpg

A college student who took an international flight into New York City and an Amtrak train out of Penn Station last week has been diagnosed with highly contagious measles.

The student was diagnosed at Bard College in Dutchess County, officials said, but had traveled into and out of New York City last Sunday, potentially exposing people beyond the campus. 

The student contracted the illness in Germany, then flew in to a New York City airport, before taking the train to Rhinebeck on the same day, officials said. They did not identify which airport the student passed through, but noted the student was in the early stages of infection, when there is less danger of contagion.

Anyone who traveled on Amtrak train no. 283 departing Penn Station at 1:20 p.m. on Jan. 25 is urged to contact their doctor if they're not immune to measles and they develop a fever. The train was headed to Albany and Niagara. 

People who may have been exposed and have symptoms consistent with measles should call their doctor or local emergency room before going for care so that others at the facilities aren't exposed. 

New York state has had three cases of measles this year, one in Dutchess County and two in New York City. 

A measles outbreak in New York City in early 2014 affected dozens of residents, initially in upper Manhattan and the Bronx, and then in Brooklyn and the Lower East Side. Officials had been looking at whether that outbreak may have spread because workers in medical facilities didn't recognize the symptoms quickly enough to isolate patients and prevent them from spreading it to others. 

Measles is a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by a virus and is spread by contact with nasal or throat secretions of infected people. Measles can lead to serious side effects and, in rare cases, death. Measles symptoms usually appear in 10 to 12 days, but can occur as late as 18 days after exposure. Symptoms generally appear in two stages.

Learn more about measles at health.ny.gov.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[What Does the Disneyland Measles Outbreak Mean?]]> Wed, 11 Feb 2015 09:02:27 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/215*120/MEASLES1.JPG

The outbreak of measles at Disneyland in Orange County, California, has reignited the debate over the anti-vaccination movement, driven by parents who question whether vaccines are safe and and whether there is a connection to autism in particular.

Medical experts say the study showing such a link has been repeatedly discredited and other parents counter their children are being endangered by irresponsible behavior.

Here’s what you should know.

How many people are affected?

One hundred and three people in California and and other states have reported contracting measles as a result of the outbreak that began at Disneyland in December, according to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The majority of the children and adults who became ill either had not been inoculated or did not know if they had been, said Dr. Anne Schuchat, assistant surgeon general and director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

“This is not a problem of the measles vaccine not working,” she told reporters this week. “This is a problem of the measles vaccine not being used.”

Since 2000, measles has been eliminated in the United States, meaning it is no longer native to the country. But it can still be spread by someone infected elsewhere and the CDC is assuming that is what happened at Disneyland. 

How widespread is measles?

Each year there are 20 million cases around the world, and 145,000 people die, according to the CDC. Other complications: encephalitis and pneumonia.

Last year, there were a record number of measles in the United States, 644 cases, up from a median of 60 a year over the previous decade. And this year a total of 121 cases in 17 states and the District of Columbia have reported. The Disneyland outbreak represents 85 percent of the cases.

Those numbers pale compared to the average number of cases reported each year before the vaccine became available: 549,000.

Is there reason to worry?

The CDC's Schuchat said the numbers for January were concerning.

"I want to do everything possible to prevent measles from getting a foothold in the United States and becoming endemic again," she said.

Dr. Stephen Morse, professor of epidemiology at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, said he thought the country was a long way from returning to the high number of measles cases and other diseases.

"If enough people are not taking these vaccines, we will see a resurgence, but right now these are fairly small events," he said. "So I think the reason everyone pays attention to it in medical and public health communities is simply because this is not a trend you would like to see really going up."

How high are vaccination rates?

Immunization rates remain high despite the attention the measles outbreak is receiving. Among kindergartners enrolled in the 2013-2014 school year, the median vaccination coverage was 93 percent and higher for measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough and chicken pox.

To provide what is called herd immunity -- to protect people who cannot be immunization and those for whom the vaccines are not effective -- experts recommend that between 90 and 95 percent of a community be fully inoculated. Health officials are worried about pockets of parents who are rejecting inoculation.

Morse said the control of a disease such as measles was hard won.

"When we actually had these diseases among us people feared them or at least really wanted a vaccine," he said. "Now of course we’re much more blasé, which is a mistake."

President Barack Obama weighs in

President Barack Obama, in a “Today” interview on Sunday, said parents had every reason to immunize their children.

"I understand that there are families that in some cases are concerned about the effect of vaccinations,” Obama said. “The science is, you know, pretty indisputable. We've looked at this again and again.”

What is the reaction from parents worried about vaccines?

Barbara Loe Fisher, the president of the National Vaccine Information Center, a Virginia-based nonprofit that advocates allowing parents to choose whether to vaccinate their children, said that it was premature to point fingers at those who decided to forgo vaccines.

"There is no question that there is a tremendous amount of pressure being placed on parents who are making informed vaccine decisions for their children," she said. "I think this has gone way too far. The discussion has gotten very ugly, it has gotten extremely polarized and it's caused a lot of parents to be very afraid of doctors and public health officials."

What about other diseases?

Mumps, rubella, pertussis or whooping cough and chickenpox are among others that could also spike if parents continue to forgo vaccinations, experts say.

“This isn’t just a measles problem,” said Dr. Gregory A. Poland, the director of the Mayo Clinic Vaccine Research Group in Rochester, Minnesota. “This is a problem for any transmissible disease for which we have safe and effective vaccines that aren’t unfortunately used.”

Measles is especially contagious, but there have been other outbreaks. Mumps, for example, is no longer common in the United States, with only 229 cases reported in 2012 compared to 186,000 cases each year before the mumps vaccination program began in 1967. But in 2009-2010, there were two large outbreaks, according to the CDC: one among mostly Hasidic Jewish children in New York who were delaying immunization, and another among mostly school aged children in Guam. 

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<![CDATA[Gates Gives Stanford $50M For Vaccine Research]]> Fri, 30 Jan 2015 09:38:47 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/181*120/billgates1.jpg

Building better vaccines is the mission of a Stanford University research unit, which now has the help of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The Stanford Human Systems Immunology Center will receive $50 million over 10 years to produce vaccines that also make the most out of the human body's natural disease-fighting abilities.

With the funding on hand, head researcher Mark Davis, a professor of microbiology and immunology, and his team will  "learn more about the immune system and the best ways for vaccines to harness the body's arm for fighting off viruses and other invaders," according to the San Francisco Business Times.

Key diseases like HIV and Ebola, both of which are caused by viruses, have stumped medical researchers, the newspaper noted.

Davis says that a "new generation of vaccines" may yet hold promise for solving these problems.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[New Numbers Released in Measles Outbreak]]> Fri, 23 Jan 2015 17:14:45 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/measles-vaccine-0123.jpg

California health officials released new numbers Friday in the ongoing measles outbreak.

Measles cases in California have risen to 68 total, with 48 connected epidemiologically to the Disneyland outbreak.

The California Department of Public Health said the total number of cases in the state is up from 59 cases reported two days ago. Of those, 13 were reported in San Diego County.

The state also reports a measles case confirmed in Nebraska is one of 57 cases across the U.S. that are directly linked to the exposure at the Anaheim theme park.

Initially, health officials said anyone who visited Disneyland from Dec. 16 to Dec. 20 may have been exposed to the virus. On Wednesday, Orange County health officials declared there was ongoing transmission at the theme park.

So for now, the state wants individuals who are not vaccinated, especially infants under 12 months to consider not being in places where large numbers of people congregate. Those locations include airports, shopping malls and tourist attractions like theme parks.

"It is absolutely safe to visit these places, including the Disneyland Resort, if you are vaccinated," Dr. Gil Chavez, State Epidemiologist and Deputy Director, Center for Infectious Diseases, California Department of Public Health said Thursday in a release.

Patients range in age from 7 months to 70 years.

When it comes to how many of those patients were immunized against the disease, officials said they have documentation for 34 of the cases. Twenty-eight had not been immunized. They include six babies who are too young to have received the vaccination, officials said.

Five of the patients had received two or more doses of MMR vaccine.

If you or someone you know hasn't been immunized against the measles, it's not too late.

Health officials say two doses of the MMR vaccine are more than 99 percent effective in preventing measles.

Anyone who is unsure, can call their physician and request a test to check for measles immunity or get vaccination, officials said.

Photo Credit: NBC 7]]>
<![CDATA[Researchers identify genetic cause of Sturge-Weber syndrome]]> Fri, 23 Jan 2015 08:24:32 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/NC_birthmarks0122001_1500x845.jpg Researchers identify genetic cause of Sturge-Weber syndrome, often associated with facial birthmarks, which means new trials and new hope for sufferers.]]> <![CDATA[Medical Bills Could Cost Family Their Home]]> Fri, 23 Jan 2015 07:30:44 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/N6P+OAKLAND+EVICTED+FAMILY+PKG+-+00011806.jpg

Sell your house to pay for your healthcare. That's exactly the situation one East Bay family is facing.

They say the county is set to sell the family home to pay for the homeowner's healthcare.

Margot Bohanon is distraught at the thought of being forced to move from the Oakland home she has lived in with her mother nearly all her life. “I feel that our world has been turned upside down we don't have a place to go,” she said. “It is not much. It is not fancy. But it is our home.”

Bohanon’s 88-year-old mother, Louise Salvin, has Alzheimer’s disease and recently moved into a Berkeley care home, but the senior's medical care has been costly, and now her court-appointed public guardian has sent an eviction notice to her family, informing them the house needs to be sold to pay for the ailing woman's expenses.

“It has been very difficult for me to face her knowing what is happening against her wishes,” Bohanon said. “This is exactly what has happened to us. We are being made homeless.”

Bohanon, who herself suffers from a disabling autoimmune disease that makes it tough to get around, has no idea where she and her teenage daughter will go.

“This is our house, but we are not respected,” Bohanon said. “We are not respected that this is our home as well.”

Salvin’s attorney, Kathy Siegel, says the public guardian is in a tough position but worries her client's health will suffer if her family is displaced.

“It's a really sad case,” Siegel said. “It's not good for her mental health. It's not good for her physical health. I think it's a devastating thing to think you can't take care of your family."

Bohanon is getting more anxious with each passing day. With a daughter in high school, she is terrified at the prospect of being forced to the street.

“Where are we expected to go?” she said.

A spokesperson for the Alameda County Department of Social Services declined to talk specifically about this case, but did release a statement: "If any action we must take to preserve the estate assets of our conservatee affects family members adversely, we are committed as a Social Services Agency to explore all options to make favorable outcomes for all."

Siegel said there is a push to convince a judge to allow Salvin to give the house to her daughter and granddaughter, but as of now the family has been ordered to vacate the home by Feb. 13.

Photo Credit: Margot Bohanon]]>