<![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 Sat, 01 Aug 2015 13:32:00 -0700 Sat, 01 Aug 2015 13:32:00 -0700 NBC Owned Television Stations <![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]]> Tue, 28 Jul 2015 10:10:15 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/dog-GettyImages-137551880.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.

<![CDATA[Sugary Drinks May Kill 184,000 People Each Year: Study]]> Tue, 30 Jun 2015 11:11:00 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/soda+fountain.jpg

Consumption of soda, energy beverages, and other sugary drinks may be linked to 184,000 adult deaths each year worldwide, according to research published Tuesday in the journal Circulation.

“Many countries in the world have a significant number of deaths occurring from a single dietary factor, sugar-sweetened beverages," said study coauthor Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science & Policy at Tufts University. "It should be a global priority to substantially reduce or eliminate sugar-sweetened beverages from the diet."

The researchers looked at 62 dietary surveys conducted across 51 countries, along with data on national availability of sugar in 187 countries as well as other information. The surveys included data collected from 611,971 individuals between 1980 and 2010.

In the report, sugar sweetened beverages were defined as any sugar-sweetened sodas, fruit drinks, sports and energy drinks, sweetened iced teas, or homemade sugary drinks such as frescas, that contained at least 50 kcal per 8oz serving. Drinks that were 100 percent fruit juice was excluded.

According to the report, the researchers estimated that in 2010 sugary drinks may have been responsible for 133,000 deaths from diabetes, 45,000 deaths from cardiovascular disease, and 6, 450 deaths from cancer.

Researchers found the impact of sugar-sweetened beverages varied widely between populations. In Japan, an estimated percentage of deaths linked to such beverages was less than 1 percent in people over 65 years old, but it stood at 30 percent in Mexican adults younger than 45.

Mexico had the highest death rate attributable to sugar-sweetened beverages with an estimated 405 deaths per million adults (24,000 total deaths) and the U.S. ranked second with an estimated 125 deaths per million adults (25,000 total deaths).

In a statement, the American Beverage Association, a trade group representing soft drink manufacturers, said “This study does not show that consuming sugar-sweetened beverages causes chronic diseases and the authors themselves acknowledge that they are at best estimating effects of sugar-sweetened beverage consumption."

“America’s beverage companies are doing their part to offer consumers the fact-based information and the beverage options they need to make the right choices for themselves and their families," the statement added.

Liz Ruder, a professor of nutrition and dietetics at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, told NBC News it's not certain it was the sugar-sweetened beverages that caused the deaths since the study is not a randomized controlled trial.
"But because the authors have employed sophisticated statistical techniques and they have rich food consumption data I believe that these data are likely to be accurate," Ruder said. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Stroke Procedure Can Save Thousands of Lives]]> Mon, 29 Jun 2015 20:26:53 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/stroke+procedure.JPG

The American Stroke Association released new guidelines Monday and for the first time, a clot removal procedure is now on that list of standard care.

Strokes are the fifth leading cause of death in this country. And for the type of stroke caused by a blood clot in a major artery, the announcement is huge.

Tens of thousands of lives could be saved every year in this country thanks to a medical procedure that’s already saved one man's life here in San Diego.

On August 27, Stefan Reisch was on his way to work, driving west on Interstate 8, when he started losing feeling on the left side of his body.

"Basically immediately I felt like I was going to pass out, and I thought, you can't pass out, you're on the freeway,” he recalled.

He drove his car off the road.

When police arrived, they asked if he'd been drinking or was on drugs.

Then they asked him to smile.

Medics recognized he was having a stroke, got him to UCSD Medical Center where a clot removal procedure saved his life.

When a powerful blood thinning medication could not dissolve the blood clot in his brain, doctors used something called a stent retriever.

A catheter is put into an artery in the leg. It can travel all the way up to the brain where it can actually grab onto and remove a blood clot while someone is still having a stroke. It should be done within six hours of stroke symptoms, the AHM

Retrievers have been around for years but haven’t been used regularly.

UC San Diego Medical Center is one of 90 comprehensive stroke centers offering mechanical

"Unfortunately, only about 10,000 are performed every year in the United states,” said Alexander Khalessi, M.D., Reisch’s surgeon.

He says that's only a fraction of the 75,000 patients that could benefit from this procedure.

By adding the stent retriever to the list of standard care for stroke patients, the American Stroke Association gives its support behind a procedure that could help thousands which could lead to its use in more medical centers.

"Knowing that the procedure is standard of care, that people are going to have this, it's awesome, that my story is going to be the norm in many cases is super exciting," Reisch said. 

Khalessi was in the American Stroke Association’s guidelines writing group and author of the paper that appeared in Stroke.

The stent retriever SolitaireTM, was produced by the California-based company Medtronic.

<![CDATA[Whole Foods Recalls Macadamia Nuts for Possible Salmonella]]> Fri, 26 Jun 2015 16:28:24 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/whole+foods+macadamia+nuts.jpg

Whole Foods Market is voluntarily pulling macadamia nuts from its shelves in 12 states after a possible Salmonella contamination, the FDA announced this week.

Salmonella was detected as the nuts underwent routine testing, though no illnesses have been reported in connection with the food.

The product, labeled “Whole Foods Market Raw Macadamia Nuts,” was sold in 11-ounce plastic tubs with best-by dates between March 19, 2016, and June 21, 2016.

They were placed in Whole Food stores in California, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Hawaii, Kansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and Utah.

If you bought the potentially contaminated container, throw it away and bring in your receipt for a full refund, the FDA says.

Salmonella is a bacterium that causes diarrhea, fever, vomiting and abdominal cramps in those who are infected.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the illness usually lasts between four and seven days, and it can be potentially deadly in infants, seniors and those with impaired immune systems.

For more on the recall and how to contact Whole Foods, click here.

Photo Credit: FDA]]>
<![CDATA[Covered California to Cap Costs of Specialty Drugs]]> Thu, 25 Jun 2015 13:40:16 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/160*120/prescription+drugs+medicine.jpg

Covered California will become the first health exchange in the nation to cap the cost of specialty prescription drugs, a move that may help consumers avoid choosing between buying food or paying for their medicine.

Some patients can spend their entire maximum out-of-pocket costs in just a few months on prescription drugs that cost thousands of dollars.

Michael Barefoot is one of those consumers who couldn’t afford the high price of his prescription medicine.

The 29-year-old recently moved to San Diego from North Carolina for work and school.

When he suffered a back injury and required medicine for six months, he was surprised to find out it would cost him $300 per month.

He said he needed to go without groceries and other household items just to pay for the medicine.

“The high price of prescription medications is just ridiculous,” Barefoot said. “I think it should be capped.”

In May, Covered California announced it will do just that - cap the cost of specialty drugs at $250 per month, per prescription, for most of its consumers. It’s the first state health exchange in the U.S. to do so.

Prescription caps will range from $150 to $500 and must be offered by every health plan in the individual market as well as by all plans offered by the exchange, according to a Covered California’s website.

“The consumer is going to benefit from this,” said Eric Lundy, an insurance broker based in El Cajon, Calif.

He believes the rate changes set to take effect in 2016 for Covered California participants will set policy for all insurance carriers over the next year or two.

Because pharmaceutical companies are constantly developing new drugs, the cost of that technology and testing is phenomenal, Lundy said.

“Consumers are demanding better therapies and they’re willing to pay for those therapies,” he added.

Whether at the pharmacy counter or through their insurance premiums, under the current system, the consumers pick up the tab.

By putting a cap on expenses, Covered California is trying to benefit consumers, however everyone paying a premium is going to bear that difference in cost, Lundy said.

“Everybody’s premiums are going to ultimately rise because they’re covering that cost instead of the individual who needs that medication covering that cost,” he said.

In a written statement, Covered California Executive Director Peter V. Lee said more needs to be done to control the costs of new prescriptions.

“While Covered California is doing its part to protect consumers against these rising costs, a broader solution is needed to curtail the explosion in specialty drug costs so that consumers get the care they need without driving up insurance costs so much that consumers can no longer afford coverage,” Lee said.

<![CDATA[Will More Employers Use Psychiatric Fitness Tests?]]> Wed, 24 Jun 2015 13:14:47 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Brain-Generic.jpg NBC 7's Elena Gomez looks at whether employers will soon require mental health checks as well as background checks.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Man Wins $500K After Phone Records Doctors Mocking Him]]> Thu, 25 Jun 2015 03:30:06 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-117009763.jpg

A Vienna, Virginia, man was awarded $500,000 after he unintentionally recorded his doctors mocking and insulting him while he was under anesthesia.

The plaintiff, who chose to remain anonymous, sued anesthesiologist Dr. Tiffany Ingham and three other medical professionals, who were released from the case. Ingham, 42, and her practice were ordered by a Reston, Virginia, jury to pay the plaintiff, The Washington Post reported.

The plaintiff used his phone to record post-procedure advice and aftercare instructions from his doctors during the April 2013 colonoscopy procedure.

While checking his phone on his way home, the plaintiff found he had recorded the entire examination and heard his doctors insulting him when he was under anesthesia.

Ingham was recorded mocking the amount of medicine needed to anesthetize the plaintiff.

"After five minutes of talking to you in pre-op, I wanted to punch you in the face and man you up a little bit," Ingham is heard saying.

Ingham and others mocked the plaintiff for taking many medications. One of the plaintiff’s medications, Gabapentin, was prescribed to treat an irritation in his genital area. A medical assistant touched the man's genitals and commented she might have contracted a sexually transmitted infection.

Ingham is recorded saying the medical assistant might get "some syphilis on your arm or something," then added, "It's probably tuberculosis in the penis, so you’ll be all right."

The genital area is typically not involved in a colonoscopy.

Ingham signed a post-operative note indicating the plaintiff had hemorrhoids. According to the lawsuit, Ingham stated she planned to note hemorrhoids even though she found none.

The plaintiff claimed he experienced mental anguish, lack of focus and anxiety after the incident. He said has had to see other healthcare professionals and be placed on anti-anxiety medications.

The plaintiff sued for defamation, intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, violation of Virginia health codes and medical malpractice. The Washington Post reported the jury awarded the man $100,000 for defamation and $200,000 for medical malpractice, as well as the $200,000 in punitive damages.

Ingham had worked out of the Aisthesis anesthesia practice. An Aisthesis employee told The Associated Press Ingham no longer works there.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Nearly 10K Cases of Ranch Salad Dressing Recalled]]> Wed, 24 Jun 2015 08:41:47 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/pinnacle-foods-recall.jpg

A New Jersey-based company is voluntarily recalling nearly 10,000 cases of Wish-Bone Ranch salad dressing sold in 24-ounce bottles after a customer alerted representatives the product was accidentally mixed with Wish-Bone Blue Cheese dressing, which contains eggs -- a potential life-threatening allergen, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Wednesday. 

The product was produced on April 23 by a contract manufacturer. In total, 8,678 cases of Wish-Bone Ranch dressing, distributed nationwide, are involved in the voluntary recall, the FDA said. The product is safe to consume for anyone who is not allergic to eggs.

 All affected distributors and retail customers, as well as the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network, are being notified and the affected product is being removed from store shelves.

Consumers who may have purchased the recalled product can return it for a full refund at the place of purchase. Look for a best used by date on the bottle of Feb. 17, 2016.

Consumers with questions should call (888) 299-7646 Monday through Friday between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. 

Photo Credit: Food and Drug Administration Handout]]>
<![CDATA[Public Weighs in on Escondido Hospital Closure]]> Tue, 23 Jun 2015 08:08:22 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Palomar+Health+Downtown400x300.jpg

A North County hospital that is losing more than $20 million a year may soon close its doors after six decades of treating patients.

The board of directors for Palomar Health’s Downtown Escondido campus is expected to vote Wednesday on shutting down the facility, which has been on E. Valley Parkway since 1950. However, residents got a chance to weigh in on the decision Monday night at a public forum.

"The right thing to do and the right decision at the right time is to make the recommendation to the board of directors they should close the downtown campus," said Bob Hemker, the president and CEO of Palomar Health.

More than 8,000 patients were treated at the hospital last year, but it wasn’t enough to stop the operation from hemorrhaging money.

If closed, patients would be diverted to either the Pomerado Hospital in Poway – about 12 miles away -- or to the new Palomar Health Center on Citricado Parkway – roughly 11 miles away.

At the one and a half hour public meeting, several vocal nurses led the opposition, worried about staff layoffs and reduced services.

"I don't like the secrecy; I don't like the suddeness of it," said registered nurse Joyce Punton. "I think it's something that should've been announced earlier or we should've been given more time to think on it."

The downtown Escondido location was built to increase the availability of hospital beds in the North County, among other reasons. However, a Palomar Health spokesperson told NBC 7 that none of their hospitals are operating at capacity right now, so closing the downtown campus would help increase efficiency.

However, the nurses said that if you cut beds, you could have longer emergency room wait times. The plan calls for increased use of urgent care facilities to make up for the loss of the downtown emergency room, as construction on the new Palomar Health Center is completed.

The move is expected to have an impact on businesses surrounding it.

“My business is insurance services, so I was planning on being close to the hospital,” said Ricardo Vazquez. “But thanks to this, if they close the hospital, I’m probably going to have to close before opening.

The Palomar spokesperson said keeping the facility open would cost more than $270 million over the next five years, which would include much needed structural upgrades.

“Well, I am not happy about that because the building is going to be empty, but at the same time, I can understand where the hospital is coming from,” said neighbor Mary Kluff.

Photo Credit: PalomarHealth.org]]>
<![CDATA[Several Brands of Bottled Water Recalled]]> Wed, 24 Jun 2015 07:39:55 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/bottles+of+water.jpg

Niagara Bottling has recalled its bottled water products after one of its spring sources was contaminated with E. coli.

The company urged customers to avoid drinking the water without boiling it first. The water should be boiled for one minute and then cooled.

While it was not immediately clear how widely the products were distributed, several major supermarket chains with stores across the northeast issued releases saying they had carried the water. 

E. coli can cause diarrhea, cramps, nausea, headaches and other symptoms. Niagara says it has not received any complaints of injury or illness.

The company says the contamination was discovered in the water supply on June 10, but the spring source did not notify it in a timely manner, so they have stopped using the source.

The contaminated water was sold under the following brand names:

  • 7-Eleven
  • Acadia
  • Acme
  • Big Y
  • Best Yet
  • Morning Fresh
  • Niagara
  • Nature’s Place
  • Pricerite
  • Shaw’s
  • Shoprite
  • Superchill
  • Western Beef Blue
  • Wegman’s

All spring water products produced at the company’s facilities in Hamburg and Allentown, Pennsylvania between 3 a.m. June 10 to 8 p.m. June 18 were recalled. 

Niagara Bottling did not immediately respond to media inquiries, but several supermarkets sent out press releases addressing the recall. Bottled water products were recalled at ACME Markets in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania; at Shaw’s grocery stores in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont; and at Wegmans grocery stores, which operate in Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

Affected products have codes that start with the letter F or A. The first digit after the letter indicates the number of the production line. The next two numbers indicate the day, then the month in letters, the year, and then the time, based on a 24-hour clock.

To download the full list of codes for affected products, click here.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[U.S. Officials Preparing for MERS Outbreak Following S. Korea]]> Fri, 17 Jul 2015 08:04:46 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-476401196.jpg

A deadly outbreak of the Middle East Respiratory Virus in South Korea is prompting health officials and experts to prepare for the possibility of more cases in the United States. 

MERS has infected 500 people worldwide since it first surfaced in Saudi Arabia in 2010, killing roughly a third of those affected, according to the CDC. Now, the virus has spread across South Korea, infecting more than 150 people and killing 11. 

That outbreak, the largest outside the Middle East, has sparked concerns about the potential for the virus to pop up in other countries, including the United States. The country, one of at least 16 to report cases since 2010, has previously handled two MERS patients. Some experts are preparing for that number to rise.

“In South Korea more people will get infected, and eventually they go on a plane and travel,” said Peter Daszak, a disease ecologist and member of the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia University. “The U.S. is consistently in one of the top 5 countries (to travel to); we are likely to have MERS to come to the U.S.”

MERS, part of the same family of viruses as the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome and the common cold, is believed to have originated in camels, officials say. The virus has since spread from human to human, particularly among people in close contact with an infected patient. The recent outbreak in South Korea, for example, has been traced to hospitals in the area that did not follow proper protocol when dealing with infections.

While officials say there is not an urgent threat of MERS to the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it is taking extra precautions given the situation in South Korea and the potential that one sick traveler could bring the virus back to the U.S.

Officials are changing the way they collect data and detect cases on MERS, as well as working with the World Health Organization to better understand the virus. The CDC recommends that Americans traveling outside the country take basic precautions such as frequently washing their hands and avoiding contact with people who appear ill. The CDC is also urging health professionals to be on the lookout for potential cases, taking extra care to examine patients who have traveled recently to countries affected by the outbreaks or had contact with someone exposed to the virus. 

Because the international cases have been traced to patients who traveled after contacting the virus — all the infections so far have been linked back to countries in and near the Arabian Peninsula — the CDC has been working with airports specifically to help them identify ill passengers and report them properly to the organization. Officials caution that the virus' flu-like symptoms, such as coughing, fever and shortness of breath, can make it difficult to diagnose. 

There is currently no travel ban to South Korea or any of the Middle Eastern countries affected by MERS. In fact, travel has more than doubled from 2000 to 2010 in the Middle Eastern region, according to the United Nations World Travel Organization. 

And despite concerns about travelers carrying the virus to new places, officials in at least one major U.S. airport are currently not taking additional precautions. Nancy Suey Castles, public relations director at Los Angeles International Airport, said while the airport has six daily flights entering and exiting the Incheon/Seoul International Airport, it has not made any changes to patrons’ arrivals or departures.

Castles said that if they did come in contact with a passenger who was infected with MERS, the protocol would be the same as any other sick passenger: separating them from the public, examining them and possibly transporting the patient to a hospital.

Despite its potentially deadly effects, treating MERS as any other virus is the ticket for best possible treatment, says Marie Forszt, director of marketing for Indianapolis' Community Hospital, which handled the first U.S. MERS case in 2014.

“Because it was the first case, no one had a specific process but it was an infectious disease,” Forszt said. “It wasn’t specific to MERS, but we just did what we do with every single case.”

She said the key to dealing with any infectious disease is to remain on high alert and keeping up with the CDC protocols.

“Shortly after MERS happened, Ebola ramped up,” she said. “There’s always some type of infectious disease, the process is the same no matter what the name is. We muddy the message when we have specific processes for MERS or a specific virus.” 

Being prepared to start that process of treating and containing cases is key, experts say, cautioning that as long as the virus spreads overseas, the United States will remain at risk.

“I don’t think anything in the Middle East will change quickly, specifically in Saudi Arabia,” Daszak, who is also president of the nonprofit EcoHealth Alliance,  said. “It will continue to spill into Saudi Arabia and around the world… people think South Korea is so far away, but it’s only one flight away.”

<![CDATA[West-Nile Infected Mosquitoes Don't Bode Well: County]]> Thu, 18 Jun 2015 20:27:43 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/llegada-de-mosquitos-a-Arizona.jpg

Three new batches of mosquitoes have tested positive for West Nile virus, a bad sign for the year to come, according to San Diego County health officials.

The latest sampling was taken in and around Jamacha, near its border with Lemon Grove. Because many dead birds with West Nile were also found in the area, county vector control employees have placed mosquito traps there to try to stop the virus’ spread.

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.”

In May, the number of dead infected birds through the county jumped from five to 29, according to county officials. Now, the total is 33 – the largest found in any California county this year. Last year, San Diego County did not reach 33 dead birds until November.

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.”