<![CDATA[NBC 7 San Diego - Health News]]> Copyright 2016 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 Sun, 14 Feb 2016 00:31:59 -0800 Sun, 14 Feb 2016 00:31:59 -0800 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Congress Hoping for Legislation to Fight Zika]]> Thu, 11 Feb 2016 18:35:34 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/ZikaVaccine-AP_277080321305.jpg

Congressional leaders hope to move on legislation to increase funding to fight the Zika virus, NBC News reported.

President Obama requested $1.8 billion from Congress on Monday to speed up research on a vaccine.

House Speaker Paul Ryan told NBC News that bipartisan action is expected “because it’s a problem we want to get ahead of.” He said the emergency spending would need to be offset, which means savings would have to be found elsewhere.

The need for funding has become urgent as the first miscarriages were reported in the U.S. because of the virus.  

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Some Good News for Dementia: Rates Might be Going Down]]> Wed, 10 Feb 2016 21:52:42 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/DEMENT_GettyImages-472947990.jpg

Researchers have found a small piece of good news for people at high risk of some kinds of dementia: it might be possible to delay it or even prevent it.

They found falling rates of vascular dementia in people who also happened to improve their heart health. The findings, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, support the idea that what's good for the heart is good for the head.

"Our study offers cautious hope that some cases of dementia might be preventable or at least delayed," Claudia Satizabal of the Boston University Schools of Medicine and colleagues wrote in their report.

They looked at more than 5,000 people who have been having their health tracked in minute detail as part of the Framingham Heart Study. The multi-generational study has been going on since 1948 and in 1971 children of the original volunteers signed up. Their memory has been tested since 1975.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Palomar Health Closing Escondido Emergency Room]]> Wed, 10 Feb 2016 18:27:52 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Palomar+Health+Downtown400x300.jpg

In about a month, downtown Escondido will be losing one of its emergency rooms.

Palomar Health announced it is closing the standby emergency room at its downtown Escondido hospital, located at 555 East Valley Parkway, on March 14.

Until then, emergency care will be available, and no other services at the hospital will be closing at this point.

Last summer, the Palomar Health Board of Directors voted to completely close the 66-year-old downtown hospital, saying the facility is losing more than $20 million a year.

Hospital officials said they are working with other community health centers, many located within a mile of the closing emergency room, to prepare residents for the change.

“As we near March 14, it is also important that community members familiarize themselves with the local health centers in their area and where they should go for care,” said Frank Beirne, executive vice president of operations at Palomar Health, in a statement.

Borrego Health is planning to help fill the emergency services gap. On March 14, the Centro Medico Escondido will open an urgent care and expand other service hours. The center is located at 1121 E. Washington Avenue. While appointments will be preferred, officials said walk-ins will also be available at the urgent care.

Ambulances and law enforcement have stopped delivering patients to the downtown Palomar hospital, so the majority of patients treated at the emergency room are those who are not crucially ill or injured, Palomar Health said. Most are also arriving during regular business hours, which they hope will help make an easy transition to other health centers.

Once the emergency room is closed, its birth center, acute rehabilitation and behavior health services will remain open until further notice. If an emergency arises with an inpatient, a physician-led rapid response team will be available. A transport team will also be on hand 24/7 to transfer current patients to an emergency room if needed.

Other services relocated from the downtown campus include outpatient surgery, which moved to the Palomar Medical Center and Pomerado Hospital, and the sleep center and outpatient rehabilitation, which went to the Palomar San Marcos Health Center.

Photo Credit: PalomarHealth.org]]>
<![CDATA[Zika Found in Fetus With Birth Defects]]> Wed, 10 Feb 2016 16:26:06 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/ZikaLab-GettyImages-506977656.jpg

Doctors have found the Zika virus in the brain of a fetus with severe microcephaly, which may help experts understand the relationship between the virus and how it affects developing babies, NBC News reported.

A 25-year-old woman was volunteering in Natal, Brazil, and became pregnant. During her 13th week, she came down with a high fever, muscle aches and a rash.

Her first ultrasound looked normal. But after returning home to Europe, another ultrasound in her seventh month showed evidence of microcephaly. The woman terminated the pregnancy.

Researchers conducted an autopsy and found Zika in the brain. The fetus was small and had an abnormally small head, with an underdeveloped brain with scarring throughout.

The report’s publication has been rushed by the New England Journal of Medicine.  

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Zika Will Spread Like Chikungunya: CDC]]> Wed, 10 Feb 2016 14:44:33 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Mosquito-AP_750626106311.jpg

The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is looking towards a virus in Puerto Rico to track how Zika may spread, NBC News reported.

The CDC says Zika is spreading the same way as chikungunya, a virus that’s also spread by mosquitos. Chukungunya, though,causes racking pain, so doctors paid attention to its spread.

The virus was first identified in the U.S. territory in May of 2014, but was spread in almost all of Puerto Rico by October. It has now spread in 45 countries with more than 1.7 million suspected cases reported. 

CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden said the organization is expecting to see “a significant number of cases” in Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories.  

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[15 Percent Sales Tax Proposed for Medical Marijuana]]> Wed, 10 Feb 2016 13:58:34 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-542705085.jpg

A California lawmaker has proposed a 15-percent tax on medical marijuana, suggesting more than $100 million in new revenue could be created.

State Sen. Mike McGuire, who represents District 2 - Healdsburg along the northern coast of California,  announced a proposal to impose a sales tax on medicinal marijuana Wednesday.

His Marijuana Value Tax Act would affect what the state Board of Equalization estimates is a $1 billion industry in the state.

In a written statement, McGuire said the tax would fund local law enforcement, drug and alcohol treatment, parks, and neighborhood improvement programs.

The proposed legislation, SB 987 would earmark 30 percent of its revenue to the Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation and 30 percent to the state’s General Fund.

The tax would only apply to medical marijuana.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[VA Hospitals Compare Favorably on Deaths, Readmission Rates]]> Tue, 09 Feb 2016 08:59:19 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Hospital+Bed+empty.jpg

Veterans' hospitals compare pretty favorably with others when it comes to treating older men with three common conditions -- heart attacks, heart failure and pneumonia. That's according to a study on death rates and re-admissions.

The research found that chances for dying or being readmitted within 30 days of treatment for those conditions varied only slightly for patients hospitalized within the VA system versus at outside hospitals. It's based on 2010-2013 data.

The researchers say the results should be reassuring but that there's still room for improvement at hospitals in both systems.

Dr. David Shulkin is the VA's undersecretary for health. He says the results debunk the impression that the VA has fallen behind.

The study was published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

<![CDATA[US Athletes Worried About Zika Told to Skip Rio: Report]]> Mon, 08 Feb 2016 14:17:41 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/180*120/zika-GettyImages-506962162.jpg

UPDATE: The United States Olympic Committee strongly denied that it has advised athletes and staff to consider skipping Rio, calling the earlier Reuters report "not accurate."

The earlier report:

The United States Olympic Committee told U.S. sports federations on a January conference call that athletes and staff worried about contracting the Zika virus should consider not going to the 2016 Rio Olympics in August, two people on the call told Reuters.

Federations were told that no one should go to Brazil "if they don't feel comfortable going. Bottom line," said Donald Anthony, president and board chairman of USA Fencing.

Anthony added that, "One of the things that they immediately said was, especially for women that may be pregnant or even thinking of getting pregnant, that whether you are scheduled to go to Rio or no, that you shouldn't go."

Alan Ashley, chief of sport performance for the USOC, did not respond to email or phone calls requesting comment.

The USOC has not officially issued its own set of recommendations for athletes and staff beyond what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization have issued.

Photo Credit: Bloomberg via Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Zika-Cautious Blood Bank: Wait to Donate]]> Fri, 05 Feb 2016 14:58:41 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/zika-virus-color1.jpg

In response to the fast-spreading Zika virus now declared a global emergency, the San Diego Blood Bank (SDBB) announced Friday that those who have recently traveled to Mexico, the Caribbean, Central or South America should not donate blood – at least for a while.

The SDBB – the primary supplier of blood to the majority of hospitals in San Diego County – is encouraging blood donors who have traveled to the aforementioned countries to wait 28 days after returning to the United States to donate blood.

Zika, a mosquito-borne virus, usually causes mild illness but is now suspected in an unusual birth defect, and possibly other health issues. The disease has been predominantly linked to Latin American countries and the Caribbean. The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared Zika an international emergency as the disease spreads.

Robert Baracz, vice president of marketing for the SDBB, said the blood bank is curbing donations from travelers “simply as a safety precaution,” even though, as always, the organization needs blood.

Zika virus can be present in the blood of an infected person who has no symptoms of illness, the blood bank says.

At this point, there have been no Zika cases reported in San Diego County.

Last week, officials with the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA) said the insect tied to the virus – the Aedes aegypti mosquito – has been detected in San Diego, in small numbers, over the past 18 months. The mosquito, which experts believe transfers the Zika virus, has also been detected in Los Angeles County.

Health officials said the Department of Environmental Health is tracking the mosquito locally. So far, health officials have not found any of the mosquitos detected in San Diego County to be carrying the Zika virus. Health officials said Aedes aegypti mosquitos are not native to California and do not travel far.

For more information on Zika, click here. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also has information on the virus here.

Photo Credit: NBC News]]>
<![CDATA[Zika Scare Reopens Abortion Debate in Brazil]]> Fri, 05 Feb 2016 11:51:57 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/BrazilPregnantZika-AP_757089715997.jpg

Fears over the Zika virus are reopening the debate over abortion in Brazil, where the procedure is illegal under most cases, NBC News reported.

Brazilian bishops opposed a petition seeking to expand abortion laws to cover women infected with Zika. In a statement, the bishops said the situation doesn’t advocate abortion “for cases of microcephaly.”

Groups that want to change the laws say advising women to avoid pregnancy is not enough. Activists want the government to provide pregnant women with Zika virus testing, and the option to choose whether they wish to continue with their pregnancy.

Abortion is legal in Brazil in cases of rape or incest, if it endangers the woman’s life of if the fetus is developing anencephaly — a rare condition where the baby is missing parts of its brain and skull.  

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[San Diego Company Testing Possible Diabetes Cure]]> Thu, 04 Feb 2016 17:27:27 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Diabetes+cure+web+img-PIC_0.jpg

A San Diego biotech company believes it has found a possible cure for Type 1 diabetes.

The La Jolla-based company, ViaCyte, in conjunction with Johnson & Johnson, is testing a stem cell treatment to cure those with the life-impacting hormonal disorder.

ViaCyte is aiming to eliminate rigorous insulin treatment and glucose testing by engineering a type of stem cell that produces insulin and other hormones that regulate sugar levels.

“These cells are human cells, but they’re not the patient’s cells, so the patient’s immune system would want to remove those cells – attack those cells,” said ViaCyte CEO Paul Laikind.

A team of 60 employees, led by Laikind, first tested the stem cell implantation on animals, which saw success.

Then, testing turned to humans. On Thursday, the company announced a breakthrough: after months inside a human, they extracted the implantation to find the cells not only survived, but they did exactly what they were intended to do.

“We’re on the right track. I think there is a cure in sight,” Laikind said.

Developers could not pinpoint an exact timeline for the product, but said it was in the years, not decades.

Photo Credit: NBC 7]]>
<![CDATA[CDC's Warning for Women About Alcohol Sparks Backlash]]> Thu, 04 Feb 2016 09:17:26 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/180*120/beer+drinking+generic.jpg

A warning from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention meant to caution women about the risks of drinking and pregnancy has set off a firestorm of outrage, NBC News reported. 

"About half of all U.S. pregnancies are unplanned and, even if planned, most women do not know they are pregnant until they are 4-6 weeks into the pregnancy. This means a woman might be drinking and exposing her developing baby to alcohol without knowing it," the agency said in a "Vital Signs" report released Tuesday.

But the part that appears to have gone over the line for a number of women said: "More than 3 million US women are at risk of exposing their developing baby to alcohol because they are drinking, having sex, and not using birth control to prevent pregnancy."

Washington Post commentator Alexandra Petri, the Atlantic and ThinkProgress blog all took offense at the language. The CDC's Dr. Anne Schuchat, a veteran of news briefings and media coverage, made it clear that the agency was not talking about women alone.

Photo Credit: Getty Images/Zoran Milich]]>
<![CDATA[ San Diego Man, 62, Dies from H1N1]]> Wed, 03 Feb 2016 12:32:17 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/928114711.jpg

A 62-year-old San Diego man died last week from the H1N1 strain of influenza, the County Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA) reported Wednesday.

Health officials said this marks the first person under the age of 65 to die from influenza-related illness in the San Diego region this season.

The man died on Jan. 25, and HHSA officials said he had no underlying medical conditions. He did not get a flu shot.

His flu-related death is the fifth in San Diego County this season. Last year, 97 people died locally from complications from the flu, the HHSA said.

County public health officer Dr. Wilma Wooten said this man’s death serves as an unfortunate reminder that the flu can be deadly for people of any age, not just senior citizens.

“The H1N1 virus can be very severe for younger, healthy people, especially those who have not been vaccinated,” Dr. Wooten explained.

She urged San Diegans to get their flu shots as soon as possible.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), anyone six months and older should get a flu vaccine annually. This season’s flu shot offers protection against several strains, including Influenza A H3N2, Pandemic H1N1-like and Influenza B strains.

The CDC said vaccination is especially important for those considered high risk for developing serious complications from influenza. This includes pregnant women, children under 5 years old, people 65 years old and older, people with chronic medical conditions like asthma, diabetes and lung disease and those who live with or care for others who are at higher risk.

The vaccine is available even if you don’t have health insurance at Community Health Centers or County public health centers. A list of those locations is available here.

As of Jan. 30, the HHSA said tallies show that 4 percent of all visits to local hospital emergency departments were for influenza-like illness. A total of 189 lab-confirmed flu cases were reported in San Diego over the past week.

To date so far this season, there have been a 925 lab-confirmed cases of influenza reported in San Diego County. Last season, there were 4,025 cases.

In addition to getting vaccinated, the HHSA said people should take other precautions against the flu, including consistent and thorough hand-washing and using hand sanitizers.

Avoid touching your mouth, nose and eyes, and often clean commonly touched surfaces. If you’re sick, stay home and avoid contact with others.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Experts Left With More Questions About Zika ]]> Wed, 03 Feb 2016 12:00:21 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/ZikaLab-GettyImages-506977656.jpg

For decades, the Zika virus has seemed harmless. But with more birth defects in Brazil and the possibility of transmission through sexual contact, health experts are now trying to answer more questions about the illness.

So far, only two men have been detected with the virus in their semen, NBC News reported. Because the infection doesn’t last long, the possibility of it being transmitted is only likely when a person is infected.

But experts aren’t sure what’s making the virus adapt, because testing for Zika is very difficult. Health officials are now going around Brazil to collect blood samples of those actively infected to test them and save them to see what happens later.  

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA['I Could Feel Him There': Mom Listens to Son's Donated Heart Beat ]]> Wed, 03 Feb 2016 05:50:28 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/221*120/Screen-Shot-2016-02-03-at-8.48.46-AM.jpg

Three years after her 7-month-old son Lukas tragically died, Heather Clark was able to hear his donated heart beat once again inside a little girl. 

Holding a stethoscope to 4-year-old Jordan Drake's chest, the Rancho Cucamonga, California, mother cried during an emotional meeting on Jan. 29 at the Heart Center at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. 

"The sound was so strong," Clark, 25, told People magazine. "I could feel him there with me. He is continuing on through her, no doubt."

Lukas suffered fatal injuries allegedly at the hands of a babysitter’s boyfriend. He died three days later at a Loma Linda, California, hospital.

"The only thing I can think of is: I can't save my own son," Clark said of her decision to donate his organs, according to NBC affiliate KPNX. "Why not save someone else's."

Esther Gonzalez, Jordan's mother, said the donation was a gift, though she knew it came at a price for another mother.

“Instantly you feel relief, you know, she may make it. But on the flip, it took me a half a second for me to turn and say, 'a mother lost her child tonight,'" Gonzalez said, KPNX reported.

Jordan suffered from many health issues as a baby, her mother said, including seizures, stroke, brain and stomach bleeding. 

"She had brain surgery -- so many issues," said Gonzalez.

Jordan received the new heart at 18 months, but her meeting with Clark didn't happen for another two years. KPNX showed Jordan smiling and running in the hospital. 

Clark told People her donation was anonymous and both her and Gonzalez wrote letters and social media messages trying to find each other afterward. 

"Lukas has given Jordan this chance at life and I know he is looking down, wishing her the best and telling her to live her life to the fullest," Clark told People."I could feel him there with me. He is continuing on through her, no doubt."

Jordan wasn't the only child Lukas helped, as two other lives were saved through the donation of his liver and kidney.

“He did more in 7 months in life than I've done in 25 years of life,” Clark said, KPNX reported.

Photo Credit: Donate Life Arizona]]>
<![CDATA[Need to Know: Zika Virus Spreads in Americas]]> Tue, 02 Feb 2016 11:27:00 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/AP_670850476149-zika.jpg The spread of the Zika virus has caused worldwide concern. Health officials think Zika might be connected to the rise in a birth defects in the Americas, though it has not yet been proven, and have labeled the crisis a global emergency.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[What You Need to Know: Zika Virus Spreads in Americas]]> Tue, 02 Feb 2016 11:23:00 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/180*120/AP_88799403079.jpg The spreading of the Zika virus has caused worldwide concern. Health officials think Zika might be connected to the rise in a birth defects in the Americas, though it has not yet been proven, and have labeled the crisis a global emergency.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Prozac for Down Syndrome Babies]]> Mon, 01 Feb 2016 05:51:29 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Prozac-GettyImages-169371347.jpg

A University of Texas Southwestern study will see if giving unborn babies with Down syndrome Prozac in the womb will help improve brain functioning.

Dr. Carol Tamminga, who is leading the study at UTSW, said the medical community has been giving Prozac to children with Down syndrome for years, but the effects of giving it to children in utero haven’t been tested.

"And this will really be the first controlled trial where we will get to test does this really work or not," she said.

Mothers pregnant with Down syndrome babies will take Prozac about 18 to 20 weeks into their pregnancy. The child will continue to take Prozac until the age of 2. Throughout that time, doctors will do brain imaging studies, rate cognition and follow the general health of the child.

Tamminga said the study was first conducted on animals. The evidence in mice was so striking, researchers immediately thought it could help humans as well.

UTSW is working with obstetricians right now to find parents interested in taking part in the study. Doctors hope to have 21 mothers start taking Prozac in March.

"I think it’s a very personal decision based on what the mother and the father decide to do," Tamminga said.

Since Prozac is a standard antidepressant, Tamminga said it shouldn't hurt the mother.

Although antidepressants during pregnancy have been linked in some studies to rare birth defects, the overall risk is "extremely low," according to the Mayo Clinic.

"We think about what could be the potential downsides for the children, and what we really do is weigh the risk and the benefit," Tamminga said. "So, what if this medication had an effect that really helped the child move from an IQ of 60 to an IQ of 90? I mean, that would be a miracle from our point of view. That's what we hope would happen and we would be willing to sustain a good deal of risk for that."

Photo Credit: MediaforMedical via AP]]>
<![CDATA[Pregnant Woman Has Zika: NYC]]> Fri, 29 Jan 2016 02:01:53 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/AP_256601441416.jpg

A pregnant woman was diagnosed with Zika virus after visiting a country stricken with the mosquito-borne illness that may cause birth defects, New York City health officials say. 

New York City Commissioner of Health Mary Bassett said that the woman was diagnosed with the virus recently, bringing the city's total of residents diagnosed with the disease to three. 

Four other people in New York have been diagnosed with the virus -- including one each in Monroe, Nassau, Suffolk and Orange Counties. 

Officials wouldn't say where the people had recently traveled, describing the locations as areas where the "virus transmission is ongoing." Bassett said that because of that, she reminded New Yorkers to be careful when picking winter vacation destinations. 

"This might be a good winter to think about a vacation in the Catskills," she said. 

One additional case has contracted the case after traveling to Colombia, health officials there say. No cases have been reported in Connecticut.

Health officials say there is virtually no risk of catching the virus in New York City because mosquitoes are not active in the winter but wanted to discuss measures New Yorkers can take when traveling to countries where the disease is prevalent.

The species of mosquito that transmits the virus is also not seen in the northeast, though it is prevalent in the southern United States.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has expanded its warning for pregnant women thinking of visiting 22 countries, most in Latin America and the Caribbean. 

Countries where Zika transmission is ongoing include Barbados, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Cape Verde, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, Saint Martin, Samoa, Suriname, U.S. Virgin Islands, Venezuela, 

The virus has been linked with microcephaly which can leave affected newborns with unusually small heads and abnormal brain development. The condition can usually be observed via an ultrasound in the first trimester of pregnancy. 

Photo Credit: File - AP]]>
<![CDATA[Insect Linked to Zika Detected in San Diego County]]> Thu, 28 Jan 2016 14:10:45 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/AP_256601441416.jpg

The insect believed to be linked to the fast-spreading, highly-publicized Zika virus has been detected in San Diego, health officials confirm, but there have not been any local cases of the disease reported.

Dr. Wilma Wooten, of the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA), said the insect – the Aedes aegypti mosquito – has been seen, in small numbers, throughout San Diego County over the past 18 months. The mosquito species, which experts believe transfer the Zika virus, has also been detected in Los Angeles County.

Dr. Wooten told NBC 7 on Thursday that the Department of Environmental Health is tracking the mosquito locally. So far, health officials have not found any of the mosquitos detected in San Diego County to be carrying the Zika virus.

For now, San Diego County health officials are not testing for Zika. Unless someone contracts the disease locally, Dr. Wooten said officials don’t plan on testing the Aedes aegypti mosquitos for the virus.

Dr. Wooten said the mosquitos don’t travel very far. She said only a small number of the insects have been spotted locally.

Health officials said the mosquito species is not native to California.

The county’s website describes the insect as a dark-colored mosquito with white stripes on its legs and back. The mosquito is an aggressive biter both indoors and outdoors, especially during daytime hours. It prefers to lay eggs in small containers such as plant saucers, buckets and watering cans. Aedes aegypti eggs can survive without water for up to several months.

Because of where the mosquitos like to lay eggs, Dr. Wooten said residents should take the time to remove any standing water they may have inside or outside. It’s also smart to wear insect repellent, as a precaution, and be on alert for the insects.

Currently, health experts believe the Aedes aegypti mosquito is found predominantly in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has said the Zika virus is “spreading explosively,” and will hold an emergency meeting of independent experts Monday to decide if the outbreak should be declared an international health emergency.

The disease has been linked to birth defects and neurological problems. Scientists say the Americas could see up to 4 million cases of Zika in the next year.

For more information on Zika, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website here.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA['Silent Killer': Carbon Monoxide Safety Tips]]> Fri, 29 Jan 2016 03:23:14 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/012516_A_coproblems1JH_70.jpg

At least six people died from carbon monoxide poisoning since a massive snowstorm swept through the East Coast last week. The deaths included 23-year-old Sasha Bonilla, a New Jersey mother, and her 1-year old son who died while sitting in a running car that had its tailpipe covered in snow. 

Bonilla's 3-year old daughter, who was found in critical condition in the carbon-monoxide filled car, died on Jan. 27. The kids' dad was shoveling snow just steps away when he found his family unconscious. 

Know as a "silent killer," CO is found in the fumes created when fuel burning equipment like cars, stoves, BBQ grills, fireplaces, and water heaters are used. It can't can't be seen or smelled. The gas is poisonous and can be fatal for anyone who inhales it, although the elderly, infants, and chronically sick are more at risk.

Each year more than 400 people die from unintentional CO poisoning not linked to fires, according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The most common symptoms of CO poisoning include headache, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion, according to the CDC. The CO poisoning symptoms are often described as “flu-like.” If you have symptoms that you think could be the result of CO poisoning, leave the area immediately, and call 911 or go to the emergency room.

People who are sleeping can die from CO poisoning before they become aware of any symptoms. There are steps you can take to keep you and your family safer from the risk of poisoning. 

Take a look at safety tips from the CDC and nonprofit child safety organization KidsandCars.org that you can use all year-round: 

CO Tips for the Car:

- Annually take your car to a mechanic to have the exhaust system inspected -- small leaks can lead to trouble inside of the car.

- Never run your car inside of the garage, even with the garage door open.

- When opening the tailgate on your vehicles, make sure vents or windows are open to allow CO from the exhaust to circulate and not get trapped inside of the vehicle.

- When inclement weather strikes, make sure the tailpipe of your car is not blocked with snow, ice, or other debris and don't allow others to wait in the vehicle while clearing snow from around the car.

- Be careful with keyless or press-to-start vehicles as even if the key fob is indoors, the vehicle outside could be running.

- Make sure children are not playing near the exhaust pipe of a running vehicle and always keep vehicles locked with keys out of reach of children who may want to play inside.

CO Tips for the Home:

- Install -- and monitor -- a battery-operated CO detector in your home and be sure to place it somewhere where it will wake you if it goes off. These should be replaced every five years.

- Annually service your heating systems by a professional to ensure fuels are burning properly.

- Check your chimney each year as built up debris can cause blockage and in turn allow CO to build up in your house.

- Don't use portable gas stoves designed for outdoor camping inside your home and don't burn charcoal indoors.

- If you have a generator anywhere in your home, make sure it is less than 20 feet from a ventilation system like a door or a window.  

Photo Credit: Northjersey.com
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<![CDATA[Brazil Revises Birth Defect Count in Zika Investigation]]> Wed, 27 Jan 2016 16:01:50 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/zika+virus1.jpg

Brazil’s Health Ministry reported fewer confirmed cases of a rare brain defect that may be tied to the Zika virus, NBC News reported.

In new figures released Wednesday, only 270 of 4,180 suspected cases have been confirmed as microcephaly. 

Officials in Brazil still believe there’s an increase in cases of microcephaly and suspect the Zika virus is to blame. The rare birth defect, which also can be caused by factors such as infections, malnutrition or drugs, means babies have unusually small heads.  

Concern about the virus has prompted a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warning to pregnant women to reconsider travel to areas where Zika is present.

<![CDATA[E-Cigarette Vapor Boosts Superbugs: Study ]]> Wed, 27 Jan 2016 01:45:35 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/e-cigarettes+111115.jpg

A newly published study suggests e-cigarette vapor hinders the immune system and boosts superbug bacteria in the body, according to researchers at the UC San Diego School of Medicine and Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System.

The researchers carried out their experiments on mice in the lab, exposing one group to e-cigarette vapor for one hour a day, five days a week, for four weeks. They discovered that inflammatory markers – signs of inflammation throughout the body – in the mice’s airways and blood were 10 percent more elevated than in unexposed mice.

“This study shows that e-cigarette vapor is not benign — at high doses it can directly kill lung cells, which is frightening,” said senior author Laura E. Crotty Alexander, MD, in a statement. “We already knew that inhaling heated chemicals, including the e-liquid ingredients nicotine and propylene glycol, couldn't possibly be good for you. This work confirms that inhalation of e-cigarette vapor daily leads to changes in the inflammatory milieu inside the airways.”

Bacterial pathogens, on the other hand, benefited from the vapor. Staph infections in particular thrived more easily in the body when exposed to e-cigarettes.

Likewise, all normal mice infected with the superbug MRSA (methicillin-resistant S. aureus) survived the dose. However, 25 percent of mice that had been exposed to e-cigarette vapor died when infected with MRSA, according to the study.

The same outcome took place when the researchers used seven different brands of e-liquids. They say that means the findings hold true no matter what kind of e-cigarette is used.

“Some of the changes we have found in mice are also found in the airways and blood of conventional cigarette smokers, while others are found in humans with cancer or inflammatory lung diseases,” said Alexander.

The study was published in the Journal of Molecular Medicine on Jan. 25 and was funded by the U.S. Department of Affairs.

<![CDATA[Doorstep Doctors Bring Back House Calls]]> Mon, 25 Jan 2016 19:01:45 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Heal+house+call+app.PNG

Generally you have to leave your home to see a doctor.  But the trend towards "on-demand" medical care is changing that

Heal, a smartphone app, is bringing the old school house call back, according the Renee Dua, a physician and founder of the house call program.

She got the idea when she and her husband were in a waiting room for more than an hour with their young son. Now they've expanded their house call service from San Francisco to San Diego.

"We are able to schedule on demand at your need," said Dua, "a visit from a doctor to your home, to your office or to your hotel room."

A doctor with an assistant can be scheduled for a visit in less than two hours with a cost of $99. Dua said they are accepting a number of PPO insurance plans, and their patients are equally divided between children and adults. But the doctors do have their limits.

"Heal is not an emergency room," said Dua. "We are not going to operate on you in your house."

But she said anything you can think of that can be done in the office setting can be done in the house setting too.

Dr. Elly Shahabi, who works for Heal, said patients seem much more relaxed when you visit them at home.

"They're not frustrated because they've been sitting in a waiting room for two hours before being seen," said Shahabi.

But where do they conduct most of their medical exams when they visit the home?

"A lot of time it's the living room," said Shahabi, "but I've had plenty of patient encounters where the patient is in bed and doesn't feel well, and that's the point of us coming out to them."

The on-demand health care trend is expanding across the country. In San Diego people can see nurses inside a Target store or CVS Pharmacy. Scripps Healthcare is expanding into office buildings. Expanding into house calls may be the next step in personal care.

Photo Credit: Consumer Bob
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<![CDATA[Fresh Start Helps Children in San Diego]]> Mon, 25 Jan 2016 12:33:56 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/guest11AM0125_1200x675_608469571938.jpg The San Diego non-profit organization that helps children who need surgery or some other medical service in order to give them a fresh start. ]]> <![CDATA[Biomarker IDs Patients Who May Benefit From Chemo ]]> Sun, 24 Jan 2016 22:50:20 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/AP_439024967440.jpg

Researchers at University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, Columbia University and Stanford University have discovered a distinctive molecular feature that identifies colon cancer patients who are most likely to remain disease-free up to five years after surgery.

The biomarker, a protein called CDX2, also helped the researchers identify Stage II colon cancer patients who are most likely to benefit from chemotherapy after surgery.

“Because previous studies did not take into account differences between colon cancers with and without CDX2, doctors have long struggled to identify which Stage II colon cancer patients might benefit from adjuvant chemotherapy,” said first author Debashis Sahoo, PhD, assistant professor of pediatrics, and computer science and engineering at UC San Diego. “But what we’ve now found is that some of these patients might benefit from chemotherapy, and we now have a biomarker to tell the difference, potentially saving many lives and reducing toxicity from unnecessary treatment.”

Sahoo led the study alongside co-author Piero Dalerba, MD, of Columbia University, and senior author Michael Clarke, MD, of Stanford University.

The study took advantage of a method developed by Sahoo to identify differences in gene expression patterns. Sahoo used it earlier to find genes involved in stem cell differentiation, the process in which stems cells specialize into specific cell types in an organ.

“Dr. Sahoo’s bioinformatics approach is extraordinarily powerful,” said Dalerba. “We used it to search for biomarkers that could help us identify which colon tumors were likely to contain high numbers of stem-like cells.”

Dalerba and Sahoo discovered that when the gene CDX2 is ‘off,’ another molecular marker in colon tumors, called ALCAM, is always ‘on.’

“We reasoned that colon tumors lacking CDX2 would likely contain a higher number of stem-like cells, and would therefore be more aggressive than CDX2-positive tumors,” said Dalerba.

After analyzing a database of cancer gene expressions, the team found that 4 percent of colon cancers lack CDX2. They then used the database to determine if there is an association between CDX2 status and patient outcomes.

The team discovered that CDX2-negative tumors were associated with poorer prognosis. Forty-one percent of colon cancer patients with CDX2-negative tumors survived five years disease-free, as compared to 74 percent of patients with CDX2-positive colon tumors.

The team found that treating CDX2-negative patients with chemotherapy improved their chances of survival. Ninety-one percent of CDX2-negative Stage II colon cancer patients survived five years disease-free when they were treated with chemotherapy. In contrast only 56 percent of CDX2-negative Stage II colon cancer patients who did not receive chemotherapy survived five years disease-free.

“While promising, this study was retrospective, meaning we looked back at existing patient data. Before they can be applied to clinical practice, these results need to be confirmed by prospective, randomized clinical trials,” Sahoo said.

The retrospective study was published January 21 by the New England Journal of Medicine.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Zika Virus Spreads to 20 Latin American Countries]]> Fri, 22 Jan 2016 17:49:18 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/ZikaBrazil-AP_324390883298.jpg

The Zika virus has now spread to 20 Latin American and Caribbean countries, NBC News reported.

The virus is now spreading locally in Barbados, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, Saint Martin, Suriname, and Venezuela. Samoa, in the south Pacific, is also reporting Zika for the first time.

The spread of the virus can be expected to escalate, as the mosquitoes that carry it can be found across the region. Some popular tourist destinations have been hit and it’s likely to spread farther, according to international health officials.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday repeated its recommendation that pregnant women avoid travel to affected countries until more can be learned about whether it can affect unborn babies.  

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Senators Ask WH to 'Spearhead' Study of Crumb Rubber Turf]]> Fri, 22 Jan 2016 10:55:25 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Crumb_Rubber_Turf.jpg

Two senators have asked President Barack Obama to launch a "comprehensive" study into the potential health risks posed by "crumb rubber" turf, a surface made of recycled tires used on playgrounds and athletic fields across the country, NBC News reported. 

Sens. Bill Nelson of Florida and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut said in Thursday's letter the possibility of a link between turf and cancer "cannot be ignored" and requires more scrutiny. They asked for the White House to "spearhead" a study that draws on the expertise of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Centers for Disease Control.

A White House spokesperson said "the administration is aware of the issue and will respond to the senators soon."

No studies have linked crumb rubber to cancer or any disease, but some experts believe more tests are needed to determine whether the product is safe for use.

Photo Credit: NBC Nightly News]]>
<![CDATA[HPV Raises Risk of Head & Neck Cancers: Study]]> Thu, 21 Jan 2016 16:17:52 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/HPVVaccine-AP_701393247962.jpg

The human papillomavirus (HPV) increases the chances of head and neck cancer by at least seven times, according to a new study, NBC News reported.

The study, conducted by researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, looked at records of more than 96,000 people.

Their findings showed that people infected with a strain called HPV-16 were between two and 22 times as likely to be in the cancer group. Experts believe 70 percent of all head and neck cancers are caused by HPV, likely spread by oral sex.

Two vaccines prevent infection with HPV strains 16 and 18. Both boys and girls are supposed to get three doses of the vaccine, starting at age 11 or 12.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Robotic Mannequin Gives Birth to Help Docs Practice]]> Wed, 20 Jan 2016 01:33:46 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/robot_birth_1200x675_604763715615.jpg

A robotic mannequin that helps doctors practice delivering babies could usher in a new era of health care, some doctors believe.

The technology, dubbed “Victoria,” made an appearance Tuesday at the annual meeting of the Society for Simulation in Healthcare in San Diego.

The lifelike robot is shaped like a woman and made with parts simulating a woman’s reproductive system.

Victoria can be programmed to have a normal birth, emergency caesarian section or a breech delivery. The robot simulates labor contractions and even says “My belly hurts.”

Doctors can monitor Victoria’s vital signs and fetal heart tones with real medical equipment.

And if something goes wrong, they can start again.

“You get to do everything wrong, hit the reset and learn how to do it right and you didn't have to affect anybody,” said Dr. Mario de las Cuevas with the society. “You didn't have to look over anybody's shoulder and you get practical experience in a real setting."

Organizers of the event say one third of medical errors by trainees involve obstetrics and gynecology patients, so Victoria, made by Gaumard Scientific, addresses a need to practice deliveries.

<![CDATA[2 Positive Zika Tests in Ill.]]> Tue, 19 Jan 2016 15:43:56 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Zika-Mosquitoes-AP_100665838820.jpg

Two pregnant Illinois residents have tested positive for the Zika virus, prompting a warning from the Illinois Department of Public Health for anyone traveling abroad.

The two women recently traveled to countries where the Zika virus is found and physicians are monitoring their health and pregnancies, according to state health officials.

Zika, a tropical virus spread by mosquitoes, is suspected of causing severe birth defects in Brazil and has since been found in Hawaii.

"There is virtually no risk to Illinois residents since you cannot contract Zika virus from another person, but only through the bite of an infected mosquito," IDPH Director Nirav D. Shah, M.D., J.D. said in a statement. "But since this is a time of year when people travel to warmer climates and countries where Zika virus is found, we are urging residents, especially pregnant women, to take preventive measures when traveling in affected countries and check health travel advisories."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a travel alert for people traveling to regions and countries where the Zika virus is found. The locations include Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Suriname, Venezuela, and Puerto Rico.

The alert followed reports in Brazil of microcephaly in babies of mothers who were infected with the virus while pregnant, but researchers have said additional studies are needed to determine the relationship, if any, between the virus and the defect. Microcephaly can often times be a severe birth defect that can kill an unborn child or cause disabilities. The condition causes the brain and head to be smaller than usual and can be caused by genetics, alcohol use during pregnancy or infections such as rubella. 

The CDC recommends pregnant women in any trimester should consider postponing travel to the areas where the Zika virus transmission is ongoing.

Symptoms including fever, rash, joint pain, or conjunctivitis can last from several days to weeks and there is no vaccine to prevent or treat an infection.

The IDPH recommends anyone who does travel uses an insect repellent, wears long sleeves and pants, and stays in places with air conditioning or window and door screens.  

Photo Credit: File -- AP]]>
<![CDATA[Patient Forges Friendship by Posting Adele Lyrics at Hospital]]> Fri, 15 Jan 2016 12:02:35 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/AdelePhoto.jpg Cystic fibrosis patient posts "Hello" lyrics in hospital window, starting a friendship with workers across the street.]]> <![CDATA[1 Brain-Dead, 5 Hospitalized in France Clinical Trial]]> Fri, 15 Jan 2016 11:52:25 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/AP_118589362326.jpg

A clinical trial in France left one volunteer brain-dead and five others hospitalized, French officials said Friday, NBC News reported. 

All volunteers participating in the trial at the privately-licensed laboratory in Rennes have been recalled and the country's Ministry of Health said an investigation has been launched into the incident. 

French Health Minister Marisol Touraine was en route to Rennes on Friday and pledged to shed light on the circumstances of the tragedy, tthe ministry said in a statement.

It did not name the lab, saying only that the accident affected a Phase 1 trial of an oral drug.

France-based Biotrial later confirmed that "serious adverse events" related to a test drug had occurred "in some subjects" during a study for a sponsor, saying in a statement the company was in "close and regular contact" with French authorities. 

Photo Credit: AP]]>