<![CDATA[NBC 7 San Diego - Health News]]> Copyright 2014 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, 20 Dec 2014 12:52:52 -0800 Sat, 20 Dec 2014 12:52:52 -0800 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[ER Visits, Flu Cases on Rise in San Diego County]]> Wed, 17 Dec 2014 17:12:18 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/159308670-1200.jpg

Emergency Department visits are on the rise this week, as our cases of influenza in San Diego County, health officials said Wednesday.

The percentage of hospital emergency room visits for influenza-like illnesses was 4 percent, compared to 3 percent the previous week, according to the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency.

Similarly, the number of influenza cases this week was 79, up from 45 the previous week.

Influenza this winter is spreading and sickening San Diegans at a faster rate than last year’s flu season: there have been 263 confirmed cases to date, more than double last year’s number.

Local health officials say it’s not too late to get vaccinated, as the flu season usually stretches into March or April.

Health officials also have these recommendations for avoiding sickness:

  • Wash your hands often and well
  • Use hand sanitizer
  • Avoid sick people
  • Clean commonly touched surfaces
  • Avoid touching your face
  • Stay home if you are sick to prevent the spread

For a list of places to get a flu shot, visit the San Diego Immunization Program’s website.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Groundbreaking Study to Examine Unexplained Deaths]]> Wed, 10 Dec 2014 15:06:05 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/dna7.jpg

Local San Diegan Jason Lappies was as healthy as ever when he laid down on his couch June 26 to watch a World Cup soccer match.

Hours later, his roommate came home to find his dead body on the couch of their apartment. He was young and healthy, and there were no warning signs, his mother said in a press release.

The mystery of the healthy 31-year-old’s unexplained death is one of many each year that a new clinical study hopes to unravel. A dozen or more of these deaths occur annually in San Diego County, the medical examiner said Wednesday.

Lappies was the first participant in the Molecular Autopsy Study, a collaborative study that brings researchers at the Scripps Translational Science Institute together with the San Diego County Medical Examiner’s Office to solve such deaths using genomics, or a type of molecular biology that focuses on the structure and evolution of genomes.

The institute has teamed up with the San Diego County Medical Examiner's Office to sequence the genomes of adults, children, and infants in the county whose deaths, most likely a result of health failure, have not been explained using traditional medical investigative methods.

Following these unexplained and sudden deaths, family members often wonder if something similar could affect them.

“This may turn out to be important not only for family members to know if they are at risk and need to take preventive steps, but also for the public to avoid such catastrophes in young people,” said STSI Director Eric Topol, M.D., who also is chief academic officer of Scripps Health.

The study hopes to enroll up to 100 primary study participants and, with consent, their biological family members. Participants, initially identified by the Medical Examiner’s staff, must be 45 years or younger and must not have any history of excessive drug use, alcohol abuse, morbid obesity, heart disease or any other serious medical conditions.

Researchers are looking into the possibility of expanding the project to other county medical examiner departments in California in addition to other regions in the county.

“In individuals with early unexplained sudden death, genome sequencing has the ability to uncover rare conditions with difficult-to-detect symptoms that are invisible to standard physical autopsy,” said Ali Torkamani, director of genomic informatics and drug discovery at STSI. “We hope that if a rare life-threatening genetic condition is detected, life-saving interventions may be indicated in living relatives.”

Officials will use the findings of the study to develop preventative screening programs and potentially life-saving interventions for relatives of study participants and others.

<![CDATA[Mobile App Helps Diagnose Ear Infections]]> Wed, 10 Dec 2014 07:01:00 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/1209-2014-Cellscope.jpg

Need help checking for an infection? There's a tool and app for that. San Francisco-based Cellscope created the “Oto” to help you get a remote diagnosis from a doctor fast.

"We can provide the magnified, and illumination that a doctor needs to see a great quality image of the eardrum,” said Cellscope Co-Founder and CEO Erik Douglas.

They call it the Cellscope Oto, short for otoscope, because it’s like the tool doctors use to check your ears. You can attach the Oto to your smartphone, open the app, and put the tip of the Oto in your kid's ear. The device magnifies the picture from your smartphone camera and sends a recording to a doctor.

"The doctor responds within two hours and gives you a diagnosis, a treatment plan, can call in a prescription if necessary. It saves you that trip, saves you that worry,” Douglas said.

Ear infections account for roughly 30 million trips to the doctor each year in the U.S. and are most common in children.

If you want to skip the doctor's office, the Oto costs $79. Each time you send a recording to a doctor for diagnosis, it costs $49.

It’s not covered by insurance and parents we spoke with had mixed reactions.

"At night, let's say you can't reach the doctor but you actually want to get some assistance...I'll give it a shot,” said father Mano Pillai.

“I'm skeptical because it seems like an unnecessary expense. I've had four kids, and I have a grandson now and I can tell if they have an ear infection. I don't need any device,” said mother Jamie Barker.

The Cellscope Oto went on sale Tuesday and is only available in California.

Douglas says the company is working on similar tools to help diagnose other infections in the future.

Photo Credit: Ian Cull]]>
<![CDATA[Doc Sold Pills for Designer Handbags, Wine]]> Tue, 09 Dec 2014 13:52:19 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/william+joseph+watson.JPG

A Del Mar osteopath will spend nearly five years in federal custody for selling prescriptions for powerful pills to drug dealers and addicts, in exchange for cash and gifts. 

William Joseph Watson, 59, who was an osteopathic physician in Del Mar, was sentenced Monday morning in federal court. He pleaded guilty in August to one count of conspiracy to distribute and dispense oxycodone without a legitimate medical purpose.

The U.S Attorney’s office had filed a 40- count criminal complaint against him, alleging a blatant and wide-spread practice of illegally selling prescriptions for controlled substances. At his sentencing, U.S. District Court Judge James Lorenz indicated that if Watson had insisted on a jury trial, he could well have been convicted on numerous counts, and faced decades in federal prison.

On his way to Federal Court before the sentencing hearing, Watson told NBC 7 Investigates, “I’m a great doctor. I’ve treated so many people.”

His court-appointed lawyer, Lynn Ball, also told Judge Lorenz that Watson “had provided a tremendous service to his patients,” and was a gifted healer and alternative therapist, who has “magic touching hands.”

The defense said Watson’s medical practice -- and his entire life -- was sidetracked by mental illness, including bi-polar disorder, manic behaviors, and problems with alcohol. Watson lectured his patients about the dangers of food additives and non-organic products, and was stridently anti-war. Those comments alienated many patients, who stopped seeing Dr. Watson.

Addressing the judge before the sentencing, Watson said “everything was very confusing” in his life -- and his osteopathic medical practice -- during the years in question (2007-2014). He admitted making “serious mistakes” and said he accepts full responsibility for wrongly prescribing thousands of powerful narcotics, including Oxycodone, to patients without performing a proper physical exam and property assessing their need for the addictive pain killers. “I strayed away from my priorities and values,” Watson told the judge.

Watson’s attorney asked the judge to sentence his client to just five months in custody, with 500 hours of community service, providing healing massages for nursing home patients.

But prosecutor Fred Sheppard argued for a 63 month prison term, telling the judge that Watson “doled out (narcotic prescriptions) to anyone who walked in the door” and increased his income three-fold by selling those prescriptions.

In his plea deal, Watson admitted to giving painkiller prescriptions to addicts and dealers, who would use the drugs themselves or sell them on the street.

In return, those “patients” gave Watson thousands of dollars in cash and luxury gifts, including designer handbags, vintage wines and jewelry, according to DEA agents. Documents obtained by NBC 7 Investigates reveal Watson charged about $170 for a prescription for a month’s supply of highly-addictive pain-killers. DEA investigators said some of those patients re-sold the prescription narcotics on the street, or exchanged them for heroin.

The doctor’s actions contributed to the overdose death of a young patient, said prosecutor Sheppard, who told the judge that “40 percent of the pills (that Watson) peddled were not for medical purposes… He did this for money, flat out, and he ruined lives.”

Judge Lorenz acknowledged that Watson had done much good during his medical career, but called him a “drug dealer” who had done “insurmountable harm” to drug-addicted and drug-seeking patients. The judge subtracted six months from the prosecutor’s requested 63 month sentence due to Watson’s mental health issues, and ordered him to serve 57 months in custody, followed by 36 months supervised release.

The defense and prosecution agreed that Watson can remain free until January 8, on which date he will self-surrender, to begin his federal prison sentence.

Outside court, after the sentencing, Watson ignored his attorney’s advice, and spoke at length with NBC 7 Investigates.
He said some patients pressured him for the narcotics and controlled substance, and ignored his advice that they try natural remedies.

“I tried to say, 'Breathe in ease, breathe out disease. Eat a healthy diet. If you're eating a healthy diet and you're breathing, you don't need it.’ I would try that and they wouldn't do that. If they still thought they needed the medicine, I would give them the medicine."

In an interview with NBC 7 Investigates, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District, Laura Duffy, said Watson is the first doctor in recent memory to be sentence to prison for prescription violations, in this federal court district. Duffy said physicians who ignore the law and write prescriptions for drug-seeking
patients are no better than drug dealers.

“This is part of what is creating such a problem in this country and this community,” said Duffy. “So doctors should expect that if they're involved in this kind of behavior, that they will be targeted for prosecution."

<![CDATA[New Public Toilet Opens Downtown ]]> Fri, 05 Dec 2014 09:14:14 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/portland-loo-generic-san-di.jpg

San Diego’s first “Portland Loo” public toilet is officially open for business in the East Village.

The first flush occurred at a ribbon cutting for the new public toilet Wednesday at the southwest corner of 14th and L Streets.

The toilet is the first of its kind in the city. Previously, the only 24/7 access to a toilet would be through a portable toilet.

The metal public restroom, named after the Oregon city that first inspired the idea, will be free and open to the public. It is located in the East Village near Petco Park, where many homeless people congregate.

Girls Think Tank, along with other organizations, worked on the project for several years leading up to Wednesday’s ribbon cutting ceremony.

“We know that one restroom is far from enough, and are emboldened to continue our work so all San Diegans have access to a dignified place to go,” the Think Tank said on their website.

The issue of a public first came to public discourse in August 2009, when the Think Tank’s Basic Dignity Coalition convened and members of the homeless voiced concerns with having no dignified place to go. The organization worked with the Task Force on Public Restrooms and other groups to advocate for the toilet.

The city previously approved a plan to bring the new restroom to the city several years ago. 

<![CDATA[Flu Spreading at Faster Rate Than in 2013]]> Wed, 03 Dec 2014 21:54:41 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/flu+shot1.jpg

Influenza is spreading and sickening locals at a faster clip than last year’s flu season, the deadliest in San Diego County, health officials say.

To date, 141 cases have been lab-confirmed, which is 86 more than this time last year, according to the county Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA).

In 2013, 70 people died from flu complications – the highest number ever recorded by the county.

While no deaths have been reported this year, 3 percent of emergency room visits were for influenza-like symptoms last week, compared to 2 percent the week before.

Deadly complications from the flu are most likely to develop in people 65 years and older, pregnant women and those with chronic medical conditions like asthma, diabetes and lung disease, the HHSA says.

That’s why they recommend everyone 6 months old and over get an annual flu shot to prevent the disease.

Health officials also have these recommendations for avoiding sickness:

  • Wash your hands often and well
  • Use hand sanitizer
  • Avoid sick people
  • Clean commonly touched surfaces
  • Avoid touching your face
  • Stay home if you are sick to prevent the spread

For a list of places to get a flu shot, visit the San Diego Immunization Program’s website.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Drug Overdose Deaths in U.S. Double: CDC]]> Tue, 02 Dec 2014 12:16:46 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/185590966.jpg

Drug overdose deaths more than doubled over the past decade, U.S. health officials announced in a report released Tuesday. Heroin-related deaths, in particular, more than tripled.

Deaths from drug poisoning linked to opioid analgesics (such as morphine, oxycodone and methadon) and heroin have jumped to 41,502 in 2012 from 16,849 back in 1999, according to the report compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Heroin-related deaths grew to 5,925 in 2012 from 1,960 in 1999.

The report also stated that of the 2012 drug-related deaths, 16,007 involved opioid analgesics. 

By comparison, there were 27,762 alcohol-related deaths in 2012, according to the report.

Another 40,600 people died from suicide, 36,415 from motor vehicle accidents, 33,563 from firearms and 16,688 from assaults. The biggest killer by far was heart disease at 599,711 deaths.

Between 1999 and 2012, the age-adjusted drug-poisoning death rate nationwide also increased, from 6.1 per 100,000 population in 1999 to 13.1 in 2012.

There were also 14 states that had age-adjusted drug-poisoning death rates above the national average, according to the report. The states with the highest rates per 100,000 population were West Virginia (32.0), Kentucky (25.0), New Mexico (24.7), Utah (23.1), and Nevada (21.0).  

Click here to see the full report

Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto
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<![CDATA[To Protect, Serve and Not Suffer: PTSD in the Line of Duty]]> Wed, 26 Nov 2014 22:04:15 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/AP631399220978.jpg

It’s a problem among cops that few talk about outside the police community: Post traumatic stress disorder which can cause big problems on the job and off. It can lead even to suicide in an alarming number of cases.

In fact, suicide is now believed to be the leading cause of death among first responders. More than those who are killed by felons. More than officers who perish in auto accidents.

La Mesa Police Officer Tim Purdy is a tough, well-trained and nine-year veteran cop equipped to handle most any situation.

But an officer-involved shooting made Purdy realize that no first responder is emotionally bulletproof from the danger, stress and anxiety that comes with the job.

His life changed one summer night in August 2011 when he and another officer responded to a domestic violence call.

A man, on probation after recently being released from jail, met officers on the street with a shotgun.

The suspect pointed his weapon at Purdy and another officer who shot and killed the gunman.

Killing a man, though the shooting was justified, was traumatic for Purdy but what really rattled him was coming into contact with the gunman’s children moments after the shooting.

“That was difficult for me as far as knowing that I had just killed their father. I had a lot of guilty feelings. I dealt with nightmares, wasn’t speaking with my supportive wife about this. Eventually I just didn’t see the purpose in life and that’s when I needed more help,” Purdy said.

He got the help and learned he was one of an estimated 120,000 first responders nationwide suffering from PTSD according to the Justice Department.

That number included people in his own department like La Mesa Captain and Detective Dan Willis.

For his part, Willis battled through PTSD after being consumed by a murder case he worked on for five years. His efforts to resolve the case taxed his marriage and spirit in the process.

After getting better, he set out on a mission to help other first responders researching and writing a book called "Bulletproof Spirit."

“Think what first responders go through. How do you get used to watching somebody die? Or someone begging for their life and then expire? Or fight for your life? And you can’t help but suffer with many of our victims. The way that we try to get used to it is we shut down,” Willis said.

Experts say officers doing that can lead to bad performance on the job and bad behavior off.

“If they don’t raise their hand and say ‘I need help. Will you help me?’, how do they handle that? If they internalize it over time, it erupts. It has to come out one way or another,” said Scott Silverman who runs a San Diego-based recovery program called Confidential Recovery geared towards first responders whom he says are twice as likely to develop substance addiction as the general population.

And when those suffering don’t get help and hit bottom, the consequences can be fatal.

The Department of the Medical Examiner, San Diego County tells NBC7 that since 1997, at least 57 first responders including police officers, firefighters and medics have taken their own life.

Many were active duty, some were retired.

Nationwide, there are estimated 150 police suicides every year according to advocacy group Badge of Life which compiled data used by the Department of Justice.

“Even though suicide is the number one death, only 3 percent of agencies in the country have suicide awareness and prevention programs,” said Willis.

For its part, San Diego Police Department and the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department say they have increased mental health support in recent years.

The SDPD created a Wellness Unit with the mission to be visible accessible and more proactive: A spokesman said just during this past quarter, the unit initiated contact with 149 members of the department who might be at risk.

Thirty-five others came in for help.

Advocates say it’s a good start and that officers in the often tough-guy, suck-it-up police culture are more often now admitting they need help.

While the PTSD survivors with whom we spoke tell us that departments need to do even more, they do say they are hopeful that this trend of better police department preventative action will continue so that fewer first responders will have to protect, serve and suffer.

Photo Credit: AP
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<![CDATA[17-Year-Old Diagnosed with Meningococcal Disease]]> Tue, 25 Nov 2014 16:27:12 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/san+ysidro+high+school.jpg

A San Ysidro High School student has been diagnosed with meningococcal disease, according to the to San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA.)

The 17-year-old boy was admitted to the hospital Saturday and is recovering, health officials said.

The teen may have exposed others to the potentially deadly disease between Nov. 14 and Nov. 21. Family members and others who were in close contact with the boy have been notified, according to HHSA. Those individuals can receive antibiotics to prevent infection.

Meningococcal disease is spread through close contact – like sharing cups or kissing – but not through casual contact, according to County Public Health Officer Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H.

"Therefore, the risk to those who were not in close, direct contact is minimal,” Wooten said in a news release.” She does not recommend preventive antibiotics for people who did not have close contact with the patient and are not showing symptoms.

Symptoms of meningococcal disease include fever, intense headache, lethargy, stiff neck and rash. Symptoms will appear between two and 10 days after exposure.

Eight cases of meningococcal disease have been reported in San Diego County this year, according to health officials. Over the last five years, there has been an average of 10 cases a year in the county.

In October, San Diego State University freshman Sara Stelzer, 18, died after contracting Neisseria meningitidis, the same bacteria detected in the latest case.

Patrick Henry High School student Jewelean Pimentel, 14, also died in February from meningococcal disease.

A vaccine that prevents certain strains of the disease is recommended for children 11 to 18. Health officials advice students who received their first dose before age 15 should get a booster before going to college.

<![CDATA[3-D Printing Gives Chance to Little Girl Born With Heart Defect ]]> Wed, 26 Nov 2014 06:31:49 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/195*120/11-24-14_Heart-Defect-Surgery-Hensel.JPG

Esther Perez was born with heart defects that could have taken her young life, but thanks to a series of breakthrough procedures at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, the now-14-month-old little girl is thriving.

Using a series of conventional MRIs, 3-D MRIs and an incredible printer that reconstructed a model of the girl’s heart, doctors were able to plan her surgery, practice it and reduce her risks and increase her chances of survival.

That was the first miracle for her mother, Martha Perez, who found about her daughter's medical problem while she was still in the womb.

"I stop the pregnancy, or continue. Maybe the baby will be born for just five, 10 minutes, and then the baby maybe will be dying," she recalled, near tears.

Perez credits her faith with helping her to make it through the pregnancy, but when Esther was born, things looked bleak.

Her cardiologist said the baby just wasn’t getting enough oxygen to her body.

An early surgery provided a temporary fix, but as time went on it became clear a second, much more serious operation was needed.

Doctors decided the innovations could help, including creating a life-size model of Esther’s heart.

The paper-and-plastic model was an exact replica of Esther’s heart, so doctors could explore and strategize before the actual surgery.

"As soon as we opened the heart, it was exactly as I had seen before, so making the patch and doing the connections were quite straightforward," said Dr. Richard Kim, the cardiothoracic surgeon who operated on Esther.

Similar heart surgeries were done long before the 3-D technology was available, but doctors said it has helped increase the effectiveness and safety of similar operations.

Dr. Kim said Esther now stands a very good chance of having a healthy, normal life.

Perez said she’s grateful for the chance her daughter has been given.

"It’s a miracle," she said.

<![CDATA[Soda Ads Target Minority Children: Study]]> Fri, 21 Nov 2014 21:12:48 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/214*120/11-21-14-soda-shakira.JPG

Soda ads increasingly target Latino and African-American children, a new study said.

Ads for the sugary drinks, linked to weight gain, are worrying researchers who say the trend is tied to the rising obesity epidemic, according to a recent study by Yale University's Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity.

Children, some as young as toddlers, face a future of health challenges including diabetes and heart disease, said Dr. Janesri DeSilva.

"I'm seeing children who are having difficulty with crawling and walking," DeSilva said. "They have problems with their bones carrying their weight."

The new study tracked 23 beverage companies and the way they market their products to kids.

In 2013, black children and teens were exposed to twice as many sugary soda and energy drinks than their white counterparts, the study found.

Marketing of such beverages to Latino children and teens is also increasing, as Spanish language populations grow in size.

Natalie Martinez said her 4-year-old son Jacob always says, "Mom, I want some of that" after seeing soda commercials on TV and mobile phones and billboards.

She said she tries to feed him healthy food, but it becomes difficult.

"The commercials ... They make it seem so delicious," Martinez said.

A spokesman for the American Beverage Association, the trade association that represents America's nonalcoholic beverage industry, said the study is "somewhat misleading."

None of them advertise beverages other than juice, water or milk-based drinks to any audience under 12 years old, the spokesman said.

<![CDATA[Antennae for School's Roof Raise Concerns]]> Fri, 21 Nov 2014 14:49:35 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/antennas+on+school+la+petite+ecole.JPG

A so-called “wireless communication facility” with more than a dozen antennae could soon be installed on top of a local school, right in the middle of a San Diego neighborhood.

Parents and administrators at the English-French elementary and preschool La Petite Ecole in Clairemont are protesting a proposal by Verizon Wireless to install 16 antennae and a microwave dish on the property.

The city of San Diego says eight of those antennae and the dish would be above the school, while eight other antennae would be above a different part of the building, which also holds a church and a synagogue.

Parents like Jessica Diaz worry the installation could expose kids as young as 2 years old to radiation.

“We have another school right down at the end of the street here, so there are two schools super close. That’s radiation kids don’t need,” said Diaz who lives near the school with her two children.

La Petite Ecole Director Thierry Pasquet said to support the facility, an emergency generator would have to be installed right above were the students eat lunch. The possibility has him concerned about leaks and fumes.

“We don’t want to end up with the same case as asbestos for instance,” said Pasquet. “Thirty years later, they discover that, 'OK, oh really, it’s a health issue.'”

Sprint and T-Mobile already have a total of nine antennae on the property.

According to the city of San Diego, its regulations encourage carriers to consider industrial and commercial areas first, so it’s harder to get permits for residential zones.

The panel antennae and microwave dish will be concealed behind radio-frequency transparent screening, which is designed to integrate the facility into the rest of the building, the city says.

Verizon Wireless responded to NBC 7’s request for comment with the following statement:

“As you may be aware, there are already two wireless carriers on this particular site, which we understand have been there for well over a decade.

“We continue our work to provide San Diegans the coverage and capacity they deserve and expect. As part of that work, we undertake a lengthy and rigorous approval process with the City of San Diego which includes, among other things, a public hearing. We are committed to complying with all building and safety requirements of the City of San Diego, the State of California and federal law.”

The company did not comment on the concerns over radiation.

A radiation expert told NBC 7 there is not enough conclusive data on long-term radiation exposure from facilities like this to determine if they are harmful to health, but the expert acknowledges the idea worries scientists.

Sharp Healthcare medical physicist Bette Blankenship said in 2009, the Federal Communciations Commission ruled that local governments cannot regulate placement of cellphone towers, but the FCC-allowable radiation exposure rate is a lot higher than in other countries.

"People are concerned with the most sensitive group: children," said Blankenship.

La Petite Ecole administrators, in the meantime, have placed notices on neighbors’ doors, urging people to take a stand against the cell antennae at a community meeting scheduled for Dec. 5 at 6 p.m. The meeting will be at 3219 Clairemont Mesa Boulevard.

<![CDATA[Holiday Flu Could Be a Grinch This Year]]> Thu, 20 Nov 2014 17:52:55 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Flu-Generic-Cropped.jpg

‘Tis the season…for a hacking cough?

Influenza season is in full swing and with the rise of holiday airline travel, doctors say the chances of catching the flu bug are high.

“You get a big influx of all the family members coming together. You get a big mixing,” said Dr. Stephen Leibham, managing physician of U.S. HealthWorks’ Miramar clinic. “With everyone traveling, you get everyone spreading viruses throughout the area.”

Here are the most common spots to catch the flu, according to Leibham:

  • No. 1: Commercial airplanes: This germ hot spot basically traps the viruses indoors since the air is recirculating. The lavatory is by far the most germ-infested. “They’re probably the most contaminated of any restrooms,” he said.
  • No. 2: Grocery stores, malls and gas stations: Shopping carts are re-used often and rarely cleaned. The biggest culprit is the child seats in carts, where children cough, touch things and put things in their mouths.
  • No. 3: The office: Believe it or not, keyboards often have more bacteria than toilets. Telephones and office kitchen mugs and utensils are also a hot zone for viruses.
  • No. 4: The home: Surprisingly, the kitchen usually has the most bacteria, even more than bathrooms. Another germ culprit is the TV remote.
  • No. 5: Elevators and escalators: Everyone presses the buttons, but rarely does anyone clean them. Also be aware of handles and seats in taxis, buses and trains.

The good news: There are simple preventative measures you can take, Leibham said. The first and most obvious thing is to get a flu shot. Another common-sense tip is to wash your hands frequently and carry around hand sanitizer.

If you become sick, Leibham encourages you to “be considerate” and stay home.

“The first three days you’re sick you’re shedding the most amount of viruses,” he said.

And, he said, you don't want to ruin anyone else's Thanksgiving or Christmas.

<![CDATA[General Atomics Workers May File Health Claims]]> Wed, 19 Nov 2014 15:56:30 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/medical_generic.jpg

Former employees of General Atomics in La Jolla will now be entitled to compensation and benefits if they became sick as a result of working in the nuclear weapons industry.

The U.S. Labor Department made the announcement Wednesday extending what’s called Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (EEOICPA) benefits to people who worked at the La Jolla facility from 1960 through 1969.

Workers may have been exposed to radioactive and toxic substances and incurred illnesses as a result.

Survivors of qualified workers may be entitled to benefits as well.

Former workers diagnosed of 22 specific cancers may receive presumption of causation under the program, officials said.

So far, more the $18 million in compensation and medical benefits has been paid to 159 General Atomics workers.

More than $10.9 billion has been paid nationwide.

For additional information about the new General Atomics SEC or to schedule an appointment for claim-filing assistance, contact the department’s California Resource Center at 866-606-6302.

<![CDATA[Trans Fat Linked to Memory Loss: UCSD Study]]> Tue, 18 Nov 2014 14:58:12 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/CR+Trans+Fat.jpg

A new study out of the University of California San Diego suggests that trans fats are not only expanding waistlines, but could be damaging your memory as well.

The study, presented Tuesday at the American Heart Association conference, found that among 690 men, those who ate the most trans fats remembered 11 fewer words out of 104 than those who ate the least.

The study’s author, Beatrice Golomb, a professor at the UCSD School of Medicine, told USA Today that trans fats amount to a “metabolic poison.”

"Trans fats increase the shelf life of the food but reduce the shelf life of the person," Golomb said. "They don't provide anything the body needs.”

Also called partially hydrogenated oils, trans fats are often used to extend the shelf life of snacks, such as cookies and crackers, and have previously been linked to obesity and heart disease.

Manufacturers have been required to disclose trans fats on labels since 2006, and many foods like margarine were reformulated with alternative ingredients. But the law allows products with less than half 1 gram of trans fat to be listed as trans fat-free.

Last year, the Food and Drug Administration took the first steps to banning trans fat outright, removing it from the Generally Recognized As Safe list of foods. California has already prohibited its use in restaurants, as has New York City.

You may not even know you’re consuming trans fat. It may appear as an ingredient listed as “partially hydrogenated” on nutrition labels.

USA Today reported that out of over 100 Keebler products, for example, 42 were labeled trans fat-free, but listed partially hydrogenated oils among their ingredients.

The study did not explain why eating trans fat would cause memory loss, but experts think the findings are in line with what they already know on how nutrition affects the brain.

"These artificial fats penetrate every cell in the body and can disrupt basic cell functions," Dr. Walter Willett told USA Today.

Willett is chairman of the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, but was not involved in the research.

Photo Credit: Consumer Reports]]>
<![CDATA[Medical Clinics Opened Inside Target]]> Tue, 18 Nov 2014 07:16:53 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/target+clinic.jpg

Shopping isn't the only thing you can do at the Target store in Mission Valley; now you can see a nurse.

Kaiser Permanente is teaming up with Target to open four medical clinics inside their stores in Southern California.

Two of those clinics are in San Diego County — one in Mission Valley and the other in Vista.

"It is bringing the care delivery system to where you live, work and play," said Peter Asmuth with Kaiser. "In this instance, Target is where our members and our guests play."

Asmuth said this is an evolution of the care delivery model. The clinics are not staffed by physicians but by licensed nurse practitioners and licensed vocational nurses.

But if they need to talk to a doctor, one is available over a computer screen.

Dr. Heidi Meyer is a family physician who practices "tele-medicine" with patients at the Target Clinic.

Inside the exam room is a computer screen and camera. Dr. Meyer is able to speak with patients and actually view certain procedures in high definition.

"I am surprised with how well people feel like they've been cared for and that they truly connect with us," said Dr. Meyer.

Some feel the use of clinic nurses and remote doctors is part of the evolution of care. The Target Clinic is open seven days a week.

Photo Credit: Consumer Bob]]>
<![CDATA[Patient at Local University Treated for TB]]> Fri, 14 Nov 2014 14:24:45 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/CSUSM-Generic-Google-Maps.jpg

County health officials are concerned a patient with tuberculosis at California State University San Marcos may have exposed others.

A person from the school is being treated for the disease, and others on campus may have been exposed between Aug. 25 and Oct. 29, the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA) says.

The HHSA is working with the university to notify those they believe are at risk. The school is offering free testing the week of Nov. 17 at the CSUSM Student Health Counseling Services, located at 333 S. Twin Oaks Valley Road.

According to county public health officer Wilma Wooten, most people who come in contact with TB do not contract it. However, if symptoms develop, they include a persistent cough, fever, night sweats and unexplained weight loss.

The disease can be treated and cured with medication once identified, Wooten says.

While not uncommon in San Diego, TB has been on the decline in the past few years. Local cases peaked in 1993 with 469 reported, but 2012 saw only 234, while 2013 had 206.

So far in 2014, there have been 160 cases of TB reported in the county.

Last month, a person at Grossmont High School contracted the disease, and another case was reported at Lincoln High School in August.

Call the county TB Control Program at 619-692-8621 for more information about the CSUSM potential exposure.

Photo Credit: Google Maps]]>
<![CDATA[Accused Doc Faced Similar Claims Decades Ago: DA]]> Mon, 10 Nov 2014 19:54:12 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Doctor-Jeffrey-Abrams-11102.jpg

A San Diego doctor accused of taking hundreds of nude images of patients, including an 8-year-old girl, was investigated on similar allegations two decades ago, prosecutors revealed Monday. 

Jeffrey Abrams, 67, pleaded not guilty to 15 felony counts of sexual penetration of an unconscious victim, eight counts of sexual battery of an unconscious victim and one count of possession of child pornography.

The only act involving a minor was the child pornography, prosecutor Kerry Conway said. She said the count involves a young girl who went to the clinic suffering from bronchitis.

There were eight alleged victims who were seen by Dr. Abrams at the Volunteers in San Diego free clinic in El Cajon between June 1, 2010, and June 2014, prosecutors said.

Abrams was arrested Friday in connection with photos of women’s vaginas, breasts and buttocks that were allegedly found on his work phone. There was also a video of a patient touching herself in the exam room with Abrams, a search warrant alleges.

Conway told the court Abrams once faced similar allegations in the early 1990s, but there was no disciplinary action taken.

Abrams was ordered held on $1.5 million bail and ordered to surrender his passport.

Defense attorney Alex Landon argued for lower bail, saying the physician suffers several medical issues, has lived in the same home for 35 years and has been married for 45 years.

If convicted, Abrams could be sentenced to 40 years behind bars.

Abrams has had his license suspended by the State Medical Board.

Volunteers in Medicine issued a statement calling the allegations "very troubling" and said the allegations are not a reflection on the staff at the health care center, the only free medical clinic in the East County.

<![CDATA[Doctor Arrested on Sexual Battery, Child Porn Charges]]> Mon, 10 Nov 2014 19:53:55 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Volunteers-in-Medicine-1021.jpg

A San Diego physician was arrested Friday, accused of sexual battery and child porn in connection with nude images of his patients allegedly found on his phone.

Dr. Jeffrey Abrams, 67, was arrested Friday on 24 felony counts, according to the San Diego County District Attorney's Office.

Charges include 15 felony counts of sexual penetration of an unconscious victim and eight counts of sexual battery, according to prosecutors.

Abrams is also accused of one count of possession of child pornography. He was booked into the San Diego Central Jail on Friday and is scheduled to be arraigned on Monday.

Abrams had his license suspended by the State Medical Board after a state investigator reported finding hundreds of explicit photos of his patients on a phone.

Attorney Jessica Pride said five of her clients, all of whom plan to file a lawsuit against Abrams, feel safer and relieved now that he is behind bars.

Pride's client, referred to only as Jane Doe 1, was the first to bring the allegation against Abrams.

"Jane Doe 1 was afraid he was going to find out who she was and go to her house or potentially harm her," said Pride.

Jane Doe 1 says Abrams took nude photos of her during an exam on Jan. 4 at the Volunteers in Medicine free clinic in El Cajon.

The uninsured woman said she was examined for a complaint of belly button pain.

She claims Abrams told her take off all her clothes then inserted his gloved finger into her vagina and asked "You have pain?"

Then, she claims he had her stand in front of him, pushed her hair away from her exposed breasts, pulled out a cellphone and took five pictures of her.

A state investigator said more than 1,300 explicit photos were on the doctor's work cellphone, a search warrant affidavit shows.

Many of the explicit photos showed women’s vaginas, breasts and buttocks, documents alleged.

There was one explicit photo of a very young girl and video of a patient touching herself in the exam room with Abrams, the documents allege.

Volunteers in Medicine issued a statement calling the allegations "very troubling" and said the allegations are not a reflection on  the staff at the health care center, the only free medical clinic in the East County.

Pride said her clients "feel violated, they feel confused, traumatized ... distrust in doctors."

Doctors who spoke with NBC 7 say although Abrams was an example of a bad apple, there are steps patients can take if they feel uncomfortable at a doctor's appointment: 

  • Ask for a chaperone, for instance, a female nurse.
  • Ask for a female doctor
  • Never be afraid to ask questions
  • Remember, you can always say "No"

<![CDATA[Record Number of Booster Seats Are "Best Bets": IIHS]]> Thu, 06 Nov 2014 12:44:06 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/185*120/%5BNECN%5DB16x9N_PY-08MO_NS_HEALTH_MINUTE_BOOSTER_SEATS_CNNWS_NECN1500kMP4_640x416_2191472863.jpg

A record number of booster seats have earned the highest rating for safety belt fit from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

Out of the 41 models the agency tested, 27 earned the "best bet" designation while three were deemed "good bets."

The evaluations are based on how three-point lap and shoulder belts fit a child-size test dummy under various conditions. Crash tests were not a part of the review. The recommended seats position your child so that the seat belt is snug and safe for them in almost every car.

Booster seats that fell into the "check fit" category may provide a good belt fit for some children in some vehicles, but not as many as the boosters that earned a higher ranking, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says.

The following booster seats were named "best bets" for safety belt fit for 2014:

  • Baby Trend Hybrid 3-in-1 (backless mode)
  • Baby Trend Hybrid No Back (backless)
  • Britax Frontier 90 (highback)
  • Britax Pinnacle 90 (highback)
  • Britax Pioneer 70 (highback)
  • BubbleBum Neon (backless)
  • Cybex Solution X-Fix (highback)
  • Diono Solana (backless)
  • Dream On Me Turbo Booster (highback mode)
  • Eddie Bauer Deluxe Belt-Positioning Booster (highback mode)
  • Eddie Bauer Deluxe Highback 65 (highback)
  • Evenflo Chase (highback)
  • Evenflo Symphony 65 (highback)
  • Graco Argos 80 Elite 3-in-1 (backless mode)
  • Graco Argos 80 Elite 3-in-1 (highback mode)
  • Graco 4Ever All-in-1 (backless mode)
  • Graco 4Ever All-in-1 (highback mode)
  • Graco Milestone All-in-1 (highback)
  • Graco Nautilus 3-in-1 with Safety Surround (highback mode)
  • Kids Embrace Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle (highback)
  • Maxi-Cosi Rodi AP (highback mode)
  • Maxi-Cosi RodiFix (highback)
  • Peg Perego Viaggio HBB 120 (highback mode)
  • Recaro Performance Booster (highback)Safety 1st Store ’n Go (highback mode)
  • Safety 1st Store ’n Go No-Back (backless)
  • Safety 1st Summit 65 (highback)

The IIHS says the following booster seats are "good bets:"

  • Baby Trend Hybrid 3-in-1 (highback mode)
  • Cybex Solution Q-Fix (highback)
  • Diono Rainier (highback)

Eight booster seats fell into the "check fit" category:

  • Dream On Me Coupe Booster (backless)
  • Dream On Me Turbo Booster (backless mode)
  • Eddie Bauer Deluxe Belt-Positioning Booster (backless mode)
  • Graco Nautilus 3-in-1 with Safety Surround (backless mode)
  • Harmony Folding Travel Booster (highback)
  • Maxi-Cosi Rodi AP (backless mode)
  • Peg Perego Viaggio HBB 120 (backless mode)
  • Safety 1st Store ’n Go (backless mode)

Three booster seats were not recommended by the IIHS:

  • Diono Olympia (highback)
  • Diono Pacifica (highback)
  • Kids Embrace Batman No Back Booster (backless)

<![CDATA[Needle-Free Ebola Vaccine Tested]]> Tue, 04 Nov 2014 19:14:40 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/tlmd_ebola_virus1.jpg

A needle-free Ebola vaccine is getting a lot of attention at a convention taking place this week in San Diego.

The nose spray, which is not yet named, is the latest effort against the Ebola outbreak. So far, it’s showing promising results, according to the vaccine’s creator Maria Croyle.

Croyle is one of the most buzzed-about scientists at the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists convention.

Croyle said she was approached by a team of first responders seven years ago who wanted a needle-free Ebola vaccine. Back then, Ebola wasn't in the headlines, and it wasn't in the U-S.

“A common reaction we would get from people was, 'really? Why are you interested in that? It (Ebola) only happens to a handful of people,” Croyle said in an exclusive interview with NBC 7.

The nasal vaccine uses a common cold virus, takes out the genes that make it infectious and replaces it with the proteins that cover the outside of the Ebola virus.

Test results have been better than expected, Croyle said. The vaccine successfully protected every monkey in the study from Ebola.

“It produces a lot of Ebola protein in a relatively short period of time, within 24 hours. We see extensive amounts of this protein being made. That's the key in the engine to fuel up the immune system to go," she said.

What makes this vaccine so attractive is how easily it can be administered. It's the only nasal Ebola vaccine currently being tested. Also, it doesn't need to be refrigerated, which could be a big plus in transporting it to West Africa.

Now, Croyle said she and her team from the University of Texas at Austin are at a crossroads. They need more funding and resources to continue clinical trials.

If trials on humans are successful, the hope is to have the vaccine approved and available for use within a year.

“It's that thing you dream about in grad school. After seven years of really working on this and people not understanding why I was so determined and driven to, I guess I deserve a little attention and appreciation from it," she said,

At least six Ebola vaccine trials are currently underway.

<![CDATA[Study: Too Frequent Baths Could Be Bad for Babies' Skin]]> Wed, 05 Nov 2014 04:08:33 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/baby-bath-eczema.jpg

Could keeping your baby squeaky clean cause skin problems?

A new study suggests too many baths — coupled with not enough moisturizing — could had adverse effects on young children.

In a recent study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, researchers say full-body emollient therapy and fewer baths for newborn children can prevent the disease eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis.

Eczema tends to appear on the face and scalp of babies and in elbows and backs of knees in older children. According to the study, the use of emollients daily drastically reduced the average incidence of the disease. Prescribed ointments can moderate the itching and redness but there is no cure for the disease. According to The American Academy of Dermatology, an estimated 10 percent to 20 percent of children get eczema, rising up from only 3 percent in 1960.

Scientists say that the number of baths given to babies is too high, and advise people to bathe their babies no more than two or three times weekly. A recent report found that baby wash and shampoo products were used at least five times per week per household.

“People are bathing their babies too much,” said Dr. Eric Simpson, who conducted the study with a team of researchers, “If you expose skin to water and let it air dry, that leads to dryness—like the bottom of a river bed that cracks open when it dries.”

Baby soaps and shampoos, especially fragranced ones that contain sodium lauryl sulfate, are factors in the development of the disease.

In a trial conducted in the U.S. and United Kingdom, 124 newborn children who were at high risk of atopic dermatitis were studied for months. Some parents were ordered to apply full-body emollient therapy on their babies at least once a day after three weeks of birth, while other parents were ordered not to use emollients.

According to the study, emollients, like fragrance-free moisturizers and ointments, provide a safe and effective method of skin barrier improvement because they retain the skin with a source of exogenous lipids, which strengthens the skin’s barrier properties.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[CA Suspends License for Doc Accused of Nude Pics]]> Mon, 03 Nov 2014 14:37:24 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Volunteers-in-Medicine-1021.jpg

The San Diego-area doctor accused of taking hundreds of explicit photos of his patients has had his license suspended by the State Medical Board.

Dr. Jeffrey Abrams has not been charged criminally, but the Board has moved forward with temporarily suspending his license.

A former patient says Abrams took nude photos of her during an exam on Jan. 4 at the Volunteers in Medicine free clinic in El Cajon.

The uninsured woman said she was examined for a complaint of belly button pain.

She claims Abrams told her take off all her clothes then inserted his gloved finger into her vagina and asked "You have pain?"

Then, she claims he had her stand in front of him, pushed her hair away from her exposed breasts, pulled out a cellphone and took five pictures of her.

Attorney Jessica Pride says her client reported the incident to authorities because she didn’t want any other patient to go through the same experience.

A state investigator said more than 1300 explicit photos were on the doctor's work cellphone, a search warrant affidavit shows.

Many of the 1,300 explicit photos showed women’s vaginas, breasts and buttocks, documents alleged.

There was one explicit photo of a very young girl and video of a patient touching herself in the exam room with Abrams, the documents allege.

Abrams and his attorney agreed to the temporary suspension, according to court documents obtained by NBC 7, but that does not mean Abrams is admitting guilt. It’s all a part of the Medical Board's process.

After receiving a complaint, the Board investigates. It eventually may file an accusation or "charge" against a physician that sets off a hearing process.

While he is being investigated, Abrams has agreed to an interim suspension until he knows if there will a formal accusation against him.

Past President of the San Diego County Medical Society, Dr. Ted Mazer, told NBC 7 the suspension doesn't mean guilt.

"They feel they can move forward with the case. The doctor is basically saying okay, I agree to a suspension of my license while you're bringing up that formal accusation. He still has the right to defend himself against the formal accusation,” Mazer said.

The Medical Board now has 15 days to file a formal accusation. NBC 7’s phone call and email to Abrams' attorney were not returned.

When NBC 7 called to see if the San Diego County District Attorney's Office was investigating potential criminal charges, a spokesperson for the DA declined to comment on pending investigations.

Volunteers in Medicine, issued a statement calling the allegations "very troubling" and said the allegations are not a reflection on  the staff at the health care center, the only free medical clinic in the East County.

Ed. Note: A previous version of this article stated a lawsuit had been filed in connection with the investigation. We regret the error.

<![CDATA[UCSD Shows Off Ebola Isolation Unit]]> Fri, 31 Oct 2014 17:51:49 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Ebola+isolation+room.JPG

Reporters were given a tour Friday of University of California San Diego Health System’s new infectious disease care unit in Hillcrest.

The unit was created to care for suspected and confirmed cases of Ebola. As Dr. Jay Doucet told reporters, the hospital has been designated as one of the area’s Ebola-receiving hospitals.

The special unit, which is entirely cordoned off from the rest of the hospital, is able to treat one or two patients should some cases arise in San Diego County, Doucet said.

The hospital sealed off the space, ensuring that no air from the unit spills into the rest of the building. Health workers are also ordered to wear complete HazMat suits, restricting their faces, hands and feet.

In addition to infectious disease training, the dedicated team at the unit will undergo environmental hazard training.

On Friday, health workers were taking part in a training session and were seen repeatedly cleaning work areas and ensuring they were already in HazMat suits before they entered the unit.

Hospitals nationwide have been questioned about preparedness to treat Ebola after two Dallas nurses contracted the deadly virus. Friday's UCSD tour aimed to alleviate the public’s concerns over.

The cost for the new unit wasn’t immediately available.

<![CDATA[3 Locals Being Monitored for Ebola Exposure ]]> Thu, 30 Oct 2014 21:17:03 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/tlmd_ebola40.jpg

Nineteen people were being monitored under California’s new Ebola guidelines for travelers returning from West Africa.

Out of those, three people were being monitored in San Diego County. County health officials described those individuals as showing no symptoms and being at low risk for contracting the Ebola virus.

The county defines low risk patients as those who have either visited an Ebola-affected country, been in the same room with a person showing Ebola symptoms, had contact with a person showing symptoms or traveled on a plane with someone with symptoms.

"So the individuals again are being monitored, which means we are asking them to take their temperature and check for signs and symptoms of Ebola twice a day, and we actually call then twice a day," said county Public Health Officer Wilma Wooten, MD, MPH.

They do not have any travel or movement restrictions, so they can carry on with their daily activities as normal. The monitoring will continue for 21 days.

All three were travelers, not health care workers, in West Africa, so they have had no contact with someone who has been diagnosed with the deadly disease, as far as county health officials know.

When asked why a public notification was not put out when they started monitoring the patients, Wooten said, "[There] was not a need to make that a public announcement because these individuals do not have Ebola. They've not been exposed to Ebola."

She said health authorities expect to monitor one or two people arriving in California from Guinea, Sierra Leone or Liberia everyday.

Now state health officials are recommending a 21-day quarantine for anyone who treated Ebola patients in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia within the last 21 days and had direct contact with an Ebola patient.

The final decision to whether to quarantine will be left up to local officials.

"In public health, our job is to protect the people of California and prevent the spread of disease, and we have to balance that with the rights of individuals," said Dr. Ron Chapman with the California Department of Public Health (CDPH).

The monitoring system will determine if a person is at a "high risk" or "some risk.” For those at a low risk, there may be more freedom for how they are monitored. This could even mean being quarantined at home for that time period and being watched by health officials.

The CDPH plans to post data on its website every Friday showing the number of people it is monitoring.

<![CDATA[Nurse Steps Out, Slams Quarantine]]> Thu, 30 Oct 2014 03:01:17 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Kaci-Hickox.jpg

Nurse Kaci Hickox, who recently returned from treating Ebola victims in West Africa and has challenged the legality of a quarantine, spoke outside of her Maine home after health officials announced they are seeking a court order to force her to stay home in quarantine for three weeks over public health concerns.

Hickox walked out of her Fort Kent home Wednesday night, defying the Maine CDC's protocol for health care workers who have treated Ebola patients.

"We have to make decisions based on science," she told reporters while standing outside with her boyfriend, Ted Wilbur. "You could hug me. You could shake my hand and not get Ebola."

The state wants people who have had direct contact with Ebola patients to remain home and avoid public contact until the virus' 21-day incubation period had passed, and it will seek court orders to force them to if they don't of their own accord, officials said at a Wednesday press conference in Augusta.

"Our true desire is for a voluntary separation from the public. We do not want to legally enforce an in-home quarantine unless absolutely necessary," Maine Commissioner of Health and Human Services Mary Mayhew said. "However, we will pursue legal authority if necessary to ensure risk is minimized for all Mainers."

Mayhew defended the state's effort to enforce what it continued to call a "voluntary" quarantine, saying it reflected a "common-sense approach" that would "guard against a public health crisis in Maine."

The court order seeking to force Hickox to remain home will ideally be filed Wednesday, Mayhew said.

Officials also said state troopers are outside of her door waiting to tail her and see who she comes into contact with if she leaves home.

Earlier on Wednesday, Hickox, a nurse who had first been quarantined in New Jersey's Newark Liberty International Airport over the weekend and was released after showing no symptoms, told Matt Lauer on "Today" that she wasn't abiding by Maine CDC's recommendation; the state's CDC recommendation is more strict than federal guidelines.

"I truly believe this policy is not scientifically nor constitutionally just, and so I’m not going to sit around and be bullied around by politicians and be forced to stay in my home when I am not a risk to the American public," Hickox said. 

Gov. Paul LePage said in a statement earlier on Wednesday that while he's concerned with the safety and health of Hickox and the community of Fort Kent, the state is "exploring all of our options for protecting the health and well-being" of Hickox and the community.

"While we certainly respect the rights of one individual, we must be vigilant in protecting 1.3 million Mainers, as well as anyone who visits," LePage's statement said.

<![CDATA[San Marcos Adopts E-Cigarette Ban]]> Tue, 28 Oct 2014 20:13:44 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/e-cigarettes-170298237.jpg

Puffing on an electronic cigarette is now banned wherever regular smoking is prohibited in San Marcos.

The San Marcos City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to become the latest city in the county to power down e-cigarette use.

The council’s decision will amend two ordinances to list the e-cigs, which have a battery-powered vaporizer to produce a sort of steam instead of smoke.

Opponents of so-called “vaping” say e-cigarette manufacturers target their products to minors with high-tech designs, candy and fruit flavors and easy availability. Teen e-cigarette use doubled between 2011 and 2012, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The North Coastal Prevention Coalition says the aerosol from the vapor contains at least ten chemicals on California’s Proposition 65 list of carcinogens and reproductive toxins.

But proponents argue the health risks of e-cigarettes are much lower than those of conventional cigars and cigarettes – though the long-term risks are not known – and the devices act as a safer way to help quit smoking.

San Diego, El Cajon, La Mesa, Poway, Vista, Carlsbad, Coronado and Oceanside are among the county’s other cities to ban vaping where other cigarettes are used are.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Yellow Fever Mosquitoes Found in SD County]]> Tue, 28 Oct 2014 18:35:16 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Yellow+Fever+Mosquito.jpg

A rare and potentially dangerous mosquito has been found in San Diego County.

Four Aedes aegypti mosquitoes – known as “yellow fever mosquitoes” – were found in offices on Naval Base San Diego, according to county environmental health officials.

Yellow fever mosquitoes are more common on the East Coast but started appearing in California in 2013, officials said. The mosquitoes have recently been found in Commerce and Pico Rivera in Los Angeles County.

Yellow fever mosquitoes are small with black and white stripes. Unlike native California mosquitoes, these insects feed during the day. They can breed almost anywhere there’s standing water, including indoors, according to the county.

The county recommends anyone bitten by a mosquito indoors during the day should report it Vector Control at 858-694-2888.

Aedes aegypti mosquitoes can carry yellow fever, chikungunya and dengue fever. All three diseases are rare.

There hasn’t been an outbreak of yellow fever in the United States in more than a century, according to the county. However, there have been two cases of chikungunya and one case of dengue fever diagnosed in San Diego County this year. All three patients had traveled outside the country.

Yellow fever symptoms include fever, chills, severe headache and back pain. The majority of patients will have no symptoms or only minor symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

To help prevent mosquito breeding, the county is urging residents to dump out anything that can hold water – such as plant saucers, buckets or wheelbarrows – and report any standing water or dead birds to Vector Control.

Photo Credit: County News Center]]>
<![CDATA[Have a Healthy Halloween (Snacks, That Is)]]> Tue, 28 Oct 2014 13:19:32 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Healthy-Halloween-Snacks.jpg Registered Dietician Katie Ferraro visits NBC 7's Whitney Southwick with some ideas on how to successfully navigate through Halloween sweets. ]]> <![CDATA[Nurses Union: UC Hospitals Not Ready for Ebola Patients]]> Tue, 28 Oct 2014 13:18:12 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/nurse-PPE-ebola-uc-san-dieg.jpg

Members of a large nurses union claim the hospitals recently identified as "priority hospitals" in potential Ebola cases are far from ready to treat such cases.

Thousands of nurses at the five University of California medical centers across the state are now demanding that all hospitals step up in personal protective equipment (PPE) and training.

California Nurses Association/National Nurses United, which represents 12,000 RNs at the five UC medical center, organized "speak out" events in San Francisco and San Diego Tuesday. Nurses in Los Angeles were planning to organize a similar event Wednesday.

Nina Pham and Amber Vinson, two Texas health care workers who were infected while caring for Ebola patient Thomas Clark Duncan, underwent treatment and have been declared virus free.

At UC San Diego Medical Center in Hillcrest, nurses warned that if the potentially deadly virus makes its way to San Diego, residents may be at risk.

"They said the equipment is going to be updated.. as of last week, the PPE equipment that my co-worker shared with me, it left the side of your face and your neck exposed, so they said that equipment is going to be changing," said Michael D Jackson, VP of National Nurses United.

Despite the claims made by nurses, officials at UCSD Medical Center told NBC 7 they are confident with their plan of action in the face of an Ebola patient.

They said the facility is "fully prepared to care for any adult patient who is confirmed to have the Ebola virus, if needed.”

Their statement goes on to say, “The hospital has invested in the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) necessary to achieve the highest standard of safety for a select team of personnel who are designated to care for patients with the Ebola virus. These customized PPE kits are available to care teams at UC San Diego Health System and are based on the latest, scientifically driven information from the Centers for Disease Control, with additional advice from Emory and Nebraska medical centers.”  

<![CDATA["The Martha Stewart of Marijuana"]]> Tue, 28 Oct 2014 05:44:39 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/214*120/6086cece1b1849ee9e44a75c6187d8ae.jpg

Beverly Hills mom Cheryl Shuman may not look like the stereotypical stoner, but she’s hoping her new crowdfunding website will be a driving force to help bring medical marijuana to the masses.

Diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2007, Shuman was given just months to live. She refused hospice and started smoking marijuana. Now, she’s known as an advocate of the drug.

"My name is Cheryl Shuman and they call me the Martha Stewart of Marijuana," Shuman, founder of the Beverly Hills Cannabis Club, said.

Shuman, who has been on TV shows and in magazines promoting her business, said she frequently hears that she doesn’t fit what people think a pot smoker should look like.

"Well you don't look like a pot smoker, you don't look like a marijuana person," is what she said people tell her. "I always say, 'What were you expecting me to look like?'"

She doesn’t have a stereotypical business model either.

She credits cannabis for saving her life, and her passion for its benefits has led to her business and a 68-acre marijuana farm in Northern California.

And now she's hoping her newest venture, crowdfunding website Canna-dabba-doo, will help other potential medical marijuana entrepreneurs.

"Medical marijuana is as close to being a miracle drug and if it were discovered in the Amazon jungle today it would be heralded around the world as a miracle drug," Shuman said.

So far, the website only has three business ideas posted and no money has been pledged. But Shuman says it's just beginning.

"It allows anyone with a small business idea and a dream to post their project on the website and all the people we generate through social media can help fund it," she said.

"This is like the 90s and the dot-com boom. This is the pot-com boom!"

But the pot business comes with critics.

"The 'green rush' is nothing more than a revitalization of drug dealing in California and the U.S.," a spokesman for the group Citizens Against Legalizing Marijuana said in a statement. "With fraudulent labeling of pot as medicine, we have seen increases in drug use particularly among teens and young adults."

Spokesman Scott Chipman said in a written statement that as a society "we must beat back big marijuana just like big tobacco of 20 years ago.

"It has the potential to be much more harmful and deadly," he said.

While cannabis has been shown to alleviate side effects of cancer treatments and other effects of the disease, no clinical trials on humans have shown it to be an effective treatment for cancer, according to the National Institutes of Health. The FDA has not approved the drug for cancer treatment.

Still, Shuman points to her clientele's need for the various strains of the marijuana for medicinal purposes.

"This is a legitimate medicine, that legitimately helps people," Shuman said.

<![CDATA[Race and Breast Cancer Mortality]]> Mon, 27 Oct 2014 21:15:32 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/215*120/10-27-14_Breast_Cancer.JPG

A new study finds in Los Angeles a black woman with breast cancer is about 70 percent more likely to die from the disease than a white woman, according to the Susan G. Komen Foundation.

"If we don’t wake up and become involved we [black women] are going to be an endangered species," said Dr. Robina Smith, a breast cancer surgeon.

Smith attributes the disparity in breast cancer mortality rates to the fact that black women are less likely to discuss the issue with their doctors. As a result, they tend to be diagnosed with the disease at a later stage.

Smith summed up her advice in six words: "We need to talk about it."

Lajuana Brown, a breast cancer survivor, hands out cards to women to remind them to get their mammograms.

"Yes, a lot of black women will say, ‘I don’t want a mammogram because I’m afraid,' and I tell them, 'You should be afraid that you have cancer and you’re missing it,'" Brown said.

Another recent study revealed 20 percent of black women, as opposed to 12 percent of white women, will wait an entire month before returning for the necessary imaging to determine if they have breast cancer, according to Smith.

Paula Gardener, who lost her aunt to breast cancer, has committed herself to raising breast cancer awareness, especially among the black community.

"Some battles get lost, but there are so many we can win," Gardener said.

<![CDATA[Living with Diabetes]]> Mon, 27 Oct 2014 12:54:57 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Steve-Edelman-1027.jpg It's a fact that you or someone you know is living with diabetes. Dr. Steve Edelman visits with NBC 7's Whitney Southwick to talk about how he has been living a happy, health life since his diagnosis four years ago. ]]> <![CDATA[Sheriff Issues Warning on Pot Candy in Halloween Bags]]> Mon, 27 Oct 2014 16:22:55 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Potcandy_1027_6.jpg

The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department issued a warning for parents Monday that candies infused with marijuana may end up in their child’s trick-or-treat bag this Halloween.

Edibles, as they’re called, add marijuana into the batter for cookies or brownies or can be added to sugar candies or gummies.

For patients who need medicinal marijuana, they can be an alternative to smoking marijuana.

However, as the San Diego County Sheriff warns, they can also be a danger to children if ingested.

In the images posted to the sheriff’s Facebook page, the candies look like chocolate bars or jelly candies. The active ingredient in the edibles, THC, is concentrated and can make a child sick, deputies said.

So they suggest feeding your children before they go trick-or-treating to avoid “snacking” along the trail. When you get home, look at all the candy and read the labels. Sometimes edibles look like a chocolate candy bar.

Look for any signs of tampering such as torn candy wrappers or pinholes.

Throw away homemade items like cookies or other pastries. Toss fruit or any unwrapped candy.

Also, remind your children not to accept candy from anyone in cars, officials suggest.

If your child starts to feel or act strange after eating candy, take them to the doctor or call Poison Control at (800) 222‐1222. In an emergency, call 911.

If any form of marijuana candy ends up in your child's Halloween bag, call the Sheriff's Department at (858) 565‐5200.

Photo Credit: San Diego County Sheriff's Department]]>
<![CDATA[Local Doc Defends NY Ebola Patient's Actions ]]> Tue, 28 Oct 2014 13:19:18 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/craig+spencer+bellevue.jpg

A San Diego doctor is defending the actions of Dr. Craig Spencer, the man hospitalized for Ebola in New York City.

Spencer, who tested positive for Ebola on Thursday, has been criticized by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo for not obeying a 21-day voluntary quarantine.

In her first on camera interview, one of Spencer’s friends defended his actions.

Dr. Liz Edelstein described Spencer as someone who is selfless, inspiring and always willing to make sacrifices.

“My heart ached and it still does and it just it hit very close to home,” says Dr. Edelstein. “It's definitely scary.”

She met Spencer at a Wilderness Medicine Retreat where students learned to prevent, diagnose and treat disease in the back country without access to modern technology.

Edelstein defends Spencer saying he followed Ebola monitoring protocols.

“He is a careful doctor he's conscientious in his job he's out there because he knows better than most doctors how to deal with this,” says Edelstein. ”What happened is a risk of his job.”

A risk, she prays he can overcome.

“A lot of us went into medicine because we want to do things like that there's a calling,” says Edelstein. “And Craig is one of the few who actually does it."

Spencer has been hospitalized and was said to be in serious but stable condition Monday. He has received a plasma transplant from Ebola survivor Nancy Writebol.

Spencer had returned to New York City from treating Ebola victims in Guinea for Doctors Without Borders. In the week after his return, he rode the subway, went bowling and ate at a restaurant.

<![CDATA[More than 31,000 Pounds of Chicken Products Recalled]]> Mon, 27 Oct 2014 06:55:42 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/bell-evans-chicken.jpg

A Pennsylvania food company over the weekend issued a recall of more than 31,000 pounds of chicken products that may contain a toxin.

The recalled products are Bell & Evans gluten free chicken breast nuggets (12 ounces) and Bell & Evans gluten free chicken breast (10.5 ounces), according to a press release from the Department of Agriculture.

The chicken products have Aug. 9, 2015, expiration dates. They were shipped to stores across the U.S.

The food may be contaminated with Staphylococcal bacteria, which may cause stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea.

The reported contamination was discovered by the Colorado Department of Agriculture during a retail surveillance and sampling program.

Photo Credit: BellandEvans.com]]>
<![CDATA[UCSD Named Ebola Treatment Hospital ]]> Sat, 25 Oct 2014 15:50:02 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/UC-San-Diego-generic_6.jpg

The UC San Diego Medical Center has been named one of five California hospitals ready to treat Ebola, state officials announced Friday.

UCSD, along with the UC Medical Centers in Davis, Irvine, Los Angeles and San Francisco, are equipped to provide in-patient care for people diagnosed with Ebola, according to a joint news release from the University of California and the California Department of Public Health (CDPH.)

UCSD and the other UC Medical Centers will only treat new Ebola cases should any arise in California. Ebola patients flying into the U.S. will not be brought to these hospitals, according to the news release.

The safety and preparedness of American hospitals was questioned after two Texas nurses contracted the virus from a patient.

“It is our intent that only health care workers who are members of a core designated group or who volunteer to do so will provide care to confirmed Ebola patients,” said Dr. John Stobo, UC Senior Vice President for Health Sciences and Services, in the release.

Other hospitals are also expected to be named “priority hospitals” for Ebola treatment.

As of Oct. 25, more than 10,000 Ebola cases had been reported in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC.) Four cases of Ebola were diagnosed in the U.S., but there have been no confirmed cases in California.

Photo Credit: NBC 7 San Diego]]>
<![CDATA[New Meningococcal Patient Has Same Strain as SDSU Student]]> Fri, 24 Oct 2014 20:33:56 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/palomar-college-1023.jpg

A second college student in two weeks has been infected by the rare Type B meningococcal bacteria, San Diego County health officials confirmed Friday.

The Palomar College student was hospitalized and undergoing treatment for the same serotype that led to the death of SDSU freshman Sara Stelzer last week.

The school says the unnamed student has not been to class for the past several weeks, and even though they feel confident their students and staff are safe, they sent out precautionary emails to notify everyone.

County Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA) officials say they cannot establish a connection between the current patient and Stelzer or the SDSU campus.

Because no link between the two cases has been established, health officials say they are unable to request a special Type B vaccine not currently licensed in the U.S.

The vaccine has been used in previous outbreaks at Princeton and UC Santa Barbara. Those cases met the criteria for special FDA guidelines that allow the use unapproved treatments in life-threatening situations.

Meningococcal disease is the leading cause of bacterial meningitis in children two through 18 years old in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It's easily transmitted by people living in close quarters. Common ways of spreading include coughing, sneezing, sharing utensils, water bottles or drinks. It can also be spread by sharing cigarettes or pipes and through intimate contact like kissing.

Read what you need to know about meningococcal disease from the CDC here.

It's a serious disease that can be fatal. If you believe you may be experiencing symptoms of meningococcal bacteria infection, it's important to see a physician.

The most common symptoms are a stiff neck, high fever, sensitivity to light, confusion, headaches and vomiting, according to the World Health Organization.

Photo Credit: Artie Ojeda NBC 7]]>