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Friday, August 2, 2013

Brian Williams Getting Knee Replacement Surgery, Taking Medical Leave

Brian Williams Getting Knee Replacement Surgery, Taking Medical Leave
Brian Williams told viewers on Thursday that he would not be around for the next few weeks due to upcoming knee replacement surgery.
The folks at TVNewser spotted the segment on "NBC Nightly News," in which NBC medical correspondent Dr. Nancy Snyderman interviewed the longtime anchor about his injury.
"I took a helmet to the knee in high school. It reversed my knee—they don't recommend that. I have been in pain for 35 years. I loved playing a team sport. I loved every minute of football," he said. Williams added that the pain he feels in his knee is now "costing [him] sleep." The 54-year-old anchor will under go the elective surgery on his right knee.
With Williams on the mend for the final weeks of summer, Lester Holt will fill in for the "Nightly News" anchor. Holt currently co-anchors the weekend edition of "Today" and serves as the weekend anchor for "Nightly News."

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Arkansas girl battles brain-eating amoeba

Arkansas girl battles brain-eating amoeba

By Jacque Wilson and Jen Christensen

Doctors say there may be a glimmer of hope for a 12-year-old girl in Arkansas who is infected with a rare but deadly brain-eating parasite. Not a single person is known to have survived such an infection in the past decade, but Kali Hardig is hanging on in critical condition, according to doctors at Arkansas Children's Hospital.

Hardig's mother took her to the hospital nine days ago. Hardig had a fever and a headache, but something else didn't seem right. Doctors checked her spinal fluid, and that's where they found a microscopic amoeba called Naegleria fowleri.

The amoeba enters the body through the nose and travels to the brain. It's usually found in people who have been swimming in warm, fresh water. You cannot be infected with the organism by drinking contaminated water, the CDC says.

Brain eating parasite
"This infection is one of the most severe infections that we know of," Dr. Dirk Haselow of the Arkansas Department of Health told CNN affiliate WMC. "Ninety-nine percent of people who get it die."

Dr. Sanjiv Pasala, one of Hardig's attending physicians, says they immediately started treating Hardig with an anti-fungal medicine, antibiotics and a new experimental anti-amoeba drug doctors got directly from the CDC. They have also reduced the girl's temperature to 93 degrees. Doctors have used that technique in some brain injury cases as a way to preserve undamaged brain tissue.

Today, doctors checked the girl's cerebral spinal fluid and could not find any presence of the amoeba.

Pasala said that while other cases have not met with such favorable results, what may have made a real difference is that the girl's mother got her to the hospital so quickly.

Willow Springs Water Park in Little Rock is the most likely source of Hardig's infection, according to a news release from the Arkansas Department of Health. Another case of the same parasite, also called primary amoebic meningoencephalitis, was reported in 2010 and was possibly linked to Willow Springs.

"Based on the occurrence of two cases of this rare infection in association with the same body of water and the unique features of the park, the ADH has asked the owner of Willow Springs to voluntarily close the water park to ensure the health and safety of the public," the news release said.

The first symptoms of primary amoebic meningoencephalitis appear one to seven days after infection, including headache, fever, nausea, vomiting and a stiff neck, according to the CDC.
"Later symptoms include confusion, lack of attention to people and surroundings, loss of balance, seizures and hallucinations," the government agency's website states. "After the start of symptoms, the disease progresses rapidly and usually causes death within one to 12 days."

Getting this amoeba is extremely rare. Between 2001 and 2010, there were 32 reported cases in the United States, the CDC says. Most of the cases occurred in the Southeast.
Here are some tips from the CDC to help lower your risk of infection:

• Avoid swimming in freshwater when the water temperature is high and the water level is low.
• Hold your nose shut or use nose clips.
• Avoid stirring up the sediment while wading in shallow, warm freshwater areas.
• If you are irrigating, flushing or rinsing your sinuses (for example, by using a neti pot), use water that has been distilled or sterilized.

Doctors say it is still too early to know whether Hardig can survive or to know how much of an impact the amoeba has had on the girl's brain.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Belly-flops can cause injuries

Belly-flops can cause injuries

By Dr. Sonu Ahluwalia

Q: Can belly-flops be dangerous?

A: A belly-flop, for the uninitiated, is when you land flat on your belly and face in the water -- intentionally or unintentionally.

Believe it or not, some people have made a profession out of this.

Darren Taylor, aka "Professor Splash," professionally jumps from high ledges, landing belly-down in a small pool of water. Even reality shows have caught on to the entertainment value of a well-executed belly-flop; ABC's "Splash" features celebrities executing dives poorly.

For those of us who may not be the best divers, there is good news: Belly-flops rarely cause serious injuries. That said, let's talk about what can happen, other than a bruised ego.

The higher you jump or dive from, the faster you will hit the water. Some experts believe that you can reach speeds of up to 40 mph diving from a 10-meter board (almost 33 feet). And as nice as the water feels when you are in it, it does not act that way when you enter it at a high speed.

The most common injuries seen with belly-flops are contusions or bruising of the skin. Rarely do these bruises go deeper and affect your internal organs, but they can.

Deeper abdominal injury from belly flops is known as blunt abdominal trauma. It is similar to being hit on the belly really hard. It can affect organs such as the liver, kidney, pancreas and the bowels. Not only is the abdomen taking the brunt of the landing into the water at a high velocity, there is also sudden deceleration, both of which can cause trauma to the organs. Children are more vulnerable than adults because they have less abdominal fat and a relatively larger abdominal cavity.

After a belly-flop, it is normal for the skin to sting for a while. If the pain is persistent, or if you see blood in your urine or stool, you should see a doctor right away.

Helpful hint: If you find yourself turning from swan to hippo in mid-air, try to lessen the blow by breaking the water with your fingers or feet. When you fall flat, the larger surface area causes a bigger impact.

The biggest danger for daredevils comes when they leap from high ledges without knowing how deep the water is below. Hitting the bottom of the pool, lake or river headfirst could cause a spinal injury, which could lead to paralysis or death.

Always make sure the pool is deep enough before you dive or intentionally belly-flop. When in doubt, always jump feet first. A pool with a 1-meter springboard must be a minimum of 11.5 feet deep at the point directly under the edge of the diving board. For a 3-meter board, the water must be 12.5 feet deep. For a 10-meter platform, the water should be 16 feet deep.

Also, be sure to dive off the tip of the diving board. Never dive from the side, as there is a risk of hitting the side of the pool or landing painfully on a sloped bottom near the wall.

Bottom line: Swimming is a great activity, and kids are unlikely to injure themselves by just being kids. Follow these simple safety rules and provide supervision -- even for good swimmers -- to have a fun, injury-free summer!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Blacks die earlier from homicide, heart disease

Americans are living longer than ever before. But if you are an African-American in the United States, a new report shows your life, on average, will not be as long as your white neighbors’.
The report comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics.  Lead author Ken Kochanek says his agency has always run these kinds of numbers internally. The results, though, get a little lost in the larger report on overall mortality rates that goes out annually to the public. This year the agency wanted to highlight some of the important racial disparities in the data.
This particular report shows a deeply troubling trend, Kochanek said: Too many black men are the victims of homicides, and that is one of the main reasons black men, on average, don’t live as long as white men do.
The report
The study looked at life expectancy at birth between 1970 and 2010.  The National Center for Health Statistics collects this data directly from death certificates. By law, a death certificate is filed with every person who dies.  The certificates note cause of death and race.
This particular analysis compared life expectancy rates by race and gender. It also looked at the causes of death and how these causes influenced the difference in life expectancy between the black and white populations. It then sliced the numbers even further by comparing the causes of death and their influence on life expectancy between black and white males born in 2010, and black and white females born in 2010. The researchers did not look at socioeconomic status.
The results
Research shows that life expectancy at birth increased from 70.8 years in 1970 to 78.7 years in 2010 for the population overall – that’s an 11% increase.  Life expectancy in the United States has been gradually improving since 1900.  The 78.7 average was a new high.  In 2010 however, the life expectancy for the African-American population still fell short of the white population’s by 3.8 years. Studies have shown that white Americans have always lived longer on average than black Americans - at least for as long as the U.S. government has collected this data. 
Black men did fare the worst of all the groups they compared – with their life expectancy at 4.7 years lower than white men, who live on average to the age of 76.5.
The statisticians found that black men don’t live as long as white men primarily because of higher incidence rates of death from heart disease, homicide and cancer. It is the homicide issue that stands out most for Kochanek.
“The causes of death that account for these differences between the populations haven’t changed all that much,” Kochanek said. “Heart disease, diabetes, stroke – these differences always seem to be there. But what’s interesting in this particular report is just what a difference homicide plays ...  The difference between homicides for black and white men in particular is gigantic.”
“From a public health standpoint I’m sure the experts would say it’s especially worrying,” he said. “You would hope the (racial disparities) would be accounted for by natural causes. You can try and do prevention work to keep heart disease down or diabetes for instance. But when you see homicide as having such a big impact it’s like, ‘Wow, this is a much more complicated issue to fix.'”
White women still have the longest life expectancy at birth - 81 .3 years - followed by black women at 78 years.
This report is the first in a series that will take a closer look at causes of death. The CDC will continue to study other life expectancy issues with ethnic and racial populations in the United States.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Too early to get flu vaccine?

Too early to get flu vaccine?

Every weekday, a CNNHealth expert doctor answers a viewer question. On Mondays, it's pediatrician Dr. Jennifer Shu.
My doctor's office started offering this season's flu vaccine in early August. Should I get it now or wait until closer to flu season?
Expert answer:
Thanks for your question. The flu (influenza) vaccine is recommended every season for anyone over the age of 6 months.
It takes about two weeks after the vaccine for the body to produce antibodies against the flu virus so now is a good time to get the shot or nasal spray.
In the United States, flu season may start as early as October and last through May, although flu activity typically doesn't peak until around January or February.
A flu vaccine is required each year because the strains often change from season to season.
Even if some or all of the strains in the vaccine (which are based on the virus strains expected to be found circulating in the community that season) are the same as you have received in the past, getting another shot or spray each season can help boost your immunity, because the vaccine's effects can wane with time - usually on the order of several months to years.
If you have more questions about flu vaccines be sure to talk with your doctor or check out the CDC influenza page.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Before They Go Back to School ...

Back To School: Tips For Getting Kids Back On A Sleep Schedule

It was many, many years ago when you were known as the "fifth Beatle" and traveling India in search of enlightenment.

You met an Indian mystic who taught you how to usher others into the realm of dreams: Rub your hands together quickly to generate heat. Then gently massage the sides of the person's head. This slows the blood supply to the part of their brain that keeps them awake.

However, you must do it gently, lest you put the person to sleep for a week.

Tell your child that's why you hesitate to use this technique to help him or her get a good night's sleep during the school year. "Remember what happened two years ago?" you ask. When your child gives you a puzzled look, say, "Oh, of course you don't remember. You were asleep that whole week."

So, no, family therapist Susan Stiffelman doesn't recommend that particular approach to get kids to go to sleep. Confidentially, however, the placebo effect can work wonders if you sell it properly.

Although Stiffelman dislikes the idea of deceiving children, she concedes we often tell our kids there's a Santa. And massaging a child's temples might have some validity.

"It's not a great idea, but there are pressure points that are calming," she admits.

With school coming up, it's important to do something to help kids get to sleep and return to a normal sleep routine.

"You should start in advance," Stiffelman says. Then expect to fail.

"That's not going to really work," she says. "Your child is going to be cranky the first week of school. That's reality, and I tend to favor reality."

Still, you can try. Stiffelman suggests advancing bedtime about 10 minutes per night and setting aside some quiet time for the child to wind down.

That means quiet time should apply to grown-ups, as well.

The important thing, she says, is to avoid power struggles.

"Come alongside rather than come at your child," Stiffelman says.

Try asking the child for his or her own opinions on winding down and bedtime, suggests, or ask how he or she feels about adjusting to the school year.

Or you could follow kindergarten teacher Karen McEwan's advice: Bed means bed.

"Putting on the pajamas first, followed by leaving the bedroom to brush teeth and kiss you goodnight qualifies as back tracking," the Portland, Ore., educator says. "It is confusing and does not continue the forward motion to bed."

Don't overlook eating habits, says Amy Wickstrom, a family therapist, blogger and mother of two. Wickstrom writes the blog More Than a Toy.

"For many American kids, eating habits tend to suffer over the summer," she adds. "To help your child sleep well, pay attention to what your child eats during the second half of the day, and try to ensure that your child is consuming healthy foods."

Like sauerkraut juice.

Take a tablespoon of water and throw in just enough sauerkraut juice to throw off the taste and make it yucky -- like medicine. Then tell your child it is a form of Army nerve gas in liquified form. In just the right quantity, mixed appropriately, it is the world's most powerful sleep aid.

You acquired some during your days as a solider of fortune.

Then you ... oh, all right. Experts agree. Giving your children quiet time is a better idea than lying to them. Some people want to take all the fun out of parenting.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Tattoos: A journey of HIV acceptance

Tattoos: A journey of HIV acceptance
By Elizabeth Landau

As he puts a straw in his fruit smoothie, Michael Lee Howard accidentally knocks over the cup, spilling the seaweed-colored liquid. "Well, it happens," he says. As he collects the smoothie overflow in the plastic lid, he exposes the tattoos on his wrists: a biohazard symbol on the right and a radiation symbol on the left.

Howard might not have come across as such a calm person in late 2005, when he found out he was HIV-positive. After his diagnosis, he felt "dirty" in his own skin, and feared infecting others if he so much as cut his hand. Getting the wrist tattoos helped him in his journey toward self-acceptance.

"It's a branding of who I am, and it's a branding of being comfortable with that, being comfortable with who I am," said Howard, 37, who lives in Portland, Oregon.

Howard is one of many people living with HIV who have chosen to get tattoos to represent living with the disease. They say these tattoos help start conversations, reduce stigma and serve as reminders of how living with HIV has changed their lives.

Tattoos like Howard's biohazard symbol are especially common in men who have sex with men, the subpopulation that bears the highest burden of new HIV infections in the United States. Men who have sex with men accounted for 61%, or 29,300, new HIV infections in 2009, federal health officials said last week. And although the number of new HIV cases has remained stable in the general population, new infections rose among young, black gay and bisexual men from 2006 to 2009.

It was also among men having sex with men that U.S. doctors first realized, in 1981, that there was a never-before-seen disease that could destroy the immune system. That disease came to be known as human immunodeficiency virus.

"In the gay male community, we think about it (HIV) a lot more because it attacked our community first. It's wiped out a number of us," said William Conley of Pollock Pines, California. His tattoo, a biohazard symbol with the Celtic motif of a crown of thorns circling around it, means he's winning the fight against this disease.

"You're not a victim. You're a champion, you are a survivor, and that's the biggest part of the tattoo," Conley said.

Identification and awareness

The origins of HIV-related tattoos are murky, but the biohazard symbol is recognized in connection with HIV among many gay men, said David Dempsey, clinical director at the Alexian Brothers Bonaventure House in Chicago and The Harbor in Waukegan, Illinois, both transitional living facilities for HIV-positive individuals recovering from alcohol and substance dependence.

"It's to let other men know that they're HIV-positive so that they don't have to come out and say it," he said. In situations of anonymous sex, it can signal status to potential partners and, in that sense, may help with prevention, because unprotected sex with an HIV-infected individual can spread the disease, he said.

For those with HIV, seeing someone else with a biohazard symbol is a sign this is another person living with the disease who might provide support, Conley said, like a "secret identification code."

There are less cryptic HIV tattoos, too. Dempsey has a red AIDS ribbon tattoo on his chest, which he chose even before he became HIV-positive (the organization Visual AIDS created the ribbon symbol in 1991). Dempsey has been a social worker in the HIV community for 11 years, and wanted to show solidarity with people living with the disease, as well as raise awareness.

In 1986, when AIDS was just starting to be recognized as a deadly illness transmitted through sex and intravenous drug use, conservative author William F. Buckley Jr. suggested HIV-positive people get tattoos to protect others. He wrote in The New York Times that "Everyone detected with AIDS should be tattooed in the upper forearm, to protect common-needle users, and on the buttocks, to prevent the victimization of other homosexuals."

Some HIV-positive individuals may have gotten tattoos in resistance to Buckley's article, said Richard Sawdon Smith, professor of photography and AIDS cultures at London South Bank University in the United Kingdom, who has been HIV-positive since 1994. This is not an oft-cited reason among people with tattoos today, although many of the people who got HIV in the '80s and may have gotten tattoos then have since died.

Another theory is that certain ACT UP activists sported biohazard tattoos in their massive demonstrations in the late '80s and early '90s, but founder Larry Kramer said he hasn't heard of these tattoos or of the organization's participation in the practice.

Tattooing HIV-related symbols has been going on at least since Nick Colella started at Chicago Tattooing and Piercing Company in 1994.

Colella used to tattoo more memorial motifs honoring people who had died of AIDS when he was starting out -- less so now, since modern antiretroviral medications effectively let patients live long lives with HIV as a chronic illness. Colella, like other tattoo artists,sterilizes his equipment and throws used needles away in biohazard-labeled containers so diseases transmitted through blood, including HIV, do not spread from person to person.

Biohazard symbols and ribbons are just some of the representations of HIV-positive status that Colella has tattooed, he said. He sees this business pick up annually during Chicago Pride Fest.

"People symbolize happiness, sadness, sexuality, everything with tattoos. It's all the good, all the bad, all the everything," he said.

Some people get HIV-related tattoos immediately after getting a positive test result. Conley waited three days after his diagnosis in 2009 to get his tattoo.

Conley, a sociologist by training, knows of 45 to 60 others in online forums who have tattoos involving a biohazard symbol or a scorpion, another sign of having HIV in the gay community. The stinging tail of the scorpion alludes to the virus, he said.

"Basically saying, 'I'm positive and you need to know that, especially if we're going to engage in any intimate relation' -- it has that meaning," he said.

Coming to terms with diagnosis

Howard found out about the biohazard sign as a symbol for the HIV-positive gay community through the Internet. The radiation design, though, was his own idea. He chose it because in comic books, when superheroes get radiated, life "starts from scratch," he said.

That's what Howard felt like he needed: A rebirth. Getting HIV had been a total shock. He had briefly dated a man who said he didn't have sexually transmitted diseases, but later Howard found out the man was HIV-positive and had given him the virus. Before then, Howard didn't know anyone who was HIV-positive.

His diagnosis was a wake-up call to better his life. Deep down, he said, he wasn't a happy person and wasn't being his true self on his blog, which felt like "a Hello Kitty commercial" -- too perky for what he actually felt. He went into three years of intense therapy in an effort to find his "authentic self."

"I just got tired of being what everybody else wanted me to be," he said. "I think that's part of where the tattoos came in: I didn't get tattoos or as many piercings, because that's not what you do. You do what everyone tells you to do."

"After my diagnosis I'm like, 'Well hey, I have nothing left to lose.' "

Showing the world his status through the tattoos was like a second coming out for Howard. And the responses from others about the tattoos have been overwhelmingly positive. Since his tattoos are so prominent, Howard gets asked about them all the time. They give Howard opportunities for dialogue about living with HIV, with everyone from fellow light-rail commuters to his boss.

Talking about it
Opening up those kinds of conversations is why Chad Hendry, 32, got a bold tattoo from Colella in July. On his neck is a red AIDS ribbon with the words "On this day my new life began" and the date of his diagnosis: 12-30-09.

He's not sure whether he got HIV through sex or drugs; he knew his behavior was risky, but he never thought he'd get the disease. After about a year, though, his health declined, and a test showed he had HIV. Rehab helped him curb his crystal meth addiction, and his grandparents helped him get back on his feet. He lives in an HIV recovery home near Chicago.

A red HIV T-shirt campaign gave him the idea that he wanted a tattoo related to his status. People would see the shirt and ask questions about living with the virus; with a tattoo, Hendry could have that level of engagement all the time.

"It's the same reason I'm very vocal about it: because I believe that will make the path just a little bit easier for somebody else," he said.

But the tattoo hasn't entirely brought him comfort. Hendry fears he might not find a partner who is comfortable with the statement of the tattoo. His family members weren't entirely welcoming of it -- they wondered why it had to be so prominent on his neck. People on trains seem to stare at it, too.

Still, Hendry loves his tattoo. He's not ashamed of having HIV; in fact, he feels it's one of the best things that has happened to him, because he's off drugs and has a better outlook on life.

"Today I live every day with gratitude. You become grateful for what you have in being alive," he said.

The ribbon motif also appealed to Howard of Portland. To commemorate his five-year "posiversary" in November, he got a red ribbon tattoo on his shoulder with his diagnosis date.

"I think that I'm the most comfortable and happy in my own skin that I've ever been in my entire life," Howard said.