(CNN)Driving under the influence of drugs was deadlier in 2015 than driving while drunk, a new report found. Still, some safety experts caution that drunken driving remains a bigger problem and say that drugged driving needs more research.
Somali leaders met Wednesday night in Minneapolis with public-health officials to talk about the current measles outbreak in the metro area. Among those presenting information was Asli Ashkir (at podium), a nurse and consultant with the Minnesota Department of Health.
State health officials reported five more cases of measles Thursday, including one in Stearns County that marked the first time the current outbreak has spread beyond Hennepin County.
A total of 29 children have now been sickened since the end of March, making it the largest measles outbreak in Minnesota since 1990.
Like others reported so far, the Stearns County case involves a Somali-American child. Public health investigators are trying to determine how the child became infected, and if the family made trips to the Twin Cities area and came in contact with the highly infectious disease.
“We are going to have to do more sleuthing to understand what the connection is with this child,” said Kris Ehresmann, infectious disease director at the Minnesota Health Department.
Ehresmann said the department had considered it “highly possible that we would see cases spreading” beyond the metro area, particularly to areas such as Stearns County and Olmsted County, that have relatively large Somali-American populations. Low measles vaccination rates within the Somali community make them more vulnerable to catching the virus.
As recently as 2004, vaccination rates for young Somali-Minnesotan children matched those of the general population, but they plummeted starting a few years later, when an apparent rash of autism cases among Somali children triggered a scare over the vaccine. By 2016, measles vaccination rates for Somali 2-year-olds in Minnesota had fallen to just 42 percent.
In the Stearns County case, however, the child had been vaccinated for measles — but had received only one of the two recommended shots. One dose is 93 percent effective against the disease, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, while two shots provide 97 percent protection.
It is possible that even with just one shot the child will be less likely to infect others, said Ehresmann.
But the Stearns County case will require health officials to open up a whole new investigative arena, as investigators will need to catalog who came into contact with the child in Stearns County, including people at child care centers, homes and medical facilities.
Finding unvaccinated people is important, because even a brief exposure can cause sickness. The measles virus can linger in the air after an infected person has a left a room and still infect someone who does not have measles immunity protection.
That’s one reason why it is difficult to predict how many cases this outbreak will produce, though officials have said they expect the case count to continue rising in the near future. It has already outpaced a 2011 outbreak that sickened 26.
So far, the outbreak has been generally been confined to Somali-American children aged 5 and younger. Public health investigators have determined that 25 were unvaccinated. They are seeking immunization records for another three cases and are trying to pin down the race and ethnicity for four of the latest cases.
In Hennepin County, investigators have identified at least five child care centers where exposures might have occurred. Families of children attending those centers have been contacted, and if anyone is found to be unvaccinated, they are being asked to stay at home so they do not infect others.
Of the 29 current cases, 11 have required hospitalization.
The original source of the outbreak remains a mystery, but state health officials suspect it was imported by a traveler from a foreign country. Measles was declared eradicated in the United States in 2000 and no longer occurs naturally here.
Measles often starts with coldlike symptoms of cough, fever, runny nose and watery eyes, and eventually a rash spreads over the entire body. But it can produce severe symptoms in young children, and in extreme cases can produce lasting lung and brain damage, and even death.
An organic pet food company was forced to issue a recall after samples of its product tested positive for a drug commonly used for euthanasia. The recall affects Party Animal’s Cocolicious Beef & Turkey dog food as well as its Cocolicious Chicken & Beef dog food.
A statement on the Food and Drug Administration’s website said the company was notified after a customer in Texas presented samples to a testing lab that came back positive for pentobarbital. Exposure to pentobarbital, a barbiturate, could prove fatal for a pet. It is routinely used by veterinarians for the euthanasia of dogs, cats and horses.
The post on the FDA’s website said the beef and turkey variety can be identified by product number 0136E15204 04 with a best by date of July 2019, and the chicken and beef variety is labeled with a 0134E15237 13 product number and has a best by date of August 2019.
The products are sold in 13-ounce cans and were distributed nationwide.
“Party Animal wishes to emphasize that we have submitted many recent lots of our beef flavors for testing and all have tested negative for any pentobarbital,” the company said on the FDA website. “We have also had extensive discussions with our manufacturer regarding the potential cause of the reported contamination of the 2015 lots, and we will continue with such discussions even as we await testing results for the 2015 lots. In order to ensure adherence to our commitment to the safety of pets, we are also actively re-examining our manufacturing processes.”
NEW YORK — As if Jews don’t have enough to worry about.
Geopolitical threats to the Jewish people may wax and wane, but there’s another lethal danger particular to the Jewish people that shows no signs of disappearing anytime soon: cancer.
Specifically, Jews are at elevated risk for three types of the disease: melanoma, breast cancer and ovarian cancer. The perils are particularly acute for Jewish women.
The higher prevalence of these illnesses isn’t spread evenly among all Jews. The genetic mutations that result in higher incidence of cancer are concentrated among Ashkenazim — Jews of European descent.
“Ashkenazim are a more homogenous population from a genetic point of view, whereas the Sephardim are much more diverse,” said Dr. Ephrat Levy-Lahad, director of the Medical Genetics Institute at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem.
But there is some hope. Susceptible populations can take certain precautions to reduce their risks. Recent medical advances have made early detection easier, significantly lowering the fatality rates from some cancers. Cheaper genetic testing is making it much easier for researchers to discover the risk factors associated with certain cancers. And scientists are working on new approaches to fight these pernicious diseases – especially in Israel, where Ashkenazi Jews make up a larger proportion of the population than in any other country.
Understanding risk factors and learning about preventative measures are key to improving cancer survival rates. Here’s what you need to know.
Melanoma is the deadliest type of skin cancer, representing some 80 percent of skin cancer deaths, and U.S. melanoma rates are on the rise. It’s also one of the most common forms of cancer in younger people, especially among women.
Just a decade ago, Israel had the second-highest rate of skin cancer in the world, behind Australia. One reason is that Israel has a lot of sun. Some credit better education about the dangers of sun exposure for helping reduce Israel’s per capita skin cancer rate, now 18th in the world.
But the sun isn’t the whole story. Jews in Israel have a higher incidence of melanoma than the country’s Arab, non-Jewish citizens.
What makes Jews more likely to get skin cancer than others?
It’s a combination of genetics and behavior, according to Dr. Harriet Kluger, a cancer researcher at Yale University. On the genetics side, Ashkenazi Jews — who comprise about half of Israel’s Jewish population — are significantly more likely to have the BRCA-2 genetic mutation that some studies have linked to higher rates of melanoma.
The other factor, Israel’s abundant sunshine, exacerbates the problems for sun-sensitive Jews of European origin. That’s why Arabs and Israeli Orthodox Jews, whose more conservative dress leaves less skin exposed than does typical secular attire, have a lower incidence of the cancer.
“There are epidemiological studies from Israel showing that secular Jews have more melanoma than Orthodox Jews,” Kluger said.
So what’s to be done?
“Other than staying out of the sun, people should get their skin screened once a year,” Kluger said. “In Australia, getting your skin screened is part of the culture, like getting your teeth cleaned in America.”
You can spot worrisome moles on your own using an alphabetic mnemonic device for letters A-F: See a doctor if you spot moles that exhibit Asymmetry, Border irregularities, dark or multiple Colors, have a large Diameter, are Evolving (e.g. changing), or are just plain Funny looking. Light-skinned people and redheads should be most vigilant, as well as those who live in sunny locales like California, Florida or the Rocky Mountain states.
If you insist on being in the sun, sunscreen can help mitigate the risk, but only up to a point.
“It decreases the chances of getting melanoma, but it doesn’t eliminate the chances,” Kluger warned.
As with other cancers, early detection can dramatically increase survival rates.
In the meantime, scientists in Israel – a world leader in melanoma research – hold high hopes for immunotherapy, which corrals the body’s immune mechanisms to attack or disable cancer. At Bar-Ilan University, Dr. Cyrille Cohen is using a research grant from the Israel Cancer Research Fund to implant human melanoma cells in mice to study whether human white blood cells can be genetically modified to act as a “switch” that turns on the human immune system’s cancer‐fighting properties.
Breast cancer is already more common in developed, Western countries than elsewhere — likely because women who delay childbirth until later in life and have fewer children do not enjoy as much of the positive, cancer risk-reducing effects of the hormonal changes associated with childbirth.
Ashkenazi Jews in particular have a significantly higher risk for breast cancer: They are about three times as likely as non-Ashkenazim to carry mutations in the BRCA-1 and BRCA-2 genes that lead to a very high chance of developing cancer. One of the BRCA-1 mutations is associated with a 65 percent chance of developing breast cancer. Based on family history, including on the father’s side, the chances could be even higher.
“Every Ashkenazi Jewish woman should be tested for these mutations,” said Levy-Lahad, who has done significant research work on the genetics of both breast and ovarian cancer. Iraqi Jews also have increased prevalence of one of the BRCA mutations, she said.
Levy-Lahad is collaborating on a long-term project with the University of Washington’s Dr. Mary-Claire King — the breast cancer research pioneer who discovered the BCRA-1 gene mutation that causes cancer — on a genome sequencing study of Israeli women with inherited breast and ovarian cancer genes. The two women are using a grant from the Israel Cancer Research Fund to apply genomic technology to study BRCA-1 and BRCA-2 mutations and their implications for breast cancer risk in non-Ashkenazi women in Israel, who are similar to populations in Europe and the United States.
In a project that is testing thousands of women for deadly cancer mutations, they are also studying how mutations in genes other than BRCA-1 and BRCA-2 impact inherited breast cancer in non-Ashkenazi Jews.
The earlier breast cancer mutations are discovered, the sooner women can decide on a course of action. Some choose to have bilateral mastectomies, which reduce the chances of breast cancer by 90-95 percent. Actress Angelina Jolie famously put a Hollywood spotlight on the issue when she wrote a 2013 op-ed in The New York Times about her decision to have the procedure.
But mastectomies are not the only option. Some women instead choose a very rigorous screening regimen, including more frequent mammograms and breast MRIs.
Early detection is the cornerstone of improving breast cancer survival rates.
“Breast cancer is not nearly as deadly as it once was,” Levy-Lahad said.
Of the three “Jewish” cancers, ovarian cancer is the deadliest.
Linked to the two BRCA mutations common among Jews, ovarian cancer is both stubbornly difficult to detect early and has a very high late-stage mortality rate. Women should be screened for the mutations by age 30, so they know their risks.
In its early stages, ovarian cancer usually has no obvious symptoms, or appears as bloating, abdominal pain or frequent urination that can be explained away by less serious causes. By the time it’s discovered, ovarian cancer is usually much more advanced than most other cancers and may have spread to surrounding organs. If that has occurred, the five-year survival rate drops considerably.
Women with the BRCA mutations have about a 50 percent chance of getting ovarian cancer. The best option is usually to remove the ovaries.
“We put a lot of pressure on women to have their ovaries removed because it’s a life-saving procedure,” Levy-Lahad said.
That doesn’t mean these women can’t have children. The recommendation is that women wait to have the procedure until after they complete child-bearing, usually around the age of 35-40.
Much work still needs to be done on prevention, early detection and treatment of ovarian cancer, but new research shows some promise.
“The exciting thing is that we live in a genomic age, and we have unprecedented abilities to understand the causes of cancer,” Levy-Lahad said. “There’s a whole field that, if you become affected, can look at the genetic makeup of the tumor you have.”
The study of these three “Jewish cancers” are a major component of the work of the Israel Cancer Research Fund, which raises money in North America for cancer research in Israel. Of the $3.85 million in grants distributed in Israel last year by the fund, roughly one-quarter were focused on breast cancer, ovarian cancer or melanoma, according to Ellen T. Rubin, the ICRF’s director of research grants. The organization’s Rachel’s Society focuses specifically on supporting women’s cancer awareness and research.
A significant amount of the organization’s grants is focused on basic research that may be applicable to a broad spectrum of cancers. For example, the group is supporting research by Dr. Varda Rotter of the Weizmann Institute of Science into the role played by the p53 gene in ovarian cancer. P53 is a tumor suppressor that when mutated is involved in the majority of human cancers.
Likewise, Dr. Yehudit Bergman of the Hebrew University Hadassah Medical School is using an ICRF grant to study how the biological mechanisms that switch genes on and off – called epigenetic regulation – operate in stem cells and cancer.
“Only through basic research at the molecular level will cancer be conquered,” said Dr. Howard Cedar of the Hebrew University Hadassah Medical School.
“Hopefully, one day there will be easier and better ways to detect and destroy the cancerous cells that lead to these diseases. But until those research breakthroughs, medical experts say that Jews, as members of a special high-risk category, should make sure they get genetic screenings and regular testing necessary for early detection and prevention.
(This article was sponsored by and produced in partnership with the Israel Cancer Research Fund, which is committed to finding and funding breakthrough treatments and cures for all forms of cancer, leveraging the unique talent, expertise and benefits that Israel and its scientists have to offer. This article was not produced by JTA’s staff reporters or editors.)
Scientists have created an “artificial womb” in the hopes of someday using the device to save babies born extremely prematurely.
So far the device has only been tested on fetal lambs. A study published Tuesday involving eight animals found the device appears effective at enabling very premature fetuses to develop normally for about a month.
“We’ve been extremely successful in replacing the conditions in the womb in our lamb model,” says Alan Flake, a fetal surgeon at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia who led the study published in the journal Nature Communications.
“They’ve had normal growth. They’ve had normal lung maturation. They’ve had normal brain maturation. They’ve had normal development in every way that we can measure it,” Flake says.
Flake says the group hopes to test the device on very premature human babies within three to five years.
“What we tried to do is develop a system that mimics the environment of the womb as closely as possible,” Flake says. “It’s basically an artificial womb.”
Inside an artificial womb
The device consists of a clear plastic bag filled with synthetic amniotic fluid. A machine outside the bag is attached to the umbilical cord to function like a placenta, providing nutrition and oxygen to the blood and removing carbon dioxide.
“The whole idea is to support normal development; to re-create everything that the mother does in every way that we can to support normal fetal development and maturation,” Flake says.
Other researchers praised the advance, saying it could help thousands of babies born very prematurely each year, if tests in humans were to prove successful.
Jay Greenspan, a pediatrician at Thomas Jefferson University, called the device a “technological miracle” that marks “a huge step to try to do something that we’ve been trying to do for many years.”
The device could also help scientists learn more about normal fetal development, says Thomas Shaffer a professor of physiology and pediatrics at Temple University.
“I think this is a major breakthrough,” Shaffer says.
The device in the fetal lamb experiment is kept in a dark, warm room where researchers can play the sounds of the mother’s heart for the lamb fetus and monitor the fetus with ultrasounds.
Previous research has shown that lamb fetuses are good models for human fetal development.
“If you can just use this device as a bridge for the fetus then you can have a dramatic impact on the outcomes of extremely premature infants,” Flake says. “This would be a huge deal.”
But others say the device raises ethical issues, including many questions about whether it would ever be acceptable to test it on humans.
“There are all kinds of possibilities for stress and pain with not, at the beginning, a whole lot of likelihood for success,” says Dena Davis, a bioethicist at Lehigh University.
Flake says ethical concerns need to be balanced against the risk of death and severe disabilities babies often suffer when they are born very prematurely. A normal pregnancy lasts about 40 weeks. A human device would be designed for those born 23 or 24 weeks into pregnancy.
Only about half of such babies survive and, of those that do, about 90 percent suffer severe complications, such as cerebral palsy, mental retardation, seizures, paralysis, blindness and deafness, Flake says.
About 30,000 babies are born earlier than 26 weeks into pregnancy each year in the United States, according to the researchers.
Potential ethical concerns
Davis worries that the device is not necessarily a good solution for human fetuses.
“If it’s a difference between a baby dying rather peacefully and a baby dying under conditions of great stress and discomfort then, no, I don’t think it’s better,” Davis says.
“If it’s a question of a baby dying versus a baby being born who then needs to live its entire life in an institution, then I don’t think that’s better. Some parents might think that’s better, but many would not,” she says.
And even if it works, Davis also worries about whether this could blur the line between a fetus and a baby.
“Up to now, we’ve been either born or not born. This would be halfway born, or something like that. Think about that in terms of our abortion politics,” she says.
Some worry that others could take this technology further. Other scientists are already keeping embryos alive in their labs longer then ever before, and trying to create human sperm, eggs and even embryo-like entities out of stem cells. One group recently created an artificial version of the female reproductive system in the lab.
“I could imagine a time, you know sort of [a] ‘Brave New World,’ where we’re growing embryos from the beginning to the end outside of our bodies. It would be a very Gattaca-like world,” says Davis, referring to the 1997 science-fiction film.
There’s also a danger such devices might be used coercively. States could theoretically require women getting abortions to put their fetuses into artificial wombs, says Scott Gelfand, a bioethicist at Oklahoma State University.
Employers could also require female employees to use artificial wombs to avoid maternity leave, he says. Insurers could require use of the device to avoid costly complicated pregnancies and deliveries.
“The ethical implications are just so far-reaching,” Gelfand says.
Barbara Katz Rothman, a sociologist at the City University of New York, says more should be done to prevent premature births. She worries about the technological transformation of pregnancy.
“The problem is a baby raised in a machine is denied a human connection,” Rothman says. “I think that’s a scary, tragic thing.”
Flake says his team has no interest in trying to gestate a fetus any earlier than about 23 weeks into pregnancy.
“I want to make this very clear: We have no intention and we’ve never had any intention with this technology of extending the limits of viability further back,” Flake says. “I think when you do that you open a whole new can of worms.
Flake doubts anything like that would ever be possible.
“That’s a pipe dream at this point,” Flake says.
(CNN) The US Food and Drug Administration calls it “cruel deception”: companies promising desperate consumers that their products can cure cancer.
What products were targeted?
What should consumers look out for?
- Treats all forms of cancer
- Miraculously kills cancer cells and tumors
- Shrinks malignant tumors
- Selectively kills cancer cells
- More effective than chemotherapy
- Attacks cancer cells, leaving healthy cells intact
- Cures cancer
Research conducted by a team of Scandinavian scientists came to a startling conclusion regarding the DTP vaccine, which is supposed to protect children from diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus. Though they found that the vaccine can prevent those diseases, it does so at a terrible cost.
The research, which was partly funded by the Danish government, derived its data from a vaccination campaign conducted in the African nation of Guinea Bissau during the 1980’s. Initially, the campaign offered parents the opportunity to have their babies weighed every 3 months, and in 1981 they started giving out DTP vaccines during these sessions. Because the babies were only allowed to be vaccinated at a certain age, some were not vaccinated, which created the perfect control group.
It turns out that the babies who were vaccinated had a mortality rate that was on average, five times higher than the unvaccinated infants. The vaccinated girls were 9.98 times more likely to die after being vaccinated, and the boys were 3.93 time more likely to die.
These numbers were derived from kids who also had a polio vaccine. Strangely, they had a much lower mortality rate. The kids who only received the DTP vaccine had on average, a mortality rate that was 10 times higher than the control group. The researchers believe that the vaccine must have stifled the immune systems of these children, opening them up to mutliple infections.
The researchers wrote that “It should be of concern that the effect of routine vaccinations on all-cause mortality was not tested in randomized trials. All currently available evidence suggests that DTP vaccine may kill more children from other causes than it saves from diphtheria, tetanus or pertussis. Though a vaccine protects children against the target disease it may simultaneously increase susceptibility to unrelated infections.”
The study only looked at children who were healthy before being vaccinated. Because of that, the researchers noted “The estimate from the natural experiment may therefore still be conservative.”
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A Utah man who was denied a double-lung transplant in his home state after doctors found a trace of marijuana in his system has died, his family said.
Riley Hancey, 20, was surrounded by family including his father, his mother and two aunts when he died from complications of a double lung transplant around 4 p.m. in Pennsylvania on Saturday, his father Mark Hancey told The Salt Lake Tribune.
“This death is unbelievable,” the father told the newspaper. “If you could talk about angels, (the University of Pennsylvania) medical staff they are a group of angels. From the physicians down, I just couldn’t believe it.”
Riley was admitted to the University of Utah Hospital in December and was put on life support two weeks later. He was denied a transplant in early April after doctors found traces of tetrahydrocannabinol or THC.
His father said his son had smoked marijuana on Thanksgiving with friends but was clean for a year before he became sick with pneumonia.
A hospital spokeswoman said in a statement to the newspaper that “we do not transplant organs in patients with active alcohol, tobacco or illicit drug use or dependencies until these issues are addressed, as these substances are contraindicated for a transplant.”
The family searched for other hospitals for almost two months before ending up in Philadelphia. The Hospital at the University of Pennsylvania performed Riley’s procedure on March 29.
“It has been a long battle to save Riley’s life. We know that in our hearts we gave him every opportunity to survive,” the family said in a YouCaring page previously set up to pay for his medical expenses.
“He will live in our hearts forever. Riley is now free to climb every mountain, ski the backcountry, go fishing, and run every river. He will continue to do so with his family in spirit,” the page read.
Civil and criminal justice experts are expressing concern over “stealthing,” in which straight and gay men are removing their condoms during sex without their partners’ consent.
A new study published this month in the Columbia Journal of Gender and Law explores the disturbing new trend, which involves online communities of men — straight and gay — encouraging one another to carry out the “rape-adjacent” act.
For the study, author Alexandra Brodsky interviewed victims of stealthing, as well as those online communities, where men promote their peers to “spread their seed” and “root their support [for the practice] in an ideology of male supremacy in which violence is a man’s natural right,” Brodsky told The Huffington Post. Brodsky is a legal fellow for National Women’s Law Center but wrote the paper independently from her job.
The Huffington Post reported that Brodsky’s study cites comment strings from such forums, in which men exchange tips, best practices, advice and support for tactfully removing a condom during sex without a partner’s knowledge.
Though stealthing hasn’t been legally defined as rape in the United States, Switzerland’s high court recently saw such a case, and a man who carried out this very act was convicted of rape, Broadly reported.
Indeed, Brodsky writes in her paper, stealthing can expose victims to similar consequences as rape, including feelings of shame, violation, loss of dignity and autonomy after the act, as well as an increased risk of pregnancy, and exposure to sexually transmitted infections (STIs), HIV and AIDS.
In her study, she encourages victims of stealthing to come forward and seek justice in the absence of a legal statute that officially defines stealthing as sexual assault. Yet, she argued to the Huffington Post that there’s still room for improvement in the justice system, as “many of the myths and assumptions and forms of skepticism that we see from judges approaching rape victims and other kinds of sexual assault victims are likely to be present in stealthing cases.”
“The law isn’t the answer for everyone, and it can’t fix every problem every time,” Brodsky continued. “One of my goals with the article, and in proposing a new statute, is to provide a vocabulary and create ways for people to talk about what is a really common experience that just is too often dismissed as just ‘bad sex’ instead of ‘violence.’”
(CNN) The World Health Organization announced Monday that it has the go-ahead to try the first malaria vaccine in the field in real-world settings next year. The organization made the announcement on the eve of World Malaria Day.