ABC - Health News

Susan Cicotte(ANN ARBOR, Mich.) --  A family who lost someone they love to a drug overdose is sharing their story in hopes of helping others who may be struggling with addiction.

On June 1, Christopher Pennington of Ann Arbor, Michigan, died. The 35-year-old father of two faced addiction before ultimately overdosing.

Pennington's family describes him as a "giver" -- a person who wanted to help others, no matter what.

He loved skateboarding, music, was a drummer in a band and enjoyed playing disc golf with his brothers and his 8-year-old son.

"I have three other children and 10 grandchildren and it's affected us all -- he was a major part of our lives," Pennington's mother, Susan Cicotte, told "Good Morning America." "When we'd have family get-togethers, he did all the grilling. When he was here, he was here to help me. He was my best friend ... he died in the very same hospital he was born in."

On the day Pennington died, his family gathered around his hospital bed to say goodbye. His mom snapped a photo of the heartbreaking moment.

Six months later, Susan Cicotte's daughter-in-law, Nichole Cicotte, who is married to Pennington's brother Michael, shared the image on Facebook. The post garnered nearly 2,000 comments and 16,000 shares.

"People were writing, 'I'm checking into rehab.' [or] 'I'm not going to do drugs today,'" Susan Cicotte said, adding that Nichole asked if she should remove the post after the viral attention.

"I said, 'No. If this helps one person stay alive or one person through their grief, then Chris is doing his job even when he's dead,'" Susan Cicotte added. "'This is what Chris would want.'"

Nichole Cicotte said her brother-in-law would give the shirt off his back to someone in need, and she felt it was important to share his story.

"He came all the way to Michigan from Wisconsin one year when the family was in a feud, because he wanted to fix things and bring his family together," Nichole Cicotte told "GMA." "He was hilarious and caring. That man had so much love to give, but never gave any to himself."

In her post, Nichole Cicotte writes, in part:

This is addiction.
It's a 3am phone call that we knew was coming, but prayed it never would.
It's a doctor having to tell another family that their loved one is legally braindead.
It's a mother's heart being ripped out from her chest.
This is a room (and a whole hospital waiting room) full of brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, cousins, aunts, uncles, and friends beating themselves up that they didn't do more to save you.
It's a daughter and a son who have to figure this world out without their dad.
This is an empty chair at every family event.

....This is a man who loved with everything he had. A man who valued family more than anything. A father who adored his children. A son, a brother, a goofy uncle, a friend to anyone who had the pleasure to know him.

Drugs don't love you. Your family and friends do.

Susan Cicotte said her son started drinking at the age of 12. He started smoking marijuana at 14 and experimented with other drugs. His drug use became more frequent after his marriage failed. Pennington sought help and had been through rehab twice.

Pennington ended up relapsing after he discovered his friend's body, after that friend died of an overdose, Susan Cicotte explained.

When Pennington died, doctors found cocaine overdosed on cocaine and fentanyl (opioid) in his system.

On Dec. 3, Susan Cicotte launched her own Facebook community called Parents of Children who OD'd. In one week, it gained over 6,000 followers.

"I just woke up on Dec. 3 missing my son deeply so I [thought] I could help other people who were feeling the way that I felt that day," Susan Cicotte said. "There's nothing out there for us ... this overdose and addiction, it's got a stigma to it. People don't understand, this wasn't his choice. It was the drug, and I really want to stop this."

Susan Cicotte hopes her Facebook community inspires people with addiction to seek help. She also wants to to act as a support system for those who lost loved ones to overdoses.

"That's become my purpose ... to take Christopher's and make it a positive [by trying] to help people. If it helps one person, it would fill my heart with joy," she said.

If you're struggling with addiction, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration can help you locate a treatment facility. Their helpline is free, confidential and open 24 hours a day: 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Ridofranz/iStock(NEW YORK) -- In contrast to media reports in recent years about a crisis of increasing isolation and loneliness in the United States, called an "epidemic" by the former surgeon general, new research indicates that's not necessarily true -- at least for Baby Boomers.

"That the narrative appears false for older adults," said Louise Hawkley, lead author of one of two new studies, both published Tuesday in the journal Psychology and Aging.

While researchers did not examine rates of loneliness and isolation among younger adults, Hawkley and her coauthors found that Baby Boomers aren't lonelier than similarly aged adults in previous generations.

In part, that's because of misconceptions about what constitutes loneliness. Higher rates of living alone, not marrying and not being involved in community activities can all signify that people are isolated, but that doesn't necessarily mean that people feel lonely, explained Hawkley, a senior research scientist at the University of Chicago's National Opinion Research Center.

"People can feel lonely even if surrounded by others, and people do not necessarily feel lonely even if they are alone," she added.

The new study analyzed survey data from thousands of adults in their 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s, who were born between 1920 and 1947, and compared those reports to survey data collected from Baby Boomers.

The researchers found that loneliness decreased between the ages of 50 and 74, then increased after age 75.

Factors like better educational opportunities, improved health and widowhood later in life may have reduced loneliness for 50- to 70-something adults.

"The increase in loneliness after age 75 is likely attributable to losses that are increasingly prevalent in older age," Hawkley said.

Declining mobility and independence in old age, as well as becoming a caregiver or widow, and grappling with the deaths of siblings and friends, are all factors that might trigger loneliness among the oldest adults.

A second study, which was also published in Psychology and Aging, analyzed data from 4,880 people in the Netherlands born between 1908 and 1957, and found that older adults born in later generations were less likely to be lonely than adults born earlier. In part, that's because they felt more in control of their lives and social environments, and more able to change them, than older generations did.

As for staving off loneliness among the more than 70 million Baby Boomers who will reach old age in coming years, Hawkley thinks it's important to understand the root cause of their feelings.

For some older adults, better transportation options, or information about which social opportunities exist in the first place, could allow them to socialize more easily. For caregivers, resources and assistance that allow them to take a night off and recharge socially might help.

And while loneliness can strike at any age, the most important factor is connection.

"Good quality relationships are key to reducing loneliness," Hawkley said.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


patty_c/iStock(NEW YORK) -- White Castle has issued a voluntary recall of a "limited number" of its frozen six-pack cheeseburgers, frozen six-pack hamburgers, frozen six-pack jalapeno cheeseburgers and 16-pack hamburgers and 16-pack cheeseburgers due to a "possible presence" of listeria, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

The FDA said on Friday that the recall affected products on shelves at selected retailers with best-by dates ranging from Aug. 4, 2020 to Aug. 17, 2020.

"Any product with these dates on shelves is presently being removed. Any product with a best-by date before or after these best-by dates is not included in the voluntary recall," the FDA said.

The agency said there had been no reported illnesses linked to the recalled products.

"White Castle conducts frequent and regular quality assurance tests," the FDA said. "A recent sample conducted by a third party laboratory of its frozen sandwiches from one manufacturing facility showed a presence of Listeria monocytogenes halting any shipment of product to customers. Since the problem was identified White Castle has not shipped any product from this facility to customers. Following rigorous safety testing protocols, all impacted production runs have been identified for destruction. White Castle has maintained complete control of all product produced at the facility since the first indication of a problem."

Listeria monocytogenes can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems, according to the FDA.

Although healthy individuals may suffer only short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea, the infection can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women.

Click here for a list of products involved in the recall.

Consumers who may have bought the products listed in the recall were urged to throw them out or return them to the store for an exchange or refund. They can also contact White Castle at 1-800-843-2728.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Photo by Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Former Bachelorette Ashley Hebert Rosenbaum has revealed that her husband, J.P. Rosenbaum, has been diagnosed with Guillain-Barré syndrome, a rare neurological disorder.

Hebert Rosenbaum shared on Instagram that Rosenbaum is in treatment and "doing well."

Meanwhile, Rosenbaum said on his Instagram story that he hopes his symptoms have plateaued, and thanked his loved ones and fans for their support.

"It may be a long road to full recovery but we are so grateful to everyone that has helped us get to a speedy diagnosis and treatment," added Hebert Rosenbaum.

Hebert Rosenbaum, 34, and Rosenbaum, 42, fell in love during production of The Bachelorette's seventh season. They married in a televised wedding in 2012 and are parents to son Fordham Rhys, 5, and daughter Essex Rose, 3.

Rosenbaum said in since-erased Instagram story that the diagnosis was "very surreal and humbling" and the disease has kept him from simple tasks including picking up his children, buttoning buttons and tying his shoelaces, People magazine reported.

"I just can't believe it," he said.

Guillain-Barré syndrome is a rare disorder in which the body's immune system attacks part of its peripheral nervous system -- or, more specifically, the network of nerves outside the brain and spinal cord, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. The exact cause of the disorder is unknown.

The organization reports that unexplained sensations are often the first sign that something is wrong, and often times they disappear before major, longer-term symptoms occur. Those may include difficulty with eye muscles and vision, problems swallowing, speaking or chewing and severe pain.

It affects about one in 100,000 people each year, and while there's no cure, about 70% of sufferers eventually experience full recovery, NINDS reports.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- After Beyonce was shut out at the Emmy Awards this year following four nominations for her Homecoming concert film, her fans -- aka "the Beyhive" -- screamed that she was robbed.

But Queen Bey says because of the obstacles she endured becoming a mother, success is no longer defined by awards.

“I learned that all pain and loss is in fact a gift," she told Elle magazine in the upcoming January cover story. “Having miscarriages taught me that I had to mother myself before I could be a mother to someone else. Then I had Blue, and the quest for my purpose became so much deeper."

"Being 'number one' was no longer my priority," she said in the interview. "My true win is creating art and a legacy that will live far beyond me."

The 23-time Grammy winner, 38, is also CEO of her Parkwood Entertainment company. Now as a wife and mother of three -- her daughter Blue is 7 and twins Rumi and Sir are 2 -- her challenge is continuing to advance her art while making time for her family.

"Making sure I am present for my kids -- dropping Blue off at school, taking Rumi and Sir to their activities, making time for date nights with my husband, and being home in time to have dinner with my family -- all while running a company can be challenging," she said.

The Lion King star also spoke about promoting diversity in all of her work.

"I rarely felt represented in film, fashion, and other media. After having a child, I made it my mission to use my art to show the style, elegance, and attraction in men and women of color," Beyonce said. "Diversity and inclusion go beyond race."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


(Courtesy Frates Family) Pete and Julie Frates are seen here in this undated photo.(BOSTON) -- Peter Frates, the man who championed the viral Ice Bucket Challenge to raise money to find a cure for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), has died.

"Peter Frates. A husband to Julie, a father to Lucy, a son to John and Nancy, a brother to Andrew and Jennifer, Pete passed away surrounded by his loving family, peacefully at age 34, after a heroic battle with ALS," a statement said Monday. "Pete was an inspiration to so many people around the world who drew strength from his courage and resiliency."

In summer 2014, the Ice Bucket Challenge flooded the internet, with people from Irish nuns to celebrities to entire pro sports teams filming themselves dumping buckets of ice water on their heads and then challenging their friends to do the same and donate money to research for ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Frates, a young college athlete from suburban Massachusetts, helped make the challenge go viral after receiving his own ALS diagnosis.

Growing up outside Boston, Frates was a three sport all-star in high school. He was captain of the football and hockey teams, but baseball was his life’s passion.

He went on to play center field for Division I Boston College, and in his final year, Frates was named captain of the baseball team.

After a short stint playing professional ball overseas, Frates came back to Boston to start a job selling insurance and met the love of his life, Julie Frates. The two dreamed of marriage and children, but only six months after they started dating, Frates said he started feeling odd and having trouble with simple tasks like buttoning his shirt. After a series of tests, doctors asked him to come in -- and to bring his parents with him. Frates was diagnosed with ALS.

ALS is a rare neurological disease that robs patients of their movements, their voice and eventually, the ability to breath, all while the mind stays alert. Almost immediately after learning he had ALS, rather than wallowing, Frates started looking at the diagnosis as a dare. Ever the team captain, he took the reins of his disease from day one.

"Remarkably, Pete never complained about his illness. Instead, he saw it as an opportunity to give hope to other patients and their families. In his lifetime, he was determined to change the trajectory of a disease that had no treatment or cure," his family said in the statement, shared by Boston College.

Frates launched a mission to raise money to find a cure. He also married Julie.

Two-and-a-half years into his diagnosis, Frates challenged "hundreds of best friends," reaching into a network of athletes with massive social media followings, to give them 24 hours to dump an ice bucket over their heads or donate to ALS. Almost instantly, major athletes, including Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, who went to Boston College, and Julian Edelman, a wide receiver for the New England Patriots, were taking the challenge. Then it spread to include NBA giants Lebron James and Kevin Durant, and celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, Chris Pratt, Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga and dozens of others.

"As a result, through his determination -- along with his faithful supporters, Team Frate Train -- he championed the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. In August of 2014, the historic movement pioneered social media fundraising and garnered donations globally that resulted in better access to ALS care, genetic discoveries, treatments and, someday, a cure. He was a beacon of hope for all," the family's statement said.

In just six weeks, the Ice Bucket Challenge raised almost a quarter of a billion dollars. But as ALS research progressed, Frates' body continued to decline.

What Frates was able to prove, his family said previously, is that one person can change the world.

"On behalf of Julie, Lucy, John, Nancy, Jennifer and Andrew, along with his extended family and multitude of friends, we ask that you celebrate Pete and the hope that he has given to so many by following his daily affirmation: Be passionate, be genuine, be hardworking and don’t ever be afraid to be great," his family said. "The Frates family wishes to express its sincere gratitude for the abundant love, kindness, and support we have been the recipients of during the past eight years."

The family asked friends and supporter to consider making a donation to the Peter Frates Family Foundation, whose "mission is to aid progressed ALS patients in their desire to stay at home with those who love them most."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Luka Banda/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- A contested Kentucky law requiring a physician to display and describe a fetal ultrasound to patients seeking abortions has survived an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Without explanation or notable dissent, the justices declined to take up the case brought by a Kentucky abortion provider, EMW Women's Surgical, that argued the law violated physicians' First Amendment right of free speech.

Supporters of the measure say it's "prudent public policy" and important to ensuring patients give an informed consent to end a pregnancy. The law "does not require anyone to follow a set script; rather, the physician or qualified technician who is making the required disclosures can use his or her own words," the state of Kentucky wrote in court briefs.

"Women facing an unexpected pregnancy deserve to have as much medically and technically accurate information as possible when they are making what could be the most important decision of their life," said Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life, an anti-abortion group.

Lower courts have been divided over "display-and-describe" ultrasound laws. Two federal courts upheld the Kentucky law, but in a similar case out of North Carolina, a separate federal judge struck down the law.

Monday's ruling allows H.B. 2, Kentucky's forced, narrated ultrasound law, to take effect. The physicians at Kentucky's last abortion clinic will be forced to subject every patient to their ultrasound images, a detailed description of those images, and the sounds of the fetal heart tones prior to an abortion -- even if the patient objects or is covering their eyes and blocking their ears, and even if the physician believes that doing so will cause harm to the patient.

"The Supreme Court has rubber-stamped extreme political interference in the doctor-patient relationship," said attorney Alexa Kolbi-Molinas with the ACLU, which helped bring the challenge to Kentucky's law. "This law is not only unconstitutional, but as leading medical experts and ethicists explained, deeply unethical."

EMW Women's Surgical Center has said that many women will continue to refuse the ultrasound information.

"As a result of this law, while the patient is half-naked on the exam table with her feet in stirrups, usually with an ultrasound probe inside her vagina, the physician has to keep talking to her, showing her images and describing them, even as she tries to close her eyes and cover her ears to avoid the speech," EMW said in court documents.

"A law that requires a physician to keep speaking even though her words do not inform anyone of anything is not an informed consent provision," the group argued.

Early next year, the court will hear an abortion rights case from Louisiana involving a law that requires doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.

The case will be the first test on abortion for the court's new majority of justices appointed by Republican presidents, including President Donald Trump's two nominees, Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


ABC(NEW YORK) -- Radio icon Delilah opens up about her life off-air and the inspiration behind her new book, "One Heart at a Time."

Delilah recently spoke out about embracing her faith following the death of her son two years ago.

The much-loved radio personality's 18-year-old son Zachariah died by suicide in October 2017. She also lost her 16-year-old son Sammy in 2012 from complications from sickle-cell anemia.

While appearing on "The Dr. Oz Show" on Friday, Delilah said she did not think her son Zachariah was suicidal and opened up on his death.

"He [gave me permission] to call his doctor and I did call. I called twice and I said, 'My son's talking about weird space travel and weird time loop continuums' and his doctor never returned my call," she told Dr. Mehmet Oz about her son.

She went on, "And, he spent Saturday and Sunday at his dad's house, they had his favorite food, they watched 'Star Wars' then Monday night, he came home from his dad's house. He spent a few hours in the barn with our cats. We had four kittens...he came in and ate dinner with our family. Went up to his room and played video games, and then at 10:30 he came down. I was in Africa, and he said to my husband, 'I'm going to go for a walk.'"

She explained that he left a nine-page letter that focused on "time travel." Delilah also shared what she missed most about him: "He had more energy than all my other kids added up -- just larger than life."

Her healing process largely revolved around her faith, she explained.

"There’s a man named Rory Feek, who is a country songwriter who lost his wife to cancer,” she said. "And he called me, and he said, 'Delilah, your boys are much more a part of your future than they are of your past.'”

"We share the same faith and I just, I was in this rage, and I said, how can you say that? I don’t get to go to their weddings, I don’t get to see their babies, I don’t get to be a grandma, I don’t get to see them graduate, both of them," she said. "And he said, 'Because you know where they are, and you know you’ll be with them in the future.'”

The mother of 13 previously spoke out about her son's death by suicide in 2018 while discussing her memoir "One Heart at a Time" with "Good Morning America" co-host Robin Roberts.

"I couldn't write, I couldn't talk about it," she said of Zachariah's death.

Delilah said her sister offered to step in and her write a book about Zachariah.

"I'm like, 'Oh, no, no, no, no. Nobody's telling Zack's story but me,'" she said. "I do want parents to know...we need to talk about teenage suicide."

"And we need to start having open conversations as painful as they are," she added. "Because it's epidemic."

If you are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741-741.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Ceneri/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Parents have all sorts of parties to celebrate, well, parenting.

When baby showers for any child beyond the first became taboo, then came the "sprinkle" -- a baby shower celebrating children born after the first child. The next parent party trends included the "gender reveal," the "babymoon," the "hatchelorette" ... and now, there is the weaning party.

A significant difference with the weaning party is that it's a celebration of the end of having children, as opposed to the celebration of a birth. On the Bravo series Real Housewives of Orange County, Braunwyn Windham-Burke threw herself a weaning party to celebrate the end of breastfeeding her seventh and last child.

The party appeared similar to a rowdy bachelorette party: strippers, a nipple cake and X-rated gifts.

The earliest reference ABC News' Good Morning America could find for a weaning party was from 2007, but it had a very different connotation. On the blog Journey to Here, the author wrote about planning a party to ease the transition of weaning her daughter.

"A party complete with cupcakes, balloons and a birthday song sung to the words of 'No more nee nee’s for you, no more nee nee’s for you. No more nee nee’s for Camden. No more nee nee’s for you.' I then made her a chart that would help her countdown to her party and also help her visually see how many times she had left to nurse," the blog reads.

Breastfeeding advocacy group La Leche League International also mentions a weaning party on its website.

It appears Windham-Burke may have invented her version of the party. The reactions on social media were mixed.

"I love her but a weaning party ... they really throw a party for anything huh?" wrote one.

"Sorry but kind of strange behaviour for a mother of 7 & women over 40 but as Tamra Judge would say 'that’s just my opinion,'" wrote another.

And while Windham-Burke appeared to have the time of her life at the party on the show, her emotions were raw during an after-show interview.

She pointed out that she had been having and nursing children for 20 years and it was the end of an era.

"I'm not having any more kids," she said, choking back tears. "I would have 30 kids if I could. All I ever wanted in my entire life was to be a mom. It was a fun party, but nobody at that party realized what a big deal that [the end of her time having children] was to me. But I wasn't really celebrating."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Adene Sanchez/iStock(NEW YORK) -- The children of low-income mothers who benefit from the federal government's Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children are one-third less likely to die during their first year of life than babies born to mothers without WIC benefits, according to a new study.

The study, published in the Journal of American Medicine, comes as many federal programs for low-income populations face increasing scrutiny.

"All safety net programs are being scrutinized under a magnifying glass," Dr. Samir Soneji, one the study's authors, told ABC News. "There is a legitimate question as to the benefit of WIC."

The study analyzed the birth certificates of babies born to more than 11 million women between 2011 and 2017. Those certificates included data on a mother's participation in WIC, which includes vouchers for foods rich in protein and iron, including dairy.

"The study shows that WIC works," said Soneji, adding that the U.S. still has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world despite a robust economy.

WIC, according to the program's website, "provides federal grants to states for supplemental foods, health care referrals, and nutrition education for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, and non-breastfeeding postpartum women, and to infants and children up to age five who are found to be at nutritional risk."

Dietitians who work with pregnant women said that the study is consistent with what they see in practice.

"I'm not surprised," said Liz Weinandy, lead outpatient dietitian at Ohio State University's Wexner Medical Center.

Weinandy, who counsels pregnant patients who receive WIC benefits, noted that sometimes pregnant women are unaware of needing more iron and other nutrients during pregnancy.

"WIC has a profound impact on patients," she added.

Even public policy organizations that have been critical of other similar programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which saw additional restrictions enacted this week, said they supported results of the WIC study.

"This is generally a good study and is suggestive of the positive benefits of WIC," Angela Rachidi, a research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. "I do think WIC enjoys bipartisan support, it has integrity. Public money from WIC is being spent on nutritious food, and the food bought with SNAP isn't always considered healthy."

According to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which administers the WIC program, more than 6 million Americans receive monthly benefits, with more than 3 million of those being children and 1 million being infants.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Hailshadow/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- More than 140,000 people around the world died of measles last year, most of them children under the age of 5, according to a report published by the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Thursday.

This year is shaping up to be even worse, as deadly outbreaks continued to sweep the globe in 2019. As of mid-November, the number of measles cases countries reported to WHO was three times higher than the number of cases reported at this time last year.

This week, officials in Samoa advised the public to hang red flags outside their homes to indicate that they have an unvaccinated family member living there. The flags appear to be a twist on a disease-control practice dating back to the Middle Ages, when people marked homes and businesses affected by the Black Plague.

In Samoa, the flags are intended to make it easier for health workers who are going door-to-door and vaccinating a community in the throes of a measles outbreak. At last count, 62 people have died, on an island nation of 200,000 residents. Almost all of those deaths were among young children.

Samoa's story is one sliver of a larger narrative about a measles spike following more than a decade of progress toward eliminating the disease. In 2000, there were roughly 28,000,000 estimated measles cases worldwide. By 2017, that number had fallen to fewer than 8,000,000 cases.

Last year, progress ground to a halt.

2018 saw nearly 10,000,000 estimated cases of the infectious disease spread around the world.

"In other words, we're backsliding," warned Dr. Kate O'Brien, director of immunization, vaccines and biologicals at WHO.

"There's been an increase in both the cases and the deaths that have occurred from measles," she said.

In 2018, Albania, Czechia, Greece and the United Kingdom, lost their coveted measles elimination status, meaning they've had continuous measles transmissions for more than a year after previously declaring the disease eliminated. The United States, which this year logged the highest number of measles cases in more than two decades, barely clung to its own status. Outbreaks in Brooklyn and New York State that lasted for nearly 12 months threatened to end nearly 20 years of having the elimination designation.

Why measles is rebounding around the world

The best defense against the measles is the measles vaccine, but despite being safe, effective and in use for half a century, there are still large gaps in immunization coverage around the world.

In poorer countries, access to the vaccine is a problem, according to WHO. The vaccine isn't reaching everyone who needs it, especially in parts of sub-Saharan Africa, which has the greatest disease burden. As it stands, five countries -- the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Madagascar, Somalia and Ukraine -- accounted for nearly half of worldwide measles cases in 2018.

Richer countries have a different problem.

While access to the vaccine isn't an issue, confidence in the measles vaccine is falling precipitously.

"We're seeing a surge in misinformation around vaccines in general, and in particular, around measles vaccine," O'Brien said. "This is a very high concern for us, because families, parents, are really vulnerable to misinformation."

In the United States, spreading misinformation about the measles vaccine has been the domain of a group of prominent anti-vaccine advocates who have permeated communities, such as the Orthodox Jewish community in New York and the Somali community in Minnesota, distributing false information claiming vaccines are dangerous.

Misinformation about vaccines has similarly proliferated online, largely fueled by the same small group of anti-vaccine advocates. A study published last month in the journal Vaccines, found that 54% of advertisements spreading misinformation about vaccines on Facebook were funded by just two anti-vaccine groups, one of which is led by Robert Kennedy Jr., a known anti-vaccine advocate.

"If you're not somebody who understands where the information is coming from, [it's difficult] to discern accurate, credible scientific information from misinformation," O'Brien said.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


milanfoto/iStock()SAN DIEGO) -- Seven people in San Diego have died from a flesh-eating bacterial infection linked to black tar heroin use, according to local health officials.

Over the last two months, nine people were admitted to San Diego hospitals for severe myonecrosis infections. All but two of those cases proved fatal.

The soft tissue infection, which starts as pain or swelling around a wound or injection site, can cause people to go into shock if left untreated, according to San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency. It can also lead to amputations or death, as it did in the San Diego cases.

Health officials also confirmed one case of wound botulism in a patient in October, adding to the 13 confirmed and probable wound botulism cases that have been reported in Southern California this fall.

“People who use black tar heroin are not only at higher risk of dying from an overdose, but also more prone to developing myonecrosis and wound botulism,” Dr. Wilma Wooten, a San Diego county public health officer, said in a statement.

Wound botulism occurs when Clostridium botulinum, the same bacteria that causes botulism in food, gets into a wound and forms a toxin, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The condition is rare, with roughly 20 cases reported each year, typically among injection drug users.

According to provisional estimates from the CDC, more than 15,000 people died from heroin overdoses in 2018.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Chainarong Prasertthai/iStock(NEW YORK) -- As cellphones became an omnipresent part of life over the past two decades, head and neck injuries associated with the devices spiked dramatically, according to a new study.

Injuries were infrequent until 2007, but as cellphones became more popular -- and more distracting -- injuries soared. In 2016, there were 9,431 cellphone-related injuries, compared with 2,709 injuries in 2007.

"The biggest point isn't the objective numbers, it's the change you see around 2007," said Dr. Boris Paskhover, co-author of the new study, which was published Thursday in the journal JAMA Otolaryngology.

During the last 10 years, the way we use our phones has drastically changed. Apple launched its first iPhone in 2007, and since then, cellphones are used more like computers than like landline devices they replaced.

"We're not using them as phones anymore," said Paskhover, who is also a surgeon at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. "We're not paying attention to our surroundings."

The most common forms of self-reported cellphone injury were lacerations and abrasions, followed by internal organ injuries, which includes traumatic brain injuries. Many of these injuries were caused by people using their phones while doing other activities, such as texting while walking or driving.

Researchers analyzed a national database of 2,501 patients who went to the emergency room for cellphone injuries and found that teenagers and young adults between the ages of 13 and 29 were most likely to report cellphone-related injuries occurring because they were distracted.

It's also likely that cellphone injuries are under-counted, according to Paskhover, since there can be legal ramifications to admitting to texting while driving for example. Importantly, as our social behavior changes, "We have to be more aware of our surroundings," he added.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


whitemay/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- More than 100 people across the U.S. have been infected with E.coli linked to romaine lettuce, according to federal officials.

The Food and Drug Administration, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and state health authorities say evidence indicates that romaine lettuce from the Salinas, California, growing region is "a likely source of this outbreak."

There have been 102 cases reported in 23 states, according to the CDC.

"Consumers should not eat romaine lettuce harvested from Salinas, California. Additionally, consumers should not eat products identified in the recall announced by the USDA on November 21, 2019," the FDA said in a press release.

Of those who have been infected with the outbreak strain of E. coli, 58 have been hospitalized and 10 have developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure, the CDC said.

There have been no reported deaths as a result of the outbreak.

The warning included all types of romaine lettuce grown in the Salinas area, including whole heads of romaine, organic romaine, hearts of romaine and romaine in salad wraps.

Consumers are advised if they have lettuce that was grown in Salinas to throw it away or return it to the place of purchase. Anyone ordering salad containing romaine at a restaurant or a salad bar should ask the staff if the lettuce came from Salinas, officials said.

The public should also stay away from packages of pre-cut lettuce and salad mixes that contain any romaine, according to the CDC.

Wisconsin has reported the most ill people, with a total of 31. Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Iowa, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Virginia and Washington have also reported people infected.

The CDC first issued an advisory last month after 67 people became ill.

Most people infected with that strain of E. coli can experience diarrhea, which is often bloody, and vomiting. Many of those infected recover within a week, but, in rare cases, a person can develop a severe infection.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


iStock(WASHINGTON) -- For the first time in decades, the House of Representatives is shining a light on making cosmetics safer.

On Wednesday, the Subcommittee on Health of the Committee on Energy and Commerce held a hearing entitled "Building Consumer Confidence by Empowering FDA to Improve Cosmetic Safety."

The hearing focused on legislation being introduced to help protect cosmetics users, including the Safe Cosmetics and Personal Care Products Act of 2019 and the Cosmetic Safety Enhancement Act of 2019.

"Consumers today assume that the cosmetic products they purchase are safe and appropriately regulated, but unfortunately that isn’t always the case," Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J., the chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, said in his opening statement. "The truth is that Congress has not updated FDA’s authority to regulate the multi-billion-dollar cosmetic industry in over 80 years."

M. Isabelle Chaudry, a senior policy manager of the National Women's Health Network, explained in her testimony the issue at hand.

"There are several critical issues and loopholes in federal cosmetic regulation that allow manufacturers to use dangerous ingredients in their products and evade full disclosure of the chemicals contained in those products, and then sell those products to the American public, all of which puts consumers' health at risk," Chaudry said.

She highlighted the importance of understanding the safety of ingredients in cosmetics to the overall health of users, as they can significantly impact their long-term health and potentially create a risk for infertility in women and girls.

On average, women use 12 products a day containing a total of 168 unique ingredients, while men use six products daily with 85 unique ingredients, according to an Environmental Working Group. However, almost none are tested for safety.

In 2011, the National Toxicology Program at the Department of Health and Human Services declared formaldehyde a known human carcinogen that has been found to cause cancer of the lymphatic system, head, nose and neck, as demonstrated by animal and human studies. Yet, nearly one-fifth of cosmetic products contain this potentially harmful ingredient in product formulations, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

Additionally, other risky ingredients such as phthalates and parabens, were banned from hand soaps by the FDA in 2016 because of their potential to be linked to cancer, impaired reproductive ability and compromised neurodevelopment in children, according to a 2017 Scientific American article. But they are still often found in cosmetics such as makeup, hair and moisturizers, according to the same report.

Chaudry also shed light on how women of color are disproportionately affected by environmental chemical exposures.

"Black women and women of color are particularly at risk because the cosmetic and personal care products marketed and sold to them often contain the most harmful ingredients," she said.

According to the Environmental Working Group Skin Deep Cosmetics Database, a free online resource for finding less-hazardous alternatives to personal care products, an analysis of ingredients in 1,177 beauty and personal care products marketed to black women found about one in 12 was ranked as "highly hazardous."

Beautycounter founder and CEO Gregg Renfrew, who also testified at Wednesday's hearing, spoke on behalf of her community of advocates.

"I am one person, but I represent the many who have been fighting hard for cosmetic reform," she wrote in an Instagram caption. "It is time. Congress has the opportunity to act to help us fulfill our mission of getting safer products into the hands of everyone."

Renfrew also pointed out in another post, that the U.S. has not passed a major federal law governing the cosmetics industry since 1938.

"I knew this effort would require the education of our lawmakers by a movement of people committed to transparency and consumer safety," she wrote.

"By amplifying our collective voice over the past seven years through calls, texts, and meetings with representatives, it's clear that we have been heard."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


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