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Leprosy Cases Hit Florida Counties

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Some peo­ple might think of lep­rosy as a scourge from bib­li­cal times, but it still afflicts vic­tims — and a Florida county is report­ing a rare increase in cases, with three peo­ple diag­nosed in just five months.

In the past decade, before the new cases, only one per­son in Volu­sia County, Florida, was diag­nosed with the disease.

Health offi­cials said the recent increase in cases was unex­pected, but because the incu­ba­tion period ranges from nine months to 20 years, they did not think it sig­naled a wave of new infections.

Lep­rosy, also known as Hansen’s dis­ease, is caused by a bac­te­ria called Mycobac­terium lepra. An infec­tion mainly affects the skin, periph­eral nerves, eyes and part of the upper res­pi­ra­tory tract, accord­ing to the World Health Organization.

Lep­rosy cases remain rare in the United States, with approx­i­mately 80 peo­ple report­ing infec­tions each year, accord­ing to the U.S. Cen­ters for Dis­ease Control.

Florida typ­i­cally sees just eight to 10 cases per year. Lep­rosy is more com­mon in Cal­i­for­nia, Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mass­a­chu­setts, New York and Texas, accord­ing to a 2009 report from the U.S. Depart­ment of Health and Human Ser­vices’ Health Resources and Ser­vices Administration.

In addi­tion to Volu­sia County, health offi­cials in nearby Bre­vard County, Florida, have seen a recent increase in cases, with 18 reported over the last five years. Of the eight peo­ple diag­nosed with lep­rosy in Florida last year, three were from Bre­vard County.

Barry Inman, an epi­demi­ol­o­gist for Bre­vard County Depart­ment of Health, said the num­ber of cases remained small but was much higher than pre­vi­ous decades, when they would nor­mally see around one case a year.

This is hard to track,” said Inman, who noted the dis­ease can incu­bate from nine months to 20 years.

Com­pared to past his­tory, it is sig­nif­i­cant and they are look­ing at it,” Inman said of the local health department.

Inman said some of those were infected after inter­act­ing with armadil­los, a known car­rier of the disease.

The U.S. Cen­ters of Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion rec­om­mends peo­ple avoid con­tact armadil­los to limit the pos­si­bil­ity they can con­tract the bac­te­ria that causes leprosy.

Symp­toms of lep­rosy include skin lesions that may be faded or dis­col­ored, thick, stiff or dry skin, numb­ness in affected areas, ulcers on the soles of feet or mus­cle weak­ness or paralysis.

An esti­mated one to two mil­lion peo­ple have been per­ma­nently dis­abled by the dis­ease. Today, the dis­ease can be treated with antibi­otics, although a course of treat­ment can be lengthy, last­ing between six months to two years accord­ing to the U.S. Cen­ters of Dis­ease Con­trol and Prevention.

Fol­low @ABCNewsRadio
Copy­right © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Virginia Resident Released After Evaulation for Possible Ebola

Creatas/Thinkstock(ARLINGTON, Va.) — A Vir­ginia res­i­dent was released from Vir­ginia Hos­pi­tal Cen­ter on Thurs­day after being eval­u­ated for pos­si­ble Ebola.

The patient had a fever and a his­tory of recent travel from an Ebola-affected area, accord­ing to the Arling­ton County web­site. But after eval­u­a­tion, it was deter­mined that the indi­vid­ual had no known expo­sure to Ebola and that med­ical find­ings were not con­sis­tent with the disease.

The Arling­ton County Pub­lic Health Depart­ment will con­tinue to mon­i­tor the patient through the full 21 day incu­ba­tion period, under the Vir­ginia Depart­ment of Health Arriv­ing Pas­sen­ger Mon­i­tor­ing Plan.

Accord­ing to the county web­site, “Arling­ton County Pub­lic Health and Vir­ginia Hos­pi­tal Cen­ter are work­ing together — in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Vir­ginia Depart­ment of Health — and fol­lowed the rec­om­mended course of action for such case.” The county says “there is no cause for pub­lic concern.”

Fol­low @ABCNewsRadio
Copy­right © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Residents of Snowier States Sleeping Away the Winter?

Jacob Wackerhausen/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — This blasted win­ter will come to an end even­tu­ally, but until then, Amer­i­cans will just have to make the best of things, par­tic­u­larly in the nation’s snow belts.

Actu­ally, some folks may have got­ten some­thing out of this unsea­son­able sea­son and that’s more sleep.

Accord­ing to smart­phone app Sleep Cycle, peo­ple in South­east­ern states slept an aver­age of seven hours and seven min­utes — or 13 min­utes fewer than res­i­dents of North­west­ern states, which typ­i­cally get pounded with more snow.

The data was col­lected dur­ing the month of Jan­u­ary with data from 140,000 peo­ple across the U.S. and even Hawaii, where peo­ple got the least amount of sleep per aver­age, around seven hours.

Still, if you’re look­ing for the ben­e­fit of liv­ing in a state where you may get less snow, accord­ing to Sleep Cycle’s blog post, users in the south­ern states woke up in a bet­ter mood, on average.

Fol­low @ABCNewsRadio
Copy­right © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


2008 Recession Likely Contributed to Suicide Surge

Wave­break­me­dia Ltd/Wavebreak Media/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Past research has indi­cated that middle-aged sui­cide rates affect­ing Amer­i­cans between 40 and 64 years old have increased by 40 per­cent since 1999, with the sharpest rise shortly after 2007, coin­cid­ing with the 2008 recession.

Researchers at the Robert Wood John­son Foun­da­tion and Insti­tute for Health, Health Care Pol­icy and Aging Research have now looked at fur­ther data from the National Vio­lent Death Report­ing Sys­tem in a new study pub­lished Fri­day in the Amer­i­can Jour­nal of Pre­ven­ta­tive Med­i­cine.  

Spe­cific exter­nal cir­cum­stances – such as job loss, bank­ruptcy, fore­clo­sure, and other finan­cial set­backs – may have played a larger role in these deaths, accord­ing to researchers.

Per­sonal cir­cum­stances, such as men­tal ill­ness, played a slightly decreas­ing role, researchers said.

Fol­low @ABCNewsRadio
Copy­right © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Statins May Lower Liver Cancer Risk

rogerashford/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Mil­lions of Amer­i­cans take statins to help lower their cho­les­terol, but that daily statin may also cut their risk of liver can­cer, accord­ing to a new study.

Researchers in the United King­dom looked at nearly 1,200 peo­ple with liver can­cer and com­pared them to 4,600 sim­i­lar peo­ple with­out liver can­cer, accord­ing to the study pub­lished in the Jour­nal of the National Can­cer Insti­tute.

Researchers also com­pared each group in terms of their statin use.

What they found was that not only did tak­ing a statin reduce the risk of liver can­cer, but tak­ing statins for a longer period of time or at a higher dose led to even greater risk reduc­tions in cur­rent users.

The risk reduc­tion was also greater in patients who had liver dis­ease or risk fac­tors for liver can­cer, like dia­betes, if cur­rently using a statin.

Researchers say the find­ings are poten­tially impor­tant, since many peo­ple who need to take a statin also have other dis­eases which put them at risk for liver can­cer, such as dia­betes, fatty liver, obe­sity and exces­sive alco­hol use.

Fol­low @ABCNewsRadio
Copy­right © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


McDonald’s Customer Claims He Got Cleaning Liquid in His Tea

File photo. McDonald’s(INDIANAPOLIS) — An Indi­anapo­lis police offi­cer took a sip of McDonald’s iced tea and wound up in the hos­pi­tal because the drink appar­ently was con­t­a­m­i­nated with clean­ing chem­i­cals, his wife told ABC News.

Reserve Offi­cer Paul Watkins went to the McDonald’s at around 10 p.m. Sat­ur­day night for a self-serve tea before his shift, his wife Jer­i­lyn Watkins said, adding that she wasn’t with him at the time and his lawyer advised him not to speak to the media.

He filled his cup halfway with unsweet­ened tea and went to fill the rest with sweet­ened tea when he noticed it looked dark, she said. He took the lid off the dis­penser to take a look and deter­mined it was OK.

He filled his cup and took a big gulp and imme­di­ately his throat started burn­ing down into his chest,” Jer­i­lyn Watkins told ABC News, adding that he called her from the car and said he felt as though he’d just drank “bleach.”

The owner of the McDonald’s where Watkins was served, Eliz­a­beth Henry, issued the fol­low­ing state­ment: “Serv­ing my cus­tomers safe, high qual­ity food and bev­er­ages is a top pri­or­ity at our restau­rants. We take this claim very seri­ously and are look­ing into the matter.”

Emails to McDonald’s cor­po­rate com­mu­ni­ca­tions office seek­ing addi­tional com­ment were not returned.

Watkins imme­di­ately spit out the tea and told the girl behind the counter that there was some­thing wrong, Jer­i­lyn Watkins said. The man­ager then told him the employ­ees had put a clean­ing solu­tion into the tea dis­penser and they had for­got­ten to put a cup over the noz­zle, Jer­i­lyn Watkins said.

The irony of this all was that man­ager asked Paul if he wanted another cup or glass of tea and told one of the employ­ees, ‘Hey, get this guy another tea,’” Paul Watkins’s lawyer, Sam Jacobs, told ABC News. “Paul said ‘No, thanks’ and left. By time he got not very far in his police car, he became vio­lently ill.”

He called the police sta­tion and poi­son con­trol, which deter­mined that the tea dis­penser was filled with a “heavy duty degreaser” chem­i­cal, accord­ing to the police report obtained by ABC News. Watkins spent the night at IU Health Methodist Hos­pi­tal, accord­ing to the report. He under­went endoscopy the fol­low­ing day, Jacobs said.

Watkins has returned to his daily life, but he still has prob­lems swal­low­ing and expe­ri­ences burn­ing in his throat, Jacobs said. He’s also con­cerned about the long-term effects of ingest­ing the chemicals.

My hus­band has never drank, never smoked, never done drugs,” Jer­i­lyn Watkins said. “This is just insane.”

A sim­i­lar sce­nario involv­ing a teen in Muncie, Indi­ana, was reported at a McDonald’s in 2013, and a law­suit was filed in Jan­u­ary, accord­ing to ABC News affil­i­ate WRTV-TV. McDonald’s lawyers in the case have until March 31 to respond, accord­ing to court records.

Jacobs said he has not yet filed a law­suit on Watkins’s behalf and hopes he is able to work out some­thing with McDonald’s before doing so.

He never wants this to hap­pen to any­body else,” Jacobs said.

Fol­low @ABCNewsRadio
Copy­right © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Woman Uses Rubber Bands, Hair Elastics as DIY Braces

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Instruc­tional videos for do-it-yourself braces have become pop­u­lar on YouTube, but den­tists say peo­ple con­sid­er­ing them should think twice.

A Wash­ing­ton State woman claims she closed her tooth gap in 44 days using $5 worth of hair elas­tics. She posted six videos to YouTube chron­i­cling the process, gar­ner­ing hun­dreds of com­ments and more than 100,000 views.

I’ve got some news for you,” Washington-based Jamila Garza says into the cam­era, beam­ing. “My gap is offi­cially closed.”

Then, she did a lit­tle dance. Sit­ting down with ABC Seat­tle affil­i­ate KOMO, she said she could “fit a tooth­pick” into the gap before she used the hair­bands to close it.

But doc­tors say DIY-dentistry is a bad idea because peo­ple can do some “major dam­age” even if their teeth look fine on the surface.

If teeth are moved too quickly, the roots of teeth can resorb,” said cos­metic den­tist Dr. Joseph Banker, who owns a prac­tice in New Jer­sey, explain­ing that this means the root can start dis­solv­ing. “Ortho­don­ture is so much more than straight teeth.”

Peo­ple who try to make their own braces don’t know enough about how the mouth func­tions to move things appro­pri­ately, poten­tially lead­ing to prob­lems with the jaw joints, mus­cle spasms, clench­ing prob­lems and shoot­ing pain, Banker said. They can also get gum and peri­odon­tal dis­ease, he said.

The Amer­i­can Jour­nal of Ortho­don­tics and Dento­fa­cial Ortho­pe­dics issued a con­sumer alert about the use of elas­tic bands by non-dentists to close gaps in teeth.

Most of the time, there are no prob­lems, but if the rub­ber band slides into the soft tis­sues, it is dif­fi­cult if not impos­si­ble to retrieve it, and it con­tin­ues along the dis­tal sur­face of the roots, destroy­ing the peri­odon­tal attach­ment and pro­duc­ing inflam­ma­tion,” the edi­to­r­ial states. “As this occurs, the teeth extrude, the crowns fan out as the roots are pulled together, the teeth become increas­ingly mobile, and then they might just fall out.”

And Garza’s videos, which were posted three years ago but have seen a spike in view­ers, are not the only ones. YouTube is filled with videos claim­ing to offer a cheap alter­na­tive to braces with­out a trip to the orthodontist.

Leave the den­tistry to the experts,” Banker said.

Fol­low @ABCNewsRadio
Copy­right © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


How to Avoid the Germs on Your Winter Gloves

Wave­brak Media / Think­stock(NEW YORK) — In the win­ter, gloves hold rail­ings, open doors, push strollers and some­times even act as your own per­sonal tis­sue. So what hap­pens when all those germs trans­fer to your win­ter gloves?

Good Morn­ing Amer­ica took to the snowy paths in New York City’s Cen­tral Park to swab people’s gloves — rang­ing from wool to leather to nylon — and test for bac­te­ria and viruses. We also swabbed the gloves of some of our fel­low ABC employees.

The results?

Out of the 27 sam­ples tested, 26 were pos­i­tive for bac­te­ria. While most are harm­less, nine of those tested pos­i­tive for bac­te­ria includ­ing staph and MRSA, which could be harm­ful if they came in con­tact with an open wound.

One of the sam­ples tested pos­i­tive for the corona virus, which doc­tors say is one of the causes of the com­mon cold.

Every time your glove comes into con­tact , you’re tak­ing away some of the bac­te­ria that was on that sur­face,” explained Dr. Susan Whit­tier, direc­tor of Clin­i­cal Micro­bi­ol­ogy Ser­vice at New York Pres­by­ter­ian, Colum­bia Uni­ver­sity Med­ical Cen­ter in New York City.

The good news for glove-wearers is that the bac­te­ria and viruses that attach to gloves may not last very long, just hours or min­utes in some cases.

It’s not going to be alive on the glove for very long because it has noth­ing to help it sur­vive,” Dr. Whit­tier said.

Accord­ing to experts, these three steps can help pro­tect you from poten­tial germs on your gloves.

  1. Let your gloves air dry instead of keep­ing them balled up in your pockets.
  2. Wash gloves often. You can even use a dis­in­fec­tant wipe for some fabrics.
  3. Be con­scious not to touch your face with your gloves.

Fol­low @ABCNewsRadio
Copy­right © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.