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New York Health Officials Sound Warning Over ‘Spice’ Overdoses

Aaron Kohr/iStock/Thinkstock(ALBANY, N.Y.) -– New York health offi­cials are warn­ing of a recent increase in the use of a syn­thetic cannabi­noid that has sent more than 160 patients to the hos­pi­tal since April 8.

The drug, known as “spice,” is known to be mar­keted as incense, herbal mix­tures or pot­pourri in order to mask its true purpose.

Calls to New York State poi­son con­trol cen­ters due to the use of the syn­thetic drugs have increased dra­mat­i­cally in the last two weeks, offi­cials said.

Users of the syn­thetic mix­tures typ­i­cally expe­ri­ence symp­toms that include agi­ta­tion, anx­i­ety, nau­sea, vom­it­ing, high blood pres­sure, tremor, seizures, hal­lu­ci­na­tions, para­noia and vio­lent behav­ior, accord­ing to health officials.

Drugs like ‘spice’ pose a sig­nif­i­cant threat to pub­lic health and New York­ers need to be aware of the dan­gers,” said act­ing New York State Health Com­mis­sioner Dr. Howard Zucker in a news release. “Since the exact com­pounds con­tained in syn­thetic cannabi­noid prod­ucts change so fre­quently, it’s often impos­si­ble for users to know exactly what they are putting in their body.”

Syn­thetic cannabi­noids are mar­keted as legal and typ­i­cally con­sist of plant mate­r­ial coated by chem­i­cals which are sup­posed to mimic THC, the active chem­i­cal com­pound in marijuana.

In August 2012, the New York State Depart­ment of Health banned the sale and pos­ses­sion of dozens of sub­stances used to make syn­thetic cannabi­noids and bath salts.

Fol­low @ABCNewsRadio
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See Girl Smile After Having Surgery to Fix Facial Deformity

Dr. Gre­gory Levitin/Mount Sinai Roo­sevelt Hos­pi­tal(NEW YORK) — Nearly two weeks after under­go­ing a lengthy oper­a­tion to fix a facial mal­for­ma­tion, Kaitlin Nguyen is again smiling.

The 3-year-old girl was born with a large facial lym­phatic mal­for­ma­tion that bulged out from under her cheek.

Ear­lier this month, Kaitlin under­went surgery led by Dr. Gre­gory Lev­itin, direc­tor of the Vas­cu­lar Birth­mark Cen­ter at Mount Sinai Roo­sevelt in New York. Lev­itin said the girl bounced back remark­ably well from the five-hour surgery.

She’s fantastic…she got her stitches [out], she was so play­ful and right back to her usual self,” Lev­itin said after see­ing Kaitlin in a follow-up appoint­ment today. “Her mom was hav­ing a hard time to stop her from being too active.”

An anony­mous donor helped pay for Kaitlin’s life-changing surgery.

Lev­itin said his team was able to remove 80 per­cent of the lym­phatic mal­for­ma­tion. The sur­geon worked care­fully to pre­serve the facial nerves so the surgery doesn’t do more harm than good.

We want to remove abnor­mal tis­sue but pre­serve nor­mal tis­sue, includ­ing that nerve,” Lev­itin said. “It’s a nee­dle of hay in a haystack.”

Kaitlin’s Los Angeles-area fam­ily had tried to arrange surgery before when she was 1, but doc­tors became stymied by the com­plex struc­ture of her ill­ness. Now Lev­itin said Kaitlin’s mom is beam­ing at her progress.

Lev­itin said the girl still has some swelling that will go down by another 20 to 30 per­cent in the com­ing weeks. While the main surgery is over, Lev­itin said, she may need a few more pro­ce­dures in the future to soften scar tis­sue and to help make her smile more symmetrical.

They’ll “wait six months to a year and see how she does to give her a chance to recover and be a nor­mal girl,” Lev­itin said.

He said he would likely per­form another smaller surgery then to help fix the mus­cles that had been moved or stretched by the lym­phatic malformation.

Fol­low @ABCNewsRadio
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Elmo Says 'Get Vaccinated' in New Video

U.S. Depart­ment of Health and Human Services/YouTube(NEW YORK) — Turns out even Mup­pets aren’t immune to the need for vaccinations.

In a new video released by the U.S. Health and Human Ser­vices, Elmo of Sesame Street joined forces with the U.S. Sur­geon Gen­eral to encour­age all chil­dren to be up to date on their vaccinations.

I explained to him that, as Sur­geon Gen­eral, it is my job to help every­one stay healthy,” U.S. Sur­geon Gen­eral Vivek H. Murthy said in a state­ment. “Specif­i­cally, Elmo and I talked about the impor­tance of vac­cines and mak­ing sure that all chil­dren are pro­tected from eas­ily pre­ventable diseases.”

While a shot may not be fun for a Mup­pet, even Elmo says he’s ready. “Come on every­body get vac­ci­nated with Elmo!” he said in the video.

The video was released the same day that the Cal­i­for­nia State Depart­ment of Health declared the end of a recent measles out­break that infected 147 peo­ple in the United States, with 131 peo­ple sick­ened in Cal­i­for­nia alone.

A bill is pend­ing in the Cal­i­for­nia state leg­is­la­ture that would stop par­ents from seek­ing per­sonal or reli­gious belief exemp­tions that would allow their chil­dren to attend school with­out being vaccinated.

While nation­wide the rate of vac­ci­na­tion remains high, pock­ets of unvac­ci­nated peo­ple have led to recent out­breaks of dis­eases for­merly thought of as elim­i­nated or extremely rare.

Vac­cines helped stop 21 mil­lion hos­pi­tal­iza­tions and 732,000 deaths of chil­dren in the United States from 1994 to 2013, accord­ing to the U.S. Depart­ment of Health and Human Services.

Fol­low @ABCNewsRadio
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NY Office Manager Accused of Posing as Dentist for Root Canals

WABC-TV(NEW YORK) — A New York woman faces a pos­si­ble seven-year prison sen­tence for allegedly pos­ing as a den­tist named “Dr. Val” and per­form­ing den­tal pro­ce­dures on patients with­out a license.

Val­bona Yzeiraj of White Plains, New York, faces mul­ti­ple charges includ­ing felony assault, attempted grand lar­ceny, unau­tho­rized prac­tice and reck­less endan­ger­ment for allegedly per­form­ing root canals and other pro­ce­dures, accord­ing to Bronx County Dis­trict Attor­ney Robert Johnson.

The alleged botched pro­ce­dures resulted in con­tin­ued pain for the patients, accord­ing to pros­e­cu­tors. One of the patients ended up with an infec­tion after a root canal and another still has pain two years after under­go­ing the pro­ce­dure, accord­ing to prosecutors.

When reached by phone Fri­day after­noon, Yzeiraj’s attor­ney, Corey Sokoler, declined to com­ment on the case. Yzieraj has pleaded not guilty and was released on $20,000 bond or $10,000 bond cash after appear­ing in court Thurs­day, pros­e­cu­tors said.

Yzeiraj, 45, is accused of per­form­ing the pro­ce­dures while work­ing as an office man­ager in the Bronx office of Dr. Jef­frey Scho­en­gold, a den­tist who also works in White Plains. The woman, who was arrested and arraigned Thurs­day, saw patients under the name “Dr. Val” dur­ing peri­ods when Scho­en­gold was out of the office in late 2012 and sum­mer 2013, pros­e­cu­tors said.

Yzeiraj told pros­e­cu­tors she had den­tal train­ing in her native Alba­nia, but they say she had no train­ing or license to prac­tice in the United States. Among the patients affected was a preg­nant woman and peo­ple with­out den­tal insur­ance, accord­ing to ABC News affil­i­ate WABC-TV in New York.

Pros­e­cu­tors said when Scho­en­gold learned what hap­pened, he imme­di­ately fired Yzieraj, but she then allegedly attempted to take $20,000 money from the prac­tice. Scho­en­gold did not imme­di­ately respond to ABC News for comment.

Pros­e­cu­tors said law enforce­ment became involved in the case after Scho­en­gold fired Yzeiraj and that the licensed den­tist is not under inves­ti­ga­tion by police.

Fol­low @ABCNewsRadio
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Johns Hopkins Defies Senator over Black Lung Probe

ABC News(NEW YORK) — The CEO of Johns Hop­kins Med­i­cine has turned down U.S. Sen. Robert Casey, Jr.’s request for the results of inter­nal review of the renowned med­ical center’s con­tro­ver­sial radi­ol­ogy pro­gram, which for years read X-rays of coal min­ers on behalf of coal com­pa­nies and rarely found those min­ers to have seri­ous black lung disease.

John Hop­kins’ deci­sion not to release the black lung report is trou­bling,” Casey told ABC News. “What’s needed is a full account­ing of what occurred in John Hop­kins’ black lung pro­gram so the fam­i­lies have the answers they deserve.”

Hop­kins launched the inter­nal review in 2013, two days after the broad­cast of a joint inves­ti­ga­tion by ABC News and the Cen­ter for Pub­lic Integrity that looked at more than 1,700 cases Hop­kins physi­cians took up on behalf of coal com­pa­nies over a decade.

In those cases, Hop­kins’ lead­ing black lung expert, Dr. Paul S. Wheeler, never con­cluded, even once, that a miner had severe black lung.

The ABC News-CPI inves­ti­ga­tion found Hop­kins was paid mil­lions of dol­lars to have doc­tors from the renowned hos­pi­tal ren­der their expert opin­ions in black lung ben­e­fits cases. Scores of those med­ical read­ings were used by coal com­pany attor­neys to thwart claims from coal min­ers who believed they were enti­tled fed­eral finan­cial relief because they had been stricken with black lung dis­ease while work­ing underground.

After the broad­cast, Johns Hop­kins sus­pended the pro­gram, pend­ing the out­come of the inter­nal review.

Nearly a year-and-a-half later, the school has com­pleted its review, but has not released any results.

Casey demanded to see the find­ings of the inter­nal review in March in a let­ter to Johns Hop­kins Med­i­cine CEO Dr. Paul Roth­man, say­ing it should be pub­lished “in the inter­est of full dis­clo­sure and transparency.”

Roth­man wrote in a response dated April 6 that the inter­nal review was con­ducted by “out­side coun­sel” and was con­sid­ered to be con­fi­den­tial. Roth­man shared that Johns Hop­kins doc­tors have not resumed read­ing lung X-rays for the coal industry.

He said the Baltimore-based med­ical insti­tu­tion sup­ports “efforts to bet­ter under­stand the impor­tant pub­lic health issues sur­round­ing coal min­ing and to ensure, includ­ing through imple­men­ta­tion of appro­pri­ate safe­guards, that the black lung ben­e­fits claims process is fair and just for all par­ties involved.”

A Casey spokesman said the sen­a­tor was not sat­is­fied. The sen­a­tor said “the con­tents of this report are about much more than the inter­nal work­ings of John Hop­kins — they’re about the lives of coal min­ers who may have had their black lung claims wrongly denied.”

John Hop­kins’ deci­sion not to restart its black lung pro­gram is fur­ther val­i­da­tion of the con­cerns raised by for­mer coal min­ers, their fam­i­lies and reporters from ABC News and the Cen­ter for Pub­lic Integrity,” Casey said.

In his ini­tial let­ter to Roth­man, Casey wrote, “There are still many ques­tions left unan­swered fol­low­ing the rev­e­la­tion that since 2000 Dr. Wheeler had not found one case of com­pli­cated pneu­mo­co­nio­sis in over 1,500 black lung claims and in more than 3,400 x-ray readings.”

Wheeler has told ABC News that his med­ical opin­ions were jus­ti­fied, and based on years of train­ing. A Hop­kins spokes­woman told ABC News ear­lier in March that “deci­sions com­ing out of the review are being deliberated.”

Fol­low @ABCNewsRadio
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Sam Smith Reveals He's Four Pounds Away from His Goal Weight

SAV/GC Images(NEW YORK) — For more than a month, Sam Smith has been work­ing hard to get in shape.

Now, he’s four pounds away from his goal weight, he wrote on Instagram.

Beau­ti­ful catch up with the incred­i­ble [nutri­tion­ist Amelia Freer],” he wrote next to a photo of him­self in her kitchen. “Feel hap­pier and health­ier than ever.”

Smith, 22, said last month that he’d lost 14 pounds in 14 days with Freer’s help. The author of the book, Eat. Nour­ish. Glow, told ABC News that she doesn’t “advo­cate diets.”

The key is about it being real, get­ting back in the kitchen, cook­ing from scratch, mak­ing sure they are not rely­ing on junk, processed, con­ve­nience food,” she said.

Fol­low @ABCNewsRadio
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Watch Texas Teen with Down Syndrome's Reaction to Getting First Job

Cour­tesy Sharon Sun­der­man(NEW YORK) — Ben Sun­der­man watched the mail­box for days to find out whether he got his intern­ship, and when it finally arrived, his reac­tion was priceless.

His mother had her cam­era on as Ben Sun­der­man, who is 19 and has Down syn­drome, opened the enve­lope and read the accep­tance let­ter aloud until he got to the very end.

What does that mean, Ben?” Sharon Sun­der­man asks. “Did you get it?”

He freezes, his face break­ing into a smile.

I get it!” he shouts, throw­ing both hands into the air. “I get a job!”

He hugs his father and goes in for a few dou­ble high-fives as his par­ents con­grat­u­late him.

Sharon Sun­der­man told ABC News that her son had applied for a job at the Embassy Suites hotel in Frisco, Texas, through Project Search. Project Search helps chil­dren with dis­abil­i­ties tran­si­tion from high school into the work­ing world.

She said she couldn’t go with him on his job inter­view, but she learned that he told the inter­view­ers that he had three goals: “to get a job, to build his mus­cles and to find a girlfriend.”

Start­ing in August, Ben Sun­der­man will take pub­lic trans­porta­tion from their home in Mck­in­ney, Texas, to the hotel and work at his intern­ship for eight hours, Sharon Sun­der­man said.

Set your expec­ta­tions high,” Sharon Sun­der­man said to other par­ents of chil­dren with dis­abil­i­ties. “We just always encour­aged him to do every­thing he could do. He does his laun­dry like his sib­lings, makes his bed like his sib­lings. There is joy.”

Last year, Ben Sun­der­man even won the title of prom king by a land­slide, she said.

Every­one sees him as Ben and loves him for who he is, which is great,” she said, adding that things have really changed since she was grow­ing up. “Adults with dis­abil­i­ties can really add value. Just the joy that Ben has at the fact that he is able to get a job and be part of the com­mu­nity. That’s what every par­ent wants for their kid.”

Fol­low @ABCNewsRadio
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Measles Outbreak Declared Over in California

iStock/Thinkstock(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) — The measles out­break that began in Dis­ney­land last year and spread across the coun­try was declared over in Cal­i­for­nia Friday.

The out­break, which began in Decem­ber 2014, infected 131 peo­ple in the Golden State. No new cases have been reported there in 42 days.

We are pleased this out­break is over, but cau­tion that measles can be rein­tro­duced in Cal­i­for­nia at any time when an infected per­son brings it to the state,” Dr. Karen Smith, the direc­tor of the Cal­i­for­nia Depart­ment of Pub­lic Health, said in a state­ment. “The best defense for pro­tec­tion against the highly infec­tious measles is vaccination.”

The out­break began in Ana­heim and spread nation­wide among mostly those who were unvac­ci­nated. In its wake, state law­mak­ers are try­ing to pass a con­tro­ver­sial bill that would require par­ents to immu­nize their children.

Fol­low @ABCNewsRadio
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