<![CDATA[NBC Connecticut - Health News]]> Copyright 2014 http://www.nbcconnecticut.com/news/health http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/NBC_Connecticut.png NBC Connecticut http://www.nbcconnecticut.com en-us Wed, 16 Apr 2014 00:46:19 -0400 Wed, 16 Apr 2014 00:46:19 -0400 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Removing Stigma from Lung Cancer]]> Fri, 11 Apr 2014 10:46:26 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Molly-Golbon.jpg

Molly Golbon doesn't take much for granted these days.

The 39-year old married working mom of two knows life can take unexpected turns. For her, it came with a pain in her throat, tiredness, and cough that wouldn't go away. 

"I went in for an MRI, and that's when they found there was something on the MRI," Golbon recalled. That something turned out to be lung cancer. "I think when they told me it was lung cancer, I thought it can't be. It can't be. It's probably bronchitis or pneumonia, it's not that."

Unfortunately, it was.

Until her diagnosis, Golbon, like many people, thought only smokers got lung cancer.

"The stigma for lung cancer is that it's a smoker's cancer and it's not. I've never smoked. No one in my family ever smoked," Golbon said.

Over a three week period, after going through a series of tests and scans, Golbon learned her cancer had spread into her brain, left hip and right shoulder.

"It was just too much to handle," Golbon said. "I think I had thoughts that my 4-1/2-year-old would not have any memory of me, and I just couldn't bear that thought."

Molly Golbon and her family enjoy an afternoon together at home.

Not Just a Smoker's Disease

When it comes to lung cancer, the statistics are scary. It kills more people than colon, breast, and prostate cancer combined.

While the majority of people who get lung cancer have smoked in the past, many, like Golbon, are non-smokers.

"Our estimates were about  10 percent of men in the U.S. who have never smoked get lung cancer and about 20 percent of women," said Golbon's oncologist Dr. Heather Wakalee, a nationally renowned  thoracic oncologist at Stanford University Medical Center.

"There's a lot of work being done trying to figure out how lung cancer in never smokers differ from lung cancer in smokers," Dr. Wakalee explained. "About a decade ago we were able to identify that there were gene mutations, changes in that particular gene that led to changes in the EGFR protein, and when that happened, it would develop lung cancer. It was the driving force behind lung cancer."

Treating Lung Cancer without Chemotherapy or Radiation

Dr. Wakalee suspected Golbon had this type of gene mutation and tested her for it.

"I was EGFR positive," Golbon said, which was was some of the best news she could have received. "If there was a cancer lottery, I feel like I had won it because I didn't have to go through chemotherapy, I didn't have to go through radiation, at least not yet." 

Here's why. With this type of lung cancer, doctors usually start out treating patients with oral medications. Since December, Golbon has been taking an oral drug called Tarceva, and the results have been remarkable.

Molly Golbon takes one Tarceva pill a day.

"My tumor was down 50 percent in February," she said. Not only that, the cancer that metastasized to Golbon's hip, shoulder, and brain is now almost undetectable.

This quick response to the medication isn't surprising to Dr. Wakalee.

"These drugs tend to work really quickly, they work within a week or two and people generally start to feel better, but they don't work forever," Dr. Wakalee said.

Every patient is different. Some patients stay on the medication for years, but for other people stop seeing benefits sooner.

"I can't tell someone how long they have, but I can tell them this is their step one," Dr. Wakalee said.

Golbon understands this, but for now, she's feeling healthier and is in a lot less pain.

"I'm breathing really well. I'm back to work. I'm back to yoga. I'm back to working out and to think it was one little pill."

Lung Cancer Research

Part of the reason Golbon decided to share her story was to get more funding for lung cancer research. At any given time, there's anywhere from 15 to 20 lung cancer clinical trials going on at Stanford.

"We couldn't have all these new drugs without doing the clinical trials," Dr. Wakalee said. "We all need to be working together to figure out how do we move forward to help everyone with the disease."


American Lung Association

Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation


<![CDATA[3 Die of Meningitis in LA]]> Fri, 04 Apr 2014 06:55:50 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/invasive+meningococcal+disease.jpg

A day after health officials said at least eight cases of the most dangerous form of meningitis hit Los Angeles County since January, officials reported that three men died from it.

The three men, between 27 and 28, who died, contracted meningitis through sexual contact with other men, officials said. They were HIV positive.

Half the confirmed eight cases were among gay men, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

Of the remaining five, four have recovered. The condition of one is still unknown.

Invasive meningococcal disease, or IMD, is highly contagious and is the most severe form of meningitis, health officials said.

The health department came under fire when asked why officials hadn't reported that three men had died in the rash of cases this year.

"If people at home knew that these infections ended in fatalities, I think it would ramp up their interest, and perhaps urgency, of seeking out information about the disease," said Ged Kenslea, a spokesman for the AIDS Healthcare Foundation.

Health officials said they were not hiding anything. They said they only wanted to urge gay and bisexual men to get the meningococcal vaccine regardless of HIV status, especially those who share cigarettes, marijuana or use illegal drugs, officials said.

Symptoms may include:

  • High fever
  • Stiff neck
  • Altered mental state
  • Skin rash
  • Severe headache
  • Low blood pressure
  • Aversion to bright lights
  • General muscle pain

Symptoms usually occur within 5 days of the exposure, but may present as many as 10 days after exposure. The disease progresses rapidly and officials urge immediate diagnosis and treatment.

People who do not have health insurance can get free vaccinations through the health department beginning Thursday.

For a listing of clinics, call the LA County Information Line at 211 or visit http://publichealth.lacounty.gov/.

<![CDATA[8,730 Pounds of Chicken Recalled]]> Wed, 02 Apr 2014 06:57:39 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/recalled-chicken.jpg

AdvancePierre Foods is recalling approximately 8,730 pounds of frozen chicken breast products due to misprinting and undeclared allergens, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The products recalled were "Our Down Home Style Chicken Breast Fritters for Chicken Frying" with lot code 5440730403 or 5440800403, produced March 14 and 21, 2014. Only these lot codes and dates are affected.

Oklahoma-based firm said these products were distributed to food service establishments in Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah and Virginia.
AdvancePierre Foods discovered the issue during an internal label review. The USDA said the problem occurred when AdvancePierre Foods used labels with an incorrect ingredient statement.
There have been no reports of allergic reactions.

Photo Credit: USDA]]>
<![CDATA[Missed the Obamacare Deadline? Here's What You Should Know]]> Tue, 01 Apr 2014 07:31:27 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/ObamaCarePic.jpg

March 31 was the day.

The last day to enroll in a health insurance plan on the federal and state Obamacare exchanges has officially past.

If you procrastinated, or if you're just wondering what happens next, here's what you need to know.

What if you didn't sign up by the deadline?

If you live in a state that uses the federal exchange and you haven't signed up by Monday night, not all is lost. An honor-system deadline extension may be available.

If you need extra time, explain that you tried to enroll during the open enrollment period but were not able to finish the process in time. (Initiating the online process before midnight or leaving your number on the phone hotline, for instance, would fulfill this requirement.) 

You can also request an extension based on qualifying life events. And some state-run exchanges have also extended the deadline further and have their own sets of rules.

But I didn't even try to sign up. What will happen to me?

If you can't say you tried to get a plan in time and didn't get health insurance by the deadline, you will have to pay a fee of $95 or 1 percent of your annual income — whichever is greater — on next year’s tax return.

I signed up for insurance. When will I be covered?

You must apply by April 15 in order to receive coverage starting in May. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, the consumers who are "in line" on the exchanges will still be enrolled, though, provided they pay their first month's premium in time.

What if I can't afford insurance at all?

The penalty for not buying health insurance only applies to people who can afford insurance but don't get it. If you didn't sign up by the deadline because you can't afford health insurance, you won't be charged the fee.

If that's the case, you should call (800) 318-2596 to explore your Medicaid options. If you live in a state that is not expanding Medicaid, you will not have to pay the fee — but you probably won't receive any insurance.

What happens next year?

If you didn't sign up for an insurance plan this year, the enrollment period for next year will start Nov. 15 and continue through Feb. 15, 2015.

Photo Credit: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Sex Harassment Study: Surprise Effect on Military Men]]> Fri, 28 Mar 2014 07:46:59 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/military+troops+generic.jpg

Frightening and threatening sexual harassment in the military may cause its male victims more distress than its female victims, a new study by the American Psychological Association has found.

The study analyzed Pentagon data from 2002, in which 6,304 service members who reported sexual harassment were asked to define how the incident made them feel. Fifty-two percent of women said they faced frightening and threatening sexual harassment, compared with 19 percent of men.

Although women more frequently reported frightening experiences of sexual harassment, men were more often distressed by them, according to the APA study, published this month in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology.

Researchers were surprised to find that men had more trouble coping with the incidents of sexual harassment and had more issues with work performance as a result than women did.

“Men may be less likely to think they’ll be sexually harassed, so it’s a particularly strong violation of their expectations and that could result in stronger negative reactions,” Dr. Isis Settles wrote in the study. “Another possibility is that men feel less able to cope with their sexual harassment than women, who know it’s a possibility and therefore are perhaps more emotionally prepared.”

Military members endure a lot while in combat, and that stress, in combination with sexual harassment, can leave long-lasting negative psychological effects, explained Dr. Carrie Bulger, who chairs the psychology department at Quinnipiac University.

“The types of effects after discharge would mostly be related to psychological health, such as depressive symptoms, anxiety, and even some physical health issues such as frequent headaches,” said Bulger, who has done extensive research on the prevalence of sexual harassment in different settings.

Bulger cautioned that the APA study's findings do not imply that experiences of sexual harassment are less negative for women, but rather suggest that the effects on men were more pronounced.

“Sexual harassment of men should be given more attention than it is in the military and in other work organizations,” Bulger said. “This is not just a women's issue. It should be something we are all concerned about for the health of our military members.”

Bulger added that although the study analyzed data from 12 years ago, its findings are still valid, because the issue of sexual harassment still persists in the military. However, now that the military's "don’t ask, don’t tell" policy has been repealed, it is possible that conditions may have changed for openly gay military members, she noted.

<![CDATA[Recall for Parkers Farm Products]]> Sun, 23 Mar 2014 19:10:12 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/1148953.jpg

A major recall out of Minnesota is affecting foods sold at Costco, Wal-Mart, Target, Whole Foods and more stores nationwide.

Parkers Farm Acquisition has issued a voluntary recall of certain peanut butter, cheese, salsa and spreads due to a possible Listeria contamination.

A Minnesota Department of Agriculture test first detected the bacteria.

No illnesses have been reported from the tainted food, but people who have bought the following products are encouraged to return them or throw them out:

  • 16-ounce Parkers peanut butter in square plastic containers (tub with snap-on lid), including creamy, crunchy, honey creamy and honey crunchy varieties with a sell by date before 3/20/2015
  • 34-ounce Parkers peanut butter in round plastic containers (tub with snap-on lid), including creamy and crunchy varieties with a sell by date before 3/20/2015
  • 12-ounce Parkers spreads in round or square plastic containers (tub with snap-on lid), including jalapeño and pimento varieties with a sell by date before 9/20/2014
  • 8-ounce and 16-ounce Parkers cold pack cheese in round plastic containers (tub with snap-on lid), including sharp cheddar, bacon, onion, smoked cheddar, Swiss almond, horseradish, garlic, port wine, and “Swiss & cheddar” varieties with a sell by date before 3/20/2015
  • 16-ounce Parkers salsa in round plastic containers (tub with snap-on lid), including hot, mild, garlic, and fire-roasted varieties with a sell by date before 7/20/2014
  • 10-ounce Parkers cheese balls or logs (plastic overwrap), including sharp cheddar, port wine, ranch, and “smokey bacon” varieties with a sell by date before 3/20/2015
  • 10-ounce Happy Farms cheese balls (plastic overwrap), including sharp cheddar and port wine varieties with a sell by date before 3/20/2015
  • 16-ounce Happy Farms cold pack cheese in round plastic containers (tub with snap-on lid), including sharp cheddar and port wine varieties with a sell by date before 3/20/2015
  • 8-ounce Central Markets cold pack cheese in round plastic containers (tub with snap-on lid), including sharp cheddar, port wine, horseradish, and Swiss almond varieties with a sell by date before 3/20/2015
  • 12-ounce and 20-ounce Hy-Top cheese spread in round plastic containers (tub with snap-on lid), including pimento and jalapeño varieties with a sell by date before 9/20/2014;
    8-ounce Amish Classic cold pack cheese in round plastic containers (tub with snap-on lid), including sharp cheddar, port wine, and Swiss almond varieties with a sell by date before 3/20/2015
  • 14-ounce Say Cheez beer cheese in round plastic container (tub with snap on lid), including regular and hot varieties with a sell by date before 3/20/2015;
    10-ounce Win Schuler original variety cheese balls or logs (plastic overwrap) with a sell by date before 3/20/2015
  • 8-ounce,12-ounce, and 14-ounce Bucky Badger cheese spreads (tub with snap-on lid) including cheddar, port wine, bacon, garlic, horseradish, jalapeño, and Swiss almond varieties with a sell by date before 3/20/2015
  • 5-pound foodservice products including cold pack cheese foods, cheese spreads and peanut butter with a sell by date before 3/20/2015.

Listeria can cause listeriosis, a disease with symptoms including fever, severe headache, neck stiffness and nausea. The USDA says healthy people rarely contract listeriosis, but it can prove fatal to infants, elderly people and those with weak immune systems.

It can also lead to miscarriages and stillbirths in pregnant women.

If you have any questions about the recall, you can call Parkers Farm at 800-869-6685 or visit its website.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Girl Inspires Nationwide Support]]> Sun, 23 Mar 2014 06:56:38 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Hannahs-Law.jpg

A fundraiser is set to take place next month for a Levittown, Pa. baby girl who captured the hearts of thousands nationwide and even inspired the proposal of a state law.

JoJo’s Ice Cream & Water Ice will host an event raising money for Hannah Ginion, a 1-year-old girl suffering from a rare genetic disorder known as Krabbe Disease.

The young girl, who was born on January 15, 2013, seemed healthy at first, according to her mother Vicki Pizzullo.

"She was progressing like a normal baby," Pizzullo said. "She was perfectly healthy."

By the time Hannah turned 4-months however, the family noticed that something was wrong.

"It came on really slow," Pizzullo said. "She started crying all the time. She hated eating out of a bottle, she was choking and she was losing her swallowing ability. She would suck on a bottle and she would start choking. When we went to go feed her again, she was scared to eat."

The family then took her to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia where they learned the devastating news. On June 17, 2013, Hannah was diagnosed with Krabbe Disease, a rare degenerative disorder that affects the myelin sheath of the nervous system. Damage to the sheath slows down messages between the brain and the rest of the body, leading to problems with mental and physical development.

Krabbe Disease is so rare that it only affects 1 in 100,000 people, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Symptoms of the disease, including feeding difficulties, fever, vomiting, limb stiffness and seizures, normally begin to show when the child is between 3 to 6 months old. Infants who suffer from the disease generally have a life-expectancy of 2 years at the most. There is currently no cure.

After being told by doctors at CHOP that they weren't familiar enough with the disease to properly treat it, the family took Hannah to Dr. Maria Escolar, a specialist in the study of Neurodevelopment in rare disorders at the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh. By then however, it was too late to get a transplant that could have alleviated some of the symptoms.

"Once symptoms start, it's too late to go back to a transplant," Pizzullo said. "That's why it's so important to have it when they're born."

According to the family, Hannah could have received more effective treatment if doctors knew she had the disease immediately after her birth, a message that they ultimately took to Pennsylvania lawmakers.

"We went to Harrisburg in October and went in front of the House and had a press conference," she said.

The press conference led to the introduction of a bill known as Hannah’s Law, which would add Krabbe disease and five other disorders to the list of conditions Pennsylvania hospitals must screen for newborns.

House Bill 1654, introduced by State Rep. Angel Cruz, passed the state house last January. Despite this, Pizzullo says the Senate still hasn't placed it on their agenda.

"We don't think they did it intentionally," she said. "We just don't know if they know the importance of it."

That's why Pizzullo says she and her followers have worked so hard to raise greater awareness.

"We're trying to get the word out there and let them know they need to get this on the agenda as soon as possible," Pizzullo said. "We're trying to get this law passed so that all babies born in Pennsylvania will be tested for this disease as part of their screening."

Pizzullo quit her job of 15 years to be with her daughter and dedicated her life to raising awareness for the disease. Along the way, the family gained support from the community and followers nationwide, after they created a website and Facebook page as well as a support page for the bill.

"We just love all of her followers," Pizzullo said. "They're just amazing. People are so supportive, especially our community."

As Pizzullo continues the fight to bring awareness, she's also dealing with her daughter's deteriorating health.

"She's tube fed and she's on oxygen 24/7," Pizzullo said. "She should be walking around right now and living her life. She can't because she was never tested at birth. The disease deteriorates her brain, that's why she doesn't smile or laugh. She hasn't laughed in five months."

Despite her situation, Pizzullo says she takes solace in the fact that her daughter has proven to be an inspiration and major factor in a movement that could ultimately save the lives of other children.

"If we could help other families and have her name be forever known, it would just be amazing," Pizzullo said.

A fundraiser for Hannah will take place at JoJo’s Ice Cream & Water Ice on 8801 New Falls Road, in Levittown, Pa. on April 15 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

The event will include a raffle and music. You can also email the family at hopeforhannahbear@gmail.com for more information.

Photo Credit: Facebook.com]]>
<![CDATA[New Technology Means Better Knee Surgeries]]> Fri, 21 Mar 2014 13:12:12 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/181*120/146275121.jpg

New digital mapping technology is allowing doctors to drastically improve the outcome of knee surgeries and improve the fit of new knees on patients' bodies.

Knee replacement surgery has become an increasingly common medical procedure for those in their 40s, 50s and 60s. But as many as 20 percent of all knee replacement recipients say they are unhappy with the results of their operation.

That may be because the pieces of their new artificial knee don’t fit as well as they should.

Dr. Jaime Hernandez, an orthopedic surgeon at Northridge Hospital, said knee replacements are usually done by feel with surgical instruments that aren’t designed for precision measurement. As a result, some of these surgeries could have more accurate results.

To solve this problem, Hernandez is using two high-tech imaging systems that create a GPS-like map of the knee and surrounding area and provide measurements within half a degree and half a millimeter.

"The idea is that, with this new technology, we can turn that 80 percent into a 90 percent or 95 and make this an almost perfect surgery," Hernandez said.

Using infrared signals and a special pointing device, the doctor first creates a virtual map of the area. He then receives real-time live measurements of the knee and its parts as he puts the new knee together. This helps to ensure that he is putting in the pieces as accurately as possible.

Another device then checks the pressure of the new knee before he puts in the final piece.

“The most important part of a knee replacement is to have the knee nice and snug and equal on both sides,” Hernandez explained. “You don’t want your knee too loose on one side and too tight on the other. You want it nice and snug all the way around.”

Los Angeles Police Department Officer Sandra Liddy tested Hernadez' surgery method and is currently recovering with hopes to get back on the streets as soon as she can.

"I'm in constant pain so I cannot put a uniform on right now," Liddy told NBC4 before her surgery. "Because I'm in pain, because I'm on medication, I can't get into a black and white (patrol car)."

"It needs to work, it has to work, because I need to go back to normal life," Liddy said.

NBC4 spoke with Liddy's doctor, and although she needs physical therapy, she is expected to be back at work with a pain-free knee.

Photo Credit: Getty Images/PhotoAlto]]>
<![CDATA[Obama Reveals NCAA Picks, Touts "ACA Bracket" GIFs]]> Mon, 31 Mar 2014 04:47:25 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/pres_thumb_basketball.jpg

President Barack Obama picked Michigan State to beat defending champions Louisville in the NCAA  men's basketball tournament title game.

The nation’s first basketball fan filled out his bracket in his annual "BARACK-etology" segment that aired on ESPN Wednesday. The reveal came two days after the White House launched its own GIF-friendly, March Madness-themed Affordable Care Act bracket.

"Tom Izzo is a great tournament coach," Obama said. "I've got Michigan State going all the way. ... He knows how to motivate folks and he knows how to coach. My pick: Michigan State. Bring it home for me. It's been a while since I've won my pool."

Besides the fourth-seeded Spartans and Cardinals, Obama also selected No. 1 overall seed Florida and top seed Arizona to reach the Final Four in Arlington, Texas.

Obama's bracket is available on Whitehouse.gov, which is using March Madness to get more young people to sign up for health insurance before the March 31st deadline.

The  “ACA Bracket” called, “The 16 Sweetest Reasons to Get Covered," originally featured 16 GIFs, and on Wednesday afernoon was down to the final four. The interactive compilation allows users to vote for the top two reasons to get health coverage and is full of links to healthcare.gov.

People can vote using their Twitter or Facebook accounts for the their favorite GIFs. The “Insurance Companies are Accountable to You” GIF shows a cat dressed in a tux. The "Nobody's Invincible" GIF features an Elmo toy falling from a store shelf. The “You Might Qualify for Free or Low-Cost Coverage” GIF portrays “The Tonight Show” host Jimmy Fallon “mom dancing” with First Lady Michelle Obama. And "Women Can't be Charged More Than Men" shows the first lady slam dunking a basketball using a hoop held up by LeBron James.

The ACA bracket is part of the effort by the White House to spread the word about the health care deadline. In the first week of March, Obama sat down with comedian Zach Galifianakis for a “Between Two Ferns” mock interview meant to convince young people to get coverage.

On Thursday, the president is scheduled to appear on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" to talk about the ACA.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Costco Recalls Kirkland Signature Real Sliced Fruit]]> Fri, 14 Mar 2014 14:00:09 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/CostcoResized.jpg

Costco has recalled 59,780 cases of Kirkland Signature Real Sliced Fruit from shelves after the company behind the product, Oregon Freeze Dry Inc., determined that it could be contaminated with Salmonella.

Customers who could have purchased the sliced fruit were contacted by phone or mail and news of the recall was posted on the Costco website. The remaining Kirkland Signature Real Sliced Fruit has been tested and is safe for consumers, according to Food Safety News. No illnesses related to the sliced fruit have been reported, but Food Safety News warned that it is too early to tell.

Consumers who purchased the product with “best before” dates of February 14, 2015 to March 11, 2015 are encouraged to return the product to Costco for a refund.
Salmonella can cause infections in young children, the elderly and people with sensitive immune systems. Symptoms include diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps. Some people could develop Reiter’s syndrome, a disease that can lead to chronic arthritis.
Those with questions or concerns can call 1-888-641-2933 or email recall@ofd.com


Photo Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[E-Cigs "Gateway" to Real Smoking: Study]]> Fri, 07 Mar 2014 15:56:43 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/ecigarette+woman+smoking.jpg

Teenagers using e-cigarettes are more likely to try smoking real cigarettes and are less likely to quit than kids who did not use the battery-powered devices, a new study found.

“The use of e-cigarettes does not discourage, and may encourage, conventional cigarette use among U.S. adolescents,” the study concluded.

Published online on Thursday in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Pediatrics, the study examined data collected from nearly 40,000 U.S. middle and high school students who completed the 2011 and 2012 National Youth Tobacco Survey.

The report also found that e-cigarette use among middle and high school students doubled between 2011 and 2012, from 3.1 percent to 6.5 percent.

"E-cigarettes are likely to be gateway devices for nicotine addiction among youth, opening up a whole new market for tobacco," said lead author Lauren Dutra, a postdoctoral fellow at the UCSF Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education.

But not everyone agrees with the conclusion drawn by the researchers. The study did not prove that teen e-cigarette smokers used tobacco after smoking e-cigarettes, because it examined two large data pools of teens in 2011 and 2012 rather than tracking the same people over two years.

Other experts said that just because e-cigarettes are being used by young people who smoke more and have a more difficult time kicking the habit does not mean that the devices are the root of the problem, according to The New York Times.  Those experts say it is possible that young people who use e-cigarettes, which deliver nicotine through vapor instead of the smoke associated with traditional cigarettes, were heavier smokers to begin with, or would have become heavy smokers down the line, the Times reported.

“The data in this study do not allow many of the broad conclusions that it draws,” said Thomas J. Glynn, a researcher at the American Cancer Society, according to the Times.

Experts remain divided on whether e-cigarettes, which entered the market about a decade ago, are a gateway to smoking or a path for the nation's 45 million smokers to help quit. 

A large federal survey published last year found that the overwhelming majority of young people who use e-cigarettes also smoke real tobacco. Another report concluded that while e-cigarette use among youths doubled from 2011 to 2012, real cigarette smoking for youths has continued to decline.




Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[WATCH: Obama, Biden Work Out Together]]> Fri, 28 Feb 2014 21:00:10 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/obamarun.jpg

Who needs sneakers or a gym to get a little exercise?

President Barack Obama or Vice President Joe Biden showed in a playful workout video that even the leaders of the free world can get a little exercise — even if it means running laps through the White House in a shirt and tie.

The video, released Thursday as a part of First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move fitness challenge, shows Biden entering the Oval Office as Obama is reading at his desk.

"Mr. President, are you ready to move?" Biden asks. Then both men set out running down the halls of the White House, outfitted in dress shoes and ties.

The first dogs Bo and Sunny look on quizzically as the pair jogs together outdoors. Finally, the president and vice president stretch before heading back into the Oval Office for a drink of water.

"After a good workout, you've got to drink up; otherwise, we're going to be in trouble with Jill and Michelle," Obama said.

The video was posted after Michelle Obama’s appearance last week on "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon," where she announced an online contest to promote staying healthy. If enough people participated, she said, the president and vice president would share how they move, too.

The contest challenged Americans to post on social media about how they exercise and eat healthy foods, and in response, thousands of users — including celebrities from Ryan Seacrest to Nancy Pelosi — submitted their habits on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #LetsMove.

"I want to see how people around the country are moving and changing the standards of health for our kids, because people are doing some amazing things," the first lady told Fallon.

Photo Credit: Courtesy Let's Move/YouTube]]>
<![CDATA[21-Year-Old Chooses Double Mastectomy]]> Tue, 25 Feb 2014 14:40:27 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/jaelene_ruey_brca_1200x675_169992771724.jpg 21-year-old Jaelene Ruey, of Burlington, has decided to undergo a double mastectomy after learning she carries the BRCA gene and is at high risk for developing breast cancer.]]> <![CDATA[Be Healthy: Cardiac Fix]]> Tue, 18 Feb 2014 20:11:33 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/180*120/bhcardiacfix.jpg 3-D imaging is helping doctors during complicated heart procedures]]> <![CDATA[U.S. Doctors Compete to Go to Sochi]]> Wed, 19 Feb 2014 20:32:10 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/sochiteamdoctors.jpg

The Olympics are all about the athletes, but there is an immense support staff as well, including hundreds of specially trained doctors.

It is no secret that the odds of becoming an Olympian are slim, but that does not apply to athletes only.

Jonathan Finnoff had to compete to go to the Olympic Games as a U.S. team doctor. He said the road to Sochi was not easy.

"It's almost as hard for the medical personnel as it is for the athletes," he said. "Cream of the crop in order to get selected to go to the Olympics."

Dr. Finnoff is the Director of Sports Medicine at Barton Healthcare based in Lake Tahoe. He is off to Sochi with the U.S. Nordic combination ski team, a team he’s accompanied to smaller events.

Finnoff describes this process as training for team physicians.

“Train for years and try to get to go to the Olympics,” he said.

Once selected, the task at hand is simple but packed with pressure.

"People train for decades in order to actually get a chance to go to the Olympics," Finnoff said. "And then when they go to the Olympics, even the smallest thing can ruin their chances--whether that’s injuring their knee…or a cold."

Finnoff added that sports medicine doctors are crucial because they’ve dealt with one of the biggest and most pervasive injuries of all--concussions.

"You think about the downhill ski races and they're going 70-80 mph on an icy run, so when you fall like that, it's like jumping out of a car onto the asphalt," he said. "It is that hard and that big of an injury."

"Yes they have helmets on but concussions are because your brain shakes around inside of your head so the helmets help protect against skull fractures and some of the hemorrhages that happen in our brains, but it doesn’t protect against a concussion," Finnoff added.

Team doctors volunteer their time to go to the Olympics. Dr. Finnoff said the payoff comes in the once-in-a-life-time opportunity.

“I cant wait. It's going to be a fantastic experience," he said.

Finnoff also said he would try to do some skiing while at the Olympics.

American doctors are not licensed to practice medicine in Russia, so they can't take care of the athletes. But if there’s a more serious injury, they become advocates, making sure Russian doctors are informed and delivering the best possible care.

<![CDATA[Vaccine Exemptions on The Rise in Connecticut Classrooms]]> Wed, 05 Feb 2014 20:32:41 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/classroom5.jpg

Parents of some Connecticut children are growing more and more concerned with students who go unvaccinated due to state exemptions to vaccinations requirements.

Matt Earls, of Guilford has twins who attend public school. By law, he had to have the kids fully vaccinated according to standards imposed by the State Departments of Health and Education, but as more and more parents utilize a loophole that allows families to “opt out” of immunizations, Matt worries his own children could be at risk.

“They can bring that disease home to my one-year-old daughter so yes, that’s concerning,” he said.

According to experts, Earls’ concerns could be well-founded. A September study in Pediatrics, from the American Academy of Pediatrics, found a direct link between non-medical vaccine exemptions among children and a deadly outbreak of pertussis, or whooping cough, in California four years ago.

Researchers wrote families who obtained vaccine exemptions for their children were clustered together geographically, and those clusters coincided with places where whooping cough were most prevalent.

“The people who follow these practices tend to be together. They hang out together. They go to the same schools because the schools allow the exemptions, and so you end up with a setup for an outbreak," said Dr. Nick Bennett, a pediatric infectious disease specialist with Connecticut Children's Medical Center. "And once it’s in the unimmunized kids, the risk of it spreading to the immunized kids and the immune compromised kids is much, much greater."

Vaccine exemptions have risen steadily in Connecticut since 2003. In fact, the number of children attending school with a religious exemption for an immunization has nearly tripled, according to statistics provided by the Connecticut Department of Health. The trend is setting off alarm bells in the medical world, and among parents of vaccinated kids.

“It’s basically a numerical gambling game, whether an infection gets spread person to person,” Dr. Bennett said.

<![CDATA[Exemptions Fuel Debate Over Vaccinations]]> Sat, 08 Feb 2014 12:49:19 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/vaccine+needle+hand.jpg

The battle over child vaccinations, with public health officials often at odds with distrustful parents, may at first seem overblown.

The vast majority of Americans follow the government-recommended schedule of shots aimed at protecting children from polio, meningitis, measles, whooping cough and other diseases that have been eradicated from U.S. soil. But a small and vocal minority of skeptics resist vaccinations on religious or philosophical grounds, or out of unproven belief that the medicines cause more harm. Their objections have fueled a passionate debate that pits the freedom of individual choice against efforts to protect entire communities.

National statistics show how small the minority is: less than 1 percent of infants go without vaccinations, and about only 1.5 percent of kindergartners skip at least one of their shots because their parents have obtained an exemption on religious or philosophical grounds, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

All states but one allow religious exemptions, and 19 allow philosophical ones. The state with the highest rate of non-medical exemptions is Oregon, with 6.4 percent. The lowest is in New Mexico, at .4 percent.

In most circumstances, public health officials feel confident that unvaccinated children are protected by a so-called “herd immunity” effect, in which person-to-person transmission is rendered nearly impossible among the large number of vaccinated people around them.

But, every so often, there is an outbreak — a rash of measles in Brooklyn or North Texas, a rise in whooping cough in Connecticut or California — that thrusts the debate into the national consciousness. In some states, most recently California and Colorado, officials have tried to restrict exemptions, sparking protests from activists who demand the right to obtain them.

Many of these activists believe vaccinations put certain children at higher risk of other serious maladies, such as autism. Public health officials say study after study has shown no connection.

Paul Offit, a pediatrician who runs the Division of Infectious Diseases and the Vaccine Education Center at Philadelphia Children’s Hospital, is one of the most outspoken critics of the vaccination backlash. But he also understands why the opposition has gained momentum.

Generations of Americans are growing up without fear of the diseases that the vaccinations prevent, Offit said. As that fear subsides, it has been replaced by fear of the vaccinations themselves, which have expanded to a large battery of painful shots that begins soon after a baby is born. Parents who believe their children have been harmed by vaccinations share their stories online. “The internet is certainly ripe with information that can help you feel better about not using vaccinations,” Offit said.

He added: “It’s not surprising that people start to back away.".

While the CDC says the 1.5 percent exemption rate is not high, it worries Offit. He worries even more more about states with rates over 5 percent: Alaska, Idaho, Illinois, Michigan, Oregon, Vermont. These are the places that can be at higher risk for outbreaks. In more localized communities where resistance to vaccinations is more concentrated, that rate can be much higher.

In 2013, 189 people got measles, the second largest number of cases since the disease was eliminated from the United States in 2000. Two-thirds of the cases came from three outbreaks in which measles was introduced into communities with “pockets of persons unvaccinated because of philosophical or religious beliefs,” according to a CDC report.

“For some communities this is a big problem, because there’s a high level of exemptions, children who are not being vaccinated are more susceptible to these diseases,” said Shannon Stokley, associate director for the CDC’s Immunization Services Division.

There has also been a recent rise in cases of whooping cough, or pertussis, which has been blamed in part on the refusal of some to vaccinate their children.

Barbara Loe Fisher, president of the National Vaccine Information Center, which fights attempts to limit exemptions, says the backlash is an outgrowth of the rapid growth of vaccinations and the concern among some parents that they don’t know enough about them.

“With so many vaccines going on the market, this issue is not going away,” she said. “It’s not about people being foolish or ignorant. It’s about people becoming more educated."

But in recent years that has been a counter-backlash by small parent-led groups that try to spread word about the benefits of vaccinations. One such group is Moms Who Vax.

The debate will probably never end, as long as the outbreaks remain small and contained, Offit said. If they get bigger, and children die, or polio or diphtheria come back, “That would scare people” back to vaccinations, he said.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Flu Numbers In CT Better This Year Than Last]]> Fri, 31 Jan 2014 18:19:07 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/216*120/CTFLUNUMBERS013114.jpg Dr. Jack Ross from Hartford Hospital explains some of the differences between this years flu virus and last years numbers.]]> <![CDATA[Manage Your Prescriptions Better]]> Wed, 29 Jan 2014 14:23:44 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/bhpharmacy03032032.jpg Pharmacists can now manage your prescriptions so you can pick them all up on one trip]]> <![CDATA[Pet Poisons: What to Watch Out For]]> Thu, 23 Jan 2014 11:50:41 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/189*120/Dog5.jpg The ASPCA compiled a list of the top pet poisons. All pet owners should be aware of hazards in their homes.

Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[CrossFit Trainer Severs Spine During SoCal Weightlifting Competition]]> Mon, 20 Jan 2014 15:45:25 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/01-kevin.jpg

A 28-year old CrossFit trainer severed his spine as he tried to lift more than 200 pounds during a weightlifting competition in Southern California.

Colorado native Kevin Ogar is recovering in Western Medical Center’s critical care unit and is not expected to be able to walk again.

His doctor, neurosurgeon Mohsin Shah, called what happened during the Jan. 12 OC Throwdown competition a "freak catastrophe." He likened the injury to someone being thrown from a moving car.

“He’s got everything I think in him that would allow him to recover from this in a very meaningful way, even if not walking... certainly (being) able to do a lot much more productive things,” Shah said.

Ogar is in the critical care unit, working toward sitting up and planning to talk publicly. He’s had two surgeries so far.

“Kevin has a heart of gold and he always has,” said Megan Ogar, his sister. "And that should get him through this."

Some doctors say the popular conditioning and strength training program is no more dangerous than any other. In a statement to NBC4, organizers for the Costa Mesa event said there was a medical team by Ogar’s side and the paramedics arrived within minutes.

“He doesn’t feel diminished, like, he doesn’t feel like he’s lost much,” said Megan Braunsdorf, a friend.

Ogar has no insurance, so friends are hoping to raise money for his recovery. Those who know him say he has the guts and the will to go on.

“It would be really easy to look at this and see all the things that Kevin has lost,” his sister said. “But I think I prefer to look at all the things that Kevin still has.”


Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Ogar family]]>
<![CDATA[Patient Kept Awake During Brain Surgery]]> Fri, 17 Jan 2014 20:46:32 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Brain-surgery-awake.jpg

Many patients are put to sleep for something as complex as brain surgery, but not Josh Wickey.

Doctors used only topical anesthesia for the 35-year-old's recent surgery, keeping him fully awake for the six hour procedure so that he could communicate with Northwestern Medicine neurosurgeon Matthew Tate.

Tate says a chunk of Wickey's brain the size of a tennis ball needed to come out, and it was imperative that he stay awake to help the doctors guide the process.

"What does a patient absolutely have to have to be able to move their arm, or to be able to sense someone touching their leg or something like that?" Tate said. "We want to preserve the very fundamental things that you can't take out."

The doctors painstakingly stimulated numerous areas in Wickey's exposed brain, and when he tells them what he's feeling, it helps them map the brain. The information helps surgeons cut deeply but safely, and helped to remove almost all of the tumor.

Three weeks after surgery, the staples were taken out. One of Wickey's biggest worries was that he wouldn't be able to play the guitar again, but doctors say in a few months, it'll be as if he didn't have surgery at all.