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FDA Approves Implant to Battle Opioid Addiction

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By Dennis Thompson
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, May 26, 2016 (HealthDay News) — A new long-acting implant that can help treat people addicted to heroin and prescription painkillers was approved Thursday by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

“Opioid abuse and addiction have taken a devastating toll on American families. We must do everything we can to make new, innovative treatment options available that can help patients regain control over their lives,” FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert M. Califf said in a statement. “Today’s approval provides the first-ever implantable option to support patients’ efforts to maintain treatment as part of their overall recovery program.”

Probuphine is placed in the upper arm of recovering addicts and releases a steady six-month dose of buprenorphine, an anti-addiction drug designed to combat the cravings that come with opioids like heroin or powerful prescription painkillers like Percocet or OxyContin. Buprenorphine is already available as a pill or a film that can be placed in the mouth.

The steady flow from the implant will reduce fluctuations that can occur when taking a medication once or twice daily, and it removes the need for a patient to remember to take it, said Dr. Annie Umbricht, an expert in substance abuse treatment at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

“A person suffering from addiction would not have to go through the up-and-downs of a daily medication, and therefore will feel much more normal,” Umbricht explained.

Clinical trials published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2010 showed the implant led to higher abstinence rates among addicts, with 40 percent remaining drug-free compared with 28 percent receiving a placebo.

People given the implant also were more likely to remain in treatment, about 66 percent compared with 31 percent of the placebo group.

“It really reduces or eliminates cravings, and they don’t start searching around for opiates,” said Dr. Scott Segal, president and chief medical officer of the Segal Institute for Clinical Research in Miami, one of the centers that participated in the clinical trials.

The implant provides patients with no-fail treatment during its six-month period of effectiveness, Segal said.

“Things happen in life,” he said. “You miss your doctor’s appointment, the pharmacy doesn’t have the medication and there’s problems. The implant takes relapse off the table.”

It takes about 15 minutes to place the implant, Segal said, and side effects are similar to oral buprenorphine. They include headache, depression, constipation, nausea, vomiting and back pain, according to the FDA.

“I was concerned that patients would [not] like this option, and I was dead wrong,” he said. “The patients enrolled quickly. They liked it. They tolerated it well. And they were upset when we took them off the implant at the end of the study.”

The United States is experiencing an epidemic of prescription drug abuse, and the new implant could also help counter that, Umbricht said.

There were 28,647 overdose deaths related to heroin and prescription pain killers in 2014, an average of 78 per day, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

That’s because people undergo treatment and lose their tolerance for opioids, but then leave treatment with a high risk of relapse, Umbricht said.

“We know the rate of relapse after drug treatment is more than 90 percent,” Umbricht said. “These people have lost their tolerance, but they don’t realize it. They are at high risk for overdose.”

The implant can help stabilize addicts during treatment, and then provide them with support against relapse once they’ve been released, she said.

Buprenorphine provides effects that are similar to, but weaker than, opioids like heroin or methadone, according to the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

But those effects level off at moderate doses, lowering the risk of misuse and addiction, SAMHSA says.

Buprenorphine also interferes with the effects of full-strength opiates, Segal said.

“It tends to saturate the receptors that respond to opiates,” he said. “Even if you were to take opiates with it, you won’t get high. It provides pain relief, but doesn’t give them the buzz or high that heroin would.”

The implant eliminates one other concern associated with oral buprenorphine—the likelihood that someone with a prescription will share their pills with friends.

Researchers estimate that as much as 50 percent of oral buprenorphine prescriptions are “diverted,” Umbricht said.

The intent is most likely to help other people quit their drug habit, Umbricht said, but without drug counseling those addicts are not likely to succeed.

“That person is not going to get the psychosocial support they need,” Umbricht said, adding that drug sharing also maintains illegal behaviors that recovering addicts need to shake.

Addiction specialist Dr. Kevin Cotterell agreed.

“The prospect of a long-acting opiate agonist-antagonist surgically implanted for use in the treatment of addiction to opiates is very encouraging,” said Cotterell, a psychiatrist with South Oaks Hospital in Amityville, N.Y. “It will help in overcoming problems with compliance, which is a great barrier to recovery. It will enhance safety and reduce diversion if used widely.”

More information

For more on buprenophine, visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.


Also check out healthywithjodi.com

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At Least 10 Pregnant Women in Dallas Have Zika Virus, Officials Say

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By Dennis Thompson
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, June 23, 2016 (HealthDay News) — At least 10 pregnant women in the Dallas area have been infected with Zika, Texas officials confirmed Wednesday.

All of the women contracted the mosquito-borne virus while traveling abroad, Dallas Health and Human Services officials told CBS News.

In related news, the U.S. House on Thursday approved a $1.1 billion funding package to combat the Zika threat, the Associated Press reported.

The bill still needs to be approved by the U.S. Senate, and it remains to be seen if President Barack Obama will sign it. Obama originally asked Congress for $1.9 billion, and Democrats and the White House have voiced opposition to certain provisions of the package.

Even though there have been no local transmissions of Zika reported yet in the United States, the number of cases of infection among pregnant women keeps climbing.

As of June 9, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported there are 234 cases of pregnant women on the U.S. mainland who have been infected with Zika, which typically involves relatively mild symptoms in most adults. However, it can cause devastating birth defects in babies that include microcephaly, where an infant is born with an abnormally small head and brain.

In Latin America, thousands of babies have already been born with microcephaly. And researchers reported Wednesday that fears over Zika-related birth defects may be driving up abortion rates in Latin American countries affected by the virus.

In Brazil and Ecuador—where governments have issued health warnings on the danger to the fetus from maternal Zika infection—requests for abortion in 2016 have doubled from 2010 rates, the researchers reported.

The other 17 Latin American countries covered by the new study had their rates rise by more than a third during that time, according to the report in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The researchers noted that because data on family planning in Latin America is often hard to come by, their numbers may underestimate the surge in abortions since Zika’s emergence.

“The World Health Organization predicts as many as 4 million Zika cases across the Americas over the next year, and the virus will inevitably spread to other countries,” noted study senior author Dr. Catherine Aiken, of the University of Cambridge in England.

But no nation has been more affected than Brazil. As a result of the Zika epidemic, almost 5,000 babies have been born with microcephaly there.

However, the CDC warned last Friday that infection rates are rising in Puerto Rico. Testing of blood donations in the U.S. territory—”our most accurate real-time leading indicator of Zika activity”—suggest that more and more people on the island have been infected, according to CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden.

“The real importance of this information is that in coming months it’s possible that thousands of pregnant women in Puerto Rico could become infected with Zika,” Frieden stressed. “This could lead to dozens or hundreds of infants being born with microcephaly in the coming year,” he added.

“Controlling this mosquito is very difficult,” Frieden said. “It takes an entire community working together to protect a pregnant woman.”

Because the virus remains largely undetected, it will be months before affected babies begin to be born, Frieden said. Some will have microcephaly or other brain-related birth defects. But many will appear healthy and normal, and there’s no way to know how they might have been affected, he explained.

Zika is typically transmitted via the bite of the Aedes aegypti mosquito. But, transmission of the virus through sex is more common than previously thought, World Health Organization officials have said.

Women of child-bearing age who live in an active Zika region should protect themselves from mosquitoes by wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants, using mosquito repellent when outside, and staying indoors as much as possible, according to the CDC.

More information

Visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for more on the Zika virus.

This Q&A will tell you what you need to know about Zika.

To see the CDC list of sites where Zika virus is active and may pose a threat to pregnant women, click here.


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FDA Approves Implant to Battle Opioid Addiction

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By Dennis Thompson
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, May 26, 2016 (HealthDay News) — A new long-acting implant that can help treat people addicted to heroin and prescription painkillers was approved Thursday by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

“Opioid abuse and addiction have taken a devastating toll on American families. We must do everything we can to make new, innovative treatment options available that can help patients regain control over their lives,” FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert M. Califf said in a statement. “Today’s approval provides the first-ever implantable option to support patients’ efforts to maintain treatment as part of their overall recovery program.”

Probuphine is placed in the upper arm of recovering addicts and releases a steady six-month dose of buprenorphine, an anti-addiction drug designed to combat the cravings that come with opioids like heroin or powerful prescription painkillers like Percocet or OxyContin. Buprenorphine is already available as a pill or a film that can be placed in the mouth.

The steady flow from the implant will reduce fluctuations that can occur when taking a medication once or twice daily, and it removes the need for a patient to remember to take it, said Dr. Annie Umbricht, an expert in substance abuse treatment at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

“A person suffering from addiction would not have to go through the up-and-downs of a daily medication, and therefore will feel much more normal,” Umbricht explained.

Clinical trials published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2010 showed the implant led to higher abstinence rates among addicts, with 40 percent remaining drug-free compared with 28 percent receiving a placebo.

People given the implant also were more likely to remain in treatment, about 66 percent compared with 31 percent of the placebo group.

“It really reduces or eliminates cravings, and they don’t start searching around for opiates,” said Dr. Scott Segal, president and chief medical officer of the Segal Institute for Clinical Research in Miami, one of the centers that participated in the clinical trials.

The implant provides patients with no-fail treatment during its six-month period of effectiveness, Segal said.

“Things happen in life,” he said. “You miss your doctor’s appointment, the pharmacy doesn’t have the medication and there’s problems. The implant takes relapse off the table.”

It takes about 15 minutes to place the implant, Segal said, and side effects are similar to oral buprenorphine. They include headache, depression, constipation, nausea, vomiting and back pain, according to the FDA.

“I was concerned that patients would [not] like this option, and I was dead wrong,” he said. “The patients enrolled quickly. They liked it. They tolerated it well. And they were upset when we took them off the implant at the end of the study.”

The United States is experiencing an epidemic of prescription drug abuse, and the new implant could also help counter that, Umbricht said.

There were 28,647 overdose deaths related to heroin and prescription pain killers in 2014, an average of 78 per day, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

That’s because people undergo treatment and lose their tolerance for opioids, but then leave treatment with a high risk of relapse, Umbricht said.

“We know the rate of relapse after drug treatment is more than 90 percent,” Umbricht said. “These people have lost their tolerance, but they don’t realize it. They are at high risk for overdose.”

The implant can help stabilize addicts during treatment, and then provide them with support against relapse once they’ve been released, she said.

Buprenorphine provides effects that are similar to, but weaker than, opioids like heroin or methadone, according to the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

But those effects level off at moderate doses, lowering the risk of misuse and addiction, SAMHSA says.

Buprenorphine also interferes with the effects of full-strength opiates, Segal said.

“It tends to saturate the receptors that respond to opiates,” he said. “Even if you were to take opiates with it, you won’t get high. It provides pain relief, but doesn’t give them the buzz or high that heroin would.”

The implant eliminates one other concern associated with oral buprenorphine—the likelihood that someone with a prescription will share their pills with friends.

Researchers estimate that as much as 50 percent of oral buprenorphine prescriptions are “diverted,” Umbricht said.

The intent is most likely to help other people quit their drug habit, Umbricht said, but without drug counseling those addicts are not likely to succeed.

“That person is not going to get the psychosocial support they need,” Umbricht said, adding that drug sharing also maintains illegal behaviors that recovering addicts need to shake.

Addiction specialist Dr. Kevin Cotterell agreed.

“The prospect of a long-acting opiate agonist-antagonist surgically implanted for use in the treatment of addiction to opiates is very encouraging,” said Cotterell, a psychiatrist with South Oaks Hospital in Amityville, N.Y. “It will help in overcoming problems with compliance, which is a great barrier to recovery. It will enhance safety and reduce diversion if used widely.”

More information

For more on buprenophine, visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.


Also check out healthywithjodi.com

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Sugary Drinks and 'Bad' Carbs May Increase Risk of These Types of Cancer

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By Amy Norton
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, April 5, 2016 (HealthDay News) — People who consume a lot of processed carbohydrates—think snack foods and sweets—and sugary drinks may face heightened risks of breast and prostate cancers, a new study suggests.

Researchers said the study, reported Tuesday at the American Society for Nutrition annual meeting in San Diego, does not prove that “bad” carbs cause cancer.

But given that breast and prostate cancers are two of the most common cancers in the United States, the connection gives more reason for people to cut processed foods from their diets, said lead researcher Nour Makarem.

“The carbohydrate quality of your diet matters for a number of reasons,” said Makarem, a Ph.D. candidate in nutrition at New York University.

In general, health experts already recommend limiting sugary drinks and processed carbohydrates, and eating more fruits, vegetables, legumes, fiber-rich whole grains, and “good” unsaturated fats.

So the new findings—considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal—add more weight to that advice, Makarem said.

She pointed, in particular, to the link her team found between sugar-sweetened drinks (both soda and fruit juice) and prostate cancer risk. Compared with men who never drank sugary beverages, those who had them a few times a week showed more than triple the risk of developing prostate cancer.

And that was with other factors—including obesity, smoking, and other diet habits—taken into account, Makarem said.

Still, it is difficult to weed out the effects of particular diet habits on cancer risk, said Marji McCullough, strategic director of nutritional epidemiology for the American Cancer Society.

“Few dietary factors apart from alcohol and/or obesity have been consistently related to postmenopausal breast cancer and prostate cancer,” McCullough said.

The question of whether carbohydrate quality affects cancer risk—independent of obesity—is important, according to McCullough. But it’s also a “challenging” one to answer, she said.

The new findings are based on nearly 3,200 U.S. adults whose diet habits and cancer rates were tracked for more than 20 years. During that time, 565 people were diagnosed with cancer.

At first glance, higher carb intake was tied to a lower risk of breast cancer. But the picture changed when carb quality was considered, Makarem noted.

She said that women whose diets emphasized healthy carbs—vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and legumes—were 67 percent less likely to develop breast cancer, compared to women who favored refined carbs. Refined carbs include many baked goods, white bread and white potatoes.

When it came to prostate cancer risk, men who regularly drank sugary juices or soda were more than three times as likely to develop disease versus men who steered clear of those drinks, the findings showed.

That does not prove sweet drinks directly contribute to prostate cancer, Makarem acknowledged. Still, she said, many studies have implicated the beverages in the risks of obesity and type 2 diabetes—so there are other reasons to cut back.

“Plus,” Makarem said, “it’s an easy change to make in your diet.”

The American Beverage Association took issue with the findings.

“The authors of this study abstract acknowledge their findings do not show that beverages cause any disease,” the group said in a statement. “Moreover, the study was limited to one demographic group that is not reflective of the population of the United States.” (Most study participants were white.)

The beverage association also said that the American Cancer Society cites multiple potential risk factors for breast, prostate and colon cancer, so singling out diet is difficult. The group also said that because the study hasn’t been published in a peer-reviewed journal, “very few study details are available” and it’s therefore tough to draw firm conclusions.

Sugary drinks weren’t the only diet factor that mattered, though, according to the researchers. Prostate cancer risk was also heightened among men whose diets were generally high in “glycemic load”—which, Makarem said, basically means they ate a lot of refined carbs.

The study also implicated “processed lunch foods,” including pizza, deli meats, and burgers. Men who ate those foods four or more times a week were twice as likely to develop prostate cancer, compared to men who had them no more than once a week, the researchers found.

According to McCullough, it’s hard to know whether certain foods, per se, contribute to breast or prostate cancers—or whether, for example, it’s overall calorie intake and weight gain that are the true culprits.

But the bottom line, Makarem said, is that whole, “high-quality” foods are a generally healthier choice than processed ones.

More information

The American Cancer Society has more on diet and cancer risk.


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13 Things You Need to Know About the Zika Virus

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By Dennis Thompson
HealthDay Reporter

What is Zika?

Zika is a virus first discovered in 1947 and named after the Zika forest in Uganda. The first human cases of Zika were detected in 1952, but until last year there had been only isolated outbreaks occurring mainly in tropical locales.

How is it transmitted?

Zika is spread primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes aegypti or Aedes albopictus mosquito. Mosquitoes become infected by drinking the blood of a person infected with Zika, and then spread the disease to other people.

A man infected with Zika can transmit the virus through sexual intercourse. Also, people can be infected if they are given a blood transfusion tainted with Zika.

Who faces the greatest health risk from Zika?

Four out of five people infected with Zika do not develop any symptoms. Those who do most often suffer from mild symptoms that include fever, rash, joint pain, or red eyes.

The true risk of Zika is to a developing fetus. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed that Zika can cause terrible birth defects if a pregnant woman is infected with the virus.

What kind of birth defects does Zika cause?

Microcephaly is the most common birth defect caused by Zika, and it involves abnormally small development of the head and brain. Zika also causes other brain-related birth defects, and can result in miscarriage, according to the CDC.

What are the chances Zika exposure during pregnancy will cause microcephaly?

Not every fetus exposed to Zika develops a birth defect. Women infected with Zika have given birth to apparently healthy babies, although health experts can’t guarantee that these babies won’t develop problems later in life. No one knows what the odds are that a birth defect will occur. This is one of the CDC’s ongoing areas of research.

What can a woman who’s pregnant or trying to get pregnant do to protect herself?

Women of child-bearing age who live in an active Zika region should protect themselves from mosquito bites by wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants, using mosquito repellent when outside, and staying indoors as much as possible.

Women should use condoms or refrain from sex with a male partner if they are living in an active Zika area. They also should follow these precautions for at least 8 weeks if the man has traveled to an active Zika area, or for at least 6 months if the man has been diagnosed with Zika.

What can be done if a pregnant woman is infected with Zika?

There is no cure or vaccine for Zika. Pregnant women infected with Zika will be monitored by doctors, who will closely track fetal development.

Will a Zika infection threaten all future pregnancies?

The CDC has said there’s no evidence that a past Zika virus infection will endanger future pregnancies. It appears that once the virus has been cleared from a person’s bloodstream, it poses no risk to any subsequent pregnancies.

What other illnesses can Zika cause?

Zika has been associated with Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS), a rare disease of the nervous system in which a person’s immune system attacks nerve cells. The disease causes muscle weakness and, less frequently, paralysis. Most people recover fully, but some have permanent damage and about one in 20 die.

CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden has said it is very likely that Zika causes GBS, given that the syndrome also is triggered by a number of different bacterial or viral infections. However, the link has not been confirmed. The CDC is investigating.

Where in the U.S. is Zika likely to become active?

Zika already is active in the territory of Puerto Rico, where one death has been reported, as well as American Samoa and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Public health officials expect Zika to strike first in the continental United States in Florida, Louisiana or Texas, once the mosquito season gets underway. The A. aegypti mosquito can range as far north as San Francisco, Kansas City and New York City, although health officials have said infections that far north are unlikely.

What can I do to reduce the risk of Zika becoming active in my neighborhood?

People can help reduce their area’s risk by eliminating mosquito habitats from their property. Get rid of any source of standing water, such as buckets, plastic covers, toys or old tires. Empty and change the water in bird baths, fountains, wading pools and potted plants once a week. Drain or fill with dirt any temporary pools of water, and keep swimming pool water treated and circulating, according to the CDC.

Report any mosquito activity in your neighborhood to your local mosquito control program.

What should I do if I think I’ve been exposed to Zika?

The CDC recommends that people contact their health care provider if they are suffering from Zika-like symptoms, particularly if they are pregnant. Tests are available that can confirm Zika infection.

Is there a vaccine for Zika?

No, but the CDC is working with pharmaceutical companies to ramp up research into a vaccine for the virus.


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Men Exposed to Zika Virus Should Use Condoms for Next 6 Months, Says CDC

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By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, March 25, 2016 (HealthDay News) — Men who know they’ve probably been infected with the mosquito-borne Zika virus should not have sex without a condom for six months, according to new federal health guidelines released Friday.

Numerous cases of sexually transmitted Zika infection—which is thought to cause severe birth defects in some cases—have been confirmed in the United States, said officials at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Mounting evidence supports a link between Zika and microcephaly, and possibly other problems such as miscarriage,” Dr. Denise Jamieson, co-lead of the Pregnancy and Birth Defects Team of the CDC’s Zika Virus Response Team, said during an afternoon news conference.

“The rate of these conditions is not known yet,” she said. “We know there is a risk, but it is important to remember that even in places with active Zika transmission women are delivering apparently healthy infants.”

The goal of the latest CDC guidelines is to give doctors the best advice possible to share with their patients about pregnancy planning and sex, Jamieson added. However, they are are based on the best evidence to date, and not on a definitive understanding of Zika, she noted.

Zika is a mosquito-borne virus that’s been tied to thousands of cases—mainly in Brazil—of a severe birth defect called microcephaly. In microcephaly, a newborn’s head is smaller than normal, with the potential for long-term neurological damage.

While the bulk of Zika cases leading to microcephaly may occur via maternal infection during pregnancy, cases of sexual transmission from a man to his female partner have come to light, the CDC said.

A team led by CDC investigator Alexandra Oster notes that, as of March 18, there are now “six confirmed cases of sexual transmission in the United States associated with this outbreak.”

Just how long might the Zika virus linger in semen? According to the report, semen collected from one man still showed signs of the virus 62 days after he began to exhibit fever linked to Zika infection.

Zika infection is usually a transient, mild illness in adults, and many cases may occur without symptoms, experts say. However, because of the risk to babies, the CDC is advising that men with known or suspected infection with Zika refrain from sex—or only have sex with a condom—for six months after a diagnosis.

The agency also advises that, for couples involving a man who has traveled to or resides in an area endemic for Zika:

• the couple refrain from sex, or use condoms during sex, throughout the duration of a pregnancy.

• they refrain from sex, or use condoms during sex, for eight weeks if the man has returned from travel to a Zika-endemic area but has not shown signs of infection.

• for couples living in a Zika-endemic area, they refrain from sex or engage in sex only with a condom for as long as active Zika transmission persists in that area.

The latest guidelines also recommend that women who know they’ve been infected, have no symptoms but have recently been to a Zika-endemic area, or think they might have been exposed via sex, should wait at least eight weeks before trying to get pregnant.

The CDC has also advised that all pregnant women consider postponing travel to any area where Zika virus transmission is ongoing. If a pregnant woman must travel to or live in one of these areas, she should talk to her health-care provider first and strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites.

On Friday, CDC officials also said that 273 U.S. residents in 35 states have now tested positive for infection with the Zika virus.

“All are travel-related or sexually transmitted cases,” Jamieson said. “In addition, there have been 261 cases reported from Puerto Rico, 14 cases from American Samoa and 11 cases from the U.S. Virgin Islands. Of these, 99 percent are presumed to be locally transmitted by mosquitoes in the territories.”

In the majority of Zika infections, symptoms included rash (97 percent of cases), fever and joint pain.

“Zika virus disease should be considered in patients with acute onset of fever, rash, arthralgia [joint pain], or conjunctivitis [pink eye] who traveled to areas with ongoing Zika virus transmission or who had unprotected sex with someone who traveled to one of those areas and developed compatible symptoms within two weeks of returning,” the CDC said.

And earlier this month, scientists reported more evidence supporting a link between the Zika virus and microcephaly.

Researchers now believe that one in every 100 pregnant women infected with the virus during the first trimester will give birth to a baby with the birth defect.

The Zika virus is suspected of causing an epidemic that started last spring in Brazil, where there have been more than 5,600 suspected or confirmed cases of microcephaly.

Zika has also been linked to Guillain-Barre syndrome, an immune system disorder that can occasionally lead to a fatal form of paralysis.

Speaking earlier this month, CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden said that “we are learning more about Zika every day. The link with microcephaly and other possibly serious birth defects is growing stronger every day. The link to Guillain-Barre syndrome is likely to be proven in the near future, and the documentation that sexual transmission is possible is now proven.”

First discovered in Uganda in 1947, the Zika virus wasn’t thought to pose major health risks until last year, when it became clear that it posed potentially devastating threats to pregnant women.

Meanwhile, the virus continues to spread in Latin America and the Caribbean.

It is not expected to pose a significant threat to the U.S. mainland, federal health officials have said in the past.

In Puerto Rico, however, the situation is “of great concern,” Frieden said.

“Puerto Rico is on the frontline of the battle against Zika,” said Frieden, who had just returned from the island. “And it’s an uphill battle.”

By next year, Frieden said, there could be hundreds of thousands of cases of Zika in the territory, and “thousands of infected pregnant women.”

In a separate report released Friday, the CDC stressed that effective contraception needs to be made much more readily available to Puerto Ricans. In a statement, the agency noted that, “approximately two-thirds of pregnancies in Puerto Rico are unintended, indicating a potentially unmet need for access to birth control.”

The agency said that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will boost its efforts at family planning education in Puerto Rico, so that women can help prevent unintended pregnancies — especially those jeopardized by Zika infection.

The Zika virus has now spread to over 38 countries and territories, most in Latin America and the Caribbean. The World Health Organization estimates there could be up to 4 million cases of Zika in the Americas in the next year.

More information

For more on Zika virus, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

To see the CDC list of sites where Zika virus is active and may pose a threat to pregnant women, click here.


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E-Cigarettes to Be Regulated as Tobacco Products

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TIME-logo.jpg

E-cigarettes will be regulated as tobacco products, federal authorities announced on Thursday.

In a long-awaited ruling, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) finalized rules that give the agency authority to regulate all tobacco products including e-cigarettes, cigars, hookah tobacco and pipe tobacco, as well as other products. Until now, e-cigarettes were not regulated by the FDA and there was no national law to prohibit the sale of e-cigarettes,hookah tobacco or cigars to people under 18.

The actions being taken today will help the FDA prevent misleading claims by tobacco product manufacturers, evaluate the ingredients of tobacco products and how they are made, as well as communicate their potential risks,” the agency said in a statement.

The new rule means the agency will have to approve all products that made it to market as of Feb. 15, 2007—a point at which the e-cigarette market was virtually non-existent. “What we know is absence of federal restriction means that enforcement is uneven and at times nonexistent,” HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell said during a news conference.

The risks of e-cigarettes has been a public health debate for some time and the FDA initially announced its proposal to increase its jurisdiction in 2014. The HHS and FDA said on Tuesday that surveys show 1 in 4 high school students and 1 in 13 middle schoolers report being tobacco users. 16% of high schoolers also reported using cigarettes in 2015, a 900% increase from 1.5% in 2011. While e-cigarettes do not contain the same carcinogens as traditional cigarettes, they do contain nicotine, which is addictive. Early research has also cast doubt on the safety of some of the chemicals used inE-cigarettes when inhaled into the lungs.

Small and medium sized e-cigarette companies have responded to the news with concerns that undergoing the new approval process will be costly. “This gigantic price tag is affordable to Big Tobacco companies, but small and medium-sized businesses will be crushed,” said Gregory Conley, President of the American Vaping Association. “If the FDA’s rule is not changed by Congress or the courts, thousands of small businesses will close in two to three years.”

Burwell addressed these concerns during a news conference with reporters, saying the agencies understand the concerns small businesses will have, and that the FDA will allow them to have more time to comply.

The FDA says after 90 days they will begin enforcing portion of the rule that says the products cannot be sold to people under 18. This rule also requires ID to purchase tobaccos products and bans sales in vending machines as well as free samples

The health of the nation will continue to suffer the consequences of any further delay in implementing a law intended to protect public health,”Chris Hansen, president of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, said in a statement.

This article originally appeared on Time.com.

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7 Ways to Carve Out Time to Meditate

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Establishing a meditation routine can be difficult. You’re busy! Who has time to breathe, let alone sit and breathe? But if you think the only way you’ll learn how to meditate is with a 25-hour day, think again.

RELATED: How to Meditate (Even If You’re Really Impatient)

Plenty of busy people are making time for meditation. Media guru Arianna Huffington makes it a part of her morning routine. Rapper 50 Cent uses meditation to help him remain positive when faced with negative personalities. And Jerry Seinfeld won’t let anything get between him and his meditation time—he allegedly takes time between TV shoots to get zen.

Cultivating Calm, On Your Time

“I have a really chaotic schedule so I do it whenever I can,” says Dan Harris, a correspondent for ABC News and the author of the New York Times bestseller 10% Happier. “I don’t freak out if I can’t fit it in but I do think it’s important to do something every day.” Harris has been meditating ever since he experienced a panic attack on air nearly a decade ago.

He credits meditation with helping him control knee-jerk reactions to frustrating situations. Thanks to improved patience, Harris says he’s a better listener and is able to hold shorter, more fruitful meetings. Meditation, he says, is “fighting a lifetime pattern of letting your thoughts lead you by the nose.”

RELATED: The 8 Best Apps for Guided Meditation

Dina Kaplan, founder of The Path, a weekly meditation practice in New York City, says meditation allows her to have more “mental agility” during her day. She’s much more calm when faced with stress, and feels as though she makes better decisions. And science confirms these benefits: your brain will actually change if you stick with meditation, just as your body changes when you exercise regularly. You’ll be rewarded with improved memory and other cognitive benefits.

“Don’t put the pressure on yourself that you have to do it forever,” Harris says. It’s okay if you fall off the wagon for a few weeks, so long as you muster the grit to return to your practice. The power of meditation, he says, is derived from practicing daily. Watch this video for a short meditation exercise from Happify, featuring Harris and Sharon Salzberg, a meditation teacher and author.

So what’s the secret to actually making time for meditation? We asked Harris, Kaplan and David Ngo, a behavioral designer at Stanford University and behavior consultant for The Path, for their best tips on how to actually create a meditation habit.

7 Ways to Start Meditating Today 

1. Type it into your phone calendar
Instead of simply hoping you’ll be able to squeeze in meditation on the fly, try setting aside a specific time for it. “If I carve out time to [meditate], that’s the space for my practice to go,” says Ngo. When you create that space, the habit can grow. But rather than thinking of meditation as another item on your to-do list, think of it as a gift to yourself, says Kaplan.

 2. Do it in the morning
“If you’re starting out and you’re struggling with developing the habit, I do think you should do it first thing [in the morning]” says Kaplan. She meditates right after she brushes her teeth. By doing it right away, she has no excuse. Especially for parents with young kids, doing it before the day gets underway is your best bet for fitting in some “me time,” she says. Kaplan recommends not setting your goals too high in the beginning. “If you can do five minutes, that’s better than nothing.”

RELATED: 19 Ways to Trick Yourself Into Becoming a Morning Person

3. Start with one breath
Don’t underestimate the power of small behaviors. By focusing on taking one conscious breath when you have a spare moment, you can pave the way for creating a meditation habit. Ngo says this philosophy comes from BJ Fogg, Ph.D., behavioral scientist and founder of Stanford’s Persuasive Technology Lab, who pioneered the idea of creating tiny habits. For example, to create a habit of tidying up at home, you might start by making your bed each morning. A tiny habit should be a behavior that requires little effort and can be performed in less than 30 seconds. “That seed of the habit can then grow into a full-blow tree,” says Ngo.

4. Perform meditation after an existing habit
After you get into your car for your daily commute, try meditating for a few breaths instead of racing to turn on the ignition. Or quiet your mind after you go to the bathroom at work. “The pattern is always after,” says Ngo. “This is called anchoring.” Ngo recommends choosing a daily occurrence or existing activity to remind yourself to meditate.

5. Use headphones
As a TV correspondent, Harris has a packed schedule that involves a fair amount of travel. “People think you have to sit in some position, but that isn’t true,” he says. “There are four ways to do it: walking, standing, sitting or lying down.” No matter how busy life gets, Harris tries to fit in 30 minutes of meditation each day. His secret weapon? Headphones. He puts on a pair to cancel noise when he meditates in airports and on planes. “As long as you’re somewhere that’s reasonably quiet, you’re good,” says Harris. (And if you’re lying down and you fall asleep, that’s ok, he says.)

RELATED: How to Overcome Anxiety, Starting Now

6. Siphon time from superfluous activities
Think about it: Do you really need to hit ‘reply all’ to every email that hits your inbox? “I would have considered myself busy at my last job, but it was just an excuse to procrastinate from what was really important,” says Kaplan. As a successful start-up founder and Emmy award-winning TV reporter, Kaplan says she was writing redundant emails and taking meetings that were unnecessary. “If you’re answering emails you don’t really need to respond to, that would give you 15 minutes,” she says. With that extra time, she suggests finding a quiet park bench to relax, or even sneaking into a hotel lobby for a few minutes.

7. Practice mindfulness when you’ve got time to kill
Resist the urge to scroll through Instagram the moment your friend or dinner date heads to the bathroom. “I think it’s very healthy to have all sorts of moments in the day where you’re just being,” says Kaplan. It’s tempting to use our phones as entertainment during those “black spaces” during the day, but Kaplan recommends pausing and just letting the moment happen instead of gluing yourself to your Facebook feed. Look around, smile at other people and enjoy some momentary calm. While it’s not the same as doing a seated meditation, being fully present during these small moments can help you feel more comfortable confronting the thoughts rattling around in your mind.

This article originally appeared on DailyBurn.com

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New York Legislature Passes Bill to Eliminate the ‘Tampon Tax’

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Early this year, the “tampon tax” made headlines when California legislator Cristina Garcia introduced an Assembly Bill to exempt feminine hygiene products from sales tax. According to a press release from her office, California women coughed up $20 million annually in taxes for these products, despite them being, in Garcia’s words, a "basic necessity." Yesterday, New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo stated that New York State will no longer tax feminine hygiene products, a move that will take effect in the next sales-tax quarter.

Supporters of the bill maintain that tampons and other feminine hygiene products are necessities, and should be treated as other tax-free healthcare items.

Politico reports that the unanimous Senate vote only took “about one minute” on Monday before the bill headed to Governor Cuomo’s office. New York will join a handful of states that lifted the "luxury tax" on these items—a tax many (including President Barack Obama) have called sexist and unjust. Ten other states, including California, are considering similar legislation.

“Repealing this regressive and unfair tax on women is a matter of social and economic justice,” Governor Cuomo said in a statement. “I look forward to signing it into law."

This article originally appeared on RealSimple.com.

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