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Caramel Apples Linked to Four Deaths in Multi-State Listeria Outbreak


iStock/Thinkstock(ATLANTA) -- Health officials are warning consumers to avoid eating caramel apples after linking the fall treats to a multi-state listeria outbreak that has been linked to at least four deaths.

Officials from the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention reported Friday that at least 28 people from 10 states, including Minnesota, Arizona and Texas, have been infected with Listeriosis due to Listeria monocytogenes, a bacteria that can cause life-threatening illness.

Of those infected, five died and Listeriosis definitely contributed to at least four deaths, according to the CDC.

Out of an abundance of caution, the CDC warned all consumers to avoid eating prepackaged caramel apples while they investigate the outbreak alongside the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and state health organizations.

The outbreak reported on Friday has infected people across a wide swath of the U.S. from North Carolina to California and across a large age range, from ages 7 to 92, according to the CDC.

Listeriosis is usually caused when a person ingests listeria monocytogenes bacteria and it can cause particular harm among the elderly people, pregnant women or anyone with a compromised immune system. Symptoms can include gastrointestinal distress, fever and muscle aches.

In severe cases, people can develop encephalitis, swelling of the brain, or bacterial meningitis, inflammation of the membrane surrounding the brain and spinal cord.

Of the 28 infected, three were children between the ages of 5 and 15 who developed severe meningitis symptoms, and nine cases involved either a pregnant women or a newborn infant, according to the CDC.

Fifteen of 18 sickened people who were interviewed by the CDC told investigators they ate prepackaged caramel apples before they were sickened.

Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert from the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, said the outbreak is particularly troubling because Listeriosis can have a long incubation period from three to 70 days.

“We can anticipate that more illnesses will occur over time,” said Schaffner. “Even [if] the product is removed from the market a lot of these [caramel] apples have been consumed.”

Bill Marler, a food safety lawyer based in Seattle, said listeria can be a particularly difficult bacteria to control because its growth is not inhibited by refrigeration.

“I can see caramel apples sitting in your refrigerator for a long time,” he said. “Listeria has evolved and it has evolved to grow really well at refrigerated temperatures.”

The CDC reported the caramel apples can have a shelf life longer than a month and officials from the Minnesota Department of Health said they were concerned people may eat tainted apples left over from the fall.

The outbreak was first reported by the Minnesota Department of Health, which found four people between the ages of 59 and 90 had been infected. The four patients had eaten caramel apples during the months of October and November and all four were hospitalized. Two subsequently died after being infected.

Those sickened in Minnesota bought caramel apples from Cub Foods, Kwik Trip and Mike’s Discount Foods, which carried the Carnival and Kitchen Cravings brand of caramel apples, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.

The apples are no longer being carried in stores because they are a seasonal item.

Dr. Jay Ellingson, the corporate director of food safety and quality assurance for Kwik Trip stores, said the pre-packaged caramel apples have been off the shelves for weeks and the company has been working with state and federal authorities "to make sure public health is protected."

A spokesperson from H. Brooks and Company, which released the Carnival brand caramel apples, told ABC News the company was aware of the situation and working with local health officials during the investigation.

Officials at Cub Foods and Mike’s Discount Foods could not immediately be reached for comment. A number for the Kitchen Cravings brand of apples could not immediately be found.

Listeriosis was linked to one of the worst food-borne outbreaks in recent years when 147 people became infected after eating tainted cantaloupe in 2011. Of those infected, at least 33 died.

In 2013, the CDC estimated approximately 1,600 illnesses and 260 deaths caused by Listeriosis occur annually in the United States.

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The Science Behind Nailing Your New Year's Resolution


Creatas/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- New Year's resolutions seem so full of promise on Jan. 1, but by the middle of the week, many people have already skipped the gym, eaten the stacked burger and been a jerk to their in-laws.

No one said goal-setting would be easy.

Fewer than one in five adults who made health-related New Year's resolutions were able to make any significant strides in weight loss, healthier eating, exercise or stress reduction by March, according to a 2010 poll by the American Psychological Association.

Still, psychologists say there's no time like the present to give your goals a try. And if you want to be a better version of yourself in 2015, there's a science to conquering your resolutions.

Read on to find out how to stack the deck in your favor and do your New Year's resolutions right this year:

Choose Your Goal Wisely

The key to accomplishing your goal is to make it concrete and easy to break down into pieces, said Jeff Janata, chief of psychology at UH Case Medical Center in Cleveland. Weight loss is actually an example of a resolution that sets you up to fail.

"Weight loss really isn't in our control," Janata said, explaining that no matter how rigid the diet and exercise, weight loss naturally plateaus. "That's one of the reasons people fail at weight loss. They focus on 'I need to lose a certain number pounds per week.'"

Instead, cutting out fried foods or deciding to work out a few days a week are better goals, he said.

"Don't start off with these grand resolutions," said psychologist Joe Taravella, the supervisor of pediatric psychology at NYU Langone's Rusk Rehabilitation Center who also specializes in marital and family psychology.

Don't Beat Yourself Up If You Mess Up

No matter how perfect the goal is, Janata said people are going to slip. But that doesn't mean they should give up completely.

"Re-adjust the goal according to how difficult it is for you," Janata said.

He advised taking 2015 goals week by week or day by day.

"I remind people that we're human and we're not perfect," Taravella said. "We're going to mess up throughout our entire lives."

He said one bad day "doesn't mean we're total failures and all progress we made isn't meaningful."

Reward Yourself

Building in days off is an important part of goal-setting, Taravella said.

"Being totally rigid 24/7 is not sustainable over the long haul," Taravella said.

Go Public

Want to make sure you nail your 2015 resolutions? Make them public, psychologists advised.

"Talk to people about what you're doing, so you can be accountable," Taravella said, explaining that you'll be motivated to succeed because you won't want to fail in front of your friends.

Make Sure You're Doing It for the Right Reasons

Tackling a goal because someone told you to or because you simply think you "should" might backfire, Janata said. Sometimes, taking on a goal because of outside pressure just makes people want to rebel, he said.

"There's an important distinction to be drawn between goals that we feel that we should accomplish and those we believe we truly want to accomplish," he said. "Rarely do we attain goals unless we truly embrace the goal."

So make sure you're only picking goals because you're ready and eager to fulfill them.

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School Takes Away Blind Boy's Cane as Punishment for Acting Up


iStock/Thinkstock(KANSAS CITY, Mo.) -- A school took away an 8-year-old blind boy's cane as punishment for acting up and replaced it with a pool noodle, his father told ABC News on Thursday.

Dakota Nafzinger, who was born with no eyes, was listening to his music on the school bus when the driver took it away from him, his father, Donald Nafzinger said. Dakota often taps his cane to the music, but this time, his father said he threw it in the air. Nafzinger said school officials told him they thought Dakota was getting violent.

Then they gave Dakota a foam pool noodle in its place and sent him home with it, Nafzinger said.

"It is his eyes," Nafzinger, 35, told ABC News. "He said he was upset because that's something he needs to get around with."

Dakota was born with a rare condition called bilateral anophthalmia. Nafzinger said Dakota's mother chose to call the local news media because she feared that "there weren't caring people left in this world."

"They shouldn't treat my kid any different than the kids that have eyes," said Nafzinger, who works in Kansas City, Missouri, as a stage hand. "My kid is normal except he doesn't have eyes."

The school district, North Kansas City Schools, admitted to the mistake and has since given Dakota his cane back. Nafzinger said not only was that a good outcome, but sharing the story has shown his family how many supporters they have.

"The District has reviewed the situation," North Kansas City Schools wrote in a statement. "We regret that a mistake was made in making sure the student was in possession of his cane when he boarded the bus Monday evening. The District has apologized to the family and is working to rectify the situation. When we were made aware of the mistake, corrections were made. It is always the District’s policy when we become aware of situations like this, we thoroughly and immediately investigate to ensure a safe learning environment for all students."

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Plus-Size Blogger Asks Beauty Editors to Transform Her Photo


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- When blogger Marie Southard Ospina sent a photo of herself with no makeup and no clothes to photo editors in 21 countries around the world and asked them to Photoshop her, she said she was surprised by one thing most of the experts did not do to her image.

"I was surprised that only three out of 21 altered my weight and my bone structure," Ospina told ABC News' Juju Chang. "So that was nice to see."

"[I thought] that the majority of the editors would slim me down and just make a very obviously airbrushed miniature version of me," Ospina said.

The Manchester, U.K.- and New York City-based writer gave the beauty editors the instructions to simply "make me beautiful."

"That was the tagline of the whole experiment," said Ospina, who wrote about it on Bustle.com.

Ospina was inspired to do the experiment after seeing another journalist, Esther Honig, do something similar earlier this year. Honig sent her selfie to 25 countries around the world, asking people to make her beautiful using Photoshop.

"I was just fascinated by just how much people actually changed her bone structure and her weight, and she was already quite a slender woman," Ospina said.

When it came to Ospina's experiment, the results varied widely according to each country. Canada gave her a new hairdo while Jamaica gave her a darker tan.

Ospina said her favorite result came from Italy, where the editor glammed her up with some heavily Photoshopped makeup.

"I think, through these images, what I most saw is that beauty isn't definable," Ospina said. "It varies so much, not just from nation to nation but from person to person."

"The biggest point of the experiment was to see and prove that people's perception of beauty is very individual rather than just one basic norm," she said.

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Iowa Spa 'Makeover' Lifts 4-Year-Old Cancer Patient


Blush Salon & Spa/Facebook(CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa) -- An Iowa spa catered to a very special client when it gave a full "makeover" to a young cancer patient Wednesday.

Taryn Oberthein, 4, has spent much of the past year dealing with doctors and hospitals after she was diagnosed with stage 4 neuroblastoma cancer, according to ABC News affiliate KCRG-TV in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Neuroblastoma is a cancer that develops from immature nerve cells in different areas in the body, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Taryn was surprised with a very special day at the Blush Salon & Spa in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The spa is a member of the Hello Gorgeous! non-profit that provides free makeovers and pampering to cancer patients.

Salon owner Susan Livingston told ABC News the girl started out a little "shy," but quickly warmed up as she enjoyed a free manicure, facial and pedicure.

"Her mom said [later] that she wanted to do it every day," Livingston said of the makeover day.

The day of pampering comes after a difficult year, when Taryn underwent chemotherapy, a bone marrow transplant and radiation to treat her cancer, according to KCRG-TV.

"It just think it would make her feel so special to have a day where she can just feel pretty," Taryn's mother, Tara Martin, told KCRG-TV.

The full pampering also included a special red carpet entrance, bouquet of flowers and even a little session with photographers, where Taryn was able to pose in her new look. She was even given her own wig specially made for pediatric patients.

"When we asked her what she wanted for her birthday, all she wanted was for her hair to grow back," Martin told ABC News.

Martin said when the wig came out Taryn was initially a little afraid, but ended up enjoying her new accessory.

"She called it strutting her stuff," Martin said. "She's a pretty special little girl, she's always got a smile on her face."

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Santa's Heartwarming Surprise for Deaf 6-Year-Old Girl


iStock/Thinkstock(WESTMINSTER, Mass.) -- For one 6-year-old girl in Westminster, Massachusetts, the best Christmas gift she received didn’t come in the form of a perfectly wrapped box with a bow under the tree. Instead, the special surprise came personally delivered from Santa himself -- in the form of sign language.

For the first time in her life, Sadie Adam sat on Santa’s lap and the jolly-old-guy knew exactly what she was sharing, with no interpreter needed.

“I am glad I was able to communicate with Sadie,” Westminster’s police chief, Salvatore Albert, who has played Santa for 15 years, told ABC News. “It was amazing to see the smile on her face and her eyes wide open with joy that Santa knew sign language. I am going to try to learn more for next year.”

Sadie’s mom, Ronelle, taught Santa all the sign language he needed to know in order to prepare for her daughter’s visit on Dec. 6.

“She sat with me for about an hour,” said Albert. “I practiced it for three days.”

As Santa signed “Merry Christmas” to an unsuspecting Sadie, “her eyes were bright, wide open,” he told ABC affiliate WCVB.

“Santa knew my name. He knew how to sign it,” an ecstatic Sadie signed. “I told him what I wanted -- a kitchen and a baby.”

“I knew she’d be surprised, so I was just so happy,” her mom said. “I instantly started tearing up.”

For little Sadie, who has been deaf most of her life, this is certainly a Christmas she’ll never forget.

“This is the first time anyone has had any special request of any kind,” said Albert. “I was very happy to be able to do it.”

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The Possible Health Benefits of Mistletoe?


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Leave it to medical researchers to find something about mistletoe that has nothing to do with kissing. The traditional plant that people hang in their homes at Christmastime may one day keep your liver healthy.

In a report published on the website Science Daily, researchers say a compound produced by a particular variety of the plant -- Korean mistletoe -– may help fight obesity-related liver disease in mice.

That particular mistletoe contains a number of biologically active compounds, including steroids, flavonoids and viscothionin.

When the researchers treated obese mice with viscothionin, their body and liver weights dropped.

The researchers say more work is needed, but viscothionin may one day be useful in fighting fatty liver disease, which is linked to obesity and can progress to liver failure in some cases.

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The Couple that Tries to Lose Weight Together May Not Lose Weight Together


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Two brains are better than one when it comes to tackling certain things, but a new study indicates that when it comes to weight loss, a person’s chance of shedding pounds is greater when they don’t team up with a partner.

In a study published in the journal Eating Behaviors, researchers assessed 50 overweight duos who made New Year’s resolutions to lose weight, and found those who dieted together generally failed separately.

The researchers found that when a person was successful in regulating his or her diet and was able to eat healthier, that made their partner less confident in controlling his or her own food portions.

According to study author Jennifer Jill Harman, people “feel less confident achieving their goals when they see others succeeding at the same goals.”

For heterosexual couples, comparing weight loss can be even more frustrating, especially for women. Research at the Mayo Clinic has found that men tend to lose weight and keep it off easier than women because guys have more muscle, which helps burn off more calories and increase their metabolism.

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Parents Should Buy Teens Newer, Safer Cars


dolgachov/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Parents buying their teenage children cars should open up their wallet and opt for a new car instead of a used one, researchers say.

A study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, and published in the journal Injury Prevention, looked at national data on drivers between the ages of 15 and 17 and drivers aged 35 to 50 who were killed in car accidents. The biggest difference, the study found, was the age of the cars.

An overwhelming majority -- 82 percent -- of the teenagers killed in crashes were driving vehicles that were more than six years old. Even more striking, 48 percent were driving vehicles 11 years old or older.

Those older cars, researchers say, were less likely to have safety features, such as electronic stability control and side air bags, which might have cut the rate of teens killed in crashes. In fact, researchers say, the rate of fatal crashes for teens is about three times that for adult drivers.

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Report Names Most, Least Prepared States for Infectious Disease


Spotmatik/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A new report named the most and least prepared states in the country when it comes to infectious disease.

The report, put out by the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, used ten indicators of preparedness to judge the states. At the top of the list of best prepared states? Maryland, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Vermont and Virginia. On the other end of the spectrum, Arkansas finished at the bottom of the list.

Among the indicators used in the report are preparation for emerging threats, vaccinations, healthcare-associated infections, sexually-transmitted infections, food safety, core capabilities, integration of health care and public health and leadership and accountability. A state successful in a given indicator would receive one point.

The top five states, TFAH said, received just eight out of 10 possible points, while Arkansas received just two.

Among the biggest problems, the report indicated, were that just 14 percent of states vaccinate at least half of their population and only 16 states performed better than the national standardized infection ratio for central-line-associated bloodstream infections.

The full report can be found here.

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What to Know About European Union's Obesity Ruling


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Europe's highest court ruled on Thursday that obesity can, under certain circumstances, be considered a disability, taking a step forward against obesity discrimination, experts say.

The European Court of Justice heard the case of a child-care worker identified in the ruling as "Mr. Kaltoft," who claimed he had been fired from his job because of his weight. The court ruled that although obesity was itself not a disability, it can cause certain hindrances that can be considered a disability.

"In the past, employers have said with respect to obesity, 'Well, this is their fault,'" said Ted Kyle, chairman of the nonprofit Obesity Action Coalition, which is headquartered in Florida. Until now, employers did not feel obligated to accommodate obese employees in the workplace because they deemed that being obese was a personal choice, Kyle noted.

He said various genetic and environmental factors are at play when it comes to obesity, and that employers are realizing they can't discriminate people based on weight.

The European Court of Justice ruled that it was for the national court to determine whether Kaltoft's obesity qualifies as a disability -- analogous to the U.S. Supreme Court tossing a case back to a lower state court to hash out the details.

Though we have the Americans with Disabilities Act in the United States, Rebecca Puhl, deputy director at the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University, said obesity only meets the definition of disability in some cases. In most cases, it does not meet the definition and the legal cases that hinge on obesity as a disability are generally not successful.

"The plaintiff must prove that his or her obesity is disabling or perceived to be disabling by others," Puhl said.

Kelly Brownell, a professor at Duke University's Stanford School of Public Policy, said although some people may not want to be labeled as having a disability, he thinks the move is positive and puts Europe ahead of the United States.

"My perspective on this is that it's a good idea because there's very clear research showing that overweight people are discriminated against in most settings where there have been studies," Brownell said, pointing toward studies in education, health care and employment.

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Medical Miracles that Happened in 2014


Second Sight(NEW YORK) -- Modern medicine has always been capable of amazing things, but 2014 was an especially remarkable year.

Much of what happened over the past 12 months wasn’t even possible just a few short years ago. Some occurrences, like the ones that follow, might even qualify as miracles:

Bionic Eyesight

In October, a North Carolina man became one of the first people in the world to receive a bionic prosthetic eye implant. After being blind for over 30 years, doctors were able to restore a limited amount of his sight.

The wireless device works by picking up light through a tiny camera and transmitting the light into the nerves of the retina which then send signals to the brain. The University of California researchers who developed the technology call it basic but “a huge leap forward.”

Robokick

The 2014 World Cup soccer tournament began with a kick by a paraplegic man in a mind-controlled exoskeleton.

“As we go after the world cup, we would like to examine a number of other movements," said Miguel Nicolelis, one of the 100 researchers who helped develop the robotic suit as part of the Walk Again Project.

3D Printed Body Parts

This was the year print-on-demand body parts became a viable reality. From the prosthetic hand printed for under $10 by high schoolers to the custom “bionic arm” 3D printed for a 6-year-old boy, scientists and citizens alike printed up a substitute for just about every joint in the body. Scientists also experimented with bio-printing organs as well.

Miracle Babies

This was a banner year for miracle babies. Conjoined twins survived and thrived in Dallas, a rare “Ghost Baby” born without 80 percent of her blood was saved, and there was a breakthrough stem cell treatment in the so-called “bubble baby disease,” a rare condition that leaves its young victims without a workable immune system.

Miracle Moms

When a 40-year-old woman’s heart stopped beating for 45 minutes during labor, doctors were about to call her time of death. Suddenly they spotted a blip on the heart monitor.

"I remember seeing a spiritual being who I believe was my dad," Ruby Graupera-Cassimiro said of the incident which happened in November. "I remember the light behind him and many other spiritual beings."

Incredibly, her heart started again on its own, doctors said. She successfully delivered a healthy baby girl, Taily, by cesarean.

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Why Drew Barrymore Waited to Lose the Baby Weight


Mark Davis/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Drew Barrymore and her husband Will Kopelman welcomed their second child, a daughter Frankie, this past April and only now is she starting to worry about shedding the extra baby weight.

“It took nine months to build. It should take nine months to get off,” she told People magazine of waiting to focus on dropping the weight. “I wanted fettuccini alfredo. I didn’t want a barbell.”

As for those mothers that immediately get in the gym right after giving birth, Barrymore doesn't want to hear it.

“I was like, ‘Don’t talk to me about how fast and fabulous you are or it came off.' That was not my experience. I’m having to work my ass off until I even think about getting it off,” she added.

Frankie joins big sis Olive, 2, and with the family growing, the actress, 39, says she is working less and less.

"The acting has to be less and less because it’s too time-consuming. I love it and I don’t want to abandon it, but it can’t be at the forefront right now,” she said.

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How Rapper Rick Ross Lost 85 Pounds


Craig Barritt/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Rapper Rick Ross is a music industry heavyweight who has been known as much for his big hits as his imposing size. But he’s sporting a far slimmer physique these days.

In an interview with ABC News’ Sara Haines, the “Hustlin’” rapper who was born William Leonard Roberts II said he’d lost about 85 pounds in the past year through lifestyle changes and CrossFit workouts.

“I just feel like I was at the point in my life where, you know, so many other positive things were happening in my career, my life. And, you know, two years ago I suffered two seizures,” the 38-year-old said. “And, you know, I woke up from that. And I was like, ‘Wow.’”

He added: “I was just like, ‘I really need to, you know, re-evaluate what I'm doing.’"

The rapper had embraced his more rotund shape. He famously appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone showing off his large bare belly.

He told Haines he had to change.

“You know, I feel I'm fat boy forever. I'm going to always be a fat boy. But it most definitely was just something I had to do, you know, for the better, you know. And I always enjoy my size. I love taking my shirt off, running around, you know … it was really a health issue for me,” he said.

He made some drastic changes, cutting back on his drinking, sleeping more and watching what he ate.

“Sodas was the first thing I cut out. Most definitely. That was, majority of my sugar. The way I ate, you know, fast food,” he said.

Now, on a typical day, he’ll have three eggs with turkey bacon for breakfast, then he’ll do a workout.

"That's RossFit, you know. I put a twist on that CrossFit,” he said, laughing.

Ross said he gets in three to four CrossFit workouts per week, and admits that some people have questioned the change, which can go against the stereotype of rappers always living the high life.

To those detractors, Ross has an answer.

“I say, ‘Baby, you already know ... I still got it. Ain't nothing went nowhere. You just better with it, you know what I mean? And you know, everything really been going well,” he said.

Ross is forging full-steam ahead musically, churning out album after album. His latest is Hood Billionaire, his second in seven months.

He said it’s a result of his passion for music.

When Haines asked him whether the weight loss affected his music or his life, he replied:

“Not at all, you know. My music just comes … from the heart,” adding that he drew inspiration from all aspects of life, including the interview with Haines.

He jokingly told Haines he might rap about her.

“I may actually put your name, you never know, in a verse," he said. "But, you know, every day I wake up, there's something new for me to feed on, or I see something new that's going on around me that I could make not just a punch line, but an actual topic for an incredible record."

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Childhood Diseases Can Also Sicken Adults


ABC/Rick Rowell(ARLINGTON, Va.) — Angelina Jolie missed the premiere of her movie Unbroken because she came down with chickenpox. Meanwhile, more than a dozen players from the National Hockey League were diagnosed with the mumps.

Aren’t these childhood illnesses? Yes they are, but that doesn’t mean adults can’t get them.

Dr. Aaron Glatt, a spokesman for the Infectious Diseases Society of America, explains there are several factors at work here, one being that vaccination rates have fallen across the country, meaning the chances of being exposed to chickenpox, mumps, measles and whooping cough have increased.

Right or wrong, the anti-vaccine movement that has gained strength over the years is putting more people at risk.

Another problem is that vaccines aren’t perfect and if someone has been immunized as a kid, the vaccine's effect can wear off over the course of time. In other words, just become you didn’t come down with an infectious disease as a child doesn’t mean you’ll never get sick if exposed to the disease as an adult.

It’s believed that the NHL players passed along the mumps to one another although it’s difficult to ascertain how Jolie developed chicken pox. However, doctors know that since she’s gotten sick, Jolie is more susceptible to other diseases down the road such as shingles, which causes painful rashes.

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