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Epileptic Boy's Parents Frustrated by Delays Plaguing Medical Marijuana Rollout


pkripper503/iStock/Thinkstock(ORANGE COUNTY, Fla.) -- Andrea Saretti's son Sam starts the day each morning by putting on a special helmet and medical bracelet to protect him in case he falls to the ground with a seizure.

Sam, 9, was diagnosed with epilepsy last year and has suffered seizures that have not stopped despite multiple medications and even an electronic implant that is designed to prevent seizures by sending mild electrical pulses to the brain through the vagus nerve.

"He misses a lot of school," Saretti told ABC News. "He had a seizure in the road on the way to the bus stop. ... It happens at school and happens at restaurants and happens everywhere."

The medications Sam is currently on have helped somewhat but they have also led to side effects, including weight gain, Saretti said, noting that Sam, who is also autistic, went from 80 pounds to over 120 pounds in just one year of treatment after being prescribed adult doses of medication to try and stop the seizures.

While many doctors are reluctant to say with certainty that marijuana can help with epilepsy, patients who have found little relief with conventional drugs have turned to the natural remedy as anecdotal reports suggest it can reduce seizures.

Sam's doctors decided last fall they wanted to try using low-THC cannabis to help Sam, his mom said, referring to the psychoactive chemical found in marijuana. The timing seemed perfect as the Florida legislature passed the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act in June, allowing doctors to prescribe low-THC cannabis to patients with certain criteria in Florida.

However, while the medical use of the drug became legal as of Jan. 1, Sam and his mother are still waiting to get the medication.

The reason for the delay is that a Florida administrative law judge invalidated the Florida Health Department's plan to use a lottery system to choose marijuana growers. As a result, no one in the state is currently allowed to grow marijuana and the Florida Department of Health has been meeting with potential growers to decide how to proceed, according to ABC News affiliate WFTV-TV in Orlando.

"There are many parents across the state who are waiting with baited breath [saying] 'When is this going to be available for my kid?'" said Saretti, noting she's talked online to parents in similar situations.

Saretti said she's hoping something will change in the coming months so that Sam can stay in school rather than be stuck at home, where he can be more easily monitored.

"We're looking at [being] home-bound now for the remaining of the year," said Saretti. "You look at quality of life -- something like [the Compassionate Care Act] can give him back a quality of life."

After consulting with growers and others about how to progress forward, the Florida Health Department announced last week that a panel would convene in February to discuss how to implement that act and approve marijuana growers in the state.

“The department remains committed to getting this product to children with intractable epilepsy and people with advanced cancer as safely and quickly as possible,” read a statement from the Department of Health. “This rulemaking negotiation is part of the department’s commitment to working with all stakeholders to arrive at a rule and start providing the product to those who need it."

Dr. Elizabeth Thiele, the director of the Pediatric Epilepsy Program at Massachusetts General Hospital, said low-THC cannabis or cannabidoil (a chemical derived from cannabis) has been used by some patients only after cycling through different medications unsuccessfully.

However, Thiele, who has not treated Sam, said there has been no large comprehensive study examining if cannabis-derived medications are an effective treatment for epilepsy. But epileptic patients including some children across the country have been trying out low-THC cannabis as a last resort, she said.

Thiele is currently studying 25 pediatric patients with epilepsy who are being treated with doses of cannabidoil, which contain virtually none of the psychoactive ingredient of cannabis. She said early results have been promising but not a total success in treating seizures.


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Sorry, Pregnant Women, New Study Is Not a Carte Blanche to Eat Sushi


Kesu01/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Despite jubilant tweets and Facebook posts to the contrary, a new study does not reverse decades of advice prohibiting pregnant women from eating sushi, experts said.

The study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition said pregnant women may be able to eat more fish than previously thought thanks to what appear to be minimal negative effects from mercury consumption on their unborn children, but experts say sushi is a whole different story.

Researchers at Rochester University followed more than 1,200 pregnant mothers in the Republic of Seychelles until their children were 20 months old. Seychelles is an archipelago in the Indian Ocean where people eat more fish than they do in the United States.

"They don't really eat sushi," said study author Gary Myers. "That's the first thing I would say. They ate quite a wide mixture of fish -- much wider than what we have in the states, actually."

The pregnant women in the study ate 12 fish meals a week on average, and researchers concluded that the fatty acids found in the fish may have protected children's brains from the harmful effects of mercury. Researchers found that pregnant women whose blood had higher levels of the polyunsaturated fatty acid found in fish went on to have children who performed better on a battery of tests on motor skills and other functions that might be effected by high mercury levels.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends that women eat no more than 12 ounces of fish or two fish meals a week, but Myers said it's considering whether to allow more.

For now, Dr. Jeff Ecker, who chairs the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists' Committee on Obstetric Practice, said women should continue to follow the current FDA recommendations. He said the study might help convince the FDA to change the guidelines, but more research analysis is needed.

"The study suggests, as has been known for a while, that there are real benefits from fish eating," he said. "The balance between the benefits and potential risk of mercury exposure and this work suggest that there's not as direct a relationship between mercury exposure and adverse outcome as initially thought."

Still, pregnant women are told not to eat raw or under-cooked fish for several reasons, said teratologist Robert Felix, who studies and counsels women on how things during pregnancy effect their unborn children. If it is not prepared and handled properly, sushi can cause parasitic infections, be cross-contaminated by bacteria or other substances or contain high levels of mercury, Felix said.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that pregnant women only eat fish cooked to at least 145 degrees Fahrenheit.

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CDC Issues Health Alert Over Measles Outbreak


Photo by ChinaFotoPress/Getty Images(ATLANTA) -- The Centers for Disease Control issued a health alert on Friday to health department and hospitals around the country to make them aware there's an ongoing outbreak of measles.

The outbreak, originally linked to a single case at Disneyland in California in December, has grown to affecting 58 people and spread from California to Utah, Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Arizona, and across the border to Mexico.  

In 2000, the U.S. declared that measles had been eliminated, meaning the disease is no longer native to the U.S. The virus can however hitch a ride with people who have been overseas.

Most of those who have gotten sick have been unvaccinated, according to health officials.

Many young doctors and medical workers likely have never seen a case of measles, prompting the CDC’s alert to remind them what it looks like, and to review vaccination recommendations.


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Patients Get 'Burned' During Surgery at Oregon Hospital


XiXinXing/iStock/Thinkstock(SILVERTON, Ore.) -- A small number of patients at an Oregon hospital woke up to more than run-of-the-mill post-surgery scars -- their skin was burned.

Thanks to unfiltered halogen operating room lights, about ten Silverton Hospital patients suffered from skin irritations ranging from redness to blistering to "full thickness" burns, according to Silverton Health in Silverton, Oregon.

The hospital noticed the problem during a quality review process and said it has since fixed the problem.

“For all of us working in health care, we're in it to help people get better, so it's difficult for us when safety of patients are compromised in any way," Dr. Joseph Huang, chief medical officer, said in a statement. "It's our responsibility to our patients and the communities that we serve that we respond in a transparent and accountable way."

It may seem shocking, but this isn't the first time patients have been burned in the O.R.

In 1989, a plastic surgeon published case study of injuries during the five months he used a certain surgical light fixture. He noticed that a 68-year-old woman who had an "uneventful" procedure unwrapped her bandages two weeks later to find a nine by seven centimeter purplish discoloration that progressed to scarring and skin loss.

Another woman, this time 52 years old, also discovered an unexplained scar after her procedure and needed follow-up surgery to correct it.

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How a Sonogram Is Helping Gym Goers Lose Weight


ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Sonograms are the latest piece of technology gyms are using to help inspire their members to tone up and lose weight. But rather than scoping a growing baby in utero, the hand-held ultrasound scanners evaluate body fat percentage.

Bari Studio in New York City uses this technique to give their members insight into their progress.

“It takes measurements from four different parts of their body -- the triceps, waist, hip and thigh -- so we can see what’s going on in these specific areas and get information about their total body composition,” explained Courtney Romano, a certified personal trainer who is Bari’s head trainer in New York.

The machine works by bouncing sound off the body’s various tissues to estimate fat thickness without using any radiation. Since sound rebounds off fat at a particular wavelength, the operator can use this information to calculate an overall body fat percentage.

Each measurement costs $50, Romano said, and the typical gym member repeats the measurement about once a month to help fine tune her training program. Clients like Diem Tran said the checkup provides a different perspective on her training.

“When I first started working out my weight stayed the same and I couldn’t figure out what was actually going on,” Tran told ABC News' Good Morning America.

The 26-year-old credits the regular feedback she gets from the measurement for helping her lose 12 pounds and 7 percent body fat since August.

But proceed with caution, urged Dr. Jennifer Ashton, ABC News' senior medical contributor.

“Anytime we have technology to improve our health, that can potentially be an exciting thing,” Ashton said. “But my concern is that this not be misused or abused.”

The accuracy of sonogram body fat measurements is well established, Ashton said, but results can vary depending on the skill of the technician, the quality of the machine and how often the scan is repeated.

Despite the caveats, Ashton said she feels the measurement may help some exercisers reach their goals.

“Haters shouldn’t hate on this technology. At the end of the day, it’s whatever motivates the individual,” she said.


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Infant Grins After 'Seeing' Mom Clearly for First Time


Megan McMorris(DENVER) — An emotional video of a Denver infant smiling after "seeing" her mother clearly for the first time has also made millions of others share in that joy.

Megan McMorris took the video of her 8-month-old daughter Louise after the girl was given new glasses to help address her sight problems.

Louise was born with albinism, which means she has no pigment in her skin, hair or eyes. As a result, she has debilitating sight problems, according to McMorris.

"Once she could actually see me, it’s like 'Oh hi that’s you'," said McMorris of the moment her daughter looked at her with glasses. "She’s happy. At least she didn’t start crying."

Video of the meeting has already garnered more than 3 million views in less than two weeks.

In the video, Louise appears to break into a big grin as Megan speaks to her.

With the new specially designed prescription glasses, McMorris also said that Louise has been able to finally play with her older brother Mason since she can more clearly see what she's doing.

"She’s able to reach out for things because she can see them now," McMorris told ABC News of Louise's new ability. "If I walk into a room, I can tell she can see something."

McMorris said one result of the albinism is that Louise tends to rely on hearing more than sight. As a result, McMorris has taken to singing to her daughter to bond with her.

"I can sing to her and I know she’s really listening," said McMorris. "It’s our thing. It’s a special moment."

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Does Stressing Out Cause Your Hair to Turn Grey?


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Grey can be a difficult color to pull off especially when it’s on your head. So is the only way to avoid grey locks to live a life free of stress and strain?

Not so fast. Each of us have two chemicals in our bodies: melanin, which is the pigment in our hair, and hydrogen peroxide. Early in life, it seems that melanin overpowers the hydrogen peroxide, allowing us to have a colorful head of hair.

Later in life, though, the hydrogen peroxide seems to overtake the melanin, causing a loss of pigmentation and a greying of the hair.

“But in terms of stress causing grey hair, there is no scientific proof whatsoever,” Dr. Michael Stern, an Emergency Medicine Physician at New York Presbyterian Hospital, says.

You may now resume your stress-filled lives without the added weight of worrying about hair color.

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Coroner Investigates Death of Girl Who Refused Chemotherapy


Bhakpong/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The death of an 11-year-old girl who sparked headlines after her family agreed to let her stop chemotherapy will be investigated by a local coroner.

Makayla Sault, a member of the First Nations tribe in Canada, died after suffering a stroke on Sunday, according to a family statement.

Makayla’s case grabbed headlines after, at the girl's request, she stopped chemotherapy treatment for her acute lymphoblastic leukemia in May. The move led to the family being investigated by a division of Canada's Children’s Aid Society, which ultimately allowed the family to continue to care for Makayla without requiring the chemotherapy treatments.

In a statement released this week, the girl's family blamed her death on the 12 weeks of chemotherapy she had undergone before she stopped treatment. The family said it was not the disease that killed Makayla, but rather the effects of the chemotherapy.

“Makayla was on her way to wellness, bravely fighting toward holistic well-being after the harsh side effects that 12 weeks of chemotherapy inflicted on her body,” the family said in a statement. "Chemotherapy did irreversible damage to her heart and major organs. This was the cause of the stroke."

McMaster Children's Hospital in Hamilton, Ontario, where Makayla was treated, said it had no comment on the claims in the family's statement. However, the hospital, part of the Hamilton Health Sciences family of hospitals, released its condolences for Makayla's family.

"Everyone who knew Makayla was touched by this remarkable girl," said the statement, signed by Peter Fitzgerald, the hospital's president. "Her loss is heart-breaking. Our deepest sympathy is extended to Makayla’s family.”

Cheryl Mahyr, a spokeswoman for the office of the chief coroner in Ontario, told ABC News that there was an ongoing investigation into Makayla’s death, but that it was a routine investigation sparked by the earlier Children’s Aid Society probe.

Brant Family and Children’s Services, the Children's Aid Society division that investigated the family, expressed its condolences in a statement issued after Makayla’s death.

"Makayla was a wonderful, loving child who eloquently exercised her indigenous rights as a First Nations person and those legal rights provided to her under Ontario’s Health Care Consent Act," the group’s statement read, in part. "The parents are a caring couple who loved their daughter deeply."

Chief Bryan LaForme, a spokesman for Makayla's family, told ABC News that the girl did not have any signs of leukemia at the time of her death. He noted that it was Makayla, herself, who asked to stop treatment and that her family supported her decision.

Dr. John Letterio, chief of pediatric hematology and oncology at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital in Cleveland, said it was unlikely that chemotherapy drugs could have caused a stroke months after Makayla stopped treatment.

“The drugs we use, literally thousands of patients have had these,” said Letterio, who did not treat Makayla. “One of the chemotherapy agents we use has the risk for some heart problems [but] it’s so very, very rare.”

Letterio said the chance of complications would also be further reduced if Makayla was out of chemotherapy treatment for months.

However, Letterio said if Makayla did have active leukemia disease, there’s a chance cardiac complications could occur.

“Leukemia, in essence, goes everywhere the blood stream goes. Those cancer cells can accumulate,” said Letterio. “It could be a complication of her disease if it began to march along. It’s hard to tell.”

Makayla’s death came a few months after an Ontario judge ruled on a similar case in which an unidentified girl, also part of the First Nations tribe, refused chemotherapy. In that case, the judge ruled the family of the girl would be allowed to pursue alternative treatment and stop chemotherapy in part because of their "aboriginal right."

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'Six Pack' Mom Reacts to Uproar over Her Abs-Baring Photo


File photo. (Artem_Furman/iStock/Thinkstock)(NEW YORK) -- When Abby Pell posted a photo on Instagram showing her slim belly and toned, defined abs, she never expected the uproar that would erupt.

In the photo, Pell, 33, a nutritionist and fitness competitor, posed next to her 6-year-old daughter, who pointed to her mother’s bared abs with a shocked look on her face. The photo’s caption read: “I have a kid, a six pack and no excuse.”

“I just thought it would be funny,” the British woman said.

Not everyone laughed. In fact, many people accused her of fat shaming other mothers and setting a bad example for her daughter, Bella.

One commenter wrote: "She's teaching her kid that anyone who doesn't conform has no excuse, they're just lazy.”

But many others have defended Pell, including one who wrote: “U have inspired me to work harder at the gym."

Now, Pell, of West Sussex, England, is explaining herself. She said she simply wanted to motivate other mothers.

“My message was about having a choice, and showing people that it can be achieved if you want to achieve it, and just by leading by example,” she told ABC News.

The reaction to Pell’s photo was similar to the backlash against Maria Kang in 2013, when she posted a photo of her slim and toned figure with her three young sons. Her photo caption was “What’s your excuse?”

Kang, too, said she wanted to encourage other women. She said she was an example of a mother who was healthy and could be a positive role model to other mothers.

Still, some say photos like the ones Pell and Kang posted can send a far different message.

“Let’s give props to this person who obviously is in great shape,” said ABC News’ Dr. Jennifer Ashton. "But let’s also recognize that shaming people is usually not a powerful motivational tool. And I think that, certainly, when you’re talking about moms bouncing back from pregnancy, we have enough pressure on us as mothers."

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Women of Child-Bearing Age Should Avoid Taking Addictive Painkillers


iStock/Thinkstock(ATLANTA) — Prescription painkillers containing highly addictive opioids that can cause birth defects and other serious problems in early pregnancy are taken by more than a quarter of U.S. women of child-bearing age.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released this information Thursday as a warning to women who are thinking about having a child or might be in the early stages of being pregnant.

Although much has been reported about the dramatic increase of overdoses from these medications, this is the first time the CDC has focused on the dangers Vicodin, Oxycontin and other drugs pose to women between the ages of 15 and 44.

While women might stop taking opioid painkillers after becoming pregnant, the problem is that they might not know about their condition until after the first few weeks, especially if their pregnancy was unplanned as about half are in the U.S.

These drugs can affect the brain and spine of the fetus as well as a pregnant woman's heart and abdominal wall.

In terms of prescription use by women, the rate were highest in the South and lowest in the Northeast. Also, white women are one-and-a-half times more likely to take opioids than black or Hispanic women.

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Coffee May Be Work's Only Saving Grace


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Forget about pay raises, promotions and more vacation time. What really floats the boats of workers is a good cup of coffee.

Or so says coffee maker Keurig Green Mountain Inc., which polled 840 people about how coffee enhances their experience on the job.

For instance, nearly nine out 10 respondents contend that coffee just makes the entire workday better while 85 percent say that sharing the beverage with a client or colleague improves relationships.

Meanwhile, 84 percent believe making good coffee available is an important perk (no pun intended or maybe it was), although just over half complained that they wished their employer would supply a better quality brand, presumably Keurig.

And then, there's the downside of missing out on a daily cup of joe. More than a third say that without it they feel exhausted while others griped about feeling irritable, unproductive, disorganized and even forgetful.

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Oranges vs. Orange Juice: Which Is Better for You?


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Everyone knows that oranges are packed with vitamin C but some people prefer the convenience of drinking orange juice than having to peel through the fruit or cut up slices. This begs the question: is one better than the other?

Researchers at Hohenheim University in Germany says both an orange and orange juice each has its advantages and disadvantages. For instance, Ralf Schweiggert, Julian Aschoff and their colleagues point out that the drawbacks to juice is that it contains more sugar than a regular orange and because of pasteurization, there are also lower levels of vitamin C and nutrients such as carotenoids.

So that makes eating an orange the healthier choice, right? Not necessarily, according to the researchers. It turns out that the juice greatly improves the body’s ability to absorb vitamin C and the orange’s nutrients than by eating the fruit.

Juicing oranges also has a plus and a minus side. While it does reduce the flavonoids, which can lower cancer and cardiovascular disease risks, the juice makes what remains easier for the body to absorb than eating slices.

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Chewing Gum, the Cavity Fighter?


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Those four out of five dentists who recommended Trident for their patients who chew gum knew what they were talking about.

Actually, any kind of sugarless gum promotes better dental health, according to new research in the journal PLos ONE.

Research showed that a stick of gum captures about 10 percent of the microbial load in saliva or up to 100 million bacteria that can lead to cavities.

The amount of bacteria is about the same that’s removed through flossing although this method cleans out different regions of the mouth.

The researchers also discovered that gum captures most of the bacteria within 30 seconds because after that, it start losing its adhesive quality.

Bottom line: gum is good for your teeth. Just remember though that the Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co., which has something to gain from positive results, funded the study.

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Walnuts May Improve Cognitive Functions


iStock/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) — Walnuts are not everyone’s cup of tea and that’s too bad because they may turn out to be a legitimate brain-food.

UCLA researchers contend that people who eat walnuts improve their cognitive functions, that is, remembering, concentrating and making decisions.

Led by Dr. Lenore Arab, the scientists did a meta-study of various National Health and Nutrition Examination surveys and discovered that performances on six cognitive tests were better among those who ate higher amounts of walnuts.

What makes these nuts so special? Their content of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and an omega-3 fatty acid that benefits both the brain and the heart.

Arab said the findings are important as the Baby Boomer generation ages and dementia becomes more prevalent. Walnuts are one possible way of slowing down degenerative memory diseases.

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Health Officials Discuss Status of Potential Ebola Vaccines


luiscar/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Top officials from the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration held a press conference on Thursday to offer an update on the testing of Ebola vaccines.

During the call, four different vaccine candidates were discussed, including one developed by the NIAID and Glaxo Smith Kline and one developed in a partnership between Canadian health authorities and Merck, both of which are in Phase 1 of studies -- the earliest studies involving human subjects. Such testing is meant to assess safety for use, rather than the efficacy of the vaccine.

Officials also discussed two potential vaccines developed by Johnson & Johnson.

A larger phase two and three study is planned in Liberia to help determine how effective the vaccines are. According to Dr. Anthony Fauci of the NIH, the study would involve about 27,000 subjects and could begin "in a couple of weeks." The study could take nine months to a year to conduct.

A separate trial of the same vaccines is planned for Sierra Leone with a different study design. That trial could include an estimated 6,000 subjects.

Officials also discussed ZMapp, the potential Ebola therapeutic treatment, saying that health agencies and the government of Liberia are working to evaluate ZMapp in studies in both the U.S. and Liberia.

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