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Two Americans With Ebola to Be Flown Back to US


iStock/Thinkstock(ATLANTA) -- Two American patients stricken with Ebola are to be flown from Africa to the United States, ABC News has learned.

There are plans to transfer a patient with Ebola virus infection to Emory University Hospital's special facility containment unit within the next several days, hospital officials said today in a statement. Officials added that it's unclear when the patient will arrive in Atlanta.

"Emory University Hospital has a specially built isolation unit set up in collaboration with the CDC to treat patients who are exposed to certain serious infectious diseases," hospital officials said. "It is physically separate from other patient areas and has unique equipment and infrastructure that provide an extraordinarily high level of clinical isolation. It is one of only four such facilities in the country."


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California Company Recalls Food Linked to Botulism


iStock/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) -- A California company has issued a recall on food that may be linked to botulism.

Two botulism infection cases might be tied to the pine nut basil pesto sauce made by VR Green Farms, a company that sells food products online.

VR Green Farms has recalled the pesto as well as a pickled farm mix, Old World tomato sauce, sun dried tomatoes in olive oil, Tuscan grilling sauce, and pasta sauce.

Health workers say botulism -- a rare infection caused by toxins in bacteria -- can be fatal.  

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Consumer Reports: FDA Should Make Painkillers Safer


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Consumer Reports is calling on the Food and Drug Administration to make painkillers safer. 

According to Consumer Reports, every day, 46 people die and more than 1,000 go to emergency rooms because they're taking legal drugs to kill pain.

Consumer Reports says it's time for the FDA to require mandatory training so doctors know how to prescribe opioid painkillers -- like oxycodone and hydrocodone -- and also how to properly monitor patients for signs of tolerance, abuse, and dependence.

According to Lisa Gill, deputy content editor of Consumer Reports, there should also be tighter regulations on acetaminophen -- the main ingredient in Tylenol -- because too much can lead to liver failure.  

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Why We Don't Have an Ebola Vaccine Yet


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Though Ebola was first discovered nearly four decades ago, there's still no vaccine that's regularly administered to humans to prevent it.

But why?

"There's always the layperson's query of 'Why don't they rush this? 'Why don't these guys work a little later at night?'" said Dr. Willian Schaffner, chair of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. "It's a little more complicated than that."

Because Ebola cases are so rare, drug manufacturers hadn't been interested in investing in finding its vaccine, Schaffner said. In addition, Ebola's rarity makes it impossible for scientists to do field studies, which they were able to do with viruses like measles, which people were likely to be exposed to anyway because it was so common.

Before this current outbreak, there had been only about 2,000 cases in total since it was discovered in 1976, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health.

However, the current Ebola outbreak in Africa has infected 1,323 people in three countries and killed 729 of them, making it the largest Ebola outbreak to date, according to the World Health Organization.

The dire situation in Africa has prompted more than 4,500 people to sign a Change.org petition to fast track Ebola vaccines and drugs within the U.S. Food and Drug Administration -- something that's actually been in the works since March, Fauci said.

The NIH's Ebola vaccine has been studied in monkeys and is set to begin its first phase I clinical trial in humans sometime in September, Fauci said. If it is successful, it will take until mid- to late-2015 before a limited number of vaccine doses would be ready to administer to health care workers, he said.

The clinical trial participants won’t be exposed to the Ebola virus, Fauci said. Instead, they'll stay in the U.S., where they'll be given a dose of the vaccine and tested to see if their antibody levels match the levels shown in monkey studies to protect the monkeys from Ebola. Scientists will also be watching for adverse reactions to the vaccine to make sure it is safe.

Since the locals already fear the health care workers, wrongly blaming them for bringing Ebola to their villages, Schaffner and Fauci said making sure the vaccine is safe is extremely important.

"That's the case whenever you have terror and fright and death and people being extraordinarily frightened of things they don't understand," Fauci said.

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CDC Issues Travel Warning to Countries Impacted by Ebola Virus


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a travel advisory warning against non-essential travel to Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone due to the worsening Ebola virus.

The CDC also says it is sending 50 specialists to the West Africa countries impacted.

Two Americans, including a doctor, have been infected with the disease, and Liberia's lead Ebola doctor died from the virus. As of Thursday, 1,323 are infected, according to the World Health Organization. Of those infected, 729 have died, meaning this outbreak has a fatality rate of approximately 60%.

But according to CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden, there should be little concern over next week's African summit in Washington.

"I don't think people should be concerned about the visitors from Africa," Dr. Frieden said. "Remember it's a big place. We're talking about three countries, relatively small countries, in west Africa."

According to Dr. Frieden, getting Ebola under control will take time.

"It's not gonna be quick and it's not gonna be easy. It will take at least three to six months to get this outbreak under control even in the best of circumstances," he said.

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Mom Raises Money to Fund Son's 'Smile' Surgery


Courtesy Danielle Templer(NEW YORK) -- When 5-year-old Maddox Perales poses for a photo, he has to hold up his cheeks as he yells “cheese.” Maddox's unusual smile is a result of a neurological disorder called Moebius syndrome.

Maddox was diagnosed as an infant with the disorder, which primarily affects the 6th and 7th cranial nerves and can cause severe facial weakness or paralysis, according to the Moebius Syndrome Foundation.

The condition left him with facial muscles so weak he could not feed himself or even smile. He also could not blink or move his eyes laterally, meaning he had no peripheral vision.

In the five years since he was diagnosed, Maddox’s mother, Danielle Templer, has worked with speech and physical therapists to develop Maddox’s speech and eating ability. Even though he can now eat, read and talk, he is still is unable to smile.

“He’s so astute and I don’t want people to perceive him as not being smart,” said Templer. "I don’t want people first...to judge a book by a cover before they [know him.]”

Templer said preschool and pre-kindergarten classes have been hard for the 5-year-old because other kids don’t understand why he doesn’t smile. Even Templer had to figure out what Maddox’s laugh sounded like so she could understand when he was happy or sad.

“It makes a big, big difference,” said Templer of the ability to smile. “It’s instrumental. It’s a bond. It’s a lot of things, a smile. It does so much for you.”

While Maddox can still smile by manually holding up his cheeks, Templer is looking for a permanent solution. One possible answer is specialized surgery to treat facial paralysis.

Templer is hoping to take Maddox to be treated at the Facial Paralysis Program at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. The program helps to treat children like Maddox by grafting nerves and other muscles from other parts of the body into the facial region through multiple surgeries to try and animate the facial muscles.

Templer said she’s raised more than $21,000 but estimates the surgery and following care will be approximately $100,000. She's currently raising money in an online fundraiser.

For Templer, the surgery isn’t just about having Maddox smile. She hopes it will help with a speech impediment that can make him unintelligible to people outside of his family and make it easier for him to interact with new people.

“This is the card he was dealt. We're going to play our ace high,” said Templer of her plan to fund Maddox’s surgery. “[For Moebius syndrome kids], we smile with our hearts. He’s a normal boy but, gosh, it’s so important to smile.”

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Ebola-Stricken American Doctor Has Taken 'Turn for the Worse'


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- An American doctor being treated for Ebola in Liberia has “taken a slight turn for the worse overnight,” according to Samaritan’s Purse, an evangelical Christian Charity based in North Carolina.

An "experimental serum" to treat the virus arrived for the two infected Americans, but there was only enough for one person, according to Samaritan’s Purse. Dr. Kent Brantly, who noticed his Ebola symptoms and quarantined himself last week, offered the dose to the other infected American, Dr. Nancy Writebol.

Both Brantly and Writebol are in “stable but grave condition” according to the statement.

“However, Dr. Brantly received a unit of blood from a 14-year-old boy who had survived Ebola because of Dr. Brantly’s care,” Franklin Graham, president of Samaritan’s Purse, said in a statement. “The young boy and his family wanted to be able to help the doctor that saved his life.”

Samaritan’s Purse is currently evacuating all but the most essential members of its organization from the region because of the outbreak.

While none of those infected landed in the U.S., the chance of that occurring is a growing concern for health officials.

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What Would Happen if Ebola Landed in the US


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The current Ebola virus outbreak is already the worst on record, with 1,323 infected in three countries across West Africa. Of those infected, 729 have died, including top Ebola doctors in Liberia and Sierra Leone.

While the staggering numbers of the infected and dead are frightening, an outbreak in the U.S. is unlikely to be as devastating as the hardest hit areas in Africa, health officials said.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other government agencies have multiple safeguards in place to contain the deadly virus from turning into a wider epidemic.

The safeguards have already been put into place after an American doctor in Liberia was diagnosed with Ebola. His family was visiting the U.S. before he was diagnosed and are under "fever watch" to ensure they do not develop the virus, health officials said.

Two American health care workers have been infected with the virus in Liberia and one person with a dual American-Nigerian citizenship died after flying from Liberia to Nigeria.

While none of those infected landed in the U.S., the chance of that occurring is a growing concern for health officials.

Earlier this week, the CDC issued a level 2 warning ordering Americans visiting countries affected by the Ebola outbreak to practice "enhanced precautions" by avoiding people who appear to be ill or show signs of the disease.

Despite enhanced safeguards from both local governments and the CDC, multiple experts said it's likely that at least one person infected with Ebola will land in the U.S. at some point during the outbreak.

But once an infected passenger lands here, there are multiple ways for the disease to be contained, CDC officials said.

"It's true that anyone with an illness is just one plane ride away from coming to the U.S.," said John O'Connor, a spokesman for the CDC told ABC News earlier this week. "But we have protections in place."

Throughout airports across the country, employees have been trained to spot the early signs of Ebola, including fever, sore throat, and muscle weakness. At 20 U.S. airports including JFK Airport in New York City, CDC quarantine teams are ready to isolate and treat any passenger that has worrying symptoms before they enter the country, officials said.

If a crew realizes a passenger is sick while en route, the plane's captain can call ahead and have CDC officials meet the plan on the tarmac. Flight attendants can also move the passenger to a more isolated area.

If an infected passenger is identified after landing, the CDC would work to identify others who traveled with them and monitor them as well. While Ebola can be a terrifying virus, experts said it is unlikely to pass between plane passengers. The virus is not airborne, meaning a person would have to be in close personal contact with a contagious person or touch an infected surface to contract the disease.

And a person is only contagious once they have started to show symptoms. The virus is spread through bodily secretions, including blood or urine, and a person is likely to be more contagious as they become more symptomatic as the virus multiplies.

There is also the chance that an infected passenger will arrive even before they develop symptoms and know that they are sick. One particularly worrying fact is that the incubation for the virus is on average eight to 10 days but can be as long as 21 days, which means a traveler arriving in the U.S, from West Africa can appear healthy for weeks before showing symptoms.

The CDC has warned U.S. doctors to be on the lookout for signs of patients with Ebola by looking for early warning signs, including fever or muscle weakness and by taking into account their recent travel history.

If a doctor in the U.S. suspects at all that a patient is infected with Ebola, they would immediately be directed to call the CDC and isolate the patient. Special protective gear would be used by hospital workers, including maintenance workers, to protect themselves from infection.

Dr. Stephen Morris, a professor of epidemiology at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, said that the group of people at the biggest risk for Ebola are health care workers or those in close contact with the infected person such as a family caregiver.

"The only way a person will get it is through infected secretions," said Morris. "The chances from getting it [from sitting next to someone] is very, very small."

If an infected person is identified then their family would either be isolated or monitored to ensure they are also not infected with the disease. The family of an American doctor who was infected with the disease in Liberia have remained on fever-watch, according to the CDC, but are not isolated in a hospital.


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Tennessee Teen, Once Bitten, Now Scared of Brown Recluse Spiders


iStock/Thinkstock(NASHVILLE, Tenn.) -- Most bites from brown recluse spiders go unnoticed, experts say. But not the one that turned Jessica Blessing’s leg blue.

Blessing, a 19-year-old home health nurse from Nashville, Tennessee, said she woke up immediately after the tiny spider bit into her leg in bed.

“I started itching and when I got up to look at it, I could see it was swollen and blue,” she told ABC News. “Within three hours I was throwing up. I had a 103 fever and chills. It hurt to walk and I was limping really bad.”

The bite sent Blessing to the hospital for five days in May, she said, and she still makes weekly visits to the doctor to have dead flesh cut from the wound. She says she's now terrified of spiders and keeps sticky traps all over the house.

But experts say Blessing’s experience is an extreme case.

“In rare instances, a brown recluse bite can cause a severe reaction and may even be deadly,” said Bennett Jordan, the staff scientist for the National Pest Management Association. “But in a vast majority of cases -- 90 percent -- the reaction is very mild.”

Rick Vetter, a University of California TK expert on the brown recluse, said rumors of a sharp rise in spider bites are greatly exaggerated and difficult to prove.

“Many times it’s a misdiagnosis,” he said, explaining that bacterial infections, diabetes ulcers, poison ivy and a myriad of other medical conditions are frequently mistaken for spider bites. “Unless you actually witness the spider chomping down, you can’t say for sure that’s what it was.”

Vetter also said that the vast majority of bites go unreported because most people don’t realize they’ve been bitten. At the same time, he said he’s skeptical about many of the occurrences that are reported to authorities, pointing to the fact that there have been over 850 spider bite reports filed in Florida over a six-year period despite only seventy confirmed sightings of the arachnid in the state in the past 100 years.

Blessing’s bite was confirmed by a doctor, and brown recluses are common in the region around Nashville where Blessing lives. The Tennessee Poison Center fields between 50 to 100 brown recluse spider bite claims a year.

Linda Rayor, an arachnologist with Cornell University, said it’s unlikely that brown recluse populations are exploding and argued that fear of being bitten is probably arachnophobia at play. She said she doesn’t doubt Blessing’s story, but said she tends to be skeptical about spider bites.

“The chances are crazy high in favor of a fly or a mosquito, but people would rather blame the spider,” she said.

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Let's Get Physical, Just Not Every Year


iStock/Thinkstock(SALT LAKE CITY) -- Not every adult sees their doctor for an annual physical exam. And believe it or not, they may be the smart ones.

Thomas Miller, chief medical officer for the University of Utah’s Hospitals and Clinics, says the notion that adults, especially when they get older, should have a wellness exam every year could result in people doing themselves more harm than good.

Under certain circumstances, such as people who neither have a long-term illnesses nor take regular prescription drugs, it’s been shown that annual physicals don’t lower the rate of disease-related deaths, hospitalizations or health care costs.

Rather than improve one’s health, these yearly tests might lead to unnecessary over-diagnosis and expensive over-treatment of some conditions.

So why go every year without fail? It's what doctors have recommended for the past seven decades.

Of course, there are some things Miller does recommend healthy patients get checked every year: blood pressure and cholesterol.

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Low Fat Diets Still Trump the Low Carb Kind


Photodisc/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Lose the fat or lose the carbs? That’s the question facing Americans who are trying to lose weight.

Lately, low carbohydrate diets have been all the rage but not as much as you might think, given all the publicity they’ve received.

A Gallup poll of 1,000 adults across the U.S. shows that when it comes to shedding pounds, 73 percent say it’s fats they try to avoid while 44 percent are making it a point to reduce their intake of carbs.

As for the general public, again it’s fats that are getting shunned by more Americans. Gallup says that 56 percent go out of their way to cut fat from the daily diet compared to 29 percent who are eating less carbs. And then there are those people who go the extra mile by scaling back on both fats and carbs.

Meanwhile, Americans are doing a little research on their own to determine whether fat is really the main cause of their weight problems. As it happens, the percentage of Americans who try to eat less fat has fallen about eight percent over the past few years.

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Memory Impairment Could Be Another Side-Effect of Problem Drinking


iStock/Thinkstock(EXETER, England) -- Young adults who start exhibiting signs of a drinking problem might want to address their problem before they hit middle age.

That’s because a study out of the University of Exeter in England finds that too much alcohol consumption can hamper one’s memory later in life.

Researchers reviewed the drinking habits of 6,500 Americans in their 50s and 60s over two decades to measure alcohol-related cognitive damage at two-year intervals.

With 16 percent of participants admitting they had a drinking problem, it was people in this group much more so than others who demonstrated difficulties with memory on word-recall tests.

The study did not address whether drinking heavily while in your 20s was as harmful as a problem showing up during your 40s.

However, the researchers suggested that the sooner people stop drinking, the sooner they might be able to reverse the damage.

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Rare Flesh Eating Bacteria Kills One in Florida


iStock/Thinkstock(SARASOTA COUNTY, Fla.) -- One person has died from a rare flesh eating bacteria in Sarasota County, Fla., officials confirmed Wednesday.

The disease can be contracted through open wounds on the skin or eating raw or undercooked shellfish.

The bacteria thrives in warm, salt water, but Sarasota County Health Department epidemiologist Michael Drennon says the water is still okay to go in.

"Just be diligent if you have an open wound or cut," Drennon said. "Child, adult, you know, older adult, all of those individuals should be aware that there's a risk associated when that condition is present, but otherwise it's safe to go in the water."

According to health officials, 11 cases have been reported throughout the state of Florida in 2014.

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Drug Dealer Arrested for Selling 'Molly' to Man Who Died


iStock/Thinkstock(BUFFALO, N.Y.) -- A Buffalo, New York man was arrested on Wednesday for selling a club drug to someone who later died.

Patrick Morgan is accused of selling the synthetic drug "molly," a form of ecstasy, to several people including Jeffrey Russ.

At last summer's Electric Zoo music festival in New York, Russ collapsed and had a seizure. He died at the hospital.

Two others also died from molly overdoses at the festival, prompting the city to call off Electric Zoo.

Despite Russ's death, Morgan reportedly continued to sell. Court records show he sent a text message in March to Russ' friends that said "u too call me whenever you want."

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Sugary Drinks Linked to Poor Memory Function


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Sugary drinks may hurt more than your waistline and teeth.

Researchers at USC found a disturbing connection between regular sweetened drink consumption in childhood and poor memory function in adulthood.

They reported that the hippocampus region of the brain -- where memories are made and stored -- is particularly sensitive to environmental assault including high fructose levels.

This includes soda, apple juice, lemonade, sports drinks, and anything with added sugar or syrup.

They recommend sugar intake be limited to four teaspoons a day.

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