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Health

    After nearly 15 years of helping protect children and supporting their families, Jamie Lackey had seen some things: moms using plastic grocery bags as diapers, washing disposable diapers and reusing them, returning them so they can pay for gas to get t0 work. That might be hard to imagine happening in a country as rich as ours, but it happens every day, in communities all over the USA. “This is not an isolated thing,” Lackey assured me recently. Lackey is the CEO and co-founder of Helping Mamas, a Norcross-based nonprofit that collects and distributes essential items for children up to age 12. When she began this work in 2014, she was a social worker and mother of two small children, a job she was passionate about and loved. She had a supportive husband, two incomes and friends and family who had her back. And yet, Lackey said, being a mom “was the hardest job” she ever had. Her own experiences made her realize how difficult it must have been for moms who didn’t have similar support. “If it was hard for me, how much harder would it be without that support?” she asked. Actually, it was pretty hard. RELATED | Open arms, full house For the vast majority of us, buying food, clothing and clean diapers is no big deal. For low-income parents, however, shelling out $70 to $80 a month for the eight to 12 diapers their infant or toddler needs each day can stretch the family budget to the breaking point. They don’t have rainy day funds, many don’t have health insurance, and they sure don’t have money for baby items. Lackey saw that for herself. Every day, she and her colleagues spent up to 30 minutes a day searching for resources, time that would’ve been better spent providing parenting education or job training for clients. “We always say kids can’t go to school and learn if they are hungry,” Lackey said. “Well, parents can’t learn and focus on the skills they need to move to self-sufficiency if they are worried about their child’s basic needs.” Lackey wanted to do something. There was plenty of baby gear at her home that wasn’t being used. If she gave it to someone who needed it, she could help a mom and free up time for social workers to do their jobs. A Google search proved there were no coordinated efforts to provide baby essentials to needy families. Lackey applied for nonprofit status, and a friend’s mother-in-law opened her home to host a launch party. There she did a PowerPoint that included pictures of friends and family with their children, hoping they’d see themselves in the lives of the poor families she served. She reminded them that they wanted their children to be happy, healthy, loved and successful. Regardless of their background, all moms wanted the same things. It worked. RELATED | Kids in Syria need diapers too; metro Atlanta woman wants to help Women signed up that day to host drives to donate and help collect supplies, and to introduce Helping Mamas to their friends and family who might help as well. Word of the nonprofit’s efforts began spreading like wildfire. “I was working and wanted it to be a passion project I did in my free time,” Lackey said. “My husband and I decided, either we stop or go all in.” They decided to take a “leap of faith” and, in 2016, Lackey quit her job to run Helping Mamas full time. Today, the nonprofit serves over 15,000 children a year and has donated over a million basic essentials to women and children in need. “A lot of people don’t know 1 in 3 moms have had to choose between buying food and diapers for their children,” Lackey said. “Without diapers, kids can’t go to child care; without child care, parents can’t work.” It seems unimaginable, doesn’t it? Listening to Lackey talk about moms struggling to pay for something as essential as a baby’s diaper, it’s hard not to just weep. I’ve struggled with a lot in my years, but buying diapers just so I could drop my daughters off at day care was never one of them. RELATED | If school is out, hungry children need our help I asked Lackey why moms didn’t just buy cloth diapers so they could reuse them. Her answer was simple and complex: health and sanitary issues. “You can’t dispose of them and they can’t wash them on-site at day care centers,” she said. “Plus a lot of the families we serve are in shelters and don’t have access to washers and dryers.” See the complexities? It’s why Lackey is using the success of her diaper bank to create a broader dialogue on poverty and not just here in Georgia. And so in addition to providing diapers, clothing and other essentials, Helping Mamas provides safe sleep education and car seat safety and is partnering with other agencies to reduce sudden infant death syndrome and infant mortality rates. “We literally do everything,” she said. No kidding. Recently Lackey was in Washington, D.C., hoping to persuade members of Congress to support HR 1846, the End Diaper Need Act, which would create a $100 million demonstration project to distribute free diapers and diapering products to help reduce the need for diapers in low-income families and underserved communities. If you think that’s for some Third World country, you’d be wrong. Find Gracie on Facebook (www.facebook.com/graciestaplesajc/) and Twitter (@GStaples_AJC) or email her at gstaples@ajc.com.
  • Memorial Day weekend is almost upon us and now comes a new pool season throughout metro Atlanta. But, before you take those deep dives that get you through sultry weather, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers this warning: That sparkling blue water may not be as clean as it appears. Sometimes lurking in those inviting ripples are all manner of uninvited guests, like parasites and bacteria and a host of other foulness. And they’re not just hanging out backyard and community pools. They show up in hot tubs, water parks and splash pads, too. Just more than 20 years ago, 26 children were sickened by a strain of E. coli bacteria after playing in the kiddie pool at White Water Park in Marietta. Seven of the children were hospitalized; one died. A state investigation determined the chlorine level was too low in the pool, a finding that raised awareness about the importance of proper monitoring and ushered in a new era of vigilant oversight in Georgia. Nationally, from 2000 to 2014, close to 500 outbreaks of waterborne illnesses were reported in recreational venues in 46 states and Puerto Rico, causing 27,219 cases of sickness and eight deaths, according to the CDC. Georgia fared relatively well over the same period of time, with eight reported outbreaks and a total of 120 illnesses. Pool chemicals can take care of many problems, but not always. Getting optimal results for safety comes down to having the right balance. And, to be frank, it comes down to having the right users — those who adhere to, let’s just say, proper pool etiquette. “We want people to go to pools and have a happy, good time,” said Michele Hlavsa, chief of the CDC’s Healthy Swimming Program. “We just want to make sure people are doing it in a safe, healthy way.” To get down to the nitty gritty, most of the illnesses in pools, hot tubs and water playgrounds are caused by Cryptosporidium — that’s Crypto, for short. Crypto is a parasite that causes Cryptosporidiosis, which leads to diarrhea. Crypto — brace yourself — is spread by swallowing water that has been contaminated with fecal matter. Most germs are killed within minutes by common pool disinfectants like chlorine or bromine, but Crypto is a germ that can survive in properly chlorinated water for more than seven days. The diarrhea it causes can last for up to three weeks. And the number of Crypto cases have been steadily rising, with twice as many in 2016 as in 2014. Hlavsa said even a single mouthful of contaminated water can lead to a Crypto illness. She recommends parents encourage their children to not swallow water when swimming. And there are other steps you should take for healthy swimming. Hlavsa recommends that families check a pool’s inspections online or on site. In Georgia, public and semi-public pools (such as pools at apartment complexes), as well as hot tubs and water parks, are inspected by local health departments. Backyard pools are not. She also recommends that families check to make sure the drain at the bottom of the deep end of a pool is clearly visible – a sign that the water is crystal clear. Other safety measures should include making sure drain covers at the bottom of the pool appear to be secured and in good shape. Even if you’re not spreading Crypto, people need to consider everything on their bodies — sweat and dirt, dust, deodorant and hair spray — before jumping into communal waters, Hlavsa said. A recent survey found that more than half of Americans (51 percent) use a swimming pool as a bathtub — either swimming as a substitute for showering or using the pool to rinse off after exercise or yard work. It’s a habit that’s taken hold, even though nearly two-thirds of Americans report they know chemicals do not eliminate the need to shower before swimming. And that’s not all. The survey — commissioned by the Water Quality & Health Council, a group of advisers to the chlorine industry trade association — found 40 percent of Americans readily admitted they’ve peed in a pool as adult. While it may seem obvious that this is not a good idea, Hlavsa explained the science of why it’s not: Urine reacts with chlorine, reducing the amount of chlorine available to kill germs. That bodily fluid, along with dirt and sweat, mixed with chlorine creates chemicals called chloramines, which causes red and itchy eyes. Bottom line: It’s not the chlorine alone causing eyes to redden and sting. And speaking of chlorine, people can check water quality themselves by purchasing pool test strips at hardware stores that measure the level of the chemical and the pH level, Hlavsa said. She uses a test strip to check on water quality before swimming with her young children, who are 2 and 4. Chlorine levels should be at least 1 part per million for pools and at least 3 parts per million in hot tubs, according to the CDC. Getting the mix right isn’t always easy. An Atlanta Journal-Constitution analysis of inspections of public-serving pools, spas, hot tubs and splash pads found several in the metro Atlanta area were cited for having either too little or too much chlorine. Too little means germs can grow and spread. Too much chlorine can irritate the skin and eyes. Included in the analysis were pools located in subdivisions, apartment complexes, hotels and recreation centers. The Pointe at Colliers Hills on Collier Road had no chlorine detected in the water during an inspection on June 7 of last year, according to records from the Fulton County Health Department. Calls to the apartment complex were not immediately returned. One of the facilities with too much chlorine was The St. Regis Hotel and residences spa on West Paces Ferry. The spa registered 22 parts per million during a re-inspection on Sept. 5, according to health department records. The hotel decided to close the spa for the rest of the season, which was coming to a close in three days, the records said. Calls to the St. Regis were not immediately returned. Hlavsa said she is more concerned about too little chlorine in the water than too much, especially in pools where small children will be swimming. They’re more likely to swallow water while swimming. In Georgia, virtually all public and semi-public pools — which include those located in subdivisions or facilities that require membership — are inspected multiple times a year. Inspections include not just a check for water quality, but safety measures — such as making sure drain covers are secured and are in good shape, that pools have proper fencing and that there’s a land-line telephone that can be used to call 911. Nationwide, about two-thirds of local health departments inspect public pools, according to the CDC. Pools in Georgia weren’t always this well monitored. Dr. Chris Rustin, interim director of the Division of Health Protection at the Georgia Department of Public Health, said the White Water incident and other tragedies led to better oversight and regulations. Michelle’s Law — mandating that local and state public health officials regulate and inspect public swimming pools, hot tubs and water parks — was passed in 1999 after a young girl died after being trapped underwater by a faulty pool drain in an unregulated pool. Experts emphasized that online inspection reports performed last season may not reflect current conditions. So, it’s wise to check online and on site for the most up to date inspection reports. (http://ga.healthinspections.us/stateofgeorgia). AJC data specialist Jennifer Peebles contributed to this article.
  • Avengers: Endgame' fans and other moviegoers who attended late-night screenings at a California theater last week may have been exposed to measles, KNBC-TV and other news outlets are reporting. >> Can you get measles if you’ve been vaccinated? Should adults get a measles booster? According to the Orange County Health Care Agency, doctors recently diagnosed a Placentia woman, who is in her 20s, with the disease. The patient had taken an international trip to 'one of many countries currently experiencing widespread measles activity,' officials said in a Tuesday news release. >> Measles outbreak causes quarantine of students, staff at 2 California universities 'Orange County residents may have been exposed to measles since the ill person visited public locations while infectious,' the agency said. The woman, who is now 'under voluntary isolation at home,' reportedly visited the AMC Movie Theater at 1001 S. Lemon St. in Fullerton from 11 p.m. April 25 to 4 a.m. April 26. She also went to 5 Hutton Centre Drive in Santa Ana from 7:45 a.m. to 9 a.m. April 23 to 25 and the St. Jude Emergency Department in Fullerton from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. April 27. >> Read more trending news  People who went to those locations at the same time as the patient should review their vaccination history and watch for symptoms such as fever or rashes for up to 21 days after they were exposed to the disease, officials said. >> CDC: Number of measles cases in U.S. second-highest since 2000 'People who have not had measles or the measles vaccine are at higher risk after an exposure, so they should talk with a health care provider about receiving Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccination,' the news release said. Read more here or here.
  • Defeat Antibiotic Resistance with the Same Old Antibiotics but Smarter Strategies  In the war on antibiotic resistant bacteria, it’s not just the antibiotics that are making the enemy stronger but also how they are prescribed. A new study suggests that to win against resistance, doctors should keep using the same drugs but as part of more targeted treatments and in combination with other health strategies.   The current broad use of antibiotics helps resistant bacteria strains propagate, but prescribed precisely, the same drugs can help reverse the spread of resistant strains, said researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology, Duke University, and Harvard University who authored the study. But it can only work if combined with strategies that make sure people carrying resistant strains spread them to fewer people.   The new study delivers a mathematical model to help clinical and public health researchers devise new antibiotic prescription and supporting treatment strategies.   But basing a strategy on antibiotics needs to happen before bacteria resistant to most every known antibiotic become too widespread, rendering antibiotics ineffective. That has been widely predicted to occur by mid-century.   “Once you get to that pan-resistant state, it’s over,” said Sam Brown, who co-led the study and is an associate professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Biological Sciences. “Timing is unfortunately an issue in tackling antibiotic resistance.”   The strategic approach would also help clinicians treat infections effectively by flagging which antibiotics the bacteria are resistant to and which not.   “It’s great for fighting antibiotic resistance, but it’s also good for patients because we’ll always use the correct antibiotic,” Brown said.   The researchers published their study in the journal PLOS ONE on DATE XYZ. The research was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, the Simons Foundation, the Human Frontier Science Program, the Wenner-Gren Foundations, and the Royal Physiographic Society of Lund.
  • Two former clients of a New Mexico spa that offered 'vampire facials' have been diagnosed with HIV, state health officials said Monday. >> Vampire facial made popular by Kim Kardashian causes HIV, hepatitis scare in New Mexico According to the New Mexico Department of Health, both clients 'received injection-related procedures' at the now-shuttered VIP Spa in Albuquerque between May and September of last year.  >> Read more trending news  Tests found that the clients recently were infected with the same strain of the virus, 'increasing the likelihood that the two HIV infections may have resulted from a procedure at the VIP Spa,' the news release said. The spa, which shut down in September after a health inspection, offered 'vampire facials,' procedures in which plasma is extracted from a client's own blood, then injected into the patron's face, KRQE-TV reported. The treatment gained popularity in 2013 when reality TV star Kim Kardashian posted about it on Instagram. >> See her 2013 Instagram post here The state Health Department is offering free HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C testing for former clients of the spa. So far, more than 100 patrons have been tested, officials said.  Read more here or here.
  • Researchers in Australia say they have found a link between attitudes toward bike riders and acts of deliberate aggression toward them on the road. In a pilot test of the “dehumanization of cyclists,” researchers at Queensland University of Technology, Monash University and the University of Melbourne studied 442 people in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. Dehumanization, the group said in the study abstract, “refers to any situation where people are seen or treated as if they are less than fully human.” The participants were first asked if they were a cyclist or noncyclist themself.  >> Read more trending news  Participants then were shown either the evolution illustration of ape to man, or an adaption of that image showing the stages of evolution from cockroach to human. The insect-human image was designed because of reported slurs against cyclists, comparing them to cockroaches or mosquitoes, according to lead author Alexa Delbosc, senior lecturer in the Institute of Transport Studies at Monash University. On both the ape-human and insect-human scale, 55% of noncyclists and 30% of cyclists rated people who ride bicycles as not completely human. Seventeen percent said they had used their car to deliberately block a cyclist, 11% had deliberately driven their car close to a cyclist, and 9% had used their car to cut off a cyclist.  'When you don't think someone is 'fully' human,” phys.org quoted Delbosc as saying, “it's easier to justify hatred or aggression toward them. This can set up an escalating cycle of resentment.” He added: 'If cyclists feel dehumanized by other road users, they may be more likely to act out against motorists, feeding into a self-fulfilling prophecy that further fuels dehumanization against them.” The researchers say they believe their findings suggest the concept of dehumanizing bike riders deserves further exploration. “If we can put a human face to cyclists, we may improve attitudes and reduce aggression directed at on-road cyclists,” they write in their study abstract. “This could result in a reduction in cyclist road trauma or an increase in public acceptance of cyclists as legitimate road users.”
  • Just one day after a Georgia company recalled more than 110,000 pounds of ground beef over possible E. coli contamination, another meat-packing plant has followed suit. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service, Franklin Park, Illinois-based Grant Park Packing issued a recall Wednesday for more than 53,000 pounds of bulk raw ground beef produced Oct. 30 to Nov. 1, 2018, then shipped to Minnesota for distribution and Kentucky for institutional use. >> On USDA.gov: Read the complete recall notice here The recalled meat, which may be contaminated with E. coli O103 bacteria, is labeled 'North Star Imports & Sales, LLC. 100% GROUND BEEF BULK 80% LEAN/ 20% FAT' and comes in 40-pound cardboard boxes, the FSIS said in a news release. The products are marked 'FOR INSTITUTIONAL USE ONLY' and include lot code GP.1051.18, establishment No. EST. 21781 and pack dates 10/30/2018, 10/31/2018 and 11/01/2018. >> PREVIOUS STORY: E. coli fears prompt recall of 110,000 pounds of ground beef 'FSIS advises all consumers to safely prepare their raw meat products, including fresh and frozen, and only consume ground beef that has been cooked to a temperature of 160°F,' the news release added. The recall came amid reports that an E. coli O103 outbreak has sickened 156 people in 10 states, including Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Minnesota, Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee and Virginia, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. 'Further testing is ongoing to determine if the recalled ground beef products are related to the E. coli O103 outbreak,' the FSIS said. 'Based on the continuing investigation, additional product may be recalled.' >> Read more trending news  The bacteria can cause diarrhea, vomiting and, in rare cases, a severe kidney infection called hemolytic uremic syndrome, according to the FSIS. Symptoms of the condition, which occurs more frequently in children and older adults, include pallor, easy bruising and a decrease in urine. For more information about the recall, call Grant Park Packing at 312-421-4096.
  • A Georgia company is recalling more than 110,000 pounds of ground beef over possible E. coli contamination, federal health officials said Tuesday. >> PREVIOUS STORY: Ground beef cause of E. coli outbreak, CDC says According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service, Carrollton, Georgia-based K2D Foods, which does business as Colorado Premium Foods, issued the recall Tuesday for raw ground beef products produced from late March through early April and shipped to restaurant distributors in Georgia and Florida. The recalled meat, which may be contaminated with E. coli O103 bacteria, is labeled 'Ground Beef Puck' and comes in two 24-pound vacuum-sealed packages in cardboard boxes, the FSIS said in a news release. The products include establishment No. EST. 51308 and 'Use Thru' dates of 4/14/19, 4/17/19, 4/20/19, 4/23/19, 4/28/19 and 4/30/19. >> Recall alert: 30K lbs. ground beef recalled because of ‘extraneous materials’ Restaurants that have the recalled products should throw them away or return them, officials said. 'FSIS advises all consumers to safely prepare their raw meat products, including fresh and frozen, and only consume ground beef that has been cooked to a temperature of 160°F,' the news release added. The recall came amid reports that an E. coli O103 outbreak has sickened 156 people in 10 states, including Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Minnesota, Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee and Virginia, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. 'Further testing is ongoing to determine if the recalled ground beef products are related to the E. coli O103 outbreak,' the FSIS said. 'Based on the continuing investigation, additional product may be recalled.' >> Read more trending news  The bacteria can cause diarrhea, vomiting and, in rare cases, a severe kidney infection called hemolytic uremic syndrome, according to the FSIS. Symptoms of the condition, which occurs more frequently in children and older adults, include pallor, easy bruising and a decrease in urine. For more information about the recall, call Colorado Premium Foods at 970-313-4400. Read more here.
  • Are you taking statins? They may not work well for about half of the people taking them, according to a new report.  >> On AJC.com: Blood pressure medication recalls: Everything you should know Researchers from the University of Nottingham in England recently conducted a study, published in the Heart journal, to determine the effectiveness of statins, which are used to treat high cholesterol.  To do so, they examined more than 165,000 people who were taking the drug to decrease heart disease risk by lowering cholesterol levels. According to national guidelines, statins must reduce bad cholesterol levels by 40% after two years to be considered effective, the team noted.  After analyzing the results, they found 51% of the subjects had a poor response to the treatment, which put them at a higher risk of developing heart disease. The drug was effective for the other 49%. >> Read more trending news  “Our research has shown that in almost half of patients prescribed statins they are very effective and offer significant protection against cardiovascular disease,” co-author Stephen Weng said in a statement. “However, for the other half – whether it’s due to your genetic make-up, having side effects, sticking to the treatment, or other medications – we don’t see that intended benefit.” The scientists believe genetic factors and patients not staying on their medicine could be the main reasons the medication did not work well for more than half of the participants.  They also explained the United Kingdom follows the same trends in the United States and other countries, so their findings could be applied to Western populations.  The scientists now hope to continue their investigations, so they can better predict patients’ cholesterol responses to treatments. >> On AJC.com: Common painkillers triple side effects of dementia, study says The authors concluded: “We have to develop better ways to understand differences between patients and how we can tailor more effective treatment for those millions of patients who are simply blanket prescribed statins.” 
  • The construction industry is facing an alarming problem: a staggering suicide rate. >> Watch the news report here According to a recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more male construction workers take their lives than any other industry. The CDC report showed that the 2015 suicide rate for men in construction was 53 per 100,000. That is four times higher than the overall suicide rate. >> These jobs have the highest suicide rates in the country, CDC says 'We have an industry that is loaded with what I would call alpha males,' said Chris Brennan, business representative of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades in Boston.  'When someone kills themselves, that's it, it's over. And it's a scary subject for people, so we need to do a better job of understanding of what was going on and the darkness,' Brennan said. 'They’re supposed to be tough men and women who can deal with pain and challenges that other folks maybe can’t deal with,' said Steve Mongeau, the executive director of Samaritans, a suicide prevention center in Boston. Mongeau blames several factors. They include a competitive, high-pressure environment, a higher prevalence of alcohol and substance abuse, separation from families and long stretches without work. 'That inconsistency can lend itself to some concerns, self-doubts, possible worry, possible issues in other areas that could lead you to become somewhat despondent and consider suicide as an option,' Mongeau said. The CDC stresses that suicide prevention on the construction site is critical because it's where many workers spend most of their time.  Friends and family can help spot and prevent suicide, too. Some of the signs to watch out for are increased tardiness and absenteeism, decreased productivity and self-confidence, isolation from co-workers and agitation and increased conflict among co-workers. >> Read more trending news  One of the ways the construction industry has responded to the alarming rate of worker suicides is through the creation of the Construction Industry Alliance for Suicide Prevention. Chairman Michelle Walker said the organization's goal is simple but critical: to raise awareness.  'There’s a huge portion of the construction population and construction business owners and leaders that are simply unaware of the fact that this is an issue in the industry,' Walker said. That's why Brennan is developing a program that will give local workers the tools they need to build a better support system. He believes the peer-to-peer approach could mean the difference between life or death.  'We’re just trying to draw those people out, draw them out, say, 'Hey, come on out to the light, and we’ll get better, we’ll get better together,' Brennan said.  If you or someone you know has suicidal thoughts, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-TALK. It is staffed 24 hours per day.