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Health News

  • The efforts to clean up a Texas industrial plant that burned for several days this week were hamstrung Friday by a briefly reignited fire and a breach that led to chemicals spilling into the nearby Houston Ship Channel. The Texas attorney general also filed a lawsuit against Intercontinental Terminals Company, which operates the petrochemical tank farm east of Houston. Attorney General Ken Paxton said Texas had to hold the company 'accountable for the damage it has done to our environment.' 'ITC has a history of environmental violations, and this latest incident is especially disturbing and frightening,' Paxton said in a statement. 'No company can be allowed to disrupt lives and put public health and safety at risk.' An ITC spokeswoman said the company would not comment on pending litigation. While the new fire was extinguished about an hour after it began Friday afternoon, the spillage of chemicals led the U.S. Coast Guard to close part of the ship channel, a critical commercial waterway that connects oil refineries between the Port of Houston and the Gulf of Mexico. Among the chemicals released into the air this week were benzene, which evaporates quickly and can cause drowsiness, dizziness, rapid heartbeat, and headaches, with worse symptoms at higher levels of exposure. Crews on Friday continued to drain an estimated 20,000 barrels of chemicals from a tank damaged in the fire that began Sunday and was initially put out on Wednesday . A foam layer was reapplied to keep the chemicals contained. But a dike wall partially breached shortly before 12:30 p.m., company spokesman Dale Samuelsen said, leading to the spill of possibly hazardous chemicals. The Coast Guard eventually closed the ship channel in the nearby area to prevent the spread of what a spokesman said was a mix of chemicals, foam, and soot from the fire. Just before 4 p.m., another fire broke out, emitting more large plumes of black smoke. Samuelsen said the fire was extinguished by 5 p.m., though some smoke was still visible shortly afterward. After the dike breach, the company asked neighboring industrial sites and the nearby San Jacinto Texas State Historic Site to shelter in place. Authorities did not extend that order to residents. People living near the plant in Deer Park were told Thursday to remain indoors after air monitors detected elevated levels of benzene. That order was lifted later Thursday. Adam Adams of the Environmental Protection Agency said air tests by the EPA and the company had not shown any positive results for high levels of benzene. One positive test after 4 a.m. from a sensor operated by Harris County was verified to be a false alarm, a county spokeswoman said. The Harris County fire marshal's office said it continued to investigate the origin and cause of the fire with the help of federal authorities. 'This incident has captured the attention of the nation and beyond, with many questions being asked why and how this incident occurred,' Harris County Fire Marshal Laurie L. Christensen said in a statement.
  • The Ohio Department of Health is ending grants and contracts that send money to Planned Parenthood after a divided federal appeals court upheld a state anti-abortion law that blocks public money for the group. The department notified recipients and contractors Thursday that it will end that funding within a month to comply with the law, unless the court delays the effect of its ruling as Planned Parenthood has requested. The health department said the law requires it to ensure state and certain federal funds aren't 'used to perform or promote nontherapeutic abortions.' The law targeted funding that Planned Parenthood receives through the department. That money is mostly from the federal government and supports education and prevention programs. Planned Parenthood said the funding provides 'essential services' to tens of thousands of Ohioans that other health centers can't replace. Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio President Iris Harvey called the decision 'heartless' and said it puts 'politics over people.' 'This cruel ruling blocks funding that allowed Planned Parenthood to provide essential services that reduce black infant mortality, prevent violence against women, and provide cancer screenings, HIV tests and sex education,' she said in an emailed statement. On March 12, the full 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower federal court ruling when it voted 11-6 to uphold the state law. The majority opinion said that while Planned Parenthood contends the Ohio law will unconstitutionally deprive women of the right to access abortion services without undue burden, that conclusion is premature and speculative because the organization has said it will continue to provide abortion services.
  • An unvaccinated student in Kentucky will get his day in court after suing because he can't participate in extracurricular activities during a chickenpox outbreak. The Courier Journal reports 18-year-old Jerome Kunkel's case will be heard in court April 1. Unvaccinated students have ordered by the state health department to stay away from the Our Lady of the Assumption Church school and its activities during the outbreak. Kunkel's family founded the school and church, which opposes anything to do with abortion. He says the vaccine violates his beliefs because it's produced using cell lines derived from aborted fetuses generations ago. The National Catholic Bioethics Center says the vaccine is OK because it doesn't actually contain aborted cells. Health department lawyer Jeffrey C. Mando says the state properly used its authority. ___ Information from: Courier Journal, http://www.courier-journal.com
  • Arkansas-based Tyson Foods is recalling more than 69,000 pounds (31,297 kilograms) of frozen, ready-to-eat chicken strips because they may be contaminated with pieces of metal. The U.S. Agriculture Department said Thursday the products were produced on Nov. 30, 2018, and have a best if used by date of Nov. 30, 2019. The products have the establishment number 'P-7221' on the back of the packages. The USDA says it received two complaints about the metal, but there are no confirmed reports of anyone being injured. The USDA is concerned the products could still be in freezers. Consumers should throw out the packages or return them to the place of purchase. The recall comes after Tyson in January recalled some chicken nuggets because customers said they found pieces of 'soft, blue rubber' inside.
  • The World Health Organization says Ebola has spiked in Congo in recent days because of 'increased security challenges,' a week after its director-general predicted the outbreak might be contained within six months. The U.N. health agency said in an update late Thursday the recent attacks on Ebola clinics slowed response efforts for days. Congolese officials reported dozens of new suspected and confirmed cases recently. Last week, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus declared the outbreak was 'contracting' and praised the efforts to avert a larger crisis. Tariq Riebl of the International Rescue Committee, who is currently working in Congo, had a starkly different perspective. 'I think all of us in the field are aware that we're very far from being near the end of this outbreak,' he said. Riebl said the recent jump in cases also points to ongoing surveillance failures. 'The increase in cases also shows we are catching up with all the transmission that we haven't previously been aware of,' he said. In recent weeks, more than 40 percent of new cases in the hotspot towns of Katwa and Butembo had no known links to other cases, meaning doctors have lost track of where the virus is spreading. WHO reported this week that many people with Ebola are refusing to seek care in health clinics and are dying at home, further increasing the chances of transmission, since the bodies of victims are highly contagious. Outbreak responders have also been targeted by rebel attacks; Doctors Without Borders was forced to shut down two of its Ebola clinics in Eastern Congo after repeated attacks and has called conditions at the epicenter 'toxic.' Eastern Congo is home to numerous armed groups and the Ebola epidemic has deepened the political and economic grievances of many in the area. WHO teams often visit communities with a police escort for security reasons, a move that some think could undermine community trust. 'We understand why some people might be scared of this and we believe that the use of force should be a last resort,' Riebl said, adding that IRC doesn't use armed escorts. He noted that the outbreak would soon hit 1,000 cases; it is already the second deadliest Ebola outbreak in history. To date, there have been 915 confirmed cases, including 610 deaths. 'It's a sad threshold to reach, but it should also be a time of reflection,' Riebl said. 'We will not be able to stop this outbreak without local support.
  • About 4 percent of women incarcerated in state prisons across the U.S. were pregnant when they were jailed, according to a new study released Thursday that researchers hope will help lawmakers and prisons better consider the health of women behind bars. The number of imprisoned women has risen dramatically over the past decades, growing even as the overall prison rates decline. But there had been a lack of data on women's health and no system for tracking how frequently incarcerated women were pregnant, or what happened to the pregnancies. The Bureau of Justice Statistics, for example, collects data on deaths in custody but not on births. Dr. Carolyn Sufrin of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine attempted to fill the void by collecting data from 22 state prison systems and 26 federal prisons during a yearlong period in 2016 and 2017. She released her results in the American Journal of Public Health . 'The fact that nobody had collected this data before signals just how much this population is neglected,' Sufrin said. There were 753 live births among the 56,262 women included in the study, with about 10,000 in federal prisons but the majority in state prison systems. There were 46 miscarriages, 11 abortions, four stillbirths and three newborn deaths, according to the study. No women died during childbirth. Among women who were already in state prisons, five new pregnancies were diagnosed during a six-month period — three women became pregnant during work release and the other two were not reported. Researchers found there were 1,396 women who reported being pregnant while incarcerated — 1,224 from state prisons and 172 in federal prisons. The researchers found differences by state. Texas and Ohio, large states with large prison populations, had some months when there were more than 50 pregnant women jailed. Other states had months with no pregnant women. Overall, about 6 percent of pregnancies resulted in miscarriage, but in some states that was as high as 20 percent, according to the study. March of Dimes, a nonprofit organization that works to improve the health of mothers and babies nationwide, estimates that between 15 and 25 percent of recognized pregnancies overall end in miscarriage. Brenda Baker, a professor and researcher at Emory University School of Nursing who teaches prenatal care to pregnant women who are incarcerated in Georgia, said the research was much needed. 'We are so starved for data. The fact that someone can get something like this and share it excites us,' she said. 'Those of us who do research in this area will use it far and wide.' She said pregnant women have been a virtually unknown population in the criminal justice system. 'But women are the fastest growing sector of the prison population — women of childbearing age. If you can't measure it, you can't fix it,' Baker said. Most incarcerated women have to give up their babies within days of having them, especially if they are serving long sentences. In rare cases, like at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility in New York, some women are allowed to keep their newborns in a separate nursery inside the prison run by a nonprofit. The study included about 57 percent of all women in prison — 53 percent from state prisons and 86 percent in federal prisons. There are about 112,000 women behind bars nationwide. The data was collected in states with large female prison populations, such as Texas, Ohio, Oklahoma, Arizona and Georgia, and in states with smaller populations like Vermont and Wisconsin. But some large states declined to participate, including California, Florida and New York. Designated reporters, which included prison employees as well as health care personnel, reported monthly. They did not collect data on the women's health, socio-economic status or prior pregnancy history — factors that could influence a pregnancy outcome.

Health Reporter Sabrina Cupit

  • It's late in the season but Flu is not over. Influenza in Georgia is widespread, and the intensity level is high, meaning a lot of people are showing up at the doctor's officer very sick. Nancy Nydam with the Georgia Department of Public Heath says, 'Today we've got a predominate strain of H1N1 and less of the H3N2.' She says we saw H3N2 earlier in the season. 'The good news is both of those strains were contained in the year's flu vaccine,' says Nydam.
  • This weekend, we set our clocks ahead one hour as we return to daylight saving time. It officially begins at 2 a.m. Sunday. 'Springing forward' will temporarily disrupt the sleep of millions of Americans. Most people need at least seven to eight hours of good sleep each night.  Professor at Emory University, Ann Rogers tells WSB Radio that the biggest thing you can do: “Go to bed as early as possible Saturday night.”  In addition to being just plain tired, lack of sleep can also pack on the pounds. “When you are sleep-deprived, your appetite regulated hormones aren't regulated, so you crave sweets and high fat foods,” Rogers explains. A chronic sleep-restricted state can cause fatigue, daytime sleepiness, clumsiness and weight loss or weight gain. It adversely affects the brain and cognitive function.  Rogers says, 'A lot of people are trying to get by on six or six and half hours of sleep a night and they really can't. '  The main symptom of ongoing sleep loss is excessive daytime sleepiness, but other symptoms include:  Yawning  Moodiness  Fatigue  Irritability  Depressed mood  Difficulty learning new concepts  Forgetfulness  Inability to concentrate or a 'fuzzy' head For more information from Emory Healthcare, click here.
  • More than 119,000 people suffered from bloodstream staph infections in the United States in 2017 and nearly 20,000 people died, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

News

  • Two men are accused to stealing more than $70,000 worth of musical instruments from the University of Louisville’s School of Music, WLKY reported. >> Read more trending news  Alphonso Monrew, 22, and Anthony Abrams, 52, were arrested Thursday, according to Jefferson County Jail records. Each were charged with two counts of third degree burglary and two counts of theft by unlawful taking, the television station reported. According to police, on several occasions the two men stole instruments, including a $10,000 guitar, from the university’s music school, WLKY reported. The thefts occurred over several weeks, the television station reported. All of the instruments have been recovered and will be returned to students, police said.
  • A Texas woman got an early start to celebrating her 105th birthday, joining more than 150 family members for a party at a San Antonio church, KSAT reported. >> Read more trending news  Minnie McRae, who turns 105 on Tuesday, was the guest of honor at Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church on Saturday, the television station reported. McRae’s nephew, Arturo Ayala, flew from Germany to attend the party for a woman who taught him how to dance by giving him lessons in her living room, KSAT reported.  Ayala said he believes he knows the secret to his aunt’s long life 'She's never shared it, but from my relationship with her, I see her always praying and ... always reading,' Ayala told the television station.  Ayala also said McRae was very spiritual and did work with Incarnate Word. 'She's a blessing and she's a miracle,' Ayala told KSAT.
  • There will be laughing, singing, and music swinging when singer Martha Reeves receives another honor in May. >> Read more trending news  Reeves, 77, the lead vocalist of 1960s group Martha and Vandellas, will be honored by the Alabama State Council on the Arts on May 22, AL.com reported. Reeves was the singer for the group’s hits, including “Dancing in the Streets,” “Heat Wave” and “Jimmy Mack.” Reeves, a native of Eufaula, will receive Alabama’s 2019 Distinguished Artist Award. The award recognizes “a professional artist who is considered a native or adopted Alabamian and who has earned significant national acclaim for their art over an extended period,' according to the council’s website. Other recipients of the award include Jim Nabors, Fannie Flagg and George Lindsey. Vandella moved to Detroit as a child and grew up singing in church, AL.com reported. Her gospel-influenced vocals were evident in the group’s pop and rhythm and blues songs, which gave the Vandellas a string of hits on the Motown label. Reeves was inducted with the group -- Rosalind Ashford-Holmes, Annette Sterling-Helton, Lois Reeves and Betty Kelly -- into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995. “Martha and the Vandellas were the Supremes’ tougher, more grounded counterpart,” the Rock Hall website says. “With her cheeky, fervent vocals, Martha Reeves led the group in a string of dance anthems that are irresistible to this day.” Reeves was inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame in 1995. 
  • A Florida deputy was arrested after an altercation at a Jacksonville nightclub, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office reported. >> Read more trending news  According to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, Officer Rodney Bryant, a 5 1/2-year member of the department, was involved in a dispute Friday at Mascara's Gentlemen's Club with his girlfriend and her friend.  Bryant has been charged with three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. He has been terminated from his position in the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office. According to deputies, the group left the club but the dispute continued in a vehicle. This was when Bryant allegedly pulled over, opened the trunk of his vehicle and pulled out a firearm.  Bryant allegedly pointed the gun at the two women, making threats, according to the Sheriff’s Office.  They were all pulled over long enough for the girlfriend's friend to make contact with her sister, who later arrived at the scene, according to the Sheriff’s Office. The girl's sister observed Bryant with the firearm making threats and that he pointed the firearm at her, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
  • A Marine killed in action during the Vietnam War nearly 50 years ago was honored in a memorial service Saturday, and a headstone and plaque were erected at his gravesite at a South Florida cemetery, the Sun-Sentinel reported. >> Read more trending news  Private First Class Gregory Carter was killed in action Oct. 12, 1969, in the Quang Ngai province of South Vietnam, according to according to a Vietnam military casualties database on Ancestry.com. He was remembered in a service attended by nearly 200 people Saturday at Sunset Memorial Gardens in Fort Lauderdale, the Sun-Sentinel reported. “It’s like he woke up to the world again,” Carter’s brother, Anthony Owens, told the newspaper. “His life is meaningful. It means something.” “No, I did not (expect this many people). It raised our spirits, big time.” Carter laid in an unmarked grave until the Vietnam Veterans of America discovered him while searching for photographs of Vietnam veterans to place on the black granite Wall of Faces in Washington, D.C., the Sun-Sentinel reported. Carter was drafted into the Marines on July 4, 1969, when he was 19, according to the Ancestry.com database. He already had a young son and a daughter was on the way, but Carter would never know either of them, the newspaper reported. The Vietnam Veterans of America worked with the city of Fort Lauderdale and others to get Carter’s grave marker, the Sun-Sentinel reported. The organization also secured a photograph from a baseball team photograph in the Dillard High School yearbook, the newspaper reported. Gregory Carter now lies with his mother, grandparents, three siblings and other relatives at Sunset Memorial Gardens. “If you die you’re just lost until somebody thinks about you again,” Anthony Owens told the Sun-Sentinel. “So his spirit is probably all around us right now. It’s a good thing. He’s doing good.”
  • The wife of former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio was bitten by a rattlesnake at their Arizona home Friday, the Arizona Republic reported. >> Read more trending news  Ava Arpaio was working on her computer in her office around 10 a.m. when the snake bit her on the left foot, Joe Arpaio told the newspaper. 'She's tough. If she can put up with me for 60 years, then she can handle a snake bite,' Joe Arpaio told the Republic. Joe Arpaio, 86, said the large rattlesnake was removed by fire crews. 'Must've been a Democrat,' the longtime Republican joked to the Republic. Ava Arpaio likely will be in a hospital for 'two or three' days, her husband told the newspaper. Arpaio served as sheriff of Maricopa County for 24 years until losing re-election to Democrat Paul Penzone in 2016. The 86-year-old lawman made national news for his Tent City Jail where inmates were housed in Korean War era army tents, KSAZ reported. >> President Trump pardons Joe Arpaio Joe Arpaio was convicted of a criminal charge in July 2017 for refusing to stop traffic patrols that targeted immigrants. He was pardoned a month later by President Donald Trump.