For three young siblings, eating is a life or death proposition, thanks to a rare white blood cell disease, reported KSL.
The Frisk children— Jaxen, age 9; Tieler, age 7; Boston, age 4— have spent weeks in the hospital and are allergic to pets, pollens and multiple foods. The siblings all have eosinophilic gastrointestinal disorder (EGID), an abnormal build-up of eosinophil white blood cells in their GI tracts that can cause inflammation and tissue damage in response to foods and allergens. While the disease is relatively rare, it has increased in prevalence over the past decade affecting one in 2,000 people, according to the American Partnership for Eosinophilic Disorders.
"You need food to survive. But it is also what can kill you in our house," their mother, Jenny Frisk, told KSL.
When they’re exposed to their triggers, the children could have an anaphylactic reaction— potentially fatal allergic symptoms throughout the body.
"Tieler had one sip of milk when she was 1-year-old, and instantly started projectile vomiting and got hives all over her body," her father, Gary, told KSL. "It's a life and death situation at birthday parties, or religious events, or anywhere we go, because food is such a big part of our culture."
Between the three children, they’ve endured 11 surgeries and eight extended hospital stays, with more expected in the future.
On top of the children’s health issues, Gary battled cancer two years ago and Jenny had to have several surgeries due to serious adrenal insufficiencies that were unrelated to EGID.
The family has been bankrupted twice by medical bills. While they make too much income to qualify for help, they don’t make enough to pay for their children’s medical needs. Friends and family have started a GoFundMe account to raise money to pay for genetic testing and treatment.
"When we're looking at an illness that is not curable, and the treatment isn't covered (by insurance), the light at the end of the tunnel is really far away," Jenny said.
By David McNamee
Recently, Medical News Today reported on a breakthrough in xenotransplantation - the science of transplanting functional organs from one species to another. Scientists from the Cardiothoracic Surgery Research Program of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) demonstrated success in keeping genetically engineered piglet hearts alive in the abdomens of baboons for more than a year.
While that is a sentence that might sound absurd, or even nightmarish to some, xenotransplantation is a credible science involving the work of leading scientists and respected organizations like the NHLBI and the Mayo Clinic, as well as large private pharmaceutical firms such as United Therapeutics and Novartis.
What is more, xenotransplantation is not a new science, with experiments in cross-species blood transfusion dating as far back as the 17th century.
Why transplant the organs of animals into living humans?
The reason why xenotransplantation is a burning issue is very simple: because of a crippling shortage of available organs for patients who require transplants, many people are left to die.
US Government information on transplantation reports that an average of 79 people receive organ transplants every day, but that 18 people die each day because of a shortage of organs.
The number of people requiring an organ donation in the US has witnessed a more than five-fold increase in the past 2 decades - from 23,198 in 1991 to 121,272 in 2013. Over the same period, the number of people willing to donate has only doubled - 6,953 donors in 1991, compared with 14,257 donors in 2013.
Although some researchers are attempting to solve this shortage by developing mechanical components that could assist failing organs, these devices are considered to increase the risk of infection, blood clots and bleeding in the patient.
Stem cell research is also actively pursuing the goal of growing replacement organs, but despite regular news of breakthroughs, the reality of a functional lab-grown human organ fit for transplant is a long way off.
As the NHLBI's Dr. Muhammad M. Mohiuddin, who led the team responsible for the baboon trial, explained:
"Until we learn to grow organs via tissue engineering, which is unlikely in the near future, xenotransplantation seems to be a valid approach to supplement human organ availability. Despite many setbacks over the years, recent genetic and immunologic advancements have helped revitalized progress in the xenotransplantation field.
Xenotransplantation could help to compensate for the shortage of human organs available for transplant."
Xenotransplantation's eccentric history
The earliest known example of using animal body parts to replace diseased or faulty components of human bodies dates back to the 17th century, when Jean Baptiste Denis initiated the clinical practice of animal-to-human blood transfusion.
Perhaps predictably, the results were not successful and xenotransfusion was banned in Denis' native France.
Fast forward to the 19th century and a fairly unusual trend for skin xenotransplantation had emerged. Animals as varied as sheep, rabbits, dogs, cats, rats, chickens and pigeons were called upon to donate their skin, but the grafting process was not for the squeamish.
Medical records show that, in order for the xenosurgeons of the time to be satisfied that the donor skin had vascularized (developed capillaries), the living donor animal would usually have to be strapped to the patient for several days. However, the most popular skin donor - the frog - was typically skinned alive and then immediately grafted onto the patient.
Despite several reputed successes, modern physicians are skeptical that these skin grafts could have been in any way beneficial to the patient.
The first corneal xenotransplantation - where the cornea from a pig was implanted in a human patient - took place as early as 1838. However, scientists would not look seriously again at the potential for xenotransplantation until the 20th century and the first successes in human-to-human organ transplantation.
In 1907, the Nobel prize-winning surgeon Alexis Carrel - whose work on blood vessels made organ transplantation viable for the first time - wrote:
"The ideal method would be to transplant in man organs of animals easy to secure and operate on, such as hogs, for instance. But it would in all probability be necessary to immunize organs of the hog against the human serum. The future of transplantation of organs for therapeutic purposes depends on the feasibility of hetero [xeno] transplantation."
These words have been described as "prophetic" because Carrel is describing the exact line of research adopted by xenotransplantation scientists a century later.
A few years later, another leading scientist, Serge Voronoff, would also predict modern science's interest in using the pancreatic islets of pigs to treat severe type 1 diabetes in human patients. However, other xeno experiments by Voronoff have not endured critical reappraisal quite so well.
Voronoff's main scientific interest was in restoring the "zest for life" of elderly men. His attempt to reverse this element of the aging process was to transplant slices of chimpanzee or baboon testicle into the testicles of his elderly patients.
Incredibly, this surgery proved quite popular, with several hundred operations taking place during the 1920s in both the US and Europe.
By the 1960s, despite limited availability, the transplantation of kidneys from deceased to living humans had been established by French and American surgeons.
Dialysis was not yet in practice and given that, in the absence of an available donor kidney, his renal failure patients were facing certain death, the Louisiana surgeon Keith Reemtsma took the unprecedented step of transplanting animal kidneys. He chose chimpanzees as the donor animals, due to their close evolutionary relationship with humans.
Although 12 of his 13 chimpanzee-to-human transplants resulted in either organ rejection or infectious complications within 2 months, one patient of Reemtsma continued to live and work in good health for 9 months, before dying suddenly from acute electrolyte disturbance. Autopsy showed that the chimpanzee kidneys had not been rejected and were working normally.
Experiments in the xenotransplantation of essential organs continued in living patients until the 1980s - without lasting success. However, the procedures attracted widespread publicity, with some attributing a subsequent rise in organ donation to the failed attempt to transplant a baboon heart into a baby girl in 1983.
Where does research currently stand?
Despite the more obvious similarities between humans and other primates, pigs are now considered to be the most viable donor animal for xenotransplantation.
Despite diverging from humans on the evolutionary scale about 80 million years ago, whole genome sequencing of the pig has shown that humans and pigs share similar DNA, while the pig's organs - in size and function - are anatomically comparable to humans.
However, perhaps the main advantage of the pig as donor is in its availability - potentially providing an "unlimited supply" of donor organs. If transplantation is viable, pig donors would provide an immediate solution for the organ shortage problem.
Xenotransplantation optimists also believe that the process can improve on the existing success rate of transplantation of human organs. By keeping the pigs healthy, regularly monitored for infection, and alive right until the point when the required organs are excised under anesthesia, the adverse effects associated with transplantation from deceased donors - such as non-function of organs or transmission of pathogens - would be much less likely, this group argues.
However, there are still significant scientific barriers to the successful implementation of xenotransplantation.
The company United Therapeutics - who moved into xenotransplantation research after the daughter of CEO Martine Rothblatt was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension, a condition with a 90% shortage rate of available lung donors - claim to be making progress with eliminating these barriers.
MedIcal News Today spoke to Rothblatt, who once claimed that the company will have successfully transplanted a pig lung into a human patient "before the end of the decade."
"For a first clinical trial, which was my goal, I think we are on track," she told us. "I said our goal by end of decade is to transplant a xeno lung into a patient with end-stage lung disease and bring them safely back to health."
As well as pioneering lung xenotransplants, the company has ambitions of making pig kidneys, livers, hearts and corneas available for human transplant.
"All are years away, but lung may well be most difficult," admits Rothblatt. "We call it the canary in the coal mine."
In order to make pig lungs compatible with humans, Rothblatt has estimated that 12 modifications need to be made to the pig genome that will prevent rejection. She claims United Therapeutics have now succeeded in making six of these genome modifications.
Also, it was United Therapeutics' genetically modified piglets that provided the world record-beating pig hearts for the NHLBI study in baboons.
Opposition to xenotransplantation
However, science is not the only obstacle to xenotransplantation. Despite clearing all steps of the research with ethics committees at every step, Rothblatt - who has a doctorate in medical ethics - admits there will be unforeseeable regulatory dilemmas and ethics conversations before xenotransplantation can be accepted into clinical practice.
In 2004, the UK's Policy Studies Institute conducted the first major survey of public attitudes towards potential solutions for the organ shortage crisis. The public perception of xenotransplantation was shown to be overwhelmingly negative.
Indeed, response to animal-to-human transplantation was so hostile that some respondents demanded that it be removed as an option on the survey. Although many respondents considered xenotransplantation unethical, the major concern was that animal viruses could infect humans and spread into the population.
Following the survey, an intriguing debate over the ethics of xenotransplantation took place in the pages of Philosophy Now. Making the case against xenotransplantation, Laura Purdy - professor emerita of philosophy at Wells College in Aurora, NY - commented that "the xeno debate proceeds as if saving lives is our top moral priority." She argues that, from this perspective, it suggests that the lives lost down the line as a result of perfecting xenotransplantation do not count.
"What about the 11 million babies and children who die every year from diarrhea, malaria, measles, pneumonia, AIDS and malnutrition?" she questioned. "What about the half-million women who die every year during pregnancy and childbirth when simple measures could save most of them?"
We asked Prof. Purdy why the fact that people die from matters unrelated to transplantation issues would morally preclude science from attempting to also solve the issue of organ donor shortages.
"I agree that, other things being equal, saying that people are dying from other causes doesn't show why we should not also tackle this cause," she replied.
"But once one has taken on board the larger risks to society, both from the research as well as the deployment of the technology, as well as the probability that this is merely a bridge technology that, hopefully will be made obsolete by future developments (such as partial or whole artificial hearts) or advances in public health (making headway against diabetes) and the probability that both research and implementation will be very expensive, that seriously erodes the case for proceeding.
Resources for health are far from infinite. There is a great deal that we could be doing now to advance human health that does not have these downsides - why not focus more there?"
Whether public attitudes toward xenotransplantation have mellowed in the decade since the Policy Studies Institute's survey is not currently known.
However, as the technology advances and the likelihood of implementation draws closer, so too must the public conversation over the perceived rights and wrongs of animal organ transplantation advance in order to hold the science accountable.
Do you have a view on this issue? If so, use our comments box to join the debate.
Making the transition to working nights may feel a bit intimidating, but many night nurses, myself included, have grown to love the position! It tends to be quieter and less chaotic because the patients are generally asleep, and there's a special camaraderie that develops between a team of night nurses. Put these tips into practice to survive, and even thrive, in your night shifts.
Stack several night shifts in a row: Rather than spacing out your night shifts during the week and having to switch between being up during the day and up during the night, try to put all your night shifts for the week in a row. That way, you can really get yourself onto a schedule of being awake during the nights you work and sleeping during the days in between.
Nap before work: As you transition from being awake during the day to being awake as you work at night, take a nap in the afternoon to help you go into your first night shift as rested as possible. Alternately, if your schedule allows, stay up later than usual the night before your first night shift and sleep in as late as you can the next morning.
Fuel up with healthy foods: While sugars may seem like they provide energy, they also come with a crash. Before heading into work, eat a filling meal with a healthy balance of carbohydrates, protein, and fiber. Then bring healthy snacks for the night that include protein and fiber to keep you going strong. Some options include yogurt, mixed nuts, hard boiled eggs, cheese cubes, or carrots with hummus dip
Plan caffeine carefully: It can be tempting to drink a cup of coffee anytime you feel sleepy, but you may develop an unhealthy dependence or be unable to fall asleep when you get home after your shift. Therefore, try to limit yourself to just one or two cups of coffee per shift, and drink your last one at least six hours before you plan to go to sleep.
Create a restful sleeping environment at home: The key to surviving night shifts in the long term is getting lots of restful sleep after each shift. Set up room darkening curtains and a white noise machine to help you block out signs of the day. When you get home, don't force yourself to go to bed right away. Instead, develop a routine that includes some time to bathe, read, and relax as your body winds down after work. Try to avoid bright screens, which block your body from releasing melatonin, the hormone that makes you feel sleepy.
With some attention to detail, you will probably find yourself really enjoying working at night. Many of the night nurses I know started out stuck on the shifts, but grew to prefer them. Plus, the pay differential doesn't hurt at all!
By Robert Preidt
Many children get anxious or afraid when they have to get a vaccination, but there are a number of ways that parents can make these shots easier for their kids, an expert suggests.
The first step is to explain to children in an age-appropriate way that the vaccinations help protect their health, said Rita John, director of the pediatric primary care nurse practitioner program at Columbia University School of Nursing in New York City.
"Children need to know that vaccines aren't a punishment or something negative, vaccines are something that keeps them from getting sick," John said in a Columbia news release. "When parents are anxious, they pass that fear on to their kids. The best way to talk about vaccines is to keep the conversation positive and focused on the benefits of vaccination."
Before a vaccination, you can reduce toddlers' and preschoolers' anxiety if you give them a toy medical kit so that they can give pretend shots to you or a favorite doll or other toy.
When you arrive for the shot, ask the clinician to use a numbing cream or spray to limit the pain caused by the needle. Blowing on a bubble maker or a pinwheel can help distract younger children during vaccinations, while listening to music, playing games or texting may benefit older children and teens.
"If the kids think something is going to reduce their pain, there can be a placebo effect where the technique works because they expect it to work," John explained.
"It doesn't matter so much what you use to make your child more comfortable so long as you do something that acknowledges that they may experience some pain and that they can do something to make it hurt less," she added.
Be sure to reward and/or praise children after a vaccination. For example, give stickers to younger children. "You want the final part of the experience to make kids feel like even if they suffered some momentary pain, it was worth it," John said.
"Good play preparation, a positive attitude about immunization, and bringing something to distract kids during the shots can all help make the experience better," she concluded.
By Jason Lee
Surgeons in Beijing, China, have successfully implanted an artificial, 3D-printed vertebra replacement in a young boy with bone cancer. They say it is the first time such a procedure has ever been done.
During a five-hour operation, the doctors first removed the tumor located in the second vertebra of 12-year-old Minghao's neck and replaced it with the 3D-printed implant between the first and third vertebrae, CCTV.com reported earlier this month.
"This is the first use of a 3D-printed vertebra as an implant for orthopedic spine surgery in the world," said Dr. Liu Zhongjun, the director of orthopedics at No. 3 Hospital, Peking University, who performed the surgery.
The boy was playing football when he headed the ball and injured his neck, and it was later confirmed that he had a tumor, Minghao's mother said.
Prior to the surgery, the patient had been lying in the orthopedics ward for more than two months, and he could occasionally stand up, but only for a few minutes.
Normally, a diseased axis would be replaced by a standardized, hollow titanium tube, Liu told Reuters.
"Using existing technology, the patient's head needs to be framed with pins after surgery," as his head cannot touch the bed when he is resting for at least three months, he explained. "But with 3D printing technology, we can simulate the shape of the vertebra, which is much stronger and more convenient than traditional methods."
Five days after the surgery, Minghao still could not speak and had to use a writing board to communicate. However, doctors said at the time that he was in a good physical condition and they expected him to make a strong recovery.
BY JULIANNE PEPITONE
Google mapped the world's streets and developed self-driving cars to roam them. Now, the company wants to map something much larger: perfect human health.
Google Baseline, announced last week, will collect molecular and genetic information from an initial 175 volunteers and later thousands more. The philosophy is to focus on the genetics of health itself, rather than focus on disease.
Health research experts agree that Google brings a fresh perspective and technological expertise to the complex world of genetics. But they aren't sold on all facets of Google's approach.
"We want to understand what it means to be healthy, down to the molecular and cellular level," Google said in a press release. Google repeated the phrase "what it means to be healthy" a few times -- and that's what worries one expert.
"My immediate question is, what does Google mean by that? Healthy for a six-year-old boy, or a 75-year-old woman? You're injecting values about the range of humanity, right off the bat," said Arthur Caplan, the director of the division of medical ethics at the NYU Langone Medical Center and an NBC News contributor.
Google isn't purporting to develop a model of the singular perfect human. The goal is to analyze participants' data from to uncover "biomarkers," or patterns, that can be used to detect disease earlier.
"It's a perfectly reasonable approach, but I wouldn't do it under the 'what it means to be healthy' mission statement," Caplan said. "Those are fighting words. The mother of a child with Down's syndrome may consider her child perfectly healthy."
What's more, genetics alone doesn't provide a full picture of health or of disease, pointed out Kedar Mate, M.D., the vice president of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, a Massachusetts-based not-for-profit.
"Genes are about 15 to 40 percent, behavioral patterns 30 to 40, socioeconomic factors 20 to 30, etc.," Mate told NBC News. "So even a wonderful genetic model is not a total picture of health."
What makes Baseline different, Google argues, is that it will "try to connect traditional clinical observations of health" like diet and other habits with genetic information.
But while Google (nor anyone) can't create the full model of perfect health, the company still brings two major advantages to the field: technological power and an outsider perspective.
"Anyone can collect 175 DNA samples," Caplan said. "But Google is a very, very powerful computational company. That's what makes it exciting."
Google's trove of technology resources and know-how could create a faster, smarter process for analyzing the links between genes and disease.
But not everyone in the field considers Google's computational power a major boost. Some genomics experts scoffed online at Google's assertion that Baseline is a "clinical research study that has never been done before."
"Frankly, anything Google does gets attention," Mate said.
"What would make it really different is Google's knowledge of so much of our behavior," he added. "If Google could take all of that and combine it with genetic information -- no other organization can offer us that."
But given what little we know about Baseline, it doesn't sound like Google is planning to do that -- at least not now. It's not clear they could, even if they wanted to.
Google declined to comment to NBC News on that point, or on the Baseline project overall. But the company told the Wall Street Journal, that use of data will be limited to medical and health purposes -- and won't be shared with insurance companies, for example.
Whether Google would -- or even could -- move to combine health data with the rest of the information it knows about our behavior, Mate insisted the nature of Google's business adds a unique element to the pursuit of health.
"You wonder if they’ll bring a fresh and different perspective, because this isn’t a stodgy academic project," Mate said. "The entry of a player like Google has the ability to stimulate the space -- and break it out of the way things have always been done."
By Cornell University
In a forthcoming Cornell study published in the journal Health Environments Research and Design, Rana Zadeh, assistant professor of design and environmental analysis, discovered nurses who had access to natural light enjoyed significantly lower blood pressure, communicated more often with their colleagues, laughed more and served their patients in better moods than nurses who settled for large doses of artificial light.
Letting natural light into the nurses’ workstations offered improved alertness and mood restoration effects. “The increase in positive sociability, as measured by the occurrence of frequent laughter, was … significant,” noted Zadeh in the paper.
Nurses work long shifts, during non-standardized hours. They work on demanding and sensitive tasks and their alertness is connected to both staff and patient safety. Past evidence indicates natural light and views have restorative effects on people both physiologically and psychologically. Maximizing access to natural daylight and providing quality lighting design in nursing areas may be an opportunity to improve safety though environmental design and enable staff to manage sleepiness, work in a better mood and stay alert, according to Zadeh.
“Nurses save lives and deal with complications every day. It can be a very intense and stressful work environment, which is why humor and a good mood are integral to the nursing profession,” Zadeh said. “As a nurse, it’s an art to keep your smile – which helps ensure an excellent connection to patients. A smart and affordable way to bring positive mood – and laughter – into the workplace, is designing the right workspace for it.”
Access to natural daylight, and a nice view to outside, should be provided for clinical workspace design, said Zadeh. In situations where natural light is not possible, she suggests optimizing electric lighting in terms of spectrum, intensity and variability to support circadian rhythms and work performance.
“The physical environment in which the caregivers work on critical tasks should be designed to support a high-performing and healthy clinical staff,” she said “ improving the physiological and psychological wellbeing of healthcare staff, by designing the right workspace, can directly benefit the organization’s outcomes”.
In addition to Zadeh, this study, “The Impact of Windows and Daylight on Acute-Care Nurses’ Physiological, Psychological, and Behavioral Health,” was authored by Mardelle Shepley, Texas A&M University; Cornell doctoral candidate Susan Sung Eun Chung; and Gary Williams, MSN, RN. The research was supported by the Center for Health Design Research Coalition’s New Investigator Award.
Nearly one-third of U.S. children and adolescents are obese or overweight, but many don't realize that they fall into that category.
According to new government statistics, approximately 30% of children and adolescents ages 8-15 years (32% of boys and 28% of girls) — an estimated 9.1 million young people — don't have an accurate read on their own weight.
About 33% of kids (ages 8–11) and 27% of teens (ages 12–15) misperceive their weight status, says the report from the National Center for Health Statistics.
Based on data collected between 2005 and 2012 from more than 6,100 kids and teens for the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), the report also finds:
• 42% of those classified as obese (48% of boys; 36% of girls) considered themselves to be about the right weight.
• 76% of those classified as overweight (81% of boys; 71% of girls) believed they were about the right weight.
• 13% of those classified as being at a healthy weight considered themselves too thin (9%) or too fat (4%).
Studies have shown that recognizing obesity can be an important step in reversing what is a major health problem for U.S. children and adolescents, and it can be an important predictor of later weight-control behaviors, says Neda Sarafrazi, a nutritional epidemiologist at NCHS and lead author of the report.
"When overweight kids underestimate their weight, they are less likely to take steps to reduce their weight or do additional things to control their weight, like adopt healthier eating habits or exercise regularly," Sarafrazi says.
"On the other hand, when normal weight or underweight kids overestimate their weight, they might have unhealthy weight-control behaviors," she says.
Weight misperception varied by race and Hispanic origin, according to the report. Black and Mexican-American youths were more likely to misperceive their weight than white children. It also varied by income level and was significantly less common among higher-income families compared with lower-income families.
The report's findings are not a surprise, says Timothy Nelson, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He was not involved in the study.
"In general, children and adolescents have a tendency to underestimate their health risks, and this certainly appears to be the case with obesity," says Nelson, who studies pediatric health behaviors. "We see a similar pattern of misperception when parents are asked about their children's weight. Parents are often unaware of the problem."
With obesity so prevalent today, it's understandable that many kids might have a skewed take on their weight, he says. "If they are surrounded by people who are overweight, they may be less likely to label their own weight as a problem."
The findings highlight the need for health professionals "to communicate with families about the child's weight," Nelson says. "This can be a tough conversation when the child is overweight, but it is critical that pediatricians help parents understand where their child stands and what steps need to be taken to get the child on a healthier track."
By Serusha Govender and Sara Cheshire
(CNN) -- Do you tend to forget things when you're stressed? Like when you're late for a meeting and can't remember where you left your car keys? Or when you have to give a big presentation and suddenly forget all your talking points seconds before you start?
There's nothing like stress to make your memory go a little spotty. A 2010 study found that chronic stress reduces spatial memory: the memory that helps you recall locations and relate objects.
Hence, your missing car keys.
University of Iowa researchers recently found a connection between the stress hormone cortisol and short-term memory loss in older rats. Their findings, published in the Journal of Neuroscience this week, showed that cortisol reduced synapses -- connections between neurons -- in the animals' pre-frontal cortex, the area of the brain that houses short-term memory.
But there's a difference between how your brain processes long-term job stress, for example, and the stress of getting into a car accident. Research suggests low levels of anxiety can affect your ability to recall memories; acute or high-anxiety situations, on the other hand, can actually reinforce the learning process.
Acute stress increases your brain's ability to encode and recall traumatic events, according to studies. These memories get stored in the part of the brain responsible for survival, and serve as a warning and defense mechanism against future trauma.
If the stress you're experiencing is ongoing, however, there can be devastating effects.
Neuroscientists from the University of California, Berkeley,found that chronic stress can create long-term changes in the brain. Stress increases the development of white matter, which helps send messages across the brain, but decreases the number of neurons that assist with information processing.
The neuroscientists say the resulting imbalance can affect your brain's ability to communicate with itself, and make you more vulnerable to developing a mental illness.
Defects in white matter have been associated with schizophrenia, chronic depression, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. Research on post-traumatic stress disorder further shows that it can reduce the amount of gray matter in the brain.
The Berkeley researchers believe their findings could explain why young people who are exposed to chronic stress early in life are prone to learning difficulties, anxiety and other mood disorders.
To reduce the effects of stress, the Mayo Clinic recommends identifying and reducing stress triggers. Eating a healthy diet, exercising, getting enough sleep and participating in a stress-reduction activity such as deep breathing, massage or yoga, can also help.
Stress may harm the brain, but it recovers.
By Val Willingham and Miriam Falco
(CNN) -- Chikungunya -- a tropical disease with a funny name that packs a wallop like having your bones crushed -- has finally taken up residence in the United States.
Ever since the first local transmission of chikungunya was reported in the Americas late last year, health officials have been bracing for the arrival of the debilitating, mosquito-borne virus in the United States. Just seven months after the first cases were found in the Caribbean, the Centers for Disease Control and Preventionreported the first locally acquired case of chikungunya in Florida.
Even though chikungunya is not on the National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System list, 31 states and two U.S. territories have reported cases of the disease since the beginning of the year. But only Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands reported locally acquired cases. All the other cases were travelers who were infected in countries where the virus was endemic and were diagnosed upon returning to the United States.
That ended Thursday, when the CDC reported a man in Florida, who had not recently traveled outside the country, came down with the illness.
As of right now, the Florida Department of Health confirmed there are at least two cases. One case is in Miami Dade County and the other is in Palm Beach County.
Its arrival did not surprise the chair of the Florida Keys Mosquito Control Board.
"It was just a matter of when. We are prepared in the Keys and have been prepared for some time to deal with chikungunya," Steve Smith said. "From what I am seeing, I'm sure there are more cases out there that we don't know about. It's really a matter of time."
The CDC is working closely with the Florida Department of Health to investigate how the patient came down with the virus. The CDC will also monitor for additional locally acquired U.S. cases in the coming weeks and months.
The virus, which can cause joint pain and arthritis-like symptoms, has been on the U.S. public health radar for some time.
Usually about 25 to 28 infected travelers bring it to the United States each year. But this new case represents the first time that mosquitoes themselves are thought to have transferred the disease within the continental United States
"The arrival of chikungunya virus, first in the tropical Americas and now in the United States, underscores the risks posed by this and other exotic pathogens," said Roger Nasci, chief of CDC's Arboviral Diseases Branch. "This emphasizes the importance of CDC's health security initiatives designed to maintain effective surveillance networks, diagnostic laboratories and mosquito control programs both in the United States and around the world."
The virus is not deadly, but it can be extremely painful, with symptoms lasting for weeks. Those with weak immune systems, such as the elderly, are more likely to suffer from the virus' side effects than those who are healthier. About 60% to 90% of those infected will have symptoms, says Nasci. People infected with chikungunya will often have severe joint pain, particularly in their hands and feet, and can also quickly get very high fevers.
The good news, said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious diseases expert with Vanderbilt University in Nashville, is that the United States is more sophisticated when it comes to controlling mosquitoes than many other nations and should be able to keep the problem under control.
"We live in a largely air-conditioned environment, and we have a lot of screening (window screens, porch screens)," Shaffner said. "So we can separate the humans from the mosquito population, but we cannot be completely be isolated."
Mosquito-borne virus worries CDC
Chikungunya was originally identified in East Africa in the 1950s. Then about 10 years ago, chikungunya spread to the Indian Ocean and India, and a few years later an outbreak in northern Italy sickened about 200 people. Now at least 74 countries plus the United States are reporting local transmission of the virus.
The ecological makeup of the United States supports the spread of an illness such as this, especially in the tropical areas of Florida and other Southern states, according to the CDC.
The other concern is the type of mosquito that carries the illness.
Unlike most mosquitoes that breed and prosper outside from dusk to dawn, the chikungunya virus is most often spread to people byAedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes, which are most active during the day, which makes it difficult to use the same chemical mosquito control measures.
These are the same mosquitoes that transmit the virus that causes dengue fever. The disease is transmitted from mosquito to human, human to mosquito and so forth. A female mosquito of this type lives three to four weeks and can bite someone every three to four days.
Shaffner and other health experts recommend people remember the mosquito-control basics:
-- Use bug spray if you are going out, especially in tropical or wooded areas near water.
-- Get rid of standing water in empty plastic pools, flower pots, pet dishes and gutters to eliminate mosquito breeding grounds.
-- Wear long sleeves and pants.