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  • iStock/Thinkstock(ATLANTA) -- Forget that the calendar says it's still winter, allergy season is already hitting much of the country despite spring officially being nearly a month away.As a relatively mild and wet winter has given way to unseasonably high temperatures across much of the U.S., multiple areas are reporting high pollen counts weeks earlier than normal.Here's a look at what you need to know about the kick-off to spring allergy season.Which areas are reporting high pollen levels?Not surprisingly, the South has started to see high levels of pollen as trees start to come back to life after winter weather. This week, Atlanta reported pollen counts of 1,289, according to the Atlanta Allergy and Asthma Center. Last year, nothing close to that was recorded until mid-March, according to the center.Additionally, parts of Texas, North Carolina, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Georgia have all had high levels of tree pollen, according to a daily Accuweather map.Does winter weather affect spring allergy season?Dr. Yasmin Bhasin, an allergist at the Allergy and Asthma Care in Middletown, N.Y., said the mild, wet weather that has hit much of the country will likely mean a worse season for allergy sufferers overall."Allergy season is directly in relation to how much it has rained and snowed," Bhasin said. It depends on the weather for the trees "to grow and flourish and pollinate" in the spring. The healthier the trees, the more pollen in the air.Mid-March is usually the prime time for allergens to be released, Bhasin said, but it can change depending on the weather and last year's cold winter meant allergy season was delayed.Which allergens are released in the spring?The top allergen of spring is tree pollen. The type of tree pollen released largely depends on the region, Bhasin said. However, primarily oak, maple, birch and elm trees will be causing allergy sufferers a lot of misery this spring, she noted.
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  • ABC News(MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C.) -- A security camera recently captured the hair-raising moment a coyote stealthily followed a doctor into his office in South Carolina.The doctor -- Steven Poletti, an orthopedic surgeon -- said the harrowing incident happened early in the morning on Feb. 15 while he was walking into work at the Southeastern Spine Institute in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina.Poletti had no idea a coyote was behind him until they were both inside the building, he told ABC News Tuesday."I felt something brush my leg and then turned around," he said. "At first glance, I thought it was a dog."But Poletti quickly realized the animal was a coyote when he caught sight of its "bared teeth and big, bushy tail with a black tip.""We were enclosed in this small 10-by-10-foot stairwell area, and I didn't want it to run into the operating room or into the office," Poletti said. "I just shook my keys out of fear, and the coyote took a step back and looked like he was frightened. Then, I just made a run for it."The coyote chased the doctor outside for about 10 feet until a squirrel distracted it and it ran off, Poletti said."It all happened very quickly," he said. "I was just shocked because the office isn't in a rural or forest area, and there are a lot of homes and commercial properties nearby."Poletti noted, though, that coyotes are abundant on Sullivan Island in South Carolina -- the beach island town where he lives and which is about three miles from his office."We hear them howling on a nightly basis," he said. "There are definitely a lot of coyote reports in the surrounding areas, but I don't think we've ever had a coyote enter a building like this before."Poletti said he called the Mount Pleasant Police Department and reported the incident.The doctor said that initially, animal control officers from the police department told him he could hire a private trapper. However, a few days later, the police department offered to have its animal control officers set up a trap to try and capture the coyote, Poletti said.The Mount Pleasant Police Department did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment on the incident.Mount Pleasant Mayor Linda Page confirmed that the town generally refers residents to trappers when they report coyote sightings, according to local newspaper The Post and Courier.Page declined to provide further comment on the town's response to the incident until she could talk with her staff about it, the newspaper reported.She did say, however, that if "there's any kind of danger to human life, we're going to take it seriously," The Post and Courier added.
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  • Geneva Sands/ABC News(BOSTON) -- The increasing number of opioid-related deaths in Massachusetts show the state is one of the hardest hit in the nation by the growth of the highly-potent opioid fentanyl.The number of deaths related to opioids in Massachusetts has risen exponentially in recent years reaching an estimated 1,979 deaths this year, a sharp rise from 918 deaths in 2013, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health."The opioid epidemic continues to threaten individuals and families all across Massachusetts and the country," the state's governor, Charlie Baker, said in a statement last week. "Our administration will continue our intense focus on fighting this epidemic by further increasing treatment options and expanding support for law enforcement and their efforts to arrest and convict drug traffickers who prey on vulnerable people, selling them more and more deadly and addictive substances."While heroin may be the most well-known illicit opioid, fentanyl appears to be more deadly to drug users in the state. After reviewing toxicology reports from 1,374 opioid-related deaths, where the reports were available, the department found 75 percent were positive for fentanyl.Fentanyl is a powerful opioid usually prescribed for chronic pain in advanced cancer, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It can be 50 to 100 times more potent than heroin.But the state said that the fentanyl they are seeing most is the illicit variety, which is a powder often mixed with either heroin or cocaine to amplify its effects. Users of illicit fentanyl may not know they are being exposed to a much more lethal substance.The rate of opioid-related overdose deaths in Massachusetts has increased 26 percent from 2014, rising from 20.4 deaths per 100,000 people to 25.8 deaths per 100,00 people. This number is higher than the rate of death for suicides in the U.S., 13.4 deaths per 100,000, and the rate of death from car accidents, 11.1 deaths per 100,000 residents.The number of fentanyl encounters more than doubled across the U.S. from 5,343 in 2014 to 13,882 in 2015, according to the CDC, and Massachusetts showed more than a 500 percent increase, along with New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Ohio."We are committed to ending the opioid epidemic and will continue our efforts no matter how long it takes," Massachusetts Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders said last week, adding that the governor's new budget proposed $145 million for funding to help treat and prevent substance abuse.While deaths have continued to rise, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health pointed out that were rising at a slower rate in the last few years. Additionally Baker has been working to fight the ongoing opioid crisis in the state since arriving in office in 2015 by spending $180 million on treatment and prevention programs, in addition to launching initiatives to lessen the stigma around drug addiction.
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  • Bobby Bank/WireImage via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Former Partridge Family star, David Cassidy, said he will stop touring as a musician so that he can focus on his health as he battles dementia."I want to focus on what I am, who I am and how I’ve been without any distractions," Cassidy told People magazine in an interview. "I want to love. I want to enjoy life."Cassidy's publicist confirmed the report to ABC News.Both his grandfather and mother suffered from the disease, which affects memory, Cassidy, 66, told People. The actor said that "the only way I knew [my mother] recognized me is with one single tear that would drop from her eye every time I walked into a room.""I feared I would end up that way," he continued. "I was in denial, but a part of me always knew this was coming."Over the past few years, Cassidy has had several brushes with the law. He also spent time in a substance rehabilitation center in 2014.Earlier this month, Cassidy wrote on his website that he planned to retire to some degree, calling it "the most difficult decision I have ever made in my entire life.""I will always be eternally grateful for the love and support you’ve shown me. I still love very much to play and perform live. But it’s much more difficult for me now," he wrote. "I’m not going to vanish or disappear forever."
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  • WFAA-TV(DALLAS) -- A former Dallas neurosurgeon has been sentenced to life in prison after he maimed an elderly woman during surgery in 2012.
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