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  • iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Is there such a thing as second-hand pot smoke? We know second-hand tobacco smoke is bad -- so bad that multiple public health interventions have led to decreased cigarette use overall. As cannabis use becomes more popular -- and legal in more states -- should we now be concerned with second-hand pot smoke, especially around children?Researchers from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health have collected data on parents who have children under 18 years old living in the home, as well as information on tobacco and marijuana use in those groups between 2002 and 2015. They looked at pot and tobacco use among people of different incomes, races, education, and marital status. This data confirmed some of what we already knew: Tobacco use is declining, and cannabis use is on the rise.The use of tobacco alone has decreased to 20.2 percent from 27.6 percent between 2002 to 2015, but daily pot smoking almost doubled in the same period, from 0.7 percent to 1.6 percent. While this may seem like a small rise, it means that there were, on average, 6 million children in the United States in 2015 living with a parent that smoked cannabis.They often seem to go together -- cannabis use is almost four times more likely in cigarette smokers. About one-quarter of homes with children under 18 years old in 2015 had a parent who smoked both tobacco and marijuana.Prior studies have suggested that second-hand exposure to cannabis is almost equal to, if not worse than, exposure to tobacco smoke. There may be an additive effect that combining the two sorts of smoke brings -- we don’t know yet.It’s already proven that teenagers who use marijuana may have long-term changes to their memory, learning capabilities, and attention, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website. There are currently nine states that allow for recreational use of marijuana, but it's only legal for adults over the age of 21 to purchase cannabis from these recreational dispensaries.“Smoked marijuana has many of the same cancer-causing substances as smoked tobacco," according to the CDC.There have been no concrete answers regarding second-hand exposure to cannabis. Studies related to cannabis use are particularly difficult given that “marijuana is a schedule I drug and is highly regulated by the government," as the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene explains, “this makes it hard to conduct research about related health effects."So what does this mean? Should cannabis continue to be tightly regulated, if children are breathing the smoke? Are they harmed by it? Really, we don’t have those answers yet.This article was written by Chantel Strachan, MD, a second-year internal medicine resident from the University of Connecticut who works in the ABC News Medical Unit.
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  • DigitalVision/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- As the deadly Ebola virus rises again in central Africa, health officials have decided to try a different approach to fight back.At least 19 deaths have been tied to the current outbreak of Ebola virus in the Democratic Republic of the Congo's Bikoro Health Zone, Equateur Province. There were 39 confirmed and suspected cases identified between April 4 and May 13, according to the World Health Organization.The WHO has received approval to use an experimental Ebola vaccine, using a “ring vaccination” approach, around the epicenter of the oubreak in the Congo."Working with partners and responding early and in a coordinated way will be vital to containing this deadly disease," Dr. Peter Salama, deputy director-general of emergency preparedness and response for the World Health Organization said in a statement.Here is more information about Ebola and the experimental vaccine the WHO plans to employ.How is Ebola transmitted to people?Outbreaks of Ebola virus appear to begin when a human comes into contact with an infected animal or its body fluids. Subsequent person-to-person transmission happens after physical contact with the body fluids of a living or deceased patient.What are the current treatments for Ebola?The mainstay of treatment for Ebola virus involves supportive care to maintain adequate organ function, giving the immune system time to mobilize and eliminate the infection.Several experimental antiviral therapies were used to treat patients who contracted the virus during the 2014 to 2016 outbreak in West Africa, but it's not clear how effective those drugs were and they are in very short supply.Why this vaccine?This vaccine was developed to help protect people who have not yet been infected with Ebola. It has been proven safe and effective in human trials, but it has not received a license, so it's still considered experimental.In the past, U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted the vaccine what is known as a breakthrough therapy designation -- a status reserved for medicines designed to treat serious or life-threatening illnesses.The vaccine, which is referred to as both VSV ZEBOV and V920, was developed by Merck and has demonstrated the ability to cut the risk of infection in human trials.In September 2014, WHO identified both VSV and the ChAd3 vaccine as the most advanced candidates for use in the West African outbreak, mainly because both appeared to protect people after a single inoculation.More than 3,500 people were vaccinated with VSV in 2015, as part of a large trial at the end of Ebola outbreak in Guinea.Why is this approach different?This vaccine was designed for use in a so-called “ring vaccination” approach, a strategy used in 1977 to control smallpox. The idea is to vaccinate people who know someone who has been infected and the people who know those people, in an expanding "ring" around the infections.So far, 393 people have been identified as part of the "ring" around people who are known or suspected to have been infected in the Congo. There is enough vaccine to cover those identified and many more; the WHO has a stockpile of 4,300 doses in Geneva and 300,000 doses in the U.S.This article was written by Satyam Nayak, M.D., M.P.H., an assistant professor and clinical hospitalist at U.T. Southwestern, who works in the ABC News Medical Unit.
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  • iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A Congressional hopeful in New York became the first woman candidate for federal office allowed to use campaign funds for childcare after a decision by the Federal Election Commission (FEC) Thursday.Liuba Grechen Shirley, a 36-year-old mother of two, submitted a request with the FEC early last month. She told ABC News that the process went smoother than she had expected."I was expecting to testify today and to answer questions, but was thrilled with their unanimous vote," Grechen Shirley said.Though Grechen Shirley said "the overwhelming response has been support," not all feedback has been positive.Grechen Shirley's opponent in the upcoming June 26 Congressional primary for New York's 2nd District, fellow Democrat DuWayne Gregory, was critical of her request to use campaign funds for childcare."It's disappointing that my primary opponent can't support something as critical as childcare," Grechen Shirley said of Gregory, who said Thursday he's glad the issue has been put to rest."It was not an approved expense," Gregory told ABC News. "But now it is, so certainly, as long as it's within the guidelines of the FEC, I'm fine with it."Gregory said that he has been mischaracterized, noting that he was named "childcare advocate of the year" in 2013 by the Child Care Council of Suffolk."It's politics, I get it," Gregory said.Grechen Shirley said that several skeptics have come around to her side."There have been a few people who have had concerns," Grechen Shirley said. "Some people thought that these funds were taxpayer dollars, and when they realized that these were funds that I am raising for our campaign they were fine with it."As a countervailing force to critics, a letter of support was submitted to the FEC by 24 members of Congress on Tuesday, and another on behalf of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last month. The latter took Grechen Shirley off guard."My campaign manager called me on a Friday afternoon, and it was an incredible surprise," Grechen Shirley said. "I had no idea that was going to happen."The FEC's decision hinged on Grechen Shirley's childcare expenses not being deemed "personal use," defined as costs that "would exist irrespective of the candidate's election campaign." Campaign funds would not be allowed to pay for such "personal use" expenses."The Commission concludes that your authorized campaign committee may use campaign funds to pay for the childcare expenses described in your request because such expenses would not exist irrespective of your candidacy," the FEC's opinion stated.While Grechen Shirley has touted Thursday's opinion as a "game changer," it is not clear whether it has set an entirely new precedent, as the FEC made a similar decision over two decades ago."The Commission has previously considered the permissibility of using campaign funds to pay for certain childcare expenses in more limited circumstances," the opinion read, referring to a 1995 decision that granted a male candidate permission to use campaign funds for "occasional childcare" expenses."The fact that you seek to use campaign funds to pay for more than the 'occasional' childcare expenses approved of in Advisory Opinion 1995-42 (McCrery) does not change the relevant question, which is whether such expenses would exist irrespective of the candidate’s campaign or officeholder duties," the opinion stated.Regardless, Grechen Shirley hopes her victory will encourage many more women to run for office, especially those for whom childcare is a financial barrier to entry."I wouldn't be able to do this," she said of her own campaign.Even with her babysitter's fee covered (around $440 per week to watch her 2-year-old son and 3-year-old-daughter), Grechen Shirley said it's "an interesting juggling act" being both a candidate and a mom."I'll run home from events and do bath time and dinner and get them to bed, and then run back out to events," she said.
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  • iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- One person is suspected to have died in a fresh outbreak of the Ebola virus in the Democratic Republic of Congo, officials said on Thursday.Thus far, 11 suspected cases of haemorrhagic fever have been recorded, including two laboratory-confirmed Ebola cases, the Democratic Republic of Congo’s health ministry said in a statement. There are several types of haemorrhagic fever besides Ebola, meaning not all suspected cases are that specific virus.Three health professionals are among those suspected to be infected, officials said.Medical teams from the government, the World Health Organization (WHO) and Doctors Without Borders, a frontline medical charity, traveled Tuesday to the area of the latest outbreak to investigate and assist with containment.This is the ninth cycle of Ebola recorded in the DRC. The disease was discovered in 1976 and named after the eponymous Ebola River that cuts across the north of the country.The disease is believed to be spread by bats, who can incubate the virus without being affected by it. The bats can then infect other animals living in the same trees, such as monkeys.The aggressive Ebola epidemic, which triggered international alerts between 2013 and 2016, was the most widespread outbreak of the virus, killing more than 11,300 people and infecting nearly 30,000 others. The virus spread across the West African coast through Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.Small outbreaks caused by passenger travel out of the contaminated areas, including a humanitarian worker being evacuated back home, were recorded in the U.S., U.K., Sardinia and Senegal.
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  • iStock/Thinkstock(SANTIAGO, Chile) -- Visits to the dentist can be scary for any child, but can be especially trying for many children with autism. Some can be unsettled by lights in their faces, or overwhelmed by noises from dental equipment.That's where Zucca, a therapy Labrador, comes in to help make things a little easier.Zucca is one of six dogs employed by Junto a Ti (“Next to You”), a non-profit that specializes in visits to the dentist for children with autism. All six dogs are female, because organizers say they are more docile, and they all receive specialized training.Raul Varela, the man who started the non-profit, noticed that his child, who has autism, had better social interactions after bonding with the family's black Labrador. He quit his job and became certified as a therapy dog trainer for children with autism.One mother said she had "never seen" her son so calm. "He let the dentists work. In fact, he did not even shout."The clinic pays about $67 for a session with a dog, though charges vary depending on the family's economic level.
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