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  • ABC News(PORT WASHINGTON, N.Y.) -- Julia Knight had her dog Lucky, George Lee his cocker spaniel Rusty, and Eileen Jackman raised collies growing up.Fond memories of their former furry friends replaced whatever hardship these Oyster Bay Senior Campus residents were dealing with when two 12-week-old puppies visited the home care facility earlier this year, triggering the recollections.The program, which takes place weekly at Harbor House, a part of the senior campus devoted to caring for individuals with Alzheimer’s, dementia and other memory impairments, is made possible by the folks at North Shore Animal League America through its Shelter Pet Outreach Team (SPOT).Through SPOT, North Shore brings therapy puppies and cats to nursing homes, senior citizen centers and rehabilitation centers like OBSC.The benefits to these seniors from just a little puppy love are endless, said Shari Leventhal, the director of recreation at Harbor House."There's such a difference in their lives," she told ABC News. "We have residents here, they are not speaking, they are not social, they have a lot of mood swings."But when you put a puppy in their laps, "it turns them into a different person," Leventhal said.According to the Mayo Clinic, dementia in adults results in changes like memory loss, but also difficulty reasoning, problem-solving and completing complex tasks, which can result in paranoia, agitation and depression. The same can be said for Alzheimer's, including but not limited to forgetting conversations, getting lost in familiar places, and forgetting the names and details about loved ones."As soon as you touch a puppy, you start relaxing. They start talking to you, they start having memories of their past, of their dogs when they were growing up and it turns them into a completely different person," she added. "It's a wonderful thing. It's a blessing. We have seen people who are sad, angry, upset and you put a puppy in their lap, and their disposition changes completely."Leventhal said that people with cases like dementia hold on to memories of the past, for better or worse."I love dogs. ... My father used to take any dog home," said Knight, who lives with dementia. She also joked that "My mother [would say] you get him out of here or I'm out!"For Jackman, who has Alzheimer’s, she couldn't help sharing stories her pups growing up while holding, kissing and singing to one of the adoptable dogs from North Shore."I grew up with [dogs]. My mother raised them, I raised them for a little while," she said. "I had a wonderful memory. I had a collie, a big collie. And I went swimming and I went out too far. I was trying to come in and somehow that dog knew it and came out and grabbed me."She added, "What do I love about dogs? Because they are so affectionate and so protective and so loving. And they give back a lot when you have them."The stories are endless and the smiles and laughs from these residents fill the room when the dogs from North Shore are visiting.Other programs at North Shore Animal League AmericaBut North Shore Animal League America does far more than just helping seniors living with memory-related impairments.The no-kill shelter has other programs like the Mutt-i-grees Curriculum, in which students can work with animals to build "calm, caring, confident kids," and the Seniors for Seniors program, where seniors over the age of 60 can adopt a calm, well-trained senior animal to add love to their life."We want to match up as best we can, seniors citizens, 60 years of age or older, with calm animals," said Rosemarie Tombolo, kennel manager at North Shore. "They are set in their ways, they are house-trained or litter-trained and they are just going to be a great companion."Tombolo said these senior animals might be available if the past owner couldn't afford them anymore or just couldn't fit them into their lifestyle, but one thing is for sure, "These animals deserve a second chance.""We had a 9- or 10-year-old Lab mix an
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  • ABCNews.com(PATERSON, N.J.) -- This year's flu is the worst on record in at least a decade; 53 children have died amid the national flu epidemic, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.One of the busiest emergency rooms in the U.S. at St. Joseph's Healthcare System in Paterson, New Jersey, has seen a huge surge of patients coming in with the flu. The chairman of emergency medicine, Dr. Mark Rosenberg, said the hospital has seen that kids are especially hard hit."We had to put two beds in each room just to be able to handle the sheer volume of pediatric patients," he told ABC News.Rosenberg spoke with ABC News' Linsey Davis about what has been happening and what to expect in coming weeks of the flu season, which could be longer than usual.How does this flu season differ from those in the past?"This year, the big difference is the flu vaccine," Rosenberg said. "We’re seeing more people come in who had the flu vaccine who now have the flu."It seems that many doctors’ offices and hospitals are overloaded with flu patients this particular season. What do you attribute that to?"This year, so many people who have the flu are trying to see their primary care physician but those primary care offices are completely filled and overwhelmed," Rosenberg said. "So when a patient calls up and says ‘Can I have an appointment?’ they say go to the emergency department. A large number of patients we see are actually trying to see their primary care doctors, but instead they come to the emergency department because we have unlimited access capability for anybody who has the flu or has an illness.”Is this year's flu more severe because of the number of people getting it or because the strain is more severe?"The strain seems to be more virulent, it seems to come on more quickly than we’ve seen in prior years and those who are very young or very old seem to get sicker from that," Rosenberg said, "particularly those who have ... other serious or chronic illnesses."Is there any danger of running out of flu tests or Tamiflu?“We use swabs and we have not had a problem having enough swab to do the testing," Rosenberg said."We don’t give out a lot of Tamiflu because you don’t need Tamiflu to get better from the flu," he said. "Only those who are seriously ill with a chronic condition, those who are pregnant, or those very young may benefit from Tamiflu."There are a lot of people sharing hospital rooms, is this unusual?"Yes, so in pediatrics in particular, we had to put two beds in each room just to be able to handle the sheer volume of pediatric patients coming in," Rosenberg said. "We have a 20 percent increase in pediatric patients and geriatric patients coming in because of the flu."The CDC says it's possible that A-flu season could last til May. Will this last for several more weeks?"At least," Rosenberg said. "We typically see when spring weather comes in we have a couple more weeks of flu that will remain until it really dissipates. I always like to say the flu starts at Thanksgiving and ends at Easter. This year it may last a couple more weeks."What are some recommendations for both people who have not been sick with the flu and those who are sick, but worried about going to the doctor?"The most important thing is get the flu vaccine, even if it’s not as effective as years prior," Rosenberg said. "What we do know is if you take the flu vaccine, your symptoms and the flu duration will be less. So that’s the most important thing.""Make sure you’re washing your hands frequently," he added. "You can use Purell, or some of the other alcohol-based cleansing agents -- keep a bottle in your pocketbook or purse so you can wash your hands frequently -- and stay away from people who have the flu. And if you are sick, stay in so you are not contaminating other people."
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  • iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a leading cause of death and disability in the United States, resulting in more than 2.5 million emergency department visits and hospitalizations in 2013 alone.For children, emergency department visits for TBI from sports and recreation-related injuries more than doubled from 2001 to 2012.We know that TBI can have devastating effects that include impaired thinking, memory and emotional functioning. But now, new research suggests it may also increase the risk of dementia, according to a study published Tuesday in the journal PLoS Medicine.In the study, researchers from Umeå University in Sweden looked at 3 million Swedes 50 years old and older who were diagnosed with TBI or dementia between 1964 and 2012. They compared subjects with TBI with those who hadn’t had it. When possible, they also compared those with TBI to a sibling without TBI.One of the study's authors, Peter Nordström, said that despite the surge of research interest on the effects of head injuries to soccer players, American football players and boxers, “there was a knowledge gap.""There is no conclusive evidence suggesting that traumatic brain injury should cause dementia,” he said.To close this gap, Nordström -- who is a TBI and post-concussive syndrome survivor himself –- and his colleagues conducted the largest study yet to explore this question.“We showed that up to 30 years or more, there is a 25 percent increased risk of dementia after traumatic brain injury,” he said, adding the link was even stronger in the first year after TBI.More severe TBI or multiple TBIs were also associated with an increased risk of dementia.Nordström said he was surprised by the results of the 46,970 sibling pairs, which suggested the link between TBI and dementia is just as strong even after adjusting for upbringing, education and genetics.Dr. Lee E. Goldstein, an associate professor at Boston University School of Medicine and College of Engineering about the study, praised the report.“They’ve done an extraordinary job gathering information from an exceedingly large cohort so there’s a lot of power to that,” Goldstein, who was not involved with the study, told ABC News. “It really provides some very compelling evidence.“TBI is the leading cause of death and long-term disability in the world. In addition to death and disability, there’s another ‘D’ in the mix, and that’s dementia,” Goldstein added.But while the observational study shows a strong association between TBI and dementia, there’s still no proof TBI actually causes dementia. Future studies in this area would need to establish a cause-and-effect relationship, and could explore other disabilities associated with TBI.“For a long time, people thought that mild injuries are largely benign, but what’s emerging from our work and others is that cumulative hits to the head can cause extraordinary damage and neurodegenerative changes,” Goldstein said. “If you’ve had a TBI, it’s worth paying attention so you don’t have another one.”Meanwhile, Nordström added: “I think this study will pinpoint the importance of continuing preventative safety measures in sports [and doing what we already know] to reduce the risk of dementia, such as avoiding excess alcohol intake and high blood pressure.”This article was written by Christy Duan MD for ABC News.
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  • WLS-TV(CHICAGO) -- The halls of an all-boys Catholic high school in Chicago were barren on Monday.That's because administrators at Saint Patrick High School counted almost 100 absences; many coming down with a case of the flu."We had 87 students absent yesterday," Saint Patrick High School spokeswoman told ABC News. "Those absences were due to a variety of reasons including, in some cases, the flu."She also said that two Saint Patrick High teachers were out sick, but didn't specify whether they were out because of the flu.For students who showed up Tuesday, they were dismissed early because of a pre-scheduled half day.Come Wednesday, the spokeswoman said the school is set to return to its normal full day schedule.In a statement, Saint Patrick High officials are recommending its student body and faculty "remain home if they are not feeling well" in order to limit the spread of illness.Already the school has taken some measures to curb contact with other, potentially contagious kids.During Tuesday's scheduled monthly mass, according to ABC News' affiliate WLS-TV the handshake of peace was switched out to a message about staying healthy."The message is if you're not feeling well, tell your parents about it in the morning so you make sure they keep you home. We don't want you in school if you're sick, spreading your germs. So that's our message," Saint Patrick president Joe Schmidt told WLS-TV.Saint Patrick High freshman Sean Forrester told WLS-TV he has taken to eliminating germs every hour."Washing my hands more often, even if I'm not eating anything," he said.Besides adding tissues and hand sanitizer to each classroom, so far there are no plans to alter its janitorial regimen."Saint Patrick is cleaned and disinfected each night," the school's spokeswoman's statement reads. "We will continue to monitor the situation and communicate with our students, parents and faculty."This season's mutated flu strain has become a national epidemic and particularly lethal.This year, 37 children's lives have been claimed by the flu, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stats.In Chicago, where the risk is of influenza infection is "high" there has been a slight dropoff of hospitalizations due to the flu but during the week of Jan. 14 through Jan. 20, 1,755 or 6.5 percent of the total emergency department visits were an "influenza-like illness," according to a recent Chicago Department of Public Health report.Dr. Hany Atallah of the Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia told ABC News that medical professionals like him are getting flooded with the influx of flu patients.To handle the demand, hospital care has spilled outside Grady Memorial's modern facilities to outdoor mobile trailer units."It was really just a matter of running out of space," he said. "We needed just some more beds to take care of the patients."Clearly this year compared to last year we're seeing a lot more fly and flu-like illness from patients," he saidAtallah suggested that getting inoculated with a flu shot is still a good idea, but admitted it may not be as effective as it's been in the past."We do know that our flu vaccine this year wasn't particularly effective against this particular strain of the flu" he said of the nasty influenza A H3N2 strain. "So I would enc people if there are still those out there that haven't gotten a flu shot to go out and get it. There is some effectiveness... it just hasn't been as effective as we would like it to be."He points to people especially vulnerable to the flu people who are dealing with chronic illness, the very young, the very old and pregnant women."The flu hits them very hard," he said.He also said the uptick in flu cases is leading to shortages of the prescription antiviral medicine Tamiflu."Because there are so many people trying to get it I think that's led to a shortage," Atallah said. "We're restricting it to people who really need it."That means patients heading to the emergency room and sent h
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  • iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump’s order declaring the opioid crisis a public health emergency in October was set to expire last Tuesday — its 90-day mandate must be renewed upon expiration — leading to a lack of clarity in the commitment of the administration's response.In a statement released Jan. 22, acting Health and Human Services Secretary Eric Hargan renewed the “determination that a public health emergency exists nationwide … as a result of the continued consequences of the opioid crisis affecting our nation.”When asked if the public health emergency will be renewed every 90 days, HHS did not provide an answer, casting doubt on exactly how long the mandate is expected to last.The administration’s response to the opioid crisis was also recently overshadowed by the revelation that 24-year-old Taylor Weyeneth serves as deputy chief of staff at the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) —- the office charged with leading the administration’s crusade across agencies to confront this crisis. Weyeneth’s only professional experience after graduating college was as a former staffer on Trump’s presidential campaign, The Washington Post reported.Following this report, the White House told ABC News that Weyeneth is planning to leave his post at the end of the month.“Mr. Weyeneth has decided to depart ONDCP at the end of the month,” said White House spokesperson Raj Shah. It was unclear whether Weyeneth would continue to serve the administration in a different capacity and neither he nor the White House responded to a request for comment about his future employment.Publicly, Trump and his administration tout an unwavering pledge to curbing the rampant epidemic.When he made the public health emergency declaration in October, Trump said he would mobilize “every appropriate emergency authority to fight the opioid crisis” — and even went as far to call the opioid epidemic “the worst drug crisis in American history.”“This crisis remains a top priority for President Trump and his administration,” a spokesperson at ONDCP told ABC News.While the White House insists the opioid crisis is a top priority, lingering questions remain about the urgency of the administration’s response behind the scenes.According to a spokesperson at the ONDCP, “The Office of National Drug Control Policy works closely with other federal agencies and White House offices, including Kellyanne Conway’s office, to combat the opioid crisis our nation is currently facing.”Weyeneth is not the only staffing choice that has cast scrutiny on the agency.Shortly before Trump declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency, his nominee to lead the ONDCP, Rep. Tom Marino, R-Pa., withdrew his name from consideration after it was revealed that he along with multiple other lawmakers passed a bill to significantly weaken the Drug Enforcement Agency’s enforcement capabilities in the opioid crisis in favor of lobbying by pharmaceutical companies.Since March, Richard Baum has served as the agency’s acting director, or acting “drug czar,” charged with coordinating the federal response to the crisis. A permanent appointment has not been nominated to serve as director.ABC News could not be provided with an estimate of the number of staff or vacancies at ONDCP after multiple inquiries to the White House, ONDCP and the Office of Personnel Management.But staffing isn’t the only lingering question. From its inception, there have been mixed messages about funding for Trump’s opioid order.At the time of the October announcement, two senior House and Senate Appropriations officials told ABC News the White House had not yet requested additional funding to combat the epidemic.“President Trump has prioritized this issue by declaring the opioid crisis a nationwide public health em
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