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  • iStock/Thinkstock(MULLIN, Texas) -- A special education teacher in Texas is reportedly on life support after contracting both strains of influenza, as the worst flu season in years engulfs the United States.Crystal Whitley, who teaches in Mullin, got the flu shot in October after giving birth to her son, family members told ABC affiliate WFAA.But she caught both the H3N2 and H1N1 flu strains two weeks ago. Then she came down with pneumonia in both lungs and contracted MRSA, a bacterial infection that's become resistant to many of the antibiotics.Now, Whitley is on life support at Baylor University Medical Center, according to WFAA."She's making all of this progress, but [doctors] keep telling us she is still very ill. She is still critical, and she is still on life support," Whitley's mother, Mary O’Connor, told WFAA. "I asked them yesterday, and I said, 'I know you don't know for sure, but what are we looking at?' They said, 'It's probably going to be months.'" The nationwide flu outbreak is shaping up to be the worst on record, and federal health officials say they can't predict when the deadly epidemic will end.The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a grim report on Friday, revealing that at least 63 children have died from influenza for the 2017-2018 season. Ten of them died in the past week alone."I wish there was better news this week, but almost everything we're looking at is bad news," Dr. Anne Schuchat, acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said during a news conference Friday. The nationwide flu outbreak is shaping up to be the worst on record, and federal health officials say they can't predict when the deadly epidemic will end.The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a grim report on Friday, revealing that at least 63 children have died from influenza for the 2017-2018 season. Ten of them died in the past week alone."I wish there was better news this week, but almost everything we're looking at is bad news," Dr. Anne Schuchat, acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said during a news conference Friday. Schuchat said the nation is now in the eleventh week of the 2017-2018 flu season, and nearly all states remain rife with the virus, except for Oregon and Hawaii. The H3N2 flu strain is infecting the most patients."We recognize that this issue is personal to so many families and that there is a lot of fear and alarm," she said. "Flu is incredibly difficult to predict, and we don't know if we've hit a peak. We could see more weeks of increased flu activity." The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it's still not too late to get a flu shot. The federal health agency also recommended people 65 years or older receive a pneumococcal pneumonia vaccination.
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  • iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A heartbroken mother whose son died of a heroin overdose is hoping a Valentine's Day letter about him to President Trump will "warm" his heart and urge the federal government to do more about the crisis.Sue Kruczek, whose son, Nick, died when he was 20 years old, plans to send the letter to the president Saturday, hoping it makes it to his desk by the holiday. "We’re hoping to touch his heart, warm his heart a little, through our broken hearts," Kruczek, referring to other parents who have lost children to drugs, told WTNH in Connecticut. Kruczek said her son was a promising hockey player in high school. But after a teammate gave him a pill to help him relax, Nick never played another game sober again, she said.Nick died five years later of a drug overdose. Ever since, Kruczek has been deeply involved in the war against opioids. She was crucial in Connecticut’s seven-day cap on opioid prescriptions.Now, she wants the federal government to step up and allocate more funding. "We need that funding to help all those out there who are struggling desperately before they become a number like my son," she said.Kruczek believes a Valentine's Day letter to the president will help her cause. The letter, which includes a picture of Nick, describes how friendly and athletic he was. "I had a great kid who had great friends," the letter begins. "As a freshman, he was the starting center on his varsity hockey team."Kruczek doesn't think she's alone. She believes there are scores of other broken-hearted parents who will also send love letters to the president. "Wouldn't it be great if we could flood the president's desk with all our beautiful children’s faces and pictures and send a message?" she said.
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  • iStock/Thinkstock(SAVANNAH, Ga.) -- When Hannah Lucas was diagnosed last year with a medical condition that caused frequent fainting, she felt scared and alone.“I started passing out more and more often and I was terrified of going anywhere,” Hannah, 15, told ABC News. “Because what if I passed out and no one was around or what if someone took advantage of me?”Hannah, a high school sophomore from Georgia, became anxious and depressed and started to self-harm, she said.From that dark point in her life, Hannah and her younger brother, Charlie Lucas, 13, created an app to help people in distress.The idea for the notOK App came from Hannah, who told her mom she wished there was an app she could use to quickly alert her family and friends when she needed help either physically or emotionally.Charlie heard his sister’s idea and used coding skills he learned in summer camp to design the app.“I helped illustrate it out so he would know what to do,” Hannah said of her brother. “He looked at my drawings and he coded it to tell the coders exactly what I wanted and how I wanted it to look.”Charlie said his motivation for building the app came from watching his sister spiral into depression.“I saw Hannah depressed, and she told me about her idea, and I started wire-framing it,” he said. “Making this app made her feel better and that made me feel better.”Hannah pitched the app while taking a summer class on entrepreneurship at Georgia Tech. Professors there were so intrigued by the siblings’ creation that they connected the family with a development company in Savannah.Over the course of five months, Hannah and Charlie worked side by side with the developers, often over Skype, to see their idea for the app turn into reality.They also compiled research on mental health statistics to make the case that their app would find an audience.Mental illness is defined by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) as a mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder. One in six U.S. adults lives with a mental illness, the institute reports.Among adolescents, an estimated 49.5 percent between the ages 13 to 18 have a mental disorder, according to NIMH.NotOK was launched this week in both iOS and Android versions. The app, which comes with a $2.99 monthly fee, allows users to press a button that sends a text message to up to five preselected contacts.The text, along with a link to the user's current GPS location, shows up on the contacts' phones with the message, “Hey, I'm not OK. Please call me, text me, or come find me.”“The reaction we’ve heard has been really positive, especially from parents and kids suffering with anxiety,” Hannah said. “Those kids don’t know the words to tell somebody.”Hannah added of the app, “It definitely gave me a sense of comfort.”Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
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  • iStock/Thinkstock(ATLANTA) -- The rate of hospitalizations for the flu has hit the highest levels seen since health officials started recording this data in 2010, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - another sign that this flu season could be among the worst in more than a decade. CDC officials said today there are likely several weeks to go in this killer season, in which the deaths of 53 children from the flu have already been reported. Sixteen of those deaths were reported in this week’s update.“This season is a somber reminder of why flu is one of the nation’s greatest public health challenges,” acting CDC director Dr. Anne Schuchat said in a press briefing today. “This week, we have seen increased [influenza-like illness] activity, more hospitalizations and more flu-associated deaths in children and adults.” As of January 27, 42 out of 50 states - as well as New York City and the District of Columbia - experienced high flu activity, according to the CDC’s Weekly U.S. Influenza Surveillance Report.Meanwhile, 9.7 percent of deaths that occurred in the U.S. during the week ending on January 13 were attributable to pneumonia and influenza-related illness - a level not seen since 2015 and one that indicated the country is still in the throes of a flu epidemic.“This is an unusual pattern for flu in the U.S,” Dr. Dan Jernigan, director of the Influenza Division in the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD) at the CDC, said at today's press conference.At the center of concerns surrounding this flu season is a vaccine that appears to offer only weak protection against the predominantly circulating H3N2 strain. Earlier this week, Canadian health officials reported that the seasonal flu vaccine in use this year appeared to be only 10 to 20 percent effective against this strain in Canada. When asked whether this figure could be reflective of the efficacy in the U.S., CDC officials said more would be known in the weeks to come. Meanwhile, Schuchat noted that other strains - namely H1N1 and influenza B strains - were also causing illness in Americans, in some cases disproportionately affecting certain age groups.Although the vaccine may not be as effective against the H3N2 strain, however, health officials still recommend vaccination for anyone who has not yet had it.Another alarming statistic, half of influenza deaths in pediatrics occurred in kids who had no other medical conditions - indicating that healthy kids, too, may be at risk.“Fevers, rapid breathing, shortness of breath or worsening symptoms are warning signs to take your child back to the hospital,” Jernigan said.Schuchat said that although the CDC has received reports of antiviral drug shortages, manufacturers say these drugs are available. Patients may have to call more than one pharmacy to fill a prescription, she said.But Schuchat also said that other means of protection - namely social distancing - are important in keeping the flu at bay.“Please stay home if you are sick. Most seasons last about 20 weeks, and we’ve probably got several weeks left of flu activity.”
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