• iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Flu season isn’t over yet, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently announced that in less than two weeks they will be putting together a panel of experts to help select strains for next season’s flu vaccine.The influenza virus changes or mutates every year, which makes it very difficult to create a vaccine. It also takes several months to produce the influenza vaccine, which is why health officials are getting started even before this season ends.While the flu vaccine remains the best method to prevent illness and death during the flu season, a new study published in Clinical Infectious Diseases investigates why “vaccine effectiveness continues to be modest.”Dr. Scott Gottlieb, FDA commissioner, in his statement on the efficacy of the 2017-2018 influenza vaccine states, “This year much of the illness has been caused by one strain of influenza A called H3N2, with another strain of influenza A called H1N1 and strains of influenza B contributing to lesser extents.”The effectiveness of the flu vaccine for H3N2 is estimated to be around 25 percent this season, according to an interim report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Overall, this season’s vaccine is 36 percent effective. That means that over one-third of the people who get the shot won’t get the flu. In children, it’s even more effective -- 59 percent.With vaccines against common childhood diseases effective in more than 90 percent of people, why is targeting the flu so difficult?Researchers have found that poor immune response, based on past encounters with flu strains, is the culprit. When people get the flu virus or vaccine, their immune system makes antibodies that recognize and attack those strains. Antibodies made earlier in life have a stronger response, and affect how the immune system makes future antibodies. A person’s immune response could be worse at making effective antibodies, even if the vaccine protects against the right strains."We see that both vaccinated and unvaccinated people were infected with similar flu viruses and that the vaccine didn’t elicit a strong immune response from most people,” Dr. Yonatan Grad, Ph.D., assistant professor of immunology and infectious diseases at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and co-author of the study, said in reference to his study analyzing 2012-2013 H3N2 data in a press release.The CDC admits that vaccine effectiveness estimates against influenza A (H3N2) viruses have been lower than estimates against influenza A (H1N1) and influenza B viruses for several years. They cite factors such as age, baseline health status and that year’s vaccine “match” -- the similarity between the viruses used to make the vaccine and the ones that are prevalent in a certain year. They also acknowledge that more research is needed to determine if vaccine effectiveness changes between egg-based and non–egg-based vaccines. It is thought that non-egg-based vaccines are less likely to have mutations that lead to less protective effects.However, the study authors conclude that egg-based vaccines did not explain the low H3N2 vaccine efficacy rate, at least not in 2012-2013.The leading health officials insist that even with current vaccine effectiveness estimates, vaccination will still help prevent influenza illness, including thousands of hospitalizations and deaths.
    Read more...
  • iStock/Thinkstock(NASHUA, N.H.) -- First responders in Nashua, New Hampshire, completed the final phase of a yearlong project last Tuesday, equipping their vehicles with active shooter kits.The idea, Chris Stawasz, the regional director for American Medical Response in New Hampshire, told ABC affiliate WMUR, is for EMT, fire and police units to be able to deploy the necessary tools as quickly as possible in the event of a mass casualty shooting incident."The most important piece of these active shooter events, which are generally over very quickly, is to get inside and rescue anybody who still has an opportunity to be saved," Stawasz said.Shooting injuries are always serious; however, in mass casualty incidents like the one in Parkland, Florida, last week that killed 17, injuries tend to be much more dangerous. School shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz used an AR-15-style rifle, the bullets of which travel at around 3,200 feet per second, depending on their weight, or about three times as fast as the bullets in a 9mm handgun, according to Time."Typical gunfire from a .22 or something is a very small hole. Some of these things are just massive destruction to the human body," Stawasz said.The high-caliber weapons usually used in mass shooting events can cause a tremendous amount of damage and bleeding. With that in mind, the active shooter kits in Nashua all come equipped with tourniquets, bandages and specialized clotting material that help blood clot more quickly than it normally would.“This is a kit that where we can deploy it really quickly, throw it into a scene and, if there's multiple casualties, you can use that kit as your primary source of equipment to go out and save these people,” Stawasz told WMUR.Nashua police were the first to get the kits, then the fire departments and finally the primary ambulances. The EMT go-bags even have quick roll-out stretchers, like reinforced sheets with handles, so that victims who are unable to walk can be dragged away from the scene."Unfortunately, these events are becoming far too common, and we want to be prepared in the city and respond to them if they do happen here," Stawasz said.
    Read more...
  • ABC News(PESARO, Italy) -- Having grown up in a tiny room in his family’s home in Pesaro, Italy, 27-year-old architect Leonardo Di Chiara is used to living a minimalist lifestyle.His latest project, the aVOID tiny house, currently on display -- and inhabited -- by the architect in Berlin, takes the concept of reductionist living to the next level.Measuring just 96 square feet and equipped with all one needs to live, the home seeks to challenge the concept of traditional housing.“It’s a tiny house and it’s on wheels, so you can move it wherever you want. You can live wherever you want,” the architect told ABC News.aVOID is part of the tiny-house social and architectural movement started in the U.S. in the 1980s and has seen a resurgence in the past several years. The concept centers around downsizing one’s home to live a more sustainable and minimalistic lifestyle, using few resources.Since 1973, the typical size of a U.S. home has doubled -- peaking at just over 2,600 square feet, according to U.S. census data. Tiny houses, meanwhile, are typically 100 to 150 square feet, on wheels, and come in a variety of shapes and sizes.With furniture such as tables, chairs, a bed and a sofa folding out of the walls of the structure, Di Chiara’s home has been likened to a Swiss Army knife. Yet the project is no novelty -- Di Chiara hopes it will be a model for those who want to live with less, without the burden of paying high rents increasingly plaguing many large cities, including Berlin.Di Chiara intends for its user to live in unoccupied spaces in the city.He said he hopes aVOID will be part of what he calls migratory neighborhoods -- clusters of tiny homes on wheels integrated within city centers.For now, it's a work in progress. "Living in the tiny home is a challenge," Di Chiara admitted, largely because it is still a work in progress. He is constantly discovering problems and finding ways to resolve them, often with the help of products provided by sponsors who believe in his vision, he said."I realized that the air inside gets too stuffy, especially during the night," Di Chiara said. To resolve the problem, he partnered with a company that provided a prototype ventilation system.Despite the challenges, Di Chiara said he plans to live in the house for an entire year, but aims to call it home for life once it is perfected. He said he also allows others to try out living in the house for a night or two, provided they give him feedback.Di Chiara’s aVOID house is one of over a dozen small structures on the Bauhaus Museum campus in Berlin. It is part of the "Tinyhouse University," a nonprofit founded in 2016 by German architect Van Bo Le-Mentzel that brought together architects, designers and refugees to explore different housing typologies.“We want to create solutions for living in an innovative way that allow people to be very active in the process of living, including designing, building and living in the house,” said Di Chiara. Some of the tiny buildings are cafes, while others are living spaces and workspaces.aVOID is a prototype for a single working professional and takes inspiration from the Bauhaus design movement, which combined art with the industrialization process.Di Chiara is working on lowering the production costs to make aVOID available to anyone who would like to own it, regardless of their income level. The materials for the home cost €45,000 (about $56,000), and it was built and customized by the architect himself. Di Chiara said he hopes to eventually be able to lower total production costs to €30,000 (roughly $37,000) through mass production.First, though, he'll need to get others onboard. It's currently illegal in Berlin to have a migratory neighborhood along the lines of Di Chiara's vision, so his goal is to first raise awareness of tiny-house living before holding serious discussions with city officials. He said he plans to set his sights on Mi
    Read more...
  • IMDB(NEW YORK) -- Black Panther signals a revolutionary moment –- not only in its implications for Black culture, but also for Black mental health.“At a very basic level, representation affects people's identity,” said Dr. Ruth Shim, Director of Cultural Psychiatry and Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at University of California, Davis. “Having positive representations and people reflecting the diversity of what they can be and experience can be protective against depression and anxiety stemming from negative images.”Indeed, Black representation in pop culture has expanded in recent years. Television shows such as "Insecure," "Empire" and "Black-ish" feature predominantly Black casts. Films like the comedy-horror "Get Out" satirize racial disparities, while "Hidden Figures" and "Moonlight" portray different Black realities. But "Black Panther" forms a category all its own: Black superheroes and superheroines in a sci-fi world.Take Wakanda, the fictional nation in which "Black Panther" is based. Wakanda is particularly evocative because it re-envisions reality. It asks not what is, but what could be. Imagine if racism, poverty, and chronic illness –- all risk factors for depression and anxiety disorders among Black Americans –- simply did not exist. They don’t in Wakanda.The world depicted in "Black Panther" brings with it an unstated question" “Would the rates of depression and anxiety among Black Americans change if reality were different?”Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, and a serious medical illness that can cause specific mood, mental and physical symptoms. It is also associated with higher rates of chronic disease, increased need for health care, and difficulty functioning at work, at home and in social settings.A 2009-2012 survey by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) showed that Black people are significantly more likely to have depressive symptoms than whites – and those symptoms are more likely to be severe.“Sometimes we think of ourselves as weak, hopeless, that we don’t have that light. There’s a dark cloud that’s there,” said Stephanie Grimes, a depression and anxiety survivor who founded the Detroit-based mental health organization Hope360. “But with these superheroes, it shines a light and lets people know that we struggle with some things, but we can feel accomplished and have hope too,” she said. “Things can change. Things can get better.”Psychologists Kenneth and Mamie Clark affirmed the negative impact of racism on self-esteem in the 1940s through “The Doll Tests.” These series of experiments demonstrated that, regardless of race, children as early as 3 years old preferred the white doll to a Black one, and attributed positive characteristics to it, while attributing negative characteristics to the Black doll.“I feel like I just went through the largest therapy session in cinematic form,” said Dr. Italo Brown, a Jacobi and Montefiore Medical Center emergency medicine resident physician who wrote about why he wants to move to Wakanda to practice medicine. “It was group therapy with 100 people – everything from dressing the part, showing up with people you’re comfortable with, and being vulnerable. You saw a representation of what you’re capable of,” he said.While depression is most effectively treated with a combination of medication and therapy, only 33.6 percent of Black people with severe depression were in contact with a mental health professional within a year. Younger men of color who report daily feelings of depression or anxiety are also less likely to take medication or talk to a mental health professional compared to their white peers, according to the CDC.That could be because they can’t afford it, because of mental health stigma, or mistrust of a medical system that has a
    Read more...
  • Courtesy Brittany Deane(NEW YORK) -- Two sets of identical twins are now planning a joint wedding after twin brothers proposed to twin sisters on February 2, or 2-2.Brittany and Briana Deane met Josh and Jeremy Salyers last August at The Twins Days Festival in Twinsburg, Ohio, which bills itself as the "largest annual gathering of twins (and other multiples) in the world," according to its website.Although the 31-year-old Deane twins have been trekking to the festival from their home in Virginia since 2011, for the 34-year-old Salyers' twins, it was their first time."When we got there it turned out better than we ever expected," Josh Salyers told ABC News, referring to his recent engagement.Brittany Deane recalled that she and her sister spotted the Salyers twins at one of the festival's welcoming events."We were sitting on the bleachers and I saw just these two amazingly handsome young men that looked to be about our age," she recalled to ABC News, "and they were walking across the gym floor below."Her sister Briana Deane recalls that her sister grabbed her by the wrist, "which we always do when we get excited about something," she said. And after a few moments, she too had spotted the brothers."They were stunning," Briana Deane said of her now-fiance and his twin brother.Sadly, the twin siblings didn't cross paths until the last day of the festival for it's closing night party. "They were there at the end of the hall," Briana Deane said. "They smiled at us and we all started talking."The Salyers twins sent the Deane twins a message via Facebook saying they couldn't wait to bump into them next year at the festival. But instead, the sisters asked, "Why wait?" The brothers then made a road trip out of it -- driving from their previous home in Clinton, Tennessee to visit the sisters in Virginia. After an amazing trip, the brothers said they knew immediately they'd propose one day."You know when you know," Jeremy Salyers said. "We’ve always known our whole life if we were going to be married that it was going to be with twins."The brothers, who now live in Hagerstown, Maryland, planned a proposal at the same location as their first date -- Twin Lakes State Park in Virginia. They told the sisters the wedding venue on-site wanted to feature the four in a commercial, so they all arrived in matching blue gowns and matching blue ties.What the Deane sisters didn't expect was for the Salyers brothers to drop down on one knee at the same time. It made it even more special for all of the pairs."We have done so much in life together. We’ve gone through ... having twin loves of our lives and to accept their marriage proposal at the same time made it that much more special," Brittany Deane said.Josh Salyers added, "We’ve always felt blessed to have each other and now we have two other twins who are just like us...but they also add their own contributions that we couldn’t have. Together we can accomplish anything."The couples now plan to have a double wedding this August at the Twins Days Festival in Ohio. And yes, if you're wondering, the brides will be in identical wedding dresses.
    Read more...
  • iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- After a South Carolina woman stood in court this week and pleaded guilty to abducting an infant from a hospital nearly two decades ago and raising the girl as her own daughter, many were left asking this: Who would steal a baby? And why?Gloria Williams admitted she acted alone in 1998 when she walked into a Florida hospital dressed as a nurse and walked out with the newborn, whose name was Kamiyah Mobley. Williams raised Mobley for 18 years as her own daughter in South Carolina, renaming her Alexis Kelli Manigo.It turns out that dressing as a nurse to make it easier to navigate around hospital nurseries undetected is a common practice among women who have stolen babies from hospitals, John Rabun, the director of infant abduction response at the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC), told ABC News.Williams’ crime was first discovered when Mobley told a friend she had been abducted as a baby. That tip was sent anonymously to Rabun’s center in 2016.In 2016, in the weeks after Mobley’s whereabouts were first discovered, Rabun traveled to the hospital in Jacksonville, Florida, now known as UF Health, where Mobley was born. Nurses there recounted to him their memory of the abduction, including the fact that Williams was nearly caught with Mobley before she was able to escape the hospital successfully."As she was leaving the mom’s room with [Mobley] in her arms, two other nurses were rushing down the hall with another mother who was in labor," Rabun said. "They saw Williams, dressed as a nurse, carrying Mobley in her arms -- which was against hospital procedure -- and told her she couldn’t arm-carry the baby. So she went back into the mom’s room and talked to her for a while, waits for the coast to clear in the hallway. Then she takes the baby out.""That’s how good of con women these women are," Rabun added.The NCMEC has confirmed 325 cases of infant abduction -- nearly all are female abductors -- over the past five decades. In analyzing those abductions, they’ve discovered that not only do many abductors use similar tactics to steal babies -- like dressing as a nurse, as Williams did -- but also nearly all abductors fit a similar profile.What should you look for if you fear your loved one might be thinking of stealing a baby?Many women who steal babies do so in a desperate attempt to keep a boyfriend or husband they fear may leave them if they don’t have a child to bind them together, analysis of past abduction cases has found. They are of child-bearing age and may already have children at home, according to the NCMEC. They may pretend to be pregnant, they may have recently lost a baby due to miscarriage, or they may suffer from a medical condition that prevents them from becoming pregnant themselves, the NCMEC has found.They may also visit hospital nurseries while they’re planning the abduction to ask questions about procedures and case the layout of the maternity floor. They might become familiar with hospital staff and may even be friendly to the victim’s parents, as Gloria Williams was, Rabun said."She’s armed with enough knowledge that when she goes into the hospital, she can walk the walk and talk the talk," Rabun said.What can hospitals do to prevent this?Hospitals are aware of this threat and have taken an aggressive, layered approach to safeguard their maternity wards against it in the years since Mobley was abducted, according to Bonnie Michelman, executive director of police, security and outside services at Massachusetts General Hospital and former president of the International Association for Healthcare Safety and Security.Michelman estimates 80 percent of hospitals in the U.S. now use both electronic tagging for babies and an ID banding system for parents. The electronic tagging system sends an alert if a baby is moved out of the maternity ward, while the ID bands verify parents’ identiti
    Read more...