• iStock/Thinkstock(SAN DIEGO) -- As California finds itself in the grips of the largest person-to-person hepatitis A outbreak in more than two decades, health officials are taking emergency measures to curb the spread of the deadly disease.On Friday, California Governor Jerry Brown declared a State of Emergency in light of the outbreak that has killed at least 18 people, hospitalized 386 and infected at least 578 in the state as of this past weekend, according to the California Department of Public Health (CDPH)."This outbreak is different than any other we have seen in the United States in the past decade," said Dr. Matt Zahn, medical director of epidemiology at the Orange County Health Care Agency. "Previously, we have seen outbreaks that are food-borne, with a direct exposure to that food source. Ongoing person-to person spread is really not something we have seen in recent years."Also unique about this outbreak is that the homeless population and illicit drug users are the hardest hit.Hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable disease, and the Governor’s state of emergency proclamation has given the CDPH the authority to directly purchase vaccines from manufacturers in order to quickly distribute them to the community.“The key is to bring the vaccination directly to the communities at risk,” Zahn said. “This population is not easy to reach, so we make interventions to bring it to them. San Diego has done a marvelous job to have their staff go out to the homeless community, individual by individual, and offer the vaccine then and there.”The outbreaks are affecting multiple counties in California, with the San Diego Jurisdiction bearing 490 infected cases. Since early spring, more than 80,000 vaccine doses have been distributed to the public and some municipalities have purchased their own supplies. San Diego County said it has administered more than 68,500 vaccines since the outbreak began.Sanitation and hygiene are other important aspects of controlling the spread of hepatitis A, which is spread through fecal matter. Since the outbreak began in the spring, more than 100 hand washing stations have been have been installed in the area, most of which are in the city of San Diego. The city is also power-washing areas affected public areas with bleach solutions and making public bathrooms more available in areas most frequented by the homeless.Below are answers to commonly asked questions about this disease.How is Hepatitis A spread?Since this virus spreads through the feces, outbreaks are most commonly seen in the presence of unsanitary conditions or behaviors. Food workers can spread the virus if they do not properly wash their hands after using the bathroom and caregivers can transmit the virus after changing the diaper of an infected baby.Hepatitis A can spread by simply touching objects, or through contaminated food or drinks. People may also be infected by eating uncooked food that has been contaminated, sexual contact with an infected person and travel to a country where Hepatitis A is common. The virus can be spread to others before any symptoms are apparent.What are symptoms of Hepatitis A?The hepatitis A virus causes inflammation of the liver. Symptoms of infection include fever, fatigue, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting. Yellowing of the skin and eyes, also know has jaundice, is also a possible symptom of this virus.Hepatitis A is an acute infection, with symptoms persisting for up to two months; rare cases may last longer. The virus does not typically lead to chronic infection or death, but it can prove fatal to those with compromised livers or immune systems.How to protect against the virusThe best way to prevent getting Hepatitis A is through vaccination, given in a two-dose series, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC).The vaccine is especially recommended for those at particularly increased risk, such as people with chronic liver disease, blood clotting disorders, men
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  • Purestock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The sound of two bells rang through the loud speakers of the U.S. Navy’s floating hospital on Saturday to celebrate the arrival of a newborn baby girl.The Navy’s USNS Comfort was sailing in the vicinity of San Juan, Puerto Rico -- providing medical assistance throughout a region devastated by Hurricane Maria -- when baby Sara Victoria Llull Rodriguiz made her arrival on board.“I never thought that our special moment would happen here on this ship,” Sara’s father, Francisco Llull Vera, said in a statement Sunday. “Everyone has been so helpful and gentle while caring for our baby. I hope this opens the door for those who still need help to seek out the Comfort.”Vera said Sara’s 6-year-old brother Alonzo and 4-year-old sister Sofia, currently staying with family ashore in Puerto Rico, are anxiously waiting to meet her.“They are so excited to meet her,” Sara’s mother, Tania Rodriguiz Ramos said in a statement Sunday. “It’s a huge blessing for Sara to be here. I owe everything to the doctors and nurses and everyone onboard.”Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello went to visit baby Sara on Sunday. He shared pictures of him cradlling the baby in his arms, with her doctor and parents standing nearby. Rossello said Sara was “the first Puerto Rican girl born” on the USNS Comfort.The USNS Comfort, which currently has 21 people on board, has treated more than 100 patients since Maria made landfall last month, killing at least 48 people and knocking out power for most of the island.Nearly 4 weeks after the storm hit, about 85 percent of power customers are still without electricity and about 31 of customers lack access to potable water, officials said Sunday. The death toll was raised by three over the weekend and about 111 people missing due to the storm.Comfort Capt. Kevin Robinson said Sara, who weighed in at 6 pounds and 8 ounces, brought a sense of joy to the crew.“I think the birth of that little girl has reinvigorated the crew,” Robinson said in a statement.The last birth aboard Comfort occurred on Jan. 21, 2010, while the ship was providing humanitarian relief in support of Operation Unified Response following a 7.0 magnitude earthquake that caused severe damage in Haiti, according to the Navy.The ship’s crew commemorated the occasion by ceremoniously renaming one of its two small boat tenders the “Sara Victoria.”“We wanted to do something special, the crew has taken to the baby as one of our own,” Comfort Ship’s Master Roger Gwinn Gwinn said in a statement. “As she goes forward in life, we hope she carries Comfort with her.”Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
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  • iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The U.S. may be suffering from an opioid epidemic, but worldwide nearly 26 million people are dying in pain because they can’t access affordable palliative care.
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  • iStock/Thinkstock(DENVER) -- Shocking videos showing high school cheerleaders in Colorado being forced into splits sparked outrage this summer, and now officials say no criminal charges will be filed.
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  • iStock/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) -- California has declared a state of emergency over a hepatitis A outbreak that health officials say is the largest person-to-person outbreak in the U.S. since a vaccine became available over 20 years ago.
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  • iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Obesity among children and teenagers has risen ten-fold across the world in the past four decades, according to a new study in The Lancet.This means more than 120 million youngsters are not at a healthy weight. The study, which is the largest of its kind, studied obesity trends in more than 200 countries from 1975 to 2016. The largest jump in obesity levels was seen in Asia, with rates in China and India growing in recent years. “The rising trends in children’s and adolescents’ BMI (body mass index) have plateaued in many high-income countries, albeit at high levels, but have accelerated in parts of Asia," the study reads.Polynesia and Micronesia have the highest rate of all; approximately half of the younger population is overweight or obese.Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
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