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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- An investigation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention linked a multi-state outbreak of salmonella infections to contact with pet bearded dragons.

A total of 132 people in 31 states have been infected with the strain of Salmonella Cotham since February 2012, according to the CDC. More than half of those ill are children 5 years old or younger, and 42 percent of those affected have been hospitalized.

There have been no deaths reported, though out of three people tested, one was resistant to antibiotics used to treat serious salmonella infections.

The pet bearded dragons were purchased from multiple stores in different states. On January 22, 2014, the CDC was notified by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services of a cluster of infections connected to those exposed to pet reptiles. Twelve people in the state have been sickened by the particular salmonella strain, and 10 of those reported contact with bearded dragons.

As of April 21, California hosts the greatest number of residents infected by the outbreak, with 21 people. The pet industry is working with the CDC to determine the source of the bearded dragons in question, and the investigation is ongoing. The health agency advises pet reptile owners to wash their hands regularly and ensure the animals are kept away from areas where food is prepared or stored.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


The Health Effects of GMO Foods

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Vermont is poised to become the first state to require labels on genetically modified food, but will these "frankenfruits" actually hurt the people who eat them?

Probably not, experts say.

Swapping genes in and out in a lab may sound a little different than cross-breeding crops for hundreds of years, but according to Lisa Cimperman, a clinical dietician at University Hospitals in Cleveland, there’s no evidence that people are harmed by eating a bug-proof ear of corn or a non-browning apple.

"As far as having real research to show that it’s harmful, we simply don’t have it,” Cimperman said.

"I think one of the biggest mistakes we can make in talking about this issue is making it ‘good versus evil,'" Cimperman added. "One of the things that bothers me is the fear-mongering."

Petitions have shown up on Change.org asking for companies to get rid of GMOs -- or genetically modified organisms -- in foods from apples to Girl Scout Cookies, often citing safety concerns. Even golden rice, a genetically modified crop developed to get extra vitamin A to people lacking it in their diets, has been protested.

Cimperman said the only immediate concern is that people with food allergies may accidentally eat a “safe” food without realizing one of its ingredients has been spliced with the genes of an allergen.

For instance, in the 1990s, an engineered soybean made people with Brazil nut allergies have allergic reactions because they didn’t realize the bean’s genetic material included a gene from the Brazil nut, she said. Once researchers confirmed the allergen was passed on in the genetic engineering process, the company halted production, she said.

“The potential to cause allergies can, in fact, be tested, and it can be limited,” Cimperman said. “That maybe calms fears a little bit.”

For Cimperman, the biggest concern is whether human tampering will have an environmental effect, strengthening weeds and insects that evolve to beat the genetic engineering.

“Everything in the environment is cause and effect. You can’t make a change without seeing that ripple effect,” she said.

When genetically engineered salmon was deemed safe for the environment in late 2012, former Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, told ABC News he had been disappointed with Food and Drug Administration decisions on genetically modified food since 1992, when the federal agency determined it is equivalent to any other food.

He introduced federal legislation related to genetically modified food and labeling in every Congress since 1997, but it has never passed.

Cimperman said she has no problem with the labeling of genetically modified food because “transparency is a good thing.”

"My only concern is that you don’t have to make this an issue that incites fear in the consumer," she said. "As consumers, we really need to educate ourselves on the topic and make informed decisions."

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


Michael Kovac/WireImage(NEW YORK) -- Musician Ryan Lewis is spearheading a fundraising effort to build medical centers around the world to provide comprehensive health care and specialized HIV/AIDS treatment for the needy, and it’s all because of one case that hits very close to home.

Lewis, who is one half of the hit rap duo, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, says his mother, Julie Lewis, has been HIV positive since she gave birth to her first child 30 years ago.

After giving birth to her daughter, Teresa, in 1984, Julie Lewis needed a blood transfusion.

“In that moment without anyone knowing it, [she] had HIV positive blood put into her body,” Ryan Lewis said. “At age 25, one year younger than I am right now, her life would change forever.”


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She had two other children -- Laura and Ryan -- before being diagnosed as HIV positive in the summer of 1990.

“I was 32 years old, and I had three young children, ages 6, 4, and 2. I’d never thought about dying,” an emotional Julie Lewis said, speaking in a YouTube video about the initiative.

Each of her younger children had a 25 percent chance of being born with HIV, but they were both born free of the virus.

Julie Lewis herself was given only a few years to live.

“But you know what’s amazing? My mom never died. She lived,” her son said.

Julie Lewis founded the 30/30 Project to allow people all over the world access to the same high-quality healthcare that she received. The project is raising funds on the website IndieGoGo. As of Tuesday night, the campaign had collected $19,238 of a stated goal of $100,000.

“Life-threatening diseases like HIV/AIDS can be managed,” Julie Lewis said. “What people need is access…I was infected with HIV 30 years ago. And I never thought I’d be sitting here, 30 years later, talking to you.”

The announcement is timed to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the scientific discovery that AIDS is caused by HIV.

Macklemore voiced his support for the project. “Healthcare is a human right. That is what we believe. We want to see this idea put into action,” he said.

An estimated 34 million people globally have been diagnosed with HIV, according to the World Health Organization. Since the epidemic began in the early 1980s, the infection has claimed more than 33 million lives, according to CDC estimates.

More than 1.1 million people in the U.S. are living with the infection but nearly one in six is unaware they are infected.

When AIDS was a relatively new disease, patients could expect to develop full blown AIDS within 10 years and live only a year or two longer. Now, with better HIV treatments, patients who start them before their immune system declines significantly have a much longer life expectancy.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- In response to a rise in measles cases, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention launched the Vaccine for Children Program in 1994. And now, 20 years later, the CDC says in a new report that the immunization program has saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of children born since then.

"Vaccination over the course of their lifetimes will prevent 322 million illnesses, 21 million hospitalizations and 730,000 early deaths," CDC Director Thomas Frieden said on Thursday.

The report comes as measles is once more on the rise in the U.S. -- in many cases because parents choose not to vaccinate their children.

"Sixty-eight percent had what we call personal belief exemptions or essentially opted out of being vaccinated," said Dr. Ann Schuchat, assistant surgeon general of the United States Public Health Service.

According to CDC officials, there are 129 measles cases in the U.S. as of April 18.

The virus -- which causes flu-like symptoms, a miserable rash and, in rare cases, death -- is very contagious and, therefore, can spread fast among people who aren't vaccinated.

"When vaccination rates go up we are all safer," said Frieden.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


Swiss International Air Lines(NEW YORK) -- Allergy sufferers, you're in luck. Especially if you've got plans to visit Switzerland.

Swiss Airlines is now the world's first airline to be designated as "allergy friendly," as determined by the European Centre for Allergy Research Foundation (ECARF).

The airline will, beginning in May, offer an "individualized service product for travelers with allergies." That includes lactose- and gluten-free food and beverage alternatives such as lactose-free coffee cream and a lactose-free version of the popular Swiss chocolate bar.

The airline will also use pillows stuffed with synthetic materials as an alternative to down in the first and business class cabins. The airline will also stop use of decorative flowers and air fresheners "that might cause nose and throat irritations," and the on-board toilets will now feature soaps that are "gentle" on the skin.

The airline's website added that its high-efficiency air conditioning system filters out pollen from outdoors and animal hair from pets on board. Swiss cabin crew members are trained to respond to an allergic emergency, the website said, and "histamine tablets are available if needed."

ECARF, in a joint press release with the airline, said more than 30 percent of Europe's population is affected by allergies. In the U.S., the Asthma and Allergy Foundation estimated 35 million people suffer from hay fever because they are allergic to pollen.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio





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