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Agency Releases First Data from National ALS Registry


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- An estimated four in 100,000 people in the United States live with Amyotriphic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, health officials announced Thursday.

Researchers released the first data summary from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, providing the only known data identifying all ALS cases among patients in the nation.

The disease, which has no cure, causes nerve cells throughout the body to stop working, which leads to paralysis and at times, death within two to five years of diagnosis.

Based on findings from October 2010 through December 2011, a total of 12,187 people were found to have ALS, and the disease was discovered to be more common among whites, men, non-Hispanics, and people between the ages of 60 and 69.

White men and women were twice as likely to have ALS compared to black men and women, and males in general had a higher rate of the disease than females across all racial groups.

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Health Officials: Too Few Teens Receiving HPV Vaccines


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The number of teens receiving vaccines for the human papillomavirus (HPV) remains "unacceptably low," officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Thursday.

Girls and boys between the ages of 13 and 17 are not being vaccinated for HPV, despite a slight increase in vaccination coverage since 2012, according to data from the CDC's 2013 National Immunization Survey-Teen.

While it prevents various forms of cancer, the vaccine remains "underutilized," according to the agency. Experts cite a "substantial gap" between the number of adolescents receiving tetanus, diphteria, and pertussis (Tdap) vaccine, and those for HPV.

An estimated 57 pecent of teen girls and 35 percent of ten boys received one or more doses of the HPV vaccine, while nearly 86 percent received a dose of the agent for Tdap.

“It’s frustrating to report almost the same HPV vaccination coverage levels among girls for another year,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat, assistant surgeon general and director of CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. “Preteens need HPV vaccine today to be protected from HPV cancers tomorrow.”

The study also showed that clinician recommendations played a large role in whether or not parents chose to get their children vaccinated. For those that decided to get their daughters vaccinated against HPV, 74 percent received a tip from a health care professional, compared to 52 percent who did not. For boys, 72 percent of parents who chose to vaccinate their sons received a recommendation, compared to 26 percent of parents who did not.

Not receiving information from a clinician on for HPV was one of the five main reasons parents listed for not choosing the vaccine.

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CDC Lifts Moratorium on Shipment of Tuberculosis Samples


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is resuming shipments of biological samples including tuberculosis bacteria, the agency announced Thursday.

The CDC lifted the moratorium on a specific type of material transfer for its Clinical Tuberculosis Laboratory, but is still keeping it in place for other high-containment facilities.

The decision follows a review from the agency's internal working group to make improvements to lab safety. Initially, such transfers of TB samples were prohibited after safety issues with anthrax and bird flu.

In addition to the lifting of the temporary ban, the CDC announced the formation of an external laboratory safety workgroup to provide advice and guidance to the agency's director and the CDC's new Director of Laboratory Safety.

The group will work to identify potential weaknesses in labs, oversee training needs, and suggest ways to provide stronger safeguards for facilities, among other tasks. Members are scheduled to meet for the first time in early August.

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Fear of Flying Amplified by Flurry of Air Disasters


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The recent flurry of air disasters does little to comfort nervous fliers, who suffer from what some experts call a “perfect storm” of fears.

“You start with fear, and then you have evidence that the fear is correct,” said George Everly, a psychologist at Johns Hopkins Medical Center in Baltimore. “What makes it over the top is when you don’t know why the airplane crashed.”

Just on Thursday, an Air Algerie airliner carrying 116 people disappeared from radar over Mali. The incident comes one week after a Malaysia Airlines jet carrying 298 people was shot down over Ukraine, and four months after Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 went missing en route from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Beijing with 237 people on board.

Experts say the string of disasters and mysteries is understandably rattling nerves.

“They understand that it is a risk, but what they are doing is blowing it out of proportion,” Everly said, who stressed the risk of a crash was less than “one in a million.”

But despite its impressive safety record, air travel presents a “perfect storm of different fears,” according to Martin Seif, a psychologist at White Plain’s Hospital’s Anxiety and Phobia Treatment Center.

“Fear of heights, social anxiety, claustrophobia,” Seif said. “You can go on and on and on.”

And when there’s a disaster, those fears are amplified, Seif said. “You’ll get temporary increase whenever there’s a catastrophe,” he said.

For those who fear flying, experts say a few simple steps can help curb anxiety. To start, avoid dwelling on the media coverage, Seif said.

“There’s a general rule of thumb: read it once and don’t replay it,” he said, adding that avoiding the news altogether is no better than bingeing. “If you imagine what happened, you’re going to be worse than if you read it.”

But missing flights and unexplained crashes can add another layer of anxiety for wary air travelers, according to Everly.

“If they have to fly, they want as much knowledge of possible so they can build a safety net or defense,” he said, explaining that some nervous fliers might choose to avoid routes involved in the disasters.

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Cards Keep Pouring In for 5-Year-Old Boy Battling Cancer


Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Over 15,000 cards have been mailed to Danny Nickerson, the 5-year-old battling cancer who is turning 6 Friday.

The Massachusetts boy was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor known as diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma in October, one of the most chemotherapy-resistant cancers. Danny has since stopped going to kindergarten.

All this little boy wanted for his upcoming birthday were lots of cards with his name on them, Danny’s mother, Carley Nickerson, told ABC News last Friday

His wish has been heard and granted.

Since ABC News first reported on Danny’s story, the family’s P.O. Box has been flooded with cards and packages from strangers across the country and even outside the United States.

Carley Nickerson says she has received messages from as far as Switzerland, Germany, Australia, Austria, California, Alaska, Norway and Sweden, asking her how to send Danny a card or sending him prayers.

“Today’s total rough count was a little over 8500 cards and 900 packages!!!” Nickerson wrote on a Facebook page he set up for Danny Tuesday.

“We are speechless and don’t have enough words to explain how thankful we are for everyone of you,” Nickerson continued.

It took the family three cars and one rented truck to bring all the cards and packages back home.

“We opened about 200 of them today and he loved seeing them,” Carley Nickerson wrote. “One had a picture of fat cat on it and another with a cat blowing out candles and he laughed so hard at them!”

One man, Matt Sfara of Newton, Massachusetts, decided that he has to make his card stand out, Carley Nickerson noted on Facebook.

Sfara made a card that is 4-feet wide and 6-feet tall when folded, and 8-feet wide when opened up. The card was addressed to “Danny Nickerson, The Coolest 6 Year Old.”

The number of followers on the Facebook page, Danny’s Warrior, skyrocketed to 27,594 Thursday from 2,500 last week.

All cards can be mailed the Nickerson’s home address: Danny Nickerson, P.O. Box 212, Foxboro, Massachusetts, 02035.

His family has also set up a website and a GoFundMe page, which has already reached its $15,000 goal.

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Death Highlights Dangers of Sand Tunnels at the Beach


iStock/Thinkstock(HALF MOON BAY, Calif.) -- A California man's death after being trapped inside a collapsed sand tunnel is drawing attention to sand safety as America's summer tourism season swings into full gear.

Adam Pye, 26, died Monday at Francis State Beach. He dug a 10-foot-deep hole and climbed into it, when the tunnel collapsed.

“The girls came out of their tunnel, his tunnel caved in and they turned around and said, “where’s Adam, where’s Adam?’” said Kevin Pye, the victim’s father.

Dozens of beach-goers frantically used their hands, buckets, anything they could, trying to get to Pye.

But it was too late.

The death was especially difficult for Pye’s relatives given his recent college graduation.

“He graduated to say, ‘Mom, finally, now I have some time, I can rest,’” said his mother, Debra Pye.

Similar situations have been reported on American beaches in previous years. In 2011, it took firefighters 27 minutes to rescue Matt Mina, then 17, in Huntington Beach, California, after the walls of a sand tunnel collapsed on him.

“I went to sleep. I thought I was gonna die,” Mina said later.

A 12-year-old New Jersey boy died in 2012 after becoming trapped in a tunnel he dug with his brother.

Sand’s crumbling, shifting nature contributes to the hazards of cave-ins. Victims such as Pye have been covered in seconds, the sand making it difficult to breathe.

Safety experts say beach-goers should keep two things in mind when digging a hole at the beach -- to keep the hole about knee-deep at most and to cover the hole before you leave the beach.


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A Grunt Is No Stunt on the Tennis Court


Ronald Martinez/Getty Images(LINCOLN, Neb.) -- Does grunting serve a purpose on the tennis court other than to psych out one’s opponent?

Maria Sharapova is one of the loudest grunters in the game, making guttural sounds described as loud as a chain saw. Granted, she is one of the hardest hitters in tennis, but Sharapova also seems to be helping her serve by grunting, a University of Nebraska study speculates.

In fact, when players on the University of Nebraska college tennis team grunted, scientists discovered the ball speed picked up by 3.8 percent. They explained the upper body becomes more stable during grunts, which enables a player to transfer more power to the arm.

The extra velocity is particularly helpful because it gives opponents less time to set up their return shots.

The researchers also noted that improvement was almost instantaneous when grunting was added to the college players' game, suggesting that people with lesser tennis skills might also benefit from a loud grunt.
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