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Purestock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) --   While obesity is often associated with a host of other health issues including high blood pressure, stroke and heart attack, a new study is examining how the condition is also related to cancer risk.

A review of several studies published today in the New England Journal of Medicine found new associations between obesity the development of eight additional cancers, in addition to others previously known.

Researchers from the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) looked at more than 1,000 epidemiological studies and found that "excess body fatness" is also linked to the risk of developing gastric, liver, gallbladder, pancreatic, ovarian, thyroid, blood (multiple myeloma) and brain (meningioma) cancers.

"I think the main takeaway point is that your health and specifically your body fatness is an important factor for many types of cancer," Dr. Richard Lee, Medical Director of the Integrative and Supportive Oncology Program at the University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center, told ABC News.

"Patients should understand that they can decrease the risk for developing cancer and improving overall survivorship," by keeping their weight below obesity thresholds, he said. This information can help doctors advising patients on cancer risk, he added.

Researchers in this study also attempted to quantify the risk for obese people to develop this variety of cancers. They found obese people had 1.8 times the risk for developing liver cancer, 4.8 times as high for esophageal adenocarcinoma, and 7.1 times as high for uterine cancer. They also confirmed that for some of these cancers, as your weight goes up, so does the risk.

 People may not always connect being overweight to cancer risk in the manner they associate drinking or smoking with increased risk of cancer, Lee noted.

"The public hasn't been educated enough that it is a significant risk factor," he said. "I see patients who are interested in ways they can reduce overall cancer [risk]. I always tell them the first place to start is nutrition and exercise and physical fitness."

This is one of the most comprehensive studies on cancer and obesity to date, according to Dr. Xiao Ou Shu, Associate Director for Global Health at the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center. He believes it could help educate the public that being overweight isn't only about cardiac problems.

"I think that the public has been informed about the potential risk for cancer associated with obesity, but there has been much more information disseminated about cardiovascular disease risk than cancer risk," Ou Shu told ABC News.

One positive discovery from this study the authors found is that obese people who lose weight appear to reduce their cancer risk.

"Lifestyle factors such as eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight and exercising, in addition to not smoking, can have a significant impact on reducing cancer risk," Graham Colditz, MD, Dr PH and deputy director of the School of Public Health at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, who chaired the IARC Working Group, said in a statement. "Public health efforts to combat cancer should focus on these things that people have some control over."

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ABC News(WASHINGTON) --  Members of the Senate Special Committee on Aging are calling for Mylan, the maker of the EpiPen, to brief members of Congress about the drastic price increase of the medication since 2007.

U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Claire McCaskill sent a letter to Heather Bresch, the CEO of Mylan, asking her to explain why the price of an EpiPen has spiked 400 percent since 2007.

“We are concerned that these drastic price increases could have a serious effect on the health and well-being of every day Americans," the senators wrote in a letter addressed to Bresch. "As leaders of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, we are particularly concerned that seniors have access to EpiPen® because, according to Mylan’s website, older Americans ‘may be at an increased risk of having a more severe anaphylactic reaction if they are exposed to biting and stinging insects.’”

The senators told Bresch to come to Capitol Hill "at a mutually convenient time no later than two weeks from today.”

The company has come under fire in recent days over the cost of the popular EpiPen, the most common epinephrine injector on the market. Other members of Congress, including Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Sen. Richard Blumentahl of Connecticut, have written to Mylan about their concerns.

Today, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton released a statement calling the price hike "outrageous."

"I believe that our pharmaceutical and biotech industries can be an incredible source of American innovation, giving us revolutionary treatments for debilitating diseases," she said in a statement. "But it's wrong when drug companies put profits ahead of patients, raising prices without justifying the value behind them."

A Mylan spokeswoman told ABC News the company plans on meeting with members of Congress.

"We have reached out to every member of Congress who has sent us a letter, including Sen. Blumenthal, and we look forward to meeting with them and responding to their questions as soon as possible," the spokeswoman told ABC News.

 In 2007, when Mylan Pharmaceuticals took over producing the drug from Merck, the cash price of the pens was about $50, according to a study published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

Today, the cost of the drug is approximately $600 according to Good RX, which posts drug prices at pharmacies across the country.

The American Medical Association has also released a statement imploring Mylan to reduce the price of the drug.

"Although the product is unchanged since 2009, the cost has skyrocketed by more than 400 percent during that period. The AMA has long urged the pharmaceutical industry to exercise reasonable restraint in drug pricing, and, with lives on the line, we urge the manufacturer to do all it can to rein in these exorbitant costs," AMA officials said in a statement today. "The high cost of these devices may either keep them out of reach of people in need or force some families to choose between EpiPens and other essentials."

Mylan said it has provided 700,000 free EpiPens to schools and has given coupons to families who have trouble paying for the medication. However, officials said in a statement that they realize more needs to be done to help patients with high-deductible plans.

"With changes in the healthcare insurance landscape, an increasing number of people and families are enrolled in high deductible health plans, and deductible amounts continue to rise," company officials said in a statement. "This shift has presented new challenges for consumers, and they are bearing more of the cost. This change to the industry is not an easy challenge to address, but we recognize the need and are committed to working with customers to find solutions to meet the needs of the patients and families we serve."

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Courtesy Hardison Family/NYU Langone Medical Center(NEW YORK) --  One year after undergoing the most extensive face transplant ever performed, which was covered by Nightline in an Emmy-nominated special edition, Pat Hardison continues to thrive.

“I’m happy to tell you that I’m doing great!” Hardison, 42, said at a press conference at NYU Langone Medical Center on Wednesday. “I like to say I’m still the same old Pat, but that would not give enough credit to the amazing journey I have gone through this past year.”

 Hardison, a former volunteer firefighter, was critically injured responding to a house fire on Sept. 5, 2001. The fire left him with severe burns that took his scalp, ears, eyelids, nose and lips. Without eyelids, Hardison was also slowly losing his vision.

Willing to take a chance to get his life back and feel normal again, Hardison underwent the face transplant surgery at NYU Langone Medical Center. The procedure is so extreme and so risky that his doctors warned him he only had a 50-50 chance of surviving it.

 Since receiving his new face from a donor, Hardison said his eyelids and ability to blink have greatly improved his vision.

“My family and I took a trip to Disney World this past June -- and I swam in the pool with them. That’s something I had not done in 15 years!” Hardison said. “I now can, once again, drive a car, and I am able to sleep more soundly.”

 Hardison has had follow-up procedures, including surgery to remove his feeding and breathing tubes, which he no longer needs, and to adjust his new eyelids and lips.

He hopes to meet the family of his donor, David Rodebaugh, and a meeting is scheduled for this fall.

“I would like to thank my donor family, who made the difficult decision to donate to me during a very difficult time in their lives,” Hardison said.

Renown reconstructive surgeon Dr. Eduardo Rodriguez, who performed the transplant and is the chair of the hospital’s Wyss Department of Plastic Surgery, said he’s amazed by Hardison’s recovery.

Hardison has not had an incident in which his body attempted to reject his new face, and the amount of daily medications he has to take has been reduced overtime mainly due to the fact that he has not had a rejection episode.

“We are amazed at Pat’s recovery, which has surpassed all of our expectations,” Rodriguez said in a press release. “Most significant is the lack of a rejection episode. We believe this has much to do with the methodical approach we took in the matching process to ensure that Patrick’s donor provided the most favorable match. Doing so also has allowed us to reduce the levels of certain medications that Pat takes to prevent rejection.”

“No more stares from strangers. I’m pretty much back to being a normal guy, doing normal activities,” Hardison said.

 After his accident during the rescue mission that left his face severely burned in 2001, Hardison said he thought he would never be the same again.

“It was terrible,” Hardison told Nightline in 2015, three months after the transplant. “I mean, I left home one day a normal dad, leaving to go to work, just a blonde-haired, blue-eyed -- that had everything going, I thought, and just like that everything changed drastically.”

In 2001, Hardison and his second wife Chrissi were raising their three children in his hometown of Senatobia, Mississippi. At 27, he was a charming, successful salesman who ran the family tire business, but his real passion was working with the local volunteer fire department where he was a captain.

“It was my way of life, that was what I did,” he said. “I didn’t do it to make a living, I did it because I loved it.... At this department it’s different. It’s not like a fire department that volunteers, we’re a brotherhood.”

Hardison said he doesn’t remember much of what happened after he and three of his fellow firefighters entered a burning building to look for a woman.

“[My mask] was melting to my face,” Hardison said. “My hose [was] already melted.”

He pulled the mask off, held his breath and closed his eyes, which doctors say saved his throat and lungs from smoke inhalation damage and from losing his vision. He doesn’t remember exactly how he managed to escape the inferno but by the time he got out, he was unrecognizable.

“There was nothing left of his face to tell you who he was,” Bricky Cole, one of Hardison’s friends and another volunteer firefighter on-scene that day, told Nightline in 2015.

His friends rushed to save Hardison’s life, but they didn’t realize who they were working on until he was being loaded into an ambulance.

Hardison spent 63 days at the hospital recovering from the burns, and when he got home, Hardison said his three children -- Alison, 6, Dalton, 3, and Averi, 2 -- were terrified of him.

Even though Chrissi and the children learned to accept his scars, seeing their reactions was devastating for Hardison. He underwent more than 70 surgeries over the next decade to try to rebuild his mouth, nose and eyelids using skin grafts. He even got implants to help anchor prosthetic ears.

“There were no moments of hope,” Chrissi Hardison told Nightline in 2015. “I remember talking to the doctors and thinking I had to allow myself to accept that he would not look the way he did before. ... Every time he would go back for surgery, I would think, ‘He’ll probably come out and look maybe like he did before.’ I had no clue, no concept of how severe it was even months into it.”

But each surgery only resulted in minor improvements. Unable to have what he really wanted -- his old life back -- Hardison spiraled into depression.

The cycle of surgery and painful recovery took a heavy toll on Hardison and his family, including Chrissi, who was caring for him at home. Even though they had two more kids after the accident, their marriage was strained, and for a time, Hardison became withdrawn and was addicted to pain medication. After 10 years of marriage, he and Chrissi divorced.

Later, Hardison started to consider an option that had only recently been demonstrated to be possible: a face transplant.

At the urging of a friend, Hardison sent his medical records to Dr. Eduardo Rodriguez, a pioneering reconstructive surgeon who had just completed the most extensive face transplant ever performed to date, replacing the face, jaw and tongue of a man severely disfigured by a shotgun blast. The 2012 surgery had been a success and Rodriguez was looking for his next patient.

In 2012, Rodriguez and his team began the process of vetting not just Hardison, but his family, friends and neighbors in Mississippi. Rodriguez wanted to make sure that Hardison fully understood the surgical risks, both the physical and psychological recovery, and that there was a possibility his body could reject the transplant and he could die. He also wanted to make sure Hardison was of good character and would be compliant with his post-surgery responsibilities, including medical appointments and daily medicine intake.

When the evaluations were finished, Rodriguez said he had found the perfect patient.

“Here's a guy with a huge personality who just wants to get to the solution,” Rodriguez told Nightline in 2015. “He's very gung-ho individual, you can see it. It's his nature and he was ready to sign whatever it took to move this thing along. For patients like that, which we do value, it's important for us to kind of slow the process down and ensure that they completely understand what they're getting into.”

 To move forward, they needed a donor, one that would fit very specific criteria. Not only were they looking for a donor that matched Hardison’s skin color, hair color and blood type, but the skeletal structure also had to be similar.

“The blood type obviously has to match,” Rodriguez said. “We didn't want any viruses. We're not looking for any patient that has significant exposures, I.V. drug use and the like. We also look at tattoos, not so much that tattoos are bad, but individuals that get numerous tattoos, we're concerned about contamination of any form. We're looking for a patient that has not had any malignancy and no facial injuries. We're looking at skeletal measurements we want them to match skeletally. We look at specific distances of their eyes or nose or mouth, the lips, so we're very specific in a face transplant.”

Hardison was placed on New York’s transplant donor list in Aug. 2014, and Rodriguez and his team began working closely with LiveOnNY, the organ procurement non-profit organization that matches organ donors with patients in and around New York City.

In July 2015, Hardison finally got the call he had hoped for, but it meant tragedy for another family.

David Rodebaugh, or Dave to his friends, loved bikes. He worked as a bike mechanic and was an accomplished BMX rider. When he moved to Brooklyn from Ohio a few years ago, he found a new family in the bike messenger community and with a group who call themselves the “Lock Foot Posi."

“It's like the old Christmas movie, the old Rudolph movie, where there's the Land of Misfit Toys,” said Al Lopez, who owns a bike messenger company called Cannonball Couriers and is one of Rodebaugh’s best friends. “And we're all kind of like misfits from somewhere. Wherever we came from for whatever reason we've united over bikes.... It doesn't really matter what you wear or how you ride you know like if you're like. If you're down and you're like on the bike and you're one of us.”

His friends said there wasn’t a trick Rodebaugh wouldn’t try or a bike he couldn’t fix, and he even won the Red Bull-sponsored Brooklyn MiniDrome cycling competition in 2014.

“Dave was a free spirit for sure and he loved what he loved,” Lopez said. “He loved bikes. He loved to go fast. He loved his friends, he loved this family. He loved adventure like, that was, that was Dave.”

 In July 2015, Rodebaugh was riding without a helmet in Brooklyn when he crashed and hit his head. A few weeks later, he was declared brain-dead at the hospital. He was 26 years old.

His friends honored him with a memorial ride over the Williamsburg Bridge, and when a representative with LiveOnNY approached his mother about donating his organs, she accepted.

When LiveOnNY president and CEO Helen Irving informed Rodriguez that she had a potential donor for the face transplant surgery, the blood, genes and other features underwent a series of tests. When it was determined that it looked like a viable match, Rodriguez called Hardison in Mississippi with the news.

“When you look at the facial skeleton ... they were only off by one or two millimeters,” he said.

On Aug. 14, 2015, Hardison was prepped for surgery and wheeled into one operating room, while the donor was wheeled into an adjacent room. Before starting, the surgical team held a moment of silence to honor Rodebaugh.

In a carefully coordinated surgery, Rodriguez slowly removed the donor’s face and scalp, including the outer skin, tissue, nerves and muscle, as the surgical team next door worked to remove the skin on Hardison’s face. With each step, Rodriguez updated the surgical team working on Hardison so that the two teams would remain in sync, and then they placed the donor face on Hardison. Among the trickiest parts of the surgery, Rodriguez said, was connecting the blood vessels.

“We got one chance to align to basically land this on the moon perfectly,” Rodriguez said.

In total, the surgery took 26 hours to finish. Rodebaugh’s heart, liver and kidneys were also donated, along with his corneas, bone and skin tissue.

 Nine days after the surgery, Hardison was doing well, and he looked at himself in the mirror for the first time. His forehead and cheekbones began adding shape to his face, but he had to start the process of re-learning how to speak and swallow, two functions severely affected by the surgery.

Today, Hardison says the surgery has given him back his life. Hardison continues to share his story in the hopes that others with similar injuries may one day consider the possibility of a face transplant.

“I’m here today because I want others to see that there is hope beyond the scars of injury. I am especially proud to share my story with other injured firefighters and first responders, as well as injured members of the Armed Services,” Hardison said on Wednesday. “If sharing my story helps just one person explore the possibility of a face transplant, then it’s been worth it.”

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Clem Murray/Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS via Getty Images(PHILADELPHIA) -- The Baltimorean who was the first U.S. child to receive a double-hand transplant celebrated the anniversary of his life-changing surgery this week.

Zion Harvey, 9, went back to visit his doctors at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia this week, a year after undergoing the breakthrough surgery. Zion lost his hands and feet after contracting a life-threatening infection as a toddler.

Though he had learned to cope, doctors wanted to give him a permanent solution, making him the youngest U.S. patient to get a double-hand transplant in an operation that took 10 hours.

Zion and his doctors recounted his recovery this week, marveling at how far he has come in being able to use his new hands.

Immediately after the surgery, Zion spent a month in the hospital as doctors tried to get him used to his new hands. Dr. L. Scott Levin, director of the Hand Transplantation Program at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said the boy never lost his charm or sense of humor despite the grueling therapy and rehabilitation.

"I think from an emotional standpoint he remains a remarkable young man," Levin said in a hospital video released Tuesday. "There's never been one iota of resistance or, ‘I don't feel like it today.’"

The video also shows how Zion progressed quickly, despite hurdles in his recovery. He soon was able to pick up toys and even start using scissors within months of his surgery.

Since he lost his hands at age 2, he had had little practice with how to actually use them.

"For six years of his life that part of his brain was asleep," Levin pointed out.

Levin told ABC News in December that doctors did have to recalibrate his drug regimen to better augment the immune suppressant drugs he takes for his hand transplants and because of a previous kidney transplant. But the setbacks didn't keep Zion from gaining new function with his hands.

He was able to write a Christmas wish-list in time for the holidays and even do some arm-wrestling, Levin told ABC News.

"I [was] with him last night and while at a restaurant dinner table...he was able to pick up his bread and butter and eat it," Levin said in December. "The point is we’re seeing continued functional improvement."

Although he's just 9, Zion is already hoping that his story will help other kids who’re struggling with health problems or other difficulties.

"I got one left hand and one right hand and they can always help me when I fall down," he said in the video. "There's one thing, if any kid is watching this and you're going through a rough time, never give up on what you're doing. You'll get there eventually."

At a news conference Tuesday, Zion did bring up an activity he still hasn’t been able to do: play football.

"She won't let me try out for football," Zion, who has prosthetic feet, told reporters, referring to his mother.

When she said he could play baseball and not football, the pint-size Zion piped up, "Why not?"

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The ongoing violence in Syria has taken a physical and mental toll on many, including one 9-year-old boy, who began to look up "ways to commit suicide" online, according to Dr. Hussam Jefee-Bahloul, who assisted with his care.

The boy, along with his family, are Syrians. They fled the violence and destruction of the ongoing Syrian crisis to find some semblance of safety in a Jordanian refugee camp.

Growing up, "Adam" (Jefee-Bahloul identifies the boy as Adam for his safety) had been irritable and nervous even before the crisis, but when the violence started, his mental health started to deteriorate further. Even in the refugee camp, hearing about the violence kept the boy agitated.

"While being seen and treated with some medications, he developed adverse reactions and got more restless," Jefee-Bahloul said of Adam. He "started to become preoccupied with one idea: the Free Syrian Army and fighting in Syria, talking about being bored and wanting to die."

A mental health worker in the field was trying to help Adam, but the boy's symptoms of distress persisted. The mental health worker reached out to Jefee-Bahloul for advice, even though he was thousands of miles away in Connecticut.

"The field psychiatrist was the only provider that the family can seek in Jordan given the nature of their displacement, and lack of access to care," Jefee-Bahloul explained. After the consult, "the field psychiatrist provided medication adjustment."

A Yale professor of psychiatry, Jefee-Bahloul, along with his colleague Dr. Andre Barkil-Oteo, were moved by Syrian survivors such as Adam. Jefee-Bahloul said it was the boy who in part pushed him to want to do more to help bring mental health aid to both refugees of the Syrian crisis and those who are still living amid the violence and uncertainty in the country.

In 2013, Jefee-Bahloul, along with his colleague Dr. Andre Barkil-Oteo, both of Syrian descent, started a new program called Syrian Telemental Health Network with the goal of reaching those affected by the Syrian crisis. The network uses an online referral program to connect doctors and mental health providers in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey with a global network of specialists willing to provide services for free to those in need.

Jefee-Bahloul pointed out help is needed as most of the field mental health workers, who are treating some of the most traumatized patients, lack an advanced degree or medical degree. The ongoing crisis in Syria has left millions of people devastated, not just physically, but also mentally. Both adults and children are forced to grapple with terror, violence and death.

“The need for these services was clear after talking to many clinicians on the ground who do not have a lot of mental health training and who have almost no supervision,” he said. “We now provide tertiary care--meaning indirect consultations--on highly complex cases that are being taken care of in refugee clinics in Syria and around its borders.”

Their technology is designed to use an encrypted and safe online referral system to connect doctors in North America, Europe and parts of the Middle East to clinicians working in Syria and its neighboring countries. The data is encrypted to protect the safety of clinicians and patients, especially the mental health workers trying to help the 4.8 million refugees resulting from Syria’s conflict.

They both realized that with their specializations in global health they could improve the lives of individuals who deal with the effects of the massive humanitarian crisis.

"It is hard to estimate how many patients are benefiting from this service," Jefee-Bahloul said. "In the last 18 months, the network completed supervision [for] more than 100 complex clinical cases."

Experts conducting mental health research emphasize the need for providing mental health support around the world, especially in Syria and its bordering countries that have been scarred by years of violence.

“There is evidence that when given the right training and excellent training structure with a focus on job development, people with less intensive training can provide appropriate services,” Theresa Betancourt, an associate professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, explained.

She told ABC News that the work of the network seems promising especially because it links specialists who can train and educate field workers. She said the biggest issue with situations like the one in Syria is addressing the idea of how to “sustainably strengthen the mental health system in countries that are taking on most of the burden."

Jefee-Bahloul's partner Barkil-Oteo said the Internet has been a key tool for sharing needed information across country lines.

“This is a growing trend,” Barkil-Oteo said of telemedicine. “There are many new initiatives that try to use technology to train medical students and doctors. Aleppo University has started a new medical school and their plan is to rely heavily on online lectures.”

The doctors have little aid as they try to keep up with the increasing numbers of patients in need of mental health services, while dealing with attacks on the facilities they work in. All of the mental health referrers have at one time themselves been forced to relocate from their homes. About four of the nine Syrian clinics the network works with have been targeted for attacks and forced to relocate.

This new form of medical education comes in the wake of the destruction of multiple Syrian medical institutions during the past few years. Most of the medical students who were in the process of receiving their training at the onset of the crisis have been left with an unfinished degree.

“Just last weekend, at least three hospitals in Aleppo were bombed,” noted Barkil-Oteo.

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iStock/ThinkstockBy DR. JENNIFER ASHTON, ABC News Senior Medical Contributor

Do you sometimes wake up in the middle of the night and just can’t fall back to sleep?

For isolated incidents of late night/early morning insomnia, you may be surprised to hear my advice: Do nothing. Don’t sleep late the next day, don’t take a power nap -- just go about your normal schedule.

Many of us will suffer an occasional bout of insomnia, which is generally caused by mental stress, and will feel the inclination to make up for lost sleep the next day or next several days.

But the latest in sleep medicine suggests that this can do more harm than good. It may disrupt the circadian rhythms and make it harder for you to resume your normal sleep schedule.

So be consistent with your bedtime and your wakeup time, and chances are good you’ll be back to sweet dreams soon.

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File photo. (iStock/Thinkstock)(NEW YORK) -- In a rare occurrence, a South African same-sex couple has welcomed triplets, which include identical twins, via surrogacy.

The couple, Christo and Theo Menelaou, both share biological fatherhood to the babies, since sperm was used from both parents, they said.

"It's the biggest joy having [these] babies," Christo Menelaou told ABC News Tuesday. "Hard work, but so rewarding."

Christo and Theo have been together for over nine years and married for four. The two men have wanted children for a while now, Christo said.

"We were strongly advised by the social worker that our chances of succeeding in getting an adoption was very small, considering there was a large demand for people wanting children," he added. "They'd almost have a much better chance than us because they were not same-sex couples. If you're same-sex, it's a mission."

Christo and Theo were able to choose a profile for an egg donor and found a surrogate to carry their children. But 11 weeks into the pregnancy, sonographer Heidi Richter discovered one of the embryos had split and the mother was now carrying triplets, with two being identical twins, Christo said.

On July 2, Joshua, 4 pounds, Zoe, 3.1 pounds, and Kate, 2.9 pounds, were born in that order at Netcare Sunninghill Hospital in Johannesburg.

The Menelaous have daytime and nighttime nurses to help care for their triplets.

“On weekends, it’s Daddy and Daddy’s problem though,” Christo said, laughing.

Zoe and Kate are identical twins.

Dr. Heidra Dahms, the obstetrician who delivered the Menelaou triplets, said this occurrence was extremely rare, according to Christo.

Dahms and Netcare Sunninghill Hospital did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment.

The Guinness Book of World Records told ABC News that they currently do not recognize the record title of the first male, gay couple in the world to be fathers to triplets (with identical twins), but are currently researching.

As for being parents, new dad Christo, who works in construction, said they're enjoying every moment.

"[We are] more than thrilled," he said. "When it's going rough on my building sites and all is hectic, I just think of our babies and all is well."

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Schools are back in session across the country and that means parents are back in the kitchen preparing daily lunches for their kids.

Lifestyle expert Sandra Lee appeared on ABC’s Good Morning America Wednesday with recipe ideas for lunch meals that will keep kids excited about eating and well-fueled for a day of learning.

Lee partnered on the recipes with Disney’s Healthy Living Commitment, which helps kids and families make healthy living simple and fun. The recipes shared on GMA get a Mickey Check, a logo on select food items and products in stores, online, and at Disney theme parks and resorts that signifies healthier options that meet Disney’s Nutrition Standards.


ABC Breaking News | Latest News Videos

Try these recipes for kids' lunches today!

Disney is the parent company of ABC News.

Disney

Ham and Cheese Muffins

(Serving size: 6 regular-size muffins or 12 mini-muffins)

1 1/2 cups whole grain pancake mix

1 egg

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

2/3 cup fat-free milk

2 ounces lean ham (reduced sodium), diced

3 tablespoons reduced fat shredded cheddar cheese

1/4 cup diced bell pepper

**Variations: Substitute lean turkey. Other vegetables can be substituted for bell pepper, such as shredded zucchini, chopped broccoli, or mushrooms.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place liners in muffin tins and spray lightly with cooking oil spray. In a mixing bowl, add pancake mix, egg, oil, and milk. Stir just until combined. Add diced ham, 2 tablespoons of shredded cheese, and diced bell pepper and mix lightly. Spoon batter into muffin tins until 2/3 full. Sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon of cheddar cheese. Bake for 16-18 minutes until tops are lightly browned.

Nutrition Facts: 1 regular-sized muffin: 210 calories, 5 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat, 40 mg cholesterol, 430 mg sodium, 30 g carbohydrate, 5 g dietary fiber, 3 g sugars, 10 g protein. 1 mini-muffin: 100 calories, 2.5 g fat, 0.5 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat, 20 mg cholesterol, 210 mg sodium, 15 g carbohydrate, 2 g dietary fiber, 2 g sugars, 5 g protein.

Apple Raisin Muffins


(Serving size: 12 mini-muffins)

1 1/2 cups whole grain pancake mix

1 egg

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1/2 cup fat-free milk

1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce

1 medium apple, cored and diced

1/4 cup raisins

1 teaspoon cinnamon

**Variations: Substitute mashed banana for the applesauce, or other dried fruit for the raisins.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place liners in muffin tins and spray lightly with cooking oil spray. In a mixing bowl, add pancake mix, egg, oil, and milk. Stir just until combined. Add diced apple, raisins, and cinnamon, and mix lightly. Spoon batter into muffin tins until 2/3 full. Sprinkle with additional cinnamon. Bake for 16-18 minutes until tops are lightly browned.

Nutrition Facts: 1 mini-muffin: 110 calories, 2 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat, 15 mg cholesterol, 150 mg sodium, 20 g carbohydrate, 3 g dietary fiber, 6 g sugars, 4 g protein Notes: I used Bob’s Red Mill 7-Grain Pancake & Waffle Mix.


Hummus and Veggies On-the-Go


(Serves 1)

2 tablespoons hummus

2 tablespoons diced carrots

2 tablespoons diced celery

2 tablespoons diced red bell pepper

1/2 ounce unsalted pretzels

In a mini mason jar, layer the hummus, carrots, celery, and bell pepper. Refrigerate until ready to use. When ready to eat, use pretzels to mix the hummus and veggies. Scoop hummus-veggie mix with pretzels to enjoy.

Nutrition Facts: 130 calories, 3.5 g fat, 0.5 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 210 mg sodium, 21 g carbohydrate, 4 g dietary fiber, 3 g sugars, 4 g protein.

Confetti Ranch and Veggies On-the-Go


(Serves 1)

1 tablespoon ranch dressing

1 tablespoon plain yogurt

1 tablespoon chopped red cabbage

3 baby carrots

3 celery sticks

3 red pepper strips

In a mini mason jar, combine the ranch dressing, yogurt, and diced red cabbage. Refrigerate until ready to use. Dip veggie sticks in dressing mix.

Nutrition Facts: 100 calories, 7 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat, 5 mg cholesterol, 210 mg sodium, 8 g carbohydrate, 2 g dietary fiber, 5 g sugars, 2 g protein.


Mexican Layer Snack On-the-Go


(Makes 1 snack size serving)

2 tablespoons mild salsa 1/4 cup shredded lettuce 1/2 ounce roasted chicken breast, diced 2 teaspoons black beans, unsalted 2 teaspoons frozen corn kernels 1/2 ounce baked tortilla chips

In a mini-mason jar, layer the salsa, lettuce, chicken, beans, and corn. Refrigerate until ready to use. Shake gently when ready to eat. Use tortilla chips to scoop mixture.

Nutrition Facts: 120 calories, 3 g fat, 0.5 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat, 10 mg cholesterol, 220 mg sodium, 16 g carbohydrate, 2 g dietary fiber, 0 g sugars, 7 g protein.


Shapes for Lunch


(Makes 1 serving)

2 slices whole wheat bread

1 ounce oven roasted turkey breast slices, reduced sodium

1 teaspoon yellow mustard

1 leaf lettuce

3/4 cup grapes

1/2 ounce Colby & Monterey jack cheese cubes, reduced sodium

1 medium carrot

Make sandwich with bread, turkey, mustard, and lettuce. Cut into triangles or other fun shape. Cut carrot into rectangle sticks. In a divided plastic container, arrange grape circles, cheese squares, carrot rectangles, and sandwich triangles. Note: For young children, cut grapes in half.

Nutrition Facts: 320 calories, 7 g fat, 3.5 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat, 30 mg cholesterol, 660 mg sodium, 50 g carbohydrate, 6 g dietary fiber, 22 g sugars, 17 g protein.


Ham & Cheese Wrap


1 whole-grain flatbread wrap

1 ounce lean ham, reduced sodium

2 teaspoons honey mustard

1/2 ounce shredded Swiss cheese

Shredded lettuce

Place fillings over flatbread and wrap up. Serve cold or grilled.

Nutrition Facts: 210 calories, 7 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat, 30 mg cholesterol, 580 mg sodium, 23 g carbohydrate, 8 g dietary fiber, 3 g sugars, 19 g protein.


Turkey & Avocado Wrap


1 whole-grain flatbread wrap

1 ounce turkey breast, reduced sodium

1/4 avocado, mashed (about 2 tablespoons)

2 tablespoons diced tomatoes

Shredded lettuce

Place fillings over flatbread and wrap up. Serve cold or grilled.

Nutrition Facts: 190 calories, 7 g fat, 0.5 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat, 15 mg cholesterol, 480 mg sodium, 25 g carbohydrate, 11 g dietary fiber, 2 g sugars, 15 g protein.

Banana and Almond Butter Wrap

1 whole-grain flatbread wrap

1 banana

1 1/2 tablespoons almond butter

Cinnamon

Place fillings over flatbread and wrap up. Serve cold or grilled.

Nutrition Facts: 350 calories, 15 g fat, 1.5 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 320 mg sodium, 51 g carbohydrate, 14 g dietary fiber, 17 g sugars, 15 g protein.


Panko-Crusted Chicken Nuggets


(Serves 2)

1 boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1 x 1 inch cubes

1 egg, beaten

2 tablespoons whole wheat flour

1/2 cup panko bread crumbs

2 teaspoons olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Dredge chicken cubes in flour. Dip chicken pieces in beaten egg and then roll in bread crumbs. Place on a greased cooking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes until cooked through. Serve with barbeque or honey mustard dipping sauce.

Nutrition Facts: 200 calories, 4 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat, 130 mg cholesterol, 100 mg sodium, 21 g carbohydrate, 1 g dietary fiber, 1 g sugars, 19 g protein.


Shark Bait Granola Bars


(Serving size: 24 bars)

2 1/2 cups old fashioned oats

1 cup roasted, salted pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds)

1/2 cup dried cranberries

2/3 cup almond butter

1/4 cup agave nectar

1/4 cup mini chocolate chips

In a large bowl mix the oats, pepitas and dried cranberries. Set aside. In a smaller bowl stir together the almond butter, agave, and mini chips. Then, using a wooden spoon, stir this into to the oat mixture until everything is evenly combined. Line the bottom of a 13 x 9 baking dish with parchment paper. Press the oat mixture into it and flatten the top with a spatula. Cover the top with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 6 hours. Then cut with a sharp knife. Keep refrigerated.

Nutrition Facts: 130 calories, 8 g fat, 1.5 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 30 mg sodium, 14 g carbohydrate, 2 g dietary fiber, 6 g sugars, 4 g protein.


Energy Balls


(Serving size: 10 balls)

1 cup old fashioned oats

1/4 cup dried shredded coconut, unsweetened

1/4 cup ground flaxseed

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons honey

3 tablespoons almond butter

Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add the honey and almond butter and mix well. Chill for 30 minutes. Roll into balls. Store in a closed container lined with wax paper. They will keep in the refrigerator for a few days.

Nutrition Facts: 100 calories, 5 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 45 mg sodium, 12 g carbohydrate, 2 g dietary fiber, 5 g sugars, 3 g protein.


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Angel Canales/ABC News(CUPERTINO, Calif.) — Growing up in the shadow of Silicon Valley, 12-year-old Hari Bhimaraju of Cupertino, California, has always been fascinated by science and technology, and she's putting her skills to good use by creating tools for the visually impaired.

"I've kind of just grown up in a house where it's always been a thing to help people," Hari told ABC News. "Especially the visually impaired."

The first project she created was a periodic table teaching tool for the visually impaired called the "The Elementor” when she was in the sixth grade. She combined her love for chemistry and atoms and used a Raspberry Pi computer to create the low-cost tool. The system uses sound and voice features, and LED lights for people with low vision to describe the position of the element’s electrons.

"I started creating these tools for the visually impaired because I love learning about chemistry and I think that I want to spread that knowledge," Hari said. "There aren't really any great tools out there which really are specific to them."

Hari’s project was part of the sixth annual White House Science Fair this past April. She presented "The Elementor" animated teaching tool and met President Obama. “Shaking hands with the president was, of course, amazing,” she said.

Whether it was science, Java language programming or robotics, her parents have been her No. 1 supporters.

"She is so comfortable using Stack Overflow and finding solutions to her own problems," her mom, Gayatri Bhimaraju, told ABC News. "It’s definitely very exciting and interesting to see her combine software and hardware and try to explain things to us.”

For Hari’s father, Prasad Bhimaraju, her visit to the White House was an important moment for the family. "We being first generational immigrants," Prasad told ABC News. "We came here and now our daughter is being invited to meet the president and show that innovation to the president. It's a very proud moment for us."

In keeping with her passion for science and helping the visually impaired, Hari also created a medicine management system for people living with vision loss who aren’t able to read drug container labels and package inserts. She created an iPhone app that scans the labels using a radio frequency identification system that shows the expiration dates, name of the medicine and whether it needs to be refilled.

"I can make a difference with this idea to manage medicines," Hari said. "When I actually go to blind centers and I see how thankful the people really are, and I actually meet the person, I think that makes a huge impact."

Hari’s talent has been noticed tech companies like Piper, where she is a student innovator.

Piper creates DIY computer kits that kids assemble to learn about electronics. “She's built technology before. She's been recognized for that so she understands some of the things that go into making a product, making a device that works," Piper CEO Mark Pavlyukovskyy told ABC News. "That feedback is invaluable for this. Working with her and mentoring her allows us to understand the DNA of younger mentors."

For Hari, it is all about learning and sharing knowledge with others. "I think it's really exciting to be actually giving feedback to them because they're adults, and they're so smart," she said. "I love being a part of that because their goals align with mine to teach kids about electronics and programming."

Hari hopes to continue working on science app development and attend Stanford University when she graduates from high school. “I think the biggest thing is I feel I can inspire other people to do things," Hari added. "I think it's important that you learn what's around you and don't just take things for granted."

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Courtesy Harris County Public Library(CLEAR LAKE, Texas)  — A 5-year-old girl in Texas who was born without the lower part of her left arm received a custom 3-D printed prosthetic from a local public library.

"She is a very happy child, but let's just say she has never smiled so big in her life," Kimberly Vincik said of her daughter Katelyn. "Her face lit up with pure and utter happiness. It was a priceless moment to say the least."

Vincik told ABC News that Katelyn had never let her disability stop her from doing new things but she had been longing for an arm for years.

Vincik, who describes her daughter as "a social butterfly," said Katelyn had been on the wait list for a prosthetic for about a year.

The concerned mother turned to the internet to start researching other options. That's when she found out about 3-D printing technology, and reached out to the Harris County Public Library, who had a 3-D printer available to the public.

Jim Johnson, the Clear Lake City-County Freeman Branch librarian, told ABC News that the library was able to obtain the 3-D printer after a donation from a deceased patron.

Johnson said the library had never used the 3-D printer to make a prosthetic limb before; it had mainly been used for "trinkets," "tinkering" and "science fair projects."

Patrick Ferrell, who works at the Innovation Lab in the public library, said the Vinciks drove two hours from their home to meet with Ferrell and other staff.

"We were upfront with the family that we hadn't ever done this before," Ferrell said. "They were happy to go on this adventure with us."

Ferrell said a volunteer group called "Enabling the Future," which designs and tests prosthetic arms, was able to use one of its designs for Katelyn's arm. It took 22 hours of printing to put together the prosthetic.

When it was finished, Ferrell wrapped it up and brought it to Katelyn's house.

"She put it on like she knew what she was doing, and then she told her sister, 'Now we can hold hands,'" Ferrell said.

"I had the honor and privilege of delivering the arm, but our volunteers did the bulk of the work," Ferrell added. "It really was a community effort."

The group would also be available to tweak or modify the arm as Katelyn grows.

"Maybe one day we can bring Katelyn in for a class and she can design her own arm," Ferrell noted.

"We are just one of many libraries across the country that do something like this," Johnson said, adding, "There are so many public libraries out there that are doing amazing things."

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iStock/Thinkstock(MIAMI) -- The devastating effects of the Zika virus on the brains of fetuses go beyond microcephaly, according to a new study published Tuesday in the medical journal Radiology.

Researchers evaluated brain scans of fetuses and infants with suspected Zika infection and found that in addition to microcephaly there were severe abnormalities in 94 percent of infants. The researchers studied 17 babies and fetuses with confirmed Zika diagnosis and 28 with suspected Zika infection.

Viral infection of a pregnant woman has been linked to increased risk of microcephaly in the fetus, but researchers are still learning how the virus affects brain development.

Dr. Dorothy Bulas, the section head of ultrasound and fetal imaging in the Division of Diagnostic Imaging and Radiology at Children’s National Health System in Washington, D.C., said the Zika infection has a "unique" effect on developing fetuses compared to other infections.

"This is a very unique virus that seems to attack the fetus directly," she said. "We haven’t really seen [brain abnormalities] as severe in other infections.”

Researchers reported finding serious abnormalities of the corpus callosum, the thick bundle of nerves that connects the two halves of the brain. Abnormalities there can cause severe neurological problems. They also noted that the majority of babies had calcium deposits throughout the brain that tended to occur in the spot where the gray matter on the outer portion of the brain meets the white matter within the inner portion of the brain. A small portion of the babies also had abnormalities of the eyes.

They also saw ventriculomegaly -- enlargement of the fluid spaces in the brain -- in over 94 percent of babies.

In some of these children, the oversize ventricles made up for the missing brain tissue, so their head size was not abnormally small. This could be a worrying sign since it means that even fetuses who appear "normal" on fetal ultrasound could be suffering from birth defects related to Zika exposure.

Bulas pointed out that the paper and the detailed fetal MRI scans published will help radiologists evaluating pregnant women who have had Zika infection to determine if fetuses are showing effects of Zika infection.

"The power of fetal MRI is that it allows us to examine the details of the brain," she said. "I think fetal MRI has been underutilized, and I think in a scenario like this it can be very helpful for confirming an injured brain."

The new paper was published as Florida doctors confirmed Tuesday they are studying an infant who has signs of past Zika infection but not microcephaly. Doctors from the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine said an infant girl they are treating did not have microcephaly but had calcium deposits in her brain and pigment changes in her retina.

"It just tells us that there was a bacteria or a virus in the brain and that virus has left us with some calcifications," Dr. Audina Berrocal of the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute at the University of Miami told ABC News affiliate WPLG-TV. "Babies with early intervention and the right support, sometimes they compensate for those changes that we find early."

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- High prescription drug prices in the United States are largely due to drug monopolies and restrictions on price negotiations, according to a new study from Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

The review, published Tuesday in Journal of American Medical Association, focused on understanding why U.S. drug costs are so high compared to other industrialized countries. The study authors reviewed medical and health policy literature from January 2005 to July 2016, looking at articles addressing the source, justification and consequences of drug prices in the U.S.

Researchers looked at drug costs in the U.S. and found that per capita, U.S. drug spending dwarfed other industrialized countries. Spending per capita on prescription drugs in 2013 was on average $858, which was more than double that of 19 other industrialized nations.

They found the most important factor that permits high drug pricing is “market exclusivity,” related to patents and “monopoly rights” for new drugs. This means a new drug will not be threatened on the marketplace by a generic drug for a set amount of time.

“This research was pulling together lots of strands in one overall review,” Dr. Aaron Kesselheim, study author and associate professor of medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, told ABC News, explaining there is not one easy solution. It’s a “very complex issue with lots of moving parts.”

Introducing generic competitors in the marketplace is a common mechanism for prices to drop. However, certain common forms of new drugs are guaranteed a period of five to seven years before a generic competitor can be sold.

Additionally, drug manufacturers can also receive patents lasting more than 20 years for inventions that are “novel," “useful” and “non-obvious.”

“Although brand-name drugs comprise only 10 percent of all dispensed prescriptions in the United States, they account for 72 percent of drug spending,” the study authors wrote.

Common medications such as a steroid inhaler for asthma costs over $300 a month in the U.S., compared to about $35 in France. Insulin, a life-saving medication for diabetics, is about eight times more expensive here.

We wanted to “present a bigger picture ... to help inform [policy] making and thinking about the subject,” Kesselheim told ABC News. To “present a larger 10,000 feet vision of the issue.”

Officials from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, which represents pharmaceutical companies in the U.S., said countries with lower drug pricing face their own complications related to a nationally regulated drug price system.

“Price differences that may exist between the United States and other countries are often achieved through price controls that result in restricted access to medicines and fewer choices for patients,” Holly Campbell, a spokesperson for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, told ABC News in an email.

Campbell pointed out patients in Europe may wait longer to get access to cancer medicines compared to patients in the United States and have access to far fewer medicines.

“Instead of focusing on proposals that will stifle innovation, we need to concentrate on pragmatic solutions, including increasing competition for older medicines, modernizing the drug discovery and development process, removing barriers that limit paying for value and engaging and empowering consumers,” she said.

Though high prices are often justified by citing the high cost of drug development, the investigators did not find evidence of an association in the study. The proportion of revenue of the ten largest pharmaceutical companies that is invested in research and development is only about 7 to 21 percent, according to the review.

The study suggests several cost-reducing strategies, including enforcing more stringent requirements for exclusivity of rights, allowing for price negotiations by large payers, enhancing competition by generic drug availability and generating more evidence for cost-effectiveness of therapeutic alternatives.

In many countries with national health insurance systems, a delegated body negotiates drug prices and will not cover products if cost-to-benefit calculations are unreasonable. However, in the U.S., the negotiating power of the payer is constrained for multiple reasons.

Issues for U.S. payers include the fact that Medicare is federally prevented from securing low drug costs. Additionally, private insurance companies have used third-party prescription benefit management companies, which have been found to sometimes have less incentive to lower overall drug costs, according to the study. There have been isolated examples of aggressive price negotiation but it is not common, according to the researchers.

Kesselheim said both patients and legislators should take action to bring down drug costs.

“Everybody can do their part and try to bring more price rationality to the system,” he said, suggesting patients need to openly discuss the cost of drugs with their physicians and ask about less expensive alternatives. Physicians need to recognize the impact of high drug costs and be mindful of their prescribing choices, Kesselheim added.

He said their research has shown it will take a “multi-prong approach” with policy makers, physicians and patients all taking part.

“People should be calling the legislation to express their concern about the issue, and policy makers need to take this issue seriously,” Kesselheim said. “I think there are lots of things everyone can do to move forward.”

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The upward trend of motor vehicle deaths that began in late 2014 has continued to surge through the first half of 2016, according to preliminary estimates from the National Safety Council.

The non-profit group, using data from state authorities, said deaths on U.S. roadways since January have increased 9 percent from the same period last year and 18 percent from two years ago.

The council estimates that 19,100 people have died and 2.2 million people were injured in motor vehicles from January to the end of June.

2015 marked the largest year-over-year increase in vehicle-related deaths in 50 years, according to the council.

The council warns that the grim trend is not showing any signs of improvement.

“Our complacency is killing us,” said Deborah A.P. Hersman, president and CEO of the National Safety Council. “One hundred deaths every day should outrage us. Americans should demand change to prioritize safety actions and protect ourselves from one of the leading causes of preventable death.”

U.S. roadways have seen a spike in the number of drivers since gasoline prices and unemployment rates have fallen, likely contributing to more drivers on the road and more accidents.

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iStock/Thinkstock(ORLANDO, Fla.) -- A Florida teen has become only the fourth person in the last 50 years to survive an infection from "naegleria fowleri" -- also commonly known as the "brain-eating amoeba."

Sebastian DeLeon, 16, continues his recovery after contracting the infection earlier this month.

DeLeon was taken to Florida Children's Hospital in Orlando, Florida, with a severe headache on Aug. 8. Doctors believe the teen, a camp counselor, was exposed to the amoeba at a freshwater lake earlier in the week.

Immediately after arriving in the emergency room, DeLeon's doctors suspected a serious infection, especially since the teen had early signs of meningitis. Tests of DeLeon's spinal fluids found evidence of the amoeba, an infection that is fatal in 97 percent of cases.

"He presented on Friday and had a worsening headache on Saturday," Dr. Humberto Liriano, who treated DeLeon, told reporters Tuesday. "The boy was hospitalized on Sunday, 30 hours after first developing a headache."

Doctors took quick action to save DeLeon, lowering the teen's body temperature and putting him in an induced coma.

Doctors at Florida Children's Hospital were also able to get quick access to a rare medication currently being investigated by the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention called "miltefosine," which has shown some promise in killing the amoeba. Since the medication may not work quickly enough to stop the damage from the amoeba, the doctors made the decision to put DeLeon in an induced coma and lower his overall body temperature to just 33 degrees in order to keep the amoeba still.

"The amoeba loves warm water and you cool it and the amoeba becomes a cyst," Liriano explained.

The amoeba is naturally occurring in fresh water lakes and ponds. It can cause a fatal infection when it travels up the nasal passage to the brain.

DeLeon remained in an induced coma for days with medical staff monitoring his vital signs.

"We watched and waited for Sebastian while he was in the coma," Liraino said.

A few days later doctors woke him up and removed his breathing tube. According to Liraino, DeLeon was speaking hours later.

"He's walking, talking. It's a miracle," said Liraino.

DeLeon's mother thanked the "wonderful team" at the hospital that treated her son.

"God has given us a miracle for having our son back and having him full of life," she said. "We are so thankful for the gift of life."

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- At least 18 people were evaluated and 14 people were transported to hospitals after a suspected mass overdose in the Skid Row area of Los Angeles Monday. Health officials said they believe the overdoses were caused by the synthetic marijuana drug known as "spice."

Symptoms of the overdoses include violent behavior, seizures and altered levels of consciousness, according to Los Angeles Fire Department press officials.

"We don't have toxicological confirmation, but it's presumably spice, which is a synthetic type of cannabis or marijuana," Dr. Marc Eckstein, the Los Angeles Fire Department medical director and EMS bureau commander, told reporters on the scene. "Because it's synthetic, nobody for sure knows what active ingredients are in there, the strength is variable."

Last Friday the LAFD responded to another incident where 50 people were evaluated for overdose symptoms and 38 people were transported to a local hospital for suspected overdoses related to spice, according to an LAFD spokesman. He confirmed to ABC News the drug has become a growing problem for officials.

"The drug use here is very widespread amongst the homeless population here in the Skid Row area," Eckstein told ABC News station KABC-TV. "People would use or smoke spice at their own peril, they're taking their lives into their own hands."

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