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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Researchers have discovered a new species of bacteria that causes Lyme disease -- the second species known to transmit the potentially debilitating illness in North America.

The newly identified bacteria is called "Borrelia mayonii," in honor of the Mayo Clinic researchers who assisted with the discovery, along local health departments and scientists at the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.

The bacteria species was discovered after six people with suspected Lyme disease ended up with unusual results and researchers did extensive genetic testing to determine that the patients were infected with a newly discovered bacteria. Previously only "Borrelia burgdorferi" was known to cause Lyme disease in North America, according to the study published Monday in the medical journal The Lancet.

Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said the findings show how new technology has helped advance our understanding of emerging infectious diseases.

"This was likely a bacteria that was there all the time but because our scientific tests couldn't identify it," Schaffner said. "It was an unknown infection."

The findings may help many others if they have suffered from a mysterious illness that turns out to be this new species of bacteria, Schaffner said.

"The information will go out to doctors in the communities. They will start to ask for testing for this bug in a wider variety of cases," he said. "The clinical picture will mature as it goes on."

The new bacteria causes slightly different symptoms during the infection, including acute symptoms of nausea, vomiting and diffuse rashes instead of the "bulls-eye" rash associated with Borrelia burgdorferi-caused Lyme disease.

“This discovery adds another important piece of information to the complex picture of tick-borne diseases in the United States,” Dr. Jeannine Petersen, a microbiologist at the CDC said in a statement Monday.

The new bacteria is also spread by the black-legged tick or "deer tick," according to researchers. However, after extensive testing, researchers believe the bacteria is confined to the upper Midwest of the United States, with just six cases found out of 9,000 samples drawn in the Midwest of infected patients. They found infected ticks in two counties in Wisconsin, but believe there are infected ticks throughout Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Researchers also saw no sign of the new bacteria after examining at least 25,000 blood samples from people with suspected tick-borne illnesses in 23 states other than Wisconsin.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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iStock/Thinkstock(RIO DE JANEIRO) -- The Zika virus may be associated with another birth defect in infants, according to a new study published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association Ophthalmology.

Researchers from Brazil found that some infants exposed to the virus had ocular defects including atrophied retinas, abnormal iris pigmentation and lens that moved out of place.

The Zika virus has spread exponentially across the Americas, and especially in Brazil, since the outbreak was identified in May 2015. Brazil was the first to raise the alarm that the virus could be linked to a rare birth defect called microcephaly, characterized by an abnormally small head and brain in infants.

This study is the first to possibly connect the virus to eye abnormalities in newborns.

Researchers focused on 29 infants with microcephaly in Brazil. They found that 23 mothers reported Zika-like symptoms during their pregnancy. Of the affected infants, 10 had ocular abnormalities that ranged from minor to "vision-threatening" defects. Both eyes were affected in seven out of the 10 infants.

The most common defects were mottled pigments and atrophy. The optic nerve was also found to be abnormal in some of the infants.

Dr. Buddy Creech, an associate professor of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said other viruses, including herpes and rubella, are known to cause ocular birth defects in infants.

"This idea of a virus contracted during pregnancy causing damage to the central nervous system is not a shocking finding," Creech said.

Although the case study was small, Creech said these kinds of investigations will be key to uncovering how the Zika virus works and where there are "windows of risk" for pregnant women.

"We’re learning about this virus and we don’t know what to expect," said Creech. "We need papers like this that give us ability to move further down the road."

The researchers said they could not definitively link the ocular defects to the Zika virus until there were more studies to rule out that the ocular lesions were not caused by other diseases including West Nile or toxoplasmosis.

ABC News' Chief Health and Medical Editor Dr. Richard Besser said this early study highlighted concerns that there could be an unknown "spectrum" of effects related to the Zika virus.

“One of the reasons that CDC [Centers for Disease Control] wants to create a registry of potentially exposed pregnant women is the recognition that for most infections that can damage the fetus, there is a spectrum of effects," said Besser, adding that rubella can also cause hearing loss and visual problems even if microcephaly does not develop. "Microcephaly may just be the tip of the iceberg.”

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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iStock/Thinkstock(TALLAHASSEE, Fla.) -- New cases of people diagnosed with the Zika virus in Florida has prompted government officials to expand a state of emergency to two additional counties, for a total of seven counties.

The Florida Surgeon General and Secretary of Health Dr. John Armstrong announced Monday that 16 people in total have been diagnosed with the Zika virus.

The counties now under a public health emergency are Broward, Hillsborough, Lee, Miami-Dade, Osceloa, Santa Rosa and St. Johns.

Armstrong urged residents to help stop mosquito activity by draining "standing water weekly, no matter how seemingly small. A couple drops of water in a bottle cap can be a breeding location for mosquitoes."

Meanwhile, in related news, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, said on Monday the U.S. is "better prepared" for an outbreak of the Zika virus compared to last year.

"I think we are clearly better prepared for an outbreak like Zika then [we] were, let's say, a year or so ago," Fauci told reporters. "I think that's testified by the fact that we have responded very, very rapidly to this. We had the president of the United States involved in a very thorough briefing and briefings of this very early on."

Unlike the Ebola outbreak, where the outbreak was not identified for weeks to months, the response to the Zika virus outbreak has been swift, Fauci said.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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iStock/Thinkstock(GREENWICH, Conn.) -- Strangers from around the country came together to make over a pickup truck for an 18-year-old kidney transplant survivor.

Nick Cesarini, of Greenwich, Connecticut, was surprised with the truck Saturday in a reveal so dramatic his twin sister flew home from college to attend it. Even his elderly grandfather made a rare trip out of the house to see his grandson's reaction.

“I was blown away,” Cesarini said. “I wasn’t expecting half of the things they’d done to it.”

Cesarini was born with a kidney condition that worsened as he became older. By the time he was a junior in high school, Cesarini had to travel 30 minutes three times each week for dialysis.

“I would get out of school a little early and then by the time treatment was over and I was home it’d be 9 p.m.,” Cesarini said. “I remember it like it was yesterday.”

Cesarini said he received a kidney transplant in December 2014 and has since been rebuilding his life. The college student purchased his own truck, a Ford F-250, last August from a local car dealership.

The teen’s wish was to have the Make-A-Wish Foundation revamp his truck.

“It was always a dream for me to have a truck,” Cesarini said.

The truck landed in the hands of Red Line Restorations, Inc., a Bridgeport, Connecticut, auto shop that specializes in restoring European and race cars. The shop made an exception for Cesarini.

“Nick and his dad came out to us with his truck and showed us the list of all the things he wanted done,” Red Line Restorations’ PJ Pitcher told ABC News. “You’d hope for him to have his dream of what he wants to come true be everything he wanted.”

While reviewing Cesarini’s long wish list, Pitcher discovered that the truck also needed a new transmission. That repair alone would have blown the $5,000 Make-A-Wish budget, according to Pitcher.

“I called Nick and told him and he said, ‘Well, I’d rather have a truck that’s reliable that I can drive than one that looks cool parked in my driveway,’” Pitcher recalled. “I said in my head, ‘We’re really going to go above and beyond for his wish.’”

Pitcher said Scott Johnson, who is involved in the local Make-A-Wish chapter, repaired Cesarini’s transmission for free. The Redline Restorations team then sought help from colleagues around the country who donated tires, rims, windows and more.

“As far as Nick knew, all he was getting back was his truck with a new transmission,” Pitcher said. “That let us surprise him.”

“When he pulled the sheet off it was this beautiful, jet-black monster of a truck,” he said of Saturday’s reveal. “He was literally at a loss for words.”

Cesarini said nothing can hold him back from driving his new truck.

“Unfortunately it’s snowing right now but I’ve already burned through a tank of gas,” he said. “My friends love it. My family loves it. It’s a great experience.”

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Things are apparently looking up in the effort to provide health insurance coverage to more Americans.

The National Health Interview Survey, which studies civilian populations across the U.S., published its estimates for the first nine months of 2015, based on interviews with a representative sample of nearly 80,000 people.

The report says 28.8 million people were uninsured at the time of interview in 2015, which is 7.2 million fewer uninsured than in 2014. Overall, the percentage of uninsured persons, both adults and children, fell from 11.5 percent in 2014 to 9.1 percent in 2015.

States that expanded Medicaid coverage to those with low incomes saw their percentage of uninsured people drop to a larger degree than those states which did not.

The report shows the largest magnitude of decline was seen in poor and near-poor populations, although non-poor persons showed a decline as well.

Racial difference also remained a prominent factor, according to the report. Hispanics continued to show the highest proportion of uninsured persons, at 27.9 percent.

Researchers note that the proportion of uninsured people had been on the rise from 1997 to 2010, and then stabilized until 2013.  The current decline continues a downward trend that has been detected since 2013.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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

Depression can come in many shapes and sizes, and it does tend to affect women more than men. But now, new research shows that there may be a link between the age when a woman enters menopause and whether or not she develops depression.

Menopause itself is not a risk factor for depression, but the hormonal fluctuations that occur during menopause can increase the risk for someone who is already vulnerable.

My prescription: Don't assume that a change in your mood is all hormonal or due to menopause. You could be experiencing both at the same time.

And let's drop the stigma that exists with respect to mental illness and depression. It's common and it can definitely affect your life, so ask for help.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — With concern surrounding the Zika virus at an all-time high, Consumer Reports has re-released its exclusive ratings of mosquito repellents that best protect against the virus.

The new release highlights the results regarding the Aedes Egypti mosquito, the mosquito known to carry and spread Zika.

Officials Monday announced that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Emergency Operations Center had been moved to Level 1, the agency's highest level, because of the risk of Zika virus transmission in the United States.

The Zika virus has been spreading throughout the Americas and the World Health Organization has deemed it a "global health threat."

Consumer Reports found three products to be most effective in combating the mosquito known for carrying Zika: Sawyer Fisherman’s Formula Picaridin, Natrapel 8 Hour and Off! Deepwoods VIII.

Click HERE to read the full list from Consumer Reports.

The magazine said its research found the best Zika-fighting repellents contained either 25 percent Deet or 20 percent Picardin.

The magazine warned consumers against using products made of natural plant oils.

“Some of those even failed our tests immediately and the mosquitos bit right through our testers’ arms,” Sue Byrne, Consumer Reports’ senior editor for health and food, told ABC News.

Common symptoms of the Zika virus include fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis, according to the CDC. Approximately one in five people infected with the virus show symptoms.

The virus has also been associated with a rise of microcephaly birth defect cases in Brazil. The birth defect is characterized by a malformed or smaller head and brain and can result in serious developmental delays.

Guillain-Barre syndrome is an immunological reaction that can occur after viral or bacterial infections.

The CDC says it is safe to use insect repellent while pregnant or nursing. The agency recommends choosing an EPA-registered insect repellent and advises paying close attention to the directions on the product label.

ABC Breaking News | Latest News Videos

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Kevin Winter/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — The acclaimed HBO show Girls is back for a new season this month, but its biggest star will not being making press appearances due to a "chronic condition."

Lena Dunham took to Instagram Monday to write, "I just wanted to let you know that, while I am so excited for Girls to return on Feb 21, I won't be out and about doing press for the new season. As many of you know I have endometriosis, a chronic condition that affects approximately 1 in 10 women's reproductive health."

The writer and creator of the show, 29, added that she's going through a "rough patch" with the illness and that doctors told her to rest.

"That's a hard thing to do, but I'm trying, because all I want is to make season 6 of Girls the best one yet," she said.

According to the Mayo Clinic, endometriosis can result in "severe" pain and fertility problems due to tissue that grows outside the uterus instead of inside, which is normal in most women.

Usually, a star of a show would be on tour prior to the start of a new season, giving interviews and meeting with the media.

"So many women with this disease literally don't have the option of time off and I won't take it for granted," she added with the closing, "Back soon."

Dunham has starred on Girls since she helped create the show in 2012.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.



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Mario Tama/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Emergency Operations Center has been moved to Level 1, the agency's highest level, due to the risk of Zika virus transmission in the U.S., officials said Monday.

The Level 1 activation is "reflecting the agency’s assessment of the need for an accelerated preparedness to bring together experts to focus intently and work efficiently in anticipation of local Zika virus transmission by mosquitoes," the agency said in a statement.

The highest level activation means the CDC staff will work around the clock to combat a critical emergency. The three other Level 1 activations have been to combat Ebola, to combat H1N1 influenza in 2009, and after Hurricane Katrina.

The Zika virus has been spreading throughout the Americas and the World Health Organization has deemed it a "global health threat."

The operations center will be work on multiple fronts to stop the Zika virus, including developing different tests to diagnose Zika in people, conduct studies to understand if it's linked to the birth defect microcephaly and a rare paralysis syndrome called Guillain-Barre syndrome. Additionally, they will continue surveillance for the virus in the U.S. to identify an outbreak early on and to provide on the ground support in Puerto Rico, Brazil and Colombia.

Common symptoms of the Zika virus include fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis, according to the CDC. Approximately one in five people infected with the virus show symptoms. The virus has also been associated with a rise of microcephaly birth defect cases in Brazil. The birth defect is characterized by a malformed or smaller head and brain and can result in serious developmental delays.

Guillain-Barre syndrome is an immunological reaction that can occur after viral or bacterial infections.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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Mario Tama/Getty Images(RIO DE JANEIRO) -- Federal health officials weighed in Monday on the potential risks athletes may face from the Zika virus when attending the Olympics in Brazil, as U.S. Olympic Committee officials noted they are closely watching the outbreak.

U.S. Olympic Committee officials told ABC News that the committee cannot force athletes to go to the games and that it is not a health agency, so it is focusing on alerting athletes to travel advisories from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, addressed concerns Monday about Olympic athletes competing in the middle of an ongoing outbreak in Brazil.

"It's very difficult to give advice to people who devoted the last X number of years training for that," he said during a news conference. "What we can do, and the CDC can do, is give them the facts. ... As an infection, Zika is a relatively mild. ... As an infection, it isn't serious."

"The issue we are focusing on is the issue of pregnant women," Fauci said.

The current Zika virus outbreak has been rapidly spreading through the Americas, but was first detected in Brazil last May. The virus usually results in mild symptoms including fever, fatigue and rash, that resolve in a week. However, it has been associated with a birth defect called microcephaly, which is characterized by an abnormally small brain and head.

"We are closely monitoring the situation through the CDC and have ongoing contact with the International Olympic Committee, the organizing officials in Rio, the World Health Organization and infectious disease specialists with expertise in tropical diseases, including the Zika virus," USOC spokesman Patrick Sandusky told ABC News in an email. "Additionally, we’re taking steps to ensure that our delegation and those affiliated with Team USA are aware of the CDC’s recommendations regarding travel to Brazil."

The CDC has issued travel advisories focused on protecting pregnant women or women who may become pregnant. The agency advises all pregnant women to avoid traveling to areas with ongoing Zika virus transmission. Additionally, since the virus can be spread through sexual contact, they are also advising men who have been in countries with ongoing ZIka transmission to abstain from sex with a pregnant partner or to use barrier contraception.

Sandusky also said that reports the USOC advised U.S. athletes to reconsider competing in Rio due to the Zika virus were "100 percent inaccurate."

"Team USA looks forward to the Games and we did not, would not and will not prevent athletes from competing for their country should they qualify. The inaccurate report cited an internal discussion with U.S. sports leaders pertaining to employees and the potential risks that the CDC has identified with travel to Zika-infected areas," Sandusky said in a statement.

Some athletes have expressed concern about the virus. George Boville, an Olympic bronze medalist swimmer for Trinidad and Tobago in the 200 meter individual medley and two-time world champion, told ABC News last week that he was worried about going to Brazil, where the outbreak of the Zika virus in the Americas started.

"It is definitely a concern," he told ABC News via Twitter. By the time of the Olympic games, "it should be rampant."

The Australian Olympic Committee has also said it is advising all athletes to wear long sleeves and that any team member who is "pregnant at the time of the Games need to consider the risks very carefully before deciding whether to proceed with travel to Brazil."

American wrestler Adeline Grey told reporters at a test event on Jan. 31 at Rio's Olympic Park that she didn't plan to skip the games, but that if she were pregnant she would reconsider participating.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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Jamie Simonds/Place2Be via Getty Images(LONDON) -- Duchess Kate is on a mission.

The Duchess of Cambridge, 34, is speaking out in a new public service announcement (PSA) to raise awareness for Children’s Mental Health week for her mental health charity, Place2Be.

The Duchess recorded a special video message to coincide with Children’s Mental Health week, which kicked off Monday in the U.K.

Kate’s message this year is focusing on the importance of building children’s resilience and their ability to cope with life’s stressful situations.

“For some children, learning to cope with life's challenges can be a struggle,” the Duchess says in the PSA. “By ensuring every child is given the emotional support they need, we are giving them a firm foundation for the happy healthy future they deserve."

The Duchess goes on to highlight the importance of addressing mental health problems early in life and the vital role schools play in providing a safe environment for kids in need.

Kate is juggling motherhood with an energetic Prince George and Princess Charlotte but remains committed to using her profile to benefit those without a voice.

“Both William and I sincerely believe that early action can prevent problems in childhood from turning into larger ones later in life,” the Duchess says in the PSA.

William, the second-in-line to the British throne, and Kate, the future Queen, are doing whatever they can to de-stigmatize mental illness, to fight bullying and to assure children that there is no shame in asking for help.

Prince William and Kate are making numerous appearances at schools, youth centers and meeting with young people to encourage them to reach out to their parents and educators if they feel overwhelmed.

Kate revealed at her first engagement of the New Year, on Sunday, that, like father like son, Prince George is obsessed with airplanes and wants to fly like his dad, a helicopter rescue pilot.

Speaking to a young female member of the RAF Air Cadets, Catherine said she shared pictures of spitfires with curious George and he too now wants to become a cadet.

The Duchess wore a Wegdewood blue Alexander McQueen coat and a Lock Hat adorned with a RAF Dacre brooch as she celebrated the 75th anniversary of the Cadets on Sunday.

The Duchess took last month off to focus on Prince George and Princess Charlotte and is back with a busy spring ahead.

Duchess Kate is increasingly taking on an even higher profile role in the royal family. She recently was named the first female Honorary Commandant of the Royal Air Force Cadets, a role Prince Philip held for more than half a century.

In the coming year, Kate is expected to expand her charitable endeavors. In April, she and Prince William will undertake a week-long tour of India and Bhutan on behalf of the Queen.

The Duchess of Cambridge is making mental health for children her number one priority, much like Princess Diana did with AIDS and her charitable endeavors.

Later this month, the Duchess will guest edit a special mental health issue for The Huffington Post U.K.

Her Royal Highness has been the royal patron of Place2Be since 2013. The charity's goal is to tackle the problems children face before they escalate. The charity is the U.K.'s leading children's mental health charity providing in-school support and expert training to improve the emotional well being of children, families, teachers and school staff.

It's something Kate feels incredibly passionate about and where she hopes she can make a real difference.

"Through my work in areas like addiction, I have seen time and again that the roots of poor mental health in adulthood frequently stem from unresolved childhood issues,” the Duchess urged parents and educators in the new PSA. "This needs to change."

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- You’ve heard of the winter blues. But now, researchers in Belgium are suggesting that seasons can affect not only your mood, but also your intellect.

The authors of the study, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, followed 28 healthy participants over the course of two years.

At multiple points during the study period, the subjects would spend 4.5 days inside a laboratory, without any seasonal cues (natural light, seasonal diet or socialization). Following this, the participants underwent fMRI brain scans while performing two tasks -- one that called for sustained attention, and another that assessed “higher order” function.

While attention is a “lower” brain process, the second task involved working memory, which deals with storing, updating and comparing information.

The authors found that brain activity related to sustained attention peaked in summer and bottomed out around winter. In contrast, the higher order task peaked in fall and was lower in spring.

The authors suggest that the intellectual effort needed to perform a task may be different at different times of the year. Additionally, seasonal rhythms may be different for simple and complex brain functions.

While the study may be interesting, it's worth noting that given its small sample size, it is not nationally representative.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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iStock/Thinkstock(CRESSWELL, England) -- A U.K. dad’s advice to fellow dads “respect the mother of your child” has gone viral after being posted in a Facebook tribute to the mother of his 9-month-old son.

Tony Emms, of Cresswell Northumberland, in the U.K., posted on Facebook last month a photo of his fiancé, Charlotte Sperry, sleeping next to the couple’s 9-month-old son.

Along with the photo, Emms included a long description of all the things he says Sperry does for their child and household.

“I sometimes don't give this woman the credit she is due, when I come from work she is always "tired" now it's me who has been at work doing stuff all day, but lately I've been thinking what this amazing woman does while I'm out..surely she just sits with the baby and watches TV and has a chilled day right? NO is the answer, when I leave for work she fears woken up by me and has to Spring straight in to action to get up and get her self sorted for the hectic day she gets up baby is kicking off cause he is hungry but so is she, she doesn't eat but baby does..then sits and plays with him, then changed a disgusting nappy, then plays again, he falls asleep..brilliant mummy can have a nap, no she doesn't she does the washing, cleans up baby's toys and starts washing the pots from the night wakes up and is hungry mummy hasn't had breakfast but she still doesn't eat she gets baby set for his lunch, after his lunch he then wants attention and plays...remember mummy still hasn't eaten..all the cleaning she done earlier is now time wasted as baby's toys are everywhere..I come home from working and get annoyed that o have to tidy up and say mummy hasn't done anything yet she has worked her ass of all day to make sure the baby is healthy and happy...if any other daddy's out there feel like me think about what you've done and what mummy has done. Respect the mother of your child. She is a special type of human that has given up everything to bring up your baby. I truly love my 2 sleeping baby's and they both deserve their rest,” he wrote.

Emms’ Facebook post has since been liked more than 42,000 times and shared more than 14,000 times.

“I think my post had the reaction it did because it made other people realize just what mothers do,” Emms told ABC News by email.

Emms said his job schedule is such that he spends more time at home in the winter, and that being home with his family put Sperry’s role into perspective.

“Having done this [staying home] it reflected to me just how much my partner has to do during the day,” Emms told ABC News. “I literally posted the status just as my way of apologising and making it aware to any other daddys on my friends list just how much mummies do.”

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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DigitalVision/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Concussion is the most common brain injury in young adults, and new research suggests that suffering one could increase suicide risk.

Canadian researchers looked at 235,110 patients over a 20-year period (1992 to 2012) and found that those who had suffered a concussion were more likely to commit suicide than those who had not.

The study, published Monday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, also compared suicides occurring on weekdays vs. suicides occurring on weekends. Among those who had suffered concussions, the number of suicides occurring on weekdays was three times the norm; the number of suicides occurring on weekends was four times the norm.

The mean amount of time between concussion and suicide in these individuals was 5.7 years.

It's worth noting that this study was done in Canada, which has a different rate of suicide than that of the United States. Also, during the follow up there were only 667 suicides in total -- larger numbers will be needed in order to draw a more solid conclusion.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — The Obama administration is requesting $1.8 billion in emergency funding from Congress to fight the Zika virus in the United States and abroad, the White House announced Monday.

The request comes after lawmakers on Capitol Hill urged the White House to address the spread of the virus, which is transmitted by mosquitoes and has been linked to serious birth defects.

President Obama said Americans should take the virus seriously but not panic, comparing it to the outbreak of the Ebola virus in 2014.

"The good news is, this is not like Ebola. People don't die of Zika," he said in an interview on CBS This Morning.

"A lot of people get it and they don't even know that they have it."

Under the Obama administration's proposal, the Department of Health and Human Services would receive $1.4 billion to support Zika virus readiness, research and treatment in the United States, according to the White House. The Agency for International Development and the State Department would receive a combined $376 million to help affected countries control mosquitoes and fight transmission, and support international response efforts.

The proposal also includes a $250 million one-year increase in health funding for pregnant women in Puerto Rico, where a state of emergency has been declared because the spread of the virus.

All 46 Senate Democrats sent a letter to the White House last week calling for an "urgent and aggressive response" to the Zika virus.

"By taking action now, we can make significant progress toward mitigating the impact of the Zika virus abroad and reduce the potential for Zika virus outbreaks in the United States," the letter reads.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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