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merznatalia/iStock/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) -- California Governor Jerry Brown signed a series of bills into law on Wednesday expanding restrictions on smoking cigarettes and electronic cigarettes.

The most notable of the bills will raise the minimum smoking age in the state of California to 21 from 18. That change makes California the second state in the country to increase the minimum age to purchase tobacco products to 21, behind Hawaii. Brown also signed bills that would restrict use of electronic cigarettes in public and expand non-smoking areas at public schools.

The Los Angeles Times quotes Democratic State Senator Ed Hernandez, who authored the bill, as calling the approval "a signal that California presents a united front against Big Tobacco. Together, we stand to disrupt the chain of adolescent addiction."

The bills were approved earlier in the year, and will become effective on June 9.

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that about 90 percent of tobacco users start before the age of 21.

The bill does exempt active military personnel under the age of 21 from the age increase.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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Medic Image/Getty(NEW YORK) -- Scientists have reported they have grown human embryos in vitro for 12 to 13 days, significantly longer than the previous record of nine days.

If scientists are able to conduct experiments on embryos past 14 days, they may be able to "study all aspects of early human development with unprecedented precision," according to commentators on the two breakthrough studies published Wednesday in Nature and Nature Cell Biology.

Two groups of researchers were able to get embryos to grow for 12 days and 13 days, respectively. Both groups used similar cutting-edge technology in which chemicals and a special medium mimicked a human womb so that the embryos would continue to develop, researchers said.

Part of technology involved creating a method that allowed the embryo to attach in a manner similar to that way it would in the womb. The breakthrough technology also raises ethical questions that were highlighted in an accompanying commentary.

Many countries currently restrict experiments on embryos to the first 14 days. Additionally, the International Society for Stem Cell Research has issued guidelines advising researchers across the globe to stick with this 14-day window. The authors of the commentary point out that experiments reaching close to the 14-day rule may mean medical officials will eventually revise this guideline.

"The 14-day rule was never intended to be a bright line denoting the onset of moral status in human embryos," the authors wrote. "Rather, it is a public-policy tool designed to carve out a space for scientific inquiry and simultaneously show respect for the diverse views on human-embryo research."

The 14-days limit was set due to how an embryo develops, according to the commentary. After approximately two weeks, the embryo starts to develop more distinct structures that will usually develop into a fetus and placenta. The authors note that the timeline was picked to be sensitive to the different views on when "a human embryo obtains sufficient moral status that research on it should be prohibited."

Arthur Caplan, a bioethicist and head of the Division of Medical Ethics at New York University Langone Medical Center, said the breakthroughs means the medical community will have to re-evaluate what is ethical when it comes to experimentation on embryos.

"What is that entity?" asked Caplan, who was not involved in these studies. "Many people believe that it is a full person from conception, but it will renew that debate."

Caplan pointed out that medical officials will have to grapple with the fact that embryonic experimentation past 14 days could lead to important results that help many pregnancies in the future.

"How far can you go with embryo research and how far can you go with editing the genes of embryos to repair them?" Caplan told ABC News. "All of this is in play in the same time."

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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Hero Images/Getty(NEW YORK) -- Bo Bigelow and his wife wondered for year why their daughter was different. Bigelow's daughter, Tess, was non-verbal, has gastronintestinal symptoms and seemed to have periodic seizures, but doctors were baffled about the cause.

Bigelow said he and his wife were desperate to understand Tess' condition but that multiple genetic tests didn't give a clear answer. Geneticists figured out that Tess had a mutation on her USP7 gene, but they didn't know if that was at all related to her symptoms.

Bigelow said Tess' doctors ran out of tests to run last year and recommended that he and his wife learn to accept their daughter's condition without a concrete diagnosis. As a last resort, the family put Tess' story on different forms of social media in the hopes of contacting another family going through a similar ordeal.

"I put it out on Facebook on Sunday morning and my wife and thought it would be pretty long process of posting and re-posting," Bigelow said. "By that same evening, I was on the phone with Dr. Mike Fountain at Baylor College."

In just 24 hours, social media was able to do what multiple doctors in various states could not, they found an answer for Tess' symptoms. Fountain, a researcher at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, had been studying USP7 and had found just seven other people with that genetic mutation. A lab associate had seen Bigelow's story and posted on Reddit.

"Someone who shared the lab with Fountain saw it and said, 'Isn’t this the gene you work with?' And he said, 'Yes, it is,'" Bigelow told ABC News.

As a result of reaching out to these specialists, Bigelow said he and his family finally understand what is happening to Tess. The mutation means that the cells "can’t recycle proteins right," which is needed as part of a normal bodily function, Bigelow said.

"You wind up with a neuro-developmental disorder," Bigelow explained in an online blog. "You have intellectual disability and probably autism and seizures."

Tess is now 6 years old but has the mental capacity of an 18-month-old, according to her father.

"She’s almost entirely nonverbal and lot of the time it’s guess work about what she’s thinking or feeling," Bigelow said. "She’s not aware of her own body or own safety, she’ll reach for the hot pan on the stove, everything goes into her mouth. You can’t take the attention away from her for a second."

Bigelow said working with researchers and knowing the reason for Tess' symptoms have been an incredible relief, even though there is not yet a treatment to help her.

"They've been amazing so far. We really just are getting started with them," Bigelow said. "We are hopeful about some sort of experimental treatment."

Bigelow's posting on social media also led a second family to reach out for help. Bigelow said their child also had a USP7 mutation, but instead of having to wait years to know what that meant, they were able to find out within hours.

"I have a feeling we'll be talking more," Bigelow said.

The effects of the genetic mutation are still unclear, but the family has been able to make small changes that help Tess with vision and skin problems, Bigelow said, noting that in recent years after her diet was changed she's appeared to be more outgoing and social.

"She is really sweet girl. She’s very affectionate and very social now and really lovey," Bigelow said. "In her kindergarten she just loves being around her classmates and she’s a little social butterfly."

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- In the fight against the spreading Zika virus, scientists have uncovered an unlikely ally in the form of a bacteria called "Wolbachia."

The Aedes aegypti mosquito, the more abundant of the two species known to spread the Zika virus, are less able to spread the virus if they are exposed to the bacteria, according to a study published today in the medical journal Cell Host & Microbe.

The bacteria is already being used on the same mosquitoes as a way to curb the spread of the dengue virus, which, like Zika, is a flavivirus.

Mosquitoes containing this bacterium did not become infected with the Zika virus when given saliva from other infected mosquitoes, researchers from the Rene Rachou-Fiocruz Research Center in Brazil discovered. When they did the same test in mosquitoes without the Wolbachia bacteria, approximately 85 percent of mosquitoes became infected with the Zika virus.

"The results presented here indicate that [Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes] represent a realistic and effective option to combat the ZIKV [Zika virus] burden in Brazil and potentially in other countries and should be considered as an integral part of future control efforts," the authors concluded.

Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, told ABC News that experimental treatments like this one may be key to stopping the Aedes aeygpti mosquito, which is notoriously hard to eradicate.

"These are clever ways to try to interrupt the transmission of the virus in an ecologically sensitive way, while we’re waiting to get a vaccine developed," Schaffner said.

The Aedes aegypti mosquito can live indoors and bite during the day, Schaffner noted, making it extremely difficult to kill with normal outdoor spraying. Spraying may need to be used with other experimental treatments, including used genetically modified mosquitoes, to cut down on the population, he said.

"If you look realistically at what we have currently available in all of our local municipal public health jurisdictions ... funding for mosquito abatement, it varies enormously from municipality to municipality," Schaffner said. "It’s focused on nuisance mosquitoes and not disease-causing mosquitoes and Aedes [aegypti] is much more tenacious," than other mosquito species.

More information is needed about the feasibility of infecting the mosquitoes with the bacteria, since the cost and technology needed may make it impractical outside of a lab setting, Schaffner said.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A new study on the overuse of antibiotics revealed that 47 million prescriptions each year are medically unnecessary.

The research was conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Pew Charitable Trust.

Health officials have been warning for decades about the overuse of antibiotics and here are concrete numbers, as Dr. Richard Besser, ABC News’ chief health and medical editor, stopped by “Good Morning America” Wednesday to break it all down.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, analyzed antibiotic prescribing in 2010 and 2011 and found there was an antibiotic prescribed in 154 million doctor visits.

“But 30 percent of those prescriptions were for conditions where antibiotics don’t work or only work sometimes and the main ones were sinus infections, ear infections, throat infections and bronchitis,” Besser told “GMA” co-anchor Robin Roberts.

“The big concern is we’re seeing this big rise in antibiotic-resistant infections, so when you take an antibiotic when it’s not giving you any benefit, you risk that the next time you take that antibiotic, it’s not going to work for you,” he added. “Plus, you’re at risk for the side effects of antibiotics: rashes, diarrhea and, for women, yeast infections.”

Instead of asking for an antibiotic, Besser advised, ask yourself, “What can I do to feel better faster?”

“[There’s] studies that show that -- ‘Did you ask for an antibiotic?’ -- doctors [are] more likely to give it to you, even if it’s not indicated. And believe me, doctors will prescribe one if it’s indicated,” Besser said. “But, they feel they want you to be happy and so they’re going to prescribe that antibiotic sometimes where it’s not indicated.”

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) --  It is now “very likely” the mosquito-borne Zika virus will spread from mosquitos to humans in America, U.S. health officials say.

With summer right around the corner, experts are weighing in on the best things families can do to combat the disease at home in the United States.

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.

Michael Raupp, a professor of entomology at the University of Maryland who is known as “the bug guy,” said clothing and getting rid of mosquitos’ breeding sites are also good tools.

"Mosquito-repellent clothing is a very good way to prevent mosquito bites,” Raupp told ABC News. “It's also been proven to actually reduce the incident of mosquito-borne diseases."

Raupp added, "Other things that homeowners should consider to do around the home this time of year is get rid of those breeding sites.”

“That means eliminate all sources of standing water,” he said. “If you’ve got a five-gallon pale or an old paint can behind the tool shed, dump those things out and get rid of them. If it holds water for a week or two weeks, you can breed mosquitoes."

ABC News’ Chief Health and Medical Editor Dr. Richard Besser said Wednesday on Good Morning America that the main concerns around Zika focus on people of child-bearing age.

"Zika is a mild infection," Besser explained. "The only reason we’re concerned about Zika is because of its connection with birth defects.

"The whole goal is to try and protect pregnant women so that they don’t get it [and] focus on guys who are part of a couple trying to have a baby because they shouldn’t get infected either," he said, adding that for other people, getting the Zika infection is "mild."

Besser also said not everyone needs to rush to buy mosquito-repellent clothing.

"It’s very effective but this kind of clothing is pretty expensive," he said. "I sometimes use it if I’m going on assignment and I’m going to be in the jungle or you might think about it if your health department says there is a lot of Zika going around town."

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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

There are numerous physical and psychological benefits to being athletic for both men and women, and boys and girls.

High school girls who play sports are less likely to be involved in an unintended pregnancy, more likely to get better grades in school and more likely to graduate than girls who don't play sports.

Girls and women who play sports have higher levels of confidence and self-esteem and lower levels of depression.  They also have a more positive body image and experience higher states of well-being than girls and women who don't play sports.

So it should sound like a no-brainer: Get fit, get strong and get sweaty. It's good for you.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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Joe Wicks(NEW YORK) — Joe Wicks is a nutrition coach who achieved online fame when he began posting 15-second videos of meals that could be made in 15 minutes or less.

Wicks, who now has 1 million followers on Instagram, is the author of the international best-selling book Lean in 15: 15-Minute Meals and Workouts to Keep You Lean and Healthy.

Known as “the body coach,” Wicks developed the popular 90 Day SSS plan to help people tailor their diet and exercise to shift, shape and sustain their bodies (hence the three s's).

He appeared on ABC's Good Morning America on Wednesday to discuss nutrition and to share some easy, tasty recipes.

The Recipes

Nut and Mango Smoothie (serves 1)

This fruity smoothie is ideal for a last-minute breakfast on the go. With healthy fats and a scoop of protein powder, this is way better for you than any bowl of boxed cereal. Try not to get into the habit of having smoothies every day, though. As I always say, real food wins over dust every time.


  • 4 oz sliced mango
  • 2 tbsp almond or cashew butter handful of ice cubes handful of raspberries
  • 2 tbsp full-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1 scoop (30g) vanilla or strawberry protein powder
  • ½ cup almond milk


Place all the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

TOP TIP: Warning! Don’t go nuts with your nuts. While they are a great source of protein, fiber and essential fats, nuts also contain lots of calories. It’s very easy to crack open a ½-pound bag and finish the lot without feeling full. But remember every gram of fat contains 9 kcal, so overeating nuts will not help with your fat loss. I recommend a snack portion of about one ounce. Also, try to get a variety of different nuts as they contain different vitamins. Almonds, walnuts and cashews are my personal favorites.

Eggs Baked in Avocado (serves 1)

This is becoming a bit of a signature dish for me. I’ve posted it a few times, and I love seeing people make it at home and share it on Instagram. It contains more healthy fats than you can shake a stick at . . . oh, and it’s got bacon too, so you know it’s going to taste as good as it looks.


  • 4 slices Canadian bacon
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 2 eggs
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 red chile, finely sliced— remove the seeds if you don’t like it hot


Preheat the broiler to high, then lay the bacon on the broiler pan or a baking sheet and slide underneath. Broil for 3 minutes on each side.

Meanwhile, cut your avocado in half, remove the pit and scoop out a generous tablespoon of flesh from each half to create a hole big enough for the egg. No need to waste the leftover avocado—you can save it to make some guacamole or just eat it on the spot!

Crack an egg into each avocado half, season with a little salt and pepper and place on a microwaveable plate. Cook the eggs in 30-second bursts for 2 minutes—this should ensure firm whites, but runny yolks.

Serve up the baked eggs and avocado with the bacon and a scattering of chile.

Top Tip: To stop the avocados rocking on the plate, slice off a little bit underneath to make a flat base.

Turkey Meatballs With Feta (serves 1)

These meatballs were a hit on Instagram, ranking as one of my most popular videos. The cheesy sauce also tastes great with beef meatballs. Feel free to throw in any extra veg you have left in the fridge too. This can be made ahead and frozen.


  • ½ tbsp coconut oil
  • ½ red onion, diced
  • 1 red or yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • ½ zucchini, diced
  • 10 oz ready-made turkey meatballs (available at most supermarkets)
  • 1 can (14 oz) chopped tomatoes
  • ¾ oz feta, crumbled
  • ½ bunch of parsley, leaves only, roughly chopped— optional


Heat the coconut oil in a large frying pan over medium to high heat. Add the onion, bell pepper and zucchini, and stir-fry for 2 minutes until the vegetables begin to soften and wilt.

Increase the heat to maximum and roll the meatballs into the pan. Fry for 2–3 minutes, moving them frequently so they brown all over.

Winner’s Protein Pancakes (serves 1)

Oooh, I can eat pancakes and get lean? Yes please—sold! These may look naughty, but they’re actually the perfect post-workout treat, so stack ’em up and enjoy. You’ve earned them!


  • 1 banana, roughly chopped
  • 1 scoop (30g) vanilla protein powder
  • 1 egg
  • One-third cup rolled oats
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • full-fat Greek yogurt, blueberries and raspberries, to serve


Whizz up the banana, protein powder, egg and oats in a blender to make your batter.

Heat up half the coconut oil in a nonstick frying pan over medium heat. Pour little puddles of batter into the pan— I usually get 3 pancakes, with about half the batter in the pan at once. Cook for about 1 minute on each side. Remove and repeat the process with the rest of the batter.

Serve with a dollop of yogurt and a few berries.

Pour in the chopped tomatoes and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes, or until the meatballs are fully cooked through. To check, cut the largest one in half and make sure all the meat has turned from pink to white.

Remove the pan from the heat, crumble over the feta and sprinkle with parsley, if using.

Build-Up Bagel (serves 1)

Long live the build-up bagel. For some reason, people on my plan go absolutely bonkers for this post-workout bagel. I think they feel naughty eating it—but, like I say, you’ve just trained and earned those carbs, so no need to feel guilty. Go for good-quality cooked meat, not the nasty cheap re-formed stuff. If you don’t want to bother with poaching the egg, you could always just boil and slice it instead.


  • 1 egg
  • 1 plain bagel
  • 2 tsp chipotle paste or barbecue sauce
  • 1 tbsp full-fat Greek yogurt
  • large handful of arugula
  • 1 tomato, sliced
  • 5 oz deli-style cooked turkey or chicken breast
  • 2½ oz deli-style sliced roast beef


Bring a saucepan of water to a boil. Carefully crack your egg into the hot water, reducing the heat until the water is just “burping.” Cook the egg for about 4 minutes for a runny yolk, then carefully lift it out with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.

Slice the bagel in half and toast it for a couple of minutes.

Spread the toasted bagel evenly with the chipotle paste or barbecue sauce and the yogurt, and then begin building your bagel: start with the arugula and tomato, followed by the turkey or chicken and the beef, then the poached egg. Finally, stick the top on the bagel and get munching!

Recipes from LEAN IN 15 by Joe Wicks. Copyright © 2016 by Joe Wicks. Reprinted by permission of William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A family's two basset hounds refused to leave a dying child's side after doctor's informed her parents the devastating news that she wouldn't survive.

"It was really nice," mom Mary Hall of Deluth, Minnesota, told ABC News. "It brought us a lot of comfort to have them [there]. But by the end of the first day, you could see they were stressed out and depressed. Normally, they're very happy-go-lucky. We knew they could sense there was something wrong."

Nora Hall, 5 months old, died Monday after suffering a stroke April 6 and spending three weeks in the hospital.

The stroke had affected both sides of her brain, causing severe damage, her mother said.

The family dogs, 8-year-old Grumpy and Gracie, fell in love with Nora as soon as she arrived from the hospital, Hall said.

"Gracie, especially, took on the role as second mother," she said. "Whenever Nora would cry, Gracie would run to see what was wrong. She was always, always by Nora and kissing her and making sure she was OK."

As Nora's days were sadly numbered, Children's Hospital in Minneapolis asked Mary and John Hall whether they had any final wishes for their daughter.

"I asked, 'If you could let us have our dogs [at the hospital], we'd really appreciate that,'" Hall recalled. "I didn't want to go home and have them sniffing around for her and not knowing where she went. They lowered the bed so the dogs could lay with her and Gracie ran up and licked her [Nora]."

Hall said she is grateful for the hospital honoring the special exception of having Nora, Gracie and Grumpy together one last time.

The family snapped photos of the touching goodbyes and posted them on Facebook.

"She was just a really happy baby," Hall said. "Before we went into the hospital, she'd just start laughing. She was happy all the time."

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — A new FDA-approved sensor called Proteus can someday revolutionize healthcare by preventing a situation that causes millions of accidental hospitalizations in the U.S. every year: people forgetting to take their medication.

According to the World Health Organization, about half of all patients with chronic illnesses forget to do so, and the medical complications of such cost our healthcare system as much as $300 billion per year.

However, Proteus could change all that. A tiny sensor is gulped by a patient, and it sends signals to a small external, Band-Aid like patch that shoots a host of health-related info via Bluetooth to a mobile device -- including reminders for patients to take their meds.

Proteus Digital Health co-founder Dr. George Savage tells CNBC that the sensor, covered on one side with copper and the opposite magnesium, stays continuously charged by the chemical interaction between the two metals in the moisture of your digestive tract.

Nearly 70 trials with the Proteus reportedly resulted in 85 percent of high blood pressure patients achieving their blood pressure  goal, versus about 33 percent in the usual care group," Savage claims.

 Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Medical errors may be responsible for far more deaths than previously realized, according to a new study published Tuesday in the BMJ medical journals.

Researchers from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine found that deaths from medical errors may be responsible for more than a quarter of a million deaths annually. Data in the studies was taken from a combination of Medicare and 13 other hospitals, which researchers examined to determine that the estimated annual rate of deaths from medical errors is 251,454 in the U.S.

That number would make it the third leading cause of a non-violent death in the U.S. ahead of chronic lower respiratory disease which leads to 147,101 deaths annually, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dr. Martin Makary, lead author of the study and professor of Surgery and Health Policy and Management at Johns Hopkins University, said he hoped the study would reveal how much needs to be done to address patient safety.

"I like many doctors have been aware that people die from fragmented care, diagnostic errors, preventable complications and the problem is serious," Makary told ABC News. "The concern I had was 'Why is this not a national funding priority…why does it receive a comparable fraction of the funding" for cancer or heart disease?

Makary pointed out that identifying medical errors after a patient's death is incredibly difficult. In most cases when a patient dies their cause of death is documented by a physician. That medical cause of death is then assigned a code used in billing and it is this code that the CDC uses to measure mortality statistics. These measurements can often miss complicated deaths according to researchers pointing to a case where a final cause of death was unsuccessful CPR but the patient had suffered a liver laceration during unnecessary testing days earlier.

To come up with their number researchers used information from four past studies and then extrapolated the mean number from that data to determine that more than a quarter of a million deaths were likely related to medical error.

Makary said there should be better measurements to identify medical error and said this was not a case of doctor being bad at their job.

"This problem should not be framed as we have bad doctors, it’s a system problem…a failure to impact normal human error," said Makary.

The American Hospital Association released a statement in reaction to the study pointing out a decline in hospital-acquired conditions in recent years.

"No matter the number, one incident is one too many. Important progress has been made since 2008, the latest year the study examines," association officials said in a statement. "Most recently, the Department of Health and Human Services estimated that through the hard work of hospitals, physicians and others, hospital-acquired conditions declined by 17%, saving 87,000 lives between 2010 and 2014. Hospitals are constantly working to improve patient safety. But there is more work to do and hospitals are committed to quickly adopting what works into every step of care provided."

Dr. David Classen, patient safety expert and associate professor at University of Utah, said this large analysis comes after years of data estimating medical error deaths at more than 200,000 and pointed out some studies have estimated it to be closer to 400,000 people a year.

"If you had this many deaths in aviation industry…you’d shut it down," said Classen. "It’s amazing that in all these other industries we never tolerate this kind of death."

Classen said it's key that this report lead to increased funding and research into patient safety and especially identifying when there are errors. Classen is currently developing ways of using electronic medical records to keep real time data of medical error and said he thinks self-reported errors represent just 10 percent of the actual problems.

"We’ve reached a point where an average patient comes in on 20 medications and has 10 different med problems and it’s hard for anyone human to sort it out," said Classen. "We now deliver care not by an individual but by teams because it’s way too complicated."

Both Classen and Makary say it's key that patients advocate for themselves in the hopsital and both recommend having family members or other caregivers go to a hospital with a patient.

Mary Burton, vice president of Performance Measurement at National Committee for Quality Assurance, said standardizing data and national reporting of causes of death could be key in helping cut down on deaths or injuries related to medical error.

"We would be supportive of that kind of message either on death certificates or potentially in some other standardized place in a record because of course not every medical error...results in death," Burton told ABC News.

Burton said these studies should drive the medical community to take action to protect patients and improve hospital care.

"Why if we’re the first world...then shouldn’t we be passionate about patients safety?," said Burnton. "Shouldn’t we be vigorous and unrelenting in terms of developing system improvements in regards to safe guards?"

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Health officials stressed Tuesday that they are doing everything they can to minimize Zika outbreaks in the U.S.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institute of Health, said at a press conference Tuesday he thought it was "very likely" that Zika virus would spread from mosquitoes to humans in the U.S. in the future, but stressed that officials think the outbreaks will be constrained in the same manner as past domestic outbreaks of dengue fever and chikungunya.

And while a recent USA Today article categorized control of the mosquito that spreads Zika as a “lost cause,” Fauci cautioned against that mentality.

“Aedes aegypti is a very difficult mosquito to control and eliminate,” he said. “That doesn’t mean it’s impossible to have a significant impact on it -- but it will require a very aggressive, concerted effort.”

The USA Today article pointed out that Aedes aegypti cannot be eliminated as effectively as some other species by traditional insecticide-spraying methods. But there are still other protective measures that the Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization, and the Pan American Health Organization can and will engage.

These organizations are working to “raise public awareness, have cooperation at the community level to get people to eliminate and diminish standing water of any type, as well as to push and try and utilize environmentally friendly larvicides and insecticides,” Fauci said.

There is also a trial underway that involves the use of genetically modified mosquitoes to help control Aedes aegypti reproduction, which is being overseen by the FDA.

Fauci pointed out that Zika virus itself is usually mild -- but it is very dangerous for pregnant women and their fetuses, due to the risk that their babies will be born with a brain development defect known as microcephaly due to the virus.

“The focus is on pregnant women and making sure they’re not exposed to the virus,” CDC spokesman Tom Skinner told ABC News. “We want them to avoid traveling to countries with Zika and make sure they know about prevention of mosquito bites.”

Fauci also said that researchers are working on a Zika virus vaccine that will be given to humans in a study beginning in September, and that they would likely know if the vaccine is safe to use by the start of 2017 -- though it could take anywhere from one to three years.

Speaking at the PAHO press briefing, Fauci stressed that the NIH and CDC need "$1.9 billion dollars because it's critical," referring to the money requested from Congress to combat Zika.

"What I have had to do is move money, hopefully temporarily, from other areas I would have spent it [on]," said Fauci. "We need to get the Zika money to work with Zika, and we need to backfill the money to other" areas of research.

Dr. Sylvain Aldighieri, Zika incident manager for PAHO, estimated that about 500 million people in the Americas are at risk to be infected by the Zika virus.

There have been no locally transmitted cases in the continental U.S. as of yet, but there have been over 400 travel-related cases. And there have been close to 700 cases in Puerto Rico, with 65 pregnant women having been infected.

The mild nature of Zika virus for those who are not pregnant presents a challenge for officials trying to communicate its risk, Fauci noted.

“How do you communicate the danger and the threat of a disease that is fundamentally and historically mild?” he said.

Another unanswered question: Scientists do not yet know the risk of a Zika-infected pregnant woman giving birth to a baby with microcephaly. An ongoing study of pregnant women, largely in Brazil, will help to answer that question once enough data has been collected.

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iStock/Thinkstock(BOSTON) -- A Boston homeless center has started a new program allowing people who use opioids to be in a safe space where they can be supervised after taking the drugs. The program joins a growing number of places which aim to use "harm reduction" strategies -- leading people toward treatment and reducing the risk of overdose -- in the difficult fight against a rapidly growing opioid epidemic.

Last month, the Boston Healthcare for The Homeless Program (BHCHP) started their initiative called Supportive Place for Observation and Treatment (SPOT) where people in the midst of an opioid high can go for support. Up to eight people will be allowed in the space at a time and they will be closely monitored by officials on site so that they don't overdose.

"Currently, we are responding to 2-5 overdoses at our main site each week, and our lobby and clinic waiting room are already places where people rest safely in the midst of recent use of substances," the center wrote in a recent statement on their site. "The street corners nearby are similarly filled with people who are also at high risk of overdose, and who may not be engaged with providers of health care or addiction services."

"SPOT is one part of our larger response to lessen the impact of the opioid crisis on our patients, staff and the neighborhood," officials from BHCHP said in a statement, adding that deaths from suspected opioid overdoses have increased by 50 percent, between 2014 and 2015, in Boston.

As overdose deaths have increased dramatically in recent years, mostly attributed to an epidemic of prescription painkiller addictions that can lead to intravenous heroin use, some health officials have advocated for simply reducing the immediate dangers for addicts.

In Ithaca, New York Mayor Svante Myrick has proposed a major initiative aimed at combating the opioid epidemic and hopes to open a supervised injection site -- an option that currently exists in other countries, but not in the U.S. -- so that addicts can use drugs in a safe space, to help diminish overdose cases and transmission of HIV or hepatitis through intravenous drug use. Seattle is considering a similar space.

Daniel Raymond, Policy Director at the Harm Reduction Coalition, said the spike in opioid drug use in recent years has lead to a major change in how some public health officials approach drug policy.

"A lot of these proposals reflect the state of crisis we’re in," said Raymond. "The distinct thing with opioids and heroin is the immediate risk of overdose, the lethality. We’ve got the highest overdose numbers in the country that the CDC has ever seen."

He pointed out that federal money is currently allocated to one of the early forms of harm reduction: needle exchange programs. These programs provide clean needles to drug users to cut down on HIV and other diseases transmitted through dirty needles. Many of these programs have informal policies to monitor addicts who are using drugs, as way to safeguard their health.

The changes at sites across the country, Raymond added, show an overall acknowledgement that more services need to be provided to people who are not yet fully sober or are looking for help to stop their drug use.

"As we learn more about addiction and treatment there’s a greater recognition that it’s not a magic bullet," said Raymond. "Treatment is important and not magic."

"We’ve got to something for people in the middle, that's the space that harm reduction occupies," he added.

Since 1999, the rate of overdose deaths involving opioids (including prescription opioids and heroin) almost quadrupled, with 78 Americans dying every day from an opioid overdose, according to the CDC.

Earlier this year, President Barack Obama proposed $1 billion to expand access to treatment for prescription and heroin use.

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Courtesy Linda Bannon(CHICAGO) -- A Chicago mother and son who were both born without arms are an inspiring testament to overcoming obstacles.

Linda Bannon, 37, and her son Timmy, who turned 11 on Monday, were born with Holt-Oram syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that causes abnormalities of the upper limbs and heart.

"I think there's much more of a special bond between me and Tim than your average mom and son," Linda Bannon told ABC News Tuesday.

Although she was born without arms, Bannon said her parents never treated her any different from her four younger siblings who were not born with the disorder.

"I was always expected to do chores and participate with the family activities like all the other kids," Bannon said. "I just had to adapt and learn how to use my feet how other people use their hands."

When she was about 5 or 6 years old, Bannon was fitted for prosthetic arms at Shriner's Hospitals for Children in Chicago, but she preferred not to use them.

Bannon thrived. She went on to receive a degree in elementary education and eventually married her husband Richard in 2004.

Soon after, the couple became pregnant. But like his mother, doctors said the baby would too be born without his arms.

"Because they were looking at the presentation of no arms and the heart anomalies, they said that it was an indication of Holt-Oram syndrome," Bannon recalled. "In the beginning, obviously it's kind of a shock. No parent ever wants to know that their child is affected with a condition that’s going to alter their life. For, the most part, knowing I grew up this way, and I feel like my life was pretty good -- I didn’t have fears for him. The biggest fear was how serious his heart condition was. That was more concerning than his disability."

On May 2, 2005, Timmy was born. When he was 8 days old, he had open heart surgery and spent two months in the ICU.

Now at 11 years old, Timmy is a typical boy -- energetic and outgoing, his mother said.

"Lately, he's been referred to as Mr. President because he likes to be out with people talking," Bannon said, laughing. "He doesn't really shy away from social situations, so that how he's gotten that nickname."

She added: "He likes being outside, he definitely likes being very psychically active as much as he can be," Bannon said. "Swimming, [riding] the modified bicycle -- when we got that for him he was very excited because that meant he could keep up with everyone else on the trails."

The mother-son duo use their feet for everything -- to brush their teeth, comb their hair, draw a picture and more. Timmy even uses his feet to play video games.

Growing up, Timmy looked to his mother to show him how to improvise daily tasks by utilizing his lower limbs.

"We laugh because as much as I try to help him, I'll say, 'You're doing it the hard way,'" Bannon said. "I think it's funny because I've already done the legwork, so why reinvent the wheel? That’s been his personality since day one. One of our first doctor visits, I said, [Timmy] is just so stubborn.' The doctor said, 'No way, you're kid is stubborn? I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.'"

Sara Klaas, director of business development at Chicago Shriners Hospital said she and the staff at the facility have been working with the Bannon family since Linda was a child.

"Over 30 years ago, Linda Bannon received our life-changing care and now, that same care and expertise are given to her son, Tim," Klaas said. "Shriners Hospital for Children – Chicago is proud to touch generation after generation of children and families who need our world-class care.."

Timmy and his mom first grabbed the world's attention six years ago, after Bannon shared their story with ABC Chicago.

Now, Bannon said she's willing to continue spreading the word of their journey, as long as it keeps inspiring others.

"I think it really shows the power of the human spirit," she said. "A lot of people will see someone with such a severe physical condition and think, 'How is it possible to do all the things they've done?' It gives [people] hope that even though they have challenges, as long as they have a positive attitude about it, then they'll be able to conquer the same challenges."

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Duchess- the Miracle Kitty/Facebook(EL PASO, Texas) -- Meet Duchess the "Miracle Kitty," a cat with a broken jaw who's learning to smile again and whose epic tale of survival is making the rounds on Facebook.

The young Siamese cat was originally rescued after being hit by a car last October, according to her owner, Crystal Tate, who works as a veterinary assistant at Adobe Animal Hospital and Veterinary Clinic in El Paso, Texas, the animal hospital that took Duchess in.

"The impact from the car broke her jaw, and seeing the condition she was in, most other places probably would've chosen to euthanize her," Tate, 20, told ABC News Tuesday. "But the doctors here thought we she should give her a chance, so they attempted surgery to repair her jaw."

Though Duchess' "chances of survival were slim, she was a fighter and pulled through," Tate said. "The day I first met Duchess, her mouth was just beginning to heal and the feeding tube had just been removed. She was very thin."

Though the young cat's "eyes showed so much sadness, her purrs showed so much love and hope," she said, adding that she immediately fell in love with Duchess and took her home within a few weeks.

Duchess "has improved so much," Tate said, explaining that whereas Duchess was once "lethargic and low energy," she is now "spunky and playful."

Tate added that Duchess loves playing and planning mischief with her other cat and two dogs.

"Duchess' jaw is still crooked and it will be for the rest of her life, but it hasn't crushed her spirit," Tate said. "We are still learning her quirks and helping her live her new life, but we wouldn't have it any other way."

You can follow Duchess and her latest adventures on her Facebook page.

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