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Blind Man Regains Sight After 33 Years with 'Bionic Eye'

WebMD(NEW YORK) -- Larry Hester was 33 years old when he got horrible news.

“The ophthalmologist said, ‘You're going to go blind,’” Hester recalled of his diagnosis of retinitis pigmentosa, a genetic condition leading to retinal degeneration and causing severe, incurable vision problems. It can sometimes lead to blindness.

He had two young children and called the news devastating.

“It was like the wind got knocked out of me. It was tough,” Hester, now 67, told Good Morning America’s co-anchor, Robin Roberts.

Blindness came quickly. Soon, Hester lived his life in the dark. His wife, Jerry Hester, was by his side.

"I just couldn't imagine being married to a blind person. It was hard," Jerry Hester said.

For another 33 years, the Raleigh, North Carolina, couple coped, until a breakthrough came in 2014. Called the Argus II Retinal Prosthesis System, it’s the world’s first Food and Drug Administration-approved device designed to restore vision to the blind. It’s being hailed as a bionic eye.

The device is only approved for use in people with retinitis pigmentosa, which affects about 100,0000 people in the United States.

Dr. Michael Smith, the chief medical editor of the website WebMD, explained how the device works to restore sight.

“It starts with electrodes implanted on the patient's retina,” he said. “And then the patient wears eyeglasses that has a video camera on it. That actually captures the images, sends them to a video processing unit that the patient wears, that then sends electrical impulses wirelessly back to the electrodes on the retina and then ultimately to the brain which allows them to decipher really light and dark. Not great vision, but spectacular vision for them.”

It’s impossible to tell exactly what the patient can see.

“It's not normal vision as you or I know it,” said Hester's retinal surgeon, Dr. Paul Hahn, of Duke University Eye Center. “But what they do get is crude series of flashes of lights in a pixelated fashion that allow them to make better sense of their surroundings.”

Larry Hester was the first patient in North Carolina to receive the visual prosthesis at the Duke University Eye Center. In October, Hahn did a countdown -- “three, two, one” -- and hit the button to turn on the device for Hester.

“Can you see?” he asked Hester.

“Yes!” his patient replied, beaming.

Jerry Hester was overjoyed. “Oh my goodness. Can I give him a kiss?” she asked.

Larry Hester remembered his emotions that day. “It was so overwhelming. I think my head rocked back a little bit,” he said. “It's hard to put into words because, for the first time in 33 years, I'm seeing light.”

He acknowledged that his vision is “incredibly basic,” adding: “but it’s light and, in my case, sight.”

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Creator of the Paleo Diet Publishes First-Ever Cookbook

John Wiley & Sons/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt(NEW YORK) -- Soon-to-be mom Jessica Biel swears by it and Megan Fox is also a follower. With such celebs on the Paleo Diet, the eating plan that is intended to mimic the way our paleolithic ancestors ate, is more popular than ever. And now, its secrets are being revealed in a new cookbook by Paleo Diet founder Dr. Loren Cordain.

“Our genes haven't changed a lot in the last 40 or 50 thousand years,” Cordain said Monday on ABC's Good Morning America. “So we do quite well on the foods that we’re genetically adapted to.”

The idea behind Paleo is to eat foods that our ancestors ate tens of thousands of years ago. Cordain claims you’ll stay in shape and protect yourself better from heart disease and diabetes. He even says following the diet can even help reduce or eliminate acne.

But it’s not an easy lifestyle. You can eat only grass-fed meat, fish, fruits and veggies, staying away from processed foods, sugar, wheat, grains and dairy.

A little-known secret, though? Cordain recommends following the diet at least 85 percent of the time, allowing for some cheats.

Some easy swaps are veggie chips in place of potato chips or nuts instead of granola in a trail mix.

But not everyone’s sold on the diet.

“The downfall is missing out on certain foods that many nutrition experts, including myself, feel are important to have in one’s diet, such as legumes that are rich in fiber and other good nutrients,” nutritionist Rachel Beller, author of Eat To Lose, Eat To Win, said on GMA.

Cordain responded to that criticism, though, by saying, “When we eliminate those, what happens is all of the other foods fill in and make the diet much healthier and nutrient dense.”

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Why People with Low Esteem Are Often Stuck in Bad Relationships

iStock/Thinkstock(WATERLOO, Ontario) -- If you're stuck in a relationship that makes you miserable, it could have to do with feeling miserable about yourself.

Megan McCarthy, a PhD candidate at the University of Waterloo's Department of Psychology, says that people with low self-esteem often find it difficult to remove themselves from an unhappy partnership because they can't articulate their concerns and worry about rejection.

McCarthy contends that the bottom line is that while those with low esteem are viewed as complainers, they seem to keep things to themselves when involved in relationships.

Therefore, some people adopt a "forgive and forget" kind of attitude when what they really should be doing is telling a partner what's bothering them.  "Failing to address those issues directly can actually be destructive," says McCarthy.

The next phase of her study, according to McCarthy, is determining how to boost a person's self-esteem to promote more open disclosure in their relationship.

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Dallas Nurse, Ebola Survivor Nina Pham to File Lawsuit Against Texas Health Resources

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images(DALLAS) -- Dallas nurse Nina Pham is expected to file a lawsuit against Texas Health Resources calling out the company for their role in her having contracted Ebola last year/

In an exclusive story, the Dallas Morning News reports that Pham cites the company's lack of training and lack of proper equipment as part of the reason she contracted the disease while treating Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan. She also says the company violated her privacy , making her "a symbol of corporate neglect."

Pham told the newspaper that she has nightmares, body aches and insomnia as a result of contracting Ebola. "I wanted to believe [the company] would have my back and take care of me," she says. "But they just haven't risen to the occasion."

Pham told the Morning News that she will file her lawsuit on Monday, asking for "unspecified damages for physical pain and mental anguish, medical expenses and loss of future earnings." Perhaps more importantly, Pham said, she wants to "make hospitals and big corporations realize that nurses and health care workers, especially frontline people, are important."

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Florida Boy Who Survived Double Lung Transplant Fulfills Firefighting Dream

Monkey Business Images/Thinkstock(ORLANDO) -- A 6-year-old boy has achieved his dream job: being a firefighter.

Cameron Witsman, who was born with a lung defect, became an honorary firefighter on Friday in Eustis, Florida, a town about one hour northwest of Orlando.

Cysts grew in Cameron's lungs before he was born, his mother Caroline Witsman said. The disease is called congenital cystic adenomatoid malformation, Witsman told ABC affiliate WFTV, and when Cameron was four months old, he underwent a double lung transplant.

"If he would not have had the transplant he would not be alive today," Witsman said. "There were quite a few instances where we didn't know, but thank goodness he pulled though all of those."

Cameron, who has already survived so much, recognizes the importance of serving others; he said what he likes about firefighters is "helping people."

So Cameron's new employer, the Eustis Fire Department, put him to the test.

"His dream has always been to be a firefighter," said Chief Rex Winn of the Eustis Fire Department. "And we tried to make that dream come true."

The 6-year-old was given his own uniform and went to work, shooting down cones with a fire hose and even dragging dummies down the street, all with a huge grin across his face.

"Pretend fires, he runs all these pretend calls at home, so to get this opportunity for him has just been such a blessing, and I'm so thankful," his mother said.

"It's just so amazing to see that kind of fire in a young man," Winn added. "That young man's excitement and a dream that we can make happen for him. That's the good part of our job."

"Cameron wakes up with energy and he never wants to go to sleep at night," his mother said. "He's full of energy, vibrant smart, kindhearted, loves helping people."

While Cameron's energy is up, he still has a suppressed immune system, according to WFTV, requiring him to be home-schooled and take several medications a day.

"There was a few times where I was called... 'Cameron's doing really bad, I don't think he's going to make it, you need to get here now,'" Witsman said. "I can't even put into words how amazing it is that we're here today and we're doing well."

And the celebrations didn't stop at the fire house. Cameron was the guest of honor at a local parade today, during which he rode on a firetruck and handed out candy.

"It's such a heartwarming feeling. So awesome that they've taken this opportunity to really make his day and make his years," Witsman said.

And how did Cameron feel about the new job? "I'm proud to be a firefighter," the 6-year-old said.

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Disappointing Year for Flu Vaccine Effectiveness

luiscar/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- This season's flu vaccine may be even less effective than initially thought.

HealthDay News reports that the vaccine is just 18 percent effective against the dominant H3N2 flu strain, down from 23 percent initially estimated by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Even worse, according to the CDC, the vaccine may be just 15 percent effective in children between the ages of 2 and 8.

Still, the vaccine "does prevent lots of hospitalizations and deaths," Dr. William Schaffner, former president of the National Foundation for Infectious Disease told ABC News. "We need to do the best we can with the vaccine we have at hand."

Schaffner did say that the flu appears to be abating in all sections of the United States.

As far as the disappointingly ineffective vaccine, Schaffner said that it was "the worst year for the effectiveness of flu vaccine in decades. It will be better next year," he predicted.

Children tend to get more viral illnesses than adults, Dr. Besser said, because they're in physical contact with each other and don't have years of flu exposure built up.

The CDC also reports that the nasal-spray version of the vaccine, which was "recommended especially for young children," Dr. Besser said, "is shown to not be effective at all."

"It's not exactly clear if it had something to do with the mutated strain," he said. "What it led to this week is the CDC voted that next year they will not recommend the nasal spray."

It may be the end of February, but we're still not out of the woods for flu season.

"Flu season is winding down," Dr. Besser said, but "there is still flu activity around the country."

"We encourage people who are sick to stay home from school and work, and cover their coughs and sneezes," he added.

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Researchers Identify Possible Blood Test for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

AlexRaths/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Researchers say a simple blood test could help diagnose chronic fatigue syndrome -- a chronic condition that affects one in four million Americans.

According to the study, published in the journal Science Advances, while one in four million have CFS, fewer than 20 percent are diagnosed. Currently, there is no test for chronic fatigue syndrome.

Researchers, however, identified markers in the blood that could help confirm a diagnosis more quickly. There is even speculation that those same markers could hold hints toward potential therapeutic targets in the future.

The study's leaders hope that they may have determined a potential biological cause for CFS.

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Health Officials: 3 New Cases of Measles Linked to Emeril's at MGM Grand in Las Vegas

7Michael/iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(LAS VEGAS) -- The Southern Nevada Health District has identified three additional cases of measles connected to a restaurant on the Las Vegas Strip.  

The cases, in adults under the age of 55, are considered to be the result of transmission from an under-immunized staff member at Emeril's New Orleans Fish House at the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino earlier in February.

The new cases are two staff members and a patron, according to health officials.

Two other cases connected to Emeril's were reported earlier in the month, according to ABC News affiliate KTNV-TV.  

An under-immunized worker was diagnosed on Feb. 10, and an infant was diagnosed with measles on Feb. 11. It is believed the infant spread the illness to the worker.

One of the newly diagnosed staffers was potentially contagious while working shifts this month

The new cases bring to nine the number of confirmed measles cases in Clark County in 2015, according to health officials.  These are the first confirmed cases in  of measles in southern Nevada since 2011.

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1.1 Billion Young People at Risk of Losing Their Hearing, WHO Says

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- This just in from the World Health Organization: Your mother was right all along.

About 1.1 billion people are at risk for losing their hearing, and half of 12- to 35-year-olds in high income countries expose their ears to "unsafe" sound levels when they listen to audio devices, the WHO announced Friday. And about 40 percent of them are exposed to "potentially damaging" sound levels at music and entertainment venues.

"As they go about their daily lives doing what they enjoy, more and more young people are placing themselves at risk of hearing loss," said Dr. Etienne Krug, WHO Director for the Department for Management of Noncommunicable Diseases, Disability, Violence and Injury Prevention. "They should be aware that once you lose your hearing, it won’t come back. Taking simple preventive actions will allow people to continue to enjoy themselves without putting their hearing at risk."

The organization suggested limited headphone use to one hour a day and not spend more than 8 hours in workplaces with 85 decibels of noise, like bars, nightclubs and sporting venues. Since those places normally have 100 decibels of noise, the WHO noted that they can cause hearing damage in as little as 15 minutes.

Dr. Daniel Jethanamest, an otolaryngologist at NYU Langone Medical Center, said hearing damage happens with repeated or prolonged exposure to loud noises or a sudden, intense loud noise, damaging the tiny hairs inside the ears. Some hearing loss is temporary, but some is permanent. If you experience hearing loss or ringing, call your doctor, he said.

Here are some sound levels to keep in mind:

Headphones can be cranked up to a volume of about 110 decibels, according to the National Institutes of Health. Though Jethanamest said there may be downloadable cell phone apps to help you keep your volumes at safe levels.

Talking at a conversational level is 40 to 60 decibels, according to the NIH.

An electric pencil sharpener is 71 decibels, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

An ambulance siren is 120 decibels, according to the CDC.

Firecrackers are 140 to 165 decibels, according to the CDC.

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New York Couple to Turn a Combined 212 Years Old

Amalia Thomas(NEW YORK) -- A New York couple married for 82 years will celebrate a major milestone Saturday when the husband, Duranord Veillard, turns 108.

The momentous occasion means the couple will be a combined 212 years old. Veillard’s wife, Jeanne, is 104.

“He will tell you the secret to living a long life is all God,” a family friend told ABC News of Veillard. “He says that God has preserved him so well and he wishes that everyone can live a long life as he did.”

Amalia Thomas, the close friend and business liaison for the Veillard family, is fielding the flood of requests for the now high-profile couple who were featured in the local newspaper Thursday and have since seen their celebrity skyrocket.

“They’re like, ‘Who is next? What question are you going to ask?’” Thomas said. “They’re very excited.”

The Veillards, who live with their daughter in Spring Valley, New York, are able to easily take in all the attention because, according to Thomas, they are still very sharp.

“I don’t know how they do it but he’s very alert. He remembers dates. He can tell you the day he got married,” Thomas said of Duranord. “Jeanne is a little bit more quiet and laid-back.”

The couple met in Haiti and married in November 1932. Duranord Veillard, who worked as a lawyer and judge in Haiti, moved to the United States in 1967, followed by his wife in 1979.

They have five kids, 12 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren, Thomas said.

Though Duranord has trouble with his eyesight and hearing, the centenarian maintains a daily exercise regime.

“He does daily exercises in his chair, every single day,” Thomas said.

Veillard told The Journal News he wakes up at 5 a.m. and does five to seven pushups, followed by tea, oatmeal and fruit for breakfast. The rest of the day includes fish and fresh vegetables for their meals, interrupted by many naps, according to the newspaper.

On Saturday, the Veillards will mark Duranord’s 112th birthday with a party at their home with their family.

“They’re very excited,” Thomas said.

Up next is Jeanne's birthday celebration. She will turn 105 May 1.

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White and Gold or Black and Blue: Why People See the Dress Differently YORK) -- Everybody, chill.

There's a scientific explanation for why #TheDress looks black and blue to some people and white and gold to the others.

Although your eyes perceive colors differently based on color perceptors in them called cones, experts say your brain is doing the legwork to determine what you're seeing -- and it gets most of the blame for your heated debates about #TheDress.

"Our brain basically biases certain colors depending on what time of day it is, what the surrounding light conditions are," said optometrist Thomas Stokkermans, who directs the optometry division at UH Case Medical Center in Cleveland, Ohio. "So this is a filtering process by the brain."

Objects appear reddish at dawn and dusk, but they appear blueish in the middle of the day, Stokkermans said.

So we can recognize the same objects in different light conditions, our brains tweak the way we see things, he added.

"The brain is very good at adjusting and calibrating so you perceive light conditions as constant even though they vary widely," he said.

Colors can appear different depending on what they're near and the memory and past experiences of the beholder, Dr. Lisa Lystad, a neuro-opthalmologist at Cleveland Clinic’s Cole Eye Institute.

For instance, people who live in snow all year round above the Arctic Circle have several names for different colors of snow, but to most of us, snow is just snow. She said she has a turquoise purse that some of her friends swear is green and others are sure is blue.

Cataracts, colorblindness and eye disease can also alter colors for the beholder. Monet's famous water lily pond painting is thought to have been painted when he was developing cataracts, Lystad said.

But your perception of the dress doesn't mean you have an eye problem, she said.

"Vision just barely starts in the eye," Lystad said. "Your brain is what gives names to the colors."

David Calkins, a professor at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and director of research at the Vanderbilt Eye Institute, said setting international color standards for everything from wires to fruits to paint pigments was a huge challenge before the digital age.

"There's no way for me to verify the color that your brain perceives versus the color that my brain perceives," he said. "What I call magenta, you might call violet. What I call burgundy, you might call purple."

And now that the digital age is here, there are subtle differences between how something can appear to you on a television screen versus a computer monitor versus a cell phone, Calkins said.

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Leprosy Cases Hit Florida Counties

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Some people might think of leprosy as a scourge from biblical times, but it still afflicts victims -- and a Florida county is reporting a rare increase in cases, with three people diagnosed in just five months.

In the past decade, before the new cases, only one person in Volusia County, Florida, was diagnosed with the disease.

Health officials said the recent increase in cases was unexpected, but because the incubation period ranges from nine months to 20 years, they did not think it signaled a wave of new infections.

Leprosy, also known as Hansen's disease, is caused by a bacteria called Mycobacterium lepra. An infection mainly affects the skin, peripheral nerves, eyes and part of the upper respiratory tract, according to the World Health Organization.

Leprosy cases remain rare in the United States, with approximately 80 people reporting infections each year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

Florida typically sees just eight to 10 cases per year. Leprosy is more common in California, Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New York and Texas, according to a 2009 report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration.

In addition to Volusia County, health officials in nearby Brevard County, Florida, have seen a recent increase in cases, with 18 reported over the last five years. Of the eight people diagnosed with leprosy in Florida last year, three were from Brevard County.

Barry Inman, an epidemiologist for Brevard County Department of Health, said the number of cases remained small but was much higher than previous decades, when they would normally see around one case a year.

"This is hard to track," said Inman, who noted the disease can incubate from nine months to 20 years.

"Compared to past history, it is significant and they are looking at it," Inman said of the local health department.

Inman said some of those were infected after interacting with armadillos, a known carrier of the disease.

The U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention recommends people avoid contact armadillos to limit the possibility they can contract the bacteria that causes leprosy.

Symptoms of leprosy include skin lesions that may be faded or discolored, thick, stiff or dry skin, numbness in affected areas, ulcers on the soles of feet or muscle weakness or paralysis.

An estimated one to two million people have been permanently disabled by the disease. Today, the disease can be treated with antibiotics, although a course of treatment can be lengthy, lasting between six months to two years according to the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.

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Virginia Resident Released After Evaulation for Possible Ebola

Creatas/Thinkstock(ARLINGTON, Va.) -- A Virginia resident was released from Virginia Hospital Center on Thursday after being evaluated for possible Ebola.

The patient had a fever and a history of recent travel from an Ebola-affected area, according to the Arlington County website. But after evaluation, it was determined that the individual had no known exposure to Ebola and that medical findings were not consistent with the disease.

The Arlington County Public Health Department will continue to monitor the patient through the full 21 day incubation period, under the Virginia Department of Health Arriving Passenger Monitoring Plan.

According to the county website, "Arlington County Public Health and Virginia Hospital Center are working together -- in collaboration with the Virginia Department of Health -- and followed the recommended course of action for such case." The county says "there is no cause for public concern."

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Residents of Snowier States Sleeping Away the Winter?

Jacob Wackerhausen/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- This blasted winter will come to an end eventually, but until then, Americans will just have to make the best of things, particularly in the nation’s snow belts.

Actually, some folks may have gotten something out of this unseasonable season and that’s more sleep.

According to smartphone app Sleep Cycle, people in Southeastern states slept an average of seven hours and seven minutes -- or 13 minutes fewer than residents of Northwestern states, which typically get pounded with more snow.

The data was collected during the month of January with data from 140,000 people across the U.S. and even Hawaii, where people got the least amount of sleep per average, around seven hours.

Still, if you're looking for the benefit of living in a state where you may get less snow, according to Sleep Cycle's blog post, users in the southern states woke up in a better mood, on average.

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2008 Recession Likely Contributed to Suicide Surge

Wavebreakmedia Ltd/Wavebreak Media/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Past research has indicated that middle-aged suicide rates affecting Americans between 40 and 64 years old have increased by 40 percent since 1999, with the sharpest rise shortly after 2007, coinciding with the 2008 recession.

Researchers at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Aging Research have now looked at further data from the National Violent Death Reporting System in a new study published Friday in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine.  

Specific external circumstances – such as job loss, bankruptcy, foreclosure, and other financial setbacks – may have played a larger role in these deaths, according to researchers.

Personal circumstances, such as mental illness, played a slightly decreasing role, researchers said.

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