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FDA Warns Against Hysterectomy Technique That May Spread Cancer


iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A Boston couple behind a campaign to stop doctors from performing a controversial surgical procedure is applauding a new U.S. Food and Drug Administration warning against doctors performing the procedure, called laparoscopic power morcellation.

The FDA wants doctors to stop using laparoscopic power morcellation during the removal of the uterus or uterine fibroids since it poses a risk of spreading unsuspected cancerous tissue beyond the uterus.

The procedure involves a small metal device that shreds tissue, in this case fibroids or the uterus, which is then removed through a small incision in the abdomen. The surgical technique came under scrutiny last December after two cases came to light in which the women undergoing the procedure had undetected cancer cells spread through their body during the surgery.

One of those cases involved Dr. Amy Reed, 41, an anesthesiologist at Beth-Israel Hospital in Boston. Reed underwent a laparoscopic hysterectomy morcellation last fall. During the procedure undetected cancer cells were spread through her abdomen. A few days after her surgery she was diagnosed with a stage IV cancer called leiomyosarcoma.

According to the FDA statement, approximately 1 in 350 women who are having a hysterectomy or myomectomy (to remove uterine fibroids) have an undetected type of cancer called uterine sarcoma. The morcellation of this tissue could lead it to spread throughout the abdomen.

Since her diagnosis, Reed and her husband Hoorman Noorchashm, a surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, have launched a campaign to get doctors and hospitals to stop using the procedure, including a Change.org petition with nearly 8,000 signatures, and meeting with politicians and writing to different gynecological and surgical organizations in the medical community.

Noorchashm said he has been disappointed with some initial reactions from hospitals and medical staff but called the FDA decision a “major step forward.”

“The major accomplishment is going to be 10 years from now when Amy is cancer-free,” said Noorchashm. “What helped here was the sheer magnitude of the truth here…I just didn’t stop. I’ve been generating somewhere between three to ten emails a day since November.”

Since Reed’s diagnosis, two medical articles have been published in the Journal of American Medical Association questioning the safety of the procedure.

“The FDA’s primary concern as we consider the continued use of these devices is the safety and well-being of patients,” said Dr. William Maisel, deputy director for science and chief scientist at the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health. “There is no reliable way to determine if a uterine fibroid is cancerous prior to removal.”

In a statement, the FDA confirmed that Noorchashm brought the issue to their attention last December.

“After further discussion, we involved staff from across the agency to look into the issue further,” The FDA told ABC News in a statement.

At least two Boston hospitals have changed their approach to the technique in the last few months, although they still would allow some morcellation in rare cases, and they were investigating the use of encasing tissue in a plastic bag before morcellation.

The FDA will hold a committee meeting to see if encasing tissue in a bag before morcellation can be a safe alternative. Noorchashm points out the bag can easily break if it comes into contact with the morcellation device.

Noorchashm, who is a cardio-thoracic surgeon, said he has been in touch with many other families who have had similar experiences and wants more regulation on medical devices in general to protect patients. Although he said he was gratified by the FDA’s decision, he said more still needs to be done to protect patients, including more oversight and medical transparency.

Since Reed’s disease has stabilized, Noorchashm said she plans to return to work as an anesthesiologist in June in Philadelphia, where they can be closer to extended family. While Noorchashm plans to continue with his work drawing attention to the danger of morcellation, he says he hopes to get back to normal life soon.

“It’s a diagnosis where it hangs over your head. Failure is not an option, we have six kids with bright futures,” said Noorchashm. “I‘m going back to normal and I’m going back to work.”

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Children’s Dreams Come True One Picture at a Time


File photo. iStock/Thinkstock(LAS VEGAS) -- Junaisy Vargas, 6, has a lot of wishes in life -- No. 4 seems the most impossible.

“I want to be a mermaid. That’s my wish,” she said.

Junaisy of Las Vegas has Ewing’s Sarcoma, a bone marrow cancer that primarily affects children and adolescents.

Most of her hair is gone because of chemotherapy, but for a special photo shoot she put on a wig and entered into a fantasy universe of her own creation.

It was all made possible by Shawn Van Daele, a photographer who turns dreams into reality through The Drawing Hope Project. He visited the Nevada Childhood Cancer Foundation and photographed several kids.

Click here for more amazing photographs from Van Daele’s project.

Junaisy drew a picture for Van Daele and he turned Vargas into a real mermaid.

His mission is to bring hope and inspiration to everyone who needs it, especially children living with health conditions. He has brought dozens of these fantasies to life. Parents who hear of him reach out through social media. There are lots of superheroes and flyers.

“I just wanted to kind of get the idea out there that anything’s possible -- despite what life throws at you -- and it’s just really kind of rippled and it’s changing a lot of lives,” said Van Daele.

He works with kids all over his native Canada and the U.S. The kids draw him a picture, imagining where they want to be, and he imagines the rest of it with them.

Sadie Slykhuis, 4, has Cone Rod Dysfunction, a disease that requires her to be in darkness most of the time.

Sadie, from Fenelon Falls, Ontario, hoped to bask in the brightest sunlight, so Van Daele took her drawing of a butterfly under a bright sun and gave her wings, letting her fly among the sunflowers.

The project started years ago when there was illness in Van Daele’s family.

“I did it to cheer my dad up while he was sick and I started to realize, I could do this for other families,” Van Daele said.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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School Flier Counsels Kids Not to Rat Out Bullies


Ziviani/Thinkstock(LINCOLN, Neb.) -- A Nebraska elementary school has apologized for passing out a flier containing nine questionable rules for dealing with bullies. Rule No. 7 is “Do not tell on bullies.”

Josh Mehlin, a parent who has children in the Lincoln Public School District, told ABC News that the letter did not go home to all Zeman Elementary School students -- only some fifth-graders -- but it quickly spread as flabbergasted parents started sending it to each other.

“I was horrified,” Mehlin said. “I called the school and said, ‘Is this for real or is this kind of an Internet thing?’ They said, ‘This is for real. We sent this out.’”

When he called the district office, however, administrators said they’d never heard of it. So he believes it may have originated with just one educator, Mehlin said.

The district has since issued an apology, explaining in a statement on its Facebook page that the flier contained “inaccurate information.”

“The flier was sent home with good intentions, unfortunately, it contained advice that did not accurately reflect LPS best practices regarding response to bullying incidents,” a letter that went home to parents reads.

The school has now created a new flier, which is posted on its website, concluding, “Asking for help is not ratting!”

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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What Led to Former “DWTS” Co-Host’s Cancer Diagnosis


ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Months before former Dancing with the Stars co-host and ET correspondent Samantha Harris received a diagnosis of breast cancer, the TV personality had a mammogram and got an “all clear” from her doctor.

The mother-of-two said it was a “gut feeling” that the lump in her breast was something more that led her on a months-long journey of tests and doctors.

“It took me four months to go, ‘This doesn’t sit right with me,’” Harris, 40, told ABC News’ Amy Robach.  “Four months later, when I went to see my specialist, I had a needle biopsy, after two ultrasounds, and I had an MRI right before we scheduled a lumpectomy.”

“Even the pathology they do in the operating room said no cancer, so I came out and my husband, right next to me, said, ‘Babe, you’re all clear,’” Harris said. “I didn’t even take him to the follow up because I thought I didn’t have cancer.”

Harris was alone in her doctor’s office when she received the news that she did, in fact, have breast cancer.

“I started to realize that they kept saying the word ‘Carcinoma,’” Harris said.  “That means cancer, so I guess I have cancer.”

“Then the tears welled up in my eyes and it wasn’t until the surgeon left the room that all I wanted to do was crumble into my husband’s arms.”

Harris said she decided to have a double mastectomy to treat her cancer because it “came down to percentages” and the double mastectomy gave her the “best chance.”

Foremost in Harris’ mind when making the decision, she says, were her two daughters with husband Michael Hess: Josselyn, 6, and Hillary, 3.

“It puts you in a completely different place when you’re a parent and you have a diagnosis like this because you think of all the things you want to make sure you’re present for,” Harris said.  “I lost my dad to colon cancer and he was just 50 and to have him not present when I got married, when I had my first daughter, then my second, has been really hard for me.”

“I always think in the back of my mind, ‘I don’t want to not be there for my kids,’” she said.

Harris says she and Hess together told each of their daughters the news separately so that they could “tailor” what they told them to make it age-appropriate.

Harris said she is now receiving support from the “sisterhood” of breast cancer patients and survivors, including ABC News’ own Robach, who is currently battling breast cancer, and Robin Roberts, who has beat both breast cancer and, more recently, myelodysplastic syndrome or MDS, a rare blood disorder.

“I have to tell you,” Harris said, “reading your story and Robin’s gave me so much inspiration and gave me hope that I too will get through this as you are currently doing and as Robin has, and be stronger and a better person on the other side.”

“This is a sisterhood that you never want to be a part of but the women I have met through this already are incredible women,” Harris said.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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How Christina Milian Co-Parents with Ex-Husband


ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Christina Milian is a chart-topping R&B and hip-hop star best known for hits like “Dip It Low” and her star run on Dancing With the Stars. It is a much more personal role, however, that means the most to Milian: being a mother to 4-year-old daughter Violet Madison Nash.

When Milian teamed up with the parenting blog Momtastic last month to share her motherhood experiences, it was a blog she wrote on co-parenting that struck a chord with other moms.

“I feel like I’m in a good place, then all the better to just put it out there and  hope that it can help someone else,” Milian told ABC News of why she decided to make her private life public.

“We all figure it out,” she said.  “Sometimes, you just got to take it, take the lesson, and learn, and know that this happened for a reason.”

Milian, 32, divorced Violet’s father, singer-songwriter The Dream, in 2011, when their daughter was just a few months old.

The singer says she gets past the rough points of dealing with a former spouse by allowing herself to pause and remember what’s important.

“I say, ‘Take a second and breathe,’” Milian said.  “You know, have the best intentions.  Pray on it.”

Milian revealed she also got outside help -- in the form of a therapist -- to help her learn how to communicate with her ex, whose real name is Terius Nash.

“I think that communication will save you half the drama,” she said.  “You know, it makes things so much easier.  And I think I learned that.

“My motivation at the end of the day was making sure that my daughter had two parents that were in her life consistently,” Milian said.  “She’s a really smart girl and I think she has a healthy understanding of knowing that mommy and daddy are no longer together but we both love her.”

Engaged since last year to Jas Prince, Milian says another important aspect of co-parenting is to know when to introduce a new partner to your child.

“I think it’s very important to take your time when introducing a new person into your child’s life,” Milian said.  “You want to make sure this is going to work out so you’re not introducing them to a new person over and over again because you never know who is going to be the one.”

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Conjoined Twins See Sunlight for the First Time


Medical City Children's Hospital(DALLAS) -- A pair of formerly conjoined twins were finally able to go outside and see sunlight for the first time, more than seven months after they had surgery to be separated.

Owen and Emmitt Ezell were born joined from their breast bone to hipbone and shared several organs, including their liver and intestines.

The two infants were separated when they were just six weeks old during a lengthy nine-hour surgery. Originally doctors were simply worried about the twins’ survival and at the time of surgery their medical team estimated the boys had a 40 to 50 percent chance of survival.

However, after months of intensive care the twins are finally healthy enough to leave the hospital for a rehab facility. Their parents Jenni and David Ezell are elated, although Jenni Ezell had to shield her son’s eyes as they were wheeled outside for the first time.

“They couldn’t even open their little eyes,” said Jenni Ezell. “The sun was so bright, I shaded Owen’s face.”

While Owen and Emmitt may look the same, their parents say now the 9-months-old infants are easy to tell apart.

“Emmett is really easy going, laid back,” said the infants’ father David Ezell. “Owen is a little more… little agitated at times.”

While the infants aren’t going home quite yet, there’s a chance they might get to leave the rehab facility within just a few weeks.

“The doctors are cautious,” said David Ezell. “They are not going to come out and say, these are going to be two healthy boys but we will come out and say it for them these are going be two very healthy boys.”

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Alicia Silverstone's Son Has 'Never Had a Drop of Medicine'


MJ Kim/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Alicia Silverstone has long been a proponent of attachment parenting. Now, she has written a book about it.

In The Kind Mama, Silverstone opens up about raising her nearly 3-year-old son, Bear.

"He's never been sick-sick, just feeling a little off from time to time. And he's never had a drop of medicine," Silverstone writes. "Because his body is a super-clean, healthy machine, it can defend itself against and flush out all the nasty stuff much more quickly than a baby whose diet isn't as kind. He actually never had to deal with the achy ears, gooey eyes or rashy bottom that a lot of other babies experience."

Silverstone, 37, advocates for a clean, vegan diet, and even includes recipes in her book. She also wades into the vaccination debate a bit ("There is increasing anecdotal evidence from doctors who have gotten distressed phone calls from parents claiming their child was 'never the same' after receiving a vaccine," she writes) and warns parents against overmedicating their children.

"In most cases, those [over-the-counter] meds aren't necessary. Antibiotics should also be used with care," she writes. "Sometimes they are truly useful and can save lives, but when we over-administer them, we challenge bacteria to grow stronger and more resistant to treatment. ...More often than not, you can make baby well with minimal medical intervention. The key is patience, love, and a few natural remedies to bring her comfort."

Dr. Richard Besser, chief health and medical editor for ABC News, agrees with Silverstone about antibiotic use, though he adds, "I have some concerns that she is lumping these in with overmedication."

"I can’t think of anything I do for my patients as a pediatrician that has more proven value than getting them vaccinated fully and on time," he says. "Thanks to our vaccination programs, we no longer see so many of the diseases that plagued our parents’ and grandparents’ lives."

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Dogs Can Be Important Members of Families with Autistic Children


AnneMS/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Owning a dog can be a family’s great pleasures, particularly those with special needs children, at least according to one study.

A University of Missouri study seems to allay the fears of parents who have youngsters diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders.

After interviewing 70 parents of children with autism, Gretchen Carlisle with the MU College of Veterinary Medicine said that two-thirds owned dogs and in those homes, 94 of autistic kids bonded with the pet.

Even when there were no dogs in the house, seven in ten parents said their children liked the animals.

Dogs have been shown to provide companionship for autistic youngsters and can act as a bridge to forming relationships with other kids.

As for the kind of pooch to pick, Carlisle said, “Many children with autism know the qualities they want in a dog. If parents could involve their kids in choosing dogs for their families, it may be more likely the children will have positive experiences with the animals when they are brought home."

Naturally, not every autistic child may be drawn to dogs, which shouldn’t exclude other possible pets such as cats or rabbits.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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The Closer You Sleep, the Stronger the Relationship


BartekSzewczyk/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Sleeping together doesn't have such a sexual connotation when you're talking about how couples actually fall asleep in bed.

University of Hertfordshire psychologist Professor Richard Wiseman wanted to find out about the most popular sleep positions so he interviewed 1,000 people and learned that a whopping 42 percent sleep with their backs to each other.

Meanwhile, 31 percent said they slept facing in the same direction while just 4 percent sleep face-to-face.

Wiseman also investigated how the strength of a couple's relationship also affected sleep habits. For instance, 94 percent who said they touched each other during sleep reported being happy in their relationship while just 68 percent of non-touchers said the same thing.

The physical distance between sleepers also seemed to indicate how figuratively close they were to each other.

For example, 66 percent of people who slept 30 inches or more apart said they were happy with their relationship while 86 percent of folks who were less than an inch apart reported being satisfied with their significant other.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Extroverts May Hold the Key to Happiness


Digital Vision/Thinkstock(PULLMAN, Wash.) -- Pharrell Williams’ song "Happy" is everywhere these days although there’s been no study to show if it actually makes people happy.

However, Timothy Church, a Washington State University professor of counseling psychology, believes there is something that puts people in a brighter mood and that’s by exhibiting extroverted behavior.

In a study of behavior that encompassed college students in the U.S., Venezuela, China, the Philippines and Japan, Church learned that acting positively, such as smiling at a stranger, seems to have the same effect, whether it’s in either Western or Eastern cultures.

Church also conducted additional research in these same countries and found that when people are able to act the way they want to, without the pressure of society holding them back, they have an easier time exhibiting what are referred to as the Big Five personality traits.

These traits are: being extroverted; agreeable; conscientious; emotionally stable; and open to experience in situations.

According to Church, extroversion can lead to more happiness, which in turn can result in longer, healthier lives than those who tend to shy away from sociability.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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AG Eric Holder Highlights Heroin Death Epidemic


Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Attorney General Eric Holder Wednesday told a group of police leaders it is time for street cops to start carrying the drug Narcan that can reverse deadly heroin overdoses. And this time the police, facing a rising number of overdose deaths, agreed.
 
Police around the country are seeing a dramatic increase in the number of deaths linked to overdoses of heroin and opiate prescription drugs. The recent heroin overdose death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman has focused attention on the issue. Police are dealing with more deaths from overdoses than from murders.
 
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says prescription drug and heroin fatalities in the U.S. surpass homicides and traffic deaths. After cancer and heart disease, overdoses are said to be the number-one killer in the United States. In New London and Norwich, Conn., for example, heroin overdoses doubled last year.
 
It’s not just heroin. Most of the overdose deaths come from prescription opiate painkillers. In 2010 about 100 Americans died every day from drug overdoses. Prescription painkillers were involved in more than 16,600 deaths in 2010, and heroin was involved in about 3,000 deaths, according to the White House.
 
Holder told the Police Executive Research Forum he once associated heroin with the 50s and 60s. There's no question it's an issue we have to deal with, he said. This problem has resurfaced, he said; it is truly a national problem.
 
There clearly has to be a law enforcement response, he told the group, but we also have to view this as a public health problem as well.  Young people can't view this as a risk-free drug, he said. If we shine light on the problem we can have a significant impact on making sure it doesn't get worse and reduce the number of people involved.
 
He told the police leaders, we should spread the word about Narcan, the drug that can reverse a heroin overdose, and make it as widely available as possible.  He believed making the drug available did not amount to enabling. It is our job to keep as many people alive as possible, he said. The emphasis should be on safety and life and we can handle the things that might give people pause.
 
Holder admitted the overdose epidemic took a lot of people by surprise. This kind of sneaked up on us, he told the group. The consciousness of the nation had not really focused on the problem. People saw it as something that was localized. We focus a lot as a nation on drugs that are sold on the streets, Holder said. Things that come out of our medicine cabinets such as opiate drugs don't generate as much fear. That has a dulling effect.
 
Standing by itself the heroine problem is worthy of our national attention, he said. We have to hold those accountable who trade in it.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Deciphering the Signs of Anorexia in the Very Young


iStock/Thinkstock(HOUSTON) -- Until the age of 10, twins Reagan and Grace Freeman were like two peas in a pod living in a Houston, Texas, suburb.

After they moved to another state, their mother, Cindy Freeman, noticed that Reagan started rejecting foods she used to love, exercised nonstop and complained daily of a stomachache.

Believing her daughter was reacting negatively to the move, Freeman tried to take her to a psychiatrist but ran into a roadblock. “I called every psychiatrist in the city and no one would see her until she was 11,” she told ABC News.

Determined to get her daughter treated, Freeman then brought her to a medical doctor.

“He said, ‘Well, she’s a little on the thin side. She just needs to eat more,’” Freeman said.

She said he didn’t recognize how serious Reagan’s situation was, despite her losing 30 pounds in a six-month period.

Freeman finally began calling eating-disorder clinics across the country in an effort to get a psychiatric recommendation.  One by one, each of the clinics told her Reagan needed more than a psychiatrist; she needed to get admitted to inpatient treatment immediately.

Reagan was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa, a classified mental illness. She was just 10.

Experts say the national focus on obesity has meant that doctors and parents aren’t trained to look for treat eating disorders in the very young. An estimated 33,000 U.S. children between the ages of 8 and 15 are diagnosed with eating disorders, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes for Mental Health.

Doctors say the distinction between healthy activity and overexercising can be hard to recognize in children. It can also be difficult for doctors and parents to distinguish between a child’s predilection for picky eating and a drastic change in eating patterns, they said.

In Reagan’s case, she often jogged in circles inside her room and ran four miles a day while walking the dog. She then started throwing away her lunch at school or hiding food in toilet paper dowels.

“We would spend two hours just trying to get food down her stomach,” Freeman said.

Reagan once sat at the table for more than four hours until she ate dinner. “It’s hard for someone to eat food and there’s this voice inside their head telling them not to,” Reagan said.

Verbally expressing concerns about weight gain is crucial in diagnosing adults and adolescents but young children often don’t have words for what is at the root of the illness: fear of weight gain and distorted body image.

After spending three months at an inpatient facility 1,000 miles away in Colorado, Reagan returned home before Thanksgiving. The whole family is involved in her ongoing recovery.

“It’s hard on her sister....Everyone has to watch her during every snack and every mealtime. She’s gotten very good at hiding and sneaking and throwing things away,” Freeman said.

Working with a nutritionist and therapists, the Freemans attend family-based therapy, also known as the Maudsley Approach. It has a 50 percent to 60 percent full recovery rate within a year, according to a 2013 Journal of Adolescent Health study.

It encourages parents to take the reins, counterintuitive to a doctor’s inclination to take over, but, parents and experts told ABC News, the method has shown the most effective results.

“It’s getting easier,” Reagan said of her recovery process. She said she still thinks about her eating disorder “a lot.”

Reagan and her family came forward with their struggle because they hope it will help other families who have children struggling with anorexia.

F.E.A.S.T., or Families Empowered and Supporting Treating of Eating Disorders, is a nonprofit organization helping families overcome eating disorders.

The group provides a 24-7 online forum for families and sufferers of the disease, a localized list of eating disorder support groups, a recipe book geared toward those recovering from eating disorders and countless other resources to educate people on eating disorders and the recovery process.

Freeman advised parents to “open your eyes and look.”

“Don’t listen to necessarily what a doctor or a psychiatrist or anyone else tells you, because you know your kid better than anyone,” she said. “And don’t think, ‘No, this can’t be an eating disorder, they’re too young.’ Go get help.”

To learn more about F.E.A.S.T., visit here.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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UK Doctor: 'I'd Rather Have HIV than Diabetes'


iStock/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- A U.K. doctor has stirred up controversy after writing an op-ed in the U.K. paper The Spectator where he argued that he’d "rather have HIV than diabetes."

Dr. Max Pemberton, author of The Doctor Will See You Now and who works in mental health, wrote the article to highlight how having diabetes, particularly Type 2 diabetes, can be thought of as “worse” than being HIV-positive, which is now often treated as a chronic, and not necessarily fatal, disease.

“The risk of stroke in newly treated type 2 diabetes is more than double that of the general [U.K.] population,” Pemberton wrote in his article. “To put it starkly, the latest statistics show that because of Haart (Antiretroviral medications), HIV now no longer reduces your life expectancy, while having type 2 diabetes typically reduces it by ten years. But this isn’t an easy thing to say publicly.”

Pemberton highlighted facts such as the life expectancy in the U.K. for those with HIV is only minimally lower.

However, at least one expert says that Pemberton’s argument does a disservice to both diabetes and HIV, by arguing that one life-threatening disease is “better” than another. Dr. Kenneth Mayer, professor of medicine at Harvard University and medical research director at Fenway Health Clinic, which provides primary and specialized HIV/AIDS care, noted the two diseases are very different in how they are acquired and treated.

“My whole point [is it] shouldn’t be either or. They’re both important,” said Mayer. “There may be more people at risk for diabetes [globally], but HIV is transmissible,” between people.

Pemberton could not be reached immediately by ABC News for further comment.

One important distinction, experts said, is that Pemberton is speaking as a U.K. citizen. In the United Kingdom, HIV affects far fewer people than in the U.S., with approximately 77,600 people infected in the U.K. versus approximately 1.1 million in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the U.K. National AIDS Trust.

However, not every expert completely disagreed with Pemberton’s article.

Dr. Joel Gallant, chair of the HIV Medical Association and medical director of specialty services at Southwest Care Center in Santa Fe, N.M., said the statement is not preposterous if you look at how effective HIV/AIDS medications are today in comparison to the treatment options for diabetic patients.

“I wouldn’t want anyone to interpret my words as wanting to have HIV. ...We don’t know, for example, that a person with HIV, even very well controlled, is going to have the same exact quality of life as someone without it,” said Gallant. “Nobody should think of it as a non-issue [but] as chronic diseases go the treatment for this is better than most.”

But Mayer said it’s important the articles such as Pemberton's don’t make people complacent about the status of HIV treatment in this country or globally.

“I’m not very happy with the article. I think comparing two serious illnesses is not very useful,” said Mayer, who explained there are still many hurdles towards treating people with HIV in the U.S.

Although Mayer concedes Pemberton's point that medications have made HIV very manageable, he said it has been difficult to effectively diagnose people who have the disease.

According to the CDC, about 25 percent of people with HIV are successfully keeping their virus under control through medication. Worldwide, fewer than 11 million people are being treated while more than 35 million people have the disease, according to UNAIDS.

Rates of HIV infection in the U.S. have remained about the same since around the mid-1990s at about 50,000 new infections every year, according to the CDC. And according to a 2011 CDC report, there are still around 15,000 deaths from HIV/AIDs in the U.S. every year.

Mayer said approximately 20 percent of people with HIV in the U.S. do not realize they are infected with the disease and it can be years before they show symptoms. Additionally, while medication has been shown to help keep the disease in check, experts are concerned about the effects of long-term use.

“That again is why I’m not so thrilled about the article,” said Mayer. “We don’t know what long-term consequences of HIV combined with aging. HIV might lead to higher risk of cardiovascular [complications.]”

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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French Lab Loses Thousands of Vials of Deadly SARS Virus


iStock/Thinkstock(PARIS) -- A French lab has lost more than 2,000 vials containing fragments of the deadly SARS virus, which killed nearly 800 people in a 2003 epidemic across four continents.

The Pasteur Institute in Paris, France announced this week that it realized it was missing the vials and contacted the country’s National Security Agency of Medicines and Health Products to conduct an investigation on April 8, according to a news release.

Although the fragments are not dangerous, they do raise concerns by revealing the lab’s vulnerability, said Dr. William Schaffner, chair of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn.

"It’s actually not in itself so scary but you wonder about the procedures in that laboratory,” said Schaffner, who is also a former president of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases. “Could that lab and perhaps others actually misplace vials that have the complete virus so that it might escape?”

SARS, which stands for severe acute respiratory syndrome, sickened more than 8,000 people a decade ago, and as researchers started to study it, some of them acquired the illness, Schaffner said. That was when they realized they needed to be more careful with it.

There have been no reported cases since 2004, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In the United States, SARS as a whole virus is considered a “select agent,” meaning it has the “potential to pose a severe threat to both human and animal health, to plant health, or to animal and plant products,” according to CDC.

Its symptoms start out seeming like the flu with a fever and chills, but within a week they progress to a higher fever, a dry cough and shortness of breath, according to Mayo Clinic.

The virus is believed to have originated in Chinese horseshoe bats in 2002 before spreading to cats sold at animal markets for food, and then spreading to humans. The outbreak in Hong Kong brought it to global attention, and it spread to two dozen countries, according to the CDC.

Schaffner said the virus fragments were stored in a in a lab refrigerator and forgotten about until the lab did inventory. He said the best case scenario is that they were accidentally incinerated and destroyed. The worst case scenario is that we will never know what happened to them.

“It reminds us that each and every lab must have rigorous safety procedures,” Schaffner said. “People must be trained, and there has to be good supervision.”

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Digital Mirror Reveals Internal Organs


iStock/Thinkstock(PARIS) -- By combining Microsoft Kinect’s motion-capture camera with medical imaging tests, French researchers have created a “digital mirror” that appears to peel back the skin of users and expose their organs.

Scientists from the University of Paris-South collected high-resolution images from the Pet scans, X-Rays and MRI scans of volunteers. Using the Kinect camera to track the movement of two dozen joints, they were able to translate the medical images into life-like animations and then project them onto the mirror-like screen. When users stepped in front of the mirror, they were treated to what looked like the insides of their bodies moving in real time.

Not surprisingly, users had a mixed reaction to the inside out reflections. In one experiment, the researchers left 30 people alone with the mirror for several minutes. Women seemed especially creeped out by the experience, with some gasping and covering their chests to block the view. About a third of people of both sexes were so uncomfortable they were reluctant to let anyone else have a look.

“When you’re a child and you discover your own image in front of the mirror, you don’t know it’s you,” lead researcher Xavier Maître told New Scientist Magazine. “The initial reaction to the digital mirror is often similar. It’s as if you’re inside your body. You’re discovering something that belongs to you.”

Maître said the device was built to “explore the philosophical questions about how we relate to our bodies” but believes it could eventually prove useful for doctors to help their patients emotionally prepare for surgery. As he told New Scientist, “Normally, the physician might show you an image of a CT or MRI of your body, but it is not in relation to your actual body. It might as well be someone else’s CT. If you’re able to actually relate it to some parts of your body, it may give you a little more information about where the problem is.”

This mirror isn’t the only gadget being used to reflect an alternate reality in the name of medicine. The “Mirracle” mirror developed by the Technical University in Munich, Germany projects slices of medical graphics directly onto a person’s body for the purpose of helping both surgeons and patients visualize what will take place during an operation. Another project is underway at George Washington University which will employ similar technology to show preliminary images of the body’s insides so that surgeons can keep their hands sterile as they map out a surgical plan.

Up next, the French research group will program in a beating heart and expanding lungs to make their images even more realistic.  They will display the mirror and present their findings at the Computer-Human Interaction conference in Toronto, Canada later this month.

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