Courtesy Brad Frey(WASHINGTON) -- The son of a woman who died of listeria in December after eating a tainted caramel apple is doing what he can to make sure no one else loses a loved one the same way.
Shirley Frey, 81, was one of seven people to die amid last fall's tainted caramel apple listeria outbreak. In all, 35 people became ill in 12 states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The outbreak was attributed to a Bakersfield, California, apple packaging facility, and it prompted apple and candy apple recalls.
"Ironically, my mother survived a brain bleed that resulted from a fall only weeks before she developed the infection that would kill her," Brad Frey said he plans to say at a public hearing Thursday in Washington, D.C., about the implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act.
President Barack Obama signed the act into law to give the Food and Drug Administration more authority for taking preventive measures when it comes to food safety, said Sandra Eskin, a food safety expert at the Pew Charitable Trusts. Under the current pre-FSMA rules, the agency is more reactive, and only takes action after someone becomes ill, she said.
Frey bought a prepackaged caramel apple shortly before Halloween, ate it that week and began to feel sick, according to the wrongful death lawsuit filed by food safety lawyer Bill Marler and his colleagues.
The lawsuit says that because of Frey's illness, she fell and hit her head on Nov. 6, prompting a visit to the local emergency room and a flight to Stanford Hospital, where she had surgery on what doctors suspected was a brain bleed, according to a statement from Marler's firm. She was discharged for rehabilitation on Nov. 14, and her health appeared to be improving, according to the lawsuit.
Then, on Thanksgiving, Frey would not wake up, according to the suit.
At Stanford Hospital, doctors told Frey's family on Dec. 2 that she had listeria infection, and she died later that day, according to the wrongful death complaint.
Health officials told the family later that month that Frey was a victim of the multi-state listeria outbreak tied to prepackaged caramel apples, according to a statement from Marler's firm. The wrongful death suit remains ongoing.
"We were in utter disbelief," Brad Frey said he plans to tell Congress. "Caramel apples had been one of my mother's favorite snacks, and she frequently bought them as treats for herself and her grandchildren."
He said his parents had been conscious of food safety, "but there is only so much a consumer can do."
As a result, he said strong food safety laws and rules are crucial.
Other than the apple-related listeria outbreak, the bacteria has been linked to hummus, spinach and ice cream in the first few months of 2015.
Santiaga/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Cuddling with a puppy or cozying up to a kitty has health benefits, but a new study suggests that household pets can also be sources of infection.
Young children, elderly people or pregnant women might well give a thought to potentially dangerous bacterial infections, including C. difficile and Campylobacter jejuni, according to a study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.
If your pet’s a reptile, amphibian, exotic animal or rodent, researchers say think even harder, as the group poses the greatest risk to humans and can transmit diseases through contaminated surfaces.
Researchers say that reptiles and amphibians are responsible for one in 10 cases of sporadic Salmonella infections in patients younger than 21.
Physicians do not regularly ask about pet contact or discuss the risks of pet-transmitted diseases, and the study highlights the need for common-sense steps: proper hand washing, discouraging face licking, avoiding exotic animals, wearing protective gear when cleaning pet habitats, and regularly scheduling veterinary visits for pets.
Manuel Faba Ortega/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -– Melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer, takes about 10,000 lives per year, and the median survival time for those diagnosed with its most severe form is a year.
Now, a new medication called Keytruda may help cut down those numbers.
In a recent study published in The New England Journal of Medicine involving those with advanced melanoma that compared Keytruda to the drug Yervoy, a commonly used medication for the disease, those taking Keytruda had a 37-percent higher chance of being alive after 12 months.
In addition to an improved survival rate, the patients taking this new drug also had fewer side effects, according to researchers.
Since the trial has lasted less than a year, researchers say it’s unknown if it will affect the survival rates for less severe forms, which can be much higher, in the same way.
Photo by JB Lacroix/WireImage(NEW YORK) -- Charlize Theron says that "choosing to be a mom in my late 30s has been really great for me. It’s given me perspective."
The actress, 39, is mother to 3-year-old Jackson, and she recentlysat down with W magazine to talk about aging and what she's learned over the years.
"I think, like many women, I was judgmental toward women as they aged. Women, in our society, are compartmentalized so that we start to feel like we’re cut flowers and after a while we will wilt. I realize now that’s not the case—we can celebrate every age," the Oscar winner said.
She added, "That’s my encouragement to 20-year-olds who are terrified of getting older: Don’t have a nervous breakdown and don’t hit the Chardonnay too hard. Getting older is not that bad."
When asked if she had any advice to her 20-year-old self, she replied, "I would say, 'Calm down.' I was always in a rush."
"I felt like time was going to run out. Now that I’m older, I know I’m not missing out on anything. Now, I go home, and that feels really good. When I hit 30, I realized I didn’t have to please everybody. I could actually enjoy life, which is not a bad thing at all."
Theron recently also spoke out about how she and boyfriend Sean Penn found love and what she finds attractive about her fellow Oscar winner.
"He is hot. How do you say that in an interview? You’re a forty-year-old woman sounding like a sixteen-year-old. There’s something beautiful about that, but you lack the articulation of really saying what it’s like when somebody walks into your life and makes you see something that you really never thought you’d be able to see. If somebody had said to me, ‘This is what it will be,’ I would’ve said, ‘F*** off.’ As you can see, it makes me smile,” she told Esquire magazine.
Pierson Clair/USC Atheltics(LOS ANGELES) -- When faced with losing his second eye to cancer at the age of 12, Jake Olson wanted to watch his last University of Southern California Trojans football game in person and take it all in. He got his wish and met the team.
Now a high school senior and totally blind, he may play for them.
The California teen was diagnosed with retinoblastoma when he was 1 and lost one of his eyes, ABC News reported. Although the cancer came back eight times, he was able to beat it until he was 12 in 2009. That year, doctors told him he would lose the other eye.
Though the thought of being totally blind scared him, Olson's one wish was to see the Trojans play one last time.
"I want to take in as much as I can," he told ABC News at the time.
USC head football coach Pete Carroll heard about it and invited Olson to practice.
"I got to sit next to Pete Carroll on the bus, which was awesome. I got to see them practice, which was awesome," Olson said. "I got to go into the locker room and everyone was partying. It was just awesome."
On the eve of his surgery, he was on the USC football field with the team. Carroll told him they loved him, and wanted to see him after he recovered. The next day, the Olsons sneaked his favorite player, Kris O'Dowd, into the hospital to wish him well.
"The nurse came in and gave him his IV and that's when Jake just broke down, just emotionally broke down and his parents broke down. I broke down," O'Dowd said. "I went up and gave him a kiss on the head and just told him, 'You're the strongest kid I've ever known and keep being who you are and everything will work out.'"
He was right.
Olson went on to write a book, Open Your Eyes to a Happier Life, and even got to play on his high school football team at Lutheran High School of Orange County.
"I was going to have to give up that dream of playing on the field," he told ABC News last fall. "It was something that being blind you couldn't do."
But the coach and the rest of the team worked with Olson to figure out how he could snap the ball. Olson's teammates clap and tap his leg to guide him.
"My heart pounds twice as fast every time," Olson said.
This fall, he's headed to USC on a full scholarship through Swim with Mike, which was founded at USC 35 years ago to help send disabled athletes to school. He's one of 60 students to get a Swim with Mike Scholarship this year, 12 of whom will go to USC, Swim with Mike founder Ron Orr told ABC News.
Orr said Olson was at the annual recruitment dinner in February, and after all the new players were announced, the Trojans' new head coach said there was "one more Trojan." It was Olson, who isn't an official member of the team yet, but Orr said the coach hopes to work with the NCAA to allow him to snap the ball soon.
"It was quite a moment," Orr said. "Jake Olson got up there with his dog and brought the house down."
iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The 35,000 runners who line up for Monday’s Boston Marathon can expect their bodies to take quite a beating from the 26.2-mile endurance test.
"Everyone has pain," said Dr. Lewis G. Maharam, the chairman of the International Marathon Medical Directors Association. "It's part of the deal."
Muscles take the brunt of the damage, he said.
Normally, the body only needs slow twitch muscle fibers to drive it forward. But for the marathon distance, the body recruits every single type of muscle fiber, including the fast twitch fibers normally only used for sprinting, he said. That uses up a lot of blood and almost all of the carbohydrate energy supplies stored in the muscles and blood.
“When you exhaust glycogen stores, the body’s preferred source of sugar, you start breaking down body fat and muscle protein,” he said. "That’s when you’re in danger of [hitting the wall]."
He added that can lead to psychological symptoms like confusion and disorientation.
But perhaps the hardest working muscle during a marathon is the heart, suggested Jason Karp, a Ph.D. exercise physiologist and author of Running a Marathon for Dummies. If you’re really pushing the pace, you can get into “cardiac drift,” where there is a sharp spike in heart rate without any change in effort, breathing or calorie burn, he said.
“It's caused by a decrease in the heart’s stroke volume, the amount of blood pumped out per beat,” Karp said. “The heart compensates by beating faster.”
Runners who don’t hydrate properly will have thicker blood, placing extra stress on the kidneys, Karp noted. This can contribute to trouble regulating core temperature as the body is forced to choose between sending blood towards the working muscles or into a system of capillaries underneath the skin that act as a cooling system. And if the glycogen stores do fully deplete, the liver goes into overdrive breaking down protein to supply the body with an energy source, he said.
On the other hand, runners who drink too much are in danger of developing hyponatremia, an imbalance of electrolytes, Maharam said. High sodium concentrations in the blood can be so severe they lead to brain swelling.
“No one knows why, but hyponatremic runners lose their ability to remember numbers,” he said. “When you ask them where they live they can tell you the street but not the house number.”
The runners who make it to the finish line can expect some muscle soreness for up to a week, Maharam said.
“It’s by inflammation and microscopic muscle tears,” he added. “That same pounding can also cause joint pain and tightness in the tissues that connect bone to muscle.”
Running a marathon can compromise the immune system for several months afterwards, leaving marathoners susceptible to colds and infections. But most of the other effects will disappear after a drink of water and a good meal, Karp said.
So why do runners put their bodies through all this? Maharam said most runners he’s talked to expect some suffering but ultimately feel it’s worth it. And as one recent study in the journal Memory suggested, the pain of a marathon, like the pain of childbirth, is the kind of pain you forget.
iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- With medical marijuana now legal in 23 states, and recreational use permitted in four states as well as Washington, D.C., a burgeoning cannabis industry is blooming in America.
The latest crop of potentially lucrative products? Pot for pets.
Biscuits, edibles and capsules containing cannabis compounds are being marketed to owners of ailing and elderly animals as natural pain relievers and anti-inflammatory supplements. But these products aren't getting Fido stoned, claim proponents.
"The cannabis plant has many compounds in it," said Matthew J. Cote, brand manager at San Francisco bay area edibles manufacturer Auntie Dolores, which launched its pet-focused line Treatibles in 2014. "Most people breed cannabis for the euphoric experience of THC. But they've been overlooking cannabidiol -- commonly known as CBD -- which is non-psychoactive."
Citing studies in Israel that suggest CBD can be used to treat epilepsy, inflammation and pain relief, Auntie Dolores decided to infuse dog biscuits as animals suffer from some of those same ailments, said Cote.
Sold online for $22 per bag of 40 treats, Treatibles contain 1 milligram of CBD per treat. The company's recommended dose is 1 milligram per 20-pound animal.
"What we've seen is that some of these dogs respond very rapidly," said Cote. "One woman from Fort Bragg was ready to put down her dog due to how sick and in pain he was, but the day before he was scheduled to go under, she administered our treats and just like that the dog was up, walking around and acting normally again."
Canna Companion, a Sultan, Washington-based producer of pet capsules that combine strains of dried, powdered hemp, received similar success stories and testimonials from its customers.
"Just want to say how much this product has helped my animals," writes one pet owner on the brand's Facebook page. "Bug, [my] 18-year-old cat, is playing, sleeping next to me at night, being curious and exploring...her back pain is nearly gone. I can pet her all over and she purrs! She has NEVER, until being on hemp, enjoyed being petted."
Co-owner of Canna Companion and licensed veterinarian Dr. Sarah Brandon, developed her product after a decade of trials and formula refinements with her own pets and strays.
But that didn't prevent the U.S. Food and Drug Administration from sending her a notice last month, warning that the capsules were an “unapproved new animal drug and your marketing of it violates the [Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic] Act.”
Even in states where medical marijuana is legal, veterinarians are not empowered to prescribe cannabis products to pets. Similarly, producers of hemp-based edibles, treats and capsules are limited in how they may advertise the products' purported benefits.
"We initially marketed our product using medical terminology," said Brandon. "[My husband] and I are both licensed veterinarians and were trained to use such verbiage...Our intent was to market an over the counter supplement which would help improve the quality of life of dogs and cats. Since that letter, we have joined NASC and taken great steps to correct the issues brought to our attention."
Part of the reason the FDA has been taking more interest in such cases is that there is insufficient research on cannabis products for pets in the U.S.
Dr. Tina Wismer, medical director of the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, has witnessed myriad instances over the years when animals have consumed too much of their owners' stash.
"We get quite a few marijuana calls at Poison Control," said Wismer. "Cats like the plant material better, whereas dogs like to get into the edibles. Depending on how much they get into will determine how aggressive we need to be."
"Most of the time they’re wobbly like they’re drunk, they dribble urine," she said. "But 25% of them become extremely agitated, which certainly is not something I would want to put my elderly pet through. In fact, dogs that get into the really large amounts of THC, often need to be put on fluids and have their heart rate monitored."
Still, Wismer did not dispute the potential for monitored consumption of such treats and capsules in the future.
"Most of these treats have very low levels of CBD, so they are much safer [than when a cat or dog accidentally eats something of the human's]. It looks like these certainly could be helpful products in some cases, but right now we don’t have enough information," Wismer said. "Whether it’s THC or other cannabinoids, the problem is we have no therapeutic dose. We don't know, 'are you under-dosing your animal or overdosing your animal?' These are the things we need to determine."
David M. Benett/Getty Images for Victoria and Albert Museum(NEW YORK) — Sam Smith lost 14 pounds in 14 days last month, but the British singer says he still struggles with his body image.
The Grammy winner explained that food has "controlled" him from the time he was a child.
"When I was at school and wasn't having a great time or when music wasn't going very well. I would eat, eat," he told 60 Minutes Australia. "Eating would make me feel better. When I felt lonely I would eat."
Smith, 22, said that he is more offended when people make comments about his weight than when people utter slurs about his sexuality.
"I think just because I've accepted that, if someone calls me a f*****, it's like, I am gay and I'm proud to be gay so there's no issues there," he said. "If someone calls you fat, it's like, that's something I want to change."
Last week, Smith, who has been working with nutritionist Amelia Freer, said he was just four pounds away from reaching his goal weight.
iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — About one in three children have a difficult time swallowing pills of any size, and more than half have difficulty swallowing a standard-sized pill, but researchers say many of the techniques being used to teach kids appear to be successful.
Researchers recently reviewed published literature about the techniques being employed to teach kids how to swallow pills they need to take for medical issues. They found that specialized pill cups, flavored throat sprays, head posturing techniques and written instructions were all employed, and the approaches were successful in most of the children studied.
Moreover, during a follow-up six months later, children demonstrated that they could still remember and put into practice the new pill-swallowing skills they learned.
Mike Watson Images/moodboard/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Researchers presented a study at the American Educational Research Association meeting on Sunday that shows that what college students major in does matter.
Researchers at New York University found that college graduates who hold a job related to their major three to four years after graduation held advantages both financially and in certain intangible ways as compared to those who worked in fields unrelated to their majors. The study involved five factors including self-reported earnings, continued learning or challenges, supportive work environment, job satisfaction and job commitment.
In young adults whose jobs were related to the field they studied, researchers say all five measures were higher than those who held unrelated professions.
The study also determined that science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) majors generally held higher levels in each of the five measures.
byakkaya/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration this week approved a "first-of-its-kind" corneal implant meant to help improve near vision in some patients.
The KAMRA inlay is implanted in the cornea of one eye to help patients with presbyopia, the FDA says. The device is ring-shaped and works by blocking unfocused light rays from entering the eye, removing blurriness. "Presbyopia is a natural part of aging and can make reading and performing close-up work difficult," William Maisel, deputy center director for science in the FDA's Center for Devices and Radiological Health said in a press release. "The KAMRA inlay provides a new option for correcting near vision in certain patients."
An FDA press release says the agency looked at three clinical studies, which showed that 83.5 percent of evaluable participants improved their near vision to 20/40 or better within a year.
Aaron Kohr/iStock/Thinkstock(ALBANY, N.Y.) -– New York health officials are warning of a recent increase in the use of a synthetic cannabinoid that has sent more than 160 patients to the hospital since April 8.
The drug, known as “spice,” is known to be marketed as incense, herbal mixtures or potpourri in order to mask its true purpose.
Calls to New York State poison control centers due to the use of the synthetic drugs have increased dramatically in the last two weeks, officials said.
Users of the synthetic mixtures typically experience symptoms that include agitation, anxiety, nausea, vomiting, high blood pressure, tremor, seizures, hallucinations, paranoia and violent behavior, according to health officials.
“Drugs like ‘spice’ pose a significant threat to public health and New Yorkers need to be aware of the dangers,” said acting New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker in a news release. “Since the exact compounds contained in synthetic cannabinoid products change so frequently, it’s often impossible for users to know exactly what they are putting in their body.”
Synthetic cannabinoids are marketed as legal and typically consist of plant material coated by chemicals which are supposed to mimic THC, the active chemical compound in marijuana.
In August 2012, the New York State Department of Health banned the sale and possession of dozens of substances used to make synthetic cannabinoids and bath salts.
Dr. Gregory Levitin/Mount Sinai Roosevelt Hospital(NEW YORK) -- Nearly two weeks after undergoing a lengthy operation to fix a facial malformation, Kaitlin Nguyen is again smiling.
The 3-year-old girl was born with a large facial lymphatic malformation that bulged out from under her cheek.
Earlier this month, Kaitlin underwent surgery led by Dr. Gregory Levitin, director of the Vascular Birthmark Center at Mount Sinai Roosevelt in New York. Levitin said the girl bounced back remarkably well from the five-hour surgery.
"She’s fantastic…she got her stitches [out], she was so playful and right back to her usual self," Levitin said after seeing Kaitlin in a follow-up appointment today. "Her mom was having a hard time to stop her from being too active."
An anonymous donor helped pay for Kaitlin's life-changing surgery.
Levitin said his team was able to remove 80 percent of the lymphatic malformation. The surgeon worked carefully to preserve the facial nerves so the surgery doesn't do more harm than good.
"We want to remove abnormal tissue but preserve normal tissue, including that nerve," Levitin said. "It’s a needle of hay in a haystack.”
Kaitlin's Los Angeles-area family had tried to arrange surgery before when she was 1, but doctors became stymied by the complex structure of her illness. Now Levitin said Kaitlin's mom is beaming at her progress.
Levitin said the girl still has some swelling that will go down by another 20 to 30 percent in the coming weeks. While the main surgery is over, Levitin said, she may need a few more procedures in the future to soften scar tissue and to help make her smile more symmetrical.
They'll "wait six months to a year and see how she does to give her a chance to recover and be a normal girl," Levitin said.
He said he would likely perform another smaller surgery then to help fix the muscles that had been moved or stretched by the lymphatic malformation.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services/YouTube(NEW YORK) -- Turns out even Muppets aren't immune to the need for vaccinations.
In a new video released by the U.S. Health and Human Services, Elmo of Sesame Street joined forces with the U.S. Surgeon General to encourage all children to be up to date on their vaccinations.
"I explained to him that, as Surgeon General, it is my job to help everyone stay healthy," U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy said in a statement. "Specifically, Elmo and I talked about the importance of vaccines and making sure that all children are protected from easily preventable diseases."
While a shot may not be fun for a Muppet, even Elmo says he's ready. "Come on everybody get vaccinated with Elmo!" he said in the video.
The video was released the same day that the California State Department of Health declared the end of a recent measles outbreak that infected 147 people in the United States, with 131 people sickened in California alone.
A bill is pending in the California state legislature that would stop parents from seeking personal or religious belief exemptions that would allow their children to attend school without being vaccinated.
While nationwide the rate of vaccination remains high, pockets of unvaccinated people have led to recent outbreaks of diseases formerly thought of as eliminated or extremely rare.
Vaccines helped stop 21 million hospitalizations and 732,000 deaths of children in the United States from 1994 to 2013, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.