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CDC: Already More Measles Cases in 2015 than Median Number from 2001 to 2010

Credit: James Gathany/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(NEW YORK) -- The U.S. Centers for Disease Control said Thursday that the number of measles cases in the U.S. since January 1 is already higher than the annual total case counts for several recent full years.

In total, the CDC said there have been 84 cases of measles in 2015, with 67 of those linked to the outbreak at California's Disneyland. The California outbreak includes six other states as well.

Between 2001 and 2010, the median number of measles cases per year in the U.S. was just 60.

Dr. Anne Schuchat from the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases said on Thursday that for every 1,000 U.S. children who get measles, one to three will die from it -- "regardless of best treatment."

Interestingly, the CDC also notes that the U.S. experienced the highest number of measles cases in 20 years in 2014, with 644 cases linked to 20 outbreaks.

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Study: Expensive Placebos More Effective than Cheap Ones

Jeffrey Hamilton/Digital Vision/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A new study shows that placebos are more effective when they cost more.

Researchers looked at data from 12 patients with moderate to severe Parkinson's disease who were told they were being given one injection that was a more expensive version of a new drug and one injection that was a cheap version. In fact, patients were given saline -- a placebo -- both times. According to the study, published in the journal Neurology, patients had their brain activity and motor function measured to determine effectiveness.

While neither placebo was as effective as the Parkinson's drug levodopa, the expensive version of the placebo prompted better performance on motor skills tests. "Perceptions of cost," the researchers determined, "are capable of altering the placebo response in clinical studies."

Dr. Alberto Espay, an associate professor at the University of Cincinnati Department of Neurology and Rehabilitation Medicine, said in a press release that "if we can find strategies to harness the placebo response to enhance the benefits of treatments, we could potentially maximize the benefit of treatment while reducing the dosage of drugs needed and possibly reducing side effects."

Because the study involved such a small sample of participants, further research may be needed to prove the findings.

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WHO: New Ebola Cases in West Africa Drop Below 100 Last Week

Pawel Gaul/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The World Health Organization on Thursday released a new report on the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, showing that the number of new cases identified in the last week had fallen below 100.

According to the WHO's Ebola Situation Report, 99 new cases were detailed in the three countries most heavily affected by the outbreak -- 65 in Sierra Leone, 30 in Guinea and four in Liberia. The total number of Ebola cases since the beginning of the outbreak is now at 22,092. At least 8,810 of those cases has resulted in death.

Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia have been the site of the vast majority of Ebola cases, with 22,057 cases in those three nations. A small number of cases have been detected in Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Spain, the United Kingdom and the U.S.

The WHO says that the response to the Ebola situation "has now moved to a second phase, as the focus shifts from slowing the transmission to ending the epidemic." Specifically, efforts are being shifted to ensure capacity for case finding and management, safe burials and community engagement.

Liberia and Sierra Leone each reported decreased incidents of new Ebola cases compared to last week, while the 30 cases in Guinea was up from 20 the week before.

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How Tom Brady's Cold Could Affect the Super Bowl

Jared Wickerham/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- This is nothing to sneeze at ahead of the Super Bowl: Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has a cold.

Brady told reporters he's sure he'll be fine in time for Sunday's clash against the Seattle Seahwaks, saying, "It's been lingering, so I'm just trying to get some rest. A lot of garlic, old remedies, everything I can."

But epidemiologists aren't sold on the garlic -- but they also say there's a good chance Brady will be just fine in time for the big game.

"That will keep those linebackers away," Dr. William Schaffner, chair of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, said of the garlic remedy, which he called "folklore."

"People get better as time passes with colds, so I expect that he will indeed improve by the time Sunday comes along," he added.

Schaffner, who has not treated Brady, said most colds go away after about four or five days. He also said the most important thing Brady can do this week is stay hydrated and get plenty of sleep at night.

"That’s the stuff your grandmother told you which is actually is useful," he said.

Exercise also helps with symptom relief because it stimulates adrenaline production, Schaffner said.

Adrenaline constricts the blood vessels in the nose to relieve some of the stuffiness from a cold. He said most people have their favorite over-the-counter drugs for symptom relief, and those might help Brady, too.

"I think hydration, sleep, the passage of time and his exercise actually bode well for his performance on Sunday," Schaffner said. "He may not need that garlic to keep away the linebackers."

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Family Seeking Liver Donor to Save Twins Asks for Public's Help

Bhakpong/iStock/Thinkstock(TORONTO) -- A family desperately searching for a liver donor for their twin daughters have started a campaign in order to find a stranger willing to donate to save their girls.

Binh and Phuoc Wagner, 3, of Ontario, Canada, both need liver transplants because of a genetic condition called Alagille syndrome, which can affect bile ducts in the liver and lead to severe liver damage.

The twins were adopted from Vietnam in 2012 by Johanne and Michael Wagner, who were aware the girls’ livers were in trouble during the adoption.

“We knew they were very ill,” Johanne Wagner said. “Those girls knocked on our doors and they were supposed to be with us, and it just took a different path. As soon as we heard about them, we knew they were they were part of our family.”

Last year, the girls’ condition worsened to the point that they were able to be put on a transplant list. While the girls each need their own donor, the family was delighted to find out that Michael Wagner was a donor match.

Wagner can only give liver tissue to one child because of the way the liver regenerates. Doctors will determine which girl is sicker and she will undergo the procedure.

“We found ourselves to be very lucky that we qualified right away,” said Johanne Wager of her husband being a match. “[We’re] relieved but we need one more donor.”

The family has now turned to social media and public outreach in the hope that a stranger could be a match and also be willing to undergo rigorous medical procedures and an operation in order to save their daughter’s life.

After starting a Facebook page to draw attention to the twins' story, Johanne Wagner said hundreds of people started flooding her Facebook page offering to be a living donor. Wagner is directing anyone interested to the Toronto General Hospital Living Donor Assessment Office to see if they fit the profile.

Dr. Les Lilly, the medical director of liver transplant at Toronto General Hospital, estimated that anonymous living donors account for a fraction of liver donations, but that with social media the practice could become more commonplace.

“We do have people who step forward and want to help out, and they’re considered anonymous donors,” said Lilly. “I think there’s a greater awareness,” of being a living donor through social media.

Lilly cautioned that becoming a living donor is not easy. A person’s blood type must be compatible with the recipient and they must pass a battery of tests to ensure they are healthy enough to donate. After the operation, they have to be out of work for weeks as they recover.

Lilly said hospital officials go slowly with tests so that donors are not overwhelmed and feel they still can change their minds.

“We’re very, very conscious of donor safety,” said Lilly. “We realize some people might go into process very enthusiastically,” but later decide it is not right for them.

Billie Potkonjak, director of health promotion and patient services at the Canadian Liver Foundation, said they’re seeing more and more anonymous living liver donor cases.

“Certainly, the proliferation of social media makes it easier for people to go public with their situation and to talk about it publicly,” said Potkonjak. “It definitely highlights the need for organ donation.”

Johanne Wagner said it’s likely her husband will donate his liver to one of the girls within the next few weeks.

In spite of the difficulties they’re facing, Johanne Wagner said they’re staying positive and thankful for the public’s support.

“We would travel this road all over again,” she said.

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Does Shaving Make Your Hair Darker and Thicker?

Jacek Chabraszewski/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- When faced with a patch of unruly hair on your body, it’s tempting to grab a razor and cut it down to size. But should you think again before reaching for the blade to solve your over-active follicles?

Dr. Debbie Yi, an Emergency Medicine and Neurology physician at the Hospital of UPenn, cuts this myth down to size. Dr. Yi asserts that our hair is a lot like grass: thick at the bottom and thinner towards the ends.

“So when we shave, all you’re doing is causing a cut, that makes the hair more coarse and more stubbly. So it might appear to be darker, and might appear to be thicker, but sadly, it actually isn’t,” Dr. Yi says.

So the next time you reach for that razor to get rid of unsightly hair, never fear, the hair that remains isn’t thicker or darker -- it’s just an illusion.

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Scott Foley Explains How to Lose More Than 10 Pounds Overnight

ABC/Ron Tom(LOS ANGELES) — Scott Foley is no stranger to shirtless scenes. However, the Scandal star, whose show premieres Thursday night, said that the real work involved with them happens in the days leading up to the shoot.

"I'm a juice guy," Foley told ABC News. "If I have a big scene, I'll have three or four days only having vegetable juice or something."

Foley, 42, said that in one case, he had to shoot a shirtless scene after Thanksgiving, which meant that for his holiday celebration, he could only partake in the turkey. However, in a crunch, he also knows how to lose 20 lbs. in one day using the same technique fighters use to drop pounds.

"Drink a ton of water -- as much as you can -- don't eat anything, get in a sauna, sweat it out," he explained. "When you get home, get in a bath, as hot as you can take it. You fill it with Epsom salt and really hot water -- like 20 lbs. of Epsom salt so it's so salty that the salt doesn't even dissolve. That's going to suck all this water out of your body. You could drop 12-15 pounds by tomorrow morning."

However, the actor, who works with a nutritionist, said that that's not part of his regular routine.

Meanwhile, he laughed when asked about the diet of his co-star, Kerry Washington.

"Kerry eats some weird stuff! She came the other day with this Tupperware thing of, they look like potato chips but it was dried or flaked sauerkraut and it tasted like a foot. It was awful," he said with a laugh. "I think she does it on purpose!"

Kissing scenes means, of course, that they both freshen up, he added.

"She's very kind," he said. "We both brush!"

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One in 12 Americans Don't Follow Prescription Medication Directions in Effort to Save Money

Fuse/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- New data provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that one in 12 Americans choose not to take prescription medication as directed to save money.

Eight percent of Americans, the CDC says, do not take prescription medicine as directed in an effort to save money. An even larger 15 percent said they have asked their physician for a lower-cost medication than what was prescribed for them.

The CDC also notes that alternative cost-reducing strategies including alternative drug therapy and purchase of prescription drugs from another country were also tactics employed by between 1.5 percent and 4.2 percent of American adults.

Adults between the ages of 18 and 64 were nearly twice as likely -- 8.5 percent to 4.4 percent -- to report not taking medicines as prescribed as seniors were, a figure that jumped when looking at uninsured adults.

Perhaps just as staggering is almost 20 percent of the $263 billion spent on prescription drugs each year in the U.S. was paid for out of pocket.

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Money Is Not the Root of All Happiness

iStock/Thinkstock(EAST LANSING, Mich.) — You've heard the cliché a million times: money can’t buy happiness. Well, maybe there’s something to it after all.

Researchers at Michigan State University and the University of British Columbia aren’t saying that having money is a bad thing since it can make life easier. However, they contend that fewer money worries doesn’t necessarily equate to a happy life.

After reviewing data from 12,300 people who answered a 2010 Census survey that recorded levels of their happiness and income, the researchers discovered that “higher income is associated with experiencing less daily sadness, but has no bearing on daily happiness.”

In other words, happiness and sadness, while different emotions, are not opposite emotions.

So, while money can get people out of predicaments that make them sad, it won’t make them any happier.

As leader author Kostadin Kushlev explains, “People limit their own ability to experience happiness if they let money take over.” Instead, they need to focus on making better choices that will bring them true contentment.

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Paying Pregnant Women to Stop Smoking Pays Off

Wavebreak Media(ATLANTA) — Most women understand the perils of smoking while pregnant yet many women continue to light up anyway, which can affect their health and the well-being of their fetus.

The problem is more pervasive than one might imagine. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that one out of 10 pregnant women still smokes within the last three months of pregnancy.

Smoking cessation programs directed at pregnant women have had some degree of success but a research team of scientists from the U.K. says that an especially effective approach is to bribe the women with shopping vouchers.

In their study of more than 600 pregnant smokers, one group received the equivalent of $600 worth of vouchers, provided they started cessation programs and/or stopped smoking. The other group signed up for programs and other therapies but weren’t given vouchers.

Ultimately, 23 percent of the voucher group quit right away and 15 percent were still off cigarettes a year later. The control group was not as successful with nine percent having stopped smoking and just four percent staying smoke-free 12 months later.

Ethical concerns aside, the researchers believe the cash incentive program should at least be considered as “an important preventive health care intervention strategy.”

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Half of Seniors Reluctant to Reveal Falls to Doctors

Purestock/Thinkstock(ATLANTA) — There’s no shame in falling down, particularly if you’re a senior. The real shame is not telling a medical professional about it.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over half of the millions of people aged 65 and older who fall annually fail to tell their personal physician about it.

Penn State University internal medicine specialist Dr. Nicole Osevala says the reason is that many seniors are worried that revealing their unsteadiness is a precursor to getting put in assisted living or a nursing home. Another concern of the elderly is that they don’t want their family members fussing over them.

However, Osevala says that seniors need to get over their fears because their doctor might be able to treat the source of their unsteadiness, which could result from osteoarthritis and nerve damage or even infections of the skin or urinary tract. Some medications such as blood pressure drugs or antidepressants can also increase the risk of falls.

According to Osevala, seniors also need to recognize that they might have limitations that means fewer trips up and down stairs.

One other important point is that a fall can make older people more susceptible to another fall so they really need to come clean to their doctors.

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Cat Gets Oxygen Mask After Surviving Fire Inside Wall

Mike Watson Images/moodboard/Thinkstock(CHARLOTTE, N.C.) -- Firefighters outside Charlotte, North Carolina, were nearly done battling a house fire burning for more than four hours when one of them said they discovered a cat who miraculously survived the massive inferno stuck in a wall.

"One of our guys was walking around the house, which was almost completely collapsed, when he heard a meow," Mint Hill Fire Chief David Leath told ABC News Wednesday. "He pried one of the outside walls and found the cat stuck inside."

The firefighter got the feline Marissa out and gave it oxygen through a mask and tank from one of the ambulances on the scene.

"The cat was then taken to a local vet," Leath said. "I paid a visit today, and it was meowing still and everything. The vet said she's on a 24-hour watch and she was doing well. The cat is expected to recover from smoke inhalation, a couple burn marks and an injured eye."


Mint Hill Fire saves family cat Marissa from fire. She's doing alright according to Sycamore Animal Clinic @wcnc

— Dustin Wilson (@dustinbwilson1) January 28, 2015

Marissa the cat belonged to a 16-year-old daughter of the family who lived in the house, according to Leath. He said the family fled the fire and never returned, and that he was unsure of the family's current location.

The house fire occurred in Mint Hill around 3:30 a.m. Wednesday.

"The family's eldest son noticed the fire and called emergency services," Leath said. He added that the fire was caused by a vehicle fire in the driveway that got up into the attic. He said there was still an ongoing investigation as to what caused the vehicle fire.



Mint Hill, NC (Meck) *Working Fire * overnight fire in lrg house. Pet rescued. @IdlewildVFD img #NCfire

— (@FireNews) January 28, 2015

"For a cat to be inside that structure fire for four hours, I'd say that's pretty miraculous," Leath told ABC News.


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Organ Transplants Could Provide Two Million Extra Years of Life, Researchers Say

targovcom/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Organ transplants in the United States may lead to as many as two million extra years of life, researchers say.

Looking at data since the FDA first approved solid-organ transplants in 1983, researchers say they determined the survival benefit of organ transplants by comparing patients on the transplant list who received a transplant to those who did not receive a transplant over a 25-year span. During that time frame, kidney transplants were most common, followed by liver, heart, lung, pancreas and intestine transplants.

Researchers attributed 1.4 million life-years saved to kidney transplants. In their measurements, they determined that kidney, pancreas-kidney, liver and heart transplants give recipients an extra four to five years of life. Comparatively, lung, pancreas and intestine transplants provided patients with two to three more life-years.

Overall, all transplant recipients lived significantly longer than those who did not receive a transplant, researchers say.

The researchers did note that transplant recipients are intentionally selected to prioritize those who could benefit the most from available organs. They say they attempted to account for that statistical bias with their analyses.

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Study: Insurers May Be Using Drug Costs to Discriminate

Thomas Northcut/Digital Vision/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A study in the New England Journal of Medicine claims that insurers may be using the costs of certain drugs to discriminate against "high-cost patients."

Researchers analyzed "adverse tiering" in 12 states using the federal health insurance marketplace. Of those 12 states, six states included insurers cited in a complaint submitted to the Department of Health and Human Services in May 2014 (Delaware, Florida, Louisiana, Michigan, South Carolina and Utah), and the six most populous states with none of the mentioned insurers (Illinois, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia).

Adverse tiering, the researchers explain, is an approach that aims to deter specific patients from enrolling in health insurance, for example, by ensuring that "enrollees with HIV will incur high costs regardless of which drugs they take."

In each state, researchers looked at the plans with the lowest, second-lowest, median and highest premiums for the "silver" level health insurance, assessing the cost sharing for the most commonly prescribed class of HIV medications. In 12 of the 48 plans analyzed, the researchers say they found evidence of adverse tiering.

This problem, the researchers say, "will most likely lead to adverse selection over time, with sicker people clustering in plans that don't use adverse tiering for their medical conditions."

The researchers recommend mandating a percentage of drug costs paid by the plan to be set at a percentage threshold.

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California Dept. of Public Health Calls E-Cigarettes a 'Community Health Threat'

scyther5/iStock/Thinkstock(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) -- A report issued by the California Department of Public Health on Wednesday calls electronic cigarettes a "community health threat."

CDPH Director and State Health Office Ron Chapman wrote the introduction to the report, highlighting his concerns regarding marketing methods that "may...mislead consumers into believing that these products are harmless and safe for consumption." Chapman noted that there were 154 e-cigarette poisonings among children age five and under in 2014 -- well up from the seven such poisonings in 2012.

Chapman also mentioned the $2 billion, 25-year investment in efforts to prevent and reduce tobacco use in California.

According to the report, e-cigarettes contain products that produce aerosol -- not just water vapor -- to be inhaled by the user. That aerosol can contain chemicals like formaldehyde, lead, nickel and acetaldehyde, which are found on California's list of chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects and reproductive harm.

The CDPH made several recommendations to restrict the sale and use of e-cigarettes, among them were the prohibition of e-cigarette sales to minors around the U.S., prohibition of free samples or e-cigarette vending machines in facilities where minors may spend time, and required registration of e-cigarette products with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The CDPH also aims to require a nicotine health warning on all e-cigarette products, while also mandating manufacturers disclose the ingredients of their product.

The CDPH further says it will create an educations campaign to impart the health dangers of e-cigarettes.

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