Lorie Johnson

CBN News Medical Reporter

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Monday, December 15, 2014

High Blood Pressure: Sugar, Not Salt No. 1 Risk Factor

For years now, we've been told that in order to avoid high blood pressure we need to avoid salt. But now it appears it is sugar consumption, not salt, that is the greater concern.

According to a study published in the journal, Open Heart, scientists discovered high amounts of sugar, not salt, puts us at greater risk of developing high blood pressure. High blood pressure is also called hypertension.

This information is critically important because high blood pressure is the No. 1 risk factor for the leading killer of men and women in America: heart disease.

One easy way to stop eating sugar is to stop eating processed foods, including fast food. In other words, switch to whole foods, prepared at home.

Most people cringe at the idea of cooking the food they eat because of the time involved. However, when it comes to your health, it's well worth the effort. Furthermore, there are many items that don't take very long to prepare, such as eggs or salad.

Food manufacturers add astronomical amounts of sugar to their products. This is often in the form of high fructose corn syrup, which is arguably worse than table sugar because some experts say high fructose corn syrup disables the body's ability to feel fullness, even having the opposite effect as an addictive element. So the more we eat, the more we want.

Processed foods that contain obscene amounts of sugar aren't just found in the soda or cookie aisle. They are everywhere. Sugar, usually in the form of high fructose corn syrup, is added to yogurt, bread, pasta sauce, soup, salad dressings, and so on -- many foods that we don't even consider sweet and may even mistakenly consider healthy

As a general rule, if it's in a package, a staggering amount of sugar has probably been added to it. Therefore, avoid food in packages. However, if you are tempted to purchase processed food, at least check the list of ingredients. Look not only for high fructose corn syrup, but also any of its approximately 40 cousins.

Yes, there are dozens of types of sugars that food manufacturers don't want you to recognize on their labels. Most ingredients that end in "ose" such as dextrose and maltrose, are sugars.

Also when you see the word "syrup," it's usually a sugar. If you see sugar of any type, especially in the first three ingredients, put it back on the shelf. (Food manufacturers have to list their ingredients in the order of what the items contains the most of. For instance, if the first ingredient is high fructose corn syrup, that means the item contains more high fructose corn syrup than anything else.)

In addition to outright sugars, we must remember that refined carbohydrates are also considered sugars because they turn into sugar as soon as we eat them. Refined carbohydrates are processed starches, the most common being white flour, which is usually called "enriched" flour.

Refined carbohydrates are considered sugars because they have the exact same effect on your body as sugars do, the moment you eat them.

Now that we know sugar is the main risk factor for high blood pressure, that does not give us license to pile on the salt. Doctors say we should avoid both salt and sugar in large doses.

Interestingly, it's not the salt shaker and the sugar bowl at home that we need to steer clear of. When we prepare food at home we generally use a small fraction of salt and sugar compared to the insane amounts we find in processed foods.

So again, the rule of thumb is: avoid processed foods and you'll drastically reduce your intake of salt and sugar.

One more thing about high blood pressure: denouncing processed foods is the major battle. But exercise is also crucial to achieving healthy blood pressure numbers. Start by simply walking 30 minutes a day and go from there. That little bit of discipline will pay dividends when it comes to your heart health.

posted @ Monday, December 15, 2014 9:04 AM | Feedback (0)

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Marijuana Industry to Mimic Big Tobacco?

Marijuana legalization is slowly seeping its way into our culture. It is a trend that will not be reversed, but rather one that will grow. Therefore it is only a matter of time until the use of marijuana for recreational purposes in all 50 states.

Of course proponents view marijuana legalization as something benign, paying particular attention to the way it is currently regulated. However, the marijuana industry will certainly increase, as most other industries do, to a point where it is so harmful to the public that not even today's most stringent marijuana legalization proponents would consider beneficial to any faction of our society, except, of course, the people who make money from it.

Dr. Samuel Wilkinson, with the Yale School of Medicine, recently opined in The Washington Post, that it is likely the marijuana industry leaders will follow the direction of the leaders of another legalized drug: tobacco.

Just like the fledgling days of the tobacco industry, the marijuana industry today is rather weak. Back in the 1800s, tobacco use was rare indeed, but by the mid-1900s about half of American adults smoked, causing enormous physical damage, including heart disease, stroke, and cancer.

Although marijuana proponents would have you think otherwise, there is considerable evidence that the drug causes psychosis, impaired cognitive abilities, and addiction.

The tobacco industry carefully formulated their plan for success and it's a plan that the marijuana industry can and likely will, imitate.

It involves:

1. Identifing a product with addictive potential.

2. Aggressively marketing it to as large an audience as possible.

3. Developing technical innovations to allow for and promote increased consumption.

4. Denying or minimizing potential costs to human health.

NEW METHODS OF CONSUMING
Tobacco use skyrocketed when consumers were no longer saddled with the burden of rolling their own cigarettes, which drastically hampered production. However, the invention of machine-manufactured cigarettes, already rolled and ready-to-smoke cigarettes, not to mention uniform in size and shape, delighted consumers and catapulted sales to whole to stratosphere.

Similarly, new methods of consuming marijuana, such as vaporization, make it easier and arguably more enjoyable to consume more marijuana in one sitting.


INTENSIFYING THE PRODUCT
Tobacco changed over the years after industry leaders figured out the advantage to them by changing the chemical composition and curing process of cigarettes made them more flavorful as well as more addictive.

Likewise, in marijuana the percentage of THC, the nickname for the key ingredient tetrahydrocannabinol, is much higher today than it was in the 1980s. THC is what gives marijuana users that euphoric feeling, but is also associated with many adverse health effects.


STRESS SAFETY
Cigarette advertisements often featured doctors in an effort to diminish public fear over health dangers associated with smoking cigarettes.

Similarly, people in favor of marijuana legalization often feature healthcare workers touting the safety of marijuana, especially as a treatment for medical conditions such as glaucoma, making it appear safe, even good for you, when in reality, there is very little scientific supporting the health benefits of using it.


TARGET YOUNG PEOPLE
The tobacco industry is notorious for aiming its marketing at young people, even children because that's the most profitable strategy.  Once these consumers are hooked, they'll likely be customers for life.

We haven't seen marijuana advertisements yet. However it is foolish to think they are not on the horizon. It's safe to predict that they, too, will be aimed at young people.


POWERFUL LOBBYISTS
The tobacco lobby is one of the most powerful in Washington, D.C. They spend inordinate amounts of money making sure no laws or regulations are enacted that will curb their sales and profits.

So far, there are restrictions on marijuana sales and advertising. But the marijuana industry is still in its infancy. We can already see the burgeoning marijuana lobbyists.

For example, while Colorado has placed restrictions on marijuana advertising, the marijuana industry quickly mounted a powerful legal challenge in court.


In conclusion, while the inevitability of legalized marijuana throughout America is dishearteneing, we must look at it as we do cigarettes by educating the public about the dangers of the drug and encouraging them to avoid it, regardless of how easy it is to purchase.

posted @ Tuesday, December 09, 2014 2:25 PM | Feedback (0)

Monday, November 24, 2014

Family Dinners Improve Health

We desperately need to bring back the family dinner. Most families just don't have the time, or the desire, to sit togther around a table and eat at the same time with no electronics in the way.

That sad trend has led to a number of troubling consequences that we need to reverse.

Dr. Anne Fishel is a family therapist at the prestigious Massachusetts General Hospital and a professor at Harvard Medical School. She's also a wife and mother.

In her new book, Home For Dinner: Mixing Food, Fun, and Conversation for a Happier Family and Healtheir Kids, she uses scientific studies to build a solid case for making the effort to eat together as a family....whatever your family happens to look like at the moment.

Regardless of whether you have have babies and toddlers who are difficult to get sitting still, school-age kids loaded-down with homework and extra-curricular activities, sullen teenagers who don't want to participate in anything, or perhaps an empty nesters, the scenario is the same: eating together around a table will improve your health in a variety of ways.

Researchers considered a family that "eats together" as one that gathers around the table, with food, without electronics, a minimum of five meals per week. That can be breakfast, lunch or dinner. More is better than less. Here's what they found:

Family Dinners Are Good for the Brain, The Spirit and The Body

Over the past 30 years, researchers at the Harvard School of Education have found consistently that as a way to boost children's vocabulary, talking to them during dinner is even better than reading to them. Children with well-developed vocabularies will have an easier time learning to read.

Studies of school-aged children found children who have regular family dinners perform better academically in school. This is true for children of all socioeconomic levels.

Furthermore, teenagers who regularly ate family dinners were twice as likely to get As than those who didn't.

Family Dinners Are Good for Mental Health

A number of studies have found a correlation between regular family dinners and a reduction of high-risk behaviors, especially among teenagers. This includes smoking, binge drinking, marijuana use, violence and sexual activity.

Family Dinners Are Good for Physical Health

The research shows profound evidence that people who regularly eat family dinners have better weight control, better nutritional intake and better eating habits that those who don't.

The reasons family dinners are so important are numerous. Topping the list is the fact that sitting around the table talking is one of the few ways family members can connect meaningfully with each other. It's a ritual that conveys meaning and stability that are vital for the emotional well-being of every family member.

Another key point is the fact that when you and your kids are sitting together enjoying a meal you...and more importantly they...are NOT doing other things that can be troublesome, such as spending time in front of some type of screen.

Don't worry if the idea of eating a family dinner makes you feel intimidated. In her book, Dr. Fishel explains how to manage dinner conversations in a way that makes them the most productive and conflict-free.

For example, she suggests avoiding asking a family member an open-ended question such as, "How was your day?" which is bound to illicit a single word response such as, "Fine."

Instead she suggests asking a question that requires explanation, such as "What was the funniest thing that happened to you today?"

If you're a busy person who also happens to be clumsy in the kitchen, don't fret. Dr. Fishel explains how to ditch those unhealthy drive-throughs and make your own nutritious dinners in a flash.

As an added bonus, she suggests ways to get the whole family involved in meal preparation (and clean-up!) no matter what ages you're dealing with. She includes a number of delicious, affordable recipes such as this vegetable soup, which sounds delightful this time of year:

Vegetable Soup
Pre-cut vegetables such as squash, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, cut into 1-2 inch chunks

Potatoes chunked (optional)
Apple or Pear, peeled and chunked
Olive Oil
One onion, chopped
16 ounces chicken or vegetable stock
salt and pepper to taste
1 Tablespoon curry powder, or seasoning of your choice

Mix raw, chopped vegetables with enough olive oil to coat, then pour onto a large baking pan and bake at 400 degrees for 30-50 minutes until the veggies have reached your desired tenderness.

Fifteen minutes before baking is finished, add the apple or pear, also coated in olive oil. While the vegetables are roasting, sautee the onion in a soup pot. When the onion becomes translucent, throw in the vegetables and fruit. Stir in the stock and bring to a boil for ten minutes. Season with salt, pepper and curry.

posted @ Monday, November 24, 2014 5:40 PM | Feedback (0)

Monday, November 17, 2014

Chocolate Deficit? Okay, Now You've Got My Attention

We all know that the U.S. government is operating in an outrageous budget deficit situation. But most people are unaware that we have a chocolate deficit situation on our hands, too.

Where is the outrage there? Chocolate comes from cocoa. It seems the demand for cocoa far outpaces the amount of cocoa being produced. What's worse is the problem continues to worsen every year with no repreive in sight.

I suppose I'm partially to blame. Well, me and others like me who have been touting the health benefits of dark chocolate. In order to receive the wonderful, healthy, antioxidant benefits of chocolate, we need to eat the kind that has at least 70 percent cocoa, more is even better.

That uses up a lot of cocoa compared to the traditional milk chocolate bar, which only contains 10 percent cocoa.

Apparently the message is sinking in, because demand for dark chocolate has skyrocketed. But the demand doesn't stop there.

China, a country of 1.3 BILLION people, is now discovering what we in the West have known all along, which is CHOCOLATE IS WONDERFUL.

Chinese consumers are gobbling up the stuff more and more each year. They still have a long way to go before they reach our levels, though, or the French. The average Chinese person consumes only 5 percent of the chocolate that the average Western European eats.

Who will satisfy the demand for chocolate? That's the other side of this dismal coin.

The cocoa supply is drastically reduced. Cocoa producers are having a very rough time of it, indeed. In fact, it's so bad that the amount of cocoa produced worldwide has DECREASED BY 40 percent! Almost half!

That's largely because dry weather has ravaged the cocoa crops in West Africa, specifically in the Ivory Coast and Ghana, where nearly two-thirds of all the world's cocoa is produced.

As if that's not bad enough, cocoa crops are also being infested with a fungal disease. Because of this, many cocoa producers have decided to give up farming cocoa altogether and switch to growing something that is heartier and more profitable, such as corn.

The end result is quite predictable. When demand increases and supply decreases, prices go up. Have you noticed how chocolate prices have risen?

If you're like me, you haven't noticed it specifically, but have definitely noticed that EVERYTHING is a lot more expensive at the grocey store these days. Cocoa prices have jumped more th 60 percent in just the last two years.

This chocolate deficit, where farmers produce less cocoa than the world eats, is nothing new. It's been going on for 50 years. Last year world ate 70,000 TONS more chocolate than it produced.

By 2020 it could reach one million tons and by 2030 two million tons!

There is one ray of hope. Well, that depends on whether it turns out well, and I'm very skeptical.

An agriculural research group in Central Africa is trying to develop a new kind of cocoa tree that can produce seven times the amount of beans that traditional cocoa beans produce.

Sounds too good to be true. One has to wonder if the taste will be compromised or the health benefits of cocoa will be diminished with these franken-beans.

posted @ Monday, November 17, 2014 12:30 PM | Feedback (0)

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

6 Ways to Prevent Dry Skin this Winter

Weather forecasters are predicting an unusually cold winter. Therefore we need to take precautions against the dry skin that accompanies frigid temperatures.

Low humidity is a hallmark of cold, winter weather in the air outside. Couple that with the dry air on the inside of our homes, schools and work places because of radiant heat.

Dry skin is not only uncomfortable, sometimes even painful, but it can make us more prone to getting sick.

Our skin is the largest organ in the body. Its primary purpose is to serve as a barrier. It keeps the germs, bacteria, and viruses in our environment out of our bodies so we don't succomb to illness and disease.

But dry skin compromises the ability of our skin to protect us. For one thing, dry skin creates cracks and fissures in the skin. These tiny but numerous "openings" allow dangerous elements from our environment to enter our bodies and make us sick.

Here are some practical tips to prevent dry skin this winter:

1. SHORT, COOL SHOWERS: This is very difficult, to be sure, because on those cold winter days it feels so good to linger in a hot shower. The problem is, water is very drying, especially hot water. So try to minimize the amount of water you put on your skin, and make it as tepid as you can.

2. MOISTURIZE: As soon as you get out of the shower or bath or finish washing your face or hands, put moistuizer on your skin while there is still a little bit of hydration on your skin to "lock in" the wetness. My favorite moisturizer is coconut oil because it absorbs into the skin so well.

3. USE A HUMIDIFIER OR VAPORIZER: These can be purchased at a pharmacy or discount store for very low cost. You simply add water and plug it in and the steam fills and hydrates the air in your home.

4. LOWER THERMOSTAT: In the winter months, the higher the temperature inside your home, the drier the air will be. So lower it to as cool as you can stand it and save money, too!

5. EXERCISE: It promotes healthy circulation which translates into healthy skin. Exercise increases blood flow, which nourishes skin cells.

6. DRINK WATER: hydrate your skin from the inside. If cold water lowers your body temperature, drink lukewarm or hot water, or try herbal tea. There are some wonderful varieties, including my favorite, peppermint (but don't put any sweetener in it!)

posted @ Wednesday, November 12, 2014 2:23 PM | Feedback (0)

Friday, November 07, 2014

Obamacare: Final Nail In The Coffin?

The future of Obamacare is more uncertain than ever. First came Tuesday night's midterm wave election of Republicans vowing to repeal Obamacare, also known as the Affordable Care Act, then today another hit.

In a stunning move, the United States Supreme Court justices announced they will consider a brand new challenge to the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare.  If they rule in favor of the challenge, Obamacare will be obliterated.  That means until the justices render their decision in June, 2015, our nation is in a holding pattern when it comes to health care. 

The high court will decide whether the law allows the federal government to issue subsidies to most of the low to moderate income people who signed up for Obamacare.  It appears the law only allows for the subsidies to be given to people who signed up on state exchanges, not the federal exchange.  Most people used the federal exchange, also known as HealthCare.gov. 

As you may know, most states "opted out" of Obamacare, meaning they declined to set-up their own exchanges. "Exchanges" are insurance marketplaces.   Only fourteen states and the District of Columbia set-up their own exchanges. Everyone else who signed-up for Obamacare in the other states, nearly five million people, were handed-off to the federal government's exchange.  Therein lies the problem.  It appears the ACA allows only people who sign up on state exchanges to get the subsidies.  The exact key phrase at issue is, "exchange established by the State." The law doesn't say anything about people on the federal exchange getting a subsidy. 

The people who drafted Obamacare say their INTENT was to give assistance to people who use the federal exchange.  But that's not what the law says.  Congress could change the wording of the law to say people on the federal exchange get the assistance, but congress will not do that.   Furthermore, the states that have refused to set-up their own exchanges could change their minds and set them up, but those states have no intention of doing so. 

If the Supreme Court rules that the people who signed up on the federal exchange are not eligible to receive government subsidies, that means 4.7 million people, more than half of Obamacare enrollees, stand to lose their financial assistance. That would destroy Obamacare.

The way it stands now is the people on the federal exchange, the one at issue, are getting three-fourths of their healthcare costs paid by the federal government.  Their premiums average 346 dollars a month, but the federal government pays for 264 dollars, so the consumers only pays 82 dollars. 

If those consumers lose their government assistance, it will trigger a so-called "death spiral."  Without financial assistance, many people getting it would drop it.  Then, because of the high price, fewer people would sign-up for it.  That includes healthy people who are less expensive to insure will not buy the policies, so only the really sick people who have a greater need for insurance will be in the program.  They require lots of services, obviously, so that would force the rates even higher, which naturally means even fewer people will sign-up. 

People who dislike Obamacare must be feeling pretty good right about now.  First there was Tuesday's midterm election wave of Republican candidates vowing to repeal Obamacare and now this Supreme Court challenge to its very existence.  Either one could put the law on the ropes.  On the other hand, even if congress passes legislation to repeal Obamacare, the president will certainly veto it.  Then of course, the Supreme Court may decide the people on the federal exchange can be subsided after all.  One thing we know for sure: individuals and businesses are on hold until decisions are made, one way or the other.

posted @ Friday, November 07, 2014 4:30 PM | Feedback (0)

Friday, October 31, 2014

Bulletproof Coffee Is Sweeping The Nation...For Good Reason!

There is no better time than right now to ditch that hideous, unhealthy morning routine full of sugar and carbs and switch to the morning nourishment that is the complete and polar opposite: BULLETPROOF COFFEE.

If you haven't tried it, I urge you to hop on board and see if, after a month or so, you don't notice a difference in your energy level and brain power. And you may even drop a few pounds.

Bullet Proof Coffee

Perhaps you've heard of it? People in health circles have been raving about Bulletproof Coffee for a couple of years. It has caught-on like wildfire, simply because people who try it, such as myself, simply love it.

The taste is better than a mocha milkshake and the feeling you get from it is the combination of energy plus mental clarity. To top it all off, it's absolutely fantastic for your overall health. What's not to like?

People with high-powered jobs, such as entertainers and politicians, who simply must be on their game at all times can't do without their bulletproof coffee because of the brain focus and energy it gives them.

But when it comes down to it, don't we all want and need that?

So what is bulletproof coffee?

It's an invention that comes from many years of research by health expert Dave Asprey. He discovered the basic truths about why this is so beneficial, while hiking in Tibet, where people there were drinking a version of what later became Bulletproof Coffee.

Bulletproof Coffee starts with not your typical cup of Joe. You must use primo coffee beans, the type that are free from the toxins that plague so much of the coffee you buy at the store...even the "gourmet" kind that are compromised by processing.

The wrong coffee zaps your energy and leaves your feeling irritated. If you feel like you "can't tolerate" coffee, you are probably drinking the wrong kind. Remember coffee is good for you because it contains vital antioxidants.

Then you add UNSALTED (important), GRASS-FED (important) butter. Kerrygold happens to be my favorite brand, and I recently noticed Walmart sells it! Grass-fed butter means the cows eat grass, not corn, so the end result is much healtheir for you.

Butter, particularly grass-fed butter, is a healthy fat I've talked about so much, and is a product that's continually gaining in popularity and credibility within the nutrition community. You shouldn't have any trouble finding it at your grocery store. As I said, even Walmart carries it, and other higher-end stores have a larger selection. Oh, and you will looooooove the flavor!

After the coffee and the unsalted, grass-fed butter, you add wonderful MCT oil. MCT stands for Medium Chain Triglyceride. These are the fats that are the key ingredient in coconut oil, which I've reported about for so long now. Coconut oil, and these medium chain triglyerides have been linked to improved cognitive function in people with neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's, ALS, Parkinson's disease, and so on.

MCT oil is true brain food. Asprey calls his "High Octane." I love that. It says it all. He claims it offers 18 times the power of regular coconut oil.

So you take the toxin-free coffee, the grass-fed butter, and the MCT oil and whip them up all frothy in the blender and you have the very best way to start your day. It's so delicious!

It blows those expensive, sugary lattes out of the water! You will be full of energy, fully focused and clear-thinking, and full in your tummy so you won't be craving food for hours.

Also, since you nixed the carbs and sugar that are the staple of the typical American breakfast, you won't have to suffer through that inevitable energy droop that comes when the sugar spike wears off.

Hello Bulletproof Coffee...goodbye emotional roller-coaster.

Lots of us like to doctor-up our Bulletproof Coffee. For instance, I add a pinch of pure ground vanilla to mine. I have heard of people adding ground cocoa, even two eggs or three egg yolks for a richer beverage that contains even more healthy fat, not to mention protein.

Bulletproof Coffee is a key lifestyle change for those of us who have adopted a low-carbohydrate, Ketogenic or Paleo diets. The idea is to bump-up those healthy fats and forego sugar and grains.

So here is the actual recipe from Dave Asprey's website. Remember you can tweak it a bit. For instance I make mine in a drip coffee maker, add more butter (4 TBSP) and a pinch of ground vanilla.

***By the way, if you're not used to coconut oil or MCT oil, you may need to start small, like with one teaspoon, and gradually work your way up or you might have some stomach ache just at first.

BULLETPROOF COFFEE RECIPE

  1. Brew 1 cup (8-12 oz.) of coffee using filtered water, just off the boil, with 2 1/2 heaping tablespoons freshly ground Bulletproof Coffee Beans. (French Press is easiest.)
  2. Add in 1-2 tablespoons of Brain Octane™ to the hot coffee (It's STRONG - start with 1 tsp. and work up over several days).
  3. Add 1-2 tablespoons grass-fed, unsalted butter or ghee
  4. Mix it all in a blender for 20-30 seconds until it is frothy like a foamy latte

posted @ Friday, October 31, 2014 3:53 PM | Feedback (0)

Friday, October 24, 2014

Dr. Craig Spencer, Latest U.S. Ebola Patient: What Was He Thinking?

It's hard to fathom how Dr. Craig Spencer allowed the events taking place surrounding his Ebola diagnosis to occur. His irresponsible behavior triggered an astonishing amount of hardship to others that could have, and should have been totally prevented.

Upon the completion of his duties treating Ebola patients in West Africa, he should have remained in isolation for 21 days. That would have avoided all the angst he has caused. Why didn't he take such prudent measures?

Dr. Spencer was reportedly treating Ebola patients in West Africa as part of Doctors Without Borders and returned to his home in New York City Friday, Oct. 17. He apparently had the virus living inside of him, but that fact was undetected because he was not showing any symptoms at the time.

However, in the days that would follow, he began feeling bad, then developed a fever and was admitted to the hospital where he tested positive for Ebola. In the time leading up to that, he rode three subway lines, took a taxi, went to a public bowling alley, jogged three miles, visited a park, ate at a restaurant, and so on.

We're told that a person is contagious when he or she becomes symptomatic. In Dr. Spencer's case it is unclear exactly when he became symptomatic and therefore unclear how many people with whom he interacted.

Authorities are now engaged in the painstaking task called "contact tracing," a process whereby they try to identify every single person with whom Spencer came into contact since becoming symptomatic. Since he was moving about the streets of New York City, the possibilities could be quite high.

Another aspect of this process is the expense of paying all of those people to do the contact tracing. When Thomas Eric Duncan was diagnosed with Ebola in Dallas, contact tracing identified 48 people with whom he'd had contact since becoming symptomatic.

And that was Dallas. Ironically, the two nurses who actually contracted Ebola from Duncan were not even a part of the contact tracing group. That's because officials didn't think the nurses needed monitoring due to the fact that they were wearing protective gear and were considered safe.

It's impossible to calculate the heightened anxiety Dr. Spencer's diagnosis has created among the millions of New Yorkers. As if they don't have enough concerns already!

Those of us who have been closely following the Ebola outbreak in Africa as well as here in America and elsewhere understand the actual risk to New Yorkers of contracting Ebola from Dr. Spencer is very low. However, most New Yorkers are not adequately appraised of the facts of this virus and as a result, are prone to hysteria over it.

In other words, the vast majority of New Yorkers perceive a clear and present danger. Regardless of whether a threat actually exists, the events surrounding this diagnosis could have been predicted and should have been prevented.

Furthermore, even the most educated person doesn't know everything about Ebola, simply because the situation in which we find ourselves is new, fluid and we are not sure of the boundaries and possible mutations of this virus. There is still a great deal of uncertainty.

With that in mind, even the most informed people, such as Dr. Craig Spencer, should take the utmost precautions.

What was he thinking? Was he sure he wouldn't get Ebola? How is that possible, considering he was treating Ebola patients, which puts him in the highest risk category that exists?

On the other hand, if he correctly understood he was prone to contracting the virus, how could he allow himself to have such massive exposure to other people, knowing how health officials would have to respond? For example, the bowling alley he visited is now closed for business. It's being cleaned and sanitized. Who is going to pay for this? What about the loss of income to the people who earn a living from that business?

Recently Dr. Kent Brantley, who survived Ebola, described what a boring experience it was being in isolation. He also recalled it being very lonely. Perhaps this is why Dr. Spencer didn't self-quarantine. He simply didn't want to.

You may recall Dr. Nancy Snyderman was under quarantine - the NBC doctor's cameraman contracted Ebola when they were in Africa covering the outbreak for the network. However, Snyderman broke her quarantine and was spotted at a restaurant getting food, a move for which she later apologized.

Perhaps these doctors weigh the chances of anything bad happening with the unpleasantness of quarantine, and figure it's worth the risk.

I would like to commend CBN's George Thomas, who recently reported on the Ebola crisis in Liberia and told the story of how Operation Blessing is helping the people there fight this awful viral outbreak. He wasn't even treating Ebola patients but is doing the difficult and right thing by exercising an abundance of caution. This is out of consideration for the well-being of others. When George finished his work in Africa, he voluntarily quarantined himself for 21 days.

That's still going on right now. He hasn't even entered America yet. He left Africa and has been cooped-up in a little room all alone, taking his temperature and monitoring his health. He is able to Skype with his lovely wife and two young boys, and is managing to communicate with other people electronically.

But it's hard. He knows he probably is not infected and would much rather be back home having fun.

posted @ Friday, October 24, 2014 1:39 PM | Feedback (0)

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Ebola Vaccine Could End this Crisis

It's sad that our government has proven unreliable and untrustworthy so many times in the recent past, that the general public simply does not trust what the government says right now about Ebola.

Fortunately, there are experts who are not directly affiliated with the U.S. government who have advice and opinions we can trust, such as doctors and other healthcare specialists, particularly those in the sub-specialty of infectious disease.

One of those people is Dr. Nancy Khardori, an physician and professor at Eastern Virginia Medical School, who has been on the forefront of infectious disease for 30 years. She also advises hospitals about how to handle the Ebola crisis. I was fortunate to interview her recently about various aspects of our current Ebola scare.

Like most people, Dr. Khardori realizes that no matter what precautions the United States and other industrialized countries take, we will not eradicate Ebola in our own countries until it is contained in Africa.

Thankfully, much attention is being given to dealing with Ebola in Africa, but the area is so primitive in its healthcare available to fight the outbreak, education about its transmission, sadly, even cultural suspicions surrounding Ebola, and healthcare workers themselves. It's going to take much more than what is currently being done to get a handle on this out-of-control situation.

The bright spot appears to be the possibility of an Ebola vaccine, according to Dr. Khardori. Currently human tests are being conducted on the vaccine, and it could be given on a mass scale in as early as six months.

"Obviously for any kind of contagious, infectious disease, vaccine is the best way of prevention, " she explained. "Because you're protecting people before they come in contact with the virus. That's what a vaccine does. So when they do come in contact with the virus, their body is already prepared to fight it because they've been given sort-of a mimic a response to the virus. Vaccine is a mimicking response, as if you had been infected and the body is ready to fight back."

Ideally, the Ebola vaccine can be given on a mass scale in all the cases where the virus comes again and again, the so-called endemic areas. Endemic areas means the virus is there all the time at the low level, but every so often it becomes an epidemic, which is what is happening now.

The good news is scientists have figured out it is indeed possible to have a vaccine. After all, there are some viruses against which a vaccine is not possible. Another plus is the fact that the Ebola virus causes infection in non-human primates, which are large animals, so when you do an experimental study in a large animal, to take it to humans takes much less time than if you had done the study on a small animal like a mouse.

An Ebola vaccine is not a sure thing. Many obstacles could arise, not the least of which could be the reluctance on the part of the African people to get vaccinated.

Although there is much with which to be concerned, Dr. Khardori says we do not need to worry about the Ebola virus becoming airborne. She explained that while viruses do mutate, the leap from a virus being spread by direct contact to being spread in the air is so great, that it would take decades.

She pointed out the fact that the AIDS virus is still transmitted by bodily fluids, and it's been around for over three decades.

She says the Ebola virus is actually rather weak. It can only survive when it's wet, so it can't live for very long on hard surfaces. She says it's so weak, in fact, that a person can be infected with the virus, but not be contagious or even test positive for the virus until it has built-up inside the person.

An Ebola victim will finally test positive when there is enough virus to cause symptoms, which is also the point at which a person is contagious. The virus continues to multiply inside the victim, and there is more of the virus in blood, diarrhea, and vomit than in secretions such as sweat and saliva.

Just a drop can splash into a person's eyes, nose or mouth and infect someone. Dr. Khardori pointed out the fact that we often have little nicks and cuts on our skin that we are usually unaware of. Those abrasions, however, can be entry points for Ebola to enter the body.

That's why healthcare workers who are exposed to bodily fluids of Ebola patients must be completely protected. It's been reported that some of the healthcare workers treating Thomas Eric Duncan had exposed necks.

Dr. Khardori said the greatest tool in preventing the spread of Ebola here in the United States is healthcare workers paying close attention to travel histories and other questions. It must be discerned whether a patient has been to a west African nation or exposed to someone with Ebola.

Now that flu season is upon us, many patients with just a low-grade fever begin showing-up at healthcare facilities. These people are usually sent back home.

However, they need to be kept and isolated if they have one of the two red flags: recent travel to West Africa or contact with an Ebola patient....even if they have the mildest of symptoms.

posted @ Thursday, October 16, 2014 4:31 PM | Feedback (0)

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

First US Ebola Patient Didn't Have to Die

The first and only patient to be diagnosed with Ebola in the United States, Thomas Eric Duncan, died Wednesday morning at a Dallas hospital.

One can only wonder if he would be alive today if he had not mistakenly been turned away when he first sought treatment. It was a colossal blunder that likely cost Duncan his life and perhaps the lives of others he infected after being sent home from the hospital.

Duncan was infected with Ebola in Liberia, then boarded a plane to the United States. Doctors tell us people with the Ebola virus are not contagious unless they are exhibiting symptoms, and that first symptom is usually a fever.

After that, the patient's health deteriorates rapidly.

We know that Duncan should never have even boarded that plane. Although he did not have a fever, he allegedly lied on the exit form by saying he had not had contact with someone with Ebola, when in fact, he reportedly carried a gravely ill woman with Ebola, who later died.

Nevertheless, days after arriving in Dallas, Duncan began experiencing his first symptoms of Ebola, primarily a fever. He went to the emergency room where he reportedly told the health officials there that he had recently been in Liberia. They sent him home.

That, of course, would have been the time to admit him, and begin treating him.

Instead Duncan left the hospital and became markedly worse in a short period of time, as is typical for this virus.

Three days later Duncan was taken by ambulance to the same hospital and was finally admitted, but by this time the virus had taken hold of his body and there was not much the doctors could do.

We have seen three other people treated for Ebola in American hospitals: Dr. Kent Brantley, Nancy Writebol and Dr. Rick Sacra. All three recovered from the virus and were released. Why, then, after being treated at an American hospital did Duncan die from Ebola?

The difference is time. The three survivors were treated at the first sign of symptoms. This is key. The presence of the virus grows over time, and leads to massive fluid loss through vomit and diarrhea, and later blood loss.

One of the primary treatments is the administration of I-V fluids and electrolytes to strengthen the patient's immune system so they can fight-off the virus, and also to prevent dehydration. There are other treatments such as experimental drugs and even blood transfusions from patients who have survived Ebola, but those are far less effective if the virus is in its later stages and has already taken hold of the patient, as was the case with Duncan.

Now the question is whether he infected someone in that three-day period of time after he was sent home from the hospital until he went back and was finally admitted. Health experts say if he did infect another person, that person would likely start showing symptoms right about now.

Currently health officials are monitoring nearly 50 people who came into contact with Duncan. Ten of them are quarantined because they are at very high risk of infection due to the close contact they had with Duncan. These are people who, for instance, lived with him and were more than likely exposed to his bodily fluids while he was symptomatic.

Most health officials say despite more than 3,000 deaths in Africa, Ebola, compared to other viruses, it's actually difficult to get because the virus itself is not very resilient.

We certainly hope and pray that is the case. We will certainly learn a lot about Ebola after the 21-day incubation period is over for the people who had contact with Duncan and we discover who, if anyone, caught it from him.

posted @ Wednesday, October 08, 2014 5:31 PM | Feedback (0)