Health

Health news from 90.5 WESA.

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A new report issued by the American Legion’s System Worth Saving Task Force has made recommendations to prevent future Legionella outbreaks at the city’s VA medical center. This is in response to the death of 5 patients in 2011-2012.

Jacob Gadd, deputy director for health care and manager of the System Worth Saving program for the American Legion, discusses what measures need to be taken in order to prevent future outbreaks.

He says the report finds the Veterans Administration needs to empower its 152 hospitals to better communicate during a crisis.

A report released Thursday by the American Legion finds that the VA Pittsburgh Health System has responded well to the outbreak of Legionella in 2011 and 2012 that took the lives of at least five veterans. 

However, the report finds the Veterans Administration needs to empower the 152 hospitals in the system to better communicate during a crisis.

Jacob Gadd, American Legion deputy director for healthcare, said that since the outbreak the Pittsburgh VA has formed a water safety committee, which had made important recommendations that have been implemented.

Why Young People are Getting the Worst of the Flu

Jan 22, 2014
SCA Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebolaget / flickr

The H1N1 flu is back and it's striking mostly young adults. More than 90 percent of flu cases statewide have been identified as the H1N1 strain, commonly referred to as "Swine Flu" since it reemerged in 2009 after lying dormant since the 1960s and 1970s.

Marc Itskowitz, an internal medicine physician at Allegheny General Hospital has the answer for why the swine flu is hitting young people so hard.

“Many of the young adults and children have not been exposed to this virus and therefore do not have built up, innate immunity to this virus. And so without the vaccine this is the most vulnerable population to get sick when they’re exposed to this infection.”

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Studies show the rate of childhood asthma in Allegheny County is around 13 percent, higher than the national rate of 9 percent.

An Allegheny General Hospital study is underway to more precisely determine childhood asthma rates in the region and exactly what triggers the respiratory disease.

Dr. David Skoner, Division Director in asthma, allergies and immunology for the Allegheny Health Network, is a co-director for the study.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Allegheny Health Network and Johns Hopkins Medicine have announced that they have signed a memorandum of understanding between their two cancer centers.

When finalized, Allegheny Health Network and the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center will collaborate on several initiatives, share research and participate in joint projects, among other things.

A recent study from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine found that uninsured patients with a variety of common medical diagnoses were less likely to be transferred between hospitals for treatment.

The study came about because an “urban myth” that uninsured patients were more likely to be transferred persisted, yet there was no hard data to back it up.

A new report released Wednesday by the American Lung Association gives Pennsylvania lackluster grades with regard to anti-smoking laws and programs.

The State of Tobacco Control 2014 report gives the Keystone state an “F” for funding of tobacco prevention and control programs, a “C” for smokefree air, a “C” for tobacco taxation, and an “F” for cessation coverage by insurance companies.

Canadian Blood Service / flickr

Following the deaths of three prominent black leaders in Western Pennsylvania, the need for bone marrow donors, especially in the African American community has come to light.

In an effort to increase awareness and register potential donors, Daria Crawley, an associate professor of management at Robert Morris University and Howard Russell of East Hills find that patients and families experience unique hurdles when searching for a donor.

Nadya Dutchin, National Account Executive for Be the Match, a global leader in bone marrow transplantation, says many potential donors are often uneasy about joining. 

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Live Well Allegheny is a new initiative aimed at promoting health and wellness throughout Allegheny County.

The effort was launched Tuesday by Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, members of the county Board of Health and Health Department Director Karen Hacker.

Fitzgerald said while the Pittsburgh region ranks high on national lists for things such as livability and academia, it could also be a leader in healthy living.

Flickr / National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

It’s hard to know exactly how many kids have asthma in the Pittsburgh region but a study is underway aimed at determining just how prevalent it is and what some of the triggers may be. Nearly 25 million Americans and more than 9 percent of children suffer from Asthma. National and state studies show the rate of childhood asthma in Allegheny County to be around 13 percent.

Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh is about to see a lot of new patients — but not in person.

As of March 1, 2014 the hospital will become the exclusive pediatric provider for tele-health company MDLIVE.

MDLIVE provides online and on-demand health care services and software for more than 3 million users throughout the U.S.

Harun Rashid, Children’s Hospital chief information officer, said the partnership will allow people throughout the country to connect with the hospital’s specialized doctors.

A New Push for Prescription Cannabis in Pennsylvania

Jan 16, 2014
KayVee / flickr

For the first time in the state Senate’s history a medical marijuana bill has been drafted with bipartisan support.

A poll conducted last year shows state residents support the use of medical marijuana. New Hampshire and Illinois legalized it last year.

Could Pennsylvania be next?

Heather Shuker of Valencia, Butler County, is the mother of a 10-year-old girl with intractable epilepsy who says her daughter is in "desperate need of medical marijuana." 

Because of people like Heather, State Senator Daylin Leach, along with Senator Mike Folmer, introduced the legislation, known as SB 1182, earlier this week.

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The state of emergency medicine in Pennsylvania is improving, but a national report card from the American College of Emergency Physicians, or ACEP, shows the commonwealth lagging behind the rest of the US in some categories.

Overall, the state received a grade of "C+," which was compiled by looking at several areas.

The United States Department of Health and Human Services released Monday the latest enrollment data for state and federal health insurance marketplaces.

Nationally, nearly 2.2 million people have signed up for private health insurance plans through the marketplace, with almost 1.8 million people signing up in December alone.

For Pennsylvania, that shakes out out to about 81,000 people who have purchased health insurance through the federal marketplace since its troubled launch in October.

Ryan Loew / 90.5WESA

As new Allegheny County Health Department Director Karen Hacker comes into office, she faces a range of public health concerns. From smoking, obesity and air quality to green infrastructure and fracking issues, Dr. Hacker will be tackling a number of community health matters.

Many worry whether the department has the resources it needs to enforce all the state and county regulations under its purview, but Dr. Hacker says she has already received unique support from the public and from advocacy groups.

The Affordable Care Act goes into effect October 1st, with the threat of a government shutdown.

The House threatened the shutdown if the Affordable Care Act is not defunded and the Senate does not appear to see that as an option.

With the political tension rising, the Pennsylvania Health Access Network (PHAN) wants to make sure people understand and are educated on the new health care law.

Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

On a typical weekday morning, 47-year-old Tek Nepal is moving about the Mount Oliver duplex he shares with his wife, sons, daughter-in-law and grandchild.

He works nights, so he gets his family time in the mornings. And often, that time centers around eating.

Those meals used to consist of lots of starches. But since a Type 2 diabetes diagnosis in 2012, they have changed.

You might not have ever heard of eastern equine encephalitis virus (EEEV) — it only affects five to 30 people in the United States annually — but it kills about half the people it infects, doesn’t have a cure and is becoming more common.

That’s according to William Klimstra, who, along with other University of Pittsburgh researchers, has made a major discovery that could lead to possible treatment for and prevention against the mosquito-borne virus.

With more than 2 million citizens 65 or older, Pennsylvania has the fourth oldest population in the United States, and experts say they aren’t getting the care they need.

Advocates and senior citizen care professionals met to discuss the safety of the state’s elderly with a Pennsylvania Senate committee. Drawing up a four-year aging plan for the state, the meetings emphasis was on senior abuse.

Self-neglect and caregiver neglect make up about 65 percent of all reported abuse cases in the state, but the majority of cases go unreported, according to the panel.

If you want to know how your neighborhood sandwich shop or your favorite sushi restaurant fared on its last health department inspection, you can find that information online, but those reports can often be full of jargon and difficult to interpret.

Now, the Allegheny County Health Department is working to make that information easier to digest by implementing a four-tiered grading system for restaurant inspections.

Dr. Karen Hacker, director of the county health department, said they’re still figuring out how that grading process would work.

Patients rushing into Magee-Womens Hospital will be passing through the doors of a bigger and better emergency department starting Sunday.

According to Joe Suyama, Chief of Emergency Services, the new department will be located on Craft Avenue and will replace the existing emergency department on the other side of the building off Halket Street.

Suyama said the move will help them better serve an increasing volume of patients which has almost doubled since 2007.

“We’re just now meeting that growth need by building this emergency department,” Suyama said.

Wind chill temperatures are expected to dip to more than 30 below zero in southwestern Pennsylvania Monday night and Tuesday morning, which means exposed skin could freeze in less than 5 minutes.

Early detection of breast cancer is one of the most important factors when calculating survival rates, but a Magee Hospital surgeon thinks he has found a way to help women who’s cancer is not detected until it has already spread to their bones.

Patients who first present with stage four breast cancer with bone metastasis have a short life expectancy, but a study of 278 women in Turkey suggests that by sending the patient directly to the operating room might be able to help hundreds of American women each year survive.

New Arrivals in the US Face Vast Health Challenges

Jan 6, 2014

Immigrants come to the United States fleeing war and genocide. Others arrive seeking better opportunities for their families. But whether they are refugees from Nepal seeking asylum or undocumented Mexican families in Los Angeles, immigrants share common circumstances. Many arrive healthy but develop chronic illnesses as they adopt American habits. Many feel isolated and alone – suffering that can turn toxic over time.

Flu 'Widespread' in PA, CDC Says

Dec 30, 2013

Influenza is now considered to be “widespread” in Pennsylvania as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), with health officials reporting outbreaks in at least half the regions of the state.

What if HIV was not only preventable, but also if sexually active individuals had a list of options to prevent the disease that newly infects an estimated 50,000 people a year in the United States?

The Pittsburgh-based Microbicide Trials Network (MTN) has been awarded $70 million for use over seven years to develop and test HIV prevention products.

MTN has completed 13 trials since 2006 from its base at the University of Pittsburgh and Magee-Women’s Research Institute.

It’s the “season of giving” but in the hustle and bustle of the season, some forget that can also mean giving blood. Each year, blood and platelet donations drop off during this time of year, according to the American Red Cross Greater Alleghenies Blood Services Region. There are several reasons for the decline.

“One is the holidays,” said spokeswoman Marianna Spampinato. “People are busy shopping, baking, decorating, enjoying themselves – which is great, but meanwhile, patients are still in hospitals needing transfusions.”

This is often called “the most wonderful time of the year,” but for many it’s one of the toughest times of the year, thanks to depression. There are several types of depression, including major depressive disorder, or what is more commonly known as clinical depression.

“It’s a mood state that lasts for an extended period of time and to a degree of severity that really interferes with a person’s usual functioning,” said Edward Friedman, a psychiatrist with UPMC. “That’s kind of different from holiday blues or seasonal blues.”

At the end of next year, the contract between the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and Highmark Health Plan will expire, and many Western Pennsylvanians are worried about losing access to the doctors and hospitals they have patronized for years.

In October, a pair of Pennsylvania House representatives introduced legislation that would impose new rules on nonprofit integrated delivery networks, like UPMC, which offer both healthcare and health insurance.

What's Good About Going Gluten Free?

Dec 16, 2013
cookiespi / flickr

Grocer’s shelves are filling up with a number of gluten free products.

This is great news for people switching to gluten-free diets based on their gluten intolerance or celiac disease. But as the trend gains popularity, some worry that a gluten-free diet may be a fad and not healthy for everyone.

Dr. Kofi Clarke, director of the Celiac Center at Allegheny General Hospital and Amy Macklin, registered dietitian and owner of Gluten Free Roots say the popularity of gluten-free products is positive in that it increases awareness of celiac disease, gluten intolerance and gluten allergies. 

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