Health

Health
1:40 pm
Fri August 30, 2013

UPMC to Spend $30 million on New Institute

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine plan to expand their Vascular Medicine Institute over the next five years, by creating the Heart, Lung Blood and Vascular Medicine Institute, or VMI.

Dr. Mark Gladwin, co-director of VMI, said it will be a hub for research.

"This will be the research home for scientists and physicians and physician scientists that have primary appointments within cardiology, pulmonary and hematology," he said.

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Health
3:30 am
Tue August 27, 2013

New Federal Regulations Affect Nursing Homes, Hospices

Long-term facilities such as skilled nursing homes or facilities for people with intellectual disabilities often work with hospices. In some cases it goes well. But in other cases, communication can go by the wayside, affecting quality of patient care.

New federal regulations from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid hope to smooth the transition between the facilities as well as give the patient more choice.

They went into effect on Monday. 

Patients in long-term care facilities basically now have two options:

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Health
3:30 am
Sun August 25, 2013

First 2013 PA Cases of West Nile in Humans Detected

Summer may be coming to a close, but the threat of West Nile Virus continues.

The Department of Health has detected Pennsylvania’s first confirmed human cases of West Nile Virus this year.

A Montgomery County man tested positive for West Nile Aug. 7 and was hospitalized, and the infection was confirmed in a York County man July 20, who did not require hospitalization.

Health department spokeswoman Kait Gillis said both men are recovering.

Sixty human cases of West Nile Virus were recorded in 2012.

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Essential Pittsburgh
4:29 pm
Mon August 19, 2013

Hypertension High Among Allegheny County African Americans, But It's Treatable

A blood pressure monitoring machine commonly found in drugstores, where you can monitor your pressure for free.
Credit Meddy Garnet / Flickr

Hypertension, known as the “Silent Killer,” is more prevalent in Allegheny County African Americans than any other group. Also known as high blood pressure, hypertension has taken the lives of over 50,000 people in the last year.

Dr. Indu Poornima is a cardiologist at Allegheny General Hospital and conducts research with high blood pressure patients in Allegheny County. She says the increased prevalence of obesity and stressors, along with access to health care and genetic predispositions, are all possible factors that cause hypertension.

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Health
4:52 pm
Mon August 12, 2013

Through a Bike Trip, Heart Transplant Recipient Promotes Organ Donation

Richard Gates pushed off Monday afternoon from Pittsburgh on a 700-mile bike ride to Boston. That’s difficult enough for a perfectly fit person, but consider that the 62-year-old musician is a heart transplant recipient.

This is the third time since 2008 that Gates is making a long bike trip that he calls the Tour de Second Chance. During the trip he will stop at hospitals and meet with patients on the waiting list and recent transplant recipients, “bringing awareness to organ donation and being able to visit with people awaiting hearts and able to answer some questions.”

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Essential Pittsburgh
3:40 pm
Mon August 12, 2013

CDC: 'Underutilized' HPV Vaccine Provides Effective Protection

The CDC calls the HPV vaccine "safe, effective and underutilized."
Art Writ VCU CNS/ flickr

Human Papillomavirus is spread by skin-to-skin contact, can cause genital warts, cervical cancer, genital cancer. Yet it can be easily prevented through a three-shot vaccination process, which the CDC says is underutilized. Dr. Jonathan Pletcher works at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh and councils parents and their children about the vaccine and any possible risks.

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Health
3:30 am
Mon August 12, 2013

Allegheny County Baiting Raccoons As Rabies Precaution

It’s a one-inch brownish block made from a compressed mixture of fishmeal and fish oil — just what might make a tasty snack for a raccoon. 

The Allegheny County Health Department is hoping these fishy squares will attract the raccoons because they are laced with a rabies vaccine. Raccoon rabies is the most prevalent type of rabies in the county and across Pennsylvania.

Starting Monday and continuing through August 16, health department workers will be spreading 230,000 baits throughout the county to reduce the spread of rabies from raccoons to other animals and humans.

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Health
7:41 am
Tue August 6, 2013

Local Researchers Land $16.5 Million To Study Traumatic Brain Injuries

Every year, nearly half a million children 14 and younger visit the emergency room for traumatic brain injury in the United States.

Two Pittsburgh researchers have been selected by the National Institutes of Health to lead a $16.5 million study evaluating treatments for pediatric TBI.

The five-year international study is looking to provide evidence to standardize clinical practices and provide guidelines that would improve the lives of children with TBI.

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Health
3:30 am
Mon August 5, 2013

DEP Continues Air Quality Study In Southwestern PA

The Department of Environmental Protection will continue to study air quality near gas wells in Washington County through the end of the year.

In 2012, the DEP began a long-term study to measure ambient air pollution in Chartiers and Hickory townships, where both “wet” and “dry” natural gas are being extracted and sold through compressor stations and pipeline networks.

DEP spokesman Kevin Sunday said while most of the attention has been on water contamination, the emphasis is beginning to shift towards drilling’s effect on air pollution.

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Health
4:58 pm
Fri August 2, 2013

Lawsuit Follows a Report on Lack of Legionella Reporting

The first wrongful death lawsuit sprouting from the 2011-12 Legionella outbreak at the Pittsburgh Veterans Affairs hospital was filed Friday — a day after a VA Office of Inspector General's report indicated more than a third of the nation’s VA Hospitals did not report cases, assess patient risk or evaluate treatment of Legionnaires' disease.

U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA-18) said he is surprised Pittsburgh VA wasn’t the only location where staffers weren’t properly communicating about Legionella.

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Health
3:10 pm
Fri August 2, 2013

Pittsburgh Researchers Link Premature Aging Cells With Childhood Arthritis

Pittsburgh researchers have found the joints of children with chronic inflammatory arthritis contain immune cells similar to those of 90-year-olds.

A new study suggests premature aging of immune cells are linked to children with juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA).

The study, led by University of Pittsburgh professor of pediatrics and immunology Abbe de Vallejo, sampled immune cells called T-cells from 98 children with JIA.

The team found one-third of the T-cells in children had shortened “telomeres” that had reduced or lost the capacity to multiply.

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Health
5:36 pm
Tue July 30, 2013

Even Peskier-Than-Normal Asian Tiger Mosquito Found in Pittsburgh Neighborhood

The Asian tiger mosquito is from Southeast Asia and has characteristic black-and-white striped legs and body. It bites morning, noon and night.
Credit Naturegirl78 / Flickr

As if regular old mosquitoes weren’t bad enough, the Allegheny County Health Department is reporting that the Asian tiger mosquito has been found throughout Pittsburgh’s Lawrenceville neighborhood.

More common mosquitoes generally bother birds, and people as well, but they're usually most active at dawn and dusk. That’s not the case with this insect.

“The Asian tiger mosquito loves people,” said Health Department entomologist Bill Todaro. “It bites in the morning, it bites in the afternoon and it bites in the evening.”

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Health
1:35 pm
Tue July 30, 2013

Somerset Prison Reports Legionella Infections

A Somerset prison is chemically treating its water supply after four inmates became infected with Legionella.

On July 26, Department of Corrections officials tested the water system at the State Corrections Institution-Somerset with preliminary results finding no traces of Legionella. However, the bacteria was found in the facility’s cooling towers.

Susan McNaughton, press secretary for the DOC, said the prison is cooperating with state agencies to eliminate the bacteria.

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Essential Pittsburgh
5:33 pm
Mon July 29, 2013

Camp Huff-n-Puff Gives Kids with Asthma the Summer Camp Experience

Kids at Camp Huff & Puff exercise their lungs by blowing bubbles.
Credit BreathePA / Facebook

Living in Pittsburgh with asthma can be difficult with air quality alerts, high pollen and ragweed levels, and general city pollution. Triggers for this chronic inflammatory disease are everywhere and no one knows this better than the kids trying to run outside and play. 

In the past, many believed that children diagnosed with asthma should not be physically active.  It was thought that the running and heat would cause an unnecessary increase in breathing problems. Yet 29 years ago, after parents expressed their fear of sending their children with asthma to summer camp, a new concept was born: Camp Huff-n-Puff.

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Health
3:30 am
Mon July 29, 2013

Pittsburgh Physicians Conduct Asthma Research

Twenty-five million people in the United States have asthma, and that number is growing every year.

Research by the Allegheny Health Network is now underway that examines whether high levels of particulate air pollution in the Pittsburgh area are connected to an increased number of asthma attacks known as exacerbations.

Pittsburgh has taken great steps to move away from being one of the most polluted cities in the nation, but tiny fragments of pollution generated from the burning of fossil fuels called particulates still pose health problems for those with asthma.

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Health
3:30 am
Sun July 28, 2013

Discount Card Helps Families Get Prescriptions

Two organizations want uninsured and underinsured households to stop skipping prescriptions due to cost.

For a third year, the United Way of Allegheny County and FamilyWize Community Service Partnership are providing free prescription discount cards to help struggling families and individuals.

Cardholders can save 44 to 75 percent off their prescriptions at all chain pharmacies and grocery stores nationwide.

Angela Reynolds, United Way Director of Programs for Financially Struggling Adults and Families, said people going without prescriptions is a large issue.

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Health
5:03 pm
Fri July 26, 2013

West Penn Allegheny Lays Off 262 Workers

West Penn Allegheny hospitals laid off 262 employees Friday, and another 200 vacant positions are being eliminated.

“This action is extremely difficult but is an essential step in our efforts to right-size the organization for the patient volume that we currently have and to strongly position it for future growth and success as a leading healthcare provider in this region,” said Dan Laurent, a spokesman for Highmark’s Allegheny Health Network.

West Penn Allegheny will now have 10,300 employees and the Allegheny Health Network as a whole, 17,000.

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Health
4:54 pm
Fri July 26, 2013

Federal Initiative Aims to Lower Hospital Re-Admissions from Nursing Homes

Thirteen of the Pittsburgh region’s nursing homes are taking part in a federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) initiative to reduce the number of nursing home residents who are re-admitted to the hospital within 30 days.

Four of those 13  are the Kane Regional Centers in McKeesport, Glen Hazel, Ross and Scott Township.  Those centers are receiving an in-house nurse practitioner and employee training designed to help pick out situations that need medical intervention.

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Essential Pittsburgh
4:15 pm
Thu July 25, 2013

A Season for Bigger, Badder Poison Ivy

Poison Ivy has gotten bigger, badder, and more dangerous as CO2 levels have spiked.
Credit Zen Sutherland / Flickr


Global warming has had some unexpected consequences, some good, some bad, but perhaps none are quite so itchy as the explosion in poison ivy growth.

Because of the abundance of CO2 in the air of late, weed plants such as poison are thriving, and biologist Joylette Portlock claims that poison ivy “could be growing twice as fast” by the middle of the 21st century.

Around the country, people are facing rapidly growing  poison ivy, often with pan-sized leaves. With that increased size comes an increase in urushiol, the toxin that puts the “poison” in poison ivy.

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Health
3:30 am
Mon July 22, 2013

New Research Helps Find Most Effective Chemotheraphy for Ovarian Cancer

Research by a Pittsburgh physician could help women diagnosed with ovarian cancer determine the most effective chemotherapy treatments with their doctors.

The study, led by Dr. Thomas Krivak, assistant director of Gynecological Oncology at West Penn Allegheny Health Systems, supports the ChemoFx chemoresponse assay, a tool used to accurately predict how individual women will respond to platinum-based chemotherapy for ovarian cancer.

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Health
2:14 pm
Fri July 19, 2013

PA's Highest Court Stops Public Health Center Closures ... For Now

Gov. Tom Corbett’s plans to shut down 26 of the state’s 60 public health centers has been put on hold after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court granted a temporary injunction Wednesday.

The state’s Department of Health said closing almost half of Pennsylvania’s health centers that provide services such as immunizations and disease testing would save $3.4 million.

But the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Healthcare Pennsylvania argued doing so would cut 26 nursing jobs, and the state couldn’t close the centers without state legislature approval. 

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Health
1:52 pm
Thu July 18, 2013

As Temperatures Rise, City's Homeless Population Especially at Risk

With the heat reaching 90 degrees all this week, the city of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County have been opening and extending the hours of cooling centers for the elderly — but what about the homeless?

Dr. Jim Withers, medical director and founder of Operation Safety Net, said the homeless, especially those who are elderly, are at risk during the heat.

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Essential Pittsburgh
6:28 pm
Tue July 16, 2013

LGBT Health Concerns

Dr. Ron Stall
Credit UPMC

According to Dr. Ron Stall, director of the Center for LGBT Health Research at the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health, the dearth of investment in sexual health research, especially for the LGBT community, is something of an American tradition. Primarily due to the hot-button nature of conversations about sexuality and sexual practices, “the US has been slow to invest in sexual health in general.”

This additional roadblock makes the advances that have been made in the treatment of sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV all the more impressive. According to Stall, thanks to breakthrough drug research, HIV “has now become a chronic manageable disease much like diabetes,” for those who are aware of their illness and have access to drugs.

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Health
4:03 pm
Tue July 16, 2013

Green Up to Grow Up Encourages Healthy Eating for Youth

One in 3 American children is overweight or obese. That’s according to the Children’s Defense Fund, which also says 45 percent of those kids come from low-income families.

Pittsburgh is launching a new program called “Green Up to Grow Up” to try to reduce that figure.

The program is an expansion of GreenUp and Edible Gardens, which turns vacant lots into areas where produce is grown for low-income neighborhoods.

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Health
2:24 pm
Wed July 10, 2013

UPMC Policy Extinguishes Employees’ Smoking During Shifts

Starting July 1, 2014, UPMC is stubbing out the cigarettes of its employees, physicians, students and volunteers during their shifts.

UPMC has introduced a policy in which employees are not permitted to smoke at any point during their shift — even during scheduled breaks.

Tim Cline, senior director of clinical training and development, said exposure to tobacco smoke and the residual products of tobacco use is not safe on any level.

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Health
4:41 pm
Tue July 2, 2013

UPMC East Had a 'Great First Year;' Forbes Regional Numbers Dip

Last July, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center opened a $250 million dollar, 156-bed hospital in Monroeville.

A year in, Mark Sevco, UPMC’s East President said they have had “a great first year.”

They are seeing more than a hundred patients a day in the emergency department, operating at 75 percent capacity.

“We were expecting 65 patients a day, and we’re at about 115," Sevco said. "And from a surgical perspective, we’re 50 percent over our budget projections."

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Health
12:43 pm
Tue July 2, 2013

Point State Park Fountain Being Tested for Legionella Bacteria

About a month after its re-opening, the fountain at Point State Park is being tested by the Allegheny County Department of Health for Legionella.

The move follows a report of one person coming down with Legionnaires' disease after a visit to the fountain. County health officials say it’s unlikely the infection came from the fountain, but they are testing it as a precaution.

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Health
12:23 pm
Tue July 2, 2013

Researchers Find Placenta Blocks Viruses between Mother and Unborn Baby

When virologist and mother-to-be Carol Coyne was working in her lab four years ago, she began wondering how her placenta was protecting her unborn baby from the viruses she worked with.

At that time, placenta was seen as a passive barrier between a mother and her unborn child, but four years later, Coyne and director of Magee Woman’s Research Institute Yoel Sadovsky have uncovered a new purpose for it.

Sadovsky and Coyne have found that the cells in placenta, called trophoblasts, actually block viruses from crossing from the mother to her baby.

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Essential Pittsburgh
4:50 pm
Mon July 1, 2013

Treatment for Obesity Calls for Lifestyle and Cultural Changes

Credit Tony Alter / Flickr

Following the American Medical Association’s reclassification of obesity as a disease, physicians are hopeful about the slew of positive opportunities that could come to the one in three Americans classified as “obese.

Dr. Esa Davis, a practicing physician with UPMC Division of General Internal Medicine, notes that this change will allow for primary care offices to have more discussions with patients about obesity and hopefully allow for “broader insurance coverage for weight loss programs and nutritional services” as well as “increased funding for research and intervention programs.”

But why are there more obese people in 2013 than ever before? Davis points to the increased availability of nutrient-dense food and a decrease in physical activity.  This decrease has extended to schoolchildren where exercise is not always part of the daily routine.

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Breast Cancer
3:30 am
Mon July 1, 2013

UPMC, Pitt Researchers Find Distinction in Breast Cancer

UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh have found that pre-menopausal and post-menopausal breast cancer are very different in their genetic make-up but are being treated the same way.

Pitt researchers discovered this after analyzing clinical and genomic information on 140 patients previously treated for breast cancer.

It is the first test of a $100 million data warehouse project.

The goal of the data warehouse is to collect cancer data from UPMC’s 21 medical centers and analyze it in the hopes of creating personalized treatment.

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