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Life After Ebola: Nurse Says She Has Nightmares, Aches, Hair Loss

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images(DALLAS) -- Since surviving a harrowing brush with Ebola last October, Dallas nurse Nina Pham has been plagued with nightmares, body aches and hair loss, her lawyer told ABC News. On top of that, she says people are afraid of her because they know her as "the Ebola nurse."

Pham cared for Liberian native Thomas Eric Duncan, the first patient diagnosed with Ebola on U.S. soil, at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas last fall. Duncan died on Oct. 8, and Pham tested positive for the virus a few days later. She is now suing the hospital, alleging that she wasn't given the proper training or equipment to handle an Ebola case.

"The fact is, I'm facing a number of issues with regard to my health and my career and the lawsuit provides a way to address them," Pham said in a statement Monday. "But more importantly, it will help uncover the truth of what happened, and educate all health care providers and administrators about ways to be better prepared for the next public health emergency."

Pham's lawyer filed a petition on her behalf against the hospital Monday in Dallas, seeking an unspecified amount of damages for past and future pain, impairment, mental anguish and medical expenses, to name a few.

"She has not gone back to work yet, and she is working on recovering," Pham's lawyer Charla Aldous told ABC News, adding that she's also having problems with her liver enzymes. "I don't know if she'll ever be a nurse again."

Just prior to the diagnosis, Pham asked the hospital for her privacy and requested that her name not be used, Aldous said, but instead, the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital used her name, asked for quotes and released a video of her in the isolation room.

"Nina felt violated," Aldous said, because the hospital was using her likeness to drum up positive publicity.

Even when Pham's physician noted that she was unable to make her own medical decisions, the hospital asked for her to consent to releasing information about her condition to the public and "ambushed" her with a GoPro camera interview, the petition alleges. Although the hospital at one point announced that it upgraded Pham's condition to "good," her health was precarious at the time and health workers told Pham's mother her condition had not improved, according to the petition.

Now, Pham said she is known as "the Ebola nurse" wherever she goes.

"She has people that shy away from her, fearing that they could get sick from being around her," Aldous said.

The 26-year-old nurse battled Ebola at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital for more than a week before she was transported to the National Institutes of Health hospital in Bethesda, Maryland, for treatment on Oct. 16. She was declared virus-free on Oct. 24.

Pham has a laundry list of continuing symptoms, her lawyer said, many of which mirror post-Ebola syndrome, which can include vision loss or blindness, fatigue, aches and other symptoms, according to the World Health Organization. Pham has not reported vision loss.

Pham frequently relives her battle with Ebola in her dreams, Aldous said, but Pham is also worried about her future because she doesn't know the long-term effects of the four experimental drugs she was administered to help her fight the Ebola virus.

Nurse Amber Vinson, Pham's coworker at the hospital, also contracted Ebola and recovered. To date, she has not filed a lawsuit.

The hospital’s parent company, Texas Health Resources, released the following statement through spokesperson Wendell Watson: "Nina Pham bravely served Texas Health Dallas during a most difficult time. We continue to support and wish the best for her, and we remain optimistic that constructive dialogue can resolve this matter."

In a message sent to employees Monday night, Texas Health Resources CEO Barclay Berdan acknowledged the lawsuit, saying that THR "values our strong culture of caring and compassion." That culture, he said, is "why we have continued to support Nina both during and after her illness, and it's why she is still a member of our team."

Berdan's message also noted that the lawsuit is "distressing," but the company remains "optimistic that we can resolve this matter with Nina."

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Pain Causing Sleep Problems for Many Americans

OcusFocus/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A survey conducted by the National Sleep Foundation found that pain may be the problem keeping many Americans from getting sufficient sleep.

Respondents said that having pain was associated with feeling unhealthy and more stressed, and with problems sleeping. Included in the pain-related sleep issues was lower-quality sleep, as the actual difference in duration between those with chronic pain and those without was only about 20 to 30 minutes per night.

Even environmental factors, such as temperature, light and noise, were more problematic for those respondents with pain.

People with chronic pain, the survey showed, were more worried about their sleep, saying that it was impacting their daily life.

The study found that 21 percent of Americans suffer chronic pain, and 36 percent said they had suffered acute pain within the last week.

Sixty-five percent of those without pain reported good to very good sleep quality, compared to just 45 percent with acute pain and 37 percent with chronic pain. 

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Study: American Minors Can Easily Purchase E-Cigarettes on Internet

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A new study shows that American minors may find it dangerously easy to purchase e-cigarettes online, despite regulations preventing those under the age of 18 from purchasing such products.

According to the study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics, researchers in North Carolina had 10 minors between the ages of 14 and 17 take part, attempting to purchase electronic cigarettes online. Those 10 participants made 98 attempts to buy e-cigarettes and were rejected for being underage just five times.

In total, 75 purchases were successful. None of the 98 vendors complied with North Carolina's e-cigarette age-verification law.

The researchers called for federal laws to "require and enforce rigorous age verification for all e-cigarette sales."

The study also noted that all delivered packages came from shipping companies that, according to either company policy or federal regulation, do not ship cigarettes to consumers.

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CDC: 170 Measles Cases Identified Around Country

CDC(NEW YORK) -- More cases of the measles continue to pop up around the nation, with the latest data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing 170 cases in 17 states and the District of Columbia.

According to the CDC, 16 new cases were identified between Feb. 20 and Feb. 27. Most of the measles cases -- 125 of them -- seen across America have been linked to a single outbreak centered around Disneyland in Anaheim, California. Of the 16 newest cases, seven were linked to that outbreak.

California, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Nevada and Washington state were the sites of the latest confirmed cases of measles. The CDC notes that its reports may not include all reported cases.

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Husband and Wife Fighting Cancer Get Dream Vacation

Chett Birr(COLEMAN, Wisc.) -- A Wisconsin husband and wife both battling cancer are getting a much-deserved vacation, thanks to donations from their neighbors and local wrestling teams.

In a few weeks, Chett Birr will drive his parents, Beth and Gary Birr, to a resort in Kissimmee, Florida, for a seven-day vacation.

"They never really took the time or money" to go on vacation before, Chett Birr, 23, told ABC News. "They didn't really think about vacation for themselves. Thought more for others."

"Then," he added, "the doctor bill and just costs of everything kept them held back."

In 2009, Chett Birr was on the Coleman, Wisconsin, wrestling team when his mother, now 48, was diagnosed with brain and lung cancer.

"The team took it upon themselves to dedicate the season to her," wrestling coach Kevin Casper said.

Casper is also a cousin to the Birrs, Chett Birr said.

"It was really special. It really helped my mom fight through it," Chett Birr said. "It wasn't looking very good for her, but when everyone came together it gave her a reason to stay and keep fighting."

Two years ago, Gary Birr, now 56, was diagnosed with melanoma.

Both husband and wife have undergone surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. Beth Birr is in remission, according to Chett Birr, while Gary Birr started his third round of chemotherapy last week. The couple worked for years at a family concrete business.

When people in the Coleman area learned of the Birrs' story, friends, family and wrestling teams around the state started to donate.

More than $3,000 has been raised so far.

"A couple wrestling clubs that aren't even close by donated, which is very nice," Casper said. "It just goes to show that not only are we competitors...but when it comes down to situations like this...other communities come together to help support those that are wrestling-type families, which is very nice to see."

The couple is "really grateful for everyone in the community," Chett Birr said.

The family is still planning what they'll do on the Florida trip.

"I don't know if we could do it later on," Chett Birr said. "It's now or never."

"It's a good chance to go and try to enjoy it," he added.


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How a New Treadmill Test Predicts 'Survival of the Fittest'

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Going for a jog on a treadmill can predict how long you’re going to live, a large new study suggests.

Researchers from the Mayo Clinic looked at standard treadmill stress test results for more than 58,000 subjects, ages 18 to 96. After age and sex, the two best predictors of whether the patient would be alive in 10 years was how highly activated their metabolism was and how fast their heart would beat during the test.

Metabolism was calculated using "metabolic equivalent of tasks" or METs, a measure of how much energy someone expends during a task. The higher MET level achieved, the more likely it was the subject would last another decade.

The closer someone came to reaching their maximum heart rate as they ran, the more likely they were to die within 10 years, compared to someone who only reached about 85 percent of their maximum heart rate during the test. Maximum heart rate was determined by subtracting the subject’s age from 220, a formula that’s been used for decades by exercisers and doctors alike.

Dr. Jennifer Ashton, ABC News medical contributor, explained the science behind the test on Good Morning America.

“In medicine we usually base predictions of survival on the absence or presence of a disease state,” she said. “What’s new here is that there is now a fancy equation doctors can use to compare the chances of survival for one 50-year-old woman against another 50-year-old woman.”

Rather than being viewed as morbid, experts should be able to use this information to motivate people to change their behavior, Ashton said. Everyone can improve their survival score by exercising more often and pushing it a little harder when they do, she added.

“This is in your power to change and improve your numbers. You can actually change your own destiny,” she said.

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Dangerous Bacteria Mysteriously Escapes from Louisiana Monkey Lab

ABC News(COVINGTON, La.) -- How a potentially deadly strain of bacteria escaped from a primate research lab infecting four monkeys is a mystery, government officials said, but they added the incident poses no threat to the public.

The bacterium in question, burkholderia pseudomallei, is widespread throughout Southeast Asia and northern Australia, infecting humans and animals via contaminated soil and water entering the blood stream through cuts in the skin, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The high-security laboratory at the Tulane National Primate Research Center in Louisiana, which is studying the bacteria, reported that at least four rhesus macaques not used in studies were infected with the bug, possibly as early as November of last year.

How the bacteria made its way from the lab to animals not used in experiments is still an open question despite weeks of investigation by multiple federal and state agencies, including the CDC, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency.

“The only connection among these four animals was their presence in the veterinary hospital during the same period of time,” said Dr. Andrew A. Lackner, the director of the center in a statement last week, adding that more than 50 soil and water samples from the 500-acre compound have tested negative for the bacteria.

A federal investigator was also diagnosed with melioidosis, a disease caused by burkholderia, after visiting the center, Jason McDonald, a CDC spokesman, told ABC News. It isn’t clear whether he was exposed to the bacteria at the primate center or during travel to an infected region, McDonald said.

“You must do tests over several weeks to see whether the antibodies ramp up to indicate a recent exposure or hold steady to suggest the exposure wasn’t recent,” McDonald said. “We’ve done two tests already and the third test is due some time this week.”

Although they stressed that there is no risk to the general public, the agency directed Tulane to suspend all research until the investigation is complete, a CDC statement said. The infected animals were euthanized, according to the Tulane statement.

“The veterinary hospital has been thoroughly disinfected, and additional animal testing is ongoing,” Lackner’s statement read. “Tulane continues to work with the CDC, USDA and the EPA, as well as state and local officials on this matter.”

Melioidosis causes fever, headache, loss of appetite, muscle and joint pain. Although full-blown illness from the bacteria is rare, the fatality rate is up to 50 percent in some countries for those who do get sick, studies show.

Also of concern: The bacterium has been studied for use as a potential bioweapon, according to the UPMC Center for Health Security, an independent biosecurity think tank.

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Blind Man Regains Sight After 33 Years with 'Bionic Eye'

WebMD(NEW YORK) -- Larry Hester was 33 years old when he got horrible news.

“The ophthalmologist said, ‘You're going to go blind,’” Hester recalled of his diagnosis of retinitis pigmentosa, a genetic condition leading to retinal degeneration and causing severe, incurable vision problems. It can sometimes lead to blindness.

He had two young children and called the news devastating.

“It was like the wind got knocked out of me. It was tough,” Hester, now 67, told Good Morning America’s co-anchor, Robin Roberts.

Blindness came quickly. Soon, Hester lived his life in the dark. His wife, Jerry Hester, was by his side.

"I just couldn't imagine being married to a blind person. It was hard," Jerry Hester said.

For another 33 years, the Raleigh, North Carolina, couple coped, until a breakthrough came in 2014. Called the Argus II Retinal Prosthesis System, it’s the world’s first Food and Drug Administration-approved device designed to restore vision to the blind. It’s being hailed as a bionic eye.

The device is only approved for use in people with retinitis pigmentosa, which affects about 100,0000 people in the United States.

Dr. Michael Smith, the chief medical editor of the website WebMD, explained how the device works to restore sight.

“It starts with electrodes implanted on the patient's retina,” he said. “And then the patient wears eyeglasses that has a video camera on it. That actually captures the images, sends them to a video processing unit that the patient wears, that then sends electrical impulses wirelessly back to the electrodes on the retina and then ultimately to the brain which allows them to decipher really light and dark. Not great vision, but spectacular vision for them.”

It’s impossible to tell exactly what the patient can see.

“It's not normal vision as you or I know it,” said Hester's retinal surgeon, Dr. Paul Hahn, of Duke University Eye Center. “But what they do get is crude series of flashes of lights in a pixelated fashion that allow them to make better sense of their surroundings.”

Larry Hester was the first patient in North Carolina to receive the visual prosthesis at the Duke University Eye Center. In October, Hahn did a countdown -- “three, two, one” -- and hit the button to turn on the device for Hester.

“Can you see?” he asked Hester.

“Yes!” his patient replied, beaming.

Jerry Hester was overjoyed. “Oh my goodness. Can I give him a kiss?” she asked.

Larry Hester remembered his emotions that day. “It was so overwhelming. I think my head rocked back a little bit,” he said. “It's hard to put into words because, for the first time in 33 years, I'm seeing light.”

He acknowledged that his vision is “incredibly basic,” adding: “but it’s light and, in my case, sight.”

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Creator of the Paleo Diet Publishes First-Ever Cookbook

John Wiley & Sons/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt(NEW YORK) -- Soon-to-be mom Jessica Biel swears by it and Megan Fox is also a follower. With such celebs on the Paleo Diet, the eating plan that is intended to mimic the way our paleolithic ancestors ate, is more popular than ever. And now, its secrets are being revealed in a new cookbook by Paleo Diet founder Dr. Loren Cordain.

“Our genes haven't changed a lot in the last 40 or 50 thousand years,” Cordain said Monday on ABC's Good Morning America. “So we do quite well on the foods that we’re genetically adapted to.”

The idea behind Paleo is to eat foods that our ancestors ate tens of thousands of years ago. Cordain claims you’ll stay in shape and protect yourself better from heart disease and diabetes. He even says following the diet can even help reduce or eliminate acne.

But it’s not an easy lifestyle. You can eat only grass-fed meat, fish, fruits and veggies, staying away from processed foods, sugar, wheat, grains and dairy.

A little-known secret, though? Cordain recommends following the diet at least 85 percent of the time, allowing for some cheats.

Some easy swaps are veggie chips in place of potato chips or nuts instead of granola in a trail mix.

But not everyone’s sold on the diet.

“The downfall is missing out on certain foods that many nutrition experts, including myself, feel are important to have in one’s diet, such as legumes that are rich in fiber and other good nutrients,” nutritionist Rachel Beller, author of Eat To Lose, Eat To Win, said on GMA.

Cordain responded to that criticism, though, by saying, “When we eliminate those, what happens is all of the other foods fill in and make the diet much healthier and nutrient dense.”


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Why People with Low Esteem Are Often Stuck in Bad Relationships

iStock/Thinkstock(WATERLOO, Ontario) -- If you're stuck in a relationship that makes you miserable, it could have to do with feeling miserable about yourself.

Megan McCarthy, a PhD candidate at the University of Waterloo's Department of Psychology, says that people with low self-esteem often find it difficult to remove themselves from an unhappy partnership because they can't articulate their concerns and worry about rejection.

McCarthy contends that the bottom line is that while those with low esteem are viewed as complainers, they seem to keep things to themselves when involved in relationships.

Therefore, some people adopt a "forgive and forget" kind of attitude when what they really should be doing is telling a partner what's bothering them.  "Failing to address those issues directly can actually be destructive," says McCarthy.

The next phase of her study, according to McCarthy, is determining how to boost a person's self-esteem to promote more open disclosure in their relationship.

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Dallas Nurse, Ebola Survivor Nina Pham to File Lawsuit Against Texas Health Resources

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images(DALLAS) -- Dallas nurse Nina Pham is expected to file a lawsuit against Texas Health Resources calling out the company for their role in her having contracted Ebola last year/

In an exclusive story, the Dallas Morning News reports that Pham cites the company's lack of training and lack of proper equipment as part of the reason she contracted the disease while treating Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan. She also says the company violated her privacy , making her "a symbol of corporate neglect."

Pham told the newspaper that she has nightmares, body aches and insomnia as a result of contracting Ebola. "I wanted to believe [the company] would have my back and take care of me," she says. "But they just haven't risen to the occasion."

Pham told the Morning News that she will file her lawsuit on Monday, asking for "unspecified damages for physical pain and mental anguish, medical expenses and loss of future earnings." Perhaps more importantly, Pham said, she wants to "make hospitals and big corporations realize that nurses and health care workers, especially frontline people, are important."


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Florida Boy Who Survived Double Lung Transplant Fulfills Firefighting Dream

Monkey Business Images/Thinkstock(ORLANDO) -- A 6-year-old boy has achieved his dream job: being a firefighter.

Cameron Witsman, who was born with a lung defect, became an honorary firefighter on Friday in Eustis, Florida, a town about one hour northwest of Orlando.

Cysts grew in Cameron's lungs before he was born, his mother Caroline Witsman said. The disease is called congenital cystic adenomatoid malformation, Witsman told ABC affiliate WFTV, and when Cameron was four months old, he underwent a double lung transplant.

"If he would not have had the transplant he would not be alive today," Witsman said. "There were quite a few instances where we didn't know, but thank goodness he pulled though all of those."

Cameron, who has already survived so much, recognizes the importance of serving others; he said what he likes about firefighters is "helping people."

So Cameron's new employer, the Eustis Fire Department, put him to the test.

"His dream has always been to be a firefighter," said Chief Rex Winn of the Eustis Fire Department. "And we tried to make that dream come true."

The 6-year-old was given his own uniform and went to work, shooting down cones with a fire hose and even dragging dummies down the street, all with a huge grin across his face.

"Pretend fires, he runs all these pretend calls at home, so to get this opportunity for him has just been such a blessing, and I'm so thankful," his mother said.

"It's just so amazing to see that kind of fire in a young man," Winn added. "That young man's excitement and a dream that we can make happen for him. That's the good part of our job."

"Cameron wakes up with energy and he never wants to go to sleep at night," his mother said. "He's full of energy, vibrant smart, kindhearted, loves helping people."

While Cameron's energy is up, he still has a suppressed immune system, according to WFTV, requiring him to be home-schooled and take several medications a day.

"There was a few times where I was called... 'Cameron's doing really bad, I don't think he's going to make it, you need to get here now,'" Witsman said. "I can't even put into words how amazing it is that we're here today and we're doing well."

And the celebrations didn't stop at the fire house. Cameron was the guest of honor at a local parade today, during which he rode on a firetruck and handed out candy.

"It's such a heartwarming feeling. So awesome that they've taken this opportunity to really make his day and make his years," Witsman said.

And how did Cameron feel about the new job? "I'm proud to be a firefighter," the 6-year-old said.


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Disappointing Year for Flu Vaccine Effectiveness

luiscar/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- This season's flu vaccine may be even less effective than initially thought.

HealthDay News reports that the vaccine is just 18 percent effective against the dominant H3N2 flu strain, down from 23 percent initially estimated by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Even worse, according to the CDC, the vaccine may be just 15 percent effective in children between the ages of 2 and 8.

Still, the vaccine "does prevent lots of hospitalizations and deaths," Dr. William Schaffner, former president of the National Foundation for Infectious Disease told ABC News. "We need to do the best we can with the vaccine we have at hand."

Schaffner did say that the flu appears to be abating in all sections of the United States.

As far as the disappointingly ineffective vaccine, Schaffner said that it was "the worst year for the effectiveness of flu vaccine in decades. It will be better next year," he predicted.

Children tend to get more viral illnesses than adults, Dr. Besser said, because they're in physical contact with each other and don't have years of flu exposure built up.

The CDC also reports that the nasal-spray version of the vaccine, which was "recommended especially for young children," Dr. Besser said, "is shown to not be effective at all."

"It's not exactly clear if it had something to do with the mutated strain," he said. "What it led to this week is the CDC voted that next year they will not recommend the nasal spray."

It may be the end of February, but we're still not out of the woods for flu season.

"Flu season is winding down," Dr. Besser said, but "there is still flu activity around the country."

"We encourage people who are sick to stay home from school and work, and cover their coughs and sneezes," he added.

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Researchers Identify Possible Blood Test for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

AlexRaths/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Researchers say a simple blood test could help diagnose chronic fatigue syndrome -- a chronic condition that affects one in four million Americans.

According to the study, published in the journal Science Advances, while one in four million have CFS, fewer than 20 percent are diagnosed. Currently, there is no test for chronic fatigue syndrome.

Researchers, however, identified markers in the blood that could help confirm a diagnosis more quickly. There is even speculation that those same markers could hold hints toward potential therapeutic targets in the future.

The study's leaders hope that they may have determined a potential biological cause for CFS.

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Health Officials: 3 New Cases of Measles Linked to Emeril's at MGM Grand in Las Vegas

7Michael/iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(LAS VEGAS) -- The Southern Nevada Health District has identified three additional cases of measles connected to a restaurant on the Las Vegas Strip.  

The cases, in adults under the age of 55, are considered to be the result of transmission from an under-immunized staff member at Emeril's New Orleans Fish House at the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino earlier in February.

The new cases are two staff members and a patron, according to health officials.

Two other cases connected to Emeril's were reported earlier in the month, according to ABC News affiliate KTNV-TV.  

An under-immunized worker was diagnosed on Feb. 10, and an infant was diagnosed with measles on Feb. 11. It is believed the infant spread the illness to the worker.

One of the newly diagnosed staffers was potentially contagious while working shifts this month

The new cases bring to nine the number of confirmed measles cases in Clark County in 2015, according to health officials.  These are the first confirmed cases in  of measles in southern Nevada since 2011.

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