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Norovirus Named in Washington Lake Outbreak


iStock/Thinkstock(KITSAP COUNTY, Wash.) -- The stomach bug that sickened more than 260 swimmers at a Washington state lake was in fact norovirus, health officials have confirmed.

The contagious virus swept through Horseshoe Lake Park in Kitsap County, Washington, earlier this month, causing cramps, nausea, and diarrhea, according to the local health department.

The park was closed as officials investigated the cause of the outbreak, which was initially dubbed "norovirus-like." It reopened Saturday after water samples from the lake came back negative for the virus.

The same virus sickened more than 100 people at Idaho’s Eagle Island State Park last week, according to the local health department.

Norovirus is the sixth-leading cause of recreational water illness in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention –- tying with the bacteria E. coli. Each year the virus causes more than 19 million cases of illness, 400,000 emergency room visits, 71,000 hospitalizations and 800 deaths, according to the CDC’s website.

The virus spreads through food, liquid, and surfaces that are contaminated with infected feces or vomit, according to the CDC. There's no specific treatment, so the agency recommends staying hydrated for the duration of symptoms, which is usually one to three days.

The CDC recommends the following tips for safe summer swimming:

  • Avoid getting water up your nose when swimming in warm, freshwater.
  • Don't swim if you have diarrhea.
  • Shower with soap before taking a dip.
  • Wash your hands after using the toilet or changing diapers.
  • Check the free chlorine level and pH before getting into the water.
  • Don't swallow the water.

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Can Any Animal Be a Therapy Animal?


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Dogs once cornered the market on being therapy pets, but now bunnies, pigs -- even llamas -- are making their way into the laps and hearts of people with a range of conditions. But experts say some animals are more therapeutic than others.

“While we know that a wide variety of animals can be wonderful companions or pets, not every animal is suited to therapy work,” said Glen Miller, a spokesman for Pet Partners, a national nonprofit organization that trains and registers therapy animals.

Therapy pets can include “dogs, cats, rabbits, birds, guinea pigs, rats, miniature pigs, llamas, alpacas, horses, donkeys and mini-horses,” as long as they’re at least a year old and have lived with their owner for six months, according to Pet Partners. Though the organization registers “birds,” it does not register ducks, Miller said.

Pet Partners does not allow exotic or wild animals, either.

“We know many people have wonderful experiences with these animals as pets, but without research documenting their behavior over time, we cannot evaluate their predictability and reaction to stress,” the organization’s website reads.

Unlike service animals, therapy animals don’t help their owners perform tasks and are therefore not protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Though there are no national requirements to register therapy animals, most hospitals only allow ones that have been trained, aren’t easily stressed and are covered by an insurance policy.

Read about some traditional and not-so-traditional bedside creatures below:

Ducks

Darin Welker’s village in Ohio banned residents from keeping fowl in 2010, but the former member of the National Guard insists that his 14 ducks are therapy animals. They motivate him to get out of the house to take care of them, he said.

"They're quite a relaxing animal, and they help comfort me in different situations," Welker told the Conshohocken Tribune, holding one of the ducks like a baby. "[Watching them] keeps you entertained for hours at a time."

Welker served in Iraq in 2005 and returned home with a back injury that required surgery as well as post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, according to the Tribune. He’s had the ducks in his fenced-in yard since March and will argue his case for keeping them Wednesday or face a $150 fine.

Bunnies


Nutmeg and Clovis are the 4-and-a-half-year-old therapy bunnies that live on the 13th floor of NYU Langone Medical Center.

“We’ve seen patients that literally had no affect smile,” said Gwenn Fried, manager of horticultural therapy services at NYU Langone. “Their whole demeanor changes.”

Sometimes doctors recommend the rabbits, and sometimes, the patients ask to see them, Fried said.

Llamas

There’s nothing like a “kiss” -- basically a soft, furry lip bump -- from a 300-pound llama to brighten your mood.

Lori Gregory volunteers her llama, Rojo, through MTN Peaks Therapy Llamas and Alpacas, taking him to visit hospice patients and children who have mental and emotional problems.

“He has eyes the size of golf balls,” said Gregory, 57, of Vancouver, Washington. “People just stand there and look into their eyes. It’s pretty wonderful to be able to do that with a large animal that doesn’t ask anything.”

Though she can’t personally detect a change in the patients Rojo meets, she said nurses often tell her their most introverted patients become animated around the llamas.

Dogs

Dogs are the only type of therapy animal allowed to see patients at the Mayo Clinic, according to the Rochester, Minnesota hospital’s animal therapy coordinator, Jessica Borg. She said dogs attend group sessions and sometimes meet one-on-one with patients.

“Having the dog there almost takes the tension out of the room,” she said. “It’s pretty common that patients will tear up because they’re so excited, so thankful for getting five or 25 minutes of time just snuggling, hanging out with the pet.”

Borg said some patients who are unwilling to get out of bed for physical therapy jump up when she’s walking by with a dog, eager for a cuddle.

“Seeing the dog and being with the dog can change their spirits within five seconds of contact time,” she said.

Five golden retrievers were a big help after the Boston Marathon bombings last year, when they visited victims in nearby hospitals as well as shaken residents on the streets. The pups were part of Lutheran Church Charities' K-9 Comfort Dogs, which has 60 dogs that travel the country to help patients in need.

Horses

Former Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Lyndon Ortiz helped start a veteran’s program Heavenly Hooves, a volunteer group that provides equine-assisted therapy.

Ortiz, who suffered from PTSD after being hit with an improvised explosive device in Iraq in 2005, started as a volunteer for the group and encouraged fellow veterans to join him. He said it helped him get back to civilian life as he wanted to live it.

“I’ve seen hope in some of the guys,” Ortiz said. “Some of them were stuck at home not doing anything just stuck in those four walls and now they look forward for Tuesdays when they’re riding horses.”

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Disease-Carrying Mosquitoes Are Biting into Summer Fun


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- You’ve probably heard of the West Nile virus -- a rare but deadly infection transmitted by mosquitoes. But what about chikungunya and eastern equine encephalitis?

All three mosquito-borne diseases are here in the U.S., and depending on where you live, you might be at risk.

Read on to learn more about the viruses and find out whether mosquitoes in your state are carrying them:

West Nile Virus

What It Looks Like

Most people who contract the virus show no symptoms at all, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But one in five people infected will develop a fever, headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea or rash, and one in 100 will experience brain swelling or meningitis, which can be deadly. Symptoms can take up to two weeks to appear and last “for weeks or months,” according to the CDC.

Where It Is

Fourteen states have reported West Nile infections so far this year -- Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin. Another 13 have mosquitoes, birds and other animals carrying the virus, including Alabama, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Utah and Wyoming.

Chikungunya Virus

What It Looks Like

Most people who contract the virus develop symptoms such as fever, headache, muscle and joint pain or a rash within a week of the offending mosquito bite, according to the CDC. They usually feel better in a week, but joint pain can persist for months, the agency said, adding that the infection is rarely fatal but sometimes disabling.

Where It Is

Thirty states plus Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands have reported chikungunya infections so far this year, including Arizona, California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia. However, only two cases in the continental U.S. -- both in Florida -- were acquired locally. The rest were acquired outside the country, according to the CDC.

Eastern Equine Encephalitis Virus

What It Looks Like

The virus, dubbed EEE, causes fever, chills and body aches within a week after the offending mosquito bite. Some people recover after two weeks, while others go on to develop an encephalitic form of the disease, which can cause headache, irritability, convulsions and even coma, according to the CDC. Roughly a third of those infected die, the agency said, and many who survive are left with brain damage, personality disorders, seizures and paralysis.

Where It Is

Mosquitoes carrying EEE were recently detected in Massachusetts, according to the state’s Department of Health. No human cases have been reported in 2014, but six Massachusetts residents died from the infection between 2004 and 2006, according to state data.

In the last 50 years, EEE infections have also been reported in Alabama, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin, according to the CDC.

How to Protect Yourself


Since there are no vaccines or antiviral treatments for West Nile, chikungunya or EEE, the CDC recommends the following tips to prevent infections:

  • Use insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin or IR3535. Some oil of lemon eucalyptus or para-menthane-diol products also provide protection.
  • Wear long sleeves, long pants and socks when outdoors and avoid outdoor activities between dusk and dawn -- peak mosquito biting hours.
  • Mosquito-proof your home with screens and regularly remove standing water from birdbaths, gutters, pool covers and pet water dishes.

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Woman Takes Selfies to Overcome Struggle with Hair-Pulling Disorder


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Selfies are all the rage, but one young woman has had the tenacity to take one of herself every single day for more than six years. However, the reason she’s been so consistent is not one you’d typically expect.

Rebecca Brown, 21, of Essex, England, has taken a picture of herself every day -- from age 14 to 21 -- putting them together in a video montage all to bravely share her battle with depression and her struggle with trichotillomania disorder, the compulsion to pull out one’s own hair.

She says the video project, which has received more than 5.5 million views on YouTube since it was originally posted on June 8, has immensely helped her deal with overcoming the disorder.

“It’s been pretty scary for me in the last year because I’ve seen myself come out of that darkness,” Brown told ABC News Monday. “Because when I was completely consumed in depression all I could see was black and white. Everything around me was dark, and I honestly didn’t believe there was a light at the end of the tunnel. Whereas now, I’ve seen myself get better. I’ve seen my smile come back. I feel like there is a light.”

Brown says there was no particular trigger that caused her to have trichotillomania disorder.

“For me, I’ve always been depressed but there’s been no pinpoint trauma. It just reached a head,” she explained.

The hair-pulling disorder has even affected celebrities like Katy Perry, Charlize Theron and Justin Timberlake.

At certain points in the video you can see where Brown resorted to shaving her head and wearing wigs to help deal with the battle, but now she’s doing great and hopes her project will help spread awareness of the disease.

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Study: Annual HIV Infection Rate Dropped by 33 Percent in a Decade


Wavebreak Media/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A new study indicates that the annual number of HIV diagnoses dropped by 33 percent between 2002 and 2011.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, analyzed data from the National HIV Surveillance System and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2002, the study found that the rate of HIV diagnosis in the U.S. was 24.1 cases per 100,000 population. That figure fell to 16.1 cases per 100,000 population by 2011.

It was not clear what caused the decrease in HIV diagnoses. The figures only correlate to newly-diagnosed HIV cases each year, not to the overall HIV population.

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Researchers Say Better Schools May Be Remedy for Kids in Poverty


iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles found that higher quality schooling has a significant impact on the ability of children in poverty to improve their academic performance and avoid risky behaviors.

According to the study, published in the journal Pediatrics, researchers at UCLA selected 900 economically disadvantaged students, 500 from a charter high school and 400 from a public school, to compare their academic achievement through graduation. They determined that 91 percent of students who attended charter school graduated, compared to just 76 percent in public school.

The students who were given the opportunity to attend charter school were less likely to skip classes, and performed better in standardized testing in both math and English. Researchers also noted that while students at the charter school or the public school both engaged in risky behaviors -- including drugs, alcohol and risky sex -- the students in the charter school were less likely to engage in multiple of those behaviors simultaneously.

The data suggests that given the opportunity to attend better schools, disadvantaged students may be able to improve their school performance, researchers say.

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Meditation May Reduce Stress in Parents of Children with Developmental Disabilities


amana images/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Mothers of children with developmental disabilities may be able to reduce their increased stress, anxiety and depression by learning to meditate.

According a study published in the journal Pediatrics, mothers of children with autism or other neuro-developmental conditions who received "Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction," a program that included breathing, meditation and movement techniques, saw greater improvement in depression, anxiety, sleep and life satisfaction.

Researchers selected 243 mothers of children with developmental disabilities and assigned half of them to receive the stress reduction regimen, and the other half to receive "Positive Adult Development." The latter plan involved training with peer mentors to develop coping strategies.

While both programs were linked to reduced stress, researchers say the program that included breathing and meditation lessons was more effective. The study highlights the effectiveness of "mindfulness" in coping with stress, but also notes that peer mentoring can improve the lives of parents as well.

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Eyes Up Here for Love, Elsewhere for Lust


iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Where the eyes wander is the best way of knowing whether a person feels love or lust.

That's the upshot of a study out of the University of Geneva, although its conclusion doesn’t seem all that startling.

Lead author Stephanie Cacioppo and her husband, John Cacioppo from the University of Chicago, examined how male and female students looked at one another, and their finding was that when the eyes focus on the face, it's more indicative of romantic love.

However, if the eyes target other parts of the human anatomy, it's a surer sign that they're more interested in sex.

So why is this important? As Stephanie Cacioppo explains, "By identifying eye patterns that are specific to love-related stimuli, the study may contribute to the development of a biomarker that differentiates feelings of romantic love versus sexual desire."

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Study Claims Lean Beef Can Reduce Hypertension


Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Red meat to lower your blood pressure? That's what Penn State researchers say, provided that it's lean beef you're eating.

The other important factor is that this protein source is part of the larger DASH-diet plan, which stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.

Researcher Penny M. Kris-Etherton says DASH features plenty of fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products, and with the inclusion of lean beef, it becomes the BOLD diet (Beef in an Optimal Lean Diet Plus additional protein).

In order to maintain a heart-healthy diet to lower blood pressure, Kris-Etherton recommends the BOLD diet, which includes 5.4 ounces of lean beef daily. This proved most effective compared to other diets that had a smaller daily portion of meat.

A good rule of thumb to find lean or extra lean beef is shopping for meat that has round, chuck or loin in its name.

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Georgia Education Officials Say Baked Goods Should be Sold in School


iStock/Thinkstock(ATLANTA) -- Education officials in Georgia want to give schools more opportunities to sell baked goods and other foods that don't meet national guidelines championed by First Lady Michelle Obama.

The Georgia state Board of Education, which calls new federal nutrition standards an "overreach," wants to give schools 30 days per school year to sell sweets or fast food during fundraisers.

Even though schools have begun serving lunches with more whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, some Georgia school officials are saying they depend on selling items like candy bars and baked goods to raise money for clubs, sports, and other programs.

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Busiest Emergency Rooms Have Lowest Death Rates, Study Finds


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- New research suggests that the busier the emergency room, the better your chances of survival.

While it may seem like chaos at a large, busy hospital would increase the risk of error, a University of Michigan study found that practice makes perfect, and that death rates at the nation's busiest emergency rooms are 10% lower than in the calmest.

And the numbers aren't just lower for gunshot and stab wounds-- researchers say death rates were 26% lower for sepsis patients and 22% lower for lung failure patients.

Overall, the study finds that if all emergency room patients were treated at the busiest hospitals, 24,000 fewer people would die every year.

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B Robert's Foods Recalls 200 Pounds of Grilled Chicken


iStock/Thinkstock(CHARLOTTE, N.C.) -- A North Carolina company is recalling about 200 pounds of grilled chicken entrees because they were not properly labeled.

B Robert's Foods, based in Charlotte, says the packages contain milk, but that was not declared on the label.

The top label of the 10-ounce packages reads "All Natural Grilled Chicken Strips," and the bottom label says "Grilled Chicken Breast with Lemon Spaghettini."

The product was distributed in Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and the District of Columbia.

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FDA Urges Consumers to Keep Away from Powdered Caffeine Products


iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned consumers to avoid powdered pure caffeine products which they say can cause accidental overdose.

The FDA says it is aware of "at least one death of a teenager who used these products." The products are nearly 100 percent caffeine, a single teaspoon of which is about the same amount in 25 cups of coffee.

Some of the side effects of caffeine overdose include erratic heartbeat, seizures and death. The FDA also urges parents to be aware that young people may be interested in these products without realizing the danger of ingesting them.

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AIDS Conference to Continue Out of Respect for Researchers Lost on MH 17


BananaStock/Thinkstock(MELBOURNE, Australia) -- The day after Malaysia Flight MH 17 was shot down in Ukraine, members of the tight knit HIV/AIDS community are mourning the loss of roughly 100 HIV/AIDS researchers, who were killed en route to the International Aids Society conference in Melbourne, Australia.

Despite the immense toll, IAS conference officials said in a statement the conference would continue, “in recognition of our colleagues' dedication to the fight against HIV/AIDS.”

Although the IAS did not confirm the number of attendees on the plane, President Obama told reporters Friday that nearly 100 AIDS/HIV researchers and scientists were on board MH 17 when it was shot down.

While the conference will continue, attendees will have “opportunities to reflect and remember those we have lost,” officials said.

Nobel laureate Dr. Francoise Barre-Sinoussi, co-discoverer of the AIDS virus and president of the International AIDS Society, told reporters the conference would continue out of respect for those who were killed.

“We know that it's really what they would like us to do,” Barre-Sinoussi told reporters.

Among the passengers aboard MH 17 was Dr. Joep Lange, a former president of the IAS from the Netherlands, who has been a leading expert in the field of HIV/AIDS since the 1980s.

Chris Beyrer, IAS president-elect, told reporters Thursday if Lange perished on the flight “then the HIV/AIDS movement has truly lost a giant.”

“In this incredible sad and sensitive time, the IAS stands with its international family and sends condolences to the loved ones of those who have been lost in this tragedy,” Beyrer told reporters in Melbourne, Australia.

Lange’s partner, HIV/AIDS researcher Jacqueline van Tongeren, was also on board the downed plane.

Lange’s longtime friend and colleague, Dr. Michael Merson, said the Dutch scientist was one of the first to use antiretroviral drugs to treat HIV/AIDS and became an expert in the treatment.

“He really was very special and if you were to come up with the leaders in AIDS [since] the pandemic began in 1981,” said Merson, who is the director of the Duke Global Health Institute. “You’d put him among the top five leaders.”

Merson said in the 22 years he knew Lange, the scientist had started numerous initiatives to combat the HIV/AIDS in Europe and Africa. After drugs to control HIV started to gain traction in the mid 1990s, Lange focused his efforts on global health initiatives to get the medication to anyone who needed it.

"His second home was Africa, he worked in east Africa and Asia and Latin America," said Merson. "He would stay it like it is. He was an outstanding scientists and fierce advocate."

Merson said he has no doubt that Lange’s work will continue.

“There’s no questions there will be loss and there will be some things that slow down,” said Merson. “But he has great colleagues and dedicated scientists and researchers that are in his institute in Amsterdam. He knows that they want him to continue.”

World Health Organization spokesperson Glenn Thomas was also en route to the conference on MH 17.

“His twin sister says he died doing what he loved,” WHO said in a statement. “Glenn will be remembered for his ready laugh and his passion for public health.”

Not all of the researchers on board have been named, but the tight-knit HIV/AIDS research community around the world is mourning the loss. The Thomas Street Health Center in Houston, Texas, observed a moment of silence for the fallen researchers. And Peter Staley, a long time AIDS/HIV activist, wrote on twitter that the missile had “ripped a hole through the heart of the international AIDS community.”

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What Is Chikungunya?


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Now that the first locally-acquired cases of Chikungunya have been reported in Florida, you’re probably wondering what it is and why you should care.

Here's a break down of the mosquito-borne virus:

Why You Might Not Have Heard of It

The chikungunya virus is new to the Americas, though it’s long been found in Asia, Africa and Europe. It was discovered in the Caribbean islands late last year, and has since made its way to the continental United States by way of mosquito-bitten travelers returning from vacation.

Before July 15, there were 357 reported cases of chikungunya in the United States, including 121 in Puerto Rico, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Though the Puerto Ricans contracted chikungunya locally, every other case was acquired outside the U.S.

The Florida Department of Health reported Wednesday that 81 residents had contracted chikungunya while traveling to the Caribbean. And Thursday, two people who hadn’t traveled were diagnosed with the illness. This means that local mosquitos are spreading the virus.

Chikungunya is not spread person-to-person, but rather person-to-mosquito-to-person.

Why You Want to Avoid It

Ashley Manning, one of a dozen people in Georgia who contracted the virus while traveling, called the symptoms “fiercely unpleasant.” She said her fever reached 103 degrees and her joint pain was excruciating.

“I just thought I wasn't going to be able to walk, like I was going to constantly have these pains,” Manning told ABC News affiliate WFTV in Atlanta. "My joints were hurting really bad and I was like getting really out of breath and like having a fever.”

Chikungunya’s most common symptoms are fever and joint pain, according to the CDC. But it can also cause headaches, muscle pain and a rash. It isn’t fatal, but it can resemble dengue fever, another mosquito-borne virus.

It takes up to a week for symptoms to appear after a person has been bitten, according to the CDC. Most people feel better in about a week, but some experience joint pain for several months.

How You Can Protect Yourself


In Florida, residents have been advised to drain standing water. The mosquitos that carry chikungunya lay eggs in small water containers and bite during the daytime. To keep mosquitos outdoors, the state health department recommends repairing broken screens on windows and doors.

Residents also have been advised to wear long sleeves and pants outdoors and wear insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon, eucalyptus and IR3535, according to the Florida Department of health.

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