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Enterovirus Confirmed in Washington State, 160 Sick

Thomas Northcut/Digital Vision/Thinkstock(KING COUNTY, Wash.) -- The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed at least two cases of Enterovirus 68 in Washington state, officials announced on Friday.

The CDC "did confirm the presence of Enterovirus 68 in two children that were hospitalized at Children's Hospital," Dr. Jeff Duchin of King County Public Health said. The respiratory disease is now confirmed in at least 22 states, and about 160 people have fallen ill.

Duchin urged Washington residents not to panic, saying that "there is no need for parents to bring their children to a health care provider or an emergency department for Enterovirus D-68 testing," and that doing so would not have "a value to the patient."

The news, Duchin says, "confirms that this virus is in our community, which was not surprising. It's circulating and we may see additional cases over the coming weeks, although we really can't predict at this point if we will see a lot more or a few more."


Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Bone Marrow Recipient Meets Donor Who Saved His Life

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Two men who changed each other’s lives forever by being on the giving and receiving ends of a bone marrow transplant met for the first time on Friday and had their first chance to say, “Thank you,” face-to-face.

“Thank you so much,” Joe Yannantuono, 33, said to his bone marrow donor, Justin Jenkins, 35, as he embraced him in a hug in a live, emotional meeting on ABC News' Good Morning America.

Yannantuono, not very long ago, was waging a two-year long battle for his life against stage 4 lymphoma.

As his wife, Christine Buono, and his 4-year-old son, JJ Yannantuono, stood by his side, the family, from Staten Island, New York, got the unbelievable news that a man in Texas was a rare 10 for 10 genetic bone marrow match.

That stranger in Texas, Jenkins, of Dallas, had registered to be a bone marrow donor by chance 15 years ago when he was 21 years old and donated blood because they were offering free snacks.

Soon after Jenkins was found to be a match, his stem cells were transported by airplane to New York and transplanted into Joe Yannatuono’s body in December 2012 at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

For more than one year after the successful transplant, Yannantuono had no idea whose cells he was now carrying in his body.

As Yannantuono was rebuilding his life, Jenkins’ life was thrown a tragic curveball. His mother, who raised him on her own and had been a big part of his donation journey, was killed in a car crash.

Just days after his mother’s death, in April of this year, Yannantuono called Jenkins as they found out each other’s identities, giving Jenkins something to help pull him through his grief.

“I was in a dark spot when we got all your information and you helped pull me out of that,” Jenkins said to Yannantuono on GMA. “To lose somebody you love but to gain a whole family, it’s touching.”

Jenkins says he is now “doing fine,” and focusing on the man to whom he gave new life.

“My life continues on normal. I don’t have to worry about remission or anything like that,” he said. “My only concern that I worry about every day is Joe. He’s got JJ.”

For Yannantuono’s family, there can never be enough words, they say, to thank Jenkins.

“This is incredible. To do that for somebody you’ve never met,” said Yannantuono’s wife, Christine. “I don’t know how we can thank you enough, for giving JJ and myself a future with Joe.”

“We’re thankful to everybody,” she said.


Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Sierra Leone Starts ‘Lockdown’ as UN Sounds Alarm on Ebola

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- As the worst-ever Ebola outbreak shows no sign of slowing, government officials have now resorted to desperate measures to stop the virus from infecting more people.

In Sierra Leone, the government will attempt to institute a 72-hour “lockdown” in order to give volunteers a chance to find Ebola patients and keep the deadly disease from spreading. The lockdown began Friday at midnight.

According to Doctors Without Borders, the Sierra Leone government has ordered the country’s six million residents to stay home for three days as volunteers conduct door-to-door Ebola screenings. However, the stringent lockdown may backfire, according to Doctors Without Borders.

"Without enough beds to treat patients who have Ebola we will fail to stop it spreading even further," Doctors Without Borders said. "What Sierra Leone and Liberia urgently need are more beds in case management centers, and they need them now."

The outbreak in West Africa has already infected more than 5,300 and killed more than 2,600 since it started in March, according to the World Health Organization. The Ebola outbreak is the worst ever, with more people infected and killed in six months than all other previous outbreaks from the past 38 years combined.

The hardest hit countries in West Africa include Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Guinea and Senegal. Some countries have requested help from the international community and aid agencies after being overwhelmed by sick patients.

On Thursday, WHO chief Dr. Margaret Chan sounded the alarm about the outbreak, calling it “likely the greatest peacetime challenge” the United Nations agency has ever faced.


Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Lawmakers Propose Overhaul to Federal Black Lung Program

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Two U.S. senators are preparing legislation to better protect ailing coal miners who are suffering from black lung disease on the heels of reports by ABC News and the Center for Public Integrity that exposed flaws in the federal benefits program.

“We don’t want these kinds of injustices that have been perpetrated for many years now to continue,” said Sen. Robert Casey, a Pennsylvania Democrat.

The legislation, which was made public Thursday, attempts to improve a cumbersome and time-consuming program that is supposed to provide health benefits to coal miners who contract black lung disease and become too sick to work. The new bill is intended to help miners with legal costs, to help speed up the review process, and to assist them in gathering medical evidence when a coal company disputes the worker’s claim of being sick.

Perhaps most pointedly, the proposed law would increase penalties for unethical conduct by attorneys and doctors in the black lung claims process.

Casey crafted the bill with another senator from coal country, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-West Virginia. Casey said the proposal comes in direct response to a joint, year-long investigation by ABC News and the Center for Public Integrity that found the head of the Johns Hopkins black lung program, Dr. Paul S. Wheeler, had not reported a single instance of severe black lung in the more than 1,500 claims that the news outlets reviewed going back to the year 2000.

Officials at the U.S. Department of Labor, which oversees the benefits program, said they were unaware of Wheeler's record until the ABC News report was broadcast.

"It was shocking," said Patricia Smith, the Labor Department solicitor, in an interview earlier this year, when the department issued new rules to assist miners with their claims.

Labor Department officials declined to comment on the proposed legislation because it had not yet been formally introduced. Casey’s office said that was due to occur immediately after the congressional recess that was scheduled to begin Friday. The United Mine Workers of America called the proposal an “imperative,” noting reports that black lung disease has resurgent in mining country after years of decline.

“As the recent troubling revelations about the rapid rise of black lung in Central Appalachia indicates, it is imperative that action be taken as soon as possible,” said Phil Smith, director of governmental affairs for the union. “It is important for Congress to step up and pass this bill.”

Casey expressed doubts about the prospects for the bill, noting the strength of the coal industry lobby in Washington. “It’s very much uphill because you have a lot of vested interests who would like to see the system stay just like it is,” Casey told ABC News.

Bruce Watzman, a spokesman for the National Mining Association, said the legislation was being introduced “under the guise of equity,” but would actually open the black lung benefits program up to fraud and abuse. It would also unfairly limit the ability of coal companies to defend against unjustified claims, he said.

“It will result in more litigation with the losers being those who truly suffer from occupational disease resulting from coal mine employment,” Watzman said in a statement. “No one wants to deny a miner with this disease the benefits he or she deserves and there are existing guidelines to ensure those are allocated as the law intends. But this legislation does nothing to advance this admirable goal.”

ABC News sought reaction from Johns Hopkins Thursday but received no response. The hospital suspended its black lung x-ray reading program since shortly after the report first aired last fall and pledged to investigate the matter.

During the initial broadcast, Wheeler explained why he had rarely concluded that coal miner x-rays revealed the complicated form of black lung disease. He said he could not conclude the miners had black lung without first seeing a biopsy -- a step not required by the government benefits program. And he said he believed other maladies were as likely, or more likely, to cause lung damage that could be mistaken as black lung.

"That's my opinion, and I have a perfect right to my opinion," he said.

For his work, coal companies paid Hopkins $750 for each X-ray he reads for black lung, about ten times the amount miners typically pay their doctors.

One leading expert in black lung, Dr. Jack Parker of West Virginia University, called Wheeler's X-ray readings "intellectually dishonest” in ABC News’ original broadcast.


Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Emergency Room Wait Times Vary Widely

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- How long did you have to wait the last time you visited an emergency room?

According to two new studies reported in JAMA Internal Medicine, wait and treatment times vary widely, and the hospital setting is a factor.

An analysis of medical records for adults seen at almost 3,700 different emergency rooms across the country in 2012 and 2013 shows admitted patients spent an average of four hours in the ER, with about one-third of that time occurring after admission while waiting for an in-patient bed to become available.

Patients who did not end up getting admitted waited an average of a half-hour to see a health care professional, and overall spent a little more than two hours in the ER.

The analysis also showed that ER patients at urban hospitals waited longer to see someone and spent more time overall in the ER than patients at smaller and/or rural facilities.

And among admitted patients, those seen at either a public hospital or a major teaching hospital tended to get stuck in the ER longer than those admitted to other types of care centers.

In a separate analysis of data from nearly 25,000 ER visits, just over half of the ERs were able to get a vast majority of admitted patients in and out within an 8-hour period, but less than a quarter of ERs were able to get 90 percent of their non-admitted patients discharged within a four-hour period. That data was collected by the 2010 National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey.


Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

FDA: ‘Low T’ Therapy Provides Few Benefits and Increased Heart Risk

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- You've seen the "Low-T" commercials targeted at Baby Boom generation men to convince them that testosterone replacement therapy is the answer to the sagging muscles, lower energy levels and sexual problems that often come with aging, but a Food and Drug Administration advisory panel reported this week there is little evidence the treatment works.

The panel voted 20-1 to tighten use of testosterone replacement drugs and require drug manufacturers to conduct tests to gauge the drugs' risk of heart attack and stroke, according to Bloomberg News.

The FDA is not required to follow the recommendations of its expert panels, but it usually does.

According to an FDA review, the number of men with a testosterone prescription jumped from 1.3 million people in 2010 to 2.3 million in 2013.  An agency analysis found that just 50 percent of the men now taking testosterone therapy had been diagnosed with hypogonadism, the specific medical diagnosis for testosterone deficiency.

In addition, the FDA review found 25 percent of men started the therapy without lab testing to confirm they had low levels of testosterone.

The FDA report warns that testosterone therapy, even if done correctly, can often have serious health consequences.

The agency cites a study that found a 30-percent increased risk of stroke or heart attack in a group of men recently prescribed testosterone therapy.

The FDA says a second study found that men 65 and older experienced a twofold increase in heart attack risk within the first three months of starting testosterone therapy.


Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio